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Yesterday, I woke up feeling completely ‘lost’ in the world.

There’s so much going on in my life, and in the world generally at the moment, that I’ve been feeling a huge amount of stress recently.

Big changes are underfoot, and we’re all feeling that tugging away at our sense of stability and ‘groundedness’.

Even though I have so much to do right now, I decided to take a day off and go and wander around Tel Aviv. When I first got to Israel, 12 years’ ago, I used to go to Tel Aviv a lot, as Modiin didn’t even have a mall when we first moved there, and coming from the ‘buzz’ of London I used to feel a little suffocated there.

But I haven’t been to Tel Aviv for a day out for years now, not since I moved to Jerusalem.  But yesterday, I knew I was so ‘lost’ that I wouldn’t get anything productive done via my computer, and big cities are excellent places to hide yourself when you’re already feeling ‘lost’.

There was no rain when I left Jerusalem; it was freezing cold, but the sky above was blue. I checked out a couple of ‘kosher vegan’ places to try in Tel Aviv, printed out some google maps, and headed out the door.

My plan was to pick up some healthy food from the Natural Choice bakery in Jerusalem on the way out to the bus station for the journey out. I got to the Natural Choice, and all they had on the shelves was the sugar-free cookies that are too hard-core even for me.

So, I got an ‘unhealthy’ croissant for breakfast instead, and figured I’d make up my veggies at lunchtime. On the bus on the way out, I just sat there doing some talking to God, trying to get a hold of myself and what it is I’m actually trying to do with my life.  10 minutes out of Tel Aviv, it started raining – and because we’ve had a bad drought here so far, I was thrilled!

Usually, the rain in Israel comes in massive bursts of no more than half an hour, so even though I hadn’t brought an umbrella, I didn’t think the rain would be such a downer on my day.

Man, was I wrong.

At Arlozorov, it was still pouring. I stood under an awning for 10 minutes, but then figured I’d start walking and find somewhere to buy an umbrella. I walked. And walked. And walked. So many shops were shut, because a lot of Tel Aviv had apparently stayed up up late ‘celebrating’ New Year’s Eve, 2018.

I duck into a couple of bus stops on the way, to try and shake off the excess water and dry out a little, but the rain kept on coming. Finally, I found an am:pm market selling umbrellas and my mood lifted: NOW I was going to start enjoying my day out!

I walked up Dizengoff, trying to soak in the big-city atmosphere without drowing….

With the grey skies, rain and gashmius, it so reminded me of London. I used to like that atmosphere, even miss it and pine for it, but as the rain continued on unabated, and the wind started blowing it horizontally into my face, I started to realize just how little fun I was actually having.

Half-drowned and freezing, I got to the Dizengoff centre to see if there was anywhere warm I could sit down, have a cup of tea and dry out a little. There was no-where. Everything is open on Shabbat, so nothing at all is kosher.

I wandered around a bit, past all the xmas trees in the shop windows, the outrageously disgusting tattoo parlors (one of which had a display in the window which probably counts as one of the most disturbing things, spiritually, I’ve ever seen) and also the ‘Wicca’ shop, that appeared to specialize in selling everything to do with the occult and the forces of evil.

The one bright spot was the nice art shop where I picked up a few tubes of watercolour paint – but I was otherwise so grossed-out by the Dizengoff centre, I decided torrential rain being blown into my face was actually preferable.

I got outside, and the mabbul was continuing unabated. My boots were close to giving up the ghost from trying to wade through the 5 inches of water flooding the pavements in a cascade, so I thought this was a good time to visit the ‘kosher’ café I’d researched.

I get there, and guess what? It’s open on Shabbat! I.e. completely not kosher. My heart sank. I asked one of the locals if there was anywhere kosher anywhere nearby, so I could just get a tea and warm up a bit. She looked at me with pity in her eyes.

“No, I don’t think there is,” she said apologetically.

So I asked directions back to the bus station (because my google map had long since disintegrated in my sodden bag) and headed that way instead.

On the way, two things happened:

1) I found a kosher falafel place with whole wheat pita, and I blessed the store owner from the bottom of my heart for actually being a place where a Jew could eat in Tel Aviv.

2) I stumbled across the ‘Gan HaIr’ mall, on the way back to Arlozorov.

Which is when I started to figure out a little about why I’d come to Tel Aviv, and why my day maybe wasn’t the complete ‘wash-out’ it seemed to be. 12 years ago, I also came to the Gan HaIr mall, and dragged my husband and kids there, in my mad chase after designer label clothing.

