Posts

Last week, I had a little nervous breakdown.

The only reason it was little, as opposed to BIG, is because on Thursday morning I told my husband that if I didn’t make it out to Uman for Shabbat, I was probably going to crack up into a million pieces.

The warning signs had been gathering steam for two weeks, but we were deep in a massive cash crunch, so there was just no way I could get to Uman. Then on Tuesday, I was chasing some receipts for my husband’s end of year when we realized we’d been accidentally overcharged for something by 4, 000 shekels – the cost of spending Shabbat in Uman.

So, my husband asked for repayment, and Thursday morning, we booked the flight.

Thank God, because I was in such a low place by that point, I felt like the sky was falling in.

Usually, I’m pretty open about what sparks all this stuff off, and I can tell you that I’m definitely dealing with a million and one big stressors at the moment, that have all been depleting my strength and challenging me. I’ll list them here, to make it neat, but that’s not really what sent me off the deep end.

  • I have to move apartment by end of Feb, and still haven’t found somewhere.
  • I have to complete the purchase of an apt in Harish by end of Feb, and the bank turned down the mortgage.
  • I have to complete my ‘Crush your stress’ masterclass (haha!) and start marketing it properly.
  • I have to somehow figure out tickets for trips to the US and UK for family simchas.
  • My kid wants to drop out of school again.
  • My other kid is leaving her National Service half way through the year

All these stressors could easily pass for ‘the reason I’m cracking up’, and in the past, I’ve made the mistake of thinking they are the root cause of my emotional distress.

====

But last week, I realized they are just the icing, not the cake.

The stuff that was really causing me to crack up last week is far more intangible. It just runs so deep, and goes to the heart of this whole idea of what I’m really meant to be doing in the world.

After 46 years, I realized that I’m still the perpetual weirdo, that I’m never going to see things the way other people do, or react to things ‘normally’, or be able to fit myself into the neat little boxes that apparently suit ‘everyone else’ – whoever the heck they are.

I’ve been fighting that clarity since I could think, because it brings a whole big bag of loneliness and self-doubt along with it. For four and a half decades, I’ve been waiting for me to mellow enough to fit in with the world, or for the world to speed up enough to keep up with me.

And last week, I finally understood that it’s never going to happen.

That understanding totally blew me out the water, and left me feeling like ET would feel once he understood the Mothership was never showing up to take him back home.

====

I am a perpetual weirdo, stuck in a place where no-one is ever going to ‘get’ me.

This has implications for a lot of things, not least all my ongoing attempts to keep trying to ‘brainwash’ people – including my family members – into seeing things and experiencing things the way I do.

Up until last week, I thought it was just a matter of time until everyone comes around and starts to pick up the same vibes I do about things. Just a bit more ‘Moshiach light’ needs to slip under the door, just a bit more ‘Moshiach consciousness’ needs to shine in through the windows, and they will finally understand.

But now, I accept that’s never going to happen.

So last week, I fled to Uman to get some advice about how I’m meant to relate to myself in this new paradigm.

====

Now I know I’m just never going to get that meeting of minds I’m craving, that sense of connection, now I know that I have to keep ‘the real me’ mostly under wraps if I want to have peaceful relationships and not cause constant friction, how do I relate to myself? How do I like myself?

How do I use all my ‘weirdness’ in a way that will still benefit the world, without causing me all this heartache because I feel so lonely and misunderstood so much of the time?

That’s why I came knocking on the door of Uman, the only place that makes me feel a little bit ‘normal’.

There was no bolt of lightning, no neon sign that suddenly lit up over the Tziyon saying

Rivka, do THIS!!!!! Be like THIS!!!! Just change THIS!!!!

But I came to Uman dragging a whole big chain of doubt, unhappiness and emotional pain behind me, and mostly, it’s gone.

I’m feeling connected back to my soul and connected back to God and the true Tzaddikim again. I have a lot to figure out still, but somehow, everything is going to turn out for the best.

And now, I have to get on with finding somewhere to live, and putting the finishing touches to my ‘Crush your stress’ course (haha!)

God certainly has a sense of humour.

====

You might also like this article:

For years, the Prophet Jeremiah told the people of Judea that the Temple would be destroyed, and they would be exiled.

Jeremiah’s message didn’t go down at all well. He was shunned, imprisoned and threatened, and even his own family in Anatot, his home town, tried to bump him off by poisoning him. But God protected him through all these trials, and sure enough, Nebuchadnezzar showed up in 689 BCE, and laid siege to the rebellious city of Jerusalem.

As the Bablyonian army tightened their squeeze on the nation of Israel, and on the King Tzidkiyahu, even the most resolutely ‘optimistic’ fake prophets fell into despair, and stopped trying to pretend that Jeremiah was a psycho conspiracy theorist who was somehow following the wrong Rebbe.

There’s only so far you can stretch credulity, even when you so desperately want to believe that everything is going to turn out totally for the best, and that all there is left to do before Moshiach shows up is to ‘polish the buttons’.

But then, at that point in time when Jeremiah’s dire warnings were literally manifesting before the eyes of the Jewish nation, God comes to him again, and tells him something pretty strange:

“Prophet Jeremiah, take a break from all that End of Days stuff for a bit, and go buy your cousin Hanamel’s field in Anatot.”

====

As you might expect, Jeremiah is a little taken aback by this.

I mean, Jerusalem is about to be totally sacked and destroyed, the Jewish people is about to be cruelly exiled from their land for at the next 70 years, and here’s God obsessed with contracting a real estate deal.

What’s with that?!?!

But, Jeremiah buys the land for seven shekels and 10 silver pieces (bargain!), and then tells his servant Baruch ben Neriah to place the bill of sale in an earthenware pot, where it will be kept safe and “endure for many years.” Why?

