Translated from an article in the Knishta Hada Newsletter
When we were travelling back from Tzalmon (the prison far up North where the Rav was recently moved. Before that, he was in a prison in the deep South of the country, in Beer Sheva), we went to visit a very well-known big kabbalist from Tiberius who currently prefers to remain anonymous (although all his comments were recorded).
This Tzaddik said: “We need to participate in the suffering of the Tzaddik [referring to Rav Berland]. Yimach Shemam (may the names be erased) of the people who put him there [i.e. in prison], they are erev rav, Amalek, and they are preventing this Moshiach [from coming].”
We asked this famous kabbalist: “Ad matai? (How long will this terrible situation continue?) We don’t have any more strength!”
The Kabbalist replied: “I also don’t have any more strength! This situation is driving me crazy. All of these erev rav, these Amalekites, should die already, and then the redemption will come.”
On many other occasions, we have been told the same thing by many other big Tzaddikim, kabbalists and rabbis who are scared to go public with their opinions on the matter of what is occurring with Rav Berland, for fear of being that next one to have to deal with all the slanderous lies, lashon hara and persecution.
On a second occasion, we went to visit another big Tzaddik in Bnei Brak, who told us that he knows for certain that the Rav, shlita, had voluntarily accepted all this shame and humiliation upon himself, and had even paid people to slander him.
The Tzaddik continued: “The person who accepted this money, and who is doing this, is a fool. All those who are continuing the war against this Tzaddik, if they don’t make Teshuva [for what they’ve done to him], [within a particular time frame that the Tzaddik didn’t want to specify publicly] they will die all manner of strange deaths.”
When Rabbi Nachman was passing through Istanbul, on the way to the Holy Land, he engaged in a number of bizarre, childish activities in order to cause other people to humiliate him and shame him in public. Rabbi Nachman’s main persecutor died very shortly afterwards, and his attendant asked how that could be ‘just’, given that the Rebbe had voluntarily taken it upon himself to be abused and humiliated by others?
The Rebbe replied with the following story: (This appears in Shivchey HaRan in Hebrew, and can be found in ‘Rebbe Nachman’s Wisdom’ in English, published by the Breslov Research Institute):
There was once a king who was very fond of his young prince. He showed a lot of affection to the prince, and did everything in his power to keep him close to him. The child grew up into a young man, and one day he did something that was very disrespectful to the king [he nullified the kings decree].
The king told him: “Even though I love you so much, it’s impossible to go against the law of the land. The judgment has been passed and you have been sentenced to death!”
The king commanded that the prince be chained-up and imprisoned.
This young prince started to think about his imminent death. In his mind, he could already experience the great pain he would suffer the moment he’d be killed, but he realised that this agony would only last for a moment, and then he’d be dead.
But then, he started to think about the anguish of the king. He knew that the king loved him very much, and was missing his company very much. He understood that his death would cause the king tremendous pain, and that his anguish would last forever.
The prince was more worried about the king’s suffering than his own, so he spent a long time thinking things through, trying to find a way to spare the king from this pain. Finally, he came up with an idea: shame is considered equal to death.
He asked the prison guard to bring him to the king. When he was standing in front of the king, he said: “In truth, I know that your suffering is greater than mine. I also know that it’s impossible for you to ignore the kingdom’s laws. But I think I’ve found a way out. If you can arrange for someone to shame me in public, the sentence will be fulfilled, because ‘shame is equal to death’.
“Bring me a prisoner who’s already been condemned to die, and I will provoke him until he becomes angry, and starts publicly insulting me and beating me up. I will be bitterly humiliated, and this will be the same as death.
“Then, take this condemned prisoner and execute him, according to his judgment. The people will think he was killed because he insulted one of the king’s favorite servants, and consequently, neither the king’s honor nor the servants’ honor will be impugned.”
[Rebbe Nachman continued that] Sometimes, a person could insult a big Tzaddik and be doing him a big favour, without even realising it. The Tzaddik could have been condemned to death for some misdeed, but the shame he now experiences cancels out his death sentence.
Nevertheless, this Tzaddik is a beloved servant of the King, and it’s not right that these insults should go unpunished. But it’s also not a good thing to punish a person just for insulting a Tzaddik, because ‘for the righteous to punish is not good’ (Proverbs, 17:26).
So God arranges matters so that the person who insults the Tzaddik is someone who has already been condemned to death. They could both happen to be at the same hotel, and this person insults the Tzaddik. The humiliation saves the Tzaddik from a more permanent judgment, but in order to protect the Tzaddik’s honour, this other person is then punished.
“The name of Heaven is consequently sanctified, but it was really a dead man who was killed, for he was condemned beforehand, anyway.
“Therefore, we see that ‘all of God’s ways are just, and that there is no unjustice in Him‘. (Tehillim, 92:16).”