Geula (or some spell it ‘Geulah’) is the Jewish term for the spiritual redemption of the Jewish people, which will occur at the end of days.

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  • Geula and Geulah
  • Geulah Meaning
  • Geula Blog
  • Geula Definition
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  • Meaning of Geula

A few years’ ago, me and my husband got burned by three ‘big’ rabbis in a row.

Each one was a ‘name’, each one was connected to Breslov, each one left an indelible imprint on our lives – and eventually, we discovered that each one was a ‘false rabbi’. One of them started up a sadna that was based on the opposite of Torah and Breslov principles  – particularly the principle of Azamra, or seeing the good especially in yourself – which my husband attended a few short months after his dad unexpectedly died.

My husband was in a particularly vulnerable place at that stage, and his dad’s passing had left him with a lot of unresolved issues. This sadna was billed as ‘the answer’ to all of life’s questions, and this big, Breslov rabbi was behind so it seemed like a great idea.

When my husband got this big Breslov rabbi as his personal mentor, we thought ‘wow, what an honor!’ Six weeks’ in, my husband really, really wanted to switch mentors, and I wouldn’t let him. I thought it was just his ego, and that this ‘big Breslov rabbi’ was heaven-sent to help us both grow and progress.

Man, was I wrong. That guy completely messed my husband up, severely messed up my shalom bayit (for years!) by telling my husband that he ‘lacked manliness’ and left us in a place where my husband was profoundly disliking himself and everyone else, too.

That set the stage for false rabbi #2 to step in.

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As a result of false rabbi #1, we started to think that so many of our relationships were unhealthy and toxic. We asked rabbi #2 what to do about all these poisonous, unhealthy, distressing relationships – and he told us to cut off contact and ‘challenge’ everyone on their flaws.

(Again, the polar opposite of the ‘Azamra’ approach).

Within a few short months, we were almost completely friendless and so very, very lonely. Still, I had no idea that all these rabbis weren’t the real deal, didn’t have ruach hakodesh and were actually no more clued up about my life and what I should be doing in it than I was myself.

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Around this same time, false rabbi #3 started giving a whole bunch of classes about how people with emuna shouldn’t work for a living (without telling his class that his wife was slaving away at a full-time job in order to support his family….)

At that point, my husband was so miserable, and so desperate for things to feel better, he decided he needed to show God how much emuna he had by quitting the job that he’d also come to hate. He told this ‘rabbi’ his plan – and instead of talking him out of it, the guy egged him on!

So he quit.

And six months later, we had to sell our house to pay the bills, which segued into a whole, incredibly difficult few years that Baruch Hashem we finally started to come out of a couple of years’ back.

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At the time all this was happening, we had no clue that all three of these ‘rabbis’ weren’t so good for us.

All these false rabbis knew more Torah than us, they all had impeccable credentials, they all looked the part and talked the talk.

But following their advice left our life in tatters, and came pretty close to permanently sinking my faith in humanity.

Within two short weeks of asking Hashem to show us who the real Tzaddikim in the world really were, all these ‘false rabbis’ got unmasked – at least in our eyes – one after another. Which was a good thing, because we finally had clarity, but also a ‘bad’ thing, inasmuch as my desire to ‘out’ them and to tell everyone else about them was so overwhelming, I almost set up a website devoted to doing just that.

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What stopped me was a visit to Rabbi Arush.

Without us saying the names or any identifying details of the rabbis who had burned us so badly, we could see that Rav Arush knew exactly what we were talking about. He told my husband he wasn’t crazy for thinking what he was thinking – three times – and then told my husband – again three times – to just have patience.

Things would sort themselves out, eventually.

Again, this was clearly advice from a true tzaddik, but at the time it took so much effort to calm down and follow it. I was so full of vengeance! I was so angry! I was so disgusted! Today, I thank God a hundred times a day for Rav Arush and his advice, and that Hashem helped us to actually follow it.

Because after doing a good couple of years’ hitbodedut on the whole subject of ‘false rabbis’ I’ve realized that while it would be SOOO easy to blame all my problems and my difficulties on them, in reality, God was behind everything that happened to us, and we certainly deserved everything we went through.

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It’s human nature to want the short-cut, to want the easy life.

The idea that I can find a ‘rabbi’ who will tell me what to do, and how to think, and how to act and decide all the difficult details of my life – and it’ll then all turn out perfect all the time – is overwhelmingly appealing to most people, especially in our generation, when we’re so beset by inner turmoil and huge doubts, anxieties and fears.

But Hashem only created us in order for us to get to know Him, and to exercise our free choice. So when we try to give our free choice away to another person – even if that person is genuinely a tzaddik and amazing in all respects – that’s only going to lead to trouble, one way or another.

Whatever ‘reed’ we rely on, that is not Hashem, is destined to splinter in our hands.

When it came to our three false rabbis, each one was reflecting our own prejudices and problems, in some way. That’s why we liked them so much. One of them was basically telling us that our lives were entirely in our hands, and that all it took to fix everything was ‘clarity and willpower’. God was effectively out the picture.

