With each day that passes, I realise even more that we’re living in a mad world.

In case you’re wondering why there aren’t a lot of posts going up the site at the moment, there are two reasons for that.

  • I’m in the middle of writing another book, and it’s taking a lot of time.
  • I’m currently having a minor disagreement with my better half, as I really want to write a whole lot more about what’s really going on with the yucky people who are sadly running our part of the world, and my husband is scared that if I do that, I’ll get myself in trouble.

So in the meantime, we’re having something of a stand-off and I’m not sure what exactly I should be writing, if I can’t write what God is putting in my soul to write.

But I can tell you this: it’s a mad world.

And it’s getting madder by the day.

On Shabbat, I went for a walk around Talpiot early in the morning, as the new book is taking a lot of mental concentration and I needed to ‘decompress’ my brain a little, with a longer hitbodedut session than usual.

As I rounded the bend that took me deep into Talpiyot’s industrial zone, which was all but deserted save for a couple of taxis, one police cruiser and a couple of local Arabs on foot, I spotted a strange figure motioning at me to come closer to the bus stop, where he / she was standing.

From a distance, I didn’t know who or what I was dealing with, but I could see the person didn’t look ‘normal’, and I also knew that there was no-one else around to help, if help was required. I took a deep breath, and went over.

It turned out to be a middle-aged woman with a buzz-cut and glasses, wearing boy’s clothes and a pair of oversized black man’s shoes. Even before she opened her mouth, I knew she was totally crazy.

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“There’s a pedophile here!” She told me, motioning up the road. “He’s attacking his grandchildren, he’s attacking children!”

Well, that certainly got my attention. I debated how I should react to this news.

“Do you want me to flag down the police car?” I asked her.

“No!!!!!” she responded emphatically. “They all want to date me. All the policemen want to date me.” Just then, the police car cruised by and beeped at us, as the crazy woman told me “Don’t look at them, don’t look at them! But you see? They all like me. They were smiling at me, right?”

I tried telling her that I hadn’t been looking at them, as per her instructions, but she wasn’t going to take no for an answer. Crazy people don’t like being told cold, hard facts that interfere with their narrative.

“You from America?” she asked me, suddenly switching into English. It’s part of my ongoing experience of being humbled on a daily basis that even the brain-damaged people I meet in Israel typically speak better English to me than I can speak Hebrew to them. “I’m from England,” I told her warily.

“Yeah!” she nodded. “Eastenders! Teletubbies! I know! I’m your angel, do you know that? God sent me to you to protect you from that pedophile. I want you to stay with me here until my madrich comes to get me.”

It was Shabbos. It was clear (to me) that no madrich was coming to get her.

“Do you have a phone?” she asked me. “No, it’s Shabbat.” “I know, I know, you don’t have to tell me!” she responded angrily. “I’m also making teshuva. Do you have a head-covering for me?” I didn’t.

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So now I said to myself, God, what do you want from me?

What do you want me to do with this stark-raving crazy lady in the middle of Talpiyot who wants me to wait with her until the Moshiach comes?

The Police cruiser came around again, and this time I went against her instructions and looked in their direction and tried to subtly flag them down. The two policewomen in the car looked at me, then drove off.

“You see? They love me! Right they were smiling at me?! They all want to be my boyfriend. But most of them are married! And I’m not a slut,” gabbled on the crazy lady. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that there were no policemen in sight, and the police women clearly felt they had better things to do than take a crazy lady back to her institution.

“Listen,” she said to me suddenly, as though she’d been reading my thoughts. “I’m not crazy. I just have CP. You know what is CP?” I nodded. “I need you to walk me back to my madrich. I’m your angel. You need me.”

I raised my eyes to the Heavens again.

Lord, what do you want from me?

Go with the crazy woman. You can’t leave her here.

“Where is your madrich?”

“Tzomet Pat”

That was miles away! I sighed heavily. Ok, God. Ok. If that’s what You want, that’s what I’ll try to give You.

====

We started walking, and I realized with sinking stomach that the crazy lady had a really bad limp.

This was going to take ages. She looked at me, saw my bemused expression, and started insulting me.

“You’re a sick person, you know that? You’re mentally ill! You should be in a hospital!”

I raised an eyebrow, than agreed with her. That threw her. So she tried to insult me again.

“What do you have, schizophrenia? Depression? You know, you’re a sick person. You’re not nice. You don’t trust anyone. Come on, trust me!” she told me emphatically. “I’m not going to do anything to you!”

Thanks to my teenagers, my tolerance for being insulted is pretty high.

But even so, she was approaching the cresting point. I realized it would be better for everyone if she continued her monologue in Hebrew. That way I could pretend to be listening without having to get too involved.

====

So she took my hand – for my own safety, of course, so the pedophile wouldn’t get me – and we walked along at 2 cms an hour, over the bike track and up onto the other side of Makor Chaim.

The whole way, she was telling me about her 11 year old son, who wasn’t adopted. And her ex-husband who was a Russian Jew, but they still had to get married in a civil wedding in Cyprus. Now they were divorced. She told me she had cancer. She told me she’d had two serious operations. She told me that Avi had just killed himself, because she’d refused to marry him.

“His Facebook account is blocked now, right?” I nodded mechanically. “That means he’s dead! It’s very sad.” She started crying. “You didn’t kill him,” I told her emphatically (who knows if ‘Avi’ even existed, but when you’re in Mad World, there are certain rules you have to follow.)

She turned on my angrily. Don’t be aggressive with me, ok? I’m a black belt karate! I’ll hit you so hard you won’t get up again!”

She looked at me with angry eyes, and I looked back at her 5ft nothing, limping frame and sighed a very deep sigh again. You can’t disagree with crazy people about anything. They are always right. So I apologized and nodded, and we carried on.

At 2cm an hour.

In the boiling sun.

And I didn’t have any water.

And I was starting to need the toilet.

====

I cleared my throat.

“Do you know where we’re going?”

“Come on! Trust me! What’s the matter with you!!” she started yelling at me again.

I ignored her.

Do you know where we are going? I can’t spend all day going to Tzomet Pat with you.

Right at the beginning of the journey, we’d had a disagreement about the direction to take and fool that I am, I thought she’d really known where she was going. I wasn’t going to make that mistake twice.

“I’m going to ask someone” I told her – which again got her a little mad and panicked, but I wasn’t going to take no for an answer this time.

“It’s FORBIDDEN for you to speak to a man, what sort of religious woman are you?!” she shouted at me, then ran off to flag down the jogging bald-headed man that was heading straight for us.

“Where’s Tzomet Pat?” I asked him. He pointed me in a direction, and the crazy lady started up that he was lying, and that it was the other way. My patience broke.

“Listen,” I said in English. “She’s a little bit crazy, and I’m trying to help her get to her madrich. Please tell me where Tzomet Pat is.”

That was it. I’d done the unthinkable. I’d dared to state that the crazy person was crazy.

I’d broken the cardinal rule of the ‘Mad World’. This was unforgivable.

====

The crazy person turned on me and started abusing me roundly on the street.

“I knew you were a sick person! Get away from me, before I put you in hospital! I don’t want you to come anywhere with me! Go away!”

Now my guilt reflex kicked in. Should I leave the crazy woman here, in the middle of the road? Am I now responsible for getting her home?

I decided to try to follow her stealthily for a minute, hiding out behind some cars, to check she’d be OK. She spotted me immediately, and started abusing me again.

“You’re disgusting! You’re sick! Stop stalking me! Go and get help!”

Just like that, the tables had been neatly turned, and now I looked like the crazy person.

Talk about a mad world.

I turned and walked back in the other direction, towards my home.

The little bit of nachas I’d schlepped from putting myself out to do a mitzvah, however strange and unwillingly, had totally disappeared. Instead, I just felt pretty bad about myself.

God, what was I meant to have done differently? How was I meant to have reacted? Am I really responsible for trying to help these people, who are totally insane?

I don’t have an answer.

I came home in a thoughtful mood, and not for the first time, I thanked God for keeping me out of the loonie bin. Who knows how crazy people really get that way. Certainly, there’s usually been a lot of suffering, a lot of pain, a lot abuse on the way down into the madness.

There but for the grace of God go I.

But in the meantime, it’s a mad world out there, and getting crazier all the time.

And I have no idea, really, how it’s all going to get fixed.

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Mad World photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash

Is it just me, or are most people getting dumb and dumber by the day?

I’m currently writing another book (!) on stress, and its damaging effects on the brain, so I can tell you categorically that most people today seem to have some form of stress-induced brain damage, that’s causing them to act even more dumb and dumber over time.

People just can’t assimilate new information, they can’t change their minds. They have fixed opinions and they’re unable to see anyone else’s point of view. Depending on what their dominant stress response is, they react to any discomfort socially by going on the attack (FIGHT), running away (FLIGHT), totally ignoring ‘the issue’ (FREEZE), or keeping things so superficially ‘fake nice’ (FLATTER) there’s simply no room for deep thought, or a deep exchange of ideas.

All this happens when people have stress-induced brain damage – and all this is happening in spades all around us, right now. And the more ‘damaged’ the person is, emotionally, the harder they find it to engage with different ideas, new ways of doing things.

