So, other people’s dreams are always really boring, I know, but bear with me because I had a ‘repeated’ dream yesterday, that I feel it’s good to share with you.

The Gemara tells us that all dreams are generally considered to be nonsense, but if you get a dream which is repeated, those ones you should take a little more seriously. So here goes:

Dream #1:

The first time round, I was walking somewhere with huge pubs, covered in shiny gold writing = clearly London.

I got to a massive football stadium, like Wembley Arena or something, and it was clear to me that it was up in the air on the world’s biggest rollercoaster, and that any minute now, it was going to loop-the-loop and completely flip over, like you do on rollercoasters.

My kids were with me, so I made sure we were seated and properly buckled in, because when you don’t secure yourself properly, you fall out of rollercoasters and smash to bits on the floor when they start moving.

But me and my kids were pretty much the only ones doing that! Everyone else was just sitting there, completely unaware that they were actually on a huge rollercoaster half a mile up in the sky, and not just having a picnic or something.

I couldn’t get why they didn’t know what was about to happen, and why they weren’t buckling in. Just then, JFK showed up and started shooting people (clearly, the ‘pure nonsense’ part of the dream) and I woke up. It was 2am.

Dream #2:

I fell back asleep – and the dream happened again, except this time my kids weren’t with me, and the stadium-cum-rollercoaster was packed even fuller of people. This time, most people had a vague idea they were on a rollercoaster that was about to flip them completely over, but they weren’t dealing with that idea in any sort of rational way.

Some people told me they were just going to ‘hold on to the grass’ where they were sitting, for protection. Others showed me how they were going to use all their strength to somehow ‘dig in’ to the earth, and that was going to be enough to keep them on board. And still others disappeared into the toilets for a smoke, just as the ‘fasten your seatbelts sign’ flashed up.

I woke up again, and I immediately thought of the story in the Gemara where two holy sages are sailing in a boat, when they stop on what they thought was an island. They make a fire and start cooking their supper, when suddenly the whole ‘island’ starts shuddering, and completely flips over, because really they were camping out on the stomach of a huge fish.

The sages testified that if their boat hadn’t been so close by, to scramble into, they would have both drowned.

It’s a parable, of course, and at least one of the commentaries I’ve seen on that particular Gemara equates the boat with Moshiach, and emunat tzadikim, or belief in our holy sages.

One thing’s for sure: when the thing flips over, you REALLY need to make sure you’re buckled in, and hanging on to something solid. And if my repeat dream is anything to go by, the rollercoaster ride that’s leading to geula really might be starting soon…

That’s what my eldest asked me this week. Of course, I hadn’t because I don’t listen to the news or read papers, but I’m a very small minority in my daughter’s class, so of course all of her friends had heard about the rabbi in Tsfat, and were vigorously discussing it.

My daughter told me that a lot of her classmates were really, really upset about it, and that it had put a severe dint in their belief in our holy rabbis. I don’t blame them. Every time I meet another fraudulent rabbi or self-serving ‘spiritual mentor’, my heart also sinks a couple more notches.

But it doesn’t stay there for long.

You know why? Because so many of our holy people explained that in the generation before Moshiach, a huge number of our leaders and rabbis would be fakers.

There are many definitions of what these fakers do and how they act, but their main identifying traits are that they are in the game only for their own honour, power and kudos, and that they excel at being the most arch hypocrites you’ll probably ever meet in your life.

They’ll make it seem like they hold themselves to super-high, super-strict standards of everything themselves, and that they’re incredibly holy and beyond reproach, but to put it bluntly, they lie about everything and often treat their fellow man like rubbish.

Now, in the Levy household we’ve unfortunately had far too much experience with ‘holy fakers’. As each ‘holy faker’ exploded in our face, my husband and I had to pick up the pieces of our emunat tzadikim, rebuilt our faith and emunah, and work really hard to see God behind it all.

At the same time, we had to educate ourselves, and our children, about what was really going on in the world, to ensure as best we can that neither we, nor they, would be hurt by any more ‘holy fakers’ in the future.

