God seems to put a different ‘flavour’ or spiritual essence into the air around each of the Jewish holidays.

So it is, before Purim time, I always seem to feel like my life is spiralling out of control and that I barely have time to breathe.

Let’s be clear that I haven’t even got anywhere near to deciding what I’m doing for mishloach manot, who I’m sending them to (or not….) or what’s going to be with the Purim Seuda. Even though it’s already only a couple of days’ away, those things are just not on my radar yet.

Since Rosh Chodesh Adar, I’ve just been running, running, running.

Running to this Rosh Chodesh event, that kid’s performance, this kid’s high school, to the post office, to the Kotel. Of course, these are only the ‘external’ descriptions of what’s going on. The real running is happening internally, where I feel I haven’t been able to sit down, focus or relax properly for weeks.

Mamash, I’ve been caught up in some sort of internal ‘storm wind’ (which as we know is one of the four spiritual ‘klipot’, or forces of evil) which keeps me on edge, on my toes, and running, running, running so fast I don’t have time to breathe, or think, and certainly not to do the washing or shopping.

(Lucky for me, God also made my washing machine malfunction. Since it ‘zapped’ me with static electricity last week, it’s been taking all the lights out every time I turn it on, and I’m running too fast to be able to stop and fix it…Once my husband realises he has no underwear left, I’m hoping he’ll knuckle down and take a look at it. And then also do five loads of laundry. A girl can hope.)

Of course, all this running around is also occasionally dumping me into the midst of the ‘volatile fire’ klipa, too.

Yesterday, I had a road rage incident in the (predominantly Arab…) Jerusalem suburb called ‘Ir David’, the site of the biblical city of David.

Long story short, my kid had a production in the Jewish community hall there, and I had to drive all over Ir David to get to it. The parking was behind a carefully-monitored gate, which I missed and overshot by 2 metres. As I was trying to reverse back, an Arab minibus came right up behind me, and absolutely refused to let me back up.

We got into a standoff for five minutes – because Ir David is a one-way system, and I didn’t want to have to drive all the way around it again – but the Arab driver refused to back up – and boy, my Moroccan genes kicked in.

If my kid wasn’t in the car to calm me down there would have been another stabbing in Jerusalem yesterday – I’ve had gouged his eyes out with my car keys. As it was, I drove off like a woman possessed, loudly cursing the Arabs of Ir David with both windows of my car open.

Five minutes later, when I calmed down a bit, the ‘depressed cloud’ klipa showed up.

Man, after all this work I can still lose it and turn into an enraged would-be murderer…. Luckily, I had a chocolate bar stashed in my bag for this sort of existential spiritual emergency, and after I polished it off, I felt a little better.

But the point is this: Purim is a few short days away, that time of miracles, everything turning around for the best, and profound spiritual work. And I’m so far away from tapping into it this year, and I seem to be running even further away with each hour that passes.

Usually, my hitbodedut, or personal prayer grounds me enough that I can stop running for at least an hour.

But even there recently, my mind has been flitting all over the place and I can’t catch hold of myself, really.

I don’t know what the answer is. I hope God is going to rescue me from the storm wind, and the volatile fire, and the depressive dark cloud soon. And, if I’m really lucky, He’ll do it before Sunday so I can actually get my act together and sort out my mishloach manot, costume and Purim seuda.

Even before I knew Amona was being bulldozed last week (because the Israeli government was trying to do it in their usual sneaky, underhanded way) I got a phone call from my almost 16 year old asking me if I could send her permission to leave her school for a day.

“Uh, why?” I wanted to know (call me old-fashioned.)

“Mum, they’re destroying Amona, and me and all my friends from Ulpana want to go and protest. The teacher only lets if you say yes.”

As my kid was hanging on the phone waiting for an answer, a picture popped into my head, unbidden, of some black-clad kassamnik from 10 years ago, using a rubber truncheon to whack the heck out a bunch of peaceful teens who were sitting on the floor passively protesting another ‘dismantling’.

For a growing percentage of Israel’s frum community, the love affair with the Israeli police (and the IDF) is firmly over.

