The Petek - Letter From Heaven
The Petek or the 'Letter from Heaven' is a mystical note received by Rabbi Yisroel Dov Ber Odesser who claimed it to be written by Rebbe Nachman of Breslev who passed away 112 years earlier. This note is the foundation of the Nanach movement and the now common phrase Na Nach Nachma Nachman Muman.
Rabbi Yisroel Dov Ber Odeser
Rabbi Yisroel Dov Ber Odesser grew up as a Karlin Hasid in Tiberias in the late 19th century. A simple lad in search for spiritual truth, Odeser would often frequent the renown rabbis of his city. Despite his numerous conversations with Kabbalist, Rabbis and Sages, Odesser did not find the spiritual inspiration that his soul needed.
Eventually Yisroel Dov Odesser did find what he searched for after accidentally discovering a copy of the Breslev book Hishtapchus Hanefesh. Shortly afterwards Odeser came in contact with Rebbe Yisroel Karduner a fourth generation Breslov Hasid. Yisroel Dov Odesser studied under Rabbi Karduner until he passed away five years later.
Breslev at the time was considered a very controversial group amongst the Jewish population. Despite suffering greatly for his beliefs, Yisroel Odesser did not cut off his association with Breslov.
Finding of the Petek
After his marriage, Rabbi Yisroel Odeser moved to Safed but eventually returned to his home town of Tiberias, joining the Yeshiva built at the grave site of Rebbe Mair Bal Haness. Unlike other members of the Kollel who studied Gemara all day, Odeser would spend his time studying the forbidden books of Breslov. Besides breaking the regular Yeshiva curriculum, Odesser would constantly wander out of the study hall to do Hisbodedute in the surrounding hills. Occasionally Yisroel Dov would disappear for a few days or weeks, running off to the Tzion of the Rashbi in Meron or to some other holy location.
Yisroel Dov was considered a charity case by the administration of the Yeshiva who despised the Hasidi Breslov. He was allowed to remain in the Kollel only because he was a resident of Tiberias from birth. Other members of the Kollel got a salary of twenty liras a week while Odeser recieved only two. Despite opposition from all sides, Yisroel Dov continued rising in spirituality and around this period finished studying Likutay Maharan for the one thousandth time.
Breaking the Fast
Breaking the fast was considered a serious offence by Yisroel Odesser to his personal Avodas Hashem. Despite his normal cheerfulness, this transgression threw him into a serious state of Depression. So bad was his depression that Yisroel Odesser did not eat or drink for six days. Other then reciting the formal daily prayers, he lay on a Yeshiva bench for this entire period, pondering and praying how he might rectify his sin. Besides his initial grief, Yisroel Odesser was now overcome with guilt that he was desecrating the name of Rebbe Nachman in front of all that saw him.
On the sixth day of his depression after uttering a pleading prayer, a strong thought suddenly overtook Odeser and said "go to your book case and open a book". He entered his room where he had a locked bookcase and opened it up. Yisroel Odesser reached into his collection of Breslov books and randomly pulled out a Likutay Halochos Aurach Chaim part 1. As he opened the book a piece of paper fell out, he ignored the paper believing it to be an old bookmark.
Odesser then read the section he had opened up to. Sefer Hamedos suggests randomly opening a book as a method to get answerers for indecisive questions. Reading the page gave Odesser some momentary inspiration. After a few moments the inspiration diminished and the depression returned. Odesser bent down picking up the bookmark with the intent of returning the book to its shelf. Out of habit he glanced at the aged piece of paper and saw that it was a letter rather then a bookmark.
As Odesser skimmed through the note, he realized that it was a letter from Rebbe Nachman of Breslov written directly to him. A streak of joy fell upon Odesser and he began dancing and singing with great happiness. Students in the Yeshiva had noticed Odeser's week long depression, now seeing his great joy they assumed that he had gone insane. Gleefully they ran to the insane Breslover and mockingly pulled him into the Yeshiva courtyard and joined his dancing. After two hours of dancing everyone got tired and left but Odeser danced throughout the entire night.
Odesser discovered the Petek on a Thursday and that night the entire Yeshiva went home for the weekend Shabbos break. At that time Tiberias was a relatively small city and news of the Breslover going insane traveled fast.
