The last few days I’ve been pondering: am I really writing for me, or am I really trying to write for God?

One of my readers emailed me after the last post to tell me that she hopes I’m going to win the argument with my husband, as she’s missing my ‘current affairs’ insights.

So, I asked him at breakfast today:

“Would it be OK if I don’t make any comment about things, but I just stick up some links and let people go and figure it all out by themselves, if they can? I mean, it’s all out there, it’s all public knowledge, just it’s not being connected properly….”

He shook his head.

“I don’t want them taking your website down, or hacking the computer, or all the other things they do to harass people. You have too many other important jobs to do on your site.”

You know what? I didn’t argue with him.

Because deep down, I know he’s right.

====

Who am I really blogging for, me or God?

The last few months, I’ve been thinking more and more about how all these so-called ‘geula blogs’ are really just an exercise in feeding the gullible public information about what will be. Most of them got their start by translating the messages from the autistics into English, or by cobbling together bits of stuff from the Torah Codes and other self-styled ‘seers’ to come up with what were essentially predictions for the future.

But it’s totally forbidden for Jews to try to ‘predict’ the future, unless we’re bona fide prophets being sent to the people with a message to deliver on behalf of Hashem. We aren’t goyish soothsayers, looking for signs and omens so we can try to game the system with insider information.

Our future has always and only depended on us making some real teshuva.

I think that’s how all the stuff with the autistics got so bent out of shape, in the geula blogosphere. For as long as the information was being used to get us to make some real teshuva, and to get us to stop being such phoney, fake Jews, and to really understand that Jews need to live in Israel, and that we need to work on our bad middot, it was actually very useful.

When me and my husband read the book Galia back in London, it had a lot to do with our decision to make aliya, because it gave us a totally different perspective about what was going on in the world, and how we’d need to change our lives if we really wanted to be a part of the more God-fearing, Moshiach-ready Jewish people.

But sadly, most people haven’t reacted like that, at least, not the English speakers that I know.

====

Other people loved the autistics’ messages for very different reasons. For some, it gave them the reflected aura of being some sort of ‘prophet’, who could pretend to have more wisdom and insight than others. I also got sucked into that for a while, especially around the banking collapse in 2008, when all the scary predictions appeared to be materializing before my eyes.

Until they got sweetened by our true tzaddikim, especially by Rabbi Berland

Other people loved the autistics because they felt all their messages about the Erev Rav gave them carte blanche to go around pointing the finger at everyone else. That was never the point.

The point was for us to identify those bad, ‘Erev Rav’ traits inside ourselves, and to work on uprooting them.

That work requires some humility. It requires a lot of honesty. It needs a lot of prayer and broken-hearted pleading for God to please help us act nicer to other people, and to work on understanding ourselves more.

How many of us really took that message to heart, in the geula blogosphere?

I kept reading more and more drivel about everyone else….being eradicated from the world, and having disgusting middot, and acting like Erev Rav, and all the rest. But what about us? What about all the teshuva that we ourselves needed to make?

Where was all the stuff about how all these geula bloggers, and the people who read and comment on their blogs, were actually trying to make some real teshuva in their own lives?

Totally absent.

====

After mulling this over for a few years already, I think a lot of the problem comes down to the fact that practically every geula blogger and commentator out there is anonymous.

They can tell you that they’re God-fearing, they can tell you who their rabbi is (or isn’t…) they can tell you what they really believe blahdie blahdie blah.

But because they are totally anonymous, there is absolutely no way of checking these people out, independently. Once there’s a name to ground someone into reality, it’s much easier to go and see if all their pious talk and holier-than-thou stuff is matched by an equally ‘holy’ personal life, or whether you’re actually dealing with a lunatic whose private life is a trainwreck.

I know that I can’t write a thing without it having to stand up to reality in ‘the real world’.

I have a real name, I have a real family. Anyone could talk to my kids and my husband and find out in a split second that I’m a recovering psycho. Being real obliges me to own up to my struggles and my issues, because if you come across me in real life while I’m still trying to be a pseudo-pious-pretend-geula-blog-persona, you’re going to call me out on my hypocrisy very, very fast.

