It’s that time of year again when everyone seems to be rushing to buy plane tickets to celebrate Rosh HaShanah at Rebbe Nachman’s holy gravesite in Uman.
To tell you the truth, it isn’t for me. Not that I’m against it. If people want to leave Eretz Yisrael to spend Rosh HaShanah in Russia alongside their Rebbe, that’s their business. Live and let live, I say. They are all sincere people, seeking to get closer to G-d. More power to them. Some of my sons have gone on this special spiritual excursion. But for me, after taking so long to reach Eretz Yisrael, I just can’t seem to drag myself away from the Holy Land for Rosh HaShanah.
Before my parents came on aliyah, I would go down to America to visit them. But after they were living in Israel, I no longer had a reason, or any desire, to leave the Holy Land to visit America. I mean, I go to the bathroom when I have to, but it isn’t a place I go to hang out.
The bathroom isn't a place to hang out.
That holds true for the Diaspora in general. In contrast, the holy gravesites of holy tzaddikim possess a unique holiness, even those outside of Eretz Yisrael. But just the thought of having to leave Israel and go through all kinds of impurity to get there, makes the voyage too traumatic for me.
Concerning Rebbe Nachman of Breslov himself, I love his teachings. When I started out on my path to t’shuva, his writings were a great inspiration to me. They are even now. My copy of “Likutei Etzot,” (known as “Advice” in English) is filled through and through with my fervent under-linings. No one is better than Rebbe Nachman at cutting through all the smokescreens and illusions of the material world and leading a seeker directly to G-d. But I’m the type of person who has an eclectic nature, and I believe in taking the best from everyone, so in addition to all of Rebbe Nachman’s writings, my library is also filled with the books of other masters of Jewish thought and learning. As they say, there are 70 panim to the Torah.
Regarding the halacha, according to Jewish law, it is forbidden in all generations to leave Eretz Yisrael, except to learn Torah, marry, rescue Jews or Jewish property from the gentiles, or do business, and then one must return to Israel, for dwelling outside the Land is forbidden (Mishna Torah, Rambam, Laws of Kings and Their Wars, Ch9). It is also permissible to temporarily visit family in the Diaspora, or to attend to some other mitzvah. It is also permitted to leave Israel to visit the holy gravesides of holy Tzaddikim as part of one’s religious devotions. Seeking medical treatment in the Diaspora is also allowed, and there are halachic authorities who allow visits outside the Land for reasons of mental health, where a change of scenery and rest is needed. But a mere fun excursion to the Diaspora is forbidden, as the verse of Tehillim implies, “How can I sing the L-rd’s song in a foreign land?” (Tehillim, 126)
So, anyway, I’ll be celebrating Rosh Hashanah once again this year in Jerusalem, thank G-d. Rebbe Nachman himself was full of praise and yearning for Eretz Yisrael. He writes that a Jew’s service of G-d can only be complete in the Land of Israel, and that everywhere he went, he was on the way to Eretz Yisrael. In fact, his teachings about Rosh Hashanah explain that the essence of the holiday is completely immersed and dependent upon in the special treasures of the Holy Land. This is because on Rosh Hashanah, we declare G-d’s Kingship (Malchut) over our lives, and over the world, and Eretz Yisrael embodies the concept of Malchut, where G-d’s Kingship is most gloriously manifested. Nothing more fervently expresses the acceptance of G-d’s Kinship over oneself than living in Eretz Yisrael, the Land where G-d’s eyes rest upon from the beginning of the year (Rosh Hashanah) to the end.
Here are a few samples of Rebbe Nachman’s teaching:
“The principle element of a Jew’s holiness is that he merit to rise higher and higher in the service of G-d, and this comes from the holiness of Eretz Yisrael. And the principle victory in the battle that must be fought and won in this world is to come to Eretz Yisrael. And all this is the essence of our Divine worship from Rosh Hashanah unto Shimini Atzeret, everything is to reveal the holiness of Eretz Yisrael, in order that we might merit to come speedily to Eretz Yisrael. And this is the essence of the establishment of Malchut that we are engaged in at this time, as explained in the writings of the Arizal, because the principle building of Malchut is to reveal the Kingship of G-d to everyone in the world, which we fervently pray for during these days, and the principle revelation of G-d’s Kingship is in the Land of Israel. Thus, the essence of Israel’s holiness is revealed on Rosh Hashanah, as it is written in the Torah, ‘The eyes of the L-rd your G-d are constantly upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end’” (See Likutei Etzot HaMishulash, Vol.4, pg. 238; also, Halachot, Seudah, 4:1-1).
“The entire essence of the blessings of Malchiot, Zichronot, and Shofarot on Rosh Hashanah, everything is to reveal the holiness of Eretz Yisrael. For this is the central place of the ingathering of the exiles, through the blast of the shofar, as it says, ‘On this day, a shofar will be blown.’ For all of our Divine service on Rosh Hashanah is to reveal the holiness of Eretz Yisrael and to merit to return speedily to our Land” (Ibid, 5-7).
Come Rosh Hashanah, the followers of Rebbe Nachman may be in Uman at his gravesite, but Rebbe Nachman himself is here in Eretz Yisrael.
(More of Rebbe Nachman's writings on the Daws of Awe and his famous Tikun HaKlali can be found at jewishsexuality.com)