“Whoever finds fault, finds his own fault” – Tractate Kiddushin 70a

With a couple of days to go before the Yom HaDin, Rosh Hashana 5780, I thought that we’d take a look at a passage in the Gemara, Kiddushin 70a, which is where the ‘mirror principle’ is first stated by Chazal.

In case you don’t know what the ‘mirror principle’ is, it’s a statement by the Baal Shem Tov that the whole world is a just a mirror, and that whatever ‘bad’ we see peeking out at us in others is somehow just a reflection of our own ‘bad’.

But that’s not just a tenet of chassidut, it’s actually brought down in the Gemara. And if we look at the context of that statement, we can learn some truly remarkable things. Let’s begin this post over in Chapter Four of Tractate Kiddushin, where the Sages are discussing the genealogical laws, and describing the different categories of Jews who ascended to Israel, from Babylonia, before the Second Temple was built.

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The Gemara tells us:

Ten genealogical classes went up from Bablyonia to Eretz Yisrael: Kohanim, Leviim, Yisraelim, chalalim (disqualified Kohanim), converts, freed Caananite slaves, mamzerim, nesinim, shetukim and asufim.

While all of these classes were considered to be 100% Jewish, there were restrictions on who was allowed to marry each other. The Gemara sets out the basic rules:

Kohanim, Leviim and Yisraelim – can marry each other.

Leviim, Yisraelim, chalalim, converts and freed slaves – can marry each other.

Converts, freed slaves, mamzerim, nesinim, shetukim and asufim – can marry each other.

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Before we continue, let’s just explain some of the more unfamiliar terms:

Mamzer – Refers to someone who is 100% Jewish, halachically, but who was born as a result of a union that is forbidden by the Torah. This doesn’t apply to someone who was born out of wedlock, but whose biological parents could still have stood under an orthodox chuppah. It also doesn’t apply to the Jewish child of a ‘mixed marriage’ where the father is not Jewish. But it DOES apply to adulterous extra-marital relationships, and also to children born of incest, amongst other things.

Nesin – This refers to a group of Canaanites called the Gibeonites, who tricked Joshua into converting them to become Jews, so that he wouldn’t kill them when he was conquering Eretz Yisrael. Even though their conversion was considered valid, Joshua forbid the other Jews from marrying them as long as the temple stood. Then later, King David saw how cruel and barbaric they were, and permanently forbid them from marrying into the mainstream Jewish community.

Shetuk – According to the Gemara:

“These are shetukim, anyone who knows the identify of his mother, but does not know the identity of his father.”

Asuf – According to the Gemara:

“Anyone who is gathered in from the street and does not know the identity of either his father or his mother.”

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The Gemara then gets into a very interesting discussion about how Ezra the Scribe basically forced all these ‘genealogically unfit’ categories of Jews to ascend with him to come and rebuild Eretz Yisrael.

He was worried that if he left them behind in Babylonia, the rabbis there wouldn’t know how to keep them properly contained.

(It’s an interesting aside, but the Babylonian Talmud asserts that because Ezra took all the ‘unfit’ Jews with him to Israel, he left Babylonian Jewry “like fine, sifted flour.” So they state that Babylonia at that time was the most genealogically ‘fit’ Jewish community, followed by Eretz Yisrael, then followed by the rest of the diaspora (!) I’m willing to bet the Talmud Yerushalmi has a different view, but I don’t have a copy to compare….)

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The Gemara then gets into a whole big discussion about what a big, genealogical mess the whole thing is already (1800 years ago…).

There were so many Kohanim who’d married goyim and ‘forbidden’ women without anyone knowing; and there were so many slaves who didn’t follow the proper procedure for being freed (which would render them as halachically Jewish converts) before marrying a Jew; and there were mamzerim walking around all over the place, due to adulterous affairs.

The Gemara then states this:

A Tanna taught…Elijah [the Prophet] writes, and the Holy One, Blessed is He, signs: Woe to him who disqualifies his children and who taints his family, and who marries a woman who is not fit for him. Elijah ties him, and the Holy One, Blessed is He, whips him. And whoever declares others to be genealogically unfit is himself genealogically unfit. And he (i.e someone who is genealogically unfit] never speaks in praise of others.

Let’s just pause for a moment, and digest this, as it’s a statement with huge implications.

In the Artscroll footnotes, they note that Rashi comments that:

[A]nyone who regularly demeans the genealogical status of other families reveals himself to be genealogically blemished.

In other words, we are back to the mirror principle, big time. The Gemara continues:

And Shmuel said: The Baraisa means: He declares them unfit with his own blemish.

I.e., whatever he’s accusing others of being, he’s actually just describing himself.

The Gemara then tells the following story, to underline this point:

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There was a certain man from Nehardea who went into a butcher shop in Pumbedita[1]. He said to them: “Give me meat.” They said to him: “Wait until the attendant of Rav Yehudah bar Yechezkel[2], who is standing here, takes his meat, and then we will give you yours.”

He said: “Who is Yehuda bar Sheviskel that he should precede me and take before me!” They went and told Rav Yehuda what this man had said. [Rav Yehuda] placed a ban upon him. They told Rav Yehuda: “He habitually calls people slaves.” [Rav Yehuda] issued a proclamation that he [i.e. the Nehardean] was a slave himself.”

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What happens next is that the aggressive, brazen, disrespectful Nehardean than sues Rav Yehuda in the rabbinical court of Rav Nachman, the leader of the Nehardean community.

The story continues:

“Rav Nachman began the questioning: He said to [Rav Yehuda]: ‘Why did master place a ban upon that man?’

Rav Yehuda responded: ‘Because he harassed an agent of the Rabbis.’

Rav Nachman: ‘Then master should have given him lashes…Why did you excommunicate[3] him?’

Rav Yehuda: ‘As a penalty. I dealt with him even more stringently than that.’

Rav Nachman: ‘Why did master proclaim that he was a slave?’

Rav Yehuda: ‘Because he frequently calls people ‘slaves’. And a Tanna has taught in a Baraisa: Anyone who declares others… unfit, is himself unfit. And he never speaks in praise of others. And Shmuel said….’It is with his own blemish that he declares other unfit.’

(Try this: swap out the word ‘slave’ for ‘Erev Rav’…)

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Now, the Nehardean gets all bolshy, and starts shouting down Rav Yehuda, who is one of the Gedolei HaDor of Babylonian Jewry:

“Me you call a slave, when in fact I am descended from the royal family of Hasmoneans!”

Rav Yehuda says to him:

“Thus said Shmuel: ‘Whoever says, ‘I am descended from the family of the Hasmoneans is in truth a slave!”

Rav Nachman gets into a small discussion about whether Rav Yehuda is just making up quotes to try to bolster his case, and Rav Yehuda says no, Rav Masnah also heard this teaching. Rav Masnah hadn’t appeared in Nehardea in 13 years, but whaddya know? As they’re having this conversation, Rav Masnah happens to show up, and he confirms Rav Yehuda’s statement.

The Gemara continues:

“[Rav Nachman] subsequently proclaimed that the plaintiff was indeed a slave. That day, many ketubot were ripped up in Nehardea” – because Jewish men now suspected they were married to ‘slave’ women who they’d mistakenly believed to be Jewish.

Now, Rav Yehuda leaves town, and the people of Nehardea follow him, because they want to stone him to death, for all the trouble he’s making. Rav Yehuda gets them to quiet down by telling them that if they doesn’t leave him alone, he’s going to reveal right there the big secret that Shmuel taught him about the Jewish community in Nehardea, namely:

“There are two families in Nehardea: One is called the family of Yonah [i.e. the kosher dove] and one is called the family of Orvasi [i.e. the non-kosher and cruel oreiv, or raven. Perhaps another hint to the ‘Erev Rav’ problem.]… The family named after an impure bird is impure, and the family named after a pure bird is pure.”

