I arrived at Ben Gurion Airport to find an amazing tumult.There was excitement and electricity in the air of a kind that was most familiar to me from years past of Dead Tour. It began with the phenomena of people who were trying to collect contributions so that they could by a ticket and hop on one of the flights to Kiev. It was so reminicent of the Heads walking around the lot with smiles on their faces, filled with joy and love, hope and trust, a finger in the air, and a prayer in their hearts to get into show. I had been given a meaningful amount of money that was more than my personal needs, so I gave brother 15 dollars. The next day he was cruising around Uman wih a silly grin on his face and gave me the knowing wink that says more than words could express. It just tickled me so much and continued to reconnect me with the best of times on Tour. I was grateful to HaShem for this the alone.

The flight was anarchy and the chevre drove the El Al staff to distraction. As everyone on the flight was there for the same reason (not too many people hunger to go to the Ukraine in the winter). Again, it was reminicent of how Heads made the venue of the show home and proprietary and how rest stops, truck stops and gas stations were way stations that became extended comfort homes as we met on the way. It reminded me how much home is a ultimately a collection, small or large, of loving, joyous people who shared a blessed secret of the celebration of life and its best gifts.

Kiev airport is new, but primitive by our western standards. The most striking thing was the degree of deadness in the locals faces. No matter how warm or personable I tried to be, I just could not generate anything in return. It was like being with cybers without emotion. And there was definitely a strong vibration of anti-semitism; cold, brutal, primal and ancient. I vowed I would not let that effect how I would be with them. I would be Moish no matter what.

After a 3 plus hour drive through dark roads, we arrived in Uman at 1:30AM. I expected to find a sleepy shteltl, but found a relatively modern but depressed city. My first concern was finding a place to stay. The Breslov hotel was sold out, but there were locals who by now were old hands at the comings and goings of Breslovers. I lucked out and was set up in apartment just behind and overlooking the Tzion – the grave and therefore focal point of Uman.

It occurs to me that to report on Uman will take days and pages, so….

On the bus from Kiev, I sat next to a secular Israeli who was a documentarian and he had his professional super high-tech camera out. His dream is to make a film about Shlomo as the focal point for uncovering ” A True Jew.” And there he was sitting next to me. He couldn’t get over his luck at connecting with one so close to Shlomo. He and his brother ended finding a place in the same apartment. For him, this was his first true experience with HaShgacha Pratit – the palpalble experience of the constant flow of partnering influence and therefore confirming and affirming redemptive life force from the Creator.

After about 4 hours sleep, I went to the ‘kloiz’. This is a center that houses the mikve, the Sephardi minyan and dining rooms. The hot showers and water of the mikve, besides the spiritual cleansing was a most welcome thing to help counter the bitter cold of the Ukrainian winter. From there to the complex surrounding Rebbe Nachman’s grave.

Here I wish to somehow convey that there is the feeling of visiting a living master who is just sitting in the next room. It was warm and comfortable. There are multiple services happening, starting when there are people who need a minyan. After davening, I chose a prayer from Likutei Tefilot. This is a book of prayers tackling a multitude of different themes, written by Rebbe Natan, Reb Nachman’s number one chassid. I chose tefila 21. It spoke my heart and mind. It’s long and I covered it over the 4 days without experiencing what would appear to be the interrupting of spontaneous flow. Indeed, the feeling and conciousness of forever being in the moment, in the precious present, with no before and no after, never ceased. And each act seemed to be as if it was uninterrupted from the previous like-act. So if I was saying the prayer, it was within an unbroken moment from the previous day. If I was talking to Reb Nachman, it was a conversation that had not been interrupted. It was even on the level of continuing where I left off. The moment never ended. And it was natural

And this was very important to me. The whole trip seemed to be as if I had come home and everything was familiar and natural. There were three factors that made this easier. First, I was nobody. It is hard for me to travel somewhee, be in a group of a couple of thousand people and be nobody. It was such a relief and I celebrated being one amongst others for a change. Second, there was no hiearchy, no commanding presence of someone exalted over another. While it was apparent who were the veterans, who were the teachers, who were the ones evoloved on a higher plane, it was so egalitarian, that the lowest shlepper existed on a leveled playing field. This was amazing to experience that in a world of passionate Jews, no one was competing, no one was trying to get close to a significant one and no one was even gave off a whiff of being better or more important or, or, or. We were all in it together. Not even in hippie land had I ever seen or experienced anything as true and as pure as in Uman. Third, everyone lived an easy, flowing celebratory love for the other – any other. It meant that I could be there as if it wasn’t the first time and as if everyone knew and loved me. But here they loved me simply because I existed, because I was also a creation of HaShem just as they were.

With a couple of thousand people, each coming to have ‘face-ime’ with Reb Nachman, there was no of the usual chassidic rugby scrumming for position by a grave that could accomodate no more than 10-12 people at a time. When a space opened up, that was your time and no one edged you out or complained that you were hogging the space or had overstayed your fair share of time. Uman is a place were people are the most serious about authentic, unabashed confrontation with self and the hunger to be continually and infinitely better. At the same time, there was no morbdity. While people cried and shouted when they had their ‘face-time’ before and after they were fine. The knowledge that the potency and auspiciousness of what was available there overcame any reluctance to open up. What a blessing to confront your ‘stuff’ and not be depressed, ashamed in a way that distanced you from looking deep within honestly and with integrity. It’s a real soul-shampoo. And you really come away knowing that things will be better. Your level of trust, confidence, faith increases exponentially without heaviness, no matter what burden your carrying.

People were not just looking for catharsis and an epiphany. It’s quite ture that many weren’t looking for this at all. People who came are serious about perfecting themselves, always growing personally and spiritually, all looking to refine themselves and attain integrity with their highest aspirations. And I know of no people who have higher, more well defined aspirations. When not praying, people were learning Torah. It was an immersion without distraction, without battle. And combined with the love, with the annonymity and the lack of competative hiearchy, I was able to get in the flow with no resistance. I just went with it and stayed attuned to the flow and the openings when they came.

Time stood still and there was no time pressure. I would be where I was supposed to be when I was supposed to be there. Acceptance without surrendering my will took no effort. And everything came to me at the right moment. I had the freedom to express the longings of my heart and soul and life in good order and good time. I felt lighter than I’ve felt in years, both physically as well as spiritually. And this is an important subtle point.

We know conceptually that everything in the physical plane has it’s corrallary on the spiritual plane and visa versa. But to live a reality where as you jettison darkness within the soul, the heart, the spirit and mind, comes as concommitant jettisoning of unhealthy physical stuff without effort, is an astonishing blessing.

Next chapter will be about Shabbat in Uman. Stay tuned and thanks for plugging in. Blessings for all things good and sweet. peace, mosh

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