Traditionally, Jewish values and beliefs have been based on the Torah, the five books of Moses that were handed down to the nation at Mount Sinai.

As the Torah was effectively dictated by God to Moses, the laws it contains are a Divine blueprint for a how a Jew can live a happy, healthy, spiritually-fulfilling and meaningful life.

Many of these ideas have become the bedrock of universal morality, including the sanctity of human life, and the need to give people at least one day a week of from working, have become the foundation of modern society.

The posts in this category will explore how we can try to really apply Jewish core values and beliefs to our every day life – and what can be preventing us from doing that. Along the way, we’ll take a look at:

  • Jewish community mores
  • Traditional Jewish family and marriage values today
  • Important orthodox Jewish values and how they relate to things like working on our middot, or character traits
  • Jewish morals and morality, as set out by the Torah
  • Putting the Torah’s values into practice, in our real lives- and how that so often diverges from the ‘ideal way of being’ we’re aspiring to
  • Unique vs Universal Jewish values
  • The Jewish idea of God
  • Jewish kosher
  • Jewish kosher food
  • Jewish law
  • Jewish mysticism
  • Jewish messiah
  • Jewish new year
  • Jewish news
  • Jewish orthodox
  • Jewish old testament
  • Jewish prayer
  • Jewish population
  • Jewish prayer shawl
  • Jewish rabbi
  • Jewish rituals
  • Jewish rules
  • Jewish sabbath
  • Jewish synagogue
  • Jewish seder
  • Jewish sayings
  • Jewish sects
  • Jewish temple
  • Jewish traditions
  • Jewish Torah
  • Jewish Talmud
  • Jewish terms
  • Jewish tribes
  • Zionist vs Jewish

We’re all in this together.

You know how I came to realise that so many of my own opinions and attitudes were dripping with sinat chinam, or baseless hatred of my fellow Jew?

My teenagers.

I know a lot of parents bemoan those polite times of yesteryear when your kids just had to nod mutely as you behaved like a jerk, or treated them (and others…) abusively, or felt too scared to tell you the truth because they didn’t want a slap or a cold shoulder or some other form of parental punishment.

But you know what?

My chutzpahdik teenagers have helped me to work on my middot like no-one else.

They’ve magnified every little bit of arrogant self-righteousness, every tiny speck of lashon hara that I was trying to pass off as ‘chinuch’, and challenged every rage fit that was more befitting of a two year old than a grown woman.

And one of the main areas they’ve been working on is my attitudes towards other groups of Jews.

It’s human nature, to find your ‘place’, your milieu, your level in the world, and then to start defending it to the hilt as being ‘the best’, ‘the only’, while everyone else is awful, terrible, disgusting, yucky or inferior.

That’s why people who move to Israel love to point out the flaws in the people and places they left behind; that’s why people who have no intention of moving to Israel love to point out the flaws in the people and places of the Holy Land; that’s why ‘frummers’ rail against secular people, and secular people rail against chareidim, and national religious people have no idea who to rail against, so they take it all on a case-by-case basis.

And underneath all this self-righteous judgment and indignation and anger and finger-pointing and accusations lies….

Our own bad middot.

And nothing else.

This is what my teenagers helped me to learn. Every time I’d start telling them about the founding fathers of the State, and how many bad things they got up to (to try to counteract the hagiography going on in school about people like David Ben Gurion) – my youngest would go for the jugular.

You’re talking lashon hara!!! Why are you only seeing the bad in people, why can’t you see all the good they did, too?!?!

But, what about all the Yemenite children they kidnapped and sold to the highest bidders?

But, what about the awful treatment they doled out to the Sephardim (including your Saba?)

But, what about the 500,000 Jews in Hungary that they could have rescued, but chose not to?

Ima, I’m not saying they were good people, but they did a lot of good things, and they were still Jews! Why are you always looking at the bad?!

She had a point.

So, I started trying to work on it, and it was really, really hard going to keep identifying bad behavior without going off on big, generalized rants about the Jew themselves. As Rebbe Nachman teaches us, the soul of every Jew is only pure, it’s only good. It’s just surrounded by so much trauma, so many klipot that’s eating up all their innate good.

