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.

It’s not all black and white after all, even in Lakewood.

Crazy times we live in, aren’t they?

I’m working so hard at the moment, trying to get my beta course on stress reduction for women up and running, and it’s so good to be trying to do something positive and uplifting, even tho it’s a lot of hard work.

I keep telling my husband: it’s good that this is our problem! It’s good that this is our stress! Long may it continue!

In the meantime, one of my readers just sent me the following letter, signed by a bunch of rabbis in Lakewood.

Personally, I’m very pleased to see some moral leadership on this subject in the American Jewish world, which is still arguing for the inviolability of free choice – even when it comes to vaccinations.

It’s a small light, in a very dark place, still.

But it’s a start.

And every dawn breaks gently.

 

None of us have a clue about what’s really going on, right now.

One of the striking elements of reading books like Tzaddik, and Rebbe Nachman’s Wisdom, is the number of times Rabbenu tells his followers: I don’t know anything.

And he really means it!

Over recent weeks, I’ve been thinking more and more how the people who regularly admit that they truly don’t know anything are really the only ones any one of us should be paying attention to. That’s for a few reasons.

First, true wisdom, true insight, isn’t linear.

It comes as flashes of inspiration that often catch you totally off guard, and up-end everything that you thought and believed was ‘true’.

The very action of acquiring more of this heavenly-inspired ‘knowledge’ and wisdom leaves you in a profound state of not knowing.

I know that’s what’s happening to me. The more I find out about Freemasons, vaccines, or even just what’s going on behind the façade of so many of the ‘regular’ people in my dalet amot, the less I truly feel that I ‘know’ anything.

At any moment, a new piece of information could come rushing up from the depths, or rushing out of the shadows, to turn everything all on its head, and change the whole picture.

There are no certainties in 2019, no guarantees.

Truth has become an expendable commodity for just about everyone, and in its place we have dogma, propaganda and totally unfounded assurances from other people that they know something we don’t.

Really?

The only source of clarity right now is what you get straight from talking to God, and from the mouths of our true Sages. And guess what? (Whisper this…) Our true sages don’t give a monkeys about impeachment hearings on Capitol Hill. It’s all a charade, a façade.

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Which brings me to the second reason why we need to only be listening to the people who aren’t trying to impress us with how much they know, and that boils down to humility and honesty.

Humility means that you aren’t trying to set yourself up as a ‘navi’, or a seer, pretending you have the inside edge about what’s going on all over the world when all you’re doing is watching Youtube videos and scrolling through your Facebook feed.

Let’s say it again: None of us know what’s going down at the moment, which side is up, who is really ‘good’, what is really ‘bad’.

All we have to go on is our intuition, the mirror principle, and any flashes of insight we might get in hitbodedut. While I’m a big believer in intuition and hunches, until the facts are incontrovertibly proved either way, everything is still just an educated guess.

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I think the Freemasons control most of the world and covertly (and not so covertly…) worship the devil. But I could be wrong about that, I admit it.

Ditto, I think Trump has been installed to pull off the ‘deal of the century’ which will see the US permanently installed in Israel to ‘protect us’ from our neighbors, while steadily asset-stripping the massive oilfields they just found in the Golan Heights (conveniently just recognized by Trump as belonging to Israel…) and the gas fields out to sea.

And maybe, something else, too. Who knows?

All I can tell you is that all of these ‘announcements’ from US and Israeli politicians seem to be aimed squarely at trying to provoke another war in the Middle East. Last week’s provocative hit on a PIJ leader didn’t lead to all-out war – miraculously! – so here, the Trump administration is trying to stir things up again, with another pointless ‘recognition’ of settlements in the West Bank, which changes precisely nothing, but is guaranteed to spark off riots in Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem.

Cynic that I am, I can’t help wondering if oil, or some other valuable natural resource, has just been found in the West Bank, too.

Under international law, if you try to cash in on the natural resources in an area whose sovereignty is under dispute, that counts as a ‘war crime’. That was the main problem with the oil fields up in the Golan – which Freemason Trump has now nicely solved for all his billionaire buddies with drilling rights.

But of course, I could be totally wrong about all this!

And if that’s the case, that’s OK with me. I’ll be the first to admit it.

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Which brings me back to the genius of Rabbenu’s “I know nothing’.

When you get in the habit of admitting that you really know nothing, then it gets way, way easier to admit when you inevitably get it wrong, and when you need to rethink things, make teshuva, and maybe apologise.

When you’re in the habit of knowing nothing, the ego doesn’t kick up quite the same fuss, when you have to put your hand up to being fallible and making mistakes. And while so many of us find that process painful and difficult, the more your practice it, the easier it gets.

Knowing nothing – and admitting that regularly – also works a treat to keep you humble, and open to learning from new information, new people, new facts you didn’t know before.

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Two weeks ago, I was in the local supermarket when there was an obviously American woman at the till, asking loudly:

Yesh condensed milk??

The lady serving her wasn’t being very helpful, so I arrogantly took it upon myself to inform her that I’ve never seen condensed milk in Israel, I’m not sure they even have it.

She gave me a glare and a tight smile, and then basically ignored me.

Hah! I thought to myself. Stupid new immigrant! What does she know about shopping in Israel… Not like me, who has lived here 15 years, and knows there is no condensed milk to be had!!!

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A few days ago, I was walking around that same supermarket when an elderly, Russian man literally sprang in front of me, and shoved two cans into my face.

He asked me in broken English what they were.

I took one can and read it carefully. My eyes opened in surprise.

It’s condensed milk, I told him.

He shoved the other can at me, and asked me to read the label of that one, too:

It’s also condensed milk, I told him, starting to flush.

He smiled happily at me – then put both cans back on the shelf and walked off.

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I don’t know much, but I know why God made that happen.

It was to show me how little I really know – about anything! – and to bring me down a peg or two.

Ah, Rivka.

So, you think you know ‘stuff’? You think you have some insight, some super-duper information no-one else has access to? Tut tut, the truth is, you really know nothing.

You don’t even know that the supermarket you’ve lived next to for two whole years and visit almost every days has not just one brand of condensed milk, but two!

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It’s humbling, having to admit I know nothing.

But it’s also actually a massive gift. I don’t have to pick fights because my ego is squirming, or because other people have different opinions to me.

Maybe, Trump really is going to drain the swamp.

(Excuse me while I laugh my head off hysterically.)

But maybe, that’s true! What do I know, really?

So I’m not going to take it personally if someone else has a different opinion.

Until the birur process starts to accelerate, it’s just getting more and more confusing, and harder and harder to figure out where the truth lies.

God doesn’t mind that we guess and get it wrong. Or that we suppose, based on totally false information and propaganda. He just gets upset with us when we arrogantly start dissing other people, because we think we know better than they do.

Because the truth is, we know nothing.

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Photo by Dave Webb on Unsplash

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What does it really mean to ‘go to yourself’?

This week, we’re reading Parsha Lech Lecha, where Avraham Avinu is given a clear steer by Hashem that he needs to leave his birth place, his family, his status and go to some unknown destination.

We know that the deeds of the forefathers are a ‘sign’ or message for their descendants, and that each of us will have to face some form of lech lecha in the service of Hashem. What do you think that would look like, for us today?

I was pondering this after my piece on Who is Armilus? over on the RavBerland.com site attracted some comments that caused me to raise an eyebrow.

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Apparently, few sacred cows are as sacred as Donald Trump…. Again, I’m not political in the least, and I really couldn’t give a monkeys who sits in the White House, or what party they belong to.

The political system everywhere in the world is an illusion, a Greek-inspired fantasy world that keeps us all at each other throats arguing partisan politics while the real baddies continue to pull the strings from behind the scenesAt this point, it seems sensible to assume that:

All politicians are bad, and are serving a system that is bad.

Are some better than others? Maybe. Who knows? Who really cares? It’s a shade of grey that only distracts from the underlying clarity that the political system is a fantasy that’s used to manipulate and confuse people into believing that they have some choice, or some say, in how the planet is really being run.

Really? We don’t.

And personally, I’m so weary of all these pointless discussions about impeachment, and Democrats vs Republicans, and Brexit yes or no, and Lieberman and Blue and White, and all the rest of it.

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All of this stuff is just keeping us away from the tachlis, the main point, the purpose of life:

To get closer to Hashem, and work on our own bad middot.

All this other stuff is just a pointless distraction. Partisan politics replaced religion as the ‘opium of the masses’, and it’s so frustrating to see how many people are literally wasting their time, their lives, on something that is 100% fantasy.

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The facts are these:

The US is interested in one thing, and one thing alone: it’s economy.

The US is using its army for one thing, and one thing alone: threatening and taking over third world countries so it can asset-strip them of their valuable natural resources, especially oil and natural gas.

The US ‘recognised’ the Golan Heights as belonging to Israel for one reason, and one reason alone:

There is a massive oil field there, that the Israeli mafia who run the country, together with the corrupt billionaires who are pulling the strings in the US and the UK have already divvied-up between them.

US company Genie was granted the contract to start exploring for oil in the Golan in 2013 – conveniently 18 months after Syria’s civil war began. The following information on Genie comes from the petroleum-economist site:

Genie was founded by Howard Jonas, who also founded the telecoms company, IDT. Jonas tried to emigrate to Israel in 2005 but found it impossible to manage his business from there. IDT is one of the largest private employers in Jerusalem, which Jonas has called the “centre of the world”.

Genies’ advisory board includes Rupert Murdoch, Dick Cheney and Jacob Rothschild.

The chairman of Genie’s Israeli subsidiary is Effie Eitam, a former leader of the Israeli National Religious Party, which represents Israeli settlers, and former minister for infrastructure. Eitam fought in the Golan and lives in one of its settlements.

Uzi Landau, the minister of infrastructure until last month, who granted the licence to explore for oil to Genie was a cabinet colleague of Eitam in at least two Israeli governments.

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Are you starting to see how all this works?

What’s amazing to me is that no-one is talking about what went on with the obvious corruption and croney-ism that’s behind this Genie / Golan Heights deal.