Sometimes, I wonder what would happen if the Prophet Daniel had given over some of his wisdom to our generation.

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MENE MENE, TEKEL UPHARSIN

“It can’t be a real prophecy, I don’t understand it,” sniffed Dumb.

“Never mind that!!” Barked Dumber. “Only xtians talk in riddles like this! That message can’t be from God, because He always expresses Himself very clearly. I don’t think this Daniel guy is even a Jew!!”

And so it continued.

When the Prophet Zechariah would stand up to give over his message for the Jewish people, Dumb and Dumber stood there in the front row, clutching their copies of the Ramchal and heckling him.

Zechariah Chapter 3:

“Hear now, O Yehoshua the High Priest, you and your companions that sit before you; for they are men that are a sign; for, behold, I will bring forth My servant the Shoot.

For behold, the stone that I have laid before Yehoshua; there are seven facets upon one stone; behold, I will engrave the graving thereof, said the Lord of Hosts: And I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.”

‘Rubbish!!!’ Yelled out Dumb.

‘Ridiculous mumbo-jumbo!!!’ Echoed Dumber. ‘If you were a REAL prophet, you’d make this stuff easy to understand, like the Rambam did, and not just lead the masses on with all this xtian-sounding clap trap!’

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But the person they derided the most was Ezekiel (1:25-7):

“And there was a voice from the firmament that was over their heads, when they stood, and had let down their wings.

And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it.

And I saw as the color of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about.”

‘Is the man on drugs?’ Dumb wanted to know.

‘I think it’s worse than that’, muttered Dumber. ‘Only a XTIAN would try to give the likeness of an appearance to God!!! He’s obviously a false prophet, a false messiah! No wonder he keeps going on and on about the Temple being rebuilt and how it’s all going to look in the future!!! The Rambam would NEVER say something like that!!!’

Who could argue with such erudite YouTube scholars as these?

I tell you what else is very troubling, continued Dumb. This Ezekiel figure is playing with fire. He’s egging on the masses that we’re going to have a rebuilt Temple, and that the Moshiach is going to come. But he’s totally crazy! Look, he’s spent a whole year lying on his side on the pavement, baking his bread over cow dung!! Who does something like that?! Certainly no real Rabbi I’ve ever heard of!

He’s just a delusional charlatan, agreed Dumber. I mean, all those prophecies about the Temple, and did any of them ever happen? He’s just beguiling people with riddles, and filling their heads with nonsense about ‘bones’ coming back to life. You just don’t find reputable Jewish leaders doing things like that. I think he’s a hare krishna.

====

Just then, Dumbest showed up, and all three of them repaired to the nearest pub, to continue their high-level discussion of esoteric Torah principles over a pint of Guinness and a packet of cheese and onion crisps.

Dumbest, what do you think about all these gobbledy-gook ‘pronouncements’ from Ezekiel? Is he a true leader of the Jews, or a false one?

Dumbest put his pint down for a moment (I mean, this was really important, after all!) and after thinking for exactly 5.37 seconds, made his pronouncement:

One thing I know for sure, is that the Mashiach will not speak in riddles which people can interpret any number of ways. Mashiach is coming to make things clearer to us, and erase our doubts, not cause confusion.

Dumb pumped his fist into the air.

Yesss! I knew that guy was a faker!

Someone as clever as Dumbest was never going to make a mistake about something this important….

But Dumber had to ask:

Hey, Dumbest, don’t mind, but can I ask you for your source for that statement?

Sure, Dumbest responded. He looked all around him conspiratorially, then motioned the other two YouTube Sages closer:

My i-Phone has nevua!

Dumb and Dumber were impressed. How could they not be? This is how Jews were really meant to discuss Torah!

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We’re all Dumb and Dumber today, whether or not we admit it. The ikker is just to have a tad of humility, and to be honest that we have no idea what to really think about anything. That’s really the only smart thing to do at the moment.

That’s also the point I was trying to make HERE:

The way out of this morass, all this ‘feeling confused’ stuff, is just to be honest, and to admit that really, we have no idea what’s going on, or what to think about it all.

It comes back to that whole ‘being real’ idea I discussed over HERE, where it seemed to me that the people who are pretending to be what they’re not seem to be the ones most in danger of turning against the Rav, God forbid, or pinging away in disgust.

HOW COULD THE RAV SAY SOMETHING LIKE THAT?!?!” THEY MUTTER TO THEMSELVES.

Really, they have no idea what the Rav did or didn’t say, what he did or didn’t intend, what did or didn’t actually happen.

But it takes a lot of humility, it takes a lot of self-awareness about your own limitations to really admit that, doesn’t it?

What’s going on right now is a massive birur process, or clarification procedure.

All of us are being tested, but especially on our arrogance, our emuna, and our emunat tzaddikim, or belief in our true Tzaddikim.

And so, the test of Dumb and Dumber continues.

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Another timely prayer from the ravberland.com site

Heads up, they are putting together an A-Z index of prayers written by Rabbi Eliezer Berland over on the site, HERE.

Each week, they are trying to put a few more English translations of the Rav’s prayers up, because a little while back the Rav said that very big things, spiritually, depend on more of these prayers getting out into the world.

Today, they just put up a new prayer to recite if you want to avoid getting angry, or pulled into slandering other Jews – which is just so easy to do, with the evil internet.

It spoke to me a lot, so I’m replicating it below:

Prayer to avoid anger and slander against background of a snake

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Also, as I promised I would do at the end of this post, I’ve written out the first part of the sources from the Gemara Tractate Sanhedrin 97b. I thought it was a very good resource to share widely, so I’ve posted it up on my blog over the ravberland site HERE.

If you can’t be bothered to read the whole thing, this is a very brief summary of what it says:

Summing up the discussion between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua in Sanhedrin 97b:

Rabbi Eliezer is arguing that the Jewish people have to make real, self-motivated teshuva for the geula to come, and so Hashem will wait as long as it takes for this to happen (like maybe, even another 200 years….)

Rabbi Yehoshua is arguing that there is a ‘fixed’ time for the geula, or end of days, to occur, and if the Jewish people haven’t made the necessary teshuva by that point Hashem will bring massive tribulations to the world to ‘force’ them to repent ahead of the deadline for geula. Whoever makes it through these tribulations will then make it to geula and Zion, i.e. Israel.

Rabbi Eliezer tries to argue, but eventually he concedes that Rabbi Yehoshua is correct.

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Are Chazal also ‘scaremongering?”

That is the question.

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UPDATE:

A comment from Orna prompted this response. After I wrote it, I thought I should actually stick it up as an addendum to this post. Enough with all the pettiness and machloket, already! Are all of us so ‘fixed’ we have nothing better to do than keep pointing out issues in other people? The whole world is just a mirror. Whenever we’re slagging someone else off, some other group of Jews off, we’re really just talking about ourselves.

Who cares what group of Jews Moshiach ‘belongs’ to, as long as he just shows up already? Tzaddikim are not football teams, that you can only support one side. ALL our Tzaddikim are beloved and valuable. BH, Rabbi Berland will last the distance and be able to make the jump from ‘hezkat Moshiach’ to the full thing.

If he doesn’t manage to rebuild the temple and ingather all the exiles – then he will be just the potential Moshiach of the generation. That’s all! No big deal. No need for all this crazy hysteria. Until the temple is rebuilt, no-one can say with 100% certainty who the Moshiach was.

All we know is that he’ll be the leader of the generation, and he can’t come back from the dead. Apart from that, none of us are any wiser. In the meantime, I think Rabbi Berland has the best shot of being Moshiach in our generation, and it’s no sin – at all! – to say that and publicize it.

All these people talking about ‘false messiahs’ – it’s all just a reflection of their own issues, their own problems. May God help us all to find the inner peace we need to stop turning Moshiach into some sort of ridiculous competition.

We are surrounded on all sides by people who hate us. If even we observant Jews are letting the crazy nutjobs in our midst stir trouble between us all the time, to prevent us from sticking together, what hope is there, really, of getting geula the sweet way?

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Orna, the more I think about all this, the more I think it’s just a ‘plan’ from the Sitra Achra to keep Jews at each other’s throats. There are always questions around the biggest Tzaddikim, that’s just how it is. They are operating in a realm that is far, far above what us mere mortals can grasp. The more honest amongst us will admit that.

I’m personally very uncomfortably with any suggestion that a Beit HaMikdash could be anywhere except Jerusalem. However, I’m not going to write off a whole bunch of Jews who believe that it could be in New York, even though I totally disagree with that idea myself.

In the Gemara, we see time and time again how the Tannaim had massive disagreements with each other about some very important issues. We can disagree about all these things without going at each other’s throats and starting to say other Jews aren’t ‘kosher’, or aren’t ‘Jewish enough’.

Who are we to judge? We can’t see inside people’s neshamas to know what’s really going on.

In the Gemara (Tractate Ketubot 103a), the students of Rebbe Yehuda HaNasi the Prince were so upset at his death, they made a decree that anyone who says that Rebbe Yehuda was dead should be stabbed with a knife:

“It is related that on the day that Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi died, the Sages decreed a fast, and begged for divine mercy so that he would not die. And they said: Anyone who says that Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi has died will be stabbed with a sword.”

