Rebbe Nachman on Brazenness

There are those who are great apostates and heretics, but they do not reveal their heresy, and people are not aware of the need to guard themselves from them...

4 min

Rivka Levy

Posted on 05.11.13

Part 5 of "The Erev Rav" 

In his work Sefer HaMiddot (the Book of Traits) Rebbe Nachman writes the following about 'brazenness': 
* Brazenness is caused by anger 
* Brazenness prevents a person from accepting rebuke 
* Brazenness causes stubbornness and attests that one has not rectified the sinful ways of his forebears 
* When an evildoer acts brazenly towards an upright man, this is only so that the upright one will examine his deeds. 
* Brazenness causes the rains to be withheld. Also, a brazen person has certainly stumbled in a sin, and will stumble in more sin. It is permitted to call him 'wicked' and to hate him, and he is from the 974 generations that preceded the Creation. (This is another link between 'brazenness' and the Erev Rav, who the Vilna Gaon told us previously are from the 974 generations.) 
Now that we know that Rebbe Nachman equates 'brazenness' with 'wicked', let's see what he writes elsewhere in Sefer HaMiddot, about 'Avoiding the Wicked': 
Avoid the wicked, so that you will not be caught up in their punishment 
* To avoid enmity, one may display friendliness to the wicked 
* It is forbidden to praise (evildoers) 
* One who judges a wicked one favorably is also considered wicked 
* Even when an evildoer does some act according to religious law, we do not depend on him 
* If you do not become attached to known liars, you will merit discerning who hypocrites are 
* One who hates the seducers, their words will certainly have no influence over him 
* Torah learning will shatter the friendship of the wicked 
* One who keeps his distance from the wicked, G-d grants him salvation 
* Do not speak to seducers, even to chastise them or bring them to repent 
* Associating with the wicked is damaging to the service of G-d 
* One who does not understand the wickedness of hypocritical evildoers is abhorrent (to G-d) 
* There are those who are great apostates and heretics, but they do not reveal their heresy, and people are not aware of the need to guard themselves from them. However, through conducting oneself modestly, one is saved from these heretics. 
* The wicked do not confuse us in our holy service through their sins, as they do through the good deeds they do. 
As the above sources make abundantly clear, Rebbe Nachman really knew what he was talking about, when it came to identifying Erev Rav characteristics etc. But this wasn’t the end of the story. Rebbe Nachman wrote Sefer HaMiddot before his Barmitzvah; he then spent the next 25 years, before his death in 1810 at the age of 38, to finding a way of rectifying the spiritual ‘problem’ of rectifying the Erev Rav. 


Likutey Moharan is full of a number of astounding lessons that deal directly with this subject. While we can only dip in, in the most superficial way, to Rabbenu’s teachings in these posts, hopefully we can still glean some insights that can change the whole picture. 



Let’s start with Lesson 1:282 – popularly known as Azamra. There, Rebbe Nachman tells us: 


“Know! One must judge every person favorably. Even if the person is totally wicked, one must search and find in him some bit of good, regarding which he is not wicked. By finding in him this bit of good and judging him favorably, one actually elevates him to righteousness and is able to bring him to repent.” 


Earlier, Rebbe Nachman himself equated wicked people = Erev Rav, so here, he’s telling us that Azamra even (or probably, especially) applies to the wicked people in our lives. 


Next, let’s jump over to Rebbe Nachman’s tale of ‘The Water Castle’, (part of the story of the seven beggars). Commenting on this story in Chapter 2,  Hilchot  Pesach,  Likutey  Moharan,  Rav Natan tells us: 


“…the Egyptian exile…resulted from Adam’s wrongdoing. He sinned in regard to the Tree of Knowledge, and he caused [further] spiritual damage due to seminal emissions. [A reference to Adam’s ‘spilled seed’ that contained the souls of both the Nation of Israel, and the Erev Rav]. 


“Consequently, in order to repair the damage caused by Adam’s wasted seed, the Israelites needed to be purified in Egypt [as brought by the Arizal]…. 


“…which is why our Rebbe [Rebbe Nachman] revealed that we should recite the Ten Chapters of Psalms that he specified. These ten psalms…[are] a Tikkun for the damage caused by seminal emmissions.” 


To put this another way: reciting the Tikkun HaKlali rectifies Erev Rav character traits at their spiritual root, in the sin of Adam HaRishon. 


Rebbe Nachman himself tells us this explicitly, in Lesson 1:36 of Likutey Moharan, when he says: 


“When a person accepts the yoke of heaven upon himself by reciting these verses [the Tikkun HaKlali], he encompasses his soul within the Twelve Tribes of God and separates his soul from the souls of the Erev Rav.” 


There’s a lot more to say about this, including how going to Uman for Rosh Hashana also helps to ‘release’ any Erev Rav soul sparks that have been captured by the realm of evil (as set out in Lesson 2:8 of Likutey Moharan) – but the key point to take away from this post is that by the end of his life, Rebbe Nachman had found a way to spiritually rectify the Erev Rav souls sparks that each of us contain, via: 


  • – Doing hitbodedut (personal prayer) for an hour a day, to help us overcome our negative traits 

  • –  Judging our fellow Jew favorably (Azamra!) 

  • –  Regularly reciting the Tikkun HaKlali 

  • –  Going to Uman for Rosh Hashana. 


Next week, we'll look at how Erev Rav character traits are delaying the arrival of Mashiach and the full redemption of our people. 

* * * 
Check out Rivka Levy's new book The Happy Workshop based on the teachings of Rabbi Shalom Arush 


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