Despite the difficult situation we all find ourselves in with Coronavirus, suffering is still optional

Day 20 at the Kotel today, and Baruch Hashem, there were a few more people there than yesterday – like maybe 18 women in the whole, massive plaza, as opposed to yesterday’s 13.

This whole test is about controlling our fallen fears, and developing some genuine yirat shemayim, or fear of heaven, which basically boils down to having emuna that God is running the world.

In the middle of all this, it’s impossible to fake what you really think and feel about what’s going on. If you are still sleeping OK at night, if you aren’t consumed by worry, then either you are:

Still living in total denial about what is actually going on at the moment

OR

You have a lot of genuine emuna.

Here’s a quick way to figure out which camp you might actually be in: if you already stocked up enough food to last you over the next few weeks, including buying at least the basics required for Pesach, then you are probably in the last camp.

And if not….

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Stocking up with some essentials is part of how to get through the madness in one piece.

But a much more crucial part of how to not lose your marbles over the coming weeks can be found in lesson 250 of Likutey Moharan.

There, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov teaches us:

“Know: the sole cause of all types of pain and all suffering is a lack of daat (deeply internalized spiritual knowledge), for whoever possesses daat and knows that everything is ordained by God – that “God gave, and God took” (Job 1:21) – does not suffer at all, and experiences no pain.”

Rabbenu continues:

“….pain is very light and easy to accept when one is clearly aware that everything is ordained by God….[pain and suffering] will not be felt at all if one possesses daat, for pain and suffering are mainly on account of one’s daat being taken away, so that one should experience the suffering.

“This is the essence of Jewish pain in the exile: all on account of their falling away from daat and attributing everything to nature, circumstances and fate. This is what causes their pain and suffering.”

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It’s a profound lesson that is speaking mamash about what we are seeing occur all over the world right now with Coronavirus hysterical panic (which so far, seems to be far more infectious and dangerous than the actual virus itself…)

Later on in Lesson 250, Rabbenu explains how the Jewish people are above nature, and how our prayers can mamash transcend nature and change it, and then ties all of that in to bringing an ‘end’ to non-Jewish nations, and remembering the Jews who are sunk in exile within them, still.

Well worth a read.

But for today’s post, let’s come back to this idea that suffering and pain really only happen when we forget that God is in charge of the world, and is ordering everything that is happening to us and around us.

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What lessons can we learn from Rabbenu, about how to deal with the Coronavirus madness we all find ourselves caught up in?

Here’s where I’m holding with things:

  • I’m working on my emunat tzaddikim and emuna.

That means that whenever I start having a self-induced panic attack because I’ve read things by fearmongering heretics about this whole saga lasting for another 6 months, or lo alenu even more, 18 months, I remind myself that Rabbi Berland is working hard to sweeten this, and he said it will be over by Pesach.

And then, I go and say the Rav’s prayer to be saved from Coronavirus, or I go and say a Tikkun HaKlali, or I do a bit more hitbodedut, or I dance around for a bit and clap my hands – and like magic, I start to feel way, way happier again.

  • I’m trying to avoid sites written by heretics and fearmongerers

People are strange. We have this peculiar pull to hearing bad news, and watching horror movies like Nightmare on Elm Street, even though we know they are going to disrupt our sleep and give us nightmares for the next 2 months.

And this Coronavirus matzav is bringing that tendency out very strongly.

I realized a few days back that when I’m not reading doom-and-gloom predictions about economic collapse, 5G zombification and 50 million people dead, I’m actually pretty happy on a day to day basis.

Also, I can’t see any justification for these awful predictions in my dalet amot. People aren’t dropping dead on the street, I don’t know anyone who is seriously ill, and despite Bibi’s massive hysterical fit, the public ‘mood’ really isn’t so hysterical.

On some level, I think so many of us can feel that God is hiding behind this whole Coronavirus thing, and that however bad it looks, looks are currently very deceptive.

But reading news sites and blogs written by hysterical atheists (some of whom are pretending to be ‘religious’) gets me super antsy, super-fast. So, I’ve stopped visiting sites which are full of fear, emotional manipulation and ‘blaming statements’ about chareidim having blood on their hands just because they happen to still be davening in a minyan and learning Torah.

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  • My main response to this matzav (apart from panic buying essentials…) is teshuva and prayer.

On Shabbat, I did another six hour talking to God session, which really helped me to feel way, way calmer about everything, and way more connected to Hashem.

I’ve also started saying a prayer every single day to avoid speaking lashon hara and rechilut, and I’m trying very hard to let go any bad feelings I have about people, as per the instructions of Rav Kanievsky.

When I have energy, like on Shabbat, I’m trying to do 7 Tikkun HaKlalis on behalf of the Rav. When I don’t have that much energy (i.e. most of the time…) I made an agreement with my husband that we’ll split the 7 between us, and whoever had more koach and headspace will do more.

I’m also trying very hard not to go bonkers at my kids, and let’s face it, that’s probably the biggest test we’re all having, day to day.

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Trying to keep bored teens busy enough and happy enough that they don’t start ripping your house to shreds, or tearing holes in their parents, siblings and themselves is a massive challenge.

Like today, I saw that one of my kids left paint brushes full of diluted mahogany wood gloss on the new, white, downstairs sink. And we’re renting. I had a rant to myself for half a minute about how retarded teenagers can be, rushed off to clean it, then worked really hard to not hold a grudge against my kid in my heart.

In Israel, we’ve been in partial lockdown for 10 days already, and that’s a long time to share space with teens.

But I know it’s all coming from God, and that it’s just a test of my middot and my emuna, and that’s really helping me to deal with this whole situation so much better, and to remain so much calmer, and to turn the work inwards, into prayer and introspection, as much as possible, and far less into rants and unrealistic expectations about how other people should be acting and reacting.

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The last thing I’m trying to do is to just live in the moment, and to stop trying to peer around corners.

Right now, I have enough food to get me through Pesach. I have enough toilet paper. I have enough interesting projects to be getting on with. I have enough space that everyone can do their own thing without being in view of others 24/7, Baruch Hashem.

I’m going to the Kotel every day, which I’ve never done before in my life.

I’m taking the opportunity to smell the roses, and to stop being online all the time.

I’m baking cookies for my families, and even starting to plan a new painting.

In short, life is good.

Really good.

God is in charge of the world, not me. And the more I can remember that, the less I stress and worry.

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There is a lot of stress and yeoush rushing around the world right now. It’s so easy to get caught up in the panic and the fear, and to forget that God is the only One pulling the strings, here.

When that happens, we start to suffer terribly, and then the situation can become overwhelmingly painful and scary.

But we Jews are above nature. Our prayers can literally change reality.

God is locking us all down right now so we stop acting like the non-Jews, and stop panicking about face masks, hand sanitizer and staying 2 metres away from each other, and turn back to God wholeheartedly. This is part of the whole process of leaving galut, both physically and spiritually.

And as soon as we really put God back into our picture, our pain and suffering will stop.

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In ten days time, I’m meant to be flying out of Israel to go to my brother’s batmitzvah celebration in London.

I spoke to him a couple of days ago, and I told him I don’t think I’m coming.

