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Few things are more misunderstood than the concept of the Erev Rav.

Like most of the people reading this, the first time I heard about the Erev Rav in any ‘real’ way was from the autistics.

The more I read the autistics, the more I started suspecting other people of ‘being’ Erev Rav (ER, for short). Initially, it answered so many questions, cleaned up so many problems! I mean, the only reason that a Jew would or could act in such a horrible, disgusting way could only be because they must be Erev Rav….

Like many others, the ER quickly became a kind of obsession by me. And when I get obsessed with things, I research them as much as I can, and I try to bottom them out as much as possible. So, I threw myself into reading anything I could about the ER, including a document called ‘The Modern Erev Rav’, which brings together a lot of the sources in English.

By the time I’d finished going through that document, I had a very clear understanding of what sorts of things the Erev Rav did, and that the Vilna Gaon, amongst others, was telling me that I should cut them out of my life and avoid them as much as possible.

So over the next few years, that’s what I tried to do. (This was when I wrote that series over on www.breslev.co.il.)

As a result, I lost so many friends, stopped speaking to so many close family members, and even started suspecting my husband of being an Erev Rav.

(! – if you ever met the guy, you’ll understand just how crazy that particular statement is…)

And then, I came to the ultimately disturbing conclusion that I myself must also be an ‘unfixable’ ER, because I also spoke lashon hara (sometimes…) and made trouble between people (sometimes…) and was obsessed with making a name for myself (sometimes…)

It’s axiomatic that when you follow God’s laws, and really try to give God what He wants, you see brachas and blessings from doing that. Dear reader, all I got from cutting all the supposed ‘evil ER’ people out of my life was heaping doses of heartache, misery and suffering.

The more I tried to run away from these people, as the Vilna Gaon’s students suggested, the more I came to realize that in 2017, we are ALL Erev Rav people.

At the same time as this was going on, I realized that the secular world was also noticing the negative character traits associated with the Erev Rav, particularly the traits of lack of compassion and empathy for others and rigid thinking, and defining them as the basis of personality disorders, especially Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).

According to modern psychiatry, most of these personality disorders, but especially NPD, can’t be fixed. The person with NPD will stay permanently broken, egotistical and nasty. Again, I spent years and years going through all the literature on personality disorders, and measuring it up against my own experiences of difficult people, and it dovetails amazingly with all the ‘Erev Rav’ stuff.

Except, I came to the same problem with that stuff, too: I started to notice that I MYSELF sometimes acted like I had NDP, (especially after I went through the worst year of my life, when I got hit with so many traumatic experiences that my capacity to feel compassion or empathy for anyone else pretty much completely disappeared.)

Which is when the turning point happened, and I realized that TRAUMA is what makes people act like narcissicists, etc, and what makes people act like ER, etc.

So then, I started researching trauma, and C-PTSD obsessively, and again it was a perfect ‘fit’ for what I was seeing around me and experiencing in myself, and it convinced me once and for all that just as personality disorders CAN be overcome, so can ER traits.

Then, I started looking for proof from authentic Jewish sources that this was the case, and I hit the jackpot with various teachings from Rav Berland and Rebbe Nachman himself, a lot of which I bring down in the book Unlocking the Secret of the Erev Rav.

So, here’s where we currently stand:

It’s not a Jewish idea to call someone ‘bad’, anymore than it’s a Jewish idea to call someone ‘Erev Rav’.

Xtians go in for that sort of global, meaningless ‘good and bad’ people rubbish.

By contrast, Jews talk about good and bad DEEDS, good and bad TRAITS, but we don’t give people labels like good and bad, because we understand that is something that only God is qualified to do, at the end of a person’s life, when all their merits and sins are weighed up together in the Heavenly court.

In that sense, the Erev Rav is a completely false paradigm.

Who can claim to be qualified to call someone an ‘Erev Rav’ and to assume that person can never make teshuva and will be permanently consigned to an eternity in Gehinnom?!

People with pronounced ‘Erev Rav’ traits aren’t just left-wing politicians or corrupt journalists, you know. If we’re honest, then we’ll admit that each and every one of us know people, are related to people, talk to people EVERY SINGLE DAY that fit at least some of the criteria set out by RASHBI and the Vilna Gaon (amongst others) for the Erev Rav.

We’re not just talking about Shimon Peres here, we’re talking about your ‘Erev Rav’ mum, and your ‘Erev Rav’ kid, and your ‘Erev Rav’ spouse. Do you really want all these people to be permanently consigned to destruction and Gehinnom?

And if the answer is ‘yes’, then there’s an enormous irony here, because only people who have a severe lack of compassion and empathy for other people (which remember, is one of the key traits of the ‘Erev Rav’ as identified by our Sages…) would willingly go around accusing others of being ‘Erev Rav’, with all that entails.

That’s why the authentic Jewish approach is to talk about EREV RAV BEHAVIOUR, and not EREV RAV PEOPLE.

It’s a crucial, massive distinction.

Because people can always stop behaving like ER, but they can’t stop being Erev Rav.

God is full of kindness and compassion for His creations. Does it really sound realistic to you that this kind, merciful Creator would create a category of person that can never, ever make teshuva, no matter what effort they make to improve, no matter how much suffering they go through? Does that sound ‘right’ to you?

God can do anything!

We saw in the Torah so many times – including in this week’s parshat Korach – that God was going to destroy the Jewish people because of their disgusting behaviour, but didn’t because the Tzaddik of the generation, Moshe Rabbenu, prayed for them.

Which brings me to my last point for today (although I will be returning to this subject again and again, until we all start to really get what I’m going on about here):

If we really want all the horrible ‘ER’ type traits and behavior that are definitely flowering all over the place in our modern world to really disappear, we need to pray for other people, and also for ourselves.

Again, asking God for help, and really believing in God’s mercy and compassion and willingness to help out, and really building a genuine, personal relationship with God is something that people with pronounced ‘Erev Rav’ tendencies find very difficult to do.

That’s one of the reason’s why hitbodedut, personal prayer, is the fastest and most effective way of neutralizing a person’s ‘Erev Rav’ tendencies, because it goes to the very heart of the problem, namely that ‘Erev Rav’ people don’t really believe in God in any real way, and certainly don’t believe that He’s compassionate, kind and good.

SO TO SUM UP:

  • Most people with Erev Rav tendencies CAN and WILL eventually make teshuva (as per the teachings of Rav Ofer Erez, Rav Eliezer Berland, and Rebbe Nachman).
  • We have no way of knowing who is going to ultimately going to make teshuva and who isn’t, so we have no right to call anyone a ‘permanently unfixable’ Erev Rav in the meantime.
  • The people who are most wedded to the idea of calling other people ‘Erev Rav’ are, ironically, themselves demonstrating a number of key traits of the ER, namely a severe lack of empathy and compassion for others, together with pronounced tendencies to speak badly of their fellow Jews, to stoke sinat chinam, and to create trouble, controversy and machloket between the Jewish people.

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You can buy my book, Unlocking the Secret of the Erev Rav, HERE.

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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.

As you might have expected, trying to get The Secret Diary of a Jewish Housewife distributed to regular, orthodox Jewish bookstores is proving to be EXTREMELY difficult.

There’s two main problems going on:

1) Frum Jewish publishing is actually an enormous cartel operation.

Most of the book publishers expect authors to pay around $10,000 to cover all the costs of designing, printing and distributing their own books.

If an author is unwilling or unable to put up this sort of money – and they aren’t directly related to the Baba Sali, or a ‘Rock Star Rabbi / Rabbanit’ type themselves- then most of the Jewish publishers won’t touch them with a barge pole, no matter how interesting or appropriate their books may be for the frum audience.

The corollary to this is that so many of the books that you find on the shelves of orthodox book sellers are there because the person is connected or wealthy, as opposed to a good writer. (Yes, that starts to explain a lot doesn’t it?)

