Once you start to dig a little deeper, past the superficial, God-less way most of the world sees life and the events occurring within us and around us, so many things start to fall into place in an awe-inspiring way.

Most days, I have at least one moment when I think to myself: God is a genius!

The wisdom in creation is so awe-inspiring, and nowhere more so than in the area of human health. As I’ve been piecing together how things appear to be working, health-wise, it’s given me more and more appreciation for Yiddishkeit, and also for Breslev, because Rebbe Nachman set so much of this stuff down even 200 years’ ago, just we didn’t know what it was we were being told.

(OK: I didn’t know what it was we were being told – I’m sure the Breslev Tzaddikim haven’t had that problem, and are still so far ahead of the game it’s scary.)

I’m not pretending I know how it all fits together 100%, because I don’t. But I’m still trying to share what I’m learning as I’m going along, as it’s helping me so much to get a handle on so many of the challenges I’m dealing with in life, and I hope that it might also do that for other people.

So today’s slice of insight is this: why we are all going bonkers, and how it’s connected to working on our middot (isn’t everything?) plus climate change, plus geula and Moshiach.

First, some very basic background on how the human body works:

  • The human body is a bio-electric liquid crystal.

Physiologically, the human body conducts electricity like a liquid crystal. Every cell is polarized (i.e., it has a positively charged ‘end’ and a negatively charged ‘end’) and a great deal of the communication that happens within our bodies occurs using bioelectricity.

Think of it this way: when the cells change from being negatively or positively charged (or vice-versa) it’s like they flick a switch off or on – kind of like morse code – which signals different chemicals to be produced, different hormones to start coursing through the body, and different biological processes to begin or end.

  • Emotions and thoughts affect the body mamash like chemicals

You feel happy? That triggers a whole bunch of bio-electrical impulses and chemical responses within your body, that directly affect your PHYSICAL health, as well as your sense of wellbeing. Each emotion we feel triggers a different set of bio-electrical impulses and chemical responses, and the negative emotions and thoughts – if they’re chronic – can literally disrupt the healthy functioning of the body’s bio-electrical impulses, leading to ill-health and disease.

Negative emotions and thoughts can also LITERALLY change the way the brain is hardwired, leading to so-called ‘mental illnesses’, and physical health issues.

Here’s where we really start to get into the ‘God is a genius!’ stuff, because now that we know that God is using bio-electric impulses in our bodies to regulate our physical and mental health, we can also see that the more bad middot and negative emotions we have, the more mental and physical illnesses we will have to deal with.

Bad middot and negative emotions act as ‘blockages’ on the line, preventing the right messages from being passed on, skewing chemical transmission within the body by getting the lines crossed, and starting or stopping the internal processes necessary for human health in a very unhelpful way.

The more we work on uprooting our bad middot, and dealing with our negative emotions in the way God intended (which is NOT to just ignore them, go into denial or try to medicate them away) – the healthier we’ll be, body, mind and soul.

The more bad middot etc we have, the more ‘blockages’ and weaknesses we have in the bio-electric circuit that is the human body.

  • Electromagnetism can ALSO affect our thoughts, emotions and health from ‘the outside in’

So now, we hit another ‘God’s a genius!’ patch, because external sources of electromagnetism, energy and radiation can also affect our thoughts, emotions and health.

If the electromagnetism we’re experiencing from the outside world goes up or down – as it does all the time, as a function of the earth interacting with the different planets and stars God created in the universe – that will also spark off ‘bio-electrical’ signals inside of us to think, act or feel certain ways.

It’s like those days when ‘everyone’ feels inexplicably more down than usual, or more stressed, or more antsy, or more angry, or even, more giddily happy and optimistic.

What’s occurring is that God is manipulating our environment – with a Nibiru, or a solar storm, or a Haley’s comet, or a thinned-out atmosphere, or even with a microwave oven or an i-Phone – to program our bio-electric circuit to start experiencing a different set of feelings, emotions or thoughts.

This is what’s commonly known as a ‘ruach’ in our holy writings, and the phenomena is referred to by many of our sages. Eg, most of us have heard of a ‘ruach shtut’ or ‘spirit of madness’ that is described as somehow ‘entering’ people from the outside, causing them to act bonkers. This is what it’s talking about.

The ARIZAL once told his main student, Rav Chaim Vital, that in a few months’ time he was going to encounter a period of time when he’d feel extremely worthless and ‘bad’ about himself. The ARIZAL told his student: “It’s just a ruach that’s being sent down to the world! Don’t pay it any attention!”

And these different types of ruach are being sent down to planet earth all the time, as tests and measurements of character.

Which bring us to the next key point:

  • God is bringing all our bad middot to the fore at the moment, by way of atmospheric changes (including things like Nibiru); plus man-made sources of electro-magnetism including wi-fi, cell-phones and powerlines.

We’ve just hit the part where we can hopefully start to understand why so many people are literally starting to go bonkers.

It’s like this: When Moshiach and geula rolls around, we’re told that God will kill the yetzer hara, or evil inclination.

There’s also suggestions that anyone that isn’t ‘prepared’ spiritually for Moshiach will not make it into the time of redemption. And what’s the main preparation we need to make? We need to work on eradicating our bad middot, and upping our emuna, or belief in Hashem.

Now, we can see how all this starts to slot together (because like I mentioned, God is a genius.)

As covered in a previous post, the world is going to change physically when Moshiach comes (albeit these changes will roll out over time and they won’t be immediate). The atmosphere will change; the amount of energy we get from the sun and other planetary objects is going to change; the amount of electromagnetism rolling around the planet – and sparking off biological effects in the human body – is going to change.

If we still have bad middot ‘blocking’ our internal circuitry, our bodies literally won’t cope with these changes – they’ll be overwhelmed, flooded, backed-up, fried-out etc by all the increased energy, radiation and electromagnetism.

