Friday, August 30, 2013


Bad Breslovers, Going to Uman

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

Every erev Rosh Hashana, some mainstream non-chassidic orthodox rabbi has to come out with a loud statement about the “problem” of Breslevers going to Uman, to the kever of their Rebbe, Rebbe Nachman of Breslev, for Rosh Hashana.

And every Rosh Hashana, the number of Jews (of all stripes) who travel to Uman and experience the ultimate Breslev Rosh Hashana and have the Rosh Hashana experience of their lives increases– in the past few years the numbers reaching near 50,000.  And though the conditions are far from perfect, those who go always speak about the profound experience and impact on their spiritual lives.

I don’t know what drives these rabbis to speak against Breslev and Uman.  The Breslevers certainly aren’t starting a new custom, they’ve been doing this for over 200 years already (though conditions have not allowed it in such numbers until the fall of the Soviet Union).  And many of the Jews going to Uman come back inspired and connected, which they could not otherwise say.

Here’s this year’s kvetch

… a well known but controversial Israeli Rabbi and lecturer came out strongly against the custom of going to Uman for Rosh Hashana, calling both the practices of needing an intermediary to approach Hashem and of flocking to the Ukraine for Rosh Hashana “a distortion of authentic Torah Judaism.”

The head of Jerusalem’s Machon Shilo blasted those who make the pilgrimage to the kever of the Breslover Rebbe, R’ Nachman, particularly on Rosh Hashana, saying that while the Torah does not command us to make the annual trip to the Ukraine, it does instruct Jews to live in Israel.  “Of all days you would think on Rosh Hashana a Jew would want to be, if he could be, in Eretz Yisroel.”

(The rabbi) suggested that claiming that Jews need to be in a location outside of Israel on Rosh Hashana is a concept that is foreign to Torah teaching and is akin to “adding a new mesorah to the Torah.”

Saying that the notion that the only proper way to approach Hashem is by connecting with a “super-tzaddik” such as Rebbe Nachman, the Lubavitcher Rebbe or any other holy individual “smacks of Christianity”, (the rabbi) cautioned that many are attracted to Breslov as a means of protecting themselves from the harsh realities of life.

“This kind of approach is essentially a religious and, as it were, sanctioned form of escapism,” said (the rabbi).  “But in fact it is not a sanctioned form of escapism. There is no such thing as sanctioned escapism.  Escapism is escapism.  Whether it is drugs or whether it is going to Uman, whether it is believing in a certain individual who died many years ago that he is the moshiach and insisting that this is the case.  No matter how many times you repeat such statements it doesn’t make it any more true.  No matter how many times a person goes to Uman it doesn’t make it any more correct.”’

…he expressed doubt that R’ Nachman, who frequently mentioned Israel in his writings, ever intended for his followers to leave Eretz Yisroel and travel to the Ukraine for Rosh Hashana.

“This is something quite ludicrous and flies in the face of everything the Torah teaches us,” observed (the rabbi).  Noting that many find themselves uplifted by the pilgrimage, (the rabbi) suggested that they look to a closer source for inspiration, the words of Dovid Hamelech, designed to foster a deeper connection with Hashem and an essential part of every tefilla.  “Rather than looking for some strange, foreign and very, very devious substitute, let us turn to the real McCoy, the true source of tefilla which begins with Sefer Tehillim.”

While chassidus and happy orthodox Jews may be foreign to this rabbi, practices of chassidus have over a 300 year history and Breslev over a 200 year history.  Strangely I don’t see him positioning himself outside of Belz or Gur (two very large chassidic groups in Israel nearby that he could complain about – if he wants to complain about praying on Rosh Hashana with a Rebbe).

Regardless, here are the words of the LUBAVITCHER Rebbe about going to a Rebbe…

Question to the Rebbe: When a man leaves his home on Yom Tov to visit his Rebbe, the home lacks the holiday spirit, why should a Chassid leave his home to visit his Rebbe?

Answer from the Rebbe: If it is satisfactory for a woman to permit her husband to leave the home for 6 or 7 hours to attend his business in order to earn a living and support his family with its physical needs, I can’t see why should the spiritual life be different. Furthermore, the spiritual life is the main reason of creation. When a Chossid goes to his Rebbe, his reason of going is to receive his spiritual life and spiritual strength. This he also brings back home and thus betters the spiritual life of his wife and children. Therefore, if a man can attend to his business every day to receive his material strength, it should be satisfactory to receive his spiritual strength once a month etc. That is the basis of Chassidic custom to visit the Rebbe on Yom Tov which is the most proper time to receive the necessary needs and strength to carry on his spiritual life.

I will not be going to Uman for Rosh Hashana, I am not a Breslever.  But I respect them going to their Rebbe, and the awesome impact they have on a wide range of Jews who join them in doing so. 

There are many paths for connecting to Hashem.  The Breslev path and going to Uman works for many, and that means more happy spiritual connected Jews – which is good for all of Klal Yisroel.

Uman Uman Rosh Hashana!


  1. Great words from the Rabbi ! I think the guys which are criticizing sharply the jews travelling to Uman for Rosh Hashana would travel with no hesitation for a tourist trip outside Israel... You see ? Uman Rosh Hashana: chas veshalom, but a trip to Venice or Paris, of course yes...

  2. There is no machon shilo... It is virtual... A POB and atar on internet... BarChian got a big inheratance and sits with a computer all day and attacks jews that do not eat legumes...

  3. I have to say that I do agree with the position that Jews should not be traveling to a distant land to visit the grave of a dead Rebbe nor should Jews give so much power to an external source- a Rebbe, whether he be alive or not. It smacks of avodah zara and while there are men of notable kedusha, a true Rebbe would not set himself up above his chasidim rather he would enable each person to discover the rebbe within themselves. Once a person finds the truth and kedushah within then they will cease to look for an external source and become elevated from a state of mochin d'katnut to the state of mocchin d'gadlut.

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  5. One wonders about the spiritual level of Jews who attack the character and credibility of a rabbi publicly over a difference of opinion. Especially at this time of year.

    Regardless of personal feelings on the matter, it is well known that the halachah allows only three reasons for leaving Eretz Hakodesh: 1) to find a mate, 2) to learn Torah, 3) to make parnassah.

  6. Got back from Uman last week. It was inspirational (and even gave me the tools to work on taking the inspiration and keeping it alive even in spite of diffuculties).

    It is an amazing experience!


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