Shabbat: Rabbi Nachman
ADVICE from RABBI NACHMAN
Online English translation of Likutey Etzot
A compendium of Rabbi Nachman’s practical teachings on spiritual growth and devotion.
© AZAMRA INSTITUTE 5766 / 2006
1) The custom of washing in hot water in preparation for Shabbat is tikkun habrit. The same is true of the practice of reading over the weekly Torah portion twice in the Hebrew and once in the Aramaic Targum (Likutey Moharan I, 19:5).
2) Shabbat observance is the foundation of genuine faith. All the acts of charity and other good deeds that we do are invested with radiance and perfection only in virtue of the Shabbat, because Shabbat is the very embodiment of faith. Charity has the power to bring an abundance of blessings and holy influences into the world, but they only become manifested in actuality because of the Shabbat. As the embodiment of faith, Shabbat is the fountain of blessings. Shabbat brings everything in the world to its ultimate perfection. Without Shabbat, and the faith it brings with it, all things are lacking. This applies also to our Da’at, the understanding we have of Godliness and our knowledge of Torah. True wisdom and the understanding of Torah can blossom only through the influence of Shabbat and of faith (31:2).
3) In order to experience the essential holiness of the Shabbat, namely true faith, it is necessary to observe the Holy Covenant in purity. There is a deep connection between Shabbat and the Covenant, which explains why it is customary to go to spend Shabbat with Tzaddikim. The holiness of the Tzaddikim derives from the fact that they guard the Covenant in purity, in all its aspects. People try to spend Shabbat with them in order to experience the true holiness of Shabbat and deepen their faith (Ibid. 3).
4) One should try to draw the holiness of Shabbat into the six working days of the week and sanctify them also. The more the weekdays are invested with holiness, the more the forces of evil — the `filthy serpent,’ the `end of all flesh,’ the `raging stormwind’ etc. — are subdued. Through this, speech becomes elevated (38:7).
5) By making a vow and carrying it out immediately you can come to experience the true joy of Shabbat, oneg Shabbat. The main joy of Shabbat comes from the food we eat in purity and holiness at the three fixed meals and at other times during Shabbat. It is a mitzva to eat all kinds of fine foods and special delicacies. Those who truly experience the joy of Shabbat can by their very eating on Shabbat reach spiritual levels which they could only otherwise achieve by fasting. They can conquer anger and reach such levels of understanding that the radiance of God shines in their very faces. All their enemies simply fall away before them (57:4, 6).
6) How precious and holy is the act of eating on Shabbat. It is completely suffused with Godliness without the slightest hint of impurity. The forces of the Sitra Achra, the `Other Side,’ have no share at all in the Shabbat food. Anger is conquered and the force of wild passion is uprooted and cast aside. Love and peace reign supreme (Ibid. 5, 6).
7) It is also necessary to give generously to charity. Then you will find a profound peace. The experience of the joy of the Shabbat food, together with acts of charity, brings about peace that `has a mouth.’ There is one kind of peace that `has no mouth.’ That is the state of peace existing between people who are nevertheless unable to speak to each other. But peace which `has a mouth’ is the state of perfect peace where men talk to one another. For the lips are invested with a wonderful illumination when we eat on Shabbat (Ibid. 7).
8) On Shabbat the double portion of bread — lechem mishneh — which the Tzaddik enjoys is a double portion of Torah — mishneh Torah. Shabbat is a favored time for developing original Torah ideas: `two for every one.’ Shabbat spreads its influence over all the worlds and sends the light of its radiance to every level, bringing healing to the soul and the body (58:5).
9) The radiance which Shabbat brings into the world stirs men to return to God out of love. When this happens, relief and healing are granted to the righteous in place of the trials and suffering they had to endure previously. People come to see them in a new light, they begin to understand the true greatness and beauty of their souls, and they start to treat them with respect and dignity. In the individual also, the greater his purity, each on his own level, the greater the radiance and splendor that will shine from his soul, and the higher his standing will be in men’s eyes. The greater his personal worth and purity, the more he will be able to absorb the teachings which the Tzaddik gives over on Shabbat in all their originality and freshness (Ibid. 7).
10) Through observing the Shabbat fittingly, the forces of evil and the kelipot, the `husks,’ are destroyed. The way to reach such a level of Shabbat observance is by making an effort to bring people closer to God and through secluded prayer and meditation before God, examining oneself and bringing oneself to a reckoning for all one’s actions (59:1, 3).
11) Shabbat, the World to Come and truth are in essence all one concept. Through it the wicked are brought down and the true greatness of the Tzaddikim and those who are genuinely pious is revealed. When this happens the whole world draws closer to God and men begin to call upon His blessed Name. The faculty of speech becomes perfect. Speech becomes holy and people experience true prayer (66).
12) A person who experiences the holiness of Shabbat can attain true purity — which means to understand his own lowliness and to be so aware of the greatness of Israel that he is prepared to sacrifice his very life for them, as Moses did (79).
13) On Shabbat everyone experiences a certain enhancement of their perception of Godliness, and through this their capacity to give love to their fellow creatures becomes greater. For a person’s capacity to give love is related to the degree of his perception. And when he offers love to others, he in turn receives love from Heaven (119).
14) We eat on Shabbat not to gratify our physical appetites, but in order to open the channels of blessing for the other six days of the week (276).
15) Preparing special delicacies for Shabbat is the main way of honoring the Shabbat. The food of Shabbat is very precious: it has a unique holiness. We partake of Godliness itself. It is good to have ample to eat on Shabbat. This in itself can make up for having desecrated the Sabbath in the past (125; 277).
16) The good deeds and mitzvot which we perform during the six working days of the week lack the power to rise up and go before God until the coming of Shabbat. Then they all ascend and come before God Himself, and He has great delight from them — even from the mitzvot of ordinary people, which may be lacking the proper degree of care and concentration with which the divine commandments should be carried out. As all these good deeds and mitzvot ascend, the path to God is opened wide. It is our eating on Shabbat which actually brings about this ascent (Ibid.).
17) `And he begot a son. And he called his name Noah, saying: ‘This one will comfort us in our work and in the toil of our hands…’ ‘ (Genesis 5:28-29).
Shabbat is called a son, Noah. It brings joy to the highest and the lowest. It brings comfort and happiness to all, and relief from harshness and depression. All the mitzvot which we perform on the six weekdays have a certain heaviness about them. But on Shabbat they are elevated and raised up from this heaviness, and they become suffused with joy. The holiness and joy of Shabbat can also be drawn into the six working days. This comes about through the praise and thanks we give to God, and also when we devote ourselves to the study of Torah law. This is the way to experience the joy of Shabbat on the weekdays also. Then we can have joy in God and perform all the mitzvot in joy even on the six working days. Those who reach this level are granted a vision of the simple unity which underlies all the diverse phenomena of the world. Everything is simply an expression of God’s unity. There is nothing more wonderful than to attain this vision. It is something very precious in all the worlds above. Even in God’s eyes it is precious (Likutey Moharan II, 2:5, 6).
18) The joy of Shabbat is really the gateway to true freedom. Through it you can reach the highest levels in the knowledge of God, free of all distractions and confusion. These levels of knowledge must be founded on genuine fear of God without any hint of foolishness. There are many kinds of fear. When someone is afraid of some earthly power or authority, this is `fallen’ fear. Genuine fear of God, which is bound up with the knowledge of God, elevates us from the hold of `fallen’ fear (17).
19) You should be very careful to feel nothing but joy on Shabbat. There is nothing to compare with the greatness and holiness of Shabbat. This is explained in many places in our sacred literature, for example the Reishit Chokhmah, (by R. Eliahu de Vidas) where the subject is discussed at the beginning of the section on `Holiness.’ Study this section very carefully. What is written there about the holiness of Shabbat will kindle a burning desire within you to celebrate Shabbat with true joy. For joy is the key to honoring the Shabbat. You must never betray the slightest hint of depression or anxiety on Shabbat. Treat yourself to all kinds of delights: the food you eat, what you drink, your clothes… whatever you can afford. The food of Shabbat is completely holy. It is purely spiritual and filled with Godliness. It rises to a place which is totally different from that of the food of the six working days. Make the effort to feel the joy of Shabbat and you will find true happiness (Ibid.).
20) To attain to the holiness of Shabbat is to reach the ultimate in knowledge, which is to reach the boundaries of the unknown (83).
21) Shabbat is one of the names of God. Shabbat is the light of the eyes which illumine the Holy Temple and the whole world. This is why those who observe the Shabbat will have their eyes opened and they will have the power to see into themselves and judge how far they have reached in their spiritual journey. They will be able to repent for all their failings and come to recognize the true greatness of the Creator. They will have the power of vision over the entire universe. They will be drawn to the innermost point of truth, the true Tzaddik and those with genuine fear of Heaven. Their minds will be opened. It will be as if they are engaged in rebuilding the Holy Temple.
22) Through the merit of Shabbat the homes of Jews are saved from being burned down, God forbid (67).