The facts on the ground, about converts and corruption in Latin America.

The last few days, I’ve been up to my eyeballs investigating a whole bunch of things related to what’s going on with corruption and converts in Latin America, and here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  • The straight up halacha of performing an orthodox Jewish conversion appears to be much more simple than I realized.

According to this article, by Rabbi and Dayan Yirmiyaho Kaganoff, all you need is three orthodox Jews – not necessarily even Rabbis! – and a commitment from the would-be convert to do their utmost to keep the Torah, and abide by its commandments for the conversion to be valid.

“The basic requirement for becoming a Jew is accepting Hashem’s commandments, since a Jew is, by definition, someone who has a covenant with G-d to observe the Torah.”

“As mentioned before, conversion is an act that requires a proper beis din, meaning minimally, three fully-observant male Jews.”

  • There is a difference between an ‘halachically correct’ conversion, and a conversion that is recognized by the local orthodox community and / or the State of Israel Rabbinate.

Long story short, the whole situation with the anousim and with conversions generally, has become horribly politicized, and there seems to be a lot of vested interests who don’t want to see hordes of newly-orthodox Sephardic Jews in their communities and / or moving to Israel; and who especially don’t want to see millions of orthodox Sephardim suddenly upsetting the political balance and challenging Ashkenazi dominance in the worldwide Jewish community.

  • Latin America countries have had a takana, or agreement in place since the 1935 which was first introduced by the expat Syrian community in Argentina, that they won’t accept any new converts.

I had never heard of this before, so I did some digging and this is what I found:

“[T]he 1935 Takana… forbids marriage to those who convert for the purpose of marriage… [with] subsequent reaffirmations issued by Rabbi Jacob S. Kassin, the Brooklyn, NY Syrian Jewish community’s Chief Rabbi, and the Rabbinical Council of the Syrian community.

“Such marriages were not to be recognized by the community. Children of such marriages could not attend community yeshivot. Further, rites of passage such as bar mitzvahs, weddings and the right to be buried in the community’s cemetery were denied, as well as synagogue honors.”

It’s important to note that this Takana was first introduced to discourage insincere converts who only wanted to marry a Jew. But now, it’s been wholesale applied to the Bnei Anousim in Latin America who have Jewish roots, and want to return to their faith.

And ironically, the only people who can get around this Takana today tend to be the wealthy, connected Jews who dafka are trying to get someone converted just so they can marry them.

  • This Takana is making it very hard for potential converts to meet the requirement set out by the Israeli Rabbinate, that they have to have spent at least 9 months living in an active, orthodox Jewish.

Their local communities are totally shunning them, so even though their conversion may be halachically valid, they can’t meet the requirements to have their conversion recognized by State of Israel.

  • The current position with the State of Israel’s Rabbinate is that they will not accept any orthodox conversion done in Latin America.

The convert will either have to move for a year to the US and convert there, or try to move to Israel for a year and convert here. If you don’t have money and connections, clearly neither of these routes are really so viable. (As a side note, there has been so much corruption going on with selling conversions that in some ways, this is a sensible approach to take, as far as it goes. But not enough is being done to help sincere converts find other ways to meet the criteria.)

  • People with money in Latin America are often finding ways to convert ‘orthodox’ – by hook or by crook – in any case.

People without money – even if they are totally sincere and have been living as orthodox Jews for a few years already without formal recognition of their conversion – are basically stuffed.

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Of course, this is totally the olam hafuch, or the upside-down world!

Moshiach is meant to be overseeing the ingathering of exiles and a lot of them can’t get on the plane because all the politics and conversion corruption in Latin America (and elsewhere…) is preventing them from being recognized as Jews, and they don’t have the money required to beat the system.

This is what one of my readers sent me, when she got in touch with one of her local Orthodox Rabbis to discuss the problem:

Screenshot of a text message from a rabbi talking about conversions

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I also learnt that there is a difference between Bnei Anousim and Bnei Conversos.

Bnei Anousim are secret Jews who kept many of their Jewish customs, albeit it secretly, often without knowing why, and who were usually very strict about marrying into each other’s families.

These people are considered to be Jewish (if they can prove their traditions and geneology), but will often have to undergo an immersion in a mikva without saying a bracha.

Meanwhile, the Bnei Conversos are people who started off as Jews, but who converted to Catholicism and totally assimilated into the non-Jewish society. The descendants of these people are considered non-Jews, and will have to undergo a full conversion.

There is a lot more to be said about the subject of converts and corruption in Latin America. The more I’ve been researching, the more unbelievable corruption at every level I’ve been uncovering. It’s been very disappointing, to be honest.

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The last thing to tell you is a story I heard about someone who converted through a Beit Din that’s known as one of the strictest in Chutz L’Aretz.

For four years, this person learnt halacha, went to shul, did everything they were told. (They had a Jewish boyfriend who was very keen that they convert properly before they got married, but who really doesn’t believe in the Torah.)

The man had been raised in an orthodox family, so he and his wife-to-be played their part beautifully for the four years required by the conversion process.

Very soon after the wedding, the wife returned to her roots, and can now be found back in church on an Easter Sunday.

You tell me: Is this woman really Jewish? Are her kids really Jewish?

But this is the woman with orthodox papers from the ‘strictest’ Beit Din in the world, for converts.

It’s the olam hafuch. And until Moshiach shows up to ‘sniff out’ who is really Jewish and who isn’t, it’s probably going to continue. And when that birur process starts in earnest, I think there are going to be a lot of very surprising things coming to light, in a whole bunch of different ways.

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You might also like these articles related to converts and corruption in Latin America:

Photo by MCML ➖XXXIII (steal my _ _ art) on Unsplash

So many anusim, or lost Jews in Latin America are trying to return to their Jewish roots, but it’s really not easy.

Around four years ago, I got an email from someone who’d been Google translating some of the stuff I’d been writing on the Breslev.co.il website into Spanish. She lived in Latin America, and was going through a very hard time.

After we’d been corresponding for a while, I took the plunge and asked her:

“Are you Jewish?”

It took a while for the answer to ping back to me. She had Jewish roots that went back to the anusim, the hidden Jews of Spain. She was desperate to learn more about emuna, and the authentic, orthodox Jewish approach to serving God.

But no, she was not recognized as being officially Jewish.

I kept in touch with my Spanish-speaking pen-pal over the next few years, and I was astounded when I got an email from her, around 18 months ago, when she told me she’d totally turned her life around left her soul-destroying job, and undergone a full orthodox conversion.

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I was seriously impressed.

Had I known more details of what was really taking place in my penpal’s life, I would have been far more impressed. Because while her conversion was carried out 100% according to halacha; and was performed by a chareidi rabbi in Israel who lives with his family in Bnei Brak.

This rabbi used to spend a lot of time in Latin America on business, and over the years, he’d taken a great interest in trying to build up the observant community there. But there was a fly in the ointment: the local Chief Rabbinate where my friend lives wasn’t recognizing her conversion.

Back then, I was still a little naïve. I had no idea what was really going on, so I didn’t press for too many details, and I figured it was just one of those technical things that eventually get sorted out.

Then a year ago, I got another bombshell email: my penpal had met someone who’d been learning full-time in yeshiva in Israel before moving back to Latin America to find a wife. They were getting married the next month, and even though they barely had a penny to their name, she was looking forward to a much happier future.

What can I tell you?

Hashem has been giving my penpal, and the community she belongs to, a lot of tests.

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Last Summer, I invited her to come and spend a week with me here, in Jerusalem, to have a bit of a break from all the tremendous stress she was under at home, and to come and get acquainted with the holy city.

She spent 10 days in my house, and we went to a whole bunch of holy places together, including the Kotel, Kever Rochel and the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hevron. When she was too tired to keep traipsing all over the city, my friend would spend hours on end in her room with her prayer book, either reciting the three standard prayer services or quietly whispering tehillim to herself.

In the middle of a blazing August summer, her level of tznius put mine to shame.

She was wearing her bullet-proof black tights, and her high collars, and her heavy beret, when the heat was peaking at well over 40 degrees. And we talked a lot about God’s plan for us, and what it really means to have emuna, and a few other things besides.

At one point, I felt I could now broach a topic that had puzzled me right from the beginning:

Why didn’t you convert with the local Chief Rabbinate where you live right from the start, and avoid all the problems you’re having with being barred from using the communal mikva? (Not to mention all the other issues that she’d only hinted at.)

She sighed a deep sigh, and told me:

I don’t want to talk any lashon hara.

But journalist that I am, I could tell there was a good story here.

I kept nudging her until she told me that the main problem boiled down to money: potential orthodox converts were being asked for thousands of dollars in ‘donations’ to convert in her part of the world and my friend – and the community she was part of – simply didn’t have the cash required.

Since last Summer, the situation has gone from bad to worse. Senior figures in the ‘official’ Jewish community there have been persecuting my friend and her husband for months, preventing them from finding a job. The non-Jews don’t want them, because they dress, behave and believe the same way as the sorts of Jews you see walking around the frummest neighborhoods in Israel.

And sadly, the ‘official’ Jewish community in their country also doesn’t want them.

Headline from Haaretz saying 23% of Latin Americans have Jewish roots

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When I showed my friend this draft, ahead of posting it up here on the site, she asked me to add in the following:

“I want to add something so that people understand that it’s not just me and my immediate community of lost Jews who are being personally persecuted. There are many converts and potential converts across the whole of Latin America who are experiencing a lot of problems.

The “official communities” in a lot of these countries don’t want to deal with us, either because there is no correct, orthodox conversion procedure in place, or because we don’t have a lot of money we can ‘donate’ to join the Jewish community, persecution against us, or because they are worried that we are really just part of a xtian sect called the “Jewish messianists” (i.e. Jews for Yoshki).

Some of those messianists now also dress as Hasidic, or ’religious-looking’ Jews, and because of our background, we are suspected of being part of these sects.”

So my friend and her community have been falling through the gaps, stuck in a kind of no-mans-land where so many of them are literally struggling to put even basic food on the table, or to find the money to keep paying the rent.

They can’t move to Israel, as many of them would like to, as they aren’t formally recognized as being Jews.

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The conversion committee in Israel keeps telling them to convert ‘officially’ with their local community, spend a year there, and then move to Israel. But of course, they can’t. I’ve heard rumors that the ‘donation’ new converts are being asked for is $10,000 a person – and these people can barely put food on the table.

Last month, when things hit a new low, I said to my friend:

Let’s tell your story. Let’s explain what’s happening to you and your community, in your own words. I think the Jewish world really needs to hear about your plight  – but also, the remarkable courage and emuna that my friend and her community are showing in the face of some really tough circumstances.

After a little bit of persuading, she agreed.

So here is her story, in her own words.

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My father was the second child of a religiously “conservative” family of lost Jews.

His parents never openly spoke to him about Judaism, and in many ways, they acted like the other Christians around them – only much less ‘Christian’.

But my grandfather always told him: “You should always love Israel, you should always know that Israel is the world’s clock”.

My father grew up in a rural area, totally detached from material things, which were not abundant in any case, as he was sharing the house with 11 brothers.

During his childhood, my father’s family had certain “Jewish” practices. For example, if an animal drowned, they wouldn’t eat it. And all the meat they ate was always slaughtered in a particular way, and the animal’s blood was covered over with earth.

They were taught to be extremely respectful to adults, and the children didn’t participate in any festival that was dedicated to a Christian idol, nor did they join in with the religious ceremonies in school, and neither did they celebrate Christmas. In my father’s childhood home, it was totally forbidden to cause harm to any animal, or to make fun of other people.

My father was very spiritual, even as a child.

From seven years old, he was already longing to know more about God, and what God really expected from him, and he often had some very powerful dreams and premonitions. Throughout his childhood, he was teased and ostracized for not being part of the regular Christian world around him.

At around this time, news started to reach Latin America about the Shoah that was engulfing the Jews of Europe, so my father’s unexpressed yearning for Judaism was pushed even further underground.