Instead of being able to harness the extra energetic input to live longer and healthier lives and to serve Hashem (and probably do some other ‘miraculous’ things, too) – it’s going to make us implode.

It’s not a ‘punishment’, it’s just a consequence of not doing the work to get our system ready, the way God has instructed us.

So now, what’s happening specifically today?

God is playing around with the atmosphere in a way that’s designed to ‘press’ as many bad middot buttons as possible, and to bring them out of hiding so we can deal with them properly, and uproot them.

That’s why there’s such heaping doses of things like despair, depression, anger, paranoia, fear, anxiety, guilt, hatred, worry etc etc going around.

God is creating a bio-electrical environment that’s perfectly designed to trigger those middot off, in anyone that has them.

Why is He doing this?

So that we can recognize the problem, and work on eradicating our bad middot ahead of Moshiach and geula, so that we’ll be able to cope with the enormous physiological (and spiritual…) changes that will occur at the period of time, and stay alive.

THERE’S JUST ONE PROBLEM:

So many of us are still not doing the work!

Instead of working on our emuna more, and including God more in our lives, and digging deeper to get to the real roots of our emotional, mental and physical illnesses, we’re buying all the God-less (and completely unproven, scientifically) pap about ‘chemical imbalances’ causing the problems; or pills and surgery being the answer to all our physical health woes.

(I go into this stuff a whole lot more in my books, especially Talk to God and Fix Your Health, which you can buy on Amazon and also on the Book Depository, so I’m not going to rehash it here.)

The basic idea is this: things like antidepressants turn off the warning lights – i.e. you don’t FEEL so bad any more, or so depressed, or so anxious – but really, the bioelectrical processes and blockages causing you to feel that way are STILL CONTINUING unchecked.

The block is literally still there in the liquid crystal that is your body, and hasn’t been dealt with. When Moshiach shows up, that’s going to be a huge problem.

But even if people aren’t trying to medicate their heightened emotional states away, they’re still not dealing with them properly.

(BH, I’ll cover how to deal with bad middot properly in a future post, but be reassured it’s really not so hard, as God is doing most of the work.)

Despite rising evidence to the contrary, they continue to insist that they’re NOT angry, or unhappy, or despairing, or obsessed with money and status, or trying harder and harder to control every little detail about their lives (because that’s what happens when God is out of the picture.)

And then, these blockages start to implode in a million different ways, manifesting as eating disorders, depression, rage fits, narcissism, and then on to physical illnesses too, like kidney stones (fear), gallbladder issues (hatred), liver problems (self-hatred and guilt), heart problems (anger) etc etc etc.

TO SUM ALL THIS STUFF UP:

God is using energetic forces in the world, like electromagnetism and radiation, to affect the ‘liquid crystal’ that is the human body, and to bring our attention to the fact that we all have a lot of bad middot that are mucking-up the way we’re meant to function, across all three levels of body, mind and soul.

Those forces could be the gravitational pull of a ‘Nibiru’, a solar flare, or even more prosaic things like i-Phones (which could also explain another dimension to WHY internet and i-Phones are having such a bad moral effect on so many people).

He’s doing that because He wants us to WORK ON FIXING OUR BAD MIDDOT, and learning more emuna.

If we do that, we’ll remove the energetic ‘blockages’ that our bad middot are creating in our bodies, and then we won’t implode when Moshiach shows up, and the world changes in some very dramatic physical, geological and spiritual ways.

Hopefully, we’ll talk some more about HOW to work on the bad middot, as it’s really the key to everything.

But in a nutshell, THAT’s why we’re all going bonkers.

Before Rav Berland left on his self-imposed exile more than three year’s ago, while he was still living for a while in Beitar Illit, someone asked him in one of his classes to explain the saying of Chazal that:

Moshiach is only going to come when the whole generation is either worthy, or unworthy.

The obvious question is how can this be?! After all, we all know people who are not so worthy, so clearly the ‘100% worthy’ option isn’t happening right now. At the same time, if the whole generation was unworthy there’s a good chance that Hashem would decide just to pull the plug on the whole of humanity again, like He did with Noah’s flood.

So clearly, something else is going on here.

Rav Berland explained that in the time before Moshiach, the main test would be for people to choose the path of kedusha, and to follow after God – or the opposite, God forbid.

But they weren’t going to be able to continue to sit on the fence and to play both sides of the game anymore.

Rav Berland explained that it’s the same test that occurred when Elijah the Prophet famously challenged the prophets of Ba-al to a show-down, on Mount Carmel. At that time in history, it’s not that the Jewish people didn’t believe in God, exactly, because they did, at least in theory. The problem was that they didn’t believe in God enough to stop trying to hedge their bets for health and wealth by also worshipping the Ba’al.

There was just one problem with this approach: God Himself hates idol-worship, defined as ‘having other gods’ that you believe can give you good health, a new house, a fat bank account, or even, more children.

As we learned from all the hoo-ha with yoga, it’s all too easy to fall into a mindset of believing that God is out there ‘somewhere’, but that you have to follow other methods and practices and belief systems to really achieve the outcomes you want in life, whilst cutting God completely out of the picture.

Judaism says: you’re sick because God made you sick, and you’ll feel better again once you make Teshuva and repair that spiritual breach. Idol-worship says: Forget all about God and repairing your soul, just take this pill / pull this pose / eat this green stuff, and all your health problems will vanish by themselves!

And often, they do.

That’s why it’s often so hard to follow whole-heartedly after God, because, well Ba’al worship really pays off, man!

So, that’s why Elijah the Prophet came along to challenge his generation to finally pick a side. He let the prophets of Ba’al arrange their sacrifice first, and gave them the best part of the day to encourage their ‘god’ to send down the fire that was going to burn it up.

“Yell louder!” He told them. “Maybe he’s sleeping, or he stepped outside for a wee!”

