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BH, I have many, many issues and flaws that I’m working on (as you probably have figured out yourself, by now) – but probably my main saving grace, spiritually, is that I don’t have a problem giving tzedakah.

Even when I was a penniless student in university, I regularly gave 10% of whatever measly income I actually had to charity. When I was earning a fortune in the UK, we used to get lines of collectors from Israel queuing up outside our door (which to be honest was something of a mixed blessing and not always an uplifting experience, especially when people would start arguing over how much we’d given them and even turning a little abusive.)

Then, we moved to Israel – and throughout all my ups and downs, my losing my home twice over, my enormous difficulties with money that at times have been completely overwhelming, even then – I still gave charity. At least 10%, and sometimes even more.

So when people have issues giving charity, I don’t always find that so easy to relate to.

Someone tried to explain the problem to me a few days ago, and said that while they try to see God in every area of their life, as soon as it becomes a question of money, it’s like God is completely out of the picture.

The battle for ‘self-preservation’ kicks in, the primitive, instinctual brain whose motto is ‘me first’ takes over, and all thoughts of giving tzedaka kind of vanish in the mist.

After they explained it that way, I started to understand the battle that so many of us have to give 10% of our income away, even when we have enough for all of our own needs. And since I’ve been reading more of Rebbe Nachman’s works, I also understand that the ‘lust for money’ is the hardest one to escape, and the biggest problem for most people heading into geula and the time of redemption.

I’ve also noticed another strange thing: the more money a person has, the more stingy they often become with other people, and the more judgmental of the people asking for help (probably as a defense mechanism, so they don’t feel guilty for not giving.)

I was discussing this with my husband a while back, and he told me he thinks money acts like a kind of spiritual magnet for a person. The bigger the pile of cash in the bank account, the harder it seems to be to part with any of it.

Yet, Rebbe Nachman teaches that the ONLY way to really break the lust for money is to give charity generously. And that’s where things can get very, very difficult, especially for people who are truly sunk in the lust for money.

EVEN IF WE DON’T GIVE THE MONEY TO TZEDAKA, WE’LL STILL END UP LOSING IT

A little while back, someone I know did a big financial deal that netted them around half a million euros. They didn’t give any of it to charity, let alone 10%. A few months later, they got landed with a very unexpected and stressful bill for €50,000 – exactly 10%.

I’m bringing this story to prove our Sages dictum that a person’s income, including how much money they’ll have and lose, is decided on Rosh Hashana. And if the person is worthy, they’ll end up ‘losing’ their money to charity. And if not? Then it’ll be unexpected tax bills, expenses, fines, things breaking down, a year of therapy for their unhappy kids, marriage counselling sessions etc etc.

When you give 10% to charity, you see blessings in all areas of your life, because as our Sages also teach us, charity saves us from death, and overturns the harsh decrees. (It’s a separate post, but this is the main principle underlying why people do a pidyon Nefesh, especially when they’re seriously ill or suffering in some way. It’s literally ‘money for blood’ – your cash instead of your health, or your marriage, or some other big judgment against you, God forbid.)

Given how hard the yetzer sometimes makes it to give charity to others, I thought I’d bring some quotes from Rebbe Nachman’s Book of Traits, to underline the many advantages that come from doing so, and also some key reasons why money can be so tight in a household, in the first place.

Here goes:

FROM THE SECTION ON MONEY:

  • One’s wealth doesn’t endure if one doesn’t have mercy on others.
  • Four things cause the possessions of houseowners to fall into oblivion: denying payment to their employees; denying employees their salary; evading one’s obligations and shifting them on to others; and arrogance. (If you’re wondering why I lost my home twice despite all my charity, it’s a pretty safe bet that arrogance had something to do with it.)
  • Honoring the Torah and Shabbat is conducive to wealth.
  • If one includes God in his pain, his income is doubled. Also, his income soars like a bird.
  • When one sees that his sustenance is limited, he should give part of it to charity.
  • One’s sustenance is diminished when one does not judge others with the benefit of the doubt (also one of my very big problems, at least up until now.)
  • One who deals with impure names and witchcraft becomes poor (after the story I recounted below HERE about the evil ‘alternative healer’, this sentence really jumped out at me…)
  • Through apostasy [i.e. not really believing in God] comes poverty.
  • The words of a Tzaddik bring income (take a look at THIS story, about Israeli multi-millionaire Yaron Yamin.)
  • Blessing only rests within one’s house in the merit of honoring one’s wife.