Israel had just announced that anyone coming back from abroad would have to self-isolate for 14 days in bidud, and much as I love my brother, we have no family here, we just moved and I don’t know the neighbors, and there is no-one who could keep my family unit going with groceries if I’m out of action.

Such strange days we live in.

My daughter is currently coughing her guts up and streaming phlegm, as she always does when Spring appears and her hayfever kicks off. Although this year, with all the anxiety about Corona and a few other things going on in her life, her asthma has also ramped up again.

Most years, my daughter’s seasonal hayfever and asthma is not a big deal.

This year, with all the hysteria about Corona, she’s scared to leave the house in case people think she’s going to kill them with a sneeze.

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In the meantime, in my own dalet amot I’m having such a strange mix of tremendous good, and tremendous confusion. On the one hand, the house we managed to miraculously rent has blossomed into such a beautiful home.

We had Purim seuda yesterday, and for the first time in 7 years we had enough space to invite a few families together. Honestly, it was initially a little strange, but then we whacked the music up, started dancing and the magic happened and le ha fochu. The weird atmosphere broke and everything turned around.

For a few hours.

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So much of the time right now, I don’t know what’s good and what’s bad, what’s right and what’s wrong.

Yesterday, I went for a walk to the Kotel, and I was really pondering to myself if I’m more a Haman, or more a Mordechai, because I honestly have no idea right now if I’m giving God what He really wants, or the opposite.

Everything seems so upside down at the moment.

I know it’s all exploding in madness everywhere you look, but it still seems to me that the best response to everything that’s going on right now (apart from making some serious teshuva, particularly in how we treat other people) is:

To bake cookies.

Yes, you read that right.

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There is nothing better to do right now, apart from reciting lots of tehillim and doing lots of hitbodedut, except to bake cookies. Because until Hashem decides that the world really is ending, we parents have a duty to show our children that the world is still continuing in the meantime.

Already, our kids are struggling to stay in school. Already, they are struggling to get up in the mornings. Already, they are feeling like there is no point in continuing or carrying on, because the apocalypsa is around the corner, so what’s the point?

Honestly, don’t we grown ups feel that way too, so much of the time?

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I’m not saying this lightly.

I’ve been waiting for geula, and trying to prepare for it in as real a way as I can for at least the last 15 years. But now that it looks like we may be coming down to the wire, and the geula really might be materializing before our eyes, increasingly the most important priority for me, as a mother, seems to be keep things as ‘normal’ as I can.

That means baking cookies. That means cleaning toilets. That means doing my best to look after my children, my family, my husband the best way I can right now.

I have my People Smarts Course that’s half done, and my People Smarts book that has been waiting six months to get sent to the printers already. For months, I haven’t been able to get to it.

Finally, last week, I realized that maybe, that’s not my main work right now.

My main work seems to be to look after my family – even tho my kids are 16 and 19 already – and to make my family my main priority.

So, I find myself making sandwiches and suppers in a way that I haven’t done for years, since they were much smaller. I find myself ferrying them around in the car – not least so I can have some quality time to really talk to them – and taking them to different places and appointments and people, because it seems like there is just so much going on, at the moment.

In some ways, it feels like my family, my responsibilities to these people who I live with, and care for tremendously, have kind of been ‘getting in the way’ of my life.

At least, that’s how it looked.

But today, I’m thinking more and more, this is actually my test, right now.

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There is no better way of working on my bad middot and doing acts of kindnesses that really count than by focusing on the people in my home.

Rav Berland explained weeks ago that Corona has the same gematria as ‘mitvot bein adam l’havero’ – the mitzvahs that take place between people.

And nowhere are those mitzvahs more trampled – or more needed – than in the home.

And especially between parents and teens.

So, if you’re reading this, and you have a teen at home, and especially if you have a difficult teen at home who is struggling, stop reading this and go give them a hug. Go tell them that you think they’re amazing. Go and find something to praise about them, to their face, go make them a sandwich, take them out and get them a new top, or take them somewhere they’ve been bugging you to go for ages.

In short, go and love them unconditionally, with as much energy as you can muster.

Because that is the main test right now.

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So many people are now being forced to spend 14 days cooped up with their families, with no distractions.

There’s no malls and chugim to run away to, no work deadlines, no shopping, no shiurim, no beaches and expensive holidays and restaurants.

All there is, is our raw family unit.

And that is the real test – does it feel like gehinnom or gan eden?

Is there love in the home, or constant arguments, guilt trips and withering criticism about all the things that aren’t being done 100% ‘perfectly’?

Are cookies being baked in that home, or not?

That is the question.

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Photo by Ruth Reyer on Unsplash

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5 things you can do right now, to give yourself spiritual protection against the Coronavirus.

Yesterday, I got a text telling me that the Israeli Health Ministry had pinpointed a potential ‘spreader’ of Coronavirus in Baka, the Jerusalem neighborhood where until last week I lived.

I went to check out the Health Ministry website, and saw that a 50 year old woman from NYC who subsequently flew back to the States and then was discovered to have COVID-19 had been all around Baka, and also all around the Mamilla Mall.

The site listed where she’d been on the different days, and told members of the public that if they thought they’d come into contact with this woman, they should ‘self isolate’ at home for 14 days.

So then, I went to check out what ‘self isolate’ actually means, tachlis, and honestly, it was hard to keep a straight face.

The instructions were basically to sit in a ventilated room in your house, come out of it as little as possible, and to wash your hands like a bad case of OCD before and after touching anything. Oh yes, and to wear a facemask whenever you do come out of your ventilated room.

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When I lived in the UK, we went to visit a decommissioned nuclear bunker in the countryside close to London.

This was where HM Government was meant to decamp to in case nuclear war broke out.

It was one of the most interesting places I ever went to, not least because it was screening the ‘propaganda movies’ that the British government was putting out in the 1950s, telling citizens what they should do in the event of a nuclear war.

The basic message was this:

“Draw your curtains, lock your front door, then go and sit under your table.”

Didn’t the British authorities know that none of these things would help a jot, if the Russkies decided to drop a nuke on Old Blighty?

Of course they knew that! But they deliberately put out misleading information encouraging people to ‘sit under their tables’ in order to keep people off the streets if something did trip off, and to give them something to do – however pointless – to help quell that mounting sense of panic.

When I read the Health Ministry instructions yesterday, I caught a powerful whiff of déjà vu.

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So today, I went off to the same bakery in Baka I’ve been going to for two years, that usually has a queue so big on a Friday morning it snakes around a few times – and it was pretty quiet. I went to the health store, that is also usually buzzing Friday morning around their breakfast buffet – and it was also pretty quiet.

I guess half of Baka has decided they need to ‘self isolate’ because that one woman was in the Hadar Mall and Osher Ad, and the rest of the customers have decided to avoid Baka like the plague (so to speak….) until things have calmed down.

Whenever that is meant to be.

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In the meantime, the rubber is really starting to hit the road, with this whole Coronavirus epidemic.

That means that the differences between people who really are trying to have emuna, and who really are holding on to our true tzaddikim, and the people who don’t are about to become very obvious.

Already, some of my kids’ friends are experiencing panic attacks and obsessing over wearing facemasks. Already, some people are starting to stockpile bottles of water, and to buy in six packs of tuna.

