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These days, I’m not really into the whole ‘geula’ breathless blogging thing.

I was for years, and I used to have a cupboard permanently stocked with Tuna, couscous and other non-perishable food, for when ‘the end’ happened and Rami Levy closed its doors.

Then a few things happened to take me out of ‘survivalist’ mode:

  • I realized that if I was the only person with food, that information would get out sooner or later, and someone bigger, stronger and meaner would come along and steal it.
  • All the terrible predictions being made (most notably by the autistics) didn’t materialize at the times they were meant to, and even my 6 pack of tuna started approaching its sell-buy date.

 

Let’s be clear that I still strongly hope that Moshiach is going to show up any day now, (and so many things are pointing in that direction, it’s scary) – BUT I no longer automatically give ‘end of days’ stuff an uncritical hearing. I’ve stopped reading the autistic messages, for example, and I swore off reading those addictive geula blogs that are really just conjecture and scare-mongering wrapped up in some pseudo-Torah sources.

Why do I say ‘pseudo-Torah’?

For the simple reason that Rav Natan, Rebbe Nachman’s main student, taught that when something is true, it brings you closer to Hashem, and most of what I was reading on those blogs was making me anxious, scared and depressed, ie, doing the exact opposite.

So when someone sent me a link to watch ‘Natan’s after-death experience interview’, replete with details of end of days stuff, Gog and Magog, and details about Moshiach,  I wasn’t so into it. But the person who sent me it had been very affected in a positive way by what she’d seen, and her reaction swayed me to take a look.

I’m glad I did.

Natan is a 15 year old, formerly secular, Israeli boy who ‘died’ unexpectedly on the first day of Succot, and was clinically dead for 15 minutes, before coming back. And he came back with some amazing revelations about what’s occurring in front of our eyes right now. He gave the following class before anyone had been stabbed anywhere in Israel. I’m going to link to the Youtube, so you can see the video for yourself, together with an English translation of the main points.

But I should tell you that the MAIN main point was left out of the English precis, namely that God is expecting us to make some serious teshuva to turn things around. The key things that Natan said we should be concentrating on right now, to get through the craziness that’s going to keep happening are as follows:

Men: need to work on their arrogance (gaava), talking in shul, sexual immorality (gilui arayot), guarding their eyes, keeping shabbat, tzitsit and tefillin.

Women: need to work even more on their arrogance (as it’s a much bigger problem spiritually when a woman is arrogant), their lashon hara, or evil speech, and dressing tzniusly.

It’s still all to play for, and God WANTS things to come as sweetly and peacefully as possible.  And each one of us has a part to play in deciding the outcome.

A few days’ back, I noticed the young guy in the makolet with the tattoo and earrings had started wearing a kippa. He’d watched Natan, and made teshuva. I know another teenager with multiple piercings who took them all out after watching Natan, and made teshuva.

In this day and age, who knows what these two young people already accomplished for Am Yisrael? So we don’t need to just sit here and wait for global desolation. If we overcome our apathy, stop being paralysed by fear and fear-induced denial about what’s really going on all around us, and take to heart that God wants geula to come the SWEET WAY, then that could still really happen, pessimistic doom-and-gloom geula scenarios notwithstanding.

UPDATE: I just got an urgent message sent out from Shuvu Banim’s yeshiva, from Rav Berland. As soon as the English translation is ready, I’ll post it up, but it’s got some amazing chizzuk in it about how we can actually DO something relatively very easy, spiritually. to get the Intifada to stop in its tracks. Stay tuned…

That’s what my 12 year old asked me yesterday.

Apparently, lots of the girls in her school now have their own canister, and my kid was up on all the different prices and sizes, and wanted me to get her a ‘1 ounce-er’.

Apart from the craziness of having a discussion about buying pepper spray for my daughter, there’s another, additional level of craziness going on here: namely that anyone thinks that pepper spray actually works.

