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Why ‘confirmation bias’ is such a big spiritual problem

A long time ago, when infographics were still all the rage, I came across this infographic which clearly showed the 20 main ‘cognitive biases’, including confirmation bias. This infographic basically dissects the playbook the yetzer hara uses to convince us that we’re always right about everything, and that everyone else is always wrong. (Click the link to see a bigger version, this is just for illustration purposes.)

An infographic showing 20 cognitive biases including confirmation biasNow, I wouldn’t care so much, except that I’ve been noticing a strange phenomena around Volume II of One in a Generation, which is that most people don’t want to read it, and don’t want to talk about all the proof it contains about just how corrupt the media actually is.

For as long as the media was coming up with one false, salacious, slanderous story after another about Rabbi Berland (aka ‘Eliezer ben Etia’), my email was glowing red-hot with people wanting to have the discussion with me. Now that the other side of the story is out there, clearly, showing exactly how we all got manipulated, bamboozled and downright deceived by the MSM – no-one wants to know.

Yawn.

Now that we can conclusively show that all the lies about the Rav abusing women, God forbid, came down to the same two people who were trying to extort money out of Rabbi Berland, it’s no longer interesting.

What is still interesting, tho, is that the Rav is taking money to do pidyon nefesh for people. Ooooo, this is still so interesting, because the same ‘anti chareidi’ media who have been behind so many of the lies right from the start ran a whole big ‘splash’ campaign about it.

People paid money, and it didn’t work!!! He took money from people on their death beds!!!!

Etc etc etc.

I haven’t looked into the details of all these stories (yet…. I might do at some point) – but I personally know of two occasions when the pidyon nefesh didn’t work, and the person died. In both instances, the Rav offered to repay the whole sum.

When all is said and done, the Rav is not God, and God will still do as He sees fit.

On the other hand, I know of literally thousands of cases where the Rav’s pidyon nefesh worked open miracles, saved lives and totally turned around a lost situation. (Some of which actually happened to yours truly)

So now, who are you going to believe, the anti-chareidi, anti-God, atheist MSM with massive agendas, or people who have seen open miracles in their own lives?

Or rather, the question is who do you WANT to believe?

Because that’s really a far trickier problem. Here’s why so many people are still having a hard time believing that Rav Berland is a true tzaddik and a very holy man, as opposed to the ucky individual they read about online, and gossiped about with their friends, and attacked on Facebook:

  1. People are over-reliant on the first piece of information they hear – in this case, all the slanderous stories and lies put out by the Rav’s persecutors.
  2. People place too much credence on the limited information they have available – before they know all the facts of the matter.
  3. People like to jump on bandwagons – even when they’re heading in totally the wrong direction.
  4. People have blind spots about their own subconscious motivations and biases – so it suits them when a big Rabbi who spent his whole life telling people to ditch i-Phones and act in a holier way can be totally written off and ignored.
  5. Once people ‘choose’ a side, or a thing, they have a vested interest in protecting it at all costs – even if they’re wrong.
  6. “So many people are saying it, it must be true!!!” – of course they are, because they all read the same ucky, poisonous, anti-religion online news sites that you do.
  7. People only want to hear things that confirm their existing opinion – they are much more interested in being right than being truthful.
  8. People are very slow to change their minds about things – it can take a lot of repetition before they finally grasp what you’re trying to explain.
  9. People prefer to just gather more information, than to actually act on it – if they wait long enough, they are sure that ‘new information’ will emerge that will prove their original view point correct, and absolve them from any need to make teshuva or admit they were wrong.
  10. People are burying their head in the sand about just how bad and corrupted the MSM actually is – it’s a very uncomfortable thought to consider that the media might be spoon-feeding massive lies to the public. Much easier to ignore the whole problem and hope it will just go away by itself.
  11. “But he went to prison! There’s nothing more to discuss!!!” – this is called outcome bias.
  12. People are convinced that they know everything, and are always totally right – i.e. they suffer from tremendous arrogance.
  13. People WANT to believe that the news is factual, so that makes them believe that the news IS factual – the alternative scenario is far too scary.
  14. People believe the newest stuff is always more relevant than the older stuff – hey, all that abusing women stuff is old news!!! We already moved on to how the Rav is extorting money out of terminally-ill people now! Talk to the hand!
  15. People don’t like to re-examine the past – they prefer to deal with what’s in front of their eyes today, i.e. more lies and slanders that haven’t yet been refuted or disproved.
  16. People pander to their own world views – many people are much more ‘comfortable’ with the idea of abusive rabbis than they are with the idea that the press is a lying, manipulative, anti-God, propaganda machine.
  17. People believe what they want to believe. (This needs no additional explanation).
  18. People rely on stereotypes instead of facts – of course, all Breslov rabbis with large followings and mystical tendencies must be ‘crazy’ or ‘bad’.
  19. People believe the media is always right – because the media very rarely, if ever, tells them about the thousands upon thousands of factual errors and false stories it’s putting out there, every single day.
  20. People prefer their comfortable lies to the uncomfortable truth – even though that’s keeping them far away from God, stuck and miserable.

