Of all of Rebbe Nachman’s works, the loftiest and most profound are his stories, known as the Sipurei Maasiot in Hebrew. These were among his final teachings, and they contain allusions to many of the secrets of creation, hints about what will happen in the time period known as the ‘footsteps of Moshiach’, and many other deep spiritual and Kabbalistic secrets, besides.
Rebbe Nachman explained that each of his stories had the power to bring people back to God, even if they had no clue of the deeper meanings that he’d cleverly hidden in the narrative.
Of these stories, the one known as ‘The Seven Beggars’ is arguably the most important. (Again, you can read a full version of this story online, at the site listed on the BRESLEV page). In the Yiddish notes that originally accompanied the printing of these stories, Rebbe Nachman tells us the following:
“You will find very, very great secrets of the Torah in this story, from beginning to end. All the stories of this book [Sipurei Maasiot] are enormously great secrets of the Torah; each word and each thing means something completely different — but this story is above them all. And it’s not really possible to even begin to tell of the greatness of this awesome story, for it is above them all.”
Did Rebbe Nachman hide some clues about the Erev Rav in his Kabbalistic tales? Did he set out a secret blue print for how to help the Erev Rav re-integrate back into Am Israel, leading to Tikkun HaOlam and the ultimate redemption of mankind? We’re about to find out.
The Seven Beggars: An overview
Before we jump in, let me give you a brief précis of the main story that we’re going to be focussing on in these chapters, which is called the Seven Beggars. The narrative revolves around a young boy and girl, who get accidentally left behind in a forest, by their respective parents.
They find each other, and over the course of time, a group of seven beggars passes by them in the forest, and gives them food, encouragement and advice on how to live and survive. As the years’ pass, the children turn into ‘professional’ beggars themselves, and start plying their trade in the nearby towns.
The local beggars decide that these two young people should get married, and hold an impromptu wedding ceremony for them in a pit (often understood as the darkest, spiritually most lowly period that humanity will endure, directly prior to the coming of Moshiach.)
As the wedding celebrations are in full swing, the bride and groom express their yearning for the Seven Beggars who helped them when they were lost in the forest – and as they mention each Beggar, he appears! Each Beggar tells them a story, and blesses them with a wedding gift that they should achieve the attainments he himself has merited.
Although there are Seven Beggars, the tale actually ends with the story of the Sixth Beggar, the beggar who has no hands. Rebbe Nachman told his followers that the final section of the story, concerning the beggar who has no feet, will be told by the Moshiach, himself.
For the purposes of this post, we’re going to focus on the story of the Water Castle that occurs as part of the bigger story told about the Sixth Beggar, the Beggar Who Has No Hands.
(Another reminder: you can read the full version of the Water Castle online, at the site listed on the BRESLEV page).
The Water Castle – an overview
Breslev tradition holds that the story of the Seven Beggars is describing the unfolding saga of the Jewish people that culminates in the coming of the Moshiach. As many Sages have indicated that the Jewish people is currently in the period of time known as the ‘footsteps of Moshiach’, (which corresponds to the sixth millennia, that we’re currently coming towards the end of) the details of this particular story have more relevance and pertinence to us, than any other generation in history.
The Sixth Beggar is the final act before Moshiach, so anything that occurs within that narrative is talking directly about the situation each of us is experiencing today. The following is an abridged version that covers the main points:
There’s a King, who’s extremely enamoured of a princess, and does everything in his power to win the maiden round, and get her to marry him. After they’ve been married for some time, the King has a very disturbing dream, where he sees the Queen kill him.
He wakes up from this nightmare terribly distraught, and calls all his courtiers and wise men to interpret the dream. They all tell him the same thing: The Queen is going to kill you. This makes the King deathly afraid of the Queen, and his love for her starts to wane.
On the one hand, he doesn’t want to divorce her, because he put so much effort into wooing her in the first place, and he couldn’t bear to see her with another man. Plus, he fears that if she remarries, she’ll be in a much better position to try to kill him. He also doesn’t want to kill her himself, as he still has some love for her.
As time continues, the relationship between the King and Queen degenerates to such a point that the Queen starts to hate her husband, and decides to run away from him. Servants bring the King word that the Queen has escaped, and has been spotted circling the Water Castle, a miraculous building where the walls, floors and everything it contains is made of water.
The King gives the order to his soldiers to re-capture the Queen by firing arrows at her – and if she dies, she dies.
The Queen is hit with 10 poison-tipped arrows, each more deadly than the last, but still manages to miraculously flee to the interior of the Water Castle, where she passes out.