But then, as God likes to use the mirror principle both ways, after we had this discussion when my youngest started ranting about ‘chareidim who don’t serve in the army’, and ‘chareidim who go around abusing everyone’ etc etc – I had to give it back to her:

You’re talking lashon hara!!! Why are you only seeing the bad in people, why can’t you see all the good they did, too?!?!

Man, did she hit the roof. Because while it’s easy and enjoyable to point out other people’s blind spots and prejudices, it’s so very much harder to accept them being pointed out in yourself, and in your school, and in your classmates.

Over the next two years, we came back to this subject a lot, because me and my husband skew much more to the chareidi side of things, even though we aren’t chareidi, while my two kids are very much in the national religious camp.

Between us, and all the arguments about different groups, and different Jews, we eventually figured out that there are people doing very good things in all groups of Jews, and there are people doing very bad things in all groups of Jews.

It comes down to the idea that in Judaism, there are no ‘good people’ or ‘bad people’.

There are only ‘good actions’ and ‘bad actions’, and we are all a collection of our actions that ultimately, only God will judge as being overall ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

So, my kids act as a guard-dog on my natural tendency to start criticizing in others what I really just need to work on in myself. And I do the same for them – and while the arguments are not so pretty, while they’re happening, I can feel how much good they are doing us all.

These days, my kids are far more careful about throwing out derogatory statements about ‘chareidim’, because they know they are going to be challenged to bring real facts, and not just a collection of chareidi-bashing rumors and headlines.

(We’ve had some very interesting discussions around the Rav, for example, and that’s also what spurred me on to set the facts of the story down and write the book. Sadly, they don’t read English… but it’s going in the right direction.)

And on my side of things, they keep prodding me to look for the nekuda tova, the good point, in even the most yucky, anti-God Jews, and to keep trying to inject some compassion for them, and all the trauma they must have gone through as kids, to be such messed-up, hate-filled, yucky derangos.

Ultimately, we are in this together.

All the problems we see in everyone else are just our problems that WE need to acknowledge and work on, and there are no exceptions to this rule. The more we all internalize this, the less we’ll be pointing our fingers all over the place, and the more we’ll be putting our hands up to the fact that the main people holding up the geula is…us.

So, if you have a teenager at home, take a deep breath and unmuzzle them. It’s hard to hear – often so hard to hear!!! – when you get assailed with a strong dose of ‘teenage trufe’, but it’ll help you work on your middot like nothing else in the world.

There are crazy people all over the place. In every section of our community, there is sinat chinam and lashon hara and arrogance and jealousy and self-righteous anger.

We can’t fix those problems in anyone else. We can only work on ourselves.

And if we do that, we’ll accomplish everything God sent us down here to do.

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We just put together a website for the book telling the true story of Rabbi Eliezer Berland, which includes the back story, FAQs and the video. You can see the website at the address below, so please stop by and take a look – and if you want to help someone else get over their media-induced sinat chinam of Rabbi Berland, please feel free to share the link:

http://oneinageneration.com

Like Alice Through the Looking Glass, somehow a malfunction occurred in my Pesach outing plans, and I ended up tripping through the glass into the Land of Money*.

We wound up at this swanky, newly-built apartment complex overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, where we were told we could park on Level Minus 2. I nearly crashed into a concrete wall, because there was only Minus 1. Later on, we discovered that Minus 2 was carefully hidden behind a retractable Iron Curtain, policed with cameras that didn’t recognize our car as ‘belonging’.

I knew the feeling.

One of the residents of the Land of Money came down to greet us, as we were ushered into the expensive but sterile lobby, then over to the elevators with no buttons.

“Why are there no buttons?” I wanted to know.

“Some Arab got in here a few months ago from the parking, and started visiting all the floors and they caught him on camera,” came the explanation. “The residents all went mad, so the management changed the elevator and now it will only open on your own floor.”

“How does it know what floor your apartment is on?”

He flashed me the round blue plastic toggle on his keychain, as he pressed it to the screen reader outside the elevator.

Man, this is really a prison, I thought to myself.

We got up to the swanky five-room cell, hidden behind its ominous security door, and walked into an atmosphere so thick, you could cut it with a knife.

Not even the stunning view, or the massively-colorful artwork could take your mind off the oppressive, gloomy feeling of suppressed anger and resentment, that was swirling all over the place like a toxic cloud.

