Thursday, August 8, 2013

Why Uman, When The Traditional Biblical Place for Prayer is Here in Shiloh?

My family isn't taking a plane to Uman for Rosh Hashanah or any other time.  In recent years I know of many, many Israeli men of all ages and backgrounds who leave their families davka for the Jewish Holidays. I also know of quite a few women who have gone there at other times.
Every year, thousands of men (in 2007, over 40,000!) leave their families and travel to Rebbe Nachman's gravesite in Uman, a military city located in the Ukraine, to spend Rosh Hashana with "the Rebbe."

We pray much closer to home.  I go with friends, just a mile or so from my house to Shiloh HaKeduma, Tel Shiloh every Rosh Chodesh to pray.  In all honesty, I generally avoid praying at graves and tombs.

That's where the Mishkan, Holy Tabernacle rested (was located) for close to four hundred years, from when Joshua established Shiloh as the administrative and spiritual Capital of the Jewish People until Eli the High Priest's sons lost the Aron, Holy Ark in battle.

Eli was succeeded by Samuel the Prophet, the son of Chana (Hannah) who prayed for a son at Shiloh.  She didn't want a son for personal, maternal reasons.  She told G-d that she would raise that son to serve G-d and the Jewish People. It was Samuel who anointed the first two Jewish Kings, Saul and David.

The holiness of Shiloh remains to this day, and people of all religions come from all over the world to pray here.  Archeologists and enthusiastic volunteers have been working hard to discover and uncover more of Ancient, Biblical Shiloh.

My friends and I generally come to pray on Rosh Chodesh, the first of the Jewish Month, but the next one is Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish Year.  So we'll join the big T'fillat Chana, Hannah's Prayer event being run by Shiloh HaKeduma on August 28.  Contact Shiloh HaKeduma for more information about it.  At present I only have a Hebrew poster to post here with information.


Anonymous said...

Hi, sorry but have you ever heard about Caleb ben Yefune ? Unlike Yeoshua bin Nun, he did not receive a special bracha from Moshe. Still, he did not fall like the other spies. And why ? Because, the first thing he did was going to Hevron and lay down on the tombs of our Fathers (and Mothers) to have special prayers there. So ?

Unknown said...

While Shiloh is undeniably an important site from a nationally historical/heritage perspective, I'm not entirely sure that it currently has any more kedusha to it in particular than any other part of Eretz Yisrael. For example, due to our current status of being tamei met one faces a Karet if they go up on Har Habayit. Even according to the poskim who hold it is permissible in this day and age and that we can be sure of which areas you are allowed to walk on - even they will say you need to first take certain precautions such as going in a mikvah beforehand as well as other procedures. However I've never heard of such halachik issues for Shiloh.

There are several issues though, namely - why daven at the grave of a tzaddik? Why leave Eretz Yisrael to do so? And why do so of all times at an time so important as Rosh Hashanah?

As far as davening by kivrei tzaddikim, it may not be your thing but it is a HUGE inyan in Judaism. As the Anonymous commenter mentioned there is the issue from the Chumash itself of Calev Ben Yefuneh going to Chevron where Rashi brings Chazal that he was saved in the zchut of having gone to pray at the kevarim of the Avot and Imahot. Rav Yosef Dayan zt"l said that one hour of learning Torah at the graveside of a tzaddik is equal to 100 hours of learning Torah in a Beit Midrash. And as far as visiting the graves of tzaddikim outside of Israel, there are various halachik authorities who hold that it is a sufficient reason to allow one to leave the land of Israel. Additionally, the Zohar hakadosh says that the ground around the grave of a tzaddik has the kedusha of Eretz Yisrael so in a sense one is actually in Israel when they are at a kever tzaddik even in Chu"l.

