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How do we deal with ‘reality’ without going nuts?

On the last post, one of the commentators, Alizah, asked this:

Rivka, how do we read this without going nuts? Reminds me of something that says at the end the yetzer hara will appear like a mountain to some people and to others like something small.

If we follow your blog it’s enormous. We want to cry.

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It’s a very good question.

On Shabbat, we were at friends for Friday night, and the conversation turned (as it inevitably does…) to the whole Corona stress we’re all under.

I couldn’t help it.

I tried to explain what’s really going on with all this – how it’s all just part of a deeper ‘depopulation / eugenics’ agenda that’s been in the works for over a century, already – and my host looked at me with a pitying smile.

I’d outed myself as that most lowly of creatures, a conspiracy theorist.

The argument raged on for around two hours, and I realised that the more hard facts and solid information I was throwing at the other people around the table, the more their defenses got entrenched, and the more pointless the whole discussion became.

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At one point, my host turned to me and said:

Why do we need to know all this stuff? What can we do anyway? Why do you keep looking at all the ‘bad’? We can’t make any difference, and I don’t want to be kept up at night worrying about all this stuff.

The answer to that is really the answer to a lot of other big questions. Here’s what I told him:

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Truth is God’s seal.

The more ‘truth’ we acknowledge and let in to our lives, the closer it brings us to God.

The more we see how broken this world really is, the more we will start to really yearn and beg for something to change. The more we will yearn and beg for geula, for Moshiach.

The more sincere teshuva we will make.

The more minutes and hours of heartfelt prayer we will engage in, asking God to fix things and to right everything that is so very wrong.

Knowing the truth gives us the motivation we need to really turn to Hashem, and come back to Him wholeheartedly.

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I guess what I was really trying to tell my host is that I’m not buying into all the yeoush and despairing attitude that says we are nothing, and we can’t do anything to change all this, so why even bother trying to grapple with it?!

The Jewish soul is infinite.

It’s a part of Hashem.

Sure, me by myself I’m totally and utterly nothing and nobody.

I can’t take on the Rockefellers, or Bill Gates, or the corrupt State of Israel.

I know that.

But here’s what I can do:

I can go and pour out my heart to Hashem about all the ‘bad’ that’s going on in the world, and beg Him to fix it, and to fill the world with His light and the light of the true tzaddikim, and to get things to finally all turn around.

That’s all I can really do – but it’s everything.

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If we believe in the power of prayer, if we believe in the power of the Jewish soul to stir Hashem’s mercy and compassion, if we believe in miracles, and that God is the only force that really exists in the world, then uncovering the ‘bad’ doesn’t scare us and overwhelm us and cause us to go into denial in quite the same way.

It might anger us, upset us, shock us – but it also motivates us to PRAY.

To turn to Hashem and to PRAY.

And that is the true strength and the true power of the Jewish soul, and it’s a power that every single one of us can access and activate.

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When the Nazis were rising to power before World War II, so many people stuck their head in the sand and whistled.

God won’t let it happen, they said. I trust that God will continue to look after us, they said. I can’t do anything about this ‘bad’ stuff, so I’m just going to pretend it’s not happening, they said.

That was totally the wrong approach.

Rebbe Nachman spoke about the correct way to deal with harsh decrees:

He said:

“[E]ach person must say that the world was only created for his sake, and [the Rebbe said] how every person must endeavor to make up the deficiencies of the world, praying on its behalf – i.e. before the decree [actually materialises].

He also said the following:

“That year [1803] the Rebbe was very preoccupied with the Cantonist Decrees. He was extremely worried about the situation and said they were not an idle threat. He disagreed strongly with the people who were saying nothing would come of it in the end, for how could God do such a thing to the Jewish people?!

The Rebbe said several times that this was nonsense.

We find many occasions when harsh decrees did materialise.

The Rebbe spoke about this a great deal and said that the rumored decrees had to be taken with the utmost seriousness and not be treated lightly. We had to pray and cry out to God, and to be and beseech Him in the hope that He would hear us and annul them….

If only people had listened to his call to set the earth shaking with prayers and appeals to God, these decrees would have been nullified completely!”

(Tzaddik, Conversations Relating to His Lessons, page 132)

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God forbid, I’m not uncovering this stuff to get anyone down, or add to the despair.

Quite the opposite.

I believe – so strongly! – in the power of prayer.

I believe in the power of a Jewish soul to turn everything around when they partner with Hashem and pray their hearts out.

This stuff scares you? It overwhelms you? It upsets you?

Go talk to God about it, and beg Him to clean up this mess!!!

When you do that, you change everything, literally.

The ‘weapon’ of Jacob is our prayer.

