You Get What You Need
Uman is the best present you can give your soul. But if your first (or last…) trip wasn't great, and even if it was terrible, don't give up...
Posted on 10.05.14
The first time I went to Uman was about four years' ago: I had a terrible time. I was in the middle of my 'year of fear', and I went to Uman with high hopes that I was going to arrive broken, and leave completely fixed.
I did three six hour prayer sessions in a row at the grave of Rebbe Nachman; I barely ate; I barely slept – but the fear didn't abate. The weather was awful – freezing, freezing cold and super-slippery ice everywhere. I didn't know anyone, and even if I wanted to try to be friendly, I barely had the Hebrew to make myself understood. By the time I left Uman three days' later, I was much calmer, but I hadn’t had the 'breakthrough' I was hoping to get, and I was feeling terribly lonely.
Things cheered up a bit as the journey continued, on to Rabbi Natan's grave in Breslev, and then to the Baal Shem Tov and Medzibuzh. But I left the Ukraine with a very strong feeling that I'd 'done Uman' now, and I wasn't coming back.
Yesterday, I came back from my sixth visit to Uman, and I had a really amazing time. I was given one breakthrough after another, one massive insight after another, one miraculous occurrence, one huge piece of perfect advice, after another. I came back completely awe-stricken and on a completely different planet. (There, I've finally admitted it 😉
But not everyone on my trip had the same experience. At the end, they were going round filming responses from the people who'd come on my trip, and most people said things like: 'amazing!' 'awesome!' 'whywhywhy' (Israeli slang for 'pretty darned special'.) But I noticed one girl who was very quiet and introspective, and who looked like she had a lot going on in her head. She skipped the interview, and explained she didn't really have much to say.
Afterwards, I went over to her, and asked her how her trip had been. She looked at me with a sad, confused expression on her face, and told me: 'It's complicated'. I understood exactly. I'd had exactly the same reaction my first time. I could see she was feeling like she'd somehow managed to fail the whole 'coming to Uman' thing, so I explained to her something I'd learned over the last four years: you always get what you need, by Rabbenu.
Even if you don't feel lit up, even if you feel the exact opposite, Rabbenu is still working his magic on your life, on your soul, and you're going to see amazing changes when you get home. Just have a bit of patience, and don't lose hope.
The first time I came, I had a pretty bad trip, and then my whole life turned around and I moved house and community less than a month later. The second time, I came home floating on cloud nine – and then crashed through the floor a week later. The next two trips, I developed massive stomach aches by day two of being in the Ukraine, because all these deeply-repressed emotions started surfacing, because I'd reached the point in my life where I now had the spiritual tools to deal with them.
Visit number five, was the worst visit I ever had. It was summer, it was Shabbat, I was with my family, it should have been amazing. It wasn't. I left the tomb feeling completely rejected, horrible and 'bad', as though I was the worst person in the world. It took me two weeks to recover my self-composure. But you know what? It ended up being the biggest present, because that visit punctured my arrogance, and made me realize that even with all my praying and insights and mitzvoth, I still know absolutely nothing at all.
So I was quite scared to go back this time. But this time, once again, I got exactly what I needed: a feeling of tremendous comfort and love, and the strength to carry on fighting my internal battles against evil.
Uman is the best present you can give your soul. But if your first (or last…) trip wasn't great, and even if it was terrible, don't give up. Spiritual progress is never linear, and Rebbe Nachman was the master of raising up the lowly, and teaching the wannabe 'rebbes' that whatever strides they'd made in their service of G-d, there was still a very long way to go.
You get what you need in Uman, always. And sooner or later, that trip to Uman always blossoms into the most amazing movement, miracles and goodness.
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