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My mother’s parents divorced when she was very young, so she was raised in what appeared to be a traditional Catholic house.

But from the age of 5, she decided that she was only going to talk and pray to God, and not to any images of people. Those idols scared and repulsed her.

After she married my father, they both started to think more about the spiritual side of life, and my mother decided to ask her mother about the family. My grandmother told her that her grandparents were Jewish. Her mother had died from pneumonia when my grandmother was 8 years old, and her father had then married a Catholic woman, who raised her and her brothers. And so, all the Jewish traditions the family had were totally lost.

When my parents were in their mid-thirties, Latin America was hit by a wave of self-styled ‘Orthodox Messianic’ movements.

People who called themselves ‘rabbis’ started coming to the country, and began conducting religious services and teaching people Hebrew. These ‘rabbis’ started to appoint leaders, and to form communities, and they had the money required to start bringing Jewish books and religious items into the country .

They’d sell these items – talissim, kippas, tefillin, siddurim, and even shofars – to the locals. At that stage, my parents decided they would convert their house to being ‘kosher’, and these moves were very cautiously welcomed by the more religious Jewish communities in our country. But then, the messianic ‘rabbis’ started trying to convince the lostJews who had started to adopt more Jewish laws and halachot to accept their Christian ‘messiah’.

Many people were very confused about what was happening, but as time went on, more and more people started to realise that there was something very wrong here, and that all this ‘messianic’ propaganda didn’t fit in with the Torah, or with halacha.

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At that point, before they had formally converted to Judaism, the community came across the letter that Don Isaac Abarbanel wrote to the monarchs of Spain.

The letter was written at the time of the forced conversions and expulsion of the Spanish Jews. There he wrote:

“[A]s the last spokesman of Spanish Jewry… I will leave you with a parting message although you will like it not.

“The message is simple. The historical people of Israel, as it has traditionally constituted itself, is the final judge of Jesus and his claims to be the Messiah. As the Messiah was destined to save Israel, so it must be for Israel to decide when it has been saved.

“Our answer, the only answer that matters, is that Jesus was a false Messiah.

“As long as the people of Israel lives, as long as Jesus’ own people continue to reject him, your religion can never be validated as true. You can convert all the peoples and savages of the world, but as long as you have not converted the Jew, you have proved nothing except that you can persuade the uninformed.”

Sadly, even Don Isaac Abarbanel’s own brother converted to Catholicism, and when that happened, every church in the country rang its bells in celebration. But the Abarbanel dreamed of the day when all these lost Jews would return to their faith.”

My friend continues:

“After we found that letter, many of us became much more interested in our traditions, and we started spending a lot of time at the national archives in our country, where we started to learn more about our Sephardic heritage. Throughout this time, we were very isolated. For around 18 years, we didn’t really know what to do or where to turn, and in the meantime, the formal communities around us were refusing to even sell us matzahs for Pesach.

Then one day, a friend from the formal Jewish community told us about a rabbi who was spending a lot of time in Latin America on business, and suggested that he might be willing to us more about the Jewish traditions of our heritage.

We faced obstacles every step of the way.

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Even from the age of six, I had decided that I didn’t like all the stories about Yoshki that always seemed so cruel, and so full of blood and death.

Instead, I started telling people that Moses was my hero. But that didn’t go down so well in the communities we were living in, and our non-Jewish family and friends started to push us away, and to accuse us of being ‘fanatics’ and ‘murderers’.

As soon as these people discovered we were lost Jews, they’d move away from our communities very quickly. Before we started our journey to Orthodox Judaism, we’d been a wealthy family, a wealthy community. But as the years passed, our businesses started to fail, as more and more people were ostracizing us, and the money dried up.

There were weeks when we struggled even to find the money to make food for Shabbat, and this continued for years. As our community has become poorer and poorer, sometimes, there hasn’t even been money to buy food. But we don’t complain about our poverty. Most of the converts we know had to face this test, and we’ve also seen such tremendous miracles.

Yes, there are some very difficult tests.

Some of the men who couldn’t find a Jewish woman have strayed, and the main Jewish congregations in our country have been told not to give us any access to their facilities, including the communal mikva, or to offer us any type of help or tzedaka.

Yet, I’ve also seen more kindness in these communities than I’ve seen anywhere else.

I’ve seen people share their small bag of flour with a friend, so their family can also have something to eat. I’ve seen people go without sleep, and walking many kilometres just to attend a religious service. I’ve seen people spend their own time and money just to teach others, and I’ve seen women recite so many tehillim for the people in need, and people who suffer hunger all week, because they refuse to work on Shabbat, or to buy non-kosher food.

I have seen people investing literally everything they have for the common good, and making so many sacrifices to help other lost Jewish souls out of the prison of Christianity.

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None of the 200-300 people I know who have undergone an orthodox conversion have had it easy.

Some people have lost everything they had, even their families, and so many of us have had to deal with being rejected by our parents, our friends, our communities, and with being gossiped about and slandered.

And things are no easier on the Jewish side of the equation, either, where we continue to be rejected, and our conversion discredited, by the ‘traditional’ Jewish population. Sometimes the tests are so hard, people fall back into their old life. But I’ve also witnessed three generations in one family convert.

When I’ve asked some of the people in my community if it was worth it, after everything they’ve gone through, the majority of them say:

“I’m a Jew, how else could I live?”

Here and there, there have been some movements, meeting and groups to create a strong Torah community in the Latin American countries, but it seems that there is not enough “Jewish glue” among the Latin American converts and the lost Jews to really make it work. Some people have tried very hard to get our communities more organized and vocal, but it never really spreads very far.

It’s not easy to deal with people who have even spent 50-60-70 years as “good Christians”, and now you come along and suddenly tell them that everything they believed in is wrong, and that they must become some other sort of people. It’s like being told that you have lived someone else’s life by mistake.

Many people simply can’t accept it.

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Many of us would like to move to Israel, but the anusim like us are just a statistic to the State of Israel.

Even though some of us converted 30 years ago, already, none of us have been invited to speak to the policy makers in Israel, although I know they listen to Arabs and other non-Jews on a regular basis. Yes, there are some ‘politically correct’ initiatives, but nothing that really leads to anything concrete.

I’ve never heard of an Israeli embassy running an initiative to try to get to know the anusim that exist, still half-hidden, in the countries where they are located. The only contact we have with Israel is via the letters written by our ‘official’ rabbinate, where the conversions that cost us so many tears, and so many prayers, and so many nights of study and effort, are falsely discredited.”

Why is that happening, I wanted to know? Why so much antagonism against the lost Jews?

My friend sighed, then continued:

“As happens everywhere, there are some people, some “anusim” who have been seeing all this as some sort of a “business”, and their actions have closed the doors for the rest of us more and more. Baruch Hashem, they are a minority, and they cannot dim the light of those who really want to live a Jewish life, even when our bad middot still get in the way.”

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She continued:

“Today, the future does not seem so clear.

The people who have the ability and knowledge to help us move forward don’t want to. The people who could be sharing our story, and lighting our path back to teshuva and Hashem and Israel, continue to turn their backs on us.  But there is still something I am sure of:

This is only the beginning.

There is a Divine force driving all this, and while there are some people, some converts, who really don’t have such good intentions, there are hundreds and thousands of us who are being carried forward by our holy, pure desire to serve Hashem and keep His mitzvoth.

These are the people who are prevented from using a mikva in their own communities; people who can’t find a Jewish school to accept their children, people who are refused places to study in yeshiva, and refused permission to settle in Eretz Yisrael.

But even so, if you lift your heads and look around, you’ll see an amazing sight: There are thousands upon thousands of humble people, simple people, who are coming back to life. There are Jewish souls who were once considered to be dead, who are being reborn. Those dry bones have been covered by muscle and tendons.

“And we are living once again, as Torah-observant Jews.”

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And so, her story ended.

Or really I should say, her story began. Last year, the small group of sincere converts that my friend belongs to, these Sephardic anusim, decided to try to move several families en masse to a rural part of the country, where the cost of living is far cheaper, and where there is some potential for the community to become self-sufficient.

They didn’t have any resources, or investment. All they had was some firm trust in Hashem and a little bit of charity money that was being sent in from outside. And even that is now dwindling, as the government has recently enacted a law limiting the amount of money that can be sent to their country via money transfer to just $500 a year.

Nevertheless, my friend and her community didn’t give up. They started trying to slowly buy a few more domesticated animals, and to start making a few more basic products to sell to the tourists that come to the area. But the crushing poverty began to take a huge toll on the community, and tragedy has continued to dog their heels.

A few weeks ago, my friend told me that all the animals a certain family had spent two years carefully raising all caught some freak illness, and died overnight. Then, there is another family where the father was caught up in an awful road accident last year, and was so ill he couldn’t work for months.

Just as he got back on his feet – last week – he was run over again.

This last problem fell like a thunder-clap on this close knit community of anusim, lost Jews who are trying to hard to return, and my friend was totally distraught about what was happening, with one problem and one challenge after another.

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When I first wrote this piece, a couple of months ago, my friend and her community were planning to try to start a few businesses with a little bit of investment money, with an eye to building up a real community with it’s own mikva, synagogue and school.

Today, the plans are in a state of flux.

What’s clear is that this community still needs an awful lot of help to just start being able to put food on the table, pay rent, and to build a very basic mikvah. Until these basic things are taken care of, they can’t see any further ahead on the path they need to take.

But once that’s done, there is a pressing need for the community to get organized – and for the other communities of anusim to get organized – and to start figuring out the process of how they can be allowed to convert again, if necessary, in order to be given full rights as the orthodox Jews they really are.

I’d love to tell you there’s a plan, a process to give us the happy ending to the story, but right now, there isn’t. All I can really do for my friend at the moment is pray that God will open the door for them, and pray some more that they’ll have the ability to walk through it, when the time comes.

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Almost 600 years ago, Don Isaac Abarbanel told the rulers of Spain:

“Woe unto you, authors of iniquity. For generations to come, it will be told and retold how unkind was your faith and how blind was your vision. But more than your acts of hatred and fanaticism, the courage of the people of Israel will be remembered for standing up to the might of imperial Spain, clinging to the religious inheritance of our fathers, and resisting your enticements and your untruths.”

All over Latin America, there are lost Jews still desperately trying to cling on against all the odds, and to return to their Jewish faith.

And I don’t know what we can really do, or how we can really help them, but one thing I do know:

We have to try.

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If you think you can help, either with a financial donation or by making some introductions and opening some doors for this particular group of ‘lost Jews’ in Latin America, please get in touch. Who knows, maybe the time has come for this to finally start moving. I hope to be writing more about this subject of the lost Jews in the next few weeks.

Rabbi Berland’s New Prayer to Move to Israel.

So many of the people I’m in touch with want to move to Israel, but feel totally petrified about the whole idea of uprooting their whole lives, and trying to plonk them down again in a totally different country, however holy that country may actually be, and however much God really wants the Jews to move to Israel.

This is totally understandable. Moving country is not a simple thing, it has profound consequences for everyone involved. You can understand why so many otherwise believing Jews are twisting the words of the Torah, ignoring the whole ‘sin of the spies’ episode, and making all sorts of bizarre claims about there being no need for Jews to move to the Land of Israel.

The fear is in control. The fear is running the show.

Fear is one of the yetzer hara’s most powerful tools for keeping people away from doing the right thing. How many people stay trapped in a secular lifestyle, because they are scared of what people will say, or what’s going to be, if they take the plunge and start keeping kosher….

Or take the plunge and start keeping Shabbat….

Or take the plunge, and start dressing more modestly….

Or take the plunge, and ditch the i-Phone for something far more basic and better for the soul….

Moving to Israel is no different, except the fear is less about what people will say – because after all, it’s a new start, and you’re leaving the people who are against moving to Israel behind – and much more about what will be.

