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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:
I was emailing with my friend Daisy, who has been trying to get more people to come to the prayer gathering in Hevron tomorrow night (Monday April 8th), starting at 10pm.
She sent me the following, and I think it deserved sharing more widely, so here it is:
“I think that is the answer: CHESED, LOVE. This Atzeret is all about LOVE, about Chesed. We have to arouse the LOVE of AM Yisrael, because Am Yisrael has let Sinat Chinam bury the love. We have to REIGNITE the LOVE. This Rosh Chodesh Nissan is all about LOVE , I just heard a Shiur by a rav last Shabbat in Tampa about this very topic, and we were by coincidence – we know there are no coincidences, – discussing the issue of lack of love in Am Yisrael these days with my son, just a couple of days before the rav gave his lecture…
WE HAVE TO REIGNITE THE LOVE IN AM YISRAEL! That is the message. That is the only thing that will counteract the Sinat Chinam of the Churban Bayit Sheni! I get it!
Shabbat Shalom, Chodesh Tov. May Ahavat Chinam return to Am Yisrael, in every group, every Chassidut, every political party. We are buried in hatred. Of course destruction follows! The only way to counteract the destruction is with LOVE OF OUR FELLOW JEW, and even of all good people in the world! And I mean REAL love, the kind you feel all over, the kind you swim in. Not the phony, limited, fake love we got used to.”

This morning (April 7th), Rav Berland told the crowd in shul that awful decrees have now been made, and that Gantz and Lapid are planning to completely destroy the Torah lifestyle in Eretz Yisrael – banning brit mila, allowing Jews to marry whoever they want in civil marriages…and only 50,000 people showing up for the atzeret is going to be able to cancel this decree, which the Rav said otherwise begins in 10 days time.

Which suggests to me that Blue and White have found a way to fix the election somehow, and to win it after all, despite all polls showing a comfortable lead for the right wingers again.
And every single time the crazy, anti-Torah people get into power in this country, and start going after Yiddishkeit and frum Jews, Hashem stops them by sending a war with the Arabs. Check this out for yourself, it’s a fact and totally Snopes-proof.

So….if Blue and White win, God forbid, that means war is not far behind. And when there is war in Israel, the anti-Semitism in the world shoots through the roof – and it’s pretty high already.

So this really is everyone’s problem, and we need to make eve ry effort to get to Hevron tomorrow, for 10pm.I even have my teenagers coming with me this time, it’s that serious.(It’s an open miracle the 15 year old agreed, what can I tell you.)
On a technical note: I’m still waiting for confirmation if there is going to be a live hook-up via the internet. They still don’t know if that can make that happen this time, so I will keep you posted.
But there’s so much to pray for, isn’t there?

If Blue and White win, we are all going to be feeling the consequences, one way or another, wherever we live in the world.

The last couple of weeks, I feel like I’ve been swept up by some sort of spiritual whirlwind that has just been spinning me around, around, around.

My feet haven’t touched the ground, and every day has been filled with long hours, and not enough time, and massive confusions and inner doubt about what it is I’m meant to be doing with myself.

(And no breakfast…)

I look around, and I see that mirrored back to me all over the world, whether it’s Brexit in the UK, war in Israel, Mueller in the US.

Even the weather is indecisive and unsettled, with summer following winter following summer again in the space of 4 days.

Crazy days, crazy times.

We are all feeling the pressure right now, we can all pick up that vibe that ‘something big’ is coming down to the planet.

And I haven’t even started cleaning for Pesach yet.

First, I have to get April 8th out of the way, I think, which is when we’ll really see what’s about to come next, and if we managed to ‘sweeten’ it enough.

If you can’t make it to Hevron, at least join in over the internet. There are big things going on spiritually, a big fight is happening in Heaven, over whether the next stage of this whole geula process comes easy or hard.

The enemy is literally massing at the border, spiritually and physically.

And our prayers are the only thing that can get us – and hopefully, the whole of the world – through the next few weeks in one piece.

(The prayer gathering in Hevron on the night of April 8th, with Rav Berland, is the thing that is really going to tip the balance between ‘sweet’ or ‘harsh’ over the coming months. Even if you can’t make it in person, you can still participate via life hook-up. I know the tests of emuna are overwhelming at the moment, and the test of believing in our true tzaddikim is harder than ever. But please join in with the gathering for yourself. It’s the best self-defense you can get, at this critical point in time.)

https://ravberland.com/rav-ofer-erez-the-gathering-on-april-8th-is-the-biggest-weapon-we-have/

The make-or-break prayer gathering in Hevron with Rabbi Berland, 8.4.2019.

