One thing you get by the tzaddikim is clarity.
Yesterday, after a week of just feeling totally out of it, and confused, and overwhelmed and ‘lost’, I finally made it up to Meron, to the tomb of Rashbi.
I went up the 90, from Jerusalem to Tiveria, and it was so good to see all the green blossoming all over Israel, and to see the glorious blue of the Kinneret expanding all over the place.
I know you can’t run away from your problems (I wrote a whole book about that, after all….)
At least, you can’t run away as a permanent feature of life.
But it’s also no less true that sometimes we need to have a break, a change of scene, a breath of fresh air. And that’s particularly true after we’ve spent close to three months in some form of ‘lockdown’ under martial law.
This is grace period, a time for reflection, a time to action the teshuva we were only thinking about the last few weeks and months.
And it’s a time to do all the things you’ve been pushing off, because soon the next round of madness will begin.
So, I got in the car yesterday and headed up to Meron.
On the way up, I bought some dresses for Shabbat and Chag, and a tent.
I usually have a pretty good inner-GPS, but for some reason I took a strange turn when I was coming around the Kinneret on the way to Meron – and it took me straight to Tzalmon prison.
Tzalmon prison is where the Rav, Rabbi Berland, is currently being held, in awful conditions where he’s being regularly abused by Arab inmates and denied even basic things like toilet paper.
So, I ended up driving almost straight up to Tzalmon prison, by mistake, and as soon as I realized where I actually was, this wave of happiness just filled me up out of nowhere.
Being close to the Rav, even in these strange circumstances, can do that.
I got my bearings again, and drove off to Rashbi, which was reassuringly busy.
There were lots of people wearing masks (mostly the older women in trousers with the bleach blonde hair) and lots of people not, baruch Hashem.
Compared to the hysterical control being exercised down by the Kotel at the moment, it made a really nice change.
As soon as I parked, two Breslovers with long, curly payot came over and gave me two books, biographies of the Saba, Rabbi Israel Dov Ber, aka the founder of the Na-Nach movement.
I opened one up ‘randomly’, and started reading a passage about the awful machloket that had engulfed the founder of the Chassidic movement, the Baal Shem Tov. You know that the beit din of the Vilna Gaon excommunicated him, and his followers, right?
You know that unethical ‘rabbis’ and askanim with vested interests told the Vilna Gaon a whole pack of lies about who the Baal Shem Tov really was, and what he was really up to. They called him a ‘false messiah’. They spread stories about him accepting money to do pidyonot. They openly mocked and ridiculed his tremendous spiritual level, and abilities to miracles and sweeten harsh judgments in the world.
And the Vilna Gaon bought all the lies about the Baal Shem Tov being another ‘Shabtai Tzvi’, God forbid, and excommunicated him and his followers
Does any of that sound familiar?
So anyway, then the book moved on to Rebbe Nachman, and explained that while the BESHT had been given permission to perform open miracles, Rebbe Nachman had not. According to the Saba:
“If Rabbenu had been permitted to do wonders, all the world would have drawn closer [to Breslov.] The world has fallen into such a darkness, as we see, and Rabbenu HaKodesh warned us about this. But everything is just preparation for the geula.
That we will be redeemed and raised up dafka from this machloket, and from this blow the honor of God will become greater and greater.”
Again, does any of that sound familiar?
I have to admit to driving up to Meron with quite a load of confusion and heartache.
Sure, I can now pick up my favorite kosher sushi again, and buy dresses again, and even take a walk without a mask. But you would have to be brain-damaged to believe things are going back to ‘normal’.
There is no ‘normal’.
What there is, is super-weird fringed with a return of a lot of the gashmius, but underpinned by massive anxiety and fear about what the future holds.
This period of time, in many ways, is going to be harder to deal with mentally than being in full lockdown, because the brain likes things to be pinned-down and kept in discrete boxes.
‘Lockdown’ came with its own set of rules, and most of us could deal with it, more or less, because we believed it was a temporary state of affairs.
But now, we’re coming out of ‘lockdown’, to find that so much of the world we hoped to return to is not how it was before.
I see all the masked sheeple walking around, and it instantly thrusts me back into the Orwellian nightmare, no matter how many mask-less walks in nature I’m taking, or how much wasabi I’m eating.
Things have changed out there.
There’s no going back to how it was before.
And even though plenty of us will continue to lie to ourselves over the coming months about what’s really going on, and what we really feel about it all, while we wait patiently for ‘things to get back to normal’, the truth is that we are only at the beginning of the patently disturbing process that’s going to lead to revealed geula in the world.
The economy and society has started unravelling, and nothing can hold it together.
That’s a precursor for Moshiach, that our existing corrupt, materialistic world has to implode first so that a much better, spiritual world can take its place.
The only question is how fast the process is going to take – and how bad things are going to get, day-to-day, before Moshiach actually shows up.
Tachlis, encourage everyone in your home right now to go out, and do as many soul-affirming things as they can, while they still have the chance.
Encourage them to ditch the masks as much as possible.
Encourage them to work on their emuna that God is running the world, and to stop fretting about germs and social distancing.
We have a few more weeks, possibly 2-3 more months, to really dig in and do the work of building up our emuna muscles.
There is a process in motion here that is not going to disappear, or ‘go back to normal’, but is actually only going to intensify.
So, give yourself and others a massive break right now, if you or they are ‘acting out’, or going weird.
Take a break. Do some shopping. Hug a friend. Have a party.
And most of all, work on strengthening your connection to God, and His true tzaddikim, as that is the real secret to getting through the next few months with your mental health intact.
If you live in Israel, jump in your car and go visit a holy site or two. Or six.
Or, order some of Rabbi Nachman’s books, or some of Rav Berland’s books, and connect that way, while the postman is still delivering.
Whatever you build now, whatever you create in your life, that’s what you will be left with, to take you through the next stage.
For some people, that’s going to be 48 tins of tuna and a massive bag of rice.
For others, it’s going to be the knowledge that only God runs the world, and that only the people who stay close to the Moshe Rabbenu of their generation are going to get out of Mitzrayim alive.
If you insulted someone, say sorry while you still can, and make peace with them.
If you stole something, pay it back.
If you made a big mess, in whatever way you want to understand that, go and fix it.
There is no more time left, to keep pushing things off.
That is the clarity I got up in Meron yesterday, and that I’m now sharing with you.
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