Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of when Rav Nechemia Lavi, HYD, and Aharon Benita, HYD, were brutally murdered in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, during the last moments of Succot.

Those murders, more than any of the other recent tragedies, hit my family really, really hard, for a few different reasons. First of all, they were so close by (but I could make that claim about most of the attacks you read about in Jerusalem…) Second, one of my kids was taught by the wife of Rav Lavi. Third, both of my kids were in the Old City when it happened. Fourth, my kids – and their friends – pass by the spot where the murders happened all the time, as a big Jewish residential building, Beit Wittenberg, is right there.

Me and my family went into shock a year ago, and I think it’s taken a whole year for us to start coming out of it again, one way or another.

But in the meantime, the teenagers and kids of the Old City have spent the last year coming up with a whole bunch of meaningful ways of remembering the dead, many of which came to fruition this week.

Firstly, they unveiled a memorial to the dead men, at the spot the attack happened.

Next, they spent months collecting 40,000 shekels (!), then they found an empty shop in the hard-core Arab Shuk, fixed it up, and turned it into a ‘pinah chamah’ or ‘warm place’ for the IDF soldiers, magavnikim and other security people who are in the Old City. The ribbon was cut on the pinah chamah a couple of days’ ago.

The boys’ school in the Old City also wrote a Sefer Torah, in the merit of the deceased, which was finished shortly before Succot.

Next, they arranged to do ‘hakafot shniyot’ at the place where the murders they happened, turning it into a permanent fixture in the Old City calendar that is now bringing hundreds of people into to dance in the Muslim Quarter.

Last, the family of Rav Lavi interviewed a whole bunch of people who knew him, and turned it into a film of his life, to show who he really was. The film’s first screening happened yesterday, at the Heichal Shlomo hall next to Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue.

Both my girls came home in floods of tears, as they told me some of the stories about how good, and how idealistic, Rav Lavi had been.

They told me that when the Arabs were regularly blowing up buses in Jerusalem, there was one bus line that was had been attacked twice in a row, at exactly the same time, killing lots of people.

When the third week rolled around, Rav Lavi decided to stand at the front of the bus for the whole morning, holding an Israeli flag.

These sound like small things, maybe, but when you consider how many people would devote a whole morning of their time to boosting the morale of their fellow Jews like that – for free – it really speaks volumes.

As all this activity has been occurring around the remembrance of Rav Lavi, and Aharon Benita, it’s really brought home to me WHY I live in Israel.

Tough things happen, like they do everywhere else in the world. But nowhere else in the world do tragedies like this underscore the beauty of life, and the strength of the Jewish soul.

Both my kids got a lot of closure from all the remembrances, and the activities, and the dancing, and the crying they did this last week. It seems to me, Israel is the only place that you can dance and cry together like that, or where violent death can transform itself so amazingly into the purest stuff of life.

Sometimes, it really does take a year to heal from these losses, even when they’re just happening in the periphery of your life. That’s why God is a genius, and tells us it takes a year to mourn, properly.

My kids cried a lot yesterday, and I also had a few tears leak out, as I listened to them. But underneath it all, I could feel that some of the sadness I’ve been lugging around with me for ages seems to have dissolved.

It’s a new year. A new start.

Rav Lavi and Aharon Benita are sadly gone – but their legacy lives on, embodied by the idealism, generosity of spirit and hope of my kids and their friends.

The younger generation really showed me something amazing this week: Jews remember their dead by being even more alive, even more idealistic, even more determined to do good and be good. They don’t let the ‘bad’ take them out – they take it as a prompt to start adding even more good to the world.

I really hope I can follow their lead.

When I first started doing some serious hitbodedut, or personal prayer, I got a lot of miracles.

My kids were miraculously accepted to a popular school that had ‘no room’ for new students. We sold a house in Israel from start to finish in 6 weeks – plus it sprung a huge, enormous leak in the middle of the sale that caused terrible water damage everywhere, but everything still went through. We found a just-about-affordable house to buy in a new location that was standing empty in the middle of April, when we had to move, etc etc etc.

So five years’ back when my husband had been influenced by what I’ll call a ‘pseudo-Breslov’ spiritual guide who loved to tell his students that with enough prayer, you could force God to give you anything you wanted, and wanted to quit his job to ‘let God provide’ I went along with it.

You should know that I did a lot of soul-searching about this decision first, and the answer that I got back in my hitbodedut was always ‘let him quit’. Not because it was going to be easy or a walk in the park – anything but – but because it was going to rectify a lot of things, spiritually.

In the meantime, my husband quit and was happy as a lark for around a month.

Then the economic reality started to sink in, and he started to do one six hour prayer session after another, asking God to send him the money we needed to survive, without him working.

Just to complicate matters, we were also trying to move to Jerusalem at the time, as our rabbi (not the pseudo-Breslover) had made some very strong statements that all of his students should live in Jerusalem, and we were trying to comply. I was also doing lots of six hour sessions – I forget how many – devoted to asking Hashem to help us to find and buy our own suitable place in Jerusalem.

