Emunah Based on the Teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Posts tagged ‘Uman’

Why We Travel to Tzaddikim for Rosh Hashanah

By HaRav Shmuel Moshe Kramer, Shlit”a – Rosh Hashana 5770

We have no idea what the actual secret of the power of the Rebbe’s Tziyun is. It is something beyond our imagination. But there are a few thoughts which we can understand from the general picture which arises from the words of the Rebbe and R’ Nosson.

The Rebbe wanted to be buried specifically in Uman, between the martyrs of the Uman massacre. He receives strength that from this, and it gives him the ability to then lower himself to the lowest places, to where the worst people in the world have fallen, in order to take them out.

The Rebbe discussed this idea on the last Rosh Hashanah before he passed away, in the discourse recorded in Likutei Moharan II #8, entitled “Tiku- Rebuke”. This lesson is viewed as a sort of will that the Rebbe left us, instructions how we should conduct ourselves after he passes on.

In that lesson the Rebbe explains at length the obligation to come to him for Rosh Hashanah. He discusses how the Tzaddik must sometimes pray with an aspect of “din”, harshness. “Din”, judgment, is the underlying theme of Rosh Hashanah, it being the day the entire world is judged. The Rebbe explains that the Sitra Achara is always trying to swallow up the kedushah of Klal Yisroel, by preventing us from Avodas Hashem and doing Mitzvos properly. Throughout Rosh Hashanah, when the Tzaddik prays with the aspect of din-harshness, he is able to go into the Sitra Achara, into its neck, and to force it to vomit out all the holiness which it has swallowed up.

We can now understand, albeit from afar, what the Rebbe meant when he said, “My thing is Rosh Hashanah.” We know that the Rebbe’s main dealing was with Tikkun, rectifying souls. And we can understand a little why the Rebbe wanted to lie there; in order to pull souls out of the Sitra Achara.

The Significance of Having Many People Participate in the Kibbutz

In the aforementioned Rosh Hashanah lesson, the Rebbe also speaks about the concept of the connecting of souls who come to participate in the Tzaddik’s Kibbutz, in light of an idea discussed in the early Kabalistic classic, Sefer Yetzirah.

When putting together letters in order to form a word, every new letter added to the mix multiplies the possible combinations by incredible amounts. For example, with two letters, there are two possible combinations, i.e. AB and BA. When we would add just one more letter, we already have six possibilities, ABC, ACB, BAC, BCA, CAB, and CBA.

With a fourth letter, the potential combinations are multiplied by four to 24. With five letters, we have 120. By the time you reach 13, you already have 6,227,020,800 combinations. By 17 you have over 355 trillion!

The Rebbe explains that every individual in the Kibbutz is like a letter in a word, which the Sefer Yetzirah calls stones which build a house. All of the participants of the Kibbutz together have the potential to form words, to build buildings. The amount of word-buildings which they can build is dependent upon how many people have joined in the Kibbutz.

As we have just explained, the more people band together, the greater their potential. But if G-d forbid, the letters would not join together, the potential number of combinations is severely diminished. The same way the addition of just one letter-stone can sometimes increase the possibilities by the trillions; the subtraction of just one can decrease it the same way. If a ten-letter word would be split into two five letter words, the amount of combinations is barely a fraction (  ) of what it was before, and who can imagine bigger numbers being split.

All this teaches us an invaluable lesson, about the harmony and unity which Breslover Chassidim must feel between each other, at all times, and especially by the Kibbutz. Every one of us is another stone, and every individual who joins increases the potential of the others amazing amounts. We must therefore be extremely careful to preserve the unity between all the participants and to feel the camaraderie between all of us.

In fact, this is what we have seen by Breslover Chassidim throughout the generations. With this in mind, they had a special Avodah of trying to bring more people to the Tziyun for Rosh Hashanah. The Rebbe himself remarked before his last Rosh Hashanah, that he misses the presence of Reb Ahron, the Rav of Breslov, as well as Bereleh, a simple Chassid who couldn’t make it for Rosh Hashanah. It would seem that the Rebbe had some Tikkun which he has wished to accomplish, but was unable to because just these two were absent.