2) Frum Jewish publishing is pushing a distorted image of observant Jewish life.

This was kind of the problem I tripped over with the cover of the Secret Diary, because OFFICIALLY, all the people buying books in frum Jewish bookstores aren’t meant to be surfing the internet, watching movies, or owning i-Phones.

In reality – probably the vast majority of people who shop in frum Jewish bookstores, particularly in the English-speaking world, are doing all those things. But SHUSSSSHSH!!!! Don’t tell the orthodox Jewish publishers, because they still think that Jewish women are all called ‘Breindy’ and obsessed with making the perfect kugel!!!!

‘Breindy’ doesn’t have any problems, has perfect faith and has no need of books that realistically portray orthodox Jewish life, because ‘Breindy’ is a Jewish superwoman with 15 kids, two jobs, a husband in full-time learning, and a stunning 200 sqm home that she keeps immaculately stocked with 5 different types of homemade kugel!!!!

And if your life isn’t like ‘Breindy’s’ – then what on earth are you doing trying to find suitable reading material in a frum Jewish bookstore?!?!

Of course, the real reality is that even ‘Breindy’ is cracking at the seams in 2017, and has just upped her dosage of anti-depressants…but SHUSSSSSSH!!!! Let’s not talk of such things.

This ‘head in the sand’ approach to frum life means that while the shelves are full of inspiring stories from previous generations of women who could make one chicken stretch to generously feed 38 starving orphans with leftovers; and full of ‘uplifting’ Holocaust tales of every stripe (including wonderfully illustrated holocaust strip cartoons for the kiddies…); and full of ‘perfect kugel’ cookbooks and ‘frum’ fiction that I find terribly disturbing for SO many different reasons – they’re generally very empty of real books by real Jewish women, that portray the challenges and beauty of real Jewish life.

I.e., books like The Secret Diary of a Jewish Housewife (and pretty much anything else that I write).

Case in point:

I just emailed one of the frum book publishers to see if I could pay to get The Secret Diary distributed via them, and all they did was take a look at the cover, and then pointblank refuse. Even if I paid to print a thousand copies by them, they still won’t guarantee they’d distribute it.

So dear reader, not for the first time I find myself a little stuck between the familiar rock and the hard place.

For as long as the frum Jewish book world – and the out-of-touch people running it – refuse to carry books that are ‘real’ portrayals of orthodox Jewish life, albeit with a lot of God and emuna mixed in, frum people have little choice but to get their ‘real’ books about real problems and challenges from the secular world.

And make no mistake, that’s what’s happening. Even in the hallowed halls of Meah Shearim, people are turning to Tony Robbins and Dr Mercola for advice on how to solve their real problems and crises, because the frum world is still pretending that we’re all supermen and superwomen, with all emuna, all the time, and a never-ending obsession with creating the perfect kugel.

Frum women aren’t being given an authentic voice in our communities, and we are all paying the price for that in so many different ways. If they aren’t a ‘Breindy’, none of the men who are running the Jewish publishing business are remotely interested in what they have to say.

Dear reader, I am DEFINITELY not a Breindy, and my kugels normally suck, big time.

I can see I’m going to have to pray on this a lot, and ask God to show me how to get past this huge obstacle. I will keep you posted.

As the ‘craziness’ of this year’s Purim ebbed and flowed again, I started to think about what aspect of Purim is actually the hardest, at least for me.

Actually, I didn’t think about it all, as I immediately knew what aspect of Purim nearly ALWAYS causes me the most stress and anxiety: mishloach manot.

Back in London, I could spend literally hours in traffic jams trying to deliver my ‘nosh packages’ to friends who were often also out in their cars, trying to deliver their ‘nosh packages’ back. It never occurred to me that this was:

  1. a) A huge waste of time

AND

  1. b) Almost certainly didn’t really count as a true mishloach manot, which is meant to be a gift of two different bits of real food that would be ready to chow down on immediately. But I wasn’t going to start cooking up a storm for my 84 best friends at that stage of my life.

Then, we got to Israel, where Purim is taken more seriously, in some ways, not least because the country as a whole ‘closes’ for Purim, in a similar way to what happens on Shabbat.

Which is when I hit the next state of mishloach manot madness:

People were literally cooking mini-gourmet meals for a hundred friends and neighbors, and getting every member of their family involved in the mammoth delivery project that entailed.

That first year, I also had plans to turn out 50 home-baked mini quiches and a personal side-salad, until God sent me a timely bout of dysentery that meant I couldn’t get out of bed or eat for the whole week before Purim, and I barely managed the mitzvah at all that year.

It was so embarrassing: wave upon wave of baskets were showing up at our door, and we had zip, nothing, nada to give in return. Which is when I learnt the law of reciprocity: if thou shalt not return mishloach manot, thou won’t get any the following Purim.

Even though I had my act more together the following Purim (slightly…. As we were moving house and community the day after the festival….) I sent out 30 mishloach manot, and got around five back (mostly fumbled together behind the door, as the host asked me to wait with a slightly stressed smile on their face.)

The following year, I really, really tried harder with mishloach manot.

I planned it two months in advance, and I cooked, made and bought whatever was necessary to make it proper. Dear reader, that community was built on a steep hill, and as I took the turn leading up the mountain a little too sharply, all my carefully arranged hummus, side salads and home made rolls upended and smashed into my car door.

Disaster!!!

I salvaged whatever I could, and had another bout of mishloach manot-induced depression to deal with. Next year, I vowed to buy everything ready-made and ready wrapped, anchored down with 200 metres of cellophane and ribbon.

But of course I didn’t, because by then I’d moved community again and I was in my ‘extreme healthy eating’ phase of life, which made the whole subject of Purim and mishloach manot SO stressful from start to finish. What to make that wasn’t toxic that people would actually eat?!?! AND that would look nice?!?!?

Again, I spent hours baking healthy cookies, and then artfully arranging them on a plate with nuts and dried fruit. No cellophane now for me!!! I wasn’t about to add to the landfill just so my mishloach manot would look nice or stay on the plate!!!!

So of course, they didn’t.

The delivery got so stressful as I had to drive at three miles an hour to prevent all my artful arrangements from moving around…and then people looked at the home-baked cookies suspiciously, and I could read their thoughts: “Is this a good enough hechsher, if it’s homemade?!?? Are dates still on the ‘OK’ list?!?!?” (There was a lot of ‘pious’ kashrut concerns going on over there….)

The following year, I had an epiphany:

No more driving the mishloach manot around! I’m giving to whoever I can walk to within 15 minutes of my home and that’s it.

Which was mostly good, except I still had a few awkward moments when people unexpectedly gave us me a mishloach manot, and I had nothing to give them because I refused to just repackage other people’s nosh behind the door…

By the following year, I had other ‘concerns’ about mishloach manot, because I’d learned the mitzvah was actually better done by giving to people you didn’t like (and who didn’t like you…), or who weren’t part of your usual Chevra.

The problem was not how to find these people, but how to whittle them down to under 50….

Then we moved to Jerusalem, and by that point, I almost gave up on mishloach manot. I was so lonely here the first year, I had no idea how to fulfill the mitzvah, really. I didn’t know anyone. That year, my kids saved the day. On Purim morning, one daughter noticed I’d done absolutely zip all about mishloach manot, and decided to make pancakes for all of our neighbors in our building. One cooked, and the other one packaged and delivered – and I was so grateful to them, because it really made me feel a little more alive and part of things.

Last year, I decided on the simple, easy route: A good bottle of wine, and some super-badatz baklava, for five people within walking distance. Two of my packages went to people I didn’t really like, two went to externally ‘secular’ people, and one went to my nearest neighbor.

One of those negative relationships actually really turned around as a result, and I was thrilled.

