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It’s so strange.

I am sitting here, with no idea what to do with myself.

This is highly unusual – I’m a person who nearly always has a project going on, and the only time I take a break is for a couple of days in between starting the next thing.

But at the moment, I’m finding it hard to motivate myself to really ‘do’ anything. I know it’s the uncertainty. I also know that it’s the fact that every single person in my family is still in my house.

And that’s mamash cramping my style in a million different ways.

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I’m a person who likes to listen to one song, obsessively.

If I like a song, I can easily listen to it six times in a row – and I like to do that. But no-one else likes to listen to my songs six times in a row, so I can’t do that right now, and it’s grating.

(I won’t do that on ear-phones because I listen to the music while I’m doing things like washing up, hanging washing etc, not just hanging out by PC for half an hour listening to music.)

I’m also a person who likes and needs my own space.

I don’t like company 24/7. I’m a writer, sometimes my soul really craves solitude and peaceful contemplation.

That is also part of the reason that my writing is drying up at the moment, because I just am not getting that ‘alone’ time, and where in the past I used to go for long walks to grab it for myself, I can’t really do that because of the coronafascists, that are demanding I mask-up 24/7 while in the fresh air.

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Baruch Hashem, I’m in a pretty big house at the moment.

God really gave me such a present, because we moved to this house a week before COVID-1984 took off, and at the time I couldn’t understand why I’d had such itchy feet to leave the last place.

Very quickly, it became obvious.

This place has 2 floors… and a garden…. And a mirpesset…. And a few other little places where you can hang out, even in bidud (quarantine) and just breathe a little.

So I’m very, very lucky.

But I’m still finding this hard going.

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Usually, I can bang out articles in half an hour flat.

I started writing this 2 hours ago, and then I had to stop to give someone a lift somewhere, and then I had to stop again to help someone else find something online, and then I got distracted by a ‘big conversation’ that was going on.

And now I’m writing this as my eardrums are being blasted to oblivion (again….) by my teenagers’ loud music. Like, really loud.

Sigh.

It’s all just avodat hamiddot isn’t it?

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Friday, I got so frustrated with one of my kids who phoned up to ask for a lift after I’d been telling her the whole week that if she DID want me to get on her Friday, she’d have to let me know by Thursday pm, so I could arrange my Shabbat cooking schedule accordingly.

Thursday we spoke, and she told me:

Yah, mum, I’ll make my own way back, don’t worry.

Are you SURE???????

I asked her.

Because if you change your mind last minute, it’s not going to be pretty….

Yah, yah, I don’t need you to get me tomorrow, it’s fine, mum.

She lied.

At 12pm, Friday, I get another phone call from this same kid:

Err, mum can you come and get me??

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Usually, I really try to be as flexible as possible, especially in these strange COVID-1984 times.

But I just couldn’t. I got so angry at her that I just put the phone down for a minute and pretended that the connection had gone awol, so I could collect myself and not say something I’d regret for the rest of my life.

Long story short, I didn’t go to get her.

And then, I spent the next three hours trying to deal with the overwhelming feelings of rage and anger that suddenly started stormin’ up like a Category 5 Hurricane Rivka.

Man, it was SO hard.

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I simply didn’t talk to anyone in my house, for 3 hours.

Because I was scared that if I said anything, anything at all, it would be really bad.

And in the meantime, I cooked and I asked God to help me, and I tried to not get even more upset when my food started coming out not so good, because I was in such a bad mood.

God, how much longer????

How much longer do I have to stay cooped up with all these retarded people, having to cook all this food all the time, and having to tidy up all the time because there is always so much mess, and washing, because everyone is here, and having to listen to THEIR music all the time, and having to keep working on all these bad middot that keep bubbling up with the constant aggravation and irritation and low-level fear about what’s coming next….

Ad matai?!?!??

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The answer was:

At least a few weeks more, and maybe a few months more, because THIS is the real test, Rivka. THIS.

Hanging out with your family and doing nice things for them and not killing them and working on your own bad middot.

THIS is the real test.

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So, that’s when I realized that I really can’t let the anger and rage burst out and rule me, because it looks like there are many more weeks, if not months, of this test to go. And if I turn into Genghis Khan, it’s going to make it so much harder for absolutely everyone around me.

[Picking this up another hour later, as a kid needed a tremp somewhere.]

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Someone just sent me two recordings.

One is of Rav Pinto essentially saying that what is happening now is very similar to how the holocaust began.

First, there was some ‘low level’ anti-semitism, and then – 7 million Jews got killed.

And then, there was another recording in Hebrew, which you can listen to for yourself HERE:

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This was from the daughter of the famous kabbalist from Bnei Brak, Rabbi Chaim Dovid Stern.

She says that Adar is going to be a very tough, scary month for the world.

That lots of people aren’t going to make it.

And that lots of people that everyone thinks are ‘tzaddikim gemurim’ with big beards and kippahs, and who apparently learn a lot of Torah, are amongst those who won’t be around to greet Moshiach.

When the interviewer asked her why not, Rabbanit bat Stern was very clear:

The whole test is bein adam l’havero – how we treat our fellow man.

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If someone is learning Torah, but abusing their wife verbally and emotionally – they won’t be here to greet moshiach.

If someone is a big Rosh Yeshiva, a leading rabbi, but they are going around stirring up trouble, and getting into arguments with the neighbors all the time, or causing strife and bad feelings wherever they go – they won’t be here to greet moshiach.

All of us have so much teshuva we need to make, particularly in the area of our bad middot and how we treat our fellow Jews.

And top of that list is what’s going on behind closed doors, with our spouses and kids.

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So today, I told one of my girls:

Dearie, it’s suddenly dawned on me that we are probably going to be hanging out together for at least another five months. Prepare yourself mentally, because THIS is the test.

THIS.

To be with our families, without distractions, maybe also without a whole lot of parnassa, and with a lot of external worry and stress, and to still treat them nicely and considerately.

Man, that’s a test.

A massive test.

But with Moshiach truly imminent, it’s slowly dawning on me that that’s the whole point.

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UPDATE:

Daisy just sent me a link to this video (not shmirat aynayim friendly, but well worth listening to:)

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Vera Sherav is a medical doctor and holocaust survivor, who has been fighting for human rights against the medical establishment for decades.

The main point she makes is that we have to stand up for ourselves, and to protect ourselves from people who don’t have our best interests at heart, and to stand up to the bullies that are pouring out of the woodwork, under cover of Coronafascism.

This is connected to all the bad middot I’m talking about above.

When we stop making excuses for our own manipulation of others, and using threats and scare tactics to control others, and forcing others to put what’s good for us ahead of what’s good for them – that’s when we’ll be able to get out from under the jackboot of this Coronavirus dictatorship.

It’s midda k’neged midda.

And once we fix our own middot, the madness will finally stop.

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Mum, I’m worried about you. You’re always forgetting what I told you. I think you have alzheimers….

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Over the last few months, my youngest daughter has been making this statement a few times a month. It annoys the heck out of me, not because I’m in ‘alzheimers denial’, but because I keep explaining to her that when people are totally stressed out of their skulls and preoccupied, it’s hard to remember anything.

Stress damages the brain, at least temporarily, and we all know just how stressed we’ve all been, in a billion different ways, the last year.

