Seven Pillars of Faith for a Breslover Chassid

R’ Yitzchak Breiter, in Seven Pillars of Faith, clarifies the meaning of seven basic ideas or themes which are at the root of all of Rebbe Nachman’s teachings. The one underlying concept is that of Hashgacha Pratit, the direct and personal supervision of Hashem. This means that G-d lovingly supervises every detail of each of our lives and growth.

However, if everything is under Hashem’s control, what is as role? What about our free choice? R’ Yitzchak explains that it is only from our ego-driven perspective, which causes Hashem to be concealed from us, that there appears to be a contradiction. Our on,y way to rise above this is through t’shuva, repentance, by following the teachings of the True Tzaddik.

Wisdom built her house of several kinds, she hewed out seven pillars.

Proverbs 9:1

I. First Pillar: The Hand of G-d

The foundation of all of Rebbe Nachman’s teachings is to know and understand that everything that happens to us, both spiritually and physically, including everything that we do, all comes through the decree of Hashem. [“One cannot even cut his finger unless heaven decrees” (Chullin 7b).] Even if we want to accomplish something holy, if we are not yet sufficiently worthy and have not sanctified ourselves enough to achieve it, heaven arranges things in such a way that we become distracted. [“Sin clouds the heart of humanity” (Yoma 39a).]

Hashem does this solely out of His love for each of us. He knows that the only way to bring each of us to our ultimate good is through helping us understand our present lowly position  and how far we are from true good. [“One who comes to be purified will be helped. But he will be told to wait” (Yoma 38b).] This is the time to cry out to Hashem for help and to do t’shuva. [“If your prayer was not accepted, pray again” (Berakhot 32b).]

No matter what we may go through in life, we must always pray to Hashem to bring us closer through our falls. [Humility is very important. “When a person is arrogant, G-d removes Himself from them saying, ‘I and he cannot dwell in the same world'” (Sota 5a).]

II. Second Pillar: Revelation of G-dliness

We must know that G-dliness is being revealed to us all of the time. in most cases, this revelation is indirect. [“Every day a voice calls out from Sinai, saying, ‘Woe to humanity over the embarrassment of Torah'” (Avot 6:2).] Whatever we hear, see, or experience, from any person, are all the words of Hashem calling us to Him. [G-d’s Glory calls out from everything in creation… “(Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom #52)] It is through these messages that the things we need to achieve our spiritual perfection are sent from above…

When we find ourselves faced by contradictory messages, we must know that this is how creation has been designed in order to give us free will and test us. When we choose correctly, we separate out the good from the bad, and bring about a refinement for all of creation. This is why we must study the Code of Jewish Law, the Shulchan Aruch, every day (Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom #29)… “When G-d is pleased with a person’s ways, even one’s enemies will make peace” (Proverbs 16:7)…

III. Third Pillar: The Concealment

Know that all materialistic cravings stem from an inherent atheistic attitude we all have due to Hashem’s concealment. This is expressed in the egotistic idea we have that “my power and the strength of my hand has made for me all this might” (Deuteronomy 8:17). Because of our misunderstanding regarding Hashem’s concealment, we believe that we are in control of things in this world.

This attitude is literally idolatry. It is the source of the drive for material wealth, causing us to forget that Hashem alone is in control of every detail of our life, and everything comes only from Him…

The craving for excessive food is also rooted in this atheistic attitude. The true source of our strength and vitality lies in the flow of blessing coming down to us from Hashem, the Life of life. By requiring us to receive our vitality indirectly through food and drink, Hashem conceals Himself, giving us free choice. [“Perhaps you will eat and be satiated … the you will forget G-d” (Deuteronomy 8:12-14).] …

We should have this in mind when we say the blessings over food and all other material pleasures. (Likutei Moharan I:56)

III. Fourth Pilllar: Not Getting Angry

“When one hears someone insulting them, they should keep silent and hold their peace” (Likutei Moharan I:6). This is the foundation of t’shuva, of returning to Hashem. [There are two levels of t’shuva. The lower one comes from the fear of G-d’s punishment for one’s sins. The higher level is from the love of Hashem (Yoma 86b). “Those who happily accept their embarrassments for the sake of serving G-d are considered those who love Him” (Shabbat 88b).]

We must know that everything that happens to us even by another person, who has free will, ultimately comes from Hashem. [As King David was fleeing from his son, Abshalom, Shimi be Geira cursed David, who replied, “Leave him alone, G-d told him to curse me” (II Shmuel 16:5-11).] Everything is sent from Hashem for our own benefit, to cleanse us of our sins. [“Suffering removes sins” (Yoma 86a).]

