Friday, August 15, 2008

The Na Nach Dialogues - Part I

Last month, I posted "Evolution of a Dance Style - On The Trail of the Na Nachs."

I've since been in email correspondence with Yosef Na Nach. He writes:
The first thing that I want to comment on is that you defined us as a "fringe branch of Breslover". I want to say that though we may not be the majority in terms of numbers, none the less we consider ourselves as following the true path of Torah as described by Rebbe Nachman.

Second, I want to say that I think that it was a kind of negative thing to say that my friend was "expelled from Israel for visa violations". It has negative connotations even if it is true you don't know the details as often governments make mistakes anyway.

Third, you put the words "miraculously received" in quotes this could be taken as if it isn't true. That is hardly accurate reporting seeing that an event like this cannot be proved or disproved but it is merely a matter of belief.

Fourth, the wedding that you attended was that of my friend S., I believe S. is a true Na Nach, fully into it. The Chuson and Kallah were Na Nach and his friends were Na Nach but the family and friends of the family probably were not seeing that Na Nach is very new to America. I would like to add that Na Nach is not a dress code, neither is it not a social club that requires anything other then kosher living and belief in the miracle of the Petek.

It is not a Na Nach custom to dance alone and even though you might have noticed that at this wedding it is not really an accurate perception. I have been to a dozen or so weddings that were mostly Na Nach people and they are also pretty much like black hat weddings, though the joy is markedly much higher. I also know several true Na Nachs who are second generation Na Nach and there is not anything different about their dress then regular religious people. Appearances are deceptive, believe me on the inside there is a great difference.

I should also add that it is true that we do not accept the authority of the overwhelming majority of "Rabbi's" of institutionalized Judaism, the reason is that we believe that there is way too much involvement with money and honor for these guys to be trusted at all. Especially when it comes to issues of eternal importance like our souls. The simple Jew who seeks truth and does not oppose the Miracle of the Petek we take no issue with.

As far as Na Nach music is concerned Saba said that "All melody is appropriate for Na Nach." Rebbe Nachman also makes it clear in Likutey Moharon that all melody can be elevated to Holiness. And certainly all Breslov Melody is accepted among all Na Nachs as True Holy Melody that is usually sung around the Shabbos table though often time we might add the Na Nach mantra to the melody.

About that the guy you saw "davening with talis and tephillin shortly before nightfall" First I would like to say that it does not counter Halaka to do such a thing. It is permissible to wear Talis and Tephillin after sunset and before nightfall and secondly it is not a Na Nach tradition to do so. So you didn't see that guy actually do anything wrong by Jewish Law. I don't know who that was nor what he was thinking but it sounded like you were being a little nit picking. If I wanted to play that game I too can start naming things that are habitually done by religious Jews that are definitely weird by Halaka that I don't want to mention, let's not go there.

I have no idea what you are talking about when you say that Na Nach is not based on traditional Breslov. When I read that it was obvious to me that you have absolutely no idea about the life of Saba, his teachings, who his teacher was nor who his followers are. Na Nach is all absolutely and completely orthodox in the truest sense of the word. And when you said "unusual ideas" I didn't notice that you mentioned any unusual ideas in your article unless you think that a distrust of contemporary Rabbi's is unusual, which it might be, but I think that it is healthy for young people of all ages to question authority of all sorts. Especially when our eternal good is at stake, one has to know where their Torah comes from, remember demons also know a lot of Torah. Rebbe Nachman taught us to be very wary of famous rabbis and he spoke a lot about it in many of his more important Torahs.

My sincere hope is that this shed light on the issue of Na Nach for you and I hope that it opens more dialog between people for there is a great deal of misinformation. I have been watching this movement very closely for twelve years and there is much to be said about it. You said that we definitely have some influence and let me assure you that Na Nach is definitely here to stay as it is gaining a tremendous amount of momentum the more that true information gets out. There has been a great deal of untruth said about it, we are aware of all the lies and they do not concern us, we are only interested in getting out the truth. I have written an article I hope you will publish it, I am first running it by my editor before I send it to you. I would like to call it "Why I am Na Nach."

You seem to be honest so I hope that you take to heart what I wrote above and also read the article I wrote (that I will sent you shortly) and publish it. I thought that it would not be so nice to publish the above information on your site since it might be taken as harsh but if you want you can, I think it would be a mitzvah, it is only that I wish to edit it first. All the Blessings for true attachment to all the Truly Righteous so that we may all together enter this coming final redemption in unity and joy. May it come quickly and in our days, Amen.
Yosef has also sent me the following article which includes his essay "Why I Am A Na Nach.":
"Na Nach - The Controversy"

To get an honest look at Na Nach takes a little research and digging up of the facts about who we are, what happened to us collectively and individualy that made us this way, what is the message that we are trying to give over to the world, what is the belief and lifestyle promoted in Na Nach. I am not a Rabbi of Na Nach, nor am I an elected spokesman, the only official elected representatives of Na Nach are the Saba himself (Rabbi Israel Ber Odesser) Rabbi Noson of Breslov, the early Breslover Chussids and of course Rebbe Nachman ZaL.

