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“God, should I get a real job?”

This is what I’ve been asking God pretty much non-stop for the last two years, once I realised that making a living as an author is really not as straightforward as I’d hoped. (The way I’m going, I hope to break even around 2026…)

So far, the answer I’ve been getting in my personal prayer sessions has been ‘no, just continue on blogging and writing, and let your husband worry about earning a living.’ I was going along with that, as it felt ‘right’, but I still wasn’t 100% convinced that I wasn’t just fooling myself.

I’d rather stab my own eyeballs with a fork than go back into corporate communications again, but the thought has continued to haunt me that maybe God wants me to sell out and be a hack again?!?!? I have no idea WHY God might want that, but as I’ve sat here waiting for things to start moving with my husband’s businesses, the thought crossed my mind more than once that maybe me getting a ‘real job’ for ‘real money’ was the only way forward, financially.

Back and forth it went for months, until two weeks’ ago I couldn’t take all the uncertainty and ‘stuckness’ anymore, and we decided to ask Rav Berland a whole bunch of big questions that we’ve been agonising over for around three years.

Last week, we got the answers to every question – except that one.

So then I was back to square one again: does God want me to get a ‘real’ job, or does He want me to continue blogging and writing, even though that’s actually costing me money, at the moment?

This Shabbat, I decided to take a look in the Likutey Moharan, and see if God might clue me in that way – and boy, did He.

It’s known in Breslov circles that if you open up any of the Breslov books ‘randomly’, you nearly always hit something that’s a tailor-made answer to whatever question you were trying to find the answer to.

I asked God: “Do you want me to get a real job now, or what?” and then ‘randomly’ opened up Likutey Moharan to Part 1, Lesson 56, that begins with this verse:

 “On the day of the first-fruit offering, when you bring a meal-offering from the new grain to God on your [festival of] Shavuot, you shall have a mikra Kodesh [convocation to holiness] – you shall do no work of mundane needs.” (Numbers 28:26)

Hmm, that seemed to be a pretty big clue.

I read through the lesson, and the whole thing was talking about the importance of spreading daat, or the knowledge of God throughout the world, rebuking people to return to the Torah, and removing the ‘concealment within concealment’ that means that people who are far away from God and truth don’t even know that they are.

Here’s a little of what it said:

“…as knowledge (daat) increases, sustenance becomes easier to obtain, because sustenance is dependent upon knowledge….Through knowledge, peace increases, for anger and cruelty are eliminated by way of knowledge, since anger and cruelty arise from a lack of knowledge, as written, ‘Anger lies in the lap of fools’ (Ecclesiastes 7:9).”

Whoah! We were straight back into all the stuff about bad middot and mental illness that I love to write about on my blogs…

When I asked my husband what a ‘mikra kodesh’ was, he told me it could be translated as ‘holy writings’. Then, on the next page it started talking about a mamar ne-eman (faithful statement) that if you play around with the letters spells out ‘emuna roma’.

Double whoah!

But maybe, I was still lying to myself and just reading things into stuff? Maybe, God really still just wanted me to go and write technical copy about hi-tec gizmos instead? (I know, there are such huge yetzers around the whole topic of valuing yourself, and what you spend your time doing, if you don’t actually earn any money doing it, aren’t there?)

So I decided to ask God for another message, just to be sure I hadn’t gotten the wrong end of the stick. I opened up Likutey Moharan again ‘randomly’, and this time got to Part 2, Lesson 4. Here’s how that lesson began:

“On the day of the first-fruit offering, when you bring a meal-offering from the new grain to God on your [festival of] Shavuot, you shall have a mikra Kodesh [convocation to holiness] – you shall do no work of mundane needs.” (Numbers 28:26)

You know, I sometimes take the tremendous Divine Providence I get a little for granted, but I have to admit that even I was shocked at this latest ‘coincidence’. I had no idea that verse showed up twice in Likutey Moharan, in two completely different lessons. But now I know.

Ok, God, I got the message!

BH, no more agonising about the big bucks I could be earning doing ‘mundane work’ instead of (trying to) do holy writing! I will continue to blog and write my books, and pray for my husband’s parnassa to take off instead.

