The facts on the ground, about converts and corruption in Latin America.

The last few days, I’ve been up to my eyeballs investigating a whole bunch of things related to what’s going on with corruption and converts in Latin America, and here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  • The straight up halacha of performing an orthodox Jewish conversion appears to be much more simple than I realized.

According to this article, by Rabbi and Dayan Yirmiyaho Kaganoff, all you need is three orthodox Jews – not necessarily even Rabbis! – and a commitment from the would-be convert to do their utmost to keep the Torah, and abide by its commandments for the conversion to be valid.

“The basic requirement for becoming a Jew is accepting Hashem’s commandments, since a Jew is, by definition, someone who has a covenant with G-d to observe the Torah.”

“As mentioned before, conversion is an act that requires a proper beis din, meaning minimally, three fully-observant male Jews.”

  • There is a difference between an ‘halachically correct’ conversion, and a conversion that is recognized by the local orthodox community and / or the State of Israel Rabbinate.

Long story short, the whole situation with the anousim and with conversions generally, has become horribly politicized, and there seems to be a lot of vested interests who don’t want to see hordes of newly-orthodox Sephardic Jews in their communities and / or moving to Israel; and who especially don’t want to see millions of orthodox Sephardim suddenly upsetting the political balance and challenging Ashkenazi dominance in the worldwide Jewish community.

  • Latin America countries have had a takana, or agreement in place since the 1935 which was first introduced by the expat Syrian community in Argentina, that they won’t accept any new converts.

I had never heard of this before, so I did some digging and this is what I found:

“[T]he 1935 Takana… forbids marriage to those who convert for the purpose of marriage… [with] subsequent reaffirmations issued by Rabbi Jacob S. Kassin, the Brooklyn, NY Syrian Jewish community’s Chief Rabbi, and the Rabbinical Council of the Syrian community.

“Such marriages were not to be recognized by the community. Children of such marriages could not attend community yeshivot. Further, rites of passage such as bar mitzvahs, weddings and the right to be buried in the community’s cemetery were denied, as well as synagogue honors.”

It’s important to note that this Takana was first introduced to discourage insincere converts who only wanted to marry a Jew. But now, it’s been wholesale applied to the Bnei Anousim in Latin America who have Jewish roots, and want to return to their faith.

And ironically, the only people who can get around this Takana today tend to be the wealthy, connected Jews who dafka are trying to get someone converted just so they can marry them.

  • This Takana is making it very hard for potential converts to meet the requirement set out by the Israeli Rabbinate, that they have to have spent at least 9 months living in an active, orthodox Jewish.

Their local communities are totally shunning them, so even though their conversion may be halachically valid, they can’t meet the requirements to have their conversion recognized by State of Israel.

  • The current position with the State of Israel’s Rabbinate is that they will not accept any orthodox conversion done in Latin America.

The convert will either have to move for a year to the US and convert there, or try to move to Israel for a year and convert here. If you don’t have money and connections, clearly neither of these routes are really so viable. (As a side note, there has been so much corruption going on with selling conversions that in some ways, this is a sensible approach to take, as far as it goes. But not enough is being done to help sincere converts find other ways to meet the criteria.)

  • People with money in Latin America are often finding ways to convert ‘orthodox’ – by hook or by crook – in any case.

People without money – even if they are totally sincere and have been living as orthodox Jews for a few years already without formal recognition of their conversion – are basically stuffed.

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Of course, this is totally the olam hafuch, or the upside-down world!

Moshiach is meant to be overseeing the ingathering of exiles and a lot of them can’t get on the plane because all the politics and conversion corruption in Latin America (and elsewhere…) is preventing them from being recognized as Jews, and they don’t have the money required to beat the system.

This is what one of my readers sent me, when she got in touch with one of her local Orthodox Rabbis to discuss the problem:

Screenshot of a text message from a rabbi talking about conversions

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I also learnt that there is a difference between Bnei Anousim and Bnei Conversos.

Bnei Anousim are secret Jews who kept many of their Jewish customs, albeit it secretly, often without knowing why, and who were usually very strict about marrying into each other’s families.

These people are considered to be Jewish (if they can prove their traditions and geneology), but will often have to undergo an immersion in a mikva without saying a bracha.

Meanwhile, the Bnei Conversos are people who started off as Jews, but who converted to Catholicism and totally assimilated into the non-Jewish society. The descendants of these people are considered non-Jews, and will have to undergo a full conversion.

There is a lot more to be said about the subject of converts and corruption in Latin America. The more I’ve been researching, the more unbelievable corruption at every level I’ve been uncovering. It’s been very disappointing, to be honest.

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The last thing to tell you is a story I heard about someone who converted through a Beit Din that’s known as one of the strictest in Chutz L’Aretz.

For four years, this person learnt halacha, went to shul, did everything they were told. (They had a Jewish boyfriend who was very keen that they convert properly before they got married, but who really doesn’t believe in the Torah.)

The man had been raised in an orthodox family, so he and his wife-to-be played their part beautifully for the four years required by the conversion process.

Very soon after the wedding, the wife returned to her roots, and can now be found back in church on an Easter Sunday.

You tell me: Is this woman really Jewish? Are her kids really Jewish?

But this is the woman with orthodox papers from the ‘strictest’ Beit Din in the world, for converts.

It’s the olam hafuch. And until Moshiach shows up to ‘sniff out’ who is really Jewish and who isn’t, it’s probably going to continue. And when that birur process starts in earnest, I think there are going to be a lot of very surprising things coming to light, in a whole bunch of different ways.

