This is a box structure outline of Nachman’s Tale of the Seven Beggars, a story composed of a series of nested stories. Since the tale remains incomplete, the nesting structure never works its way back to the outermost frame. Pearl Abraham, author “The Seventh Beggar”1
In the beginning of time, before the mountains were made. Before the sky split, passion sits. In peace and harmony. Creates the space for a new baby. We stay empty in the vision of the King for his dreams will manifest in we. Princes and Priests will come run and emerge as the surge flows like rain. To see, to see the day it come When the King will look into His Kingdom. And to my being and see hisself happy. Believe in me, I believe in we. This is the story of the seven beggars. Trying to get back on a eagle's feathers. Looking for a place to be born amongst the sons and daughters. Get back to you, get back to you. There was an ocean, there was a boat. It ran into the waves and rocks and it broke. From the debris, made the ocean and skies, overt deceit, lies. Ancient tongue. 1
For scholarly analysis of folk themes see Avidov Lipsker: (Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Folklore, 13-‐14 (1992), pp. 229-‐248)
So the great equal smile. You, you, me, we are the same. You, who remembers all the while, all the way back before the cord was cut? Before the leaves, before the trees, before the sea, and the black ocean breeze. Before the great storm, wandering in this world, waiting for a day to be born. This is the story of the seven beggars. Trying to get back on a eagle's feathers. Looking for a place to be born amongst the son's and daughters. Get back to you, get back to you. And you try to fill yourself up with all this stuff, to fill the hole. I'm trying to feel the whole, reason to talk if you ain't got what to say. And the sounds everything is ok. You know that place where you run away? Well it's time to stay, time to be hungry. Before the beginning Before this song Before right and wrong Before (Everything) Above space and time Above reason and rhyme Above circles and lines Before God start singing We were lost at sea (in the boat). Â
Waves crashed around me (fire and smoke). This is the story of the seven beggars. Trying to get home on a eagle's feathers. Looking for a place to be born amongst the sons and daughters. Get back to you, Get back now get it back. Gon' get it back.
Matisyahu - 7 Beggars Lyrics http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NgyzHKhuXiM
Moreen Greenberg Zafed, Israel:
The Seven Beggars
There was once a king who had an only son, and while he lived the king
decided to give his crown to the prince. He made a great festival to which all the noblemen of the kingdom came, and in the midst of pomp and ceremony the king placed the crown upon the head of his young son, saying, "I am one who can read the future in the stars, and I see that there will come a time when you will lose your kingdom, but when that time comes you must not be sorrowful; if you can be joyous even when your kingdom is lost, I too will be filled with joy. For you cannot be a true king unless you are a happy man." The son became king, appointed governors, and ruled. He was a lover of learning, and in order to fill his court with wise men he let it be known that he would give every man whatever he desired, either gold or glory, in return for his wisdom; than all the people in that kingdom began to seek for knowledge, in order to get gold or glory from the king. And thus it was that the simplest fool in the land was wiser than the greatest sage of any other country; and in their search for learning, the people forgot the study of war, so the country was left open to the enemy. Among the philosophers in the young king's court there were clever men and infidels who soon filled his mind with doubt. He would ask himself, "Who am I; why am I in the world?" Then he would heave a deep sigh, and fall into melancholy. Only when he would forget this doubt would he again become a happy king; but more often every day he thought, "Why am I in this world?" and sighed. One day the invader came and attacked the unprotected kingdom, and all the people fled. Men and women left their fields and their homes, and the highways were filled with carts and wagons, with people on foot carrying infants in their arms. The fleeing people went through a forest, and there it befell that two five-year-old children were lost: a boy and a girl. After all the people had passed, the children heard each other crying. Then they went up to each other and joined hands, and wandered through the forest. Soon they were hungry, but they did not know where they could get food. Just then they saw a beggar going through the woods, carrying his beggar's sack. They ran to him and clung to him. "Where do you come from?" he asked. "We do not know," the children answered2.
