In Breslov, we take a look at some of the core Breslov beliefs, explore some Rebbe Nachman books, and some Rebbe Nachman quotes, meet some of the leading Breslov Rabbis of modern times, including Rabbi Eliezer Berland, and look at:

  • Breslov hasidim
  • Breslov Torah
  • Breslov Books
  • Azamra Breslov
  • Breslov customs
  • Everything Breslov
  • Breslov Rabbi Eliezer Berland
  • Breslov hitbodedut
  • Breslov communities in Israel
  • Breslov Jew
  • Breslov Jerusalem
  • Breslov Leaders
  • Breslov Learning
  • Breslov Lectures
  • Breslov Meditation
  • Breslov Mea Shearim
  • Breslov News
  • Breslov Nachman
  • Breslev Noahide
  • Breslov Quotes
  • Breslov Stories
  • Breslov Teachings
  • Breslov Therapy
  • Breslov Zionism

I’ve been getting a few email about what the ‘Breslov’ attitude is in relation to non-Jews, and also whether Breslov believes that the Jewish people should be a ‘light unto the nations’ or not.

Let’s start with the idea that the Jewish people should be a ‘light unto the nations’. This idea is explicitly mentioned in the Book of Isiaiah three times, in the following verses:

49:6 – “It is insufficient that you be a servant for Me [only] to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the ruins of Israel; I will make you a light for the nations, so that My salvation may extend to the ends of the earth.:

60:3 – “Arise! Shine! For your light has arrived, and the glory of Hashem shines upon you. For, behold, darkness may cover the earth and a thick cloud [may cover] the kingdoms, but upon you Hashem will shine, and His glory will be seen upon you. Nations will walk by your light and kings by the brilliance of your shine.”

62:1 – “For Zion’s sake I will not be silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be still, until her righteousness emanates like a bright light, and her salvation blazes like a torch. Nations will perceive your righteousness and all the kings your honor…”

And then the general idea that the Jewish people should be active in bringing all of mankind back to serve Hashem (and that God actually very much wants that to happen), and that there is a ‘place’ for the righteous non-Jews in the post-Messianic world can be found in the following verses, all from Isiaiah:

45:21 – “There is no other god besides Me; there is no righteous god besides Me and no savior other than Me. Turn to Me be and saved, all ends of the earth, for I am God and there is no other.”

56:1 – “I will bring them to My holy mountain, and I will gladden them in My house of prayer; their elevation offerings and their feast offerings will find favor on my Altar, for My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.”

60:9 – “Then the sons of foreigners will build your walls and their kings will serve you.”

61:5 – “Foreigners will stand and tend your flocks and the sons of the stranger will be your plowmen and your vineyard workers. And you will be called ‘priests of Hashem’; ‘ministers of our God’ will be said of you.” [By other people, i.e. the non-Jews].

Over in Pirkei Avot (the Ethics of the Father), Rabbi Akiva tells us in 3:14 that:

“Beloved is man, for he was created in [God’s] image. It shows an even greater love that it was made known to him that he was created in [God’s] image, as it is written, “For in the image of God, He made man” (Genesis 9:6)”

The Tosfot Yom Tov writing on this verse explains that it ‘refers to all of humankind’ – not just the Jewish people, who are referred to more explicitly by Rabbi Akiva as ‘God’s children.’

Now that we’ve established that it’s standard Jewish thought that righteous non-Jews who believe in the One true God of the Jews have a place in the post-Messianic world, and that God does want the Jewish people to play an active role in being a ‘light unto the nations’, let’s take a more specific look at what some Breslev sources say about the issue of dealing with non-Jews.

Let’s start with Rebbe Nachman, who tells us the following (in Tzaddik):

“The Rebbe said that there are seventy nations and all of them are included under Esau and Ishmael: thirty-five under one and thirty-five under the other. In the future, they will be conquered by two Messiahs, Mashiach the son of Joseph and Mashiach the son of David. There is one Tzaddik who is a combination of the two messiahs.”

From this, we can see that the basic idea is the Jewish Moshiach will ‘conquer’ the nations of the world, and presumably bring them back to belief in the one true God of Israel.

Next, let’s go to Likutey Moharan I:244 where Rebbe Moharan gives a warning to those of us who aren’t on a very high spiritual level (i.e. pretty much everyone…), when it comes to dealing with non-Jews:

“Anyone who intermingles with gentiles, that is, who has business dealings with them, must be on very careful guard that this should not harm him. Otherwise, it’s very easy to be caught in their trap and to distance oneself from one’s Jewishness.”

In other words, as soon as money, or ‘business dealings’ with non-Jews come into the picture, Jews need to be very, very careful to not compromise their Jewishness and spiritual integrity because a ‘bribe blinds the eyes of the wise’.

On this note, Rav Shalom Arush once went to speak to a church in South Africa who’d just bought a very large amount of his emuna books. He got on stage in front of 5,000 people and told them in Hebrew: “You are all fornicators and idol worshipers!” That’s a classic example of not letting money and business dealings compromise your Jewishness and spiritual integrity.

The last thing to quote for now, which I think sums up the position and also includes the deeper kabbalistic underpinnings of why a Jewish Moshiach comes for the benefit of the whole of mankind, comes from Rav Berland’s speech to more than 8,000 people at the Winter Stadium, a few years’ back, when he said:

“When Rebbe Nachman was alive, he stated that he stood as guarantor for the whole world – for all of mankind, including the Jews, the non-Jews and everyone else. Because the Tzaddikim told Hashem to go ahead and create all of mankind, while the angels told Him not to bother, because in the end he would only end up failing, and there was only a miniscule chance of him making Teshuva.

“But I say different! I say that there’s only a miniscule chance of him not making Teshuva, and that’s what this gathering is all about – to encourage everyone, Jews and non-Jews alike, to make Teshuva and to return to their Father in heaven!

