“I think that is the answer: CHESED, LOVE. This Atzeret is all about LOVE, about Chesed. We have to arouse the LOVE of AM Yisrael, because Am Yisrael has let Sinat Chinam bury the love. We have to REIGNITE the LOVE. This Rosh Chodesh Nissan is all about LOVE , I just heard a Shiur by a rav last Shabbat in Tampa about this very topic, and we were by coincidence – we know there are no coincidences, – discussing the issue of lack of love in Am Yisrael these days with my son, just a couple of days before the rav gave his lecture…WE HAVE TO REIGNITE THE LOVE IN AM YISRAEL! That is the message. That is the only thing that will counteract the Sinat Chinam of the Churban Bayit Sheni! I get it!Shabbat Shalom, Chodesh Tov. May Ahavat Chinam return to Am Yisrael, in every group, every Chassidut, every political party. We are buried in hatred. Of course destruction follows! The only way to counteract the destruction is with LOVE OF OUR FELLOW JEW, and even of all good people in the world! And I mean REAL love, the kind you feel all over, the kind you swim in. Not the phony, limited, fake love we got used to.”
Secret Diary of a Jewish Housewife
The last few weeks, I’ve been all over the place trying to get Volume 2 of One in a Generation, the biography of Rav Eliezer Berland, ready for print.
You can read more of the back story, and all the ups and downs that have been going on with it, especially internally, HERE.
But in the meantime, Friday afternoon I finally got it done, and sent off to the typesetter, and Bezrat Hashem, it will be ready before Pesach.
But I’m knackered.
And I need to clean for Pesach.
So, no promises that I’ll be writing much the next couple of weeks – and apologies that I’m not responding promptly to emails at the moment.
If you want to help with the printing costs for Volume II, we need to raise 13,000 shekels to print 1,000 copies. Even $5 will make a difference, so please go HERE if you’d like to donate.
I’m planning on going to the prayer gathering Monday night, BH, and my kids are also coming with me (!) so I will let you know if there’s more details for that, but you can also see the updates for yourself over on ravberland.com.
Lots going on…. probably lots more about to start going on too, after Monday night and Tuesday’s elections.
And Pesach is still a whole two weeks away.
The last couple of weeks, I feel like I’ve been swept up by some sort of spiritual whirlwind that has just been spinning me around, around, around.
My feet haven’t touched the ground, and every day has been filled with long hours, and not enough time, and massive confusions and inner doubt about what it is I’m meant to be doing with myself.
(And no breakfast…)
I look around, and I see that mirrored back to me all over the world, whether it’s Brexit in the UK, war in Israel, Mueller in the US.
Even the weather is indecisive and unsettled, with summer following winter following summer again in the space of 4 days.
Crazy days, crazy times.
We are all feeling the pressure right now, we can all pick up that vibe that ‘something big’ is coming down to the planet.
And I haven’t even started cleaning for Pesach yet.
First, I have to get April 8th out of the way, I think, which is when we’ll really see what’s about to come next, and if we managed to ‘sweeten’ it enough.
If you can’t make it to Hevron, at least join in over the internet. There are big things going on spiritually, a big fight is happening in Heaven, over whether the next stage of this whole geula process comes easy or hard.
The enemy is literally massing at the border, spiritually and physically.
And our prayers are the only thing that can get us – and hopefully, the whole of the world – through the next few weeks in one piece.
(The prayer gathering in Hevron on the night of April 8th, with Rav Berland, is the thing that is really going to tip the balance between ‘sweet’ or ‘harsh’ over the coming months. Even if you can’t make it in person, you can still participate via life hook-up. I know the tests of emuna are overwhelming at the moment, and the test of believing in our true tzaddikim is harder than ever. But please join in with the gathering for yourself. It’s the best self-defense you can get, at this critical point in time.)
I’ll never forget the first year I was with my husband:
The week before Pesach he disappeared for two days to go and help his healthy, 50-something mother clean her house for the upcoming festival.
To say I was upset is something of an understatement. We were both working full-time jobs at the time, I couldn’t afford cleaning help, and instead of rolling up his sleeves to help me – he scarpered for 48 hours to go and clean another woman’s house!
I’ve been married now for 20 years, and as my own children start to grow up I can see how this sort of situation can develop so easily, if the parents don’t keep reminding themselves that what’s best for them is not always and absolutely what’s best for their children.
The Torah makes it very clear when it tells the man that he should leave his parents and ‘cleave to his wife’.
