The Daily Chizzuk of our Rebbe Rav Eliezer Berland shlit”a – The first-hand complete story as never told before of how the Saba Kadisha Rav Yisrael Odesser drew close to Rav Yisrael Karduner and Chasidut Breslov
These are his holy words:
Zalman Shazar ]the third President of Israel] was a Breslover – he became a true Chasid Breslov. He would correspond with Rabbi Yisrael Dov Odesser. He was [then] a supervisor in the Education Ministry, or Vice Education Minister, and he came to Tiveria to see if they were learning – they [the Education Ministry] would come each time to make an inspection.
Zalman Shazar saw that everyone was learning Gemara and only Rav Odesser was saying Likutey Tefilot. He didn’t learn Gemara. He only said Likutey Tefilot every day.
Rav Alfendari passed away in Iyar at the age of 115. He was the [Chief] Rabbi of Tiveria, after that the Rav of Jerusalem. He said to pay Rav Odesser immediately!
They said to him: He only says Likutey Tefilot…
He [Rav Alfendari] answered: He holds for you the yeshiva. His Likutey Tefilot is what holds the yeshiva. For him the yeshiva is Likutey Tefilot. He needs to say Likutey Tefilot all day and not stop for a minute. He says, Likutey Tefilot, Likutey Tefilot all day.
He said: This is what I know to say – Likutey Tefilot, Likutey Halachot.
This is what he would say all his life.
Rav Odesser was by us in our home. For a year he slept by us in our home. He would travel to us for Shabbatot. You [R’ Nachman Berland] were still a child. You were born in 25, and then he came to us. He was by me for a whole year, because he wanted money for Rav Amram Hurwitz, his grandson, the son of his daughter [Rav Amram Yosef HaLevi Hurwitz bar Moshe Nachum zt”l, the manager of Keren Rabbi Yisrael Dov Odesser].
He passed away at the age of 105. In the year 74, he was seventeen. Then he saw Rav Yisrael Karduner come [Rabbi Yisrael Halprin, known as Rabbi Yisrael Karduner after his hometown Kardan – 5627 (1867) – 5679 (1918). One of the outstanding rabbis of in the fourth generation of Chasidut Breslov. Known as the rabbi of Rav Yisrael Dov Odesser], and he says to them, “Is it possible to eat here?”
Rav Yisrael Karduner rode on a donkey. Once there were donkeys. Today, there already are no donkeys. It was a good period, a pleasant period. I would ride on a donkey from Meron to Tiveria. You see the heavens. You see rain. You breathe. In a Mercedes you suffocate. It’s impossible to travel in a Mercedes. I suffocate in a Mercedes. I won’t travel any more in a Mercedes, but on a donkey, I’m ready to go. I don’t care – it’s possible to breathe.
Rabbi Yisrael Karduner contracted rheumatism [an inflammation affecting the joints and connective tissue]. He already couldn’t move his hands. Once, there wasn’t heating like today, that in Meron there is heating. There wasn’t heating. Everything was open. We’re talking about the year 5674, 110 years ago, and Rav Karduner was there in Meron in the month of Tevet, in terrible cold. Snow came down and he mamash froze.
Rav Karduner almost froze to death. He was in a life-threatening situation. Then he opened Likutey Halachot, Yoreh Deah, and it came out of there that he needed to travel to Tiveria.
Rav Karduner said: What, I’ll leave Meron? G-d forbid – I’m not leaving Meron. The first thing is to be in Meron.
This is the mitzvah [to go on foot to the mitzvah]. One needs to always go on foot. Rav Karduner would finish tractate Beitzah on the way. He would walk from Tzfat to Meron two hours on foot. When I ran this in twenty minutes – we ran it then. At the age of 19.5, we ran from Tzfat, from Mount Canaan, we ran to Meron. In twenty minutes we managed to arrive. He walked this in two hours. In these two hours, he finished all tractate Beitzah, in walking there and back twice.
So he would [stay] a day, two days in Meron. Karduner did three days hitbodedut, and then he opened Yoreh Deah with the question of whether to leave Meron. Behold, how is possible to leave Meron? He said: I want to be with Rabbi Shimon!
He told me: How is it possible? How I arrived in Jerusalem I don’t know. Next time, I’ll come to Meron to you.
[Rav Berland shlit”a says:] We don’t abandon Rabbi Shimon! There’s no such thing! In no way – no!!!
