A treasury of sayings, teachings, parables and stories by the outstanding Chassidic sage, mystic and visionary, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810), whose message of faith, hope, courage, simplicity and joy is essential to each one of us and essential to the whole world.
Translated by Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum
THE ESSENTIAL RABBI NACHMAN
The good life
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The non-believers have no life even in this world. As soon as things go against them, and certainly when trouble strikes, they simply have nowhere to turn. Since they attribute everything to nature, they are left with nothing to fortify them.
But one who has faith and believes in G-d has a very good life. Even when trouble strikes, he can still fortify himself with his trust in G-d, because he knows that everything is for the best. Either this suffering will cleanse him of his sins or eventually bring him some great benefit. For G-d’s intention is certainly for good. Therefore the man of faith always has a good life both in this world and the next.
The non-believers, however, have no life either in this world or the next. Those who really know them see that they are always racked with suffering. They endure constant pain and anxiety because things never go exactly as they want. All their days are filled with pain and anger.
In this world it is impossible for everything to go the way one wants it. Those who ignore the true, enduring purpose of life, satisfying only their material desires, are doomed to a life of constant pain and suffering without having any way to console themselves.
But if you have true faith, your main hope is in the world to come and you therefore have a very good life. Whatever happens to you, you have faith that everything is for good – whether it comes to remind you to repent or to atone for your sins so that you may be worthy of the everlasting good of the world to come.
Your sins and wrongdoing may cause you great anguish. You may suffer the worst agonies of regret. Yet your very contrition over your sins actually increases your days and adds to your life, for “The fear of G-d increases one’s days” (Proverbs 10:27 ).
You may experience great pain when you regret your sins. You may feel deeply ashamed when contemplating G-d’s exalted greatness. You may cringe in fear of punishment. Whatever form it takes , this suffering is caused by your very fear of G-d, and “The fear of G-d increases one’s days.” Your very pain and anxiety add to your days.
If you are a person of faith, you will find it easier to repent. True repentance must balance the sin. You have to endure pain and suffering in equal measure to the enjoyment derived from the sin.
Since you believe in G-d, you will never be able to have complete enjoyment from any sin because any wrong you do will be with mixed feelings and in the full knowledge that it will end bitterly . You know the bitter punishment for each sin, so that if you succumb to temptation you are filled with regrets even as you sin. It is therefore much easier for you to repent because you do not have to endure unbearable pangs of repentance since the pleasure from your sin was never very great.
For the non-believers, however, repentance is more of a burden. Having suffered little pain or remorse at the time of the sin, they are obliged to suffer when they repent in order to balance the pleasure of the sin.
Sichot Haran #102
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“And the way to sing the song of joy is by seeking the good in all people, especially in ourselves. Each good point is one more note in the song of life!”
Rabbi Nachman of Breslov