Rabbi Ovadia Yosef criticized the New Year pilgrimage to Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav's grave in the Ukraine Saturday.
While Yosef was giving his weekly lesson in Jerusalem Saturday evening, Ben-Gurion Airport was packed with men and children carrying full-to-bursting suitcases and boxes of food. The annual migration of thousands of Israelis to the city of Uman, Ukraine, to spend Rosh Hashanah near the burial place of Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav, had begun. Among those heading for Ukraine were thousands of Mizrahim (Jews of Middle Eastern descent), including supporters of Yosef's Shas Party.
Yosef, speaking at his synagogue, Hayazdim, spelled out his position: He had nothing against Rabbi Nahman, who was "a saint, an honest man." His problem was with those who made a pilgrimage to his grave for the New Year holiday. "People shouldn't leave their families," Yosef said.
This is just the latest expression of the ultra-Orthodox community's complex attitude toward the Bratslav Hasidim and their revered teacher, who died nearly 200 years ago.
The enormous growth in the popularity of the annual pilgrimage over the last decade has spurred disagreement. In recent weeks, pamphlets denigrating Rabbi Nahman have been distributed in Jerusalem.
The Eda Haredit organization, which includes the anti-Zionist wing of the Bratslavs, called them "heretical and apostate." Bratslav Hasidim have accused Yosef of fanning the flames, not only by reiterating his opposition to the pilgrimages, but also by defaming Rabbi Nahman himself.