I’m just cutting and pasting this here, from the ravberland.com website.

The Rav has been warning about what’s happening in front of our eyes for months and even years. Before Chanuka, he told us that 50,000 people were required to come together in prayer, to sweeten the judgments hanging over the nation.

In the end, 20,000 showed up in Hevron, and another 30,000 joined in via the live link-up. It seems that was enough to tone down what was about to come next, although think back to all the people who have been killed in terror attacks since then, including Yossi Cohen, Ori Ansbacher, and just recently, Rav Ettinger in Ariel, and it’s still been pretty hard.

So now, we have another chance to BH sweeten what’s coming down the pipe.

The Rav is the real deal. He took all the disgrace and exile and imprisonment he’s suffered the last few years upon himself, to try to ‘atone’ for all the terrible things he could see gathering on the horizon.

So, if you really want geula the sweet way, without rockets, bombs, civil wars, financial collapses and I don’t know what else, mark down April 8th, 2019 as a date in your diary. If you can’t be there in person, at least make plans to join the prayer gathering in spirit, and to show Hashem you care.

Because we are coming down to the wire.

 

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Latest Details about the Prayer Gathering on April 8th, 2019

Back on December 7th, 2018, well before any Hizballah tunnels had been discovered in the North of Israel; well before rockets from the Gaza Strip were falling around Tel Aviv; long before the government collapsed, and new elections were called for April 9th, 2019, Rav Eliezer Berland put out the following message:

“They are preparing thousands of rockets”

“The whole of Am Yisrael is currently facing a terrible, threatening situation. Every part of Israel is now under threat of being deluged with rockets.

“After we saw 400 rockets falling on Ashkelon and the surrounding cities, including Beer Sheva, Netivot, Ofakim and Sderot, now they are preparing thousands and thousands of rockets, which will reach to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

“AND WE HAVE NO POSSIBILITY OF STOPPING THIS FROM HAPPENING,

[B]ecause the whole world is against us.

“They can launch 10,000 missiles, and if we fire back even just one, they will say that we are the aggressors, and they are the victims.

“They will say that we began [hostilities], and that they are simply defending themselves.

“We have no [military] might, we only have the power of tehillim (psalms). All of the State of Israel’s efforts to stop the missiles of Hezbollah and Hamas ended in failure. Every day, we are threatened with thousands of new rockets. They can reach any target precisely…

“AM ISRAEL IS IN THE GREATEST DANGER, MAMASH,

And our only possibility of coming through this lies in our mouths: “The voice is the voice of Yaakov, and the hands are the hands of Esav.” (Bereishit, 27:22).

The final moments of the State of Israel

“We are now, mamash, at the final moments that we can stay in Eretz Yisrael, in the State of Israel, because the goal of the Arabs is to destroy everyone here.

“They don’t care if its dati’im (observant Jews), chilonim (secular Jews), Chareidim, Neturei Karta – they aren’t interested.

“They want to annihilate every single Jew, until the very last one of us – regardless of whether he’s secular, or religious, or Mizrachi (Sephardi traditional), or kipat srugah (National Religious).

We are in the gravest danger

It’s written: “And I will divide them, into the light and into the dark” (Bereishit 1:4).They are not going to distinguish between the ‘light’ and the ‘darkness’. Right now, we are all in the gravest danger, mamash.

So, we need to really urge people to attend this Prayer Gathering, so that almost 50,000 thousand people will come.

“And everyone should read the whole of the Book of Tehillim, which will [form] the shoes for the Shechina… every single person is obliged to complete the book of Tehillim at the Prayer Gathering, and to make good use of this opportunity for 50,000 people to say tehillim together.

“This will (be considered in Heaven) as though a billion people are saying tehillim (psalms), and this will certainly stop the tillim (rockets).

“Only tehillim can stop the tillim – not the IDF, not weapons, not tanks, not Patriot missiles, no Iron Dome – none of these things can stop the missiles.

Only the tehillim that we will say at this Prayer Gathering can stop the missiles.

“And in the merit of this, everyone will have a long life, like Yitzhak, in the merit of participating in this Prather Gathering…. “And the Rav will of course be coming, without doubt.“The whole of Am Yisrael is invited to come to the Prayer Gathering, and to finish the book of Tehillim, and this will erase Hamas from the face of the earth.”

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Four months later, who can question the Tzaddik’s ruach hakodesh?

