God never intended for the Jewish people to be so caught up in Esav’s wars.

Last week, we read the final parsha, Vayechi, in Sefer Bereishit, where Yaakov Avinu calls his sons to him for a final blessing. When he gets to Shimon and Levi, he castigates them for adopting the ‘stolen craft’ of his brother Esav.

Rashi explains there:

Klei Hamas – ‘stolen tools’. This craft of murder is in their possession by theft. It is from the blessing of Esav. Yaakov admonished them, “It is his [Esav’s] craft, and you robbed him of it.”

The full verse from the Torah reads:

“Shimon and Levi are brothers, klei hamas are their weapons. Into their design may my soul not enter! With their congregation do not unite, O my honor! For in their rage they killed a man, and in their wish they hamstrung an ox. Accursed is their rage for it is mighty, and their wrath for it is harsh. I will divide them in Yaakov, and I will disperse them in Israel.”

Clearly, Yaakov Avinu is very unhappy about his sons – forbears of the Jewish people – acting like his brother Esav, and killing people left, right and centre whenever they got angry and ‘felt justified’ in doing so.

This is not the Jewish way. The voice is the voice of Yaakov – it’s the voice of prayer, the voice of emuna, the voice of knowing that God is really running the world.

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Following the awful Chanuka attack in the shul in Monsey a couple of weeks ago, I was personally horrified when I saw pictures of orthodox Jews walking around toting what looked like machine guns.

Killing people is not our craft, it’s the craft of Esav. Of course, we’re meant to defend ourselves with all means possible, and to make every effort to save our life (although why moving to Israel doesn’t seem to make it on to that list is a bit of a mystery to me, I have to admit…)

But there is a world of difference between discreetly arranging security for shuls, schools and Jewish neighborhoods and strutting around for the media like Moshele the Terminator. Esav is way, way better at killing people and murdering people than we are. It’s a very dangerous game to get involved.

There are somewhere between 20-25 million people in the US with white supremacist tendencies. They are Esav mamash. A lot of them have machine guns. A lot of them are just waiting for ‘Moishele the Terminator’ to cross the line and actually kill someone, even in self-defense, so they can use that as a pretext to come after Jews all over the place.

Of course, what I’m writing here also has implications for the State of Israel, and for the whole idea that the IDF and the military is what is protecting the Jews here. This is an idea that has profound, far-reaching implications, and I certainly can’t cover off all the angles in one post.

But I will say that every time I hear apparently orthodox Jews advocating for ‘carpet bombing’ Gaza, and other extremely violent acts, I shudder. Is this really how Jews are meant to act and behave? Isn’t ‘carpet bombing Gaza’ a perfect example of klei hamas? Isn’t that just what the terrorists and the neo-Nazis would love to do to us, too?

Anything that puts Jews even tangentially into the same moral space as terrorists and Nazis has to be bad, doesn’t it?

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These are big questions, they need to be dealt with and discussed carefully by our qualified Sages and rabbis, and let’s be clear that in the State of Israel, that’s simply not happening. Our country is run by people who have adopted the ‘stolen craft’ of Esav as their main religion, and we are all paying the price for it.

Which brings me to the next point I want to make, about how the idea that killing and murdering people is somehow the best solution to every problem gained so much traction in the first place.

Let me share something that I received via email yesterday, from a Jew in America:

“I enjoy your writings (on rivkalevy.com) but I must admit, they either entertain me or stress me.  I know you used to be “secular media” and I think you still think like the secular media, like saying Trump “illegally” killed Soleimeni.  Wow,  That’s a stretch. I really can’t believe that you think that.  The man was a terrorist that not only killed thousands of american soldiers, but terrorized his own people.

“He has killed thousands and thousands of people.  The Iranians feared and hated him.  Plus, he was about to attack more Americans.  I know you are not too fond of America, but I know many soldiers (my Dad was a career soldier) and we have jewish soldiers at [army base] that become members of our Chabad.  I care about our soldiers and thank our President for caring  and protecting them, unlike our previous President.  I feel he should be hung as a traitor. I can’t stand the man.

“We are in a war and I thank GD that He mercifully delivered us from the traitor BO and may He destroy all evil among us (leftists) and brought us a strong man like Trump, may Hashem protect him.  Yes,Trump is Esav.  Yes, the west is Esav.  Yes America is Esav, but I was born and raised here and believe me, not all Americans are the enemy.  You want an enemy.  Try Ishmael.

“It seems your hatred of Trump and America has blinded you to reality.”

====

My inbox is never a dull place!

So, let’s take my correspondent’s points one by one, to see if we can ascertain where the truth really lies, and what ‘reality’ actually consists of.

  1. It’s a stretch to say that Trump ‘illegally’ killed Soleimani.

“Extra-judicial killing” is a phrase that’s used by armies, militias and government sponsored ‘death squads’ around the world.

Here’s how Section 3a of the United States Torture Victim Protection Act defines extrajudicial killing:

“[A] deliberate killing not authorized by a previous judgment pronounced by a regular constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples. Such term, however, does not include any such killing that, under international law, is lawfully carried out under the authority of a foreign nation.

Was Soleimani brought to a ‘regular constituted court’ and given a trial that afforded him ‘all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples’? Nope.

“Extra-judicial killing” is a spin-doctor way of describing a murder where no legal due process was followed, or to say the same thing in blunter terms, an illegal murder. When Al Capone was mowing people down on the streets of Chicago that was also ‘extra-judicial killing’.

As we can see, ‘extra-judicial killing’ is an extremely murky area, and also very prone to being used and abused by individuals and agencies who don’t want to have to justify their actions or have too much public scrutiny and moral accountability.

When it comes to Soleimani’s murder, the excuse the US used to get around its own regulations as stated above, in their Torture Victim Protection Act, is that Soleimani’s killing was not an assassination, but an act of “National Self Defense”.

This is the same legal justification that Israel uses for many of its targeted killings, and the difference is that when it comes to Israel, I mostly believe it.

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Amongst the many, many problems with ‘extra judicial murders’ tho, is that the people who are carrying them out argue that any given target’s normal legal rights as a civilian – or even as a human being! – should be totally trampled and ignored if that person is deemed to be a threat to national security.

But who is defining what that actually means?

What’s the legal basis for deciding these things? Where is the public scrutiny to ensure that immoral people with a lust for power and taste for murdering anyone who gets in their way doesn’t abuse this idea, to simply get anyone who opposes what they want murdered and out of the picture?

Also, from the viewpoint of halacha, this is not at all a simple matter. One of the 7 Noahide laws is that the non-Jewish nations should create courts of law and follow a judicial process. By definition extra-judicial killings take place outside of any legal framework.

And when non-Jewish nations don’t follow one of the 7 Noahide laws, they are subject to the death penalty. (It’s a post for another time, but if you go through each of the 7 Noahide laws and see how places like the USA are doing, as a nation, let’s just say it doesn’t stack up in their favor.)

So, is it a stretch to say that Soleimani’s killing is ‘illegal’?

I’ll let you make up your own mind.

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  1. “[Soleimani] was a terrorist that not only killed thousands of american soldiers, but terrorized his own people.”

My view is that all senior military men are basically psychopaths, whichever country they happen to live in. Anyone who likes killing people for a living is not a ‘nice’ person, let’s be very clear on that.

But to claim that he’s killed “thousands of American soldiers” – it’s just not credible.

Wikipedia says this for the number of US soldiers killed in Iraq since 2003, which is when the US invaded Iraq:

“As of June 29, 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Defense casualty website, there were 4,424 total deaths (including both killed in action and non-hostile) and 31,952 wounded in action (WIA) as a result of the Iraq War.”

But the US wasn’t fighting Iran then, these soldiers were killed as a result of the US deciding to invade a sovereign nation. Where’s the proof that Soleimani is connected to even one of these deaths in Iraq?

Let’s take a look at Afghanistan now, where again the US decided to invade back in 2001 after 9/11.

“As of July 7, 2018, there have been 2,372 U.S. military deaths in the War in Afghanistan. 1,856 of these deaths have been the result of hostile action. 20,320 American service members have also been wounded in action during the war. In addition, there were 1,720 U.S. civilian contractor fatalities.”

Again, what does this have to do with Soleimani?

Last stop, for now, is Syria.

How many US soldiers had been killed there, by the time Trump said he’d withdraw US troops in April 2018?

