For a few years’ now, I’ve had precious little patience for people who claim to be doing ‘the best they could’

– as they continue to mistreat their nearest and dearest; cheat on their taxes; lie to everyone, about everything, and generally act like horrible human beings.

I mean, really. How can they possibly claim to be doing ‘the best they could’? Do they think I’m retarded, or something?

But after this trip to Uman, something fundamental has changed in my outlook, and strange to say, I’m actually starting to see how these people really are doing ‘the best they could’, after all.

When people are raised, for whatever reason, in environments that are very harsh, critical, cold and unloving, it literally rewires the way the energy flows in their body; the way they think; they way they see things; and the way they act.

They don’t act the way they do because they want to be horrible, hateful, deceitful, selfish people.

They are acting the way they do because they got stuck in ‘survival’ mode, spiritually and energetically, and they can’t see any way out.

Until a few days’ ago, I also couldn’t see any way out for them. Logically, if people aren’t even willing to take the first basic steps in becoming self-aware, and can’t even conceive of being willing to change, or to work on themselves, or to ask G-d to help them out of the rut they’re in, then how can anything ever change?

It takes a lot of work, effort and time to change. It takes an awful lot of prayer. It takes an awful lot of teshuva. And a lot of people today, especially the ‘interesting characters’ in our midst simply don’t have the inclination or energy to invest in the process.

So it seemed to me, they were stuffed.

But after this last trip to Uman, I’m really starting to believe it’s possible after all. How? They just need someone, anyone, to pray for them, even a little bit, and then G-d will do the rest.

Rebbe Nachman made a promise that if someone came to his tomb and said the Tikkun HaKlali, and gave a penny to charity, that he would do everything in his power to help them, and pull them out of hell.

There’s an idea in Judaism that if someone can’t perform a certain mitzvah themselves, that you can be their shaliach. It hit me this time round that I could say the Tikkun HaKlali and give charity on behalf of a whole bunch of people, and then they’re automatically going to start getting the help they need to get out of ‘hell’.

Hell doesn’t just mean that very hot place you go to when you die. People can and do experience ‘hell’ while they’re still very much alive.

Just ask anyone who’s addicted to drugs, alcohol or internet porn; ask the workaholics who hate that they spend 18 hours at the office, but can’t see any alternative; or the people who are trapped being superficial caricatures of themselves, unable to ever have a real conversation with anyone, including G-d.

It’s hell, mamash.

And Rebbe Nachman promised to get these people out, if they’d just follow his instructions.

Now, you might say that you can’t do Tikkun HaKlalis on behalf of others without their permission, but there’s a story about two Breslev elders that puts that idea to rest.

When Uman was behind the iron curtain, very few people managed to get there. One of the Breslev elders of the last generation had been privileged to be there a few times, and another Breslev elder who’d never managed to get there asked him to ‘sell’ him one of his recitations of the Tikkun Haklali.

He was willing to give in return all the heavenly reward for his mitzvoth and Torah learning – and remember, we are talking here about a giant of a man, spiritually.

That story showed me that you can do ‘surrogate’ Tikkun Haklalis, and this trip to Uman, I got another bit of the puzzle: Rebbe Nachman really wants us to do it! He wants us to pray for other people that are never, ever going to make the trip themselves (at least, the way things stand at the moment).

He wants everyone to get out of hell, both in this life and the next.

Even those people who despite doing ‘the best they could’ are still leaving a trail of destruction, evil and suffering in their wake.

Our job is just to pray on their behalf, just to be G-d’s shaliach, and then He and His Tzaddikim will do the rest.

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