I’m writing this column as I sit on a transatlantic flight returning home from having spent Rosh Hashanah in Uman, Ukraine, where Rebbe Nachman is buried.
The annual Rosh Hashanah kibbutz, or “gathering,” was extremely powerful. Literally every type of Jew was there. Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Litvish, chasidic, Modern Orthodox, etc. You name it, they were there.
This raises the question, “Why?” Why would Jews from every background imaginable travel to a distant country to spend Rosh Hashanah at the grave of an early 19th century Hasidic master?
As I reflected on this question it became clear to me that the main reason is hope. Rebbe Nachman’s teachings give hope to weary Jewish souls. Like no others can.
Rebbe Nachman tells us in Likutey Moharan (I, 13): “For even the worst person, regardless of who he might be, and into whatever circumstances he might have sunken at present – so long as he grasps hold of the true tzaddik, there is hope for him to achieve a unique good that will endure forever.”
Surely this type of teaching, which is found all throughout the corpus of Breslov literature, is extraordinarily encouraging to those of us who have done things we aren’t proud of. And perhaps it is the main reason that thousands upon thousands of Jews from every type of background and affiliation felt compelled to spend Rosh Hashanah in a remote Ukrainian city by the gravesite of an early 19th century Hasidic master.
Elsewhere, Rebbe Nachman tells us (Likutey Moharan I, 17): “You should know that G-d derives glory even from the most insignificant of the Children of Israel, even from the sinners of Israel. Every single one – so long as he is called by the name of Israel – gives G-d a particular glory that no one else can give.”
The Rebbe continues, “It follows that no one should ever despair of G-d. Even if a person has caused great damage, G-d’s love for him has not ceased. This person can still return to G-d.”
May we all merit to internalize this lesson and to encourage others this year. Amen.