For all the amazing Jews who serve their country, both these organisations are ultimately controlled by anti-Torah, unethical, corrupt people who still stop at nothing to achieve their ends.

Including whacking the heck out of peaceful, idealistic teens who happen to be stopping them from doing their ‘job’ of destroying Jewish homes in Eretz Israel.

The last thing I wanted was for my kid to be one of the ones getting whacked and arrested, and I don’t know what else, because like I said, a lot of these people are plain evil and if they weren’t ‘policemen’, they’d be mafia henchmen. (Some of them probably even are.)

So what to do?

The next thought that popped into my head, unbidden, is that really, I can’t stop my daughter from doing what she wants. I like to pretend that I can, but really, I can’t.

So then, I asked God for some guidance, and heard myself telling her that as long as she was going with all her classmates, I let her go to Amona.

As I hung up, not for the first time I felt a little wistful that my family doesn’t fit the more standard ‘chareidi’ mould that frowns sternly on girls marching out on the streets. Both my girls are deeply, sincerely attached to the ‘national religious’ community, and protesting Government injustice is something they both feel very strongly about.

I get very conflicted about this stuff a lot of the time, because I know that all their protesting isn’t going to make any difference, and could just get them in a whole bunch of trouble. But at the same time, I also feel so proud of them that they care enough to put themselves on the line to protest Jewish families being evicted from their homes.

If more of the ‘grown ups’ cared as much about our fellow Jews, maybe things would look different – and much better – in Israel right now.

In the end, God worked things out nicely for both of us: my daughter was too late to ‘break into’ Amona (although she told me later that two her friends had managed to barricade themselves into one of the houses, and were some of the last ‘protesters’ to be taken out by the police).

So instead, her and her classmates joined an impromptu demonstration against the dismantlement in nearby Raanana.

But I’m still left with the question: Does all this stuff make God happy?

For all my pondering, I still really don’t know. For sure, it’s not the Torah way to encourage girls to go out to ‘battle’, in any way, shape or form, for very good reasons.

On the other hand, I know God has to be impressed by the teens’ mesirut Nefesh (self-sacrifice) and commitment to standing up for what they believe to be right. Like I said, those qualities are sadly lacking in today’s world, perhaps especially by the adults who are meant to be leading us forward and setting the example.

One thing I can tell you for sure: sooner or later, one way or another, Israel will be ruled by Torah-true Jews. If it’s not Moshiach, it’s going to be these teens all grown up and ready to vote.

And nothing and no-one will be able to stop it.

==

After I wrote this, my daughter asked me something else:

“Mum, I’m debating going to Ofra today [where the Government is going to knock down some more Jewish homes]. Do you let me?”

I sighed another deep sigh, and I explained to my daughter that I really don’t think demonstrating is going to help much, because until and unless more of us stop believing in ‘the Government’, and ‘the Likud’ and the ‘Beit Yehudi’ – and start believing in God, instead – these things are just going to keep happening, until we finally get the message.

She agreed…but she also said she feels so bad for the families involved, and wants to help them however she can.

How could I argue against that, really? I told her to ask God to give her the right idea of what to do, and left it at that.

Who is like this people of Yours, Hashem?

One day very soon, the tremendous good that is the authentic Jewish people is going to rise to the top, and the bad will just disappear, like smoke.

A few weeks’ ago, I decided I was spending way too much time on my computer and ‘in my head’, as opposed to actually doing things in the real world.

This is something that unfortunately happens to me a lot, as sometimes I get so caught up in thinking and typing, I actually forget about the ‘living, eating and breathing’ stuff that is also really important.

In the past, I’ve also tried (and usually failed….) to get out of the house more, and to try and find more things to do in the so-called real world, but they haven’t got very far. Either I can’t find anything suitable, or it lasts for a week, or something happens to pull me away from it, and I can’t seem to get back into it again.

But this time, God helped me out a lot, and sent me a netball game every Wednesday, and an English-speaking sewing teacher here in Jerusalem who wasn’t charging a fortune for lessons.

(If you have no idea what netball is, read THIS).

The netball game was great – except for the fact that I haven’t played for a decade, so my face stayed beet-red for 24 hours after my first official ‘exercise’ since George Dubbya was in the White House.

