Rashbi and Rabbenu

Rav Gedalia Kenig ob"m wrote that Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai and Rabbenu Nachman of Breslev have an agreement that praying in Meron is like praying in Uman...

4 min

Rivka Levy

Posted on 05.09.23

Last Friday, it finally happened. After weeks and months of trying to hold it together – though a move, through a war, through periods where we ran out of money to buy food, through an illness where I thought I was at death’s door, through a court case, a car crash, fights over schools, a community that doesn’t want me, and a whole bunch of other stuff that I won’t even go into – on Friday, I finally crashed through the floor, spiritually.
I’d been to see a terrible, disgusting, grotty horrible apartment with a lot of potential at a price I thought we could afford. I came home to tell my husband all about it – and then it turned out that our finances don’t even stretch to that.
I was devastated to find out how much of our capital we’d eaten through, in the year since my husband quit working to pursue ‘being spiritual’. In fairness to him, he’s currently in the middle of getting a couple of businesses up and running, which take time, money, and effort – but I couldn’t take it any more.
I felt like the last plank had been ripped out, and I just started falling, falling, falling.
All the heretical questions and ideas that have been bubbling under for months, since we ran out of money and had to make a forced sale of our house to afford to eat, just kind of bubbled over.
Throughout all my ordeals this year, I’ve mostly held on to my emuna, and my belief in our rabbis. But on Friday, all this hatred welled up inside of me, like a tsunami, and it washed all my spiritual certainties away.
For the first time ever in my life, I started wondering if I’d just made a series of enormous mistakes, believing all the things I’ve been told, and taking them at face value? I mean, if you follow the words of your rabbis, your life is meant to go swimmingly, isn’t it? But mine hasn’t. Not only has it not gone swimmingly, by Friday I felt like I’d lost every last shred of my basic human dignity, and that there was nowhere further to fall.
(Of course, I still had blessings: my health, my husband and kids, their health. A roof over my head, even if it’s not mine. Food on the table. But on Friday, all I could see was what I used to have, and what I don’t have any more.)
I knew something ‘big’ was brewing, so on Thursday I cancelled my Shabbat guests and booked a place in Meron, the burial place of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the Rashbi.
Someone told me that Rav Gedaliah Koenig, who was a founding father of the Breslev community in Tzfat, wrote that Rebbe Nachman and the Rashbi had a spiritual agreement, which meant that praying at Meron was very akin to praying in Uman.
I got there Friday night, so miserable I was crying my eyes out, made minimal preparations for Shabbat, and then went to the kever. The only spare chair was next to a severely autistic girl, who kept grabbing my leg with her hand, and rubbing spittle all over her face (and my dress).
Bizarrely, I really didn’t mind. I could feel the purity of her soul, and I just held her hand and stroked it for a bit. Then I noticed a woman who looked familiar to me – and I realized the last place I’d seen was in Uman, by Rebbe Nachman.
A very small flame started to kindle in my heart that maybe G-d hadn’t forgotten me after all.
I went back to my guest room, ate sombrely, then fell into bed, exhausted. I woke up before dawn the next day, hoping to get the Rashbi a bit more to myself. It was still packed, and packed with a lot of crazy-looking people, so I went up on the roof instead.
I still felt so empty, so cynical, so despairing of things ever turning around in my life. I barely had words to pray. Just then, the sun started to come up over the ridge of the mountain facing Meron, and with it, some hope flooded back into my heart. Yes, it’s been a very, very long night, for me and for Am Yisrael, but the dawn is here. New life is being breathed into the world.
For the first time in two days, I started to believe in G-d’s goodness again. I came back a little happier, a little more grateful for being alive, a little calmer about the ‘route’ G-d has been taking me down the last few years.
Later on in the afternoon, I went to do some more praying. Rashbi was still packed with crazy-looking people, so I went to the tomb of Rabbi Yochanan HaSandlar, a Talmudic Sage, instead. I found a quiet spot just behind it, where I was shaded from the sun and from view, and after some quiet, peaceful praying, I dozed off.
Five minutes later, I woke up to find a sticker stuck to my dress, saying the following: ‘N Na Nach Nachman M’Uman. Only I can help you.’
I have absolutely no idea how it got there.
But it brought back to me that Rashbi and Rabbenu really are connected in a very profound way. And it gave me hope that even though I feel forgotten about, and far away and lost, someone Up There is still keeping an eye on me, after all.

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