Rabbi Israel Ber Odesser (a.k.a. the Saba) is central to understanding Na Nach. He is the student of Rebbe Nachman and the receiver of the true mesoret of Breslov. He spoke a great deal about Rebbe Nachman and much is known about his holy life from his talks and has been transcribed and translated and is available in English in a book called "Israel Saba" published by
"The Keren" which is Saba's own publishing operation, which to this day is the single largest publishing house of the books of Breslov. They are sold at printing cost. The Keren is responsible for the vast majority of Breslov books in the world including the ones in the shuls and Breslov establishments. They are also responsible for selling many of the Amulets that contain the holy name Na Nach Nachma Nachman MeUman in them as well as a photocopy of the Petek. They also promote much Na Nach music and are actively involved with doing Hafatza in the vans that go out all over Israel. The Keren was started by Saba with his own money. Though he was poor most of his life towards his later years many people gave him money for "Pideon" (a blessing) until he collected a small fortune, all of which he gave only to the Keren for the spreading of Rebbe Nachman's teachings.

He himself remained living a very modest and simple life in a one room house. Towards the very end of his life he traveled from house to house, often moving in as a guest, teaching Rebbe Nachman's Torah to simple people. Though he suffered very much all his life, he was always very joyful as can be testified by anyone that knew him. His life was one of intense devotion in the Breslov path filled with extreme self sacrifice in the way of prayer and teaching. He was also very good friends with the President of Israel at the time (Zalman Shazar) and their correspondences created the book called Ibey HaNachal (also available in English).

Just skimming through these books one cannot help but be in awe of the intense holiness of this man and the great love that he had for Rebbe Nachman. Almost every page is filled with great encouragement to keep all the Torah, Mitzvot, how great it is to be Jewish and to rejoice that we have all these teachings of Rebbe Nachman in the world, and to learn Rebbe Nachman and to follow his ways for this is all of our life and all of our vitality and the whole reason that we came into this world. The worst thing that the "opposition" ever said about him is that he was crazy, but anyone who gazes into Saba's words with an eye of truth can immediately see that he was not crazy at all. So what's the big deal about Na Nach? Why the controversy? To understand this we have to go a little deeper into the history of Breslov and what was going on at the time that this miracle happened.

The Miraculous Na Nach Letter and Its Meaning Today

One of the unique things about Breslov is that it is the only chasidus that does not have a flesh and blood living Rebbe. All other chasidic dynasties have a Rebbe who is the heir to the dynasty. The new Rebbe receives his position because he is the son of the previous Rebbe or a student. In the Breslov world at the time of Saba there was an underlying debate. Though they all agreed that only Rebbe Nachman was the Rebbe, some said that there were also sort sub-Rebbes that we should look up to as leaders who can connect us to Rebbe Nachman. Saba's tradition said that there were no such leaders. Yes, Saba had the oral tradition straight from Rebbe Nachman.(see note below). But this was not enough, for others might claim that they also have a tradition.

One of the main implications of the letter from Rebbe Nachman is to let us know that Saba is the true receiver of Rebbe Nachman's tradition. As it says in the letter, "my precious student, to tell you I have enjoyed your service and UPON YOU have I said 'My fire will flicker until the coming of the Messiah". Instead of becoming proud about this, Saba turned around and said that if you want, this letter was written for you. As Saba said "and upon you and you and you and you." So when the letter was revealed two things happened. One, the Breslov "Rabbi's" who opposed Saba opposed him because they were jealous (and not necessarily because they didn't believe the miracle), and Two, the need for Rabbis became eliminated. Now a few points need to be made clear here. First, when I say that there is no longer a need for a Rabbi, this does not mean a Posek. Na Nach's learn and keep Jewish Religious Law, as prescibed by the "Shulchan Auruch" (The Jewish Code of Law) and consult Poskim concerning the details of how to live a Kosher Jewish Life. Second, it does not mean that we cannot learn from our friends who may have greater scholarship then us. What it does mean is that there is no need at all for all this excessive honor and money that is given to "Rabbis" who claim to help people when in fact the only power that anyone has to help anyone only comes from G-d through the Tzadik, as is explained in detail in the teachings of Rebbe Nachman.Though there was a time in the past that holy men were able to receive honor for the sake of heaven Saba says that there is no one living today who can. All those that are receiving honor are only doing it for themselves. Saba himself never recieved any honor for himself, though he was acknowledged as a famous holy man of great learning. Whenever anyone tried to give him honor he himself fled from it often by deliberately making a complete fool of himself. (there are very many stories of this).