In Rabbi Nachman’s story of the Seven Beggars, each one of the wandering holy men gives the young bride and groom his most essential quality as a wedding 2
The Golden Mountain, Meyer Levin, 1932
present, this being his most fitting empowerment. 1. The Blind Beggar The blessing of the Blind Beggar is: “You should be old like me; that is, you should have a long life, like mine. You think that I’m blind, but actually, I’m not blind at all. It is just that for me, the entire duration of the world’s existence doesn’t amount to even the blink of an eye . . . I am extremely old, but I am extremely young. In fact, I have not yet begun to live – but nevertheless, I am very old.” He goes on to describe a contest with other sages about whose memory is the greatest. The Blind Beggar alone remembers the primal Nothingness (Yiddish: “Ich gedenk gohr-nisht!”) that altogether precedes creation. (He is therefore the “Elder on the Side of Holiness” and the “Elder of Elders”; see Chayei Moharan 123 and 272, citing an expression of the Zohar.) And this sublime realization is his gift to the newlyweds – and to us all when we reach the hour of “finding” or spiritual discovery, the unification that is comparable to a wedding. (In Likkutei MoharanI, 65, the tachlis is related to the paradigm of closed eyes, which can perceive the transcendental reality and not be distracted by worldly illusion.) 2. The Deaf Beggar The blessing of the Deaf Beggar is: “You should be like me; that is, you should live a good life, like mine. You think that I’m deaf, but actually, I’m not deaf at all. It is just that the entire world does not amount to anything to me, that I should listen to its deficiencies. All sounds come from deficiencies, since everyone cries out about what he is lacking. Even the world’s joys are due to deficiencies, since one only rejoices when his lack is filled . . . However, I have a good life in which nothing is lacking.” In the story he tells as proof of his claim, he alone is capable of saving a mythical Land of Wealth, once perfect in its delights, but now corrupted by an evil king and his emissaries. The Deaf Beggar guides the populace to purify themselves of the three poisons of profane speech, which had ruined the sense of taste; bribery, which had ruined the sense of sight; and sexual immorality, which had ruined the sense of smell. Purged of these evils, the ill-tended garden in the midst of the land reverts to its former Eden-like state, and the lost gardener, who had been taken for a madman, is discovered and restored to his former position. Implicit in this sub-plot is the idea that the “good life,” which is the spiritual life, may be experienced through our very senses, if only we would purify ourselves of these toxins.
3. The Beggar With a Speech Defect The blessing of the Beggar With a Speech Defect is: “You should be like me. You think that I have a speech defect. I don’t have a speech defect at all. Rather, all the words in the world that do not praise God lack perfection. [Therefore, I seem to have a speech defect, since I cannot speak such imperfect words.] But actually, I don’t have a speech impediment at all. Quite the contrary, I am a wonderful orator and speaker. I can speak in parables and verses that are so wonderful that no created thing in the world doesn’t want to hear me. For the parables and lyrics that I know contain all wisdom.” In the course of the tale he tells to “prove” his claims, the Deaf Beggar indicates that his parables and verses sustain the entire universe – and they reflect the animating wisdom of all seven days of creation, which was brought into being through the divine speech. (In Likkutei Moharan I, 65, the tachlis is also related to the perfection of speech, in the Rebbe’s description of “making echad / unity of the words of prayer” in the course of davenning.) 4. The Beggar With a Crooked Neck The blessing of the Beggar With a Crooked Neck is: “You should be like me. You think I have a crooked neck, but actually, my neck isn’t crooked at all. Quite the contrary, it is very straight. I have a most beautiful neck. However, there are vapors in the world, and I don’t want to exhale and add to these vain vapors. [This is why my neck seems to be crooked: I twisted my neck to avoid exhaling into the atmosphere of the world.] But in fact, I have a most beautiful, wonderful neck, since I have a wonderful voice. There are many sounds in the world that are unrelated to speech. I have such a wonderful neck and voice that I can mimic any of these sounds.” In the extremely obscure tale that the Beggar With a Crooked Neck goes on to relate, this power seems to be the root of all music and prophecy. This is suggested by the symbolism of the two estranged birds that the Beggar With a Crooked Neck reunites, which allude to the two K’ruvim, or winged angelic forms that hovered over the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy Temple and, according to Chazal, served as the channel for prophecy. The Rebbe also implies that this power brings about the spiritual unification associated with the Messianic Redemption. 5. The Beggar With a Hunchback The blessing of the Beggar With a Hunchback is: “You should be like me. I am not a hunchback at all. Quite the contrary, I have broad shoulders (Yiddish: breiter pleitzes, which also means the ability bear difficult responsibilities). My shoulders are an example of the ‘little that holds much’ (a concept found in the Midrash).“ Reb Noson later adds: “The hunchback was on the level of the intermediate zone between space and that which is beyond space. He possessed the highest possible concept of the ‘little that holds much,’ at the very end of space, beyond which the term ‘space’ no longer applies . . . Therefore, he
