Sefer HaMidot

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Sefer HaMidot – literally translates as The Book of Character Traits – is one of Rebbe Nachman’s books.  It is arranged according to issues in alphabetical order from Emet (truth) to Tefila (prayer), and most chapters have two parts.

The first part is a compilation of verses from the Tanach, Oral Law, and poskim pertaining to midot and segulot (traits and spiritual remedies) which Rebbe Nachman completed before he became Bar-Mitzvah, i.e. before he reached age 13.

The second part was compiled later in Rebbe Nachman’s life and reflects his own insights regarding the issues.

He said of this book that it is what made him a real Jew.

Sipurei Maasiyot – The 13 Stories of Rebbe Nachman

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The method of story-telling Rebbe Nachman used in his book Sipurei Maasiyot is actually a spiritual “trick” he learned from his great-grandfather, the holy Baal Shem Tov.

The 13 stories that comprise Sipurei Maasiyot, essentially hints and clues about the geula, penetrate the reader’s/listener’s neshama on a subliminal level.

They open clogged spiritual channels impenetrable by “conventional” lessons and talks.

The terms and symbols are the same as in the sefarim hakedoshim.  For example, in the Zohar, Tikkunim, and in all of the writings of the Ari, the “Bat Melech”, the princess, refers to the Shechina and to Knesset Yisrael.  Thus, the galut, exile, of the Shechina and Knesset Yisrael is told in the 1st story – “The Lost Princess”.  Similarly, Yisrael is also known as “the second to the King.”

Especially with everything going on in the news right now, we ourselves can well feel what’s told in the 11th story, “The King’s Son and the Servant’s Son Who Were Switched”.

[Btw, the 7th story, of “The Fly and the Spider”, is an allegorical-autobiographical tale of Rebbe Nachman’s neshama before his birth – what happened to his neshama before it came down to this world.]

Simcha Taken to a Higher Level

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Rebbe Nachman wrote that there is no such thing as despair – things can always change, and even completely turn around, in a moment!

He also brought simcha, joy and happiness, to a higher level where he wrote that it is a great mitzvah to be happy always, and that all illnesses stem from lost or spoiled joy

(Likutei Moharan, part II, section 24).

Narrow Bridge

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(Gan HaGoren, Yavniel)

Rebbe Nachman wrote:

“Know, that one must go over a very very narrow bridge,

and the rule and main point is not to be afraid at all”

(Likutei Moharan part II, section 48).

 

That is, the physical world completely mislead us, and, thus, spiritually, is a place of danger.  The only thing that saves us from it is our “narrow bridge” which is that aggregate of all the tools we have and which we work to instill in us: Emunah, Talmud Torah, Mitzvot, Hitbodedut, simcha, etc.

But we shouldn’t be afraid even though (by nature of a “very very narrow bridge”) we often stumble and fall off.

The Rav Kook of Tveria

(The Rav Dov Isser HaCohen Kook shlit”a)

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four a.m. on the outskirts of Tiberius

the farm before the city before urban distraction

a tzaddik of bygone generations

alive in ours, time-walker in our time

almost incongruous, of past sages and rebbes

yet here and now in this ancient city

just up the rural dirt path

a back open field, space

overlooking city and sea

a sight right for horses and carriages

yes, there are horses

and goats and chickens

in the darkness before dawn

his shamash’s car pulls him right in

as he has done so for ten years now

right into the farm for the few minutes it takes

he comes to drink fresh goat milk

in the quiet of the hour equanimity

golden threaded tunic over layers

of holy talleisim Encircling Light

then return to his service of God

this Godly messenger of God

prays for our Am for our world

for the Jerusalems of Above and Below

for Shechinta b’Afra, b’Galuta

sits and studies Torah, fasts, devotion

as the world slumbers body and soul

but this 19th Cheshvan morning

a little boy is brought in a wheelchair

a little boy all the hi-tec, science, and medicine

this new millennia cannot help

all the technology and specialists of modernity have failed

the boy is brought for a blessing

and is blessed times 500

the ways and words of the tzaddik.

For All Am Yisrael

The following snippets are taken from the book by the great kabbalist, “Ba’al HaSulam” Rabbi Yehuda HaLevy Ashlag z”l in its section “The Introduction to the Book of The Zohar”:

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Understand the dryness and darkness that we find in our generation that we have never heard of before in all previous generations, and this is because even the ovdai Hashem (the servants of Hashem) have renounced from looking into the secrets of the Torah (section 57).

