By Rabbi Nathan of Nemirov[i]
(Translated and annotated by Soul Lite blogger, 10 Tammuz 5777)[ii]
The author, Rabbi Nathan of Nemirov (1780-1844) was the foremost disciple of the Hasidic Master Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810). The translated text is a lesson from Rabbi Nathan’s magnum opus, “Likutey Halachot”, where he explains practical Judaism from the perspective of Jewish mysticism (particularly as illuminated by Rebbe Nachman).
As a whole, “Likutey Halachot” contains many lessons. Each one typically begins with a summary of a lesson in Rebbe Nachman’s magnum opus, “Likutey Moharan”. Then continuing on the theme of Rebbe Nachman’s source lesson, Rabbi Nathan explains various areas of practical Judaism; thus, demonstrating how the mystical informs the practical, like a soul to a body.
In this lesson the summary from “Likutey Moharan” is about how a spiritual state of nullifying oneself to God can have positive changes one’s worldview after one returns to a normative state of mind, as a mental afterglow from the experience lingers on. Then, one can relate to the world from a new awareness of underlying Divine Oneness and is much less phased by apparency of opposites; whether pleasant or otherwise.
Rabbi Nathan adds throughout the lesson how this sense of underlying Oneness is a spiritual taste of the Sabbath and the Holidays. Then he goes on to differentiate between the Sabbath, which is holy on its own, and the Holidays, which require active sanctification by the Jewish People to receive holiness. This allows the Holidays draw their holiness from the holiness of the Sabbath; as a greater fire lighting a lesser one.
In this translation, I tried to convey the flavor of the author’s style by attempting to stay the course along with the author’s almost poetic associative flow. His writings tend to be stream of consciousness. True to the state of Oneness he drew from, he often conveys multiple meanings with the same word or even with a single word (like the often used word “bekhina”). This made my translation effort particularly challenging.
I recommend a careful reading of the endnotes, as some of them provide very important context and source material.
In the Author’s Words:
Why is it that on the Sabbath the requirement to refrain from “forbidden work” is so all inclusive that it even extends to certain food preparations, classified as “sustaining vitality”, while during the Holidays such food preparations are permitted?
This teaching is based on Likutey Moharan, Part 1, Lesson 4, titled, “I am the Eternal your Lord...”; specifically the section, “From one eyeball, they filled up three hundred kegs of oil.”
By nullifying oneself to the Infinite One[iii], where all is only good, a taste of the Eternal is Lord, afterwards, when descending from such a spiritual ascension, there will remain a lingering trace of this heightened awareness; which draws an illumination of, “To know the Eternal is Lord and all is good” into one’s normative state . (Study it well inside the original text.)
This experience [of the aftertaste of nullification to the Infinite One] is a taste of the Sabbath and the Holidays. For the Sabbath is a taste of the final goal when all will be revealed as good, a taste of the purpose of heaven and earth, which is a taste of the spiritual light surrounding the creation, a taste of the day which is entirely Sabbath. Then, all will be entirely good; as stated, “On that day the Eternal will be One and His Name will be One”[iv]; as Rebbe Nachman related in the source lesson.
Therefore, the Sabbath is a total cessation from all forbidden work. However, the Holidays are a taste, a drawing down of spiritual light to the mundane level; meaning into the earthly realm - for the Holidays draw down illumination from the state of nullification which retains a taste of the Sabbath, which retains a taste of the Infinite One. So, that the spiritual light can enter earthly time and boundaries, in order that all nations of the land shall know, even in this earthly realm within its framework of time and boundaries, that the Eternal is Lord and all is good - as in, “You were shown to know that the Eternal is Lord in the heavens above and in earth below, there is no other.” [v] - as is related in Rebbe Nachman’s source lesson.
This is why we specifically refer to a Holiday, as Yom Tov, literally a “Good Day”, because we draw down spiritual illumination into the framework of time, which contains such “Good Days”. We illuminate them through a retained taste of the (above mentioned) nullification, so that all such days will become good. Such is a Holiday, a taste of “all is good” drawn into the framework of time (as mentioned).