Details of the prayer gathering on April 9th, 2019

We are in great danger, mamash, and the Rav has called for as many people as possible to attend the forthcoming prayer gathering, to be held on the evening of April 8th, 2019, in the City of the Patriarchs, Hevron. Rav Eliezer Berland, shlita, will also be in attendance.

The gathering will begin at 10pm, and there will be subsidized buses arranged from all over the country, to bring people to Hevron.

For more details of the buses, and / of if you want to donate to help defray some of the costs of the transportation, please call: 077-229-2222

No one should be missing.

This morning, there were rockets from Gaza in Kfar Saba.

Are we supposed to believe this is another ‘mistake’? That Ahmed tripped over that darned carpet again, and fell against the ‘launch’ button?

Rav Berland was talking about rockets hitting every part of the country 4 months ago, and telling us the decree is serious and imminent. Which other Rav was trying to pull 50,000 Jews together in prayer at that point in time? Or pointing out that all the politicians in the world, all the ‘iron dome’ systems in the world simply aren’t going to help us, this time around?

We are down to the wire.

The threat is real, and growing stronger by the day.

Today, there were rockets in Kfar Saba.

And the Rav has told us clearly: Only prayer, only tehillim, can stop these rockets.

There is going to be another prayer gathering on Monday, April 8th, in Hevron. It’s hugely important that as many of us as possible get there, and throw our ‘prayer power’ behind the Rav’s effort to sweeten this decree.

Because the next rocket from Gaza could be coming through our roof, God forbid.

What if we don’t live in Israel?

Do we still have to worry, do we still have to care about all this stuff?

It’s a post for another time, but it comes back to that whole idea that we can’t run away from God, and His plan for us. Jews can certainly dodge rockets from Gaza by staying in chul.

But that doesn’t mean they’ll get the ‘easy life’ – because there is no such thing.

We can’t run away from God, even if we don’t live in Israel.

We won’t get a rocket through the roof (probably….I was talking to someone yesterday who is convinced civil war is around the corner in the US and the UK…), but we’ll get some other wake-up call.

There’s so much heartache and suffering going on behind closed doors all over the world.

So many of us are trying to stay in the comfort zone, even though it’s literally killing us, and preventing us from being the people, the Jews, God designed us to be.

And God doesn’t want us to do that anymore, as it’s holding up geula.

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’ 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.”

That’s why the ‘heathens’ like learning Gemara, and 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.”

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. To counter that impression, Rabbenu then tells us:

“God Himself cries out because of this!”

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 intellectual. 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.”

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.

Learning some lessons from the first feminist in Israel.

After I wrote this post on whether orthodox Judaism can ever really go together with feminists, some thoughtful person tried to educate me via email about something she called ‘toxic masculinity’. Here’s how she described it:

“[W]hat feminism opposes is something called “toxic masculinity.” Toxic masculinity is basically someone with the middos or Eisav–they pursue power, hold brute force above kindness, look after their own interests instead of others, don’t care about justice, care mostly about their own taavos and material interests. They only express motions like rage and disdain, not tenderness or compassion.

“Healthy masculinity is basically someone who has “good Jewish middos”: they have self-control, pursue justice, hold spiritual (Torah) and emotional goals above material ones, look after other people, and don’t misuse power.”

Sadly, I must be an incorrigible barbarian because when I read that, I laughed so hard I nearly fell off my chair.

In my house, we all know who has got issues with so-called ‘toxic masculinity’ – and it ain’t the man! Sure, Eisav had bad middot – he was the root of evil in the world, after all. But he didn’t have bad middot just because he was a man. If you look through Tanach, there are plenty of examples of murderous, idol-worshipping women with awful middot, too.

If you crack open the book of Kings (and the book of Chronicles), you’ll find the story of the first ‘feminists’ in Tanach, (i.e. ladies who put their own ‘rights’ and own ideas about ‘religious freedom’ ahead of Torah obligations and rules).

Israel’s first ‘feminists’

First up, is Queen Jezebel, who so thoroughly ruled over her husband, King Achav (Ahab) of Israel, that she managed to induce him to build a temple to her new Baal idol, and also got his permission to kill hundreds (and maybe even thousands) of Hashem’s true prophets.

The prophet Ovadya was a steward in the King’s palace, and he managed to hide the last 100 true prophets away from Jezebel’s murderous hands in two caves.[1]

You can just imagine how the conversations in that household used to go, can’t you?

Jezebel: Achvee, all these rabbis are bothering me. Every time I want to sacrifice a child to Moloch, or burn some incense to the Baal[2], they tell me I can’t do it, it’s against halacha.