That means I’ve sat my kids down, and quoted them bits from Rebbe Nachman, and from Rabbi Chaim Vital, and the Gemara in Sanhedrin and a few other places too, where it talks about how a huge number of our leaders and rabbis would be fakers, before Moshiach comes.

Forewarned is forearmed, so my children are not fazed in the same way now, to hear that yet another ‘holy faker’ got unmasked. But their peers are not so fortunate. Their peers are still being told by the adults in their lives to ‘stop talking lashon hara’, and to ‘stop questioning our holy rabbis’ – which was the correct response 50 years’ ago, but is definitely NOT the correct response now.

Why not?

Simply put, because this is the generation before Moshiach, and a huge number of our leaders and rabbis are fakers.

I want my kids to grow up believing in God, serving Him happily, and having a strong connection with the true tzaddikim who do still exist, and are still out there, albeit currently a quiet minority.

We need to teach our children (and also, ourselves!) to listen to the inner voice that’s telling us something isn’t ‘quite right’ with many of the people in authority positions in our lives. If more of us would advocate for judging people on the basis of their personalities, instead of being blinded by their reputation and title, things would be very different, and these unholy fakers would find it much harder to take us all for a ride.

Sigh.

It’s all so heavy and unpleasant, isn’t it?

I wish from the bottom of my heart that all the lies being told would vanish, so that we could all have a clear picture of who’s really holy and good, and who isn’t. But that’s one of the biggest tests of this generation, that no-one is going to spell all this out to you except God.

That’s how God wants it, and as I explained to my kids, the single best (and probably only) way I know of being able to distinguish between who’s a faker and who’s for real is personal prayer.

Personal prayer enables you to have a real conversation with your ‘inner voice’, and it gives your soul the space it needs sometimes to convince you of the things you really don’t want to hear or believe.

Like, a huge number of our leaders and rabbis are fakers.

In the meantime, I’m sticking close to Rav Arush, Rav Ofer Erez and Rav Berland, because I know from personal experience that they’re the real deal.

And I’m encouraging my children to trust their gut instincts, and to not assume that a big beard and a bit title automatically equates to ‘holy’, because sadly, even without keeping up with the news, I’ve had enough fakers in my own life to know that in 2015, genuinely holy leaders and rabbis are pretty few and far between.

One of the things that Jews regularly ask our Creator is that God should ‘turn His anger into compassion’.

I’ve been thinking about this idea a lot recently, because my husband told me an idea he read in Likutey Moharan that explains that God often takes His cues from us. For example, if someone is working very hard on turning their own feelings of anger into compassion, God is much more likely to take that person’s prayers on the subject of turning the Divine anger into Divine compassion much more seriously.

I guess you could sum it up by saying God hates hypocrites. If we want Him to act nicely with us, and to overlook all our many millions of shortcomings and issues, He wants to see if we’re willing to act like that with other people.

Now, here’s the thing: it is SUCH hard work to regularly turn your anger into compassion (or at least, it is for me.)

Not a day goes by where I don’t read something, hear something, experience something that triggers off some massive rage fit. All this anger, and judgement and self-righteous disgust bubbles up – and dear reader, it always feels so just and proper at the time, especially when I’ve just discovered some particularly nauseating behaviour – and then I have to work like a dog to try and calm it all down again.

Depending on the circumstances, one session of hitbodedut, or personal prayer is often enough to dissolve the problem, or at least, my negative and angry reaction to it.

But sometimes, I find myself working on the same old problems, the same old difficult people, for days, weeks and even months at a time.

Just when I think I’ve finally put my angry feelings to bed about a particular person, they’ll go and do something even more annoying or disgustingly hypocritical, and then I find it all bubbles up again.

My yetzer starts whispering at me that it can’t be right to just let these people off the hook, and to keep judging them favourably, and can’t I see how horrible they are and what terrible things they’re doing and causing?

Literally, I can go round that mental track for a whole hour, noticing all the bad, disgusting stuff about a whole bunch of individuals (and believe me, it’s not even usually hidden) – and then trying to figure out how to judge it all favorably, and bring it all back to Hashem.