Just 2.

And this is the arena where there is the most credible argument to be made that Soleimani and Iran could be behind these deaths.

====

Now, let’s flip things on their head, and let’s ask an uncomfortable question:

How many non-Americans have died in Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan as a result of the US deciding to launch its ‘war on terror’?

The answer comes from researchers at Brown’s University, who released their findings from the ‘Costs of War Project’ in November 2018:

“Brown’s researchers estimate that at least 480,000 people have been directly killed by violence over the course of these conflicts, more than 244,000 of them civilians. In addition to those killed by direct acts violence, the number of indirect deaths — those resulting from disease, displacement, and the loss of critical infrastructure — is believed to be several times higher, running into the millions.”

While we’re on this subject, back in 2011 Wikileaks released footage of 2 American Apache helicopters mowing down a large group of people standing in the street in the Iraq, which included many civilians and 2 Reuters journalists.

You should watch this brief clip of what happened, even though it’s from the Al-Jazeera news network, because as I keep trying to tell you, there is no such thing as a 0-100% argument. There is some truth on all sides of the discussion, and doing the birur means that we make our best effort to tease it out.

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Releasing this clip was probably the trigger for the NSA to target Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who is currently being kept in solitary confinement (!) in Belmarsh Prison in the UK, while the USA tries to ‘extradite’ him to the US on trumped-up charges of hacking computers. Really? It all just boils down to the US trying to keep its grip on the world.

Assange is not an American citizen, he’s an Australian. And publishing footage of American helicopter pilots callously killing Iraqi civilians is the best type of journalism, and the best ‘balance’ against military abuses of power.

But the NSA and President Trump don’t think so. Trump happily signed the extradition order for Julian Assange, the journalist you see here saying ‘war corrupts the people who engage in it’ – and that’s what first clued me in that Trump is not the ‘almost Moshiach’ so many people still believe him to be.

Let’s be clear, this is not about partisan politics.

When he was President, Obama arranged the prosecution of 8 journalists and whistle-blowers under the same Espionage Act they are trying to use to prosecute Assange, including Chelsea Manning, former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, National Security Agency whistleblower Thomas Drake, and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

And Trump is simply continuing the trend.

Back in May 2019, his administration decided to prosecute Daniel Everett Hale, a former intelligence analyst for the Air Force who shared worrying information about America’s use of drones and assassinations in its war on terror with journalist Jeremy Scahill.

Scahill later turned that information into a book and a documentary called ‘Dirty Wars’.

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Here’s a synopsis:

“Investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill traces the rise of the Joint Special Operations Command. He exposes covert operations to capture and kill people, but those agents do not exist on paper.”

And they are still continuing to operate under Trump. So much for draining the swamp.

====

3) “We are in a war and I thank GD that He mercifully delivered us from the traitor BO and may He destroy all evil among us (leftists) and brought us a strong man like Trump, may Hashem protect him.  Yes,Trump is Esav.  Yes, the west is Esav.  Yes America is Esav, but I was born and raised here and believe me, not all Americans are the enemy.  You want an enemy.  Try Ishmael.”

Yes, we certainly are in a war. Not just one, many. And behind the scenes, you will find the NSA and the CIA and the American military pulling the strings of nearly all of them.

Esav excels at klei Hamas.

It’s no coincidence that these words also translate to the ‘tools of Hamas’, i.e. the terror organization on Israel’s front door step.

Let’s put all the pretense aside and deal with facts for a moment.

The US has been unrivalled in starting and pursuing wars all across the planet, for the better part of 80 years. It doesn’t matter who is in the Whitehouse, it’s the CIA and the NSA and the military, and all the powerful vested interests in the US and the UK and elsewhere who are really calling the shots in the world.

And as I’ve written about elsewhere, those vested interests excel in destabilizing third world countries, installing ‘puppet’ rulers who owe their power to American / Western support, and then asset-stripping those countries of all their natural resources and wealth.

America has been doing this for decades, all over the planet, and murdering people in their hundreds of thousands – including civilians – is a big part of how they operate.

Maybe it’s deliberate, maybe it’s just collateral damage, I don’t know. But either way, America has so much innocent blood on its hands.

I don’t blame my American correspondent for believing that the American military is not ‘the enemy’. But at this stage, there are hundreds of millions of people in the world who have seen their lives, families and countries blown apart by the US military / CIA / NSA.

And all on the flimsiest of excuses.

Human life is valuable, even when a person lives in Iraq or Afghanistan. And not all Muslims are terrorists. America wants wars, because America is good at wars, and wars are good for America’s economy.

But these wars have proven to be so very bad for everyone else.

====

4) “It seems your hatred of Trump and America has blinded you to reality.”

Sigh.

Sometimes I wonder, what’s going to happen when Israel finally shrugs off America’s bridle, and stops being America’s pawn in the Middle East.

The IDF is a ‘stolen craft’, and the Jewish people are built for prayer and peace, not war and murder. It’s just a matter of time before our true Jewish nature starts to reassert itself nationally, when we stop believing Esav’s opinion that killing people is the answer to our problems, and when more and more of us start to turn to God for a real solution to our problems.

You know that when Moshiach is finally revealed, that’s going to happen, don’t you? And then what? Will Moshiach also be portrayed as a ‘mad Jewish mullah’ with a beard, another threat to America’s ‘national security’ that will be extra-judicially targeted for extermination, God forbid?

And then what?

What side will my correspondent – and all the many orthodox Jews like her, who believe all the spin and PR and lies about America being the ‘good Esav’ – find themselves on, then?

That is the question.

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Photo by Diego González on Unsplash

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Why did Trump state he was going to attack precisely 52 Iranian sites, if they dared to fight back after the US illegally blew their 2nd in command to pieces in Iraq?

Over Shabbat, I found something that shed some light on what’s going on here, and I wrote about it over on the ravberland.com site, HERE.

I have to say, it’s very interesting reading, especially after a reader got in touch to draw my attention to a prayer that Rabbi Berland wrote a couple of years ago that links in exactly to some of the insights I got on Shabbat.

Long story short, the next piece of the geula puzzle is falling into place, and you can read more about that HERE.

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For years, the Prophet Jeremiah told the people of Judea that the Temple would be destroyed, and they would be exiled.

Jeremiah’s message didn’t go down at all well. He was shunned, imprisoned and threatened, and even his own family in Anatot, his home town, tried to bump him off by poisoning him. But God protected him through all these trials, and sure enough, Nebuchadnezzar showed up in 689 BCE, and laid siege to the rebellious city of Jerusalem.

As the Bablyonian army tightened their squeeze on the nation of Israel, and on the King Tzidkiyahu, even the most resolutely ‘optimistic’ fake prophets fell into despair, and stopped trying to pretend that Jeremiah was a psycho conspiracy theorist who was somehow following the wrong Rebbe.

There’s only so far you can stretch credulity, even when you so desperately want to believe that everything is going to turn out totally for the best, and that all there is left to do before Moshiach shows up is to ‘polish the buttons’.

But then, at that point in time when Jeremiah’s dire warnings were literally manifesting before the eyes of the Jewish nation, God comes to him again, and tells him something pretty strange:

“Prophet Jeremiah, take a break from all that End of Days stuff for a bit, and go buy your cousin Hanamel’s field in Anatot.”

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As you might expect, Jeremiah is a little taken aback by this.

I mean, Jerusalem is about to be totally sacked and destroyed, the Jewish people is about to be cruelly exiled from their land for at the next 70 years, and here’s God obsessed with contracting a real estate deal.

What’s with that?!?!

But, Jeremiah buys the land for seven shekels and 10 silver pieces (bargain!), and then tells his servant Baruch ben Neriah to place the bill of sale in an earthenware pot, where it will be kept safe and “endure for many years.” Why?

“For thus said Hashem, Master of Legions, God of Israel: ‘Houses, fields and vineyards will yet be bought in this land.’”[1]

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What can we learn from this, we who sit here watching the world tip upside down, and chaos and madness encroach from every direction?

I’ve been asking myself that a lot recently, as I find myself way more caught up with gathering potatoes than gathering diamonds at the moment.

(There’s a Rebbe Nachman story about that, which is basically that a man goes to a faraway land to collect diamonds, but when he gets there, gets confused and starts collecting potatoes instead. The parable is obvious.)

