Truth and Faith: Rabbi Nachman
Discover how truth and faith is the fuel of redemption. Rabbi Nachman provide advice to build faith and live in truth.
1) In essence, redemption is dependent on faith. The root cause of the exile is simply a lack of faith (Likutey Moharan 7:1).
2) Faith, prayer, miracles and the Land of Israel are all one concept. They are all dependent upon each other (Ibid.).
3) There are people who attempt to give natural explanations for all the miracles which take place. They are atheists who have no faith in miracles. When all such people have disappeared and faith will have spread throughout the world, then the Mashiach will come. Because the redemption depends upon faith (Ibid.).
4) The only way to attain faith is through truth. Faith is only applicable in the case of something which cannot be understood rationally. Where one can understand something rationally there is no question of faith being involved at all. But there are certain things which can never be understood rationally. How can one come to have faith in the things one must believe in? Faith depends upon truth. If you will only search for the truth with complete honesty you will eventually realise that you must have faith in God, in the true Tzaddikim and in the holy Torah. You will realize this in spite of the fact that such faith is not something that is susceptible to our rational understanding, bound as our rational faculties are by the material nature of our existence. If you think about things with uncompromising honesty you will get a glimmer of understanding that this really is the truth. Reason will not help here. You need faith that is strong and total. Understand this well (Ibid. 2).
5) The only way to find truth is to draw closer to the Tzaddikim and follow their guidance. Do not turn aside from their words either to the left or the right. Then the truth will be engraved within you and you will achieve genuine faith. By the same token, keep well away from bad influences. Pay no attention to the suggestions of those who are the enemies of the truth, who raise every kind of question about the truth. You can succeed in this through observing the mitzvah of tzitzit, the fringes. (See Tzitzit 1). Tzitzit are a hedge against immorality which is directly contrary to the Holy Covenant between God and the Jewish people and is one of the strongest forces which can undermine truth. The guidance and advice of worthless people actually breeds immorality. Through observing the mitzvah of tzitzit you will be able to purify yourself and observe the Covenant, which is the foundation of faith. All the teachings of the Tzaddikim are bound up with this (Ibid. 3).
6) Pray with strength and put all your force into the letters of the prayers. Through this you attain faith (9:1).
7) The people who deny that miracles are possible and claim that everything that takes place has a natural explanation can actually witness a miracle themselves and still try and glaze over it and explain it away. Naturally, this attitude of mind is very damaging to religious faith. It is harmful to prayer, and people’s understanding of the true significance of the Land of Israel becomes obscured. All this contributes to the lengthening of the exile (Ibid. 2).
8) The less faith there is, the more the face of God is concealed and the more fiercely His anger burns. At such times the Tzaddikim shy away from accepting positions of authority and honor and the world is left without true leadership. But if people learn to hold their anger in check and to break the force of anger by showing love instead, then God’s own anger will be sweetened. The true Tzaddikim will again be willing to accept roles of leadership and honor and the world will be ready for the true leader who has the power to bring each person to his own complete fulfillment (18:2).
9) Nobody should accept a position of leadership and authority unless he has attained the ultimate level of faith. There are people who believe in God but still have a trace of superstition within them. People like this should never bcome leaders. Then there are those who pride themselves on their devotion to the good of the world. They claim that this is their motive for seeking power. But really they are interested in the prestige. The devotion they claim to have is simply a rationalization. When people like this gain power it can result in a terrible godlessness, the negation of faith. But Heaven takes pity on the world and these people are deprived of the reins of power (Ibid., 3).
10) Make sure that you never let your faith become weakened. A person whose faith is weak is unable to accept honest criticism. This is very damaging to the cause of peace because it results in all kinds of aggressiveness, exile and conflict. The end result is godlessness and idolatry, false ideologies and false religions. True faith is the foundation of everything. It is the seal of holiness. You must guard it well because through doing so you are protecting holiness itself (22:1,2).
11) To attain complete faith you must come to the true Tzaddikim of our era. They alone have the power to explain and communicate the authentic faith of the Jewish people to our generation, and therefore they are the ones who bring faith to the people of this age. They can do this because they have achieved the summit of holiness (Ibid.3).