I’m also really enjoying the sewing, too, and my first skirt even turned out wearable….

So I got really inspired when the instructor asked me what I wanted to make next, and I plumped for a full-length, full-width super-fancy ball-gown type skirt that would cost me a fortune to buy ready-made, but is really pretty cheap when I’m making it myself.

I made a lot of progress on it last week, so my instructor asked me if I’m making it to wear to a wedding, or something. I told her no: this is the skirt I’m planning to wear when Moshiach shows up.

Ladies, I know the world is full of pain, suffering and uncertainty at the moment, but let’s keep our priorities straight:

If Moshiach shows up tomorrow, do you have an outfit you can wear for the inauguration parade?

I mean, this is a once in a lifetime event, and it would be such a shame to miss out on participating in it just because you don’t have anything suitable to wear….

I asked my kids this question yesterday, and they both snorted at me in that way only teenagers can. “I still remember those dresses you bought us for Moshiach from 8 years ago,” one of them told me, and then rolled her eyeballs back so dramatically I was waiting for them to pop out the top of her head.

Hey! I wasn’t the only one who thought Moshiach was imminent when all the banks started to crash all over the world. But my kids got a little ‘Moshiach-outed’ from seeing me stockpiling tuna for four years solid while the main man didn’t actually show up and redeem us.

It could be, I’m falling for the same line again, and that Moshiach really isn’t as close as I’m starting to feel he might be.

But if he does show up soon, at least I’ll have the outfit ready.

There’s only one way to really acquire emuna…

…And that’s the hard way.

Let me tell you a story:

A few years’ ago, when I was at the height of my troubles with secondary infertility, and it was causing me more heartache than I can describe, one of my ‘friends’ who also had secondary infertility decided to go the IVF route, and conceived twins the first time around.

Ooo-wah, did she turn into the most obnoxious, preachy, self-righteous person around, when it came to the subject of ‘having emuna’. Whenever I’d see her, she’d start preening herself about the enormous amount of ‘emuna’ she’d had, which had led to Hashem blessing her with more children.

(The implied corollary was of course that I must have ZERO emuna, because after all my praying and attempts at self-improvement I still had absolutely nothing tangible to show for it.)

I stopped talking to her around the fifth month of her pregnancy, because the mental torture she was inflicting on me each time we spoke got to be more than I could handle without cracking up.

I berated myself for days after I’d seen her:

Maybe, I just don’t have emuna! The whole problem is that I just don’t have enough emuna!!

And then I’d run off to re-double my hours of hitbodedut, or try to take on another super-machmir practise on myself, to show God how much I was trying to have emuna.

It took me years’ to figure out what I’m about to share with you, namely that ‘emuna’ doesn’t happen when life is going your way, and God is apparently effortlessly and immediately answering all your prayers and pleas.

(Remember, Hagar conceived immediately and also got the same wrong idea about how ‘holy’ she was, while the far more righteous and emuna-dik Sarah had to wait until she was 90 to become a mother.)

Emuna, real emuna, happens when you cling on to Hashem despite the fact that life is going ANYTHING but the way you want it to.

Real emuna sprouts in the decade you spent asking to have more kids, without being answered.

It grows in the soil of yearning so much to have your own stable home in Eretz Yisrael, but still continuing the relationship with God when He says ‘no’ again and again and again. Real emuna takes root on that rocky ground of loneliness, despair, emptiness and overwhelm, when all the doors have been closed in your face, and there aren’t any windows.

At those low times, in those lowly places in your life, when you have nothing to keep you going except your trust in Hashem’s goodness, that’s when real emuna grows.

Real emuna is not getting God to do what you want. That’s a completely warped, quasi-xtian idea. Jewish emuna is when whatever God does, that’s fine by you.

And that is a HUGE level that will take most of us at least 120 years to attain (and that’s if we’re working on it constantly).

I know that I’m not there yet.

God is not a vending machine. You don’t just pay ‘six hours’ of hitbodedut in and then get whatever you’re asking for pop out the slot. There are two main things we’re meant to be talking to God about:

1) Help with recognising and overcoming our bad middot.

