So much of Jewish life revolves around the Jewish community.

Wherever Jews happen to live, whatever language they happen to speak, whatever Jewish traditions, customs and laws they happen to keep (or not…) being part of a community will often figure as a very major part of Jewish life.

No two communities are the same, each is a unique blend of the history, personalities, beliefs and customs that have molded it over the generations. While so many of the different community customs have been lost over the years, many Jews are still striving to maintain their cultural heritage, and to apply to Jewish life in the modern world, in the face of a growing number of issues, challenges and changes.

In this category, we’ll take a look at a bunch of topics including:

  • Jewish Communal Events – what’s really shaping modern Jewish life
  • Jewish News – the information that we really need to know about living as a Jew today
  • The importance of Jewish communal life
  • History of Jewish community – in all sorts of different places around the globe
  • Day-to-day relationships – both intramural and extramural, with other peoples and faiths
  • Modern values in kehillas – and how they are changing, sometimes unrecognisably, from traditional Torah values
  • Jewish community issues and challenges – both within Israel, and abroad
  • Community leaders, rabbis, and personalities.

Why ‘aliyah bullying’ is just a massive red herring.

For most of us who live in places where Chabad has a presence, we’ve got used to their ubiquitous little tables set up with tefillin, and the inspiring way they encourage so many Jews who otherwise wouldn’t give the mitzvah of laying tefillin a second thought, as they run around their busy lives.

Come rain or shine, those Chabad shlichim don’t miss an opportunity to call Jews over to them on the street, and ask them if they’d like to lay tefillin.

Let me ask you something:

Is that ‘tefillin bullying’?

I mean, there are 613 mitzvahs, and not everyone is going to have the privilege of doing all of them in one lifetime. Surely, when the Chabad shlichim are coaxing people to spend a few precious moment connecting to God, and putting God’s mitzvah of laying tefillin ahead of what they themselves wanted to be doing at that precise moment, that is a good thing, isn’t it?

Let’s explore another example.

Say, we have a guy who doesn’t eat kosher. Say, that guy has a ‘religious’ sister who is trying to encourage him to swear off the pork, and to only eat kosher meat. Let’s eavesdrop on that conversation, a little:

Sister: You know, my dear brother, every time you eat another rasher of bacon, it’s disconnecting you from God and doing terrible damage to your soul. You are such a refined Jewish neshama! Eating pork products is so beneath you, sweet brother. And also, God doesn’t like it very much.

Brother: I find your comment to be kosher bullying. You telling me that God doesn’t like it when I eat pork doesn’t help me to feel good about myself as a Jew, and it doesn’t help anyone.

Do we agree with him?

What about the Jewish boy who is seriously dating that nice, non-Jewish girlfriend? His mother realizes that things are getting serious, and arranges to have a last-ditch talk with him:

Mother: I know I didn’t raise you right, I know I didn’t take the Torah seriously, I know I put what was easy and comfortable for myself ahead of what God really wanted me to do, and how He really wanted me to live, as a Jew – but please, I’m begging you, don’t marry that girl! It’ll devastate me, and end 3,000 years of Jewish continuity, because your kids won’t be Jewish!

Son: Mother, I feel intimidated by these kind of comments. I’m fed up with all your nonsense about your grandchildren not being Jewish. I’m standing up for my rights to live exactly how I want. There are many, varied reasons why I just couldn’t find a Jewish girl to date, and at this stage, I don’t believe I need to.

[Mother bursts into heart-wrenching sobs].

Son (increasingly defensive…): I’m just defending my right to live my life and not be attacked because I can’t just break up with the woman I love and marry someone Jewish instead. Well done to you, mother, that you married a Jew, but spare a thought for those who have tried and failed to find a Jewish spouse. I had to date outside the faith just to get a girlfriend, and I have other Jewish friends who won’t even consider marrying a Jew now, because it was so hard for them on the Jewish dating scene.

Is this “don’t marry out” bullying?

And if the answer is ‘yes’, is that a bad thing?

If something is a mitzvah, if something is a Torah commandment, then surely we should be encouraging other Jews to do it, with all our strength? Part of the reason I’m so in awe of my local Chabad shlichim here in Jerusalem is that they are actively encouraging Jews to do mitzvahs every single day.

Come listen to the Purim Megillah!

Come join us for the Pesach Seder!

Come participate in Kaparot, come listen to a lecture on the Tanya, come give some tzedaka to build our new shul!

Do I have the wrong end of the stick here?

Instead of thinking how awesomely inspiring it is that they are constantly encouraging me to move out of my comfort zone, and to move past my laziness and apathy and yeoush and disinterest, I should be accusing them of mitzvah bullying, instead?

That doesn’t sound right to me.

Everyone has their reasons why certain mitzvahs are hard for them. For example, the mitzvah of covering my hair as a married woman is really, really hard for me. It was so hard for me, I didn’t do it for the first eight years I was married.

But that doesn’t meant that I started justifying what I was doing to myself, and explaining how my ‘mission’ in life didn’t include covering my hair, or how my big, important job working for the British government meant I had a free pass on covering my hair.

I didn’t cover my hair because I wasn’t sufficiently motivated to cover my hair, and my personal circumstances, outlook, work (and crazy, crazy big hair!) all made it very difficult to do.

But I still acknowledged I was in the wrong, and that God really did want me to cover my hair.

And, I was still very impressed by my friends and acquaintances who were covering their hair full-time, because I knew how much inner strength and determination that required.

So what changed?

Things changed when we finally got to Israel, and my parnassa hit the skids, and I started to realise that me not covering my hair – as well as a whole bunch of other ‘little’ things, like not benching after bread, and wearing jeans, and going to the movies – actually had some serious spiritual consequences, and was causing me a lot of issues in my actual day-to-day life.

I started covering my hair with such a bad grace – but my shalom bayit picked up instantly, and my parnassa also rebounded (not immediately. God likes to maintain something of an illusion with these things, to preserve our free choice.)

So now, I happily choose to cover my (still crazy….) hair, not because I like the mitzvah, not because it’s easy – it’s still so very, very hard, and I’ll post about all that another time – but because:

I realized this is what God wants.

And that doing what God wants makes my life so much easier and nicer.

There are certain spiritual rules God put in place for how He wants Jews to live, and how Jews can best maximize their spiritual potential. Sadly, plenty of Jews today don’t even know about these spiritual rules, and the mitzvoth that they are clothed in.

The fewer of these ‘rules’ a Jew operates by, the more difficult, stressful and challenging their lives inevitably will be.

So let’s ask this again, is it right to ‘lecture’ other Jews about doing mitzvoth?

That’s an interesting question, isn’t it? When people put out memes with “love your fellow Jew as yourself”, is that considered ‘lecturing’? How about if they share a shiur on avoiding sinat chinam and lashon hara?

Is that considered ‘lecturing’?

Couldn’t every single one of us turn around and say something like:

Nice for you, that you’re managing to avoid slandering people all the time and hating other Jews who are different, but some of us just couldn’t get there, hard as we tried. Some of didn’t have the strength to avoid participating in all the juicy gossip on Facebook. Some of us just couldn’t continue seeing the good in other people, some of us just had way too many bad middot to overcome to have the energy to start working on our own sinat chinam, even though we know deep down that’s preventing the geula and causing us so much suffering in our own lives.

But God is surely going to save me, despite all my bad middot and unrepentant aveirot! I don’t doubt that for a moment!

Couldn’t we all make that same argument about every mitzvah we find hard, and that we don’t really want to do?

And then what? Where does reward and punishment fit into this picture?

If a Jew can do anything they want, pick and choose their mitzvahs, then state that for sure, God is going to reward them exactly the same regardless of the mitzvahs they’re actually striving to do, or are saying they are ‘exempt’ from doing, that totally negates the concept of reward and punishment.

This is Judaism 101. This comes from Jewishvirtuallibrary.org:

The doctrine of reward and punishment is central to Judaism throughout the ages; that man receives his just reward for his good deeds and just retribution for his transgressions is the very basis of the conception of both human and divine justice.

Rambam states in the 11th of the 13 Principles of Faith that:

“God gives reward to he who does the commandments of the Torah and punishes those that transgress its admonishments and warnings. And the great reward is the life of the world to come; and the punishment is the cutting off of the soul [in the world to come]. And we already said regarding this topic what these are. And the verse that attests to this principle is (Exodus 32) “And now if You would but forgive their sins – and if not erase me from this book that You have written.” And God answered him, “He who sinned against Me I will erase from My book.” This is a proof that God knows the sinner and the fulfiller in order to mete out reward to one, and punishment to the other.”

Can you see the problem, here?

Moving to Israel is a mitzvah. (I know there are apparently ‘frum’ people who are so confused they are even doubting that, so please take a look at the daas Torah in this post, Deconstructing Aliyah, which sets out a whole bunch of real, actual Torah sources on the subject, if you’d like a change from all the ‘daas me‘ flying around the internet.)

