Rebbe Nachman of Breslov – Amazement in Nature ‎

What is the Meaning and Purpose of Life? | Total Comments: 0 | Total Topics: 0

			Most Jews are not familiar with the many different Hassidic groups. They think that they are ‎basically all the same. They certainly look the same. They all talk some combination of ‎Yiddish and whatever the local language is.  They tend to be extremely insular and really ‎don’t want any outsiders poking into their business. The only two groups that the uninitiated ‎are likely to be familiar with are Chabad, who are found all over the world, and Breslov who ‎are found in Israel and parts of New York and not too many other places. Chabad is probably ‎the best known Orthodox group in the world, and likely the only one that non-Orthodox Jews ‎will have any contact with. Breslov, on the other hand, is only known to those who know ‎what to look for. ‎
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Unlike almost every other group, they have no spiritual leader, or Rebbe. At least ‎their Rebbe is not alive. Their Rebbe, Nachman of Breslov, died in 1810. He was the ‎only Rebbe they ever had, and they have no interest in finding a ‎substitute.  Rebbe Nachman’s considerable written works are enough to keep them going until ‎the coming of the Messiah. This is because Rebbe Nachman was not just any old Rebbe – ‎he was, and is, Rebbe Nachman. ‎
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He was born in 1770, a great-grandson of the Baal Shem Tov. His life was endless turmoil, ‎both physical and spiritual. He endured challenges from secular Jews, from anti-Hasidic ‎Orthodox Jews, and from other Hasidic Rebbes. After various journeys, he settled in the ‎town of Breslov (Bratslov) in the Ukraine in 1802, were he firmly established his reputation ‎as a Rebbe, gaining the following of thousands of Hasidim. ‎
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In 1808, after contracting tuberculosis and the living through the death of his first wife, a fire ‎destroyed his home in Breslov and he moved to Uman also in the Ukraine. He died of ‎tuberculosis in 1810. Uman became the site of a renowned pilgrimage for Hassidic Jews ‎following his death. Even though he died over 200 years ago, and the town of Uman is ‎hardly on the map, this pilgrimage has grown exponentially as the years go by. Currently, over ‎‎25,000 Jews from all walks of Jewish life convene there for the week surrounding Rosh ‎Hashanah. They are Breslovers and non-Breslov Hasidim, non-Hasidic and non-religious – ‎everybody forgets their differences and their religious affiliation and celebrates the legacy ‎of Rebbe Nachman. ‎
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Rebbe Nachman’s major discourses were written by his main disciple, Reb Noson (Nathan), ‎an unusual personality in his own right. They are deep and far-reaching, covering an enormous ‎variety of issues that were important in Rebbe Nachman’s time and equally important ‎now.  Among the issues covered is the purpose of creation. In chapter 39 of the ‎second section we find the following: ‎
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‎‘It is truly a wondrous and amazing thing, that Hashem created all of the creation which ‎contains so many wonderful and awesome creations. How marvelous are your works, ‎Hashem…And it was all created only for the sake of Yisrael (the people), and they were ‎created for the sake of the Shabbat which is the purpose, since it is the purpose (completion) ‎of the act of creation. This is the concept of the world of souls - the dimension which is ‎entirely Shabbat and all will comprehend God with no veils and no restrictions and there will ‎be complete unity.’ ‎
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Analysis ‎
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So what was it all created for? For Yisrael – well Yisrael itself was created for something else ‎so that can’t be the ultimate purpose. Yisrael was created for Shabbat, whatever that may ‎mean, so maybe that’s the answer. But Shabbat seems to be not just the 7th day of the week ‎with gefilte fish, no driving, no cell phone, etc. It is this ‘world of souls’, which somehow is ‎‎‘entirely Shabbat’, complete with perfect comprehension of God and complete unity. It is this ‎final idea that really seems to be the ultimate purpose – comprehension of God with perfect ‎unity. But this is really nothing new for those who have come this far in this quest. The real ‎question on this passage is what did Rebbe Nahman need the earlier steps of Yisrael and ‎Shabbat for? ‎
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Perhaps the answer to this question lies in a later sentence in this same passage. ‘In truth this ‎is an amazing and awesome revelation that comprehending the purpose, which is a great step ‎in understanding God, depends precisely on the creations in the lower world and all souls ‎must pass through this world to attain the final purpose’. One cannot simply jump right to the ‎‎‘perfect comprehension of God’ without going through the necessary steps. Those steps are ‎only available through living among the rocks and trees and flowers. ‎As Rebbe Nahman emphasizes, it is indeed amazing that one must go through the material ‎world in order to rise to spiritual heights. But such is the case, so we must play by the rules. ‎
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And what are those rules? Rule number one is that comprehension of God comes through ‎God’s creations. This alone is nothing remarkable. Similar statements can be easily found in ‎the Tanakh, the Midrash, and Maimonides. What is remarkable is his stress on the need to be ‎amazed. This is not mere intellectual understanding. It may include some of that, but there is ‎an emotional component that cannot be overemphasized. It was this emotional element that ‎many find lacking in the intellectual oriented systems of philosophy and, to some degree, ‎mysticism. This is just getting out there and taking it all in, doing whatever it takes to be ‎amazed. ‎
