It’s not easy to give.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Their own middot suck.

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

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

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

Well, let’s just say it’s unpleasant.

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

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

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

It’s only helping us.

And we all need all the help we can get.

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

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UPDATE, FRIDAY 20TH DECEMBER, 2019:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Kat Yukawa on Unsplash.

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Over Shabbat, I dusted off some of my journals from the last few years, and I had a quick leaf through.

What struck me – almost instantly – is how much better my life has got since I found out about Rabbi Eliezer Berland, and took that leap of faith to pay that first pidyon over to him, when he was still in South Africa.

I wrote about that HERE, but long story short, by the time I’d got to Rav Berland and Shuvu Banim, I was totally exhausted and miserable from trying to live a life filled with what I’d like to call ‘ugly’ emuna.

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Ugly emuna works like this:

You deeply internalize that God is doing everything, that everything is for the best, and that there is no “suffering without sin”. You try to find the message in everything, and as your fear of being punished for sinning grows – because let’s face it, we’re all full of sins 24/7, even when we’re doing our very best to act and dress and speak appropriately – you live in fear of the bolt of lightning striking at any second, because no-one is perfect.

Then, you get caught up in what I call the ‘unwinnable game’.

This is where you know that ‘spiritual perfection’ requires that you never speak badly of anyone; and judge everyone favorably; and never lose your temper; that you should wear bullet-proof tights and only dark clothes; that you should spend hours reciting the shemoneh esrei, and only live in Jerusalem, and only ever say ‘thank you’ for everything that happens, however hard and horrible it feels, and only have emuna 24/7.

And you just can’t do it.

You try, you really try, but you just can’t do that, or at least not all the time, not consistently.

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And that’s when the emuna you’re trying to have can turn pretty ugly.

Because you’re sitting there, waiting for the lightning bolt to strike, because that’s what you’re being taught, that everything that’s going ‘wrong’ in your life is because you don’t have enough emuna, or because you’re not praying enough, or not ‘properly’, or because of all the terrible sins you’re doing….

And on some level, this is all true.

That’s why it’s so devastating.

And then, life gets pretty hard and miserable and horrible, because all these yucky things keep happening to you, and no-one is talking about tikkunim that you have to go through from previous lives, that just have to happen regardless of how much teshuva you make in this lifetime (more on this in a mo….)

And no-one is talking about things like ‘inherited stress’, where so many of your bad middot and deepest emotional issues have actually been passed down the chain from your grandparents, and great-grandparents, exactly as described in the Torah, in Ki Tetzae.

And no-one is explaining that only coming closer to the generation’s True Tzaddik, and doing pidyonot with the True Tzaddik, and following the True Tzaddik’s advice, and praying in the True Tzaddik’s minyan is the only way you can really get all that stuff ‘sweetened’ and cleaned up without having to go through a lot of terrible suffering.

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So then, even though your ‘authentic’ self occasionally just has an overwhelming need to do something ‘bad’, like listening to Sweet Child O Mine, or to watch some Superman clips on Youtube, or to dress like yourself, instead of ‘perfect Meah Shearim’, you don’t do that because you’re so worried about getting immediately punished by the lightning bolt.

There is no suffering without prior sin.

And let’s not even talk about the awful pressure you pile on your kids to be perfect!!!!

Because if they aren’t perfect, you live in fear of what terrible judgments they could bring down on their heads, God forbid – and on yours, too.

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And then, you start to hate every single moment of your life, because you can’t really live it as ‘you’, and instead you’re trying to maintain a façade of perfect, emuna-dik ‘perfection’.

When there is such a profound disconnect between who God created you to be, and who you’re pretending to be, that can effect your mental and physical health in a whole bunch of very negative ways.

In my case, I had at various times debilitating exhaustion, chronic and severe aches and pains in every part of my body, stomachaches, headaches, eye aches, skin issues – clearly, I’m not even telling you all the gory details. Suffice to say, trying to live that life of ugly emuna was making me miserable, ill – and also horribly judgmental and jealous of those people who weren’t stuck trying to win the unwinnable game.

In that way, ugly emuna was like growth serum for all of my worst bad middot.

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It made me callous and even pleased when other people hit a tough patch, because then I felt it wasn’t just me who was suffering so much. It made me jealous of all those people who weren’t dressing so tznius, or praying so much, and who still had nice homes, and nice incomes and bigger families and better health and much better prospects than me.

What’s going on here, Hashem???? Where’s the justice??? Why haven’t they been struck by a lightning bolt yet????

As this continued on, I got more and more miserable, judgmental, harshly critical, bitter and arrogant, until absolutely no-one wanted to hang out with me and even my siblings started avoiding my phone calls.

And honestly, who could blame them?

And then, the judgments start piling up thick and fast, because Hashem prizes peace between people so very highly, and He can’t stand it when you keep preaching your arrogant emuna screeds at everyone, and having so little compassion for their suffering, and judging everyone so very harshly, because clearly they deserve all their suffering!!!! Look at the way they dress!!!!

Sigh.

This is ugly emuna.

And man, it nearly totally ruined my life.

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I literally got to the stage, which lasted for about two years, where I actually didn’t want to be alive any more, if this is how I’d have to keep living.

Stuck in the unwinnable game, where apparently the only way I could keep Hashem happy was to become a ‘fake pious’ version of myself that was totally disconnected from the person that God really created me to be.

I’m a bridge between worlds, a connection between Rabbi Nachman and Axel Rose.

And for as long as I wasn’t doing that job in the world, and not being the real me God created me to be, I was miserable, physically ill, and so very lonely.

But what could I do???? If I left that path of ugly emuna, I was so very scared that the lightning bolt was going to immediately crash through the roof. That’s why I kept it going for so long. I was petrified of what was going to happen, if I quit.

Thank God a million times, Hashem had mercy on me.

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One day, my husband brought back a Knishta Chadar – a copy of the Shuvu Banim newsletter that contained a mixture of Rabbi Berland’s Torah, plus updates about his latest movements and miracle stories – and I was blown away.

Wow! There’s a tzaddik of this caliber in our generation?! I had no idea!!

I read 2, 3, 4 Knishta Chadars, and then I decided we should try to ask the Rav a question about what we needed to do, to get our lives out of ugly emuna mode, and into a healthier, happier place. The answer came back: my husband should start learning in Shuvu Banim.

So he did.

And we never looked back.

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The change was instantaneous.

All of a sudden, we started to hear shiurim about how sticking close to the True Tzaddik can sweeten all the terrible tikkunim a person is fated to go through because they were slaughtering their children to Moloch 3,000 years ago, and a huge weight rolled off of me.

The more me and my husband started to drink from Rav Berland’s wellsprings of Torah and emuna, the happier we started to feel again. The more I started to internalize that God really loves me – and everyone else – and that He’s constantly looking for ways to justify me, and to judge me favorably.

The more I started to understand that as long as I keep doing my hitbodedut, and keep working on my bad middot, and keep trying to see the good in other people, instead of judging myself and everyone so harshly, and pretending to be what I really was not, the better my life would become.

