Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Question & Answer With Rabbi Dovid Sears - Uman

(Picture by Motty Zeitlin)

A Simple Jew asks:

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov greatly stresses coming to him for Rosh Hashana. But what do you actually get out of the Uman trip?

Rabbi Dovid Sears answers:

First of all, Breslover Chassidim go to Uman because Rebbe Nachman told us to do so, plain and simple. However, there definitely are things we "actually get out of the Uman trip." And as in all things in Yiddishkeit, there are benefits we can see, and those we can't yet see -- and those we might never see at all.

Benefits # 1: I've experienced a lot of positive things in going to Uman (and inevitably a few negative things, like standing in line at customs in Kiev after the "red eye" flight).

Of course, there is the drama of the excursion itself, which can feel like one of those mythic, archetypal journeys in which the hero must overcome all sorts of obstacles, both outer and inner, to obtain the Golden Fleece. And there is the experience of standing beside Reb Nachman's tziyun (grave site) and doing hisbodedus: taking a long look at your life and talking about what you've been through and what you've done and where you're at and where you'd like to be in a spiritual sense. Plus saying the Tikkun HaKlali and remembering the Rebbe's promise to fix our spiritual damage and bring us to the ultimate goal, even if he has to pull us out of Gehenna by our peyos! Then there is the intense, bittersweet Rosh Hashanah davenning: beginning with the selichos of "Z'chor Bris" at around 3:00 AM on Erev Rosh Hashanah and continuing until the Shacharis Vaskin minyan a few hours later; and then that first "Borchu" of Maariv on the first night of Yom Tov, when our chaver, Reb Shlomo Fried, a"h, would always burst into tears; and there is the uniqely moving Breslover nusach and songs during Shacharis and Musaf (not to mention the thunderous roar of clapping hands at "HaMelekh!); and the Tashlich / symbolic casting away of sins beside the Uman reservoir, and the shiurim by various Breslover teachers prior to Maariv on the second night...

For many of us who live in chutz la'aretz, it is a special delight to see teachers and mashpiyim from Eretz Yisrael, as well as chaverim from around the world, whom we may not see the rest of the year. There are social aspects of the trip... and intellectual aspects such as the shiurim... inspired dancing... all sorts of emotions, which can't be described in words... and the biggest mystery of all: each visitor's sense of connection with the spirit of the Rebbe, especially here in Uman, on the "holy soil" he described as destined for him from the Six Days of Creation...

Benefits # 2: My friend Dovid Steinberg once told somebody, "You won't even begin to know what happened to you in Uman for six months!"

The Rebbe's tikkunim seem to work like those "timed-release" capsules they used to advertise when I was a kid (see Rebbe Nachman's Wisdom, 208). It actually took a number of years for me to realize how central spending Rosh Hashanah in Uman had become to my entire derekh ha-avodah for the entire year, and for my understanding of Rebbe Nachman's teachings overall.

We often don't recognize changes in our spiritual life, even as they are taking place. But one morning we wake up and realize, "Something has changed! I don't feel the same way I used to anymore!" We may have had a viewpoint or set of attitudes which were erroneous, and as a result of certain experiences, these viewpoints and attitudes yield to more truthful and positive ones. We may have been struggling with certain negative traits or inner obstacles, and suddenly notice that they are not as formidable as they once seemed to be.

Traveling to any tzaddik for Rosh Hashanah reflects a certain belief in his ability to intercede before the Divine Throne on behalf of his followers, and this is surely true of traveling to be with Rebbe Nachman. But there is much more to spending Rosh Hashanah in Uman than just this. The Rebbe also wants to open our eyes so that we can experience a little of what he experiences: the divine unity to which everything "ascends," and which at the same time illuminates and permeates all creation and all existence. This can happen at certain moments in davening, or while doing one's avodah at the Rebbe's tziyun, or even later, without warning. (Remember the "timed-release" capsule factor!)

Benefits # 3: The Rebbe describes the Rosh Hashanah kibbutz / gathering as a sort of collection of "houses" (batim), and he somehow builds grand structures as a result of our participation in the kibbutz. What are they? It seems that the Rebbe's buildings are cosmic tikkunim, which will ultimately affect all beings. We don't really know what these things are all about. We simply believe. Yet in the zekhus of such belief, we gain the eyes to see. Thus the Zohar speaks of emunah / faith, and of the Jewish people who wholeheartedly rely upon emunah, as a "beautiful maiden with no eyes." These are like the eyes of the Blind Beggar in Rebbe Nachman's awesome "Tale of the Seven Begggars," which gaze beyond all ordinary, worldly sights, being designated for another order of reality entirely.