And I’m urging every single one of you to take a deep breath, and go pick it up.

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Photo by Mockup Graphics on Unsplash

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A little while back, someone asked me what I do to get my kids to pray, if they don’t feel like it. I told her straight: absolutely nothing. If my kids aren’t in the mood to formally talk to the Creator of the World, that’s OK: they’re 11 and 14, respectively. They get forced to pray plenty of Amidahs in school, so they know how to do it. And when the time is right, I’m sure they are going to want to start praying a whole lot more than are right now.

I mean, how much did you want to pray when you were 14? When I was 14, praying was pretty much the last thing I wanted to do, and now I talk to God for an hour every day. (Which is an open miracle, and really nothing to do with me.)

Sure, I want my kids to be connected to Hashem, but forcing matters is only going to backfire.

Someone told me a few years’ back about their son, who was at a very serious Torah High School, where they learned a heck of a lot of gemara, and rigorously tested the students on what they were learning.

He came out of that school hating Torah.

How could he not? Cast your mind back to your school days: is there any subject that you enjoyed more after being pressured to cram for it just to score an ‘A’ on an exam? I don’t think so.

And it’s even more the case with matters of the soul, because when you force your kids to conform externally, and they go along with whatever mitzvah it is you’re pushing down their throat, on some level, you just completely killed the inner dimension of that mitzvah for them.

The reason I don’t force my kids to pray, is because I so badly WANT them to pray, when they get older. Praying, talking to God, is so often pretty much the only thing that gets me through my day. It’s an enormous spiritual gift, and one that I want to pass over to my kids. But not by nagging them, cajoling them, guilting them or bribing them to do it.

When they’re ready, it will come.

How do I know? Because while I don’t force my kids to pray, I certainly expect it of myself: I try and pray for my kids on a regular basis, whenever they seem to need it (which can be every day, sometimes.)

I’ve been paying into their ‘spiritual bank account’ for years’ already, and like I explained to them, when they’re ready to start banking their own prayers, they should hopefully find that they’ve already got a fairly large amount of spiritual credit to start off with.

It’s such an upside-down world, isn’t it? So many of us are trying to muddle through with precious little idea of what’s really right, or not, and there’s so much conflicting advice out there from ‘experts’ who talk a good game superficially, but actually don’t help you very much.

The exception to this rule in my life has been Rav Arush. Once I read his ‘Education with Love’, I just knew that all the other nonsense out there about ‘tough love’ and ‘forcing’ and ‘being strict’ and ‘manners’ was exactly that: nonsense.

You can’t force good character traits, you can only model them yourself, and hope your kids will follow suit. So if you really want your kids to pray – take the lead, and show them how to do it.

So, about three months ago, I wrote the draft of a book about how to talk to God and fix your mental and physical health.

I tweaked it, rewrote it, tweaked it some more, then started contacting literary agents to see if anyone might be interested in helping me get a book deal. I mean, I have a blog… I’ve been writing for years… How hard could it be to get published?

The answer is: pretty darned hard.

Apparently, I need 25k followers on Twitter and 100k readers (minimum…) before anyone will touch my book with a bargepole.

The good news is: I’m 2% of the way there.

But I realised, I need some help. I bit the bullet and signed up for Twitter (which I still so don’t get, btw) – but I can’t bring myself to do Facebook. Even the thought of befriending 4000 people online gives me heebie-jeebies.

So now, I’m back to the same question I’ve been wrestling with for years, already: does God want more prayer to get me bumped up to a big readership, or more effort?

Let’s be clear that before I started my blogs and new business, I’d spent approximately the last seven years ONLY praying. I had a huge reaction to my first business going down the toilet (with very little prayer and huge amounts of effort), and I felt like ‘prayer is the only way to go’.

It worked OK until my husband quit his job to join me in that approach a couple of years’ ago – and we ended up going completely bankrupt and having to sell our house just to buy groceries.

I’m still in the process of picking through the aftermath of being hit by that spiritual tsunami, and I still haven’t been able to draw any fast and hard conclusions, except maybe for one: I’m clearly not at the level where I can just sit on my couch and still be able to buy my cheerios.

So I at least got that message, and I reacted by trying my best to ‘do’ more.

But I seem to have come full-circle now, facing that same problem that’s dogged me for years. If ‘all work’ wasn’t the way to go, and ‘all prayer’ apparently wasn’t the way to go, what does that leave me with?

I know, you’re going to say ‘the balanced, middle way’, but as we’ve already discussed, balance is SO not me. But apparently, it’s going to have to be. I guess I’ll have to carry on doing the odd six hour prayer session, and then carry on finding random people on Twitter to connect to.

I think.

Unless you have any better ideas?