Posts

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.

We all know it’s bad to hate people, but it’s still so hard to stop doing it.

So, you remember that amazing shiur by Rav Ofer Erez that I was gushing about a couple of week’s back, which set out exactly which of our bad middot are still holding up the geula? In a nutshell, he told us that if we can figure out how to stop hating people, BOOM!, we’ll get Beit HaMikdash.

(You can see it in full, HERE.)

Well, I’ve been using that shiur as a practical guide to identifying, and hopefully uprooting all the feelings of sinat chinam I’ve been secretly nurturing against a whole bunch of people. As Rav Ofer teaches in this shiur, sinat chinam, or hating other people, is what’s preventing the third temple from being rebuilt, and hating other people expresses itself mainly in the following four things:

  • Jealousy
  • Anger
  • Hatred
  • Hakpada (harsh judgment calls about other people)

And here’s the kicker: even if you’re just feeling this stuff secretly, in your own heart of hearts, and even if you aren’t really aware that you’re feeling this stuff yourself, it still counts as ‘sinat chinam’, and it’s still delaying the geula!

So, how can we finally get all this stuff out of our system and get to Moshiach and geula already?

Read on.

This is what I’m doing.

1) I made a ‘sinat chinam’ matrix – which is basically just writing down the four bad middot that are associated with it, like this.

2) Then in hitbodedut (my talking to God sessions), I thought about particular people I don’t like very much for one reason and another, and I slotted them in on the matrix.

For example, there’s one person who double-crossed me in business, and even though I got past the anger and what she’d done to me last year, when I was doing this exercise now, I realized that I still, properly, hate her guts, and that I’m still judging her unethical, nasty behavior extremely harshly.

BINGO! I just hit a ‘sinat chinam’ jackpot here…

The first stage is to identify and acknowledge the problem, which is what I’ve just done very nicely.

So now the next question is: how do I actually stop hating people like her, and thinking she’s the biggest pig on the planet?

Read on.

THE ‘ERADICATING SINAT CHINAM’ VISUALISATION

The next stage is to close your eyes (I like to do this as part of my hitbodedut…) and go and have a very direct conversation with the person in your head. Weird as this sounds, it’s the shortcut version of how to stop hating people.

So in this case, I conjured up the lady and I asked her straight out:

“Why did a supposedly ‘frum’ person like you act in such a disgusting, unethical way? Why didn’t you pay me what you should have? I had times when I couldn’t even put food on the table, and the money you were meant to have paid me could have made a huge difference!”

This is what she said back:

“Have you met my husband?”

I have. He’s a very angry, cynical, manipulative person who’s obsessed with ‘winning’ and making money.

Long story short, I finally understood that the lady double-crossed me so badly because on some level at least, she was scared of her husband and was trying to save her own skin at the cost of mine.

Understanding this doesn’t excuse her behavior or actions an iota, but it did open the door for me to have some compassion for her, and to stop hating her and judging her so harshly.

POOF!

That particular pocket of sinat chinam disappeared out of my life, just like that!

If you listen to Rav Ofer’s shiur, you’ll discover something amazing, that’s brought down in the Gemara and is normative Yiddishkeit, not just ‘fluffy’ Breslov:

God can’t judge a person favorably until some human being down here on the planet has done it first.

And as soon as God starts to judge someone favorably, that opens the door for them to make real teshuva.

Me seeing that my ex-business associate was acting like a pig because her shalom bayit is a trainwreck has now opened the door to her to make real teshuva, and to come back to God.

The whole thing is bringing Moshiach and geula a huge step closer – and it took me about 10 minutes of hitbodedut to do!

So, dear reader, I want to encourage you to please try this at home. Make your ‘sinat chinam’ matrix, start popping in the people you have ‘issues’ with (my suggestion is to start with just three at a time, to avoid overwhelm) – and then start taking all the sinat chinam in the world down a serious notch.

Again, this point is so important, I’m going to repeat it:

When you do this process, and judge people’s bad actions through this more compassionate lens, you are bringing Moshiach and geula, mamash!

And the first person who’s going to benefit from this exercise of learning how to stop hating people is you, because instead of walking around with all kinds of stress, headaches, health problems and aches and pains because of all that pent-up sinat chinam you’re lugging around that is literally poisoning you from the inside, you’ll start to feel so much lighter and happier.

