Sefer Hamidot

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Sefer Hamidos
Sefer Hamidos
ספר המידות
Sefer Hamidot, Sefer Hamidos
Other Names:
The Book of Traits, Sefer Ha-Alef Bet, The Aleph-Bet Book, Sefer Hanhagos Yesharos
A book written by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov on the properties, associations and manifestations of different traits.

The Book of Traits (Sefer Hamidos) was written by the holy and righteous Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. It is an alphabetical listing of character traits, good and bad, with advice for their rectification and how they relate to one another, as well as the attributes of reality, their effects and how they can be manipulated. Sefer Hamidos is composed of two parts; compilation of Part 1 began when Rabbi Nachman was just six years old. This holy book was written to assist individuals seeking to honestly rectify and purify all of their character traits. Rabbi Nachman of Cherin and later Rabbi Tzaddok of Lublin created footnotes for Sefer Hamidot, sourcing the teachings to their origins in different Biblical verses and Rabbinical writings. Rabbi Nachman himself, greatly praised his book crediting it for having made him into a Kosher Jew.


[edit] History

The Book of Traits (Sefer Hamidos), originally called "The Aleph-Bet Book" was written by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. He gathered statements regarding different traits and organized them as advice that could be applied to our daily lives. Rebbe Nachman began to write the first part of the book in 1773 at the age of six. He used this information to advance to high spiritual levels and once said that Sefer Hamidos is what made him a Jew. This manuscript remained hidden until 1803, when Rabbi Nachman called his student Rabbi Natan Stranhertz, and verbally read to him the passages of the book allowing him to transcribed, edited and then prepare them for publication.

[edit] Transcription

In 1803 soon after his arrival in the city of Breslov, Rabbi Nachman asked Rabbi Nasson to start transcribing Sefer Hamidos as he read it to him word for word. This arrangement continued for a short time; then three or four months passed until this project was continued for another short run. Approximately two years passed until Chanukah of 1806, when they sat together again for three weeks and finished the writing. This work was very difficult for Rebbe Nachman, but he moved ahead with it out of his love of the Jewish Nation. Although Rebbe Nachman's personal manuscript contained his sources for the teachings, he did not give these over to Rebbe Nason.

[edit] Chronology

  • 1773 - Rebbe Nachman started writing Part I of "Sefer Hamidot" at age 6. He completed Part II over the years.
  • 1803 - Rebbe Natan is asked by Rabbainu Nachman to transcribe the book from his personal handwriting.
  • 1811 Rabbi Natan sends the "The Book of Traits" for it's first printing. This was the year that Rabbainu Nachman passed away. The printing was done in Mahlov, Ukraine.
  • 1821 - A Second printing of "The Book of Traits" was completed with additional footnotes from Rabbi Natan.
  • 1876 - A new printing of Sefer Hamidos with footnotes from Rebbe Nachman of Cherin citing Biblical and Rabbinical sources. This was printed in Cherin, Ukraine.
  • 1907-1908 - A new printing with further footnotes from Rebbe Tzaddok of Lublin, Poland.
  • 1984-1985 - An expanded version of "The Book of Traits" including footnotes by Rabbi Kalman of Rozin explaining the original sources.
  • 2007 - Tiferet HaMiddot printed in two very thick volumes filled sources and explanations of Sefer Hamidot.

[edit] In Recent Times

In recent years there have been massive printings of Sefer Hamidot and big efforts were made to distribute it to the Israeli public. In 2012 for example, a publication of 15,000 softcover pocket size Sefer Hamidot was printed by Kulanu Chavarim and they sold for less than 2 shekels each. Many expanded versions of Sefer Hamidos with source footnotes and appendixes have been published including numerous editions by Keren Rabbi Yisroel Odesser and other Na Nach publishers.

[edit] Content and Structure

According to the Kabbalah there is a spiritual reality that controls the world. There is a system of cause and effect, where one action or element leads to another. Sefer Hamidos is a list of these traits and attributes and how they can be used to advance in life, the service of Hashem and allow a person to rectify his character traits. At age six, Rabbainu Nachman started gathering and extracting this information from all areas of the Torah in order to remember and utilize them. Rabbi Nachman compiled sayings that promote good traits and discredit bad traits. Aside from obvious sources, Rabbi Nachman used his immense wisdom to extract valuable insights from Biblical verses and Talmudic sources where they are not explained thoroughly and are mentioned very subtly, making them only noticeable to very wise in Torah scholars.

Sefer Hamidot is categorized according to different subject headings, arranged in order of the Hebrew alphabet, this being the source of its name the 'Aleph-Bet' book.

[edit] Parts I and II

Sefer Hamidot is divided into two parts. Part I is called "The Old Aleph- Bet", who's writing began when Rabbi Nachman was six years old. Part II which was written a while later, is much smaller and is called "The New Aleph-Bet". Its exact creation date is unknown. Rebbe Nachman said that the second part was much deeper then then the first. Unlike the first part of Sefer Hamidos, Part 2 was not arranged in alphabetical order. Rebbe Nachman gave over an unorganized list of teachings to some of his students and later to Rebbe Nason for them to organize by category. It is for this reason that many of the teachings in part two, are repeated in multiple categories.