But there just isn’t that same accountability with so many of the other people online who have been setting the tone of the debate around geula and moshiach for the last two decades.

How would it change things, if you knew someone was a ‘secret mesichist’, who hates the idea of anyone being the Moshiach other than their own (dead…) leader? How would it change things if you knew someone had a really bad relationship with every single one of the family members? How would it change things, if you knew someone had a pot habit, or a gambling problem, or a really horrible, nasty temper?

Would you still take what they have to say so seriously? Would you still praise them for being so wise and all-knowing? Would you still relate to their ‘pretend perfect’ online persona so respectfully? Would you still think they are far more interested in blogging for God than just blogging in order to inflate their own egos?

I wonder.

====

Then there were all the people who loved all the autistics and ‘predicting the future’ stuff because of the Nibiru buzz.

For two whole years, we all sat entranced by the Youtube prophets and ‘geula watchers’ who were going on…and on…and on… about the dark star, the killer planet, the brown dwarf, the dreaded Nibiru.

Do I think something like that is out there? Yes, probably. It’s part of God’s much bigger plan for our planet, and it will play whatever role it’s meant to, in getting us to the next stage of things.

But why do I not really care so much about NIBIRUUUUUU, even if it does exist?

Because I’m trying to keep my focus on working on myself, identifying my issues and flaws, and trying to acknowledge and work on the stuff that I really need to work on, regardless of whether some massive comet comes close to the earth and causes a tidal wave of energy to ripple through the earth’s crust.

Right now, I’m working on trying to not shout the heck out of my teenage kids, when they come home really late too many nights in a row. That’s not easy (for me…) It’s showing me I have a lot of patience to learn, still, a lot of anger to control.

All that stuff has absolutely nothing to do with trying to predict the future, and trying to create a ‘buzz’ around current events that I can orchestrate into some massive, and massively pointless discussion (at best…) in my comments section.

====

If that was the only problem with our decades’ long obsession with trying to ‘predict the future’, and trying to skim off the superficial excitement about ‘geula happening’ while ducking the hard work of really getting to grips with our own bad middot and moving to the Holy Land, maybe it still wouldn’t be so bad.

But ever since those selfsame autistics that everyone just loved, when all they were doing was just talking about the Erev Rav, Illuminati and Nibiru, started coming out with clearer and clearer messages identifying Rabbi Berland as the hezkat Moshiach of our generation – well, things have gotten very interesting, from a psychological perspective. It’s got way, way clearer who is doing stuff for God (or trying to…) and who isn’t.

One blogger has spent the last 15 years making her name off the back of peddling autistic ‘prophecies’ and blasting 14.99999999 million Jews as being ‘fakers’ we could all turn our backs on and condemn to permanent hell and damnation. As soon as the autistics suggested the Rav could be Moshiach – she put up a notice on her blog explaining she no longer ‘endorsed’ them.

The irony is, that the autistics said whoever can’t accept Rabbi Berland could be Moshiach is an ‘Erev Rav’.

(Personally, I’m not convinced they’re right, just to make this even more confusing than it already is.)

====

This blogger happens to be an excellent writer, and a really good researcher.

When I was looking into all the anusim stuff the last couple of weeks, I wondered a little wistfully why this person couldn’t bend her fearless (anonymous…) blogging abilities to really trying to help out her fellow Jews who are suffering so much in South America, instead of wasting so much time and energy on pointless rants.

How different this could all look, if more of the bloggers out there stopped stroking their own egos and started thinking about how to better serve Hashem, with their writing.

Who cares, really, what some militant guy with a beard and an obsession with machine guns said 20 years ago? There are real, live Jews that need your help! Go and put your money where your mouth is, o anonymous blogger, and go and stand up to the real baddies out there. Go and do something useful with your blog, instead of just stirring trouble and hatred all the time.

And I guess, that’s what I really want to say to all the geula bloggers out there, who pretend not to read my stuff, but then make pointed comments about me being delusional etc.