So yesterday, she started up with that again and I glared at her, and started to feel a bit upset and angry that she was apparently deliberately winding me up again…when I was in the middle of trying to get another one of the Rav’s books done and sent out…and in the middle of trying to figure out how Beirut’s port being exploded is somehow connected to the new Haifa port being built by the Chinese (completed 2021…) and the shadowy new ‘deal’ the US has apparently just struck for Syria’s oil (CO-IN-CID-ENT-AL-LY on the same day the explosion happened in Beirut….)

…and trying to wash up and do a few other things to keep the house ticking over….

When it struck me what the real problem was.

I haven’t been giving this kid enough time and headspace.

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She’s a good kid, really lovely in so many ways.

But she’s like her dad, inasmuch as that part of the gene pool has a tendency to give over BIG things in very small ways. I have the opposite tendency. I exaggerate for effect, I make a point with pyrotechnic prose – and so, I have been totally missing all these ‘big’ things she’s been telling me in her gentle way, as they haven’t come wrapped in melodrama.

That means she tells me something, and I don’t really pay much attention to it, because it’s not exciting enough to compete with the corrupt Mossad, and what I need to get from Mahane Yehuda for Shabbat, and a million other things.

So then, I’ll ask her again: where are you going tonight? Are you here for Shabbat? You said you do want pasta for supper, or not?

And then she’ll hit me with the ‘alzheimers’ speech, because in a way she’s right that I am forgetting about things. But really, just one thing: her.

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As usual, I didn’t feel so fabulous, emotionally, after I realized what was going on.

I had a few minutes of that raw despair that only a parent can feel. You know what I’m talking about. We want so much to be everything our children need us to be, to give them what they require to grow up feeling loved and emotionally-healthy and connected to God and their souls – and yet sometimes, we just can’t do it.

God, I have no energy for this…

Rivka, are you saying you have no energy for her?

(God always goes right for the jugular.)

That brought me up sharp.

Of course I have energy for her! My kids and my husband are my #1 priority!!!

(In theory.)

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In practice, the last few months my kids and my husband have fallen far down the totem pole again, overlooked in the midst of a million books being written, and a million trips ‘out’, and a million hours researching what’s really going on in the world.

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I turned off my computer.

I went upstairs to where my kid had retreated to her room, and I tried to start a conversation.

I’m sorry I haven’t been giving you enough attention recently. What can I do for you, that would be nice for you? Can I take you somewhere? Do you want to go shopping?

Ima, why do you feel like you always have to just buy something or do something?!

She asked me with that particularly infuriating arched teenaged-eyebrow of disdain.

(Upset teenagers always go right for the jugular.)

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I fought down the knee-jerk response to try to hurt back, swallowed a couple of times, then ‘fessed up.

Sometimes, kid, I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. Sometimes, it’s very hard for me to just ‘be’. So I retreat into doing stuff and going places, because that’s often easier than just sitting here trying to be ‘real’ with you.

What I really wanted to tell her is that every time I wash her clothes, make her food, wash out the cereal bowl that was left for a day in the heat so the grains could all harden onto it like some sort of ceramic decoration – without having a go at her for doing that –  that’s a small declaration of love.

Sometimes, those small declarations of love are all I can manage, because despite the fact that I’m 46, and officially ‘old’, I also feel lost and overwhelmed a lot of the time.

Even when there is no ‘COVID-19’ in the picture.

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Ima, do you want a hug? She suddenly asked me, out of nowhere.

Of course I want a hug…

And just like that, the connection was re-established.

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The rest of yesterday afternoon, we just hung out talking about the small stuff that looms very big in a teenager’s life, and I made a mental note to boost spending time with my teens well up my ‘to do’ list from here on in.

I have one more book to do for the Rav left on my list, before I take a proper sabbatical: One in a Generation #3.

It’s a huge amount of work in every sense of the word.

When that teen likes to really go for the killer blow, she’ll tell me in full-blown teenage troofer mode:

You care more about Rav Berland than you do about me.

In her worldview, she sees me spending hours, weeks, months and years on his books etc, for free, and she sees how engrossed I am in my writing, often to the exclusion of her. What can I tell her?

Those books are changing the whole picture….they are sweetening everything…they are helping Moshiach to come the sweet way…

She is a hardcore teenage troofer.

The more I try to explain about the Rav, the more she tells me to my face that I’m just a card-carrying cult-member-lunatic. I get zero kudos for doing all this stuff. That kid just thinks its conclusive proof I’m a retarded frier-ite.

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Doing all the stuff for the Rav is so important.

But even so, my kids and husband still have to come first.

It’s a tough balance to strike, it’s a very narrow bridge to walk on.

And I got reminded again yesterday, that being a loving parent is sometimes the most challenging job in the world.

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I know it’s bad to look at Facebook.

I know, believe me I know. That’s why I have a fake account that lets me just dip in and out when I need to go and look up things for research purposes.

So yesterday, I was doing some research that took me to a Facebook page, and then I noticed a picture of a young woman with striking red hair and a sad face under all her makeup – Shiran – and something compelled me to look at it.

Man, I got so sad, so fast.

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As I scrolled through all her selfies from the last five years, I saw how a beautiful, religious, ‘edgy’ girl went totally off the rails.

It started in small ways. The skirt was still black, but way too tight. Then it got shorter. Then the tops started revealing more and more cleavage.

Then, some big ‘break’ happened, and the hair got dyed a vampy red.

Then the makeup went up a level, with kohl-ed eyes and dark red lipstick to match.

And the clothes continued to disappear.

And then the first tattoo showed up – something ‘subtle’, just a signature on one wrist.

And now, five years later, she’s totally covered in tattoos up and down all her limbs, and a few other places, too.

I know this, because the last ‘selfies’ posted up were artistically-shot pictures of Shiran running through some grass with her tattoo-ed butt cheeks hanging out of her cut off shorts. P*rnography, pretty much, but so artfullll….

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What can I tell you?

My heart broke.

The last few months, I’ve been getting to know quite a few of these ‘souls of tohu’, these big souls that can’t really fit into the world as it’s currently configured, and so they want to destroy, and tear it down to its foundations.

At their root, these kids, these teens, these young people are really only good.

They want that ideal version of planet earth so badly, it literally pains them to have our current flawed version. So they lash out, and they try to do anything they can to minimize the pain of simply being alive in our current, difficult reality.

And the first person they lash out at is themselves.

What are tattoos, after all, except bruises of the soul, publically displayed for all to see?

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Honestly?

I’m still heartbroken about all this. There are so many kids like this, who are growing up in homes – frum or not – and falling straight to the bottom of the world. And everything is being documented with selfies on Facebook and Instagram.

I can’t help but wonder, if there was no Facebook page to post all this amateur p*rn up on, and no Smartphone to take pictures of the ‘latest’ self-mutilating tattoo, and no fake Facebook friends to egg-on all this self-destructive behavior with little red hearts and ‘thumbs up’ emojis, would it still be happening?

Would Shiran have transformed so violently, from an off-the-derech girl to a tattoo-d vamp-call-girl-wannabe?

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I find that question so painful.

This world is so hard.

So please, go and give you teens a big hug right now.

Tell them how good they are. Tell them how much you love them – even if they’ve already slipped, even if they’ve fallen. There is always a way back, there is always a stairway up and out of the muck – I learnt that from Rabbenu, and from Rav Berland.

But the first step is our love for our kids.

Turn that love on, whack it up to full volume and let it shine a path for your kid to return to their true selves, return to their souls, and return to God.