If you’re reading this and thinking stuff like that could never happen to you, let me reassure that it 100% can and could – if you let it.  If you have a big question you need some guidance about, ask God to send you a message, crack open a holy book, and see what happens.

God is sending us clues about our lives all the time, He’s just waiting for us to wake up and recognise them.

After all the agro I got the last couple of weeks from my crazy emailers, I have to admit that I’ve been having some massive struggles with my own bad middot, and particularly the traits of vengeance and spite.

(As an aside, every time I stick up the character traits from the ‘Erev Rav’ I try to check where I’m holding on it all myself, and ‘vengeance and spite’ have been at the very top of my list, recently.)

But God has been doing His best to help me overcome these issues the last few days. For example, one of my correspondents sent me a very nice email last week on a completely different subject than my crazy relatives, but which ended with their own observation that whatever happens in our life, we have to see that God is behind it, and He’s just using people as a mirror.

Hmmmm.

As I was busy trying to avoid that idea, I went to see my lady who helps me with a lot of my psychosomatic aches and pains. Mostly, I can figure out the messages my illnesses are giving me myself in hitbodedut, but occasionally they are too much in my blind spot for me to see them myself, and that’s where this lady comes in.

She’s very connected, she’s very Israeli, and she doesn’t pull her punches about what I need to change or fix.

I love that about her! But it’s not always easy to hear it.

Since all the poisonous email stuff, I was having some sort of weird chest pain going on, and I knew it was related (pardon the pun).  This lady told me straight: “God is using this situation to give you a message. It’s going to be very hard work to hear it, because it involves breaking your ego, and that’s never easy. If you’re ready to do the work, come back next week.”

Hmmmm.

I did some hitbodedut on it all, and here’s what came up: My poison penners ARE from God, and ARE sending me and my husband a message, but it’s not directly connected to what’s going on with them (because as I mentioned already, they are certifiably crazy).

Once I wrapped my head around the idea that God is even behind the nasty emails that crazy people send, things really started to move.

I’ve learnt that the thing that most upsets you, that most grabs your attention, that most annoys you or troubles you, that’s the place to start, when trying to work out the messages God is sending each and every one of us via other people.

So I went through all the emails me and my husband received last week, and I carefully underlined the bits that really hit a nerve. By the end of it, I had a list of about 4-5 statements that really, really bothered me, and then I asked God to show me how they were connected to my real, actual life, and not all the lies being told by the crazies.

Dear reader, we came up with some really interesting messages! Like for example, it bothered me tremendously that this person called me and my husband parasites and scroungers, because we really, really aren’t. We give charity generously, we don’t ask other people for help, we try to rely on Hashem and not people in every way possible.

So I was completely offended by this statement, and I also couldn’t understand how it could be a message to me about anything. But after pondering it, I realized that me and my husband ARE still scrounging to make a decent living, and it’s something that’s upsetting both of us.

Once we got that it WAS an accurate description of something in our life that needed fixing, we could move on to the next stage of decoding the message:

How do we fix our chronic lack of parnassa, at its spiritual root?

My husband is currently working on finding the answer to that, and I’ll keep you posted.

This week I went back to my lady, and I got some more insights: She explained that spite is the one thing GUARANTEED to kill a person, physically. All the hate and rage that underpin spite does tremendous damage to a person’s health.

As I’ve been feeling pretty rotten again this week, she didn’t need to do a lot to convince me she was right. But how to get rid of it?

That’s where God came in again.

I had a couple of meaningful dreams, I went to visit the grave of Rav Yehuda Zev Leibowitz in Bnei Brak, I did a couple of hours of really useful hitbodedut, or talking to God, and voila, a few days’ later I’d got to a place where I was willing to let go of my hate and spite, because I finally understood that it was a defense mechanism that I felt I needed to keep these crazy people away from me and my family.

When I was talking to God about it all, I suddenly got that God is going to protect me from the crazies in my life, if I trust Him to do that, which means that my negative emotions are actually redundant. All my spite and hate is doing is making me sick, and it’s God who’s going to protect me anyway – so why kill myself in the meantime?!

Sigh.