FROM THE SECTION ON CHARITY:

  • Great is charity, that it brings the redemption near.
  • And saves from death…and evokes the Divine presence…and raises a person’s fortune…and renders one a complete Tzaddik.
  • Through charity, one becomes able to avoid evil.
  • Charity is equal to all the other commandments together.
  • God grants one who pursues opportunities to give charity with money, and with upright people to whom to give it. He also merits children who become wealthy, great in wisdom and masters in aggadah.
  • One should give charity with both hands, and his prayer will be heard.
  • Through generosity, you will have renewal.
  • Through charity, one comes to emuna…and salvation is brought.
  • In the merit of charity, one is saved from pride.
  • The joy one feels in giving charity is a sign of a whole heart.
  • Even an impoverished person must give charity and if he does, he will not see further poverty.

And lastly, this

FROM THE SECTION ‘TZADDIK’:

  • Don’t be disturbed by the fact that the Tzaddikim accept financial support from others in order to run their households with wealth and honor – would it not be better for them not to lead, and not to take from others? For the more delight and expansion the Tzaddik has, the more his soul expands, and there is a resting place in which the Divine Presence may dwell.
  • The students of a Tzaddik attain their livelihood in his merit.
  • Giving money to benefit a Tzaddik is like serving in the Holy Temple.
  • One who doesn’t support a Torah scholar from his possessions will never see a sign of blessing.
  • Through giving charity, one becomes a ‘veer from evil’ [and do good].
  • God gives livelihood to a tzaddik through the community in order that he will have some connection with them, and so that when God remembers the Tzaddik, he remembers them as well.
  • The sufferings that come upon the Tzaddikim are an atonement for all the Jewish people.
  • One who benefits the Tzaddik from his belongings it’s as if he benefited all the Jewish people, and he’s saved from death.
  • Through the livelihood people provide for the Tzaddik, all their sins are forgiven, just as the Cohen’s eating of the sacrifices atoned for those who offered them.

HOW DO WE KNOW WHO’S A ‘REAL’ TZADDIK, TO GIVE OUR MONEY TO?

There is one answer to this question, and one answer only: Talk to God about it, and ask Him to show you clearly who is really a Tzaddik in this upside-down, backwards, all-mixed-up world, and who isn’t.

I guarantee if you ask this question sincerely, God will very quickly start to show you who is the real deal in the world. When me and my husband started asking God to show us who the real rabbis were a couple of years ago, He very quickly exploded both of the ‘rabbinic’ fakers in our lives within a week of each other….

This is one question that you can’t take anyone else’s opinion on – you just have to deal direct with God yourself, and ask Him to show you the truth.

B’hatzlacha!

Recently, I had an email exchange with someone that got me thinking about how when Moshiach really does, actually, well and truly show up, most people are going to think he’s a cult leader.

You can understand why.

Moshiach will be a hugely charismatic, magnetic person of immense holiness and charm, that the Jewish soul will automatically gravitate towards, and want to nullify themselves to.

That’s part of the beauty and majesty of the Moshiach! The Moshiach will have a global soul that contains a spark of every Jew on the planet, and we’ll all want to get close to him, and soak in his immense spiritual light.

But until the Moshiach is completely and undeniably revealed as the Moshiach, he’s going to look like one of the most convincing cult leaders you’ve ever met.

And here lies the conundrum.

As I’ve written about a lot here, there are an awful lot of what Rebbe Nachman calls ‘Rav de klipa’, or rabbis of the dark side out there in the world. God already warned us that for every ‘light’ He created, there would be darkness, and for every ‘good’ He created, there would be bad, until Moshiach comes and the whole world is spiritually rectified and evil permanently vanquished.

Also as I’ve written about elsewhere, Moshiach’s coming is not a one-shot dramatic affair where he steps off a plane in Ben Gurion airport, or holds a coming out party and voila, instant Moshiach and geula.

Nope.