So, if we’re going to start accusing other people of ‘aliyah bullying’ then we have to be consistent, and also start accusing other people of ‘kosher bullying’ and ‘tefillin bullying’ and ‘not marrying out’ bullying too, because as you can hopefully see for yourself, the same arguments are effectively playing out in each of these arenas.

It’s always hard to keep mitzvahs, in some ways. God expects us to keep striving out of comfort zone, to keep trying to give Him what He wants, and to not give up on the mitzvoth even when we can’t quite reach them.

I have so many mitzvoth I’m still struggling with, not least my own problems with lashon hara and anger.

I could turn around and give God a bunch of excuses why I still flip out and go ballistic – and they’d all be true! But that doesn’t change the picture that God says that getting angry is a very bad thing, and that He wants me to carry on working on it, until 120.

Sure, I can justify my bad behavior all I want.

But that doesn’t change the fact that God wants me to do better, and He wants me to get Him involved in really solving the issue.

So unless we’re also going to start accusing God of being a “good middot bully”, or a “keeping the Torah bully”,  it seems to me this whole ‘aliyah bullying’ idea is really just a massive red herring.

Why ‘confirmation bias’ is such a big spiritual problem

A long time ago, when infographics were still all the rage, I came across this infographic which clearly showed the 20 main ‘cognitive biases’, including confirmation bias. This infographic basically dissects the playbook the yetzer hara uses to convince us that we’re always right about everything, and that everyone else is always wrong. (Click the link to see a bigger version, this is just for illustration purposes.)

An infographic showing 20 cognitive biases including confirmation biasNow, I wouldn’t care so much, except that I’ve been noticing a strange phenomena around Volume II of One in a Generation, which is that most people don’t want to read it, and don’t want to talk about all the proof it contains about just how corrupt the media actually is.

For as long as the media was coming up with one false, salacious, slanderous story after another about Rabbi Berland (aka ‘Eliezer ben Etia’), my email was glowing red-hot with people wanting to have the discussion with me. Now that the other side of the story is out there, clearly, showing exactly how we all got manipulated, bamboozled and downright deceived by the MSM – no-one wants to know.

Yawn.

Now that we can conclusively show that all the lies about the Rav abusing women, God forbid, came down to the same two people who were trying to extort money out of Rabbi Berland, it’s no longer interesting.

What is still interesting, tho, is that the Rav is taking money to do pidyon nefesh for people. Ooooo, this is still so interesting, because the same ‘anti chareidi’ media who have been behind so many of the lies right from the start ran a whole big ‘splash’ campaign about it.

People paid money, and it didn’t work!!! He took money from people on their death beds!!!!

Etc etc etc.

I haven’t looked into the details of all these stories (yet…. I might do at some point) – but I personally know of two occasions when the pidyon nefesh didn’t work, and the person died. In both instances, the Rav offered to repay the whole sum.

When all is said and done, the Rav is not God, and God will still do as He sees fit.

On the other hand, I know of literally thousands of cases where the Rav’s pidyon nefesh worked open miracles, saved lives and totally turned around a lost situation. (Some of which actually happened to yours truly)

So now, who are you going to believe, the anti-chareidi, anti-God, atheist MSM with massive agendas, or people who have seen open miracles in their own lives?

Or rather, the question is who do you WANT to believe?

Because that’s really a far trickier problem. Here’s why so many people are still having a hard time believing that Rav Berland is a true tzaddik and a very holy man, as opposed to the ucky individual they read about online, and gossiped about with their friends, and attacked on Facebook:

  1. People are over-reliant on the first piece of information they hear – in this case, all the slanderous stories and lies put out by the Rav’s persecutors.
  2. People place too much credence on the limited information they have available – before they know all the facts of the matter.
  3. People like to jump on bandwagons – even when they’re heading in totally the wrong direction.
  4. People have blind spots about their own subconscious motivations and biases – so it suits them when a big Rabbi who spent his whole life telling people to ditch i-Phones and act in a holier way can be totally written off and ignored.
  5. Once people ‘choose’ a side, or a thing, they have a vested interest in protecting it at all costs – even if they’re wrong.
  6. “So many people are saying it, it must be true!!!” – of course they are, because they all read the same ucky, poisonous, anti-religion online news sites that you do.
  7. People only want to hear things that confirm their existing opinion – they are much more interested in being right than being truthful.
  8. People are very slow to change their minds about things – it can take a lot of repetition before they finally grasp what you’re trying to explain.
  9. People prefer to just gather more information, than to actually act on it – if they wait long enough, they are sure that ‘new information’ will emerge that will prove their original view point correct, and absolve them from any need to make teshuva or admit they were wrong.
  10. People are burying their head in the sand about just how bad and corrupted the MSM actually is – it’s a very uncomfortable thought to consider that the media might be spoon-feeding massive lies to the public. Much easier to ignore the whole problem and hope it will just go away by itself.
  11. “But he went to prison! There’s nothing more to discuss!!!” – this is called outcome bias.
  12. People are convinced that they know everything, and are always totally right – i.e. they suffer from tremendous arrogance.
  13. People WANT to believe that the news is factual, so that makes them believe that the news IS factual – the alternative scenario is far too scary.
  14. People believe the newest stuff is always more relevant than the older stuff – hey, all that abusing women stuff is old news!!! We already moved on to how the Rav is extorting money out of terminally-ill people now! Talk to the hand!
  15. People don’t like to re-examine the past – they prefer to deal with what’s in front of their eyes today, i.e. more lies and slanders that haven’t yet been refuted or disproved.
  16. People pander to their own world views – many people are much more ‘comfortable’ with the idea of abusive rabbis than they are with the idea that the press is a lying, manipulative, anti-God, propaganda machine.
  17. People believe what they want to believe. (This needs no additional explanation).
  18. People rely on stereotypes instead of facts – of course, all Breslov rabbis with large followings and mystical tendencies must be ‘crazy’ or ‘bad’.
  19. People believe the media is always right – because the media very rarely, if ever, tells them about the thousands upon thousands of factual errors and false stories it’s putting out there, every single day.
  20. People prefer their comfortable lies to the uncomfortable truth – even though that’s keeping them far away from God, stuck and miserable.

Truth vs lies

Sadly, I’ve come to the conclusion that the number of people who are happy to stay stuck in the web of lies and deceit that is modern life is far greater than those who are looking for the truth. And I can understand where they are coming from, kind of.

Who wants to be a social pariah by calling out all their Fakebook friends who spent two solid years posting up self-righteous rants dripping with lashon hara bout Rabbi Berland? Who wants to really take a look under the bonnet and realize just how many flaws and issues they themselves actually have? Or how many people they are hurting with their own ucky behavior?

Who really wants to ‘fess up to being duped by unethical journalists, or to following rabbis and others who aren’t the real deal, or to having a vested interest in trying to make an elderly Breslov tzaddik look ‘bad’ to make themselves feel better about their own obsessions with internet, licentiousness, gossip, ego-stroking, making money and materialism?

You can see why it’s so challenging, honestly.

But here’s the problem:

All that stuff that’s keeping us away from acknowledging the truth about Rabbi Berland is the same stuff that’s going to keep us away from the world to come, too.

Geula is mamash on the threshold, and we can’t cross over into it for as long as we’re still dragging all that arrogance, hatred and bad middot behind us. God isn’t asking us to be perfect, He knows that’s impossible. He’s just asking us to be truthful, and to put our hands up and to admit that we make mistakes, and we have vested interests, and we do a lot of things wrong and hurt a lot of people, every single day.

A bit of truth and humility is all that’s required to get us into the world to come.

But judging by what’s going on with Rav Berland and One in a Generation Volume II, even a bit of truth and humility is way beyond what most people can apparently manage.

What’s stopping you from moving to Israel – take the quiz

 

I think I’ve covered most of the main challenges and concerns people have about moving to Israel. If there’s something I missed, please feel free to add it in to the comments section, and let’s start to figure this issue out a bit more, together.
For sure, there are some very real, very solid concerns and obstacles in the path to getting to the Holy Land. I know many people who really do want to come, but can’t seem to get here, for one reason or another. So let’s see what’s the biggest issues that are standing in the way, and then I will do my best to put some resources together here on the site, that might help you to find a way past them.
Also, take a look at the aliyah category, for some more pertinent information, discussion and background.

Forty years ago, on the eve of Pesach, 1979 (April 12th), a young Jewish man named Steven Finkelstein was found horrifically mutilated and dead, at the base of Haystack Rock, off the Oregon coast.

Haystack Rock measures around 300 foot tall, and is located a little out to sea off the coast at Cannon Beach. At high tide, it’s surrounded by water. On the evening of April 12th, 1979 when the police were called to the scene, they were told by a man named Mills – the only witness to what had occurred – that Steve Finkelstein had decided to climb up the rock, and had slipped and fallen to his death.

