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HomeFoundations of JudaismJewish OutlookPidyon Nefesh – Spiritual Weapons, Part 5
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Pidyon Nefesh – Spiritual Weapons, Part 5    

Pidyon Nefesh – Spiritual Weapons, Part 5

A pidyon nefesh (redemption of the soul) is one of the most powerful spiritual weapons out there, because it brings the power of the tzaddik to bear on your behalf.


In Part 3 – Off Your Shoulders, I explained the critical importance of having a true spiritual guide helping you through all the different questions and difficulties you might face in your life. Now, I am going to expound further on another super-powered weapon specifically tied to the tzaddikim – true righteous leaders: the power of the pidyon nefesh or “redemption of the soul.” 


Rabbi Arush discusses the concept of the pidyon nefesh in The Garden of Healing in the chapter entitled “The Power to Redeem.” It’s definitely worthwhile to read the entire chapter; in an effort not to be redundant, I will simply add my own comments and experiences. The most important thing to understand is that while a pidyon is routinely used in cases of illness G-d forbid, and the chapter in the book discusses this application, a pidyon can be done for literally anything, and can help any situation. 


The basic concept of a pidyon nefesh is that the person gives money to the tzaddik, and the tzaddik reads a special prayer on behalf of the person, and then forwards the money to charity. Not just anyone can do a pidyon – specifically, you need a Rabbi and spiritual guide of a very high caliber who knows the proper way to do the pidyon. The money given as a pidyon can come from maaser (the 10% tithe) funds, since the tzaddik forwards the money to charity after performing the pidyon on your behalf. I know of some tzaddikim who forward it to poor people; Rabbi Arush forwards money given to him for a pidyon to spreading emuna, so you get a double-benefit from these funds! 


Although Rabbi Arush and other tzaddikim who  do  pidyon  nefesh  love  everyone  and  are happy to pray for anyone without any money or donation, a pidyon nefesh must specifically be paid for. Although it’s much better if at least some of the funds comes from the person in need of the pidyon, the money can be given by others on their behalf. Money is the same aspect as the nefesh – hence, one can substitute for the other. This is a similar concept to fasting: Fasting reduces the nefesh and as such atones for a person, but it is also possible to “redeem” the fast needed for repentance with money, since money is also an aspect of the nefesh. Think about it – when you give of your money, you give of yourself, literally! That’s part of the reason why it’s so hard to give money away to charity – because it is literally a part of ourselves.  


That is exactly the power of the pidyon. In giving the money to the tzaddik, the person is giving of themselves in a real way, and also showing true emunat Chachamim – belief in the tzaddik, plus the merit of the tzedakah itself. This creates a merit for the person needing the pidyon, which the tzaddik then uses to help the person. Hence, a pidyon is considered to be as if the person gave performed the correct offering in the Holy Temple, which also required money to buy the offering. This is part of the reason why Rebbe Nachman urged very strongly to not be stingy in bringing money to the tzaddik for a pidyon (Likutei Moharan I, Lesson 180). 


Doing a pidyon can also be likened to hiring a lawyer – with money, you buy the ability for the tzaddik to pray on your behalf to wipe away any negative decrees. Here, the connection to the tzaddik is forged through the difficulty of giving the money over, and that is why the tzaddik simply cannot perform the pidyon without receiving the money – the money creates the connection through which the pidyon works in the first place. 


A famous story is told by Rabbi Natan of Breslev himself  regarding  pidyon  nefesh:  Rabbi  Natan’s wife repeatedly miscarried. Then, for the first time, she entered her ninth month. Understandably traumatized, Rabbi Natan brought the situation to Rabbi Nachman, who confirmed the need for a pidyon in this case. They discussed the matter, and ultimately, Rabbi Natan gave Rabbi Nachman 6 chairs. Over the coming years, Rabbi Natan merited to have 6 children. Rabbi Natan later commented, “If I knew then that I would have 6 children for my 6 chairs, I would have donated 12 chairs…” 


I have personally experienced the power of a pidyon nefesh multiple times, including during my divorce. I was recommended to do a pidyon as the divorce got more and more difficult (to put it lightly). 


I thought about it, and decided it was a win-win  situation.  Charity  saves  from  death  (Gemara)and maaser (giving 10% of one’s income) is incumbent upon every Jew in any case. I knew this money would go directly to a needy Jew in Israel with no overhead, and I got the bonus of a tzaddik’s prayers! Even more, if it worked I would save untold amounts of money on lawyers, not to mention the emotional distress which has no monetary value. 


Over the course of the divorce, I repeated the process multiple times. Each and every time I saw the major turnaround I needed so desperately. Sometimes it happened faster, sometimes slower, sometimes not exactly as I had hoped – and sometimes, it was so fast and so clearly the best case, afraid-to-even-let-myself-dream-it scenario that my head spun! I considered it to be a trade of sorts, a down payment on a debt where the rest was then waived. 


One time, as I saw that the situation in court was much worse than I expected, I even said on the spot, “I will arrange for a pidyon of X amount tonight!” and the situation turned around within an hour. In the end, I walked away with exactly what I wanted from that hearing (and of course, I took care of the pidyon that evening). 


However, it is important to realize that the tzaddik doesn't work for you. In order to help you the most, you need to bring forth your own efforts, which the tzaddik then brings as part of your case to the Heavenly Court. this includes strengthening your emuna and learning Rabbi Arush's books on emuna, doing personal prayer and personal accounting, doing The Law of Thank You, etc.


Read more about this in the next part: Part 6 – PUSH – Don’t Stop Praying. 


For more details about arranging for Rabbi Arush to do a pidyon nefesh for you, click here. 

The Editor is also happy to help make personal arrangements, help with questions or issues regarding the pidyon or the situation, etc. Email her at:  rachel.avrahami@breslev.co.il or call her at 1-323-992-6090.



To read Rabbi Arush's explanation of a pidyon nefesh, excerpted from The Garden of Healing, click here: The Power of Pidyon.


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