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.

So the last few days I’ve been trying to figure out WHAT, exactly, has been causing me my eye problems and health issues.

Again, it’s a fundamental principle of emuna that nothing happens ‘stam’ or by accident, and that everything is 100% tailored from Hashem to give us some sort of message about what we might need to work on, change or fix in our lives (and souls) – so I’ve been pondering this a lot in my talking to God sessions the last few days.

Here’s what I was exploring:

1) After last week, I got 100% that my eyes went funny because I was looking at stuff that was coming from a very bad place spiritually.

2) WHAT was that stuff, exactly?

I wasn’t so clear on number 2, because I had three possible areas that I’m currently engaged in:

1) I’m reading books by Immanuel Velikovsky at the moment, who was basically an externally secular Jew who took on the scientific establishment after World War II. Velikovsky was extraordinarily erudite, and he demolished their arguments about things like the age of the world, and about how and when massive, comet-induced natural disasters devastated the planet, and also showed how the events described in Torah and Tanach is to be found all over ancient history – if you know where to look for it.

Now, he definitely wasn’t a religious man in the modern sense of the word, but he believed in God, and believed in the veracity of the Torah and Tanach (which makes him more ‘frum’ than a lot of the apparently orthodox people walking around in 2017.)

Was that making my eyes funny?

Or, was it:

2) The research I’m doing on the ‘Electric People’ book, where I start off reading equations from people with impressive PhDs in quantum physics and then two seconds later I find myself reading about a Tibetan view of the afterworld?

(It’s a crazy thing: Chemistry seems to lead to atheism, and physics either leads to God, or to avoda zara, or to a belief that ‘aliens’ created life on earth…)

Was it that, that was making my eyes funny?

Or, was it:

3) Jewish blogs and websites by ‘frum’ Jews who aren’t so into believing in Tzaddikim, definitely aren’t into Rav Berland, and have a very ‘cool’ take on what it means to be an orthodox Jew in 2017?

I cracked open Rebbe Nachman’s Book of Traits (sefer HaMiddot) and this is what I got:

“It’s forbidden to learn from one who draws after idol-worship, and one who learns from him is liable to the death penalty.”

Gosh, well that seemed to be pretty clear cut. It seemed like number 2 on the list was the culprit. Except….when you’re doing hitbodedut, and really talking to God about things, things are rarely so cut and dried.

As I was rolling around the idea that I have to quit writing ‘Electric People’, Rav Natan’s maxim that ‘whatever brings you closer to God is true, and whatever takes you further away from God is false’ popped into my head.

Just yesterday, I was sketching some of my ideas from Electric People out to a friend, and she told me that I’d just given her emuna a real boost by what I’d described, because it really showed her that people aren’t in control, and only God is.

Hmmm.

So maybe Electric People wasn’t the problem after all (although clearly, the Tibetan ‘channelling’ PhDs are people I need to stay away from…)?

So what WAS it, then? Reading Velikovsky’s stuff has also brought me much nearer to God, and His awesomeness, and has similarly made me realize how God is really the only One in control of what’s occurring down here on planet earth.

So I don’t think it’s that, despite all the disturbing packaging that some of Velikovsky’s ideas come wrapped in. (Briefly, he compared the mythologies and histories of ancient peoples to try to find some sort of big, world-wide natural disaster that would synchronise ancient history. Boy, did he find it… But that’s a post for another time.)

So then that left me with the frum Jewish blogosphere…

To cut a long story short, the last few weeks I was trying to connect to a whole bunch of Jewish bloggers and internet people, to interview them about their stuff, and to hopefully get the word out about my new book, The Secret Diary of a Jewish Housewife.

I spent literally hours poring over different websites, trying to find good ‘fits’. Then, I spent a bunch more time emailing people, to see if we could collaborate somehow. I’ve had a few nice responses (mostly from the less obviously ‘frum’ people) – and some really yucky responses from the more apparently ‘frum’ people, who castigated me for publicly supporting Rav Berland on my blog.

Bingo!

After I got another yucky response last week, I had a fleeting moment when I thought maybe I should take the stuff about Rav Berland down.

I mean, if it was limiting my marketing opportunities, blah blah blah, stopping me from connecting to other cool, creative, ‘frum’ Jews, blah blah blah, making me feel like I’d done something ‘bad’, blah blah blah…

After talking to God about it all, I decided to stick to my guns, and to continue to support the Rav with everything I’ve got, for as long as it takes for the truth to come out, regardless of how many ‘opportunities’ it’s costing me.

When I applied Rav Natan’s rule, I realized that trying to cosy up to these ‘frum’ bloggers had taken me pretty far away from emuna, and emunat Tzaddikim, or believing in our true Tzaddikim.

To put it another way, these guys were REALLY bad for my health!!!

And for my soul. And for my spiritual connection to Hashem, and His holy Tzaddikim.

So, now I’ve figured that out, I’m going to continue trying to demolish all the lies modern science is built on (that leads to atheism…), and I’m going to continue trying to show how human health really works (which could lead to avoda zara, unless people are firmly connected to the Torah and the true Tzaddikim…)

And I’m also staying away from pretty much every Jewish blog and website out there – because when you’re striving to be a believing Jew, that’s the REALLY dangerous stuff on the internet.

The last few weeks have been so challenging, on so many different fronts.

Domestically, I’ve had kids going in meltdown because the school they love is closing down; and other kids getting suspended twice in three days, apparently because of a long list of misunderstandings and crossed wires that means they now hate school and are getting stomach aches in the morning.

Personally, I’ve had a whole bunch of weird health issues going on again, plus a pervasive feeling that I completely ran out of energy again and can’t continue like this anymore.

