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Following in Rabbenu’s footsteps: Acre and Tiberius

I spent most of Shabbat trying to track down the specific source for Breslovers not eating Turkey.

So far I didn’t find it. We will come back to the topic of franken-chickens and turkeys in a separate post, as there is yet more to share on the subject.

But in the meantime, speed-reading through ‘His Wisdom’ and ‘Tzaddik’ in English threw up a lot of other things to think about.

This post is going to pull out some of those things, and try to fit them into a wider context.

I am at the point where I basically distrust pretty much anything ‘official history’ has to say.

But Rabbenu’s books were never about ‘official history’, and while there is for sure still some censorship going on – not least because of the huge persecution endured by Rav Natan and Breslov, and Rabbenu himself – I at least trust that most of what I’m reading actually happened as described.

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So, let’s see what more we can learn about ‘real Jewish history’, from a trustworthy contemporary source, Rebbe Nachman and his student, Rav Natan Sternhertz.

Let’s start with some of the stuff I gleaned from ‘Rebbe Nachman’s Wisdom’ (Shivchey HaRan and Sichot HaRan).

First, here’s some basic background. At the age of 26, Rebbe Nachman went to Eretz Yisrael together with an unidentified attendant. On the way to the Holy Land, Rabbenu spent a lot of time in Istanbul, where he dressed in rags, and played ‘war games’ in the streets with young children.

He did this to draw ‘abuse’ down on himself (amongst many other reasons…) because he knew he needed all those insults in order to sweeten the obstacles that would otherwise prevent him from making it to Israel, and the mekatragim that could otherwise even result in his death.

While in Istanbul, he met two followers of R Avraham Katz of Kalisk, who was the head of the chassidic community in Tiberius / Israel, following the death of R’ Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk. They didn’t know he was ‘Rebbe Nachman’, and Rabbenu, for his part, was careful not to tell them his true identity.

Now, I’m just going to start quoting some stuff from ‘His Wisdom’:

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Footnote 16 on page 53:

R’ Abraham ben Alexander Katz of Kalisk (d.1810) settled in Israel together with Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk in 1777,

When the latter passed away, R Abraham succeeded him as leader of the Chassidic community in Israel. He was a close friend of R Shneur Zalman of Liadi, but after the latter published his major work, Tanya, in 1796, R Abraham joined the Chassidic leaders opposing this work.

R Shneur Zalman, in turn, accused him of misusing charity funds sent to the Holy Land. The two emissaries who met Rebbe Nachman were followers of Rabbi Abraham.

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So, by this point Shneur Zalman and R Abraham of Kalisk were kind of ‘enemies’.

And the two followers of R Abraham suspected Rabbenu of working for their ‘enemies’…

Page 55:

[The two followers of R Abraham] went to the agent [in Istanbul] and told him, “For God’s sake, don’t let this stranger [i.e. Rebbe Nachman] leave for Israel. He is one of our enemies, trying to have Jews expelled, Heaven forbid….”

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We’ll sum up as we go along.

The ‘enemies’ of R’ Abraham of Kalisk and the Jewish community in Tiberius were apparently trying to have him and his followers expelled from Israel at this time, by the Turkish authorities.

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The two followers are trying to guess Rabbenu’s identity, and keep trying out different people to get a reaction.

Page 56:

They were sure they had identified him [Rebbe Nachman] as the Kamarner’s son, but then [Rebbe Nachman] began to curse the Kamarner again.

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It’s totally unthinkable to me that someone of Rabbenu’s stature would ever curse anyone else stam, let alone a ‘rebbe’.

So I tried to look up who this ‘Kamarner” actually was. On page 55 of ‘His Wisdom’, it says this:

“[T]hey thought he was the son of the Maggid of Kamarna, who had great opposition.”

Why was he having ‘great opposition’? As usual, the pertinent details are missing. Over on geni, I got to this ‘Komarner Rebbe’, who was living at the time of Rebbe Nachman, HERE. His name is R’ Yitzhak Isaac Eichenstein of Safrin (1740-1800).

His son, R’ Sender Safrin of Komarno marries Chava – who descends many times over from that same ‘Yaakov Kopel Kamiel’ we wrote about HERE, as being a strongly suspected Sabbatean, and possibly also the BESHT’s baal koreh, and maybe also an alter-ego for Yaakov Yosef Kahana of Polnoyye, the ‘Toldot Yaakov’.

Oh, and Chava also descends from the Sabbatean family of the TAZ and is close mishpocha with the Vizhnitzer rebbes….

In any case, Rabbenu apparently has no qualms about cursing this ‘Maggid of Kamarna’, on multiple occasions.

Moving on.

