After Wednesday’s twin terror attacks in Jerusalem, I went a bit weird and kind of shut down a little ( I know I’m not alone…)

In one of the huge ironies of this week, I’ve been reading a book called ‘Does Stress Damage the Brain?’ – and I’ve been proving its thesis. I forgot appointments I made to meet people, I couldn’t concentrate or think straight, Wed night I was so tired I crashed into bed at 9pm.

Stress, stress, stress.

What to do about it all? (Over on www.spiritualselfhelp.org, I’m putting a few posts up about PTSD and it’s more formal general aspects over the next few days.) But in terms of my life, our lives, here and now? What to do about it?

The terrorists aren’t going away any time soon.

They are just the big stick that God is using to wake us all up, and show our anti-Torah politicians and citizens that they’re barking up the wrong tree.

Right now, there are armed guards on pretty much every corner of the Old City and its surroundings.

My local makolet in Meah Shearim is selling pepper spray (under the counter, quietly…) My kids come home with stories about people being stabbed with scissors and screwdrivers and even, unbelievably, vegetable peelers. (I think that one is still an urban myth, but who knows).

On Shabbat, Rav Arush said that we can’t run away from God, and the answer is to walk with Hashem wherever we go. If we’re walking with Hashem, we’ll be OK. So now before I go out, I ask God to ‘walk with me’, and give me (and the rest of my family) a bodyguard of angels to escort us.

I asked my youngest, who goes to school in the Old City, how the rest of the kids in her class are doing. One hasn’t left her house for 2 weeks (she only moved to the Old City in August, and is completely traumatized). She told me that another bunch, the ones that live in the City of David, are still walking to and from school by themselves, except now they have pepper spray. (A lot of the terrorists come from their neighbourhood.)

They are doing ‘relaxing’ hour in school now, and giving them regular ‘chizzuk’ conversations after each new attack, along the lines of ‘we aren’t scared, and we aren’t going to let the Arabs scare us!’ One of the girls asked what she should do if she was actually still scared, despite all the chizzuk.

They didn’t really know what to tell her.

Yesterday, my husband came home with a few copies of Likutey Moharans, that Rav Arush had given the avreichim to give out. There’s a breslov tradition that Likutey Moharan protects the home.

We heard a story first hand to prove that a little while ago, when one of my husband’s acquaintances, a property manager, had a fire at one of his flats. Everything was destroyed except the room Rebbe Nachman’s book was in. It was untouched –  the clothes in the cupboard didn’t even smell smoky.

You can pick up a Likutey Moharan at the Breslev.co.il bookstore HERE.

So that’s my recipe for dealing with the stress this week:

  • Walk with God everywhere you go
  • Get a copy of Likutey Moharan for your home
  • Do a lot of praying

I did another long prayer session yesterday, and again, it pulled me back together mentally after Tuesday’s sirens sparked off a small panic fit.

As the bloke in my makolet told me: “This is going to carry on for a long time. It’s the war of Gog and Magog.” He really believes it – he’s just started wearing a kippa. I gave him one of our copies of Likutey Moharan.

I hope to post up some of the more spiritually-meaningful things that have come to me recently next week, stress-induced brain damage notwithstanding.

A little while back, my oldest daughter decided to get what’s called a ‘rasta’. As you might have guessed, it’s the usual sort of dumb teenage idea about taking a bit of your hair, wrapping all this coloured cotton etc around it; tying a bell on the end, and then keeping it in your hair forever (until you get sick of it and have to cut it out.)

It was that or the second earring, so I said: “OK! I let the dumb rasta!”

I realised that she’d been through a lot recently, and needed some form of self-expression that wasn’t exactly traif, but wasn’t also exactly kosher.

She got the rasta, it actually so wasn’t a big deal, and that was that: she felt much happier and self-expressed and independent, and I felt like I’d got off lightly, after seeing the boy with huge holes in his earlobes where his ears used to be.

Last week, the whole family went shopping to a super-frum supermarket, to buy stuff to do a BBQ on Israel Independence Day, or Yom Haatzmaut, when my kids are off school.

