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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This brings Moshiach. Hooray!

Now, why am I telling you this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Genius!

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

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

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

If you’ve been listening to my podcasts on the Erev Rav, or even buying my book and reading it (God bless you…) then you’ll know that speaking lashon hara and making trouble between people is probably the number one top Erev Rav trait.

Of the Vilna Gaon’s five main groups of Erev Rav behaviours, he himself stated that the very worst one was speaking lashon hara and causing strife. This group was so bad, the Vilna Gaon called the people who indulged in this behavior ‘Amalekites’, and had some very harsh things to say about them, including that they’d have to disappear out the world completely before Moshiach comes.

Here’s the thing with lashon hara: the person who wants to do it always has a number of justifications and excuses for indulging themselves.

Some of the most popular include:

  • It’s true
  • People need to be warned about the problem
  • Those nasty, evil people have it coming to them, anyway
  • It makes for interesting reading, or conversation
  • It’s fun to stir up a whole bunch of drama and then feed off other people’s upset, shame and strong emotions

Of all of these, number two is probably the most problematic, because it sounds the most sincere, holy and community-minded.

Consequently, it’s all too easy for our yetzer haras to pull the wool over our eyes, and convince us that we need to go all out on an ‘information’ campaign to warn others about the negative situations / actions / threats that we believe are occurring.

Here’s the thing, though: As soon as we open our mouths to start slagging other people off – EVEN IF ITS TRUE – we instantly become part of the problem, instead of part of the solution. The Chofetz Chaim had some very harsh things to say about people who regularly spoke badly of others, including calling them ‘baalei lashon hara’ and saying that such people were committing so many awful sins every time they opened their mouth, they should be given a wide berth and considered as though they were a very wicked person.

God has created the laws of lashon hara such that it’s pretty much impossible to talk openly and negatively about named individuals in a public forum without transgressing them in a pretty big way.

On occasion, some individuals are so dangerous, nasty and evil, that the Beit Din, or big Tzaddikim, will take the very unusual step of warning the public away from that person. When it’s done by a Beit Din or a bona fide Tzaddik, you can be sure that the halachas governing talking negatively about others for a positive purpose (l’toelet) have all been carefully considered before any action was taken.

But generally speaking, calling people out in public is completely forbidden, and transgresses the 31 laws associated with lashon hara.

So now, you might be thinking: What’s going on here??!?

If people are doing things that are wrong, or are acting unethically or inappropriately, surely God wants as many people to know about that as possible?

Dear reader, I have struggled with this issue so very many times. Each time I exploded another crack-pot religious phoney, for example, my instinct was to write a warts n’all expose about them, so no-one else would get duped.

Thankfully, my husband has a much cooler head than mine, and insisted that we speak to Rav Arush before taking any irrevocable steps to ‘name and shame’ anyone. Doubly-thankfully, Rav Arush gave me excellent advice to keep my mouth shut, and let God handle things.

Why is this excellent advice? Because like we said, as soon as you speak lashon hara, you become part of the very problem you’re trying to solve. You become another force for evil and strife in the world, all with the very best intentions.

When all is said and done, how do I know that my assessment of the other person is really correct?

How do I know that I’m really as objective as I’d like to think? How do I know that the problem is 100% their problem, and not 100% my own problem? Let’s remind ourselves that every evil-speaking, hyper-critical poisonous person out there doesn’t see themselves that way at all. In their world, they are always the victim, or the hero, and completely justified in everything they say and do to others, however horrible.

How do we know, really, that we don’t have that same blind spot?

When you’re a huge Tzaddik, or when you’re sitting in a beit din with other pious individuals, this is much less of an issue. But when it’s you and me we’re talking about, we need to err very carefully on the side of caution.

There is a time and a place to speak badly of others, especially in any situation where abuse of minors could be occurring. But that still has to be done within the framework of speaking evilly l’toelet, for a good purpose, which is governed by many different halachas. (Check HERE for a crash course in lashon hara, which sets out the very basic principles.)

In the meantime, the sooner we eradicate the evil speech, the sooner we’ll get redemption, Moshiach and all that good stuff.

And if we can’t or won’t keep our mouths shut, and God is ready to redeem us now, then we could be in for a pretty rough ride.

I know, I come back to this subject a lot, don’t I?

The reason for that is simple: My husband and I have been seriously burned by a number of so-called ‘rabbis’ who were very keen to suck as much respect, effort, adoration and money out of us as possible, but much less keen to actually stand by us when the bad advice they gave us blew up in our face.

