11 posts categorized "Uman"

The Blacksmith of Grodno

Blacksmith of Grodno
Shabbat Chanukah reminds me of my great grandfather, who died some 26 years before I was born.

My maternal great grandfather, Reb Yankev ("The Blacksmith") Podrub from Grodno, Belarus (formerly Poland) was a legendary figure in the annals of Stolin-Karlin Chassidus. He arms were like twisted steel, but his disposition was extremely gentle. Although he was a blacksmith. he was also a Talmudic scholar. He worked so that his little brother, Arie Leib, could attend rabbinical yeshiva. Ultimately, Arie Leib became the head rabbi of Meretch in Lithuania and one of the prime students of Rav Chaim Ozer Grudzinski, osb"m.

The renowned "Yanuka" of Stolin, the famous Rebbe Yisroel Perlov ob'm who had over 20,000 Chassidim, would stay in Reb Yankev's house every Shabbat Chanuka when he'd visit his chassidim in Grodno. Even more, The Stoliner Rebbe - who loved horses - insisted that only Reb Yankev shoe his horses. From what the old Stoliner Chassidim told me, the Rebbe loved my great-grandfather's pure and simple emuna and the innocence in which he served Hashem. Reb Yankev would be so excited that the Rebbe was a guest in his home that he'd dance all night long. Rav Binyomin Adler, who was head of the Kashruth Department in the Jerusalem Rabbinate, heard from his uncle - who was also a guest in my great grandfather's home when the Rebbe was there, that Reb Yankev danced all night long in the living room, singing, "Shabbat! Chanukah! Rosh Chodesh! Rebbe!" and making such a commotion that no one could sleep.

What was so special about Reb Yankev? He never spoke small talk. Even at work, he'd mumble tehillim and mishnayot. Also, his trust in Hashem was phenominal - he'd only work long enough to earn that same day's bread with one extra kopeck; he saved the extra kopecks in a jar all year long, and then at the end of the year, he'd use the money to travel to his Rebbe in Stolin for Rosh Hashanna. As such, my great grandfather lived his connection with the tzaddik all year long.

The minute Reb Yankev finished his day's work, he'd fly up the stairs to the Stoliner shtiebel, conveniently located on the second floor over the smithy, and open up a Gemara. Grodno lore holds him as one of the hidden tzaddikim of the area, may his blessed memory be cherished always.

***There's a poignant epilog to the above story: when I received my rabbinical ordination in 1992 from Rav Yitzchak Kulitz of blessed memory, former head Rabbi of Jerusalem, he told me that my great-uncle Arie Leib, Reb Yankev's younger brother, was the rabbi who ordained his father. In fact, when Rabbi Arie Leib passed away, Rav Kulitz's father took his place as the head rabbi of Meretch in Lithuania. It was my great grandfather who enabled his little brother Arie Leib to learn in Yeshiva. Now, Rav Kulitz was ordaining me - a lovely cycle was completed.

I heard the above stories and many more from my grandmother Kailie of blessed memory, from Rav Yitzchak Kulitz of blessed memory, former head Rabbi of Jerusalem, who as a little boy saw my great grandfather, and from Rav Benyamin Adler shlit'a of Jerusalem, whose uncle knew my great grandfather well, and from the elderly Stolin-Karlin chassidim of Jerusalem.

I know that alte zaidie (Yiddish for great grandfather) has nachas (gratification) that his great granchildren are continuing on in the way of Torah and Chassidus. You know what that means? The Greeks and the Hellenists lost, and so did Hitler and western assimilation. With simple emuna, we shall continue to overcome, with G-d's help. Have a wonderful Shabbat Chanukah and Rosh Chodesh!

Is Uman Safe This Year?

Tikkun Klali Erev RH Uman
The news reports this morning that Russia is "invading" Ukraine are quite blown out of proportion. If Russia invades somewhere, then it's a lot more powerful than 1,000 soldiers and a few tanks. 