Of course, the prophets of Ba’al weren’t going to give up that easily. They’d hidden a man inside their sacrifice who was willing to immolate himself to ‘prove’ that the Ba’al existed, by lighting a secret fire. Unfortunately for them, God killed the man off somehow (I think he got bitten by something poisonous) before he could strike his flint and tinder.

So then, it was Elijah the Prophet’s turn. He arranges his sacrifice on the pyre, he asks for it to be completely drenched in water three times, and then he prays. Man, did his prayer get answered! Whoosh, the whole thing went up in such an impressive display of Heavenly firepower that the whole congregation fell on their face, and exclaimed: ‘Hashem, He IS God!!’

Like, duh.

Elijah turned to the Children of Israel, and asked them:

How long are you going to continue to dance between two camps? If the Ba’al is god, then worship it wholeheartedly. But if Hashem is God – then worship Him wholeheartedly, and stop sitting on the fence!

And according to Rav Berland, that’s the same test that we face today, the test of knowing that God is all there is.

It’s not the doctors or the yoga poses that keep us healthy or cure us – it’s God.

It’s not the politicians or the army that keeps us safe and protected from our enemies – it’s God.

It’s not the long hours we put into our jobs, or the huge amount of sucking up to the boss that pays our mortgage – it’s God.

When people really believe in God wholeheartedly, they act SO differently from what passes for ‘normal’ these days, even in the religious world. For a start, they really talk to Him. And they believe in miracles. And they stop obsessing over every little detail, and stop trying to control every tiny aspect of their lives.

They definitely ditch their yoga, and their bad middot, and their unsavory habits. They give 10% of their income to charity, even when it’s hard. They treat their kids nicely.

I could go on and on, but the point is this: there is no more sitting on the fence. There is no more staying in the middle. Ambiguous is OVER, as the recent Brexit fiasco just underlined every so dramatically.

Either we’re with God, or we’re not.

That’s the final test before Moshiach, and it’s one that each of us really needs to pray that we’re going to pass.

You know, I’ve been learning a lot from all this ‘yoja’ stuff, not least about how much hypocrisy is floating around the place.

When I first started researching yoja, from a perspective of being truly interested in its apparent health and healing benefits, I had no idea that I was going to uncover such an avalanche of obvious idol worship and very dodgy spiritual practices.

But then, as all the evidence started to stack up so spectacularly, it raised another very big question, namely: How could the ‘orthodox’ practitioners of yoga in our midst be so blind to all this stuff?

I’d always assumed, before I started really researching this subject, that yoja was a bunch of exercises that had tenuous connections to idolatrous religions. But it quickly became SO obvious that yoga is drenched in and permeated by idol worship to such an extreme degree, that you’d literally have to have some issues with your cognitive functioning to not recognize the problem, if you’re an orthodox Jew.

Which then raised the next awkward question:

Are the ‘orthodox’ practitioners of yoga cognitively impaired in some way, or are they actually deliberately trying to mislead people?

This is not a sarcastic question. We all make mistakes some times, and we all get it wrong some times. I’m certainly not infallible, and I’ve had more than one episode in my life when I followed after a person, or a shita, or a belief system that ultimately ended up being a very negative force, and spiritually-corrupt in some ways.

In this mixed-up world, that stuff unfortunately happens and it happens a lot. We all have blindspots, we all have flaws, we all have difficulties being able to ascertain what’s true, particularly when it comes to matters of the soul.

But here is what’s starting to disturb me so much with all this ‘kosher’ yoja stuff: Even when you repeatedly bring clear evidence of the problem, and repeatedly point out the huge halachic and spiritual issues involved with practicing yoja, not only are the ‘orthodox’ practitioners not even a little bit chastened or confused or concerned about whether they may be barking up the wrong tree (and misleading a whole bunch of other less-informed people in the process…) – they come back at you with sniping personal attacks that are dripping with misplaced self-righteousness, harsh judgment and anger. (peace n’ love, man).

Yes, it’s very upsetting when we find out the truth we believed in may be a lie; or that the path that we chose in good faith is actually leading us to perdition, but the mark of a healthy soul is that it can ultimately recognize its mistakes, and at least try to make Teshuva.

A few years’ back, me and my husband got caught up in a very spiritually-unhealthy ‘Breslev cult’ type organization, that came packaged with a big Rabbinic backer who we both really respected.

It took us three long years to figure out just how much damage our association with that ‘cult’ had done to us and other people. But once we realized our mistake, we did our best to rectify it. I apologized to a whole bunch of people who I may have inadvertently hurt, and I ate a lot of humble pie.

I made a mistake!

That happens sometimes, even when we have the best intentions.

So what I was expecting to hear from all these ‘orthodox’ yoja teachers was maybe some contrition, some concern that they’d been involved in such a negative spiritual practice, and some worry that they’d also been encouraging other orthodox Jews to do it, too.

In short, I was expecting a tiny bit of humility.

But that really hasn’t shown up in any way, shape or form, and in fact, I’ve been getting the opposite: sniping personal attacks, a complete avoidance of the real issues, misleading statements about people having rabbinic backers when they really don’t, and a bunch of such obviously bad middot that is frankly makes all the spiritual benefits being claimed for yoja a farce.

So I’m back to the question:

Are the ‘orthodox’ yoja people out there cognitively impaired in some way (which clearly would explain a lot…) OR, are they deliberately trying to mislead people?

If it’s the former, I have some theories about how that might have happened (which is definitely a post for another time.) If it’s the latter, then the whole thing suddenly takes on a much more sinister spiritual hue.

It’s like this: Jews for J may also be very nice, well-meaning people, but I still wouldn’t invite them for Shabbat or have anything much to do with them.

Why not?

The answer is obvious (or at least, I hope it’s obvious).