This is where the story seems to have gone a little ‘wrong’, at least from my very limited perspective.

My husband’s prayers for parnassa apparently weren’t answered: things got so bad financially that we ran out of money for food, and a couple of good friends kept us afloat for two months so we could even afford ‘luxuries’ like toilet paper, while our house sale went through and we could breathe a little again.

In the meantime, the ‘pseudo-Breslover’ had done such a good job of convincing my husband that work was evil and bad that the only way he could contemplate going back to work without upsetting Hashem was by trying to open up an ‘outreach’ place in the Old City, which burned through a huge amount of our house money, and ended in total, abject failure.

Even then, my husband struggled so much to overcome all the programming from the ‘pseudo-Breslover’ to be able to go back to work again. It took a couple of chats with Rav Arush (and probably a secret bracha…) and many long months of complete mental torture before he could pull himself together and go back to being a lawyer again.

In the meantime, we’d run out of money for a deposit.

And that wasn’t the only challenge on the house front, the one that I’d been praying for so much, for so many months and now years. At the time we moved to Jerusalem, we found what we thought was an ideal, big, spacious flat that also had a separate rental unit. This was just after we sold our house, so we could still just about afford it.

We got down to trying to go to contract – and the seller promptly told us they were doubling the price to more than 4 million shekels, WAY out of our budget.

Everything where we wanted to buy literally doubled over-night, giving us no options to even consider. We struggled to even find a rental, and ended up with an overpriced, small place with a neo-Nazi landlord from Tel Aviv who used to launch surprise raids on ‘his apartment’ where he’d stalk around the place yelling at me for ruining it’s aesthetic appeal by hanging my washing up.

Then, he jacked up the rent unilaterally after four months, giving us a week to agree or find someone else – so we found somewhere else.

The very modest apartment in the most downtrodden building in the area, where I’ve now been for two years.

Over the holidays, I was struggling mightily with many things this year, but a huge issue has been the question of where did all my prayers go? Where did all my husband’s prayers go? As well as doing loads of six hours, we also give a minimum 10% charity, and it says you can test God on charity, that if you give generously He’ll pay you back.

In two more days, I have to sign the lease on this place for another year. I can’t move anywhere more affordable without seriously disrupting my kids again, who now have friends in the area, and also my husband, who is close to the Yeshiva.

Plus, I kind of like my area, except for the fact that I need a million dollars to even consider buying my own apartment here, and renting something decent will set me back a cool 10-12,000 shekels a month. Even the rent I’m paying on my dumpy place is more than my mortgage used to be.

We’ve started trying to save for a deposit, but at the rate we’re going it will take us about 60 years to get there….

And in the meantime, I feel like I just can’t carry on living where I live anymore. I can’t entertain. I have no space to myself. It’s pretty hard for me to cook in my tiny kitchen. I have just one toilet and germ issues about other people using it. (Please note: I’m an Anglo who has lived in very big houses up unto this point, so I’m clearly moaning about things that a lot of Israelis don’t even notice.)

The only solution appears to be an open miracle…but over the holidays, I realized I’ve given up on miracles. After so many years, so many prayers that apparently weren’t answered, something has broken on the ‘waiting for miracles’ front.

Rav Berland teaches that when there is nothing else to say, nothing else to pray, you just have to dance.

I schlepped all over the place yesterday on Simchat Torah, trying to find somewhere to dance. It wasn’t so successful. So in the end, I came home and tried to dance by myself for a bit, to Rebbe Nachman’s song:

‘Mitzvah gedola lehiot be simcha’.

I know big miracles are possible. I know they do occur. What I still don’t know at this stage is whether I’m going to get one again. Part of me can’t wait around for miracles any more without going absolutely crazy. (As I type this, someone has been loudly drilling next door for an hour already, and the whole place is shaking. I read all those stories about authors taking off to quiet country hideaways for a year to write their latest books and I can’t help laughing my head off.)

At the same time, part of me knows I have no choice except to wait around for miracles.

If I give up on God’s mercy at this point, it really won’t be pretty.

The last few days, since the beginning of the Jewish New Year, I haven’t been feeling so hot.

After pondering on what’s going on I’ve come to the conclusion that the ‘vibe’ of the planet – or to put it in more spiritual terms, the Divine light that God is sending down to us 24/7 – has speeded up, or cranked up in someway, and my body is having some problems adjusting to it all.

People are energy – souls covered by an energetic mass that’s vibrating at a slower pace, to give it the illusion of being solid matter. That’s not new-age mumbo jumbo, that’s quantum physics.

God sustains every single cell, every single atom, by maintaining it in perpetual motion.

Some people call this the ‘electric charge’ associated with every single atom, cell, object, all the way up to human beings. Others call it the life-force. But whatever you choose to call it, the simple fact is that we are energy in motion, and what keeps us in motion (and consequently, alive) is God.

