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The difference one jab made.

After yesterday’s post, someone emailed me with a link to the following story, and gave me permission to reprint it here, with the writer’s real name. The family are from the States, and this account 1) really made me pretty sad and 2) really made me think, about how much of the facts concerning modern medicine are actually still being hidden from us all.

I’m still not formally ‘anti’ vaccine, but I am increasingly worried about the lack of transparency and disclosure about the risks associated with vaccines, and I have a very strong feeling that something here is really ‘not right’. But until I’ve pinned that down, I’m still exploring what’s really going on. In the meantime…

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Gittel’s Story

I was sitting in the waiting room of our Dr.’s office, waiting for the nurse to call us back. Gittel and I were there for her 14 month well visit. I watched as she ran up and down in the small waiting room, excited that 2 other little girls were there for her to play with. They were a little shy, but, unfazed, Gittel ran up to them with a big smile and initiated a playful exchange with them.

After a while Gittel came running back to me, as is normal for typical kids to do, almost to reassure herself that mommy is still there and keeping a watchful eye on her. Content after a few snuggles and a quick sip of her sippy cup, she headed back to play with the girls once again, this time stopping for a moment to say hi to some other people who had since entered the waiting room and to light up the faces of a few senior citizens who had just sat down.

This went on for almost an hour until we were finally called back.

When the nurse informed us that it was our turn, I called Gittel, who stopped what she was doing and immediately came back over to mommy. I picked her up and carried her back, as she was a little nervous, and seemed to sense a little suspiciously, that something was “up”. She responded to my reassuring hugs and loving whispers. She watched the nurse carefully as she measured her height and weight and as I answered the usual questions.

When the nurse left the room, we continued to play as we waited for the Dr. to arrive. We sang a couple of her favorite songs, she explored the office a bit and we walked up and down the hallway while we waited some more. Pretty soon it was our turn to be seen.

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There was a gentle knock on the door and the Dr. walked in.

At 14 months, most of the questions were about her development and her overall health, which thank G-d, seemed to be right on track. There was also the basic autism screening questionnaire, which, ever since our Sruly’s autism diagnosis , I viewed as both a relief, and to some degree, a mild annoyance. A relief, being that from the moment that our children are born, I am carefully scrutinizing every aspect of their development.

I am always relieved when I see that, thank G-D, everything is developing as it should. A slight annoyance, since, as the parent of a child with sever autism, for goodness sake, I could write the questionnaire, and it would be a lot more detailed then the one that they have!…. Not to mention the fact, that for the most part, I seem to know more about autism than they do. Just ask me point blank if I think she is “at risk” or possibly “on the spectrum”.

What they should be asking the parent is; may the child possibly be at risk for a vaccine injury based on their past health history? How has the child, or other family member responded to vaccines in the past (fever, lethargy, seizures etc.)? How many rounds of antibiotics has the child received since birth? Does the child have an egg, dairy or other food related allergy? Does the child exhibit symptoms of, or is known to have a mitochondrial disorder? Are there common genetic concerns such as MTHFR, etc., etc…

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In the case of our daughter Gittel, she had received two rounds of antibiotics the year prior, due to a bout of strep.

Re-establishing proper gut health after extensive antibiotic use is crucial. Pumping such a small child with the entire schedule of suggested vaccines, all while their tiny bodies do their best to re-balance themselves, is much like playing Russian Roulette. She was otherwise, thank G-d, a healthy baby. She nursed beautifully (full time!), no acid reflux, no skin issues, no thrush etc… It turns out, that even with all of these questions it is still almost impossible to predict what the outcome of a vaccine may be.

However, I waited patiently and answered all of the questions in turn.

Dr: “Is she making eye contact?”

Me: “Yes.”

Dr:  “Does she respond to you when you come into the room?”

Me:  “Yes.”

Dr: “Does she respond when you call her name?”

Me: “Yes.”

Dr:  “Does she seem interested in other kids? Does she play with them?”

Me:  “Yes.”

Dr. “Does she use her hands or fingers in an inappropriate way?”

I love this question. What they are trying to ask is, does the child exhibit any self-stimulatory behavior?

Me: “No.”

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After a few more questions, and an otherwise uneventful visit, the Dr. said that the nurse would be in shortly to administer the scheduled vaccines.

He wished us a good day and walked out. Soon the nurse entered and asked us if we were also interested in the chicken pox vaccine in addition to her MMR. Thank G-d I said no. I am honestly not sure what went through my mind at that moment and why I said “no” so quickly. It had not even crossed my mind prior to the visit. (I only learned later on that you are never give two live virus vaccines at once – kind of paradox though, being that the MMR itself contains three [attenuated] live virus vaccines….).

The nurse didn’t seem to mind that we turned down the chicken pox vaccine and proceeded to prepare Gittel for the MMR. Gittel cried briefly as I held her close, reassuring her with soft words while hugging her. The visit was over. When we arrived home, Gittel seemed understandably a little worn out, but still full of smiles and warm snuggles.

That evening however, she developed a fever.

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By the next morning, even after a number of alternating rounds of Tylenol/Motrin, the fever persisted.

What was more worrisome to me than anything else, was the fact that she had completely stopped looking at me and just sat on the floor emotionless. She displayed considerable discomfort, despite the pain killers which I had given her to bring down the fever. She wouldn’t respond to my many attempts to engage her. It almost seemed as though her inner world had completely consumed her.

Alarmed, I mentioned this to my husband, hoping that somehow he could make this stop. Or at the very least pull out his crystal ball and tell me that she would indeed go back to being herself soon. He calmly responded that she was probably just feeling “under the weather” and would soon perk up.

By day two the fever persisted. I watched with a sinking heart as she failed, most notably, to respond to her name. She just sat there. She looked sad and forlorn and didn’t seem to be “here” with us. She seemed as though she didn’t recognize her surroundings or where she was. Oh, how I wanted to know what she was thinking. What was going on in that delicate little brain of hers. Was she scared? What was she feeling? What was hurting? What did she want me to do to help make her feel better?

Still no eye contact.

I got down, face to face with her, cooed, laughed, played our usual funny games, but to no avail. She continuously turned her head to avoid me. She didn’t respond to our games of “chase”, or the thrill of Mommy coming to tickle her. She wouldn’t even smile. And those eyes, those lost eyes… She still cried when she was hungry, and gently snuggled during those intimate moments of nursing I treasured so dearly.

Somehow, instinctively, I knew that I needed help to flush her system. I began with the most natural and soothing thing I knew –  stopping all solid foods and going back to strictly nursing around the clock. She was all too happy to comply.

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Day three, the fever was still there.

I was almost pleading with my husband to see what I was seeing. I was hoping I was wrong. I was scared, very scared. I was scared that I was right. My husband still tried to reassure me that she was not herself, only because she was still under the weather from the effects of the shot. She had not only stopped eye contact, she actively avoided it!

No smiles. She stopped responding to her name. She didn’t respond to our usual fun and games. She didn’t even stop to watch her siblings, let alone interact with them. She seemed to be hardly managing or coping with what life had just thrown at her. With what life had just thrown at us all.

After 3 days, her fever subsided. For the next couple of weeks I kept trying to interact with her, to engage with her, to make eye contact, smiles, something! But there was nothing. She moseyed around the house in her own little world. She was busy. Very busy. Almost alarmingly busy. Before all of this, she used to knock down the occasional book from the bookshelf, as do most busy toddlers, and when caught in the act by either my husband or myself, she would giggle and scream in sheer delight. Knowing that we were coming closer to get her and tickle her away from her little game.

It was her way of both exploring and of successfully capturing our attention. Now, however, she seemed like she was on a very serious mission to wipe out the entire bookshelf over and over again. She was completely expressionless. She stopped responding to our playful drama when coming to get her. It was during one of these episodes, about 3 weeks after she received her shot, that my husband finally realized that I wasn’t just being overly worried.

There was indeed something alarming here….. and all too familiar…..

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Once my husband realized the magnitude of what I was seeing, it was then, that everything suddenly seemed official.

Until then I was hanging on to the small thread of hope that perhaps I really was just worrying too much. It was then that the tears began to fall. The next few months were full of prayer, specialists, supplements, therapies and more prayer. We took her to specialist who confirmed the presence of inflammation in her brain. I was so shaken by what had happened, that I was afraid to take her back to her original Dr. I assumed that he would simply dismiss our case entirely upon hearing that it was vaccine related.

I was beside myself. I couldn’t believe this was happening to a second child. How could I have been so stupid 12 years ago in letting the doctors convince me that vaccines were still unquestionably safe. That the pros very much so outweighed the cons. That all of this would have happened “regardless”.

I once again found myself in tears before G-d. “Please,” I begged, “Don’t let this happen to another child.” I don’t think I have ever before asked my Grandmothers who had passed away, to help me beseech G-d for His supernal mercy. To ask Him to help us in this time of need. I began praying and asking my Grandmothers and a dear, special and holy Great Aunt, to please daven for her as well.

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Many months went by, and thank G-d she ever so often began to smile again.

