The Brit is the foundation of the Jewish people and the Jewish religion. There is no single word in English which conveys the richness of meaning in the word Brit, which is usually translated as `Covenant'. The Brit which God struck with Abraham (Genesis 17) was the source of the special relationship between God and those of Avraham's descendants who observe the obligations which the Brit carries with it.

1) If you guard the sacred Covenant in purity you will be worthy of true prayer (2:2).

2) The sexual appetite is the root of the evil inclination. It is the source of all impurity. Confronting the sexual desire is the main trial one has to face in this world. Happy indeed is the one who wins the battle (Ibid. 6).

3) Someone who knows that he is guilty of having wasted the drops of his very mind and soul should be careful not to get involved in any of the conflicts and disputes between the Tzaddikim. He should believe in all of them. The various doubts and questions which arise in his mind when he sees the Tzaddikim in conflict with one another stem from the mental weaknesses he himself brought upon himself when he wasted those drops of his very soul. If his mind had not been flawed he would not find anything to trouble him at all. He should understand that all their conflicts are really for his benefit, to prompt him to examine and purify himself (5:4).

4) The guidance given by the Tzaddik and his followers are the foundation of the Covenant. But the smooth talk of those who oppose them, who have their own ideas about the right way to live, is a denial of the Covenant and can only undermine it. The ideas that a person receives from another are like seeds planted in his mind. Advice and counsel are `drops of wisdom' which impregnate the soul. A person who has given way to immorality in the past must be extremely careful to protect himself from the influence of these enemies of the truth. Otherwise he is in danger of losing his share in the world to come, God forbid (7:3).

5) Sexual desire is subject to the eyes: when the eyes wander, desire is aroused. The mitzvah of tzitzit, the fringes on the garment, is a protection against this. It also gives protection against the influence of those who are enemies of the truth. Be very careful to fulfill this mitzvah properly. If you do this you will begin to understand the meaning of the teachings of the Tzaddikim and to follow their ways. When you wrap yourself in the tzitzit and recite the blessing, concentrate on the thought that you desire a life of purity governed by the Holy Covenant and by the advice and counsel of the Tzaddikim. This is the foundation of true faith. You will be worthy of coming to the Land of Israel, and bringing the era of Mashiach closer. You will attain true prayer, and with it the power to bring about miracles. Your livelihood will be sent without difficulties -- because a person's livelihood is governed by the purity with which he leads his life. In the end you will learn to find wisdom wherever you are: you will see the teachings which are contained in all the things around you. All the wisdom of the world will be revealed to you like a table spread with delights (Ibid. 4).

6) Pride and sexual immorality are bound up with one another. By guarding the Covenant in purity a person can rid himself of pride and find the light that will guide him on the path back to God (11:3).

7) The basic reason why people have to struggle bitterly to make a living is because they are guilty of sexual impurity. People who keep themselves pure also have to work. But in their case the work they do is the labor of building the Sanctuary. Our sages teach us that there were thirty-nine separate kinds of labor connected with the construction of the Sanctuary. Each labor is a light, making thirtynine lights. But when a person undermines the Holy Covenant, poverty pursues him. He takes the yoke of bitter struggle and puts it around his own neck. For him, work is the scourge of the thirty-nine lashes with which offenders are punished (Deut. 25:2,3) (Ibid. 4).

8) There are two different levels of observance of the Covenant. The first is that of the man who has relations with his wife during the six working days of the week. He too can be said to be observing the Covenant since he only approaches his wife at the times when she is permitted to him in accordance with the rules of family purity. He must of course take care not to come to sin. This is the level of the lower unification. Purity here leads to understanding the Law of the Torah -- the `secrets.' The second level is that of one who has relations only on the night of Shabbat. This is the level of the upper unification, where it is possible to penetrate to the mystical depths of the Torah, the `secrets of secrets.' Those whose relations are only on Shabbat must guard themselves scrupulously to ensure that they conduct themselves in perfect holiness. This applies all the more so to those on the lower level, who have relations during the six working days. When the Covenant is observed on both these levels the glory of God is complete (Ibid. 5).

