For the last 20-something years, my arguments with my husband have progressed along the same, well-worn path.

I state something that to his ears sounds fantastic, unbelievable, incredible, and sooner or later, he tries to close the argument down with the statement: ‘that’s not logical.’

Who knew, that I’d married Mr Spock?

A lot of his ‘logical’ tendencies have been useful to me, because he’s forced me time and time again to find the ‘logical’ process underpinning what I’m grasping intuitively. Man, the arguments we’ve had, about everything from erev rav, to personality disorders, to how the human body really works, all the way up to how ‘emuna’ is meant to fit into the logical picture.

He’s forced me to pin things down logically again and again, and that’s mostly been very helpful.

But this week, when we were having another one of our ‘discussions’ about whether it’s really possible for Disney to be working with the CIA to put ‘mind control’ cues in its movies, and he delivered his that’s not logical statement again, I suddenly realized something massive:

Why is ‘logic’ the final arbiter of what’s right or wrong, here?

Because what is ‘logic’, ultimately? It’s whatever process or thought or argument you can cram into a human brain. It’s totally limited to human perception and understanding, and as we know, even the most intelligent humans only have a very small part of the picture. There is a time and place for ‘logic’ (more on that in a moment).

Human logic makes no space for God, and because it can’t tease out the ‘process’ behind miracles and other supernatural phenomena, it deals with them by pretending they don’t exist.

To put this in other words, the more a person believes that ‘logic’ is the final arbiter of right and wrong, truth and lie, the less likely it is for that person to have anything even approaching real emuna, or real emunat tzaddikim.

I know that’s a big statement, but I’m going to back it up.

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First, let’s take a look at what logic actually is, and where it comes from. This is from Wikipedia:

Logic (from the Ancient Greekλογικήromanized: logikḗ[1]) is the systematic study of the form of valid inference, and the most general laws of truth.[2] A valid inference is one where there is a specific relation of logical support between the assumptions of the inference and its conclusion. In ordinary discourse, inferences may be signified by words such as therefore, thus, hence, ergo, and so on.

There is no universal agreement as to the exact scope and subject matter of logic (see § Rival conceptions, below), but it has traditionally included the classification of arguments, the systematic exposition of the ‘logical form’ common to all valid arguments, the study of proof and inference, including paradoxes and fallacies, and the study of syntax and semantics.

Historically, logic has been studied in philosophy (since ancient times) and mathematics (since the mid-19th century), and recently logic has been studied in cognitive science (encompasses computer sciencelinguisticsphilosophy and psychology).

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In other words, logic is a form of Greek-inspired philosophy.

So, whenever someone makes the ‘logic’ of a supposition the acid test of whether it’s ‘true’ or not, they are effectively operating out of a system of Greek heresy, instead of Jewish belief.

Let’s give some concrete examples.

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There’s an idea in Judaism that if your finances are hitting the skids, you should make an effort to go and give even more money to charity. That way, you’ll sweeten whatever spiritual judgments are keeping you poor and constricted.

Now, does this sound logical?

At this point in time when you’re finding it hard to even scrape together the money for the rent, you’re meant to go and give even more money to charity?!?!

It’s totally illogical.

And yet, it works. I’ve lost count of the number of times that immediately after we paid a big whack of charity we couldn’t really afford, or a big pidyon that squeezed us financially, how much new business flowed in through my husband’s doors, afterwards.

Essentially, there is very little ‘logic’ behind any of the mitzvoth we keep, whether it’s avoiding shatnez, eating kosher, keeping Shabbat, paying 10% of our income to charity. Sure, Jews with a more philosophical bent have tried to make Judaism jive more with Greek philosophy by trying to assign reasons to mitzvoth that make sense to human logic.

But ultimately?

All the mitzvoth we keep boils down to emuna, to faith, to the idea that we can’t understand everything, however big our brains are.

Behind all this talk of ‘logic’ there is so much arrogance, so much ga’avah.

It takes some real humility to admit that we still know so very little about what’s really going on, and that our ability to grasp what’s really going on in the world is actually incredibly limited.

So, when people start boasting about how ‘logical’ they are, and how they think ‘logically’, what they’re really saying is:

“I have very little emuna, and I’m incredibly arrogant.”

Now that we all know that, hopefully more of us will start to challenge ‘logic’s’ stranglehold on our public discourse.

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All that said, logic and human reasoning still has a place in our lives.

God runs the world according to His spiritual rules, and we have to follow those rules to the best of our ability. If God has built the world in such a way eating fast-food usually makes us ill, and treating people badly usually makes us social lepers, and running in front of speeding cars on the highway usually makes us dead – we have to respect those rules.

Go right ahead, and make a logical calculation about whether you should dash across the road in front of that articulated lorry – but remember that all these logical ‘rules’ aren’t presenting the full picture of how God is actually running the world.

Illogical, miraculous and supernatural things are occurring to every single one of us, all the time.

Why?

Because God is running the world, and God is operating things at a level far, far beyond the boundaries of human logic.

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So, to sum up.

From this moment forth, just telling me something is ‘not logical’ doesn’t automatically win the argument, or close down the discussion. Heretical Greeks made human ‘logic’ the arbiter of truth, and to put it bluntly, they can get stuffed.

A multitude of sins hides behind ‘logic’, including heresy, denial of God’s omnipresent role in the world, arrogance, narrow-mindedness, argumentation for its own sake, victory-seeking, and trying to make other people appear ‘small’ or ‘stupid’.

Logic is a false god, that’s keeping so many Jews away from really developing a genuine relationship with Hashem.

Once we start acknowledging that, and once more of us start relating to a logical frame of mind as some sort of severe spiritual disability, instead of lauding and praising it, that’s when we’ll jump a whole bunch nearer to the world actually getting fixed, and redemption really happening.

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UPDATE: Thanks to Yosef for the link to this clip, which makes the point very nicely!

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Photo by Macu ic on Unsplash

A few weeks’ ago, I got an invitation to come see a private screening of a film called Talking to God.

I haven’t been to a movie for somewhere around 12 years…. so of course I said ‘yes’. Hey, I get to do something Rabbenu related and still get to watch a film with no guilt or teshuva required? Are you kidding?!

So, I settled into for the 90 or so minutes expecting to see something cute, with its heart in the right place, around the AmDram level – and boy o boy, was I surprised. Talking to God had superb casting, a real plot, and was a real film, in every sense of the word.

The story revolves around a woman from New York, Rebecca, who is having troubles sleeping and can’t figure out what she’s supposed to be doing in life. Long story short, she gets to Uman, and Rebbe Nachman starts showing her some profound insights via one of his Tales, that end up turning her whole life around.

But what was truly amazing to me is that the film didn’t feel like a mussar lesson in the least, and actually had a lot of laugh-out-loud moments.

Between you and me, I’m at that stage of life where I can’t take any more of the ‘fake piety’ stuff anymore, where angels start strumming their harps as another saintly figure takes the stage to lecture everyone else on how to act.

AAAARGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!

But this film had a strong enough story that the moral of the story kind of slipped in unnoticed – like it does with all the best movies.

I was thinking about it for a good few days afterwards, which is when I decided to get in touch with the movie’s director and producer, Maya Batash, to find out how it came to be made.

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We met for a coffee at Cinema City (man, I can’t stand that place…) and Maya explained the genesis of Talking to God.

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The story begins back in 2010, when Rav Arush’s Garden of Emuna was just starting to take the English-speaking world by storm. A few years’ beforehand, Maya had shifted from her job as a successful neurologist to start to develop her long-forgotten creative side.