I went through such a deep crisis of faith as a result of my associations with these ‘rockstar’ type rabbis (and let me add in here that rockstar rabbanits are also becoming an increasingly big problem), that I’m now on a mission to do whatever I can to help my fellow Jew spot these people a mile off, and give them a wide berth.

The main problem is that especially for people who grew up in the West, the very title ‘rabbi’ carries an aura of holiness, wisdom and knowledge with it. It’s like the word ‘doctor’ in the secular world. People only have to add that in front of their name and they get instant ‘rockstar’ status. Well he’s a doctor! He’s a rabbi! She’s a rabbanit! They must know what they’re talking about!!!!

But sadly, that’s just not true.

My husband, God bless him, is about to sit his exam that will officially make him a ‘rabbi’ if he passes it. For the past couple of years, he’s been learning all about what makes a chicken liver kosher, what to do if the hotdog lands in a pint of milk, what happens if you have a non-Jewish worker who accidentally has a fatal heart-attack in your soda factory, and falls into a big vat of coke for more than 24 hours. Does that make the coke traif, or not?

The reason my husband is becoming a rabbi is very simple: I forced him to do it. I was so sick of all the fake ‘rabbis’ out there blinding everyone to their very warped, anti-God opinions and ideas with their ‘rabbinic’ credentials that I told my husband there has to be at least one rabbi out there who isn’t just doing it as a career move.

My husband was not keen at first.

He also hates all the honor-driven ‘I’m a RABBI you know’ stuff. But I told him straight: You’ve been learning Torah lishma, for its own sake for 11 years now. You do an hour of hitbodedut (talking to God) every day. You ask God to help you guard your eyes, to treat your wife and family nicely, and to have emuna. You have so much humility – and every time you think you know something, I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong!!

You simply can’t say that about most of the other people out there who are ‘rabbis’ – well-known or otherwise – especially in the English-speaking world. So, after a lot of soul-searching (and nagging from me…) he took the plunge.

Here’s the strange thing we’ve both discovered: To officially become a rabbi, all you do is learn the Torah laws relating to keeping kosher. There are other areas you can learn too, but the basic ‘rabbi’ curriculum is all that stuff about hotdogs-in-milk and pickled non-Jews traifing up your coke.

There is no ‘family counselling’ stuff. No ‘secrets of the Torah that means you always know what you’re talking about’ stuff.

No magic formula that takes the rabbinic student and turns them into a fount of knowledge and wisdom.

Here’s the even stranger thing we’ve both discovered: The laws of kashrut are so darned complicated, in so many ways, with so many conflicting opinions abounding, that even to get to the right answer about the hotdog-in-the-milk, a rabbi still has to ask God to give him a lot of siyatta deshmaya.

If a rabbi has to be constantly asking God for the right inspiration just to answer the kashrut questions properly, can we even begin to fathom the spiritual level they have to be on be doling out life advice about how to raise your children and relate to your spouses? Or where to buy a new home? Or what medical treatment to take, or to avoid?

And here, dear reader, is where we get to the crux of the problem, because when a person is full of themselves and their ‘rabbinic’ credentials, they are generally completely empty of God.

Hashem says: “Me and the arrogant person, we can’t dwell together!”

When a person is arrogant – when they are holding themselves out as a fount of wisdom and advice, and when they’re off touting for people to come and ask them serious life questions, or forcing their opinions on other people as the only way, and God’s own truth – the sad fact is that they, and the advice they are so freely proffering, is completely disconnected from the Creator.

Again, I’ve unfortunately learnt this the hard way.

If the red flags had gone up the first time me and my husband were told things like:

“Well, if you’d bothered to ask me, I would have told you the exact opposite…”

Or when things were phrased as barked commands, or when I saw one person after another get burned by really bad advice, and then get blamed and instantly dropped by the ‘rabbi’ responsible for getting them into the mess in the first place – things would look so different now.

But that’s where my emuna, or belief in God, kicks in. Because God only used these horrible rockstar rabbis as sticks to teach me and my husband some invaluable things. Man o man, were they hard lessons to learn.

Things like the importance of valuing our own judgement, and respecting ourselves, and loving ourselves, each other and our kids unconditionally.

God doesn’t act, think or behave like a warped ‘rockstar rabbi’, playing on other people’s insecurities and fears to keep them feeling small, worthless and dumb.

God loves us. All of us. Unconditionally. He for sure wants us to keep mitzvot, but He also wants us to be nice to other people and to love ourselves, and to give people a break as much as possible.

