I got off the plane at midnight, London time, and breathed in the crisp, cold, damp air so typical of British ‘summertime’.

So, I’d come back to my old hood after all, to face all my demons down and to firmly address the question once and for all about whether moving Israel had been some sort of ‘mistake’, God forbid.

My brother picked me up from Luton, and asked me if I thought I was capable of hurdling two metal railings (next to the busy main road…) as he was a bit worried about getting a ticket where he parked, as they’d changed all the parking rules again.

I’m a game girl, but long jeans skirts aren’t so useful when it comes to hurdling high bits of metal, so I told him we’d probably have to go round the long way. It was so good to see my brother.

As we were talking in the car, I noticed he was gripping the steering wheel in a pretty anxious way.

“Bruvs, are you OK?”

“Yeh, I’m just worrying about the speed cameras. They basically video you the whole time to get your average speed, and if then you get slapped with an £80 speeding ticket.”

Hmm. I started to cheer up as even as that early hour, I could see that London life is far more stressful than is apparent to tourists.

The next day, I decided to go and walk around all my old Jewish haunts in NW London:

Hendon, (where I used to live), Golders Green (where I used to shop), Temple Fortune, and Hampstead Heath (where I used to jealously eye up all the big mansions looking out onto the heath and wish that I lived there…).

While half of Hendon is still pretty Jewish, the other half is now almost entirely ‘ethnic’. Not only that, a huge, shiny ‘Jews for J’ shop has opened right next door to Hendon Tube. I used to live in the more Jewish bit, so I walked down the street to my old house, and I saw that apart from the trees I’d planted in the front garden now being toweringly tall, nothing else about the house – or street – had really changed at all.

It was stuck in a time warp, like I’d been. Looking at my house, I realized it had actually been pretty big, and pretty nice. But I’d never, ever been satisfied with it. I always had a jealous eye on the fancier, bigger houses up the road, or the nicer locations elsewhere.

I started to realize why God has put me through all my trials with houses in Israel, because jealousy is a form of sinat chinam, or baseless hatred, and I could see how jealousy is probably the single biggest pervasive bad midda coursing through London’s veins.

I heard so many stories of friends and siblings who stopped talking to each other when one of them got more financially successful, or a much bigger, or better house than his peers. How yucky!

How London.

A large swathe of the kosher shops in Golders Green had recently burned down, giving that half of the street a bit of an eery, empty feel. At the other end of the road, by the station, a beige banner announced the exciting news that the old Hippodrome building had just been acquired by an Islamic group, who had plans to turn it into a massive Islamic education centre. I raised an eyebrow.

When I got home, I checked that bit of info out and discovered it’s all true. They want to build the largest ‘Islamic education centre’ in Europe, right on the doorstep of one of the most solidly chareidi Jewish neighborhoods in the UK.

I bought some ubiquitous, incredibly expensive kosher fish and chips on the way home, and sat in Hendon Park to eat them. With a start, I realized that this was the first time I’d ever really just sat in that park, watching the sky and the people, even though I’d lived in Hendon for the best part of 10 years.

It was a beautiful scene, but I’d always been too busy to notice it, or too worried about getting mugged or harassed by drug addicts to spend any time there.

How London.

The following day, I caught the bus into town with my brother, and discovered that you can no longer use cash to pay for a bus ticket. Everything is credit cards or automated online travel cards. My brother lent me his card for the day, but I started to ponder what would have happened if I didn’t have him to help me, or if I was a tourist, or someone down on their luck who simply didn’t have a credit card?

London is getting so expensive and so complicated to live in, that the down and outs simply have no chance these days. You can’t even catch a bus without a pin number.

I got off at Oxford Street, near Selfridges, and hit Primark (together with about 20 other frum ladies from Israel, and 20 more from Saudi Arabia). Stuff was so cheap in Primark! I started to see some ‘up’ to living in London after all.

Except, I couldn’t find any skirts to buy, or even to look at. Everything was trousers.

Hmm.

I wondered off down Oxford Street, popping into all my old favorites, and I had the same experience over and over again: the stores were full of clothes, but they were all so trashy, tacky, short, immodest or inappropriate that I didn’t feel like buying anything.

So then I tried my ‘expensive designer fashion street’ – just as an experiment, not to actually buy anything – and lo and behold, I found the first skirt I liked, boasting a price tag of £500… (around 2000 shekels).

Gosh, no wonder I used to buy expensive designer skirts when I lived there. There wasn’t much else available for a frum Jewish female.

It was strangely comforting to realize that my exaggerated gashmius had been pinned on a strong spiritual basis, after all.

I spent another three hours walking around central London. Through the Burlington Arcade, pass all the fancy designer shops, up past Nelson’s Column and Horse Guards’ Parade into St James Park, where I sat down to look at the gorgeous massive duck pond that used to be a 10 minute walk from my work, but that I hardly ever came to because I was always so stressed and busy.

As I was looking at the grey geese, I realized that nearly all the ‘couples’ parading around the park locked in deep conversations were men – and I suddenly got that uncomfortable feeling that was popping up a lot in London that I’d tripped into some covert bastion of pinkness.

Sure, men do occasionally hang out with each other, and talk to each other, it’s not unheard of. But something about the way that so many of these men were gazing into each other’s eyes, and dressing almost identically sent alarm bells ringing that I was witnessing part of the ‘pink revolution’ that’s currently revving away at full throttle in the UK.

All the highest paid TV presenters are gay; the trashy papers are full of ‘gay couple escapades’; or stories about small boy children being sent to school in dresses in the name of ‘gender neutrality’ and ‘equality’ (and also of schools banning skirts from their school uniform – clearly only for girls – in the name of the same misguided principles.)

Uck, uck and uck again.

I got up briskly, and headed off to Whitehall, where I used to work. Right outside Richmond House, and opposite a very heavily barricaded Downing Street, you’ll find London’s main memorial to the dead of World War II.

I stood on the pavement rooted to the spot. Each side of that monument bore the inscription:

‘The Glorious Dead’

– and it suddenly struck me that this epitaph summed up London life to a tee. The whole time I’d been living there, I’d felt so stressed and spiritually-dead – but hey, so gloriously dressed and well-paid!

God had put that message right outside my office, and I saw it at least twice a day. But I never paid attention, because I was always too stressed, preoccupied and busy.

How London.

