Is it Permitted to Burn Books?

With all of the chaos and uncertainty spreading around the world these days I wanted to relate the following story from the life of Rebbe Nachman, the great Chassidic master.

In spring of 1808 after Rebbe Nachman had already diagnosed with tuberculosis he became gravely ill and near death while residing in Lemberg.  He told his follower Reb Shimon to rush back to Breslov where he lived.  There he told Reb Shimon to burn two copies of a manuscript he and his student Reb Nosson put together.  This book held deep mystical teachings, so powerful they could bring redemption. Why burn them? Because Rebbe Nachman understood that it was either his death or the books and because he felt it was too early for him to go, the books must since the world was not ready for them.

Reb Shimon made the long journey and even became ill before he reached his destination.  Fearing he would not be able to fulfill his master’s wishes, “Reb Shimon gave order that they sould carry him to the coach and lay him down inside. ” He eventually reached Breslov and regained his health.  Upon doing so he wasted no time burning the two books, which became known as the Burnt Book. Rebbe Nachman miraculously regained his composure and lived another two years and a bit, teaching and spreading joy.

Rebbe Nachman understood that he had to let go of this amazing work to move forward and teach even more.  That is the lesson.  Sometimes we have to let go of the things we thought were concrete.   With all of the darkness and confusion in the world, there is a bit of light underneath it all. We often times do not understand the reasons for particular events or how to cope with them. This transition we are witnessing on a global level requires us in many ways to let go of things we didn’t think possible.  Yet if we do, we will all be able to achieve so much more.