2) Help to build our relationship with Him, and to recognise His hand in every facet of our lives.

That’s how real emuna grows.

We’re also taught that three things are only acquired with suffering:

  • Eretz Yisrael
  • Torah
  • The World to come

When I hear all these too-good-to-be-true stories from apparently frum people who are peddling the ‘vending machine’ model of God, it makes me think that either they’re just plain lying about not having any hardships in life, or any times that God said ‘no’ to them, OR their life really is that straightforward and amazing, in which case it’s highly unlikely they acquired any of the three things listed that are only acquired with suffering, regardless of how it may look from the outside.

Either way, that’s not the person you can really learn emuna from, because emuna grows in the gaps in our lives and not when those gaps have been filled.

If I was an American, I would have voted for Trump.

Why? Because I think he’ll do a very good job of putting America’s interests first. But it doesn’t follow that America’s best interests and Israel’s best interests are automatically aligned.

Here’s a newsflash: TRUMP IS THE PRESIDENT OF AMERICA, NOT ISRAEL.

The last couple of weeks, I’ve been growing increasingly perturbed by all the frum cheerleading for Trump and his Jewish connections, because it reminded me so much of the wave of euphoria that swept over frum Israel when Ariel Sharon was swept into power with a landslide mandate – and promptly pivoted 180 degrees to disengage from Gaza.

Call me a spoilsport, but I’m getting that same uncomfortable feeling re: Trump and his plans for the Middle East.

Just this week, we read in the haftorah the Prophet Ezekiel’s stern warning to Jews not to rely on any foreign power, to try and shore up their domestic security problems and only to rely on God.

What happens when we rely on the current Superpower of the moment, instead of turning to our Creator? Ezekiel tells us that anyone we lean on for support except God, they turn into the proverbial ‘broken reed’, that only pierces the palm and shoulder of the person trying to use it as a crutch.

Israel belongs to God, and it’s not up to any politician, Israeli, American or otherwise, to start throwing their weight around and deciding which part of Israel can stay in ‘Israel’ and which part gets turned into Hamastan.

In all the politically-correct talk about making peace with the Palestinians, even a lot of the people who are meant to know better seem to have forgotten that GOD is behind the Palestinian’s ongoing terrorism, violence and general awkwardness. So many of our Sages and rabbis have made it clear time and time again that God is using the Palestinians as a stick against the Jewish people, because so many of us still aren’t trying to live a Torah-true life.

If the Jews as a nation wholeheartedly come back to God, the Palestinian ‘problem’ will disappear overnight, as the whole spiritual reason for them to harass the Jews in Israel will have disappeared.

The Palestinians are here to encourage the Jews to make teshuva. Full stop.

If Trump and his advisors understand that, great! If not – it’s going to get complicated, very quickly. James Mattis, the new Defense Secretary, is not a big lover of Israel, and is a very big fan of the so-called ‘two state solution’.  Mattis wants more of the so-called ‘moderate’ Arabs to play ball, and believes that supporting a two state solution – and actually making that happen – will bring these folk around to the American side of the table.

Trump has already made it clear that his cabinet picks have free reign to set the policies that they believe will best suit the US’ interests; he’s already primed his son-in-law to bring ‘peace’ between Israel and the Palestinians; and it appears obvious (to me, anyway…) that this ‘peace’ is going to be bought by giving away parts of biblical Israel.

Sure, the deal will seem reasonable and fair to anyone who hasn’t internalized the fact that Israel belongs to God, and that God is unlikely to be thrilled with any ‘peace agreement’ with the Palestinians that isn’t predicated on wholesale Jewish teshuva. It’s very ‘fairness’ is what’s going to cause the problem, because Israel will be unable to hold out against all the pressure being brought to bear to accept this ‘fair deal’, that will lead to the creation of Hamastan.

And then – things could get very interesting.

Trump is the President of the US, and he won’t hesitate to throw Israel under a bus if and when that serves him and his country’s best interests. If he did anything else, he’d be an absolutely terrible leader of the country that just elected him.