Another one was basically telling us that the way to deal with whatever and whoever we didn’t like was simply to cut them out of the picture and pretend they didn’t exist – even though God had sent them into our lives for an express purpose. We had a lot of teshuva we needed to make and that’s why we had all these difficult people mirroring our own difficulties back at us in such a disturbing way.

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Again, cutting these ‘messengers’ out of the picture the way we did was effectively cutting God out the picture.

Another one was playing to our false sense of piety, and reflecting back at us our (false…) inner conviction that a) we were on a high enough spiritual level to be sustained economically with no effort other than prayer and b) God somehow ‘owed’ us an easy, good life for doing all this extra, super-duper pious stuff. Again, we liked this guy initially because he was telling us what we wanted to hear.

And so it is with all these false rabbis.

They tell us what we want to hear, they play to our prejudices, they promise us shortcuts in our spiritual work, if only we follow them and throw our ability to choose for ourselves away.

And then when it all goes wrong, they go AWOL and / or tell us it was all our fault, anyway.

And on some level, they’re actually right, because we are all responsible for our own actions and our own decisions.

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You went ahead and married the guy? Stop blaming the matchmaking for forcing you into it.

You went ahead and quit your job? Stop blaming your friend for talking you into it.

You went ahead and made a really terrible business investment? Stop blaming the person who made the introduction.

This is the lesson I had to learn – the hard way – for myself. We chose to start blaming other people for our problems. We chose to listen to people who told us to cut ourselves from everyone else. We chose to try to live on prayer alone.

Ultimately, the buck stops with us.

There is no-one else to blame, and no-one else to point the finger at.

Understanding that is key to moving past the hurt and betrayal caused by all these false rabbis, so that we can get to the next stage of the process called: how to trust again.

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A little while back, when I was talking to God about how One in a Generation, the biography of Rav Eliezer Berland, seemed to have gotten permanently stuck, I got the following insight:

That book can only come out with a lot of shaflut (lowliness) and humility.

Aha! So now I understood the problem: I was still far too full of myself and patting myself on the back for writing the book, and that was the main spiritual issue holding it up. But how to resolve that problem? (Because let’s be clear, working on these bad middot takes years and years and years…)

God gave me another insight:

“Rivka, I am going to send you people to diss you day and night, until the book sees the light of day!”

Great, thanks Hashem!

And you know what? He’s kept His word.

The last month, barely a day has gone past without someone having a go at me either in person, on the phone, via text or online.

One of my kids has been particularly good at dishing out the shaflut in person- her recent PTA meeting was one of the most humbling experiences of the type I’ve had, BH – but she’s by no means the only person drenching me in these ‘dissing diamonds’.

One time, I got chewed out so badly – and so unexpectedly – that I sat on the couch shaking for a full hour after the conversation (which if you follow spiritualselfhelp.org, you’ll know is the body’s natural response to ‘shaking out’ the trauma, so you don’t get PTSD or C-PTSD).

Yes, it was that bad.

There’s also been a flurry of people queuing up to diss my writing, too, and my general lack of editorial professionalism. And then there’s been a few sent along to diss my overall grasp of reality and good judgment.

And that’s on top of all my ongoing, bog standard shaflut that comes from earning zero pence whilst working like a dog; being a really bad housewife; and still being unable to express myself properly in the local makolet (corner shop).

Man, it’s been a veritable dissing extravaganza the last few weeks, with the diamonds literally pouring in through the roof!

And you know what?

It’s working.

Yesterday, on zot Chanuka, I sent the manuscript for Volume 1 of One in a Generation to the designer, and I already know that for this part of the process to get completed in a timely way with minimal issues, I am going to have to continue to be dissed royally for at least the next month.

And that’s even before the book comes out, which let’s be clear, is going to lead to yet another huge ‘diss Rivka’ event on Facebook etc, as the usual suspects gear themselves up for more self-righteous, confused-thinking evil speech.

Yay! I can’t wait.

The upside of all this dissing is that I am definitely seeing a huge number of brachas occurring in a number of areas of my life, just as Rav Berland said would happen.

The downside is that I’m really starting to go off interacting with people, and the thought of retiring to some remote island with no internet connection – or people – is getting more and more appealing.

How to square this circle?

Enter, Rav Ofer Erez, who wrote this great article on his website, last week:

“We have to remember that Yosef was just 18 years old when he was sent to prison. Usually, when something much smaller happens to us – if just two people don’t treat us so nicely we immediately start believing that everyone’s a liar, everyone’s a fraud and there’s no such thing as a good person – i.e. we immediately lose our faith in humanity, and become bitter, angry and harshly judgmental of others….

“For 12 whole years, Yosef worked on this point, that he shouldn’t become angry, bitter and harshly judgmental against other people, inasmuch as everything came from Hashem, and was ultimately for his good.

“…How can a person merit to avoid any trace of harsh judgment and anger? This is called the secret of dancing.

“We need to know that if people are making us angry, or hurting us, then just doing hitbodedut (personal prayer) isn’t going to be enough. We also need to dance during our hitbodedut, and to do at least 8 minutes of dancing.”

Aha!

Just what I needed to know, because while I am still trying to understand the deeper reasons behind why so many people are chewing me out, and while I am still trying to forgive them and to not hold a grudge against them, it’s sooooo hard to do this in practice!