The townspeople dropped their stones and ran away, before Rav Yehuda could disclose which family was which.

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Now, the Gemara goes through a whole bunch of proclamations the Sages of Babylonia made about all these ‘impure’ and ‘disqualified’ people in the Jewish community.

This problem is even in Eretz Yisrael, and when Rabbi Pinchas’ students start investigating the families in the Land of Israel, they realise they have to stop. Rashi explains why:

“Their research led them to discover the disqualification of certain powerful families who would kill them [if their impurities were revealed.”

Which brings us on to a VERY important point, about how Chazal decided to deal with this situation, and how they said it would ultimately get fixed (we’re now in Kiddushin 71a):

(R’ Yitzhak said):

“Once a genealogically tainted family is mixed with Israel, it is mixed. One should not isolate such a family and clarify which of its members are pure and which are impure. Rather, one should leave it, and in the Messianic era all of its members will be deemed pure.”

The Gemara continues, and makes a distinction between ‘genealogically impure’ families who forced their way into the Jewish community (i.e. like Herod the Great, for example), and tainted families where it all kind of just happened:

(Abaye explains):

“Families… whose impurities are publically known and who became mixed with Israel only through force, will be dealt with by Elijah the Prophet. But a tainted family that became mixed with Israel because people were unaware of its status, Elijah will allow to remain mixed.”

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Let’s finish with one more story from the Gemara, in Kiddushin 71b, then we’ll sum up what we just learnt together.

Rav Ulla comes to visit Rav Yehuda in Pumbedita, and he sees that his son, Rav Yitzhak, is still unmarried, so he asks Rav Yehuda:

“What’s going on? Why haven’t you married your son off?”

Rav Yehuda replies: “Who knows where I can find a genealogically fit wife for him?!”

Rav Ulla says to him: “Do we know where we come from?”

And then starts listing a whole bunch of verses stating how idolaters ravished Jewish women in the town of Judea in Biblical times; and talking about Jews who ‘defile their couches’, which R’ Abahu explains as referring to wife-swapping.

“Since our predecessors engaged in this type of adulterous activity, no-one can assume that he is genealogically fit!” says R’ Ulla. So then, Rav Yehuda asks him, “So what do we do?” Ulla answered him: “Go after silence, i.e. seek a family whose members are quiet and peaceable…[In Eretz Yisrael] they use the following method to investigate someone’s lineage:

“When two people would quarrel with each other, they would see which one is the first to quiet down, and then they would say, ‘that person is genealogically purer than the other.”

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LET’S SUM THIS UP:

It’s a great, eye-opening piece of Gemara, isn’t it? Can you imagine what might start to happen if more of our rabbis and commentators would actually learn some Gemara?

So, here’s the main takeaway points from Kiddushin 70a-72b:

  • Whenever we find fault in other Jews, we are really just identifying our own faults.
  • That particularly applies to finding fault with other people’s ‘genealogy’, like for example, going around calling other people ‘Erev Rav’, etc.
  • Even 1800 years ago, there were so many forbidden and / or adulterous unions going on in the Jewish community, that even the head of the Torah Academy in Pumbedita was having trouble finding a ‘genealogically fit’ wife for his son.
  • Adulterous affairs and immoral behavior have been going on for so long, not even the most illustrious Jew today can be 100% sure that some ancestor of theirs didn’t put a massive spanner in their genealogical works. So it behooves us all to act with a little humility, and to stop pointing fingers at other Jews.
  • When Moshiach shows up, he will declare everyone pure.
  • The exception to this is those people who pushed their way into the Jewish community ‘by force’, i.e. they never intended to convert sincerely, or to serve Hashem, they just wanted the status, money or other perks of technically being part of the Jewish community. Elijah the Prophet will push these people away.
  • The way you can tell how ‘genealogically pure’ someone is, is by checking their middot and temperament. If they are angry, argumentative, brazen, obsessed with their own honor, always have to be right, and can never back down, make peace and apologise – then they probably aren’t so ‘fit’, Jewishly-speaking. The more calm, conciliatory, peaceable and kind a person is, the more genealogically ‘fit’ they probably are.

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On that note, let me end by apologizing to any of my readers or email correspondents who I may well have upset or irked this year.

I’m a flawed human being, and I don’t always act and react appropriately, so please forgive me!

And I unconditionally forgive all the psychos, weirdos, and holier-than-thou pseudo-prophets who continue to make my life interesting, too.

May we ALL be blessed with a peaceful, productive, happy, healthy and sweet 5780.

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FOOTNOTES:

[1] Pumbedita was the main centre of Torah learning in Babylonia, but Nehardea also had a significant, and learned Jewish population.

[2] This is the ‘Rav Yehuda’ of the Babylonian Talmud, who was head of the Torah academy in Pumbedita.

[3] By designating this man a ‘slave’, Rav Yehuda effectively removed his communal status as a Jew.

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Photo by Daniela Holzer on Unsplash

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Sometimes, a picture speaks a thousand words.

Definition of clickbait

something (such as a headline) designed to make readers want to click on a hyperlink especially when the link leads to content of dubious value or interest.
“It is difficult to remember a time when you could scroll through the social media outlet of your choice and not be bombarded with: You’ll never believe what happened when … This is the cutest thing ever … This the biggest mistake you can make … Take this quiz to see which character you are on … They are all classic clickbait models.”
— Emily Shire

Cartoon of an angler fish using'click bait' to entice a naive reader (fish)

Nuff said.

Rabbi Berland’s New Prayer to Move to Israel.

So many of the people I’m in touch with want to move to Israel, but feel totally petrified about the whole idea of uprooting their whole lives, and trying to plonk them down again in a totally different country, however holy that country may actually be, and however much God really wants the Jews to move to Israel.

This is totally understandable. Moving country is not a simple thing, it has profound consequences for everyone involved. You can understand why so many otherwise believing Jews are twisting the words of the Torah, ignoring the whole ‘sin of the spies’ episode, and making all sorts of bizarre claims about there being no need for Jews to move to the Land of Israel.

The fear is in control. The fear is running the show.

Fear is one of the yetzer hara’s most powerful tools for keeping people away from doing the right thing. How many people stay trapped in a secular lifestyle, because they are scared of what people will say, or what’s going to be, if they take the plunge and start keeping kosher….

Or take the plunge and start keeping Shabbat….

Or take the plunge, and start dressing more modestly….

Or take the plunge, and ditch the i-Phone for something far more basic and better for the soul….

Moving to Israel is no different, except the fear is less about what people will say – because after all, it’s a new start, and you’re leaving the people who are against moving to Israel behind – and much more about what will be.

Will I find work?

Will I find friends?

Will I find a place to live?

Will my kids acclimatize OK?

And maybe the biggest fear of all:

Will I regret doing this for the rest of my life?

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Again, all these fears are totally, 100% normal and reasonable to have. If we don’t acknowledge that these fears are coming from a rational place, and that they have to be addressed properly, rather than squashed or mocked, then we can’t move forward with the whole discussion of moving to Israel.

Israel is the land of emuna, it’s where a person can really start to LIVE their belief that God is running the whole world, and not just talk about it.

The answer to all of the ‘issues’ stated above – the answer to every ‘issue’ and worry a person has about moving to Israel ultimately boils down to the same thing:

God is in control. Whatever God decides, that’s what’s going to happen.

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That’s a massive level of emuna to be striving for, isn’t it? And I’m not sure that I’m there myself, really, although I’d certainly like to be.

But the more we can live our life from that genuine place of really believing in Him, and really believing in concepts like reward and punishment, and really believing that 99% of the ‘yuck’ we go through in our lives we totally bring on ourselves, via our own bad middot – the more easy we will be able to deal with any potential move to Israel.

Really, there’s only one answer to ‘why move to Israel?’

