Struggling with my yetzer
Dreams, vows, and changes (Radical Torah repost)

The whole world is a very narrow...fortune?

"The whole world is a narrow bridge; the important thing is not to be afraid." Performed by a trio of Israeli army singers, for what I'm guessing is an American audience...

The saying is usually attributed to Reb Nachman of Bratzlav. You can find it in Likutei Moharan (his collected writings), volume II, lesson 48 -- though the actual quote is slightly different from the one that's come down to us in song and story. (What he actually said was, "When a person has to cross a very narrow bridge, the principal thing is not [for him] to fear anything." Close enough.)

Reb Nachman was a Ukrainian rebbe and Hasid, the great-grandson of the Baal Shem Tov (founder of Hasidism.) He was born in 1772 in Medzeboz; he died in Uman at thirty-eight.

The school of Hasidut which bears his name places great emphasis on serving God through the sincerity of the heart. Nachman famously said "it's a great mitzvah to always be happy," a somewhat bittersweet teaching because he himself suffered from great depression. (Rabbi Debra Orenstein has posted a beautiful list of Reb Nachman's rules for joy. I'm especially moved by "Remember: joy is not merely incidental to your spiritual quest. It is vital.")

The practice of hitbodedut (a contemplative practice of speaking to God aloud each day) comes from Reb Nachman. It was Reb Nachman who wrote, "More than God wants the straw fire, God wants the well-cooked heart." (Of course, these days I can't think of the name Nachman without thinking of the ubiquitous bumper stickers I saw all over Jerusalem. If you need a dose of Breslov dancing, by the way, there's plenty on YouTube.)

Ethan and I have long subscribed to what we call the Church of the Holy Fortune Cookie. (I suppose "The Oracle of the Holy Fortune Cookie" would be a better name for it, but we've always called it church; don't ask me why, it's just one of those things.) For years, we've found that the fortune cookies at our local Chinese restaurant carry wisdom beyond all reason.

So what should I make of receiving this quotation from Reb Nachman of Bratzlav inside my fortune cookie at lunch today? Should I do gematria on the string of six lucky numbers to see if there is hidden meaning there? (The obvious leap is that the number 1 represents God; I'm not sure what to make of 35, 13, 49, 9, or 7...) Is this just my friendly reminder from the universe to bear Reb Nachman's teachings in mind?

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