The sofa was oversized and pure white. It was covered in a cheap white blanket, and one of the inhabitants of the Land of Money sat uncomfortably perched on the edge of it. God forbid, that a speck should land on that purity and sully it! God forbid, that someone’s careless heels should leave a scuff-mark on the couch, or that it’s perfection should be creased or diminished in any way!

“Sit down, sit down!” they told me heartily. But I was too scared of the couch to want to comply. So, I stood awkwardly for a few minutes, admiring the view, then proffered the two boxes of fresh strawberries I’d brought as an offering to appease the gods of the Land of Money.

This started a panic.

I know they aren’t so fussed about kashrut, so they’re not worrying about bug infestation. So what? What is going on here, what?!

It took me a couple of minutes of deciphering worried glances and barked commands to sit down at the table to figure out the problem: Strawberries contain red juice – lots of it – and red juice stains. And the expensive designer chairs around the carefully upholstered glass dining table were first in the line of fire.

They had their hand-sewn, cheap grey covers to protect them – which presumably would be whipped off whenever all humans had left the premises, restoring them to their pristine appearance – but even so. Were those covers enough to defend against two boxes of strawberries in the hands of young children?

It took ten minutes of strict policing and worried hovering with wipees until the residents of the Land of Money could breathe out again.

In the meantime, I started to find the atmosphere totally choking and suffocating.

No-one asked me how I was doing – why would they? In the scale that the Land of Money uses to measure worth, I’m less than a cockroach. I have no big investments to boast about, no easy cash to flaunt, no designer clothes to swish around in.

Whatever money I have, I spend.

I’d just spent a small fortune having different residents from the Land of Money for Seder, where no expense was spared to try to make it a good evening for the (not religious) people attending.

They didn’t offer to help cover any of the expenses, natch, because they were ‘Stars’ in the Land of Money, and as I’ve mentioned, my net worth ranks me alongside the ‘animals’ that are expected to sacrifice themselves for the idols in that place.

“Let’s get out of here, and go to the icecream place down the road,” one of the kids suggested, and I jumped at the idea far too enthusiastically.

Freedom! Let’s get out of this poisonous cloud of choking gashmius ASAP!!!

Somehow, the button-less lift with its million electronic eyes knew to let us out at the lobby, and we bounded out of the elevator just as an expensively-dressed group of secular Americans were waiting to crowd back in.

They caught one whiff of my husband’s payot (side-curls) and their eyes immediately grew large in their faces, and almost fell out. You could hear what they were thinking:

What is something like this doing in our building?!?!

Strange to say, I had the same thought.

What are we doing here, in this awful, sterile, dead place where the money has killed every spiritual impulse, every natural kind tendency of the human heart, stone dead?

As soon as we got outside, we breathed easier again, the kids lightened up, and the conversation that had frozen into stilted rivulets of polite small talk up in the apartment started to gush forth with much more genuine warmth and interest.

“You have to get out of there, it’s killing you.”

That’s what I told the prisoner who I’d come to visit in the Land of Money.

“Yeah, it’s a gilded cage. But I’m stuck in it,” he told me back.

And we both knew that at least for now, he’s right.

I came home so thankful to God for so many things.

Thanks, God, that my armchair is 15 years old, but people can eat strawberries on it without anyone risking a heart attack. Thanks, God, that you made my business fail when it did, so I would put so much more of my effort into building relationships than building my bank balance. Thanks, God, that I’m not so obsessed with money that I’m totally close-fisted about sharing what I have. Thanks that I don’t spend all my time ‘complaining’ about how other people aren’t giving me value for money.

And most of all, God, thanks for getting me out of the poisonous, toxic atmosphere of the Land of Money, where people can’t talk to each other, and the only thing that matter is how it all looks.

The apartment looked stunning (underneath all the cheap covers….) but felt totally dead and deadening.

And not for the first time, I learnt that freedom is priceless, and that too much money truly is the worse curse in the world.

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  • The Land of Money appears in Rebbe Nachman’s Tale called ‘The Master of Prayer’. It’s a place where all the residents believe that making money is the only true purpose of life, and where the people with the most money are literally worshipped as ‘gods’ and ‘stars’.

It’s time for some Torah sources, to help us start deconstructing the idea of aliyah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE BIBLICAL MITZVAH TO DWELL IN THE LAND

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

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

The footnote to this clear pronouncement says the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Was God happy about this?