Yes, I know in theory that if anyone dodgy comes anywhere close it would be useful to spritz them with someone nasty in the face and run off. But in practice, people don’t react with that much presence of mind when confronted by a knife-wielding terrorist. The usual response is stunned shock and temporary paralysis, not a lightning-fast reflex to grab the pepper spray and start squirting it around.

My other daughter told me a first-hand account she heard of one of the attempted stabbings in the old city, when an arab woman attacked two Jewish men. She first stabbed one, and he fell to the floor. The other one was carrying a laptop in his hand, and he used that to smash the terrorist in the face.

Now, you’d think that ordinarily a strong man smashing a woman in the face with anything would be the end of the story.

Not in this case. The female terrorist had her nose broken the first time he hit her with the laptop, but she stood back up and tried to stab him again. He hit her a second time, and it didn’t stop her from trying to stab him again. A third time, and she was still coming after him with the knife.

At that point, the wounded friend mumbled to him to shoot her – with the gun he’d had in his possession the whole time, but forgot in the drama of it all – which he did, and wounded the terrorist non-fatally.

Now, both these guys had been through the army, they’d been in combat situations, most recently in Gaza, and they knew how to handle themselves in dangerous situations. If that’s the best they could do when a female terrorist attacked them, what hope do the rest of us have, pepper spray or not?

The more this stressful saga continues, the more I’m seeing that there really is only God to rely on, and nothing else.

Sure, take the gun, take the pepper spray, spend hours figuring out how you’re going to scream, lunge, run away fast, kick the attacker in the goolies etc but remember that God is really the deciding factor in all these things, not human prowess, proficiency with firearms, muscles, or anything else.

In the meantime, I’m not buying the pepper spray for my daughter. That might change in the future, but right now that seems to be where I’m holding. If I really thought it would help protect her, I’d do it in a heart-beat. But my soul is whispering to me that pepper spray is a broken reed, and that I’d do much better relying on God 100% to protect my family, and not feeling ‘safer’ just because I got my kid a one ounce-er.

After Wednesday’s twin terror attacks in Jerusalem, I went a bit weird and kind of shut down a little ( I know I’m not alone…)

In one of the huge ironies of this week, I’ve been reading a book called ‘Does Stress Damage the Brain?’ – and I’ve been proving its thesis. I forgot appointments I made to meet people, I couldn’t concentrate or think straight, Wed night I was so tired I crashed into bed at 9pm.

Stress, stress, stress.

What to do about it all? (Over on www.spiritualselfhelp.org, I’m putting a few posts up about PTSD and it’s more formal general aspects over the next few days.) But in terms of my life, our lives, here and now? What to do about it?

The terrorists aren’t going away any time soon.

They are just the big stick that God is using to wake us all up, and show our anti-Torah politicians and citizens that they’re barking up the wrong tree.

Right now, there are armed guards on pretty much every corner of the Old City and its surroundings.

My local makolet in Meah Shearim is selling pepper spray (under the counter, quietly…) My kids come home with stories about people being stabbed with scissors and screwdrivers and even, unbelievably, vegetable peelers. (I think that one is still an urban myth, but who knows).

On Shabbat, Rav Arush said that we can’t run away from God, and the answer is to walk with Hashem wherever we go. If we’re walking with Hashem, we’ll be OK. So now before I go out, I ask God to ‘walk with me’, and give me (and the rest of my family) a bodyguard of angels to escort us.

I asked my youngest, who goes to school in the Old City, how the rest of the kids in her class are doing. One hasn’t left her house for 2 weeks (she only moved to the Old City in August, and is completely traumatized). She told me that another bunch, the ones that live in the City of David, are still walking to and from school by themselves, except now they have pepper spray. (A lot of the terrorists come from their neighbourhood.)

They are doing ‘relaxing’ hour in school now, and giving them regular ‘chizzuk’ conversations after each new attack, along the lines of ‘we aren’t scared, and we aren’t going to let the Arabs scare us!’ One of the girls asked what she should do if she was actually still scared, despite all the chizzuk.

