My relationship with Likutey Moharan over the past decade started off somewhat tempestous. While I absolutely loved learning Rebbe Nachman’s teachings, I initially found them much more accesible and meaningful when I learned them in Sichos HaRan or Kitzur Likutey Moharan. I tried on countless occassions to sit and learn through Likutey Moharan, yet by the time I got the end of a lesson where Rebbe Nachman explained how the concepts described in the beginning of the lesson fit in with a story of Rabbi Bar Bar Channah or a certain pasuk, I often lost interest and started anticipating getting to the next lesson to see what it insights it contained. Eventually I concluded that Likutey Moharan was too dense for me and put it aside in favor of other easier Breslov seforim.
But the thought kept occurring to me: How could I love Rebbe Nachman’s teachings and not learn his main sefer??! Last year, I had a breakthrough in learning Likutey Moharan and I wanted to share what I have learned with beginners and others who are still struggling in their learning of this sefer.
1) Learn Kitzur Likutey Moharan first
If you are new to learning Likutey Moharan or have tried unsuccessfully to learn Likutey Moharan in the past, learn Kitzur Likutey Moharan from start to finish instead. (BRI’s version is broken down into daily segments to help a person learn a small amount each day and complete it within a year’s time.).
My friend and teacher, Rabbi Dovid Sears once gave me the following advice regarding Kitzur Likutey Moharan:
“Before a couple gets married, they must meet each other in order to get acquainted and see if they like one another and if they have the same values, goals, sensitivities, etc. Likutey Moharan is really a limud that requires “total immersion”. Therefore, the Kitzur Likutey Moharan composed by Reb Noson and subsequently expanded by the Tcheriner Rov is a good way of “getting acquainted” with the key ideas and practical avodahs of Likutey Moharan. It is also a good way to review the lesson you are studying when you are ready to dive in. Aside from presenting excerpts from the larger sefer, there are many interpretations and hesberim (explanations) in the “Kitzur” that are extremely helpful. Last but not least, it can be a good springboard for hisbodedus when you are working on a certain lesson and want to internalize its message and follow the living path it delineates. Thus the “Kitzur” can be a shortcut to the tachlis!”
Although it makes no logical sense, going to Uman will give you the keys to be able to really begin learning Likutey Moharan. When I returned to the United States after spending last Rosh Hashanah in Uman, Likutey Moharan opened up for me in ways that it had never done before. It became a completely different sefer than the one I was breaking my head open to learn before my trip.
If you haven’t been to Uman yet, start davening now to be merit to be there this year for Rosh Hashanah!
3) Use Likutey Eitzos (Advice) to select your next lesson in Likutey Moharan
While you may find that you desire to learn the lesson Likutey Moharan in sequential order, I have found the sefer is more meaningful when I select a lesson relating something that I feel my neshamah needs at that time. The best way to do this is by looking through the topics in Likutey Eitzos until you find a teaching that resonates with you. Note the citation where in Likutey Moharan the teaching was taken from, and now you have found your lesson to begin learning!
4) Spend time reviewing (and re-reviewing)
In order to really be given a glimpse of understanding into the lesson in Likutey Moharan you selected, you will need to review the lesson at a minimum of 3 or 4 times. I would suggest learning through the first time rather quickly. Looking at the footnotes during your first review will simply bog you down and hinder the flow of the text. So, only begin looking at the footnotes during your second review. You will find that BRI’s wonderful footnotes will contribute greatly to your understanding of the lesson. Another indispensable aid to understanding the lesson in Likutey Moharan is looking at and saying the corresponding prayer in Likutey Tefillos (The Fiftieth Gate). I have found that these prayers truly help bring the lessons in Likutey Moharan down to earth. (If you know Hebrew, you will also want to learn the corresponding teachings in Likutey Halachos. If your Hebrew still needs improvement, you will be encouraged to know that I have heard that BRI will soon be commencing the translation of Likutey Halachos. Given the enormity of this project, BRI will obviously need significant financing in order to complete it. If you are interested to help, please contact BRI.)
Most importantly, once you are in the midst of learning a lesson, don’t try to rush through a lesson and start a new one. Take your time to learn and really live the lesson. Spend time in hisbodedus and ask Hashem how this lesson can be translated into a practical reality in the zip code in which you reside.
If you would like purchase the now complete 15 volume English Translation of Likutey Moharan, click here.
For information about BRI’s Gala Siyum, click here.