Last stop in Central London was the British Museum.

I joined the queue to go through all the security checks that definitely weren’t there last time I lived in London, but which now reminded me of life in Israel.

I entered the great hall, turned left to the Egyptian and Assyrian galleries full of dead pharaohs and massive winged lions – and then left, bored, 20 minutes later. After reading Velikovsky, I knew that most of what was being described on the plaques next to the exhibits was pure conjecture or scholarly fancy, and without a real context the exhibits themselves became meaningless statues.

All that shefa, all that bounty, all that wealth, all that treasure – yet it all felt so empty and pointless.

How London.

Just outside the museum, I got accosted by a down-and-out guy obviously from Africa.

“Don’t run away!” he implored me. “I just want to talk to you! People are so scared of me here they run away as soon I get close to them!”

I took a good look at him, and saw that while he was poor and certainly a little grimy, he wasn’t dangerous, drug addicted or mad. So I listened to what he had to say, which was basically that he was a school teacher from Nigeria who’d applied for asylum in the UK, and been refused.

In the meantime, he was completely indigent, living from hand to mouth, and had no money for food. “In Africa, people look out for each other, they share their food,” he told me. “Here, people treat me like I’m not even human.”

So much for all the ‘political correctness’ and ‘equality’ being mouthed, pointlessly, by the chattering classes.

I felt sorry for him, and handed over a few pound coins – the money I’d brought with to use on the bus, but which no longer worked for those purposes.

“You didn’t have to give me the money,” he said. “It was enough that you just talked to me like I’m a real person.”

And maybe it was, but I felt that the cash probably also wouldn’t hurt him.

That chat with the Nigerian hobo was the highlight of my day out in Central London.

I caught the bus back, and I thought about how this glitzy, glittery city where people are still throwing so much cash at the gods of superficiality and fashion is actually dead at its core. They have the ‘latest’ this and that, Primark with its mountains of cheap stuff from China, designer knick-knacks, designer haircuts, designer beards – and no heart.

No soul.

So much more happened in the three short days I was there, but let’s sum it up this way: I was so pleased to be coming back to my rented pseudo-slum flat in Jerusalem by the end. Jerusalem is so full of soul, and meaning, and real people, and joy and laughter.

(And clearly also ridiculous bureaucracy, deranged Arab terrorists, crazy house prices, lunatics of all stripes, financial problems, and missionaries).

But it’s home. My home. The only place I want to be. And if I hadn’t bitten the bullet and gone to London to feel things out, I’d never have known that that way I do now, with complete clarity, 200%.

There’s no going back.

Let’s be honest: I could usually call most of what I write by this title, at least over the last nine years.

Yet the past couple of weeks, things seem to be coming to an even bigger head than usual.

This latest round of massive internal angst got sparked off by doing my audiobook in a studio which is plastered with memorabilia from London. You walk in and whap! There’s a massive picture of the #38 red double-decker bus stuck in traffic in Piccadilly Circus, in the centre of London where I often used to hang out.

Even the shower curtain in the toilet is plastered full of London Tube signs and other London stuff, and the fridge is covered with magnets bearing legends from British soccer clubs.

This living in two worlds thing is not really something new, at least not for me, but the last couple of weeks the contrast between my external ‘me’ – that’s doing my tikkun haklali most days by Rav Berland, on the cusp of Meah Shearim, and living 10 minutes walk away from the Old City of Jerusalem – and my internal me, that hasn’t been able to get ‘Sweet Child O Mine’ by Guns n’ Roses out of my head all week, plus thoughts of how much I miss the family and friends stuff from the old country has been completely headwrecking.

My brain KNOWS that it was all pretend, and that even when I lived there I was on the verge of completely cracking up.

I felt 12 years ago that if we didn’t move to Israel ASAP, I was going to end up in a mental institution. (Sometimes, I think I was half right…)

But we left at the height of our ‘success’ in life. Good jobs, two beautiful children, amazing friends, nice house, family all around. And sometimes, the thought of what I left behind when I make aliyah is very hard to bear.

Even though it’s not there anymore.

So many of our friends got divorced…

So many of the people we know went through such hard times the last six years they can’t actually speak to anyone anymore, or be ‘real’, or have a real conversation…

My business croaked six months into moving to Israel, which was a hard financial blow in Israel, but in the UK, would have led to complete and utter disaster…

My husband’s old law firm hit hard times and let go of more than half their lawyers…

Two of my siblings left the country and now live in the US…

So the London I miss isn’t there anymore, even if it was as ‘great’ as I remember.

Which as we’ve already discussed, it wasn’t.

So why can’t I get it out of my head? Why have I been sitting here for two months feeling a deep sadness that I can’t seem to shake, even though my life in Israel is really pretty good on so many different fronts?

I was asking God that question today, when I took one of my random ‘Tehillim quote’ cards out their box for some inspiration, and this is what I got:

“Psalm 93:

The rivers have lifted up, O Being

The rivers have lifted up their voice

The rivers will lift up their voice.

The depression will be carried away

And will become light

As you express what has been suppressed.”

God is nothing if not clear…

I realized I have to stop running away from that bit of myself that got stuck back in London, and that I finally have to go and track it down, face up to it, and bring it back home to Israel.

I’ve avoided the UK for years and years, since I hit ‘skid row’ professionally. The contrast between the external ‘success’ I had then and the external ‘loser’ I am now has been far too hard for me to deal with.

At the beginning of July when we went to Liverpool for family reasons, I felt utter horror well up inside of me at the thought of also going back to London. No way, Jose! What, go back and have to acknowledge what a mess I’ve made of my life, what an idiot I am, how poor I am, how retarded I was to switch spiritual riches for material ones?!

You must be kidding!

But God is showing me that I can’t continue to run away from that encounter. I have to go back for a few days again, this time to London, and I have to go walk the streets, and see my old house, and walk back past all the places I used to work in the heart of London, and to see how it really feels, not just how it looks when I take my trips down memory lane.

It’s pretty scary, because I know that the first day it’s going to look gorgeous and all my suppressed feelings about aliya, and everything we went through the last 12 years is going to well up and capsize me.

But I also know that by day two, I’ll be feeling much happier again. And that by day three, I’ll be raring to get back on the plane back home to Israel.

And that this time, I’ll be bringing all of me back for the ride.