In conclusion, I'd like to stress the importance of having the right mindset -- to know why we're going to Uman for Rosh Hashanah. Each of us must think this through, and devote some time in hisbodedus to it. Plus we need to do our homework in order to understand what the Rebbe's Rosh Hashanah is all about. We must read at least some of the related teachings in Likkutei Moharan and Likkutei Halakhos and contemplate them as deeply as possible. Lacking such preparation, one will be like the deaf man in the Baal Shem Tov's famous allegory, wondering what the musicians are so busy doing, and why the other guests are acting so strangely. With the help of Hashem, we should all "hear the music!"

Rabbi Micha Golshevsky adds:

Just two very small he'aros. First, it is important to mention that the effects are cumulative, both regarding how much time you spend at the Rebbe's tziyun saying Tehillim and davenning, as well as participating in the Rebbe's Rosh Hashanah in Uman from year to year. In a sense, twelve and twelve do not equal twenty four, and one and one don't equal two. There is a process in combining the numbers which the number on the other side of the equal sign doesn't do justice to. Kol shekain, that three years straight in Uman is much much more than a year here and a year there, even if the person attended three times.

I suspect that a lot of people go once or twice and feel like they have "been there, done that." Yet I'm sure they wouldn't think this way when comparing a person who learned one year in Eretz Yisrael, or in Yeshivah, with someone who learned ten years straight. The first got a taste, while the second is (hopefully, and at least potentially) a ben Torah.

Second, I think that it is important to mention the herculean effort necessary for one to overcome the side stuff (coffee room, shuk, shmoozing in the rooms, etc.) in order to spend as much time as possible by the tziyun supplicating Hashem. Many people spend too much time doing things that cause them to miss out on the tziyun, which is the most powerful spiritual emergency room-workshop there is, with the greatest spiritual professor-workman available! Every second at the tziyun -- especially during Rosh Hashanah -- is priceless!

6 Comments:

At November 7, 2008 at 1:18:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yasher Koach to Rabbi Sears for a great article. Many people ask why not go to Eretz Yisroel for Rosh Hashona; to the Meoras Hamachpela, Kever Rachel, one of the many kevarim of Tanaim and Amoraim, Rambam, etc.? The answer is quite simple. No one ever said "come to me for Rosh Hashona" except for Reb Nachman. This isn't a contest of who is a bigger tzadik, but different tzadikim had a special strength in different areas. Reb Nachman said "My whole essence is Rosh Hashona" and "I have a special gift from Heaven of understanding what Rosh Hashona is.

Rabbi Tzvi Aryeh Rosenfeld zt'l used to mention that it’s brought down that Rebbi Yehuda Hanassi, after he passed away, would come back to make kiddush for his family every Shabbos. It doesn't say this about anyone else; not Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov or Moshe Rabbeinu. Does this mean he was greater? No, but kiddush was something that he had a special attachment to for whatever reason. Avraham was the attribute of chesed, but it doesn’t say that by Yitzchak. Does this mean that Yitzchak didn’t also do chesed?

Similarly, Reb Nachman, for whatever reason, was given the special gift of Rosh Hashona. Therefore, he was so insistent on people coming to him for Rosh Hashona. Tzadikim don't say things if they can't deliver. One great tzadik once made a bold promise. His talmidim asked him how he could say such a thing. He answered that "a storekeeper doesn't hang up a sign if he doesn't have wares to sell". There were many great tzadikim among the Talmidei Baal Shem. Many are barely known; the teachings forgotten and no dynasty emerged. Who would have the nerve too say "my fire will burn till Moshiach comes"? Only one that could deliver. The proof is there for all to see, as the number of people traveling to Uman increases every year, and there are many more people learning Reb Nachman's teachings, including great talmidei chachmim that are not “Breslovers”.

The fire is definitely burning and getting bigger and bigger.

 
At October 5, 2009 at 2:24:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Deborah Shaya said...

1. Rav Nachman tz”l was NOT the Moshiach.

Those who erroneously believe him to be the Moshiach that Am Yisrael is waiting for today, are bordering on Christianity, and committing the grave sin of Avodah Zarah, Idolatry.

Idolatry is forbidden in the Torah, and is the Second of the Asseret Hadibrot.
Similarly in the case of Lubavitch/Chabad with Rabbi Schneersohn tz”l.

