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Translation:Tales of Rabbi Nachman/Sichot

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Tales of Rabbi Nachman (Sipurei Ma'asiyot) by Nachman of Breslov, translated by Wikisource
Comments Following the Stories


These parables and anecdotes appear only in the Hebrew.

[The Chandelier Maker][edit]

A tale. One man left his father and was in other countries for a long time with foreigners. In time, he came to his father and boasted that he had learned there a great craft: how to make a chandelier, which is called a hang laykhter/ hanging light. He told his father to assemble all the craftsmen of this art and he would show them his wisdom in this art. So did his father do, gathering all the craftsmen of this art to see his son's greatness; what he had accomplished all this time he was in the hand of others.

And the son took out one chandelier that he had made, but it was very ugly to all their eyes, and his father went to them and asked them to disclose the truth to him, so they were obligated to inform him of the truth, that it was very ugly. But the son boasted, "Have I not revealed the wisdom of my craft?" And his father informed him that it did not appear beautiful in all their eyes. But the son replied, "Well, with this I have shown my greatness, for I have shown to all of them their lackings, for in this chandelier are found the lackings of each one of the artisans found here. Do you not see that for this person this part is ugly and another part is very beautiful to him, but for another person it is the opposite: on the contrary, that piece that was ugly for his colleague is beautiful and wonderful in his eyes but only this piece is ugly; and likewise with all of them: whatever is bad in this one's eyes is beautiful in the eyes of his colleague, and vice-versa. And I have made this chandelier solely from lackings, to show to all of them that they do not have completeness and all have a lacking, for what is beautiful in one person's eyes is a lacking in the eyes of his colleague. But in truth I can make a perfect chandelier."

If [people] would know all the lackings that hinder a thing, they would know the essence of the thing, even if they had never seen it.

"Great are the works of Hashem" [Ps. 111:2]. No two human beings are alike; all the [human] forms are included in the first man, Adam. That is, the very word "ADaM/man" contains all these forms. The same is true of other things: all luminaries are contained in the word "OhR/light;" the same for every thing, that is, all works of creation. And even two leaves of a tree are not alike, and so forth. And the Rebbe spoke at very great length about this, and he stated at that time, that there are wisdoms in this world through which a person could survive on these wisdoms alone, without eating or drinking. And he spoke at length then on this wonderful and awesome talk.

[The Pump][edit]

Regarding the discussion which [some of Rebbe Nachman's chassidim] were having about someone who was then in one of the large non-Jewish cities and tarried there a long time because each time he imagined that now he would succeed: and so it was each time, until he was delayed there a long time. And he [the Rebbe] said that that is the way it goes when one comes to such places, that each time it seems to him, "Now I will accomplish, now I will accomplish," etc., etc. And he told this story:

There was one man who did not believe what the world says, that there are leitzim/tricksters from the Sitra Achra/ Other Side that come sometimes to mislead people, as has happened several times; he did not believe this. One night, a leitz came to him and called him to go outside. He went out and the leitz showed him that he had a beautiful horse to sell. He looked and indeed it was a very beautiful horse, so he asked him, "How much do you want?" Answered the leitz, "Four adumim/rubles." He saw that it was easily worth eight rubles, for it was a choice, fine horse. So he bought the horse from him for four rubles and he considered it a great find. The next day, he took the horse out to sell, and people stepped up to purchase and wanted to give him some amount. He said, "Probably, if they are willing to give me so much, it must be worth double!" So he was not satisfied and he took the horse onward, and they wanted to give him twice his desire. He said, "It is probably worth more than double this amount." So he brought the horse onward, until the price of the horse reached into the thousands. However, he was not satisfied with any of them to sell it, for whatever they wanted to give him, he said, "It is probably worth twice as much." Eventually, there was no one who could buy it except the king.

So he brought it to the king, and the king wanted to give him an astounding amount, for the horse was exceedingly pleasing to everyone. However, he was not willing with the king either, for he said, "It is probably worth more." Thus, even the king was unable to buy the horse. So he went from the king with the horse to water it. There was a plomf/pump there from which people take water. The horse jumped into the pump, disappeared and was no more. (That is, it appeared to him as such, for the entire incident of the horse was made up by the leitz). He yelled out loud over this, and people gathered around in response to his screaming and asked him, "Why are you screaming?" He replied that his horse had jumped into the pump. And they beat him [with] injurious blows, for he appeared insane since the opening of the pump is very narrow, and how can a horse jump into it? He saw that they were beating him and that he appeared insane, and he wanted to go from there. As he wanted to leave, the horse began to stick its head out of the pump. So he began to scream again, "Aha, aha (look, look)!" since it appeared to him that his horse was there. The people gathered around and beat him again, since he was insane, as mentioned. Again he decided to leave; and as soon as he wanted to go, the horse again stuck its head out of the pump. He began shouting again as before and the people gathered upon him again and beat him.

