Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart
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Monday, 26 September 2011

More On Uman

The last post I did on Uman generated some lively discussion (at least for this blog) on the subject of leaving eretz Yisrael for the most important days of the year.  I was pleased to see a few days ago a similar post from HaRav Shlomo Aviner, shlit"a, that pointed out the following important points:
 Question: Is it permissible to travel from the Land of Israel to Uman (Ukraine) to visit the grave of Rebbe Nachman on Rosh Hashanah?

Answer: This is a new "custom" based on the statement of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov: "Anyone who visits my grave and gives eighteen coins to tzedakah will merit life in the World to Come." One may only leave Israel for a mitzvah (see Rambam, Hilchot Melachim 5:9 and Tosafot to Avodah Zarah 13a). Anyone who violates this, will, we hope, repent. Worse than this is one who travels under the impression that he is performing a mitzvah, because how then will he then repent?! Visiting the grave of tzadikim (righteous people) is not defined as a mitzvah – not a rabbinic mitzvah and not a Torah mitzvah; it is a positive act. Based on this, Maran Ha-Rav Kook ruled that we do not leave Israel to visit the graves of tzadikim, and he wrote "are we without graves in the Land of Israel that you travel to the Exile?!" (Shut Mishpat Cohain #147).
It is true that Rebbe Nachman said: "Anyone who visits my grave and gives eighteen coins to tzedakah will merit life in the World to Come," but Avraham Avinu is greater than Rebbe Nachman. Rebbe Nachman himself said this. Anyone who goes to Ma'arat Ha-Machpelah in Hevron and gives eighteen gold coins can be certain that Avraham Avinu will aid him. Furthermore, know that the Land of Israel is holier than Uman. Rebbe Nachman himself said this.
Therefore, go to Ma'arat Ha-Machpelah.
Also know that it is not enough to visit a grave and give eighteen coins to tzedakah to be worthy of life in the World to Come, but one needs to perform acts of loving-kindness, learn Torah and perform the mitzvot. And it is not proper to spend thousands of shekels to travel there. You should give the money to tzedakah. The value of traveling there is unclear, but giving tzedakah is clear. It is an explicit verse in the Torah.
Also, if you leave your wife alone and sad on Rosh Hashanah, know that you will not stand guilt-free before the Heavenly Court.
The custom of Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach was to stand across from the national cemetery on Mt. Herzl and say: "These are the graves of the righteous who died sanctifying Hashem's Name. Why should I travel far distances? (Oro Shel Olam, p. 380)."
[A collection of other leading Rabbi's statements on this issue -
Ha-Rav Mordechai Eliyahu: "It is not proper to leave Israel on Rosh Hashanah or during the rest of the year, and it is preferable for one who wants to pray at the graves of tzadikkim to visit the graves of tzadikim in the Land of Israel – Hevron, Kever Rachel, Kever Rashbi – who was the teacher of Rebbe Nachman, etc. Do not leave Israel for the impurity of the lands of the other nations."
Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv: "Go daven at the Kotel."
Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef: "How did the grave of Rebbe Nachman become more important than the graves of the Rambam and Ha-Gaon Rav Yosef Karo?"
Ha-Rav Dov Lior explained how absurd is the thought-process of those who travel to Uman: "People travel to the grave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai in order to ask him to help them to travel to the grave of Rebbe Nachman so they can make a request of him."]

The constant emphasis on finding spirituality in all the wrong places and for all the wrong reasons is something that Orthodoxy has to address even as more people are led astray by these concepts.
There is no question that Rebbe Nachman was a great and influential tzadik.  One need only look at the livliness and intensity of modern Bratzlovers who, in the absenc of a living leader still maintain a vibrant movement.  But as Rav Aviner points out, he was not Avraham Avinu.  He was no Rav Yosef Karo.

14 comments:

Adam Zur said...