Nope.

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

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

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

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

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

ISRAEL IS THE LAND OF EMUNA

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

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

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

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

And God lets you.

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

But in Israel, it’s not like that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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TORAH-BASED ARGUMENTS FOR NOT MAKING ALIYA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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THE THREE OATHS ‘PREVENTING’ ALIYA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ARE WE AT ‘THE END’ OR NOT?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GETTING REAL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

====

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing but nothing can strain a marriage faster than dysfunctional in-laws.

I’ll never forget the first year I was with my husband: The week before Pesach he disappeared for two days to go and help my healthy, 50-something mother-in-law clean her house for the upcoming festival.

To say I was upset is something of an understatement. We were both working full-time jobs at the time, I couldn’t afford cleaning help, and instead of rolling up his sleeves to help me – he scarpered for 48 hours to go and clean another woman’s house! I didn’t realise it then, but I’d been struck by the 11th plague of Pesach, aka, dealing with the in-laws.

I’ve been married now for 20 years, and as my own children start to grow up I can see how this sort of situation can develop so easily, if the parents don’t keep reminding themselves that what’s best for them is not always and absolutely what’s best for their children.

The Torah makes it very clear when it tells the man that he should leave his parents and ‘cleave to his wife’.

His wife is the other part of his soul, and vice-versa. Happy marriages are built on the strong foundation of mutual respect and always putting what’s best for your spouse ahead of what’s best for your parents and other extended family members.

In a perfect world, I wouldn’t have to make this point so strongly. In a perfect world, parents and in-laws would be telling their married children this themselves. They’d say things like: ‘We’d love to have you come to us for seder this year, but only if that’s what you and your wife would really like to do, too.”

Or, they’d phone up and tell their married children: ‘Please check this with your spouse before agreeing anything with me, but would it be OK if we joined you for Pesach this year? And be completely honest, I won’t be upset if you say no. I know how much you both have going on in your lives at the moment.”

In that sort of healthy, open environment where free choice is allowed, and the spouse of the married child feels seen, respected and heard by their in-laws, the friction on the marriage will be kept to a barely-there minimum.

Sadly, that’s not how so many families operate today.

——

Today, many people are having to deal with selfish, egotistical and home-wrecking in-laws who treat their children (and their children’s spouse….) as an extension of themselves, and therefore people who can be bossed around, guilt-tripped, taken advantage of and stressed-out whenever they feel like it.

And there are few festivals that bring their destructive behaviour and attitudes out more than Pesach.

There’s a few reasons for this. Firstly, seder is a big production. Controlling parents who insist on everything being about them usually take it extremely hard when their married children actually want to live a little independently, and run a seder their own way. I know people in their 40s with many children of their own who have NEVER conducted a seder in their life.

Why not?

Because their parents wouldn’t hear of it.

Each year, the seder has to be with family, and of course, that means with their family, according to their rules and whims. Do you know how emasculating it is for a 40-something year old man to sit at the table like a little kid, unable to ever be the ‘head’ of his own seder table?

Pesach is the time of kingship, or Malchut. Seder night is when that measure of ‘malchut’ or rulership descends to each man’s table, and each man’s home for the coming year. If your father or father-in-law keeps happing your husband’s ‘rulership’, that has enormous consequences for his self-esteem, ability to make money, and the peace in your home.

Another flash point can be when parents get on a bit, and then start inviting themselves to your home for the whole of the holiday because organising everything is so stressful, expensive and time-consuming, and they’ve run out of energy.

Again, if you’re OFFERING to have them stay with you, out of 100% free choice and not because you’ve been guilted into doing it, or are worrying about the consequences of saying no, nothing could be more wonderful.

But if that’s not the case – and with the sort of difficult in-laws I’m talking about, that’s really NOT the case – then seder night and the holiday becomes a powder keg placed under your shalom bayit, just waiting for ‘Bubbe’ to show up and light the fuse.

Because ‘Bubbe’ will expect things done her way, and food served that she’s used to, and the same songs sung in the same order as she always did it by her own table. Also, ‘Bubbe’ will go to great pains to invite as many of her extended family and friends to your home, too, to share seder with her. And again, she’ll just expect you to agree to that, regardless of how much additional stress it causes you.