But with Pesach barely six weeks away, how much dry goods can you really stockpile anyway? And where are you meant to keep the 90 litres of bottled water you’d really need to keep going for six weeks of chaos? And who is to say that even if you ‘prepped’ like a superstar, and was totally stocked up, that some less prepared people with guns and violent tendencies wouldn’t just come and take it all away, anyway?

Déjà vu. Déjà vu.

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Eleven years ago, back in 2008, when all the banks started to fail, I was deep in my ‘autistics fearmongering’ stage, and I never had less than 36 bottles of water stored somewhere in my house, plus tens of tins of tuna, plus many bags of couscous.

This time around, even tho things are looking like it’s about to get pretty complicated, at least short term, at least in some way, until we see which way this Coronavirus epidemic is really going to swing, I am not stockpiling anything.

Instead, I’m switching my ‘prepping for disaster’ into the spiritual realm, and this is what is in my ‘spiritual survival kit’.

I strongly recommend you also go and put something like this together for yourself, ASAP.

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5 Things That Will Give You Spiritual Protection Against The CoronaVirus

  • A copy of Rabbi Berland’s prayer to be saved from the Coronavirus. You can download it as a PDF here, and I’m also including it here on my site, below, to make this super easy for you. Download it, PRINT IT OFF, so you have a physical hard copy in your home, and say it every day.

https://ravberland.com/wpcontent/uploads/2020/02/coronavirus-prayer.pdf

  • Tikkun HaKlali – there are so many stories of people who saw open miracles in Israel’s past wars, rocket attacks and intifadas, from regularly reciting the Tikkun HaKlali. You can buy one here, or you can get a PDF with English transliteration that you can download and print off HERE.

UPDATE: They took the Tikkun Haklali out of the document because Artscroll complained it was infringing their copyright to transliterate it in that fashion. So, please try THIS version instead – it’s a Hebrew version with an English translation.

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Rabbi Berland just put out a new message asking people to recite 7 Tikkun HaKlalis a day.

I know that’s a lot, but make a commitment to saying at least one – or 3 – or something – every single day, because as I’ve written about previously: we aren’t saying this prayer for the Rav. We are saying these prayers 100% for ourselves. We are the ones who will benefit the most from reciting the Tikkun HaKlali.

  • Make a real effort to improve your mitzvoth bein adam l’chavero. This phrase has the same gematria – 363 – as ‘Corona’ in Hebrew, and was identified by the Rav as being one of the main things that the Coronavirus is coming to rectify.

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Tachlis, that means treating other people nicer.

And the main place to start with this mitzvah is in your own household. How are you treating your spouse? Your kids? Your parents? Your siblings? Are you considerate of other people’s feelings, or are YOU the only one that ever appears in the picture?

How often do you practice bitul, the art of backing down and nullifying what you want or what you prefer, in order to respect someone else’s wishes and free choice? (This is often a huge problem for parents, who can continue to emotionally bully and negate their children well into their adulthood.)

How often do you do a real cheshbon hanefesh, and then apologise for the things that we all say and do, all the time, that hurt other people, even unintentially?

How much tzedaka are you giving out with a happy heart? How much effort are you making to practice Azamra, which is the art of seeing the good in other people, especially our fellow Jew?

And especially ourselves, because people who can’t see the good in themselves, and who don’t like themselves very much, are usually the people who are so very harsh and hurtful to those around them.

Especially their kids, and their spouses.

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  • The next thing in the spiritual toolkit is to work on emunat tzaddikim, and in particular, that means double-checking if you spoke or thought badly of any tzaddik, but especially Rabbi Eliezer Berland.

As you can see HERE, some of the kabbalists in Israel are breaking cover to identify Rabbi Berland as the head of the lamed vav tzaddikim, the 36 holy Jews in whose merit the world continues.

Well-known kabbalists including Rabbi Menashe Amon and Rabbi Amos Guetta have both made statements recently that link the spread of Coronavirus to the treatment of Rabbi Berland, and that also make clear that the Rav is ONLY in prison because he is atoning on behalf of Am Yisrael.

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It’s going to be interesting to watch how this Coronavirus plague starts to operate in Israel, and who it’s going to really affect, because this whole thing is spiritual.

For example, Baka happens to be the stronghold of American Reform and Masorti in Jerusalem, so no big shocker that it’s one of the first places slated for mass quarantine.

But I’ve also heard that chareidi journalists and Israeli prison guards have also already been put into quarantine, as well as generals in the IDF.

They are talking about closing down all of the government institutions this coming week, including courts and prisons, depending on what happens next.

None of this is a coincidence, it’s a direct hint as to who is in the sites of this spiritual virus, and what they might have done to get themselves there.

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The last thing I have in my spiritual toolkit against the Coronavirus is this:

  • Adopt a positive attitude and remember Ein Od Milvado. Sure, I could sit here panicking that the end is nigh, and that total chaos and apocalypse is going to break out any second. But how is that going to help me?

If God wants me dead, He doesn’t need a Coronavirus to do it. I drive in Israel, I live next to a million Arabs on the seam in East Jerusalem. Every day I come back from Route 1 in one piece, that’s a miracle. Every day there isn’t a terrorist attack, a terrorist rocket, a bomb, a stabbing, a ramming incident, that’s an open miracle.

God doesn’t need a germ to kill me.

Also, what I think and believe actually creates the reality.

If I’m panicking 24/7, and believing every little cough is potentially fatal, that is creating that reality for me – and it’s a horrible reality to live.

If instead I adopt a ‘no big deal’ approach to all this stuff – and everything else that’s going on at the moment that could be very worrying and upsetting – then I will come through it all in way better shape emotionally and physically, regardless of what actually happens.

I’m not in charge of the world. God is.

The more I internalize that, the happier I feel.

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So like I said, this whole Coronavirus is going to be a huge test of emuna, and emunat tzaddikim.

It’s going to smoke out the fakers in an obvious way, and it’s going to encourage huge swathes of Am Yisrael to actually stop running away from God, and to sit still and really just be in their lives, for a change.

When you have to spend 14 days at home with your family, with very little distractions, that is bound to show you exactly where the fault lines lie in your relationships and personality.

No more running away into work, or shopping, or exercising, or socializing.

People will just be faced with themselves, and with the true state of their own souls, and with the stark reality that they aren’t in control of anything, however much they hoped and believed different.

And that’s when the real geula magic will start to happen.

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Photo by Ricardo Resende on Unsplash

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For about five minutes yesterday, as I was driving back to Jerusalem on Route 6, I had this amazing feeling of being so connected to God, and seeing how He’s guiding every tiny detail in the world.

The traffic was flowing, the scenery was beautiful, and I had a profound sense of peace and excitement.

Moshiach is almost here, I can feel it….

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I got home, and instantly my mood changed.

Someone had sent me a link to another crappy Israeli TV ‘expose’ about Rabbi Berland, blah blah blah, and somehow, my oldest daughter had opened it up when she was using my computer, and then spent two hours watching more poisonous crap about the Rav.

Excuse my mild swearing.

I’ve just so had enough of all this.

So, I told her:

I can’t keep trying to clean this stuff up for you, spiritually. You want to watch poisonous crap about the Rav, from lying, immoral, anti-God journalists, what can I do? Bezrat Hashem, God will help you to figure out the truth by yourself, because I am no longer prepared to sit her to try and shore up your shaky emunat tzaddikim.

