The Empty Chair
Finding Hope and Joy
Timeless Wisdom from a Hasidic Master Rebbe Nachman of Breslov
By Rebbe Nachman of Breslov
Adapted by Moshe Mykoff Jewish Lights Publishing, 2009, 117 pages
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - May 31, 2011
Rabbi Nachman, one of the leaders of a Chasidic group, lived a short life (1772-1810), only thirty-eight years, when he died of tuberculosis. He was the great grandson of the founder of the Chassidic movement, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov. He was given the title "Rebbe," which is just another way of saying "Rabbi," but the Chassidim use Rebbe to distinguish their spiritual leaders from other rabbis. This is similar to the current practice among some Orthodox Jews of calling their rabbis "Rav," instead of "Rabbi," hoping to imply that their rabbi is more exalted than the common rabbi.
The Empty Chair is a collection of brief statements and aphorisms that Moshe Mykoff collected from the Rebbe's writings. Mykoff states that Rebbe Nachman "advocates conscious awareness, binding heart to mind, and empowering oneself with Faith, Simplicity and Truth."
The italics and the capital letters are in this quote. Some readers of the aphorisms may see them as being unclear and obscure as this quote, with readers giving them their own meaning if they can, while some readers may interpret them as rather simple lessons. But the Rebbe's followers read deep mystical meanings in them. The following are some examples. The quotes and capital letters are in the original.
Truth is the "light" by which to find your way out of darkness. Turn it on.
Spiritual awakening begins with inspiration coming from Without. Then, once you are already on the road, the real work begins. Keep at it and inspiration will come from within.
Speech has a great power to awaken a person spiritually.
While praying, listen to the words very carefully. When your heart is attentive, your entire being enters your prayer without your having to force it.
Be like God and don't look for people's shortcomings and weak points. You will then be at peace with everyone.
You are wherever your thoughts are. Make sure your thoughts are where you want to be.
See also my reviews of The Seven Beggars and The Lost Princess for other information about Rebbe Nachman and his teachings.