Rebbe Nachman told us more than 200 years’ ago that the tests of faith (emuna) in the time preceding the coming of Moshiach would be so great, that: “…many will fall away and be evil.”

But he continued: “Still, I am revealing this for the sake of the few faithful who will remain strong in their belief (emuna).  They will certainly have great conflicts.  But when they see that this has already been predicted, it will give them additional strength and encouragement.” (Sichot HaRan 35)

On another occasion, Rebbe Nachman commented that at the end of days, the whole world would be flooded by such a huge amount of heretical ideas and theories, even rabbis would have ‘heresy dripping out of their pockets.’

Sadly, there are so many things going on today that prove that Rebbe Nachman was not at all exaggerating, so I thought it would be good to do a quick ‘emuna’ refresher today.

The Rambam’s first principle of faith states:

“I believe with complete faith that the Creator, blessed be His name, He creates and manages all of creation, and that He alone did, does and will do everything that is done.”

So to take just one example, this means that all those supernatural fires that occurred across Israel last week were 100% the work of God. That doesn’t mean He didn’t use the odd Arab terrorist here and there, but even the Israel Home Command Front estimated that 95% of the fires were spontaneous combustion, and not arson.

The Artscroll siddur makes the following comments about the Rambam’s 13 Principles of Faith.

First, it tells us very clearly: “There is no partnership in Creation.” It’s complete heresy to suggest that something could occur in the world that God ‘has nothing to do with’, as that suggests there is another force operating in the universe other than Hashem.

(As an aside, this is one of the many big problems with Xtianity, and other religions that like to claim that the forces of evil are somehow outside of God’s control. That’s complete heresy – God is doing EVERYTHING in the world, even the seemingly bad things.)

Secondly, the Artscroll siddur tells us:

“God communicates with man. In order for man to carry out his Divinely-ordained mission, he must know what it is. Prophecy is the means by which God communicates His wishes to man.”

Rebbe Nachman warned us that just before Moshiach showed up, there would be a bunch of heretical pseudo-tzaddiks who would be tripping us up and weakening our faith in God and his true Tzaddikim.

Anytime we believe that anything other than God is causing things to happen, that’s a heretical thought, and here’s why that’s such a problem:

In Tractate Roshana 17a the Gemara tells us that:

“The apikorsim (heretics)…descend to Gehinnom and are punished there for all eternity.”

Heresy is a very serious business, as it can literally cost a person all of their World to Come and consign them to a permanent billet in Hell. Not a fun prospect!

What’s helped me navigate all the confusion and heresy sloshing around is Rav Arush’s three rules of emuna. You can find a more detailed discussion of these three rules in his book, The Garden of Emuna.

RAV ARUSH’S THREE RULES OF EMUNA:

RULE 1: EIN OD MILVADO – God did, does and will do every single thing that’s happening in the world, even the seemingly ‘bad’ stuff, and including even the most smallest details of our lives.

RULE 2: EVERYTHING THAT GOD DOES IS GOOD Even when it’s painful and upsetting. Everything that occurs to us, even the most painful things, are ultimately only for our good, and will help us to achieve our spiritual rectification, or Tikkun.

RULE 3: THERE’S A MESSAGE IN EVERYTHING – Everything that happens to us or that impacts us in some way contains a message from God about what we might need to work on, fix, change, accept or rectify. The easiest way to figure these messages out is to talk to God for an hour every day.

The Rambam wrote his 13 Principles of Faith to help us avoid the sort of heretical people and ideas that could do permanent damage to our souls. In our mixed up world, there really are a bunch of ‘orthodox’ rabbis out there who literally have heresy dripping out of their pockets.

Caveat Emptor.

Every year around this time, I struggle with the same thing: huge feelings of anger and annoyance against people who have treated me really, really badly, yet never apologise for anything.

As a frum Jew, I’ve tried pretty hard to make amends, and I’ve eaten a lot of humble pie over the years, trying to make peace with people I’ve fallen out with because they’ve treated me so badly.

Last year, I had a huge test on this front as I finally got around to apologizing to someone who has made my life miserable for years’ already, solely to try to do the right thing, and to keep God happy.

Dear reader, I sent this person three fulsome apologies – and by the end, they still refused to forgive me! What makes it even harder to swallow is that this person is a really nasty, messed-up piece of work that thinks they are 100% justified in all the terrible, awful, horrible things they do and say, and that the problem is always everyone else’s.

Have they ever apologized even once for all the disgusting things they’ve said and done?

Nope.

(To give you an idea of what I’m dealing with, they once told me that I was only apologizing because ‘the Torah’ told me I had to, which meant it couldn’t be sincere, so they didn’t have to accept it.)

I knew once I sent the third apology that I’d done my bit, and that now the problem was 100% back in their court, spiritually-speaking. Halachically, you’re only meant to try to apologise, and to try and appease the person three times, and then they’re considered to be officially ‘cruel’ (i.e., mentally ill) for not accepting your apology, and you don’t have to worry about them anymore.

Which is all well and good if they’re someone you never have to deal with, or see ever again, but occasionally God fixes it that you’re stuck with these really nasty people very close to home. Which is when the next part of the test kicks in, because even though you’ve gone all out to make peace with them, and even though the problem is them and their mentally-ill behavior and attitudes, you’re still stuck having to play the role of being the bad one that’s causing all the difficulties.

King David wrote about this, when he described how he was just for peace, yet his enemies were just for war.

Man, I can relate. And then I sometimes get boiling mad at all the unfairness and unjustice of it all. Until….

Until….

Until I remember that God is behind it all. God is the one who’s sending all these warped, mentally-ill, self-righteous, pretend ‘perfect’ people into my life. Why? Because they clearly have a spiritual job to do, and they are part of the spiritual tests I have to face and overcome.

Nothing but nothing challenges your emuna so much as trying to see God behind some mentally-ill person who’s raised the art of slandering you and abusing you while playing the poor victim into an art form.