He wants everyone back.

Even Shiran.

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As I was writing this, one of my kids told me she wanted to show me an ‘amazing’ video.

It’s called neshamot shel tohu – souls of chaos – and it depicts a little of what I’m writing about in this post. These lost young people, running through the streets of Jerusalem, smoking, drinking, hanging out in Mahane Yehuda. Acting out, because the world is just so painful to them. They are mamash the biggest neshamas.

The chorus says:

Neshamot shel tohu

Machapsot ca’av

Bishvil l’argish mashu

English:

Souls of chaos, looking for ‘pain’, just so they can feel something.

What can I say?

I started crying again.

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UPDATE:

Here’s an English translation of the lyrics:

Souls of ‘chaos’

Looking for ‘pain’

Just in order to feel something

Only so they can feel something

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I got used to this now

Prisoner of the cycle

Scared to come close

‘Diseased’ and frightened

Knots and more knots in the heart

I want [to come closer] but don’t know how

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A scared boy

Angry at the world

He runs away to each place

And doesn’t understand where he’s even going

To love from close up, it’s still not possible

There is a ‘ruach sayera’ (storm wind)

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Shards of light from those days

Broken vessels are wandering around

Thirsty, angry

Broken-hearted because of other people

The smallness of ‘skin’

The separation between light and light

The heart is so very sensitive

It’s hard to endure the world

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So if you are wandering around

With a hungry heart

Know something:

The buried treasure is within your own deepness

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As the ‘new normal’ kicks in, I can’t buck the feeling that this is anything BUT normal.

Israel is now coming out of its totally retarded, OTT ‘lockdown’, and some semblance of ‘normal life’ is returning.

For the last few days, I’ve been heading back off to the Kotel, trying to make up the 18 days I was missing from when I got stopped in the middle of my segula to visit the Kotel 40 days in a row, just after Purim.

I’ve discovered a new route that takes me through the back of an Arab neighborhood and up the backside of the hill that slopes up from Guy Ben Hinnom valley, where they used to sacrifice their children to Moloch, in Biblical times.

I now prefer that route to going on the main road, as Moloch and Mahmoud Al-Fahda is scaring me way less than the Israeli police.

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Even though I’ve been to the Kotel six times now, I’ve only managed to actually kiss the wall three times.

Friday night, the gestapo  police decided there were too many people in the plaza, so there was a big line of us queuing up outside, instead.

For the first time ever on a Friday night, the ‘Reform Plaza’ was filled to capacity – 45 people – all frum Jews, who’d been barred entry to the main event.

Then on a couple of other occasions, I got in to the Womens’ section – which has now been divided up into cute, rectangular white tented areas that just seem creepily reminiscent of Bergen-Belsen huts, minus the rooves.

But there were now ‘too many people’ at the wall itself, so I got sent to the left – to the rectangular tented area marked ‘waiting area #14’ – and I just kind of stood there for a few minutes before turning tail and heading home.

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Of course, I have to wear a mask way up over my eyeballs in the plaza itself.

And my forehead has to be shot at by weird men who seem to be strangely over-enjoying their role ‘pretend shooting’ people in the head with a thermometer gun. I guess it’s the next best thing to playing ‘Call of Duty’.

And then, one time I made the mistake of going to the Kotel with my husband, and trying to wait for him to finish up in back of the plaza. A fat, quasi gestapo  police minion in a bright fluorescent vest and an oversized facemask marched up to me and told me it was forbidden for me to stand there and wait.

Geveret, you can’t stand here. We can’t have too many people here.

I looked around – there were maybe another 30 people max, scattered all over the back part of the Kotel plaza – and I almost had to choke myself to stop from saying puh-leeze!!!!, or tossing off a casual heil hitler, and clicking my heels together.

I get it, I know. You are only following orders, right?

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Over the last couple of months, I have learned that acting like a nazi is something good and proper, as long as you limit yourself to forcibly taking people’s rights and basic personal freedoms away, on pain of harsh punishment and massive fines.

But protesting that type of fascist behavior by saying ‘heil hitler’, or goose-stepping away from a public official is the wrong way to act like a nazi.

Please everyone, remember this. I’d hate for you to get this wrong and end up in some gestapo police basement, having your fingernails pulled out by a public servant because you picked the wrong way to act like a nazi.

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But I digress.

With all this ‘normal’ going on, my daughter resumed her driving lessons. She and the instructor both wear masks and rubber gloves (uh, why is that, exactly?) – and the instructor has also been forced to put a clear plastic partition down the middle of the car, where the gearbox is.

Let’s be clear, there is way more risk to human life from novice drivers having their rubber-gloved hands stick to the wheel, or from having that massive mask block their view of the monster truck bearing down on them from out of left field, than there is from any virus.

I actually almost knocked myself out in one shop, because I didn’t see their see-thru plastic sheeting next to the till until I’d head-butted it, trying to pay for my purchase.

While we’re on the subject of totally dumb ‘health measures’ that are 10000% for show, do you know how many ‘germs’ all those cute cloth masks with fake Adidas branding keep out? Maximum 3%.

Oooops, sorry that was a real fact.

Don’t know how that got into any discussion about proper ‘hygiene’ in the era of Coronavirus.

My bad.

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The other kid went back to school yesterday, and the weird normal is also in full swing there. Everyone has to wear masks and gloves full time (which is of course, totally unenforceable, even if it wasn’t also totally pointless).

It’s a dorming school, so they have 2 girls in a room now – as opposed to 5 or 6 pre-Corona – and because they can’t guarantee the ‘hygiene’ of the school kitchen, they are buying all the food takeout, from local restaurants.

Because there are no Corona germs in restaurants.

And anyone who argues with this statement clearly doesn’t know anything about science.

No-one has worked out how the kids are meant to be eating that stuff while fully-masked, so I made a helpful suggestion that they should just puree it all up and then suck in their meals through a straw that’s been hermetically-taped into their masks.

Probably next week, that will be the next ridiculous rule  sensible measure the Government foisters on us all, for our own good.

Gotta love #Coronafascism!!

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There’s also a rule in place that you don’t have to wear a facemask if you’re exercising, because apparently you can’t catch or transmit Coronavirus when jogging, walking fast or playing basketball.

Again, please don’t try and argue with the logic of this statement, because if it’s the law, it must be totally scientific.

I don’t wear hot-pink spandex to exercise; and I don’t have a massive i-Phone to publically stick on a bicep, so I decided that whenever I see a cop on my daily hitbodedut walk, I’m going to stick my elbows out at right angles and ‘power walk’.

Don’t you know? Didn’t you hear? If your elbows are sticking out when you walk, then you are incapable of transmitting Coronavirus. But if you’re carrying your purse while walking on the way to the store – then you’re back in the ‘high risk’ box.

I guess Coronavirus germs are unusually attracted to credit cards, or something.

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So anyway, today I went to visit one of my friends who I haven’t seen for months.

She has 4 small kids, and she’s been cooking, cleaning and all round entertaining them for 3 months solid at home.

Like so many of us, last week she cracked up and totally lost it for a night. I think last week was rough for so many people, me included. I’ve spoken to many other ladies out there – heroines all! – who after months and months of 5 star service for our families just really feel like we need a day off.

We were both regaling each other with our ‘survivor tales’ from the last three months, and laughing our heads off, because what else can you do?