Will I find work?

Will I find friends?

Will I find a place to live?

Will my kids acclimatize OK?

And maybe the biggest fear of all:

Will I regret doing this for the rest of my life?

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Again, all these fears are totally, 100% normal and reasonable to have. If we don’t acknowledge that these fears are coming from a rational place, and that they have to be addressed properly, rather than squashed or mocked, then we can’t move forward with the whole discussion of moving to Israel.

Israel is the land of emuna, it’s where a person can really start to LIVE their belief that God is running the whole world, and not just talk about it.

The answer to all of the ‘issues’ stated above – the answer to every ‘issue’ and worry a person has about moving to Israel ultimately boils down to the same thing:

God is in control. Whatever God decides, that’s what’s going to happen.

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That’s a massive level of emuna to be striving for, isn’t it? And I’m not sure that I’m there myself, really, although I’d certainly like to be.

But the more we can live our life from that genuine place of really believing in Him, and really believing in concepts like reward and punishment, and really believing that 99% of the ‘yuck’ we go through in our lives we totally bring on ourselves, via our own bad middot – the more easy we will be able to deal with any potential move to Israel.

Really, there’s only one answer to ‘why move to Israel?’

I could tell you about the amazing day I spent yesterday, swimming with my family in a stream up North, together with a bunch of frum Jews with payot, and fully-clothed Beis Yaakov girls all happily splashing about.

I could tell you about last Wednesday night, when I went off to the Kotel to recite some tehillim for the Rav, and how I watched the swallows duck and dive, swooping so close to the wall before soaring back up into the heavens.

I could tell you about how everything here is kosher (I live in Jerusalem. That’s not true of everywhere in Israel, especially not Tel Aviv.)

I could tell you about the farm one of my kids went to volunteer on last week, up in the Shomron hills, that’s being started by an idealistic young Jewish couple.

I could talk about the sun, the sea, the way my soul just feels way, way happier here, and way, way more peaceful than it ever did in London.

But really, all of these things are missing the point.

The point of moving to Israel, is because it’s a mitzvah that God commanded the Jews to keep.

So maybe you’ll move here, and you really will struggle with making a living. And you really will go through years of feeling so lonely. And you really will find it very hard to ever buy your own place, especially in Jerusalem.

And maybe you won’t.

But the point is, whatever happens to us in Israel – and in New York, and in London, and in Melbourne, and in Paris – it’s all just to bring home that same message:

God is in control. Whatever God decides, that’s what’s going to happen.

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If a person is really working on their emuna, then they will increasingly be living their life according to this idea wherever they happen to live.

But there’s another point to make here, and that’s the idea of having some humility, and overcoming our own arrogance. Or to put it another way, to start thinking much more about what does God want from me, and much less about what do I want from God.

We are here to serve God, not the other way around.

Again, let’s keep things real.

This is a huge spiritual level! It’s a level that we will have to struggle and fight for ad 120. It doesn’t come easily to anyone, and especially not to those people who find it very difficult to put anyone else’s needs and wants ahead of their own.

That’s why there are two things that really clear the path to moving to Israel, and those two things are:

  1. Working on our own bad middot
  2. Working on our emuna, particularly the idea that we are in control of our lives

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We need to pray to get to Israel.

That’s part of the process of really getting ‘ready’ to actually live here. We need to pray to get here, and we need to pray that all the bad middot that are stopping us from moving somehow disappear. And then once we’re here, we need to carry on praying every single day, that we will continue to have the merit of staying here.

Because in Israel, all the bad middot that we fooled ourselves we didn’t have in chutz l’aretz come roaring out of the closet.

Because God wants us to finally start dealing with them, and acknowledging them, and to stop making excuses about what we are really down here to work on and fix.

BTW, that’s also why even the very process of moving to Israel can be so very taxing and upsetting. It’s all part of the preparation process for the spiritual work of developing some real humility, and understanding that God is in charge of the world, not us.

All this sounds like a lot of hard work, doesn’t it?

And honestly, it is.

You can totally understand why so many otherwise believing Jews would prefer to stay in chutz l’aretz and pretend that moving to Israel is something God doesn’t really require of anyone. It’s certainly much easier that way, it’s certainly much more comfortable.

At least, on one level.

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This post isn’t for those people.

This post is for the people who are really yearning and longing to get here, and who really do know that God wants the Jewish people to be in Israel, but who can’t quite manage to overcome their fears (yet!) in order to give God what He really wants.

For those people, there is a shortcut to moving to Israel, which is basically the power of prayer. Every prayer we say on this subject, shortens the road we need to walk in order to get here. Why? Because it’s tackling the obstacles that are blocking our path at their root.

A praying person is a person who already acknowledges, at least on some level, that God is in control. A praying person is someone who knows that God is behind all the difficulties, and that if we start to clean up our own act, particularly with our own bad middot like arrogance, laziness, greed and complacency, that God will then blast so many of the ‘issues’ keeping us stuck out of the way, too.

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That’s why Israel is really only acquired via prayer.

And that’s why so many of the people who actually live in Israel still haven’t really ‘got here’ spiritually, even though they moved here with their bodies, or were born here.

Those people moan all the time about what’s going on in Israel. They complain all the time about the taxes, and about other groups of Jews, and about all the ‘bad’ they see going on all around them, because the whole world is just one big mirror, and God is beaming a very unpleasant reflection straight into their faces.

Like we said above, in Israel, bad middot are amplified – both ours, and other people’s – so we’ll stop making excuses, and finally knuckle down to the work of fixing them.

Luckily, there is a shortcut. The shortcut is to get close to our true tzaddikim, to follow their advice, and to use their prayers to circumvent all the stuff that’s holding us back from being able to even describe the problem, let alone deal with it.

Rebbe Nachman’s advice to do an hour a day of hitbodedut has totally transformed my approach to the world, and it’s the single biggest ‘help’ to navigating life in Israel. You can read more about it HERE. But in the meantime, I want to share with you a prayer that Rabbi Berland just put out for people who want to move to Israel, but who are stuck, somehow.

It’s not a long prayer, but it sums up so precisely what’s really going on when people get stuck unable to make aliya, even though they admit it’s the right thing to do.

You can see the original HERE, but here’s what it says:

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A Prayer to Come to Eretz Yisrael

TO MERIT COMING TO ERETZ YISRAEL WITHOUT LOSING ANYTHING. TO SELL EVERYTHING FOR ITS FULL VALUE. AND MAY I MERIT LEAVING THE DEFILEMENT OF THE LAND OF THE NATIONS THAT WE ARE IMMERSED IN. AND MAY WE SMASH ALL OF THE OBSTACLES THAT ARE MOSTLY OBSTACLES OF THE MIND.

Master of the World, who can do everything. Merit me to go up to Eretz Yisrael with sublime self-sacrifice. That I leave all of the property and all of the belongings that I have outside of Eretz Yisrael. That I not leave anything over, that I not leave any remembrance.

Rather, I should sell everything as quick as possible at full value, and not lose even one pruta by moving to Eretz Yisrael. And may I not incur any other damages by moving to Eretz Yisrael.

For we have no more strength to stay in exile, in chutz la’aretz, even for one second.

We want to go up to the land of our forefathers, that you gave to our forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, “The land flowing with milk and honey”.

For Eretz Yisrael is holier than any other land in the world.

And Hashem Your G-d chose her over all other precious things in the world.”

Please, Hashem, merit me to go up to Eretz Yisrael with self-sacrifice,

“And bring us to Your Holy Mountain.”

For we have no more strength to stay in chutz la’aretz, but on the other hand we’ve been here for so long, in the defilement of the land of the nations, and we have no idea how to free ourselves from it.

Now we are turning to You, with humble kneeling and prostration:

Help us, Hashem our G-d, to come to Eretz Yisrael in the blink of an eye! And help us to break all of the obstacles, and all of the postponements, for the main obstacle is in the mind.   

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May Hashem help us to give Him what He really wants, as easily as possible.

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Did you ever stop to wonder how Moshe Rabbenu would go down in Monsey?

“Shlomie! Shlomie! You gotta hear this! Some guy in a frock just showed up in the beis medrash, and told everyone he’s the Moshiach!!!”

Shlomie heaved his stomach back inside the belt line of his black pants, stood up and went over to talk to his chevrusa Yankie, who was anxiously pacing backwards and forwards by the kollel’s coffee vending machine.

“Whaddya talking about, Shlomie? Calm down, speak slower. Who just showed up in the beis medrash?”

Yankie took a breath, stopped pacing, and turned to Shlomie.

“Some guy called Moshe something… He said G-d sent him to redeem the Jews, and he wants to take us out of Monsey to the promised land!”

Shlomie’s eyes narrowed. Another nut-job talking about G-d!

The last 210 years, there’d been a lot of these imposters who’d showed up trying to con the Jews of Monsey that one day they’d have to leave and go to the ‘holy land’. Wherever that place was meant to be…

“Where is this guy?” Shlomie demanded. “I wanna talk to him.”

With Yankie following behind, Shlomie headed off to the beis medrash, swung the doors open, and saw a tall, bearded figure standing in the corner with his eyes shut, rapturously reciting the bracha over a cup of water out loud.

Shlomie whispered to Yankie,

“Uhoh, this already doesn’t look good! What’s with this guy’s accent? Is he Sephardi?! And who spends five minutes blessing a cup of water?! This is definitely bitul Torah!”

Yankie muttered back, “Shlomie, we didn’t get the Torah yet…” But Shlomie didn’t hear him, as he’d already marched up to ‘Moshe the moshiach’ determined to kick this imposter out of the beis medrash.

====

“Sooo, Moishe… where’d you learn?” challenged Shlomie.

Moshe Rabbenu studied Shlomie with wise, kind eyes and told him gently:

“I’ve spent the last 60 years communing with Hashem in the desert.”

Shlomie eyes rolled so far back in his head they almost popped out his neck. Geez, the nerve of this guy!!! Still, Shlomie prided himself on being open-minded, so he decided to ask a couple more questions before officially excommunicating him.

“So, who’s your Rav?” he asked.

Moshe lowered his head slightly and said:

“Hashem. Hashem’s teaching me Torah. Although I did meet Rabbi Akiva a little while back…”

Shlomie snorted again. What? That guy whose parents were goyim who converted?!?

====

He tried one last time, just to be nice.

“Where did you grow up? Did you study at the Mir?”

“I grew up in Pharoah’s palace,” Moshe Rabbenu replied gently. “I had to flee Monsey-raim at the age of 20 after I killed an Egyptian by uttering one of Hashem’s ineffable names. I never got a chance to learn at the Mir….”

“Kishoofim!!!!” roared out Shlomie. “Out, out, get outta here with all your dangerous Moshiach talk! You’re nothing but a crack-pot, a false messiah, a person who’s trying to pull the Jews away from learning Torah with all your talk about serving Hashem!”

Yankie muttered again “But Shlomie, we didn’t get the Torah yet…” but again, Shlomie didn’t hear him.

With quiet dignity, Moshe Rabbenu picked up his staff, and headed out of the beis medrash.

====

Yankie was anxiously biting his fingernails.

“The nerve of that guy!” sputtered Shlomie. “I can’t believe people are falling for this! We’re only meant to be learning about Moshiach, not believing it!”

“But Shlomie, a lot of the really big rabbis – like Aharon HaKohen – say he’s the real deal…” Shlomie harrumphed.

“All these ‘rebbe’ types stick together, you know that.”

“But Shlomie,” Yankie tried again, “This morning he turned the whole Nile to blood, and he’s told Pharoah there’s more natural disasters to come, if he doesn’t send the Jews out of Monsey-raim…”

“Kishoofim!!” Shlomie yelled again. “Unbelievable bitul Torah! Instead of learning another three blatt Gemara this guy’s off doing black magic and talking to goyim! Don’t fall for it, Yankie, don’t let him fool you. Seriously, where was the guy’s hat??”

