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The Israeli elections seem be a choice between Mr Evil, Mr Eviller, and Mr Evillest

Three weeks ago, my husband snapped his Achilles tendon whilst playing tennis. Baruch Hashem, it’s on the mend, but in the meantime I’m ferrying him backwards and forwards in the car to his workplace, close to Jerusalem’s central bus station.

What that means (amongst other things….) is that I’m getting to see all the massive, ginormous, monstrous billboards of yucky-looking politicians that are currently springing up like poisonous mushrooms all around the entrance to Jerusalem, in preparation for next week’s elections.

I can tell you this:

Whoever you vote for, it’s going to be a vote for Mr Evil.

Some of these super-sized pictures are so disturbing I’m amazed they’ve been approved for public consumption. What these politicians don’t seem to realise is that when their faces are blown up to building-size proportions, it makes it much harder to hide their true characters. You see it in the eyes, you grasp it by the beetling brows, and the cunning, calculating expression that even the greasiest smile can’t hide.

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Where to start, on which one of these posters bothers me the most?

For a while, Ehud Barak’s lot were definitely in the lead, with a cast straight out of Dr No. There’s the beautiful, red-haired woman that looks like a secret assassin. The angry-looking, grey-haired rogue scientist is on the left of the picture. And then ‘Mr Evil’ himself, with his dyed-black hair and shifty expression, is right in the middle of all that.

After the whole Epstein affair, how can anyone, much less a woman, much less a party that claims to stand for ‘human rights’ have anything to do with this guy!

So he was in the lead for a while.

But then, Netanyahu’s lot stuck up a bunch of MASSIVE posters of him shaking hands with Donald Trump, bearing the slogan: Netanyahu: a different league.

I almost crashed a few times coming round the corner of the Jerusalem Gateway, because I couldn’t take my eyes off how plain evil Netanyahu looked on that billboard, and how totally crazy Trump appeared.

So for two days, that was in pole position.

Then yesterday, Benny Gantz of Blue and White got stuck up on the other side of the Prima Park Hotel, in a poster that looked like a cross between Men In Black and the Terminator.

Oooo, look how thick his neck is!!! Look how menacingly grey his skin is!!! Notice how totally unemotional and devoid of any human kindness his cruel blue eyes appear!!!

He looked like a ‘Class A’ psycho, and clearly that’s the effect that all these politicians are trying to achieve.

Vote for me, I’m a total psycho! If anyone even so much sneezes in my direction, I’ll nuke them! Israel is in safe hands!

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But then today, the Labor / Gesher Party decided to remove its poster of Amir Peretz looking like Stalin, and replace them with Amir Peretz looking like a character out of Goodfellas instead. Last week, Peretz shaved off his trade-mark moustache, I don’t know why.

But personally, I think it was a mistake.

For as long as the moustache was pulling the eye, you didn’t notice how strangely menacing the guy underneath it was. Now, with Mr Fluffy gone, Amir Peretz looks like he could get a job with Iran’s Revolutionary Guide.

Vote for me! I can break a man into pieces in five seconds flat!!!

Now, you might be wondering where all the women are in this election. That’s what one of the graffiti artists clearly had in mind when she spray-painted the Amir-Peretz-As-Stalin poster with: “I’m a woman and I can also vote.”

Ayelet Shaked’s party decided to put a few massive posters of just her perfect, Barbie-like face across various bridges on the Begin Highway, and after studying them all week (yes, it’s a miracle I haven’t crashed the car) – I can tell you they are airbrushed.

The woman is 42 and has a very stressful job, and yet she has the flawless complexion of a 20 year old supermodel. It’s an open miracle.

Vote for me! I don’t have any wrinkles!!!

This morning, someone had punched two massive holes in the middle of both her faces, and it took some really careful planning to pull that off in the middle of Jerusalem’s busiest and fasted road.

I think it was the Shabak.

Orly Levy-Abecassis (or whatever her name is…) also popped up on a poster looking really miserable, but with great hair, next to Goodfella Peretz, and some other man who I don’t know the name of, but who also looks like a shark in a suit.

Vote for me! I have the best hairdresser in all of Israel!!!

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Sigh.

Whichever way you turn, there’s evil, evil and more evil.

Driving my husband to work has become a Kafkaesque nightmare, a cross between a bad Bond movie and the Oscars.

Although yesterday, I did see a poster of someone that I’d half consider voting for.

He was a cute Saba advertising a new flavor of milkshake.

So, a vote for Mr Evil – for political gangsters and their molls – or for Mr Milkshake, for PM?

I think the answer is obvious.

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Rebbe Nachman points up some interesting similarities between ‘spies’ and demons.

Last week, I was re-reading Rebbe Nachman’s story of The Cripple, when I suddenly started to see some interesting connections between Rebbe Nachman’s description of demons, and what’s going on today with the ‘deep state’.

(You can get an English translation PDF of it HERE).

I suddenly got the idea into my head that Jeffery Epstein could be the ‘son of the demons’ in Rebbe Nachman’s story, who was imprisoned and tortured, sparking off a war between the different factions of ‘Deep State’ demons that eventually leads to geula happening. So, I’m bringing it here, to see what you think, too.

FIRST, A QUICK RECAP OF THE RELATIVE BITS OF THE STORY OF THE CRIPPLE

The Cripple hears the Sun and Moon talking, and the Moon is complaining that there is a place of two thousand mountains, where a whole bunch of demons live, and these ‘demons’ are taking all the power from her feet.

Feet is an allusion to emuna, and true faith and trust in Hashem.

The Moon is often used as an allegory for the Jewish people.

The Cripple decides to visit this place called the ‘Two Thousand Mountains’, here’s what Rebbe Nachman says about that:

“When he got there, he stood at a distance from the two thousand mountains. He saw thousands and myriads of demon families. They have children just like human beings and are therefore very numerous.

“He saw their leadership sitting on a throne. No human being ever sat on such a throne. He also saw them ‘joking’ – one of them was ‘joking’ about the child he’d hurt, another about injuring someone’s hand, and another about injuring someone’s foot. They also joked in other ways.”

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I read this, and I immediately thought:

Mafia, crime families, ‘untouchable’ criminals and bent politicians sitting on pedestals where no-one can get near them, billionaires who are ‘worshipped’ for their wealth, child trafficking, child abduction and child abuse.

Before we continue, I also went to look up ‘Two Thousand Mountains’, to see where it’s located. Whaddya now? The only place I could find with that name is right next to Forth Worth, Dallas, Texas. Forth Worth was the last place JFK gave a speech, before he was shot dead by the mafia, under contract to the CIA.

(The former head of CIA, Allan Dulles, had a score to settle with Kennedy after the latter refused to bail out the CIA’s attempted ‘regime change’ in Cuba, as part of the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Kennedy had a strong dislike of the FBI and CIA, and their abuses of power, and was on record stating that he wanted to splinter the CIA into a 1,000 parts and scatter them to the wind, before he was assassinated.)

The links between the mafia and the spy agencies are well-documented. The former FBI head J. Edgar Hoover was part of a massive corruption racket that basically blurred the lines between criminals and law enforcement, with the mafia simply acting in the illegal sphere, while the spy agencies ‘pretended’ to act within the law. Robert Kennedy was knocked off because he had a sincere wish to tackle the mafia and organized crime – against Hoover’s wishes.

They look like you and me, they have children, they have families, but really – Rebbe Nachman tells us – they are demons!

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The story then switches to a pair of ‘demon’ parents who are very upset, because their son got kidnapped and tortured by a sorcerer who was working for a King who’d been ‘hurt’ by this demon-son, and his friend.

Back to Rebbe Nachman:

“We had an island in the sea, which we made our base. The king who owned this island decided to build it up, and began to lay the foundations. [The demon-son] said to me, “Let’s hurt him!” With that, we went and took away the king’s strength.”

In the footnotes to Aryeh Kaplan’s translation of this story, we find the following:

This ‘Island King’ wished to repent. This act on his part ultimately led to the downfall of the demons…. ‘Foundations’ is yesod in Hebrew. This usually refers to the se*ual organ. Thus the king wanted to begin by rectifying himself se*ually.

Let’s switch out ‘King’ for ‘President’, from here on it, to give it a more contemporary feel.

And before we continue, let’s also remind ourselves that over in US, the Feds are currently exploring Epstein’s ‘pedo Island’, our in the American Virgin Islands. Man, the clues are coming thick and fast, here.