During this time we continued with her rigorous supplement regimen, therapy, nursing, praying and more praying. One night, after a couple of more months had gone by, I tearfully began to daven. I am not sure if this was the right thing to do, but I asked G-d that if this was truly the decree, if this is what was meant to be, if  He could please, please lessen the severity and make it mild. Please not so sever.

Little by little she began to make some fleeting yet noticeable eye contact. She preferred not to, however when we came “face to face” she wouldn’t actively turn her head to avoid us. She still wouldn’t react if we were coming to play chase with her from across the room, but if we made it into her personal space, she ever so slowly began to respond with smiles and giggles. She also seemed to once again, enjoy being in the company of her siblings.

At nearly a year later, she had come along way. She was still unable to communicate even her most basic needs, but she has begun to “label”. She did not respond to her name or even turn when you called her. She would however get excited with interactive games like chase, dancing and peek-a-boo. Thank G-d she still had the most beautiful smile and infectious little giggle.

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She used to sit down and get comfortable with a stack of books by her side.

Looking through each one slowly, with intent and purpose, while turning the pages slowly and enjoying every picture. She would occasionally pick up a book and go through it quickly. It was difficult however, to tell how much she understood. She seemed to enjoy watching the pages turn more so than anything else. She enjoyed sitting and playing next to other children, including her siblings, however she had stopped initiating play, as well as any other form of communication.

And her eyes.

There used to be a sparkle in those beautiful eyes. Those wise, playful yet knowing eyes. She had lost that twinkle, that spark of life. Although part of me was still hopeful, I remained cautious. And of course, there was still a part of me which didn’t want to think too much about any of it at all.

We still watch her very carefully. The specialists which we went to said, that at this young age, children can respond well to appropriate supplements and therapies. “The body,” they told us, “is a self righting ship.”

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I eventually gathered up the courage to return to the original Dr. who’s office administered the vaccine.

When he finished hearing our story and reading the medical and laboratory reports, he responded that in all of his many years of practice, he has never seen a reaction to a vaccine quite like this. While I found this hard to believe, he did, however, agree that it most definitely looked like a vaccine injury. He agreed that the symptoms she exhibited in the days following her vaccine seemed to indicate possible encephalitis.

He was kind enough to encourage us to file suite against the federal government’s vaccine injury court (which up until that point we never knew existed). He mentioned that any documentation relating to our daughter’s condition, which we may need moving forward, he would gladly provide us with.

Just as our visit was ending he said something which both scared me and consequently left me very skeptical of the medical establishments motives, in general. He looked at us and said, “I think we should hold off on vaccines for the next three months.” I looked at him, completely dumbfounded, almost not believing what we were hearing. After all of this, and this was still his view? I realized then and there that it wasn’t worth our time or emotional energy to argue. We promptly ended the visit and walked out.

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I know everything that goes on in this world is all part of G-d’s master plan, but sometimes I wish I could just ask G-d what exactly does He want from me?

What do I need to fix? What do I need to do to improve? I do thank G-d every day for giving us life, for keeping us together, for blessing us with all of the beautiful gifts and Brachot He has bestowed upon us. For blessing us with the thoughtful tests that He has so carefully chosen for us. I pray that all of us be blessed with immense light, love, simcha (joy), brachot (blessings), good mazal, nachas, wisdom, long life and the strength to carry on. May we all merit to greet Moshiach, together with all of Klal Yisroel, speedily in our days.

We are ready, Hashem.

We are oh, so ready.

– Matana Boloten

Originally written, Dec 2015

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You can’t read this and not cry a little bit. There is nothing I can add that wouldn’t just detract. But it’s definitely time to learn more, and to get properly informed about what are fundamentally huge choices to make about our children, and our children’s health.

For the last 20-something years, my arguments with my husband have progressed along the same, well-worn path.

I state something that to his ears sounds fantastic, unbelievable, incredible, and sooner or later, he tries to close the argument down with the statement: ‘that’s not logical.’

Who knew, that I’d married Mr Spock?

A lot of his ‘logical’ tendencies have been useful to me, because he’s forced me time and time again to find the ‘logical’ process underpinning what I’m grasping intuitively. Man, the arguments we’ve had, about everything from erev rav, to personality disorders, to how the human body really works, all the way up to how ‘emuna’ is meant to fit into the logical picture.

He’s forced me to pin things down logically again and again, and that’s mostly been very helpful.

But this week, when we were having another one of our ‘discussions’ about whether it’s really possible for Disney to be working with the CIA to put ‘mind control’ cues in its movies, and he delivered his that’s not logical statement again, I suddenly realized something massive:

Why is ‘logic’ the final arbiter of what’s right or wrong, here?

Because what is ‘logic’, ultimately? It’s whatever process or thought or argument you can cram into a human brain. It’s totally limited to human perception and understanding, and as we know, even the most intelligent humans only have a very small part of the picture. There is a time and place for ‘logic’ (more on that in a moment).

Human logic makes no space for God, and because it can’t tease out the ‘process’ behind miracles and other supernatural phenomena, it deals with them by pretending they don’t exist.

To put this in other words, the more a person believes that ‘logic’ is the final arbiter of right and wrong, truth and lie, the less likely it is for that person to have anything even approaching real emuna, or real emunat tzaddikim.

I know that’s a big statement, but I’m going to back it up.

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First, let’s take a look at what logic actually is, and where it comes from. This is from Wikipedia:

Logic (from the Ancient Greekλογικήromanized: logikḗ[1]) is the systematic study of the form of valid inference, and the most general laws of truth.[2] A valid inference is one where there is a specific relation of logical support between the assumptions of the inference and its conclusion. In ordinary discourse, inferences may be signified by words such as therefore, thus, hence, ergo, and so on.

There is no universal agreement as to the exact scope and subject matter of logic (see § Rival conceptions, below), but it has traditionally included the classification of arguments, the systematic exposition of the ‘logical form’ common to all valid arguments, the study of proof and inference, including paradoxes and fallacies, and the study of syntax and semantics.

Historically, logic has been studied in philosophy (since ancient times) and mathematics (since the mid-19th century), and recently logic has been studied in cognitive science (encompasses computer sciencelinguisticsphilosophy and psychology).

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In other words, logic is a form of Greek-inspired philosophy.

So, whenever someone makes the ‘logic’ of a supposition the acid test of whether it’s ‘true’ or not, they are effectively operating out of a system of Greek heresy, instead of Jewish belief.

Let’s give some concrete examples.

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There’s an idea in Judaism that if your finances are hitting the skids, you should make an effort to go and give even more money to charity. That way, you’ll sweeten whatever spiritual judgments are keeping you poor and constricted.

Now, does this sound logical?

At this point in time when you’re finding it hard to even scrape together the money for the rent, you’re meant to go and give even more money to charity?!?!

It’s totally illogical.

And yet, it works. I’ve lost count of the number of times that immediately after we paid a big whack of charity we couldn’t really afford, or a big pidyon that squeezed us financially, how much new business flowed in through my husband’s doors, afterwards.

Essentially, there is very little ‘logic’ behind any of the mitzvoth we keep, whether it’s avoiding shatnez, eating kosher, keeping Shabbat, paying 10% of our income to charity. Sure, Jews with a more philosophical bent have tried to make Judaism jive more with Greek philosophy by trying to assign reasons to mitzvoth that make sense to human logic.

But ultimately?

All the mitzvoth we keep boils down to emuna, to faith, to the idea that we can’t understand everything, however big our brains are.

Behind all this talk of ‘logic’ there is so much arrogance, so much ga’avah.

It takes some real humility to admit that we still know so very little about what’s really going on, and that our ability to grasp what’s really going on in the world is actually incredibly limited.

So, when people start boasting about how ‘logical’ they are, and how they think ‘logically’, what they’re really saying is:

“I have very little emuna, and I’m incredibly arrogant.”

Now that we all know that, hopefully more of us will start to challenge ‘logic’s’ stranglehold on our public discourse.

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All that said, logic and human reasoning still has a place in our lives.

God runs the world according to His spiritual rules, and we have to follow those rules to the best of our ability. If God has built the world in such a way eating fast-food usually makes us ill, and treating people badly usually makes us social lepers, and running in front of speeding cars on the highway usually makes us dead – we have to respect those rules.

Go right ahead, and make a logical calculation about whether you should dash across the road in front of that articulated lorry – but remember that all these logical ‘rules’ aren’t presenting the full picture of how God is actually running the world.

Illogical, miraculous and supernatural things are occurring to every single one of us, all the time.

Why?

Because God is running the world, and God is operating things at a level far, far beyond the boundaries of human logic.

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So, to sum up.

From this moment forth, just telling me something is ‘not logical’ doesn’t automatically win the argument, or close down the discussion. Heretical Greeks made human ‘logic’ the arbiter of truth, and to put it bluntly, they can get stuffed.

A multitude of sins hides behind ‘logic’, including heresy, denial of God’s omnipresent role in the world, arrogance, narrow-mindedness, argumentation for its own sake, victory-seeking, and trying to make other people appear ‘small’ or ‘stupid’.

Logic is a false god, that’s keeping so many Jews away from really developing a genuine relationship with Hashem.