The reason people go to Rebbi Nachman on Rosh Hashanah is because he said to do so. This is hard to miss. You might look in the Chayai Moharan which has a whole chapter on this subject. And also there Rebbi Nnachman said a few other choice statements that showed that he felt this was a very high service. This is a totally different subject than going to Uman to say the Tikun Klali.
This is not a legitimate or honest mistake. Before a famous "rabbi" makes a comment on Rebbi Nachman he ought to have read the relevant material. I don't offer opinions about the experiment done in CERN about neutrinos and no one should comment about a subject they know nothing about.
First learn the material and then make your comment and if possible back up your comment with a rational argument.
If a rabbi would go through these seemly simple steps I would have nothing to answer. But here we are missing all the steps. This would get a failing mark in any class.

Anonymous said...

The only chasidim who go to uman are Satmar ones and they of course have a different attitude to the state. They hold its 'assur' to go to the kosel or anywhere else under Israeli occupation. The rest who go can hardly be classified as chasidim. A few down and outs, living a very bad existence. One cant blame them if it gives some meaning to their lives. The society trash seems to have decided breslav is for them.

Bob Miller said...

Anonymous,

Keep your lies to yourself.

micha said...

You write "The constant emphasis on finding spirituality in all the wrong places and for all the wrong reasons is something that Orthodoxy has to address even as more people are led astray by these concepts."

Whether or not the trip to Uman is one of "the wrong places", I don't think this is something the O community has to address. It's strategically wrong.

Right now there is no O spirituality to speak of. Or, to put it as R' Dr Haym Soloveitchik did at the end of Rupture and Reconstruction: "It is this rupture in the traditional religious sensibilities that underlies much of the transformation of contemporary Orthodoxy. Zealous to continue traditional Judaism unimpaired, religious Jews seek to ground their new emerging spirituality less on a now unattainable intimacy with Him, than on an intimacy with His Will, avidly eliciting Its intricate demands and saturating their daily lives with Its exactions. Having lost the touch of His presence, they seek now solace in the pressure of His yoke."

The person seeking spirituality either has to willfully confuse orthopraxy with spirituality, adding more and more chumeros that still don't satisfy his "ra'av ... tzom ... lishmoa es divrei Hashem." Or he has to find it where it exists.

Rather than attack trips to Uman, we need to address the cause. We need to produce an Orthodoxy in which spirituality inheres in how we perform the mitzvos, and only secondarily in supplementary practices.

Until you produce this alternative, you can't ween people away from other modes of spirituality.

Garnel Ironheart said...

Rav Berger, that is an excellent point. But here's the problem:
For centuries (and longer) Judaism was passed down parent to child. A child learned to make kiddush not from a Youtube video or an Artscroll book but from watching his father do it. A child learned how to take challah from dough by watching her mother, not pulling out a kosher cookbook and looking at the measurement diagrams. As "Rupture and Reconstruction" noted this chain has been broken but here's the problem - the new generation of "frum" Jews all learned from "the book", not from genuine family tradition. Do they know how to teach they children or will they also expect the children to learn the way they did?

micha said...

The opening (and title) essay of the Alter of Novhardok's Madreigas haAdam convinced me that the actual rupture was far earlier. It was what led from a natural expression of Judaism to the late 18th through early 20th century focus on Isms -- Chasidus, Hisnagdus, Lithuanian Yeshivish, Mussar, TiDE, "Chadash assur min haTorah" (an irony -- an ism about not having an ism), Hildesheimerian Neo-Orthodoxy, Mod-O, Religious Zionism, Anglo-Yeshivish, Israeli Litvak, etc, etc, etc....

The second rupture only sealed the fate of halachic transmission. Starting with the Gra, R Dr Haym Soloveitchik's very own ancestry -- not the least of whom, his namesake -- were renown for changes to common practice because of textual considerations.

In any case, the Alter of Nohardok says the fall of the ghetto led to a split between the yeshiva (being used in a buzzword sense of the ideals as transmitted in the ivory towers) and the street. The values and character one used to absorb naturally were no longer part of culture. Rav Yisrael Salanter therefore emerged, with a plan for how to inculcate consciously what in the past was absorbed mimetically.

Whether or not Mussar is a solution for everyone -- and R' Yisrael himself would vehemently say it wasn't (having advocated different approaches in different cities and countries) -- this notion that we need programs to actively inculcate values and character stands.

Yes, we got our culture further into this Catch-22. But we can follow earlier examples for how to get out of it.

Friar Yid said...

