I have so much to get on with….

I’m moving house in less than a week, and there’s so much to do.

And yet, I’m sitting here still feeling totally out of it, and like I just don’t know what to do with myself.

Except… watch videos like this one.

====

It’s 8 years since this song came out, can you believe it?

Since then, I’ve seen so many people leave Israel, so many people get divorced, so many kids go screeching off the derech, so many people go plain nutso.

How many times have we all just felt like giving up, already? And just letting go of all this ‘geula’ and ‘moshiach’ stuff, because how long can we just sit here hanging on, by our finger tips, and trying to fight off the rising tide of tumah that’s just every where?

8 years ago, we seemed so much closer to redemption happening than today, at least in some ways.

People were so much more excited about going to Torah classes, and trying to live life with emuna, and so many of us were making so much effort to try to raise our game and to live a life of real kedusha.

And today?

Well, from where I sit I’ve just seen one person after another crack up, from trying to live up to an unrealistic ideal of what a ‘geula-ready Jew’ actually looks like.

====

If God hadn’t had mercy on me, and totally crushed me into the floor when I moved to Jerusalem back in 2014, then that’s exactly what would have happened to me, too.

My kids would have gone screeching off the derech a million per cent, tortured by parents who expected ‘frum perfection’ and who refused to compromise, or move even a millimeter to try to meet their children where they were really at.

I would have either jumped off a bridge, or got a padded jacket to match the padded turban I was being told to believe was the epitome of female frum-ness.

And we would have either moved to a dumpster, or given up and fled back to chul, God forbid, if my husband hadn’t found the courage to go back to work even though there were so many people lining up to tell him that ‘God provides parnassa’, as long as you have enough emuna.

We didn’t have ‘enough’ emuna to get our parnassa provided in an openly miraculous way, and thank God we didn’t.

Because since then, I’ve been writing one thing after another, trying to warn against the huge perils involved in all this phony, fake, holier-than-thou yiddishkeit.

====

This shabbat, I had one of my kid’s friends in my house.

They grew up in a baal teshuva chareidi home which is super-duper machmir in a million-and-one ways, and doing a whole bunch of things so strictly, and so correctly, this kid has been totally traumatised by the idea of keeping shabbat.

Long story short, they kind of ended up at my house ‘by mistake’ this week, as their plans to go elsewhere fell through at the last minute, so my daughter brought them home to us. This friend is amazing, one of the most impressive souls I’ve met in a long term. Holy, doing hitbodedut every day, thinks and talks about God a lot, is really struggling to be a mensch and to do the right thing.

Yet they can’t sit by the table, for Shabbat.

They can’t go 25 hours without using the need to smoke a cigarette as a convenient ‘out’ from having to be in the house.

They are barely on their phone the rest of the week, and yet on the holy sabbath, they sit there playing games on it almost endlessly, texting their other ‘off the derech’ friends – anything to provide a mental escape route from the obvious emotional pain and difficulty spending shabbat with a family is causing them.

I can’t help but wonder:

What on earth went on, to cause this reaction?

====

But really, I already know.

Because I so easily could have done the same, to my kids.

I so easily could have created an environment of ridiculously high, unrealistic expectation which would cast my poor kids as ‘bad’ the moment they stopped being ‘perfect’.

And because no-one can be ‘perfect’ 24/7, so many of our children are growing up feeling they must be ‘bad’, or ‘Erev Rav’, or some other form of messed-up / evil incarnate, just because they couldn’t sit at a Shabbat table singing endless zemirot for 2 hours, or because they wanted to wear jeans, and not black pants, or because they wanted to listen to a song by Ed Sheeran.

How have we come to this low place, where some of our brightest and best souls relate to themselves as ‘bad’ people just because they happen to smoke, or have an i-Phone?

This isn’t yiddishkeit. This isn’t Breslov.

Rabbenu tells us always, judge the action, don’t judge the Jew. The Jew is only and ever good, just their neshama got eaten by a massive klipa, that has been carefully crafted by the Samech Mem to make them feel like nothing they do is ever good enough.

====

And it’s not just all these teenage drop-outs that are getting that message.

Their parents are also operating in that atmosphere of harsh fear and judgment, where they feel nothing they do is ever going to be good enough for Hashem. That Hashem is just waiting for them to drop the ball and watch a Michael Jackson video on Youtube so He can smash them into oblivion, God forbid.

This isn’t yiddishkeit!!!! This isn’t Breslov!!!! This isn’t emuna!!!!

And it certainly isn’t Azamra.

God loves us all so, so much. He knows how hard it is right now, how tough the struggle to hold on really is. He knows that we don’t want all this naarishkeit, all this tumah. That really all we want is Him, and Moshiach, and the rebuilt Temple, and to serve Him in holiness and temimut again.

God knows all that.

And He loves us.