Yoshkianity, Hinduism and Buddhism are all alien religions, and complete poison to a Jewish soul. If someone wants to cling on to their asanas for dear life, it’s a free country and they’re allowed. But just as I wouldn’t want anything to do with an evangelical Jew for Yoshki, I also don’t want anything to do with an evangelical Jew for Yoja, either.

And for exactly the same reason.

Drone view of a city

A little while back, another email popped into my inbox, from someone who had been so traumatized and ‘burnt’ by their experiences with a false rabbi, that they’d decided to leave Yiddishkeit.

Ever since I wrote the ‘how to spot a false rabbi’ post for Rav Arush’s site, I’ve been getting emails like that, from other people who have been so betrayed and hurt by the ‘religious’ leaders they trusted that it’s plunged them into a huge crisis of faith.

Some of them manage to swim to the other side, and to pick up the pieces of their life within a Jewish orthodox framework again. But some, don’t.

Also a little while back, someone else told me about some really bad advice they’d got from another ‘religious’ influencer, this time an orthodox woman who’s pretty famous on the rent-a-rabbanit circuit.

For reasons of privacy, I won’t share all the juicy details, but let’s just say that the advice was SO bad it was almost fantastically unbelievable that someone could give it over with a straight face.

Now, I’m a big believer in people being able to think for themselves, and to decide for themselves and being able to develop their intuition and self-knowledge to a place where they can actually really trust themselves.

The key, if not the only way, to doing this is by regularly talking to God for an hour a day, aka the practice of hitbodedut, or personal prayer.

When you take that time to reflect on past events, how you reacted, how you felt, what you said, what you thought, what’s bothering you now – PLUS  you’re actually including God in the whole process, and asking Him to show you your own biases and blind spots and issues – then sooner or later, God will start showing you the right thing to do; God will start giving you some amazing advice, and God will clear away all the doubts and confusion that we’re all so filled with today, to shine a light on the correct path to follow.

So when I got the phone call from my confused and panicked colleague – who’d been bowled over by the breath-takingly bad advice they’d been given and had no idea what to do next – the first thing I asked them is:

What do YOU think about it?

Once they’d got over the shock of being allowed their own opinion, they could very quickly see for themselves that the advice they’d been given was 100% a crock, and that the person handing out the advice from that place of apparent wisdom and superiority was actually a complete phony.

Dear reader, Rebbe Nachman warned us that in the time before Moshiach, false leaders preaching falsehood would abound.

It takes a lot of self-work, and hitbodedut to be able to figure out who these false leaders actually are, especially as so many of them are wildly popular on the rent-a-rabbi-or-rebbetzin circuit, and public success brings its own patina of respectability and credibility along with it.

But here too, Rebbe Nachman gave us a clue as to how to proceed. In his Book of Traits (Sefer HaMiddot) Rabbenu tells us the following:

If you do not become attached to known liars, you will merit discerning who hypocrites are.

My perush on this: The more we strive after truth, and particularly, the truth about what we ourselves need to work on and fix, and the truth about how flawed we actually are, the easier it’ll be to spot the fakers in our midst, and to call a spade a spade.

Perush 2: It’s hard to think of a group of people that would be more worthy of the epithet ‘known liars’ than our modern media.

Ergo, stay away from your news feed and you’ll also start to figure out who the problematic people are, in our midst.

Rebbe Nachman also tells us:

There are those who are great apostates and heretics, but they do not reveal their heresy and people are not aware of the need to guard themselves from them. However, through conducting oneself modestly, one is saved from these heretics.

My perush: Modesty isn’t just about dressing in long skirts and covering our hair. There’s an inner dimension to modesty, which is where we try to avoid honor and publicity and ‘notoriety’ – which is the polar opposite from how the heretics act, even the externally very pious ones.

They’re all out there trying to make a name for themselves, and trying to influence the masses, and trying to be the ‘A’-list speakers and top advice givers in the country.

(To my shame, I think I’ve also been a little too caught up in this mindset in regards to trying to sell my books, and I’m seriously considering scaling everything back at the moment, and just letting God do as He sees fit.)

When we’re trying to be modest like that, then the crass people who are self-promoting (only for outreach purposes, natch); and having their faces plastered all over the place (only for the sake of Heaven, natch); and charging premium prices for people to attend their classes (only for the sake of Bank Mizrachi, natch) – those people and us, well, we just won’t mix.

We won’t like them, and they won’t like us, and via this mechanism, we’ll be saved from the false leaders, heretics and purveyors of bad advice with a first-class hechsher.

It’s such an upside-down world at the moment.

The people on the top are, for the most part, really big scumbags. The people on the bottom are, for the most part, the most decent, salt-of-the-earth people you could hope to find. (There’s always exceptions, of course, just to maintain free will and make it really hard to figure out what’s actually going on.)

But you know why that is, don’t you?

Because when Moshiach comes, the whole world is going to flip. God is going to rip the masks off all the false leaders out there, and He’s going to show us what’s really going on behind closed doors in a million different ways.

If you’ve been working on figuring out the truth for yourself, it will all come as a welcome relief to finally have everything so clearly laid out on the table. But if not? Let’s just say they’ll be working overtime in the cardiac arrest unit.

I haven’t been doing as much ‘Sefirat HaOmer’ stuff as I hoped on the blog this year, partially because it took a lot of effort to get ’49 Days’ out, before the Omer, and partially because I’ve had a heck of a lot of stuff going on since Rosh Chodesh Nissan.

But in this, the last week of counting the Omer, and heading into the last days, I have a story to share with you that sums up very nicely the power of today, ‘The spiritual dimension focusing on gratitude.’

As you may or may not know, my eldest started Ulpana (religious girls’ boarding school) last year, and really has been hating every minute.

The school she ended up in as miles away from civilization, surrounded by desert, and has a bus that gets to it precisely once a week from Jerusalem.