Especially the times when I know I don’t deserve it, and the person is actually just projecting their own issues on to me. (I wish I could tell you that’s always the case, but clearly I often do deserve being dissed, because I’m not always nice, or thoughtful, or considerate of other people.)

So today, I was careful to dance for a full 8 minutes, as recommended by Rav Ofer, and it really did help.

If I’m going to get ‘dissing diamonds’ raining down on my head, let me at least have buns of steel.

We’re all just kind of sitting here holding our collective breath, aren’t we?

What will be with Syria, Lebanon and Iran?

What will be with Trump?

What will be with all these horrible misconduct scandals that believe me, are only the tip of the iceberg and are only going to snowball with day that passes?

The dam that’s been holding all the ‘bad’ together for decades – maybe for centuries, even – is finally starting to burst, and while the wicked people in the world are scrambling to try and stick as many fingers in as many dykes as they can, things are really starting to crumble all over the place, far more than is obvious from the headlines.

So many of us are having our moment of truth at the moment.

For this one, it’s a serious illness, God forbid, for that one, the death of a relative, for this one a divorce, for that one a child going off the derech, for this one money problems, for that one mental health issues, for this one, it’s being publicly revealed as someone with incredibly bad judgment, for that one, it’s being publicly revealed as someone with incredibly bad middot.

Whatever we’ve been building for ourselves, spiritually, over the last few years is really starting to be dragged out into the daylight, for everyone to see.

Whatever stuff we’ve been trying to hide away is now being publicly exposed, and the strangest thing about the whole process is that the biggest smoking guns are being fired by the nasty people themselves.

So many people have become so brazen about their funny ideas, their bad middot and their nasty behavior that increasingly, they’re doing and saying things that are so out there, so bizarre, so obviously problematic that it kind of boggles the mind, a little.

Here’s just one example:

Someone who is clearly dripping malice and hatred from every pore, starts telling you a whole bunch of disgusting, hateful things about everyone else, and then tries to claim that they bear no will, have no grudges against anyone, and are simply acting for the good of humanity.

And they really believe what they’re saying, 100%! And they get very upset when they finally realize that they haven’t impressed you with what a wonderful human being they really are – and then they start abusing you, too!

Here’s another example: A very judgmental, superior, rude and small-minded person pops up in your social media network with the announcement that they will be giving a sensitivity training seminar soon, to tackle the huge problem of judgmental, superior, rude and small-minded people.

Like, really?

The mind boggles.

Yet this kind of bizarre ‘self-outing’ is happening all over the place at the moment, as God continues to turn the heat up on humanity, and we all get to see what’s really inside of us, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Here’s why all this is really good:

Finally facing the truth is what’s going to get us to the geula, to redemption.

Every man and woman who puts their hand up, admits they aren’t perfect, who learns some humility, who says sorry, who starts to include God a whole lot more in everything – those people are doing everything they need to be doing to bring the geula, even if they remain deeply flawed. (Join the club…)

Over on the new ofererez.com website, there’s a really good article called ‘Snapping out of Denial’ that says the following:

“Rabbi Tzadok Ha-Cohen from Lublin teaches that God doesn’t judge us for having bad middot (traits), lusts and desires. These are all a part of who we are and how we were created. They are precisely the reason that we came down to this world, so we can fix them.

“But, he says that a person brings harsh judgment down upon himself  when he doesn’t introspect and recognize his own bad midot and lusts.”

We get judged for pretending to be perfect, not for acknowledging our imperfections.

And right now, we’re all getting the chance to acknowledge our imperfections every minute of the day, as God is increasingly throwing them in our face and publicizing them.

There’s nowhere to run – except to God.

There’s nowhere to hide.

Who you are – who I am, who we all really are – is going to continue to become more and more obvious. If the outside you is already recognizing your inside dimension truthfully, this process is minimally painful and actually very constructive.

But if not?

There will be many more exploding reputations occurring from this point on. But also a few nice surprises, as the ‘hidden tzaddikim’ walking around in our midst start to become more and more revealed.

And then….geula.

Yesterday morning (Shabbat morning) I woke up feeling pretty icky about the world, and my life generally.

I had that feeling like ‘nothing ever changes’, ‘nothing is EVER GOING TO change…’, doesn’t matter what I do, say, try, pray on – it’s never going to change.

I’ve had that feeling, on and off, for years and years, and last year I spent around six months doing some major teshuva and inner work to try and get rid of it. And BH, for the last few months I’ve generally been feeling much happier and more optimistic.

But yesterday I woke up with it again, and my stomach sank. Not this again. Not this horrible, soul-destroying, heavy feeling that no matter what I do, say, try, or pray on, I’m just going to be dealing with the same old rubbish FOREVER, until I die.

In short, I was having a massive yetzer attack.

So I decided to try to fight back by doing a long talking to God session. I don’t have the koach to do six hours at the moment, so I aimed for four hours, pulled on my winter boots, and set out for the Kotel.

I took the longer way round, up the side of the Guy ben Hinnom valley where they just built a new walkway for pedestrians to reduce your chances of getting squashed by a bus, and it was cool, half-wet and pretty quiet.