Within a few months, my health improved tremendously, I got my joie de vivre back, and my relationship with my kids – which had basically gone totally off a cliff when I was stuck in ugly emuna mode, which demanded unattainable perfection from them, too – made a 180 degree turnaround for the better.

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In a nutshell, I started to enjoy living my life again.

because now, I was living it as me, and trusting that the True Tzaddik was shielding me from the harsh judgments I’m still inevitably building up all the time, because I’m not perfect.

Sure, I have to still try to catch my bad deeds, and my bad actions, and to try to improve and take responsibility for them. But because the pressure is off and the awful, ugly emuna-induced fear has gone, I’m also finding that part of the process way easier, too.

Now that I’m so much happier myself, my jealousy has receded a million percent. Now that I’m doing a better job of judging myself with a good eye, I’m finding it way easier to judge other people favorably, too. And now that I’m enjoying my life again, I’m finding it so much easier to thank God – sincerely! – for so many of my blessings.

It’s not perfect, I’m not perfect. I’m a work in progress and still very flawed.

But learning that ‘4th rule of emuna’ changed everything around for me and my family, and turned the ugly emuna that was actually really just killing me, into something beautiful, and life-affirming and humbling.

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So what is the 4th rule of emuna?

I would sum it up like this. The 4th rule of emuna is:

That there is a True Tzaddik in the world that we need to discover, and to stick close to, if we want to be able to avoid the terrible suffering that we would otherwise have to go through, because of tikkunim from our past lives.

That means following his advice, attending his minyan, learning his teachings, and humbling ourselves to be part of his community and his sphere of influence.

True, sometimes that’s hard.

But ugly emuna thrives wherever there is arrogance, harsh judgment and hypocrisy, and all of those things wither pretty fast when you’re at Shuvu Banim.

You get kids running you over with strollers, people smacking you in the face (accidentally…) with their bags, you stand up for hours during the prayers because there are no chairs. And when you tell people who your Rav is, that doesn’t always go down so well. It can be very humbling, very challenging, in a few different ways.

And sometimes, there are other tests designed to take you down a peg or two, like buying a house you can’t get a mortgage on, or starting a business (or three…) that goes no-where.

But all of these things are temporary issues, temporary challenges, just to scrub more of your arrogance out of the system, and to shine a spotlight on more of the bad middot you still didn’t work on, and to help you to understand that there is no perfection. And that’s ok.

God already knows that about you.

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So, I read my notebooks today, and I was so very grateful that God had mercy on me, and let me get closer to Rabbi Berland, the True Tzaddik of the generation, so my ugly emuna could transform into something much more beautiful and life-affirming.

And that can happen for you, too.

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Photo by Jordan Whitfield on Unsplash

If there’s one thing you can learn from the Gemara, it’s how to discuss things like a mensch.

Let me start off by saying I know a volcano exploded in New Zealand with a lot of casualties a few days’ ago. Most people don’t know this, but the city of Auckland – New Zealand’s capital city – is built on a massive, active volcanic field.

That this hasn’t happened before is really just miraculous – and as we covered a while back in THIS post about the Grand Solar Minimum that started last year, the earthquakes and the volcanic explosions are due for a massive uptick all over the world in the next two decades – unless something ‘supernatural’ happens to sweeten them all.

I also know there was a terror attack in Jersey City, and that American anti-semitism also seems to be coming to a boil. At the end of this post, you’ll find a bunch of articles related to that topic, if you’d like to revisit them.

So, I’m not ignoring these things, just they aren’t my priority at the moment.

My priority is trying to figure out some more of the things that are keeping us all stuck, miserable and away from Hashem, because as soon as more of us break out of our inner galut, the outer galut – together with all its terrible issues and suffering – will get fixed, too.

Because the main – and actually only – thing keeping us in galut, and keeping all this suffering spinning around, is that we’re whitewashing and justifying our own bad middot, instead of trying to work on them.

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‘My rabbi is better than yours’

So, with that intro, I thought I’d take a look at what I’m going to call ‘my rabbi is better than your rabbi’ syndrome, which is basically more of that ‘partisan politics’ that’s poisoning the whole world, just it’s dressed up in pious clothing.

One of the reasons that I loved Breslov so much, when I finally stumbled across it, was because Breslov puts a big emphasis on respecting other Rebbes, and other orthodox Jewish paths, even when they don’t always agree with the Breslov shita.

After years of one-dimensional Torah from people who only ever seemed to quote the same small handful of sources, the same small group of commentators, the same small group of rabbis that they found ‘acceptable’, I got to Breslov, and it was like the whole panoply of the Torah was restored to the discussion.

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Breslov rabbis were as happy to quote the Vilna Gaon and Rav Shach as they were the Baal Shem Tov and Rebbe Nachman.

Whoever had a good piece of Torah to teach, a good lesson to share, that commentator would be quoted and referenced, regardless of whether they were Sephardi, Ashkenazi, Litvak, Chassid, pro-zionist, anti-zionist – it didn’t matter! This was so refreshing to me, not least because I’ve learned that any system of ideas, or approach that has to be ‘green-housed’ to survive is just not very robust.

If an idea or approach can only thrive if it’s surrounded by an unquestioning echo-chamber that’s stuffed full of sycophants and yes-men, that’s extremely problematic – and it’s also extremely un-Jewish.

Because the Jewish way is NOT just to accept things in an unquestioning way, especially not big ideas about what God really wants from us. The Jewish way is to argue all over these subjects, and to really ‘wrestle with the truth’, because only in that way will our own biases and blind-spots get some light shone onto them.

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God is way, way bigger than any human being can grasp.

God’s Torah is the blueprint for creation, it stands to reason that even the greatest of us is going to grasp only a part of what’s really going on.

That’s why there is such an emphasis put on Jewish unity, because it’s only once you’ve got the opinion of the 599,999 other Jews around the table that you’re going to be able to start even approaching the real truth, the real wisdom contained in the Torah.

The Sages in the Gemara recognized this, and that’s why you find so very many debates between the different rabbis who are discussing these profoundly deep ideas, and trying to tease out what the truth really might be.

The Talmud is literally full of thousands upon thousands of arguments.

And some of those discussions are really not politically correct at all. It is one rabbi explaining to another rabbi why they think they are wrong, and some of the wording is often quite harif.

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For example, I just opened up the tractate of Gemara that happened to by lying on my coffee table, and got to this discussion in Shabbat 89a:

“One of the rabbis asked Rav Kahana: Have you ever heard what the meaning is of the name Mount Sinai?”

Rav Kahana tries to answer the question a couple of times, but the Rabbi he’s talking to is not impressed with his responses, and tells him:

“He told [Rav Kahana]: Why did you not frequent Rav Pappa and Rav Huna the son of Rav Yehoshua, who delve into Aggadah? If you had, you would know the answer to my question!”

Gosh, how embarrassing for Rav Kahana, that he’s being publically exposed for not knowing everything in a forum that is going to be pored-over and learnt by millions of Jews over the next 2,000 years!

And he’s in good company, because also in Shabbat 89a, you find a whole discussion about Moshe Rabbenu – the biggest prophet the Jewish people ever had – who is also getting some mild censure from no-less than Hashem:

“The Holy One, Blessed is He, said to Moses: “Moses, are you a fibber? Of course I gave the Torah to you!”