“God created everyone in His image, and in every person there is a spark of the Divine, in every Jew and in every non-Jew – the spark of God is in everyone, and we are all created in God’s image. And the whole point of this gathering is to spread the light of Hashem, and the light of Rebbe Nachman, to the whole world, to every Jew and to every non-Jew….

“…As soon as the whole world recognizes Hashem’s greatness, we’ll be able to immediately rebuild the third Temple, and to see the revival of the dead.”

The Jewish people is about Tikkun haolam, or the rectification of the whole world, and bringing the whole world back to God, the Jewish way. That means the non-Jews accept the 7 noachide commandments, stop with all their yoshki, muhammed and booda rubbish, and accept that God is running the world (without any help from anyone else) and that the Torah is true, and the Jewish people are God’s representatives.

That pretty much sums up the authentic Jewish approach that you’ll find in Breslov, and also any other Jewish group that has a deep knowledge of our sources, and a strong grasp of what the whole concept of the Moshiach, and Tikkun haolam is really all about.

Of all of Rebbe Nachman’s tales, I have two favorites: The Cripple, and the Master of Prayer.

While it’s always something of a stretch to claim to be able to ‘understand’ Rebbe Nachman’s teachings, I always get so much chizzuk and inspiration from both of these stories.

Both are talking about what will be at the End of Days, before Moshiach comes, but while the Master of Prayer is phrased more in terms of global and national redemption, The Cripple is very, very personal.

It describes a cripple – a person who can’t walk, and who ends up being robbed in the forest by a bunch of bandits, and who then has to eat grass to survive. In the process of eating grass, the cripple finds a magic diamond (aka hitbodedut, or personal prayer), that shows him how he can heal his legs and regain his wealth from the bandits who robbed him.

So far so good, then the tale gets a little wild: The cripple hears the sun and moon discussing their problems, and the moon describes how the world is full of all these families of ‘demons’ – people who look like human beings, but who are actually missing something big, spiritually-speaking.

But the only way an outsider can tell who is a spiritually-corrupt ‘demon’ and who is really a human being is by looking at the demons’ feet:

The demons have chicken feet, not human feet. (‘Feet’ is a reference to emuna, and more particularly to bringing God down into the world by seeing Him in every single aspect of our lives.)

These demons have a king. They have jobs. And they have a mission in life, to keep people away from the true Tzaddik (aka Moshiach), who’s represented in the story by a big tree. If enough water would reach the tree, the demons would disappear and the world would be redeemed.

The demons make it their number one priority to keep people away from this tree. They dig ditches around it. They go around torturing people and making them suffer. And most importantly of all, the ‘talkers’ amongst the demon speak a lot of lashon hara about how believing in Tzaddikim is ‘cultish’; and how people don’t need to get close to the real Tzaddikim, they ‘just need God and their own (warped…) intelligence’.

To cut a long story short, there’s a wise man and his small band of followers who takes on the demons.

This wise man’s main weapons are prayer and perfect faith in Hashem – he advises his followers to accept whatever God decides for them, good or bad, and to not try to find ‘spiritual short-cuts’ involving sorcery and other things to try to solve their problems.

At the end of the story, due to the wise man’s great emuna and submission to God, the demons end up destroying themselves. Again, to cut a long story short, the ‘talkers’ amongst the demons start turning on the other demons (as opposed to the human beings) and this sparks off a civil war, which leads to a bunch of earthquakes and other natural disasters which finally cause the ditches around the tree to collapse, and the tree to be watered.

This brings Moshiach. Hooray!

Now, why am I telling you this?

You’ll recall that lashon hara, or speaking evilly of other people (even for supposedly ‘good’ reasons) is one of the biggest tell-tale traits of the Erev Rav. You’ll hopefully also recall (from THIS post) the basic rules of lashon hara which forbid us from pointing out people’s bad middot, publicly to other people.

The reason for this is simple: the people who speak lashon hara always justify the bad things they are saying about other people. As soon as you or I start speaking lashon hara about the people who are speaking lashon hara, we fall into that same trap – and in the words of the Cripple, it’s akin to using ‘sorcery’ and other demonic habits to try to solve our problems, instead of asking God to deal with it.

(That said, there ARE times that we can speak negatively about others in a public forum.)

So how does ‘good’ triumph, ultimately, if these demonic people are running around shooting their poisonous mouths off and nothing can be done to stop them?

Rebbe Nachman explains something wonderful: the talkers will destroy themselves.

One person with a huge lashon hara issue will pick a fight with another person who has a huge lashon hara issue, and all we have to do is stay out of it and watch them kill each other.

Genius!

Things are so, so mixed up at this time at the End of Days.

I know from my own experience it can be so darned tempting to weigh in on all the machloket, arguments and mud-slinging that’s going on all around us – all for the very best reasons, natch. But our voice is the voice of Jacob. Where ‘Esav-type’ people will use their words and voices to attack and destroy others, the authentic Jewish way is to use our voices to pray, and get God involved in solving our problems, and destroying all the bad, evil things that are permeating our world.

And if we do that, the demonic forces in the world will automatically destroy themselves; the tree will get watered, and Moshiach WILL come.

I’ve been going to Uman for something like seven or eight years’ now, and in that time, I’ve seen it blossom from the worst sort of primitive, third-world country shtetl into a place with wifi, porsches and more kosher restaurants and hotels than many parts of Tel Aviv.

Mostly, it’s a good thing. But sometimes, I yearn a little for the utter simplicity of Uman even eight years’ ago. When I went back then, there was no cell phone access, and you’d be lucky if the electricity supply would hold out for a whole five days. Back then, I was still passing elderly Russian ladies taking their sleds down to the local water pump to get their H2O for the day.

The first place I stayed had two showers for 50 women – both of which opened straight onto the front door – and to say it wasn’t luxurious is kind of the understatement of the year. I had to bring my own toilet paper. I had to bring my own snacks (although breakfast and supper was catered on my trip.)