“For thus said Hashem, Master of Legions, God of Israel: ‘Houses, fields and vineyards will yet be bought in this land.’”[1]

====

What can we learn from this, we who sit here watching the world tip upside down, and chaos and madness encroach from every direction?

I’ve been asking myself that a lot recently, as I find myself way more caught up with gathering potatoes than gathering diamonds at the moment.

(There’s a Rebbe Nachman story about that, which is basically that a man goes to a faraway land to collect diamonds, but when he gets there, gets confused and starts collecting potatoes instead. The parable is obvious.)

====

The last few months, I have literally been working like a dog to try to get books out, and self-help courses out, because at some point, I want to be able to buy my own ‘field’ in Jerusalem and finally settle down under my own fig, under my own vine.

In the course of doing that, I’ve been finding it very hard to hang out at the prayers of the Rav as much as I used to; or to sit at the Kotel, or even to recite my daily tikkun haklali. All my time is going on redeeming the field, i.e. acting as though that normal part of the world is going to continue, regardless of all the madness going on around me.

I honestly don’t know what to think about it all.

At the same time, I’ve spent so much of the last two decades trying to mend my ways, and to listen to Hashem’s messages about moving to Israel, quitting my job to focus on raising my kids, working on my emuna, trying to have a bit of humility….

It’s really not like all I’ve been doing the last few years is trying to redeem the field, anything but.

====

When I was mulling all this over in hitbodedut, and talking to God about the crazy pace of life at the moment, and my seeming inability to hang on to so many of the spiritual diamonds I put so much effort into collecting over the last few years, He reminded me of Jeremiah and the field.

Sometimes, even in the middle of the madness, you still have to try to continue to do ‘normal’ things, and still to think about tomorrow, even though tomorrow is so very uncertain. I spent years paralysed by ‘geula anticipation’, thinking there was no point doing anything except making teshuva and learning Torah.

Was that wrong?

Probably not. Probably, almost definitely not.

But in the meantime, life continues, life goes on, and that’s also a reality I have to accept and integrate into my lifestyle. So many of our young people are dropping out of school, and getting depressed, and feeling unable to overcome their tremendous apathy and ennui because they feel there is no point.

There is no tomorrow. Why make an effort, why wake up on time, why try to progress or achieve anything?

I have a lot of sympathy for that outlook. I suffered from it myself for so many years. But these days, I’m in a different space. A space where while I’m still searching for diamonds, I’m also appreciating that you can’t eat them. Sometimes, you need a potato.

Sometimes, the way you serve Hashem is by redeeming the field.

====

FOOTNOTES:

[1] See Jeremiah 36:8.

====

Photo by Polina Rytova on Unsplash

====

You might also like this article:

Am I the only one who’s got a profound sense of deja vu?

Man, I am so tired at the moment. True, I woke up at 4.15am today, and couldn’t get back to sleep. But why I’m really tired at the moment is because my soul is very tired. I’m not even saying that in a bad way, or a despairing way, it’s just a statement of fact.

Really since last Shavuot, I’ve been burning the candle at both ends, trying to do this, and trying to do that, and trying to work on stuff for Rav Berland, and move my own stuff forward, somehow.

Spiritually, I hope it’s made a difference. But honestly, I’m not so sure.

And while I am one of those dumb people who will continue going long after everyone else gave up, if I really believe in something, I have to say I’m approaching the point of burn out. Maybe, we’ve just reached that stage now where the die has been cast, and whatever is going to happen next is going to happen.

I really hope and pray that Rav Berland and his community, and the rest of the Tzaddikim, are going to continue to be able to sweeten the threat from Iran.

But honestly, part of me is just so tired of being locked up in Geula Ground Hog Day, where every few months we go through the whole pantomime again, with no obvious resolution.

The most primitive part of the human brain hates uncertainty. That’s why fortune tellers, and soothsayers and false prophets have always done such a roaring trade since the dawn of time, and are still going strong today.

The primitive part of the brain, aka the yetzer hara, just wants to have a conclusion already, a decision. It doesn’t really care if we’re going to get nuked to smithereens, it just wants the denouement already, because sometimes the uncertainty is unbearable. At least, for the yetzer.

====

They did a research project a little while back where they asked volunteers to play a video game where they had to turn over stones to find a snake.

Every time they found a snake, the volunteer got a small, but unpleasant, electric shock.

The researchers incorporated a bunch of obvious clues in the game, which gave players a reasonable certainty of whether there would be a snake, or not. And they discovered a very interesting thing: players were less stressed about knowing with certainty they were about to find a snake, than if there was a 50-50 chance of finding or not finding.

This study explains something that has always puzzled me, namely why there are so many of us out there that seem to be secretly anticipating Iran nuking Israel. Is life that boring, or that miserable, that this seems like a preferable scenario to soldiering on, even though the uncertainty is sometimes just so hard to take?

Apparently for many people, the answer is ‘yes’.

====

Nothing is certain today, is it?

Not the weather, not the economy, not the elections, not the whole idea that hard work and effort inevitably brings reward – so much is up in the air, and for sure, that’s totally stressing us out.

We don’t care too much WHAT is around the corner, Hashem, but the not knowing is driving us totally bonkers…

So what’s the answer to this?

How can we put some ‘certainty’ into what is fundamentally one of the most volatile periods of time in the history of mankind?

The answer is, only be trying to boost our emuna that God is running the world, and our bitachon that whatever God has planned, it’s all for the best.

Apart from this sort of radical emuna, there is no other workable option on the table.

====

Three days ago, my husband and I visited the 8th circle of hell that is Bank Mizrachi’s mortgage department.

I warned my husband going in that he was probably going to have a PTSD flashback, after the last time they agreed a mortgage in principle only to revoke their agreement after we’d signed.