9) A remedy for a nocturnal emission is to talk to one's friends about their spiritual difficulties and give them encouragement in their search for God (14:12).

10) Sexual desire is the comprehensive evil. It is the root of all the different kings of evil found in the seventy nations of the world. Each of the seventy nations and languages is associated with its own special form of evil -- an evil character trait, a particular desire for which that people is especially known, or whatever. This special evil is what binds this people to the forces of evil. The sexual desire is the sum of all evil. All the different desires found in the seventy nations are, as it were, gathered together and included in this. They all burn together, and the effect is a flaming furnace which urges men on with sexual lust. But God has separated us from the nations and exalted us above all languages. We are therefore obliged to keep apart from all the different kinds of evil which are found among them. Their desires are totally worthless to us. More than anything we must guard ourselves against sexual desire which is the sum of all evil. The fact that we keep ourselves apart from this is the essential difference between ourselves and the other nations. It is the foundation of the holiness of the Jewish people. Man has the power to uproot this impulse from himself completely. In this lies our sanctity (19:3).

11) The key to subduing and breaking your desires, and especially sexual desire, which is the main challenge, is to strive to gain mastery of the Holy Tongue. This means that you should sanctify your tongue with words of Torah and prayer -- the formal prayers and your own spontaneous private prayer. Even if the words you speak are in your own native language they are still considered as the Holy Tongue. (In fact, when you converse with God in your own words, it must be in your own language.) The point is to sanctify your tongue by always speaking in a way that is holy. This is what is meant by gaining mastery of the Holy Tongue. Through sanctifying your speech you will have the power to subdue the sexual desire, which is the comprehensive evil (Ibid.).

12) Sexual purity and mastery of the Holy Tongue are both connected with each other. The more words of holiness which you speak, the more you will succeed in purifying yourself, and in this way you will make amends for any immorality in the past. By the same token, the purer you become the more your mastery of the Holy Tongue will grow. But, you should understand that a similar relationship exists between sexual immorality, God forbid, and the abuse of language. Each one feeds the other (Ibid.).

13) The serpent which beguiled Eve and corrupted her is the embodiment of sexual lust. (Other expressions used for this in our holy literature are the `whirling stormwind,' the `spirit of madness,' and the `foolish woman.') It is the way of the serpent to try to beguile the `spirit of holiness,' which is the Holy Tongue, and to insinuate its way into our speech. The holiness of language is bound up with sexual purity. Therefore the serpent constantly strives to corrupt our speech. It is written: `sin coucheth at the door' (Genesis 4:7). This refers to the serpent lurking in wait for man, trying to suck his strength by tripping him into sexual impurity. The evil inclination constantly tries to push one to sin. Its main force is directed to the area of sexual desire (Ibid. 4).

14) Use words of holiness -- Torah and prayer -- to cool the heat of your passion. As King David said: `My heart waxed hot within me; while I was musing, the fire was kindled. Then I spoke with my tongue' (Psalms 39:4). When you cool your passion with words of holiness, you will be protected from night-time emissions (Ibid. 4).

15) Most people go through life subjected to a constant barrage of discourtesy, rudeness and outright insults and humiliation. All this is sent only because of their immorality. Those who guard the Covenant in purity will be treated with honor (Ibid. 3).

16) One who is pure and masters the Holy Tongue can interpret dreams, like Joseph did (Ibid. 4).

17) The Tzaddik is one who has attained perfect purity and perfect mastery of the Holy Tongue. Only through the words of his lips can you yourself achieve that mastery and thereby free yourself of all your desires. But you must actually go to the Tzaddik and hear the words from his lips yourself. It is not enough to read books of his teachings or even to hear them second-hand from someone else. You must go to him yourself. His holy lips are a fountain flowing with the fear of Heaven. His words are the foundation of the Holy Covenant. They are the comprehensive tikkun (Ibid. 9).

