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Everything has a deeper reason.

Two years ago, the fake ‘Yeshiva World’ news site ran a shocking!!!! ‘expose’ into Rabbi Berland spinning a dreidel in the middle of the Maariv prayers.

Because Yeshiva World News is written by a bunch of morons who apparently don’t know a lot about the deeper reasons for many Jewish customs (and also apparently can’t spell), they believed that this was something ‘shocking’, that all their readers should know about, and be encouraged to condemn in the comments section!!!!

We already wrote HERE about how sites like Yeshiva World News are creating new anti-Semites with almost every headline they pen, and as the violent anti-semitism heats up in the US, it seems a good time for many Jews there – and elsewhere – to do some serious soul-searching about how attitudes and practices in the orthodox Jewish community may be greatly contributing to the problem.

Because nothing  is stam, a coincidence, or an accident.

Everything is from Hashem, everything contains a message, about what we might need to work on, acknowledge, recognise, change or fix.

God is so merciful, God is so compassionate. All He wants is for us to just be honest, and to admit that we’re really not acting the way we should be, and to have a little more humility, and to accept that we’re really not the ‘religious big shots’ we like to pretend we are.

That’s all He wants from us, some candor, and an admission that we are guilty of really not being very good Jews!!!

Because as soon as we admit that, we’ll understand that we can’t do this by ourselves, and we’ll start looking for that one in a generation, that Tzaddik, who is really going to help us get through this gilgul in one piece, get us to the promised land, and get us into the world-to-come.

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In the meantime, a couple of weeks ago the Rav gave over a very interesting lesson, which you can read HERE, where he explained some of the deeper mystical significance behind spinning the dreidel. He said:

The dreidel is linked to redemption

…”You redeemed the tribe of Your inheritance.” Rabbenu (Rebbe Nachman) says that the first letters of this [in Hebrew], Galta Shevet Nahalat Har (Tzion) are Gimel, Shin, Nun and Hei – the letters written on the four sides of the dreidel.

THIS IS NES GADOL HAYAH SHAM (A GREAT MIRACLE OCCURRED THERE).

But now, the Zionists changed it to a Pey.

(The Shin on the dreidel stands for sham – ‘there’, i.e. Eretz Yisrael.  Jewish communities in the diaspora still have driedels with the letter Shin, but when the secular Zionists created the State of Israel, they decreed that the ‘Shin’ should be switched to a Pey – which stand for po, here. I.e., that the great miracle happened here, in Eretz Yisrael.)

We must change it back to Shin, because great secrets are bound up with this!

This is related to the verse, “You have redeemed the tribe of Your inheritance, this mountain of Tzion You have dwelled within it.”

Because through [spinning] the dreidel, the Beit HaMikdash will be built.

Because when we spin the driedel, we spin the letters Gimmel, Shin, Nun and Hey around, and by way of this, Mount Tzion will be rebuilt – only by way of the driedel. We need to spin the dreidel every day, we need to be spinning the driedel every moment, every second.

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If I’ve learnt one thing about true tzaddikim, it’s that you should try to take whatever they say as seriously as possible. Literally, whole worlds depend on this. So then, I ran into a problem:

Where am I going to find a dreidel in Israel that has a Shin instead of a Peh?

It’s really not an easy thing, as of course every dreidel here has a peh, for po – here, the miracle happened here, in the Land of Israel.

Yesterday, an email landed in my inbox offering me a hand-carved dreidel from the Galilee with a ‘shin’ for just 22 shekels! Result!!!

So, I’m ordering mine today, and in the meantime, I thought I should put the details up here too, in case anyone out there would also like to fulfill the words of the Tzaddik HaDor, and spin their dreidel with a Shin, on Chanuka.

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Here’s the details:

Hand made wood every piece is unique.
Wood
22 shekalim
possible with a wooden plate to spin on
together 36 shekalim
2  dreidels and one plate for 74 AIYN DALET
TRUE TZADIKIM
050 3900777
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When more of us turn away from the fake news sites, and the fake blog sites, who really just confuse and mislead so very many people, and who obscure the truth by trying to push themselves forward, instead of humbly guiding people towards the sources of real Torah, real truth, in the world, Moshiach will come.
I’m not a betting woman, but I’m still willing to wager that Rabbi Berland knows far more about why spinning a dreidel is important that YWN. And so this Chanuka – for the first time ever! – I’m going to give it a shot.
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You might also like this article:
https://rivkalevy.com/the-birth-of-moshiach/

Over Shabbat, I dusted off some of my journals from the last few years, and I had a quick leaf through.

What struck me – almost instantly – is how much better my life has got since I found out about Rabbi Eliezer Berland, and took that leap of faith to pay that first pidyon over to him, when he was still in South Africa.

I wrote about that HERE, but long story short, by the time I’d got to Rav Berland and Shuvu Banim, I was totally exhausted and miserable from trying to live a life filled with what I’d like to call ‘ugly’ emuna.

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Ugly emuna works like this:

You deeply internalize that God is doing everything, that everything is for the best, and that there is no “suffering without sin”. You try to find the message in everything, and as your fear of being punished for sinning grows – because let’s face it, we’re all full of sins 24/7, even when we’re doing our very best to act and dress and speak appropriately – you live in fear of the bolt of lightning striking at any second, because no-one is perfect.

Then, you get caught up in what I call the ‘unwinnable game’.

This is where you know that ‘spiritual perfection’ requires that you never speak badly of anyone; and judge everyone favorably; and never lose your temper; that you should wear bullet-proof tights and only dark clothes; that you should spend hours reciting the shemoneh esrei, and only live in Jerusalem, and only ever say ‘thank you’ for everything that happens, however hard and horrible it feels, and only have emuna 24/7.

And you just can’t do it.

You try, you really try, but you just can’t do that, or at least not all the time, not consistently.

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And that’s when the emuna you’re trying to have can turn pretty ugly.

Because you’re sitting there, waiting for the lightning bolt to strike, because that’s what you’re being taught, that everything that’s going ‘wrong’ in your life is because you don’t have enough emuna, or because you’re not praying enough, or not ‘properly’, or because of all the terrible sins you’re doing….

And on some level, this is all true.

That’s why it’s so devastating.

And then, life gets pretty hard and miserable and horrible, because all these yucky things keep happening to you, and no-one is talking about tikkunim that you have to go through from previous lives, that just have to happen regardless of how much teshuva you make in this lifetime (more on this in a mo….)

And no-one is talking about things like ‘inherited stress’, where so many of your bad middot and deepest emotional issues have actually been passed down the chain from your grandparents, and great-grandparents, exactly as described in the Torah, in Ki Tetzae.

And no-one is explaining that only coming closer to the generation’s True Tzaddik, and doing pidyonot with the True Tzaddik, and following the True Tzaddik’s advice, and praying in the True Tzaddik’s minyan is the only way you can really get all that stuff ‘sweetened’ and cleaned up without having to go through a lot of terrible suffering.

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So then, even though your ‘authentic’ self occasionally just has an overwhelming need to do something ‘bad’, like listening to Sweet Child O Mine, or to watch some Superman clips on Youtube, or to dress like yourself, instead of ‘perfect Meah Shearim’, you don’t do that because you’re so worried about getting immediately punished by the lightning bolt.

There is no suffering without prior sin.

And let’s not even talk about the awful pressure you pile on your kids to be perfect!!!!

Because if they aren’t perfect, you live in fear of what terrible judgments they could bring down on their heads, God forbid – and on yours, too.

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And then, you start to hate every single moment of your life, because you can’t really live it as ‘you’, and instead you’re trying to maintain a façade of perfect, emuna-dik ‘perfection’.

When there is such a profound disconnect between who God created you to be, and who you’re pretending to be, that can effect your mental and physical health in a whole bunch of very negative ways.

In my case, I had at various times debilitating exhaustion, chronic and severe aches and pains in every part of my body, stomachaches, headaches, eye aches, skin issues – clearly, I’m not even telling you all the gory details. Suffice to say, trying to live that life of ugly emuna was making me miserable, ill – and also horribly judgmental and jealous of those people who weren’t stuck trying to win the unwinnable game.

In that way, ugly emuna was like growth serum for all of my worst bad middot.

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It made me callous and even pleased when other people hit a tough patch, because then I felt it wasn’t just me who was suffering so much. It made me jealous of all those people who weren’t dressing so tznius, or praying so much, and who still had nice homes, and nice incomes and bigger families and better health and much better prospects than me.