But last time it was a complicated property in a complicated part of Jerusalem, and we were asking for a relatively massive mortgage. This time, we were asking for a relatively small mortgage in a new build property in Harish, so what could be the problem?

Aha! Fool that I am.

We sat there, exchanged precisely 1 ½ words of ‘pleasantries’ before the mortgage clerk put the clamp on us and went straight for the jugular. Because my husband switched over from being self-employed to being a business in 2019, whatever paperwork we’d put together apparently wasn’t enough to show them we had the income we were claiming.

Apparently, because his clients don’t pay precisely the same amount into his account, in round numbers, every single month, our mortgage approval (which again, we’d received in theory) was now in jeopardy.

====

I watched my husband’s eyes dilate, and all the blood rush from his cheeks as the bank devil continued to dance around him, jabbing her French-accented Hebrew pitchfork into his face. A classic PTSD response. His breathing sped up and went more shallow (ready for fight or flight) and I also felt my stomach muscles tense up (definitely fight…)

But then, a strange thing happened.

I remembered God runs the world, and that if God wants to stuff up our mortgage yet again, then that must be for the very best of reasons, and a million percent what we need.

I started clapping my hands as the bank devil continued to prod my husband, and I stage-whispered at him: “Clap your hands and don’t fight back! There’s nothing you can do, except to clap your hands and dance!”

By this point, the fight response was gathering steam above my husband’s head, so he was effectively carrying on two arguments at once: one, with the bank devil, who was trying to explain to him how even earning a gazillion shekels a year isn’t enough to get a mortgage guaranteed, if it isn’t appearing in his account in a neat little box every single month.

And then a second argument with me, who was stage whispering at him to go outside the bank for a minute, and do some dancing.

====

====

I also nipped off to the toilets, to see if I could do a bit of jumping up and down to stomp on the head of the forces of evil that run Israel’s banking industry.

I couldn’t manage a lot of stomping – I didn’t want the Arab lady cleaning the toilets to report me for borderline psychotic behavior – but even the little bit I did made me feel way better.

I returned to the little booth, where my husband was still caught in a classic PTSD response, and I started clapping my hands again, while the bank devil looked at me a little quizzically.

“Go outside and dance!” I hissed at him. “There is nothing else to do here!”

So he did – literally for half a minute – and when he returned, the bank devil got the phone call we’d been waiting for, announcing that the bank would review her refusal of the mortgage, as long as we would send along a few more documents, and twist ourselves into a few more pretzels, and agree to sacrifice a close family member to the Moloch.

(I made one of these statements up. See if you can guess which one.)

The uncertainty continues, the madness and the unfairness continues. The bad guys are still running the country and holding all the cards in their hand, but I don’t really care anymore.

Mortgage or no mortgage, I can still be happy. Nuke or no nuke, I can still make supper and love my family, and carry on working on my ‘beat your stress course’ – which I have to tell you, has been totally stressing me out for months, already.

====

The last few weeks, it seems as though pretty much every source of stress and uncertainty that we’ve ever had to struggle with the last few years has been sent back to us to deal with, as part of the ongoing Geula Ground Hog Day.

The last few years, I’ve whinged and complained so much about not having a house, and finding it so hard to find a place to live in Jerusalem, and not having a mortgage, and being strapped for cash, and not getting my books to sell, and not being able to keep my kids settled in school – and a million other things, besides.

But no more! This time, whatever else happens, I’m not going to complain.

God wants to nuke me off the face of the earth? That’s fine with me. Really.

God doesn’t want me to have a mortgage? OK, no big deal. If I have to sell the apartment in Harish, I will.

God wants my kid to drop out of school (again….)? Great! That’s clearly what she needs to do at this point, because I have tried everything I can to keep her in that framework, and I can see how bad ‘school’ actually is, for her soul.

You remember in Ground Hog Day, by the end Bill Murray actually starts to look forward to each repeated day, because he can act like a crazy person and do a bunch of things that otherwise, he’d never do in a million years?

Like sit there clapping in the face of a bank devil who’s telling you they aren’t going to give you a mortgage? Again?

This time around, I’m determined to enjoy the 8th circle of hell that is Bank Mizrachi, whatever else happens. There’s no such thing as ‘certainty’ in 2020, and certainly not in my small corner of it.

The only certain thing is that God is behind all this stuff, and it’s somehow good.

What else do I need to know?

====

UPDATE:

I just found this video (above) of a Nanach guy which made the point about dancing and clapping hands sweetening judgments, and also made me laugh. Thank God for strange people who believe in Hashem and have Youtube channels. Where would we be, without them?

====

You might also like this article:

“Mum, did America start World War 3 yesterday?”

That’s what my 16 year old asked, when I picked her up from the Jewish quarter after Shabbat.

Erm, I don’t think so….

I know America has been trying very hard to start a war with Iran for months, but each time the Rav manages to pull the plug on it. I know America killed some top Iranian general in a targeted killing on a foreign nation’s soil.

I know that if Iran had pulled the same stunt on an American General visiting Mexico, the US would have already nuked them off the map…. But the world has been conditioned to accept that ‘rules’ apply to everyone except America.

Why do you think they started World War 3?

“Stam. They are making jokes about it on my friend’s Instagram.”

The jokes on Instagram is how my daughter gets all the latest news. If there aren’t a million jokes in Hebrew about the latest threat / war / crisis, then absolutely no-one takes it seriously.

====

The last week, I’ve been rushed off my feet trying to get this ‘stress less course for women’ finished, so I haven’t been keeping up on the news. Even so, I know that Jews have been attacked on multiple occasions in NYC, I know that Australia is burning, I know that the US is doing all it can to start a war with Iran….

Strange times we live in.

So much going on under the surface.

I’m meant to be flying out to the US in the next few weeks, to spend some time with my brother and sister there, and meet their kids. I hate leaving Israel, but I realized that blood really is thicker than water, and that sometimes, you have to go down to Mitzrayim to reunite your family, if only for a few days.

Just as I started looking at tickets online, the internet exploded with stories of Jews in NYC getting chairs thrown on them on the street, Jews getting punched, Jews getting machete’d, Jews getting shot.

I have to say, I got a bit scared. I still haven’t booked the tickets.

Then before Shabbat, I heard an unconfirmed rumor that Rav Berland has said that there will be no more terror attacks on Jews in America until the 7th day of Pesach. I am planning to be there and back long before that…. So I’m warming up to the idea of booking my tickets again.

But in the meantime, I can’t help but wonder: what is meant to happen on the 7th day of Pesach?

Assuming of course, that the rumor is true and that’s really what the Rav said.

====

Last week, the corrupt police in Israel took the Rav in for 4 hours of questioning, so that’s at least one war that seems to be continuing unabated. We know from previous experience, that the ‘wars’ on the outside get transformed into ‘wars’ against the Rav and his community, and sure enough, that’s what is going on again.

Are we going to have a war between Iran and the US?

I don’t know.

I know that Rav Berland has been doing everything he can – for years – to prevent that from happening. He’s said, repeatedly, the wars will only be in 200 years time, even when the autistics were continuing to beat the war drum and predict Armageddon imminently.

But the Tzaddik is continually sweetening things.

That’s why the world seems to be so rudderless at the moment, because we passed the points ‘predicted’ for geula / war / something ‘big’ so many times already, we are in totally unchartered water.

In the meantime, the prayers continue to go up on ravberland.com, and the books continue to come out, and each time another Rav book gets published on Amazon, I have the odd feeling that another brick in the rebuilt temple has just been cemented in place.

But I could be wrong. It certainly doesn’t look like that, from the outside.

====

When this course is finally done, I will take a bit of time and research what could be causing Hashem to burn up Australia’s coastline.

I have the feeling it’s connected to all those Nazis and pedophiles that Australia has been harboring and protecting for decades.

Like the US, there are a lot of dirty secrets hidden in the deserts down there, and like China Lake got put out of business by a massive earthquake on July 4, 2019, and the Bahamas got crushed by Hurricane Dorian a few months back, I have the odd feeling that God is now dealing with some Australian link in that particular chain.

Strange times we live in.

Each day seems more surreal than the last.

Like so many other people, I’m trying to put my head down and mostly ignore the news, because honestly? No-one has any idea of what tomorrow might bring right now. Except Rabbi Berland, and he’s keeping his cards very close to his chest.

But one thing he has been mentioning is how the Maccabean leaders of Israel died immediately, one after the other, as soon as they made some sort of ‘agreement’ with the Romans or Greeks of their time.

And we know who the Romans and Greeks of our time is, and also, who has probably made an agreement with them. So that’s definitely an interesting angle to watch.

Life is disjointed at the moment, and I guess that’s reflecting in this post.

There’s so much going on, under the surface.

And none of us knows, really, where all this is heading.

So all we can do is keep praying.

====

Photo by Ankhesenamun 96 on Unsplash

====

You might also like this article:

This year, I want us all to come back together.

The last four days, I’ve been squiring my 11 year old niece – and her mum – around a whole bunch of different sites in Israel, in preparation for her upcoming batmitzvah.

We went to Kever Rochel; walked on top of the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem; plunged 40 metres below ground to visit a 2,000 year old mikva beneath the Kotel that still has water in it; did the ‘Journey to Jerusalem’; had a look at the amazing finds from the 1st Temple they unearthed in the Givati car park in the City of David; heard the story of how Nechemia rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem in just 52 days; and ended up today in Shiloh, the place where the Mishkan came to rest for 369 years, and where Hannah’s prayer for a son become our blueprint for heartfelt prayer.

It’s been epic.

Every now and then, when I catch a glimpse of Israel, of Jerusalem, through other people’s eyes, it reminds me of the tremendous privilege I have, of living here.

And that’s what makes it all worthwhile, even tho honestly? Being apart from my brothers, my siblings, and their children and their lives, is sometimes so painful.

====

I dropped my SIL and niece at Ben Gurion airport a few hours ago, and my niece asked me:

“Are you going to cry when we’re gone? Are you going to miss us?”

I’m a tough old boot, I reassured her. I’m not going to cry.

She looked at me.

“My daddy cried at the airport when we were going home after visiting Uncle A.,” she told me. “Daddy and Uncle A. are besties.”

Her daddy is my brother, and her Uncle A. is my other brother. I see her London-based daddy maybe once a year, if I’m lucky, and Uncle A. lives in the USA, and I’ve never actually met three of his four kids. I’ve seen him twice in the last 15 years in person.

I have another sister in the States, too, who I haven’t seen in six years, and haven’t met her kid. I have another brother in the UK who I also see on average once every three years. (Hey, there’s a silver lining to everything…)

====

But this is the price of making aliya, of trying to give God what He wants, and of moving to Israel.

Sometimes, it’s pretty lonely. Sometimes, it’s pretty sad.

I lit my Chanuka candles with such a deep sigh this evening.

God, is it too much to ask for me to see more of my family? Should I just cut my losses, and try to focus on my two kids, who Bezrat Hashem will live in Israel with their husbands and children, and then I’ll finally get some extended family within 2,000 miles?

Honestly? Sometimes I get so petrified that my kids will end up moving out of Israel, God forbid, and then I’ll have this awful experience on both ends. I know I’m not in control, I know I can’t guilt my kids or pressure them to live their life in a way that suits me. But if they end up living out of Israel, I’d be heartbroken.

Because already, we’re all so scattered around.

====

Every family simcha involves massive expense and many holiday days.

I have 3 bar / bat mitvahs next year, all in chutz l’aretz, and I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to pull it all off.

How I wish, with all my heart, that I could just get in the car, drive an hour or two, and meet up with a bruvs, and their family. Just pop in for an hour, a cup of tea, and then come home again.

It’s never going to happen.

This is one of the very painful parts of making aliya.

So, I lit my candles today in a somber mood, wondering if this might be the year that all the divisions, all the distance, all the separations that seem to be keeping me away from the people I like and love – in so many different ways – will finally be smashed into pieces.

That’s what geula is really about, isn’t it?

Us all coming back together, as one people with one heart in one country, and with the psychos doing a 180 degree turnaround to actually be part of the solution, instead of causing the problems….

That’s what I wish for this Chanuka.

That is my Chanuka prayer.

I hope God is listening.

====

It’s not easy to give.

But the people who most benefit from our generosity is…ourselves.

I just wrote a whole, long piece about two families who need some serious help to get their children married off this week. Long story short, they need to find $4000 each to pay for the most basic, subsidized wedding you can make, without just eloping.

They’ve raised $2,000 so far – which is totally awesome, and has made all the difference in the world to the family involved. And you can read more of my musings on the whole subject of giving tzedakah on the ravberland.com site, HERE.

====

I’m not going to repeat myself, but I do want to just amplify one of the points I made over there, which is that I’ve noticed that the yuckiest people I routinely have to deal with – the critical, judgmental, evil-eyed blamers who are constantly moaning and complaining about how hard their own lives are, and trying to squeeze attention and money out of everyone else whilst giving nothing back – also seem to be the people who are most allergic to the idea of:

  1. Giving tzedaka to other people
  2. Doing pidyon nefeshs 
  3. Rabbi Berland being a big Tzaddik.

It’s amazing to me, how it all seems to go together, but now that I’ve seen this pattern show up again and again and again, I just wanted to flag it here.

====

There is one reason why people are ‘anti’ Rav Berland and this is it:

Their own middot suck.

That’s it, that’s the whole ‘big secret’ behind his widespread persecution.

Thank God a million times, I’m not on that side of the equation.

Because the other thing that I’ve noticed is that these people with bad middot live very difficult lives, that are full of harsh judgment and suffering. No-one likes them, no-one wants to hang out with them, and their own families are ‘nightmares on Elm Street’, because when you get all those bad middot amplifying through the children….and the grandchildren….and the siblings….and the parents….

Well, let’s just say it’s unpleasant.

====

So, don’t think you’re doing anyone else a favor, when you give tzedaka, or do a pidyon, or work on your bad middot, because you’re really not. There is one person you are helping out, and that is yourself.

And we all need all the help we can get. So even if you just have $5 spare  – or $1 spare – do yourself a favor, and go buy yourself some Divine compassion. You can do that by going HERE, and helping two God-fearing families to marry off their children with a basic measure of dignity.

But let’s be clear, every penny given is not really helping them, even though that’s how it’s dressed-up.

It’s only helping us.

And we all need all the help we can get.

====

Buy your better middot, sweetened judgment and Divine compassion for as little as a buck, by going HERE.

====

UPDATE, FRIDAY 20TH DECEMBER, 2019:

Baruch Hashem, so far they raised around $3600, and they managed to get both couples married off. It mamash took so much of the pressure off the families, so thanks to everyone who contributed. But you don’t have to stop here! Go back, and donate again – $5 even, it all makes a difference, because the families still have to find the remaining $4,400 to cover their debts, and for families like these, that amount is an enormous debt.

I realised this week, that I’ve been in a pretty good mood the last two days because every time I think about how much stuff I’ve got to sort out, and get on with, and work on – in so many ways – just knowing that I went and helped these families a little is making me think on some level, Hashem is going to help me too, bezrat Hashem.

Not because I deserve anything, because I don’t.

But just because it’s a spiritual rule, that God treats us the way we treat others, and I’m doing my best to stop judging harshly, and just to shut up and give a bit of help and kindness.

In the meantime, here’s the father of the bride from yesterday’s wedding, thanking the donors who helped to make it happen. If you gave something, watch this and kvell, and if you didn’t – it’s never too late! Even a $1! What do you care? You’ll buy yourself a smile for the rest of the day.

Buy your better middot, sweetened judgment, Divine compassion and inner smile for as little as a buck, by going HERE.

Photo by Kat Yukawa on Unsplash.

====

You might also like this article:

 

Reposting this, while I’m busy getting my Cut Your Stress course done.

This morning, I cracked open ‘Advice’ (the English translation of the kitzur Likutey Moharan) and I got to this, from the chapter entitled:

Alien philosophies and ideologies:

The only true wisdom is the wisdom of the Tzaddikim. [Their wisdom] enables them to form a lofty perception of God, and gives them the power to communicate this perception to those who follow them. Compared with this wisdom, all other ideological systems are utter foolishness.”

The more I dip my toe in the murky waters of ‘intellectual debate’, including all this ortho-fem rubbish, and all this ‘anti-Tzaddikim / anti-rabbis / anti-emuna / anti-Breslov’ rubbish, the more I see this is true. Rebbe Nachman then continues:

“Because of our many sins, it can sometimes happen that this genuine wisdom falls into the hands of the heathens, and the Sitra Achra. Their new-found wisdom gives them power and dominion, and then the heathens gain the upper hand, God forbid.”

====

That’s why the ‘heathens’ like learning Gemara, and why the devil-worshipping Freemasons like learning Kabbalah.

They pick out the bits of ‘genuine wisdom’ that appeals to them, and then create some Frankenstein-Faith with it. Some of these ideologies are ‘religious’ – like xtianity – and some of them – like feminism – are not. Rabbenu continues:

Who can bear the sound of the great and terrible cry when this wisdom falls into their hands and fools pretend to be wise?

“They try to adapt this genuine wisdom to their own purposes, as if it could be made a part of their own ideologies – as if their own foolishness has anything to do with the knowledge of God!

“They start claiming that they alone are the wise ones and that there is no wisdom greater than their own mistaken speculation, which is simply ‘parasiting’ off the fallen, genuine wisdom.”

====

It’s well known that the most successful ‘lies’ always contain a tiny grain of truth.

That’s what attracts us in, that’s what initially fools us. It’s easy to think that it’s no big deal, when people start trying to twist Torah to their own ends and goals, with all their ‘tikkun olam’ codewords and other warped ideas, that go totally against what the Torah actually says.

To counter that impression, Rabbenu then tells us:

“God Himself cries out because of this!”

====

It’s a big deal! It’s a really big deal!

We can’t just twist the Torah and its wisdom to our own ends, and try to get a PhD thesis out of it, or a reputation for being a ‘deep’ philosophical thinker, or an intellectual, or even (may Hashem save us…) a ‘big tzaddik’. This brings us back to the idea I wrote about here about doing things for God, instead of just trying to serve ourselves.

So now we know all this, how should we try to respond? Back to Rebbe Nachman:

“Every Jew has a part to play in the task of identifying how this wisdom that has fallen into their hands can be separated from them, and elevated, in order to return to its source.

The way to achieve this is through acts of charity and kindness, under the guidance and inspiration of the Tzaddikim.”

====

To sum up: we need to be closely attached to our True Tzaddikim, who are the only people who really possess genuine wisdom in this lowly world, and being inspired by them to give charity and do kind deeds. The more we do that, the easier we’ll find it to spot all this fake, fallen ‘wisdom’ and to call it out.

And doing that will give God a lot of nachas.

The last two weeks, I’ve been finding it hard to get out of bed in the morning.

I’m generally sleeping OK, and enough. I’m in good health, baruch Hashem. I have a lot of ‘stuff’ to be getting on with… But it’s a struggle to throw the covers back and get out of bed.

I know why.

Deep down, I’m feeling pretty scared of what the future holds.

====

While pointless ‘politics’ is all anyone really seems to be thinking about or discussing, there are real changes going on in the world that we can all feel, but no-one is really talking about them.

The world is still shaking – a 6.4 earthquake just hit Albania, in Southern Europe, doing major damage to a number of buildings and roads, and even causing a number of deaths.

====

Did you know about that, from your MSM, before I just told you?

Nope. Didn’t think so.

Now, the quakes are fanning out across Europe, large parts of which is also (not coincidentally….) experiencing ‘extreme’ weather events. This headline kind of says it all:

Storms in France, Greece and Italy leave ‘biblical destruction’.

The Alps have been experiencing some record-breaking, heavy snowfall recently. You won’t know that unless you live in that area or follow alternative news channels, because this fact goes against the whole ‘global warming’ fake news thing. But when you have a lot of snow on mountains, plus the prospect of 4.0+ earthquakes in the area, then you are looking at a high possibility of avalanches.

====

Over in the US, the wildfires in California have started up again, this time called ‘The Cave’ fire.

What’s interesting, is how the news sites are telling their viewers that this fire literally ‘exploded overnight’ – but then immediately try to blame that on fake news global warming.

I’ve mentioned this elsewhere, but it’s probably a good time to remind you that when there is a lot of seismic activity, that kind of ‘shakes loose’ all the natural methane that’s trapped underground, and that starts to rise to the surface.

Methane is highly flammable.

All it takes is a spark, and poofff!! A whole area can instantly light up. I think that’s also what’s causing the wildfires that are still burning all over Israel, too, but which (BH) have currently been contained, because there is no massive winds whipping them all over the place.

No-one talks about this, because it’s not ‘politics’. It’s just God controlling the weather, and the seismic activity, and who the heck wants to mention that?!

====

There are other things, too, that if you know to look for them, build out the picture that there is a very strange ‘vibe’ coming down to the planet at the moment, or what our sages often refer to as a ruach, or spirit.

So many people are being viciously attacked by wild animals, especially dogs, that it’s almost not news anymore. But a few days ago, a 59 year old woman in Texas was mauled to death outside a house by a bunch of wild pigs….

That’s kinda unusual, no?

And also kinda symbolic, because we all know that the ‘pig’ is Esav, that most traif of pretend-kosher creatures.

====

And then, there’s all the stuff I’m trying to deal with internally, that is also scaring me at the moment.

Like, trying to get my People Smarts course together… and trying to launch the book that goes with it… and trying not to get my hopes up too much that this, finally, will mark the turnaround where I’ll actually discover what it is God really wants me to do with my life and (whisper it….) that I may even get paid for.

The only reason that matters is because my family has decided, collectively, that we want to move back to the holy madness that is the Musrara neighborhood of Jerusalem, and even renting there is CRAZY expensive.

Right now, the apartment we are in is great for us, and the rent is reasonable. But the area is pretty ‘dead’ spiritually, and after two years of living back in civilization, where people pick up their own trash and most families have way less than 12 kids, I’m yearning to get back to a place where my neighbors know there is more to life than just cooking a great roast for Shabbat. Or politics….

So, there’s also a lot of anxiety around that, too, which keeps bubbling up when I’m talking to God.

====

And then, there are the non-stop efforts by the State of Israel to start another war in this region, to try and take everyone’s minds off the fact that the political experiment here has effectively checkmated itself out of existence.

Nothing like a massive war, to get the nation rallying around the idea of a ‘unity government’!!!

Who cares, that so many people, so many Jews, could get wounded or killed, if the Muslim nations decide to retaliate massively!!!

Let’s keep the circus going for as long as we can, let’s keep talking about politics as the cure for all ills, to take everyone’s mind off the fact that God is actually running the world, and deciding things!!!

====

There are very good reasons why taking the terrorists on in Gaza may be a very bad idea.

You can sum it up like this:

Israel is surrounded by literally hundreds of thousands of rockets. The Iron Dome is very easily overwhelmed, and if the terrorists start firing multiple barrages of rockets at us, they will kill and injure a lot of people, God forbid.

At the same time, there is no way the nations of the world will ever let Israel really clean up the problem in Gaza, so any war would be totally ‘cosmetic’, and just for public opinion, just so the politicians can keep the whole circus going a little while longer.

====

Personally, I increasingly don’t think it’s worth risking Jewish lives just to give a politician a campaign slogan that they are tough on terror.

Personally, I’m really praying and hoping that Rabbi Berland is going to be able to continue to sweeten all this warmongering, because war doesn’t solve any problems, unless it’s a ‘war’ that God wants and has commanded, like Joshua’s conquering of the holy land.

How did we all get so brainwashed into believing that killing people en masse is the best way to solve our problems?

I believe in defending ourselves where appropriate, in a measured way. But recently, I’ve been asking myself some hard questions, about whether killing large swathes of ‘enemy’ civilians is really what God wants from the Jewish people.

Killing people – any people – should be the very last option on the table, and only if the alternative is that they would kill us, God forbid.

Killing people is a ‘feral pig’ kinda thing to do – an ‘animal’ thing to do – it’s really not a holy Jewish response.

So, I’m also scared that there are bunch of angry, violent fools with zero yirat shemayim ready to rush in where Sanhedrins fear to tread.

Until I remember that God is actually running the world, (even though no-one really talks about Him so much), and that nothing will happen that God doesn’t want to happen.

====

And in the meantime, life goes on.

I’m trying to deal with all this by keeping my head down, and trying to continue with my routine, as best I can. I keep reminding myself of the words of the Rav, that Gog and Magog is only going to happen in 200 years time, but the good things can already start now.

Because otherwise, I just can’t get out of bed in the morning.

====

You might also like these articles:

====

Photo by Sylvie Tittel on Unsplash

It’s time for the way we relate to ’emuna’ to evolve.

This was first written for the ravberland.com website, but I think it’s touching on something that’s close to the heart of people on this website, too, so I’m reposting it here.

====

The last few months (ok, years….) it’s been so flipping heavy, hasn’t it?

Every day has brought new heartaches, new challenges, new worries to us all.

Ten years ago, when the first emuna revolution really started to develop, it looked we were so close to sorting all this yucky golus stuff out, and finally getting into geula and redemption, personal and national.

The three rules of emuna came out and what else did we need, to really cope with life’s vicissitudes and to get to geula and moshiach already?

(In case you’ve forgotten, the three rules of emuna are:

  • God is doing everything.
  • Everything God does is good, even if it’s sometimes painful and hard to bear.
  • Every single thing that I experience contains some message, or clue, from God, about what I might need to work on, fix, rectify or otherwise acknowledge.)

====

But there was a problem.

Call it a marketing issue, call it a misunderstanding, call it a problem in translating deep spiritual concepts into a language that materialistic Westerners can really grasp, however it happened it doesn’t really matter. But the problem was this:

Emuna back then appeared to be being ‘sold’ as a way to get God to do what you want.

At least, that’s how I understood what I was being told, 10 years ago.

Just pray enough, do enough six hours, ratchet your level of observance up to the absolute max – even if it’s not really where you’re truthfully holding – and then, you’ll be able to force God into giving you what you want! More kids, better health, a new apartment, a great job! You can get it all, if you just follow this blueprint!

What can I tell you?

Over the years, my email filled up with people who’d done their best to follow this blueprint, and who still – inevitably – found that at some point, at some stage, the emuna solution stopped ‘working’, and they were left with a big problem they couldn’t solve, or make disappear, no matter how much hitbodedut they did, or books they gave out, or people they preached at.

Disappointed, a lot of these people then turned their back on ‘emuna’, and came to believe that it didn’t work, the way they’d been told it would.

====

The same thing almost happened to me.

I was very clear about why I started to do an hour day of hitbodedut: I was trying to force God to expand my family from just the two kids I had, to maybe four, or even six.

And guess what?

It failed miserably!

My hitbodedut also failed miserably at giving me my own home in Jerusalem – even WITH a mortgage. It failed miserably at getting my kids to grow up like perfectly frum Beis Yaacov princesses. It failed miserably at getting my family to move to Israel, and at making me friends who weren’t psychos, and sometimes, even at getting my cakes to come out half-edible.

Sure, there were also a lot of miracles that have happened, and things that did move, and unexpectedly amazing insights that occurred, all thanks to hitbodedut, but if I had to sum it up, I would say this:

The miracles I saw as a result of my hitbodedut were almost never because my prayers succeeded in changing God’s mind, and almost always because they’d succeeded in changing me.

I’d get a steer in my hitbodedut that I’d need to apologise to someone, or back down on something, or work on some really bad middot that I’d just been whitewashing and justifying, and then, very often, the ‘problem’ would disappear miraculously.

But not every problem.

12 years after I began to do hitbodedut to have more kids, I still don’t have more kids. I still don’t own a house in Jerusalem. I still don’t have a lot of things ticked off on my list of what I was trying to force Hashem to give me.

But what I do have, I hope, is a much clearer idea of what real emuna is, and how much we need it.

====

Recasting the three rules of emuna

To sum it up, real emuna is where we do our best to know that God is doing everything – so we stop beating ourselves up and blaming others, for not being perfect, and we act with more understanding and compassion.

Real emuna is where we do our best to internalize that even the very painful circumstances we sometimes have to go through are ultimately for our good – so we can still smile through the tears, and still sincerely acknowledge and thank for all the tremendous good we all still have in our lives.

That doesn’t mean we become unfeeling robots, pretending we don’t hurt when we do, or pretending we aren’t sad when we are. What it does mean, is that we understand that we need to work on those feelings of pain and sadness, until they transform into joy and acceptance of the way Hashem is running the world.

