The Tales of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav
Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav (1772-1810) is one of the most original and outstanding thinkers to have emerged from the hasidic world. In his short life, marked by physical and mental suffering, he not only produced several masterpieces of religious writing but also established a movement that, even to this day, remains faithful to his teaching and personal leadership.
Of all Rabbi Nachman’s works, his Tales, a selection of which appear in this volume, may be considered the peak of his creative life, both for the originality of their form and content and for the profundity of their underlying ideas.
Although more than two centuries separate us from Rabbi Nachman, the Tales, now featured with Rabbi Steinsaltz’s elucidating commentary in The Tales of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav, continue to serve as a medium for enrichment, enlightenment, and spirituality.
About Rabbi Nachman
Born in Medzhibozh, Ukraine to a distinguished chasidic family descending from the Baal Shem Tov, Rabbi Nachman was married off at the age of fourteen and went to live with his father-in-law near the village of Medvedevka. There he remained for five years, immersed in study and prayer. He earned a reputation as an independent thinker and outspoken teacher and soon attracted his own substantial following.
Throughout his life, Rabbi Nachman faced a great deal of opposition to his unconventional ideas from many of the leading rebbes in the chasidic world. He was accused of arrogance, messianic pretensions, and propagating semi-heretical doctrines, and he and his hasidim were even persecuted for their views.
In 1802, Rabbi Nachman moved to the city of Bratslav, where he suffered several personal catastrophes, including the death of his wife and several of his children, and produced the major part of his work. He was a prolific writer, but little of his writing remains. Sefer Hamidot, a collection of refashioned short proverbs and sayings from ancient Jewish sources, is the only remaining book that Rabbi Nachman himself authored. The most influential work attributed to him – Likutei Moharan – a compilation of his sermons on the Bible, Talmud, and Zohar – became the primary source text and spiritual guide for the Bratslav Chasidim.
Rabbi Nachman contracted tuberculosis in 1810 and passed away before his fortieth birthday.