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You might also like these articles related to converts and corruption in Latin America:

Photo by MCML ➖XXXIII (steal my _ _ art) on Unsplash

Another timely prayer from the ravberland.com site

Heads up, they are putting together an A-Z index of prayers written by Rabbi Eliezer Berland over on the site, HERE.

Each week, they are trying to put a few more English translations of the Rav’s prayers up, because a little while back the Rav said that very big things, spiritually, depend on more of these prayers getting out into the world.

Today, they just put up a new prayer to recite if you want to avoid getting angry, or pulled into slandering other Jews – which is just so easy to do, with the evil internet.

It spoke to me a lot, so I’m replicating it below:

Prayer to avoid anger and slander against background of a snake

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Also, as I promised I would do at the end of this post, I’ve written out the first part of the sources from the Gemara Tractate Sanhedrin 97b. I thought it was a very good resource to share widely, so I’ve posted it up on my blog over the ravberland site HERE.

If you can’t be bothered to read the whole thing, this is a very brief summary of what it says:

Summing up the discussion between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua in Sanhedrin 97b:

Rabbi Eliezer is arguing that the Jewish people have to make real, self-motivated teshuva for the geula to come, and so Hashem will wait as long as it takes for this to happen (like maybe, even another 200 years….)

Rabbi Yehoshua is arguing that there is a ‘fixed’ time for the geula, or end of days, to occur, and if the Jewish people haven’t made the necessary teshuva by that point Hashem will bring massive tribulations to the world to ‘force’ them to repent ahead of the deadline for geula. Whoever makes it through these tribulations will then make it to geula and Zion, i.e. Israel.

Rabbi Eliezer tries to argue, but eventually he concedes that Rabbi Yehoshua is correct.

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Are Chazal also ‘scaremongering?”

That is the question.

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UPDATE:

A comment from Orna prompted this response. After I wrote it, I thought I should actually stick it up as an addendum to this post. Enough with all the pettiness and machloket, already! Are all of us so ‘fixed’ we have nothing better to do than keep pointing out issues in other people? The whole world is just a mirror. Whenever we’re slagging someone else off, some other group of Jews off, we’re really just talking about ourselves.

Who cares what group of Jews Moshiach ‘belongs’ to, as long as he just shows up already? Tzaddikim are not football teams, that you can only support one side. ALL our Tzaddikim are beloved and valuable. BH, Rabbi Berland will last the distance and be able to make the jump from ‘hezkat Moshiach’ to the full thing.

If he doesn’t manage to rebuild the temple and ingather all the exiles – then he will be just the potential Moshiach of the generation. That’s all! No big deal. No need for all this crazy hysteria. Until the temple is rebuilt, no-one can say with 100% certainty who the Moshiach was.

All we know is that he’ll be the leader of the generation, and he can’t come back from the dead. Apart from that, none of us are any wiser. In the meantime, I think Rabbi Berland has the best shot of being Moshiach in our generation, and it’s no sin – at all! – to say that and publicize it.

All these people talking about ‘false messiahs’ – it’s all just a reflection of their own issues, their own problems. May God help us all to find the inner peace we need to stop turning Moshiach into some sort of ridiculous competition.

We are surrounded on all sides by people who hate us. If even we observant Jews are letting the crazy nutjobs in our midst stir trouble between us all the time, to prevent us from sticking together, what hope is there, really, of getting geula the sweet way?

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Orna, the more I think about all this, the more I think it’s just a ‘plan’ from the Sitra Achra to keep Jews at each other’s throats. There are always questions around the biggest Tzaddikim, that’s just how it is. They are operating in a realm that is far, far above what us mere mortals can grasp. The more honest amongst us will admit that.

I’m personally very uncomfortably with any suggestion that a Beit HaMikdash could be anywhere except Jerusalem. However, I’m not going to write off a whole bunch of Jews who believe that it could be in New York, even though I totally disagree with that idea myself.

In the Gemara, we see time and time again how the Tannaim had massive disagreements with each other about some very important issues. We can disagree about all these things without going at each other’s throats and starting to say other Jews aren’t ‘kosher’, or aren’t ‘Jewish enough’.

Who are we to judge? We can’t see inside people’s neshamas to know what’s really going on.

In the Gemara (Tractate Ketubot 103a), the students of Rebbe Yehuda HaNasi the Prince were so upset at his death, they made a decree that anyone who says that Rebbe Yehuda was dead should be stabbed with a knife:

“It is related that on the day that Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi died, the Sages decreed a fast, and begged for divine mercy so that he would not die. And they said: Anyone who says that Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi has died will be stabbed with a sword.”

That same Tractate explains how Yehuda HaNasi used to come back to his home for Shabbat AFTER HE DIED, to make kiddush with his family:

“The Gemara explains: Every Shabbat eve, even after his passing, Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi would come to his house as he had done during his lifetime, and he therefore wished for everything to be set up as usual. The Gemara relates the following incident: It happened on a certain Shabbat eve that a neighbor came by and called and knocked at the door. His maidservant said to her: Be quiet, for Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi is sitting. When he heard his maidservant reveal his presence to the neighbor, he did not come again, so as not to cast aspersions on earlier righteous individuals who did not appear to their families following their death.”

I agree there’s some very important clarifications and distinctions that need to be brought out with all this.

