Last week, a day before I was meant to go on holiday with my family, I started to feel REALLY bad.

Nothing particularly sparked it off – there was no horrible news, Baruch Hashem, no stock market crash that wiped out all my savings (which is one advantage of not having any savings), no visit from the tax man, or unpaid bills for a million shekels.

But all of a sudden last Sunday, I started to feel really, really bad. Like there was no point continuing, like everything was doomed to failure, like I was NEVER going to get out of the hole I felt I was in.

Together with this horrible mood, I got a stomach ache that was so bad that I was literally finding it hard to breathe, and that’s when I really started to panic. I get a lot of somatic pain, where my emotions express themselves in my body, so I’ve learned when things are ‘emotional’ i.e. 99% of the time, and when they aren’t.

This pain was 100% emotional / spiritual, and was literally choking me to death.

I did all my usual coping things – like pressing acupressure points, and doing some cardiovascular exercise, and trying to take deeper breaths, and main-lining some lavender essential oil, and talking to God about what was going on and trying to figure out what was underneath all this stuff – but nothing worked.

Suddenly, I got the crazy notion in my head that I had to go and see Rav Arush ASAP. Now, even though I’ve lived in Jerusalem for two years, and my husband learns in Rav Arush’s yeshiva, I have never gone to visit the Rav all this time. But Sunday I felt so bad, even my famous British reserve dissolved. I had to find the Rav, pronto!

As soon as my husband got back from learning, I had him walk back with me to the yeshiva, to see if the Rav was in his office. He wasn’t there. So then, we tried the Rav’s house. As we got up to the outside door (which was fitted a few years’ ago, to stop people pestering the Rav night and day) there was a man standing outside it, who suddenly got buzzed in.

God bless him, my husband leaped into the open doorway, and then a couple of seconds’ later, he motioned to me to come in – the Rav was standing in the doorway and was happy to talk to me.

Dear reader, these things really don’t happen so often. Catching the Rav is much harder than you might think, but I kind of knew God was going to help me speak to him, because I was feeling the most desperate and down I’d been feeling for a very long time.

The Rav summed up my problem in about two seconds: I was spending far too much of my time beating myself up, and focusing on my bad, instead of looking at the good, and it was literally choking me to death.

He told me to read ‘The Garden of Wisdom’ every day, and that would solve the problem.

As soon as we left the Rav’s house, I felt so much better. For starters, I could breathe again and my stomachache had reverted back to its low-grade ‘normal’ status.

I got home and opened up the Garden of Wisdom, which is Rav Arush’s commentary on Rebbe Nachman’s tale of the smart one and the simple one. It said: ‘The Gift of Life’, and then went on to explain how when a person doesn’t have simple emuna, they literally live a hellish existence.

Man, I could relate.

As I wrote a few posts’ back, there are some extreme mood-swings coming down the pipe at the moment, and anyone who isn’t prepared for it could literally go bonkers (if they aren’t already…) I thought I was pretty insulated against the worst of it, because I do hitbodedut every day, and mind-maps, and look for God’s messages, and appreciate I have a lot of things I need to work on.

But I was wrong.

And without Rav Arush’s help, I don’t know what would have kept me from hitting the bottom last week, as I was sliding down there pretty fast.

Without our true Tzaddikim, where would we be? What we do? How would we stop ourselves from engaging in a poisonous paranoid fit, or a bout of toxic self-hatred, or destructive jealousy and rage?

There’s probably a lot more to say, but the world really is going mad. Even non-Jews in the UK, that most staid and conservative of places, are starting to notice that things are just not so normal at the moment.

It’s the birth pangs of Moshiach, and he really must be coming soon after all, because last week, they really, nearly, took me out.

For a while now, I’ve been pondering on how so many of the things that seem to be the province of the spiritual world can actually also be found in our own lives, too.

For example, (random examples, natch…) when your mother-in-law calls you up and tells you she’s coming to visit, that can plunge you into an experience mamash akin to Gehinnom, or hell, or purgatory, or whatever you want to call it.

By contrast, when you spend a lazy couple of hours jumping the waves, or reading an amazing book, or having a great conversation about real things, that can be a taste of paradise, or Gan Eden.

You get the picture.

So, one of the things that exists in the spiritual world is a form of punishment called the ‘Kaf HaKela’ or slingshot.

The basic idea is that the soul is put in this spiritual slingshot, and then pinged to the furthest end to the universe. Before it can even catch its breath or have a cup of tea, it’s pinged back to the other side of the universe, and so on and so forth.

Last week, I went up north for a much-needed small break with my family. One evening, we went to the lake front promenade in Tiberius. My kids went to look at funky clothing and hippy hairstyle accessories, while me and my husband slowly meandered from one side of the promenade to the other. Over there, by the big ‘Kinneret Water Level’ measuring sculpture-thingy, we had a very deep conversation about Rebbe Nachman, and all things ‘soul’.