I will come back to this subject again, because most of the people out there today who are encouraging you to trust them, to believe in them, and to follow them blindly, are not what they appear to be. Thank God, there ARE some real rabbis out there still, and three I can personally vouch for are Rav Berland, Rav Ofer Erez and Rav Shalom Arush.

But in the English-speaking world, rockstar rabbis of all stripes unfortunately prevail, and you need to be very, very careful.

Let’s end with this one piece of advice, that you can take or leave as you see fit:

The more you work on your own middot, and your own connection to God, the easier it will get to spot all the religious phoneys out there. Once you no longer tolerate anger, contempt, evil speech, harsh judgment, spiritual superficiality and competition in your own life, spotting the fakers will get SO easy.

Of course, working on all these things takes a huge amount of effort, patience and spiritual investment. That’s why the rockstar rabbis (and rabbanits) much prefer to keep trying to fix other people, than to try and fix themselves.

Group of three chareidi teens standing praying by the Kotel

Last week, I paid a visit to the city of M. (where I used to live, more than 10 years’ ago) to visit a family member who was staying with someone there. Unbeknownst to me, I mistakenly got the wrong building (many streets in M. have exactly the same buildings, repeated many times on the same street), and I walked up the steps of number 18, instead of number 14.

The hall lights were out, so I couldn’t really see properly as I’d just come in from the broad daylight outside, and was still wearing my sunglasses. I went over to apartment number 1, pressed on the bell, and was in the middle of switching over to my regular glasses when the door opened.

I couldn’t see properly, as I didn’t have my glasses on, but the very blurry woman who opened the door didn’t look like my family member, or anyone he was related to, but I thought maybe she was a friend who’d dropped by, and was opening the door on their behalf. In my still pretty bad Hebrew, I asked her:

“Is this the Plonis?”

Which is when this very secular, very angry woman let me have with both barrels of abuse.

How dare I buzz her door! (It was 6.30pm, not the middle of the night…) How dare I, when she had young children!

Dear reader, I lived in M. for long enough to know that there is an unfortunate breed of Jew there that absolutely HATES religious people. This doesn’t describe everyone there, by any means, but there is a small and very vocal secular minority that takes every opportunity to celebrate their Jew-hatred in any way possible – and apparently, I’d just knocked on the door of one of their cheerleaders.

I got in a nanosecond that this woman’s problem wasn’t that I’d knocked on the wrong door – mistakes like that do happen after all, even to rabidly secular people – the problem was that I was wearing a headscarf, which made me undeniably religious, and hence, Public Enemy Number 1.

The hatred coming off this woman was visceral – I literally felt like she’d punched me in the stomach.

In the meantime, I’d got so upset by her horrendous verbal abuse that I half wanted to punch her in the face…But instead, I simply turned on my heel, and fled outside.

What a psycho! What an anti-semitic nut-job!

I stood outside on the curb trying to calm down from my verbal GBH experience, and trying to work out what had happened to my relative. A quick call showed me that I’d simply gone to the wrong number – and that they were at number 14, flat 1.

But I was so unnerved by my encounter with the rabid hatred of this secular woman, I was still quite shaky, even when I was driving home two hours’ later. And then I really got to thinking:

Why is it, in our politically-correct, ‘equality’ obsessed world that so many secular Jews are willing to honour and respect murderous Arab terrorists; and, they’re willing to honour and respect missionizing Xtians (and even, to sell them Jewish holy sites like the tomb of King David); and they’re willing to respect Italian Catholics, and Greek Orthodox, and Arab Druse, and of course, Scientologists, Moonies, Reform and the Women-of-the-Wall – but they still permit themselves to openly hate and abuse orthodox Jews?

The last 2 weeks, there’s been a cabal of older secular woman sitting on the bench outside my home, loudly saying the most disgusting things about their more religious neighbours. These women have a problem with the amount of rubbish being dropped in the neighborhood – and honestly, there is a lot of rubbish.

Many families send their small kids to dispose of the trash, and they simply can’t throw the bags into the high, communal dumpsters, so they tend to just leave them places, and it is unsightly. By my o my, the amount of unvarnished hatred and plain old anti-semitism this rubbish is unleashing from these older secular matrons has been extremely shocking to me.

They sit there describing their fellow Jews in terms that would make any died-in-the-wool member of the Third Reich proud. Two things seem to upset them the most: that frum families have so many children (because frum children are like, vermin, or something) and that frum families are frum.