I forgot how obsessed I used to be about buying designer clothes. I forgot how much I used to obsess over buying ‘the right’ sweater. Yesterday when I walked around that mall for a bit, I remembered how I used to be 12 years ago, and I was so grateful to God that I’m not that person any more.

I came out in a much happier mood, and tried to cross the street that had now turned into a raging river. Some Tel Aviv Temani grandma in jeans called out to me from under her enormous umbrella:

“Baruch Hashem, it hasn’t stopped raining! Usually, it stops for a while, but today it hasn’t stopped raining! Gashmei bracha!

Gashmei bracha.

Soaking through my boots and making my feet freeze solid. Soaking through my skirt making it hard to walk and freezing my legs. Soaking through my bag, and my coat, and my head-covering, giving me that ‘spent-too-much-time-in-the-washing-machine-before-being-hung-up-to-dry’ smell.

The cherry on the cake is when I got curb-splashed with gashmei bracha 100 metres away from the bus back to Jerusalem. Whatever bit of me had stayed dry the last four hours got completely soaked at that point.

I was so tired, wet and cold when I got back to Jerusalem.

But I think I finally got the message.

Too much unrelenting gashmius, with no let up and no break, is not ‘fun’ and is not ‘amazing’ and is definitely not how I want to be spending my life. Gashmius has a place, just as life can’t exist without rainfall. Sometimes, you need to get a bit wet.

But Tel Aviv in the rain reminded me of what I’d left behind in London:

Designer labels, ucky street culture and a life spent half-drowned and frozen to death by gashmei bracha.

Bring on the sun.

As I watched clods of brown mud being spaded on top of a coffin last week, I was pondering what a person truly leaves behind them, when they die.

They leave behind a lot of paperwork – this agreement with the car leasing company, that letter from the bank, a will, a bill, an instruction to an insurance agent or realtor.

They also leave behind a lot of clothes. And accessories. And jewellery. Closets and closets full of stuff that no-one else actually wants, for all the person who used to wear them is so loved and missed.

Other things remain, like furniture. A new fridge. A shed-full of other people’s memories that couldn’t quite be discarded despite the lack of real use for them in the world.

Then there’s the photos – or at least, there used to be the photos before the i-Phones showed up and turned everything into yet another anonymous, bland file on Dropbox that could be viewed or ignored with equal equanimity.

All these things are left behind, but carry no weight in the world in the world as soon as person moves on to the next, purely spiritual, stage of left.

So what’s really left behind, tachlis, in the world?

The truth is, we really all already know the answer to this question, for all that it can be so obscured behind the rat race, and the keeping up with the Joneses, and the massive mortgage payments.

What we leave behind is our kindnesses, and the things we did that touched and effected other people worlds, in some way.

Like, that conversation we once had with someone that ended up somehow changing the whole course of their life. Or the event we helped organize that raised so much money, or brought so much joy and meaning to other people’s hearts.

Or the meals we made with love, day in day out, that nourished our families and friends, and made them feel like someone had their back.

What we leave behind is the impression we made on other people’s lives, and in other people’s memories, and within other people’s hearts.

Did we turn someone else’s heart to stone with a cruel word, or a hateful comment, or did we warm it up in some way?

Thank God, I haven’t been to a lot of funerals. But I’ve been to enough to know that no-one talks about how much money the dead person had, or how big their house was, or how nattily they dressed.

What we leave behind is our kindnesses for others, and our commitment to living a ‘good’ life as delineated by Hashem, and His Torah.

As below, so above. Parodoxically, what we take with us into the next world are exactly the same things that we leave behind here. Our kindnesses and our mitzvot, and our character traits.

In the world of truth, no-one cares what car you drive, or how many square metres you call ‘home’.

Someone told me that the US has just legalized gay marriage across the whole country. That same someone (who lives in the USA) told me that she had a feeling she’d be moving to Israel sooner rather than later (even though she hasn’t been here for years) because “Once you start messing around with the 7 Noachide Laws, that has a way of diminishing God’s love for your country.”

I know reams and reams is probably being written about this landmark decision of the US Supreme Court. I’m not going to add to all the speculation with this post; what I DO want to talk about, though, is how important it is at this stage in Jewish history for us Jews to stand up for God.

When I moved to Israel 10 years’ ago, it was a little ahead of the first ‘gay parade’ in Jerusalem. Back then, I was still working for the British Government as a ghostwriter for Ministers, and one of my best clients (in terms of how much work they asked me to do for them) was the Women and Equality Unit.

But in terms of what I had to write for them, it was the most drecky, horrible job ever. In just one speech, I’d have to laud women who rushed back to work as soon as their kids were born (the ‘women’ bit); praise muslims for having 6 wives (the ‘equality’ bit), and then also toss in at least one comment about how great and wonderful same gender relationships were (more of the ‘equality’ bit).

And bizarrely, in that ultra politically-correct environment where any notion of ‘right and wrong’ had gone completely out of the window, no-one seemed to notice how all these ideologies were completely at odds with each other, out there in the real world.

I hated those speeches.

I hated the feeling that I was selling-out my soul and my beliefs just  to pay my mortgage – but of course, that’s exactly what I was doing because back then, the Women and Equality Unit paid me very nicely to turn those things around for them.

It was part of the equation of being a religious Jew in galut, or exile.

So we moved to Israel, and all the fuss of the gay parade broke out here, and I kind of watched it a bit bemused, over to one side. My Israeli rabbis were encouraging me to take a stand, and to sign petitions against it, and to register my displeasure. And part of me really wanted to do that stuff – but the other part of me was far too scared of dong anything so UN-politically correct, because, well, political correctness was a central plank of my career and bank balance.

Or so I thought at the time.

So I felt very uncomfortable, but I did and said nothing.

Fast forward a decade, and a lot of water has flown under the bridge since then. Firstly, I actually went and researched the issue about why spilling seed is so bad, spiritually, for my old writing gig at breslev.co.il. You can check out those articles HERE.

To sum it up, whenever a man spills seed that has no chance of impregnating a woman, (however slim that chance might be), the millions of souls contained in that ‘seed’ get trapped in the realm of evil, which then sucks all the spiritual strength out of those souls, to pursue its own evil agenda in the world.

Scary stuff! And a concrete explanation of why gay marriage, and why promiscuous self-pleasuring lifestyles really are destroying the world.

The other thing that happened is that I gave up my career, and went through a patch of ‘being’ instead of doing that lasted for quite a few years. In that time of enforced career failure, my ego took quite a beating, and I started to realize more and more that God is running the show.

God is putting food on my table (or not…) God is paying my bills (or not…) God is responsible for my successes in life (I’m ready when You’re ready, Hashem).

That understanding helped me to start shifting all the political correct brainwashing out of my system, and to stop worrying that if I stood up for what was right, in whichever way God expected that of me, that I was going to lose my cred, career or bank balance. I anyway lost all of those things, which was a very painful process, but now I see it has a huge upside:

I got out of spiritual galut.

I can say GAY MARRIAGE IS REALLY BAD, and not care about the consequences of making that statement.

But if I was back in the UK? Or still working for the Women and Equality Unit? Now, you’re talking about a huge moral test – and the chances are high that I would probably fail it.

The decision by the US Supreme Court to legalize gay marriage is both a huge test, and a huge opportunity for God-fearing Jews. Anyone who can stand up for God is effectively proving they’re out of slavery, out of exile, out of bondage to foreign beliefs and political correctness. Anyone who can’t (and man, believe me that I know that there’s bills to pay and tuition to cover) – is stuck, spiritually, in a very bad place.

A place where God is missing, and man’s desires and animal-self is ruling the roost.

So the choice is simple, but also incredibly profound: Stand up for God and protest gay marriage in whichever way you can.

Or stay in spiritual exile.

Auras, or ‘hilas’ as they’re known in Hebrew, are a Jewish concept, and also scientifically-proven. Scientists have been using Kirlian photography for years, to measure and record the energy fields that every single living creature gives off, kind of like an invisible force-field.

In his great book called ‘The Coming Revolution’, Rav Zamir Cohen has a whole chapter showing before and after pictures of how laying tefillin can change the colour of a man’s aura; and how covering the hair can do the same for a married woman.

In the same vein, many pictures abound of holy rabbis who have a white light visibly shining from their face, or around them: that’s their aura. It’s so holy, pure and strong, even regular photography can pick it up. Remember the light that was shining from Moshe Rabbenu’s face after he’d been talking to G-d non-stop for 40 days? It’s the same idea.

Last year, I met a woman who did ‘kosher healing’, apparently in a 100% halachically-acceptable way (although now, I’m seeing that a lot of people make that claim for the alternative healing things they’re involved with, and it’s not always true.)

Anyway, she seemed pretty nice and frum, and one of the stories she told me was about trying to do a ‘healing session’ on someone who had come to her, who was really into their yoga.

Her client was a baal teshuva, or recent returnee to Judaism, and she’d left a lot of her old lifestyle and beliefs behind – but she couldn’t quite disconnect from the yoga. Every day, she’d do her half an hour of meditation, and she still attended a few classes a week at her local yoga studio in Tel Aviv, where she lived.