God gave you your blog to spread some light in the world, and you aren’t doing the job.

For years, you’ve been milking the geula process for all that it’s worth, so you can build a big audience and feel like a ‘someone’. And now, when we’re really coming down to the wire, and when people really need to be encouraged to scrub the scales from their eyes and to make some real teshuva – you are still doing your best to keep us all stuck back there, in the ‘make believe world’ comfort zone.

You don’t need to make aliya, not at all! The Beit HaMikdash is going to be rebuilt in America!

You don’t need to make some real teshuva, not at all! Carry on leaving poisonous comments about the Gadol HaDor, and having disrespectful discussions about him online, that’s guaranteed the best way to get geula and Moshiach the sweet way!

You don’t need to stop treating other people badly – not at all! – to get to the end safely. Just carry on watching your Netflix, spending hours gossiping on Facebook, and peddling half-truth headlines and pseudo-frum Youtube rabbis as the REAL purveyors of Torah and truth!

Business as usual! (With a side-helping of geula).

====

But that’s not what our REAL rabbis are saying. Not at all.

A few days ago, I saw a bizarre story in the Yeshiva World News (which I don’t read, btw, because it’s full of fake news and lashon hara, but which came up in a Google Search I was doing for something.)

It said this:

“United States President Donald Trump reportedly sent two anonymous Jewish colleagues to meet with HaGaon HaRav Chaim Kanievsky Shlita. According to a BeChadrei Chareidim report, they told the Gadol Hador they are friends of the US president, sending Mr. Trump’s personal regards.

Rav Kanievsky reportedly asked what they wanted, and they said the US president was interested in knowing when Moshiach will arrive.

“The weekly Torah sheet “Divrei Siach”, which contains Rav Kanievsky’s Torah, reports on the visit, explaining Rav Kanievsky was not overly interested when the two sent the president’s regards, and asked if they wanedt anything else.

“When they asked about Moshiach’s arrival, Rav Kanievsky reportedly asked “What have you done to hasten Moshiach’s arrival? Have you moved to Israel?” When they responded negatively, Rav Kanievsky added,

“Then move to Israel and Moshiach will soon arrive”.

====

Assuming the story is true (always a big ‘if’…) let’s rewrite the headline to describe what Rav Kanievsky apparently really told his illustrious Jewish visitors from America:

If you really want to bring the Moshiach, you should move to Israel.

As usual, Rav Kanievsky pierced straight to the heart of the problem:

If you REALLY want to be part of the geula, if you REALLY want Moshiach to come, you should be in Israel. You should be LIVING that reality, and not just endlessly discussing it.

Sigh.

Just before Rosh Hashana, I deleted my blog after a very unpleasant email interaction with one of these ‘geula bloggers’. For 4 months, I stayed offline. I told God then, God, I want to give You what You want. Please show me what You want me to do with myself, and how I can use my writing to best serve You.

The message I got back consistently, every single time, was to tell more people about Rabbi Eliezer Berland, and to help him any way I can.

That’s the only reason I started this blog back up.

Today, I’m still asking God for guidance, and today, I’m still getting that message back loud and clear. That’s why I really don’t care if people don’t like me, or if they diss me for talking about this stuff, of if they go on the attack.

I’m trying to use this blog for the only reason God created it, namely to put the spotlight on the true Tzaddikim of the generation, and on our own great need to make a lot of teshuva and off myself, and my own stupid ideas about things.

Because really, what do I know?

Even if I do think that I have so very much information I could share with you about what’s really going on right now, so what? Let’s say I did set it all down, what good would that do? How would it really change your life?

Is anyone out there making aliya, because of what they read on this blog? Is anyone really making teshuva? Is anyone getting closer to God and the true tzaddikim? I honestly don’t know.

But that’s the only real measure of ‘success’ that counts.

So at least for now, the husband has won.

Because at some point, we have to stop treating the geula like some sort of superficial and ultimately meaningless debate or ‘prediction process’, and we have to actually start living it ourselves.

