And here I want to honor my father. No better teacher and explainer of history could one have. On the drive to Medzebozh, we were quite animated. The Rabbi answered question of Torah, we sang holy Breslov and Shlomo songs, I told stories Shlomo told or stories about him and we shared perceptions of what we were witnessing. But for the most part I remained in awe-inspired, quiet contemplation staring out the window as the miles rolled past. While Shlomo provided the much of the warmth, color and imagery attached to this place, my father gave me a profound knowledge, wisdom and understanding of the totality as well details of all that this place was. Without it, this journey would have been far less on every level. And it allowed me to fill in the blanks that were missing in the education and understanding of the other riders as to the significance to what we were seeing and experiencing.

In truth, I have no words to descibe how my father expanded my mind, from the youngest of age. Any capacity to think in vivid, multi-dimentional and kleidescopic way, I owe to him. WHatever vaculties and abilities I came into the world with, he honed and refined. He challenged me to think. It is my salvation.

I will forever be in his debt for this gift. And I hope to honor and justify it by the way I live and through the passing on of its teachings and lessons. Thank you, Abba. Thank you.

As we approached Breslov, I began to feel a stirring and when I got out of the car, my legs were shaking. I felt I was walking on hallowed ground. Uman is a sizable, relatively modern city. But here we were in a shtelt on the banks of the sizable BugRiver. You could see Rebbe Nachman as a child running off to the forest in the distance to talk, sing and dance to HaShem. And you see him cutting a hole in the ice in the river at dawn to have a mikve immersion.

All of a sudden whatever was real before became only more real. No longer were the stories, stories. They became the accounts of living beings and because of their determination and commitment, we exist today. And you just don’t feel like you measure up. And you feel a humbling impulse to begin to try.

About a hundred yards from the river bank, hills arise. At the bottom there is a small stone hut that contains bathrooms and tea and coffee for those visiting the grave of Rebbe Natan. Further on ,a stairway has been constructed to take you up to the cemetery and Ohel (hut) enclosing Rebbe Natan’s grave. On the way, a farmer was leading his fat cow with the bell around his neck, to slaughter, followed by his wife. It could have been Tevye the milkman. Except that he was not a Jew; just a local peasant living seemingly without much alteration from the way his ancestors did.

Making the climb, I felt heavy with the auspiciousness of this place. The hill is steep, rising some 200 feet. Seeing nothing but hill, you come to the crest quite suddenly. There is nothing around for acres, except the cemetery. At the entrance to the cemetery are a couple of local non-Jewish peasants, she begging for a dollar with the most tragic tears that rend the heart, he, gregarious with a welcoming gesture as if you have entered his estate. When you leave he prepares a cup with water to pour over your hands, as is our tradition. It is understod that he derives his meager income through this. First you see a mix of rehabilitated and unrehabilitated grave stones. You return to your imagining of Yankele and Rochele. And here they were. I could barely breath.

Inside, was the rehabilitated Tzion of Rebbe Natan. I took out the Tikkun Klali and prayed those words of hope and salvation as never before. And then I fell upon his grave and wept. I wept at Rebbe Nachman’s grave and the Baal Shem Tov’s. They were tears I hadn’t experienced for a long, long time. They weren’t of sadness. My cup had simply runneth over as in a state of blessing and grace, gratitude and humility. I felt purfied and beholding a dignity I never knew. And I could not speak to a soul.

I walked out and went before each grave and gave them thanks, knowing that because of them, here I was. I felt as if living a committed Torah life in the Land of Israel, was an answer to their prayers and justification of the sacrifices that were their lives and deaths. I walked through the fields, looked out on the village beyond and the river and begged to be connected to the holiness of this place and these people forever.

And then onto Medzheboz. To be continued.

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