Posts

The last few months, so many of our Tzaddikim have been experiencing serious leg problems.

You probably heard about Rav Dov Kook’s serious issues, that prevented him from walking around even being able to stand or sit up in order to pray.

BH, Rav Kook’s leg issues cleared up in a way that he himself described as ‘miraculous’. But now, it seems to be Rav Berland’s turn to be experiencing some serious difficulties with his legs, God forbid.

As I was pondering what’s going on with all the legs stuff, I remembered that I know of two people first-hand who had lower legs amputated this year, and a third who was hospitalized for weeks with leg problems, and similarly threatened with amputation.

Then, I was thinking about all the people I know who seem to have serious aches and pains in their legs – and that was prompted by the fact that I started to get my weird ‘aching leg’ thing again on Shabbat, which I’ve had on and off all year and always seems to be connected to some more teshuva I need to do, especially about my negative emotions.

Then, I got given a pamphlet by ‘Ha Esh Im HaTzaddik’ which was talking more about the whole ‘legs’ connection to geula, and said the following (translated from the original Hebrew):

“In Likutey Moharan, Rabbenu [Rebbe Nachman] explains that the dinim (harsh judgments) cling on to the legs, and the ‘legs’ of the generation are the Tzaddikim of the generation, who suffer because of the sins of the generation. We’ve recently seen many Tzaddikim suffering with their legs, and the Tzaddik (i.e. Rebbe Nachman) tells us that this is the secret of geula (redemption), the secret of the seventh beggar.”

Interesting!

So I went back to Rebbe Nachman’s tale of the Seventh Beggar, and here’s what I learned:

There are seven beggars, each with a physical ‘lack’ that is actually spiritual perfection.

  • The first beggar is blind.
  • The second beggar is deaf.
  • The third has a terrible speech defect.
  • The fourth has a crooked neck.
  • The fifth has a hunchback.
  • The sixth beggar has no hands.
  • The seventh beggar has no feet.

Each beggar represents a particular Tzaddik, and the enormous wisdom and spiritual insights they brought to the world. (Rebbe Nachman himself doesn’t explain who each beggar is meant to represent in Jewish history, so that’s open to each of us to interpret for ourselves.)

But he does identify who the beggar with no feet is: the Moshiach.

Indeed, the story of the seven beggars stops after the tale of the sixth day and the sixth beggar. Rav Natan, Rebbe Nachman’s main pupil writes:

“The end of the story would involve the Seventh Day and the beggar without feet. However, we were not worthy of hearing it….We will not be worthy of hearing it until the Moshiach comes. May this happen quickly in our days, Amen.”

In the notes in the English edition of Rebbe Nachman’s Tales, translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, it says the following:

“The time before the Moshiach is known as Ikvatha deMeshicha, which literally means ‘the heels of the Moshiach’. Therefore the power of rectification of the Moshiach comes from his feet….the main thing is joy, which is expressed by the feet in dancing.

“In the world to come, it’s taught that God will make a dance for all the righteous…this is the concept of the complete restoration of emuna. The beggar with no feet is the one who will effect the ultimate rectification of the…Shechina.

“Regarding the Shechina, it’s written: ‘Her feet go down to death’ (Proverbs 5:5). This is because the feet of Malchut go down to the realm of evil, giving it existence until the Moshiach comes and rectifies all things. Thus, the ultimate rectification is through the feet.”

Interesting!

Beyond that, I’m not prepared to speculate. But the whole inyan that’s going on with Tzaddikim (and others…) experiencing leg pains and serious issues this year could be pointing in the direction that we’re at least approaching the time when the story of the beggar with no feet will finally be told.

As you may, or may not know, my husband and I first got into Breslov by way of Rav Shalom Arush, and his amazing, life-changing book, ‘The Garden of Emuna’.

Until I hit Rav Arush and his strong emphasis on emuna, i.e. seeing Hashem behind every single little detail in our lives, I had so many questions that didn’t appear to have answers, at least not in more ‘mainstream’ Judaism.

As each of the Rav’s books came out, I gobbled them up. And I can honestly say that his ‘Education with Love’ book is probably the most important book I ever read in my life, and completely changed my relationship with my kids for the better.

My husband was also profoundly changed by Rav Arush’s teachings and books, in particular the ‘Garden of Peace’ book on how to ‘do’ marriage properly, that’s for men only. That book helped him navigate some incredibly stormy times in our marriage and in our life, with emuna.

In fact, it probably kept us together when circumstances were raging so hard against us, they nearly broke us both into pieces.

Why am I writing this now?

Because the last couple of years, I forgot how much I owe Rav Arush. I got so caught up with some of the ‘difficult’ characters associated with the yeshiva, and so upset about some of the things we experienced since we moved to Jerusalem, I kind of distanced myself internally from the Rav, and forgot how much he and his advice really helped us.

A few months’ ago, after my husband left Rav Arush’s yeshiva to go and study in the Old City, I took one of Rav Arush’s picture off the wall, unsure as to how ‘connected’ I really felt to him, at this stage in my life.

Yesterday, spontaneously, one of my kids was tidying up the place, and decided to stick the picture back up on the wall. The timing was uncanny…

Because yesterday, me and my husband kind of got peripherally caught up in someone else’s exploding shalom bayit (marital peace) issue. To cut a long story short, both parties are MEGA frum looking, but really have so little emuna when it comes to seeing God in their spouse it’s actually heart-breaking.

Sure, they’ve also been through a lot of difficulties in recent years – who hasn’t?

But me and my husband were both really shocked to see how little responsibility either party is taking to fix the problem, how much they’re just blaming each other for everything that’s going wrong, and most disturbingly of all, how little God is really in the picture.

After my husband read Rav Shalom’s ‘Garden of Peace’ book, he realized that whenever I was giving him a hard time about something, I was just the stick that God was using to get him to really work on the things he’d otherwise prefer to ignore.

That understanding saved our marriage on countless occasions, strengthened our relationship, and helped my husband to become a mensch, in every sense of the word.

By the same token, every time I was caught up in feelings of utter despair and overwhelm about how things were going in life, or with my relationship with my husband, or with my kids, I’d take it into my personal prayer sessions, and I’d ask God for help.

A few years’ ago, when my husband went through a very dark time after his father unexpectedly died, talking to God is what helped me deal with what was going on. I prayed for my husband so much that he should come through his very difficult nisayon (test) in one piece, and that he and we shouldn’t be completely broken by what was going on.

Rav Arush explained in one of his books that you get the husband you pray for: whenever you see a problem, a difficulty, a ‘lack’ in your home, your marriage, your man, you need to go and pray on it, and ask God to help him resolve it.

That’s the advice we’ve both been living by for years’ now – and mamash, it’s the main reason we still like each other so much and are generally pretty happy, BH, despite all the difficulties we’ve gone through the last few years.

It could be so different.

At this stage in life, I’m seeing so many marriages go to the wall because the husband refuses to accept that they have any problems they need to work on, and because the wives get so despairing and exhausted from dealing with the spiritual and mental immaturity of their husbands, they kind of get to a stage where they just want ‘out’ of the whole process.

Ladies, don’t give up on them!

Just pray for them, and send them to Uman as much as you can, but especially for Rosh Hashana! Rabbenu’s got your back!

And for the husbands who are reading this – please, please, please, do the whole world a favour and go and buy a copy of ‘The Garden of Peace’. If you already have that book, go and actually read it. If you already read it, go and actually internalize that as long as your wife is a God-fearing woman, the ‘hard time’ she’s giving you is actually just Hashem talking.

We all need to work on our middot, we all have stuff to fix. For as long as we are still in the world, that’s a sign that we still have stuff to work on.

Without Rav Arush’s guidance and help, I dread to think how things could have turned out in my marriage, given all the tremendous ‘tikkunim’ God’s been expecting of us the last few years.

Rav Arush, thank you! You’re amazing!

I’m sorry it took me a couple of years to remember that.

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

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

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

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

The short answer was: yes.

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

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

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

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

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

He was right.

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

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

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

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

——-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a relief!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Man, I’m SO sick of my bad middot…

When I lived in the UK, I was pretty sure that I was a bona fide Jewish saint. After all, I gave a lot of tzedaka, I kept Shabbat, I entertained lavishly, I came to Israel on holiday at least once a year. What else was there to do?!

Then I moved to Israel, and God showed me pretty quickly: There was a whole bunch of bad middot, negative character traits and very unhelpful habits and beliefs I had that were the polar opposite of how a Jewish saint should act or think.

Thank God for Rebbe Nachman, who explained very succinctly in his writings that a person’s character is like a big pot of water. At first, it looks as though the water is pure and clean. Then God brings the ‘fire’, a metaphor for all the troubles and hardships we all go through in life, to start boiling the water up, and all the impurities in our character starts to rise to the surface.

Then, Rabbenu tells us, all we need to do is just stand by the pot with a big spoon (which I think is probably referring to the sort of introspection you get by doing daily hitbodedut) – and keep scooping out all that gunky stuff as it rises to the surface.

By the end of that process, the water will actually be pure, and not just look pure.

So, I was hoping that with all the troubles, difficulties and subsequent teshuva that’s been going on in my life the last 12 years, the pot (i.e. me) was pretty much at the properly clean stage. After last week’s monster revelation and subsequent teshuva, I was hoping, really, that I’d done most of what was required and would get a least a few days off of having to notice my flaws and making teshuva for them.

But you know what? The opposite seems to be happening. Instead of sitting back and feeling like I’ve finally sorted myself out, God seems to be pulling more and more of my bad middot into the open – and I’m getting so sick of all the ‘ick’ I’m still carrying around in myself!