If she misses that bus (as does occasionally happen…) it’s a 5 hour round trip for me or my husband to drop her off.

But that’s not all: the school itself is well-meaning but SOOOO boring. There is no library, two extra-curricular classes (either pottery, or drama), no sports (they didn’t even have a sports teacher, the first two months) – and absolutely nothing to do to keep the girls occupied after classes are finished.

My daughter has been going slowly bonkers there for months, but decided to stick it out because she persuaded her best friend to go to that school too, and she felt super-guilty about leaving her in the lurch.

Then three months’ ago, Hashem did a miracle: The best friend flunked out of school, and her parents yanked her out and put in the local high school. With that problem resolved, my daughter was free to find another place.

Just one difficulty: every single school we applied to, that she was even remotely interested in, told us that they were full. By last week, with just two weeks’ to go, things were looking pretty desperate, and I had no idea where else to try.

Cue: the unexpected phone call from a new ulpana who mistakenly thought I’d tried to contact them. On the face of things, it didn’t sound so promising: The girls get up at 5.30am to go and work in the fields for a couple of hours before really starting the rest of their day.

Hmmmm.

My daughter is NOT a morning person. Still, the headmistress sounded so darned enthusiastic and plain nice, that I asked my daughter if she’d attend the open day, just to see. “Look, God arranged for them to phone me out of the blue,” I explained to her. “So maybe, this is the place!”

Silence.

But she agreed to go along to the open day that happened to be last Thursday. I risked a text mid-day, to ask her how it was going.

‘Good!’ came back the reply.

For the first time in months, I started to hope that maybe, just maybe, we’d found my daughter a school she could be happy in.

Long story short, my daughter came back glowing, so happy to have met girls on her wavelength, and willing to try crazy ideas like getting up at 5.30am to pick tomatoes…

The school accepted her formally this week, and for the first time in a year, I heard my daughter giggle again.

She hasn’t giggled for ages.

In the past, I’ve tried marathon prayer sessions to get things to move, school-wise , for my kids, and sometimes they’ve worked a treat. This time round, I didn’t have the energy to do that. But God showed me that He still cares, He was still looking out for my daughter, and He loves us anyway.

Even without a six hour hitbodedut, God still pulled the right string, to get my daughter into the right school, at the right time.

But if I want her to get up at 5.30am in the morning, something tells me that a bit more praying may still be in order.

😉

> You can buy 49 Days: An Interactive Journal of Self-development on Amazon and on the Book Depository

If there is one thing that I’m eternally grateful to last week’s ‘alternative health’ experience for, it’s for re-igniting my passion for Yiddishkeit.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that the last couple of years have been pretty challenging for me. Things are much better now, thank God, but last year I hit such a low place that my faith got shaken to its core.

It wasn’t just the loneliness, business failure, lack of money and self-serving religious ‘advisors’. The hardest thing of all is that I’d followed God into the wilderness, and then when things got really rough and I needed Him the most, He hid Himself from me.

Of course really, God was still guiding and supporting me all the way through, because otherwise there is simply no way that me and my family could have made it through what we experienced, and come out the other side with our health, sanity and relationships intact.

But here and there, the doubts have still lingered, and I have found myself sometimes struggling to do mitzvahs, especially the ones that I find very difficult and that don’t give me much of a happy feeling, like making challah, for example.

So last week, God gave me a huge present:

He showed me that while the orthodox Jewish world is still very flawed, and that there really is still a lot of work to do, compared to the non-orthodox and non-Jewish world, it’s still doing pretty well.

Let’s just take the issue of tznius (modesty). Tznius has been a tough subject for me, because I’ve seen how my kids (and myself…) have reacted against tznius, when it’s been given over by flawed people who have an unfortunate gift for making people feel wrong, guilty and bad about themselves. I’d love to tell you that those people are few and far between, but my experience has been that a certain type of individual – often a very competitive, superior and judgmental sort of person – just LOOOOOVES the power trip they get out of making other people’s external standards of tznius a big deal.

Time and time again, I’ve found myself caught on the horns of a furious dilemma with tznius, because I truly believe that tznius dress, behavior and attitudes are very important to Hashem.

But at the same time, I hate all the judgment, snobbery and disgusting blame and shame tactics that seem to be tied to it, especially when it comes to our children.

But last week, my ambivalence about tznius evaporated, as I saw how holy people truly are when they dress appropriately, and don’t try to draw attention to themselves with loud behavior and in-your-face antics, and do their best to keep away from members of the opposite sex.

Something else I fell back in love with: saying blessings.

Blessings on my food, blessings after going to the bathroom, blessings when I wake up in the morning, to thank God for the simple gift of just being alive. I’m so used to being around people who say blessings, that I was shocked to be around people who just shoveled their food straight down their throats without a second’s pause to thank their Creator, or who droned on and on about how much additional energy you get from raw food without once mentioning the tremendous additional spiritual nourishment you unleash from your food when you say a blessing over it.

I could go on and on with examples, but another big reason I fell back in love with Yiddishkeit last week is because I saw the futility and the arrogance of people who live their lives without God in the picture.

So many healers and therapists were queuing up, promising all sorts of benefits and cures, when it was clear that so many of them remained troubled in body, mind and spirit themselves.

To be blunt, a lot of the people I met were completely off their rocker; a lot of them were so obsessed with finding the latest ‘cure’ for their illnesses or difficulties that they had no space for social niceties or generosity of spirit; and a lot of them were so obviously lost in the world that it stretched credulity to the limit when they claimed to have found ‘the truth’.

To be blunt again, the nicest people I met last week were the ones who genuinely believed in God, however ‘religious’ they may have externally appeared to be, and who acknowledged 100% that they were just a tool in the Creator’s hand.

In my darkest days last year, I sometimes thought how my life could have been better or different, if I hadn’t tried so hard to chase after God.

