6 Tishrei 5781 / Thursday, September 24, 2020 | Torah Reading: Ha'azinu
 
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Uman Rosh Hashana: For the Ladies    

Uman Rosh Hashana: For the Ladies



He's gone. Every year, before Rosh Hashana, my husband packs his bags, leaves the family and travels to the city of Uman, to Rebbe Nachman's gravesite...

 



He's gone. Every year, before Rosh Hashana, my husband packs his bags, leaves the family and travels to the city of Uman, to Rebbe Nachman's gravesite. Many, many years ago, when my husband and I were dating and I was a staunch Litvak (loosely used today to mean someone who is not a chassid), my husband told me that it his minhag (custom) to travel to the Tzaddik emet, the true Tzaddik, for Rosh Hashana. Although I viewed this as a major defect, I liked him enough to overlook it and agreed to marry him.
 
 
In those early days, the Rosh Hashana kibbutz (gathering) in Uman was still nothing more than a seemingly impossible dream. No one imagined that the Iron Curtain would suddenly melt into oblivion. So instead of traveling to the Ukraine, the men traveled to Meiron, the burial place of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, author of the Zohar – definitely a true Tzaddik – a Tzaddik emet.
 
 
The first year, I felt somewhat slighted. He's off camping; having a great time and leaving me at home, alone, I silently fumed. I envied the young couples that I saw walking home together from shul. They looked so happy. I imagined my husband having the most wonderful time up in the mountains, while I was home, miserable, and decided that this would be the last time I'd ever agree for him to make such a trip!
 
 
On Motzaei Yom Tov my husband arrived home exhausted. When I asked him if he had had a good time, he looked at me as if I was slightly nuts. "A good time?" he asked. "I barely had time to eat! Davening begins at five, and we don't finish until nearly four in the afternoon! I was so busy with the prayers and reciting Tehillim that I hardly slept three hours a night."
 
 
He proceeded to tell me about toilets that didn't work, blankets that were much too small, and mosquitoes that practically ate him alive.
 
 
I felt sorry for him.
 
 
"That's terrible. What a disappointment," I began, trying to sound empathetic (although for the life of me I couldn't figure out why anyone would put themselves through such torture).
 
 
"What a disappointment? It was absolutely the most wonderful experience in the world!" he retorted. I could sense his elation.
 
 
I was totally confused. If it's not enjoyable, then how could it be wonderful?  Was a married to some type of a masochist?
 
 
Rosh Hashana is Serious Business
 
Reb Natan writes, "The main beginning is on Rosh Hashana. The vitality and tikun (rectification) for the entire year is drawn from Rosh Hashana. This is why it is called Rosh Hashana, since 'rosh' means, 'the head.'"
 
 
We tend to think of Yom Tov as family time, a time to sit around the table and spend quality time together, a time to learn Torah together, to take long walks, to sing zemirot. And most Yomim Tovim really are family time. Yom Tov is described as zman simchateinu – a time to be happy and rejoice. But Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, although technically Yom Tovim, do not fit into the category of zman simchateinu.  Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are days set aside for the hard work of davening.
 
 
In Orthodox shuls, men and women sit separately. That's because davening is seriously business. Shul is not a place for socializing, for "quality family time." Shul is a place for communing with our Maker. Real prayer is "work" – hard work.  As a matter of fact, the word avoda, work, is often used interchangeably with the word tefilla, prayer.
 
 
The moment I understood that, I understood my husband's response. Rosh Hashana is not a time for "enjoying the holiday." Rosh Hashana is a day totally devoted to prayer. It's a day of hard work – the hard work of davening! (and what's more exhilarating than working hard, and accomplishing?)
 
 
Everything is decreed on Rosh Hashana – who will live, who will die, who will be healthy, who will not be healthy, who will become wealthy, who will lose their wealth. On such a crucial day, it only makes sense that a person would want to be in the place where he could attain the most with his davening, and where he could daven with the maximum kavanah (intention).
 
 
Rebbe Nachman wrote, "Only the Tzaddikim of each generation understand prayer" (Likutei Moharan 141). Through binding ourselves to a Tzaddik, we are demonstrating in a very real way that we are willing to accept the Tzaddik's guidance. Accepting guidance is a very humbling act, it demonstrates that we understand, on a very real level, that we don't know everything. And humility is a prerequisite for proper prayer. After all, how can we let God into our lives if we have no room for Him, if the "I" inside of ourselves is so big that we can't admit that we are not the ultimate authority in the world?
 
 
Within the parameters of Torah-true Judaism, each person is drawn to a spiritual path suitable to his or her unique neshama (soul). When our life-partners discover that Breslov is their path in life, as true partners and helpmates, it is our privilege to do whatever is in our power to assist them in that path. Certainly on Rosh Hashana, when our husbands are imploring Hashem not only for their personal welfare, but for their family's welfare and for the welfare of the Jewish People as a whole, we should understand the importance of their being in a place where they'll be able to attain the maximum, and that place is with their spiritual mentor, Rebbe Nachman in Uman. After all, about the Rosh Hashana gathering, Rebbe Nachman himself wrote, "No one should be missing" (Tzaddik 404).
 
 
But what about the women?
 
But what about us? Are we just "shmattas" to be left at home? Don't we have a spiritual side to us that also has to be developed? Aren't our prayers important?
 
 
These questions can be answered on many different levels.  But I think that instead of waxing philosophical, I'll describe my personal experience.
 
 
Every relationship needs separate time; otherwise it tends to become complacent. It's hard, when we're together as a couple to see where our relationship is heading, what needs working on and where we can "pat ourselves on the back." Over the years, I've learned to value my husband's trips to Uman as time for introspection. Relationships take time to thrive, so when my husband is away, I am much less busy. I have more time for my personal "avoda" – and as much as I miss my husband, I treasure that special time alone – that time to communicate with my Creator, to take stock of where I've gone wrong, what I need to change and where I've grown, so I can greet the New Year properly.
 
 
But what about the rest of the family? When my children were young, I would invite friends, together with their children, to join us for the holiday. We would share the cooking, and have a great time doing it. There was always such a wonderful sense of friendship and unity, intertwined with the uplifting davening and time spent in Hitbodedut. And the kids had a great time together!
 
 
Today, my married daughters come with their children for our family Rosh Hashana gathering. The cousins look forward to it; it's rare for them to spend more than a few hours together.  My daughters share the cooking, the cleaning, and the babysitting, so that each of us has quality time in shul, without having to worry about taking care of the children. It's something we've grown to look forward to! And in looking forward to letting our husbands travel to Uman, we, too, are connecting on a very deep level to the Tzaddik emet.
 
 
May all of us be granted a good, healthy and sweet year, and may we all be inscribed in the book of life.




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  2 Talkbacks for this article    See all talkbacks  
  1.
  women
Ester Abergel9/18/2009 4:17:44 PM
     
 
  2.
  Women and Uman
Pamela9/26/2008 6:40:26 PM
     
 

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