And if we can get to the stage where we start to realise that we and our teens and our fellow Jews are really JUST GOOD, however ‘bad’ they (and we….) may look and behave some times, however big the klipa that’s swallowed them up, that’s when the crying will finally stop.

And the geula will finally happen.

====

Join me for the Breslov Shiur for Ladies this Sunday, 10am, February 16th, 2020.

(Jerusalem Time)

This week, I’ll be discussing the topic of Happiness, and how we can try to stay joyful, even when sometimes that’s so very hard.

You can join the class live by clicking the following link (if you’re woman):

 https://zoom.us/j/873400423

And you can get the replay, which is password protected, by signing up for the Breslov Ladies mailing list below:

Get the replays of the Breslov Womens’ class!

The only way to get the link for the replay of Rivka’s weekly Breslov Women’s class is to sign up!

====

https://rivkalevy.com/dont-give-up/

All of us have so much to be grateful for.

I got the following as part of an email exchange with a friend who reads my blog, and who responded to THIS post, and I decided to share it with you, too.

(It’s a side note, but I’m very happy to put chizzuk and other people’s perspectives up on my blog, when it resonates with me, and I have another reader’s email that I’ll be sharing too, along those lines.)

In the meantime, here’s a different perspective that made my very grateful for all the blessings I still have in my life, despite all the challenges:

====

 I know we all have an endless list of wishes, but maybe sometimes we don’t value many good things we have.

Having money to pay for food is a blessing.

Being able to pay a rent without shame, without having to ask anyone without having to go from one place to another with how little or much you have without having to pay a place to put your things, is a great blessing.

 Having a clean, painted house, with a room or two, having a bath with water in your own home is a blessing.

Having a husband who loves you and struggles to be better, to study, to pray, is a blessing.

Having synagogues and Mikvaot near you and your family is a blessing.

Having healthy and intelligent children of you and your husband is a blessing.

Having a car, money for gas, is a blessing.

Having something to work on is a blessing.

Having good health is a blessing.

Living in Israel, going to pray at the Kotel whenever you want, living in a Jewish world no matter how difficult it is to “fit in” sometimes, is a giant blessing.

====

My life IS really good, despite the darkness within and without.

Thank You, God.

====

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The last few weeks (months…) I’ve been fighting a losing battle against apathy and despair.

Most of the time, I feel like life boils down to playing the unwinnable game, where my yetzer is constantly tripping me up and testing me with new circumstances and situations designed to bring out the worst.

The last two months, I’ve just had so many tests to try to stand up, external and internal – and for the most part, I don’t think I managed so well.

The problem is, I seem to have very unreasonable expectations of how things should be, and how things should look, and God for the most part just isn’t giving that to me. I understand that the fault, the error, the problem, is 100% on my side. I also understand that I have a part of me that is a perfectionistic control-freak, and that getting that part ‘sweetened’ is probably at least one of my major tikkunim that I’m down here to do.

But sometimes, I still find day-to-day life just so painful.

It’s not easy to have face down your ‘broken-ness’ every single day, and to have to admit – to yourself, to your husband, to your kids – that you’re actually still a lunatic, despite all your efforts to blossom into something a tad less crazy.

====

So, to come back to the last two months.

I’ve been noticing a strange phenomenon in the middle of all the apathy and despair that’s been winning out recently.

The more I can’t ‘do’ it, the more I’m giving up and letting God take over, the more things are starting to work out.

And I’ve seen that in a few different places now, so I wanted to share it as it’s giving me some chizzuk that maybe precisely in this low-down place of giving up, salvation can sprout.

====

Three months ago, I gave notice on our apartment, to move out end of February.

The apartment is OK – it’s pretty big, pretty reasonable rent, and it’s in the very ‘comfortable’ neighborhood of Baka, where you hear English and French way more than you hear Hebrew.

The body has been relatively pleased with this apartment, but the soul has been stifling since we got here, and I knew that staying in Baka was not a good option, long-term. But finding a good, affordable apartment in Jerusalem ranks up there with finding the holy grail.

Property developers are slowly destroying this city, and making it a place where only millionaires from abroad who don’t want to actually live here can afford to buy anything. Everything they build is ‘luxury this’ and ‘luxury that’, so they can charge a fortune for it.

So, Jerusalem real estate is increasingly becoming ‘old, dumpy, mold-infested affordable’, or ‘luxury-sell-a-kidney-to-pay-your-rent’.

====

Our apartment in Baka was a little dumpy, and a little mold-infested, but otherwise pretty OK.

Places like this are not so easy to find, so I was really nervous when I gave notice. The next few weeks, I kept scanning Madlan, and Janglo, and Craig’s List, looking for a reasonable apartment back closer to the Rav, in or around Musrara.

The only things coming up were in the ‘luxury and unaffordable’ range.

So then, I widened the search out to Rehavia, Shaarei Tzedek and Nachlaot – and strange to say, every single estate agent I contacted seemed incredibly uninterested in showing me any properties. I had one of my kids call up too, and she had the same experience.

