Q: Can you tell me if Rabbi Nachman ever said a soul correction for cancer?
A: According to Jewish wisdom, there is always a spiritual correlative to a physical state of health or disease—however, a linear correlation isn’t always so apparent, and a causative one isn’t always completely accurate.
Rebbe Nachman taught extensively about achieving spiritual awareness and soul-corrections. He may have addressed a variety of specific illnesses with his individual Chassidim, including cancer (which might not have been often identified by name or correctly diagnosed in 18th century Ukraine.) The Rebbe understood perhaps more than anyone, that each person is an olam, an entire world, with his or her own “climate”, “ecology”, “geography” and so on. We know he gave specific tikkunim to individual followers, each custom-designed for that person’s soul-correction. Perhaps he did give some specific general corrections for cancer which could be used by anyone, but if he did, it isn’t mentioned in his sefarim.
To my understanding, cancer is the name given to a variety of diseases which may occur in various body parts or systems. Generally, it involves a prolific, abnormal growth of cells which can cause a tumor or otherwise damage a bodily system or organ.
Are the material causes of this dreaded illness viral? Behavioral (dietary for example)? Bacterial? Environmental (industrial chemicals for example)? Genetic? Does the cause of and the nature of cancer vary depending on where it is located in the body?
Medical research seems to say a variety of possible causes exists, maybe even a few at once. Perhaps the myriad material factors implicated exist to show us that the spiritual causes (and therefore, the spiritual correction), may stem from a variety of spiritual conditions as well.
Learning about the mind-body-soul connections, reflecting on one’s life, and perhaps most important, hitbodedut, are integral to soul-correction, and correcting the soul always has an impact on the body.
Learning: For an overview as well as a body part-specific understanding of the human body as a home for the soul, read Anatomy of the Soul (BRI). This best-selling book goes into great detail about the topics of spiritual and bodily health, the hidden meanings of our body’s design, and offers insights into spiritual obstructions that may lead to diminished physical functions or disease, G-d forbid. It is important when studying this book to keep in mind that while the state of our body reflects the state of our soul, armchair diagnostics may cause unwarranted stress. It’s good to learn this text with a trusted, empathetic study-partner, if possible.
If you are interested in exploring this topic further, please join me for The Healing Dance of Body and Soul, a free video course for women using Anatomy of the Soul as the main text, as well as numerous Breslov sources. You can find it at BreslovCampus.org. You can participate in the live online class (Monday nights at 8 pm) or watch the archives.
Reflection: Rebbe Nachman suggests that most people don’t spend enough time thinking about themselves, their spiritual growth, and their service of Hashem. Making time to do this, even a few minutes a day, can be the catalyst for far-reaching change.
Hitbodedut: Talking to Hashem about both big and little issues, including the spiritual and material issues one is dealing with in every area of life, is integral to Breslov Chassidic practice. It can change the way you think, feel, and live. (All prayer, not just hitbodedut, is important.)
Also, in addition to learning more about mind-body-soul wellness, reflecting on one’s life, and doing hitbodedut, there is another Chassidic practice followers of Rebbe Nachman do daily. This is saying Rebbe Nachman’s Tikkun Haklali (the universal remedy comprised of 10 specific psalms). Tikkun Haklali helps to heal us at the root of the soul. The book Rebbe Nachman’s Tikkun (BRI) contains the text of the 10 psalms, a variety of supplemental prayers, and extensive commentary and explanatory text.
Rebbe Nachman teaches us that everything that happens to us in life is a message to us from Hashem. He wants us to turn to Him to seek the answer. May you and each person turn to Hashem and seek answers to their questions in good health, B”H.
Chaya Rivka Zwolinski