The feast was a real gift. Three of my original students with two of their five year olds, two of my Uman flatmates, two aquaintainces, and another two came together. There was plenty if food, great singing and the most high sharing of Torah. I had a great feeling of arrival. I came to Uman to pray for the things that were still missing in my life and for the things I still needed to fix. So mixed with the humility was the blessing of having a glimpse of merit and accomplishements.

From all this, I received a great affirmation of all my struggles and efforts. Within it all was a further confirmation of the path I was on and a profound strengthening of my spirit. It provided much of the encourangement I needed to continue perservering.

By now, the Tzion of Rebbe Nachman had literaly become my touchstone. Coming or going to any place, changing venue – apartment, mikve, coffee and tea room, services – I first paid homage to Rebbe Nachman. It’s kind of crazy, but it felt so much like home and that connecting with the Tzion was acknowledging a guide who was my friend. The feeling that there was no judgement of any lack or failings or fallings, coming from Rebbe Nachman, was palpable.

If we are truly working to refine our souls and make as one our strivings and demanding standards, then it is only natural to feel shamed and/or embarrassed when standing before one we look up to. How much are those feelings enhanced in the presence of a Rebbe and even more so, HaShem. When we find ourselves standing before an authentic master and we feel affirmed as if standing within a force field of unconditional love and acceptance, guilt melts away and a quiet optimism chrystalizes. And don’t we perform better when feeling healthy emotionally, psychologically and spiritually as well as when physically, well?

Rebbe Nachman is the master of understanding the inevitable forces which come to play in our lives as stumbling blocks. He understands that we internalize those blocks and identify with them. As he is soley interested in our liberating ourselves from any place of stuckness, the vibrations emanating from his Tzion as much as his teachings, frees us from this internalization and identification. One is left feeling light and with subtle, sublime joy never before experienced. And you come to realize that this is a significant new face HaShem is revealing to you.

With this warm spiritual embrace, I took my Shabbos sleep and slept as I hadn’t in years.

Shabbat day was easy. I have no other way to describe it. I joined the main minyan in the shul enclosing the other half of the Tzion. It was my Bar Mitzvah parsha, VaYigash. VaYigash is one of the most emotional, evocative portions in the Torah. It’s about the reconciliation between alienated loved ones. It’s the story of our lives. To experience it in Uman, by Rebbe Nachman, was nothing less than a Divine Gift.

The most unique aspect was the sense of friendship and brotherhood with the hundreds present. Joyous courtesy and sensitivity to the needs of others was the prevailing spirit. As everyone was aware and caring of the other, no one felt invisible or that he was lacking.

This could only be a true manifesting of the natural spirit that is the soul of Rebbe Nachman. I tried to project this intimacy to Rosh HaShana, when 20,000 came to Uman and filled every square centimeter of the area. It was astonishing that so many could duplicate what I was living with maybe a thousand souls. But this is what everyone who comes on Rosh HaShana has reported to me.

The second feast was held with my flatmates in the apartment. Food, drink, laughter, song Torah: it was all one could ask for. I usually make an early escape from feasts on Shabbat to be sure to get the sleep and solitude I thirst for. However, in Uman, for the first time in years, I was content to stay until the end. This represented a sea change in my Shabbat experience. It was like the times with Shlomo when there was no place I’d rather be and nothing else I’d rather be doing. I suffered none of the loneliness that accompanies my Shabbatot, even as they are always filled with friends and people who love me.

I davened Mincha in the apartment and then slept for a couple of hours. Motzei Shabbat I sang havdalla for all of us in the flat. The temperature began to reflect more of the Ukraine winter, so I really bundled up to go out into the Breslov night. I bought some holy books, enjoyed conversation with new friends and aquaintances, said tehillim close to Rebbe Nachman and then the next of blessing began to unfold.

To be continued.

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