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The last few months, I have literally been working like a dog to try to get books out, and self-help courses out, because at some point, I want to be able to buy my own ‘field’ in Jerusalem and finally settle down under my own fig, under my own vine.

In the course of doing that, I’ve been finding it very hard to hang out at the prayers of the Rav as much as I used to; or to sit at the Kotel, or even to recite my daily tikkun haklali. All my time is going on redeeming the field, i.e. acting as though that normal part of the world is going to continue, regardless of all the madness going on around me.

I honestly don’t know what to think about it all.

At the same time, I’ve spent so much of the last two decades trying to mend my ways, and to listen to Hashem’s messages about moving to Israel, quitting my job to focus on raising my kids, working on my emuna, trying to have a bit of humility….

It’s really not like all I’ve been doing the last few years is trying to redeem the field, anything but.

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When I was mulling all this over in hitbodedut, and talking to God about the crazy pace of life at the moment, and my seeming inability to hang on to so many of the spiritual diamonds I put so much effort into collecting over the last few years, He reminded me of Jeremiah and the field.

Sometimes, even in the middle of the madness, you still have to try to continue to do ‘normal’ things, and still to think about tomorrow, even though tomorrow is so very uncertain. I spent years paralysed by ‘geula anticipation’, thinking there was no point doing anything except making teshuva and learning Torah.

Was that wrong?

Probably not. Probably, almost definitely not.

But in the meantime, life continues, life goes on, and that’s also a reality I have to accept and integrate into my lifestyle. So many of our young people are dropping out of school, and getting depressed, and feeling unable to overcome their tremendous apathy and ennui because they feel there is no point.

There is no tomorrow. Why make an effort, why wake up on time, why try to progress or achieve anything?

I have a lot of sympathy for that outlook. I suffered from it myself for so many years. But these days, I’m in a different space. A space where while I’m still searching for diamonds, I’m also appreciating that you can’t eat them. Sometimes, you need a potato.

Sometimes, the way you serve Hashem is by redeeming the field.

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FOOTNOTES:

[1] See Jeremiah 36:8.

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Photo by Polina Rytova on Unsplash

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Am I the only one who’s got a profound sense of deja vu?

Man, I am so tired at the moment. True, I woke up at 4.15am today, and couldn’t get back to sleep. But why I’m really tired at the moment is because my soul is very tired. I’m not even saying that in a bad way, or a despairing way, it’s just a statement of fact.

Really since last Shavuot, I’ve been burning the candle at both ends, trying to do this, and trying to do that, and trying to work on stuff for Rav Berland, and move my own stuff forward, somehow.

Spiritually, I hope it’s made a difference. But honestly, I’m not so sure.

And while I am one of those dumb people who will continue going long after everyone else gave up, if I really believe in something, I have to say I’m approaching the point of burn out. Maybe, we’ve just reached that stage now where the die has been cast, and whatever is going to happen next is going to happen.

I really hope and pray that Rav Berland and his community, and the rest of the Tzaddikim, are going to continue to be able to sweeten the threat from Iran.

But honestly, part of me is just so tired of being locked up in Geula Ground Hog Day, where every few months we go through the whole pantomime again, with no obvious resolution.

The most primitive part of the human brain hates uncertainty. That’s why fortune tellers, and soothsayers and false prophets have always done such a roaring trade since the dawn of time, and are still going strong today.

The primitive part of the brain, aka the yetzer hara, just wants to have a conclusion already, a decision. It doesn’t really care if we’re going to get nuked to smithereens, it just wants the denouement already, because sometimes the uncertainty is unbearable. At least, for the yetzer.

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They did a research project a little while back where they asked volunteers to play a video game where they had to turn over stones to find a snake.

Every time they found a snake, the volunteer got a small, but unpleasant, electric shock.

The researchers incorporated a bunch of obvious clues in the game, which gave players a reasonable certainty of whether there would be a snake, or not. And they discovered a very interesting thing: players were less stressed about knowing with certainty they were about to find a snake, than if there was a 50-50 chance of finding or not finding.

This study explains something that has always puzzled me, namely why there are so many of us out there that seem to be secretly anticipating Iran nuking Israel. Is life that boring, or that miserable, that this seems like a preferable scenario to soldiering on, even though the uncertainty is sometimes just so hard to take?

Apparently for many people, the answer is ‘yes’.

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Nothing is certain today, is it?

Not the weather, not the economy, not the elections, not the whole idea that hard work and effort inevitably brings reward – so much is up in the air, and for sure, that’s totally stressing us out.

We don’t care too much WHAT is around the corner, Hashem, but the not knowing is driving us totally bonkers…

So what’s the answer to this?

How can we put some ‘certainty’ into what is fundamentally one of the most volatile periods of time in the history of mankind?

The answer is, only be trying to boost our emuna that God is running the world, and our bitachon that whatever God has planned, it’s all for the best.

Apart from this sort of radical emuna, there is no other workable option on the table.

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Three days ago, my husband and I visited the 8th circle of hell that is Bank Mizrachi’s mortgage department.

I warned my husband going in that he was probably going to have a PTSD flashback, after the last time they agreed a mortgage in principle only to revoke their agreement after we’d signed.

But last time it was a complicated property in a complicated part of Jerusalem, and we were asking for a relatively massive mortgage. This time, we were asking for a relatively small mortgage in a new build property in Harish, so what could be the problem?

Aha! Fool that I am.

We sat there, exchanged precisely 1 ½ words of ‘pleasantries’ before the mortgage clerk put the clamp on us and went straight for the jugular. Because my husband switched over from being self-employed to being a business in 2019, whatever paperwork we’d put together apparently wasn’t enough to show them we had the income we were claiming.

Apparently, because his clients don’t pay precisely the same amount into his account, in round numbers, every single month, our mortgage approval (which again, we’d received in theory) was now in jeopardy.

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I watched my husband’s eyes dilate, and all the blood rush from his cheeks as the bank devil continued to dance around him, jabbing her French-accented Hebrew pitchfork into his face. A classic PTSD response. His breathing sped up and went more shallow (ready for fight or flight) and I also felt my stomach muscles tense up (definitely fight…)

But then, a strange thing happened.

I remembered God runs the world, and that if God wants to stuff up our mortgage yet again, then that must be for the very best of reasons, and a million percent what we need.

I started clapping my hands as the bank devil continued to prod my husband, and I stage-whispered at him: “Clap your hands and don’t fight back! There’s nothing you can do, except to clap your hands and dance!”

By this point, the fight response was gathering steam above my husband’s head, so he was effectively carrying on two arguments at once: one, with the bank devil, who was trying to explain to him how even earning a gazillion shekels a year isn’t enough to get a mortgage guaranteed, if it isn’t appearing in his account in a neat little box every single month.

And then a second argument with me, who was stage whispering at him to go outside the bank for a minute, and do some dancing.

====

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I also nipped off to the toilets, to see if I could do a bit of jumping up and down to stomp on the head of the forces of evil that run Israel’s banking industry.

I couldn’t manage a lot of stomping – I didn’t want the Arab lady cleaning the toilets to report me for borderline psychotic behavior – but even the little bit I did made me feel way better.

I returned to the little booth, where my husband was still caught in a classic PTSD response, and I started clapping my hands again, while the bank devil looked at me a little quizzically.

“Go outside and dance!” I hissed at him. “There is nothing else to do here!”

So he did – literally for half a minute – and when he returned, the bank devil got the phone call we’d been waiting for, announcing that the bank would review her refusal of the mortgage, as long as we would send along a few more documents, and twist ourselves into a few more pretzels, and agree to sacrifice a close family member to the Moloch.

(I made one of these statements up. See if you can guess which one.)

The uncertainty continues, the madness and the unfairness continues. The bad guys are still running the country and holding all the cards in their hand, but I don’t really care anymore.

Mortgage or no mortgage, I can still be happy. Nuke or no nuke, I can still make supper and love my family, and carry on working on my ‘beat your stress course’ – which I have to tell you, has been totally stressing me out for months, already.

====

The last few weeks, it seems as though pretty much every source of stress and uncertainty that we’ve ever had to struggle with the last few years has been sent back to us to deal with, as part of the ongoing Geula Ground Hog Day.

The last few years, I’ve whinged and complained so much about not having a house, and finding it so hard to find a place to live in Jerusalem, and not having a mortgage, and being strapped for cash, and not getting my books to sell, and not being able to keep my kids settled in school – and a million other things, besides.