There were a few things that made this story unlikely:

  • That day, the weather had been awful – it was sleeting, hailing and the winds had reached 50 mph. Not the sort of weather you go climbing up rocks.
  • According to his father, Herschel (who you will hear more about in a moment) Steve was not a rock-climber. But if he’d chosen to climb a rock as dangerous as Haystack Rock, he certainly would have prepared himself better to do it, than by wearing his trademark slippery-soled cowboy boots.
  • Steve’s throat had been slit, and his body was so badly mangled that the acting coroner found it difficult to believe that even a fall off a rock in bad weather could account for the injuries, and suspected foul play.
  • Mills was an obvious anti-semite.
  • The year before, a notorious white supremacist located in Oregon called William Pierce had published a dystopian novel novel called The Turner Diaries, which advocated the mass ritual killing of Jews in America.

Strangely, the Oregon police force didn’t press for an autopsy, the case was never properly investigated, and they accepted Mills’ account of a ‘bad accident’ without any further investigation.

Steve’s father, Herschel, spent a lot of time and money investigating what had actually happened, and much of what he discovered he wrote up in a book he recently self-published, called The Adventures and Travels of a Poor Chemist. Today, Herschel lives in a nursing home in Jerusalem, and that’s where I went to visit him, to interview him about his book a couple of weeks before Pesach.

Herschel believes that neo-Nazis killed his son, and that this was covered up by the authorities at the time, not least because the two main suspects were soldiers in the US army.

(You can see an excellent article that covers a lot of the details of Steve Finkelstein’s death HERE.)

THE TURNER DIARIES

Three days ago, after the shooting at the Poway synagogue in Chabad, I finally sat down to start putting Herschel’s story together, and to do a little more research into one “William Pierce”, a former Physics Professor from Portland, Oregon, who had written something called “The Turner Diaries.”

The Turner Diaries were first released by Pierce in 1978 – the year before Steve died – writing under the pseudonym ‘Andrew MacDonald’. Here’s a very brief overview of the plot. (Go HERE to see a fuller version)

THE BASIC PLOT

In 2099, the diaries of one ‘Earl Turner’ are discovered, which describes how white supremacists in the US band together to overthrow the Federal government, and then undertake a ‘race war’ which spreads to the rest of the world. Here’s a chunk of what the Wiki entry says:

“The story starts soon after the federal government has confiscated all civilian firearms in the country under the fictional Cohen Act. Turner and his cohorts take their organization underground to engage in a guerrilla war against the System [the US Federal Government], depicted as dominated by Jewish control.[4] The “System” begins by implementing numerous repressive laws on various forms of hate, by making it a “hate crime” for white people to defend themselves from crime by non-whites even after all weapons are confiscated, and by pushing for new surveillance measures in order to monitor its citizens, such as a special passport required at all times and in all places to permanently monitor where individuals are. The “Organization” starts its campaigns by committing acts such as the bombing of FBI headquarters, then executing an ongoing, low-level campaign of terrorismassassination, and economic sabotage throughout the United States.”

Long story short, the fictional Turner and his neo-nazi, White supremacist buddies (many of whom formerly joined the US military in order to get properly trained up for the coming ‘Race War’), decide to start a violent uprising aimed at “fomenting racial conflict” in the US, which eventually leads to a full-scale civil war.

They do this by shooting up all different houses of worship, executing thousands of black people, making non-white people “Public Enemy Number 1”, and of course, by beating, lynching and shooting any Jews they can find. All these acts of violence are filmed “for propaganda purposes”.

The white supremacists then get their hands on nuclear weapons, and use them to nuke NYC and Tel Aviv. Then a bunch of other countries start to collapse, including France, Netherlands and the former USSR, as anti-semitism soars. The US becomes a military dictatorship ultimately run by White Supremacists, and 75% of the world – i.e. everyone brown, black or Jewish – is totally destroyed.

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ANY CONNECTION WITH THE RECENT SHOOTINGS AGAINST THE JEWISH COMMUNITY?

So, as I’m reading this, I can’t help thinking about the recent shooting that happened in the Poway Chabad Synagogue in San Diego, and the shooting that happened at the ‘Tree of Life’ synagogue in Pittsburgh back in October 2018. And I started to wonder to myself: Did the shooters at those events have any knowledge of these ‘Turner Diaries’?

According to THIS article:

““The Turner Diaries” …. has been cited by numerous white supremacists since the late 1970s, including the Oklahoma City bomber. The mass shooter in Christchurch, New Zealand, paid homage to the book by writing a reference to it on his gun.

“The Turner Diaries” — known as the “Bible of the extremist right” — depicts the birth of a new world order through the actions of a few paramilitary warriors who manage to overthrow powerful governments by motivating regular people to their own violence acts. That sentiment is littered throughout the Poway shooter’s letter, as he praises other men accused of murdering Jews and Muslims.”

FICTION OR REALITY?

Back in March 2019, a white supremacist opened fire on two mosques in Christchurch, killing 50 worshippers and wounding hundreds more. Exactly as per the ‘instructions’ in The Turner Diaries, this act of violence was filmed “for propaganda purposes”.

The Poway shooter also wanted to film his shooting spree, too, but apparently couldn’t figure out the logistics in the heat of the moment. And Robert Bowers, the Tree of Life shooter, posted before the attack that he’d been inspired to kill Jews because Jews were “bringing in invaders that kill our people.”

Again, this plot line is straight out of The Turner Diaries. More digging turned up the disturbing nugget that researcher JM Berger estimates that at least 200 people have been murdered off the back of Turner Diary devotees, since it’s publication in 1978 – and that’s not even including unsolved murders like Steve Finkelstein.

IT’S EASY TO DISMISS THIS AS A PROBLEM OF THE LUNATIC FRINGE

But that would be a grave mistake. In February 2019, the Southern Poverty Law Centre published a report showing that the number of White Supremacist hate groups in the US had jumped from 100 in 2017 to 148 in 2018.

There are millions of people in the US who believe that ‘White Genocide’ –  a term white supremacists use to describe a conspiracy where white people are being ‘deliberately’ outnumbered and outbred by non-white people – is happening right in front of their eyes. They read projections from the Census Bureau in the US that ‘Caucasians will lose their majority by 2044’ – and we’re straight back to the plot in The Turner Diaries.

According to THIS article on the Missouri State website, there are an estimated 25,000 ‘hard core’ white supremacists in the US, with a further 200,000 people attending marches and rallies, or donating money to White Supremacist organisations.

Personally, I believe that figure is a gross understatement. According to the Factchecker website:

“In an ABC News/Washington Post poll taken just after the Charlottesville rally in August 2017, 9 percent of the respondents said they thought it was strongly or somewhat acceptableto hold neo–Nazi or white supremacist views. As ABC News reported at the time, that’s equivalent to about 22 million Americans.”

John Earnest, the shooter at Poway Chabad wouldn’t have shown up as an official ‘white supremacist’ before the attack. And Herschel Finkelstein’s story shows that the true level of white supremacist violence and attacks on minorities may well be under-investigated and under-reported in the US.

No-one really knows how many people are reading The Turner Diaries in the darkest corners of the net, and being ‘inspired’ to plan their own killing sprees against Jews and other communities, God forbid.

But just think about 22 million people holding ‘white supremacist’ views in a country where anyone can legally buy a semi-automatic rifle, and understand what that portends for the Jews in America.

The more I research this, the more I’m convinced that the Tree of Life and Poway are not just unfortunate ‘blips’ on the social radar of a country that’s known for its mass shootings. They are the sign of things to come, as more and more ‘white supremacists’ start trying to make the fictional plot of the Turner Diaries into an awful reality.

==

So many of the people on the left like to blame the rise in white supremacy on Trump.

They believe that if Trump was out of the way, this whole problem would die back down and disappear, but this view is based far more on wishful thinking, than a clear grasp of the facts.

Over the last 150 years, the US has excelled at believing its own propaganda about being the most benign and ‘good’ country in the whole world. But the more you research the history of the Modern USA, the more you find a country built on the assumption that ‘white christians’ are superior to everyone else, and that America can justifiably take any action against anyone who opposes them to maintain their status as the world’s economic superpower.

The ‘supremacy’ of white people (preferably christian…) is not just the belief system of a ‘fringe group’ of far-right radicals who only appeared on the scene after Trump became president. This is one of the main foundations that the USA was built on, and you can follow its thread throughout at least 200 years of American history.

That’s an unpleasant truth, it’s an unpalatable idea to many people, I know. Like all countries, America teaches the version of history that makes it look good, and that brushes all the ucky stuff under the carpet. Of course, America has also done a lot of good things in the world, and the picture is by no means starkly black or white.

(For some reason, the Life of Brian scene “What have the Romans ever done for us?” has just flashed before my eyes.)

But in the next post, I’m going to set out some of that darker side of American history – the stuff they don’t teach in the schools, and that is routinely down-played and whitewashed.