And to have patience with that process, because sometimes, it can take a very long time.

And lastly, real emuna is where we understand that the miracle will really only come once we change ourselves, and get the message that God is sending us. And that sometimes, the ‘miracle’ will never come, no matter how much we pray for it, because the lesson God is trying to teach us is one of bittul, nullifying ourselves to His will, and accepting how He chooses for us to live our lives.

====

Everybody has their heartache today, everybody has their pain.

Some people lack health, others lack spouses, others lack children, others lack true love and understanding, others lack money, others lack a sense of purpose…. The list goes on and on.

But while all these problems and ‘lacks’ are so different, the solution is the same for them all:

To let go of our expectations, and our demands, and to accept that however God chooses to run our lives, that’s the best it could be.

That’s really what emuna is for. That’s really the ‘secret’ of how having emuna can help you live life happily and joyfully. Not by ‘forcing’ God to do what we want, chas v’halila, but by accepting that whatever God does, that’s OK by us.

That’s the work, that’s the goal.

That’s certainly the message I get loud and clear from almost everything I read, and everything I hear, from Rabbi Eliezer Berland.

And that’s what the next emuna revolution is really going to be about.

====

You might also like this article:

The real battle is always internal.

The last few weeks, I’ve gathered so much material together on so many different subjects – then deleted it all. I haven’t just done that once, I’ve done it a good four, maybe in five, times.

I had so much information to share on how the first Reform-minded Jews were actually freemasons, and how 60% of the Reform rabbis in the US in 1927 reported they were members of their local lodge – including 8 ‘rabbis’ who’d reached the 33rd degree.

I deleted it all.

Then, I had a whole bunch of information gathered together about moral (and other forms) of corruption in a particular orthodox group.

I deleted it all.

And then, I found myself gathering more information about a popular Jewish leader who encouraged Jews to see themselves as violent ‘chayas’ – beasts, or animals – and who also had a long history of acting in some very immoral ways.

I deleted it all.

====

The last few weeks, I’ve had a mighty battle raging in my soul, between trying to call out so much of the ‘bad’ and obvious hypocrisy of the Jewish community, and to set it down clearly in black and white, and between Rebbe Nachman’s clarion call to focus on Azamra, or seeing the good.

It’s been driving me bonkers all November.

The Rav warned that Cheshvan – November – was the month of wars, and sure enough, different types of battle have been joined all over the place. There’s been rockets from Gaza, rockets from Syria, political wars of every stripe – all over the planet – and also, that internal war, to try to do what God really wants and to avoid machloket.

And at least speaking for myself, that war has been the hardest.

I can’t stand all the half-truths, posturing and hypocrisy that I keep coming up against in a million different ways. I can’t stand all the yucky people who like to pretend they want a solution, but are really innately part of the problem. All the falsehood, all the carping and attacking, all the lying to ourselves, it’s been getting me down a lot, recently.

====

A few weeks’ ago, I thought the best thing to do would be to try to blast the lies out of the water, as much as possible, by doing one expose after another, just stacking up the plain, incontrovertible facts. No opinion, no spin, just facts and solid information.

I had so much collected up, so much ready to go….

And then God stopped me.

In my hitbodedut, I kept getting steers to get back to my PC and to delete every last bit of it. And that has happened so many times now, that I think I’ve finally got the message:

God doesn’t want Jews slagging other Jews off in public, no matter how ‘bad’ those other Jews appear to be behaving.

====

This is really hard for me to accept, I have to be honest.

What, I should just let all the misinformation go unchallenged?! I should just sit here writing fluffy stuff about trips to the Hula Valley, instead of hard-hitting pieces about the endemic corruption that’s oozing out of every part of the Jewish communal structure, both home and abroad?!

God said:

YES!!!!

A million times, YES!!!!

====

People need a lot of chizzuk right now.

The anti-Semites are spreading so many calumnies about Jews being behind every bad thing in the world, and Jewish writers and bloggers have to understand that every word we write about our communities are being scrutinized, and often twisted, to blame the Jews for everything that’s going wrong.

That’s a massive responsibility.

And here’s the thing:

Even the worst Jews out there are still just puppets and pawns in the hands of a bunch of very evil non-Jews.

They’ve been using these renegade Jews as ‘cover’ for their really bad activities for centuries, but that time is soon coming to a close. And we Jews need to stick together, we need to stay close to our true Tzaddikim, and we need to see the good, both in other Jews, and also in ourselves.

That’s our job right now.

====

So, even though I have a ton I could say about what’s really going on politically and Jewishly, I want to draw a line in the sand here on the blog, and move in the direction of what’s really going to help us all get through the next few months of global insanity. That means putting the focus on:

Emuna, azamra, chizzuk and practical stuff about working on our bad middot.

As much as possible, this blog is going to be a Trump-free zone, a Bibi-free zone, a pointless politics-free zone.

Why waste any more time on all this divisive cack that doesn’t help anyone, and just sets us at each other’s throats? Much better to focus on the bad middot we all need to work on; much better to talk about emuna, much better to talk Turkey about what God really wants from us as individuals and Jews, and to try to spread more of the light of the true Tzaddikim in the world.

So that’s what I’m hoping to focus on, going forward.

BH, God will help me to do it.

====

UPDATE:

I just wrote this, for my blog over on RavBerland.com. I think it’s time we re-examined what it really means to ‘have emuna’, and how we can start to apply it again. So many of us got disappointed with the whole idea of ’emuna’ because we were being taught that it’s a way to ‘force’ God to give us what we want.

Really, true emuna is only about acceptance. It’s about accepting that we are flawed, and have work to do, and also about accepting that God is in charge of the world, not us.

Read more here:

====

Photo by Piotr Makowski on Unsplash