Odesser and his family lived in a small room in middle of the city. Next door to him lived Mordechai of Slonim the chief Judge of the Ashkenazic Bais Din, who later became the Admor of the Slonim Hasidim. Mordechai the Judge was strong opponent of the Breslover Hasidim but was very fond of Yisroel Odesser himself, after witnessing his devotion and happiness on numerous occasions.
Distraught over the news of his young neighbor going insane, the Judge decided to visit and see for himself. Initially keeping a distance from the presumed madman, the Judge soon relized that Yisroel Odeser was perfectly sane. When questioned about the rumors, Odeser responded with the story of how he discovered the Petek. After hearing about the Petek and Odeser's claim that it was a letter from heaven, the Judge burst into an wild fit of laughter. Known as a very stern man who never showed a smile on his face, the Judge was close to getting hurt by his laughing hysteria but was saved by his daughter.
Mordechai of Slonim decided to prove Odesser wrong. Knowing that he was the only person other then Odesser with knowledge of the Petek's exsistance, the Judge carried out a full investigation. Using all his power and communal authority, Mordechai of Slonim questioned and interrogated every possible suspected author of the Petek. After all his interrogations yielded no mention of the Petek, the Judge was forced to admit that the letter was real. From that point on Mordechai of Slonim completely withdrew his opposition to Breslov although his own followers did not.
Eventualy story of the Petek leaked out and it was considered a humorous joke by the people of Tiberias. A number of clowns in the Yeshiva decided to mock Odesser and started inserting made up Peteks into Odesser's books.
Content of the Petek
Very hard it was for me to descend to you
My precious student to tell you that I benefited Greatly from your service and upon you I said My fire will burn until Messiah will come be strong and brave In your service Na Nach Nachma Nachman Me'Uman And with this I shall reveal to you a secret and it is: Full and heaped up from line to line (PZPZYH) And with strong service you will understand it and the sign isThe 17th of Tammuz they will say that you are not fasting
מאד היה קשה לי לרדת אליך
תלמידי היקר להגיד לך כי נהנתי מאד מעבודתך ועליך אמרתי מיין פיירעיל וועט טליען ביז משיח וועט קומען חזק ואמץ בעבודתך נ נח נחמ נחמן מאומן ובזה אגלה לך סוד והוא מלא וגדיש מקו לקו (פצפציק) ובחזוק עבודה תבינהו וסמןיז בתמוז יאמרו שאינך מתענה
Size and Specs
There are 11 lines on the Petek, it is composed of 51 words and contains 208 letters. The original Petek measured 12 x 17 cm. Almost the entire petek is written in Hebrew using Rashi script with the exception of the 4th line written in Yiddish and the 7th line using regular Hebrew alphabet. The Petek was received on July 13, 1922 (24th of Tamuz). Acourding to Rabbi Odesser the Petek was originally created in Uman.
My Fire Will Burn
Rebbe Nachman mentioned in his conversations that his fire would burn until the coming of Moshiach. According to Breslov tradition this indicates that Rebbe Nachman's methods of Avodas Hashem will continue working until the arrival of Moshiach. This is unlike previous spiritual paths introduced by Tzadikim such as the Ari and Bal Shem Tov that eventually expired due to the disintegration of the generations.
In the Petek it says "and upon you I said my fire will burn until Messiah will come." Followers of Rabbi Odesser interpret this to make him the sole transmitter of Breslov tradition. Nanachs claim that only those that accept Rabbi Yisroel Dov Odeser and the Petek can truly come close to Rebbe Nachman.
Na Nach Nachma Nachman Muman
In the Petek, Rebbe Nachman signed his name using the Achoraim formula that is brought down in many Kabbalistic texts. This formula makes use of a structure where each segment is increased by one letter over the one above it. In the case of Rebbe Nachman's name it would be: Na Nach Nachma Nachman Muman.
Rabbi Yisroel Dov Odesser taught that this signature was a revelation of the 'Song of Redemption' mentioned in the Tikunay Zohar. According to the Tikunay Zohar there were ten songs destined to be song throughout human history. Nine of the ten have already been used and the last one is reserved to lead the Jewish Nation out of the final Exile. Rebbe Nachman himself mentioned the 'Song of Redemption' in his teachings and Rabbi Odesser claimed that the song was his name itself.
