Pearls of Rebbe Nachman's Wisdom
Rebbe Nachman spoke about almost every subject under the sun, providing us with practical lessons on how to live our lives to its fullest. Below is a small sampling of Rebbe Nachman's wisdom
“There may be many lies, but there is only one truth.”
There are many truths in our world, such as, the truth within a person, the truth of Torah and the truth of the Tzaddikim, but they all contain one main truth – God. “Hear O Israel… God is one.”
Reb Natan said that a person must always beg and plead with God to lead him on the path of His truth. With our own truth we can many times deceive ourselves, but God’s truth is the real, the ultimate truth. “How can you know the real truth when you see it? If you know in your heart that you really desire the truth (only the real truth), and you ask God to let you be worthy of His truth and give all your actions entirely over to Him, then, however He guides you will be the ultimate truth” Likutei Moharan, 4:24).
Rely on God
“It is very good to rely on God completely. As each day begins, I place my every movement in God’s hands, asking that I do only His will. This is very good and I have no worries. Whether or not things go right, I am completely dependant upon God. If he desires otherwise, I have already asked that I do only His will" (Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom 2).
“Rebbe Nachman once told of a well-known Rebbe who would pray in his private room adjacent to the synagogue. Hearing sounds outside his door and thinking it to be his Chassidim trying to catch a glimpse of their master’s devotions, the rebbe prayed with great fervor and enthusiasm. Later, he discovered that the sounds had been caused by a cat scratching at the door. 'For nine years he prayed to a cat!' Rebbe Nachman commented. 'God save us!'”
“The main thing is innocent faith. With it, one can have a portion both in this world and the next. Happy is he who has such faith, for he shall never be moved.”
“It is necessary to have knowledge together with faith. One who has only faith is likely to fall from his level. He must [combine his faith] with knowledge” (Likutei Moharan 1, 255).
“Torah study has the power to direct a person with the proper and correct advice in all of his endeavors. It is vitally important to have faith in the Tzaddikim. Then, by studying their words, the Torah will guide man to his proper course in life” (Likutei Moharan 1, 61:1).
"God takes pride in each and every Jew" (Likutei Moharan I, 17:1).
“God calls us His children, as it is written (Devarim 14:1), 'You are children to the Lord your God.' You may think that you have done so much wrong, that you are no longer one of God’s children, but remember that God still calls you His child. [We are taught, 'For good or for evil you are always called His children'(Kiddushin 36a).”
“There is no despair in the world!”
“This is an important rule in devotion. Never let yourself fall completely.”
“It is told that the Baal Shem Tov once became very dejected. He could find no inspiration and was sure he no longer merited the Future Reward. But then he said, 'I love God – even without reward.'"
Devotion to God
“When people want to become truly religious and serve God, they seem to be overwhelmed with confusion and frustrations. They encounter barriers in their path and cannot decide what to do. The more they want to serve God, the more difficulties they encounter.
"All the enthusiasm that such people have when trying to do good is very precious, even if their goal is not achieved. All their effort is counted like a sacrifice, in the category of (Tehillim 44:23), 'For your sake, we are killed each day, we are counted like sheep for the slaughter.' The Tikunei Zohar states that this verse speaks of both prayer and sacrifice.
"When a person wants to pray, he encounters many distractions. But still, he gives himself over entirely to the task, exerting every effort to pray properly. Even if his prayer is not perfect, his very effort is like bringing a sacrifice, in the category of 'For your sake we are killed each day.'
"The same is true of everything else in religion. You may wish to perfect yourself, but find yourself unable to do so completely. Still, the effort and suffering involved in the frustrated attempt are not in vain. They are all an offering to God, included in the verse. Therefore, always do your part, making every effort to serve God to the best of your ability. Whatever task lies in your hand, do it with all your might. Keep it up, even when all your efforts seem to be frustrated and all your attempts in vain. Do everything in your ability, and God will do what is good in His eyes” (Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom 12).
“Most people think of ‘forgetting’ as a defect. But I consider it a great benefit.
"If you did not forget, it would be utterly impossible to serve God. You would remember you entire past (and the mistakes you made), and these memories would drag you down and not allow you to raise yourself to God. Whatever you did would be constantly disturbed by the past.
"But God has given you the power to forget and disregard the past. The past is gone forever and never need be brought to mind. Because you can forget, you are no longer disturbed by the past" (Ibid 26).
God's Ways are Good
“God’s way is to focus on the good. Even if there are things that are not so good, He only looks for the good. How much more do we have to avoid focusing on the faults of our friends. We are obligated to seek only the good – always! (Likutei Moharan 2, 17).”
Our desire to be victorious – nitzachon – prevents us from accepting the truth. If, in a conversation or an argument we recognize the validity of the other person’s opinion, we’ll pursue our own reasoning, rather than accept – even worse, admit – that the other person may be right (Likutei Moharan 1, 122)… Which victory can be called a true victory? Only that which is eternal (This is why the words netzach and nitzachon in Hebrew, have the same root).