could carry [his companions] from within space to a dimension that transcends space.” In the tale the Beggar With a Hunchback tells to prove his point, this dimension is symbolized by the wondrous “Tree That Stands Beyond Space,” evocative of the biblical Tree of Life, in the branches of which all beings find repose and peace. 6. The Beggar Without Hands The blessing of the Beggar Without Hands is: “[You think there is something wrong with my hands.] Actually, there is nothing wrong with my hands. I have vast power in my hands – but I do not use the power of my hands in this physical world, since I need it for something else.” In the course of the story he tells, this other purpose turns out to be the healing of the Queen’s Daughter – another symbol of the collectivity of souls. This healing is accomplished through the Ten Types of Song, corresponding to the Ten Types of Charity, Ten Types of Pulse, and the beggar’s ten invisible fingers. Then he tells the newlyweds, “And I am giving this power to you as a wedding present.” 7. The Beggar Without Feet The blessing of the Beggar Without Feet remains a mystery. This final section of the story remains untold until the Mashiach – who in kabbalistic symbology is associated with the feet – arrives and reveals it to us, may it be speedily in our days! To sum everything up, the gifts of the Seven Beggars are: long life / transcendence of time (eyes); good life / transcendence of need and desire (ears); oratory that contains all wisdom / transcendent speech (mouth); wondrous voice that can produce all sounds / transcendent sound or cosmic music (neck); ultimate degree of “the small that contains the great” / transcendence of space (shoulders); miraculous healing power / transcendence of mortality and sadness (hands); and presumably either perfect faith, or kingship, or joy (all of which are aspects of Malkhus / Kingship), corresponding to transcendence of self, or ego (feet). They make up one structure, just as the parts of the human anatomy to which they correspond form one structure. Acquiring these sublime powers through the grace of the tzaddikim enables one to reach the tachlis at the individual spiritual level.3
Rabbi Dovid Sears 2009 Breslov.org
Discussion: Likutei Mehoran 60:6 And when one needs to awaken the intellect (panim) and arouse one from spiritual sleep, one needs to enclothe the intellect (panim) in sippurei Maasiyotin tales. And one needs to enclothe the Panim for three reasons: 1. When a blind person is healed he must be exposed to the light gradually so as not to harm his retina, so too when one has been spiritually asleep, it is important to enclothe the light of the panim gradually in tales so as not to expose them to harm. 2. So as not to allow the external forces (klippot) to attach themselves to the light were it exposed directly and not enclothed in tales 3. The external forces already attached to the person should not be able to prevent him or her leaving. Therefore one must enclothe the panim in order to change it (conceal or camouflage) so as not to be recognizable. Sometimes it’s impossible to arouse someone with their own panim/intellect so one must show him an exalted panim, such as stories from “recent times” of the 70 faces, (i.e the 70 faces of Torah where stories and parables can be found to arouse his panim). However there are those who have fallen from all 70 faces and have no access to the Torah’s stories to arouse him. He will need stories from the “ancient times” (where even the Torah receives its life force from there). This is atik yomin, the ancient sage face panim which needs clothing in ancient stories. Liktuei Mehoran 234 One also has to know how to tell as story, for in each story there is a restriction (tzimtzum). The teller must exercise this restriction of thought in order to articulate the story in speech. This restriction is the aspect of silence through which the teller can ascend to the world of thought or silence. I think the Rebbe is suggesting that the structure of the story and the articulation of the story is a recreation analogous to creation, whereby there is a tzimtzum. This powerful recreation can also recreate the spirit of one listening who has lost his spirit to the external forces. In both the first and the last tales Rebbe does not conclude with the climactic end of the story. I wonder whether as a storyteller he was reflecting the audience and their lack of final redemption or did he reflect his own dark view of the cosmos.