That same Tractate explains how Yehuda HaNasi used to come back to his home for Shabbat AFTER HE DIED, to make kiddush with his family:

“The Gemara explains: Every Shabbat eve, even after his passing, Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi would come to his house as he had done during his lifetime, and he therefore wished for everything to be set up as usual. The Gemara relates the following incident: It happened on a certain Shabbat eve that a neighbor came by and called and knocked at the door. His maidservant said to her: Be quiet, for Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi is sitting. When he heard his maidservant reveal his presence to the neighbor, he did not come again, so as not to cast aspersions on earlier righteous individuals who did not appear to their families following their death.”

I agree there’s some very important clarifications and distinctions that need to be brought out with all this.

Dead tzaddikim cannot be Moshiach, that’s what the Rambam ruled, and that’s the halacha we all follow.

At the same time, Tzaddikim are greater after their deaths than they are in their lifetime, and their souls are active in the world, and accessible, in some way to those of us left behind.

Christianity stole a lot of these – the deepest! – ideas in authentic yiddishkeit and warped them to their own ends. We need to clarify things so we can get them back into their right space, spiritually.

At the same time, after I started researching all this stuff with Chabad conversions being maligned and questioned, etc it made me very upset.

The people who led the charge against Chabad after the Rebbe died also had a very obvious agenda to ridicule and disparage chassidut generally, because it didn’t fit their unspiritual approach to yiddishkeit.

That’s why I brought this Gemara, to show that a lot of the attacks against Chabad have originated from ignorance of our Torah sources (at best…)

We can disagree with other Jews, without getting into personal attacks.

This isn’t directed specifically at you, btw, Orna, just this is what has flowed out of my finger tips as a result of your comment.

The true tzaddikim are all working together to bring geula the sweetest way possible, in ways the rest of us can’t even understand.

Our job is just to keep our mouths shut, work on overcoming our own bad middot and to give EVERY TZADDIK their due respect, regardless of whether he’s ‘our’ Tzaddik or not.

That’s part of what I like so much about Breslov. They respect every Torah sage out there, Litvak, Sephardi, Karlin – whatever it is.

The label doesn’t matter, just what’s in people’s hearts.

 

What did the Lubavitcher Rebbe mean, when he said there would never be another holocaust?

One day, Rebbe Nachman was walking along with a group of his students, when they happened to walk past a home where someone had just passed away. The bereaved family members were crying and shrieking, and beseeching God in a very distraught way. Rebbe Nachman turned to his followers and told them:

“What they are doing at the end, I want you to do at the beginning!”

It’s human nature to want to stick our head in the sand, and to avoid all the unpleasantness and the scary things going on around us. Why think about it? Why worry ourselves?

But Rebbe Nachman made many statements where he urged his followers to do the exact opposite.

“Why do we allow God to bring evil decrees to the world?!” he once said to them.

We should be praying, and beseeching, and clapping our hands, and dancing, and making the teshuva required to really sweeten these decrees!

==

Right now, we can still do something about the ‘scary stuff’ we can see looming in the future, and that every single one of us can feel lurking under the surface. 

God doesn’t want us to put our heads in the sand and pretend everything is A-OK, and that people can continue spitting in God’s face in a million different ways but it’ll still all end up being fine and dandy.

How can that be?

God created the world according to certain rules, and one of the biggest is the concept of reward and punishment. There are real consequences for bad behavior, sometimes very big consequences. If a person continues to go against what God really wants for them, and how He really wants them to be living their lives – and they don’t wake up and make some sincere teshuva – then they will have to deal with the consequences of their bad behavior.

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In the meantime, putting our head in the sand is not helping anyone – not even ourselves!

God wants us to be crying out to Him, and making teshuva, and realizing that unless we are really holding firm to the Tzaddik of the generation, we could honestly get flung a million miles away, as God continues to shake the world.

“Regarding the Messianic age it is written: ‘To grasp the ends of the earth and shake the wicked from it.’  However, one who is attracted to a True Tzaddik can grasp hold of him and not be cast off. Holding on to the Tzaddik, he can remain firm.”[1]

==

Rabbi Berland isn’t telling us about the thousands of rockets pointed at Eretz Yisrael because he wants to pointlessly scare the pants off us.

He’s just pointing out the obvious – the bleedingly obvious – to rouse us to really start praying, and working on all the bad middot and teshuva we need to make to get these harsh decrees sweetened.

That’s why I get a little frustrated when I read emails like this:

“I’m keeping up with all the world news, craziness and all like always but I try to bring myself away from the doomsday stuff. It’s so scary when it’s so close to the end. The words Rav Berland is sending out now are really making me nervous. It makes me daven harder but I can’t imagine Hashem taking out anything on his children at this point. We just passed כ סיון which I learned all about recently. So many horrors have happened to us, I just can’t see anymore happening. Too many earlier tzaddikim like the Lubavicher Rebbe said it will be with rachamim and all Jews will be ok, I am trying to keep calm with that. I know what the autistics are saying but I am hoping Hashem will only fulfill the good.”

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Do I understand that all this stuff is scary, and that we’d for sure all prefer things to come the sweeter way with no more bloodshed and suffering?

Of course!

Is the ‘sweeter way’ going to happen, if we don’t make every effort to do all the things I keep pointing out again and again and again, namely:

  • Praying our socks off – and making every effort to join in with Rabbi Berland’s prayer gatherings, however we can manage it.
  • Making some real teshuva, including working on our bad middot and ‘getting real’ about just how imperfect we actually are. 
  • Hanging on to the true tzaddik of the generation – whoever that guy might be – and telling other people about him, too?

Nope, it isn’t.

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Which brings me to another point of clarification.

Over the years, I’ve read so many comments from people who are convinced that the late Lubavitcher Rebbe apparently said that the geula  is only going to come totally the sweet way, with no more death or suffering.

Even my correspondent, above, mentioned this:

“Too many earlier tzaddikim like the Lubavicher Rebbe said it will be with rachamim and all Jews will be ok.”

(Incidentally, apart from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, I don’t know of the other tzaddikim who have said anything like this. If any reader wants to share me some sources, I’d be very grateful.)

Now, I’ve been trying to track down the statement, or statements, that the Rebbe actually said, to give people this impression, and so far, this is what I’ve turned up (with some help from my friend, C.A. – ta!)

Before we continue, let me just point out that wherever possible, I’ve been trying to track down verifiable statements that were made by the Rebbe himself, and not just other people’s explanations of what they think he was saying.

There is certainly a time and a place for interpreting our Sages words, but the starting point has to be a clear explanation of what they actually said to begin with.

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What the Lubavitcher Rebbe said about ‘no Jew being left behind’ when geula comes:

“Leah, ‘for now my husband will be united with me.’ In an ultimate sense, this verse refers to the unity of the Jewish people with G‑d. That unity will be revealed in the Messianic age, when all the Jews will leave the exile; not one Jew will remain. In the redemption from the Babylonian exile, many Jews, among them the Torah sages and the Levi’im, remained in Babylon. However, in regard to the future redemption ‘a great congregation will return,’ ‘you, children of Israel, will be gathered one by one,’ no Jew will remain in exile. Thus, in preparation for this redemption, efforts must be made to increase Jewish unity as explained above in regard to the Ushpizin related to the present evening.”

From here:

5th Night of Sukkos, 5745 (1984)

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What the Lubavitcher Rebbe said about every THING being redeemed:

The redemption will involve freeing all the elements of existence that have been subjugated in the exile. Nothing will be lost.2 On the contrary, everything will be redeemed. Every single Jew will be redeemed. We will leave “with our youth and with our elders… with our sons and with our daughters.” And “their gold and silver will accompany them.” All the positive activities and achievements of the Jews (and also the non-Jews) in the exile will not be nullified. What will be nullified is the concealment of the world’s true inner being which is brought on by the material substance of the world and the subjugation to the rules of nature that exists at present. But all the positive aspects of the exile will remain, and indeed will be elevated.”

From here:

Shabbos Parshas Acharei-Kedoshim, 13th Day of Iyar, 5751 (1991)

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The Lubavitcher Rebbe on the holocaust:

I also found this news report from December 31st, 1990 on the JTA website, which quoted the Lubavitcher Rebbe as disagreeing with a statement made by the late Rabbi Schach, z’tl, that the holocaust came about as a form of Divine retribution because of the millions of Jews who had thrown off the Yoke of Torah and Mitzvot. Rabbi Shach also said that something similar could happen again, God forbid.

This is how the Lubavitcher Rebbe was quoted as responding to those statements, in the report:

“[Rabbi] Schneerson was especially vociferous in his attack on the notion, expounded by [Rabbi] Schach, that further retributive suffering might befall the Jewish people if they fail to abide by Jewish law.

“This suggestion is unconscionable,” the rebbe declared, without mentioning who had made it. “The future bodes only well for the Jewish people. There will never be another Holocaust. There will be redemption and joy.””

==

It makes for interesting reading, doesn’t it?

If this last news report I brought was accurate, then the Rebbe does seem to be clearly saying there will never by another Holocaust. Let’s take each part of this last statement and explore it a little more closely:

The future bodes only well for the Jewish people.