We’ll take a look at how the US passed laws to encourage the mass-murder of millions of native Indians; how no less a personage than Hitler, yimach shemam, was ‘inspired’ by the US’s restrictive and discriminatory racial laws in the 1920s; how 20,000 American Nazis crowded into Madison Square Garden on the eve of WWII, in February 1939; and how so much of the “American Dream” has been built against the backdrop of rapacious greed, exploitation and ‘justifiable’ murder and persecution of anyone who stood in the way of American economic interest and expansion.

The time when we could stick our head in the sand and pretend all this is someone else’s problem is long gone. American Jews are in the greatest danger they’ve ever been, and it’s time to take a long, hard look at what America really stands for, and why God is sending ever-clearer messages to the Jewish community there to clear out and come home.

BH I will try to pull much more of these facts together in the next post.

Off the back of the discussion that’s been taking place around the Deconstructing Geula post, I thought I’d write something deconstructing the whole idea of aliya.

This is such a fraught topic, and so many bad middot and other subconscious impulses come into play with this subject, which is why I’ve generally stayed away from it in my writing. But, after that atrocious book was published to great acclaim in the orthodox Jewish world, which was ‘anti aliya’, to the point of degrading it even as a God-given mitzvah, I think it’s time to look at this subject in some depth, and to deconstruct what’s going on with it.

The first, and really primary, place to start is this:

Does God want Jews to live in Eretz Yisrael, at this stage in time?

Because if the answer is ‘yes’, then there has to be an extremely good reason for not moving here, if you consider yourself to be a God-fearing Jew.

So, without any further ado, let’s dive in the deep end, and see if we can answer the two parts of the question:

  • Does God want Jews to live in Eretz Yisrael generally; and
  • Does God wants Jews to live in Eretz Yisrael now.

THE BIBLICAL MITZVAH TO DWELL IN THE LAND

The following comes from 110b in Ketubot (Artscroll Translation):

“A person can force all the members of his household to go up to Eretz Yisrael to live there, but he can force none of them to leave there.”

The footnote to this clear pronouncement says the following:

[According to Rashi] If a family is living in some country outside of Eretz Yisrael and the father or mother decides that the family should move to Eretz Yisrael, the entire household is coerced [by the Rabbinic Court] to accede to the wishes of the parent and to go and live in Eretz Yisrael….According to some Rishonim, there is a biblical mitzvah to settle Eretz Yisrael…..[o]ther Rishonim maintain that there is no positive commandment to settle Eretz Yisrael.

However, even those authorities agree that it is a worthy cause to live in Eretz Yisrael.

(Which is why they enacted the law that would enable someone to ‘force’ his family to move there, with him. Or her.)

By the way, the mitzvah of settling the land doesn’t depend on ‘the land’ being an easy place to live.

When Moshe’s 12 spies go to take a look at Israel, 10 of them can only see the negative points of the country.

It’s hard there, there’s giants. The land devours its inhabitants. The people are really rough and rude. It’s full of wife-beating Arabs and awful daycare centers. The bureaucracy’s a nightmare, it’s too hot, I can’t get a decent job and my wife will miss her parents too much….

What does Caleb, the spy who figured out that you make it in Israel by doing a lot of hitbodedut and praying at the tombs of holy people tell them, in reply?

We can do it, if God is with us, we’ll eat the Caananites for lunch! There’s no problem that God can’t solve! Israel is where we’re really going to discover if we have emuna, or not, where we’re really going to grow into believing that Ein Od Milvado, there is only Hashem!

Come on, guys, the last 40 years you’ve been giving all these Torah sermons about ‘what God requires from us’, and ‘living our emuna’, and having faith – now it’s time to put your money where your mouth is, and to really live it! So what, you’ll lose your social status?! So what, you don’t speak the language properly and no-one appreciates your PhD?! So what, you can’t even figure out how to ask for a stamp in the post office?! 

All that stuff is humbling, and we know a humble person is much closer to God. God can’t dwell with an arrogant person, we know that! This is your chance to really get humble, and then to get real and stop thinking you’re such a big tzaddik and success, and then to get closer to God. Whaddya say?

 

We know what the spies said: Thanks, but no thanks.

They had prestigious, well-paying positions outside of Israel. They had respect. They had ‘their’ seat in shul, they had their established set of friends, they knew where to get the best chicken. They had nothing against visiting Israel every year for Pesach – still cheaper and nicer than having to clean their own home and cook everything themselves – but that’s as far as it goes.

Was God happy about this?

Nope.

The spies got punished awfully for slandering the land, and putting their fellow Jews off from moving to Israel.

But, your kid is going to struggle in school! Your husband is going to miss out on his amazing Rav, his amazing chavruta! You have a nice bunch of friends here, in the desert! But, you don’t speak the language, you can’t get a good job there, you won’t be able to afford your own home if you move to Israel, the place is full of wife-beating, idol-worshipping Canaanites, the divorce rate there is 80%….

Everybody has the same fears, the same concerns. People can’t live on thin air, it’s true. But again, God often expects some mesirut nefesh, some self-sacrifice from people, in order to keep His mitzvahs.

If someone is interested in working on their soul dimension, then Israel will be appealing to them for a lot of reasons (and if they aren’t, it won’t be, also for a lot of reasons.)

Let’s explore that idea a bit more, tachlis.

ISRAEL IS THE LAND OF EMUNA

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov teaches that Israel is the place where you’re going to learn some real emuna. How? Because you’ll be surrounded by miracles and challenges every second of the day.

In Chutz L’Aretz, a person can sin and sin and sin again, and because spiritual matters are more hidden there, they don’t feel the effect of their sins until the end of their lives – usually when it’s way too late to change course and fix things.

There in the hospital, with a tube up their nose and a drip in their arm, they finally start to realize how much of their life they wasted, chasing after stuff, and holidays, and traif food, and non-kosher experiences, and money, and status, and their own bad middot, because God was out of the picture.

God can hide much easier in chul. You don’t keep Shabbat, you don’t keep kosher, you don’t pay your 10% to charity, you don’t pay any attention to what God really wants from you – you’ll just keep swallowing your Prozac, drinking your G&T and going on holiday, or shopping, or working like a dog to drown out any inner discomfort you feel as a result.

And God lets you.

That’s why being in galut is such an ordeal, spiritually such a test. Because it really can seem as though you can game the system, and live a good life even if you’re a bitter atheist with terrible character traits.

But in Israel, it’s not like that.

It says that you walk dalet amot, four amot, in Israel, and that atones for your sins. Do you know why? Because every dalet amot here, you’ll be faced with another rude person, another problem, another challenge, another issue, that has been 100% tailored by God to bring your bad middot to the fore, and to show you what you still have left to work on.

Really? You’re not so bothered about gashmius? Let’s see how you’re going to cope when every brand of kosher-for-Pesach mayonnaise in the country has kitniot in it. Let’s see how much you start craving all the brands in TX Maxx, let’s see how you cope with just one toilet between seven people, and no cleaning help.

And there’s more tests, too. Like, trying to find a school for your kid; and trying to deal with the wounded ego of your spouse, who used to be a ‘bigshot’ in shul, or at work, but is now scrabbling to hold it together as a relative ‘nothing’ in Israel; or dealing with the tremendous loneliness and boredom of being an Anglo in Israel on Shabbos, which used to be filled up with six hour long Shabbos lunches, and ‘kiddush clubs’ at shul (that went on to 1pm…) and yet more shiurim on how to keep super-machmir standards of kashrut. Etc.

And we didn’t even get into the tests involved with having rockets fired at you on a regular basis, or people trying to stab you just for being a Jew, or getting shot or run over as you wait for a bus.

All these things, all these difficulties, build a person’s emuna like nothing else.

Because if you don’t turn to God to deal with the difficulties in finding work, or finding a place to live, or the million and one other things that force you to get real in Israel very quickly, you can quickly sink without a trace.

That’s why Israel is the land of emuna – dafka, because it shows a person what they need to work on, and how far away they are from really having emuna, and really serving Hashem properly, 24/7.

So when people point to the hardships of living in Israel as a reason to not make aliya, they are kind of missing the point – if they’re really interested in the more spiritual dimension of life.

Which honestly, a lot of people really just aren’t. Even in the ‘orthodox’ world.

Now, let’s take a look at some of the halachic arguments underpinning the ‘anti’ aliya argument.

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TORAH-BASED ARGUMENTS FOR NOT MAKING ALIYA

This approach was basically set out by the late Satmar Rebbe, Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, z’tl, in his book V’Yoel Moshe.

Rav Teitelbaum wrote his book after going through the holocaust. He saw half a million of his Hungarian compatriots sold out by the Zionist government in Israel, who were offered the chance to buy the freedom and lives of the Hungarian Jews by the cash-strapped Nazis – and who turned it down.

The whole sordid tale is told in Ben Hecht’s excellent book, Perfidy, but the Satmar Rebbe was one of the brands snatched from the conflagration in Hungary, and he had personal experience of this most ugly face of secular ‘zionism’. The awful actions of the secular politicians in Israel before, during and after WW II almost certainly influenced the opinions he put forth in his book.