The snow was piled so high, that February, and the Ukrainian taxi and coach drivers were still palpably anti-semitic, but as they were the only people who actually had a van / car / coach at that time, you just had to put up with it or walk all the way back to Kiev.

Physically, it was really hard going. Spiritually? It was probably the most intense trip I ever had.

Not easy – really not easy – but powerfully transformational in a whole bunch of ways. That first trip was the only time that I ever had the Kever to myself for a little while, because going to Uman was still something a little ‘fringe’ that only hard-core crazies would do.

Not any more.

Uman has literally exploded over the last year or so.

Just now when I went, I saw at least three new hotels, and least three new kosher restaurants, plus big signs for people to come buy a luxury flat in a new development being built right up the road from Rabbenu on Pushkina Street.

If I’m honest, I wasn’t so happy that the commercialization of Uman is roaring ahead. Uman was the one place I didn’t have to worry about my usual inability to buy luxury properties, and where I could just disappear into my soul for a few days without any materialistic distractions.

This time, I went for a couple of days with my kids and husband and I struggled mightily to tap into the spirituality in Uman that usually just blows me away from the second I step off the coach there. I know it’s always different when you go with your kids, especially teenagers. From previous experience, I knew we’d have to budget more for food and souvenirs than we did for tzedakah (which is not the usual way of things, when me and my husband go there by ourselves.)

They wanted to eat pizza and chips, and go to Gan Tzofia, and buy all the cute Ukrainian handicrafts that I usually don’t touch with a bargepole because hey, I really don’t like giving those people any more of my money than I have to. But kids are kids. And one of the lessons I’ve been trying to learn recently is that God wants balance in the world, even when it comes to spiritual matters.

If Uman was minus the chips, and the ‘fun’ and the nicer accommodations, my kids wouldn’t want to keep going back every year.

That’s the reality. It’s the reality for a bunch of other people from the West, too, who really wouldn’t last 5 minutes in the Uman from 10 years’ back.

But I still felt pretty out of place in comfortable Uman. I still had to leave the Kever – which had been taken over by yet another rock-star Rabbanit doing a very loud ‘Amen’ festival for two hours, where her followers basically just chanted ‘Amen’ to everything she said – and go for a long walk round to the lake.

I sat there for half an hour, looked at the gorgeous trees, the beautiful water, did my best to avoid the big disgusting crucifix thing on the opposite bank of the lake (hey, it’s still GALUT after all) and tried to figure out what was bothering me so much.

After a while, I got it: normally, Uman is the only place in the world where I feel like really belong, in some weird way. Not that I want to live in the Ukraine, or even stay there for more than a couple of days, but normally, the spiritual vibe is so strong in Uman that everyone is talking about God, and being pretty real and honest, and you feel connected to yourself, and to God, and to your fellow Jew so much more.

This time, that seemed to be missing for me, and I felt its loss keenly.

Sure, I had a great plate of chips and chicken thighs instead, but for the first time ever, my soul felt more in exile in Uman than in Jerusalem.

Probably, this is a good thing. If Uman – one of the weirdest, most spiritually-intense places in the world – is finally going mainstream, then maybe the intense soul-connection that is Rebbe Nachman’s hallmark is finally making it out to the masses of Am Yisrael. Or, maybe God is showing me that just like Am Yisrael had to knuckle-down and get more ‘gashmius’ when they finally got out of the Desert and entered Eretz Yisrael, that now it’s also time for me to get a little more grounded and gashmius-minded again.

Maybe.

Truth is, I wouldn’t mind a luxury flat in Jerusalem. Or even, not such a luxury flat in Jerusalem….

Maybe that’s the lesson that I went to learn this time in Uman: that while it’s very important to pray, and to work on the spiritual side of things, sometimes, you also need to take a break from your devotions to eat a yummy plate of chips, sightsee and buy chatchkees for your kids, and in its own small way, that’s also somehow serving Hashem.

picture of a man holding a burning newspaper

It’s known that the Chofetz Chaim believed that lashon hara, or evil speech, was the main cause of our long, bitter exile.

The Chofetz Chaim stated on more than one occasion that as soon as the sin of lashon hara was fixed, the exile would end and the Moshiach would come.

Rav Chaim Dovid Stern stated that ‘Rav Berland is the last test before Moshiach.’

What does this test involve?

Lashon hara, in all its many, soul-destroying forms!

How do we pass this test? By not engaging in any of the forms of evil speech that destroyed our Second Temple, and are keeping us in exile. Sadly, most of us don’t seem to realize how much of what we’re saying and doing, especially online, is directly contravening the laws of lashon hara in the worst ways.

So to fix that, I’ve put together this crash-course in Lashon Hara, based on the practical halachas contained in the book: Purity of Speech.

Basic background to Lashon Hara (evil speech)

Every time a person engages in Lashon Hara, they can transgress 17 negative and 14 positive mitzvot.

The Torah tells us we shouldn’t ‘peddle’ gossip to other people by passing on ‘juicy’ information – even when it’s true!

And that we also shouldn’t accept, or cause other people to accept, false reports.

These are mitzvot d’orayta, straight from the Torah.

THE DEFINITION OF LASHON HARA:

Lashon Hara is when someone speaks evilly about, or believes someone else’s evil report about another Jew. Specifically, the evil speech about another Jew does one of the following things:

  • Degrades the other Jew in the eyes of other people
  • Causes that other Jew shame
  • Causes him financial loss.

AGAIN, THESE RULES APPLY EVEN WHEN THE INFORMATION IS TRUE. WHEN THE INFORMATION IS FALSE AND LIBELLOUS, THEN THE TRANSGRESSION IS MANY, MANY TIMES GREATER. AND WHEN THE PERSON BEING SPOKEN ABOUT IS A HOLY RABBI, THE SIN IS COMPOUNDED.