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On page 59, footnote 59, we discover that the authors have inexplicably censored the fact that the author of Arvey HaNachal is someone called ‘David Shlomo EIBSHITZ’.

Who is buried in the same cave in the old cemetery of Tsfat as Rabbenu’s daughter, Miriam.

Here’s what it says there:

Rabbi Zev Wolf (d. 1823) was a disciple of R Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezeritch, and the mentor of R’ Shlomo of Soroka, author of Arvey HaNachal.

I’d love to tell you how the Arvey HaNachal is related to the infamous Jonathan Eibshutz…. but that information has been very carefully controlled and covered up.

Moving on.

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While he’s in Istanbul, Rebbe Nachman goes to the grave of Rabbi Naftali ben Isaac Katz of Posen – another well-known Sabbatean who we wrote about HERE.

Page 60:

“When the Rebbe returned from Rabbi Naftali’s grave, he suddenly fainted and lay still for several hours. They placed him in bed, where he lay all night until noon the next day. He was on the verge of death, until God helped him and restored his health.”

That’s very interesting all by itself, and the extra context starts to suggest a possible reason why Rabbenu fainted and almost died after visiting his grave…

But here’s some more to chew over, from footnote 28:

R’ Naftali ben Isaac Katz of Posen…embarked on a journey to the Holy Land but passed away en route to Istanbul on 26 Tevet 5479 / 1719.

R’ Naftali was an ancestor of Rebbe Nachman; he lived in Breslov for a while, and his journey paralleled that of Rebbe Nachman in many ways. His grave was considered a shrine for pilgrims to the Holy Land; there is a record that it was also visited by R’ Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk on his journey there.”

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There were clearly some massive ‘family tikkunim’ being attempted by Rabbenu here – and the process almost killed him, God forbid.

Read more about Naftali Katz, the Semichat Hachamim who is suspected of burning down Frankfurt’s Jewish quarter when engaging in black magic HERE.

I’d love to give you details of how he’s related to Rebbe Nachman – but all that info has apparently been deliberately hidden.

Maybe, you’re starting to understand why that might be.

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Back to the ‘enemies’ of R Avraham Kalisker and his community in Tiberius. This from page 70:

“[Rebbe Nachman’s] illness caused him to be directly involved in an episode with an informer.

This individual had recently arrived in the Holy Land and had become an informer for the Pasha, causing much hardship for the Tiberias community.”

Before we continue, you should know that this ‘Pasha’ being referred to is the notorious Al Jazzar of Acre.

He’s the guy who stopped Napoleon’s advance into the Holy Land at Acre. He was renowned for tremendous cruelty, and had a Jewish advisor (and ‘minister of finance’ and taxes – of course!) – called Chaim Farhi. Farhi had his nose slit and one eye put out by his temperamental boss, and also played an instrumental part in stopping Napoleon in his tracks.

His house is still standing in Acre, to this day:

I can’t help but wonder if this ‘informer’ was closely connected to Chaim Farhi, in someway. It would certainly explain a lot about this story.

Let’s continue.

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“[The informer] had had the community leaders arrested and held in prison for nine weeks.

Some Sephardic Jews went to the Pasha and paid a large ransom to free these prisoners. They captured the informer and attempted to strangle him. He was able to escape only by feigning death.

He complained to the Pasha (Al Jazzer) and was appointed as overseer of the city, to do as he pleased. Accompanied by a regiment of Turkish troops, he returned to Tiberias with great fanfare….

This informer had told the Pasha that the Jews were bringing a large sum of money from Europe.

The Turks had posted special watchmen at all the city gates, waiting for these emissaries….The Rebbe’s attendant was later sent to Haifa, where he collected the funds from the emissaries and brought the money to Tiberias. The money was then delivered to the Rebbe, who gave it to the community leaders [i.e. R’ Avraham Kalisker] for distribution.”

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This informer had to have inside information about who was bringing those funds into Israel.

And we see he had very close links with the Pasha, Al Jazzer, and his finance and tax minister Chaim Farhi.

And, apparently, he also had some sort of ‘grudge’ against the Tiberius Jewish community headed by R’ Avraham Kalisker, who was in the middle of a dispute with Shneur Zalman of Liadi, who had publically accused him of ‘mishandling’ the charity funds, after R’ Avraham came out against the publication of the Tanya.

Makes you think what was really going on, and who that ‘informer’ guy really was.

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A few pages later, we find out who had been dispatched to bring that money into Eretz Yisrael:

Rabbi Yaakov Shimshon of Shepetovka.

From page 75:

[T]he Rebbe made peace between the Rabbi of Shepetovka and Rabbi Abraham Kalisker.