But if (WHEN!) you pass that test, nothing but nothing compares to the spiritual rewards you get for standing up in it (so I’ve been told 😉

Which is why this time of year can be so challenging. If I sit and wait for these people to apologise for anything, I’ll be here forever. If I don’t want to get stuck behind their mentally-ill bad middot that means I have to figure out how to neutralize my anger and rage without being appeased by them. That is serious spiritual work. That’s hours and hours of hitbodedut, and asking God for help.

And that’s the main Teshuva to make over these ten days of repentance, at least for me: to ask for God’s help to uproot my own anger and bad middot, to know that God is behind everything and everyone, and to trust that ultimately, it’s all just good.

Of all of Rebbe Nachman’s tales, I have two favorites: The Cripple, and the Master of Prayer.

While it’s always something of a stretch to claim to be able to ‘understand’ Rebbe Nachman’s teachings, I always get so much chizzuk and inspiration from both of these stories.

Both are talking about what will be at the End of Days, before Moshiach comes, but while the Master of Prayer is phrased more in terms of global and national redemption, The Cripple is very, very personal.

It describes a cripple – a person who can’t walk, and who ends up being robbed in the forest by a bunch of bandits, and who then has to eat grass to survive. In the process of eating grass, the cripple finds a magic diamond (aka hitbodedut, or personal prayer), that shows him how he can heal his legs and regain his wealth from the bandits who robbed him.

So far so good, then the tale gets a little wild: The cripple hears the sun and moon discussing their problems, and the moon describes how the world is full of all these families of ‘demons’ – people who look like human beings, but who are actually missing something big, spiritually-speaking.

But the only way an outsider can tell who is a spiritually-corrupt ‘demon’ and who is really a human being is by looking at the demons’ feet:

The demons have chicken feet, not human feet. (‘Feet’ is a reference to emuna, and more particularly to bringing God down into the world by seeing Him in every single aspect of our lives.)

These demons have a king. They have jobs. And they have a mission in life, to keep people away from the true Tzaddik (aka Moshiach), who’s represented in the story by a big tree. If enough water would reach the tree, the demons would disappear and the world would be redeemed.

The demons make it their number one priority to keep people away from this tree. They dig ditches around it. They go around torturing people and making them suffer. And most importantly of all, the ‘talkers’ amongst the demon speak a lot of lashon hara about how believing in Tzaddikim is ‘cultish’; and how people don’t need to get close to the real Tzaddikim, they ‘just need God and their own (warped…) intelligence’.

To cut a long story short, there’s a wise man and his small band of followers who takes on the demons.

This wise man’s main weapons are prayer and perfect faith in Hashem – he advises his followers to accept whatever God decides for them, good or bad, and to not try to find ‘spiritual short-cuts’ involving sorcery and other things to try to solve their problems.

At the end of the story, due to the wise man’s great emuna and submission to God, the demons end up destroying themselves. Again, to cut a long story short, the ‘talkers’ amongst the demons start turning on the other demons (as opposed to the human beings) and this sparks off a civil war, which leads to a bunch of earthquakes and other natural disasters which finally cause the ditches around the tree to collapse, and the tree to be watered.

This brings Moshiach. Hooray!

Now, why am I telling you this?

You’ll recall that lashon hara, or speaking evilly of other people (even for supposedly ‘good’ reasons) is one of the biggest tell-tale traits of the Erev Rav. You’ll hopefully also recall (from THIS post) the basic rules of lashon hara which forbid us from pointing out people’s bad middot, publicly to other people.

The reason for this is simple: the people who speak lashon hara always justify the bad things they are saying about other people. As soon as you or I start speaking lashon hara about the people who are speaking lashon hara, we fall into that same trap – and in the words of the Cripple, it’s akin to using ‘sorcery’ and other demonic habits to try to solve our problems, instead of asking God to deal with it.

(That said, there ARE times that we can speak negatively about others in a public forum.)

So how does ‘good’ triumph, ultimately, if these demonic people are running around shooting their poisonous mouths off and nothing can be done to stop them?

Rebbe Nachman explains something wonderful: the talkers will destroy themselves.

One person with a huge lashon hara issue will pick a fight with another person who has a huge lashon hara issue, and all we have to do is stay out of it and watch them kill each other.

Genius!

Things are so, so mixed up at this time at the End of Days.

I know from my own experience it can be so darned tempting to weigh in on all the machloket, arguments and mud-slinging that’s going on all around us – all for the very best reasons, natch. But our voice is the voice of Jacob. Where ‘Esav-type’ people will use their words and voices to attack and destroy others, the authentic Jewish way is to use our voices to pray, and get God involved in solving our problems, and destroying all the bad, evil things that are permeating our world.

And if we do that, the demonic forces in the world will automatically destroy themselves; the tree will get watered, and Moshiach WILL come.

If you’ve been listening to my podcasts on the Erev Rav, or even buying my book and reading it (God bless you…) then you’ll know that speaking lashon hara and making trouble between people is probably the number one top Erev Rav trait.

Of the Vilna Gaon’s five main groups of Erev Rav behaviours, he himself stated that the very worst one was speaking lashon hara and causing strife. This group was so bad, the Vilna Gaon called the people who indulged in this behavior ‘Amalekites’, and had some very harsh things to say about them, including that they’d have to disappear out the world completely before Moshiach comes.

Here’s the thing with lashon hara: the person who wants to do it always has a number of justifications and excuses for indulging themselves.

Some of the most popular include:

  • It’s true
  • People need to be warned about the problem
  • Those nasty, evil people have it coming to them, anyway
  • It makes for interesting reading, or conversation
  • It’s fun to stir up a whole bunch of drama and then feed off other people’s upset, shame and strong emotions

Of all of these, number two is probably the most problematic, because it sounds the most sincere, holy and community-minded.

Consequently, it’s all too easy for our yetzer haras to pull the wool over our eyes, and convince us that we need to go all out on an ‘information’ campaign to warn others about the negative situations / actions / threats that we believe are occurring.