Which brings us up to this year. This year, again, that familiar ‘despairing’ feeling took hold before Purim, and made it very hard for me to get to grips with mishloach manot again. I didn’t want to just hand out junk and nosh, but I had no energy to plan or make anything else. I was hit with a very strong wave of ‘can’t be bothered’, which only disappeared the morning of Purim (we celebrate Shushan Purim in Jerusalem, so the shops were still open on everyone else’s Purim.)

That’s when I decided the following: I’m going to make a healthy, easy Israeli breakfast for the three people I like, who live close to me. And that’s what I did.

This year, my husband and I barely got any mishloach manot from anyone, as he gave to his rabbis, and the law of reciprocity doesn’t hold over there.

In the past, that would have made me feel pretty sorry and down, and unloved. This year, I was grateful that I didn’t have a mound of waffley and MSG-drenched bizzli to somehow get rid of.

Friendships aren’t built on mishloach manot, or at least, they shouldn’t be.

I didn’t spend stressful hours cooking mishloach manot treats. I didn’t spend hundreds of shekels buying bottles of wines and fancy-wrapped baskets. I didn’t get super-stressed on Purim morning as I had 347 mishloach manot to deliver before the Purim seuda, and no time to really get that done.

I’m sure the yetzer will still figure out a way to make next year’s mishloach manot another challenge, but this year, for once, after I got past the blahs,  it actually all turned out really good.

TIPS FOR DE-STRESSING MISHLOACH MANOT:

  1. Don’t drive ANYWHERE Purim morning.
  2. If you need to deliver to people who don’t live close, arrange to meet them in shul after the Megillah reading, and swap baskets there.
  3. Keep things simple: the basic mitzvah is to deliver two items of ready-to-eat food, to two different people. That’s it!
  4. Dare to be different. You don’t HAVE to buy huge baskets of cellophane nosh just to fit in. But, you also don’t need to make gourmet quiches, if that’s just not ‘you’.
  5. Keep it practical. A tin of tuna and a jar of mayonnaise fulfills the mitzvah perfectly – without a bamba or bizzli in sight!
  6. Don’t beat yourself up over your mishloach manot: There will always be people who do this better, nicer, fancier, healthier… If you managed to do the mitzvah at all, in whichever way you did it, celebrate that fact! Even that is not so easy, these days.
  7. Don’t beat yourself up over not getting mishloach manot, or not giving it to the ‘right’ people: Much easier said than done, I know, but mishloach manot is NOT meant to be a popularity contest, or a test of your mettle as a Jewish woman.
  8. Notice any ‘negative’ feelings that bubble up on Purim, and pray on them. Purim is blessed with the energy of transformation. Every year, I have insights from my mishloach manot that encourage me to work on myself, try to do things differently, and to notice what ‘vested interests’ still come attached to some of my mitzvah observance. We’re all a work in progress, and nothing underlines WHAT that progress might need to be more than mishloach manot.

When I’m not driving myself crazy with other things, I’ve been continuing to trawl through the Gemara sources and Tanach to see what else we can learn about how Hashem has typically used comets in the past.

Here’s some good news: There are so many instances in the Gemara where we find discussions of how Hashem used a comet to actually come and fight on behalf of his Tzaddikim / the Jews, and in this post, we’re going to take a closer look at some of those sources.

Let’s kick off with this, from Tractate Rosh Hashana, 11b, which describes how God used a ‘rogue star’ to cause Noah’s flood, aka the mabbul:

“In the six hundredth year of the life of Noah, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on this day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. R’ Yehoshua says: ‘That day was the seventeenth of Iyar, a day on which the constellation Kimah normally sets during the daytime – and the subterranean fountains normally become depleted.

“’But because the generation altered their practices to deviate from the natural order, the Holy One, blessed is He, altered upon them the works of creation. And He brought the constellation Kimah up during the daytime, and He took two stars from Kimah and brought a flood to the world.”

Here’s some more details about those two stars and the Kimah constellation, taken from the Artscroll notes:

“The constellation Kimah is a minor constellation located in the tail of the Lamb [i.e. connected to the ‘Aries’ constellation, which rises in the month of Nissan.]”

Why is it important to know that we’re dealing with a lamb (Aries) here?

More connections will be made when we get to the section, below, about Rebbe Nachman’s story called ‘The Bull and the Ram,’ but for now, suffice to say that the Israelites were redeemed in Nissan, the month connected to the Aries constellation, and were told to slaughter a Paschal LAMB by Hashem.

We also know that this ‘lamb’ was worshipped by the Egyptians (because remember, their pagan gods were all named for celestial bodies) – so the Jews were sending a very deep message to the Egyptians about Who really rules over the heavens.

Now, let’s skip over to Sanhedrin, 95b, where the Sages are discussing how Sancheiriv’s army was miraculously killed by Hashem as they camped outside the Jerusalem city walls on the eve of Pesach. (There’s that Nissan / lamb thing going on again!):

“The wicked Sancheiriv came upon the Jews with an army…The Gemara adds that this was not the only time a force so vast was marshaled against the Jews. And so they came upon Abraham, and so they are destined to come with Gog and Magog.”

According to the Maharsha:

“The three enemy forces mentioned here – Sancheiriv’s army, the army of the four kings and Gog and Magog were all defeated through clearly miraculous circumstances. Furthermore, all three wars represent turning points in world history.”

The Gemara continues:

“And an angel of Hashem went forth and slew one hundred and eighty five thousand of the campy of Assyria, and they arose in the morning, and behold they were all dead corpses….With what did [the angel] strike them? R’ Eliezer says: [The angel] struck them with its hand…The Jews who witnessed the splitting of the Sea saw the same hand that was destined to punish Sancheiriv.”

The Gemara is setting up a link between the ‘modus operandi’ God used to bring about the miracles of the Exodus, and the punishment of Pharoah’s army, and the way Sancheiriv’s army was miraculously killed. What is that ‘modus operandi’? Read on.

The Gemara then puts forth different options for how the angel Gabriel (God’s agent for this purpose) killed the Assyrians, with one saying that ‘Gabriel breathed into their nostrils and they died’, while others saying that ‘Gabriel clapped his hands and they died’.

Elsewhere in the Gemara, we’re taught that Nadav and Avihu died the same way that Sancheiriv’s army died. How did they die? They were electrocuted! The descriptions above also accord with the idea that ‘something’ disturbed the static electricity held in the dielectric air of our atmosphere, and channeled it down in a way that it electrocuted literally hundreds of thousands of Assyrians.

In 96a, the Gemara tells us:

“With reference to Abraham’s war against the four kings, Scripture states: And at night, he and his servants deployed against them and struck them etc….R’ Yitzhak Nafcha said:…the implication is that ‘night acts’ were performed on behalf of Abraham (i.e. the very stars in the sky fought on his behalf.)”

TO SUM UP WHAT WE’VE LEARNED SO FAR:

  • The stars came and ‘fought’ for Avraham against the four kings
  • There’s a link between how the four kings were miraculously defeated, how Sancheiriv’s Assyrian army was miraculously killed (on Pesach Eve), and the future war of Gog and Magog.
  • There’s also a link between Sancheiriv’s defeat and the events of the Exodus – with the ‘same hand’ being used to punish the Assyrians and the Egyptians.
  • We’re explicitly told that God took two stars from the ‘Kimah’ constellation to cause the mabbul
  • The Kimah constellation corresponds to the month of Nissan, and Aries, the Ram.
  • We know that the Exodus occurred in Nissan, and that the miracle involving Sancheiriv was also Nissan (erev Pesach).
  • We also know that there is a famous teaching that the Jews will be redeemed in the future, too, in the month of Nissan.