I could tell you about the amazing day I spent yesterday, swimming with my family in a stream up North, together with a bunch of frum Jews with payot, and fully-clothed Beis Yaakov girls all happily splashing about.

I could tell you about last Wednesday night, when I went off to the Kotel to recite some tehillim for the Rav, and how I watched the swallows duck and dive, swooping so close to the wall before soaring back up into the heavens.

I could tell you about how everything here is kosher (I live in Jerusalem. That’s not true of everywhere in Israel, especially not Tel Aviv.)

I could tell you about the farm one of my kids went to volunteer on last week, up in the Shomron hills, that’s being started by an idealistic young Jewish couple.

I could talk about the sun, the sea, the way my soul just feels way, way happier here, and way, way more peaceful than it ever did in London.

But really, all of these things are missing the point.

The point of moving to Israel, is because it’s a mitzvah that God commanded the Jews to keep.

So maybe you’ll move here, and you really will struggle with making a living. And you really will go through years of feeling so lonely. And you really will find it very hard to ever buy your own place, especially in Jerusalem.

And maybe you won’t.

But the point is, whatever happens to us in Israel – and in New York, and in London, and in Melbourne, and in Paris – it’s all just to bring home that same message:

God is in control. Whatever God decides, that’s what’s going to happen.

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If a person is really working on their emuna, then they will increasingly be living their life according to this idea wherever they happen to live.

But there’s another point to make here, and that’s the idea of having some humility, and overcoming our own arrogance. Or to put it another way, to start thinking much more about what does God want from me, and much less about what do I want from God.

We are here to serve God, not the other way around.

Again, let’s keep things real.

This is a huge spiritual level! It’s a level that we will have to struggle and fight for ad 120. It doesn’t come easily to anyone, and especially not to those people who find it very difficult to put anyone else’s needs and wants ahead of their own.

That’s why there are two things that really clear the path to moving to Israel, and those two things are:

  1. Working on our own bad middot
  2. Working on our emuna, particularly the idea that we are in control of our lives

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We need to pray to get to Israel.

That’s part of the process of really getting ‘ready’ to actually live here. We need to pray to get here, and we need to pray that all the bad middot that are stopping us from moving somehow disappear. And then once we’re here, we need to carry on praying every single day, that we will continue to have the merit of staying here.

Because in Israel, all the bad middot that we fooled ourselves we didn’t have in chutz l’aretz come roaring out of the closet.

Because God wants us to finally start dealing with them, and acknowledging them, and to stop making excuses about what we are really down here to work on and fix.

BTW, that’s also why even the very process of moving to Israel can be so very taxing and upsetting. It’s all part of the preparation process for the spiritual work of developing some real humility, and understanding that God is in charge of the world, not us.

All this sounds like a lot of hard work, doesn’t it?

And honestly, it is.

You can totally understand why so many otherwise believing Jews would prefer to stay in chutz l’aretz and pretend that moving to Israel is something God doesn’t really require of anyone. It’s certainly much easier that way, it’s certainly much more comfortable.

At least, on one level.

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This post isn’t for those people.

This post is for the people who are really yearning and longing to get here, and who really do know that God wants the Jewish people to be in Israel, but who can’t quite manage to overcome their fears (yet!) in order to give God what He really wants.

For those people, there is a shortcut to moving to Israel, which is basically the power of prayer. Every prayer we say on this subject, shortens the road we need to walk in order to get here. Why? Because it’s tackling the obstacles that are blocking our path at their root.

A praying person is a person who already acknowledges, at least on some level, that God is in control. A praying person is someone who knows that God is behind all the difficulties, and that if we start to clean up our own act, particularly with our own bad middot like arrogance, laziness, greed and complacency, that God will then blast so many of the ‘issues’ keeping us stuck out of the way, too.

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That’s why Israel is really only acquired via prayer.

And that’s why so many of the people who actually live in Israel still haven’t really ‘got here’ spiritually, even though they moved here with their bodies, or were born here.

Those people moan all the time about what’s going on in Israel. They complain all the time about the taxes, and about other groups of Jews, and about all the ‘bad’ they see going on all around them, because the whole world is just one big mirror, and God is beaming a very unpleasant reflection straight into their faces.

Like we said above, in Israel, bad middot are amplified – both ours, and other people’s – so we’ll stop making excuses, and finally knuckle down to the work of fixing them.

Luckily, there is a shortcut. The shortcut is to get close to our true tzaddikim, to follow their advice, and to use their prayers to circumvent all the stuff that’s holding us back from being able to even describe the problem, let alone deal with it.

Rebbe Nachman’s advice to do an hour a day of hitbodedut has totally transformed my approach to the world, and it’s the single biggest ‘help’ to navigating life in Israel. You can read more about it HERE. But in the meantime, I want to share with you a prayer that Rabbi Berland just put out for people who want to move to Israel, but who are stuck, somehow.

It’s not a long prayer, but it sums up so precisely what’s really going on when people get stuck unable to make aliya, even though they admit it’s the right thing to do.

You can see the original HERE, but here’s what it says:

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A Prayer to Come to Eretz Yisrael

TO MERIT COMING TO ERETZ YISRAEL WITHOUT LOSING ANYTHING. TO SELL EVERYTHING FOR ITS FULL VALUE. AND MAY I MERIT LEAVING THE DEFILEMENT OF THE LAND OF THE NATIONS THAT WE ARE IMMERSED IN. AND MAY WE SMASH ALL OF THE OBSTACLES THAT ARE MOSTLY OBSTACLES OF THE MIND.

Master of the World, who can do everything. Merit me to go up to Eretz Yisrael with sublime self-sacrifice. That I leave all of the property and all of the belongings that I have outside of Eretz Yisrael. That I not leave anything over, that I not leave any remembrance.

Rather, I should sell everything as quick as possible at full value, and not lose even one pruta by moving to Eretz Yisrael. And may I not incur any other damages by moving to Eretz Yisrael.

For we have no more strength to stay in exile, in chutz la’aretz, even for one second.

We want to go up to the land of our forefathers, that you gave to our forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, “The land flowing with milk and honey”.

For Eretz Yisrael is holier than any other land in the world.

And Hashem Your G-d chose her over all other precious things in the world.”

Please, Hashem, merit me to go up to Eretz Yisrael with self-sacrifice,

“And bring us to Your Holy Mountain.”

For we have no more strength to stay in chutz la’aretz, but on the other hand we’ve been here for so long, in the defilement of the land of the nations, and we have no idea how to free ourselves from it.

Now we are turning to You, with humble kneeling and prostration:

Help us, Hashem our G-d, to come to Eretz Yisrael in the blink of an eye! And help us to break all of the obstacles, and all of the postponements, for the main obstacle is in the mind.   

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May Hashem help us to give Him what He really wants, as easily as possible.

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Who are the people who are really preventing the geula from coming the sweet way?

You should know something: I never wanted my blog to be a ‘geula blog’. I have a lot more stuff I like to talk about, and write about, and discuss about, but what can I do? Every time I try to make a mental detour away from geula, God seems to be pulling me right back to it.

And there is so very much happening at the moment, and there are so few ‘geula bloggers’ – or anyone else – really covering what’s happening, because they have painted themselves into an ‘anti Rabbi Berland’ corner, because they believed all the false stories put about in the press.

I can’t help but think about that comment from Kol HaTor, rightly or wrongly attributed to the Vilna Gaon, about how the people with unfixable Erev Rav traits will operate at the end of days, to delay Moshiach and prolong the exile:

In Kol HaTor Chapter 2, Section 2, Letter bet, the Vilna Gaon says the following:

 “The general purpose of the two moshiachs, Moshiach ben Yosef and Moshiach ben David, throughout all the generations has been to protect and fight against the three ‘heads’ of the klipot (evil husks): Eisav, Yishmael and the Erev Rav…..