The demon parents go to the Demon King with this story, and he orders that the President should be given back his ‘strength’. It’s not so easy to do that, because the demon who took the President’s strength has now become a cloud on a particular city.

[We’re going to skip the middle part of the story, which involves an old Jewish sage taking on the ruling atheists and the demons, and continue with the story of the demon-son and the President.]

“The Demon King ordered that the cloud’s strength be taken and given back to the President, and it was done. The demon-son was then able to return to his parents. He came back worn out and in great pain…since he had been tortured very much there. He was very angry at the sorcerer who had tortured him so much, and he left orders to his sons and their families, that they should always lie in wait, to entrap the sorcerer.”

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When Rebbe Nachman is talking about ‘families’, could he really be referring to clannish crime families and spy organisations here?

Let’s continue.

“The talkers amongst the demons told the sorcerer to watch himself, since [the family] were lying in wait for him. The sorcerer made use of his devices to protect himself from them, and also asked other sorcerers to help him, who knew other [crime] families.

“The demon-son and his family were really furious at the talkers for revealing their secret to the sorcerer. Once, this son’s family and some talkers were going to serve a term of duty for the President. The family fabricated a false accusation against the talkers, and the President killed them.

“The surviving talkers were very angry, and they incited rebellion against all the kings. The demons were stricken with hunger, weakness, sword and plague. There were wars among all the kings, and this caused earthquakes. The ditches fell in and the tree was completely watered. All the [demons] were then destroyed, and nothing remained of them. Amen.”

Note: ‘the tree’ refers to the Tzaddik, aka Moshiach, and the demons spend their whole trying to keep people away from the Torah and mitzvos that will ‘water’ this Tree, and enable it to take it’s true place in the world.

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Lots to unpack… let’s continue.

I don’t watch TV, thank God, but someone told me I should look at THIS post on the Tomer Devorah website. I went, and it’s talking about a new documentary about THE FAMILY, a bunch of power-obsessed evangelicals who apparently rule Washington DC by co-operating with other evil groups like the Vatican, and all the usual suspect spy agencies / mafiosos.

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Because they are all connected to each other, and they all coordinate their activities with each other, just they operate as different crime ‘families’ or syndicates.

So now, let’s take that piece of information, and plug in THE FAMILY for every mention of ‘family’ in Rebbe Nachman’s tale, and see what other insights that starts to spark off in your head.

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THE GEMARA EXPLAINS WHO THESE ‘DEMONS’ ARE

In Makkot 6b, in the middle of a long discussion about false witnesses and criminals being given ‘prior warning’ of imminent punishment by a ‘Demon’, the Gemara says the following:

“The one giving the warning…may even be [the victim] himself, and even a demon. The warning necessary to convict the offender need not come from one of the witnesses, but is acceptable from any source.”

Ramban in the footnote explains that: ‘demon’ refers to “any voice whose source cannot be observed.”

In Brachot 3b, we get the following statement:

“The Rabbis taught in a baraisa, that one should not enter a ruin for the following three reasons: 1) Because of suspicion, i.e. because people may suspect one of entering there to meet a harlot, 2) Because of the danger of collapse, 3) and because of the danger of demons, who lurk in deserted areas and ruins.”

The footnotes state:

Demons will not attack two people together. Separately, it also states: [W]here men of low moral character are concerned, even ten men are not trusted to be alone with a woman.

In Brachot 43b:

“To one person [a demon] appears and does harm; to two people it appears but does no harm; to three people it does not appear altogether.”

The footnote states: The demon will not take action to harm him, but the person will suffer the effects of having seen a demon (i.e. they get ‘warned off’ and they threatened if they start digging too much into what the demons are doing, or saying too much about their activities. But they only actually get assassinated if they are alone, with no witnesses.)

But Chagigah 16a is really the kicker:

“There are six characteristics that were said regarding demons: Three like ministering angels and three like human beings. These are the three characteristics in which demons are like ministering angels:

  • Demons have wings like ministering angels

  • And [demons] fly from one end of the world to the other end [of the world] like ministering angels

  • And [demons] know what is destined to be in the future like ministering angels.

The Gemara interrupts the Baraisa to clarify this last point:

“Can it enter your mind that they know the future on their own?… Rather, the Baraisa means that [demons] hear what is announced from behind the Partition, like ministering angels.”

Doesn’t this excerpt from the Gemara conjure up visions of spies with recording devices, who fly all over the place in their personal jets and unmarked planes?

And here’s how demons are like humans, from that same Gemara:

  • Demons eat and drink like human beings
  • Demons are fruitful and multiply like human beings
  • And demons die like human beings.

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I haven’t made an exhaustive survey of every instance of where demons are mentioned in the Gemara, but one other notable place, in Niddah 24b, places demons bang in the middle of a discussion about aborted fetuses.

All this, when taken together, suggests quite a lot, doesn’t it?

To recap the main message:

before Moshiach actually is revealed (aka ‘the Tree’ gets watered), all these crime families and spy agencies start to turn on each other, and take each other out. And the demonic forces who are leading these activities are the talkers. Talkers could refer to journalists, spies, bloggers, social media ‘manipulators’ and also movies and Hollywood (the original home of the ‘talkies’.)

Demons look like human beings, but really aren’t.

They have zero real emuna and faith in Hashem (the ‘chicken feet’ = atheists), and they are organized as crime families and syndicates. You’ll find demons in the middle of abortions…. And in the middle of hurting children and other people… And in locations where men are lured to be ‘entrapped’ with harlots…. And demons love ‘devices’ and can listen in on people’s conversations, fly all over the world and appear to be totally untouchable.

The last thing to tell you about demons is probably the most important.

In Rebbe Nachman’s tale, he explains that the human beings who are with the Jewish Sage who stands up to the King Demon, and who are within his ‘circle’, are safe from the harm demons can do.

Rebbe Nachman tells us:

“The demons approached, but they could not come near [the humans] because of the circle [that the wise man had made] around them. [The King Demon] sent other messengers, but they also failed.”

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We need to stay close to the Tzaddik HaDor, and to stay far, far away from the places where these ‘demons’ hang out. When Moshiach comes, they will all disappear. But for now, they are still all over the place, and still causing a lot of harm, wars and ‘earthquakes’.

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What is Tisha B’Av really all about?

The last few days, I’ve been in a funny mood – you might have noticed. I’ve been feeling frustrated, angry, even a little bitter, that despite so much effort, I’m going into yet another Tisha B’av with what feels like zero progress on so many fronts.

In fact spiritually, I even feel as though I’ve been going backwards in some ways, recently. I tried to capture a little of that HERE, but I feel I’ve had so much brain fog going on the last weeks I’ve lost touch with my soul again.

Yes, I’ve still been doing an hour a day of talking to God (or trying to…) – sometimes even more. In the old days, I could sit down for a six hour talking to God session, usually on Shabbat when I had the time to spare, and come out of it feeling like something had really moved or ameliorated.

The last few months, even the six hours I’ve been doing don’t give me much of a spiritual ‘bounce’. The best I can say, is that I feel calmer, usually, and sometimes I get a bit more clarity, and a bit more hope and determination to continue.

But underneath all that, there’s this sense of what am I doing all this for? Where am I going? How can I carry on like this, aimlessly drifting because I can’t seem to get anywhere, still?

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On Shabbat, I did another six hours on why I feel like such a spiritual zombie so much of the time, when God threw me a clue:

I have tremendous amounts of despair gushing around still.

It’s not preventing me from getting on with things, day-to-day, and thank God, I’m not a depressed zombie or an angry, ranting cynic (most of the time…) but what I am is totally despairing that things are going to change. On the national level, it just seems to me like the ‘bad’ always wins, the superficial is always preferred, the lie is always more welcome than the truth.

In my own dalet amot, there seems to be so many things I’ve given up on or lost over the last few years, that I can’t seem to figure out how to get back. I know what happened with losing the apartment in Jerusalem, last year, was a massive blow, psychologically. Just as I thought I’d actually got somewhere – we signed, after all!!! – it all turned around for the worst, and left us with the biggest nightmare we’d had to deal with for a very long time.

It’s been a year since we made the agreement with our seller that saw us pay for all of her expenses (and of course ours…) as the ‘punishment’ for being dumb enough to trust her, and for being dumb enough to trust our dumb lawyer was actually doing his job. I think it’s taken a year for what happened to really work its way through my system.