Thus, the only people who really have serious issue with Na Nach are the so called Rabbinic authorities who have an attachment to money and power, the ignorant and uninformed and not the simple Jew at all. For it is only the former who have what to lose; the simple Jew only has what to gain. In short, Saba gave us a light to see the awesomeness of Rebbe Nachman. Rebbe Nachman is so high and such a Tzadik that he will fix the whole world and everyone in it. All we need are the books of Rebbe Nachman, to read them to the best of our personal ability and to follow the ways of Rebbe Nachman to the best of our ability and the rest is up to Rebbe Nachman and Hashem together.

Why I am a Na Nach

Now I would like tell a little bit about myself and my relationship to Na Nach. I have been a Baal Tshuvah approximately 12 years and it was 12 years ago that I first read the story about the miracle of the Petek. I found a small book "The Letter From Heaven" lying in a beis Midrash in the middle of the night, read the story and believed it without questioning too much. After all I saw that there was a letter of approbation from Rabbi Moshe Feinstein and if Rabbi Feinstein thought that Saba was a Goan in the Torah, it was obvious to me that Saba was a kosher Yid. As well, Miracles happen every day. I have often witnessed the hand of G-d in my life personally so I accepted that this is a miracle that happened to another Jew and he thought it important to publicize it, as we all should publicize every miracle that happens to us in order to increase the glory of G-d as is explained in Likutey Halakot by Reb Noson of Breslov.

It was only about six months ago that I had a personal spiritual awakening concerning the implications of this miracle and decided to dedicate my life to publishing the petek and spreading the teachings of Rebbe Nachman to the world. Once this decision was made and I got to work making stickers, videos,writing up flyers and passing them out to tourists and designing banners etc. a new world opened up to me that was previously hidden completely. I was almost always an outsider to every social group and I have gotten used to this, I was not looking for a group of friends to fit into nor looking for any financial support I was simply looking for a healing from G-d and that is what I got. The world that opened up to me in this holy work that I am involved with is the world of the "Mafitzim"(those that spread out the name of Na Nach). I have always loved all Jews, and in my quest of G-d and truth in Judaism I have mingled with what I thought was many Na Nachs, but in truth was only a handful of young American kids who all had issues with drugs and their parents and authority in general. (These are universal issues with the youth of today and not specific to Na Nach).

As the years went on I found that little by little all of these kids slowly grew up and all were getting off the drugs and finding stability and joy in their lives, getting married and staying strong in Yidishkiet and in Na Nach. I was happy to see this and though I understood what they were all saying with their Na Nach Torah, still I had "issues" with Na Nach, this now is revealed only to have been issues with myself in relationship to the world and that Na Nach was not only a Kosher belief system but it is flawless as far as "issues" were concerned. The world that opened up to me was a world of some of the most wonderful, stable and clean living, dedicated to yidishkiet, joyful and cool people I have ever had the privilege to meet in my life.These people, though mostly poor, dedicate most of their time and money and lives to living the teachings of Rebbe Nachman and spreading the word to the world at large and to secular people in particular. And though there are only about two or three hundred of what I call "hard core 'Mefitzim' they have managed to launch the single most successful marketing campaign in Israel on a shoe string budget. Here in Israel everyone has heard of Na Nach and among the "secular" they enjoy a great reception as fun loving, joyful people that "keep the rules" of Judaism, but with joy. Even among the black hat Religious here (a minority group of Jews) the Na Nachs are all considered Kosher. It is only a very few (mostly the uninformed) black hatters that seem to take issue with Na Nach.

So, Na Nach has become an outlet for people, like myself, who want to rebel against the falsehood found in the institution of Judaism, yet still want to live a clean and holy Jewish life. There has never before been such a thing in the world. Until now rebellion against the institution of Judaism has always meant being secular but now it has become fun for even secular people to be religious, if it's Na Nach religious.

*Note: The tradition of Saba is as follows. Rebbe Nachman, Our Teacher, taught Reb Nasson (his main student) who had a servant who lived in his house called Rabbi Moshe Breslover, who in turn had a student called Rabbi Israel Karduner whose holiness is undisputed. Rabbi Israel Karduner and The Saba were inseparable for five years which they learned, prayed and practiced Judaism together every day with a great bond of love between them. Now, until the revelation of our holy Messiah it is up to us and our friends to do what needs to be done to bring about the final and ultimate redemption it should be soon and in our days amen.
Yosef writes:
I would really appreciate to be informed of any responses to these articles exactly what they said. Na Nach is a very big light, controversial and misunderstood, I consider it part of my service to G-d to try to clear the air as best as I can and open dialog with any sincere (or even semi sincere) inquiries.