Photo Credit: Yishai Fleisher
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Such views are anathema to yahadut because only Hakadosh Baruch Hu can guarantee forgiveness. Oftentimes, there is onesh, punishment, as a requirement for repentance. For some sins, one only receives atonement after death. No man on earth has the ability to make such a promise. And repentance does not come in the codified formula of simply reading specific verses of tehillim, as if they were a magical chant. (The reading of psalms as a means of drawing near to tshuvah is something entirely different, hence the popular and accepted practice of reading tehillim when the nation is in trouble.)

Unfortunately, such people are so removed from proper notions of tefilah and fundamentals of yahadut, that one cannot even have a reasonable discussion with them. It is important to note that this mentality goes well beyond any halachic position which might allow one to visit a grave for inspiration, or to facilitate a commitment to tshuvah. It even goes beyond the problematic issue of a meilitz yosher (intercessor). This jumps right into the biblical prohibition of consulting the dead (Deuteronomy 18:11). You will recall that Maimonides prohibits even appropriate manifestations of prayer in a cemetery (Avelus 14:13), and other Rishonim agreed with him. Clearly, the dangers of praying in such an environment, even for a sophisticated individual who has no interest in communing with the dead, are too real to subject oneself to this psychological pitfall. Certainly, the pilgrimage to Uman does not even fit the criteria for appropriate prayer, since it is clearly directed to the deceased.

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Unfortunately, it is not only die-hards who make the trek to Uman. Many non-Breslovers also make the trip, if not on Rosh Hashanah, then on some other occasion during the year. They come to Uman to revel in what they hope will be a spiritually liberating environment. Inevitably they will dance like deranged marionettes with thousands who have also forsaken rationality for magic. They will try to experience an otherworldly experience that has nothing to do with Halachic Judaism and has much more in common with an aboriginal dance. For too many Jews, Uman has become a kind of “Burning Man” festival.

Leaving Eretz Yisroel

For those who live in Israel there is the real Halachic problem relating to the permissibility of leaving Eretz Yisroel. While there are specific allowances for which the Halacha permits one to leave Eretz Yisroel, (parnasa, finding a marriage partner, Torah study, etc.) going to the grave in Uman for Rosh Hashanah is not one of them. No non-Breslov Rav would ever permit this.

A Jewish Home

On top of these very problematic halachic points, these people are so fundamentally detached from reality they don’t even consider the effect on their family life.

• These men abandon their families on the chag!: The bedrock of a normal Torah home is the ideal setting of a loving home headed by a caring mother and father. To leave one’s wife and children on the chagim is beyond sick. It disregards the mesora and its perpetuation, betrays an infantile ignorance of the stability that is essential to a Jewish home, and exhibits a lack of sensitivity to one’s wife and children, all on the altar of magic and mysticism. Many wives support their husbands since they also believe that visiting the grave of Rebbe Nachman will guarantee them a good year.

What happened to Hakadosh Baruch Hu? Not good enough?

While Rosh Hashanah in Uman is exclusively for men, there are special trips just for women during the year. It has now become a “thing” that Breslov women can also partake. Unscrupulous “religious” Jews are raking in the dough because they have created an “industry” which can pull in the shekels throughout the year. The possibilities are only limited by their imaginations. Here again we have the vultures who prey on the vulnerable and profit from it.

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Donny Fuchs made aliyah in 2006 from Long Island to the Negev, where he resides with his family. He has a keen passion for the flora and fauna of Israel and enjoys hiking the Negev desert. His religious perspective is deeply grounded in the Rambam's rational approach to Judaism.
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