Recently, I went back to the UK for a three day ‘whirlwind visit’ to stay with my husband’s family, in the North of the country.

The trip was pretty uneventful, even sometimes nice – which is why I really couldn’t understand why I came back feeling so awful.

The day we landed back in the Holy Land, I got into an extremely blue funk and found myself sniffling and feeling very sorry for myself a lot of the time. OKAYYYY, so I don’t own a house anymore; OKAYYY, I don’t really have a career (although I do have a full-time, mostly unpaid job writing all this stuff on my blogs and putting together amazing, useful books that really don’t sell very well…)

OKAYYY, life can still be a little challenging.

They’re still stabbing Jews to death, and shooting Jews up, in my Jerusalem neighbourhood right next to the Old City. But really? Why so down and glum for days and days?

If I’ve learnt one thing over the last few years, it’s that when these weird moods descend on me they are usually some sort of ‘blast from the past’ – either it’s something from childhood, or some sort of spiritual ‘tikkun’ or rectification that’s left over from a previous lifetime (or even, a previous relative) that God is now giving me the job of sorting out.

So I booked an appointment with my ‘One Brain’ lady, and a couple of days’ ago, I found out what was really underneath my massive attack of the blahs.

When I was nearly six years old, my mother was expecting one of my brothers and the pregnancy had been difficult, so she was put on strict bedrest. Me and my four year old brother were sent up to the North of the UK to stay with my grandparents for a few weeks, until after the birth.

Clearly, I must have found the whole thing incredibly traumatic, because until it came up in One Brain as the reason why I was feeling so yucky – like I was completely lost in the world, and didn’t have a ‘place’ anywhere, or anyone or anything I belonged to – I’d totally blanked it.

All I remembered about that stay with my grandparents is that I ate a lot of crisps.

But the barely six year-old me had been completely petrified that I’d somehow been ‘abandoned’ with my strict grandparents, and stuck in a strange new school where no-one spoke to me or gave me any sign that I even still existed.

If someone told me it was only going to be for three weeks, I didn’t remember that. It seemed to me I was going to be stuck in that horrible unfriendly school, with my cold, strict grandmother, for the rest of my six-year-old life.

All I remember is eating my bag of crisps in the playground, and feeling completely alone in the world.

That’s exactly the feeling I had when I returned from my three day trip staying in the North of the UK at my kids’ grandparents, where I’d also been eating a lot of crisps and doing particularly ‘British’ day out type things in the Summer drizzle.

Clearly, it triggered that whole lost memory from when I was six, and for a week I was an inconsolable basket case.

Thank God for One Brain!

I arrived at my session feeling SO down, and I left an hour later feeling put back together again, having been rescued from that 37 year old trauma that I’d somehow fallen back into.

But it really got me thinking: if something so short-lived, and relatively innocuous could still be exerting such an impact on me as a 43 year old woman, just imagine how many of us are suffering from our unresolved childhood traumas!

No-one was to ‘blame’ for what happened – my mother couldn’t look after us and follow doctor’s orders, and my elderly grandparents had to stick us in the local school to preserve their own sanity.

Yet the echo of what I felt then, at six, still managed to drag me straight down to the bottom of the emotional pit almost four decades later. It’s a bit mind-boggling, isn’t it?

The other thing I thought is that God clearly wants all these things addressed and sorted out now, which is He’s put things like ‘One Brain’ into the world. I do an hour of talking to God every day, BH, and that’s helped me get on top of so many of my bad middot and issues.

But sometimes, things are ‘under the radar’, and I just can’t get to them with my conscious mind, because either they happened to someone else, or I blanked them because they were too traumatic to deal with.

And that’s where One Brain comes in very nicely.

I’m not saying everyone needs to go find a One Brain person ASAP. Another thing I’ve learned over the last few years is that when God is in the picture, a whole variety of different therapies and approaches can help us cure our problems. There’s no ‘one correct way’ of doing anything, health-wise, and as long as we’re regularly talking to God and taking His cues about what areas we need to work on next, He’ll send us the right help, the right people, the right book, at the right time.

What I AM saying, though, is please just know that if you feel like you’re going crazy, or you got super emotional or down for no obvious reason (i.e. not just because you’re hanging out with obnoxious, abusive narcissists or you’re doing things that are mamash killing your soul) – then there could be a whole bunch of reasons why that’s happening.

Like, maybe you just got tripped into a traumatic ‘flashback’ from the past, that God now wants you to deal with.

I’m just saying.

And in the meantime, I’m off British-style ready salted crisps for a while.

Few things are more misunderstood than the concept of the Erev Rav.

Like most of the people reading this, the first time I heard about the Erev Rav in any ‘real’ way was from the autistics.

The more I read the autistics, the more I started suspecting other people of ‘being’ Erev Rav (ER, for short). Initially, it answered so many questions, cleaned up so many problems! I mean, the only reason that a Jew would or could act in such a horrible, disgusting way could only be because they must be Erev Rav….

Like many others, the ER quickly became a kind of obsession by me. And when I get obsessed with things, I research them as much as I can, and I try to bottom them out as much as possible. So, I threw myself into reading anything I could about the ER, including a document called ‘The Modern Erev Rav’, which brings together a lot of the sources in English.

By the time I’d finished going through that document, I had a very clear understanding of what sorts of things the Erev Rav did, and that the Vilna Gaon, amongst others, was telling me that I should cut them out of my life and avoid them as much as possible.

So over the next few years, that’s what I tried to do. (This was when I wrote that series over on www.breslev.co.il.)

As a result, I lost so many friends, stopped speaking to so many close family members, and even started suspecting my husband of being an Erev Rav.

(! – if you ever met the guy, you’ll understand just how crazy that particular statement is…)

And then, I came to the ultimately disturbing conclusion that I myself must also be an ‘unfixable’ ER, because I also spoke lashon hara (sometimes…) and made trouble between people (sometimes…) and was obsessed with making a name for myself (sometimes…)

It’s axiomatic that when you follow God’s laws, and really try to give God what He wants, you see brachas and blessings from doing that. Dear reader, all I got from cutting all the supposed ‘evil ER’ people out of my life was heaping doses of heartache, misery and suffering.

The more I tried to run away from these people, as the Vilna Gaon’s students suggested, the more I came to realize that in 2017, we are ALL Erev Rav people.