What’s going on here, Hashem???? Where’s the justice??? Why haven’t they been struck by a lightning bolt yet????

As this continued on, I got more and more miserable, judgmental, harshly critical, bitter and arrogant, until absolutely no-one wanted to hang out with me and even my siblings started avoiding my phone calls.

And honestly, who could blame them?

And then, the judgments start piling up thick and fast, because Hashem prizes peace between people so very highly, and He can’t stand it when you keep preaching your arrogant emuna screeds at everyone, and having so little compassion for their suffering, and judging everyone so very harshly, because clearly they deserve all their suffering!!!! Look at the way they dress!!!!

Sigh.

This is ugly emuna.

And man, it nearly totally ruined my life.

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I literally got to the stage, which lasted for about two years, where I actually didn’t want to be alive any more, if this is how I’d have to keep living.

Stuck in the unwinnable game, where apparently the only way I could keep Hashem happy was to become a ‘fake pious’ version of myself that was totally disconnected from the person that God really created me to be.

I’m a bridge between worlds, a connection between Rabbi Nachman and Axel Rose.

And for as long as I wasn’t doing that job in the world, and not being the real me God created me to be, I was miserable, physically ill, and so very lonely.

But what could I do???? If I left that path of ugly emuna, I was so very scared that the lightning bolt was going to immediately crash through the roof. That’s why I kept it going for so long. I was petrified of what was going to happen, if I quit.

Thank God a million times, Hashem had mercy on me.

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One day, my husband brought back a Knishta Chadar – a copy of the Shuvu Banim newsletter that contained a mixture of Rabbi Berland’s Torah, plus updates about his latest movements and miracle stories – and I was blown away.

Wow! There’s a tzaddik of this caliber in our generation?! I had no idea!!

I read 2, 3, 4 Knishta Chadars, and then I decided we should try to ask the Rav a question about what we needed to do, to get our lives out of ugly emuna mode, and into a healthier, happier place. The answer came back: my husband should start learning in Shuvu Banim.

So he did.

And we never looked back.

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The change was instantaneous.

All of a sudden, we started to hear shiurim about how sticking close to the True Tzaddik can sweeten all the terrible tikkunim a person is fated to go through because they were slaughtering their children to Moloch 3,000 years ago, and a huge weight rolled off of me.

The more me and my husband started to drink from Rav Berland’s wellsprings of Torah and emuna, the happier we started to feel again. The more I started to internalize that God really loves me – and everyone else – and that He’s constantly looking for ways to justify me, and to judge me favorably.

The more I started to understand that as long as I keep doing my hitbodedut, and keep working on my bad middot, and keep trying to see the good in other people, instead of judging myself and everyone so harshly, and pretending to be what I really was not, the better my life would become.

Within a few months, my health improved tremendously, I got my joie de vivre back, and my relationship with my kids – which had basically gone totally off a cliff when I was stuck in ugly emuna mode, which demanded unattainable perfection from them, too – made a 180 degree turnaround for the better.

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In a nutshell, I started to enjoy living my life again.

because now, I was living it as me, and trusting that the True Tzaddik was shielding me from the harsh judgments I’m still inevitably building up all the time, because I’m not perfect.

Sure, I have to still try to catch my bad deeds, and my bad actions, and to try to improve and take responsibility for them. But because the pressure is off and the awful, ugly emuna-induced fear has gone, I’m also finding that part of the process way easier, too.

Now that I’m so much happier myself, my jealousy has receded a million percent. Now that I’m doing a better job of judging myself with a good eye, I’m finding it way easier to judge other people favorably, too. And now that I’m enjoying my life again, I’m finding it so much easier to thank God – sincerely! – for so many of my blessings.

It’s not perfect, I’m not perfect. I’m a work in progress and still very flawed.

But learning that ‘4th rule of emuna’ changed everything around for me and my family, and turned the ugly emuna that was actually really just killing me, into something beautiful, and life-affirming and humbling.

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So what is the 4th rule of emuna?

I would sum it up like this. The 4th rule of emuna is:

That there is a True Tzaddik in the world that we need to discover, and to stick close to, if we want to be able to avoid the terrible suffering that we would otherwise have to go through, because of tikkunim from our past lives.

That means following his advice, attending his minyan, learning his teachings, and humbling ourselves to be part of his community and his sphere of influence.

True, sometimes that’s hard.

But ugly emuna thrives wherever there is arrogance, harsh judgment and hypocrisy, and all of those things wither pretty fast when you’re at Shuvu Banim.

You get kids running you over with strollers, people smacking you in the face (accidentally…) with their bags, you stand up for hours during the prayers because there are no chairs. And when you tell people who your Rav is, that doesn’t always go down so well. It can be very humbling, very challenging, in a few different ways.

And sometimes, there are other tests designed to take you down a peg or two, like buying a house you can’t get a mortgage on, or starting a business (or three…) that goes no-where.

But all of these things are temporary issues, temporary challenges, just to scrub more of your arrogance out of the system, and to shine a spotlight on more of the bad middot you still didn’t work on, and to help you to understand that there is no perfection. And that’s ok.

God already knows that about you.

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So, I read my notebooks today, and I was so very grateful that God had mercy on me, and let me get closer to Rabbi Berland, the True Tzaddik of the generation, so my ugly emuna could transform into something much more beautiful and life-affirming.

And that can happen for you, too.

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You might also like this article:

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Photo by Jordan Whitfield on Unsplash

If there’s one thing you can learn from the Gemara, it’s how to discuss things like a mensch.

Let me start off by saying I know a volcano exploded in New Zealand with a lot of casualties a few days’ ago. Most people don’t know this, but the city of Auckland – New Zealand’s capital city – is built on a massive, active volcanic field.

That this hasn’t happened before is really just miraculous – and as we covered a while back in THIS post about the Grand Solar Minimum that started last year, the earthquakes and the volcanic explosions are due for a massive uptick all over the world in the next two decades – unless something ‘supernatural’ happens to sweeten them all.

I also know there was a terror attack in Jersey City, and that American anti-semitism also seems to be coming to a boil. At the end of this post, you’ll find a bunch of articles related to that topic, if you’d like to revisit them.

So, I’m not ignoring these things, just they aren’t my priority at the moment.

My priority is trying to figure out some more of the things that are keeping us all stuck, miserable and away from Hashem, because as soon as more of us break out of our inner galut, the outer galut – together with all its terrible issues and suffering – will get fixed, too.

Because the main – and actually only – thing keeping us in galut, and keeping all this suffering spinning around, is that we’re whitewashing and justifying our own bad middot, instead of trying to work on them.

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‘My rabbi is better than yours’

So, with that intro, I thought I’d take a look at what I’m going to call ‘my rabbi is better than your rabbi’ syndrome, which is basically more of that ‘partisan politics’ that’s poisoning the whole world, just it’s dressed up in pious clothing.

One of the reasons that I loved Breslov so much, when I finally stumbled across it, was because Breslov puts a big emphasis on respecting other Rebbes, and other orthodox Jewish paths, even when they don’t always agree with the Breslov shita.

After years of one-dimensional Torah from people who only ever seemed to quote the same small handful of sources, the same small group of commentators, the same small group of rabbis that they found ‘acceptable’, I got to Breslov, and it was like the whole panoply of the Torah was restored to the discussion.

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Breslov rabbis were as happy to quote the Vilna Gaon and Rav Shach as they were the Baal Shem Tov and Rebbe Nachman.

Whoever had a good piece of Torah to teach, a good lesson to share, that commentator would be quoted and referenced, regardless of whether they were Sephardi, Ashkenazi, Litvak, Chassid, pro-zionist, anti-zionist – it didn’t matter! This was so refreshing to me, not least because I’ve learned that any system of ideas, or approach that has to be ‘green-housed’ to survive is just not very robust.

If an idea or approach can only thrive if it’s surrounded by an unquestioning echo-chamber that’s stuffed full of sycophants and yes-men, that’s extremely problematic – and it’s also extremely un-Jewish.

Because the Jewish way is NOT just to accept things in an unquestioning way, especially not big ideas about what God really wants from us. The Jewish way is to argue all over these subjects, and to really ‘wrestle with the truth’, because only in that way will our own biases and blind-spots get some light shone onto them.

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God is way, way bigger than any human being can grasp.