====

Ego picture by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

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With each day that passes, I realise even more that we’re living in a mad world.

In case you’re wondering why there aren’t a lot of posts going up the site at the moment, there are two reasons for that.

  • I’m in the middle of writing another book, and it’s taking a lot of time.
  • I’m currently having a minor disagreement with my better half, as I really want to write a whole lot more about what’s really going on with the yucky people who are sadly running our part of the world, and my husband is scared that if I do that, I’ll get myself in trouble.

So in the meantime, we’re having something of a stand-off and I’m not sure what exactly I should be writing, if I can’t write what God is putting in my soul to write.

But I can tell you this: it’s a mad world.

And it’s getting madder by the day.

On Shabbat, I went for a walk around Talpiot early in the morning, as the new book is taking a lot of mental concentration and I needed to ‘decompress’ my brain a little, with a longer hitbodedut session than usual.

As I rounded the bend that took me deep into Talpiyot’s industrial zone, which was all but deserted save for a couple of taxis, one police cruiser and a couple of local Arabs on foot, I spotted a strange figure motioning at me to come closer to the bus stop, where he / she was standing.

From a distance, I didn’t know who or what I was dealing with, but I could see the person didn’t look ‘normal’, and I also knew that there was no-one else around to help, if help was required. I took a deep breath, and went over.

It turned out to be a middle-aged woman with a buzz-cut and glasses, wearing boy’s clothes and a pair of oversized black man’s shoes. Even before she opened her mouth, I knew she was totally crazy.

====

“There’s a pedophile here!” She told me, motioning up the road. “He’s attacking his grandchildren, he’s attacking children!”

Well, that certainly got my attention. I debated how I should react to this news.

“Do you want me to flag down the police car?” I asked her.

“No!!!!!” she responded emphatically. “They all want to date me. All the policemen want to date me.” Just then, the police car cruised by and beeped at us, as the crazy woman told me “Don’t look at them, don’t look at them! But you see? They all like me. They were smiling at me, right?”

I tried telling her that I hadn’t been looking at them, as per her instructions, but she wasn’t going to take no for an answer. Crazy people don’t like being told cold, hard facts that interfere with their narrative.

“You from America?” she asked me, suddenly switching into English. It’s part of my ongoing experience of being humbled on a daily basis that even the brain-damaged people I meet in Israel typically speak better English to me than I can speak Hebrew to them. “I’m from England,” I told her warily.

“Yeah!” she nodded. “Eastenders! Teletubbies! I know! I’m your angel, do you know that? God sent me to you to protect you from that pedophile. I want you to stay with me here until my madrich comes to get me.”

It was Shabbos. It was clear (to me) that no madrich was coming to get her.

“Do you have a phone?” she asked me. “No, it’s Shabbat.” “I know, I know, you don’t have to tell me!” she responded angrily. “I’m also making teshuva. Do you have a head-covering for me?” I didn’t.

====

So now I said to myself, God, what do you want from me?

What do you want me to do with this stark-raving crazy lady in the middle of Talpiyot who wants me to wait with her until the Moshiach comes?

The Police cruiser came around again, and this time I went against her instructions and looked in their direction and tried to subtly flag them down. The two policewomen in the car looked at me, then drove off.

“You see? They love me! Right they were smiling at me?! They all want to be my boyfriend. But most of them are married! And I’m not a slut,” gabbled on the crazy lady. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that there were no policemen in sight, and the police women clearly felt they had better things to do than take a crazy lady back to her institution.

“Listen,” she said to me suddenly, as though she’d been reading my thoughts. “I’m not crazy. I just have CP. You know what is CP?” I nodded. “I need you to walk me back to my madrich. I’m your angel. You need me.”

I raised my eyes to the Heavens again.

Lord, what do you want from me?

Go with the crazy woman. You can’t leave her here.

“Where is your madrich?”

“Tzomet Pat”

That was miles away! I sighed heavily. Ok, God. Ok. If that’s what You want, that’s what I’ll try to give You.