That’s not an easy thing for me to say, because I know that it’s not going to go easy for anyone who finds themselves on the wrong side of the Rabbi Berland equation, and I love my daughter tremendously.

But each person has to fight their own fight.

And I also decided that I am totally coming off Youtube, and once I’ve finished typing this, I’m going to see if there is a way I can totally block it and / or erase access. (If anyone has any tips for me, please leave them in the comments section.)

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The more the current craziness plays out in the world, the more I’m seeing that there is really only one way that we can short-cut things like pandemics, plagues, economic depressions, terminal illnesses and wars, and that’s by working on our own middot.

All this Coronavirus stuff is just a case in point.

Regardless of whether it really is a potential world-killing pandemic, or just a totally over-hyped strain of flu that the media is using to whip-up mass hysteria for some unknown reason, what it actually all boils down to is just a big test of emuna.

Sure, you may be wearing a shawl, and thinking like you are the holiest thing to hit the world since Moshe Rabbenu, but if you’re scared to ride a bus in Jerusalem because of Corona, that is a clear indication that your real level of emuna is actually way, way less than you think.

Wherever there is fear of something that is not Hashem, that’s called ‘fallen fear’.

The whole idea, the whole goal, is to work through all the millions of ‘fallen fears’ that we all have, and to raise them back up to their root in emuna. That means understanding that God runs the world, God is doing everything for our ultimate good, and that everything is just a message from Hashem.

God doesn’t need Corona virus to kill anyone – if He decides we’re going to croak, that’s it, end of story, even if we’re wearing a bacteria-killing mask 24 hours a day and have an IV drip infusing our blood with industrial quantities of Vitamin C.

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God is running the world.

Let me repeat that again, as I know it’s so easy to forget it:

God is running the world.

Once I understand that, I stop obsessing over using the hand sanitizer, and I stop panicking when someone coughs next to me at work, and I stop checking out ‘the latest’ germ-blocking face masks.

And instead, I take some time out, and I go and explore why do I feel so scared? What am I doing, what sins am I engaged in, that are making my soul feel so anxious and frightened?

And top of that list is:

The sins between adam l’chaveiro.

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Recently, I’ve had a lot of kids who dropped out of the Torah world in my orbit, especially from the city of Bet Shemesh.

That place seems to have cornered the market in terms of dysfunctional ‘religious’ families where the parents are so super-duper, mega-crazy ‘frum’ on the outside – but actually treating other people, and particularly their kids, really badly.

What I’ve been learning is that the yetzer has been totally running rings around so many of these people. It’s convinced them harshly criticizing their children for not being ‘perfect’ is the best way to get them to make teshuva  – when of course, the polar opposite is true.

Imagine living in a home where you have a parent that is constantly telling you what you’re doing wrong, and constantly picking up chumrot that they try to shove down your throat, and constantly going on about how ‘bad’ and how ‘evil’ and how ‘defective’ you are, poor kid, and how they’re sure you’re not going to ‘make it’ when Moshiach shows up.

If I lived in a home like that, I would also get a punk hair cut, smoke 2 packs a day and feel really, really angry at God and religion.

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It’s no coincidence that Rabbi Berland has made it very clear that the gematria of ‘Corona’ is 363 – the same gematria as bein adam l’chaveiro.

And the first place to start with fixing that part of the equation is in our homes.

If you are criticising your kid all the time for not being Moshe Rabbenu, or not getting ‘straight As’, or not being perfect all the time – stop!

If you are condescending to your spouse, and you think like you have it all figured out and they are the spiritual retard in the relationship – stop!

If you think you are above doing a cheshbon hanefesh on how you hurt other people’s feelings, and how you use religious observance to try to control other people – again, especially your children – then stop!

Take a breath, take a careful look in the mirror that God is holding up to you, and to me, and to everyone else in the world right now, and see what’s looking back at you.

Is it nice, or nasty? Is it scary, or reassuring? Is the world full of kindness and compassion and understanding, or vicious complaint, din and anger?

Whatever you see peering back at you, that’s just a reflection of your inner dimension.

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Let me share a story with you, to illustrate this point.

I’ve been checking out a few of my ‘anonymous’ commentators IP addresses, especially the ones who like to write comments slagging off Rav Berland.

I discovered that one big critic of the Rav has a slew of court cases against them for illegally manipulating stocks on the New York stock exchange – they are mamash small time mafia. This guy has been extremely fast to loudly yell ‘financial fraud!!!!’ at the Rav and Shuvu Banim.

Now we know why.

Then, there was the commentator who liked to call himself ‘Peewee’, who is also ‘anti Rav’. Guess what? I found out he’s on a police watch list for pedophiles in the States after he was caught propositioning an undercover police woman who he thought was a 13 year old girl on the internet.

The Rav is just a big super-reflecting mirror, shining a light on our own bad middot.

That’s why I am not going to argue with anyone anymore, about what the Rav did or didn’t do, or did or didn’t say.

If you see bad in the Rav – if you see bad in your kids, in your spouse, in everyone else around you – that’s because that bad is really in YOU.

So knuckle down, acknowledge the real problem and get to work on it.

====

This morning, I finally had the energy to walk down to the Kotel, as part of my hour long hitbodedut thing that I do every single day, with God’s help.

I walked down the road that skirts the Gei Hinnom valley, on the side of the Old City, a road called ‘Ma’aleh Shalom’ – the path of peace.

I went with quite a lot of heartache, thinking about some of the things I’ve written above, how I’m seeing so many parents literally destroy their children with their own two hands, all in the name of God and His Torah.

I touched the stones, kissed them, then headed back home. In the plaza, an old frum lady came over to me and called out may Hashem grant you everything you asked for!

I shrugged at her, pulled a tight smile and told her Sorry, I don’t have any money.

She hobbled closer, and told me in English:

You aren’t listening to me. Listen: May Hashem grant you everything you asked for!

She was right. I hadn’t been listening. She was trying to give me a bracha that my prayers should be answered, and I was batting her away like a pesky mosquito.

You’re right. I’m sorry. Amen!

Then she told me:

The most important prayer to say right now, is that we all get out of galut. That Am Yisrael should all get out of galut.

I looked at her twinkly blue eyes, squeezed her arm, and got the message.

What is galut, really, except the prison that we’re all in, that’s keeping us away from God and the people we love, and redemption? And what is that prison, really, except our own bad middot?

Our own fallen fears, and anger, and arrogance, and jealousy?

We all have a lot of work to do.

====

UPDATE:

Daisy Stern has pulled a lot of info together to show why the Kan 11 ‘expose’ my daughter say was a total farce, and just more of the same ‘anti-Rav’ propaganda the media has been steadily churning out for year.

You can see that on her site, HERE.

Also, I saw another abusive comment this morning, this time from someone pretending to be ‘Sam Eisen’ about the Rav. Again, I ran the IP address – and guess what? It’s the same ‘Peewee’ pedo guy I mentioned before.

I won’t detail the comment, but suffice to say it was talking about dying in jail for being a pervert. Yet again, we see the mirror principle in full color.

So, yalla, come on all you ‘anti’ Rav people… send me more of your comments, even with your fake names, and then we’ll find out what’s really going on in your private lives and exactly why it is you are so ‘anti’ a person who exudes goodness and holiness so strongly, you can feel it a million miles away.