Yankie tried one last time:

“But Shlomie, we have a tradition from Yaakov Avinu that at some point, the Jews have to leave Monsey-raim, and that a redeemer will show up and take them out of galus…”

Shlomie sighed a big sigh, and put his enormous arm around his frail, naïve learning partner.

“Yankie, you’re a great guy, do you know that? Here, take a look over the other side of the beis medrash. Who’d ya see?”

Yankie turned his head, and spotted Korach, the Rosh Kollel, shtiggering away to the bachorim about how why the beis medrash doesn’t need a mezuzah on the door. Korach cut a fine figure in his Armani black suit, smart tie and brushed fedora, tilted at just the right angle to set off his jutting chin.

“Now, if someone told me that’s Moshiach, I’d believe it,” explained Shlomie. “That guy’s related to one of the most important families in Monsey-raim; he’s got 14 kids – all shomer Toyrah ve-mitzvos – and he encourages his students to think for themselves. That guy is all about Toyrah and mitzvos. And his wife bakes a great kugel!

“But Shlomie, we didn’t get the Torah yet,” Yankie wanted to say. But he didn’t because he knew there’d be no point.

Shlomie heaved his stomach back behind his shtender, and went back to learning his latest blatt on his My-Gemara i-Phone app.

“The nerve of that guy, ‘Moshe Rabbenu’!” he muttered to himself, thankful that he’d managed to save the guys in the beis medrash from another false messiah. Hrrmph! As if the Moshiach would be someone who’d never stepped foot in the Mir…

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First posted in June, 2017

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I opened the door to find Susannah standing there: “I have cancer,” she told me.

One day a few months’ ago, there was a buzz at the door. I opened it up to find a scrawny old woman dressed in the lightest of summer dresses standing on my stoop. She wore a pair of oversized, fake black Crocs on her feet, and she was pushing a black trolley on wheels, that was full of an odd assortment of food.

I looked at her, she looked at me. She blinked, cleared her throat, then told me:

“I have cancer. Do you have some money you can give me?”

I looked at her, she looked at me. I went to look in my purse and as usual, there were only a few shekels hiding out in its creases. When there are teenagers in the house, it’s rare for a 100 shekel note to last more than 10 minutes after they’ve woken up. I handed the small change over with an apology.

“That’s ok, darling.”

She reassured me.

Then she cleared her throat for another request:

“Maybe, you have some food you can give me?”

I’m not a balabusta who has my cupboards stocked for all occasions and contingencies. Now my girls are much older, and now that I live in Jerusalem, I tend to shop on the go, and to really just buy what I need for that day. So I blinked nervously, and started scrounging round the back of the fridge, and the back of the cupboard, to see what I could turn up.

“Tuna in water?” I offered her, over my shoulder. I’d bought them for Pesach, and we still have four cans left because no-one really likes it. Susannah’s eyes lit up.

“Perfect! I can’t have oil because of the cancer, you know.”

It was a win-win. I loaded her up with unwanted tuna, a big box of cornflakes and a bottle of water. I’d done a mitzvah, I felt good.

====

The next week, Susannah came back.

I opened the door, and eyed her a little more suspiciously. Was this going to turn into one of those ‘charidee nightmares’, where I’d get to the stage of being scared to open my own front door? I looked at her, and she looked at me. I think she forgot that she’d already told me her shpiel, because she started again:

“My name is Susannah. I have cancer. Do you have some money for me? My medications are very expensive, and I need some money.”

She spoke English with an Eastern European accent that added a strange sense of poetry to her words. I fumbled in the purse – nothing, nada, totally cleaned out by the teenage hordes. I shrugged my shoulders, sorry. She hesitated, then again cleared her throat.

“Maybe you have some food for me? I have nothing in my house to eat.”

====

I knew she wasn’t lying.

I could see it in her face. So once again, I rummaged around the fridge, and loaded her up with some bananas and pears, and a tin of lychees I’d just bought that morning in anticipation for a snack attack. She was very grateful, and I closed the door with half a quizzical smile on my face.

The next week, she was back. And I decided I had to put a ‘boundary’ down, a marker to show – to myself! – that whatever I gave in future was coming from a place of free choice, and not from a place of unhealthy manipulation. That time, I told her I had no money, and no food. Sorry. Not unpolitely, not harshly, still respecting the soul of this person who stood on my doorstep. But showing both of us that my giving wasn’t automatic, and that I could say ‘no’ sometimes.

She responded in such a gracious, gentle and dignified manner, that I realized it was safe to carry on giving to Susannah in future.

The next week when she came back, I greeted her with more friendliness, and she relaxed enough to ask me if I could make her a cup of coffee. Of course!

Anything else?

“Do you have any food you can give me to eat now?” She asked. Big blue eyes bulging out of her too-red face. “I haven’t eaten anything all day.”

It was already 3pm.

====

Again, I’m not a balabusta, but God helped and I offered her some cornflakes. “Yes!” she said excitedly. I brought her the box, but before I could bring her a bowl and some milk, she’d stuck both hands in the foil lining and was stuffing the cornflakes into her mouth. I was shocked. Susannah was poor, but she was also genteel. She really was starving.

That time, I gave her more money and more canned goods, and she spent an hour in my kitchen just recovering from who knows what she’d just been through, the last couple of days.

The next week, she came later, when my kids and husband were home. I let her in, and one of my kids started stage whispering:

What do you know about her, Ima?! How do you know she’s not going to rob us?!

That kid has a lot of fear about ‘stranger danger’. I don’t know who got to her in junior school, but they did a great job of making her a paranoid lunatic, when it comes to interacting with strangers.

First, we have nothing to steal. And second, she’s been here a few times already, and I trust her.

The kid didn’t so believe me, but her phone started beeping and she got distracted.

====

That time, I gave Susannah coffee and supper, and a tiny bit more cash – literally, 10 shekels or something – and just let her sit in my kitchen, trying to arrange some of her affairs on her phone.

There but for the grace of God go I.

That’s really all I could think. God forbid, I should end up poor, destitute and sick in my old age, and no-one would even give me a hot cup of coffee or a place to sit quietly for an hour. Just as Susannah was leaving, the kid on the phone burst out in very loud gales of laughter. I didn’t pay any attention to it – it’s the usual teenager thing that goes on all the time – but apparently, Susanna did.

Two days later, the door buzzed in ‘her’ way, and to be honest, my heart sank a bit. I could do once a week happily, but if it got more than that, I’d have to put my foot down. Susannah stood there looking even more gaunt and vulnerable than usual.

Rivka, I have to ask you something.

Ok…..

Here it comes, I thought to myself.

Here comes a request for $300, a plea to come and cater for 30 house guests, or something else OTT and totally unreasonable. I was completely unprepared for what she said next.

====

“Rivka….were you laughing at me?

I looked at her in disbelief, and she stared back, tears pricking up around the bulging blue eyes.

“Rivka, I have my problems and I’m poor and I’m sick. But….were you laughing at me?”

Susannah, where is this coming from? Why on earth would you think I would be laughing at you?!

I was so shocked she thought that, I was so upset that’s what she believed.

I looked at her, she looked at me, and then she smiled a relieved smile.

“I had to check, Rivka, that’s all. Don’t mind that I asked you.”

That time, she didn’t ask for anything. No food, no money, no toilet paper. She came all the way to my flat just to check I really was who and what I was holding myself out to be.

Later that night, when I told the story over to my husband, he told me that he’d noticed she’d had a funny look on her face as she’d left, because the kid on the phone had started laughing just then.

“I thought then it could look a bit bad, like we were mocking her,” he told me.

I had no idea.

====

For two days, I tried to make some teshuva about this. It’s so easy, to cause hurt to other people. It’s so easy, to ride rough shod over another person’s feelings.

God, I don’t find Susannah’s visits so easy or comfortable, but I will do my best to be friendly and welcoming to her once a week, whenever she comes, and to treat her with proper respect!

This week, she came back. I opened the door and looked at her, and she looked at me.

What can I do for you this week, Susannah, what do you want?

She cleared her throat.

“Rivka, can I have some coffee? And do you have some food you can give me now?”

Her timing was perfect. For once, I’d gone off to the supermarket mid-day, and I had a juicy watermelon waiting to be cut up and was in the middle of making some supper.

I gave her a plate of watermelon chunks, made the black coffee with two sugars, and disappeared back to my writing, while the potatoes for supper continued to boil.

Everything OK?  I asked, when I came back in to check on them.

“Rivka, it’s heaven!” she told me. “The melon is so good!”

Ten minutes later, she’d conked out on the kitchen table, and slept the sleep of the exhausted for a little while, until I’d finished making the fish cakes. I gave her some mashed potato, the ubiquitous canned goods, and two rolls of toilet paper.

====

She’ll be back.

And each time she comes, I’m strangely grateful. Susannah is not a pious woman, not at all. But this last time – on a Wednesday – she wished me Shabbat Shalom.

And I know I’m buying my way into Gan Eden for the price of a tin of beans, and a box of cornflakes.

Photo by Artem Beliaikin @belart84 on Unsplash

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Help to keep Rabbi Arush and Chut Shel Chesed Yeshiva going.

Yesterday, I got an email from someone I know from way back when, during the time my husband and I were a part of Rabbi Shalom Arush’s Chut Shel Chesed Yeshiva, telling me the Rav needs our help.

Here’s what she sent me to post up here, which I’m going to cut and paste below:

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Everyone knows Rabbi Arush for his books including “The Garden of Emuna,” and his classes. What you may not know, is that Rabbi Arush runs an entire organization centered in Jerusalem, whose reach is all over the world, called “Chut shel Chessed.”

> The sounds of Torah learning that fill Rabbi Arush’s Yeshiva 24/6 – you can have a portion in the merit of all that Torah.
> The sounds of small children learning in Rabbi Arush’s preschools, the breath of the children that sustains the world – you can have a portion in their learning.
> The sounds of school children, high school, and seminary/Beit Midrash girls and boys busy at their studies – you can have a portion in that too.
> The hundreds of food baskets and thousands of hot meals served to the poor of Jerusalem, many of them the families of Torah scholars – you can have a portion in all of that chesed, made even more important by supporting the poor of the Land of Israel.
? The almost one thousand classes given monthly by Rabbi Arush and his students, plus tens of thousands of books distributed and thousands of readers of the website in five languages – you can have a portion in all of that outreach.

No other organization gives you everything, all under one roof!

By donating to the Campaign “The Fire of Emuna” you become a full partner in everything that Rabbi Arush does.

And he wants to do more! He has a rare opportunity to build a new building for the boys school, which right now is squeezed into a makeshift space out of a few apartments – he needs the money NOW, or it won’t happen. He has an amazing opportunity to do special classes in the Israeli army, something that no one gets security clearance for – he got the clearance, and now we need the funds. He wants to greatly expand his efforts spreading emuna around the world.

He has already done so much, and he can do much more – but he cannot do it alone.

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Rabbi Arush has promised something huge back in return: A guarantee that anyone who donates to the Campaign will see miracles already this year! 

He will also pray for each and every person who donates. You can also receive special gifts like a mezuzah or Kiddush Cup specially blessed by Rabbi Arush, a personally signed and blessed Book of Psalms or “The Garden of Emuna,” or even a special, personal prayer for you at the Kotel.

In every way that you increase your donation, and even more so by encouraging other people to donate as well, so too do you increase your level of partnership, thus increasing your merit and the salvations that will inevitably come as a result.

Click here to donate via the Charidy website or to donate by phone using credit card, bank transfer, or horat keva (last two are Israeli only), or for more information on the special gifts, or to break your donation into monthly payments, call my personal contact for the Campaign on: (323) 992-6090 from the US or 058-320-5057 in Israel.

Remember, it’s all or nothing! The Campaign ends 12AM Midnight Israel time on Thurs. 6/27!