Read full Zissil article on Na Nach Nach Nachma Nachman Muman
"And with this I shall reveal to you a secret and it is: full and heaped up from line to line." This passage from the Petek is interpreted by the Na Nachs as a command to fill the world with the teachings of Rebbe Nachman and the song Na Nach Nachma Nachman Muman. Such outreach and distribution activities are referred to as Hafatza amoungest the Nanachs. Almost every Na Nach participates in Hafatza activities and many dedicate their entire life to it.
PZPZYH is the name of the angel appointed over the blowing of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah. Some of Rebbe Nachman's main teachings revolve around Rosh Hashanah and he said that he fully understood all its mysteries. More important was Rebbe Nachman's request that all his students come to him each Rosh Hashanah, a pilgrimage that continues to this very day.
Over the Years
For many years Odesser kept the existence of the Petek hidden from the world with the exception of a few close friends and family. During this period he would keep the Petek hidden in his hat.
Acceptance by the Elders of Breslov
Despite his general rule of not revealing the Petek, Odesser made an exception by showing it to a number of the Breslov elders living in Jerusalem. Most of them accepted the Petek immediately without any doubt.
Based on R' Odessers testimoney, these included R' Shlomo Wexler, R' Naftali Cohen, R' Nason Bitlmacher, R' Shmuel Horowitz, R' Shmuel Mair Anshin, R' Yichiel Grunwald, R' Chaim Broyd Tevrvnivsky, R' Simcha Bunim Kalshiner, R' Tvi from Bardichev, R' Moshe Shmuel, R' Avraham Yackov Goldriche, R' Ben Tzion Apter, R' Alter Benzion, R' Yitzchock Isaac Zilberman, R' Mordichi Elazar Costintiner, R' Shmuel Shapiro, R' Aryeh Shapiro, and R' Mordichi Yiglink.
When R' Odesser showed the Petek to R' Shlomo Wexler, the latter exclaimed that he could write sixty books of Kabbalah on the letter Nun from the word Nanach. He then commented how it was essentially the same concept as the ten types of song. In his writings, Shlomo Wexler mentions the name of the Tzadik, identifying it with the Shir Hageula. When Rabbi Nason Bitlmacher was told about the Petek, he summoned Yisroel Ber Odesser, calling him by the title Rebbe. He then bid him to keep the Petek a secret and danced Nanach with him.
A disagreement broke out amongst the group whether or not it was time for the Petek to be reveled in the world. Ultimately the camp who said it should remain hidden prevailed and Odesser continued to keep the Petek a secret.
The Trip to Poland
Word of the miraculous Petek from Rebbe Nachman reached the Breslev community of Poland. They requested that it be sent to them by sea. Odesser agreed due to the strong feeling of brotherhood amoungest the Breslev Hasidim.
Poland had a large community of Breslov Hasidim numbering in the thousands. Yitzchok Breiter was the leader of the community and the one responsible for most of the followers joining the group. Despite his significant role in the group, Yitzchok Breiter refused to be considered a rabbi and had people call him by his first name. He would sit in the back of the synagogue and take many other actions to diminish his honor as was customary by all other Breslov leaders.
Yitzchok Breiter and the Breslevers of Poland were men of truth and if they doubted the authenticity of the Petek they would have burnt it. Instead they saw it, accepted it and not knowing what to do with it decided to send it back. The fact that they sent it back was proof that they did not think it was fake. They would not have hesitated to destroy something that was slighting the honor of Rebbe Nachman. No one really knows what their full opinion on the matter was, unfortunately right after this incident they were all wiped out in the Holocaust along with the bulk of Polish Jewry.
Through open divine intervention the Petek made it home. It was sent out on the last boat to leave before the start of World War Two. Odesser later said that had the Polish Breslevers made proper use of Petek and would have been completely nullified to its message, it would have prevented the Holocaust. In his eyes that was one last chance given to hold back the destruction.