Many people think that if they’re just writing something on the internet, that’s not Lashon Hara. This is completely untrue. It’s just as forbidden to write negative information as it is to say it.

Also, if you write something anonymously, that still doesn’t get you off the hook. God knows exactly who you are, and you’re still accountable for what you wrote about another person, and any damage you might have done as a result.

Even if the information you’re passing along is well-known and already in the public domain, it’s still forbidden to talk about it.

RECHILUS, OR CAUSING HATRED TOWARDS A FELLOW JEW

There’s another category of Lashon Hara, or evil speech, that’s called Rechilus, which involves causing other people to hate another Jew.

THE DEFINITION OF RECHILUS IS:

Anything you say or write which causes people to start hating another Jew.

If what you’re saying / writing / passing along is going to cause someone else to have ill-feelings towards a particular Jew, or group of Jews, then that is rechilut, another very serious form of evil speech.

Even if you agree with the information, it’s still forbidden to repeat it.

HOW YOU FIX THE SINS OF TALKING LASHON HARA / RECHILUT

To make Teshuva for the sin of TALKING evilly about another Jew, you have to do the following:

  • Regret doing it.
  • Confess to Hashem that by repeating negative information about a fellow Jew to other people, you did a terrible sin.
  • Take it upon yourself to work on your lashon hara problem, with the aim of not doing it ever again.
  • Ask forgiveness from the person you spoke about.

If you don’t do these four things, you didn’t fix your sin, spiritually.

WHEN IS IT PERMISSIBLE TO TALK NEGATIVELY ABOUT A FELLOW JEW?

There are some, rare, instances when it’s not only permitted to talk negatively about a fellow Jew, but you are required to do so. (Before you jump off using this as a heter, please go and talk to a Rav who knows the detailed laws required. This is just a basic guide.)

You can degrade someone if:

  • They are causing other people financial loss or physical harm, in some way
  • They habitually speak lashon hara (evil speech) about others
  • They are a ‘baal machloket’, i.e. someone who goes around deliberately causing trouble, strife and hatred between people.
  • They consistently violate the laws ‘bein Adam l’makom’ – i.e., they don’t keep the Torah’s commandments between God and man, such as keeping Shabbat, kosher, family purity etc.

Even if they meet these criteria, you can only talk negatively about them if the following 5 conditions are met:

  • The information has to be 100% true – and you need to have checked it out 100% to know that it is, and not just rely on other people’s information.
  • You can’t exaggerate one iota.
  • Your intention should be for a constructive purpose, and not just to get back at someone else or teach them a lesson
  • If there is any other way of achieving the constructive purpose other than speaking evilly, you’re required to try that first.
  • You have to evaluate your words very carefully, to figure out the potential impact on the person you’re talking about.

BELIEVING LASHON HARA

This is where it gets even more interesting, because in some ways BELIEVING lashon hara is even more problematic than speaking it. To give a common example, believing that story in the Jpost or on Arutz Sheva is just as big a sin as if you actually wrote it yourself.

It’s forbidden to:

  • Listen to lashon hara (or read it online…)
  • Believe lashon hara
  • Perform an action based on the lashon hara – like pinging that juicy article across to another 5 people with the title ‘I’m not judging, but look at this…’

Plus, the halacha states that you have to rebuke the person who’s telling you the lashon hara.

THIS APPLIES EVEN IF THE INFORMATION IS TRUE, AND IF THE 5 CONDITIONS FOR GIVING OVER INFORMATION FOR A POSITIVE OUTCOME HAVE NOT BEEN MET. WHEN THE INFORMATION IS FALSE, THE GRAVITY OF THE SIN OF BELIEVING IT IS COMPOUNDED MANY TIMES OVER.

The only times it’s OK to listen to lashon hara is when:

  • The information can directly affect you, or people who are very close to you in the future.
  • Someone is unburdening themselves to you.

The only times it’s OK to believe lashon hara is when:

  • It’s being said about a well-known rasha, or evil person
  • When a trustworthy person is saying it for a constructive purpose
  • When the conditions of ‘obvious signs’ are met:
    1. The obvious signs that the information is true should be directly related to what’s being discussed
    2. You’ve seen the ‘obvious signs’ that the information is true for yourself
    3. This information is going to directly affect you or impact you in some way.

SOMEONE IS ONLY CONSIDERED TO BE A ‘TRUSTWORTHY’ PERSON IN THESE CIRCUMSTANCES IF:

  • They’re as trustworthy as two witnesses testifying before a Beit Din.
  • They saw the negative behavior they’re talking about first hand.

And even when all these very difficult criteria are met, halacha still expects us to judge the person being spoken about favorably, especially if they’re a holy person.

A last, important, point to note is that it’s still forbidden to believe evil speech, even if it was repeated to you by a respected person, such as your rabbi, for example.

If all the conditions of passing information along l’toelet, for a positive purpose, as described above, have not been met by the ‘respected person’, then they are still transgressing the laws of lashon hara – and if you believe them and listen to them, and worse, pass the information on to others, than you are too.

HOW YOU FIX THE SIN OF BELIEVING LASHON HARA

To make Teshuva for the sin of BELIEVING evil things about another Jew, you have to do the following:

  • Regret doing it.
  • Confess to Hashem that by believing negative information about a fellow Jew, you did a terrible sin.
  • You have to work on uprooting the negative impression the evil speech left on your psyche
  • Take it upon yourself to work on your problem of believing lashon hara, with the aim of not doing it ever again.

IF YOU ALSO PASSED THE INFORMATION ON TO OTHER PEOPLE, THEN A FIFTH STEP IS ALSO REQUIRED:

  • Ask forgiveness from the person you spoke about.

NB: The Chofetz Chaim describes a ‘baal rechilut’, one who repeats negative information about their fellow Jew, as a rasha, (evil person), because of the number of sins they transgress by speaking lashon hara.

PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS OF THESE LAWS TO THE SUBJECT OF DISCUSSING RAV BERLAND

If you:

  • Read a negative story about Rav Berland someone online, you transgressed the laws pertaining to LISTENING to lashon hara. Really, it’s even forbidden to read that stuff.
  • Believed the negative story that your read (or were told) about Rav Berland, than you also transgressed the laws of BELIEVING lashon hara.
  • Passed that story on to others – even if you just emailed it on to someone else, or linked to it from your facebook page without making any other comment on it – you transgressed the laws of SPEAKING lashon hara, and you need to contact Rav Berland somehow to apologise for what you did.
  • If you commented negatively about Rav Berland yourself, whether online or in person, including anything you wrote ‘anonymously’ – then you transgressed the laws of SPEAKING lashon hara and depending what you said, you might also be considered to be a ‘baal machloket’ (i.e. a rasha).

And you need to make some serious Teshuva, including contacting Rav Berland to apologise to him.

THE GROWTH IN THE THROAT

In case anyone thinks this stuff is being exaggerated, and it’s not such a big deal because ‘everyone’ is doing it, a man went to Rav Chaim Kanievsky a couple of years’ ago because the doctors told him he had a cancerous growth in his throat.

Rav Kanievsky told him that the growth had occurred because he’d spoken badly about Rav Berland. The man got on a plane to Morocco, where the Rav was then staying, to go and apologise in person to him, for what he’d said.

I’ve heard many other similar stories being reported to – where the person involved is now publicizing what they did, and what happened to them as a form of teshvua – so please, be VERY careful when discussing Rav Berland.

The honest position for most people is:

  • To accept they don’t know anything about this matter.
  • To rely on the opinions of our Gedolim, such as Rav Arush, Rav Kook Rav Stern, Rav Abuchatzeira, Rav Morgenstern etc – who have checked everything out according to the laws of Beit Din, and found Rav Berland 100% innocent of all charges (aka, emunat Tzaddikim).
  • To keep their mouth firmly shut.
  • To make any Teshuva they need to make for listening to / believing in / speaking lashon hara about Rav Berland ASAP.

Remember, Rav Berland is the last test before Moshiach.

And avoiding lashon hara and rechilut, as set out above, is the way we’re all going to pass it.

picture of a man holding a burning newspaper

When I first started hearing about the war of Gog and Magog, primarily from the autistics, more than a decade ago, I got very caught up in trying to figure out which country was ‘Magog’ and who was ‘Gog’, their leader.

It’s George Dubbya!

It’s the US!

It’s Putin and Red Russia!

It’s the European Union!

It’s the UN!

And so on and so forth.

I was like that with everything a decade ago, thinking that all the apocalyptical events and dramatic upheavals, and wars being banded about were mamash just occurring in the physical world.

When you live in Israel, which averages a small war approximately every two years, (terrorist attacks not included) it’s easy to see why.

But a few years’ ago, I started to shift away from the ‘war on the outside’ model, to realize that the war being fought by the Jewish people today is 100% internal. Gog and Magog is taking place inside of us, inside of our homes, inside our relationships, inside our communities.

Gog and Magog is a spiritual war to clarify who is on Hashem’s side, and committed to God and His torah, and who isn’t. And things are so mixed-up today that just having a beard and a rabbinic ordination, or a long skirt and a reputation for being an excellent speaker on the ‘rent a rabbanit’ circuit doesn’t prove anything, in terms of who you’re really fighting for.

Two hundred years’ ago, Rebbe Nachman wrote what’s referred to as the ‘Secret Scroll’, a scroll written in code, that described in detail what would occur before Moshiach came. That scroll has been a closely guarded secret for years, but before he died a little while back, Rav Eliezer Schick, ZTL, wrote a little about the Scroll’s contents in his book, Paolot HaTzaddik.

(You can see the full excerpt HERE).

Rav Shick revealed that there would be a terrible ‘war’ prosecuted against the nation’s leading Tzaddikim, as part of the preparations for Geula.

He wrote (my translation):

“[T]he wars of Gog and Magog will include all the machloket (disagreements) and the accusations that will be made against the true Tzaddikim, those who uncover the true will of Hashem Yitborach.

“There are people who want to eat [these Tzaddikim] alive, and who say every forbidden thing against them, and mock them a lot. And by doing this, they greatly distance Jewish souls from coming near to them, and also lengthen the duration of our bitter exile.

“And they are the brazen-faced of the generation, the people with the face of a dog [RL note: these are both code words for the Erev Rav], the soldiers of Gog and Magog, who conceal the truth, and they are the wicked people of the generation…

“It’s written in the Midrash (BeMidbar Rabba, יח:י): ‘He who is brazen-faced, and who is not ashamed in front of those who are bigger than him, and he who is a baal machloket (troublemaker), you’ll see that he is the wickedest of the wicked.”

“And if I would have known, my dear brother, what was written in the Megillat Setorim regarding these soldiers of Gog and Magog, and the people who cover over the truth, I would have fallen on my face from fear and dismay, about how this bitter exile would be lengthened by them….

If you help the true Tzaddikim, then you will bring the geula closer, and you will merit to have all the good that has been set aside for the soldiers of the House of David. [Referring to Moshiach].”

What can we take from this?

Here’s the main points Rebbe Nachman, via Rav Schick, seems to be telling us about the true war of Gog and Magog:

  • It’s spiritual. We don’t need to look for the soldiers of Gog and Magog in Russia, or on the Syrian border, because really, they’re all around us, in our homes and communities.
  • The ‘soldiers of Gog and Magog’ are the people who mock our true Tzaddikim and Torah scholars, and who persecute them, libel them, speak falsehoods against them and generally do anything they can to ‘eat them alive’.
  • They conceal the truth – i.e., they don’t just make innocent mistakes or wrong assumptions, they go all-out to tell lies and fabrications, and deliberately bury the truth in a web of lies, mockery and deceit.
  • They make trouble for other people.
  • They aren’t ashamed to challenge people with more mitzvot, middot, learning, knowledge or experience – which covers pretty much everything that’s happening online, and in the world today generally, one way or another.
  • They are the ‘brazen-faced’ of the generation – which is always a scriptural ‘code-word’ for the Erev Rav. (My book, Unlocking the Secret of the Erev Rav, contains a lot more information and background supporting this point. You can buy it on Amazon, and also on the Book Depository.)