The only way to fix what we need to fix in this life is through t’shuva. The main thing to know is that whatever happens, “From G-d this came to us” (Tehillim 118:23). We have to return, l’shuv, t’shuva, everything to Hashem through knowing that everything is from Him…

V. Fifth Pillar: T’shuva

Know that every time we are spiritually uplifted and thoughts of t’shuva begin to stir in us, if we then think “from now on, will certainly be a “good” Jew, I will certainly do …”, this is that admixture of the atheistic attitude that things are in “my power and the strength of my hand.” Such thoughts will lead to depression and will push us further away from Hashem.

If someone has been far from Hashem until now, it is because heaven held them back due to their [lack of merit for] not praying properly. [Rebbe Nachman teaches, “A person should pray one’s entire life to have the merit of saying even a single word of pure absolute truth before Hashem” (Likutei Moharan I:112).]

We must ask Hashem that no matter what may happen to us, we should always immediately remember that the main thing is to pray. Prayer is founded on extreme heights of holiness, to reveal that everything is in Hashem’s power.  Hashem says, “I will show favor to whom I will show favor” (Exodus 33:19). Hashem [based on His principle of ‘measure for measure’] will show favor to a person who asks Him for favor. Such a person comes to realize that there is never no hope! There is no despair at all, not in all the world! …

VI. Sixth Pillar: Action

Know that all things both in the spiritual and physical realms are in Hashem’s hands, arranging creation in such a way as to give us free choice. We need to chose, to act, with the understanding that this is our test, for Hashem to see how we will chose. It is Hashem’s will that we chose and act, even though things are not really up to us.

We must fulfill the positive mitzvot (commandments) of the Torah and guard against all sin and wrongdoing. This includes our dealings in worldly matters as well… We are commanded to descend into the concealment — to act as if everything is up to us, in order to reveal the G-dliness out of the concealment itself…

VII. Seventh Pillar: The Tzaddik

The final pillar is attachment to the True Tzaddik:

  1. The soud of Mashiach preceded the creation of the world. “The Tzaddik is the foundation of the world” (Proverbs 10:25)
  2. The Holy One, blessed be He, took counsel with this soul in the creation of the universe.
  3. He gave Hashem a guarantee that he will repair the universe.
  4. All the acts of devotion of all the world … all are through him. “He is faithful in all My house” (Numbers 12:7).
  5. To him Hashem has given sovereignty and kingship. “The Tzaddik rules in the fear of G-d” (II Shmuel 23:3).
  6. He is in the heavenly court.
  7. Hashem’s control over every detail in the spiritual and material realms is through him.
  8. He reveal prayer. “I am prayer” (Tehillim 109:4).
  9. He is the chariot of the Sh”khina.
  10. He is the holiness.
  11. He is the vitality of the entire universe.
  12. Through him, all devotions rise up to heaven.
  13. All arousal to t’shuva is through him.
  14. Through our attachment to the True Tzaddik, a spark of the light of the holiness of the Tzaddik is drawn into us, each according to one’s level.
  15. Parts of the soud of the Tzaddik are to be found in all of creation, especially in G-d’s People, and especially in all the true tzaddikim.
  16. Five times in the history of the world the path of truth has been renewed: through Moshe Rabbeinu, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria — the Ari, Rabbi Yisrael the Baal Shem Tov — the BeSHT, and “The flowing stream, the source of wisdom” (Proverbs 18:4) — Rebbe Nachman ben Feiga. From him until Mashiach, there will be nothing new.
  17. Wherever the concept of the Tzaddik is found in Likutei Moharan, the reference is to this Tzaddik.
  18. Prayer and the soul of Mashiach were revealed especially in King David.
  19. A person should not strive to become this Tzaddik. Anyone who deos so is a “false famed leader.” Each person must receive from this Tzaddik, whi is revealed every few generations…
  20. Know that there has never been such a unique figure as “The flowing stream, the source of wisdom.” He prepared the weapons with which our Righteous Mashiach will fight in order to put the world in order. May this be Hashem’s will. Amen.

Please understand that this is simply a brief, and very incomplete, overview of R’ Yitzchak Breiter’s Seven Pillars of Faith. In English, please refer to the source for this overview — Seven Pillars of Faith & A Day in the Life of a Brelsover Chassid, The Breslov Research Institute.

By Yaakov Shmuel