His wife is the other part of his soul, and vice-versa. Happy marriages are built on the strong foundation of mutual respect and always putting what’s best for your spouse ahead of what’s best for your parents and other extended family members.
In a perfect world, I wouldn’t have to make this point so strongly. In a perfect world, parents would be telling their married children this themselves. They’d say things like: ‘We’d love to have you come to us for seder this year, but only if that’s what you and your wife would really like to do, too.”
Or, they’d phone up and tell their married children: ‘Please check this with your spouse before agreeing anything with me, but would it be OK if we joined you for Pesach this year? And be completely honest, I won’t be upset if you say no. I know how much you both have going on in your lives at the moment.”
In that sort of healthy, open environment where free choice is allowed, and the spouse of the married child feels seen, respected and heard by their in-laws, the friction on the marriage will be kept to a barely-there minimum.
Sadly, that’s not how so many families operate today.
Today, many people are having to deal with selfish, egotistical and home-wrecking in-laws who treat their children (and their children’s spouse….) as an extension of themselves, and therefore people who can be bossed around, guilt-tripped, taken advantage of and stressed-out whenever they feel like it.
And there are few festivals that bring their destructive behaviour and attitudes out more than Pesach.
There’s a few reasons for this. Firstly, seder is a big production. Controlling parents who insist on everything being about them usually take it extremely hard when their married children actually want to live a little independently, and run a seder their own way. I know people in their 40s with many children of their own who have NEVER conducted a seder in their life.
Because their parents wouldn’t hear of it.
Each year, the seder has to be with family, and of course, that means with their family, according to their rules and whims. Do you know how emasculating it is for a 40-something year old man to sit at the table like a little kid, unable to ever be the ‘head’ of his own seder table?
Pesach is the time of kingship, or Malchut. Seder night is when that measure of ‘malchut’ or rulership descends to each man’s table, and each man’s home for the coming year. If your father or father-in-law keeps happing your husband’s ‘rulership’, that has enormous consequences for his self-esteem, ability to make money, and the peace in your home.
Another flash point can be when parents get on a bit, and then start inviting themselves to your home for the whole of the holiday because organising everything is so stressful, expensive and time-consuming, and they’ve run out of energy.
Again, if you’re OFFERING to have them stay with you, out of 100% free choice and not because you’ve been guilted into doing it, or are worrying about the consequences of saying no, nothing could be more wonderful.
But if that’s not the case – and with the sort of difficult in-laws I’m talking about, that’s really NOT the case – then seder night and the holiday becomes a powder keg placed under your shalom bayit, just waiting for ‘Bubbe’ to show up and light the fuse.
Because ‘Bubbe’ will expect things done her way, and food served that she’s used to, and the same songs sung in the same order as she always did it by her own table. Also, ‘Bubbe’ will go to great pains to invite as many of her extended family and friends to your home, too, to share seder with her. And again, she’ll just expect you to agree to that, regardless of how much additional stress it causes you.
When you live in Israel and your in-laws come from abroad, there can be the added issue of people deciding to stay with you for the whole of the holiday to:
- a) save them having to clean their own homes or buy Pesach food;
- b) save them having to go to a hotel (which is what they’ve effectively turned you into).
Again, if you WANT to have your in-laws living with you for a whole nine days, great! But if you don’t? And they start playing your spouse off against you, and getting them to agree to have the come against your wishes? They just ignited World War III in your marriage.
(I won’t even get into the problems that can crop up when you’re more observant than your parents in this post, which is a whole other can of worms. Basically, just times all the difficulties and potential flashpoints by 500…)
So, what can you do to keep your marriage ticking over this Pesach?
Here’s a few guidelines that will help, if you can actually implement them:
1) Maintain a united front
No decisions should be made unilaterally by either spouse. Everything has to be discussed upfront and agreed by both parties well in advance of seder night.
2) Set down firm boundaries, and stick to them
If you can manage seder night (just about…) but you can’t manage a whole eight days of the in-laws in your home, make that very clear to your spouse and to them – and don’t be guilted or shamed out of doing what’s best for yourself and your own family.
3) Be honest about what’s really going on
Often, it takes us and our spouses many years to realise that our in-laws don’t always have our best interests at heart. Remember, a husband and wife are one soul. If your spouse doesn’t like your parents, it’s usually because your parents aren’t treating them (or you….) very nicely.
You don’t notice that, you’re not aware of it, because that’s how it’s been since you were born. But an outsider can spot the issues much more easily. So if your spouse doesn’t like your parents, carefully consider WHY that is, and what your parents might need to explore in order to improve the relationship.
4) Move to a different country
Sometimes, some in-laws are so impossible to deal with that moving far, far away from them is the only option to protect your marriage and mental health. This isn’t always a cast-iron solution – especially if they can easily afford air-fare and you have a big home – but it’s still a good start.
Pesach is the festival of freedom and redemption. It’s a time when a man should be a ‘king’ in his own home (serving Hashem…) and his wife his ‘queen’. It’s a night of royalty, not slavery.
So if you have difficult in-laws, emancipate yourself from their unreasonable demands and selfish behaviour, and this year ask God to help celebrate the holiday the way He truly intended.
Of all the things that weary my soul so much these days, top of the list is the modern tendency to look for reasons to be offended.
It’s part of that poisonous web of political correctness that’s being woven around all human interactions, where people can’t make jokes anymore, they can’t just be ‘them’ any more, they can’t ask honest questions, they can’t say what they really think, what they really feel.
Because that might offend someone.
I’m not cheerleading for nasty language, or insults or put-downs, by the way, not at all. Onaas devarim, or negative speech, is a very big deal halachically, and we Jews have so many rules governing the proper way to try to communicate with other people.
But the halachot governing speech are a million miles away from the political correctness that’s poisoning modern communication, and making more and more of our daily interactions a burden and drag.
The first one is dealing with personal attacks and put downs on people themselves, which is clearly a function of bad middot, and is something that needs to be addressed.
But the second is an attack on ideas.
Political correctness is trying to shut down the discussion of ideas, the free exchange of knowledge, the challenging of assumptions, the ability to enable people to think for themselves, even if that’s sometimes awkward and imperfect.
We can’t discuss whether ‘feminist’ and ‘orthodox’ goes together, because that might offend someone. We can’t say that there shouldn’t be so much emphasis put on externals because that might offend someone. We can’t suggest Israel is the best place for Jews to live, or that Palestinians who fire rockets at civilians in Israel, or shoot small Jewish children, or stab Jews to death just because they are Jews are terrorists, because that might offend someone.
And so, the list of possible offenses grows longer and longer, and the topics that it’s safe to talk about grows smaller and smaller, and the ability to communicate in a real, sincere way totally dries up, because it’s just safer that way.
And it’s not just a ‘society’ problem or a ‘community’ problem, it’s also – very much – a family problem, a parent and child problem, a husband and wife problem.
We can’t ask non-observant seder guests to bring something to say at the Seder because that might offend them… Our kids can’t tell us that we’re bothering them, or annoying them, or upsetting them, for fear of offending us… We can’t tell our spouse that we suspect they are drinking too much at the Kiddush club on Shabbos, or working too hard, or not behaving correctly in case we offend them.
And they probably also feel they can’t tell us, that we’re too bossy, to selfish, too self-pitying, too demanding.
The list of potential egg shells goes on and on, and so it’s easier to just stay plastic, stay in the comfort zone, and to keep pulling that fake smile tighter and wider.
If you play by the rules of the politically-correct crowd.
And thank God, I can’t do that.
I make mistakes, I’m not always as tactful as I could be (supposing that tact can actually be learnt and developed), I sometimes phrase things a little OTT – but I prefer that a million times over to being too scared to speak to others, too scared to write anything real for fear I might offend someone.
Modern discourse has become so plastic and superficial because we’re all just waiting for that first mentally-disturbed ‘snowflake’ to start throwing a public hissy fit because they were offended by something we said – or didn’t say – or something we did – or didn’t do.
And that fear of not measuring up to politically correct perfection is keeping us all tongue-tied, repressed and miserable.
Or at least, almost all of us.
Thank God, there are still a few people out there who are bucking the trend, and saying what needs to be said. Rabbi Bassous in Golders Green is one of them. Rav Berland in Jerusalem is another.
But it’s certainly getting harder and harder for the average person to speak freely in the world, and to discuss and debate the ideas and assumptions that really need airing out. And so, my soul is getting more and more wearied by all the interactions that have to be so carefully policed in case I offend someone, chas v’halila¸by saying something they disagree with or don’t like.
But I’m not giving up.
At least, not yet.
Every diss is a diamond. So I’m willing to keep getting insulted if it means I can try to keep moving things forward, and to keep doing my bit to stop everyone turning into not-so-fantastic-plastic.