As I walked and talked, the same idea kept coming up: “I’m stuck. I’m completely stuck. There’s nothing I can do to change things or improve things, I’m completely stuck.”

A lot of this has to do with the house buying situation I’m in still. Even though Jerusalem’s housing market seems to finally be cooling down, the prices being asked in our neighborhood are still ridiculously too much for anyone who’s not a millionaire to reasonably pay.

So anyway, all this ‘stuck-ness’ just kind of bubbled up again, and I started to feel so much despair that after all this time, I still don’t have an answer in sight, or a solutions to my problem, or a way to progress.

I sat at the Kotel trying to talk to God about it all, but kept getting distracted by non-Jewish ‘pilgrims’ with their massive i-phones and cameras, who figured that wrapping a see-thru scarf around their short shorts was modest enough for Judaism’s holiest site on a Shabbos morning.

I couldn’t help staring and then started pondering why so many fat women wear such short skirts, etc, which kind of put paid to any deeper exploration for why I was feeling so ‘off’. So I came home again, still feeling stuck and dissatisfied.

I ate lunch with the family, read some Likutey Moharan, had a Shabbos shluff (which I normally never do, and which is normally always a sign that I’m feeling pretty miserable and overwhelmed by life.)

My one consolation is that I know I’m not alone. From what I can see, so many of us feel that we’re stuck in a problem, or a situation, that we no longer have the strength to deal with, but which doesn’t seem to be going away or ending, anytime soon.

That’s part of the test of this time, this generation.

To carry on, even though it frequently seems so pointless or meaningless, even though the ‘big change’ we’re waiting for doesn’t seem to be showing up, even though life feels like such a drag so much of the time.

And to do it happily.

That’s the part that’s really challenging, isn’t it? To accept God’s will, and God’s dominion, and to accept that as much as we may want ‘X’, ‘X’ may not be God’s plan for us and our lives, or at least, not right now.

It’s really, really hard work.

There’s so much yeoush in the world at the moment, so much despair. Talk to anyone for any length of time, and it comes peeping out around the corners of whatever else they happen to be talking about.

But things surely have to turn around soon!

We just have to keep believing that, and praying for it to happen.

And also, accepting that if it doesn’t happen, or at least, not now, or not the way we really want, that somehow that’s also good for us, and just the way it needs to be.

Is it just me, or is there a feeling floating around the world that humanity has kind of gone as far as we can really go, at the moment, in our current paradigm?

When I was walking around London’s West End a few weeks’ ago, I was struck by how empty everything felt. The shops were full of unwearable clothes, the streets were full of unfriendly, stressed people who’d rather stab a fork into their own eyeball than smile at a stranger. The whole city just felt kind of tired and drained, like it had no more energy, no more ideas, no more koach (strength).

There’s a saying that when you’re tired of London, you’re tired of life. My twist on that is that when London itself feels tired to you, then the world really must be staggering around on its last legs.

But while it’s SO different in Jerusalem, in so many ways, there’s also that tired feeling going on here, too.

So many shops closing down. So many unsold luxury flats. So many people hanging on to emuna and hope with their fingernails, praying that things are going to turn around soon.

This year is still so young, but Hashem kind of already showed me that in so many ways, I’ve gone as far as I can go under the current circumstances. To put things another way – I’m all out of energy these days. If things don’t come super easy, as mamash a gift from Heaven, then really they aren’t going to come at all.

Because I can’t nag any more, I can’t ‘focus’ anymore, some days I can’t read my own emails anymore, I often can’t even really try anymore, not even for the really big important stuff like Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

Rosh Hashana happened in a sort of blur, because I had my London-bound nervous breakdown a few days beforehand.

Then Yom Kippur also happened in even more of a blur, as I had my ‘shiva on speed’ for three days in Liverpool where I barely ate, barely slept and spent the whole time burning through whatever supplies of adrenaline I still had left.

Dear reader, I mostly slept through Yom Kippur, and I barely prayed. Not only that, the only time I tried to pray with the community on Kol Nidrei night, I was in such a bad mood I honestly nearly punched someone in the face when they shoved me out of their way.

What a great start to the year!

We all know that before Moshiach shows up, the Gemara tells us that one trouble won’t end before the next one already begins. My first post-Yom Kippur text was from a friend telling me their dad had just passed away. Then on Sunday, I got an email from the evil lawyers suing me for using a picture of Rav Berland on my site telling me that they ‘only’ want 5,000 shekels (which my husband decided to agree, to get it finished with.)

Then my husband got a message from his accountant that we had to start paying 6,000 shekels more a month in tax!!! I mean, are you kidding??

(Thank God, it turns out he’d got his figures wrong, so we do need to pay more tax, but not that much, BH.)

So then, I started looking for a job – and realized (again…) that I’m completely unemployable in Israel, as my spoken Hebrew sucks so badly and I can’t write speeches or copy for people or things I don’t really believe in (which at this stage, is pretty much anyone or anything who actually has the cash to pay for this stuff.)