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Some more of my personal thoughts to add on this:

In case you don’t know how these charity campaigns run in Israel, they basically work along the lines of a Vegas game of poker. The site offers to match the donations brought in – but only if your campaign makes its target amount within 36 hours. If it doesn’t – then it’s really, really bad news.

Personally, I don’t like the idea so much, but it appeals to the Israeli ‘high stakes’ mindset, and I know most of the charity campaigns I’ve contributed to the last few years all over the orthodox Jewish world in Israel have been run along the same lines.

So, Rav Arush really needs our help.

I heard a whisper on the grapevine that the people behind the persecution of Rabbi Berland basically went after many of Rav Arush’s donors, after he came out – repeatedly – in public support of him. If you want to know why he suddenly fell quiet a couple of years’ back, it’s because the Meah Shearim Mafiosos targeted him and his institutions for retribution, and also threatened to get his books removed from shelves and stores in Israel for being ‘religiously coercive’.

This stuff would be funny, if it wasn’t so very, very serious.

And it makes me very sad to see that so many gullible people fell for their tactics, and that the yeshiva is now in such a bad way, financially.

Are we going to stand back, yawn and let the bad guys win?

I hope not.

And I hope you’ll consider giving something to the campaign, and letting other people know about it.

For once, the fundraising bumpf is not lying:

It really is all or nothing.

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Go HERE to donate, or follow the instructions above, to deal with a real, English-speaking helpful person.

PS: Just to say, this email really made me think about how much ‘good’ I got from the Garden of Emuna, and especially ‘Education with Love’, amongst Rav Arush’s other books. I can’t do much, but the little I could give I was very happy to do with tremendous gratitude. Rav Arush really did change my world for the best. I hope I can return the favor, at least a tiny bit.

Increasingly, I’m feeling between two worlds at the moment.

Rebbe Nachman tells the story[1] of a man who plays host to a strange visitor who he’s half-scared of, and half in awe of. This strange visitor entices him out of his house, and then grabs him and starts flying all over the world with him. Then, the host starts to notice that he’s kind of in two worlds at once – flying around with the strange man, but also in his house, at one and the same time.

“He couldn’t believe that this was he himself, in his own house. But he looked carefully, and sure enough he was speaking with ordinary human beings and eating and drinking normally. But then, he again noticed he was flying like before. Then he looked again, and lo and behold! He was in his house. Again, he noticed that he was flying…and so it went on for quite a time.”

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I can’t help thinking about this story a lot at the moment, as it seems to be describing what’s going on, at least in my life.

One minute, I’m ‘flying’ with the tzaddikim, and with visions of Moshiach and geula, and God forbid, Gog and Magog and all that supernatural end-of-days stuff. And then, I’m back in my house, trying to figure out what to make for supper, and how best to sell some books so I could actually make 5 cents at some point in my life.

And so it continues from day to day: I’m flying around with thoughts of Beit HaMikdash, and how good life will truly be once all the lies and all the horrible people who enjoy telling them, and turning people against each other, disappear once and for all. And then, I snap back to the so-called ‘real world’ and realise I need to hang my washing up, get the shower door sorted out, deal with more of the mindless bureaucracy that’s taking up more and more of the bandwidth of the world.

“Meanwhile, he noticed that he was in house. It was something extraordinary for him. How was it, that one moment he could here, and the next moment there? He wanted to speak about it to other human being, but how can one explain something incredible like this to other people? They would find it hard to believe.”

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Friday morning, World War III almost started.

Trump almost sent American planes in to directly bomb Iran after they shot down an American spy drone. If he’d done that, we’d be dealing with World War III / Gog and Magog right now, instead of me sitting here in my pyjamas typing this out.

I know so many of us prefer a sugar-coated version of reality, and especially of geula, but if wasn’t for the tremendous self-sacrifice of the Gadol HaDor, who went into hospital with what appears to be some sort of kidney failure Thursday night – and the thousands of people who are spending their time travelling to prayer gatherings, and reciting tehillim on behalf of the Rav and the nation – we’d be dealing with a scenario where millions of people could already have been incinerated with an Iranian nuke.

They already have nukes.

Rabbi Berland has been telling us that for years, already, but no-one wanted to believe him.

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This past Sunday, the world could already have lunged off the cliff of war, and we’d be dealing with many thousands of casualties, already.

Instead, I took Sunday off and went up North with my girls, to a quiet little stream where I sat in the water for hours and swam widths across from one clump of bulrushes to another.

My girls and their friends disappeared up-stream for a while, so I was there by myself, listening to the radio playing ‘Don’t worry, be happy’, followed by: “Don’t worry, about a thing. Every little thing’s gonna be alright.”

Really, God? Is it really? How can that be true?

That’s what I wondered to myself, as I swam backwards and forwards in perfect weather, under blue skies, with nary a person or a mosquito to disturb my personal piece of Gan Eden.

How can I be enjoying myself like this, when two days ago we nearly had Gog and Magog and the whole world is slipping into more chaos and evil every day?

That’s when God reminded me about this Rebbe Nachman story, quoted above.

Life is pretty challenging for all of us. It’s challenging when it is challenging, and it’s also challenging when it’s not challenging, as that kind of feels plain wrong, given the momentous things going on all around us.

What, I should still take some time to buy a pair of new shoes, and to spend a lazy afternoon swimming somewhere quiet in nature with my kids?

Yup.

But what about all the tehillim I need to be saying? What about all the insights I need to be sharing? All the teshuva I need to be making?

There’s a time and a place for everything, I guess.

And God is also showing me the value of my small efforts.

Like, last week the Rav put out a call for 200 people to say the whole book of tehillim every single day, until Rosh Hashana, to help him continue going until then.

I heard that and I was awe-struck.

What, there are people out there who could actually do that? Who are willing to do that? 200 of them?!?!

Me? I can’t. It takes me 5 hours to read through the book of tehillim, so it’s strictly for special occasions when I have nothing else to do and no-one else to look after. That said, I could certainly fit a few tehillim in for the Rav every day, so that’s what I’m doing instead – I’m trying to finish a whole book a week.

It’s not everything, but it’s something, and I know God values the effort very much.

And in the meantime, I’m continuing to ‘fly’ into that much deeper spiritual world, where the soul holds sway, and where the miraculous is normal, while all the time still trying to keep the fridge stocked with milk.

It’s not easy. It’s really not easy to be caught between two worlds like this.

“[H]ow can one explain something incredible like this to other people? They would find it hard to believe.”

But that’s where we’re holding.

[1] New Stories – Tzaddik, pages 213-215

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Christophe Ferron

It’s getting scarier and scarier in America and chul for Jews – but it’s also pretty scary in Israel too. What’s a person to do?

I got another email from a long-time reader on the topic of moving to Israel, which (with her permission) I’d like to respond to publically, as I think it will hopefully help more people out there get some clarity on what’s really involved with moving to Israel. My correspondent, who lives abroad, but who is a very sincere Jew who does a lot of work on really trying to connect to Hashem, and really trying to have some emuna,  sent me this:

“My question is as follows. When Caleb came back from spying on Eretz Yisrael he says the following:

‘Only Caleb, who was 40 years old, and Joshua son of Nun disagreed. They said (Numbers 14:7–9): “The land that we traversed and scouted is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord is pleased with us, He will bring us into that land, a land that flows with milk and honey, and give it to us; only you must not rebel against the Lord. Have no fear then of the people of the country, for they are our prey: their protection has departed from them, but the Lord is with us. Have no fear of them!’”

My correspondent continued:

“It clearly states that if Hashem is pleased with us He will bring us into the land that flows with milk and honey… but then it says very clearly but you must not rebel against Hashem.

“The State of Israel is clearly rebelling against Hashem, in that case do we still have an obligation to move there? Will we be protected there? Are consequences going to follow, being that we are rebelling? I am honestly scared, I am scared for the States that are currently rebelling but I am also scared of Eretz Yisrael because we are rebelling there as well….

“So where do we go?

I love the holiness of the land, I love the land, my Neshama yarns to be home. I know that America is coming to an end and that Hashem is calling us home. However the corruption of the state of Israel is what scares me. At the times of the spies it was the Amalekites who were corrupt, but Caleb says we will have protection if we cling to Hashem.

“But this time, the Jewish nation is doing corrupt things, so what does that mean for us?… All these questions are coming from a genuine place. Please enlighten me.”

====

I’ve known this person for years, and they are not someone who is looking for an ‘easy out’ or to duck mitzvahs, or to avoid coming out of their comfort zone.

This is a very committed Jew, who is asking some very serious questions about moving to Israel, and they require a serious response. So with God’s help, here’s my best shot at providing it.

As is my way, I’m going to break down the points above and answer them one by one. Let’s start with this:

“It clearly states that if Hashem is pleased with us He will bring us into the land that flows with milk and honey… but then it says very clearly but you must not rebel against Hashem.

“The State of Israel is clearly rebelling against Hashem, in that case do we still have an obligation to move there? Will we be protected there? Are consequences going to follow, being that we are rebelling? I am honestly scared, I am scared for the States that are currently rebelling but I am also scared of Eretz Yisrael because we are rebelling there as well….”

====

The STATE is not the LAND

The first thing to clarify about moving to Israel is that the STATE of Israel, and the LAND of Israel are two totally different things. The STATE of Israel is the secular institution and government that happens to be in control of the LAND of Israel.

While the STATE of Israel likes to dress it itself up in Jewish clothing, it’s honestly been anti-God, anti-Torah, and anti-orthodox Judaism right from the very start. You don’t have to take my word for that! Yair Lapid himself will tell you this in this video, where he describes how Ben Gurion and all the rest of them basically thought the haredim in Israel would totally disappear within a couple of generations, which is why he wasn’t so bothered about granting yeshiva students exemptions from serving in the IDF.

The Labour Zionist Communists who pretty much ruled Israel with an iron fist for its 50 years (and who are still ‘ruling’ it today by way of the courts, the media and the STATE’s institutions…) were vehemently ‘anti’ orthodox Judaism, and ‘anti’ a Torah observant lifestyle right from the start.

They were rebelling against God right from the start, and God has had an awful lot of patience with them.

Why?

Because they were the ‘shell’ around the fruit, as Rav Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook writes.

The STATE was the shell, the husk, that had to be in place while the far more beautiful spiritual dimension of the LAND of Israel was developing. People couldn’t move to Israel en masse until the place had proper roads, sewage facilities, places for people to work, water pipes, schools built.

So the STATE fulfilled a very important function in enabling more Jews to move to Israel, and God will definitely give a full measure of reward to all those who participated in that process, religious or not.

In terms of the obligation to move to Israel – I’m not a posek. But I can tell you for sure, the LAND of Israel didn’t disappear just because the STATE of Israel took over. Back in the desert, the spies could have made the same argument:

“Look, guys, the people running the show in the Land of Canaan are totally corrupt! And they’re ‘anti’ God and the Torah lifestyle! And they will be fighting us every step of the way if we try to move in there, and telling us we’re trying to ‘take over’ their neighborhoods, and they’re going to write demeaning, hate-filled things about us and our children in the press, and openly discuss ways of reducing our population, and trying to make life hard in a billion different ways….

“So maybe, let’s forget the whole idea of moving to Canaan, and let’s just stay here in Monsey.”

====

God said no.

God said – move to Israel any way, and go and help build the land into the beautiful, holy place it’s destined to be. All that stuff about the place being full of scary chilonim who think haredi people are no better than grasshoppers – it’s just an illusion! If you’re with Me – with Hashem – there is nothing to fear.

As it was then, so it is now.

Nothing has changed.

Except to say that in 2019, there are more orthodox Jews in Israel, and more Jews who believe in God, and more Jews becoming mitzvoth observant than at any other time in the last 100 years.

If God protected the God-less, yucky atheists and communists back in Israel’s War of Independence in 1948 – after everything they did (and notably didn’t do…) in World War II, He’ll continue to protect the Jewish people as a whole.