What else can you do, when your three year old comes home from gan demanding to wear a mask, because the pseudo-frum ganenet has scared the pants off them that otherwise, breathing fresh air is probably going to kill them, God forbid?

What else can you do, when your teenager has allergies – the same allergies she’s had every single Spring, for 15 years – but now has to hide away at home in case she gets put on some secret Shabak blacklist for sneezing in public?

What else can you do, when the anti-Semitic government says its OK to get together on L’Ag B’omer, but it’s still forbidden to go to Meron or light a bonfire in your own backyard.

Someone please explain to me, how is lighting a bonfire in my own back garden increasing any risk of getting or sharing Coronavirus?

Really?

What if I saw up a few logs – for exercise – before I do it, and kill off all the Coronavirus germs that way, before I toss the first match in? Would that work?

And in the meantime, what else can I do, except laugh.

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When I’m done typing this, I’m popping out to buy a dart board.

I have a small, cheap one in my garden, and I’ve discovered that throwing sharp instruments at something with violent hand gestures is actually really cathartic.

When I told my husband what I’m up to, he asked me to promise that I’m not going to print off any pictures, to stick up on that dart board. He doesn’t think that’s healthy.

It’ll be nobody we know personally, I told him.

That’s the best I can do.

But as we lurch onwards towards geula, and as we settle into this weird ‘breathing space’ between birth pangs, I have a feeling I’m going to be spending quite a bit of time with my dart board.

Dear man, I told my husband, much better I have an inanimate object to use for target practice, than someone I’m married to.

What else could he do when I told him that, except laugh?

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Don’t forget that Questions for God – Secret Diary of a Jewish Housewife Volume II – is now out on Amazon! You can pick it up HERE.

The equation is actually simple.

Either we fear God, and know that He is the one 100% behind everything. OR, we fear the ‘thing’, the ‘person’, the ‘disease’, or the ‘situation’.

The first one is called yirat shemayimfear of God, fear of Heaven.

And the second one, in spiritual speak, is called ‘fallen fear’. It’s fear that’s ‘fallen away’ from the understanding that Ein Od Milvado, only God is doing everything. That means that if I’m angry about something or with someone, I’m really just angry at God.

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The last 3 weeks, I’ve been totally raging about the pointless ‘law’ now in place in Israel that forces everyone to wear masks outside their homes.

Even though the masks don’t really help with anything much….

Even though ‘coronavirus’ is basically no more infectious or deadly than flu…

Even though the only reason we are being forced to wear masks 24/7 is to give the police state a pseudo-valid reason to keep us on the defensive permanently, cowering timidly every time a blue/red flashing light drives by.

We are wearing masks, only because the WHO said so.

And as we know, the WHO is effectively owned by Bill Gates.

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So, all this stuff has been making it really hard for me to make my peace with wearing the masks, and it’s been a massive struggle for me to deal with this aspect of #CoronaFascism without going nuts.

Last week, I realized I really have to get a grip on this. This situation is going to continue for a while, and being in permanent angry rant mode is just not helping anyone, especially me.

So, I took a deep breath, and I realized that the real reason I’m wearing a mask is not because of all the corrupt politicians and health ministry officials– starting with Bibi on down. And not because I live in a police state, even though I really do.

But only and solely because Hashem said that right now, I need to wear a mask.

Full stop.

It’s a decree of the King.

And once I internalize that, I can mostly wear the mask OK, at least enough to avoid getting into trouble, because if God wants me to wear the mask, then I can do it.

But if Itamar Grotto and Bill Gates wants me to wear the mask, I really can’t.

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It seems to me, that this is the main lesson we need to be learning from this whole sordid saga.

That on so many levels, the only One to fear is really Hashem. The only One who is deciding what’s going on here, across the board, is Hashem.

Ein Od Milvado.

That’s the starting point.

And then, we can move on to starting to figure out some of the tremendous good that is being hidden away in even the very difficult circumstances we’re living through right now.

One of my friends told me that so many kids are actually doing way better, emotionally, after two months at home with their parents, because it’s the first time they’ve had some unbroken quality time and attention, often in their lives.

====

Of course, this is a process of birur, so on the other side of the equation there are also a lot of kids who are doing worse, especially teens who have spent two months solid at home with controlling parents who just want to dictate to them about EVERYTHING, and are secretly loving the fact that their kids are now back under their thumbs.

Thankfully, in my own life, I’ve seen my teenagers get real, calm down, and start to develop a deeper spiritual side that probably would have taken way longer, if the Corona ‘pandemic’ hadn’t turned up when it did.

And I’ve also been learning to appreciate more of the things that I’ve been taking for granted, like the ability to go for long walks, and to breathe fresh air, and to buy toilet paper whenever I run out.

It’s been quite the eye-opener, in terms of understanding how much shefa I really have in my life.

====

And then, there’s the ‘message’ that God is trying to send to us with this Coronavirus, which is multi-faceted and relating to just about every area of our life.

In our personal space, a lot of us are being challenged to like and respect the people we live with, and to do kindnesses for them. Our kids are just our mirrors. Our spouses are just our mirrors. If we don’t like ourselves, if we’re hard on ourselves, if we don’t forgive ourselves easily and expect unrealistic perfection, that puts so much unnecessary strain on our relationships.

So there’s work to do on bein adam l’havero, and also work to do on our emuna, that Hashem is behind all this.

And then, there’s also the work to do on emunat tzaddikim, and especially how that relates to any slander and lashon hara we may have been speaking, listening to or believing, especially about the Tzaddik HaDor, Rav Berland.

Messages, messages, messages.

Corona didn’t happen ‘stam’. It’s happened to encourage us all to clean up our spiritual act, and to make the teshuva we need to be ready to greet Moshiach.

For that reason alone, it’s an excellent development.

====

I want to end with some snippets of emails I’ve received from a few of my readers, each describing their own attempts to accept the ‘Decree of the King’ in their own lives, however that’s manifesting.

They are reprinted here with permission.

Who is like Your Nation, Hashem?

Even in the midst of all this darkness, so much tremendous spiritual light is starting to shine out from all four corners of the globe. And as things develop, it’s only going to strengthen.

====

One of my readers would like to make Aliyah, but has a complicated family situation that’s making that hard to arrange at the moment. Here’s a little of what she wrote me:

I am trying not to put too much of my heart on things being one way or the other. We may have money in the bank but that can poof away at any moment. We have plans to visit Israel but that can poof away at any moment. It will all go according to Hashem’s will and I have to keep screwing my emunah/bitachon goggles on tight and force myself to keep repeating that everything happens for the very best. Everything happens for the very best.

====

Another of my readers lives in Latin America, and despite having had an ‘ultra’ orthodox conversion, is not considered Jewish by the State of Israel, nor eligible for the right of return. Here’s a little of what she wrote me, after she read the Great Escape post:

Rivkah, there are so many things I want to do AND I CAN’T. When we struggle to pay the bills, when I deal with my life “NOT EASY” or my food is ruined on Shabbat because I don’t have a refrigerator, I want to cry and scream, I want to tell HASHEM, how I am supposed to work to help millions of anusim if I can’t even complete my Shabbat meals ??? How am I supposed to work with women or help them by teaching them tzeniut if my own clothes have holes that I should sew ??

And I CRY, and I get frustrated, and I see people who can do a lot with their money but are busy “improving their social life” or buying the “trends” in designer handbags, buying luxury cars. I GET FRUSTRATED. I WANT TO FLEE AND hide from everything and EVERYONE.