——

When you live in Israel and your in-laws come from abroad, there can be the added issue of your in-laws deciding to stay with you for the whole of the holiday to:

  1. Save them having to clean their own homes or buy Pesach food;

and

  1. Save them having to go to a hotel (which is what they’ve effectively turned you into).

Again, if you WANT to have your in-laws living with you for a whole nine days, great! But if you don’t? And they start playing your spouse off against you, and getting them to agree to have the come against your wishes? They just ignited World War III in your marriage.

(I won’t even get into the problems that can crop up when you’re more observant than your parents in this post, which is a whole other can of worms. Basically, just times all the difficulties and potential flashpoints by 500…)

So, what can you do to keep your marriage intact, and your in-laws under control this Pesach?

Here’s a few guidelines that will help, if you can actually implement them:

1) Maintain a united front

No decisions should be made unilaterally by either spouse. Everything has to be discussed upfront and agreed by both parties well in advance of seder night.

2) Set down firm boundaries, and stick to them

If you can manage seder night (just about…) but you can’t manage a whole eight days of the in-laws in your home, make that very clear to your spouse and to them – and don’t be guilted or shamed out of doing what’s best for yourself and your own family.

3) Be honest about what’s really going on

Often, it takes us and our spouses many years to realise that our in-laws don’t always have our best interests at heart. Remember, a husband and wife are one soul. If your spouse doesn’t like your parents, it’s usually because your parents aren’t treating them (or you….) very nicely.

You don’t notice that, you’re not aware of it, because that’s how it’s been since you were born. But an outsider can spot the issues much more easily. So if your spouse doesn’t like your parents, carefully consider WHY that is, and what your parents might need to explore in order to improve the relationship.

4) Move to a different country

Sometimes, some in-laws are so impossible to deal with that moving far, far away from them is the only option to protect your marriage and mental health. This isn’t always a cast-iron solution – especially if they can easily afford air-fare and you have a big home – but it’s still a good start.

Pesach is the festival of freedom and redemption. It’s a time when a man should be a ‘king’ in his own home (serving Hashem…) and his wife his ‘queen’. It’s a night of royalty, not slavery.

So if you have difficult in-laws, emancipate yourself from their unreasonable demands and selfish behaviour, and this year ask God to help celebrate the holiday the way He truly intended.

==

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

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

Why not?

Because that might offend someone.

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

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

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

But the second is an attack on ideas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And thank God, I can’t do that.

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

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

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

Or at least, almost all of us.

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

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

But I’m not giving up.

At least, not yet.

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

But sometimes, staying real is really hard work.

In the old days, I used to make plans to do a long hitbodedut every single day of a 3-day Purim heading into Shabbat – and sometimes, they even used to come off.

But not, it seems, these days.

I’ve actually been struggling with a lack of motivation since Rosh Hashana, when I deleted Emunaroma to avoid getting pulled into any more ‘machloket’ with pretend-perfect crazy people.

And for three months, I did nothing much, because I didn’t want to have any more machloket in my life, and whatever I write, it always seems to end up there, somehow or other.

So then, back in December, I felt God wanted me back online, and with a heavy heart, I agreed.

Because I really don’t want any more machloket in my life!!! I just want an ‘easy’ life now, thanks very much, Hashem.

For months, I’ve been avoiding getting into anything too controversial again, as much as possible (although in our PC world, full of snowflakes just waiting to get offended so they can take out all their inner turmoil on you, that’s really much easier said than done.)

But I’ve been trying.

Now, you’d think that making a resolute effort to pursue the ‘easy’ life would be making me far more relaxed, chilled out, and overall happy-feeling. Believe me, I also thought that would happen.

But, man, was I wrong.

Instead of being more chilled out, laid back, exercising more, using all my energy to whip up healthy cakes, and go to the gym, and to spotlessly clean the house and iron my husband’s shirts (poor man…), I’ve actually been struggling to wake up most mornings, because what’s the point? My kids are big enough to get off to school without me, no-one needs a sandwich made, or a pair of sneakers found, so what’s the point?

 Sure, I’ve still been doing stuff – lots of stuff, even – but nothing really has been exciting me too much, or grabbing me. Why? Because while it’s kinda meaningful, it’s also kinda bland. And bland is not enough to have me jumping out of bed in the morning.