You know, I’d have stayed in my soul-destroying job, treating my kids and husband like rubbish, because that would have given me far more status, external success and money. Or, I’d have yanked my husband out of yeshiva when our finances hit the skids, and forced him to get a ‘real’ job before we ended up having to sell our house just to be able to buy the groceries. Or, I’d have stopped taking the lid off all those unpleasant character traits, and bad habits and horrible beliefs I had, which forced me to look at some very unpleasant things about myself, and to actually try to change them.

Last week showed me that tough as those decisions were, and hard as the fall-out has been, particularly in terms of my finances and social status, they have brought me far more blessings than I ever realized.

No, I’m not free to hike on Friday nights, or to attend ‘spiritual’ events with members of the opposite sex, or to do whatever I think makes me ‘feel good’, even if it means trampling some of God’s laws in the process.

But you know what? I’m happy.

And if you’re a Jew, you’re only going to find true happiness and fulfilment by living an authentically Jewish life, that has God firmly in the picture.

God is actually very simple.

He runs His world with the utmost simplicity and clarity, just we human beings like to get in the middle of things, and make them a whole lot more complicated and messy than they need to be.

For example, humanity came up with the idea that things can be ‘neutral’, i.e., neither good, nor bad, just kind of something in the middle.

Really?

That’s hogwash. There is nothing ‘neutral’ in the whole world, because if you really take things back to the most basic level, something is either ‘good’ or it’s ‘bad’, and there is nothing in between.

So now, we hit the next level of confusion and muddled-thinking: How can we know what’s truly ‘good’ and what’s truly ‘bad’, anyway? In today’s world, where moral relativism rules and the politically-correct Powers That Be keep changing the goal posts, how are we meant to be able to define ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in any meaningful way?

But God, in His infinite wisdom, even has a very simple, never-fail answer for that, too:

When something brings you closer to God, then it’s GOOD.

When something takes you further away from God, then it’s BAD.

And nowhere does this hold most true than in the realm of human health.

If walking five miles a day brings you closer to God, and is really helping you to get in touch with that spark of the Divine inside of you, aka your soul, then it’s a great thing. But if it’s doing the opposite – then it’s not.

If eating the sprouted bread is bringing you closer to God, and giving you the energy you need to fulfill your Divinely-ordained mission in the world, and to be nicer to people (including yourself) then it’s wonderful. But if your strict diet is isolating you, or stopping you from doing things that would fill you up with joy and gratitude, or causing you to adopt a judgmental, superior, or critical attitude towards your fellow human beings (or yourself) – then it’s really NOT good for you.

And so on, and so forth.

This measure of true goodness is so flexible that you can apply it to absolutely everything, from relationships, to beliefs, to habits, or even, to bars of chocolate.

Because sometimes, even eating a bar of chocolate for lunch can be a ‘good’, holy thing.

The famous Jewish mystic Rebbe Nachman of Breslev taught that if we don’t consciously make the effort to attach our breath, and our thoughts to ‘good’ and to God, then we automatically become attached to the opposite.

The opposite of God is NOT neutral, although so many of us believe that such a thing exists, especially in the spiritual world.

The opposite of God is ‘bad’.

It’s evil; it’s hatred; it’s jealousy, and arrogance, and intolerance, and greed, and selfishness, and superficiality – and all those other horrible things that are making our world a difficult place to live in.

I know, that’s not at all ‘PC’, is it? Most of us don’t like to hear that the world is full of these things, even though we see human misery and suffering all around us.

So to sum up, every time we connect ourselves to God in some way, we are connecting to good, and hopefully bringing more of that good, and love and kindness into the world.

And every time we don’t, and we pretend that we don’t need to connect to the Creator, then we automatically connect ourselves to the opposite of God.

And that explains a lot about why the world currently looks the way it does, doesn’t it?

Now that all the hooha about yoja has dimmed down a little, I think it’s time to look at another disturbing ‘pseudo-spiritual’ practice.

In the alternative health world, there are three main sacred cows, as follows:

  • Yoga
  • Healthy food
  • Meditation

The basic idea is that if you do all three of these things, your life will be perfect, your will float through all your troubles like a serene fairy, and you will only enjoy complete health and happiness.

Of the three, healthy food is by far the least troubling, although it’s true that everything can be taken to an extreme when God somehow gets forgotten about.

And we’ve already gone a long way to exposing the flawed thinking (and bona fide idol worship) behind yoga – and God willing, I hope to put together a special report on why yoga is NOT for believing Jews very soon, that you can download and share around.

So that leaves us with meditation.

Now, what could possibly be wrong with meditation, you ask? Isn’t meditation just the same sort of idea as the Breslev practice of hitbodedut, or personal prayer? The short answer is: no, no, and absolutely not.

Here’s why: the goal of meditation, even so-called ‘Jewish’ meditation, is to empty your mind of all thoughts, and concentrate on your breathing, and on experiencing your ‘nothingness’. God is completely out of the picture. (More on this shortly.)

At the holistic health event, I actually went to a couple of what was billed as ‘Jewish’ meditation classes, to get a feel for what really goes on with it all, and how it compares to hitbodedut.

In one class, that had bells, and Tibetan glass bowls, and few other props (plus very strict instructions to turn all mobile phones completely off) – I spent a whole hour being told I was a drop merged in the huge Kinneret, separate but part of something much bigger. There was also a lot of talk of being merged in the ‘velvet blackness’ that exists somewhere beyond the world. Just as I started to get really uncomfortable, Hashem finally made an appearance – we were to imagine the four letters of God’s ineffable name, etc.

At the end of that class, I went over to the teacher and asked him straight out:

How does this sort of meditation help you to fix your bad middot, or negative character traits? I mean, really cool that I got to relax a little and be a raindrop in the Kinneret, but if that’s all I spent a whole hour doing every day, then what on earth was the point?