But I breathe, and I remember, that HASHEM is ALL mercy, that He loves me and put me in this situation for a time so that I learn, so that I grow, so that I see angles that the “successful” woman from before did not see.

It is normal to get frustrated, each with his test, each with his life, his problems. No one has the absolute truth and whoever DOES is so merciful, that they DO NOT OBLIGATE anyone. Hashem continues to make it rain on atheists and on the wicked. And to give food even to the wicked …the time will come when He will force them all [to make teshuva].

I would love for you to see what is going on here, the efforts of some people, I think perhaps you would see that the “delay” [in the geula happening] is pure mercy of Hashem towards people like us.

====

As this process continues, the birur is heating up.

And it basically boils down to this:

Do we accept that Hashem is running the world, or not?

Are we accepting the Decrees of the King, or not?

Are we doing the work we need to be doing, to get closer to Hashem, and to acknowledge our bad middot? Or not?

Are we giving control and honor back to Hashem, or trying to maintain our own control and honor, particularly in our families?

That is the question.

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Day 3 of the partial lockdown in Israel, and Baruch Hashem, no-one has (yet) killed anyone in my house.

What open miracles! What revealed good!

At this stage, it seems to me that the real danger from Covid-19 is not so much the pathological nature of the virus, but how much it’s empowering the police state to force me to try to spend 24 hours a day SOLID with my kids….

But you know what?

I’ve been practicing for this for months, if not years. For months if not years, I’ve barely had a single week where both of my teenagers have been in the ‘framework’ they’ve meant to be in. I literally can’t remember the last time they were both in school when they were meant to be, or both doing whatever else it was they were meant to be doing, that gave me a whole week ‘off’ home alone.

So, when this current phase of Coronavirus madness descended, I actually wasn’t so bothered. I’m used to my kids being around when I’m trying to do other things. I’m used to them playing their music at ear-splitting levels, and totally taking over the kitchen to cook weird things that apparently don’t come with lots of instructions for how to clean up afterwards.

In short, I’m used to hanging out with my kids, on their terms, and kind of ‘squishing myself’ into the sidelines, so they have the space and freedom they need to not go bonkers at home.

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And at this stage of the game, I say thank God for all this practice, because it means we’re actually doing ok.

To help things along, I’ve been panic buying a bit more every day, because I don’t trust the government as far as I can throw them. Sure, all the supermarkets will stay open whatever happens….. yadda yadda yadda. Whatever you say, Health Ministry Ubermenschen.

And I also bought two live chickens…. And I’ve also bought some 2x4s for the people in my house that like to make things out of wood…And I also bought some crochet yarns and hooks to make kippas…and a cast iron pot to cook things over a campfire in case we mamash go back to the stone age….

So, we have plenty to keep ourselves busy with.

Of course, I’m getting pretty much zero work or writing done.

And of course, I’m cooking three times a day because everyone is home and comfort eating, so as well as lunch and supper I’ve also been baking more cakes than a conditoria this last week.

What can we do?

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This situation has definitely got its challenges.

It’s definitely got its stresses. But most of all, so far, this lockdown has had a massive silver lining for me, as I see just how much I actually like and love my family, and just how good God has actually been to me the last few years, that I’m in the position I’m in today mentally, emotionally and socially, with my husband and kids.

Imagine being locked down with spouses you don’t speak to or like very much, or kids you haven’t really spoken to for 12 years, since you sent them off to kindergarten, or three million small kids running around that usually the teachers handle because you’re at work drinking cappuccino and pretending you’re doing some real hard work.

Bweeoooaaahhhh.

I’m getting the shivers just thinking about those scenarios.

====

In the meantime, so far I can still get to the Kotel every day to pray, baruch Hashem.

In the meantime, the bakery that makes my spelt bread is still open – albeit everything is now pre-bagged – and even the hardware shop is ignoring the rules to keep selling nails, screws and wood stain.

Baruch Hashem.

And then, there are other kindnesses, too. Like, I remember how we were meant to sign on our mortgage 2 weeks ago, and the bank just refused to action it…. Just one of those ‘Israeli-bank-mental-torture’ things that happen. Except this time – Baruch Hashem! Because we didn’t sign, we aren’t paying for a mortgage. And because the whole plan was to rent that apartment out to pay for the mortgage – and everyone is now in partial lockdown – the bank’s torture routine has probably ended up saving me a fortune in time and money.

Baruch Hashem.

I have to say, in the midst of all the madness I’m feeling pretty happy.

====

Someone sent me a comment, asking if it’s OK to feel kind of ‘happy’ about all these birth pangs of Moshiach that are going on all over the place, even though things are so stressful and apparently ‘bad’.

Here’s what Rebbe Nachman has to say about that (from Sefer HaMiddot, the section on Yirat Shemayim, or fear of heaven, #28):

One who has yirat shemayim will not be afraid when frightening events come upon the world. To the contrary, he will rejoice.

So, it seems that how we’re reacting to this whole COIVD-19 hoohah is a pretty good measure of how much yirat shemayim we actually have.

And while we’re on that subject, let me just toss in #29 from Sefer HaMiddot here, too:

One who has yirat shemayim will certainly submit himself before the Tzaddik.

Because rejoicing in this difficult matzav we all find ourselves in, and submitting ourselves before the Tzaddik certainly go hand-in-hand. You can’t have one if you don’t have the other.

====

So, I’m up to day 16 of my 40 day stint praying at the Kotel, and I can’t really believe just how much things changed since the first day I began.

There are 24 days left to go – until the third day of Pesach chol hamoed – and who knows how much things will change again, by then

But I’m holding on to the Rav’s promise that all this will be sweetened by Erev Pesach, however unlikely that seems right now.

The footsteps of Moshiach are fast approaching.

But who knows how many of us are going to still be sane by the time they actually arrive?

That is the question.

====

Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash

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In ten days time, I’m meant to be flying out of Israel to go to my brother’s batmitzvah celebration in London.

I spoke to him a couple of days ago, and I told him I don’t think I’m coming.

Israel had just announced that anyone coming back from abroad would have to self-isolate for 14 days in bidud, and much as I love my brother, we have no family here, we just moved and I don’t know the neighbors, and there is no-one who could keep my family unit going with groceries if I’m out of action.

Such strange days we live in.

My daughter is currently coughing her guts up and streaming phlegm, as she always does when Spring appears and her hayfever kicks off. Although this year, with all the anxiety about Corona and a few other things going on in her life, her asthma has also ramped up again.

Most years, my daughter’s seasonal hayfever and asthma is not a big deal.

This year, with all the hysteria about Corona, she’s scared to leave the house in case people think she’s going to kill them with a sneeze.

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In the meantime, in my own dalet amot I’m having such a strange mix of tremendous good, and tremendous confusion. On the one hand, the house we managed to miraculously rent has blossomed into such a beautiful home.

We had Purim seuda yesterday, and for the first time in 7 years we had enough space to invite a few families together. Honestly, it was initially a little strange, but then we whacked the music up, started dancing and the magic happened and le ha fochu. The weird atmosphere broke and everything turned around.

For a few hours.

====

So much of the time right now, I don’t know what’s good and what’s bad, what’s right and what’s wrong.

Yesterday, I went for a walk to the Kotel, and I was really pondering to myself if I’m more a Haman, or more a Mordechai, because I honestly have no idea right now if I’m giving God what He really wants, or the opposite.