In the meantime… the clock was ticking, and I had no-where to move to.

====

Two weeks ago, after I got back from Uman, I told my husband:

We just have to give up on trying to live in the neighborhood we want. I’m just going to start viewing apartments all over the place, and see if anything clicks.

Because hey, we aren’t going to find a community wherever we live. And I’m not going to be able to ‘settle down’ for more than a year or two anyway. And instead of looking at all of this as another horrible experience to grin and bear through, I decided I have to stop complaining that I can’t get what I want, and just let God give me what He decides is best.

Shortly after that conversation, something came up in Abu Tor, a neighborhood that I would never have considered in a million years beforehand, and we went to look at it.

It’s the house of my dreams.

It’s two storeys, has a garden I’m allowed to plant things in, they just put in a totally new bathroom, including a bath, and they are in the process of putting in a new kitchen, too, which will be ready before we move in.

I don’t have to sell a kidney to pay the rent, and the landlords are also really nice people.

And that neighborhood is also interesting. It’s green, it’s got a village feel, and a view of Har Habayit that is simply the best in all of Jerusalem.

So, we’re doing the experiment, and we’ll see what happens next.

====

Then, there was the whole mortgage fiasco that I wrote about HERE.

We are meant to be completing on the flat we bought in Harish end of the month, and for two months the bank has been telling us they won’t give us a mortgage again.

What could I do?

I think I used up all the tears on this subject the last time it happened, two years ago, so I basically just sank into apathy and told God:

Whatever You want. Mortgage, no mortgage, I don’t even care anymore.

In the meantime, we made some minimum hishtadlut – and three days ago we had a miracle.

A few hours after a friend told me she’d been at the Baba Sali, and had spontaneously said a few prayers for us to get a mortgage, we got a phone call from the bank that they were approving it, after all.

Not only that, they made a mistake and gave us a mortgage 1.5 times bigger than we asked for….

Which means that now, we can look into maybe investing that extra money into something else. It’s a totally unexpected result, and way better than what I was hoping to achieve under my own steam.

====

Yesterday, I was at the Kotel with a few hundred other people who came to pray for the Rav.

What can I tell you?

We’re back in the State-sponsored anti-Torah madness that is even more unfair and even more patently evil than the first time around – and I barely have the energy to do anything about it. I made myself go yesterday, even though I was feeling so tired and apathetic about everything.

How are my prayers going to help? How can we stop this evil from winning, all the time? What’s the point in even trying?

But after all the help the Rav has given me, and all the difficulties he’s helped me to smooth out and pass through in my own life, going to the Kotel was the least I could do.

So I got there, and of course there are no seats. After milling around for a few minutes, I decided to go sit on my heels by one of the side walls in the ladies section, as I just can’t recite tehillim with any concentration when I’m standing up.

I told God:

If You want me to have a chair, God, I guess you’ll send me one. And if not, I’m just going to sit here like this and pray, even though it’s a little unconventional, because what can I do?

Half-way through the first tikkun haklali, a middle-aged woman basically ran at me with a chair.

Sit!! Sit!! She shrieked.

You can’t do things like that anymore, think about your knees!!

So I sat.

And I said thank you.

And I started to feel that maybe, this feeling of total apathy and giving things back to God is actually the secret to redemption.

====

I’ve tried so hard to ‘fix’ things, in so many ways, over the last few years. So often, I sit here and it seems I don’t have much to show for myself. And honestly, that’s making it very hard to continue.

I’ve had days I don’t feel like doing my morning brachot, I’ve had days where I don’t feel like getting out of bed. I’ve had days where I literally have to force myself to do the things on my list of chores and commitments, because nothing gets anywhere, so what’s the point?

I have so many things to be getting on with right now, from packing up my house to finishing my course, to writing new blog posts, that I have zero urge to engage with.

But maybe, the last two weeks has been proving the theory that it’s exactly when we’re so totally despairing of redemption occurring, that it finally shows up.

I guess we’ll find out.

====

Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

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Kicking off 7pm, on Wed 12.2.2020, at the Kotel

UPDATE: THE LOCATION HAS BEEN CHANGED FROM HEVRON TO THE KOTEL, THE TIME HAS BEEN CHANGED TO 7PM

You know, I’m totally knackered at the moment. Today is a little better than it’s been all week, but even though there is so very much stuff going on, I barely have the energy to notice, if you know what I mean.

This is going to be a mish-mash post.

First and most importantly, there is going to be another (hopefully huge….) prayer gathering taking place at the Kotel tomorrow, beginning at 7pm. If you want details on the buses etc, call the Breslov line (it’s in Hebrew – if I get more details in English I’ll update this post):

*9148

Why should you bother going, and making all this effort to get out there and pray on behalf of Rav Berland? What do you care, right? What has it got to do with you, if the Israeli police are ramping up their persecution of the Rav and Shuvu Banim again?

Simple.