Since the beginning of the year, I feel as though the ‘light’ God continually sends down to the planet, or energy, or shefa (the Hebrew word for bounty) or blessing, or however you want to refer to it has got so, so much stronger.

Trouble is, if the vessel – i.e. the body – hasn’t been cleaned out enough to receive this extra input, it can cause all sorts of problems, physically and mentally.

What cleans out the body? There’s a few things, but it basically boils down to this:

  • Working on our bad character traits, and uprooting them.
  • Building and maintaining a strong connection to God, via talking to Him in our own words every single day (aka personal prayer, or hitbodedut).

Bad character traits and negative emotions have a huge impact on a person’s mental and physical health. They block the smooth flowing of the energy, or life-force around a person’s body. The cause the body’s energy meridians to back up, blow a fuse, surge unhelpfully or stagnate, all of which leads to physical health issues if not dealt with.

They cause the brain to act and react differently, leading to all sorts of mental issues, personality disorders and suicidal tendencies (amongst many other things.) So if the body is full of negative emotions and bad character traits, that means that energetically-speaking, the body’s electric circuits aren’t functioning properly.

If the amount of ‘charge’ coming down from God then gets amped up – a person is going to start blowing circuits all over the place.

How do we clear out the bad character traits and emotions? First, we recognize that we actually have them (an enormous problem for most people…) Next, we recognize the damage they’re doing, particularly to us, but also to the people we love. Last, we ask God for help to get rid of them – which brings us to the second point, about talking to God regularly.

When you talk to God regularly, you gradually ‘up’ your body’s tolerance to Divine light and you strengthen your soul. When the soul is stronger, it can start to ‘talk down’ to the body more, and make its voice heard. It can steer the body away from the cheesecake, towards the salad bar. It can encourage the body to get a good night’s rest, instead of messing around on Facebook until 2am. And, it can persuade the body that working on things like bad character traits and negative emotions is actually in the body’s best interests, too.

There’s an idea in Judaism that a person’s sins are literally engraved on their bones.

Until we make Teshuva, the ‘bad energy’, or blockages, or problems our sins have created in the world are literally stored in the body, and are the source of our physical aches, pains, and other issues.

Once we make Teshuva, the energy ‘recombines’ into it’s proper order, the body starts to work better again and we feel so much happier and healthier and holier.

God is sending more and more light down to the world. Once I started having all the weird aches and pains the last week, I started exploring what’s going on in my personal prayer, and tried to figure out what’s underneath that pain in my hip, that bad headache, that difficulty breathing. I’ve been getting some amazing insights:

The hip is a bad character trait I ‘inherited’ from an old relative, that I really need to work on uprooting asap.

The breathing issue was connected to me still being angry at someone who hurt me a lot three years’ ago. I had to work on forgiveness, and letting go of this person with love.

The headache is my nervous system going haywire because there are huge things building up in the world. For that, I’ve had to work on my emuna, and also to sedate the bladder meridian and triple warmer meridian points, and to stick lentils in a few places to try and clear the block that’s happening there.

It’s a work in progress, and it’s probably never going to end. But each time I clean off whatever issue arises, I feel so much happier and better. A big reason why people’s bodies wear out in old age is because if we’re not cleaning the sins out of bones, and we’re just adding to them as we go along in life, sooner or later we get to a point where the body can’t cope anymore, and starts to disintegrate.

God is speeding things up right now.

Work that used to take years can now take weeks or even just days and hours.

So, if you’re also feeling more tired, achey, fatigued or stressed than usual, know that it’s because your body, your vessel, is struggling to cope with the extra ‘light’ God is sending to the world. And if you don’t deal with it, it’s only going to get worse!

As a first port of call, pick up a copy of ‘Talk to God and Fix Your Health’, and then use all the ideas and techniques in that book to start clearing out your system across body, mind and soul. Whatever else is going to happen this year, God wants us to get to work on uprooting our bad character traits and negative emotions, and the sooner we start that process, the better and healthier we’ll feel.

You can buy Talk to God and Fix Your Health on Amazon and on The Book Depository

Ever since Rosh Hashana, I’ve been having real problems staying asleep.

Falling asleep is not a problem, thank God, but the last few nights I’ve been waking up, and then finding it really hard to go back to sleep.

The first couple of times, I figured it was because I was in a hotel room in Tiberias with rattling aircon. But now I’ve been back home in Jerusalem, and if anything it’s got worse. What is going on?

I was talking to God about it, and the idea popped into my head that the world has somehow speeded up (again…) on Rosh Hashana, and my body is struggling to adapt to the pace. I lie there, and my eyes are flicking all over the place from side to side, like I’m watching a movie set in fast-forward mode.

I have no big insights to share about what it all means.