It’s a win-win situation!

And it all begins with a quick 10 minute exercise where we actually tell the horrible person who’s upset us so badly exactly what we think of them in our heads.

May we all be zocher  to get the good times rolling very, very soon.

====

The Four Cardinal Sins of sinat chinam.

Rav Ofer Erez’s recently gave an awesome shiur (click HERE to watch it, with full English subtitles) about how our sinat chinam, or baseless hatred, is delaying the geula, I thought it would be good to take a proper look at the four cardinal sins he described.

I know what you’re going to tell me: Hey, there’s only THREE cardinal sins, idiot!

(See, we all have some work to do on our compassion, victory-seeking tendencies and judgmental attitudes…)

While it’s true that the ‘cardinal sins’ usually refer to immorality, bloodshed and idol-worship, Rav Ofer pointed out that sinat chinam, or baseless hatred is worse than all three – and it can usually be divided up into four main areas, namely:

  • Hatred
  • Jealousy / envy
  • Anger
  • Judging other people harshly (how I’m translating hakpada – I’m happy to hear any other suggestions for a better way of translating that word.)

Every time we’re indulging in one of these four cardinal sins against a fellow Jew, we’re delaying the geula, plain and simple.

And as Rav Ofer explained, Chazal teach us that even just feeling these emotions internally, without actually expressing them externally in specific words and action STILL COUNTS AS SINAT CHINAM.

And sinat chinam is what destroyed the second temple and let us into our current, millennia-long exile.

And sinat chinam is what’s delaying the geula, and is delaying the rebuilding of our third temple and the ushering in of true global peace and acknowledgment of Hashem.

Right, so now we have that clear, let’s take a look at what sorts of very common things (that we all do, including me, a lot) count as sinat chinam, so we can start to get a real grip on the problem:

  • Bearing grudges
  • Indulging in long, pointless rants about how ‘evil’ particular sections of the Jewish community are
  • Judging people harshly over one ‘negative’ comment, or ill-thought-out response they might have made (especially online…)
  • Judging people harshly because they disagree with us (even about really important things)
  • Hating people in our hearts, which means we secretly want bad things to happen to them (like getting wiped out by an asteroid belt, or a forest fire, or an enormous tsunami etc), or for them get to in trouble with the IRS, or gloating or feeling secretly satisfied when ‘the truth comes out’
  • Publicly pointing out other people’s flaws
  • Preaching at other people about what THEY are doing wrong, instead of focusing on what THEY are doing right
  • Preaching at other people about what THEY are doing wrong, instead of focusing on what WE are doing wrong
  • Making trouble between different Jews, or different groups of Jews – and this includes stirring trouble in our families, or trying to get a parent, or a sibling, or an aunty, or whoever, to take sides in our arguments
  • Calling other Jews ‘Erev Rav’
  • Trying to take someone down, or take someone out, because we’re jealous of them (and as Rav Ofer pointed out, this one is particularly tricky to deal with as we often have NO IDEA just how jealous and envious we are of other people.)

Again, this is just stuff that I do myself, all the time, (or at least, have done a lot of in the past…), so feel free to flesh the ‘sinat chinam’ list out in the comments.

To stick with the jealousy thing for a moment, the first or second time I went to Uman, I had an immensely powerful dream where I realized for the first time in my life just how driven by jealousy I actually was.

And this was back when I had a nice house, my OK life, and everything was still running smoothly, at least on the outside.

But it was only when I had that dream that I actually got how envious I was of people who had more kids, or more money, or more success, or a nicer, bigger house. That’s one big reason why it’s good to go to Uman, because somehow the Tzaddikim there introduce you to your real self, and show you just how far from perfect you really are.

(And the opposite is also true: when you go to Uman feeling at the lowest rung of humanity, you get picked up off the floor and new life is breathed into you.)

So, whenever you find yourself competing or comparing, or feeling like a winner, or (more usually….) feeling like a loser in life, if you take a closer look at what’s really going on underneath, I’m pretty sure you’ll spot a fat wodge of jealousy, peeking out.

So our work for today is this:

JUST ACKNOWLEDGE THE PROBLEM

If you want to do this in a really serious way, (because heh, you REALLY want the third temple to be rebuilt already…) try the following:

  1. Take a piece of paper, and write down the four cardinal sins across the top of the page.
  2. Next time you’re doing your daily hour of talking to God, think back over the last 24 hours, and see how many of your interactions, conversations or thought processes was connected to one of these four cardinal sins, in some way.