 Who can argue with this? The principles of emuna state clearly that God is doing everything, and that everything that God does – even the bad, apparently yucky stuff – is ultimately for our own good. And of course, the ultimate ‘future’ is redemption, Moshiach, world peace etc.

But the Lubavitcher Rebbe is NOT saying that there won’t be any more suffering or death before we get there.

There will never be another Holocaust.

Amen, let’s really hope so.

Rabbi Berland has said on a few occasions that if you look through Jewish history, you see there was some sort of terrible destruction, pogrom or holocaust every 70 years or so.

A big part of why he went into exile and willingly took so much disgrace upon himself was to prevent this next ‘holocaust’ from happening. And that effort is continuing today, with the prayer gatherings, and all the terrible physical suffering the Rav is going through with his non-stop serious illnesses.

A couple of months ago, he also stated that unless more of Am Yisrael get with the program and start doing our bit to help sweeten the harsh judgments on the horizon, he may well have to take yet more disgrace and exile on to himself, and that it will be much, much harder even than what came before.

The mind boggles as to what that could actually mean.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe was an enormous Tzaddik, and he overlapped with Rabbi Berland.

He certainly knew about Rabbi Berland, and he could see what was coming.

(It’s a side note, but my Lubavitch friend told me that the Rebbe always used to get very upset when people referred to him as being Moshiach. Even though the Rebbe often said that the Moshiach was here, he NEVER said that he himself was the Moshiach. It’s just more interesting food for thought, that I’m putting out there to mull over.)

Is it too far-fetched to say that the Rebbe could see there would be a Tzaddik 30 years in the future who would sacrifice himself totally for the Jewish people, in order to prevent an otherwise ‘inevitable’ holocaust from happening again?

Or to put it another way, both Rav Shach and the Lubavitcher Rebbe were right.

But we only get to avoid the ‘inevitable’ holocaust if we’re take the threat of it very seriously, and cry out to Hashem and making the appropriate teshuva. Sticking our heads in the sand and kind of hoping for the best just isn’t going to work.

Lastly, we have:

“There will be redemption and joy.”

Again, who can argue with this? Amen and amen and amen.

BUT – that doesn’t mean there won’t also be more suffering and people dying.

In the 29 years since the Rebbe first made this statement, has there only been ‘redemption and joy’? Has there been no suffering?

Since 1990, Israel has gone through three Intifadas, and a number of wars.

Since 1990, so many people have lost their loved ones in tragic circumstances.

So many marriages have gone to the wall. So many people have lost their faith, or their minds. So many people have had to deal with challenges of an enormous magnitude.

It just isn’t realistic to sit there saying “all Jews will be OK” without qualifying that statement by adding but only if they make the necessary teshuva. Only if they stop destroying the world and spitting in God’s face. Only if they get close to the true tzaddikim.

====

Otherwise, how exactly is this meant to work?

That a totally unrepentant Mr Rainbow-Chasing-Chazer-Eating-Haredi-Hater with the worst middot in the world also gets the red carpet rolled out for them, to come and have a VIP tour of the Beit HaMikdash and personal meeting with Moshiach?

Really?

When the Lubavitcher Rebbe says that every single Jew will be redeemed, and that no Jew will be left behind, we need to remember that the same could be said of the Exodus from Egypt.

Every single Israelite who made it through the plague of darkness alive, was redeemed.

But four fifths were lost, before things even got to that stage.

There’s a scary midrash that “predicts” only 700 Jews will live to see the coming of Moshiach and the Temple being rebuilt. Now THAT is a scary thought, even for me.

But what if the geula coming b’rachamim just means anything over 700 people make it through to the finish line?

==

Like I said, the point of this post isn’t doom or gloom.

Rather, it’s to snap us out of all the unhelpful and unrealistic wishful thinking about geula, to make the point that until and unless more of us wake up, start joining in the prayer gatherings, start rallying more Jews around the flag of the real tzaddikim and start working on the enormous bad middot that are preventing us from really doing what’s required, here, the geula coming the sweet way j- with no more suffering – just isn’t going to happen.

Rav Avigdor Miller noted something similar about what occurred just before WWII. He said that God didn’t want to bring the harsh decree of Hitler and the holocaust, but He was waiting for the Jews to band together, make teshuva, and to start crying out for mercy, the same way they did at the time of Haman.

Sadly, that didn’t happen.

Why not? According to Rabbi Miller – the secular Jewish media and Jewish atheists were to blame. They wasted an ocean of ink denouncing Hitler, but couldn’t spare a single drop to encourage the Jews to rally around their true tzaddikim, and return to God.

God forbid, that should happen again.

[1] #22, His Rebbe Nachman’s Wisdom, published by the Breslov Research Institute

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UPDATE:

A reader just sent me a translated Kuntres apparently written and edited by the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s own hand, with the following message:

“Regarding your most recent blog of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, there is unquestionably evidence throughout the Rebbe’s sichos where he indeed strongly hinted that he could be Moshiach. Several places he said that that Nosi HaDor is the Moshiach of the Dor. There is an entire kuntres called Beis Rabeinu Shebebavel , entirely edited by his own hand, with this concept, where he explains the uniqueness of 770, among other things it being Beis Moshiach. Anyone who learns this kuntres, it’s hard to arrive at any other conclusion besides the Rebbe hinting that he could be Moshiach. Here it is, in the original, and with an English translation, if you would like to take a look for yourself:”

You can download it as a PDF here: Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Kuntres on Beit Rabbenu

(The last link ‘broke’, so this is a PDF that will automatically download. I found it very interesting reading.)

There’s a lot of confusion about this subject, but I want to stress that the sources talk very clearly about their being TWO moshiachs, Moshiach ben Yosef, and Moshiach ben David.

In the post I wrote about who’s holding up the geula, I brought the following quote:

In Kol HaTor Chapter 2, Section 2, Letter bet, the Vilna Gaon says the following:

 “The general purpose of the two moshiachs, Moshiach ben Yosef and Moshiach ben David, throughout all the generations has been to protect and fight against the three ‘heads’ of the klipot (evil husks): Eisav, Yishmael and the Erev Rav…..

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

It’s important to understand that these two moshiachs are not in ‘competition’.

It’s not a case of ‘my Rebbe is bigger than your Rebbe’.  The two Moshiachs are on the same side, and trying to work together, to bring the geula, but they both have different approaches and achieve different results. Rebbe Nachman explains this concept in a beautiful way in one of his stories, which I covered in this article: Moshiach ben Yosef vs Moshiach ben David.

I think maybe the time has also come to take a closer look at whether it’s possible for a Moshiach to come from the dead.

This is a very sensitive topic, I know. But I think it needs airing out respectfully, and with as many sources behind it as possible to see what conclusions our Sages came to, and how they got there.

A big part of the problem is that so many people have ideas about ‘Moshiach’ and geula that aren’t at all rooted in Torah sources. For example, there is a discussion in the Gemara (Sanhedrin 98b) that closely examines the idea of whether the Moshiach can come back from the dead. It’s not a ‘lunatic fringe’ issue, like it’s so often made out to be, it was a serious question that was debated by some of the biggest Sages that ever lived.

The ultimate conclusion is ‘no’, but if you follow the debate, you can see it’s not at all as black and white as it’s often portrayed to be.

BH, I will put together as many Torah sources on the subject as I can over the next few days, and we will learn about it together. As much as possible, it’s time to build some bridges, to put all the ‘hysteria’ to one side, and to take a calm, gentle and measured look at this topic.

With an awful lot of help from Hashem.

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Sometimes, a picture speaks a thousand words.

Definition of clickbait

something (such as a headline) designed to make readers want to click on a hyperlink especially when the link leads to content of dubious value or interest.
“It is difficult to remember a time when you could scroll through the social media outlet of your choice and not be bombarded with: You’ll never believe what happened when … This is the cutest thing ever … This the biggest mistake you can make … Take this quiz to see which character you are on … They are all classic clickbait models.”
— Emily Shire

Cartoon of an angler fish using'click bait' to entice a naive reader (fish)

Nuff said.

Rabbi Berland’s New Prayer to Move to Israel.

So many of the people I’m in touch with want to move to Israel, but feel totally petrified about the whole idea of uprooting their whole lives, and trying to plonk them down again in a totally different country, however holy that country may actually be, and however much God really wants the Jews to move to Israel.

This is totally understandable. Moving country is not a simple thing, it has profound consequences for everyone involved. You can understand why so many otherwise believing Jews are twisting the words of the Torah, ignoring the whole ‘sin of the spies’ episode, and making all sorts of bizarre claims about there being no need for Jews to move to the Land of Israel.

The fear is in control. The fear is running the show.

Fear is one of the yetzer hara’s most powerful tools for keeping people away from doing the right thing. How many people stay trapped in a secular lifestyle, because they are scared of what people will say, or what’s going to be, if they take the plunge and start keeping kosher….

Or take the plunge and start keeping Shabbat….

Or take the plunge, and start dressing more modestly….

Or take the plunge, and ditch the i-Phone for something far more basic and better for the soul….