Let’s be clear here that BAD ACTIONS are always bad, and must be clearly recognised and responded to as such. But BAD PEOPLE is a whole different matter. Just because someone killed a granny in cold blood (BAD ACTION) doesn’t mean they themselves are completely evil and bad (BAD PERSON).

See, I told you it’s really, really hard to pull this stuff off.

But I’m still trying, not least because I know that there is no such thing as human objectivity. Every single one of us is adept at judging our fellow’s behaviour in very stark, harsh terms, while making a whole pile of good excuses for ourselves about how we just HAD to kill that Granny, because really she was the secret head of Hamas, or something.

To put it simply: I want God to tie Himself in knots to judge me favourably, and to turn His anger against me to compassion, so I have to practice what I preach.

But it’s so hard, and sometimes I get despairing and give up.

To keep me going, God has taken to sending me more, and more profound insights into human behaviour, so that I can really start to understand a little more why people do the things they do.

For example, I recently really got, for the first time ever, that certain people are so fundamentally obsessed with self-preservation, that it literally blinds them to any other consideration.

Their yetzer tells them that ‘X needs to happen at all costs, in order for you to feel good and happy and safe’, and then off they go, dead set at making ‘X’ happen regardless of who they have to squash or crush in the process.

Now, I’m not excusing the BAD ACTIONS, but I’m starting to understand that BAD PEOPLE are incredibly messed up, vulnerable and generally pathetic human beings. Once I got that, it got much easier for me to switch out of anger and into compassion mode.

At least, sometimes.

Recently, I decided to come back online after a 7 year hiatus from the ‘real world’: You know, that place where appearances count for almost everything, and where you have to be very careful to play the game, if you want others to take you and your ideas seriously.

I have another book coming out shortly and after my last couple pretty much sunk without a trace, because there was no online marketing or presence to back them up, I decided that this time round, I had to at least make an effort to get a bit more out there, somehow.

There was just one problem: the online world is a pretty untznius place to be, if we define tznius in terms of trying to avoid attracting attention. You can see the problem already, can’t you? On the one hand, pretty much the only point of doing anything online is to attract attention. On the other, attracting attention is the classic definition of ‘untznius behaviour’.

So I’ve been sticking my toe into these murky waters very cautiously indeed, to try and feel out the least untznius ways of participating in the fundamentally untznius process of getting noticed on the web.

As a writer, I hit my first real big bump in the road when one of the sites I’d contacted about doing posts for turned round and asked me for a full frontal picture, to accompany my pieces.

10 years’ ago when I lived and worked in the UK, this wouldn’t even have crossed my radar as a potential spiritual problem. When you’re regularly shaking hands with a load of Toms, Dicks and Harrys every single day, it’s just not an issue in the same way.

But now? Now, I’d spent seven years living in Israel and trying to refine my behaviour. Now, I didn’t shake hands with strange men, and I did my best to avoid getting into unnecessary conversations with the opposite sex. I came off Facebook almost a decade ago, for Heaven’s sake!

So now, being asked for a full face photo was actually a big deal. I ummed, I ahhed, I tried to find a way around it, like obscuring most of my face behind a huge gerbera – and the editor who asked me for the picture was seriously unimpressed.

That opportunity vanished into thin air.

I’ve been continuing to fudge the issue with my woman-cum-gerbera picture for a few months’ now, until God sent me a brainwave to get a cartoon picture done. It’s still a fudge, I know. It’s still not really ‘tznius’, I know, (what is, on the internet?), but given my impossible requirement to attract as much attention as possible in the most tznius way, it ticks a lot of boxes.

Another area where I’m struggling, tzniusly-speaking, is being in contact with members of the opposite sex. For the last few years’, I’ve been out of the workforce, and I could pick and choose who I was interacting with.

Online, I can’t.

I’m still trying, in whatever small way, to keep any necessary emails with men I’m not related to short and to-the-point, but I know I’m fluffing it up sometimes. I know it’s not ideal. I know that God is not shlepping nachas from me ‘linking in’ to a bunch of strange blokes.