Yisroel Odesser was held in great esteam amongst the Breslovers of his generation but did not have any followers. When he reached his late seventies he was forced to move in with his family. Eventually Rabbi Odesser's grandchildren got tired of caring for him and put him in a convalescence home located in Raanana. It was here at age 95, that the a number of French Bali Teshuva found him and made Rabbi Odesser their leader. It was at this point that Rabbi Odesser realized time had come to spread the Petek.
R' Moshe Feinstein's Approbation
At age 95 Odesser traveled to the United States in an attempted to meet President Ronald Reagan. When Rabbi Moshe Feinstein heard about Rabbi Yisroel Odesser and the Petek, he ordered his son Dovid to bring him to his office. When R' Feinstein saw the Petek, he read it twice claiming that it had a mesmerizing power. He then spoke privately to R' Odesser and ended the conversation by asking for a blessing for him and his wife. Haskama by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein written to Rabbi Yisroel Odeser. Haskama by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein written to Rabbi Yisroel Odesser.
At the request of Rabbi Odesser's students, Rabbi Feinstein wrote up a letter of recommendation in Hebrew and English declaring that he had seen the Petek and asking people to support him in his mission to print Rebbe Nachman's books. In his letter Rabbi Feinstein refers to Rabbi Odeser as a gaon in Torah and very knowledgeable in the wisdom of Kabbalah. This Haskama later saved Rabbi Odesser from being put in Charem by Rabbi Elazar Menachem Shach.
English Section of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein's Approbation
I am writing on behalf of a most unusual individual, Rabbi Yisroel Dov Odesser, shlita, from Israel. This individual is a gaon in Torah. I had the pleasure of recently meeting with him and was inspired by a secret document which he possesses.
Rabbi Odesser is soliciting funds to enable him to print Rabbi Nachman's sefarim, and it is a great mitzvah to assist him in this endeavor. Hashem will reward all those that so assist him. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein
Destruction of the Petek
After the death of Rabbi Odeser, his personal possessions including the Petek were stored at the home of his daughter Tzipora in Romema, Jerusalem. Sefer Hamidos brings down that wearing the garments of a Tzadik can remove impure and haughty thoughts. Tzipora would allow her fathers devotes to visit her home to try on his garments and hold the actual Petek.
Once a man named Daniel arrived and requested a chance to look at the Petek. Tzipora left him alone in a room with the Petek. When she returned, the Petek was gone and there was a pile of ashes on the floor. What caused this person Daniel to burn the Petek, no one will know but the 'Letter from Heaven' was now gone. Many years before, Rabbi Odesser declared that a picture of the Petek was exactly like the original and if the Petek ever got destroyed there would always be pictures of it still around.
Greatness of the Petek
Rabbi Odesser once said that if he would reveal the true meaning of even two words from the Petek, a persons free will would be taken away. Since the Petek did not mention his name, Rabbi Odeser said that the Petek was written for everyone. Rabbi Odesser one told a student that whoever believes in the Petek it is as if he received it himself.
Followers of Rabbi Odesser claim that the Petek has many deeper mysteries and concepts hidden in it then what appears to the unassuming eye. There are a number of books that were printed about the deeper meaning of the Petek, these include:
- Matzpon Hapetek (Compass of the Petek), by Amos Levi. In this book Amos Levi shows how the entire history of the world and mankind is secretly encrypted into the words and letters of the Petek. Based on the Kablistic tradition of the world lasting 6000 years, Amos Levi allots 120 years for each word in the Petek, showing many allusions to what actually played out in its corosponding world history.
- Zeh Yinachamainu (This One Will Comfort Us), by Yitzchok Bezenson. A large volume where Bezenson gives an in depth analysis for every word in the Petek and what can be learned from it.
- Tikunay Hapetek (Seventy Rectifications of the Petek) by Nes Chi - Using the style of the Tikunay Zohar, the author give long expedites on the various words of the Petek.
While the Petek is strongly accepted amongst the Nanachs with out any room for doubt, most traditional mainstream Breslovers refused to accept it as being authentic.
Disagreements against the validity of the Petek can be broken into three possible claims:
- Yisroel Dov Odeser created the Petek himself. - Those that follow him claim this is hardly believable to anyone who recognized the simplicity and honesty of Rabbi Odesser. Additionally Breslov was considered a very low shamefull movement at that time of the Peteks initial discovery. Yisroel Odesser had nothing but embarrassment to gain from creating a forged letter from Rebbe Nachman.