The healing woman told me:

“Once, she came to me straight after doing a yoga class, and her aura was completely gone. I couldn’t ‘feel’ anything to work with; it was like trying to work with a plastic mannequin, not a living, breathing human being.”

The healing lady was so shocked by the phenomenon, she mentioned it to her client, to try to work out what had caused it. The client couldn’t think of anything – except that she’d just been to a yoga class.

The next week, she came a different day – and her aura was back. The healer decided to do an experiment. She asked her client to schedule a few sessions in a row, some after her yoga class, and some not, so she could see if a pattern would emerge.

It did.

Every time the client came after doing yoga, her aura, or protective outer energy field, was completely gone.

Now, you can say all this is superstitious clap-trap; you can dismiss this as an old wives’ tale; you can jump up and down and say there’s ‘nothing wrong’ with doing a bit of stretching.

What I can tell you is this: yoga, and other disciplines like it, which are firmly rooted in idol worshipping practises and philosophies, can and do cause damage to a Jewish soul.

It may not be obvious to us, which is why we need to check things out very carefully with our learned rabbis, who usually know much more than we do about deep spiritual issues that most of us don’t have the first clue about.

As we mentioned in a previous post, if the practitioner isn’t a G-d-fearing person, they are already not going to be a healthy spiritual source of healing for you, whatever they’re doing.

If what they’re doing is also spiritually unhealthy or damaging, then you’re really asking for trouble.

I don’t know what all this means, practically – I’m still trying to work it out myself. But it seems wise to start exercising more caution about the non-Jewish disciplines and ideas and therapies we get caught up in. Yes, they sound good. Often, they even work – but if that ‘healing energy’ is not coming from G-d, then it’s coming from a very dark place. And speaking for myself, that’s definitely NOT something I want to get involved with.

As I was lying in bed on Shabbat, watching the sky alternate between a brilliant Spring blue, and a gloomy, maximum-Winter grey, it struck me how the weather in this country is SOOOO holy.

In the UK, where I’m from, the sky most days is some version of grey, with the odd patch of blue showing through in between the clouds (occasionally, in the Summer time…)

When I lived Montreal, a place known for its massive extremes of weather, you could certainly have a tremendously cold, but still sunny day in the middle of the snow season; and you could also have a cloudy day in August, prior to one of Montreal’s spectacular Summer thunderstorms.

But what I’ve never seen anywhere else is a sky going from powder blue, to darkest grey, to powder blue, to darkest grey – literally changing every 10 minutes from one extreme to the other.

I was watching the heavy snow fall in Jerusalem, and interspersed with it, I was watching the sun shine out unabashed, and it took my breath away.

I could deal with the grey, snowy horrible weather so much better, because I knew the sun was literally a 10 minute wait away. I could also enjoy the sun, because I knew that we’ve had enough rainfall this year to last us a decade (but that won’t stop them printing ‘drought imminent’ stories again next year, as soon as we get past Pesach.)

As I lay there, looking at the sky, I realized G-d was given me a mashaal, or an allegory for life, especially life in Israel, and especially, my life at the moment.

I’ve hit every ‘grey’ extreme going the last few months. I’ve had days when I literally felt like I couldn’t take ‘it’ any more, and I felt like I was going to explode, or break into pieces, if something didn’t change, pronto.

And then, the clouds parted, and I’d feel so much better, and calmer, and even a little bit happy again. I was back in my ‘blue sky’ mindset. And then 10 minutes later, the freezing wind and hail and snow showed up again, figuratively speaking.

The other day, I was trying to work out what’s been the most difficult thing to deal with, emotionally-speaking, and after I did a mind-map on the subject, what came through loud and clear was ‘uncertainty’. Nothing is certain. Not only that, my life, my attitude, my outlook, can flip from stormiest grey to sunniest blue in a second – and then flip back again in another second.

It’s enough to drive you bonkers.

But then, I looked at the sky on Shabbat, and I saw that this uncertainty is actually a blessing, in many ways, because it’s hiding the certainty of G-d, and His kindness, and the way He’s directing the world and my life.

After half an hour, I really got that G-d is controlling the extreme weather; G-d is flipping the switch; G-d is tipping things from grey to blue, and back again. When I need grey, I’ll get it. When I need blue, I’ll get it – and things will change according to what G-d decides is best for me.

And that’s for certain.

So like I said, even the weather in Israel is holy, and can teach us some profound lessons about how G-d is in charge of everything. We just have to take that half an hour, or five minutes, or 2 seconds to stay still, sit quiet, and try to work out the message He’s hiding in everything, even the freak weather.