Truth vs lies

Sadly, I’ve come to the conclusion that the number of people who are happy to stay stuck in the web of lies and deceit that is modern life is far greater than those who are looking for the truth. And I can understand where they are coming from, kind of.

Who wants to be a social pariah by calling out all their Fakebook friends who spent two solid years posting up self-righteous rants dripping with lashon hara bout Rabbi Berland? Who wants to really take a look under the bonnet and realize just how many flaws and issues they themselves actually have? Or how many people they are hurting with their own ucky behavior?

Who really wants to ‘fess up to being duped by unethical journalists, or to following rabbis and others who aren’t the real deal, or to having a vested interest in trying to make an elderly Breslov tzaddik look ‘bad’ to make themselves feel better about their own obsessions with internet, licentiousness, gossip, ego-stroking, making money and materialism?

You can see why it’s so challenging, honestly.

But here’s the problem:

All that stuff that’s keeping us away from acknowledging the truth about Rabbi Berland is the same stuff that’s going to keep us away from the world to come, too.

Geula is mamash on the threshold, and we can’t cross over into it for as long as we’re still dragging all that arrogance, hatred and bad middot behind us. God isn’t asking us to be perfect, He knows that’s impossible. He’s just asking us to be truthful, and to put our hands up and to admit that we make mistakes, and we have vested interests, and we do a lot of things wrong and hurt a lot of people, every single day.

A bit of truth and humility is all that’s required to get us into the world to come.

But judging by what’s going on with Rav Berland and One in a Generation Volume II, even a bit of truth and humility is way beyond what most people can apparently manage.

The last few weeks, I’ve been all over the place trying to get Volume 2 of One in a Generation, the biography of Rav Eliezer Berland, ready for print.

You can read more of the back story, and all the ups and downs that have been going on with it, especially internally, HERE.

But in the meantime, Friday afternoon I finally got it done, and sent off to the typesetter, and Bezrat Hashem, it will be ready before Pesach.

But I’m knackered.

And I need to clean for Pesach.

So, no promises that I’ll be writing much the next couple of weeks – and apologies that I’m not responding promptly to emails at the moment.

If you want to help with the printing costs for Volume II, we need to raise 13,000 shekels to print 1,000 copies. Even $5 will make a difference, so please go HERE if you’d like to donate.

I’m planning on going to the prayer gathering Monday night, BH, and my kids are also coming with me (!) so I will let you know if there’s more details for that, but you can also see the updates for yourself over on ravberland.com.

Lots going on…. probably lots more about to start going on too, after Monday night and Tuesday’s elections.

And Pesach is still a whole two weeks away.

UPDATE ON ELIEZER BEN ETIA:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because we are coming down to the wire.

 

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

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

“They are preparing thousands of rockets”

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

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

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

[B]ecause the whole world is against us.

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

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

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

“AM ISRAEL IS IN THE GREATEST DANGER, MAMASH,

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

The final moments of the State of Israel

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

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

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

We are in the gravest danger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Details of the prayer gathering on April 9th, 2019

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

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

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

No one should be missing.

I wasn’t going to go to the ‘big gathering’ scheduled for last Thursday night in Beer Sheva with Rabbi Berland (Eliezer ben Etia).