But there are clearly some caveats to that answer, so read on.

====

Q: Will we be protected there?

Short answer: I don’t know. I’m not God. Good people still get killed in road accidents in Israel, good people still drown in flash floods, they still get murdered by terrorists, God forbid, lo alenu.

If someone has a soul correction that requires them to be taken from the world at an early age, presumably that’s going to happen wherever they live. But the other ‘bad stuff’ that happens usually comes as a result of not living life in alignment with God’s plans for us.

So, the more we make teshuva, the more we have emuna, the more we stay close to Hashem and His true tzaddikim, the more our chances go up of living a blessed, happy, healthy life.

Rebbe Nachman tells a parable about a man who was set a task by a king of moving a massive, heavy stone from place to the other.

The man tried, but couldn’t do it – it was impossible! So then the king said to him: “I didn’t mean for you to move that heavy stone in once piece. I wanted you to break it up into small chunks, and to transport it that way, instead.”

When a person moves to Israel and starts to live here, they are working on refining their character and polishing their souls 24/7. Every time you have to deal with a rude government clerk, or ridiculous bureaucracy, or stabbing terrorists, or awful loneliness on Shabbat because you just can’t socialize here in the same thoughtless way, or a tremendous fear about making parnassa – you are breaking off a little bit more of the ‘stone’ in your soul, and transporting it from arrogance to humility. Or from not seeing God in your life to having more emuna. Or from ‘controlling’ to accepting.

====

Day to day life can be so very challenging in Israel.

Just ask the people who live with incendiary balloons down by the Gaza border, or regular rocket attacks, or stabbings. But also in the small things, like not being able to talk the language properly, feeling like a perpetual outsider, missing a place, a persona, a store that you can no longer access.

God does that on purpose.

It’s part of the ‘soul clean-up’ program that is living in the Holy Land. To be challenged on a daily basis, and to keep looking for God behind it all.

Can a person do that outside of Israel?

Sure!

But it’s so much harder. Life in chul is much more superficial, the bubble is padded so much better, the whole society is geared far more to materialism and arrogance and ‘doing’ instead of being.

The soul’s voice gets very smothered and so very easily distorted in chul.

Can a person totally ignore God in Israel?

Sure!

But they aren’t happy. Look at all these secular politicians, look at all these ranting journalists, look at all these hi-tec entrepreneurs with their shaved heads and angry, hard faces. It’s much, much harder to ignore God here, even when you’re trying so hard to do that.

That’s why so many of the ‘anti’ people – or their kids – end up moving away, ultimately.

Are there consequences for rebelling?

Of course, yes. But God is fair, and no-one will have to ‘pay’ for someone else’s mistakes or sins. Does that guarantee safety and a good life? Nope. But it means that nothing will happen to a person that isn’t 100% what is meant to happen. But here’s the thing:

There are also consequences for ‘rebelling’ out of Israel, too.

It’s the stone analogy. The people who aren’t shifting that stone bit by bit end up having to deal with all their ‘rubbish’ all at once, one way or another. God pays the rope out for years – for generations – hoping that someone will wake up and return to Him.

But His patience isn’t infinite, and there are far more Jews spitting in God’s face in the US and chul than in Israel. There will definitely be consequences to face, wherever a person happens to live, whether they move to Israel, or not. The question is, will the consequences be ‘dropped’ on a person all at once, or will they be paid out slowly, drip drip, every single day?

====

Honestly?

Sometimes, I also feel a bit scared about all the corruption here. When I was researching the book on the Rav, and when I realized what was really happening in Israel, it was the only time in my life that I had the fleeting thought that maybe, I’d made a mistake by moving to Israel.

Thank God, it only lasted for two days, but it was a very hard challenge to go through.

Very quickly, God reminded me about the hundreds and thousands of ways Jewish life in Israel is so much better here than anywhere else.

This morning, I passed the little orange Lottery Booth down the street, and I saw the lottery guy squished in there with his tallit and tefillin on, praying. That made me so happy.

It makes me so happy that even the graffiti on the wall here often makes me think – like some I read today, that said:

“I [expletive] love Jerusalem, but the people here really talk to you!!!”

I love having the Kotel so close, having holy graves to visit, I love that even the secular looking man in the underwear shop on Jaffa Street gave me a whole, fat Torah class on the importance of having emuna.

I love that I can go to my kid’s school, and see 50 Jews there from such different backgrounds, all talking about what they can do to build a Jewish school, and a Jewish community, in the Holy Land.

I love that so much of the country is kosher, that my kids can quote Biblical passages easily, by heart, because they are written in their language.

I love the craziness, the warmth, the realness, the way it just feels like ‘home’ the way no other place in the world does.

I love the lack of violence on the street (terrorists and crazy drivers notwithstanding). I love the way the sky seems so close in Jerusalem, you can reach out and almost touch it.

Heaven is within arm’s reach here.

And if that’s important to you, you won’t find that proximity to holiness anywhere else.

====

There’s a lot more to say on the topic of moving to Israel, there always is.

BH, I will put together my more practical guide to the pros and cons of moving to Israel and living here.

But here’s kind of the take-home message:

While there are Jews rebelling against God all over the world at the moment, God forbid, only in Israel are they also returning to Him in such tremendous numbers.

Teshuva is in the air here, holiness is in the water.

And sooner or later, people will return.

====

You might also like these articles discussing other dimensions of moving to Israel:

The Jewish media outlets are creating more anti-Semites every day.

In a year’s time, or two years’ time, or ten years’ time – however long it’s going to take for this current, horrible period of time to come to its apex and lead to whatever it’s going to lead to, we’ll look back and wonder: “why did things have to happen this way? Why did the anti-Semites have to come roaring back, the way they did?”

Just like people did with the holocaust, a few years after the inferno had erupted and engulfed 6 million Jews, people sat there incredulous, angry at God, wondering: “why did it have to happen like that?”

Why couldn’t God have just bought all the Jews back to the land of Israel, without that awful precursor, without all that death and destruction, without all that terrible, anti-Semitism?

I also used to wonder these things. But increasingly, I’m starting to see how so much of the destruction happened because we brought it upon ourselves.

And I’m increasingly concerned that history is about to repeat it itself.

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A few days’ ago, a ‘pro-Rabbi Berland’ reader sent me a couple of new ‘shocking videos’ that are now doing the rounds.

In one, you can see Rabbi Berland repeatedly slapping one of his followers, at an event that happened in Eilat a few months ago. Again, the disgusting YeshivaWorldNews made sure to upload this video with a nice heaping dose of derision and slander as their official ‘comment’ on it, and then they sent it out to the world at large, on their Instagram account, to encourage more anti-semitism.

In the second, Rabbi Berland appears to be comparing a woman to a donkey – which is actually part of a Torah lesson that was being taught based on the Midrash and Talmud.

First, let’s deal with what happened. Here’s what I emailed my reader about these two ‘shocking videos’:

“The first one, where the Rav is hitting someone in Eilat, it certainly looks shocking if people aren’t aware of the concept of tzaddikim taking off harsh judgments in this way.

My husband got slapped in the face twice by Rav Arush just before Rosh Hashana in Uman a few years ago – and he was very  happy that happened, because he instantly felt the ‘din’ (harsh judgment) lift off of him.

There’s also so many videos of Rav Ovadia slapping people in the face – even Bibi – and the Baba Sali has many, many stories of slapping people harshly to ‘mitigate judgments’. There is probably way more to add to this, but I haven’t begun to research this properly, and this is what came to mind.”

(If you understand Hebrew, Rabbi Yaakov Selma dealt with this episode in detail a few months ago, and you can see his comments and video below:)

 

And here is the video of Rav Ovadia publically slapping Bibi – the Prime Minister of Israel! – in the face, from many years ago.

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Now, let’s deal with the ‘shocking’ women-are-donkeys statement.

Here’s what I emailed my correspondent about that:

“The second clip is part of a Torah class the Rav is giving over on the Gemara or on a Midrash. It’s not clear from the context exactly which Tractate etc, but it could be Kiddushin (see 68a, where slaves are referred to as ‘donkey-like / ass-like people. Also in the Midrash, Bereishit Rabbah 56:2, Hagar, Sarah’s handmaid, is compared to a donkey.)

I finished up with this:

“What are we to do, that there are many things that sound ‘weird’ or not PC in our tradition? The non-Jews who are against circumcision are also doing this, and the Reform who keep going on about the status of women in ‘rabbinic’ Judaism are also doing this.

This is not a new thing – the Nazis were also adept at taking quotes out of the Talmud, to demonise the Jews as a people, and so did – (and are still doing…) the xtians.

But what’s awful is that it’s supposedly ‘frum’ Jews who are doing this stuff – and they are playing with awful fire. The video you sent me from YWN’s Instagram account showed up in the search engines next to other ‘suggestions’ for videos which was basically the worst anti-Semitic propaganda about what Rabbis do to small, defence-less babies at a brit milah – ‘slashing’ without anaesthetic, and all the stuff about the two stages of performing a proper brit.

Yeshiva World News is keeping company with very evil people in this matter, and I greatly fear how it’s going to rebound on the Jewish people, particularly abroad.”

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How the Nazis (ab)used the Talmud

Did you know that the Nazis’ main ‘thinker’, Alfred Rosenberg, wrote and published a whole booklet in 1920, called “Lack of Morality in the Talmud”?

He quoted tens of things from the Shulchan Aruch and the Talmud to ‘prove’ how morally degenerate the Jewish people actually are – and it was so popular, he had it reprinted in the 1930s, as part of the Nazi attempt to dehumanize the Jews.

And of course, the xtians and the Church were pulling the same stunt for centuries, pulling different snippets of ‘offensive’ statements out of Jewish holy works to ‘prove’ how degenerate the Rabbis were (God forbid), and by extension, how disgusting the Jews – and all their ‘weird’ practices – are.

We like to think that all that old-fashioned, Jew-killing anti-Semitism couldn’t happen today.

But make no mistake, it’s back – and back with a vengeance, even in places like ‘safe’ America. Here’s what my correspondent emailed me back with:

“Abroad: I would say unfortunately crazy enough. Not a day goes by you don’t hear a new story of anti-Semitism. The comments on FaceBook Group pages and the daily local papers and radio stations in New Jersey are through the roof.

Pure illogical, irrational hate like I have not experienced before. Just simply double standard judgment against Jews in droves totally one-sided and not fair.”

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Ask any Jew abroad right now, even the totally secular, ‘irreligious’ ones who apparently left the fold a long, long time ago, and they will all tell you that they can feel the anti-Semitism in the air.

I’m hearing that all the time from the UK, I’m hearing it from France, I’m hearing it from the USA.

Anti-semitism is going through the roof. Anti-semites are pouring out of the cracks all over the world.

And do you know who is to blame for all this?

The Jews.

And especially, the Jewish media.

Do the evil retards who run YWN not realize that non-Jews make no distinction between a Breslov chassid, a Breslov Rebbe, and any other Jew in black-and-white, who wears a kippa, beard or no beard?

They’re there, making every effort they can to try to make Rabbi Berland and Breslov out to be a bunch of crazy, psychotic lunatics and ‘cult members’ – and who is lapping that message up, along with the 4 orthodox Jews who still actually take that site seriously?

Yup. You got it.

The non-Jews. The anti-Semites. The non-Jewish people living in Lakewood, and Ocean County who are very upset with their orthodox Jewish neighbors.

How do I know this? The Yeshiva World News itself is telling me that!  Here‘s a screenshot from a  recent story it ran about hate comments from anti-Semites in Ocean County:

Screenshot of Yeshiva World News coverage of anti semitic comments on Facebook

That last comments reads: “Slap on the hand and released back to the cult!”

