To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
.......................................again
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Burnt Book

Postscript to A Book of Concealments

There is a burnt book
that remains a book,

a hidden book
which, if it opened,

would tear the walls
of time down, let

the false world
infiltrate &

overwhelm
the real.

Jerome Rothenberg
2008

* * *

There follows a version of the narrative:

“It is very difficult to reach high spiritual levels and attach oneself to Hashem's infinite light. It is even more difficult and even dangerous to return with very lofty spiritual fruit, gathered from the upper worlds In the year 1807 after the holiday of Succoth Rabbi Nachman traveled to Lemberg to receive medical help and for other unknown, mysterious reasons. When Rabbi Nachman arrived in Lemberg he was in very critical condition. However, through Hashem's mercy, his condition improved. Several months after Rabbi Nachman arrived in Lemberg, he called for his attendant, Rebbe Shimon. Rebbe Shimon entered the room where Rabbi Nachman was staying and he found the Rebbe crying. With tears running down his cheeks Rabbi Nachman sighed and said, ‘There is no one to ask for advice.’ Rabbi Nachman told Rebbe Shimon that he had written a holy book, which was kept in his house, for the sake of which he had lost his wife and children and had, himself suffered greatly. Rabbi Nachman knew that if he did not burn the book, he would die, but he did not know whether it would be better to burn the book or for him to die, due to the great benefit the book would bring the world. There is no way of explaining how awesome was this book.


“Rebbe Shimon told Rabbi Nachman, ‘There should be no question that it would be better to burn the book so that you can remain alive.’ Rabbi Nachman and Rebbe Shimon continued to discuss what should be done and Rabbi Nachman cried even more. The possible loss of this most precious and exalted book was too much for him to bear. After discussing the matter further, Rabbi Nachman ordered Rebbe Shimon to quickly travel to his home, in far away Breslov, to burn the book. Rabbi Nachman warned Rebbe Shimon not to try to be clever and go against his orders by trying to hide part of the book instead of burning everything.


“Rebbe Shimon hired a carriage and traveled as fast as he could, because he knew Rabbi Nachman's life was dependent upon this. But when Rebbe Shimon came to Dashev, a town near Breslov, he suddenly fell ill and was laid up in bed, simply unable to get up. He realized that this was the work of the Evil One, who wanted to prevent him from carrying out his mission. Rebbe Shimon gave orders to be placed in a coach and he continued his journey despite his severely weakened state. As soon as Rebbe Shimon arrived in Breslov he immediately recovered and went to Rabbi Nachman's home and took the books, both the original and the copy, and burned them. The burning of these books prolonged Rabbi Nachman's life an additional year and a half. Rabbi Nachman said that the book had to burned, but his other work, Lekutai MoHaran, would be printed and spread throughout the world. One of Rabbi Nachman's intentions in writing the ‘burnt book’ was that the light that it contained would have brought the Messiah much sooner. However, because of our many sins, it was decreed from Heaven that the book should be burned. Rabbi Nachman said that such a book would not come into the world ever again.


“There yet was another book Rabbi Nachman wrote, even greater than the burnt book, which was called the concealed book. It was hidden away. Rabbi Nachman said that he had shed his very body when he wrote this book. The concealed book is so lofty, it is beyond the grasp of any human being. Only the Messiah will have the ability to explain it.
[Note: The probable reason why the concealed book was permitted to remain, although it was greater than the burnt book, is that only the Messiah would be able to understand it, and therefore it would remain an essentially closed and concealed book. However, the burnt book would have been understood by a select few sages of the highest caliber and they would have been able to disseminate the information it contained, thus causing the Messiah to come before his time. Perhaps this is why this book had to be destroyed.” ]

Source: Tzaddik (Breslov Research Institute, Far Rockaway, New York)