I live two minutes away from the Rav’s kehilla here in Jerusalem, I go most nights to sit in the women’s section, outside in the big white tent they’ve erected to keep the rain off the congregants. Should it ever show up.

So I wasn’t really in the mood to drive two hours to Beer Sheva for more of the same….

But then, I had an email exchange with someone who was going, and who was making the effort, and then I heard the recording where the Rav was promising some big salvations for anyone who attended, and what can I tell you? I’m a sucker for the Rav’s brachot.

More than two years’ ago now, I paid a pidyon Nefesh to the Rav to deal with some chronic, disturbing health issues that had plagued me for years. Even after I just found out how much I’d have to pay, I started to feel so much better.

When I bought one of the Rav’s mezuzahs for my front door a few months’ back, I could literally feel the angels rushing around my home when my husband fixed it to the doorpost.

When my husband switched yeshiva to Shuvu Banim on the Rav’s say-so last year, he got so, so, so much happier.

On Shabbat, I pulled out my diary spanning 2016-2017 (the first half of the year) and I was amazed to see how many things have changed, improved and got better since I got closer to Rav Berland.

Some of these things are tangible – like my finances – and others are ephemeral, but so much more impressive.

Like my peace of mind. Like my shalom bayit. Like my general level of happiness in life, which had pretty much tanked for a good three years, until I hit the Rav.

So anyway, I’m a sucker for a bracha from the Rav, and when one of my daughter’s announced she had organized a bake-off in our (small…) home for 10 of her best teenage friends that same night, I took it as a sign that if we wouldn’t go for the carrot, we should probably go to avoid the stick.

My husband agreed, and we set off.

There was just one problem: We had no idea where we were going. It said on the website the heichal hatarbut in Beer Sheva central, but then someone else told me it was at the Narnia halls. So I printed off both sets of Google Maps, and we headed off into the night.

The heichal hatarbut was completely deserted when we got there. My husband mumbled: “There’s not enough payot here for this to be the place” and truly, there wasn’t so much as a pay in sight. So we got a bit lost, and then after a bit of aimless driving we found ourselves outside the Narnia halls of Beer Sheva.

There were a couple of cars full of payot-ed people waiting outside, and when my husband waved his payot at them, they came over and gave us directions to the new venue for the Rav Berland meet. We’ve been with the Rav long enough now to know there’s nearly always a surreal twist waiting in the wings somewhere.

That’s part of what I love about Rav Berland, it’s never dull.

So we got a bit lost again, then found ourselves in the hard-core industrial estate of Southern Beer Sheva, in what looked to be the courtyard of a tile warehouse. They’d set up two big white tents – one for men, and one for women, and us being anglos, we were among the first 20 people there.

I wondered to myself why they’d downscaled so radically, from the heichal hatarbut to the tile factory in the industrial area, but I’d only find that out later. Rav Succot was there strumming his guitar, and there was also a small band with a guy on electric guitar that rocked the place.

The only thing I love more than a bracha from a Tzaddik is hearing a great electric guitar riff live, so I was thrilled. There was one toilet between 400 people, so I got in there early, while it was still usable, and waited for the Rav to arrive.

And waited. And waited.

In the meantime, one of the ladies next to me told me some protesters had showed up outside on the street. I went to look, and saw around 7 shouting women (one with a bull-horn), 2 ‘artistic’ looking men and a bunch of signs decrying the terrible thing being done to the visitors of Beer Sheva.

There were five cops there, looking bored and a bit bemused, and it wasn’t really clear to me if they were there to protect the 10 protesters from the ‘terrible, violent and threatening cultish followers of Rav Berland’ – as the secular press undoubtedly described all us ladies with our knitted hats and scarves on our heads, and strollers, and the ‘cultish, brutish’ people like my sweet, gentle husband, who must be ‘bad’ because he has payot and doesn’t use Facebook – or vice-versa.

Try as they might to make their point, they were no match for the guy on the electric guitar, and he started whacking out some Uman anthems so loudly it was like being a frum Guns n’ Roses concert.

I loved it!