On the other side – all of a 15 minute slow walk – we got assailed by 80s music including Simply Red and John Lennon’s Imagine, and suddenly – ping! – I was back in my old life as a completely secular teenager in London.

The experience was very disconcerting for both me and my husband, which started to crystallize my ideas about the ‘Kaf Hakela’ experiences so many of us are having these days, where we literally ping from one extreme of frumkeit and spirituality to the other of coarsest gashmius and goyish thinking, in a nano-second.

Here’s another example: on the way back to Jerusalem, my kids were desperate to go the ice rink in Holon. So – ping! – off we went to a place of spandex, shorts and more 80s music. (If you want to know why I went, it’s because I’ve come to understand that I can’t fight the Kaf Hakela. I tried that for four years, and it literally almost killed me.)

Less than an hour later – ping! – my husband got home and immediately headed out to his yeshiva, where he gives a weekly shiur on the Garden of Emuna.

In the meantime, I pinged off to do a whole bunch of mitzvot that I just wouldn’t have to do if I wasn’t a frum woman.

But smaller versions of the Kaf Hakela happen pretty much every hour in my life. I sit down to type a post like this, and then – ping! – I find myself looking at Quora questions about the latest celeb nonsense (they appear automatically in my feed). Or, I read something in Likutey Moharan and – ping! – five seconds later I’m looking at some political scandal on ynet (that doesn’t happen too often, BH, but the point is it DOES happen).

Or, I’ll be listening to some uplifting Yosef Karduner tune when one of my kids will come in, turn it off and start playing the latest ‘Taylor Swift’ (or whatever her name is) really loudly. Ping! Ping! Ping!

On the Jerusalem streets, I encounter Kaf Hakela every day.

One minute, it’s the guarding-their-eyes Breslover, the next, some bint with massive holes where her earlobes used to be and half-pink hair, and of course the de rigeur completely gross tattoos.

But you know what? Now that I’ve figured out that I’m in some sort of Kaf Hakela experience, and that there’s nothing much I can do about it except sit back and enjoy the ride, I’ve started to feel quite a bit better about the whole thing.

Usually, I beat myself up for not being able to stay 100% in the ‘frum’ world all the time, hard as I try. But once I got the message that this is actually a form of Divinely-ordained experience that’s paying off my spiritual debts, I’ve started to ease up on myself.

That I’m in Kaf Hakela in so many different ways in my life – constantly pinging between body and soul, yetzer tov and yetzer hara, Israel and the UK, past and present, religious and not, English and Hebrew, keeping it together and completely falling apart – I can’t help.

That’s God’s decision.

But what is down to me is how I react to being flung across the world from one place to another every 5 seconds. I don’t like it, that I know. But now I know it’s from God, and not because of anything I’m doing myself (at least in this life…) I feel calmer about the whole thing.

So for now, it seems we’ll continue to mix iceskating with emuna shiurim, and Brexit polls with articles on Rav Berland’s website, and ‘Frozen’ soundtracks with Yosef Karduner. Do I get why? Not really. But that’s true of a lot of things I’m currently experiencing in my life.

Many days, I don’t know which way is ‘up’. Sometimes, I have so much clarity it’s scary, and the next – ping! – I’m completely lost and clueless. I guess the point is to cling to Hashem. Rebbe Nachman teaches that the world is not God’s place, but God is the ‘place’ of the world. God is everywhere, as King David taught us in Psalms. So whether I’m davening a shmoneh esrei or listening to Imagine, I can still choose to be with God.

And maybe, choosing to be with God is the only way you ultimately get free of the demented experience of living life in the Kaf Hakela.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Emotions and thoughts affect the body mamash like chemicals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which bring us to the next key point:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So now, what’s happening specifically today?

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

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

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

Why is He doing this?

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

THERE’S JUST ONE PROBLEM:

So many of us are still not doing the work!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TO SUM ALL THIS STUFF UP:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So clearly, something else is going on here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And often, they do.

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

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

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

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

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

Like, duh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Either we’re with God, or we’re not.

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

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

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

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

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

Which then raised the next awkward question:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I made a mistake!

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

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

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

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

So I’m back to the question:

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

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

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

Why not?

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

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

And for exactly the same reason.

Drone view of a city

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do YOU think about it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rebbe Nachman also tells us:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But you know why that is, don’t you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hmmmm.

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

Silence.

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

‘Good!’ came back the reply.

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

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

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

She hasn’t giggled for ages.

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

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

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

?

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

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

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

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

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

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

So last week, God gave me a huge present:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But you know what? I’m happy.

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

God is actually very simple.

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

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

Really?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so on, and so forth.

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

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

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

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

The opposite of God is ‘bad’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Yoga
  • Healthy food
  • Meditation

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

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

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

So that leaves us with meditation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who was right?

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