====

We started walking, and I realized with sinking stomach that the crazy lady had a really bad limp.

This was going to take ages. She looked at me, saw my bemused expression, and started insulting me.

“You’re a sick person, you know that? You’re mentally ill! You should be in a hospital!”

I raised an eyebrow, than agreed with her. That threw her. So she tried to insult me again.

“What do you have, schizophrenia? Depression? You know, you’re a sick person. You’re not nice. You don’t trust anyone. Come on, trust me!” she told me emphatically. “I’m not going to do anything to you!”

Thanks to my teenagers, my tolerance for being insulted is pretty high.

But even so, she was approaching the cresting point. I realized it would be better for everyone if she continued her monologue in Hebrew. That way I could pretend to be listening without having to get too involved.

====

So she took my hand – for my own safety, of course, so the pedophile wouldn’t get me – and we walked along at 2 cms an hour, over the bike track and up onto the other side of Makor Chaim.

The whole way, she was telling me about her 11 year old son, who wasn’t adopted. And her ex-husband who was a Russian Jew, but they still had to get married in a civil wedding in Cyprus. Now they were divorced. She told me she had cancer. She told me she’d had two serious operations. She told me that Avi had just killed himself, because she’d refused to marry him.

“His Facebook account is blocked now, right?” I nodded mechanically. “That means he’s dead! It’s very sad.” She started crying. “You didn’t kill him,” I told her emphatically (who knows if ‘Avi’ even existed, but when you’re in Mad World, there are certain rules you have to follow.)

She turned on my angrily. Don’t be aggressive with me, ok? I’m a black belt karate! I’ll hit you so hard you won’t get up again!”

She looked at me with angry eyes, and I looked back at her 5ft nothing, limping frame and sighed a very deep sigh again. You can’t disagree with crazy people about anything. They are always right. So I apologized and nodded, and we carried on.

At 2cm an hour.

In the boiling sun.

And I didn’t have any water.

And I was starting to need the toilet.

====

I cleared my throat.

“Do you know where we’re going?”

“Come on! Trust me! What’s the matter with you!!” she started yelling at me again.

I ignored her.

Do you know where we are going? I can’t spend all day going to Tzomet Pat with you.

Right at the beginning of the journey, we’d had a disagreement about the direction to take and fool that I am, I thought she’d really known where she was going. I wasn’t going to make that mistake twice.

“I’m going to ask someone” I told her – which again got her a little mad and panicked, but I wasn’t going to take no for an answer this time.

“It’s FORBIDDEN for you to speak to a man, what sort of religious woman are you?!” she shouted at me, then ran off to flag down the jogging bald-headed man that was heading straight for us.

“Where’s Tzomet Pat?” I asked him. He pointed me in a direction, and the crazy lady started up that he was lying, and that it was the other way. My patience broke.

“Listen,” I said in English. “She’s a little bit crazy, and I’m trying to help her get to her madrich. Please tell me where Tzomet Pat is.”

That was it. I’d done the unthinkable. I’d dared to state that the crazy person was crazy.

I’d broken the cardinal rule of the ‘Mad World’. This was unforgivable.

====

The crazy person turned on me and started abusing me roundly on the street.

“I knew you were a sick person! Get away from me, before I put you in hospital! I don’t want you to come anywhere with me! Go away!”

Now my guilt reflex kicked in. Should I leave the crazy woman here, in the middle of the road? Am I now responsible for getting her home?

I decided to try to follow her stealthily for a minute, hiding out behind some cars, to check she’d be OK. She spotted me immediately, and started abusing me again.

“You’re disgusting! You’re sick! Stop stalking me! Go and get help!”

Just like that, the tables had been neatly turned, and now I looked like the crazy person.

Talk about a mad world.

I turned and walked back in the other direction, towards my home.

The little bit of nachas I’d schlepped from putting myself out to do a mitzvah, however strange and unwillingly, had totally disappeared. Instead, I just felt pretty bad about myself.

God, what was I meant to have done differently? How was I meant to have reacted? Am I really responsible for trying to help these people, who are totally insane?

