Switching into the world of mysticism our list needed to include Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. Born in the late 1700s, Rebbe Nachman was known as an incredible storyteller, which is where I’d like to focus most of this post. Before I dive into his stories, I wanted to make a few notes that link him to the Lamed Vavnickim:
- Like many of our 36 he lived a difficult life losing several children and his wife during his lifetime.
- Many of his stories, including the famous Seven Beggars were about hidden individuals.
In 2005 Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan translated Rebbe Nachman’s famous Seven Beggars into a book with a preface by Rabbi Chaim Kramer. Kramer makes reference to Genesis 15 referring to “Lo” (or “Him”) would fall into a deep sleep. We saw the same word “Lo” used for the 36 Men of God when Abbaye used it as a reference. Afraid his generation might lose important aspects of Torah, Rebbe Nachman revealed his teachings through storytelling. Kaplan translates a writing of Rebbe Nachman’s from 1816:
More people are on our side than are on the other side of those who dispute the truth, speaking about the Tzaddik with arrogance, pride and scorn, and making up accusations that are totally unimaginable. We cannot speak at length about this, since it is among God’s hidden mysteries. How many worlds are turned upside down because of disputes that have currently become more prevalent between scholars and tzaddikim?
At the end of this lesson [referring the stories of the Seven Beggars], the Rebbe speaks a bit about stories. He says that people may be asleep all their lives, but through stories told by a true tzaddik, they can be awakened.
It seems that during Rebbe Nachman’s time even more of the Lamed Vavnickim, who I am replacing with tzaddikim, were hidden or possibly unaware of their status. Rebbe Nahcman and others attempted to bring them to light. If Rebbe Nachman was a Lamed Vavnick, which many believed he was, then in every generation the Lamed Vavnickim roles and identities might have been different depending on the world around them and how they were needed.