2. There should be NO MEDIATOR between a person’s tefillot and Hashem.

If a person chooses to use intercession instead of praying directly to Hashem, this is completely Assur.

If the Tzaddik advised people to pray TO him at the Bet HaChaim, he was wrong. And this must be corrected. Speedily.

TESHUVAH to Hashem should be done speedily instead. In the case of Breslov, those who go to Uman to pray directly to the Tzaddik to ask for his “intercession” should stop doing this. It is assur. They should be praying directly to Hakadosh Baruch Hu.

“Intercession” and “mediation” is against the Torah.

The Torah cannot be mixed with Avodah Zarah. This is twisting the Torah, and the Torah must remain straight.

 
At October 5, 2009 at 2:26:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Deborah Shaya said...

2a. There should be NO MEDIATOR between a person’s tefillot and Hashem.

Hashem likes to hear the prayers, tefillot, from our OWN mouths. Even if all we know is how to recite the first 3 letters of the Aleph Bet: Aleph, Bet, Gimmel... Our very own tefillot TO HASHEM, are much more precious than anything else.

By going to the Bet HaChaim (cemetery - incorrectly referred to as “the Ohel” by Lubavitch), and lighting a candle, praying, making a request, and then going home – such a person is “leaving it all to the tzaddik” who is not physically alive. You can’t leave it all “to him!”. This is completely Assur and forbidden.

We too, can be tzaddikim – and be like the tzaddik. The tzaddik has already made all his tefillot to Hashem in his lifetime. And these are very precious to Hashem. The tzaddik has now passed on.

Hashem is now waiting for US – to make our OWN tefillot to Him.

We pray to Hashem – at all times. If a person is insisting on praying to one of the creations of Hashem, instead of directly to the King Himself, Hashem will say to us, "You are meant to pray to ME!"

Remember that Hashem, our G-d, is a very "JEALOUS G-D" who demands "EXCLUSIVE WORSHIP." (2nd Commandment of the Asseret Hadibrot.)

What is your logic in going there?
The Ashkenazi tradition has encouraged people to do this, and it is very wrong. Teshuvah to Hashem must be done quickly.

3. The Jewish People is a “Holy People.” “Am Kadosh.”
We are referred to as being Hashem’s special “Treasure.” We are a “Holy Nation,” and so holy, that we are to emulate the Cohanim, who are of a much higher stature than the rest of the Jewish People. One day, we will all be on the level of a “Kingdom of Priests.”

Hashem has told us, “.…Ve’atem tiheyu li Mamlechet Kohanim ve’goi kadosh…” (Yitro, 19:5-6)
“…And you shall be to Me, a KINGDOM OF PRIESTS, and a HOLY NATION….”

The Benei Yisrael must follow the example of the true Cohanim. We should emulate the Cohanim in our daily lives. The Cohanim are not allowed to go into any cemetery (Jewish or not Jewish), as they cannot come into contact with ANY meitim whatsoever. We too, should emulate the Kohanim in our daily lives, and be pure like them.

We too, should not be coming into contact with meitim where we can help it.

Hashem has told us, “.…Ve’atem tiheyu li Mamlechet Kohanim ve’goi kadosh…” (Yitro, 19:5-6)
“…And you shall be to Me, a KINGDOM OF PRIESTS, and a HOLY NATION….”

A person’t tefillot, prayers, from the Kotel, or from his or her own house are truly delightful to Hashem. A person can also go to the Kotel to pray, and make the journey there, to pray to Hashem. Hashem’s Presence is always there.

 
At October 5, 2009 at 2:30:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Deborah Shaya said...

4. Why was the place of Moshe, the very greatest of all the Prophets, kept hidden from us? Precisely so that Moshe would c”v never be worshipped. So that people would never pray to Moshe, c”v, instead of directly to Hashem, themselves. The Torah states very clearly:

“…velo yada ish et kevurato ad hayom hazeh” (Vezot Haberacha 34:6) “…and no man knows the place that he was buried even to this day.”

If people are praying to a tzaddik, who is finite – and of far lesser stature than Moshe Rabeinu – instead of to Hashem – who is Infinite – that is avodah zarah.

If people wish to go to the Kivrei Tzaddikim to pray to Hashem from there, that is their choice. Far better, is to encourage people to go instead to the most holy place in the world – the Kotel. Hashem’s Presence is always there.

The Kotel is where people should be going to pray to Hashem. Not the Bet HaChaim.

5. If people want to pray to anyone else, and make requests of any being other than Hakadosh Baruch Hu, they might as well join Christianity.