As far as going to Uman specifically on Rosh Hashanah, this is a specific inyan that Rebbe Nachman brought down. He told that he had been granted a special gift from Heaven in that he learned all the deepest secrets of Rosh Hashanah and that while he was able to do amazing spiritual rectifications on people all year round, on Rosh Hashanah he was given abilities to do rectifications even he himself couldn't do the entire rest of the year. It was the Rebbe's clear wish and desire that as many people come to daven by him for Rosh Hashanah, both in his life and after his passing.

And the location of Uman plays a special role in this. It was the site of a major kiddush Hashem years before where 30,000 some odd Jews were forced to either bow in front of a giant cross and convert to Yeshu or give up their life and every last one of them allowed themselves to be killed al-kiddush Hashem. The Rebbe said because of this the location had special spiritual characteristics that led to him choose it as his burial place. While many people today actually want to move the Rebbe's grave to Israel, he himself said in his lifetime that he wanted to be buried in Uman and not in Israel because if he was buried in Israel nobody would ever come to his grave.

I myself have had the zchut to be in Uman for Rosh Hashanah the past several years and I can say from experience that it is something that it is something completely life changing and there is nothing else in my life I've done that can get me as close to Hashem. It is also an incredible scene of unity amongst tens of thousands of Jews from virtually every imaginable stripe of Judaism on the planet - all dancing and embracing in love of each other and G-d. In that sense, it's almost a little taste of what things might look like once Mashiach comes.

There is obviously an ocean of sources discussing all these issues, including the issues of halacha but a very nice English book that discusses a few points more in depth is "Crossing the Narrow Bridge" by Rabbi Chaim Kramer. Regardless of where you and your family are for Rosh Hashanah I hope you have an incredible chag and a great inscription for the upcoming year!

Shy Guy said...

Batya's fundamental point is any place in Eretz Yisrael is better than going to back to the dregs of a place like Eastern Europe, no matter who is buried there.

"Eretz asher einei Hashem Elokechah bah, me'reshit ha'shanah ad acharit ha'shanah."

Whether it's Shiloh or Hevron or Zefat or Yerushalayim or Rechov Shenkin in Tel Aviv, for that matter - it's all better than Uman.

And believe you me, had Rabbi Nachman known that the Jews of Eretz Yisrael were leaving Israel in droves because of him, he would never have asked Jews under today's circumstances to make the foolish trips they make.

And the Ribbono Shel Olam is kiveyachol shaking his head in disbelief at the ridiculousness of this almost pagan pilgrimage away from the land.

Batya said...

Tachlis, sorry but Shiloh is much holier than any place out of the Holy land. And the minute that people call out to their Rebbe (alive or dead) or "mother Rachel" for help instead of directly to G-d there's a problem.

Shy, yes, exactly.

Anonymous said...

G-d bless israel.
a number of my long time rabbis are breslov. there must be a reason/reasons why some of the greatest jewish prophets and sages were buried outside israel.NO such thing as chance or coincidence in the Torah. and also why reuven and the other one and a half tribes chose their portion outside israel. its definitely not only because of pasture. What makes thousands go there, is something only they know and feel. neither my non breslov rabbis or jewish friends would call this foolish or 'something' like a pagan festival. i was a pagan once. i was part of the pagan festivals. to equate our pagan festivals even if somewhat, to the breslovers at uman,leaves me quite shocked.. i once read in my weekly parshas this quote from the zohar II, 71.
When YItro who had pursued every possible type of idolatry came to join the jewish people, the Name of G-d was truly glorified.

at a simple level yitro was just a pagan.
as an ex idolater yitro is given much honor until there is a parahat named after him. so regarding the great jewish rabbis, like rabbi nachman, and others, definitely Hashem gives them much greater while israel is the heart of the universe, the holiest place on earth, why great tzaddikim lived and were buried outside, some out of cirucmstancs, some out of choice, and how they are honored or accepted by Hashem, only He Knows. And we really cant tell for sure that He is shaking his head in disapproval.
My rabbi's wife, R yehudis, wrote to me this: orthodox jews see every loss, small or big as an atonement. Even whe a sweet falls on the street and cannot be eaten, they say, A sheine, reine kapporah (yiddish) and this is taught to children from young. if a fallen sweet can be given so much acknowledgement, how much more the great prophets, sages and rabbis who have left us physically, whether buried within israel or outside.
just my humble view.