“….the Erev Rav is our greatest enemy, the one who separates the two moshiachs. The klipah of the Erev Rav works only through deception and roundabout ways. Therefore, the war against the Erev Rav is the most difficult and bitterest of all. We must strengthen ourselves for this war, anyone who does not participate in the battle against the Erev Rav becomes, defacto, a partner with the klipah of the Erev Rav, and was better off not being born in the first place.”

So now, let’s dive off the deep end, and ask the question, ‘What if?’

What if Rabbi Eliezer Berland really is the Moshiach, what then?

(Again, let’s stress before we continue that the Moshiach has an awful lot to do and accomplish before he can unequivocably be recognized as THE Moshiach. He has to fight wars on behalf of the Jewish people – without firing a shot. He has to bring us back to real emuna, belief in Hashem, and Hashem’s mastery of the world.

He has to oversee the ingathering of the exiles, and he has to rebuild the Third Temple. (See this article for more Torah Sources identifying the Moshiach.) That’s a lot to do, and until and unless all of these things have been done, we can only really talk about hezkat Moshiach, i.e. a presumption that someone is a strong contender to potentially be the Moshiach.

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So now, let’s go back and say, what if Rabbi Eliezer Berland is this ‘hezkat Moshiach’, what then?

How would that fit in with how people with pronounced Erev Rav character traits might react to him? And could their actions and reactions be delaying the geula? And how would that fit together with the Kol HaTor’s warning, above, that:

“[A]nyone who does not participate in the battle against the Erev Rav becomes, defacto, a partner with the klipah of the Erev Rav, and was better off not being born in the first place”?

EREV RAV CHARACTER TRAITS

I’ve set out all this information very clearly in my book, Unlocking the Secret of the Erev Rav, but I think it’s useful to remind ourselves of the way people with Erev Rav character traits act. There are two separate, but overlapping, definitions of ‘Erev Rav’-type people, one as set out by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, and the other by the Vilna Gaon.

Here’s how they describe the Erev Rav:

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BAALEI MACHLOKET

In addition, there is a tradition from Rabbi Nachman of Breslov that every group of people with pronounced ‘Erev Rav’ characteristics can be fixed, except those people who Rabbenu calls baalei machloket, which literally translates as ‘masters of contention / controversy / scandal / strife’.

Or to put it another way, journalists.

Or to put it in modern media parlance, bloggers, v-loggers, Youtubers, Facebookers, and all those people who like to leave disgusting comments, anonymously, on other people’s posts.

Now, let’s fit in another piece of the puzzle.

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THE HIDDEN SCROLL, AND THE WAR AGAINST TORAH SCHOLARS

Rabbi Nachman wrote a hidden scroll about what would be at the End of Days, that was passed down within the Breslov community, and most recently was in the possession of the late Rabbi Eliezer Schick, z’tl. In that scroll, Rabbi Nachman made it clear that:

“At first, there will be a huge controversy surrounding Moshiach, and people will say [in astonishment], ‘That’s Moshiach?!’”

(Btw, this whole statement about the Hidden Scroll is set out in One in a Generation, Volume II.)

Writing in his book The Workings of the Tzaddik, Rabbi Eliezer Schick brought down the following about the geula:

“Rav Natan once spoke up about Rebbe Nachman’s Hidden Scroll and said, ‘The war of Gog and Magog is not specifically described in the Hidden Scroll, but what was indicated was that there would be a flood of heresy in the world, and that would be the huge test facing us, and the Moshiach.”

Rabbi Shick continues: “So from this we can learn that every time, in every generation, that we see enormous accusations between the people of Israel, and we see that arrogance is increasing — know! The Moshiach is already ready to reveal himself! It’s only the heresy and the arrogance that is covering him up and concealing him…

The war of Gog and Magog includes all the controversy and accusations that there will be around these same true tzaddikim, who reveal the true will of God, because they [i.e., the arrogant people and mockers] want to devour them alive, may God have mercy.

And they will say every forbidden thing about them [the true tzaddikim] and make fun of them a lot — and by so doing, they will distance the Jewish people from them. And this is what lengthens the bitter exile, may God have mercy. And so I say, woe to them! And woe to the souls of those who have any part in the controversy and the arguments concerning the true tzaddikim, who reveal the true will of God.

For they are the brazen-faced of the generation, those with the face of a dog, the soldiers of Gog and Magog, who conceal the truth, and they are the wicked people of the generation… of whom it’s said: “When you see that he is so brazen-faced it is a proof that he is wicked”, and it’s written in the Midrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 18:10): ‘He who is brazen-faced, and he who is an inveterate sower of strife and hatred —  he is the most wicked of wicked people,’ may God have mercy.”

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Let’s break this down again, and take it step by step.

In Unlocking the Secret of the Erev Rav, I bring a whole bunch of sources to show that ‘the brazen-faced of the generation’ is always a code-word our Sages use when they are talking about people with unfixable Erev Traits.

So, this is what Rebbe Nachman is really telling us, about what the Erev Rav will do to the Moshiach at the End of Days, to delay the geula (my clarifications are underlined, and in square brackets):

[The Erev Rav] will say every forbidden thing about [Rabbi Eliezer Berland], and make fun of [him and his followers] a lot – and by so doing, they will distance the Jewish people from [Rabbi Eliezer Berland and Shuvu Banim]. And this is what lengthens the bitter exile, may God have mercy.

And so I say, woe to them! And woe to the souls of those who have any part in the controversy and the arguments concerning [Rabbi Eliezer Berland and] the true tzaddikim, who reveal the true will of God.

For [the bloggers, v’loggers, journalists, commentators and writers] are the [Erev Rav] of the generation, those with the face of a dog, the soldiers of Gog and Magog, who conceal the truth, and they are the wicked people of the generation… of whom it’s said: “When you see that he is so brazen-faced it is a proof that he is wicked”, and it’s written in the Midrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 18:10): ‘He who is brazen-faced, and he who is an inveterate sower of strife and hatred —  he is the most wicked of wicked people,’ may God have mercy.”

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Let’s continue our exploration of ‘What if?’

Let’s go back to what was written in the Kol HaTor, above, to see if we can shine a little more light about what we’re actually being told there, too, about what will happen just before the geula. Again, my clarifications are underlined and in square brackets:

“….the [media] is our greatest enemy, the one who separates the two moshiachs. The klipah of the [anti-Rabbi Berland media, including bloggers, Facebookers, journalists and anonymous commentators] works only through deception and roundabout ways. Therefore, the war against the [media] is the most difficult and bitterest of all. We must strengthen ourselves for this war, anyone who does not participate in the battle against the [anti-Rabbi Berland media] becomes, defacto, a partner with the klipah of the Erev Rav [i.e. the anti-Torah, anti-Moshiach, anti-geula media], and was better off not being born in the first place.”

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The Psak Din from the Badatz Beis Din forbidding speaking negatively about Rabbi Berland

Two days ago, a group of three senior rabbis representing the most reputable Beis Dins (Religious Jewish courts) in Israel released a psak din (above) that it is totally forbidden for people to engage in sharing around anymore slanderous stories or negative comments about Rabbi Berland, in any part of the media.

The story of how this Beis Din came to issue that judgment is very interesting.

Rabbi Berland’s main persecutors, aka the Meah Shearim Mafiosos, spent the last two years ‘grooming’ these rabbis in an effort to try to persuade them to excommunicate Rabbi Berland and his community.

Two weeks ago, Rabbi Berland was summoned to come before the Beis Din – and everyone who knew about this held their breath, waiting for yet another hammer to fall on the head of decency and truth. Instead, the Beis Din issued this statement.

For sure, the Meah Shearim Mafiosos are already working furiously behind the scenes with their usual violent threats of retribution, which normally boil down to the same tactics of threatening to go to the media with more baseless allegations against anyone who doesn’t immediately bend over backwards and give them what they want.