It was about a 60th of Uman, when all these different types of Jews get together and just dance, and chill and hang, and no-one cares who’s wearing a kippa or not, or how long your skrit is, or even if you’re wearing a skirt.

Ah, Uman.

So, that continued for around three hours, until the Rav finally made it into the courtyard, and started singing niggunim with the crowd. At that point, me and my husband left to come home. I usually go to sleep at 10, and it was easily pushing midnight.

I reckon around 400 people showed up, all told, and again, I wondered why they’d moved it from the heichal hatarbut, and then moved it again from Narnia.

Today, I found out.

That little band of protesters had been whipping up a huge storm on Facebook, which seems to be the lashon hara and anti-tzaddik social media tool of choice for crazy psychos with axes to grind against religious Jews.

Apparently, the fact that the Rav was drawing bigger and bigger crowds had got up their nose, and they did what the liberal peace n’ love crowd excel at the most, i.e. borrowing tactics from the Third Reich to close down and eliminate anything that they don’t agree with. They waged a hate campaign against the Mann auditorium in Beer Sheva and threatened all sorts of reprisals until the manager caved in and cancelled the event.

When the Rav’s followers moved the venue to the Narnia halls last minute, the protesters repeated their campaign of hate and intimidation, and again, the manager folded.

So then, the Rav’s followers came up with the plan of hiring two enormous marquees, and setting them up in some tile factory courtyard in the industrial area. I didn’t know all this at the time, but it’s truly amazing that any event occurred given all that, and that anyone showed up for it, let alone 400 people.

Strangely, it’s reassuring to me that the opposition against the Rav is starting up again. If I’ve learned one thing the last few months, it’s that being dissed actually brings a lot of blessings in its wake, sweetens a lot of judgments, and helps you to get the really important things done.

But at the same time, I can see that this book is not going to come out unremarked, and that it may well get a little hairy.

I mean, the people who are against Rabbi Berland, aka Eliezer ben Etia, are completely psycho….

It’s probably going to be an interesting few weeks.

UPDATE:

See this article:

A little while back, when I was talking to God about how One in a Generation, the biography of Rav Eliezer Berland, seemed to have gotten permanently stuck, I got the following insight:

That book can only come out with a lot of shaflut (lowliness) and humility.

Aha! So now I understood the problem: I was still far too full of myself and patting myself on the back for writing the book, and that was the main spiritual issue holding it up. But how to resolve that problem? (Because let’s be clear, working on these bad middot takes years and years and years…)

God gave me another insight:

“Rivka, I am going to send you people to diss you day and night, until the book sees the light of day!”

Great, thanks Hashem!

And you know what? He’s kept His word.

The last month, barely a day has gone past without someone having a go at me either in person, on the phone, via text or online.

One of my kids has been particularly good at dishing out the shaflut in person- her recent PTA meeting was one of the most humbling experiences of the type I’ve had, BH – but she’s by no means the only person drenching me in these ‘dissing diamonds’.

One time, I got chewed out so badly – and so unexpectedly – that I sat on the couch shaking for a full hour after the conversation (which if you follow spiritualselfhelp.org, you’ll know is the body’s natural response to ‘shaking out’ the trauma, so you don’t get PTSD or C-PTSD).

Yes, it was that bad.

There’s also been a flurry of people queuing up to diss my writing, too, and my general lack of editorial professionalism. And then there’s been a few sent along to diss my overall grasp of reality and good judgment.

And that’s on top of all my ongoing, bog standard shaflut that comes from earning zero pence whilst working like a dog; being a really bad housewife; and still being unable to express myself properly in the local makolet (corner shop).

Man, it’s been a veritable dissing extravaganza the last few weeks, with the diamonds literally pouring in through the roof!

And you know what?

It’s working.

Yesterday, on zot Chanuka, I sent the manuscript for Volume 1 of One in a Generation to the designer, and I already know that for this part of the process to get completed in a timely way with minimal issues, I am going to have to continue to be dissed royally for at least the next month.

And that’s even before the book comes out, which let’s be clear, is going to lead to yet another huge ‘diss Rivka’ event on Facebook etc, as the usual suspects gear themselves up for more self-righteous, confused-thinking evil speech.