Everything seems so upside down at the moment.

I know it’s all exploding in madness everywhere you look, but it still seems to me that the best response to everything that’s going on right now (apart from making some serious teshuva, particularly in how we treat other people) is:

To bake cookies.

Yes, you read that right.

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There is nothing better to do right now, apart from reciting lots of tehillim and doing lots of hitbodedut, except to bake cookies. Because until Hashem decides that the world really is ending, we parents have a duty to show our children that the world is still continuing in the meantime.

Already, our kids are struggling to stay in school. Already, they are struggling to get up in the mornings. Already, they are feeling like there is no point in continuing or carrying on, because the apocalypsa is around the corner, so what’s the point?

Honestly, don’t we grown ups feel that way too, so much of the time?

==

I’m not saying this lightly.

I’ve been waiting for geula, and trying to prepare for it in as real a way as I can for at least the last 15 years. But now that it looks like we may be coming down to the wire, and the geula really might be materializing before our eyes, increasingly the most important priority for me, as a mother, seems to be keep things as ‘normal’ as I can.

That means baking cookies. That means cleaning toilets. That means doing my best to look after my children, my family, my husband the best way I can right now.

I have my People Smarts Course that’s half done, and my People Smarts book that has been waiting six months to get sent to the printers already. For months, I haven’t been able to get to it.

Finally, last week, I realized that maybe, that’s not my main work right now.

My main work seems to be to look after my family – even tho my kids are 16 and 19 already – and to make my family my main priority.

So, I find myself making sandwiches and suppers in a way that I haven’t done for years, since they were much smaller. I find myself ferrying them around in the car – not least so I can have some quality time to really talk to them – and taking them to different places and appointments and people, because it seems like there is just so much going on, at the moment.

In some ways, it feels like my family, my responsibilities to these people who I live with, and care for tremendously, have kind of been ‘getting in the way’ of my life.

At least, that’s how it looked.

But today, I’m thinking more and more, this is actually my test, right now.

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There is no better way of working on my bad middot and doing acts of kindnesses that really count than by focusing on the people in my home.

Rav Berland explained weeks ago that Corona has the same gematria as ‘mitvot bein adam l’havero’ – the mitzvahs that take place between people.

And nowhere are those mitzvahs more trampled – or more needed – than in the home.

And especially between parents and teens.

So, if you’re reading this, and you have a teen at home, and especially if you have a difficult teen at home who is struggling, stop reading this and go give them a hug. Go tell them that you think they’re amazing. Go and find something to praise about them, to their face, go make them a sandwich, take them out and get them a new top, or take them somewhere they’ve been bugging you to go for ages.

In short, go and love them unconditionally, with as much energy as you can muster.

Because that is the main test right now.

====

So many people are now being forced to spend 14 days cooped up with their families, with no distractions.

There’s no malls and chugim to run away to, no work deadlines, no shopping, no shiurim, no beaches and expensive holidays and restaurants.

All there is, is our raw family unit.

And that is the real test – does it feel like gehinnom or gan eden?

Is there love in the home, or constant arguments, guilt trips and withering criticism about all the things that aren’t being done 100% ‘perfectly’?

Are cookies being baked in that home, or not?

That is the question.

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Photo by Ruth Reyer on Unsplash

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For about five minutes yesterday, as I was driving back to Jerusalem on Route 6, I had this amazing feeling of being so connected to God, and seeing how He’s guiding every tiny detail in the world.

The traffic was flowing, the scenery was beautiful, and I had a profound sense of peace and excitement.

Moshiach is almost here, I can feel it….

====

I got home, and instantly my mood changed.

Someone had sent me a link to another crappy Israeli TV ‘expose’ about Rabbi Berland, blah blah blah, and somehow, my oldest daughter had opened it up when she was using my computer, and then spent two hours watching more poisonous crap about the Rav.

Excuse my mild swearing.

I’ve just so had enough of all this.

So, I told her:

I can’t keep trying to clean this stuff up for you, spiritually. You want to watch poisonous crap about the Rav, from lying, immoral, anti-God journalists, what can I do? Bezrat Hashem, God will help you to figure out the truth by yourself, because I am no longer prepared to sit her to try and shore up your shaky emunat tzaddikim.

That’s not an easy thing for me to say, because I know that it’s not going to go easy for anyone who finds themselves on the wrong side of the Rabbi Berland equation, and I love my daughter tremendously.

But each person has to fight their own fight.

And I also decided that I am totally coming off Youtube, and once I’ve finished typing this, I’m going to see if there is a way I can totally block it and / or erase access. (If anyone has any tips for me, please leave them in the comments section.)

====

The more the current craziness plays out in the world, the more I’m seeing that there is really only one way that we can short-cut things like pandemics, plagues, economic depressions, terminal illnesses and wars, and that’s by working on our own middot.

All this Coronavirus stuff is just a case in point.

Regardless of whether it really is a potential world-killing pandemic, or just a totally over-hyped strain of flu that the media is using to whip-up mass hysteria for some unknown reason, what it actually all boils down to is just a big test of emuna.

Sure, you may be wearing a shawl, and thinking like you are the holiest thing to hit the world since Moshe Rabbenu, but if you’re scared to ride a bus in Jerusalem because of Corona, that is a clear indication that your real level of emuna is actually way, way less than you think.

Wherever there is fear of something that is not Hashem, that’s called ‘fallen fear’.

The whole idea, the whole goal, is to work through all the millions of ‘fallen fears’ that we all have, and to raise them back up to their root in emuna. That means understanding that God runs the world, God is doing everything for our ultimate good, and that everything is just a message from Hashem.

God doesn’t need Corona virus to kill anyone – if He decides we’re going to croak, that’s it, end of story, even if we’re wearing a bacteria-killing mask 24 hours a day and have an IV drip infusing our blood with industrial quantities of Vitamin C.

====

God is running the world.

Let me repeat that again, as I know it’s so easy to forget it:

God is running the world.

Once I understand that, I stop obsessing over using the hand sanitizer, and I stop panicking when someone coughs next to me at work, and I stop checking out ‘the latest’ germ-blocking face masks.

And instead, I take some time out, and I go and explore why do I feel so scared? What am I doing, what sins am I engaged in, that are making my soul feel so anxious and frightened?

And top of that list is:

The sins between adam l’chaveiro.

====

Recently, I’ve had a lot of kids who dropped out of the Torah world in my orbit, especially from the city of Bet Shemesh.

That place seems to have cornered the market in terms of dysfunctional ‘religious’ families where the parents are so super-duper, mega-crazy ‘frum’ on the outside – but actually treating other people, and particularly their kids, really badly.

What I’ve been learning is that the yetzer has been totally running rings around so many of these people. It’s convinced them harshly criticizing their children for not being ‘perfect’ is the best way to get them to make teshuva  – when of course, the polar opposite is true.

Imagine living in a home where you have a parent that is constantly telling you what you’re doing wrong, and constantly picking up chumrot that they try to shove down your throat, and constantly going on about how ‘bad’ and how ‘evil’ and how ‘defective’ you are, poor kid, and how they’re sure you’re not going to ‘make it’ when Moshiach shows up.

If I lived in a home like that, I would also get a punk hair cut, smoke 2 packs a day and feel really, really angry at God and religion.

====

It’s no coincidence that Rabbi Berland has made it very clear that the gematria of ‘Corona’ is 363 – the same gematria as bein adam l’chaveiro.