OTHER TIMES THAT HASHEM USED ‘COMETS’ TO COME AND FIGHT FOR THE JEWISH PEOPLE

Now, let’s head over to Tractate Brachot, 58a, where there are some more connections to be made. There, it says (talking about Hashem’s power):

“Who performs great deeds that are beyond comprehension…and the strength – This is a reference to the Exodus from Egypt, for it is stated regarding the Exodus: Israel saw the great hand etc. And the splendor – This is a reference to the sun and the moon, which stopped for Joshua, as it is stated: Then the sun stood still and the moon stopped… even everything in heaven and earth – This is a reference to the battle against Sisera, for it is stated regarding that battle: From heaven they fought; the stars from their courses, etc [fought against Sisera.]”

That same section of the Gemara then goes on to talk about the fall of Rome, the war against Amalek and the war of Gog and Magog.

What the Gemara in Brachot seems to be telling us clearly is that:

  • God regularly moves stars out of their regular orbits, and the celestial bodies to fight against the Jews’ enemies.
  • When this occurs, it’s often referred to in Scripture as ‘the great hand’ of Hashem.
  • This ‘great hand’ showed up at the Exodus; when Joshua fought the Caananite nations; and when Deborah the Prophetess fought against Sisera.
  • There is a connection between these events, and future events including the fall of Rome, the final disappearance of Amalek and the war of Gog and Magog.

———

MORE REFERENCES TO THE ‘KIMAH’ CONSTELLATION

In case the links weren’t starting to come into sharp enough focus, in the very next section, Brachot 58b, the Gemara then starts talking about comets, the ‘Kimah’ constellation, and the blessings a person should say when they experience:

  • Earthquakes
  • Thunder
  • Lightning and
  • Tempests (i.e. very strong winds)
  • Rainbows

As we know from THIS post, all these things start happening in abundance when a large comet approaches and starts disrupting the earth’s weather and other things.

The Gemara has a whole discussion about earthquakes in Brachot 58b, that makes it clear that earthquakes happen because God is upset about the ongoing exile of the Jewish people, and that He’s shaking the ground in sympathy, as it were, with Jewish suffering.

I.e. – the earthquakes are on our side!

What’s even more interesting, though, is the discussion about the comets and the Kimah constellation. The Gemara tells us:

“Upon seeing the Zikin, one says Blessed are You… Whose strength and might fill the world…What is the meaning of zikin? It is a kochva d’shavit.

The notes explain that Rashi describes this kochva d’shavit as having a long shape, like that of a rod, while the Rambam describes it as a star with a tail – clearly, a comet.

“Shmuel said: The paths of heaven are as clear to me as the paths of Nehardea, except for the path of a kochva d’shavit, of which I am ignorant.”

The Jewish sages who codified the Gemara knew all of the heavens inside and out, as Shmuel attests. But, even they couldn’t predict the path of a comet, because (as we learnt in THIS post) a comet’s tail is always changing, and the amount of ‘drag’ it exerts on the body of the comet can radically change its course and path.

To put this another way, a comet’s course is only known to God, and is 100% affected by the actions and teshuva of the Jewish people, and mankind more generally. No-one can predict ‘comet events’ with any accuracy!

———

MORE ABOUT THE KIMAH (ARIES) CONSTELLATION

Now – no coincidence here! – the Gemara starts talking about the Kimah constellation, that we already know was responsible for the mabbul, and by inference (because it’s part of the Aries constellation that governs Nissan), probably also played a major part in whatever ‘comet’ experiences were going on at the time of the Exodus, and Sancheiriv – and maybe the other times too.

(I haven’t found any specific dates for Sisera’s defeat or Joshua’s miracle over the Ayalon valley, that we’ve seen are also associated with ‘stars’ fighting for the Jews. If you, dear reader, can help fill in those blanks, that would be amazing.)

Let’s get back to the discussion about the Kimah, and other, constellations in Brachot 58b:

 

“He makes [the constellations] Ash, Kesil and Kimah…. What is the reason for the name Kimah? Shmuel said: It is called Kimah because it looks like a hundred stars.”

In modern astronomy, ‘Kimah’ has been identified with the Pleiades star cluster.

I’m going to paraphrase the next bit, but feel free to go and look all this up for yourselves and draw your own conclusions.

The Gemara explains that the constellation ‘Ash’ is also called ‘Yotha’, and that it could either be the ‘tail of the Ram’ (i.e. Aries) or the ‘head of the bull’ (i.e. Taurus, which equates to the month of Iyar, when Noah’s flood began).

The Gemara then explains that ‘Ash’ follows ‘Kimah’ (i.e. Taurus follows Nissan) because: “When the Holy One, Blessed is He, wanted to bring a flood on the world, He took two stars from Kimah…And when He wanted to close the gap [in Kimah], He took two stars from Ash and closed it up.”

The discussion ends:

“Rav Nachman said: In the future, the Holy One, Blessed be He, will restore [Ash’s stars] to her…”

Why is this so important to know?

Because Benayahu explains that God will take the stars from Kimah, and put them back in Ash, and then create two new stars for Kimah, in fulfillment of the Prophet Isaiah’s statement about what’s going to happen when Moshiach comes and the redemption actually happens, that: “Behold, I am creating new heavens and a new earth.”

IN OTHER WORDS:

  • It appears that the time that redemption / Moshiach is going to occur, is when Kimah / Ash are ascendant (Nissan / Iyar).
  • We now know that at that time, stars will once again be moving around the heavens in weird ways – two stars will ‘disappear’ from Kimah and go back to Ash, and Kimah will then have two ‘new’ stars appear in their place.
  • The last time two stars ‘disappeared’ and then ‘reappeared’ from Kimah, Noah’s flood happened as a result.
  • If the Tzaddik of the generation, Noah, had prayed for mankind to make teshuva, the flood wouldn’t necessarily have destroyed the way it did…. So it’s still all to pray for IN 2017.

———

REBBE NACHMAN’S TALE OF THE BULL AND THE RAM

Now, let’s take a look at Rebbe Nachman’s tale of the Bull and the Ram. You can read that story for yourself HERE, but here’s the main points:

There’s a king who decreed that anyone who wanted to stay in his land would either have to stop being religious, or leave.

Some left, many stayed, and the ones that stayed become marranos, or hidden Jews.

This first king died and his son takes over. He rules with an iron hand, and his ministers start plotting to kill him. One of the ministers is a Jewish marrano, and he goes to tell the King about the plot, and saves his life.

The king then swears to give the marrano whatever his heart desires – so the marrano asks for the right to wear his tallith and tefillin in public, and openly practice as a Jew.

The king begrudgingly agrees.

This king dies and is succeeded by his benevolent son, who is really into astrology, and asks his astrologers what could destroy his children. The astrologers tell him to be careful about a bull and a ram.

This king dies, and is succeeded by his son, who also rules in a very autocratic way, and comes up with a plan to conquer the entire world without war. This son also bans all bulls and rams from his kingdom.

This king creates a statue made of gold, silver and other metals [similar to the one seen by Nebuchadnezzer in the book of Daniel] and puts it on a hill, so that ‘all seven planets shine on it’. People start asking this statue what they should do in life (i.e. worshipping it), and by way of this statue, the king conquers the whole world.

This statue only has power if the king ‘lowers the haughty and raises up the lowly’. So, the king issues a command that all the privileges, rights and rank should be stripped from the ‘worthy’ people of his realm, including the Jew’s privilege to wear his tallit and tefillin.

One night, the king has a dream, were the bull (Taurus) and the ram (Aries) signs of the zodiac are laughing at him. He wakes up extremely angry and frightened, and asks all his wise men what’s going on, and whether its connected to his family’s tradition that they could be destroyed by a bull and a ram.

One wise man speaks up and tells him about an ‘iron rod’ that can dispel all his fear, and the king takes his family and sets out to go there. BUT – the road is guarded by the angel that oversees anger, and this angel is in charge of all the destructive forces in the world. Only he knows the path to the iron rod.

When they get to this angel, he directs the King and his entourage to go on a path that passes through a fire that is so hot, that a person is burned if they get within four miles of it.