Once we start acknowledging that, and once more of us start relating to a logical frame of mind as some sort of severe spiritual disability, instead of lauding and praising it, that’s when we’ll jump a whole bunch nearer to the world actually getting fixed, and redemption really happening.

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UPDATE: Thanks to Yosef for the link to this clip, which makes the point very nicely!

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Photo by Macu ic on Unsplash

A few weeks’ ago, I got an invitation to come see a private screening of a film called Talking to God.

I haven’t been to a movie for somewhere around 12 years…. so of course I said ‘yes’. Hey, I get to do something Rabbenu related and still get to watch a film with no guilt or teshuva required? Are you kidding?!

So, I settled into for the 90 or so minutes expecting to see something cute, with its heart in the right place, around the AmDram level – and boy o boy, was I surprised. Talking to God had superb casting, a real plot, and was a real film, in every sense of the word.

The story revolves around a woman from New York, Rebecca, who is having troubles sleeping and can’t figure out what she’s supposed to be doing in life. Long story short, she gets to Uman, and Rebbe Nachman starts showing her some profound insights via one of his Tales, that end up turning her whole life around.

But what was truly amazing to me is that the film didn’t feel like a mussar lesson in the least, and actually had a lot of laugh-out-loud moments.

Between you and me, I’m at that stage of life where I can’t take any more of the ‘fake piety’ stuff anymore, where angels start strumming their harps as another saintly figure takes the stage to lecture everyone else on how to act.

AAAARGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!

But this film had a strong enough story that the moral of the story kind of slipped in unnoticed – like it does with all the best movies.

I was thinking about it for a good few days afterwards, which is when I decided to get in touch with the movie’s director and producer, Maya Batash, to find out how it came to be made.

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We met for a coffee at Cinema City (man, I can’t stand that place…) and Maya explained the genesis of Talking to God.

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The story begins back in 2010, when Rav Arush’s Garden of Emuna was just starting to take the English-speaking world by storm. A few years’ beforehand, Maya had shifted from her job as a successful neurologist to start to develop her long-forgotten creative side.

She’d gone back to school to study painting, and then decided she wanted to learn how to make indie films. In 2010, she’d just released ‘Out of the Fog’, a film with a theme of emotional healing, and was looking forward to working on a new comedy.

Instead, after a year of reading the Garden of Emuna, Maya found herself taking a trip to Uman, and then the whole plan changed.

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“I went to Uman despite my lack of any initial desire to be there’” she recalls.

“A friend invited me on a group trip and despite my hesitation, somehow I ended up there just a few months later”.  That trip led to three months of what Maya politely calls ‘spiritual surgery’, as the answer to that question, and others, started to swim into view. It wasn’t an easy experience, but perhaps strangely when another trip to Uman was announced the following year, in 2011, Maya explains; “I ran to go on it. And while I was in Uman the second time, I got the idea that I should make a film. Initially, I thought it should be some sort of documentary about people in Uman, and all their miraculous stories.”

Maya started taping videos of big Breslov rabbis like Rav Arush, and Rav Brody, to use in the documentary, like this clip below:

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Maya also returned to Uman for a third time, this time with a camera, and a plan to interview some of the people there about their experiences of being by Rabbenu. “I wanted to interview ‘big’ people, the people who other people listen to, because I was finding it hard to get regular women to agree to talk to me,” she says.

But at some point, that plan fell by the wayside. “I didn’t have enough footage for a full documentary, and then I remembered I hate documentaries,” says Maya. But what she loved, was some of the stories that Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach used to tell from the Baal Shem Tov, and from Rebbe Nachman. And in particular, the story of ‘The Fixer’.

Slowly, Maya realized that while she didn’t want to make a documentary about emuna, she really did want to tell some of Rebbe Nachman’s stories.

The screenplay was written in Jerusalem’s cafes in 2012, and then Maya spent the next few years trying to raise the money required to start filming.

“This film had 30 actors, and a massive crew,” she says. “It was a huge undertaking, and I really needed some help to make it happen.”

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Help came in the form of a producer called Kim Jackson who brought on another producer named Jonathan Federico, and then Talking to God really started to come together. A week before filming was due to begin, Maya finally found the right actor for the starring role of the Fixer, called Zebedee Row  In the fall of 2014, Uman was transplanted to Staten Island, the film was shot, and Maya got on with the lengthy process of post-production and film editing.

And that’s when a few more miniot bobbed up to slow things down. Maya mother passed away in 2015, and Maya was also still trying to raise the funds required to get the film’s original music score written, and to complete the post-production.

“It took a lot of praying, a lot of hitbodedut, and a lot of trips to Uman,” she says. And now, Maya is trying to find a distributor who will get the films into theatres around the world. “I could release it online, but I really want it to be taken seriously. This film is for anyone who is looking for growth, healing, or meaning in their lives. There is a huge audience here, and the film needs the right distributor to be able to tap into it.”

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In the meantime, Maya is submitting Talking to God to film festivals, and is continuing to pray that the right someone, somewhere, will notice it, and help to get it out there to a wider audience.

So, eight years after she first began the project, Talking to God is finally poised to go mainstream.

“What did making this movie teach you?” I asked her, over a cup of something hot at Cinema City.

“I’ve learned to talk to God daily which allows me to let go of whatever’s bothering me, whether it’s fear, anger, pain etc and give it over to the Source,” says Maya. “I’ve learned the importance of doing everything in my power to make myself happy.  And how dancing and singing regularly can miraculously bring a person to real joy. Happiness is a choice,” she says.

What I can tell you is that watching the ‘private screening for feedback’ of Talking to God made me very happy. And I have a feeling that the film might have that effect on a few million other people, too.

To learn more, visit: www.talkingtoGodmovie.com

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I’m probably in a minority here, but I have to say I am totally thrilled by the latest election results in Israel.

My oldest daughter was explaining how all the votes finally stacked up, and this is what she told me:

Blue and White:                33

Likud:                                    31

Joint (Arab) List:                13

Shas:                                     9

Yisrael Beitenu:                 8

Agudat Yisrael:                  8

Yamina:                                7

Labour-Gesher:                6

Democratic Union:          5

Meretz got totally wiped out (yippee!!), and none of this other lot can form a government because they all hate each other way too much, and / or stand for totally opposite things.

I just can’t see a government containing Yisrael Beitenu and the Joint List lasting too long…. I just can’t see a government containing Lapid and ANYONE ELSE lasting too long…. I just can’t see a government containing Amir Peretz and Ehud Barak lasting too long…. I just can’t see a government containing Netanyahu and Gantz lasting too long….

You get the idea.

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Hashem is a total genius.

If the lefties hadn’t been trying so hard to get rid of Netanyahu (who I don’t like, don’t get me wrong), then he wouldn’t have passed legislation protecting a sitting PM from being indicted. But that legislation ONLY applies to the prime minister, not to a regular government minister, which is why Netanyahu cannot concede that Gantz should be the ‘first’ PM in any rotation, because if he does, he’ll end up in the slammer.

And Gantz for his part is way too full of arrogance to let Netanyahu continue to be PM for a stint when his party technically ‘won’ the election…

I’m telling you, it’s pure genius.

And as for the state of the country – my trash is still being collected. The lights are still working. The supermarket is still stocked with food, the kids are still in school.

All that’s ‘different’ is that there aren’t a bunch of yucky people trying to pass bills designed to punish half the country for being religious, or to give away half the country for some nebulous political puffery.

Who needs a government?! We’re doing just fine without them! This situation can continue for years, and we’d all be way better off!

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But, my daughter wanted to know, what if a war breaks out. What then?

What then?

Good question. If there are no politicians pretending that they are in charge, and pretending that they run the world and controlling the outcome of Israel’s wars, maybe more of us will put our faith where it really belongs, namely in Hashem.

The Steipler famously remarked that it was a good thing when so many of Israel’s doctors went on strike a few decades ago, because now fewer people would die.

I feel the same way about this election. With the politicians effectively emasculated for the foreseeable future, we can all breathe a sigh of relief in the meantime, until Moshiach shows up to permanently relieve them from duty.

For what it’s worth, I think one of two things will happen next:

  • We can’t get a government together, and we’ll soon have election #3 followed shortly by Moshiach and obvious geula.

OR

  • We can get a government together, but it won’t last long because they are all egotistical monsters with terrible middot and no patience or tolerance for other people, and other people’s beliefs and ideas. Which means the coalition will fall even faster than it was cobbled together, and we’ll soon have election #3 followed shortly by Moshiach and obvious geula.

Of course, it’s possible that the army will try to pull off a peaceful coup if all that starts to happen, and especially if a war does kick off in the meantime, which is when things will definitely get even more interesting. If that happens, it will also be followed shortly by Moshiach and obvious geula.

Hey, life is looking up!

I’m looking forward to 5780.

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Before Moshiach shows up, it says the troubles will pile up non-stop.

The last few months, I don’t think I’ve had a single night of peaceful, unbroken sleep. Between the teenagers, the heat (I don’t have air-conditioning) and the endless mosquitoes, every single night has seen me wake up multiple times.

And this has been going on since November. And really, I can’t even blame the teenagers because even on the nights that they’ve both been in school, I still have been sleeping pretty badly.

