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Help to keep Rabbi Arush and Chut Shel Chesed Yeshiva going.

Yesterday, I got an email from someone I know from way back when, during the time my husband and I were a part of Rabbi Shalom Arush’s Chut Shel Chesed Yeshiva, telling me the Rav needs our help.

Here’s what she sent me to post up here, which I’m going to cut and paste below:

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Everyone knows Rabbi Arush for his books including “The Garden of Emuna,” and his classes. What you may not know, is that Rabbi Arush runs an entire organization centered in Jerusalem, whose reach is all over the world, called “Chut shel Chessed.”

> The sounds of Torah learning that fill Rabbi Arush’s Yeshiva 24/6 – you can have a portion in the merit of all that Torah.
> The sounds of small children learning in Rabbi Arush’s preschools, the breath of the children that sustains the world – you can have a portion in their learning.
> The sounds of school children, high school, and seminary/Beit Midrash girls and boys busy at their studies – you can have a portion in that too.
> The hundreds of food baskets and thousands of hot meals served to the poor of Jerusalem, many of them the families of Torah scholars – you can have a portion in all of that chesed, made even more important by supporting the poor of the Land of Israel.
? The almost one thousand classes given monthly by Rabbi Arush and his students, plus tens of thousands of books distributed and thousands of readers of the website in five languages – you can have a portion in all of that outreach.

No other organization gives you everything, all under one roof!

By donating to the Campaign “The Fire of Emuna” you become a full partner in everything that Rabbi Arush does.

And he wants to do more! He has a rare opportunity to build a new building for the boys school, which right now is squeezed into a makeshift space out of a few apartments – he needs the money NOW, or it won’t happen. He has an amazing opportunity to do special classes in the Israeli army, something that no one gets security clearance for – he got the clearance, and now we need the funds. He wants to greatly expand his efforts spreading emuna around the world.

He has already done so much, and he can do much more – but he cannot do it alone.

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Rabbi Arush has promised something huge back in return: A guarantee that anyone who donates to the Campaign will see miracles already this year! 

He will also pray for each and every person who donates. You can also receive special gifts like a mezuzah or Kiddush Cup specially blessed by Rabbi Arush, a personally signed and blessed Book of Psalms or “The Garden of Emuna,” or even a special, personal prayer for you at the Kotel.

In every way that you increase your donation, and even more so by encouraging other people to donate as well, so too do you increase your level of partnership, thus increasing your merit and the salvations that will inevitably come as a result.

Click here to donate via the Charidy website or to donate by phone using credit card, bank transfer, or horat keva (last two are Israeli only), or for more information on the special gifts, or to break your donation into monthly payments, call my personal contact for the Campaign on: (323) 992-6090 from the US or 058-320-5057 in Israel.

Remember, it’s all or nothing! The Campaign ends 12AM Midnight Israel time on Thurs. 6/27!

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Some more of my personal thoughts to add on this:

In case you don’t know how these charity campaigns run in Israel, they basically work along the lines of a Vegas game of poker. The site offers to match the donations brought in – but only if your campaign makes its target amount within 36 hours. If it doesn’t – then it’s really, really bad news.

Personally, I don’t like the idea so much, but it appeals to the Israeli ‘high stakes’ mindset, and I know most of the charity campaigns I’ve contributed to the last few years all over the orthodox Jewish world in Israel have been run along the same lines.

So, Rav Arush really needs our help.

I heard a whisper on the grapevine that the people behind the persecution of Rabbi Berland basically went after many of Rav Arush’s donors, after he came out – repeatedly – in public support of him. If you want to know why he suddenly fell quiet a couple of years’ back, it’s because the Meah Shearim Mafiosos targeted him and his institutions for retribution, and also threatened to get his books removed from shelves and stores in Israel for being ‘religiously coercive’.

This stuff would be funny, if it wasn’t so very, very serious.

And it makes me very sad to see that so many gullible people fell for their tactics, and that the yeshiva is now in such a bad way, financially.

Are we going to stand back, yawn and let the bad guys win?

I hope not.

And I hope you’ll consider giving something to the campaign, and letting other people know about it.

For once, the fundraising bumpf is not lying:

It really is all or nothing.

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Go HERE to donate, or follow the instructions above, to deal with a real, English-speaking helpful person.

PS: Just to say, this email really made me think about how much ‘good’ I got from the Garden of Emuna, and especially ‘Education with Love’, amongst Rav Arush’s other books. I can’t do much, but the little I could give I was very happy to do with tremendous gratitude. Rav Arush really did change my world for the best. I hope I can return the favor, at least a tiny bit.

Refreshing the soul, with Rebbe Nachman of Breslov.

The last few days, I was really feeling the heat allegorically and physically.

My landlady has been telling me since last Summer’s 43heatwave that you ‘don’t feel the heat’ in Jerusalem – but of course, she’s wrong. And since L’ag B’omer, I was sitting in my house slow roasting along to constant 40plus heat for weeks already – and I was starting to crack.

Then there was all the ‘regular’ madness if you can call it that. So much to do every day, so many chores to take care of, so much stuff on the boil, personally and nationally.

So I told my husband: we need to go to Uman for Shavuot.

Despite our lack of cash, he borrowed some money and made it happen, God bless him. Then there was another wrinkle in the plans: women weren’t allowed in the Kever for the whole of Shavuot. Did I mind? Of course, yes I did. But I had to get there one way or another, so I made up my mind to have a different sort of Uman trip, minus Rebbe Nachman’s actual grave.

The hotel was understated but quite nice, quite quiet (relatively…) food was simple buy yummy. I had three whole days to try to get my head in order. There was yet another ‘wrinkle’ in the plans, inasmuch as we made plans to head out to Uman the same night that Rabbi Berland then called his atzeret in Hevron last week.

So, we figured we’ll go early to Hevron stay for half an hour, then bomb it back home, try to catch some sleep for an hour a half, then roar off to ben Gurion. In the meantime, there was another wrinkle in that plan, too: when I got home at 11pm Thursday night, it turns out one of my kids needed some urgent help to get her bagrut art project done and turned in on time.

So (long story…) I spent two hours sewing body parts together for 18 felt dollies, before spending 10 minutes packing my case like a madwoman, before departing for Uman.

Obviously, our taxi man didn’t show up in Kiev. Or rather, he did, but just not where we were expecting him, so we had to spend an hour combing the carparks to find him.

But when we actually got to Uman it was nice. Like, pretty much almost ‘normal’ – which was so weird to me, I spent the first day and a half trying to work out how to react to it. Usually, I hit Uman and I get the massive stomachache, the massive challenge, the massive insight, the massive something…. This time, nothing massive.

This time, just lots of walking around and around Uman itself, as I couldn’t get near the Kever and I couldn’t stay in a hotel room for 3 whole days without going totally bonkers. So I discovered all sorts of back alleys and new places in Uman that I’d never been to before, and certainly never by myself.

On Isru Chag, I decided to spend the day walking around Gan Sofia.

In the past, I’ve seen extending walks around Gan Sofia as something only ‘lightweights’ do, instead of pulling all-night prayer sessions by the kever, but as the Tzion was still barred to womenkind, it struck me as just the thing to pass the time. I spent the best part of a day just walking under trees that were three storeys high, bathing my eyeballs in luxuriant green and Victorian water features, and felt so very lucky.

Hey, there’s something to this, after all….

Walking back from Gan Sofia, I got some insight that Rabbenu’s grave is very chazak spirituality – so chazak, it can and does fry people’s brains out of their heads, sometimes. In our spiritually-dead days, most of us need a jolt like that, an electric shock of kedusha like that, to try to get the soul back from its flat-lining position.

But this time around, I also got why Rebbe Nachman used to request that his followers also visit Gan Sofia when they come to Uman, too.

Gan Sofia is total gashmius – the polar opposite of the intense kedusha that is the Tzion.

But we need both, in order to serve God properly.

But in the correct order and dosage, i.e. first the spirituality, and only as an after-thought or a dessert, the gashmius and materiality.

Second day in, I had this amazing dream that Moshiach is coming into the world next week.

I woke up in a really good mood, and it seemed like a ‘real’ dream to me. I needed that good vibe, as I came home to a tip.

We let a teenager have the house with her friends, and one of them managed to shatter the shower door all over the bathroom floor. There’s no milk in the house, they’ve moved all my stuff around…

But I got another ‘message’ from Uman this time around, which was to shower my teenagers with as much love and compassion and understanding as I can, whenever I can, because in this dark generation, unkind words can just propel our children straight into the clutches of  the tumah, God forbid. So I kept my temper and didn’t go off into rant mode.

The world is very hard to ‘be’ in at the moment, especially if you’re trying to put at least some focus on kedusha and God.

The filth is literally seeping in under the doors and through the walls. It’s permeating the atmosphere and degrading everything it comes in contact with. It’s hard to continue, some days. It’s hard to think straight. It’s hard to pray.

Before I went to Rebbe Nachman in Uman, current events had made me feel more than a little despairing about being able to raise my children in anything like a ‘healthy’ spiritual environment. We’re in a little bubble here in Jerusalem, but even here, the cracks are starting to deepen and the tumah is seeping through.

There is a relentless and effective ‘war’ being waged against the soul, and against kedusha, and against God, especially by the media. It’s claiming so many casualties, it’s truly frightening to witness how fast the moral fabric of the world is unravelling.

Which is where Rebbe Nachman really came in to his own.

Torah is eternal. Tzaddikim are eternal. Mitzvot are eternal. The Jewish people are eternal.

Even though the battle for the Jewish soul is currently very intense, if we stick close to our true tzaddikim like Rebbe Nachman and Rabbi Berland, they will act like spiritual bulwarks, absorbing and deflecting most of the ‘cack’. So somehow, us and families can come through the fighting unscathed.

But without that bulwark?

I dread to think.

You might also like these articles about Uman:

The Uman Experience – Part 9

Uman Redux

Uman explodes

Oooahh, there is nothing like having a couple of days off the evil internet to start to regain some optimism and joie de vivre again.

Here’s what I did yesterday:

  • Volunteered for 2 hours a local school’s garden in Jerusalem
  • Wrote up something deep and meaningful on how to forgive people who have really hurt us, for spiritualselfhelp.org
  • Went for three hours to ‘paint me pottery’ with my husband and teenage kids – we all had the best time. And my two teens even left their phones behind for the occasion, unprompted, which was stoo-pen-dous.
  • Spent two hours painting a picture of the Rav.
  • Spent an hour walking around and smelling the roses, literally and figuratively, need to where I live.
  • Swept the huge dust balls off the floor, hung up some washing, did some washing up and generally tidied the house.
  • Exercised twice – some stretching, and then some energy exercises.

I went to bed feeling stoo-pen-dous!

I got so much done that wasn’t just sitting here typing.

I also had some ‘space’ in my head to think, and here’s some of the thoughts that bubbled up:

  • I need to start writing proactively again, instead of re-acting to everything that’s going on, or not going on.
  • I need to stop writing about geula stuff, even though it’s mamash unfolding before our eyes. People are falling into yeoush and despair left, right and centre, and hitting them over the head with ‘reality’ is not going to help anyone at this point.
  • Unity is the thing to focus on – even the Queen was talking about it in her speech. “One must have achudus at this difficult time, and stop hating one’s selfish, retarded jerk of a neighbor.” I’m paraphrasing, natch.
  • I need to go back to writing creatively about life as a believing Jewish woman living in Israel. That means getting on the second volume of the Secret Diary of a Jewish Housewife – but doing it with a twist. I’m currently working with Alizah, the very talented fiction editor from SassonMag.com to turn the raw material from the blog into something that’s actually a good read, as a book.

It’s time to make a new start – again!

I know I write about that a lot, but I just saw something on the RavBerland.com website that really underlined for me again how important it is to just keep starting over again when things aren’t going how we want.

Every day is a new creation, that’s what the Rav says! The path of Breslov is to just keep sweetening, and reassuring, and strengthening and picking ourselves up from the bottom of the pit, over and over again.

And not to get stuck in all the doom and gloom.

Man, I keep getting stuck in that myself, and probably I’ll get sidetracked again in the future.  But then I just have to try to pull it back faster, and start over again.

Life is good!

So, that’s what I got from my day off the evil internet, and it was so useful, BH I want to have at least one ‘internet-free’ day a week now.

With God’s help.

Yesterday, I was listening to Rav Eliyahu Meirav’s interview with the Israeli media, and I felt very sad. For those who don’t already know, Rav Meirav’s stepson, Yosef Cohen, Hyd, was one of the two Nahal Chareidi soldiers gunned down at Givat Assaf, close to Bet El, last Thursday.

Rav Meirav was raised on the totally secular Shomer Hair Kibbutz of Bet Alfa, and was a fighter pilot in the IDF airforce. He made teshuva after the Yom Kippur war – along with so many others of that generation, who’d seen with their own eyes just how limited the army really was.

Rav Meirav met Rav Berland – and became one of his closest students.

If you read the secular press descriptions of Rav Meirav, you’ll notice that they kept stressing that he was part of the Breslov ‘sect’. That’s their way of using subtle language to keep dissing religious people anyway they can, and to sow division and hatred.

After Rav Meirav’s son was killed al Kiddush Hashem, all those ucky news sites with their agendas to sow hatred and strife between the Jewish people started running false stories about how Yosef had been ‘thrown out of his home’ for joining the army, and how his parents had ‘sat shiva’ for him even before he died.

Because hey, why miss any opportunity to put the boot in to the chareidi community, and especially the Breslov Chassidic ‘sect’?!

This led to the absolutely sickening spectacle of Rav Meirav and his wife having to give interviews to the press – before they’d even buried their son – refuting the lies that had been spread about their family.

I listened to Rav Meirav speak – about Yosef’s last words, about his own background and teshuva, and most of all about the need for us to stop all the awful hatred, and to come together as one people, respecting each other’s differences – and it really made me pause for thought.

The haters out there are on all sides of the equation.

They work for Ha’aretz, they live in Tel Aviv, they hate any hint of yiddishkeit, and they use the media to paint awful pictures of frum Jews as ‘blood-sucking, medieval parasites’ at any opportunity. But that’s not the only place you’ll find them.

You’ll also find plenty of apparently ‘frum’ haters out there too.

‘Frum’ haters pour scorn on the Jews who don’t live in Israel and wait for big comets to smash into America and kill everyone. They hate people who want to convert to yiddishkeit, they hate people who don’t conform, they hate people who aren’t ‘frum’, or who aren’t ‘frum’ enough, or who are too ‘frum’, or not the right sort of ‘frum’.

‘Frum’ haters also hate people who don’t vaccinate….and they hate people who do vaccinate. They hate people who voted for Trump, they hate people who don’t think exactly like them, and see the world exactly the way they do.

Every bit of the Jewish world is riddled with this disease of hating other Jews – including our bit.

And there is no segment of society that is doing better at loving our fellow Jews than any other.

We all have the problem and we all need to work on it.

One of the things that drew me to Breslov, and drew me to Rabbenu, is that in Rabbenu’s tent, everyone is welcome. When you go to Uman, you stop seeing people as ‘frum’ and ‘not frum’, or as part of your group or not part of your group.

You just see them as individuals, as Jews.

And some of those Jews are really nice, and really deep and really holy – however they may look externally. And some of those Jews are really not so easy to get on with, and have a number of obvious bad middot and issues – however they may look externally.

The yetzer works overtime to convince us that ‘our bit’ of the Jewish world is fine, the best, the shining example for the rest of Jewish society, while all the other bits are the ones with the problem.

But it’s not true! Not at all!

The problem comes down to this:

There are Jewish people who look for reasons to hate other Jews, and there are Jewish people who look for reasons to try to love them.

And both groups are scattered and embedded across all the different segments of Jewish society.

Sadly, our world being the morally-degenerate mess it currently is, it seems the people who hate the most are also the ones with the biggest mouths, and the biggest audiences, and the biggest following on Youtube.

The haters pop-up all over the place, to have a go at others, and to put the boot in, and to harp on about how great they are, and how great their group is – always at the expense of others.

I’ve had to learn the hard way, that this is not at all what God wants from us.

I’ve also had ‘hating’ tendencies that I’ve had to really work on, and to try to uproot, over the last few years. That process of teshuva taught me that the haters ‘hate’ because they actually don’t like themselves very much at all. And that they’re secretly jealous of other people, and it’s the envy that causes them to diss the other Jew, the other group, so loudly, so poisonously, so arrogantly.

Whatever the hater is criticizing so much in others, that ‘thing’ is somehow embedded in their own souls.

So, I listened to Rav Meirav talk, and I wondered ‘how can I do more, to get from hate to love’? How can I do more, to make my house a ‘no-tolerance for sinat chinam’ zone?

I’m going to pray on it, and I’ll let you know what I come up with.

Because one thing is for sure:

Nothing is slowing up Moshiach more, or causing us more problems and heartache in our own lives, than hating other Jews.

The last few years, I’ve really dreaded Rosh Hashana.

Now, before you start jumping up and down and blaming that on the fact that my husband goes to Uman, let’s be clear that the last few years I’ve had massive issues on pretty much every religious holiday, not just Rosh Hashana – and the bloke’s been home for the other ones.

A big part of it is that I still have no-where to daven where I feel I’m really part of something, which is usually really only an issue on Rosh Hashana. Yom Kippur I fast (badly…) so I generally always just spend most of the day in bed, and daven at home.

But Rosh Hashana is different.

Rosh Hashana, we’re meant to listen to 30 shofar blasts (minimum), and preferably 100, together with our community. And that’s a huge bone of contention for me, because I still don’t belong anywhere.

The first year I was in Jerusalem, I dragged my two kids off to try and find a synagogue to pray in, in the Old City. I went to what I thought was an ‘Anglo hotspot’ – except all the Anglos had gone back to the US for the high-holy days, and the three women left behind all had bullet-proof tights and stern expressions. The Yom HaDin made flesh.

Also, the air-conditioning had packed up, so one of my kids started to feel hot and flustered, and then pulled out her ‘I’m about to have an asthma attack’ get out of jail free card, which gave us all the excuse we needed to leave in a hurry and try to find somewhere less suffocating.

So then I tried the Kotel, but I couldn’t find anyone to daven with, and I couldn’t hear anyone actually blowing the shofar, so I said the Amidah service by myself, standing at the holiest site in the world and surrounded by hundreds and thousands of Jews, but feeling so cut off and disconnected from everything and everyone.

The next Rosh Hashana, I tried a different tack.

I told my kids that they could pick the shul, and I’d tag along. At that point, they were both in school in the Old City of Jerusalem, so they went where most of their friends went, to a gorgeous newly-built synagogue tucked just behind the Wailing Wall in the Muslim Section.

As I tripped down the stairs of the Arab Shuk on the first day of Rosh Hashana, taking the short-cut that only fool-hardy tourists or Arab-inured residents use, I suddenly stopped in my tracks as a squad of Israeli riot police blocked the path in front of me.

Clearly, some sort of fight was going on, and as the Arabs all nipped upstairs to get their CNN-quality video cameras shouldered to record yet another ‘injustice’, I looked around and realized that I was the only civilian Jew there, standing in a sea of smouldering Arab hostility.

After five minutes, I was allowed to pass on, but the violence continued over the next two days. While the shul was gorgeous, the davening nice enough and the people friendly, I had to stand up in the middle of the service on the second day to shut the windows to try to drown out the guttural Arabic chant of ‘Kill the Jews!’ coming from outside.

What a way to start the year.

There’s an idea in Judaism that once something happens three times in a row, that’s a very strong portent that it’s somehow got ‘stuck’ or ‘fixed’ in your life. God forbid, that I should have such drecky, awful, lonely, horrible Rosh Hashanas until I croaked!

So last year, the third year, I got so terrified about how bad, miserable and lonely I was probably going to feel on Rosh Hashana – the beginning of the new year!!! When you’re setting the pattern for the whole rest of the year!!! When your whole life is hanging in the balance, being decided!!! – that I tried to run away from my life and go to a hotel in Tiberius with my children.

The upside of doing that was:

1) I didn’t have to cook (another bone of contention…).

2) We could spend the chag with other people who also clearly didn’t feel like they belonged anywhere else.

3) I could join the hotel minyan for davening, which suited me just fine and also was very easy for my two kids, when they were ready to put in an appearance for shofar blowing.

The downside of doing that was:

1) It was REALLY expensive.

2) I set the tone of being kind of ‘absent’ from my real life for the whole rest of the year.

I only realized that last one a few weeks’ back when I was pondering on 5777 and I realized that I was kind of AWOL in my own existence the last few months. Life’s been passing me by like a blur, and I haven’t been able to grab hold of any of it.

Why?

Because I ran away from my real life on Rosh Hashana, and I’ve been doing that all year.

And I thought I’d got away with it, mostly, except today we’re three weeks away from Rosh Hashana, and that familiar sensation of feeling incredibly miserable, and alone and out of place has descended upon me again.

God, not another year going into Rosh Hashana like this!

I really thought I’d vanquished most of these poor me, sad feelings, but hey, at least today they’ve come flooding back again as I try to figure out what’s going to be with Rosh Hashana.

I have a ray of hope. Rav Berland is here for Rosh Hashana, barely two minutes’ walk away, and I have a feeling there’ll be an Uman-esque vibe around Musrara, where I live, for the Chag – but what that actually means in practice, I have no idea.

Only, that things will be different this year, somehow.

Because they have to be.

This year, it’s more important than ever to send your husband to Uman for Rosh Hashana.

I know, I could give you the whole big shpiel about how if you send your husband to Uman for Rosh Hashana, it will bring world peace, and speed the coming of Moshiach, and help to rectify the whole of Am Yisrael.

And that stuff’s all true, and all described in detail in various Breslov sources. But girlfren, really? You should send your husband to Uman for Rosh Hashana because between you and me, I know how annoying that guy can be, at least occasionally.

Yes, he’s sweet, and good-hearted and hard-working and often quite loving and generous. But he’s also half-earth, and that ‘earthy’ bit of him is far to drawn to making money, and cheering on the team, and spouting off ridiculous opinions, and spending too much time watching movies or surfing online.

I know how hard you’ve tried to get him to make more effort with the kids, and to get him to stop walking around like an egotistical stuffed-shirt, and to get him to open up and to be ‘real’ about what he’s really feeling, and what fears and worries he’s got that are really causing him to act and believe the way he does.

I know all this stuff makes pulling teeth (the old fashioned way, with a piece of string and minus anaesthetic…) look like a walk in the park, which is why I’m here to tell you straight what works to get the guy back on the right spiritual path. And it’s spelled:

U-M-A-N.

Like so many of the Uman ladies out there, I don’t send my husband for an expensive, inconvenient jaunt to anti-semitic Ukraine just for the heck of it. I encourage him to go because I know how much spiritual help he’s going to get by Rabbenu at Rosh Hashana, that’s going to carry him – and me – through all the challenges we have to face in the coming year.

I know that sending my husband to Uman for Rosh Hashana means he’s going to come back with a drop more humility, a tad more introspection, an ounce more gratitude and generosity, a page more of learning, a bissel more emuna.

The guy goes to Uman, and he comes back and realizes all by himself, without me saying a word, that he needs to spend more quality time with the kids, or that he needs to stop worrying about money so much, or that he needs to start playing soccer again. (Hey, not every revelation you get in Uman is easy to predict…)

When our blokes go to Uman, they come back better husbands, and nicer dads. They come back with a lot more of a clue about their real path in life, and how best to travel it. And most important of all, they come back with much more appreciation for their homes, families and the good cooking of their loving wives.

And this stuff is priceless, never mind all the other spiritual ‘saving the world’ stuff that goes on there at Rosh Hashanah time.

There’s still time to book his ticket and lodging, and to make it even easier for you, I’ve pulled together some numbers to call. Try:

Derech Tzaddikim: +972-2-541-0100 – www.zadikimtours.com

David Bargshtein Tours: +972-2-999-2955 – david@dbtours.co.il

Netivim Tours: +972-2-633-8444

Glatt Tour: +972-2-547-7600 – www.glattour.com

I know it’s not easy to pull the money together, I know it’s not easy to manage without him over the High Holidays for a few days, I know it’s mamash mesirut Nefesh (self-sacrifice) for the ladies who stay behind with their challenging broods.

I’ve had some years where I have absolutely dreaded the logistical part of sending my husband to Uman, because it means I’ve been stuck alone with my kids over a three day Yom Tov. Before I moved to Jerusalem, I’d at least get regular invitations as an ‘Uman Widow’ to break up the time, and I had a regular place in the local shul.

But since I’ve lived in the Holy City, Rosh Hashana each year has been quite a struggle. I don’t know where I’m davening (or sometimes, even if I’m davening…), I have no invitations, I have to deal with stroppy teenagers who think I’m retarded all by myself, without my husband acting as their foil.

But you know what? It’s still so worth it. Why do I say that?

Let me end by sharing the story of a lady I met a few years’ back, who was adamant that her husband shouldn’t go to Uman at Rosh Hashana, because Rosh Hashana was family time.

She was experiencing some serious difficulties with him, and his behavior, and no therapist or counsellor could touch them with a barge pole.

So, I suggested she send him to Uman for Rosh Hashana, and I got back a very stony stare, and a big explanation of how Rosh Hashana was a time when the family should be together. As the marriage continued to head South, each year I’d call her up in July and suggest that maybe, just maybe, this was a good time to send her husband off to Uman.

Each time, she emphasized how important it was for her family to stay together, and there was nothing I could say or do to change her mind.

Then last year, she got divorced.

It really was so very important for her family to stay together, and maybe if she’d sent her husband off to Rebbe Nachman, they’d have had a better chance of making that happen.

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You might also like these other articles:

 

If you’d have asked me that question even five years’ ago, the answer would have been an aggressive, uncompromising OF COURSE THEY SHOULD!!!!

Living in Israel is a mitzvah, arguably the biggest mitzvah in the Torah, and certainly the best (and probably only…) way of really achieving our spiritual tikkun, or rectification, in the world.

Like many other people who made aliya at great expense and effort, I went through quite a long stage of feeling personally offended by Jews (especially frum Jews) who refused to move here, and who refused to make the same sorts of sacrifices I’d done, to try to give God what He wanted.

Now, I’ve mellowed out a lot about this question, and I’ve come to understand that like everything else in life, things aren’t so simple, or so black and white.

In theory, there is absolutely no question that every Jew should be yearning, or trying, to live in Israel. No question at all.

But in practice?

It’s really not so simple.

It comes down to this: the spiritual level of the nation of Israel is at such a low level, that even the ‘frummest’ Jew in chutz l’aretz will probably struggle mightily to come up to even the ‘lowest’ level of day-to-day emuna that’s required for a Jew to really stay living in Israel.

That’s why so many people can’t hack it, and leave.

It’s like when God overturned the mountain and held it above our heads to ‘force’ us to accept the Torah. Really, we wanted to do the right thing, we wanted to live that Torah-centric spiritual life, but we also knew just how hard it was going to be, and how much self-sacrifice it was going to require, and for most of us, we simply couldn’t ‘choose’ that path unless we were forced into it.

I’ve come to think that making aliya is operating along the same paradigm.

Every Jewish soul, at its core, really wants to live in Israel. But as the thousands of people who have tried and then left again can tell you, sometimes the day-to-day challenge of having to really LIVE your emuna, and not just talk about it in a nice online shiur somewhere, are so difficult, many people simply can’t hang on.

If I didn’t have Rebbe Nachman and Breslov and hitbodedut, I have no doubt that I also couldn’t have managed to ‘hang on’ and come through all the difficulties we’ve had the last 12 years.

As I’ve been saying all week, Israel is the land of emuna, it’s the land of spiritual rectification. It’s the place where you really come face-to-face with yourself, and your real issues, and all the stuff you need to really work on and fix. And to put it bluntly, so many of us are in such a mess these days, we probably couldn’t withstand such a direct ‘view’ into our souls.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that everyone who moves here, or who lives here, is doing the work.

There’s a kind of ‘soft’ option that many olim take which is that they try to recreate the superficiality and comfort of chutz l’aretz in their own communities here.

Without naming names, there are places in Israel that feel to me SO like chutz l’aretz when I go to visit them. There’s the same focus on externals, the same excessive materialism, the same mad rush to work, and obsessions with socializing and making money.

But you know what? Even though a lot of the people in those communities are trying very hard to live in ‘Anglo bubbles’ or ‘French bubbles’ or even, ‘Russian bubbles’, ultimately it’s still not really the same. It IS still Israel, and the kedusha, and the Divine Providence is still there, beckoning people to drop the pretense and get to know their real souls.

I’ve seen people literally go crazy, trying to drown out the insistent, spiritual call to God that reverberates in all parts of Israel, even in the most secular and materialistic neighborhoods.

So yes, it often looks the same, but it’s really not feeling the same.

I used to judge people in these ‘bubbles’ very harshly, but now I’ve come to realize that we all have our breaking point, and our snapping point, and even just moving to Israel in the first place can take many people far, far beyond it.

So let them keep their American dishwashers, and their English obsession with house prices, and their crazy workaholic schedules so they don’t have to think too much.

Because at least, they’re still here, and maybe in the future, their kids will have the energy and strength to continue the spiritual work their parents have begun.

Which brings me back to the question on the table: should people move to Israel, or not?

And the answer I have now is this:

EVERYONE should WANT to move to Israel.

But realistically, a whole bunch of people wouldn’t last five minutes here. Most of the secular, assimilated Jews in chutz l’aretz already know this, on some level, which is why for the most part they aren’t flooding into the country, or even visiting it for holidays.

God hits you smack in the face as soon as you step off the plane at Ben Gurion, and if you’re estranged from God, that can be an extremely challenging experience.

So it’s the ‘frum’ Jews in chutz l’aretz we’re really talking about – the ones who are apparently trying to have a connection with the Creator, and striving to work on their souls. I say ‘apparently’ because it underlines the point I made earlier: in truth, our generation is on such a low spiritual level, that even the frummest-looking Jew, externally, can be effectively ‘switched off’ from God.

Israel opens up that connection to the Creator, and to emuna, in a very real, very powerful way. (Often via financial difficulties, enormous spiritual angst, childrearing issues etc etc). But if the bulb can’t handle the current – it explodes.

Sure, the bulb can also explode in chutz l’aretz too – and it’s doing that with increasing frequency. More and more ‘frum’ kids going off the derech, more and more fatal overdoses in the frum community, more and more abuse, more and more Jews marrying out.

Chutz l’aretz is a disaster zone, spiritually.

I know that if I’d stayed in England, my kids would have probably gone off the derech, I probably would have a nervous breakdown, and my marriage would be in tatters.

I knew that even when I lived there, which is why I was so desperate to get out of there, even though life appeared so ‘perfect’, externally. But if the person I was then had known just how hard the last 12 years would have been, would I still have got on that plane?

I don’t know.

Which brings me to the last, very important, point: We need God to get us to Israel. And we need God to keep us here.

The point of Jewish life is to forge that bond, that connection with God. Living in Israel accomplishes that like nothing else can.

People don’t ‘stop’ being religious when they move to Israel. But they do get real.

And the sad fact is that so many of the people in chutz l’aretz, even the most externally pious looking ones, are fundamentally estranged from Hashem.

Of course, they can’t admit that openly – or even privately, to themselves. Which is why they talk about the terrible secular government, the crazy house prices, the expense of living here, the terrorism, the pull to a secular lifestyle.

And really, all the criticism they level at Israel is true, at least on some level.

But that’s not the real issue.

The real issue is that if you try to live in Israel without God, sooner or later it’ll break you, or it’ll break your pretense of being a superficially pious Jew.

I’ve seen that happen SO many times.

But maybe, it’s only once we realize just how broken we really are, spiritually, that we’ll start doing what’s required to fix the problem, and we’ll start rebuilding our relationship with Hashem from the ground up.

And while that process can only be completed in Israel, it can be started everywhere.

Even in chutz l’aretz.

The Four Cardinal Sins of sinat chinam.

Rav Ofer Erez’s recently gave an awesome shiur (click HERE to watch it, with full English subtitles) about how our sinat chinam, or baseless hatred, is delaying the geula, I thought it would be good to take a proper look at the four cardinal sins he described.

I know what you’re going to tell me: Hey, there’s only THREE cardinal sins, idiot!

(See, we all have some work to do on our compassion, victory-seeking tendencies and judgmental attitudes…)

While it’s true that the ‘cardinal sins’ usually refer to immorality, bloodshed and idol-worship, Rav Ofer pointed out that sinat chinam, or baseless hatred is worse than all three – and it can usually be divided up into four main areas, namely:

  • Hatred
  • Jealousy / envy
  • Anger
  • Judging other people harshly (how I’m translating hakpada – I’m happy to hear any other suggestions for a better way of translating that word.)

Every time we’re indulging in one of these four cardinal sins against a fellow Jew, we’re delaying the geula, plain and simple.

And as Rav Ofer explained, Chazal teach us that even just feeling these emotions internally, without actually expressing them externally in specific words and action STILL COUNTS AS SINAT CHINAM.

And sinat chinam is what destroyed the second temple and let us into our current, millennia-long exile.

And sinat chinam is what’s delaying the geula, and is delaying the rebuilding of our third temple and the ushering in of true global peace and acknowledgment of Hashem.

Right, so now we have that clear, let’s take a look at what sorts of very common things (that we all do, including me, a lot) count as sinat chinam, so we can start to get a real grip on the problem:

  • Bearing grudges
  • Indulging in long, pointless rants about how ‘evil’ particular sections of the Jewish community are
  • Judging people harshly over one ‘negative’ comment, or ill-thought-out response they might have made (especially online…)
  • Judging people harshly because they disagree with us (even about really important things)
  • Hating people in our hearts, which means we secretly want bad things to happen to them (like getting wiped out by an asteroid belt, or a forest fire, or an enormous tsunami etc), or for them get to in trouble with the IRS, or gloating or feeling secretly satisfied when ‘the truth comes out’
  • Publicly pointing out other people’s flaws
  • Preaching at other people about what THEY are doing wrong, instead of focusing on what THEY are doing right
  • Preaching at other people about what THEY are doing wrong, instead of focusing on what WE are doing wrong
  • Making trouble between different Jews, or different groups of Jews – and this includes stirring trouble in our families, or trying to get a parent, or a sibling, or an aunty, or whoever, to take sides in our arguments
  • Calling other Jews ‘Erev Rav’
  • Trying to take someone down, or take someone out, because we’re jealous of them (and as Rav Ofer pointed out, this one is particularly tricky to deal with as we often have NO IDEA just how jealous and envious we are of other people.)

Again, this is just stuff that I do myself, all the time, (or at least, have done a lot of in the past…), so feel free to flesh the ‘sinat chinam’ list out in the comments.

To stick with the jealousy thing for a moment, the first or second time I went to Uman, I had an immensely powerful dream where I realized for the first time in my life just how driven by jealousy I actually was.

And this was back when I had a nice house, my OK life, and everything was still running smoothly, at least on the outside.

But it was only when I had that dream that I actually got how envious I was of people who had more kids, or more money, or more success, or a nicer, bigger house. That’s one big reason why it’s good to go to Uman, because somehow the Tzaddikim there introduce you to your real self, and show you just how far from perfect you really are.

(And the opposite is also true: when you go to Uman feeling at the lowest rung of humanity, you get picked up off the floor and new life is breathed into you.)

So, whenever you find yourself competing or comparing, or feeling like a winner, or (more usually….) feeling like a loser in life, if you take a closer look at what’s really going on underneath, I’m pretty sure you’ll spot a fat wodge of jealousy, peeking out.

So our work for today is this:

JUST ACKNOWLEDGE THE PROBLEM

If you want to do this in a really serious way, (because heh, you REALLY want the third temple to be rebuilt already…) try the following:

  1. Take a piece of paper, and write down the four cardinal sins across the top of the page.
  2. Next time you’re doing your daily hour of talking to God, think back over the last 24 hours, and see how many of your interactions, conversations or thought processes was connected to one of these four cardinal sins, in some way.

When you got ANGRY at the checkout girl, that’s clearly ANGER.

If you got irritated with someone because of something they wrote or commented about online, that’s certainly JUDGING HARSHLY (and depending on how many Moroccan genes you possess, it could also come under HATRED and ANGER, too).

If you find yourself feeling sorry for yourself because Mrs Whatshername up the street just bought a new car, or went for a nice holiday or has great-looking hair in their thumbnail or [fill in the blank – anything else people like to post pictures up about on Facebook] – then that’s clearly JEALOUSY – but again, could fit into the other categories too, depending on where you take it.

If you’re like most people, the idea of doing this could actually be making you feel pretty uncomfortable.

It’s human nature to run away from, and whitewash our flaws and negative attitudes. But here’s what Rav Ofer had to say about this:

“The closer a person comes to Hashem, the more of their own flaws they own up to.”

So, it’s actually a good thing to admit to being a hate-filled, jealous, frothing-at-the-mouth, highly-critical crazy person!

(Hi five me! I’m finally doing something right…)

I’m planning on returning to this subject shortly, God willing, to share some more practical tools, tips and ideas for how we can really get geula going now, and the third temple rebuilt.

But let’s sum up where we’ve got to so far:

Criticising other Jews, even if they ARE evil / nasty / cowardly / immoral etc is ONLY DELAYING GEULA. Ditto, hating other Jews, ditto, raging against other Jews, ditto, being jealous of other Jews.

(Yes I know, pretty much the only safe thing to blog about is recipes.)

The only thing that’s going to speed geula up at this point is WORKING ON OURSELVES, and especially the four cardinal sins of:

  • Hatred
  • Anger
  • Jealousy
  • Harsh judgment (of PEOPLE, not of CHARACTER TRAITS or BEHAVIOURS).

All this stuff is so very hard, isn’t it?

I’m also feeling a little overwhelmed by the scope of the spiritual task we have to accomplish to get Moshiach the sweet way.

But even though maybe we can’t complete the job, we’re not free to ignore it, and pretend it’s everyone else’s problem, either.

(But sometimes, that sure does sound tempting.)

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Often when I’m feeling a little down, I return to the Breslov books and just open them randomly, to see which bit of the book is going to ‘speak’ to me today, and give me some insights and chizzuk.

Usually, I do this with ‘Tzaddik’, but today I randomly opened up the biography of Rav Natan of Breslov, Through Fire and Water, and landed on this:

“For much of that year Reb Noson didn’t see any great fruits from his efforts….On his visits to Uman, he would display seforim in the main shul…While selling his wares, Reb Noson would talk about Rebbe Nachman’s teachings and serving God – without ever looking to see if anyone was listening. Many in the shul mocked him behind his back.”

I had no idea that Reb Noson was also trying (and failing…) to make a living from selling books about emuna…

Naturally, I wasn’t about to leave the ‘message’ there, so I carried on reading, and got to this a little further down the page:

“Reb Noson writes: Every soul that came a little closer helped me see that my words were making an impression. Every little improvement I saw gave me added encouragement, and I remembered how the Rebbe had said that we would have the merit to light up the entire world.”

That’s more like it! I would normally just stop there, but for some reason I turned the page and kept reading, and here’s what came up next:

“Until now, the thought of buying his own home had never entered Reb Noson’s mind…his income was barely enough to cover his expenses. For the first time Reb Noson now began to think about buying his own home. Despite his shortage of funds, he strengthened himself with faith and trust in God….two days before Sukkos, Reb Noson moved into his new house.”

THIS is why I love those books so much – what are the chances of opening up an 800 page volume to the two pages talking about:

  • Feeling demoralized, and that all your efforts – to sell books and spread the word – are failing miserably
  • Seeing that every word communicated, even without knowing who’s really listening to them, IS actually making a difference after all
  • A guy with zero assets and not a lot of income being able to buy his own house within a couple of months

Someone once warned me off from reading too much into these things, but I am a staunch believer in God using every means to give us hints and messages, and the cleaner the ‘pipe’ the message is coming through, the more ‘on point’ it usually is.

Dear reader, things are starting to turn around…

That doesn’t mean all the trials and tribulations are going to finish in one go and we’ll just sit back and wait for the Moshiach street party.

If you’ve spent a lifetime running away from God, and running away from an honest accounting of who you really are, and what you’re really doing in the world (both good and bad) – your trials are only going to get worse, until you make some proper teshuva.

(On that note, the last few days I’ve heard more stories of harsh things happening to ‘difficult’ people than at any other point in my life. The ‘bad’ is starting to be paid out, and it’s frankly pretty scary.)

But for those quiet, thoughtful people who are reading this blog, and trying so hard to give God what He wants in the face of some enormous challenges, things are only going to get better from here on in.

Hang on, people!

I know from the emails I’ve got recently that so many of us have been dragged through our own versions of ‘fire and water’ in our service of Hashem recently. That’s why Rav Natan was writing for YOU, too: it’s going to turn around, and very soon we’re all going to be celebrating one big, huge chanukat habayit at a prime piece of real estate that’s just a little up the road from me…

“God, should I get a real job?”

This is what I’ve been asking God pretty much non-stop for the last two years, once I realised that making a living as an author is really not as straightforward as I’d hoped. (The way I’m going, I hope to break even around 2026…)

So far, the answer I’ve been getting in my personal prayer sessions has been ‘no, just continue on blogging and writing, and let your husband worry about earning a living.’ I was going along with that, as it felt ‘right’, but I still wasn’t 100% convinced that I wasn’t just fooling myself.

I’d rather stab my own eyeballs with a fork than go back into corporate communications again, but the thought has continued to haunt me that maybe God wants me to sell out and be a hack again?!?!? I have no idea WHY God might want that, but as I’ve sat here waiting for things to start moving with my husband’s businesses, the thought crossed my mind more than once that maybe me getting a ‘real job’ for ‘real money’ was the only way forward, financially.

Back and forth it went for months, until two weeks’ ago I couldn’t take all the uncertainty and ‘stuckness’ anymore, and we decided to ask Rav Berland a whole bunch of big questions that we’ve been agonising over for around three years.

Last week, we got the answers to every question – except that one.

So then I was back to square one again: does God want me to get a ‘real’ job, or does He want me to continue blogging and writing, even though that’s actually costing me money, at the moment?

This Shabbat, I decided to take a look in the Likutey Moharan, and see if God might clue me in that way – and boy, did He.

It’s known in Breslov circles that if you open up any of the Breslov books ‘randomly’, you nearly always hit something that’s a tailor-made answer to whatever question you were trying to find the answer to.

I asked God: “Do you want me to get a real job now, or what?” and then ‘randomly’ opened up Likutey Moharan to Part 1, Lesson 56, that begins with this verse:

 “On the day of the first-fruit offering, when you bring a meal-offering from the new grain to God on your [festival of] Shavuot, you shall have a mikra Kodesh [convocation to holiness] – you shall do no work of mundane needs.” (Numbers 28:26)

Hmm, that seemed to be a pretty big clue.

I read through the lesson, and the whole thing was talking about the importance of spreading daat, or the knowledge of God throughout the world, rebuking people to return to the Torah, and removing the ‘concealment within concealment’ that means that people who are far away from God and truth don’t even know that they are.

Here’s a little of what it said:

“…as knowledge (daat) increases, sustenance becomes easier to obtain, because sustenance is dependent upon knowledge….Through knowledge, peace increases, for anger and cruelty are eliminated by way of knowledge, since anger and cruelty arise from a lack of knowledge, as written, ‘Anger lies in the lap of fools’ (Ecclesiastes 7:9).”

Whoah! We were straight back into all the stuff about bad middot and mental illness that I love to write about on my blogs…

When I asked my husband what a ‘mikra kodesh’ was, he told me it could be translated as ‘holy writings’. Then, on the next page it started talking about a mamar ne-eman (faithful statement) that if you play around with the letters spells out ‘emuna roma’.

Double whoah!

But maybe, I was still lying to myself and just reading things into stuff? Maybe, God really still just wanted me to go and write technical copy about hi-tec gizmos instead? (I know, there are such huge yetzers around the whole topic of valuing yourself, and what you spend your time doing, if you don’t actually earn any money doing it, aren’t there?)

So I decided to ask God for another message, just to be sure I hadn’t gotten the wrong end of the stick. I opened up Likutey Moharan again ‘randomly’, and this time got to Part 2, Lesson 4. Here’s how that lesson began:

“On the day of the first-fruit offering, when you bring a meal-offering from the new grain to God on your [festival of] Shavuot, you shall have a mikra Kodesh [convocation to holiness] – you shall do no work of mundane needs.” (Numbers 28:26)

You know, I sometimes take the tremendous Divine Providence I get a little for granted, but I have to admit that even I was shocked at this latest ‘coincidence’. I had no idea that verse showed up twice in Likutey Moharan, in two completely different lessons. But now I know.

Ok, God, I got the message!

BH, no more agonising about the big bucks I could be earning doing ‘mundane work’ instead of (trying to) do holy writing! I will continue to blog and write my books, and pray for my husband’s parnassa to take off instead.

If you’re reading this and thinking stuff like that could never happen to you, let me reassure that it 100% can and could – if you let it.  If you have a big question you need some guidance about, ask God to send you a message, crack open a holy book, and see what happens.

God is sending us clues about our lives all the time, He’s just waiting for us to wake up and recognise them.