So now, what can we learn about the ‘soldiers of the House of David’, i.e. the good guys that are going to bring Moshiach and help Am Yisrael get redeemed via their struggles and efforts?

They help the true Tzaddikim.

In World War II, Switzerland liked to make a big show of its famous ‘neutrality’. Really, they were in the Germans’ back pocket, and were happy to stow away as much stolen wealth, artworks and museum pieces as the Germans could send them, in return for being left alone and not officially invaded.

World War II showed Switzerland’s true moral colors, despite all its posturing of impartiality and ‘not taking sides’, and they weren’t pretty.

Today, I think many of us are trying to follow the Swiss template in the war of Gog and Magog, and to sit on the sidelines keeping out of the action and continuing to live the good life, while our Tzaddikim and the other good people in our midst get taken out by the ‘soldiers of Gog and Magog’.

  • Like the soldier who killed a terrorist in Hevron, and got sent to prison for 9 years to show how ‘just’ Israel is to the rest of the world…
  • Like the IDF Rabbi who is being hounded in the press for correctly stating what halacha is, and correctly quoting the Torah…
  • Like Rav Berland, and others, who have been hounded, persecuted, chased and vilified for years, by people who are anti-Torah and anti-God.

You want to be Switzerland?

Go right ahead – I’m sure that wherever those Swiss bankers ended up, there’s always room for more people to join them.

But if you want to really bring Moshiach and the geula, then you’re going to have to fight for them.

You’re going to have to throw your hat in the ring with the ‘soldiers of King David’, and start sticking up for God and his Torah and his Tzaddikim, even when it’s really uncomfortable or scary to do that.

The Vilna Gaon famously wrote about the Erev Rav that we have to split off from them, and not follow their path and their ways. And that if someone didn’t manage to do that – i.e., they wanted to continue being ‘Switzerland’, spiritually – then it would be better for them if they’d never been born.

All week, we’ve been seeing the latest episode of ‘Gog and Magog’ playing out in the world. On one side, Rav Berland, Rav Shalom Arush, Rav Dov Kook, Rav David Abuchatzeira and a bunch more Tzaddikim (both known and more ‘hidden’). On the other: the press, and the government, and the mocking, slanderous, emotionally-abusive people who like to jump in and comment on things they know nothing about.

I think it’s getting clearer and clearer which side is the ‘soldiers of Gog and Magog’ and which side is the ‘soldiers of King David’.

And the war is still going on.

If you want Moshiach and redemption, help our true Tzaddikim! Get up and be counted. Don’t let the soldiers of Gog and Magog completely dominate the battlefield.

There’s big things at stake here. ‘Switzerland’ can’t exist in a world that’s only truth. But remember, the main weapon of a Jew is prayer. If it’s too scary to take on the crazy lunatics in the world, then at least start praying for the good guys to win, or give some tzedaka to the people who are waging the war on our behalf.

Start saying Tikkun HaKlali. Start talking to God every day. Start rooting out the ‘soldiers of Gog and Magog’ that are hiding out inside every single one of us. Do your bit!

And if you – and me, and as many other people as possible out there in the world – do that, then good will win out sooner rather than later, Moshiach will come now, and the war of Gog and Magog will finally be over.

A couple of weeks’ back, my husband told me that he’d heard rumors that another massive prayer rally was being organized in Hevron for the 4th of July (this Monday night).

At that time, I was a little puzzled: things had been pretty quiet in Israel for a good few months already, since the last time Rav Berland asked for a prayer rally in Hevron.

The following day after that prayer rally, there was the huge terrorist attack in Belgium – but things in Israel suddenly (and miraculously….) quietened down.

And it stayed quiet for months. Until a couple of weeks’ back when Arab terrorists shot up the café in Tel Aviv, killing four people.

Hmm.

Last week, a last minute message went around that they were holding an impromptu prayer gathering at the Kotel ahead of Rav Berland’s court hearing in South Africa, which would have hopefully seen the Rav returning back to Eretz Yisrael, bringing geula with him (as stated by a number of tzadikim and kabbalists, including Rav Dovid Kook).

Hmm. That’s strange, I thought to myself.

Why have a prayer gathering now, plus another one next week in Hevron, after the hearing?

A few days’ later, things are already in much clearer focus. The South African judge refused to free Rav Berland – and that same day 13 year old Hallel was stabbed to death by an Arab terrorist who broke into her home in Kiryat Arba and murdered her in her own bedroom.

You could literally feel the heaviness in the air after that news broke, because it was bad enough that it happened. More than bad enough. But what made it worse is that it felt like it’s all kicking off again.

A little later, there was another stabbing attack in Netanya, with two wounded.

Motzash, I found out the terrible news that there had been another shooting in the Har Hevron hills again, killing a father of 10 and badly wounding his wife, and also injuring two kids.

By this stage of the game, it seems like all we can do is pray for God to turn things around and have mercy on us, because it’s becoming clearer each day that the terror doesn’t stop because of anything the Government is doing to help us: it’s all spiritual.

When Am Yisrael makes more collective teshuva, the terror stops. When we backslide, it starts again.

The point is, that this time last week I really had no idea why Berland had called for a prayer rally tomorrow in Hevron. I mean, the terrorism stopped! It’s been quiet for months! Who’s going to show up, Monday? These were all the things that I thought.

Now, I can see yet again how the real Tzaddikim in our midst can literally predict the future. It seems obvious that Rav Berland knew that the terrorism was going to start again, and he prepared the ‘balm’ – i.e. the prayer rally – before the blow.