And here’s a screenshot of the YWN comment next to their post on Rabbi Berland:

Screenshot of YWN Instagram account calling Rav Berland's Shuvu Banim a cult

The YWN comment reads: “Cult members will naturally find an excuse for this by saying “he was punching the Yetzer Hara put of this man”, or he has a dibuk that needed removal and some other beauty response. Any insane behavior is justified in a cult.” (All spelling errors are in the original – it’s bad journalism all the way around….)

Surely, it’s obvious where this problem is coming from?

To anti-Semites,  a Jew, is a Jew, is a Jew. Try telling them that the only ‘crazy, bad’ orthodox Jewish people are Breslov, or that only Breslov is a ‘cult’.

So great own goal, Yeshiva World News! Goebbels would be so proud.

And of course, that’s also happening here in Israel in droves, too.

The secular, rabidly ‘anti’ religious press and politicians and ‘enlightened’ big thinkers positively delight in painting the worst possible picture they can of authentic Judaism and orthodox Jews.

They go on and on about how haredi Jews are ‘parasites’, and how orthodox Jewish rabbis in Israel are completely crooked and corrupt, and how the orthodox Jewish community – with their archaic, barbaric, primitive Torah practices – is just one, big massive ‘burden’ that the secular Jews in Israel are sick and tired of schlepping around and dealing with.

Could a non-Jewish anti-Semite phrase it any better?

When places like Ynetnews and Channel 2, and Channel 10, air story after story – often with totally falsified information, designed to manipulate their viewers to hating haredi Jews even more than before!!! – they think they are scoring some sort of massive ‘victory’ against religious Jews.

Really?

They are handing the anti-Semites more propaganda, more fodder, on a plate.

Or to use a more appropriate analogy, they are filling up a rhetorical machine gun with ‘anti-Semitic’ bullets that the non-Jews are going to hold against the head of every single Jew in the world.

Do you think the non-Jews care, that ‘Mr Secular Tel Aviv’ doesn’t have a beard, and doesn’t fast on Yom Kippur, and hates the settlements, and wants to marry his dog? Do you think his extreme hatred of religious Jews and the Torah makes that guy any less Jewish, to Hamas, or Hezbollah, or a neo-Nazi?

Again, we don’t have to go far back in history to see an awful parallel with all the assimilated Jews in Europe, who were convinced that Berlin was the New Jerusalem. But marrying out didn’t save them Hitler, converting to xtianity didn’t save them from Hitler, having lots of money, and status, and five university degrees didn’t save them from Hitler.

Throwing other Jews under a bus – especially their orthodox brethren – didn’t save them from Hitler. If anything, it only encouraged him.

==

So let’s return to 2019, and let’s see what’s really unfolding before our eyes.

The hate against Jews is rippling out in concentric circles.

At its heart, Rabbi Berland, the Gadol HaDor, who was stitched-up by an unholy alliance of ‘Shuvu Banim-hating’ Breslovers in Meah Shearim, and ‘Breslov-hating’ haredi journalists on sites like Yeshiva World News and Kikar HaShabbat (which btw is half-owned by Ynet….); and ‘Haredi-hating’ secular journalists, politicians, judges and policemen in Israel.

And all those people think they are scoring massive points, by continuing to fabricate and publicize new scandals against him, and new ‘shocking’ videos.

Then what happens?

All that stuff gets sent to the end of the world and back by the internet, and the anti-Semites wake up, and now, they are giving all these ‘haters’ a dose of their own medicine.

It’s the midda keneged midda principle in action.

God is behind all this, because He’s so sick of what’s going on. He’s sick of all these ‘Jewish anti-semites’ of every stripe, who are encouraging their readers and viewers to hate other groups of Jews.

All those ‘anti’ haredi Israeli Jews who just lurrrrve all the negative, fake news stories being splashed around the press here – don’t you realise the anti-semites and the BDS brigade are doing exactly the same thing to you (to us!) in their biased and distorted coverage of Israel?

All those ‘anti’ orthodox reform Jews in the US, who just lurrrrve trying to poke holes in the Torah and in the Talmud and in ‘Rabbinic’ Judaism – and who are riding high on their ‘political correctness’ and ‘enlightened egalitarianism’ – do you really think the anti-semites think you are whiter than white?

Was Bernie Madoff an ‘orthodox’ Jew? Was Harvey Weinstein? Or all the countless other secular Jews whose bad behavior has hit the headlines again and again and again in the secular press?

All those anti-Breslov, and / or anti-Israel haredi Jews in Lakewood, and Monsey and Williamsburg – don’t you realise that every time you speak badly of Israel and your fellow Jews, you are giving the anti-Semites more spiritual ammunition to turn against yourselves and your communities?

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Let’s end with this.

All the scandal and slander and ‘opinion pieces’ tearing down our fellow Jews that’s being churned out en masse by the Jewish media, it’s all being read by the anti-Semites, too.

Those anti-Semites don’t slice the divisions between the different sectors of the Jewish people anywhere near as finely as we ourselves do. They don’t differentiate between this Jew who wears a kippah, and that Jew who doesn’t. Or this Jew who is ‘egalitarian’, and that Jew who isn’t. Or this Jew who works in hi-tech, and that Jew who studies Torah.

To them, a Jew is a Jew is a Jew.

And every negative word that comes out of our mouths accusing different groups of Jews of being ‘evil’, and ‘corrupt’, and ‘cultish’, and ‘perverted’ – and all the rest of it – it’s just giving more ammunition and more motivation to the anti-Semites.

So, Ynet, and Yeshiva World News and Kikar HaShabbat please think twice before continuing to slander and demonise a holy Jew, or a holy group of Jews. The anti-Semites are watching, and waiting in the wings. And whatever fake news you churn out about Rabbi Berland, that’s exactly what they are going to use to justify their attacks on the rest of the Jewish world.

And you will have caused the destruction that’s looming in the distance with your own two hands.

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You might also be interested in these articles:

Identifying the real enemy within.

Back in February 2012, highly popular Israeli journalist Yaron London wrote a piece for the Ynet (fake) news site headlined: Say no to Jewish Hezbollah.

In that piece, London compared Israel’s haredi population to a ‘malignant body part’, and then called on secular Israel to “reduce the number of their grandchildren.” I highly recommend that you go and read the whole thing for yourself HERE, but I pulled out the two paragraphs that basically sums up what’s going on right now in Israel vis-à-vis the haredi draft. London wrote:

“As haredi education rejects a life of work and participation in defending the homeland, and as we cannot imprison tens of thousands of yeshiva students (and those pretending to be such,) and as national service would hold justice in contempt, and as purely haredi regiments are a recipe for an armed civil war, and as the haredi community mushrooms as result of natural growth – the national majority has no choice but to embark on a determined cultural war.

“Time is of the essence. Should the majority lose this war, the Zionist enterprise would be remembered as a short-lived historical episode.”

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I’ll unpack what all this means about identifying the ‘enemy within’ in a moment, but before I do, let me share some more eye-opening quotes with you from people in Israel’s secular establishment. This next one comes from Ephraim HaLevy, the former Head of the Mossad, and was also said in 2012:

“Ultra-orthodox extremism has darkened our lives. This is more dangerous than Ahmadinejad.”

What makes this statement all the more jaw-dropping is that Ahmadinejad, the former President of Iran, actually stated back in 2005 that he wanted to “wipe Israel off the map.”

And since then, the rhetoric coming out of Iran against Israel has barely let up for a moment.

Everyone knows what they want nuclear weapons for, and it’s not just to make a few nice radioactive experiments underground in Tehran. Here’s a few more quotes about the Iranian threat, from Israel’s top brass:

 “Iran is continuing to advance as a military nuclear capability, and it has a radical regime. The combination of the two and a high desire to achieve nuclear capability…is an existential threat against the state of Israel,” – Former Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, speaking in 2009.

“The Iranians actually wrote on one of the missiles: “Israel must be removed from the earth.” These are missiles that are designed to carry – and deliver – nuclear warheads. I call on the Security Council to take action.” – Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon, speaking to the Security Council on March 14, 2016.

I could quote reams and reams more, but you get the idea.

But despite the fact that nuclear Iran wants to annihilate the whole of the State of Israel, what did the former Mossad chief find to be the main concern, the main worry, the main threat to Israeli society? The Haredim. The enemy within.

====

And he wasn’t alone.

The alarms started ringing for all of Israel’s secular elites after demographic studies started coming out from the mid-90s onwards showing that more and more people were becoming religious in Israel, and that more and more of those religious people were having large families.

For as long as the haredim didn’t vote, and effectively stayed apolitical and shunning the secular, Zionist State of Israel, honestly no-one cared too much. But, as soon as the late Rav Ovadia Yosef, z’tl, decided to pull the Sephardi haredi world into a coherent political body behind Shas, all of a sudden these secular elites woke up, and realized that ‘democracy’ no longer suited them.

You know, ‘democracy’, where a country is supposed to be governed according to the wishes of the majority, while respecting the minority’s human rights.

But apparently, democracy is only OK in Israel when the majority is secular, not religious.

Yair Lapid is the poster boy for the Askhenazi, secular, ‘socialist’ clique who have been ruling Israel with an iron fist since even before the State was founded. In his video address to the haredi stream at Kiryat Ono college, which you can go back and see HERE, Lapid let slip a lot of home truths about who he regards as the ‘enemy within’, amidst all the obfuscation and distortions. When he admitted that Israel’s secular Founding Fathers firmly expected the haredim to disappear within a generation or two, he was being honest.

When he admitted that: “the [socialist, secular, Europeanized] mainstream really did oppress them, and denied them their rights”. And when he said that: “Instead of a multi-dimensional and multi-sectoral vision that could include all different types of Jew, [the Founding Fathers] created an ethos that suited secular, Ashkenazi socialists. And they wanted all the other ‘tribes’ to submit to this ethos – he was accurately describing the situation.

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But that accurate depiction of what’s going on stopped when he started claiming that the ‘solution’ is that haredim should also enlist and ‘Share the Burden’ (picture me doing massive quote marks with the fingers of both hands.)

Because Lapid – and all the other secular politicians and intellectuals and elites like him in Israel – really don’t want haredi people in the army.

They don’t want them learning how to use machine guns properly, or learning how to defend themselves from brutal assaults by bald-headed policemen, or making the sort of connections that could launch them off on a stellar career in politics post-service.

They don’t want that at all. The last thing they want to do with their ‘enemy within’ is train them to function as an army. And a few years ago, they were even being totally honest about that, and what they they were planning to do instead, to solve their little problem.

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Let’s return to Yaron London.

In his piece, he set out the secular elite’s position very clearly: teaching thousands of haredim how to use guns is a recipe for a Jewish civil war, and will lead to the creation of a ‘Jewish’ Hezbollah – a quintessential ‘enemy within’ –  that is far more loyal to God, the Torah and their holy rabbis than they are to the State of Israel.

All the hogwash about needing more haredim to enlist in the army is a smokescreen to cover a far more sinister battle plan that began two decades, but really ramped up over the last 7-8 years, namely:

“the national majority has no choice but to embark on a determined cultural war.”

Again, be very clear about WHO is waging this “cultural war”, and WHAT they want to achieve.

It’s being waged by the remnants of the Ashkenazi, secular, formerly socialist clique who think they own Israel (and the truth is, in many ways they do). Those people are massively over-represented in the media, they are massively over-represented in all of Israel’s institutions, and they are massively over-represented in politics.

I’m wary of connecting too many of the dots for you here, so let me ask you to please try to take the ‘fake news’ blinkers off for a moment, and really try to grasp what I’m telling you next.