Professionally, my great idea to bring a whole bunch of creative Jewish women from different backgrounds together on my blog bit the dust when the most ‘religious’ people I contacted to participate decided to chew me out for publicly supporting Rav Berland on my blog.

Rav Shalom Arush said a while back words to the effect that getting secular people to make teshuva is peanuts compared to getting the already religious people to make teshuva, and boy, was he ever right.

It wasn’t just that they’d been reading a whole bunch of lashon hara and slander online and believing it was 100% true (probably all from the ‘frummest’ websites out there…)

What made it worse is that they were completely unwilling to even consider any of the information and research I’ve been pulling together over the last year that paints a very different picture of what’s going on.

They think they know what they think they know, and anyone who is daring to challenge them about what they think they know is also ‘bad’. Score one for the closed mind of apparently frum, apparently ‘enlightened’ people.

All my hopes to start building some achdut and unity in my little corner of the blogosphere, and all my hopes that Jewish women could start to repair all the breaches and divisions between us, kind of vanished the last couple of weeks.

The husband has been having his own issues, too.

So altogether, I feel like I got hit by a tsunami, then a typhoon, then an earthquake – and Shavuot is still two weeks away!

The period of counting the Omer is often really tough, as it’s the time when God is shining a very bright light on all our bad middot and icky character traits, and asking us to do a little better. The last few years, I’ve dreaded counting the Omer, because it’s typically been weeks of craziness, stress and one difficulty after another.

I’ve been groping around trying to find the emuna that is meant to keep me going through these times, but I think maybe it got shoved somewhere into a dark recess under my bed, when I cleaned up after Pesach.

The last couple of days, since L’ag B’omer, things seem to have lightened up a little bit, thank God. I can type again, see straight again, not feel so disgustingly stressed out of my skull the whole time.

These are big things to be grateful for.

But I’m still sad that my attempts to reach out, and across the divides in the Jewish world, haven’t really worked out so well.

I think most of us want to connect a lot more than we’re able to at the moment. The yetzer is knocking itself out, trying to keep us Jewish women away from each other and mired in stress, worry and gossip, because it knows that Jewish women brought the redemption in Egypt with their love, compassion and emuna, and that we’ll bring it again this time around, with God’s help.

How?

I don’t know.

But who said we have to have all these details figured out ahead of time?

The last few days, I’ve been feeling pretty exhausted again, spiritually.

Much as I need the internet to do what I do, I absolutely hate the impact it has on my life, in so many myriad ways. So yesterday I decided to take a day off, and to go walk on the beach somewhere.

For many years, I found ‘the beach’ a very challenging subject, because I love the beach, and I love jumping the waves, but finding tznius ways to do that has been difficult, even in Israel with the separate beaches.

First, even though the beach IS separate, that doesn’t mean there are no men. There’s still the lifeguard…and the guys repairing the fencing…and the icecream man…. When I was going through my ‘mega frum’ stage, I felt like I couldn’t really go to the beach unless I’d wear exactly the same clothes I’d wear on the street. But feeling the waves lap your feet through a thick pair of socks was not so much fun, so I kind of gave up.

Over the last few years, I’ve calmed down a bit, and I realized that as long as I was wearing my tznius bathing costume, I didn’t have to worry TOO much about the lifeguard taking an interest.

But then, I had another challenge to contend with:

The separate beaches are often so packed and crowded, that it’s really, really unpleasant to be there. Part of the problem is that people bus in en masse from the frummer enclaves of the country, which means that a thousand people show up all together and cram into a tiny space.

Another part of the problem is that the separate beach is tiny – because hey, very frum people don’t really count for much, and it’s enough they got anything, beach-wise.

The last problem I had, at least in the past, is that if I didn’t feel comfortable walking around in ‘mega frum RBS’ or Meah Shearim (and in the past, I didn’t) – then I also didn’t feel so comfortable trying to bathe in Meah Shearim-by-the-sea.

Now, I realize this issue was 100% internal, and was my own judgmental meshuggas tendencies being reflected back at me to deal with, but a few years’ back, I’d get so obsessed with tugging down the hemline of my already long tznius bathing suit that it kind of wrecked the enjoyment factor too much to make it worthwhile.

SO – yesterday was about reclaiming the beach, in a healthy, balanced way.

It was too cold to swim (for me) but I decided to walk on the beach a little, and put my real feet, without socks, into the water. It was so fun!

But not so much fun that I’d like to do it every day. Or even every week. Or even every month. But now the tug of my nefesh had been satisfied, the tug of my neshama started up. ‘Let’s go to the Baba Sali!’ it whispered at me. ‘It’s only half an hour’s drive from here, and you haven’t been there in ages.’

Since I had my accident on the way out of Netivot, I’m now always nervous about going there, but the Baba Sali is such an amazing place, it’s still worth the driving stress.

I got there, parked, sat down in my usual spot in the unusually quiet enclave, and felt so much of the stress kind of percolate away. Wow, I’ve been really stressed…

Then, I started getting some of the amazing insights that seem to come very easily by the Baba Sali. About the need to forgive a certain person, and to really make my peace with them. And about what to do about my kid’s school, that looks like it is closing down at the end of the year. And about trying a different style of head-gear, and paying my husband more attention again.

As I headed out, I felt calmer than I’ve felt in a long time.

I used to go to Kivrei Tzaddikim all the time, but since I moved to Jerusalem I’ve done that much less. Partially, it’s because I was often overwhelmed with life and I didn’t have the energy to go anywhere, much. Partially, it’s because I had a very big test of faith, and apart from going to Uman I didn’t have the same motivation to go anywhere else. And partially, it’s because I got a little disconnected from my true self, and I stopped listening so much to that ‘soul whisper’ that tells me:

Go to the beach!