And the first place to start with fixing that part of the equation is in our homes.

If you are criticising your kid all the time for not being Moshe Rabbenu, or not getting ‘straight As’, or not being perfect all the time – stop!

If you are condescending to your spouse, and you think like you have it all figured out and they are the spiritual retard in the relationship – stop!

If you think you are above doing a cheshbon hanefesh on how you hurt other people’s feelings, and how you use religious observance to try to control other people – again, especially your children – then stop!

Take a breath, take a careful look in the mirror that God is holding up to you, and to me, and to everyone else in the world right now, and see what’s looking back at you.

Is it nice, or nasty? Is it scary, or reassuring? Is the world full of kindness and compassion and understanding, or vicious complaint, din and anger?

Whatever you see peering back at you, that’s just a reflection of your inner dimension.

====

Let me share a story with you, to illustrate this point.

I’ve been checking out a few of my ‘anonymous’ commentators IP addresses, especially the ones who like to write comments slagging off Rav Berland.

I discovered that one big critic of the Rav has a slew of court cases against them for illegally manipulating stocks on the New York stock exchange – they are mamash small time mafia. This guy has been extremely fast to loudly yell ‘financial fraud!!!!’ at the Rav and Shuvu Banim.

Now we know why.

Then, there was the commentator who liked to call himself ‘Peewee’, who is also ‘anti Rav’. Guess what? I found out he’s on a police watch list for pedophiles in the States after he was caught propositioning an undercover police woman who he thought was a 13 year old girl on the internet.

The Rav is just a big super-reflecting mirror, shining a light on our own bad middot.

That’s why I am not going to argue with anyone anymore, about what the Rav did or didn’t do, or did or didn’t say.

If you see bad in the Rav – if you see bad in your kids, in your spouse, in everyone else around you – that’s because that bad is really in YOU.

So knuckle down, acknowledge the real problem and get to work on it.

====

This morning, I finally had the energy to walk down to the Kotel, as part of my hour long hitbodedut thing that I do every single day, with God’s help.

I walked down the road that skirts the Gei Hinnom valley, on the side of the Old City, a road called ‘Ma’aleh Shalom’ – the path of peace.

I went with quite a lot of heartache, thinking about some of the things I’ve written above, how I’m seeing so many parents literally destroy their children with their own two hands, all in the name of God and His Torah.

I touched the stones, kissed them, then headed back home. In the plaza, an old frum lady came over to me and called out may Hashem grant you everything you asked for!

I shrugged at her, pulled a tight smile and told her Sorry, I don’t have any money.

She hobbled closer, and told me in English:

You aren’t listening to me. Listen: May Hashem grant you everything you asked for!

She was right. I hadn’t been listening. She was trying to give me a bracha that my prayers should be answered, and I was batting her away like a pesky mosquito.

You’re right. I’m sorry. Amen!

Then she told me:

The most important prayer to say right now, is that we all get out of galut. That Am Yisrael should all get out of galut.

I looked at her twinkly blue eyes, squeezed her arm, and got the message.

What is galut, really, except the prison that we’re all in, that’s keeping us away from God and the people we love, and redemption? And what is that prison, really, except our own bad middot?

Our own fallen fears, and anger, and arrogance, and jealousy?

We all have a lot of work to do.

====

UPDATE:

Daisy Stern has pulled a lot of info together to show why the Kan 11 ‘expose’ my daughter say was a total farce, and just more of the same ‘anti-Rav’ propaganda the media has been steadily churning out for year.

You can see that on her site, HERE.

Also, I saw another abusive comment this morning, this time from someone pretending to be ‘Sam Eisen’ about the Rav. Again, I ran the IP address – and guess what? It’s the same ‘Peewee’ pedo guy I mentioned before.

I won’t detail the comment, but suffice to say it was talking about dying in jail for being a pervert. Yet again, we see the mirror principle in full color.

So, yalla, come on all you ‘anti’ Rav people… send me more of your comments, even with your fake names, and then we’ll find out what’s really going on in your private lives and exactly why it is you are so ‘anti’ a person who exudes goodness and holiness so strongly, you can feel it a million miles away.

No wonder all these people are staying anonymous.

====

Let’s leave the last word to Rabbi Nachman, who writes in Sefer HaMiddot:

“S*xual violators are for the most part opposers of the Tzaddikim.”

Now that I’m looking up the IP addresses on the comments, I’m seeing Rabbenu’s dictum manifest in real time. And I’m really excited to go and do some more digging on all those big mouths who have been so publically ‘anti’ the Rav – so yalla guys, don’t be shy!

Let me have all your disgusting comments, and then let’s find out who YOU really are.

It’s a taste of the World to Come, when the truth will shine out and no-one will be able to hide behind a fake name or a fake email anymore.

Doesn’t that sound like fun?

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I have so much to get on with….

I’m moving house in less than a week, and there’s so much to do.

And yet, I’m sitting here still feeling totally out of it, and like I just don’t know what to do with myself.

Except… watch videos like this one.

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It’s 8 years since this song came out, can you believe it?

Since then, I’ve seen so many people leave Israel, so many people get divorced, so many kids go screeching off the derech, so many people go plain nutso.

How many times have we all just felt like giving up, already? And just letting go of all this ‘geula’ and ‘moshiach’ stuff, because how long can we just sit here hanging on, by our finger tips, and trying to fight off the rising tide of tumah that’s just every where?

8 years ago, we seemed so much closer to redemption happening than today, at least in some ways.

People were so much more excited about going to Torah classes, and trying to live life with emuna, and so many of us were making so much effort to try to raise our game and to live a life of real kedusha.

And today?

Well, from where I sit I’ve just seen one person after another crack up, from trying to live up to an unrealistic ideal of what a ‘geula-ready Jew’ actually looks like.

====

If God hadn’t had mercy on me, and totally crushed me into the floor when I moved to Jerusalem back in 2014, then that’s exactly what would have happened to me, too.

My kids would have gone screeching off the derech a million per cent, tortured by parents who expected ‘frum perfection’ and who refused to compromise, or move even a millimeter to try to meet their children where they were really at.

I would have either jumped off a bridge, or got a padded jacket to match the padded turban I was being told to believe was the epitome of female frum-ness.

And we would have either moved to a dumpster, or given up and fled back to chul, God forbid, if my husband hadn’t found the courage to go back to work even though there were so many people lining up to tell him that ‘God provides parnassa’, as long as you have enough emuna.

We didn’t have ‘enough’ emuna to get our parnassa provided in an openly miraculous way, and thank God we didn’t.

Because since then, I’ve been writing one thing after another, trying to warn against the huge perils involved in all this phony, fake, holier-than-thou yiddishkeit.

====

This shabbat, I had one of my kid’s friends in my house.

They grew up in a baal teshuva chareidi home which is super-duper machmir in a million-and-one ways, and doing a whole bunch of things so strictly, and so correctly, this kid has been totally traumatised by the idea of keeping shabbat.

Long story short, they kind of ended up at my house ‘by mistake’ this week, as their plans to go elsewhere fell through at the last minute, so my daughter brought them home to us. This friend is amazing, one of the most impressive souls I’ve met in a long term. Holy, doing hitbodedut every day, thinks and talks about God a lot, is really struggling to be a mensch and to do the right thing.

Yet they can’t sit by the table, for Shabbat.