I have no idea. When the 70 nations of the world came to Jerusalem to bury a big rasha the day before Rosh Hashana, I knew it was very significant, but I still have no idea what it all means.

5777 is completely unchartered territory. Everyone – and I mean everyone – in the frum religious world had the last year pegged for Moshiach to show up. He didn’t (at least, not obviously…) so now there’s a feeling that the Jewish boat is adrift in completely unknown waters.

All the predictions have failed.

All the big ideas about what it all means haven’t got anywhere.

Redemption appears to be stalled at the starting gate, and no-one seems to know how to fix it, and to get it moving again.

There’s one criteria for Moshiach to come that has never been met until now, and that is that he’ll come when no-one is expecting him anymore. When we all held our breath so long for redemption that we can’t do it anymore, and we’re going back to our cooking, our gardening, our cleaning.

I think maybe, that could be what’s going on now.

Moshiach is long, long, long overdue. Even the people who seemed to be behind his delay were saying 5776 is the year, the year it’s going to finally happen.

It didn’t.

So now what?

I have no idea. But on some very deep level, I think my Nefesh can see something coming that I can’t get a hold of at all, which is why it’s waking me up at night to try to share all the excitement.

Front cover of one in a generation Volume 1, biography of Rabbi Berland

I’m into the final drafting of the One in a Generation book now, and I had the urge to re-read ‘Through Fire and Water’, the biography of Rav Natan, Rebbe Nachman’s main pupil, who also went through what’s now known in Breslev circles as ‘The years of oppression’, which began late in 1834, and finally ended more than three years’ later, in 1838.

During those years, Rav Natan’s persecutors had him imprisoned by the secular authorities, regularly tried to beat him up, and even sent a contract killer after him, who murdered a different ‘Rav Natan’ who also lived in the town Breslev by mistake.

They also went all over the place telling rabbis, the Jewish public, and anyone who would listen that Rav Natan had been caught doing immoral things with women he wasn’t married to (is any of this sounding familiar???) and demanding that he and his community should be excommunicated.

At that time, one of the Rebbe’s other senior followers, and a major kabbalist in his own right, Reb Yudel, took nine men with him to the Rebbe’s tomb, and put Rav Natan’s opponents in to cherem, in order to protect Rav Natan’s life and prevent his persecutors from actually killing him.

As he left the Rebbe’s tomb, Reb Yudel said:

“There’s a merit that protects a person for a year, a merit that protects a person for two years, and a merit that protects him for three years. [This is a quote from the Gemara, in Sotah 20a). But, no longer!”

Three years’ later, one of Rav Natan’s main persecutors keeled over and died in the Russian governor’s offices as he was trying to prevent Rav Natan from moving back to Breslev.

Another persecutor, the Savraner Rebbe, got implicated in signing-off on the murder of a Jewish informer, and became a broken exile and lost all of his communal influence. And then others of Rav Natan’s persecutors – and their families – all started dying weird and peculiar deaths, all at once.

When that occurred, Rav Natan’s other persecutors and the people who’d slandered him, libeled him, talked lashon hara about him on Facebook, and perjured themselves to the secular authorities came crawling to him begging for forgiveness, scared that they’d be the next ones to depart from the world, because of how they’d treated Rav Natan.

There’s a merit that lasts three years, but no more.

I have the feeling things are going to start getting interesting.

You can buy One in a Generation on Amazon and on The Book Depository.

Rosh Hashana is never an easy time of year for me, as I usually feel the ‘din’ in the air and I spend a lot of time in a state of advanced internal stress.

That my husband goes to Uman really helps my peace of mind, because however ‘bad’ an experience I’m having at home, at least it comforts me to know that my husband is over by Rabbenu, getting the judgments sweetened on our family for the coming year.

But still, even with all the sweetening that’s going on in Uman, the last three Rosh Hashanas have been so hard for me and my family that as Elul began a few weeks’ back, I could already feel my stomach sinking.

Elul is here…which means Rosh Hashana will soon be here….which means two days of pure torture as we all just sit in the house feeling lonely, or try to find a shul somewhere with a tune I recognize…or I start thinking back to all the ‘fun’ Rosh Hashanas I seemed to have had back in galut, when I had a nice house and a big circle of friends…

The problem is that your mindset on Rosh Hashana sets the tone for your year, so if you’re feeling down, lonely, lost, victimized and ‘bad’ it doesn’t bode so well for the next 12 months.

My girls have also had difficulties getting into ‘happy’ mode on Rosh Hashana, as all of their friends disappear to do family things, and the three of us are left sitting at home and staring at each other, trying very hard not to feel too sorry for ourselves.

But this year, God gave me an idea to do something different. This year, I found a hotel in Tiberias that was meant to be catering to the Israeli Chareidi crowd for Rosh Hashana, and we booked to stay there.

A huge weight fell off my heart to know that this Rosh Hashana, it was going to be different. I had no idea if it was going to be ‘nice’ or ‘enjoyable’, but at least different, and that was a good start.