Rebbe Natan combined both parts into of Sefer Hamidos into one volume during its first printing that took place in 1810 - Mahlov, Ukraine. In the first edition each part was created as a separate section.

A second printing of Sefer Hamidos, which also included Rebbe Natan's footnotes, was printed in 1821. Unlike the first printing, this time both parts of the book were printed together under the same subject headings and were separated by sub title headers of 'First Part' and 'Second Part', to differentiate one from another. This format was retained in all subsequent editions.

[edit] Topics

Advice Ancestral Merit Anger Arrogance Blessing
Charity Children Clothing Conception & Pregnancy Confession
Conflict & Strife Crying Curse Difficulty Giving Birth Dreams
Drunkenness Eating Embarrassment Faith Flattery
Fear Fear of G-D Grace Healing Honor & Respect
Hospitality House Humility Impure Thoughts Insolence
Journey Joy Land of Israel Laziness Love
Marriage Melody Memory Menstruation Mercy & Compassion
Messiah Mockery Money Peace & Tranquility Prayer
Prestige & Importance Repentance Refraining From Evildoers Shabbat Sadness & Depression
Salvation & Miracles Segulah-Divine Remedy Slander Sleep Spiritual Tests
Success Sweetening Judgments Theft & Robbery Tidings & News Torah Study
True Knowledge Trust in G-D Truth Vision

[edit] Missing Sections

Rabbi Nachman omitted many parts of the original Sefer Hamidot that were part of his original personal manuscript, as he transcribed it. Rabbi Nasson writes he saw in the category of 'healing and medicine' alone, more than 200 handwritten paragraphs. Rebbe Nachman later stated that if people had access to this information they would never have to visit doctors.

[edit] Other Names

Sefer Hamidot is also called Sefer HaAlef Bet since it lists the various traits in Alphabetical order. Sometimes it is also referred to as Sefer Hanhagos Yesharos since it gives straight guidance extracted from many holy texts.

[edit] Sources and Footnotes

While some passages in Sefer Hamidot are direct quotes from the Talmud or can easily be sourced to a Biblical verse, many have very elusive sources. Rabbi Nachman's original handwritten manuscript contained sources but he did not give these over to his student. Although Rabbi Natan did supply some notes and sources, they were very few. Over the years various Rabbis created source footnotes, although they are not included in most published editions.

Breslov Chasidim consider these source footnotes as an explanation and commentary to Sefer Hamidot, because without them it is often difficult to interpret the context of different passages, which can have multiple meanings. Only when they are looked up in their original source can they be properly understood.

[edit] Rabbi Nachman of Cherin

From 1873 to 1874, Rebbe Nachman of Cherin worked on finding sources for some of these elusive passages. In 1876 Rebbe Nachman of Cherin printed an edition of Sefer Hamidos with his footnotes alongside the original ones from Rebbe Natan.

[edit] Rabbi Tzaddok of Lublin

Thirty two years later, in 1908, Rebbe Tzaddok of Lublin added more footnotes, listing sources not found in the original footnotes of Rabbi Nachman of Cherin.

[edit] Rabbi Kalman of Rozin

In 1984, Rabbi Kalman of Rozin added an expansion of the abbreviations in the footnotes with an explanation to better understand Rabbainu Nachman's statements from the Rabbinical sources.

[edit] Tiferet HaMiddot

In 2007, Rabbi Nachman Yosef Vitrial from Brooklyn, NY, printed a version of "The Book of Traits" with a rearranged order of subject headings. This new rearranged Sefer Hamidos includes more than twenty new subject headings, a very insightful index, and explanations of the Talmudic and Rabbinical sources. These additions resulted in two very thick volumes and almost 1000 pages.

[edit] Hashlamos

Many passages found in Sefer Hamidot can be included under multiple category headings but generally are included only under one, or in rare cases repeated in two - three categories. Some recent published editions of Sefer Hamidos include an appendix of 'HaShlamos' - literally 'completions' after each chapter. These category appendixes list all other passages related to that topic from throughout the entire text of Sefer Hamidos, giving the reader complete coverage of the topic without having to scan through the entire book. Most editions of Sefer Hamidos published by Keren Rabbi Yisorel Ber Odesser, include these appendixes. Tiferet HaMiddot a rearranged Sefer Hamidos by Rabbi Nachman Yosef Vitrial does the same, at the same time also creating over 20 new topic categories.

[edit] Approbations

  • Rabbi Nachman writes regarding Sefer Hamidos "that a person will find very advantageous advice how to watch out for bad traits, and how to follow the good traits that parallel them."
  • Rabbi Nachman said of his Sefer Hamidos, "This book made me a Kosher Jew". He also called his book "My best beloved friend".
  • Rabbi Natan writes, "It is already publicized and known that whoever is sincerely looking to achieve an honest and straight path, he will find it in this book."
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