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soc.culture.jewish FAQ: Who We Are (2/12)
Section - Question 2.10: What is Breslov Chasidism?

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                                  Answer:
   
   The Breslov (sometimes called Bratzlav) movement was founded by Rabbi
   Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810), who was the great-grandson of the Baal
   Shem Tov, the founder of Chassidism, through his granddaughter Feige.
   For this reason, Rebbe Nachman often called himself "Nachman, son of
   Feige." Today, Breslover Chassidim usually refer to him as "Rebbe
   Nachman" or simply "the Rebbe" (different from the Lubovitcher Rebbe
   described above). Rebbe Nachman is buried in the town of Uman,
   Ukraine. Each year there is a major pilgrimage of Breslover Chassidim
   and others, who travel to Uman to celebrate Rosh Hashanah near the
   gravesite. This custom dates back to the very beginning of the Breslov
   movement, when Rebbe Nachman's Chassidim would gather with him on Rosh
   Hashanah each year. After his death, his closest disciple, Rabbi
   Nathan of Nemirov, organized the first pilgrimage to Uman. During the
   Communist years, it was very difficult for Jews to travel to Uman but,
   with the fall of Communism in 1989, it became possible to make the
   pilgrimage again. On Rosh Hashanah 5758 (1997) an estimated 7000 Jews
   participated in this pilgrimage. Plans are currently under way to
   build a Breslov synagogue there. You can read about one Breslover
   Chassid's personal experiences in Uman at
   [5]http://www.pinenet.com/~rooster/uman.html.
   
   Why "Breslov" and not "Bratzlav?" Because Breslov is not the same
   place as Bratzlav or Breslau or Bratislava, although all of these
   errors occur in academic works about Rebbe Nachman's life. The Breslov
   where Rebbe Nachman lived is a small Ukranian town, located on the Bug
   River, latitude 48.50 N longitude 28.55 E, midway between Tulchin to
   the south and Nemirov to the north; 9 miles or 15 kilometers from
   each. At the end of the eighteenth century, Breslov had a Jewish
   population of just over a thousand. It had a main synagogue and six
   small prayer houses, one of which was known as the Baal Shem Tov
   synagogue.
   
   Some people also see the name Breslov as a play on words in Askenazic
   Hebrew: "Bris lev" means "covenant (or circumcision) of the heart."
   The Breslov approach places great stress on serving G-d with joy and
   living life as intensely as possible. "It's a great mitzvah always to
   be happy," Rebbe Nachman taught.
   
   One distinctively Breslov practice is "hisboddidus" (hitbadedut),
   which literally means "to make yourself be in solitude." Hisboddidus
   is a personalized form of free-flowing prayer and meditation. In
   addition to the regular daily services in the prayerbook, Breslover
   Hasidim try to spend an hour alone with G-d each day, pouring out
   their thoughts and concerns in whatever language they speak, as if
   talking to a close personal friend. (One does not have to be a
   Breslover Chassid to practice this technique.)
   
   Rebbe Nachman stressed the importance of soul-searching. He always
   maintained that his high spiritual level was due to his own efforts,
   and not to his famous lineage or any circumstances of birth. He
   repeatedly insisted that all Jews could reach the same level as he,
   and spoke out very strongly against those who thought that the main
   reason for a Tzaddik's greatness was the superior level of his soul.
   "Everyone can attain the highest level," Rebbe Nachman taught, "It
   depends on nothing but your own free choice... for everything depends
   on a multitude of deeds." (See Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom, p.29)
   
   Although Rebbe Nachman died almost 200 years ago, he is still
   considered to be the leader of the movement through the guidance of
   his books and stories. Breslover Chassidim today do not have a "Rebbe
   in the flesh," and each individual Chassid is free to go to any Jewish
   guide or teacher he (or she) feels comfortable with. There is no
   single person or council of elders "in charge" of the Breslov
   movement, and there is no membership list.
   
   Further information about Breslov can be found in the reading list on
   [6]Chassidism at [7]http://www.scjfaq.org/rl/joc-index.html and at the
   [8]"Breslov -- Judaism with a Heart" website (http://www.breslov.org).
   The [9]Breslov on the Internet page at has a link launcher to many
   other Breslov-related sites.

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Top Document: soc.culture.jewish FAQ: Who We Are (2/12)
Previous Document: Question 2.9: What is Lubavitch Chasidism and Chabad?
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