She’d gone back to school to study painting, and then decided she wanted to learn how to make indie films. In 2010, she’d just released ‘Out of the Fog’, a film with a theme of emotional healing, and was looking forward to working on a new comedy.

Instead, after a year of reading the Garden of Emuna, Maya found herself taking a trip to Uman, and then the whole plan changed.

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“I went to Uman despite my lack of any initial desire to be there’” she recalls.

“A friend invited me on a group trip and despite my hesitation, somehow I ended up there just a few months later”.  That trip led to three months of what Maya politely calls ‘spiritual surgery’, as the answer to that question, and others, started to swim into view. It wasn’t an easy experience, but perhaps strangely when another trip to Uman was announced the following year, in 2011, Maya explains; “I ran to go on it. And while I was in Uman the second time, I got the idea that I should make a film. Initially, I thought it should be some sort of documentary about people in Uman, and all their miraculous stories.”

Maya started taping videos of big Breslov rabbis like Rav Arush, and Rav Brody, to use in the documentary, like this clip below:

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Maya also returned to Uman for a third time, this time with a camera, and a plan to interview some of the people there about their experiences of being by Rabbenu. “I wanted to interview ‘big’ people, the people who other people listen to, because I was finding it hard to get regular women to agree to talk to me,” she says.

But at some point, that plan fell by the wayside. “I didn’t have enough footage for a full documentary, and then I remembered I hate documentaries,” says Maya. But what she loved, was some of the stories that Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach used to tell from the Baal Shem Tov, and from Rebbe Nachman. And in particular, the story of ‘The Fixer’.

Slowly, Maya realized that while she didn’t want to make a documentary about emuna, she really did want to tell some of Rebbe Nachman’s stories.

The screenplay was written in Jerusalem’s cafes in 2012, and then Maya spent the next few years trying to raise the money required to start filming.

“This film had 30 actors, and a massive crew,” she says. “It was a huge undertaking, and I really needed some help to make it happen.”

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Help came in the form of a producer called Kim Jackson who brought on another producer named Jonathan Federico, and then Talking to God really started to come together. A week before filming was due to begin, Maya finally found the right actor for the starring role of the Fixer, called Zebedee Row  In the fall of 2014, Uman was transplanted to Staten Island, the film was shot, and Maya got on with the lengthy process of post-production and film editing.

And that’s when a few more miniot bobbed up to slow things down. Maya mother passed away in 2015, and Maya was also still trying to raise the funds required to get the film’s original music score written, and to complete the post-production.

“It took a lot of praying, a lot of hitbodedut, and a lot of trips to Uman,” she says. And now, Maya is trying to find a distributor who will get the films into theatres around the world. “I could release it online, but I really want it to be taken seriously. This film is for anyone who is looking for growth, healing, or meaning in their lives. There is a huge audience here, and the film needs the right distributor to be able to tap into it.”

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In the meantime, Maya is submitting Talking to God to film festivals, and is continuing to pray that the right someone, somewhere, will notice it, and help to get it out there to a wider audience.

So, eight years after she first began the project, Talking to God is finally poised to go mainstream.

“What did making this movie teach you?” I asked her, over a cup of something hot at Cinema City.

“I’ve learned to talk to God daily which allows me to let go of whatever’s bothering me, whether it’s fear, anger, pain etc and give it over to the Source,” says Maya. “I’ve learned the importance of doing everything in my power to make myself happy.  And how dancing and singing regularly can miraculously bring a person to real joy. Happiness is a choice,” she says.

What I can tell you is that watching the ‘private screening for feedback’ of Talking to God made me very happy. And I have a feeling that the film might have that effect on a few million other people, too.

To learn more, visit: www.talkingtoGodmovie.com

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Israel has also been afflicted by ‘Deep State’ problems since its inception.

One of my writer friends is thinking about doing a book about the Yemenite Children (brave lady!) after she met a taxi driver here whose sister went missing in the 1950s.

After umming and ahhing, I decided to send her over to take a look at some of the information gathered on the subject by the late Barry Chamish, who was routinely ridiculed as a crazy conspiracy theorist, but who was probably right about at least 80% of what he was telling us.

Each month that passes brings us more evidence that Israel’s ‘Deep State’ is just as morally rotten, murderous and obsessed with controlling us all as America’s and the UK’s.

It’s all about the spooks, the spies, the shedim who have been pulling the strings behind the scenes for decade upon decade, without the public having any idea of what’s really going on, or why the world is in such a bad state.

Rebbe Nachman described all this in detail, as you can read about in this post:

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In the meantime, here’s some links that I sent to my friend, that you might also find interesting, although admittedly pretty disturbing. This one is Barry’s take on what really happened to the Yemenite children:

https://www.conspiracyarchive.com/Commentary/Yemenite.htm

And this documentary was aired on mainstream Israeli TV a decade ago – then promptly buried by the establishment. It describes how Shimon Peres basically struck a deal with America’s Deep State to ‘sell’ 100,000 Sephardi children to the US military for dangerous radiation experiments. They told the kids and their families they were being zapped by massive doses of x-rays as part of a treatment for ringworm – but it was all lies.

As we get closer to Moshiach being revealed, all the lies will be revealed – and shocking as all this stuff is, it’s still just the tip of the iceberg.

Channel 13 – where’s your expose about Shimon Peres and all his murderous cronies?

I guess we’ll still have to wait a while, for that story to be told.

 

Since Rosh Hashana, I’ve just been feeling like I’m bouncing along the bottom, spiritually.

And there really isn’t much I can do about that, except not give up and let go.

Sukkot continued the theme of me hoping I could attain a spiritual level – even a basic one! – that sadly seems so far out of reach at the moment. True, me and the kids made our own decorations for the Sukkah this year, which was great. True, also, that I managed to roast some beef in a way that was edible, which was an open miracle.

Ten years ago, I tried to cook what I thought was beef for my brother when he came to visit from the UK, and because I had no idea what cut of meat I’d actually bought, it came out the chewiest meat I’d ever had to eat.

Because he’s British and kind of polite, my brother forced himself to eat it, but to this day, he likes to remind me of the ‘donkey stew’ that I dished up to him that night.

So getting a cut of beef to come out edible is quite an achievement for me.

But otherwise, I really can’t boast about my Sukkot.

True, I spent a lot of time sitting there by myself obsessively researching my husband’s family tree from Lithuania, but I can’t say I did more than that.

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Shabbat rolled around, and with it the strange mood I’d been in all week deepened and broadened out.

Does no-one else in this house know where the supermarket is? I wondered to myself, as I schlepped for the millionth time to replenish the cupboard and fridge.

Does no-one else know how to wash up? Does no-one else know how to cook?

In fairness, my kids weren’t around. One had descended to Egypt for the chag, and spent Sukkot in Sinai. Great.

The other was just at her friends all the holiday, including one night she spent in a 5 storey mansion in Rishon LeZion that had its own sauna, pool room, and was basically decked-out like a boutique hotel. The owners were mishpacha of one of my daughter’s friends, so she went to see how the other half live, as the owner had gone to Italy for Sukkot.

How festive of everyone. How very Sukkot-y of everyone.

The husband was out of action, still hobbling around on an ankle that has refused to heal for nearly three months, until we paid a pidyon over to Rav Berland shortly before Sukkot, and now things are looking up, Baruch Hashem.

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So Shabbat rolled around, and after yet another round of shopping and cooking for the ‘guests’ that call themselves my kids, I was in a bad mood.

The bad mood was compounded by all these Litvak ancestors who totally goyed out 100 years ago and stopped keeping anything.

