JERUSALEM —-Israeli diplomats have made an official request to the Ukrainian government to bring the remains of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, an 18th century hasidic authority, to Israel for reinterment, Army Radio reported Monday. According to the report, the request was made at the behest of Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, acting with members of the Breslov Hassidic movement.
The report said the government in Kiev has yet to respond to the request, but officials have clarified that they consider the grave site a “national-historical asset.”
Rabbi Nachman, the founder of the Breslov hasidic stream, was a great-grandson Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the hasidic movement. He was born in 1772 in Poland and died in 1810 in Uman, in modern-day Ukraine. He was buried in Uman and according to legend promised his followers that if they visit his grave he will save them from any trouble. Every year, tens of thousands of people, mainly from the Orthodox sector but also traditional and even secular Jews, visit the site, often at a stiff financial cost. As a result, the pilgrimages have become a major source of income for the Ukranian region.
Professor Zvi Mark of Bar Ilan University, an expert on Rabbi Nachman, told Tazpit Press Service (TPS) that most Breslov Hassidim do not support the idea of bringing Rabbi Nachman’s remains to Israel. “Rabbi Nachman explicitly said he wanted to be buried in Uman, and in general most of the Breslov are fearful of moving the grave,” Mark said.
He explained that Breslov is the only Hassidic court without a living leader “so it will be difficult for them to decide what they want.”
But some of the movement’s followers were unconvinced. Sharon Knafe, a 40-year old Breslov Hassid who makes a yearly pilgrimage to Uman, said he supports the idea of moving Rabbi Nachman’s remains to Israel.
“I am in favor of bringing the grave of Rabbi Nachman to Israel,” Knafe told TPS. “The rabbi wanted to be buried in Israel, but at the time it was not possible to bring him here. Also, most of the believers at that time lived there. Now, most of the Breslov Hasidim are in Israel.”
Knafe added that the negative impact on Uman’s economy that would result from moving the grave, should not be a point of consideration when deciding the fate of the late rabbi’s earthly remains.
“Jews should be concerned with the economy of Israel and not that of other countries. I would prefer to have the possibility to go to pray at the grave in Israel and to travel with my family to other places,” Knafe said.