While I think it's worth holding a critical eye to the practice of going on pilgrimages, I worry that Ravs Aviner and Kook may be swinging the pendulum too far in the other direction. They are correct that the focal point for Judaism (and I would argue, certainly this is the case for Orthodoxy) is Israel, but just as it is intellectually dishonest for Jews to ignore/overlook Israel in favor of the Diaspora, so too it is wrong for people to focus entirely on Israel and forget about the important and significant history, culture and heritage of the Diaspora. For some, this may include visiting the graves and/or otherwise honoring the many tzadikim who lived in the Diaspora for the last 2000+ years. I see nothing wrong with this in principle.

(Of course, I say this as someone who has never been on a pilgrimage and is not terribly keen on visiting the graves of tzadikim anywhere, whether in Israel or Uman.)

Garnel Ironheart said...

FY, I understand your point about the value of the diaspora but from a "redemptive" point of view I would disagree as to their eternal value. From the right wing Dati Leumi position, what is happening now is not dissimilar to what happened to our ancestors when we left Egypt or later on Babylon and Persia. A journey to Israel means never looking back because the spiritual gain once arriving makes all the history and growth of the golus secondary.

Friar Yid (not Shlita) said...

Redemptive theology is all well and good if that's your bag. Still, I live in the here-and-now and don't expect the end of days any time soon. From my perspective, both Israel and the Diaspora are here to stay for a long, long time. Both have been instrumental in forming our culture and our peoplehood into who we are today. Jews in either place ignore the other at their peril.

Adam Zur said...

Micha stated the problem in the most intense, clearest way possible.
Right now there is no O spirituality to speak of.
The person seeking spirituality either has to willfully confuse orthopraxy with spirituality, adding more and more chumeros that still don't satisfy his "ra'av ... tzom ... lishmoa es divrei Hashem." Or he has to find it where it exists.

Rather than attack trips to Uman, we need to address the cause. We need to produce an Orthodoxy in which spirituality inheres in how we perform the mitzvos, and only secondarily in supplementary practices.

This gives me a great opportunity to state one of the problems i see in breslov-- It is exactly because rebbi nachman presents a powerful path of spirituality that it can easily fall into the intermediate zone. For this reason i want to present my theses --that the spiritual path that Rebbi Nachman presents can only work well in the context of a Litvak yeshiva( --as self contradictory as this sounds) the Litvak context protects from the intermediate zone in my theory.
(Litvak context means here as in gemara rashi tosphot and musar.)

Anonymous said...

Meir says
This is not the Jewish way. Seeking spirituality. The Jewish way is to learn Torah and find it there. Not to look elsewhere which is akin to idol worship. Even mussar learning is frowned upon, unless it goes hand in hand with Torah learning.

Adam Zur said...

Spirituality is a part of Torah. We find in the Rambam that the path of Avraham was that of reason which was later approximated by the Greeks. The thing that was added by Divine Revelation was the path of perfection and attachment with God--for the individual not for the community. This is stated clearly in the Rambam. In fact the Rambam seems to imply a hierarchy of spiritual levels in the end I forgot what they all are but they all seemed to be related to different levels of attachment with God.
The Rambam is either talking about an expanded sense of Reason becoming able to perceive God (like the Chovot Levavot opinion) or some other type of spiritual sense. But the end result is the same. The personal searching for God is part and parcel of the type of Judaism advocated by the Rambam and Rebbi Nachman. Only in chasidic types of orthodox Judaism is spirituality considered to be off limits for all but the charismatic all powerful all knowing leader.

micha said...

Mussar exists because someone looked around the yeshivos of Litta and saw that people were unable to find that spirituality inherent in Torah that R' Chaim Volozhiner describes in the last section of Nefesh haChaim.

For that matter, why do you think RCS wrote the prior 3 sections?

So yes, you do have to seek out spirtuality. I'm not saying that means mussar over chassidus over R' Hirsch's approach over something else. But our experience since the fall of the ghetto walls has proven that spirituality doesn't come on its own.

Have you learned the first chapter of the Gra's Even Sheleimah? Someone who waters his garden with Torah but doesn't do the other work will simply have very healthy weeds.

micha said...

Oops, I must write about R' Chaim Brisker too often. I meant "Why did RC*V* write..."