The ringleader of this cabal went beserk two weeks’ ago, and started smashing glasses all around her flat – while cursing everyone in the loudest, most coarse terms – in order to prevent small, frum children from playing anywhere near where she lives and dropping trash!!!. This same women complains incessantly at everyone, regularly abuses people in the worst ways, rules her own family with terror tactics, rage fits and hyper-critical abuse – and thinks she’s somehow superior to all the frum families living around her, because she does sponga three times a day and puts her trash in the bin.

If you’ve been reading even a little bit of the stuff I’ve been posting up here, and on my spiritual self-help website, you’ll know that she’s a classic example of someone who is literally mentally-ill, and has some very serious and disturbing emotional issues.

Which I guess is bringing me to the crux of this post, which is that I think that instead of just making more excuses for these anti-semitic, hate-filled, mentally-ill, Jewish psychos that we unfortunately all know, we have to start calling a spade a spade, and to start calling them out on their horrible racism.

Whenever anyone hates another Jew just because they look different to them, that’s a sign that something has gone seriously wrong with the empathy, compassion and a bunch of other things you need to just be a healthy functioning human being.

Regardless of whether someone is externally religious, or externally secular, whenever someone is relating to their fellow Jew like a piece of garbage, and emotionally or physically abusing them, that’s a sign they are seriously mentally ill. Full stop.

And when more of the ‘sane’ people on both sides of the religious / secular divide starts to truly get that, then all the false divisions perpetuated by the psychos will dissolve, and we’ll go back to being One People, with One Heart.

Ken yiyeh ratzon.

Group of three chareidi teens standing praying by the Kotel

The place where I live in Jerusalem is a very unique mix of extremes.

There are extreme chareidim here – mostly Breslevers with long payot and big families. Then, there are extremely secular people here – with long hair and big tattoo collections. Then, there’s a third group made up of Mizrachi types that have lived here 50 years’ and are generally just plain bonkers.

We don’t fit into any of these groups, so we kind of watch the communal politics going on from the sidelines.

The latest battle lines were drawn over the garbage that keeps getting dropped by small kids.

Kids drop wrappers on the floor, that’s just what they do. But because some of the families here also send very, very small kids to take out the household garbage, and because they are too small to throw it into the communal dumpster, sometimes there is a lot of rubbish flying around.

The tension has been simmering under the surface for months, but the last few weeks it seems to have burst into the open. One of the more secular neighbours who’s lived here 50 years (as she keeps telling everyone loudly on the street…) suddenly went beserk and started smashing glasses all around her apartment to ‘stop kids from playing there and dropping rubbish.’

Sure, she tidied it up again half an hour later, but the message had been sent that hostilities were ratcheting up a notch.

It’s a strange thing that there are people who get very upset about environmental pollution and rubbish being dropped, but who apparently couldn’t care less about spiritual pollution.

So it is that for the last few days, there’s been an unholy gathering of self-appointed, demented ‘garbage watchmen’ getting together on the bench just next to my bedroom window.

The conversation is pretty standard: One complains about the ‘disgusting’ datiim in the neighborhood, and how much mess they make and how little responsibility they take. Then another starts yelling:

‘They have eight children!!!!! Eight children in one room!!!’

And then they start discussing their latest strategies to get all these ‘disgusting charedi people’ to clean up their act.

The first few times it happened, I yelled ‘Sinat Chinam!!’ as loudly as I could out my bedroom window, but I’m a softly-spoken Brit so no-one heard. When I tried to yell again, my husband came and gently escorted me to a different room.

“It’s not going to help,” he told me. “You can’t fight fire with fire.”

Hmmm.

Over the last two days, the chareidi women in the neighborhood have started to fight back.

I caught them having a pow-wow in my stairwell, discussing all the crazy secular people who keep coming up to them while they’re sitting on a bench, who start yelling at them for having so many children and making so much mess.

I have no idea what happens next, but what I can tell you is that I have days when my life feels like a bad episode of the Muppet Show. You remember those two cranky old men in the boxseat? That’s what’s going on by my bedroom window.

Eight children!!!! Who can put eight children in one room?!?!?”

When it started up again this morning, I seriously debated going down with my video camera to film them. ‘You have a very important message for Am Yisrael!’ I wanted to tell them.

‘Let’s record it, upload it to YouTube, and then you don’t have to keep repeating it (loudly….) every single morning.’

Sigh.

Is it just me, or are people getting more and more crazy and intolerant?

I mean, WHO smashes glasses around their house on purpose just to keep small kids away? Who cares more about dirty sweet wrappers than filthy speech? Sometimes I look around, and I think ‘How is Moshiach meant to come when things are still like this?