And then tells me half an hour later:

Now go to the Baba Sali!

It’s taken me a while to figure out that my mental health depends on listening to both sets of instructions.

What is Moshiach going to fix, and what do we need to work on ourselves?

This is a question I’ve been musing over again the last few days, in part due to an email I received from one of my readers, a bit of which I’m including below, with her permission:

“I was really hoping there would be some changes already in the moshiach process [after Pesach] and nothing is different that we can see. I am sure things are happening behind the scenes but that doesn’t give me anything tangible to hold onto. Faith is hard. Everyone mocks me in a way because I am so connected to Moshiach being a reality. Nothing can be proven as every evidence people find reasons to say it doesn’t mean anything…

“I think I look to Moshiach arriving as a solution to my issues or at least a distraction from them. I want a change so badly that I’m dependent on it for my sanity. I really couldn’t take a few more years until things get rolling. So many issues are relying on him coming soon… I am waiting for moshiach to fix all of my problems and I know that is not right.

“I take myself out of the picture for a moment and I still want moshiach to come for Hashem’s glory and the rest of the world but then I put myself back in the picture and I just see an end to my issues that have no other solution. Agh, I guess I’m human. This is why I have run out of patience. Because I can’t wait without these issues getting bigger.

“It is a tease to believe that any moment he can arrive and then each chag passes without improvement. So why can’t I [just] give Hashem these problems? I don’t need this stress. I don’t need to worry about money and moshiach’s arrival. I know that but I can’t incorporate it fully into my emunah.”

WHAT STUFF IS MOSHIACH ACTUALLY GOING TO FIX, WHEN HE COMES?

This is not a superficial topic, and requires a lot of thoughtful consideration, so please consider this post just a start, and not a definitive response.

We’re taught that when Moshiach comes, the yetzer hara, or evil inclination is going to be ‘slaughtered’. It doesn’t say anywhere that when Moshiach comes everyone will be a millionaire, and that illnesses won’t happen anymore, or that husbands and wives (and mother-in-laws…) will all get on with each other brilliantly, all of the time.

People will still have hardships. People will still die. Rebbe Nachman said (#276 in ‘Tzaddik’):

“People assume that when the Messiah comes there will be no death. This is not so. Even Mashiach himself will also die.” (See tractate Sukkah 52a).

So, if we’ve still got money problems, health issues, hardships etc after Moshiach shows up, then what is Moshiach actually coming to fix?

This is what came to me, after pondering the question. IF our problems are related to the fact that God’s providence and influence is currently hidden in the world, then Moshiach’s coming will definitely fix those issues.

After Moshiach is openly revealed, there will be no place in the world for atheism, heresy and all those people who like to claim everything is a ‘coincidence’ in life. In the time of Moshiach, Hashem’s Divine providence will be as clear as day.

That means instead of people swallowing handfuls of Tylenol to cope with their headaches, or backaches, or toothaches, they’ll first go out to the field and talk to God directly about WHY He’s sending them their aches and pains, and what sort of teshuva He wants them to do to fix the problem.

Ditto, for money issues. Ditto for shalom bayit issues. Ditto for childrearing, relationships and existential angst issues.

Most of our issues and problems are only coming because God wants us to fix something in our lives, behaviours, beliefs and attitudes.

Once we get the message, the problem disappears.

So people will be ‘getting the message’ that God is running the world, and behind all their problems much, much more when Moshiach comes – and as a result, they’ll have far fewer problems, and far less troubles.

That’s what it means that the ‘yetzer’ will get slaughtered. That yetzer that’s telling you that YOU and OTHER PEOPLE are running the world will disappear forever.

But, for the problems that aren’t directly related to having emuna and seeing God’s hand in our life, and making the required teshuva – I’m not sure how those problems will disappear after Moshiach. For example, if someone’s tikkun requires them to be poor forever as a way of rectifying their souls, that will probably still happen post-Moshiach.

Just what? The person themselves will no longer be beating themselves up for being a loser, blaming their bad luck, or being jealous of other ‘richer’ people. They’ll have 100% clarity that being poor is their Divinely-ordained tikkun, and that will make the whole ordeal so much sweeter and nicer.

So what does that mean for us and our problems now?

As I wrote to my correspondent, so many of us are overwhelmed by difficulties and suffering at the moment, that it’s only human to want Moshiach to come and get us out of the mess our lives are in. I certainly also have a lot of times when I start to feel despairing about my own life, and just want to escape from all my problems somehow.

At those times, I have to make a lot of effort to connect my problems back to God, and to keep searching for the messages hidden inside them, and to keep making the teshuva required to solve them.

God is hidden right now, which is what makes the whole test of ‘having emuna’ so difficult. How do I KNOW my money problems are from God, and not just because I’m lazy? How do I KNOW that I’m just meant to accept my shalom bayis issues as calmly as I can, instead of acting on my impulse to get divorced? How do I KNOW that God is just using my kid to give me a big message, and that they’re not actually completely screwed up (by my bad parenting…)?

The differences between how a person tries to live their life with emuna, and how they live their life when God is completely out the picture are huge.

The more emuna you have, the more you’re seeing God’s hand in your life right now, in every single facet of what’s happening to you and inside you, the more you’re already living with the light that Moshiach is going to bring to the world.

There’s so much more to say about this, not least the fact that as the geula process continues, the differences between the ‘early post-Moshiach’ stage and the later ‘post-Moshiach’ stages will get more and more pronounced. Initially, there won’t be such amazing changes and supernatural miracles, but as we get used to the idea that God is all there is, the miracles and the ‘supernatural’ level of the world will continue to rise.

BH, I’ll come back to this topic again in another post.