If we’d just elected him as the prime minister of Israel, then maybe there would be more to celebrate and look forward to. As it is, I simply can’t understand why frum Jews in Israel are getting so excited about him, however pro-Israel and pro-Jewish he might be as individual.

Beating ISIS sounds great, but in practice the ‘moderate’ muslims will demand concessions for going along with the US – and guess which ‘concession’ will be top of the list?

Israel!

And Israel’s best interests.

And Israel’s so-called ‘settlements’ which are really just housing developments for Jews on the land that God owns, and God promised them for perpetuity.

Dafka, Hashem has always protected against the machinations of our openly hostile enemies, often by miraculous means.

It’s our ‘friends’ that are really worrying me at this point.

The last couple of weeks, I’ve gone back to that horrible ‘stuck’ feeling that I’ve been trying so hard to get away from the last few years.

You know the one, that feeling that you just can’t do anything, or achieve anything, or get anywhere, or make anything improve or ‘happen’ – no matter how hard you try and how desperate you are for it occur.

I got a really strong dose of ‘stuckness’ around Rosh Hashana / Succot time – and I nearly went crazy from it, because even though I hated where I’m living, and my lack of direction in life, and my full-time ‘loser’ status socially and otherwise, I couldn’t seem to do anything at all to change it despite trying so hard on both the spiritual and more material fronts.

Then, God gave me a break from all the existential angst for a couple of months while I was finishing the manuscript of ‘One in a Generation’, but the last few weeks’ it’s roared back again big time.

When Rav Arush wrote that we’re all currently stuck in the plague of darkness, that’s when I realised what is happening in my life at the moment. Remember, the Egyptians couldn’t move when the plague of darkness struck. Whatever pose they found themselves in, they had to stay that way for three days and nights. They couldn’t ‘see’ anything, they couldn’t ‘see’ any way out of their situation, or understand what was happening or why.

All they knew is that they were ‘stuck’ for three days solid completely unable to move even as much as a muscle.

Does this sound familiar to anyone else out there?

Last week, I got to that familiar place of not being able to take it anymore.

One thing I get a lot of in my hitbodedut sessions is insight into what’s actually happening ‘behind the scenes’. After my showdown with my crazy relatives a couple of months’ back, I came to understand that the reason we can’t just ‘cut off’ from these people is because on a very deep spiritual level, we are connected to them.

(That’s not my idea, btw, it’s a standard idea in Jewish thought that all of Am Yisrael is responsible for each other.)

These people have been sinking like a stone over the last few years, morally and spiritually, and I finally realised that on some level, despite all our efforts, they’re dragging certain members of my own family down with them.

Once I finally got that message, I realised something else: Fixing them is going to fix us. But here’s where it got a little tricky, as believe me NOTHING can fix them in olam hazeh short of a lobotomy.

Which is when I got my next brainwave: Rav Berland has helped literally thousands and thousands of people to overcome even apparently ‘terminal’ physical illnesses, and regain their health by doing a pidyon Nefesh for them.

If the Rav’s pidyon worked for ‘terminal’ physical illnesses, then it for sure also works for ‘terminal’ spiritual illnesses, too.

We contacted the Rav, found out how much it’s going to cost (because pidyon Nefesh works by clearing the spiritual judgments off a person, and the bigger the spiritual judgments that have piled up, the more it costs to do) – and just paid the money across now.

I am starting to feel SO much calmer, BH.

But that’s not all. I got a very strong message this week that me and my husband need to have just one Rav, who we trust implicitly. Given the number of ‘pseudo-tzaddikim’ we’ve had terrible experiences with over the years, this is not a simple matter at all.

As I was pondering the subject of which Rav to try to follow, etc, I got a phone call from my friend telling me all about Rav Berland’s ‘helpline’, where you can ask the Rav questions. Now, I knew about this helpline, but I never actually called it.

When this friend told me about it, I understand I was getting another big push from Shemayim to throw my hat 100% into Rav Berland’s camp.

And BH, that’s what I’m going to do!

My husband and I have some very big questions at the moment, concerning everything from where he should be learning to where we should be living and what he should be doing for a living etc. I also am desperate for some guidance about whether to carry on trying to make a go of my books etc, or whether I should throw in the towel and start writing for real money again.