King Achav: Jezebel, my love, I can’t believe these ignorant people are discriminating against your wish to worship in the way you choose! In the name of open-minded ‘religious freedom’, I give you permission to hunt down every last one of those antiquated men with beards, and to kill them as brutally as you wish!

Jezebel: Achvee, it’s so wonderful that I married such a tolerant, non-discriminating person like you! I’m going to write a Facebook post about it.

So anyway, Jezebel the feminist clearly wore the pants in that particular household[3], and man, did she abuse her position.

As well as murdering hundreds and thousands of God-fearing people in cold blood (all in the name of ‘religious tolerance’, natch), she was also instrumental in causing the Ten Tribes to fall so deeply into idol worship, they never recovered and were permanently exiled from their land.

Again, you can imagine how that was done, can’t you?

Jezebel: Achvee, I’m not worshipping in that orthodox Temple anymore. People keep looking at me funny when I want to read from the Torah, and I keep getting comments that wearing a pant-suit to shul isn’t respectful. That’s so disrespectful of me, and my feminine power! Achvee, build me somewhere I can go and be comfortable on Rosh Hashana, and where we can sit together, and where I can also give drashas, and share the wisdom of my forefathers!

King Achav: Yes, my sweet! Let’s reform this antiquated religion of ours! It’s not suitable for modern times, for modern, feminist women like yourself. And I’m also sick of that bearded fruitcake Elijah threatening me with God’s wrath every time I break out the cheeseburgers. And he was also pretty unhappy that I married you in the first place in that civil ceremony. These people belong in the dark ages! What shall we call this new Temple of ours? Temple of the ‘Baal’?[4]

Jezebel: I prefer ‘Temple of the Isha’.

So anyway, Jezebel was a real feminist power-house.

She managed to get a bunch of idolatrous temples built up all over Samaria and the Kingdom of Israel, and to pull millions of Jews away from believing in God, and His Torah, and His tzaddikim (the ones she hadn’t just murdered in cold blood.)

But that still wasn’t enough for her. That pesky kingdom of Judah, to the south, was still worshipping the One True God in the Temple in Jerusalem, and the people there simply weren’t interested in having ‘Welcoming the Baal’ ceremonies in the Women’s Courtyard every month. So one day, Jezebel had an idea.

Jezebel: Achvee, let’s create an organization that will promote feminists’ rights, and minority rights, and Baal worshippers’ rights, and get those pesky orthodox rabbis and their stupid religion out the way. All their talk of serving Hashem is just stopping people from living in harmony, and coming together. It’s so much easier to serve the Baal! He lets you marry whoever you want, eat whatever you want, do whatever you want, and you can even spend Yom Kippur sunbathing on the beach in Tel Aviv!

We need to re-educate those dumb, backwards people in Jerusalem, and get them to stop shoving their old, outdated ‘Torah’ down everyone else’s throats.

So, King Achav called together his accountants and lawyers, and together they created The New Jerusalem Foundation, which would channel millions of dollars to every subversive idol worshipper they could find in the Kingdom of Judah.

And their work bore poisonous fruit very quickly!

Within a decade or two, after constant sniping from the feminists on Facebook, even the otherwise righteous Judean King, King Jehoshaphat decided that in the name of achdut and tolerance (and to stop all the carping), he should marry his son, Crown Prince Jehoram, to Princess Ataliah, the daughter of Jezebel and Achav.

Like her mother before her, Ataliah was a hard-core feminist, and a worshipper of the Baal[5]. The first thing she did was encourage her husband to murder all his siblings after he ascended the throne of Judah, so he wouldn’t have any competition. Jehoram, King of Judah, initially wasn’t so sure, but Ataliah managed to persuade him[6].

Ataliah: Jehoree, what’s the big deal?! Don’t tell me you really buy into all that 10 commandments stuff about ‘Don’t murder!’ That’s so pre-historic of you! All that stuff was just made up by rabbis to keep open-minded Baal-worshippers like us under their thumb! Do you know how many people I know, who left Yiddishkeit, because they weren’t allowed to sacrifice their child for the Moloch? We need to open things up here, and tolerate the different streams of Judaism. Baal Judaism and Moloch Judaism is just as valid as ‘orthodox’ Judaism![7] And where I come from, everyone is murdering their siblings to keep hold of their throne. It’s real politik, the way the world really works! Stop being such a doss!