They can’t go 25 hours without using the need to smoke a cigarette as a convenient ‘out’ from having to be in the house.

They are barely on their phone the rest of the week, and yet on the holy sabbath, they sit there playing games on it almost endlessly, texting their other ‘off the derech’ friends – anything to provide a mental escape route from the obvious emotional pain and difficulty spending shabbat with a family is causing them.

I can’t help but wonder:

What on earth went on, to cause this reaction?

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But really, I already know.

Because I so easily could have done the same, to my kids.

I so easily could have created an environment of ridiculously high, unrealistic expectation which would cast my poor kids as ‘bad’ the moment they stopped being ‘perfect’.

And because no-one can be ‘perfect’ 24/7, so many of our children are growing up feeling they must be ‘bad’, or ‘Erev Rav’, or some other form of messed-up / evil incarnate, just because they couldn’t sit at a Shabbat table singing endless zemirot for 2 hours, or because they wanted to wear jeans, and not black pants, or because they wanted to listen to a song by Ed Sheeran.

How have we come to this low place, where some of our brightest and best souls relate to themselves as ‘bad’ people just because they happen to smoke, or have an i-Phone?

This isn’t yiddishkeit. This isn’t Breslov.

Rabbenu tells us always, judge the action, don’t judge the Jew. The Jew is only and ever good, just their neshama got eaten by a massive klipa, that has been carefully crafted by the Samech Mem to make them feel like nothing they do is ever good enough.

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And it’s not just all these teenage drop-outs that are getting that message.

Their parents are also operating in that atmosphere of harsh fear and judgment, where they feel nothing they do is ever going to be good enough for Hashem. That Hashem is just waiting for them to drop the ball and watch a Michael Jackson video on Youtube so He can smash them into oblivion, God forbid.

This isn’t yiddishkeit!!!! This isn’t Breslov!!!! This isn’t emuna!!!!

And it certainly isn’t Azamra.

God loves us all so, so much. He knows how hard it is right now, how tough the struggle to hold on really is. He knows that we don’t want all this naarishkeit, all this tumah. That really all we want is Him, and Moshiach, and the rebuilt Temple, and to serve Him in holiness and temimut again.

God knows all that.

And He loves us.

And if we can get to the stage where we start to realise that we and our teens and our fellow Jews are really JUST GOOD, however ‘bad’ they (and we….) may look and behave some times, however big the klipa that’s swallowed them up, that’s when the crying will finally stop.

And the geula will finally happen.

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Back when I lived in Musrara, there was a small makolet on the main street, where I used to get most of my groceries.

I was in that place pretty much every day for four years, and over that time I got to know the makolet guys, and their workers, who ran the place.

One guy, Eden, stuck the job out for years, and right around the time that the teenage boy was having his visions of the coming apocalypse in Israel, he stuck a kippa on his head and started laying tefillin.

I know this, because he’d be ringing up my groceries with his phylacteries stuck to his head, which I know is wrong, but it still struck me as kinda cool.

Then there was the French guy who was fresh out of the army and wrestling with a lot of grudges against God. Sometimes the knitted kippa on his head grew, sometimes it shrank, and then a few months after he got married – it disappeared altogether.

He moved out of the neighborhood shortly afterwards, so I have no idea if it ever grew back.

And then, there was Shimon.

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Shimon could have been in his thirties, or maybe even his forties.

By the time I met him, he was a chain-smoking, secret alcoholic who was destined to eventually get fired because he kept forgetting important details like whether he’d already rung up a purchase, or whether someone had already paid.

He stuck it out for two years, steadily deteriorating, and over that time, I got to know him a little. What was left of his blonde hair was cut in an awkward crew cut, and his beer belly was usually perched dangerously on a low-riding pair of jeans that really should have left far more to the imagination.

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One day, I went in to get my daily pint of almond milk and I found him looking at a dog-eared photo, with a sad expression on his face.

Was this a dearly departed mum? An old girlfriend that it never worked out with? His childhood pet?

That day, Shimon was in a thoughtful mood, so even though my Hebrew was rubbish and his English wasn’t much better, he started talking as he rang up my pint of milk.

That’s me in the army, he told me, shoving the dog-eared picture into my face.

I’m at the age where I have to move things back a few inches, before they swim into focus, so I took the picture cautiously, and maneuvred it far enough away to actually see it. It was the standard shot of a young man wearing army trousers and displaying his pecs, while sucking on a cigarette and holding a machine gun.

I guess it was kinda ‘cool’, in that superficial, glorifying violence kinda way.

I was in a special unit in the army, Shimon told me, clearly fishing for some compliments for his 20-something self.

I looked at the fat, red-eyed man before me, who was already missing some teeth and I sighed a deep, secret sigh.

No wonder Shimon was steadily drinking his brain cells to death, if that picture represented his best shot at ‘happy times’.

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All this took place a few years’ ago, but recently I’ve been thinking again about this whole idea of ‘cool’, and how it’s one of the yetzer’s best ploys for ensnaring our souls in the madness of this world.

‘Cool’ can be so dangerous, precisely because it hides a multitude of sins, while secretly promoting them. ‘Cool’ people smoke. ‘Cool’ people drink lots of alcohol. ‘Cool’ people waste large chunks of their lives in bars and clubs, dancing to stupid, brain-cell destroying music made by other ‘Cool’ people, many of whom are addicted to drugs and pornographic lifestyles.

In so many ways, ‘Cool’ is the anti-thesis of the Torah lifestyle, and of the good middot, and of the calm, good stability that is actually the foundation of a happy life. But which is also, often, totally ‘unCool’.

Until I hit Breslov, which paired massive payot and Rabbenu’s Torah with trance music, I was kind of despairing of finding even a hint of ‘Cool’ in the Torah world.

Because I have to admit, ‘Cool’ still has some attraction for me, still, even though I’m 46 and really should know better.

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It’s so, so easy to fall back into the deceptive allure of that world of lies, where ‘Cool’ people spend their days surfing in Eilat, smoking their lungs black and piercing their tongues.

How can learning a blatt of gemara really compete with that? How can I explain to my children that ‘Cool’ has a short-lived shelf-life, and that ‘Cool’ young people are way more likely to end up addicted, poor and alone, eating their hearts out over pictures of themselves looking ‘Cool’ twenty years ago?

If I still lived in Musrara, if that makolet was still there, I’d tell them (and their friends…):

Go take a look at Shimon’s picture, and then see where all that ‘Cool’ lead.

‘Cool’ is poisonous, my precious children. It’s soul-destroying.

If you want to live a truly happy life, be guided by the Torah and channel your urge to be ‘Cool’ into some outrageously long payot and a tendency to talk to God by the beach.

Ah.

When is Moshiach going to show up, already?

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UPDATE:

I got the following comments from a reader, who is making some important points, so I’m adding them in here:

I just read your post about Shimon at the makolet and coolness, and I just had to say, maybe Shimon was showing you the photo of himself in the army because that was the last time he did anything that he’s proud of and that he worked hard for. Poor guy.

He got out of the army and spends his days drinking and smoking and working in a makolet. He’s not happy. He’s unmotivated. Probably depressed. The army is a real challenge, especially for a combat soldier, who is under-appreciated and works really hard in generally awful conditions. Any one who did his army service as a combat soldier should be proud of himself, and this Shimon deserves our prayers and compassion and to look for his good points to help him have the strength to do teshuvah and serve Hash-m.

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