At the same time as this was going on, I realized that the secular world was also noticing the negative character traits associated with the Erev Rav, particularly the traits of lack of compassion and empathy for others and rigid thinking, and defining them as the basis of personality disorders, especially Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).

According to modern psychiatry, most of these personality disorders, but especially NPD, can’t be fixed. The person with NPD will stay permanently broken, egotistical and nasty. Again, I spent years and years going through all the literature on personality disorders, and measuring it up against my own experiences of difficult people, and it dovetails amazingly with all the ‘Erev Rav’ stuff.

Except, I came to the same problem with that stuff, too: I started to notice that I MYSELF sometimes acted like I had NDP, (especially after I went through the worst year of my life, when I got hit with so many traumatic experiences that my capacity to feel compassion or empathy for anyone else pretty much completely disappeared.)

Which is when the turning point happened, and I realized that TRAUMA is what makes people act like narcissicists, etc, and what makes people act like ER, etc.

So then, I started researching trauma, and C-PTSD obsessively, and again it was a perfect ‘fit’ for what I was seeing around me and experiencing in myself, and it convinced me once and for all that just as personality disorders CAN be overcome, so can ER traits.

Then, I started looking for proof from authentic Jewish sources that this was the case, and I hit the jackpot with various teachings from Rav Berland and Rebbe Nachman himself, a lot of which I bring down in the book Unlocking the Secret of the Erev Rav.

So, here’s where we currently stand:

It’s not a Jewish idea to call someone ‘bad’, anymore than it’s a Jewish idea to call someone ‘Erev Rav’.

Xtians go in for that sort of global, meaningless ‘good and bad’ people rubbish.

By contrast, Jews talk about good and bad DEEDS, good and bad TRAITS, but we don’t give people labels like good and bad, because we understand that is something that only God is qualified to do, at the end of a person’s life, when all their merits and sins are weighed up together in the Heavenly court.

In that sense, the Erev Rav is a completely false paradigm.

Who can claim to be qualified to call someone an ‘Erev Rav’ and to assume that person can never make teshuva and will be permanently consigned to an eternity in Gehinnom?!

People with pronounced ‘Erev Rav’ traits aren’t just left-wing politicians or corrupt journalists, you know. If we’re honest, then we’ll admit that each and every one of us know people, are related to people, talk to people EVERY SINGLE DAY that fit at least some of the criteria set out by RASHBI and the Vilna Gaon (amongst others) for the Erev Rav.

We’re not just talking about Shimon Peres here, we’re talking about your ‘Erev Rav’ mum, and your ‘Erev Rav’ kid, and your ‘Erev Rav’ spouse. Do you really want all these people to be permanently consigned to destruction and Gehinnom?

And if the answer is ‘yes’, then there’s an enormous irony here, because only people who have a severe lack of compassion and empathy for other people (which remember, is one of the key traits of the ‘Erev Rav’ as identified by our Sages…) would willingly go around accusing others of being ‘Erev Rav’, with all that entails.

That’s why the authentic Jewish approach is to talk about EREV RAV BEHAVIOUR, and not EREV RAV PEOPLE.

It’s a crucial, massive distinction.

Because people can always stop behaving like ER, but they can’t stop being Erev Rav.

God is full of kindness and compassion for His creations. Does it really sound realistic to you that this kind, merciful Creator would create a category of person that can never, ever make teshuva, no matter what effort they make to improve, no matter how much suffering they go through? Does that sound ‘right’ to you?

God can do anything!

We saw in the Torah so many times – including in this week’s parshat Korach – that God was going to destroy the Jewish people because of their disgusting behaviour, but didn’t because the Tzaddik of the generation, Moshe Rabbenu, prayed for them.

Which brings me to my last point for today (although I will be returning to this subject again and again, until we all start to really get what I’m going on about here):

If we really want all the horrible ‘ER’ type traits and behavior that are definitely flowering all over the place in our modern world to really disappear, we need to pray for other people, and also for ourselves.

Again, asking God for help, and really believing in God’s mercy and compassion and willingness to help out, and really building a genuine, personal relationship with God is something that people with pronounced ‘Erev Rav’ tendencies find very difficult to do.

That’s one of the reason’s why hitbodedut, personal prayer, is the fastest and most effective way of neutralizing a person’s ‘Erev Rav’ tendencies, because it goes to the very heart of the problem, namely that ‘Erev Rav’ people don’t really believe in God in any real way, and certainly don’t believe that He’s compassionate, kind and good.

SO TO SUM UP:

  • Most people with Erev Rav tendencies CAN and WILL eventually make teshuva (as per the teachings of Rav Ofer Erez, Rav Eliezer Berland, and Rebbe Nachman).
  • We have no way of knowing who is going to ultimately going to make teshuva and who isn’t, so we have no right to call anyone a ‘permanently unfixable’ Erev Rav in the meantime.
  • The people who are most wedded to the idea of calling other people ‘Erev Rav’ are, ironically, themselves demonstrating a number of key traits of the ER, namely a severe lack of empathy and compassion for others, together with pronounced tendencies to speak badly of their fellow Jews, to stoke sinat chinam, and to create trouble, controversy and machloket between the Jewish people.

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You can buy my book, Unlocking the Secret of the Erev Rav, HERE.

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As you may or may not know, around four years’ ago I wrote a whole series on the ‘Erev Rav’ for the Breslev.co.il website.

At that time, I’d been immersed in all the traditional sources about the Erev Rav for a couple of years, and the more I read these sources – and all the ‘commentary’ from the autistics etc that surrounded them – the blacker the picture became: The Erev Rav were this evil, shadowy group of people who’d somehow insinuated themselves into the very spiritual heart of the Jewish people, and were poisoning the community from the inside out.

As my research and pondering continued, after a couple of years’ I had an ‘Eureka!’ moment, when I realized that the descriptions of the Erev Rav, and their behavior, found in the Zohar and in the writings attributed to the students of the Vilna Gaon, appeared to exactly match up to modern descriptions of people with personality disorders, especially Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

And that’s when the bottom kind of fell out of my world for the next two years, because according to modern psychiatry, personality disorders are unfixable.

And according to the more traditional take on the Jewish sources talking about the Erev Rav, the Erev Rav were similarly unfixably ‘evil’.