We aren’t praying for the Rav when we go to these things, we’re actually praying for ourselves.

We’re the ones that need all the help we can get, all the yeshuot, all the atonement for the billion and one sins we’ve been busy with since the last prayer gathering (just talking for myself of course….).

Personally, I have seen so many things move in my life in a good way, when I make the effort to be part of these prayer gatherings in Hevron. I don’t usually stay longer than an hour, and that’s OK. It’s just the effort to get there, and be part of it, that really counts.

So, come join me!

Unless of course your life is perfect and wonderful right now, in which case, I guess your motivation for trying to get this geula process moved on the sweet way probably isn’t so intense.

====

Next on the list, I got emailed by a journalist from the online news station i24, who wants to potentially interview me about Rav Berland. I have very mixed feelings about doing that, because you can’t trust a journalist as far as you can throw them when it comes to reporting facts about Rabbi Berland.

So, I told him I’m happy to do a live interview that can’t be cut, manipulated or misrepresented.

I’ll be amazed if he still wants to go ahead, but we’ll see.

====

Next, I’ve got the latest shiur for women to share with you, which is about ribui or, or how to cope with all this spiritual light that’s coming down ahead of Moshiach showing up, while still being able to actually function in the world down here.

It’s for women only, password protected and you can see it here:

(I had the wrong link up here, thanks to Rachel and Inna for letting me know. If you try this now, it should work as long as you have the password.)

If you want the password, you can get it by joining the Breslov Ladies mailing list here:

https://peoplesmarts.activehosted.com/f/3

====

Next up, a reader shared the following, and I asked if I could post it up more widely.

They said yes, so here it is:

Message: I woke up this shabbos afternoon and told my wife that I just dreamt of the rav. In my dream I saw him in what resembled the barracks in the concentration camps, he was under his talis and learning a sefer. He asked me, almost rhetorically, “what does the Gemara say about the signs of moshiachs imminent arrival?” (paraphrased)

I tried asking him what Masechet, but did not get an answer. I automatically thought of this gemara:
אמר רבי זירא אמר רבי ירמיה בר אבא: “דור
שבן דוד בא קטיגוריא בתלמידי חכמים”

פרש”י: הרבה מסטינים ומלמדים חובה יעמדו
עליהם:

בבלי כתובות

Although I didn’t know the exact source until someone just sent it randomly on a WhatsApp group (which kinda put the icing on the cake and triggered me to send you this.)

Anytime I see the Rav in my dreams, they usually come with amazing significance and personal revelations. I always wake up so uplifted and happy, I know for certain that these dreams are real! On motzei shabbos here in NJ at around 10pm I saw the breaking news that the Rav was arrested and it all just clicked.

====

And the last thing in this mish-mash post is that two days ago, my upstairs neighbor fainted in his apartment. He’s a healthy, young-ish man, so his wife freaked out when it happened.

Two ambulances showed up pronto, and that’s when we discovered that apparently there is a virulent strain of flu currently going around Israel right now, that causes people to faint. Thank God, that’s all it’s doing.

But it was another clear reminder just how much the Rav is actually sweetening everything with this Coronavirus outbreak, and why we need to keep close to him, and keep praying, even though if you feel the way I do right now, you have totally no oomph for anything much.

I’m meant to be moving house again in a couple of weeks, and because I know I’m moving on to pastures new, it’s kinda hard to find the motivation to keep the current place so ordered.

My daughter put is best when I asked her to tidy her room:

I don’t feel like tidying it up now, because I know I have to pack soon anyway, so I’ll just do it all then.

====

====

I think in some way, that’s what is going on with all of us right now, too.

We can feel things are about to change, and that’s part of why it’s so very hard to get on with anything. My brain has been feeling like mush all week. Today, it’s a little better than it’s been, but clearly the amount of ‘stress vibes’ in the air has been tremendous, recently.

But like I told my kid, and like I talk about in the class above, life has to go on, while we’re waiting for Moshiach to show up.  There’s still mitzvahs to perform, people to help, tikkunim to rectify. And we still have to keep going in this world of asiyah, even though that’s coming so hard at the moment.

BH, when my brain grows back a little more, (probably after the atzeret tomorrow at the Kotel) I’ll have a more coherent post for you. But in the meantime, this is what I’ve got. We’ve been round this loop so many times, I have no more energy to even get excited about it all, either way.

====

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Tomorrow morning, Sunday, 9th February, at 10am Jerusalem time, I’ll be discussing ribui or in way more detail on the Sunday Zoom call for women only.

You can join the class below:

 https://zoom.us/j/873400423

And if you want to get the replay sent along later in the week, make sure you’ve joined the Breslov Ladies Mailing List here:

Get the replays of the Breslov Womens’ class!

The only way to get the link for the replay of Rivka’s weekly Breslov Women’s class is to sign up!

====
If you’re near a computer and awake, come join me for a chat about how sometimes the pursuit of spiritual matters can make it very hard to function in the ‘real’ world.
See you then!

