Foreign Ministry Intervenes to Protect Rebbe Nachman's Tomb

Foreign Ministry officials visited Uman, Ukraine last week to inspect the handling of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov's tomb by Ukrainian authorities.

Ezra HaLevi ,

Old building on Rebbe Nachman's Tomb
Old building on Rebbe Nachman's Tomb

A delegation from Israel's Foreign Ministry visited the Ukrainian town of Uman last week in order to inspect the handling of the tomb of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov by the Ukrainian authorities.

Legal threats to the tomb of "Rebbe Nachman," as he is called by members of the Breslov Hassidic sect which he founded, seem to have subsided.

Deputy Director of the Foreign Ministry Pinchas Avivi reached an understanding with the Ukrainian President and the Mayor of Uman that free passage for Jewish worshippers to the grave will be preserved and that the grave will be granted the status of a Jewish holy site.

Rebbe Nachman's gravesite in Uman

The Ukrainians intend to establish in law that the site is a national heritage site of Ukraine, thereby protecting it from any private legal initiatives. It had been feared that following a legal battle with Member of Parliament Petro Kuzmenko, a court-ordered lien on the grave and surrounding synagogue would result in the site being closed or demolished.

That possibility seems now to have prevented by the Ukrainian government, however. Local businesses benefit greatly from the masses of Jewish pilgrims that visit the site to pray, especially on the Rosh HaShana holiday. The Ukrainian government also benefits from taxes and levies surrounding the pilgrimage.

The Israeli delegation prayed at the site for the freedom and safety of all of Israel’s kidnapped and missing soldiers. Taking part were local rabbis and pilgrims at the site.

Rebbe Nachman's gravesite draws increasingly more visitors each year because of the spread in popularity of his teachings. In addition, when Rebbe Nachman was on his deathbed in the year 1810, he proclaimed, "If someone comes to my grave, gives a coin to charity and says these ten Psalms (AKA the Tikkun Haklali), I will pull him out from the depths of Gehinnom [hell]. It makes no difference what he did until that day, but from that day on, he must take upon himself not to return to his foolish ways."

Moves to Bring Rabbi’s Remains to Israel
Over a month ago, members of the Committee to Bring Rebbe Nachman’s remains to Jerusalem called upon Ukrainian President Victor Yuschenko, during his visit to Israel, to allow the revered rabbi’s remains to be brought to Israel for reburial.

Members of the group dispatched letters to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, President Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Tzippi Livni, reminding them of various commitments made in the past to work to bring Rabbi Nachman on “Aliyah [to Israel]”

In the letter to Foreign Minister Livni, a promise by the President of Ukraine in 1992 to then-President Chaim Herzog was recalled, according to which Ukraine would allow the rabbi’s remains to be brought to Israel.

Prime Minister Olmert was reminded of a letter he wrote the group in 2001, while Mayor of Jerusalem, in which he promised: “If I ever have the opportunity to bring this matter to the attention of those who are influential in the affair, on the national and international realm, be assured that I will do so.”

In the meantime, the threats to the gravesite in Ukraine seem to have subsided and the debate within the Breslov hassidic community continues as to whether or not to bring ‘Rebbe Nachman’ from Uman to Jerusalem.