(Read THIS for more. I’m not sure how far down that rabbit hole I want to venture, at this point, and let me also point out that while this author is making some very interesting connections, clearly not everything he’s saying is true.)

But make no mistake, that any profit from these natural resources that should be going to you and me, the citizens of Israel, and to building the country, has already been slated to inflate the bank accounts and power-bases of the tiny handful of ‘elites’ who already own everything else in the world.

Trump good, Trump bad – who cares?

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Jews all over the world have a duty to stop lying to ourselves about what is really going on in the world.

The truth is, the Muslim regimes that the US and the West are trying to overthrow actually have far more in common with authentic Judaism than the ‘enlightened’ forces battling them. Of course, I’m not condoning ISIS violence, or Sharia law, or chopping people heads and hands off, God forbid, anything but.

God forbid, I’m not condoning the Iranian nuke, or it’s aggression against Israel.

But let’s take the blinders off, and ask ourselves a serious question, for a moment:

If we are really honest about what the US has done and is doing in the world, in the name of ‘democracy’ and ‘justice’, we will find that the US has wrecked and pillaged one country after another, both overtly and covertly, to service its insatiable greed.

(Let’s be clear that the European colonialists were doing all this before them, just the US has taken over where the Brits, French, Dutch and Belgians apparently stopped.)

The CIA, the NSA, MI6 and some of the other spook agencies have deliberately destabilized one country after another politically, so they could install a ‘puppet regime’ who would be very happy to let the Americans asset-strip the country. American companies get the fat contracts to ‘exploit’ the resources, and the American government sets the ‘fair’ price they are willing to pay for them.

And who loses out?

The poor citizens of these countries.

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I’m pointing this out because unless there is some massive, sincere teshuva unleashed in the US and the West, and particularly in the Jewish communities there, sooner or later God is going to pull the rug out from the USA’s feet.

The earth is already shaking, although the media is studiously ignoring all the signs that the seismic pressure is alarming, and pointing to the distinct possibility that the North American landscape may soon be about to change in a whole bunch of ways.

And I’m not talking about politics.

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Iran hates America, because the US overthrew its democratically-elected government back in the 1950s, to install their corrupt puppet, the Shah. The Shah oppressed his people ruthlessly – but sold oil to the Americans for a knock-down price. So he was painted as the good guy!!!

And the same thing has happened all over Latin America and Africa, too.

The world is in the awful mess it is in today, with billions of people stuck in a permanent ‘Third World’, because the US and NATO and the CIA went in time and time again to overthrow a democratic government that was inimical to Western economic interests, to replace it with a brutal, corrupt dictatorship that let the Americans and Europeans asset-strip to their hearts’ content.

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So what does all this have to do with lech lecha, and the Jews?

Rebbe Nachman teaches that each of the 70 nations of the world has a particular evil ‘trait’ that the Jews who live in that nation will have to overcome, in order to rectify it.

It’s as clear as daylight that the main evil trait of the USA is a lust for money.

It’s as clear as daylight, that the US has totally wrecked and corrupted half the world in their blind pursuit of oil, gas, and economic abundance.

It’s as clear as daylight, that the lust for money is also the main reason why more of America’s orthodox Jews aren’t moving to Israel – and why so many Jews in the US abandoned their yiddishkeit and assimilated in the first place.

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This week, God is giving us a prod in the back, and He’s telling us:

Lech Lecha!

Leave all that materialism, all that phoney talk about ‘justice and democracy’, all those lies about America being the world’s ‘good guy’, all that Greek fantasy about politics mattering an iota – and get real.

Get real.

Understand that the Jews who are living in America – and of course everywhere else in the world – have an awful lot of teshuva to make.

Enough with the pretend perfect.

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All God really requires of us, is for us to be honest about what the problems really are, and to ask for His help to overcome them.

But for as long as we’re pretending that the USA is ‘justice’ embodied, and for as long as we’re pretending that all the awful, bad, disgusting things that we ourselves do to other people are ‘justified’, we are a million miles away from really doing Lech Lecha, and leaving the bad behind to return to Hashem.

But maybe, just maybe, 5780 is the year to finally face that truth down.

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Since Rosh Hashana, I’ve just been feeling like I’m bouncing along the bottom, spiritually.

And there really isn’t much I can do about that, except not give up and let go.

Sukkot continued the theme of me hoping I could attain a spiritual level – even a basic one! – that sadly seems so far out of reach at the moment. True, me and the kids made our own decorations for the Sukkah this year, which was great. True, also, that I managed to roast some beef in a way that was edible, which was an open miracle.

Ten years ago, I tried to cook what I thought was beef for my brother when he came to visit from the UK, and because I had no idea what cut of meat I’d actually bought, it came out the chewiest meat I’d ever had to eat.

Because he’s British and kind of polite, my brother forced himself to eat it, but to this day, he likes to remind me of the ‘donkey stew’ that I dished up to him that night.

So getting a cut of beef to come out edible is quite an achievement for me.

But otherwise, I really can’t boast about my Sukkot.

True, I spent a lot of time sitting there by myself obsessively researching my husband’s family tree from Lithuania, but I can’t say I did more than that.

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Shabbat rolled around, and with it the strange mood I’d been in all week deepened and broadened out.

Does no-one else in this house know where the supermarket is? I wondered to myself, as I schlepped for the millionth time to replenish the cupboard and fridge.

Does no-one else know how to wash up? Does no-one else know how to cook?

In fairness, my kids weren’t around. One had descended to Egypt for the chag, and spent Sukkot in Sinai. Great.

The other was just at her friends all the holiday, including one night she spent in a 5 storey mansion in Rishon LeZion that had its own sauna, pool room, and was basically decked-out like a boutique hotel. The owners were mishpacha of one of my daughter’s friends, so she went to see how the other half live, as the owner had gone to Italy for Sukkot.

How festive of everyone. How very Sukkot-y of everyone.

The husband was out of action, still hobbling around on an ankle that has refused to heal for nearly three months, until we paid a pidyon over to Rav Berland shortly before Sukkot, and now things are looking up, Baruch Hashem.

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So Shabbat rolled around, and after yet another round of shopping and cooking for the ‘guests’ that call themselves my kids, I was in a bad mood.

The bad mood was compounded by all these Litvak ancestors who totally goyed out 100 years ago and stopped keeping anything.

One had even baptized the children he had with his non-Jewish wife, after naming them ‘Blumer’ and ‘Wolfe’. The mind boggles.

So, I was sitting there thinking that I’m not doing so well on the ‘upstanding spiritual Jewish household front’ at the moment, and long story short, that quickly snowballed into our annual massive fight in front of all the neighbors.

This has happened so many years in a row since we’ve been in Jerusalem, I think it’s some sort of institution now. Just as everyone else was finishing up their zemirot and bentching, the Levy Sukkot started up with World War III, arguing about things like free choice, and whether God (and parents….) still loves Jews that go completely off the derech.

God does, but I’m not God!!!

I told my kid that , and I could see she was shocked, but it’s the truth.

Or to be more accurate, I will continue to love my kids whatever, but I want to actually have kids I can relate to, and that I don’t have to walk on eggshells around because they’ve taken a path of confusion and now just talk pointless rubbish all the time (at best…).

I’m not God. I can’t pretend you can do whatever you want and that’s totally cool with me.

I thought some more, and then I added:

And I’m not sure God thinks that Jews can do whatever they want, too, even if they are still teenagers.

This was apparently shocking news.

Since then, we’ve made up again, baruch Hashem, but there went our neighborhood reputation…

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On Simchat Torah, I woke up with a cold, which got me out of going to shul for hakafot which was great, because I didn’t have a shul to go to, anyway. I danced a bit with the chumash in my own house, and started to feel like I don’t really belong in Baka, again.

The feeling was compounded when we went out for supper, and one of the other guests started slagging off the Rav.

I literally got all shaky, hearing this guy opine on things he really knows nothing about that equate to a one way ticket to gehinnom, and my husband started yelling at him.

The conversation then devolved into an argument about whether the Gemara is really ‘Torah’ (!) and then at that point, the yelling between my husband and this guy got so loud the man’s wife intervened and placed him under a gag order.

We spent the next hour making polite small talk about banal things that no-one could take offence at, and I thought to myself: What a waste of life! What a waste of time! And I felt kinda sad.

Next day, we got invited out again by neighbors of ours who I really like, but who have been surfing negative Youtube videos about the Rav. I gave them One in a Generation to try to put the other side –they read ¼ of it, and gave it back, still preferring the Youtube version of events.

What can I do?

Where can I go?

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The anglo, gashmius part of me quite enjoys Baka, with its leafy greenery, and ordered neighborhoods. But my soul is starting to wither here.

Once chag was out, we headed out to our old hood, to go hang out by Rav Berland’s ginormous Sukkah in the Meah Shearim bit of Musrara. There was trash everywhere. There were kids everywhere. There were people everywhere. I sat on a bench with my husband, and my soul lit up as my nose wrinkled.

You know, it takes a lot of effort to get trash into every corner of the streets, like that. They are actually putting some effort into doing this right…

As we stood by the bank on the corner of Meah Shearim, looking at home and simultaneously looking out of place, a group of chareidi men in a rush speed-walked past, accompanying some distinguished Rov. I have no idea who he was, just that people kept running over to kiss his hand.

I miss this madness, I told my husband. I miss this kedusha.

But I don’t miss the trash.

So not for the first time, I found myself caught between two worlds, two lifestyles, two neighborhoods. Clean, sociable and heretical in Baka, or filthy, isolated and holy in Musrara.

For the last year and a half, the body has been winning out.

But I think in 5780, the soul is starting to tip the balance again.

Now, I just need to find 3.5 million shekels from somewhere, to move back…

TBC

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Is the United States of America really the ‘good’ side of Edom?

After going into Yom Kippur in Israel with newspapers blaring headlines that Trump had given permission to Turkey to ‘invade’ Syria (!), I thought it was timely to try to track down what the Gemara says about the ‘good side’ of Edom.