All this means that I am plodding through life like a half-dazed zombie at the moment. There are some days I’m so tired, I can’t even think about what to make for supper, let alone actually go and buy the stuff. It’s a problem.

I feel I can’t really ‘interact’ at more than a basic level with anyone right now, because I’m totally whacked out and I just don’t have the energy to do it. And then, there’s the matter of the book.

====

I was actually just finishing up a piece of creative non-fiction five months ago, that I’d been working on with a developmental editor, and it was coming along very nicely. Literally as I got to the last page of that, One in a Generation Volume II suddenly came back on to the radar as a ‘live’ project, and I spent the 6 weeks before Pesach working at the speed of light to get that book out before Seder night.

I don’t know why there was such a mad rush, exactly, but I had the sense that it was very important spiritually to get that book ‘out there’, even though so few people have actually bought it or read it.

Then it was Pesach, which I had to sort out in a week as I had so little time beforehand because I’d been working on One in a Generation, and like all of us, I found preparing for the festival pretty exhausting. Over chol hamoed, I was so whacked out that mostly all I did was stay home, which is pretty unusual for me.

Time to slow down a bit, paint some more, do things at a quieter pace, I told my husband back then, as he nodded sagely.

That’s not exactly what happened.

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Post-Pesach, Shuvu Banim decided that they’d like to make something of a PR push around the book.

They found a professional who was happy to volunteer their services, so that more people would have a chance of hearing the truth about the huge miscarriage of justice around Rabbi Berland. So, I spent the month after Pesach putting together one PR proposal after another, one website after another, and having regular meetings to try to get One in a Generation to take off, somehow.

So much effort. So much work. So little to really show for it.

====

====

This is how the PR guy recently summed up our campaign, in an email he sent me about all the problems he was having with the newswires.

“They think Rav Merav didn’t say his quote, that we faked it. But they don’t want to speak with him and then they want him to have an email with an official domain of a business or a Shuvu Banim email to then go through some verification process. However the strength of his quote is the fact he is an independent well known rabbi and not part of Shuvu Banim. We followed their process without giving him a Shuvu email and they said it was not good enough…
They also said a couple lines from your quote must be removed because it is against the Israeli court ruling… They also said we could not link to your video because of the same.  They didn’t want the parts saying there was fake evidence, the accusations were false, and that this was like Yosef from 3,000 years ago.  They got very nasty on the phone…
Most opposition I ever got in 15 years and that includes working for a company accused of compromising US national security and another accused of causing cancer!”
====

Go back and read that again, because I want you to really grasp how much censorship of information is going on in the world generally, and about Rabbi Berland specifically. The media is totally manipulating the public to only think what they want us all to think, and to suppress any facts that goes against their narrative.

In the end, we had to shoot a video of Rabbi Meirav with totally toned-down quotes, just so the newswire would agree to even cover it. More ‘troubles’….

====

So then, we got up to Shavuot and I was feeling mega exhausted.

I asked my husband if we could go to Uman for the chag, just us two. He agreed, we went – and then I discovered that the kever is totally closed to women over Shavuot, so I couldn’t get in. More ‘troubles’…

Instead, I went to Gan Sofia, and spent isru chag lying under some massive trees on an island in the middle of the main lake there. It was bliss. It was probably the first time I’ve ever chilled out in Uman, and I felt like Rabbenu was giving me a massive dose of ‘relaxation’ to counter-balance all the stress and lack of sleep of recent months.

The night we flew out, we’d also swung past Hevron for an hour, to join in Rabbi Berland’s prayer gathering, which he’d called after we’d already booked our tickets to the Ukraine. Rabbi Berland promised: Everyone who comes won’t have a minute more of suffering!

Who could resist a deal like that?

So now we get to the crux of this post.

====

The day after I got back from Uman, I answered an ad looking for a new service that was looking for books to launch as part of a pilot program that was heavily discounted from what they’d charge once they’d got it all figured out.

I figured I’d try my luck, so I sent a two line email describing a book that was ‘almost finished’, that maybe would fit their program. In reality, I hadn’t written it yet, I just had the title, but I was so sure they wouldn’t respond.

Long story short: they took the book.

Which means I’ve spent the last few weeks furiously typing like a banshee again, trying to get the draft done to something at least approaching the time scale. It’s nearly done now, but in the meantime I’ve been totally neglecting my household and family the last month, AGAIN, and I know that’s not good, but what could I do, really?

The ‘troubles’ pile up like one wave after another, before one trouble is over, another begins…

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Yesterday night, after another day’s hard typing, I staggered off to bed at 10pm to see if I could try and get a good night sleep.

Just as I was dozing off, the ubiquitous mosquito showed up, and started dive-bombing my face.

This usually occurs in the five minutes just before I’m about to drop off, and I can get so agitated trying to find the mosquito zapper to electrocute it that all my adrenalin starts pumping, and then it takes me hours and hours to calm down enough to get back to sleep.

Yesterday, I was so tired, I couldn’t be bothered fighting that thing.

Let it bite me, let it suck my blood. I’m past caring.

I fell asleep – and an hour later, I woke up again because my husband had come home, and had just switched on the bedside light to try and track down the mosquito. He’s a great guy, but he’s got this habit of shining that spotlight straight in my face in the middle of the night, like he’s practicing to join a Mexican torture gang.

I squinted at him standing there with the mosquito zapper, looking apologetic but determined, and I wondered to myself:

God, are You out to get me? Because I have to tell you, it’s really starting to feel that way.

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I was too tired to take it further yesterday night, but this morning, I think I finally figured out what’s going on.

It says before Moshiach comes, the troubles will come so thick and fast that before one ‘problem’ is even over, the next one starts up. I know so many people are going through the ringer at the moment, with awful, massive problems hitting them thick and fast.

And in my house?

The ‘problems’ are my books, which are taking up so much headspace and energy without really giving a heck of a lot back, and the ‘troubles’ are the mosquitos, that hide out in my room just waiting for me to go to sleep.

But this morning, I realized just how lucky I am to have troubles like these.

Yes, on one level I’m having difficulties coping with the daily challenge of not getting enough sleep, but I’m not really suffering from all this, even though it’s challenging.

After Hevron, it seems ‘the troubles’ got sweetened.

But let’s be clear, I’m still looking forward to the time when I get have a good night’s sleep again, and not walk through life like a spaced-out zombie, and have a bit of time to paint and to actually interact with people.

But at least until Tu B’Av, it seems that just ain’t going to happen.

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Photo by Mourad Saadi on Unsplash

It’s getting scarier and scarier in America and chul for Jews – but it’s also pretty scary in Israel too. What’s a person to do?

I got another email from a long-time reader on the topic of moving to Israel, which (with her permission) I’d like to respond to publically, as I think it will hopefully help more people out there get some clarity on what’s really involved with moving to Israel. My correspondent, who lives abroad, but who is a very sincere Jew who does a lot of work on really trying to connect to Hashem, and really trying to have some emuna,  sent me this:

“My question is as follows. When Caleb came back from spying on Eretz Yisrael he says the following:

‘Only Caleb, who was 40 years old, and Joshua son of Nun disagreed. They said (Numbers 14:7–9): “The land that we traversed and scouted is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord is pleased with us, He will bring us into that land, a land that flows with milk and honey, and give it to us; only you must not rebel against the Lord. Have no fear then of the people of the country, for they are our prey: their protection has departed from them, but the Lord is with us. Have no fear of them!’”

My correspondent continued:

“It clearly states that if Hashem is pleased with us He will bring us into the land that flows with milk and honey… but then it says very clearly but you must not rebel against Hashem.

“The State of Israel is clearly rebelling against Hashem, in that case do we still have an obligation to move there? Will we be protected there? Are consequences going to follow, being that we are rebelling? I am honestly scared, I am scared for the States that are currently rebelling but I am also scared of Eretz Yisrael because we are rebelling there as well….

“So where do we go?

I love the holiness of the land, I love the land, my Neshama yarns to be home. I know that America is coming to an end and that Hashem is calling us home. However the corruption of the state of Israel is what scares me. At the times of the spies it was the Amalekites who were corrupt, but Caleb says we will have protection if we cling to Hashem.

“But this time, the Jewish nation is doing corrupt things, so what does that mean for us?… All these questions are coming from a genuine place. Please enlighten me.”

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I’ve known this person for years, and they are not someone who is looking for an ‘easy out’ or to duck mitzvahs, or to avoid coming out of their comfort zone.

This is a very committed Jew, who is asking some very serious questions about moving to Israel, and they require a serious response. So with God’s help, here’s my best shot at providing it.

As is my way, I’m going to break down the points above and answer them one by one. Let’s start with this:

“It clearly states that if Hashem is pleased with us He will bring us into the land that flows with milk and honey… but then it says very clearly but you must not rebel against Hashem.

“The State of Israel is clearly rebelling against Hashem, in that case do we still have an obligation to move there? Will we be protected there? Are consequences going to follow, being that we are rebelling? I am honestly scared, I am scared for the States that are currently rebelling but I am also scared of Eretz Yisrael because we are rebelling there as well….”

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The STATE is not the LAND

The first thing to clarify about moving to Israel is that the STATE of Israel, and the LAND of Israel are two totally different things. The STATE of Israel is the secular institution and government that happens to be in control of the LAND of Israel.

While the STATE of Israel likes to dress it itself up in Jewish clothing, it’s honestly been anti-God, anti-Torah, and anti-orthodox Judaism right from the very start. You don’t have to take my word for that! Yair Lapid himself will tell you this in this video, where he describes how Ben Gurion and all the rest of them basically thought the haredim in Israel would totally disappear within a couple of generations, which is why he wasn’t so bothered about granting yeshiva students exemptions from serving in the IDF.

The Labour Zionist Communists who pretty much ruled Israel with an iron fist for its 50 years (and who are still ‘ruling’ it today by way of the courts, the media and the STATE’s institutions…) were vehemently ‘anti’ orthodox Judaism, and ‘anti’ a Torah observant lifestyle right from the start.

They were rebelling against God right from the start, and God has had an awful lot of patience with them.

Why?

Because they were the ‘shell’ around the fruit, as Rav Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook writes.

The STATE was the shell, the husk, that had to be in place while the far more beautiful spiritual dimension of the LAND of Israel was developing. People couldn’t move to Israel en masse until the place had proper roads, sewage facilities, places for people to work, water pipes, schools built.

So the STATE fulfilled a very important function in enabling more Jews to move to Israel, and God will definitely give a full measure of reward to all those who participated in that process, religious or not.

In terms of the obligation to move to Israel – I’m not a posek. But I can tell you for sure, the LAND of Israel didn’t disappear just because the STATE of Israel took over. Back in the desert, the spies could have made the same argument:

“Look, guys, the people running the show in the Land of Canaan are totally corrupt! And they’re ‘anti’ God and the Torah lifestyle! And they will be fighting us every step of the way if we try to move in there, and telling us we’re trying to ‘take over’ their neighborhoods, and they’re going to write demeaning, hate-filled things about us and our children in the press, and openly discuss ways of reducing our population, and trying to make life hard in a billion different ways….

“So maybe, let’s forget the whole idea of moving to Canaan, and let’s just stay here in Monsey.”

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God said no.

God said – move to Israel any way, and go and help build the land into the beautiful, holy place it’s destined to be. All that stuff about the place being full of scary chilonim who think haredi people are no better than grasshoppers – it’s just an illusion! If you’re with Me – with Hashem – there is nothing to fear.

As it was then, so it is now.

Nothing has changed.

Except to say that in 2019, there are more orthodox Jews in Israel, and more Jews who believe in God, and more Jews becoming mitzvoth observant than at any other time in the last 100 years.

If God protected the God-less, yucky atheists and communists back in Israel’s War of Independence in 1948 – after everything they did (and notably didn’t do…) in World War II, He’ll continue to protect the Jewish people as a whole.

But there are clearly some caveats to that answer, so read on.

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Q: Will we be protected there?

Short answer: I don’t know. I’m not God. Good people still get killed in road accidents in Israel, good people still drown in flash floods, they still get murdered by terrorists, God forbid, lo alenu.

If someone has a soul correction that requires them to be taken from the world at an early age, presumably that’s going to happen wherever they live. But the other ‘bad stuff’ that happens usually comes as a result of not living life in alignment with God’s plans for us.

So, the more we make teshuva, the more we have emuna, the more we stay close to Hashem and His true tzaddikim, the more our chances go up of living a blessed, happy, healthy life.

Rebbe Nachman tells a parable about a man who was set a task by a king of moving a massive, heavy stone from place to the other.

The man tried, but couldn’t do it – it was impossible! So then the king said to him: “I didn’t mean for you to move that heavy stone in once piece. I wanted you to break it up into small chunks, and to transport it that way, instead.”

When a person moves to Israel and starts to live here, they are working on refining their character and polishing their souls 24/7. Every time you have to deal with a rude government clerk, or ridiculous bureaucracy, or stabbing terrorists, or awful loneliness on Shabbat because you just can’t socialize here in the same thoughtless way, or a tremendous fear about making parnassa – you are breaking off a little bit more of the ‘stone’ in your soul, and transporting it from arrogance to humility. Or from not seeing God in your life to having more emuna. Or from ‘controlling’ to accepting.

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Day to day life can be so very challenging in Israel.

Just ask the people who live with incendiary balloons down by the Gaza border, or regular rocket attacks, or stabbings. But also in the small things, like not being able to talk the language properly, feeling like a perpetual outsider, missing a place, a persona, a store that you can no longer access.

God does that on purpose.

It’s part of the ‘soul clean-up’ program that is living in the Holy Land. To be challenged on a daily basis, and to keep looking for God behind it all.

Can a person do that outside of Israel?

Sure!

But it’s so much harder. Life in chul is much more superficial, the bubble is padded so much better, the whole society is geared far more to materialism and arrogance and ‘doing’ instead of being.

The soul’s voice gets very smothered and so very easily distorted in chul.

Can a person totally ignore God in Israel?

Sure!

But they aren’t happy. Look at all these secular politicians, look at all these ranting journalists, look at all these hi-tec entrepreneurs with their shaved heads and angry, hard faces. It’s much, much harder to ignore God here, even when you’re trying so hard to do that.

That’s why so many of the ‘anti’ people – or their kids – end up moving away, ultimately.

Are there consequences for rebelling?

Of course, yes. But God is fair, and no-one will have to ‘pay’ for someone else’s mistakes or sins. Does that guarantee safety and a good life? Nope. But it means that nothing will happen to a person that isn’t 100% what is meant to happen. But here’s the thing:

There are also consequences for ‘rebelling’ out of Israel, too.

It’s the stone analogy. The people who aren’t shifting that stone bit by bit end up having to deal with all their ‘rubbish’ all at once, one way or another. God pays the rope out for years – for generations – hoping that someone will wake up and return to Him.

But His patience isn’t infinite, and there are far more Jews spitting in God’s face in the US and chul than in Israel. There will definitely be consequences to face, wherever a person happens to live, whether they move to Israel, or not. The question is, will the consequences be ‘dropped’ on a person all at once, or will they be paid out slowly, drip drip, every single day?

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Honestly?

Sometimes, I also feel a bit scared about all the corruption here. When I was researching the book on the Rav, and when I realized what was really happening in Israel, it was the only time in my life that I had the fleeting thought that maybe, I’d made a mistake by moving to Israel.

Thank God, it only lasted for two days, but it was a very hard challenge to go through.

Very quickly, God reminded me about the hundreds and thousands of ways Jewish life in Israel is so much better here than anywhere else.

This morning, I passed the little orange Lottery Booth down the street, and I saw the lottery guy squished in there with his tallit and tefillin on, praying. That made me so happy.

It makes me so happy that even the graffiti on the wall here often makes me think – like some I read today, that said:

“I [expletive] love Jerusalem, but the people here really talk to you!!!”

I love having the Kotel so close, having holy graves to visit, I love that even the secular looking man in the underwear shop on Jaffa Street gave me a whole, fat Torah class on the importance of having emuna.

I love that I can go to my kid’s school, and see 50 Jews there from such different backgrounds, all talking about what they can do to build a Jewish school, and a Jewish community, in the Holy Land.

I love that so much of the country is kosher, that my kids can quote Biblical passages easily, by heart, because they are written in their language.

I love the craziness, the warmth, the realness, the way it just feels like ‘home’ the way no other place in the world does.

I love the lack of violence on the street (terrorists and crazy drivers notwithstanding). I love the way the sky seems so close in Jerusalem, you can reach out and almost touch it.

Heaven is within arm’s reach here.

And if that’s important to you, you won’t find that proximity to holiness anywhere else.

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There’s a lot more to say on the topic of moving to Israel, there always is.

BH, I will put together my more practical guide to the pros and cons of moving to Israel and living here.

But here’s kind of the take-home message:

While there are Jews rebelling against God all over the world at the moment, God forbid, only in Israel are they also returning to Him in such tremendous numbers.

Teshuva is in the air here, holiness is in the water.

And sooner or later, people will return.

====

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Forty years ago, on the eve of Pesach, 1979 (April 12th), a young Jewish man named Steven Finkelstein was found horrifically mutilated and dead, at the base of Haystack Rock, off the Oregon coast.

Haystack Rock measures around 300 foot tall, and is located a little out to sea off the coast at Cannon Beach. At high tide, it’s surrounded by water. On the evening of April 12th, 1979 when the police were called to the scene, they were told by a man named Mills – the only witness to what had occurred – that Steve Finkelstein had decided to climb up the rock, and had slipped and fallen to his death.

There were a few things that made this story unlikely:

  • That day, the weather had been awful – it was sleeting, hailing and the winds had reached 50 mph. Not the sort of weather you go climbing up rocks.
  • According to his father, Herschel (who you will hear more about in a moment) Steve was not a rock-climber. But if he’d chosen to climb a rock as dangerous as Haystack Rock, he certainly would have prepared himself better to do it, than by wearing his trademark slippery-soled cowboy boots.
  • Steve’s throat had been slit, and his body was so badly mangled that the acting coroner found it difficult to believe that even a fall off a rock in bad weather could account for the injuries, and suspected foul play.
  • Mills was an obvious anti-semite.
  • The year before, a notorious white supremacist located in Oregon called William Pierce had published a dystopian novel novel called The Turner Diaries, which advocated the mass ritual killing of Jews in America.

Strangely, the Oregon police force didn’t press for an autopsy, the case was never properly investigated, and they accepted Mills’ account of a ‘bad accident’ without any further investigation.

Steve’s father, Herschel, spent a lot of time and money investigating what had actually happened, and much of what he discovered he wrote up in a book he recently self-published, called The Adventures and Travels of a Poor Chemist. Today, Herschel lives in a nursing home in Jerusalem, and that’s where I went to visit him, to interview him about his book a couple of weeks before Pesach.

Herschel believes that neo-Nazis killed his son, and that this was covered up by the authorities at the time, not least because the two main suspects were soldiers in the US army.

(You can see an excellent article that covers a lot of the details of Steve Finkelstein’s death HERE.)

THE TURNER DIARIES

Three days ago, after the shooting at the Poway synagogue in Chabad, I finally sat down to start putting Herschel’s story together, and to do a little more research into one “William Pierce”, a former Physics Professor from Portland, Oregon, who had written something called “The Turner Diaries.”

The Turner Diaries were first released by Pierce in 1978 – the year before Steve died – writing under the pseudonym ‘Andrew MacDonald’. Here’s a very brief overview of the plot. (Go HERE to see a fuller version)

THE BASIC PLOT

In 2099, the diaries of one ‘Earl Turner’ are discovered, which describes how white supremacists in the US band together to overthrow the Federal government, and then undertake a ‘race war’ which spreads to the rest of the world. Here’s a chunk of what the Wiki entry says:

“The story starts soon after the federal government has confiscated all civilian firearms in the country under the fictional Cohen Act. Turner and his cohorts take their organization underground to engage in a guerrilla war against the System [the US Federal Government], depicted as dominated by Jewish control.[4] The “System” begins by implementing numerous repressive laws on various forms of hate, by making it a “hate crime” for white people to defend themselves from crime by non-whites even after all weapons are confiscated, and by pushing for new surveillance measures in order to monitor its citizens, such as a special passport required at all times and in all places to permanently monitor where individuals are. The “Organization” starts its campaigns by committing acts such as the bombing of FBI headquarters, then executing an ongoing, low-level campaign of terrorismassassination, and economic sabotage throughout the United States.”

Long story short, the fictional Turner and his neo-nazi, White supremacist buddies (many of whom formerly joined the US military in order to get properly trained up for the coming ‘Race War’), decide to start a violent uprising aimed at “fomenting racial conflict” in the US, which eventually leads to a full-scale civil war.

They do this by shooting up all different houses of worship, executing thousands of black people, making non-white people “Public Enemy Number 1”, and of course, by beating, lynching and shooting any Jews they can find. All these acts of violence are filmed “for propaganda purposes”.

The white supremacists then get their hands on nuclear weapons, and use them to nuke NYC and Tel Aviv. Then a bunch of other countries start to collapse, including France, Netherlands and the former USSR, as anti-semitism soars. The US becomes a military dictatorship ultimately run by White Supremacists, and 75% of the world – i.e. everyone brown, black or Jewish – is totally destroyed.

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ANY CONNECTION WITH THE RECENT SHOOTINGS AGAINST THE JEWISH COMMUNITY?

So, as I’m reading this, I can’t help thinking about the recent shooting that happened in the Poway Chabad Synagogue in San Diego, and the shooting that happened at the ‘Tree of Life’ synagogue in Pittsburgh back in October 2018. And I started to wonder to myself: Did the shooters at those events have any knowledge of these ‘Turner Diaries’?

According to THIS article:

““The Turner Diaries” …. has been cited by numerous white supremacists since the late 1970s, including the Oklahoma City bomber. The mass shooter in Christchurch, New Zealand, paid homage to the book by writing a reference to it on his gun.

“The Turner Diaries” — known as the “Bible of the extremist right” — depicts the birth of a new world order through the actions of a few paramilitary warriors who manage to overthrow powerful governments by motivating regular people to their own violence acts. That sentiment is littered throughout the Poway shooter’s letter, as he praises other men accused of murdering Jews and Muslims.”

FICTION OR REALITY?

Back in March 2019, a white supremacist opened fire on two mosques in Christchurch, killing 50 worshippers and wounding hundreds more. Exactly as per the ‘instructions’ in The Turner Diaries, this act of violence was filmed “for propaganda purposes”.

The Poway shooter also wanted to film his shooting spree, too, but apparently couldn’t figure out the logistics in the heat of the moment. And Robert Bowers, the Tree of Life shooter, posted before the attack that he’d been inspired to kill Jews because Jews were “bringing in invaders that kill our people.”

Again, this plot line is straight out of The Turner Diaries. More digging turned up the disturbing nugget that researcher JM Berger estimates that at least 200 people have been murdered off the back of Turner Diary devotees, since it’s publication in 1978 – and that’s not even including unsolved murders like Steve Finkelstein.

IT’S EASY TO DISMISS THIS AS A PROBLEM OF THE LUNATIC FRINGE

But that would be a grave mistake. In February 2019, the Southern Poverty Law Centre published a report showing that the number of White Supremacist hate groups in the US had jumped from 100 in 2017 to 148 in 2018.

There are millions of people in the US who believe that ‘White Genocide’ –  a term white supremacists use to describe a conspiracy where white people are being ‘deliberately’ outnumbered and outbred by non-white people – is happening right in front of their eyes. They read projections from the Census Bureau in the US that ‘Caucasians will lose their majority by 2044’ – and we’re straight back to the plot in The Turner Diaries.

According to THIS article on the Missouri State website, there are an estimated 25,000 ‘hard core’ white supremacists in the US, with a further 200,000 people attending marches and rallies, or donating money to White Supremacist organisations.

Personally, I believe that figure is a gross understatement. According to the Factchecker website:

“In an ABC News/Washington Post poll taken just after the Charlottesville rally in August 2017, 9 percent of the respondents said they thought it was strongly or somewhat acceptableto hold neo–Nazi or white supremacist views. As ABC News reported at the time, that’s equivalent to about 22 million Americans.”

John Earnest, the shooter at Poway Chabad wouldn’t have shown up as an official ‘white supremacist’ before the attack. And Herschel Finkelstein’s story shows that the true level of white supremacist violence and attacks on minorities may well be under-investigated and under-reported in the US.

No-one really knows how many people are reading The Turner Diaries in the darkest corners of the net, and being ‘inspired’ to plan their own killing sprees against Jews and other communities, God forbid.

But just think about 22 million people holding ‘white supremacist’ views in a country where anyone can legally buy a semi-automatic rifle, and understand what that portends for the Jews in America.

The more I research this, the more I’m convinced that the Tree of Life and Poway are not just unfortunate ‘blips’ on the social radar of a country that’s known for its mass shootings. They are the sign of things to come, as more and more ‘white supremacists’ start trying to make the fictional plot of the Turner Diaries into an awful reality.

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So many of the people on the left like to blame the rise in white supremacy on Trump.

They believe that if Trump was out of the way, this whole problem would die back down and disappear, but this view is based far more on wishful thinking, than a clear grasp of the facts.

Over the last 150 years, the US has excelled at believing its own propaganda about being the most benign and ‘good’ country in the whole world. But the more you research the history of the Modern USA, the more you find a country built on the assumption that ‘white christians’ are superior to everyone else, and that America can justifiably take any action against anyone who opposes them to maintain their status as the world’s economic superpower.

The ‘supremacy’ of white people (preferably christian…) is not just the belief system of a ‘fringe group’ of far-right radicals who only appeared on the scene after Trump became president. This is one of the main foundations that the USA was built on, and you can follow its thread throughout at least 200 years of American history.

That’s an unpleasant truth, it’s an unpalatable idea to many people, I know. Like all countries, America teaches the version of history that makes it look good, and that brushes all the ucky stuff under the carpet. Of course, America has also done a lot of good things in the world, and the picture is by no means starkly black or white.

(For some reason, the Life of Brian scene “What have the Romans ever done for us?” has just flashed before my eyes.)

But in the next post, I’m going to set out some of that darker side of American history – the stuff they don’t teach in the schools, and that is routinely down-played and whitewashed.

We’ll take a look at how the US passed laws to encourage the mass-murder of millions of native Indians; how no less a personage than Hitler, yimach shemam, was ‘inspired’ by the US’s restrictive and discriminatory racial laws in the 1920s; how 20,000 American Nazis crowded into Madison Square Garden on the eve of WWII, in February 1939; and how so much of the “American Dream” has been built against the backdrop of rapacious greed, exploitation and ‘justifiable’ murder and persecution of anyone who stood in the way of American economic interest and expansion.

The time when we could stick our head in the sand and pretend all this is someone else’s problem is long gone. American Jews are in the greatest danger they’ve ever been, and it’s time to take a long, hard look at what America really stands for, and why God is sending ever-clearer messages to the Jewish community there to clear out and come home.

BH I will try to pull much more of these facts together in the next post.