The same thing is in every generation. These Tikkunim take place every year. Not only that, they become greater and greater from year to year.

From the Weekly Class in Likutei Moharan by R’ Moshe Kramer

The Rebbe teaches in Likutei Moharan I #211, “The reason behind traveling to Tzaddikim for Rosh Hashanah is because the main way to sweeten judgment is through the holiness and purity of thought, which is their source. This is brought in the Zohar, “Everything is purified through thought”. It is impossible to come to a pure mind without attachment to Tzaddikim as we find written, “And Moshe took the bones of Yosef.” Moshe is the aspect of the mind and Yosef is the aspect of Tzaddik. This means to say that there is no way to perfect the mind without attachment to the Tzaddikim. Rosh Hashanah is the source of all the judgments for the whole year and we must then purify the mind in order to sweeten them. For this reason we travel to Tzaddikim, in order to merit holiness of thought.”

The Rebbe explains that the key method for mitigating and sweetening the judgment for the coming year is through properly watching over our thoughts and keeping them pure and holy. What is the reasoning behind this? The cause of all dinim, harsh decrees, are sparks of holiness which have been trapped by the forces of “din”. When we want to rectify them, we must lift them back up to their origin, in the world of “thought”. There, the good, holy part is separated from the dinim and are elevated. Of course, these concepts are very deep Kabalistic ideas, but this is a simple explanation of what the Zohar means, that everything is separated in the mind.

This is what the Rebbe is teaching us regarding our practical obligation. Every one of us has the ability to mitigate stern and harsh decrees, by watching our thoughts and keeping them pure. The holy books all speak about how each person is a world unto himself, and by the way he conducts himself down here in this world, he influences the supernal worlds which he is intrinsically connected to. Chazal allude to this when they exhort us, “Know what is above you”, meaning know how you are affecting the worlds above you. Tzaddikim explain that this is what is meant by, “Man is created in the image of G-d”, that we all have G-d-like capabilities to influence the higher worlds. So when a person is careful with his thoughts, he causes the separation of the holy and good from the dinim to take place in the supernal world of “thought”, and thereby mitigating the harshness.

This is particularly done on Rosh Hashanah, which, in the dimension of time, the Rebbe teaches in Likutei Moharan I #61 is the source of dinim for the whole year. This day is unique, that the dinim attempt to take hold of it more than any other day of the year, and we must sweeten them. Therefore we must be extra careful to watch our minds on Rosh Hashanah, much more than the whole year.

The Rebbe discusses this also in Sichos HaRan, #21, that on Rosh Hashanah, it’s important to be smart and think only positive thoughts, how Hashem will be good to us throughout the coming year. This concept is mentioned in Shulchan Aruch as the reason why we wear festive clothing on Rosh Hashanah even though there is a fear of the impending judgment. When fulfill our obligations, of the special prayers of the day and the blowing of the Shofar, Hashem takes care of His part, to seal us in for a year of good life, and we don’t need to think about it or worry at all. Quite the opposite, we are commanded to rejoice, with awe, through positive thoughts, that everything will undoubtedly be good.

Besides this, the Rebbe in the Likutei Moharan which we are discussing speaks about the purity and holiness of the mind, which is a subject unto itself, as the Rebbe explains that purity of thought can only be achieved through holy power of the Tzaddikim, the mind of the Tzaddik.

We in particular need wholesomeness of thought on Rosh Hashanah, the time when we are being judged for the entire coming year. For certain, we need to come onto the aspect of judgment, for without it the world wouldn’t be able to exist. We must therefore cleanse and purify our minds, so that we can be vindicated by the judgment. This means that the decrees should be sweetened through everyone purifying his thoughts.

This is why we spend the entire day praying, as the Shulchan Aruch advises, that besides the set time for davening, everybody by himself should try saying Tehillim, etc., that the point of all this is in order to keep our minds focused on holiness, Torah, prayer, etc., which is the whole point of Rosh Hashanah.

In order to merit a clear mind, we must have special divine assistance. The Rebbe says that we must travel to Tzaddikim in order to achieve this holiness of thought. This is one of the reasons which the Rebbe revealed to us why we should come to him for Rosh Hashanah. We understand from his words, that although it’s possible to be attached to the Tzaddik wherever you are, it’s still something else to travel to the Tzaddik to be by him.

