Translation:Tales of Rabbi Nachman/7

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Tales of Rabbi Nachman (Sipurei Ma'asiyot) by Nachman of Breslov, translated from Hebrew by Wikisource
The Fly and the Spider

He [Rebbe Nachman] announced, “I'll tell you my entire trip that I had.”[1]

A tale. There was once a king who had a number of hard wars up against him, and he conquered them and took many captives. (In the midst of his words as he began telling this story he interjected and said, "You might think [mistakenly] that I will tell you everything and that you will be able to understand.") The king made a big banquet (a ball) every year on the day when he vanquished the war. There at the ball would be all the royal ministers and all the gentlewomen, as the usual way of kings goes, and comedy shows would be made and they would make fun of all the nations: of the Turk (Heb. Ishmaelites) and of all the nations. And they would imitate every nation in the way that their manner and conduct is, and they probably made fun of Jews as well.

The king ordered to bring the book in which the mannerisms and customs of every nation are recorded. And whenever the king would open up the book, he would see [Heb. only: that written in it were the practices and mannerisms of the nation] exactly as they performed the parody of them, because probably the one who performed the comedy also saw the book. While the king was poring over the book, he saw a spider crawling on the edge of the book's pages, and on the pages stood a fly. Presumably, where does a spider go? — toward a fly. Meanwhile as the spider was crawling and going toward the fly, a wind came along and lifted that page from the book; the spider could no longer go to the fly. It turned around and crawled exactly as if it were turning around and no longer wants to go to the fly. Meanwhile, the page fell back in its place and again the spider wanted to go toward the fly. Again the page lifted and did not permit it; again the spider turned back. Thus it happened several times. Afterwards again the spider went towards the fly and was crawling along until it had already gotten itself up with one foot on the page. Again the page lifted up — and the spider was already somewhat on the page — then the page lay down completely, until the spider was left between one page and another; and it was crawling around there, but kept getting left deeper and deeper until nothing whatsoever was left of it. (And the fly — I will not tell you what happened to it.)

And the king had been watching all this and was very astonished; he understood that this is no empty thing but rather he is being shown something through it (and all the ministers saw that the king is gazing and wondering at it). And the king began thinking: what does this signify? And he dozed off over the book. The king dreamed that he was holding a diamond in his hand and looking at it. An exaggerated number of people were emerging from it and he threw the diamond down out of his hand. And the usual way by kings is that over them hangs their portrait and on top of the portrait hangs the crown. He saw in the dream how the people who had emerged from the diamond took the portrait and cut off its head, then they took the crown and threw it into the mud, and they ran towards him to kill him. A page from the book upon which he was lying lifted itself and shielded him and they were unable to do anything to him so they went away, then the page returned to its place. Then again they wanted to kill him and again the page lifted itself as before. Thus it happened several times. The king very much wanted to see what sort of page is shielding him (that is, protecting him); what mannerisms are written on it; from which nation it is. But he was afraid to look and he began to scream, "Woe! Woe!" All the ministers who were sitting there heard and they wanted to wake him up; however, this is no sort of protocol, to wake up a king. They rapped around him in order to wake him, but he did not hear.

Meanwhile, a tall mountain came to him and asked him, "Why are you screaming so? It is such a long time already that I sleep and nobody at all has woken me up — and you have woken me up!" He said to him, "How shall I not scream, when they are rising up over me and want to kill me, except that this page is shielding me?!" The mountain answered him, "If this page is shielding you then you need have no fear of anything whatsoever, for many enemies rise against me as well, but this same page shields me. Come, I will show you." It showed him how around the mountain stand thousands and myriads of enemies and they make feasts and rejoice, playing musical instruments and dancing. And the joyful occasion is that some group from them, one of them thinks and arrives at some wisdom how to go up on the mountain, hence they make a big celebration and a feast with music and dancing, and thus with each group (that is, faction) from among them — "except that this page of these mannerisms that shields you shields me."

And on the mountain's peak is a tablet, and on it were written the mannerisms of the page that shields him; from which nations it is. But since the mountain is high, one cannot read the writing. However at the bottom was a tablet; there it was written that whoever has all [his] teeth — he can go up on the mountain. Hashem Yithbarakh provided that there grows such a grass there where one needs to go up on the mountain, that whoever comes there, all his teeth fall out; whether he was going by foot, riding, or driving a carriage by animals, always his teeth would fall out. Lying there were piles white with teeth, like mountains.[2]

