Nahman of Bratslav

Hasidic master whose disciples refuse to appoint a successor--even two centuries after his death.

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Nahman encouraged his followers to practice "solitude." Solitude is defined by Nahman to mean that a man sets aside at least an hour or more during which he is alone in a room or in the field so that he can converse with his Maker in secret, entreating God to bring him nearer to His service. This pouring out of the heart in solitude should be in Yiddish, the ordinary language of conversation. Nahman also stresses the value of worshipping God in man's present circumstances. Too much planning for the morrow is inadvisable even in spiritual matters. "For all man has ill the world is the day and the hour where he is, for the morrow is an entirely different world."

Nahman's famous Tales (published by Sternhartz in 1815) are unique in Hasldic literature. The historian of Hasidism, Simon Dubnow, dismisses these as "fairytales" and certainly on the surface that is what they are: "The Loss of the Princess"; "The King Who Fought Major Wars"; "The King's Son and the Maidservant's Son Who Were Switched," and so forth. Naturally, Nahman's followers read all kinds of mystical ideas into the Tales. Whatever their meaning, the Tales are admired for their literary merit.

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Rabbi Louis Jacobs

Rabbi Dr. Louis Jacobs (1920-2006) was a Masorti rabbi, the first leader of Masorti Judaism (also known as Conservative Judaism) in the United Kingdom, and a leading writer and thinker on Judaism.