But I don’t really know what to do about it all.

And then, there’s the coup de grace of untznius online behaviour, and that’s Facebook.

Ah, Facebook. How I hate it. How I’ve done my best to avoid it all costs the last 10 years, and how distressing I found it to have to bow to the inevitable, and sign up for a new account.

Facebook for me is purely business. I’m not ‘friending’ anyone I already know, I’m not spending any time ogling other people’s cute kids pictures. I’m just making the bare minimum effort I need to make to get noticed online, to give my book a chance of selling.

But my heart still sinks everytime I have to log-on to try and promote my Facebook page. I don’t know what’s more depressing: that so many people are wasting so much of their time and energy generally commenting and liking and posting, or that so few people are currently doing that on my page.

The thought that I’m actively encouraging more people to waste more of their life in my direction is profoundly disturbing.

But I don’t know what to do about it all.

I spent years praying for God to show me a more tznius way of getting my stuff noticed, without really getting anywhere.

So now, let me open up the floor to the other frum people out there, who are trying to maintain their standards of tznius online.

What’s working for you? How are you managing to attract attention in the most modest ways? What tips or ideas can you share with me, for maintaining my spiritual decorum while still trying to build a platform, online?

Is that even really possible, or am I deluding myself? I’d love to hear your experiences and feedback.

In the meantime, I’m consoling myself with the thought that there really is no perfection in the world until Moshiach comes. When he shows up, even the internet will have to clean up its act, and it will be possible once again to sell books about talking to God even if you don’t do Twitter or Facebook.

So there I was, minding my own business in the start-up hub right next to my house, where I go to do all things internet-related, when this super-stressed business man suddenly showed up, and started politely demanding that I move seat.

He had a big skype call to make in a minute…blah blah blah.

He just HAD to sit in the place I was sitting…blah blah blah.

If was the only place with a neutral backdrop for his call…blah blah blah.

I could move back there when he was done…blah blah blah.

In his polite, bullying way he managed to bully me out of my chair, and to get me to move while he then made one of the most tedious, long-winded and loud Skype calls in the history of mankind (when I left 3 hours later, he was still going.)

I have to say, the whole incident left me fuming.

The more time elapsed, the more angry I got at him. I mean, who did he think he was? Why was his skype call automatically more important than me, and what I was working on? Why didn’t I stand up to him, and tell him to get stuffed (in a polite, British way, natch)?

That last question really held the key to it all, as when I went to talk to God about it the next day, I could see that the bullying businessman had managed to press on some very old buttons about being able to stand up for myself, and defend myself.

Until I did my hitbodedut (personal prayer), I’d forgotten that I was routinely bullied in school for years. When I was asking God to show me why this whole incident seemed to have gotten under my skin in such an extreme way, He brought up a memory from my second day of high school.

My old non-Jewish high school in the UK was the epitome of goyish snobbery: it had a swimming pool; it had its own coat of arms; it was 450 years’ old; it had such a strict uniform that even your underwear had to conform to the rules, or else you were asking for big trouble.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I can’t stand uniforms. The one caveat in the school uniform code was that for some strange reason, you could wear white or red socks, as red was the official school colour and therefore, blessed and holy.

I only had two pairs of official school socks (white and red, as per the uniform list). I wore the white pair the first day, and the second day, I showed up to school with the red pair, completely oblivious to the fact that you didn’t actually do those kind of things.

That lunchtime, I was sitting on a bench by the playing field, minding my own business, when a gang of second year girls suddenly showed up out of nowhere, and started picking on me.

“Don’t you know that only prostitutes wear red?” one of them asked me (I was 11 and she was 12. It just goes to show you the moral level of non-Jewish society 30 years’ ago in London, doesn’t it.)

I wasn’t entirely clear what she was talking about, but I knew one thing for sure: I was being bullied.

I ran away crying, and that was the first and last time I wore those red socks to school.

Now, as the grown up me, I know that God is in the world, and that God arranged the whole thing.

