Journeys of Ancestral Discovery,
Connecting the Body and Soul
of the Jewish People
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Reb Nosson's grave in Berdichev
Reb Nosson was Rebbe Nachman's scribe. He also took Rebbe
Nachman's teachings and transformed them into prayers.
Without Reb Nosson, what would we know of Rebbe Nachman's
On the way to Reb Nosson's Grave
Past is not just of the graves of the early Chasidim we visited but the environment that fostered such Jewish community, culture, thought and practice. For me the Ukraine struck this home in an environment that was close to nature. Small villages near rivers and hills where homes still have gardens and fruit trees. The cemeteries were in contemplative environments, open to feel the wind and to see horizons beyond the town. What struck me in those cemeteries was the love of the students for their teachers. Not to diminish the struggles of living as a Jew in the Ukraine but that is not what I experienced. - Dan Gabbay
Rabbi Thayer of Berdichev
Rabbi Thayer is a descendant of Rabbi Levi Yitzhok who had a tremendous love of the Jewish People.
"multi tasking expert. In the Shul he'd lead the service, taking a moment here and there to direct contractors, keep the congregants energized. He noticed the borrowed tefillin on my head was damaged so he quietly took his off, gave it to me and told me to repeat the Shema. He fed us and was with us at the table taking moments from other parts of his work. This was done in fullness of heart and humbleness of spirit." -Dan Gabbay
Babi Yar - Kiev
Daniel said he had been to funerals and memorials for family and young friends but these people had no one to remember them. I went to a high school with 2000 students. This was like 50 high schools wiped out. As other pilgrims and visitors had done, we said Kaddish.
The Baal Shem Tov's Grave
They had traveled from Israel during the Gaza war to pray for protection of the Jewish people and soldiers. At the same time, the Rabbi of the Central Synagogue in Kiev was travelling to Jerusalem to pray for protection fo the Jewish people.
The Baal Shem Tov's Grave
"We're talking about praying and daavening, using your will to ask for what you need, not just what you want, but to be able to ask in a clear way... asking a friend for help is like making a prayer.
Biggest prayer: to be present." - Rabbi Hoffman
Reb Zusia's Grave Anipol, Poland
An incredible individual filled with simcha. He said he was a descendant of Reb Zusia. He had come from Russia where he was a doctor. He wanted to create a school to study Reb Zusia in Anipol. He danced with us and gave many blessings.
Off google maps, off gps, off the beaten path, a local jumped in our van and pointed us to a path in between some houses. SS commander Kurt Engle had all the gravestones of the Jewish graveyard in the town of Ishbitz uprooted. With them he built a jail for Jews next to his residence. The Jews came and built an Ohel for the Ishbiter Rebbe in 2006? with the stones from the jail. Some of them are 500 years old.
We had a remarkable encounter here. Rabbi Howard Hoffman has been teaching the Izhbitz Rebbe, for 20 years. A woman appeared who had been researching the town of Izbica for 20 years. She had been unaware of the Izhbitz Rebbe. We were surprised to learn that German Jews were sent to Izbica because the Germans would not kill Jews en masse in Germany.
“Here is our holy group of Pilgrims. This group has a very big heart.” - Rabbi Hoffman
"The tendency is to focus on the end game, in this case, salvation. As men, we say suffering goes with it; no pain, no gain. The Aish Kodesh in his commentary, gives permission to be real, be in it. “It” is the suffering. The end game is redemption. Before Tisha B'Av, is not the Shabbos of redemption. Or, “we are martyrs; look for what I suffer.” One week a year, focus on your feelings, not the benefit." - Steve Levine commenting on the Aish Kodesh teaching.