Here’s the thing, though: As soon as we open our mouths to start slagging other people off – EVEN IF ITS TRUE – we instantly become part of the problem, instead of part of the solution. The Chofetz Chaim had some very harsh things to say about people who regularly spoke badly of others, including calling them ‘baalei lashon hara’ and saying that such people were committing so many awful sins every time they opened their mouth, they should be given a wide berth and considered as though they were a very wicked person.

God has created the laws of lashon hara such that it’s pretty much impossible to talk openly and negatively about named individuals in a public forum without transgressing them in a pretty big way.

On occasion, some individuals are so dangerous, nasty and evil, that the Beit Din, or big Tzaddikim, will take the very unusual step of warning the public away from that person. When it’s done by a Beit Din or a bona fide Tzaddik, you can be sure that the halachas governing talking negatively about others for a positive purpose (l’toelet) have all been carefully considered before any action was taken.

But generally speaking, calling people out in public is completely forbidden, and transgresses the 31 laws associated with lashon hara.

So now, you might be thinking: What’s going on here??!?

If people are doing things that are wrong, or are acting unethically or inappropriately, surely God wants as many people to know about that as possible?

Dear reader, I have struggled with this issue so very many times. Each time I exploded another crack-pot religious phoney, for example, my instinct was to write a warts n’all expose about them, so no-one else would get duped.

Thankfully, my husband has a much cooler head than mine, and insisted that we speak to Rav Arush before taking any irrevocable steps to ‘name and shame’ anyone. Doubly-thankfully, Rav Arush gave me excellent advice to keep my mouth shut, and let God handle things.

Why is this excellent advice? Because like we said, as soon as you speak lashon hara, you become part of the very problem you’re trying to solve. You become another force for evil and strife in the world, all with the very best intentions.

When all is said and done, how do I know that my assessment of the other person is really correct?

How do I know that I’m really as objective as I’d like to think? How do I know that the problem is 100% their problem, and not 100% my own problem? Let’s remind ourselves that every evil-speaking, hyper-critical poisonous person out there doesn’t see themselves that way at all. In their world, they are always the victim, or the hero, and completely justified in everything they say and do to others, however horrible.

How do we know, really, that we don’t have that same blind spot?

When you’re a huge Tzaddik, or when you’re sitting in a beit din with other pious individuals, this is much less of an issue. But when it’s you and me we’re talking about, we need to err very carefully on the side of caution.

There is a time and a place to speak badly of others, especially in any situation where abuse of minors could be occurring. But that still has to be done within the framework of speaking evilly l’toelet, for a good purpose, which is governed by many different halachas. (Check HERE for a crash course in lashon hara, which sets out the very basic principles.)

In the meantime, the sooner we eradicate the evil speech, the sooner we’ll get redemption, Moshiach and all that good stuff.

And if we can’t or won’t keep our mouths shut, and God is ready to redeem us now, then we could be in for a pretty rough ride.

I know, I come back to this subject a lot, don’t I?

The reason for that is simple: My husband and I have been seriously burned by a number of so-called ‘rabbis’ who were very keen to suck as much respect, effort, adoration and money out of us as possible, but much less keen to actually stand by us when the bad advice they gave us blew up in our face.

I went through such a deep crisis of faith as a result of my associations with these ‘rockstar’ type rabbis (and let me add in here that rockstar rabbanits are also becoming an increasingly big problem), that I’m now on a mission to do whatever I can to help my fellow Jew spot these people a mile off, and give them a wide berth.

The main problem is that especially for people who grew up in the West, the very title ‘rabbi’ carries an aura of holiness, wisdom and knowledge with it. It’s like the word ‘doctor’ in the secular world. People only have to add that in front of their name and they get instant ‘rockstar’ status. Well he’s a doctor! He’s a rabbi! She’s a rabbanit! They must know what they’re talking about!!!!

But sadly, that’s just not true.

My husband, God bless him, is about to sit his exam that will officially make him a ‘rabbi’ if he passes it. For the past couple of years, he’s been learning all about what makes a chicken liver kosher, what to do if the hotdog lands in a pint of milk, what happens if you have a non-Jewish worker who accidentally has a fatal heart-attack in your soda factory, and falls into a big vat of coke for more than 24 hours. Does that make the coke traif, or not?

The reason my husband is becoming a rabbi is very simple: I forced him to do it. I was so sick of all the fake ‘rabbis’ out there blinding everyone to their very warped, anti-God opinions and ideas with their ‘rabbinic’ credentials that I told my husband there has to be at least one rabbi out there who isn’t just doing it as a career move.

My husband was not keen at first.

He also hates all the honor-driven ‘I’m a RABBI you know’ stuff. But I told him straight: You’ve been learning Torah lishma, for its own sake for 11 years now. You do an hour of hitbodedut (talking to God) every day. You ask God to help you guard your eyes, to treat your wife and family nicely, and to have emuna. You have so much humility – and every time you think you know something, I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong!!

You simply can’t say that about most of the other people out there who are ‘rabbis’ – well-known or otherwise – especially in the English-speaking world. So, after a lot of soul-searching (and nagging from me…) he took the plunge.

Here’s the strange thing we’ve both discovered: To officially become a rabbi, all you do is learn the Torah laws relating to keeping kosher. There are other areas you can learn too, but the basic ‘rabbi’ curriculum is all that stuff about hotdogs-in-milk and pickled non-Jews traifing up your coke.

There is no ‘family counselling’ stuff. No ‘secrets of the Torah that means you always know what you’re talking about’ stuff.

No magic formula that takes the rabbinic student and turns them into a fount of knowledge and wisdom.

Here’s the even stranger thing we’ve both discovered: The laws of kashrut are so darned complicated, in so many ways, with so many conflicting opinions abounding, that even to get to the right answer about the hotdog-in-the-milk, a rabbi still has to ask God to give him a lot of siyatta deshmaya.

If a rabbi has to be constantly asking God for the right inspiration just to answer the kashrut questions properly, can we even begin to fathom the spiritual level they have to be on be doling out life advice about how to raise your children and relate to your spouses? Or where to buy a new home? Or what medical treatment to take, or to avoid?

And here, dear reader, is where we get to the crux of the problem, because when a person is full of themselves and their ‘rabbinic’ credentials, they are generally completely empty of God.

Hashem says: “Me and the arrogant person, we can’t dwell together!”

When a person is arrogant – when they are holding themselves out as a fount of wisdom and advice, and when they’re off touting for people to come and ask them serious life questions, or forcing their opinions on other people as the only way, and God’s own truth – the sad fact is that they, and the advice they are so freely proffering, is completely disconnected from the Creator.

Again, I’ve unfortunately learnt this the hard way.

If the red flags had gone up the first time me and my husband were told things like:

“Well, if you’d bothered to ask me, I would have told you the exact opposite…”

Or when things were phrased as barked commands, or when I saw one person after another get burned by really bad advice, and then get blamed and instantly dropped by the ‘rabbi’ responsible for getting them into the mess in the first place – things would look so different now.

But that’s where my emuna, or belief in God, kicks in. Because God only used these horrible rockstar rabbis as sticks to teach me and my husband some invaluable things. Man o man, were they hard lessons to learn.

Things like the importance of valuing our own judgement, and respecting ourselves, and loving ourselves, each other and our kids unconditionally.

God doesn’t act, think or behave like a warped ‘rockstar rabbi’, playing on other people’s insecurities and fears to keep them feeling small, worthless and dumb.

God loves us. All of us. Unconditionally. He for sure wants us to keep mitzvot, but He also wants us to be nice to other people and to love ourselves, and to give people a break as much as possible.

I will come back to this subject again, because most of the people out there today who are encouraging you to trust them, to believe in them, and to follow them blindly, are not what they appear to be. Thank God, there ARE some real rabbis out there still, and three I can personally vouch for are Rav Berland, Rav Ofer Erez and Rav Shalom Arush.

But in the English-speaking world, rockstar rabbis of all stripes unfortunately prevail, and you need to be very, very careful.

Let’s end with this one piece of advice, that you can take or leave as you see fit:

The more you work on your own middot, and your own connection to God, the easier it will get to spot all the religious phoneys out there. Once you no longer tolerate anger, contempt, evil speech, harsh judgment, spiritual superficiality and competition in your own life, spotting the fakers will get SO easy.

Of course, working on all these things takes a huge amount of effort, patience and spiritual investment. That’s why the rockstar rabbis (and rabbanits) much prefer to keep trying to fix other people, than to try and fix themselves.

Today I went to the zoo. By myself.

Back when my kids were small, I used to use them as an excuse for doing things like going to the zoo, but now that they’re both teens, the zoo has fallen off their list of ‘cool things to do’. This morning, they left for a few days’ of camp up North with some friends, my husband went to yeshiva and then work, and I was left with the whole day stretching out before me.

Many of the women my age (42) in my circles (Israeli, frum) would kill to have a whole day to themselves, I know. But my problem is often the exact opposite: sometimes, I’m really, really lonely.

Strange to say, since we moved to the big city of Jerusalem, I’ve been less lonely than when I used to live in my ‘cosy’ communities of only a few thousand people.

When you ‘fit’ your community, then living somewhere small and intimate can be wonderful. When you don’t ‘fit’ – and let’s be clear, that I have never, ever ‘fit’ anywhere much, hard as I tried – then it can be a recipe for complete despair and mental illness.

It’s not always so easy being one of the rare people who aren’t popping anti-depressants just to get through the day, or who doesn’t have a Facebook account arranging their social life, or who keeps looking for more meaning in life than shopping, refurbishing, eating out and keeping fit.

Here in Jerusalem, I also don’t ‘fit’, but at least I live somewhere so eclectic and strange that I have that in common with pretty much all my neighbours.

In most ways, I’ve made my peace with being alone so much of the time. I’m anyway a writer, and the aloneness is good for the creative process…and it gives me tons of time to talk to God…and it enables me churn books out at the rate of one every three months…

On the days when I’m writing, and lost in my internal world of gathering knowledge, splicing information together and turning out neat, bite-sized articles about all the different stuff I’m learning about, I don’t feel lonely.

But on the days when I don’t feel like typing so much, or I don’t have so much to say, or I really just want to spend some time interacting with real people, sometimes the loneliness is very intense. But you know the weird thing I recently realized? I think in 2016, pretty much all of us are lonely – and the most lonely people of all are the ones surrounded 24/7 by people.

A couple of months’ back, Hashem had me bump into someone I used to know from the old country. Back then, we were pretty good friends (or at least, so I thought) and we were both very, very sociable. She stayed in Britain, I moved to Israel, we fell out of touch. In the subsequent 11 years, I went from being a social butterfly to being a practical recluse, but I was sure that my old friend would still be tripping the light fantastic with 500 other outgoing couples, just like in the old days.

Turns out, I was plain wrong.

My friend hangs out with just two couples these days. Even in London, socializing has apparently gotten a whole lot harder than it used to be.

Why is this? Some people will blame email and i-Phones, and they may well have a point because it’s hard to concentrate on the person in front of your face when the person sending you smileys gets announced by a ‘ping’. Others will blame the stressful pace of life and work, and they may also have a point because an exhausted person can’t do anything much except veg on a couch and stare at the wall.

But I think something much deeper is going on. In the past, there just weren’t so many people who were highly-strung, crazy, selfish and just plain nasty. Interactions weren’t as fraught or loaded. There weren’t as many ‘narcissist’ type people trying to manipulate you and make you feel bad about yourself. Very few people had the sort of medication-induced brain damage that renders a person unable to be real, really interested in other people, or really ‘there’, which is now unfortunately all too common.

In short, a lot of us have been finding that compared to spending a few hours with bona fide crazy people, it’s actually much easier to be by ourselves these days, even though it’s often lonely.

I know that’s what’s contributed to my own circumstances, because while there are a lot of people I could call, so many of them are so complicated and so unpleasant or self-absorbed to be around, I often just prefer my own company.

So it was that today, I went to the zoo by myself. I found myself a quiet corner under a tree to sit and contemplate the world around me, and to talk to God about how lonely I was feeling.

Why do I spend so much of my life alone, God? Why have you arranged things to work out that way in my life, that my days aren’t stretched to breaking by a large family, or a full-on job, or a large circle of friends? Why do I seem to be the only person here, who came to the zoo by myself?

My heart always knows the answers to these questions, and it’s when I talk to God that they get communicated to my head, and when I finally get some peace.

I have many ‘signs’ I’m looking for, to tell me that Moshiach has finally come. One of the biggest is that I’m going to be sociable again, and not so lonely.

Group of three chareidi teens standing praying by the Kotel

Last week, I paid a visit to the city of M. (where I used to live, more than 10 years’ ago) to visit a family member who was staying with someone there. Unbeknownst to me, I mistakenly got the wrong building (many streets in M. have exactly the same buildings, repeated many times on the same street), and I walked up the steps of number 18, instead of number 14.

The hall lights were out, so I couldn’t really see properly as I’d just come in from the broad daylight outside, and was still wearing my sunglasses. I went over to apartment number 1, pressed on the bell, and was in the middle of switching over to my regular glasses when the door opened.

I couldn’t see properly, as I didn’t have my glasses on, but the very blurry woman who opened the door didn’t look like my family member, or anyone he was related to, but I thought maybe she was a friend who’d dropped by, and was opening the door on their behalf. In my still pretty bad Hebrew, I asked her:

“Is this the Plonis?”

Which is when this very secular, very angry woman let me have with both barrels of abuse.

How dare I buzz her door! (It was 6.30pm, not the middle of the night…) How dare I, when she had young children!

Dear reader, I lived in M. for long enough to know that there is an unfortunate breed of Jew there that absolutely HATES religious people. This doesn’t describe everyone there, by any means, but there is a small and very vocal secular minority that takes every opportunity to celebrate their Jew-hatred in any way possible – and apparently, I’d just knocked on the door of one of their cheerleaders.

I got in a nanosecond that this woman’s problem wasn’t that I’d knocked on the wrong door – mistakes like that do happen after all, even to rabidly secular people – the problem was that I was wearing a headscarf, which made me undeniably religious, and hence, Public Enemy Number 1.

The hatred coming off this woman was visceral – I literally felt like she’d punched me in the stomach.

In the meantime, I’d got so upset by her horrendous verbal abuse that I half wanted to punch her in the face…But instead, I simply turned on my heel, and fled outside.

What a psycho! What an anti-semitic nut-job!

I stood outside on the curb trying to calm down from my verbal GBH experience, and trying to work out what had happened to my relative. A quick call showed me that I’d simply gone to the wrong number – and that they were at number 14, flat 1.

But I was so unnerved by my encounter with the rabid hatred of this secular woman, I was still quite shaky, even when I was driving home two hours’ later. And then I really got to thinking:

Why is it, in our politically-correct, ‘equality’ obsessed world that so many secular Jews are willing to honour and respect murderous Arab terrorists; and, they’re willing to honour and respect missionizing Xtians (and even, to sell them Jewish holy sites like the tomb of King David); and they’re willing to respect Italian Catholics, and Greek Orthodox, and Arab Druse, and of course, Scientologists, Moonies, Reform and the Women-of-the-Wall – but they still permit themselves to openly hate and abuse orthodox Jews?

The last 2 weeks, there’s been a cabal of older secular woman sitting on the bench outside my home, loudly saying the most disgusting things about their more religious neighbours. These women have a problem with the amount of rubbish being dropped in the neighborhood – and honestly, there is a lot of rubbish.

Many families send their small kids to dispose of the trash, and they simply can’t throw the bags into the high, communal dumpsters, so they tend to just leave them places, and it is unsightly. By my o my, the amount of unvarnished hatred and plain old anti-semitism this rubbish is unleashing from these older secular matrons has been extremely shocking to me.

They sit there describing their fellow Jews in terms that would make any died-in-the-wool member of the Third Reich proud. Two things seem to upset them the most: that frum families have so many children (because frum children are like, vermin, or something) and that frum families are frum.

The ringleader of this cabal went beserk two weeks’ ago, and started smashing glasses all around her flat – while cursing everyone in the loudest, most coarse terms – in order to prevent small, frum children from playing anywhere near where she lives and dropping trash!!!. This same women complains incessantly at everyone, regularly abuses people in the worst ways, rules her own family with terror tactics, rage fits and hyper-critical abuse – and thinks she’s somehow superior to all the frum families living around her, because she does sponga three times a day and puts her trash in the bin.

If you’ve been reading even a little bit of the stuff I’ve been posting up here, and on my spiritual self-help website, you’ll know that she’s a classic example of someone who is literally mentally-ill, and has some very serious and disturbing emotional issues.

Which I guess is bringing me to the crux of this post, which is that I think that instead of just making more excuses for these anti-semitic, hate-filled, mentally-ill, Jewish psychos that we unfortunately all know, we have to start calling a spade a spade, and to start calling them out on their horrible racism.

Whenever anyone hates another Jew just because they look different to them, that’s a sign that something has gone seriously wrong with the empathy, compassion and a bunch of other things you need to just be a healthy functioning human being.

Regardless of whether someone is externally religious, or externally secular, whenever someone is relating to their fellow Jew like a piece of garbage, and emotionally or physically abusing them, that’s a sign they are seriously mentally ill. Full stop.

And when more of the ‘sane’ people on both sides of the religious / secular divide starts to truly get that, then all the false divisions perpetuated by the psychos will dissolve, and we’ll go back to being One People, with One Heart.

Ken yiyeh ratzon.

Group of three chareidi teens standing praying by the Kotel

The place where I live in Jerusalem is a very unique mix of extremes.

There are extreme chareidim here – mostly Breslevers with long payot and big families. Then, there are extremely secular people here – with long hair and big tattoo collections. Then, there’s a third group made up of Mizrachi types that have lived here 50 years’ and are generally just plain bonkers.

We don’t fit into any of these groups, so we kind of watch the communal politics going on from the sidelines.

The latest battle lines were drawn over the garbage that keeps getting dropped by small kids.

Kids drop wrappers on the floor, that’s just what they do. But because some of the families here also send very, very small kids to take out the household garbage, and because they are too small to throw it into the communal dumpster, sometimes there is a lot of rubbish flying around.

The tension has been simmering under the surface for months, but the last few weeks it seems to have burst into the open. One of the more secular neighbours who’s lived here 50 years (as she keeps telling everyone loudly on the street…) suddenly went beserk and started smashing glasses all around her apartment to ‘stop kids from playing there and dropping rubbish.’

Sure, she tidied it up again half an hour later, but the message had been sent that hostilities were ratcheting up a notch.

It’s a strange thing that there are people who get very upset about environmental pollution and rubbish being dropped, but who apparently couldn’t care less about spiritual pollution.

So it is that for the last few days, there’s been an unholy gathering of self-appointed, demented ‘garbage watchmen’ getting together on the bench just next to my bedroom window.

The conversation is pretty standard: One complains about the ‘disgusting’ datiim in the neighborhood, and how much mess they make and how little responsibility they take. Then another starts yelling:

‘They have eight children!!!!! Eight children in one room!!!’

And then they start discussing their latest strategies to get all these ‘disgusting charedi people’ to clean up their act.

The first few times it happened, I yelled ‘Sinat Chinam!!’ as loudly as I could out my bedroom window, but I’m a softly-spoken Brit so no-one heard. When I tried to yell again, my husband came and gently escorted me to a different room.

“It’s not going to help,” he told me. “You can’t fight fire with fire.”

Hmmm.

Over the last two days, the chareidi women in the neighborhood have started to fight back.

I caught them having a pow-wow in my stairwell, discussing all the crazy secular people who keep coming up to them while they’re sitting on a bench, who start yelling at them for having so many children and making so much mess.

I have no idea what happens next, but what I can tell you is that I have days when my life feels like a bad episode of the Muppet Show. You remember those two cranky old men in the boxseat? That’s what’s going on by my bedroom window.

Eight children!!!! Who can put eight children in one room?!?!?”

When it started up again this morning, I seriously debated going down with my video camera to film them. ‘You have a very important message for Am Yisrael!’ I wanted to tell them.

‘Let’s record it, upload it to YouTube, and then you don’t have to keep repeating it (loudly….) every single morning.’

Sigh.

Is it just me, or are people getting more and more crazy and intolerant?

I mean, WHO smashes glasses around their house on purpose just to keep small kids away? Who cares more about dirty sweet wrappers than filthy speech? Sometimes I look around, and I think ‘How is Moshiach meant to come when things are still like this?

My husband tells me it’s always been this bad, and that God is going to redeem us because He loves us, and not because we deserve it. Maybe he’s right.

But I can tell you is that if the Muppet Show doesn’t give it a rest soon, I might just have a Miss Piggy moment myself, and start karate chopping the more annoying characters.

Hiiiiiiiiya!

We’re all so used to all the ‘birthpangs of Moshiach’ imagery that’s been tossed around for decades already, that I think many of us have forgotten what a birth is actually like.

Births are messy – blood, poop and I-don’t-know-what other gross things flying around the place.

They’re incredibly stressful – until the very last second when the baby pops out, everyone has a worry that it might not get there, God forbid, or that something could go wrong to harm the baby, or the mother.

They’re long, drawn out processes with a lot of stopping and starting – “I’m in labour!” – no, it’s just Braxton Hicks. “The contractions have started!” They’ve stopped again. “I’ve been having painful contractions for three weeks, already, I MUST be more than ½ cm dilated by now!!” etc etc

By the time the mother is ready to have the baby, she can’t move, can’t sleep, can’t really eat without getting terrible heartburn is and heartily SICK of the whole thing already – and that’s before the kid even makes it out into the real world.

Why am I telling you this?

Because I think a lot of us have a false image of what’s going to be going on in the world when Moshiach finally shows up. We think he’s going to call a press conference to announce he’s Moshiach, have a bunch of angels show up to coronate him, and then start riding around Jerusalem on his white donkey doing the ‘regal wave’ thing and magically disappearing all the problem people in our midst.

NOPE.

It’s not going to be like that at all. Moshiach is going to enter the world exhausted, after a long, difficult, messy and painful birth process where he’s been covered with every type of spiritual filth and cack you can imagine.

Remember, King David, the forbear of the Moshiach, was incorrectly considered to be a mamzer by his father and brothers for many long years, which is why he was sent out to tend the flocks and go and fight off lions and bears at just three years’ old.

Yishai was hoping something would eat him, and get rid of that ‘embarrassing’ family issue.

Remember, Tamar, the forbear of the Moshiach, was incorrectly accused of acting like harlot, when she got pregnant by Yehuda in a ‘libum’ arrangement to perpetuate her dead husband’s spiritual legacy (she had twins because she had two dead husbands to perpetuate, by that point.)

Can you imagine what Channel 2 would be saying about these people today?

“Chief Rabbi’s daughter admits to being a prostitute!!!!!!!”

“Rabbi Faker-so-so says: “This woman MUST face justice, and be burnt alive!!!”

“David’s own father shuns him: ‘The man is a MAMZER, and should be eaten by a lion!!!”

“EXCLUSIVE: David’s brothers admit: He forced the Prophet Shmuel to crown him at gunpoint!!! We’re scared for our lives!!!”

And so on, and so forth.

And then, all the armchair commentators would be having a field day.

“How can this man be KING when he’s clearly committed so many war crimes?”

“Yet another cover up by the religious establishment. King Amalek would NEVER have acted like this…”

“I can’t believe they let Tamar off the hook. She’s guilty as charged! Look at how she acted! If she wasn’t guilty, then why didn’t she just SAY THAT in court? I can’t believe these people.”

The Zohar curses anyone that views the Torah as ‘history’ with terrible curses. The Torah is a blueprint for living that’s as relevant for us today, in 2016, as it was 3,000 years’ ago.

So bearing that in mind, let me ask you something:

When the Egyptian establishment shoved Yosef HaTzaddik in prison for 12 years on the trumped-up charges of Potifar and his wife, who’s side would you have been on? I mean, Yosef went to prison!!!! For 12 years!!!! It doesn’t get more clear-cut than that, does it?

Or, when Moshe Rabbenu got shoved down a well in Midian for 12 years, who’s side would you have been on? I mean, he’s a wanted criminal in Egypt, a dangerous fugitive who killed an innocent man!!!!

Or, when Yaacov Avinu ran away from Laban, and then got chased down by him and all his men, who’s side would you have been on? I mean, WHY WAS HE RUNNING AWAY, if he hadn’t done anything wrong???? Why didn’t he stay in the country, with his wealth and his wives, if he wasn’t guilty of doing all the things that Laban was claiming????

What would Channel 2 (funded by the Rasha Corp, Inc) have to say about all these ‘so-called’ holy people?

What headlines would Arutz Sheva and the JPost be posting up? What comments would all the ‘experts’ reading about Yosef HaTzaddik from their armchairs in Eretz Yisrael be saying about him? What juicy quotes would they be squeezing out of the wicked Esav, about how terrible his brother Yaacov really was?

“Yes, he did exactly the same thing to me before he left – and that’s also why he ran away!” Esav would tell Channel 2, in an exclusive interview. “He stole my blessings! No one can trust him!”

And then, they’d wheel in one of Esav’s wives (with her face blurred and identify disguised) to pile on the ignominy.

People, the creation is renewed every day! King Shlomo told us there is nothing new under the sun.

Each of our biggest Tzaddikim was covered with spiritual filth, lies, controversy and scandal. It’s always been that way, and until Moshiach comes, it will continue to be that way.

In case you’re still unsure, here’s a few more ‘big’ Tzaddikim, many of whom were pegged as being the potential ‘Moshiach’ of their generation, and who were persecuted by the authorities of their time, and vilified by their fellow Jews, including even ‘religious’ people:

The Rashbi – Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai – who ran away from the Roman police and sat in a cave learning Torah for 12/13 years.

Rabbi Eliezer HaGadol – who was wrongly excommunicated by the Sanhedrin until a day before his death.

The Baal Shem Tov – excommunicated and vilified by even some of the biggest rabbis of his day.

The Baal HaTanya – Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad chassidim, who was persecuted and repeatedly slandered to the secular authorities (including by so-called ‘frum’ Jews…), resulting in him being chased all over the country, and spending time in prison.

Rebbe Nachman of Breslev – Another huge Chassidic master, the Shpola Zeide, took against Rebbe Nachman and started a slanderous campaign against him, that began so much of the controversy against him. Even his own uncle, another Chassidic Master Rabbi Baruch of Medzhiboz, opposed Rebbe Nachman for a time. (Can you imagine the juicy quotes Channel 2 would have tried to get out of him?)

Rabbi Natan Sternhartz – who took over from Rebbe Nachman, and who suffered the most terrible persecution, including being falsely accused of all sorts of things, and spending period of time in exile and imprisoned by the secular authorities. And who was behind this libelous, slanderous and even murderous campaign? (Because at one point, they dispatched a murderer to kill Rav Natan, but the man killed the wrong ‘Rav Natan’ and his family instead?) – RABBIS! And not just any rabbis, the most influential rabbis of their time, including the Savraner Rebbe.

History is simply repeating itself.

If you don’t know what happened before, you won’t know how to pass the test this time around. Again, the main point is that our biggest Tzaddikim have always been slandered, persecuted and chased by the evil people in our midst. That’s just how it is.

But how embarrassing, if you get up to Shemayim and they show you all the times you pinged on that horrible libel about Yosef HaTzaddik…or all the times you rushed to judgment against the ‘dangerous fugitive’ Moshe Rabbenu…or all the times when you could have stood up and defended King David, but instead you put the boot in, instead.

We read that stuff now, and OF COURSE we see how holy our Tzaddikim actually were, and how misguided (at best…) the people were who were persecuting them and slandering them.

But that’s the test.

Moshiach is not going to be ‘elected’ like a president.

Redemption is a birth process. It’s messy, filthy, stressful, confused and incredibly taxing, spiritually. There are people who are literally trying to kill our holy people, just like they’ve been doing all down history. Do you REALLY want to be a partner in their activities? Do you really want to end up where Korach ended up, or where Potifar’s wife got to, or even Absalom, King David’s son, who ended up in the lowest pit of Gehinnom?

So take a breath, and try to put the modern events unfolding right now in their proper, historical and spiritual context. As a people, we’ve been down this path before – many times – and always made the same mistake. If we really want Moshiach to happen, this time we need to really see what’s going on – all the lies and forgeries and slander that’s happening – and to pick the right side.

picture of a man holding a burning newspaper

When I first started hearing about the war of Gog and Magog, primarily from the autistics, more than a decade ago, I got very caught up in trying to figure out which country was ‘Magog’ and who was ‘Gog’, their leader.

It’s George Dubbya!

It’s the US!

It’s Putin and Red Russia!

It’s the European Union!

It’s the UN!

And so on and so forth.

I was like that with everything a decade ago, thinking that all the apocalyptical events and dramatic upheavals, and wars being banded about were mamash just occurring in the physical world.

When you live in Israel, which averages a small war approximately every two years, (terrorist attacks not included) it’s easy to see why.

But a few years’ ago, I started to shift away from the ‘war on the outside’ model, to realize that the war being fought by the Jewish people today is 100% internal. Gog and Magog is taking place inside of us, inside of our homes, inside our relationships, inside our communities.

Gog and Magog is a spiritual war to clarify who is on Hashem’s side, and committed to God and His torah, and who isn’t. And things are so mixed-up today that just having a beard and a rabbinic ordination, or a long skirt and a reputation for being an excellent speaker on the ‘rent a rabbanit’ circuit doesn’t prove anything, in terms of who you’re really fighting for.

Two hundred years’ ago, Rebbe Nachman wrote what’s referred to as the ‘Secret Scroll’, a scroll written in code, that described in detail what would occur before Moshiach came. That scroll has been a closely guarded secret for years, but before he died a little while back, Rav Eliezer Schick, ZTL, wrote a little about the Scroll’s contents in his book, Paolot HaTzaddik.

(You can see the full excerpt HERE).

Rav Shick revealed that there would be a terrible ‘war’ prosecuted against the nation’s leading Tzaddikim, as part of the preparations for Geula.

He wrote (my translation):

“[T]he wars of Gog and Magog will include all the machloket (disagreements) and the accusations that will be made against the true Tzaddikim, those who uncover the true will of Hashem Yitborach.

“There are people who want to eat [these Tzaddikim] alive, and who say every forbidden thing against them, and mock them a lot. And by doing this, they greatly distance Jewish souls from coming near to them, and also lengthen the duration of our bitter exile.

“And they are the brazen-faced of the generation, the people with the face of a dog [RL note: these are both code words for the Erev Rav], the soldiers of Gog and Magog, who conceal the truth, and they are the wicked people of the generation…

“It’s written in the Midrash (BeMidbar Rabba, יח:י): ‘He who is brazen-faced, and who is not ashamed in front of those who are bigger than him, and he who is a baal machloket (troublemaker), you’ll see that he is the wickedest of the wicked.”

“And if I would have known, my dear brother, what was written in the Megillat Setorim regarding these soldiers of Gog and Magog, and the people who cover over the truth, I would have fallen on my face from fear and dismay, about how this bitter exile would be lengthened by them….

If you help the true Tzaddikim, then you will bring the geula closer, and you will merit to have all the good that has been set aside for the soldiers of the House of David. [Referring to Moshiach].”

What can we take from this?

Here’s the main points Rebbe Nachman, via Rav Schick, seems to be telling us about the true war of Gog and Magog:

  • It’s spiritual. We don’t need to look for the soldiers of Gog and Magog in Russia, or on the Syrian border, because really, they’re all around us, in our homes and communities.
  • The ‘soldiers of Gog and Magog’ are the people who mock our true Tzaddikim and Torah scholars, and who persecute them, libel them, speak falsehoods against them and generally do anything they can to ‘eat them alive’.
  • They conceal the truth – i.e., they don’t just make innocent mistakes or wrong assumptions, they go all-out to tell lies and fabrications, and deliberately bury the truth in a web of lies, mockery and deceit.
  • They make trouble for other people.
  • They aren’t ashamed to challenge people with more mitzvot, middot, learning, knowledge or experience – which covers pretty much everything that’s happening online, and in the world today generally, one way or another.
  • They are the ‘brazen-faced’ of the generation – which is always a scriptural ‘code-word’ for the Erev Rav. (My book, Unlocking the Secret of the Erev Rav, contains a lot more information and background supporting this point. You can buy it on Amazon, and also on the Book Depository.)

So now, what can we learn about the ‘soldiers of the House of David’, i.e. the good guys that are going to bring Moshiach and help Am Yisrael get redeemed via their struggles and efforts?

They help the true Tzaddikim.

In World War II, Switzerland liked to make a big show of its famous ‘neutrality’. Really, they were in the Germans’ back pocket, and were happy to stow away as much stolen wealth, artworks and museum pieces as the Germans could send them, in return for being left alone and not officially invaded.

World War II showed Switzerland’s true moral colors, despite all its posturing of impartiality and ‘not taking sides’, and they weren’t pretty.

Today, I think many of us are trying to follow the Swiss template in the war of Gog and Magog, and to sit on the sidelines keeping out of the action and continuing to live the good life, while our Tzaddikim and the other good people in our midst get taken out by the ‘soldiers of Gog and Magog’.

  • Like the soldier who killed a terrorist in Hevron, and got sent to prison for 9 years to show how ‘just’ Israel is to the rest of the world…
  • Like the IDF Rabbi who is being hounded in the press for correctly stating what halacha is, and correctly quoting the Torah…
  • Like Rav Berland, and others, who have been hounded, persecuted, chased and vilified for years, by people who are anti-Torah and anti-God.

You want to be Switzerland?

Go right ahead – I’m sure that wherever those Swiss bankers ended up, there’s always room for more people to join them.

But if you want to really bring Moshiach and the geula, then you’re going to have to fight for them.

You’re going to have to throw your hat in the ring with the ‘soldiers of King David’, and start sticking up for God and his Torah and his Tzaddikim, even when it’s really uncomfortable or scary to do that.

The Vilna Gaon famously wrote about the Erev Rav that we have to split off from them, and not follow their path and their ways. And that if someone didn’t manage to do that – i.e., they wanted to continue being ‘Switzerland’, spiritually – then it would be better for them if they’d never been born.

All week, we’ve been seeing the latest episode of ‘Gog and Magog’ playing out in the world. On one side, Rav Berland, Rav Shalom Arush, Rav Dov Kook, Rav David Abuchatzeira and a bunch more Tzaddikim (both known and more ‘hidden’). On the other: the press, and the government, and the mocking, slanderous, emotionally-abusive people who like to jump in and comment on things they know nothing about.

I think it’s getting clearer and clearer which side is the ‘soldiers of Gog and Magog’ and which side is the ‘soldiers of King David’.

And the war is still going on.

If you want Moshiach and redemption, help our true Tzaddikim! Get up and be counted. Don’t let the soldiers of Gog and Magog completely dominate the battlefield.

There’s big things at stake here. ‘Switzerland’ can’t exist in a world that’s only truth. But remember, the main weapon of a Jew is prayer. If it’s too scary to take on the crazy lunatics in the world, then at least start praying for the good guys to win, or give some tzedaka to the people who are waging the war on our behalf.

Start saying Tikkun HaKlali. Start talking to God every day. Start rooting out the ‘soldiers of Gog and Magog’ that are hiding out inside every single one of us. Do your bit!

And if you – and me, and as many other people as possible out there in the world – do that, then good will win out sooner rather than later, Moshiach will come now, and the war of Gog and Magog will finally be over.