Quite a few people have been asking me if it's safe to travel to Uman this Rosh Hashana, especially since the US State Department issued a Ukraine Travel Warning earlier this month. If you read the warning, it's only talking about the Eastern Ukraine hotspots near the Russian border, which are mout than 400 kilometers away from Uman, which is in Central Ukraine.

If that's not enough, I asked Rav Shalom Arush if it's safe to travel to Uman for Rosh Hashana this year. He smiled, and answered that the entire conflict is the Evil Inclination's ploy to keep people away from Rebbe Nachman's Rosh Hashana in Uman. The Rav promised that it is certainly safe, so go ahead and make your arrangements

Uman, Ukraine and Geula

According to Breslever tradition, the annual gathering of Breslever Chassidim in Uman on Rosh Hashana and the Geula, the full and final redemption of our people, are closely intertwined. Hashem gave Rebbe Nachman both secrets. Consequently, Rebbe Nachman said before his death that we should all come to Uman on Rosh Hashana. He also said that his fire shall burn until the coming of Moshiach. That could be ever so close, as many of today's spiritual leaders are saying.

Let's see what's happening now in the Ukraine:

Map of Ukraine

Double-click on the above map of the Ukraine to view it enlarged and more clearly

The red circle in the center of the map is Uman, the site where Rebbe Nachman of Breslev is buried. Uman is slightly north of the imaginary line, which I drew in blue, that separates the northwestern pro-Ukraine half of the Ukraine from the southeastern pro-Russia side of the Ukraine.  The purple box at the bottom right is the Crimean Peninsula, which has already been annexed by Russia. The black boxes indicate places where violence has already erupted on a large scale.

According to Reuters, the Ukraine is quickly slipping into a civil war. Few would have believed that several days ago, but since 42 people were killed in Odessa this past Friday, violence has been spreading fast. Odessa is a mere 2.5 hour drive from Uman.

People have been writing and asking what will be with Uman this Rosh Hashana. As it is, the USA and Germany have already issued travel restrictions to the Ukraine. Israel has not at this point. Flights are on schedule between Kiev and Tel Aviv, and every day, new immigrants from the Ukraine are arriving in Israel in growing numbers.

I can't verbally explain how, but my heart tells me that the unrest in the Ukraine is closely tied to the Geula. Interestingly, Uman is the pivot point between the two sides. If the hostilities blow over, then we'll certainly be in Uman on Rosh Hashana. And if the Ukraine is ablaze, with travel there impossible, then it means that we'll hopefully celebrate this coming Rosh Hashana in our rebuilt Holy Temple in Jerusalem, amen! 

Coming Soon: Family Weekend in Uman!

Bugg River Ukraine
Mark this on your Calendar: March 20-25, 2014 - Family Weekend in Uman

Breslev Israel and Inn Uman are delighted to announce the opportunity many have asked for and many more are waiting for: An inspiring, guided, family weekend in Uman with everything you could possibly dream of - no hassle with the locals, VIP pickup and return from Kiev, Rabbi Lazer Brody as your English-speaking guide, emuna shiurim, visits to the gravesites of  tzaddikim in the vicinity (Baal Shem Tov, Rebbe Natan of Breslev, Rebbe Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, and more), mouth-watering home-baked bread and home-cooked meals, the best accomodations in the Ukraine, Shabbat Shmini (Parshat Para) by the holy gravesite of Rebbe Nachman, and more!!!

This is the perfect chance to supercharge your wife's spiritual battery before the big crunch of Passover preparations. Singles are also welcome.

For more information and registration, call 972-52-7180448 (In Israel, 052-7180448) or write solarsh97@gmail.com - we look forward to hearing from you!

Uman - Rebbe Nachman's Tziyun

Uman Before Perestroika, 1989

Uman wasn't at all like it is today, since Perestroika (the breakup of the USSR) in 1991. In 1989, still in the hands of the Communists, Uman was high-risk. Rav Shalom Arush got there on a fake Swedish passport! This was before the synagogue was built around Rabbenu's gravesite, and people davened in the courtyard of the house that then stood on the gravesite. Enjoy this phenomenal clip, with original Breslever niggunim in the background. We look forward to seeing you soon in Uman.