from The Chambers of the Palace (translator and anthologist).
The Prince Who Thought He Was a Turkey
Once there was a prince who had the delusion that he was a turkey. He sat naked underneath a table and pecked at bones and pieces of bread.
All the doctors despaired of healing him, and the king was very sad.
Then a wise man came and said, “I will try to heal him.”
The wise man took off his clothes and sat under the table next to the prince, and he also pecked at crumbs and bones.
The prince asked him, “Who are you? What are you doing here?”
The wise man answered, “And what are you doing here?”
“I am a rooster.”
“I am also a rooster.”
The two of them sat there for some time until they got used to each other.
Then the wise man gave a signal, and a shirt was thrown down.
The wise man said to the prince, “Do you think that a rooster cannot wear a shirt? One can wear a shirt and still be a rooster.”
So both of them put on shirts.
After a while, he signalled again, and a pair of trousers was thrown down to him.
He said, “Do you think that if someone wears pants, he cannot be a rooster?”
This went on until they were both dressed.
Afterwards, he signalled and human food was thrown down from the table. He said to the prince, “Do you think that if you eat good food, you’re no longer a turkey? One can eat and still be a turkey.” So they both ate.
After that, he told the prince, “Do you think that a turkey can only sit under the table? One can sit at the table and still be a turkey.”
And he continued to act in this way until he completely cured the prince.
Avenahah Barzel, p. 26
People are very mistaken about what humility is.
We expend so much energy serving God and praying in order to go from small-mindedness to an expanded consciousness.
It isn’t possible that we are supposed to be humble according to the simple meaning of the word, because that would require us to remain small-minded.
This matter must be approached with understanding. Not everyone can be truly humble. Only Moses was “more humble than any other man upon the earth” (Numbers 12:3).
Our sages called imperfect humility sycophancy. When Hannaniah, a false prophet, predicted that God would soon redeem the Jews, Jeremiah humbly added, “Amen, so may God do” (Jeremiah 28:6). Our sages said in regard to this episode that “whoever praises another hypocritically ultimately falls into his hands—and if not into his hands, into the hands of his son” (Sotah 41b).
As a result of this mistaken humility—for he should have explicitly refuted the false prophecy—Jeremiah suffered imprisonment.
Likutei Moharan II 22
Belief in Oneself
Rabbi Nachman told me (Rabbi Nosson) that when a person is small in faith, it is difficult for him to serve God.
I stood before him in shock, [assuming I was being rebuked,] and I was very upset. It appeared to me that I do have at least some faith.
Rabbi Nachman chided me, “Some?”—as though to say, “And if you do have faith, you don’t have faith in yourself.”
He immediately mentioned the statement in the Talmud, “Who is responsible that the table of tzaddikim should be despised in the future days? The smallness that was in them”—that is, they didn’t believe in themselves (Sotah 48b).
Rashi explains this to mean smallness of faith in God. But the actual language of the Talmud is “the smallness that was in them.” It seems that one can interpret Rabbi Nachman’s words to mean that they didn’t believe that God is good to all and so that they themselves are important in His eyes.” This caused them to be small. This was their smallness of faith: they didn’t believe in themselves. (One can also interpret Rashi’s words to be referring to lack of faith in themselves.)
One can understand from Rabbi Nachman’s statement that a person must have faith that God loves him too. Because of God’s great goodness, God considers him important too.
Being small-minded is not humility. One must pray a great deal to attain true humility.
Soon after this, Rabbi Nachman taught that some people are the subject of controversy because they do not have faith in themselves.
Sichot Haran #140
May It Be My Will
Rabbi Nachman said that a person must come to such a degree of self-nullification that he can say, “May it be my will” [rather than “May it be Your will”]. (This is the level of the Torah of God and the prayer of God.)
Avanehah Barzel, p. 44
God Does Not Need to Serve Himself
Rabbi Nachman said, “I can make all of you complete, awesome tzaddikim, but what of that? It would be like God serving Himself.” He wanted that we ourselves should strive, using his strength and holy advice on how to serve God—not that he should give everything over to us completely.
Rabbi Nachman once told me, “If God wanted to serve Himself, He wouldn’t need you.”
Chayei Moharan II, p. 21, #40
To Find the Hidden Good
A person has to judge everyone favorably. Even if someone is completely bad, one must search for even a little bit of good in him. In that little bit of goodness, that person isn’t bad.
As a result of finding this little bit of good in the person and judging him favorably, one actually raises him up, and one can cause him to repent.
This is related to the verse, “A little more and there is no wicked person; You will look upon his place, and he is not there” (Psalms 37:10).
This verse exhorts us to judge everyone favorably. Even though you see that someone is completely bad, you must find some little bit of good in him where he isn’t evil. This is what the verse means when it says, “A little more and there is no wicked person.” You must find that little more of goodness that he still has, where he isn’t bad. Even if he is bad, how is it possible that he doesn’t even have a little bit of good? How could it be that he never did a mitzvah or some good deed in his life? By finding some small area of goodness where he isn’t bad and judging him favorably, you raise him from the side of guilt to the side of merit, until he repents.
As a result of finding a little good where he isn’t wicked, then “you will look upon his place and he is not there.” When you look upon his place, his level, you will see that he is no longer there; by finding some little bit of good in him and judging him favorably, one moves him from the side of guilt to the side of merit.
One must also apply this technique to oneself. A person has to work hard to be constantly joyful and to keep from being depressed.
Even if, when a person begins to look at himself, he sees that he has no good in himself and that he is full of wrong-doing; even if the Evil One wants to cast him into depression—he must not allow himself to fall! Instead, he must search and find in himself some little bit of good. How could it be that he never once did a mitzvah or some good deed?
It is possible that, looking into that good deed, one will see that it was imperfect, full of flaws and ulterior motives. Nevertheless, how is it possible that it didn’t contain some little good? At the very least, there was some point of goodness in what one did.
One must find that little bit of good in oneself and use it to revivify oneself and become joyful.
Then one moves from the side of guilt to the side of merit, and one can repent.
One must judge oneself favorably; one must strengthen oneself so that one won’t fall completely. One must revivify oneself and make oneself joyful with the little bit of good one finds within oneself, with the fact that one managed to do some mitzvah or good deed.
After one has done that, one must search yet more and find some other bit of good. Even though that bit of good is also mixed with a great deal of waste, one must draw out the good point.
One must search for and gather all the good points.
In this way, one makes spiritual melodies with one’s soul, like a musician who plucks out the notes that comprise a melody.
Likutei Moharan 282
Bringing Forth the Good
Once, Rabbi Gershon of Tirhavtzia complained at length to Rabbi Nachman that he was having trouble serving God.
Rabbi Nachman replied, “For the present, do good and serve God honestly. When you serve God like this constantly, the good will remain and the bad will fall away of itself.”
Chayei Moharan II, p. 49, #4