The Great Innovation of the Tikkun HaKlali by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, a great-grandson of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidic Judaism, introduced several innovative concepts and practices to the world of Kabbalah and Hasidic philosophy during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

His teachings, deeply rooted in Kabbalistic tradition, emphasized personal spirituality and direct communion with the Divine, offering a unique blend of mysticism, practical advice, and psychological insight. This article explores the key innovations Rebbe Nachman brought to the Kabbalistic tradition.

Emphasis on Joy

One of Rebbe Nachman’s central teachings is the importance of joy in serving God. He famously said, “It is a great mitzvah (commandment) to be joyful always.” This emphasis on joy was revolutionary in a religious context that often stressed somberness and introspection. Rebbe Nachman argued that joy could elevate a person’s spiritual state, enabling them to connect more deeply with God and overcome spiritual and emotional obstacles. This teaching had a profound impact on Hasidic thought and practice, encouraging followers to find happiness in their spiritual lives and everyday activities.

Hitbodedut: Personal Prayer and Meditation

Rebbe Nachman introduced “hitbodedut,” a form of personal prayer and meditation that involves speaking to God in one’s own words, as if conversing with a close friend. This practice was innovative because it democratized spiritual experience, suggesting that personal, unstructured communication with the Divine was not only for the spiritually elite but accessible to everyone, regardless of their level of religious learning or innate spiritual sensitivity. This approach to prayer has become a cornerstone of Breslov Hasidism and has influenced broader Jewish prayer practices.

The Tzaddik: A Bridge to God

Rebbe Nachman placed a strong emphasis on the role of the tzaddik, or righteous person, as a spiritual guide and intercessor between his followers and God. While the concept of the tzaddik was not new to Hasidism, Rebbe Nachman’s portrayal of this figure was unique. He saw the tzaddik as someone who could elevate the prayers and spiritual state of the followers, connecting them directly to the Divine. This idea reinforced the importance of personal connection to a spiritual leader in Hasidic Judaism and highlighted the tzaddik’s role in guiding and supporting followers on their spiritual journey.

The Stories: A Mystical Method of Teaching

Rebbe Nachman was also a master storyteller, and his tales are considered among the most innovative aspects of his teachings. These stories, rich in symbolism and hidden meanings, were designed to awaken the mind and soul, offering deep insights into the human condition and the nature of the Divine. Through these narratives, Rebbe Nachman communicated complex Kabbalistic concepts in an accessible and engaging way, making profound spiritual teachings available to all, regardless of their level of education or understanding.

Focus on Personal Struggle and Spiritual Growth

Rebbe Nachman’s teachings often focused on the personal struggle between good and evil within each individual, emphasizing the importance of never losing hope or giving in to despair. He taught that each person could grow spiritually through their challenges, making every moment an opportunity for personal transformation and closeness to God. This perspective offered a path to spiritual resilience and inner strength, encouraging individuals to persist in their spiritual journey despite obstacles.

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov’s Tikkun HaKlali, often translated as the “General Remedy,” is a significant and innovative spiritual practice within his teachings. Introduced as a profound spiritual remedy for the soul, the Tikkun HaKlali consists of a specific sequence of ten Psalms (16, 32, 41, 42, 59, 77, 90, 105, 137, and 150) that Rebbe Nachman identified as having a unique, collective power to rectify and heal spiritual damage, particularly that caused by sins related to personal purity.

Learn more about the Tikkun HaKlali here at Kabbalah Empowerment.

Background and Purpose

Rebbe Nachman emphasized the concept of Tikkun, or rectification, throughout his teachings, asserting that every action, word, and thought has the potential to either elevate or detract from one’s spiritual state. The Tikkun HaKlali was presented as a universal spiritual tool, capable of addressing the root of the soul’s blemishes and facilitating its repair. The Rebbe’s focus on this set of Psalms underscores his belief in the power of Tehillim (Psalms) to affect spiritual healing and transformation.

The Selection of Psalms

The ten Psalms that comprise the Tikkun HaKlali were chosen by Rebbe Nachman based on their spiritual efficacy to counteract the negative effects of sin and to foster spiritual renewal and cleansing. Each Psalm was selected for its unique properties and its role in the collective healing process. Rebbe Nachman did not explicitly detail the specific reason for each Psalm’s inclusion, which has led to much commentary and interpretation by his followers and scholars of Hasidic thought. The sequence of these Psalms is considered to be of particular importance, with their recitation acting as a spiritual remedy for the soul.

The Practice and Its Significance

Rebbe Nachman encouraged the recitation of the Tikkun HaKlali under various circumstances, including as a regular spiritual practice, during times of personal challenge, or in seeking Divine assistance. He particularly emphasized its recitation for those seeking repentance and spiritual cleansing. The Tikkun HaKlali is also recited at the gravesite of Rebbe Nachman in Uman, Ukraine, where thousands of pilgrims gather annually on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, believing in the Rebbe’s promise of intercession for those who visit his grave and recite these Psalms.

Impact and Reception

The Tikkun HaKlali has become one of the most widely known and practiced teachings of Rebbe Nachman, transcending the boundaries of Breslov Hasidism to influence broader Jewish practice. Its simplicity, accessibility, and profound spiritual implications have made it a cornerstone of personal prayer and spiritual healing for many. The practice underscores Rebbe Nachman’s innovative approach to spiritual growth, emphasizing the power of personal prayer and the potential for renewal through repentance and recitation of sacred texts.

Find more about the practice of Hitbodedut here.


Rebbe Nachman of Breslov’s contributions to the world of Kabbalah and Jewish spirituality were profound and enduring. His innovative teachings on joy, personal prayer, the role of the tzaddik, the power of storytelling, and the importance of personal struggle and growth have left a lasting impact on Hasidic Judaism and beyond. By emphasizing direct, personal connection with the Divine, Rebbe Nachman made the profound depths of Kabbalistic thought accessible to all, offering a path to spiritual fulfillment and joy that continues to inspire followers around the world.

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