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I’m bringing these sources from the Gemara to show that our Sages were never ‘above’ being questioned or challenged.

These arguments weave themselves throughout the whole Gemara, and lest you think that the only people who were allowed to challenge the Sages’ teachings were other Sages, the Gemara clearly shows that non-Jews –like the Sages of Athens, the daughter of Caesar – also argued with them, and were answered.

Even people from secular, criminal backgrounds, like Resh Lakish, the former robber-chief-turned-Gemara Sage were permitted and encouraged to challenge the teachings of their rabbis, in order to tease out the real truth.

It’s recorded in Bava Metzia 84 that Resh Lakish would challenge his teacher, Rabbi Yochanan, 24 times on every point he made, until the matter was properly clarified. That’s why Rabbi Yochanan was so upset when Resh Lakish died, because being challenged about what you’re teaching is how you really get to the truth.

And as the truth is the seal of Hashem, engaging in these arguments is also how we get closer to God, and closer to understanding what God really wants from us.

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Before we continue, let’s make a very important point:

While the Gemara totally encourages challenging the teachings of the Rabbis, it in no way encourages or condones personal insults, or approaching any of the Sages with anything less than total respect.

Sometimes, that can be a very fine line, and it has to be walked very carefully, and with a great deal of siyatta di shmeya. But, the Gemara makes it abundantly clear that you can respectfully disagree with a teaching, with a viewpoint, without that being a personal attack on the person whose view you are challenging.

Which brings me to the crux of this post.

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The last few days, my husband and I have been having a back and forth with someone who read my post ‘The Emuna Reboot’, and got highly offended but what they felt was ‘lashon hara’. I’ve tweaked the article to remove the thing that was ‘offending’ them, but the whole discussion kind of sharpened up for me that there were many things about that old-school ‘emuna approach’ that really don’t seem to be correct.

And just like the Sages of the Gemara took issue with each other’s teachings (‘l’havdil….), this whole ‘discussion’ has also made it obvious to me that debating and questioning ideas and teachings  about what ’emuna’ actually is, and how we truly acquire it, is actually the Jewish way.

It’s what God really wants from us.

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Sadly, we live in a period of time where flying monkeys are shaping the parameters of debate, and where any time you come close to discussing a Torah idea or teaching, they try to shut you down by loudly screeching lashon hara!!!!

But let me ask you this: If even a Tzaddik of the caliber of Moshe Rabbenu had to defend his teachings (so to speak) in the Talmud, why should any of the enormous tzaddikim of subsequent generations be exempt from having their teachings scrutinized and clarified?

This isn’t about partisan politics, or about ‘my rebbe is bigger than your rebbe’ – or at least, it shouldn’t be.

God forbid, we should utter a word of personal attack against any individual, let alone a Jewish leader, God forbid a million times over. But, to not be able to challenge a teaching?

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That’s what I’d like to see more of. Much less posturing, and much less arrogant MY chassidut / Jewish group / Rabbi / approach is the only one way of doing things!!!!

And much more hey, I don’t understand your approach, and X, Y and Z really doesn’t seem to be supported by Torah sources. Can we discuss this?

The last thing to say is that all this has made me so appreciate all the criticism, mud and insults that is being thrown at the Rav, and at Shuvu Banim, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Why?

Because at this stage, it’s very hard to be publically part of Shuvu Banim unless you are willing to do some serious work on acquiring emuna and humility, and dealing with people insulting you personally and challenging you harshly, every step of the way. I get dissed from my kids, I get challenged by my friends and neighbors, I get insulted on the internet – it’s all amazing stuff!

Because each time it happens, I have to take it back into hitbodedut and go through the process of peering into my blind spot, to find out where the truth lies. I’ve written about this before, but the truth is NEVER a 0-100% split.

Even the biggest psycho with the biggest vested interest always has something true that they’re sharing with you, that’s mixed up in all the lies and slanderous insults. One of my commentators wanted to know why I bother even reading insulting comments, or having these discussions with people.

The answer is, because they always teach me something about my own blind spot.

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God is using everyone to give us messages about what we ourselves need to work on, change and fix, and I’m certainly not a level where I can even begin to pretend that I’m perfect and have nothing left to work on or fix.

I’m not infallible. I’m a flawed human being.

And the point is, that neither should what we’re being taught by our rabbis be above question. Even the biggest Tzaddik will fall seven times, there is no such thing as a person who doesn’t sin, who doesn’t err, or make a mistake.

If that holds for Moshe Rabbenu, and Rav Kahana of the Gemara, it certainly holds for everyone else.

So, to all those people who keep trying to close down the discussion by flinging abusive insults all over the place, let me ask you something:

What are you so afraid of? What are you scared is going to happen, if we actually look at these teachings and ideas and debate them on their own merits? Why are you so bound up in your way, your rabbi, your rebbe, your chassidut, your yeshiva being ‘right’, that you keep stomping on any suggestion of exploring their teachings outside of the ‘echo chamber’?

It’s an interesting question, isn’t it?

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Photo by Marco Bianchetti on Unsplash

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Articles about anti-Semitism in the USA:

Rebbe Nachman’s advice really works.

I was feeling pretty low yesterday, as you could probably tell. I have another book that’s almost ready for the Rav, and each time I work on these books, I have a tremendous amount of obstacles, both internal and external to deal with.

So yesterday, I decided to go back to following Rebbe Nachman’s advice for how to deal with those ‘low spots’ in life, and I whacked this song on my CD (yes, I still have a CD! Stonehenge!) – and I danced to it three times in a row. By the end of that, I started to feel so much better.

But Rabbenu wasn’t done cleaning me up yet!

The Rav, Rabbi Berland, says again and again and again that the single best way to get all of your sins cleaned up, and to get yourself out of the way of the harsh judgments that manifest as sadness and depression, amongst other things, is to be on the receiving end of some harsh humiliation and bizyonot.

Yesterday, God arranged for me to get no less than three magnificently harsh, critical emails, one after another!

Baruch Hashem.

One was telling me that my books don’t count as ‘real’ books – like a siddur or a chumash – and that’s why no-one is buying them, and that also I’ve built up massive sins by linking to a video of a woman talking about all the awful stuff they put into vaccines.

Another was telling me I’m a depressed heretic with zero real emuna, who just doesn’t know how to ‘do’ emuna right, and that the real problem is that I’m basically an apikorus, because I can’t just say ‘thank you’, robotically, 50,000 times a day, when I’m going through a tough patch.

Oh, and that I also apparently don’t know how to read English, or do hitbodedut right, either.

This stuff was worth it’s weight in gold!!!

Even though the last yucky email was delivered past midnight, and actually kept me awake most of the night chewing over it in the hitbodedut that I don’t know how to do properly…

I have to tell you, I’m feeling way more upbeat today.

This is experiencing emuna  – taking Rebbe Nachman’s advice, and actually applying it to real life. And it beats the heck out of pontificating at other people about how to do it right, in theory.

BH, once I have the Rav’s book completed, I will have a lot more to share with you on that front. And in the meantime – let’s dance!