Tale 1 of the Lost Princess ends how the vizier “would have to remain there for a while, since he would have to use his intelligence and wisdom to devise a plan to free the princess”. “And how he freed her, R. Nachman did not tell, but in the end he did free her” Now the last tale no 13, ends with the Seventh beggar not appearing, and the comment before telling it as follows: Rabbeinu states: “I will tell you how happy people once were.” According to Sichos HaRan (149) when Rabbeinu saw a letter from Reb Noson to a follower advising him to “be happy” he said “I will tell you how people once rejoiced” and with that he began the story. “Once there was there was a king… For me then Rabbeinu is tapping into ancient mythology/story telling which kabbalistically is a source from which even the stories in the Torah are sourced. This mine of ancient stories narratives and tales are used to arouse the listener and move him without exciting or arousing the external forces all the while. They function to distract and fool the external forces into not paying attention precisely because they appear to come from non-sacred sources. He makes use of this mine of narrative texts in order to rescue his listener, in this case to show how people were once happy. In Chayei Mehoran 16b 4) his actual words were “ Since you are so depressed, what do you know about being happy? I will tell you how people once rejoiced” In another source (Chochmah U’Tvunah 15:1) he said, “ I will tell you how, out of depression, people were able to rejoice”. In our tale the king’s son is torn between the missive to be happy given (strangely) by his father the king and his own search for philosophy and ordering the structure of the kingdom based on this (heretical) wisdom. Among the philosophers in the young king's court there were clever men and infidels who soon filled his mind with doubt. He would ask himself, "Who am I; why am I in the world?" Then he would heave a deep sigh, and fall into melancholy. Only when he would forget this doubt would he again become a happy king; but more often every day he thought, "Why am I in this world?" and sighed. He has lost the ability to hold on to happiness save for a few thoughts of nostalgia. After the sixth beggar without hands has given his gift of power in the hands of healing the princess, we are told, “There was great joy and tremendous rejoicing”
The story ends there. Suddenly. Expecting the last beggar in his climactic absent feet, Rabbi Nachman concludes: “It is very difficult for me to tell this story, however since I began I must end it….” Rabbi Noson adds: “All this I heard explicitly. However regarding the meaning, of who, what and when, the story is very deep. This involves the primary concept of the story itself. Who were the beggars? What were they? When were they? All this is too deep to be understood.” “The end of the story would involve the Seventh Day” and the beggar without feet. However we were not worthy of hearing it. The same is true for the end of the first part of the story, regarding the king who gave his son his kingdom, during his lifetime. Rabbi Nachman said he would not tell anymore. This is a great loss.” A group was standing around Rebbe when he finished the story of the sixth day and someone told him an anecdote. He said, “ This is the story of the seventh day. It seems other people are already telling my story. I would very much like to finish it.” (Yemei Moharnat 32b) He indicated this story contains many lessons of the Tzaddikim (Likutei Halachot Even Haezer Hil. Pru Urevu 3:10). Chochma U’Tvunah (15:1) suggests that just as the sixth beggar heals the king’s daughter so too the seventh beggar would heal the king’s son. But this we are not told. We are left with an unbearable ending UNLIKE other fairy tales and myths of old. Rabbeinu affords us no escape from reality, rather leaves us with untold endings and unhappy endings. Yet he came to tell us how people once were able to be happy in their depression! Paradoxically Rebbe brings us back to our reality. The world is not fixed as yet; we are still in the “blotte”. Rebbe tells Reb Nosson (May 8th 1810) is response to when he might tell the tale of the seventh beggar, it would not be told until the time of the Messiah. (Yemei Moharnat 43). Interestingly the seventh day of celebration of the wedding parallels the seventh blessing and his gift will obviously be the very thing he lacks apparently, feet! So he will ultimately bless them, as did the beggar without hands, with healing feet, or the ability to dance for joy. The messiah and dancing is no alien idea to Rabbeinu. Dancing is the ability to bring down “mochin” or spirituality even into the feet, the lower world. The world of confusion, philosophy and heresy. Maybe he might bring healing to the king’s son who is mired in speculative rational philosophy.
Reb Noson added, “It also speaks of ancient saints. King David stood at one end of earth and screamed out to the spring, which issues forth from the stone on the mountain. It is thus written “from the ends of the earth I call to you. When my heart is feint, lead me to a rock that is too high for me” (Psalm 61:3). Steinsaltz sees the beggar without feet as King David who danced before the ark (II Sam.6). Dancing is associated with simple and perfect faith preceding the Messiah. “The footsteps of the Messiah”. For Band, the absent 7th beggar reflects the Rebbe’s reticence concerning the coming day of redemption” (Band 1978 :322). For Rebbe, who insisted that happiness was the only recipe for spirituality and that the eternal forces loved depression and self-loathing, happiness characterized the primordial past. In history man rules with his intellect and is condemned to confusion, depression, sadness and self-loathing. Simplicity is the hallmark and pre-requisite for happiness. Why then did the king/father strangely foretell his son would not be happy and even more revel in it once he foretold it? “I am an expert in astrology, and I see that you are destined to lose your kingdom. When you lose power, be careful not to become depressed. You must remain joyful” (so far so good)…. “I you are happy, then I will be happy. But if you become sad, then I will still be happy! (What? Really? ) Because you are no longer king. I f you are not able to remain happy when you lose your royal power then you are not fit to be king” What a set up. Father tells son the future. He will lose his kingdom. Why? We are not told. Then if he stops being happy and becomes depressed about it, he father will also be happy, since he was not fit to be king anyway. So in the end the father will stay happy for either reason whereas the poor son is left to figure out why he lost the kingdom and why he is not fit to be king because he was saddened by the loss of the kingdom! Bizarre! And yet not so bizarre. The capricious king is not an alien portrait. Once again we go back to Midrash and the parables of the king in Eichah Rabba and Pesikta deRav Kahane. Elsewhere I have shown how irrational and inappropriate the behavior of the king is at times exhibiting rage and destruction at will, banishing his daughter where the punishment did not fit the crime etc. Once again in King Lear we see a king behaving irrationally, and Macbeth and Hamlet reflect the human condition driven to insanity by lust rage and revenge.
So Rabbeinu may well be reflecting a deep penetrating unacknowledged philosophical realization of the set up we all humanity are subject to as the sons of the king of Kings. In the end the screaming silence where Rebbe leaves us all hanging is mirrored in the more recent writing of Kafka who acknowledged a deep debt to Rabbeinu. But that is another tale. I am constantly moved by how deep in reality our Rebbe finds himself as well as ourselves. There is no spiritual whitewashing here, only the bleak force of the world, the set up we find our lives in, and the forces of the external ones the klippot, who manifest themselves in our depression, sadness, our giving up of hope (yee’ush), our addictions failures, betrayals and self loathing. He foresaw our world, a post Holocaust age of genocide murderous hatred fundamentalism and greed. Yet despite that these stories that have no ending and therefore no escape (see the diagram above by Pearl Abraham whose literary structure mirrors the existential trap I am describing), Rabbeinu demands we dance! We sing! We be happy! We fly in the face of reality as it is down here, and resist! By resisting the natural response to catastrophe Rebbe is teaching us a survival method that flies in the face of natural psychological physics, the way of paradox. Dance in the face of evil, like the Polish Rebbes did before Mengele! Sing despite the pain in the heart! There is no happy ending to his stories but there is a demand. By telling us stories from the Ancient of Days, primordial myths that precede Torah itself, he is tapping into an energy that predates the tzimtzum, the constriction, he is accessing the “makif”, and the paradox is that we broken souls are the one who merit such access. This is the greatest gift of Rabbeinu, that we down here in the “blotte” have access to the makif through the Tzaddik. His very telling is sufficient. I am where I am. I listen and in the act of listening the tzaddik recreates the act of Tzimztum, the primordial chemistry that made for the creation of the world itself. His storytelling IS the reenactment of creation and gives me access in lowly state despite my lies deceits betrayals and failed life, to the source and to happiness.