Jehoram, King of Judah didn’t want to be thought of as backwards or as discriminating against his feminist wife’s more modern beliefs – and he was also a little concerned about losing his revenue stream, if one of his siblings made a grab for the throne – so he acquiesced, and had all his brothers murdered[8] in the name of ‘freedom OF, and freedom FROM religion’.

Fast-forward 20 years, and things were going downhill for both kingdoms.

Both countries were being continually harassed and threatened by external enemies from both the North and the South. Achav was dead, his idol-worshipping son Jehoram, King of Israel, had just been murdered by the Israeli General, Jehu, who then also went after Jezebel.

Jezebel heard him coming inside the palace, and her last recorded act (which she live streamed on her i-Phone) was to apply mascara to her eyes, and fix her hairdo[9], before being pushed out of a window at the royal palace.

Forget about praying, or making teshuva a moment before she died, that stuff wasn’t for a modern, feminist woman like her.

(After viewing the footage, feminists in Jerusalem were horrified by this senseless violence against one of their own, and organized a vigil in her memory in Tel Aviv, which was attended by 20,000 prominent idolworshippers.  Channel 2 also covered the story, and blamed her death on – who else? – the rabbis).

The idol-worshipping Jehoram, King of Judah had died from an incurably painful intestinal disease, and his son, the anti-Torah[10], idol-worshipping Ahaziah, had made the mistake of going to visit his cousin, the King of Israel, just as Jehu was killing the whole royal family, so he was also murdered.

When the Queen Mother Ataliah heard this, feminist that she was, what did she decide to do? She decided it was time for the Kingdom of Judah to have its first female prime minister – because anything men can do, feminist women can do better!

So, she declared herself the ruler, then she gave orders for every single male inline to the throne (including her own children and grandchildren) to be poisoned to death.[11]

Luckily for the House of David, Ataliah’s daughter, Jehosheba, was sick to the back teeth of all the Baal worship and feminist clap-trap she’d grown up with. She’d become a sincere baal teshuva, and married the Kohen Hagadol, Jehoiada. When her mother, Ataliah, started murdering all her male grandchildren in cold-blood, Jehosheba spirited away her nephew, a baby prince called Yoash, into the Temple, where she hid him for 6 years, until she and her husband could depose Ataliah in a coup.

Ataliah never went to visit that orthodox Temple once during her reign – once she took over the country, the Baal worshipping feminists stopped having their monthly ‘do’ in the women’s courtyard – so she never figured out what was going on until it was too late[12].

Ataliah continued to worship the Baal – and a whole bunch of other idols – right up until the end, when Jehoiada had her executed, and the Talmud even relates that she ‘married’ (ahem…) an Ashera tree on a regular basis. Because hey, when you’re a feminist who needs men?!

Especially with all that ‘toxic masculinity’ they have going on.

It’s amazing what you can learn when you crack open the pages of Tanach, not least, as King Shlomo so wisely stated way back when:

There is nothing new under the sun.

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“Do not turn to idols…R Chanin said: ‘The verse is interpreted to mean: Do not turn to that which comes from your minds[13].’” – Tractate Shabbos 149a

 

FOOTNOTES:

 

[1] Kings I, 18:4

[2] “Evil though he was, without Jezebel’s contemptible influence, Achav would not have followed the Baal, which required the revolting practice of sacrificing children.” – Malbim, Artscroll footnote to Kings I, 16:31

[3] “There had never been anyone like Achav, who sold himself to do what was evil in the eyes of Hashem, because Jezebel his wife had incited him.” – Kings I, 21:25

[4] “[Achav] erected an altar for the Baal in the Temple of the Baal that he built in Samaria” – Kings I, 16:33

[5] “[Jehoram] went in the way of the Kings of Israel, just as the house of Achav had done, for Achav’s daughter had become his wife; he did what was evil in the eyes of Hashem.” – Kings II, 8:17

[6] “Scripture implies that the queen’s influence was decisive in corrupting Jehoram.” – Kli Yakar, Artscroll footnote to Kings II, 8:18

[7] “Just as Athaliah’s mother, Jezebel, brought the Baal to the Ten Tribes, so her daughter influenced Jehoram to bring it to Judah” – Artscroll footnote to Kings II, 8:18.

[8] “[Jehoram] had brothers, the sons of Jehoshaphat – Azariah, Jehiel, Zechariah, Azariahu, Michael and Shephatiah….Jehoram rose up over the kingdom of his father, and…he killed all of his brothers by the sword” – Chronicles II, 21:2-4

[9] “Jehu then came to Jezreel. Jezebel heard, and she put mascara on her eyes and adorned her head, and she looked out of the window.” – Kings II, 9:30

[10] “Rashi cites the Sages’ tradition that Ahaziah’s wickedness was so extreme…he took a Torah scroll and erased all mentions of Hashem’s name, and replaced them with the names of his idols.” – Artscroll footnote to Kings II, 9:27.

[11] “When Athaliah, Ahaziah’s mother, saw that her son had died, she arose and exterminated all the offspring of the royal family.” Kings I, 11:1

[12] “[Yoash] remained…in the Temple of Hashem, hidden for six years, while Athaliah reigned over the land.” – Kings II, 11:3

[13] The word אלילים (idols) is cognate with the word חללילים (recesses – of a man’s heart and mind) – Rashi: cf. Chidushei HaRan and Tos. Rid).

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The only reason we suffer is because we lack daat

On Shabbat, I was reading through the Likutey Moharan, and I came across the following lesson, which really spoke to me. So, I thought I should copy out the main ideas, and share it with you, too.

I’m not pretending I’m on the level of emuna described below. I still feel pain, I still suffer. But, it’s definitely giving me a goal to aim for, ad 120.

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Abridged Lesson I:250, from Likutey Moharan

Know: the sole cause of all types of pain and suffering is a lack of daat (internalized spiritual knowledge), for whoever possesses daat, and knows that everything is ordained by God – that ‘God gave and God took’[1] – doesn’t suffer at all, and experiences no pain.

And even though there is pain that is inevitably felt…specifically the pain when the soul leaves the body… this pain is very light and easy to accept when one is clearly aware that everything is ordained by God.

All the more so other types of pain and suffering – they will not be felt at all if one possesses daat, for pain and suffering are mainly on account of one’s daat being taken away, so that one should experience the suffering.

This is the essence of the Jewish pain in exile: all on account of them falling away from daat, and attributing everything to nature, circumstances and fate. This is what causes their pain and suffering.

And this is caused by their dwelling amongst the goyim, and learning from them – by observing that they are very successful while the Jewish people are scorned and lowly.

So they learn from them to attribute everything to nature and circumstances. And this itself is what causes their suffering, for if they would have daat that everything is ordained [by God], they would experience no suffering at all, as said.

And indeed, the Jewish people are above nature, and only when they sin do they fall below nature, as are the non-Jewish nations of the world, who are under the dominion of fate and nature. That is why they are in exile and in pain.

But their main pain and exile is specifically because they lack daat and attribute things to nature….

…[P]rayer is an aspect of providence that transcends nature. Nature dictates such and such, but prayer changes nature….For that is our greatness – that hears our prayers, and changes nature through His providence.

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Rebbe Nachman is summing up why all the non-Jewish ideas about how the world really works, and how our physical health works, and how to be happy, and how to raise our kids, and how marriage really works simply don’t apply to Jews.

Jews are above nature, and our power lies in prayer, not in superficial descriptions of the human psyche, the human body, or even, stuff like global warming.

That’s another reason why we need to keep coming back to daas Torah to inform our thinking, even when it seems illogical or somehow ‘wrong’ to us. We only think that way because we lack daat, spiritual wisdom that we’re really internalized, and that is really shaping every aspect of how we relate to the world, and how the world relates to us.

Because otherwise, we’re stuck believing the same stuff as the non-Jewish nations do about how the world works, and prayer goes out the window, and then we spend so much of our time feeling pain and suffering.

And if there’s an alternative to that, surely we should at least consider trying it?

Yesterday, I went back to Hevron, to go and so some hitbodedut at the Mearat HaMachpela, the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

So often, when I’m struggling with big decisions, big confusions, big inner turmoil, I’ve gone back to sit at a holy place – like Hevron, like Kever Rochel, like the Baba Sali, like Uman – and the clouds start to part, and a light starts to shine on a way out of the madness.

Like everyone else, I have a lot going on.

So, I was in Hevron yesterday, pondering on a lot of different things, when I happened to pick up a little booklet of Rav Shalom Arush’s ‘pearls of emuna’, that someone had left next to the grille overlooking the tomb of Avraham.

I picked it up, opened it up randomly, and got to a passage that (from memory) said something like this:

Rebbe Nachman writes in Likutey Moharan that the whole point of life is to keep giving the honor, the kavod, back to Hashem. And human beings are very bad at this, and they just want to keep trying to wrestle the honor that’s due to God back to themselves, in all types of different ways.

He brought direct quotes from Likutey Moharan, but I can’t remember the reference. But that was the gist.

And as always, it dealt so precisely with so many of the things I’m wrestling with, right now.