But to sum this part up:

If your problems are rooted in a lack of emuna, and a lack of God-awareness in the world, Moshiach will solve those problems as soon as he shows up. It will be impossible to live in a post-Moshiach world without having emuna that God is all there is.

But, if your problems aren’t rooted in a lack of emuna and a lack of God-awareness, then they may well continue even post-Moshiach, as part of the tikkun, or spiritual rectification, your soul has to make.

Did you ever wonder how Moshe Rabbenu would go down in a Monsey Beit HaMidrash?

“Shlomie! Shlomie! You gotta hear this! Some guy in a frock just showed up in the beis medrash, and told everyone he’s the Moshiach!!!”

Shlomie heaved his stomach back inside the belt line of his black pants, stood up and went over to talk to his chevrusa Yankie, who was anxiously pacing backwards and forwards by the kollel’s coffee vending machine.

“Whaddya talking about, Shlomie? Calm down, speak slower. Who just showed up in the beis medrash?”

Yankie took a breath, stopped pacing, and turned to Shlomie.

“Some guy called Moshe something… He said G-d sent him to redeem the Jews, and he wants to take us out of Monsey to the promised land!”

Shlomie’s eyes narrowed. Another nut-job talking about G-d! The last 210 years, there’d been a lot of these imposters who’d showed up trying to con the Jews of Monsey that one day they’d have to leave and go to the ‘holy land’.

Wherever that place was meant to be…

“Where is this guy?” Shlomie demanded. “I wanna talk to him.”

With Yankie following behind, Shlomie headed off to the beis medrash, swung the doors open, and saw a tall, bearded figure standing in the corner with his eyes shut, rapturously reciting the bracha over a cup of water out loud.

Shlomie whispered to Yankie,

“Uhoh, this already doesn’t look good! What’s with this guy’s accent? Is he Sephardi?! And who spends five minutes blessing a cup of water?! This is definitely bitul Torah!”

Yankie muttered back, “Shlomie, we didn’t get the Torah yet…” But Shlomie didn’t hear him, as he’d already marched up to ‘Moshe the moshiach’ determined to kick this imposter out of the beis medrash.

“Sooo, Moishe… where’d you learn?” challenged Shlomie.

Moshe Rabbenu studied Shlomie with wise, kind eyes and told him gently:

“I’ve spent the last 60 years communing with Hashem in the desert.”

Shlomie eyes rolled so far back in his head they almost popped out his neck. Geez, the nerve of this guy!!! Still, Shlomie prided himself on being open-minded, so he decided to ask a couple more questions before officially excommunicating him.

“So, who’s your Rav?” he asked.

Moshe lowered his head slighty and said:

“Hashem. Hashem’s teaching me Torah. Although I did meet Rabbi Akiva a little while back…”

Shlomie snorted again. What? That guy whose parents were goyim who converted?!?

He tried one last time,

“Where did you grow up? Did you study at the Mir?”

“I grew up in Pharoah’s palace,” Moshe Rabbenu replied gently. “I had to flee Monsey-raim at the age of 20 after I killed an Egyptian by uttering one of Hashem’s ineffable names. I never got a chance to learn at the Mir….”

“Kishoofim!!!!” roared out Shlomie.

“Out, out, get outta here with all your dangerous Moshiach talk! You’re nothing but a crack-pot, a false messiah, a person who’s trying to pull the Jews away from learning Torah with all your talk about serving Hashem!”

Yankie muttered again “But Shlomie, we didn’t get the Torah yet…” but again, Shlomie didn’t hear him.

With quiet dignity, Moshe Rabbenu picked up his staff, and headed out of the beis medrash.

Yankie was anxiously biting his fingernails.

“The nerve of that guy!” sputtered Shlomie. “I can’t believe people are falling for this! We’re only meant to be learning about Moshiach, not believing it!”

“But Shlomie, a lot of the really big rabbis – like Aharon HaKohen – say he’s the real deal…”

Shlomie harrumphed. “All these ‘rebbe’ types stick together, you know that.”

“But Shlomie,” Yankie tried again,

“This morning he turned the whole Nile to blood, and he’s told Pharoah there’s more natural disasters to come, if he doesn’t send the Jews out of Monsey-raim…”

“Kishoofim!!” Shlomie yelled again.

“Unbelievable bitul Torah! Instead of learning another three blatt Gemara this guy’s off doing black magic and talking to goyim! Don’t fall for it, Yankie, don’t let him fool you. Seriously, where was the guy’s hat??”

Yankie tried one last time:

“But Shlomie, we have a tradition from Yaakov Avinu that at some point, the Jews have to leave Monsey-raim, and that a redeemer will show up and take them out of galus…”

Shlomie sighed a big sigh, and put his enormous arm around his frail, naïve learning partner.

“Yankie, you’re a great guy, do you know that? Here, take a look over the other side of the beis medrash. Who’d ya see?”

Yankie turned his head, and spotted Korach, the Rosh Kollel, shtiggering away to the bachorim about how why the beis medrash doesn’t need a mezuzah on the door. Korach cut a fine figure in his Armani black suit, smart tie and brushed fedora, tilted at just the right angle to set off his jutting chin.

“Now, if someone told me that’s Moshiach, I’d believe it,” explained Shlomie.

“That guy’s related to one of the most important families in Monsey-raim; he’s got 14 kids – all shomer Toyrah ve-mitzvos – and he encourages his students to think for themselves. That guy is all about Toyrah and mitzvos. And his wife bakes a great kugel!

“But Shlomie, we didn’t get the Torah yet,” Yankie wanted to say. But he didn’t because he knew there’d be no point.

Shlomie heaved his stomach back behind his shtender, and went back to learning his latest blatt on his My-Gemara i-Phone app.