I asked the teacher (who in fairness, did seem a whole lot more sincere than a lot of the other people there) to tell me how this type of meditation had helped him to become a nicer person, or get closer to God – because when people can only tell you those types of things if they’ve actually experienced them.

He replied by telling me that I should picture Hashem’s ineffable four letter name, and picture it washing away all my bad middot. It sounds good in theory, but in practice it’s baloney. In order for us to change our negative character traits and really improve ourselves, we have to change how we treat people in the real world. We have to apologise. We have to acknowledge our bad behavior. Sometimes, we have to make some difficult choices that are going to completely shake up our lives, make us look bad, or cause us some serious discomfort.

All of that was missing in the whole ‘raindrop’ meditation thing.

I will come on to other problems with it in the next post, but I just wanted to mention the other ‘Jewish meditation’ I went to. This one was taught by a very nice, sincere rabbi who’d spent years studying the teachings of Rav Aryeh Kaplan.

Again, we had to focus on our breathing, or on the birds, and not think about anything else. Then, we had to walk around the room super-slowly, and concentrate on how our feet were lifting up and being set back down again, super-slowly.

While this was miles better than the other version, not least because the Rabbi actually talked directly about God, and about connecting to God, and even had a ‘Shema meditation’ to share with us, I still had a problem with it:

How does focusing on my breathing, or the birds, or my walking, help me to fix my bad middot? How does it help me to get the advice I need to move forward in life, or to figure out all the knotty issues and problems in my life, or to be nicer to my husband and kids?

I asked the Rabbi, and he responded along the lines that when you realize that God is behind everything, then you can’t get angry at people any more.

Again, it’s a miles-better approach than the first guy, but practically speaking? I still don’t think it’s a very practical idea. I’ve spent years working on my bad middot, and things are really not that straight-forward, easy or simple.

By contrast, Rav Arush teaches that you have to spend a full half an hour every single day, asking God to nullify a single bad character trait, or negative habit – and even then, it can still take years before it’s fully gone, particularly if it’s one of your ‘big’ issues. There’s layers and layers and layers to this stuff, which is why our Rabbis taught that it’s easier to learn the whole Shas then to change even one character trait.

And here, I was being told that listening to birds and watching myself walk slowly was going to do the trick….

Who was right?

Was I just being judgmental, or was there some other, deeper, reason for how uneasy and uncomfortable I was feeling about the whole subject? I came home, cracked open Rebbe Nachman’s Likutey Moharan – and the answer was staring me straight in the face. I’ll share it with you in the next post, God willing.

Recently, I experienced something that distu disturbing things I’ve ever experienced was a group ‘spiritual healing’ session that was facilitated by an apparently ‘frum’ person.

I thought I was going to a demo of psychodrama, which is where a traumatized person asks different people to pretend to be their mum and dad, and then re-enacts certain scenarios with these ‘stand-ins’ where they get to speak up, run away, have a voice etc, often for the first time in their lives.

Bessel Van Der Kolk writes about how useful psychodrama can be for adult trauma victims who experienced very painful childhoods, so I wanted to go and hear about this approach first-hand.

That’s what I thought I was going to.

What I actually went to was something way different, and I want to share my experience with you, as I think it sums up how confusing, cloudy and even sinister things can be in the Jewish alternative health world.

I got there a couple of minutes late, when the ‘volunteer’ had already been picked, and people were sitting down in a circle, waiting for the action to begin. The facilitator asked the volunteer to pick stand-ins, who would represent different family members, and to arrange them in the middle of the circle. So far so good.

Then, the facilitator asked each of the ‘actors’ in turn about how they felt about one another, and of course, they all really loved each other, and everything was just fine and dandy.

In fact, things were so fine and dandy that it started to seem a bit pointless to me – I mean, a group of amateur actors aren’t exactly going to start revealing where all the family’s skeletons are buried, a) because they don’t actually know and b) because we all like a happy ending.

But then, as more people were picked to represent different, additional family members, something very weird started to happen.

One of the actors suddenly started to sob uncontrollably. Another one – a beautiful young girl – underwent a character transformation, that took her from being her sweet, innocent, optimistic self to a very cold, bitter and angry older woman.

It could be there were other things happening too, but because the change in the younger woman was so dramatic, I couldn’t take my eyes off her.

Long story short, the original volunteer, who’s family life history was now playing out in full colour in front of about 25 other people, was asked to join the tableau, and to start having conversations with all her ‘ancestors’.

It was clearly a very emotionally-charged event and tears were flowing freely.

But here’s the thing: As I was sitting there watching all this, I suddenly started picking up some very strong ‘feelings’ about the personalities of the ‘characters’ in front of me – and that’s when I started to freak out, because while I’m very good at reading people’s characters when they’re enclothed in a physical body and actually talking to me, I’ve never being able to read the character of some person who died a few decades’ ago, and who I’ve never met.

Afterwards, I was told that at least one of the participants also couldn’t describe what had just occurred, and said that the words she found herself saying were not really coming from her.

There were some powerful, powerful spiritual forces being unleashed in that room – and here’s where things get serious, because IF those powerful spiritual forces are mandated and accepted by orthodox Judaism, well, OK then.

But if they aren’t – then they weren’t coming from a good place. Now, I came late. It could be a prayer was said before I got there, or God was somehow involved by the facilitator in a way that wasn’t at all clear to me, I don’t know. But God wasn’t mentioned at all the whole time I was watching this, not even at the end when the facilitator told the volunteer that she’d just ‘fixed’ all her ancestral hurt and issues.

Really?

Really, you can have a group of people act like your long-dead family, and that ‘fixes’ the problem, spiritually?

Is that a Jewish idea? What about free choice? What about the idea that spiritual tikunnim actually require a lot of effort, a lot of change, and some truly difficult inner work?