God’s Torah is the blueprint for creation, it stands to reason that even the greatest of us is going to grasp only a part of what’s really going on.

That’s why there is such an emphasis put on Jewish unity, because it’s only once you’ve got the opinion of the 599,999 other Jews around the table that you’re going to be able to start even approaching the real truth, the real wisdom contained in the Torah.

The Sages in the Gemara recognized this, and that’s why you find so very many debates between the different rabbis who are discussing these profoundly deep ideas, and trying to tease out what the truth really might be.

The Talmud is literally full of thousands upon thousands of arguments.

And some of those discussions are really not politically correct at all. It is one rabbi explaining to another rabbi why they think they are wrong, and some of the wording is often quite harif.

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For example, I just opened up the tractate of Gemara that happened to by lying on my coffee table, and got to this discussion in Shabbat 89a:

“One of the rabbis asked Rav Kahana: Have you ever heard what the meaning is of the name Mount Sinai?”

Rav Kahana tries to answer the question a couple of times, but the Rabbi he’s talking to is not impressed with his responses, and tells him:

“He told [Rav Kahana]: Why did you not frequent Rav Pappa and Rav Huna the son of Rav Yehoshua, who delve into Aggadah? If you had, you would know the answer to my question!”

Gosh, how embarrassing for Rav Kahana, that he’s being publically exposed for not knowing everything in a forum that is going to be pored-over and learnt by millions of Jews over the next 2,000 years!

And he’s in good company, because also in Shabbat 89a, you find a whole discussion about Moshe Rabbenu – the biggest prophet the Jewish people ever had – who is also getting some mild censure from no-less than Hashem:

“The Holy One, Blessed is He, said to Moses: “Moses, are you a fibber? Of course I gave the Torah to you!”

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I’m bringing these sources from the Gemara to show that our Sages were never ‘above’ being questioned or challenged.

These arguments weave themselves throughout the whole Gemara, and lest you think that the only people who were allowed to challenge the Sages’ teachings were other Sages, the Gemara clearly shows that non-Jews –like the Sages of Athens, the daughter of Caesar – also argued with them, and were answered.

Even people from secular, criminal backgrounds, like Resh Lakish, the former robber-chief-turned-Gemara Sage were permitted and encouraged to challenge the teachings of their rabbis, in order to tease out the real truth.

It’s recorded in Bava Metzia 84 that Resh Lakish would challenge his teacher, Rabbi Yochanan, 24 times on every point he made, until the matter was properly clarified. That’s why Rabbi Yochanan was so upset when Resh Lakish died, because being challenged about what you’re teaching is how you really get to the truth.

And as the truth is the seal of Hashem, engaging in these arguments is also how we get closer to God, and closer to understanding what God really wants from us.

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Before we continue, let’s make a very important point:

While the Gemara totally encourages challenging the teachings of the Rabbis, it in no way encourages or condones personal insults, or approaching any of the Sages with anything less than total respect.

Sometimes, that can be a very fine line, and it has to be walked very carefully, and with a great deal of siyatta di shmeya. But, the Gemara makes it abundantly clear that you can respectfully disagree with a teaching, with a viewpoint, without that being a personal attack on the person whose view you are challenging.

Which brings me to the crux of this post.

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The last few days, my husband and I have been having a back and forth with someone who read my post ‘The Emuna Reboot’, and got highly offended but what they felt was ‘lashon hara’. I’ve tweaked the article to remove the thing that was ‘offending’ them, but the whole discussion kind of sharpened up for me that there were many things about that old-school ‘emuna approach’ that really don’t seem to be correct.

And just like the Sages of the Gemara took issue with each other’s teachings (‘l’havdil….), this whole ‘discussion’ has also made it obvious to me that debating and questioning ideas and teachings  about what ’emuna’ actually is, and how we truly acquire it, is actually the Jewish way.

It’s what God really wants from us.

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Sadly, we live in a period of time where flying monkeys are shaping the parameters of debate, and where any time you come close to discussing a Torah idea or teaching, they try to shut you down by loudly screeching lashon hara!!!!

But let me ask you this: If even a Tzaddik of the caliber of Moshe Rabbenu had to defend his teachings (so to speak) in the Talmud, why should any of the enormous tzaddikim of subsequent generations be exempt from having their teachings scrutinized and clarified?

This isn’t about partisan politics, or about ‘my rebbe is bigger than your rebbe’ – or at least, it shouldn’t be.

God forbid, we should utter a word of personal attack against any individual, let alone a Jewish leader, God forbid a million times over. But, to not be able to challenge a teaching?

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That’s what I’d like to see more of. Much less posturing, and much less arrogant MY chassidut / Jewish group / Rabbi / approach is the only one way of doing things!!!!

And much more hey, I don’t understand your approach, and X, Y and Z really doesn’t seem to be supported by Torah sources. Can we discuss this?

The last thing to say is that all this has made me so appreciate all the criticism, mud and insults that is being thrown at the Rav, and at Shuvu Banim, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Why?

Because at this stage, it’s very hard to be publically part of Shuvu Banim unless you are willing to do some serious work on acquiring emuna and humility, and dealing with people insulting you personally and challenging you harshly, every step of the way. I get dissed from my kids, I get challenged by my friends and neighbors, I get insulted on the internet – it’s all amazing stuff!

Because each time it happens, I have to take it back into hitbodedut and go through the process of peering into my blind spot, to find out where the truth lies. I’ve written about this before, but the truth is NEVER a 0-100% split.

Even the biggest psycho with the biggest vested interest always has something true that they’re sharing with you, that’s mixed up in all the lies and slanderous insults. One of my commentators wanted to know why I bother even reading insulting comments, or having these discussions with people.

The answer is, because they always teach me something about my own blind spot.

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God is using everyone to give us messages about what we ourselves need to work on, change and fix, and I’m certainly not a level where I can even begin to pretend that I’m perfect and have nothing left to work on or fix.

I’m not infallible. I’m a flawed human being.

And the point is, that neither should what we’re being taught by our rabbis be above question. Even the biggest Tzaddik will fall seven times, there is no such thing as a person who doesn’t sin, who doesn’t err, or make a mistake.

If that holds for Moshe Rabbenu, and Rav Kahana of the Gemara, it certainly holds for everyone else.

So, to all those people who keep trying to close down the discussion by flinging abusive insults all over the place, let me ask you something:

What are you so afraid of? What are you scared is going to happen, if we actually look at these teachings and ideas and debate them on their own merits? Why are you so bound up in your way, your rabbi, your rebbe, your chassidut, your yeshiva being ‘right’, that you keep stomping on any suggestion of exploring their teachings outside of the ‘echo chamber’?

It’s an interesting question, isn’t it?

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Photo by Marco Bianchetti on Unsplash

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Articles about anti-Semitism in the USA:

Reposting this, while I’m busy getting my Cut Your Stress course done.

This morning, I cracked open ‘Advice’ (the English translation of the kitzur Likutey Moharan) and I got to this, from the chapter entitled:

Alien philosophies and ideologies:

The only true wisdom is the wisdom of the Tzaddikim. [Their wisdom] enables them to form a lofty perception of God, and gives them the power to communicate this perception to those who follow them. Compared with this wisdom, all other ideological systems are utter foolishness.”

The more I dip my toe in the murky waters of ‘intellectual debate’, including all this ortho-fem rubbish, and all this ‘anti-Tzaddikim / anti-rabbis / anti-emuna / anti-Breslov’ rubbish, the more I see this is true. Rebbe Nachman then continues:

“Because of our many sins, it can sometimes happen that this genuine wisdom falls into the hands of the heathens, and the Sitra Achra. Their new-found wisdom gives them power and dominion, and then the heathens gain the upper hand, God forbid.”

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That’s why the ‘heathens’ like learning Gemara, and why the devil-worshipping Freemasons like learning Kabbalah.

They pick out the bits of ‘genuine wisdom’ that appeals to them, and then create some Frankenstein-Faith with it. Some of these ideologies are ‘religious’ – like xtianity – and some of them – like feminism – are not. Rabbenu continues:

Who can bear the sound of the great and terrible cry when this wisdom falls into their hands and fools pretend to be wise?

“They try to adapt this genuine wisdom to their own purposes, as if it could be made a part of their own ideologies – as if their own foolishness has anything to do with the knowledge of God!

“They start claiming that they alone are the wise ones and that there is no wisdom greater than their own mistaken speculation, which is simply ‘parasiting’ off the fallen, genuine wisdom.”