Thus the Sitra Achra deceives a man each time with nothingness; complete lies having no substance. And he is incited by it, pursues it, and each time it appears to him that he will profit more and that he will fill his craving more. So he runs after it many times, and suddenly all his desires vanish, get away and go away from him — as has happened many times, that the cravings go away a little, and when the man wants to detach from them, then they come back and stick out their heads and he goes back to chasing them. And so it continues, that as soon as they stick out their heads, he goes back to chasing them. (And he explained the matter no further. Understand this well.)

[Flesh and Bones][edit]

A story about a tzaddik, who was an extremely great tzaddik, who had totally, totally disengaged from that known desire, in the proper entirety, and he ascended to the upper worlds, and saw pieces of flesh and bones sitting in a cauldron. He asked, "What is this?" They answered him that this was a very, very beautiful woman, and on account that she used to heat up her body for transgression, therefore they're cooking her here. And he wanted to see her. And they gave him divine names, that she should be reassembled as before, and he saw that she was an extremely beautiful woman. And from this it is proper to see the negativity of this desire. If they would cut her into little pieces, would his desire still apply?!

[The Tzaddik Who Fell into Sadness][edit]

It is known that sadness is a very despicable trait, and one needs to keep very far away from it. And it is proper to enliven and raise oneself, just knowing that every single movement and change that one makes upon starting to serve Hashem is very, very precious in Hashem's eyes, even if he moves himself only a hairsbreadth, because since a person exists in a body in the physical world, any movement or change is very hard for him; therefore it is very precious in Hashem's eyes.

And there was a story about a Tzaddik/righteous man uponwhom a great sadness and heaviness had fallen. And when sadness and heaviness grow worse on a Tzaddik it is very, very hard for him, for it attacks him more and more, until so much sadness and heaviness fell on him that he was really unable to move from his place at all due to the vastness of the heaviness and sadness that had become very strong upon him. And he wanted to make himself happy and pick himself up but he was unable to cheer himself up and lift himself with any thing, for with whatever thing he wanted to cheer himself with, the Accuser found sadness in it for him, until he was unable to make himself happy with any thing, because in any joy that he wanted to cheer and raise himself with, sadness found him in it. And he began to cheer himself with the joy of "shelo `asani goy/ ...that He has not made me a heathen."

And this is certainly a very great joy that has no bound, for one cannot estimate the separation and difference, the millions of thousands of separations that are between the holiness of the lowest of lowest Yisraelites and the filth of the impurity of the idolaters. And when a person recalls the kindness Hashem had upon him in not making him a heathen, it is certainly proper for his joy to grow very great, and it is a joy that has no sadness upon it. For when a person makes himself happy with a thing that he himself did, which is a perfect thing to do, in this it is possible to find sadness in any joy, for lackings will find him in any thing, not letting him raise and cheer himself. But in this, "that He has not made me a heathen," which is only from Hashem Yithbarakh, since Hashem Yithbarakh did so and had mercy on him and did not make him a heathen, how is it possible to find a lacking in this joy, which is the sole work of Hashem Yithbarakh? For, certainly, however it may be, in any case it is a huge difference between him and the idolaters which has no bound or limit.

And the Tzaddik mentioned above began to cheer himself with this and began to rejoice and raise himself little by little. And each time, he raised and cheered himself exceedingly, until he came to such a great joy that he reached the joy that Moshe Rabbeinu, of blessed memory, had when he went up to receive the Tablets. And while he was raising and cheering himself, he flew up in the worlds many many thousand parsahs, and during this he took a look at himself and behold, he was very far from the place where he was at first. And he was very afflicted, for he thought he would fall down to some other place, and there would be an astonishment over him that he had disappeared suddenly, and the Tzaddik had always desired to be going along discreetly. And the joy began to end, for joy has limits, for it begins and it ends. And when the joy began to end, it ceased a little bit. And when he returned, fell, and was cast down from the place where he flew up to during the joy, he did not return to his first place where he flew up from in the same manner that he flew up, but rather he went down immediately to that place where he flew up from. And therefore it was a great wonder that he found himself afterwards going down in the original place. (Understand this well). Eventually he returned to the place where he was at first, and he took a look at himself and saw that he was actually where he was first, and did not depart from his place at all, except for possibly a hairbreadth which was impossible for a man to measure, only Hashem Yithbarakh. And it was a great amazement in the eyes of the Tzaddik, that he had flown up so much in the worlds while here below he did not move at all. So they showed him that a small motion and movement that a man moves himself with in this world is so precious in the eyes of Hashem Yithbarakh — even one that is less than a hairsbreadth — that many, many thousands of worlds and parsahs are incomparable to it.