Unknown said...

Batya - I think you would be hard pressed to find anyone who is davening directly to a tzaddik as it's completely assur. The whole point is that Hashem's presence is manifest much more clearly at their kevarim and in the merit of the tzaddik the prayers face much less heavenly judgement and opposition. Chazal say that the reason Moshe Rabbeinu's kever had to be hidden was that Hashem knew someday He would have to destroy the Beit Hamikdash as a kapparah for our sins, but that if we were able to daven at Moshe Rabbeinu's kever, his zchut would be enough nullify the decree. However, kalv'yachol Hashem would have a problem as the alternative would have to be to destroy Am Yisrael G-d forbid. Additionally, sifrei chassidus bring that by going to a tzaddik's kever to learn Torah or daven you actually assist their neshama in reaching higher levels in the next world than they were previously on. The inyan of visiting kivrei tzaddikim is a very normative practice in religious Judaism with various minhagim brought down in halacha sefarim. Perhaps the most obvious example is the pilgrimage to Rebbe Shimon on Lag B'omer (in which even gedolei hador such as Rav Ovadia attend).

Shy - the passuk you quote isn't a stirah, it's just speaking of the importance of Eretz Yisrael but doesn't prove that there aren't areas of kedusha in Chu"l. And besides, if you remember the Zohar I mentioned then one could even say the passuk supports visiting kevarei tzaddikim in Chu"l seeing as how they have an aspect of Eretz Yisrael associated with them (though even I would agree it's a very liberal reading of the text but just saying). I don't remember offhand the exact spot where the Zohar discusses this but if you like I can try to find it for you so you can learn it on the inside for yourself.

To assume to know how the Rebbe would feel about the current Rosh Hashana practice seems a bit presumptuous to me. Especially when his own writings say not like you. You may make the claim that he had no way of knowing what would be in our generation but that isn't necessarily true. The Rebbe made numerous statements about what would be far into the future which ended up coming about. Two examples are that he said Mashiach wouldn't come for at least 200 years after his time and that a plague of atheism would run rampant in the world. Though the Haskalah and the non-Jewish forms of the Enlightenment had begun to take off, atheism was certainly not nearly as prevalent in the world as it is in our generation. So there is definitely what to argue that the Rebbe knew exactly what would be, even in our generation, when he made his statements.

Additionally, not even the biggest Breslover is going to tell you that Uman is somehow holier than Eretz Yisrael. The whole idea is that by being by the Rebbe for Rosh Hashana one is able to merit certain tikkunim and heavenly assistance that they wouldn't otherwise get. You may be interested to know that among certain figures in Breslov there was an opinion that one can achieve this connection to the Rebbe's tikkun within Eretz Yisrael. However, this opinion is far from the majority and even those who hold by it would say that one has to be holding on an extremely high level to be able to achieve it without physically going to Uman. Just some food for thought though.

I really don't mean to be patronizing and I apologize if that's how this sounds but I ask that this discussion be based in Torah sources and not just personal opinions. As Jews we are obligated to first see what our various sefarim say and then form our outlook based off of that foundation.

Additionally I think it would be wise to refrain from referring to tens of thousands of yirat shemayim Jews who are trying to better themselves and come closer to G-d as "foolish" or "almost pagan" ... especially during Elul. Just because you might not personally agree doesn't merit name calling.

esther said...

of course there is a good reason to go to any kever of a tzaddik wherever they may be buried. it states the benefit clearly in the kitzur shulchan aruch, dinei chodesh elul 13. the kever of a tzaddik has the kedusha of eretz yisrael. this is a fundamental and mainstream concept in judaism folks.

Yosef Chayim said...