Moving to Israel is no different, except the fear is less about what people will say – because after all, it’s a new start, and you’re leaving the people who are against moving to Israel behind – and much more about what will be.

Will I find work?

Will I find friends?

Will I find a place to live?

Will my kids acclimatize OK?

And maybe the biggest fear of all:

Will I regret doing this for the rest of my life?

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Again, all these fears are totally, 100% normal and reasonable to have. If we don’t acknowledge that these fears are coming from a rational place, and that they have to be addressed properly, rather than squashed or mocked, then we can’t move forward with the whole discussion of moving to Israel.

Israel is the land of emuna, it’s where a person can really start to LIVE their belief that God is running the whole world, and not just talk about it.

The answer to all of the ‘issues’ stated above – the answer to every ‘issue’ and worry a person has about moving to Israel ultimately boils down to the same thing:

God is in control. Whatever God decides, that’s what’s going to happen.

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That’s a massive level of emuna to be striving for, isn’t it? And I’m not sure that I’m there myself, really, although I’d certainly like to be.

But the more we can live our life from that genuine place of really believing in Him, and really believing in concepts like reward and punishment, and really believing that 99% of the ‘yuck’ we go through in our lives we totally bring on ourselves, via our own bad middot – the more easy we will be able to deal with any potential move to Israel.

Really, there’s only one answer to ‘why move to Israel?’

I could tell you about the amazing day I spent yesterday, swimming with my family in a stream up North, together with a bunch of frum Jews with payot, and fully-clothed Beis Yaakov girls all happily splashing about.

I could tell you about last Wednesday night, when I went off to the Kotel to recite some tehillim for the Rav, and how I watched the swallows duck and dive, swooping so close to the wall before soaring back up into the heavens.

I could tell you about how everything here is kosher (I live in Jerusalem. That’s not true of everywhere in Israel, especially not Tel Aviv.)

I could tell you about the farm one of my kids went to volunteer on last week, up in the Shomron hills, that’s being started by an idealistic young Jewish couple.

I could talk about the sun, the sea, the way my soul just feels way, way happier here, and way, way more peaceful than it ever did in London.

But really, all of these things are missing the point.

The point of moving to Israel, is because it’s a mitzvah that God commanded the Jews to keep.

So maybe you’ll move here, and you really will struggle with making a living. And you really will go through years of feeling so lonely. And you really will find it very hard to ever buy your own place, especially in Jerusalem.

And maybe you won’t.

But the point is, whatever happens to us in Israel – and in New York, and in London, and in Melbourne, and in Paris – it’s all just to bring home that same message:

God is in control. Whatever God decides, that’s what’s going to happen.

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If a person is really working on their emuna, then they will increasingly be living their life according to this idea wherever they happen to live.

But there’s another point to make here, and that’s the idea of having some humility, and overcoming our own arrogance. Or to put it another way, to start thinking much more about what does God want from me, and much less about what do I want from God.

We are here to serve God, not the other way around.

Again, let’s keep things real.

This is a huge spiritual level! It’s a level that we will have to struggle and fight for ad 120. It doesn’t come easily to anyone, and especially not to those people who find it very difficult to put anyone else’s needs and wants ahead of their own.

That’s why there are two things that really clear the path to moving to Israel, and those two things are:

  1. Working on our own bad middot
  2. Working on our emuna, particularly the idea that we are in control of our lives

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We need to pray to get to Israel.

That’s part of the process of really getting ‘ready’ to actually live here. We need to pray to get here, and we need to pray that all the bad middot that are stopping us from moving somehow disappear. And then once we’re here, we need to carry on praying every single day, that we will continue to have the merit of staying here.

Because in Israel, all the bad middot that we fooled ourselves we didn’t have in chutz l’aretz come roaring out of the closet.

Because God wants us to finally start dealing with them, and acknowledging them, and to stop making excuses about what we are really down here to work on and fix.

BTW, that’s also why even the very process of moving to Israel can be so very taxing and upsetting. It’s all part of the preparation process for the spiritual work of developing some real humility, and understanding that God is in charge of the world, not us.

All this sounds like a lot of hard work, doesn’t it?

And honestly, it is.

You can totally understand why so many otherwise believing Jews would prefer to stay in chutz l’aretz and pretend that moving to Israel is something God doesn’t really require of anyone. It’s certainly much easier that way, it’s certainly much more comfortable.

At least, on one level.

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This post isn’t for those people.

This post is for the people who are really yearning and longing to get here, and who really do know that God wants the Jewish people to be in Israel, but who can’t quite manage to overcome their fears (yet!) in order to give God what He really wants.

For those people, there is a shortcut to moving to Israel, which is basically the power of prayer. Every prayer we say on this subject, shortens the road we need to walk in order to get here. Why? Because it’s tackling the obstacles that are blocking our path at their root.

A praying person is a person who already acknowledges, at least on some level, that God is in control. A praying person is someone who knows that God is behind all the difficulties, and that if we start to clean up our own act, particularly with our own bad middot like arrogance, laziness, greed and complacency, that God will then blast so many of the ‘issues’ keeping us stuck out of the way, too.

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That’s why Israel is really only acquired via prayer.

And that’s why so many of the people who actually live in Israel still haven’t really ‘got here’ spiritually, even though they moved here with their bodies, or were born here.

Those people moan all the time about what’s going on in Israel. They complain all the time about the taxes, and about other groups of Jews, and about all the ‘bad’ they see going on all around them, because the whole world is just one big mirror, and God is beaming a very unpleasant reflection straight into their faces.

Like we said above, in Israel, bad middot are amplified – both ours, and other people’s – so we’ll stop making excuses, and finally knuckle down to the work of fixing them.

Luckily, there is a shortcut. The shortcut is to get close to our true tzaddikim, to follow their advice, and to use their prayers to circumvent all the stuff that’s holding us back from being able to even describe the problem, let alone deal with it.

Rebbe Nachman’s advice to do an hour a day of hitbodedut has totally transformed my approach to the world, and it’s the single biggest ‘help’ to navigating life in Israel. You can read more about it HERE. But in the meantime, I want to share with you a prayer that Rabbi Berland just put out for people who want to move to Israel, but who are stuck, somehow.

It’s not a long prayer, but it sums up so precisely what’s really going on when people get stuck unable to make aliya, even though they admit it’s the right thing to do.

You can see the original HERE, but here’s what it says:

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A Prayer to Come to Eretz Yisrael

TO MERIT COMING TO ERETZ YISRAEL WITHOUT LOSING ANYTHING. TO SELL EVERYTHING FOR ITS FULL VALUE. AND MAY I MERIT LEAVING THE DEFILEMENT OF THE LAND OF THE NATIONS THAT WE ARE IMMERSED IN. AND MAY WE SMASH ALL OF THE OBSTACLES THAT ARE MOSTLY OBSTACLES OF THE MIND.

Master of the World, who can do everything. Merit me to go up to Eretz Yisrael with sublime self-sacrifice. That I leave all of the property and all of the belongings that I have outside of Eretz Yisrael. That I not leave anything over, that I not leave any remembrance.

Rather, I should sell everything as quick as possible at full value, and not lose even one pruta by moving to Eretz Yisrael. And may I not incur any other damages by moving to Eretz Yisrael.

For we have no more strength to stay in exile, in chutz la’aretz, even for one second.

We want to go up to the land of our forefathers, that you gave to our forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, “The land flowing with milk and honey”.

For Eretz Yisrael is holier than any other land in the world.

And Hashem Your G-d chose her over all other precious things in the world.”

Please, Hashem, merit me to go up to Eretz Yisrael with self-sacrifice,

“And bring us to Your Holy Mountain.”

For we have no more strength to stay in chutz la’aretz, but on the other hand we’ve been here for so long, in the defilement of the land of the nations, and we have no idea how to free ourselves from it.

Now we are turning to You, with humble kneeling and prostration:

Help us, Hashem our G-d, to come to Eretz Yisrael in the blink of an eye! And help us to break all of the obstacles, and all of the postponements, for the main obstacle is in the mind.   

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May Hashem help us to give Him what He really wants, as easily as possible.

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Did you ever stop to wonder how Moshe Rabbenu would go down in Monsey?

“Shlomie! Shlomie! You gotta hear this! Some guy in a frock just showed up in the beis medrash, and told everyone he’s the Moshiach!!!”

Shlomie heaved his stomach back inside the belt line of his black pants, stood up and went over to talk to his chevrusa Yankie, who was anxiously pacing backwards and forwards by the kollel’s coffee vending machine.

“Whaddya talking about, Shlomie? Calm down, speak slower. Who just showed up in the beis medrash?”

Yankie took a breath, stopped pacing, and turned to Shlomie.

“Some guy called Moshe something… He said G-d sent him to redeem the Jews, and he wants to take us out of Monsey to the promised land!”

Shlomie’s eyes narrowed. Another nut-job talking about G-d!

The last 210 years, there’d been a lot of these imposters who’d showed up trying to con the Jews of Monsey that one day they’d have to leave and go to the ‘holy land’. Wherever that place was meant to be…

“Where is this guy?” Shlomie demanded. “I wanna talk to him.”

