Highlights in the Life of
Rabbi Yisroel DovBer Odesser
Highlights about Rabbi Yisroel DovBer Odesser, may the memory of the Holy Tzaddik be a blessing
1) Born on 20 Kislev 5649 (1888).
2) Named Yisroel DovBer ben Isaac Shlomo ben Rivka Sheindel Odesser
3) Rashei Teivos: Aish Bi and Rashbi
4) Named Yisroel after a relative and DovBer after the Great Maggid of Mezeritch, whose Yahrtzeit is on 19 Kislev.
5) His family were seven generations in Eretz Yisroel, descended from the Students of the Ba'al Shem Tov who led the first immigrations to Eretz Yisroel. His father was a Karliner Chassid.
6) As a child young Yisroel Ber was accustomed to fasting every Monday and Thursday. He also frequented the leading Sages, Elders, and Kabbalists of his time, seeking guidance to draw close to Hashem Yisborach and to overcome the Yetzer Hara.
7) Studied as a child with the Slonimer Rebbe, Reb Mottel, who taught him Mishnayot and Zohar.
8) After his Bar Mitzvah studied at the Yeshiva of Rebbe Meir Ba'al HaNess in Tiberias.
9) Found a Breslov book, without a cover, in the garbage. Histopchus HaNefesh (Outpouring of the Soul) became dear to him like his own soul. He memorized it and began implementing its advice about hisbodedus, walking into the hills behind the Yeshiva to practice its teachings. Felt a great change overcoming him. Prayed that Hashem should send him a teacher to guide him in this new approach, even though he did not yet know that this was a Breslov book or even had heard of Breslov Chassidus.
10) Meets Rabbi Yisroel Karduner in 1914.
11) Becomes engaged to Esther Mindel bat Pinchas HaCohen from Tzefat. World War One ruins livelihood of Reb Pinchas, and he attempts to cancel the shidduch saying he cannot pay the dowry. Rabbi Karduner personally undertakes to oversee the shidduch. He collects money and enables the couple to marry in Elul 1915 (5675).
12) Yisroel Ber and his wife live alongside Rabbi Karduner in Tzefat. Student and Teacher spend the years of World War One together learning Sifrei Breslov and undertaking grueling Avodas Hashem. Rabbi Odesser relates that once he was learning with Rabbi Karduner in Meron for three days without food. No one came, and they had no provisions of their own. At the end of the second day, Rabbi Karduner promised that if no one came on the third day with food, then they would walk back to Tzefat. At the end of the third day a family did indeed come and gave them some bread to eat. They also would immerse in frozen springs in the middle of winter. Rabbi Odesser spoke with true awe of Rabbi Karduner's devotion and mesiras nefesh in serving God and in following all of Rebbe Nachman's advice.
13) Story of Tzvi Rosenthal, a leading student of the Chofetz Chayim, of blessed memory, and a school teacher in Tiberias. He attempted to join the two Rabbi Yisroels, but was forced to sign a ban instituted by Rabbi Moshe Kleerse against Rabbi Karduner. Rabbi Karduner warned him to destroy the document, but Reb Tzvi felt he would pretend to sign but in actuality would continue to learn with them. A week later Reb Tzvi died of a mysterious lung ailment.
14) After Rabbi Karduner dies in 1918 Rabbi Odesser returns to Tiberias with his family. Becomes personal attendant of Rabbi Eliezer Alfandri, venerated leader of the Sephardi community in Eretz Yisroel and known as the "Saba Kadisha" (The Holy Elder). Rabbi Alfandri had moved from Istanbul to Tiberias. When he observed Rabbi Odesser's Tikkun Chatzot one night, he refused to let him continue as his attendant, and instead he treated Rabbi Yisroel like a young colleague.
15) He starts to walk on foot (too poor to afford to hire a donkey) from Tiberias to Jerusalem to learn from the Breslover Elders there.
16) Famous story of the Petek, which he received on 23 Tammuz 5682 (ú'øô"á see Torah 282 in Likutay Moharan).
17) Reb Mottel of Slonim sends Avraham Ashkenazi to every family in Tiberias to inquire who wrote the Petek. When no one acknowledges it, Reb Mottel concludes the Petek is true and drops his opposition to Breslov.
18) Rabbi Odesser shows Petek to Rabbi Shlomo Wechsler, of blessed memory, one of the leading Breslovers in Jerusalem. Rabbi Wechsler accepts it as authentic, and is mechadesh concerning the first letter Nun in the line Na Nach… (he points out that the top of the Nun is overhung, resembling a Yud, showing that the name Na Nach corresponds to the four letter name of Hashem: Yud, Yud-Hay, Yud-Hay-Vav, Yud-Hay-Vav-Hay.)