The entourage looked, and they saw kings and Jews wearing tallit and tefillin walking through this fire. When the king sees this, and against the advice of his counsellor, he decides he and his family can also cross through the fire. They are burnt to a crisp.

When then counsellor returns home and tells everyone what happened, the Marrano has this to say:

“They were destroyed because of me. The astrologers saw something, but they didn’t know what they saw. From the skin of the bull, tefillin are made. From the wool of the ram, the tzitzit tassels of the tallith are made. Therefore, because [of the tallit and tefillin], the king and his family were destroyed.

“The kings who walked through the fire unharmed have in their land Jews who wear the tallit and tefillin. But [this king] did not allow the Jews in his land to wear the tallit and tefillin, and therefore he was destroyed.”

———

THE CONNECTION WITH PSALM 2

Rebbe Nachman’s story is connected to Psalm 2, which Artscroll tells us: ‘alludes to the encounter between the nations and the Messiah.’

Once again, there are a lot of ‘hints’ about what’s going to be, when the Moshiach is revealed:

“Why do nations throng and regimes talk in vain? The kings and princes of the earth take their stand and conspire together against Hashem, and against His Moshiach…He who sits in heaven will laugh at them and mock them. He will speak to them in His anger and His wrath, and terrify them….[Talking to the Moshiach]:

“You will smash them with a rod of iron, like a potter’s vessel you will shatter them. O kings, be wise, o judges of the earth, be disciplined! Serve Hashem with awe, so that you may rejoice when there is trembling.

“Yearn for purity, lest He grow wrathful and your way will be doomed, for blaze in a brief moment will His anger. Praiseworthy are all those who trust in Him.”

TO SUM UP WHAT WE JUST LEARNT FROM REBBE NACHMAN AND PSALM 2:

  • There are four ‘kings’ or kingdoms, and these correspond to the four kings who persecuted and exiled the Jews.
  • The last kingdom is Rome / Edom / Xtianity.
  • The kingdom’s astrologers have a tradition that a ‘bull and a ram’ can destroy the (non-Jewish) king and his descendants – but they don’t know how, or what it really means.
  • The non-Jewish king and his family are ultimately mislead by the angel of anger and destroyed by fire.
  • The non-Jewish kings who encourage their subjects to practice Yiddishkeit can ‘pass through the fire’ unscathed, as can practicing Jews.
  • The tallit (wool) and the tefillin (leather) are what mitigates the power of the ‘ram’ (Aries) and the ‘bull’ (Taurus).
  • The non-Jewish king and his descendants are killed because of the Marrano, i.e., the Moshiach.
  • The world’s leaders who are ‘conspiring’ against Hashem (and the Jewish people) are going to be smashed into pieces when the world starts ‘trembling’.
  • Anyone who’s at least yearning to serve Hashem properly, and to act appropriately, and to have emuna will come through the process OK. (And clearly, it also helps if they’re careful to lay their tefillin every day and wear tzitzit, if they’re Jewish men…)

———

I’M NOT PRETENDING I KNOW EXACTLY WHAT ALL THIS MEANS

Or, how it all fits together. I know there are people out there with a much higher level of Torah scholarship than I possess, and I’d be very happy to get more ideas or pointers about what all this may be telling us, tachlis.

But at the end of the day, God has been pushing me to get all this stuff out there, because some clear themes are poking through that if we trust in God, or at least WANT to trust in God and to walk in His path, we’ll be OK.

That’s not my idea or my opinion – that’s the message from Rebbe Nachman, the Prophet Isaiah, the Sages of the Gemara, and many other huge Jewish leaders, too, right up to our own modern times.

Emuna and emunat Tzaddikim (which includes believing in ALIVE Torah sages, and not just in Torah sages who already passed on) are the key to being on the right side of the comet equation.

How the Erev Rav and personality disorders are connected

A little while back, I got a tweet from someone (who knew people actually read those things…) criticizing me for linking ‘mental illness’ to the Erev Rav.

As it was a one line tweet, there wasn’t a lot of detail, but I still wanted to devote a post to responding to the criticism, because like it not, mental illness and the Erev Rav ARE inextricably linked.

This is probably not going to be an easy post to read for many people, and I apologise in advance for that.

In order to explain how mental illness and the Erev Rav are linked, I have to explain how I got onto this whole subject in the first place.

HOW I GOT INTO THE SUBJECT OF RESEARCHING THE EREV RAV

Around five years’ ago, I suddenly realized that so many of the very puzzling, difficult, upsetting and frankly bizarre behaviors, relationships and situations I was experiencing at that time were because many of the people I knew had undiagnosed and unacknowledged personality disorders, and in particular, Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

NPD manifests itself in two key (and superficially opposite) fashions:

  • Smothering, bullying and controlling
  • Uninterested, ‘absent’ and neglectful

There’s SO much stuff out there in the secular world about NPD. Here’s a rough round-up of most of the main points:

PEOPLE WITH NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER:

  • Can’t accept that they are anything except 100% perfect
  • Can’t empathise with other people, or see another person’s point of view – which enables them to mistreat others in a very cruel fashion, which they feel is completely justified ‘from their point of view’.
  • Project their own bad character traits on to other people, which means they mercilessly criticize others for the same things they themselves are doing (and denying).
  • Have a superiority complex and are obsessed with keeping up appearances at all costs.
  • Have very disturbing gossiping habits, manipulate others and make serious trouble between people wherever they go.
  • Are in a barely-contained state of permanent rage and anger – but will deny they are angry.
  • Act very vindictively, spitefully. They are unable to forgive anyone they feel has slighted them, particularly by suggesting they are anything less than perfect.
  • Are incredibly selfish and self-absorbed.
  • Relate to the world in a very superficial, materialistic way. They can’t ‘relate’ to others (or themselves) in an authentic way. They aren’t interested in more spiritual ideas and concepts.

I could go on, but you get the idea. The descriptions of NPD and the other ‘Cluster B’ personality disorders fit what I was experiencing to a tee. But I knew even back then that the only truth is Torah.

So then I started researching, did the Torah describe any phenomenon that would dove-tail with the secular descriptions of how people behave and treat other people when they have a ‘Cluster B’ personality disorder?

THE EREV RAV CONNECTION

Very quickly, Hashem sent me a whole bunch of information about the Erev Rav – and that’s when things got really intense, because the typical Erev Traits as set out by our Sages, and the typical traits you find in Cluster B personality disorders fit like a hand in a glove.

God appeared to be using personality disorders, and particularly narcissism, to hide the reality of the Erev Rav people in our lives, right under our noses.

But the question haunted me for three years: Can Erev Rav / personality disordered people change? Can they make teshuva? Can they be fixed?

Most of the Jewish sources on the subject said no.

The most current secular thinking (as expressed in the DSM) also said ‘no’ – when people have a Cluster B personality disorder, and especially narcissism, there is nothing you can do to help them to change that.

The main problem is that when someone refuses to acknowledge they are a flawed human being, and strives to maintain the illusion of their own perfection and infallibility, they won’t acknowledge any of the things they are doing wrong, or make any effort to try to fix them.

To put it another way: as long as someone clings to the notion they are only ever perfect and never make any mistakes, they stay a mentally-ill narcissist.

And that’s where I got stuck for three long years, until I read a discourse that Rav Berland gave in 2000, that completely transformed the whole picture and gave me hope for the first time that the Erev Rav / personality disordered people in our midst can change and can make teshuva, if they really want to.

I explain what Rav Berland said, and a whole bunch of other stuff about how to actually go about fixing these Erev Rav traits, in much more detail in the book, ‘Unlocking the Secret of the Erev Rav’. But I want to end this post on an ‘up’ note, and tie everything back together with my Tweeter’s original criticism of the book.

PERSONALITY DISORDERS ARE CAUSED BY TRAUMA, AND CAN BE REVERSED

Over the last two years, I’ve learned a great deal about psychiatric thought, trauma and the true causes of serious mental illnesses including personality disorders and narcissism. (Yes, I do plan on writing it all up into yet another book, and I even have a working title for it: Animal or angel? The real roots of mental illness and how to cure it.)

The upshot is this: personality disorders are a false, pseudo-scientific construct created by a ‘materialistic’ psychiatric industry that fails to put people’s soul into the picture. The main problems underpinning mental illnesses like personality disorders come down to the same main problems underpinning Erev Rav character traits, namely:

  • People are completely disconnected from God, their souls and the more spiritual aspects of life.
  • Without a strong connection to God, they are consumed by animalistic impulses and governed by bad middot that cause them to act in a personality disordered / Erev Rav type way.
  • Physiologically, personality disorders are caused by trauma, and particularly the types of trauma that come from being emotionally abused and / or neglected in childhood.
  • The single best way to strengthen the ‘good’, mature part of the brain so that it can stand up to the traumatized, primitive, ‘animalistic’ part of the brain is via regular prayer and hitbodedut.
  • It’s about TRAITS not about LABELS. Each bad character trait we eliminate brings us closer to true emotional and spiritual health, and takes us further away from acting like a mentally ill, personality-disordered Erev Rav.
  • Everybody occasionally acts like an Erev Rav. But with enough prayer, honesty and emuna, every single negative character trait can be permanently uprooted and rectified.

To sum up, personality disorders are a secular description of Erev Rav behaviors and traits.

The two are fundamentally linked, because they are describing the same phenomena, albeit one in ‘materialistic’ secular terms, and the other in Torah terms.

But the Torah’s truth, as expounded by Rav Berland, is that the Erev Rav people in our midst CAN be fixed, and sooner or later most of them will be (barring the ones who cause terrible strife and machloket amongst Jews).

But in the meantime, we still need to recognize what we’re dealing with when we come up against those difficult, arrogant, brazen and abusive characters we all unfortunately know, and to stop making excuses for what’s going on around us.

There are lots of personality disordered people in our midst. There are lots of Jewish narcissists. That’s the reality, and the Torah also told us that before Moshiach comes, the Erev Rav would return in force in order to finally be rectified. The Jewish people have been through so much trauma, I guess it couldn’t really be any other way at this stage of the game.

Calling a spade a spade and correctly identifying the emotional and spiritual problems in our midst is the first step towards really rectifying them.

Moshiach will help us to finish this job when he finally shows up, but in the meantime, we have to start that process and recognize that a lot of mental illnesses, especially personality disorders, and Erev Rav traits are essentially just two sides of the same coin.

But the key point to remember is that these mentally-ill / Erev Rav type behaviors CAN BE FIXED, and are primarily cured by working on our emuna, and making God a real and regular force in our lives.

As soon as a person says sorry, as soon as they admit they aren’t perfect, they start the long, difficult journey of fixing their souls and returning to God.

We’re all so used to all the ‘birthpangs of Moshiach’ imagery that’s been tossed around for decades already, that I think many of us have forgotten what a birth is actually like.

Births are messy – blood, poop and I-don’t-know-what other gross things flying around the place.

They’re incredibly stressful – until the very last second when the baby pops out, everyone has a worry that it might not get there, God forbid, or that something could go wrong to harm the baby, or the mother.

They’re long, drawn out processes with a lot of stopping and starting – “I’m in labour!” – no, it’s just Braxton Hicks. “The contractions have started!” They’ve stopped again. “I’ve been having painful contractions for three weeks, already, I MUST be more than ½ cm dilated by now!!” etc etc

By the time the mother is ready to have the baby, she can’t move, can’t sleep, can’t really eat without getting terrible heartburn is and heartily SICK of the whole thing already – and that’s before the kid even makes it out into the real world.

Why am I telling you this?

Because I think a lot of us have a false image of what’s going to be going on in the world when Moshiach finally shows up. We think he’s going to call a press conference to announce he’s Moshiach, have a bunch of angels show up to coronate him, and then start riding around Jerusalem on his white donkey doing the ‘regal wave’ thing and magically disappearing all the problem people in our midst.

NOPE.

It’s not going to be like that at all. Moshiach is going to enter the world exhausted, after a long, difficult, messy and painful birth process where he’s been covered with every type of spiritual filth and cack you can imagine.

Remember, King David, the forbear of the Moshiach, was incorrectly considered to be a mamzer by his father and brothers for many long years, which is why he was sent out to tend the flocks and go and fight off lions and bears at just three years’ old.

Yishai was hoping something would eat him, and get rid of that ‘embarrassing’ family issue.

Remember, Tamar, the forbear of the Moshiach, was incorrectly accused of acting like harlot, when she got pregnant by Yehuda in a ‘libum’ arrangement to perpetuate her dead husband’s spiritual legacy (she had twins because she had two dead husbands to perpetuate, by that point.)

Can you imagine what Channel 2 would be saying about these people today?

“Chief Rabbi’s daughter admits to being a prostitute!!!!!!!”

“Rabbi Faker-so-so says: “This woman MUST face justice, and be burnt alive!!!”

“David’s own father shuns him: ‘The man is a MAMZER, and should be eaten by a lion!!!”

“EXCLUSIVE: David’s brothers admit: He forced the Prophet Shmuel to crown him at gunpoint!!! We’re scared for our lives!!!”

And so on, and so forth.

And then, all the armchair commentators would be having a field day.

“How can this man be KING when he’s clearly committed so many war crimes?”

“Yet another cover up by the religious establishment. King Amalek would NEVER have acted like this…”

“I can’t believe they let Tamar off the hook. She’s guilty as charged! Look at how she acted! If she wasn’t guilty, then why didn’t she just SAY THAT in court? I can’t believe these people.”

The Zohar curses anyone that views the Torah as ‘history’ with terrible curses. The Torah is a blueprint for living that’s as relevant for us today, in 2016, as it was 3,000 years’ ago.

So bearing that in mind, let me ask you something:

When the Egyptian establishment shoved Yosef HaTzaddik in prison for 12 years on the trumped-up charges of Potifar and his wife, who’s side would you have been on? I mean, Yosef went to prison!!!! For 12 years!!!! It doesn’t get more clear-cut than that, does it?

Or, when Moshe Rabbenu got shoved down a well in Midian for 12 years, who’s side would you have been on? I mean, he’s a wanted criminal in Egypt, a dangerous fugitive who killed an innocent man!!!!

Or, when Yaacov Avinu ran away from Laban, and then got chased down by him and all his men, who’s side would you have been on? I mean, WHY WAS HE RUNNING AWAY, if he hadn’t done anything wrong???? Why didn’t he stay in the country, with his wealth and his wives, if he wasn’t guilty of doing all the things that Laban was claiming????

What would Channel 2 (funded by the Rasha Corp, Inc) have to say about all these ‘so-called’ holy people?

What headlines would Arutz Sheva and the JPost be posting up? What comments would all the ‘experts’ reading about Yosef HaTzaddik from their armchairs in Eretz Yisrael be saying about him? What juicy quotes would they be squeezing out of the wicked Esav, about how terrible his brother Yaacov really was?

“Yes, he did exactly the same thing to me before he left – and that’s also why he ran away!” Esav would tell Channel 2, in an exclusive interview. “He stole my blessings! No one can trust him!”

And then, they’d wheel in one of Esav’s wives (with her face blurred and identify disguised) to pile on the ignominy.

People, the creation is renewed every day! King Shlomo told us there is nothing new under the sun.

Each of our biggest Tzaddikim was covered with spiritual filth, lies, controversy and scandal. It’s always been that way, and until Moshiach comes, it will continue to be that way.

In case you’re still unsure, here’s a few more ‘big’ Tzaddikim, many of whom were pegged as being the potential ‘Moshiach’ of their generation, and who were persecuted by the authorities of their time, and vilified by their fellow Jews, including even ‘religious’ people:

The Rashbi – Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai – who ran away from the Roman police and sat in a cave learning Torah for 12/13 years.