This whole year it’s been unchartered waters. On the one hand, the stage seemed set for Moshiach to show up at the beginning of the year. But as the days have turned into weeks and then months, and things don’t seem to have changed it’s hard to know what’s going on, or even to guess about what’s around the corner.

At least, for me.

But not for the first time, the events of the last few days have proven yet again that when you’re a Tzaddik of Rav Berland’s calibre, you really can predict the future. Just as the Rav stated there would be a third intifada when everything was quiet – and no-one listened – seems he knew the Arab violence would flare up again this week, too.

When someone has the sort of track record for accurately predicting the future that Rav Berland has, maybe we should start to listen him about other things, too? Like the fact that Moshiach is only going to come when we actually stop obsessing over things like Nibiru and start to focus on clearing up our bad middot instead?

Or, that the only reason he had to go into exile in such shameful circumstances was because there was an outstanding Heavenly decree giving Iran permission to nuke Eretz Yisrael, unless something was done pronto to change it?

Rav Berland left more than three years’ ago now.

Many people, including some of our leading kabbalists, have been telling us for more than year that Iran already has a nuclear weapon. Have you stopped to ask yourself what’s preventing them from using it, or why Iran’s nuclear bomb has stopped making front-page news recently, when it’s been a staple feature of Israeli news for the last decade or so?

Have you wondered WHY the arabs stopped trying to stab us for a few months, or why they haven’t started blowing up buses again, or using their tunnels, or sending rockets over from Gaza and Lebanon again?

What’s stopping them?

If you think it’s something the government or the army is doing, then you clearly don’t live in Israel.

Doesn’t it strike you as weird that the very same day the Rav’s return to Israel got pushed off again, the Arab terrorism kicked off again?

Our teshuva (or lack of it…)  is what’s making all the difference, together with the mesirut Nefesh of our Tzaddikim, like Rav Berland, who has been sitting in a dregs-of-the-earth prison in South Africa for the last three months just to atone for our sins, while people who should know better continue to slander him all over the internet.

It’s a strange world we live in, that when autistic Jews start predicting the end of the world and ‘death stars’ that we all sit up and listen, and give them maximum respect and attention. But that when a Gadol HaDor tells us that our lack of Teshuva, and the terrible things we’re doing online, is bringing down one harsh decree after another, forcing him into exile to try and fix the problem – no-one wants to know.

Waiiiit a minute: this man isn’t autistic!!! How could he possibly be able to predict the future just by learning Torah 24/7, sacrificing himself repeatedly for Am Yisrael, and taking on all sorts of terrible things upon himself, including being falsely accused and slandered all over the world?

But at this stage, Rav Berland’s track record is so much more compelling than the autistics, and also much more hopeful: Do Teshuva, and everything will turn out fine. And Teshuva doesn’t have to be a big deal, even: just look for the good in yourself and others, stop speaking badly about people, and instead, start talking to God every day.

And that way, Nibiru will stop being a problem. The Arabs will stop killing Jews. And we’ll finally get what we’re telling everyone we really want:

Moshiach, redemption and an end to the madness.

Drone view of a city

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do YOU think about it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rebbe Nachman also tells us:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But you know why that is, don’t you?

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

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

So, what did I read in Likutey Moharan, that helped me to start to get more of a correct Jewish perspective on the whole meditation thing?

I opened up randomly to Part I:78, and this is what I read:

 “Where do Jewish souls come from? – From the world of speech…

Jewish souls come from the world of speech…

Now, speech is an aspect of Malchut / Kingship, as Elijah said: ‘Malchut is the mouth.’ It is also an aspect of the Divine presence, which always dwells with [us], without a moment’s interruption….

When one unifies speech with God… then, “God’s glory will be revealed,”… the radiance of His presence, which is an aspect of the Malchut, is revealed and enhanced.”

 

WHAT THIS MEANS, TACHLIS:

Jews can’t just spend hours in silent meditation or mindfulness. We need to SPEAK (i.e., talk to God, confess what’s going on in our lives, what we’re struggling with, what help you need.) Just meditating on a leaf for 13 hours is NOT the path of a Jewish soul.

I already started to feel better, as I could see that there was at least one reason why the whole ‘silent meditation’ thing really isn’t the Jewish way. Jews believe in the power of prayer; we know that God spoke the world into creation, and that speech is what differentiates us from the animals.

I think Jews are the only people who teach that evil speech, gossip, mockery and slander can do even more damage than physical violence or abuse. That’s because we know the spiritual power of speech – and we now that an hour spent TALKING / PRAYING to God can achieve some amazing things.

And what’s more, Rav Arush teaches that speaking to God is the single best measure of how much you really believe in Him.

If you talk to God – it’s a sign you believe in Him. If you don’t – the opposite.

But there was more.

In the same lesson (I:78), Rebbe Nachman also teaches:

 

“One lives only by breathing. But what is the breath? One exhales and inhales ruach (air)…When a person is bonded to the holy Malchut, speaking Torah or prayer, one exhales and inhales the spirit of holiness (ruach hakodesh)…

When one studies Torah…then the ‘spirit of God’, which is ruach hakodesh, ‘hovers’ above a person and one draws the spirit of life from it.

This is because without Torah, one cannot live….

Therefore, ‘The wicked are considered dead even while alive’ (Brakhot 18b), for since the cord of holiness has been cut, from where can he draw life? Rather, he draws a spirit of foolishness [evil].”

 

(As an aside, it never ceases to amaze me how I always get directed to just the right lesson in Likutey Moharan. Definitely try this for yourself at home, if you haven’t already.)

WHAT THIS MEANS, TACHLIS:

There is nothing ‘neutral’ in the world. If a Jew is doing ‘breathwork’ and focusing on their breathing etc – but failing to bind themselves to Torah, and failing to attach their breathing to God, then they are effectively attaching themselves to the opposite force in the world, i.e., the forces of evil, and the yetzer hara.

