How do you define a Breslover Chassid?


How do you define a Breslover Chassid?
January 15, 2016 Ron Caras

How do you define what music is?

There are so many different types – rock, hip hop, heavy metal, classical, trance – yet you call them all music. It can be made with so many different types of instruments – an orchestra full of pieces, an acoustic guitar or even just the human voice – yet they all produce song. How can one single concept be so vast and apply to so many different styles and yet still be the same thing?

So too with a Breslover. They come in so many shapes, sizes, and colors yet they are all followers of the same Rebbe. Come to Uman for Rosh Hashana and you will see Jerusalemite natives with furry shtreimels and finely twirled peyos next to people with shaved heads tattoos and jeans. Yet different as they are, they are all there for the same purpose and all joined together with one heart. There is no dress code in Breslov. There are also no particular practices necessary in order to gain your “membership card”. When someone asked Rebbe Nachman if there were any special minhagim by Breslov he replied, “Whatever the Shulchan Aruch says- that’s our minhag!” But just as it may not be so easy to exactly describe what music is, you know it when you hear it.
The same applies to a Breslover… there is no one-size-fits-all description, however when you look into the eyes of someone who is connected to the Rebbe, you just know it.
“Yet different as they are, they are all there for the same purpose and all joined together with one heart.”
The Gemara tells a story [1] regarding Psalm 126, which speaks of the Jewish people returning to Israel after 70 years in the Babylonian exile. Choni HaMa’agel was perplexed by the first verse of the psalm which states, “We will be like dreamers,” meaning, we were asleep. He wondered to himself how it could be possible for someone to be asleep for 70 years? The Gemara says that lo and behold Choni himself fell into a sleep and didn’t wake up for another 70 years!
Rebbe Nachman elucidates this story [2] teaching that the 70 years represents the 70 faces of Torah and falling asleep speaks of one who has fallen away from all 70 aspects of the Torah. Additionally 70 years is symbolic of a full lifetime, further describing someone who spends his whole life sleeping. Rebbe Nachman states the Gemara’s deeper message is to teach us that there are some people who go through an entire lifetime – 70 years, and they even appear to lead very holy lives on the outside yet on the inside they are spiritually asleep.
A Breslover chassid, on the other hand, is somebody who always strives to live their life spiritually “awake.” That is to say, they spend their life actively trying to connect to Hashem and as many of the 70 facets of Torah as they can. A Breslover realizes that what’s most important isn’t if you are a big rosh yeshiva or a famous rabbi whom people flock to for blessings and to kiss his hand.
“A breslover is somebody who always strives to live their life spiritually awake”
What really matters is when you are all alone and looking in the mirror – can you say that you have Hashem in your life? Do you keep the Torah just because you feel you have to, or is it actually a passion for you and something that enlivens you? What is in your heart?
Even the term “Breslover” itself attests to the point that the most important thing is one’s heart! Ezekiel 36:26 states, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Heart of flesh in Hebrew is “LeV BaSaR” which is phonetically can be rearranged to “BReSLoV”. [3]
“What is in your heart?”
As we mentioned before, in general there are no set customs in Breslov and no “automatic pass” that makes one a Breslov chassid. The most important and obvious thing one can do is to connect to Rebbe Nachman spiritually, and learn his teachings! However, aside from that there are three additional things which, while not obligatory, are considered the basics tenants of Breslov.
The first two are on a daily basis to 1) practice Hitbodedut, which is secluding oneself to talk to G-d in their own native language and speak openly from the heart like a close friend; and 2) learn poskim, i.e. the accepted rulings of the codifiers of Jewish law. The third practice is a yearly one, that a person should strive their very best to spend Rosh Hashanah by Rebbe Nachman’s gravesite in the city of Uman. Rebbe Nachman prescribed many different practices for each of his followers depending on the specific rectification their soul required. However to all his followers, no matter what else, he instructed them to talk to Hashem in Hitbodedut daily and to also make a daily habit of studying Halacha (specifying even if one can’t keep to his daily schedule of learning he should at the very least learn a single Halacha) [4]. Of coming to Uman for Rosh Hashanah Rebbe Nachman stated, “My Rosh HaShanah is greater than everything! And it’s amazing to me that if my followers really believe in me, why isn’t everyone who is close to me careful that they should all be there for Rosh Hashanah?  No one should be missing!” [5]
Through fulfilling all of these and more, may we merit coming close to Rebbe Nachman and may the light of his teachings open up our hearts and draw us closer to G-d.
Please note: We spent much time and effort to bring the inspirational teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov as accurately as possible in this article. If you find any mistakes in translation or have trouble understanding the article, please let us know! Feel free to comment below.
We bless the viewers to be connected to Rebbe Nachman and to his teachings, and to always be happy and inspired…

  1. Taanit 23a
  2. Lekutei Mohoan I, 60
  3. Chayey Mohoran 339
  4. Sichot HaRan 185
  5. Chayey Mohoran, The Greatness of his Rosh Hashanah

Comments (3)

  1. Dena 3 years ago

    One of the reasons i became connected to bresolov is because of Rebbe Nachmans emphasis on each finding their own path. Judaism is so personal so it makes sense that it would look differently on all of us! thanks for this article 🙂

  2. Avraham 3 years ago


  3. Allison R. 3 years ago

    I can say that breslov really has brought me back to life. I grew up religious and was so hurt by many things i saw and ended up in really dark places in my life. Rebbe Nachman brings a whole new path which includes every single person within it. It taught me that happiness is a deep part of being connected to the Torah.

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