Footnote 44 and 45 fill in a few more details:

R’ Yaakov Shimshon of Shepetovka was a leading disciple of…the Maggid of Mezeritch and a follower of R Pinchas of Koretz and R’ Baruch of Medzhibozh… The Rabbi of Shepetovka had been sent by R’ Baruch to look after the charity monies dispatched to the Holy Land. Some aspersions had been case on Rabbi Abraham’s handling of these funds, so he understandably resented the newcomer.

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Again, so much seems to be ‘missing’ here.

For example, R’ Yaakov Shimshon of Shepetovka seems to have actually been the in-law of R’ Pinchas of Koretz.

His daughter Sarah Miriam Shapiro marries R’Pinchas son, R’ Yehuda Meir Shapira like this:

SARAH ROCHEL SHEINDEL WEISBLUM m AVRAHAM ABA SHAPIRA (1709-1763)>R PINCHAS OF KORETZ (1726-1790)>R YEHUDA MEIR SHAPIRA OF SHEPETIVKA (1760-1829)

(This is the same family tree for the Noam Elimelech, Rav Zusya, and…. Jacob Frank. Amongst many others. It’s totally messed up.)

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For the record, R’ Nachman praised R’ Avraham Kalisker very highly.

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Now, let’s take a look at more of the background about what was really going on in the chassidic world from ‘Tzaddik’ (Chayey Moharan).

Rebbe Nachman was greeted with great affection by nearly all the chassidic masters when he returned from Israel – but he was still arguing with a lot of them, openly, that their ‘visions’ and kabbalistic understanding was totally wrong.

The people he argued with included Shneur Zalman of Chabad – the first person Rabbenu went to visit, when he got back from the Holy Land. And also people like R’ Mordechai of Neskhiz, R’ Tzvi Aryeh of Alik, and also the person who ended up being the Rebbe’s biggest opponent in his lifetime, the Shpola Zeida.

Here’s a little of what Rabbenu is recorded as saying (page 24):

[The Rav of Alik] came in. He said [to Rabbenu] ‘You still don’t believe me when I say I have had visions. I will give you decisive proof that I do.’ The Rav once again embarked on a Torah discourse in an attempt to prove to the Rebbe that he had visions.

Only then did the Rebbe reply to him, “Many have tried to explain the merkaveh (Chariot), yet they never saw it in their life.”

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You’ll recall that the mystical kabbalah associated with the ‘merkavah’ was the hallmark of R Abulafia, who was another in the a very long line of ‘failed’ or false messiahs, many of whose ideas got recycled a couple of centuries later by the Sabbateans….

Even today, the ‘Abulafia’ synagogue of the Tiberius of Rebbe Nachman’s time stands right next to the ruin of the house of R’ Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, the leader of the chassidic community in Tiberius before R’ Avraham Kalisker.

There are so many things that have been covered up in plain sight, here.

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Ok, one more specific thing, then a question, then we’ll end for now.

On page 47, we find this:

“There were a number of followers of R. Shneur Zalman of Liadi in the town. They brought some of his teachings for the Rebbe to see.

The Rebbe took issue with R. Zalman’s teachings and showed his followers that what he said was not correct.”

Learn from this what you will.

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One thing that continually has struck me about the Breslov writings is that THE VILNA GAON IS NOT MENTIONED.

Not referred to.

Not even once.

Which I kind of find remarkable, given the huge number of other people that are mentioned, chassidic and otherwise.

It’s like he, and his followers, just doesn’t exist in the world inhabited by Rabbenu and Rav Natan.

Despite all the ‘official history’ that explains that Shneur Zalman and R’ Avraham of Kalisk were meant to be part of his group of students, before they found chassidut….

So, this week I also want to take a deep dive into the life of Rabbi Pinchas of Koretz, because the more I learn about this ‘hidden Tzaddik’, the more he reminds me of the Vilna Gaon.

I know, that sounds crazy.

Could ‘Eliyahu’ really be ‘Pinchas’?

But while you’re thinking about that, take a look at THIS article by Sid Leiman about the mystery of who is really buried in the ‘Vilna Gaon’s’ tomb….

Things are not so cut-and-dried as we like to think, not in about a million different ways.

But we’ll put more of the cards on the table in a separate post, and see if we can tease out a bit more real Jewish history.

Until then.

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4 replies
  1. Becky
    Becky says:

    Where is the Torah source for bringing affliction upon oneself in order to sweeten other things happening in the world?

    Also, why not give other rabbanim or ordinary people listed on your blog the benefit of the doubt regarding their yichus? We believe in the power of teshuva.
    To me, it appears that Rebbe Nachman is being given preferential treatment.
    I know that sometimes you are not blacklisting that said person but rather pointing out that it’s the same family again, but maybe we are coming to conclusions about others too quick?