One had even baptized the children he had with his non-Jewish wife, after naming them ‘Blumer’ and ‘Wolfe’. The mind boggles.

So, I was sitting there thinking that I’m not doing so well on the ‘upstanding spiritual Jewish household front’ at the moment, and long story short, that quickly snowballed into our annual massive fight in front of all the neighbors.

This has happened so many years in a row since we’ve been in Jerusalem, I think it’s some sort of institution now. Just as everyone else was finishing up their zemirot and bentching, the Levy Sukkot started up with World War III, arguing about things like free choice, and whether God (and parents….) still loves Jews that go completely off the derech.

God does, but I’m not God!!!

I told my kid that , and I could see she was shocked, but it’s the truth.

Or to be more accurate, I will continue to love my kids whatever, but I want to actually have kids I can relate to, and that I don’t have to walk on eggshells around because they’ve taken a path of confusion and now just talk pointless rubbish all the time (at best…).

I’m not God. I can’t pretend you can do whatever you want and that’s totally cool with me.

I thought some more, and then I added:

And I’m not sure God thinks that Jews can do whatever they want, too, even if they are still teenagers.

This was apparently shocking news.

Since then, we’ve made up again, baruch Hashem, but there went our neighborhood reputation…

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On Simchat Torah, I woke up with a cold, which got me out of going to shul for hakafot which was great, because I didn’t have a shul to go to, anyway. I danced a bit with the chumash in my own house, and started to feel like I don’t really belong in Baka, again.

The feeling was compounded when we went out for supper, and one of the other guests started slagging off the Rav.

I literally got all shaky, hearing this guy opine on things he really knows nothing about that equate to a one way ticket to gehinnom, and my husband started yelling at him.

The conversation then devolved into an argument about whether the Gemara is really ‘Torah’ (!) and then at that point, the yelling between my husband and this guy got so loud the man’s wife intervened and placed him under a gag order.

We spent the next hour making polite small talk about banal things that no-one could take offence at, and I thought to myself: What a waste of life! What a waste of time! And I felt kinda sad.

Next day, we got invited out again by neighbors of ours who I really like, but who have been surfing negative Youtube videos about the Rav. I gave them One in a Generation to try to put the other side –they read ¼ of it, and gave it back, still preferring the Youtube version of events.

What can I do?

Where can I go?

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The anglo, gashmius part of me quite enjoys Baka, with its leafy greenery, and ordered neighborhoods. But my soul is starting to wither here.

Once chag was out, we headed out to our old hood, to go hang out by Rav Berland’s ginormous Sukkah in the Meah Shearim bit of Musrara. There was trash everywhere. There were kids everywhere. There were people everywhere. I sat on a bench with my husband, and my soul lit up as my nose wrinkled.

You know, it takes a lot of effort to get trash into every corner of the streets, like that. They are actually putting some effort into doing this right…

As we stood by the bank on the corner of Meah Shearim, looking at home and simultaneously looking out of place, a group of chareidi men in a rush speed-walked past, accompanying some distinguished Rov. I have no idea who he was, just that people kept running over to kiss his hand.

I miss this madness, I told my husband. I miss this kedusha.

But I don’t miss the trash.

So not for the first time, I found myself caught between two worlds, two lifestyles, two neighborhoods. Clean, sociable and heretical in Baka, or filthy, isolated and holy in Musrara.

For the last year and a half, the body has been winning out.

But I think in 5780, the soul is starting to tip the balance again.

Now, I just need to find 3.5 million shekels from somewhere, to move back…

TBC

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Enough with the tinsel, already.

Living in a building where almost no-one has a balcony, let alone a balcony that you could build a Succah on, means that as soon as Yom Kippur is over, there is a mad rush to try and grab a spot for your pop-up Succah outside on the path leading up to our building complex.

Last year, there were 7-8 Succahs out there, including ours. Already this year we seem to be holding at 10-11 – and we’re still one day to go. Part of me is really happy that more people are participating in the mitzvah of building a Succah, part of me is worrying that all the secular neighbors are going to explode in rage, about having to navigate all this canvas…

Last year, some stroppy bint had a go at me and my husband for ‘selfishly’ practicing the mitzvah of Succot at the expense of ‘people in wheelchairs’ who can no longer use the pathways.’

There was more than enough room for someone in a wheelchair to get pass our Succahs, as I’d seen a few people in wheelchairs doing it. But the bint just wanted to rant at religious people, so who were we to spoil her fun?

But now that the Succahs are also taking over large swathes of the parking lot too…. And a bit more of the space on the pavement…. Well, I’m feeling a little nervous, I have to admit.

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One of these new Succahs was printed up with xmas-looking decorations on all 4 sides – tinsel and metallic decorations – plus a massive close-up of the Temple inside.

And there was something about that, I don’t know what, that put me in a funny mood.

I came back into our house Friday morning, and I told my husband:

I’m sick of hanging up cheap xmas overflow decorations for Succot. Totally and utterly sick of it. It just looks so tacky, so xmas-y, and this year I’m not going to do it.

He looked at me with a bit of a worried look on his face, because if there’s no tinsel, how are we going to get into the festive mood?!

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I went and googled ‘natural Succah decorations’ and it brought up a whole bunch of totally over-the-top images of Succahs that looked like they were fresh of the cover of the ‘Ideal (Succah) Magazine’. Nope, hand-carving uplifting messages into variegated colored pumpkins stacked by the Succah entrance was not going to happen this year…

But, creating decorations made of dried out orange slices, leaves and beads really appealed to me, so instead of making my Shabbat chicken, I started trying to dehydrate orange and lemon slices in my oven Friday morning. (I cut the drying time down to 1 ½ hours, so they are still a little bit soggy, but Shabbos waits for no man, so what can you do.)

My daughters eyed me like I’d gone crazy. I could see them wondering, scared to ask:

What, is Ima back on her extreme ‘health food’ kick, and she’s just feeding us dried orange slices for Shabbos?!

Man, were they relieved when I explained that I was just having an anti-tinsel, anti-xmas-decorations-masquerading-as-Succah-decorations thing.

And then, they spent the next four hours crafting some really beautiful natural decorations, and finding a big stick to tie them all too.

I also made one.

And the husband also made one.

And while the Shabbos food still got made on time (just about), there was just something so awesome about the fact that for once, we’d sat down and made some Succah decorations ourselves, as a family.

I’ve wanted to do it for years and years and years, and never managed it.

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So even though some of my orange slices still look more ‘chewy’ than totally dried (and will probably attract five million wasps and bugs) – who cares?

At least for this year, I’ve kicked the tinsel into touch.

I don’t have great hopes for Succot, as my chagim have been pretty lackluster so far…. I still don’t know what I’m going to cook. Our Succah is still roofless and floorless. I’m totally unprepared in a million ways, still.

But one thing I’m sure of:

This year there will be no tinsel.

And that, at least, is something.

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Photo by Jukka Heinovirta on Unsplash

I just got this from someone I know personally over email, and if you have some spare ma’aser money, it could really help to save a life:

I am asking everyone I know to please help my friend, Bob Ackert, a Chabadnik from Maalot who has been coming close to Rav Berland for the last couple years. He is 61 and has a 12 year old daughter. He has been in a coma since June after brain surgery, and the doctors now give him a few weeks to live.

Rav Berland says that with a pidyon of 20,000 shekels, Bob will see a complete recovery. So far, we have raised just over 5000 and are out of ideas of where to turn next.

I am told maaser monies may be used.

If you are able to help at all, please make the donation at https://ravberland.com/pidyon-nefesh/ and say it is for the recovery of Yerachmeil Chai ben Chana.