Then I heard some more shockingly disturbing news from someone else I’m acquainted with, got yet another ‘my parent just died unexpectedly’ email – and decided that I really just want to run away from it all and pull the duvet over my head until Moshiach shows up.

Let’s not even talk about the Vegas massacre, let’s not even mention the crazy geophysical phenomena going on, let’s not even dwell on the fact that my husband’s mother only passed away a week ago, but it already feels like a million years passed.

On top of all this, Jerusalem City Hall decided to dig up the beautiful garden by my flat, which means there is no parking to be had anywhere, plus a load of dust and noise – and now it’s also nearly Sukkot which means the seasonal traffic jams around the Old City are at their peak.

It took me half an hour of very slow circling around my neighborhood to find somewhere to park just now, and by the end of it all I just felt so tired and exhausted.

I know that last thing is really nothing, shtuyot. But so many of those ‘every day’ moments seem to be falling into the ‘draining and soul-destroying’ category right now that it’s all contributing to the sense that modern life has just got too hard, too stressful, too heavy, too difficult to process internally, to continue on like this.

Ad matai, Hashem?

The short answer is: until Moshiach comes.

But when is that going to happen?

Is living in Israel the only thing that really counts for God?

Recently, I’ve been increasingly niggled by this question. On the one hand, it’s clear that life in Israel is operating within a whole different spiritual dimension, and that a person’s emuna and Jewish identity can blossom here in a way that it really can’t do, in most normal circumstances, anywhere else.

At the same time, Israel is still home to some of the craziest, nastiest, ickiest Jews I’ve ever met. It’s a place of contrasts, a place of extremes, because the good and the holy is so palpable and tangible here, the bad and the profane has to also be at sky-high levels to maintain free choice.

So, the question remains: is being in Israel a guarantee that ‘you’ll make it’, whatever that actually means, when the chaos currently enveloping the world finally hits tipping point?

And then there’s a second, no less pressing, question: is being out of Israel a guarantee that ‘you won’t make it’, God forbid?

I know that so many of us who made aliya over the last decade or so were prompted by the thought that our chances of ‘making it’, whatever that means, would be much higher in Eretz Yisrael.

But then came the intifada…and Lebanon II…and rockets from Gaza…and more rockets from Gaza…and then the threat of the Iranian nuke, which kind of started to rock the certainty of who was going to make it, where…

Now, the pendulum appears to have swung back again, with Islamic terrorism across Europe, black fascists and white fascists slugging it out in the US, and wildfires, earthquakes, floods, Harveys and Irmas stirring everything up all over the place.

So who’s going to ‘make it’? (Whatever that means…)

And does it only depend on where a person lives?

You’ll probably be reading this when I’m in the UK for three days, trying to finally get my soul unstuck from the streets of London. (Note to robbers: The rest of my family is staying at home, so don’t even think about it.)

When I step off the plane at Luton airport, does that instantly turn me into a person who ‘couldn’t make it’, God forbid, because now I’m in the wrong place? Or would God have mercy on me, and still find a way to spirit me back to Israel if Moshiach revealed himself while I’m gone?

It’s not a simple point.

Rav Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook got trapped outside of Eretz Yisrael when World War I unexpectedly started, and he spent four years in galut, primarily in London, until he was able to return.

If someone like Rav Kook didn’t have the merit to be brought back to the land miraculously, what are my chances?

Let’s look at it from the other direction. Let’s say someone from outside – someone who likes to parade their gaava around in city centres – flies into Jerusalem just as Moshiach is revealed. Does that person now get to ‘make it’ (whatever that means) by sheer dint of being in the right place at the right time?

And if the answer is ‘no’ to the first scenario, or at least a ‘maybe’, and if the answer is ‘no’ to the second scenario, then clearly, something else is going here that would enable a person to ‘make it’ when Moshiach comes.

For all of us who sacrificed so much to come to Israel, this isn’t always a comfortable conclusion.

What, I could have stayed in chutz l’aretz in my soul-destroying job and my comfortable ‘modern orthodox’ box without having to go through all the tests, challenges and excruciating soul corrections I’ve had over the years, and still have ‘made it’?!?!?

That doesn’t sound fair!

But is it true?

After pondering this, I think the answer is probably ‘yes and no’.

Yes, if I’d grown the way I’d grown in Israel, spiritually, or changed the way I changed, or tried to learn the humility and emuna that I’ve tried to learn here, then I think probably, I would still make it. (Whatever that means).

But if I didn’t change an iota? Or at least, not very much? Or even, got even more arrogant, nasty and materialistic?

Then I probably wouldn’t.

Flipping the question over to the Israeli side, we can draw the same conclusions. It’s very, very hard to live in Israel, with all its ongoing security challenges, social issues, terrorism, corrupt politicians and financial hardships without growing your emuna and humility, in some way.

But it’s still possible.

So, if a person is living in Israel, and is including God in their life, and is responding to the cues they get every single day here, smack in the face, to return to God and work on their bad middot ASAP – their chances of making it are probably pretty good.

And if not?

Then they aren’t. And not only that, at some point God will probably arrange for them to be unceremoniously dumped out of the country. Of course, they won’t see things that way. It’ll be phrased as ‘an opportunity’ abroad, a great job, a chance to make more money, a person they fell in love with and want to marry, yadda yadda yadda.