 

I have been totally rinsed, the last two months.

I’m no stranger to challenging circumstances, or big emotional ups and downs, but I have to say that the last few weeks have been a rollercoaster, even for me.

Literally each week, I’ve had so much inner turmoil and self-doubt to deal with, it’s left me reeling.

So, what’s really going on here? That’s what I’ve been asking God to show me, in a million different ways, in my talking to God sessions. And as the Rabbis tell us, when someone tells you that they searched and that they found, believe them.

After some consideration, I decided to share a little about what I’ve found out, in this quest to figure out why I’ve been feeling as though I’ve been barely clinging on to the edge of sanity the last few weeks. I know there are a lot of people out there who will relate to what I’m about to share, if they will only give themselves the permission to drop the mask and be real.

So with that intro (and if you’re still reading….) let’s continue.

==

The ‘problem’, if you can call it that, began back in November, when my daughter told us she’d found someone serious, and she wanted to introduce him to us.

Part of me was happy, part of me was petrified.

I had what can honestly be called a totally awful relationship with my own mother-in-law, as I’ve written about in many other places. With hindsight, I learned that my mother-in-law – who had so many tremendously good qualities – was operating out of a place of severely repressed trauma.

What I’ve learned down the years is that whatever is not ‘fixed’ in the family dynamics, in the family relationships, simply gets passed forward for the next generation to deal with. It’s like a bad penny, that never goes out of circulation until someone gets a grip, takes the hit, and faces the problem down.

The main reason my own crazy Savta didn’t figure as a massive MIL relationship stressor is simply because she lived in a different country, and never called or got in touch. But there were also some big mother-in-law issues between my dad and my British Grandma too, who wasn’t thrilled to have an immigrant for a son-in-law.

====

So, back to November 2019, when I suddenly find myself on the cusp of becoming a ‘mother-in-law’ myself, potentially – and WHOOSH!!!!

The internal pressure of trying to do all this ‘right’ kicked in a million percent.

I tried so, so hard to be the nearest version of ‘normal’ and ‘laid-back’ that I could, and the first time I met the bloke, I think I pulled it off OK. But despite my best efforts, all this weird emotional stuff started bubbling up shortly afterwards, and hasn’t stopped since.

What the heck is going on here, God?

Usually, I’m pretty self-aware, but all this stuff was taking me out and I had NO IDEA what was going on, or why I was reacting the way I was reacting.

====

After a day or two of doing a lot of intense hitbodedut, I made the connection that I had a heaping dose of unfinished business from my own wedding, and that me and my husband needed to sit down and get to grips with our own repressed anger and resentment from that time.

To cut a long story short, the run up to my wedding was so bad (because of in-law issues, not because of anything to do with my husband, who really is a hidden tzaddik), the counsellor on our ‘engaged couples’ course sat me down the week before the big day to ask me if I was sure I wanted to go through with it….

If I could have eloped (and I considered it seriously 500 times…) I would have.

But in the meantime, that route was blocked, and so I ended up with a ton of stress, trauma and anger still resonating through the system even 23 years later. I realized, I needed to knuckle down and clean all that stuff up, finally.

So I did.

And I looked forward to all the ‘weirdness’ disappearing.

But that’s not what happened.

====

A week after I’d knuckled down and cleared out all the ‘my wedding trauma’ stuff, I found myself going really weird again.

Out of the blue, I got hit by a massive panic that with my daughter married, I’d have no-one left to talk to, or interact with.

Let’s be clear, this daughter is pretty independent, and has a ton of friends, and while we get on really well, I also have my own life and I like my own space. I also have a nice husband and another kid at home to interact with, too, so all this hit me as extremely bizarre again.

From past experience, I knew that this type of ‘disconnected’ emotional madness, where you feel you’re going crazy but you have absolutely nothing you can pin it on, from your own life, has to be some sort of ‘inherited stress’, that had got passed down the gene pool from some troubled ancestor.

(If you’re interested in the science of this, look up ‘epigenetics’.)

I picked up the phone, made an appointment with my Bodyspin / One Brain woman, and two days later, I’d tracked the issue down to an ancestor on my mum’s side (for once!).

Now, I was really hoping again I’d got all the tikkunim out the way, and could stop acting so weird and emotionally unbalanced.

That’s not exactly what happened.

====

Around three weeks ago, the emotional rollercoaster started up yet again, yet again I thought I was literally going bonkers.

I like to tell myself that I know what’s going on, and that I can ‘figure stuff out’ – it’s part of my shtick, part of my ga’ava that reassures me that I’m not as lost in the world as I sometimes feel. But all of a sudden, I found myself feeling totally confused and overwhelmed about everything.

This sense of anxiety was getting so pronounced, I started to feel anxious and weepy, and even a bit nauseous.