Tiberias is much, much hotter than Jerusalem, but given that it was already October, I wasn’t so worried.

As we got in the car to head up North, the temperature slowly climbed until it hit 40 degrees… WHAT?!?!? Even in the Summer that’s rare and a heatwave. Tov. I told myself and the kids: ‘Whatever God is going to bring us on this trip, we’re going to be happy with it.”

After a massive traffic jam, we finally got there an hour before the Chag. I ripped toilet paper. I made up the third bed in the room for my daughter. I went out on to the balcony to read my ‘Seder Vidui Devarim’ looking out on to the Kinneret, and I nursed a secret hope that this Rosh Hashana would be much better than the last few.

We went downstairs to the lobby to wait for supper, and were quickly surrounded by Jews of every type: Sephardim with the standard ‘Tunisian Savta’ in a wheelchair; Chareidim with a bunch of kids; the odd tattooed, tanned woman in a tank top who looked like she’d been dragged there against her will, to be with the mishpacha.

There seemed to be a few single women there too, older types who either wanted a break from all the cooking and / or just wanted to be somewhere around people for Rosh Hashana.

To cut a long story short, despite the rattling aircon in our room, the very hot, humid weather and the fact I was staying with two teenagers (!) we actually had the best Rosh Hashana for a very long time, baruch Hashem.

Watching all the complicated family dynamics playing out all around us worked a treat to make me see how spending holidays with ‘family’ is usually a bittersweet experience. My kids loved the 8 desserts – and better yet, hated the 8 desserts by the end of their stay as they realized that while it all looked so good, it made them feel like they wanted to throw-up afterwards.

I realized my cooking is still pretty darned good (a huge thing for me…) and also, that my life, my kids, my family is also very nice exactly how it is.

As a couple of bonus treats, God arranged for us to somehow find Rav Dov Kook’s shul in Tiberias, so I got to see him from the women’s section and hear some shofar blowing there. And on the next day, we managed to track down the ‘Tomb of the Imahot’, where six of our righteous women are buried, including Moshe’s mother and wife, Bilha, Zilpa and Elisheva, the wife of Aaron HaKohen.

The feeling I got by the holy mothers was so nice, I stayed there for 45 minutes saying some Tikkun Haklalis.

Towards the end of the Chag, I noticed one of the signs the organisers had posted up on the wall telling guests that their mood on Rosh Hashana was a good indication for the sort of year they were going to get. For the first time in about five years, I felt good on Rosh Hashana, and calm, and at peace, and happy.

Yes, it cost a lot of money to go there. But it helped me and my family go into the new year with feelings of gratitude and contentment, instead of feeling lonely and dissatisfied.

And getting a good start like that was worth every single penny.

If you’ve been listening to my podcasts on the Erev Rav, or even buying my book and reading it (God bless you…) then you’ll know that speaking lashon hara and making trouble between people is probably the number one top Erev Rav trait.

Of the Vilna Gaon’s five main groups of Erev Rav behaviours, he himself stated that the very worst one was speaking lashon hara and causing strife. This group was so bad, the Vilna Gaon called the people who indulged in this behavior ‘Amalekites’, and had some very harsh things to say about them, including that they’d have to disappear out the world completely before Moshiach comes.

Here’s the thing with lashon hara: the person who wants to do it always has a number of justifications and excuses for indulging themselves.

Some of the most popular include:

  • It’s true
  • People need to be warned about the problem
  • Those nasty, evil people have it coming to them, anyway
  • It makes for interesting reading, or conversation
  • It’s fun to stir up a whole bunch of drama and then feed off other people’s upset, shame and strong emotions

Of all of these, number two is probably the most problematic, because it sounds the most sincere, holy and community-minded.

Consequently, it’s all too easy for our yetzer haras to pull the wool over our eyes, and convince us that we need to go all out on an ‘information’ campaign to warn others about the negative situations / actions / threats that we believe are occurring.

Here’s the thing, though: As soon as we open our mouths to start slagging other people off – EVEN IF ITS TRUE – we instantly become part of the problem, instead of part of the solution. The Chofetz Chaim had some very harsh things to say about people who regularly spoke badly of others, including calling them ‘baalei lashon hara’ and saying that such people were committing so many awful sins every time they opened their mouth, they should be given a wide berth and considered as though they were a very wicked person.

God has created the laws of lashon hara such that it’s pretty much impossible to talk openly and negatively about named individuals in a public forum without transgressing them in a pretty big way.

On occasion, some individuals are so dangerous, nasty and evil, that the Beit Din, or big Tzaddikim, will take the very unusual step of warning the public away from that person. When it’s done by a Beit Din or a bona fide Tzaddik, you can be sure that the halachas governing talking negatively about others for a positive purpose (l’toelet) have all been carefully considered before any action was taken.