It’s going to be a long, drawn-out affair, like the sunrise, growing stronger and stronger from moment to moment until everyone has to admit that day has come. But while we’re still in the process of transition, there’s going to be a lot of murky stuff mixed into that sunrise.

Lots of ‘rabbis’ pretending to be what they really are not. Lots of psychos taking advantage of trusting members of the public, to act in the most evil, anti-Torah, unethical ways. Lots of ‘cult leaders in waiting’ trying to take advantage of our yearning for Moshiach to pull a fast one over us and pull us away from God, has va halila.

So what’s a person meant to do?

Some of us are solving this problem by plain blank refusing to acknowledge Moshiach in any real way. Sure, they’ll discuss the idea theoretically, but any suggestion that a real person could actually be Moshiach, or that this could actually happen in their lifetimes (especially if they live outside of Israel…) will elicit a dramatically negative response.

One such person who holds this view of all things Moshiach told me:

‘Look what happened with Chabad! We don’t want something like that to happen again!’

as justification for why they were so ‘anti’ the whole talking about Moshiach thing.

So then, I started to ponder: what really happened with Chabad?

Sure, there are still a few people walking around with the mistaken idea that the Lubavitcher Rebbe will come back from the dead to lead us. But I’m not sure even that is so terrible. When Moshiach is revealed, they’ll see that they’re wrong, and end of story.

(There’s a whole big discussion in the Gemara about just this idea, of whether the Moshiach can come back from the dead, and the Gemara – after a long discussion – asserts that this will not be the case. I don’t know much about the Moshiach, but I can tell you that he definitely knows more Gemara than I do, and abides by all aspects of Jewish halachic law…)

And in the meantime, what really happened with Chabad? Simply that hundreds of thousands of Jews started to yearn for Moshiach to come, in fulfillment of the Rambam’s 13th Principle of Faith, and made a whole bunch of teshuva in readiness for that moment.

I mean really, what’s so bad about that?

Sure, there are some crazy people that took things to extremes, but Chabad didn’t make these people crazy any more than Breslov makes people crazy. Crazy people (including yours truly…) are attracted to very big spiritual lights, as we know that’s where we’ll find the antidote for all the darkness we’re lugging around in our souls.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe was an enormous spiritual light, and very probably was the potential Moshiach of his generation. If your tikkun is to be a crazy person anyway, at least be a crazy person who keeps mitzvahs and talks (a little too much…) about the coming of the Moshiach.

But to come back to the point in hand, how are we really going to know who is a true candidate for Moshiach, and who is just a cult-leader-in-waiting, in this very difficult, confusing time before geula actually really kicks off?

There’s one answer:

Hitbodedut.

The regular practice of talking to Hashem in your own words for a fixed amount of time every day, preferably an hour.

When you talk to God regularly like this, you get connected to your soul, and to the real Tzaddikim of the generation, and to Hashem Himself, and it gets much, much harder for the fakers to fool you.

Try this exercise, to see what I mean:

Imagine a rabbi that you KNOW is good and the real deal, like the Baba Sali, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Chida, the Baal Shem Tov, Rebbe Nachman, Rav Ovadia Yosef, etc. See how they look, see how ‘big’ they are, compared to you yourself.

Now, imagine a rabbi from today meeting that ‘good’ rabbi from the past – really picture them meeting in your head – and see what happens.

I guarantee you’ll start to get some amazing insights about who is really ‘real’ and who isn’t, if you try this exercise a few times, and ask God to show you what’s really going on.

And in the meantime, this is the best and really only route for knowing who really could be Moshiach, and who is a cult-leader-in-disguise.

Don’t let the ‘Rav de klipa’s’ fool you!

And don’t be scared to join the ‘cult of Moshiach’ as soon as you’re 100% convinced inside that you’ve discovered who he is. After all, yearning for Moshiach is a fundamental part of being a Jew, and if you’re regularly talking to God about it all, He’ll certainly guide you to the right person, at just the right time.

And if you’re wrong – but attached to an enormously holy person in the meantime who could be Moshiach, but maybe isn’t – what’s so bad about that, anyway?

What is Moshiach going to fix, and what do we need to work on ourselves?

This is a question I’ve been musing over again the last few days, in part due to an email I received from one of my readers, a bit of which I’m including below, with her permission:

“I was really hoping there would be some changes already in the moshiach process [after Pesach] and nothing is different that we can see. I am sure things are happening behind the scenes but that doesn’t give me anything tangible to hold onto. Faith is hard. Everyone mocks me in a way because I am so connected to Moshiach being a reality. Nothing can be proven as every evidence people find reasons to say it doesn’t mean anything…

“I think I look to Moshiach arriving as a solution to my issues or at least a distraction from them. I want a change so badly that I’m dependent on it for my sanity. I really couldn’t take a few more years until things get rolling. So many issues are relying on him coming soon… I am waiting for moshiach to fix all of my problems and I know that is not right.

“I take myself out of the picture for a moment and I still want moshiach to come for Hashem’s glory and the rest of the world but then I put myself back in the picture and I just see an end to my issues that have no other solution. Agh, I guess I’m human. This is why I have run out of patience. Because I can’t wait without these issues getting bigger.

“It is a tease to believe that any moment he can arrive and then each chag passes without improvement. So why can’t I [just] give Hashem these problems? I don’t need this stress. I don’t need to worry about money and moshiach’s arrival. I know that but I can’t incorporate it fully into my emunah.”

WHAT STUFF IS MOSHIACH ACTUALLY GOING TO FIX, WHEN HE COMES?

This is not a superficial topic, and requires a lot of thoughtful consideration, so please consider this post just a start, and not a definitive response.

We’re taught that when Moshiach comes, the yetzer hara, or evil inclination is going to be ‘slaughtered’. It doesn’t say anywhere that when Moshiach comes everyone will be a millionaire, and that illnesses won’t happen anymore, or that husbands and wives (and mother-in-laws…) will all get on with each other brilliantly, all of the time.

People will still have hardships. People will still die. Rebbe Nachman said (#276 in ‘Tzaddik’):

“People assume that when the Messiah comes there will be no death. This is not so. Even Mashiach himself will also die.” (See tractate Sukkah 52a).

So, if we’ve still got money problems, health issues, hardships etc after Moshiach shows up, then what is Moshiach actually coming to fix?

This is what came to me, after pondering the question. IF our problems are related to the fact that God’s providence and influence is currently hidden in the world, then Moshiach’s coming will definitely fix those issues.

After Moshiach is openly revealed, there will be no place in the world for atheism, heresy and all those people who like to claim everything is a ‘coincidence’ in life. In the time of Moshiach, Hashem’s Divine providence will be as clear as day.

That means instead of people swallowing handfuls of Tylenol to cope with their headaches, or backaches, or toothaches, they’ll first go out to the field and talk to God directly about WHY He’s sending them their aches and pains, and what sort of teshuva He wants them to do to fix the problem.

Ditto, for money issues. Ditto for shalom bayit issues. Ditto for childrearing, relationships and existential angst issues.

Most of our issues and problems are only coming because God wants us to fix something in our lives, behaviours, beliefs and attitudes.

Once we get the message, the problem disappears.

So people will be ‘getting the message’ that God is running the world, and behind all their problems much, much more when Moshiach comes – and as a result, they’ll have far fewer problems, and far less troubles.

That’s what it means that the ‘yetzer’ will get slaughtered. That yetzer that’s telling you that YOU and OTHER PEOPLE are running the world will disappear forever.

But, for the problems that aren’t directly related to having emuna and seeing God’s hand in our life, and making the required teshuva – I’m not sure how those problems will disappear after Moshiach. For example, if someone’s tikkun requires them to be poor forever as a way of rectifying their souls, that will probably still happen post-Moshiach.

Just what? The person themselves will no longer be beating themselves up for being a loser, blaming their bad luck, or being jealous of other ‘richer’ people. They’ll have 100% clarity that being poor is their Divinely-ordained tikkun, and that will make the whole ordeal so much sweeter and nicer.

So what does that mean for us and our problems now?

As I wrote to my correspondent, so many of us are overwhelmed by difficulties and suffering at the moment, that it’s only human to want Moshiach to come and get us out of the mess our lives are in. I certainly also have a lot of times when I start to feel despairing about my own life, and just want to escape from all my problems somehow.

At those times, I have to make a lot of effort to connect my problems back to God, and to keep searching for the messages hidden inside them, and to keep making the teshuva required to solve them.

God is hidden right now, which is what makes the whole test of ‘having emuna’ so difficult. How do I KNOW my money problems are from God, and not just because I’m lazy? How do I KNOW that I’m just meant to accept my shalom bayis issues as calmly as I can, instead of acting on my impulse to get divorced? How do I KNOW that God is just using my kid to give me a big message, and that they’re not actually completely screwed up (by my bad parenting…)?

The differences between how a person tries to live their life with emuna, and how they live their life when God is completely out the picture are huge.

The more emuna you have, the more you’re seeing God’s hand in your life right now, in every single facet of what’s happening to you and inside you, the more you’re already living with the light that Moshiach is going to bring to the world.

There’s so much more to say about this, not least the fact that as the geula process continues, the differences between the ‘early post-Moshiach’ stage and the later ‘post-Moshiach’ stages will get more and more pronounced. Initially, there won’t be such amazing changes and supernatural miracles, but as we get used to the idea that God is all there is, the miracles and the ‘supernatural’ level of the world will continue to rise.

BH, I’ll come back to this topic again in another post.

But to sum this part up:

If your problems are rooted in a lack of emuna, and a lack of God-awareness in the world, Moshiach will solve those problems as soon as he shows up. It will be impossible to live in a post-Moshiach world without having emuna that God is all there is.

But, if your problems aren’t rooted in a lack of emuna and a lack of God-awareness, then they may well continue even post-Moshiach, as part of the tikkun, or spiritual rectification, your soul has to make.

There’s only one way to really acquire emuna…

…And that’s the hard way.

Let me tell you a story:

A few years’ ago, when I was at the height of my troubles with secondary infertility, and it was causing me more heartache than I can describe, one of my ‘friends’ who also had secondary infertility decided to go the IVF route, and conceived twins the first time around.

Ooo-wah, did she turn into the most obnoxious, preachy, self-righteous person around, when it came to the subject of ‘having emuna’. Whenever I’d see her, she’d start preening herself about the enormous amount of ‘emuna’ she’d had, which had led to Hashem blessing her with more children.

(The implied corollary was of course that I must have ZERO emuna, because after all my praying and attempts at self-improvement I still had absolutely nothing tangible to show for it.)

I stopped talking to her around the fifth month of her pregnancy, because the mental torture she was inflicting on me each time we spoke got to be more than I could handle without cracking up.

I berated myself for days after I’d seen her:

Maybe, I just don’t have emuna! The whole problem is that I just don’t have enough emuna!!

And then I’d run off to re-double my hours of hitbodedut, or try to take on another super-machmir practise on myself, to show God how much I was trying to have emuna.

It took me years’ to figure out what I’m about to share with you, namely that ‘emuna’ doesn’t happen when life is going your way, and God is apparently effortlessly and immediately answering all your prayers and pleas.

(Remember, Hagar conceived immediately and also got the same wrong idea about how ‘holy’ she was, while the far more righteous and emuna-dik Sarah had to wait until she was 90 to become a mother.)

Emuna, real emuna, happens when you cling on to Hashem despite the fact that life is going ANYTHING but the way you want it to.

Real emuna sprouts in the decade you spent asking to have more kids, without being answered.

It grows in the soil of yearning so much to have your own stable home in Eretz Yisrael, but still continuing the relationship with God when He says ‘no’ again and again and again. Real emuna takes root on that rocky ground of loneliness, despair, emptiness and overwhelm, when all the doors have been closed in your face, and there aren’t any windows.

At those low times, in those lowly places in your life, when you have nothing to keep you going except your trust in Hashem’s goodness, that’s when real emuna grows.

Real emuna is not getting God to do what you want. That’s a completely warped, quasi-xtian idea. Jewish emuna is when whatever God does, that’s fine by you.

And that is a HUGE level that will take most of us at least 120 years to attain (and that’s if we’re working on it constantly).

I know that I’m not there yet.

God is not a vending machine. You don’t just pay ‘six hours’ of hitbodedut in and then get whatever you’re asking for pop out the slot. There are two main things we’re meant to be talking to God about:

1) Help with recognising and overcoming our bad middot.

2) Help to build our relationship with Him, and to recognise His hand in every facet of our lives.

That’s how real emuna grows.

We’re also taught that three things are only acquired with suffering:

  • Eretz Yisrael
  • Torah
  • The World to come

When I hear all these too-good-to-be-true stories from apparently frum people who are peddling the ‘vending machine’ model of God, it makes me think that either they’re just plain lying about not having any hardships in life, or any times that God said ‘no’ to them, OR their life really is that straightforward and amazing, in which case it’s highly unlikely they acquired any of the three things listed that are only acquired with suffering, regardless of how it may look from the outside.

Either way, that’s not the person you can really learn emuna from, because emuna grows in the gaps in our lives and not when those gaps have been filled.

I had some correspondence after the last post, which prompted me to clarify something that I’ve been thinking about writing about for a while.

Judaism doesn’t believe in ‘good’ or ‘bad’ people.

It believes in ‘good’ or ‘bad’ deeds, thoughts and actions. If a person’s actions are overwhelming of the ‘good’ variety, Judaism then tells us that person is a Tzaddik, or holy person, and we are further told that if we see a Tzaddik doing something bad, we should judge them favorably, and believe that they already made teshuva for it.

By contrast, xtianity teaches that the world is split into ‘good’ people – who believe in yoshki – and ‘bad’ people, who don’t. Once someone is assured they are a ‘good person’, they are then at liberty to do the most atrocious, awful, terrible things to other human beings, secure in their self-assessment that they are a ‘good’ person.

That thinking is behind most of the suffering occurring in the world, because even the most hardened, evil people in the world believe on some level that even their worst excesses and cruelties are somehow justified, and therefore ‘good’.

This thinking is also underneath a whole bunch of xtianity-inspired mental illnesses like Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), where the narcissist can’t accept that they are anything other than perfect, and believe that they always act in perfect, ‘good’ way regardless of how many bodies they leave behind them.

When a person believes they are ‘good’, fullstop, they usually aren’t so concerned with identifying, acknowledging and dealing with their negative character traits.

But here’s the thing: no-one is perfect, and for as long as we’re down here on planet earth, it’s because we still have work to do to improve and perfect our characters.

Even Moshe Rabbenu, arguably the most ‘perfect’ servant of God who ever lived and an indisputable Tzaddik of tremendous proportions still had some anger issues to work out, even when he was 120 already. When he hit the rock instead of speaking to it because Am Yisrael had gotten him so riled up, he was 120!

If someone like Moshe Rabbenu wasn’t embarrassed to admit his faults publicly, then surely we don’t need to be so coy about accepting that we still have stuff to work on.

Another big difference between Judaism and other religions, especially xtianity, is this notion that ‘good’ people go to Heaven, and ‘bad’ people go to Hell – and it’s a permanent, everlasting, unfixable thing, which is probably also why so many people are petrified of accepting they may not be perfect paragons of virtue.

Judaism teaches something completely different. Judaism says: every good deed that you do, you’re going to get some heavenly reward for it. And every bad deed that you do, that you didn’t make teshuva for, you’re going to have to atone for it somehow, either by spending some time in Gehinnom (for up to 12 months), or by being reincarnated again (if your sins were against your fellow man – Gehinnom only atones for sins between man and God.)

Again, there ARE some exceptions to this rule, most notably for atheists, who could end up spending all of eternity in Gehinnom if they persist in denying God for their whole life and don’t make teshuva before they die.

But if you’re a bog-standard person with issues who’s done a lot of bad things that you haven’t made teshuva for (like most of humanity…) BUT you believe in God, then your stay in Gehinnom is capped at 12 months – and then you get a measurement of eternal paradise as your reward for each and every good deed that you did.

To sum this up: xtianity says that only ‘good’ people go to heaven, and that a person is only ‘good’ if they believe in yoshki, regardless of how they act or treat other people in real time.

Hence, there is no motivation for a self-proclaimed ‘good’ person to examine their deeds or work on their negative character traits, because they automatically assume everything they do is justified and ‘good’ (which also happens to be the basis of a lot of mental illnesses, including NPD).