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It’s well known that the most successful ‘lies’ always contain a tiny grain of truth.

That’s what attracts us in, that’s what initially fools us. It’s easy to think that it’s no big deal, when people start trying to twist Torah to their own ends and goals, with all their ‘tikkun olam’ codewords and other warped ideas, that go totally against what the Torah actually says.

To counter that impression, Rabbenu then tells us:

“God Himself cries out because of this!”

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It’s a big deal! It’s a really big deal!

We can’t just twist the Torah and its wisdom to our own ends, and try to get a PhD thesis out of it, or a reputation for being a ‘deep’ philosophical thinker, or an intellectual, or even (may Hashem save us…) a ‘big tzaddik’. This brings us back to the idea I wrote about here about doing things for God, instead of just trying to serve ourselves.

So now we know all this, how should we try to respond? Back to Rebbe Nachman:

“Every Jew has a part to play in the task of identifying how this wisdom that has fallen into their hands can be separated from them, and elevated, in order to return to its source.

The way to achieve this is through acts of charity and kindness, under the guidance and inspiration of the Tzaddikim.”

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To sum up: we need to be closely attached to our True Tzaddikim, who are the only people who really possess genuine wisdom in this lowly world, and being inspired by them to give charity and do kind deeds. The more we do that, the easier we’ll find it to spot all this fake, fallen ‘wisdom’ and to call it out.

And doing that will give God a lot of nachas.

The last two weeks, I’ve been finding it hard to get out of bed in the morning.

I’m generally sleeping OK, and enough. I’m in good health, baruch Hashem. I have a lot of ‘stuff’ to be getting on with… But it’s a struggle to throw the covers back and get out of bed.

I know why.

Deep down, I’m feeling pretty scared of what the future holds.

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While pointless ‘politics’ is all anyone really seems to be thinking about or discussing, there are real changes going on in the world that we can all feel, but no-one is really talking about them.

The world is still shaking – a 6.4 earthquake just hit Albania, in Southern Europe, doing major damage to a number of buildings and roads, and even causing a number of deaths.

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Did you know about that, from your MSM, before I just told you?

Nope. Didn’t think so.

Now, the quakes are fanning out across Europe, large parts of which is also (not coincidentally….) experiencing ‘extreme’ weather events. This headline kind of says it all:

Storms in France, Greece and Italy leave ‘biblical destruction’.

The Alps have been experiencing some record-breaking, heavy snowfall recently. You won’t know that unless you live in that area or follow alternative news channels, because this fact goes against the whole ‘global warming’ fake news thing. But when you have a lot of snow on mountains, plus the prospect of 4.0+ earthquakes in the area, then you are looking at a high possibility of avalanches.

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Over in the US, the wildfires in California have started up again, this time called ‘The Cave’ fire.

What’s interesting, is how the news sites are telling their viewers that this fire literally ‘exploded overnight’ – but then immediately try to blame that on fake news global warming.

I’ve mentioned this elsewhere, but it’s probably a good time to remind you that when there is a lot of seismic activity, that kind of ‘shakes loose’ all the natural methane that’s trapped underground, and that starts to rise to the surface.

Methane is highly flammable.

All it takes is a spark, and poofff!! A whole area can instantly light up. I think that’s also what’s causing the wildfires that are still burning all over Israel, too, but which (BH) have currently been contained, because there is no massive winds whipping them all over the place.

No-one talks about this, because it’s not ‘politics’. It’s just God controlling the weather, and the seismic activity, and who the heck wants to mention that?!

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There are other things, too, that if you know to look for them, build out the picture that there is a very strange ‘vibe’ coming down to the planet at the moment, or what our sages often refer to as a ruach, or spirit.

So many people are being viciously attacked by wild animals, especially dogs, that it’s almost not news anymore. But a few days ago, a 59 year old woman in Texas was mauled to death outside a house by a bunch of wild pigs….

That’s kinda unusual, no?

And also kinda symbolic, because we all know that the ‘pig’ is Esav, that most traif of pretend-kosher creatures.

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And then, there’s all the stuff I’m trying to deal with internally, that is also scaring me at the moment.

Like, trying to get my People Smarts course together… and trying to launch the book that goes with it… and trying not to get my hopes up too much that this, finally, will mark the turnaround where I’ll actually discover what it is God really wants me to do with my life and (whisper it….) that I may even get paid for.

The only reason that matters is because my family has decided, collectively, that we want to move back to the holy madness that is the Musrara neighborhood of Jerusalem, and even renting there is CRAZY expensive.

Right now, the apartment we are in is great for us, and the rent is reasonable. But the area is pretty ‘dead’ spiritually, and after two years of living back in civilization, where people pick up their own trash and most families have way less than 12 kids, I’m yearning to get back to a place where my neighbors know there is more to life than just cooking a great roast for Shabbat. Or politics….

So, there’s also a lot of anxiety around that, too, which keeps bubbling up when I’m talking to God.

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And then, there are the non-stop efforts by the State of Israel to start another war in this region, to try and take everyone’s minds off the fact that the political experiment here has effectively checkmated itself out of existence.

Nothing like a massive war, to get the nation rallying around the idea of a ‘unity government’!!!

Who cares, that so many people, so many Jews, could get wounded or killed, if the Muslim nations decide to retaliate massively!!!

Let’s keep the circus going for as long as we can, let’s keep talking about politics as the cure for all ills, to take everyone’s mind off the fact that God is actually running the world, and deciding things!!!

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There are very good reasons why taking the terrorists on in Gaza may be a very bad idea.

You can sum it up like this:

Israel is surrounded by literally hundreds of thousands of rockets. The Iron Dome is very easily overwhelmed, and if the terrorists start firing multiple barrages of rockets at us, they will kill and injure a lot of people, God forbid.

At the same time, there is no way the nations of the world will ever let Israel really clean up the problem in Gaza, so any war would be totally ‘cosmetic’, and just for public opinion, just so the politicians can keep the whole circus going a little while longer.

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Personally, I increasingly don’t think it’s worth risking Jewish lives just to give a politician a campaign slogan that they are tough on terror.

Personally, I’m really praying and hoping that Rabbi Berland is going to be able to continue to sweeten all this warmongering, because war doesn’t solve any problems, unless it’s a ‘war’ that God wants and has commanded, like Joshua’s conquering of the holy land.

How did we all get so brainwashed into believing that killing people en masse is the best way to solve our problems?

I believe in defending ourselves where appropriate, in a measured way. But recently, I’ve been asking myself some hard questions, about whether killing large swathes of ‘enemy’ civilians is really what God wants from the Jewish people.

Killing people – any people – should be the very last option on the table, and only if the alternative is that they would kill us, God forbid.

Killing people is a ‘feral pig’ kinda thing to do – an ‘animal’ thing to do – it’s really not a holy Jewish response.

So, I’m also scared that there are bunch of angry, violent fools with zero yirat shemayim ready to rush in where Sanhedrins fear to tread.

Until I remember that God is actually running the world, (even though no-one really talks about Him so much), and that nothing will happen that God doesn’t want to happen.

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And in the meantime, life goes on.

I’m trying to deal with all this by keeping my head down, and trying to continue with my routine, as best I can. I keep reminding myself of the words of the Rav, that Gog and Magog is only going to happen in 200 years time, but the good things can already start now.

Because otherwise, I just can’t get out of bed in the morning.

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Photo by Sylvie Tittel on Unsplash

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

The media has been unusually quiet in their ongoing campaign against the Rav in recent months.

But that’s about to change. After two whole months of almost no negative stories about Rabbi Berland, Channel 13 has decided to do an ‘expose’ of the Rav doing pidyonot for people and advising them to avoid doctors.

What can we do?

Channel 13 clearly never read Rebbe Nachman’s Wisdom, where the Rebbe warned his followers in the starkest terms:

“A physician may use many hazardous treatments and still be totally ignorant of their effect. It is not surprising that they often do more damage than good. Why depend on a natural cure when it is most likely to cause harm?…

“Doctors are agents of death and do little more. Happy is the man who avoids them and depends on God alone.”

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Channel 13 clearly also knows precisely zippy-dee-do-da about what a pidyon nefesh actually is, and what it actually does – and also why sometimes, it doesn’t work.