When Moshe Rabeinu prayed, he prayed to Hashem. He did not pray to any Malachim or any celestial beings. These are all the creations of Hashem.

We are not allowed to pray to the creations of Hashem.

Similarly, with regard to the Selichot, and the Neilah prayer for Yom Kippur in the Ashkenazi tradition - they include direct Tefillot and requests to Malachim.

The Malachim are the creations of Hashem.

We are not allowed to pray to any Malachim.

This is completely assur and causes very great damage and harm. I emphasise that this is something very grave which needs to be rectified as well - speedily.

The Selichot and the Neilah Tefillah for Yom Kippur should be amended speedily to remove all prayers and requests to Malachim.

 
At October 5, 2009 at 2:31:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Deborah Shaya said...

6. With regard to Lubavitch:

If the leaders of Lubavitch encouraged people to use the “Igrot” - including Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, tz”l - they were wrong. Using the Igrot is using intercession. Similarly the practices of

(1) "reading out the Igrot request to a PICTURE of Rabbi Schneersohn tz"l" is direct Avodah Zarah. We are only allowed to pray to Hashem.
(2) sending faxes to the Bet HaChaim should be stopped immediately.
(3) Praying directly to the Tzaddik at the Bet HaChaim is wrong. It causes tremendous tsaar to the neshamah of the Tzaddik in Shamayim. We pray only to Hashem – directly ourselves. NO mediator is permitted.

These practices are abhorrent and against the Torah. They are assur and forbidden, and should all be stopped.
Teshuvah to Hashem must be done – speedily.
The whole of the Lubavitch organisation is currently all refusing to do Teshuvah. The Torah cannot be mixed with Avodah Zarah. This is twisting the Torah, and the Torah must remain straight.

7. The false argument used by Lubavitch to permit intercession on a person’s behalf, is the act of Calev ben Yefuneh praying at the Cave of Machpelah in Chevron. He prayed for success in his mission of “spying out” the Land, Eretz Yisrael.

No one can use this as a precedent for asking the Tzaddikim - and specifically, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn tz"l - who are no longer alive physically on earth, to pray on a person’s behalf. This causes them tremendous suffering in Shamayim.
This is twisting the Torah, and the Torah cannot ever be twisted.

The reason Calev’s act cannot be used as a precedent, is that NO ONE, can be compared to the supreme Kedusha of the Avot, of Avraham, Yitzchak ve’Yaakov Avinu.

We pray the Amidah 3 times a day, and we always recall the great merit of the Avot in the very first Beracha. What can be greater than that when we pray to Hashem?

This does need to be corrected very quickly, to be in line with the Torah.

 
At October 5, 2009 at 2:32:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Deborah Shaya said...

8. When people need help, why don’t Lubavitch teach people to look inside the Torah, which is Eternal and Infinite - instead of letters written to other people by Rabbi Schneersohn tz”l during his lifetime?

Why doesn't Lubavitch choose the very greatest of all prophets, Moshe Rabbeinu?

9. Moshe is the greatest of all prophets, and no other prophet was equal to him.

“Zichru Torat Moshe Avdi” we are told in Malachi (3:22)

There simply is no comparison between Moshe Rabbeinu and Rabbi Schneersohn tz”l, although Rabbi Schneersohn tz”l was a Tzaddik and a very righteous and good man.

Moshe Rabbeinu was the greatest of all prophets, and we do not even pray in the name of Moshe. Neither do we pray in the name of David Hamelech, whose descendent is the Mashiach.

However, in the very first Beracha of the Amidah, the silent prayer to Hashem containing our requests, we recall the merit of the Avot: “…..Elokei Avraham, Elokei Yitzhak Velokei Yaakov….” “….The G-d of Avraham, the G-d of Yitzhak and the G-d of Yaakov…”
The beracha is concluded with “Magen Avraham.

In summary:
(1) We pray to Hashem – at all times.

(2) There should be NO mediator between Hashem and a person’s tefillot – otherwise this is Assur.

Therefore the practice of using the “Igrot” for "requests" and "guidance" should be stopped. Similarly the practices of sending faxes to the Bet HaChaim, and praying to the tzaddik at the Bet HaChaim instead of directly to Hashem ourselves - should be stopped immediately. They are abhorrent and against the Torah.

The reason for this is that these practices use intercession. And the use of a “mediator” or someone to “intercede on a person’s behalf” to Hashem, is assur.
Teshuvah to Hashem must be done - very speedily.

 

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