18) Because of the desecration of the Holy Covenant a sword is let loose in the world. This is the sword that `executes the vengeance of the Covenant' (Leviticus 26:25) (20:10).

19) Crying out loud is a remedy for sexual impurity and can bring an illumination of da'at, perception and understanding of Godliness. That is why guarding against impurity elevates the mind to higher levels (Ibid.).

20) The underlying reason why we should recite the Passover Haggadah in a loud voice is that the Haggadah is a tikkun for the Holy Covenant. The original exile in Egypt was the result of the abuse of the Covenant, as we find explained in the sacred literature. The redemption from Egypt was a tikkun for this. The wine of the four cups which we drink on the first nights of Passover symbolizes da'at, perception and understanding of Godliness. Drinking the wine is a tikkun for the distortion in our consciousness which stems from sexual impurity (Ibid.).

21) The Holy Covenant is a protection against the `face' of the Sitra Achra, the Other Side. This `face' of the Other Side is the craze for money and materialism which is a form of idolatry and the source of the darkness, depression and heaviness in the world. They are really a form of death. But through the Covenant we become bound to Godliness. In the joy of God's radiance we can attain true contentment, because the light of the Countenance of the King of Life shines upon us (23:2).

22) One who guards the Covenant in purity will come to perceive the source of all the blessings which flow into the world, spiritual and material. This root is pure radiant light. When one attains this perception, all desire for materialism simply disappears (Ibid. 5).

23) The Holy Covenant is the foundation of true enlightenment, which is called the `glory of the face', hadrat panim. The mind is refined by the wisdom of the Torah, which one learns to interpret with grace and beauty through the thirteen rules of interpretation. These rules are the `glory of the face' (In the Kabbalah they are known as the `thirteen perfections of the beard'. The beard, a symbol for wisdom is zakan, which also means `old man'; and it is written in the Torah: `Honor (ve-hadarta) the face of the old man'; (Leviticus 19:32).) The voice also becomes purified. One has only to lift up his voice and utter the sounds of song, even without words, and God will save him in his time of distress. Then he will attain peace, and the power to draw the entire world closer to the service of God (27:6).

24) Any transgression of the laws of the Torah stains the Shechinah with the blood of impurity and sunders the Shechinah from the Only One, blessed-be-He. To rectify every single sin one by one would be impossible, because each transgression has many implications and ramifications: every prohibition has its fine points and subtleties. The only solution is the Tikkun Klaki, the general remedy. This is the tikkun habrit, the `restoration of the Covenant.' Through this, all of a person's transgressions are rectified. The healing influence of the Tikkun Klaki has the power to reach the narrowest, most inaccessible channels of the soul which no other remedy could reach (29:3).

25) One who has not yet achieved the Tikkun Klaki has no right to speak. He does not know how to use speech as it should be used. Nor is he able to speak words which radiate Torah. For him to speak would be a transgression of the prohibition against tale-bearing (Leviticus 19:16), because anything he says amounts to slander. He is unable to keep secrets. But the Tikkun Klaki confers on the one who achieves it the right to open his lips and speak. His words will be filled with the light of Torah (Ibid. 6).

26) Sexual impurity can result in epilepsy, God forbid. The Covenant is a protection against this (Ibid. 7).

27) A person who has not yet achieved the Tikkun Klaki should avoid wine, because it stirs up the blood and this is the source of all sin. Drinking can have an adverse effect on one's livelihood. The wine becomes like a poison. But someone who has achieved absolute purity can reach profound enlightenment when he drinks wine (Ibid. 8).

28) All the suffering which a person goes through when he is travelling is sent to him only because of abuse of the Covenant. One who is pure will be free of pain and torment when he travels (Ibid. 4).

30) The Covenant is the source of true freedom (Ibid. 5).