Independence Day is a political hot-potato in Israel, and people can make all sorts of assumptions about you based on:

  • How many Israeli flags you have decorating your house and car, and how prominently they’re displayed
  • Whether you listen to music conspicuously on that day (as it’s always in the middle of the Omer, when you’re not meant to be listening to music, unless you consider Independence Day to be a quasi-religious ‘holiday’ like Purim)
  • Whether you’re buying any of the following things: BBQs, charcoal, chicken wings and skewers.

In some neighbourhoods, do any of the above and they’ll stone you. In others, don’t do any of the above, and they’ll stone you.

We went shopping for our BBQ stuff in the big chareidi supermarket in a super-glatt part of town, where black is always the new black. We go there every week, but this week, my oldest daughter started to feel very flustered, and wanted to leave after 5 minutes.

‘What’s the matter?’ I asked her.

“Ima, people are staring at me, and it’s making me feel really weird.”

Hmm. Why were they staring? Was it the BBQ briquettes, sticking out of the trolley? Or maybe, it was the bumper pack of hotdogs that was practically playing ‘HaTikva’ all by itself?

Then it hit me: it was the dumb rasta.

People’s eyes were literally sticking out of their head, even though I’ve seen much less modest things going on with a few of the secular customers that also shop there.

Bizarre.

In the car home, my daughter explained the problem:

“Ima, you look like you’re normal dati (religious); Abba looks like he’s chareidi (black and white with peyot) and I look dati leumi (national religious, I guess what you’d call ‘modern orthodox’ outside of Israel). People can’t work out how we all fit together, and that’s why they were staring so much.”

I actually found this pretty amusing. What, does everyone dress the same in these people’s families? (Ok, scratch that, it was rhetorical.)

I guess the real question I want to ask is why does everyone dress the same, in these people’s families?

How can you have honest self-expression, acceptance and individuality, if everyone’s wearing the same style? I know in my family, I have fiercely resisted ‘the uniform’ – but I certainly wasn’t going to impose my preferences on my husband, who loves his black and white to bits.

Ditto for my kids: the rasta is dumb and borderline untznius. BUT – my daughter needs to learn that for herself, so she can get it out of her system and hopefully grow up to love turtlenecks.

After our discussion, I wondered what would have happened, if I’d gone against the clues God was sending us in the Summer, and shoved our daughters in chareidi school against their will.

One probably would have toed the line (I think…) But the other would have kicked so hard I may have lost her, at least temporarily, God forbid. But then I wonder: don’t all teenagers need to be able to ‘self-express’, at least occasionally, however dumb and borderline tasteless it is? And if they can’t do that when they’re 14 without being stared at and judged, then when can they?

So, you remember my sceptical husband was encouraging me to go straight to the top, halachically-speaking, to get approval for all the JEMI stuff I’m trying to do (emotional healing; emuna medicine; energy medicine – whatever takes your fancy)?

So after weeks of trying to track down the right person to speak to, we finally got a number for him, and the first thing he wanted to know is: ‘Is she G-d fearing?’

He wouldn’t even begin to discuss any details with us, until we could give him some evidence, from a notable rabbi who knew us, that we were Yireh Shemayim.

I clearly then had a whole big crisis about whether I really am G-d-fearing, or at least, G-d-fearing enough. I know I talk to G-d every day, and I often try to do what He tells me, but I also have occasions when I can be quite cheeky and rude to the Creator of the World.

Luckily, it wasn’t up to me to decide it. We asked my husband’s Rav for a ‘reference’, and he was happy to oblige. That’s the first hurdle crossed.

The next hurdle, was that I had to talk to the Rav myself, directly, to get specific guidance.

I have this weird ‘gift’ that whenever I get a bit excited or super-stressed, I can take out every piece of electrical equipment within 10 miles. Things just stop working, or pack up, or go on strike.

So I called the Rav yesterday – and within 5 seconds, I’d managed to take his mobile phone out of operation. And then by the time it came back to life, he was busy with something else, and we had to reschedule the call.

So I’m still anxiously waiting to hear about whether I can go ahead with all my planned JEMI stuff how I want, or whether it’ll need some tweaking.

In the meantime, it made a big impact on me that the first criteria for working with Jews, and Jewish energy, in an halachically-acceptable way, is that the practitioner has to be ‘G-d-fearing.’

In Israel, maybe it’s easier to find those people (although still not easy) but in the rest of the world? And especially in places with very few Jews? Fuggedaboudit.