It’s the job of the Beggar who has no hands to heal the wounded Queen, and he can only doing that by knowing the 10 types of melody, and the 10 types of pulse.
How is the ‘Water Castle’ connected to the Erev Rav?
To find the answer to this question, we need to take a detour to some of the insights that Rabbi Natan Sternhartz, Rebbe Nachman’s main student and redactor, wrote in his mammoth halachic work, Likutey Halachot.
In Chapter 2 of Hilchot Pesach in Likutey Halachot, Rabbi Natan tells us the following, in connection to the story of the Water Castle, in the tale of the Seven Beggars:
“[T]he essence of exile is depression…Redemption comes through simcha (happiness). This is especially true of the Egyptian exile, which resulted from Adam’s wrongdoing. He sinned in regard to the Tree of Knowledge, and he caused [further] spiritual damage due to seminal emissions. [This is a reference to Adam’s ‘wasted seed’, that we discussed at length at the beginning of this book.]
“Consequently, in order to repair the damage caused by Adam’s ‘wasted seed’, the Israelites needed to be purified in Egypt [as brought by the Arizal].
“The Tikkun (spiritual rectification of the world) principally comes about through simcha (happiness) – in terms of our story, through the Ten Types of Melody – which is why our Rebbe [Rebbe Nachman] revealed that we should recite the Ten Chapters of Psalms that he specified. These Ten Psalms represent the Ten Types of Melody, and a Tikkun for the damage caused by seminal emissions.”
The 10 Types of Melody, and the Tikkun HaKlali
When Rav Natan talks about the Ten Chapters of Psalms that relate to the Ten Types of Melody that we find in the story of the Water Castle, he’s talking about the Tikkun HaKlali, or ‘General Remedy’, which is made up of the following ten Psalms:
6, 32, 41, 42, 59, 77, 90, 105, 137, and 150.
Rebbe Nachman first revealed the Tikkun HaKlali to his followers in March 1810, a few months before he died, and a week before he started giving over the story of the Seven Beggars – which contains the story of the Water Castle.
Over the centuries, the Kabbalists knew about the existence of these ten Psalms, or ‘songs’, and their ability to spiritually correct all sins at their root, even the worst sin of ‘wasted seed’. Many of our greatest Sages worked tirelessly to try to identify the correct ten chapters, and some, like the famed Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk, came very close. Unfortunately, they normally died before completing the task, as Divine permission had not yet been given for them to reveal this secret openly.
Rebbe Nachman was given the merit of being the one to finally reveal the correct order of the ‘General Remedy’ for sins, or Tikkun HaKlali – but he still paid a high price for it. In his teachings and conversations, he alluded to the fact that he’d lost his wife and seen so many of his children die young as the spiritual ‘price’ he was forced to pay for being the one who ultimately revealed this, and other lofty spiritual insights, to the world.
One of the basic tenets of Breslev chassidut is that the 10 Psalms that make up the Tikkun HaKlali, or General Remedy, can rectify the damage called by an individual’s seminal emissions, particularly if they’re involuntary, and the individual immerses in a mikva as soon as possible after the event, and then says the Tikkun HaKlali.
When Rebbe Nachman first unveiled the order of the Tikkun HaKlali to his followers, he told them:
“If you can immerse in a mikva and then say the Ten Psalms, it is certainly best. But even if you are sick or travelling and cannot immerse, saying the Psalms alone is a great remedy. If you can says the Psalms with devotion and feeling, it is best. But saying the words alone also helps. This remedy has not been revealed since the time of creation…These Ten Psalms are a most wonderful and precious remedy.”
But there was also a second tradition associated with the power of the Tikkun HaKlali to spiritually rectify a person’s soul, which could help us to unlock some more secrets about how to rectify the Erev Rav.
The Tikkun HaKlali said at Rebbe Nachman’s grave
After the passage quoted above, about how to rectify an individual’s seminal emission, Rebbe Nachman then went on to make a separate guarantee, in relation to saying the Tikkun HaKlali at his gravesite, as follows:
“Bear witness to my words. When my days are over and I leave this world, I will still intercede for anyone who comes to my grave, says these Ten Psalms, and gives a penny to charity. No matter how great his sins, I will do everything in my power, spanning the length and breadth of the creation, to cleanse and protect him…I will pull him out of Gehinnom by his payot (side curls).
“I am very positive in everything I say. But I am most positive in regard to the great benefit of these Ten Psalms.”