31) There are two aspects to the Covenant. The first is embodied in the figure of Abraham. This is the Upper Covenant, which is a firmament separating the upper and the lower waters. The second is the Lower Covenant, embodied in the figure of Abraham's servant. This is the firmament dividing the pure and the impure waters, that which is permitted from that which is forbidden, the ritually clean from the ritually unclean. The Upper Covenant entails the endeavour for absolute purity, the purity of the perfect Tzaddik. The Lower Covenant involves the observance of the laws of what is permitted and what is prohibited, and this entails learning. Every person must try to fulfill the Covenant on both these levels: to be a Tzaddik and a scholar. `For an ignoramus cannot be a saint' (Avoth 2:6). One who fulfils the Covenant on both these levels is likened to an angel of the Lord of Hosts. He will attain true faith and he will be blessed with an abundance of Divine favor and grace. He will be filled with love and yearning for God. The letters of Torah have two opposite powers: they can be turned to good or to evil. Through the longing and yearning we have for God we invest the letters of Torah with goodness. The very letters themselves push forward and ask to be mouthed on the lips of those who long for God. The letters themselves yearn to be invested with goodness. When one attains this sanctity it is accounted to him as if his very eating had the holiness of the show-bread of the sanctuary. His table brings atonement like the altar. The entire universe -- the stars, the planets and all the nations of the world -- all labor to provide him with livelihood and blessing (Ibid. 5).

32) Sexual temptation is the main test in life. It is sent as a challenge to refine us. When you are subjected to this test it puts you in a type of `exile'. You should cry out to God: scream and cry out to Him over and over again, like a woman in labor who cries out from the pain of her contractions. Seventy times she cries out (Zohar III, 249b). You must do likewise and cry out to God again and again until He takes pity and helps you to strengthen yourself and break your desire. New ideas and new perceptions will be born within you. The secrets of Torah, which before were guarded, will now be unveiled for you. The greater the determination with which you stand up to the trial, the greater the revelation you will receive in Torah and devotion to God. You will be able to see the seventy faces of the Torah (36:1,2).

33) The tikkun for sexual fantasies is to say the words of the Shema: `Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One', and the phrase which follows it: `Blessed be the name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever'. The six Hebrew words of each of these two lines adds up to twelve, corresponding to the twelve Tribes of God. By saying these words one attaches his soul to the Twelve Tribes and separates it from the `Mixed Multitude' who went up with the Children of Israel from Egypt (Tikkuney Zohar, Introduction) The `Mixed Multitude' stems from the `harlot woman,' the `wicked maid'. This is the source of sexual lust, which is the root of all evil character traits (Ibid. 3).

34) When one merely has a stray thought or fantasy it is sufficient to say these two verses as we have mentioned. But certain people are plagued with sexual fantasies all the time. They find they cannot rid themselves of it. In this case, they must bring themselves to tears when they take on the yoke of heaven. They must literally weep as they say the words `Hear O Israel' and `Blessed be the Name of His glorious Kingdom' (Ibid. 6).

35) The level of religious perception that a person can attain depends on the degree of purity he achieves. It is a fundamental principle that one can only comprehend the words of the Tzaddik if he first purifies himself. Immorality leaves a blemish on the mind. Not only will one fail to understand what the Tzaddik is saying; he is also in danger of putting the wrong interpretation on the words. He can easily stumble if he follows the crookedness of his heart and accepts the distorted logic of the doubts with which his head is filled (Ibid.).

36) Sexual temptation can literally make a person go out of his mind. This is why the medical authorities have written that castration is a cure for madness (Ibid. 6).

37) Once one breaks his sexual desire, he can easily break all his desires. This is why the tikkun for sexual impurity is called the Tikkun Klaki, the comprehensive tikkun. The further a person is from sexual desire, the closer he comes to the radiance of Torah. The opposite is also true. This explains why, before a person can receive a new revelation of Torah, he is first tested in the crucible of this passion. If he stands up to the test and breaks his desire, it is like breaking the shell which proceeds the fruit, and he will be worthy to receive the revelation (Ibid.).

38) Be careful not to listen to the words of a person who is wicked and also intelligent. The mere words themselves can arouse sexual desire. They are laden with poison and enter the very body of the one who hears them (43).

