I began writing these parenting columns many years ago. I quickly learned that no matter the topic, there are always people who will disagree. A mother emailed me recently after I mentioned in a column that it’s healthy to tell children “no” sometimes. She wrote, “These days, telling a child no is tantamount to child abuse. Kids need to be smothered with love and affection, and your concepts of parenting are archaic!” I mention this because my response to the question below will likely cost me many subscribers. I’m OK with that.
The person asking the question below is a talmid from 21 years ago. I replied to him that night but waited until now to post publicly.
I’m not sure if you know this, but I’ve been going to Uman with friends for the past few years. This year my wife said she really wants me home with her and the kids (ages four and two). I tried explaining to her that going gives me a spiritual boost that lasts me the entire year, but she’s not listening. We agreed to let you make the final decision.
Many Yidden travel to Uman for Rosh Hashanah. Actually, according to Wikipedia, in 2018 over 30,000 Yidden made the trip. One friend of mine told me that the reason he goes is because Rebbe Nachman promised to help his tefillos go up to Hashem even if he did a lot of aveiros. It’s unfair of me to really give an in-depth response to your question since I haven’t personally made the trip. However, I am a huge fan of being inspired by others, and davening at a kever is so special. Below are a few points that I would like to share.
- Certain types of chassidus have a unique method of dealing with family. These chassidim leave their families for extended periods of time to spend time with their rebbes or to daven at kevarim during the year. Many of these chassidim also daven slowly and carefully and are makpid in many areas of Yiddishkeit. It seems a bit odd to me that people pick and choose which parts of chassidus they want to embrace. If you really love the warmth of chassidus, you could start going to the mikveh every morning. If that’s not an option, maybe start coming to davening on time every day. In other words, there are other ways to connect to Hashem if going to Uman won’t work out.
- I don’t think it’s OK to leave your wife and children for yom tov unless they are 100% on board with it. I know of many families having the same discussion that you and your wife are having. It seems incredibly selfish to leave your family so you can have a “spiritual awakening.” Spending a yom tov with family is so incredible! In homes all over the world, kids are excitedly dipping apples in honey while singing about it, trying new fruits, going to shul with their father to hear the shofar, and so much more. In your house, your wife will be quietly wondering why she is alone with the kids. It just doesn’t seem right to me.
- I’m utterly baffled by those who leave Eretz Yisrael to travel to Uman for Rosh Hashanah. Are you kidding me? You’re leaving the holiest land to go to a kever in Uman? I’m not sure how this works, but I would ask your rav before making a decision of that magnitude.
- There are also some reports of Yidden drinking and doing other activities that should make one wonder if this is the correct venue for bnei Torah. One very good friend of mine was clear that he only goes for the social aspect. Whereas I’m sure you are going to build on your Yiddishkeit, nevertheless the Torah warns us against putting ourselves in positions that can cause us to sin. You need to be careful.
- There is also an issue regarding the massive chillul Hashem that takes place. I personally spoke to a flight attendant who told me that the general behavior on the flights she works on is horrible. “Many of these people are rude, obnoxious, and leave a huge mess behind!” I know she is generalizing, but I can’t help but wonder if the holy Rav Nachman would really be OK with this. If you’re making the trek, please make sure that you and those around you are making a kiddush Hashem.
- The last thing I would point out is the cost involved. I have a funny feeling that if instead of spending money on the trip you bought your wife some jewelry, it would enhance yom tov for both of you. One person who goes every year mentioned to me that he’s going through a hard time financially. Some local organizations are helping out as he tries to supplement his income with side jobs. Do these organizations know that he spends money flying to Uman every year? Would they still help him out?
In case I wasn’t clear enough, I agree with your wife. Stay home. Buy your wife something nice for yom tov and bring Rav Nachman into your home. You can still be excited about davening, and who knows? Maybe you’ll inspire others!
Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a well-known rebbe and parenting adviser. To sign up for the weekly emails and read the comments, visit YidParenting.com.