Circle around six radial lines.png

And to understand this, it is known that this material world is only the central point of the [heavenly] orbs, as is understood by the astronomers; and all the more so, against the higher worlds the entire Earth is not considered more than a point. And it is known that all the lines which you draw from a central point are evidently near each other near the point, and the more they extend from the point, they become more distant from each other. And so when the lines extend exceedingly far from the point, the lines also become extremely far from each other, even though down below by the point they are adjacent, like this:

Hence if a person measures in his mind, lines drawn from the core of the Earth, even only out to the celestial orbs, thus even if he moves only a hair's thickness, nonetheless in the space of the orbs he is distanced from the place that was the projection of his head previously, being now distanced many, many thousands of parsahs, in accord with the immensity of the outermost orb in compare to the lower Earth, as is known, for innumerable stars are fixed there, and each star is as huge as this world and more. And all the more and all the more so, when he measures in his mind the lines drawn out to the upper worlds, compared to which the celestial orbs are totally insignificant. Hence there is no bound to the distance he spans there in the upper worlds by means of any traversal whatever, even less than a hairsbreadth that he spans and goes from the place he was at initially — even though here on the lower Earth he did not span and go even so much as less than a hairbreadth, that in his eyes he did not span any distance at all — for this is but undetectable except by Hashem Yithbarakh. Despite all this, there, in the upper worlds, he spans many, many thousands of worlds and parsahs — and all the more, all the more, when the Man goes a parsah or many parsahs in service of Hashem; "Eye has not seen..." [Isa. 64:3]

[The Two Palaces][edit]

Know that there are two kinds of palaces, and the two palaces are identical. In one lives the king, and in the second lives a servant. And certainly in truth there is a vast difference between the palace of the king and the palace of the servant, but nevertheless it is possible to mistake one for the other, for there is a connection formed by many souls that bind to each other so that they become a house and palace, for one binds to another, and one to another, until they become a foundation, and then a covering, until they constitute a house and an abode. And this abode is an abode for truth, and when we need to request truth we find [it] there at that abode, that is, amidst the connection of the souls that constitute the abode for truth. And therefore the Torah has commanded, "Acharei rabim lehatoth/ Turn [judgment] to the majority [opinion]" [Ex. 23:2], for since many have bound together as one, surely the truth is there, as mentioned.

And this is the aspect of, "Kol hanefesh haba'ah leveith Ya`akov/ All the souls that come to/ came to/ became the house of Ya`akov" [Gen. 46:26-27 and Rashi there]. That is, the souls are what constitute the "house of Jacob," that is, an abode for truth, which is the aspect of Ya`akov, as is written, "Titen emeth leYa`akov/ Grant truth to Ya`akov" [Mic. 7:20]. However, be aware that diametrically opposed to this is the bond of the wicked, that many souls of the wicked bind together and become a house and abode for falsehood. And this is what the prophet warned us of, "Lo-thomrun kesher, lekhol asher-yomar ha`am hazeh kesher/ You shall not call as a band everything that this people call a band" [Isa. 8:12], for a band of the wicked is not considered, and for this it is written, "Lo thihyeh acharei rabim le­ra`oth/ Do not follow a multitude to do evil" [Ex. 23:2]. But behold, it is possible to mistake one of these abodes for the other, that is, between the one of truth and the one of falsehood. For falsehood imitates truth, for there too there is the binding of many souls, and a man can be mistaken and not know where the truth is nor where to drawn himself to. And know, that by means of the mitzvah of redeeming captives, one can discern between the two houses, between truth and falsehood, between the king and the servant, for falsehood is the aspect of the servant, aspect of the cursed, as in, "Arur kena`an, `eved `avadim/ Cursed be Canaan — a servant of servants" [Genesis 9:25].

[The Two Intellects][edit]

And there are two types of intellects, and they are the aspect of, "achor vakedem/ behind and before" [Ps. 119:5]. That is, there is an intellect that comes to a man with time, and the more time passes in days, the more he knows, as in, "Yamim yedaberu/ Days will speak" [Job 32:7]. This type of intellect is in the category of "achor," since it comes with the passing of time, for time is what this intellect needs. But there is an intellect that comes to a man in great abundance, very swiftly, in less than an instant, for it is above time; and no time at all is needed for this intellect, and this intellect is the category of "panim/face," which is the aspect of Ya`akov, who represents truth, as in, "...mevakshei paneikha, Ya`akov. Selah/ those that seek Your face, Ya`akov. Selah" [Ps. 24:6].

[A Remedy for Pox][edit]

After Shabbath Parashath Vaychi he said, "At this Shalosh Se`udot I became aware of a segulah for pox. Take chalk and take soap [borith] three times the weight of the chalk, and from the two make a bath to bathe the baby. And it is necessary to do this as soon as the baby starts to have fever from this, and it will be effective if the decree is not severe, but if the decree is severe it will not help."