The real nitzachon is when you conquer your evil traits and your bad characteristics and desires. Only then are you the true victor, with every good thought, yearning or deed credited to your eternal account. Seek the truth, the eternal truth, then you will always be victorious and always at peace (Likutei Halachot, Birkot P’ratiyot 5:2).
Serve God with Joy!
“When you are always happy, it is easy to set aside some time each day to express your thoughts before God with a broken heart. But when you are depressed, it is very difficult to isolate yourself and speak to God. You must force yourself to always be happy, especially during prayer.
"The Rebbe said that true happiness is one of the most difficult things to attain in serving God.
"Another time he said that it seems impossible to achieve happiness without some measure of foolishness. One must resort to all sorts of foolish things if this is the only way to attain happiness" (Likutei Moharan b, 24).
Rebbe Nachman teaches: It is a great mitzvah to be happy always. Strengthen yourself to push aside all depression and sadness. Everyone has lots of problems and the nature of man is to be attracted to sadness. To escape these difficulties, constantly bring joy into your life – even if you have to resort to silliness" (Likutei Moharan 2, 24).
"An individual who is always happy, succeeds" (The Aleph-Bet Book, Joy B: 1).
"Joy enhances the mind’s ability to comprehend" (Ibid A: 21).
“My achievements came mainly through simplicity. I spent much time simply conversing with God and reciting the Psalms.
"Sometimes a person’s goals and desire for holiness are beyond his capabilities. Therefore, he must control himself. He must limit his yearnings and fulfill – simply – whatever service to God he is capable of that that moment. Then he must cry out to God for guidance by praying that he be led on the proper path for his level and by serving God with simplicity and joy" (Likutei Halachot, Bet Knesset 5:24)
Editor's note - When the Rebbe spoke of being simple he was referring to the Hebrew word "tam." In this context, being simple means being unassuming, sincere, and straightforward.
Beyond the Letter of the Law
"Extremism, in any form, is totally unnecessary" (Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom #51).
"Rebbe Nachman teaches: Of those who are overly-strict in serving God it is written (Vayikra 18:5), 'You shall live (and not die) by them.' Such people have no life. They are constantly depressed, because they never ever feel that they’ve fulfilled their obligations while performing the mitzvot. Because of their stringencies, they don’t experience any vitality – any life – from their deeds" (Likutei Moharan 2, 44).
"Simplicity is the highest possible virtue, since God is certainly higher than everything and yet He is ultimately simple" (Ibid 101).
"There are times where the Talmud teaches that it is good to be strict in keeping certain mitzvot. Therefore, Rebbe Nachman taught that one should pick a particular mitzvah that they will be stringent in observing, although not to the point of foolishness. If only we would be worthy of keeping all of the Torah’s commandments simply, without any excesses" (Ibid # 235).
"It is forbidden to be foolish, even in your sincerity. But sophistication is totally unnecessary” (Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom, 51).
Hitbodedut – Prayer
“Speak to Him the way you would speak to your friend”
"Even if you can’t open your mouth at all, just the fact that you stand there putting your hope in God (and thus acknowledging His existence), lifting your eyes upwards and forcing yourself to speak and even if you say no more than a single word the entire time – all this endures forever" (Likutei Moharan II, 95 – 101 etc.).
“It is very good to pour out your thoughts before God, like a child pleading before his father. God calls us His children, as it is written (Devarim. 14:1), 'You are children to the Lord your God.' Therefore it is good to express your thoughts and troubles to God, like a child complaining and pestering his father.
"You may think that you have done so much wrong that you are no longer one of God’s children, but remember that God still calls you His child. [We are taught, 'For good or for evil you are always called His children' Kiddushin 36a.]
“How very good it is, when you can awaken your heart and plead until tears stream from your eyes, and you stand like a little child crying before its father.”
“Speak to G-d and understand your purpose in life. Think about yourself and beg for God to help you find Him."
"The main time King David secluded himself with God was at night, under his covers in bed. Hidden from the sight of all others, he would pour his heart out before God. This is the meaning of the verse; 'I speak every night on my bed in tears (Tehillim: 6:7).'"
Happy is he who follows this for it is above all else” (Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom # 68).
“You must pray for everything. If your garment is torn and must be replaced, pray to God for a new one. Do this for everything. Make it a habit to pray for all your needs, large or small."
Sighing and Groaning
"Rebbe Nachman teaches: One should sigh and groan during hitbodedut" (Tzaddik #441).
"The sighing of a Jew is very precious" (Likutei Moharan 1, 8:1).
"When you sigh and groan over your unfulfilled yearning for holiness, it causes you to be attached to the ruach (the life-force) of holiness. This is because sighing is drawing breath – which is life itself!" (Ibid 1, 109).
The Silent Scream
"Even when one is in public, he can let out a silent scream. In his mind he can shout and call out to God, and this is very meritorious indeed."
"The Rebbe said: When a person is meditating, even if he can say nothing except the words ‘Master of the World,’ this is also very good."