My husband tells me it’s always been this bad, and that God is going to redeem us because He loves us, and not because we deserve it. Maybe he’s right.

But I can tell you is that if the Muppet Show doesn’t give it a rest soon, I might just have a Miss Piggy moment myself, and start karate chopping the more annoying characters.

Hiiiiiiiiya!

We’re all so used to all the ‘birthpangs of Moshiach’ imagery that’s been tossed around for decades already, that I think many of us have forgotten what a birth is actually like.

Births are messy – blood, poop and I-don’t-know-what other gross things flying around the place.

They’re incredibly stressful – until the very last second when the baby pops out, everyone has a worry that it might not get there, God forbid, or that something could go wrong to harm the baby, or the mother.

They’re long, drawn out processes with a lot of stopping and starting – “I’m in labour!” – no, it’s just Braxton Hicks. “The contractions have started!” They’ve stopped again. “I’ve been having painful contractions for three weeks, already, I MUST be more than ½ cm dilated by now!!” etc etc

By the time the mother is ready to have the baby, she can’t move, can’t sleep, can’t really eat without getting terrible heartburn is and heartily SICK of the whole thing already – and that’s before the kid even makes it out into the real world.

Why am I telling you this?

Because I think a lot of us have a false image of what’s going to be going on in the world when Moshiach finally shows up. We think he’s going to call a press conference to announce he’s Moshiach, have a bunch of angels show up to coronate him, and then start riding around Jerusalem on his white donkey doing the ‘regal wave’ thing and magically disappearing all the problem people in our midst.

NOPE.

It’s not going to be like that at all. Moshiach is going to enter the world exhausted, after a long, difficult, messy and painful birth process where he’s been covered with every type of spiritual filth and cack you can imagine.

Remember, King David, the forbear of the Moshiach, was incorrectly considered to be a mamzer by his father and brothers for many long years, which is why he was sent out to tend the flocks and go and fight off lions and bears at just three years’ old.

Yishai was hoping something would eat him, and get rid of that ‘embarrassing’ family issue.

Remember, Tamar, the forbear of the Moshiach, was incorrectly accused of acting like harlot, when she got pregnant by Yehuda in a ‘libum’ arrangement to perpetuate her dead husband’s spiritual legacy (she had twins because she had two dead husbands to perpetuate, by that point.)

Can you imagine what Channel 2 would be saying about these people today?

“Chief Rabbi’s daughter admits to being a prostitute!!!!!!!”

“Rabbi Faker-so-so says: “This woman MUST face justice, and be burnt alive!!!”

“David’s own father shuns him: ‘The man is a MAMZER, and should be eaten by a lion!!!”

“EXCLUSIVE: David’s brothers admit: He forced the Prophet Shmuel to crown him at gunpoint!!! We’re scared for our lives!!!”

And so on, and so forth.

And then, all the armchair commentators would be having a field day.

“How can this man be KING when he’s clearly committed so many war crimes?”

“Yet another cover up by the religious establishment. King Amalek would NEVER have acted like this…”

“I can’t believe they let Tamar off the hook. She’s guilty as charged! Look at how she acted! If she wasn’t guilty, then why didn’t she just SAY THAT in court? I can’t believe these people.”

The Zohar curses anyone that views the Torah as ‘history’ with terrible curses. The Torah is a blueprint for living that’s as relevant for us today, in 2016, as it was 3,000 years’ ago.

So bearing that in mind, let me ask you something:

When the Egyptian establishment shoved Yosef HaTzaddik in prison for 12 years on the trumped-up charges of Potifar and his wife, who’s side would you have been on? I mean, Yosef went to prison!!!! For 12 years!!!! It doesn’t get more clear-cut than that, does it?

Or, when Moshe Rabbenu got shoved down a well in Midian for 12 years, who’s side would you have been on? I mean, he’s a wanted criminal in Egypt, a dangerous fugitive who killed an innocent man!!!!

Or, when Yaacov Avinu ran away from Laban, and then got chased down by him and all his men, who’s side would you have been on? I mean, WHY WAS HE RUNNING AWAY, if he hadn’t done anything wrong???? Why didn’t he stay in the country, with his wealth and his wives, if he wasn’t guilty of doing all the things that Laban was claiming????

What would Channel 2 (funded by the Rasha Corp, Inc) have to say about all these ‘so-called’ holy people?

What headlines would Arutz Sheva and the JPost be posting up? What comments would all the ‘experts’ reading about Yosef HaTzaddik from their armchairs in Eretz Yisrael be saying about him? What juicy quotes would they be squeezing out of the wicked Esav, about how terrible his brother Yaacov really was?