Yes, Uman boggles the mind. However, Rebbe Nachman is the soul that HaShem sent to us to literally save the world from the mabul of self-destruction. Take all the tzaddikim, put them together, and it is still not Rebbe Nachman. If one understands the nature of souls and their function, as well as a little about the geula, it is clear that this soul called Rebbe Nachman includes everyone just like Moshe Rabbeinu, but even more since RN is rooted in the soul of Adam before the sin. In other words, touch him even a little and you are already on your way to the level of purity before Adam's sin. This is the ultimate tikkun olam and the universal significance of Rebbe Nachman. Go to Uman or not, Rebbe Nachman will continue to do his thing, B"H, and the world will get its tikkun, iy'h.

Yosef Chayim said...

Sorry, one other thing. And if you do go to Uman, especially on Rosh HaShanah, it will effect an eternal and awesome tikkun on your soul no matter who you are and what you have done not to mention bring the geula shleima closer. It is a big deal and the real deal.

Does anyone really know what true paganism is? And if you do, have you ever actually been to Uman on Rosh HaShanah? If you have, then the difference would be as clear as the blazing sun.

Batya said...

I'm not a chossid of any sorts.

Halachot, laws of prayer are derived from Chana, how she prayed in Shiloh. That's good enough for me.

If twenty thousand Jews would descend on Shiloh to pray together to G-d you'd feel the magic of the shechina. I feel it even alone.

Yosef Chayim said...

If 20,000 descended anywhere to pray together we'd feel the magic of the Shechina.

Uman is not just for chassidim as anyone who knows the type of people who go there--i.e., all types, all the time. Pray in Shilo or anywhere you like, just be careful not to shoot down a valid and beneficial practice (understatement) for others without really knowing what it is all about. As casual as the internet is, unfortunately many people form their opinions and actions from comments. And we will be held accountable for every word written on these forums. A person can't ever know the full impact of his words, all the more so on the internet.

Shy Guy said...

Yes, Uman boggles the mind. However, Rebbe Nachman is the soul that HaShem sent to us to literally save the world from the mabul of self-destruction. Take all the tzaddikim, put them together, and it is still not Rebbe Nachman

You need to make an appointment with a Torah observant shrink. Seriously.

All that bouncing up and down must affect the brain stem.

Shy Guy said...

10Rainbow, read Yosef Chayim's comments here and review again my use of the words "almost pagan".

And, remember, I said "almost". I was very specific. But if you prefer the word "cultic" instead, that's fine with me.

Yosef Chayim said...

Everyone has free choice.

Just for the record, even the soul of Mashiach himself will be "smaller in stature" compared to Rebbe Nachman because Mashiach will draw everything from him. Everything.

The is the breadth of RN's soul. HaShem made all sorts of souls, sizes, functions, quality, etc. So He made a real big one with RN and for very good reasons. Be happy for crying out loud.

We're stuck in extreme mochin d'katnut because of the galut, but the Jews will be redeemed and the world will get its tikkun. The geula will be retroactive, meaning when our minds can think a little broader, we'll realize we've been in the midst of active geula for years. And that sudden realization is called "Mashiach coming suddenly."

Shy Guy said...

Yosef Chayim said...

Everyone has free choice.


So did Scientologists, before they went over the cliff.

There are many cliffs in life. The idea is not to go over any of them.

You are long gone.

Yosef Chayim said...

Good Shabbos.

Batya said...

May it truly be a Shabbat Shalom for all.

Rachel said...

Having been to both Shiloh and Uman I will only say that both were amazing and transforming - in very different ways. I wouldn't have wanted to miss out on either. Shiloh has an energy that was different from any other place in Eretz Yisrael - I could feel the kiddusha literally vibrating in the air and deep inside myself. Uman was connecting in a completely different way. Thanks Batya for all of your work bringing attention to Shiloh!

Batya said...

Rachel, thanks for your input. If we could get more people to Shiloh, would it make the experience stronger?