If you are not able, please remember my friend in your hitbodedut and maybe say some tehillim in his merit. Every bit helps.

Thank you for reading.

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We could all use some extra mitzvahs this time of year…. so let’s practise some achdut, and see if we get together the 15,000 nis Bob needs for his pidyon.

 

It’s not so hard to judge someone’s soul to the side of ‘good’.

A little while before Rosh Hashana, Rachel from New York challenged me over in the comments section to ‘walk the walk’, and judge Avigdor Lieberman favorably.

In case you happen to live on planet Mars, Avigdor Lieberman is the Russian-born head of the Yisrael Beytenu party, who is trying to force all chareidim to leave their shtenders, and to serve in the IDF.

Lieberman is so adamant about this, he brought down the last government – and is continuing to sow chaos in Israel politically, by refusing to sit with Bibi Netanyahu in any new government, and also by refusing to sit with the ‘religious’ parties that make up the Knesset’s natural right-wing ‘bloc’.

Because of Lieberman, we’ve already had 2 elections in five months – and no government. And you read it here first, we will be going to third elections, very soon.

So, how to judge Avigdor Lieberman to the side of ‘good’?

It’s a tough challenge, but after doing a fair bit of praying on it, here’s where I’m up to.

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The starting point with Rebbe Nachman’s lesson of Azamra is that while we have to clearly state when ACTIONS are bad and evil and anti-Torah and anti-God, that’s very different from saying the ESSENCE of a person is evil. Rav Ofer Erez explains this magnificently, in this video with full English subtitles:

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A Jew’s essence, their soul, is only good.

But what happens? All these klipot, all these external forces of evil come along to confuse and trip us up, and then before long you have people who are committing the worst sins in the world, but who are still telling themselves that they are doing ‘the right thing’, and that this is just how it has to be.

Let’s take a look at Lieberman, to see how that’s playing out.

Lieberman lacks emuna, and he doesn’t believe that God is running the world and controlling everything and everyone.

If he had more emuna, he would know that the best defense for the land of Israel is for all of the Jews who live here to wholeheartedly return to God, and to start doing what God wants, i.e. living a Torah-observant lifestyle.

But poor guy, he doesn’t know that.

He never went to cheder, he never went to yeshiva, he grew up in the Soviet Union where religion and God were anathema, and then he moved to Israel and started moving in political circles where religion and God are still anathema.

A guy like Lieberman, he wakes up every morning, and what does he see?

He sees Hamas with rockets in Gaza. And Hezbollah with rockets in Lebanon. And Syria trying to build a nuclear reactor on the Northern border. And Iran trying to complete their nuclear reactors, so they can nuke Israel, God forbid, over in the Gulf – and he’s totally petrified by the idea that some mad mullah can flip a switch, and boom!!! No more Israel.

Because Lieberman doesn’t have God in the picture, what does he think can help to solve this awful problem, this terrible danger to the Jewish state?

In his mind, Israel can only be defended against all these threats by a strong army.

In Lieberman’s mind, if the country fills up with pacifist frummers who only want to learn Torah and don’t want to serve in the army – then Israel will be finished.

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Before we continue, I challenge you, dear reader, to take a long, hard look in the mirror and to ask yourself if you also believe that the IDF is what is really protecting Israel.

Because if the answer is ‘yes’, that means you and Lieberman are essentially on the same page.

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Now, people with emuna know that God is protecting Israel, and that this country gets open miracles morning, noon and night.

People with emuna know that people like Rabbi Berland, and the late Baba Elazar, z’tl, and all the other big rabbis, tzaddikim and kabbalists, are working around the clock to keep ‘sweetening’ the spiritual judgments that manifest as terrorists, rockets and nukes, God forbid.

People with emuna are aware that it’s the Jewish people’s own sins that is causing us our terrible security problems with our neighbors, and that if we would return to God and His Torah, the whole Iranian nuke issue will fizzle like a sparkler in a shower.

Lieberman doesn’t have emuna.

So, according to his incorrect paradigm of what’s going on here, unless he can find a way to ‘force’ all the peacenik yeshiva bochurs into the army, sooner or later, he believes the army will collapse and the State of Israel will be destroyed or overrun by our enemies, God forbid.

Because of that belief, he has now apparently declared an all-out war against religion, or what he calls a ‘halachic state’, where Torah law would be pre-eminent.

Is this ‘good’ or ‘right’? No, it’s totally evil.

Why is he doing it?

Because he has very little emuna, doesn’t believe in God, and believes that superior force, and targeted killings, and all the other super-evil stuff that’s being done in the name of ‘security’ here and elsewhere, is the only way to protect the Jewish state.

(Lieberman’s Wikipedia entry makes very interesting reading. In many ways, you could argue he’s consistently acted as one of Israel’s more principled politicians, including severing ties with the corrupt Mossad, back in 2011. I also found this, which certainly muddies the waters on his views of ‘organized religion’ in Israel, too:

While his party is sometimes described by the news media[55] as doctrinally secular and aiming to reduce the role of the rabbinical system in government, it actually supports the continuation of the role of Orthodox rabbinical courts, but wants more nationally minded religious people, rather than the ultra-orthodox, in charge.[56] It does not advocate introducing civil marriage within Israeli law, but rather to find a solution to some of those who cannot marry under such laws.[55] It does not advocate a separation of religion and state in Israeli society.[56]

==

So now, we circle back to the message of the ‘whoever finds fault‘ post, because Lieberman isn’t the only one who think that ‘chareidim’ are bad, and wrecking the economy, and need to be forced to serve in the army.

There are a whole bunch of ostensibly ‘religious’ Jews both here and abroad who also totally lack emuna, and believe the same thing, too.

Just they are less vitriolic (and probably, also less honest….) about expressing it. They think it’s fine for a few yeshiva bochurs to carry on learning, but they clearly would prefer most Moshes to put down their gemara and pick up their uzis, and to become truly productive citizens of Israel.

Honestly? It’s much, much harder for me to judge them favorably, because you’d think that surely they should know better than some Russian guy who never went to cheder and who grew up under atheist, communist rule….

But I digress.

==

So, let’s sum up where we’ve got to:

Lieberman’s ACTIONS of going after the Torah world, and trying to ‘secularise’ Israel are clearly wrong, bad and evil.

Lieberman’s MOTIVATIONS are confused and mixed-up, but at least conceivably could stem from a genuine concern that if Torah observant Jews don’t serve in the IDF and ‘contribute economically’ to Israel, the Jewish State will either be destroyed, conquered or collapsed.

So that’s how we can judge the ESSENCE of Lieberman to the side of merit, even though his actions are clearly evil and atrocious.

==

Ahead of Yom Kippur, it’s a really good idea to practice this Azamra thing as much as possible, because however we judge others, that is how God will judge us.

 

We’re all doing things wrong ALL THE TIME.

We hurt people, we step on them, we selfishly put ourselves first, we look down our noses at other Jews, and act holier-than-thou. We act like pigs, so very much of the time.

BUT OUR ESSENCE IS GOOD.

And the more we make an effort to see that in others, the more we’ll uncover that true goodness in ourselves, too, and rescue our souls (and everyone else’s….) from the klipot.

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“Whoever finds fault, finds his own fault” – Tractate Kiddushin 70a

With a couple of days to go before the Yom HaDin, Rosh Hashana 5780, I thought that we’d take a look at a passage in the Gemara, Kiddushin 70a, which is where the ‘mirror principle’ is first stated by Chazal.