“Yes, he did exactly the same thing to me before he left – and that’s also why he ran away!” Esav would tell Channel 2, in an exclusive interview. “He stole my blessings! No one can trust him!”

And then, they’d wheel in one of Esav’s wives (with her face blurred and identify disguised) to pile on the ignominy.

People, the creation is renewed every day! King Shlomo told us there is nothing new under the sun.

Each of our biggest Tzaddikim was covered with spiritual filth, lies, controversy and scandal. It’s always been that way, and until Moshiach comes, it will continue to be that way.

In case you’re still unsure, here’s a few more ‘big’ Tzaddikim, many of whom were pegged as being the potential ‘Moshiach’ of their generation, and who were persecuted by the authorities of their time, and vilified by their fellow Jews, including even ‘religious’ people:

The Rashbi – Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai – who ran away from the Roman police and sat in a cave learning Torah for 12/13 years.

Rabbi Eliezer HaGadol – who was wrongly excommunicated by the Sanhedrin until a day before his death.

The Baal Shem Tov – excommunicated and vilified by even some of the biggest rabbis of his day.

The Baal HaTanya – Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad chassidim, who was persecuted and repeatedly slandered to the secular authorities (including by so-called ‘frum’ Jews…), resulting in him being chased all over the country, and spending time in prison.

Rebbe Nachman of Breslev – Another huge Chassidic master, the Shpola Zeide, took against Rebbe Nachman and started a slanderous campaign against him, that began so much of the controversy against him. Even his own uncle, another Chassidic Master Rabbi Baruch of Medzhiboz, opposed Rebbe Nachman for a time. (Can you imagine the juicy quotes Channel 2 would have tried to get out of him?)

Rabbi Natan Sternhartz – who took over from Rebbe Nachman, and who suffered the most terrible persecution, including being falsely accused of all sorts of things, and spending period of time in exile and imprisoned by the secular authorities. And who was behind this libelous, slanderous and even murderous campaign? (Because at one point, they dispatched a murderer to kill Rav Natan, but the man killed the wrong ‘Rav Natan’ and his family instead?) – RABBIS! And not just any rabbis, the most influential rabbis of their time, including the Savraner Rebbe.

History is simply repeating itself.

If you don’t know what happened before, you won’t know how to pass the test this time around. Again, the main point is that our biggest Tzaddikim have always been slandered, persecuted and chased by the evil people in our midst. That’s just how it is.

But how embarrassing, if you get up to Shemayim and they show you all the times you pinged on that horrible libel about Yosef HaTzaddik…or all the times you rushed to judgment against the ‘dangerous fugitive’ Moshe Rabbenu…or all the times when you could have stood up and defended King David, but instead you put the boot in, instead.

We read that stuff now, and OF COURSE we see how holy our Tzaddikim actually were, and how misguided (at best…) the people were who were persecuting them and slandering them.

But that’s the test.

Moshiach is not going to be ‘elected’ like a president.

Redemption is a birth process. It’s messy, filthy, stressful, confused and incredibly taxing, spiritually. There are people who are literally trying to kill our holy people, just like they’ve been doing all down history. Do you REALLY want to be a partner in their activities? Do you really want to end up where Korach ended up, or where Potifar’s wife got to, or even Absalom, King David’s son, who ended up in the lowest pit of Gehinnom?

So take a breath, and try to put the modern events unfolding right now in their proper, historical and spiritual context. As a people, we’ve been down this path before – many times – and always made the same mistake. If we really want Moshiach to happen, this time we need to really see what’s going on – all the lies and forgeries and slander that’s happening – and to pick the right side.

picture of a man holding a burning newspaper

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

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

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

What does this test involve?

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

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

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

Basic background to Lashon Hara (evil speech)

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

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

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

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

THE DEFINITION OF LASHON HARA:

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

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

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

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

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

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

RECHILUS, OR CAUSING HATRED TOWARDS A FELLOW JEW

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

THE DEFINITION OF RECHILUS IS:

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

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

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

HOW YOU FIX THE SINS OF TALKING LASHON HARA / RECHILUT

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

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

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

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

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

You can degrade someone if:

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

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

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

BELIEVING LASHON HARA

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

It’s forbidden to:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HOW YOU FIX THE SIN OF BELIEVING LASHON HARA

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

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

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

  • Ask forgiveness from the person you spoke about.

