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Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav, great-grandson of the Baal Shem Tov and one of the most quotable of khasidim’s early leaders, was born in Medzhybizh, Ukraine on this date in 1772. During his short life (he died of tuberculosis at 38), he built the large Breslover khasidic sect and spread teachings about asceticism, joy and spontaneity in prayer and in life (“It is a great mitzvah to be happy,” he said), and the responsibilities of leadership. Nachman visited Israel In 1798-1799; “Wherever I go, I’m always going to Israel,” he said. His best-known aphorisms include: “It is very good to pour out your heart to God as you would to a true, good friend.” “You are never given an obstacle you cannot overcome.” “All the world is a very narrow bridge, but the main thing is to have no fear at all.” Nachman left a small body of stories that were preserved and disseminated by his disciple, Nathan Sternhartz (Reb Noson), and combined kabbalistic mysticism with fairytale motifs. Others of his writings were burned, in accordance with his deathbed wishes.
“The essence of wisdom is to realize how far from wisdom you are.” —Nachman of Bratslav