Like, why I am so terribly bothered and disturbed by all the rampant ‘self-promotion’ that’s going on all over the place, where even the yearning for geula seems to have been harnessed to a Paypal account.

And like, why I’m so terribly bothered by all these ‘rockstar rabbis’ and ‘rockstar rabbanits’ who speak so very eloquently, and who plaster themselves all over Youtube, and who seem to pop up like a rash on colorful glossy posters on lampposts and walls all over the Holy City of Jerusalem (and elsewhere…)

And like, why it upsets me so much that so very many of our ‘leaders’ – religious and otherwise – are clearly just ‘leading’ because of what’s in it for them, and their egos, and their bank accounts, and their social media following.

God is out the picture, fundamentally, even in the orthodox Jewish world.

So few people today are doing their Torah classes lishma, in order to give the honor due to God.

That’s strong language, I know, so let me try to explain what I’m talking about with some real-life examples.

A few years’ back, one of my neighbors strong-armed me into attending a ‘self-development / emuna’ workshop, by a well-known ‘rockstar rabbanit’ type in her home, because the rabbanit wanted a guarantee that at least 10 people would commit, “to make it worth her while”.

I baulked when my neighbor told me the cost was 50 shekels a class, and that I’d have to pay 400 shekels up front, to cover the whole 8 weeks.

Why so expensive?! I wanted to know.

Then I went to check out the slick website, the slick promo video, and I saw I’m dealing with a serious business person here, who is packaging their ‘Torah’ in a very commercially-sensible way. And I could see how making it financially ‘worth her while’ was actually the goal, the focus, of everything she was doing.

And then I baulked even more, because we’re warned away from people who turn their Torah learning into a ‘hammer’ with which to build up their own personality cults, and bank accounts.

But my neighbor wouldn’t relent, so I agreed to come and try one class (for 50 shekels…) and then to decide if I wanted to continue. I sat there, listening to some very warped ideas about how we can ‘force’ God to do what we want, and to give us what we want, and I came away extremely disturbed.

Because that’s total baloney. The real definition of emuna is accepting God’s will happily, while trying to work on the bad middot that are ‘blocking’ all the good stuff that God wants to send down to us.

But I guess that’s not such a commercially-viable message, and that no-one would want to pay 50 shekels a class just to be told their own bad middot are causing them all the problems.

Another time, a different ‘rockstar rabbnit’ rolled into town, and again it was an-singing, all-dancing event that was so expensive to attend, it actually provoked a storm of outrage in the village.

Why so expensive?! Everyone wanted to know.

But then, when you saw the fancy venue that was hired, and the expensive light and sound crew, and you counted the number of dancers, and comedians, and singers and performers who were the ‘warm up’ for that rockstar rabbanit, it all made perfect sense.

It was slick entertainment being packaged as Torah, and it was totally focused on the ‘feel-good’ factor, instead of the ‘actually becoming good’ factor – which again, is a much harder sell, commercially.

Again, I came away with a very uncomfortable feeling about it all, especially when I saw the queue of women lining up to get a ‘blessing’ and advice from the rabbanit after the show. I know firsthand how much damage bad advice can do to people who have been fooled into believing they’re dealing with a bona fide tzaddik.

You throw away your own critical thinking, you override your own gut feelings – and ultimately, the person isn’t really a tzaddik, doesn’t have any more of a connection to God than you do, and is really just dressing their own opinions and biases up as ‘ruach hakodesh’, or some sort of prophetic spirit.

In a nutshell: it’s extremely dangerous.

Another time, I was strong-armed into attending yet another Torah class given by yet another ‘rockstar rabbanit’, this time in Jerusalem. Again, I was left underwhelmed by the quality of the Torah being taught, and the character of the person giving it over, and overwhelmed by the insistence of the helper who waved her ‘donation cannister’ in the face of everyone who entered the room, and demanded a 30 shekel ‘donation’ before she’d let you sit down.

Ah, Torah lishma! Torah teaching for its own sake! Torah learning for God!

Not.

Not at all, actually.

I know rabbis and rabbanits need to eat, I really do. I know they need to put food on the table.

But as soon as the financial consideration becomes the imperative, all that person’s Torah, all that person’s wisdom, all that person’s ‘advice’ and insight, it’s all being harnessed to power their own honor and bank account, and God is out of the picture.

Even Rebbe Nachman tells us (in Sefer HaMiddot, Tzaddik, #18):

There is a tzaddik whose fame is reknown, who later falls through lust for money.