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Rule number two is there must be a group of people who are dedicated to doing this. ‘Once ‎in a blue moon’ amazement is not enough. An individual here and there is also not good ‎enough. It has to be a group, a religious group, whose devotion centers around finding God in ‎nature. There may be other equally important aspects of Judaism that Rebbe Nahman isn’t ‎emphasizing here, but this particular piece centers on the ‘Yisrael’ as a people who seek to be ‎amazed at God’s creations. There is nothing bigoted or arrogant about his claim that God’s ‎amazing works were created specifically for ‘Yisrael’, although it certainly seems so at first ‎glance. He is not talking about the Jews - those sometimes great, sometimes not so great, heirs ‎of the primordial prototype called Yisrael. He means Yisrael, the people who the Jews were ‎and are supposed to be. ‎
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The third rule is that time must be set aside to make this happen. All the intention in the world ‎is not enough to comprehend God through nature. This is where Shabbat comes in. Shabbat, ‎or Shabbos, as Rebbe Nahman would have called it, is a day during the week. But it is ‎obvious from this passage that he is not talking about a 24 hour period in which one eats, ‎sleeps, and does little else. Shabbos does exist in the regular world - that is clear. But it also ‎exists in the ethereal spiritual world. Rebbe Nahman speaks of the spiritual Shabbos, the ‎world of souls. ‎
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This aspect of Shabbos is indeed the purpose of creation. All those wonderful creations were ‎not created just to be there. There were created so that the soul could marvel at them and ‎somehow pierce through their material armor to find what lies hidden underneath. The ‎ultimate goal of all this, of course, is to comprehend God. It is only the soul - the naked soul ‎stripped of all the cumbersome trappings it must bear, that can truly experience this ‎epiphany. Shabbos, according to this, is not really a time period at all. It is the spiritual ‎experience that is the completion of the natural world. ‎
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In summation, the purpose of creation is so that a group of people could use their latent ‎potential to experience God through the natural world. This experience is called Shabbos. ‎That Rebbe Nahman clothes such a lofty goal within rather familiar things, such as the Jews ‎and Saturday, should come as no surprise. Deep Torah concepts are always clothed within the ‎mundane – it is the only way that we gain basic access to them. But they were not meant to ‎remain mundane. They were meant to be elevated beyond their normal confines, much as the ‎natural world was meant to be a steppingstone to the comprehension of God. The amazing ‎thing is not that we can find God by peeking through the veils of the mundane. Of course ‎God must lie in there somewhere. The amazing thing is that we truly need the mundane ‎natural world to find God. There are no shortcuts. The path to God is through nature and the ‎unceasing miracle of creation. ‎
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Practical ‎
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If only we could just do it. If only a Jew could cut through all the Jewish baggage and ‎become what a Jew was supposed to become. If only every person could cut through their ‎own baggage and become a soul. If only one day a week we could all ditch our problems and ‎hang-ups and the million things that keep us too busy to experience the spiritual in the natural. ‎If only every day was another opportunity to cut through those veils and actually experience ‎life as it was meant to be. This is all just wishful thinking. How does one make it happen? ‎
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If anyone out there has the answer, please let the rest of us know. In lieu of that, we can offer ‎a few suggestions. Nothing remarkable, no great revelations – just a few tips that may help ‎get you started. First of all, like so many other examples in this project, the first thing is ‎setting aside the time. If Shabbos doesn’t work for you, do it on Tuesday, or Sunday ‎morning, or every full moon. Just find a time and dedicate it. Make it holy - it is. Next, get ‎yourself into the right frame of mind. You have a soul - whether the scientists have confirmed ‎it or not is pretty irrelevant. That soul is you. It is really waiting for the chance to do ‎something like this. It is waiting for a spiritual experience. Spiritual experiences are not ‎limited to holy men on mountain tops. They are out there available for everyone. It’s just a ‎matter of letting yourself do it and then persevering until it happens. ‎
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The third thing is recognizing that the prop you need to have this spiritual experience has been ‎right there in your own backyard all the time. The prop is the world. It’s pretty hard to see it ‎amidst all the plastic and the superficialities. But you needn’t look all that hard to find the ‎alternative. It’s simply the world as it was created. It just means cutting through veils of ‎cyberspace and gossip and thrills and comforts. It means taking a long walk or a short drive to ‎the nearest place that’s free of all the glitter and the artificial and the superficial. It might be ‎right out your back door. It has probably been there all the time and you just never noticed it. ‎It really doesn’t matter – the main thing is to find it and experience it. It’s nature and it’s fun. ‎It’s wonderful in the true meaning of the word. It is also, if we allow it, a window into God’s ‎world. ‎
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Food for Thought ‎
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Nature is holy. Shabbat is holy. The Jews are a holy people. Why are we so reluctant to seek ‎out holiness in the world and in ourselves? What changes must we make in our lives to be able ‎to sense the holiness of time and place and holiness of the human soul? ‎


		


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