At that same time, I started to notice that most (if not all….) of the people I knew – including my own self! – had many of the traits typically assigned to the Erev Rav. And thus began the toughest two years of my whole life, because I was consumed by the question of whether all these people – including myself! – were actually permanently unfixable, evil, ‘doomed’ Erev Rav, or whether something else was going on here.

Man, I cannot begin to tell you the amount of heartbreak I had at this stage, because in case you haven’t noticed, nearly all of us in 2017 are completely messed up, and act (at least sometimes…) in the ways typically ascribed to the Erev Rav.

It took me multiple trips to Uman, and hours upon hours of talking to God about it all, until Hashem finally shined His light into the darkness, and I discovered a pivotal shiur given by Rav Eliezer Berland, a decade ago, where he explained that

EVERYBODY can be fixed, and that there are NO wicked people in Am Yisrael anymore.

That shiur changed the whole picture, and then I found a whole bunch of ‘hidden’ stuff about the Erev Rav problem, and how to fix it, hidden away in Likutey Moharan, and other of Rebbe Nachman’s works, too – and that’s when I sat down and wrote the ‘Unlocking the Secrets of the Erev Rav’ book, which basically set all the info and sources out to show that the problem is Erev Rav TRAITS (that we all have, including myself…) and not permanently unfixable Erev Rav PEOPLE.

THE CONNECTION TO MY EYE

And here where the story takes it’s usually ‘weird’ twist that I’m sure you’re coming to expect from posts here on my website.

As you probably know, my eye has been playing up, and kind of ‘evil-looking’ for around two months now. I have done a TON of teshuva about this eye, dear reader, and I can see that God is really using it to clear up so many of my remaining issues and bad middot.

Each stage of teshuva I’ve done has definitely improved things with my eye, but tachlis, it’s still a little ‘evil-looking’ and I’ve really had enough of it.

Yesterday, I finally decided to get back on with podcasting my way through the ‘Unlocking the Secret of the Erev Rav’ book, and I saw I was up to Chapter 6, talking about Rebbe Nachman’s lesson of AZAMRA!

Anyway, as I was going over it again, the following jumped out at me, and smacked me in the face (taken from the shiur by Rav Berland):

“Every single Jew will one day make teshuva!…Now, it’s possible to speed this process up, but only if we start looking with a ‘good eye’.

Only if a person merits to look at every Jew with a ‘good eye’ then, ‘he will consider his place, and he [the wicked person] won’t be there anymore [i.e. in the place of being wicked].

If people would realize this, and internalize that if they started to judge others favorably, and to stop looking at them with an ayin ra, or ‘bad eye’, then there wouldn’t be anymore wicked people in Am Yisrael.

Because it’s possible to bring them all back in make teshuva, in the blink of an eye…”

Wwowowoww.

I suddenly got that I have a ton of teshuva still to make on this subject, not least because I wrote that series of articles over on Breslev that is still suggesting, incorrectly, that Am Yisrael is chock-full of evil, ‘unfixable’ Erev Rav people.

Once that penny dropped, I sent an email over to the English editor of Breslev.co.il, and I’m really hoping I can start to clean this stuff up properly, now:

I also realized it’s not enough to have written that book about the Erev Rav, and to now just leave it to gather dust. Mamash, I have to start getting the info in it out in any way possible, because it’s really part of how we’re going to get the geula faster, and easier.

We have to look at our fellow Jew with a good eye, and to stop talking about ‘Erev Rav’ PEOPLE, because it’s all a crock. Yes, there are Erev Rav TRAITS, and we all have them, and we all have to work on them.

Again, people usually develop Erev Rav TRAITS because they’ve experienced severe trauma, emotional neglect and / or other difficulties in their childhood. I.e. – it’s learned behavior! And it can be unlearned fairly simply, once you know what’s really going on and you get the Tzaddikim involved in the equation.

I really, really hope that’s the missing bit of my ‘evil-looking eye’ teshuva that I need to make now, but (no pun intended) I’ll guess we’ll see…

So, as I mentioned this counting the omer was pretty much the craziest one I ever had

– and if you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know what a strong statement that is.

As the last day of the Omer drew near, I thought that maybe, just maybe, all the horrible shocks, reversals, challenges and difficulties were finally over until 5778… but God kept an ace up His sleeve this year, which I got by email the day before Shavuot:

Long story short, some rapacious lawyers in Israel are trying to sue me for 40,000 shekels!

Again, long story short, I apparently used a picture of Rav Berland I wasn’t meant to (usually I’m so careful about these things, so I have no idea how that actually happened…) and now these people want me to pay 40,000 shekels, or they’re going to take me to court.

It’s so unbelievable, it’s kind of funny.

In the meantime, I went into my eightieth massive meltdown of the month – shaky legs, complete feeling of overwhelm, crying etc etc etc.

It carried on all evening, and segued into another massive crisis of faith.

I started to doubt everything I’m doing again, and everything I’m writing, and wondering if I’m just being really, really dense, and God actually just wants me to close up the shop and move on to something different.

Or, am I having all these difficulties, non-stop, back-to-back, because I’m actually trying to do something really GOOD, and it’s just the yetzer getting in my face?

All night, I was debating it back and forth.

Maybe, I’m just not on the level to get anywhere near someone as holy as Rav Berland, and that’s why I keep getting slapped all over the place? Maybe, it’s just miniot (obstacles) to get me all demoralized and to give up, because really I AM doing some good stuff online that is making a difference, in whatever small way?

Maybe I should just go and be a gardener? Maybe I should get offline completely? Maybe I should continue and just ignore all the madness that keeps exploding all over the place?

Back and forth it went all night, and I didn’t sleep a wink, which clearly meant that I couldn’t stay up at all the next night, Shavuot, and learn anything.

I hit the bed at 11pm, completely exhausted.

So in the meantime, I’m being sued for a ton of money I don’t have, and I’m not sure what’s meant to happen next.

Over Shavuot, I sat down and read the whole book of tehillim, and tried to make some more teshuva, to try to get the madness to calm down a bit. Once the holiday was over, I trawled through both my sites, and removed any picture that I’m not 100% certain is not a commons licence, or otherwise copy-right free.

There wasn’t a lot, but there were some, particularly on spiritual self-help.

Maybe, Moshiach really is coming very soon, and God is getting me to even clean up even this small spiritual stuff, I don’t know.

Maybe it’s all just a big test of faith, and will melt into the mist again, once I get whatever message I’m meant to get from it all.