12) Faith and truth are a shining face. They are joy and life. They are the gateway to the length of days. But falsehood shortens the days of man’s life. Falsehood is death and idolatry, a dark-face (23:1).
13) All the noble qualities of the soul depend upon faith. Faith is the foundation and source of all holiness.
14) Even a person who attains a certain level of religious insight and understanding must take good care to ensure that the perception he has is suffused with faith. Intellect alone is not something to rely upon (24:6).
15) There are people who have an extensive knowledge of Torah yet they lack personal worth. The teachings of people like this stem from `fallen Torah’. Their influence can have devastating effects. It can cause people to reject even the most basic tenets of faith. Those who remain firm to their belief in God find themselves under attack and exposed to ridicule and contempt. When such a situation develops, the remedy is to open your doors to genuine Torah scholars and offer them hospitality. This is one of the ways of coming to genuine faith, and the hold of those who oppose the faith and look down upon believers will be broken (28:1-3).
16) Charity is only perfect when it is combined with faith. The same is true of all the blessings which flow into the world through acts of charity. They are only perfect when there is faith. Faith is the source of blessings. Keeping the holy Shabbat, which is called the `source of blessings’ is the foundation of faith (31:2).
17) All things depend upon faith for their perfection. Without faith, nothing is complete. Even the Torah itself, which is the source of true wisdom, has perfection only through faith. Faith is the foundation of the whole Torah. It is the basis of everything (Ibid.).
18) When a person is asleep he enters the category of `faith’, and this refreshes his intellect, which is the manifestation of his soul. The refreshment a person gains from sleeping can help him to attain new levels of religious awareness and perception of God. He can actually receive a new soul from the light of God’s countenance (35:3-5).
19) Any flaw in people’s faith is tantamount to idolatry. Because of this the rains are withheld (Taanith 8) and the world has no contentment or peace. No one helps his neighbor. Everyone is for himself, and because of the lack of cooperation people have to travel from place to place in order to find a livelihood (40).
20) Truth is the source of genuine wealth. Anyone who spurns the truth will come to poverty in the end and people will despise him. But one who endeavors to live truthfully will receive abundant blessings (47).
21) Falsehood damages the eyes, physically and spiritually. When a person tells lies it stirs up all the impurities in the blood and he falls into depression. The resulting tears are very harmful to the eyes. The blood of dishonest people is loaded with impurity. To speak the truth you must first purify the blood (Ibid.).
22) Falsehood is evil and corrupt. A person who is false casts God’s protective care from himself. But a person who is truthful will enjoy God’s care and protection in all ways (Ibid.).
23) There is only one truth but a whole multitude of lies. You can only say one truth about any given object: just what it is and nothing else. Silver is silver and only silver. Gold is gold and only gold. But lies can be multiplied without end. Silver can be called copper…or tin…or lead…or any other name you can think of. That is why the truth will come out in the end and all the current opposition to the true Tzaddikim will disappear. The basic cause of this opposition is the terrible spread of falsehood everywhere. Where the truth is acknowledged to be only one there is no place for opposition. So the truth will remain and endure forever because the truth is one: that God is one. In the end all the lies and falsehood will pass from the world and this one truth will remain. For `the truth of the Lord is for ever’ (Psalm 117:2) (Ibid.).
24) Your goal should be to become merged with the One and to connect `after the Creation’ with `before the Creation’ to make a unity which is all good and all holy. To join `after the Creation’ with `before the Creation’ means constantly to connect the created world in which we live with the transcendent realm which is beyond Creation and its source, and which alone gives this world its meaning. If you want to achieve this, guard yourself from falsehood and speak only the truth. Be perfectly truthful then you will become merged with the One, because the truth is one (Ibid.).
25) The gates of holiness are opened through faith (57:8).
26) We only speak of faith when the one who believes does not know why he believes. But even so, for the believer himself the thing he believes in is perfectly clear and obvious to him, as if he saw it with his own eyes. This is because his faith is so strong (62:5).
27) One of the ways to develop faith is through working to draw those who are far from God closer (Ibid. 3-5).
28) When people lack absolute faith they can fall into the trap of confusing the means with the ultimate cause. They may think they believe in God as the ultimate cause of everything. But in practice they put their trust in the means. For example they believe that their livelihood is totally dependent on their business activities and the energy they put into them, as if without them God would not have any other means of providing them with their sustenance. In effect they believe that their business activities are the source of their livelihood and not just the intermediate factor. Or they may believe that it is the medicine which causes the cure, as if without it God would not have any other means of sending healing. Once people believe this they inevitably become preoccupied with the means — chasing after the right medicaments, throwing themselves into their work, and so on — and they forget to turn to God, the root of all things and the ultimate cause. It is true that we do have to concern ourselves with the means. But we must not make the mistake of confusing the means with the ultimate cause and put our faith in the intermediary. We must have faith in God alone (Ibid 6).
29) Everything we do — praying, learning Torah, carrying out the mitzvoth — has one fundamental aim: to reveal the kingship of God (77).
30) If you are very strong in your faith you will eventually reach understanding of what you believe in. The stronger your faith the greater your understanding will be. At the outset you have no option but to have faith because you cannot understand the matter rationally. Through faith you will come to understand it. Except that then there will be new, more exalted levels which are still hidden from you and beyond your ability to understand rationally. Here again you will have to make the effort to believe. You must always have faith in the levels that are hidden from you. In the end you will understand them also. And so the process goes on. The main thing is that your faith must be so strong that it spreads to all your limbs. This faith will bring you to true wisdom (91).
31) One who always wants to be victorious is very intolerant of truth. The truth may be staring him in the face. But because he is determined to win at all costs he ignores it completely. If you want to find the real truth you must rid yourself of the urge to win. Then you will be able to see the truth if you wish (122).
32) Faith contains the power of growth. A person with perfect faith will grow and develop in his devotion to God no matter what he may have to go through. Regardless of the obstacles or difficulties he may encounter, nothing will throw him off course. He will accept whatever he experiences with patience. People who are put off by the obstacles and difficulties which confront them when they try to serve God have a certain lack of faith. They are left with a feeling of heaviness and depression, a lack of enthusiasm. Why is it that people don’t make real efforts to draw closer to those who lead lives of piety and justice? If they really had faith they would run to them as fast as they could. Why do people not pray properly? If they had genuine faith, they would really believe that God stands over them while they are praying and hears every word that emerges from their lips. Then they would pray with tremendous fire and yearning. But instead they are listless and depressed. It is because they lack this real faith. That is why they are far from the Tzaddikim, from the pious and just, and from true devotion to God. When a person has genuine faith nothing can stand in his way. No matter what happens he will grow in the service of God (155).
33) Controversy and divisiveness can cause even God-fearing people to start having doubts about their beliefs. The answer is to be silent. And to leave the battle to the Lord (251).
34) A person should be so honest that when he carries out the mitzvot and all their fine details it is for the sake of God alone. Even if he were completely alone with no one to watch him, he would still carry them all out scrupulously. Being free of the slightest hint of dishonesty, he would never do anything merely to impress others (Ibid.).
35) When troubles strike, God forbid, it is because the truth has become flawed. A person with troubles must be very careful not to become ensnared in error and falsehood because of them (II 2:4).
36) At all times one should give thanks to God for everything one experiences, and especially when one is released from danger. This, combined with the study of the law, will cause truth to radiate in his speech. He will be able to perfect all aspects of his speech. Perfection in speech comes only through truth. He will pray in truth — and this is perfect prayer. He will be worthy of learning Torah from a true teacher who will give true guidance in the path of truth. He will find his true partner in life and true partners for his children. The way to attain all this is through thanks and acknowledgement of God and the study of the law. In this way one can draw the blessing, and holiness and joy of Shabbat into the other six days of the week. Then the simple unity which underlies all the diverse phenomena of this world will be revealed, and one will believe and know how all the different things in the world stem from the blessed unity of God. To know this is very precious. Even in God’s eyes it is something wondrous and precious (Ibid.).
