This week’s parsha begins with Moshe’s powerful words on the last day of his life, regarding the renewal of the nation’s Covenant with Hashem. “You are standing today, all of you, before Hashem, your God: the heads of the tribes, your elders, and your officers- all the men of Israel.” (Chapter 29, Verse 9, Artscroll commentary) Rebbe Natan explains in Likutei Halachot why we always read this parsha before the holiday of Rosh Hashana. The Torah is telling us that all of the souls of the Jewish people, from the greatest to the lowest, need to gather and be united in love in the exalted holiness of the great tsaddik, who is the aspect of Moshe. The true tsaddik. They all need to try to travel to be by the tsaddik for Rosh Hashana. By way of gathering by the tsaddik and connecting to his awesome knowledge, each person there merits to renew his own intellect and knowledge. This renewal of knowledge allows them to sweeten and rectify all kinds of judgments and constrictions, each person according to their level and situation. The tsaddik helps each person know every day, in every place and in every situation that in that very moment they can find Hashem and bind themselves to Him. All of our sins, blemishes and mental confusion can also be nullified by connecting to the true tsaddik. This is what the first verse of the parsha is referring to: “You”, each individual and the aspect of all of the Jewish souls together; “are standing”, the place each person finds themselves in; “today”, the aspect of time. “All of you, before Hashem…” Moshe is saying that you all need to know that you are standing firmly before Hashem, by way of connecting yourselves to the true tsaddik. The tsaddik helps each one of us overcome our obstacles and start anew to serve Hashem every moment, because in truth a person only has this day and this moment of their life. He helps us to renew our faith and knowledge, and begin again. (Likutei Halachot, Laws of a Deposited Item and Guards, 5th teaching)
Rebbe Nachman explains in Likutei Moharan one of the deeper reasons for the custom to travel to tsaddikim for the holiday of Rosh Hashana. The main way to sweeten judgements is only by way of purifying and making holier a person’s thoughts, because the source of judgements against a person is in the thoughts. The Zohar teaches: everything will be clarified in the world of thought. It is only possible to obtain a pure mind by binding oneself to the tsaddikim, as the verse states: “Moshe took the bones of Yosef.” (Exodus, Chapter 13, Verse 19) Moshe is the aspect of knowledge, and Yosef is the aspect of the tsaddik. This teaches us that there can only be complete knowledge by binding oneself to the true tsaddikim. Rosh Hashana is the source of all of the decrees and judgements for the entire year, and a person needs to purify his thoughts in order to rectify them and sweeten the judgements. Therefore, the Jewish people have a custom to travel to the tsaddikim for Rosh Hashana, in order to merit the holiness of thought. (Likutei Moharan, 211th teaching, Part One)
Rebbe Nachman said about being by him for Rosh Hashana that, “my Rosh Hashana is something great and new, and Hashem knows that I did not receive it as an inheritance from my ancestors, rather Hashem gave it to me as a gift, because I know what Rosh Hashana is.” (The Life of Rebbe Nachman, 405)
I know it is hard for many to understand going all the way to Uman in the middle of the Ukraine for Rosh Hashana. It was also hard for me to understand before I went for the first time seven years ago. The past few years I have seen a sign hung by the side of roads and highways here in Israel: Uman Rosh Hashana- come, experience, understand. There are some experiences that are hard to put into words, and being in Uman for Rosh Hashana is definitely one of them. I will deeply miss going to Uman this year to be a part of the gathering and prayers by Rebbe Nachman. To be by my Rebbe. The teachings that I shared here might shed a little bit of light on what attracts so many to travel there, but there are many deep, spiritual aspects, which remain hidden from many of us. However, we believe that Rebbe Nachman is helping each one of us in our own journey of returning to Hashem; and we believe that the power of teshuva and the prayers that happen in Uman by the grave of the tsaddik have a much wider influence in the world. The Sages teach that the tsaddikim, after their physical passing from the world, have even more of an influence spiritually, they are still alive spiritually and present in our world. A well-known Israeli Chassidic singer, Yosef Karduner, made a song on one of his recent albums- ‘what happens in Uman, is unbelievable’ (it rhymes in Hebrew). Another singer and teacher, R’ Shlomo Katz, also wrote recently in describing his new song called Uman, ‘what happens in Uman… stays in your heart forever.’
May we all merit a sweet, happy and healthy new year in the merit of the true tsaddikim!
(The image is courteous of Chabad.org)