They didn’t really know what to tell her.

Yesterday, my husband came home with a few copies of Likutey Moharans, that Rav Arush had given the avreichim to give out. There’s a breslov tradition that Likutey Moharan protects the home.

We heard a story first hand to prove that a little while ago, when one of my husband’s acquaintances, a property manager, had a fire at one of his flats. Everything was destroyed except the room Rebbe Nachman’s book was in. It was untouched –  the clothes in the cupboard didn’t even smell smoky.

You can pick up a Likutey Moharan at the Breslev.co.il bookstore HERE.

So that’s my recipe for dealing with the stress this week:

  • Walk with God everywhere you go
  • Get a copy of Likutey Moharan for your home
  • Do a lot of praying

I did another long prayer session yesterday, and again, it pulled me back together mentally after Tuesday’s sirens sparked off a small panic fit.

As the bloke in my makolet told me: “This is going to carry on for a long time. It’s the war of Gog and Magog.” He really believes it – he’s just started wearing a kippa. I gave him one of our copies of Likutey Moharan.

I hope to post up some of the more spiritually-meaningful things that have come to me recently next week, stress-induced brain damage notwithstanding.

One of the things that made a huge impact on me when I was reading The Unfinished Diary: A chronicle of tears was the author’s comments on why the Jews were suffering so much in the Holocaust. Writing in a Polish barn hideaway where he’d spent the best part of 3 years’ on the run from the Nazis, and as a man who’d already seen his daughter, parents and other family members killed,  the diary’s author, Chaim Wolgelertner, certainly had first-hand experience of suffering.

Chaim was a Chassidic Jew who remarkably managed to retain his emuna right up until the end, when he was murdered by the Polish farmer who he’d been paying to hide him a few short months’ before the war ended.

Over months of enforced captivity and bitter mental and physical suffering, he contemplated the notion of Jewish suffering – why do the Jews suffer so very much – a great deal, and this is what he concluded: this world is not the place of the Jews. We are people of the spirit, not people of the flesh.

Our essence is spiritual, our inner world contains a lofty dimension of holiness that is simply inaccessible to others.

But sometimes, we forget that. Sometimes, we think that having a nice life, or a comfortable life, or an easy life is the main goal of being down here on the planet, and so God sends us suffering to remind us that this world is not the main event for Jews; it never has been, and it never will be.

Last Wednesday in the middle of the craziness that is currently life in Jerusalem, I did a long personal prayer session to try to get on top of the fear and stress that had taken hold of me, and was literally making me feel like I was about to crack-up or get seriously ill, God-forbid.

For once, I didn’t actually do a lot of talking, not least because my brain was completely fried by the events of the past week. It was a very quiet, very humble sort of hitbodedut, because I really didn’t have anything to say, or anything much to offer God. But God didn’t mind. In fact, He still gave me an insight that went a long way to starting to unravel the stress I’d been caught in worrying about my family’s safety, and worrying about World War III starting, and worrying about how on earth I was meant to cope with the terrible war of Gog and Magog if a few Arab stabbings were already having this much impact on me.

I want to share it with you now, and this is it: Sooner or later, we’re all going to die.

The point is not trying to stay alive at all costs (although don’t get me wrong that Jewish life, and any life, is extremely precious and must be protected at all times.) But I’d got unhealthily obsessed with worrying about how to survive all the madness being predicted for the Jewish people, instead of focusing on what all the madness was actually for: to help me achieve my soul correction, and to get closer to God.

As long as me and my family achieved our soul corrections, and got closer to God, whatever else happened was secondary.

That understanding was the beginning of me being able to let go a little of the terrible, crushing stress and fear that was literally starting to choke me to death. My job is to get closer to God. God’s job is to keep me alive for as long as He sees fit. Full-stop.

Today as I write this (Friday), people are apparently still being stabbed all over the place. But I woke up headache-free for the first time in a week, and things feel much, much calmer, both externally and internally. It helps that I haven’t heard any sirens today. It helps that I decided to let my kid skip school today (and half of her class also had the same idea.) And it helps that my other kid is having a Shabbat away at her high school, so I don’t have to get into any discussions about seeing friends in the Old City over Shabbat.

All that helps.

But really? Knowing that this world is not the true place of a yid – that it’s all temporary, and a corridor, not the main event – was the key to calming down. As to whether I can stay in that calm, accepting place, who knows? But even if it’s only for today, I’m still going to enjoy it.

So the big question for me on Shabbat was this: go to the Kotel for Friday night prayers like I always do, or not?

Friday morning, I went for a long walk via Geula to Machane Yehuda to buy stuff for Shabbat, and it seemed to me like something fundamental had changed in the atmosphere of Jerusalem. I know people were still being stabbed all over the place, but it suddenly felt much safer to be in the Holy City again.

As Shabbat came in, we made the decision to go down to the Kotel to pray, as has become our custom over the past year. Last week, when it was still Succot, there was standing room only at the Wailing Wall. This week, it was the emptiest I’ve seen it for a long while, although still full of people, notably a whole bunch of soldiers and goyim.

The soldiers were dancing and singing their socks off, and the goyim were doing all sorts of weird prayer circles, chants and mumblings. I sat down to say my Tikun Haklali (having dropped my kid off at her friend in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City) – and burst into tears. I don’t know why.

I prayed, met my husband, collected my husband and walked back home. All quiet, uneventful and actually quite nice. My kid had a plan to meet her friend again the next day, and I agreed to walk her in.

Shabbat morning, I went to Rav Arush’s shiur in the Chut Shel Chesed yeshiva, like I do some times, and I crossed Neviim street to go into Meah Shearim and on to the yeshiva.

It was pretty quiet.

Just before the shiur started, the roads exploded with the sounds of sirens, and we all sat there looking at each other, as the Rav gave a very rousing shiur about how the test of today is to walk – everywhere – with Hashem.

Rav Arush explained that the only thing that’s going to protect us is God, and to turn our fear of stabbing Arab terrorists into fear of the Almighty instead. I came home feeling pretty calm, and filled-up by the Rav’s words of wisdom and emuna, although still wondering about what had just happened to cause all the noise.

We ate lunch, and me and my daughter headed off to the old city around 3pm, her to her friend and me to go and do some praying at Kever David. Again, it was very quiet going in. I dropped my daughter off in the Jewish Quarter, headed over to the Zion gate – and then got stuck there for 40 minutes because they weren’t letting anyone out.

I said some Psalms, waited a bit, then went over to the Jaffa Gate – which the police had also blocked, and closed. Hmm. In the meantime, the sirens and the helicopters had started up again, and again I wondered what was going on, but I didn’t feel the horrible fear and stress that was literally crippling me for most of last week, Baruch Hashem.

All the tourists were pulling out their huge i-Phones and scrolling up and down to see what was happening. ‘2 stabbed in Neveeem’ someone said. ‘Where’s that?’ Hmm.

It’s the road that’s 2 minutes away from my house.

‘Someone stabbed at the Damascus Gate’ someone else rejoined. Then the kicker from a local Arab ‘They just killed 3 soldiers!’ he yelled out. Gulp!

And anyway, who’s the ‘they’, o Arab shopkeeper?!

They let me through the barrier (thank God, I’ve started waxing my eyebrows properly again, so no-one suspected me of being a terrorist…) and I came home a little thoughtfully.

Motzae Shabbat, I checked the news, and saw that no-one had been killed, thank God. The choppers are going crazy again overhead as I write this. Who knows what’s going on now. But thank God, my fear levels have reduced so much from last week, and I’m starting to feel like the situation is cope-able again, Arab terrorists notwithstanding.

I hope it lasts.

In London, IKEA was top of the list of places I hated going. I hated the traffic jams to get there, I hated the enormous crowd of people you had to fight through just to shop, and I REALLY hated the two hour waits to pay for your stuff and get the heck out of there.

Now, IKEA Israel has always been a much more pleasant experience than IKEA London ever was: much less traffic, much less barging and noise and best of all, the café is 100% glatt kosher… But to say that it’s a ‘relaxing’ experience? Not really. Especially not when you discover that all the chatchkees you picked up for 3 nis have now taken your bill sky-high.

But yesterday, Thursday, I couldn’t take it any more.

From where I am in Jerusalem, I think I hear every police car and ambulance being dispatched to every incident in the whole city. All day, I heard the multiple sirens and ‘honking’ sound that is the sure-fire sign that a terrorist has just struck again, and I sat there tensed to the max, waiting to get more details.

It’s a little easier when everyone is at home and at least you’re not actively worrying that your family got directly affected, but one bunch of sirens exploded around coming home time for the kid who’s in school in the Old City, and I literally felt I’d reached breaking point.

All week, I’d had severe tension headaches (that I usually never get), pains in my neck and throat, and general all-over feeling of unwellness that I knew was stress-related.

But how to stop stressing when you live in a very intense, albeit very holy place, and there’s always something going on?

On Wednesday, I did a long session of hitbodedut, or personal prayer and that definitely helped, even though I could barely get a word out. I got some insights into the nature of fear that I hope to share with you in another post, as they helped me put things into a more correct perspective, and to remember that this world is just the corridor, not the main event.

But insights aside, physically and emotionally I was suffering from some severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (more about that over on spiritualselfhelp.org…), and I needed a break from the sirens. My 12 year old came home from school wearing her familiar panicked face and panting heavily (her sprinting has come on a treat since the latest outbreak of Arab violence…) and asked me if we could go to IKEA.

Usually, I will pull any trick in the book to avoid going to IKEA, even if it is glatt kosher, but yesterday I jumped at the chance to get some relief from the sirens and tension. As my friend remarked, ‘no-one ever got stabbed in IKEA’, and as my husband remarked, IKEA has no gold-effect furniture, so the Arabs don’t shop there.

Perfect!

We got in the car (my husband came too) and set out for four hours of freedom from the madness. On the way back, I pondered on how crazy the world has got really, and how it’s really become the olam hafuch, or ‘upside-down world’ they talk of in the Gemara. I mean, who ever went to IKEA to relax?

There are many signs that Moshiach is fast on the way, but when spending four hours in IKEA becomes a way of reducing your stress levels, you just know something fundamental has got warped out of place.

One of the tangentially really cool things about sending your husband to Uman for Rosh Hashana is that he always comes back with a few interesting stories. A few years’ ago, there was the near death experience story of the 70-something secular man who got a Heavenly reprieve once they found out he’d booked his first ever trip to Uman.

Another year, there was the ‘reincarnation’ story of the Moroccan guy who somehow knew Russian and had an intense spiritual experience in Uman that showed him he’d been there before, and had a huge amount of things to fix, this time around.

Then, there was the story of one of Rav Ovadia Yosef’s close assistants, who came to Uman for his first Rosh Hashana, heard a voice telling him he was ‘nothing’ by the grave of Rebbe Nachman, and then heard the same voice a few months’ later telling him his baby son was second’s away from drowning in the local pool – just in time for the father to find him, and save him.

My husband heard all these stories first hand, from the people who’d actually experienced them. This year’s batch were a little less supernatural as these things go, but still cool. My favourite two are as follows:

Dick Cheney and Rebbe Nachman

One of the guys staying in the same flat as my husband in Uman was a regular who’s been coming to Uman from Canada for years. One year – the year the Twin Towers came down a couple of days’ before Rosh Hashana – all flights to the Ukraine (and every where else) were cancelled from the North American continent, while the world was struggling to come to terms with the enormity of what had just happened.

Undeterred, the Canadian and 25 friends of his still showed up at Toronto airport, to see if they could get to Uman after all. After being told repeatedly there was no chance, and that no flights were leaving Toronto to anywhere, period, the group started singing and dancing, waiting for their miracle to happen.

Guess what? They got one.

Then US Secretary of Defence Dick Cheney was stranded in Kiev at the time the Twin Towers attack happened. The Americans were refusing all planes permission to land – even one carrying Dick Cheney – so the plane carrying him from Kiev was diverted to Toronto airport.

Once there was an empty plane standing on the tarmac at Toronto airport ready to fly back to Kiev, the ground staff figured they may as well let the 25 people bound for Uman fly out on it after all…

Rav Arush and his books

One year, Rav Shalom Arush showed up to Ben Gurion with a whole bunch of books to take to Uman. The check-in staff flat-out refused him permission to take them on the plane, and called the manager. All the while, the Rav didn’t argue, he just carried on praying. The manager came out, and immediately recognized him.

He told him: “Rav Arush! Your books saved my life!”

You can guess the rest of the story I’m sure….the books made the flight, no questions asked.

There’s always more stories to tell about Uman. If you heard one you want to share, drop me a line or share it in the comments section. And don’t forget to check out ‘The Stolen Light’, which has a whole bunch more amazing-but-true stories from people who spent Rosh Hashana in Uman.

So, we’ve already covered some of the things that are required in order to be appeased by your fellow man. Now, we’re going to look at what’s required if you’re the one that needs to be doing the appeasing.

The Shulchan Aruch says like this:

The first time, you have to ask for forgiveness.

Remember, that the sins between adam le chavero aren’t atoned for on Yom Kippur until you first appease the person you hurt.

If the person isn’t appeased the first time you apologise, then according to the Shulchan Aruch, the second and third time you ask for forgiveness (ie, try to appease him) you should bring three additional people with you as witnesses. If the person is still not appeased after the third attempt, it’s their problem, not yours.

Why do we need to bring three people with us, in our efforts to appease the injured party? There are many explanations, but I have a feeling that it’s at least partially to help clarify what’s really going on, and where the problem lies. When other, more impartial, people are part of the ‘peace process’, it’s normally easier to see whether the appeasement being offered matches the hurt that was inflicted, and who needs to back down or be more flexible (clearly, what I just wrote doesn’t apply to Middle East politics J).

Again, there’s a few distinctions to be made here:

  1. If I REALLY want to appease the other person, because I want to continue to have a healthy, trusting relationship with them in the future, I will do whatever it takes to get them back on side.

That means:

  • Making a full and frank admission of what I did wrong;
  • Acknowledging specifically the hurt I caused to the other person (“I know I really embarrassed you in front of all your friends…I see I really let you down…I accept I’ve continually put my own interests ahead of yours…etc”)
  • Clearly setting out how this is going to change in the future, and what steps I’m taking to prevent it from happening again (“I’m going to start talking to God for 5 minutes every day about my anger problem; I’m going to lock myself in a room when I feel a rage fit coming on; If I do something wrong, I’m going to come and apologise for it as soon as I calm down, and not leave it months or pretend it was all your fault…”)

 

  1. If I’m interested in ‘doing the right thing’, but I don’t really care if I continue to have a relationship with the other person in the future, I will fulfill the letter of the law and do my best to apologise to them as per the Shulchan Aruch’s guidelines.

If they accept my apology – great! If not, after the third time I tried, I’ll feel like I’ve done my part, and there’s nothing else to do.

Now, let’s look at what happens when you try to apologise on multiple occasions, and the other person keeps you hanging.

There’s two main reasons for this. Either:

  • You’re going through the motions of apologizing but not really appeasing them (as set out above) which means that they don’t trust you enough to continue the relationship with you in the future.