Dead tzaddikim cannot be Moshiach, that’s what the Rambam ruled, and that’s the halacha we all follow.

At the same time, Tzaddikim are greater after their deaths than they are in their lifetime, and their souls are active in the world, and accessible, in some way to those of us left behind.

Christianity stole a lot of these – the deepest! – ideas in authentic yiddishkeit and warped them to their own ends. We need to clarify things so we can get them back into their right space, spiritually.

At the same time, after I started researching all this stuff with Chabad conversions being maligned and questioned, etc it made me very upset.

The people who led the charge against Chabad after the Rebbe died also had a very obvious agenda to ridicule and disparage chassidut generally, because it didn’t fit their unspiritual approach to yiddishkeit.

That’s why I brought this Gemara, to show that a lot of the attacks against Chabad have originated from ignorance of our Torah sources (at best…)

We can disagree with other Jews, without getting into personal attacks.

This isn’t directed specifically at you, btw, Orna, just this is what has flowed out of my finger tips as a result of your comment.

The true tzaddikim are all working together to bring geula the sweetest way possible, in ways the rest of us can’t even understand.

Our job is just to keep our mouths shut, work on overcoming our own bad middot and to give EVERY TZADDIK their due respect, regardless of whether he’s ‘our’ Tzaddik or not.

That’s part of what I like so much about Breslov. They respect every Torah sage out there, Litvak, Sephardi, Karlin – whatever it is.

The label doesn’t matter, just what’s in people’s hearts.

 

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.

WATCH: Yair Lapid gave this speech in 2011, before he even entered politics.

Why am I bringing a 25 minute talk by Yair Lapid, from 2011?

Because it explains so, so much of what’s really going on in Israel right now, both politically, but also all the hatred you find expressed against the haredi community, and the settlers, and the right-wingers, and everyone else in Israel who isn’t them, in the [still almost entirely secular, still almost entirely Ashkenazi] Israeli media.

The clip has good English subtitles, that were done by an organisation called Makom that says it’s the:

“Israel Education Lab of the Jewish Agency for Israel”.

I find that statement somewhat troubling, as Makom is clearly run by a number of Jews who are affiliated with Reform, Conservative and the other non-Orthodox ‘pluralist’ organisations who are funding so many of the legal challenges to the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate in the High Courts, and who are behind so many of the legal attacks against the Torah way of life in Israel.

Maybe this is why so many orthodox Jewish converts are currently having such a hard time trying to get their plans for moving to Israel accepted by the Jewish Agency?

‘Pluralist’ organisations can’t get enough of Yair Lapid, and Yesh Atid. They parrot each other’s words an awful lot, and when you start to see the exact same sentiments being expressed by different people using exactly the same terminology – alarm bells start to go off that this isn’t just a grass-roots ‘uprising’, but something that is being carefully planned, and carefully orchestrated behind the scenes, from America.

There’s more to be said, as always. For now, I’ve transcribed the first half of Yair Lapid’s speech, which he gave to a group of Haredi adult students at Kiryat Ono College, in 2011. I’ll share more of his speech in the next post, where I hope to take a proper look at what’s really going on with the draft controversy. There is a lot of obfuscation of the real issues (as always…) but with a bit of careful digging, I think we’ll be able to get a clearer picture of what’s really going on in Israel, and what the implications are.

In the meantime, here’s the first half of Yair Lapid’s speech:

You won. There was a competition in Israel for ‘Israeli-ness’ that lasted over 100 years, since the 2nd wave of Jewish immigration. And in the end, you won. We lost and you won.

For decades here, it was a Mexican Shootout, where each one waits for the other guy to give in…

According to Avi Ravitsky:

The status quo was based on the false assumption which was accepted by both sides that the opposition camp was doomed to dwindle away and perhaps even disappear.

I know that’s what the haredim always thought about the chilonim (secularists), that they’re doomed to extinction.

But, that’s what we thought about you, too. That you’re a sort of living museum, like the safari park in Ramat Gan. There’s a place where they have this rare species that’s almost extinct, and that has to be protected, so we can take our grandchildren there and show them and tell them: “You see, kids? That’s how Jews used to look!”

Let me remind you that when Ben Gurion agreed to exempt yeshiva students from military service, the original number was 700. That was supposed to be the entire yeshiva population, 700. In the State of Israel today, in the Mir yeshiva alone, there are more than 3,500 men…

[100 years ago] Secular Jews came in two different types, the maskilim (‘enlightened”) and the Zionists…

The chilonim and the haredim were in constant conflict, until the reached the point of confrontation. And you won that confrontation. You won not only in terms of numbers, but also in relation to the haredi presence in politics, and the settlement movement, and as a consumer force, and in the street and the culture, and in the educational system. You won in all these places.

I’ve heard the stats, and looking at you here, I expect you to win in the job market, as well.

Because it turns out, there is no way to build ‘Israeli-ness’ without you.

The Founding Fathers had a vision of Israel as a socialist, secular European State. That was the main vision, and it held out for 50 years. But different ‘tribes’ gradually fanned around this [socialist, secular, Europeanized] mainstream:

The Haredi-Ashkenazi Tribe; the Haredi-Sephardi Tribe; the National-Religious; Beitar; then in the 50s, ‘tribes’ came here from North Africa, that became the tribes on the periphery; then in the early 90s, the Russian ‘tribe’ came here; and then the Ethiopian ‘tribe’.