But the point to be made here is that at any point in the process, a person can return to God from anywhere in the world.

I know people who made a lot of sincere teshuva dafka when they were forced out of Israel. For whatever reason, it was something they just couldn’t do for as long as they lived here.

I also know people who fell off the frum wagon big time, when they moved here.

Which brings us back to the question we started with, and hopefully also give us something of an answer.

Simply living life in Israel is no guarantee of ‘making it’, but the reality of life in Israel maximizes your spiritual potential, and encourages you – every second of the day – to acquire the traits and the beliefs and the behaviors that are necessary to ‘make it’, ultimately.

The spiritual current here tends to pull a person ‘up’, while the spiritual current in chutz l’aretz tends to pull a person ‘down’.

But whether we’re going to grow from our experiences, and learn more emuna, and turn to Hashem regardless, is only and always up to us. And the people who can genuinely do that even in the very heart of galut may be the biggest neshamas of all.

So to sum up, location does make a big difference. Building a life in Israel does make a big difference. But it’s by no means the only factor deciding who’s going to ‘make it’ when Moshiach shows up.

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Pheyew, it’s hard to believe how crazy the pace has been the last couple of weeks.

I thought it was just because my kids were both starting new schools, and it was the usual end of Summer rush to get bags, bits and books, but now they’ve both been in school for three days already, and if anything I’m even busier.

From the moment I open my eyes, I’m rushing, rushing, rushing – and I can’t get it to stop. Today, I got up, tried to exercise while fielding three phone calls, wrote some stuff, tried to get some more text books (! – yes, the torture continues) – but the queue was too big to deal with, went to visit a friend who just moved out of town, then drove on to my ‘one brain’ lady to fix some more subconscious trauma and bad middot, then went to deliver all my husband’s paperwork to the accountant that lives in my old village, then fielded another long and pretty intense phone call, then went off to the other book shop in Geula to try to get the text books (! – yes, the torture still continues, one was out of stock…)

And now, after all that, I’m sitting down for the first time all day trying to work up the energy to make supper. And it’s already 7.30.

I simply don’t know how people who have more than two kids, or who have to work, do it.

How do you do it? Without drugs? I can barely move.

All I can do it type, but my brain also feels like it’s got zapped the last couple of weeks, so I have no idea what I’m actually writing.

There’s so much going on for everyone at the moment, isn’t there? If it’s not floods, hurricanes and forest fires, its potential divorce, difficult children, financial problems and crazy relatives.

Two days ago, I had to take my oldest to the Beit Din in Jerusalem to get her formal exemption papers for the army.

Even though she’s only 16 ½, they’re already sending her the sign up forms, so we had to get her officially certified as ‘religious’.

So we get there, and we’re sat in the waiting room next to a very edgy couple + friend who are clearly about to get their religious divorce, or get, finalized. Man, you could cut the atmosphere with a knife, it was so tense and yucky.

The only thing that broke it was a very loud conversation, in English, from another woman clearly also on the way to a get, God forbid, loudly cursing out her husband on the phone for being such a loser and not having a job and only jogging all day and leaving her in a situation where she’s going to end up on the street with her kids.

The phone call was extremely personal, extremely loud, and extremely traumatic to listen to, at least for me. I started spacing out and developing more C-PTSD, so my daughter kind of slapped my face, told me to focus on her, and tried to distract me.

Thank God, we got her papers and left pronto, but it was a sobering glimpse into just how much human misery is abounding at the moment.

The Gemara says that before Moshiach comes, a new trouble appears before the old trouble is even done, and it certainly looks like that’s happening all over the place.

Nuclear Iran….Brexit….President Trump….the ‘fire intifada’….Islamic Terrorism….Syria’s civil war….rockets from Gaza….killer heatwaves that last three months….nuclear North Korea….hurricane Harvey….the queue for text books at Moshe Hai….unprecedented forest fires.…hurricane Irma….

So, is Moshiach really coming, or what?

It certainly looks that way.

But whether or not that’s really what we’re all seeing unfolding right now is anyone’s guess.

Given that I’ve sold around 10 copies of my latest book, The Secret Diary of a Jewish Housewife, I decided to try something different, and to turn it into an audiobook.

Apparently, there’s a huge and growing demand for audiobooks, and relatively very few authors supplying the market, so I thought it’s worth a go to try to stand out a little from the other 4 trillion books being self-published on Amazon.

Initially, I started looking for a voice-over artist to narrate my book via the ACL platform. I set the budget (as low as possible…) and I got back a handful of auditions from a bunch of very nice actress ladies who made my book sound absolutely awful.

One of them narrated it with an Indian subcontinent accent that made it sound like The Secret Diary was set in Bombay. A few of them were clearly SOOOOO BORRRREDDDD by all the boring stuff about God that they fell unconscious during the audition and were sleep-talking. And the others just sounded kind of bland, and not at all engaging and interesting.

Hmmm.

So, I decided to find a recording studio in Jerusalem, and see if I couldn’t do a better (and much cheaper…) job of narrating my book myself. I checked around for an English speaking studio with reasonable rates and I found NONA, based near Talpiot.

I sent the audiobook requirements to NONA, they told me they could meet them no problem and weren’t charging a fortune, so I got in my car and headed down there.

After getting completely and utterly lost, I finally get to the studio – and it’s in someone’s basement flat in the middle of Arnona.

Hmmm. Not only that, the only person in that basement flat – apart from yours truly – was the truly gifted, apparently completely secular, utterly male studio technician Amit, who lived there.

Hmmm.

Things didn’t get off to a good start.

After a quick look around, I realized that me disappearing into some strange secular bloke’s basement apartment was a huge yichud problem, so I asked him to leave the door open. We had a stand-off for a minute – and then he grudgingly agreed to leave half the door open – the top half, that was also a window and had a net, and to leave it shut but not locked.

“The recording studio is in a completely different room!” he told me. “It’s not a problem!”

I was pretty nervous that first session, not least because spending a whole hour talking about heart-felt personal issues and God, God, God with a secular male studio bloke as my only audience was pretty nerve wracking.

He was there, with his pony tail and his ‘arse’ huge diamond earring in one ear, while I was gently poking fun at ‘arsim’ with their pony tails and huge diamond earrings in one ear… There were a lot of out takes in that particular section, as I kept fluffing the words and praying he wouldn’t get offended.

I came out gingerly, and wondered if we were going to make it to session 2.

“Was that OK?’ I asked him.

“Yes!” He reassured me. “I wasn’t listening to anything.”

We were both kind of relieved.

The next trip, Amit had a friend in the studio, so we got round the yichud issue that way. The third trip, he had a dog he was ‘babysitting’ so he could leave the front door completely open. He also toned down the earring a bit, to something much more classy.

Hmmm.

So, I finished the recording sessions, and then we were up to the editing sessions – which is when I hit another major yichud problem, because now I had to be in the same room for two hours at a go, while we went through the whole thing and Amit fixed it up.

Thank God for my husband.

I came home, explained the problem to him, and he instantly came and agreed to work on Amit’s couch, while the recording was being edited.

At this point, I began to feel so sorry for Amit. He’s a really nice, sweet secular guy with really good middot who’s had to listen to 12 hours of a neurotic frum woman with a speech impediment (who knew?!) going on and on about her marriage, and her crises of faith, and her kids, and her financial problems, and of course, God, the Creator of the world.

I’ve been watching him for signs of subliminal stress, but so far he’s coping with it all remarkably well.

In the meantime, I’m going completely bonkers from the sound of my own voice, especially when we hit an out-take and I have to hear myself say ‘what’s the point of it all!’300 times until Amit’s re-mastered the recording.

Gosh, how does my family put up with me?

So, all in all, I’ve discovered two hidden tzaddiks by recording my audio-book. One of them I’m married to, and the other one is probably going to be on a plane to Uman this time next year. (I can’t think why else God arranged for a completely secular guy to be subjected to 12 whole hours of Breslov-inspired Jewish Housewife stuff…)

At least, that’s what I hope.

Amit plays a mean electric guitar, and Rabbenu has a way of attracting all the really good Jewish musicians in his direction, sooner or later.

Why frum Jews shouldn’t worry about Bibi saying bye-bye

I’ve lived in Israel for 12 years now, BH, and one of my biggest frustrations is the number of frum, otherwise believing Jews who still hold by the Israeli political system and institutions.

Down the years, I’ve had so many discussions with people trying to explain to them why voting for the Likud is not only pointless, it’s also probably a chillul Hashem. Why continue to vote a number of avowedly secular, ‘anti’ religious politicians into power when there are frum parties to vote for, all of whom at least nominally answer to Hashem (as well as some big rabbis…)?

Yet, my arguments fell on mostly deaf ears. There’s a bizarre notion held by so many otherwise believing Jews that morally-corrupt secular politicians will somehow do a better job of running Israel, and defending our borders, then mitzvah-observant Torah-abiding ones who (at least nominally) believe in Hashem.

While frum people can see how morally corrupt and personally bankrupt nearly all the political figures on the left of the spectrum are in Israel, they seem to have a much harder time seeing exactly the same issues on the right side of the equation.

So that’s one reason I really am not at all upset that Bibi’s days seem to be numbered, because so many frum Jews have a blind spot when it comes to him and the Likud, and somehow forget that he’s just as secular and anti-God and anti-Torah as the rest of the secular people in the Knesset.

God wants frum Jews to stop using Bibi as a crutch, and to finally acknowledge that Israel’s political system and secular institutions are spiritually rotten to the core.

Another reason why the witch-hunt against the PM is not upsetting me – at all! – is because the Israeli police conducted exacted the same sort of witch-hunt against Rav Berland, and against many other individuals who were somehow deemed ‘enemies of the state’, including people like Meir Ettinger, all on Bibi’s watch.

He’s been in power longer than most third world dictators, so he can’t blame what’s happened on his predecessors. Bibi was more than happy to preside over a government that spent millions of shekels chasing Rav Berland all over the world, and falsifying evidence against him, and investing large amounts in trying to turn public opinion against him (amongst many, many other things they’ve done and continue to do to the Rav…)

God works according to the principal of midda kneged midda. The same crooked, corrupt, bent police and Israeli media that were given free reign to go after the Rav, and after so many other God-fearing Jews over the last few years are now going after Bibi.

Whether or not he’s guilty of accepting bribes, who knows.

But he’s definitely guilty of at the very least turning a blind eye, if not actively encouraging, the terrible persecution of Rav Berland and Meir Ettinger, to name just two of the most prominent cases.

Another reason I’m not unhappy about what’s going on with Bibi is that he headed up a government together with Yair Lapid that went about trying to systematically destroy the Torah world in Israel, less than four years’ ago.

God has a long memory, and sooner or later all of us have to pay for the transgressions we do down here, unless we make some serious teshuva about them. The Prime Minister of Israel is not exempt from that rule.

And the last reason I’m actually even happy about what’s happening with Bibi is because the Lubavitcher Rebbe said many years’ ago that Netanyahu would be the last Israeli PM before Moshiach showed up.

Again, regardless of what’s really going on and who’s really behind it all, it ultimately all comes back down to God, and God running the show, and God pulling all the strings. It seems as though God has now decided that Netanyahu has been PM in Israel long enough.

The next leader of Israel won’t be from the Likud, won’t be Yair Lapid and probably also won’t be from the UTJ (although you never know…).

But if the Lubavitcher Rebbe is right about who comes next, he’ll be the best leader that people of Israel have ever had, since our glory days of Moshe Rabbenu and King David.

 

The last few months, so many of our Tzaddikim have been experiencing serious leg problems.

You probably heard about Rav Dov Kook’s serious issues, that prevented him from walking around even being able to stand or sit up in order to pray.

BH, Rav Kook’s leg issues cleared up in a way that he himself described as ‘miraculous’. But now, it seems to be Rav Berland’s turn to be experiencing some serious difficulties with his legs, God forbid.

As I was pondering what’s going on with all the legs stuff, I remembered that I know of two people first-hand who had lower legs amputated this year, and a third who was hospitalized for weeks with leg problems, and similarly threatened with amputation.

Then, I was thinking about all the people I know who seem to have serious aches and pains in their legs – and that was prompted by the fact that I started to get my weird ‘aching leg’ thing again on Shabbat, which I’ve had on and off all year and always seems to be connected to some more teshuva I need to do, especially about my negative emotions.

Then, I got given a pamphlet by ‘Ha Esh Im HaTzaddik’ which was talking more about the whole ‘legs’ connection to geula, and said the following (translated from the original Hebrew):

“In Likutey Moharan, Rabbenu [Rebbe Nachman] explains that the dinim (harsh judgments) cling on to the legs, and the ‘legs’ of the generation are the Tzaddikim of the generation, who suffer because of the sins of the generation. We’ve recently seen many Tzaddikim suffering with their legs, and the Tzaddik (i.e. Rebbe Nachman) tells us that this is the secret of geula (redemption), the secret of the seventh beggar.”

Interesting!

So I went back to Rebbe Nachman’s tale of the Seventh Beggar, and here’s what I learned:

There are seven beggars, each with a physical ‘lack’ that is actually spiritual perfection.

  • The first beggar is blind.
  • The second beggar is deaf.
  • The third has a terrible speech defect.
  • The fourth has a crooked neck.
  • The fifth has a hunchback.
  • The sixth beggar has no hands.
  • The seventh beggar has no feet.

Each beggar represents a particular Tzaddik, and the enormous wisdom and spiritual insights they brought to the world. (Rebbe Nachman himself doesn’t explain who each beggar is meant to represent in Jewish history, so that’s open to each of us to interpret for ourselves.)

But he does identify who the beggar with no feet is: the Moshiach.

Indeed, the story of the seven beggars stops after the tale of the sixth day and the sixth beggar. Rav Natan, Rebbe Nachman’s main pupil writes:

“The end of the story would involve the Seventh Day and the beggar without feet. However, we were not worthy of hearing it….We will not be worthy of hearing it until the Moshiach comes. May this happen quickly in our days, Amen.”

In the notes in the English edition of Rebbe Nachman’s Tales, translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, it says the following:

“The time before the Moshiach is known as Ikvatha deMeshicha, which literally means ‘the heels of the Moshiach’. Therefore the power of rectification of the Moshiach comes from his feet….the main thing is joy, which is expressed by the feet in dancing.

“In the world to come, it’s taught that God will make a dance for all the righteous…this is the concept of the complete restoration of emuna. The beggar with no feet is the one who will effect the ultimate rectification of the…Shechina.

“Regarding the Shechina, it’s written: ‘Her feet go down to death’ (Proverbs 5:5). This is because the feet of Malchut go down to the realm of evil, giving it existence until the Moshiach comes and rectifies all things. Thus, the ultimate rectification is through the feet.”

Interesting!

Beyond that, I’m not prepared to speculate. But the whole inyan that’s going on with Tzaddikim (and others…) experiencing leg pains and serious issues this year could be pointing in the direction that we’re at least approaching the time when the story of the beggar with no feet will finally be told.