Swami so-and-so, Yogi whatever-there-name-is; Joan the sweet Buddhist who’s really ‘into’ their Hatha whatever-it-is – what harm can they be doing, spiritually? I’m still trying to track down the answer – and I’ll share whatever I find out with you, dear reader.

But in the meantime, whatever else you’re doing with your Jewish energy – whether it’s stretching, exercises, ‘healings’, or even massage (and don’t even get me started on all the REALLY dodgy stuff out there…) – make sure your practitioner or teacher is genuinely G-d-fearing.

How’d you do that? Great question!

I don’t know.

But if they aren’t keeping mitzvoth and they don’t believe in G-d (our version, as opposed to ‘the universe’, whatever that means), that’s probably a pretty clear answer.

If you’re still not sure, talk to G-d about it, and see what He tells you. And in the meantime – don’t risk yourself, spiritually, by doing things that appear ‘harmless’ to us, but could be causing us a lot of damage. I’ll come back to this idea more, in the next post.

You know that dictum that ‘fools rush in where angels fear to tread’?

Well, I feel that my credentials as an official ‘fool’ must have finally been stamped, as the last week, I’ve been sticking my neck out all over the place.

One day, I decided to tear down a pornographic poster for some ‘club’ event that was posted up near Jerusalem’s crack alley. Usually, I would just make a lot of disapproving, tutting noises about how disgusting it was, that my husband and kids (and others…) had to walk past such offensive smut.

This time, instead of tutting I took action: I ripped the poster off the wall proudly, and I wasn’t scared to defend my actions should some crazed club promoter come storming out from under his rock to angrily berate me for removing his pornography from Jerusalem’s holy walls.

No-one said anything – and I felt really good that for once, I didn’t just put my head down and ‘accept’ the nastiness swirling all around without complaint.

I had the clarity, however brief it may turn out to be, that people who stick pornographic posters up on walls are acting in a mentally-ill, anti-social way, and that behavior needs to be challenged, not excused.

L’havdil, the next day I was walking into Geula via Meah Shearim and the frum yobbos had decided to tip over a bunch of bins and set the contents on fire. (Given that the garbage disposal people are currently on strike, it’s kind of a mixed blessing.)

Usually, I would just walk past and tut. But this time, I was seriously considering going over and picking the bins up, or complaining – something! – to register the fact that this is mentally-ill, anti-social, unacceptable behavior, whatever the excuse for it. My daughter stopped me from doing it (she’s seen what can happen when I get all fired up, and I’m not sure who she was more scared for, me or the yobbos), and after we spent a couple of minutes discussing it, I backed down.

The next day, one of my neighbours knocked on my door to ask me to start cleaning the outside stairs by my house.

Some of the building’s girls were doing it up until now, but they quit and now he wanted everyone to ‘do their part’. It’s not an unreasonable request, but the truth is that for the last few weeks, I’ve been struggling to stay on top my basic cleaning chores inside my own house.

Between trying to get the book out, trying to ‘be there’ for my kids in whatever way God decides I need to be, and trying to get out more so that I’m not stuck in ‘anti-social’ hermit mode, I don’t have a lot of spare time at the moment. And if I do, I want to spend it cooking a nice supper for my family, or finally putting on a wool wash, or having a good conversation with my husband, instead of schlepping up and down the stairs outside to keep my neighbor happy.

I don’t know if this is right or wrong. What I can tell you, is that just before he told me I should clean the stairs every week, I was thinking I’d like to go and give it a sweep. But now I’ve been ‘commanded’ to do it by someone else, I can’t!

It’ll have to wait another three weeks now, or something, for it to get really bad and for my own free choice to kick in again, and decide I should do a bit of cleaning.

The last few weeks have been so weird, and changeable, and pressured, and strange, I’ve been having troubles pinning it all down, or knowing what I think about anything. You might have noticed that in my writing, too, which has been quite ‘light’ while I’m figuring out what God really wants from me.

The last couple of days, some big shifts have happened, and BH, I’ll share more with you about it all this week, because I think it may help you too, if you’ve been going through anything remotely similar.

In the meantime, caveat emptor: I may be writing and acting from the place of a fool, and not the place of an angel at the moment. But if that’s what God really wants, so be it.