Confessing before a Torah Scholar

Questions:

Rebbe Nachman says in torah 4 of likutei moharan, that in order to attain the level of knowing that everything is for the good, one needs to confess in front of a tzadik, because from there his sins are removed from his bones..

1. Do you know of other sources in the torah where this practice was done?

2. how do we differentiate this, between “talking to the dead”?

3. How often should this practice be done?

Your question is a good one. One of the most difficult pieces of advice to follow is what Rabeinu says and you are referring to that we are to confess our sins before a true torah scholar.

Here is a little background:

Breslover Chassidim were often called Viduinickers because they used to confess before their Rebbe. HOWEVER, Rebbe Nachman stopped this practice and told his Chassidim not to do this anymore towards the end of his lifetime. Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk ZT’L writes in Tzetl Koton that one should confess his sins before a true friend which is somewhat similar. However since the time when the Rebbe stopped the practice, Breslov Chassidim confess their sins to God in front of the Tzadik i.e. at his grave site in order to apply this piece of advice. So, no you are not talking to the dead and you should do this as often as you can make it to Uman. This is the simple explanation. I once heard from Rabbi Nissan Dovid Kivak of Jerusalem explain that he understood that confessing in front of the Tzadik is not necessarily literally in front of but in the light of, meaning according to the principles of Chizuk, Good Points etc… that the Rebbe taught us.

Either way stands true.

I know this is still confusing but I hope this helps and perhaps others can fill in some more blanks.

Author: Yossi Katz

Yossi Katz currently lives in Lakewood, NJ where he runs the BRI American Office. He studied in Beth Medrash Gevoha, as well as the former Breslov Kollel of Lakewood headed by Rabbi Shlomo Goldman.

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7 Comments

  1. The following question was asked via email:

    Thank you for the answer,

    Being that its a practice very popular amongst the “Sunday People”, makes it hard for me to swallow, so I would really like to know valid sources from Chazal on the subject.

    Do you know of sources from Chazal, i.e. the gemara, midrashim, Tanach, where Confession in front of a Tzadik was done explicitly, like we find by Hisbodedus?

    Thank You

    Ozer Bergman has answered so far:

    Below is a partial answer — I hope! — to your request for a source from Chazal about confessing one’s sins to a tzaddik. It is section 13 of the Tzetel HaKatan of the Rebbe, Rebbe Elimelekh of Lizhensk ztz”l.
    He was a talmid of the Maggid of Mezritch ztz”l who was a talmid of, and the successor to, the holy Baal Shem Tov ztz”l.

    Another point I would like to mention is the cause of your question, namely your concern that it is a practice of what you call “the Sunday people.” Judaism/Yiddishkeit is not based on anti-Christianity (or anti-Islam, anti-Buddhism) etc. We have our Torah, our tzaddikim etc.
    If some other group or religion happens to get something right (as in our case, confessing misdeeds to a holy man), is no reason for us to NOT do it.

    Hope this helps.

    Gd willing when I find other sources I will forward them to you.

    kol tuv.
    Ozer Bergman

    13. On a regular basis, one should tell the one who instructs him in the way of HaShem — or even before a trusted friend — all of one’s thoughts that are contrary to the Holy Torah that the Yetzer HaRa brings to his mind or heart, whether these thoughts occur when he is learning Torah or praying, lying in bed or in the middle of the day.
    He should not hide anything out of shame.

    As a result of actually relating these things he will break the power of the Yetzer HaRah, so that it will not be as strong to overcome him on another occasion. This is besides the good advice one may receive from his friend, which is the way of HaShem. This is a wonderful remedy (“segulah niflaah”).

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  2. I’m sorry that I don’t have an address on this, for I didn’t see it inside. However, you may be familiar with a Midrash that says that Moshe Rabbeinu had to pray for Yehudah so his bones could rest. Eluding to the fact that even the tzaddik of that generation (Moshe) was needed by the father of the shevet that would bring forth David hamelech (Yehudah). Thus showing that the Tzaddik has the power to remove chet from the bones. Sorry for not knowing the address.

    -Nissim

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  3. In the sefer, The ways of the Tzaddikim” it says:

    In Sanhedrin 43 b ( I have to paraphrase)that one must confess when within 10 ells of a place of stoning…in Yehoshua 7:19- Yehoshua told Achan “My son, I pray you, give honor to Hashem, the God of Israel,and confess to Him and TELL ME what you have done. (I capitalized) Do not keep it from ME.(ibid)…And Achan answered and said, “It is true I have sinned against the God of Israel, and this and this is what I have done.” And how do we know confession atoned for him? Yehoshua answered and said,Yehoshua 7:19 “Why have you sullied us? Hashem will sully you this day. That is to say that you are sullied this day, but you are not sullied in the World to Come.
    I hope this helps- I am sure there are many other Torah sources for confessing in the presence of a Tzaddik…

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    • Thank you for your comment. I would add that the Tzaddik must be on the level of Moshe – who was humblest of all men” as Rebbe Nachman explains:

      “We find, then, that when he comes before a Torah scholar and expresses all his letter-combinations in a Talmid Chakham’s presence….65 The Torah scholar is an aspect of Moshe66-67
      who considered himself as “remnants,” as is written (Numbers 12:3), “The man Moshe, however, was very humble.”68 This is the reason he is called a wise man, as is written (Job 28:12), “Wisdom comes from Ayin (Nothingness).”69 Through this the wise man has the power to appease,70 as is written, “but a wise man can pacify it.”71

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  4. True tzadikim are considered alive even after they move to the next world. As it says in the Gemara “Yaakov Avinu Lo Met” Yaakov Avinu did not die.

    And as it teaches in I believe Gemara brachot that after rav Yehudah Hanassi moved on to olam haba his students said “anyone who says rev Yehuda Hanassi died should put a sword to their neck”

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  5. I was under the impression that:

    1. No prophet (or human being, for that matter) ever was or will be on the level of Moshe Rabbe’inu
    2. Introducing an intermediary between oneself and Hashem is `Avodah Zarah

    Kol tuv,
    Lee

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    • 1. No prophet will have the level of prophecy that Moshe had, HaShem spoke to him directly in a way that has not since happened. But can they also come to the level of what is described as “remnants”?

      2. I would appreciate if you can explain what you mean by Avodah Zara. Is asking a Tzadik for a bracha considered Avodah Zara? You have to be more specific. I believe the basic difference in all of these things is that we believe that it is HaShem who forgives and who is the source of bounty. The Tzadik plays a role as he defends us, he is also the head of the Heavenly Court. But HaShem is the Source. Making an intermediary would mean that you look at the Tzadik as the source or as a source, we don’t believe that.

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