I.e., even a bona fide tzaddik can fall into a very bad place when financial considerations becomes the main engine driving their activities.

Also in Sefer HaMiddot (Tzaddik #57), Rabbenu tells us:

There are those that expound on the Torah with eloquence, yet their words lack truth.

But man, do they make for some good entertainment!

The rabbis and rabbanits who are truly serving God lishma, truly teaching Torah lishma, often do so at such an enormous cost to themselves, and their own comfort zone, and their own finances and ego.

That’s one of the ways you can tell who is ‘real’ and who isn’t, in our confused, upside-down, back-to-front world.

I prefer to learn Torah from people who I know from firsthand knowledge often lack the funds to pay their own electricity bills. And who often go into enormous debt putting out Torah teachings, or building new kollels and yeshivas, as Rav Natan did on behalf of Rebbe Nachman, and Breslov chassidut. And who literally go through a ‘fire and water’ of disgrace and humiliation, because they want all the honor to go to God, and not to become some ‘big name’ on the Torah circuit.

Personally, I’m not on that level, no-where near it. While I’m clearly not writing to earn money (haha!) I still write to feel good about myself, to feel as though I’m doing something useful in the world. It’s not 100% lishma, it’s not totally for God

And that’s why it’s so humbling for me to watch and experience how it looks when Torah is truly being learned and taught – and lived – lishma.

This Torah isn’t light entertainment, this Torah doesn’t make for pretty Youtube videos, the people teaching this Torah aren’t showing up on the roster of speakers at the Dead Sea for Pesach.

This Torah is challenging the listeners – continually – to put their hand up and admit they aren’t perfect, and that they need to knuckle down and work on their own characters and relationships.

And that’s just not something anyone wants to pay good money to hear, is it?

But this Torah makes it blindingly clear that the honor belongs to God.

And no-one else.

And that’s how I know it’s real.

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UPDATE: I had a question about how paying a tzaddik a pidyon nefesh relates to what I’ve described above. BH, I will collate a bunch of sources, and answer that with some daas Torah next week some time.

It’s a complicated subject, so I can understand the confusion, and with God’s help, I will try to clarify the difference.

On Shabbat, I had one of those dreams that seemed to be way more than a dream.

(I know I’ve been writing a lot about dreams recently, and I’m sorry about that! A few other people have told me they are also having unusually intense dreams at the moment, too. This one also just seemed like an important one to share, so here we go.)

In the dream, I was walking up to Rebbe Nachman’s tomb, and Rebbe Nachman was there. As soon as I got to the threshold, he told me:

“Go and get your husband and kids, and bring them here quickly.”

He seemed very pressured, somehow, which is unheard of for Rebbe Nachman. If you read Rav Natan’s accounts of him, what he went through, how he reacted to his own challenges, then you’d know that Rabbenu always took things extremely calmly and with maximum emuna.

So I was very surprised he seemed to be in such a rush.

I called my husband and kids over, and then he opened some sort of underground passage, and he told me:

“You have to get everyone underground.”

I assumed he just meant me and my family, so we were trying to get down there when he said to me:

“No. All of Am Yisrael has to get underground.”

So then, I got a bit frustrated (yes, even in a dream with Rebbe Nachman the bad temper still flared up, what can I do) and I said to him:

“What does that even mean?! There isn’t room down here for millions of Jews, and even if there was, how do you want me to get them here?! What does that mean, that I have to ‘get everyone underground’?!”

He told me:

“The ground is the Tzaddik Yesod HaOlam.”

And with that I woke up.

And then I did some more talking to God about the dream in hitbodedut, and I got some more insights, namely that I have to make maximum effort over the next couple of months to try and write stuff that will hopefully get more people connected to the Tzaddik Yesod HaOlam, because that is the only way people will be protected from whatever is going to happen next.

And I don’t know what that’s going to be any more than you do, but it seems that something is in the offing.

Of course, I’m not hugely thrilled about this job, for a few reasons, including if I actually start spelling out who I think the Tzaddik Yesod HaOlam actually is in our generation, it will be waving the proverbial red rag to anyone who happens to have a different opinion.

But I also realized that God gave me the blog for a reason, and much better that I use it for a holy purpose, then I just keep posting up long screeds full of daas me.

So, BH, that’s what I’m going to try and do. I’m not sure exactly how, but a storm is brewing in the world, and we need to take shelter by our tzaddikim, and especially, by the Tzaddik Yesod HaOlam. And I will hopefully start writing some more about this concept, so more of us can start to form a better opinion of what that actually is, and who he might be, in our generation.