I know there’s an idea being floated around that America is somehow the ‘good’ side of Edom, and that Trump is somehow akin to the Roman Emperor Antoninus, who had a very close relationship with Rebbe Yehuda HaNasi around 1800 years ago.

As things continue to get more and more ‘interesting’ in the international arena, I thought it was time to actually track down the sources in the Gemara that talk about Antoninus, most of which I found in Avoda Zara 10a and b. We can learn a lot from seeing what the Sages actually said about ‘Edom’ and its rulers, and how that maps on to modern-day America, and its rulers.

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The discussion begins in 10a, where the Sages are discussing idolatrous holidays and festivals.

They start talking about something called the ‘Ginusya day of their emperors’, and Rav Yehuda explains:

This is the day on which idolaters inaugurate their emperor.

The Gemara then asks:

But do [the Romans] appoint the son of a king as a king?

The Artscroll notes then state:

“The Emperors of Rome did not reign by hereditary right, but were selected by the previous ruler, or by the Senate.”

Does this sound familiar?

The Gemara then goes on to quote a verse from the prophecy of Ovadiah – which is very interesting in its own right, not least because of the following quotes from it:

“Even if you raise [your nest] like an eagle of if you place your nest amongst the stars, I will bring you down from there…..

“[T]he house of Yaakov will inherit those who had dispossessed them. The house of Yaakov will be fire, the house of Yosef a flame, and the house of Esav for straw. And they will ignite them and devour them. There will be no survivor to the house of Esav, for Hashem has spoken.”

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The allusions to Edom being America seem obvious. The bald-headed eagle is the American emblem – and appears on the logo of the CIA, amongst other things – and ‘the stars’ are also prominently linked to the USA, in just about every sense of the word, beginning with their flag, moving through the space exploration program, and ending with Hollywood.

Let’s continue.

American white supremacism

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Rashi explains in his commentary on Genesis 36:43 that Edom is the ‘ancestor’ of Rome.

The Gemara continues to explains that Rome is ‘inferior among nations’ (quoting Ovadiah) because they:

“Do not appoint the son of a king as king.”

Clearly, the Sages aren’t impressed with the idea of ‘democracy’. The Gemara continues that Edom / Rome is “very despised”:

“Because they do not have their own writings or language.”

These descriptions also ‘fits’ the USA perfectly.

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The Gemara now introduces us to the Roman Emperor Antoninus, who had a close relationship with Rebbi, Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi. The discussion begins with how the Roman Authorities – aka the Senate – are ‘persecuting’ Antoninus, and how Rebbe advises him to kill them off one at a time, and “to not contend with all of them at once.”

Rebbe is scared to state this openly, because he’s wary of being bugged. The Gemara says:

“One can never be sure that a private conversation will remain secret.”

Admittedly, this does sound a little Trump-like. Let’s continue. The Gemara next explains about how Antoninus has a daughter who is acting in a way that could cause her father to become embroiled in a public scandal, and again Rebbe advises him on what to do with her.

Next, the Gemara describes how Antoninus is secretly sending Rebbi sacks full of crushed gold disguised as wheat, so that Rebbi will have money to pay the greedy Romans who will come after Antoninus. Then, the scene switches to the secret visits Antoninus would make to Rebbe’s house, where he’d kill the servants who accompanied him.

The Gemara says:

“Every day, he would wait upon Rebbi. He would serve him food and serve him drink. When Rebbi wished to climb onto his bed he would bend down before the bed and say [to Rebbi]: “Climb up on me to your bed.”

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Before we get into the next, really interesting part, I feel the urge to state the obvious, namely that Trump isn’t doing this for any Jewish sage, last I heard. He’s not sending Rabbi Berland sacks of gold, he’s not letting Rav Kanievsky use him as a footstool, he’s not asking the Biala Rebbe questions about how to keep Ivanka in line…

For sure, Trump has a problem with his ‘Deep State’ trying to take him out of action, same as Antontinus did, but without any of Antoninus’ corresponding personal piety. Let’s continue.

The Gemara now gets into a very interesting discussion that has reverberations for us, and our generation, and our confusion of how best to handle, and relate to ‘Edom’ / America. Antoninus asks Rebbi if he’s going to enter the World to Come, and Rebbi tells him yes. Antoninus then starts quoting the prophet Ovadiah at him, and says:

But it is written ‘and there will be no remnant to the house of Esav’, which implies that the descendants of Esav (Edomites / Romans) will not enter the World to Come. Rebbi responded: “That verse speaks only of one who acts in the manner of Esav.”

“This was also taught in a Baraisa: And there will be no remnant to the House of Esav. It could have been thought that this applies to all Edomites. To dispel this notion, [the Torah] states: To the House of Esav. By naming Esav, it teaches that only where the Edomite acts in the manner of Esav is he condemned; otherwise, he may enter the World to Come.”

All this is a direct quote from the Gemara.

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In the Artscroll notes it states:

“Edomites are barred from the World to Come only if they act like Esav (a barbarian who scorned God, committed murder and violated women.)….[A]ny gentile (even if he is not a ger toshav, who formally accepts the seven Noahide laws) has a portion in the World to Come, provided he does not emulate the barbaric Esav.”

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American white supremacism

Before we get into a discussion of whether the USA has a history of acting like the arch-hypocrite Esav, pretending to be good, pure and holy while actually rampaging around the world slaughtering anyone who stands in the way of its economic goals and other materialistic desires, let’s just return to the Gemara in Avoda Zara 10b.

Antoninus is still having difficulties believing Rebbi’s assertion that he will make it into the World to Come, and tells him:

But it is written: “There (in Gehinnom) is Edom, her kings and all her presidents.” Apparently, all the leaders of Edom are assigned to Gehinnom!

Rebbi replies that the verse isn’t talking about all Edom’s kings, just most of them; and that the verse states:

All her presidents, and not all her ministers.

The Artscroll notes explain:

“A president is a ruler of Rome who is not a king, but serves at the behest of the Senate (see Tosfos). A minister is a royal adviser (presumably a senator) – Raavad.”

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In other words, every single president of Edom / Rome / America is going to gehinnom, but here and there, there may be some Edomite royal heads of state, and also the odd Senator and Congressman who may actually escape the rampant moral corruption enough to make it into the World to Come.

The Gemara continues with more discussions about the relationship between Antoninus and Rebbe, and the Artscroll notes trace this back to the prophecy that Rebecca is told when she was carrying Esav (Edom) and Yaakov (Israel) back in Genesis, 25:23. I.e. the two babies are two nations, and when one is up, the other will be down.

“Two nations are in your womb…the elder shall serve the younger.”

The Artscroll notes then quote Rabbi Gedalyah Schorr, author of Or Gedalyah who explains that:

“Ideally, Yaakov-Israel and Esav-Edom were meant to enjoy a harmonious and complimentary partnership. Esav…was supposed to defeat evil, while Yaakov…was to promote good. Had Esav fulfilled his role, he would have been equal to Yaakov.”

This view is based on the midrash that states that six tribes should have descended from Esav and six from Yaakov, but this didn’t happen as Esav went bad, failed to live up to his spiritual job, and so Yaakov married Leah instead (who was Esav’s intended bride) and the whole course of Jewish history changed.

Again, Rav Schorr believes that the ‘perfect partnership’ between Edom and Israel did actually occur – uniquely – for one brief interlude in history, when Antoninus was (secretly…) subservient to Rebbe.

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From what I can tell, this passage in the midrash appears to be the basis of the idea that Trump is some sort of Edomite ‘good guy’, but there is absolutely no discussion here of any sort of ‘Edomite’ aspect of Moshiach and there is also a very large distinction made in these sources between EDOM and ESAV.

Parts of the former can make teshuva and get some share in the world to come. But Esav can’t. This is a very important distinction to make, if you’ve been reading articles like this.

Assuming Trump is a retread of Antoninus, the most that would mean is that he’s sneaking Rav Kanievsky sacks of gold and asking Rav Berland coded messages about what to do with Ivanka. Even Antoninus couldn’t and didn’t free Israel from Roman rule, nor give permission for the Jews to rebuild the temple.

And even making that equivalence between Trump and Antoninus seems to be stretching us past reality.  As we already mentioned, Trump is not sneaking billions to any Jewish sage, nor waiting hand and foot on any rabbi. If I’m wrong about this, please do let me know, as clearly that would change things.

Which bring is to the last part of this discussion, which is this:

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Is it realistic to assume that America is the ‘good’ part of Edom, and not actually the bad, unfixable, ‘Esav’ part of Edom?

And that’s where the conversation is going to get a little sticky, because once you move all the brainwashing about apple pie and Uncle Sam out the way, you’ll find that American history is just one, big list of atrocities, genocidal actions and wars. Sure, they were always dressed up as being ‘good’ and holy, but really, they boil down to America using its military might to bully the rest of the world into doing what suited it best, economically.

(Btw, the UK preceded the US, and is also totally corrupt and the ‘Esav’ part of Edom. Anglo Saxon culture also included the Nazis, who were clearly also really bad. However, we’re focusing on the US, because that’s who is still empire-building, and controlling the State of Israel, in 2019.)

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The United States committed the first ever genocide, when it brutally killed off millions of its native Americans over the course of a few decades, as I wrote about HERE.

For 250 years, it built its economy off the back of black slaves who were initially brought to America against their will, and then bred by their slave masters like so much chattel. No-one really knows how many blacks lost their lives amidst brutal conditions, worked to death by their pious, white American owners. No-one knows how many black women slaves were assaulted by their white masters. Blacks didn’t count as real people in America until well into the 1960s and the time of Martin Luther King Jr – and probably well beyond.

Then, we have all the European Jews that were barred from entering the US before and during World War II, even though Roosevelt knew they were being slaughtered by the millions. America held off from really joining the WW2 effort in Europe until the last possible minute, waiting for Stalin to have millions of his soldiers killed by the Nazis, and for the UK to be brought to its knees as an Imperial power.