But no more! This time, whatever else happens, I’m not going to complain.

God wants to nuke me off the face of the earth? That’s fine with me. Really.

God doesn’t want me to have a mortgage? OK, no big deal. If I have to sell the apartment in Harish, I will.

God wants my kid to drop out of school (again….)? Great! That’s clearly what she needs to do at this point, because I have tried everything I can to keep her in that framework, and I can see how bad ‘school’ actually is, for her soul.

You remember in Ground Hog Day, by the end Bill Murray actually starts to look forward to each repeated day, because he can act like a crazy person and do a bunch of things that otherwise, he’d never do in a million years?

Like sit there clapping in the face of a bank devil who’s telling you they aren’t going to give you a mortgage? Again?

This time around, I’m determined to enjoy the 8th circle of hell that is Bank Mizrachi, whatever else happens. There’s no such thing as ‘certainty’ in 2020, and certainly not in my small corner of it.

The only certain thing is that God is behind all this stuff, and it’s somehow good.

What else do I need to know?

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UPDATE:

I just found this video (above) of a Nanach guy which made the point about dancing and clapping hands sweetening judgments, and also made me laugh. Thank God for strange people who believe in Hashem and have Youtube channels. Where would we be, without them?

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“Mum, did America start World War 3 yesterday?”

That’s what my 16 year old asked, when I picked her up from the Jewish quarter after Shabbat.

Erm, I don’t think so….

I know America has been trying very hard to start a war with Iran for months, but each time the Rav manages to pull the plug on it. I know America killed some top Iranian general in a targeted killing on a foreign nation’s soil.

I know that if Iran had pulled the same stunt on an American General visiting Mexico, the US would have already nuked them off the map…. But the world has been conditioned to accept that ‘rules’ apply to everyone except America.

Why do you think they started World War 3?

“Stam. They are making jokes about it on my friend’s Instagram.”

The jokes on Instagram is how my daughter gets all the latest news. If there aren’t a million jokes in Hebrew about the latest threat / war / crisis, then absolutely no-one takes it seriously.

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The last week, I’ve been rushed off my feet trying to get this ‘stress less course for women’ finished, so I haven’t been keeping up on the news. Even so, I know that Jews have been attacked on multiple occasions in NYC, I know that Australia is burning, I know that the US is doing all it can to start a war with Iran….

Strange times we live in.

So much going on under the surface.

I’m meant to be flying out to the US in the next few weeks, to spend some time with my brother and sister there, and meet their kids. I hate leaving Israel, but I realized that blood really is thicker than water, and that sometimes, you have to go down to Mitzrayim to reunite your family, if only for a few days.

Just as I started looking at tickets online, the internet exploded with stories of Jews in NYC getting chairs thrown on them on the street, Jews getting punched, Jews getting machete’d, Jews getting shot.

I have to say, I got a bit scared. I still haven’t booked the tickets.

Then before Shabbat, I heard an unconfirmed rumor that Rav Berland has said that there will be no more terror attacks on Jews in America until the 7th day of Pesach. I am planning to be there and back long before that…. So I’m warming up to the idea of booking my tickets again.

But in the meantime, I can’t help but wonder: what is meant to happen on the 7th day of Pesach?

Assuming of course, that the rumor is true and that’s really what the Rav said.

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Last week, the corrupt police in Israel took the Rav in for 4 hours of questioning, so that’s at least one war that seems to be continuing unabated. We know from previous experience, that the ‘wars’ on the outside get transformed into ‘wars’ against the Rav and his community, and sure enough, that’s what is going on again.

Are we going to have a war between Iran and the US?

I don’t know.

I know that Rav Berland has been doing everything he can – for years – to prevent that from happening. He’s said, repeatedly, the wars will only be in 200 years time, even when the autistics were continuing to beat the war drum and predict Armageddon imminently.

But the Tzaddik is continually sweetening things.

That’s why the world seems to be so rudderless at the moment, because we passed the points ‘predicted’ for geula / war / something ‘big’ so many times already, we are in totally unchartered water.

In the meantime, the prayers continue to go up on ravberland.com, and the books continue to come out, and each time another Rav book gets published on Amazon, I have the odd feeling that another brick in the rebuilt temple has just been cemented in place.

But I could be wrong. It certainly doesn’t look like that, from the outside.

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When this course is finally done, I will take a bit of time and research what could be causing Hashem to burn up Australia’s coastline.

I have the feeling it’s connected to all those Nazis and pedophiles that Australia has been harboring and protecting for decades.

Like the US, there are a lot of dirty secrets hidden in the deserts down there, and like China Lake got put out of business by a massive earthquake on July 4, 2019, and the Bahamas got crushed by Hurricane Dorian a few months back, I have the odd feeling that God is now dealing with some Australian link in that particular chain.

Strange times we live in.

Each day seems more surreal than the last.

Like so many other people, I’m trying to put my head down and mostly ignore the news, because honestly? No-one has any idea of what tomorrow might bring right now. Except Rabbi Berland, and he’s keeping his cards very close to his chest.

But one thing he has been mentioning is how the Maccabean leaders of Israel died immediately, one after the other, as soon as they made some sort of ‘agreement’ with the Romans or Greeks of their time.

And we know who the Romans and Greeks of our time is, and also, who has probably made an agreement with them. So that’s definitely an interesting angle to watch.

Life is disjointed at the moment, and I guess that’s reflecting in this post.

There’s so much going on, under the surface.

And none of us knows, really, where all this is heading.

So all we can do is keep praying.

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Photo by Ankhesenamun 96 on Unsplash

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This is the best explanation of Azamra I’ve ever heard.

It’s not the first time I’ve posted this up here, but this video by Rabbi Ofer Erez – with full English subtitles – is the single best explanation of how to do Azamra, or seeing the good in bad people without getting corrupted yourself – that I’ve ever come across.

I’m working SO hard at the moment, trying to get my ‘Stressbusters for Mums’ course completed. It’s like doing my finals in Uni, except worse, because no-one cared in Uni if I didn’t wash up for two weeks, but that’s not the case at this stage of my life!

So, posting will probably be slow here for the next week or so.

Unless God decides different.

So in the meantime, enjoy!

This video is probably one of the main reasons Youtube was even created.

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PS: Rav Ofer has a new book out, with his explanation of Rebbe Nachman’s story of the 7 Beggars. I don’t know where you can buy it online, but if I find out, I’ll update this post.

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I’ve been reading up on the history of Shabtai Tzvi and Jacob Frank who were false messiahs from 350 and 250 years ago, respectively.

In the process, I uncovered a great many new facts that I didn’t know before, and also some questions that continue to beg answers, even in our times. So without any further ado, let’s dive into the world of these false messiahs, who continued to shape the Jewish community in so many ways, long after their deaths.

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The story begins in Izmir, Turkey, when the Turkish Jew Shabtai Tzvi (1626-1676) (who I’ll call SHATZ for short) announces he’s the long-awaited messiah of the Jewish people. Initially, many Jews – including a great many learned rabbis – believe his claims.

But SHATZ has been dabbling in the Kabbalah and the occult, and he quickly develops a theology of going against the Torah of Moses, and deliberately doing the opposite of any given commandment. His reasoning is that now that the Moshiach has come, ‘evil’ has returned to its root in good, and there is no such thing as ‘bad’ anymore.

To prove this, he and his followers start creating new ‘Jewish festivals’, based on their own experiences and the ‘miraculous events’ occurring within their community, and abolish traditional fasts, particularly Tisha B’Av.

The Sabbateans also publically reject the Talmud, i.e. the Oral Law, and heap scorn on the heads of the rabbis who wrote it, claiming they distorted original Judaism.

It’s important to note that this is the same claim the xtians make against Judaism. They also reject what they term ‘rabbinic Judaism’, but rabbinic Judaism is the Oral Law, and it’s an integral part of Judaism that was also given to Moshe Rabbenu alongside the Written Torah at Sinai.

====

In the best ‘National Enquirer’ tradition, SHATZ star really takes off after the rabbis expel him from Salonika for ‘marrying’ a Torah.