Rabbi Eliezer HaGadol – who was wrongly excommunicated by the Sanhedrin until a day before his death.

The Baal Shem Tov – excommunicated and vilified by even some of the biggest rabbis of his day.

The Baal HaTanya – Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad chassidim, who was persecuted and repeatedly slandered to the secular authorities (including by so-called ‘frum’ Jews…), resulting in him being chased all over the country, and spending time in prison.

Rebbe Nachman of Breslev – Another huge Chassidic master, the Shpola Zeide, took against Rebbe Nachman and started a slanderous campaign against him, that began so much of the controversy against him. Even his own uncle, another Chassidic Master Rabbi Baruch of Medzhiboz, opposed Rebbe Nachman for a time. (Can you imagine the juicy quotes Channel 2 would have tried to get out of him?)

Rabbi Natan Sternhartz – who took over from Rebbe Nachman, and who suffered the most terrible persecution, including being falsely accused of all sorts of things, and spending period of time in exile and imprisoned by the secular authorities. And who was behind this libelous, slanderous and even murderous campaign? (Because at one point, they dispatched a murderer to kill Rav Natan, but the man killed the wrong ‘Rav Natan’ and his family instead?) – RABBIS! And not just any rabbis, the most influential rabbis of their time, including the Savraner Rebbe.

History is simply repeating itself.

If you don’t know what happened before, you won’t know how to pass the test this time around. Again, the main point is that our biggest Tzaddikim have always been slandered, persecuted and chased by the evil people in our midst. That’s just how it is.

But how embarrassing, if you get up to Shemayim and they show you all the times you pinged on that horrible libel about Yosef HaTzaddik…or all the times you rushed to judgment against the ‘dangerous fugitive’ Moshe Rabbenu…or all the times when you could have stood up and defended King David, but instead you put the boot in, instead.

We read that stuff now, and OF COURSE we see how holy our Tzaddikim actually were, and how misguided (at best…) the people were who were persecuting them and slandering them.

But that’s the test.

Moshiach is not going to be ‘elected’ like a president.

Redemption is a birth process. It’s messy, filthy, stressful, confused and incredibly taxing, spiritually. There are people who are literally trying to kill our holy people, just like they’ve been doing all down history. Do you REALLY want to be a partner in their activities? Do you really want to end up where Korach ended up, or where Potifar’s wife got to, or even Absalom, King David’s son, who ended up in the lowest pit of Gehinnom?

So take a breath, and try to put the modern events unfolding right now in their proper, historical and spiritual context. As a people, we’ve been down this path before – many times – and always made the same mistake. If we really want Moshiach to happen, this time we need to really see what’s going on – all the lies and forgeries and slander that’s happening – and to pick the right side.

One day, a shiny new van drove up to the small hamlet of Yidville, and a very fit, muscular, tanned man in tennis whites stepped out, with a large statue under his arm.

He strolled over to one of the local parks, set his shiny, black statue up in the middle of one of the grassy areas, and began to casually toss a stone or two in its direction.

One of the friendlier residents of Yidville came over to say hello, and to ask him what he was doing.

“This?” replied the man, tossing another stone at the statue. “Man, this changed my life! Before I started doing this, I had all sorts of aches and pains, and I just couldn’t breathe good. But once I started doing this – well, all my problems cleared up, I grew five inches taller and I developed 28 inch biceps overnight!”

The Yid couldn’t help but be a little impressed, but was also a little puzzled:

How could throwing stones at a statue have so many health benefits?

As the man continued to toss his stones, he explained:

“It’s all about posture, man. And self-control. And balance. See this stone? It looks to you like I’m just tossing it around, casual-like. But really, I learned how to throw stones like this up a mountain in Tibet for five years. Once you learn how to throw the stone right, you’ll see how you just start to feel so darned great!”

Convinced, the yid started learning with the successful stranger how to properly throw stones to Marculis – purely for exercise reasons – and very soon, the stranger had opened his own ‘Throw a stone to Marculis’ studio in Yidville, and was selling branded clothing and a throw-a-stone-to-Marculis line of soft furnishings.

All was well, until a little while later another shiny new van drove up to Yidville and stopped in the centre of town.

A supermodel-type lady got out, tucked a lithe white statue under her arm, and strolled over the local park.

She’d heard about the success of the ‘Throw a stone to Marculis’ studio, and she wanted a piece of the action, too. Her exercise routine was called ‘Ba’al Peor’, and it involved regular rounds of colonic irrigation and other things too complicated for mere plebs to understand.

The people of Yidville crowded round, keen to learn what this latest innovation in holistic health would do for them.

“Laydees,” she drawled, “I used to be FAT!” A gasp erupted from the crowd. “And POOR!” another gasp. “And SOCIALLY INEPT!!!” Now, people were really shocked.

“But then, laydees, I discovered this ‘Ba’al Peor’ exercise routine, and it completely changed my life! I lost 40 lbs in a day and a half, I won the lottery, and then I started to make tons of friends, when I put out my ‘Ba’al Peor Holistic Healing’ home-play DVD. And now, for just $1000 a month, I’m willing to teach you how to access these AMAZING health benefits too!”

Well, that sounded like a deal that was just too good to turn up, so the laydees of Yidville eagerly signed up for ‘Ba’al Peor Flow’ classes, and happily subscribed to the ‘Ba’al Peor Living’ magazine, when the first edition came out just in time for Rosh Hashana.

Things settled back down in Yidville – everyone was happily congratulating each other on discovering their AMAZING exercise routines, which contained so much INCREDIBLE wisdom for living the good life, and kept them so busy they didn’t have time for their more traditional pursuits like praying or learning Torah.

But this stuff was so much more FUN!

The men happily compared the bulging biceps they’d earned from spending 10 hours a day throwing stones to Marculis, while the women couldn’t wait to try out the latest purge-and-cleanse recipe they’d just seen in Ba’al Peor Living. Man, this was the life!

A little while later, another shiny van drew up to Yidville, and yet another successful, spiritually-inclined wise person got out, this time with a bright red statue and a big packet of matches. He knew he had a tough sell on his hands, but he was the best in the business for a reason, and he’d promised the boss he wouldn’t come home until he had at least 50 people signed up for his new exercise class, called:

‘Burn your children for Moloch’.

As the locals crowded around, he made his pitch:

“Guys, this stuff is the most hard-core exercise class out there. It’s only for the best-of-the-best. A lot of people out there don’t get how burning your child for Moloch can help you develop abs of steel, get you inner peace, and triple your income in just eight minutes…”

Here, his voice dropped to a whisper, and he motioned his audience to lean in a little.

“You know why they don’t get it? Because they didn’t do their research, that’s why! They didn’t check this stuff out properly! They’re still stuck in their narrow-minded ways of doing things, and they’re scared to try new things in life! You know, throwing a stone to Marculis is for beginners. If you really want to transform your life, this is the exercise class for you!”

And to close the deal, the rep from ‘Burn your children for Moloch’ passed out some cute devotionary candles that had a really interesting smell, and a bumper sticker that bore the legend: “There is nothing wrong with playing with fire!”

Dear reader, you get to pick what happens next. Do the residents of Yidville:

  1. Vote to relocate their town to an ashram in India (purely for ‘health’ reasons)
  2. Come up with their own new exercise routine called ‘Kosher-Burn-Your-Children-For-Moloch’ – and get a rabbinic psak for it
  3. Make Teshuva and bring Moshiach and the rebuilt Beit HaMikdash

Vote for your choice in the comments section!

No, this isn’t another ‘drugs gone mad’ post…

Believe it or not, Rav Dessler actually brings this story from the Gemara, where a young father loses his wife, and can’t afford to pay a wet-nurse to feed his child (clearly, this is before the days of Materna.) So then, God does a miracle for the man, and has him grow boobs in order to nurse his own child.

The Sages of the Gemara are split in their view of whether this is a good thing or not. One says: “How great is this man, for whom such a miracle was performed!” The other says: “How lowly is this man, for whom the order of creation was changed!”

This discussion takes place in Rav Dessler’s essay on ‘Torah and Economic Activity’ in Michtav Me Eliyahu, where he brings the five levels of faith that people are on, when it comes to earning a living.

The five levels are as follows:

Level 1) The highest level is that of the person who…now sees the natural and the miraculous both as open miracles, having realized that ‘nature’ has not independent existence at all…His worldly needs can now be given him in way that are openly miraculous. There is no longer any need to conceal the miracle from him.

Level 2) There is another person who may have reached a very high level of faith, but when he searches the depths of his hear he finds that nature and miracle are not completely equal for him. He has not yet reached the ultimate perfection of trust. Consequently, he will not find miracles attending his path.

Level 3) The third level refers to those people whose faith is strengthened by miracles, while it is weakened by natural processes. Such people should reduce their use of natural means as far as possible.

Level 4) People…who do not recognize miracles when they see them, can derive no benefit from being dealt with in a miraculous fashion…they will be dealt with by providence in ways that seem to conform to natural patterns…If he becomes poor and downtrodden, and in spite of all his endeavors care and deprivation are his lot, he may eventually face a moment of truth. He may realize that all his efforts were of no avail and, heartbroken, he may turn to Hashem in prayer.

Level 5) Some people may completely fail to recognize God’s providence and may go in for worldly endeavor in a big way – and their activities may be blessed by Heaven…Why are they not taught the error of their ways by poverty and suffering?…The answer is…they are so far gone that they are no longer worthy of attention from on high.

When my husband quit his job to ‘let God provide’ – as he’d been encouraged to do by his then rabbi – I knew we weren’t on the level to really live that reality.

But it’s only when I came across this that I realized we were aiming for Level 1 – which even Yaacov Avinu didn’t think he was on – when really, we were at tops, Level 3, same as the man who grew boobs.

The two years we were trying to rely on miracles, we got a lot of them, but they weren’t exactly enjoyable, or easy, or something that helped us make friends and influence people. In fact, they often did quite the opposite, because when all is said and done, who wants to hang out with a guy who grew miraculous boobs?!

Mommy and me doesn’t want him; his mates down the pub don’t want him; even his mum thinks he’s a little strange and off-putting and tries to keep the visits short and sweet.

Sure, it’s still a spiritual level higher than most people probably ever get within spitting distance of – but it’s a not a ‘good’ place to be, is it?

Where did he buy clothes? Did the boobs disappear again, once the kid grew up, or was he stuck 42DD forever? These are all very important questions, because as Rav Dessler and the Gemara makes clear, miracles don’t always, or even usually, come for free.

So where are we holding now that we’re definitely not in the relying on Heaven for everything category? I’d love to say it’s level 4 – I’d love to say we’re now back to working hard, while still knowing that God truly is providing everything, and there are days when I really believe this. But not always. Sometimes, I still complain. I still feel aggrieved when I hear of rich foreigners buying up all the apartments in Jerusalem, which means us poor locals can’t even get a foot in the door. I still worry sometimes about ‘what will be?’

Sometimes, I feel like an open miracle is the only way I’m ever going to own my own home again.

So maybe, it’s somewhere between 3 and 4. Who knows. The point is, just because someone is getting miracles, even a lot of them, doesn’t mean they’ve completely made it in the spirituality stakes.

It’s possible they could be at Level 1 – if they’re the generation’s equivalent of the Rashbi.

Or, they could be holding at Level 3 – unnatural boobs, no friends, but at least their kid has some milk to drink.

Or, they could even be at Level 1, where their success is miraculous because God has decided to give up on them, and not send them any material difficulties or hardships. From the outside, it’s often impossible to tell.

Personally, I’m not having enough financial success to be at Level 1, or enough horrible challenges to be at Level 2, or enough open miracles to be at Level 3, so maybe it is Level 4 after all. I guess we’ll see what happens next.

A little while ago, I got repeated phone calls from a young couple who wanted to come to for Shabbat. We’d had them a few months’ ago – it was OK, but nothing special. The conversation was pretty stilted, and my girls left the table after a few minutes, because it was borrringggg.

Unfortunately as the host, I couldn’t join them in their room. So I soldiered on with our taciturn guests, making polite conversation until it was the bless-ed time of bentching.

Like I said, I’ve had worst shabbos experiences, but I’ve also definitely had better, and I wasn’t so keen on repeating the experience any time soon.

In the old days, I had a huge fear of being ‘guest-less’ for Shabbat, but the last couple of years have been pretty solitary in many ways, and as a result I’ve learned to not only tolerate ‘family only’ Shabbats, but even to welcome them.

Add into the mix the huge amounts of stress I’ve been under, in various ways, over the past few months, and voila, we reach a situation where I often don’t have Shabbat guests, and I’ve got a lot more fussy about who sits by my table.

(I know: what can I tell you? I’m definitely not Artscroll Biography material.)

So when this young couple asked if they could come again, I told my husband to make our excuses and decline.

Behind the scenes, I was having quite an intense ‘teenager’ time, and I also didn’t have a lot of spare energy and koach for guests. It was that time a couple of months’ ago when even cooking for myself had become a bit tricky.

A few weeks’ on, the couple asked again. Again, we made our excuses. My kids had friends staying over, and from our previous experience with them, this couple didn’t really ‘combine’ well with anyone else.

A few weeks’ on, they asked again. Again, I had far too much going on in my life to handle guests, and I told my husband to decline. Which is when I started to ponder to myself: what’s going on here?

I mean, if I’d told them the first time to come whenever they wanted, and just call, and it would be a pleasure to have them, that would be one thing, and I’d have no complaints.

But I didn’t, and I hadn’t, and to keep calling after repeatedly being told ‘no’ set some alarm bells ringing.

Even in university when I was dead skint and had one armchair that I’d rescued from next to the dumpster, I used to invite my friends for meals and Shabbat suppers. Even when I was a young 20-something newly married (and still dead skint…) I used to have guests almost every week.

It’s just something me and my husband did, and it never depended on us having a lot of cash or a perfect home.

By contrast, something that me and my husband never, ever, did was invite ourselves over to someone else for Shabbat –

(barring the one time I asked really good friends if we could come for lunch last minute, as I’d been caught up in some crazy situation and hadn’t been able to buy or cook anything myself.)

With friends, you can do those things and it’s ok, because it’s clear that you’re not just after a free lunch, and that there’s some mutual caring and reciprocity going on.

So we can argue it’s just an age thing, a stage-in-life thing, but I don’t think I agree. I invited people decades’ older than me for meals in London, right from the first year I was married.

After pondering it, and wondering if I’ve just got plain mean, it struck me that’s what’s bothering me about all this is that there doesn’t seem to be any reciprocity on the table. It feels as though there’s an expectation that I’m just meant to happily have this couple for Shabbat, ad infinitum, with no friendship, caring or concern in return, simply because I’m 41 and been married for 18 years.

Why?

Who said?

I’ve had times – plenty of them – when I was terribly lonely on Shabbat. I’ve also had times when I could barely afford to buy a chicken for Friday night supper – but I never expected someone else to fill that lack for me. That would be making my problem their problem. What I have done to alleviate my loneliness, more times than I can count, is to reach out to someone else, someone new, and to invite them over to me.

I know, what a shocking thought!

But just maybe, God is giving this young couple plenty of quiet Shabbats for a reason. Maybe, He wants them to dig a bit deeper, to see past themselves and their wants, and to start to realize that if you’re the one that’s offering to cook, one way or another you’ll always have company around the Shabbat table.