We must draw attention to the Rebbe’s explanation of this idea onto the verse, “And Moshe took the bones of Yosef…” that in order to merit the aspect of “Moshe”, clarity of mind, we must attach ourselves to “Yosef”vthe Tzaddik. The Tcheriner Rav points out that the verse is talking about the bones of Yosef. This alludes to the Rebbe’s will that we come to him even after he has passed away.

R’ Avrohom b’Rav Nachman in his book, Kochvey Ohr, explains that the same way our first redemption, from Egypt, was through the bones of Yosef, so too the complete and final redemption will be in the merit of us going to the resting of place of the Tzaddik. The fact that so many people merit to go is part of the beginning of the redemption.

This is especially true about Rosh Hashanah. Reb Nosson once said, that every trip of each one of us for Rosh Hashanah, will have a portion in the final redemption, may it be speedily in our days, Amen.

“Whoever believes in me, should come to me for Rosh Hashanah”

A talk given in preparation for the journey to Uman for Rosh Hashanah

By HaRav Nosson Liebermensh, Shlit”a – Rosh Hashana 5770

In the Midrash Rabbah on Parshas Chukas, the sages discuss the mitzvah of Parah Adumah, which the Torah refers to as a “chok” – a law without explanation. They explain that “The Satan and the nations of the world agitate Klal Yisroel by asking, ‘What’s this mitzvah all about? What rationale is behind it?’ The Torah therefore calls it a ‘chok’, as if to say, I have decreed this mitzvah, and you don’t have permission to wonder about it.”

This Midrash needs clarification. Don’t we perform all the mitzvos only because Hashem so decreed? If that’s the case, what’s the novelty of the mitzvah of Parah Adumah relative to all the other mitzvos in the Torah?

It would appear than the explanation is as follows:  all the other mitzvos have at least an amount of reason and understanding which we are capable of grasping. The reasoning behind Parah Adumah, however, is totally hidden from us, and no human mind can grasp its meaning.

The nations of the world therefore harass and pain Klal Yisroel with their words, “what is this burning of the Parah and grinding of its ashes and spraying the water etc.” But we know that the answer is that Hashem has decreed it and we have no permission to wonder about it.

But it’s the Parah Adumah – about which we have no understanding – that has the ability to cleanse the most severe form of impurity, Tumaas Mes, defilement from a corpse. The only way to be purified from it is with the ashes of the Parah.

We find a similar concept in regard to the Rebbe’s Rosh Hashanah. While in the Rebbe’s general advice, although their key effectiveness comes from our faith in each of them, at the same time we see that the Rebbe presented them together with a variety of reasons and explanations, by which someone who needs them explained can be satisfied and convinced of their truth. We are actually expected to look deeply into them and to understand them. Even though, of course we must remember that with all of our understanding, however great it may be, it’s nothing in comparison to their true greatness, as the Rebbe truly grasped them.

The exception to the rule is the Rebbe’s Rosh Hashanah. It’s akin to the mitzvah of Parah Adumah. It’s as if the Rebbe also said, “I have decreed a chok, and you have no permission to ponder it.” Concerning his Rosh Hashanah, the Rebbe didn’t give any reason or explanations as he usually does. Even those lessons in Likutei Moharan where the Rebbe discusses the greatness of spending Rosh Hashanah by the Tzaddik, are lofty ideas, far from our understanding.

An expression of this idea is that we don’t find that concerning any other advice which the Rebbe gives.  An expression such as, “all who believe in me and heed my call should come to me for Rosh Hashanah.” When trying to convince somebody of an idea in a way that it should take hold of him, we don’t employ faith and belief. We try to explain the thought every possible way. But when it comes to Rosh Hashanah, the Rebbe uses this unique expression, “Whoever believes in me.” This is because we have no idea what the Rebbe’s Rosh Hashanah is. Everything depends on what the Rebbe said, “If you believe in me- come to me for Rosh Hashanah…”

In this context, we find Reb Nosson in Likutei Halachos discussing the well-known Zohar that no Teshuvah helps with the blemishing of the Holy Covenant (Pgam Habris) for which the Rebbe insisted that Teshuvah does in fact help and that no one understands that Zohar besides him. Reb Nosson explains how the rectification of that blemish, and the true repentance for the sin, is through believing in Tzaddikim. He explains this in light of Likutei Moharan 29, that all the 365 spiritual “tendons” in a person correspond to the 365 negative commandments in the Torah, and when someone does a specific sin, he causes a blemish in the tendons which corresponds to it.