The last 2 days, I realized that I’ve been effectively numbed-out for 18 months.

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Part of me knows it’s good to have had so many things not get anywhere, and to have so much frustration and failure. It keeps me humble. But it’s also keeping me lonely and despairing, because another part of me just doesn’t want to try anymore.

We’re meant to sit on the floor and weep over the destruction. Thank God, me and my family are healthy and we have a roof and food to eat. That’s already so much to be grateful for. But there are still parts of my life that appear to be ‘destroyed’, and that I can’t see any way of fixing.

I’ve pretty much given up on making new friends, for example. So many people have gone crazy the last few years, that I find it easier to keep my distance than too risk getting to close when the inevitable implosion happens. But I miss talking to people. I miss inviting people for Shabbat. I miss being part of something, socially.

And I just don’t see how it’s going to come back. I think I’m just too weird, these days, too out of sync with what passes for ‘normal’.

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Also, my spiritual side seems to be bumping along the bottom.

If not for the Rav and Rebbe Nachman, I really don’t know where I’d be because I am just going through the motions with so much of my yiddishkeit. I try to learn 2 laws of the Shulchan Aruch most days, with my husband. Of course I try to keep Shabbat, Kosher, the laws of Tisha B’Av etc etc – but I’m doing so much of that from a place of ‘default’, and not from a place of enthusiasm.

My kids keep telling me: we can’t pray, because we can’t really feel anything when we do.

I get them. I feel that about almost all the mitzvahs right now. There are so few things I’m doing that I can really feel I’m getting anything back from. My husband says this is good. He tells me this is keeping Torah lishma, for its own sake, and that this makes Hashem very happy.

I’m doing my best to believe him.

And in the meantime, I sit here spinning my wheels, wondering what I’m meant to be doing with my life. More pointless blog posts? More pointless books? More pointless efforts to try to move forward and ‘get somewhere’, even though it feels there is totally no point in even trying?

It’s a struggle of will each morning, to get out of bed and get on with the day, because it all feels so aimless and pointless.

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All this effort, but I’m so far from giving God what He really wants from me.

I’m still struggling with very harsh judgment calls against other people. I’m still lazy. I’m still selfish and self-centred, not really seeing other people in my picture and looking out for number 1.

The Temple isn’t rebuilt still, and I know who’s to blame for that: me.

Hard as I try, I can’t switch my ‘bad’ into good. I can’t be the force for good that God really wants me to be. I can’t resist goading people and provoking them, and seeing their ‘bad’.

So today, I’m going to try and sit on the floor, and spend some time mourning the destruction. I’m going to try to cry a bit, sincerely, for the trainwreck that modern life has become. It’s a place where we spend so much time staring at a screen, it hurts the eyes to look a real person straight in the face. It’s a place where the inner destruction is so total, we can’t feel anything anymore. Where the ability to really speak from the soul has been replaced by Whats App monologues and emojicons.

Today, I’m going to cry a bit, and spend some time engaging with the broken bits of my life.

I’m broken God, I’m clueless. I’m lost and hurting. I’ve given up on things ever really changing.

And I wish things were different.

But it’s totally beyond me to change them.

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The last few days, I’ve been in a funny mood.

I’m working on a book that’s explaining how the ‘animal’ brain that’s in charge of the body’s FIGHT-FLIGHT-FREEZE-FLATTER stress response has managed to hijack most people’s personalities, and it’s not coming easy.

So yesterday, I took my notepad and pens, and went to sit in the kever of Shimon HaTzaddik. I had the whole of the women’s section to myself, and I managed to write a lot about the FLATTER / EARTH dimension.

What’s so wrong with flattering other people? What’s so wrong with ‘making nice’ to people, even if they aren’t so nice and maybe are doing things that are really, really wrong?

That’s what I was trying to explain.

I wrote 10 pages, and came home. But, I was still feeling restless, so next I went off to Kever Rachel, up the road from me, where I sat down and tried to write about FREEZE / WATER. That’s where you isolate yourself, get discouraged and depressed, and totally give up on humanity (and yourself…) because there’s just no point.

I came home, made supper – but was still feeling restless. So in the evening, my husband and I went off to the Kotel, where I sat before the Wall for an hour writing about FLIGHT / AIR, which is where you can’t sit still, you can’t focus, you’re full of worry and anxiety and nervous energy which keeps you constantly ‘doing’ and stops you from really thinking about anything too deeply.

At the end of all that, I realized: the world is in such a big mess.

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Two weeks ago, I happened to trip over a ‘fake dayan’ in the course of researching something else.

Without going into details, he’d clearly forged his dayanut claims, and was a small-town crook pretending to be a ‘dayan’ who’d been invested by the Eida HaChareidit. He lives in chutz l’aretz, in a place where there are very few knowledgeable Jews who are able to catch him out, and he’s an excellent con man.

I’m still mulling over what to do with this information, particularly as he seems to have ‘retired’ from his claims of being a dayan to go and do other things.

Really, far more disturbing to me than the fake dayan himself, who clearly didn’t get enough love from his mum when he was growing up, are all the apparently real rabbis he was associating with. These ‘real’ rabbis must have known he was a total fake, but they apparently kept their mouths shut because it suited the enterprises they were associated with to be able to claim they had a fake dayan on board.

Why? Because having a dayan is a great USP.

These days, there a million people claiming to have smicha, or rabbinic ordination, but being a dayan is still a notable achievement. It still stands out. It still impresses people. And it’s much, much harder to fake, because it takes a minimum of seven years to achieve and actually requires some real knowledge of halacha that is rigorously tested by other very knowledgeable Jews.

That’s part of how I know this fake dayan is so clearly and utterly fake.

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So how did this guy manage to fool so many other ‘real’ rabbis, especially here in Israel?

Simple.

He didn’t. They knew he was totally fake, but they kept their mouths shut because they wanted to encourage more clueless non-Jews to hand money over to their organisations.

As I was researching this, I was wondering how could so many of our ‘real’ rabbis have such bad middot, and no-one else appears to be noticing it? How can they be such vain, money-obsessed phoneys, and yet people are still lining up on Facebook (and elsewhere) to laud them and praise them?

After doing a lot of praying on it, it came to me that LIKE ATTRACTS LIKE.

For as long as we ourselves are totally obsessed with dollar bills, it’s not going to strike us as ‘strange’ that a ‘rabbi’ spends literally half his shiur just talking about money. For as long as we ourselves are full of hatred and harsh judgments and anger, it’s not going to put us off to hear someone dissing a whole generation of young Jews, or upset us when ‘secular people’ get written off as being totally evil and beyond repair.

In fact, quite the opposite. We’ll actually be thrilled to hear all this stuff, and we’ll heartily approve of this hashkafa, because it’s just confirming our own bad middot and our own warped outlook on life.

LIKE ATTRACTS LIKE.

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Right now, there is an earthquake brewing under Manhattan and under the Knesset.

Without going into details, I think that a scandal is about to break that is going to turn the Jewish name into mud all over the world.

It’s up to God how much attention it will get, and how much damage it will actually do, but it could mark a turning point, because as long as the Jews and the Jewish State can claim the moral high ground, the good people of the world will be on their side and supporting them against the anti-Semites.

But what happens when a bunch of very prominent Jews are publically exposed as doing a lot of very ‘wrong’ things? Things that are so sickening and so morally perverted that any right thinking person will be totally disgusted?

What then?

It’s an interesting question.

How many Harveys and Jefferys and Bernies can non-Jewish society take, before it starts to dawn on them that Houston, we have a problem?

God is about to shine a massive spotlight down onto Jewish communities all over the world. We are heading into that next part of the birur, or clarification, process when more and more people will be singled out and asked:

Why didn’t you protest what was going on? How were you happy to keep on justifying such awful behavior, such monstrous people? How could you continue to hang out with these people, without noticing that something was terribly wrong? And to even praise them to others?

And the answer will be:

LIKE ATTRACTS LIKE.

We didn’t notice the problem by them, because we had it ourselves, in some way.

But soon, God’s going to start exposing all these ‘hidden’ issues in the Jewish community in the most distressing way.

And then, there will be no more pretending.

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Another timely prayer from the ravberland.com site

Heads up, they are putting together an A-Z index of prayers written by Rabbi Eliezer Berland over on the site, HERE.