But generally speaking, calling people out in public is completely forbidden, and transgresses the 31 laws associated with lashon hara.

So now, you might be thinking: What’s going on here??!?

If people are doing things that are wrong, or are acting unethically or inappropriately, surely God wants as many people to know about that as possible?

Dear reader, I have struggled with this issue so very many times. Each time I exploded another crack-pot religious phoney, for example, my instinct was to write a warts n’all expose about them, so no-one else would get duped.

Thankfully, my husband has a much cooler head than mine, and insisted that we speak to Rav Arush before taking any irrevocable steps to ‘name and shame’ anyone. Doubly-thankfully, Rav Arush gave me excellent advice to keep my mouth shut, and let God handle things.

Why is this excellent advice? Because like we said, as soon as you speak lashon hara, you become part of the very problem you’re trying to solve. You become another force for evil and strife in the world, all with the very best intentions.

When all is said and done, how do I know that my assessment of the other person is really correct?

How do I know that I’m really as objective as I’d like to think? How do I know that the problem is 100% their problem, and not 100% my own problem? Let’s remind ourselves that every evil-speaking, hyper-critical poisonous person out there doesn’t see themselves that way at all. In their world, they are always the victim, or the hero, and completely justified in everything they say and do to others, however horrible.

How do we know, really, that we don’t have that same blind spot?

When you’re a huge Tzaddik, or when you’re sitting in a beit din with other pious individuals, this is much less of an issue. But when it’s you and me we’re talking about, we need to err very carefully on the side of caution.

There is a time and a place to speak badly of others, especially in any situation where abuse of minors could be occurring. But that still has to be done within the framework of speaking evilly l’toelet, for a good purpose, which is governed by many different halachas. (Check HERE for a crash course in lashon hara, which sets out the very basic principles.)

In the meantime, the sooner we eradicate the evil speech, the sooner we’ll get redemption, Moshiach and all that good stuff.

And if we can’t or won’t keep our mouths shut, and God is ready to redeem us now, then we could be in for a pretty rough ride.

Today I went to the zoo. By myself.

Back when my kids were small, I used to use them as an excuse for doing things like going to the zoo, but now that they’re both teens, the zoo has fallen off their list of ‘cool things to do’. This morning, they left for a few days’ of camp up North with some friends, my husband went to yeshiva and then work, and I was left with the whole day stretching out before me.

Many of the women my age (42) in my circles (Israeli, frum) would kill to have a whole day to themselves, I know. But my problem is often the exact opposite: sometimes, I’m really, really lonely.

Strange to say, since we moved to the big city of Jerusalem, I’ve been less lonely than when I used to live in my ‘cosy’ communities of only a few thousand people.

When you ‘fit’ your community, then living somewhere small and intimate can be wonderful. When you don’t ‘fit’ – and let’s be clear, that I have never, ever ‘fit’ anywhere much, hard as I tried – then it can be a recipe for complete despair and mental illness.

It’s not always so easy being one of the rare people who aren’t popping anti-depressants just to get through the day, or who doesn’t have a Facebook account arranging their social life, or who keeps looking for more meaning in life than shopping, refurbishing, eating out and keeping fit.

Here in Jerusalem, I also don’t ‘fit’, but at least I live somewhere so eclectic and strange that I have that in common with pretty much all my neighbours.

In most ways, I’ve made my peace with being alone so much of the time. I’m anyway a writer, and the aloneness is good for the creative process…and it gives me tons of time to talk to God…and it enables me churn books out at the rate of one every three months…

On the days when I’m writing, and lost in my internal world of gathering knowledge, splicing information together and turning out neat, bite-sized articles about all the different stuff I’m learning about, I don’t feel lonely.

But on the days when I don’t feel like typing so much, or I don’t have so much to say, or I really just want to spend some time interacting with real people, sometimes the loneliness is very intense. But you know the weird thing I recently realized? I think in 2016, pretty much all of us are lonely – and the most lonely people of all are the ones surrounded 24/7 by people.

A couple of months’ back, Hashem had me bump into someone I used to know from the old country. Back then, we were pretty good friends (or at least, so I thought) and we were both very, very sociable. She stayed in Britain, I moved to Israel, we fell out of touch. In the subsequent 11 years, I went from being a social butterfly to being a practical recluse, but I was sure that my old friend would still be tripping the light fantastic with 500 other outgoing couples, just like in the old days.

Turns out, I was plain wrong.

My friend hangs out with just two couples these days. Even in London, socializing has apparently gotten a whole lot harder than it used to be.

Why is this? Some people will blame email and i-Phones, and they may well have a point because it’s hard to concentrate on the person in front of your face when the person sending you smileys gets announced by a ‘ping’. Others will blame the stressful pace of life and work, and they may also have a point because an exhausted person can’t do anything much except veg on a couch and stare at the wall.

