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In ten days time, I’m meant to be flying out of Israel to go to my brother’s batmitzvah celebration in London.

I spoke to him a couple of days ago, and I told him I don’t think I’m coming.

Israel had just announced that anyone coming back from abroad would have to self-isolate for 14 days in bidud, and much as I love my brother, we have no family here, we just moved and I don’t know the neighbors, and there is no-one who could keep my family unit going with groceries if I’m out of action.

Such strange days we live in.

My daughter is currently coughing her guts up and streaming phlegm, as she always does when Spring appears and her hayfever kicks off. Although this year, with all the anxiety about Corona and a few other things going on in her life, her asthma has also ramped up again.

Most years, my daughter’s seasonal hayfever and asthma is not a big deal.

This year, with all the hysteria about Corona, she’s scared to leave the house in case people think she’s going to kill them with a sneeze.

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In the meantime, in my own dalet amot I’m having such a strange mix of tremendous good, and tremendous confusion. On the one hand, the house we managed to miraculously rent has blossomed into such a beautiful home.

We had Purim seuda yesterday, and for the first time in 7 years we had enough space to invite a few families together. Honestly, it was initially a little strange, but then we whacked the music up, started dancing and the magic happened and le ha fochu. The weird atmosphere broke and everything turned around.

For a few hours.

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So much of the time right now, I don’t know what’s good and what’s bad, what’s right and what’s wrong.

Yesterday, I went for a walk to the Kotel, and I was really pondering to myself if I’m more a Haman, or more a Mordechai, because I honestly have no idea right now if I’m giving God what He really wants, or the opposite.

Everything seems so upside down at the moment.

I know it’s all exploding in madness everywhere you look, but it still seems to me that the best response to everything that’s going on right now (apart from making some serious teshuva, particularly in how we treat other people) is:

To bake cookies.

Yes, you read that right.

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There is nothing better to do right now, apart from reciting lots of tehillim and doing lots of hitbodedut, except to bake cookies. Because until Hashem decides that the world really is ending, we parents have a duty to show our children that the world is still continuing in the meantime.

Already, our kids are struggling to stay in school. Already, they are struggling to get up in the mornings. Already, they are feeling like there is no point in continuing or carrying on, because the apocalypsa is around the corner, so what’s the point?

Honestly, don’t we grown ups feel that way too, so much of the time?

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I’m not saying this lightly.

I’ve been waiting for geula, and trying to prepare for it in as real a way as I can for at least the last 15 years. But now that it looks like we may be coming down to the wire, and the geula really might be materializing before our eyes, increasingly the most important priority for me, as a mother, seems to be keep things as ‘normal’ as I can.

That means baking cookies. That means cleaning toilets. That means doing my best to look after my children, my family, my husband the best way I can right now.

I have my People Smarts Course that’s half done, and my People Smarts book that has been waiting six months to get sent to the printers already. For months, I haven’t been able to get to it.

Finally, last week, I realized that maybe, that’s not my main work right now.

My main work seems to be to look after my family – even tho my kids are 16 and 19 already – and to make my family my main priority.

So, I find myself making sandwiches and suppers in a way that I haven’t done for years, since they were much smaller. I find myself ferrying them around in the car – not least so I can have some quality time to really talk to them – and taking them to different places and appointments and people, because it seems like there is just so much going on, at the moment.

In some ways, it feels like my family, my responsibilities to these people who I live with, and care for tremendously, have kind of been ‘getting in the way’ of my life.

At least, that’s how it looked.

But today, I’m thinking more and more, this is actually my test, right now.

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There is no better way of working on my bad middot and doing acts of kindnesses that really count than by focusing on the people in my home.

Rav Berland explained weeks ago that Corona has the same gematria as ‘mitvot bein adam l’havero’ – the mitzvahs that take place between people.

And nowhere are those mitzvahs more trampled – or more needed – than in the home.

And especially between parents and teens.

So, if you’re reading this, and you have a teen at home, and especially if you have a difficult teen at home who is struggling, stop reading this and go give them a hug. Go tell them that you think they’re amazing. Go and find something to praise about them, to their face, go make them a sandwich, take them out and get them a new top, or take them somewhere they’ve been bugging you to go for ages.

In short, go and love them unconditionally, with as much energy as you can muster.

Because that is the main test right now.

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So many people are now being forced to spend 14 days cooped up with their families, with no distractions.

There’s no malls and chugim to run away to, no work deadlines, no shopping, no shiurim, no beaches and expensive holidays and restaurants.

All there is, is our raw family unit.

And that is the real test – does it feel like gehinnom or gan eden?

Is there love in the home, or constant arguments, guilt trips and withering criticism about all the things that aren’t being done 100% ‘perfectly’?

Are cookies being baked in that home, or not?

That is the question.

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Photo by Ruth Reyer on Unsplash

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5 things you can do right now, to give yourself spiritual protection against the Coronavirus.

Yesterday, I got a text telling me that the Israeli Health Ministry had pinpointed a potential ‘spreader’ of Coronavirus in Baka, the Jerusalem neighborhood where until last week I lived.

I went to check out the Health Ministry website, and saw that a 50 year old woman from NYC who subsequently flew back to the States and then was discovered to have COVID-19 had been all around Baka, and also all around the Mamilla Mall.

The site listed where she’d been on the different days, and told members of the public that if they thought they’d come into contact with this woman, they should ‘self isolate’ at home for 14 days.

So then, I went to check out what ‘self isolate’ actually means, tachlis, and honestly, it was hard to keep a straight face.

The instructions were basically to sit in a ventilated room in your house, come out of it as little as possible, and to wash your hands like a bad case of OCD before and after touching anything. Oh yes, and to wear a facemask whenever you do come out of your ventilated room.

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When I lived in the UK, we went to visit a decommissioned nuclear bunker in the countryside close to London.

This was where HM Government was meant to decamp to in case nuclear war broke out.

It was one of the most interesting places I ever went to, not least because it was screening the ‘propaganda movies’ that the British government was putting out in the 1950s, telling citizens what they should do in the event of a nuclear war.

The basic message was this:

“Draw your curtains, lock your front door, then go and sit under your table.”

Didn’t the British authorities know that none of these things would help a jot, if the Russkies decided to drop a nuke on Old Blighty?

Of course they knew that! But they deliberately put out misleading information encouraging people to ‘sit under their tables’ in order to keep people off the streets if something did trip off, and to give them something to do – however pointless – to help quell that mounting sense of panic.

When I read the Health Ministry instructions yesterday, I caught a powerful whiff of déjà vu.

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So today, I went off to the same bakery in Baka I’ve been going to for two years, that usually has a queue so big on a Friday morning it snakes around a few times – and it was pretty quiet. I went to the health store, that is also usually buzzing Friday morning around their breakfast buffet – and it was also pretty quiet.

I guess half of Baka has decided they need to ‘self isolate’ because that one woman was in the Hadar Mall and Osher Ad, and the rest of the customers have decided to avoid Baka like the plague (so to speak….) until things have calmed down.

Whenever that is meant to be.

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In the meantime, the rubber is really starting to hit the road, with this whole Coronavirus epidemic.

That means that the differences between people who really are trying to have emuna, and who really are holding on to our true tzaddikim, and the people who don’t are about to become very obvious.

Already, some of my kids’ friends are experiencing panic attacks and obsessing over wearing facemasks. Already, some people are starting to stockpile bottles of water, and to buy in six packs of tuna.

But with Pesach barely six weeks away, how much dry goods can you really stockpile anyway? And where are you meant to keep the 90 litres of bottled water you’d really need to keep going for six weeks of chaos? And who is to say that even if you ‘prepped’ like a superstar, and was totally stocked up, that some less prepared people with guns and violent tendencies wouldn’t just come and take it all away, anyway?

Déjà vu. Déjà vu.

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Eleven years ago, back in 2008, when all the banks started to fail, I was deep in my ‘autistics fearmongering’ stage, and I never had less than 36 bottles of water stored somewhere in my house, plus tens of tins of tuna, plus many bags of couscous.

This time around, even tho things are looking like it’s about to get pretty complicated, at least short term, at least in some way, until we see which way this Coronavirus epidemic is really going to swing, I am not stockpiling anything.

Instead, I’m switching my ‘prepping for disaster’ into the spiritual realm, and this is what is in my ‘spiritual survival kit’.

I strongly recommend you also go and put something like this together for yourself, ASAP.

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5 Things That Will Give You Spiritual Protection Against The CoronaVirus

  • A copy of Rabbi Berland’s prayer to be saved from the Coronavirus. You can download it as a PDF here, and I’m also including it here on my site, below, to make this super easy for you. Download it, PRINT IT OFF, so you have a physical hard copy in your home, and say it every day.

https://ravberland.com/wpcontent/uploads/2020/02/coronavirus-prayer.pdf

  • Tikkun HaKlali – there are so many stories of people who saw open miracles in Israel’s past wars, rocket attacks and intifadas, from regularly reciting the Tikkun HaKlali. You can buy one here, or you can get a PDF with English transliteration that you can download and print off HERE.

UPDATE: They took the Tikkun Haklali out of the document because Artscroll complained it was infringing their copyright to transliterate it in that fashion. So, please try THIS version instead – it’s a Hebrew version with an English translation.

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Rabbi Berland just put out a new message asking people to recite 7 Tikkun HaKlalis a day.

I know that’s a lot, but make a commitment to saying at least one – or 3 – or something – every single day, because as I’ve written about previously: we aren’t saying this prayer for the Rav. We are saying these prayers 100% for ourselves. We are the ones who will benefit the most from reciting the Tikkun HaKlali.

  • Make a real effort to improve your mitzvoth bein adam l’chavero. This phrase has the same gematria – 363 – as ‘Corona’ in Hebrew, and was identified by the Rav as being one of the main things that the Coronavirus is coming to rectify.

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Tachlis, that means treating other people nicer.

And the main place to start with this mitzvah is in your own household. How are you treating your spouse? Your kids? Your parents? Your siblings? Are you considerate of other people’s feelings, or are YOU the only one that ever appears in the picture?

How often do you practice bitul, the art of backing down and nullifying what you want or what you prefer, in order to respect someone else’s wishes and free choice? (This is often a huge problem for parents, who can continue to emotionally bully and negate their children well into their adulthood.)

How often do you do a real cheshbon hanefesh, and then apologise for the things that we all say and do, all the time, that hurt other people, even unintentially?

How much tzedaka are you giving out with a happy heart? How much effort are you making to practice Azamra, which is the art of seeing the good in other people, especially our fellow Jew?

And especially ourselves, because people who can’t see the good in themselves, and who don’t like themselves very much, are usually the people who are so very harsh and hurtful to those around them.

Especially their kids, and their spouses.

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  • The next thing in the spiritual toolkit is to work on emunat tzaddikim, and in particular, that means double-checking if you spoke or thought badly of any tzaddik, but especially Rabbi Eliezer Berland.

As you can see HERE, some of the kabbalists in Israel are breaking cover to identify Rabbi Berland as the head of the lamed vav tzaddikim, the 36 holy Jews in whose merit the world continues.

Well-known kabbalists including Rabbi Menashe Amon and Rabbi Amos Guetta have both made statements recently that link the spread of Coronavirus to the treatment of Rabbi Berland, and that also make clear that the Rav is ONLY in prison because he is atoning on behalf of Am Yisrael.

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It’s going to be interesting to watch how this Coronavirus plague starts to operate in Israel, and who it’s going to really affect, because this whole thing is spiritual.

For example, Baka happens to be the stronghold of American Reform and Masorti in Jerusalem, so no big shocker that it’s one of the first places slated for mass quarantine.

But I’ve also heard that chareidi journalists and Israeli prison guards have also already been put into quarantine, as well as generals in the IDF.

They are talking about closing down all of the government institutions this coming week, including courts and prisons, depending on what happens next.

None of this is a coincidence, it’s a direct hint as to who is in the sites of this spiritual virus, and what they might have done to get themselves there.

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The last thing I have in my spiritual toolkit against the Coronavirus is this:

  • Adopt a positive attitude and remember Ein Od Milvado. Sure, I could sit here panicking that the end is nigh, and that total chaos and apocalypse is going to break out any second. But how is that going to help me?

If God wants me dead, He doesn’t need a Coronavirus to do it. I drive in Israel, I live next to a million Arabs on the seam in East Jerusalem. Every day I come back from Route 1 in one piece, that’s a miracle. Every day there isn’t a terrorist attack, a terrorist rocket, a bomb, a stabbing, a ramming incident, that’s an open miracle.

God doesn’t need a germ to kill me.

Also, what I think and believe actually creates the reality.

If I’m panicking 24/7, and believing every little cough is potentially fatal, that is creating that reality for me – and it’s a horrible reality to live.

If instead I adopt a ‘no big deal’ approach to all this stuff – and everything else that’s going on at the moment that could be very worrying and upsetting – then I will come through it all in way better shape emotionally and physically, regardless of what actually happens.

I’m not in charge of the world. God is.

The more I internalize that, the happier I feel.

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So like I said, this whole Coronavirus is going to be a huge test of emuna, and emunat tzaddikim.

It’s going to smoke out the fakers in an obvious way, and it’s going to encourage huge swathes of Am Yisrael to actually stop running away from God, and to sit still and really just be in their lives, for a change.

When you have to spend 14 days at home with your family, with very little distractions, that is bound to show you exactly where the fault lines lie in your relationships and personality.

No more running away into work, or shopping, or exercising, or socializing.

People will just be faced with themselves, and with the true state of their own souls, and with the stark reality that they aren’t in control of anything, however much they hoped and believed different.

And that’s when the real geula magic will start to happen.

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Photo by Ricardo Resende on Unsplash

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Every few posts, I’ve decided to break up all the doom and gloom a little – as serious as it all is – with something a little lighter.

I did that with Nissim’s Mothaland Bounce video, and in this post, I want to introduce you to a new book, that is a really good read.

It’s called Kiss the hand you can’t bite  – and I can’t say anything more about it, other than if you’re interested in family dynamics, epigenetics, life in Israel and talking to God, you might really enjoy it.

You can check the first chapter of the book out HERE, and order your copy on Amazon HERE.

Enjoy!

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I have so much to get on with….

I’m moving house in less than a week, and there’s so much to do.

And yet, I’m sitting here still feeling totally out of it, and like I just don’t know what to do with myself.

Except… watch videos like this one.

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It’s 8 years since this song came out, can you believe it?

Since then, I’ve seen so many people leave Israel, so many people get divorced, so many kids go screeching off the derech, so many people go plain nutso.

How many times have we all just felt like giving up, already? And just letting go of all this ‘geula’ and ‘moshiach’ stuff, because how long can we just sit here hanging on, by our finger tips, and trying to fight off the rising tide of tumah that’s just every where?

8 years ago, we seemed so much closer to redemption happening than today, at least in some ways.

People were so much more excited about going to Torah classes, and trying to live life with emuna, and so many of us were making so much effort to try to raise our game and to live a life of real kedusha.

And today?

Well, from where I sit I’ve just seen one person after another crack up, from trying to live up to an unrealistic ideal of what a ‘geula-ready Jew’ actually looks like.

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If God hadn’t had mercy on me, and totally crushed me into the floor when I moved to Jerusalem back in 2014, then that’s exactly what would have happened to me, too.

My kids would have gone screeching off the derech a million per cent, tortured by parents who expected ‘frum perfection’ and who refused to compromise, or move even a millimeter to try to meet their children where they were really at.

I would have either jumped off a bridge, or got a padded jacket to match the padded turban I was being told to believe was the epitome of female frum-ness.

And we would have either moved to a dumpster, or given up and fled back to chul, God forbid, if my husband hadn’t found the courage to go back to work even though there were so many people lining up to tell him that ‘God provides parnassa’, as long as you have enough emuna.

We didn’t have ‘enough’ emuna to get our parnassa provided in an openly miraculous way, and thank God we didn’t.

Because since then, I’ve been writing one thing after another, trying to warn against the huge perils involved in all this phony, fake, holier-than-thou yiddishkeit.

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This shabbat, I had one of my kid’s friends in my house.

They grew up in a baal teshuva chareidi home which is super-duper machmir in a million-and-one ways, and doing a whole bunch of things so strictly, and so correctly, this kid has been totally traumatised by the idea of keeping shabbat.

Long story short, they kind of ended up at my house ‘by mistake’ this week, as their plans to go elsewhere fell through at the last minute, so my daughter brought them home to us. This friend is amazing, one of the most impressive souls I’ve met in a long term. Holy, doing hitbodedut every day, thinks and talks about God a lot, is really struggling to be a mensch and to do the right thing.

Yet they can’t sit by the table, for Shabbat.

They can’t go 25 hours without using the need to smoke a cigarette as a convenient ‘out’ from having to be in the house.

They are barely on their phone the rest of the week, and yet on the holy sabbath, they sit there playing games on it almost endlessly, texting their other ‘off the derech’ friends – anything to provide a mental escape route from the obvious emotional pain and difficulty spending shabbat with a family is causing them.

I can’t help but wonder:

What on earth went on, to cause this reaction?

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But really, I already know.

Because I so easily could have done the same, to my kids.

I so easily could have created an environment of ridiculously high, unrealistic expectation which would cast my poor kids as ‘bad’ the moment they stopped being ‘perfect’.

And because no-one can be ‘perfect’ 24/7, so many of our children are growing up feeling they must be ‘bad’, or ‘Erev Rav’, or some other form of messed-up / evil incarnate, just because they couldn’t sit at a Shabbat table singing endless zemirot for 2 hours, or because they wanted to wear jeans, and not black pants, or because they wanted to listen to a song by Ed Sheeran.

How have we come to this low place, where some of our brightest and best souls relate to themselves as ‘bad’ people just because they happen to smoke, or have an i-Phone?

This isn’t yiddishkeit. This isn’t Breslov.

Rabbenu tells us always, judge the action, don’t judge the Jew. The Jew is only and ever good, just their neshama got eaten by a massive klipa, that has been carefully crafted by the Samech Mem to make them feel like nothing they do is ever good enough.

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And it’s not just all these teenage drop-outs that are getting that message.

Their parents are also operating in that atmosphere of harsh fear and judgment, where they feel nothing they do is ever going to be good enough for Hashem. That Hashem is just waiting for them to drop the ball and watch a Michael Jackson video on Youtube so He can smash them into oblivion, God forbid.

This isn’t yiddishkeit!!!! This isn’t Breslov!!!! This isn’t emuna!!!!

And it certainly isn’t Azamra.

God loves us all so, so much. He knows how hard it is right now, how tough the struggle to hold on really is. He knows that we don’t want all this naarishkeit, all this tumah. That really all we want is Him, and Moshiach, and the rebuilt Temple, and to serve Him in holiness and temimut again.

God knows all that.

And He loves us.

And if we can get to the stage where we start to realise that we and our teens and our fellow Jews are really JUST GOOD, however ‘bad’ they (and we….) may look and behave some times, however big the klipa that’s swallowed them up, that’s when the crying will finally stop.

And the geula will finally happen.

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The last few weeks (months…) I’ve been fighting a losing battle against apathy and despair.

Most of the time, I feel like life boils down to playing the unwinnable game, where my yetzer is constantly tripping me up and testing me with new circumstances and situations designed to bring out the worst.

The last two months, I’ve just had so many tests to try to stand up, external and internal – and for the most part, I don’t think I managed so well.

The problem is, I seem to have very unreasonable expectations of how things should be, and how things should look, and God for the most part just isn’t giving that to me. I understand that the fault, the error, the problem, is 100% on my side. I also understand that I have a part of me that is a perfectionistic control-freak, and that getting that part ‘sweetened’ is probably at least one of my major tikkunim that I’m down here to do.

But sometimes, I still find day-to-day life just so painful.

It’s not easy to have face down your ‘broken-ness’ every single day, and to have to admit – to yourself, to your husband, to your kids – that you’re actually still a lunatic, despite all your efforts to blossom into something a tad less crazy.

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So, to come back to the last two months.

I’ve been noticing a strange phenomenon in the middle of all the apathy and despair that’s been winning out recently.

The more I can’t ‘do’ it, the more I’m giving up and letting God take over, the more things are starting to work out.

And I’ve seen that in a few different places now, so I wanted to share it as it’s giving me some chizzuk that maybe precisely in this low-down place of giving up, salvation can sprout.

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Three months ago, I gave notice on our apartment, to move out end of February.

The apartment is OK – it’s pretty big, pretty reasonable rent, and it’s in the very ‘comfortable’ neighborhood of Baka, where you hear English and French way more than you hear Hebrew.

The body has been relatively pleased with this apartment, but the soul has been stifling since we got here, and I knew that staying in Baka was not a good option, long-term. But finding a good, affordable apartment in Jerusalem ranks up there with finding the holy grail.

Property developers are slowly destroying this city, and making it a place where only millionaires from abroad who don’t want to actually live here can afford to buy anything. Everything they build is ‘luxury this’ and ‘luxury that’, so they can charge a fortune for it.

So, Jerusalem real estate is increasingly becoming ‘old, dumpy, mold-infested affordable’, or ‘luxury-sell-a-kidney-to-pay-your-rent’.

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Our apartment in Baka was a little dumpy, and a little mold-infested, but otherwise pretty OK.

Places like this are not so easy to find, so I was really nervous when I gave notice. The next few weeks, I kept scanning Madlan, and Janglo, and Craig’s List, looking for a reasonable apartment back closer to the Rav, in or around Musrara.

The only things coming up were in the ‘luxury and unaffordable’ range.

So then, I widened the search out to Rehavia, Shaarei Tzedek and Nachlaot – and strange to say, every single estate agent I contacted seemed incredibly uninterested in showing me any properties. I had one of my kids call up too, and she had the same experience.

In the meantime… the clock was ticking, and I had no-where to move to.

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Two weeks ago, after I got back from Uman, I told my husband:

We just have to give up on trying to live in the neighborhood we want. I’m just going to start viewing apartments all over the place, and see if anything clicks.

Because hey, we aren’t going to find a community wherever we live. And I’m not going to be able to ‘settle down’ for more than a year or two anyway. And instead of looking at all of this as another horrible experience to grin and bear through, I decided I have to stop complaining that I can’t get what I want, and just let God give me what He decides is best.

Shortly after that conversation, something came up in Abu Tor, a neighborhood that I would never have considered in a million years beforehand, and we went to look at it.

It’s the house of my dreams.

It’s two storeys, has a garden I’m allowed to plant things in, they just put in a totally new bathroom, including a bath, and they are in the process of putting in a new kitchen, too, which will be ready before we move in.

I don’t have to sell a kidney to pay the rent, and the landlords are also really nice people.

And that neighborhood is also interesting. It’s green, it’s got a village feel, and a view of Har Habayit that is simply the best in all of Jerusalem.

So, we’re doing the experiment, and we’ll see what happens next.

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Then, there was the whole mortgage fiasco that I wrote about HERE.

We are meant to be completing on the flat we bought in Harish end of the month, and for two months the bank has been telling us they won’t give us a mortgage again.

What could I do?

I think I used up all the tears on this subject the last time it happened, two years ago, so I basically just sank into apathy and told God:

Whatever You want. Mortgage, no mortgage, I don’t even care anymore.

In the meantime, we made some minimum hishtadlut – and three days ago we had a miracle.

A few hours after a friend told me she’d been at the Baba Sali, and had spontaneously said a few prayers for us to get a mortgage, we got a phone call from the bank that they were approving it, after all.

Not only that, they made a mistake and gave us a mortgage 1.5 times bigger than we asked for….

Which means that now, we can look into maybe investing that extra money into something else. It’s a totally unexpected result, and way better than what I was hoping to achieve under my own steam.

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Yesterday, I was at the Kotel with a few hundred other people who came to pray for the Rav.

What can I tell you?

We’re back in the State-sponsored anti-Torah madness that is even more unfair and even more patently evil than the first time around – and I barely have the energy to do anything about it. I made myself go yesterday, even though I was feeling so tired and apathetic about everything.

How are my prayers going to help? How can we stop this evil from winning, all the time? What’s the point in even trying?

But after all the help the Rav has given me, and all the difficulties he’s helped me to smooth out and pass through in my own life, going to the Kotel was the least I could do.

So I got there, and of course there are no seats. After milling around for a few minutes, I decided to go sit on my heels by one of the side walls in the ladies section, as I just can’t recite tehillim with any concentration when I’m standing up.

I told God:

If You want me to have a chair, God, I guess you’ll send me one. And if not, I’m just going to sit here like this and pray, even though it’s a little unconventional, because what can I do?

Half-way through the first tikkun haklali, a middle-aged woman basically ran at me with a chair.

Sit!! Sit!! She shrieked.

You can’t do things like that anymore, think about your knees!!

So I sat.

And I said thank you.

And I started to feel that maybe, this feeling of total apathy and giving things back to God is actually the secret to redemption.

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I’ve tried so hard to ‘fix’ things, in so many ways, over the last few years. So often, I sit here and it seems I don’t have much to show for myself. And honestly, that’s making it very hard to continue.

I’ve had days I don’t feel like doing my morning brachot, I’ve had days where I don’t feel like getting out of bed. I’ve had days where I literally have to force myself to do the things on my list of chores and commitments, because nothing gets anywhere, so what’s the point?

I have so many things to be getting on with right now, from packing up my house to finishing my course, to writing new blog posts, that I have zero urge to engage with.

But maybe, the last two weeks has been proving the theory that it’s exactly when we’re so totally despairing of redemption occurring, that it finally shows up.

I guess we’ll find out.

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Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

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I have been totally rinsed, the last two months.

I’m no stranger to challenging circumstances, or big emotional ups and downs, but I have to say that the last few weeks have been a rollercoaster, even for me.

Literally each week, I’ve had so much inner turmoil and self-doubt to deal with, it’s left me reeling.

So, what’s really going on here? That’s what I’ve been asking God to show me, in a million different ways, in my talking to God sessions. And as the Rabbis tell us, when someone tells you that they searched and that they found, believe them.

After some consideration, I decided to share a little about what I’ve found out, in this quest to figure out why I’ve been feeling as though I’ve been barely clinging on to the edge of sanity the last few weeks. I know there are a lot of people out there who will relate to what I’m about to share, if they will only give themselves the permission to drop the mask and be real.

So with that intro (and if you’re still reading….) let’s continue.

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The ‘problem’, if you can call it that, began back in November, when my daughter told us she’d found someone serious, and she wanted to introduce him to us.

Part of me was happy, part of me was petrified.

I had what can honestly be called a totally awful relationship with my own mother-in-law, as I’ve written about in many other places. With hindsight, I learned that my mother-in-law – who had so many tremendously good qualities – was operating out of a place of severely repressed trauma.

What I’ve learned down the years is that whatever is not ‘fixed’ in the family dynamics, in the family relationships, simply gets passed forward for the next generation to deal with. It’s like a bad penny, that never goes out of circulation until someone gets a grip, takes the hit, and faces the problem down.

The main reason my own crazy Savta didn’t figure as a massive MIL relationship stressor is simply because she lived in a different country, and never called or got in touch. But there were also some big mother-in-law issues between my dad and my British Grandma too, who wasn’t thrilled to have an immigrant for a son-in-law.

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So, back to November 2019, when I suddenly find myself on the cusp of becoming a ‘mother-in-law’ myself, potentially – and WHOOSH!!!!

The internal pressure of trying to do all this ‘right’ kicked in a million percent.

I tried so, so hard to be the nearest version of ‘normal’ and ‘laid-back’ that I could, and the first time I met the bloke, I think I pulled it off OK. But despite my best efforts, all this weird emotional stuff started bubbling up shortly afterwards, and hasn’t stopped since.

What the heck is going on here, God?

Usually, I’m pretty self-aware, but all this stuff was taking me out and I had NO IDEA what was going on, or why I was reacting the way I was reacting.

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After a day or two of doing a lot of intense hitbodedut, I made the connection that I had a heaping dose of unfinished business from my own wedding, and that me and my husband needed to sit down and get to grips with our own repressed anger and resentment from that time.

To cut a long story short, the run up to my wedding was so bad (because of in-law issues, not because of anything to do with my husband, who really is a hidden tzaddik), the counsellor on our ‘engaged couples’ course sat me down the week before the big day to ask me if I was sure I wanted to go through with it….

If I could have eloped (and I considered it seriously 500 times…) I would have.

But in the meantime, that route was blocked, and so I ended up with a ton of stress, trauma and anger still resonating through the system even 23 years later. I realized, I needed to knuckle down and clean all that stuff up, finally.

So I did.

And I looked forward to all the ‘weirdness’ disappearing.

But that’s not what happened.

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A week after I’d knuckled down and cleared out all the ‘my wedding trauma’ stuff, I found myself going really weird again.

Out of the blue, I got hit by a massive panic that with my daughter married, I’d have no-one left to talk to, or interact with.

Let’s be clear, this daughter is pretty independent, and has a ton of friends, and while we get on really well, I also have my own life and I like my own space. I also have a nice husband and another kid at home to interact with, too, so all this hit me as extremely bizarre again.

From past experience, I knew that this type of ‘disconnected’ emotional madness, where you feel you’re going crazy but you have absolutely nothing you can pin it on, from your own life, has to be some sort of ‘inherited stress’, that had got passed down the gene pool from some troubled ancestor.

(If you’re interested in the science of this, look up ‘epigenetics’.)

I picked up the phone, made an appointment with my Bodyspin / One Brain woman, and two days later, I’d tracked the issue down to an ancestor on my mum’s side (for once!).

Now, I was really hoping again I’d got all the tikkunim out the way, and could stop acting so weird and emotionally unbalanced.

That’s not exactly what happened.

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Around three weeks ago, the emotional rollercoaster started up yet again, yet again I thought I was literally going bonkers.

I like to tell myself that I know what’s going on, and that I can ‘figure stuff out’ – it’s part of my shtick, part of my ga’ava that reassures me that I’m not as lost in the world as I sometimes feel. But all of a sudden, I found myself feeling totally confused and overwhelmed about everything.

This sense of anxiety was getting so pronounced, I started to feel anxious and weepy, and even a bit nauseous.

I was getting so overwhelmed by larger-than-life negative feelings that were coming out of nowhere, and for no obvious reason, that that, all by itself, started to stress me out even more.

Was I just losing my marbles? Was it the mold’s fault, that has been spreading all over my house for a month now, thanks to the rain? Was this just a normal part of the ‘letting your kids grow up’ process that was getting out of hand?

What’s going on, God, what?

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Things got so intense that I told my husband if I didn’t get to Uman ASAP, I was probably going to end up in a mental institution.

I was (probably….) being over-dramatic, but that was still an accurate depiction of how I really felt.

Rabbenu stuck me back together, and I felt much calmer when I was there. I realized a few things about the need to get on more with my own life now, and about the importance of letting go of my kids, so they can make their own decisions and forge their own path.

But the paydirt only showed up 2 days after I came home, when I ended up having an unexpected Zoom conversation with a relative I barely speak to.

Without going into too much detail, I used to be very close to that relative until they got married a few years ago, when they effectively dropped me like a hot potato. That happened to coincide with the worst 10 years of my life.

It was such a painful experience, and for years and years, I just stuffed all my hurt feelings and disappointment down into a very big box. They had their reasons for doing what they did… I thought I understood, I thought I’d forgiven them for dumping me in my hour of need, and moved on from it all.

But when that relative unexpectedly got in touch, and when we had the first chat face-to-face we’ve had in years – it all came rushing back again, and I ended that call feeling incredibly angry.

In what has been a recurring theme from the last 2 months, I realized that all that pain and sadness hadn’t disappeared with the passage of time, it had just gone underground and festered.

Because I’d never dealt with it properly, and processed it, and faced up to how sad, lonely and worthless the whole situation had made me feel, I’d been projecting all those ‘lost’ feelings into my current situation.

And that’s why I was feeling so anxious and pukey.

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So, I did yet another six hour hitbodedut to go and deal with the fall-out from that relative properly, and to go and make my own teshuva, and to really do the job of forgiving and applying some emuna to the whole matzav again, and afterwards, I was feeling so, so much better again.

Yes, finally I can start to relax and stop freaking out every five minutes, and feeling as though the world is ending.

That’s what I hoped.

Because by this point, I’d had literally six weeks of riding the biggest emotional rollercoaster of my life, and I was starting to feel pretty rung-out and exhausted from it all.

Enough with all these tikkunim already, God! I have to move house, I have to sort out a mortgage, I have to launch a business, I have to publish a book! I can’t get anything done and I’m all over the place at the moment, it’s enough!

But what do I know?

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So last week, after weeks of being in this cycle of all this stuff surfacing, taking me out, getting dealt with, feeling ok; stuff surfacing, taking me out, getting dealt with, feeling ok….

I started to feel, yet again, like I’d just hit another massive emotional iceberg.

In the same way that I started going to pieces, inexplicably, before I had to run off to Uman, I had that sinking feeling that I was unravelling again emotionally, and yet again, there was no obvious catalyst for it.

Maybe, I should just go and live in Uman for a few months, until all this ‘potential engagement’ stuff blows over, and I have a better idea what’s going on?

That’s what I asked my husband two days ago, and I was 82% serious. I was ready to hand in my notice again on the ‘mum’ job, because clearly I wasn’t up to it, and it was just time to admit that I am the loony tune that everyone always secretly suspected.

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As I started to go to pieces again yesterday, I ended up having a really strange business coaching call, which was so surreal that if my husband hadn’t also been listening in, I think I would have thought I’d imagined it all. I was chatting with some smarmy sales guy from LA, about ideas to move my People Smarts business forward.

In the middle of the call, he suddenly totally switched track and started giving me some hard-hitting mussar:

Rivka, you really need to develop some humility. You just still have a lot to learn. In order for you to be able to help others, you first have to be able to love yourself.”

At this point, I was totally speechless.

It’s like Eliyahu HaNavi had taken over my Zoom call, or something, and all I could do was gape incredulously at the screen. Eliyahu continued:

Forgiveness is the most potent form of self-love, Rivka. Forgive yourself for procrastinating, and start new. Start fresh.”

At that point, Eliyahu reverted back to smarmy LA salesman, but I wrote down every word of that mussar, because it was literally a message from heaven.

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After the call, I was still feeling physically ill, so I went to bed, to do some hitbodedut before trying to go to sleep.

That’s when I realized another profound part of the message God has been giving me, with this latest round of emotional upheaval.

Long story short, the prospect of possibly becoming a MIL has been flashing me back to one yucky experience I had after another, connected to the whole time of life when I met and married my husband, back in my very early 20s.

I met him when I was still in university, and that whole period was such a bitter-sweet time for me, because it’s so hard to hang on to your soul and go to university in a foreign country, where everyone around you is smoking, and drinking, and doing drugs, and listening to gross music, and watching movies, and dressing inappropriately and having boyfriends, and all the rest of the stuff that doesn’t exactly go together with ‘Torah’.

But at the same time, I’d had such a rough 18 years beforehand, the sense of freedom I had in university was totally unparalleled.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

And it left me with a whole bag of unfinished business to try to sort through and clarify, which I’ve basically been ducking for 25 years.

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Us baal teshuvas carry so much baggage around from our previous lives.

Once we learn ‘the truth’, it can get so hard to forgive that former version of ourselves, who wasn’t ‘bad’, and who wasn’t ‘evil’, but who definitely was caught up in the world of lies.

But God wants us all to see the good in ourselves, and to forgive ourselves for not being perfect.

The last few months, I’ve been making such a big deal of doing ‘Azamra’ on other people, but God showed me this week that I left a crucial person out of the Azamra equation: myself.

And especially, that younger version of myself that came out of a really hard situation, had a lot of difficult tests, and just couldn’t pull through them all the way I would have liked to, in an ideal world.

Because the world isn’t ideal.

So today, again, I’m starting to feel much calmer. I’m starting to feel a little more ‘normal’ and put together again, and less panicked and anxious.

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POSTSCRIPT:

After I wrote this, I took a look at the ravberland.com site, and I saw some very disturbing info about the spread of the coronavirus. As with everything, there is so much disinformation out there that until I saw what the Rav said about it, I was minded to play it all down.

Now, I can see we are on the cusp of something potentially enormous and world-changing.

It could be the end of days, mamash.

And so I now think that’s also part of why I’ve been so all over the place since November, when this coronavirus outbreak actually began.

Interestingly, the Rav made the connection between the spread of the virus and the mitzvoth of bein adam l’havero. And he made a point of stressing that we need to forgive others.

It’s the same message, being amplified.

And I really hope we’ll be able to do it.

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THIS IS RAV BERLAND’S PRAYER TO BE SAVED FROM THE CORONAVIRUS. PLEASE SHARE IT AROUND. MANY PEOPLE’S LIVES DEPEND UPON US SWEETENING THIS DECREE.

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Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

A crash course in teasing out the truth.

I’ve been deliberately staying away from this topic for months. But now that the ‘Peace Plan’ is upon us, I seem to be getting a strong push from shemayim to set out some of the facts about what appears to be going on with the current occupant of the White House, so that you, dear reader, can make your own mind up about whether Trump is really ‘Israel’s best friend’, or not.

As this subject is so divisive, and as I want to avoid machloket with other Jews as much as possible, I will try to keep my own comments as limited as possible. And I encourage you to click the links wherever you find them, and to uncover more pieces of this puzzle. This is about becoming your own journalist, fitting all this information together, and asking Hashem to show you what’s true, and what isn’t.

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This is the starting point, from something Rabbi Berland said on Chanuka 5780, here:  ravberland.com

The last battle was at Tzur.

Tzur is south of Bethlehem. The last battle took place there. After two or three months, they said now we’re going to Jerusalem, to conquer Jerusalem, that’s to say to begin a world war, and then America and Russia will come, and they began to send armies from all the world.

WHAT? THE JEWS WILL TAKE JERUSALEM? THAT’S THE END OF THE WORLD!

The entire argument between Yaakov and Esav was over who would take Jerusalem.

YAVAN IS IN ALL THE GENERATIONS. NOW TOO, AMERICA IS MALCHUT YAVAN, RUSSIA IS MALCHUT EDOM.

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Take home message:

The world is being fought over by (at least) two different ‘mafias’, one is called the Kings of Edom (headed by Russia) and one is called the Kings of Yavan (headed by the USA).

Both of these mafias have a legal / governmental face, and a very prominent illegal / ‘deep state’ aspect. Both of these mafias are involved in trying to take over as much of the world’s resources as possible, by fair means or foul.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to figure out for yourself which of these mafias Trump is really working for.

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Whilst I was flying to Uman, I took a book along to read called: Trump / Russia: A Definitive History, by Seth Hattena, who is an award-winning investigative journalist for the Associated Press. Here’s the blurb from the back of the book:

“In the early 1990s, a famous real estate tycoon – a regular in Manhattan gossip columns and on celebrity chat shows – found his world collapsing around him. He’d secretly gone bankrupt on three, multi-million dollar projects in a row.

Facing numerous lawsuits, isolated and desperate for cash, but cut off by his American Banks, he turned to dark sources in another country, a country regularly under sanction by the United States: its long-time enemy, Russia.

And thus commenced decades-long deal-making with a growing cobweb of corrupt, criminal and powerful Russians…And ending with a tycoon in the White House.”

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After the Communist USSR fell apart in the late 1980s, Russia and the rest of the former USSR fell into a state of chaos.

The people who stepped forward to take control of the country were essentially those who already had experience of free market economics – i.e. the mafiosos who had been running the black economy under the Soviets.

Many of these mafiosos had ties with Russia’s security services like the former KGB, and these people had gained experience and connections with the West by smuggling things into Russia, and also by helping to smuggle things out.

Google: “The Jackson-Vanik Amendment”, and see what you find.

Russia, and the other former USSR countries, were exclusively run by organized crime for at least a decade. During this time, corrupt leaders in the West collaborated with corrupt leaders in Russia itself, including the alcoholic former Russian President, Boris Yeltsin, to privatize the former USSR’s natural resources.

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In 2011, a Russian anti-corruption campaigner called Marina Salye fled for her life to the US. (It didn’t seem to help much. She died in March, 2012). Many years earlier, she’d been head of a special investigative commission in St Petersburg, who had been investigating Vladimir Putin – then the head of St Petersburg’s Committee of External Relations. Here’s part of her stated complaint against Putin:

“Vladimir Putin has issued licences, without government authority, for the overseas export of bartered oil, timber and non-ferrous and rare-earth metals to questionable and little-known firms, often incorporated the previous day, with licences issued in advance of being signed by Western partners and without documentation of the goods’ availability.

And the prices assigned were for dumping – about two thousand times lower than the prevailing ones. The Commission is now sending documentation of its investigation to the Personnel Office, and Putin may have to answer before his hometown for having deprived municipal coffers of $122 million.”

Instead, Putin became Russia’s president, and the Russian mafia acquired a patina of legitimacy.

This is how so much of the former USSR’s national wealth ended up in the hands of a small group of Russian oligarchs, who became fabulously wealthy overnight. All these people had some connection to the Russian mafia. Many of these people are Jews.

Google:

Jewish Russian Oligarchs

“Davos Pact”

“Boris Birshtein”

And see what you find.

It’s important to note that this type of corruption occurred throughout the former USSR, including the Ukraine.

But life as a Russian Oligarch is risky. Back in 2003, Russia’s richest man, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was suddenly arrested by Putin’s government, charged with fraud, and stripped of all his fabulous wealth. That sent a very clear message to the other Russian oligarchs and mafia bosses that the best way to protect their wealth was to find a way to get it out of the country, and ‘stored’ in assets in the West, in case the wind one day changed for them, too.

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Starting in the 1970s, there was a huge wave of immigration from the USSR to the USA, which welcomed 200,000 people to its shores. Around 80,000 Russians ended up in Brighton Beach, a community on the periphery of NYC which was subsequently christened “Little Odessa”.

At that same time, Russian organized crime began to flourish in the USA – and the power struggle between the Kings of Edom and the Kings of Yavan took a new turn.

Google the following names, and see what you find:

David Bogatin

Jacob Bogatin

Semion Mogilevich

Vyacheslav Ivankov

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Taking dodgy money from dodgy sources in order to give that money a patina of respectability is technically known as money laundering.

And here is where the story gets interesting.

Guess where so many of these Russian oligarchs and Russian mafia figures and Russian shell companies ended up investing their dodgy money? Here’s a few clues:

Trump Towers

Trump World Tower

Trump SoHo

For example, David Bogatin owned no less than five apartments in Trump Towers before he was arrested for his part in a billion dollar gas tax fraud.

According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, by 2004 a third of the units sold in Trump World Tower went to people or limited-liability companies connected to the former USSR, with one of Trump’s sales agents telling the magazine: “We had big buyers from Russia and Ukraine and Kazakhstan.”

Donald Trump had no problem whatsoever in selling his over-priced condos to fabulously wealthy Russians with murky business connections. Those sales jacked-up the value of his real estate, pulled him out of bankruptcy – and firmly connected him to a whole slew of wealthy people with useful connections on both sides of the legit / mafia business divide.

Google the following names, see what you find:

Sam Kislin

Michael Cherney

Lev Cherney

Fima Shusterman

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Real Estate is big business in today’s world.

Part of the reason so much real estate is going for artificially inflated ridiculous prices is because it’s a great way of laundering ‘black’ money. You buy something with dirty money, you sell it on for an inflated and unjustified profit, and hey presto, all of a sudden your money is ‘legit’ – it’s just the proceeds of a selling a condo.

No-one can ask questions about that….

Trump World Tower opened in 2002. Shortly afterwards, the Trump property brand started to skyrocket, especially with the Russians, many of whom seemed very happy to follow Trump around, wherever he chose to build his next developments.

Take Trump’s Sunny Isles Towers down in Miami, Florida. So many Russians moved into Sunny Isles locals started calling it “Little Moscow”.

Google the following names, see what you find:

Vladimir Popovyan

Peter Kiritchenko

Michael Barukhin

Elena Baronoff

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Trump SoHo was unveiled in 2006, in partnership with a real estate company called the Bayrock Group.

Bayrock’s managing director is a man called Felix Sater, it’s founder was a former Kazakhstani called Tevfik Arif. Sater moved with his family to Brighton Beach, and Sater has a long and very interesting story.

Look him up on Google, and see what you find.

Long story short, he was involved with the mob, went to prison for white collar crimes including a pump-and-dump scheme run out of his ‘White Rock’ organization, and then apparently became an informer for the CIA in the Clinton years, helping the US to track down Osama bin Laden.

(I don’t know about you, but that whole thing just sounds kind of weird to me, and my BS-o-meter is twitching again.)

But by 2006, Sater was working with Bayrock on high ticket real estate details, and became very close to the Trump empire. Sater had business cards printed at this time that said: “Felix Sater: Senior Advisor to Donald Trump.”

Call it a coincidence, but Trump properties continued to fill up with wealthy investors from the former USSR, many of whom had very dodgy backgrounds, and sadly, many of whom are Jewish and closely connected to obviously Jewish organizations. Look up the following names, see what you find:

Vadim Trincher

Alex Sapir

Rotem Rosen

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There’s so much more to say about all this, but I’m going to kind of skip over all the stuff about Paul Manafort helping to rig elections in the Ukraine up until 2013 etc. Look up:

Dmitry Firtash

Oleg Deripaska

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One thing I will say is that the ‘division’ between Democrats and Republicans is really just for show.

It’s just to keep the masses thinking there is a real alternative. The political system in the US is totally corrupt, and really just masking the ongoing battle between the Kings of Edom and the Kings of Yavan for control of the international economy, particularly it’s darker side of drugs, guns and human slaves.

So, it should come as no surprise that ‘pro-Trump’ Manafort was happy to hire the ‘pro-Hilary’ Podesta Group to lobby Congress on behalf of Manafort’s client, Ukrainian President Yanukovych.

What’s more, the original Fusion GPS file on Trump’s connections to Russian mafia figures was originally commissioned by Republican Paul Singer, and then only taken over by the Democrats at a later stage.

The swamp extends in all directions, on both sides of Congress and the Senate, and is also still to be found in the White House itself. All of the politicians are corrupt, and just the ‘legal’ face of the invisible mafias that are running the world.

For example, Former Ukrainian President Yanukovych was totally corrupt, and there are estimates that $70 billion was illegally siphoned off into foreign accounts during his tenure. (He escaped prosecution in 2014 by jumping on a helicopter that whisked him over to Russia, where presumably he’s still hiding out.)

Meanwhile, Manafort flew back to Washington and went to work for Trump.

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As I’ve written so many times before, there is no such thing as a 0-100% argument.

There is no such thing as one side being 100% wrong about everything, and the other side being 100% right.

It’s all an admixture, and the birur or clarification process God expects from us is to keep challenging our own assumptions, and our own black-or-white thinking to really dig down and discover the truth.

I am totally a-political. Before I started investigating all this stuff, I certainly didn’t hate Trump, and I probably would have voted from him back in 2016.

Back then, I didn’t realise just how endemic the spiritual and moral corruption actually is in the world. I didn’t realise that all these political parties and presidents and Prime Ministers are really just figure heads, puppets that are being moved around by the Kings of Edom and Kings of Yavan who are really running the show here.

Rebbe Nachman explained in his story The Cripple that ‘the talkers’ would take themselves out before Moshiach comes, and that’s what we’re witnessing right now. One set of evil mafiosos is trying to take out the other, but ultimately, they are both totally bad.

The Democrats are just as bad as the Republicans, just as corrupt, just as morally bankrupt. They are all just the window-dressing. As for ‘Q Anon’ – at this point, I’m pretty sure it’s being run by the Russians. Most of the information it puts out is probably true, but there’s another side to the story that most of us just don’t want to believe, namely that there are no ‘good’ guys in this picture.

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The real power behind the throne is just playing us all off against each other, keeping us caught up in petty partisan politics, and fooling us into thinking that real change happens at the polling booths.

There is no real change until the real evil is unmasked and revealed. That real evil is bankrolling all our politicians and all our ‘leaders’ – including here in Israel. Just that real evil is also split into different factions, each one trying to get a bigger piece of the pie.

So, let’s get down to brass tacks now.

Trump is definitely part of the evil mafia, definitely not ‘good’ in any way, shape or form, and definitely not Israel’s ‘best friend’. The only question really is which mafia family is he working for, the Kings of Edom (Russia) or the Kings of Yavan (the USA)?

As to why the Jews should care about this, and particularly the Jews of America, it boils down to this.

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Even a very quick look across the internet shows that there are certain crucial pieces of this whole ‘Trump / Russia’ puzzle that are hidden in very plain sight. I’m not going to spell this stuff out, for a lot of reasons.

But I urge my readers to carefully consider which organisations and charities have deep connections to the former USSR. Who used clandestine routes to smuggle things and people in and out of Russia?

What were the main lynchpins clandestinely connecting the USA and Russia during the Cold War? How were those ‘lynchpins’ affected and potentially corrupted by the Russian mafia’s takeover of the former USSR? Why are the same people, the same organisations, the same charities, coming up again and again and again in connection to Russian mafia figures, and money laundering?

Where are these organisations getting their billion dollar plus annual budgets from?

Who is really funding them, who is really using them as a smokescreen, and what are they getting in return?

These are crucially important questions that I urge the Jews of America to look into, however painful it might be, because ‘before the world of truth can be built, the world of lies has to fall.’

And we are perched on the edge of the next part of that process.

There’s no such thing as a 0-100% argument. Yes, the Democrats are totally rotten and morally corrupt to the core. But that doesn’t mean that everything they’re claiming about Trump is wrong.

Just both sides are only presenting their side of the story, because if they came out with the truth and explained that the whole world is being fought over by two main mafia organizations called ‘The Kings of Edom’ and ‘The Kings of Yavan’, and that all this talk of democracy and governance by the people was a total crock, there would be riots in the streets.

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We live in interesting times.

Do your own homework, become your own investigative journalist, and start to tease the truth out about what’s really going on. Because sooner or later, what I’m only hinting to here is going to become public knowledge.

And then, anti-semitism is going to explode in the USA like never before.

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It’s hard to keep going at the moment.

So much effort that doesn’t seem to have got anywhere, so much yearning for a better world that’s going unrequited.

God, where’s all the fruits of our labours?!?!

It seems that all our good deeds, all our effort to become better people, all our struggles for a drop more holiness, a drop more connection to Hashem, a drop more genuine kindness for others are stalled and stuck.

But really?

They’re germinating.

We can’t see how every second of hitbodedut we do is taking root, we can’t see how every spiritual seed we plant with emuna is getting ready to sprout – imminently – into something way more beautiful than we can even get our heads around.

But it’s coming.

Patience, kinderlach.

It’s coming.

Last week, I had a little nervous breakdown.

The only reason it was little, as opposed to BIG, is because on Thursday morning I told my husband that if I didn’t make it out to Uman for Shabbat, I was probably going to crack up into a million pieces.

The warning signs had been gathering steam for two weeks, but we were deep in a massive cash crunch, so there was just no way I could get to Uman. Then on Tuesday, I was chasing some receipts for my husband’s end of year when we realized we’d been accidentally overcharged for something by 4, 000 shekels – the cost of spending Shabbat in Uman.

So, my husband asked for repayment, and Thursday morning, we booked the flight.

Thank God, because I was in such a low place by that point, I felt like the sky was falling in.

Usually, I’m pretty open about what sparks all this stuff off, and I can tell you that I’m definitely dealing with a million and one big stressors at the moment, that have all been depleting my strength and challenging me. I’ll list them here, to make it neat, but that’s not really what sent me off the deep end.

  • I have to move apartment by end of Feb, and still haven’t found somewhere.
  • I have to complete the purchase of an apt in Harish by end of Feb, and the bank turned down the mortgage.
  • I have to complete my ‘Crush your stress’ masterclass (haha!) and start marketing it properly.
  • I have to somehow figure out tickets for trips to the US and UK for family simchas.
  • My kid wants to drop out of school again.
  • My other kid is leaving her National Service half way through the year

All these stressors could easily pass for ‘the reason I’m cracking up’, and in the past, I’ve made the mistake of thinking they are the root cause of my emotional distress.

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But last week, I realized they are just the icing, not the cake.

The stuff that was really causing me to crack up last week is far more intangible. It just runs so deep, and goes to the heart of this whole idea of what I’m really meant to be doing in the world.

After 46 years, I realized that I’m still the perpetual weirdo, that I’m never going to see things the way other people do, or react to things ‘normally’, or be able to fit myself into the neat little boxes that apparently suit ‘everyone else’ – whoever the heck they are.

I’ve been fighting that clarity since I could think, because it brings a whole big bag of loneliness and self-doubt along with it. For four and a half decades, I’ve been waiting for me to mellow enough to fit in with the world, or for the world to speed up enough to keep up with me.

And last week, I finally understood that it’s never going to happen.

That understanding totally blew me out the water, and left me feeling like ET would feel once he understood the Mothership was never showing up to take him back home.

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I am a perpetual weirdo, stuck in a place where no-one is ever going to ‘get’ me.

This has implications for a lot of things, not least all my ongoing attempts to keep trying to ‘brainwash’ people – including my family members – into seeing things and experiencing things the way I do.

Up until last week, I thought it was just a matter of time until everyone comes around and starts to pick up the same vibes I do about things. Just a bit more ‘Moshiach light’ needs to slip under the door, just a bit more ‘Moshiach consciousness’ needs to shine in through the windows, and they will finally understand.

But now, I accept that’s never going to happen.

So last week, I fled to Uman to get some advice about how I’m meant to relate to myself in this new paradigm.

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Now I know I’m just never going to get that meeting of minds I’m craving, that sense of connection, now I know that I have to keep ‘the real me’ mostly under wraps if I want to have peaceful relationships and not cause constant friction, how do I relate to myself? How do I like myself?

How do I use all my ‘weirdness’ in a way that will still benefit the world, without causing me all this heartache because I feel so lonely and misunderstood so much of the time?

That’s why I came knocking on the door of Uman, the only place that makes me feel a little bit ‘normal’.

There was no bolt of lightning, no neon sign that suddenly lit up over the Tziyon saying

Rivka, do THIS!!!!! Be like THIS!!!! Just change THIS!!!!

But I came to Uman dragging a whole big chain of doubt, unhappiness and emotional pain behind me, and mostly, it’s gone.

I’m feeling connected back to my soul and connected back to God and the true Tzaddikim again. I have a lot to figure out still, but somehow, everything is going to turn out for the best.

And now, I have to get on with finding somewhere to live, and putting the finishing touches to my ‘Crush your stress’ course (haha!)

God certainly has a sense of humour.

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For years, the Prophet Jeremiah told the people of Judea that the Temple would be destroyed, and they would be exiled.

Jeremiah’s message didn’t go down at all well. He was shunned, imprisoned and threatened, and even his own family in Anatot, his home town, tried to bump him off by poisoning him. But God protected him through all these trials, and sure enough, Nebuchadnezzar showed up in 689 BCE, and laid siege to the rebellious city of Jerusalem.

As the Bablyonian army tightened their squeeze on the nation of Israel, and on the King Tzidkiyahu, even the most resolutely ‘optimistic’ fake prophets fell into despair, and stopped trying to pretend that Jeremiah was a psycho conspiracy theorist who was somehow following the wrong Rebbe.

There’s only so far you can stretch credulity, even when you so desperately want to believe that everything is going to turn out totally for the best, and that all there is left to do before Moshiach shows up is to ‘polish the buttons’.

But then, at that point in time when Jeremiah’s dire warnings were literally manifesting before the eyes of the Jewish nation, God comes to him again, and tells him something pretty strange:

“Prophet Jeremiah, take a break from all that End of Days stuff for a bit, and go buy your cousin Hanamel’s field in Anatot.”

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As you might expect, Jeremiah is a little taken aback by this.

I mean, Jerusalem is about to be totally sacked and destroyed, the Jewish people is about to be cruelly exiled from their land for at the next 70 years, and here’s God obsessed with contracting a real estate deal.

What’s with that?!?!

But, Jeremiah buys the land for seven shekels and 10 silver pieces (bargain!), and then tells his servant Baruch ben Neriah to place the bill of sale in an earthenware pot, where it will be kept safe and “endure for many years.” Why?

“For thus said Hashem, Master of Legions, God of Israel: ‘Houses, fields and vineyards will yet be bought in this land.’”[1]

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What can we learn from this, we who sit here watching the world tip upside down, and chaos and madness encroach from every direction?

I’ve been asking myself that a lot recently, as I find myself way more caught up with gathering potatoes than gathering diamonds at the moment.

(There’s a Rebbe Nachman story about that, which is basically that a man goes to a faraway land to collect diamonds, but when he gets there, gets confused and starts collecting potatoes instead. The parable is obvious.)

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The last few months, I have literally been working like a dog to try to get books out, and self-help courses out, because at some point, I want to be able to buy my own ‘field’ in Jerusalem and finally settle down under my own fig, under my own vine.

In the course of doing that, I’ve been finding it very hard to hang out at the prayers of the Rav as much as I used to; or to sit at the Kotel, or even to recite my daily tikkun haklali. All my time is going on redeeming the field, i.e. acting as though that normal part of the world is going to continue, regardless of all the madness going on around me.

I honestly don’t know what to think about it all.

At the same time, I’ve spent so much of the last two decades trying to mend my ways, and to listen to Hashem’s messages about moving to Israel, quitting my job to focus on raising my kids, working on my emuna, trying to have a bit of humility….

It’s really not like all I’ve been doing the last few years is trying to redeem the field, anything but.

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When I was mulling all this over in hitbodedut, and talking to God about the crazy pace of life at the moment, and my seeming inability to hang on to so many of the spiritual diamonds I put so much effort into collecting over the last few years, He reminded me of Jeremiah and the field.

Sometimes, even in the middle of the madness, you still have to try to continue to do ‘normal’ things, and still to think about tomorrow, even though tomorrow is so very uncertain. I spent years paralysed by ‘geula anticipation’, thinking there was no point doing anything except making teshuva and learning Torah.

Was that wrong?

Probably not. Probably, almost definitely not.

But in the meantime, life continues, life goes on, and that’s also a reality I have to accept and integrate into my lifestyle. So many of our young people are dropping out of school, and getting depressed, and feeling unable to overcome their tremendous apathy and ennui because they feel there is no point.

There is no tomorrow. Why make an effort, why wake up on time, why try to progress or achieve anything?

I have a lot of sympathy for that outlook. I suffered from it myself for so many years. But these days, I’m in a different space. A space where while I’m still searching for diamonds, I’m also appreciating that you can’t eat them. Sometimes, you need a potato.

Sometimes, the way you serve Hashem is by redeeming the field.

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FOOTNOTES:

[1] See Jeremiah 36:8.

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Photo by Polina Rytova on Unsplash

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