I was getting so overwhelmed by larger-than-life negative feelings that were coming out of nowhere, and for no obvious reason, that that, all by itself, started to stress me out even more.

Was I just losing my marbles? Was it the mold’s fault, that has been spreading all over my house for a month now, thanks to the rain? Was this just a normal part of the ‘letting your kids grow up’ process that was getting out of hand?

What’s going on, God, what?

====

Things got so intense that I told my husband if I didn’t get to Uman ASAP, I was probably going to end up in a mental institution.

I was (probably….) being over-dramatic, but that was still an accurate depiction of how I really felt.

Rabbenu stuck me back together, and I felt much calmer when I was there. I realized a few things about the need to get on more with my own life now, and about the importance of letting go of my kids, so they can make their own decisions and forge their own path.

But the paydirt only showed up 2 days after I came home, when I ended up having an unexpected Zoom conversation with a relative I barely speak to.

Without going into too much detail, I used to be very close to that relative until they got married a few years ago, when they effectively dropped me like a hot potato. That happened to coincide with the worst 10 years of my life.

It was such a painful experience, and for years and years, I just stuffed all my hurt feelings and disappointment down into a very big box. They had their reasons for doing what they did… I thought I understood, I thought I’d forgiven them for dumping me in my hour of need, and moved on from it all.

But when that relative unexpectedly got in touch, and when we had the first chat face-to-face we’ve had in years – it all came rushing back again, and I ended that call feeling incredibly angry.

In what has been a recurring theme from the last 2 months, I realized that all that pain and sadness hadn’t disappeared with the passage of time, it had just gone underground and festered.

Because I’d never dealt with it properly, and processed it, and faced up to how sad, lonely and worthless the whole situation had made me feel, I’d been projecting all those ‘lost’ feelings into my current situation.

And that’s why I was feeling so anxious and pukey.

====

So, I did yet another six hour hitbodedut to go and deal with the fall-out from that relative properly, and to go and make my own teshuva, and to really do the job of forgiving and applying some emuna to the whole matzav again, and afterwards, I was feeling so, so much better again.

Yes, finally I can start to relax and stop freaking out every five minutes, and feeling as though the world is ending.

That’s what I hoped.

Because by this point, I’d had literally six weeks of riding the biggest emotional rollercoaster of my life, and I was starting to feel pretty rung-out and exhausted from it all.

Enough with all these tikkunim already, God! I have to move house, I have to sort out a mortgage, I have to launch a business, I have to publish a book! I can’t get anything done and I’m all over the place at the moment, it’s enough!

But what do I know?

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So last week, after weeks of being in this cycle of all this stuff surfacing, taking me out, getting dealt with, feeling ok; stuff surfacing, taking me out, getting dealt with, feeling ok….

I started to feel, yet again, like I’d just hit another massive emotional iceberg.

In the same way that I started going to pieces, inexplicably, before I had to run off to Uman, I had that sinking feeling that I was unravelling again emotionally, and yet again, there was no obvious catalyst for it.

Maybe, I should just go and live in Uman for a few months, until all this ‘potential engagement’ stuff blows over, and I have a better idea what’s going on?

That’s what I asked my husband two days ago, and I was 82% serious. I was ready to hand in my notice again on the ‘mum’ job, because clearly I wasn’t up to it, and it was just time to admit that I am the loony tune that everyone always secretly suspected.

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As I started to go to pieces again yesterday, I ended up having a really strange business coaching call, which was so surreal that if my husband hadn’t also been listening in, I think I would have thought I’d imagined it all. I was chatting with some smarmy sales guy from LA, about ideas to move my People Smarts business forward.

In the middle of the call, he suddenly totally switched track and started giving me some hard-hitting mussar:

Rivka, you really need to develop some humility. You just still have a lot to learn. In order for you to be able to help others, you first have to be able to love yourself.”

At this point, I was totally speechless.

It’s like Eliyahu HaNavi had taken over my Zoom call, or something, and all I could do was gape incredulously at the screen. Eliyahu continued:

Forgiveness is the most potent form of self-love, Rivka. Forgive yourself for procrastinating, and start new. Start fresh.”

At that point, Eliyahu reverted back to smarmy LA salesman, but I wrote down every word of that mussar, because it was literally a message from heaven.

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After the call, I was still feeling physically ill, so I went to bed, to do some hitbodedut before trying to go to sleep.

That’s when I realized another profound part of the message God has been giving me, with this latest round of emotional upheaval.

Long story short, the prospect of possibly becoming a MIL has been flashing me back to one yucky experience I had after another, connected to the whole time of life when I met and married my husband, back in my very early 20s.

I met him when I was still in university, and that whole period was such a bitter-sweet time for me, because it’s so hard to hang on to your soul and go to university in a foreign country, where everyone around you is smoking, and drinking, and doing drugs, and listening to gross music, and watching movies, and dressing inappropriately and having boyfriends, and all the rest of the stuff that doesn’t exactly go together with ‘Torah’.