But I think something much deeper is going on. In the past, there just weren’t so many people who were highly-strung, crazy, selfish and just plain nasty. Interactions weren’t as fraught or loaded. There weren’t as many ‘narcissist’ type people trying to manipulate you and make you feel bad about yourself. Very few people had the sort of medication-induced brain damage that renders a person unable to be real, really interested in other people, or really ‘there’, which is now unfortunately all too common.

In short, a lot of us have been finding that compared to spending a few hours with bona fide crazy people, it’s actually much easier to be by ourselves these days, even though it’s often lonely.

I know that’s what’s contributed to my own circumstances, because while there are a lot of people I could call, so many of them are so complicated and so unpleasant or self-absorbed to be around, I often just prefer my own company.

So it was that today, I went to the zoo by myself. I found myself a quiet corner under a tree to sit and contemplate the world around me, and to talk to God about how lonely I was feeling.

Why do I spend so much of my life alone, God? Why have you arranged things to work out that way in my life, that my days aren’t stretched to breaking by a large family, or a full-on job, or a large circle of friends? Why do I seem to be the only person here, who came to the zoo by myself?

My heart always knows the answers to these questions, and it’s when I talk to God that they get communicated to my head, and when I finally get some peace.

I have many ‘signs’ I’m looking for, to tell me that Moshiach has finally come. One of the biggest is that I’m going to be sociable again, and not so lonely.

Group of three chareidi teens standing praying by the Kotel

Last week, I paid a visit to the city of M. (where I used to live, more than 10 years’ ago) to visit a family member who was staying with someone there. Unbeknownst to me, I mistakenly got the wrong building (many streets in M. have exactly the same buildings, repeated many times on the same street), and I walked up the steps of number 18, instead of number 14.

The hall lights were out, so I couldn’t really see properly as I’d just come in from the broad daylight outside, and was still wearing my sunglasses. I went over to apartment number 1, pressed on the bell, and was in the middle of switching over to my regular glasses when the door opened.

I couldn’t see properly, as I didn’t have my glasses on, but the very blurry woman who opened the door didn’t look like my family member, or anyone he was related to, but I thought maybe she was a friend who’d dropped by, and was opening the door on their behalf. In my still pretty bad Hebrew, I asked her:

“Is this the Plonis?”

Which is when this very secular, very angry woman let me have with both barrels of abuse.

How dare I buzz her door! (It was 6.30pm, not the middle of the night…) How dare I, when she had young children!

Dear reader, I lived in M. for long enough to know that there is an unfortunate breed of Jew there that absolutely HATES religious people. This doesn’t describe everyone there, by any means, but there is a small and very vocal secular minority that takes every opportunity to celebrate their Jew-hatred in any way possible – and apparently, I’d just knocked on the door of one of their cheerleaders.

I got in a nanosecond that this woman’s problem wasn’t that I’d knocked on the wrong door – mistakes like that do happen after all, even to rabidly secular people – the problem was that I was wearing a headscarf, which made me undeniably religious, and hence, Public Enemy Number 1.

The hatred coming off this woman was visceral – I literally felt like she’d punched me in the stomach.

In the meantime, I’d got so upset by her horrendous verbal abuse that I half wanted to punch her in the face…But instead, I simply turned on my heel, and fled outside.

What a psycho! What an anti-semitic nut-job!

I stood outside on the curb trying to calm down from my verbal GBH experience, and trying to work out what had happened to my relative. A quick call showed me that I’d simply gone to the wrong number – and that they were at number 14, flat 1.

But I was so unnerved by my encounter with the rabid hatred of this secular woman, I was still quite shaky, even when I was driving home two hours’ later. And then I really got to thinking:

Why is it, in our politically-correct, ‘equality’ obsessed world that so many secular Jews are willing to honour and respect murderous Arab terrorists; and, they’re willing to honour and respect missionizing Xtians (and even, to sell them Jewish holy sites like the tomb of King David); and they’re willing to respect Italian Catholics, and Greek Orthodox, and Arab Druse, and of course, Scientologists, Moonies, Reform and the Women-of-the-Wall – but they still permit themselves to openly hate and abuse orthodox Jews?

The last 2 weeks, there’s been a cabal of older secular woman sitting on the bench outside my home, loudly saying the most disgusting things about their more religious neighbours. These women have a problem with the amount of rubbish being dropped in the neighborhood – and honestly, there is a lot of rubbish.

Many families send their small kids to dispose of the trash, and they simply can’t throw the bags into the high, communal dumpsters, so they tend to just leave them places, and it is unsightly. By my o my, the amount of unvarnished hatred and plain old anti-semitism this rubbish is unleashing from these older secular matrons has been extremely shocking to me.

They sit there describing their fellow Jews in terms that would make any died-in-the-wool member of the Third Reich proud. Two things seem to upset them the most: that frum families have so many children (because frum children are like, vermin, or something) and that frum families are frum.