Because the [Erev Rav] media in Israel is known to be so anti-Torah, and because they are happy to make up and embellish any lie against the Torah community here, however outlandish and ridiculous, this threat has silenced literally tens of even the most senior rabbis here in Israel.

These rabbis know all too well that their reputations and institutions will be immediately ruined by the salacious headlines everyone is reading in the [Erev Rav] media – regardless of whether they are true.

Again, let’s just remind ourselves what the Kol HaTor said:

“[A]nyone who does not participate in the battle against the [anti-Torah, anti-God media] becomes, defacto, a partner with the klipah of the [the anti-Torah, anti-Moshiach, anti-geula media], and was better off not being born in the first place.”

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In the meantime, this stunning psak din was handed down by the Badatz Beis Din, together with a request that it should be publicized in all the Torah publications and news sites – and for the first 24 hours, NONE OF THEM TOUCHED IT WITH A BARGE POLE.

None of these same ‘haredi’ media sites who have been spreading scandal and slander about Rabbi Berland and Shuvu Banim non-stop for years wanted their readers to see this psak din.

Interesting, no?

Eventually, matzav.com and yeshivaworldnews did stick something up, but YWN stuck it together with the same rehash of many of the lies they like to keep regurgitating about the Rav, in total disregard of the Badatz psak din they just posted up.

So much for the ‘haredi’ media – and let’s not even talk about the secular media, who for sure won’t touch this story with a barge pole.

But what about us? What about us, dear reader? What about the blogs we read, and the comments we post, the Facebook friends we have, the groups we sit in online, and share our thoughts with?

What about us?

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Let’s return to that question of ‘What if?’

What if Rabbi Berland really is hezkat Moshiach? What have we been doing, or writing, or sharing, or believing about this subject, and what side of the fence does that put us on?

What if we’re a blogger who re-hashed all the lies being told by the [Erev Rav] media?

What if we’re a commentator who said disgusting things about [the possible Moshiach] Rabbi Berland?

What if we’re now refusing to read, or share, or accept all the many positive stories and pieces of information that are increasingly coming to light about [the possible Moshiach] Rabbi Berland?

How could all of these things be delaying the geula?

Again, let’s remind ourselves of what the Kol HaTor wrote:

“[A]nyone who does not participate in the battle against the [anti-Torah, anti-God media] becomes, defacto, a partner with the klipah of the [the anti-Torah, anti-Moshiach, anti-geula media], and was better off not being born in the first place.”

And let’s remind ourselves of what Rebbe Nachman’s Hidden Scroll told us:

[The Erev Rav] will say every forbidden thing about [Rabbi Eliezer Berland], and make fun of [him and his followers] a lot – and by so doing, they will distance the Jewish people from [Rabbi Eliezer Berland and Shuvu Banim]. And this is what lengthens the bitter exile, may God have mercy.

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Do you really want Moshiach? Really?

Do you really want to have a good chance of ‘making it’ through to geula, whatever that means, and not going down the pipes to perdition along with the other unfixable ‘Erev Rav’ types?

Way back when all this began, Rabbi Chaim Dovid Stern told us very clearly, that the last test before Moshiach came was the test of Rabbi Eliezer Berland.

And now, with the above clarifications, we can start to see why this is. IF Rabbi Berland could be the Moshiach, then the people who speak against him, the people who suppress all the good stories, and good information about him, the people who are using their ‘media presence’ to go against him, or to prevent his light from reaching more people – they are the ones who are preventing the geula with their own hands.

And they’re going against Hashem’s anointed. And they appear to be the unfixable ‘Erev Rav’ types our Sages warned us about, who would use all sorts of back-handed ways to fight against the Moshiach and delay the geula.

And if we don’t fight against these people with all our might – then we’d be better off not being born in the first place.

And that’s a very sobering thought, isn’t it?

Identifying the real enemy within.

Back in February 2012, highly popular Israeli journalist Yaron London wrote a piece for the Ynet (fake) news site headlined: Say no to Jewish Hezbollah.

In that piece, London compared Israel’s haredi population to a ‘malignant body part’, and then called on secular Israel to “reduce the number of their grandchildren.” I highly recommend that you go and read the whole thing for yourself HERE, but I pulled out the two paragraphs that basically sums up what’s going on right now in Israel vis-à-vis the haredi draft. London wrote:

“As haredi education rejects a life of work and participation in defending the homeland, and as we cannot imprison tens of thousands of yeshiva students (and those pretending to be such,) and as national service would hold justice in contempt, and as purely haredi regiments are a recipe for an armed civil war, and as the haredi community mushrooms as result of natural growth – the national majority has no choice but to embark on a determined cultural war.

“Time is of the essence. Should the majority lose this war, the Zionist enterprise would be remembered as a short-lived historical episode.”

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I’ll unpack what all this means about identifying the ‘enemy within’ in a moment, but before I do, let me share some more eye-opening quotes with you from people in Israel’s secular establishment. This next one comes from Ephraim HaLevy, the former Head of the Mossad, and was also said in 2012:

“Ultra-orthodox extremism has darkened our lives. This is more dangerous than Ahmadinejad.”

What makes this statement all the more jaw-dropping is that Ahmadinejad, the former President of Iran, actually stated back in 2005 that he wanted to “wipe Israel off the map.”

And since then, the rhetoric coming out of Iran against Israel has barely let up for a moment.

Everyone knows what they want nuclear weapons for, and it’s not just to make a few nice radioactive experiments underground in Tehran. Here’s a few more quotes about the Iranian threat, from Israel’s top brass:

 “Iran is continuing to advance as a military nuclear capability, and it has a radical regime. The combination of the two and a high desire to achieve nuclear capability…is an existential threat against the state of Israel,” – Former Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, speaking in 2009.

“The Iranians actually wrote on one of the missiles: “Israel must be removed from the earth.” These are missiles that are designed to carry – and deliver – nuclear warheads. I call on the Security Council to take action.” – Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon, speaking to the Security Council on March 14, 2016.

I could quote reams and reams more, but you get the idea.

But despite the fact that nuclear Iran wants to annihilate the whole of the State of Israel, what did the former Mossad chief find to be the main concern, the main worry, the main threat to Israeli society? The Haredim. The enemy within.

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And he wasn’t alone.

The alarms started ringing for all of Israel’s secular elites after demographic studies started coming out from the mid-90s onwards showing that more and more people were becoming religious in Israel, and that more and more of those religious people were having large families.

For as long as the haredim didn’t vote, and effectively stayed apolitical and shunning the secular, Zionist State of Israel, honestly no-one cared too much. But, as soon as the late Rav Ovadia Yosef, z’tl, decided to pull the Sephardi haredi world into a coherent political body behind Shas, all of a sudden these secular elites woke up, and realized that ‘democracy’ no longer suited them.

You know, ‘democracy’, where a country is supposed to be governed according to the wishes of the majority, while respecting the minority’s human rights.

But apparently, democracy is only OK in Israel when the majority is secular, not religious.

Yair Lapid is the poster boy for the Askhenazi, secular, ‘socialist’ clique who have been ruling Israel with an iron fist since even before the State was founded. In his video address to the haredi stream at Kiryat Ono college, which you can go back and see HERE, Lapid let slip a lot of home truths about who he regards as the ‘enemy within’, amidst all the obfuscation and distortions. When he admitted that Israel’s secular Founding Fathers firmly expected the haredim to disappear within a generation or two, he was being honest.

When he admitted that: “the [socialist, secular, Europeanized] mainstream really did oppress them, and denied them their rights”. And when he said that: “Instead of a multi-dimensional and multi-sectoral vision that could include all different types of Jew, [the Founding Fathers] created an ethos that suited secular, Ashkenazi socialists. And they wanted all the other ‘tribes’ to submit to this ethos – he was accurately describing the situation.

