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Petek - Letter From Heaven
THE LETTER FROM HEAVEN
"On Shabbos* Chanukah*, Rebbe Nachman told a story that was partially forgotten. It involved the son of a king, who was far away from his father...and yearned very much...He received a letter from his father, and was very happy because of it. He yearned very much at least to reach out a hand [to his father], and if [his father's] hand were extended to him, he would hug it and kiss it. He then realized that the letter was in the handwriting of the king himself. Therefore it is the hand of the king..."[From the Conversations after the Sippuray Ma'asiot* ]
In the year 5682 (1922), on the Seventeenth of Tammuz*, I felt terrible weakness [relates Rabbi Yisroel Odesser]. The evil urge overcame me in the morning and said, "Behold, you are very weak! You need to eat! " And I had not drinken or eaten from midnight until that morning. But I ate, cautiously, as though eating damaging substances, but without hands and without feet [i.e., without any enthusiasm]. After eating I recited the Grace after Meals and walked to the Mikveh*. You can imagine how my prayers went and how I felt after such a thing. For when I was with Rabbi Yisroel Karduner, he had been careful about every fast in the Shulchan Aruch*, especially the Seventeeth of Tammuz, the most serious of the four major fast days. Already as a child, from the age of six, I had been accustomed to fasting every Monday and Thursday; yet now, today, I stumbled and ate before praying. I didn't want to live, and I fell into such dejection that I couldn't speak or be seen with people.
I walked to the Yeshiva* and lay down in the synagogue in the Yeshiva, like a dead man. I didn't speak and didn't eat for the next six days. Whoever entered the synagogue, including the Yeshiva students, and saw Reb Yisroel Ber lying in such dejection, was afraid. For they were used to my always being happy and dancing and were amazed at how Yisroel Ber could be happy. "Why is he happy? He has no livelihood or bread for his children." They said that this Yisroel Ber was not the Yisroel Ber they knew. "This Reb Yisroel Ber had gone out of his mind, and such is the fate of all the Breslovers, that in the end they go out of their minds. For they walk at midnight to the fields and forests, and sometimes they are frightened by a dog or wild animal or a Gentile, and therefore in the end they go crazy". I felt terribly dejected, and what they were saying now caused me even greater dejection. For I felt that I was the cause of everything they were saying.
In any event, I felt great pain and distress and didn't want to live. I saw that my great sadness was causing a desecration of G-d's Name and a disgrace to Breslov Chassidus. Then I did hisbodedus and prayed to the Blessed G-d: "Master of the Universe. Look at my situation. It's true that I ate and did what I did. But I want to return to You. Heal me and remove me from this situation, this sadness, for I am causing a desecration of Your Name and blemishing Breslov Chassidus". Then I cried before the Blessed G-d and said in the synagogue: "Master of the Universe. Heal me so that I can escape from this sadness."
A powerful thought came to me, as though someone had entered my head and my mind. The thought said to me: "Go into your room!" (I was in the synagogue and my room was next to the synagogue.) "Go into your room, and open the bookcase, and put your hand on any book, and remove it and open it, and there you will find a cure for your soul." I wanted a cure, and I had prayed. So I said in my heart, "This thought of mine, is it a serious thing?" Then I said, "I'll try and see what happens." So I did this: I went from the synagogue into my room, and opened the bookcase, as the thought had said to me, and put my hand on a certain book, and removed it and opened it. And there was this letter.
At first I saw just a piece of paper and I didn't know what it was doing in the book. Possibly it was a bookmark to indicate where I was learning. I didn't pay attention to this piece of paper. In any event, afterwards I noticed that there were lines of writing on it. I started to read and I saw what was written: "My precious student... I benefited greatly from your service." This sadness, this broken heart that I had because of my sin of not fasting on the Seventeenth of Tammuz--"I benefited greatly from your service." "And the sign", at the end of the whole letter: "On the Seventeenth of Tammuz they will say that you are not fasting." "On the Seventeenth of Tammuz they will say." This implied that the letter was written before the Seventeenth of Tammuz. It was telling me a sign: "On the Seventeenth of Tammuz they will say that you are not fasting."
In any event I read this, and just as before I had been so sad, now I received so much joy from this letter, joy not of this world, that the sadness had no value compared to the joy. Amidst such joy I started to dance in my room in the Yeshiva. The Yeshiva students said: "The crazy man is happy now. He's dancing." They all came into my room and watched me dancing. But I paid no attention to them. I danced and rejoiced until they gave in and took me outside. They stood in a circle with me in the middle. I danced for many hours that night, until they became tired. They stood for a long time and said: "He won't tire out. He will tire us out. We have no more strength." They left and I danced alone the whole night. Anyway it is impossible to describe and to relate adequately what had happened to me: Such sadness, such healing, such joy that I experienced...
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