Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav
Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav


Reb Nachman opened his eyes. It was the middle of the night, and an autumn chill had settled over Bratzlav. He rose from his straw bed, and as if drawn by a magnet, followed a soft beam of blue moonlight into the menacing woods on the outskirts of town. Giant maple trees with bare limbs cast terrifying shadows all around him; wolves--visible only by their glowing green eyes--gnawed noisily on some unfortunate prey. Reb Nachman stopped, paralyzed by fear of the unknown. But something more powerful than fear beckoned him onward. "Please God," he whispered, "bring me closer to You."

Reb Nachman walked further into a grassy clearing, where he stood alone. A canopy of stars sparkled above him. His eyes devoured them with one hungry gaze, and then, satisfied, closed tightly. "Ribonno shel olam, Master of the universe, bring me closer to You." His plea echoed through the woods and awakened the entire forest. "Ribonno shel olam," he repeated rhythmically, "bring me closer to You." With each syllable his voice softened, until his breath became the breath of every living thing around him.

Reb Nachman yearned to experience true happiness, which comes only from a close relationship with God. Therefore, he returned every night to the grassy clearing to repeat his meditation. Everyone, he said, has a chance to become whole. "If you believe that you can harm, then believe that you can heal."

Rabbi Nachman, great-grandson of the Baal Shem Tov, was the founder of Bratzlaver Hasidism.