19) Rabbi Odesser sends the Petek to Rabbi Yitzchak Breiter and the Breslov community in Poland before World War Two. They return it to him on the last ship to leave Poland before the Nazi invasion.
20) Spends much of World War Two at Meron praying for salvation at the grave of the Rashbi. Hitler commits suicide on Lag B'Omer (Hillulah of Rashbi) 1945 (5705 ä'úù"ä see Rebbe Nachman's Story of the Bull and the Ram, for Lag B'Omer falls in the month of Iyar whose sign is the Bull, and the Year was Taf Seh = Ram.)
21) Said that the Holocaust was caused by Jews who, for reasons of honor and arrogance, dispute against the True Tzaddik and cause all forms of evil to befall Am Yisroel. Said Holocaust was a terrible price we paid to return to Eretz Yisroel, a kind of enormous hamtakat hadin.
22) Meets Zalman Shazar on Tu Bishvat 5717 (1957), when Shazar comes to Meron at midnight on a rainy stormy night. He sees Rabbi Odesser praying the Midnight Lament and is extremely moved. Shazar requests that Rabbi Odesser write him letters to explain to him Breslov Chassidus. They correspond from 1957 to 1973. Shazar kept the letters and published some of them in 1969 in a book entitled Ibay HaNachal (based on the verse in Shir HaShirim 6:11, where Ibay àáé is a Hebrew acronym for Yisroel Ber Odesser). These letters are later published in more complete form as Ibay HaNachal Parts One and Two.
23) Rabbi Odesser predicts that Shazar will be elected President of Israel, and so it happens. Exhorts him to take Likutay Moharan with him on all his international travels. Shazar draws near to Breslov and walks to Mea Shearim to pray in the Breslov shul on Rosh Hashanah. (Shazar in fact helped pull bureaucratic strings to get the shul built.) The first year Shazar is attacked by kanoyim, who throw rocks at him and humiliate him. Due to this he cancels his plans to endow a new Breslover Yishuv and gives the money to Chabad to found Kefar Chabad. Rabbi Odesser rebukes the kanoyim on the terrible Chilul Hashem they caused, as well as the loss to Breslov.
24) In 1982 Rabbi Odesser starts his major pirsum of the Petek to a core of Israeli and American Ba'alei Teshuva and French Sephardi Rabbis.
25) Three of his followers, all French Rabbis, marry three sisters who are all granddaughters of the Baba Sali. Provokes violent dispute, with members of the girls' family attempting to terminate the marriages.
26) Baba Sali asks for Rabbi Odesser's blessing to help bring his son back into the fold. His wife promises to buy a printing press for Rabbi Odesser to print Breslov books. Rabbi Odesser accedes. Baba Sali fails to make good on his promise, and a dispute nsues. Dispute ends with death of the Baba Sali and his wife, who dies in an auto accident returning from her husband's funeral.
27) Petek examined by Chana Korn, expert Israeli Graphicologist. She concludes that it was written by someone suffering from Tuberculosis. Also that the word ô-ö-ô-ö-é-ä is in Rebbe Nachman's own handwriting. (The other words of the Petek are written in a strange script that has no comparison in Rebbe Nachman's writings and do not allow for comparison.) A police laboratory test confirms the date of the paper the Petek is written on from the 1920s.
28) Rabbi Yisroel travels to the US in 1984,85,86, as well as to France. He meets with Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, of blessed memory, in 1985, who gives him a letter of recommendation. Rabbi Feinstein, who at the time was very ill with cancer, requests Rabbi Odesser's blessing. He lives another two years and dies on Shushan Purim, meriting the largest funeral in modern Israeli history when 300,000 people escort him to his grave on Shushan Purim in Jerusalem. He also meets with Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, who interviews him on a New York radio station and composes a song about the Petek.
29) Publishes the Kitvay Rebbe Nachman, a fusion of Kitzur Likutay Moharan and Likutay Tefillos, arranged in pairs of Torah and Tefillah.
30) Publishes Ibay HaNachal, Parts One and Two.
31) Publishes accounts in Hebrew, French, and English about the Petek.
32) Meets with Prime Minister Menachem Begin and asks that Sippuray Maasioth be taught in all Israeli schools. Begin promises to arrange this. Later forgets this promise. Rabbi Odesser writes him a number of times asking him to arrange this. Dispute ends with death of Begin's wife and Begin's withdrawal from public life with a mysterious illness.
33) Travels to Uman for first time on Rosh Hashanah 5749.
34) Announces in Uman on Second Day Rosh Hashanah 5753 that "Uman is finished."
35) In summer of 5752 (1992) meets with President Hertzog and exhorts him to visit Uman.
36) In fall of 5753 (1992) writes to Hertzog about necessity of transfering Rebbe Nachman's grave to Eretz Yisroel. He requests that the Israeli Government sponsor this and reinter Rebbe Nachman on Mt. Zion, next to King David.