I don’t have an answer.

I came home in a thoughtful mood, and not for the first time, I thanked God for keeping me out of the loonie bin. Who knows how crazy people really get that way. Certainly, there’s usually been a lot of suffering, a lot of pain, a lot abuse on the way down into the madness.

There but for the grace of God go I.

But in the meantime, it’s a mad world out there, and getting crazier all the time.

And I have no idea, really, how it’s all going to get fixed.

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Mad World photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash

Is it just me, or are most people getting dumb and dumber by the day?

I’m currently writing another book (!) on stress, and its damaging effects on the brain, so I can tell you categorically that most people today seem to have some form of stress-induced brain damage, that’s causing them to act even more dumb and dumber over time.

People just can’t assimilate new information, they can’t change their minds. They have fixed opinions and they’re unable to see anyone else’s point of view. Depending on what their dominant stress response is, they react to any discomfort socially by going on the attack (FIGHT), running away (FLIGHT), totally ignoring ‘the issue’ (FREEZE), or keeping things so superficially ‘fake nice’ (FLATTER) there’s simply no room for deep thought, or a deep exchange of ideas.

All this happens when people have stress-induced brain damage – and all this is happening in spades all around us, right now. And the more ‘damaged’ the person is, emotionally, the harder they find it to engage with different ideas, new ways of doing things.

Sometimes, I wonder what would happen if the Prophet Daniel had given over some of his wisdom to our generation.

====

MENE MENE, TEKEL UPHARSIN

“It can’t be a real prophecy, I don’t understand it,” sniffed Dumb.

“Never mind that!!” Barked Dumber. “Only xtians talk in riddles like this! That message can’t be from God, because He always expresses Himself very clearly. I don’t think this Daniel guy is even a Jew!!”

And so it continued.

When the Prophet Zechariah would stand up to give over his message for the Jewish people, Dumb and Dumber stood there in the front row, clutching their copies of the Ramchal and heckling him.

Zechariah Chapter 3:

“Hear now, O Yehoshua the High Priest, you and your companions that sit before you; for they are men that are a sign; for, behold, I will bring forth My servant the Shoot.

For behold, the stone that I have laid before Yehoshua; there are seven facets upon one stone; behold, I will engrave the graving thereof, said the Lord of Hosts: And I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.”

‘Rubbish!!!’ Yelled out Dumb.

‘Ridiculous mumbo-jumbo!!!’ Echoed Dumber. ‘If you were a REAL prophet, you’d make this stuff easy to understand, like the Rambam did, and not just lead the masses on with all this xtian-sounding clap trap!’

====

But the person they derided the most was Ezekiel (1:25-7):

“And there was a voice from the firmament that was over their heads, when they stood, and had let down their wings.

And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it.

And I saw as the color of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about.”

‘Is the man on drugs?’ Dumb wanted to know.

‘I think it’s worse than that’, muttered Dumber. ‘Only a XTIAN would try to give the likeness of an appearance to God!!! He’s obviously a false prophet, a false messiah! No wonder he keeps going on and on about the Temple being rebuilt and how it’s all going to look in the future!!! The Rambam would NEVER say something like that!!!’

Who could argue with such erudite YouTube scholars as these?

I tell you what else is very troubling, continued Dumb. This Ezekiel figure is playing with fire. He’s egging on the masses that we’re going to have a rebuilt Temple, and that the Moshiach is going to come. But he’s totally crazy! Look, he’s spent a whole year lying on his side on the pavement, baking his bread over cow dung!! Who does something like that?! Certainly no real Rabbi I’ve ever heard of!

He’s just a delusional charlatan, agreed Dumber. I mean, all those prophecies about the Temple, and did any of them ever happen? He’s just beguiling people with riddles, and filling their heads with nonsense about ‘bones’ coming back to life. You just don’t find reputable Jewish leaders doing things like that. I think he’s a hare krishna.

====

Just then, Dumbest showed up, and all three of them repaired to the nearest pub, to continue their high-level discussion of esoteric Torah principles over a pint of Guinness and a packet of cheese and onion crisps.

