Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich, a Stoliner hasid who has served as chief rabbi of Ukraine for about 23 years, also reportedly attacked the new Breslov custom. “I don’t understand why people would bring a baby to a rabbi’s grave for brit milah. It’s just bizarre,” he reportedly said.
Breslov Hasidim Fly Days Old Infants To Uman To Circumcise Them On Rabbi Nachman’s Grave, Sparking Outrage, Concern
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Breslov hasidim have reportedly instituted a series of new customs tied to the grave of Breslov’s founder and only rebbe, Rabbi Nachman of Brelsov, who passed away in 1810 and is buried in Uman, Ukraine.
Breslov hasidim stage an annual pilgrimage to Uman for Rosh Hashana (the Jewish new year) that draws about 25,000 people.
But hasidim have started to add to the basic prayers, singing and dancing that have until now marked the Uman celebration – and some of what they’ve added has drawn the objections of rabbis and doctors alike.
According to the JTA, women have begun to separate hallah on the grave of Rabbi Nachman in a bizarre public group ceremony that seems to have no source in Jewish practice.
Under halakha (Jewish law) a small amount of dough is separated and burned whenever bread is baked, but there is no public or communal ceremony for doing so and certainly no public or private ceremony involving doing so on the grave of a rabbi.
But it is the decision of some Breslov hasidim to circumcise their 8-day-old sons on or adjacent to Rabbi Nachman grave that has really upset observers who worry the practice – which, like the hallah ceremony appears to have no basis in Jewish law – is dangerous for the children being circumcised and problematic for European Jewish leaders who are currently fighting increasing challenges to circumcision from several European governments.
At least four neonates were circumcised at or adjacent to Rabbi Nachman’s grave during this year’s pilgrimage, the JTA reported.
“This new gimmick goes against halachah [Jewish law] and is contemptuous of the mitzvah of milah [circumcision] as well as the sanctity of human life.…The trend “is happening as people in Europe are already searching for reasons to fight circumcision,” Rabbi Avi Zarki, a well-known Tel Aviv-based radio talk show host and mohel, reportedly said.
Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich, a Stoliner hasid who has served as chief rabbi of Ukraine for about 23 years, also reportedly attacked the new Breslov custom.
“I don’t understand why people would bring a baby to a rabbi’s grave for brit milah. It’s just bizarre,” he reportedly said.
“Now that merely coming [to Uman] has become mainstream, devout believers are looking for new ways to express their commitment,” Bar-Ilan University’s Zvi Mark, an expert on hasidic movements, told the JTA.
Galina Borisovna heads Uman’s pediatric clinic — which the JTA describes as “an apartment-size space that looks like the set of a 1950s film.” She reportedly said it was “crazy” to bring a neonate hundreds or even thousands of miles to Uman to be circumcised, especially when the nearest modern hospital is 200 miles away.
“You would have to be crazy just to bring a week-old baby to this place with tens of thousands people around, let alone circumcise him in unsanitary conditions. It exposes the child to all sort of diseases and I strongly advise against it,” Borisovna reportedly said.
A surgeon at Uman’s hospital, Nicolay Vasilyevitch, disagreed. He claimed the risks are exaggerated.
“Circumcision is a minor procedure and we have the tools to deal with any complications right here, not to mention that the hasidim have their own medical services [for the several weeks of the pilgrimage], which are quite good,” Vasilyevitch reportedly claimed.