Corporal punishment
Corporal punishmentiStock

A letter has come to light in recent days written by Rabbi Avraham ben Nachman of Tulchin, the main disciple of Rabbi Natan of Breslov, known as the Moharanat, who continued Rebbe Nachman of Breslov's path and disseminated his central teachings.

In the letter, Rabbi Avraham mentions the opinion of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov regarding corporal punishment and his concern for children's safety. The letter, valued at thousands of dollars, will be put up for auction after Passover at a Jerusalem auction house.

The letter deals with hitting children in the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, and quotes a rumor he heard from his father Rabbi Nachman of Tulchin, who heard from Rabbi Natan of Breslov in the name of the Rebbe: "I heard from my father that he heard from Rebbe Natan that Rebbe Nachman was very against hitting children because it's dangerous, and then rhetorically asked in wonder, 'A child they hit??'" Later on, he quotes Rebbe Nachman's words based on the Gemara's statement that a child should only be spanked with a shoe strap as that is not dangerous.

Child beating was considered common and widespread throughout the world until the end of the 19th century. The first law against beating children in schools was enacted in Britain only in 1987. Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, who lived in the 18th century, evinced a rare and progressive view in light of the fact that he criticized the act of beating a child and expressed an opinion that he had reservations about the practice.

Rabbi Avraham HaLevi Hazan (1889-1989) was one of the greatest leaders of the Breslov Hasidism abroad and in Jerusalem, and author of many books on Breslov. He was the son of Rabbi Nachman of Tulchin, the main student of Rabbi Natan of Breslov. In 1894, he immigrated to Jerusalem, but traveled to Uman in the Ukraine during World War I where he died and was buried.

Rabbi Avraham was one of Breslov's transcribers. His books are among the important sources in Breslov's oral tradition, and in his writings he brings many of his father's words. The famous "Scroll of Secrets" of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, which Rabbi Avraham received from his father Rabbi Nachman of Tulchin was passed on by him to his disciple Rabbi Yitzchak from Uman.

Meron Eran, one of the owners of the Kedem auction house, notes that "this is a rare historical item of extraordinary value that has come to our attention, the unequivocal approach of Rebbe Nachman Breslov as reflected in the text illuminates the historical Jewish view on the issue of hitting children for their education. Today, beating is of course considered illegitimate, but in the past it was considered very legitimate, and Rebbe Nachman's statement on the matter is fascinating."