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But that accurate depiction of what’s going on stopped when he started claiming that the ‘solution’ is that haredim should also enlist and ‘Share the Burden’ (picture me doing massive quote marks with the fingers of both hands.)

Because Lapid – and all the other secular politicians and intellectuals and elites like him in Israel – really don’t want haredi people in the army.

They don’t want them learning how to use machine guns properly, or learning how to defend themselves from brutal assaults by bald-headed policemen, or making the sort of connections that could launch them off on a stellar career in politics post-service.

They don’t want that at all. The last thing they want to do with their ‘enemy within’ is train them to function as an army. And a few years ago, they were even being totally honest about that, and what they they were planning to do instead, to solve their little problem.

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Let’s return to Yaron London.

In his piece, he set out the secular elite’s position very clearly: teaching thousands of haredim how to use guns is a recipe for a Jewish civil war, and will lead to the creation of a ‘Jewish’ Hezbollah – a quintessential ‘enemy within’ –  that is far more loyal to God, the Torah and their holy rabbis than they are to the State of Israel.

All the hogwash about needing more haredim to enlist in the army is a smokescreen to cover a far more sinister battle plan that began two decades, but really ramped up over the last 7-8 years, namely:

“the national majority has no choice but to embark on a determined cultural war.”

Again, be very clear about WHO is waging this “cultural war”, and WHAT they want to achieve.

It’s being waged by the remnants of the Ashkenazi, secular, formerly socialist clique who think they own Israel (and the truth is, in many ways they do). Those people are massively over-represented in the media, they are massively over-represented in all of Israel’s institutions, and they are massively over-represented in politics.

I’m wary of connecting too many of the dots for you here, so let me ask you to please try to take the ‘fake news’ blinkers off for a moment, and really try to grasp what I’m telling you next.

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What this ‘cultural war’ looks like

  • Around 10-15 years ago, secular Israel realized that religious, orthodox Jews are very soon going to be the majority in the country. They pride themselves on being ‘the only democracy in the Middle East, so while they would love to institute some sort of military coup at this stage, and do away with democracy all together, they can’t. So, they come up with ‘Plan B’, which is to wage an all-out cultural war against religious Jews in Israel, and particularly the haredim, who they view as an existential threat and the ‘enemy within’.
  • This cultural war really began with the ‘disengagement’ of Gush Katif in 2005, when settlers were routinely portrayed in the (secular, Ashkenazy, socialist) media as crazy religious fanatics with machine guns who were itching for a civil war. The smear campaign worked, most of the country were totally turned against these poor people, and that segment of the population was totally crushed.
  • Then, around 2009-2010, with a lot of ‘egging-on’ from the non-orthodox streams of pseudo-Judaism who are being very heavily funded by Jewish multi-millionaires in America, all-out war was declared against the orthodox world, and especially the rabbis.
  • The media and the secular clique who are running the country knew that if they could totally trash the reputation of a bunch of leading haredi rabbis, that would go a very long way to dragging orthodox Judaism down into the mud, too. And you know what, they were totally right!
  • Beginning in 2012, there was one high-profile investigation after another of the rabbis who were deemed to be the most influential in Israel. A whole bunch of Rav Ovadia’s sons were dragged off by the police for questioning (and some of them were even charged with the most ridiculous offences.) Others, like the late Rabbi Yoram Abergel, z’tl, from Netivot were imprisoned for two days while the media blared one yucky headline after another about ‘mafia ties’ – only for the whole thing to be quietly dropped very soon afterwards. But the damage had already been done, in the eyes of the public. Then, they started to go after the really big names – Rabbi Pinto, and Rabbi Eliezer Berland.

Click the links, connect the dots…

Again, there is so, so, so much more to be said here, but try to connect some of the dots for yourselves, to see who is really behind all this persecution of the rabbis in the secular press, and what they are trying to achieve with all their fake news and slander. But here’s the fly in the ointment:

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Not everything is a lie

Now we come to the more painful part of this post, which is the frank acknowledgment that not everyone in the haredi world, or in the orthodox world generally, is a good, nice person, and that not everyone who goes by the name of ‘rabbi’ deserves that title in any way, shape or form.

What has complicated the matter so much over the last few years is that so many of the leaders of Am Yisrael, both on the secular side and also on the religious side, are actually people with awful characters. This is a totally different dimension of the problems associated with the ‘enemy within’.

In this post, I shared the story of the poor woman from Meah Shearim who was publically slandered by some of the ‘rabbis’ in her community in the worse way, before being picketed in her own home and even firebombed, as part of a divorce that turned very ugly.

I’d love to pretend that story is just a one-off, but the more you look to see what’s really going on here, the more you come across stories like this one, from 2013, describing the abuse that haredi thugs were doling out to people in Bet Shemesh.

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It boggles the mind that a society that claims to be following the Torah can tolerate such a public display of bad middot.

Why were these bullies and thugs not shunned by their communities? Why weren’t they challenged? Why weren’t there public sermons being made about the need to treat other people with respect, even if they aren’t ‘religious’, and decrying the use of violence and abuse against other Jews in any way, shape or form?

For the answer, we have to take another look at what occurred – and is still occurring – within the haredi community when it comes to the persecution of Rabbi Berland.

The 2-3 people in Meah Shearim who started all the smears against him are all ‘haredi’. The ‘rabbis’ who have signed their names to misleading or even outright false statements against him and his Shuvu Banim community are all ‘haredi’. The hundreds and thousands of people in Israel and around the world who eagerly gulped down all the fake news being put out against him by Ynet, and the Times of Israel, and Ha’aretz, and Channel 2, and Channel 10 – a whole bunch of them are haredi.

A whole bunch of them consider themselves to be religious. A whole bunch of them think they are better than others. And in the meantime, there are totally fooling themselves about the real state of their own middot, and their real spiritual level. Their personal ‘enemy within’ – i.e. the yetzer hara – is totally ruling the roost.

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Rebbe Nachman taught that in the generation before Moshiach comes, most of our Jewish leaders – including those in the religious world – would be false.

He also warned us in Sefer HaMiddot[1] that these wicked people could fool the rest of us very easily. Here’s what he said:

“There are those who are great apostates and heretics, but they don’t reveal their heresy and people are not aware of the need to guard themselves from them. However, through conducting oneself modestly, one is saved from these heretics.”

He also warned us that:

“The wicked don’t confuse us in our holy service with their sins, but instead with the ‘good deeds’ they do.”

These evil people are full of good deeds! They’re full of mitzvahs! They have long beards, and impeccable lineage, and a lot of Torah learning, and they even live in Meah Shearim – but they are still full of jealousy, arrogance, slander, atheism, anger and even violence.

So, how can we guard ourselves against this sort of ‘enemy within’? How can we spot them, and make sure we’re not being pulled into their bad middot and malicious behavior, too? Rebbe Nachman tells us:

Conduct yourself modestly.

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What does this mean, tachlis?

First and foremost, it means don’t hold yourself out to be some big ‘know it all’ because you happen to spend all day gorging yourself on fake news. Act with some humility! Admit you don’t really know anything, you have no idea which way is up, you have no way of being able to judge who is a ‘real’ rabbi and who isn’t these days, or who is coming from a ‘good’ place and who isn’t.

Also, modest, humble people don’t gossip about others. They don’t enjoy sharing bad information around. They don’t use every story, true or not, to start loudly beating their own drum, or stacking up their own soap-box.

Also, it means we make every effort to judge others favorably, because we know there but for the grace of God go I.

It’s hard to fit all these ideas into one post, but the more we work on refining our own bad middot, the more we work on uprooting our own jealousy, and arrogance, and hypocrisy, and anger, and lack of emuna, the easier it’ll be to spot the people who aren’t doing this work – and to stay far, far away from them.

We are heading into some very turbulent times right now, and the birur, or clarification process, is only going to accelerate from here on in. God isn’t interested – at all! – which community we belong to, which outfit we wear, what we look like on the outside.