Concerning this, the Rebbe says that we must always try to purify ourselves by drawing purity and “whiteness” from our minds to our “tendons”. But what should somebody who has blemished his mind through Pgam Habris do?

Reb Nosson explains that the only solution is to nullify his mind to the mind of the Tzaddik. Then the Tzaddik can give him “whiteness” from his own mind in order to purify him from all his blemishes.

In this light, we can understand the following Midrash: “Said R’ Yehoshuah D’Sachnin in the name of R’ Levi: Concerning everything which the Holy One, Blessed be He, told Moshe, he explained to him its impurity and its purification. When they reached the portion of the Kohanim being defiled by a corpse, Moshe asked, ‘Master of the World, if one is defiled is such a way, how will he be purified?’ and He did not answer him… When they reached the portion about Parah Adumah, Hashem told him, ‘At the time I told you about Tumaas Mes, and you asked me what is its purification, this is its purification.’”

The Rebbe teaches in Likutei Moharan 2 that Pgam Habris is also referred to as Tumaas Mes.

Together with what we just saw from Reb Nosson, we can understand that this is what Hashem was telling Moshe. The rectification for Tumaas Mes, which is Pgam Habris, is through a “chok”. Putting aside the mind and nullifying oneself before the Tzaddik, through belief in him, is what purifies and renews the mind.

This is what is alluded to in the Midrash that Hashem told Moshe, “To you I am revealing the reason behind Parah Adumah, and for everyone else it’s a chok.” The explanation was given to Moshe, the true Tzaddik. The same way the Rebbe said that only he understands the aforementioned Zohar. For the mind of the Tzaddik is the Tikkun. But we must approach it as a Chok, by totally giving ourselves over to the Tzaddik.

Therefore, concerning all the obstacles and doubts which we all have, there seems to be a simple solution. Let us all imagine the Rebbe alive, living in Uman, and calling out to us, “Come to me for Rosh Hashanah!” People ask the question, there are people who would rather come a different time, and the Rebbe answers them all, “Whether you eat or not, whether you sleep or not, whether you daven or not, just be by me for Rosh Hashanah, there’s nothing greater than this.”

And then he adds, “The Tikkunim which I accomplish on Rosh Hashanah, I can’t do throughout the whole year.”

Everybody should think about how much he has sacrificed himself to get close to the Rebbe and to Breslov, and to all the advice which he has given. Here we are discussing an awesome thing, such an incredible Tikkun, incomparable to anything else, something which the Rebbe himself told us that there is nothing greater than it. Of course, it’s impossible to demand sacrifice from someone else, but at least let everybody know what we’re talking about. Maybe this will help people to try harder to overcome their obstacles.

Hashem should help us all draw upon ourselves the holiness of Rosh Hashanah, and alleviate all harshness for the coming year, for the entire world.

Uman: The Dog or the Lion?

By Harav Lazer Brody Shlit”a – Rosh Hashana 5770

Just as in the holy of holies in the Beit Hamikdash, travelers to Uman must be forewarned that one can encounter both proverbial dog and lion in Uman…

Our sages teach us that the Evil Inclination resides right in the heart of the holy of holies of the Beit Hamikdash, our holy Temple in Jerusalem, just as the good and evil inclinations reside side by side in a person’s heart. When a sacrifice was pleasing to Hashem, the image of a lion came down in a flame from Heaven that consumed the sacrifice on the altar. But, when a sacrifice was unworthy, the image of a dog would be come down in a similar pillar of fire, and its flames would lick the sacrifice. In other words, right there on the holiest place on earth, the epitome of holiness and its dark-side counterpart were side by side. The image of the lion and the image of the dog descended in similar pillars of fire that originated in the same place.

Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato, the “Ramchal” of saintly and blessed memory, explains that the above phenomenon is necessary to preserve free choice – wherever there is holiness, there is also an equal and opposite force of unholiness. Without equal forces, one would be coerced to do good or bad. Within the framework of coercion, then the concept of reward and punishment becomes meaningless.

Uman has the attributes of the holy of holies. From one standpoint, it was the site of one of the greatest sanctifications of Hashem’s name in history. In 1768, only four years before Rebbe Nachman was born, the evil Cossack leader Gonta and his henchman attacked the Jews of Uman. The Jews that weren’t slaughtered in the fierce hand-to-hand and house-to-house fighting were told that anyone who passed under a certain canopy in front of the church would be spared. But, in order to do so, one would have to prostrate oneself before the cross. Not a single man, woman, or child of Uman’s 33,000 Jews agreed to do so, despite the fact that parents were slaughtered in front of their children and children were brutally maimed in front of their parents, all becoming holy martyrs.

Uman is also an aspect of “holy of holies” in that it is the eternal resting place of Rebbe Nachman, who yearned to lie among the martyrs.

Just as in the holy of holies in the Beit Hamikdash, travelers to Uman must be forewarned that one can encounter both proverbial dog and lion in Uman.

We certainly want a “lion’s share” from all the expense, preplanning, and dedication that it takes to make the trip to the holy kibbutz (gathering) of Breslever Chassidim in Uman on Rosh Hashanna. Nobody wants their trip to go to the dogs. In a nutshell, a person must be on strong spiritual guard in Uman, guarding his time, his eyes, and his tongue. One who guards all three will certainly reap all the benefits that the holy pilgrimage to Uman has to offer, including a soul correction for oneself, one’s spouse, and one’s family. Let’s see how:

Guarding one’s time

Time flies in Uman. You never seem to have enough. One of the Yetzer’s (evil inclination’s) biggest ploys in Uman is to rob you of your time. The Yetzer tells you to have long conversations with people, and all of a sudden you either haven’t slept all night or else you’ve awoken late for prayer services.

Don’t get trapped in all the outdoor carnivals in the days and hours before Rosh Hashanna. Uman is not the place to do your duty-free shopping either, for the locals are just waiting to rip you off. If you want to bring home gifts, bring home books and CDs that you’ll find from all the major spiritual guides of Breslev in a tremendous and beautiful assortment. Don’t forget that while you’re roaming around outside, inside the Kloiz are back-to-back Torah lessons from Breslev’s leading rabbis, right there in one place! It’s Heaven on earth, great preparation for Rosh Hashanna praying, and like collecting diamonds off the sidewalk.

Rebbe Nachman said that our Rosh Hashanna eve is like other people’s Rosh Hashanna. Why? Uman is a teshuva factory. But, to be part of the unbelievable personal prayers and teshuva that takes place by Rebbe Nachman’s gravesite on Erev Rosh Hashanna, you must be there praying, saying Psalms, speaking to Hashem, and actively doing teshuva. You can’t be out on the street talking to your buddies from Miami.

Each minute in Uman is therefore a diamond that must be guarded carefully.

Guarding one’s eyes

Even in the short walk from your lodging to the mikva, the Kloiz, or the tziyun (gravesite), if you open your eyes, there will be an abundant assortment of forbidden images that get right in your face. Once again, wherever the lion is, the dog is right there too.

The best way to guard one’s eyes is to stay in the confines of the tziyun, Kloiz, and immediate areas and avoid the locals and their part of town like you’d avoid a plague.

Guarding one’s speech

The Yetzer tries his best to stir up dissension among people in Uman. The rule of thumb is to use your speech for holiness. Don’t get drawn into aimless discussions, and beware of people who try and lure you into badmouthing other groups, rabbis, or people within Breslev. This is none other than the Yetzer trying to get you to say derogatory things about others, which will enable him to say derogatory things about you on Rosh Hashanna, G-d forbid. Whatever you do, guard your tongue and don’t fall into the Yetzer’s trap.

By devoting every spare moment to more prayers, more Torah study, more teshuva and more hitbodedut, your lion will defeat the dog and you’ll be inscribed in the Book of Life for a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year, amen!

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