Remember, the Israeli authorities in the 1950s were irradiating the kids of Moroccan immigrants in the tent camps, and cutting off people’s payot, and selling Yemenite children to the highest bidder. They were yucky, ugly people in every sense of the word.

Many of our other leading orthodox leaders, within Israel and without, also recognized who they were really dealing with, and that the secular leadership in Israel was spiritually corrupt, and corrupting to a very high degree.

The Satmar Rebbe took this idea to an extreme in his book, where he puts forward the idea that the anti-Torah Zionists in Israel caused the holocaust to happen, at least indirectly, by their actions, and by ‘forcing the time’ for returning to the land. (We’ll look at what this ‘forcing the time’ is referring to, in a moment.)

First, there’s a partial translation of some of the Satmar Rebbe’s words in V’Yoel Moshe, HERE, which the following ideas are taken from. The Satmar Rebbe avers that:

  • The anti-Torah Zionist groups in Israel caused the holocaust by ‘informing’ on the Jews in Europe to the non-Jewish authorities, and making trouble for the Jews there, in order to turn up the heat and get these Jews to move to the fledgling State of Israel.
  • That these anti-Torah Zionist groups “violated the oath of hastening the end by claiming sovereignty and freedom before the time.”
  • That the secular Zionist groups performed several “cruel actions” before, during and after the war which also lead to the death of hundreds of thousands of Jews.
  • Furthermore, among those who have moved to Eretz Yisrael in these times, most of the immigrants from Arab countries were living peacefully and tranquilly in their countries, lacking nothing, until the establishment of the heretical kingdom in Israel. Through the establishment of that State they began to suffer hatred and persecution in their countries, and the Zionists themselves aided this through their wiles, so as to increase the persecution until they would be forced to emigrate to Eretz Yisrael, destitute and with nothing, and they glorified their saviors, but the truth was the opposite – that [the Zionists] had brought about all of the destruction in the first place. (Va-Yo’el Moshe 123)”

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THE THREE OATHS ‘PREVENTING’ ALIYA

The idea of the three oaths that prevent Jews from returning to Israel before God actually wills it comes from the Gemara (Ketubot 111a), where it brings a discussion between R’ Zeira, who wanted to make aliya to Israel from Bablyonia, and Rav Yehuda who said:

Whoever ascends from Babylonia to Eretz Yisrael transgresses a positive commandment, as it says: “They will be brought to Babylonia and they will be there until the day that I attend to them – when I shall bring them up and return them to this place.

Rav Zeira said that this verse is referring to the sacred utensils that were used in the Temple service, but that people are permitted to make aliya, still. Rav Yehuda disagrees, and says that the verse I have adjured you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by gazelles or by hinds of the field etc means that the Jews are bound by an oath not to ascend to Eretz Yisrael until the Final Redemption.

Rav Zeira says that’s not what this verse means. Rather, he says it means that:

The Jewish people should not converge upon Eretz Yisrael in a wall of force, but that an individual is permitted to settle there, if he wants to.

Rav Yehuda again disagrees, so then R’ Zeira explains there are three oaths, as follows:

  • The Jewish people should not converge upon Israel as a wall of force;
  • Hashem adjured the Jewish people to not rebel against the nations of the world [to try and force their way back to living in Israel before the time God wanted that to happen]; and
  • Hashem also adjured the idolaters (i.e. the non-Jewish nations) not to subjugate and terrorise the Jews more than was required.

R’ Zeira explains that any case, an individual is never adjured to not make aliya to Eretz Yisrael.

This discussion in the Gemara is ‘sandwiched’ between the following statements:

BEFORE: Whoever dwells outside Eretz Yisrael, it’s as if he worships idols.

AFTER: The people dwelling within Eretz Yisrael are forgiven of sin.

This discussion is the halachic basis for the Satmar position, together with some other groups, for why it’s not a mitzvah to make aliya.

But you’ll notice, even in this discussion, it’s clear that the main ‘problem’ being discussed is for groups of Jews to ‘ascend’ all at once. There is no problem for individuals to make aliya, and as is clear from the surrounding text and discussion in the Gemara, the Sages considered it a very praiseworthy thing, to move to Israel.

ARE WE AT ‘THE END’ OR NOT?

The main argument revolves around a discussion of whether we are at the ‘the end’ of the galut, as determined by God, or not. If we’re at ‘the end’, then there is no problem at all with making Aliyah en masse.

If we aren’t at ‘the end’, then it’s good for individuals to make aliya, but still problematic for large groups to come on aliya.

Here’s a few suggested reasons for why the 3 oaths have been superseded:

  • The nations of the world actually gave permission for the State of Israel to be created, back in 1948.
  • The Gemara in Sanhedrin (98a) says that “when Eretz Yisrael gives forth fruit abundantly, it is a sure sign that the redemption is coming”. This was already happening in the early 1900s, in the time of Rav Avraham Kook.
  • Only very large groups coming in a short period of time violate the ‘oath’, it doesn’t apply to a slow trickle of Jews moving here.
  • The Ari’s student, R’ Chaim Vital, said that the oath only applied for 1,000 years.
  • The Vilna Gaon states that the oath applied to rebuilding the Temple, not to resettling the land.

And then, there’s all the evidence we see with our own eyes today, and things that we feel with our own hearts, that tells us whether we are at ‘the end’ or not.

DON’T CONFUSE ‘THE STATE OF ISRAEL’ WITH ERETZ YISRAEL

Another important point to make here is that the State of Israel should not confused, or conflated, with Eretz Yisrael.

When we talk about moving to Israel, we’re not talking about the State. We’re talking about moving to the land that God gave to the Jews more than 3,000 years ago.

Sooner or later, the secular ‘State’ will fall away – as Rav Kook describes it, as the ‘peel’ around the fruit’.

SUMMING UP WHAT’S GOING ON WITH ALIYA, AND RELIGIOUS JEWS IN CHUL

This is a long post, I know (but still probably not doing real justice to the subject….) But let’s try to sum it up, and bring all this information together into something practical and easy-to-digest.

  • If you are a God-fearing Jew, and keeping mitzvahs is important to you, then moving to Israel is a big mitzvah for an individual.

Not one of the Rishonim or Achronim commentators disagrees with this statement.

  • If you want to come to Israel as part of a very large group of people moving here ‘all at once’, there is a Torah view that this is prohibited, as long as we haven’t yet reached ‘The End’.
  • If we’ve reached ‘The End’, the three oaths don’t apply anymore anyway.
  • There’s lots of things that suggest we are now in the stage of ‘the end of days’ – not least, all the pronouncements by the nations’ leading rabbis that we’ve reached ‘the End’.

That’s a basic sum-up of the halachah.

Now, I just want to spend a little bit of time, finally, to explore why more orthodox Jews aren’t moving to Israel.

GETTING REAL

There are three main reasons why more orthodox Jews aren’t coming to Israel:

  • They are scared to come out of the comfort zone.
  • They really do want to come, but God isn’t let them.
  • They actually don’t care so much about keeping mitzvahs, getting closer to God, or working on their emuna.

I won’t belabor this segment, as this is where things can get very sticky. Each person knows what’s really in their heart.

There are people who really do want to come, but are stuck outside for a whole bunch of reasons that really are out of their control. For these people, they are learning emuna and humility by being kept away from Israel.

Then, there are others who really don’t want to come at all, and are just looking for excuses to justify their own spiritual shortcomings – at Israel’s expense.

Then, there’s the third group, who would like to come in theory, and know that it’s good to be here, but are too scared that they won’t have the lifestyle, the money, the connections, the big house, or the career they currently have now, if they leave.

But if we truly have reached ‘The End’, then God will find a way to coax everyone who really can, to make aliya, and He will open the gates to the Holy land, one way or another.

There’s been quite a bit of discussion on the Deconstructing Geula post, which I put together to try to explore what happens practically, the day after Moshiach actually shows up, and how different the experience is obviously going to be, depending on where we actually live at that point in time, and how much emuna we really do have.

I thought it would be useful to bring the discussion I’ve been having with Devorah, one of the commentators, here, as its own post. I’m working on a post which will look at the halachic basis for staying out of Israel, in the time before Moshiach comes – because there is one, as set out by the late Satmar Rebbe, R’ Yoel Teitelbaum – but this is a useful subset of the discussion:

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Devorah says

March 14, 2019 at 15:30

Rivka, Rambam represents just one opinion. There are different opinions. There’s another opinion that says that the Divine revelation at the time of geula will be like har Sinai, the yetzer hara, sicknesses, and death will disappear, the miracles will be bigger than in the Exodus, all forms of negativity will disappear.

Rivka Levy says

March 17, 2019 at 13:18

Thanks for the comment, Devorah.

By the time the Israelites got to Har Sinai, they’d already lost 4/5 in the plague of darkness, had to leave their homes in Egypt, and experienced 10 plagues and enormous fear and upheaval. So, it seems to me that what you’re describing is what comes AFTER what I’m describing precedes it. We need to have emuna to get to geula, and there are no short-cuts to acquiring it.