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The last few days, I’ve been struggling.

There’s a lot of things going on, and I’ve been trying to ‘unpick’ why I’m having a lot of low-level yeoush, or apathy and despair, dafka now, when I have so many projects on the boil.

Part of it is the sense that nothing I do really gets anywhere. I get up, I wash clothes that end up either on the floor or back in the laundry within 2 days; I wash dishes that get dirty again; I make food that gets eaten so fast; I write blog posts that go in one eyeball and out the other; I write books that no-one buys.

And then I start to wonder: why am I doing all this? What’s the point?

In my hitbodedut, I get an answer:

This is life. What’s the alternative? If you don’t wash up, and you don’t cook, and you don’t write blog posts, and you don’t keep writing books, what else are you going to do with yourself? How would your life actually look?

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In the past, I would attribute this yeoush to the fact that I really don’t make any money, doing all the things I do, but now I know that’s a red-herring.

Sometimes, when you’re making money doing things that weary your soul and seem totally and utterly pointless, that can feel even worse.

I guess it’s just the ruach, the spiritual vibe of the planet at the moment. Even my kids have it – they are finding it really hard to know what’s the point? And I can’t really help them out of the difficulty, because I’m sharing it.

I’m trying to figure out what’s going on, how I can lift out of this and really just be grateful for all the tremendous kindnesses and goodnesses that God is continually doing for me. Part of the problem, for sure, is that it feels like the goalposts for geula keep being moved, and I just can’t keep the pace up for another 200 years.

It’s hard to get motivated to keep going, when there is no end in sight.

And right now, it feels like there is no end in sight.

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On Shabbat, I flipped open Likutey Moharan, and I got to Lesson 2:78, which is talking about how sometimes, we have to serve Hashem from a place of total simplicity, where we don’t reveal any Torah and we just engage in idle chatter.

Rabbenu explains there that it’s:

“[A]bsolutely impossible to be involved in Torah study and spiritual perceptions without a break. One must inevitably stop for a while, and during that time when one is not studying the Torah, then this Torah scholar, or spiritually perceptive person is literally in the category of a rustic.”

It’s a long lesson, but I’m picking out the parts that spoke to me. Later on, Rabbenu continues:

“In sum, one should never despair! Even a simple person who is totally unable to study Torah, or is in a place where he can’t study. Nevertheless, even when one is in a state of simplicity, one must persist in the fear of God and simple service, according to one’s capability….The main thing is to encourage oneself in any way possible. [The Rebbe interjected at this point: “For there is no such thing as a lost cause!…]”

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If it was anyone other than Rebbe Nachman saying this, I’d really struggle to believe it.

The last few weeks, I’ve been up to my eyeballs in the behind-the-scenes yuck going on in the Jewish community, past and present, here and abroad, both in the ‘religious’ and anti-religious world, and it’s been extremely demoralizing.

A few years ago, I read another passage in Likutey Moharan where Rabbenu talks about how sometimes, you have to throw yourself into the mud and filth of ‘battle’, to fight for God and for what’s right. The last few weeks, I’ve been swimming through reams and reams of spiritual ‘sewage’, and it’s been very hard to deal with.

In hitbodedut yesterday, I was telling God how I don’t mind cleaning out the odd spiritual ‘toilet’, but I’d like to be given a different job to do, at this point. Because all that yucky stuff sticks to the soul, however hard you try to scrub it off with prayer and emuna.

Let someone else do this now, God! Let someone else take over! I need a break! I need a holiday!

But…. I already know that there is no-one else. Who else would be dumb enough, to do this?

And then, there is what is going on with the Rav again, which I’m also finding pretty demoralizing.

====

We’re in the middle of trying to get One in a Generation II translated into Hebrew, and published.

Last week, I called up my contact in Shuvu Banim to see how the fact-checking is going, and I got told the stunning piece of information that it’s all on hold, because five of the Rav’s gabbays got arrested by the Israeli Police last week.

I thought he was maybe joking, but after looking at the usual fake news sites including Jpost, Times of Israel, Ynet, and the worst of the lot, the Yeshiva World News, I was stunned to see it was no joke.

That crazy woman’s obviously crazy complaint is all the pretext the police here needed, to start up the whole slander-to-incarceration miscarriage of justice machine again. They are trying to put Rav Berland away for 10 years (!) for the ‘crime’ of letting people donate money to him.

And I don’t even know if I have any more strength left to protest the madness that’s going on.

What’s the point? Doesn’t it seem like the bad has won, and will just keep winning, no matter what we do?

====

That’s where I was holding on Shabbat, when I was flipping through Likutey Moharan, trying to get some answers and some balm for my soul.

Usually, I just read the English translation, but there was a word I wanted to pin down properly in Lesson 2:78, so I switched to the Hebrew – and lo and behold, I found this extra few paragraphs, that had somehow been left out of the English version.

I took it as a little ‘message’ from Rabbenu, about what’s going on right now, and here’s what it said:

We need to beg Hashem a great deal to have the merit of drawing close to the True Tzaddik, because praiseworthy is the person who merits to draw close to the True Tzaddik during his lifetime.

Fortunate is he, and fortunate is his lot in life!

[For afterwards, it’s extremely difficult to draw close, and we need to multiply our prayers and supplications greatly, that we should merit in his lifetime to draw close to the True Tzaddik.]

For the baal davar (aka the satan) is making every single effort, now, to confuse the world, because Israel is now very close to the keitz (the end), and Israel now has a very great yearning and great desire for Hashem yitbarach, in a way which wasn’t seen in former times.

Every person is wistfully awaiting Hashem yitbarach.

And so, the baal davar is awakening himself over this, and is creating machloket between the Tzaddikim, and is putting a great many famous purveyors of lies into the world. And also, he’s making a big machloket between the True Tzaddikim, to the point that not a single person knows where the truth lies.

And so, we need to beg Hashem yitbarach a lot, for the merit of drawing close to the True Tzaddik.

====

Ad kan, from Rabbenu.

Reading this revived me, at least a little. To know that this awfully confusing, depressing situation we’re currently going through was foreseen and written about over 200 years ago is encouraging.

Rabbenu warned us, that there would be a flood heresy and ‘evil’, the likes of which has never been seen in the world before, and that it would be very hard for us all to hang on to God and His true tzaddikim, as a result.

But hang on we must.

Because what’s the alternative?

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You might also like this article:

https://ravberland.com/why-channel-13-is-a-danger-to-israels-democracy/

====

Photo by Sarah Ardin on Unsplash

I want my site to be for stressed-out women, not conpiracy-minded men.

Two weeks ago, I kind of had an ‘epiphany’ moment, about my life and my writing.

For years, I’ve been writing blog posts and articles and even books that have often been very serious, and very ‘justice warrior’-oriented, and where I’ve really tried to do my bit to expose evil and go after the bad guys.

Where did that approach get me?

Honestly…. Not so far. I have a couple of thousand readers of my blogs, the majority of whom Google Analytics tells me are men….

Those men don’t buy my books. They aren’t really the ‘tribe’ I want to interact with, or write for, however nice they actually all might be. So once I took the time to actually read my Google Analytics report (for the first time in 8 years!) I realized that something fundamental has to change here, in the way I’m trying to write for and interact with my audience.