But I think it was only this morning that I started to get a glimmer of an idea why. Red attracts a lot of attention, clearly bad attention. Even though I was completely naïve and clueless, God was ensuring that I wasn’t going to be wearing those red socks again – and it was an act of love, albeit I didn’t realize that at the time, anything but.

Strangely, as soon as I went back to the socks episode in school, my huge animosity towards the bullying businessman also kind of disappeared. I think God just sent him so that I’d go and rescue that 11 year old self from thinking God was bad, for sending me more bullies on the second day of my new school.

I now see that the guy has huge issues, and is a nebuch (sad case). If he asks me to move again, I’ll appreciate I’m dealing with someone with enormous emotional issues, and I’ll move happily because, hey, thank God I’m not him.

For a few hours there, I was questioning God’s goodness a little again, as to why he had to send me another bully, at the age of 41. After hitbodedut, nearly all my issues have dissolved, and I have a lot more clarity and peace of mind.

But without personal prayer? I had at least 10 different strategies planned out in my head for how to let the bullying businessman have it, next time round.

That guy has no idea what a debt of eternal gratitude he owes to Rebbe Nachman.

Last week, I crashed again.

Baruch Hashem, my daughter had her bat mitzvah party last Sunday at Ein Yael, in the green hills of Jerusalem. Ein Yael is one of the most beautiful places in the country, and if you’re ever looking for something to do with the kids in the Summer, it’s a good pick.

Bizarrely, it’s also one of the cheapest places you can rent for a simcha, which is how we ended up there. This bat mitzvah was one miracle after another: it was a miracle we had enough money to do it in the first place; it was a miracle we found such a cheap, gorgeous venue; it was a miracle that all the food got warmed up OK, as the electricity was out for the first hour and a half; it was a miracle that all the kids my daughter invited got there in one piece, as it’s a half hour shlep up a mountain.

But even with all the miracles and Heavenly help we got to pull it off, the day after the bat mitzvah, I was completely shattered. (Shlepping 48 litres of drinks to and from the car did wonders for my biceps, but otherwise, it probably wasn’t so helpful.)

But I still had a lot to do! There was the diagrams for the book to get finished, and all the end of school stuff to attend, like a dutiful mother.

So I carried on until Tuesday – and Wednesday, I was so mentally exhausted when I woke up, I almost couldn’t move. I couldn’t cook. I couldn’t shop. Nothing. All I could do was sit on a couch and read a bit, and even the reading was pretty taxing.

Uhoh.

That state of utter exhaustion has happened to me before, and in the past it’s taken weeks and even months to really recover from it.

This time, I realized that if I didn’t slam on all the brakes ASAP, I was staring another bout of chronic, long-term exhaustion in the face. So I told my husband: “I can’t cook! I can’t shlep another kid to another bat mitzvah party! I can barely move! I just have to sit still, and recuperate.”

God helped me out by arranging for the gas company to remove my gas meter (by mistake, apparently) so my oven anyway wasn’t working, even if I wanted it to.

Ironically, I didn’t even have enough energy to do my usual energy exercises, or to make my usual healthy smoothies, so on Wednesday I ate a big bar of chocolate for lunch.

Uhoh.

Before I went to sleep, I dabbed a load of aromatherapy on, I stuck a bunch of strength-inducing seeds on my palm, and I had a very early night.

Thursday, I felt a bit better for the first half an hour, but then I started to feel incredibly weak again, like I was going to fall over. I took it really easy and ate a lot of salad, which helped a bit. But by evening, I was still feeling pretty rotten.

Physically, I was actually OK, but mentally I was completely wasted and beyond burned-out.

I was starting to worry, when God sent me a brainwave: nip off to the tomb of King David, and spend a bit of time there.

One of the amazing things about where I currently live is that King David’s tomb is a 20 minute walk away. My husband came with me, and I took lots of breaks on the way to sit down and gather my strength for the next 5 minute walk – and finally, I got there.

I sat down – and it hit me like a wave how spiritually depleted I felt. Like I was completely washed out, and washed up. I sat there for 20 minutes, and what can I tell you?