No wonder all these people are staying anonymous.

====

Let’s leave the last word to Rabbi Nachman, who writes in Sefer HaMiddot:

“S*xual violators are for the most part opposers of the Tzaddikim.”

Now that I’m looking up the IP addresses on the comments, I’m seeing Rabbenu’s dictum manifest in real time. And I’m really excited to go and do some more digging on all those big mouths who have been so publically ‘anti’ the Rav – so yalla guys, don’t be shy!

Let me have all your disgusting comments, and then let’s find out who YOU really are.

It’s a taste of the World to Come, when the truth will shine out and no-one will be able to hide behind a fake name or a fake email anymore.

Doesn’t that sound like fun?

====

 

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I have so much to get on with….

I’m moving house in less than a week, and there’s so much to do.

And yet, I’m sitting here still feeling totally out of it, and like I just don’t know what to do with myself.

Except… watch videos like this one.

====

It’s 8 years since this song came out, can you believe it?

Since then, I’ve seen so many people leave Israel, so many people get divorced, so many kids go screeching off the derech, so many people go plain nutso.

How many times have we all just felt like giving up, already? And just letting go of all this ‘geula’ and ‘moshiach’ stuff, because how long can we just sit here hanging on, by our finger tips, and trying to fight off the rising tide of tumah that’s just every where?

8 years ago, we seemed so much closer to redemption happening than today, at least in some ways.

People were so much more excited about going to Torah classes, and trying to live life with emuna, and so many of us were making so much effort to try to raise our game and to live a life of real kedusha.

And today?

Well, from where I sit I’ve just seen one person after another crack up, from trying to live up to an unrealistic ideal of what a ‘geula-ready Jew’ actually looks like.

====

If God hadn’t had mercy on me, and totally crushed me into the floor when I moved to Jerusalem back in 2014, then that’s exactly what would have happened to me, too.

My kids would have gone screeching off the derech a million per cent, tortured by parents who expected ‘frum perfection’ and who refused to compromise, or move even a millimeter to try to meet their children where they were really at.

I would have either jumped off a bridge, or got a padded jacket to match the padded turban I was being told to believe was the epitome of female frum-ness.

And we would have either moved to a dumpster, or given up and fled back to chul, God forbid, if my husband hadn’t found the courage to go back to work even though there were so many people lining up to tell him that ‘God provides parnassa’, as long as you have enough emuna.

We didn’t have ‘enough’ emuna to get our parnassa provided in an openly miraculous way, and thank God we didn’t.

Because since then, I’ve been writing one thing after another, trying to warn against the huge perils involved in all this phony, fake, holier-than-thou yiddishkeit.

====

This shabbat, I had one of my kid’s friends in my house.

They grew up in a baal teshuva chareidi home which is super-duper machmir in a million-and-one ways, and doing a whole bunch of things so strictly, and so correctly, this kid has been totally traumatised by the idea of keeping shabbat.

Long story short, they kind of ended up at my house ‘by mistake’ this week, as their plans to go elsewhere fell through at the last minute, so my daughter brought them home to us. This friend is amazing, one of the most impressive souls I’ve met in a long term. Holy, doing hitbodedut every day, thinks and talks about God a lot, is really struggling to be a mensch and to do the right thing.

Yet they can’t sit by the table, for Shabbat.

They can’t go 25 hours without using the need to smoke a cigarette as a convenient ‘out’ from having to be in the house.

They are barely on their phone the rest of the week, and yet on the holy sabbath, they sit there playing games on it almost endlessly, texting their other ‘off the derech’ friends – anything to provide a mental escape route from the obvious emotional pain and difficulty spending shabbat with a family is causing them.

I can’t help but wonder:

What on earth went on, to cause this reaction?

====

But really, I already know.

Because I so easily could have done the same, to my kids.

I so easily could have created an environment of ridiculously high, unrealistic expectation which would cast my poor kids as ‘bad’ the moment they stopped being ‘perfect’.

And because no-one can be ‘perfect’ 24/7, so many of our children are growing up feeling they must be ‘bad’, or ‘Erev Rav’, or some other form of messed-up / evil incarnate, just because they couldn’t sit at a Shabbat table singing endless zemirot for 2 hours, or because they wanted to wear jeans, and not black pants, or because they wanted to listen to a song by Ed Sheeran.

How have we come to this low place, where some of our brightest and best souls relate to themselves as ‘bad’ people just because they happen to smoke, or have an i-Phone?

This isn’t yiddishkeit. This isn’t Breslov.

Rabbenu tells us always, judge the action, don’t judge the Jew. The Jew is only and ever good, just their neshama got eaten by a massive klipa, that has been carefully crafted by the Samech Mem to make them feel like nothing they do is ever good enough.

====

And it’s not just all these teenage drop-outs that are getting that message.

Their parents are also operating in that atmosphere of harsh fear and judgment, where they feel nothing they do is ever going to be good enough for Hashem. That Hashem is just waiting for them to drop the ball and watch a Michael Jackson video on Youtube so He can smash them into oblivion, God forbid.

This isn’t yiddishkeit!!!! This isn’t Breslov!!!! This isn’t emuna!!!!

And it certainly isn’t Azamra.

God loves us all so, so much. He knows how hard it is right now, how tough the struggle to hold on really is. He knows that we don’t want all this naarishkeit, all this tumah. That really all we want is Him, and Moshiach, and the rebuilt Temple, and to serve Him in holiness and temimut again.

God knows all that.

And He loves us.

And if we can get to the stage where we start to realise that we and our teens and our fellow Jews are really JUST GOOD, however ‘bad’ they (and we….) may look and behave some times, however big the klipa that’s swallowed them up, that’s when the crying will finally stop.

And the geula will finally happen.

====

I have been totally rinsed, the last two months.

I’m no stranger to challenging circumstances, or big emotional ups and downs, but I have to say that the last few weeks have been a rollercoaster, even for me.

Literally each week, I’ve had so much inner turmoil and self-doubt to deal with, it’s left me reeling.

So, what’s really going on here? That’s what I’ve been asking God to show me, in a million different ways, in my talking to God sessions. And as the Rabbis tell us, when someone tells you that they searched and that they found, believe them.

After some consideration, I decided to share a little about what I’ve found out, in this quest to figure out why I’ve been feeling as though I’ve been barely clinging on to the edge of sanity the last few weeks. I know there are a lot of people out there who will relate to what I’m about to share, if they will only give themselves the permission to drop the mask and be real.

So with that intro (and if you’re still reading….) let’s continue.

==

The ‘problem’, if you can call it that, began back in November, when my daughter told us she’d found someone serious, and she wanted to introduce him to us.

Part of me was happy, part of me was petrified.

I had what can honestly be called a totally awful relationship with my own mother-in-law, as I’ve written about in many other places. With hindsight, I learned that my mother-in-law – who had so many tremendously good qualities – was operating out of a place of severely repressed trauma.

What I’ve learned down the years is that whatever is not ‘fixed’ in the family dynamics, in the family relationships, simply gets passed forward for the next generation to deal with. It’s like a bad penny, that never goes out of circulation until someone gets a grip, takes the hit, and faces the problem down.