====

Part of me really loves all the buzz of reporting news, and ‘badness’, and unmasking the truth.

That’s my investigative journalist side – the side that lost me my job all those years back, on one of London’s Jewish papers, and has gotten me sued a couple of times, and has kept me awake on countless nights, fighting the dark forces in my head.

But really, where did that part get me, or get anyone else?

I’m pondering that a lot at the moment.

Nearly all the baddies I’ve exposed are still going strong… the bad people are still being protected and defended by the other bad people… No-one really did any major teshuva as a result of what I’ve written about this stuff, or changed their life in any fundamental way.

And I don’t know what I’ve really got out of blogging about these things, all these years.

Honestly.

So much effort, for so little anything much.

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Two weeks ago, I was ready to start ripping a whole bunch more lies and masquerades to shred in print, and to set out ‘the bad’ in that obvious, hard-to-argue-with way that clears up so many questions, and brings sterling clarity to an issue.

But God kept stopping me from doing that, in my hitbodedut.

And for two weeks, I didn’t know why.

But in the meantime, I had this course on the backburner about reducing stress I’m trying to do for women, so I’ve been turning my attention to that, while I’m waiting for the clarity to descend about where I go to next in my writing.

Yesterday, I think I started to get my answer. Yesterday, I taught two classes on how to start de-stressing over Zoom, and I learnt something profound:

I totally loved interacting with those women.

====

I totally loved teaching about something that really help people tachlis, in their real life, to stop feeling so stressed and anxious and to start to feel like they really can cope, with all the cack we all have to deal with, and that there is fundamentally nothing wrong with them.

All stress is really just a call to action, a message that something needs to change – and that something, nine times out of ten, is internal.

====

So, I came back on to rivkalevy.com yesterday, after doing the usual rounds of the 4 blogs and sites I read every day, once, just to stay up on things.

And that’s when it hit me:

I don’t want to be writing about politics or current affairs anymore.

I don’t want to be trading barbs with nutso bloggers who get all their life force from taking provocative stances online and making dumb statements guaranteed to rile people up.

I want to be a force for good in the world.

So, I am hoping to be taking my writing on this blog in a different direction. More along the lines of the Secret Diary of a Jewish Housewife – but way more upbeat and actually helpful!

I have been through so much stress, so many crazy experiences the last few years, that God has really shown me how to deal with, using the teachings and advice of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, and his students.

I want to help other people – and specifically, other women – to access that light more easily, and to enjoy it in their own lives.

And I can’t do that, if I’m constantly picking fights with nutso bloggers, or opining on pointless politics, or trying to deal with negative commentators who have massive chips on their shoulders. It can honestly ruin my week.

I don’t want to deal with those people any more, I don’t want to cater for them. I don’t want my site to attract that sort of person, because they have been tying up my energy and my headspace for years and years, and preventing me from doing what God really created me to do in the world.

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So, I’m going in a different direction here on rivkalevy.com, where the focus is going to be far more on stressed-out WOMEN and far less on conspiracy-theory-enjoying men.

And far more on putting together real, practical EMUNA EXPERIENCES to help my readers navigate their lives as happily as they can, holding God’s hand, and far less on self-righteous, impractical rants about what everyone else needs to do, to fix the world.

I’m nothing special, not at all. But I do have a bunch of very bad middot that God has helped me to get a grip on (mostly….). If Rebbe Nachman’s advice worked for me, it can work for anyone – and that’s what I’m going to start focusing on doing, sharing that stuff out, as best I can.

====

I was so stoked yesterday, to teach those classes.

I was so thrilled, when another reader called to tell me how much the ‘stress exercise’ had helped her sort something out, in her actual, real life.

So guys, you can carry on reading this blog if you want, but I’d much prefer you tell your wives about what’s going on here now, and let them take over. And nutsos, you can also carry on reading this blog if you want, but I’d honestly much prefer that you don’t, because we are about to blast off into the realm of EMUNA EXPERIENCES, where humility, caring and compassion for others are going to be the name of the game.

There are plenty other blogs out there providing a steady diet of propaganda, fake prophecy, self-righteous opinion and scare stories.

I’m retiring from that field.

I have much bigger and better things to do with my time, a lot of ladies out there who I know I can really help, bezrat Hashem.

And that’s the focus going forward, to build a tribe of LADIES who are trying to bring geula really the only way we can, i.e. by working on ourselves, and our emuna and our stress, and our relationships with our fellow Jews.

This blog, my writing, me  – we’re ready to evolve out of the pupa, and to start doing something useful in the world.

I have to say, I’m pretty excited.

TBC

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Photo by Ian Parker on Unsplash

You might also like this article:

RE: THE BETA REDUCE YOUR STRESS COURSE

UPDATE:

Baruch Hashem, there is someone in my house who is better at this stuff than I am. The husband took a look at the last post, and told me to carve this off as a standalone post, so it won’t get lost – so here it is!

He also told me I’m apparently confusing you, dear reader, by saying it’s free then attaching a price tag. So, let’s clear that up now: THIS IS A TOTALLY FREE TRAINING! The plan is for me to try it out on 10 people, and get their feedback.

So if you got confused or put off by the ‘price tag’, please come back and sign up for a time on Wednesday Dec 4th, 2019:

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Here’s what the course is going to do, BH:

  1. Help you to clearly identify your unique stress response and ‘stress personality‘ (based on the Torah, but ‘hidden’ in secular language).
  2. Help you to ID typical occasions when your unhelpful stress response shows up.
  3. Give you easy, practical tools to defuse your unique stress response, so you can manage stress better, and cope better.
  4. Teach you how to do mindfulness meditation (i.e. hitbodedut) that will work for your particular character and stress response.

I’m teaching the first part totally for free, via Zoom, so I can get some feedback from participants before going forward.

I am still trying to finalise the time slots, but spots will be limited to 10 people, and it looks like I will be doing a morning and evening time slot at the moment, on Wednesday, Dec 4th, later this week.

So, if you’re a woman, and you’d like to find out some easy ways to start defusing your stress and to cope better with life, you can sign up below:

 

Photo by Dustin Belt on Unsplash

When the pressure ramps up, we really have two choices.

I’m currently trying to put together my ‘how to halve overwhelming stress in 30 days’ tachlis course, and it’s proving pretty stressful….

But also very useful, in figuring out why people react the way we do to overwhelming stress, and what we can really do about it, tachlis.

We’re all so sick and tired of ‘gurus’ preaching about how to do stuff, and how to change – things that they themselves are a million miles away from actually living in their own lives.

That’s true in the orthodox Jewish world, and also – I’ve been shocked to discover – in the non-Jewish world.

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For every Youtube ‘rabbi’ and ‘rabbanit’ that’s been droning on about Hashem, and emuna, while deceitfully swindling people, feeding their own massive egos, and trying to cash in on the public’s need for reassurance and guidance, there’s at least 100 secular ‘gurus’ that have been doing exactly the same thing, in their field.