With Yankie following behind, Shlomie headed off to the beis medrash, swung the doors open, and saw a tall, bearded figure standing in the corner with his eyes shut, rapturously reciting the bracha over a cup of water out loud.

Shlomie whispered to Yankie,

“Uhoh, this already doesn’t look good! What’s with this guy’s accent? Is he Sephardi?! And who spends five minutes blessing a cup of water?! This is definitely bitul Torah!”

Yankie muttered back, “Shlomie, we didn’t get the Torah yet…” But Shlomie didn’t hear him, as he’d already marched up to ‘Moshe the moshiach’ determined to kick this imposter out of the beis medrash.

====

“Sooo, Moishe… where’d you learn?” challenged Shlomie.

Moshe Rabbenu studied Shlomie with wise, kind eyes and told him gently:

“I’ve spent the last 60 years communing with Hashem in the desert.”

Shlomie eyes rolled so far back in his head they almost popped out his neck. Geez, the nerve of this guy!!! Still, Shlomie prided himself on being open-minded, so he decided to ask a couple more questions before officially excommunicating him.

“So, who’s your Rav?” he asked.

Moshe lowered his head slightly and said:

“Hashem. Hashem’s teaching me Torah. Although I did meet Rabbi Akiva a little while back…”

Shlomie snorted again. What? That guy whose parents were goyim who converted?!?

====

He tried one last time, just to be nice.

“Where did you grow up? Did you study at the Mir?”

“I grew up in Pharoah’s palace,” Moshe Rabbenu replied gently. “I had to flee Monsey-raim at the age of 20 after I killed an Egyptian by uttering one of Hashem’s ineffable names. I never got a chance to learn at the Mir….”

“Kishoofim!!!!” roared out Shlomie. “Out, out, get outta here with all your dangerous Moshiach talk! You’re nothing but a crack-pot, a false messiah, a person who’s trying to pull the Jews away from learning Torah with all your talk about serving Hashem!”

Yankie muttered again “But Shlomie, we didn’t get the Torah yet…” but again, Shlomie didn’t hear him.

With quiet dignity, Moshe Rabbenu picked up his staff, and headed out of the beis medrash.

====

Yankie was anxiously biting his fingernails.

“The nerve of that guy!” sputtered Shlomie. “I can’t believe people are falling for this! We’re only meant to be learning about Moshiach, not believing it!”

“But Shlomie, a lot of the really big rabbis – like Aharon HaKohen – say he’s the real deal…” Shlomie harrumphed.

“All these ‘rebbe’ types stick together, you know that.”

“But Shlomie,” Yankie tried again, “This morning he turned the whole Nile to blood, and he’s told Pharoah there’s more natural disasters to come, if he doesn’t send the Jews out of Monsey-raim…”

“Kishoofim!!” Shlomie yelled again. “Unbelievable bitul Torah! Instead of learning another three blatt Gemara this guy’s off doing black magic and talking to goyim! Don’t fall for it, Yankie, don’t let him fool you. Seriously, where was the guy’s hat??”

Yankie tried one last time:

“But Shlomie, we have a tradition from Yaakov Avinu that at some point, the Jews have to leave Monsey-raim, and that a redeemer will show up and take them out of galus…”

Shlomie sighed a big sigh, and put his enormous arm around his frail, naïve learning partner.

“Yankie, you’re a great guy, do you know that? Here, take a look over the other side of the beis medrash. Who’d ya see?”

Yankie turned his head, and spotted Korach, the Rosh Kollel, shtiggering away to the bachorim about how why the beis medrash doesn’t need a mezuzah on the door. Korach cut a fine figure in his Armani black suit, smart tie and brushed fedora, tilted at just the right angle to set off his jutting chin.

“Now, if someone told me that’s Moshiach, I’d believe it,” explained Shlomie. “That guy’s related to one of the most important families in Monsey-raim; he’s got 14 kids – all shomer Toyrah ve-mitzvos – and he encourages his students to think for themselves. That guy is all about Toyrah and mitzvos. And his wife bakes a great kugel!

“But Shlomie, we didn’t get the Torah yet,” Yankie wanted to say. But he didn’t because he knew there’d be no point.

Shlomie heaved his stomach back behind his shtender, and went back to learning his latest blatt on his My-Gemara i-Phone app.

“The nerve of that guy, ‘Moshe Rabbenu’!” he muttered to himself, thankful that he’d managed to save the guys in the beis medrash from another false messiah. Hrrmph! As if the Moshiach would be someone who’d never stepped foot in the Mir…

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First posted in June, 2017

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I opened the door to find Susannah standing there: “I have cancer,” she told me.

One day a few months’ ago, there was a buzz at the door. I opened it up to find a scrawny old woman dressed in the lightest of summer dresses standing on my stoop. She wore a pair of oversized, fake black Crocs on her feet, and she was pushing a black trolley on wheels, that was full of an odd assortment of food.

I looked at her, she looked at me. She blinked, cleared her throat, then told me:

“I have cancer. Do you have some money you can give me?”

I looked at her, she looked at me. I went to look in my purse and as usual, there were only a few shekels hiding out in its creases. When there are teenagers in the house, it’s rare for a 100 shekel note to last more than 10 minutes after they’ve woken up. I handed the small change over with an apology.

“That’s ok, darling.”

She reassured me.

Then she cleared her throat for another request:

“Maybe, you have some food you can give me?”

I’m not a balabusta who has my cupboards stocked for all occasions and contingencies. Now my girls are much older, and now that I live in Jerusalem, I tend to shop on the go, and to really just buy what I need for that day. So I blinked nervously, and started scrounging round the back of the fridge, and the back of the cupboard, to see what I could turn up.

“Tuna in water?” I offered her, over my shoulder. I’d bought them for Pesach, and we still have four cans left because no-one really likes it. Susannah’s eyes lit up.

“Perfect! I can’t have oil because of the cancer, you know.”

It was a win-win. I loaded her up with unwanted tuna, a big box of cornflakes and a bottle of water. I’d done a mitzvah, I felt good.

====

The next week, Susannah came back.

I opened the door, and eyed her a little more suspiciously. Was this going to turn into one of those ‘charidee nightmares’, where I’d get to the stage of being scared to open my own front door? I looked at her, and she looked at me. I think she forgot that she’d already told me her shpiel, because she started again:

“My name is Susannah. I have cancer. Do you have some money for me? My medications are very expensive, and I need some money.”

She spoke English with an Eastern European accent that added a strange sense of poetry to her words. I fumbled in the purse – nothing, nada, totally cleaned out by the teenage hordes. I shrugged my shoulders, sorry. She hesitated, then again cleared her throat.

“Maybe you have some food for me? I have nothing in my house to eat.”

====

I knew she wasn’t lying.

I could see it in her face. So once again, I rummaged around the fridge, and loaded her up with some bananas and pears, and a tin of lychees I’d just bought that morning in anticipation for a snack attack. She was very grateful, and I closed the door with half a quizzical smile on my face.

The next week, she was back. And I decided I had to put a ‘boundary’ down, a marker to show – to myself! – that whatever I gave in future was coming from a place of free choice, and not from a place of unhealthy manipulation. That time, I told her I had no money, and no food. Sorry. Not unpolitely, not harshly, still respecting the soul of this person who stood on my doorstep. But showing both of us that my giving wasn’t automatic, and that I could say ‘no’ sometimes.

She responded in such a gracious, gentle and dignified manner, that I realized it was safe to carry on giving to Susannah in future.

The next week when she came back, I greeted her with more friendliness, and she relaxed enough to ask me if I could make her a cup of coffee. Of course!

Anything else?

“Do you have any food you can give me to eat now?” She asked. Big blue eyes bulging out of her too-red face. “I haven’t eaten anything all day.”

It was already 3pm.

====

Again, I’m not a balabusta, but God helped and I offered her some cornflakes. “Yes!” she said excitedly. I brought her the box, but before I could bring her a bowl and some milk, she’d stuck both hands in the foil lining and was stuffing the cornflakes into her mouth. I was shocked. Susannah was poor, but she was also genteel. She really was starving.

That time, I gave her more money and more canned goods, and she spent an hour in my kitchen just recovering from who knows what she’d just been through, the last couple of days.

The next week, she came later, when my kids and husband were home. I let her in, and one of my kids started stage whispering:

What do you know about her, Ima?! How do you know she’s not going to rob us?!

That kid has a lot of fear about ‘stranger danger’. I don’t know who got to her in junior school, but they did a great job of making her a paranoid lunatic, when it comes to interacting with strangers.

First, we have nothing to steal. And second, she’s been here a few times already, and I trust her.

The kid didn’t so believe me, but her phone started beeping and she got distracted.

====

That time, I gave Susannah coffee and supper, and a tiny bit more cash – literally, 10 shekels or something – and just let her sit in my kitchen, trying to arrange some of her affairs on her phone.

There but for the grace of God go I.

That’s really all I could think. God forbid, I should end up poor, destitute and sick in my old age, and no-one would even give me a hot cup of coffee or a place to sit quietly for an hour. Just as Susannah was leaving, the kid on the phone burst out in very loud gales of laughter. I didn’t pay any attention to it – it’s the usual teenager thing that goes on all the time – but apparently, Susanna did.