And each tribe had its needs and demanded something from the mainstream. Religious demands, political demands, economic demands, and so they ate away at the mainstream. And these tribes gradually infiltrated all the traditional, [socialist, secular, Europeanized] axes of power. First, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). Then academia. Then business.

And when the [socialist, secular, Europeanized] mainstream of Israeli-ness tried to defend itself…these others said: “Look, you oppressed us! You denied us our rights and we won’t accept this. And they were right, that the [socialist, secular, Europeanized] mainstream really did oppress them, and denied them their rights. And they really shouldn’t have had to tolerate that.

And something else also happened:

The [socialist, secular, Europeanized] mainstream was no longer the majority. By the late 1970s, there were more Sephardim in Israel than Ashkenazim. And since the 1980s, there are a lot more people who consider themselves traditional or religious, than secular.

Jerusalem is a much bigger city than Tel Aviv. And since 1977, the capitalist right-wing [i.e. the Likud party] has been in power most of the time, for 34 out of the last 40 years.

A survey from 1994 showed that 56% of the [Israeli] public believes that the Torah was given at Mount Sinai. It’s clear that the balance between the ‘tribes’ and the [secular, socialist, Europeanized] mainstream has been upset. The [secular, socialist, Europeanized] mainstream is no longer the majority, not numerically, not economically, not politically and not idealogically.

In the late 1990s, something predictable happened.

The [secular, socialist, Europeanized] mainstream got fed up. The [secular, socialist, Europeanized] mainstream looked to the left, and looked to the right, and said: “I’m sick of everyone demanding things from me. If they don’t want me to leave the country, then let them lead it themselves, because I have a new solution. From now on, I’m a ‘tribe’ too – the “middle-class” tribe.”

It said: “I don’t need the government in order to do business. I can get married in Cyprus in a civil ceremony, and I have to defend democracy, because these other tribes [i.e. the haredim, right-wingers, Sephardim, Russians and Ethiopians who make up the majority of the population] are instinctively either non-democratic, or less democratic.

“And I’m sick of the fact that a boy in Bnei Brak, and a boy in Um El-Fahm whom I’ve never met are funded by my taxes. And I certainly don’t need to be told that I ‘oppressed’ them.

“If they’re so ‘oppressed’, let them get along without me. I’ll do what everyone else does. I’ll look out for Number 1. I’ll take care of myself, and my people.” And that’s how it’s been over recent years.

[up to 8.40 mins, then skipping a little. Yair Lapid continues:]

When the Zionist Founding Fathers came to Israel, they said they wanted to build a ‘melting pot’ for the Jews.

And they sincerely looked for a broad ‘base’ of agreement between the different sections. They ignored the fact that the Jewish people already had such a base…They wanted to build a secular, socialist ‘melting pot’, and they ignored the fact that the Jews had an ancient Father who maintained and protected them for 2,000 years, i.e. the God of Israel.

I want to emphasize that I’m not talking about emuna, faith, that’s something else. I’m talking about the question of what is the social and cultural foundation of the Israeli ethos.

The Founding Fathers tried to skip straight from the Bible to modern times.

They wanted a Biblical ethos, not a Talmudic [i.e. Rabbinic] one, because the Bible happened here. King Saul went to find his donkeys on Highway 443…

For them, the Talmudic tradition belonged to the exile. So, they decided to skip over the Mishnah and Midrash, the Talmud, the Golden Age of Spain, the Ramchal, the Chatam Sofer, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, to establish their ‘Biblical’ ethos. And instead of a multi-dimensional and multi-sectoral vision that could include all different types of Jew, they created an ethos that suited secular, Ashkenazi socialists. And they wanted all the other ‘tribes’ to submit to this ethos.

This wasn’t done out of malice or stupidity, it was just secular thinking. They thought like this: “If God hasn’t brought the Jews to Israel in 2000 years, it’s time to let someone else have a go. It’s time to create a new myth.”

And when the holocaust came, they saw it as proof that you can’t rely on the God of the Jews, because He’s unreliable. We can only rely on ourselves.

So we tried to rely on ourselves, but the experiment failed.

It failed because it caused everyone who wasn’t secular, Ashkenazi and socialist to withdraw even more into his tribe. Especially when he realized that the ‘vision’ being offered to him had no room for what was most precious to him – his God.

It failed even more, because the Founding Fathers explanation was unsatisfactory. It didn’t justify us being here [in Israel]. Because if you take our ‘Father’ [i.e. God] out of the picture, what are we doing here? Why would a secular person choose to live in the worst neighborhood in the world, amongst a billion Muslims who hate him, in this this heat, if he doesn’t believe in an external Power that makes it worth living here?

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Yair Lapid didn’t have an answer for this question, btw, which sums up a lot of the problem that his ‘tribe’ are now facing, and why so many of them are turning into raging ultra-lefty, anti-Israel lunatics. But in the second half of Yair Lapid’s speech, he touched on a few issues that the religious Jews in Israel do have to grapple with, however uncomfortable that may makes us feel. And we’ll look at what these issues are in the next post.

You might also be interested in these posts:

 

Secular Israel’s War against the Chareidim.

I find myself doing a lot of research at the moment, into the shockingly anti-semitic attitudes of so many of the secular Jews in Israel. It’s impossible to understand how the State of Israel’s judiciary, police force and media could mobilize to conduct a totally false witch hunt against rabbinic leaders like Rabbi Berland unless you have the proper historic context.

