I began writing these parenting columns/answers many years ago. I quickly learned that no matter the topic, people will always disagree. I had a mother email me recently after I mentioned that it’s healthy to tell children “no” sometimes. She wrote “These days, telling a child no is tantamount to child abuse. Kids need to be smothered with love and affection and your concepts of parenting are archaic!” I mention this because my short response to the question below will likely cost me many subscribers. I’m ok with that.
The person asking the question below is a Talmid from 21 years ago. I replied to him that night but waited until this week to post. Although I’m turning off public commenting, feel free to reply to this email with any thoughts.
Hi Rebbe, I hope all is well. I’m not sure if you know this, but I’ve been going to Uman with friends for the past few years. This year my wife said she really wants me home with her and the kids (Redacted is four and redacted is two). I tried explaining to her that going gives me a spiritual boost that lasts me the entire year, but she’s not listening. We agreed to let you make the final decision. Thank you! Redacted.
Many Yiddin travel to Uman for Rosh Hashana. Actually, according to Wikipedia, in 2018 over 30,000 Yidden made the trip. One friend of mine told me that the reason he goes, is because Rebbe Nachman promised to help his Tefilos go up to Hashem even if he did a lot of Aveiros. It’s unfair of me to really give an in-depth response to your question since I haven’t personally made the trip. Nonetheless I am a huge fan of being inspired by others, and Davening at a Kever is so special. Below are a few points that I would like to share.
Certain types of Chassidus have a very unique method of dealing with family. These Chassidim leave their families for extended periods of time to spend time with their Rebbes or Daven at Kevorim during the year. Many of these Chassidim also Daven slowly and carefully and are very Makpid in many areas of Yiddishkeit. It seems a bit odd to me that people pick and choose which parts of Chassidus they want to embrace. If you really love the warmth of Chassidus, you could start going to the Mikvah every morning. If that’s not an option, maybe start coming to Davening on time every day. In other words, there are other ways to connect to Hashem if going to Uman won’t work out.
I don’t think it’s ok to leave your wife and children unless they are 100% on board with it. I know of many families having the same discussion that you and your wife are having. It seems incredibly selfish to leave your family so you can have a “spiritual awakening”. Spending a Yom Tov with family is so incredible! At houses all over the world, kids are excitedly dipping apples in honey while singing about it, they’re trying new fruits, children going to Shul with their father to hear the Shofar, and so much more. In your house your wife will be quietly wondering why she is alone with the kids. It just doesn’t seem right to me.
I’m utterly baffled by those who leave Eretz Yisrael to travel to Uman for Rosh Hashanah. Are you kidding me? You’re leaving the holiest land to go to a Kever in Uman? I’m not sure how this works, but I would ask your Rav before making a decision of that magnitude.
There are also some reports of Yidden drinking and doing other activities that should make one wonder if this is the correct venue for Bnai Torah. One very good friend of mine was very clear that he only goes for the social aspect. Whereas I’m sure you are going to build on your Yiddishkeit, nevertheless the Torah warns us against putting ourselves in positions that can cause us to sin. You need to be very careful.
There is also an issue regarding the massive Chillul Hashem that takes place. I personally spoke to a flight attendant who told me that the general behavior on the flights she works on is horrible. “Many of these people are rude, obnoxious, and leave a huge mess behind!” I know she is generalizing, but I can’t help but wonder if the holy Rav Nachman would really be ok with this. If you’re making the trek, please make sure that you and those around you are making a Kiddush Hashem.
The last thing I would point out, is the cost involved. I have a funny feeling that if instead of spending the money on the trip you bought your wife some jewelry, it would enhance Yom Tov for BOTH of you. One person that goes every year mentioned to me that he’s going through a very hard time financially. Some local organizations are helping out as he tries to supplement his income with side jobs. Do these organizations know that he spends money flying to Uman every year? Would they still help him out?
In case I wasn’t clear enough, I agree with your wife. Stay home. Buy your wife something nice for Yom Tov and bring Rav Nachman into your home. You can still be excited about davening, and who knows? Maybe you’ll inspire others! Have a wonderful Shabbos.
Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a Rebbe and has been working with parents and kids for many years. You can read more about him in the "about" section.