That’s when he moves to Jerusalem and acquires his own prophet by the name of Nathan of Gaza. Nathan of Gaza proclaims that SHATZ is the Moshiach in 1665, and by October of that year, the news already hit the European Jewish communities

The Chmielnicki Uprising (1648-1657) had killed a third of Europe’s Jews at this point, they were desperate for salvation. Also, the xtians believed that the End of Days was going to begin in 1665 – and that’s why the English decided to let the Jews return to the UK in 1655, because they figured it wouldn’t be long before they’d return to Israel, in any case.

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 This Nathan is an extremely convincing spokesman, and quickly hits on the idea of smearing anyone who denies the ‘moshiach-ness’ of SHATZ as being from the ‘Erev Rav’.

In the meantime, stories start to abound within the Jewish community (but are often quickly suppressed) that the SHATZ and his very large group of followers are engaging in shockingly illicit activities, including wife swapping, incest, deliberately eating pork and public orgies (to name but a few).

Very few rabbis seem to be prepared to publically call the SHATZ out on all the immorality and licentiousness surrounding him, although Rabbi Jacob Sasportas (1610-1698) and the Chacham Tzvi take the lead in opposing him. Rabbi Sasportas becomes the sworn enemy of the Sabbateans, and states that they are Erev Rav. But few people take this seriously, until SHATZ converts to Islam on September 15, 1666 on pain of death.

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At that stage, his followers split into three main groups:

Group 1: Well-meaning Jews who were duped into believing that SHATZ is the Moshiach between 1665 and his conversion in September in 1666. Large numbers of this group make teshuva after Shabtai becomes an apostate, and return to the Jewish fold.

Group 2: Crypto-Sabbateans – who maintain a pious Jewish exterior, but who engage in all sorts of licentious behavior behind closed doors, and continue to believe that SHATZ actually is the Moshiach.

Group 3: Hard-core Sabbateans, many of whom also sham convert to Islam, but whose real religion continues to be Sabbateanism. The infamous ‘Donmeh[1]’ of Turkey belong to this last group. Many of these Jews schism off and out of the Jewish community, at this point.

But not all of them, especially in Podalia and Eastern Europe.

====

SHATZ dies in 1676 – but that doesn’t faze his followers, or derail the ‘SHATZ is Moshiach’ propaganda machine.

In order to keep the show on the road, his leading followers come up with the idea that Shabtai Tzvi’s soul will conveniently ‘reincarnate’ in one of his followers 49 days after his death.

That person becomes the new leader, and the messianic fervor that’s powering the Sabbatean’s activities continue to churn, and bring in new adherents, power and funds. The Sabbatians teach that the the original Shabtai Tzvi will come back from the dead, as part of techias hameitim, and take over where he left off.

The Sabbatean community continues to emphasize kabbalah over normative halacha, but have a status within the Jewish community similar to the Karaites – i.e. both the xtians and the Jews of that time still consider them to be Jewish, at least technically, but a sect, not normative Judaism.

Xtians eye these developments with great interest. The Karaite community in Amsterdam at this time is being financially supported by the Protestants there, who want to undermine ‘Rabbinic Judaism’ by presenting the Karaites as being more authentic, and more akin to the original Jews.

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So, for the next 100 years or so, the Sabbatean community continues.

It is more ‘openly’ Sabbatean in Turkey, and more ‘secretly’ Sabbatean elsewhere, particularly in the 4 lands of Poland, and especially in the Polish province of Podolia, which covers an area consisting of modern-day Ukraine and Moravia.

Podolia borders Turkey, and there is a lot of exchange between the Jews of these areas.

So far, I probably haven’t told you too much you didn’t know before. But hang on, because here where the story ramps up a level.

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At exactly the same time that the Baal Shem Tov and chassidut appears on the scene in the Ukraine (Podolia), Jacob Frank also shows up. It’s a well-known spiritual principle that every good thing has its ‘bad’ mirror image. God arranges things like this, in order to maintain free choice, and that’s often why things can seem so confusing to us mere mortals.

We see that rabbi with a shtreimel, this rabbi with a beard…. They both appear to be identical, from the outside, yet one is a destructive luminary of fire, and the other is a holy luminary of light. And unless we’re continually asking God to show us the truth, we can very easily find ourselves being tugged after those charismatic – but false – luminaries of fire.

So, at this period of time, from the 1730s on, there are a number of Jewish ‘wonder workers’ stalking all over Europe, some of whom – like the Baal Shem Tov – are holy of holies, and others of whom – like Jacob Frank, and Samuel Falk of London – are actually fakers who are using dark kabbalah for their own ends.

(It’s a side point, but Samuel Falk was one of the leaders of the movement to get more Jews into devil-worshipping Freemasonry, in the name of Jewish ‘emancipation’. He was known as a miracle worker in London, where he acquired the name ‘the Baal-Shem of London’. I was a little shocked to learn that the picture that is usually said to be of the Baal Shem Tov is actually a picture of this guy, instead!)

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So, Frank is a Polish Jew, probably already from a family of secret Sabbatians, who moves to Turkey and is initiated into Sabbateanism on his wedding night.

All this coincides with the death of Berakhiah, the current leader of the Sabbateans who claims to be a reincarnation of the SHATZ. So Frank spots his opportunity, and claims that he’s the next link in the Sabbatian’s chain of command.

He’s a powerfully charismatic individual with a strong lust for power and celebrity, so many of the existing Sabbatean community in Turkey accept him as their leader. Frank decides to head back to Poland, where many thousands of the crypto-Sabbateans live. These people appear externally to be orthodox Jews, but are secretly doing all sorts of deviant and evil things that are totally against the Torah.

Empowered by Frank, many of these Jews – which includes a large number of rabbis – start to come out of the closet, and to openly challenge ‘Rabbinic Judaism’ by doing things like publically eating on the Fast of Esther.

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In 1656, the infamous ‘Lanckronie’ affair occurs.

This is when Frank and his followers first come to the attention of the wider Jewish and xtian authorities, for behaving in some very disturbing ways. The matter is investigated, and it’s discovered that the rabbis of Lanckronie, Busk and Krzywcze are all Sabbatians – and starting to act in increasingly brazen ways.

Frank and his followers – which at this point, number anywhere between 1,000 – 15,000 – portray themselves as a separate and ‘more authentic’ stream of Judaism. They start requesting an area of land from the catholic Polish authorities where they can live semi-autonomously.

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Moving back to Poland is a big deal for Frank.

At that time, the Jews can’t really own land, they can only rent it. After Shabtai Tzvi fails to deliver on returning the Jews to their own homeland in Israel, Frank and his followers decide to give up on Israel, and transfer “Sabbatian messianic hopes connected to the Land of Israel to Poland”[2] instead.

Frank starts giving sermons where he tells his followers:

“Poland was ‘the ground for the ascension’ – the place where the Shechinah would rise out of the earth.”[3]

The Frankists are keen to break the link between ‘redemption’ and getting land for the Jews, and also believe in the final unification of world faiths before ‘the End’.

So, there are two things going on now. First, Frank and his followers want to own their own land, and they are happy to suck up to the xtians and to play their game in order to acquire some status and wealth. But second, there really is a philosophical underpinning for everything they’re doing, based (loosely) on Shabtai Tzvi’s distorted teachings.

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At this stage, Rabbi Jacob Emden, son of the Chacham Tzvi, heads the growing opposition to the Sabbateans.

In May 1756, following the Lanckronie scandal, the Sabbatians are formally put in cherem, and the study of kabbalah is outlawed for anyone under 40 years of age.

The Rabbis also release a statement that:

“On the basis of the codifiers, we pronounce that it is a positive commandment to kill them [i.e. the Frankists].”

Off the back of this announcement, the Jews subsequently kill 18 Frankists in Podolia and wound another 30.

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Frank flees back to Turkey – where he secretly converts to Islam and become ‘Ahmed Frank’. But he has a lot of competition in Turkey, where the Donmeh hold sway, so Frank decides to head back to Poland in June 1757.

At that time, he approaches the Polish Church to request they organize a disputation between the Frankists and the formal Jewish community, claiming that ‘Sabbatianism’ is closer to original Judaism because they don’t hold by the Talmud (i.e. the Oral Law).

This is music to the bishops’ ears, especially as Frank and his followers are willing to claim that the Talmud encourages Jews to sacrifice xtians and to use their blood in matzahs, in order to spite the formal Jewish community that’s attacking them.