I came out feeling a whole lot better.

I walked home with no rest-stops; I had another early night; and today, I woke up feeling almost back to normal.

With all my healthy eating, and energy exercising, and hitbodeding, God reminded me yet again that maintaining a strong connection to our tzadikim, both alive and dead, is what’s really keeping me going.

We live in very tiring times. I’ve lost track of the number of people who’ve told me recently that they feel like time is speeding up. The truth is, that it is – and 2015 is a very exhausting place to be.

So if you’re also cracking under the strain, clear your desk, cancel all appointments, order in pizza for supper and head off to King David, (or your nearest big tzadik) for an immediate pick-me-up.

It’s cheaper than a spa (unless you have to fly in from somewhere), it’s faster than a face-life, and from personal experience, I can tell you that it really will rejewvenate you.

Sooooo, that last post I stuck up about ‘Standing up for God’ sparked off quite a discussion in the Levy household. My husband read it and told me: ‘That’s a bit strong.’

(If you know how Brits speak, you’ll know that this was a very dramatic statement to make.)

My husband is my biggest cheerleader generally, and my biggest supporter. And occasionally, he’s also my biggest critic. That’s not a bad thing, as I don’t pretend to be perfect, and without an editor policing my writing, it’s very possible that I can make errors of judgement in my posts and say things that would be better left unsaid (at least, by me.)

So I took his misgivings seriously, and we started to have a huge big discussion about whether I should be writing about that sort of stuff on Emunaroma. By the end of our long, stomach-wrenching conversation (because I was on shpilkes for a whole half an hour that I’d maybe just made a huge error of judgement) we came to the following conclusions:

1) My husband is very conservative, with a small ‘c’. (This was not a chiddush.)

2) Not for the first time, I’d shocked him by writing about things that many people believe should be left alone (again, this was also not a chiddush.

When I started writing about personality disorders three years’ back, we had the same discussion. And 15 years’ ago, when I was writing articles about corrupt figures in the orthodox world who were embezzling money from their charitable organisations, we had the same discussion.)

The irony is, in many ways I hate writing about all this potentially hyper-charged stuff because it literally keeps my stomach churning for days from anxiety that I’m doing something wrong by broaching these subjects. But God keeps pulling me back to the controversial stuff, no matter how hard I try to stay away from it all.

Which brings me neatly onto point number 3:

3) By the end of the discussion, it was clear to both me and my husband that God is actually very happy for people to be writing posts like the one I stuck up on Emunaroma last week. Far too many real issues are being squashed and sidelined in 2015, because of political correctness and nebulous concerns about offending people by telling uncomfortable truths.

Once we’d spent an hour drilling down to the foundation of what was really going on, it really boiled down to self-interest: my husband was worried that me going out on a limb by writing about gay marriage could potentially lead me into some choppy waters, and cause me unnecessary aggravation.

He’s seen me get mixed up in controversial issues before, and it’s not been a fun thing for either of us.

Aww, God bless him.

But there’s far more going on here than just what would suit me. Of course I’d prefer to write articles that bring me universal adoration, a huge (paying…) fan club and no concerns or issues whatsoever. But as a friend of mine put it so nicely, when God gives you an ability, that best way of saying ‘thank you’ is to use it the way God intended.

So the long and the short of it is, that I think I’m going to write a few more articles explaining why gay marriage is such a huge, pivotal issue for believing Jews, and why it really goes to the heart of whether you believe you’re really just an intelligent animal, or a Divinely-created spiritual being.

And then once that’s out the way, I can start posting up fluffier stuff again, that’s much easier to ‘like’ on Facebook.

To be continued…

When Rav Shalom Arush’s latest book, Britti Shalom, came out in Hebrew, Rav Chaim Dovid Stern commented that merely by publishing the book, Rav Arush had wiped out a huge chunk of that particular yetzer hara (evil inclination).

(For those of you who don’t already know, Rav Chaim Dovid Stern is a hugely respected kabalist and Rosh Yeshiva, who lives in Bnei Brak. He’s an immensely holy individual, and is one of the people the ‘big’ rabbis go to for blessings and advice.)