This is why the sanctity of the Holidays depends mainly on the Jewish People; as stated, “Such are the seasons of the Eternal One, which you will call [them, in their seasons].” That’s why we conclude the Holiday kiddush prayer, “...Who sanctifies Israel and times” [mentioning Israel before time].
However, the Sabbath is sanctified on its own; as our sages remark, “The Sabbath is set and permanent...” [vi]. [Whereas,] the Holidays are sanctified by the Jewish People[vii]. Since Sabbath is the goal itself, it's automatically sanctified. Sanctity does not need to be actively drawn to it. On the contrary, all versions of holiness are drawn from the Sabbath. However, the Holidays are a taste of the holiness drawn from the nullification; from a taste of the Sabbath (mentioned above).
This is why [the nighttime Kiddush prayer] on the Sabbath states, “The beginning of the Holidays...” because the Sabbath is the beginning and first of all Holidays. For they all receive their holiness from their relationship with the Sabbath, which is entirely good. From the Sabbath, the holiness is drawn into the framework of time, an aspect of the Holidays (as mentioned above).
Such is why the Holidays are called, “a holy calling together”, emphasizing [the word] “calling”, because the holiness needs to be specifically “called” to enter there. Since holiness is entirely good, entirely holy (as Rebbe Nachman states elsewhere), therefore, the Holidays are also called, “Sabbath”; as they receive all their holiness from the Sabbath (as mentioned).
The Sabbath is the apex of transcendent spiritual light beyond all days [i.e. time]. As it states [regarding the Sabbath], “Days have been formed and it’s not one among them” [viii]. Our Sages related, “This refers to the day of the Sabbath”[ix].
That’s why it states, “not one”, to emphasize that it’s not counted at all among the other days, for it transcends time (as mentioned); as the Sabbath is a spiritual taste of the outer edge of spacetime[x], a taste of the day which is entirely Sabbath (as mentioned). However, the Holidays receive their illumination from the Sabbath (as mentioned).
The Holidays are designed to recall the miracles and salvations that God has performed for us. All the miracles and salvations were performed by drawing down illumination from the very apex, from a taste of the edge of spacetime - a time when all will be good and nature will be nullified. By drawing down this illumination into the earthly realm, an aspect of nature is nullified, causing a miracle and a salvation to occur. (Rebbe Nachman relates all this in his teaching on the Talmudic story of the necromancer, Lesson 250. Study well what’s written there regarding the passage, “his voice is heard from one edge of spacetime to the other” - Berachot 59a.)
To sum up, all the Holidays, which are to recall the miracles, receive their illumination from a taste of the very edge of spacetime, which is a taste of the Sabbath (as mentioned). [The reason is] because the Sabbath is not designed to recall any miracles performed in the earthly realm. It’s only purpose is to point us to the edge of spacetime, the day which is entirely Sabbath (as mentioned).
Furthermore, the day of Rosh HaShanah is also designed to recall [a time bound event, namely] the first day of creation, which is the beginning of creation. Therefore, it is also considered a Holiday; as then on that first day, at the beginning of the creation, the light and darkness served together, in the sense of “...on the day when the Eternal (י-ה-ו-ה) Lord (א-ל-ה-י-ם) made earth and heaven” [xi].
[The Divine Name “the Eternal” (י-ה-ו-ה) signifies God operating beyond the confines of nature[xii], while the Divine Name “Lord” (א-ל-ה-י-ם) signifies Him operating within the confines nature.] At that time [on the first day of creation], there was a sense that “...the Eternal (י-ה-ו-ה) is identical with Lord (א-ל-ה-י-ם).” [xiii]; a taste of “all is good”. [Since the first day is the very beginning of the creation, it was close by to “before creation”[xiv] and therefore, easily drew] this illumination from a state of “before creation”, which is the apex of transcendence (as mentioned).