[There is another possibility] Or Rabbi Shimon will come here. If I came here, then I came with Rabbi Shimon! Apparently Rabbi Shimon is present here now also!
As the Rebbe said: Rabbi Shimon is found by me, and everyone is dancing. Wherever the Tzaddik is found, there Rabbi Shimon is found.
Rav Yisrael Karduner is riding on a donkey and rain comes down. This is Tevet and a flood. There was a cloudburst there. All the streets were flooded with water. He met Binyamin Farber, who was the brother of the mother of Rav Yisrael Ber, of the Saba Kadisha. He asks him, “Is it possible to receive here bread from someone?”
Binyamin Farber: Yes, now my sister needs to buy bread.
This was Thursday. On Sunday, Binyamin Farber want to the place where they grind flour in Tiveria and borrowed flour. He said to the [seller of flour]: I will pay you. I’m responsible. I’m a guarantor.
The miracle is that Karduner met Binyamin Farber in the midst of darkness, in the midst of a flood at a time when torrential rain was coming down. He said to him: Go until the end of the street and you’ll see a house halfway in the ground, like a hut. Knock on the door. I don’t know if they’ll answer you. It’s already nine o’clock at night. It seems they went to sleep. It was already dark and there was no electricity. Not like today until Meron. The lamps went out.
He walked until the end of the street and saw a house sunk into the ground and on the verge of falling. He walks to the hut and knocks. Yisrael Ber opens up — the Saba Kadisha was a seventeen year-old child. He told me, “I saw a great light. I saw the sun.” He said, “I saw the sun. Suddenly there was light like a projector.”
Rabbi Yisrael Odesser said: I prayed about Breslov.
Because he didn’t know what was Breslov. Once, they didn’t know what was Breslov. They knew about Karlin and Slonim. This is what they knew. In Tiveria, there was Karlin and Slonim. They didn’t know at all that there was Breslov in the world. Everything began when suddenly Rav Odesser found the book Meshivat Nefesh [translated as Restore My Soul by the Breslov Research Institute] in the garbage. He was seventeen years old, and he didn’t have learning partners. He had a blind father and he didn’t succeed in progressing. He was broken, and suddenly with Meshivat Nefesh he began to live.
He read Meshivat Nefesh every day in the afternoon during the break between 1 to 3. Suddenly a young 20-year-old man approached him. He [Rav Odesser] was 17 years-old. The young man asked: What are you reading?
The Saba didn’t even know what the book was called, because the first pages were missing. The young man screamed at him: This is Breslov. You don’t know what is Breslov?
Rav Odesser asked: What is Breslov? What does that mean?
The young man said: All the greats of the generation, together with Eliyahu HaNavi, came and placed an excommunication on Breslov. They’re heretics, they’re apostates. It’s forbidden for you to endanger yourself with this.
So it was. This was a true story.
Rav Odesser grabs him and answers him: Now let Eliyahu HaNavi come and tell me that it’s forbidden to read this book. I will tell him, “You’re not Eliyahu HaNavi.” It couldn’t be. This isn’t Eliyahu HaNavi.
The young man tore up the book. Two pages were left for him. He gave him two slaps. Rav Odesser was 17 years old. He heard for the first time that there is Breslov. They didn’t know what is Breslov. Maybe these are angels. He began to pray to Hashem to send him Breslov. “Send me Breslov. I’m here in Tiveria alone in the rain.”
A blind father, a sickly mother. They are nine souls in the home. They sleep in such a small room, like a kitchen, on the ground. Rav Odesser screams: Hashem, send me Breslov. He learned there in the field by Rabbi Meir Baal HaNes. Every night he screams two hours, “Send me Breslov.”
Suddenly he saw Karduner and said: “I requested Breslov. They sent me Eliyahu HaNavi.” He saw an angel. He saw a glowing face mamash.
Rav Karduner asked: Is it possible to receive a slice of bread?
The Odesser family answered: “Yes, exactly now the last loaf is left.” They just then began to bake bread. Received flour on Sunday. Now, it’s already Thursday. A loaf of bread remains. He did netilat yadaim (washing the hands before bread) – such a netilat yadaim the Saba had never seen in his life, such devekut (devotion). HaMotzia lechem min ha’aretz (the blessing before bread) and after that Birkhat HaMazon (the four blessings after bread) – a complete hour Birkhat HaMazon.