“The nerve of that guy, ‘Moshe Rabbenu’!” he muttered to himself, thankful that he’d managed to save the guys in the beis medrash from another false messiah. Hrrmph!

As if the Moshiach would be someone who’d never stepped foot in the Mir…

One of the things that I struggled really, really hard with for years was the idea that no matter what happened to me, or how bad I feel about it, I should just paste a ‘happy’ face on and pretend I didn’t care, and I wasn’t upset about it.

This fake concept of emuna is something I’ve come to call ‘all emuna, all the time’.

The first time I realized just how dangerous ‘all emuna, all the time’ can be is about six years’ ago, when my neck started seizing up and got really painful and sore. At that time, I was still (just about…) going to Western doctors, and no-one could tell me what was going on, what was causing the problem, or how to fix it.

Out of desperation, I went to a more holistic healer called David Amichai, and he asked me a question that blew me away: Had I been waiting for something that hadn’t materialized for a long time?

The short answer was: yes.

I’d been trying to have more children for eight years, and the toll it had taken on me was incredible. BUT – I told him – NOW I have emuna!!!! I have ‘all emuna, all the time’, and I’ve stopped feeling sorry for myself, and stopped feeling heartache and despair every month when it didn’t happen again, and I’m approaching my infertility with ‘all emuna, all the time’!!!!

He looked at me very thoughtfully, and then he told me in a very kind tone:

The level of emuna you’re describing is a very high level, and it’s very hard for most people to get there sincerely.

Then, he told me that the neck was the ‘bridge’ between the heart and the head, and it seemed as though something had got pretty stuck there. My head was telling me I had ‘all emuna, all the time’, while my heart was whispering the truth at me, namely that I was still grieving the fact that every month, I’d missed another opportunity to have more children.

That true feeling was getting ‘stuck’ in my neck, and was causing me a whole bunch of physical health problems. Once I started to accept my true feelings again, he told me, my problem would clear up.

He was right.

But boy, did I have a spiritual challenge after I went to see him.

Because the main person I was listening to back then had ‘all emuna, all the time’ as their mantra. They made it clear that if I ever felt overwhelmed, sad, occasionally despairing, or all the other very normal feelings that we ALL feel some of the time – there was something deeply wrong with me, and also my emuna.

It took me years to try to square that circle, and I beat myself up endlessly over being so ‘bad’ that I couldn’t automatically break into a song and dance when faced with some very tough challenges. It was only when my challenges reached ‘peak’ levels – and I was still getting castigated for not having ‘all emuna, all the time’ when I’d run out of money for food, and when my life fell apart in a million ways, and when I had four miscarriages in a row from the stress after waiting 10 years to have more kids – that I finally gave Mr ‘all emuna, all the time’ the heave-ho.

When we don’t allow ourselves to grieve our losses properly, when we don’t allow ourselves to feel what we really feel, and to process it all in an unrushed, uncritical and self-accepting way, we end up doing a huge amount of damage to our emuna, our peace of mind and our physical health.

——-

So it was amazing to read the following in Rav Ofer Erez’s latest book, Al Parshat Drachim, where he said: (this free translation is my own, so may not be 100% accurate):

“All of us need to learn how to properly navigate the difficult times…the first thing is to not to blame anyone [others or yourself] and to understand that [difficulties] are the way of the world. The [spiritual] reality of this world is that it’s a place where we have to work, and we are all obliged to learn the practical ways of how to manage and overcome the tzimtumim (contractions, or difficult times) that each of us has to face….and Rabbenu teaches us that the main way of doing this is by being happy, always.

At this point, I got a little anxious as to whether I was going to have to deal with another dose of unrealistic ‘all emuna, all the time’, but Rav Ofer blew me away with what he wrote next, as he squared the circle.

He said that when other people try to give this advice to a person who is going through a very difficult time, they routinely react very badly to being told this.

Rav Ofer explains that giving over advice from the Tzaddik’s Torah is not like selling someone a big car sticker bearing the legend ‘smile!’

Rav Ofer says that you have to understand the depth of what Rebbe Nachman is really teaching us, when he tells us that the ikker is to be happy, always. He then brings an explanation from Rav Natan, who asks the question: What does God really want from the Jewish people, that he brought them down to a world where barely a moment passes without some sort of difficulty, persecution or severe hardship?

Rav Natan then explains in Likutey Halachot that the reality of the world is actually one of wars and difficulties.

The whole world is in a state of ‘hester panim’, where God’s benevolent face is often hidden behind some enormous challenges, and this applies particularly to the Jewish people.

Rav Ofer (via Rav Natan) then goes on to explain something amazing:

The way we ‘stay happy’ in this reality is by continuing to attach ourselves to Hashem, even in those deepest, darkest places we find ourselves in. And this is the true measure of a person in this world, that he continues to search for every piece of advice, and every way he can continue to stay connected to God, while he’s undergoing his trials and tribulations.

What a relief!!!

Mr ‘all emuna, all the time’ clearly never read Likutey Halachot, because if he had, he would have known that ‘being happy with my lot’ didn’t mean I had to walk about with a big grin because I’d just had another miscarriage and I couldn’t afford to buy a loaf of bread.

Real emuna happens when those horrible things happen to you, and you still grope around trying to find God’s hand to hold onto in the middle of it all, and you still try to believe that God is behind it all, and that it will eventually turn out for the good.

Emuna is the belief that you will make it through in once piece, as long as you keep trying to cling on to Hashem.

And you can do that even when you’re bawling your eyes out, and feeling like you’re half-dead.

Thank God for Rav Ofer Erez, who knows that serious hardships can’t be superficially erased, covered over and ignored. They have to be acknowledged, grieved and worked through, but they key thing to remember is that all this stuff has to happen WITH GOD IN THE PICTURE.

