On the Profound Significance of Tsfat to Our Generation
On December 10, 2005, during Chanukah, hundreds of people gathered in lower Manhattan at the Museum of Jewish Heritage—A Living Memorial to the Holocaust. A dinner was held honoring the Holy City of Tsfat. The themes of the evening were renewal in a post-Holocaust era, the magic of Tsfat and Rebbe Nachman of Breslev. Rav Moshe Weinberger of Congregation Aish Kodesh in Woodmere, New York, addressed an extraordinarily diverse crowd on the profound significance of Tsfat to our generation.
It is hard for me to describe the feelings and emotions of this evening. I am thinking back ten years ago to the first gathering [for Tsfat] that we had in Brooklyn, held in a room filled with approximately the same number of people, different groups, different types, but all chassidim. Tonight, I can’t help but think and wonder about the great strength of both Rebbe Nachman, may his merit protect us, and the Holy City of Tsfat, and how they have somehow miraculously drawn Jews of such diverse backgrounds together to this place.
Rebbe Nachman once said that in the world, stories are told to put children to sleep, but [Breslever chassidim] tell stories to keep children awake. In the introduction to Likutey Moharan, Rebbe Nachman speaks about the great Tanna, Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai. He quotes the verse in Aramaic from the book of Daniel, Ir V’kadish Min Shemaya Nachit ….[an angel, a holy one, descended from heaven] which literally means “the one who is awake and was sent into this world from heaven.” I believe the connection between the magical city of Tsfat and Rebbe Nachman has created an awakening in our generation. What brings us all here from different places is the miracle of Rebbe Nachman’s message.
I understand that there are guests of honor and many of you have come to honor them, but I don’t believe for a moment that is why we are here. We are here because Rebbe Nachman is pulling upon the chord strings of our hearts to come. We are all here to give honor to that tzaddik whom G-d Himself sent here into the world when it was falling asleep. He sent him into the world to wake us up.
I want to share with you something very remarkable. Rebbe Nachman describes a mysterious field where wondrous trees and plants grow. It is also where holy souls, neshamos, develop. And yet, he writes, “There are many many naked souls who are bare and wandering, unable to make their way into the field. They are waiting and longing for someone to come along and repair their souls, so they can return to their place.” Who is the person who has the power to do this? Rebbe Nachman explains in this lesson that there is a “master of the field”. This master of the field has wondrous eyes and when the eyes of the master of the field are illuminated, he is able to see great visions beyond the gates of that mysterious field, to those souls wandering and waiting for a tikkun, waiting for someone to bring them back. Rebbe Nachman says there are two types of fields in the world. There is the field of visionaries and the field of weepers; a field where people are crying and weeping, and the field of the tzaddik—the master of the field.
The city of Tsfat is the field of visionaries for our generation. It is the field of dreams, the field of vision, the field where Jews look beyond the confines of the four cubits of their little lives and dream of something greater and bigger. It is to that field, that the master of the field, the tzaddik, has mysteriously taken us. He draws us to that place.
That is why we are here. Some of you are wondering, “What am I doing here listening to some guy with a fur hat screaming at me? What’s going on? I was friends with this guy and he asked me to come to this dinner honoring Tsfat. Tsfat is a nice place, it seems like a charming little city, but I didn’t know that there was anything so miraculous or great happening there…”
The truth is, our generation is filled with tears. We are naked souls trying to get back into that authentic world of Rebbe Nachman. So why is it, that ten years ago, I addressed a chassidic gathering, but now we are sitting here in Manhattan and it is not a chassidic gathering? It is a gathering of all different types of friends from different backgrounds. You know why? It is because we are approaching Chanukah and Chanukah is the celebration of that one jar of undefiled pure oil. Everybody in the world is looking for something authentic. We’re sick of cynicism, we’re sick of sarcasm. We’re sick of hypocrisy and phoniness. Everyone is looking for that pure jar of oil, unaffected by the outside world. Therefore, the city of Tsfat, the field of the visionaries, as well as the visionary of all visionaries, Rebbe Nachman, calls to each one of us who haven’t forgotten the authentic drop of oil that enlivens each and every one of our souls and calls us to come back to HaShem, to return to the Master of all, the Master of the world, Hashem Himself.
I want to conclude with a little story. There was a great rebbe, Reb Yaakov from Isbitz. He was known as the “Beis Yaakov.” This rebbe, the Beis Yaakov, was a huge scholar who for over twenty years, gave a very deep lesson in the gemara. He gave the lesson every single night from midnight until 4:00 in the morning for over two decades. Someone who described what it was like said it was unforgettable. “It was the deepest lesson and I was one of the few people privileged to attend. I don’t remember all of the lessons, but I’ll tell you one thing I remember. Exactly at midnight, the rebbe would walk in. On one side of the rebbe, there was a person holding the gemara, and on the other side, there was another person holding a candle. When the lesson was over, he gave a kiss to the gemara. It is that kiss I remember. It is the kiss that keeps me alive and pushes me on despite all my difficulties to be a Jew.”
Rebbe Nachman gave a kiss to our people. Those who haven’t learned, those who haven’t heard—learn, listen, and hear. You will then understand that the second you walk into Tsfat, you’ll feel the embrace of his love, you’ll feel the kiss the Beis Yaakov gave to the Gemara that can’t be described in words, because it is beyond words.
The soul of a Jew is filled with a yearning for G-d. That’s why we’re here. We yearn for G-d. We yearn for His people, we yearn for His holy city of Tsfat and we yearn to connect once again to that pure undefiled jar of oil inside each and every one of us. May HaShem bless the Jewish people. May we all merit not just to talk about Tsfat and see films of Tsfat, but to go together with all of our dear friends and chaverim to reclaim the land and bring our people back to the Holy City of Tsfat and Jerusalem, to the complete redemption and the beis hamikdash, speedily in our days, Amen. ♦
1. The first letters of these words spell “Shimon” alluding to Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai, with whom Rebbe Nachman shares a profound soul connection.
2. Likutey Moharan 65
3. From the book he authored, called “Beis Yaakov.”