Rav Yaakov Selma goes through a lot of the sources from Likutey Moharan in Hebrew, below:

But in Lesson I:215 of Likutey Moharan, Rebbe Nachman tells us:

“Know: There are 24 types of pidyon nefesh, corresponding to 24 courts of justice. For each and every court, there is a unique corresponding pidyon nefesh to ameliorate its judgments. Therefore, a ransom is not always effective, since not everyone knows all 24 pidyon nefesh, and even if one does, he cannot perform them, and when one does not perform the specific ransom required by a specific court, it is not effective.

But know: there is a certain ransom that includes all the twenty-four courts of justice and is able to ameliorate [the judgments] of all the twenty-four courts….

“….Only one in a generation knows of it, and sometimes even when this tzaddik performs the ransom, it is ineffective. The reason for this is that this ransom is greatly desired Above, for such a ransom does not frequently come from below that is able to ameliorate all 24 courts simultaneously. Therefore, when this amelioration does come, it is used for other purposes, such as to make converts….[W]hen judgment and wrath are ameliorated, idolatry is ameliorated and people convert.”

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Of course, the secular journalists at Channel 13 who hate the Torah-observant world and everything it stands for aren’t fully conversant with Chassidic thought and Likutey Moharan, and they are also part of this huge, Godless conspiracy being pushed on us all that people are 100% in charge of their own health, and their own destiny.

If Channel 13 would do an expose of all the iatrogenic illnesses and deaths occurring in Israel’s hospitals, then we’d very quickly see who the real ‘killers’ are, who are freely walking around the country.

I’ve lost count of the number of people I know who have been killed or maimed by the treatment they received from doctors.

Like the woman who was talked into having a replacement knee, but wasn’t told she’d need pain-killing injections every month for the rest of her life… Like the woman who had her stomach cut out because of cancer, and then was bombarded with round after round of chemotherapy, only to die shortly afterwards in excrutiating agony from all the surgery and poison anyway… Like the man who went into hospital with an exploded gallbladder and who died on the operating table because the anesthetist misjudged what was going on, and the patient had a fatal heart attack as a result.

I could go on and on. And please, let’s not even get started on anti-depressants, or ‘gender re-assignment’ surgery, or all the weird stuff they are putting in vaccines (go and research MCR 5), and a million other things that are lauded as medical panaceas, but usually are anything but.

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Modern medicine is God-less, modern medicine is far more limited and clumsy than it likes to pretend, and often does far more damage than good, especially when it comes to chronic illnesses.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at this, for starters:

The third-leading cause of death in US most doctors don’t want you to know about

Let Channel 13 gird their loins and do an expose on all the horrendous medical malpractice happening in Israel (and everywhere else…). Like the doctor in Shaarei Chesed who I met over Shabbat lunch a decade ago, who boasted about going around quietly killing people that she’d decided were suffering ‘unnecessarily’.

Don’t hold your breath.

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But in the meantime, let’s return to the question of whether Rabbi Berland’s pidyons always work.

The answer, as provided by Rabbenu, is no. They don’t always work.

Why not?

Because God is still running the world, and sometimes, God decides to take the Rav’s pidyonot and to use them for a greater good, i.e. fighting the general forces of evil in the world and causing non-Jews to want to convert.

Who are we, to think we can fathom the mind of Hashem, the Creator of the world?

So then, does this mean that Rav Berland is doing pidyon nefesh under false pretences?

No.

The vast majority of time, what he says will happen actually occurs. Sometimes, you have to wait a while, often, the miracle is ‘hidden’ in some way, but sooner or later, it shows up.

And on the rare occasions when it doesn’t, of course that’s upsetting to the people involved, especially if they don’t have a lot of emunat tzaddikim, and are really only interested in using the Rav like a miracles-caspomat.

Of course, it requires a lot of emuna tzaddikim to navigate that situation and not come out as an ‘opponent’, who feels justified in dissing the Rav, God forbid. That’s part of how the birur process is working, especially for those who dress themselves up as ‘mega-frum’, at least externally.

At the end of the day, Rebbe Nachman clearly explains that there is no such thing as a pidyon that is 100% guaranteed to work, even when you do it with the One in a Generation who actually controls the 24 heavenly courts.

Why not?

Because God is still running the world, and people aren’t in control, and free choice has to be maintained.

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So, this expose will air Monday night in Israel, and when it does, the people who have weak-to-zero emunat tzaddikim; and the people who hate Torah and religious Jews; and the people who have a vested interest in ‘proving’ that they were right all along, when they were passing off slander and falsehood as self-righteous ‘troof’ all across Facebook will come out swinging.

You know what?

Let them.

It’s all just part of the birur, or clarification process that precedes the coming of Moshiach.

You want to believe Channel 13 over Rebbe Nachman?

Go right ahead.

There’s a special place in gehinnom that’s been set up especially for all these anti-Torah journalists who spend months, years and decades putting so much effort into trying to make Rabbis look bad.

I have no problem with honest journalism.

Like I said, some people don’t see obvious results from doing a pidyon nefesh with the Rav, for the reasons explained above. So sure, cover that angle – but then balance it out by interviewing some of the hundreds and even thousands of people who have mamash seen open miracles from doing a pidyon nefesh with the Rav.

That’s responsible journalism. That’s ethical reporting. That’s enabling people to make up their own minds about something, and not just trying to push your anti-Torah brainwashing agenda down people’s throats.

That is not at all what you’re going to get on Monday night from Channel 13.

But it’s not all their fault. People don’t buy into their brainwashing agenda because it’s particularly convincing or well-reasoned, but because they have their own vested interest in making Rabbi Berland ‘wrong’, and themselves right.

And you know what? Let them.

At this stage, I can’t be bothered fighting or arguing with them, because the faster all the yucky people get birured properly, the sooner we’ll get to the geula.

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Last week, one of my extended family members asked me to enquire about doing a pidyon with Rav Berland for someone they know who doesn’t really believe in God, or the tzaddikim, but who is rich and extremely desperate for something to change.

The message I got back was ‘no pidyon’.

If Rabbi Berland was really doing pidyonot just for the money, chas v’shalom, how do we explain this?

I know others, too, that simply didn’t have the merit to be able to do a pidyon nefesh with Rav Berland. God stops them by filling their heads full of doubts, or filling their mouths full of slander, or doesn’t even let them get to the point of being told a sum of money to pay.

Every time a person gets the chance to do a pidyon with the Rav, it’s a huge merit, a massive spiritual gift.

I haven’t seen the fruits of all my pidyonot yet, honestly, but I would say that 4/5 of the ones I’ve done have worked tremendously.

And as for the rest?

I accept that either their time hasn’t come yet, and / or they are being put to a higher use, right now, to fight evil in the world.

And judging by Channel 13’s output, there’s still a way to go before it’s totally defeated.

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Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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What was really the disagreement, between the Vilna Gaon and the early leaders of chassidut?

If we’ve learnt anything at all about the fight between the followers of the Baal Shem Tov and chassidut, and the followers of the Lithuanian path of mitnagdim, as exemplified by the Vilna Gaon and his followers, this is probably what we believe:

The Vilna Gaon and the mitnagdim became ‘anti’ the chassidim and the followers of the Baal Shem Tov, because they were worried about ‘false messiahs’ in the wake of the Shabtai Tzvi affair.

Right?

That’s what we think the whole disagreement was about? That the Baal Shem Tov started this new ‘Tzaddik-centric’ approach to Judaism, and all the Litvak rabbis decided to excommunicate the people practicing chassidut because they were worried that another ‘false religion’ would spring up.

Guess what…that’s not really what happened. Or at least, not at the beginning of this whole story, back in the 1700s. As I started to set out in THIS POST, geula-fever was alive and well in the 18th century, fueled by kabbalistic speculation that the time for ‘the End’ had come, and geula was about to happen.

As I covered in that post, there were a few key dates that the kabbalists had pegged for the final coming of Moshiach, all based on the gematria of the word ‘dawn’, and allusions to that word in the Zohar and in the book of Daniel.

These years were:

1748 – which was proceeded by an ‘elite aliya’ of the Jewish world’s leading kabbalists to Israel, including the Ohr HaChaim from Morocco, the RaMCHaL from Italy, and many kabbalists and mystics from the Ashkenazi world too, including Rabbi Gershon of Kutow, the BESHT’s brother-in-law.