But ‘interesting’ stuff is always inherently risky, in any number of different ways. It can draw people against you, it can draw you into disputes and patterns of thinking that are very unhealthy and destructive. It can lead to a lot of stress and complication….

So, I’ve been caught on the horns of a furious dilemma.

But today, Purim day, I realized something profound: I’m here to serve God, for the good, and also for the bad. I’m not here to have an easy life. And pursuing that ‘easy’ life is actually making my life anything but easy.

Externally, it’s relatively peaceful and tranquil, Baruch Hashem. Internally, I’m fighting a raging tempest that wakes me up 4 times a night, and gives me no rest. I’m falling apart physically. I can’t ignore God’s prompts anymore.

This is so similar to what happened to me before we moved to Israel. The risks associated with moving were so huge – in London, we both had good jobs, a nice house, a community, family, the language etc etc. It was far too scary to even contemplate aliya.

But then, God sent me a bunch of inexplicable panic attacks, and a series of bad nightmares about getting stuck in London during a terrorist attack (this was months before the 7/7 terror attack actually occurred, which killed 52 people in London) – and after the third time, I told my husband we have to do it, we have to move to Israel.

Because God was giving me no peace, and my ‘easy life’ was becoming a living nightmare.

And it’s happening again.

That’s what I realized, this Purim.

There is no running away from God.

This morning, I cracked open ‘Advice’ (the English translation of the kitzur Likutey Moharan) and I got to this, from the chapter entitled:

Alien philosophies and ideologies:

The only true wisdom is the wisdom of the Tzaddikim. [Their wisdom] enables them to form a lofty perception of God, and gives them the power to communicate this perception to those who follow them. Compared with this wisdom, all other ideological systems are utter foolishness.”

The more I dip my toe in the murky waters of ‘intellectual debate’, including all this ortho-fem rubbish, and all this ‘anti-Tzaddikim / anti-rabbis’ rubbish, the more I see this is true. Rebbe Nachman then continues:

“Because of our many sins, it can sometimes happen that this genuine wisdom falls into the hands of the heathens, and the Sitra Achra. Their new-found wisdom gives them power and dominion, and then the heathens gain the upper hand, God forbid.”

That’s why the ‘heathens’ like learning Gemara, and Kabbalah. They pick out the bits of ‘genuine wisdom’ that appeals to them, and then create some Frankenstein-Faith with it. Some of these ideologies are ‘religious’ – like xtianity – and some of them – like feminism – are not. Rabbenu continues:

Who can bear the sound of the great and terrible cry when this wisdom falls into their hands and fools pretend to be wise?

“They try to adapt this genuine wisdom to their own purposes, as if it could be made a part of their own ideologies – as if their own foolishness has anything to do with the knowledge of God!

“They start claiming that they alone are the wise ones and that there is no wisdom greater than their own mistaken speculation, which is simply ‘parasiting’ off the fallen, genuine wisdom.”

It’s well known that the most successful ‘lies’ always contain a tiny grain of truth. That’s what attracts us in, that’s what initially fools us. It’s easy to think that it’s no big deal, when people start trying to twist Torah to their own ends and goals, with all their ‘tikkun olam’ codewords and other warped ideas. To counter that impression, Rabbenu then tells us:

“God Himself cries out because of this!”

It’s a big deal! It’s a really big deal! We can’t just twist the Torah and its wisdom to our own ends, and try to get a PhD thesis out of it, or a reputation for being a ‘deep’ philosophical thinker, or intellectual. This brings us back to the idea I wrote about here about doing things for God, instead of just trying to serve ourselves.

So now we know all this, how should we try to respond? Back to Rebbe Nachman:

“Every Jew has a part to play in the task of identifying how this wisdom that has fallen into their hands can be separated from them, and elevated, in order to return to its source.

The way to achieve this is through acts of charity and kindness, under the guidance and inspiration of the Tzaddikim.”

To sum up: we need to be closely attached to our True Tzaddikim, who are the only people who really possess genuine wisdom in this lowly world, and being inspired by them to give charity and do kind deeds. The more we do that, the easier we’ll find it to spot all this fake, fallen ‘wisdom’ and to call it out.

And doing that will give God a lot of nachas.