But at the same time, I’d had such a rough 18 years beforehand, the sense of freedom I had in university was totally unparalleled.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

And it left me with a whole bag of unfinished business to try to sort through and clarify, which I’ve basically been ducking for 25 years.

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Us baal teshuvas carry so much baggage around from our previous lives.

Once we learn ‘the truth’, it can get so hard to forgive that former version of ourselves, who wasn’t ‘bad’, and who wasn’t ‘evil’, but who definitely was caught up in the world of lies.

But God wants us all to see the good in ourselves, and to forgive ourselves for not being perfect.

The last few months, I’ve been making such a big deal of doing ‘Azamra’ on other people, but God showed me this week that I left a crucial person out of the Azamra equation: myself.

And especially, that younger version of myself that came out of a really hard situation, had a lot of difficult tests, and just couldn’t pull through them all the way I would have liked to, in an ideal world.

Because the world isn’t ideal.

So today, again, I’m starting to feel much calmer. I’m starting to feel a little more ‘normal’ and put together again, and less panicked and anxious.

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POSTSCRIPT:

After I wrote this, I took a look at the ravberland.com site, and I saw some very disturbing info about the spread of the coronavirus. As with everything, there is so much disinformation out there that until I saw what the Rav said about it, I was minded to play it all down.

Now, I can see we are on the cusp of something potentially enormous and world-changing.

It could be the end of days, mamash.

And so I now think that’s also part of why I’ve been so all over the place since November, when this coronavirus outbreak actually began.

Interestingly, the Rav made the connection between the spread of the virus and the mitzvoth of bein adam l’havero. And he made a point of stressing that we need to forgive others.

It’s the same message, being amplified.

And I really hope we’ll be able to do it.

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THIS IS RAV BERLAND’S PRAYER TO BE SAVED FROM THE CORONAVIRUS. PLEASE SHARE IT AROUND. MANY PEOPLE’S LIVES DEPEND UPON US SWEETENING THIS DECREE.

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Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

Here’s the details of where you can catch the replay of my first official class for Breslov Women.

It’s on the subject of why setbacks are really just a present from Hashem.

You can access the shiur at the following link – but as it’s for ladies only, it’s password protected:

In order to get the password, please sign up to the Breslov Ladies mailing list, HERE:

Get the replays of the Breslov Womens’ class!

The only way to get the link for the replay of Rivka’s weekly Breslov Women’s class is to sign up!

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Heads up, that the sound quality is not the best in this recording, but this has already been fixed for the next class, which will be happening at 10am Jerusalem Time, Sunday, February 9th.

The class is for women only, and you can join in on Zoom HERE. 

Back when I lived in Musrara, there was a small makolet on the main street, where I used to get most of my groceries.

I was in that place pretty much every day for four years, and over that time I got to know the makolet guys, and their workers, who ran the place.

One guy, Eden, stuck the job out for years, and right around the time that the teenage boy was having his visions of the coming apocalypse in Israel, he stuck a kippa on his head and started laying tefillin.

I know this, because he’d be ringing up my groceries with his phylacteries stuck to his head, which I know is wrong, but it still struck me as kinda cool.

Then there was the French guy who was fresh out of the army and wrestling with a lot of grudges against God. Sometimes the knitted kippa on his head grew, sometimes it shrank, and then a few months after he got married – it disappeared altogether.

He moved out of the neighborhood shortly afterwards, so I have no idea if it ever grew back.

And then, there was Shimon.

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Shimon could have been in his thirties, or maybe even his forties.

By the time I met him, he was a chain-smoking, secret alcoholic who was destined to eventually get fired because he kept forgetting important details like whether he’d already rung up a purchase, or whether someone had already paid.

He stuck it out for two years, steadily deteriorating, and over that time, I got to know him a little. What was left of his blonde hair was cut in an awkward crew cut, and his beer belly was usually perched dangerously on a low-riding pair of jeans that really should have left far more to the imagination.

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One day, I went in to get my daily pint of almond milk and I found him looking at a dog-eared photo, with a sad expression on his face.

Was this a dearly departed mum? An old girlfriend that it never worked out with? His childhood pet?

That day, Shimon was in a thoughtful mood, so even though my Hebrew was rubbish and his English wasn’t much better, he started talking as he rang up my pint of milk.

That’s me in the army, he told me, shoving the dog-eared picture into my face.

I’m at the age where I have to move things back a few inches, before they swim into focus, so I took the picture cautiously, and maneuvred it far enough away to actually see it. It was the standard shot of a young man wearing army trousers and displaying his pecs, while sucking on a cigarette and holding a machine gun.

I guess it was kinda ‘cool’, in that superficial, glorifying violence kinda way.

I was in a special unit in the army, Shimon told me, clearly fishing for some compliments for his 20-something self.

I looked at the fat, red-eyed man before me, who was already missing some teeth and I sighed a deep, secret sigh.

