Hachnasas Orchim in Uman. The chesed in Uman is unbelievable. There is a big gvir who has made it his mission to ensure that everyone in Uman has enough to eat. He arranges for several football field sized tents to serve people. The whole "Shayner" operation is a marvel in logistical planning, especially considering the dearth of kosher food in the Ukraine. They serve individually packed hot meals for 22,000-25,000 per day. A couple of pictures are one the side here. One shows just two of the tents from the outside at night and also displays the sign offering "Free Wifi" so people can be in touch with their families. Meals before Yuntif were free and I had a couple of them. The whole operation is totally remarkable. They direct people to tables in an orderly fashion, just like the parking attendants at the Disney World parks and Universal Studios.
I also attended Slichos at the main Kloyz in Uman with 5,000 or so other Yidden starting at about 2:50 in the morning. See on the right for a picture of the Chazan who I was right behind as I stood in the aisle. I'm also embedding a video I took just below this paragraph which shows the size of the Kloyz as expanded with the second level. Very big!
Rabbi Chaim Kramer and the Reading of the Akeida. The driving force and main author behind the Breslov Research Institute books is Rabbi Chaim Kramer. He is also a very down-to-earth person when one meets him in-person, a true expert in all sifrei Breslov, and a very emotional person as well. He cried at a number of points during the Rosh Hashana davening and told the following story during the reading of the Akeidas Yitzchak: One of the Nazis' cruel methods was to go into shul and take a boy to kill. It was known that if one boy was released for some reason that they would pick another boy in his place. One Shabbos, a man watched in horror as his son was taken away by the Nazis. He immediately walked over to the Rav of the shul, told him that he had money, and asked if he was permitted to bribe the Nazis to release his son, knowing that they would pick another boy in his place. The Rav told him, "I simply cannot answer this question." The man understood from the Rav's refusal to answer that he was not permitted to secure his son's release because the Nazis would just kill another person's son instead, but that he could not bring himself to tell a father that he could not save his own son's life. He therefore told the Rav, "I understand what the Rav is saying. I will not redeem my son. But whenever you go to the upper world, tell Avraham Avinu that he almost gave up his son's life for Hashem but that I actually am giving up my son's life for Hashem and that he must intercede to send us the redemption right now..."
Coming Home. My wife is amazing. She brought the whole family and something to eat and drink to greet me when I left the baggage claim at JFK. It was so beautiful seeing all of them and giving everyone a much-needed hug! She is definitely the most thoughtful person ever for bringing food to the airport, especially considering the fact that the time difference made the Tzom Gedalia fast 7 hours longer (Yes, I'm aware there is some basis not to fast, or at least not to fast the whole time, but I fasted). The trip was good but it was very good to be home!
There's a famous mashal that people use to explain the benefit of going to Uman involving a poor Jew who had a dream that a treasure was burried under a certain bridge in Vienna. He travled and began trying to dig under the bridge, only to be stopped by a guard who asked him what he was doing. He told the guard about his dream and the guard laughed, telling the Jew that had a dream a treasure was buried in a Jew's house in a faraway town (naming that same Jew's town and his address) but why would he pay attention to such dreams! The man then went home and found the treatsure. I love this mashal and it very much resonates with me. It was definitely kedai to go all the way to Uman and separate myself from regular life so I could examine it "from a distance" and discover things in myself and my personal rebbe I was not in touch with before.