1753 – when three huge kabbalists in Israel including the CHIDA, Rabbi Shalom Sharabi (the Rashash), and Rabbi Chaim de la Roza tried to ‘force’ the end of days via kabbalistic uses of Hashem’s mystical names. Heaven forced them to stop, and the CHIDA had to go into exile for 5 years.

1781 – which was again proceeded by a ‘chassidic’ aliya from the Ashkenazi world, which was led by Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk.

(The last official ‘date’ as the last possible date for the ‘in its time’ redemption, was 1840, but we’ll leave that alone for this post.)

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Between 1748 and 1781, so many of our leading rabbis believed that the geula was imminent, and the Vilna Gaon and the Lithuanian rabbis were counted firmly amongst them.

In fact, pretty much the only leading rabbi at that time who was saying that geula was NOT going to happen imminently was the Baal Shem Tov. I know I quoted this in the previous post, but let’s bring his letter written to Rabbi Gershon in 1747 again here, to keep all the pieces together in one place. The BESHT wrote:

“I asked the Messiah when he would be coming. “This is how you will know,” he replied. “When your teachings become public and revealed to the world, and your wellsprings of my teachings, which you will have mastered, overflow to the outside, so that [others], too, will be able to perform mystical unifications and ascents of the soul like you. Then all the klipot will be eradicated and a time of [Divine] desire and salvation will come.”

The Baal Shem Tov continues:

“[This reply] left me puzzled and severely troubled. Such a long time! When can it possibly come to pass?”

The Baal Shem Tov was explaining to Reb Gershon that the Moshiach is going to come, and the end of days is going to happen, only when the Jews start to really connect to God, and experience ‘ascents of the soul’, and to really learn and understand Torah on the deep level of chassidut.

Moshiach wasn’t just going to show up, regardless of the spiritual state of the Jews, and regardless of all their bad middot and lack of emuna. He was only going to come when the Jews got real, learned some humility, and started talking to God sincerely every single day, and including Him in every aspect of their life.

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So now, the question is:

Why did the mitnagdim fall out so badly with the chassidim, if everyone at that time was eagerly anticipating Moshiach and geula, and the Lithuanian rabbis were pressing for aliya and for ‘the end’ to come just as much as the chassidim?

The answer lies in the different approaches the Vilna Gaon and the chassidim were trying to take, to bring the geula.

We can set it out like this:

1747 – The Baal Shem Tov writes a letter explaining that Moshiach is only going to come when the Jews make teshuva, and approach their yiddishkeit in a more ‘chassidic’ way.

The BESHT’s leading student, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polnoye, sat on that letter for over 30 years, but then published it in 1780, when it started to become obvious that Moshiach was not coming imminently, after all.

In the meantime, the Vilna Gaon had spent years trying to resolve all the kooshiot, or difficulties in the Torah, using just his superb logical abilities and ‘cleverness’. According to documents found by researcher Arie Morgenstern which quotes the Vilna Gaon’s students and sons, as brought in his book The Gaon of Vilna and his Messianic Vision, the Vilna Gaon believed he could bring the Moshiach:

“[B]y force of his supreme halachic authority. [T]he Gaon proposed to move to Eretz Yisrael and write the final halacha there, in order to hasten the redemption. As Joseph Karo[1] had done, so would the Gaon of Vilna do. He wished to be the final arbiter, not in order to write the halacha for its own sake, but rather to hasten the redemption and conclude the ‘sorting’ (birur) process that would usher in the Messiah.”

Here’s what the Vilna Gaon himself wrote, about his aspirations[2]:

“Every unresolved issue is a klipah, and emanates from the Erev Rav that intermingled with the Israelites…This is how unresolved issues insinuated themselves into the halacha. The answer to the unresolved issues is the repair of the klipah.

Elsewhere, he wrote[3]:

“At the end of the galut, in the footsteps of the Moshiach, the tree of life, the Law of Moses will be revealed.”

One of the Vilna Gaon’s senior students, Rabbi Israel of Shklov, explained[4] that his mentor had managed to resolve all the issues in the whole Torah (!) except for in two passages in the Zohar. The Rabbi of Shklov says:

“Had the Gaon resolved these issues, he would have brought the birur (‘sorting process’) to its end, and the path to the Messiah’s arrival would have been readied for use.”

As it was – he didn’t, and it wasn’t.

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The Vilna Gaon set out for Israel in 1778.

But first travelled to Amsterdam, where he hoped to track down copies of the books and manuscripts that would help him resolve his two last remaining ‘issues’, before he made aliya, wrote a new ‘perfect’ Shulchan Aruch in Israel, and ushered in the redemption.

But God didn’t let him do that, his mission to Amsterdam was a failure, and the Gaon returned home to Vilna, without attempting the trip to Israel.

Once home, he decided to take a different tack, and for the first time in his scholarly career, he decided to teach an elite group of students his approach to learning Torah, with a particular emphasis on these students moving to Israel, and helping to lay the practical foundations for the Jews to return to their land.

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In the meantime, nearly all the Chassidic rebbes dealt with the ‘moshiach let-down’ of 1781 by starting to put the emphasis on personal redemption, as opposed to national redemption, and taking the emphasis off of moving to Israel.

Everyone, that is, except Rabbenu and Breslov chassidut.

Rebbe Nachman continued to stress the importance of living in Eretz Yisrael, as well as the importance of working on the ‘inner dimension’ and developing the good middot that would enable each person to achieve their ‘personal redemption’, too.

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1781 approaches, the make-or-break date for ‘geula in its time’, and the Vilna Gaon realizes that his approach of trying to ‘perfect’ Torah, and engage in ‘perfect’ mitzvah observance is out of reach, and that he can’t bring Moshiach this way. Instead, he looks to kick-start redemption by placing ‘boots on the ground’ in Eretz Yisrael, and directs a group of his elite students to make aliya after his death.

Meanwhile, after 1781, the different Chassidic leaders put much more focus on the idea that redemption is internal, not necessarily land-based.

Israel is out of reach, so turn inwards and work on your personal and communal redemption instead, wherever you live!

Only Breslov chassidut actually combined these two, very different approaches, continuing to stress the practical aspects of aliya to the real Eretz Yisrael, together with emphasizing the inner work and importance of being connected to the True Tzaddik and praying for redemption.

But there was so much opposition to Rebbe Nachman, and then to Breslov, that this message was muted back then, and really has only begun to flourish in our days.

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So now, what happened with the excommunication of the chassidim by the Lithuanian rabbis, headed by the Vilna Gaon?

As usual, it’s a sordid tale of petty politics and ego-mania.

In the years leading up to the first ‘excommunication’ of the chassidim, in 1772, The Vilna ‘kahal’, or community leaders had been locked in a vicious struggle with the town’s chief rabbi and rabbinical judge, a fellow by the name of Shmuel ben Avigdor.

Shmuel ben Avigdor had been ‘bought’ his position – as was the custom of the time then, and in many ways still is today – by his wealthy father-in-law. The kahal leaders felt that Shmuel ben Avigdor was throwing his weight around, was out of his depth when it came to making halachically-binding decisions, and – most crucially of all – was impinging on their income by trying to butt into communal affairs that they felt he should play no part in.

So, the kahal went to war against their very wealthy, very connected chief rabbi, to try to get him ousted. His father-in-law had bought him the rabbinate ‘for life’, so the kahal leaders could only get him out of the way if they could prove his was guilty of gross, ‘anti-Torah’ misconduct. So that’s what they set about trying to show.

According to Arie Morgenstern[5]:

“The methods used were illegitimate:…false testimonies, silencing of witnesses, preventing the presentation of exculpatory evidence about the defendants under threat of excommunication, forbidding the lodging of complaints with the rabbinical court by the same means, and even forbidding the rabbinical judges to listen to cries of protest against the abuse being committed.”

Plus ca change.

And having waged war against their town rabbi by dirty means, the kahal then just applied their ‘abilities’ against the chassidim in their midst, too.

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Why did the Vilna kahal turn against the chassidim?

Some researchers claim they were egged on by the Vilna Gaon (more on that in a moment), while others claim that the kahal leadership were worried that people flocking to chassidut would diminish their clout in the Jewish community, and their own legal status vis-à-vis their non-Jewish rulers. (Which in turn, would diminish their ability to levy taxes on the Jewish community….)

In the meantime, the horrible, dirty machloket between the Vilna kahal leaders and their chief rabbi Shmuel ben Avigdor raged almost without let up for approximately 30 years (!) It was so poisonous, Vilna’s Jewish residents were frequently arguing on street corners, and fights would regularly break out in public, even between the women.