Devorah says

March 18, 2019 at 04:56

I know Rivka but not in the final Geulah.

“Unlike the Egyptian Exodus, when many Jews did not merit to leave Egypt, with regards to the future redemption we are assured that no Jew will be left behind—including the Ten Lost Tribes.” Source: https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1122197/jewish/The-Future-Apportionment-of-Israel.htm

Also, the Jewish people will not have to leave galut in haste because unlike in the Geulah from Egypt when the Jews still had some measure of evil in them, in the final Geulah the evil inclination in them will already been annulled. This is the kabbalistic explanation I remember from the book of Tanya and from the moshiach and Geulah online forum that still existed a few years ago. If you’re still scared, you can change ur emotions and invoke miracles in your life by practicing gratefulness. Kol tuv

Rivka Levy says

March 18, 2019 at 12:23

Devorah, do you live in Israel, or in Chul?

Rivka Levy says

March 18, 2019 at 12:54

Thanks for the link – I had a look, and I can see that what you quoted is the opinion of the author, Rav Silberberg, but he didn’t include any sources or references for that opinion. Can you point me in the direction of any sources?

At the same time, I found this on the Chabad website talking about the time immediately before Moshiach comes, here: https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/100900/jewish/The-Time-Before-Mashiach.htm

Which has copious sources from the Gemara, and explains that the situation will be very scary before the Messianic Era actually kicks off (see below).

Which brings us back to the original point of whether we can get to the Messianic Era without the ‘birthpangs’ and suffering that is so amply described, in so many of our sources, as being part and parcel of the run up to the Messianic Era.

Again, if you have a Torah source you can reference to support your point of view, I’d be very interested in seeing it.
==

III. Ikvot Meshicha: The Time Immediately Before Mashiach

The time appointed by G‑d for the Messianic redemption is a closely guarded secret.1 Nonetheless, we are offered many hints to recognize its proximity: when certain conditions come about, await the imminent coming of Mashiach.

Most of these conditions are quite disturbing, clearly displaying a situation of the very “bottom of the pit.”2 One major source describes the world-condition in those days as follows: increase in insolence and impudence; oppressing inflation; unbridled irresponsibility on the part of authorities; centers of learning will turn into bawdy houses; wars; many destitutes begging, with none to pity them; wisdom shall be putrid; the pious shall be despised; truth will be abandoned; the young will insult the old; family-breakup with mutual recriminations; impudent leadership.3

Other sources add: lack of scholars; succession of troubles and evil decrees; famines; mutual denunciations; epidemics of terrible diseases; poverty and scarcity; cursing and blaspheming; international confrontations nations provoking and fighting each other.4 In short, it will be a time of suffering that will make it look as if G‑d were asleep. These are the birthpangs of Mashiach, bearable only in anticipation of the bliss that follows them.

“When you see a generation ever dwindling, hope for him… when you see a generation overwhelmed by many troubles as by a river, await him.”5 “When you see nations fighting each other, look toward the feet of Mashiach.”6

Little wonder that some sages expressed apprehensions about those days in terms of, “Let [Mashiach] come, but let me not see him.”7

==

I guess those scared Sages should also go and work on their gratitude….

Rachel in NY says

March 18, 2019 at 19:05

We are THERE, Rivka. We have already experienced everything you listed in your above comment. No reason to assume it has to get worse!

Rivka Levy says

March 19, 2019 at 09:42

It’s definitely tough now, you’re right.

But I’d like to see a Torah source for this part of Devorah’s comment:

“Also, the Jewish people will not have to leave galut in haste because unlike in the Geulah from Egypt when the Jews still had some measure of evil in them, in the final Geulah the evil inclination in them will already been annuled.”

I still have an evil inclination, and so do a whole bunch of the people who are living in Galut, and also here in Israel. What needs to happen, before that evil inclination gets ‘annulled’? I’d like to see a Torah source for that, because in my experience, evil inclinations get ‘annulled’ through suffering. That’s the catalyst for real teshuva. But I’m very happy to see a Torah source that provides some other route.

Devorah says

April 2, 2019 at 14:52

Rivka the Torah source of ” not leave in haste” is in the book Tanya and see also point 2 here: http://ruchoshelmashiach.blogspot.com/2012/07/i-will-redeem-you-in-end-like-beginning.html?m=1

I think it’s based on yeshayahu 52:12
https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/15983#showrashi=true

I am sorry to tell you though that I also read somewhere in the meantime ( sorry I lost the link) that it all depends on us. If I remember well. You can Google these things. I may find more when I will have more time to look. Sorry, I am not a rabbi ..

Re the evil inclination annulled. how? : I think thru the birthpangs of Jewish history, and of mashiach. Could also in the end happen suddenly like at har Sinai. It says it will be like that. Hashem will reveal himself to the whole world with greater revelation than at har Sinai and suddenly the evil inclination will be annulled. Darkness can’t exist in the presence of light

Re whether we can get to the Messianic Era without the ‘birthpangs’ and suffering that is so amply described: of course. Darkness can’t exist in the presence of light. Talmud says in order to survive in the times of the birthpangs of mashiach one needs to occupy himself with Torah and gemilut hassadim.

Also, gratefulness evokes miracles.

I too believe we have already suffered enough and we’re already there.

Question to you now after been reading ur other site: could it be that all these leftists that are anti Torah and wanna make peace with the enemies suffer from c-ptsd (toxic shame, self hatred etc) ??

Rivka Levy says

April 3, 2019 at 09:44

Hi Devorah, I’m grateful for you taking the time to share sources.

I will BH write a longer post on this, as what you’re referring to is also part of why Satmar talks about the 4 oaths, restraining Am Yisrael from ‘ascending to Eretz Yisrael as a wall’.

From the first link, the post ends with this:

“And so it is with the service of each and every individual – there is no time to say, ‘I’ll change, when I have the time’, because these could be the very last moments of galus, and after these will come ‘the years about which you say ‘I have no desire for them” – ‘night like day will shine’, the complete redemption by means of Mashiach. ”

That seems to suggest we can’t expect Moshiach to ‘change’ things for us – NOW is the time we need to be doing the work on taking down the yetzer, etc, and fulfilling the mitzvah of making aliya (or at least, WANTING to make aliya).

The 4/5 died because they didn’t want to move out of their comfort zone. It could be that when the Tanya teaches the geula will come ‘comfortably’ and not in haste, that means that the Jewish people had 70 years to get their act together and move to Israel at a time when it was most convenient for them, and they could still come with their assets, and not just some old matza to eat…

There’s a lot of clarification required, and I think it requires a proper blog post, not just a 2 minute response on a comment. So, BH when I have some time I will put that together, with as many sources as I can find.

Re: crazy lefties – they for sure have C-PTSD! That doesn’t excuse them (or any other of the angry, aggressive, narrow-minded and abusive people out there) – but it does explain how they got like that, and it also points to how they can get ‘fixed’ somehow.

Devorah says

April 3, 2019 at 12:16

Rivka, Remember that someone who suffers from c-ptsd could also have the fawn response, not just the fight response. I think most inhabitants of Tel Aviv fawn. It’s really bad. How do they react whenever they see the rockets flying over TLV? “Oh poor Palestinians, you are starving again. It’s about time that our gov treats you more like family” ??

Devorah says

April 3, 2019 at 21:20

And let’s remember, Israel’s enemies also have c-ptsd.

Before the elections, some questions for meditation:

Who should we vote for? Which politician doesn’t have or has the least c-ptsd ?
What if a Torah observant politician has c-ptsd but a non Torah observant politician doesn’t have it? Who should we rather vote for?

Rivka Levy says

April 4, 2019 at 10:00

“The hearts of the kings are in Hashem’s hands” – who we vote for doesn’t matter so much (although clearly much better to vote for someone with daas Torah behind them, because even if we think we know who has C-PTSD and who doesn’t, what do we really know?)

If WE make the teshuva required in our dalet amot, our leaders will have siyatta dishmeya and things will work out, even if they are lunatics. And vice versa.

Devorah says

April 4, 2019 at 18:02

“If WE make the teshuva required ”

Currently according to statistics only 20% of Israelis keep Shabbat.

We need a non-lunatic spiritual as well as political leader.

No one wants to follow a lunatic even if he has daas Torah (remember for instance that NY born rabbi politician who got thrown out of the gov and then shot) and Torah requires one to be healthy!!

Rivka Levy says

April 6, 2019 at 22:02

If someone truly has daas Torah, they won’t be a lunatic. Just because someone has the title of ‘rabbi’, doesn’t mean they have daas Torah.

Also daas Torah is not generally a result of an individual effort, it’s the result of many yireh shemayim people coming together to come up with opinions that reflect genuine daas Torah – that’s why the Sanhedrin had 70 members, that’s why a Beit Din has 3 members. You can’t just have one person calling the shots in true Yiddishkeit.

Daas Torah is a consensus view.