And that is the real definition of trying to have emuna.

I only ask, because recently someone sent me an email where they were referring to some comments made by Rav Berland that Moshiach comes as part of a many years-long process. According to my correspondent, the process started in [year] and will continue until [year], and the whole time, there will be more tests and more birur, or clarification, of where people are really holding vis-à-vis their true relationship with Hashem.

Now, I know three years is not really a long period of time in the big scheme of things, but I have to admit to feeling just a little down-hearted after I read that email. Because things are not exactly ‘easy’ – for anyone – at the moment, and so many of us are just kind of holding on in the face of some huge issues that we seem powerless to resolve or overcome by ourselves.

A lot of days, I get emails from readers telling me they’re literally just holding on by the tips of their fingers, waiting for Moshiach to haul them back up over the top of the ledge they seem to have fallen off.

Man, I can relate.

I have this weird ‘gift’ of picking up the heavy vibes bouncing around the world, and translating them into bizarre physical issues. (I write much more about the connections between body, mind and soul over on my spiritualselfhelp blog, and also in my book, Talk to God and Fix Your Health.)

So anyway, the last few weeks I’ve been dealing with another strange, but familiar phenomena, namely a weird bump that showed up on my left eye around a month ago.

This is the fourth weird bump on my eye I’ve had over the last few years, and when the first one showed up around seven years’ back, I completely freaked out and thought the worst. The nice eye specialist reassured me it was just ‘one of those things’ and would disappear by itself eventually.

It took that bump two years to go, which coincided with an EXTREMELY stressful period of time for me personally, and also Israel, that was going through a number of ‘mini-wars’ with Gaza.

And then a few months later, another bump showed up on my other eye.

Hmmm.

To cut a long story short, I have now realized that by the time the ‘eye bumps’ show up, there are some mega-huge ‘heavy judgment’ vibes flying around, that in the past have corresponded to rockets from Gaza, terrorist attacks and small wars.

(Clearly, they also correspond to me having to make a lot of teshuva for things in my own life too, usually connected to very deep anger issues that are still floating around from way back when.)

But the point is this: Who can hack another three years of stress and heavy judgments like the last three have been?

I spend a lot of time trying to clear things out of my spiritual and emotional system, and trying to figure out what other bits of my character need some work, and that’s definitely helping to ‘lighten up’ the heavy vibes, at least in my own personal space.

But you know what? It’s really, really hard work, and I’m feeling kind of like I haven’t got so much energy left to keep digging that stuff up and dealing with it.

I’m not talking about small stuff here, I’m talking about big, life-changing things that have enormous consequences attached.

That’s the whole test we’re all going through right now, the test of ‘clarification’, or birur, where God is shining a very strong spot-light into all the nooks and crannies of our souls, and inviting us to fix things that we’ve left hanging since Adam HaRishon was walking around 5,777 years ago.

It’s really hard work! And that’s if you’re trying to do the work…

If you’re not trying to do the work, then paradoxically, it’s even harder work, because Hashem is just turning the heat up higher and higher and higher until we get the message and start to deal with all the issues we all have that we prefer not to look at or acknowledge.

The deeper our heads are in the sand, the harder God is now slapping us, to try to get us to wake up.

I know that really, it’s a kindness that this process of revealing Moshiach in the world is stretching out over a number of years. If it happened quickly, like most of us think it should, nearly everyone would keel over from the shock of it all.

Whaaat? You mean I’m not a perfect angel, and it’s not all everyone else’s fault that my life and relationships are in such a mess?!?!?!?

It’s not easy to go from a world of darkness and lies to a world of purity and truth, even when you’re inching slowly along the path. To do it in one day, or even in one week or one month, would literally give most people an instant heart-attack.

But still….three more years of this?! Really?

Sigh.

We can’t hurry Moshiach along, and we can’t force God’s hand. There’s a time and a place and a process that has to occur. But some small part of me still hopes that ‘three years’ is a typo, and that really, Moshiach is going to show up tomorrow.

As you might have expected, trying to get The Secret Diary of a Jewish Housewife distributed to regular, orthodox Jewish bookstores is proving to be EXTREMELY difficult.

There’s two main problems going on:

1) Frum Jewish publishing is actually an enormous cartel operation.

Most of the book publishers expect authors to pay around $10,000 to cover all the costs of designing, printing and distributing their own books.

If an author is unwilling or unable to put up this sort of money – and they aren’t directly related to the Baba Sali, or a ‘Rock Star Rabbi / Rabbanit’ type themselves- then most of the Jewish publishers won’t touch them with a barge pole, no matter how interesting or appropriate their books may be for the frum audience.

The corollary to this is that so many of the books that you find on the shelves of orthodox book sellers are there because the person is connected or wealthy, as opposed to a good writer. (Yes, that starts to explain a lot doesn’t it?)

2) Frum Jewish publishing is pushing a distorted image of observant Jewish life.

This was kind of the problem I tripped over with the cover of the Secret Diary, because OFFICIALLY, all the people buying books in frum Jewish bookstores aren’t meant to be surfing the internet, watching movies, or owning i-Phones.

In reality – probably the vast majority of people who shop in frum Jewish bookstores, particularly in the English-speaking world, are doing all those things. But SHUSSSSHSH!!!! Don’t tell the orthodox Jewish publishers, because they still think that Jewish women are all called ‘Breindy’ and obsessed with making the perfect kugel!!!!

‘Breindy’ doesn’t have any problems, has perfect faith and has no need of books that realistically portray orthodox Jewish life, because ‘Breindy’ is a Jewish superwoman with 15 kids, two jobs, a husband in full-time learning, and a stunning 200 sqm home that she keeps immaculately stocked with 5 different types of homemade kugel!!!!