Each week, they are trying to put a few more English translations of the Rav’s prayers up, because a little while back the Rav said that very big things, spiritually, depend on more of these prayers getting out into the world.

Today, they just put up a new prayer to recite if you want to avoid getting angry, or pulled into slandering other Jews – which is just so easy to do, with the evil internet.

It spoke to me a lot, so I’m replicating it below:

Prayer to avoid anger and slander against background of a snake

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Also, as I promised I would do at the end of this post, I’ve written out the first part of the sources from the Gemara Tractate Sanhedrin 97b. I thought it was a very good resource to share widely, so I’ve posted it up on my blog over the ravberland site HERE.

If you can’t be bothered to read the whole thing, this is a very brief summary of what it says:

Summing up the discussion between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua in Sanhedrin 97b:

Rabbi Eliezer is arguing that the Jewish people have to make real, self-motivated teshuva for the geula to come, and so Hashem will wait as long as it takes for this to happen (like maybe, even another 200 years….)

Rabbi Yehoshua is arguing that there is a ‘fixed’ time for the geula, or end of days, to occur, and if the Jewish people haven’t made the necessary teshuva by that point Hashem will bring massive tribulations to the world to ‘force’ them to repent ahead of the deadline for geula. Whoever makes it through these tribulations will then make it to geula and Zion, i.e. Israel.

Rabbi Eliezer tries to argue, but eventually he concedes that Rabbi Yehoshua is correct.

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Are Chazal also ‘scaremongering?”

That is the question.

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UPDATE:

A comment from Orna prompted this response. After I wrote it, I thought I should actually stick it up as an addendum to this post. Enough with all the pettiness and machloket, already! Are all of us so ‘fixed’ we have nothing better to do than keep pointing out issues in other people? The whole world is just a mirror. Whenever we’re slagging someone else off, some other group of Jews off, we’re really just talking about ourselves.

Who cares what group of Jews Moshiach ‘belongs’ to, as long as he just shows up already? Tzaddikim are not football teams, that you can only support one side. ALL our Tzaddikim are beloved and valuable. BH, Rabbi Berland will last the distance and be able to make the jump from ‘hezkat Moshiach’ to the full thing.

If he doesn’t manage to rebuild the temple and ingather all the exiles – then he will be just the potential Moshiach of the generation. That’s all! No big deal. No need for all this crazy hysteria. Until the temple is rebuilt, no-one can say with 100% certainty who the Moshiach was.

All we know is that he’ll be the leader of the generation, and he can’t come back from the dead. Apart from that, none of us are any wiser. In the meantime, I think Rabbi Berland has the best shot of being Moshiach in our generation, and it’s no sin – at all! – to say that and publicize it.

All these people talking about ‘false messiahs’ – it’s all just a reflection of their own issues, their own problems. May God help us all to find the inner peace we need to stop turning Moshiach into some sort of ridiculous competition.

We are surrounded on all sides by people who hate us. If even we observant Jews are letting the crazy nutjobs in our midst stir trouble between us all the time, to prevent us from sticking together, what hope is there, really, of getting geula the sweet way?

====

Orna, the more I think about all this, the more I think it’s just a ‘plan’ from the Sitra Achra to keep Jews at each other’s throats. There are always questions around the biggest Tzaddikim, that’s just how it is. They are operating in a realm that is far, far above what us mere mortals can grasp. The more honest amongst us will admit that.

I’m personally very uncomfortably with any suggestion that a Beit HaMikdash could be anywhere except Jerusalem. However, I’m not going to write off a whole bunch of Jews who believe that it could be in New York, even though I totally disagree with that idea myself.

In the Gemara, we see time and time again how the Tannaim had massive disagreements with each other about some very important issues. We can disagree about all these things without going at each other’s throats and starting to say other Jews aren’t ‘kosher’, or aren’t ‘Jewish enough’.

Who are we to judge? We can’t see inside people’s neshamas to know what’s really going on.

In the Gemara (Tractate Ketubot 103a), the students of Rebbe Yehuda HaNasi the Prince were so upset at his death, they made a decree that anyone who says that Rebbe Yehuda was dead should be stabbed with a knife:

“It is related that on the day that Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi died, the Sages decreed a fast, and begged for divine mercy so that he would not die. And they said: Anyone who says that Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi has died will be stabbed with a sword.”

That same Tractate explains how Yehuda HaNasi used to come back to his home for Shabbat AFTER HE DIED, to make kiddush with his family:

“The Gemara explains: Every Shabbat eve, even after his passing, Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi would come to his house as he had done during his lifetime, and he therefore wished for everything to be set up as usual. The Gemara relates the following incident: It happened on a certain Shabbat eve that a neighbor came by and called and knocked at the door. His maidservant said to her: Be quiet, for Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi is sitting. When he heard his maidservant reveal his presence to the neighbor, he did not come again, so as not to cast aspersions on earlier righteous individuals who did not appear to their families following their death.”

I agree there’s some very important clarifications and distinctions that need to be brought out with all this.

Dead tzaddikim cannot be Moshiach, that’s what the Rambam ruled, and that’s the halacha we all follow.

At the same time, Tzaddikim are greater after their deaths than they are in their lifetime, and their souls are active in the world, and accessible, in some way to those of us left behind.

Christianity stole a lot of these – the deepest! – ideas in authentic yiddishkeit and warped them to their own ends. We need to clarify things so we can get them back into their right space, spiritually.

At the same time, after I started researching all this stuff with Chabad conversions being maligned and questioned, etc it made me very upset.

The people who led the charge against Chabad after the Rebbe died also had a very obvious agenda to ridicule and disparage chassidut generally, because it didn’t fit their unspiritual approach to yiddishkeit.

That’s why I brought this Gemara, to show that a lot of the attacks against Chabad have originated from ignorance of our Torah sources (at best…)

We can disagree with other Jews, without getting into personal attacks.

This isn’t directed specifically at you, btw, Orna, just this is what has flowed out of my finger tips as a result of your comment.

The true tzaddikim are all working together to bring geula the sweetest way possible, in ways the rest of us can’t even understand.

Our job is just to keep our mouths shut, work on overcoming our own bad middot and to give EVERY TZADDIK their due respect, regardless of whether he’s ‘our’ Tzaddik or not.

That’s part of what I like so much about Breslov. They respect every Torah sage out there, Litvak, Sephardi, Karlin – whatever it is.

The label doesn’t matter, just what’s in people’s hearts.

 

What did the Lubavitcher Rebbe mean, when he said there would never be another holocaust?

One day, Rebbe Nachman was walking along with a group of his students, when they happened to walk past a home where someone had just passed away. The bereaved family members were crying and shrieking, and beseeching God in a very distraught way. Rebbe Nachman turned to his followers and told them:

“What they are doing at the end, I want you to do at the beginning!”

It’s human nature to want to stick our head in the sand, and to avoid all the unpleasantness and the scary things going on around us. Why think about it? Why worry ourselves?

But Rebbe Nachman made many statements where he urged his followers to do the exact opposite.

“Why do we allow God to bring evil decrees to the world?!” he once said to them.

We should be praying, and beseeching, and clapping our hands, and dancing, and making the teshuva required to really sweeten these decrees!

==

Right now, we can still do something about the ‘scary stuff’ we can see looming in the future, and that every single one of us can feel lurking under the surface. 

God doesn’t want us to put our heads in the sand and pretend everything is A-OK, and that people can continue spitting in God’s face in a million different ways but it’ll still all end up being fine and dandy.

How can that be?

God created the world according to certain rules, and one of the biggest is the concept of reward and punishment. There are real consequences for bad behavior, sometimes very big consequences. If a person continues to go against what God really wants for them, and how He really wants them to be living their lives – and they don’t wake up and make some sincere teshuva – then they will have to deal with the consequences of their bad behavior.

====

In the meantime, putting our head in the sand is not helping anyone – not even ourselves!

God wants us to be crying out to Him, and making teshuva, and realizing that unless we are really holding firm to the Tzaddik of the generation, we could honestly get flung a million miles away, as God continues to shake the world.

“Regarding the Messianic age it is written: ‘To grasp the ends of the earth and shake the wicked from it.’  However, one who is attracted to a True Tzaddik can grasp hold of him and not be cast off. Holding on to the Tzaddik, he can remain firm.”[1]

==

Rabbi Berland isn’t telling us about the thousands of rockets pointed at Eretz Yisrael because he wants to pointlessly scare the pants off us.

He’s just pointing out the obvious – the bleedingly obvious – to rouse us to really start praying, and working on all the bad middot and teshuva we need to make to get these harsh decrees sweetened.

That’s why I get a little frustrated when I read emails like this:

“I’m keeping up with all the world news, craziness and all like always but I try to bring myself away from the doomsday stuff. It’s so scary when it’s so close to the end. The words Rav Berland is sending out now are really making me nervous. It makes me daven harder but I can’t imagine Hashem taking out anything on his children at this point. We just passed כ סיון which I learned all about recently. So many horrors have happened to us, I just can’t see anymore happening. Too many earlier tzaddikim like the Lubavicher Rebbe said it will be with rachamim and all Jews will be ok, I am trying to keep calm with that. I know what the autistics are saying but I am hoping Hashem will only fulfill the good.”

====

Do I understand that all this stuff is scary, and that we’d for sure all prefer things to come the sweeter way with no more bloodshed and suffering?

Of course!

Is the ‘sweeter way’ going to happen, if we don’t make every effort to do all the things I keep pointing out again and again and again, namely:

  • Praying our socks off – and making every effort to join in with Rabbi Berland’s prayer gatherings, however we can manage it.
  • Making some real teshuva, including working on our bad middot and ‘getting real’ about just how imperfect we actually are. 
  • Hanging on to the true tzaddik of the generation – whoever that guy might be – and telling other people about him, too?

Nope, it isn’t.

====

Which brings me to another point of clarification.

Over the years, I’ve read so many comments from people who are convinced that the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, z’tl, (who was unquestionably a giant Tzaddik and probably the Moshiach of his generation) apparently said that the geula  is only going to come totally the sweet way, with no more death or suffering.

Even my correspondent, above, mentioned this:

“Too many earlier tzaddikim like the Lubavicher Rebbe said it will be with rachamim and all Jews will be ok.”

(Incidentally, apart from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, I don’t know of the other tzaddikim who have said anything like this. If any reader wants to share me some sources, I’d be very grateful.)

Now, I’ve been trying to track down the statement, or statements, that the Rebbe actually said, to give people this impression, and so far, this is what I’ve turned up (with some help from my friend, C.A. – ta!)

Before we continue, let me just point out that wherever possible, I’ve been trying to track down verifiable statements that were made by the Rebbe himself, and not just other people’s explanations of what they think he was saying.

There is certainly a time and a place for interpreting our Sages words, but the starting point has to be a clear explanation of what they actually said to begin with.

==

What the Lubavitcher Rebbe said about ‘no Jew being left behind’ when geula comes:

“Leah, ‘for now my husband will be united with me.’ In an ultimate sense, this verse refers to the unity of the Jewish people with G‑d. That unity will be revealed in the Messianic age, when all the Jews will leave the exile; not one Jew will remain. In the redemption from the Babylonian exile, many Jews, among them the Torah sages and the Levi’im, remained in Babylon. However, in regard to the future redemption ‘a great congregation will return,’ ‘you, children of Israel, will be gathered one by one,’ no Jew will remain in exile. Thus, in preparation for this redemption, efforts must be made to increase Jewish unity as explained above in regard to the Ushpizin related to the present evening.”

From here:

5th Night of Sukkos, 5745 (1984)

====

What the Lubavitcher Rebbe said about every THING being redeemed:

The redemption will involve freeing all the elements of existence that have been subjugated in the exile. Nothing will be lost.2 On the contrary, everything will be redeemed. Every single Jew will be redeemed. We will leave “with our youth and with our elders… with our sons and with our daughters.” And “their gold and silver will accompany them.” All the positive activities and achievements of the Jews (and also the non-Jews) in the exile will not be nullified. What will be nullified is the concealment of the world’s true inner being which is brought on by the material substance of the world and the subjugation to the rules of nature that exists at present. But all the positive aspects of the exile will remain, and indeed will be elevated.”

From here:

Shabbos Parshas Acharei-Kedoshim, 13th Day of Iyar, 5751 (1991)

==

The Lubavitcher Rebbe on the holocaust:

I also found this news report from December 31st, 1990 on the JTA website, which quoted the Lubavitcher Rebbe as disagreeing with a statement made by the late Rabbi Schach, z’tl, that the holocaust came about as a form of Divine retribution because of the millions of Jews who had thrown off the Yoke of Torah and Mitzvot. Rabbi Shach also said that something similar could happen again, God forbid.

This is how the Lubavitcher Rebbe was quoted as responding to those statements, in the report:

“[Rabbi] Schneerson was especially vociferous in his attack on the notion, expounded by [Rabbi] Schach, that further retributive suffering might befall the Jewish people if they fail to abide by Jewish law.

“This suggestion is unconscionable,” the rebbe declared, without mentioning who had made it. “The future bodes only well for the Jewish people. There will never be another Holocaust. There will be redemption and joy.””

==

It makes for interesting reading, doesn’t it?

If this last news report I brought was accurate, then the Rebbe does seem to be clearly saying there will never by another Holocaust. Let’s take each part of this last statement and explore it a little more closely:

The future bodes only well for the Jewish people.

 Who can argue with this? The principles of emuna state clearly that God is doing everything, and that everything that God does – even the bad, apparently yucky stuff – is ultimately for our own good. And of course, the ultimate ‘future’ is redemption, Moshiach, world peace etc.

But the Lubavitcher Rebbe is NOT saying that there won’t be any more suffering or death before we get there.

There will never be another Holocaust.

Amen, let’s really hope so.

Rabbi Berland has said on a few occasions that if you look through Jewish history, you see there was some sort of terrible destruction, pogrom or holocaust every 70 years or so.

A big part of why he went into exile and willingly took so much disgrace upon himself was to prevent this next ‘holocaust’ from happening. And that effort is continuing today, with the prayer gatherings, and all the terrible physical suffering the Rav is going through with his non-stop serious illnesses.

A couple of months ago, he also stated that unless more of Am Yisrael get with the program and start doing our bit to help sweeten the harsh judgments on the horizon, he may well have to take yet more disgrace and exile on to himself, and that it will be much, much harder even than what came before.

The mind boggles as to what that could actually mean.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe was an enormous Tzaddik, and he overlapped with Rabbi Berland.

He certainly knew about Rabbi Berland, and he could see what was coming.

(It’s a side note, but my Lubavitch friend told me that the Rebbe always used to get very upset when people referred to him as being Moshiach. Even though the Rebbe often said that the Moshiach was here, he NEVER said that he himself was the Moshiach. It’s just more interesting food for thought, that I’m putting out there to mull over.)

Is it too far-fetched to say that the Rebbe could see there would be a Tzaddik 30 years in the future who would sacrifice himself totally for the Jewish people, in order to prevent an otherwise ‘inevitable’ holocaust from happening again?

Or to put it another way, both Rav Shach and the Lubavitcher Rebbe were right.

But we only get to avoid the ‘inevitable’ holocaust if we’re take the threat of it very seriously, and cry out to Hashem and making the appropriate teshuva. Sticking our heads in the sand and kind of hoping for the best just isn’t going to work.

Lastly, we have:

“There will be redemption and joy.”

Again, who can argue with this? Amen and amen and amen.

BUT – that doesn’t mean there won’t also be more suffering and people dying.

In the 29 years since the Rebbe first made this statement, has there only been ‘redemption and joy’? Has there been no suffering?

Since 1990, Israel has gone through three Intifadas, and a number of wars.

Since 1990, so many people have lost their loved ones in tragic circumstances.

So many marriages have gone to the wall. So many people have lost their faith, or their minds. So many people have had to deal with challenges of an enormous magnitude.

It just isn’t realistic to sit there saying “all Jews will be OK” without qualifying that statement by adding but only if they make the necessary teshuva. Only if they stop destroying the world and spitting in God’s face. Only if they get close to the true tzaddikim.

====

Otherwise, how exactly is this meant to work?

That a totally unrepentant Mr Rainbow-Chasing-Chazer-Eating-Haredi-Hater with the worst middot in the world also gets the red carpet rolled out for them, to come and have a VIP tour of the Beit HaMikdash and personal meeting with Moshiach?

Really?

When the Lubavitcher Rebbe says that every single Jew will be redeemed, and that no Jew will be left behind, we need to remember that the same could be said of the Exodus from Egypt.

Every single Israelite who made it through the plague of darkness alive, was redeemed.

But four fifths were lost, before things even got to that stage.

There’s a scary midrash that “predicts” only 700 Jews will live to see the coming of Moshiach and the Temple being rebuilt. Now THAT is a scary thought, even for me.

But what if the geula coming b’rachamim just means anything over 700 people make it through to the finish line?

==

Like I said, the point of this post isn’t doom or gloom.

Rather, it’s to snap us out of all the unhelpful and unrealistic wishful thinking about geula, to make the point that until and unless more of us wake up, start joining in the prayer gatherings, start rallying more Jews around the flag of the real tzaddikim and start working on the enormous bad middot that are preventing us from really doing what’s required, here, the geula coming the sweet way j- with no more suffering – just isn’t going to happen.

Rav Avigdor Miller noted something similar about what occurred just before WWII. He said that God didn’t want to bring the harsh decree of Hitler and the holocaust, but He was waiting for the Jews to band together, make teshuva, and to start crying out for mercy, the same way they did at the time of Haman.

Sadly, that didn’t happen.

Why not? According to Rabbi Miller – the secular Jewish media and Jewish atheists were to blame. They wasted an ocean of ink denouncing Hitler, but couldn’t spare a single drop to encourage the Jews to rally around their true tzaddikim, and return to God.

God forbid, that should happen again.

[1] #22, His Rebbe Nachman’s Wisdom, published by the Breslov Research Institute

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UPDATE:

A reader just sent me a translated Kuntres apparently written and edited by the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s own hand, with the following message:

“Regarding your most recent blog of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, there is unquestionably evidence throughout the Rebbe’s sichos where he indeed strongly hinted that he could be Moshiach. Several places he said that that Nosi HaDor is the Moshiach of the Dor. There is an entire kuntres called Beis Rabeinu Shebebavel , entirely edited by his own hand, with this concept, where he explains the uniqueness of 770, among other things it being Beis Moshiach. Anyone who learns this kuntres, it’s hard to arrive at any other conclusion besides the Rebbe hinting that he could be Moshiach. Here it is, in the original, and with an English translation, if you would like to take a look for yourself:”

You can download it as a PDF here: Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Kuntres on Beit Rabbenu

(The last link ‘broke’, so this is a PDF that will automatically download. I found it very interesting reading.)

There’s a lot of confusion about this subject, but I want to stress that the sources talk very clearly about their being TWO moshiachs, Moshiach ben Yosef, and Moshiach ben David.

In the post I wrote about who’s holding up the geula, I brought the following quote:

In Kol HaTor Chapter 2, Section 2, Letter bet, the Vilna Gaon says the following:

 “The general purpose of the two moshiachs, Moshiach ben Yosef and Moshiach ben David, throughout all the generations has been to protect and fight against the three ‘heads’ of the klipot (evil husks): Eisav, Yishmael and the Erev Rav…..

“….the Erev Rav is our greatest enemy, the one who separates the two moshiachs. The klipah of the Erev Rav works only through deception and roundabout ways. Therefore, the war against the Erev Rav is the most difficult and bitterest of all. We must strengthen ourselves for this war, anyone who does not participate in the battle against the Erev Rav becomes, defacto, a partner with the klipah of the Erev Rav, and was better off not being born in the first place.”

It’s important to understand that these two moshiachs are not in ‘competition’.

It’s not a case of ‘my Rebbe is bigger than your Rebbe’.  The two Moshiachs are on the same side, and trying to work together, to bring the geula, but they both have different approaches and achieve different results. Rebbe Nachman explains this concept in a beautiful way in one of his stories, which I covered in this article: Moshiach ben Yosef vs Moshiach ben David.

I think maybe the time has also come to take a closer look at whether it’s possible for a Moshiach to come from the dead.

This is a very sensitive topic, I know. But I think it needs airing out respectfully, and with as many sources behind it as possible to see what conclusions our Sages came to, and how they got there.

A big part of the problem is that so many people have ideas about ‘Moshiach’ and geula that aren’t at all rooted in Torah sources. For example, there is a discussion in the Gemara (Sanhedrin 98b) that closely examines the idea of whether the Moshiach can come back from the dead. It’s not a ‘lunatic fringe’ issue, like it’s so often made out to be, it was a serious question that was debated by some of the biggest Sages that ever lived.

The ultimate conclusion is ‘no’, but if you follow the debate, you can see it’s not at all as black and white as it’s often portrayed to be.

BH, I will put together as many Torah sources on the subject as I can over the next few days, and we will learn about it together. As much as possible, it’s time to build some bridges, to put all the ‘hysteria’ to one side, and to take a calm, gentle and measured look at this topic.

With an awful lot of help from Hashem.

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Sometimes, a picture speaks a thousand words.

Definition of clickbait

something (such as a headline) designed to make readers want to click on a hyperlink especially when the link leads to content of dubious value or interest.
“It is difficult to remember a time when you could scroll through the social media outlet of your choice and not be bombarded with: You’ll never believe what happened when … This is the cutest thing ever … This the biggest mistake you can make … Take this quiz to see which character you are on … They are all classic clickbait models.”
— Emily Shire

Cartoon of an angler fish using'click bait' to entice a naive reader (fish)

Nuff said.

Rabbi Berland’s New Prayer to Move to Israel.

So many of the people I’m in touch with want to move to Israel, but feel totally petrified about the whole idea of uprooting their whole lives, and trying to plonk them down again in a totally different country, however holy that country may actually be, and however much God really wants the Jews to move to Israel.

This is totally understandable. Moving country is not a simple thing, it has profound consequences for everyone involved. You can understand why so many otherwise believing Jews are twisting the words of the Torah, ignoring the whole ‘sin of the spies’ episode, and making all sorts of bizarre claims about there being no need for Jews to move to the Land of Israel.

The fear is in control. The fear is running the show.

Fear is one of the yetzer hara’s most powerful tools for keeping people away from doing the right thing. How many people stay trapped in a secular lifestyle, because they are scared of what people will say, or what’s going to be, if they take the plunge and start keeping kosher….

Or take the plunge and start keeping Shabbat….

Or take the plunge, and start dressing more modestly….

Or take the plunge, and ditch the i-Phone for something far more basic and better for the soul….

Moving to Israel is no different, except the fear is less about what people will say – because after all, it’s a new start, and you’re leaving the people who are against moving to Israel behind – and much more about what will be.

Will I find work?

Will I find friends?

Will I find a place to live?

Will my kids acclimatize OK?

And maybe the biggest fear of all:

Will I regret doing this for the rest of my life?

====

Again, all these fears are totally, 100% normal and reasonable to have. If we don’t acknowledge that these fears are coming from a rational place, and that they have to be addressed properly, rather than squashed or mocked, then we can’t move forward with the whole discussion of moving to Israel.

Israel is the land of emuna, it’s where a person can really start to LIVE their belief that God is running the whole world, and not just talk about it.

The answer to all of the ‘issues’ stated above – the answer to every ‘issue’ and worry a person has about moving to Israel ultimately boils down to the same thing:

God is in control. Whatever God decides, that’s what’s going to happen.

====

That’s a massive level of emuna to be striving for, isn’t it? And I’m not sure that I’m there myself, really, although I’d certainly like to be.

But the more we can live our life from that genuine place of really believing in Him, and really believing in concepts like reward and punishment, and really believing that 99% of the ‘yuck’ we go through in our lives we totally bring on ourselves, via our own bad middot – the more easy we will be able to deal with any potential move to Israel.

Really, there’s only one answer to ‘why move to Israel?’

I could tell you about the amazing day I spent yesterday, swimming with my family in a stream up North, together with a bunch of frum Jews with payot, and fully-clothed Beis Yaakov girls all happily splashing about.

I could tell you about last Wednesday night, when I went off to the Kotel to recite some tehillim for the Rav, and how I watched the swallows duck and dive, swooping so close to the wall before soaring back up into the heavens.

I could tell you about how everything here is kosher (I live in Jerusalem. That’s not true of everywhere in Israel, especially not Tel Aviv.)

I could tell you about the farm one of my kids went to volunteer on last week, up in the Shomron hills, that’s being started by an idealistic young Jewish couple.

I could talk about the sun, the sea, the way my soul just feels way, way happier here, and way, way more peaceful than it ever did in London.

But really, all of these things are missing the point.

The point of moving to Israel, is because it’s a mitzvah that God commanded the Jews to keep.

So maybe you’ll move here, and you really will struggle with making a living. And you really will go through years of feeling so lonely. And you really will find it very hard to ever buy your own place, especially in Jerusalem.

And maybe you won’t.

But the point is, whatever happens to us in Israel – and in New York, and in London, and in Melbourne, and in Paris – it’s all just to bring home that same message:

God is in control. Whatever God decides, that’s what’s going to happen.

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If a person is really working on their emuna, then they will increasingly be living their life according to this idea wherever they happen to live.

But there’s another point to make here, and that’s the idea of having some humility, and overcoming our own arrogance. Or to put it another way, to start thinking much more about what does God want from me, and much less about what do I want from God.

We are here to serve God, not the other way around.

Again, let’s keep things real.

This is a huge spiritual level! It’s a level that we will have to struggle and fight for ad 120. It doesn’t come easily to anyone, and especially not to those people who find it very difficult to put anyone else’s needs and wants ahead of their own.

That’s why there are two things that really clear the path to moving to Israel, and those two things are:

  1. Working on our own bad middot
  2. Working on our emuna, particularly the idea that we are in control of our lives

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We need to pray to get to Israel.

That’s part of the process of really getting ‘ready’ to actually live here. We need to pray to get here, and we need to pray that all the bad middot that are stopping us from moving somehow disappear. And then once we’re here, we need to carry on praying every single day, that we will continue to have the merit of staying here.

Because in Israel, all the bad middot that we fooled ourselves we didn’t have in chutz l’aretz come roaring out of the closet.

Because God wants us to finally start dealing with them, and acknowledging them, and to stop making excuses about what we are really down here to work on and fix.

BTW, that’s also why even the very process of moving to Israel can be so very taxing and upsetting. It’s all part of the preparation process for the spiritual work of developing some real humility, and understanding that God is in charge of the world, not us.

All this sounds like a lot of hard work, doesn’t it?

And honestly, it is.

You can totally understand why so many otherwise believing Jews would prefer to stay in chutz l’aretz and pretend that moving to Israel is something God doesn’t really require of anyone. It’s certainly much easier that way, it’s certainly much more comfortable.

At least, on one level.

====

This post isn’t for those people.

This post is for the people who are really yearning and longing to get here, and who really do know that God wants the Jewish people to be in Israel, but who can’t quite manage to overcome their fears (yet!) in order to give God what He really wants.

For those people, there is a shortcut to moving to Israel, which is basically the power of prayer. Every prayer we say on this subject, shortens the road we need to walk in order to get here. Why? Because it’s tackling the obstacles that are blocking our path at their root.

A praying person is a person who already acknowledges, at least on some level, that God is in control. A praying person is someone who knows that God is behind all the difficulties, and that if we start to clean up our own act, particularly with our own bad middot like arrogance, laziness, greed and complacency, that God will then blast so many of the ‘issues’ keeping us stuck out of the way, too.

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That’s why Israel is really only acquired via prayer.

And that’s why so many of the people who actually live in Israel still haven’t really ‘got here’ spiritually, even though they moved here with their bodies, or were born here.

Those people moan all the time about what’s going on in Israel. They complain all the time about the taxes, and about other groups of Jews, and about all the ‘bad’ they see going on all around them, because the whole world is just one big mirror, and God is beaming a very unpleasant reflection straight into their faces.

Like we said above, in Israel, bad middot are amplified – both ours, and other people’s – so we’ll stop making excuses, and finally knuckle down to the work of fixing them.

Luckily, there is a shortcut. The shortcut is to get close to our true tzaddikim, to follow their advice, and to use their prayers to circumvent all the stuff that’s holding us back from being able to even describe the problem, let alone deal with it.

Rebbe Nachman’s advice to do an hour a day of hitbodedut has totally transformed my approach to the world, and it’s the single biggest ‘help’ to navigating life in Israel. You can read more about it HERE. But in the meantime, I want to share with you a prayer that Rabbi Berland just put out for people who want to move to Israel, but who are stuck, somehow.

It’s not a long prayer, but it sums up so precisely what’s really going on when people get stuck unable to make aliya, even though they admit it’s the right thing to do.

You can see the original HERE, but here’s what it says:

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A Prayer to Come to Eretz Yisrael

TO MERIT COMING TO ERETZ YISRAEL WITHOUT LOSING ANYTHING. TO SELL EVERYTHING FOR ITS FULL VALUE. AND MAY I MERIT LEAVING THE DEFILEMENT OF THE LAND OF THE NATIONS THAT WE ARE IMMERSED IN. AND MAY WE SMASH ALL OF THE OBSTACLES THAT ARE MOSTLY OBSTACLES OF THE MIND.

Master of the World, who can do everything. Merit me to go up to Eretz Yisrael with sublime self-sacrifice. That I leave all of the property and all of the belongings that I have outside of Eretz Yisrael. That I not leave anything over, that I not leave any remembrance.

Rather, I should sell everything as quick as possible at full value, and not lose even one pruta by moving to Eretz Yisrael. And may I not incur any other damages by moving to Eretz Yisrael.

For we have no more strength to stay in exile, in chutz la’aretz, even for one second.

We want to go up to the land of our forefathers, that you gave to our forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, “The land flowing with milk and honey”.

For Eretz Yisrael is holier than any other land in the world.

And Hashem Your G-d chose her over all other precious things in the world.”

Please, Hashem, merit me to go up to Eretz Yisrael with self-sacrifice,

“And bring us to Your Holy Mountain.”

For we have no more strength to stay in chutz la’aretz, but on the other hand we’ve been here for so long, in the defilement of the land of the nations, and we have no idea how to free ourselves from it.

Now we are turning to You, with humble kneeling and prostration:

Help us, Hashem our G-d, to come to Eretz Yisrael in the blink of an eye! And help us to break all of the obstacles, and all of the postponements, for the main obstacle is in the mind.   

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May Hashem help us to give Him what He really wants, as easily as possible.

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Did you ever stop to wonder how Moshe Rabbenu would go down in Monsey?

“Shlomie! Shlomie! You gotta hear this! Some guy in a frock just showed up in the beis medrash, and told everyone he’s the Moshiach!!!”

Shlomie heaved his stomach back inside the belt line of his black pants, stood up and went over to talk to his chevrusa Yankie, who was anxiously pacing backwards and forwards by the kollel’s coffee vending machine.

“Whaddya talking about, Shlomie? Calm down, speak slower. Who just showed up in the beis medrash?”

Yankie took a breath, stopped pacing, and turned to Shlomie.

“Some guy called Moshe something… He said G-d sent him to redeem the Jews, and he wants to take us out of Monsey to the promised land!”

Shlomie’s eyes narrowed. Another nut-job talking about G-d!

The last 210 years, there’d been a lot of these imposters who’d showed up trying to con the Jews of Monsey that one day they’d have to leave and go to the ‘holy land’. Wherever that place was meant to be…

“Where is this guy?” Shlomie demanded. “I wanna talk to him.”

With Yankie following behind, Shlomie headed off to the beis medrash, swung the doors open, and saw a tall, bearded figure standing in the corner with his eyes shut, rapturously reciting the bracha over a cup of water out loud.

Shlomie whispered to Yankie,

“Uhoh, this already doesn’t look good! What’s with this guy’s accent? Is he Sephardi?! And who spends five minutes blessing a cup of water?! This is definitely bitul Torah!”

Yankie muttered back, “Shlomie, we didn’t get the Torah yet…” But Shlomie didn’t hear him, as he’d already marched up to ‘Moshe the moshiach’ determined to kick this imposter out of the beis medrash.

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“Sooo, Moishe… where’d you learn?” challenged Shlomie.

Moshe Rabbenu studied Shlomie with wise, kind eyes and told him gently:

“I’ve spent the last 60 years communing with Hashem in the desert.”

Shlomie eyes rolled so far back in his head they almost popped out his neck. Geez, the nerve of this guy!!! Still, Shlomie prided himself on being open-minded, so he decided to ask a couple more questions before officially excommunicating him.

“So, who’s your Rav?” he asked.

Moshe lowered his head slightly and said:

“Hashem. Hashem’s teaching me Torah. Although I did meet Rabbi Akiva a little while back…”

Shlomie snorted again. What? That guy whose parents were goyim who converted?!?

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He tried one last time, just to be nice.

“Where did you grow up? Did you study at the Mir?”