In case you don’t know what the ‘mirror principle’ is, it’s a statement by the Baal Shem Tov that the whole world is a just a mirror, and that whatever ‘bad’ we see peeking out at us in others is somehow just a reflection of our own ‘bad’.

But that’s not just a tenet of chassidut, it’s actually brought down in the Gemara. And if we look at the context of that statement, we can learn some truly remarkable things. Let’s begin this post over in Chapter Four of Tractate Kiddushin, where the Sages are discussing the genealogical laws, and describing the different categories of Jews who ascended to Israel, from Babylonia, before the Second Temple was built.

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The Gemara tells us:

Ten genealogical classes went up from Bablyonia to Eretz Yisrael: Kohanim, Leviim, Yisraelim, chalalim (disqualified Kohanim), converts, freed Caananite slaves, mamzerim, nesinim, shetukim and asufim.

While all of these classes were considered to be 100% Jewish, there were restrictions on who was allowed to marry each other. The Gemara sets out the basic rules:

Kohanim, Leviim and Yisraelim – can marry each other.

Leviim, Yisraelim, chalalim, converts and freed slaves – can marry each other.

Converts, freed slaves, mamzerim, nesinim, shetukim and asufim – can marry each other.

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Before we continue, let’s just explain some of the more unfamiliar terms:

Mamzer – Refers to someone who is 100% Jewish, halachically, but who was born as a result of a union that is forbidden by the Torah. This doesn’t apply to someone who was born out of wedlock, but whose biological parents could still have stood under an orthodox chuppah. It also doesn’t apply to the Jewish child of a ‘mixed marriage’ where the father is not Jewish. But it DOES apply to adulterous extra-marital relationships, and also to children born of incest, amongst other things.

Nesin – This refers to a group of Canaanites called the Gibeonites, who tricked Joshua into converting them to become Jews, so that he wouldn’t kill them when he was conquering Eretz Yisrael. Even though their conversion was considered valid, Joshua forbid the other Jews from marrying them as long as the temple stood. Then later, King David saw how cruel and barbaric they were, and permanently forbid them from marrying into the mainstream Jewish community.

Shetuk – According to the Gemara:

“These are shetukim, anyone who knows the identify of his mother, but does not know the identity of his father.”

Asuf – According to the Gemara:

“Anyone who is gathered in from the street and does not know the identity of either his father or his mother.”

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The Gemara then gets into a very interesting discussion about how Ezra the Scribe basically forced all these ‘genealogically unfit’ categories of Jews to ascend with him to come and rebuild Eretz Yisrael.

He was worried that if he left them behind in Babylonia, the rabbis there wouldn’t know how to keep them properly contained.

(It’s an interesting aside, but the Babylonian Talmud asserts that because Ezra took all the ‘unfit’ Jews with him to Israel, he left Babylonian Jewry “like fine, sifted flour.” So they state that Babylonia at that time was the most genealogically ‘fit’ Jewish community, followed by Eretz Yisrael, then followed by the rest of the diaspora (!) I’m willing to bet the Talmud Yerushalmi has a different view, but I don’t have a copy to compare….)

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The Gemara then gets into a whole big discussion about what a big, genealogical mess the whole thing is already (1800 years ago…).

There were so many Kohanim who’d married goyim and ‘forbidden’ women without anyone knowing; and there were so many slaves who didn’t follow the proper procedure for being freed (which would render them as halachically Jewish converts) before marrying a Jew; and there were mamzerim walking around all over the place, due to adulterous affairs.

The Gemara then states this:

A Tanna taught…Elijah [the Prophet] writes, and the Holy One, Blessed is He, signs: Woe to him who disqualifies his children and who taints his family, and who marries a woman who is not fit for him. Elijah ties him, and the Holy One, Blessed is He, whips him. And whoever declares others to be genealogically unfit is himself genealogically unfit. And he (i.e someone who is genealogically unfit] never speaks in praise of others.

Let’s just pause for a moment, and digest this, as it’s a statement with huge implications.

In the Artscroll footnotes, they note that Rashi comments that:

[A]nyone who regularly demeans the genealogical status of other families reveals himself to be genealogically blemished.

In other words, we are back to the mirror principle, big time. The Gemara continues:

And Shmuel said: The Baraisa means: He declares them unfit with his own blemish.

I.e., whatever he’s accusing others of being, he’s actually just describing himself.

The Gemara then tells the following story, to underline this point:

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There was a certain man from Nehardea who went into a butcher shop in Pumbedita[1]. He said to them: “Give me meat.” They said to him: “Wait until the attendant of Rav Yehudah bar Yechezkel[2], who is standing here, takes his meat, and then we will give you yours.”

He said: “Who is Yehuda bar Sheviskel that he should precede me and take before me!” They went and told Rav Yehuda what this man had said. [Rav Yehuda] placed a ban upon him. They told Rav Yehuda: “He habitually calls people slaves.” [Rav Yehuda] issued a proclamation that he [i.e. the Nehardean] was a slave himself.”

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What happens next is that the aggressive, brazen, disrespectful Nehardean than sues Rav Yehuda in the rabbinical court of Rav Nachman, the leader of the Nehardean community.

The story continues:

“Rav Nachman began the questioning: He said to [Rav Yehuda]: ‘Why did master place a ban upon that man?’

Rav Yehuda responded: ‘Because he harassed an agent of the Rabbis.’

Rav Nachman: ‘Then master should have given him lashes…Why did you excommunicate[3] him?’

Rav Yehuda: ‘As a penalty. I dealt with him even more stringently than that.’

Rav Nachman: ‘Why did master proclaim that he was a slave?’

Rav Yehuda: ‘Because he frequently calls people ‘slaves’. And a Tanna has taught in a Baraisa: Anyone who declares others… unfit, is himself unfit. And he never speaks in praise of others. And Shmuel said….’It is with his own blemish that he declares other unfit.’

(Try this: swap out the word ‘slave’ for ‘Erev Rav’…)

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Now, the Nehardean gets all bolshy, and starts shouting down Rav Yehuda, who is one of the Gedolei HaDor of Babylonian Jewry:

“Me you call a slave, when in fact I am descended from the royal family of Hasmoneans!”

Rav Yehuda says to him:

“Thus said Shmuel: ‘Whoever says, ‘I am descended from the family of the Hasmoneans is in truth a slave!”

Rav Nachman gets into a small discussion about whether Rav Yehuda is just making up quotes to try to bolster his case, and Rav Yehuda says no, Rav Masnah also heard this teaching. Rav Masnah hadn’t appeared in Nehardea in 13 years, but whaddya know? As they’re having this conversation, Rav Masnah happens to show up, and he confirms Rav Yehuda’s statement.

The Gemara continues:

“[Rav Nachman] subsequently proclaimed that the plaintiff was indeed a slave. That day, many ketubot were ripped up in Nehardea” – because Jewish men now suspected they were married to ‘slave’ women who they’d mistakenly believed to be Jewish.

Now, Rav Yehuda leaves town, and the people of Nehardea follow him, because they want to stone him to death, for all the trouble he’s making. Rav Yehuda gets them to quiet down by telling them that if they doesn’t leave him alone, he’s going to reveal right there the big secret that Shmuel taught him about the Jewish community in Nehardea, namely:

“There are two families in Nehardea: One is called the family of Yonah [i.e. the kosher dove] and one is called the family of Orvasi [i.e. the non-kosher and cruel oreiv, or raven. Perhaps another hint to the ‘Erev Rav’ problem.]… The family named after an impure bird is impure, and the family named after a pure bird is pure.”

The townspeople dropped their stones and ran away, before Rav Yehuda could disclose which family was which.