And if your life isn’t like ‘Breindy’s’ – then what on earth are you doing trying to find suitable reading material in a frum Jewish bookstore?!?!

Of course, the real reality is that even ‘Breindy’ is cracking at the seams in 2017, and has just upped her dosage of anti-depressants…but SHUSSSSSSH!!!! Let’s not talk of such things.

This ‘head in the sand’ approach to frum life means that while the shelves are full of inspiring stories from previous generations of women who could make one chicken stretch to generously feed 38 starving orphans with leftovers; and full of ‘uplifting’ Holocaust tales of every stripe (including wonderfully illustrated holocaust strip cartoons for the kiddies…); and full of ‘perfect kugel’ cookbooks and ‘frum’ fiction that I find terribly disturbing for SO many different reasons – they’re generally very empty of real books by real Jewish women, that portray the challenges and beauty of real Jewish life.

I.e., books like The Secret Diary of a Jewish Housewife (and pretty much anything else that I write).

Case in point:

I just emailed one of the frum book publishers to see if I could pay to get The Secret Diary distributed via them, and all they did was take a look at the cover, and then pointblank refuse. Even if I paid to print a thousand copies by them, they still won’t guarantee they’d distribute it.

So dear reader, not for the first time I find myself a little stuck between the familiar rock and the hard place.

For as long as the frum Jewish book world – and the out-of-touch people running it – refuse to carry books that are ‘real’ portrayals of orthodox Jewish life, albeit with a lot of God and emuna mixed in, frum people have little choice but to get their ‘real’ books about real problems and challenges from the secular world.

And make no mistake, that’s what’s happening. Even in the hallowed halls of Meah Shearim, people are turning to Tony Robbins and Dr Mercola for advice on how to solve their real problems and crises, because the frum world is still pretending that we’re all supermen and superwomen, with all emuna, all the time, and a never-ending obsession with creating the perfect kugel.

Frum women aren’t being given an authentic voice in our communities, and we are all paying the price for that in so many different ways. If they aren’t a ‘Breindy’, none of the men who are running the Jewish publishing business are remotely interested in what they have to say.

Dear reader, I am DEFINITELY not a Breindy, and my kugels normally suck, big time.

I can see I’m going to have to pray on this a lot, and ask God to show me how to get past this huge obstacle. I will keep you posted.

What’s been so hard to deal with the last few years is not so much the money issues, because hey, who doesn’t have money issues one way or another in 2017?

The main thing that’s been so hard for me to overcome is the overwhelming sense of loneliness that so often floods up a week or two before the next Jewish holiday. Anglos are very social creatures. When Pesach looms around the corner, or Rosh Hashana, or Purim, or whatever it is, our first thought is ‘who can we invite’?

At this stage in the game, I realize that part of the reason that God has put me in a space and a place where there are very few opportunities to invite or be invited is because socializing on Jewish festivals and shabbat is often just another form of unhealthy ‘escapism’.

The people I know who have the hardest times just ‘being’ – being themselves, being with their close families, being honest about who and what they really are – are the same people I see repeatedly knocking themselves out on the social circuit.

In London, I used to be like that too.

It was unthinkable for me to spend a whole Shabbat without being invited out, or having guests, for at least one of the meals. The times that happened were so few and far between, and nearly always made for a pretty unpleasant Shabbat.

Shabbat is quiet. There’s no i-Phones, no internet, no work, to movies, no soccer games, no arts and crafts or cooking to distract you away from your inner dimension. If the ‘inner dimension’ is a place where you’re happy to hang out, that’s great, and can be the springboard to enhanced awareness and spirituality. Which is really the original purpose of Shabbat.

But when you’re NOT so happy to spend quiet time in your ‘inner dimension’ – a quiet Shabbat can leave you rolling around on the floor tearing your hair out.

Which is why so many of us Anglos like to entertain so very much, so stop those overwhelming feelings of existential angst and loneliness from surfacing.

I’m the same way!

Except, God hasn’t been letting me get away with it anymore the last few years. Since we moved to Jerusalem two and a half years’ ago, I can count the number of times we’ve been invited out on one hand. I try to invite ‘in’ as much as I can, but that’s also been tricky.

Part of the problem is that there is space for another four people around my table, and most of the families we’d like to invite are much, much bigger than that. But, there’s also the ‘teenager’ factor, which works in two ways:

1) Often, my teenagers feel very awkward around people they don’t know, especially if those people appear to be more ‘more frum’ or different ages than they are, so they don’t enjoy meals with guests so much.

2) We don’t really ‘fit’ into any recognizable Jewish box, so while my husband dresses like a chareidi Kollel guy, I dress chardal (kind of…), one kid dresses ‘dati leumi’ and the other one ‘dati lite’.

Trying to find guests that are comfortable with my family’s diversity is also not so simple, especially when you have factors involved like guarding the eyes, setting a good example to smaller kids, insisting that girls need to wear socks, etc….

It takes a lot of good will on both sides of the equation to make it all ‘work’.

If I feel I’d have to cajole a kid into wearing socks to the table or dressing differently than they usually would in order for my guests to feel comfortable, then I usually can’t invite those guests, however much I personally like them.

Having more money or a bigger apartment won’t solve these issues. But, maybe they’d let me run away from the loneliness a bit more (because I’d build my teenagers their own ‘shabbat’ annex and pretend they didn’t exist.)

My husband and I have no close family in Israel. When the Jewish holidays roll around, I’m getting taken out by a feeling of complete isolation and ‘aloneness’, and that’s what’s so hard for me to come to terms with and accept. I moved to Israel to live a fuller Jewish life. I left behind family and a lot of close friends to be here.

