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Naḥman of Bratslav

Naḥman of Bratslav (1772–1811). Jewish ḥasidic leader. A direct descendant of Israel b. Eliezer (Baʿal Shem Tov), he emerged as a zaddik in Podolia and the Ukraine. Naḥman believed he was destined to be at the centre of controversy, by his vocation to contest insincere leaders among the Ḥasidim. Between 1800 and 1802, he was in dispute with Aryeh Leib, a popular ḥasidic leader who accused him of Shabbatean and Frankist leanings. Subsequently, in Bratslav, where he lived between 1802 and 1810, he came into conflict with all the local zaddikim. He left Bratslav for Uman, in the Ukraine, and died there of TB.

His disciple, Nathan Sternhartz, wrote his biography, Hayyei Moharan (1875), and organized his followers after his death. Groups of Bratslav Ḥasidim still follow Naḥman's teachings in Israel and elsewhere.

Naḥman placed great emphasis on daily conversation with God in which the ḥasid pours out his feelings to God (hitbodedut). He promised that he would continue to lead his Ḥasidim after his death—hence his followers are called by other Ḥasidim ‘the dead Ḥasidim’, because they have no living rebbe. He was a strong opponent of philosophical religion (with Maimonides as a particular example of error), stating that ‘where reason ends, faith begins’.

Sternhartz, as well as writing his biography, collected many of Naḥman's words and works in several volumes, of which the best-known is Sippurei Maʿasiyyot (Tales of Rabbi Naḥman).

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Nahman of Bratslav

Nahman of Bratslav (näkh´mən, brät´släf), 1772–1810, Jewish Hasidic leader, the great-grandson of the Baal-Shem-Tov. His messianic pretensions put him in conflict with other Hasidic (see Hasidism) leaders. Nahman differed from other Hasidim by his consciousness of God's absence from the world, and his concern about sin. He told stories to convey the struggle against evil and for redemption. After his death, his followers did not choose a new leader, but continue to revere him to this day.

See his tales, tr. and ed. by A. Band (1980); biography by A. Green (1979).

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