No wonder Shimon was steadily drinking his brain cells to death, if that picture represented his best shot at ‘happy times’.

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All this took place a few years’ ago, but recently I’ve been thinking again about this whole idea of ‘cool’, and how it’s one of the yetzer’s best ploys for ensnaring our souls in the madness of this world.

‘Cool’ can be so dangerous, precisely because it hides a multitude of sins, while secretly promoting them. ‘Cool’ people smoke. ‘Cool’ people drink lots of alcohol. ‘Cool’ people waste large chunks of their lives in bars and clubs, dancing to stupid, brain-cell destroying music made by other ‘Cool’ people, many of whom are addicted to drugs and pornographic lifestyles.

In so many ways, ‘Cool’ is the anti-thesis of the Torah lifestyle, and of the good middot, and of the calm, good stability that is actually the foundation of a happy life. But which is also, often, totally ‘unCool’.

Until I hit Breslov, which paired massive payot and Rabbenu’s Torah with trance music, I was kind of despairing of finding even a hint of ‘Cool’ in the Torah world.

Because I have to admit, ‘Cool’ still has some attraction for me, still, even though I’m 46 and really should know better.

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It’s so, so easy to fall back into the deceptive allure of that world of lies, where ‘Cool’ people spend their days surfing in Eilat, smoking their lungs black and piercing their tongues.

How can learning a blatt of gemara really compete with that? How can I explain to my children that ‘Cool’ has a short-lived shelf-life, and that ‘Cool’ young people are way more likely to end up addicted, poor and alone, eating their hearts out over pictures of themselves looking ‘Cool’ twenty years ago?

If I still lived in Musrara, if that makolet was still there, I’d tell them (and their friends…):

Go take a look at Shimon’s picture, and then see where all that ‘Cool’ lead.

‘Cool’ is poisonous, my precious children. It’s soul-destroying.

If you want to live a truly happy life, be guided by the Torah and channel your urge to be ‘Cool’ into some outrageously long payot and a tendency to talk to God by the beach.

Ah.

When is Moshiach going to show up, already?

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UPDATE:

I got the following comments from a reader, who is making some important points, so I’m adding them in here:

I just read your post about Shimon at the makolet and coolness, and I just had to say, maybe Shimon was showing you the photo of himself in the army because that was the last time he did anything that he’s proud of and that he worked hard for. Poor guy.

He got out of the army and spends his days drinking and smoking and working in a makolet. He’s not happy. He’s unmotivated. Probably depressed. The army is a real challenge, especially for a combat soldier, who is under-appreciated and works really hard in generally awful conditions. Any one who did his army service as a combat soldier should be proud of himself, and this Shimon deserves our prayers and compassion and to look for his good points to help him have the strength to do teshuvah and serve Hash-m.

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You might also like this article:

Ladies, it’s really happening!

This Sunday at 10am Jerusalem time (7 hours ahead of EST), we’ll be kicking off the first Zoom class for ladies only, with yours truly.

The idea is to talk about how we can apply some of Rebbe Nachman’s, and Rabbi Berland’s, teachings to our own lives and experiences.

This week, I opened up one of the Rav’s books to get some inspiration for how to kick off, and it opened up to some interesting ideas on humility, so that’s the topic we’re going to kick off with, and we’ll see how things develop.

I’m going to keep the first few classes to 30 minutes, while we figure out how they are going to work best. The idea is for me to set the tone, but I really want YOU to be the ones talking and sharing and discussing, as you get so much input from me anyway, via my blog.

I’m putting the Zoom link for the first class here:

 https://zoom.us/j/231772543

Show up 5 minutes earlier if you’re not sure how to use Zoom, to get comfortable with the set up.

It’s ladies only, so don’t worry about having your video or audio switched off.

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If you can’t make it live (and I know there were a lot of ladies in the US who expressed an interest, but who can’t make this time slot) – replays will be available, but only sent out to people who sign up. Once I move house again in 3 weeks, I’ll look to add another slot, maybe on Mondays, that will work for people in the US, too.

You can sign up below, and I’ll also put this link in my sidebar, and in the sidebar of my blog on ravberland.com, too, to make it easy to access.







Get the replays of the Breslov Womens’ class!

The only way to get the link for the replay of Rivka’s weekly Breslov Women’s class is to sign up!

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BH, I'm a little nervous about this, but also quite excited. For years now, I've had the privilege of getting to know some really amazing women, all over the world, and I've been wishing that there was a way more of us could get to know each other.

And now, there just might be!

So, take the plunge with me, and let's see where this goes. No-one has to come every week - not even me! - and in the meantime, it would be so nice to spend half an hour a week chatting things through with other ladies who also happen to really believe in God...

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And in the meantime, the better half has also taken the plunge, and started recording a 5 minute parsha shiur, you can catch his first one here:

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He was also a little nervous - new beginnings are always hard.

But something beautiful is starting to sprout here, BH, in more ways than one.

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