These are not simple decisions, and they’ve been weighing on us for years. Our life got so upended in every direction three years’ ago that we still don’t really have any area that’s ‘stable’ or settled in any true sense of the word.

Yesterday, we called up the hotline and gave over our six questions for the Rav’s advice. We hopefully get the answers back on Sunday.

And that’s when I realised how we get out of the plague of darkness: we attach ourselves to a true Tzaddik, who can shine his light on all those complicated, anxiety-ridden areas of our lives, and help us to move forward again.

And there is no other way.

  • You can contact Rav Berland’s helpline yourself HERE.

There is no place where God isn’t – Rebbe Nachman of Breslev

As often happens, when I opened up Likutey Moharan I got to a lesson (number 33) that seemed very appropriate to the whole discussion of finding God even in those places where it appears He isn’t.

Like, in all those conversations we all have with the ‘difficult’ characters in our lives who like to refer to us as ‘parasites’ or ‘leeches’; or all the difficult circumstances we sometimes find ourselves in; or even, just in our mundane interactions with the ‘real’, or materialistic world.

Sometimes, it can be so easy to forget that God really is behind all this stuff.

Here’s a little of what Rabbenu says about the subject:

“…one must know that ‘The world is filled with His glory’ (Isaiah 6:3), and that there is no place where He is not (Tikkuney Zohar #57, 91b) – He fills all worlds and surrounds all worlds (Zohar III 225a)…..

“As our Sages have already revealed to us, in all material phenomena and in all foreign languages one can find Godliness, for without His Godliness, they have no life and no existence at all.

“However, that life-force and Godliness is minimal and in extreme constriction, only enough life-force to sustain that thing and no more. This is because God contacted His Godliness in many and various constrictive ways…until the central point of the material world, which is the realm of the klipot (forces of evil)….

“And this is the meaning of the Yerushalmi verse, “If someone asks you, ‘Where is your God?’ answer him, ‘In the great metropolis of Rome.’….This person who asked…is certainly sunken in the realm of the klipot, for he has separated himself from the Omnipresence…and expressed his belief that God doesn’t exist where he is.

“Thus tell him: “Even where you are, sunken in the realm of klipot, even there you can find His Godliness, for He sustains everything…and from there you can bind yourself to Him and return to Him in complete repentance.

“He is not far from you, only that where you are, there are many concealing garments.”

All of us can come back to God in the blink of an eye, because wherever we find ourselves in the world, including in all the spiritual filth and heresy that unfortunately characterizes so much of modern life, there too, we can find God.

All we have to do is look.

Gosh, I was really hoping Jan 20, 2017 would mark a big shift in how the world appears to be progressing.

But here we are, a whole 48 hours after Trump’s inauguration, and apparently nothing much has changed.

My husband tells me I lack patience (he tells me that a lot, and he’s definitely right…) but in the meantime, it’s not just 48 hours that I’ve been waiting for God to finally step out on centre stage and show humanity Who’s really the Boss here: it’s 43 years.

I can’t just take any more speculation or theories about ‘what’s going to be’. Everything seems to be ‘fake news’ these days, and I can’t shake the feeling the real stories are mostly going unheard, untold and unreported.

In the past, I spent many years waiting for Moshiach to show up where I mamash put my life on hold. I so don’t want to do that again, but in the meantime, I also feel that I – all of us – are stuck in the plague of darkness, unable to really move forward.

I’m still trying to do things (lots of things, even) , but nothing is really getting there. My husband feels the same way. He has three businesses on the boil, but nothing is really taking off. I have 8 books out there, and two more in the pipes (‘One in a Generation’, about Rav Berland, and ‘The Secret Diary of a Jewish Housewife’, which is a collection of my own personal musings) – but again, nothing is really moving.

Also in other areas, I have made some Herculean efforts to pray on some of the crazy people I have to deal with on a regular basis, and to reach out to them and to try to shift things into a better space. Let’s just say, it really didn’t work.

I can’t seem to make that – or anything else I’m dealing with – change, no matter what I try.