So much of that context has been hidden away in Hebrew, but the last 70 years of secular life in Israel is littered with the sort of vile anti-semitism that makes that recent cartoon in the New York Times look like a tame joke. For decades, Israeli newspapers were filled with cartoons – drawn by Jews – showing grotesque chareidi men literally drinking the blood of the secular Jew in Israel.

I am trying to track more of this stuff down, as there’s a white-wash going on to make it much harder for this generation to figure out what’s really going on, here. But the video, below, with English subtitles, does an excellent job of introducing the subject, and providing more of the context of the ‘war against the Chareidim’ that has been raging in Israel for many decades.

It’s a war that’s been fought by secular politicians, by the courts, and above all, by the media.

The short clip below begins with the instruction manual for the Shomer HaTzair youth group, for how to pull religious youngsters who had just arrived in Israel away from their belief in God. My father was one of those Moroccan teenagers that experienced this treatment. The anti-religious, anti-Sephardi Ashkenazi establishment in Israel literally ruined his life, and caused him to flee the country 45 years ago.

The story of what happened to the Yemenite Jews, and the Yemenite children, also fit firmly into this picture. And the persecution of Rabbi Berland is just the latest in a very long line of atrocities that the secular establishment in Israel has perpetrated against religious Jews of all denominations over the last 70+ years.

This clip is 11 minutes long, and it makes very important – albeit very disturbing – viewing.

The media in Israel has been brainwashing us all for decades that the chareidim are sub-human, poisoning Israeli society to death, and about to ‘take over’ and turn us into a Jewish Iran.

If you look carefully, you will hear the same words being echoed and re-echoed at you again and again by the media in Israel. I’m working on a much more detailed expose of what’s really going on, but even today, the Israeli media is leading the charge against religion and religious Jews.

And a lot of people are literally losing their souls and the world-to-come by believing the media’s lies, most notably with the Rabbi Berland affair.

TBC

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.

 

The true story behind the persecution of Rabbi Eliezer Berland

Playing time: 4 mins
As part of my efforts to get more buzz around One in a Generation Volume III’ve put together a four minute video which explains the main points of who was behind the persecution of Rabbi Berland, and why the secular press and the State of Israel was so happy to go along with them.
We’re also working on launching a new website just for One in a Generation, so I will keep you posted on the progress. There’s a lot of interesting things going on behind the scenes, and the fall-out from the autistics‘ shocking (at least to me….) announcement will continue for quite some time to come, even though I know it doesn’t look like that at the moment.
There are big, big things happening, and the ‘war’ against truth is about to get ratcheted up a whole other notch. So buckle your seatbelts, keep talking to God about what’s really going on, and remember that speaking lashon hara and stirring machloket are key ‘Erev Rav’ traits that should be a big, red flag that people may not be as ‘pious’ and holy as they are trying to appear.
We live in interesting times. And that’s going to continue for a while.

UPDATE:

A few people couldn’t see the Playbuzz version of this video, so I’ve redone it on Youtube, here:
I’m working on a few more, too. Let me know if something in particular is puzzling you, or that you want me to address. There are answers to all questions.

Why ‘aliyah bullying’ is just a massive red herring.

For most of us who live in places where Chabad has a presence, we’ve got used to their ubiquitous little tables set up with tefillin, and the inspiring way they encourage so many Jews who otherwise wouldn’t give the mitzvah of laying tefillin a second thought, as they run around their busy lives.

Come rain or shine, those Chabad shlichim don’t miss an opportunity to call Jews over to them on the street, and ask them if they’d like to lay tefillin.

Let me ask you something:

Is that ‘tefillin bullying’?

I mean, there are 613 mitzvahs, and not everyone is going to have the privilege of doing all of them in one lifetime. Surely, when the Chabad shlichim are coaxing people to spend a few precious moment connecting to God, and putting God’s mitzvah of laying tefillin ahead of what they themselves wanted to be doing at that precise moment, that is a good thing, isn’t it?

Let’s explore another example.

Say, we have a guy who doesn’t eat kosher. Say, that guy has a ‘religious’ sister who is trying to encourage him to swear off the pork, and to only eat kosher meat. Let’s eavesdrop on that conversation, a little:

Sister: You know, my dear brother, every time you eat another rasher of bacon, it’s disconnecting you from God and doing terrible damage to your soul. You are such a refined Jewish neshama! Eating pork products is so beneath you, sweet brother. And also, God doesn’t like it very much.

Brother: I find your comment to be kosher bullying. You telling me that God doesn’t like it when I eat pork doesn’t help me to feel good about myself as a Jew, and it doesn’t help anyone.

Do we agree with him?

What about the Jewish boy who is seriously dating that nice, non-Jewish girlfriend? His mother realizes that things are getting serious, and arranges to have a last-ditch talk with him:

Mother: I know I didn’t raise you right, I know I didn’t take the Torah seriously, I know I put what was easy and comfortable for myself ahead of what God really wanted me to do, and how He really wanted me to live, as a Jew – but please, I’m begging you, don’t marry that girl! It’ll devastate me, and end 3,000 years of Jewish continuity, because your kids won’t be Jewish!

Son: Mother, I feel intimidated by these kind of comments. I’m fed up with all your nonsense about your grandchildren not being Jewish. I’m standing up for my rights to live exactly how I want. There are many, varied reasons why I just couldn’t find a Jewish girl to date, and at this stage, I don’t believe I need to.

[Mother bursts into heart-wrenching sobs].