And he said: The disease of pox resulted from the Sin of the Calf. So, in this regard the question arises: does this disease not exist also among the nations of the world? But it is brought in the Midrash that the nations of the world ought not have any diseases (since their portion is given them in this world), but only in order that they not oppress and overpower Yisrael, all the illnesses that Yisrael have were given to them, as Rashi has explained regarding the verse, 'Cherpath naval al-tesimeni/ Do not make me the reproach of an ignoble man' [Ps. 39:9]: Bring plagues and pains upon him as well so that he will not be able to say to me, 'You are stricken but we are not stricken;' and this prayer caused the afflictions of sicknesses to be brought upon the nations. But there is another apparent question: This illness certainly existed before the Sin of the Calf. However, beforehand, the illness was not severe, and the pox was only a result of blood that the baby had drawn in its mother's womb, as the healing sages know, but it was not a grave illness with deathly danger as it is now; and this is on account of the Sin.

[The segulah] is also alluded to in Yiremiyahu, where everything is mentioned in one verse: "Even if you wash yourself with nether/ chalk and use a lot of borith/soap on yourself, the stain of your sin is before Me" [Jer. 2:22]. Rashi explains that this refers to the Sin of the Calf. (Thus, the secret of the segulah for this illness caused by the Sin of the Calf is alluded to here, that is, to wash with nether, which is chalk, and to use much borith, which is soap.) Understand the wonders.

[Sarah Esther][edit]

[A story] from days of his youth. One time people came to him with a pidyon-redemption, to pray for a girl, Sarah Esther bath Yehudith. And he said that she would die, and that is what happened. And he said that he knew this from the holy Torah, since he had just seen the verse, "Vehadagah asher ba'yeor meithah wayyiv'ash/ And the fish which were in the river died and stank" [Ex. 7:21]. And in the words, "meithah wa'yiv'ash" this was revealed to him — "MeiThaH Way'YiV'ASh" is an acronym of "Sarah Aesther Vath Yehudith Wai [Vai!] MeiThaH [Woe! Sarah Esther daughter of Yehudith shall die]!" Hashem keep us.

[The Ten Tehillim][edit]

[The Rebbe] urged his men, when an unclean mikreh/accident happens to them (i.e. nocturnal emission) to go immediately and right away to a mikveh [ritual bath] to immerse, because a mikreh can cause, God forbid, what it causes. Therefore it is very good that before some [bad] thing starts to be done as a result of it, God forbid, the man should preempt, and immerse and purify himself.

And he urged us very much that a man should not fear this at all, for fear, worry and melancholy in this matter are very, very harmful, especially since he has revealed to us the ten chapters of Tehillim/Psalms to remedy this error, namely: 16, 32, 41, 42, 59, 77, 90, 105, 137, 150, as explained in the books which have already been printed [Tikkun Haklali; Likutei Moharan]. At that time he said, "Whoever manages to fulfill this, to say these the ten chapters of Tehillim on the same day he has a mikreh, God forbid, will surely have his error corrected, and should not [think] back and worry about it at all." He also made mockery of those chassidim and God-fearing people who, whenever some thought arises in their minds, have fear of having a mikreh, and due to this they are accustomed [to do the prohibited, God forbid] as if it were permitted — and he, of blessed memory, would make mockery of this. And his main intention was: that a man needs to not be scared or fear such things at all, without thinking any thoughts at all regarding this, but only be a valiant soldier standing against his craving and detach his mind from this completely and not be scared at all, and Hashem shall only let what is good in His eyes happen with him, whatever the Blessed One desires.

And he hinted with his words that this is the aspect of the blemish of King Dawidh, obm, with Batsheva, etc., but he did not explain the thing thoroughly. But a person very, very much needs to make himself strong in joy continuously, and not be cast down in his mind at all due to any thing in the world, no matter what happens to him. And if he is strong in his mind and does not get frightened at all, and does not contrive thoughts at all (which they call iber trachten/ over-thinking), but goes wholesomely in joy, he will merit to ultimately pass through everything in peace. And these things are impossible to explain in writing, "but a prudent one will discern the straight way he should go" [Prov. 14:15].

[A King's Hand][edit]

In addition is what he told on Shabbath Chanukkah, of a king's son who was distanced from his father, etc., and he yearned very, very much, etc. And a letter from his father arrived to him, and he was very, very delighted by it, but still he yearned that he would extend him his hand, and if he would extend him his hand, he would hug it and kiss it. And afterwards he decided, "Is this letter not the writing of the king himself's hand? So therefore it is the king's hand," etc. etc. (All this has not been properly written, for it has been forgotten, since it was not written down at the time.)


Tam venishlam, shevach la'El, Borei `Olam
Done and complete, praise to God, Creator of the World!


Barukh hanoten laya`ef koach, ul'ein onim `atzmah yarbeh
Blessed is He Who strengthens the weary and increases the might of the weak.