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So, as I mentioned this counting the omer was pretty much the craziest one I ever had

– and if you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know what a strong statement that is.

As the last day of the Omer drew near, I thought that maybe, just maybe, all the horrible shocks, reversals, challenges and difficulties were finally over until 5778… but God kept an ace up His sleeve this year, which I got by email the day before Shavuot:

Long story short, some rapacious lawyers in Israel are trying to sue me for 40,000 shekels!

Again, long story short, I apparently used a picture of Rav Berland I wasn’t meant to (usually I’m so careful about these things, so I have no idea how that actually happened…) and now these people want me to pay 40,000 shekels, or they’re going to take me to court.

It’s so unbelievable, it’s kind of funny.

In the meantime, I went into my eightieth massive meltdown of the month – shaky legs, complete feeling of overwhelm, crying etc etc etc.

It carried on all evening, and segued into another massive crisis of faith.

I started to doubt everything I’m doing again, and everything I’m writing, and wondering if I’m just being really, really dense, and God actually just wants me to close up the shop and move on to something different.

Or, am I having all these difficulties, non-stop, back-to-back, because I’m actually trying to do something really GOOD, and it’s just the yetzer getting in my face?

All night, I was debating it back and forth.

Maybe, I’m just not on the level to get anywhere near someone as holy as Rav Berland, and that’s why I keep getting slapped all over the place? Maybe, it’s just miniot (obstacles) to get me all demoralized and to give up, because really I AM doing some good stuff online that is making a difference, in whatever small way?

Maybe I should just go and be a gardener? Maybe I should get offline completely? Maybe I should continue and just ignore all the madness that keeps exploding all over the place?

Back and forth it went all night, and I didn’t sleep a wink, which clearly meant that I couldn’t stay up at all the next night, Shavuot, and learn anything.

I hit the bed at 11pm, completely exhausted.

So in the meantime, I’m being sued for a ton of money I don’t have, and I’m not sure what’s meant to happen next.

Over Shavuot, I sat down and read the whole book of tehillim, and tried to make some more teshuva, to try to get the madness to calm down a bit. Once the holiday was over, I trawled through both my sites, and removed any picture that I’m not 100% certain is not a commons licence, or otherwise copy-right free.

There wasn’t a lot, but there were some, particularly on spiritual self-help.

Maybe, Moshiach really is coming very soon, and God is getting me to even clean up even this small spiritual stuff, I don’t know.

Maybe it’s all just a big test of faith, and will melt into the mist again, once I get whatever message I’m meant to get from it all.

I really don’t know.

But one thing is certain: my life is never dull.

I haven’t been doing as much ‘Sefirat HaOmer’ stuff as I hoped on the blog this year, partially because it took a lot of effort to get ’49 Days’ out, before the Omer, and partially because I’ve had a heck of a lot of stuff going on since Rosh Chodesh Nissan.

But in this, the last week of counting the Omer, and heading into the last days, I have a story to share with you that sums up very nicely the power of today, ‘The spiritual dimension focusing on gratitude.’

As you may or may not know, my eldest started Ulpana (religious girls’ boarding school) last year, and really has been hating every minute.

The school she ended up in as miles away from civilization, surrounded by desert, and has a bus that gets to it precisely once a week from Jerusalem.

If she misses that bus (as does occasionally happen…) it’s a 5 hour round trip for me or my husband to drop her off.

But that’s not all: the school itself is well-meaning but SOOOO boring. There is no library, two extra-curricular classes (either pottery, or drama), no sports (they didn’t even have a sports teacher, the first two months) – and absolutely nothing to do to keep the girls occupied after classes are finished.

My daughter has been going slowly bonkers there for months, but decided to stick it out because she persuaded her best friend to go to that school too, and she felt super-guilty about leaving her in the lurch.

Then three months’ ago, Hashem did a miracle: The best friend flunked out of school, and her parents yanked her out and put in the local high school. With that problem resolved, my daughter was free to find another place.

Just one difficulty: every single school we applied to, that she was even remotely interested in, told us that they were full. By last week, with just two weeks’ to go, things were looking pretty desperate, and I had no idea where else to try.

Cue: the unexpected phone call from a new ulpana who mistakenly thought I’d tried to contact them. On the face of things, it didn’t sound so promising: The girls get up at 5.30am to go and work in the fields for a couple of hours before really starting the rest of their day.

Hmmmm.

My daughter is NOT a morning person. Still, the headmistress sounded so darned enthusiastic and plain nice, that I asked my daughter if she’d attend the open day, just to see. “Look, God arranged for them to phone me out of the blue,” I explained to her. “So maybe, this is the place!”

Silence.

But she agreed to go along to the open day that happened to be last Thursday. I risked a text mid-day, to ask her how it was going.

‘Good!’ came back the reply.

For the first time in months, I started to hope that maybe, just maybe, we’d found my daughter a school she could be happy in.

Long story short, my daughter came back glowing, so happy to have met girls on her wavelength, and willing to try crazy ideas like getting up at 5.30am to pick tomatoes…

The school accepted her formally this week, and for the first time in a year, I heard my daughter giggle again.

She hasn’t giggled for ages.

In the past, I’ve tried marathon prayer sessions to get things to move, school-wise , for my kids, and sometimes they’ve worked a treat. This time round, I didn’t have the energy to do that. But God showed me that He still cares, He was still looking out for my daughter, and He loves us anyway.

Even without a six hour hitbodedut, God still pulled the right string, to get my daughter into the right school, at the right time.

But if I want her to get up at 5.30am in the morning, something tells me that a bit more praying may still be in order.

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> You can buy 49 Days: An Interactive Journal of Self-development on Amazon and on the Book Depository

Today (June 3) is the day of Yesod she be Yesod in the counting of the Omer, or ‘foundation focusing on foundation’, or ‘sense of purpose focusing on sense of purpose’.

Yesterday, I got a phone call asking me if I’d heard any more about Rav Berland’s imminent arrival back in Israel. I hadn’t, but I sent my husband off to yeshiva to find out from his source if there was any more news.

Then, I did the usual trip around some of the geula blogs to see if anyone had anything about the Rav’s return. There was a post over on Shirat Devorah (see HERE) with a clip from Rav Dovid Kook, the kabbalist in Tiveria, explaining how Rav Berland’s return to Israel is going to usher in the redemption.

I so hope that’s the case.

This counting the Omer has been such an intense time, that maybe, just maybe, geula really is around the corner.

I hope that by the time you read this, today, Rav Berland WILL be back home, and that things WILL be proceeding geula-wise, the sweet way. Because today is ‘foundation of foundation’, and the biggest tzadikim are said to be the ‘foundation of the world’, so it would be very fitting if today was the day Rav Berland returned.

(BTW – if you haven’t yet paid your 98 nis monthly protection pidyon from terrorists, please go HERE to do that ASAP. Even if geula comes the sweet way, there’s still going to be quite a rough ride involved, at least in parts, until we really finish the process.)

As for me, I’m spiritually exhausted at the moment.

Every day since Rosh Chodesh Nissan has brought its own trials and tribulations, and ‘middot  growth opportunities’.  It seems to me that God is dealing out a whole bunch of last chances to people, to take their blinkers off and finally see what’s going down in their lives.

It’s like there’s all this spiritual light coming down into the world ahead of Moshiach, but wherever it hits a ‘blockage’, it’s causing a lot of pain and drama and anxiety. Clear the blockage (which is usually related to working on a bad character trait, or a weak connection to Hashem) – and the light can pass through your life easily again, giving everything a rosy, warm glow.

Don’t clear the blockage (which is what I’m still seeing SO many people do) – and you literally start to crack-up and go insane.

Thus it is that the problems are spiraling up out of control, the negative character traits are coming to the fore like never before, and the health issues are plummeting to greater depths.

Why?

Hashem gave us a clue as to why this is all happening in last week’s parsha, where we learned of the many curses that would befall Am Yisrael if they related to God ‘casually’. That’s an interesting word, isn’t it?

What does it mean to relate to God casually? Maybe, it means that we don’t even take God into account, and pretend like everything that happens is completely random and down to chance. Maybe, it means that even though we profess to be believing Jews, we still don’t want to admit that God is behind every tiny thing that’s going on in our lives, so we make big speeches about ‘how it’s impossible to know what God wants’, etc, or how ‘everyone has their troubles’, so we don’t need to be too fussed to try to work out WHY God is making us sick, or poor, or miserable.

Maybe, it means that we relate to God like a lifestyle choice, something to boost our energy and give us a high, like a good workout or spinach smoothie, just somehow better.

Or maybe, we talk about how God is going to do a whole bunch of things to everyone else, leaving us to blog contentedly about the destruction of the world that somehow isn’t going to affect us.

God wants us to put Him first, even when it’s inconvenient, uncomfortable and difficult. He wants us to explore every little thing that happens to us from a place of understanding that it’s part of the meaningful dialogue Hashem is trying to have with us, about what we need to acknowledge, work on, or fix, in some way.

To put it another way, we’re back to Rav Arush’s three rules of emuna, namely:

  • Hashem is doing everything in the world
  • Everything Hashem does is for the ultimate good
  • Everything is a message

Those three rules of emuna make every tiny thing that happens to us meaningful and important; the exact opposite of casual and insignificant.

God says: ‘You want to pretend like those kidney stones are just a fluke, and nothing to do with all your bad habits and character traits? Here, try this additional debilitating illness on for size!!’

And:

“You want to pretend that you’re hitting the skids financially just because of the economic downturn!? Here, I’m going to cut every source of income you have off from you, until you finally get the message that you need to start treating your wife (the pipe of all abundance in the home) better!”

And so on, and so forth. ‘A fury of casualness’ – a maelstrom of horrible illnesses, difficult experiences, poverty and ill-health, until we finally wake up and realize that none of it was ‘casual’ or ‘random’, and everything right from the start was God.

The last few weeks, I’ve had so many messages that despite all the hard work I’ve done the last few years, THERE ARE STILL THINGS THAT NEED SOME WORK, PRONTO!

Like anger. And resentment. And rage. And hatred.

(Viz: My husband discovered that the person who damaged the windscreen wiper on our brand new car was a neighbor who hates people parking in ‘his’ spot. I was so worked up when he told me I started fantasizing about spilling a box of tacks behind the neighbor’s front wheels etc. Then, I woke up and realized this! This horrible character trait is what God is telling me needs some work! Duh!)

So God has been giving me that work to do in spades, the last few weeks. IF Rav Berland makes it back today, BH, and if the geula kicks off as predicted by Rav Kook – well then, that all makes sense.

And if not?

I guess God is fast-tracking my Teshuva and character development for some other good reason, only known to Him. And I guess that’s OK, too.

So, what’s the ‘big idea’ behind 49 Days?

Well, it’s like this: God created the world via 10 ‘worlds’ or spheres of energy, that are commonly referred to in the Jewish mystical tradition, (a.k.a. Kabbalah) as Sefirot.

According to the Kabbalah, these 10 sefirot are split into three higher ones, and seven lower ones – and the seven lower ones are associated with a whole bunch of different things, including the main ‘attributes’, or character traits, that us human beings are meant to work on and perfect.

There are different ideas as to what each of these seven Sefirot are actually referring to.

In the Hebrew, they are listed as:

Chesed

Gevurah

Tiferet

Netzach

Hod

Yesod

Malkhut

(Btw, if you want more of a deeper understanding about the different Sefirot, I highly recommend the book Sefirot (what else?), by Rabbi Haber. Click HERE to take a look at it on Amazon.)

My take on what these seven attributes are telling us to work on is as follows:

  • Love & relationships
  • Self-improvement
  • Truth
  • Seeing the good / specialness
  • Gratitude
  • Sense of Purpose
  • The Spiritual Dimension

 

Now, the best time to work on perfecting these seven attributes / worlds / character traits is considered to be the 49 days between Passover, and the Jewish festival of Shavuot, that occurs exactly seven weeks’ later.

Now, this is where the 49 Days interactive journal can come in, because each day it will spell out what particular character traits need some work, and give you an exercise to do that will really tap-in to the spiritual energy of that day, to get things moving.

  • You can buy 49 Days on Amazon HERE, and on the Book Depository HERE.

Out of all the Sefirot, one, Malchut, is considered to be ‘female’. The main reason for this is because Malchut only receives, while the other sefirot all ‘give’, which according to the Torah is a male trait.

Malchut is when you crown God as King of the world, primarily by seeing Him actively engaged in every area of your life. This is a working definition of what it means to have emuna, so emuna and malchut are very connected.

It’s no accident that women tend to have a lot more emuna than men; they tend to be much more connected to the spiritual realm, and much more in tune with God, and what God actually wants, especially if they’re regularly talking to Him.

Which brings me on to the main topic of today’s post:

In the story of the Exchanged Children, Rebbe Nachman explains how the main protagonist, the prince-turned-slave, is set a riddle by the land of the wise people with a foolish king, in order to become their king.

The prince-turned-slave is shown a tableau where everything has been rearranged and taken out of its proper place, and his job is to put it all back in its right order.

The first thing the prince-turned-slave does is take the rose that he finds at the bottom of the throne, in the mud, and to return it to its proper place at the top.

A few months’ ago, I was having a chat with God, like you do, and I suddenly got some startling clarity about that particular story, and what the rose represents: the rose is us!

It’s you and me, and the rest of the ladies out there.

For all the so-called progress made by the ‘Women’s Lib’ movement, women today have never been so disrespected, downtrodden and demeaned.

The Hollywood culture has turned us into bodies to be ogled and used in the most heart-breaking fashion; the materialistic culture has turned us into slaves to the paycheck, forcing us to put having a job ahead of having the time and patience we need to really nurture our families; and Women’s Lib has made us feel guilty that we’re not as competitive, unfeeling and insensitive as the men in our lives.

I’d love to tell you that things are better in the Jewish world, and especially in the religious Jewish world, but really, they’re not.

Here too, women are routinely in the mud.

I hate all the stereotypes that abound in the religious world, and that are used to hit various groups over the head with, so I’m going to pause, and let you look around your own community, your own group, to recognise how this may be playing out in your world.

What I see, is tired, stressed female faces on every side; I see lonely woman who clearly feel ‘something’ has gone wrong; I see daughters growing up promising themselves they are never going to live like their mothers; I see wives and girlfriends hoping and wishing it could somehow be different, and that the men in their lives could somehow grow up, and start treating them with respect and genuine love and caring.

I see this happening all over the place. It’s not confined to any single stereotype, community or neighbourhood. We women are in the mud.

We need someone, somehow, to take us from our lowly position, and replace us as the beautiful crown of our homes. Rav Arush, bless him, has been trying to do this for a few years’ already, with his books about marriage.

In those books, Rav Arush makes it clear that it’s the man’s role is to GIVE and the woman’s role is to RECEIVE. That’s how God made the world. That’s the right order of things.

So in this week of Malchut, let me give us all a bracha that things should return to their right place, and that we women should be raised out of the difficult places we currently find ourselves in, in every sense of the word.