- The Petek was written by Rebbe Nachman during his visit to Tiberias 130 years earlier and designated to some other party. - This is not a strong claim, since it would be extremely coincidental for the Petek to have ended up in Odeser's book at the exact moment and time that he found it. This theory would also have a hard time explaining why the breaking of the 17th of Tamuz fast is mentioned.
- The Petek was written by a fellow yeshiva student, either as a prank or to help cheer Yisroel Odesser out of his depression. - This is by far the largest quoted claim against the authenticity of the Petek. It as based upon the testimony of Yoel Ashkanazi's granddaughter. She claimed that as a small child sitting on her grandfathers lap, Yoel Ashkanazi told her that he had once placed a fake letter in Yisroel Odeser's book.
- It is a very doubtful that Yoel Ashkanazi, a young Karlin hasid with very little knowledge of Rebbe Nachman and his teachings would have been able to create the Petek filled with Breslov references. It was also a known fact that Odesser kept his bookcase constantly locked, since his Breslov books had been violated a number of times in the past. It would also be a little coincidental for Odeser to open the exact book where the letter had been placed. It must also be taken into consideration how Yoel Ashkanazi managed to fool Mordechai of Slonim and bypass his intense investigation.
- Na Nachs claim that it if the story of Yoel Ashkanazi is in fact true, he must have been amongst the Yeshiva clowns that mockingly put fake notes in Odesser's books after the story of the Petek leaked out. Ironically a number of Yoel Ashkanazi's descendents are believers in the Petek.
Other Peteks in Jewish Tradition
Letters from heaven are not a foreign concept in Traditional Judaism. Baruch Sheamar, a prayer recited at the start of Shachris each day, came down as a note from heaven to the Men of the Great Assembly. Moshe recieved instructions how to create the Urim Vtumim via a Petek from heaven. There is also the 'Letter to Yehoram' mentioned explicitly in Navi, that was sent by Eliyaho Hanavi 8 years after he ascended to heaven. Kabbalistic tradition and lure is filled with stories of people receiving supernatural notes and messages. In Ohr Yakar, the Ramak brings down a Petek that was received by Adom Harishon, containing all the mysteries of creation. Throughout the Talmud and the Zohar there are dozens of instances where Peteks were sent down to the Sages from heaven.
There are also specific instructions in the Practical Kabbalah of how one may receive a note with a divine answer. These practices are generally referred to as Shalas Chalom / Dream Requests and were used by many leading Kabbalists in times of dire need.
The Na Nach Movement
Followers of Rabbi Odesser eventually became known as the Na Nachs after the phrase Na Nach Nachma Nachman Muman that they often sing and quote. A growing movement, the Na Nachs have made a large impression on Israeli society in recent years. They can be seen traveling around the country in colorful vans with loud music and dancing in the streets.
Read full Zissil article on the Na Nach Movement
Spreading the Petek
A big priority of the Na Nachs is Hafatza or spreading the Petek and the books of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. Often the Petek itself is printed on the actual books and pamphlets that are distributed by the Nanachs. There are also stickers and posters that contain the Petek. A favorite handout of the Nanachs is a small laminated card with a picture of the Saba on one side and the Petek on the other. These are normally given out to passerby's for free or in exchange for a small donation. There are recordings of Rabbi Odesser where he says a copy of the Petek must be found in every house and store.
The Nanach Kemea is mystical amulet, created at the suggestion of Rabbi Odeser himself. It contains a picture of the Petek and the phrase Na Nach Nachma Nachman Muman written on a piece of parchment. Kemeas are very popular amongst the Nanachs and have been produced in many different styles and designs.
Each year on the 23rd of Tammuz, the anniversary of when the Petek was found, Nanachs celebrate a self created holiday called Chag Hapetek. Festivities are normally held at Kever Rebbe Meir Ball Haness, Kever of Saba Yisroel Odesser and anywhere where Nanachs happen to congregate. There are no official rituals other then reciting the Petek, singing Nanach and have a meal.