37) In Shevat 5753 President Hertzog announces agreement with Ukrainian President Leonid Krupchik, who is in Jerusalem for an official state visit, to permit transfer of Rebbe Nachman's grave to Israel.
38) Breslovers from Mea She'arim, led by Michel Dorfman, petition Ukrainian President to renege on the agreement. Meeting arranged in his hotel room by Menachem Porush, then head of Agudat Yisroel political party. Krupchik announces cancellation of agreement.
39) Porush claims that he intervened at the request of Dorfman, who told him that it is a violation of Halacha to move any grave, even from Chutz LeAretz to Eretz Yisroel. (Not true, please see Bei Rebbi attachment).
40) Returns to Uman for Rosh Hashanah 5753,5754, 5755. Each time says that we must be by Rabbeinu's bones, if they still have not been brought to Eretz Yisroel.
41) Attracts many new followers to Breslov. Many families make aliyah from France. Spends time living anywhere from a week to a month or longer in the homes of his new followers.
42) Would most frequently reside in: Meron, Tzefat, Mevaseret Tzion, Har Nof, Betar, Old City of Jerusalem, Neve Ya'akov, Tiberias, Ramat Gan, Benei Berak.
43) Collects close to half-a-million dollars in tzeddaka money in two years without leaving his wheelchair. People would run to bring him pidyonot. Leaves entire sum to establish Keren Yisroel Odesser for printing and distributing at cost price the books of Rebbe Nachman.
44) Keren run by Rabbi Amram Horowitz, who is Rabbi Yisroel's grandson and grandson of Shmuel Horowitz of Breslov fame. Also direct descendant of the Shla HaKadosh.
45) In his last two years exhorts his followers to distribute signs and stickers of the Song Na Nach and pictures of the Petek throughout Eretz Yisroel.
46) An Israeli youth had nine felony counts (including murder) thrown out of court. He attributed this to reciting the Petek in front of the Judge. He became a follower of Rabbi Odesser and today is a devout Baal Teshuva with a family.
47) Rabbi Yisroel makes some strong assertions about the Segula of the Petek and decries its detractors, saying:
a) The Petek is a Sefer of Rebbe Nachman (see last sicha after the Stories, p.456 in Aryeh Kaplan translation). b) Whoever does not believe in the Petek is not really connected to Rebbe Nachman. c) Whoever denies the validity of the Petek was not at Mt. Sinai at the Giving of the Torah. d) The Song Na Nach is the root of the entire Torah. e) The story of the Petek is the greatest miracle in Jewish History.48) On his last Rosh Hashanah in Uman 5755 was very upset. Claimed that only those who stayed in Jerusalem for Rosh Hashanah truly understood him. Strong dinim and gevuros reigned on that Rosh Hashanah. Entered large Breslov Minyan in Uman before Musaf on Second Day with all his followers. They encircled the shul, singing Na Nach in front of all the worshippers. Many people joined in and started clapping and singing along.
49) Suffered with a harsh illness for 40 days from Erev Yom Kippur until his Petirah on 18 Marcheshvan 5755. Still continues to do Avodas Hashem, serving as Sandek at Bris Milah, and constantly whispering words of hisbodedus.
50) A few months prior to his death, Rabbi Yisroel declares: "Where are the newspapers? Where is Yedioth? (One of Israel's main daily newspapers.) I want to inform everyone that I am Na Nach Nachma Nachman Me'Uman."
51) His funeral witnesses hundreds of people marching through Me'a Shearim, chanting solemnly "Na Nach…" Yedioth indeed reports on this, in a long article headlined "I am Na Nach Nachma Nachman Me'Uman," calling it "the strangest funeral in the history of Mea Shearim." In front of the Breslov Shul the procession pauses to recite Kaddish. A scuffle breaks out in the throng. It seems as though Rabbi Yisroel is warning Mea Shearim that he is not through with them yet. He will continue the fight, from his place in Shemay Marom, to bring the True Light of Rebbe Nachman into the world, without pursuit of honor or money ("kesef vekavod")….
52) He is buried in in Har HaMenuchot Cemetery, Gush 11 Section 2, Givat Sha'ul, Jerusalem. On the 30th day after his burial, on 18 Kislev, a tree bursts into flames (on a rainy day) and the ashes fall onto those saying Kaddish at Rabbi Yisroel's grave. Heaven itself was mourning the passing of this awesome Tzaddik, Giant amongst even other Tzaddikim, Rabbi Yisroel DovBer ben Isaac Shlomo veRivka Sheindel Odesser, who declared "I am Na Nach Nachma Nachman Me'Uman." Please see Rabbi Yisroel Odesser's Holy Grave in Jerusalem: