For a while now, I’ve been pondering on how so many of the things that seem to be the province of the spiritual world can actually also be found in our own lives, too.
For example, (random examples, natch…) when your mother-in-law calls you up and tells you she’s coming to visit, that can plunge you into an experience mamash akin to Gehinnom, or hell, or purgatory, or whatever you want to call it.
By contrast, when you spend a lazy couple of hours jumping the waves, or reading an amazing book, or having a great conversation about real things, that can be a taste of paradise, or Gan Eden.
You get the picture.
So, one of the things that exists in the spiritual world is a form of punishment called the ‘Kaf HaKela’ or slingshot.
The basic idea is that the soul is put in this spiritual slingshot, and then pinged to the furthest end to the universe. Before it can even catch its breath or have a cup of tea, it’s pinged back to the other side of the universe, and so on and so forth.
Last week, I went up north for a much-needed small break with my family. One evening, we went to the lake front promenade in Tiberius. My kids went to look at funky clothing and hippy hairstyle accessories, while me and my husband slowly meandered from one side of the promenade to the other. Over there, by the big ‘Kinneret Water Level’ measuring sculpture-thingy, we had a very deep conversation about Rebbe Nachman, and all things ‘soul’.
On the other side – all of a 15 minute slow walk – we got assailed by 80s music including Simply Red and John Lennon’s Imagine, and suddenly – ping! – I was back in my old life as a completely secular teenager in London.
The experience was very disconcerting for both me and my husband, which started to crystallize my ideas about the ‘Kaf Hakela’ experiences so many of us are having these days, where we literally ping from one extreme of frumkeit and spirituality to the other of coarsest gashmius and goyish thinking, in a nano-second.
Here’s another example: on the way back to Jerusalem, my kids were desperate to go the ice rink in Holon. So – ping! – off we went to a place of spandex, shorts and more 80s music. (If you want to know why I went, it’s because I’ve come to understand that I can’t fight the Kaf Hakela. I tried that for four years, and it literally almost killed me.)
Less than an hour later – ping! – my husband got home and immediately headed out to his yeshiva, where he gives a weekly shiur on the Garden of Emuna.
In the meantime, I pinged off to do a whole bunch of mitzvot that I just wouldn’t have to do if I wasn’t a frum woman.
But smaller versions of the Kaf Hakela happen pretty much every hour in my life. I sit down to type a post like this, and then – ping! – I find myself looking at Quora questions about the latest celeb nonsense (they appear automatically in my feed). Or, I read something in Likutey Moharan and – ping! – five seconds later I’m looking at some political scandal on ynet (that doesn’t happen too often, BH, but the point is it DOES happen).
Or, I’ll be listening to some uplifting Yosef Karduner tune when one of my kids will come in, turn it off and start playing the latest ‘Taylor Swift’ (or whatever her name is) really loudly. Ping! Ping! Ping!
On the Jerusalem streets, I encounter Kaf Hakela every day.
One minute, it’s the guarding-their-eyes Breslover, the next, some bint with massive holes where her earlobes used to be and half-pink hair, and of course the de rigeur completely gross tattoos.
But you know what? Now that I’ve figured out that I’m in some sort of Kaf Hakela experience, and that there’s nothing much I can do about it except sit back and enjoy the ride, I’ve started to feel quite a bit better about the whole thing.
Usually, I beat myself up for not being able to stay 100% in the ‘frum’ world all the time, hard as I try. But once I got the message that this is actually a form of Divinely-ordained experience that’s paying off my spiritual debts, I’ve started to ease up on myself.
That I’m in Kaf Hakela in so many different ways in my life – constantly pinging between body and soul, yetzer tov and yetzer hara, Israel and the UK, past and present, religious and not, English and Hebrew, keeping it together and completely falling apart – I can’t help.
That’s God’s decision.
But what is down to me is how I react to being flung across the world from one place to another every 5 seconds. I don’t like it, that I know. But now I know it’s from God, and not because of anything I’m doing myself (at least in this life…) I feel calmer about the whole thing.
So for now, it seems we’ll continue to mix iceskating with emuna shiurim, and Brexit polls with articles on Rav Berland’s website, and ‘Frozen’ soundtracks with Yosef Karduner. Do I get why? Not really. But that’s true of a lot of things I’m currently experiencing in my life.
Many days, I don’t know which way is ‘up’. Sometimes, I have so much clarity it’s scary, and the next – ping! – I’m completely lost and clueless. I guess the point is to cling to Hashem. Rebbe Nachman teaches that the world is not God’s place, but God is the ‘place’ of the world. God is everywhere, as King David taught us in Psalms. So whether I’m davening a shmoneh esrei or listening to Imagine, I can still choose to be with God.