And then, the US decides they are going to drop not just one nuclear bomb on Japan, but two. And not just on a smallish city of 10,000 people but on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where they killed almost a quarter of a million people, half of them in under a minute. This from Wikipedia:

Over the next two to four months, the acute effects of the atomic bombings killed between 90,000 and 146,000 people in Hiroshima and 39,000 and 80,000 people in Nagasaki; roughly half of the deaths in each city occurred on the first day.

This was totally cruel, totally murderous behavior. You want to try out your nuke? Pick a small target! Keep bombing in increments, until the Japanese gave up! Why bomb two such big cities like that, chik chak, with such terrible loss of life?

To this day, the United States of America is the only country to have actually used its nuclear weapons to destroy tens of thousands of people.

American white supremacism

Post WW2, the Dulles brothers and Eisenhower decided to secretly ship 1,600 hardcore Nazi scientists over to the US, as part of Operation Paperclip.

That Nazi science has morally corrupted the US in a million different ways, particularly in the realms of medicine,  biology and economics and industry, which most people still are blissfully unaware of. (Btw, I think that number is way too low. If you include intelligence assets that were ‘taken over’ by the CIA and the British, the number of former Nazis working for the West bounds into the thousands.)

The US has spent decades since WW2 rampaging around the world, starting wars whenever its economic interests are threatened, that have totally devastated whole countries and left tens of millions of people dead, homeless or totally impoverished and with nothing to look forward to.

Of course, American actions are always dressed up as ‘good’ and ‘holy’ and above reproach ‘, but really?

America is acting exactly like Esav.

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Is everyone in the US acting like Esav? No, clearly not. There are many good noahides / non-Jews in the US – and also in other parts of the Edomite Western world – and these people will be the parts of Edom who will make it to the World to Come, as described in the Gemara, above.

But America’s politicians? America’s presidents? America’s generals? America’s elites?

There is absolutely no basis in fact or Jewish sources for believing that these people are even close to being the ‘good’ part of Edom.

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What the sources do seem to clearly show, however is that the USA = Esav, mamash.

Right down to its ‘presidents’, senators, eagle emblem and stars and stripes flag. Here and there, there might be a good politician, but the Gemara is clear:

[A]ll the leaders of Edom are assigned to Gehinnom.

The LEADERS of Edom are all the politicians, heads of states and European royalty.

But America itself is obviously acting like ‘Esav’, pretending to be 100% kosher, but really just a pig.

And the sources are clear that:

[T]here will be no remnant to the House of Esav.

American white supremacism

Which is why I find statements like this to be extremely puzzling:

“When Esau is seen helping Israel, it is a sign Moshiach is right around the corner,” Rabbi Kessin said.

In explanation, Rabbi Kessin quoted the Bible concerning the prophesied fate of Jacob and Esau told to their mother, Rivka.

And Hashem answered her, “Two nations are in your womb, Two separate peoples shall issue from your body; One people shall be mightier than the other, And the older shall serve the younger.” Genesis 25:23

The rabbi noted an ambiguity in the Hebrew text that had vastly different import.

“Due to the absence of pronunciation markings, the wording of the Torah text can be read either as ‘va’ya’avod’, meaning he shall serve, or ‘va’ya’aved’,  he shall enslave,” the rabbi explained. “Esau will help Jacob by either serving him or by causing him to suffer since suffering is a way to bring God back into the world.”

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So, is Trump a possible reincarnation of Antoninus?

It’s possible, especially if you take into account Trump’s pronounced ‘anti war’ stances, but unlikely, especially if you look at recent tweets like this:

“President Trump is the greatest President for Jews and for Israel in the history of the world, not just America, he is the best President for Israel in the history of the world…and the Jewish people in Israel love him like he’s the King of Israel. They love him like he is the second coming of God… But American Jews don’t know him or like him. They don’t even know what they’re doing or saying anymore.”

Does this sound like the kind of guy who’d be sending Rav Berland secret sacks of gold, or letting Rav Kanievsky use him as a footstool?….

If you look through the history books, there are other Roman leaders who sound far, far more like Trump than Antoninus Pius. And we’ll take a look at that side of things in the next post, BH.

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Photo by History in HD on Unsplash

“Whoever finds fault, finds his own fault” – Tractate Kiddushin 70a

With a couple of days to go before the Yom HaDin, Rosh Hashana 5780, I thought that we’d take a look at a passage in the Gemara, Kiddushin 70a, which is where the ‘mirror principle’ is first stated by Chazal.

In case you don’t know what the ‘mirror principle’ is, it’s a statement by the Baal Shem Tov that the whole world is a just a mirror, and that whatever ‘bad’ we see peeking out at us in others is somehow just a reflection of our own ‘bad’.

But that’s not just a tenet of chassidut, it’s actually brought down in the Gemara. And if we look at the context of that statement, we can learn some truly remarkable things. Let’s begin this post over in Chapter Four of Tractate Kiddushin, where the Sages are discussing the genealogical laws, and describing the different categories of Jews who ascended to Israel, from Babylonia, before the Second Temple was built.

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The Gemara tells us:

Ten genealogical classes went up from Bablyonia to Eretz Yisrael: Kohanim, Leviim, Yisraelim, chalalim (disqualified Kohanim), converts, freed Caananite slaves, mamzerim, nesinim, shetukim and asufim.

While all of these classes were considered to be 100% Jewish, there were restrictions on who was allowed to marry each other. The Gemara sets out the basic rules:

Kohanim, Leviim and Yisraelim – can marry each other.

Leviim, Yisraelim, chalalim, converts and freed slaves – can marry each other.

Converts, freed slaves, mamzerim, nesinim, shetukim and asufim – can marry each other.

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Before we continue, let’s just explain some of the more unfamiliar terms:

Mamzer – Refers to someone who is 100% Jewish, halachically, but who was born as a result of a union that is forbidden by the Torah. This doesn’t apply to someone who was born out of wedlock, but whose biological parents could still have stood under an orthodox chuppah. It also doesn’t apply to the Jewish child of a ‘mixed marriage’ where the father is not Jewish. But it DOES apply to adulterous extra-marital relationships, and also to children born of incest, amongst other things.

Nesin – This refers to a group of Canaanites called the Gibeonites, who tricked Joshua into converting them to become Jews, so that he wouldn’t kill them when he was conquering Eretz Yisrael. Even though their conversion was considered valid, Joshua forbid the other Jews from marrying them as long as the temple stood. Then later, King David saw how cruel and barbaric they were, and permanently forbid them from marrying into the mainstream Jewish community.

Shetuk – According to the Gemara:

“These are shetukim, anyone who knows the identify of his mother, but does not know the identity of his father.”

Asuf – According to the Gemara:

“Anyone who is gathered in from the street and does not know the identity of either his father or his mother.”

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The Gemara then gets into a very interesting discussion about how Ezra the Scribe basically forced all these ‘genealogically unfit’ categories of Jews to ascend with him to come and rebuild Eretz Yisrael.

He was worried that if he left them behind in Babylonia, the rabbis there wouldn’t know how to keep them properly contained.

(It’s an interesting aside, but the Babylonian Talmud asserts that because Ezra took all the ‘unfit’ Jews with him to Israel, he left Babylonian Jewry “like fine, sifted flour.” So they state that Babylonia at that time was the most genealogically ‘fit’ Jewish community, followed by Eretz Yisrael, then followed by the rest of the diaspora (!) I’m willing to bet the Talmud Yerushalmi has a different view, but I don’t have a copy to compare….)

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The Gemara then gets into a whole big discussion about what a big, genealogical mess the whole thing is already (1800 years ago…).

There were so many Kohanim who’d married goyim and ‘forbidden’ women without anyone knowing; and there were so many slaves who didn’t follow the proper procedure for being freed (which would render them as halachically Jewish converts) before marrying a Jew; and there were mamzerim walking around all over the place, due to adulterous affairs.

The Gemara then states this:

A Tanna taught…Elijah [the Prophet] writes, and the Holy One, Blessed is He, signs: Woe to him who disqualifies his children and who taints his family, and who marries a woman who is not fit for him. Elijah ties him, and the Holy One, Blessed is He, whips him. And whoever declares others to be genealogically unfit is himself genealogically unfit. And he (i.e someone who is genealogically unfit] never speaks in praise of others.

Let’s just pause for a moment, and digest this, as it’s a statement with huge implications.

In the Artscroll footnotes, they note that Rashi comments that:

[A]nyone who regularly demeans the genealogical status of other families reveals himself to be genealogically blemished.

In other words, we are back to the mirror principle, big time. The Gemara continues:

And Shmuel said: The Baraisa means: He declares them unfit with his own blemish.

I.e., whatever he’s accusing others of being, he’s actually just describing himself.

The Gemara then tells the following story, to underline this point:

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There was a certain man from Nehardea who went into a butcher shop in Pumbedita[1]. He said to them: “Give me meat.” They said to him: “Wait until the attendant of Rav Yehudah bar Yechezkel[2], who is standing here, takes his meat, and then we will give you yours.”

He said: “Who is Yehuda bar Sheviskel that he should precede me and take before me!” They went and told Rav Yehuda what this man had said. [Rav Yehuda] placed a ban upon him. They told Rav Yehuda: “He habitually calls people slaves.” [Rav Yehuda] issued a proclamation that he [i.e. the Nehardean] was a slave himself.”

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What happens next is that the aggressive, brazen, disrespectful Nehardean than sues Rav Yehuda in the rabbinical court of Rav Nachman, the leader of the Nehardean community.

The story continues:

“Rav Nachman began the questioning: He said to [Rav Yehuda]: ‘Why did master place a ban upon that man?’

Rav Yehuda responded: ‘Because he harassed an agent of the Rabbis.’

Rav Nachman: ‘Then master should have given him lashes…Why did you excommunicate[3] him?’

Rav Yehuda: ‘As a penalty. I dealt with him even more stringently than that.’

Rav Nachman: ‘Why did master proclaim that he was a slave?’

Rav Yehuda: ‘Because he frequently calls people ‘slaves’. And a Tanna has taught in a Baraisa: Anyone who declares others… unfit, is himself unfit. And he never speaks in praise of others. And Shmuel said….’It is with his own blemish that he declares other unfit.’