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God wants the heart.

There is good everywhere you look in the Jewish community, and there is also bad, and a key way of being able to navigate through it is to listen to every message God is sending us, even from ‘sullied’ sources, and to take it seriously.

Which brings me back to Yair Lapid, and all those secular people who are waging a cultural war against the haredim. Why are they doing it, spiritually? Did you ever stop to ponder that? Emuna teaches us that God is behind absolutely everything that is happening in the world, even the awful persecution being doled out by Israel’s anti-haredi, anti-religious, media and establishment.

God often uses the yucky people to send us very important messages about what ourselves need to acknowledge, recognize and work on. Everything is just part of that ongoing conversation the Creator is having with us, even Yair Lapid. Everything has to be sorted and clarified, to see what point of truth it may concern, and how we may need to respond to it.

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So this is some of what Lapid said, in the second half of the clip:

“If an Ethiopian child in Netivot is starving, it’s just as much your responsibility as mine, and you can’t say that you only give to haredi charities.

If rockets are being fired at Ashkelon or Kiryat Shemona, it’s your responsibility as much as mine. You can’t just send Zaka. You’re responsible as a community, as part of the State of Israel.

And if tomorrow another huge fire breaks out on the Carmel, I want to know what you plan to do about it, because it’s your responsibility as much as mine….

Can you still tell yourselves that only chilonim (secular Jews) should join the army, because it’s not your business? Can you still tell yourself that the only poor people you care about are poor haredim? And that you’re not even a tiny bit interested if poor, secular people starve to death?”

Haredi hating rabble-rouser that he is, he still made some points that beg a proper response from the religious world.

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Is it OK, to be so focused-inward that we ignore all the suffering going on all around us just because those people don’t belong to ‘our’ communities?

Sure, I get we can’t cure everyone’s ills, and I also get that it’s overwhelming to even begin to try. That’s why it’s so much easier to just stay in our own dalet amos, and our own little clubs, and pretend that people who are different from us, or not as religious as us, aren’t our problem.

I get it, we all do it, it’s understandable.

But, is that what God really wants?

Is it OK for so many of us to keep pretending that we’re better than other Jews because we happen to keep a few more mitzvoth? Living in Israel doesn’t automatically make someone a better Jew (just ask Yair Lapid…) Keeping Shabbat doesn’t automatically make someone more holy.

There are big questions here, massive questions here, about how the haredi world really relates to our fellow Jew, both within our community and without.

If more of us were really doing the work of refining our own bad middot, the false leaders in our midst wouldn’t last a moment. No-one would be drawn to them, no-one would be fooled, no-one would follow them down the path to perdition.

And that last thing to throw out there, at least today, returns to the idea of whether we really believe more in God, or more in the guns of the IDF.

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What is really protecting us here in Israel, the Iron Dome and the Shabak, or all our prayers, mitzvoth and Torah learning?

Right now, so many people in the haredi community can fudge this issue, and make a lot of pious noises about having ‘emuna’ and ‘believing in God’ – whilst hiding behind the secular IDF and the State of Israel’s military might.

(It’s especially easy to hide your lack of real emuna when you live outside of Israel, and can carry on enjoying all the perks of a non-Jewish society and a non-Jewish way of life while pretending to yourself that you are the holy of holies just because you happen to keep a few mitzvoth.)

But in Israel, the question of what we really believe in – God or guns – is looming larger and larger, and the secular people who are pushing the haredi draft question are sharpening it all the time.

But they are just the stick in God’s hands.

It’s God who is really asking us: when the sirens go off and you run to the safety room, are you really thinking that Hashem is in charge, or praying that the Iron Dome will work? Are you saying tehillim, or are you relying on all those clueless 19 year old boys in the army to save you? What’s really going on, here?

And as a community, it behooves us to be honest.

So many of us don’t have a lot of emuna. So many of us really don’t believe that God is running the world. We don’t believe in supernatural miracles. We don’t really want geula and moshiach in any tangible way. And we really are relying more on the guns of the IDF than on God, to protect us.

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By the way, that’s OK.

Because the whole point of this birur process is just to get us to the point of truth.

If the truth is that we really do rely on the IDF for our peace of mind, then that requires quite a change in our attitude and actions.

Instead of belittling the people who serve in the army, we should be profusely grateful to them. Instead of continuing to deride the whole concept of an Israeli army, we should admit they are playing an important part, and consider what we ourselves can do to contribute. If we really don’t believe our Torah learning is protecting the country as well as the F16s, we need to come clean and be honest about that.

And then, we’ll start to act much less arrogantly. Then, we’ll start to realise that so many of those secular people have just as much good in them as we do, and that we have just as much ‘bad’ in ourselves as we are pointing out in others. It’s a whole sea change going on now, a whole transformation.

But this only happens if we’re honest with ourselves.

And what if we really do believe that it’s God, and not the guns, who are protecting us? Then we’ll wholeheartedly throw ourselves into learning more Torah, and saying more tehillim, and attending more prayer gatherings in Hevron, and above all, working more on our bad middot and trying to unify Am Yisrael, instead of looking for ways to criticize and tear down ‘the other’.

Again, it’s a total sea change, a complete transformation.

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Why are the secular people jumping up and down so much about the haredim right now?

Because so many of us apparently ‘religious’ Jews don’t act nicely, we don’t treat other people right, and we’re arrogant, self-righteous hypocrites.

We want all the kudos and credit for being ‘frum’, we want to continue looking down our nose at other people, and to think that we’re better than they are, without actually doing the inner work of refining out characters, and God is sick of it all.

Regardless of the community we belong to, we all have a lot of work to do on our own bad middot. We all have work to do, to develop some emuna, and some humility, and to figure out who is really a tzaddik today, and who is just a false leader, an ‘enemy within’, only interested in their own ego gratification and sense of being a ‘somebody’.

We are currently all fighting a war against the ‘enemy within’, make no mistake about it. It’s a war to be real, to be good, to really believe in God and to make the teshuva we need to make to get to the next stage of the redemption process.

And it’s anyone’s guess who is really going to still be standing when it’s all over.

[1] The Chapter on Avoiding the Wicked, Second Book, Numbers 4 and 5.

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UPDATE:

Myrtle Rising has a very eye-opening first-hand account of her son’s experience in the IDF which bears out much of what’s written above. You can check it out, HERE.

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

Let’s take another look at BESHT’s Mirror Principle.

Until I really dug down, and started to figure out how the negative bunch of character traits that we’ll identify as ‘narcissism’, for ease of reference, works, I used to spend a lot of my time trying to warn others away from narcissists and crazies.

I have to tell you: this approach really didn’t work so well, and it actually only helped to alienate me from so many people. It was only when I started to learn about the Baal Shem Tov’s mirror principle, which I’ve written so much about, but most recently HERE, that I started to understand why this always used to backfire so badly.

To put it in colloquial terms,

birds of a feather flock together.

For as long as I continue to have a particular bad midda or negative character trait that I am justifying and excusing in myself, I simply won’t be able to spot it in other people.

As long as I keep making excuses for myself about why it’s okayyyy to speak lashon hara, or to keep exploding in anger at people, or to control others with guilt trips and deceit, and to avoid owning up to my own bad behavior (to name just a few of the more notable traits embodied by narcissism) – the less I’ll be able to identify those traits as ‘bad’ in other people.

And so, I will think that anyone who tells me that this stuff is ‘bad’ is actually just a derango themselves.

It’s only when I really started to put my hand up to my own anger, jealousy, arrogance, and ‘always-have-to-be-rightness’ (again, to name but a few….) that my tolerance for these traits in others started to diminish rapidly.

It’s like an ex-smoker. When you really start doing the work of acknowledging that anger is bad, for example, you can detect even the faintest whiff of it wafting around. Acknowledging that my anger was bad, under any circumstances, lead to some massive breakthroughs in my relationships and also my teshuva process.