39) One who abuses the Covenant will have the taste of bitter waters -- the `waters of impurity' and the `seed of uncleanness.' He will be unable to pray with the fervor of total devotion. He will never taste the sweetness of the words of the prayers. The offering he brings -- his prayer -- will be eaten by a dog. His prayer will be bitter -- a `double-edged sword'... `hell'. But when one guards the Covenant in purity his prayers are sweet waters -- the `waters of purity', the `seed of holiness'. As the words emerge from his lips and enter his ears, their sweetness passes into his very bones and his prayer flows out with fervent passion -- as it is written: `All my bones declare, Lord who is like unto Thee?' (Psalms 35:10) Then a lion comes and consumes his offering (50).

40) The `dogs' who snatch at the prayers of one who has not achieved sexual purity are the brash and arrogant peole who disturb him and spoil his prayers (Ibid.).

41) One who succumbed to sexual immorality in the past should be wary of dogs and the sword (Ibid.).

42) The vanity of beauty leads men to the charm of deceit (cf. Proverbs 31:30). One who is captured by the beauty of women falls victim to its vain futility. There are many ways he can fall into deceit, be it in the way he stands, the way he eats, the way he speaks to people and so on. No matter what he does he must always think how will he appear: will he seem charming and attractive? Each separate act demands a different kind of charm. One who fails to guard himself against the attractions of female beauty will become a slave to the charm that he feels he must project (60:3).

43) The vanity of beauty brings men to poverty (Ibid.).

44) Life depends upon breathing. Sexual desire affects the breathing, causing gaps between breaths. This allows the body fluids to dry, which results in damage to the brain and the mind, because mental life depends on the fats and fluids in the body. This is why all forms of madness are caused fundamentally by sexual desire, as is known. Even in the case of those who are not actually insane but who lack stability and strength of character, the root cause is also sexual (Ibid.).

45) Anyone who marries a woman for money is a fool and an idiot (Kiddushin 72) He will be spiritually crippled and his children will turn out to be immoral (69).

46) Charity given in secret is a tikkun for a nocturnal emission (83).

47) Depression and anxiety are the main cause of sexual immorality. The foundation of the Covenant lies in joy (169).

48) The milk that a baby suckles when being breast-fed can have a decisive effect on his sexual behavior later on. If a baby is given to a wet-nurse to be suckled it is essential that she should be a good and pious woman. A child who sucks milk from a woman who is morally lax can be overwhelmed by sexual temptation in later life. But a child who is suckled by an honest, pious woman will only have as much desire as is necessary to fulfill the commandment of God (II, 1:4;see Tosafoth, Avodah Zarah 11b).

49) Today publicity and fame go to false figures. The arrogance of these false leaders causes sexual immorality to become rife, with the wanton destruction of seed. The `flesh is stopped' (Leviticus 15:3). This `sealing' of the flesh is the seal of the forces of the Other Side. The only way to escape this is through the strength of the Guardians of the age, the Tzaddikim and those who are truly pious. They are called the `Guardians of the earth.' The battle they have to fight is very fierce. But these Guardians have the power to transform the `stopped up flesh' to a `seal of holiness'. This seal is the tefilin. The greater the victory over sexual immorality the greater the spiritual enlightenment which follows. This enlightenment is the `seal of holiness' which the tefilin embody. Every one can draw strength from the `Guardians of the Earth' to break his desires and put all his fantasies out of his mind, filling it instead with holy thoughts. Something you should understand is that the more strongly you are assailed by temptation and desire, the greater the tikkun when you fight and break them. Holiness is realeased from the power of the husks. You will be suffused with the holiness of the tefilin: to know and make known God's power and glory in the world. The sole reason why these fantasies and evil thoughts are sent to a person is precisely that he should transform them and sublimate them to the realm of holiness (5:6).

50) One who breaks his sexual desire, and cleanses and purifies his mind, is worthy of dreams sent by an angel. Then he is worthy of the status of Man. But a person whose mind is impure receives dreams from a demon and resembles a beast (Ibid. 9).