(Try this: swap out the word ‘slave’ for ‘Erev Rav’…)

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Now, the Nehardean gets all bolshy, and starts shouting down Rav Yehuda, who is one of the Gedolei HaDor of Babylonian Jewry:

“Me you call a slave, when in fact I am descended from the royal family of Hasmoneans!”

Rav Yehuda says to him:

“Thus said Shmuel: ‘Whoever says, ‘I am descended from the family of the Hasmoneans is in truth a slave!”

Rav Nachman gets into a small discussion about whether Rav Yehuda is just making up quotes to try to bolster his case, and Rav Yehuda says no, Rav Masnah also heard this teaching. Rav Masnah hadn’t appeared in Nehardea in 13 years, but whaddya know? As they’re having this conversation, Rav Masnah happens to show up, and he confirms Rav Yehuda’s statement.

The Gemara continues:

“[Rav Nachman] subsequently proclaimed that the plaintiff was indeed a slave. That day, many ketubot were ripped up in Nehardea” – because Jewish men now suspected they were married to ‘slave’ women who they’d mistakenly believed to be Jewish.

Now, Rav Yehuda leaves town, and the people of Nehardea follow him, because they want to stone him to death, for all the trouble he’s making. Rav Yehuda gets them to quiet down by telling them that if they doesn’t leave him alone, he’s going to reveal right there the big secret that Shmuel taught him about the Jewish community in Nehardea, namely:

“There are two families in Nehardea: One is called the family of Yonah [i.e. the kosher dove] and one is called the family of Orvasi [i.e. the non-kosher and cruel oreiv, or raven. Perhaps another hint to the ‘Erev Rav’ problem.]… The family named after an impure bird is impure, and the family named after a pure bird is pure.”

The townspeople dropped their stones and ran away, before Rav Yehuda could disclose which family was which.

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Now, the Gemara goes through a whole bunch of proclamations the Sages of Babylonia made about all these ‘impure’ and ‘disqualified’ people in the Jewish community.

This problem is even in Eretz Yisrael, and when Rabbi Pinchas’ students start investigating the families in the Land of Israel, they realise they have to stop. Rashi explains why:

“Their research led them to discover the disqualification of certain powerful families who would kill them [if their impurities were revealed.”

Which brings us on to a VERY important point, about how Chazal decided to deal with this situation, and how they said it would ultimately get fixed (we’re now in Kiddushin 71a):

(R’ Yitzhak said):

“Once a genealogically tainted family is mixed with Israel, it is mixed. One should not isolate such a family and clarify which of its members are pure and which are impure. Rather, one should leave it, and in the Messianic era all of its members will be deemed pure.”

The Gemara continues, and makes a distinction between ‘genealogically impure’ families who forced their way into the Jewish community (i.e. like Herod the Great, for example), and tainted families where it all kind of just happened:

(Abaye explains):

“Families… whose impurities are publically known and who became mixed with Israel only through force, will be dealt with by Elijah the Prophet. But a tainted family that became mixed with Israel because people were unaware of its status, Elijah will allow to remain mixed.”

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Let’s finish with one more story from the Gemara, in Kiddushin 71b, then we’ll sum up what we just learnt together.

Rav Ulla comes to visit Rav Yehuda in Pumbedita, and he sees that his son, Rav Yitzhak, is still unmarried, so he asks Rav Yehuda:

“What’s going on? Why haven’t you married your son off?”

Rav Yehuda replies: “Who knows where I can find a genealogically fit wife for him?!”

Rav Ulla says to him: “Do we know where we come from?”

And then starts listing a whole bunch of verses stating how idolaters ravished Jewish women in the town of Judea in Biblical times; and talking about Jews who ‘defile their couches’, which R’ Abahu explains as referring to wife-swapping.

“Since our predecessors engaged in this type of adulterous activity, no-one can assume that he is genealogically fit!” says R’ Ulla. So then, Rav Yehuda asks him, “So what do we do?” Ulla answered him: “Go after silence, i.e. seek a family whose members are quiet and peaceable…[In Eretz Yisrael] they use the following method to investigate someone’s lineage:

“When two people would quarrel with each other, they would see which one is the first to quiet down, and then they would say, ‘that person is genealogically purer than the other.”

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LET’S SUM THIS UP:

It’s a great, eye-opening piece of Gemara, isn’t it? Can you imagine what might start to happen if more of our rabbis and commentators would actually learn some Gemara?

So, here’s the main takeaway points from Kiddushin 70a-72b:

  • Whenever we find fault in other Jews, we are really just identifying our own faults.
  • That particularly applies to finding fault with other people’s ‘genealogy’, like for example, going around calling other people ‘Erev Rav’, etc.
  • Even 1800 years ago, there were so many forbidden and / or adulterous unions going on in the Jewish community, that even the head of the Torah Academy in Pumbedita was having trouble finding a ‘genealogically fit’ wife for his son.
  • Adulterous affairs and immoral behavior have been going on for so long, not even the most illustrious Jew today can be 100% sure that some ancestor of theirs didn’t put a massive spanner in their genealogical works. So it behooves us all to act with a little humility, and to stop pointing fingers at other Jews.
  • When Moshiach shows up, he will declare everyone pure.
  • The exception to this is those people who pushed their way into the Jewish community ‘by force’, i.e. they never intended to convert sincerely, or to serve Hashem, they just wanted the status, money or other perks of technically being part of the Jewish community. Elijah the Prophet will push these people away.
  • The way you can tell how ‘genealogically pure’ someone is, is by checking their middot and temperament. If they are angry, argumentative, brazen, obsessed with their own honor, always have to be right, and can never back down, make peace and apologise – then they probably aren’t so ‘fit’, Jewishly-speaking. The more calm, conciliatory, peaceable and kind a person is, the more genealogically ‘fit’ they probably are.

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On that note, let me end by apologizing to any of my readers or email correspondents who I may well have upset or irked this year.

I’m a flawed human being, and I don’t always act and react appropriately, so please forgive me!

And I unconditionally forgive all the psychos, weirdos, and holier-than-thou pseudo-prophets who continue to make my life interesting, too.

May we ALL be blessed with a peaceful, productive, happy, healthy and sweet 5780.

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FOOTNOTES:

[1] Pumbedita was the main centre of Torah learning in Babylonia, but Nehardea also had a significant, and learned Jewish population.

[2] This is the ‘Rav Yehuda’ of the Babylonian Talmud, who was head of the Torah academy in Pumbedita.

[3] By designating this man a ‘slave’, Rav Yehuda effectively removed his communal status as a Jew.

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Photo by Daniela Holzer on Unsplash

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The State of Israel is meant to be a ‘home’ for every Jew. That’s not exactly what’s happening.

Following on from my posts about the quagmire relating to conversions in Latin America (which I still have way more to write about, in due course), I received the following interesting email from a reader.

I don’t agree with everything she says (especially about secular politicians providing some sort of ‘solution’) – but I think her insight and the information she is sharing is a very valuable contribution to the discussion on what is really going on with orthodox converts, on today’s State of Israel.

So with her permission (and removing any identifying details), I’m sharing it with you below.

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I am a giyoret (charedi) from Latin America, and sadly (yes) I know more or less the conversion system.

You probably already know, but to explain why I wasn’t simply able to vote for the religious parties I first have to explain how the conversion system works in Israel.

In Israel you have two options, you either go to a private court (many of those are charedi) or you go to the State conversion system.

For a citizen of Israel, this is a non-issue, but for non-citizens it’s about choosing to have automatic political rights (i.e. the ability to make aliyah) or not. 

You could say, “then everyone should just do the process via the Rabbanut” but sadly, to get into the system you need approval from the Exceptions Committee, which is a joint committee (Rabbanut and the Interior Ministry). 

And passing the approval process in a reasonable amount of time is almost impossible if you are from a third world country, and even more difficult if you are from a third world country and charedi. Many of those cases end up without a solution and end up being deported from Israel or leaving voluntarily.

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To give you more perspective, I know girls that have been trying for more than three years to convert with the Rabbanut (they are already giyorot (converts) because usually, you finish the private, charedi conversion process first).

Three years, without a work permit or something similar (they usually have to work as cleaners).

It’s physical and psychological torture (I went through something similar, but I was luckier), and sadly, seeing this continue (even up until today) marked me forever.

You probably know about Karen Jemima Mosquera.

(Ed. Note: I didn’t, but now I’m looking into it.)

Well, I know her mother and sister, and her rabbi, who are all tzadikim, especially her rabbi who no matter what, helps people). Sadly, I couldn’t meet her, but when I learned the real story (that right-wing newspapers never told) I was shocked by the amount of cruelty this woman had to go through. Not only from the State (and particularly, the Interior Ministry) but also from religious institutions.

In the moment of her death, Jemima was not Jewish according to the State of Israel. I mean, she was clearly Jewish (she had a mehadrin conversion) but she was not politically Jewish. The fact that she could be buried on the Mount of Olives was a political miracle.

I personally think she died for a reason, and it was to call the frum community’s attention to the existence of people like her.

But nothing changed.

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Now, like many charedim, I was told that Lapid is a rasha (evildoer) (don’t get me wrong, I didn’t vote for them either), that if he gets the power then we are done.

I don’t think he is a rasha, he is just a massive fool. And I don’t think he is so important as the religious leadership wants us to believe.

We as frum people tend to think that since we’re extra careful about certain things (Shabbat, kashrut, arayot (modest behavior) that our permanence in this land depends on keeping those prohibitions.

As far as I know, Hashem has never exiled us for breaking those things.

Hashem has exiled us for violating mitzvot ben adam le chavero (the mitzvahs between a man and his fellow man.)

For oppressing the widow, the stranger, and the orphan.

And this is because He has a special sympathy for the stranger, the widow, and the orphan. Hashem cares for the weary.

Shabbat, Kashrut, and Arayot are of course important but are not the ikkar (main thing).

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And forgive me for what I’m saying, the religious parties are complicit in this suffering.

