How the Rav Acted at the Borders on the Way to Uman

way to uman

From the book Eliezer Eved Hashem

In the days of communist rule all around Russia and Ukraine, the communists prevented Jews from emigrating to Israel. At the same time, they also prevented Jews and other citizens from around the world from visiting Mother Russia.

The grave of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov in Uman, Ukraine is a grave beloved by the chassidim of Breslov. The chassidim yearned to reach the holy tzion and to prostrate on the matzevah (headstone) of the grave of Rebbe Nachman. However, the communist police followed visitors with “7 evil eyes”, closely watching every person that entered into the country, even official visitors. They made it hard in every possible way to visit the grave in Uman.

Therefore, the Breslov chassidim used to travel to Uman by circuitous routes. They would fly to foreign countries and bring foreign passports. They would write that they were going to a different destination in order to obscure that their intention was to travel from the land of Israel to far away Uman. During those same years, the Rav made vigorous efforts for the sake of opening travel to Uman. In the beginning, he tried diplomacy. When that did not work, he organized special groups to travel to the grave of the tzaddik. He devised ways to get past the obstacles, with no fear, and with full faith that nobody could harm them without Hashem’s permission “Nobody points his little finger below unless it is announced from above”. (Gemara Chuline zayin). There was danger and fear at the border crossing when the people were entering. Officials would investigate the reason for their travel. An odd look, or a simple suspicion from a border guard, was all that was necessary for a traveler to find himself in an investigation or in prison, which was a real life risk. The Rav organized large groups of chassidim that sought to prostrate themselves on the tzion of the Tzaddik. And he himself used to accompany every group. When there was a group that was passing through the border, the people’s hearts were pounding. Every one wished to get quickly through the frightening process.

But there was one individual who remained always, always, in the back of the group, in order to make sure that everyone passed through the border peacefully. It was Rav Berland, of course. The Rav never rushed to pass through the border. He was never in the front or in the middle of the group. He always went to the back of the line. That way there wouldn’t be a situation where a chassid would be captured by the border guards without someone there to help him.

Once, the Rav was captured and questioned for 48 long hours. But he always fulfilled the words of the pasuk: “Imo anochi b’ tzaaraa.” “I am with him when he is in trouble.” He tried to be with every single Jew with their troubles, even when there was a real danger to his life.

Translated from the book Eliezer Eved Hashem.  To order a copy click here.

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