No wonder I was feeling so uncomfortable!

God has to be in the whole process right from the beginning, because otherwise every breath we’re taking is just attaching us more and more to the side of darkness and ‘no-God’, God forbid.

But there was still more.

In Lesson I:79, Rebbe Nachman says the following:

 

“The rule is that each individual must see to it that he is not an obstacle to the coming of the Messiah. In other words, one must repent fully and rectify one’s actions.”

 

WHAT THIS MEANS, TACHLIS:

Any practice we’re engaged in, however ‘spiritual’ it may be, that doesn’t encourage us and enable us to identify the things we’re doing wrong, identify our negative emotions, bad middot and unhealthy habits, beliefs and behaviors, and to fix them, is SLOWING UP THE REDEMPTION OF THE WHOLE WORLD.

So for example, meditation/ mindfulness that’s devoid of any self-introspection and / or teshuva is at best a waste of time.

By contrast, truly Jewish meditation and mindfulness (i.e., hitbodedut or talking to God) accomplishes the following spiritual outcomes:

1) It’s SPEECH (i.e. verbalised prayer) not thought, which rectifies the root of the Jewish soul, which comes from the world of speech. (This is also connected to the idea of why Jews need to say their blessings out loud).

2) It binds us to God with every breath (ruach haKodesh), as opposed to binding us to the opposite of God with every breath, God-forbid.

3) It encourages us to work on our middot – and working on our middot is the ONLY way Moshiach is going to come.

 

As always, there’s so much more to say about this. But let’s end with this idea:

If you have an hour, or half an hour, or even five minutes to spend on some form of spiritual practise, then hitbodedut, or talking to God unquestionably gives you the best bang for your buck.

Yes, it’s nice to be a raindrop, or to listen to birds chirping, but when you’re an active partner with Hashem, working on rectifying the world and your part in it, nothing else comes close.

Rebbe Nachman was right again. And not for the first time, I’ve learned a very big lesson about searching for ‘truth’ anywhere outside Yiddishkeit. It may look like a duck, and quack like a duck and walk like a duck, but really – it’s still just a kosher pig.

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

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

  • Yoga
  • Healthy food
  • Meditation

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

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

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

So that leaves us with meditation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who was right?

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

One of my favorite Rebbe Nachman stories is ‘The Master of Prayer’, which tells the story of a King and his 9 advisors, and how they all get lost and separated from each other as a result of a raging storm-wind.

In the story, each of the 10 lost members of the King’s court becomes the King (or Queen) of a different, misguided faction, until they are reunited. One misguided faction decides that sex is the main point of life; another, that fine food is the goal; yet another, that wisdom is the key thing to pursue.

And then there’s the inhabitants of the Land of Money, who are so obsessed with money that they literally worship the wealthiest members of their land as ‘stars’ and ‘gods’, while treating the poorer inhabitants as lowly animals. In the Land of Money, how much bling you’re flashing around, how many zeros you have in the bank, that’s the only thing that counts, and that’s the only measure of success.

Most of the story revolves around the Master of Prayer’s attempts to rescue the inhabitants of the Land of Money from their delusions, and to reunite the King’s lost advisors – both of which he ultimately accomplishes.

In the story, Rebbe Nachman explains that the lust for money is the hardest one to overcome.

Elsewhere, he brings that Pesach is the festival that comes to rectify the lust for money. Which is where things now start to dove-tail in a pretty neat way, because we all know that Pesach is always just SO expensive.

Even if you live in Israel, and you’re not going crazy trying to find Kosher for Passover plasticware in triple-sealed bags, Pesach still costs money. The matzahs aren’t cheap; the wine isn’t cheap; you need a seder plate, different pots, different plates – it’s all money. And never mind if you’re staying in a hotel in Israel for the holiday. And never mind double if you’re trying to celebrate it in Chut L’Aretz.

Why is this?

One reason could well be that all the expense of Pesach is coming to rectify the lust for wealth, that has so many people in its grip these days.

So it was fitting that I learned the following things last week: I learned that someone who owns a company with a huge £25 million annual turnover (and £6 million gross annual profit) gives an enormous £1,000 to charity a year. (Let me translate this into shekels, for any non-Brits reading this: £6 million = 36 million shekels. £1k = 6,000 shekels)

To put it another way, they’re giving 1/6000 of their annual income to charity.

Can you imagine the embarrassment of these people, when they get up to Heaven and God starts asking them about their business dealings (which is always the first question, as God also knows how to schmooze)? First, it’ll be that puffed-up, super-successful ‘I’m a billionaire’ answer; then, God will hit them with the ‘and how much did you give to charity, from all your millions of pounds?’

And that’s when it’ll hit them: nowhere near enough.

What an embarrassment!

This week, I also met a bunch of people from the UK, some of whom asked me the standard opening gambit question of:

‘Am I working now?’

I said no – proudly – and explained that I’m writing books about holistic health instead.

They immediately changed the subject to something more interesting and meaningful, i.e. the luxury flat they’re currently building, as home number three.

I waited to see if I was going to get that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that used to happen when I’d walk into some of the ‘superior’ and ‘financially successful’ minefields laid out all over the place in London. But you know what? It didn’t come! After waiting a few minutes for any delayed reaction, I realized that I’d finally got out of the Land of Money, and that I didn’t give a stuff that I’d failed the finances test.

I’ve seen so many people with so much more money than me, in so many different circumstances and places, this Pesach.

I used to feel a little jealous about the apparent ‘easy life’ they seemed to have, but now I’ve realized something profound that’s changed the whole picture: When you live in the Land of Money, you’re far away from God.

Until and unless that changes, it doesn’t matter how much cash you’ve stashed, how big your mansion is, or how impressive your annual turnover is, when it comes down to the things that really make life meaningful, happy and fulfilling, you’re still pulling a big, fat ZERO.