1) Sometimes we see a person experience a sudden burst of enthusiasm during his prayers. A stream of words suddenly pours from his lips with tremendous fire. In His love, God opens the light of the Infinite and it radiates to him. When the person sees the radiance -- and if he himself doesn't see it, his mazal, his guardian angel, sees it (Megillah 3a) -- his soul takes fire with a passion to bind himself to the light of the Infinite. As long as the revelation lasts, the words pour forth with intense devotion. He surrenders himself, throwing his entire energy into them. For these moments he becomes nullified before the Infinite, and he is in a state of unknowing, as it is written: `and no man knows' (Deut. 34:6). He himself has no knowledge even of himself. But it is impossible to remain in such a state. If he did, he would die before his time, God forbid. But during his lifetime the only way to attain this state is in a mode of `running and returning' (Ezekiel 1:14). God does not want us to die! He wants us to live in order that we should serve Him. Only when the time comes for God Himself to take one's soul is it possible to remain in this state of selfnullification, and then he will be merged with the Infinite completely in accordance with his merits (Likutey Moharan 4:9).

2) When a person `returns' from the state of self-nullification to his normal state of awareness and sense of self, a trace of the awesome light which he perceived still remains with him, giving him an apprehension of the unity of the Infinite and His goodness. Now he can understand how all is good and all is one. This awareness is a foretaste of the World to Come. The way to attain these levels of awareness is through expressing oneself before a Torah scholar, confessing one's sins and pouring out one's heart (Ibid.).

3) For the Tzaddik, repentance is a continuous movement. He works on it every day of his life. Even if he knows that he has already achieved a state of perfect repentance, he must still `repent' for the perceptions of God he attained in earlier periods of his life, because they were gross and materialistic compared to his present perception of God's utter exaltedness. Every day the Tzaddik moves from perception to perception and from level to level, repenting for his earlier levels. The world to come, which is called `wholly Shabbat, wholly teshuva (repentance),' has precisely this quality of movement towards an ever-enhanced perception of God. With every climb a person makes in the level of his perception, it is necessary to repent for his previous levels. Anyone with a brain in his head will be able to realize from this something of the true greatness of the Creator and the greatness of the Tzaddikim. Happy are they and happy are those who are attached to them (6:3).

4) Know that there is a light which is above the nefesh, ruach and neshama of human souls. This is the light of the Infinite. It cannot be attained through intellect. And yet thought endeavors to chase after it. It is through fulfilling the mitzvot in joy that we can become worthy of attaining this light. We chase after it, only to encounter `that which holds back.' We can `reach, yet not reach.' In this way nine palaces are formed which are neither `lights' nor ruach nor neshama. It is impossible to remain attached to them. They cannot be known. Happy is the one whose thought chases after this awareness, even though the mind has not the power to attain it (see Zohar I, 65a; Likutey Moharan 24).

5) The whole purpose of life is to come to know God. But it is impossible to attain any apprehension of Godliness except through innumerable `contractions' from level to level, from cause to effect, from the Supreme Mind to the Lower Mind. Therefore one must search for a teacher who is on such a level that he has the power to guide one and communicate all that one needs to understand. To be able to do this, the teacher must possess true greatness. The lower one's level, the greater the teacher one needs, because only the greatest will have the skill to elucidate the subject in the right way, with the appropriate preparatory explanations and introductions. These are the `contractions' through which even one on a very low level can come to a perception of Godliness (30:1,2).

6) Torah and mitzvot are the path to the apprehension of God. Because every letter of the Torah and every detail of every mitzvah is a `contraction' (Ibid. 3).

7) Wisdom and understanding are the foundation of any perception of God. But the only way to acquire them is if one `hates covetousness' (Exodus 18:21). One must hate materialism absolutely. Someone who is attracted by it will inevitably fall from the necessary level of wisdom and understanding into folly, stupidity, anxiety and depression. He will be captured in the net of the `husks' and the forces of the Other Side, which are the opposite of wisdom and understanding (Ibid. 4).

8) The joy we experience on the three annual festivals can arouse new perceptions of Godliness (Ibid. 5).

9) Every single Jew is a part of God above. The essence of Godliness is to be found in the heart. The Godliness in the heart of the Jew is infinite. There is no end to the light of the flame which burns there. The holy desire which is there is infinite. But this same burning passion would make it impossible for him to accomplish anything at all in his service of God, nor would he be able to reveal any good trait, if he did not hold his passion within certain limits. He must `contract' it, so to speak, in order to be able to serve God in a measured, orderly way. For God desires our service. There are specific actions and devotions which He asks of us. He wants us to develop our character traits and behavior in an orderly, systematic way. This is how His kingship will be revealed (49:1).

10) The more one draws close to God the more one must understand how far one is from Him. When a person believes he has already succeeded in achieving closeness to God and attaining an understanding of Him, it is a sign that he does not know anything. If he did, he would know that he is very far from God and that he knows absolutely nothing. It is impossible to explain this satisfactorily in words. The greatness of God has no limits (63).

11) A person should learn to live in a state of self-nullification. He should always fix his eyes upon the ultimate goal, which is truly good and enduring. The only way to do this is by closing his eyes to this world and concentrating on the true goal to the point that he becomes united with it. You must keep your eyes firmly shut as far as this world is concerned -- even if you have to hold them closed with your finger! Pay no attention whatsoever to this world. Then nothing in the world will cause you any pain or suffering. But you should understand that it is impossible to remain in this state of selfnullification all the time and still be a human being. Inevitably self-nullification can only be achieved at certain moments in the mode of `running and returning' (Ezekiel 1:14). In the period of `returning' a trace of the state of self-nullification remains and shines with the sweet and pleasant light of Godliness. It is impossible to describe this experience to anybody else. It brings a tremendous joy, which can lead us to new horizons in understanding Torah. These new perceptions can be a source of strength and fortitude in the face of all the sufferings and harsh experiences a person may have to undergo. Even in this world he will be worthy of experiencing a taste of the World to Come (65:3,4).

12) When a person attains a certain perception of Godliness, he must be careful to observe certain limits: he must `contract' the experience, as it were, in the sense of putting certain limits on the way he explores and follows through his perception. Even in the realms of holiness, there are places where it is forbidden to travel. One must never go beyond one's limits. Every created being has its boundary. Only thus far is it permitted to go to receive the radiance of God. To go further is forbidden, lest one `break through' (cf. Exodus 19:24). (Likutey Moharan II, 5:7).

13) King David, peace be upon him, said: `For I know that the Lord is great' (Psalm 135:5). `I know,' said King David, because the perception which a person attains in his own heart can never be communicated to anybody else (Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom 1).

14) Even to yourself you cannot communicate such a vision. Today you might be inspired and see a certain vision. But tomorrow you will not be able to communicate the inspiration and the vision even to yourself! (Ibid.).

15) God is so great -- `His greatness is unfathomable' (Psalm 145:3) -- and yet nobody knows it. Remarkable things are happening in the world. There is no end to the works of God. All the time there are changes, new creations, wonders, miracles...yet nobody knows it. One cannot even speak of it. Each person has only his own perceptions to go by. The more advanced his perceptions, the more he can understand just a bit how ignorant he really is. And even then he is still far from the true goal of knowledge, which is to realize that one is truly ignorant. But so far he hasn't begun to know anything! The Rebbe had remarkable things to say about this subject, and he showed how a person can always fortify himself so as never to lose hope. Regardless of where he may have fallen, he should never despair of crying out to God. In His greatness, God has the power to turn everything to good (Ibid. 3).

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