Tales of The Hasidim Later Masters, Martin Buber, p.249-50
Rabbi Simcha Bunim teaches: Every person should have two pockets. In one pocket should be a piece of paper saying: "I am only dust and ashes." When one is feeling too proud, reach into this pocket and take out this paper and read it. In the other pocket should be a piece of paper saying: "For my sake was the world created." When one is feeling disheartened and lowly, reach into this pocket and take this paper out and read it.
1. What do these two phrases mean? Explain them in your own words.
2. What is the value of each of these phrases? What is Rabbi Bunim's intention with his instruction?
3. How is keeping each of these phrases in our pockets beneficial?
4. If you had a third pocket, what phrase would you keep in it?
Around the same time as Reb Simcha Bunim was teaching this teaching in Poland, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov was teaching in the Ukraine. His magnum opus was a collection of teachings called Likutei Moharan. - Rabbi Josh Warshawsky
Listen to the song below. The text of the song (the lyrics) is included just below the video. Try and follow along with the words as you listen. Think about the rhythm, tone, and other attributes of the song. How do they match the theme of the text?
There are so many layers to this teaching. What stands out to me the most is the fact that not everyone has the privilege of being able to say “the whole world was created for me.” But if you do have the privilege of being able to say those words, it comes with the utmost amount of responsibility to do something about that. To find ways to change the world. To “fill up the holes in the world.” Rebbe Nachman teaches that there are holes in the world that each person is uniquely suited to fill up, and that only we can help the world in that particular way. - Rabbi Josh Warshawsky
5. Explain in your own words what "the world was created only for my sake" means.
6. According to Rabbi Warshawsky, why does a person have a responsibility to help improve the world?
7. Do you think Rabbi Warshawsky's justifcation is in line with or different from that of Rebbe Nachman's in each of these texts?
Rebbe Nachman references the set of texts below from the Talmud. In larger context, these two texts come from a discussion of how the courts should (or do) treat witnesses in important cases, including those that could involve the death penalty. The conversation deals with the inherent holiness of every individual and our need to protect that, but as you will see, it veers into other meaningful, related topics.
8. What is the over-arching message of this first text? Rephrase it in your own words.
9. How do you think Rebbe Nachman arrived at his conclusion based on this text? What specific points do you think he references or is inspired by?
10. In ancient times coins were made by pressing a stamp into hot metal or wax, so that each looked the same. This process is contrasted with how God creates people. What are the contrasts that may not be listed here that you can think of?
11. The text says that each of us is copied from the first human being, yet none of us are similar. Do you think that's true?
12. How can a person say the entire world was created for themselves alone when each of us is created from the same human? Could you argue that he opposite is true instead? Why or why not?