I’ve come across this phenomenon in the area of book publishing, and of course, in holistic health, but I had no idea how widespread the problem has become, and how cynical it’s made us all. So, this course is not preaching anything. It’s 100% tachlis, focused exactly on helping people to figure out what’s stressing them out, what they can really do about it, and how to reduce their stress by at least 50% in 30 days.

That’s a big promise to make, I know, but I’m standing fully behind it.

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So, while I’ve been busy putting that course together, the world has helpfully been melting down into a massive, oozing puddle of overwhelmingly stressful circumstances.

The latest example is xtian pastor, anti-Semite (and almost certainly, secret Freemason) Rick Wiles’ public rant about a ‘Jew Coup’ taking place in the US.

One of my US-based friends kindly sent me the clip, so I went to check out his website, and his following on Youtube – apparently 185,000, before he got banned – and I came away from all that investigation feeling pretty stressed! And I don’t live in the US.

As this site is now a pointless politics-free zone, instead of pointlessly ranting about ‘erev rav’, and trying to ‘blame’ people for not moving to Israel 50 years ago, I thought I’d try to do something constructive to help my readers in the US, while also trying out some of the tachlis principles I’m putting together for my course.

Ready?

Great! Let’s do this together, with no ranting, no blaming, no holier-than-thou finger pointing, or demonization of whole groups of Jews who happen to think and act differently from us.

We are all in this together.

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We’ll kick this off by setting out the stall, describing the ‘stress’ problem we all have, and then going through the following steps, to try to resolve it. Here’s my STRESS DEFUSING CHECKLIST.

  • Identify the potential source of stress.
  • Clarify the situation, to see if the ‘stress’ and underlying worries and fears are valid, or not.
  • Clearly state the specific problem of issue that is stressing you out.
  • Once we have the full facts (as much as we can), to move through the process of ACTION or ACCEPTANCE.
  • Depending on which route we’ll take, the work will either be more externally-focused ACTION, or more internally-focused ACCEPTANCE.
  • Clearly state the ACTIONS required, and / or what can’t be changed and must be ACCEPTED with emuna.
  • Feel way less stressed, because we’ve clarified what’s going on, what we really think about it, and what, if anything we need to do to deal with it.

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It’s a very common reaction, to go into denial when we feel overwhelmed, despairing and stuck.

most of the planet does that, and sometimes it has its benefits. But, if the source of stress is ‘real’, or nagging, or chronic, or acute, and it’s not being faced down and dealt with, denial quickly morph into a feeling of massive underlying anxiety and panic.

When people aren’t addressing their stress, their fears, head-on, that also leads to a range of chronic health problems – they can’t sleep, they get headaches, their digestion stops working, peptic ulcers show up, they get eczema or asthma flare-ups, they start to experience all sorts of different psychosomatic pains and backaches, that have no ‘physical’ cause etc etc.

Don’t do that to yourself!

It’s way, way better to bite the bullet, deal with reality, and then have a concrete plan of either ACTION or ACCEPTANCE, depending on what you discover when start to address the problem properly.

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So, let’s apply this ‘de-stress’ solution to the problem of Rick Wiles. I’m not going to answer the following questions for you – that’s your part of this project – but I will walk you through it, and hold your hand, as much as required. Let’s kick off:

  1. IDENTIFY THE POTENTIAL SOURCE OF STRESS.

In this case, let’s focus in on Rick Wiles, and his ‘Jew Coup’ statement. Let’s start with a stress rating:

How stressful is Rick Wilkes and his public Jew-hatred, on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the maximum)?

Before I went to his site, I would have ranked this for myself as a ‘3’, as I live in Israel. After I read his site, it went up to around a ‘6’.

If you’re ranking anything below ‘3’, that means it’s not a potent source of stress for you.

I’m ranking this at a ‘6’ now, which means I need to deal with it.

(As a side note, I usually deal with all this stuff in hitbodedut, and you can, too. Just take this checklist, plug in your own ‘stress’ issue, and go talk to God about it.)

Now, let’s move on to our second step:

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  1. CLARIFY THE SITUATION

This is often way harder than it looks, especially if there are a lot of vested interests involved, or a lot of ‘confirmation bias’ standing in the way of getting to the truth. In this case, here’s a few of the questions we need to be exploring:

  • Is Rick Wiles speaking for a lot of Americans, or just a negligible percentage?
  • Are his Youtube followers fanatical, or violent?
  • Do you live close to any of these fanatical, violent people? Could they directly impact your life in some way?
  • Who else might Wiles be influencing with his statement?
  • What are the possible outcomes of this statement being widely publicized in the US?

(Tip: you want to be covering the range of possibilities here, from ‘best case’ to ‘worst case’ scenario. For big stresses, or big decisions, it’s often best to write this down, or do a mindmap. I use pen and paper, but there is also free and easy mindmap software that you can download and use, too.)

Once you have that list of possible outcomes, it’s time to drill down, to see what you are really worrying about, and how likely you believe that outcome to be.

Here’s how I would do that.

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I’d take my list of ‘possible outcomes’.

And then I’d give them a ranking out of 10 (or out of 100, if you want more precision) as to how likely I believe this might be. 1 would be ‘impossible’ and 10 / 100 would be ‘absolutely certain’.

That would leave me looking at something like this:

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(I know, I spelt his name wrong… I don’t really care.)

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POSSIBLE OUTCOMES OF WILES’ STATEMENT

  • More people start to talk against the Jews – 75%
  • Anti-Semitism could start to increase in the US – 75%
  • People feel more comfortable discriminating against Jews – 70%
  • That could impact how comfortable I feel being obviously Jewish in the US – 80%
  • There could be more violent anti-Semitism – 60%
  • There could be more attacks on shuls and Jewish schools – 60%
  • Jewish life in the US could become more difficult – 90%
  • It’s a storm in a teacup nothing will happen – 20%

Are you seeing how this works?

If you feel that you don’t have enough information or knowledge to be comfortable with your ‘clarity’, you might want to go and read up on the subject, find an expert to talk to, check out the latest stats for anti-semitism etc in the US, to inform your opinions and beliefs.

And of course, take it back to God, because that’s where you’ll get your best insights from.

====

Now that I have my ‘clarity’, to the best of my ability, and taking my own innate biases and preferences and beliefs into account, I can move to the next step of identifying and defusing my stress:

3)            CLEARLY STATE THE SPECIFIC PROBLEM OR ISSUE THAT IS STRESSING YOU OUT.

So for me, I’m going to formulate it like this:

“I’m worried that there is about to be a big upswing in anti-Semitism in the USA, and that there will be more discrimination and violent attacks against the Jews who are living there, which includes my relatives.”

Again, this is my personal statement. You should write yours in your own language, and with whatever details are relevant to you, and your levels of stress.

But now I have the problem clearly stated, I can move on to the next stage:

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  1. ACTION or ACCEPTANCE.

Here’s where I list out all the actions that are currently available to me, that could help me deal with this problem.

====

POSSIBLE ACTIONS:

  • Phone people I know in the US to discuss the situation and warn them?
  • Write something urging people to move?
  • Encourage people to buy a firearm and learn how to use it?
  • Give practical information and help about making aliya?
  • Research US antisemitism to see if it really is a big problem?
  • Suggest people look at buying a cheap property somewhere in Israel?
  • Give people chizzuk and support?
  • Try to ‘scare’ them into making aliya?
  • Put more focus on making Teshuva and working on our humility and emuna?

