If you’re expecting a historical biography of Rebbe Nachman’s life, you’re not gonna find it here. You can see one in wikipedia or, better yet, you should read it in חיי מוהר״ן, written by his prize student Reb Nosson zt”l. Available in english here.
I think more than anything else what Rebbe Nachman revealed to the world was the hidden powers and beauty of “The True Tzaddik“. Rebbe Nachman was himself a true tzaddik and he taught that in every generation there is such a person. He taught of the need to search out and connect ourselves to the true tzaddik, because our souls are included in the tzaddik’s larger soul. In relation to that idea, he teaches how the tzaddik sees only the good points in everyone as a means to bring them back to Hashem. Although, thanks to the diligent writings of Reb Nosson, we have a tremendous amount of biographical data about Rebbe Nachman’s short life, his dealings and travels remain an utter mystery. Many of his odd behaviors are simply not understandable to people on our level. In general, Chassidus teaches that when the tzaddikim did mundane things such as eating or smoking a pipe they were effecting unifications and remedies for the world.
Rebbe Nachman worked on himself spiritually from an exceedingly young age in unimaginable ways. He was obviously brilliant and a scion of spirituality, being the great grandson of the Baal Shem Tov, but he claimed to achieve all his levels of greatness – including killing his evil inclination – from his extraordinary power of prayer. He simply never gave up in any way his ironclad desire to achieve higher levels of holiness. He taught and exemplified that literally anything is achievable through prayer (השתפ’ הנפש 12).
Rebbi Nachman somehow knew he was carrying all of Israel on his shoulders and he felt the weight of his responsibility to the people. He suffered greatly from the loss of children, controversy, illness, fear of death and ultimately a short life because of the remedies and advice he was giving to the world. I hope over time in this blog to teach many of those remedies and instructions. What differentiates the nature of Breslov teachings from just about any other Jewish school of thought is that Rebbe Nachman never sat down to write a book. In fact, were it not for Reb Nosson, his dependable scribe, we would have virtually nothing in writing from him. Other than a certain number of designated times per year where he spoke in public, his teachings were sudden bursts of divine inspiration usually related to current events, but ultimately relatable to all Jews at all times. These teachings were written down by Reb Nosson who also, to our great merit, recorded the backdrop and story behind many of those lessons.
Although Breslov followers don’t believe that Rebbe Nachman is still alive, we do believe in his power after death. Without the limitations of a body, our teacher’s soul, in a certain sense, can do even more for the world. His choice of a burial spot in Uman was ultimately to ‘fix’ the souls of the murdered townspeople there and he still works wonders on behalf of our people. Rebbi Nachman said before he died that he was successful, will continue to be successful and that his fire will burn until Mashiach comes. אמן!