51) Rabbis and judges who are dishonest and pervert the law cause the filth of nocturnal pollutions. The perversion of the `thrones of judgement' (Psalms 122:5) causes the love that is in the Chariot (the Throne) to fall, and stirs up the heat of impure passion. The remedy for this is `binding the chariot' - a reference to the institution of the Sages that before we go to sleep we should say: `In the name of the Lord God of Israel: at my right, Michael; at my left, Gavriel; before me, Uriel and behind me, Rafael, and upon my head, Shechinat-El' (Ibid. 11).

52) The spiritual powers of the mind and the soul are the shield against sexual desire. Each of the three main facets of the mind is a separate barrier against this impulse. The power of the sexual impulse derives from the `spirit of folly' which overwhelms one with lustful thoughts and fantasies. As soon as a person feels himself threatened by them he should remind himself of the intrinsic superiority of the spiritual realm. He should immediately turn aside from the `spirit of folly' and take refuge in the powers of his soul, setting up the barriers of wisdom and intelligence to protect him against this desire. They are the best shield of all. Understand this well. It is something which cannot really be explained. Each individual will see for himself how to escape the `spirit of folly' and draw closer to his spiritual powers, which are the shield against it (8:2).

53) Every Jew has within him a spark of Mashiach. How much it shows through depends on the purity and holiness he attains. He must be very careful not to weaken this spark in any way. The main thing is to guard against the sexual desire, because even the slightest trace of it can seriously affect this spark. The spirit of Mashiach is a jealous one. The full force of its zeal is turned against every place where there is even the slightest trace of sexual immorality. The holiness and purity of everything associated with Mashiach is so great that even a mere hint of sexual immorality cannot be tolerated. The full force of its jealousy is directed against it (32).

54) When man and wife have relations in purity and holiness untouched by the slightest flaw, their relations brings unification in the uppermost spheres. This is truly precious (Ibid.).

55) One who attains absolute purity knows how to send forth the words of prayer like arrows from a bow. His whole being becomes suffused with the spirit of the holy Shabbat. He is totally free. He reaches the ultimate enlightenment. He strips himself of his leprous body, the `skin of the serpent', and is clothed instead in Shabbat garments - a holy body from the Garden of Eden. His guardian angel is raised high. He is blessed with wealth and joy. All the passion in his heart is for good. Depression and cynicism have no place. He has the power to go out into the world and bring life to those caught in the net of degraded passions and irrational fears: in their place, he inculcates them with the love of God and the fear of Heaven. The darkness is lifted from their eyes, and their eyes are opened to wonders around them. So great is his power, it is as if he had created the world. Those whom he teaches learn the ways of prayer: their pleas and entreaties become infused with deeper meaning and higher purpose. The hearts of men are purified, and the age of Mashiach begins to dawn. The leaven of the evil inclination is destroyed, and in the radiance of Torah the heart takes fire with flames of love. `Many waters cannot quench love' (Song of Songs, 8:7). The `many waters' are the degraded loves and irrational fears. Now they are powerless to quench the passion of this love of God. The Shechinah spreads her wings over Israel in the light of this love, and protects the Jewish people from the power of the wicked and the `waters of the flood.' (Cf. Niddah 13b) All this is founded on the holy Covenant and sexual purity (83).

56) Today it is easy to resist temptation. When people withstand a temptation, its evil husks are broken. It then becomes easier for others to resist it. Many Tzaddikim and righteous men have already withstood very severe sexual temptations. Now even an ordinary person can easily withstand this test, if he wants to take pity on himself in This World, and the World to Come (Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom 114).

57) A person who experiences a night-time emission should recite the following ten psalms on the same day: Psalms 16, 32, 41, 42, 59, 77, 90, 105, 137, 150. One who recites these psalms on the same day need have no further fears about the harm such an emission can cause. Any damage will certainly be repaired through doing this. It is a very great tikkun (II, 92).

Online English translation of Likutey Etzot
A compendium of Rabbi Nachman's practical teachings on spiritual growth and devotion.
© AZAMRA INSTITUTE 5766 / 2006