Also, the teshuva required is not just in Israel. I don’t know where you got that stat from about Shabbat – can you please give a source? But I can tell you 100% for sure, that there are far more mitzvahs happening in Israel, and far more people with a true connection to Hashem in Israel.

Doesn’t mean that there aren’t mitzvahs occurring in Chul too, or that there aren’t people with a connection to Hashem there, too, because obviously there are. But our sources say clearly that Israel is the land of emuna. You feel Hashem’s guidance here 24/7, that’s part of why it’s sometimes not easy to live here, you can feel the spiritual judgments in the air, and they can drive you bonkers – or make you make teshuva.

Devorah says

April 7, 2019 at 22:28

Rivka, So who is this person in Israel’s politics that presently has daas haTorah acc to you?

Re the stat: “11% simply as religious, and 9% as ultra-Orthodox. According to the Israel Democracy Institute, the percentage of ultra-Orthodox is slightly higher.”

Source:

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/latest-population-statistics-for-israel

80% of Israelis believe in G-d (stat of 2012)

https://www.haaretz.com/jewish/1.5175991

Rivka Levy says

April 8, 2019 at 10:37

Daas Torah is collective, it’s not about an individual.

There is no one person in Israeli politics with “Daas Torah”, but there are political parties who clearly state that they don’t act before first consulting ‘Daas Torah’ – i.e. the collective wisdom of yirat-shemayim rabbis who are extremely learned in the finer points of halacha, and who are genuinely striving to try to give God what He wants.

Politics is dirty, there’s no way around it, but at least those types of parties have an additional ‘check’ on their negative impulses.

Thanks for giving the source for the stats – there’s a lot of manipulation of these things going on in the press in Israel, as they are trying to ‘force through’ anti-Shabbat legislation by claiming the majority don’t want it. Here’s what I found about the state of shabbos observance, from two years ago:

Towards the 69th Independence Day of the State of Israel, the Central Bureau of Statistics published a report according to which the population of Israel is approximately 8,680 million. 9% stated that they are ultra-Orthodox, 11% religious, 12% traditional religious, 24% traditional and not so Religious, “44% are not religious and secular.

I.e. 56% of the country keep Shabbat, in some form or other. Again, the reason that you’re seeing all those headlines screaming ‘only 20% are frum!!!!’ is because there’s a lot of political manipulation going on in this country, and huge agendas all over the place. Most of Israel keeps shabbat, but the 44% that doesn’t is often extremely vocal and ‘anti’ religion. It’s v polarised. But that 44% are in charge of the media, the courts and (most of…)the political parties.

Devorah says

Can you post the URL of the article about the stat?
Besides traditional doesn’t mean keeps Shabbat. It usually means they go to shul on rosh hashana and Yom Kippur, they do the pesach seder, brit mila and they install a mezuza.

The entire Middle East is one crazy region. The Arabs beat their wives, the Israelis beat their children, kick their brothers out of their homes and at least half of them divorce but, they wanna make ‘peace’ with the terrorists. Insane!

Rivka Levy says

April 9, 2019 at 09:09

The stat comes from here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Israel

“It usually means they go to shul on rosh hashana and Yom Kippur, they do the pesach seder, brit mila and they install a mezuza.” –

This is a chutz l’aretz definition of ‘traditional’. If you look at the link above, you’ll see that:

“85% [of Jews in Israel] participate in a Passover seder.”

“98% of Israel Jews Perform ‘Brit Milah’ Circumcision” – See here: https://hamodia.com/2017/12/27/poll-98-young-israeli-parents-held-bris-children/

Mezuzahs are ubiquitous in Israel – there is hardly a doorpost without them, and even self-defined ‘secular’ Jews put up mezuzahs – and also, erect sukkahs on Succot.

All this means that a ‘traditional’ Jew in Chul would probably self-define as a ‘secular’ Jew here. In Israel, traditional means the Shabbat is observed in some notable way – people will eat the Friday night meal, they will go to shul, they will not drive, minimum.

In regard to your comments about ‘half of Israelis beating up their children’ – 1) where on earth did you get that from? 2) it’s total lashon hara about Jews in Israel to say that – are you saying that wife-beating and kid-beating doesn’t happen in Jewish communities outside of Israel, or that Israel is somehow ‘worse’ than other places?

On what basis? This comes from a report on domestic abuse in the US Jewish community: (https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-life-and-religion/265934/safe-at-home-2)

“In Jewish families, domestic abuse occurs at about the same rate as in the general population (15-25 percent), among all socioeconomic levels and denominations including the unaffiliated, reports the Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse.”

I know it’s more comfortable to keep demonizing Israel, as that helps to justify why Jews live in Chul. I get that, I understand it. No-one is pretending Israel is perfect, anything but. But the discussion boils back down to ‘what does God want from me, and where does He want the Jewish people to live?’

The answer to the second part of that question is obvious, but it’s qualified – and sometimes superseded – by each person’s individual path in life.

I was emailing with my friend Daisy, who has been trying to get more people to come to the prayer gathering in Hevron tomorrow night (Monday April 8th), starting at 10pm.
She sent me the following, and I think it deserved sharing more widely, so here it is:
“I think that is the answer: CHESED, LOVE. This Atzeret is all about LOVE, about Chesed. We have to arouse the LOVE of AM Yisrael, because Am Yisrael has let Sinat Chinam bury the love. We have to REIGNITE the LOVE. This Rosh Chodesh Nissan is all about LOVE , I just heard a Shiur by a rav last Shabbat in Tampa about this very topic, and we were by coincidence – we know there are no coincidences, – discussing the issue of lack of love in Am Yisrael these days with my son, just a couple of days before the rav gave his lecture…
WE HAVE TO REIGNITE THE LOVE IN AM YISRAEL! That is the message. That is the only thing that will counteract the Sinat Chinam of the Churban Bayit Sheni! I get it!
Shabbat Shalom, Chodesh Tov. May Ahavat Chinam return to Am Yisrael, in every group, every Chassidut, every political party. We are buried in hatred. Of course destruction follows! The only way to counteract the destruction is with LOVE OF OUR FELLOW JEW, and even of all good people in the world! And I mean REAL love, the kind you feel all over, the kind you swim in. Not the phony, limited, fake love we got used to.”

This morning (April 7th), Rav Berland told the crowd in shul that awful decrees have now been made, and that Gantz and Lapid are planning to completely destroy the Torah lifestyle in Eretz Yisrael – banning brit mila, allowing Jews to marry whoever they want in civil marriages…and only 50,000 people showing up for the atzeret is going to be able to cancel this decree, which the Rav said otherwise begins in 10 days time.

Which suggests to me that Blue and White have found a way to fix the election somehow, and to win it after all, despite all polls showing a comfortable lead for the right wingers again.
And every single time the crazy, anti-Torah people get into power in this country, and start going after Yiddishkeit and frum Jews, Hashem stops them by sending a war with the Arabs. Check this out for yourself, it’s a fact and totally Snopes-proof.

So….if Blue and White win, God forbid, that means war is not far behind. And when there is war in Israel, the anti-Semitism in the world shoots through the roof – and it’s pretty high already.

So this really is everyone’s problem, and we need to make eve ry effort to get to Hevron tomorrow, for 10pm.I even have my teenagers coming with me this time, it’s that serious.(It’s an open miracle the 15 year old agreed, what can I tell you.)
On a technical note: I’m still waiting for confirmation if there is going to be a live hook-up via the internet. They still don’t know if that can make that happen this time, so I will keep you posted.
But there’s so much to pray for, isn’t there?

If Blue and White win, we are all going to be feeling the consequences, one way or another, wherever we live in the world.

I’m just cutting and pasting this here, from the ravberland.com website.

The Rav has been warning about what’s happening in front of our eyes for months and even years. Before Chanuka, he told us that 50,000 people were required to come together in prayer, to sweeten the judgments hanging over the nation.

In the end, 20,000 showed up in Hevron, and another 30,000 joined in via the live link-up. It seems that was enough to tone down what was about to come next, although think back to all the people who have been killed in terror attacks since then, including Yossi Cohen, Ori Ansbacher, and just recently, Rav Ettinger in Ariel, and it’s still been pretty hard.

So now, we have another chance to BH sweeten what’s coming down the pipe.

The Rav is the real deal. He took all the disgrace and exile and imprisonment he’s suffered the last few years upon himself, to try to ‘atone’ for all the terrible things he could see gathering on the horizon.

So, if you really want geula the sweet way, without rockets, bombs, civil wars, financial collapses and I don’t know what else, mark down April 8th, 2019 as a date in your diary. If you can’t be there in person, at least make plans to join the prayer gathering in spirit, and to show Hashem you care.

Because we are coming down to the wire.

 

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Latest Details about the Prayer Gathering on April 8th, 2019

Back on December 7th, 2018, well before any Hizballah tunnels had been discovered in the North of Israel; well before rockets from the Gaza Strip were falling around Tel Aviv; long before the government collapsed, and new elections were called for April 9th, 2019, Rav Eliezer Berland put out the following message:

“They are preparing thousands of rockets”

“The whole of Am Yisrael is currently facing a terrible, threatening situation. Every part of Israel is now under threat of being deluged with rockets.

“After we saw 400 rockets falling on Ashkelon and the surrounding cities, including Beer Sheva, Netivot, Ofakim and Sderot, now they are preparing thousands and thousands of rockets, which will reach to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

“AND WE HAVE NO POSSIBILITY OF STOPPING THIS FROM HAPPENING,

[B]ecause the whole world is against us.

“They can launch 10,000 missiles, and if we fire back even just one, they will say that we are the aggressors, and they are the victims.

“They will say that we began [hostilities], and that they are simply defending themselves.

“We have no [military] might, we only have the power of tehillim (psalms). All of the State of Israel’s efforts to stop the missiles of Hezbollah and Hamas ended in failure. Every day, we are threatened with thousands of new rockets. They can reach any target precisely…

“AM ISRAEL IS IN THE GREATEST DANGER, MAMASH,

And our only possibility of coming through this lies in our mouths: “The voice is the voice of Yaakov, and the hands are the hands of Esav.” (Bereishit, 27:22).

The final moments of the State of Israel

“We are now, mamash, at the final moments that we can stay in Eretz Yisrael, in the State of Israel, because the goal of the Arabs is to destroy everyone here.

“They don’t care if its dati’im (observant Jews), chilonim (secular Jews), Chareidim, Neturei Karta – they aren’t interested.

“They want to annihilate every single Jew, until the very last one of us – regardless of whether he’s secular, or religious, or Mizrachi (Sephardi traditional), or kipat srugah (National Religious).

We are in the gravest danger

It’s written: “And I will divide them, into the light and into the dark” (Bereishit 1:4).They are not going to distinguish between the ‘light’ and the ‘darkness’. Right now, we are all in the gravest danger, mamash.

So, we need to really urge people to attend this Prayer Gathering, so that almost 50,000 thousand people will come.

“And everyone should read the whole of the Book of Tehillim, which will [form] the shoes for the Shechina… every single person is obliged to complete the book of Tehillim at the Prayer Gathering, and to make good use of this opportunity for 50,000 people to say tehillim together.

“This will (be considered in Heaven) as though a billion people are saying tehillim (psalms), and this will certainly stop the tillim (rockets).

“Only tehillim can stop the tillim – not the IDF, not weapons, not tanks, not Patriot missiles, no Iron Dome – none of these things can stop the missiles.

Only the tehillim that we will say at this Prayer Gathering can stop the missiles.

“And in the merit of this, everyone will have a long life, like Yitzhak, in the merit of participating in this Prather Gathering…. “And the Rav will of course be coming, without doubt.“The whole of Am Yisrael is invited to come to the Prayer Gathering, and to finish the book of Tehillim, and this will erase Hamas from the face of the earth.”

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Four months later, who can question the Tzaddik’s ruach hakodesh?

Details of the prayer gathering on April 9th, 2019

We are in great danger, mamash, and the Rav has called for as many people as possible to attend the forthcoming prayer gathering, to be held on the evening of April 8th, 2019, in the City of the Patriarchs, Hevron. Rav Eliezer Berland, shlita, will also be in attendance.

The gathering will begin at 10pm, and there will be subsidized buses arranged from all over the country, to bring people to Hevron.

For more details of the buses, and / of if you want to donate to help defray some of the costs of the transportation, please call: 077-229-2222

No one should be missing.

Of all the things that weary my soul so much these days, top of the list is the modern tendency to look for reasons to be offended.

It’s part of that poisonous web of political correctness that’s being woven around all human interactions, where people can’t make jokes anymore, they can’t just be ‘them’ any more, they can’t ask honest questions, they can’t say what they really think, what they really feel.

Why not?

Because that might offend someone.

I’m not cheerleading for nasty language, or insults or put-downs, by the way, not at all. Onaas devarim, or negative speech, is a very big deal halachically, and we Jews have so many rules governing the proper way to try to communicate with other people.

But the halachot governing speech are a million miles away from the political correctness that’s poisoning modern communication, and making more and more of our daily interactions a burden and drag.

The first one is dealing with personal attacks and put downs on people themselves, which is clearly a function of bad middot, and is something that needs to be addressed.

But the second is an attack on ideas.

Political correctness is trying to shut down the discussion of ideas, the free exchange of knowledge, the challenging of assumptions, the ability to enable people to think for themselves, even if that’s sometimes awkward and imperfect.

We can’t discuss whether ‘feminist’ and ‘orthodox’ goes together, because that might offend someone. We can’t say that there shouldn’t be so much emphasis put on externals because that might offend someone. We can’t suggest Israel is the best place for Jews to live, or that Palestinians who fire rockets at civilians in Israel, or shoot small Jewish children, or stab Jews to death just because they are Jews are terrorists, because that might offend someone.

And so, the list of possible offenses grows longer and longer, and the topics that it’s safe to talk about grows smaller and smaller, and the ability to communicate in a real, sincere way totally dries up, because it’s just safer that way.

And it’s not just a ‘society’ problem or a ‘community’ problem, it’s also – very much – a family problem, a parent and child problem, a husband and wife problem.

We can’t ask non-observant seder guests to bring something to say at the Seder because that might offend them… Our kids can’t tell us that we’re bothering them, or annoying them, or upsetting them, for fear of offending us… We can’t tell our spouse that we suspect they are drinking too much at the Kiddush club on Shabbos, or working too hard, or not behaving correctly in case we offend them.

And they probably also feel they can’t tell us, that we’re too bossy, to selfish, too self-pitying, too demanding.

The list of potential egg shells goes on and on, and so it’s easier to just stay plastic, stay in the comfort zone, and to keep pulling that fake smile tighter and wider.

If you play by the rules of the politically-correct crowd.

And thank God, I can’t do that.

I make mistakes, I’m not always as tactful as I could be (supposing that tact can actually be learnt and developed), I sometimes phrase things a little OTT – but I prefer that a million times over to being too scared to speak to others, too scared to write anything real for fear I might offend someone.

Modern discourse has become so plastic and superficial because we’re all just waiting for that first mentally-disturbed ‘snowflake’ to start throwing a public hissy fit because they were offended by something we said – or didn’t say – or something we did – or didn’t do.

And that fear of not measuring up to politically correct perfection is keeping us all tongue-tied, repressed and miserable.

Or at least, almost all of us.

Thank God, there are still a few people out there who are bucking the trend, and saying what needs to be said. Rabbi Bassous in Golders Green is one of them. Rav Berland in Jerusalem is another.

But it’s certainly getting harder and harder for the average person to speak freely in the world, and to discuss and debate the ideas and assumptions that really need airing out. And so, my soul is getting more and more wearied by all the interactions that have to be so carefully policed in case I offend someone, chas v’halila¸by saying something they disagree with or don’t like.

But I’m not giving up.

At least, not yet.

Every diss is a diamond. So I’m willing to keep getting insulted if it means I can try to keep moving things forward, and to keep doing my bit to stop everyone turning into not-so-fantastic-plastic.

But sometimes, staying real is really hard work.

This morning, there were rockets from Gaza in Kfar Saba.

Are we supposed to believe this is another ‘mistake’? That Ahmed tripped over that darned carpet again, and fell against the ‘launch’ button?

Rav Berland was talking about rockets hitting every part of the country 4 months ago, and telling us the decree is serious and imminent. Which other Rav was trying to pull 50,000 Jews together in prayer at that point in time? Or pointing out that all the politicians in the world, all the ‘iron dome’ systems in the world simply aren’t going to help us, this time around?

We are down to the wire.

The threat is real, and growing stronger by the day.

Today, there were rockets in Kfar Saba.

And the Rav has told us clearly: Only prayer, only tehillim, can stop these rockets.

There is going to be another prayer gathering on Monday, April 8th, in Hevron. It’s hugely important that as many of us as possible get there, and throw our ‘prayer power’ behind the Rav’s effort to sweeten this decree.

Because the next rocket from Gaza could be coming through our roof, God forbid.

What if we don’t live in Israel?

Do we still have to worry, do we still have to care about all this stuff?

It’s a post for another time, but it comes back to that whole idea that we can’t run away from God, and His plan for us. Jews can certainly dodge rockets from Gaza by staying in chul.

But that doesn’t mean they’ll get the ‘easy life’ – because there is no such thing.

We can’t run away from God, even if we don’t live in Israel.

We won’t get a rocket through the roof (probably….I was talking to someone yesterday who is convinced civil war is around the corner in the US and the UK…), but we’ll get some other wake-up call.

There’s so much heartache and suffering going on behind closed doors all over the world.

So many of us are trying to stay in the comfort zone, even though it’s literally killing us, and preventing us from being the people, the Jews, God designed us to be.

And God doesn’t want us to do that anymore, as it’s holding up geula.