On the back of a few emails about the post on Marriage Guidance – Israel style, I just wanted to elaborate a little more on how to get a good husband:

Pray on him every single day.

Every single day, ask God to help your husband overcome his bad temper, his poor self-esteem, his confusion, his doubts, his bad behavior and warped ideas.

Because we all have these issues, even the very best of us, and a woman’s job is to help to fix her husband’s soul by praying on him (and herself and her family) as much as she can.

That is the secret ingredient, the special sauce, that can turn even the worst relationship between a husband and wife around.

Any marriage counsellor who is not telling a couple to get God involved in the process, can’t really help you long-term and is probably doing way more harm than good.

And any wife who is not willing to pray on her husband, is going to have plenty of challenges and heartache to deal with. (Like, more than you’d get if you were actually praying, because getting marriages to last the distance is hard work, even when you are talking to God a lot.)

We’re not talking about doing six hours a day here, or even six minutes. All it takes is a tiny bit of effort, a smidge of empathy about where all these issues the husband has is actually coming from, and a touch of emuna that God really can do anything, if we get Him involved.

Try this:

  • Buy a bumper bag of tealights, 50, or 100.
  • Light one every single day in the merit of your husband, and say a few words to God about what you’d like Him to work on, e.g. “Please help him stop being so angry, God. Please help him to like himself more. Please help him to stop worrying so much about money, and killing himself at work. Please help him to be nicer to me and the kids. Please help him to realise – all by himself – that when a man looks like he’s 8 months pregnant, no-one finds that attractive, and he needs to join a gym…” – Whatever comes to you.
  • At the end of the 50 days, take your journal and note down any improvements – because I guarantee you’ll see some.
  • Go buy another bumper bag of tealights.
  • Repeat steps 1-4 until you have the man of your dreams.

This may take some time, it’s not a ‘quick fix’, it’s true.

But if at the end of five years solid of doing this you don’t have a wonderful marriage, I’ll eat my hat.

We women, we wives, have so much power to transform, improve and rectify all the problems in our marriage. But that power is only to be found in our prayers, and if we’re not regularly talking to God, we simply can’t get to it.

And we can’t outsource the job of fixing the husband to anyone else, however much we really might want to.

It’s time for some Torah sources, to help us start deconstructing the idea of aliyah.

Off the back of the discussion that’s been taking place around the Deconstructing Geula post, I thought I’d write something deconstructing the whole idea of aliya.

This is such a fraught topic, and so many bad middot and other subconscious impulses come into play with this subject, which is why I’ve generally stayed away from it in my writing. But, after that atrocious book was published to great acclaim in the orthodox Jewish world, which was ‘anti aliya’, to the point of degrading it even as a God-given mitzvah, I think it’s time to look at this subject in some depth, and to deconstruct what’s going on with it.

The first, and really primary, place to start is this:

Does God want Jews to live in Eretz Yisrael, at this stage in time?

Because if the answer is ‘yes’, then there has to be an extremely good reason for not moving here, if you consider yourself to be a God-fearing Jew.

So, without any further ado, let’s dive in the deep end, and see if we can answer the two parts of the question:

  • Does God want Jews to live in Eretz Yisrael generally; and
  • Does God wants Jews to live in Eretz Yisrael now.

THE BIBLICAL MITZVAH TO DWELL IN THE LAND

The following comes from 110b in Ketubot (Artscroll Translation):

“A person can force all the members of his household to go up to Eretz Yisrael to live there, but he can force none of them to leave there.”

The footnote to this clear pronouncement says the following:

[According to Rashi] If a family is living in some country outside of Eretz Yisrael and the father or mother decides that the family should move to Eretz Yisrael, the entire household is coerced [by the Rabbinic Court] to accede to the wishes of the parent and to go and live in Eretz Yisrael….According to some Rishonim, there is a biblical mitzvah to settle Eretz Yisrael…..[o]ther Rishonim maintain that there is no positive commandment to settle Eretz Yisrael.

However, even those authorities agree that it is a worthy cause to live in Eretz Yisrael.

(Which is why they enacted the law that would enable someone to ‘force’ his family to move there, with him. Or her.)

By the way, the mitzvah of settling the land doesn’t depend on ‘the land’ being an easy place to live.

When Moshe’s 12 spies go to take a look at Israel, 10 of them can only see the negative points of the country.

It’s hard there, there’s giants. The land devours its inhabitants. The people are really rough and rude. It’s full of wife-beating Arabs and awful daycare centers. The bureaucracy’s a nightmare, it’s too hot, I can’t get a decent job and my wife will miss her parents too much….

What does Caleb, the spy who figured out that you make it in Israel by doing a lot of hitbodedut and praying at the tombs of holy people tell them, in reply?

We can do it, if God is with us, we’ll eat the Caananites for lunch! There’s no problem that God can’t solve! Israel is where we’re really going to discover if we have emuna, or not, where we’re really going to grow into believing that Ein Od Milvado, there is only Hashem!

Come on, guys, the last 40 years you’ve been giving all these Torah sermons about ‘what God requires from us’, and ‘living our emuna’, and having faith – now it’s time to put your money where your mouth is, and to really live it! So what, you’ll lose your social status?! So what, you don’t speak the language properly and no-one appreciates your PhD?! So what, you can’t even figure out how to ask for a stamp in the post office?! 

All that stuff is humbling, and we know a humble person is much closer to God. God can’t dwell with an arrogant person, we know that! This is your chance to really get humble, and then to get real and stop thinking you’re such a big tzaddik and success, and then to get closer to God. Whaddya say?

 

We know what the spies said: Thanks, but no thanks.

They had prestigious, well-paying positions outside of Israel. They had respect. They had ‘their’ seat in shul, they had their established set of friends, they knew where to get the best chicken. They had nothing against visiting Israel every year for Pesach – still cheaper and nicer than having to clean their own home and cook everything themselves – but that’s as far as it goes.

Was God happy about this?

Nope.

The spies got punished awfully for slandering the land, and putting their fellow Jews off from moving to Israel.

But, your kid is going to struggle in school! Your husband is going to miss out on his amazing Rav, his amazing chavruta! You have a nice bunch of friends here, in the desert! But, you don’t speak the language, you can’t get a good job there, you won’t be able to afford your own home if you move to Israel, the place is full of wife-beating, idol-worshipping Canaanites, the divorce rate there is 80%….

Everybody has the same fears, the same concerns. People can’t live on thin air, it’s true. But again, God often expects some mesirut nefesh, some self-sacrifice from people, in order to keep His mitzvahs.

If someone is interested in working on their soul dimension, then Israel will be appealing to them for a lot of reasons (and if they aren’t, it won’t be, also for a lot of reasons.)

Let’s explore that idea a bit more, tachlis.

ISRAEL IS THE LAND OF EMUNA

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov teaches that Israel is the place where you’re going to learn some real emuna. How? Because you’ll be surrounded by miracles and challenges every second of the day.

In Chutz L’Aretz, a person can sin and sin and sin again, and because spiritual matters are more hidden there, they don’t feel the effect of their sins until the end of their lives – usually when it’s way too late to change course and fix things.

There in the hospital, with a tube up their nose and a drip in their arm, they finally start to realize how much of their life they wasted, chasing after stuff, and holidays, and traif food, and non-kosher experiences, and money, and status, and their own bad middot, because God was out of the picture.

God can hide much easier in chul. You don’t keep Shabbat, you don’t keep kosher, you don’t pay your 10% to charity, you don’t pay any attention to what God really wants from you – you’ll just keep swallowing your Prozac, drinking your G&T and going on holiday, or shopping, or working like a dog to drown out any inner discomfort you feel as a result.

And God lets you.

That’s why being in galut is such an ordeal, spiritually such a test. Because it really can seem as though you can game the system, and live a good life even if you’re a bitter atheist with terrible character traits.

But in Israel, it’s not like that.

It says that you walk dalet amot, four amot, in Israel, and that atones for your sins. Do you know why? Because every dalet amot here, you’ll be faced with another rude person, another problem, another challenge, another issue, that has been 100% tailored by God to bring your bad middot to the fore, and to show you what you still have left to work on.

Really? You’re not so bothered about gashmius? Let’s see how you’re going to cope when every brand of kosher-for-Pesach mayonnaise in the country has kitniot in it. Let’s see how much you start craving all the brands in TX Maxx, let’s see how you cope with just one toilet between seven people, and no cleaning help.

And there’s more tests, too. Like, trying to find a school for your kid; and trying to deal with the wounded ego of your spouse, who used to be a ‘bigshot’ in shul, or at work, but is now scrabbling to hold it together as a relative ‘nothing’ in Israel; or dealing with the tremendous loneliness and boredom of being an Anglo in Israel on Shabbos, which used to be filled up with six hour long Shabbos lunches, and ‘kiddush clubs’ at shul (that went on to 1pm…) and yet more shiurim on how to keep super-machmir standards of kashrut. Etc.

And we didn’t even get into the tests involved with having rockets fired at you on a regular basis, or people trying to stab you just for being a Jew, or getting shot or run over as you wait for a bus.

All these things, all these difficulties, build a person’s emuna like nothing else.