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Now, the Gemara goes through a whole bunch of proclamations the Sages of Babylonia made about all these ‘impure’ and ‘disqualified’ people in the Jewish community.

This problem is even in Eretz Yisrael, and when Rabbi Pinchas’ students start investigating the families in the Land of Israel, they realise they have to stop. Rashi explains why:

“Their research led them to discover the disqualification of certain powerful families who would kill them [if their impurities were revealed.”

Which brings us on to a VERY important point, about how Chazal decided to deal with this situation, and how they said it would ultimately get fixed (we’re now in Kiddushin 71a):

(R’ Yitzhak said):

“Once a genealogically tainted family is mixed with Israel, it is mixed. One should not isolate such a family and clarify which of its members are pure and which are impure. Rather, one should leave it, and in the Messianic era all of its members will be deemed pure.”

The Gemara continues, and makes a distinction between ‘genealogically impure’ families who forced their way into the Jewish community (i.e. like Herod the Great, for example), and tainted families where it all kind of just happened:

(Abaye explains):

“Families… whose impurities are publically known and who became mixed with Israel only through force, will be dealt with by Elijah the Prophet. But a tainted family that became mixed with Israel because people were unaware of its status, Elijah will allow to remain mixed.”

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Let’s finish with one more story from the Gemara, in Kiddushin 71b, then we’ll sum up what we just learnt together.

Rav Ulla comes to visit Rav Yehuda in Pumbedita, and he sees that his son, Rav Yitzhak, is still unmarried, so he asks Rav Yehuda:

“What’s going on? Why haven’t you married your son off?”

Rav Yehuda replies: “Who knows where I can find a genealogically fit wife for him?!”

Rav Ulla says to him: “Do we know where we come from?”

And then starts listing a whole bunch of verses stating how idolaters ravished Jewish women in the town of Judea in Biblical times; and talking about Jews who ‘defile their couches’, which R’ Abahu explains as referring to wife-swapping.

“Since our predecessors engaged in this type of adulterous activity, no-one can assume that he is genealogically fit!” says R’ Ulla. So then, Rav Yehuda asks him, “So what do we do?” Ulla answered him: “Go after silence, i.e. seek a family whose members are quiet and peaceable…[In Eretz Yisrael] they use the following method to investigate someone’s lineage:

“When two people would quarrel with each other, they would see which one is the first to quiet down, and then they would say, ‘that person is genealogically purer than the other.”

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LET’S SUM THIS UP:

It’s a great, eye-opening piece of Gemara, isn’t it? Can you imagine what might start to happen if more of our rabbis and commentators would actually learn some Gemara?

So, here’s the main takeaway points from Kiddushin 70a-72b:

  • Whenever we find fault in other Jews, we are really just identifying our own faults.
  • That particularly applies to finding fault with other people’s ‘genealogy’, like for example, going around calling other people ‘Erev Rav’, etc.
  • Even 1800 years ago, there were so many forbidden and / or adulterous unions going on in the Jewish community, that even the head of the Torah Academy in Pumbedita was having trouble finding a ‘genealogically fit’ wife for his son.
  • Adulterous affairs and immoral behavior have been going on for so long, not even the most illustrious Jew today can be 100% sure that some ancestor of theirs didn’t put a massive spanner in their genealogical works. So it behooves us all to act with a little humility, and to stop pointing fingers at other Jews.
  • When Moshiach shows up, he will declare everyone pure.
  • The exception to this is those people who pushed their way into the Jewish community ‘by force’, i.e. they never intended to convert sincerely, or to serve Hashem, they just wanted the status, money or other perks of technically being part of the Jewish community. Elijah the Prophet will push these people away.
  • The way you can tell how ‘genealogically pure’ someone is, is by checking their middot and temperament. If they are angry, argumentative, brazen, obsessed with their own honor, always have to be right, and can never back down, make peace and apologise – then they probably aren’t so ‘fit’, Jewishly-speaking. The more calm, conciliatory, peaceable and kind a person is, the more genealogically ‘fit’ they probably are.

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On that note, let me end by apologizing to any of my readers or email correspondents who I may well have upset or irked this year.

I’m a flawed human being, and I don’t always act and react appropriately, so please forgive me!

And I unconditionally forgive all the psychos, weirdos, and holier-than-thou pseudo-prophets who continue to make my life interesting, too.

May we ALL be blessed with a peaceful, productive, happy, healthy and sweet 5780.

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FOOTNOTES:

[1] Pumbedita was the main centre of Torah learning in Babylonia, but Nehardea also had a significant, and learned Jewish population.

[2] This is the ‘Rav Yehuda’ of the Babylonian Talmud, who was head of the Torah academy in Pumbedita.

[3] By designating this man a ‘slave’, Rav Yehuda effectively removed his communal status as a Jew.

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Photo by Daniela Holzer on Unsplash

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The Vilna Gaon was really into the Moshiach and calculations of ‘End Times’.

There’s a book exchange station next to the bike path in the German Colony, and because it’s arguably the most Anglo neighborhood in Jerusalem, I often find some really good stuff there. Last week, I picked up a book called: The Gaon of Vilna and His Messianic Vision, by an observant Israeli academic called Arie Morgenstern. I have to tell you, it’s one of the most interesting books that I’ve read in a very long time.

I learned so many things that I didn’t know before, both about the Vilna Gaon himself, but also about the Chassidic community, the roots of the machloket between the mitnagdim and the chassidim, and also, how there was still a very strong yearning for Moshiach in the Ashkenazi world even after the Shabtai Tzvi false messiah disaster.

BUT – there was a huge clash of ideas about how best to bring the Moshiach and get to the end of days, which is basically what most of the book explores. BH, I want to explore what all that means for us today in the next article, but before I do, I first just wanted to share some of the more general interesting nuggets of information I picked up from the book.

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  • Why is there such a strong Armenian presence in Jerusalem?

Every time I drive or walk through the Old City, I skirt the Armenian quarter, and I find myself asking again:

WHY is there an Armenian Quarter in Jerusalem?!?!

It’s quite a small denomination, as xtian sects go, it’s not a world power, heck, Armenia doesn’t even neighbor Israel. So what’s going on here? Read on, to find out.

The Italian Jew Raphael Mordechai Malchi moved to Israel in 1673, and practiced medicine in Jerusalem until his death in 1702. He treated many of the residents of the Holy City, including non-Jews, and he recorded a conversation that he had with an Armenian priest, who explained why the Armenian church had built so many buildings in Jerusalem. Malchi wrote:

“He showed me some writings in Assyrian and Hebrew…and told me that on Mt Sinai, where a monastery stands today, they found a large tablet of lead in a cave, bearing Hebrew letters and these verses from Jeremiah.”

Ed. Note: This is Jeremiah’s prophecy of Messianic times, 30-35, that begins: For behold, days are coming – the word of Hashem – when I will return the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, said Hashem, and I will return them to the land that I gave their forefathers and they will possess it.

(It’s worth looking at these chapters in detail, which BH we will do in a separate post.)

What the Armenian priest told Dr Malchi is that after they ‘searched the whole world’ trying to figure out how to read it, “they discovered explicitly that at the end of day, the Semites will demand Jerusalem from all places around the world where they have been living.”

So the Armenians built monasteries in the holy city, arranged for a different patriarch to live in the city every year, and sent huge amounts of money to Jerusalem to ensure they had a strong toehold and a grip on the future seat of power. (And let’s be honest, probably also to try to put a dent in the ‘Semites’ plans to reclaim their country and usher in the time of Moshiach.)

Halavi, the Jews would take Jeremiah’s prophecies as seriously.

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  • Messianic fervor didn’t ‘disappear’ from the Jewish world after Shabtai Tzvi, the false messiah from Izmir who ended up converting to Islam.

I know that’s not obvious from our viewpoint of 2019, where the whole non-Chassidic, Ashkenazi Jewish world likes to pretend that after Shabtai Tzvi, everyone except Breslov and Lubavitch stopped even thinking about Moshiach, but as we’ll see in the next post, there was a big cover up going on at the end of the 18th century.

Shabtai Tzvi lived between August 1, 1626 – c. September 17, 1676. While his ‘false messianic’ vision certainly did enormous harm to the Ashkenazi world, it seems the problem was more that he created a false – and fundamentally evil – new ‘religion’ called Sabbateanism, that continued after his death, than that he was talking about Moshiach and the geula.

Very soon after he disappeared from the scene, Jews from all different backgrounds continued to have ‘Moshiach fever’, and even to discuss specific dates for the end of days to begin, based on their understanding of allusions to this time in the Zohar.

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Most notably, there was a widespread movement of making aliya to Israel between the years 1740 and 1781.

This was based on kabbalistic calculations that 1740 marked the half-way point in the 6th millennia – and the time when the house of Yaakov would finally rise up against the house of Esav.

Here’s the quote from the Zohar that got all the kabbalists of that time so excited, based on Genesis 32:13-26, where Yaakov wrestles the angel of Esav until dawn:

“Until dawn.” For by then, [Esav’s] dominion has passed on. So it will be in the future. The current exile resembles night. It is night. And it’s dust dominates the Jews. They are hurled into the dust until the light ascends and illuminates the day. Then Israel will be dominant and the kingship will be given to them…

“…Israel’s deliverance will not be revealed in one stroke but rather like a dawn, which progresses and grows in light until true day appears.”

The kabbalists of that time, including one named Rabbi Shalom Buzaglo, estimated that the ‘time’ spoken of by the Prophet Daniel was 480 years long, as the gematria for hashahar (dawn) is 480. So when Daniel (in 7:25) speaks of ‘a time and times and half a time’, Rabbi Buzaglo worked out that this would be 1680 years after the second Temple was destroyed, which equated to the Hebrew year 5508 (1748 C.E.)

Ahead of that date, a whole bunch of big kabbalists, rabbis and other important communal figures from both the Sephardi and Ashkenazi world suddenly upped sticks, and moved to Eretz Yisrael, swelling the population of Jerusalem from just over 1000, to more than 5000 in five years.

Moshiach didn’t come then – but what did happen instead was that many members of the community started to die prematurely, including in a terrible plague, that killed hundreds of the Jews in Israel. The Ohr HaChaim died in Jerusalem in 1743, and the RaMCHaL succumbed to the plague in Acco, in May 1746.

The rabbis in Jerusalem responded to what they saw as this ‘Divine punishment’ by issuing ‘Moral Legislation’ in 1749, which forbade the wealthy new olim to the Holy Land from wearing their expensive clothes and jewelry in public. The Jerusalem rabbis also gave all the single men in the city an ultimatum to either get married, or leave town, to minimize the untznius behavior they were trailing in their wake.

In the meantime, the Moshiach didn’t come in 1748.

But what certainly did happen is that the ‘end of days’ process did begin in earnest at that point, after all, because so many people moved to the Holy Land at that time, more than at any other point in preceding 1600 years of exile.

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  1. The Baal Shem Tov ‘speaks to Moshiach’ in 1747, and discovers that geula depends on the Jews making teshuva, not on a fixed date

Very interestingly, while all this was going on, the Baal Shem Tov wrote a letter to his brother-in-law, Reb Gershon of Kutow, that his student Yaakov Yosef of Polonoye was meant to take to Israel to deliver, when he also made aliya ahead of 1748. The letter was never delivered, because Rabbi Y.Y. stayed home, after Moshiach didn’t show up then as hoped.

Instead, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef sat on this letter for over 35 years, only publishing it in his book Ben Porat Yosef in 1780. Why did he wait so long to publicise the letter? It seems that even amongst the Baal Shem Tov’s leading students, there was a strong belief that Moshiach had to be imminent. To put this a different way, it seems Rabbi Yaakov Yosef was hoping the Baal Shem Tov’s insight about the end of days, which he described to Reb Gershon, was wrong.

So what did the letter actually say?

In his missive, the BESHT described how his neshama had ascended to heaven on Rosh Hashana in 1747 – the year before ‘the end’ was meant to occur, according to the kabbalists – and had met the Moshiach, who was learning Torah with the Patriarchs, Tannaim and the Seven Shepherds.

This is a quote from the BESHT’s letter:

“I asked the Messiah when he would be coming. “This is how you will know,” he replied. “When your teachings become public and revealed to the world, and your wellsprings of my teachings, which you will have mastered, overflow to the outside, so that [others], too, will be able to perform mystical unifications and ascents of the soul like you. Then all the husks will be eradicated and a time of [Divine] desire and salvation will come.”

The Baal Shem Tov continues:

“[This reply] left me puzzled and severely troubled. Such a long time! When can it possibly come to pass?”

To phrase this another way, as Arie Morgenstern points out, this experience totally shifted the question of ‘when will the Moshiach come?’ out of the realm of ‘time’, and into the realm of ‘behavior’.

We’re back to that discussion in the Gemara, about whether the redemption depends on the Jewish people making teshuva, or is totally just a matter of ‘timing’. Rabbi Yehoshua said the latter, Rabbi Eliezer HaGadol said the former – and according to this letter from the BESHT, Rabbi Eliezer was right.

The Baal Shem Tov was explaining to Reb Gershon that the Moshiach is going to come, and the end of days is going to happen, only when the Jews start to really connect to God, and experience ‘ascents of the soul’, and to really learn and understand Torah on the deep level of chassidut.

And not a second before.

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That’s why the Baal Shem Tov was so troubled, because in order for the Jewish nation to reach that high spiritual level, so much had to change first.

And if he was thinking it was a tall order in his generation, what can we begin to say about ours?

In the meantime, the kabbalist’s date of 1748 came and went with no Moshiach, but Rabbi Yaakov Yosef only published the Baal Shem Tov’s letter in 1780, because at that stage, there was another date for imminent redemption being mooted: 1781.

And at that stage Rabbi Y.Y. wanted to pre-empt any more ‘Moshiach no-show letdown’ by publishing the BESHT’s letter, which described in detail how the rules of the game had actually changed.

And here’s where things get even more interesting.

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  1. Various groups of kabbalists keep trying to ‘force’ geula in various ways.

Back in 1753, a small group of Jerusalem kabbalists including Rabbi Shalom Sharabi (the Rashash), Rabbi Chaim de la Roza, and Rabbi Chaim Joseph David Azulai (the Chida) formed a ‘secret society’ with the aim of trying to force Hashem to bring the geula that year.

The year 5313 spells ‘ha shahar’  – the dawn, and was also connected to the word ve-nivneta, talking about the rebuilding of Jerusalem. (Jeremiah 30:18). There are four separate accounts of what these three kabbalists tried to do, but the long and short of it is that after weeks of lengthy preparations and self-mortifications, they tried to use different holy names to ‘force’ the coming of the Moshiach.

Suddenly, the three heard a voice from Heaven telling them to stop from their “brazen undertaking” before they totally unhinge the world, because they “wish to hasten something whose time has not yet come, as God has counseled.”

The voice then tells them:

“One of you will have to leave the holy city, for only the three of you together in unison can force the Messiah’s hand.”

The decree of exile seems to have fallen upon the Chida, who immediately left Jerusalem for unknown reasons on January 9, 1753 and stayed out of Israel for the next 5 years.

The three kabbalists were terrified at the sin they felt they had committed, by trying to go against God’s will to hasten the end, so much so that Rabbi de la Rosa asked his student to perform the four types of execution upon his body, after he died.

His students couldn’t bring themselves to do it – but Rabbi de la Rosa’s funeral procession was attacked by Arab bandits, and his body was thrown into a ravine. The Tzaddik’s decree was fulfilled, one way or another.

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  1. There was a wave of Chassidic aliya before 1781

So now, the next date that loomed into view for the ‘end of days’ was 1781. A well-known kabbalist by the name of Immanuel Hai Ricchi, from the previous generation, had calculated that the ‘in its time’ redemption would occur in May 1781, corresponding to the Hebrew year of 5541.

And historical events certainly seemed to be heading in that direction.

The vicious Haidamak pogroms began in 1768 (and saw 30,000 Jews murdered in Uman, alone), and then were was also an awful outbreak of bubonic plague in 1770 (!) which killed hundreds of thousands of the Jews in the pale of settlement.

This from HERE:

In Western Europe, the last outbreak of plague was in southern France between 1720 and 1722. Towns like Marseilles and Toulon were devastated. In Eastern Europe, Kiev in Ukraine suffered a severe outbreak in 1770. The last serious outbreak of bubonic plague in Europe was in Moscow in 1771.

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Then, Russia conquered Poland in 1772, and also some of the Turkish empire, too, in 1774 – and it really looked like ‘the End of Days’ was fast approaching.

Many leaders of the growing chassidut movement thought so, with some of chassidut’s biggest luminaries, including Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, and Rabbi Avraham of Kalisk, making aliya to Israel in 1777.

But the Chassidic aliya quickly ran into severe problems, mostly of the financial kind, so when the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, asked Rabbi Menachem Mendel if he should also ascend to the holy land in 1780, Rabbi Menachem Mendel basically told him to hold off until the next year, to see if the Moshiach really was about to show up.

Again, he didn’t.

So at that point, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polonoye decided to finally print the letter describing the Baal Shem Tov meeting the Moshiach, from many years before. Presumably, he was trying to ‘bank’ any disappointment that Moshiach hadn’t shown up, and to set out a new path, one based on perfecting behavior and fixing bad middot, instead of a fixed ‘time’ of redemption.

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The point of all these tidbits is to point out that the Jewish community has actually weathered far more disappointments over Moshiach not showing up than you might think, even after the whole Shabtai Tzvi affair.

And we actually came through all these false starts OK.

History shows that it’s been far more damaging, spiritually, for Jews to totally forget about Moshiach and geula, and considering moving to Israel, than obsessing over these things too much.

In part two of this post, we’re going to take a closer look at the disagreement that erupted between the Vilna Gaon and the Lithuanian rabbis and the chassidim in 1781 – there’s that date again! –  because we’re going to learn something amazing about the ‘end of days’ by the time we’ve reached that end of that story.

To be continued…

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The Israeli elections seem be a choice between Mr Evil, Mr Eviller, and Mr Evillest

Three weeks ago, my husband snapped his Achilles tendon whilst playing tennis. Baruch Hashem, it’s on the mend, but in the meantime I’m ferrying him backwards and forwards in the car to his workplace, close to Jerusalem’s central bus station.

What that means (amongst other things….) is that I’m getting to see all the massive, ginormous, monstrous billboards of yucky-looking politicians that are currently springing up like poisonous mushrooms all around the entrance to Jerusalem, in preparation for next week’s elections.

I can tell you this:

Whoever you vote for, it’s going to be a vote for Mr Evil.

Some of these super-sized pictures are so disturbing I’m amazed they’ve been approved for public consumption. What these politicians don’t seem to realise is that when their faces are blown up to building-size proportions, it makes it much harder to hide their true characters. You see it in the eyes, you grasp it by the beetling brows, and the cunning, calculating expression that even the greasiest smile can’t hide.

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Where to start, on which one of these posters bothers me the most?

For a while, Ehud Barak’s lot were definitely in the lead, with a cast straight out of Dr No. There’s the beautiful, red-haired woman that looks like a secret assassin. The angry-looking, grey-haired rogue scientist is on the left of the picture. And then ‘Mr Evil’ himself, with his dyed-black hair and shifty expression, is right in the middle of all that.

After the whole Epstein affair, how can anyone, much less a woman, much less a party that claims to stand for ‘human rights’ have anything to do with this guy!

So he was in the lead for a while.

But then, Netanyahu’s lot stuck up a bunch of MASSIVE posters of him shaking hands with Donald Trump, bearing the slogan: Netanyahu: a different league.

I almost crashed a few times coming round the corner of the Jerusalem Gateway, because I couldn’t take my eyes off how plain evil Netanyahu looked on that billboard, and how totally crazy Trump appeared.

So for two days, that was in pole position.

Then yesterday, Benny Gantz of Blue and White got stuck up on the other side of the Prima Park Hotel, in a poster that looked like a cross between Men In Black and the Terminator.

Oooo, look how thick his neck is!!! Look how menacingly grey his skin is!!! Notice how totally unemotional and devoid of any human kindness his cruel blue eyes appear!!!

He looked like a ‘Class A’ psycho, and clearly that’s the effect that all these politicians are trying to achieve.

Vote for me, I’m a total psycho! If anyone even so much sneezes in my direction, I’ll nuke them! Israel is in safe hands!

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But then today, the Labor / Gesher Party decided to remove its poster of Amir Peretz looking like Stalin, and replace them with Amir Peretz looking like a character out of Goodfellas instead. Last week, Peretz shaved off his trade-mark moustache, I don’t know why.

But personally, I think it was a mistake.

For as long as the moustache was pulling the eye, you didn’t notice how strangely menacing the guy underneath it was. Now, with Mr Fluffy gone, Amir Peretz looks like he could get a job with Iran’s Revolutionary Guide.

Vote for me! I can break a man into pieces in five seconds flat!!!

Now, you might be wondering where all the women are in this election. That’s what one of the graffiti artists clearly had in mind when she spray-painted the Amir-Peretz-As-Stalin poster with: “I’m a woman and I can also vote.”

Ayelet Shaked’s party decided to put a few massive posters of just her perfect, Barbie-like face across various bridges on the Begin Highway, and after studying them all week (yes, it’s a miracle I haven’t crashed the car) – I can tell you they are airbrushed.

The woman is 42 and has a very stressful job, and yet she has the flawless complexion of a 20 year old supermodel. It’s an open miracle.

Vote for me! I don’t have any wrinkles!!!

This morning, someone had punched two massive holes in the middle of both her faces, and it took some really careful planning to pull that off in the middle of Jerusalem’s busiest and fasted road.

I think it was the Shabak.

Orly Levy-Abecassis (or whatever her name is…) also popped up on a poster looking really miserable, but with great hair, next to Goodfella Peretz, and some other man who I don’t know the name of, but who also looks like a shark in a suit.

Vote for me! I have the best hairdresser in all of Israel!!!

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Sigh.

Whichever way you turn, there’s evil, evil and more evil.

Driving my husband to work has become a Kafkaesque nightmare, a cross between a bad Bond movie and the Oscars.

Although yesterday, I did see a poster of someone that I’d half consider voting for.

He was a cute Saba advertising a new flavor of milkshake.

So, a vote for Mr Evil – for political gangsters and their molls – or for Mr Milkshake, for PM?

I think the answer is obvious.

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