When you got ANGRY at the checkout girl, that’s clearly ANGER.

If you got irritated with someone because of something they wrote or commented about online, that’s certainly JUDGING HARSHLY (and depending on how many Moroccan genes you possess, it could also come under HATRED and ANGER, too).

If you find yourself feeling sorry for yourself because Mrs Whatshername up the street just bought a new car, or went for a nice holiday or has great-looking hair in their thumbnail or [fill in the blank – anything else people like to post pictures up about on Facebook] – then that’s clearly JEALOUSY – but again, could fit into the other categories too, depending on where you take it.

If you’re like most people, the idea of doing this could actually be making you feel pretty uncomfortable.

It’s human nature to run away from, and whitewash our flaws and negative attitudes. But here’s what Rav Ofer had to say about this:

“The closer a person comes to Hashem, the more of their own flaws they own up to.”

So, it’s actually a good thing to admit to being a hate-filled, jealous, frothing-at-the-mouth, highly-critical crazy person!

(Hi five me! I’m finally doing something right…)

I’m planning on returning to this subject shortly, God willing, to share some more practical tools, tips and ideas for how we can really get geula going now, and the third temple rebuilt.

But let’s sum up where we’ve got to so far:

Criticising other Jews, even if they ARE evil / nasty / cowardly / immoral etc is ONLY DELAYING GEULA. Ditto, hating other Jews, ditto, raging against other Jews, ditto, being jealous of other Jews.

(Yes I know, pretty much the only safe thing to blog about is recipes.)

The only thing that’s going to speed geula up at this point is WORKING ON OURSELVES, and especially the four cardinal sins of:

  • Hatred
  • Anger
  • Jealousy
  • Harsh judgment (of PEOPLE, not of CHARACTER TRAITS or BEHAVIOURS).

All this stuff is so very hard, isn’t it?

I’m also feeling a little overwhelmed by the scope of the spiritual task we have to accomplish to get Moshiach the sweet way.

But even though maybe we can’t complete the job, we’re not free to ignore it, and pretend it’s everyone else’s problem, either.

(But sometimes, that sure does sound tempting.)

====

You might also like these articles:

One of the things that I struggled really, really hard with for years was the idea that no matter what happened to me, or how bad I feel about it, I should just paste a ‘happy’ face on and pretend I didn’t care, and I wasn’t upset about it.

This fake concept of emuna is something I’ve come to call ‘all emuna, all the time’.

The first time I realized just how dangerous ‘all emuna, all the time’ can be is about six years’ ago, when my neck started seizing up and got really painful and sore. At that time, I was still (just about…) going to Western doctors, and no-one could tell me what was going on, what was causing the problem, or how to fix it.

Out of desperation, I went to a more holistic healer called David Amichai, and he asked me a question that blew me away: Had I been waiting for something that hadn’t materialized for a long time?

The short answer was: yes.

I’d been trying to have more children for eight years, and the toll it had taken on me was incredible. BUT – I told him – NOW I have emuna!!!! I have ‘all emuna, all the time’, and I’ve stopped feeling sorry for myself, and stopped feeling heartache and despair every month when it didn’t happen again, and I’m approaching my infertility with ‘all emuna, all the time’!!!!

He looked at me very thoughtfully, and then he told me in a very kind tone:

The level of emuna you’re describing is a very high level, and it’s very hard for most people to get there sincerely.

Then, he told me that the neck was the ‘bridge’ between the heart and the head, and it seemed as though something had got pretty stuck there. My head was telling me I had ‘all emuna, all the time’, while my heart was whispering the truth at me, namely that I was still grieving the fact that every month, I’d missed another opportunity to have more children.

That true feeling was getting ‘stuck’ in my neck, and was causing me a whole bunch of physical health problems. Once I started to accept my true feelings again, he told me, my problem would clear up.

He was right.

But boy, did I have a spiritual challenge after I went to see him.

Because the main person I was listening to back then had ‘all emuna, all the time’ as their mantra. They made it clear that if I ever felt overwhelmed, sad, occasionally despairing, or all the other very normal feelings that we ALL feel some of the time – there was something deeply wrong with me, and also my emuna.

It took me years to try to square that circle, and I beat myself up endlessly over being so ‘bad’ that I couldn’t automatically break into a song and dance when faced with some very tough challenges. It was only when my challenges reached ‘peak’ levels – and I was still getting castigated for not having ‘all emuna, all the time’ when I’d run out of money for food, and when my life fell apart in a million ways, and when I had four miscarriages in a row from the stress after waiting 10 years to have more kids – that I finally gave Mr ‘all emuna, all the time’ the heave-ho.

When we don’t allow ourselves to grieve our losses properly, when we don’t allow ourselves to feel what we really feel, and to process it all in an unrushed, uncritical and self-accepting way, we end up doing a huge amount of damage to our emuna, our peace of mind and our physical health.

——-

So it was amazing to read the following in Rav Ofer Erez’s latest book, Al Parshat Drachim, where he said: (this free translation is my own, so may not be 100% accurate):

“All of us need to learn how to properly navigate the difficult times…the first thing is to not to blame anyone [others or yourself] and to understand that [difficulties] are the way of the world. The [spiritual] reality of this world is that it’s a place where we have to work, and we are all obliged to learn the practical ways of how to manage and overcome the tzimtumim (contractions, or difficult times) that each of us has to face….and Rabbenu teaches us that the main way of doing this is by being happy, always.

At this point, I got a little anxious as to whether I was going to have to deal with another dose of unrealistic ‘all emuna, all the time’, but Rav Ofer blew me away with what he wrote next, as he squared the circle.

He said that when other people try to give this advice to a person who is going through a very difficult time, they routinely react very badly to being told this.

Rav Ofer explains that giving over advice from the Tzaddik’s Torah is not like selling someone a big car sticker bearing the legend ‘smile!’

Rav Ofer says that you have to understand the depth of what Rebbe Nachman is really teaching us, when he tells us that the ikker is to be happy, always. He then brings an explanation from Rav Natan, who asks the question: What does God really want from the Jewish people, that he brought them down to a world where barely a moment passes without some sort of difficulty, persecution or severe hardship?

Rav Natan then explains in Likutey Halachot that the reality of the world is actually one of wars and difficulties.

The whole world is in a state of ‘hester panim’, where God’s benevolent face is often hidden behind some enormous challenges, and this applies particularly to the Jewish people.

Rav Ofer (via Rav Natan) then goes on to explain something amazing:

The way we ‘stay happy’ in this reality is by continuing to attach ourselves to Hashem, even in those deepest, darkest places we find ourselves in. And this is the true measure of a person in this world, that he continues to search for every piece of advice, and every way he can continue to stay connected to God, while he’s undergoing his trials and tribulations.

What a relief!!!

Mr ‘all emuna, all the time’ clearly never read Likutey Halachot, because if he had, he would have known that ‘being happy with my lot’ didn’t mean I had to walk about with a big grin because I’d just had another miscarriage and I couldn’t afford to buy a loaf of bread.

Real emuna happens when those horrible things happen to you, and you still grope around trying to find God’s hand to hold onto in the middle of it all, and you still try to believe that God is behind it all, and that it will eventually turn out for the good.

Emuna is the belief that you will make it through in once piece, as long as you keep trying to cling on to Hashem.

And you can do that even when you’re bawling your eyes out, and feeling like you’re half-dead.

Thank God for Rav Ofer Erez, who knows that serious hardships can’t be superficially erased, covered over and ignored. They have to be acknowledged, grieved and worked through, but they key thing to remember is that all this stuff has to happen WITH GOD IN THE PICTURE.

And that is the real definition of trying to have emuna.

A few days’ before Rosh Hashana, I had a fairly long drive somewhere, so I took along a couple of Rav Ofer Erez CDs – randomly, whatever I grabbed, I took. Dear reader there is never any ‘randomly’ when it comes to Breslev stuff; whenever I ‘randomly’ open up a Breslev book, listen to a ‘random’ Breslev CD, it’s always exactly what I need, and this time was no different.

The CD I happened to be listening to was all about teshuva. I learned some awesome things from that CD, the main points of which were:

  • We don’t do confession of sins on Rosh Hashana because on some very deep level, we’re not 100% sorry for them. 5% of us actually really enjoyed sending that poisonous email, or cheating on our taxes etc, and that 5% is enough to bring a whole bunch of judgement down on the poor penitent’s head. So the rabbis decided ‘better leave the whole confession thing alone on Rosh Hashana, and only get into it properly on Yom Kippur’, which is a day over-flowing with God’s holy love for us.
  • You can’t make teshuva in 10 seconds – it takes a LONGGG time. I’ll write about this separately, but Rav Ofer Erez brought a very interesting discussion that occurred between the famed Iraqi Kabbalist, Rav Yehuda Fetaya, and a bunch of demonic spirits, that made it clear that complete teshuva normally takes years to do. (So breathe out, if you’re still not quite ‘there’ yet).
  • Rebbe Nachman reveals that there’s a short-cut to making teshuva, what Rav Ofer Erez called the ‘Teshuva Elevator’. What is it? To hear yourself being embarrassed, shamed, humiliated, and to keep shtum.

I have to tell you, Rav Ofer made the Teshuva Elevator sound so appealing – because in one shot, you can scrub off all that really dodgy spiritual stuff that’s been kicking around for years, and calling you loads of problems. But as Rav Ofer made it clear, it’s easy to say, and the hardest thing in the world to actually DO, because there’s something about someone saying horrible things about us that just makes us see red and go for the jugular.

Or, makes us want to throw up with extreme feelings of guilt, panic and ‘I’m wrong’-ness. Rav Ofer explained that it takes 30 years’ effort just to keep quiet once every 50 disses, and another 30 years to stay quiet one in every 30 criticisms. IE – it’s really, really hard spiritual work.

I realized: ‘This test is still completely beyond me, Hashem. Please keep the internet psychos away from me after all, as I don’t think I’ll be able to stand up in it.’

And that was the end of the matter.

Until a few days’ later, when I suddenly got a steady stream of poisonous emails accusing me of all sorts of horrible things. Normally, I’d see red, go for the jugular and defend myself verbally as much as I was able. This time round, some really bizarre thing happened: I could actually see through all the horrible accusations to the core of pain that was bubbling underneath.

My verbal assailant was hurting badly, and was trying to make themselves feel better at my expense. Once I got that (and believe me, it’s a complete miracle that I got that) – I somehow didn’t take all the horrible things I was being sent personally. I still felt a bit sick after skim reading the last couple, because words are very powerful and affect us very powerfully. But I knew: this is the Teshuva Elevator!

And because of that, I didn’t respond with hatred or attack. I still responded – as one of the things I was being accused of was cruelly ignoring the other person – but I kept it short, and as pseudo-friendly as I could. I don’t know if that’s what God wanted, but that’s all I could manage.

You know what else is amazing? Apart from writing this, it isn’t taking up all my headspace and filling me with self-hatred and confusion, as would usually happen in these types of situations. My peace of mind is pretty intact, which astounds me.

If God hadn’t sent me that ‘random’ Rav Ofer Erez CD, I would for sure be in quite a state at the moment, two days before the Yom HaDin. As it is, I’m strangely even a little bit pleased about it. Maybe I really am the crazy, misguided lunatic my emailer is accusing me of being, who knows.

But I have to tell you that even if that’s true, life is SO much nicer this way.

So there I was, coming towards the end of completing the manuscript for my new book, which Bezrat Hashem, will give people tons of powerful tools for figuring out what’s going on with them, spiritually, emotionally and physically.

I just passed the 120,000 word mark, and it really is full of good, even revolutionary, stuff.

After months of gloom and pessimism, I was beginning to feel positive and confident again – and my yetzer hates that. So it sent me a week of disturbing bad dreams to soften me up a bit, and then it hit me with one of the most horrible days I’ve had for a long time.

Externally, nothing was really going. Internally, I started to feel filled up with despair and futility.

“No-one’s going to read your book…you’re just wasting your time…why even bother finishing it?…just go and do the washing up, already, and forget about your aspirations to build the world…”

And so on and so forth.

This carried on for a few hours, until I literally started to feel there was no point to life generally, and my life, specifically.

Has that ever happened to you? Do you get what I’m talking about?

Lucky for me, I was in the middle of listening to a class by Rav Ofer Erez in the car, and I was too despairing to even be bothered to turn it off. So I sat there, while Rav Erez started talking about ‘Klipat Amalek’, and how it’s big thing was to get a person so despairing that they give up on themselves, and stop believing that G-d is interested in them, or wants to help them, or that they can change.

Despite myself, I started listening.

Then, Rav Erez explained how he’d been talking with a big shrink in Israel, who’d been telling him that when a person gives up on themselves – when they get despairing, or yeoush, then they can’t be helped.

Their despair is what’s blocking their recovery, and the big turnaround in their life and fortunes.

I started to feel better.

I came home, started work on the book again, and I saw I was up to the part where I brought the idea from Rav Arush about how you can tell if the voice in your head is ‘good’ or ‘bad’, which is absolutely brilliant in its simplicity.

In a nutshell, good things, good thoughts, come from the side of ‘good’; and bad ideas and bad thoughts come from the side of ‘bad’.

All those bad ideas about how I was wasting my time, how my book was rubbish, how it was just going to sink without a trace etc etc – that was just my evil inclination!

Again, I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but when you’re in the middle of these tests, the biggest problem is that the voice of bad really sounds so convincing and ‘honest’.

Once I had clarity again, that the voice in my head wasn’t ‘realistic’, it was just plain evil and ‘Klipat Amalek’, I started to fight back. The next day, I finished two big, long chapters, and I set myself the goal of getting the whole draft completely done by February 1, G-d willing.

Rebbe Nachman taught us ‘there is no despair in the world’. He didn’t mean that we don’t feel despair, because we often do, especially in this difficult generation. What he meant, is that even if we’ve despaired of ourselves, and our abilities to improve or change, we should never despair of G-d’s love, and help.

G-d continues to believe in us, even when we’ve given up. He sends us CDs with just the right words we need to hear; holy rabbis to guide our path; great, simple, powerful advice to help us see that He didn’t give up on us.

His hand is always open, to lift us out of the mud and despair we’ve fallen into. So look for His hand in your own life, and grab it!

Warning: there isn’t going to be a cucumber in sight in this post…

‘The secret of shmita year’ is the title of one of the chapter headings in a Hebrew book by Breslev Rav Ofer Erez, called ‘From the Depths’.

In a nutshell, Rav Erez explains that sometimes, we experience a time of such prolonged, intense darkness in our lives, that it’s called ‘The secret of shmita year’. Remember that before BigAgro, keeping shmita meant letting the land lie fallow for a year, which could mean you’d have no food to eat for a whole 12 months.

Food = parnassa = sustenance = livelihood = the means, the werewithal to stay alive, to live.

Rav Erez explains that in our times, this sort of potential destitution and economic vulnerability can still happen, but with a modern twist: G-d takes your house away; He takes your job (or business) away; He makes everything you try to do fail, often inexplicably. After this has carried on for a while, you hit rock bottom, and you start to wonder how you are ever going to make ends meet enough to continue to live, to be.

All your financial security, all your assets, all your confidence in your ability to make a living, evaporates. It’s a massive test.

Rav Erez explains that the only way to pass this test in one piece is to work really hard on your emuna, and in particular, on your emuna that Ein Od Milvado ­– G-d is really all there is.

If you can hang on to your faith in the middle of this test – and believe me, it’s really not easy – then, he explains, you’ll see that G-d Himself is sustaining you, and that He always was, even when you thought it was your great degree, or your amazing real estate acumen, or your fantastic job that was doing it all.

If you can hang on, and again that can be a very big ‘if’, he explains that it’s a massive tikun, or soul correction, that fixes a whole bunch of very deep, hard-to-reach things in a person’s neshama. And it doesn’t last forever.

I read this, and I almost cried from relief. You see, everything my husband and I have tried for the last two years financially, professionally, socially, religiously – you name it – has flopped so badly it went past ’embarrassing’ a long time ago.

It got so bad at one point that I started watching the local bag ladies to pick up tips for when I’d have to pack up and move again – to the nearest dumpster.

Until a month ago, I truly couldn’t see how we were ever going to turn things around, or how we were going to be able to ‘live’ in any sense of the word, once our house money ran out.

Then I went to Uman. I learnt a lot of lessons there, I got a lot of breakthroughs, and one of the biggest presents I came home with was the feeling that maybe, just maybe, we will be successful again, we will earn money again, we will own a home again, it will be good again.

I know Shmita year is only two months’ old for most people (if it’s even on their radar), but I feel my own personal Shmita ended in Uman last month. And now, I’m waiting for the good times to roll again, whenever G-d’s ready to send them down.