37) When people’s faith in God is weak all kinds of false doctrines and beliefs gain influence. But when their faith in the truth is strengthened, these ideologies lose their grip and become discredited. Even the nations who were far from God abandon their fallacies and come to believe in the truth. They may not actually convert. But although they remain in their place, they acknowledge God and believe and know that there is One who was the First, blessed-be-He. At times, however, they do actually convert and become proselytes (Ibid.).
38) Faith is attained through attachment to the Tzaddik who has attained the level of ruach hakodesh, the holy spirit. Through this ruach hakodesh man’s faculty for symbolic thought is refined and cleansed, bound up as it is with the power of imagination and fantasy. Only then can he attain perfect faith in God and in the constant renewal of the world. This is the foundation of everything. The whole world depends on it (8:7,8).
39) Faith depends on a person’s mouth. We must say we believe: say it out loud! As it is written in the Psalms (89:1) `I will make known Your faithfulness with my mouth.’ When a person has a crisis of faith, or even passing doubts, it is very good if he says out loud: `I believe.’ Just expressing your faith in words is itself one kind of faith. Through doing this you can come to genuine faith (44).
40) In the same way one should also be very careful never to say anything which implies even a slight lack of faith, let alone complete disbelief. Even if you believe in your heart, you should never express disbelief even as a joke, or even if you are only quoting someone else in order to ridicule them. It is very wrong to do this and it is very damaging to your faith. Even as a joke it is forbidden to say anything which implies disrespect of God (Ibid.).
41) It is far better to have even simple-minded faith than to believe in nothing at all. When your faith is simple-minded you may even believe certain things which are not true. But at least you will also believe in the truth. If you reject all simple-mindedness you may end up rejecting everything and you will become totally cynical. Then you won’t even believe in the truth (Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom, 103).
42) Perfect faith is when you believe in God without any sophistication at all, without signs or miracles, speculation or philosophy. Your faith should be simple and pure, like that of women and simple folk (Ibid. 33).
43) There are people who are well versed in Torah and still have no belief in God. They are diseased. The name for their disease is Raasan (a type of leprosy. See Ketuboth 77b). Make sure that you keep well away from these people. The rabbis warned us that the very breath of their mouths can be harmful to honest people and it can arouse their sexual desire. Such scholars are themselves usually sexually immoral (Ibid. 106).
44) When you take such joy in Torah and mitzvoth that you literally dance for joy, it will strengthen your faith (Likutey Moharan II, 81).
45) When a person is in a state of `constricted consciousness’ and weak in his faith, this is the time for difficult devotions such as fasting etc. But someone with total faith can serve God with all things. Because `God does not act like a despot over His creatures’ (Avodah Zarah 3a) (86).
46) Faith is accounted as charity (Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom, 44).
47) The power of faith is very great. Through faith and simplicity alone, with no sophistication whatsoever, you can reach the level of Desire, which is beyond even that of Wisdom. Your desire for God will be so strong that you simply do not know what to do because of the great longing. You cry out with yearning (Ibid. 32).
48) There are certain cases where people are riddled with doubts about their faith because they were not conceived in holiness. Added to this is the effect of their own misdeeds, because there are certain sins which cause people to lose their faith. A person who finds these thoughts entering his mind should be ashamed and brokenhearted, and he should cast them out of his mind completely (Ibid.).
49) A person with faith has a very good life. Without faith there is no life at all. No one in the world can be free of troubles and hardships of one kind or another, because `Man was born to struggle’ (Job 5:7). But a person who has faith can find comfort even when he has to endure pain and suffering. He knows that God loves him and intends everything for his own ultimate good, to purify and cleanse him. For everything that God does is for the best. But the sophisticated disbeliever has no one to turn to when trouble strikes. He can find comfort nowhere. There is nothing to encourage him. This is why he has no life at all. He walks without God and he does not come under His protective care. But through faith your life can be good always (Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom, 102).
50) True faith in the unity of God comes through the Tzaddikim. They are the tip of the letter dalet of the word echad, which means One (Tikkuney Zohar, 21, 55b; Likutey Moharan 10:5).
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