Rebbe Nachman stated emphatically that the Tikkun HaKlali was a ‘General Remedy’ for all sins; and that even the worst sins in the world could somehow be rectified, if only a person would come to Rebbe Nachman’s grave himself, recite these 10 chapters, and give a coin to charity.
So now, the question begs to be asked: is the Tikkun HaKlali somehow also connected to the original sin of Adam’s ‘wasted seed’, which resulted in the souls of Am Israel and the Erev Rav being trapped in the Realm of Evil? Was there anything in the Rebbe’s writings that suggested this might be the case? The answer, it turns out, is a resounding ‘yes’!
The General Remedy, as discussed in Likutey Moharan, Part 1, Lesson 36
Remember a little while back in the third post, we learned that when King David is talking about the merayim, that’s a code word for the Erev Rav (and that this link is made for us by the Zohar)?
Lesson I:36 in Likutey Moharan is crucially important to deepening our understanding of how the Erev Rav and the Tikkun HaKlali are linked, and I recommend that you read the whole thing for yourself.
But for now, let’s go through and pull out the key quotations that may give us some more clues about how this lesson is connected to the Erev Rav.
1. Lesson 36 in Likutey Moharan begins with the following quote:
“When merayim [self-deceiving evildoers] approach me to consume my flesh (or alternative translation: to slander me)” – Psalm 27:2
Here, Rebbe Nachman is already using the code word for the Erev Rav used by David HaMelech to flag up the link.
Next, the lesson teaches us that:
2. “In principle, every Jewish soul is rooted in the seventy souls of the House of Jacob, and the seventy souls of the House of Jacob are rooted in the seventy aspects of the Torah.“But God created each thing and its opposite, so opposing the seventy souls of the House of Jacob are the seventy nations. Each and every nation has a specific negative trait that the others do not have, and on account of these traits, they are distant from the seventy aspects of the Torah.”
Now, Rebbe Nachman is explaining that there are 70 specific negative personality traits, or character flaws, and that each one of them is associated with one of the 70 nations of the world. He’s also explaining that whenever someone has one of these negative traits, that’s going to distance him from one of the ’70 faces’ of the Torah, as a result.
This is a good time to remind ourselves of the negative ‘Erev Rav’ traits that we identified back in the third post, because here Rebbe Nachman is making it clear that the more negative character traits a Jew has, the further away they’ll be from enjoying a genuine spiritual connection to Torah and Yiddishkeit – and that applies even when the person themselves appears to be externally ‘frum’.
Next, Rebbe Nachman explains that:
3. “[T]his is the rule: Before any Jewish soul has a revelation of Torah, or service, it is first tested and refined in the exile of the seventy nations, that is, in their lusts…“For the shell precedes the fruit, and whoever wants to eat the fruit must break through the shell, and therefore, before revelation, the soul must enter into exile, into their traits, in order to break them and then attain a revelation.”
This passage partially explains why the souls of Am Israel and the Erev Rav had to experience the harsh Egyptian exile, before receiving the Torah. Ancient Egypt was renowned as a bona fide ‘Realm of Evil’, where every evil trait, negative behaviour and lust under the sun was enthusiastically practised.
But even in Ancient Egypt, the lust they most excelled at was sexual immorality. Every year when we read through the Haggadah, or when we read about the exodus of the Children of Israel and the 10 plagues, the commentators tell us about the plague of the death of the first-born that multiple people died in each home, and not just the obvious ‘first-born’.
Why was this?
Because the ancient Egyptians were so immoral that many of the children in the same family were fathered by different people. One mother could consequently have many ‘first born’ children, as each child was the result of a different intimate relationship with a different biological father.
And it was into this crucible of immorality, sorcery, idol-worship and cruelty that Am Israel and the Erev Rav was thrust into by God, in order that they would be tested in these negative traits, ‘break’ them, and then be worthy of receiving the revelation of Torah at Mount Sinai.
4. “And know: The all-encompassing trait of these negative traits of the seventy nations is sexual lust. It is also the all-encompassing rectification, in that whoever breaks this lust will easily be able to break all the other lusts.”
This passage is key to understanding what’s really going on, and how the spiritual rectification of the whole world is bound up with rectification of the remaining Erev Rav soul sparks, and the concept of sexual purity.
Rebbe Nachman is returning to the idea that sexual immorality, and particularly ‘wasted seed’ is the root of all the evil in the world – and it’s been this way right from the beginning. If we go back to the Garden of Eden and the book of Genesis, the commentators tell us something very interesting, namely that the snake went after Eve in the first place as it desired her for himself.