In the end, he ate two slices and drank a cup of tea. Rav Odessa wanted to make for him an omelet, something. Rav Karduner said: “No way. I only want to drink a cup of tea. This is my food.” He stood up to go out. The Saba escorted him and the rain was falling, torrential rain, and he stood underneath the doorway.
Rav Yisrael Dov said to him: “I prayed for a Breslov Chasid. You are it seems Eliyahu HaNavi.” Then he realized – Rav Karduner realized – who this child was who requested in prayer for two months that they send him a Breslov Chasid – that he is searching for the truth. He’s totally prayer.
Rav Karduner asked him: “Well then, is there an open synagogue here, something that we could learn?”
They went to all the synagogues and all of them were completely shut – rain was falling – so that they wouldn’t steal the Torah scrolls. Then they went to the seashore and found the synagogue of Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk.
This is found there until this day. It is next to the seashore mamash, but it was full of water there.
They found the key to the synagogue, opened the door. They got up on the bench – the water reached up to the bench. They climbed up on the bench, sat on the table. He lit a candle. There were no matches. This was during the time of World War I. There’s no matches, no candles, no food, nothing.
Suddenly he lights a candle and they began to learn [Likutey Moharan Tinyana – 7, which is entitled] “Ki Merachamam Yenahagam — Because those who have mercy on them will lead them” from nine at night until five in the morning. Seven hours they learn Merachamam Yenahagam. Suddenly he hears that his mother is screaming, “Yisrael, Yisrael.” He says, “My mother is screaming. My mother went to look for me.” She reached the seashore. She walked all over Tiveria to ask where is Yisrael. The child disappeared from her: They kidnapped him. A man came and stole my child. We gave him food. We gave him a piece of bread and a cup of tea, and in the end he disappeared with my child, kidnapped my child. A kidnapper.
So, Rav Odesser runs to his mother. “Ema, I’m here!” She found him in the synagogue of the Vitebsker. In the morning, the entire city arrived, because, after all, she walked all over the city and screamed “Yisrael, Yisrael…” From then on, the Saba remained attached to Rabbi Yisrael Karduner.
From the year 5674 (1914), he didn’t go in the street without them throwing rotten tomatoes at him. Behold, a Breslover was considered then as worse than heretics, worse than an apostate. They threw rotten tomatoes at him, eggs. Everything they threw at them.
His father-in-law was such a hater of Breslov. They said to him, “[Your son-in-law] has become Breslov,” because Rav Odesser was already engaged. If he hadn’t been engaged, he would have never gotten married [as a Breslover].
The father-in-law said: [Don’t worry], I’ll take him out of this in a second, this is insanity, this is craziness. He went crazy on me. He really is my son-in-law, a fine young man, and I don’t give up on him, but he will only be my son-in-law and in a second I will take him out of this insanity.
Then the Odesser family made a convoy to Tzfat. The father-in-law said, “First thing, I’ll relocate to Tzfat. The first thing is to live in Tzfat, before everything Tzfat.” They go with Rav Yisrael Odesser and the whole family – the uncles – in a convoy of donkeys, and torrential rain is falling. Everyone is going now to Tzfat to flee from Rabbi Yisrael Karduner, and suddenly they see below in the wadi Rav Karduner with a donkey, his wife, and four children.
Rav Karduner took an apartment next to him, and there was the wedding and the Sheva Berachot, and Rav Odesser decided that he wants to see Rav Yisrael Karduner; Shabbat evening, he wanted to run to him. The problem was that he lived with the father-in-law in the same courtyard. There wasn’t a door between them, and the father-in-law put him in the inner courtyard, so that if he would try to flee, he would hear that he had fled. So Rav Odesser crawled under the window on four, on the floor in the courtyard, opened the door, and it broke to pieces.
His father-in-law woke up. “What, he’s fleeing on me? He’s fleeing to Rav Yisrael Karduner?” The door was open. He immediately ran after him. Some 5, 10 minutes he ran. He ran faster. How he had the strength to run, he didn’t know. He [Rav Odesser] ran to Rav Yisrael [Karduner] and said, “Behold, I have arrived. My father-in-law ran after me.” Rav Yisrael Karduner returned him back home.
Then the father-in-law saw that it was already impossible to remove him from this insanity [to draw close to Breslov]. He told his daughter to get divorced. She told him, “I’m not getting divorced. Such a fine young man I have never seen in my life” – because Rav Odesser would spoil her.
The main thing is that a man should know how to spoil his wife. Buy her chocolate every day – every day buy for her.