I know the main reason is because faith has diminished in general, and faith in kedushei elyon the sages of the generations…and thus I felt compelled to do a biyur (clarification/explanation)… in order to enable all the masses of Beit Yisrael to learn the Book of the Zohar (section 58).

And here we found that those familiar with the holy Book of the Zohar, that is, those who understand what is written in it, agree unanimously that this holy Book of the Zohar is authored by the Tanna HaEloki, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.  Except for those far from this wisdom, among those who doubt this yichus, and tend to say, according to false tales, from those who oppose this wisdom, that its author is the kabbalist Rabbi Moshe De Leon, or others who are closer to his time (section 59).

Before these last two thousand years, which are Yamot Mashiach (per Tractate Sanhedrin 97a), the wisdom of the Zohar in general and the wisdom of Kabbalah in particular, were hidden from the world, except for the time of the Ari…and except for a small number of special individuals, who were not given permission [from above] to reveal it to the world.  And now in our generation, after we are already so close to the end of the last two thousand years, therefore permission [from above] has been given now to reveal [Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai’s] words and the words of the Zohar to the world (section 61).

Woe to those people who cause the spirit of Mashiach to depart and to go from the world…and do not want to try to understand the wisdom of Kabbalah, and to know and become educated in the secrets of the Torah and Ta’amei Mitzvot…Woe to those who cause by these actions of theirs there to be poverty and the sword and Hamas (theft) and plunder and killings and devastation in the world (section 70).

All those engaged in Torah who disrespect their penimiyut, and the Penimiyut of the Torah [Kabbalah], and leave it…amplify their chitzoniyut (outwardness), being the benefit of the body, and thus the outwardness of the Torah (section 71).

When the Maggid First Met the Besht

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The Maggid of Mezhirech was already a well-respected and learned rabbi before he set out to see for himself the reputed wonder-working Yisrael Ba’al Shem Tov, the Besht.

The Maggid took his personal attendant with him, loaded up his horses and wagon, and intended to stay in the Besht’s hometown Medzhibozh for three days for this purpose.

From observing the Besht during these three days, the Maggid was actually appalled to discover that the Besht acted more like a simpleton than a rebbe.  The Besht was seen tending his horses and chickens and being outdoors a lot.

On the third day, the disappointed Maggid told his attendant to pack everything up.  He would go in first to say good-bye to the Rav Yisrael, but they would leave right after that.

When the Maggid went to the Besht, the latter invited him to study a little Torah together and suggested the Maggid read a certain passage of the Zohar.  The Maggid read, but when he was finished, the Besht told him that he did not read it correctly.  This, of course, infuriated the Maggid, who only answered that that was how was custom and how he had learned it.

Read it again, the Besht told him.  And the Maggid reread the passage of the Zohar.  And again the Besht told him that he had not read it correctly, and that he was to try one last time.

After reading the passage a third time, the Maggid insisted that that was how the passage is read, but the Besht kept his ground that the Maggid was not reading it right.

Now I’ll read it to show you, the Besht said to the Maggid, and as the Besht began reading the passage, angels began to appear and swarm around the room.  When he concluded, the Besht looked at the Maggid and said, This is how the passage is meant to be read.

The Maggid then instructed his attendant to unpack the wagon and that they were now staying indefinitely right there by the Ba’al Shem Tov.

The Maggid was later known to have been the main disciple of the Besht.

The Uniqueness of Our Generation

The following is taken from the book Matan Torah by the great kabbalist, “Ba’al HaSulam” Rabbi Yehuda HaLevy Ashlag z”l:

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Complete devekut (cleaving) and complete hassaga (comprehension) has 125 general levels.  It is impossible to attain all 125 levels before the Messiah comes…

The exception is Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and his generation who wrote the Zohar.  They merited all 125 levels completely even before yamot Mashiach (our generation being before the coming of the Messiah)…

The Zohar made such a strong impact on the world because the secrets it contains include all 125 levels.

The Zohar says that it (the Zohar) will not be revealed until the end of days, that is, until the time of the Messiah…

The fact that the Zohar has been revealed in our generation is clear proof that we are already in the Messianic era and at the beginning of the generation wherein “the entire land is filled with knowledge of God” (Isaiah).

[Article “On Conclusion of the Zohar”]