Later the people from the diamond took the portrait and put it back together as previously, and they took the crown and washed it up, and they hung them back in their place. And the king woke up and immediately looked at the page that had shielded him — which mannerism of which nation is it? He saw that written on it is the mannerisms of Jews [Heb. Yisrael]. He began to look at the page honestly and he understood the right truth, and he came to a decision that he himself would definitely be a Jew [Heb. Yisrael]; however, what does one do to return the entire world back to the best state [machzir lemutav], to bring them all to the truth? He came to the decision that he would journey in search of a sage who would solve the dream according to its essence (that is, he should interpret the dream exactly as it is). And he took two men with him and traveled around the world, not as a king but as a simple person, and he traveled from one city to the next and he asked: where does one find such a sage who can solve his dream according to its essence? They informed him that there-and-there is found such a sage. He went there and came to the sage and told him the truth: that he is a king and he had vanquished wars, and the entire story that happened, as mentioned, and he asked him to solve his dream. The sage answered him, "I myself cannot interpret; however, there is a time on this day and in this month — then, I gather together all the spices of the Incense (that is, all the herbs from which they would make the Incense) and I make from them a compound (in other words, he mixes them all up together) and the person is smoked with the incense and this person thinks in himself what he wants to see and know, and then he knows everything."

The king resolved: since he has already in fact spent so much time on it he would wait longer until that day and that month (which the sage had told him). The day came and the sage did for him so, as described above, and smoked him with the incense. The king began to see even things that had happened to him before he was yet born, when the soul was still in the upper world (in other words, on the other world); how they led his soul through all the worlds and they announced, "Whoever has something to say for the prosecution (that is, to speak evil) against this soul, let him come." There was no one who found fault. Meanwhile someone did come and was running and shouting, "Master of the World! Hear my prayer! If this one should come upon the earth, what then have I to do any longer, and for what have You created me? And this was the Samekh-Mem[3] (in other words, the one who was shouting was the S.M. himself; he was yelling: if this soul should go down on the earth he will no longer have anything to do). He was answered, "This soul must go down on the earth, and you — give yourself advice." He went away (that is, the one who was yelling).

They led the soul further through worlds [`olamoth, pl. of `olam, a term for "world" whose root also denotes concealment; hence, the world as a clothing and concealment of the Blessed Unity] (in other words, worlds) in order to swear it in already, in order that it should go down on the earth. And he had not yet arrived (that is, the S.M., who was yelling earlier, had not come yet), so they sent an emissary after him. He came and brought with him a little oldster, a hunched-over one, with whom he was long familiar (that is, the Accuser had been acquainted with this old one from long ago), and he laughed and said, "I have already given myself an advice; this soul can now go down on the earth." They released the soul and it went down on the earth. And he (that is, the king) saw everything that happened to him from beginning to end, how he became king, the wars he had, etc.

And he took captives, and among the captives was a beautiful woman who had every kind of charm in the world. However, this charm was not from herself; rather, she would hang a diamond upon herself and the diamond had all kinds of charm, and on account of that it seemed she had all kinds of charm. And upon that mountain can no others ascend except the wise, the rich, etc. (And more than this he did not tell.)

And there is a great deal more in this. (From "And he took captives" until the end — was not written properly as he told it.)

[Notes Following the Story][edit]

Mizmor leDawidh bevorcho/ A psalm of Dawidh when he fled... Hashem, mah-rabú tsarai, rabim kamim `alai/ Hashem, how many are mine adversaries become; many are they that rise up against me...

We'atah Hashem magen ba`adi, kevodi umerim roshi/ But you, Hashem, are a shield about me: my glory and the lifter up of my head...

Qoli el-Hashem eqra weya`aneni mehar qodsho selah/ With my voice I call out unto Hashem, and He answers me from His holy mountain, Selah — the mountain mentioned above.

Ani shakhavti wa'ishanah/ I lay down and I sleep — as mentioned above.

Haqitzothi/ I awake...

Lo-ira merivevoth `am/ I will not fear a multitude of people...

Ki-hikitha eth-kol-oyvai léchi; shinnei resha`im shibbarta/ for you have smitten all my enemies on the cheek; You have broken the teeth of the wicked — for their teeth would fall out when they wanted to go up on the mountain.

`Al-amekhá virkhathékha selah/ May Your blessing be on Your people, Selah. [Psalms 3]

Stand and contemplate these wonders! If you are a living being [ba`al nefesh], take your flesh up in your teeth and place your life [nefesh] in your palm; stand trembling and amazed. Let the hairs of your head stand on edge, and return again and wonder at these words which stand in the highest of heights.


  1. The big trip to Navritch, Zaslav, Ostoh, Dubna and Brod. See Chayei Moharan #160, 157, 68.
  2. "Shinei resha`im shibbarta/You have broken the teeth of the wicked" (Ps. 3:8); Berakhot 54b
  3. do not pronounce the name: Samael, the accusing angel and the angelic prince of Esav