Frequently Asked Questions about Breslov and Uman Rosh Hashanah
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Breslov is a Chassidic sect that was founded in 1802 by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. Rabbi Nachman moved to the town of Breslov (in Ukraine) in that year and said that he and his followers will take on the name of Breslov chassidim. Before 1802, Rebbe Nachman had many followers but there was no official name.
Breslov chassidus focuses on spiritual joy, intense service of G-d through prayer, dancing and studying Torah. Other practices like Hisbodedus – talking to G-d in private in your own language, davening at Kivrei Tzaddikim and going to the Mikvah are all important parts of Breslov. In Breslov it is very important to learn Halacha every day and have studies in all parts of the Torah including Kabbalah. One of the main “requirements” in Breslov is going to Uman for Rosh Hashanah where Rebbe Nachman is buried. Simple prayers and saying many different tefillos and Tehillim daily is also something that Rebbe Nachman encouraged. The main thing is “to never give up” – Hashem is always there and you can talk to him.
Rebbe Nachman never appointed a successor before he died in 1810 and he alone remains the only Admor or Rebbe of Breslov. There were and still are of course Breslov Rabbonim and Tzaddikim but the main Rebbe of any Breslover is Rabbeinu z”l. Rebbe Nachman’s main student was Rav Noson of Breslov who carried on the ideas of Rebbe Nachman for further generations and published many of the seforim. Students of Rav Noson were able to establish more groups of Breslov chassidim who continued the tradition.
By learning the Rebbe’s seforim, following his advice and going to Uman for Rosh Hashanah. You don’t need to sign up at any office.
At first glance one might think that there are only 7 or 8 major Breslov seforim but as you go deeper and learn more, one will find that there are many many Breslov books. Some were written by students of Rav Noson and others much later on and they are very important and add new dimensions and information about Breslov. We will discuss here some of the major works of Breslov chassidus:
1.Likutei Moharan – All the lessons that Rebbe Nachman said over in his lifetime. Compiled by Rav Noson.
2.Sichos HaRan – This is a sefer which records Rebbe Nachman’s conversations about many different topics and other stories. This is a very important book to learn about what the Rebbe thought about many things and it was written by Rav Noson.
3.Chayei Moharan – A biography of Rebbe Nachman’s life. From the moment he was born and until he was niftar. Includes many stories of how lessons were given over, travels of Rabbeinu, mystical visions, his family and more.
to be continued…..
There is no official dress code that Rebbe Nachman specifically gave over. The Breslov chassidim back then dressed like the chassidim of that time and many Breslovers today still follow the customary Hasidic dress styles with a few differences. However, there are also many Breslovers who do not wear Hasidic clothes. There are many people who would appear not to be Breslov on the outside but they are in fact Breslov. Lots of Breslovers will have beards and long peyos and again – some will not. One time they asked Rebbe Nachman where his Sefer Minhagim (book of customs) was and he pointed at the Shulchan Aruch (Jewish Law) He was not makpid that a Breslover should change his nusach tefillah either. He was makpid that his chassidim follow Halacha and stay happy.
Uman Rosh Hashanah is the yearly gathering of Breslov chassidim in the city of Uman, Ukraine. When Rebbe Nachman was alive he was very adamant that all of his followers be with him for Rosh Hashanah and the “kibbutz” (gathering) was continued after his passing by his main student Rav Noson. The Rosh Hashana kibbutz continues till today every year in the city of Uman with over 40,000 people coming. Rebbe Nachman only lived in Uman for the last 6 months of his life and specifically wanted to be buried in the cemetery there to fix the souls of the Jews who were murdered there during the massacres in the late 1700’s.
There are many flights from all over the world to Ukraine or through connecting countries. Most people will fly into Kiev-Boryspol Airport or the Airport in Odessa. From the airports it is usually a 2-3 hour drive by private car which you can hire at the airport. For the Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage there are usually hundreds of charter flights leaving Israel and a few from the US. Many Ukrainian drivers are familiar with the influx of travelers during Rosh Hashanah time and they wait outside the airport and you can join a group in a big van or car to travel to Uman together.
Every type of Jew is in Uman for Rosh Hashanah. Yes, for real. The majority are of course Breslover chassidim but Breslov chassidim come in many shapes, colors and sizes. There is no one uniform look. One can see all types of Jews there: Sefardim, Yemenites, Litvish, Modern, Yeshivish, Hippies, soul searchers, Satmar chassidim and chassidim from other sects – Rebbe Nachman is able to bring everyone together. People from all over the world come. You do not need to be “Breslov” to visit Uman during the year or on Rosh Hashanah.
If you are a follower of Rebbe Nachman then you already know why you should go to the Rebbe for Rosh Hashanah. If you aren’t there are many reasons to come to Uman. Rebbe Nachman promised in front of two witnesses that whoever comes to his grave and recites the Tikkun Klali (ten specific psalms which we will talk about later) there and gives some charity then Rebbe Nachman will do whatever he can to help that person spiritually in the next world. Uman Rosh Hashanah is also the second biggest annual gathering of Jews afer Lag Baomer in Meron. It is an amazing place to connect to Hashem through davening and learning and to meet so many unbelievable Jews.
During the Rosh Hashanah gathering there are hundreds of different minyanim happening and you can find any Nusach that you need. There are plenty of neitz minyanim and minyans at regular time as well. The biggest minyan in Uman is in the Kloyz. It’s a huge building located 30 seconds away from the Tziyon of Rebbe Nachman. The seats are all reserved and need to be paid for but there is some standing room. Close to 9,000 people pray there and downstairs is a smaller Sefardi Kloyz. Wherever you go on Rosh Hashanah you will find minyanim happening. Another popular minyan is at “Shiner’s Shul” on Pushkina street which is a very big mix of all types of Breslovers.