Two days later, the door buzzed in ‘her’ way, and to be honest, my heart sank a bit. I could do once a week happily, but if it got more than that, I’d have to put my foot down. Susannah stood there looking even more gaunt and vulnerable than usual.

Rivka, I have to ask you something.

Ok…..

Here it comes, I thought to myself.

Here comes a request for $300, a plea to come and cater for 30 house guests, or something else OTT and totally unreasonable. I was completely unprepared for what she said next.

====

“Rivka….were you laughing at me?

I looked at her in disbelief, and she stared back, tears pricking up around the bulging blue eyes.

“Rivka, I have my problems and I’m poor and I’m sick. But….were you laughing at me?”

Susannah, where is this coming from? Why on earth would you think I would be laughing at you?!

I was so shocked she thought that, I was so upset that’s what she believed.

I looked at her, she looked at me, and then she smiled a relieved smile.

“I had to check, Rivka, that’s all. Don’t mind that I asked you.”

That time, she didn’t ask for anything. No food, no money, no toilet paper. She came all the way to my flat just to check I really was who and what I was holding myself out to be.

Later that night, when I told the story over to my husband, he told me that he’d noticed she’d had a funny look on her face as she’d left, because the kid on the phone had started laughing just then.

“I thought then it could look a bit bad, like we were mocking her,” he told me.

I had no idea.

====

For two days, I tried to make some teshuva about this. It’s so easy, to cause hurt to other people. It’s so easy, to ride rough shod over another person’s feelings.

God, I don’t find Susannah’s visits so easy or comfortable, but I will do my best to be friendly and welcoming to her once a week, whenever she comes, and to treat her with proper respect!

This week, she came back. I opened the door and looked at her, and she looked at me.

What can I do for you this week, Susannah, what do you want?

She cleared her throat.

“Rivka, can I have some coffee? And do you have some food you can give me now?”

Her timing was perfect. For once, I’d gone off to the supermarket mid-day, and I had a juicy watermelon waiting to be cut up and was in the middle of making some supper.

I gave her a plate of watermelon chunks, made the black coffee with two sugars, and disappeared back to my writing, while the potatoes for supper continued to boil.

Everything OK?  I asked, when I came back in to check on them.

“Rivka, it’s heaven!” she told me. “The melon is so good!”

Ten minutes later, she’d conked out on the kitchen table, and slept the sleep of the exhausted for a little while, until I’d finished making the fish cakes. I gave her some mashed potato, the ubiquitous canned goods, and two rolls of toilet paper.

====

She’ll be back.

And each time she comes, I’m strangely grateful. Susannah is not a pious woman, not at all. But this last time – on a Wednesday – she wished me Shabbat Shalom.

And I know I’m buying my way into Gan Eden for the price of a tin of beans, and a box of cornflakes.

Photo by Artem Beliaikin @belart84 on Unsplash

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Increasingly, I’m feeling between two worlds at the moment.

Rebbe Nachman tells the story[1] of a man who plays host to a strange visitor who he’s half-scared of, and half in awe of. This strange visitor entices him out of his house, and then grabs him and starts flying all over the world with him. Then, the host starts to notice that he’s kind of in two worlds at once – flying around with the strange man, but also in his house, at one and the same time.

“He couldn’t believe that this was he himself, in his own house. But he looked carefully, and sure enough he was speaking with ordinary human beings and eating and drinking normally. But then, he again noticed he was flying like before. Then he looked again, and lo and behold! He was in his house. Again, he noticed that he was flying…and so it went on for quite a time.”

====

I can’t help thinking about this story a lot at the moment, as it seems to be describing what’s going on, at least in my life.

One minute, I’m ‘flying’ with the tzaddikim, and with visions of Moshiach and geula, and God forbid, Gog and Magog and all that supernatural end-of-days stuff. And then, I’m back in my house, trying to figure out what to make for supper, and how best to sell some books so I could actually make 5 cents at some point in my life.

And so it continues from day to day: I’m flying around with thoughts of Beit HaMikdash, and how good life will truly be once all the lies and all the horrible people who enjoy telling them, and turning people against each other, disappear once and for all. And then, I snap back to the so-called ‘real world’ and realise I need to hang my washing up, get the shower door sorted out, deal with more of the mindless bureaucracy that’s taking up more and more of the bandwidth of the world.

“Meanwhile, he noticed that he was in house. It was something extraordinary for him. How was it, that one moment he could here, and the next moment there? He wanted to speak about it to other human being, but how can one explain something incredible like this to other people? They would find it hard to believe.”

====

Friday morning, World War III almost started.

Trump almost sent American planes in to directly bomb Iran after they shot down an American spy drone. If he’d done that, we’d be dealing with World War III / Gog and Magog right now, instead of me sitting here in my pyjamas typing this out.

I know so many of us prefer a sugar-coated version of reality, and especially of geula, but if wasn’t for the tremendous self-sacrifice of the Gadol HaDor, who went into hospital with what appears to be some sort of kidney failure Thursday night – and the thousands of people who are spending their time travelling to prayer gatherings, and reciting tehillim on behalf of the Rav and the nation – we’d be dealing with a scenario where millions of people could already have been incinerated with an Iranian nuke.

They already have nukes.

Rabbi Berland has been telling us that for years, already, but no-one wanted to believe him.

====

This past Sunday, the world could already have lunged off the cliff of war, and we’d be dealing with many thousands of casualties, already.

Instead, I took Sunday off and went up North with my girls, to a quiet little stream where I sat in the water for hours and swam widths across from one clump of bulrushes to another.

My girls and their friends disappeared up-stream for a while, so I was there by myself, listening to the radio playing ‘Don’t worry, be happy’, followed by: “Don’t worry, about a thing. Every little thing’s gonna be alright.”

Really, God? Is it really? How can that be true?

That’s what I wondered to myself, as I swam backwards and forwards in perfect weather, under blue skies, with nary a person or a mosquito to disturb my personal piece of Gan Eden.

How can I be enjoying myself like this, when two days ago we nearly had Gog and Magog and the whole world is slipping into more chaos and evil every day?

That’s when God reminded me about this Rebbe Nachman story, quoted above.

Life is pretty challenging for all of us. It’s challenging when it is challenging, and it’s also challenging when it’s not challenging, as that kind of feels plain wrong, given the momentous things going on all around us.

What, I should still take some time to buy a pair of new shoes, and to spend a lazy afternoon swimming somewhere quiet in nature with my kids?

Yup.

But what about all the tehillim I need to be saying? What about all the insights I need to be sharing? All the teshuva I need to be making?

There’s a time and a place for everything, I guess.

And God is also showing me the value of my small efforts.

Like, last week the Rav put out a call for 200 people to say the whole book of tehillim every single day, until Rosh Hashana, to help him continue going until then.

I heard that and I was awe-struck.

What, there are people out there who could actually do that? Who are willing to do that? 200 of them?!?!

Me? I can’t. It takes me 5 hours to read through the book of tehillim, so it’s strictly for special occasions when I have nothing else to do and no-one else to look after. That said, I could certainly fit a few tehillim in for the Rav every day, so that’s what I’m doing instead – I’m trying to finish a whole book a week.

It’s not everything, but it’s something, and I know God values the effort very much.

And in the meantime, I’m continuing to ‘fly’ into that much deeper spiritual world, where the soul holds sway, and where the miraculous is normal, while all the time still trying to keep the fridge stocked with milk.

It’s not easy. It’s really not easy to be caught between two worlds like this.

“[H]ow can one explain something incredible like this to other people? They would find it hard to believe.”

But that’s where we’re holding.

[1] New Stories – Tzaddik, pages 213-215

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Christophe Ferron

It’s getting scarier and scarier in America and chul for Jews – but it’s also pretty scary in Israel too. What’s a person to do?

I got another email from a long-time reader on the topic of moving to Israel, which (with her permission) I’d like to respond to publically, as I think it will hopefully help more people out there get some clarity on what’s really involved with moving to Israel. My correspondent, who lives abroad, but who is a very sincere Jew who does a lot of work on really trying to connect to Hashem, and really trying to have some emuna,  sent me this:

“My question is as follows. When Caleb came back from spying on Eretz Yisrael he says the following:

‘Only Caleb, who was 40 years old, and Joshua son of Nun disagreed. They said (Numbers 14:7–9): “The land that we traversed and scouted is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord is pleased with us, He will bring us into that land, a land that flows with milk and honey, and give it to us; only you must not rebel against the Lord. Have no fear then of the people of the country, for they are our prey: their protection has departed from them, but the Lord is with us. Have no fear of them!’”

My correspondent continued:

“It clearly states that if Hashem is pleased with us He will bring us into the land that flows with milk and honey… but then it says very clearly but you must not rebel against Hashem.

“The State of Israel is clearly rebelling against Hashem, in that case do we still have an obligation to move there? Will we be protected there? Are consequences going to follow, being that we are rebelling? I am honestly scared, I am scared for the States that are currently rebelling but I am also scared of Eretz Yisrael because we are rebelling there as well….

“So where do we go?

I love the holiness of the land, I love the land, my Neshama yarns to be home. I know that America is coming to an end and that Hashem is calling us home. However the corruption of the state of Israel is what scares me. At the times of the spies it was the Amalekites who were corrupt, but Caleb says we will have protection if we cling to Hashem.