Who is the Interior Minister? Aryeh Machlouf Dery, a “charedi” guy. He’s the one who is is behind the suffering of those gerim (converts).

(This comes from the Ministry of Interior website:)

The Population Administration deals with the personal, formal, and legal status of residents of Israel, in accordance with Government policy on citizenship, immigration, and entry to and exit from the country. It provides documentation and registration services and monitors movements and changes such as births, deaths, changes of address, entry to and exit from the country. It issues passports; conducts border checks; and manages the population registry, passport, and border check databases, which are a primary source of information for the Population Administration offices and, through them, for other government agencies.

Laws determining personal status and modalities for entering and leaving Israel include the Law of Return 5710-1950; the Entry to Israel Law 5712-1952; the Citizenship Law 5712-1952; the Passports Law 5712-1952; the Names Law 5716-1956; the Population Registry Law 5725-1965; the Possession and Presentation of Identity Cards Law 5743-1982; and the Emergency Regulations (Exit from the Country) 5708-1948.

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I was heavily conflicted, and this dirty trick of using the Gadol Hador (who is probably clueless about this situation) to push the tzibbur (community) to vote for gimmel because it was in our interests.

(Ed. Note: this isn’t my understanding of why they said to vote to Gimmel.)

I was heavily considering voting for gimmel because even if their political allies (Shas) hurt me and my friends, I truly wanted to be loyal.

But something happened.

In my seminary, there are currently 4 girls trying to make aliyah with a charedi private conversion (the State of Israel’s Supreme Court gave them this right).

Three of them are stuck (no answer).

One of them (a sixty-year-old lady), got a B1 visa meanwhile, while they decide her fate (she must reapply in a year).

She spent 9000 NIS to get this.

(From the Nefesh B’Nefesh website🙂 Work (B-1): Granted to those who qualify under the Law of Return and who do not hold prior Israeli citizenship. This visa allows you to legally work in Israel. The visa is for a three year period. You can apply to extend it for another two years, but you cannot exceed a period of five years in total. At the end of this time period, you can either apply for Aliyah or apply for an A-5 visa, which can be extended every 2 years. (Scroll down for an update on this – apparently Nefesh B’Nefesh have this wrong.)

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B1 visas are working visas for foreign workers (non-Jews) and goyish girlfriends, its known as the “girlfriend visa.”

With this visa, you don’t have right to have a teudat zehut (national ID number) (as opposed to a A5 visa) or to bituach leumi (National Insurance), or health care.

I was also a victim of this tactic, but I got a better arrangement while my fate was decided (I got a humanitarian visa and the right to hold a teudat zehut). I got this based on a liberal conversion I made in the diaspora (my lawyer told me “don’t disclose that you’re a charedi convert ” – she was right, It could have hurt me).

I was in the seminary, and this woman came and asked me “do you think that when I come back, they will give me a teudat zehut?” She said it in such a tone that it broke my heart. I couldn’t tell her “yes”.

I know of cases where the Rabbanut said yes, but the Interior Ministry said no.

The head of the Exceptions Committee is, naturally, a Shasnik.

(Ed. Note: I haven’t checked this out yet.)

Then I realized I couldn’t simply vote for these people or their enablers (and this includes Gafni and Litzman).

I can forgive what they did to me, but I couldn’t forgive what they are doing to others.

I know you may think that I’m wrong, that Lapid is worse, and I would understand that.

But I simply couldn’t.

====

In a second email, my correspondent added the following:

I forgot to tell you that this is not the fault of the Rabbanut.

They make it seem as if it’s the Rabbanut, but the Rabbanut is basically strangled by the secular authority (the Interior Ministry and the Ministry of Religious Affairs).

Inside the Rabbanut, there is also a certain school of thought that rejects any non-State sanctioned conversion (they would accept army conversions over a charedi private conversion), but many there are innocent and good people that have very good intentions.

I suspect that’s why Shas would like to take control of the ministry of aliyah and integration and change the Law of Return.

The excuse is always the Reform and the Russian non-Jews, but given that they already attempted to exclude converts in general from the right of return, I wouldn’t be surprised that they would try to do that again.

(Ed. Note: I haven’t heard that they have been trying to exclude converts, generally, from the right to move to Israel, and BH I will be looking into this.)

Remember last week’s parsha?

אָרוּר, מַטֶּה מִשְׁפַּט גֵּר-יָתוֹם–וְאַלְמָנָה; וְאָמַר כָּל-הָעָם, אָמֵן.

====

Not everyone wants to advance those weird agendas.

Particularly, we know that the Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi is trying to fix much stuff inside.

Also inside the Interior Ministry, there are very nice people without power who are willing to help (they can’t usually)

I also used to be too judgy regarding the Rabbanut but I learned that inside it, there are many Rabbanim who do believe that the ultimate criteria of acceptance is not politics/economic situation but halacha.

They just do what they think is right.

I honestly think this is hurting the religious community (attempting to tell the chilonim (secular Jews) who they should marry and stuff proved to work against us).

I may be paranoid, but now I get why Ben Gurion offered us the status quo. There is famous Israeli religious university professor who used to say that Ben Gurion himself told him that he didn’t want to have religion and state separated, because that way he would have the power to control religion.

I think army conversions (which from what I know, makes many Rabbanut rabbis feel uncomfortable) are a proof of that.

The Rabbanut cannot even decide how many time a ulpan giur should last. (Ulpan giur is the conversion process). For citizens, it will always last 10 months (everyone has to finish the process in 10 months) – but no Beit Din in the world has such a restriction.

Keep up the good work Rivka, and pray for us.

====

Lots to think about, isn’t there?

I will start looking into all this stuff with the Interior Ministry, and we’ll see what fantastic can of worms is about to open up over there, too.

The one thing that I just want to note, is that I don’t think the Gadolei haDor like Rav Berland and Rav Kanievsky told us to vote ‘gimmel’ from a political perspective, odd as that sounds. No true gadol gives a stuff about the Knesset at this point in time, they have their eye on the geula process, and just making the transition from where we are right now to that stage as easy as possible.

Voting ‘gimmel’ was just part of the heavenly plan to totally hamstring the secular, totally corrupt, political apparatus in Israel, while we’re waiting for the last bit of the geula process to unfold.

No truly God-fearing party could ever head a government in the State of Israel, and be complicit in all the murders, crime, and vice that is happening every single day. We are still not even uncovering the tip of the iceberg, but soon, all the awful corruption will start to come out.

What’s clear is that ‘politics’ is not the answer to what’s going on here.

(Hopefully, more of the ‘religious’ people out there are starting to realise that.)

What’s required is to tear all this old, corrupt stuff down, and to rebuild it anew, with justice, morality and Torah at its base.

And that’s exactly what Moshiach is going to do.

The main question for us at this stage, is how does God want us to respond to what’s going on with the  State-sponsored abuse of sincere, orthodox converts while we’re waiting for that to happen?

TBC

====

UPDATE:

I just got this over email:

Please change your description of the B1 visa (you don’t have to be Jewish according the law of return to get it, that’s the A1 visa).
Looks like what I posted up from the Nefesh B’Nefesh website is wrong. Just goes to show how much confusion is reigning on this subject, if even they can’t keep their visa information straight.
====

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Photo by Sergio Rodriguez – Portugues del Olmo on Unsplash

I’m probably in a minority here, but I have to say I am totally thrilled by the latest election results in Israel.

My oldest daughter was explaining how all the votes finally stacked up, and this is what she told me:

Blue and White:                33

Likud:                                    31

Joint (Arab) List:                13

Shas:                                     9

Yisrael Beitenu:                 8

Agudat Yisrael:                  8

Yamina:                                7

Labour-Gesher:                6

Democratic Union:          5

Meretz got totally wiped out (yippee!!), and none of this other lot can form a government because they all hate each other way too much, and / or stand for totally opposite things.

I just can’t see a government containing Yisrael Beitenu and the Joint List lasting too long…. I just can’t see a government containing Lapid and ANYONE ELSE lasting too long…. I just can’t see a government containing Amir Peretz and Ehud Barak lasting too long…. I just can’t see a government containing Netanyahu and Gantz lasting too long….

You get the idea.

====

Hashem is a total genius.

If the lefties hadn’t been trying so hard to get rid of Netanyahu (who I don’t like, don’t get me wrong), then he wouldn’t have passed legislation protecting a sitting PM from being indicted. But that legislation ONLY applies to the prime minister, not to a regular government minister, which is why Netanyahu cannot concede that Gantz should be the ‘first’ PM in any rotation, because if he does, he’ll end up in the slammer.

And Gantz for his part is way too full of arrogance to let Netanyahu continue to be PM for a stint when his party technically ‘won’ the election…

I’m telling you, it’s pure genius.

And as for the state of the country – my trash is still being collected. The lights are still working. The supermarket is still stocked with food, the kids are still in school.

All that’s ‘different’ is that there aren’t a bunch of yucky people trying to pass bills designed to punish half the country for being religious, or to give away half the country for some nebulous political puffery.

Who needs a government?! We’re doing just fine without them! This situation can continue for years, and we’d all be way better off!

====

But, my daughter wanted to know, what if a war breaks out. What then?

What then?

Good question. If there are no politicians pretending that they are in charge, and pretending that they run the world and controlling the outcome of Israel’s wars, maybe more of us will put our faith where it really belongs, namely in Hashem.

The Steipler famously remarked that it was a good thing when so many of Israel’s doctors went on strike a few decades ago, because now fewer people would die.

I feel the same way about this election. With the politicians effectively emasculated for the foreseeable future, we can all breathe a sigh of relief in the meantime, until Moshiach shows up to permanently relieve them from duty.

For what it’s worth, I think one of two things will happen next:

  • We can’t get a government together, and we’ll soon have election #3 followed shortly by Moshiach and obvious geula.

OR

  • We can get a government together, but it won’t last long because they are all egotistical monsters with terrible middot and no patience or tolerance for other people, and other people’s beliefs and ideas. Which means the coalition will fall even faster than it was cobbled together, and we’ll soon have election #3 followed shortly by Moshiach and obvious geula.

Of course, it’s possible that the army will try to pull off a peaceful coup if all that starts to happen, and especially if a war does kick off in the meantime, which is when things will definitely get even more interesting. If that happens, it will also be followed shortly by Moshiach and obvious geula.

Hey, life is looking up!

I’m looking forward to 5780.

====

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What was really the disagreement, between the Vilna Gaon and the early leaders of chassidut?

If we’ve learnt anything at all about the fight between the followers of the Baal Shem Tov and chassidut, and the followers of the Lithuanian path of mitnagdim, as exemplified by the Vilna Gaon and his followers, this is probably what we believe:

The Vilna Gaon and the mitnagdim became ‘anti’ the chassidim and the followers of the Baal Shem Tov, because they were worried about ‘false messiahs’ in the wake of the Shabtai Tzvi affair.

Right?

That’s what we think the whole disagreement was about? That the Baal Shem Tov started this new ‘Tzaddik-centric’ approach to Judaism, and all the Litvak rabbis decided to excommunicate the people practicing chassidut because they were worried that another ‘false religion’ would spring up.

Guess what…that’s not really what happened. Or at least, not at the beginning of this whole story, back in the 1700s. As I started to set out in THIS POST, geula-fever was alive and well in the 18th century, fueled by kabbalistic speculation that the time for ‘the End’ had come, and geula was about to happen.

As I covered in that post, there were a few key dates that the kabbalists had pegged for the final coming of Moshiach, all based on the gematria of the word ‘dawn’, and allusions to that word in the Zohar and in the book of Daniel.

These years were:

1748 – which was proceeded by an ‘elite aliya’ of the Jewish world’s leading kabbalists to Israel, including the Ohr HaChaim from Morocco, the RaMCHaL from Italy, and many kabbalists and mystics from the Ashkenazi world too, including Rabbi Gershon of Kutow, the BESHT’s brother-in-law.

1753 – when three huge kabbalists in Israel including the CHIDA, Rabbi Shalom Sharabi (the Rashash), and Rabbi Chaim de la Roza tried to ‘force’ the end of days via kabbalistic uses of Hashem’s mystical names. Heaven forced them to stop, and the CHIDA had to go into exile for 5 years.

1781 – which was again proceeded by a ‘chassidic’ aliya from the Ashkenazi world, which was led by Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk.

(The last official ‘date’ as the last possible date for the ‘in its time’ redemption, was 1840, but we’ll leave that alone for this post.)

====

Between 1748 and 1781, so many of our leading rabbis believed that the geula was imminent, and the Vilna Gaon and the Lithuanian rabbis were counted firmly amongst them.

In fact, pretty much the only leading rabbi at that time who was saying that geula was NOT going to happen imminently was the Baal Shem Tov. I know I quoted this in the previous post, but let’s bring his letter written to Rabbi Gershon in 1747 again here, to keep all the pieces together in one place. The BESHT wrote:

“I asked the Messiah when he would be coming. “This is how you will know,” he replied. “When your teachings become public and revealed to the world, and your wellsprings of my teachings, which you will have mastered, overflow to the outside, so that [others], too, will be able to perform mystical unifications and ascents of the soul like you. Then all the klipot will be eradicated and a time of [Divine] desire and salvation will come.”

The Baal Shem Tov continues:

“[This reply] left me puzzled and severely troubled. Such a long time! When can it possibly come to pass?”

The Baal Shem Tov was explaining to Reb Gershon that the Moshiach is going to come, and the end of days is going to happen, only when the Jews start to really connect to God, and experience ‘ascents of the soul’, and to really learn and understand Torah on the deep level of chassidut.

Moshiach wasn’t just going to show up, regardless of the spiritual state of the Jews, and regardless of all their bad middot and lack of emuna. He was only going to come when the Jews got real, learned some humility, and started talking to God sincerely every single day, and including Him in every aspect of their life.

====

So now, the question is:

Why did the mitnagdim fall out so badly with the chassidim, if everyone at that time was eagerly anticipating Moshiach and geula, and the Lithuanian rabbis were pressing for aliya and for ‘the end’ to come just as much as the chassidim?

The answer lies in the different approaches the Vilna Gaon and the chassidim were trying to take, to bring the geula.

We can set it out like this:

1747 – The Baal Shem Tov writes a letter explaining that Moshiach is only going to come when the Jews make teshuva, and approach their yiddishkeit in a more ‘chassidic’ way.

The BESHT’s leading student, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polnoye, sat on that letter for over 30 years, but then published it in 1780, when it started to become obvious that Moshiach was not coming imminently, after all.

In the meantime, the Vilna Gaon had spent years trying to resolve all the kooshiot, or difficulties in the Torah, using just his superb logical abilities and ‘cleverness’. According to documents found by researcher Arie Morgenstern which quotes the Vilna Gaon’s students and sons, as brought in his book The Gaon of Vilna and his Messianic Vision, the Vilna Gaon believed he could bring the Moshiach:

“[B]y force of his supreme halachic authority. [T]he Gaon proposed to move to Eretz Yisrael and write the final halacha there, in order to hasten the redemption. As Joseph Karo[1] had done, so would the Gaon of Vilna do. He wished to be the final arbiter, not in order to write the halacha for its own sake, but rather to hasten the redemption and conclude the ‘sorting’ (birur) process that would usher in the Messiah.”

Here’s what the Vilna Gaon himself wrote, about his aspirations[2]:

“Every unresolved issue is a klipah, and emanates from the Erev Rav that intermingled with the Israelites…This is how unresolved issues insinuated themselves into the halacha. The answer to the unresolved issues is the repair of the klipah.

Elsewhere, he wrote[3]:

“At the end of the galut, in the footsteps of the Moshiach, the tree of life, the Law of Moses will be revealed.”

One of the Vilna Gaon’s senior students, Rabbi Israel of Shklov, explained[4] that his mentor had managed to resolve all the issues in the whole Torah (!) except for in two passages in the Zohar. The Rabbi of Shklov says:

“Had the Gaon resolved these issues, he would have brought the birur (‘sorting process’) to its end, and the path to the Messiah’s arrival would have been readied for use.”

As it was – he didn’t, and it wasn’t.

====

The Vilna Gaon set out for Israel in 1778.

But first travelled to Amsterdam, where he hoped to track down copies of the books and manuscripts that would help him resolve his two last remaining ‘issues’, before he made aliya, wrote a new ‘perfect’ Shulchan Aruch in Israel, and ushered in the redemption.

But God didn’t let him do that, his mission to Amsterdam was a failure, and the Gaon returned home to Vilna, without attempting the trip to Israel.

Once home, he decided to take a different tack, and for the first time in his scholarly career, he decided to teach an elite group of students his approach to learning Torah, with a particular emphasis on these students moving to Israel, and helping to lay the practical foundations for the Jews to return to their land.

====

In the meantime, nearly all the Chassidic rebbes dealt with the ‘moshiach let-down’ of 1781 by starting to put the emphasis on personal redemption, as opposed to national redemption, and taking the emphasis off of moving to Israel.

Everyone, that is, except Rabbenu and Breslov chassidut.

Rebbe Nachman continued to stress the importance of living in Eretz Yisrael, as well as the importance of working on the ‘inner dimension’ and developing the good middot that would enable each person to achieve their ‘personal redemption’, too.

====

1781 approaches, the make-or-break date for ‘geula in its time’, and the Vilna Gaon realizes that his approach of trying to ‘perfect’ Torah, and engage in ‘perfect’ mitzvah observance is out of reach, and that he can’t bring Moshiach this way. Instead, he looks to kick-start redemption by placing ‘boots on the ground’ in Eretz Yisrael, and directs a group of his elite students to make aliya after his death.

Meanwhile, after 1781, the different Chassidic leaders put much more focus on the idea that redemption is internal, not necessarily land-based.

Israel is out of reach, so turn inwards and work on your personal and communal redemption instead, wherever you live!

Only Breslov chassidut actually combined these two, very different approaches, continuing to stress the practical aspects of aliya to the real Eretz Yisrael, together with emphasizing the inner work and importance of being connected to the True Tzaddik and praying for redemption.

But there was so much opposition to Rebbe Nachman, and then to Breslov, that this message was muted back then, and really has only begun to flourish in our days.

====

So now, what happened with the excommunication of the chassidim by the Lithuanian rabbis, headed by the Vilna Gaon?

As usual, it’s a sordid tale of petty politics and ego-mania.

In the years leading up to the first ‘excommunication’ of the chassidim, in 1772, The Vilna ‘kahal’, or community leaders had been locked in a vicious struggle with the town’s chief rabbi and rabbinical judge, a fellow by the name of Shmuel ben Avigdor.

Shmuel ben Avigdor had been ‘bought’ his position – as was the custom of the time then, and in many ways still is today – by his wealthy father-in-law. The kahal leaders felt that Shmuel ben Avigdor was throwing his weight around, was out of his depth when it came to making halachically-binding decisions, and – most crucially of all – was impinging on their income by trying to butt into communal affairs that they felt he should play no part in.

So, the kahal went to war against their very wealthy, very connected chief rabbi, to try to get him ousted. His father-in-law had bought him the rabbinate ‘for life’, so the kahal leaders could only get him out of the way if they could prove his was guilty of gross, ‘anti-Torah’ misconduct. So that’s what they set about trying to show.

According to Arie Morgenstern[5]:

“The methods used were illegitimate:…false testimonies, silencing of witnesses, preventing the presentation of exculpatory evidence about the defendants under threat of excommunication, forbidding the lodging of complaints with the rabbinical court by the same means, and even forbidding the rabbinical judges to listen to cries of protest against the abuse being committed.”

Plus ca change.

And having waged war against their town rabbi by dirty means, the kahal then just applied their ‘abilities’ against the chassidim in their midst, too.

====

Why did the Vilna kahal turn against the chassidim?

Some researchers claim they were egged on by the Vilna Gaon (more on that in a moment), while others claim that the kahal leadership were worried that people flocking to chassidut would diminish their clout in the Jewish community, and their own legal status vis-à-vis their non-Jewish rulers. (Which in turn, would diminish their ability to levy taxes on the Jewish community….)

In the meantime, the horrible, dirty machloket between the Vilna kahal leaders and their chief rabbi Shmuel ben Avigdor raged almost without let up for approximately 30 years (!) It was so poisonous, Vilna’s Jewish residents were frequently arguing on street corners, and fights would regularly break out in public, even between the women.

That only stopped when the community was hit by a terrible tragedy.

In 1771, an outbreak of plague killed hundreds of small children in Vilna’s Jewish community. It was clear to the kahal leaders that this was some ‘punishment from Heaven’, but rather than accept that their own machloket against the Chief Rabbi could be the cause, they searched around for a scapegoat – and found one, in the nascent movement of chassidim.

According to the mitnaged Maggid of Makow, the reclusive Vilna Gaon was totally unaware of any problem with the chassidim, until the kahal leaders – who were giving the Vilna Gaon a salary of 1400 guilders a year and a rent-free home, even though the Vilna Gaon fulfilled no public duties as rabbi – brought a bunch of false witnesses to slander the chassidim as a ‘deviant cult’.

Rabbi David the Maggid writes:

“Due to his devotion to the Torah and his perseverance, the holy Pious One [the Vilna Gaon] was oblivious to all these matters, until the righteous and honest learners cried out… Then he became their enemy, fighting them and pronouncing the great excommunication of all their rabbis and students… The excommunication went into effect in 1772, after Pesach.”

But none of the other four major Jewish communities in Lithuania, including Horodno, Brisk, Slutsk and Pinsk, joined in with the excommunication of 1772, because they understood that the Vilna kahal was trying to deflect the spiritual heat off its own bad behavior, by using the chassidim as scapegoats. Very quickly, the excommunication died away, and the Lithuanian communities happily sent money to support the Chassidic aliya that began in 1777 – ahead of the ‘end of times’ date of 1781.

====

THE SECOND EXCOMMUNICATION

But then, there was a second excommunication of the chassidim that happened in 1781 – and that one stuck, and widened out into a veritable war against chassidut.

What triggered this second attack against chassidut? A few different things:

  • More and more people were flocking to the ranks of chassidut.
  • Chassidut became increasingly organized as a communal force within the Jewish community, and so appeared to be more of a threat to the existing leaders’ status, influence, and ability to use their communal position to make money.
  • The Baal Shem Tov’s students started to print and disseminate some of their ideas and teachings – notably Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polnoye, who published Toledot Yaakov Yosef in 1780.
  • May 1781 came and went without Moshiach showing up, and a wave of frustration overtook the Jewish community and led to a whole bunch of internecine fighting.

====

The chassidim were not totally blameless, for the war erupting.

By this point, many of them were openly mocking the Lithuanian rabbis for being out of touch with their communities and overly hung-up on pietism and asceticism, instead of serving God joyfully, with their hearts. There were also some Chassidic leaders who were publically complaining about the behavior of other Chassidic leaders, and that might also have fueled external criticism of the movement.

Meanwhile, the mitnagdim communities and their rabbis were having to deal with all these ‘miracle stories’ that started circulating about the Baal Shem Tov – including his infamous ‘conversation’ with Moshiach, in 1747 – after Rabbi Yaakov Yosef’s books came out. To put it bluntly, it was hard for the Lithuanian rabbis to compete, when there was a Tzaddik of the caliber of the Baal Shem Tov wooing their congregants away with his supernatural abilities and awesome, soul-inspiring advice.

In other words: they got jealous.

Plus ca change

====

There’s one last thing I want to add here, because clearly what I’m describing above has continued to play itself out in our day and time, too.

At its highest level, there was a dispute for the sake of heaven going on, between the Vilna Gaon and the Baal Shem Tov, about the way to bring Moshiach and geula.

The BESHT said:

Geula will only come when all the Jews make teshuva, and start to serve God sincerely, and not just to pay ‘lip service’ to the external commandments and mitzvoth. And God will wait as long as it takes, for that to happen.

The Vilna Gaon said:

Geula will come ‘in its time’, once we fix the halacha perfectly. And whoever is not on that level of perfection at that time, won’t make it through to the world-to-come.

(I should mention here, that the Vilna Gaon was kind of obsessed with the Erev Rav, and that he and his students both talked and wrote about them a great deal.)

This mirrored the debate that took place in Sanhedrin 97b, between Rabbi Eliezer HaGadol, and Rabbi Yehoshua, that you can read about HERE.

And we are still having that debate today in the Jewish world.

====

On the one hand, there are the people saying geula is ready to come NOW!!! Today!!! And that the world is full of evil erev rav types that just can’t change, and won’t make it through, and that millions of people are going to die before Moshiach is revealed, because they just aren’t on the level to make it.

This is the ‘Rabbi Yehoshua’ approach.

On the other hand, we can see with our own eyes that each of these ‘end times’ keeps coming and going; and that the predicted wars keep fading away. And, that the whole ‘erev rav’ approach is basically unworkable in practice (as I cover in my book), and that with daily hitbodedut, regular visits to Uman, and a strong connection to our True Tzaddikim, people can and do transform into better Jews in some fantastic ways.

This is the ‘Rabbi Eliezer HaGadol’ approach.

====

The note from Rav Kook, describing Rabbi Berland as a'spark' of Eliezer HaGadolA few years’ ago, Rabbi Dov Kook of Tiveria famously wrote a note where he stated that Rabbi Eliezer Berland is a spark, or reincarnation, of that selfsame Rabbi Eliezer HaGadol.

God is waiting for us all to open our eyes, and see what’s right in front of them.

After 200 years of trying the ‘Rabbi Yehoshua’ approach – which has clearly not worked to bring Moshiach and redemption – God is waiting for more of us to adopt the ‘Rabbi Eliezer HaGadol’ approach of sincere teshuva, talking to God, and connecting to our True Tzaddikim, instead.

And when we get that message, geula will finally happen.

====

FOOTNOTES:

[1] The author of the Shulchan Aruch.

[2] Vilna Gaon’s commentary on Ra’aya Mehemana, Konigsberg, 1858, 28a.

[3] Yahel Or, Commentaries on the Zohar, Parshat Mishpatim 114b (Vilna, 1882).

[4] In his preface to the book: Pe’at Ha’Shulchan.

[5] Page 237, The Gaon of Vilna and his Messianic Vision

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I’m usually totally a-political on this blog (or even ‘anti’ political).

However, after the last election in Jerusalem, when we nearly had a radical, anti-religious, Meretz-backed mayor come into office, I realised that it’s important to vote after all. Not so much because I’m voting for someone, but more because I’m voting against someone else.

Until Moshiach shows up, this is the corrupt system we’re stuck with, and we have to deal with it the best we can.

After I read THIS, over on the ravberland.com site, and also after I read Rav Kanievsky’s message exhorting people to vote ‘gimmel’, I’m going to vote gimmel – Agudat Israel.

Here’s some of what I read:

This Sunday, an election rally held by the two factions that make up UTJ – Agudat Yisrael and Degel Hatorah – will take place on the streets of Jerusalem. It is to see the attendance of rabbinical leaders of both parties.

“The fact that the ‘Minister of Torah’ is troubling himself to embark, despite his extraordinary age, on hundreds of kilometers of travel around the country requires everyone to take extra effort and add more and more supporters to the party that sanctifies Heaven and stands in the face of those seeking to threaten Israel’s Torah,” the preparatory committee said.

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And this, from the ravberland.com website, quoting remarks made by Rabbi Berland last week:

“Now, Lapid announced that they are closing all the yeshivas. There won’t be any yeshivas, there won’t be any budget [from the State to help pay for them]. And there won’t be any places where there will allow ‘separation’ [between men and women]. They will abolish all the mechitzot (partitions used to divide between men and women’s sections at public gatherings including weddings, etc.), as they cancelled the ‘separation’ in Afula and Haifa.

They want to have here a State that is more abominable than even the countries of the goyim, and they are more awful than even the goyim.

And they want to destroy everything here, the whole Jewish religion, and to destroy Shabbat. They will force cars into chareidi areas (on Shabbat) and they will not permit anyone to put up any ‘fences’ (gederot).[1]

They have already announced everything, this is their platform for the elections.

This is a situation of pikuach nefesh (saving a life). We need to know that this is like a war, now, and whoever doesn’t go to vote simply doesn’t understand the severity of the situation.

Gantz, Lapid and Yisrael Beitanu – Lieberman – want to annihilate all of Judaism.

Within two years, there won’t be a religious Jew here, we will need to flee to Egypt, or to Jordan, or to move to New York or Miami.

We already opened a yeshiva in Miami, the Breslov Center, someone donated everything – they donated a mikva for $300,000. We are already preparing everything in Miami. If a war breaks out here, everyone is going to Miami.

There, we will begin Yiddishkeit from anew, the whole of Miami will make teshuva.

In one second, everyone will make teshuva today, all the goyim (non-Jews) will make teshuva. We will invite the mayor [of Miami] we will invite Trump to the chanukat habayit.

And this will be known next week. Next week, we will find out if Gantz will win, together with Lapid and Lieberman. They want to do it together, they will even accept the Arabs [the Arab parties]. The ikker (whole thing) is that they will have 61 [seats]. Here, we talk about 61. 61 is the magic number.

Whoever brings 61, he will be the king.

====

When Rabbi Berland made comments about the whole of Shuvu Banim upping sticks and moving to Africa a few years ago, everyone thought he was joking. So, I really am not sure what to make of all this. We also know that the Rav said a few months’ back that if the decrees weren’t sweetened with more of us making teshuva and sticking close to the true Tzaddikim, he’d have to take another, even worse ‘exile’ on himself again.

But since then, the prayers have come out, and they seem to be sweetening things tremendously, as we can see by all the wars that haven’t (yet…) happened.

So…. who knows what’s about to happen?

But today, I’m voting gimmel.