I really don’t know.

But one thing is certain: my life is never dull.

One of the things that I struggled really, really hard with for years was the idea that no matter what happened to me, or how bad I feel about it, I should just paste a ‘happy’ face on and pretend I didn’t care, and I wasn’t upset about it.

This fake concept of emuna is something I’ve come to call ‘all emuna, all the time’.

The first time I realized just how dangerous ‘all emuna, all the time’ can be is about six years’ ago, when my neck started seizing up and got really painful and sore. At that time, I was still (just about…) going to Western doctors, and no-one could tell me what was going on, what was causing the problem, or how to fix it.

Out of desperation, I went to a more holistic healer called David Amichai, and he asked me a question that blew me away: Had I been waiting for something that hadn’t materialized for a long time?

The short answer was: yes.

I’d been trying to have more children for eight years, and the toll it had taken on me was incredible. BUT – I told him – NOW I have emuna!!!! I have ‘all emuna, all the time’, and I’ve stopped feeling sorry for myself, and stopped feeling heartache and despair every month when it didn’t happen again, and I’m approaching my infertility with ‘all emuna, all the time’!!!!

He looked at me very thoughtfully, and then he told me in a very kind tone:

The level of emuna you’re describing is a very high level, and it’s very hard for most people to get there sincerely.

Then, he told me that the neck was the ‘bridge’ between the heart and the head, and it seemed as though something had got pretty stuck there. My head was telling me I had ‘all emuna, all the time’, while my heart was whispering the truth at me, namely that I was still grieving the fact that every month, I’d missed another opportunity to have more children.

That true feeling was getting ‘stuck’ in my neck, and was causing me a whole bunch of physical health problems. Once I started to accept my true feelings again, he told me, my problem would clear up.

He was right.

But boy, did I have a spiritual challenge after I went to see him.

Because the main person I was listening to back then had ‘all emuna, all the time’ as their mantra. They made it clear that if I ever felt overwhelmed, sad, occasionally despairing, or all the other very normal feelings that we ALL feel some of the time – there was something deeply wrong with me, and also my emuna.

It took me years to try to square that circle, and I beat myself up endlessly over being so ‘bad’ that I couldn’t automatically break into a song and dance when faced with some very tough challenges. It was only when my challenges reached ‘peak’ levels – and I was still getting castigated for not having ‘all emuna, all the time’ when I’d run out of money for food, and when my life fell apart in a million ways, and when I had four miscarriages in a row from the stress after waiting 10 years to have more kids – that I finally gave Mr ‘all emuna, all the time’ the heave-ho.

When we don’t allow ourselves to grieve our losses properly, when we don’t allow ourselves to feel what we really feel, and to process it all in an unrushed, uncritical and self-accepting way, we end up doing a huge amount of damage to our emuna, our peace of mind and our physical health.

——-

So it was amazing to read the following in Rav Ofer Erez’s latest book, Al Parshat Drachim, where he said: (this free translation is my own, so may not be 100% accurate):

“All of us need to learn how to properly navigate the difficult times…the first thing is to not to blame anyone [others or yourself] and to understand that [difficulties] are the way of the world. The [spiritual] reality of this world is that it’s a place where we have to work, and we are all obliged to learn the practical ways of how to manage and overcome the tzimtumim (contractions, or difficult times) that each of us has to face….and Rabbenu teaches us that the main way of doing this is by being happy, always.

At this point, I got a little anxious as to whether I was going to have to deal with another dose of unrealistic ‘all emuna, all the time’, but Rav Ofer blew me away with what he wrote next, as he squared the circle.

He said that when other people try to give this advice to a person who is going through a very difficult time, they routinely react very badly to being told this.

Rav Ofer explains that giving over advice from the Tzaddik’s Torah is not like selling someone a big car sticker bearing the legend ‘smile!’

Rav Ofer says that you have to understand the depth of what Rebbe Nachman is really teaching us, when he tells us that the ikker is to be happy, always. He then brings an explanation from Rav Natan, who asks the question: What does God really want from the Jewish people, that he brought them down to a world where barely a moment passes without some sort of difficulty, persecution or severe hardship?

Rav Natan then explains in Likutey Halachot that the reality of the world is actually one of wars and difficulties.

The whole world is in a state of ‘hester panim’, where God’s benevolent face is often hidden behind some enormous challenges, and this applies particularly to the Jewish people.

Rav Ofer (via Rav Natan) then goes on to explain something amazing:

The way we ‘stay happy’ in this reality is by continuing to attach ourselves to Hashem, even in those deepest, darkest places we find ourselves in. And this is the true measure of a person in this world, that he continues to search for every piece of advice, and every way he can continue to stay connected to God, while he’s undergoing his trials and tribulations.

What a relief!!!

Mr ‘all emuna, all the time’ clearly never read Likutey Halachot, because if he had, he would have known that ‘being happy with my lot’ didn’t mean I had to walk about with a big grin because I’d just had another miscarriage and I couldn’t afford to buy a loaf of bread.

Real emuna happens when those horrible things happen to you, and you still grope around trying to find God’s hand to hold onto in the middle of it all, and you still try to believe that God is behind it all, and that it will eventually turn out for the good.

Emuna is the belief that you will make it through in once piece, as long as you keep trying to cling on to Hashem.

And you can do that even when you’re bawling your eyes out, and feeling like you’re half-dead.

Thank God for Rav Ofer Erez, who knows that serious hardships can’t be superficially erased, covered over and ignored. They have to be acknowledged, grieved and worked through, but they key thing to remember is that all this stuff has to happen WITH GOD IN THE PICTURE.

And that is the real definition of trying to have emuna.

I only ask, because recently someone sent me an email where they were referring to some comments made by Rav Berland that Moshiach comes as part of a many years-long process. According to my correspondent, the process started in [year] and will continue until [year], and the whole time, there will be more tests and more birur, or clarification, of where people are really holding vis-à-vis their true relationship with Hashem.

Now, I know three years is not really a long period of time in the big scheme of things, but I have to admit to feeling just a little down-hearted after I read that email. Because things are not exactly ‘easy’ – for anyone – at the moment, and so many of us are just kind of holding on in the face of some huge issues that we seem powerless to resolve or overcome by ourselves.