There’s some suggestion (usually toned down or even deliberately omitted, in most scriptural reference books) that the snake actually succeeded in having some sort of carnal relationship, on some level, with Eve after it convinced her to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Here, Rebbe Nachman is explaining that when the negative trait of sexual lust is broken, then all the other negative character traits will simply fall by the wayside, which brings us to the tenth secret of the Erev Rav:
THE TENTH SECRET OF THE EREV RAV: When the negative trait of sexual lust is broken, then all the other negative traits will disappear, and the Erev Rav soul sparks, and the world, will finally be completely rectified.
Back in the desert, many commentators explain that the Erev Rav were chafing under the restrictions on their intimate activity that the Torah, with its focus on sexual purity, had placed on them. They made the Golden Calf as a pretext to enable them to indulge in an orgy of immoral behaviour.
Elsewhere, Rebbe Nachman explains that the festival of Shavuot, which takes place on the 6th of Sivan, when the Torah was given, comes to rectify the lust for illicit sexual relations.
As we mentioned in point 2), above:
“Each and every nation has a specific negative trait that the others do not have, and on account of these traits, they are distant from the seventy aspects of the Torah.”
When someone is caught up in the negative trait of sexual immorality, that trait is equivalent to all the negative traits and lusts in the world – which means that in some way, they are then distanced from all 70 aspects of the Torah.
Next, Rebbe Nachman tells us that:
5. “[S]exual lust arises from the spoilage of the blood caused by the spleen, which represents Lilith, the evil maidservant, the mother of the Erev Rav…”
Now, the gloves are really coming off, as Rebbe Nachman makes an explicit link between sexual lust and the Erev Rav. ‘Lilith’ is a somewhat mysterious figure, connected with the story of Adam and Eve and the creation of the world, in Sefer Bereishit.
She frequently pops up in Kabbalistic works in connection with the Realm of Evil, and there’s a suggestion in the Midrash [SOURCE] that she and Adam were actually created together, back-to-back, before Eve came on the scene.
Somehow, Lilith got separated from Adam and pulled over to the side of evil, and appears to have had a crucial part to play as the ‘temptress’ that somehow induced Adam to waste his seed. Consequently, she’s known as the ‘Mother of the Erev Rav’ – those souls that were captured by the Realm of Evil as a result of Adam’s sin.
Also, remember that at least one of the five distinct groups of Erev Rav identified by the Zohar and the Vilna Gaon engaged in promiscuous behaviour and was addicted to sexual immorality, so this is clearly a big ‘Erev Rav’ trait.
Further, when Yosef HaTzaddik insisted that the Egyptians undergo circumcision before he would sell them any of the grain he’d stored away during the terrible famine that hit the entire area, Rashi explains that this was partly in order to decrease the urge for immoral sexual relations.
(I’m skipping quite a few verses to get to the next point that Rebbe Nachman makes. If it’s hard to follow the progression, I highly recommend that you read the Lesson for yourself, in order to have the proper context for this section, namely :)
6. “When a person accepts the yoke of heaven upon himself by reciting these verses [the Tikkun HaKlali], he encompasses his soul within the Twelve Tribes of God and separates his soul from the souls of the Erev Rav…“…This is the Tikkun HaKlali, (all-encompassing rectification), by way of which, “My oppressors and enemies – they shall stumble and fall” (Psalm 27) – which refers to the seventy nations. When one breaks this lust, all other selfish lusts fall away automatically.”
It’s well worth reading the whole thing to get the proper context of the quotes that we’re pulling out in this chapter, but we’ve effectively just hit the pay-dirt:
Rebbe Nachman is unequivocally telling us that when someone recites the Tikkun HaKlali, they break their urge for sexual immorality, which is the root of all the other negative character traits and lusts. And once they do that, then their soul can finally become rectified enough to become a true part of Am Israel, and to leave the ranks of the Erev Rav.
Saying the Tikkun HaKlali rectifies the soul sparks of the Erev Rav
Let’s conclude this chapter with the final secret we’ve learnt from Lesson I: 36 in Likutey Moharan:
THE ELEVENTH SECRET OF THE EREV RAV: Reciting the 10 Psalms that constitute the Tikkun HaKlali, or ‘General Remedy’ can heal the Erev Rav at their spiritual root!
Now, you might think that we’ve reached the end of the journey, and that we’ve uncovered all the clues that we need to resolve the challenge of how to overcome the Erev Rav, rectify the world, and bring Moshiach and redemption. But the most important piece of the puzzle is still to come, and we’ll take a look at it in the next chapter.