15 Kislev 5781 / Tuesday, December 01, 2020 | Torah Reading: Vayishlach
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Cherubs from Uman    

Cherubs from Uman

Imagine coming home from Uman after an uplifting Rosh Hashana with the Rebbe and his holy kibbutz. You board the plane in Kiev, and behind you are three inebriated rowdy young men…


Often the messages that we receive in life come at the most unexpected times – often in the midst of chaos and seemingly depravity of this world. My story takes us to the Ukraine, on one of my journeys to the holy gravesite of our master and teacher – Rebbe Nachman of Breslev.

Rosh HaShanah was once again behind us and we begin the return leg of our journey – Uman-Kiev-Tel Aviv.

After having arrived at Kiev international airport following another inspirational and unique Rosh Hashanah in Uman - the security check and check in passed with relative smoothness, given the tremendous logistical strain of the annual pilgrimage to a somewhat archaic and primitive Ukraine.

The few hundred weary travelers settled down in the departure lounge – some trying to catch a much needed sleep ; others completing their morning prayers accompanied by Slichot and occasional Shofar blasts; whilst others socialized – strengthening old friendships or kindling new ones.

Suddenly, those who had just dosed off, where awakened by a somewhat excited crowd of travelers in the center of the lounge. We had just been informed by the El Al official that our plane that was on the way from Israel to the Ukraine had to turn back for repairs after a malfunction was detected. I often joke that just like we go to the Rebbe for a tikun (spiritual rectification), so to our plane had to undergo a tikun (repair). In any event this left some of the travelers quite frustrated at having to wait another few hours until a new plane arrived.

Some of us just sat back and accepted the situation as another providential event. Understandably, the turn of events encouraged some to display their Middle East flair which resulted in some noisy exchanges with the El Al official. Others took the opportunity to sing and dance quite loudly. The Middle East flair is not one that is easily understood by the Ukrainian locals and within a short time the airport security was summoned to try and restore some quiet. I noticed that a group of obviously non-religious young men - who had also made the pilgrimage to Uman - took advantage of the delay to purchase a very oversized bottle of whiskey from duty free.

By the time we boarded the plane it became obvious that the whiskey had taken effect. The boys were noisy and obviously uninhibited which resulted in the air stewards threatening to have them arrested in Tel Aviv.

Somehow they found their seats – even managing to strap themselves in. To my dismay, three of them occupied the seats behind me. I overheard these boys discussing how on the way to the Ukraine one of them had unintentionally emptied the intoxicated contents of his stomach on one of the passengers in front of him. I sighed and thought very loudly – oy vey, I have just had an uplifting spiritual experience in Uman and now I am about to be the recipient of some very vile stomach contents. I wondered what my role was in what had now become the center stage.

And then with the roar of engines we were off and up in the air. As we climbed to maximum altitude a beautiful silence came over the plane. I turned around and saw that these three boys were very sound asleep. I surveyed their peaceful faces and suddenly realized that HaShem in all His goodness had just taught me a most beautiful lesson in life. My role in the staged events was not to do anything – but rather to observe, listen and learn. Although overcome by their intoxication, their faces glowed with the innocence and purity of a new born baby – almost like the cherubs that have their place on top of the holy Arc.

Suddenly HaShem’s lesson became obvious – though we appear to be “drunks” on a spiritual level, we’re Hashem’s children, beloved little cherubs. However, HaShem in His kindness and mercy looks on us as pure, innocent babies because He created us. He knows the pure and good intentions of our heart and overlooks our intoxicated behavior, induced by the evil inclination. HaShem had also just revealed an attribute of the Tzadik to me: what I had just witnessed was a window into the Rosh Hashanah of Rebbe Nachman. One of the many attributes of the Tzadik is that he is able to discern the good points of every Jew and place each good point as a jewel in the crown of The King. This awakens HaShem’s mercy for His beloved people, just as we see Moshe Rebeinu doing numerous times throughout the Exodus from Egypt. Since each of us also has an aspect of Tzadik within us, it is incumbent upon each of us to seek out the good points in others.

I am forever grateful to HaShem that I was chosen to witness what is one of the most profound and beautiful lessons of my life. I carry this precious lesson with me forever and just so often I take a moment to step into the cabin of that Boeing 737 and peek in on those glowing faces of the boys behind me.

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