The main reason my own crazy Savta didn’t figure as a massive MIL relationship stressor is simply because she lived in a different country, and never called or got in touch. But there were also some big mother-in-law issues between my dad and my British Grandma too, who wasn’t thrilled to have an immigrant for a son-in-law.

====

So, back to November 2019, when I suddenly find myself on the cusp of becoming a ‘mother-in-law’ myself, potentially – and WHOOSH!!!!

The internal pressure of trying to do all this ‘right’ kicked in a million percent.

I tried so, so hard to be the nearest version of ‘normal’ and ‘laid-back’ that I could, and the first time I met the bloke, I think I pulled it off OK. But despite my best efforts, all this weird emotional stuff started bubbling up shortly afterwards, and hasn’t stopped since.

What the heck is going on here, God?

Usually, I’m pretty self-aware, but all this stuff was taking me out and I had NO IDEA what was going on, or why I was reacting the way I was reacting.

====

After a day or two of doing a lot of intense hitbodedut, I made the connection that I had a heaping dose of unfinished business from my own wedding, and that me and my husband needed to sit down and get to grips with our own repressed anger and resentment from that time.

To cut a long story short, the run up to my wedding was so bad (because of in-law issues, not because of anything to do with my husband, who really is a hidden tzaddik), the counsellor on our ‘engaged couples’ course sat me down the week before the big day to ask me if I was sure I wanted to go through with it….

If I could have eloped (and I considered it seriously 500 times…) I would have.

But in the meantime, that route was blocked, and so I ended up with a ton of stress, trauma and anger still resonating through the system even 23 years later. I realized, I needed to knuckle down and clean all that stuff up, finally.

So I did.

And I looked forward to all the ‘weirdness’ disappearing.

But that’s not what happened.

====

A week after I’d knuckled down and cleared out all the ‘my wedding trauma’ stuff, I found myself going really weird again.

Out of the blue, I got hit by a massive panic that with my daughter married, I’d have no-one left to talk to, or interact with.

Let’s be clear, this daughter is pretty independent, and has a ton of friends, and while we get on really well, I also have my own life and I like my own space. I also have a nice husband and another kid at home to interact with, too, so all this hit me as extremely bizarre again.

From past experience, I knew that this type of ‘disconnected’ emotional madness, where you feel you’re going crazy but you have absolutely nothing you can pin it on, from your own life, has to be some sort of ‘inherited stress’, that had got passed down the gene pool from some troubled ancestor.

(If you’re interested in the science of this, look up ‘epigenetics’.)

I picked up the phone, made an appointment with my Bodyspin / One Brain woman, and two days later, I’d tracked the issue down to an ancestor on my mum’s side (for once!).

Now, I was really hoping again I’d got all the tikkunim out the way, and could stop acting so weird and emotionally unbalanced.

That’s not exactly what happened.

====

Around three weeks ago, the emotional rollercoaster started up yet again, yet again I thought I was literally going bonkers.

I like to tell myself that I know what’s going on, and that I can ‘figure stuff out’ – it’s part of my shtick, part of my ga’ava that reassures me that I’m not as lost in the world as I sometimes feel. But all of a sudden, I found myself feeling totally confused and overwhelmed about everything.

This sense of anxiety was getting so pronounced, I started to feel anxious and weepy, and even a bit nauseous.

I was getting so overwhelmed by larger-than-life negative feelings that were coming out of nowhere, and for no obvious reason, that that, all by itself, started to stress me out even more.

Was I just losing my marbles? Was it the mold’s fault, that has been spreading all over my house for a month now, thanks to the rain? Was this just a normal part of the ‘letting your kids grow up’ process that was getting out of hand?

What’s going on, God, what?

====

Things got so intense that I told my husband if I didn’t get to Uman ASAP, I was probably going to end up in a mental institution.

I was (probably….) being over-dramatic, but that was still an accurate depiction of how I really felt.

Rabbenu stuck me back together, and I felt much calmer when I was there. I realized a few things about the need to get on more with my own life now, and about the importance of letting go of my kids, so they can make their own decisions and forge their own path.

But the paydirt only showed up 2 days after I came home, when I ended up having an unexpected Zoom conversation with a relative I barely speak to.

Without going into too much detail, I used to be very close to that relative until they got married a few years ago, when they effectively dropped me like a hot potato. That happened to coincide with the worst 10 years of my life.

It was such a painful experience, and for years and years, I just stuffed all my hurt feelings and disappointment down into a very big box. They had their reasons for doing what they did… I thought I understood, I thought I’d forgiven them for dumping me in my hour of need, and moved on from it all.

But when that relative unexpectedly got in touch, and when we had the first chat face-to-face we’ve had in years – it all came rushing back again, and I ended that call feeling incredibly angry.

In what has been a recurring theme from the last 2 months, I realized that all that pain and sadness hadn’t disappeared with the passage of time, it had just gone underground and festered.

Because I’d never dealt with it properly, and processed it, and faced up to how sad, lonely and worthless the whole situation had made me feel, I’d been projecting all those ‘lost’ feelings into my current situation.

And that’s why I was feeling so anxious and pukey.

====

So, I did yet another six hour hitbodedut to go and deal with the fall-out from that relative properly, and to go and make my own teshuva, and to really do the job of forgiving and applying some emuna to the whole matzav again, and afterwards, I was feeling so, so much better again.

Yes, finally I can start to relax and stop freaking out every five minutes, and feeling as though the world is ending.

That’s what I hoped.

Because by this point, I’d had literally six weeks of riding the biggest emotional rollercoaster of my life, and I was starting to feel pretty rung-out and exhausted from it all.

Enough with all these tikkunim already, God! I have to move house, I have to sort out a mortgage, I have to launch a business, I have to publish a book! I can’t get anything done and I’m all over the place at the moment, it’s enough!

But what do I know?

====

So last week, after weeks of being in this cycle of all this stuff surfacing, taking me out, getting dealt with, feeling ok; stuff surfacing, taking me out, getting dealt with, feeling ok….

I started to feel, yet again, like I’d just hit another massive emotional iceberg.

In the same way that I started going to pieces, inexplicably, before I had to run off to Uman, I had that sinking feeling that I was unravelling again emotionally, and yet again, there was no obvious catalyst for it.

Maybe, I should just go and live in Uman for a few months, until all this ‘potential engagement’ stuff blows over, and I have a better idea what’s going on?

That’s what I asked my husband two days ago, and I was 82% serious. I was ready to hand in my notice again on the ‘mum’ job, because clearly I wasn’t up to it, and it was just time to admit that I am the loony tune that everyone always secretly suspected.

====

As I started to go to pieces again yesterday, I ended up having a really strange business coaching call, which was so surreal that if my husband hadn’t also been listening in, I think I would have thought I’d imagined it all. I was chatting with some smarmy sales guy from LA, about ideas to move my People Smarts business forward.

In the middle of the call, he suddenly totally switched track and started giving me some hard-hitting mussar:

Rivka, you really need to develop some humility. You just still have a lot to learn. In order for you to be able to help others, you first have to be able to love yourself.”

At this point, I was totally speechless.

It’s like Eliyahu HaNavi had taken over my Zoom call, or something, and all I could do was gape incredulously at the screen. Eliyahu continued:

Forgiveness is the most potent form of self-love, Rivka. Forgive yourself for procrastinating, and start new. Start fresh.”