So, the infamous blood libels were actually begun by apostate Jews who were looking for a way to break rabbinic control over the Jewish community. It’s totally shocking, isn’t it?

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The confrontation happens on June 20, 1757 in Kaminetz, and amongst the 9 points being argued by Frank we find these:

#6 We believe that God may take upon Himself mortal human flesh… [this was phrased carefully as Frank believed that this applied to Shabtai Tzvi and then himself – but he made it sound at this stage as though he was talking about yoshki]

#7 In accord with Daniel’s prophecy, we believe the city of Jerusalem will not be rebuilt until the end of time.

#8 We believe that the Jews have waited in vain for the messiah to come and to bring them happiness and grant them power over other nations.

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Unsurprisingly, the catholic Bishop of Kaminetz, Dembowski, states the Frankists have won and decrees that the Talmud should be burnt.

It’s a pyrrhic victory for the Frankists, though, because Bishop Dembowski unexpectedly dies very soon after this. Xtian sources explain that a plague breaks out in Kaminetz, and the Bishop’s ghost is seen walking around by residents.

The xtians decide to dig the Bishop’s body up and behead it – their way of ‘killing’ his ghost – but it doesn’t work. The plague intensifies, and now the Bishop is seen walking around carrying his head under his arm. So now, the xtians dig his body up again, and burn it in the same place where the Talmud was burnt – and the plague and the ghost subsequently disappear.

Fancy that.

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With their main supporter dead, the Frankists are now in a very vulnerable position.

Up until now, they haven’t wanted to convert to xtianity, but they’ve burnt their boats with Judaism, and the Jewish community no longer considers them to be Jews.

At this point, Rabbi Emden and his supporters, chiefly a man named Baruch Yavan, decide the best way to deal with the Frankists is to bribe the catholic church to pressure them to convert out of Judaism. They expend a lot of money and effort on bribing the Papal Nuncio in the region to make this happen, and it pays off.

A second dispute is held in Lvov (Lemberg) on July 17-19, 1759, where amongst the 7 points being debated, the Frankists claim:

  • All the prophecies about Moshiach have already been fulfilled.

  • Moshiach is G-d, who took human form.

  • So all sacrifices and ceremonies should be abolished now.

  • Everyone should follow Moshiach’s teachings, for ‘salvation lies only within it’.

  • The Talmud encourages the Jews to perform human sacrifices and to shed xtian blood.

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Long story short, immediately after this dispute in Lvov, Frank and between 1,000-7,000 of his followers convert to xtianity, including the Rabbis of the polish towns of Busk and Gliniany.

To give just one example of the scale of what happened, two thirds of the Jewish community of Busk convert.

To put this in context, only 4 communities in Poland at this time had more than 3,000 Jews, and Lvov – with 7,400 Jews – was the second biggest Jewish community in the country.

This is a totally massive blow to the Jewish community.

Yet, Rabbi Emden and many of his circle, including the Vilna Gaon, celebrate this mass conversion as a ‘miracle from heaven’, as now they don’t have to deal with the Frankists in-house anymore.

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By contrast, the Baal Shem Tov takes this mass conversion very hard, and dies the following year.

According to Wikipedia:

“After the mass conversion of the Frankists, the Baal Shem Tov allegedly said that as long as a diseased limb is connected with the body, there is hope that it may be saved; but, once amputated, it is gone, and there is no hope.”

Writing in Likutey Moharan, I:207, Rebbe Nachman has this to say about it:

“This was what caused the departing of the Baal Shem Tov, who had said that he would depart on account of the Shabtai Tzvi episode. Several of the leaders of the generation and outstanding scholars had become followers of Shabtai Tzvi, who had fooled them, as well known.

“They left the community and spoke evil against the entirety of the Oral Torah (i.e. the Talmud) because harsh gevurot had come upon them and they did not ameliorate them…Thus, they spoke evil words against the community, and these words befell the leader of the generation, who at that time was the Baal Shem Tov, which is what caused his departing.

“And the Baal Shem Tov is quoted as saying that the Shabtai Tzvi episode caused two holes in his heart, which causes his departing. This is because speaking against the Oral Torah and speaking against the tzaddik of the generation is one and the same thing.”

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Let’s sum up the rest of Frank’s story as briefly as we can, as it’s actually not what I want to focus on.

Frank is imprisoned by the Catholic church in 1760 when they realise he’s still claiming to be the messiah to his own followers. In 1767, Frank approaches the Russians and offers to become Greek Orthodox, together with his thousands of followers.

(By way of context, the massacre of Jewish martyrs in Uman that caused Rebbe Nachman to request to be buried there happens in 1768. Given all the voluntary conversion to xtianity that was going all around them in the Jewish community, we can see that the Jewish martyrs behavior was even more exemplary than perhaps we realized.)

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When Russia conquers Poland in 1772, they free Frank, who goes to Moravia, which is part of the Hapsburg Empire.

There, he becomes a celebrity, and hobnobs with monarchs, all on the promise of being able to deliver up thousands of Jews for conversion. For example, just two months after Frank arrives there, another 8 families convert in Prozznitz – including the rabbi!

Frank also becomes involved with Freemasonry, and his followers are instrumental in trying to set up Freemason lodges called the ‘Order of Asiatic Brethren’ that will welcome both xtians and Jews. According to Jacob Calmonson, a leading maskil at this time,

“Jewish efforts to secure emancipation ran parallel with the history of their relations with freemasons.”

But the non-Jewish Freemasons complain, and after 1785, there is a massive clampdown on the number of Jews who can join Freemason lodges within the Hapsburg Empire. That’s when the Frankists branch out into the so-called ‘Illuminati’ Lodges.

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A year later, in 1786, Frank falls out with Emperor Joseph II and leaves for Frankfurt Am Main.

He meets Prince Wolfgang Ernst II, thanks to his Freemason connections, and the Prussian Monarch gives him a castle in Offenbach to live in, together with his children and followers.

At this stage, the Frankists and the Freemasons are both starting to be spoken of as a ‘State within a State’ and as types of international spy networks.

Frank dies in Offenbach, and his followers claim that Frank – who was meant to be ‘immortal’ – has now: “shed his human form, [to] clothe himself in divinity, so he could triumph over death.”

His children, particularly Eva Frank take over the franchise as a sort of female ‘messiah’, but don’t do nearly as well with it. Eva Frank dies in 1816, and apparently that’s where the story ends.

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Really, that story is still going.

It’s not a commonly-known fact in our times, but the main false accusations being hurled at the head of the nascent Breslov community in the Ukraine by their detractors was that they had Sabbatian sympathies.

There was so much ‘heat’ generated against Breslov that a rabbinically-sanctioned attempt was even made on the life of Rabbi Nachman’s main student, Rav Natan. Just the murder got the wrong ‘Rav Natan of Breslov’, and killed the wrong person[4].

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By the early 1800s, there were an estimated 24,000 former Jews – including large numbers of Rabbis – who had converted as part of the Frankist disaster in Poland alone.

And ‘secret Sabbatians’ still abounded, particularly in places like Czechoslavakia, Bohemia and Moravia, where they tended to keep up the pretense of Jewish observance and even extreme Jewish piety externally, whilst all the time believing and acting in ways that were totally against Judaism.

Even world-famous rabbis like Jonathan Eybeshutz were actually secret Sabbatians, and Rabbi Eybeshutz’ son, Wolf, actually became a well-known, totally immoral Sabbatian ‘prophet’ who for a time vied with Frank for leadership of the Sabbatians.

So, suspicion fell on Rabbenu and his small group of students, because while Rabbi Jacob Emden and the Vilna Gaon preached a creed of excommunication and excision from the Jewish community, Rebbe Nachman took a totally different tack to trying to solve the problem of the Frankists and crypto-Sabbatians, as we’re about to discover.

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Over Shabbat, I was pondering large sections of Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom and Tzaddik, when I realized that so many of Rebbe Nachman’s mysterious journeys were to places where key events in the Frankist history had taken place. Many decades after the disputation and Talmud burning in Kaminetz, Rebbe Nachman made a trip to the town, at the behest of the Baal Shem Tov, who he said came to him in a dream.

Jews had been banished from living in Kaminetz after 1757 after the disputation with the Frankists that lead to the burning of the Talmud and the devastating plage, but very shortly after Rabbenu’s trip there, the Jews were allowed back in.