At that time, since it was nearby to “before creation”, a taste of the ultimate goal, the sway of evil was entirely absent. That’s why the state of, “...the Eternal (י-ה-ו-ה) is identical with Lord (א-ל-ה-י-ם)” was openly apparent in the world (as mentioned). That’s also why light and darkness were able to serve together. Later on, when God saw that there would be wicked people then, “...He separated between the light and the darkness” [xv]. The above is what Rosh Hashanah points to, a recollection of the first day of creation. [Since it recalls a time bound event] that’s why it is also among the Holidays mentioned above [which recall time bound miracles and salvations][xvi].
Rebbe Nachman commented on the verse, “And Samuel sliced down...” [xvii], that the Holidays are an elevation of God’s Kingdom from amidst the evil husks. For a taste of this elevation happens [when it is apparent that the Creator controls occurrences within nature], like when there is a sense that “...the Eternal (י-ה-ו-ה) is identical with Lord (א-ל-ה-י-ם)”; a taste of, “Lord
(א-ל-ה-י-ם), my King from primordial time...”[xviii]; a taste of, “...the Eternal (י-ה-ו-ה) is One and His Name (א-ל-ה-י-ם) is One”[xix]. His Name refers to the experience of His Kingdom, as Rebbe Nachman related in the source lesson [xx] . This refers to the nullification of all evil husks. For when all evil is nullified, then all is only entirely good, entirely One (as mentioned).
This relates to what Rebbe Nachman wrote, [further] commenting on the verse, “And Samuel sliced down...”, that through the Holidays haughtiness is nullified by the saintly, see there [xxi]. For such is a taste of the Holidays, nullification to the Infinite One in swaying states of intimacy and withdrawal (as mentioned)[xxii]. From there, the saints draw the holiness (as mentioned). All this depends on the extent of their humility to the state of “Nothingness” [xxiii].
That’s why when the Scripture writes, “Your new moons and Holidays my soul despises”[xxiv], it makes no mention of the Sabbath. For as the Zohar states, “The holiness of the Holidays depends on the Jews”. That’s why, heaven forfend, if the Jews don’t behave properly, then their Holiday observances, whose entire holiness depends on them, is also not accepted [by God]. However, the Sabbath is holy on its own. Therefore, the Sabbath is not blemished if, heaven forfend, there’s a blemish among the Jewish People.
This is why during the Holidays one is allowed to prepare food [in ways normally not allowed on the Sabbath], since all its holiness depends on the vital souls of Jews, who draw down the holiness to there. Therefore, what’s necessary for vitality, meaning food preparation, is certainly inappropriate to forbid, as Jewish vitality is beyond the Holidays because it is from there that the Holidays receive their Holiness (as mentioned).
However, all [the rest of] the labors are certainly forbidden, for the Holidays are a nullification of evil, which is a nullification of the thirty nine labors, which come from the “tree of knowledge of good and evil”. However, the Sabbath is transcendent and doesn’t depend on the holiness of the Jewish people. Therefore, even food preparations required for normative individual vitality are forbidden to perform on the Sabbath (as mentioned). For the Sabbath is a total cessation from all forbidden labors, a taste of the day which is entirely Sabbath, when all will be nullified and there will be no labor. Only one, who has toiled on the eve of Sabbath, will get to eat on the Sabbath.
Therefore, [in Jewish Law] there are opinions that any permissible item, set aside from use, is forbidden to be [automatically] handled on the Holidays. For example, fruits which were set aside [xxv]. On the Sabbath, they would not require a verbal declaration to allow their use [xxvi]. However, on the Holidays, they require a verbal declaration, “From here, I am taking”. (see “Code of Jewish Law”) [xxvii].