So anyway, if Rav Stern said that about Rav Arush’s book, you can believe it.

In the year or so since I first heard that idea, I’ve thought about it a lot in terms of my own life, and my own efforts to make a difference, and to build the world in some small way.

It’s a very comforting thought to believe that the mere fact of trying to do something is enough to potentially tip the balance towards God and good, even if no-one is actually reading it, buying it or seeing it.

That thought got Emunaroma off the ground, just over a year ago. It got www.spiritualselfhelp.org up and running, around four months ago. And it got the ‘Talk to God and Fix Your Health‘ manuscript finished, and sent for page layout last week.

Sure, it’s very possible no-one is going to see this stuff, much less read it or share it with their 5,000 peers, but the outcome isn’t what’s making it meaningful. It’s meaningful just because I’m putting my effort into it, and I’m trying to do what God wants.

And the same applies to all your stuff, too.

Yes, like that blog you started doing last year, but gave up on because ‘only’ three people were reading it. If you enjoyed doing it, if it was meaningful to you, carry on doing it! Don’t give up! Every word you write could really be changing the spiritual dimensions of the world for the good.

Or, those songs you started working on, but never quite got around to doing anything with. Take the plunge and book some studio time! Who cares if it’s not so professional, or if the quality isn’t Rolling Stone good? As a believing Jew, everything you do in the world is meaningful.

And this also applies to the smaller things that none of us get any kudos or Nobel prizes for, like making our kids supper; or cleaning our toilets for Shabbat; or biting our tongue when we really want to let some jerk have it; or grabbing five minutes of our precious time to talk to God.

Rav Stern’s comments showed me that for all Rav Arush is achieving huge things with his teachings and books, the real spiritual action happens before anyone’s even bought the first copy, or listened to the first CD.

It all comes back to the idea of ratzon, or free will. Rav Arush teaches that ratzon is really where it’s all at. What we WANT makes all the spiritual difference in the world, regardless of the outcome. Why? Because the ratzon is down to us, while the outcome is 100% up to Hashem.

If you internalise this idea, it can change your life. It can inject meaning into even the most mundane, mind-numbing chore in the world. It can encourage you to keep writing, keep teaching, keep singing, keep learning, keep sharing, keep inspiring, keep loving even when there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of kudos coming back from it all.

Keep going, dear reader, because every single thing you do is meaningful, spiritually, and it really could be bringing Moshiach and Geula a huge step closer.

And that applies even if no-one else knows about it, even if no-one else applauds it, and even if your Google Analytic stats completely suck.

Last week, my husband decided he needed to get a phone that would let him send texts (but nothing else…) which sparked off a frantic round of ‘musical mobile phones’ in my family.

When the music stopped, I’d ended up with my daughter’s old phone, she got my husband’s old phone, and everyone was happy. Then that particular daughter started popping off to her room for ‘quiet’ time with alarming regularity.

I thought to myself: ‘Maybe she’s stressing out about the end of year play….Maybe she’s overwhelmed by all the bat mitzvah prep…Maybe one of her teachers is giving her a hard time…’ Then one morning, I went to wake her up – and she was already awake, playing on her new phone.

The penny dropped.

Turns out, there’s some really cool zoo game on my husband’s old (apparently not as kosher as it looked) phone, where you have to keep feeding the animals every day, or they die.

My kid was hooked on feeding the electronic gorillas.

Now, I’ve learned enough to know:

 

1) Confiscating the phone is only going to backfire

2) God is using the gorillas to show me something about me and my life

3) I HATE how slimy modern technology actually is.

 

I explained to my daughter that she was addicted to her phone, and she agreed.

“But if I don’t feed the gorillas, they’re going to die!” she told me plaintively.

In the meantime, she’d been so caught up in feeding the gorillas she’d forgotten to feed her real life hamster for a week, and it was looking a little peaky, to put it mildly. But I digress.