That only stopped when the community was hit by a terrible tragedy.

In 1771, an outbreak of plague killed hundreds of small children in Vilna’s Jewish community. It was clear to the kahal leaders that this was some ‘punishment from Heaven’, but rather than accept that their own machloket against the Chief Rabbi could be the cause, they searched around for a scapegoat – and found one, in the nascent movement of chassidim.

According to the mitnaged Maggid of Makow, the reclusive Vilna Gaon was totally unaware of any problem with the chassidim, until the kahal leaders – who were giving the Vilna Gaon a salary of 1400 guilders a year and a rent-free home, even though the Vilna Gaon fulfilled no public duties as rabbi – brought a bunch of false witnesses to slander the chassidim as a ‘deviant cult’.

Rabbi David the Maggid writes:

“Due to his devotion to the Torah and his perseverance, the holy Pious One [the Vilna Gaon] was oblivious to all these matters, until the righteous and honest learners cried out… Then he became their enemy, fighting them and pronouncing the great excommunication of all their rabbis and students… The excommunication went into effect in 1772, after Pesach.”

But none of the other four major Jewish communities in Lithuania, including Horodno, Brisk, Slutsk and Pinsk, joined in with the excommunication of 1772, because they understood that the Vilna kahal was trying to deflect the spiritual heat off its own bad behavior, by using the chassidim as scapegoats. Very quickly, the excommunication died away, and the Lithuanian communities happily sent money to support the Chassidic aliya that began in 1777 – ahead of the ‘end of times’ date of 1781.

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THE SECOND EXCOMMUNICATION

But then, there was a second excommunication of the chassidim that happened in 1781 – and that one stuck, and widened out into a veritable war against chassidut.

What triggered this second attack against chassidut? A few different things:

  • More and more people were flocking to the ranks of chassidut.
  • Chassidut became increasingly organized as a communal force within the Jewish community, and so appeared to be more of a threat to the existing leaders’ status, influence, and ability to use their communal position to make money.
  • The Baal Shem Tov’s students started to print and disseminate some of their ideas and teachings – notably Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polnoye, who published Toledot Yaakov Yosef in 1780.
  • May 1781 came and went without Moshiach showing up, and a wave of frustration overtook the Jewish community and led to a whole bunch of internecine fighting.

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The chassidim were not totally blameless, for the war erupting.

By this point, many of them were openly mocking the Lithuanian rabbis for being out of touch with their communities and overly hung-up on pietism and asceticism, instead of serving God joyfully, with their hearts. There were also some Chassidic leaders who were publically complaining about the behavior of other Chassidic leaders, and that might also have fueled external criticism of the movement.

Meanwhile, the mitnagdim communities and their rabbis were having to deal with all these ‘miracle stories’ that started circulating about the Baal Shem Tov – including his infamous ‘conversation’ with Moshiach, in 1747 – after Rabbi Yaakov Yosef’s books came out. To put it bluntly, it was hard for the Lithuanian rabbis to compete, when there was a Tzaddik of the caliber of the Baal Shem Tov wooing their congregants away with his supernatural abilities and awesome, soul-inspiring advice.

In other words: they got jealous.

Plus ca change

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There’s one last thing I want to add here, because clearly what I’m describing above has continued to play itself out in our day and time, too.

At its highest level, there was a dispute for the sake of heaven going on, between the Vilna Gaon and the Baal Shem Tov, about the way to bring Moshiach and geula.

The BESHT said:

Geula will only come when all the Jews make teshuva, and start to serve God sincerely, and not just to pay ‘lip service’ to the external commandments and mitzvoth. And God will wait as long as it takes, for that to happen.

The Vilna Gaon said:

Geula will come ‘in its time’, once we fix the halacha perfectly. And whoever is not on that level of perfection at that time, won’t make it through to the world-to-come.

(I should mention here, that the Vilna Gaon was kind of obsessed with the Erev Rav, and that he and his students both talked and wrote about them a great deal.)

This mirrored the debate that took place in Sanhedrin 97b, between Rabbi Eliezer HaGadol, and Rabbi Yehoshua, that you can read about HERE.

And we are still having that debate today in the Jewish world.

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On the one hand, there are the people saying geula is ready to come NOW!!! Today!!! And that the world is full of evil erev rav types that just can’t change, and won’t make it through, and that millions of people are going to die before Moshiach is revealed, because they just aren’t on the level to make it.

This is the ‘Rabbi Yehoshua’ approach.

On the other hand, we can see with our own eyes that each of these ‘end times’ keeps coming and going; and that the predicted wars keep fading away. And, that the whole ‘erev rav’ approach is basically unworkable in practice (as I cover in my book), and that with daily hitbodedut, regular visits to Uman, and a strong connection to our True Tzaddikim, people can and do transform into better Jews in some fantastic ways.

This is the ‘Rabbi Eliezer HaGadol’ approach.

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The note from Rav Kook, describing Rabbi Berland as a'spark' of Eliezer HaGadolA few years’ ago, Rabbi Dov Kook of Tiveria famously wrote a note where he stated that Rabbi Eliezer Berland is a spark, or reincarnation, of that selfsame Rabbi Eliezer HaGadol.

God is waiting for us all to open our eyes, and see what’s right in front of them.

After 200 years of trying the ‘Rabbi Yehoshua’ approach – which has clearly not worked to bring Moshiach and redemption – God is waiting for more of us to adopt the ‘Rabbi Eliezer HaGadol’ approach of sincere teshuva, talking to God, and connecting to our True Tzaddikim, instead.

And when we get that message, geula will finally happen.

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FOOTNOTES:

[1] The author of the Shulchan Aruch.

[2] Vilna Gaon’s commentary on Ra’aya Mehemana, Konigsberg, 1858, 28a.

[3] Yahel Or, Commentaries on the Zohar, Parshat Mishpatim 114b (Vilna, 1882).

[4] In his preface to the book: Pe’at Ha’Shulchan.

[5] Page 237, The Gaon of Vilna and his Messianic Vision

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Sanhedrin 98a tells us when the gate of Rome falls for a 3rd time, it won’t be rebuilt.

Lots and lots going on at the moment, isn’t there? Both personally and nationally, the Nation of Israel is being shaken all over the place. It’s that time described in Sichot HaRan by Rebbe Nachman, when we need to be holding on to the Tzaddik, if we don’t want to be shaken off the world, especially here in Jerusalem…

“It’s written about the time of Moshiach (Job 38:13): ‘To grasp the ends of the earth and shake the wicked from it’. However, one who comes close to a true Tzaddik, [he] can grab hold of him, and not be cast off. When we hold on to the Tzaddik, we can stay firm.”

Yesterday, the day of the State of Israel held its second elections in four months, as no ruling coalition could be formed because all the politicians mamash hate each other and have awful middot.

I woke up yesterday feeling pretty rough.

I had no energy, my legs were shaky, I was totally spaced-out. I could feel the din in the air, and so could at least one of my daughters, who kept muttering about how ‘heavy’ the atmosphere was.

I still got out to vote – because Rabbi Berland had stressed how important it was to vote ‘gimmel’ – but then I came home and just spent the rest of the day in bed, until around 6pm in the evening, when the fog finally started to lift a bit. Something just got sweetened, I thought to myself.

This morning, with 92% of the votes counted, it looks like the State of Israel is still stuck in another stalemate, unless something remarkable happens to break it.

And this is actually the best possible outcome that anyone could hope for, at the moment.

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Why do I say that?

Because all these yucky politicians have effectively ‘checkmated’ each other, and are preventing each other from putting any massive (and massively evil….) policies into action.

Rabbi Berland already warned us in very clear terms that Gantz, Lapid and Lieberman want to launch a war against Torah and the religious population in Israel. (That ‘war’ is currently being conducted covertly, through the corrupt courts, funded by anti-God Jewish Billionaires in the USA, who are using their cash to create all the NGOs who are bringing these court cases in Israel.)

But, there is still a basic line of ‘religious status quo’ in Israeli society that hasn’t been crossed, and which Blue and White et al are determined to totally smash into pieces.

And if they can’t form a government, they can’t do it.

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On the other side of the equation, looms Likud and all the ‘right wingers’, who were hoping to impose another horrible USA-inspired ‘peace plan’ on Israel, that would involve giving the land of Israel away to a bunch of Arab terrorists.