Then in 1807, after Sukkot, Rebbe Nachman suddenly left for Lvov (Lemberg) in a big hurry – and no-one knew why. Rav Natan went running after him, and caught up with Rabbenu at Krassnoy. That was when Rabbenu first taught the lesson of Azamra I:282.

There, Rabbenu taught:

 “Know: one must judge every person favorably. Even if the person is totally wicked, one must search and find in him some bit of good, regarding which he is not wicked. By finding in him this bit of good and judging him favorably, one actually elevates him to the direction of righteousness and is able to bring him to repentance.”

In Tzaddik, Rav Natan explained that when Rebbe Nachman was giving over this lesson, “He seemed fairly pleased, and he spoke about the purpose of his journey, connecting it with the idea of the sanctuary each of the Tzaddikim builds” – as set out in Lesson I:282, where the Tzaddik can even draw the good in total sinners back to Hashem.

Once I understood what was going on all over that area at this time, so soon after Jacob Frank had lead the mass conversion of many thousands of ‘orthodox’ Jews into xtianity, I started to view these words in a totally different light.

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Rabbi Emden and the Vilna Gaon had one approach to the problem, where they basically (and arguably correctly!) termed the Frankists in their midst as unfixable Erev Rav, and attempted to cut them out of the Jewish community.

This is very much in keeping with the writings attributed to Hillel Rivlin of Shklov[5], student of the Vilna Gaon and author of Kol HaTor about the Erev Rav, vis:

“[T]he Erev Rav is our greatest enemy, the one who separates the two moshiachs. The klipah of the Erev Rav works only through deception and roundabout ways. Therefore, the war against the Erev Rav is the most difficult and bitterest of all. We must strengthen ourselves for this war, anyone who does not participate in the battle against the Erev Rav becomes, defacto, a partner with the klipah of the Erev Rav, and was better off not being born in the first place.”

But there’s one massive problem with this approach:

It doesn’t work.

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I write way more about this in my book Unlocking the Secret of the Erev Rav, and I discuss this problem a lot on my blog, too, but practically speaking, it’s impossible to really determine who is unfixable Erev Rav and who isn’t – especially when you’re dealing with pious hypocrites who keep up a façade of perfect frumkeit.

And if we look back at what happened after the Frankists were forced to convert out of Judaism, we’ll see that declaring an all-out war against them didn’t work then, either.

All that happened is that Judaism permanently lost many thousands of souls, whose children could have returned to the fold of orthodox Judaism at a later date.

Not only that, the Frankists and crypto-Sabbateans became more brazen after they were forced out of Judaism, and were spurred on to join forces with the Freemasons and to get involved in things that we are still paying the price for globally, today.

Once they were pushed beyond the pale, and totally ejected from the Jewish community, the Frankists pintele yid was effectively extinguished.

But the whole world still views them as Jews, and we Jews are being tarred with the same brush.

Even more ironically, so many of the descendants of the Vilna Gaon’s students – including the author of the Kol HaTor himself! – are today’s immoral politicians and elites in Israel. This is not a simple problem, not at all.

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As I read of events 250 years ago, I couldn’t help but be struck by the parallels today.

Today, there are still so many people flinging the ‘Erev Rav’ accusation at other Jews’ heads. There are still segments of Jewish society who are acting in some very immoral ways, both within the bounds and beyond the bounds of externally ‘orthodox’ Judaism.

In so many ways, it feels as though the same test has swung around again.

And this time, we have to try a different approach to solving the problem. It’s not going to work, to just cut off from our fellow Jew and pretend they are someone else’s problem. Each Jew is responsible for the other – and when we forget that, God has a way of reminding us.

The anti-Semites out there make no distinction between Jews in Jersey City, and Jews in Monsey, and Jews in the Conservative ‘Tree of Life’ in Pittsburgh.

We can’t cut off from all the troubling and even ‘evil’ elements in our midst, much as we might like to.

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So what’s the answer?

Azamra.

Azamra is the only way of fixing the ‘unfixable’ Erev Rav in our midst.

If we see the point of good in these people – without lying to ourselves or whitewashing their ‘bad’ – then God will do what’s required to resolve the problem, and somehow return that spark of goodness to a place of holiness.

From my own experience, when I do ‘Azamra’ on the yucky people out there, that’s precisely when their bad deeds start to catch up with them, and their suffering grows so great that they are prompted to make teshuva in some way, however small.

Rabbenu’s approach works, however you care to define that word.

And cutting people out of our lives and publically degrading them doesn’t. All that does is give more ammunition to the anti-Semites out there, who are churning out stuff 24/7 about the Rothschilds, and the Mossad, and the State of Israel being behind all of the world’s woes.

God is in control, here, not us.

God wants us to do Azamra on all the Jews we know.

If more of us can follow this approach, then the terrible scar left by Jacob Frank and his followers, and Shabtai Tzvi and his acolytes, will finally heal.

And the Temple will be rebuilt peacefully, in our days.

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FOOTNOTES:

[1] Today, there’s an estimated 100,000 donmeh living in Turkey.

[2] The Mixed Multitude: Jacob Frank and the Frankist Movement (1755-1816), by Pawel Maciejko.

[3] Ibid

[4] See Through Fire and Water.

[5] Hillel Rivlin is also an ancestor of the current President of Israel, Ruby Rivlin.

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Photo by Oliver Roos on Unsplash

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This year, I want us all to come back together.

The last four days, I’ve been squiring my 11 year old niece – and her mum – around a whole bunch of different sites in Israel, in preparation for her upcoming batmitzvah.

We went to Kever Rochel; walked on top of the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem; plunged 40 metres below ground to visit a 2,000 year old mikva beneath the Kotel that still has water in it; did the ‘Journey to Jerusalem’; had a look at the amazing finds from the 1st Temple they unearthed in the Givati car park in the City of David; heard the story of how Nechemia rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem in just 52 days; and ended up today in Shiloh, the place where the Mishkan came to rest for 369 years, and where Hannah’s prayer for a son become our blueprint for heartfelt prayer.

It’s been epic.

Every now and then, when I catch a glimpse of Israel, of Jerusalem, through other people’s eyes, it reminds me of the tremendous privilege I have, of living here.

And that’s what makes it all worthwhile, even tho honestly? Being apart from my brothers, my siblings, and their children and their lives, is sometimes so painful.

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I dropped my SIL and niece at Ben Gurion airport a few hours ago, and my niece asked me:

“Are you going to cry when we’re gone? Are you going to miss us?”

I’m a tough old boot, I reassured her. I’m not going to cry.

She looked at me.

“My daddy cried at the airport when we were going home after visiting Uncle A.,” she told me. “Daddy and Uncle A. are besties.”

Her daddy is my brother, and her Uncle A. is my other brother. I see her London-based daddy maybe once a year, if I’m lucky, and Uncle A. lives in the USA, and I’ve never actually met three of his four kids. I’ve seen him twice in the last 15 years in person.

I have another sister in the States, too, who I haven’t seen in six years, and haven’t met her kid. I have another brother in the UK who I also see on average once every three years. (Hey, there’s a silver lining to everything…)

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But this is the price of making aliya, of trying to give God what He wants, and of moving to Israel.

Sometimes, it’s pretty lonely. Sometimes, it’s pretty sad.

I lit my Chanuka candles with such a deep sigh this evening.

God, is it too much to ask for me to see more of my family? Should I just cut my losses, and try to focus on my two kids, who Bezrat Hashem will live in Israel with their husbands and children, and then I’ll finally get some extended family within 2,000 miles?

Honestly? Sometimes I get so petrified that my kids will end up moving out of Israel, God forbid, and then I’ll have this awful experience on both ends. I know I’m not in control, I know I can’t guilt my kids or pressure them to live their life in a way that suits me. But if they end up living out of Israel, I’d be heartbroken.

Because already, we’re all so scattered around.

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Every family simcha involves massive expense and many holiday days.

I have 3 bar / bat mitvahs next year, all in chutz l’aretz, and I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to pull it all off.

How I wish, with all my heart, that I could just get in the car, drive an hour or two, and meet up with a bruvs, and their family. Just pop in for an hour, a cup of tea, and then come home again.

It’s never going to happen.

This is one of the very painful parts of making aliya.

So, I lit my candles today in a somber mood, wondering if this might be the year that all the divisions, all the distance, all the separations that seem to be keeping me away from the people I like and love – in so many different ways – will finally be smashed into pieces.