I left my daughter, and made my way back to the laptop, that’s been consuming a bit too much of my life this past week. As I plugged in the internet stick for the 4th time that day, my husband raised a quizzical eyebrow at me (I had huge internet addictions 8 years’ ago, and that’s one of the reasons I got it out of the house.)

“I have to check my emails,” I explained plaintively.

Then it hit me: I sounded just like my daughter, caught up in the fantasy land of feeding pretend gorillas.

Maybe the excuse was a bit more convincing, but I could see it was exactly the same stupid principle at play: If I don’t check my emails every few hours, all my online opportunities and connections are going to die….

But really? They’re not. And if that does actually happen, then they were probably as genuinely useful and real as my daughter’s gorillas.

Around Purim time, a good friend of mine suggested that I should start saying Perek Shira for 40 days, for my husband. After our ‘Meaning of Life’ tourist attraction in the Old City sank without a trace at the end of 2014, taking a large chunk of our house money with it, my husband understandably got pretty down about the whole thing, and was finding it hard to pull out of it, and make a plan for the future.

I sent him to Uman, I did a pidyon nefesh for him – all things that usually work, and how. But this time, I wasn’t seeing so much improvement.

But when my friend suggested doing Perek Shira, I have to admit that I pulled a face.

The first time I did it, around 9 years’ ago, I did it in the merit of my finances turning around, and that I’d be able to pay off all my debts and buy a home again. On day 39, we got an email from the people buying our house telling us they were invoking the ‘forgotten’ clause in the contract, and kicking us out 6 months earlier than planned.

Uhh, God? How was that an answer to my prayers?

I’m still not entirely sure, but our finances kind of did look up again for a couple of years’, and we did pay off our huge debts and buy another house again (at that time). But all this took a good couple of years’ to materialise.

Time #2

The second time I did Perek Shira was again for our finances, this time around 2 years’ ago. Within a few weeks of completing the 40 days, my husband decided he couldn’t stand being a lawyer any more – and we got plunged into a period of extreme financial turmoil that lead to (yet another…) forced sale of our house, just so that we could afford to buy groceries.

Long story short, it seemed to me that Perek Shira was having the opposite effect of whatever it was I was praying for, so I wasn’t dead keen to try it another time, even though I’ve heard so many miracle stories of how it’s helped other people.

But my friend wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer – their 30-something sister got unexpectedly engaged the day after someone said 40 days of Perek Shira for her – and I was stuck saying it again.

Time #3

This time, I kept it really simple: I wasn’t praying for specifics like money or a house. I just prayed that my husband should rediscover his joie de vivre and come back to himself.

The last few months had taken us both so low, that even that seemed like a supernatural miracle, at that point (and to be honest, it probably was).

From day 1 of saying Perek Shira this time round, I noticed my husband was changing. Slowly, slowly, he was regaining his self-confidence and optimism, and ability to try things again.

He decided to go back to being a lawyer; he sorted himself out a couple of pretty snazzy websites, literally in a couple of days. He found a great place to work. He started to have ideas, and plans again.

By the end of the 40 days, he’d made the first real money for our family in two years. We were still a little stuck in the tunnel, but the end had been sighted, and a big, fat light was now shining out of it.

Amazing!

There’s an idea that you have to publicise the miracles you get, with Perek Shira (and probably with every miraculous salvation God sends you.) I didn’t really have what to say the last two times, so I couldn’t.

But it’s really been third time lucky with Perek Shira. It brought my husband back to himself, it gave us both renewed hope that we weren’t going to inexorably end up in a dumpster, and it turned round a period of such intense emotional anguish and despair, that even hours of personal prayer and repeated visits to Uman were barely making a dint in (apparently….these things are, of course, never how they look).

So, give it a go, and try Perek Shira for yourself. And if you get a miracle, write in and tell me, and I’ll stick it up on the Emunaroma blog, to help you publicise your miracles.

God is listening. He does care. It’s just sometimes, for whatever reason, there can be a huge time-delay on our prayers getting answered. The trick is to not give up while you’re waiting for an answer, because sooner or later, it WILL come, and life WILL get sweeter again.