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Enough with the tinsel, already.

Living in a building where almost no-one has a balcony, let alone a balcony that you could build a Succah on, means that as soon as Yom Kippur is over, there is a mad rush to try and grab a spot for your pop-up Succah outside on the path leading up to our building complex.

Last year, there were 7-8 Succahs out there, including ours. Already this year we seem to be holding at 10-11 – and we’re still one day to go. Part of me is really happy that more people are participating in the mitzvah of building a Succah, part of me is worrying that all the secular neighbors are going to explode in rage, about having to navigate all this canvas…

Last year, some stroppy bint had a go at me and my husband for ‘selfishly’ practicing the mitzvah of Succot at the expense of ‘people in wheelchairs’ who can no longer use the pathways.’

There was more than enough room for someone in a wheelchair to get pass our Succahs, as I’d seen a few people in wheelchairs doing it. But the bint just wanted to rant at religious people, so who were we to spoil her fun?

But now that the Succahs are also taking over large swathes of the parking lot too…. And a bit more of the space on the pavement…. Well, I’m feeling a little nervous, I have to admit.

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One of these new Succahs was printed up with xmas-looking decorations on all 4 sides – tinsel and metallic decorations – plus a massive close-up of the Temple inside.

And there was something about that, I don’t know what, that put me in a funny mood.

I came back into our house Friday morning, and I told my husband:

I’m sick of hanging up cheap xmas overflow decorations for Succot. Totally and utterly sick of it. It just looks so tacky, so xmas-y, and this year I’m not going to do it.

He looked at me with a bit of a worried look on his face, because if there’s no tinsel, how are we going to get into the festive mood?!

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I went and googled ‘natural Succah decorations’ and it brought up a whole bunch of totally over-the-top images of Succahs that looked like they were fresh of the cover of the ‘Ideal (Succah) Magazine’. Nope, hand-carving uplifting messages into variegated colored pumpkins stacked by the Succah entrance was not going to happen this year…

But, creating decorations made of dried out orange slices, leaves and beads really appealed to me, so instead of making my Shabbat chicken, I started trying to dehydrate orange and lemon slices in my oven Friday morning. (I cut the drying time down to 1 ½ hours, so they are still a little bit soggy, but Shabbos waits for no man, so what can you do.)

My daughters eyed me like I’d gone crazy. I could see them wondering, scared to ask:

What, is Ima back on her extreme ‘health food’ kick, and she’s just feeding us dried orange slices for Shabbos?!

Man, were they relieved when I explained that I was just having an anti-tinsel, anti-xmas-decorations-masquerading-as-Succah-decorations thing.

And then, they spent the next four hours crafting some really beautiful natural decorations, and finding a big stick to tie them all too.

I also made one.

And the husband also made one.

And while the Shabbos food still got made on time (just about), there was just something so awesome about the fact that for once, we’d sat down and made some Succah decorations ourselves, as a family.

I’ve wanted to do it for years and years and years, and never managed it.

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So even though some of my orange slices still look more ‘chewy’ than totally dried (and will probably attract five million wasps and bugs) – who cares?

At least for this year, I’ve kicked the tinsel into touch.

I don’t have great hopes for Succot, as my chagim have been pretty lackluster so far…. I still don’t know what I’m going to cook. Our Succah is still roofless and floorless. I’m totally unprepared in a million ways, still.

But one thing I’m sure of:

This year there will be no tinsel.

And that, at least, is something.

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Photo by Jukka Heinovirta on Unsplash

It’s not so hard to judge someone’s soul to the side of ‘good’.

A little while before Rosh Hashana, Rachel from New York challenged me over in the comments section to ‘walk the walk’, and judge Avigdor Lieberman favorably.

In case you happen to live on planet Mars, Avigdor Lieberman is the Russian-born head of the Yisrael Beytenu party, who is trying to force all chareidim to leave their shtenders, and to serve in the IDF.

Lieberman is so adamant about this, he brought down the last government – and is continuing to sow chaos in Israel politically, by refusing to sit with Bibi Netanyahu in any new government, and also by refusing to sit with the ‘religious’ parties that make up the Knesset’s natural right-wing ‘bloc’.

Because of Lieberman, we’ve already had 2 elections in five months – and no government. And you read it here first, we will be going to third elections, very soon.

So, how to judge Avigdor Lieberman to the side of ‘good’?

It’s a tough challenge, but after doing a fair bit of praying on it, here’s where I’m up to.

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The starting point with Rebbe Nachman’s lesson of Azamra is that while we have to clearly state when ACTIONS are bad and evil and anti-Torah and anti-God, that’s very different from saying the ESSENCE of a person is evil. Rav Ofer Erez explains this magnificently, in this video with full English subtitles:

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A Jew’s essence, their soul, is only good.

But what happens? All these klipot, all these external forces of evil come along to confuse and trip us up, and then before long you have people who are committing the worst sins in the world, but who are still telling themselves that they are doing ‘the right thing’, and that this is just how it has to be.

Let’s take a look at Lieberman, to see how that’s playing out.

Lieberman lacks emuna, and he doesn’t believe that God is running the world and controlling everything and everyone.

If he had more emuna, he would know that the best defense for the land of Israel is for all of the Jews who live here to wholeheartedly return to God, and to start doing what God wants, i.e. living a Torah-observant lifestyle.

But poor guy, he doesn’t know that.

He never went to cheder, he never went to yeshiva, he grew up in the Soviet Union where religion and God were anathema, and then he moved to Israel and started moving in political circles where religion and God are still anathema.

A guy like Lieberman, he wakes up every morning, and what does he see?

He sees Hamas with rockets in Gaza. And Hezbollah with rockets in Lebanon. And Syria trying to build a nuclear reactor on the Northern border. And Iran trying to complete their nuclear reactors, so they can nuke Israel, God forbid, over in the Gulf – and he’s totally petrified by the idea that some mad mullah can flip a switch, and boom!!! No more Israel.

Because Lieberman doesn’t have God in the picture, what does he think can help to solve this awful problem, this terrible danger to the Jewish state?

In his mind, Israel can only be defended against all these threats by a strong army.

In Lieberman’s mind, if the country fills up with pacifist frummers who only want to learn Torah and don’t want to serve in the army – then Israel will be finished.

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Before we continue, I challenge you, dear reader, to take a long, hard look in the mirror and to ask yourself if you also believe that the IDF is what is really protecting Israel.

Because if the answer is ‘yes’, that means you and Lieberman are essentially on the same page.

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Now, people with emuna know that God is protecting Israel, and that this country gets open miracles morning, noon and night.

People with emuna know that people like Rabbi Berland, and the late Baba Elazar, z’tl, and all the other big rabbis, tzaddikim and kabbalists, are working around the clock to keep ‘sweetening’ the spiritual judgments that manifest as terrorists, rockets and nukes, God forbid.

People with emuna are aware that it’s the Jewish people’s own sins that is causing us our terrible security problems with our neighbors, and that if we would return to God and His Torah, the whole Iranian nuke issue will fizzle like a sparkler in a shower.

Lieberman doesn’t have emuna.

So, according to his incorrect paradigm of what’s going on here, unless he can find a way to ‘force’ all the peacenik yeshiva bochurs into the army, sooner or later, he believes the army will collapse and the State of Israel will be destroyed or overrun by our enemies, God forbid.

Because of that belief, he has now apparently declared an all-out war against religion, or what he calls a ‘halachic state’, where Torah law would be pre-eminent.

Is this ‘good’ or ‘right’? No, it’s totally evil.

Why is he doing it?

Because he has very little emuna, doesn’t believe in God, and believes that superior force, and targeted killings, and all the other super-evil stuff that’s being done in the name of ‘security’ here and elsewhere, is the only way to protect the Jewish state.

(Lieberman’s Wikipedia entry makes very interesting reading. In many ways, you could argue he’s consistently acted as one of Israel’s more principled politicians, including severing ties with the corrupt Mossad, back in 2011. I also found this, which certainly muddies the waters on his views of ‘organized religion’ in Israel, too:

While his party is sometimes described by the news media[55] as doctrinally secular and aiming to reduce the role of the rabbinical system in government, it actually supports the continuation of the role of Orthodox rabbinical courts, but wants more nationally minded religious people, rather than the ultra-orthodox, in charge.[56] It does not advocate introducing civil marriage within Israeli law, but rather to find a solution to some of those who cannot marry under such laws.[55] It does not advocate a separation of religion and state in Israeli society.[56]

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So now, we circle back to the message of the ‘whoever finds fault‘ post, because Lieberman isn’t the only one who think that ‘chareidim’ are bad, and wrecking the economy, and need to be forced to serve in the army.

There are a whole bunch of ostensibly ‘religious’ Jews both here and abroad who also totally lack emuna, and believe the same thing, too.

Just they are less vitriolic (and probably, also less honest….) about expressing it. They think it’s fine for a few yeshiva bochurs to carry on learning, but they clearly would prefer most Moshes to put down their gemara and pick up their uzis, and to become truly productive citizens of Israel.

Honestly? It’s much, much harder for me to judge them favorably, because you’d think that surely they should know better than some Russian guy who never went to cheder and who grew up under atheist, communist rule….

But I digress.

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So, let’s sum up where we’ve got to:

Lieberman’s ACTIONS of going after the Torah world, and trying to ‘secularise’ Israel are clearly wrong, bad and evil.

Lieberman’s MOTIVATIONS are confused and mixed-up, but at least conceivably could stem from a genuine concern that if Torah observant Jews don’t serve in the IDF and ‘contribute economically’ to Israel, the Jewish State will either be destroyed, conquered or collapsed.

So that’s how we can judge the ESSENCE of Lieberman to the side of merit, even though his actions are clearly evil and atrocious.

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Ahead of Yom Kippur, it’s a really good idea to practice this Azamra thing as much as possible, because however we judge others, that is how God will judge us.

 

We’re all doing things wrong ALL THE TIME.

We hurt people, we step on them, we selfishly put ourselves first, we look down our noses at other Jews, and act holier-than-thou. We act like pigs, so very much of the time.

BUT OUR ESSENCE IS GOOD.

And the more we make an effort to see that in others, the more we’ll uncover that true goodness in ourselves, too, and rescue our souls (and everyone else’s….) from the klipot.

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“Whoever finds fault, finds his own fault” – Tractate Kiddushin 70a

With a couple of days to go before the Yom HaDin, Rosh Hashana 5780, I thought that we’d take a look at a passage in the Gemara, Kiddushin 70a, which is where the ‘mirror principle’ is first stated by Chazal.

In case you don’t know what the ‘mirror principle’ is, it’s a statement by the Baal Shem Tov that the whole world is a just a mirror, and that whatever ‘bad’ we see peeking out at us in others is somehow just a reflection of our own ‘bad’.

But that’s not just a tenet of chassidut, it’s actually brought down in the Gemara. And if we look at the context of that statement, we can learn some truly remarkable things. Let’s begin this post over in Chapter Four of Tractate Kiddushin, where the Sages are discussing the genealogical laws, and describing the different categories of Jews who ascended to Israel, from Babylonia, before the Second Temple was built.

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The Gemara tells us:

Ten genealogical classes went up from Bablyonia to Eretz Yisrael: Kohanim, Leviim, Yisraelim, chalalim (disqualified Kohanim), converts, freed Caananite slaves, mamzerim, nesinim, shetukim and asufim.

While all of these classes were considered to be 100% Jewish, there were restrictions on who was allowed to marry each other. The Gemara sets out the basic rules:

Kohanim, Leviim and Yisraelim – can marry each other.

Leviim, Yisraelim, chalalim, converts and freed slaves – can marry each other.

Converts, freed slaves, mamzerim, nesinim, shetukim and asufim – can marry each other.

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Before we continue, let’s just explain some of the more unfamiliar terms:

Mamzer – Refers to someone who is 100% Jewish, halachically, but who was born as a result of a union that is forbidden by the Torah. This doesn’t apply to someone who was born out of wedlock, but whose biological parents could still have stood under an orthodox chuppah. It also doesn’t apply to the Jewish child of a ‘mixed marriage’ where the father is not Jewish. But it DOES apply to adulterous extra-marital relationships, and also to children born of incest, amongst other things.

Nesin – This refers to a group of Canaanites called the Gibeonites, who tricked Joshua into converting them to become Jews, so that he wouldn’t kill them when he was conquering Eretz Yisrael. Even though their conversion was considered valid, Joshua forbid the other Jews from marrying them as long as the temple stood. Then later, King David saw how cruel and barbaric they were, and permanently forbid them from marrying into the mainstream Jewish community.

Shetuk – According to the Gemara:

“These are shetukim, anyone who knows the identify of his mother, but does not know the identity of his father.”

Asuf – According to the Gemara:

“Anyone who is gathered in from the street and does not know the identity of either his father or his mother.”

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The Gemara then gets into a very interesting discussion about how Ezra the Scribe basically forced all these ‘genealogically unfit’ categories of Jews to ascend with him to come and rebuild Eretz Yisrael.

He was worried that if he left them behind in Babylonia, the rabbis there wouldn’t know how to keep them properly contained.

(It’s an interesting aside, but the Babylonian Talmud asserts that because Ezra took all the ‘unfit’ Jews with him to Israel, he left Babylonian Jewry “like fine, sifted flour.” So they state that Babylonia at that time was the most genealogically ‘fit’ Jewish community, followed by Eretz Yisrael, then followed by the rest of the diaspora (!) I’m willing to bet the Talmud Yerushalmi has a different view, but I don’t have a copy to compare….)

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The Gemara then gets into a whole big discussion about what a big, genealogical mess the whole thing is already (1800 years ago…).

There were so many Kohanim who’d married goyim and ‘forbidden’ women without anyone knowing; and there were so many slaves who didn’t follow the proper procedure for being freed (which would render them as halachically Jewish converts) before marrying a Jew; and there were mamzerim walking around all over the place, due to adulterous affairs.

The Gemara then states this:

A Tanna taught…Elijah [the Prophet] writes, and the Holy One, Blessed is He, signs: Woe to him who disqualifies his children and who taints his family, and who marries a woman who is not fit for him. Elijah ties him, and the Holy One, Blessed is He, whips him. And whoever declares others to be genealogically unfit is himself genealogically unfit. And he (i.e someone who is genealogically unfit] never speaks in praise of others.

Let’s just pause for a moment, and digest this, as it’s a statement with huge implications.

In the Artscroll footnotes, they note that Rashi comments that:

[A]nyone who regularly demeans the genealogical status of other families reveals himself to be genealogically blemished.

In other words, we are back to the mirror principle, big time. The Gemara continues:

And Shmuel said: The Baraisa means: He declares them unfit with his own blemish.

I.e., whatever he’s accusing others of being, he’s actually just describing himself.

The Gemara then tells the following story, to underline this point:

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There was a certain man from Nehardea who went into a butcher shop in Pumbedita[1]. He said to them: “Give me meat.” They said to him: “Wait until the attendant of Rav Yehudah bar Yechezkel[2], who is standing here, takes his meat, and then we will give you yours.”

He said: “Who is Yehuda bar Sheviskel that he should precede me and take before me!” They went and told Rav Yehuda what this man had said. [Rav Yehuda] placed a ban upon him. They told Rav Yehuda: “He habitually calls people slaves.” [Rav Yehuda] issued a proclamation that he [i.e. the Nehardean] was a slave himself.”

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What happens next is that the aggressive, brazen, disrespectful Nehardean than sues Rav Yehuda in the rabbinical court of Rav Nachman, the leader of the Nehardean community.

The story continues:

“Rav Nachman began the questioning: He said to [Rav Yehuda]: ‘Why did master place a ban upon that man?’

Rav Yehuda responded: ‘Because he harassed an agent of the Rabbis.’

Rav Nachman: ‘Then master should have given him lashes…Why did you excommunicate[3] him?’

Rav Yehuda: ‘As a penalty. I dealt with him even more stringently than that.’

Rav Nachman: ‘Why did master proclaim that he was a slave?’

Rav Yehuda: ‘Because he frequently calls people ‘slaves’. And a Tanna has taught in a Baraisa: Anyone who declares others… unfit, is himself unfit. And he never speaks in praise of others. And Shmuel said….’It is with his own blemish that he declares other unfit.’

(Try this: swap out the word ‘slave’ for ‘Erev Rav’…)

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Now, the Nehardean gets all bolshy, and starts shouting down Rav Yehuda, who is one of the Gedolei HaDor of Babylonian Jewry:

“Me you call a slave, when in fact I am descended from the royal family of Hasmoneans!”

Rav Yehuda says to him:

“Thus said Shmuel: ‘Whoever says, ‘I am descended from the family of the Hasmoneans is in truth a slave!”

Rav Nachman gets into a small discussion about whether Rav Yehuda is just making up quotes to try to bolster his case, and Rav Yehuda says no, Rav Masnah also heard this teaching. Rav Masnah hadn’t appeared in Nehardea in 13 years, but whaddya know? As they’re having this conversation, Rav Masnah happens to show up, and he confirms Rav Yehuda’s statement.

The Gemara continues:

“[Rav Nachman] subsequently proclaimed that the plaintiff was indeed a slave. That day, many ketubot were ripped up in Nehardea” – because Jewish men now suspected they were married to ‘slave’ women who they’d mistakenly believed to be Jewish.

Now, Rav Yehuda leaves town, and the people of Nehardea follow him, because they want to stone him to death, for all the trouble he’s making. Rav Yehuda gets them to quiet down by telling them that if they doesn’t leave him alone, he’s going to reveal right there the big secret that Shmuel taught him about the Jewish community in Nehardea, namely:

“There are two families in Nehardea: One is called the family of Yonah [i.e. the kosher dove] and one is called the family of Orvasi [i.e. the non-kosher and cruel oreiv, or raven. Perhaps another hint to the ‘Erev Rav’ problem.]… The family named after an impure bird is impure, and the family named after a pure bird is pure.”

The townspeople dropped their stones and ran away, before Rav Yehuda could disclose which family was which.

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Now, the Gemara goes through a whole bunch of proclamations the Sages of Babylonia made about all these ‘impure’ and ‘disqualified’ people in the Jewish community.

This problem is even in Eretz Yisrael, and when Rabbi Pinchas’ students start investigating the families in the Land of Israel, they realise they have to stop. Rashi explains why:

“Their research led them to discover the disqualification of certain powerful families who would kill them [if their impurities were revealed.”

Which brings us on to a VERY important point, about how Chazal decided to deal with this situation, and how they said it would ultimately get fixed (we’re now in Kiddushin 71a):

(R’ Yitzhak said):

“Once a genealogically tainted family is mixed with Israel, it is mixed. One should not isolate such a family and clarify which of its members are pure and which are impure. Rather, one should leave it, and in the Messianic era all of its members will be deemed pure.”

The Gemara continues, and makes a distinction between ‘genealogically impure’ families who forced their way into the Jewish community (i.e. like Herod the Great, for example), and tainted families where it all kind of just happened:

(Abaye explains):

“Families… whose impurities are publically known and who became mixed with Israel only through force, will be dealt with by Elijah the Prophet. But a tainted family that became mixed with Israel because people were unaware of its status, Elijah will allow to remain mixed.”

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Let’s finish with one more story from the Gemara, in Kiddushin 71b, then we’ll sum up what we just learnt together.

Rav Ulla comes to visit Rav Yehuda in Pumbedita, and he sees that his son, Rav Yitzhak, is still unmarried, so he asks Rav Yehuda:

“What’s going on? Why haven’t you married your son off?”

Rav Yehuda replies: “Who knows where I can find a genealogically fit wife for him?!”

Rav Ulla says to him: “Do we know where we come from?”

And then starts listing a whole bunch of verses stating how idolaters ravished Jewish women in the town of Judea in Biblical times; and talking about Jews who ‘defile their couches’, which R’ Abahu explains as referring to wife-swapping.

“Since our predecessors engaged in this type of adulterous activity, no-one can assume that he is genealogically fit!” says R’ Ulla. So then, Rav Yehuda asks him, “So what do we do?” Ulla answered him: “Go after silence, i.e. seek a family whose members are quiet and peaceable…[In Eretz Yisrael] they use the following method to investigate someone’s lineage:

“When two people would quarrel with each other, they would see which one is the first to quiet down, and then they would say, ‘that person is genealogically purer than the other.”

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LET’S SUM THIS UP:

It’s a great, eye-opening piece of Gemara, isn’t it? Can you imagine what might start to happen if more of our rabbis and commentators would actually learn some Gemara?

So, here’s the main takeaway points from Kiddushin 70a-72b:

  • Whenever we find fault in other Jews, we are really just identifying our own faults.
  • That particularly applies to finding fault with other people’s ‘genealogy’, like for example, going around calling other people ‘Erev Rav’, etc.
  • Even 1800 years ago, there were so many forbidden and / or adulterous unions going on in the Jewish community, that even the head of the Torah Academy in Pumbedita was having trouble finding a ‘genealogically fit’ wife for his son.
  • Adulterous affairs and immoral behavior have been going on for so long, not even the most illustrious Jew today can be 100% sure that some ancestor of theirs didn’t put a massive spanner in their genealogical works. So it behooves us all to act with a little humility, and to stop pointing fingers at other Jews.
  • When Moshiach shows up, he will declare everyone pure.
  • The exception to this is those people who pushed their way into the Jewish community ‘by force’, i.e. they never intended to convert sincerely, or to serve Hashem, they just wanted the status, money or other perks of technically being part of the Jewish community. Elijah the Prophet will push these people away.
  • The way you can tell how ‘genealogically pure’ someone is, is by checking their middot and temperament. If they are angry, argumentative, brazen, obsessed with their own honor, always have to be right, and can never back down, make peace and apologise – then they probably aren’t so ‘fit’, Jewishly-speaking. The more calm, conciliatory, peaceable and kind a person is, the more genealogically ‘fit’ they probably are.

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On that note, let me end by apologizing to any of my readers or email correspondents who I may well have upset or irked this year.

I’m a flawed human being, and I don’t always act and react appropriately, so please forgive me!

And I unconditionally forgive all the psychos, weirdos, and holier-than-thou pseudo-prophets who continue to make my life interesting, too.

May we ALL be blessed with a peaceful, productive, happy, healthy and sweet 5780.

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FOOTNOTES:

[1] Pumbedita was the main centre of Torah learning in Babylonia, but Nehardea also had a significant, and learned Jewish population.

[2] This is the ‘Rav Yehuda’ of the Babylonian Talmud, who was head of the Torah academy in Pumbedita.

[3] By designating this man a ‘slave’, Rav Yehuda effectively removed his communal status as a Jew.

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Photo by Daniela Holzer on Unsplash

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The State of Israel is meant to be a ‘home’ for every Jew. That’s not exactly what’s happening.

Following on from my posts about the quagmire relating to conversions in Latin America (which I still have way more to write about, in due course), I received the following interesting email from a reader.

I don’t agree with everything she says (especially about secular politicians providing some sort of ‘solution’) – but I think her insight and the information she is sharing is a very valuable contribution to the discussion on what is really going on with orthodox converts, on today’s State of Israel.

So with her permission (and removing any identifying details), I’m sharing it with you below.

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I am a giyoret (charedi) from Latin America, and sadly (yes) I know more or less the conversion system.

You probably already know, but to explain why I wasn’t simply able to vote for the religious parties I first have to explain how the conversion system works in Israel.

In Israel you have two options, you either go to a private court (many of those are charedi) or you go to the State conversion system.

For a citizen of Israel, this is a non-issue, but for non-citizens it’s about choosing to have automatic political rights (i.e. the ability to make aliyah) or not. 

You could say, “then everyone should just do the process via the Rabbanut” but sadly, to get into the system you need approval from the Exceptions Committee, which is a joint committee (Rabbanut and the Interior Ministry). 

And passing the approval process in a reasonable amount of time is almost impossible if you are from a third world country, and even more difficult if you are from a third world country and charedi. Many of those cases end up without a solution and end up being deported from Israel or leaving voluntarily.

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To give you more perspective, I know girls that have been trying for more than three years to convert with the Rabbanut (they are already giyorot (converts) because usually, you finish the private, charedi conversion process first).

Three years, without a work permit or something similar (they usually have to work as cleaners).

It’s physical and psychological torture (I went through something similar, but I was luckier), and sadly, seeing this continue (even up until today) marked me forever.

You probably know about Karen Jemima Mosquera.

(Ed. Note: I didn’t, but now I’m looking into it.)

Well, I know her mother and sister, and her rabbi, who are all tzadikim, especially her rabbi who no matter what, helps people). Sadly, I couldn’t meet her, but when I learned the real story (that right-wing newspapers never told) I was shocked by the amount of cruelty this woman had to go through. Not only from the State (and particularly, the Interior Ministry) but also from religious institutions.

In the moment of her death, Jemima was not Jewish according to the State of Israel. I mean, she was clearly Jewish (she had a mehadrin conversion) but she was not politically Jewish. The fact that she could be buried on the Mount of Olives was a political miracle.

I personally think she died for a reason, and it was to call the frum community’s attention to the existence of people like her.

But nothing changed.

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Now, like many charedim, I was told that Lapid is a rasha (evildoer) (don’t get me wrong, I didn’t vote for them either), that if he gets the power then we are done.

I don’t think he is a rasha, he is just a massive fool. And I don’t think he is so important as the religious leadership wants us to believe.

We as frum people tend to think that since we’re extra careful about certain things (Shabbat, kashrut, arayot (modest behavior) that our permanence in this land depends on keeping those prohibitions.

As far as I know, Hashem has never exiled us for breaking those things.

Hashem has exiled us for violating mitzvot ben adam le chavero (the mitzvahs between a man and his fellow man.)

For oppressing the widow, the stranger, and the orphan.

And this is because He has a special sympathy for the stranger, the widow, and the orphan. Hashem cares for the weary.

Shabbat, Kashrut, and Arayot are of course important but are not the ikkar (main thing).

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And forgive me for what I’m saying, the religious parties are complicit in this suffering.

Who is the Interior Minister? Aryeh Machlouf Dery, a “charedi” guy. He’s the one who is is behind the suffering of those gerim (converts).

(This comes from the Ministry of Interior website:)

The Population Administration deals with the personal, formal, and legal status of residents of Israel, in accordance with Government policy on citizenship, immigration, and entry to and exit from the country. It provides documentation and registration services and monitors movements and changes such as births, deaths, changes of address, entry to and exit from the country. It issues passports; conducts border checks; and manages the population registry, passport, and border check databases, which are a primary source of information for the Population Administration offices and, through them, for other government agencies.

Laws determining personal status and modalities for entering and leaving Israel include the Law of Return 5710-1950; the Entry to Israel Law 5712-1952; the Citizenship Law 5712-1952; the Passports Law 5712-1952; the Names Law 5716-1956; the Population Registry Law 5725-1965; the Possession and Presentation of Identity Cards Law 5743-1982; and the Emergency Regulations (Exit from the Country) 5708-1948.

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I was heavily conflicted, and this dirty trick of using the Gadol Hador (who is probably clueless about this situation) to push the tzibbur (community) to vote for gimmel because it was in our interests.

(Ed. Note: this isn’t my understanding of why they said to vote to Gimmel.)

I was heavily considering voting for gimmel because even if their political allies (Shas) hurt me and my friends, I truly wanted to be loyal.

But something happened.

In my seminary, there are currently 4 girls trying to make aliyah with a charedi private conversion (the State of Israel’s Supreme Court gave them this right).

Three of them are stuck (no answer).

One of them (a sixty-year-old lady), got a B1 visa meanwhile, while they decide her fate (she must reapply in a year).

She spent 9000 NIS to get this.

(From the Nefesh B’Nefesh website🙂 Work (B-1): Granted to those who qualify under the Law of Return and who do not hold prior Israeli citizenship. This visa allows you to legally work in Israel. The visa is for a three year period. You can apply to extend it for another two years, but you cannot exceed a period of five years in total. At the end of this time period, you can either apply for Aliyah or apply for an A-5 visa, which can be extended every 2 years. (Scroll down for an update on this – apparently Nefesh B’Nefesh have this wrong.)

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B1 visas are working visas for foreign workers (non-Jews) and goyish girlfriends, its known as the “girlfriend visa.”

With this visa, you don’t have right to have a teudat zehut (national ID number) (as opposed to a A5 visa) or to bituach leumi (National Insurance), or health care.

I was also a victim of this tactic, but I got a better arrangement while my fate was decided (I got a humanitarian visa and the right to hold a teudat zehut). I got this based on a liberal conversion I made in the diaspora (my lawyer told me “don’t disclose that you’re a charedi convert ” – she was right, It could have hurt me).

I was in the seminary, and this woman came and asked me “do you think that when I come back, they will give me a teudat zehut?” She said it in such a tone that it broke my heart. I couldn’t tell her “yes”.

I know of cases where the Rabbanut said yes, but the Interior Ministry said no.

The head of the Exceptions Committee is, naturally, a Shasnik.

(Ed. Note: I haven’t checked this out yet.)

Then I realized I couldn’t simply vote for these people or their enablers (and this includes Gafni and Litzman).

I can forgive what they did to me, but I couldn’t forgive what they are doing to others.

I know you may think that I’m wrong, that Lapid is worse, and I would understand that.

But I simply couldn’t.

====

In a second email, my correspondent added the following:

I forgot to tell you that this is not the fault of the Rabbanut.

They make it seem as if it’s the Rabbanut, but the Rabbanut is basically strangled by the secular authority (the Interior Ministry and the Ministry of Religious Affairs).

Inside the Rabbanut, there is also a certain school of thought that rejects any non-State sanctioned conversion (they would accept army conversions over a charedi private conversion), but many there are innocent and good people that have very good intentions.

I suspect that’s why Shas would like to take control of the ministry of aliyah and integration and change the Law of Return.

The excuse is always the Reform and the Russian non-Jews, but given that they already attempted to exclude converts in general from the right of return, I wouldn’t be surprised that they would try to do that again.

(Ed. Note: I haven’t heard that they have been trying to exclude converts, generally, from the right to move to Israel, and BH I will be looking into this.)

Remember last week’s parsha?

אָרוּר, מַטֶּה מִשְׁפַּט גֵּר-יָתוֹם–וְאַלְמָנָה; וְאָמַר כָּל-הָעָם, אָמֵן.

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Not everyone wants to advance those weird agendas.

Particularly, we know that the Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi is trying to fix much stuff inside.

Also inside the Interior Ministry, there are very nice people without power who are willing to help (they can’t usually)

I also used to be too judgy regarding the Rabbanut but I learned that inside it, there are many Rabbanim who do believe that the ultimate criteria of acceptance is not politics/economic situation but halacha.

They just do what they think is right.

I honestly think this is hurting the religious community (attempting to tell the chilonim (secular Jews) who they should marry and stuff proved to work against us).

I may be paranoid, but now I get why Ben Gurion offered us the status quo. There is famous Israeli religious university professor who used to say that Ben Gurion himself told him that he didn’t want to have religion and state separated, because that way he would have the power to control religion.

I think army conversions (which from what I know, makes many Rabbanut rabbis feel uncomfortable) are a proof of that.

The Rabbanut cannot even decide how many time a ulpan giur should last. (Ulpan giur is the conversion process). For citizens, it will always last 10 months (everyone has to finish the process in 10 months) – but no Beit Din in the world has such a restriction.

Keep up the good work Rivka, and pray for us.

====

Lots to think about, isn’t there?

I will start looking into all this stuff with the Interior Ministry, and we’ll see what fantastic can of worms is about to open up over there, too.

The one thing that I just want to note, is that I don’t think the Gadolei haDor like Rav Berland and Rav Kanievsky told us to vote ‘gimmel’ from a political perspective, odd as that sounds. No true gadol gives a stuff about the Knesset at this point in time, they have their eye on the geula process, and just making the transition from where we are right now to that stage as easy as possible.

Voting ‘gimmel’ was just part of the heavenly plan to totally hamstring the secular, totally corrupt, political apparatus in Israel, while we’re waiting for the last bit of the geula process to unfold.

No truly God-fearing party could ever head a government in the State of Israel, and be complicit in all the murders, crime, and vice that is happening every single day. We are still not even uncovering the tip of the iceberg, but soon, all the awful corruption will start to come out.

What’s clear is that ‘politics’ is not the answer to what’s going on here.

(Hopefully, more of the ‘religious’ people out there are starting to realise that.)

What’s required is to tear all this old, corrupt stuff down, and to rebuild it anew, with justice, morality and Torah at its base.

And that’s exactly what Moshiach is going to do.

The main question for us at this stage, is how does God want us to respond to what’s going on with the  State-sponsored abuse of sincere, orthodox converts while we’re waiting for that to happen?

TBC

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UPDATE:

I just got this over email:

Please change your description of the B1 visa (you don’t have to be Jewish according the law of return to get it, that’s the A1 visa).
Looks like what I posted up from the Nefesh B’Nefesh website is wrong. Just goes to show how much confusion is reigning on this subject, if even they can’t keep their visa information straight.
====

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The Vilna Gaon was really into the Moshiach and calculations of ‘End Times’.

There’s a book exchange station next to the bike path in the German Colony, and because it’s arguably the most Anglo neighborhood in Jerusalem, I often find some really good stuff there. Last week, I picked up a book called: The Gaon of Vilna and His Messianic Vision, by an observant Israeli academic called Arie Morgenstern. I have to tell you, it’s one of the most interesting books that I’ve read in a very long time.

I learned so many things that I didn’t know before, both about the Vilna Gaon himself, but also about the Chassidic community, the roots of the machloket between the mitnagdim and the chassidim, and also, how there was still a very strong yearning for Moshiach in the Ashkenazi world even after the Shabtai Tzvi false messiah disaster.

BUT – there was a huge clash of ideas about how best to bring the Moshiach and get to the end of days, which is basically what most of the book explores. BH, I want to explore what all that means for us today in the next article, but before I do, I first just wanted to share some of the more general interesting nuggets of information I picked up from the book.

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  • Why is there such a strong Armenian presence in Jerusalem?

Every time I drive or walk through the Old City, I skirt the Armenian quarter, and I find myself asking again:

WHY is there an Armenian Quarter in Jerusalem?!?!

It’s quite a small denomination, as xtian sects go, it’s not a world power, heck, Armenia doesn’t even neighbor Israel. So what’s going on here? Read on, to find out.

The Italian Jew Raphael Mordechai Malchi moved to Israel in 1673, and practiced medicine in Jerusalem until his death in 1702. He treated many of the residents of the Holy City, including non-Jews, and he recorded a conversation that he had with an Armenian priest, who explained why the Armenian church had built so many buildings in Jerusalem. Malchi wrote:

“He showed me some writings in Assyrian and Hebrew…and told me that on Mt Sinai, where a monastery stands today, they found a large tablet of lead in a cave, bearing Hebrew letters and these verses from Jeremiah.”

Ed. Note: This is Jeremiah’s prophecy of Messianic times, 30-35, that begins: For behold, days are coming – the word of Hashem – when I will return the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, said Hashem, and I will return them to the land that I gave their forefathers and they will possess it.

(It’s worth looking at these chapters in detail, which BH we will do in a separate post.)

What the Armenian priest told Dr Malchi is that after they ‘searched the whole world’ trying to figure out how to read it, “they discovered explicitly that at the end of day, the Semites will demand Jerusalem from all places around the world where they have been living.”

So the Armenians built monasteries in the holy city, arranged for a different patriarch to live in the city every year, and sent huge amounts of money to Jerusalem to ensure they had a strong toehold and a grip on the future seat of power. (And let’s be honest, probably also to try to put a dent in the ‘Semites’ plans to reclaim their country and usher in the time of Moshiach.)

Halavi, the Jews would take Jeremiah’s prophecies as seriously.

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  • Messianic fervor didn’t ‘disappear’ from the Jewish world after Shabtai Tzvi, the false messiah from Izmir who ended up converting to Islam.

I know that’s not obvious from our viewpoint of 2019, where the whole non-Chassidic, Ashkenazi Jewish world likes to pretend that after Shabtai Tzvi, everyone except Breslov and Lubavitch stopped even thinking about Moshiach, but as we’ll see in the next post, there was a big cover up going on at the end of the 18th century.

Shabtai Tzvi lived between August 1, 1626 – c. September 17, 1676. While his ‘false messianic’ vision certainly did enormous harm to the Ashkenazi world, it seems the problem was more that he created a false – and fundamentally evil – new ‘religion’ called Sabbateanism, that continued after his death, than that he was talking about Moshiach and the geula.

Very soon after he disappeared from the scene, Jews from all different backgrounds continued to have ‘Moshiach fever’, and even to discuss specific dates for the end of days to begin, based on their understanding of allusions to this time in the Zohar.

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Most notably, there was a widespread movement of making aliya to Israel between the years 1740 and 1781.

This was based on kabbalistic calculations that 1740 marked the half-way point in the 6th millennia – and the time when the house of Yaakov would finally rise up against the house of Esav.

Here’s the quote from the Zohar that got all the kabbalists of that time so excited, based on Genesis 32:13-26, where Yaakov wrestles the angel of Esav until dawn:

“Until dawn.” For by then, [Esav’s] dominion has passed on. So it will be in the future. The current exile resembles night. It is night. And it’s dust dominates the Jews. They are hurled into the dust until the light ascends and illuminates the day. Then Israel will be dominant and the kingship will be given to them…

“…Israel’s deliverance will not be revealed in one stroke but rather like a dawn, which progresses and grows in light until true day appears.”

The kabbalists of that time, including one named Rabbi Shalom Buzaglo, estimated that the ‘time’ spoken of by the Prophet Daniel was 480 years long, as the gematria for hashahar (dawn) is 480. So when Daniel (in 7:25) speaks of ‘a time and times and half a time’, Rabbi Buzaglo worked out that this would be 1680 years after the second Temple was destroyed, which equated to the Hebrew year 5508 (1748 C.E.)

Ahead of that date, a whole bunch of big kabbalists, rabbis and other important communal figures from both the Sephardi and Ashkenazi world suddenly upped sticks, and moved to Eretz Yisrael, swelling the population of Jerusalem from just over 1000, to more than 5000 in five years.

Moshiach didn’t come then – but what did happen instead was that many members of the community started to die prematurely, including in a terrible plague, that killed hundreds of the Jews in Israel. The Ohr HaChaim died in Jerusalem in 1743, and the RaMCHaL succumbed to the plague in Acco, in May 1746.

The rabbis in Jerusalem responded to what they saw as this ‘Divine punishment’ by issuing ‘Moral Legislation’ in 1749, which forbade the wealthy new olim to the Holy Land from wearing their expensive clothes and jewelry in public. The Jerusalem rabbis also gave all the single men in the city an ultimatum to either get married, or leave town, to minimize the untznius behavior they were trailing in their wake.

In the meantime, the Moshiach didn’t come in 1748.

But what certainly did happen is that the ‘end of days’ process did begin in earnest at that point, after all, because so many people moved to the Holy Land at that time, more than at any other point in preceding 1600 years of exile.

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  1. The Baal Shem Tov ‘speaks to Moshiach’ in 1747, and discovers that geula depends on the Jews making teshuva, not on a fixed date

Very interestingly, while all this was going on, the Baal Shem Tov wrote a letter to his brother-in-law, Reb Gershon of Kutow, that his student Yaakov Yosef of Polonoye was meant to take to Israel to deliver, when he also made aliya ahead of 1748. The letter was never delivered, because Rabbi Y.Y. stayed home, after Moshiach didn’t show up then as hoped.

Instead, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef sat on this letter for over 35 years, only publishing it in his book Ben Porat Yosef in 1780. Why did he wait so long to publicise the letter? It seems that even amongst the Baal Shem Tov’s leading students, there was a strong belief that Moshiach had to be imminent. To put this a different way, it seems Rabbi Yaakov Yosef was hoping the Baal Shem Tov’s insight about the end of days, which he described to Reb Gershon, was wrong.

So what did the letter actually say?

In his missive, the BESHT described how his neshama had ascended to heaven on Rosh Hashana in 1747 – the year before ‘the end’ was meant to occur, according to the kabbalists – and had met the Moshiach, who was learning Torah with the Patriarchs, Tannaim and the Seven Shepherds.

This is a quote from the BESHT’s letter:

“I asked the Messiah when he would be coming. “This is how you will know,” he replied. “When your teachings become public and revealed to the world, and your wellsprings of my teachings, which you will have mastered, overflow to the outside, so that [others], too, will be able to perform mystical unifications and ascents of the soul like you. Then all the husks will be eradicated and a time of [Divine] desire and salvation will come.”

The Baal Shem Tov continues:

“[This reply] left me puzzled and severely troubled. Such a long time! When can it possibly come to pass?”

To phrase this another way, as Arie Morgenstern points out, this experience totally shifted the question of ‘when will the Moshiach come?’ out of the realm of ‘time’, and into the realm of ‘behavior’.

We’re back to that discussion in the Gemara, about whether the redemption depends on the Jewish people making teshuva, or is totally just a matter of ‘timing’. Rabbi Yehoshua said the latter, Rabbi Eliezer HaGadol said the former – and according to this letter from the BESHT, Rabbi Eliezer was right.

The Baal Shem Tov was explaining to Reb Gershon that the Moshiach is going to come, and the end of days is going to happen, only when the Jews start to really connect to God, and experience ‘ascents of the soul’, and to really learn and understand Torah on the deep level of chassidut.

And not a second before.

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That’s why the Baal Shem Tov was so troubled, because in order for the Jewish nation to reach that high spiritual level, so much had to change first.

And if he was thinking it was a tall order in his generation, what can we begin to say about ours?

In the meantime, the kabbalist’s date of 1748 came and went with no Moshiach, but Rabbi Yaakov Yosef only published the Baal Shem Tov’s letter in 1780, because at that stage, there was another date for imminent redemption being mooted: 1781.

And at that stage Rabbi Y.Y. wanted to pre-empt any more ‘Moshiach no-show letdown’ by publishing the BESHT’s letter, which described in detail how the rules of the game had actually changed.

And here’s where things get even more interesting.

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  1. Various groups of kabbalists keep trying to ‘force’ geula in various ways.

Back in 1753, a small group of Jerusalem kabbalists including Rabbi Shalom Sharabi (the Rashash), Rabbi Chaim de la Roza, and Rabbi Chaim Joseph David Azulai (the Chida) formed a ‘secret society’ with the aim of trying to force Hashem to bring the geula that year.

The year 5313 spells ‘ha shahar’  – the dawn, and was also connected to the word ve-nivneta, talking about the rebuilding of Jerusalem. (Jeremiah 30:18). There are four separate accounts of what these three kabbalists tried to do, but the long and short of it is that after weeks of lengthy preparations and self-mortifications, they tried to use different holy names to ‘force’ the coming of the Moshiach.

Suddenly, the three heard a voice from Heaven telling them to stop from their “brazen undertaking” before they totally unhinge the world, because they “wish to hasten something whose time has not yet come, as God has counseled.”

The voice then tells them:

“One of you will have to leave the holy city, for only the three of you together in unison can force the Messiah’s hand.”

The decree of exile seems to have fallen upon the Chida, who immediately left Jerusalem for unknown reasons on January 9, 1753 and stayed out of Israel for the next 5 years.

The three kabbalists were terrified at the sin they felt they had committed, by trying to go against God’s will to hasten the end, so much so that Rabbi de la Rosa asked his student to perform the four types of execution upon his body, after he died.

His students couldn’t bring themselves to do it – but Rabbi de la Rosa’s funeral procession was attacked by Arab bandits, and his body was thrown into a ravine. The Tzaddik’s decree was fulfilled, one way or another.

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  1. There was a wave of Chassidic aliya before 1781

So now, the next date that loomed into view for the ‘end of days’ was 1781. A well-known kabbalist by the name of Immanuel Hai Ricchi, from the previous generation, had calculated that the ‘in its time’ redemption would occur in May 1781, corresponding to the Hebrew year of 5541.

And historical events certainly seemed to be heading in that direction.

The vicious Haidamak pogroms began in 1768 (and saw 30,000 Jews murdered in Uman, alone), and then were was also an awful outbreak of bubonic plague in 1770 (!) which killed hundreds of thousands of the Jews in the pale of settlement.

This from HERE:

In Western Europe, the last outbreak of plague was in southern France between 1720 and 1722. Towns like Marseilles and Toulon were devastated. In Eastern Europe, Kiev in Ukraine suffered a severe outbreak in 1770. The last serious outbreak of bubonic plague in Europe was in Moscow in 1771.

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Then, Russia conquered Poland in 1772, and also some of the Turkish empire, too, in 1774 – and it really looked like ‘the End of Days’ was fast approaching.

Many leaders of the growing chassidut movement thought so, with some of chassidut’s biggest luminaries, including Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, and Rabbi Avraham of Kalisk, making aliya to Israel in 1777.

But the Chassidic aliya quickly ran into severe problems, mostly of the financial kind, so when the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, asked Rabbi Menachem Mendel if he should also ascend to the holy land in 1780, Rabbi Menachem Mendel basically told him to hold off until the next year, to see if the Moshiach really was about to show up.

Again, he didn’t.

So at that point, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polonoye decided to finally print the letter describing the Baal Shem Tov meeting the Moshiach, from many years before. Presumably, he was trying to ‘bank’ any disappointment that Moshiach hadn’t shown up, and to set out a new path, one based on perfecting behavior and fixing bad middot, instead of a fixed ‘time’ of redemption.

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The point of all these tidbits is to point out that the Jewish community has actually weathered far more disappointments over Moshiach not showing up than you might think, even after the whole Shabtai Tzvi affair.

And we actually came through all these false starts OK.

History shows that it’s been far more damaging, spiritually, for Jews to totally forget about Moshiach and geula, and considering moving to Israel, than obsessing over these things too much.

In part two of this post, we’re going to take a closer look at the disagreement that erupted between the Vilna Gaon and the Lithuanian rabbis and the chassidim in 1781 – there’s that date again! –  because we’re going to learn something amazing about the ‘end of days’ by the time we’ve reached that end of that story.

To be continued…

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The darkness seems to be lifting…

Every end of Summer, I have a mini nervous breakdown, and I’m thrilled to report that this year was no different. My kids are bigger now – 16 and 18 – so the problem wasn’t one of having to keep them entertained for six weeks straight.

One of them was jet-setting off all over the place (and thank God, is now thoroughly sick of travelling.) The other one was communing with nature, and camping out by the Kinneret for the best part of the Summer, trying to detox from her awful school.

So until around Tu B’Av, I was managing OK, mostly. Sure, sitting in 40 degree heat with no air-conditioning for three months has been a little challenging. Sure, having one massive deadline, one massive project, after another has been raising my stress levels. Also sure, it’s been hard for me to get a good night’s sleep all year, as 5779 has been the year of ‘no shut-eye’.

But aside from all those things, I was mostly OK.

Until three weeks ago, when all of a sudden the pressure seemed to ramp up a billion times over and I was walking round feeling like a gasket was going to explode any minute. Partially, it’s because my husband badly twisted his ankle playing tennis, which meant I’ve been ferrying him to work and back in the Jerusalem traffic.

Partially, it’s been the never-ending list of things ‘to do’ – including get stuff for the kids for another new institution a piece come September. Partially, it’s been working like a dog on all these unexpected things that keep popping up, and that seem so very important.

But mostly, the stress was just in the air, and was driving me crazy.

Last week, I reached cracking point, exacerbated by my kids deciding that they were going to stay out until 4am every night because it’s the last week of holiday.

For them.

For me and my husband, we’ve still been trying to get up at our normal, early time, to pray, do hitbodedut, get on with all the stuff we need to get on with.

But by Thursday, I just couldn’t anymore. I felt like a totally overwhelmed zombie of misery and rage, as my kids stuffed up yet another night of sleep, which meant I just didn’t have the head required to work on the latest book.

At 4am Thursday night, when the oldest still hadn’t come home, the scud got lit, and exploded, in a rage fit that lasted most of Friday.

It didn’t help that some kid had cleaned me out of every last piece of nice, wearable clothing, for her new school wardrobe… and that I had to do all the Shabbat shopping and cooking by myself, as my husband was laid up still… or that it was still so frigging hot, and because I’d only got my act together to leave the house at 9am, instead of 7.30, I was being roasted by the sun.

I came home in a foul, foul mood, just feeling so unhappy and put upon and taken for granted.

And man, did everyone know about it.

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The mood continued until I lit my Shabbat candles, ushering in Rosh Chodesh Elul – and I started to feel a little better. I went to bed straight after supper, and the next day I woke up feeling way, way happier.

For no obvious reason.

But it’s like Elul has shone some light into the darkness again.

Which is so lucky, because at 3am Saturday night, the day before she was starting a new school, my youngest tried to smuggle a dog into the house. Some ‘friend’s’ dog had cute puppies, so my retarded teen decided to buy one, stick it in her jumper, and then smuggle it in my spare toilet.

I caught her in the act.

What, are you doing drugs, that you came up with such a retarded idea?!?!?

I mean, I hate dogs, we have no garden, not even a mirpeset, and on top of that the kid was starting a new boarding school the following morning.

If this had happened in Av…. I dread to think.

As it happened in Elul, I could half see the funny side. She stuck the thing in a box with one of her old tops, gave it a plate full of Shabbos chicken and a bowl of water, and we all went to sleep for three hours.

The next morning, it was crying.

Why’s it crying???? She wanted to know.

Ooooof, why did I bring the stupid thing home, what’s wrong with me????

Ah, finally she’s talking some sense.

Long story short, as soon as the thing was out of its box, it weed on the floor. (My husband dealt with that.) And then it spent the next half an hour trying to gnaw my shoes – while they were still on my feet.

Kid, the dog can’t stay a second longer. What’s the plan?

The plan was to dump it on a friend for two days, until my kid comes back from school and figures out the plan. The friend showed up yesterday, and I happily shoved the box of cute dog into her arms and breathed out.

A respite! At least for two days.

And so, for the first day in many, many weeks, I finally have a little time to myself, a little ‘space’, mentally, to relax into.

The Israeli government is currently busy trying to provoke a war with our neighbors. Only the Rav’s prayers are stopping the situation spiraling out of control. Things are still crazy, and getting crazier, I know, we all feel it.

And yet….

Elul has brought with it a hair of hope, that maybe, just maybe, the turnaround is going to come in a totally different, ‘sweetened’ way after all.

Ken yiyeh ratzon.

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We’re entering a period of time where fact is going to be revealed as being far stranger – and more disturbing – than fiction.

What can I tell you?

I’m feeling pretty down at the moment.

The last couple of weeks, I’ve been researching the true scope of evil in the world. I’ll sum it up generally, and in a nutshell, and let’s just pretend that this is all one massive, ridiculous conspiracy theory, so I don’t also get ‘disappeared’ like all those other ‘conspiracy theorists’ who came way too close to the truth.

So, here’s how the totally ridiculous, obviously unbelievable conspiracy theory is working, in 2019.

The ‘Deep State’ is effectively the West’s spy agencies.

The spy agencies run the international drug trade as a global operation, in order to finance their activities ‘off radar’ from any real public scrutiny or governmental control.

These activities include developing secret weapons, many new and imaginative ways of killing people with ‘illnesses’ and neuro-toxins, and – most shockingly of all – totally unethical ‘experiments’ on human beings, and on human embryos, and on human genes to try to create the ‘perfect’ soldier / agent of destruction.

There are no ‘aliens’.

What there is, is unfathomably evil, genetic-engineering experiments on human embryos.

The Deep State is untouchable.

It operates a sophisticated system of blackmail to entrap immoral and perverted people in positions of power, especially pedophiles, records them ‘in the act’, and then uses these recordings as leverage to ensure these people will do whatever they are told to do.

The Deep State then works to place these morally-corrupt, evil people in the highest positions of power – judges, police superintendents, journalists, army heads, civil servants, bankers, politicians large and small, right up to the top of the tree.

These people cover up for each other, and cover up all the murders and child abuse that is happening all around them, and their activity. Anyone who tries to blow the whistle or investigate is threatened / blackmailed / murdered.

No-one can stand up to them.

When the employees of the Deep State retire from their Mafioso activities on behalf of ‘national security’, they then start applying their knowledge, experience and connections to continuing their Mafioso activities as independent ‘guns for hire’.

They continue with all their immoral activities for personal gain and lust gratification, comfortable in the knowledge that they are totally untouchable, and that ‘justice’ will never catch up with them.

And so, the world continues to spiral down further and further into immorality, murder, drug abuse, war and total human misery, while the network of corrupt pedophiles who sit in the halls of power across the Western world pull all the strings and keep the rest of us totally in the dark about what’s really happening, and why.

How is that, for the most amazing, far-fetched, ridiculous ‘conspiracy theory’ you ever heard in your life?

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So, this morning I randomly opened my Tanach, and I came to this, in the book of Ezekiel:

“There is a conspiracy of her prophets in her midst, like a roaring lion that tears [its] prey. They have devoured souls, they have taken away treasure and worth, they have increased her widows in her midst. Her priests robbed My Torah and desecrated My sanctities. They did not distinguish between holy and profane, and they did not make known the difference between contaminated and purified.

“They hid their eyes from My Shabbats, and I became profaned amongst them. Her officers within her are like wolves who tear prey – to shed blood, to destroy souls, for the sake of unjust gain. And her prophets smeared plaster for them (i.e. they covered up for them), for they see worthless [visions] and they divine falsehood for them.

“They say: ‘Thus said the Lord Hashem / Elokim…’ – when Hashem did not speak.”

Ed. Note: They say, “Trump’s a great guy! America is the land of the just and the home of the free! We don’t need to move to Israel, we’re in Gan Eden right here! There no bad people or evil in the world, we’re all Tzaddikim! We don’t need to rally around the Tzaddik HaDor, we can keep this party going for at least another 200 years!!!”

Back to Ezekiel:

“The people of the land have made a business out of oppression, and plundered loot. They have wronged the poor and the needy, and oppressed the stranger, without justice. I requested from them a man who would fence the border, and stand in the breach before them, for the sake of the Aretz, so that it wouldn’t be destroyed, but I didn’t find one.

“So, I poured My wrath over them, and consumed them with the flame of My fury. I have placed their [evil] way upon their head – the word of the Lord, Hashem / Elokim.”

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This time around there is a ‘man’ who is standing in the breach, and who is trying to ‘fence the borders’ so that the land won’t be destroyed.

It’s Rabbi Berland.

His prayers are acting as a form of protection, a ‘token’ that we’re trying to be connected to what is holy and good, still, despite the tremendous evil and darkness that is all around.

All those false prophets, with their facile grasp of Torah, and their superficial understanding of what’s really going on in the world, have one job, and one job only: To keep people away from the real Tzaddik HaDor, Rabbi Berland.

That’s why I can’t watch their Youtube videos or read their blog posts any more.

Most of them have no idea what’s really going on, or how very serious the situation is that we currently find ourselves in, and by the time they realise, it will probably be too late.

We are at a crossroads right now. Over the next few months, either this whole massive, crazy ‘conspiracy theory’ is going to get blown wide open, and justice will finally be done. Or, the people who are running the world are going to pull back very hard on free speech and civil rights – which leaves us looking at a terrifying, totalitarian government scenario.

It’s going to be chaos, or dictatorship, unless the Rav can find some way of sweetening all this, to get to the geula the sweet way.

And in the meantime, the ‘false prophets’ continue to talk politics and vanity, and continue to ignore the hezkat Moshiach who is in our midst.

But things can’t continue on like this for much longer.

Of course, I’m just a crazy conspiracy theorist, so what do I know?

 

Photo by Tyler B on Unsplash

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It’s time to draw a line in the sand, and to stop excusing and flattering evil.

The last few years, we’ve all just sat here and watch the politically-correct brigade demolish one fortification in the wall of personal holiness and morality after another.

They encouraged men and women (or let’s be honest, teenage boys and girls and even younger, lo alenu) to have intimate relationships that were totally divorced from any idea of marriage, or bringing new life into the world. They encouraged promiscuous behavior at every turn. They threw all notions of self-discipline and personal holiness out the window, and mocked the people who tried to stand up to them as ‘bigots’.

The internet accelerated the process of moral disintegration, beaming its smut straight into our homes, phones and neshamas. All of a sudden, there was no getting away from it, all that politically-correct programming, that told us we all just had to sit here and say nothing, as these people assaulted the foundations of holiness.

They hold all the cards, that’s how it seems.

They have all the money. They have the expensive lawyers. They have the politicians stitched up, and the judges in their back pockets.

What can small people like you and me do, to really protest all this, and to stand up for personal holiness, and what is objectively right, as defined by God and His Torah?

Not much, that’s the truth. I am regularly censoring myself on my blog with every third word, worried that the thought police who have taken over the internet will find some way of ‘de-platforming’ me, too – even though the only platform I really have is my blog.

Google has gone after so many ‘alternative’ voices the last few months, and totally buried them with algorythms designed to only give ‘the official’ version of events, as decided by the immoral, anti-God and anti-holiness people who are running Google.

So, I measure my words carefully, and try to tell you what’s going on without naming names, or sailing too close to the wind. Because also here in Israel, these same forces for immorality – all those Jewish billionaires based in the States, but who have been warping the sanctity of the Holy Land with millions of dollars from their ‘charitable foundations’ – are operating here, too.

These people, and their front men, were the ones who were really pulling the strings behind the investigations into Rabbi Berland and Rabbi Pinto, and the late Rabbi Yoram Abergel, zt’l. It was part of a stated aim to take down the so-called ‘kabbalah rabbis’ who were so revered by so many Jews in Israel, and to break their power.

But that’s only a small part of the spiritual and moral corruption that has so many Jews at its heart, and which seems to have spread around the globe.

And which is on the cusp of finally being exposed, even though the mainstream media is still trying to divert the public’s attention away from the real stories and facts that are unfolding. 

(Clue: go and Google ‘Epstein and Mossad’ and see what you find.)

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The reason the MSM doesn’t report on all of this stuff, or reports this stuff with a ‘fake news’ spin is very simple: The MSM is owned by a small group of immoral billionaires who are up to their necks in vice and criminality. And sadly, a large percentage of these people are Jews.

There is a growing band of independent journalists who are bravely putting the facts together and putting them out there on the internet. Even though the corrupt establishment is trying to stop them, the trickle is building to a flood, as more and more people are realizing that so many of the people who are in the top positions in our societies are actually evil, in the truest sense of the world.

Which brings me to the point of this post.

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Three weeks ago, I got an email asking me if I wanted to review the latest book by a very well known ‘defender of the State of Israel’. This guy had recently been in the press for very successfully defending billionaire child abuser Jeffery Epstein, 10 years ago. Thanks to this guy’s legal smarts, Epstein literally got away with murder.

When I got the request, I started pondering on all this. Here’s a little of how that conversation went:

The guy is defending Israel. He must be good, no?

The guy defended a known pedophile. He must be bad, no?

Backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards, until finally, the brainwashing dissolved and I got some clarity:

This guy is awful!!! He’s spiritually corrupt!!! How can anyone sleep soundly in their beds at night, knowing that they are regularly abetting the scum of society to escape justice, just because these evildoers have the money to pay their outrageous legal fees?!

So what, that this guy is famous? So what, that he’s got money, or a lot of connections? So what, that he publically defends the State of Israel. He’s totally immoral. He sold his soul for some dollar bills.

Instead of placing these people on a pedestal, more of us need to start calling these greedy, immoral bullies out, and to stop flattering evil.

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At this stage, every Jewish organization and charity and individual that accepted cash from Epstein, and from all the other immoral Jewish billionaires that are closely associated with the awful things currently being investigated in New York, are morally suspect in the profoundest of ways.

How can I state that so directly? Because like attracts like. It’s an iron-clad rule, and even our Sages taught that: show me who your friends are, and I’ll show you who you really are.

And in the meantime, I had another penny drop about how I can and probably should be reacting to the tsunami of evil engulfing the Jewish world, in my personal dalet amot, too. And it comes down to this:

BH, I want to start putting way more emphasis on my own personal holiness again.

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I already told my teens that I can’t hear their soul-destroying secular music being blasted through the house any more. I went out today and bought longer socks, to replace my ankle socks. And I have decided that I am going to start standing up for kedusha and holiness again, and to stop flattering evil.

What does that mean, exactly?

I’m still figuring it out, but one thing it for sure means is that I am no longer giving the benefit of the doubt to people who are going against the Torah, or railing against a mitzvah-observant lifestyle, and especially those people who are going against holy people like Rabbi Berland.

Without naming names, I went to check the social media of a big-mouth commentator who has made a huge deal about being pro-human rights, and being pro-women’s rights, and who publically left orthodox Judaism because of all the ‘terrible’ things he was seeing happening in his community.

Now, this guy is openly pushing immorality like it’s the biggest mitzvah in the world, and of course, he was one of the main guys writing negative stuff about Rabbi Berland a few years’ ago.

What did that bastion of justice, morality and human rights have to say about Epstein, a secular New York Jew with connections to a whole bunch of other New York Jews, who is guilty of some of the most mind-boggling human rights abuses in modern times?

Nothing.

The silence is deafening.

(I went to double-check after I wrote that, and this lone tweet is all I found. Compare and contrast.)

The guy is a total hypocrite (at best), and the ‘orthodox’ people who are continuing to buddy-up to him, and to defend and excuse his spiritual corruption and immorality, are 100% guilty of flattering evil.

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Let’s try to define the term a bit more carefully.

Flattering evil is where you know someone else is saying or doing evil or immoral things (as defined by God, in His Torah), but you still hang out with them and suck up to them because of their wealth and connections; or because they can do favors for you; or because they are a ‘minor celebrity’; or because it just suits you better to turn a blind eye to their bad behavior and immoral lifestyle choices.

That is flattering evil.

And so very many of us are guilty of it.

When I sent back my reply to the famous author’s publicist, I made sure to tell her why I’m saying no to reviewing his book:

In all good conscience, I can’t promote something written by someone who thinks its ok to defend known pedophiles.

And I felt pleased with this minute step towards trying to tip the balance towards God and good again. If I’d have said ‘yes’, that would mean that I’m effectively also condoning that pedophile’s awful, immoral behavior, and enabling it to continue, God forbid a million times over, and saying its ok to hang out with these people, and to keep pretending like there’s nothing wrong with them, and their world-destroying ideas and actions.

I can’t protest everything, I can’t stand up to every sin, and every evil person out there, but whatever God gives me to do, I’m going to do it.

I’m drawing a line in the sand.

From here on in, no more flattering evil, just because someone is well-known, or gives a lot of charity, or defends Israel, or has a lot of ‘backing’ from their community, or is a ‘king’ of political-correctness, or because I’m scared of them.

And I’d be thrilled if you’d consider joining me.

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I’m starting to realise that putting my head in the sand may be good advice.

Yesterday, I got the same message in three different ways. Once was from the husband, who told me that he thinks I’m getting distracted from what I should be doing by getting too caught up in all the shenanigans in the US.

Once was from my brother, who told me:

I think I need to have a bit more of your paying attention to things, and you need to have a bit more of my putting my head in the sand and ignoring it all.

And once was from a reader, who made no bones about telling me:

You aren’t Hashem, you aren’t the Tzaddik. You don’t need to be worrying about all this stuff.

After some pondering, I see that they are all right.

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I also see that my yetzer has been pulling a fast one on me, trying to tell me that I need to be ‘warning’ all these people, all these Jews, in chutz l’aretz, about what is about to happen over there.

It’s like World War II all over again!!! You have to tell them to get out!!!

Blah blah blah.

What, I’m the only person who can watch a Youtube channel and figure out what’s really going on behind the scenes in the US?

Of course not. Anyone who wants to can figure things out for themselves, there are so many non-Jewish journalists and bloggers and Youtubers now, who are doing a much better job than the mainstream media of putting the pieces together, and explaining what’s really going on.

I don’t need to waste any more of my time being a second-rate imitation of them.

I realized some more stuff:

I live in Jerusalem. I already took the ‘red pill’ a long time ago, and that’s why I moved out of London. There is nothing ‘practical’ I need to change about my life right now to be ready for Moshiach and geula. So paradoxically, I can actually stop obsessing about what’s happening in the wider world, and just get on with living my life and doing my own thing.

Maybe this sounds a little selfish. But I got the last couple of days that I’m effectively wasting my time banging on about this stuff, because most of the people it will directly affect don’t want to hear it, and certainly don’t want to believe it, anyway.

All my readers are grown ups who can think for themselves, and who are responsible for their own lives and neshamas. I am no cleverer than them, no more insightful than they are. All this ‘trying to predict the future stuff’ is just a big personal ga’ava trip.

And in the meantime, it’s also taking so much of my energy away from my own projects, like this new book I’m trying to write, BH, which is a personality typology based on Jewish sources. I want to go back to writing about life, pure and simple, on this blog. With some Rebbe Nachman stuff thrown in.

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I know, I’ve said that before and I’ve got pulled off into other directions. It keeps happening, it may well happen again. But what I want, really, is to leave the geula stuff alone for a good long while, because the boulder is gathering steam and is rushing down the hill all by itself now, and it doesn’t need any more prodding from me.

I need to take a break from all that, and try to put something useful out into the world. Even though my books barely sell, writing them is what I really love to do.

So, this is where I’m holding in life:

If I have any more geula insights, I will stick them up on my weekly blog at ravberland.com – as that is the appropriate place for them. Otherwise, I’m half putting my head in the sand about world events, so I can go back – and go forward! – to writing about other things, especially how to handle our emotions and develop healthier relationships.

That’s plenty controversial enough, all by itself.

And at least for now, that what God is telling me I need to be focusing on.

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What is Tisha B’Av really all about?

The last few days, I’ve been in a funny mood – you might have noticed. I’ve been feeling frustrated, angry, even a little bitter, that despite so much effort, I’m going into yet another Tisha B’av with what feels like zero progress on so many fronts.

In fact spiritually, I even feel as though I’ve been going backwards in some ways, recently. I tried to capture a little of that HERE, but I feel I’ve had so much brain fog going on the last weeks I’ve lost touch with my soul again.

Yes, I’ve still been doing an hour a day of talking to God (or trying to…) – sometimes even more. In the old days, I could sit down for a six hour talking to God session, usually on Shabbat when I had the time to spare, and come out of it feeling like something had really moved or ameliorated.

The last few months, even the six hours I’ve been doing don’t give me much of a spiritual ‘bounce’. The best I can say, is that I feel calmer, usually, and sometimes I get a bit more clarity, and a bit more hope and determination to continue.

But underneath all that, there’s this sense of what am I doing all this for? Where am I going? How can I carry on like this, aimlessly drifting because I can’t seem to get anywhere, still?

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On Shabbat, I did another six hours on why I feel like such a spiritual zombie so much of the time, when God threw me a clue:

I have tremendous amounts of despair gushing around still.

It’s not preventing me from getting on with things, day-to-day, and thank God, I’m not a depressed zombie or an angry, ranting cynic (most of the time…) but what I am is totally despairing that things are going to change. On the national level, it just seems to me like the ‘bad’ always wins, the superficial is always preferred, the lie is always more welcome than the truth.

In my own dalet amot, there seems to be so many things I’ve given up on or lost over the last few years, that I can’t seem to figure out how to get back. I know what happened with losing the apartment in Jerusalem, last year, was a massive blow, psychologically. Just as I thought I’d actually got somewhere – we signed, after all!!! – it all turned around for the worst, and left us with the biggest nightmare we’d had to deal with for a very long time.

It’s been a year since we made the agreement with our seller that saw us pay for all of her expenses (and of course ours…) as the ‘punishment’ for being dumb enough to trust her, and for being dumb enough to trust our dumb lawyer was actually doing his job. I think it’s taken a year for what happened to really work its way through my system.

The last 2 days, I realized that I’ve been effectively numbed-out for 18 months.

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Part of me knows it’s good to have had so many things not get anywhere, and to have so much frustration and failure. It keeps me humble. But it’s also keeping me lonely and despairing, because another part of me just doesn’t want to try anymore.

We’re meant to sit on the floor and weep over the destruction. Thank God, me and my family are healthy and we have a roof and food to eat. That’s already so much to be grateful for. But there are still parts of my life that appear to be ‘destroyed’, and that I can’t see any way of fixing.

I’ve pretty much given up on making new friends, for example. So many people have gone crazy the last few years, that I find it easier to keep my distance than too risk getting to close when the inevitable implosion happens. But I miss talking to people. I miss inviting people for Shabbat. I miss being part of something, socially.

And I just don’t see how it’s going to come back. I think I’m just too weird, these days, too out of sync with what passes for ‘normal’.

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Also, my spiritual side seems to be bumping along the bottom.

If not for the Rav and Rebbe Nachman, I really don’t know where I’d be because I am just going through the motions with so much of my yiddishkeit. I try to learn 2 laws of the Shulchan Aruch most days, with my husband. Of course I try to keep Shabbat, Kosher, the laws of Tisha B’Av etc etc – but I’m doing so much of that from a place of ‘default’, and not from a place of enthusiasm.

My kids keep telling me: we can’t pray, because we can’t really feel anything when we do.

I get them. I feel that about almost all the mitzvahs right now. There are so few things I’m doing that I can really feel I’m getting anything back from. My husband says this is good. He tells me this is keeping Torah lishma, for its own sake, and that this makes Hashem very happy.

I’m doing my best to believe him.

And in the meantime, I sit here spinning my wheels, wondering what I’m meant to be doing with my life. More pointless blog posts? More pointless books? More pointless efforts to try to move forward and ‘get somewhere’, even though it feels there is totally no point in even trying?

It’s a struggle of will each morning, to get out of bed and get on with the day, because it all feels so aimless and pointless.

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All this effort, but I’m so far from giving God what He really wants from me.

I’m still struggling with very harsh judgment calls against other people. I’m still lazy. I’m still selfish and self-centred, not really seeing other people in my picture and looking out for number 1.

The Temple isn’t rebuilt still, and I know who’s to blame for that: me.

Hard as I try, I can’t switch my ‘bad’ into good. I can’t be the force for good that God really wants me to be. I can’t resist goading people and provoking them, and seeing their ‘bad’.

So today, I’m going to try and sit on the floor, and spend some time mourning the destruction. I’m going to try to cry a bit, sincerely, for the trainwreck that modern life has become. It’s a place where we spend so much time staring at a screen, it hurts the eyes to look a real person straight in the face. It’s a place where the inner destruction is so total, we can’t feel anything anymore. Where the ability to really speak from the soul has been replaced by Whats App monologues and emojicons.

Today, I’m going to cry a bit, and spend some time engaging with the broken bits of my life.

I’m broken God, I’m clueless. I’m lost and hurting. I’ve given up on things ever really changing.

And I wish things were different.

But it’s totally beyond me to change them.

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