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A Journey of Love: Chapter 4   

      “What can I say?” Rebbe Nachman raised his hands. “What is it you want from me?”


It was time for Rebbe Nachman’s tormentors to leave Istanbul and return home. They ridiculed and heaped scorn upon his head even as they packed their belongings.

“Please, my brothers, take this letter back home for me.” Rebbe Nachman held out a sealed envelope to them. “It won’t take up any space in your bags.”

“You couldn’t pay me all of the money in the world to take that for you! Your family will have to wait until you return in order to learn about your well-being…. Then again, perhaps you won’t end up returning at all!”

“I have a letter…. May I send it with you?” The Rebbe’s attendant held out his own envelope.

“Of course!”

Rebbe Nachman pulled his attendant close.

“Give them provisions from our own belongings for their return trip. Make sure not to be stingy. A little of everything. Quickly now, before they leave!”

The attendant did as he was told.


The two chassidim boarded their ship for home and almost immediately ripped open the letter the attendant had handed them.

“Now we’ll find out the truth once and for all!”

“Yes, open it, open it! I’m sure we will be able to learn the true identity of that young, wicked man! Surely there’s some clue inside the letter.”

They unfolded the parchment and began to read. A gasp escaped both at the same time and their faces turned white as their hands trembled in fear. They raised their eyes and gazed at the vast sea and they knew they were much too far away to return and ask mechilah now. A terror seized both of them as they recalled the harsh warning Chazal administers to those who denigrate tzaddikim.

Upon their arrival at home, the chassid who had taken the lead in antagonizing Rebbe Nachman fell to the floor, dead. It was not chas v’shalom something Rebbe Nachman had caused, as the Rebbe would explain later when asked, but something entirely out of his hands.



Meanwhile, back in Istanbul, the important Jew working in the local government, whom the chassidim had slandered to regarding Rebbe Nachman, came barging into the Rebbe’s lodgings.

“Listen to me, young man! I’ve already heard all about you, so don’t try to play the same tricks you pulled on the other two men you lodged with. I have the authority to land you in prison for a very, very long time. I have connections everywhere, with everyone. I have power, and usually I use it to help meshulachim traveling to Eretz Yisrael, but I can also use it to make your life miserable.”

“What can I say?” Rebbe Nachman raised his hands. “What is it you want from me?”

“I must know who you truly are.”

Rebbe Nachman sensed he had no more choice in the matter. His cloak of secrecy had to be lifted, if only for a moment.

“I am Nachman ben Simchah, great-grandson of the holy Baal Shem Tov and grandson of the holy Rebbe Nachman Horedenker, disciple of the Baal Shem Tov.”

The government agent immediately began stammering apologies for his rude introduction and promised to do everything in his power to aid the Rebbe.

“Consider me at your service. Whatever you desire, I will try to help you as much as possible.”

The very next day the agent returned with very exciting news.

“Rebbe, a ship just arrived from Europe. There’s a shochet on board, so kosher meat will now be available. More importantly, however, is that the great Rebbe Zev Wolf of Charni, disciple of the Maggid of Mezritch, is on the ship as well.”

Shortly after the arrival of this ship and its illustrious passenger, an epidemic swept through the area where Rebbe Nachman was staying. Spread of contagious, dangerous diseases would be a constant danger to the Rebbe all during his trip.

Rebbe Nachman accepted an invitation from Rebbe Zev to stay with him in his safer lodgings. Rebbe Zev treated Rebbe Nachman with incredible respect and went out of his way to accommodate the young, extraordinary tzaddik who was not even yet 30 years old.

The truth was, Rebbe Nachman had foreseen that he was destined to die in Istanbul. He sought to save himself by lowering himself to incredibly simple levels. For reasons that his attendant did not fully understand, because of the mysterious, lofty level Rebbe Nachman had reached, the Rebbe began to act like a complete simpleton.

Even in front of the illustrious Rebbe Zev, he would pretend as though he were an ignorant, childish person. Understanding there was much more to the young tzaddik and talmid chacham than met the eye, Rebbe Zev refused to be misled and he treated the Rebbe according to his tremendous greatness.

It was not the first time Rebbe Nachman was judged by others who did not grasp that he hid his greatness to the utmost degree possible.

Once, when he was an extremely young child, he arose before daybreak and set out in the freezing European winter to immerse in a mikveh. He came once to shul with his peyos still dripping wet and ice stuck to his hair from the immense, brutal cold, which did not deter him from serving Hashem. The people in the shul clucked their tongues and shook their heads at the “childishness” of young Nachman. How would he reach the levels of his lofty ancestors when he was playing in water during the coldest winter days?

No one truly understood him. Even his own family members had no inkling as to the levels he had reached. In fact, even when he was married and up until the day he died, no person was able to ever claim that they truly understood the achievements this tzaddik had achieved.

When he was only a child, his Rebbe would yell at him for daydreaming, when in truth, he was picturing the name of Hashem before his eyes at all times. Outwardly, he would join the other children as they skated, played, and ran around, but this was only to cover up what he was achieving spiritually.

He would cry as a child when he learned something he did not understand. He wept and wept and then wept some more, until Hashem had compassion on him and opened his mind to the gates of the Torah. All of his accomplishments, Rebbe Nachman later testified, came because he cried and davened so much to Hashem.

Now, as a terrible war was about to erupt in the world that would throw his dreams of reaching Eretz Yisrael into jeopardy, he would need to weep and daven to Hashem more than he had ever done in his entire life.

to be continued…

(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 821)

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