Because if you don’t turn to God to deal with the difficulties in finding work, or finding a place to live, or the million and one other things that force you to get real in Israel very quickly, you can quickly sink without a trace.

That’s why Israel is the land of emuna – dafka, because it shows a person what they need to work on, and how far away they are from really having emuna, and really serving Hashem properly, 24/7.

So when people point to the hardships of living in Israel as a reason to not make aliya, they are kind of missing the point – if they’re really interested in the more spiritual dimension of life.

Which honestly, a lot of people really just aren’t. Even in the ‘orthodox’ world.

Now, let’s take a look at some of the halachic arguments underpinning the ‘anti’ aliya argument.

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TORAH-BASED ARGUMENTS FOR NOT MAKING ALIYA

This approach was basically set out by the late Satmar Rebbe, Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, z’tl, in his book V’Yoel Moshe.

Rav Teitelbaum wrote his book after going through the holocaust. He saw half a million of his Hungarian compatriots sold out by the Zionist government in Israel, who were offered the chance to buy the freedom and lives of the Hungarian Jews by the cash-strapped Nazis – and who turned it down.

The whole sordid tale is told in Ben Hecht’s excellent book, Perfidy, but the Satmar Rebbe was one of the brands snatched from the conflagration in Hungary, and he had personal experience of this most ugly face of secular ‘zionism’. The awful actions of the secular politicians in Israel before, during and after WW II almost certainly influenced the opinions he put forth in his book.

Remember, the Israeli authorities in the 1950s were irradiating the kids of Moroccan immigrants in the tent camps, and cutting off people’s payot, and selling Yemenite children to the highest bidder. They were yucky, ugly people in every sense of the word.

Many of our other leading orthodox leaders, within Israel and without, also recognized who they were really dealing with, and that the secular leadership in Israel was spiritually corrupt, and corrupting to a very high degree.

The Satmar Rebbe took this idea to an extreme in his book, where he puts forward the idea that the anti-Torah Zionists in Israel caused the holocaust to happen, at least indirectly, by their actions, and by ‘forcing the time’ for returning to the land. (We’ll look at what this ‘forcing the time’ is referring to, in a moment.)

First, there’s a partial translation of some of the Satmar Rebbe’s words in V’Yoel Moshe, HERE, which the following ideas are taken from. The Satmar Rebbe avers that:

  • The anti-Torah Zionist groups in Israel caused the holocaust by ‘informing’ on the Jews in Europe to the non-Jewish authorities, and making trouble for the Jews there, in order to turn up the heat and get these Jews to move to the fledgling State of Israel.
  • That these anti-Torah Zionist groups “violated the oath of hastening the end by claiming sovereignty and freedom before the time.”
  • That the secular Zionist groups performed several “cruel actions” before, during and after the war which also lead to the death of hundreds of thousands of Jews.
  • Furthermore, among those who have moved to Eretz Yisrael in these times, most of the immigrants from Arab countries were living peacefully and tranquilly in their countries, lacking nothing, until the establishment of the heretical kingdom in Israel. Through the establishment of that State they began to suffer hatred and persecution in their countries, and the Zionists themselves aided this through their wiles, so as to increase the persecution until they would be forced to emigrate to Eretz Yisrael, destitute and with nothing, and they glorified their saviors, but the truth was the opposite – that [the Zionists] had brought about all of the destruction in the first place. (Va-Yo’el Moshe 123)”

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THE THREE OATHS ‘PREVENTING’ ALIYA

The idea of the three oaths that prevent Jews from returning to Israel before God actually wills it comes from the Gemara (Ketubot 111a), where it brings a discussion between R’ Zeira, who wanted to make aliya to Israel from Bablyonia, and Rav Yehuda who said:

Whoever ascends from Babylonia to Eretz Yisrael transgresses a positive commandment, as it says: “They will be brought to Babylonia and they will be there until the day that I attend to them – when I shall bring them up and return them to this place.

Rav Zeira said that this verse is referring to the sacred utensils that were used in the Temple service, but that people are permitted to make aliya, still. Rav Yehuda disagrees, and says that the verse I have adjured you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by gazelles or by hinds of the field etc means that the Jews are bound by an oath not to ascend to Eretz Yisrael until the Final Redemption.

Rav Zeira says that’s not what this verse means. Rather, he says it means that:

The Jewish people should not converge upon Eretz Yisrael in a wall of force, but that an individual is permitted to settle there, if he wants to.

Rav Yehuda again disagrees, so then R’ Zeira explains there are three oaths, as follows:

  • The Jewish people should not converge upon Israel as a wall of force;
  • Hashem adjured the Jewish people to not rebel against the nations of the world [to try and force their way back to living in Israel before the time God wanted that to happen]; and
  • Hashem also adjured the idolaters (i.e. the non-Jewish nations) not to subjugate and terrorise the Jews more than was required.

R’ Zeira explains that any case, an individual is never adjured to not make aliya to Eretz Yisrael.

This discussion in the Gemara is ‘sandwiched’ between the following statements:

BEFORE: Whoever dwells outside Eretz Yisrael, it’s as if he worships idols.

AFTER: The people dwelling within Eretz Yisrael are forgiven of sin.

This discussion is the halachic basis for the Satmar position, together with some other groups, for why it’s not a mitzvah to make aliya.

But you’ll notice, even in this discussion, it’s clear that the main ‘problem’ being discussed is for groups of Jews to ‘ascend’ all at once. There is no problem for individuals to make aliya, and as is clear from the surrounding text and discussion in the Gemara, the Sages considered it a very praiseworthy thing, to move to Israel.

ARE WE AT ‘THE END’ OR NOT?

The main argument revolves around a discussion of whether we are at the ‘the end’ of the galut, as determined by God, or not. If we’re at ‘the end’, then there is no problem at all with making Aliyah en masse.

If we aren’t at ‘the end’, then it’s good for individuals to make aliya, but still problematic for large groups to come on aliya.

Here’s a few suggested reasons for why the 3 oaths have been superseded:

  • The nations of the world actually gave permission for the State of Israel to be created, back in 1948.
  • The Gemara in Sanhedrin (98a) says that “when Eretz Yisrael gives forth fruit abundantly, it is a sure sign that the redemption is coming”. This was already happening in the early 1900s, in the time of Rav Avraham Kook.
  • Only very large groups coming in a short period of time violate the ‘oath’, it doesn’t apply to a slow trickle of Jews moving here.
  • The Ari’s student, R’ Chaim Vital, said that the oath only applied for 1,000 years.
  • The Vilna Gaon states that the oath applied to rebuilding the Temple, not to resettling the land.

And then, there’s all the evidence we see with our own eyes today, and things that we feel with our own hearts, that tells us whether we are at ‘the end’ or not.

DON’T CONFUSE ‘THE STATE OF ISRAEL’ WITH ERETZ YISRAEL

Another important point to make here is that the State of Israel should not confused, or conflated, with Eretz Yisrael.

When we talk about moving to Israel, we’re not talking about the State. We’re talking about moving to the land that God gave to the Jews more than 3,000 years ago.

Sooner or later, the secular ‘State’ will fall away – as Rav Kook describes it, as the ‘peel’ around the fruit’.

SUMMING UP WHAT’S GOING ON WITH ALIYA, AND RELIGIOUS JEWS IN CHUL

This is a long post, I know (but still probably not doing real justice to the subject….) But let’s try to sum it up, and bring all this information together into something practical and easy-to-digest.

  • If you are a God-fearing Jew, and keeping mitzvahs is important to you, then moving to Israel is a big mitzvah for an individual.

Not one of the Rishonim or Achronim commentators disagrees with this statement.

  • If you want to come to Israel as part of a very large group of people moving here ‘all at once’, there is a Torah view that this is prohibited, as long as we haven’t yet reached ‘The End’.
  • If we’ve reached ‘The End’, the three oaths don’t apply anymore anyway.
  • There’s lots of things that suggest we are now in the stage of ‘the end of days’ – not least, all the pronouncements by the nations’ leading rabbis that we’ve reached ‘the End’.

That’s a basic sum-up of the halachah.

Now, I just want to spend a little bit of time, finally, to explore why more orthodox Jews aren’t moving to Israel.

GETTING REAL

There are three main reasons why more orthodox Jews aren’t coming to Israel:

  • They are scared to come out of the comfort zone.
  • They really do want to come, but God isn’t let them.
  • They actually don’t care so much about keeping mitzvahs, getting closer to God, or working on their emuna.

I won’t belabor this segment, as this is where things can get very sticky. Each person knows what’s really in their heart.

There are people who really do want to come, but are stuck outside for a whole bunch of reasons that really are out of their control. For these people, they are learning emuna and humility by being kept away from Israel.

Then, there are others who really don’t want to come at all, and are just looking for excuses to justify their own spiritual shortcomings – at Israel’s expense.

Then, there’s the third group, who would like to come in theory, and know that it’s good to be here, but are too scared that they won’t have the lifestyle, the money, the connections, the big house, or the career they currently have now, if they leave.

But if we truly have reached ‘The End’, then God will find a way to coax everyone who really can, to make aliya, and He will open the gates to the Holy land, one way or another.

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Deconstructing Geula

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