Because we’re not angry at the weather, the boss, the ex, the rude clerk in the bank. Really, we’re just angry at God.

And until and unless we accept that, we’re going to be far away from having real emuna, far away from having a real relationship with our Creator, and very far away from ever acknowledging our own issues and problems, because everything will always be someone else’s fault.

The only person to work on is ourselves

The mirror principle has helped me to work on my own (hidden….) bad middot, so very much. Once I really internalized that any trait or behavior that I see in someone else that upsets me personally, is really just my own problem in disguise – that’s when my teshuva process really started to accelerate, and to get somewhere.

I stopped making excuses, I stopped pointing fingers at everyone else, and I started to see the true wisdom in Rabbi Israel Salanter’s comment, when he said:

“When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. But I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my country. When I found I couldn’t change my country, I began to focus on my town. However, I discovered that I couldn’t change the town, and so as I grew older, I tried to change my family.

Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, but I’ve come to recognize that if long ago I had started with myself, then I could have made an impact on my family. And, my family and I could have made an impact on our town. And that, in turn, could have changed the country and we could all indeed have changed the world.”

Mussar – as defined as the practice of working to perfect your own character flaws, instead of just pointing them out in other people – isn’t very popular today.

That’s a shame, because Rav Berland explains that:

“The best advice to overcome the yetzer hara is to cultivate some lowliness.”

And the best way to cultivate some lowliness is to acknowledge just how imperfect we ourselves are – and that’s why God keeps shoving all these ‘awful people’ in our faces. Because when the problem is really mine, there is no getting away from it.

Personally, I used to get SO ANGRY!!!! At all those DISGUSTING LUNATICS!!!! Who have SUCH BAD MIDDOT!!!! And WHO ARE FOOLING EVERYONE ELSE AND MISLEADING THEM!!!!

I used to rant on and on about them, and diss them at every opportunity, and lie awake at night thinking of ways to expose them and their awful hypocrisy. But this attitude is the opposite of having emuna, it’s the opposite of acting like a believing Jew, and it was just a function of my own bad middot, that my yetzer had carefully dressed up as self-righteous ‘good’ judgment.

The Rambam’s first principle of faith teaches us:

Ein Od Milvado!

God is behind everything and everyone. He’s setting up every single circumstance I find myself in, just to show me what I myself need to work on.

It was only when I really started trying to internalize my emuna that Ein Od Milvado, and to look past the person themselves to decode the messages God was using them to send me, that I realized that the real work to be done was just internal.

And the more I understood that the bad middot I was identifying in others was really just a reflection, and the more I started to work on them, the less God had to put those angry, judgmental, hypocritical, arrogant people in my face, because:

Like attracts like.

When I stopped ‘liking’ my own angry, self-righteous outbursts, and when I stopped giving myself a ‘get out of jail free’ card for speaking evilly of others, and when I stopped pretending that I was perfectly pious saint who never does anything wrong – I stopped gravitating to the people who were reflecting this behavior back at me. And even the ‘difficult’ people I can’t totally avoid have mellowed, and become so much nicer to deal with.

And man, o man, has life been so much happier, calmer and sweeter as a result.

But, there’s another layer to the ‘world is a mirror’ idea, and that’s something that I learned from the ravberland.com website, HERE. The Baal Shem Tov also taught that:

The Tzaddik is just a mirror.

Again, this isn’t ‘daas me’, this is properly sourced and referenced Daas Torah, and one of the foundational teachings of chassidut that’s grounded in the Gemara. Tractate Sanhedrin 110 explains that so many of the people in the desert suspected Moshe Rabbenu of committing adultery with their wives.

At that point, Moshe Rabbenu was an 80 year old man who’d even separated from his own wife, Tzipporah, because of his tremendous level of kedusha and personal holiness. Moshe Rabbenu was doing open miracles left, right and centre. Moshe Rabbenu had led them out of the desert, and redeemed them from Egypt.

And yet, so many Jews could still look at a Tzaddik of the caliber of Moshe Rabbenu, and suspect him of adultery.

How could this be?

A little later, the incident with the daughters of Midian showed exactly what was going on. That’s when 24,000 members of the tribe of Shimon, including their ‘big tzaddik’ of a leader, Zimri, died in a heavenly plague because they flagrantly committed adultery with the Midianite women, and bowed to their idols.

I’m sure those 24,000 were all over Facebook and the internet beforehand, swapping salacious stories about what they just ‘knew’ about Moshe Rabbenu.

The Tzaddik was just a mirror.

And the same principle is still playing out today, with this generation’s Tzaddik.

Those people who have pretensions to lead the nation, and to be the big enchilada and the main spokesperson for Am Yisrael¸ they look at the Tzaddik and they see a false messiah peeking back at them.

Abusive, angry people who want to ‘force’ others to do what they say, and think the way they think come near him, and they start to believe, incredibly, that the Tzaddik is an abusive, angry, controlling person

Self-righteous people who like to pretend they are perfect get a glimpse of the Tzaddik, and they come away convinced that he’s a hypocrite who is hiding a whole bunch of horrible sins underneath his flawless exterior – just the way they are, themselves.

People who are obsessed with making money, or miserly tightwads who are allergic to the idea of paying out 10% of their income to charity come close and all they see is dollar $ign$ – it drives them bonkers that people pay money to the Tzaddik for pidyonot!!!! They can’t stand it!!! How has that guy figured out how to dupe people into paying him large amounts of cash for free???!?!?!?!

Innately immoral people who support taavah-dik lifestyles look at the Tzaddik and see someone who’ll stop at nothing to gratify his own lusts and desires.

And the list goes on and on.

(It’s a side point, but it seems obvious that the Tzaddik’s most outspoken critics tend to be the most troubled people, for the reasons outlined above. They’re getting ‘triggered’ all over the place by all the ‘uck’ that’s reflecting back at them.)

There is nothing that can be done, to dissuade them out of these opinions and ideas because they aren’t based on facts, and they aren’t based on having the right information. It all just boils down to this:

Like attracts like.

What is pinging people away from the Tzaddik is their own innate evil, their own bad middot and their own negative character traits.

All the stuff that I’m doing with trying to get One in a Generation Volume II out there isn’t going to help these people one jot. Until and unless they start owning up to their own bad middot, and working on their own emuna that Ein Od Milvado, they can’t get anywhere near the Tzaddik of the generation.

That’s also why so many people come close initially, attracted by the light, but then subsequently ping away, when the Tzaddik’s enormous light starts to illuminate all the character flaws and personal issues they’d rather not deal with.

At that stage, God gives people a choice:

Are you going to admit that YOU are the one with the problems, or are you going to keep trying to blame things on other people, and carry on pretending that you’re just a poor victim? What’s it going to be?

Sadly, I’ve seen so many people stumble in this test. I think that without a regular commitment to hitbodedut, where you spend a chunk of time every single day asking God to show you what you really need to be working on, and looking at, and trying to see things from the other person’s point of view, more, it’s very hard to pass.

It’s so much easier to just keeping blaming the ex, the rebellious teenager, the rude bank clerk, the two-faced friend, the horrible boss.

Anyone except ourselves.

An infographic showing how to make teshuva using the BESHT's Mirror PrincipleSo, this is probably the main test that we all have to pass before geula really starts to kick off in a big way: the test of being honest with ourselves, about where we’re really holding with our own bad middot and lack of emuna.

Anyone who is doing that will make it through, regardless of where they live or which ‘group’ they belong to.

And anyone who isn’t doing that simply can’t ‘fit’ into the world of truth that is going to blossom when Moshiach shows up. Because the Tzaddik is just a mirror, and the people who aren’t working on themselves simply won’t be able to see his light, and to follow him out of the darkness.

 

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’.
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.

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.