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The Watchful Tzaddik

by Yehudis Golshevsky

When Rebbe Nachman was a tiny baby, his mother, Feiga, had to travel away from home for a night. His father, Reb Simcha, could not be left in charge of the child, since he was rarely at home. Reb Simcha’s practice was to spend days, weeks and months out in the fields and forests in deep hitbodedut, and it was unusual for him to be in Mezhibuzh for any length of time.

At that time, the great tzaddik, Rabbi Chaim of Krasni, was staying at Reb Simcha’s home. Feiga asked her guest to keep an eye on little Nachman while she was gone, and that’s exactly what he did. Eyes half-opened, in profound contemplation of the sleeping infant, Rabbi Chaim kept watch over him the entire night. Even though it was his lifelong practice to arise for Tikkun Chatzot, the Midnight Lament over the destruction of the Holy Temple, on that night he remained at his post, focused on the baby, until morning.

When Feiga returned home the next day, he said, “I set aside my devotions last night just so I wouldn’t miss a moment of gazing upon the wondrous face of your child!”

Rebbe Nachman was blessed to be raised in the most rarified of atmospheres. His parents’ home was a regular meeting point for all the early Chassidic masters, who would come to pray at the nearby grave of his great-grandfather, the Baal Shem Tov. In later years, Rebbe Nachman would confirm that as a young child, he paid close attention to every bit of conversation, study and prayer that took place around him. Thus, he was literally raised on the knees of spiritual giants.

They, in turn, fell in love with the child with the “beautiful eyes” – a quality that he had inherited from his ancestor, King David. Though he could hardly be included among their number, they didn’t drive him away as they would some other, distracting child. Rebbe Nachman, in turn, was like a sponge, soaking up the Torah and holiness that the visiting tzaddikim exuded. Rabbi Chaim of Krasni – Rebbe Nachman’s early “babysitter” – kept a watchful eye on the developing boy. Throughout those early years, he would state time and again that it was clear that Nachman was destined for greatness.

Based on Or HaOros I:44-47


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