(And let’s not even talk about the terrible degradation in morals and Israeli society generally, that has occurred on the watch of the current Prime Minister, who has been slowly ‘eroding’ the Torah world, as opposed to smashing it to pieces.)

But now, if they can’t form a government, the Likud can’t sign a ‘peace plan’ with anyone.

So, ‘checkmate’ is the best possible outcome right now.

And of course, it’s all connected to the looming geula process, which is gradually unfolding itself more and more obviously, for anyone who has eyes to see it.

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A little while back, this site ran THIS interview with Rabbi Eliyahu Meirav, where he gave his eye-witness account of Rav Kaduri saying 40 years ago that Moshiach is imminent:

“When there will be will elections, but there won’t be a government.”

It seems that could be happening twice in a row, and that a third election (without any government being formed…) could conceivably be on the cards.

And that reminded me of this, from the Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 98a:

Rabbi Simlai says in the name of Rabbi Elazar, son of Rabbi Shimon: The son of David will not come until all the judges and officers will cease to exist from among the Jewish people, and there will be no more autonomous government in Eretz Yisrael, as it is stated: “And I will turn My hand against you and purge away your dross as with lye and take away your base alloy. And I will restore your judges as at the first” (Isaiah 1:25–26).

There’s more. A little later on, Sanhedrin 98a continues:

Rabbi Yosei ben Kisma’s students asked him: When will the son of David come? Rabbi Yosei ben Kisma said: I am hesitant to answer you, lest you request from me a sign to corroborate my statement. They said to him: We are not asking you for a sign.

Rabbi Yosei ben Kisma said to them: You will see when this existing gate of Rome falls and will be rebuilt, and will fall a second time and will be rebuilt, and will fall a third time. And they will not manage to rebuild it until the son of David comes.

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Doesn’t this seem to fit our current circumstances like a glove?

In the old days, the ‘government’ sat inside the gate of the walled town or city. That’s where they’d get all the news, that’s where they could control who was coming in and leaving, that’s where they could levy the taxes, and read their proclamations.

If you go to the Jaffa gate even today, you will see that it’s a big room-like structure, it’s not just a ‘gate’ that leads into the city. So when we take about the ‘gate of Rome’ falling, this could also very easily be a reference to the government falling.

As if that’s not enough of a clue, the Knesset, the Supreme Court, and a bunch of other State of Israel government ministries are located in an area called the Jerusalem Gateway. They are currently in the process of building a massive new business and office complex by the same name, a minute away from the Knesset and the ‘seat of power’ in Israel.

(The video below shows how they are planning to turn Jerusalem into Tel Aviv Mark #2 – and in so doing, they are killing the spiritual soul of the place.)

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For all that it’s body is in Jerusalem, there’s no question that the ‘soul’ and the ‘mind’ of our secular government is 100% in Rome, i.e. the West.

We’ll see what happens next, but if they can’t get a coalition together – and let’s pray they can’t! – then they will have to go to elections a third time.

And if that happens, the actual revelation of Moshich must be so very close.

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GOING BACK TO THE ZOHAR

Over in this piece, I set out a possible timeline from the Zohar, that talked amongst other things of wars kicking off, 5 tzaddikim being killed, and how it was all connected to Moshiach.

It’s uncanny how each time we approached one of the ‘milestones’ for war / something bad happening, as set out in the Zohar, the ‘war’ part somehow got sweetened and sent away again.

I just want to pull out one bit of that post here, but please do go back and read it, and make up your own mind about what’s really going on.

The Zohar on Parshat Balak states:

“But, in the Northern Land and in the Yemenite government, how many hardships upon hardships will be awoken upon Am Yisrael, on that same day. But their prayers will be accepted b’ratzon (favorably), when they will pray about their suffering.”

In that piece, I also pegged the ’32 days’ being talked about in the Zohar, to September 16-17th – the date of the Israeli elections.

On September 14th, 2019, the Houthi rebels in Yemen (apparently…) attacked Saudi Arabia’s biggest oil refinery.

Here’s how Tomer Devorah described the situation, two days ago:

This may actually be “IT” – the point of war between Persia and Edom, otherwise known as WWIII.

(Debka Breaking News) Iran launched nearly a dozen cruise missiles and more than 20 drones from its territory in the attack on key Saudi oil facilities in Saturday, a senior Trump administration official told ABC News on Sunday night. Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility for the assault, but the senior US official said that was false. “It was Iran. The Houthis claim credit for something they did not do.” President Donald Trump tweeted that there was “no evidence the attacks came from Yemen,” adding “There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!”

And every Jew should know, if he doesn’t already, that following on these reports is a flood of accusations being brought across the globe that Israel is the real culprit, that this was a “false flag” attack perpetrated by Israel in order to force Trump into a war he doesn’t want, for the sake of Israel.

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And now?

So far, there is no war.

Even though Trump is talking tough, he fired John Bolton last week, and clearly doesn’t want to be pressured into war with Iran. People, we only need to open our eyes to see what’s going on in front us!

There should have been a war between the US and Iran 5 times over, already. The only person standing in the breach and saying the calamities will only happen in 200 years time is Rabbi Berland.

Rabbi Berland also told us to get as many of his prayers translated and out there ASAP over the last few weeks, because geula coming the sweet way depends on every home having a prayer from the Rav.

And this week, what do we see?

The war between the US and Iran seems to have been ‘paused’ again – totally miraculously! – and the ‘war’ between Israel’s secular politicians and the Torah world seems to have been ‘paused’ again – totally miraculously! – and the US plan to impose ‘peace’ on Israel also seems to have been ‘paused’ again – totally miraculously!

We need to get more of the Rav’s prayers, and more of the Rav’s books out there, ASAP.

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Which brings me to the last thing I wanted to touch on in this post.

There’s a bunch of new books coming out in English, including today:

 

Rabbi Eliezer Berland’s Advice 

 

Rabbi Eliezer Berland’s Prayers –  should be available on Amazon next week, and they hope to get:

 

Rabbi Eliezer Berland’s Miracles (although that title might still change) – out for Rosh Hashana.

 

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Or Zerua le’Tzaddik.

And hopefully, more and more of us are starting to see that open miracles are mamash being done in front of our eyes, and that Moshiach is on the cusp.

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Photo by Rafael Nir on Unsplash

A thoughtful review of the biography of Rabbi Berland, aka Eliezer ben Etia, One in a Generation #2.

I’m still officially taking it easy throughout the rest of Pesach, but I just got emailed a great review of Volume II of One in a Generation: Into Exile, which finally sets the record straight about what happened with Rav Eliezer Berland, and why he was forced to admit to crimes he never committed.

The review appears on the myrtlerising blog, and you can see it at the link below:

http://www.myrtlerising.com/blog/a-tell-all-turned-inside-out-a-review-of-one-in-a-generation-volume-ii-into-exile

My co-author else sent me a personal review of the book they received over email, which I’m also bringing below:

I have just finished reading the whole book and it is totally amazing! Beautifully written and it reads like the greatest of fast-moving novels. I literally couldn’t put it down! I was just in Uman and I can picture it on the best-seller table at Steimatskys at the airport. If I had seen it there and read that great back-cover I would certainly have bought it.

The first book was more biographical, almost like a list of his early life, but this one actually flies!
I would consider myself to have a lot of emuna in the Rav, especially after being stuck to him body and soul for over 30 years, but I felt that even my belief in him was strengthened while reading the book. You have done a great and important job, and that Rivkah Levi, whoever she is, has enhanced it enormously.
(Yes, nothing like a book review to keep you humble….)

There’s a chance to get the book for free, next week

So stay tuned, especially from Tuesday (April 30th) onwards, and I’ll post more information and details up once I have them.
And last but not least – please leave a review of the book if you’ve read it and liked it, particularly on Amazon.
You don’t need to write anything, you can just rate it with stars if that’s easier. The Amazon algorhythm works on:
1) Number of sales
2) Number of reviews
If we don’t have a lot of either, then Amazon won’t recommend the book more widely to other readers. So, if you read it and liked it, please take the two minutes required to leave a review, and do your bit to get the real story ‘out there’ to more people.
Thanks.
I appreciate it.
You can leave a review on Amazon HERE.
You can get the PDF or paperback version at the ravberland.com website HERE.
And, you can also pick up the paperback version directly from the Ein Yaakov Bookstore in Meah Shearim.
UPDATE: