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Between davening mincha and ma’ariv in shul, my husband overhead the following story:

One of the men in shul was telling his friend how he’d been in the supermarket, when he accidentally bumped into another trolley. He hadn’t been concentrating (you’ll see why in a minute) – and during his daydreaming, he’d accidentally gone into the back of the person who’d stopped in front of him.

His fellow shopper went ballistic and started yelling and cursing at him loudly at the top of his voice, causing him no end of embarrassment as everyone else in the shop gathered round to see what was going on.

All the man had in his trolley was a loaf of bread, and the man he’d bumped into started screaming at him that he didn’t even need a trolley, if all he could afford to put in it was a loaf of bread!!!

At this point, the first man broke down a little, and stiffly explained that he didn’t have a lot of money to put a lot of other things in his trolley….

At that point, something softened in the other shopper, and he started apologizing for all the nasty things he’d just said, and all the criticism he’d heaped on his head. The first man accepted his apology, but still looked pretty down and broken-hearted.

The second shopper now had a complete change of heart and decided to make some real teshuva.

He told the first man that he was going to fill up his trolley and pay for it all, to say sorry for abusing him in public and drawing attention to the fact that he didn’t have a lot of money. He literally dragged the first shopper round the supermarket, piling as many things as he could into the trolley.

Good as his word, he paid the whole bill when it came to more than 800nis (around $230) patted the first shopper on the back, and then carried on with his own grocery run. A little later, the second man came out of the supermarket and spotted the first shopper sitting down on a bench, crying.

He came over to him and asked him: ‘Why are you crying? I made it up to you now, didn’t I?’ The first shopper nodded, and explained what was going on:

‘A little while ago, my wife told me we had no food in the house,’ he said. ‘All I had in my pocket was 10 nis (around $2.50), but I told my wife that I would got to the supermarket in any case, and that Hashem would help me.

And He did.’

So there I was, polishing up the latest infographic that I’m doing for the ‘Deeper Needs’ series over on the spiritualselfhelp website, when it suddenly struck me that God was showing ME what I needed to work on at the moment.

The past two weeks, I’ve been happily posting away about how there are 8 deeper needs, and how the first one is emuna, and that if that first one is out or weak, all these other problems and issues start to show up in your life.

A couple of days’ ago, I was pulling all the info together into the snazzy infographic you’ll find to the left, when it suddenly struck me that I currently have most of the problems I’m describing. Feeling spaced-out? You betcha. Feeling a whole bunch of negative emotions bubbling-up and overwhelming you? Absolutely! Experiencing a bunch of weird physical symptoms related to extreme tiredness, fatigue and other strange things? Yup!

Wow.

The penny suddenly dropped, and I realized that my emuna is pretty low at the moment.

I’d like to blame it all on the ‘matzav’, and it’s certainly the straw that’s broken the camel’s back, but it’s not the whole picture.

I had a series of shocks over the last 2 years that really took the legs out from under me, spiritually, and I never really bounced back. All the ‘matzav’ has done is show me the huge emuna deficit that had been steadily accruing since I lost my house, status, and naïve belief in things always turning out ‘for the good’.

Part of me does believe that still, but it’s not a very big part of me (42%, to be precise. If you want to know how I got to that figure, keep your eyes peeled for the ‘Deeper Needs Visualisation Exercise’ that I’m going to share this week over on spiritualselfhelp.org.)

42% is not nothing, but it’s not really going to cut the mustard, especially if things really are heading towards more craziness and then geula.

I realized that God was giving me a clear nudge to work on my emuna, pronto.

But how?

Ahh, the question of questions.

In my hitbodedut sessions, I got the following insights:

  • My job is to ask God to give me emuna as often as possible
  • But that’s still not really enough (believe me, I’ve been doing that for months already…)
  • So I need some outside help, ie, I need to give a pidyon nefesh to a tzaddik, to clear up the judgments that are still hanging over my head, and preventing me from having emuna.

There was only one problem with all this clarity: my emunat tzadikim is even less at the moment, standing at a whopping 12% (no, that’s not a typo). It’s a long story how it got to be so low, but I could see that midda kneged midda, giving a pidyon nefesh would go a long way to boosting my emunat tzadikim (because you can’t give it unless you believe it’s really going to do something good for you.)

But I was still wavering a little, especially as my finances are still tight.

So then, God gave me the brainwave to randomly open my copy of the Likutey Moharan (with English translation) and this is what I read:

“One who disgraces the honor of a Torah Scholar has no healing for his illness, for the main power of healing that comes from the Torah is impossible to receive other than through the Sages of the generation….Therefore the main thing is to have faith in the sages, and to be particular to relate to them with great respect and reverence.” – LM Lesson 57.

OKAY then, pidyon nefesh it is. I sent the email off yesterday, and I’m waiting to hear back. But one thing I can tell you for sure: if the ‘matzav’ continues or worsens, God-forbid, I’m going to need a heck of a lot more than 42% emuna and 12% emunat tzadikim to get through it in one piece.

The last few months, any lingering love affair I still had with the news has died a fast death.

I’ve been broadly ‘news-free’ for about 8 years, give or take, and I haven’t missed it all. But with the recent upswing in violence here in Israel, I’ve been reading more news headlines than I have done for years.

Usually, I only check after a bunch of sirens, and thank God, it’s been much quieter in my neck of the woods this week. But I remember logging on to Arutz Sheva two week’s back, the day after the terrible double murder of Aharon Bennett and R Nechemia Lavi in the Old City, and being shocked to my core that they were offering video footage of R Lavi being stabbed to death as the ‘editor’s pick’.

I know, we’re all so used to the ‘bread and circuses’ approach of modern society that we don’t bat an eyelid any more at how voyeuristic, callous and un-Jewish all this ‘viewing’ actually is.

Let me ask you something: how would you feel if your dad, or your husband, or your son, got viciously stabbed to death, and then the next day your friends and neighbours (or worse, your kids’ school-friends) were busy watching it on their i-Phones. How would you feel?

I was pondering that quite a bit the last two weeks, because while the headlines have ebbed, and the families of Aharon Bennett and R Nechemia Lavi have faded back into relative obscurity, the real impact that these real tragedies had on these real people continue.

Even though we watch them on the internet, they aren’t film stars being paid to play the part, just to entertain us and give us something to blog about, and to talk about, and to share on Facebook. They are real human beings.

Let me tell you a little bit about what’s happened to family Lavi, now that things have gone ‘back to normal’. Mrs Lavi was a teacher in my daughter’s school. She’s left her job now, because the family couldn’t bring themselves to move back to their home in the Old City after the shiva, and have now moved to Bet El, to be close to both sets of parents.

Many of the kids have had to move school, as it’s too far to travel back and forwards to Jerusalem every day.

That murder people were gawking at didn’t just kill a beloved abba and husband; it threw 8 people’s lives into complete disarray. The family effectively lost their dad, lost their home, lost their jobs and sources of income, lost their community and lost their whole way of life – all at once.

Of course, that’s not deemed ‘newsworthy’, so you won’t be reading about that any time soon as you scroll through the latest headlines. And that’s why I hate the news, and I hate all the mileage that people are making in the blogosphere out of the ongoing tragedies occurring here, and also elsewhere.

This stuff is not just fodder for more opinion pieces, more speculation, more breathless, excited, giddy posting about the ‘latest’. The impact of the headlines that are so quickly made, shared and forgotten can and does last a lifetime on the people involved.

And if we forget that, and we get caught up in chasing the drama instead of remembering the tragedy, that bodes very badly for us and our collective humanity and caring.

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.