I’ve mostly made my peace with not having a lot of money, a career, external ‘success’ etc, but I can’t make my peace with the loneliness. How can it be that I live in a country of six million Jews, that all my neighbors are Jews, that most of them are even frum Jews – and yet, I dread Jewish holidays because I have no shul I feel comfortable in, no community to belong to, and no-one to spend the meals with?

I miss people.

I miss having friends I could pop in to talk to on Shabbat. I miss having a shul that I knew was ‘my shul’ whenever I HAD to go, like on Rosh Hashana, or to hear Parshat Zachor.

I don’t know what to do about all these issues, and sometimes still, I feel very trapped and miserable about it all. On Purim, my oldest came with me to another ‘frum’ shul to hear Megilla. We lasted five minutes, then we had to go somewhere else. Even on Purim, her ‘not-so-frum teenage girl’ costume (ahem…) was more than the locals could handle (at least, that’s what she felt).

I don’t want my family to spend each holiday divided across four different synagogues, so I’ve been going with my kids to wherever they feel happiest – which is typically a 100% Hebrew speaking Israeli environment where I don’t know anyone and feel like the odd-one-out, but they have tons of their friends.

I’ll write more about this subject, but my family’s experience is just reflecting the splintering that’s occurred at the heart of the Jewish people. I guess I feel it more than most people, because I don’t have a ‘bubble’ of family and old friends from the old country to cushion me.

I think what I’m missing is a sense of unity and connection to my fellow Jew, and a feeling that I truly belong here, in the world, in Jerusalem, in Israel.

Of all the things I’m waiting for Moshiach to help me fix, this is probably the biggest.

Even before I knew Amona was being bulldozed last week (because the Israeli government was trying to do it in their usual sneaky, underhanded way) I got a phone call from my almost 16 year old asking me if I could send her permission to leave her school for a day.

“Uh, why?” I wanted to know (call me old-fashioned.)

“Mum, they’re destroying Amona, and me and all my friends from Ulpana want to go and protest. The teacher only lets if you say yes.”

As my kid was hanging on the phone waiting for an answer, a picture popped into my head, unbidden, of some black-clad kassamnik from 10 years ago, using a rubber truncheon to whack the heck out a bunch of peaceful teens who were sitting on the floor passively protesting another ‘dismantling’.

For a growing percentage of Israel’s frum community, the love affair with the Israeli police (and the IDF) is firmly over.

For all the amazing Jews who serve their country, both these organisations are ultimately controlled by anti-Torah, unethical, corrupt people who still stop at nothing to achieve their ends.

Including whacking the heck out of peaceful, idealistic teens who happen to be stopping them from doing their ‘job’ of destroying Jewish homes in Eretz Israel.

The last thing I wanted was for my kid to be one of the ones getting whacked and arrested, and I don’t know what else, because like I said, a lot of these people are plain evil and if they weren’t ‘policemen’, they’d be mafia henchmen. (Some of them probably even are.)

So what to do?

The next thought that popped into my head, unbidden, is that really, I can’t stop my daughter from doing what she wants. I like to pretend that I can, but really, I can’t.

So then, I asked God for some guidance, and heard myself telling her that as long as she was going with all her classmates, I let her go to Amona.

As I hung up, not for the first time I felt a little wistful that my family doesn’t fit the more standard ‘chareidi’ mould that frowns sternly on girls marching out on the streets. Both my girls are deeply, sincerely attached to the ‘national religious’ community, and protesting Government injustice is something they both feel very strongly about.

I get very conflicted about this stuff a lot of the time, because I know that all their protesting isn’t going to make any difference, and could just get them in a whole bunch of trouble. But at the same time, I also feel so proud of them that they care enough to put themselves on the line to protest Jewish families being evicted from their homes.

If more of the ‘grown ups’ cared as much about our fellow Jews, maybe things would look different – and much better – in Israel right now.

In the end, God worked things out nicely for both of us: my daughter was too late to ‘break into’ Amona (although she told me later that two her friends had managed to barricade themselves into one of the houses, and were some of the last ‘protesters’ to be taken out by the police).

So instead, her and her classmates joined an impromptu demonstration against the dismantlement in nearby Raanana.

But I’m still left with the question: Does all this stuff make God happy?

For all my pondering, I still really don’t know. For sure, it’s not the Torah way to encourage girls to go out to ‘battle’, in any way, shape or form, for very good reasons.

On the other hand, I know God has to be impressed by the teens’ mesirut Nefesh (self-sacrifice) and commitment to standing up for what they believe to be right. Like I said, those qualities are sadly lacking in today’s world, perhaps especially by the adults who are meant to be leading us forward and setting the example.

One thing I can tell you for sure: sooner or later, one way or another, Israel will be ruled by Torah-true Jews. If it’s not Moshiach, it’s going to be these teens all grown up and ready to vote.

And nothing and no-one will be able to stop it.

==

After I wrote this, my daughter asked me something else:

“Mum, I’m debating going to Ofra today [where the Government is going to knock down some more Jewish homes]. Do you let me?”

I sighed another deep sigh, and I explained to my daughter that I really don’t think demonstrating is going to help much, because until and unless more of us stop believing in ‘the Government’, and ‘the Likud’ and the ‘Beit Yehudi’ – and start believing in God, instead – these things are just going to keep happening, until we finally get the message.

She agreed…but she also said she feels so bad for the families involved, and wants to help them however she can.

How could I argue against that, really? I told her to ask God to give her the right idea of what to do, and left it at that.

Who is like this people of Yours, Hashem?

One day very soon, the tremendous good that is the authentic Jewish people is going to rise to the top, and the bad will just disappear, like smoke.