I’m not ‘anti’ spiritual short-cuts if they’re coming from a good place, and they work. But this demonstration bothered me on a number of levels. As someone who’s worked very hard on trying to fix a whole bunch of stuff, I know how hard big tikunim can be sometimes – literally, you can spend years working on things and see very little movement.

So the apparent ‘ease’ of the process was problematic to me, as God very rarely works that way. The ‘other-world’ aspects of this process were also very disturbing to me, as I felt on many levels that in some way, the participants were being ‘possessed’ by spiritual forces that were external to them, and I just can’t see how that can be good, or kosher.

I felt terrible for the poor volunteer.

For all the facilitator was congratulating her on ‘fixing’ all her past and family issues, and telling her how wonderful she was going to feel now, if it was me who’d walked right into that very public display of my family’s dirty washing – in front of so many different people – that would be enough to give me a serious case of trauma, all by itself.

And lastly, I felt really bad about the actors. I mean, no-one asked them, or warned them, that they might have some sort of disembodied spirit taking them over for an hour. These things are serious, spiritually-speaking, and we can’t just mess around with them at a whim, or deal with them superficially, or follow the mores of different religions or different ‘experts’ as to what’s really going on and what long-term damage it might do – because they don’t know!

I came out of that ‘healing experience’ extremely confused and disturbed. I came home, told my daughter what I’d just seen, and she involuntarily shuddered and said:

‘Uggh, that sounds a bit like avoda zara to me,’ holy soul that she is.

After thinking about it a lot, and praying about it, and asking God for some clarity and guidance, I think she’s right.

Yes, Western medicine is corrupt, and drugs and surgery literally kill as much as they cure. Yes, a lot of the more alternative, natural treatments are much closer to the Torah ideal of how we should treat mental and physical illness – but not all of them.

As the alternative movement gathers steam in the world generally, and in the Jewish world more specifically, all of us need to really be on guard to check, double-check and check again that the treatments and therapies we’re engaging in really ARE kosher.

Just because someone looks frum, doesn’t mean things are being done in a genuinely frum way.

There’s a huge amount of clarification that’s required, as we inch forward into this more spiritual way of being before Moshiach. So don’t be scared to ask hard questions, to insist on being shown how God is being included in things, and which rabbis have mandated the approach or practices you’re being offered, and lastly, don’t be scared to stand up and walk away, if you have to.

That’s not always easy, but when you’re dealing with matters where the stakes are just so high, sometimes you simply have no other choice.

UPDATE:

Two years later, I happened to bump into the ‘volunteer’ by the grave of Rabbi Meir Baal HaNess In Tiveria. I asked her if she thought the ‘family constellation’ experience had helped her at all, to resolve the issues she’d been experienced. She replied that it hadn’t changed a thing. So, caveat emptor.

Last Thursday was Israel’s Independence Day, or Yom Ha-Atzmaut, and it’s always an interesting day in my household.

We don’t really fit the mold, religiously or communally, in myriad ways, and Yom Ha-Atzmaut always seems to underline that with a vengeance, because there are so many different decisions to make, like:

  • Do I hang a massive big flag outside the front of my house, like one of my kids wants me too? (even though we’re in a very chareidi neighborhood in Jerusalem that really doesn’t like that stuff so much?)
  • Do I stick an Israeli flag on my car, like another one of my kids really wants me too? (even though I’m worrying someone might deface it and / or try to vandalize my vehicle?)
  • Do I let my kids listen to music, even though it’s smack in the middle of the Omer, where you’re not meant to listen to music until you’ve got up to L’ag B’Omer, on the 33rd day?
  • Do I let myself listen to music, even though I’m not really 100% convinced that this is completely a chag the way the more hard-core dati leumi crowd (like my kids…) thinks it is?
  • Does my husband say Hallel? Does he say takanun?
  • Do we do the BBQ / Mangal thing (like 99% of Israel…) or pretend it’s just a regular day (like Meah Shearim, many former Gush Katif people, and my husband’s yeshiva?)

Questions, questions.

This year, I said: ‘OK! We can do the flag on the car!’

It seemed like a reasonable compromise between the various camps in my home. And we also decided to do a BBQ with my husband’s learning partner from yeshiva and his family, so at least they could talk Torah while we cooked the hotdogs.

Just, the flag thing wasn’t as simple as I thought. My daughter stuck the flag on, when we went to school. But the next morning, found it on the backseat, because my husband took it off when he went to daven in Meah Shearim (worried that someone would vandalize such an obviously Zionist car).

So, she stuck it back on – and he took it off – every day for a week, and sometimes, it happened multiple times, depending on where we were going and who was driving the car.

Finally, the day before Yom HaAtzmaut itself – someone DID vandalize the car, right next to where we lived, and snapped the flag off, leaving only a small, plastic stump to celebrate the holiday.

Over lunch, we discussed a little bit the whole ‘is it really a holiday’ thing.

Personally, my views on the subject seem to change every year, but this year I found myself in a place of quiet gratitude to God that there is an Israel to live in, however flawed, secular and difficult things still can be here, but still thinking that there’s a lot of work to do before we can really celebrate making it ‘back’, in the fullest sense of the word.

The day before the chag, a terrorist stabbed two old ladies in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Arnona, so like Rav Arush says, we can’t even celebrate walking safely in our streets just yet, let alone ‘redemption’ in the true spiritual meaning of the word.

Maybe next year, things will change enough to make it easier to know what to do with the flags, and the music, and the BBQ. I mean, if Moshiach and the Temple is here, then it’s a no-brainer that we’ll nip down to the altar for a wicked lamb shwarma, and then catch the sold-out concert by the Levyim in the Sultan’s Pool, as the fireworks go off over the new Jewish neighborhood of Silwan.

A girl can dream, can’t she?