With Hashem’s help I have started translating the sefer Siach Sarfei Kodesh and will be posting the ongoing translation here in blog posts. Siach Sarfei Kodesh is a collection of oral traditions about Breslov chassidus including historical and biographical information about Rebbe Nachman, Rav Noson and many of the other well known and not so well known Breslov chassidim.
Certain things that are mentioned in Breslov seforim like Sichos HaRan, Chaye Moharan and Shivchey Moharan for example are expanded upon greatly in this book with more details and observations. The information contained in Siach Sarfei Kodesh was collected from Rav Levi Yitzchok Bender zt”l who lived in Uman for many years and heard many stories from other Anash (Breslov chassidim).
A new version of this sefer (originally 8 volumes) was published last year (in 3 very large volumes) with corrections, more information and lots of footnotes. I have included some of the relevant footnotes into the main text in parentheses. With Hashem’s help we will be translating the sefer from the beginnig to the end in order.
The first few pages of the book reveal the events that led up to Rebbe Nachman’s birth:
It happened once that a righteous and wealthy woman came to the Baal Shem Tov. (There are those who say that she was the sister of Rav Yitzchak Drobitzer who was the father of Rav Michel of Zlotchov). She wanted the Baal Shem Tov to make a shidduch for her with one of his holy students. She added that she did not want a rich husband because she had plenty of money and parnassah was not an issue. All she wanted was that he would be one of the students of the Baal Shem Tov.
The Baal Shem Tov suggested his holy student Rabbi Nachman of Horodenka who was a widower at that time. They agreed to get married. (Those that say that Rabbi Nachman of Horodenka was in Istanbul and married a woman there and from that union came Rabbi Simcha are not saying the truth at all – Rav Levi Yitzchak Bender)
Afterwards the Baal Shem Tov asked Rabbi Nachman of Horodenka what he is giving him for setting up the shidduch (shadchanus gelt) and Rabbi Nachman was quiet. The Baal Shem Tov continued and said that when one of my children has a daughter and you have a son then we should make a shidduch between them.
However Rabbi Nachman did not agree to this and said “For you to be my Rebbe I agree but to be by mechutan I do not agree because I have better lineage (yichus) than you – he was able to trace his lineage all the way to Dovid HaMelech (King David – Rabbi Nachman of Horodenka had a family tree going all the way back to Betzalel ben Uri ben Chur from the Tribe of Yehuda). The Baal Shem Tov then showed him his own letter of lineage that went all the way back to Rabban Gamliel the Elder and it is known that he was from Dovid HaMelech. The Baal Shem Tov’s lineage is known because of this story.
After the wedding, Rabbi Nachman of Horodenka went on a journey and nobody (including his wife) knew where he went. His wife came crying to the Baal Shem Tov and said “Do you think I wanted to marry one of your holy students so that he should just disappear on me?” The Baal Shem Tov told her that there were set times when Rabbi Nachman would go to the Baal Shem Tov and when he comes at the next set time I will ask him about this. He also told her to come at the next set time. The set time came and Rabbi Nachman came to the Baal Shem Tov and the Baal Shem Tov asked him why he left. Rabbi Nachman answered that he knew that she will have to die if she gives birth to a son, therefore I left the house so that she will live longer. The Baal Shem Tov then spoke to Rabbi Nachman’s wife and told her what was going on and she said that if he is so holy and knows these things then she agrees to have a child and whatever will happen will happen.
And so it was that she got pregnant and when she was giving birth, Rabbi Nachman heard how she was praying to Hashem to let her live at least for one month after the birth so that she could know her child. Rabbi Nachman of Horodenka had Ruach HaKodesh and knew that that this time was a very auspicious time and she could have even prayed for a much longer life but he was not able to reveal this to her. He said that her prayer for one month was answered. The new baby was named Simcha (He was the father of Rabbeinu z”l). When he was a month old, his mother passed away.
Rabbi Nachman was now a widower for the second time. He left his son Rabbi Simcha to grow up in the Baal Shem Tov’s house. He grew up under the watchful eyes of the Baal Shem Tov and Adel (The holy daughter of the Baal Shem Tov). The Baal Shem Tov even said one time to his daughter about Rabbi Simcha that he was a nice kid.
Rabbi Simcha was ten years old when the Baal Shem Tov passed away. A few years later, Adel chose him to marry her daughter, Feiga. She chose him because of his great holiness and his lineage and the fact that her father praised him many times. She would say to herself – “why did my father tell me these things? (referring to when the Baal Shem tov would praise the young Simcha) Obviously it was to let me know to choose him as a husband for Feiga.” And so it was that Rabbi Simcha married Feiga and her dowry was the house of the Baal Shem Tov.
The story goes like this: When the Baal Shem Tov passed away he left his house as an inheritance for his only son – Rav Tzvi Hirsh who was a hidden Tzaddik. He appeared to be a simple businessman who had dealings with bulls but he was a very holy hidden Tzaddik. He was very rich because of his business and did not need the house so he gifted the house to his righteous sister Adel and her husband Rav Yechiel. The custom then was to give the new groom a place to live and some money but Adel was very poor and it was not possible for her to give these things. The only thing she had to give was the house of the Baal Shem Tov and she gave it to the new chosson and kallah (Rabbi Simcha and Feiga) to live in.
It was in this house in the special room of the Baal Shem Tov that Rebbe Nachman was born. (Rav Levi Yitzchak Bender zt”l heard all this from different Breslov chassidim in Uman and some of it he heard also from Rav Avraham Bar Nachman).
Rabbi Nachman Horodenka went to live in Eretz Yisroel after his son Simcha got married. This was in the year 1763. He lived in Tiveria and passed away on the 2nd of Tammuz in the year 1765.
The students of the Baal Shem Tov realized that Rabbi Simcha was very special even in his young age and they would send him to be the Shliach Tzibbur (leader of the prayers) in their shul. Rabbi Simcha was very hidden in his ways and he would spend much of his time in the forests and fields doing hisbodedus and avodas hashem.
In Part 2 we will learn more details about Rebbe Nachman’s birth and some things about his childhood.