“But this time, the Jewish nation is doing corrupt things, so what does that mean for us?… All these questions are coming from a genuine place. Please enlighten me.”

====

I’ve known this person for years, and they are not someone who is looking for an ‘easy out’ or to duck mitzvahs, or to avoid coming out of their comfort zone.

This is a very committed Jew, who is asking some very serious questions about moving to Israel, and they require a serious response. So with God’s help, here’s my best shot at providing it.

As is my way, I’m going to break down the points above and answer them one by one. Let’s start with this:

“It clearly states that if Hashem is pleased with us He will bring us into the land that flows with milk and honey… but then it says very clearly but you must not rebel against Hashem.

“The State of Israel is clearly rebelling against Hashem, in that case do we still have an obligation to move there? Will we be protected there? Are consequences going to follow, being that we are rebelling? I am honestly scared, I am scared for the States that are currently rebelling but I am also scared of Eretz Yisrael because we are rebelling there as well….”

====

The STATE is not the LAND

The first thing to clarify about moving to Israel is that the STATE of Israel, and the LAND of Israel are two totally different things. The STATE of Israel is the secular institution and government that happens to be in control of the LAND of Israel.

While the STATE of Israel likes to dress it itself up in Jewish clothing, it’s honestly been anti-God, anti-Torah, and anti-orthodox Judaism right from the very start. You don’t have to take my word for that! Yair Lapid himself will tell you this in this video, where he describes how Ben Gurion and all the rest of them basically thought the haredim in Israel would totally disappear within a couple of generations, which is why he wasn’t so bothered about granting yeshiva students exemptions from serving in the IDF.

The Labour Zionist Communists who pretty much ruled Israel with an iron fist for its 50 years (and who are still ‘ruling’ it today by way of the courts, the media and the STATE’s institutions…) were vehemently ‘anti’ orthodox Judaism, and ‘anti’ a Torah observant lifestyle right from the start.

They were rebelling against God right from the start, and God has had an awful lot of patience with them.

Why?

Because they were the ‘shell’ around the fruit, as Rav Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook writes.

The STATE was the shell, the husk, that had to be in place while the far more beautiful spiritual dimension of the LAND of Israel was developing. People couldn’t move to Israel en masse until the place had proper roads, sewage facilities, places for people to work, water pipes, schools built.

So the STATE fulfilled a very important function in enabling more Jews to move to Israel, and God will definitely give a full measure of reward to all those who participated in that process, religious or not.

In terms of the obligation to move to Israel – I’m not a posek. But I can tell you for sure, the LAND of Israel didn’t disappear just because the STATE of Israel took over. Back in the desert, the spies could have made the same argument:

“Look, guys, the people running the show in the Land of Canaan are totally corrupt! And they’re ‘anti’ God and the Torah lifestyle! And they will be fighting us every step of the way if we try to move in there, and telling us we’re trying to ‘take over’ their neighborhoods, and they’re going to write demeaning, hate-filled things about us and our children in the press, and openly discuss ways of reducing our population, and trying to make life hard in a billion different ways….

“So maybe, let’s forget the whole idea of moving to Canaan, and let’s just stay here in Monsey.”

====

God said no.

God said – move to Israel any way, and go and help build the land into the beautiful, holy place it’s destined to be. All that stuff about the place being full of scary chilonim who think haredi people are no better than grasshoppers – it’s just an illusion! If you’re with Me – with Hashem – there is nothing to fear.

As it was then, so it is now.

Nothing has changed.

Except to say that in 2019, there are more orthodox Jews in Israel, and more Jews who believe in God, and more Jews becoming mitzvoth observant than at any other time in the last 100 years.

If God protected the God-less, yucky atheists and communists back in Israel’s War of Independence in 1948 – after everything they did (and notably didn’t do…) in World War II, He’ll continue to protect the Jewish people as a whole.

But there are clearly some caveats to that answer, so read on.

====

Q: Will we be protected there?

Short answer: I don’t know. I’m not God. Good people still get killed in road accidents in Israel, good people still drown in flash floods, they still get murdered by terrorists, God forbid, lo alenu.

If someone has a soul correction that requires them to be taken from the world at an early age, presumably that’s going to happen wherever they live. But the other ‘bad stuff’ that happens usually comes as a result of not living life in alignment with God’s plans for us.

So, the more we make teshuva, the more we have emuna, the more we stay close to Hashem and His true tzaddikim, the more our chances go up of living a blessed, happy, healthy life.

Rebbe Nachman tells a parable about a man who was set a task by a king of moving a massive, heavy stone from place to the other.

The man tried, but couldn’t do it – it was impossible! So then the king said to him: “I didn’t mean for you to move that heavy stone in once piece. I wanted you to break it up into small chunks, and to transport it that way, instead.”

When a person moves to Israel and starts to live here, they are working on refining their character and polishing their souls 24/7. Every time you have to deal with a rude government clerk, or ridiculous bureaucracy, or stabbing terrorists, or awful loneliness on Shabbat because you just can’t socialize here in the same thoughtless way, or a tremendous fear about making parnassa – you are breaking off a little bit more of the ‘stone’ in your soul, and transporting it from arrogance to humility. Or from not seeing God in your life to having more emuna. Or from ‘controlling’ to accepting.

====

Day to day life can be so very challenging in Israel.

Just ask the people who live with incendiary balloons down by the Gaza border, or regular rocket attacks, or stabbings. But also in the small things, like not being able to talk the language properly, feeling like a perpetual outsider, missing a place, a persona, a store that you can no longer access.

God does that on purpose.

It’s part of the ‘soul clean-up’ program that is living in the Holy Land. To be challenged on a daily basis, and to keep looking for God behind it all.

Can a person do that outside of Israel?

Sure!

But it’s so much harder. Life in chul is much more superficial, the bubble is padded so much better, the whole society is geared far more to materialism and arrogance and ‘doing’ instead of being.

The soul’s voice gets very smothered and so very easily distorted in chul.

Can a person totally ignore God in Israel?

Sure!

But they aren’t happy. Look at all these secular politicians, look at all these ranting journalists, look at all these hi-tec entrepreneurs with their shaved heads and angry, hard faces. It’s much, much harder to ignore God here, even when you’re trying so hard to do that.

That’s why so many of the ‘anti’ people – or their kids – end up moving away, ultimately.

Are there consequences for rebelling?

Of course, yes. But God is fair, and no-one will have to ‘pay’ for someone else’s mistakes or sins. Does that guarantee safety and a good life? Nope. But it means that nothing will happen to a person that isn’t 100% what is meant to happen. But here’s the thing:

There are also consequences for ‘rebelling’ out of Israel, too.

It’s the stone analogy. The people who aren’t shifting that stone bit by bit end up having to deal with all their ‘rubbish’ all at once, one way or another. God pays the rope out for years – for generations – hoping that someone will wake up and return to Him.

But His patience isn’t infinite, and there are far more Jews spitting in God’s face in the US and chul than in Israel. There will definitely be consequences to face, wherever a person happens to live, whether they move to Israel, or not. The question is, will the consequences be ‘dropped’ on a person all at once, or will they be paid out slowly, drip drip, every single day?

====

Honestly?

Sometimes, I also feel a bit scared about all the corruption here. When I was researching the book on the Rav, and when I realized what was really happening in Israel, it was the only time in my life that I had the fleeting thought that maybe, I’d made a mistake by moving to Israel.

Thank God, it only lasted for two days, but it was a very hard challenge to go through.

Very quickly, God reminded me about the hundreds and thousands of ways Jewish life in Israel is so much better here than anywhere else.

This morning, I passed the little orange Lottery Booth down the street, and I saw the lottery guy squished in there with his tallit and tefillin on, praying. That made me so happy.

It makes me so happy that even the graffiti on the wall here often makes me think – like some I read today, that said:

“I [expletive] love Jerusalem, but the people here really talk to you!!!”

I love having the Kotel so close, having holy graves to visit, I love that even the secular looking man in the underwear shop on Jaffa Street gave me a whole, fat Torah class on the importance of having emuna.

I love that I can go to my kid’s school, and see 50 Jews there from such different backgrounds, all talking about what they can do to build a Jewish school, and a Jewish community, in the Holy Land.

I love that so much of the country is kosher, that my kids can quote Biblical passages easily, by heart, because they are written in their language.

I love the craziness, the warmth, the realness, the way it just feels like ‘home’ the way no other place in the world does.

I love the lack of violence on the street (terrorists and crazy drivers notwithstanding). I love the way the sky seems so close in Jerusalem, you can reach out and almost touch it.

Heaven is within arm’s reach here.

And if that’s important to you, you won’t find that proximity to holiness anywhere else.

====

There’s a lot more to say on the topic of moving to Israel, there always is.

BH, I will put together my more practical guide to the pros and cons of moving to Israel and living here.

But here’s kind of the take-home message:

While there are Jews rebelling against God all over the world at the moment, God forbid, only in Israel are they also returning to Him in such tremendous numbers.

Teshuva is in the air here, holiness is in the water.

And sooner or later, people will return.

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