So for now, it seems that I’m back in spiritual limbo until God decides to lift the current ‘plague of darkness’ and let me and my family out of the rut we seem to have been stuck in for a good four years.

Arhghgarhghgh.

I know Moshiach isn’t going to come and solve my problems for me. I know that only having emuna that everything is from God, and that everything is for the best, and that everything is just some sort of ‘lesson’ is going to solve my problems for me, really.

But man, sometimes I just can’t help wishing things would move already.

I was pondering something the other day: I can understand how Rav Berland is the last test before Moshiach comes for the Jews who have actually heard of him, but outside of Israel, and outside of the religious Jewish community, there aren’t a lot of Jews that you could say that about.

So what’s going to be their main test of emuna, before Moshiach comes?

As I was pondering this, I started to think about how these days, there’s barely a family who doesn’t have their own ‘frummer’ to contend with.

How an otherwise secular or irreligious person deals with their frum family members speaks volumes about that person’s value system and character. For example, if someone likes to refer to their observant relatives (and other observant people…) as ‘parasites’ and ‘scroungers’ that tells us that compassion, respect for a fellow human being and broad-minded acceptance and tolerance of differences are all sorely lacking in that particular individual.

Anyone who can dismiss a whole swathe of Jewish society as ‘parasites’ and ‘scroungers’ is simply mentally ill, and there’s no other way of putting it.

Then, there’s the people who aren’t that obvious about their dislike of observant Jews and Judaism. These individuals usually try to couch their criticism of their frum relatives in softer language. They’ll make comments about them looking like ‘penguins’, or mock them for not being able to wear anything except a white shirt.

They’ll also make a lot of side-ways comments about ‘unnecessary rules’, feeling sorry for the children who have to grow up in such ‘bigoted’ households, mutter about ‘narrow-minded religious people’ –  but then they’ll hurry to reassure you that of course, they don’t mean you! You’re not like all those other narrow-minded religious hypocrites who like to think they’re better than everyone else just because they keep the Torah’s commandments! No siree!

While it’s a more sneaky approach, it’s also still mentally ill, unaccepting, critical and fundamentally dishonest.

In the first case, at least you know you’re dealing with someone who hates you, and what you stand for. In the second, you have the uncomfortable feeling that something isn’t quite right here, but it’s much harder to pin it down.

And then we have the emotionally-healthy way of accepting a frum (or different…) relative: Easy-going acceptance. Love. Sincere interest in why they like their lifestyle, and what they believe it’s giving them. Respect for the other person’s ideas and opinions. Honest discussion, without barbed comments, criticism and insults.

In my life, I’ve experienced all three of these modes, and I can tell you that emotionally healthy people have a fundamental respect for a fellow human being that doesn’t depend on how that person looks, or how much money they make, or how many family events they show up to.

Of course, the opposite is also true: it also happens in the frum community that people don’t respect others just because their skirt is too short, or they don’t have a kippa on their heads, or they aren’t related to the right people.

We often don’t like to admit it, but this is also mentally ill behaviour.

So what does all this have to do with the last tests of emuna before Moshiach comes?

Great question!

I think it boils down to this: God is checking us out on the small stuff right now, the stuff that many of us don’t pay anywhere near enough attention to. He’s looking to see:

  • Do we respect our fellow Jew, our ‘different from us’ relatives, or not?
  • Do we mock them, and their hopes and dreams?
  • Do we speak badly about them, and also crucially, to them?
  • Do we try to build them up, or try to tear them down?
  • Can we see the other person? Can we hear them? Can we get where they’re really coming from, even when it’s a very different place from where we’re coming from?
  • Can we accept that we’re sometimes wrong about things? That we don’t have all the answers? That maybe, we need to apologise? That God is running the world, not us?

These are all the small, but really big, tests of emuna that every single one of us is going to have pass at this period of time.

In the orthodox Israeli world, many of these tests will focus on Rav Berland, because a person can’t get to the stage of speaking badly of him in a public forum if they aren’t already failing all these other ‘smaller’ tests, repeatedly, in their own private lives.

But outside of Israel, and outside of orthodox circles, it seems to me that the tests of emuna that decides who’s ‘in’ and who isn’t are going to be exclusively closer to home – and they are not going to be at all easy to pass.