    Reply
    • Rivka Levy
      Rivka Levy says:

      See Likutey Moharan, 1:170:

      “Every person, depending on his soul and his service [of Hashem], such is the suffering he experiences. One person experiences suffering from his children, or from his father, or a neighbor. Another person is on a greater level and he experiences suffering from distant neighbors. Another is still greater; he experiences suffering from the entire city. And there is one who is very great; he experiences suffering from the entire world.

      “Now, each person, by virtue of the suffering, carries on his shoulders those people from whom he suffers. For when he experiences suffering from them, he carries them on his shoulders. But how is it possible for something physical to carry on himself so many people? However, as a result of the suffering, the body is subjugated, etc.

      “Hence, by virtue of the suffering and distress, the form—the soul—radiates. Thus, the soul is capable of carrying upon itself numerous people. This is [the explanation of]: ‘O Hashem, how numerous are my tormentors’ – The more my tormentors increase: ‘many rise up on me’ – As a result, I carry, raise up and elevate many to their source.”

      There are many more sources, like Isaiah’s ‘suffering servant’, but this one will do for starters, for a deeper explanation of how suffering sweetens things happening the world.

      RE: not being to hasty to judge others, that is ALWAYS a good, idea, and BH feel free to restate that as many times as you want.

      RE: Giving Rabbenu preferential treatment – I’m not entirely sure what you mean. In terms of the genealogy stuff, I got started down this path precisely because a lot of people were casting aspersions dafka on Rebbe Nachman (as always….) so I decided to gird my loins and check it out properly.

      And then…. I started to see very quickly that ‘the problem’ was cutting a swathe across the whole of the Jewish world.

      But Rabbenu’s teachings have helped me to become a better person, helped me to be happier, helped me to get closer to God – and a billion more benefits.

      I KNOW Rabbenu is the real deal, because I see the massive difference his teachings have made to me, and my real avodat Hashem and working on my (plentiful….) bad middot.

      So I focus on Rabbenu.

      I went through a ton of other teachings and shitot before I got to him. And I feel in my soul that his teachings are the only ones that really ‘work’ for me – and I know many others feel that too, especially in our generation.

      Without Rabbenu, all the fakers and religious hypocrites in the frum world would probably have put me off yiddishkeit a long time ago.

      Lastly – for sure, there is always teshuva.

      People act very differently when they are really in a process of teshuva.

      When I see yucky people acting in yucky ways – that’s when the ‘yichus’ stuff comes to the forefront, as a factor.

      But as I’ve said repeatedly here, the biggest ‘light’ comes from the biggest darkness.

      And that’s why dafka Moshe Rabbenu was raised in Pharoah’s palace…

      And why the BESHT and Rabbenu dafka come from these yucky families…

      Free choice is where it’s at.

      But in the meantime…. it’s also good to be aware of which families ‘the cabal’ is actually made up of, when we see yucky people doing yucky things, and we can’t understand why no-one is changing anything or shutting it down, or ‘taking over’ from them.

      Reply
      • Becky
        Becky says:

        Thank you for your detailed response.

        I should’ve worded the second question differently.
        In short, maybe we are coming to conclusions about different people throughout history just based upon yichus. Perhaps we should be giving the benefit of the doubt unless there is strong evidence indicating otherwise.

        I know you did a post on Rabbi Abulafia not too long ago, but can you sum up again what are the issues with his teachings?
        I found it interesting from this post that apparently Rebbe Nachman disapproved of his teachings as well.

        Reply
        • Rivka Levy
          Rivka Levy says:

          I’ve been doing some more hitbodedut on this, and I totally agree that we shouldn’t be coming to conclusions SOLELY based on yichus.

          There are some very good, very holy people in even the most messed up families – look at Avraham Avinu!

          At the same time, I feel we still have to fill in the blanks on our real Jewish history here with ore of the pertinent details and context.

          Because IF we know someone is coming from a long line of ‘Jewish-Christian-Sadducee-Karaite-Sabbatean-Frankists’, AND they are in a position of authority and power, AND they appear to be doing things that are yucky and bad, or covering those things up, or actively promoting mindsets and beliefs and policies that are clearly damaging….

          Then their ‘yichus’ IS a factor to take into consideration, because there are people amongst us who are literally practicing another religion, but disguised as ‘Jews’.

          Re: R Abulafia – it’s not clear that R Nachman is specifically talking against his teachings. It could also be that he’s taking issue with the way some of the other leading kabbalists were applying them, i.e. they were being mislead at a very high level, with kabbalistic ‘visions’ that weren’t correct.

          This is what happened to Acher.

          Reply

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