That’s what geula is really about, isn’t it?

Us all coming back together, as one people with one heart in one country, and with the psychos doing a 180 degree turnaround to actually be part of the solution, instead of causing the problems….

That’s what I wish for this Chanuka.

That is my Chanuka prayer.

I hope God is listening.

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It’s not easy to give.

But the people who most benefit from our generosity is…ourselves.

I just wrote a whole, long piece about two families who need some serious help to get their children married off this week. Long story short, they need to find $4000 each to pay for the most basic, subsidized wedding you can make, without just eloping.

They’ve raised $2,000 so far – which is totally awesome, and has made all the difference in the world to the family involved. And you can read more of my musings on the whole subject of giving tzedakah on the ravberland.com site, HERE.

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I’m not going to repeat myself, but I do want to just amplify one of the points I made over there, which is that I’ve noticed that the yuckiest people I routinely have to deal with – the critical, judgmental, evil-eyed blamers who are constantly moaning and complaining about how hard their own lives are, and trying to squeeze attention and money out of everyone else whilst giving nothing back – also seem to be the people who are most allergic to the idea of:

  1. Giving tzedaka to other people
  2. Doing pidyon nefeshs 
  3. Rabbi Berland being a big Tzaddik.

It’s amazing to me, how it all seems to go together, but now that I’ve seen this pattern show up again and again and again, I just wanted to flag it here.

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There is one reason why people are ‘anti’ Rav Berland and this is it:

Their own middot suck.

That’s it, that’s the whole ‘big secret’ behind his widespread persecution.

Thank God a million times, I’m not on that side of the equation.

Because the other thing that I’ve noticed is that these people with bad middot live very difficult lives, that are full of harsh judgment and suffering. No-one likes them, no-one wants to hang out with them, and their own families are ‘nightmares on Elm Street’, because when you get all those bad middot amplifying through the children….and the grandchildren….and the siblings….and the parents….

Well, let’s just say it’s unpleasant.

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So, don’t think you’re doing anyone else a favor, when you give tzedaka, or do a pidyon, or work on your bad middot, because you’re really not. There is one person you are helping out, and that is yourself.

And we all need all the help we can get. So even if you just have $5 spare  – or $1 spare – do yourself a favor, and go buy yourself some Divine compassion. You can do that by going HERE, and helping two God-fearing families to marry off their children with a basic measure of dignity.

But let’s be clear, every penny given is not really helping them, even though that’s how it’s dressed-up.

It’s only helping us.

And we all need all the help we can get.

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Buy your better middot, sweetened judgment and Divine compassion for as little as a buck, by going HERE.

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UPDATE, FRIDAY 20TH DECEMBER, 2019:

Baruch Hashem, so far they raised around $3600, and they managed to get both couples married off. It mamash took so much of the pressure off the families, so thanks to everyone who contributed. But you don’t have to stop here! Go back, and donate again – $5 even, it all makes a difference, because the families still have to find the remaining $4,400 to cover their debts, and for families like these, that amount is an enormous debt.

I realised this week, that I’ve been in a pretty good mood the last two days because every time I think about how much stuff I’ve got to sort out, and get on with, and work on – in so many ways – just knowing that I went and helped these families a little is making me think on some level, Hashem is going to help me too, bezrat Hashem.

Not because I deserve anything, because I don’t.

But just because it’s a spiritual rule, that God treats us the way we treat others, and I’m doing my best to stop judging harshly, and just to shut up and give a bit of help and kindness.

In the meantime, here’s the father of the bride from yesterday’s wedding, thanking the donors who helped to make it happen. If you gave something, watch this and kvell, and if you didn’t – it’s never too late! Even a $1! What do you care? You’ll buy yourself a smile for the rest of the day.

Buy your better middot, sweetened judgment, Divine compassion and inner smile for as little as a buck, by going HERE.

Photo by Kat Yukawa on Unsplash.

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You might also like this article:

 

Everything has a deeper reason.

Two years ago, the fake ‘Yeshiva World’ news site ran a shocking!!!! ‘expose’ into Rabbi Berland spinning a dreidel in the middle of the Maariv prayers.

Because Yeshiva World News is written by a bunch of morons who apparently don’t know a lot about the deeper reasons for many Jewish customs (and also apparently can’t spell), they believed that this was something ‘shocking’, that all their readers should know about, and be encouraged to condemn in the comments section!!!!

We already wrote HERE about how sites like Yeshiva World News are creating new anti-Semites with almost every headline they pen, and as the violent anti-semitism heats up in the US, it seems a good time for many Jews there – and elsewhere – to do some serious soul-searching about how attitudes and practices in the orthodox Jewish community may be greatly contributing to the problem.

Because nothing  is stam, a coincidence, or an accident.

Everything is from Hashem, everything contains a message, about what we might need to work on, acknowledge, recognise, change or fix.

God is so merciful, God is so compassionate. All He wants is for us to just be honest, and to admit that we’re really not acting the way we should be, and to have a little more humility, and to accept that we’re really not the ‘religious big shots’ we like to pretend we are.

That’s all He wants from us, some candor, and an admission that we are guilty of really not being very good Jews!!!

Because as soon as we admit that, we’ll understand that we can’t do this by ourselves, and we’ll start looking for that one in a generation, that Tzaddik, who is really going to help us get through this gilgul in one piece, get us to the promised land, and get us into the world-to-come.

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In the meantime, a couple of weeks ago the Rav gave over a very interesting lesson, which you can read HERE, where he explained some of the deeper mystical significance behind spinning the dreidel. He said:

The dreidel is linked to redemption

…”You redeemed the tribe of Your inheritance.” Rabbenu (Rebbe Nachman) says that the first letters of this [in Hebrew], Galta Shevet Nahalat Har (Tzion) are Gimel, Shin, Nun and Hei – the letters written on the four sides of the dreidel.

THIS IS NES GADOL HAYAH SHAM (A GREAT MIRACLE OCCURRED THERE).

But now, the Zionists changed it to a Pey.

(The Shin on the dreidel stands for sham – ‘there’, i.e. Eretz Yisrael.  Jewish communities in the diaspora still have driedels with the letter Shin, but when the secular Zionists created the State of Israel, they decreed that the ‘Shin’ should be switched to a Pey – which stand for po, here. I.e., that the great miracle happened here, in Eretz Yisrael.)

We must change it back to Shin, because great secrets are bound up with this!

This is related to the verse, “You have redeemed the tribe of Your inheritance, this mountain of Tzion You have dwelled within it.”

Because through [spinning] the dreidel, the Beit HaMikdash will be built.

Because when we spin the driedel, we spin the letters Gimmel, Shin, Nun and Hey around, and by way of this, Mount Tzion will be rebuilt – only by way of the driedel. We need to spin the dreidel every day, we need to be spinning the driedel every moment, every second.

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If I’ve learnt one thing about true tzaddikim, it’s that you should try to take whatever they say as seriously as possible. Literally, whole worlds depend on this. So then, I ran into a problem:

Where am I going to find a dreidel in Israel that has a Shin instead of a Peh?

It’s really not an easy thing, as of course every dreidel here has a peh, for po – here, the miracle happened here, in the Land of Israel.

Yesterday, an email landed in my inbox offering me a hand-carved dreidel from the Galilee with a ‘shin’ for just 22 shekels! Result!!!

So, I’m ordering mine today, and in the meantime, I thought I should put the details up here too, in case anyone out there would also like to fulfill the words of the Tzaddik HaDor, and spin their dreidel with a Shin, on Chanuka.

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Here’s the details:

Hand made wood every piece is unique.
Wood
22 shekalim
possible with a wooden plate to spin on
together 36 shekalim
2  dreidels and one plate for 74 AIYN DALET
TRUE TZADIKIM
050 3900777
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When more of us turn away from the fake news sites, and the fake blog sites, who really just confuse and mislead so very many people, and who obscure the truth by trying to push themselves forward, instead of humbly guiding people towards the sources of real Torah, real truth, in the world, Moshiach will come.
I’m not a betting woman, but I’m still willing to wager that Rabbi Berland knows far more about why spinning a dreidel is important that YWN. And so this Chanuka – for the first time ever! – I’m going to give it a shot.
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https://rivkalevy.com/the-birth-of-moshiach/