If you want things to change, you’ll have to appease them. I should also say now that an emotionally healthy person will still accept your apology, even if it’s insincere, but that they will probably continue to keep their distance from you until you regain their trust. OR

  • You’re dealing with an emotionally unhealthy person.

When someone won’t give you a chance to apologise, refuses all your genuine attempts to appease them, and rebuffs your attempts to find out what you actually did wrong, then give it your best shot as per the Shulchan Aruch – and then walk away.

I’ve learned over time that the main reason people can’t forgive others – especially when the other person is going all-out to appease them, and not just going through the motions – it’s usually because on some level, they can’t forgive themselves.

More on this another time.

So there we have it: the pre-Yom Kippur guide to appeasing your fellow Jew.

Let me just state again that if I’ve hurt or upset anyone – please forgive me! If it’s something huge or specific – email me, and I’ll do my best to appease you (within the limits set by halacha…) And may God bless us all with a sweet, healthy, happy, holy, successful and peaceful year.

A few days’ before Rosh Hashana, I had a fairly long drive somewhere, so I took along a couple of Rav Ofer Erez CDs – randomly, whatever I grabbed, I took. Dear reader there is never any ‘randomly’ when it comes to Breslev stuff; whenever I ‘randomly’ open up a Breslev book, listen to a ‘random’ Breslev CD, it’s always exactly what I need, and this time was no different.

The CD I happened to be listening to was all about teshuva. I learned some awesome things from that CD, the main points of which were:

  • We don’t do confession of sins on Rosh Hashana because on some very deep level, we’re not 100% sorry for them. 5% of us actually really enjoyed sending that poisonous email, or cheating on our taxes etc, and that 5% is enough to bring a whole bunch of judgement down on the poor penitent’s head. So the rabbis decided ‘better leave the whole confession thing alone on Rosh Hashana, and only get into it properly on Yom Kippur’, which is a day over-flowing with God’s holy love for us.
  • You can’t make teshuva in 10 seconds – it takes a LONGGG time. I’ll write about this separately, but Rav Ofer Erez brought a very interesting discussion that occurred between the famed Iraqi Kabbalist, Rav Yehuda Fetaya, and a bunch of demonic spirits, that made it clear that complete teshuva normally takes years to do. (So breathe out, if you’re still not quite ‘there’ yet).
  • Rebbe Nachman reveals that there’s a short-cut to making teshuva, what Rav Ofer Erez called the ‘Teshuva Elevator’. What is it? To hear yourself being embarrassed, shamed, humiliated, and to keep shtum.

I have to tell you, Rav Ofer made the Teshuva Elevator sound so appealing – because in one shot, you can scrub off all that really dodgy spiritual stuff that’s been kicking around for years, and calling you loads of problems. But as Rav Ofer made it clear, it’s easy to say, and the hardest thing in the world to actually DO, because there’s something about someone saying horrible things about us that just makes us see red and go for the jugular.

Or, makes us want to throw up with extreme feelings of guilt, panic and ‘I’m wrong’-ness. Rav Ofer explained that it takes 30 years’ effort just to keep quiet once every 50 disses, and another 30 years to stay quiet one in every 30 criticisms. IE – it’s really, really hard spiritual work.

I realized: ‘This test is still completely beyond me, Hashem. Please keep the internet psychos away from me after all, as I don’t think I’ll be able to stand up in it.’

And that was the end of the matter.

Until a few days’ later, when I suddenly got a steady stream of poisonous emails accusing me of all sorts of horrible things. Normally, I’d see red, go for the jugular and defend myself verbally as much as I was able. This time round, some really bizarre thing happened: I could actually see through all the horrible accusations to the core of pain that was bubbling underneath.

My verbal assailant was hurting badly, and was trying to make themselves feel better at my expense. Once I got that (and believe me, it’s a complete miracle that I got that) – I somehow didn’t take all the horrible things I was being sent personally. I still felt a bit sick after skim reading the last couple, because words are very powerful and affect us very powerfully. But I knew: this is the Teshuva Elevator!