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

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

If you:

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

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

THE GROWTH IN THE THROAT

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

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

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

The honest position for most people is:

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

Remember, Rav Berland is the last test before Moshiach.

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

picture of a man holding a burning newspaper

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

It’s George Dubbya!

It’s the US!

It’s Putin and Red Russia!

It’s the European Union!

It’s the UN!

And so on and so forth.

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

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

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

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

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

(You can see the full excerpt HERE).

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

He wrote (my translation):

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

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

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

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

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

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

What can we take from this?

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

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

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

They help the true Tzaddikim.

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

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

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

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

You want to be Switzerland?

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the war is still going on.

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

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

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

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

Before Rav Berland left on his self-imposed exile more than three year’s ago, while he was still living for a while in Beitar Illit, someone asked him in one of his classes to explain the saying of Chazal that:

Moshiach is only going to come when the whole generation is either worthy, or unworthy.

The obvious question is how can this be?! After all, we all know people who are not so worthy, so clearly the ‘100% worthy’ option isn’t happening right now. At the same time, if the whole generation was unworthy there’s a good chance that Hashem would decide just to pull the plug on the whole of humanity again, like He did with Noah’s flood.

So clearly, something else is going on here.

Rav Berland explained that in the time before Moshiach, the main test would be for people to choose the path of kedusha, and to follow after God – or the opposite, God forbid.

But they weren’t going to be able to continue to sit on the fence and to play both sides of the game anymore.

Rav Berland explained that it’s the same test that occurred when Elijah the Prophet famously challenged the prophets of Ba-al to a show-down, on Mount Carmel. At that time in history, it’s not that the Jewish people didn’t believe in God, exactly, because they did, at least in theory. The problem was that they didn’t believe in God enough to stop trying to hedge their bets for health and wealth by also worshipping the Ba’al.

There was just one problem with this approach: God Himself hates idol-worship, defined as ‘having other gods’ that you believe can give you good health, a new house, a fat bank account, or even, more children.

As we learned from all the hoo-ha with yoga, it’s all too easy to fall into a mindset of believing that God is out there ‘somewhere’, but that you have to follow other methods and practices and belief systems to really achieve the outcomes you want in life, whilst cutting God completely out of the picture.

Judaism says: you’re sick because God made you sick, and you’ll feel better again once you make Teshuva and repair that spiritual breach. Idol-worship says: Forget all about God and repairing your soul, just take this pill / pull this pose / eat this green stuff, and all your health problems will vanish by themselves!

And often, they do.

That’s why it’s often so hard to follow whole-heartedly after God, because, well Ba’al worship really pays off, man!

So, that’s why Elijah the Prophet came along to challenge his generation to finally pick a side. He let the prophets of Ba’al arrange their sacrifice first, and gave them the best part of the day to encourage their ‘god’ to send down the fire that was going to burn it up.

“Yell louder!” He told them. “Maybe he’s sleeping, or he stepped outside for a wee!”

Of course, the prophets of Ba’al weren’t going to give up that easily. They’d hidden a man inside their sacrifice who was willing to immolate himself to ‘prove’ that the Ba’al existed, by lighting a secret fire. Unfortunately for them, God killed the man off somehow (I think he got bitten by something poisonous) before he could strike his flint and tinder.

So then, it was Elijah the Prophet’s turn. He arranges his sacrifice on the pyre, he asks for it to be completely drenched in water three times, and then he prays. Man, did his prayer get answered! Whoosh, the whole thing went up in such an impressive display of Heavenly firepower that the whole congregation fell on their face, and exclaimed: ‘Hashem, He IS God!!’

Like, duh.

Elijah turned to the Children of Israel, and asked them:

How long are you going to continue to dance between two camps? If the Ba’al is god, then worship it wholeheartedly. But if Hashem is God – then worship Him wholeheartedly, and stop sitting on the fence!

And according to Rav Berland, that’s the same test that we face today, the test of knowing that God is all there is.

It’s not the doctors or the yoga poses that keep us healthy or cure us – it’s God.

It’s not the politicians or the army that keeps us safe and protected from our enemies – it’s God.

It’s not the long hours we put into our jobs, or the huge amount of sucking up to the boss that pays our mortgage – it’s God.

When people really believe in God wholeheartedly, they act SO differently from what passes for ‘normal’ these days, even in the religious world. For a start, they really talk to Him. And they believe in miracles. And they stop obsessing over every little detail, and stop trying to control every tiny aspect of their lives.

They definitely ditch their yoga, and their bad middot, and their unsavory habits. They give 10% of their income to charity, even when it’s hard. They treat their kids nicely.