Dealing with negative character traits is such hard work. But one thing keeps me going: I want to be a lover, not a hater. I want to get to the end of my 120 years knowing that whatever disgusting traits I came down to the world with, I did my very best to acknowledge them and fix them, with God’s help.

And if I manage to do that, ironically, my crazy emailers are going to get a big amount of the credit for it.

Today, I was meant to be driving up North, to see a friend there and have a day out.

On my way out of Jerusalem, I saw I was running low on gas so I stopped at the ‘Yellow’ just by the city entrance to fill up before heading out.

As luck (i.e. God) would have it, I got stuck behind an older woman who was having all sorts of trouble with her car. She couldn’t open the cap for the petrol; she couldn’t get her credit card to work; she couldn’t fit the nozzle into the petrol tank; she couldn’t get a receipt printed out.

By the end of the whole palaver, I was starting to get pretty antsy.

My fingers started drumming on the steering wheel. My leg started involuntarily tapping. Then, when she got back in her car and started faffing around with her lights, her hair, her seat – I don’t know what – I got impatient and beeped her. Not loud and aggressively, but just to remind her that five other people were waiting for her to drive off, already, so they could also get on with their day.

She ignored my beep.

She got out of her car, went to browse in the Yellow’s snacks section, and only then returned and finally put her key in the ignition. It took her another two minutes to figure out the gears and steering wheel, and as soon as I could, I overtook her on the way out of the petrol station, desperate to not get stuck behind her for another five minutes as she tried to figure out how to actually leave the petrol forecourt.

Less than a minute later, I nearly crashed.

I was in the fast lane behind a high truck who was driving fast, but not abnormally so. Suddenly, they skidded off into the slow lane without indicating – and I nearly ran straight into the back of a long line of parked cars, that I hadn’t seen coming because I was behind a high vehicle and it was behind a bend.

There was that horrible screech of tyres, and that heart-stopping moment where I waited to see if the brakes were going to work fast enough to avoid a horrible accident. Thank God, I skidded to a stop barely a foot away from the car in front of me.

It was a very near miss.

So near, that I realized when I started driving off again that at least one of my front tyres had exploded under the pressure of my forced braking at high speed. I pulled off the nearest exit, and parked by the Mevasseret Zion mall to take a look at the tyre. It was completely busted.

Hmm.

I had no idea how to change a tyre, and only around $20 in my wallet, which was enough to pay for a day out, but not enough to buy a new tyre.

Hmm.

Just then, I spotted a gang of four apparently secular teenage boys walking past, and I ran over to them and asked for help changing my flat.

Dear reader, they didn’t hesitate. Despite the fact that only one of them had ever done it before, and that it took a good 40 minutes for them to work out how to work the jack, how to get the bolts off the wheel, how to stick the other wheel on (all with the help of their trust i-Phones…) – they worked with such good grace and patience.

Not for the first time, I said a small prayer of thanks that I live where I live, with the people who live around me.

Where else would I have felt happy asking a gang of strange teenage boys for help? Where else would they have said ‘yes’, and so happily obliged me? Where else would they actually have figured it all out in a way that I was happy to drive my car after they were done?

Who is like your people, Hashem!

On the short drive back to Jerusalem, I pondered why it’d all happened. I mean, nothing happens for no reason, and clearly God was hiding some sort of big message in my near miss. It struck me just as I turned into my own street that I had a couple of people I needed to apologise to.

A couple of years’ ago, I got caught up in a completely skewed mindset that made it a mitzvah to point people’s ‘bad’ out to them, and I’d said a few things to a couple of people that I really shouldn’t have.  I realized God was prompting me to make amends, to change direction, and to return and fix things that needed fixing, instead of driving off to the next big adventure.

I heeded the message, and I wrote a couple of emails as soon as I got back.

Nothing happens for nothing in life.

If I nearly crashed, got a flat, and got helped in such an unlikely way, it was clearly designed to teach me something.

At least patience – to happily sit behind the faffing old granny, so that I didn’t get caught up in a near miss. And gratitude – that I didn’t have a bad accident; that those kids helped me to change my wheel so graciously. And humility – to know I’m not in charge of my life, and to remember that broken things need to be fixed, even if they weren’t broken on purpose.