And because of that, I didn’t respond with hatred or attack. I still responded – as one of the things I was being accused of was cruelly ignoring the other person – but I kept it short, and as pseudo-friendly as I could. I don’t know if that’s what God wanted, but that’s all I could manage.

You know what else is amazing? Apart from writing this, it isn’t taking up all my headspace and filling me with self-hatred and confusion, as would usually happen in these types of situations. My peace of mind is pretty intact, which astounds me.

If God hadn’t sent me that ‘random’ Rav Ofer Erez CD, I would for sure be in quite a state at the moment, two days before the Yom HaDin. As it is, I’m strangely even a little bit pleased about it. Maybe I really am the crazy, misguided lunatic my emailer is accusing me of being, who knows.

But I have to tell you that even if that’s true, life is SO much nicer this way.

Why self-forgiveness is the key

So, this is what my correspondent from the last post replied:

“I knew you were going to say to apologize to my children.  And I know I need to do this.  But emotionally I can’t do it.  It will hurt me too much to bring up past experiences.  I don’t think I have the emotional strength to apologize to them, on my own.

“I know I need to nullify my own busha if I want to get peace with this, and the yetzer hara is having a field day with me.  For now, I will ask H-Shem for the strength to eventually do this, and ask H-Shem to allow my tefillot and teshuvot to be accepted, even though this situation with my children is hanging over me, especially since it is Elul.“

 

One brave lady

My correspondent is one brave lady, because if you asked any single one of us if we’d be happy to say sorry to our kids – particularly the kids we KNOW we haven’t done a great job of parenting, and who have suffered a great deal as a result – I guarantee that none of us would be running over eagerly to get the whole apology party on the road.

As we mentioned in previous posts, saying sorry is really, really hard. And it’s harder still when we know we really screwed up; and it’s harder still when we don’t even know if our apology is going to be accepted, or if it’s even going to ‘fix’ things they way we hope.

So then, what options are really left open to us, if we’re somehow stuck knowing we need to say sorry, but unable to do it?

You know what I’m going to say next, don’t you?

At that point, there is no other option on the table except to get God involved. And that’s exactly what my correspondent did. Here’s what she told me:

Get God involved, and see miracles

“I wanted to let you know the most amazing miracles happened to me today.

“I was in the middle of my Hitbodedut, when I started thinking that the same way that my children’s situation, which is painful for me as a mother, is getting me closer to H-Shem, the situation is also there to get them closer to H-Shem, too.

“Don’t get me wrong I’m not excusing myself for how I treated them strictly and harshly. But I’m starting to understand that, for whatever reason, I was the messenger for their test – but the tribulations they had to had, and it was much better that it came via me, who really does love them, then via some other route.

“This idea gave me permission to forgive myself, and took a huge load off my shoulders, I physically felt lighter, and more at peace with myself. Everything comes from H-Shem, and everything H-Shem does is good and for our own good.

‘I know that I still need to apologize to them, but H-Shem will give me the strength to do so, at the right time.

 “Later on, I was talking to my daughter when all of a sudden she started thanking me, telling me what a great mom I was to her growing up.  I tried to apologize to her, but she said that there’s nothing to apologize for.  My husband was also there, and tried to say  that we’d all made mistakes during those hard times, but she shushed him, and said ‘:lets just say I’m sorry to each other and start new.’

 WOW! 

“I’m still in amazing shock.  THANK YOU H-SHEM, 1 MILLION TIMES OVER!  If you think this story will bring chizuk to others, please publicize this amazing miracle.”

 Her story certainly gave ME a lot of chizuk, so I was more than happy to share it further afield.

In the next post, we’re going to pull all this stuff together into a practical ‘Elul Forgiveness Exercise’ that will hopefully help you to kick-start your teshuva process.