I could go on and on, but the point is this: there is no more sitting on the fence. There is no more staying in the middle. Ambiguous is OVER, as the recent Brexit fiasco just underlined every so dramatically.

Either we’re with God, or we’re not.

That’s the final test before Moshiach, and it’s one that each of us really needs to pray that we’re going to pass.

You know, I’ve been learning a lot from all this ‘yoja’ stuff, not least about how much hypocrisy is floating around the place.

When I first started researching yoja, from a perspective of being truly interested in its apparent health and healing benefits, I had no idea that I was going to uncover such an avalanche of obvious idol worship and very dodgy spiritual practices.

But then, as all the evidence started to stack up so spectacularly, it raised another very big question, namely: How could the ‘orthodox’ practitioners of yoga in our midst be so blind to all this stuff?

I’d always assumed, before I started really researching this subject, that yoja was a bunch of exercises that had tenuous connections to idolatrous religions. But it quickly became SO obvious that yoga is drenched in and permeated by idol worship to such an extreme degree, that you’d literally have to have some issues with your cognitive functioning to not recognize the problem, if you’re an orthodox Jew.

Which then raised the next awkward question:

Are the ‘orthodox’ practitioners of yoga cognitively impaired in some way, or are they actually deliberately trying to mislead people?

This is not a sarcastic question. We all make mistakes some times, and we all get it wrong some times. I’m certainly not infallible, and I’ve had more than one episode in my life when I followed after a person, or a shita, or a belief system that ultimately ended up being a very negative force, and spiritually-corrupt in some ways.

In this mixed-up world, that stuff unfortunately happens and it happens a lot. We all have blindspots, we all have flaws, we all have difficulties being able to ascertain what’s true, particularly when it comes to matters of the soul.

But here is what’s starting to disturb me so much with all this ‘kosher’ yoja stuff: Even when you repeatedly bring clear evidence of the problem, and repeatedly point out the huge halachic and spiritual issues involved with practicing yoja, not only are the ‘orthodox’ practitioners not even a little bit chastened or confused or concerned about whether they may be barking up the wrong tree (and misleading a whole bunch of other less-informed people in the process…) – they come back at you with sniping personal attacks that are dripping with misplaced self-righteousness, harsh judgment and anger. (peace n’ love, man).

Yes, it’s very upsetting when we find out the truth we believed in may be a lie; or that the path that we chose in good faith is actually leading us to perdition, but the mark of a healthy soul is that it can ultimately recognize its mistakes, and at least try to make Teshuva.

A few years’ back, me and my husband got caught up in a very spiritually-unhealthy ‘Breslev cult’ type organization, that came packaged with a big Rabbinic backer who we both really respected.

It took us three long years to figure out just how much damage our association with that ‘cult’ had done to us and other people. But once we realized our mistake, we did our best to rectify it. I apologized to a whole bunch of people who I may have inadvertently hurt, and I ate a lot of humble pie.

I made a mistake!

That happens sometimes, even when we have the best intentions.

So what I was expecting to hear from all these ‘orthodox’ yoja teachers was maybe some contrition, some concern that they’d been involved in such a negative spiritual practice, and some worry that they’d also been encouraging other orthodox Jews to do it, too.

In short, I was expecting a tiny bit of humility.

But that really hasn’t shown up in any way, shape or form, and in fact, I’ve been getting the opposite: sniping personal attacks, a complete avoidance of the real issues, misleading statements about people having rabbinic backers when they really don’t, and a bunch of such obviously bad middot that is frankly makes all the spiritual benefits being claimed for yoja a farce.

So I’m back to the question:

Are the ‘orthodox’ yoja people out there cognitively impaired in some way (which clearly would explain a lot…) OR, are they deliberately trying to mislead people?

If it’s the former, I have some theories about how that might have happened (which is definitely a post for another time.) If it’s the latter, then the whole thing suddenly takes on a much more sinister spiritual hue.

It’s like this: Jews for J may also be very nice, well-meaning people, but I still wouldn’t invite them for Shabbat or have anything much to do with them.

Why not?

The answer is obvious (or at least, I hope it’s obvious).

Yoshkianity, Hinduism and Buddhism are all alien religions, and complete poison to a Jewish soul. If someone wants to cling on to their asanas for dear life, it’s a free country and they’re allowed. But just as I wouldn’t want anything to do with an evangelical Jew for Yoshki, I also don’t want anything to do with an evangelical Jew for Yoja, either.

And for exactly the same reason.