For the last few weeks, really since Rosh Hashana, I’ve been experiencing a very deep-seated sense of panic.

It’s not ‘conscious’, inasmuch as there is nothing in the here and now that is freaking me out and making me hold my breath.

The Arab terror in Jerusalem has dropped off, thank God. My husband got a few more pieces of work in at the moment, thank God. My kids’ experiences are in a rare period of ‘OK’, and there are no immediate crises to deal with, thank God.

Yet, since Rosh Hashana I’ve had such a deep-seated sense of panic going on that it’s been disturbing my sleep and keeping me permanently in a tense ‘fight or flight’ state which means I have a lot of stress hormones working overtime in my body right now.

When the stress hormones surge, you can’t relax even if you want to until the reason for the stress is somehow overcome, or dissipates by itself. So now, I’ve been trying to figure out for the last two months what the heck is stressing me out so much.

I thought maybe after the American elections, the stress would drop off a little – and the day of Trump’s election, I did feel a little calmer and much happier.

But 24 hours later, the stress was back. As you know, I’m writing a biography of Rav Berland, and I thought maybe the ‘stress’ of getting that project concluded could be part of the problem.

So I pulled out all the stops to get the draft done two weeks’ ago, planning to have a week’s holiday and ‘de-stress’ last week. And guess what? I had the most horrible, ill, stressed-out, sleepless week for a long time.

I was having anxiety dreams, panic attacks, crying jags, I was physically really ill, with coughs, colds, headaches, weird aches, stomachaches – I pretty much didn’t leave my house for a week.

Enough was enough – I decided to go and visit one of my alternative health ladies who is very switched-on and connected to God, to see if she could help me figure out what was going on. She picked up on the latent ‘panicka’ in the first 10 seconds, and did her thing – which usually helps a lot.

This time, it helped for about half a day, and then the panic came back again.

Hmmmm.

I was so ill, I couldn’t really do a long hitbodedut session to ask God to show me what’s going on. But I tried a visualization to see where I’m holding internally, and I got a picture of me going up and down on a dark, stormy sea, mamash in a way that’s guaranteed to make you feel nauseous.

Then, I opened up the Likutey Moharan to a quote from Isaiah where it says something like: “Wicked people are like a raging ocean.” Hmm. Things started to fall a little more into place. Over the next few days, I was thinking about these clues God was sending me, that I feel like I’m being tossed all over the place in a world full of ‘raging, wicked’ people.

Sounds about right. But what to do about it, as the problem probably isn’t going to disappear anytime soon (Moshiach notwithstanding).

Today, I was doing some more hitbodedut, and went back to that visualisation.

The scene had now changed a little, and I was on a raft on a stormy, but slightly calmer sea. Suddenly, the raft got a nice fence and a roof which made it much cosier and more stable. Next, an enormously tall Rav Berland showed up and started towing my raft to safety – and not just my raft.

The Rav had literally thousands of ropes over his shoulder, and he was towing thousands of small, lost, vulnerable people like me to dry land and safety.

It was an amazing sight to behold.

When my oldest came back from her boarding school and the end of last week, she told me that she’s also been having the same sort of disturbing dreams that I’ve been having, and feeling mega-weird and ‘stressed’ and achey. My more taciturn youngest kid then also joined the conversation, and shared that she’d also been having lots and lots of ‘weird’ dreams about boats coming to Israel, and people trying to swim ashore.

Hmmm.

The last few days, my husband also started feeling inexplicably stressed and antsy. I’m adding all this up, and I’m telling you that something ‘big’ is coming down the pipe soon. I’m not a prophet, or anything like one, but I live very close to the Kotel in Jerusalem, and we pick the international ‘vibe’ up here first as it’s making its way out into the world.

And what’s coming down the pipe right now is panic and some enormous fear. I don’t know what else is coming, and for sure it’s all part of God’s plan, and for the good. But if I were you, I’d make it a priority to hitch my raft to Rav Berland, and the Jewish people’s other true Tzaddikim, ASAP.

There are stormy seas ahead.