At that point, Eliyahu reverted back to smarmy LA salesman, but I wrote down every word of that mussar, because it was literally a message from heaven.

====

After the call, I was still feeling physically ill, so I went to bed, to do some hitbodedut before trying to go to sleep.

That’s when I realized another profound part of the message God has been giving me, with this latest round of emotional upheaval.

Long story short, the prospect of possibly becoming a MIL has been flashing me back to one yucky experience I had after another, connected to the whole time of life when I met and married my husband, back in my very early 20s.

I met him when I was still in university, and that whole period was such a bitter-sweet time for me, because it’s so hard to hang on to your soul and go to university in a foreign country, where everyone around you is smoking, and drinking, and doing drugs, and listening to gross music, and watching movies, and dressing inappropriately and having boyfriends, and all the rest of the stuff that doesn’t exactly go together with ‘Torah’.

But at the same time, I’d had such a rough 18 years beforehand, the sense of freedom I had in university was totally unparalleled.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

And it left me with a whole bag of unfinished business to try to sort through and clarify, which I’ve basically been ducking for 25 years.

====

Us baal teshuvas carry so much baggage around from our previous lives.

Once we learn ‘the truth’, it can get so hard to forgive that former version of ourselves, who wasn’t ‘bad’, and who wasn’t ‘evil’, but who definitely was caught up in the world of lies.

But God wants us all to see the good in ourselves, and to forgive ourselves for not being perfect.

The last few months, I’ve been making such a big deal of doing ‘Azamra’ on other people, but God showed me this week that I left a crucial person out of the Azamra equation: myself.

And especially, that younger version of myself that came out of a really hard situation, had a lot of difficult tests, and just couldn’t pull through them all the way I would have liked to, in an ideal world.

Because the world isn’t ideal.

So today, again, I’m starting to feel much calmer. I’m starting to feel a little more ‘normal’ and put together again, and less panicked and anxious.

====

POSTSCRIPT:

After I wrote this, I took a look at the ravberland.com site, and I saw some very disturbing info about the spread of the coronavirus. As with everything, there is so much disinformation out there that until I saw what the Rav said about it, I was minded to play it all down.

Now, I can see we are on the cusp of something potentially enormous and world-changing.

It could be the end of days, mamash.

And so I now think that’s also part of why I’ve been so all over the place since November, when this coronavirus outbreak actually began.

Interestingly, the Rav made the connection between the spread of the virus and the mitzvoth of bein adam l’havero. And he made a point of stressing that we need to forgive others.

It’s the same message, being amplified.

And I really hope we’ll be able to do it.

====

THIS IS RAV BERLAND’S PRAYER TO BE SAVED FROM THE CORONAVIRUS. PLEASE SHARE IT AROUND. MANY PEOPLE’S LIVES DEPEND UPON US SWEETENING THIS DECREE.

====

Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

Back when I lived in Musrara, there was a small makolet on the main street, where I used to get most of my groceries.

I was in that place pretty much every day for four years, and over that time I got to know the makolet guys, and their workers, who ran the place.

One guy, Eden, stuck the job out for years, and right around the time that the teenage boy was having his visions of the coming apocalypse in Israel, he stuck a kippa on his head and started laying tefillin.

I know this, because he’d be ringing up my groceries with his phylacteries stuck to his head, which I know is wrong, but it still struck me as kinda cool.

Then there was the French guy who was fresh out of the army and wrestling with a lot of grudges against God. Sometimes the knitted kippa on his head grew, sometimes it shrank, and then a few months after he got married – it disappeared altogether.

He moved out of the neighborhood shortly afterwards, so I have no idea if it ever grew back.

And then, there was Shimon.

====

Shimon could have been in his thirties, or maybe even his forties.

By the time I met him, he was a chain-smoking, secret alcoholic who was destined to eventually get fired because he kept forgetting important details like whether he’d already rung up a purchase, or whether someone had already paid.

He stuck it out for two years, steadily deteriorating, and over that time, I got to know him a little. What was left of his blonde hair was cut in an awkward crew cut, and his beer belly was usually perched dangerously on a low-riding pair of jeans that really should have left far more to the imagination.

====

One day, I went in to get my daily pint of almond milk and I found him looking at a dog-eared photo, with a sad expression on his face.

Was this a dearly departed mum? An old girlfriend that it never worked out with? His childhood pet?

That day, Shimon was in a thoughtful mood, so even though my Hebrew was rubbish and his English wasn’t much better, he started talking as he rang up my pint of milk.

That’s me in the army, he told me, shoving the dog-eared picture into my face.

I’m at the age where I have to move things back a few inches, before they swim into focus, so I took the picture cautiously, and maneuvred it far enough away to actually see it. It was the standard shot of a young man wearing army trousers and displaying his pecs, while sucking on a cigarette and holding a machine gun.

I guess it was kinda ‘cool’, in that superficial, glorifying violence kinda way.

I was in a special unit in the army, Shimon told me, clearly fishing for some compliments for his 20-something self.

I looked at the fat, red-eyed man before me, who was already missing some teeth and I sighed a deep, secret sigh.

No wonder Shimon was steadily drinking his brain cells to death, if that picture represented his best shot at ‘happy times’.

====

All this took place a few years’ ago, but recently I’ve been thinking again about this whole idea of ‘cool’, and how it’s one of the yetzer’s best ploys for ensnaring our souls in the madness of this world.

‘Cool’ can be so dangerous, precisely because it hides a multitude of sins, while secretly promoting them. ‘Cool’ people smoke. ‘Cool’ people drink lots of alcohol. ‘Cool’ people waste large chunks of their lives in bars and clubs, dancing to stupid, brain-cell destroying music made by other ‘Cool’ people, many of whom are addicted to drugs and pornographic lifestyles.

In so many ways, ‘Cool’ is the anti-thesis of the Torah lifestyle, and of the good middot, and of the calm, good stability that is actually the foundation of a happy life. But which is also, often, totally ‘unCool’.

Until I hit Breslov, which paired massive payot and Rabbenu’s Torah with trance music, I was kind of despairing of finding even a hint of ‘Cool’ in the Torah world.

Because I have to admit, ‘Cool’ still has some attraction for me, still, even though I’m 46 and really should know better.

====

It’s so, so easy to fall back into the deceptive allure of that world of lies, where ‘Cool’ people spend their days surfing in Eilat, smoking their lungs black and piercing their tongues.

How can learning a blatt of gemara really compete with that? How can I explain to my children that ‘Cool’ has a short-lived shelf-life, and that ‘Cool’ young people are way more likely to end up addicted, poor and alone, eating their hearts out over pictures of themselves looking ‘Cool’ twenty years ago?

If I still lived in Musrara, if that makolet was still there, I’d tell them (and their friends…):

Go take a look at Shimon’s picture, and then see where all that ‘Cool’ lead.

‘Cool’ is poisonous, my precious children. It’s soul-destroying.

If you want to live a truly happy life, be guided by the Torah and channel your urge to be ‘Cool’ into some outrageously long payot and a tendency to talk to God by the beach.

Ah.

When is Moshiach going to show up, already?

