Avraham ben Yaakov
Jewish Pathways of Spiritual Growth
Sanctuary of the King, royal City:
Rise up, come out of this upside-down confusion!
You've sat in the valley of tears long enough.
Now He will shower you with compassion.
Shake off the dust and arise!
Put on your clothes of splendor, My People,
Through David, the son of Yishai, from Bethlehem .
Come close to my soul – redeem it!
Wake up! Stir yourself –
For your light has come. Rise up and shine!
Awaken, awaken, sing a song!
God's glory is revealed upon you!
(from Lecha Dodi in the Shabbat Eve Service)
This book is offered as an introduction to the Jewish spiritual pathway for contemporary English-speaking Jews.
Many people today find it hard to understand how the ideas discussed in the classic texts of Torah spirituality – Mussar and Chassidut – relate to themselves and their lives. They do not see clearly how to put these ideas into practice in modern times. This book is an attempt to explain some of these ideas in contemporary terms and to offer suggestions as to how to apply them in day-to-day life.
It is a book for the committed Jew who would like to follow the Torah pathway in order to achieve personal growth and spiritual connection. It is also for those who are uncommitted, who are puzzled by the variety they see in different areas of the Jewish world, and who wonder how to find spirituality through Judaism. Finally, it is for those who have experienced spirituality in some form in a non-Jewish context and who ask where meditation, diet, breathing, exercise, and other growth activities come into Torah life.
The motif of the book is the amusing, yet deeply profound, parable of the Prince who thought he was a Turkey , by the outstanding Chassidic luminary, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810). Though first told some two hundred years ago, the story is as relevant as ever. We may not think we are turkeys, but in one way or another we are all “under the table.”In our essence, we are sons and daughters of the King of the Universe, but the upside-down world around us makes it easy to forget this fact. How can we overcome the challenges facing us, whether from within ourselves or the surrounding environment, in order to rise to our spiritual destiny?
Sources for many of the suggestions offered in this book are to be found in the writings of Rebbe Nachman himself. However this is emphatically not so in all cases. This book should in no way be seen as an attempt to offer an “official” formulation of the spiritual pathway of Rebbe Nachman and his followers, the Breslov Chassidim. In particular, the practical guidance offered on the subjects of relaxation, diet, breathing and exercise is, for the most part, not based on Rebbe Nachman's teachings but on other sources, as indicated in the text and in the appendix on Sources and Further Reading. The view put forward here as to the place of such practices in the Jewish spiritual pathway is the personal view of the author.
The detailed interpretations of the imagery found in the story of the Turkey-Prince are my own. I have taken my licence from Rebbe Nachman himself, who encouraged students of his teachings to use them as a basis to develop chidushey Torah – original Torah ideas. (See Likutey Moharan II:105.) However, Rebbe Nachman made one stipulation: “You may expound the Torah and innovate in any area you wish, on condition that you do not use your interpretations to innovate or change any law” (Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom #267) . I hope and pray that everything in this book is in full accord with both the letter of the Shulchan Aruch and with the spirit of Rebbe Nachman's teachings.
Undoubtedly, the story of the Turkey-Prince contains far greater wisdom than I have begun to bring out in this work. The interpretations offered here are certainly not the only ones possible, nor are they definitive. I hope that people with different interpretations or who feel that more emphasis should be given to other dimensions of the story will develop and publish their ideas.
The Wise Man who cured the Prince asked nothing for himself. All he wanted was to show the Prince how to be him self. With the help of HaShem, may each one of us find the simple path of truth that will lead us to our selves, to our souls and our Source. Let us walk on it, step by step, securely and joyously, and welcome Mashiach soon in our lifetimes. Amen.
I thank HaShem for all His countless blessings to me every day and every moment, and in particular for inspiring me with the idea for this book, and for creating everything needed to make it possible to bring it to fruition.
I want to express my deep appreciation to the many relatives and friends who have helped me in so many different ways. To my dear parents: no words can adequately express my feelings, and my gratitude to you for your unfaltering support and encouragement. Finally, acharon acharon chaviv , my most precious wife, Yaffa at ra'yati : to you I dedicate this book.
Jerusalem , Lag Ba-Omer 5751
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