Now, I go through each one, and I see if it’s workable, practical, useful.

====

I know from previous experience that trying to ‘scare’ people, or browbeat them, or guilt them, into moving to Israel just doesn’t work, and isn’t helpful.

I’ve had family members who stopped talking to me for 4 years because I kept trying to pressure them to make aliya. So, all those options are out.

I don’t believe in violence as an answer, so I’m not going to encourage anyone to buy a gun.

So, I’m left with the options to write things that will encourage and support my fellow Jews in the US, and to help them get clarity in some way about the options available to them, and to put the focus on teshuva and working on out bad middot and returning to God, as the best solution to the problem.

So now, I have clarity about what I personally need to do about this, moving forward, and I’m feeling way less stressed.

And whatever I can’t change, whatever I can’t take action about right now, that’s the stuff I need to work on accepting happily, without whining, moaning of complaining.

If I can’t take the ACTION I want to take, I have to accept God’s will, and maybe, start praying for things to change or open up in the future, so that ACTION could be available to me at a different stage.

(I know I’m not breaking this stage down into all the nitty-gritty details. I will do it in the course properly, but I don’t want this post to get too long!)

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6)            Clearly state the ACTIONS required, and / or, what I need to ACCEPT with emuna.

For me, I have to ACCEPT that trying to force my family members to make aliya is simply counter-productive, and just leads to bad blood and soured relationships.

I also have to ACCEPT that I can’t even broach this issue with my relatives in the US, as doing so will only upset them, and won’t achieve anything positive.

On my ACTIONS list, I now have:

  • Pray more for God to help the Jews in America (and everywhere else! We all have our issues, right now.)
  • Focus my blog on chizzuk and emuna, instead of holier-than-thou finger pointing and ranting.
  • Look to see what practical help and support I can give my readers, to help them deal with their challenges and stress, including the stress caused by anti-Semites like Rick Wiles.

====

Now I’ve gone through this process, I’m feeling way less stressed!

I have my clarity about what might be happening, what limited role, if any, I can play, and where I need to be focusing my time and energy for maximum benefit.

Breathe out….

This is EXPERIENCING EMUNA, not just preaching about it. You can apply this formula to absolutely any ‘stress’ that you are currently experiencing, and you’ll see how it instantly starts to reduce, as you get better clarity about what’s really going on, what your options really are, and what God might be expecting from you.

BH, I hope to be able to share more of this stuff with you soon.

Next week, Wednesday, Dec 4th, I’m hoping to live teach the first module of the FAILPROOF METHOD TO REDUCE DESTRUCTIVE STRESS BY AT LEAST 50% IN 4 WEEKS COURSE, focusing on:

‘IDENTIFY WHAT’S STRESSING YOU OUT, AND DEFUSE IT’.

If you are a woman, and you would like to join me for that – on Zoom – please sign up HERE.

I’m limiting enrollment to the first 10 people, so grab your spot while you can.

You can also sign up directly, below:

 

The last two weeks, I’ve been finding it hard to get out of bed in the morning.

I’m generally sleeping OK, and enough. I’m in good health, baruch Hashem. I have a lot of ‘stuff’ to be getting on with… But it’s a struggle to throw the covers back and get out of bed.

I know why.

Deep down, I’m feeling pretty scared of what the future holds.

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While pointless ‘politics’ is all anyone really seems to be thinking about or discussing, there are real changes going on in the world that we can all feel, but no-one is really talking about them.

The world is still shaking – a 6.4 earthquake just hit Albania, in Southern Europe, doing major damage to a number of buildings and roads, and even causing a number of deaths.

====

Did you know about that, from your MSM, before I just told you?

Nope. Didn’t think so.

Now, the quakes are fanning out across Europe, large parts of which is also (not coincidentally….) experiencing ‘extreme’ weather events. This headline kind of says it all:

Storms in France, Greece and Italy leave ‘biblical destruction’.

The Alps have been experiencing some record-breaking, heavy snowfall recently. You won’t know that unless you live in that area or follow alternative news channels, because this fact goes against the whole ‘global warming’ fake news thing. But when you have a lot of snow on mountains, plus the prospect of 4.0+ earthquakes in the area, then you are looking at a high possibility of avalanches.

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Over in the US, the wildfires in California have started up again, this time called ‘The Cave’ fire.

What’s interesting, is how the news sites are telling their viewers that this fire literally ‘exploded overnight’ – but then immediately try to blame that on fake news global warming.

I’ve mentioned this elsewhere, but it’s probably a good time to remind you that when there is a lot of seismic activity, that kind of ‘shakes loose’ all the natural methane that’s trapped underground, and that starts to rise to the surface.

Methane is highly flammable.

All it takes is a spark, and poofff!! A whole area can instantly light up. I think that’s also what’s causing the wildfires that are still burning all over Israel, too, but which (BH) have currently been contained, because there is no massive winds whipping them all over the place.

No-one talks about this, because it’s not ‘politics’. It’s just God controlling the weather, and the seismic activity, and who the heck wants to mention that?!

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There are other things, too, that if you know to look for them, build out the picture that there is a very strange ‘vibe’ coming down to the planet at the moment, or what our sages often refer to as a ruach, or spirit.

So many people are being viciously attacked by wild animals, especially dogs, that it’s almost not news anymore. But a few days ago, a 59 year old woman in Texas was mauled to death outside a house by a bunch of wild pigs….

That’s kinda unusual, no?

And also kinda symbolic, because we all know that the ‘pig’ is Esav, that most traif of pretend-kosher creatures.

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And then, there’s all the stuff I’m trying to deal with internally, that is also scaring me at the moment.

Like, trying to get my People Smarts course together… and trying to launch the book that goes with it… and trying not to get my hopes up too much that this, finally, will mark the turnaround where I’ll actually discover what it is God really wants me to do with my life and (whisper it….) that I may even get paid for.

The only reason that matters is because my family has decided, collectively, that we want to move back to the holy madness that is the Musrara neighborhood of Jerusalem, and even renting there is CRAZY expensive.

Right now, the apartment we are in is great for us, and the rent is reasonable. But the area is pretty ‘dead’ spiritually, and after two years of living back in civilization, where people pick up their own trash and most families have way less than 12 kids, I’m yearning to get back to a place where my neighbors know there is more to life than just cooking a great roast for Shabbat. Or politics….

So, there’s also a lot of anxiety around that, too, which keeps bubbling up when I’m talking to God.

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And then, there are the non-stop efforts by the State of Israel to start another war in this region, to try and take everyone’s minds off the fact that the political experiment here has effectively checkmated itself out of existence.

Nothing like a massive war, to get the nation rallying around the idea of a ‘unity government’!!!

Who cares, that so many people, so many Jews, could get wounded or killed, if the Muslim nations decide to retaliate massively!!!

Let’s keep the circus going for as long as we can, let’s keep talking about politics as the cure for all ills, to take everyone’s mind off the fact that God is actually running the world, and deciding things!!!

