For most British Jews, Rosh Hashanah is the ultimate family time, but every year tens of thousands of Israeli men leave their families for the festival. Now, leading rabbis are trying to put an end to the craze.
Chasidim from the Breslov sect have a tradition of spending Rosh Hashanah at the grave of their rebbe, the 18th century sage Nachman of Breslov, believing it is the ultimate setting for repentance and brings great mystical benefits. Over the past 15 years, the trend has spread through the entire Israeli Orthodox community, including religious-Zionists.
But religious-Zionist rabbis have watched it with concern, and some are now using the weight of religious teachings to stop their followers from going. "If you leave your wife alone and sad on Rosh Hashanah, know that you will not leave guilt-free from the Heavenly Court," said Shlomo Aviner, head of Jerusalem's Ateret Cohanim Yeshivah.
Rabbi Aviner, one of Israel's most influential religious-Zionist rabbis, was due to make his position clear today in a national synagogue newsletter.
Ratzon Arrusi, Chief Rabbi of Kiryat Ono near Tel Aviv, voiced his condemnation in his popular daily internet broadcast. "Why leave the Holy Land to go there?" he asked.
Questioned on the Breslov belief that visiting the grave saves one's soul from gehinom (purgatory), Rabbi Aviner said: "There are other things more certain and clear which save one from gehinom, such as repentance, prayer and charity, and helping one's family on Rosh Hashanah."