Coronavirus restrictions are keeping many people from celebrating Rosh Hashanah in Uman this year. But that isn’t the reason I’m not going. The fact is, I have never been to Uman. I have friends who go there every year, and people in my family have made the trip, but I have never gone.
Some people find this strange since, a few years ago, I produced a film depicting four famous stories of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. I like his innovative teachings. I love the stories he told to his students. I’ve learned a great many things from him about serving Hashem, about teshuvah, about simcha, about emphasizing the good points, about always striving to ascend higher and higher.
Rebbe Nachman took an oath that he would pull a person out from the deepest abyss of Gehinnom, no matter how severe his sins, if the person visits his grave in Uman, gives a coin to charity, and says the 10 psalms known as the Tikkun HaKlali. But there is something else I have learned from him: the exalted value of Eretz Yisrael and its connection to the Days of Awe.
Rebbe Nachman used to say that wherever he traveled, he was traveling to Eretz Yisrael. He said that his highest understandings of Torah only came after he had been to Eretz Yisrael. In Likutei Etzot HaMishulash, a compilation of his teachings, Rebbe Nachman declares:
The principle holiness of a Jew is that he merit to constantly rise to a higher and higher level in his service of Hashem, which is made possible through the holiness of Eretz Yisrael.
The principle victory in battle that a person must attain in this world is to come to the Land of Israel. And this is the main matter with which we busy ourselves from Rosh Hashanah until Simchat Torah – everything we do is to reveal the holiness of Eretz Yisrael, in order that we merit to quickly come to the Land of Israel.
This is [kabbalistically] known as building the sefirah of malchut, with which we are engaged during these days, as is set forth in the Shar HaKavanot of the Arizal. For the principle matter in building the malchut is to reveal the kingship of Hashem over all of mankind, which we pray for at this time of the year, and the principle revelation of Hashem’s kingship is in Eretz Yisrael.
Therefore, the holiness of Eretz Yisrael is most poignantly revealed on Rosh Hashanah, as is written, “For the eyes of Hashem are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year” (Devarim 11:12).
The Jewish people prayed for almost 2,000 years to return to the Land of Israel. Now that Hashem, in His infinite kindness, has allowed us to come home, it doesn’t make sense to me to leave the Holy Land on Rosh Hashanah for any reason in the world.