A lot of days, I get emails from readers telling me they’re literally just holding on by the tips of their fingers, waiting for Moshiach to haul them back up over the top of the ledge they seem to have fallen off.

Man, I can relate.

I have this weird ‘gift’ of picking up the heavy vibes bouncing around the world, and translating them into bizarre physical issues. (I write much more about the connections between body, mind and soul over on my spiritualselfhelp blog, and also in my book, Talk to God and Fix Your Health.)

So anyway, the last few weeks I’ve been dealing with another strange, but familiar phenomena, namely a weird bump that showed up on my left eye around a month ago.

This is the fourth weird bump on my eye I’ve had over the last few years, and when the first one showed up around seven years’ back, I completely freaked out and thought the worst. The nice eye specialist reassured me it was just ‘one of those things’ and would disappear by itself eventually.

It took that bump two years to go, which coincided with an EXTREMELY stressful period of time for me personally, and also Israel, that was going through a number of ‘mini-wars’ with Gaza.

And then a few months later, another bump showed up on my other eye.

Hmmm.

To cut a long story short, I have now realized that by the time the ‘eye bumps’ show up, there are some mega-huge ‘heavy judgment’ vibes flying around, that in the past have corresponded to rockets from Gaza, terrorist attacks and small wars.

(Clearly, they also correspond to me having to make a lot of teshuva for things in my own life too, usually connected to very deep anger issues that are still floating around from way back when.)

But the point is this: Who can hack another three years of stress and heavy judgments like the last three have been?

I spend a lot of time trying to clear things out of my spiritual and emotional system, and trying to figure out what other bits of my character need some work, and that’s definitely helping to ‘lighten up’ the heavy vibes, at least in my own personal space.

But you know what? It’s really, really hard work, and I’m feeling kind of like I haven’t got so much energy left to keep digging that stuff up and dealing with it.

I’m not talking about small stuff here, I’m talking about big, life-changing things that have enormous consequences attached.

That’s the whole test we’re all going through right now, the test of ‘clarification’, or birur, where God is shining a very strong spot-light into all the nooks and crannies of our souls, and inviting us to fix things that we’ve left hanging since Adam HaRishon was walking around 5,777 years ago.

It’s really hard work! And that’s if you’re trying to do the work…

If you’re not trying to do the work, then paradoxically, it’s even harder work, because Hashem is just turning the heat up higher and higher and higher until we get the message and start to deal with all the issues we all have that we prefer not to look at or acknowledge.

The deeper our heads are in the sand, the harder God is now slapping us, to try to get us to wake up.

I know that really, it’s a kindness that this process of revealing Moshiach in the world is stretching out over a number of years. If it happened quickly, like most of us think it should, nearly everyone would keel over from the shock of it all.

Whaaat? You mean I’m not a perfect angel, and it’s not all everyone else’s fault that my life and relationships are in such a mess?!?!?!?

It’s not easy to go from a world of darkness and lies to a world of purity and truth, even when you’re inching slowly along the path. To do it in one day, or even in one week or one month, would literally give most people an instant heart-attack.

But still….three more years of this?! Really?

Sigh.

We can’t hurry Moshiach along, and we can’t force God’s hand. There’s a time and a place and a process that has to occur. But some small part of me still hopes that ‘three years’ is a typo, and that really, Moshiach is going to show up tomorrow.

Two days before Pesach, my daughter slammed her finger in our front door.

She’s a very stoic sort usually, so when she started squealing and saying ‘ow’ loudly I paid attention. Her finger started spurting some blood, she started freaking out, and I knew there was a trip to Terem on the cards, even though I HATE going near any Western medical doctors for any reason.

Before we left, I doused her finger with some helichrysum essential oil, because I know that takes down swelling and promotes bone healing, and I also spent another five minutes poking her uninjured hand with my Su Jok probe, to start stimulating the healing process in her injured finger ‘electrically’.

The last and most important thing I did was ask my husband to immediately make a sizeable donation to Rav Berland as a pidyon Nefesh payment for my daughter. (You can read more about how a pidyon Nefesh works, and why it’s so important, HERE.)

Let’s be clear that my daughter is used to my weird ways with her health issues, but still got a little impatient that I insisted on stabbing her with my Su Jok stick before we got to the ER.

“I’m doing this to give you the best possible chance of healing without the doctors going off on one,” I told her.

But she wasn’t impressed.

We got to Terem, and as I wrote a little while back, after an X-ray, a tetanus shot, and a big speech about why my daughter needed a whole bunch of antibiotics and an urgent visit to an orthopaedic surgeon two days later, we got discharged with the prognosis that she’d sustained an open (or compound) fracture.

I got home, googled ‘compound fracture’ and grimaced. It sounded pretty bad. It’s when the bone breaks, and then breaks through the skin in an open wound, which can be very susceptible to infections, and much harder to heal than a regular fracture. All the American sites warned me sternly that I’d need surgery to deal with a compound fracture (gulp).

The British NHS website was much more down to earth, and explained that surgery was sometimes necessary in complicated breaks, but very often not. (Phew).

I tried making the appointment with the orthopaedic surgeon, but in the meantime no-one was answering the phone, even after I hung on the line for ages. Pesach was approaching, so I decided to take a wait-and-see approach and try to make another appointment after Seder night had passed.

In the meantime, I prayed on my daughter’s health and finger –

That it would heal, that she wouldn’t get an infection, God forbid, that the antibiotics shouldn’t stuff up her health in other ways, God forbid; I used helichrysum essential oil instead of the antibiotic ointment, and I continued to stab her other hand with my Su Jok probe, to stimulate her body’s own healing response.

A few days later, her finger looked really, really good (relatively….). Hmm. She told me it wasn’t even hurting now. Hmm. I took a deep breath and called up the orthopaedic surgeon to make the appointment.

As I mentioned previously, I generally hate Western medical doctors, and the ones in Israel are often particularly arrogant, fear-mongering and generally horrible to deal with.

So with some trepidation I showed up to the appointment, prepared to defend using germ-killing essential oils instead of antibacterial creams, and prepared to argue that my daughter didn’t need urgent surgery on her finger…

The doctor we saw was a really cool, older guy who was not at all from the ‘fear-mongering-surgery-at-all-costs’ school. He took one look at my daughter’s finger, poked it a bit, asked her if it hurt, pulled up her x-ray, then told us something amazing: There was no fracture.

Not even a regular one, let alone a compound one.

She didn’t need any more bandages, treatment or even special precautions with her finger. And she probably also wouldn’t even lose her fingernail. I was astounded!

The pidyon Nefesh with Rav Berland had clearly kicked in, and God had done a miracle for us. Back in Terem, I’d argued about the antibiotics, which is when they went to town on me (and my daughter…) and told us she’d probably need surgery blah blah blah… and it was an open fracture blah blah blah… and they’d checked it all on the x-ray blah blah blah….

Was the miracle that they’d made a mistake in Terem, and told us it was fractured when it wasn’t? Maybe. Or maybe, it really was fractured back then, but now it wasn’t. Either way, I was thrilled.

There’s an idea that when God does a miracle for you, you should publicise it. I decided to write this up to encourage you, dear reader, to put God and pidyon Nefesh in the picture as much as possible with your own health issues.

The more we make space in our lives for the miracles to happen, the more we’ll see them.

Until I find a ‘source’ for my ideas or insights in Torah, I always suspect they may be wrong, or ‘faulty’ in some way.

Torah is truth, and if our modern ideas of how things work somehow clash with the Torah’s ideas, we can be sure that the problem is by us.

So, a little while ago I started getting all of these insights that trauma is what’s causing mental illness, and that in particular, there are four types of ‘stress response’ that most people fall back into, that then causes them to act out in negative ways.

These ‘4Fs’ are the basis of every single one of our bad middot, and every type of mental and emotional disturbance. That’s as far as I got on the ‘secular’ side of the picture, and it tied in very nicely with all the information and insights I had about the Erev Rav, which I wrote up in the book: Unlocking the secret of the Erev Rav.

Still, much as it made sense to me 100%, I hadn’t yet found the source in Torah, so I wasn’t completely sure I was on the right path. Until last week. Last week, I read Rav Berland’s Parsha Sheet talking about Tu B’Shevat, and there were the ‘4fs’ clearly described, from Torah sources.

Here’s what the Rav said in his shiur:

“…on a spiritual level, the year is divided up into four parts, corresponding to the four evil forces (klipot) which are:

1) The storm wind – corresponding to Nisan, Iyar and Sivan

2) A big cloud – corresponding to Tamuz, Av and Elul

3) A volatile fire – corresponding to Tishrey, Cheshvan and Kislev

4) Noga [the klipa that is ‘mixed’ between good and bad, and is the hardest to clarify] – corresponding to Tevat, Shvat and Adar.

“Some people are hot tempered ‘volatile fires’ – they embarrass others and are complete fanatics. Some people personify the ‘storm wind’ – they are fast like the wind, his whole being is a whirlwind, a tornado, hurling everything in his path. Some people are dreary like the ‘big cloud’ – they are grey and gloomy like a cloud, always depressed, always sad….Hashem doesn’t want these three personality types….

“Only after overcoming Noga, the mixture of good and evil, does one merit to reach the ‘still, quiet voice’ [of Hashem – i.e. the soul’s true voice]. To overcome Noga means knowing when to be silent and when to speak.”

If you take a look at the infographic I did on the 4Fs, it’s hopefully obvious how each ‘klipa’ stacks up to each stress response.

FIGHT is the volatile fire.

FLIGHT is the storm wind.

FREEZE is the big cloud.

FAWN / FLATTER is klipa noga.

These are all just ‘klipot’ – i.e. mechanisms that the force of evil is wrapping our innate goodness in, to try to keep us away from Hashem – and they can be overcome!

To put this another way, mental illness and emotional disturbance is simply another way of describing the kabbalist term mochin dekatnut, that’s used to describe a situation of ‘small mindedness’ or ‘constricted consciousness’.

This is SO different from how mental illness / emotional disturbances are treated by secular psychiatry!

Writing in Hilchot Teshuva 5, the Rambam writes:

Every person has the ability to lead a good life and be a Tzaddik, or to lead an evil life and be a rasha…This is a fundamental concept underlying the whole Torah and its mitzvot….You have the ability to choose between all types of human action, whether good or bad…If this were not so, what place would there be for the Torah? With what justice could God punish a rasha or reward a Tzaddik if each does not have perfectly free will to choose his own path?”

This point cannot be stated too strongly, because the Western world, and modern psychiatry, is going all out to push a ‘broken brain’ model of emotional disturbance that basically says all mental illness and emotional problems are rooted in genetics / chemical imbalances, and that they are permanent states.

The corollary of this is that many people believe that as soon as they’ve got some sort of official ‘diagnosis’, that then lets them off the hook of trying to work on their bad character traits, or trying to build up their emuna, or trying to strengthen their spiritual connection to Hashem.

But that’s not at all what Judaism teaches!

Judaism makes it clear that all of us will go through bad patches and have crazy moments where we can mamash act like a psycho. We’re taught that ‘man doesn’t sin unless a spirit of insanity enters him.’ Literally, that means that every single time we do something against Hashem’s will, or against the Torah, or that we lose our temper, or lash out at another person, on some level we’re ‘insane’!

The crazier we are, the crazier we act, the MORE effort we need to be putting into overcoming the bad middot and lack of emuna that’s actually causing the problem in the first place.

This isn’t my idea, btw. Writing in the ‘Garden of Healing’, Rav Arush explains that:

“Anyone who lacks emuna has some form of insanity. Whether one has worries, depression, or fears, all these are mental illnesses, illnesses of the soul. A person who has emuna lives with the reality of the Creator and is filled with joy and contentment. Therefore, talking about emuna and studying it heals the soul.”

Writing in Likutey Moharan I:72, Rebbe Nachman tells us:

“…the evil inclination of most people, which comes from the turbidity of the blood, is great foolishness, insanity and stupidity, as our Sages said: ‘A person doesn’t sin unless a foolish spirit enters him. (Sotah 3a).’”

To put this in different words, Rebbe Nachman is saying to us: “If you’re not a perfect, flawless Tzaddik, that means you’re still doing things wrong, and you’re still a little crazy!”

NEWSFLASH: We’re all a little bit crazy in 2017, me included!

The key is to know that our ‘craziness’ is truly just a ‘klipa’

– something that’s actually external to who we really are, and that we CAN overcome if we accept what we’re actually dealing with, we continue to work on identifying and uprooting our bad middot, and we work on our emuna and keep asking God to help us.