Yay! I can’t wait.

The upside of all this dissing is that I am definitely seeing a huge number of brachas occurring in a number of areas of my life, just as Rav Berland said would happen.

The downside is that I’m really starting to go off interacting with people, and the thought of retiring to some remote island with no internet connection – or people – is getting more and more appealing.

How to square this circle?

Enter, Rav Ofer Erez, who wrote this great article on his website, last week:

“We have to remember that Yosef was just 18 years old when he was sent to prison. Usually, when something much smaller happens to us – if just two people don’t treat us so nicely we immediately start believing that everyone’s a liar, everyone’s a fraud and there’s no such thing as a good person – i.e. we immediately lose our faith in humanity, and become bitter, angry and harshly judgmental of others….

“For 12 whole years, Yosef worked on this point, that he shouldn’t become angry, bitter and harshly judgmental against other people, inasmuch as everything came from Hashem, and was ultimately for his good.

“…How can a person merit to avoid any trace of harsh judgment and anger? This is called the secret of dancing.

“We need to know that if people are making us angry, or hurting us, then just doing hitbodedut (personal prayer) isn’t going to be enough. We also need to dance during our hitbodedut, and to do at least 8 minutes of dancing.”

Aha!

Just what I needed to know, because while I am still trying to understand the deeper reasons behind why so many people are chewing me out, and while I am still trying to forgive them and to not hold a grudge against them, it’s sooooo hard to do this in practice!

Especially the times when I know I don’t deserve it, and the person is actually just projecting their own issues on to me. (I wish I could tell you that’s always the case, but clearly I often do deserve being dissed, because I’m not always nice, or thoughtful, or considerate of other people.)

So today, I was careful to dance for a full 8 minutes, as recommended by Rav Ofer, and it really did help.

If I’m going to get ‘dissing diamonds’ raining down on my head, let me at least have buns of steel.

Front cover of one in a generation Volume 1, biography of Rabbi Berland

I’m into the final drafting of the One in a Generation book now, and I had the urge to re-read ‘Through Fire and Water’, the biography of Rav Natan, Rebbe Nachman’s main pupil, who also went through what’s now known in Breslev circles as ‘The years of oppression’, which began late in 1834, and finally ended more than three years’ later, in 1838.

During those years, Rav Natan’s persecutors had him imprisoned by the secular authorities, regularly tried to beat him up, and even sent a contract killer after him, who murdered a different ‘Rav Natan’ who also lived in the town Breslev by mistake.

They also went all over the place telling rabbis, the Jewish public, and anyone who would listen that Rav Natan had been caught doing immoral things with women he wasn’t married to (is any of this sounding familiar???) and demanding that he and his community should be excommunicated.

At that time, one of the Rebbe’s other senior followers, and a major kabbalist in his own right, Reb Yudel, took nine men with him to the Rebbe’s tomb, and put Rav Natan’s opponents in to cherem, in order to protect Rav Natan’s life and prevent his persecutors from actually killing him.

As he left the Rebbe’s tomb, Reb Yudel said:

“There’s a merit that protects a person for a year, a merit that protects a person for two years, and a merit that protects him for three years. [This is a quote from the Gemara, in Sotah 20a). But, no longer!”

Three years’ later, one of Rav Natan’s main persecutors keeled over and died in the Russian governor’s offices as he was trying to prevent Rav Natan from moving back to Breslev.

Another persecutor, the Savraner Rebbe, got implicated in signing-off on the murder of a Jewish informer, and became a broken exile and lost all of his communal influence. And then others of Rav Natan’s persecutors – and their families – all started dying weird and peculiar deaths, all at once.

When that occurred, Rav Natan’s other persecutors and the people who’d slandered him, libeled him, talked lashon hara about him on Facebook, and perjured themselves to the secular authorities came crawling to him begging for forgiveness, scared that they’d be the next ones to depart from the world, because of how they’d treated Rav Natan.

There’s a merit that lasts three years, but no more.

I have the feeling things are going to start getting interesting.

You can buy One in a Generation on Amazon and on The Book Depository.