In this book are included all the human traits, arranged according to the alphabet. It is divided into two sections: We have named them the "Old Alphabet" and the "New Alphabet". The first section is composed of outstanding sayings that Rabbi Nachman gathered in his youth -- all that his penetrating wisdom was able to deduce, one thing from another. And all that he found in the holy books pertaining to morals and upright behavior and attributes. All of it, he recorded for memory's sake. Both what he found already written by the Rabbis -- the praise of a good quality or the condemning of a bad one, he gathered it all and arranged it alphabetically, in order to have a record he could review, to see the worth of the good qualities and their opposites. In order to go in the way of the just and preserve the path of the righteous. In addition to this, his lofty intellect grasped many precious and awesome things that had not before been said by the Rabbis. And with his very powerful understanding, he drew one thing from another, and reached precious novelties in the matter of attributes, drawing from scriptural verses and the words of the Rabbis, wherein they hinted at teachings without explaining them explicitly.
He gathered all of this material together according to the alphabet, and in time it became a full compilation detailing all the human attributes. He ordered us to copy it all, and I took it upon myself to copy the book in full, in order that it should not be lost, and that we should study it always, in order to become free of negative attributes. For each person, upon seeing detailed the great shame of bad qualities, and the significant loss and terrible blemishes caused by them, will have pity on his soul, and strengthen himself to overcome them, and ask the Master of Mercy to save his soul from the pit, to save him from these bad qualities and desires, and so the opposite with good qualities.
Also, one with sharp intelligence will find helpful advice on how to be protected from one attribute through guarding himself from another related to it. For they are as neighbors, and each one guards its mate, as is explained in the introduction which I heard from him directly. And the greatness of this book does not need to be explained to a master of truth, who desires truth and longs to cling to upright ways. He will certainly find in it relief for his soul. Happy is the one who holds to it, he will have good in this world and the next. For the book is entirely based on verses and the words of the rabbis, may their memory be for blessing. The book is easy to understand and upright for those with understanding.
The second part is similar to the first, following the same form. There is not a marked difference between them, for both of them describe the good qualities and condemn the bad ones. Nevertheless, there is this distinguishing factor: The sources brought in the first book, pertaining to each attribute, are taken either from points discussed explicitly in earlier Rabbinic literature, or at least hinted at therein. The intelligent reader who wants to study in greater depth, will be able to discern from where Rabbi Nachman drew the subject at hand, from which scriptural verse or saying of the Rabbis. For all the sources in the first book are given, and it is not beyond the reader's capacity to grasp and understand from where each idea was taken (in this edition, the source-references were not included, but they can be found in Hebrew editions). True, that without the help of Rabbi Nachman, it would not have occurred to the reader to draw out these ideas from those sources. However, after his having opened our eyes, the enlightened reader who is well-versed in the scriptures, the Aggadot, and the other Rabbinic commentaries will be able to come to the relevant sources.
In contrast to this, the issues discussed in the second book are the lofty conceptions that Rabbi Nachman grasped on his own, in the days of his greatness. All of them are beyond human comprehension and hidden from the eyes of all. For each idea has an awesome and wonderful basis, drawn from a scriptural passage or words of the Rabbis, through an ingenious hint, in the wondrous style of Rabbi Nachman. For there are a considerable amount of points presented here without any elaboration or proof, and in his primary compendium of teachings (referring to Likutey Moharan), the matters are explained brilliantly, in great detail. Further, one can learn about what is hidden from what is revealed. For even in a place where he did not provide the basis for a point he brought, be assured that he had a complete understanding of the matter, only that he chose not to reveal it for reasons known only to him.
It is our intention to awaken the hearts of our readers, and to inform them of the essence of this book and its aims. Rabbi Nachman, may his memory be for blessing, warned us to study this book to the point that its words would not cease from our mouths, for it is our life. He had it published in a small volume, and said his intention in this was that each one would take it with him wherever he went. For the Traits are the foundation of the whole Torah. Through this, a youth will gain merit. By guarding all the words in this book, he will have success and gain wisdom. For this is the main work of Man: To flee from evil attributes and desires, and to cling to good attributes and behaviors, as are detailed in this book.
Happy is the one who listens to these words, to fulfill all that is written herein. He will find eternal life, and his righteousness will answer for him in the time to come, when he comes to receive his reward. According to the standards a man demands of himself, so he is granted from above. Happy is the one who chooses life - G-d will reward his deeds. If he chooses instead to join with scoffers, he will not succeed and his strength will not endure, woe to him. According to his deeds, so will be done to him. It is best for a G-d-fearing one to stay far from him. How great is the reward that waits for him, his joy will be without blemish. The soul that labors for G-d draws blessing to him. We should plead with G-d that our portion should be with Him, to take refuge in His shadow, and none that trust in Him will be forsaken. No one can conceive the extent of the good that will be granted to them.
These are the words of the transcriber, bowed and deflated by the passing of our glorious leader, the greatness of our might, beloved of our eyes --- What words could express? The Holy One should console us soon:
The lowly Natan, the son of our teacher, Rabbi Naftali Hertz of Nemirov, may his light shine. The brother-in-law of the famous and awesome tzaddik, Rabbi David Tzvi, may his memory be for blessing, the judge of the community of Mahalov.
In fact, this holy book had already been published once, and ( ), and there is not even one copy remaining, for there are many who desired such a book, including all the human traits in a compact format, as well as many other matters and much advice to reach straight paths in serving G-d. There is no difficulty in the world that this book does not address, as the reader will see with his own eyes, and it is all founded on verses from the Tanach and the words of the Rabbis, may their memory be for blessing, drawn from the Gemarrah, the Midrash, the Zohar and the other holy books. Thus we decided to print the book anew, with several emendations and new and wondrous additions.
I also heard directly from him, a long time before he delivered the material of this Alphabet Book to me, that he had material amassed on all the human traits, and that is the material of this book, and at that point, he told me he had found all the healings in the world (encoded) in the divisions of the Land of Israel described in the book of Yehoshua. For the names of all the cities along the dividing lines of the country are combinations of all the healing remedies in the world, according to their names in all the languages. For the
I heard all of this directly from him, and I understood from his holy words that he attained all these understandings in his childhood. But we only merited receiving what is written in this book, which he perceived and weighed with his holy intelligence would be permissible to reveal to the world. That is the material that is presented here, and what was necessary to hide from the world, he had burned (as is described elsewhere).
Now, as we prepared ourselves to print this second edition, I had thought not to include any of the sources for several reasons. However, afterwards I reconsidered, for ( ) and everything that is in one's power to do, so he should do. Therefore I decided to print several sources for parts of the work, that I or my peers had already found, either in the written or the oral Torah, or from the little that I heard from him directly, as will be brought in its place. It should be understood that this material is in very abbreviated form, and in truth he revealed lengthy and wondrously detailed teachings on these matters, as was his awesome custom.
One who looks with an eye of truth will see that even in the cases where we found sources, they are only superficial connections. But the depth of the matter, and how he reached it is hidden from our understanding. For all his teachings are the words of the living G-d, which he grasped and brought down for us. And the sources are only rudimentary connections, for there is no teaching which does not have a basis in scripture. Thus, if he had not withdrawn the thick veil spread over our eyes and revealed these comprehensions, we would never have been able to come to them on our own, simply from those scriptural passages and words of the Rabbis. Only one who merits purifying himself unconditionally can merit achieving understandings such as these.
I also revised the format for these holy teachings. For I had not been involved in the first printing of the book. In that edition, the two volumes were printed separately. I did not choose this approach. For although it is true that the two works are separate, even so, they should not be disconnected from each other. For since both of them are equally valid, and both deal with the essence of the attributes, their loftiness or lowliness, it is certainly logical to present all the material relating to an attribute together. Even though the comprehensions of the second book far surpassed that of the first, even so, their innermost meaning is one. So, with each attribute, he told us all the advantages that follow from holding to it, and all the losses caused by neglecting it. And what path to tread in order to reach it. Even though the teachings differ as to what level of greatness they reach. Nevertheless, all of them return to one point of origin, so that we may all merit to the Truth.
Thus, I decided to arrange everything in order, so that everything would be arranged simply in one alphabetical system. However, I divided between the material of the first and second books, and I printed the material of the second book in a different print, in order that the reader should be able to distinguish between them. For I already heard from Rabbi Nachman directly, that the work of the second book far surpassed that of the first. Therefore, I separated them, in order that the reader should distinguish between them and know.
The good L-rd should lead us in the straight and true path, so that we may merit to learn and teach, observe, do and fulfill all the words written here, and to understand and comprehend all the paths of advice clarified for each trait. Thus may we have success in our way, and become enlightened.
It should also be noted that several statements in the book are repeated more than once. For Rabbi Nachman ordered us to arrange all the material according to the trait relevant to it. And he also commanded explicitly, that any statement relevant to several traits should be printed several times under each of the traits. Thus we did. For his intention was to lighten the burden on the reader, that if he would want to know some property concerning a trait, he would be able to find it easily, from any angle he happened to approach it. Thus the teachings are repeated in several places. The Blessed L-rd should lead us in the true path. Just as we merited arranging these teachings, thus may we merit to fulfill them. Until all
Note: Sefer Hamedot- Book of Traits was posted on NaNach.net with the permission of the translator Dovid Nanach. He has already given printing rights to Keren Rebbe Yisroel Ber Odeser. Content is for personal use only. If you wish to reprint or distribute this translation, we can not give you permission. For that you must contact the above parties.