One of the warnings I was given when I began my newly invigorated pursuit of Judaism was to not let myself get overwhelmed… to not take on too much at once. Doh!
I did not quite understand this… until now. Shouldn’t I dive in deeply? Shouldn’t I go after as much as I can, to see what fits… what works? Isn’t more Judaism better?
Well… that is my tendency… to grab at everything. And this is both a blessing and a curse. It is what has left me with way too many started but unfinished scripts and books… Ugh! And I now understand what the warnings were about, as I AM a bit overwhelmed. Stop… breathe… No, REALLY BREATHE!
I study Tanya and Kabbalah and now Gematria with Rabbi Avi Rabin… the in-person classes are so vital and energizing, and Avi is a joy. I study over the phone with Partners In Torah and Jason K. (reading and studying Rabbi Eliyahu E. Dessler.’s “Strive For Truth”) and now I just started JNET… going through the Tehillim Hashem with Abraham, and hoping to get back up-to-speed reading Hebrew and probably more Tanya…
I study with Rabbi Shlomo Seidenfeld whenever I can… and he is probably the one who has influenced me the most… Rabbi Sholom Denbo is doing “Path Of The Just”, which I have not been able to attend in person yet, but have been wanting to study for a while… and I just met with Ronnie S. to discuss Rebbe Nachman, who I seem to really and deeply connect with, which leads me into today’s post…
So the goal(s) for me is simple… To connect with Hashem in a deeper and more meaningful way… To become the best version of myself I can be… To learn as much about Judaism as I can… and perhaps, most importantly, to find that which works for me on a practical level. Esoteric learning in a bubble is fine… but how it applies to the real and practical world is essential. I need to know what to do and how to do it. I need to see and FEEL forward movement… and growth… and I need to get to a place of true bliss and joy.
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov… He was a Great-grandson of the Baal Shem Tov, and created the Breslov Hasidic movement, that is still alive today!
It was not without controversy, as most movements are… and was thought of as going against classical Judaism. Rabbinic Jews and even other Hasidim had issues with him.
Sadly, he only lived 38 years… but what he taught seems so logical, at least to me… and has given me some real insight and very meaningful prayer sessions. It’s not always easy… time is a major factor… and he wants us to pray for one hour a day, on TOP OF regular prayers… but in my estimation, he took prayer from something on high… something ethereal and not necessarily easy to grasp… and made it… well… practical… user-friendly… REAL!
He talked about how prayer needs to be a dialogue… a normal conversation, as if we are speaking to our father or best friend. He talked about developing a personal closeness to God. This idea of “hitbodedut“… praying in solitude and ideally in nature, is essential to his teachings.
But the thing that won me over and got me interested in the first place were all of these amazing quotes. Far too many times I had heard something so remarkable and powerful… life affirming and life changing… and when searching for the author I always hit on the same name… Rebbe Nachman.
– “You are wherever your thoughts are, make sure your thoughts are where you want to be.”
– “Work at not needing approval from anyone and you will be free to be who you really are.”
– “Get into the habit of singing a tune. It will give you new life and fill you with joy. Get into the habit of dancing. It will displace depression and dispel hardship.”
– “Let the good in me connect with the good in others, until all the world is transformed through the compelling power of love.”
– “Always wear a smile. The gift of life will then be yours to give.”
Amazing life lessons right there!!!
And joy… He spoke about joy… such joy… great joy… and how this must be a part of our prayers and our lives..
And yet, I just learned that he also suffered from horrible depression… debilitating depression… something I think many of us can at least relate to, though hopefully not at all…or if so on a very minor scale…
The world is harsh… life is not easy… what is easy, unfortunately, is getting buried and overwhelmed… by a pile of bills… difficulty finding work… a broken relationship… I have written about this before and I do not shy away from it.
So the big question for me is… How does someone buried in such depression, counter balance and counteract that with such sage advice and wisdom… and of course action? Is it a case of being able to give wonderful advice and not being able to follow it yourself? I feel that way often… but clearly Rebbe Nachman had to be “acting” with joy, or else no one would have bought it… or followed him.
He believed in living with faith, simplicity, and joy. Music and dancing were key for him… which as you know are key for me. Music invigorates and inspires me… It is part of my life’s blood, and Rebbe Nachman allowed me to fully see the power and spirituality of music and dance and to know it is a good thing… a powerful thing… a Jewish thing!
Rebbe Nachman believed in the power of ten specific Psalms, recited in order: Psalms 16, 32, 41, 42, 59, 77, 90, 105, 137, and 150. This was, supposedly, and partly to counter balance something we won’t discuss… but I think to also heal and balance out any sins.
“It is a great mitzvah to be happy always.”
“You are never given an obstacle you cannot overcome.”
Words to take to heart… words to take to deed… and even more fascinating and perhaps more relevant because they came from a man battling his own demons and depression. He was proof that we can overcome… that we can connect… and that we can have joy and a true relationship with Hashem.
Dance and sing, my friends… Be joyous and prosper!