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What this ‘cultural war’ looks like

  • Around 10-15 years ago, secular Israel realized that religious, orthodox Jews are very soon going to be the majority in the country. They pride themselves on being ‘the only democracy in the Middle East, so while they would love to institute some sort of military coup at this stage, and do away with democracy all together, they can’t. So, they come up with ‘Plan B’, which is to wage an all-out cultural war against religious Jews in Israel, and particularly the haredim, who they view as an existential threat and the ‘enemy within’.
  • This cultural war really began with the ‘disengagement’ of Gush Katif in 2005, when settlers were routinely portrayed in the (secular, Ashkenazy, socialist) media as crazy religious fanatics with machine guns who were itching for a civil war. The smear campaign worked, most of the country were totally turned against these poor people, and that segment of the population was totally crushed.
  • Then, around 2009-2010, with a lot of ‘egging-on’ from the non-orthodox streams of pseudo-Judaism who are being very heavily funded by Jewish multi-millionaires in America, all-out war was declared against the orthodox world, and especially the rabbis.
  • The media and the secular clique who are running the country knew that if they could totally trash the reputation of a bunch of leading haredi rabbis, that would go a very long way to dragging orthodox Judaism down into the mud, too. And you know what, they were totally right!
  • Beginning in 2012, there was one high-profile investigation after another of the rabbis who were deemed to be the most influential in Israel. A whole bunch of Rav Ovadia’s sons were dragged off by the police for questioning (and some of them were even charged with the most ridiculous offences.) Others, like the late Rabbi Yoram Abergel, z’tl, from Netivot were imprisoned for two days while the media blared one yucky headline after another about ‘mafia ties’ – only for the whole thing to be quietly dropped very soon afterwards. But the damage had already been done, in the eyes of the public. Then, they started to go after the really big names – Rabbi Pinto, and Rabbi Eliezer Berland.

Click the links, connect the dots…

Again, there is so, so, so much more to be said here, but try to connect some of the dots for yourselves, to see who is really behind all this persecution of the rabbis in the secular press, and what they are trying to achieve with all their fake news and slander. But here’s the fly in the ointment:

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Not everything is a lie

Now we come to the more painful part of this post, which is the frank acknowledgment that not everyone in the haredi world, or in the orthodox world generally, is a good, nice person, and that not everyone who goes by the name of ‘rabbi’ deserves that title in any way, shape or form.

What has complicated the matter so much over the last few years is that so many of the leaders of Am Yisrael, both on the secular side and also on the religious side, are actually people with awful characters. This is a totally different dimension of the problems associated with the ‘enemy within’.

In this post, I shared the story of the poor woman from Meah Shearim who was publically slandered by some of the ‘rabbis’ in her community in the worse way, before being picketed in her own home and even firebombed, as part of a divorce that turned very ugly.

I’d love to pretend that story is just a one-off, but the more you look to see what’s really going on here, the more you come across stories like this one, from 2013, describing the abuse that haredi thugs were doling out to people in Bet Shemesh.

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It boggles the mind that a society that claims to be following the Torah can tolerate such a public display of bad middot.

Why were these bullies and thugs not shunned by their communities? Why weren’t they challenged? Why weren’t there public sermons being made about the need to treat other people with respect, even if they aren’t ‘religious’, and decrying the use of violence and abuse against other Jews in any way, shape or form?

For the answer, we have to take another look at what occurred – and is still occurring – within the haredi community when it comes to the persecution of Rabbi Berland.

The 2-3 people in Meah Shearim who started all the smears against him are all ‘haredi’. The ‘rabbis’ who have signed their names to misleading or even outright false statements against him and his Shuvu Banim community are all ‘haredi’. The hundreds and thousands of people in Israel and around the world who eagerly gulped down all the fake news being put out against him by Ynet, and the Times of Israel, and Ha’aretz, and Channel 2, and Channel 10 – a whole bunch of them are haredi.

A whole bunch of them consider themselves to be religious. A whole bunch of them think they are better than others. And in the meantime, there are totally fooling themselves about the real state of their own middot, and their real spiritual level. Their personal ‘enemy within’ – i.e. the yetzer hara – is totally ruling the roost.

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Rebbe Nachman taught that in the generation before Moshiach comes, most of our Jewish leaders – including those in the religious world – would be false.

He also warned us in Sefer HaMiddot[1] that these wicked people could fool the rest of us very easily. Here’s what he said:

“There are those who are great apostates and heretics, but they don’t reveal their heresy and people are not aware of the need to guard themselves from them. However, through conducting oneself modestly, one is saved from these heretics.”

He also warned us that:

“The wicked don’t confuse us in our holy service with their sins, but instead with the ‘good deeds’ they do.”

These evil people are full of good deeds! They’re full of mitzvahs! They have long beards, and impeccable lineage, and a lot of Torah learning, and they even live in Meah Shearim – but they are still full of jealousy, arrogance, slander, atheism, anger and even violence.

So, how can we guard ourselves against this sort of ‘enemy within’? How can we spot them, and make sure we’re not being pulled into their bad middot and malicious behavior, too? Rebbe Nachman tells us:

Conduct yourself modestly.

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What does this mean, tachlis?

First and foremost, it means don’t hold yourself out to be some big ‘know it all’ because you happen to spend all day gorging yourself on fake news. Act with some humility! Admit you don’t really know anything, you have no idea which way is up, you have no way of being able to judge who is a ‘real’ rabbi and who isn’t these days, or who is coming from a ‘good’ place and who isn’t.

Also, modest, humble people don’t gossip about others. They don’t enjoy sharing bad information around. They don’t use every story, true or not, to start loudly beating their own drum, or stacking up their own soap-box.

Also, it means we make every effort to judge others favorably, because we know there but for the grace of God go I.

It’s hard to fit all these ideas into one post, but the more we work on refining our own bad middot, the more we work on uprooting our own jealousy, and arrogance, and hypocrisy, and anger, and lack of emuna, the easier it’ll be to spot the people who aren’t doing this work – and to stay far, far away from them.

We are heading into some very turbulent times right now, and the birur, or clarification process, is only going to accelerate from here on in. God isn’t interested – at all! – which community we belong to, which outfit we wear, what we look like on the outside.

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God wants the heart.

There is good everywhere you look in the Jewish community, and there is also bad, and a key way of being able to navigate through it is to listen to every message God is sending us, even from ‘sullied’ sources, and to take it seriously.

Which brings me back to Yair Lapid, and all those secular people who are waging a cultural war against the haredim. Why are they doing it, spiritually? Did you ever stop to ponder that? Emuna teaches us that God is behind absolutely everything that is happening in the world, even the awful persecution being doled out by Israel’s anti-haredi, anti-religious, media and establishment.

God often uses the yucky people to send us very important messages about what ourselves need to acknowledge, recognize and work on. Everything is just part of that ongoing conversation the Creator is having with us, even Yair Lapid. Everything has to be sorted and clarified, to see what point of truth it may concern, and how we may need to respond to it.

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So this is some of what Lapid said, in the second half of the clip:

“If an Ethiopian child in Netivot is starving, it’s just as much your responsibility as mine, and you can’t say that you only give to haredi charities.

If rockets are being fired at Ashkelon or Kiryat Shemona, it’s your responsibility as much as mine. You can’t just send Zaka. You’re responsible as a community, as part of the State of Israel.

And if tomorrow another huge fire breaks out on the Carmel, I want to know what you plan to do about it, because it’s your responsibility as much as mine….

Can you still tell yourselves that only chilonim (secular Jews) should join the army, because it’s not your business? Can you still tell yourself that the only poor people you care about are poor haredim? And that you’re not even a tiny bit interested if poor, secular people starve to death?”

Haredi hating rabble-rouser that he is, he still made some points that beg a proper response from the religious world.

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Is it OK, to be so focused-inward that we ignore all the suffering going on all around us just because those people don’t belong to ‘our’ communities?

Sure, I get we can’t cure everyone’s ills, and I also get that it’s overwhelming to even begin to try. That’s why it’s so much easier to just stay in our own dalet amos, and our own little clubs, and pretend that people who are different from us, or not as religious as us, aren’t our problem.

I get it, we all do it, it’s understandable.

But, is that what God really wants?

Is it OK for so many of us to keep pretending that we’re better than other Jews because we happen to keep a few more mitzvoth? Living in Israel doesn’t automatically make someone a better Jew (just ask Yair Lapid…) Keeping Shabbat doesn’t automatically make someone more holy.

There are big questions here, massive questions here, about how the haredi world really relates to our fellow Jew, both within our community and without.

If more of us were really doing the work of refining our own bad middot, the false leaders in our midst wouldn’t last a moment. No-one would be drawn to them, no-one would be fooled, no-one would follow them down the path to perdition.

And that last thing to throw out there, at least today, returns to the idea of whether we really believe more in God, or more in the guns of the IDF.

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What is really protecting us here in Israel, the Iron Dome and the Shabak, or all our prayers, mitzvoth and Torah learning?

Right now, so many people in the haredi community can fudge this issue, and make a lot of pious noises about having ‘emuna’ and ‘believing in God’ – whilst hiding behind the secular IDF and the State of Israel’s military might.

(It’s especially easy to hide your lack of real emuna when you live outside of Israel, and can carry on enjoying all the perks of a non-Jewish society and a non-Jewish way of life while pretending to yourself that you are the holy of holies just because you happen to keep a few mitzvoth.)

But in Israel, the question of what we really believe in – God or guns – is looming larger and larger, and the secular people who are pushing the haredi draft question are sharpening it all the time.

But they are just the stick in God’s hands.

It’s God who is really asking us: when the sirens go off and you run to the safety room, are you really thinking that Hashem is in charge, or praying that the Iron Dome will work? Are you saying tehillim, or are you relying on all those clueless 19 year old boys in the army to save you? What’s really going on, here?

And as a community, it behooves us to be honest.

So many of us don’t have a lot of emuna. So many of us really don’t believe that God is running the world. We don’t believe in supernatural miracles. We don’t really want geula and moshiach in any tangible way. And we really are relying more on the guns of the IDF than on God, to protect us.

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By the way, that’s OK.

Because the whole point of this birur process is just to get us to the point of truth.

If the truth is that we really do rely on the IDF for our peace of mind, then that requires quite a change in our attitude and actions.

Instead of belittling the people who serve in the army, we should be profusely grateful to them. Instead of continuing to deride the whole concept of an Israeli army, we should admit they are playing an important part, and consider what we ourselves can do to contribute. If we really don’t believe our Torah learning is protecting the country as well as the F16s, we need to come clean and be honest about that.

And then, we’ll start to act much less arrogantly. Then, we’ll start to realise that so many of those secular people have just as much good in them as we do, and that we have just as much ‘bad’ in ourselves as we are pointing out in others. It’s a whole sea change going on now, a whole transformation.

But this only happens if we’re honest with ourselves.

And what if we really do believe that it’s God, and not the guns, who are protecting us? Then we’ll wholeheartedly throw ourselves into learning more Torah, and saying more tehillim, and attending more prayer gatherings in Hevron, and above all, working more on our bad middot and trying to unify Am Yisrael, instead of looking for ways to criticize and tear down ‘the other’.

Again, it’s a total sea change, a complete transformation.

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Why are the secular people jumping up and down so much about the haredim right now?

Because so many of us apparently ‘religious’ Jews don’t act nicely, we don’t treat other people right, and we’re arrogant, self-righteous hypocrites.

We want all the kudos and credit for being ‘frum’, we want to continue looking down our nose at other people, and to think that we’re better than they are, without actually doing the inner work of refining out characters, and God is sick of it all.

Regardless of the community we belong to, we all have a lot of work to do on our own bad middot. We all have work to do, to develop some emuna, and some humility, and to figure out who is really a tzaddik today, and who is just a false leader, an ‘enemy within’, only interested in their own ego gratification and sense of being a ‘somebody’.

We are currently all fighting a war against the ‘enemy within’, make no mistake about it. It’s a war to be real, to be good, to really believe in God and to make the teshuva we need to make to get to the next stage of the redemption process.

And it’s anyone’s guess who is really going to still be standing when it’s all over.

[1] The Chapter on Avoiding the Wicked, Second Book, Numbers 4 and 5.

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UPDATE:

Myrtle Rising has a very eye-opening first-hand account of her son’s experience in the IDF which bears out much of what’s written above. You can check it out, HERE.