====

UPDATE:

I got the following comments from a reader, who is making some important points, so I’m adding them in here:

I just read your post about Shimon at the makolet and coolness, and I just had to say, maybe Shimon was showing you the photo of himself in the army because that was the last time he did anything that he’s proud of and that he worked hard for. Poor guy.

He got out of the army and spends his days drinking and smoking and working in a makolet. He’s not happy. He’s unmotivated. Probably depressed. The army is a real challenge, especially for a combat soldier, who is under-appreciated and works really hard in generally awful conditions. Any one who did his army service as a combat soldier should be proud of himself, and this Shimon deserves our prayers and compassion and to look for his good points to help him have the strength to do teshuvah and serve Hash-m.

====

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Ladies, it’s really happening!

This Sunday at 10am Jerusalem time (7 hours ahead of EST), we’ll be kicking off the first Zoom class for ladies only, with yours truly.

The idea is to talk about how we can apply some of Rebbe Nachman’s, and Rabbi Berland’s, teachings to our own lives and experiences.

This week, I opened up one of the Rav’s books to get some inspiration for how to kick off, and it opened up to some interesting ideas on humility, so that’s the topic we’re going to kick off with, and we’ll see how things develop.

I’m going to keep the first few classes to 30 minutes, while we figure out how they are going to work best. The idea is for me to set the tone, but I really want YOU to be the ones talking and sharing and discussing, as you get so much input from me anyway, via my blog.

I’m putting the Zoom link for the first class here:

 https://zoom.us/j/231772543

Show up 5 minutes earlier if you’re not sure how to use Zoom, to get comfortable with the set up.

It’s ladies only, so don’t worry about having your video or audio switched off.

====

If you can’t make it live (and I know there were a lot of ladies in the US who expressed an interest, but who can’t make this time slot) – replays will be available, but only sent out to people who sign up. Once I move house again in 3 weeks, I’ll look to add another slot, maybe on Mondays, that will work for people in the US, too.

You can sign up below, and I’ll also put this link in my sidebar, and in the sidebar of my blog on ravberland.com, too, to make it easy to access.







Get the replays of the Breslov Womens’ class!

The only way to get the link for the replay of Rivka’s weekly Breslov Women’s class is to sign up!

Marketing by

 

====

BH, I'm a little nervous about this, but also quite excited. For years now, I've had the privilege of getting to know some really amazing women, all over the world, and I've been wishing that there was a way more of us could get to know each other.

And now, there just might be!

So, take the plunge with me, and let's see where this goes. No-one has to come every week - not even me! - and in the meantime, it would be so nice to spend half an hour a week chatting things through with other ladies who also happen to really believe in God...

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And in the meantime, the better half has also taken the plunge, and started recording a 5 minute parsha shiur, you can catch his first one here:

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He was also a little nervous - new beginnings are always hard.

But something beautiful is starting to sprout here, BH, in more ways than one.

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Last week, I had a little nervous breakdown.

The only reason it was little, as opposed to BIG, is because on Thursday morning I told my husband that if I didn’t make it out to Uman for Shabbat, I was probably going to crack up into a million pieces.

The warning signs had been gathering steam for two weeks, but we were deep in a massive cash crunch, so there was just no way I could get to Uman. Then on Tuesday, I was chasing some receipts for my husband’s end of year when we realized we’d been accidentally overcharged for something by 4, 000 shekels – the cost of spending Shabbat in Uman.

So, my husband asked for repayment, and Thursday morning, we booked the flight.

Thank God, because I was in such a low place by that point, I felt like the sky was falling in.

Usually, I’m pretty open about what sparks all this stuff off, and I can tell you that I’m definitely dealing with a million and one big stressors at the moment, that have all been depleting my strength and challenging me. I’ll list them here, to make it neat, but that’s not really what sent me off the deep end.

  • I have to move apartment by end of Feb, and still haven’t found somewhere.
  • I have to complete the purchase of an apt in Harish by end of Feb, and the bank turned down the mortgage.
  • I have to complete my ‘Crush your stress’ masterclass (haha!) and start marketing it properly.
  • I have to somehow figure out tickets for trips to the US and UK for family simchas.
  • My kid wants to drop out of school again.
  • My other kid is leaving her National Service half way through the year

All these stressors could easily pass for ‘the reason I’m cracking up’, and in the past, I’ve made the mistake of thinking they are the root cause of my emotional distress.

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But last week, I realized they are just the icing, not the cake.

The stuff that was really causing me to crack up last week is far more intangible. It just runs so deep, and goes to the heart of this whole idea of what I’m really meant to be doing in the world.

After 46 years, I realized that I’m still the perpetual weirdo, that I’m never going to see things the way other people do, or react to things ‘normally’, or be able to fit myself into the neat little boxes that apparently suit ‘everyone else’ – whoever the heck they are.

I’ve been fighting that clarity since I could think, because it brings a whole big bag of loneliness and self-doubt along with it. For four and a half decades, I’ve been waiting for me to mellow enough to fit in with the world, or for the world to speed up enough to keep up with me.

And last week, I finally understood that it’s never going to happen.

That understanding totally blew me out the water, and left me feeling like ET would feel once he understood the Mothership was never showing up to take him back home.

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I am a perpetual weirdo, stuck in a place where no-one is ever going to ‘get’ me.

This has implications for a lot of things, not least all my ongoing attempts to keep trying to ‘brainwash’ people – including my family members – into seeing things and experiencing things the way I do.

Up until last week, I thought it was just a matter of time until everyone comes around and starts to pick up the same vibes I do about things. Just a bit more ‘Moshiach light’ needs to slip under the door, just a bit more ‘Moshiach consciousness’ needs to shine in through the windows, and they will finally understand.

But now, I accept that’s never going to happen.

So last week, I fled to Uman to get some advice about how I’m meant to relate to myself in this new paradigm.

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Now I know I’m just never going to get that meeting of minds I’m craving, that sense of connection, now I know that I have to keep ‘the real me’ mostly under wraps if I want to have peaceful relationships and not cause constant friction, how do I relate to myself? How do I like myself?

How do I use all my ‘weirdness’ in a way that will still benefit the world, without causing me all this heartache because I feel so lonely and misunderstood so much of the time?

That’s why I came knocking on the door of Uman, the only place that makes me feel a little bit ‘normal’.

There was no bolt of lightning, no neon sign that suddenly lit up over the Tziyon saying

Rivka, do THIS!!!!! Be like THIS!!!! Just change THIS!!!!

But I came to Uman dragging a whole big chain of doubt, unhappiness and emotional pain behind me, and mostly, it’s gone.

I’m feeling connected back to my soul and connected back to God and the true Tzaddikim again. I have a lot to figure out still, but somehow, everything is going to turn out for the best.

And now, I have to get on with finding somewhere to live, and putting the finishing touches to my ‘Crush your stress’ course (haha!)

God certainly has a sense of humour.

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

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

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

Where did that approach get me?

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

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

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

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

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

I’m pondering that a lot at the moment.

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

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

Honestly.

So much effort, for so little anything much.

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

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

And for two weeks, I didn’t know why.

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

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

I totally loved interacting with those women.

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

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

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

And that’s when it hit me:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I was so stoked yesterday, to teach those classes.

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

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

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

I’m retiring from that field.

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

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

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

I have to say, I’m pretty excited.

TBC

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Photo by Ian Parker on Unsplash

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