The ringleader of this cabal went beserk two weeks’ ago, and started smashing glasses all around her flat – while cursing everyone in the loudest, most coarse terms – in order to prevent small, frum children from playing anywhere near where she lives and dropping trash!!!. This same women complains incessantly at everyone, regularly abuses people in the worst ways, rules her own family with terror tactics, rage fits and hyper-critical abuse – and thinks she’s somehow superior to all the frum families living around her, because she does sponga three times a day and puts her trash in the bin.

If you’ve been reading even a little bit of the stuff I’ve been posting up here, and on my spiritual self-help website, you’ll know that she’s a classic example of someone who is literally mentally-ill, and has some very serious and disturbing emotional issues.

Which I guess is bringing me to the crux of this post, which is that I think that instead of just making more excuses for these anti-semitic, hate-filled, mentally-ill, Jewish psychos that we unfortunately all know, we have to start calling a spade a spade, and to start calling them out on their horrible racism.

Whenever anyone hates another Jew just because they look different to them, that’s a sign that something has gone seriously wrong with the empathy, compassion and a bunch of other things you need to just be a healthy functioning human being.

Regardless of whether someone is externally religious, or externally secular, whenever someone is relating to their fellow Jew like a piece of garbage, and emotionally or physically abusing them, that’s a sign they are seriously mentally ill. Full stop.

And when more of the ‘sane’ people on both sides of the religious / secular divide starts to truly get that, then all the false divisions perpetuated by the psychos will dissolve, and we’ll go back to being One People, with One Heart.

Ken yiyeh ratzon.

Group of three chareidi teens standing praying by the Kotel

The place where I live in Jerusalem is a very unique mix of extremes.

There are extreme chareidim here – mostly Breslevers with long payot and big families. Then, there are extremely secular people here – with long hair and big tattoo collections. Then, there’s a third group made up of Mizrachi types that have lived here 50 years’ and are generally just plain bonkers.

We don’t fit into any of these groups, so we kind of watch the communal politics going on from the sidelines.

The latest battle lines were drawn over the garbage that keeps getting dropped by small kids.

Kids drop wrappers on the floor, that’s just what they do. But because some of the families here also send very, very small kids to take out the household garbage, and because they are too small to throw it into the communal dumpster, sometimes there is a lot of rubbish flying around.

The tension has been simmering under the surface for months, but the last few weeks it seems to have burst into the open. One of the more secular neighbours who’s lived here 50 years (as she keeps telling everyone loudly on the street…) suddenly went beserk and started smashing glasses all around her apartment to ‘stop kids from playing there and dropping rubbish.’

Sure, she tidied it up again half an hour later, but the message had been sent that hostilities were ratcheting up a notch.

It’s a strange thing that there are people who get very upset about environmental pollution and rubbish being dropped, but who apparently couldn’t care less about spiritual pollution.

So it is that for the last few days, there’s been an unholy gathering of self-appointed, demented ‘garbage watchmen’ getting together on the bench just next to my bedroom window.

The conversation is pretty standard: One complains about the ‘disgusting’ datiim in the neighborhood, and how much mess they make and how little responsibility they take. Then another starts yelling:

‘They have eight children!!!!! Eight children in one room!!!’

And then they start discussing their latest strategies to get all these ‘disgusting charedi people’ to clean up their act.

The first few times it happened, I yelled ‘Sinat Chinam!!’ as loudly as I could out my bedroom window, but I’m a softly-spoken Brit so no-one heard. When I tried to yell again, my husband came and gently escorted me to a different room.

“It’s not going to help,” he told me. “You can’t fight fire with fire.”

Hmmm.

Over the last two days, the chareidi women in the neighborhood have started to fight back.

I caught them having a pow-wow in my stairwell, discussing all the crazy secular people who keep coming up to them while they’re sitting on a bench, who start yelling at them for having so many children and making so much mess.

I have no idea what happens next, but what I can tell you is that I have days when my life feels like a bad episode of the Muppet Show. You remember those two cranky old men in the boxseat? That’s what’s going on by my bedroom window.

Eight children!!!! Who can put eight children in one room?!?!?”

When it started up again this morning, I seriously debated going down with my video camera to film them. ‘You have a very important message for Am Yisrael!’ I wanted to tell them.

‘Let’s record it, upload it to YouTube, and then you don’t have to keep repeating it (loudly….) every single morning.’

Sigh.

Is it just me, or are people getting more and more crazy and intolerant?

I mean, WHO smashes glasses around their house on purpose just to keep small kids away? Who cares more about dirty sweet wrappers than filthy speech? Sometimes I look around, and I think ‘How is Moshiach meant to come when things are still like this?

My husband tells me it’s always been this bad, and that God is going to redeem us because He loves us, and not because we deserve it. Maybe he’s right.

But I can tell you is that if the Muppet Show doesn’t give it a rest soon, I might just have a Miss Piggy moment myself, and start karate chopping the more annoying characters.

Hiiiiiiiiya!