When is this process going to end, already?! (I know, I know, until 120, bezrat Hashem) – but in the meantime, I was really hoping that I’d have got a little further on in the cleaning process by this stage of the game.

Sigh.

I’m trying God, I really am. Either my pot was really big, or the water was really dirty to begin with, I don’t know what. But I’m not going to quit until all the gunk that’s still floating around has bubbled up and been taken out.

I just hope that 120 years is going to be enough to complete the job.

How the Erev Rav and personality disorders are connected

A little while back, I got a tweet from someone (who knew people actually read those things…) criticizing me for linking ‘mental illness’ to the Erev Rav.

As it was a one line tweet, there wasn’t a lot of detail, but I still wanted to devote a post to responding to the criticism, because like it not, mental illness and the Erev Rav ARE inextricably linked.

This is probably not going to be an easy post to read for many people, and I apologise in advance for that.

In order to explain how mental illness and the Erev Rav are linked, I have to explain how I got onto this whole subject in the first place.

HOW I GOT INTO THE SUBJECT OF RESEARCHING THE EREV RAV

Around five years’ ago, I suddenly realized that so many of the very puzzling, difficult, upsetting and frankly bizarre behaviors, relationships and situations I was experiencing at that time were because many of the people I knew had undiagnosed and unacknowledged personality disorders, and in particular, Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

NPD manifests itself in two key (and superficially opposite) fashions:

  • Smothering, bullying and controlling
  • Uninterested, ‘absent’ and neglectful

There’s SO much stuff out there in the secular world about NPD. Here’s a rough round-up of most of the main points:

PEOPLE WITH NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER:

  • Can’t accept that they are anything except 100% perfect
  • Can’t empathise with other people, or see another person’s point of view – which enables them to mistreat others in a very cruel fashion, which they feel is completely justified ‘from their point of view’.
  • Project their own bad character traits on to other people, which means they mercilessly criticize others for the same things they themselves are doing (and denying).
  • Have a superiority complex and are obsessed with keeping up appearances at all costs.
  • Have very disturbing gossiping habits, manipulate others and make serious trouble between people wherever they go.
  • Are in a barely-contained state of permanent rage and anger – but will deny they are angry.
  • Act very vindictively, spitefully. They are unable to forgive anyone they feel has slighted them, particularly by suggesting they are anything less than perfect.
  • Are incredibly selfish and self-absorbed.
  • Relate to the world in a very superficial, materialistic way. They can’t ‘relate’ to others (or themselves) in an authentic way. They aren’t interested in more spiritual ideas and concepts.

I could go on, but you get the idea. The descriptions of NPD and the other ‘Cluster B’ personality disorders fit what I was experiencing to a tee. But I knew even back then that the only truth is Torah.

So then I started researching, did the Torah describe any phenomenon that would dove-tail with the secular descriptions of how people behave and treat other people when they have a ‘Cluster B’ personality disorder?

THE EREV RAV CONNECTION

Very quickly, Hashem sent me a whole bunch of information about the Erev Rav – and that’s when things got really intense, because the typical Erev Traits as set out by our Sages, and the typical traits you find in Cluster B personality disorders fit like a hand in a glove.

God appeared to be using personality disorders, and particularly narcissism, to hide the reality of the Erev Rav people in our lives, right under our noses.

But the question haunted me for three years: Can Erev Rav / personality disordered people change? Can they make teshuva? Can they be fixed?

Most of the Jewish sources on the subject said no.

The most current secular thinking (as expressed in the DSM) also said ‘no’ – when people have a Cluster B personality disorder, and especially narcissism, there is nothing you can do to help them to change that.

The main problem is that when someone refuses to acknowledge they are a flawed human being, and strives to maintain the illusion of their own perfection and infallibility, they won’t acknowledge any of the things they are doing wrong, or make any effort to try to fix them.

To put it another way: as long as someone clings to the notion they are only ever perfect and never make any mistakes, they stay a mentally-ill narcissist.

And that’s where I got stuck for three long years, until I read a discourse that Rav Berland gave in 2000, that completely transformed the whole picture and gave me hope for the first time that the Erev Rav / personality disordered people in our midst can change and can make teshuva, if they really want to.

I explain what Rav Berland said, and a whole bunch of other stuff about how to actually go about fixing these Erev Rav traits, in much more detail in the book, ‘Unlocking the Secret of the Erev Rav’. But I want to end this post on an ‘up’ note, and tie everything back together with my Tweeter’s original criticism of the book.

PERSONALITY DISORDERS ARE CAUSED BY TRAUMA, AND CAN BE REVERSED

Over the last two years, I’ve learned a great deal about psychiatric thought, trauma and the true causes of serious mental illnesses including personality disorders and narcissism. (Yes, I do plan on writing it all up into yet another book, and I even have a working title for it: Animal or angel? The real roots of mental illness and how to cure it.)

The upshot is this: personality disorders are a false, pseudo-scientific construct created by a ‘materialistic’ psychiatric industry that fails to put people’s soul into the picture. The main problems underpinning mental illnesses like personality disorders come down to the same main problems underpinning Erev Rav character traits, namely:

  • People are completely disconnected from God, their souls and the more spiritual aspects of life.
  • Without a strong connection to God, they are consumed by animalistic impulses and governed by bad middot that cause them to act in a personality disordered / Erev Rav type way.
  • Physiologically, personality disorders are caused by trauma, and particularly the types of trauma that come from being emotionally abused and / or neglected in childhood.
  • The single best way to strengthen the ‘good’, mature part of the brain so that it can stand up to the traumatized, primitive, ‘animalistic’ part of the brain is via regular prayer and hitbodedut.
  • It’s about TRAITS not about LABELS. Each bad character trait we eliminate brings us closer to true emotional and spiritual health, and takes us further away from acting like a mentally ill, personality-disordered Erev Rav.
  • Everybody occasionally acts like an Erev Rav. But with enough prayer, honesty and emuna, every single negative character trait can be permanently uprooted and rectified.

To sum up, personality disorders are a secular description of Erev Rav behaviors and traits.

The two are fundamentally linked, because they are describing the same phenomena, albeit one in ‘materialistic’ secular terms, and the other in Torah terms.

But the Torah’s truth, as expounded by Rav Berland, is that the Erev Rav people in our midst CAN be fixed, and sooner or later most of them will be (barring the ones who cause terrible strife and machloket amongst Jews).

But in the meantime, we still need to recognize what we’re dealing with when we come up against those difficult, arrogant, brazen and abusive characters we all unfortunately know, and to stop making excuses for what’s going on around us.

There are lots of personality disordered people in our midst. There are lots of Jewish narcissists. That’s the reality, and the Torah also told us that before Moshiach comes, the Erev Rav would return in force in order to finally be rectified. The Jewish people have been through so much trauma, I guess it couldn’t really be any other way at this stage of the game.

Calling a spade a spade and correctly identifying the emotional and spiritual problems in our midst is the first step towards really rectifying them.

Moshiach will help us to finish this job when he finally shows up, but in the meantime, we have to start that process and recognize that a lot of mental illnesses, especially personality disorders, and Erev Rav traits are essentially just two sides of the same coin.

But the key point to remember is that these mentally-ill / Erev Rav type behaviors CAN BE FIXED, and are primarily cured by working on our emuna, and making God a real and regular force in our lives.

As soon as a person says sorry, as soon as they admit they aren’t perfect, they start the long, difficult journey of fixing their souls and returning to God.

There is are so many outright heretical ideas flying around all over the internet about the topic of ‘faith in the Sages’ or emunat Tzaddikim, that I thought it would be useful to share some of what Rebbe Nachman writes about the subject in the Abridged Likutey Moharan (translated as ‘Advice’, in the English.)

As you’ll hopefully see from these sources, emunat Tzaddikim is not an option extra in Judaism, or something that only applies to chassidim.

It’s a fundamental tenet of Yiddishkeit, and has a direct impact on a person’s understanding, or daat, and ability to perfect their bad middot and negative character traits.

NOTE: When it’s referring to ‘Sages’ that’s another word for Tzaddikim.

  • When you have faith in the Sages, your mind will be purified and your intellect clear. You will be able to derive a personal lesson for yourself from everything you learn in the Torah and develop the right habits and practices in serving God. You will know how to act in every situation, and you will be able to guide all who come under your influence.

But those who lack faith in the Sages must suffer the torments of the flesh – the ‘superfluities’. Stinking vapors rise up to their brains and distort and confuse all their thoughts. Far from being able to learn the right way to live, all their Torah studies give them the exact opposite of truth.

They never have a clear idea about anything. They are constantly afflicted with doubts and pulled in all directions at once. When a person has no faith in the Sages, his heart becomes as filthy as a privy, all his thinking is warped, and he never knows how he should act in any situation. (Likutey Moharan 61:1)

  • It is not possible to attain perfect faith (emuna) – which is the basis of everything and the summit of holiness – except through being close to the Tzaddikim. It is the Tzaddikim who foster the authentic faith of Israel among the people of their generation.

But the only way to draw close to them is with boldness and determination. There are certain types of people who put up all kinds of obstacles and barriers so as to prevent others from drawing closer to the point of truth. The source of their power is the arrogant self-assertiveness of the forces of the Other Side. (Likutey Moharan 22:4)

  • Only through the Tzaddik of the generation is it possible to attain true awe and love of God. When a person is unable to experience true awe and love, it is because the light of the Tzaddik is hidden from him…

He could be in the same place as the Tzaddik, and even sitting right next to him and still not taste or understand or see the great light which radiates from the Tzaddik, and that could bring him to attain the true and enduring goal.

This is because of his wrongdoing. As a result, his divine intelligence has become clouded over with foolishness and bankrupt ideas. He looks at himself as a sophisticated person who needs to raise various questions and entertain doubts about the Tzaddik.

All these doubt and questions are completely senseless. His wrongdoing has left his mind clouded and dull and the light of the Tzaddik is hidden from him. This is why he does not have genuine awe and love of God. (Likutey Moharan Part 2, 17:1)

  • There are many different kinds of degenerate speech: talking unfairly and untruthfully about other people; telling people what their friends and acquaintances said about them or did to their disadvantage; telling lies; cynicism and sarcasm; flatters; embarrassing people publicly; obscene talk; unnecessary remarks and so on.

Worst of all is when people cast aspersions on the Tzaddikim, and on those who are honest and God-fearing. Talk like this gives wings to the primordial serpent [i.e. the root of all evil in the world]. It flies through the world wreaking havoc.

This ‘serpent’ is the sophistry of the philosophers and other apostles of atheism. Today this has spread throughout the world and is gaining ever-increasing prestige and power. But words of holiness form wings of the domain of the holy. (Likutey Moharan 63)

 

Dear reader, at the moment there seems to be an explosion in heretical statements and heretical ideas being put across by orthodox rabbis, no less, as well as others.

This is all part of the test of birur, or clarification, before Moshiach comes – and it’s going to be very difficult and confusing to navigate it properly!

BH, I’m working on putting together a cut-out-and-keep HERETIC-O-METER, which will list some of the more common heretical statements I’m running into on a regular basis on the internet and elsewhere, to make it easier for everyone to spot what’s going on.

If you have your own favourite ‘heretical statement’ that you’d like me to include, please leave it in the comments section.

When I first moved to Jerusalem, around 2 ½ years ago, I had very big plans to start up some sort of English-speaking ‘Breslev Beit Midrash’ for women.

I had my eye on the apartment we were going to buy that would be big enough and nice enough to house it; I had a schedule of events planned out in my head; and I nourished a big hope that God would be behind my enterprise, and it would take off.

None of those plans materialized. Instead, me and my husband hit such a ‘down’ patch in our life, finances and relationships that it took every scrap of energy we had just to keep going and not crack up.

Other things also contributed to the ‘Breslev Beit Midrash’ never getting off the ground. When I hit Jerusalem, a city of just under a million people, it turned out there were other English-speaking figures in the Breslev community and elsewhere that were greatly displeased that anyone other than themselves should be trying to give a class here.

I also got bogged-down in what I’ll call ‘outreach political-correctness’, which like all other forms of political correctness tries to suggest that there is only one right way of doing things. There’s only certain books you can teach, and only certain people are on the level to do it, and only certain individuals are meant to be doing that stuff, anyway.

We got that message loud and clear from certain quarters that had nothing to do with Breslov, and were even ‘anti’ Breslov, when we started up our failed ‘Meaning of Life’ project in the Old City. But we also got that message much nearer to home, when certain English-speaking Breslovers got extremely upset that other Anglos (not just me…) were trying to put some different sorts of classes and projects together.

It was a small part of my general disillusionment process with the Breslov fakers I often write about here on Emunaroma. I had so many other issues to deal with back then that until this week, I hadn’t even thought about the fall-out from that particular bit of disappointment and broken dreams.

Long story short: This week, I went to visit an alternative health lady I know who’s very plugged-in to God, about a certain issue I’ve been having that started mamash on the night of Shavuot, when we’re meant to stay up all night learning Torah.

 She told me in no uncertain terms that my health issue was connected to me running away from doing the job I was meant to be doing in the world, and that I had to ask God to show me what that actually was.

I came home very thoughtful. All week, I’ve been trying to ask God what He really wants from me. Maybe, I should go back to work? (I’ve started looking…) Maybe, I should start trying to have guests again? (My husband invited a new family for Shabbat…) Maybe, I should start trying to teach Breslev-based Torah classes for English-speaking women again?

This last idea had me in tears again, because even if I wanted to, who would come!?! And where would I hold it? There isn’t enough room to swing a cat in my apartment, let alone host a class. And also, after seeing all the self-promotion that goes on in the English-speaking Torah world – where the biggest, nastiest and fakest egos are often billing themselves as the most knowledgeable, charismatic and ‘inspiring’ speakers – I am completely uninterested in ‘self-promoting’ in any way, shape or form. So it seemed that idea was really dead in the water, for a lot of different reasons.

As I was pondering all this, and asking God to show me what on earth He really wanted from me, I decided to go for a walk up to Mahane Yehuda, where I bumped into someone I’m friendly with.

Long story short: They asked me if I could teach a class on the Breslov perspective on the parsha of the week… We’re trying to arrange a really cool location for it, too, in Mahane Yehuda, and the first class is meant to be happening Sunday 8pm, November 27.

I’m still a little stunned by this turn of events, and also a little wary of getting too excited until it actually happens, BH, but in the meantime, it could be the Breslov Beit Midrash for Anglo women is back on the cards after all…

Breslov is for everyone – not just ‘rabbis’, not just people who’ve been to Uman, or who do hitbodedut every day.

Rebbe Nachman’s teachings can revive anyone’s soul, whatever their background. We all have Torah in our souls somewhere, we’re all a spark of Hashem. We don’t need ‘inspiring’ speakers to dazzle us with their novel Torah, and show us how clever and pious they are. We need people to show us that each of us is also holy, and a letter in the Sefer Torah.

We need people who will encourage us to pick ourselves up off the floor again, and carry on. We need people who have also passed through fire and water in their pursuit of truth, and who can help other seekers to make it through in once piece.

Rebbe Nachman can do all that and more.

I will keep you posted.

Front cover of one in a generation Volume 1, biography of Rabbi Berland

I’m into the final drafting of the One in a Generation book now, and I had the urge to re-read ‘Through Fire and Water’, the biography of Rav Natan, Rebbe Nachman’s main pupil, who also went through what’s now known in Breslev circles as ‘The years of oppression’, which began late in 1834, and finally ended more than three years’ later, in 1838.

During those years, Rav Natan’s persecutors had him imprisoned by the secular authorities, regularly tried to beat him up, and even sent a contract killer after him, who murdered a different ‘Rav Natan’ who also lived in the town Breslev by mistake.

They also went all over the place telling rabbis, the Jewish public, and anyone who would listen that Rav Natan had been caught doing immoral things with women he wasn’t married to (is any of this sounding familiar???) and demanding that he and his community should be excommunicated.

At that time, one of the Rebbe’s other senior followers, and a major kabbalist in his own right, Reb Yudel, took nine men with him to the Rebbe’s tomb, and put Rav Natan’s opponents in to cherem, in order to protect Rav Natan’s life and prevent his persecutors from actually killing him.

As he left the Rebbe’s tomb, Reb Yudel said:

“There’s a merit that protects a person for a year, a merit that protects a person for two years, and a merit that protects him for three years. [This is a quote from the Gemara, in Sotah 20a). But, no longer!”

Three years’ later, one of Rav Natan’s main persecutors keeled over and died in the Russian governor’s offices as he was trying to prevent Rav Natan from moving back to Breslev.

Another persecutor, the Savraner Rebbe, got implicated in signing-off on the murder of a Jewish informer, and became a broken exile and lost all of his communal influence. And then others of Rav Natan’s persecutors – and their families – all started dying weird and peculiar deaths, all at once.

When that occurred, Rav Natan’s other persecutors and the people who’d slandered him, libeled him, talked lashon hara about him on Facebook, and perjured themselves to the secular authorities came crawling to him begging for forgiveness, scared that they’d be the next ones to depart from the world, because of how they’d treated Rav Natan.

There’s a merit that lasts three years, but no more.

I have the feeling things are going to start getting interesting.

You can buy One in a Generation on Amazon and on The Book Depository.

I’ve been getting a few email about what the ‘Breslov’ attitude is in relation to non-Jews, and also whether Breslov believes that the Jewish people should be a ‘light unto the nations’ or not.

Let’s start with the idea that the Jewish people should be a ‘light unto the nations’. This idea is explicitly mentioned in the Book of Isiaiah three times, in the following verses:

49:6 – “It is insufficient that you be a servant for Me [only] to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the ruins of Israel; I will make you a light for the nations, so that My salvation may extend to the ends of the earth.:

60:3 – “Arise! Shine! For your light has arrived, and the glory of Hashem shines upon you. For, behold, darkness may cover the earth and a thick cloud [may cover] the kingdoms, but upon you Hashem will shine, and His glory will be seen upon you. Nations will walk by your light and kings by the brilliance of your shine.”

62:1 – “For Zion’s sake I will not be silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be still, until her righteousness emanates like a bright light, and her salvation blazes like a torch. Nations will perceive your righteousness and all the kings your honor…”

And then the general idea that the Jewish people should be active in bringing all of mankind back to serve Hashem (and that God actually very much wants that to happen), and that there is a ‘place’ for the righteous non-Jews in the post-Messianic world can be found in the following verses, all from Isiaiah:

45:21 – “There is no other god besides Me; there is no righteous god besides Me and no savior other than Me. Turn to Me be and saved, all ends of the earth, for I am God and there is no other.”

56:1 – “I will bring them to My holy mountain, and I will gladden them in My house of prayer; their elevation offerings and their feast offerings will find favor on my Altar, for My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.”

60:9 – “Then the sons of foreigners will build your walls and their kings will serve you.”

61:5 – “Foreigners will stand and tend your flocks and the sons of the stranger will be your plowmen and your vineyard workers. And you will be called ‘priests of Hashem’; ‘ministers of our God’ will be said of you.” [By other people, i.e. the non-Jews].

Over in Pirkei Avot (the Ethics of the Father), Rabbi Akiva tells us in 3:14 that:

“Beloved is man, for he was created in [God’s] image. It shows an even greater love that it was made known to him that he was created in [God’s] image, as it is written, “For in the image of God, He made man” (Genesis 9:6)”

The Tosfot Yom Tov writing on this verse explains that it ‘refers to all of humankind’ – not just the Jewish people, who are referred to more explicitly by Rabbi Akiva as ‘God’s children.’

Now that we’ve established that it’s standard Jewish thought that righteous non-Jews who believe in the One true God of the Jews have a place in the post-Messianic world, and that God does want the Jewish people to play an active role in being a ‘light unto the nations’, let’s take a more specific look at what some Breslev sources say about the issue of dealing with non-Jews.

Let’s start with Rebbe Nachman, who tells us the following (in Tzaddik):

“The Rebbe said that there are seventy nations and all of them are included under Esau and Ishmael: thirty-five under one and thirty-five under the other. In the future, they will be conquered by two Messiahs, Mashiach the son of Joseph and Mashiach the son of David. There is one Tzaddik who is a combination of the two messiahs.”

From this, we can see that the basic idea is the Jewish Moshiach will ‘conquer’ the nations of the world, and presumably bring them back to belief in the one true God of Israel.

Next, let’s go to Likutey Moharan I:244 where Rebbe Moharan gives a warning to those of us who aren’t on a very high spiritual level (i.e. pretty much everyone…), when it comes to dealing with non-Jews:

“Anyone who intermingles with gentiles, that is, who has business dealings with them, must be on very careful guard that this should not harm him. Otherwise, it’s very easy to be caught in their trap and to distance oneself from one’s Jewishness.”

In other words, as soon as money, or ‘business dealings’ with non-Jews come into the picture, Jews need to be very, very careful to not compromise their Jewishness and spiritual integrity because a ‘bribe blinds the eyes of the wise’.

On this note, Rav Shalom Arush once went to speak to a church in South Africa who’d just bought a very large amount of his emuna books. He got on stage in front of 5,000 people and told them in Hebrew: “You are all fornicators and idol worshipers!” That’s a classic example of not letting money and business dealings compromise your Jewishness and spiritual integrity.

The last thing to quote for now, which I think sums up the position and also includes the deeper kabbalistic underpinnings of why a Jewish Moshiach comes for the benefit of the whole of mankind, comes from Rav Berland’s speech to more than 8,000 people at the Winter Stadium, a few years’ back, when he said:

“When Rebbe Nachman was alive, he stated that he stood as guarantor for the whole world – for all of mankind, including the Jews, the non-Jews and everyone else. Because the Tzaddikim told Hashem to go ahead and create all of mankind, while the angels told Him not to bother, because in the end he would only end up failing, and there was only a miniscule chance of him making Teshuva.

“But I say different! I say that there’s only a miniscule chance of him not making Teshuva, and that’s what this gathering is all about – to encourage everyone, Jews and non-Jews alike, to make Teshuva and to return to their Father in heaven!

“God created everyone in His image, and in every person there is a spark of the Divine, in every Jew and in every non-Jew – the spark of God is in everyone, and we are all created in God’s image. And the whole point of this gathering is to spread the light of Hashem, and the light of Rebbe Nachman, to the whole world, to every Jew and to every non-Jew….

“…As soon as the whole world recognizes Hashem’s greatness, we’ll be able to immediately rebuild the third Temple, and to see the revival of the dead.”

The Jewish people is about Tikkun haolam, or the rectification of the whole world, and bringing the whole world back to God, the Jewish way. That means the non-Jews accept the 7 noachide commandments, stop with all their yoshki, muhammed and booda rubbish, and accept that God is running the world (without any help from anyone else) and that the Torah is true, and the Jewish people are God’s representatives.

That pretty much sums up the authentic Jewish approach that you’ll find in Breslov, and also any other Jewish group that has a deep knowledge of our sources, and a strong grasp of what the whole concept of the Moshiach, and Tikkun haolam is really all about.

One of my favorite Rebbe Nachman stories is ‘The Master of Prayer’, which tells the story of how a great storm wind comes and throws the world into chaos, scattering the King’s ten advisors in the process.

The Master of Prayer is one of these advisors, and he takes it upon himself to go round the world reuniting the King with the other advisors, and rectifying all the countries who are now following ‘foolish’ beliefs about the meaning of life, as a result of the terrible storm they went through.

One group believes that the purpose of life is to eat; another that’s it to procreate; another chooses wisdom; another picks honor etc etc, but the most problematic land of all is the Land of Money.

You see, in all the other lands, there’s at least a moment, a second, when they’re satiated with their particular lust or desire, which gives the Master of Prayer an opportunity to come and talk to them about serving God, and the real meaning of life. But in the land of money, that simply never happens: they think about money ALL THE TIME, and it colors their every thought and every waking moment.

Worse, the people of the Land of Money literally kill themselves for money; and they also turn their richest citizens into ‘stars’ and ‘gods’ (Rebbe Nachman’s language…) who they worship incessantly.

By contrast, people without a lot of money are considered to be sub-human animals, and given no respect, rights or accorded even basic human dignity. As a result, the Master of Prayer is finding it next to impossible to rectify the inhabitants of the Land of Money, and to bring them back to God.

By this point, you may well be squirming a little in your seat, because guess what?

 In 2016, nearly all of us are living in the Land of Money!

And here’s how it’s affecting us:

  • It’s killing our marriages – because either or both parents are obsessed with parnassa, and never seem to be making enough to pay for all the ‘necessities’ of modern life, even when they both work full-time and bring home a packet. Then, all the blame and mutual recriminations start, which can poison relationships to their core very quickly.
  • It’s killing our kids – especially if the mum has a full-on ‘career’ that requires an awful lot of attention and time. The kids take a back seat to the boss, or the business, and they get ‘scheduled’ to death to enable mom to keep to her timetable. If their personal crises happens in a ‘scheduled’ moment – all well and good. When they don’t – it’s a huge problem for everyone, and the kid doesn’t always come first.
  • It’s killing our happiness – because people in the Land of Money never have enough, and they’re always worrying that they’ll be demoted to ‘animal’ status if they don’t keep earning a fortune (even when they have millions already in the bank…) To keep your humanity and dignity intact, remember this: money serves us, not the other way around. If I’m scared to spend money, it’s because I’m making that dollar bill more important than my own happiness and wellbeing.
  • It’s killing our souls – because when you’re thinking about money 24/7, you simply don’t have time to think about things like praying, or taking a time out to reflect on life, or to appreciate that GOD is giving us our parnassa, and we’re not achieving it by our own efforts.
  • It’s killing our bodies – because when people are stressed about money all the time, and working like dogs, and living above their means and borrowing huge amounts, and constantly worrying that they don’t have enough or won’t have enough, that puts so much pressure on the body that sooner or later, a whole bunch of nasty illnesses and diseases start to show up.

I could carry on, but you get the idea.

To sum up the problem, it’s like this:

When people live in the Land of Money, money is the first consideration, and beats out everything else.

Some common examples of this could include:

  • “I can’t make Aliyah, because I’m worrying about parnassa”
  • “I can’t quit my soul-destroying job, because I’m worrying about how to pay my huge mortgage if I do that”
  • “I can’t buy myself a new dress / new saucepan / new pair of shoes /[some other basic necessity], because I’m worrying about my money running out if I do that”
  • “I can’t give 10% of my income to charity, because I won’t have enough for myself then”
  • “I can’t stop running on the treadmill to make more money, because if I do that the money won’t just appear by itself.”

All of these statements have a ring of truth to them, don’t they? I know they do for me still, and I’ve been trying to leave the Land of Money for years’ already.

But there’s the problem: God is missing from this picture.

And when that happens, we start to build lives for ourselves based on the rules of the Land of Money, which states that our kids need expensive summer camps, and extra-curricular activities, and we need to be wearing labels, and to have everything matching, and that our homes need to be very big and spacious, and that every person over 17 needs their own car, and holidays are a necessity not a luxury, and that gourmet meals in fancy restaurants are what makes us happy, and guests must be offered a selection of expensive whiskeys and liquers to drink, and we must be working on plans to ‘get on’ and upscale our living arrangements, or our 401k plans, or our stockmarket holdings, or our property holdings and and and….

I’m exhausted just from typing that.

Here’s another problem that happens when you live in the Land of Money: You’ll literally sell your soul for cash.

Just ask all the bent politicians in Israel who take bribes for ‘peace’, or who (secretly…) sold Kever David to the Vatican for some big bucks, or who are happy to let Reform partition the Wailing Wall because they waved some dollars in their face.

When you live in the Land of Money, money talks, and God doesn’t. Or at least, not to you. Or at least, not in any way you care to listen to.

So how do we leave the Land of Money?

In the story of the Master of Prayer, it turns out the only way people can leave is via ‘the path to the sword’, i.e. very harsh judgments.

Those judgments could be severe health issues, severe marital problems, severe problems with kids going crazy or going off the derech, severe mental illness issues, or even (perhaps ironically), severe financial issues.

You want to know why so many of us are going through so much difficulty today, in every sense of the word?

This is why.

God is trying to get us out of the Land of Money once and for all, so we can stop obsessing about earning, and instead start yearning to get closer to God and to live a more spiritual life again.

It’s hard work, I know. But you know what’s even harder work? Getting stuck in a life, in a mindset, where money is the only thing that counts, no matter how miserable it makes you, how much it wrecks your peace of mind and relationships, or how much it kills your soul, your humanity, and your spiritual dimension.