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There are very good reasons why taking the terrorists on in Gaza may be a very bad idea.

You can sum it up like this:

Israel is surrounded by literally hundreds of thousands of rockets. The Iron Dome is very easily overwhelmed, and if the terrorists start firing multiple barrages of rockets at us, they will kill and injure a lot of people, God forbid.

At the same time, there is no way the nations of the world will ever let Israel really clean up the problem in Gaza, so any war would be totally ‘cosmetic’, and just for public opinion, just so the politicians can keep the whole circus going a little while longer.

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Personally, I increasingly don’t think it’s worth risking Jewish lives just to give a politician a campaign slogan that they are tough on terror.

Personally, I’m really praying and hoping that Rabbi Berland is going to be able to continue to sweeten all this warmongering, because war doesn’t solve any problems, unless it’s a ‘war’ that God wants and has commanded, like Joshua’s conquering of the holy land.

How did we all get so brainwashed into believing that killing people en masse is the best way to solve our problems?

I believe in defending ourselves where appropriate, in a measured way. But recently, I’ve been asking myself some hard questions, about whether killing large swathes of ‘enemy’ civilians is really what God wants from the Jewish people.

Killing people – any people – should be the very last option on the table, and only if the alternative is that they would kill us, God forbid.

Killing people is a ‘feral pig’ kinda thing to do – an ‘animal’ thing to do – it’s really not a holy Jewish response.

So, I’m also scared that there are bunch of angry, violent fools with zero yirat shemayim ready to rush in where Sanhedrins fear to tread.

Until I remember that God is actually running the world, (even though no-one really talks about Him so much), and that nothing will happen that God doesn’t want to happen.

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And in the meantime, life goes on.

I’m trying to deal with all this by keeping my head down, and trying to continue with my routine, as best I can. I keep reminding myself of the words of the Rav, that Gog and Magog is only going to happen in 200 years time, but the good things can already start now.

Because otherwise, I just can’t get out of bed in the morning.

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Photo by Sylvie Tittel on Unsplash

It’s time for the way we relate to ’emuna’ to evolve.

This was first written for the ravberland.com website, but I think it’s touching on something that’s close to the heart of people on this website, too, so I’m reposting it here.

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The last few months (ok, years….) it’s been so flipping heavy, hasn’t it?

Every day has brought new heartaches, new challenges, new worries to us all.

Ten years ago, when the first emuna revolution really started to develop, it looked we were so close to sorting all this yucky golus stuff out, and finally getting into geula and redemption, personal and national.

The three rules of emuna came out and what else did we need, to really cope with life’s vicissitudes and to get to geula and moshiach already?

(In case you’ve forgotten, the three rules of emuna are:

  • God is doing everything.
  • Everything God does is good, even if it’s sometimes painful and hard to bear.
  • Every single thing that I experience contains some message, or clue, from God, about what I might need to work on, fix, rectify or otherwise acknowledge.)

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But there was a problem.

Call it a marketing issue, call it a misunderstanding, call it a problem in translating deep spiritual concepts into a language that materialistic Westerners can really grasp, however it happened it doesn’t really matter. But the problem was this:

Emuna back then appeared to be being ‘sold’ as a way to get God to do what you want.

At least, that’s how I understood what I was being told, 10 years ago.

Just pray enough, do enough six hours, ratchet your level of observance up to the absolute max – even if it’s not really where you’re truthfully holding – and then, you’ll be able to force God into giving you what you want! More kids, better health, a new apartment, a great job! You can get it all, if you just follow this blueprint!

What can I tell you?

Over the years, my email filled up with people who’d done their best to follow this blueprint, and who still – inevitably – found that at some point, at some stage, the emuna solution stopped ‘working’, and they were left with a big problem they couldn’t solve, or make disappear, no matter how much hitbodedut they did, or books they gave out, or people they preached at.

Disappointed, a lot of these people then turned their back on ‘emuna’, and came to believe that it didn’t work, the way they’d been told it would.

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The same thing almost happened to me.

I was very clear about why I started to do an hour day of hitbodedut: I was trying to force God to expand my family from just the two kids I had, to maybe four, or even six.

And guess what?

It failed miserably!

My hitbodedut also failed miserably at giving me my own home in Jerusalem – even WITH a mortgage. It failed miserably at getting my kids to grow up like perfectly frum Beis Yaacov princesses. It failed miserably at getting my family to move to Israel, and at making me friends who weren’t psychos, and sometimes, even at getting my cakes to come out half-edible.

Sure, there were also a lot of miracles that have happened, and things that did move, and unexpectedly amazing insights that occurred, all thanks to hitbodedut, but if I had to sum it up, I would say this:

The miracles I saw as a result of my hitbodedut were almost never because my prayers succeeded in changing God’s mind, and almost always because they’d succeeded in changing me.

I’d get a steer in my hitbodedut that I’d need to apologise to someone, or back down on something, or work on some really bad middot that I’d just been whitewashing and justifying, and then, very often, the ‘problem’ would disappear miraculously.

But not every problem.

12 years after I began to do hitbodedut to have more kids, I still don’t have more kids. I still don’t own a house in Jerusalem. I still don’t have a lot of things ticked off on my list of what I was trying to force Hashem to give me.

But what I do have, I hope, is a much clearer idea of what real emuna is, and how much we need it.

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Recasting the three rules of emuna

To sum it up, real emuna is where we do our best to know that God is doing everything – so we stop beating ourselves up and blaming others, for not being perfect, and we act with more understanding and compassion.

Real emuna is where we do our best to internalize that even the very painful circumstances we sometimes have to go through are ultimately for our good – so we can still smile through the tears, and still sincerely acknowledge and thank for all the tremendous good we all still have in our lives.

That doesn’t mean we become unfeeling robots, pretending we don’t hurt when we do, or pretending we aren’t sad when we are. What it does mean, is that we understand that we need to work on those feelings of pain and sadness, until they transform into joy and acceptance of the way Hashem is running the world.

And to have patience with that process, because sometimes, it can take a very long time.

And lastly, real emuna is where we understand that the miracle will really only come once we change ourselves, and get the message that God is sending us. And that sometimes, the ‘miracle’ will never come, no matter how much we pray for it, because the lesson God is trying to teach us is one of bittul, nullifying ourselves to His will, and accepting how He chooses for us to live our lives.

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Everybody has their heartache today, everybody has their pain.

Some people lack health, others lack spouses, others lack children, others lack true love and understanding, others lack money, others lack a sense of purpose…. The list goes on and on.

But while all these problems and ‘lacks’ are so different, the solution is the same for them all:

To let go of our expectations, and our demands, and to accept that however God chooses to run our lives, that’s the best it could be.

That’s really what emuna is for. That’s really the ‘secret’ of how having emuna can help you live life happily and joyfully. Not by ‘forcing’ God to do what we want, chas v’halila, but by accepting that whatever God does, that’s OK by us.

That’s the work, that’s the goal.

That’s certainly the message I get loud and clear from almost everything I read, and everything I hear, from Rabbi Eliezer Berland.

And that’s what the next emuna revolution is really going to be about.

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