It is known that in any situation where unholiness has to be chased away in order to make preparatory room for holiness, there needs to be a verbal declaration (as related by the Zohar and holy writings). That’s why prior to “Grace After Meals” we declare, “Let us offer grace” (See there). This is why on the Holidays we need to call the holiness to the day, in the sense of a “holy calling”, in order to subdue the evil of the kingdoms of the other nations, which are from the side of unholiness. This is why [when initially set aside for non-use] the Holiday food [according to some opinions] requires explicit verbal declaration; in order to chase away unholiness and make preparatory room for holiness. However, the Sabbath is holy on its own. No unholiness can grasp there at all; as the Sabbath is from the future state of the world and therefore, no verbal declaration is required [in order to make preparatory room for holiness]. (as mentioned).
[i] Rabbi Nathan of Nemirov (1780-1844) was the foremost disciple of the Hasidic Master Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810). As a most trusted disciple, he was charged with continuing the Breslov Hasidic movement after the passing on of Rebbe Nachman. He refused to be considered a Rebbe, but, seems to have contributed many highly original teachings to the movement and also, lent important perspective on how to understand many of Rebbe Nachman’s teachings.
[ii] Likutey Halachot, Volume 3, “The Laws of Holidays”, Lesson 1
[iii] This means a state of mind where one submerges oneself in God’s Infinite Oneness and loses any sense of self identity. In such an egoless state, one becomes a transparent channel for God. Although there are meditative practices which can bring a person to such a state, one is strongly cautioned not to practice them without the guidance of a fully competent master. “One can get swallowed up in the nothingness of the meditation and not be able to return.” See “Jewish Meditation - a practical guide”, by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, page 83.
[iv] Zechariah 14:9
[v] Deuteronomy 4:39
[vi] Hullin 101b
[vii] The plain meaning that the Holidays are sanctified by the Jewish People is that when the Sanhedrin declared the New Moon or an extra month to make a leap year. These actions had a domino effect on determining on which days the Holidays would fall out. For example, if the last month ended up with an extra day then a Holiday in the following month would occur a day later. Since,as of this writing, a Sanhedrin is not active, the Jewish People rely on a calendar created by the very last Sanhedrin. So, the dates of our current Holidays have still been sanctified by the Jewish People.
Later on in this lesson, it will become apparent that the Jewish People sanctifying the Holidays also means by observing the Holidays in a state of acceptable spiritual purity. When the Jewish People observe the Holidays in such a state, they draw down holiness.
[viii] Psalm 139:16
[ix] See Rashi on Psalm 139:16. He mentions the Sabbath as one of the possibilities. The other possibility he mentions is the Day of Atonement (which interestingly is referred to as “the Sabbath of Sabbaths”; see Leviticus 16:31.).
[x] I borrowed Einstein’s term because the Hebrew word “Olam” is sometimes used to mean “space” and sometimes used to mean “time”. It could be that Rabbi Nathan is using the term here to mean both. Einstein’s claim that time and space are one, seems foreshadowed by the Torah having a word which already meant both.
[xi] Genesis 2:4
[xii] Nature includes time and space. Operating beyond the confines of nature would include operating beyond the confines of time and space.
[xiii] Kings I 18:39
[xiv] Meaning, before nature emerged.
[xv] Genesis 1:4
[xvi] This teaching points to a unique feature of Rosh Hashanah among the other Holidays. While it is time bound, it’s the Holiday which is closest to being non-time bound; as it commemorates a moment when the universe was so new that it was relatively close to a “beyond nature” state.
[xvii] Samuel I, 15:33 & Likutey Moharan I, Lesson 135
[xviii] Psalm 74:12
[xix] Zachariah 14:9
[xx] Likutey Moharan I, Lesson 4
[xxi] Likutey Moharan I, Lesson 135
[xxii] It is impossible to steadily maintain the state of nullification to the Infinite One. This is true even for the holiest of angels, let alone for humans. See Ezekiel 1:14. This is why such an experience must be accompanied by alternating states of intimacy and withdrawal.
[xxiii] As Rebbe Nachman related in Likutey Moharan I, Lesson 4
[xxiv] Isaiah 1:14
[xxv] Like, if the fruits were set aside in long term storage and not expected to be handled for quite a while.
[xxvi] One can simply take them.
[xxvii] Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 495:4