Dreaming of Moshiach

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Rebbe's Rosh HaShanah

Guest post by Reb David Samuels Shlita

Rebbe Nachman's, zs'kl, Rosh HaShanah starts long before the first of Tishri. The Rebbe himself said that as soon as one Rosh HaShanah is over, he already started waiting for next year's (Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom #215).

But for most people, serious practical preparations start in the early summer. The first thing almost everyone has to confront is obstacles of one kind or another, whether from within themselves or from the world outside. This has been true from Rebbe Nachman's time until today. Reb Noson wrote: "We learned how determined we have to be to break the obstacles that stand in the way of any holy action, especially the barriers against being with the Rebbe for Rosh HaShanah" (Tzaddik #406). It seems that the only way to receive the unique spiritual uplift that comes from being in Uman for Rosh HaShanah is through first having had to fight for it a bit.

This applies even to those who have already had a taste of an Uman Rosh HaShanah and who normally find it hard to imagine ever going anywhere else - how much more does it apply to those who are contemplating going for the first time. Today the trip to Uman ought to be almost as easy as booking your tickets and packing a suitcase. Even so, while the collapse of the Soviet Union eliminated many of the obstacles that existed, others cropped up.

Few people are in the happy position of not having to wonder how to finance such a trip. One of the first things to do is to pray for the necessary funds... and then start saving! The Breslover Chassidim of old used to put aside a special savings box at the beginning of the year and add at least a few coins every so often. For those whose yearning to go is very strong, the necessary funds often have a way of appearing at the very moment when things seem most hopeless. Rebbe Nachman explicitly stated: "I have already made it my business to take care of the expenses of those who come to me for Rosh HaShanah" (Siach Sarfei Kodesh 1-27). Many today can testify to this as an actuality!

Another obstacle most people come up against is their sense of responsibility to their families, community and the like. Understandably, wives have always had great difficulties with the idea of being left at home with the children on this holiday. Yet it is important to point out that the husband, as in many other realms of Jewish life, is considered the family's representative - in the long term, the benefits from the trip to Uman are enjoyed by the rest of the family as well. As for the short term, Reb Noson once remarked: "It is one of God's miracles that Yom Kippur comes right after Rosh HaShanah. This way, the members of the family have to forgive each other!" (Rabbi Eliyahu Chaim Rosen; Siach Sarfei Kodesh 1-665).

Some people feel torn about the idea of leaving Israel in order to travel to Ukraine for Rosh HaShanah. From America, England, France or any of the other places in the Diaspora where there are Breslover Chassidim, this might seem logical enough. But to leave the Holy Land? Yet Rebbe Nachman taught that the holiness of the graves of the Tzaddikim is in the same category as the holiness of the Land of Israel (Likutey Moharan II, 109). Thus, "those who travel (from Israel ) to the graves of Tzaddikim are actually traveling from the Holy Land... to the Holy Land !" (Rabbi Shmuel Shapiro).

Even after dealing with all the other issues, there may well still be a nagging voice inside that keeps saying, "I can only get a good night's sleep in my own bed... I won't be able to eat the kind of food I'm used to... the davening will be so crowded... wouldn't it be just as good to stay at home? Surely my kavanah in davening will be much better - I won't have the distractions of an unfamiliar place!" These were exactly the points one of his followers put to Rebbe Nachman, saying he much preferred being with him when things were quieter. The Rebbe responded: "Whether you eat or don't eat; whether you sleep or don't sleep; whether you concentrate on your prayers or you don't concentrate properly... just make sure you are with me for Rosh HaShanah." Reb Noson adds: "All the distractions the man mentioned were purely imaginary. They were the promptings of the evil inclination - because thank God it was perfectly evident that in the main people prayed with deeper concentration among the assembled chassidim on Rosh HaShanah than they would have done if they had prayed in their own home towns" (Tzaddik #404).

Every effort and sacrifice, large or small, that we make in our journey to the Tzaddik is precious. Two of Rebbe Nachman's closest followers, Reb Yudel and Reb Shmuel Isaac, used to travel long distances to get from their homes to the Rebbe. At one point they wanted to move to the same region so as to be close to him all the time, and so they did. The Rebbe then told them he greatly missed their journeys to him. With every single step they would take on their way an angel was created. They said, "But what about all our efforts and running before we finally hired the coach to bring us?" "They are also included," replied the Rebbe. "Every one of those steps also creates an angel." Just before his last Rosh HaShanah in Uman, the Rebbe spoke about this again and said: "Oh to have the merit to see the clear, radiant light of the roads you travel to be with me" (Tzaddik #291).




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