Dumbest, what do you think about all these gobbledy-gook ‘pronouncements’ from Ezekiel? Is he a true leader of the Jews, or a false one?

Dumbest put his pint down for a moment (I mean, this was really important, after all!) and after thinking for exactly 5.37 seconds, made his pronouncement:

One thing I know for sure, is that the Mashiach will not speak in riddles which people can interpret any number of ways. Mashiach is coming to make things clearer to us, and erase our doubts, not cause confusion.

Dumb pumped his fist into the air.

Yesss! I knew that guy was a faker!

Someone as clever as Dumbest was never going to make a mistake about something this important….

But Dumber had to ask:

Hey, Dumbest, don’t mind, but can I ask you for your source for that statement?

Sure, Dumbest responded. He looked all around him conspiratorially, then motioned the other two YouTube Sages closer:

My i-Phone has nevua!

Dumb and Dumber were impressed. How could they not be? This is how Jews were really meant to discuss Torah!

====

We’re all Dumb and Dumber today, whether or not we admit it. The ikker is just to have a tad of humility, and to be honest that we have no idea what to really think about anything. That’s really the only smart thing to do at the moment.

That’s also the point I was trying to make HERE:

The way out of this morass, all this ‘feeling confused’ stuff, is just to be honest, and to admit that really, we have no idea what’s going on, or what to think about it all.

It comes back to that whole ‘being real’ idea I discussed over HERE, where it seemed to me that the people who are pretending to be what they’re not seem to be the ones most in danger of turning against the Rav, God forbid, or pinging away in disgust.

HOW COULD THE RAV SAY SOMETHING LIKE THAT?!?!” THEY MUTTER TO THEMSELVES.

Really, they have no idea what the Rav did or didn’t say, what he did or didn’t intend, what did or didn’t actually happen.

But it takes a lot of humility, it takes a lot of self-awareness about your own limitations to really admit that, doesn’t it?

What’s going on right now is a massive birur process, or clarification procedure.

All of us are being tested, but especially on our arrogance, our emuna, and our emunat tzaddikim, or belief in our true Tzaddikim.

And so, the test of Dumb and Dumber continues.

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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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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.

Rabbi Berland’s New Prayer to Move to Israel.

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

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

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

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

Or take the plunge and start keeping Shabbat….

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

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

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

Will I find work?

Will I find friends?

Will I find a place to live?

Will my kids acclimatize OK?

And maybe the biggest fear of all:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And maybe you won’t.

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

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

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

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

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

Again, let’s keep things real.

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

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

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

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We need to pray to get to Israel.

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

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

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

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

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

And honestly, it is.

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

At least, on one level.

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This post isn’t for those people.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Prayer to Come to Eretz Yisrael

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And bring us to Your Holy Mountain.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EREV RAV CHARACTER TRAITS

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

Here’s how they describe the Erev Rav:

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BAALEI MACHLOKET

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

Or to put it another way, journalists.

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

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

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THE HIDDEN SCROLL, AND THE WAR AGAINST TORAH SCHOLARS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interesting, no?

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

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

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

What about us?

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

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

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

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

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

How could all of these things be delaying the geula?

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

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

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

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

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Do you really want Moshiach? Really?

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

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

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

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

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

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

I know it’s hard to keep going, but don’t give up just yet.

If I had to describe the vibe floating around right now, I would call it ‘despairing dissatisfaction’. Everywhere you look, everywhere you turn, there are people giving up on their dreams in droves right now.

I had a bit of a shock yesterday, as I was trying to put together a list of orthodox Jewish bloggers who maybe would be interested in reviewing One in a Generation Volume 2, (aka, my own personal pit of despair).

Lo and behold, nearly all of them have stopped writing, and the ones who are still going are for the most part very disturbed individuals who are ‘anti’ Rav Berland.