Son (increasingly defensive…): I’m just defending my right to live my life and not be attacked because I can’t just break up with the woman I love and marry someone Jewish instead. Well done to you, mother, that you married a Jew, but spare a thought for those who have tried and failed to find a Jewish spouse. I had to date outside the faith just to get a girlfriend, and I have other Jewish friends who won’t even consider marrying a Jew now, because it was so hard for them on the Jewish dating scene.

Is this “don’t marry out” bullying?

And if the answer is ‘yes’, is that a bad thing?

If something is a mitzvah, if something is a Torah commandment, then surely we should be encouraging other Jews to do it, with all our strength? Part of the reason I’m so in awe of my local Chabad shlichim here in Jerusalem is that they are actively encouraging Jews to do mitzvahs every single day.

Come listen to the Purim Megillah!

Come join us for the Pesach Seder!

Come participate in Kaparot, come listen to a lecture on the Tanya, come give some tzedaka to build our new shul!

Do I have the wrong end of the stick here?

Instead of thinking how awesomely inspiring it is that they are constantly encouraging me to move out of my comfort zone, and to move past my laziness and apathy and yeoush and disinterest, I should be accusing them of mitzvah bullying, instead?

That doesn’t sound right to me.

Everyone has their reasons why certain mitzvahs are hard for them. For example, the mitzvah of covering my hair as a married woman is really, really hard for me. It was so hard for me, I didn’t do it for the first eight years I was married.

But that doesn’t meant that I started justifying what I was doing to myself, and explaining how my ‘mission’ in life didn’t include covering my hair, or how my big, important job working for the British government meant I had a free pass on covering my hair.

I didn’t cover my hair because I wasn’t sufficiently motivated to cover my hair, and my personal circumstances, outlook, work (and crazy, crazy big hair!) all made it very difficult to do.

But I still acknowledged I was in the wrong, and that God really did want me to cover my hair.

And, I was still very impressed by my friends and acquaintances who were covering their hair full-time, because I knew how much inner strength and determination that required.

So what changed?

Things changed when we finally got to Israel, and my parnassa hit the skids, and I started to realise that me not covering my hair – as well as a whole bunch of other ‘little’ things, like not benching after bread, and wearing jeans, and going to the movies – actually had some serious spiritual consequences, and was causing me a lot of issues in my actual day-to-day life.

I started covering my hair with such a bad grace – but my shalom bayit picked up instantly, and my parnassa also rebounded (not immediately. God likes to maintain something of an illusion with these things, to preserve our free choice.)

So now, I happily choose to cover my (still crazy….) hair, not because I like the mitzvah, not because it’s easy – it’s still so very, very hard, and I’ll post about all that another time – but because:

I realized this is what God wants.

And that doing what God wants makes my life so much easier and nicer.

There are certain spiritual rules God put in place for how He wants Jews to live, and how Jews can best maximize their spiritual potential. Sadly, plenty of Jews today don’t even know about these spiritual rules, and the mitzvoth that they are clothed in.

The fewer of these ‘rules’ a Jew operates by, the more difficult, stressful and challenging their lives inevitably will be.

So let’s ask this again, is it right to ‘lecture’ other Jews about doing mitzvoth?

That’s an interesting question, isn’t it? When people put out memes with “love your fellow Jew as yourself”, is that considered ‘lecturing’? How about if they share a shiur on avoiding sinat chinam and lashon hara?

Is that considered ‘lecturing’?

Couldn’t every single one of us turn around and say something like:

Nice for you, that you’re managing to avoid slandering people all the time and hating other Jews who are different, but some of us just couldn’t get there, hard as we tried. Some of didn’t have the strength to avoid participating in all the juicy gossip on Facebook. Some of us just couldn’t continue seeing the good in other people, some of us just had way too many bad middot to overcome to have the energy to start working on our own sinat chinam, even though we know deep down that’s preventing the geula and causing us so much suffering in our own lives.

But God is surely going to save me, despite all my bad middot and unrepentant aveirot! I don’t doubt that for a moment!

Couldn’t we all make that same argument about every mitzvah we find hard, and that we don’t really want to do?

And then what? Where does reward and punishment fit into this picture?

If a Jew can do anything they want, pick and choose their mitzvahs, then state that for sure, God is going to reward them exactly the same regardless of the mitzvahs they’re actually striving to do, or are saying they are ‘exempt’ from doing, that totally negates the concept of reward and punishment.

This is Judaism 101. This comes from Jewishvirtuallibrary.org:

The doctrine of reward and punishment is central to Judaism throughout the ages; that man receives his just reward for his good deeds and just retribution for his transgressions is the very basis of the conception of both human and divine justice.

Rambam states in the 11th of the 13 Principles of Faith that:

“God gives reward to he who does the commandments of the Torah and punishes those that transgress its admonishments and warnings. And the great reward is the life of the world to come; and the punishment is the cutting off of the soul [in the world to come]. And we already said regarding this topic what these are. And the verse that attests to this principle is (Exodus 32) “And now if You would but forgive their sins – and if not erase me from this book that You have written.” And God answered him, “He who sinned against Me I will erase from My book.” This is a proof that God knows the sinner and the fulfiller in order to mete out reward to one, and punishment to the other.”

Can you see the problem, here?

Moving to Israel is a mitzvah. (I know there are apparently ‘frum’ people who are so confused they are even doubting that, so please take a look at the daas Torah in this post, Deconstructing Aliyah, which sets out a whole bunch of real, actual Torah sources on the subject, if you’d like a change from all the ‘daas me‘ flying around the internet.)

So, if we’re going to start accusing other people of ‘aliyah bullying’ then we have to be consistent, and also start accusing other people of ‘kosher bullying’ and ‘tefillin bullying’ and ‘not marrying out’ bullying too, because as you can hopefully see for yourself, the same arguments are effectively playing out in each of these arenas.

It’s always hard to keep mitzvahs, in some ways. God expects us to keep striving out of comfort zone, to keep trying to give Him what He wants, and to not give up on the mitzvoth even when we can’t quite reach them.

I have so many mitzvoth I’m still struggling with, not least my own problems with lashon hara and anger.

I could turn around and give God a bunch of excuses why I still flip out and go ballistic – and they’d all be true! But that doesn’t change the picture that God says that getting angry is a very bad thing, and that He wants me to carry on working on it, until 120.

Sure, I can justify my bad behavior all I want.

But that doesn’t change the fact that God wants me to do better, and He wants me to get Him involved in really solving the issue.

So unless we’re also going to start accusing God of being a “good middot bully”, or a “keeping the Torah bully”,  it seems to me this whole ‘aliyah bullying’ idea is really just a massive red herring.

A Seder Meal for One.

The day before Seder, I had a breathless conversation with an older single I know whose ‘plans had changed’ last minute (as they so often seem to do with this person), who needed a place to go for the Seder meal.

I said no.

I said no for a few reasons, not least because I had my hands full with a ton of non-religious family members who also believe that Seder isn’t actually something you ‘do’, at least, not yourself, but something that you show up for, say your lines, eat your boiled egg, then go home and tick the box.

But the person pulled a half-successful guilt trip on me that they had nowhere else to go blah blah blah so in the end I compromised and invited them for the morning meal after Seder.

I was so exhausted. I was so tired.

And this person stayed in my house for four hours on one pretext after another, until finally when they went to the bathroom, I saw an opportunity to escape and went ‘to sleep’ in my room until they finally got the message and left.

Recently, I’ve been thinking more and more about how so many of us unwittingly ‘enable’ bad behavior, and massive yetzer haras, through some misguided attempt to ‘do good in the world’. Sure, in theory, it’s a great wonderful, amazing thing to have people around your Seder table who otherwise would have no-where to go.

But at what point does it stop being a mitzvah?

At what point does enabling other people’s selfish, freeloading behavior stop being a good thing?

You know why that older single had no-where to go on Seder night? Because she’s exhausting to be around. That’s why. She doesn’t treat people so nicely and she has a lot of bad middot.

Do you know why I’m doing something completely different for Seder next year? Because even the very minimal requests I set for my Seder were ignored.

People didn’t buy haggadot for their kids….they didn’t prepare a tiny something about anything related to the Seder…they didn’t have the patience to sit through Hallel and made the fact they wanted to leave so obvious that there was no choice except to comply…they didn’t help-with-a-single-thing with the Seder.

They left it all to me.

Now, if they were 80 and feeble, fair enough. If they were ‘lost Jews’ who had never seen or heard of a Seder before in their life, fair enough. But that’s not the case. We’re the same age, and they’ve sat at someone else’s Seder every year since they were born, for more than four decades.

After I was inundated with so many people’s ‘freeloading behavior’ this year, and after I found myself getting so upset about it all, I realized there was something else going on, here, that God was trying to draw my attention to, namely:

I was enabling these people’s bad middot.

And I don’t want to do that anymore.

You might be reading this hand to mouth in horror, thinking what is the woman saying?! This is terrible, shocking, awful!!!!

It’s a free country, you’re allowed. We’ve all been so brainwashed into believing that we have to be the ‘solution’ to other people’s problems, it’s totally understandable if you are having that reaction. I also had that reaction to myself, initially, and thought I’d totally lost the plot. But then, I started to think things through more carefully in hitbodedut, and to dig a little deeper, and here’s what I came to:

God for sure wants me to help other people, as much as possible. At the same time, He for sure doesn’t want me to take all the responsibility for ensuring they have a Seder to go to, or people to hang out with, or a nice life.

For example, it says very clearly, that it’s the father of the household’s responsibility to recount the exodus to their children.

If that father has his head permanently in his business affairs, or prefers to play cards at the Seder table, or doesn’t value his own yiddishkeit enough to make any real effort to pass it on to his kids – it’s not down to me, to fix that problem.

What’s more, there’s the law of natural consequence at play here. The natural consequence of having guests who I experience as ungrateful, entitled, freeloaders is that I don’t want to have them back.

IFFFFF, guests make it clear that they really want to share the responsibility, IFFFFF they make a huge effort to participate, IFFFFF they offer to buy in the desserts, and clear the table, and wash up – then I probably would be extremely happy to have them back. Who wouldn’t be?

But, IFFFFF the guest is totally self-absorbed and self-occupied, IFFFFF they act like they are doing you a massive favor, by being there, IFFFFF they make ‘perfunctory’ noises about helping that you know aren’t the least bit sincere, and then scarper before the dishes have even been taken off the table – then, I really don’t want them back, until and unless something massive changes in their behavior and their attitude.

This is the law of natural consequence, and we ignore it at our peril.

As I was mulling all this over, I had a chat with a friend of mine, Gila, who I have invited for Seder a couple of times down the years, but who has always turned me down. Partially, it’s because Gila and I live in different cities. But the real reason is much more awe-inspiring:

Gila often does Seder all by herself.