Judaism says: there are only good deeds. A person’s status as an aggregate ‘good person’ will only be determined after their death, by the Heavenly tribunal. Nearly everyone is going to go to both Heaven and Gehinnom (with some notable exceptions for Tzaddikim and atheists).

That’s why it’s such a mitzvah for a person to acknowledge their bad deeds and negative character traits in Judaism, so they can actually try to fix them, and why it’s such anathema in other religions.

We Jews have been in galut so long that we’ve imbibed a lot of the foreign dogmas and philosophies that are inimical to authentic Yiddishkeit.

Judaism teaches that our souls, that Godly part of us, is only pure and good. But the soul is surrounded by klipot, the husks of the dark side, that causes us to do things and think things we’re really not proud of. For as long as we’re in our bodies, we’re going to have to deal with the klipot that are causing our bad behavior, and to atone and make amends for the bad things we do.

When we deny that very human reality, we literally go bonkers. Remember, pretending to be perfect is the mentally-ill behavior of a narcissist. It’s the furthest thing in the world from Yiddishkeit.

One of the things that made a huge impact on me when I was reading The Unfinished Diary: A chronicle of tears was the author’s comments on why the Jews were suffering so much in the Holocaust. Writing in a Polish barn hideaway where he’d spent the best part of 3 years’ on the run from the Nazis, and as a man who’d already seen his daughter, parents and other family members killed,  the diary’s author, Chaim Wolgelertner, certainly had first-hand experience of suffering.

Chaim was a Chassidic Jew who remarkably managed to retain his emuna right up until the end, when he was murdered by the Polish farmer who he’d been paying to hide him a few short months’ before the war ended.

Over months of enforced captivity and bitter mental and physical suffering, he contemplated the notion of Jewish suffering – why do the Jews suffer so very much – a great deal, and this is what he concluded: this world is not the place of the Jews. We are people of the spirit, not people of the flesh.

Our essence is spiritual, our inner world contains a lofty dimension of holiness that is simply inaccessible to others.

But sometimes, we forget that. Sometimes, we think that having a nice life, or a comfortable life, or an easy life is the main goal of being down here on the planet, and so God sends us suffering to remind us that this world is not the main event for Jews; it never has been, and it never will be.

Last Wednesday in the middle of the craziness that is currently life in Jerusalem, I did a long personal prayer session to try to get on top of the fear and stress that had taken hold of me, and was literally making me feel like I was about to crack-up or get seriously ill, God-forbid.

For once, I didn’t actually do a lot of talking, not least because my brain was completely fried by the events of the past week. It was a very quiet, very humble sort of hitbodedut, because I really didn’t have anything to say, or anything much to offer God. But God didn’t mind. In fact, He still gave me an insight that went a long way to starting to unravel the stress I’d been caught in worrying about my family’s safety, and worrying about World War III starting, and worrying about how on earth I was meant to cope with the terrible war of Gog and Magog if a few Arab stabbings were already having this much impact on me.

I want to share it with you now, and this is it: Sooner or later, we’re all going to die.

The point is not trying to stay alive at all costs (although don’t get me wrong that Jewish life, and any life, is extremely precious and must be protected at all times.) But I’d got unhealthily obsessed with worrying about how to survive all the madness being predicted for the Jewish people, instead of focusing on what all the madness was actually for: to help me achieve my soul correction, and to get closer to God.

As long as me and my family achieved our soul corrections, and got closer to God, whatever else happened was secondary.

That understanding was the beginning of me being able to let go a little of the terrible, crushing stress and fear that was literally starting to choke me to death. My job is to get closer to God. God’s job is to keep me alive for as long as He sees fit. Full-stop.

Today as I write this (Friday), people are apparently still being stabbed all over the place. But I woke up headache-free for the first time in a week, and things feel much, much calmer, both externally and internally. It helps that I haven’t heard any sirens today. It helps that I decided to let my kid skip school today (and half of her class also had the same idea.) And it helps that my other kid is having a Shabbat away at her high school, so I don’t have to get into any discussions about seeing friends in the Old City over Shabbat.

All that helps.

But really? Knowing that this world is not the true place of a yid – that it’s all temporary, and a corridor, not the main event – was the key to calming down. As to whether I can stay in that calm, accepting place, who knows? But even if it’s only for today, I’m still going to enjoy it.