So many writers, so many bloggers, have just given up the ghost and stopped, especially over the last two years – and not just in the orthodox Jewish world. It’s a phenomenon that’s happening all over the place, where people are throwing up their hands, and sinking deep into despair and apathy that nothing can ever really change. Nothing can ever really improve. All you get is hassle, and problems, and difficulties, and things will never, ever come good.

Like I said, I also had quite a hearty dose of that after One in a Generation Volume 2 came out, and apparently sank like a stone.

It’s not easy to see three years of your life so roundly ignored.

At this stage, I’m thinking I probably would have even have preferred it if I’d been attacked over the book, because at least that would prove it was actually published, and maybe even had been read….

(Then again, it’s really not fun messing with the psychos who are ‘anti’ Rav Berland, so maybe not.)

But in any event, it’s been quite a struggle to find the motivation to keep going recently, and that’s a big part of why I headed off to Uman a couple of weeks ago, to see if Rebbe Nachman could help me restart my mojo and joie de vivre.

The whole trip, I got one message over and over and over again:

Don’t give up! Continue! Things are about to change in a very big way, and the whole thing right now is to just not give up!

I came home to find that Rabbi Berland had given over exactly the same message, in different words, at the latest prayer gathering in Hevron. He told the crowd over and over again:

Lo le’vater! Don’t give in! We won’t give in! No-one is giving in here, or giving up!

And then he got the crowd to shout it after him a few times, because while it’s easy to say these words, it’s so very hard to internalize them at the moment.

Everyone I’m in touch with seems to have some sort of profound crisis occurring in their personal life at the moment.

For some people, it’s problems with the spouse and / or children; for others it’s serious illnesses – like one after another, requiring surgery, with no let up. For others, it’s a deep malaise and dissatisfaction with the route their life seems to be taking. So much effort, for what? So much expenditure of time and money, for what?

And for others, they can’t put their finger on what’s ‘wrong’ exactly, but they are still feeling totally out of sorts, unhappy and lost in the world.

God has arranged things right now that the world is burstingly-full of hassle and disappointment, and apparently pretty empty of true happiness, satisfaction and peace of mind.

And we’re all feeling it.

A few weeks ago, I was reading through one of the Breslov books, as I often like to do on Shabbat, and my eye fell on a footnote, where Rav Natan was talking about how other rabbis used to boast about their students, who knew 1000 pages of the Gemara by heart. Rav Natan had a different ‘boast’ about his students.

He said: “I have a student, Rav Ozer, who can say one thousand times Ribono Shel Olam!”

I read that, and I thought to myself how hard can it be, to say a thousand times Ribono Shel Olam?

Let me try and do it, too.

So I did.

And what I can tell you is that while it was very hard to keep going in the middle, because frankly it was so flipping tedious! And it felt a little pointless! And I started to think that maybe I’m just an idiot for trying this stuff out! – It really wasn’t as hard as I thought it might be, yetzer haras aside.

And once I was done, I suddenly realized that God had been teaching me a tremendous lesson in what is really required from us, at this stage of things. Simply, to just keep going. To not pay any attention to the inner voices that are telling us we aren’t doing it right, or we didn’t count properly, or that we’re doing in life is totally pointless.

Ribono shel olam! Master of the world!

Please, keep giving me the energy and motivation to get out of bed in the morning, and to continue trying to serve You, however imperfectly! Please keep standing me back up on my feet, when the despair and apathy is battering me down again! Please keep reassuring me that You are seeing everything that is passing over me, that You are with me, and that nothing that is happening right now is for naught!

That’s how we get through this next little bit with our souls intact, and without turning into bitter, angry, toxic zombies.

Ribono shel olam, a thousand times!!!

And nothing else.

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You might also like these articles:

Identifying the real enemy within.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And he wasn’t alone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Let’s return to Yaron London.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What this ‘cultural war’ looks like

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

Click the links, connect the dots…

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

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Not everything is a lie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He also warned us that:

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

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

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

Conduct yourself modestly.

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What does this mean, tachlis?

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

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

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

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

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

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God wants the heart.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But, is that what God really wants?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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By the way, that’s OK.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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UPDATE:

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