I asked her if she would share her experience of that more widely, and she very generously agreed. Here’s what she told me, in her own words:

“Seder is a very personal experience, and I wanted to do it my own way, of course still within the framework of halacha. I read the ma nishtana myself, I did both sides of the ‘Mishar rotam’ dialogue that many Sephardim traditionally do at the beginning of the Seder. It could have been a bit weird or awkward, but I embraced Seder night, and I really enjoyed it.”

I asked Gila, why didn’t you want to go out and be a guest at someone else’s Seder? She told me:

“I really wanted to feel the holiday. I wanted to concentrate on the Seder, and not get so distracted by everything else that was going on around me. There are lots of segulot you can do when you’re having a Seder by yourself, so I really took advantage of it. I drank all the wine you’re supposed to, and I ate all the matzah.”

What happened about hiding the afikomen?

“I just put it away somewhere, so I didn’t see it. And I really enjoyed the idea that I really was eating the afikomen – and only the afikomen – for dessert. Usually, you have to supplement the afikomen with more matzah, but I was eating only the real thing. I also really loved preparing for the Seder. “

This year wasn’t the first time that Gila has done a Seder by herself.

I asked her what she finds challenging about doing it by herself.

“Beforehand is the hardest part. When people start asking me, what are you doing for Seder? That can be a hard question. It’s hard anticipating being alone, and worrying about how society views me. Other people’s reactions are the main problem for me, not actually doing the Seder. The first time I did it, my parents thought I was nuts, until I explained to them how the Seder actually went.

“For someone who has never done it, who has never enjoyed the fruits of their own labor at the Seder, it’s so gratifying to be really involved, and to not just be a guest. Even the shopping was enjoyable and meaningful. I was using my own hands to create the Seder!”

Gila has now done Seder by herself on 5 different occasions.

She’s very happy to still be a guest at other people’s tables, if that’s suitable for her and her hosts, but she told me something about the reality of being an older single at other people’s Seder that made a very profound impact on me:

“Even if you have a bad experience at a Seder, you need to take responsibility. You can’t just accept an invitation to someone because you feel you don’t have a better alternative. When I first decided to do Seder by myself, as an older single in my 40s, it’s because I had never made it myself, and I felt it was just time to do it. When I took that decision, it showed me that I really have a choice about how and where I do Seder, and that was liberating. In general, when you know you have a choice it also makes you more tolerant since you take responsibility for what you want to do, instead of blaming other people.”

I will share more of Gila’s tips on how to do a Seder for one below, but I didn’t just find her experience liberating for some of the singles out there, who maybe are sick of being guests around other people’s tables.

I also found it liberating for myself, because it underscored the point God had been trying to teach me that everyone has a choice.

If a person truly wants to experience a Seder, there is nothing stopping them.

I don’t need to relate to people as nebuchs¸ unfortunates, because they aren’t used to making a Seder, or don’t find it easy. It’s a mitzvah! It’s a privilege! It’s an obligation – their obligation to recount the Haggada and eat matzah and drink four cups of wine.

If they care about the mitzvah, they will find a way to pull it off.

(It’s a whole other story, but I have friends in Costa Rica who are going through a very tough time, financially. This year, they only had enough money to buy the minimal matzah and wine for Seder night, and they just ate vegetables the rest of the week. Talk about mesirut nefesh for the mitzvah! Amazing.)

And if they don’t really care about the mitzvah – then having them back year after year is just enabling them to keep ticking a box, and just keeping them stuck in that place of being a permanent, uninterested, entitled guest.

And I’m not going to do that, any more.

It’s not helping me, for sure, but Gila’s story also showed me that it’s also really not helping them. Or their kids.

So, if you’re young enough and healthy enough to change your kitchen over and cook for three days straight – do your own Seder. If you’re single, consider doing it alone, or consider inviting your other single friends and doing it together. If you have a family and you’re approaching your fifties without ever having done your own Seder, make a decision that next Pesach is the year you finally grow up, and take responsibility for yourself and your families.

Making Seder is hard work, for sure, but it’s a mitzvah, and every ounce of effort you put in is repaid, spiritually.

If you want some more guidance on what to actually do on Seder night, take a look at the Seder Guide on the Torah.org website. And HERE is where you’ll find a run-down of the customs and minhagim that Rabbi Berland follows on Seder night. Finally, I have discovered two excellent cookbooks for Pesach, which contain simple, pretty healthy food that is not a pain in the bottom to put together, but tastes pretty good. You can get A Taste of Pesach #1 by clicking the bold, and also check out A Taste of Pesach #2.

And now, let’s end with Gila’s dos and don’ts for how to do a Seder for one:

PERSONAL SEDER DOS:

  • Try to get excited about it.
  • Appreciate that you have a choice of how and where you do Seder, and that if you really want to do it in your own home, you can.
  • Run the Seder exactly how you want it to go, and include any segulot or customs you want.
  • Have realistic expectations.
  • Prepare for Seder properly – and enjoy preparing for it.

PERSONAL SEDER DON’TS:

  • Don’t do a Seder by yourself if you’re not in a good frame of mind, or if you feel isolated.
  • Don’t a Seder by yourself if you can’t be alone for a meal on Shabbat.
  • Don’t tell yourself you have no choice, except to be a guest at someone else’s table. You always have a choice to do the Seder yourself, if you really want to.