“I grew up in Pharoah’s palace,” Moshe Rabbenu replied gently. “I had to flee Monsey-raim at the age of 20 after I killed an Egyptian by uttering one of Hashem’s ineffable names. I never got a chance to learn at the Mir….”

“Kishoofim!!!!” roared out Shlomie. “Out, out, get outta here with all your dangerous Moshiach talk! You’re nothing but a crack-pot, a false messiah, a person who’s trying to pull the Jews away from learning Torah with all your talk about serving Hashem!”

Yankie muttered again “But Shlomie, we didn’t get the Torah yet…” but again, Shlomie didn’t hear him.

With quiet dignity, Moshe Rabbenu picked up his staff, and headed out of the beis medrash.

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Yankie was anxiously biting his fingernails.

“The nerve of that guy!” sputtered Shlomie. “I can’t believe people are falling for this! We’re only meant to be learning about Moshiach, not believing it!”

“But Shlomie, a lot of the really big rabbis – like Aharon HaKohen – say he’s the real deal…” Shlomie harrumphed.

“All these ‘rebbe’ types stick together, you know that.”

“But Shlomie,” Yankie tried again, “This morning he turned the whole Nile to blood, and he’s told Pharoah there’s more natural disasters to come, if he doesn’t send the Jews out of Monsey-raim…”

“Kishoofim!!” Shlomie yelled again. “Unbelievable bitul Torah! Instead of learning another three blatt Gemara this guy’s off doing black magic and talking to goyim! Don’t fall for it, Yankie, don’t let him fool you. Seriously, where was the guy’s hat??”

Yankie tried one last time:

“But Shlomie, we have a tradition from Yaakov Avinu that at some point, the Jews have to leave Monsey-raim, and that a redeemer will show up and take them out of galus…”

Shlomie sighed a big sigh, and put his enormous arm around his frail, naïve learning partner.

“Yankie, you’re a great guy, do you know that? Here, take a look over the other side of the beis medrash. Who’d ya see?”

Yankie turned his head, and spotted Korach, the Rosh Kollel, shtiggering away to the bachorim about how why the beis medrash doesn’t need a mezuzah on the door. Korach cut a fine figure in his Armani black suit, smart tie and brushed fedora, tilted at just the right angle to set off his jutting chin.

“Now, if someone told me that’s Moshiach, I’d believe it,” explained Shlomie. “That guy’s related to one of the most important families in Monsey-raim; he’s got 14 kids – all shomer Toyrah ve-mitzvos – and he encourages his students to think for themselves. That guy is all about Toyrah and mitzvos. And his wife bakes a great kugel!

“But Shlomie, we didn’t get the Torah yet,” Yankie wanted to say. But he didn’t because he knew there’d be no point.

Shlomie heaved his stomach back behind his shtender, and went back to learning his latest blatt on his My-Gemara i-Phone app.

“The nerve of that guy, ‘Moshe Rabbenu’!” he muttered to himself, thankful that he’d managed to save the guys in the beis medrash from another false messiah. Hrrmph! As if the Moshiach would be someone who’d never stepped foot in the Mir…

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First posted in June, 2017

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I opened the door to find Susannah standing there: “I have cancer,” she told me.

One day a few months’ ago, there was a buzz at the door. I opened it up to find a scrawny old woman dressed in the lightest of summer dresses standing on my stoop. She wore a pair of oversized, fake black Crocs on her feet, and she was pushing a black trolley on wheels, that was full of an odd assortment of food.

I looked at her, she looked at me. She blinked, cleared her throat, then told me:

“I have cancer. Do you have some money you can give me?”

I looked at her, she looked at me. I went to look in my purse and as usual, there were only a few shekels hiding out in its creases. When there are teenagers in the house, it’s rare for a 100 shekel note to last more than 10 minutes after they’ve woken up. I handed the small change over with an apology.

“That’s ok, darling.”

She reassured me.

Then she cleared her throat for another request:

“Maybe, you have some food you can give me?”

I’m not a balabusta who has my cupboards stocked for all occasions and contingencies. Now my girls are much older, and now that I live in Jerusalem, I tend to shop on the go, and to really just buy what I need for that day. So I blinked nervously, and started scrounging round the back of the fridge, and the back of the cupboard, to see what I could turn up.

“Tuna in water?” I offered her, over my shoulder. I’d bought them for Pesach, and we still have four cans left because no-one really likes it. Susannah’s eyes lit up.

“Perfect! I can’t have oil because of the cancer, you know.”

It was a win-win. I loaded her up with unwanted tuna, a big box of cornflakes and a bottle of water. I’d done a mitzvah, I felt good.

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The next week, Susannah came back.

I opened the door, and eyed her a little more suspiciously. Was this going to turn into one of those ‘charidee nightmares’, where I’d get to the stage of being scared to open my own front door? I looked at her, and she looked at me. I think she forgot that she’d already told me her shpiel, because she started again:

“My name is Susannah. I have cancer. Do you have some money for me? My medications are very expensive, and I need some money.”

She spoke English with an Eastern European accent that added a strange sense of poetry to her words. I fumbled in the purse – nothing, nada, totally cleaned out by the teenage hordes. I shrugged my shoulders, sorry. She hesitated, then again cleared her throat.

“Maybe you have some food for me? I have nothing in my house to eat.”

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I knew she wasn’t lying.

I could see it in her face. So once again, I rummaged around the fridge, and loaded her up with some bananas and pears, and a tin of lychees I’d just bought that morning in anticipation for a snack attack. She was very grateful, and I closed the door with half a quizzical smile on my face.

The next week, she was back. And I decided I had to put a ‘boundary’ down, a marker to show – to myself! – that whatever I gave in future was coming from a place of free choice, and not from a place of unhealthy manipulation. That time, I told her I had no money, and no food. Sorry. Not unpolitely, not harshly, still respecting the soul of this person who stood on my doorstep. But showing both of us that my giving wasn’t automatic, and that I could say ‘no’ sometimes.

She responded in such a gracious, gentle and dignified manner, that I realized it was safe to carry on giving to Susannah in future.

The next week when she came back, I greeted her with more friendliness, and she relaxed enough to ask me if I could make her a cup of coffee. Of course!

Anything else?

“Do you have any food you can give me to eat now?” She asked. Big blue eyes bulging out of her too-red face. “I haven’t eaten anything all day.”

It was already 3pm.

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Again, I’m not a balabusta, but God helped and I offered her some cornflakes. “Yes!” she said excitedly. I brought her the box, but before I could bring her a bowl and some milk, she’d stuck both hands in the foil lining and was stuffing the cornflakes into her mouth. I was shocked. Susannah was poor, but she was also genteel. She really was starving.

That time, I gave her more money and more canned goods, and she spent an hour in my kitchen just recovering from who knows what she’d just been through, the last couple of days.

The next week, she came later, when my kids and husband were home. I let her in, and one of my kids started stage whispering:

What do you know about her, Ima?! How do you know she’s not going to rob us?!

That kid has a lot of fear about ‘stranger danger’. I don’t know who got to her in junior school, but they did a great job of making her a paranoid lunatic, when it comes to interacting with strangers.

First, we have nothing to steal. And second, she’s been here a few times already, and I trust her.

The kid didn’t so believe me, but her phone started beeping and she got distracted.

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That time, I gave Susannah coffee and supper, and a tiny bit more cash – literally, 10 shekels or something – and just let her sit in my kitchen, trying to arrange some of her affairs on her phone.

There but for the grace of God go I.

That’s really all I could think. God forbid, I should end up poor, destitute and sick in my old age, and no-one would even give me a hot cup of coffee or a place to sit quietly for an hour. Just as Susannah was leaving, the kid on the phone burst out in very loud gales of laughter. I didn’t pay any attention to it – it’s the usual teenager thing that goes on all the time – but apparently, Susanna did.

Two days later, the door buzzed in ‘her’ way, and to be honest, my heart sank a bit. I could do once a week happily, but if it got more than that, I’d have to put my foot down. Susannah stood there looking even more gaunt and vulnerable than usual.

Rivka, I have to ask you something.

Ok…..

Here it comes, I thought to myself.

Here comes a request for $300, a plea to come and cater for 30 house guests, or something else OTT and totally unreasonable. I was completely unprepared for what she said next.

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“Rivka….were you laughing at me?

I looked at her in disbelief, and she stared back, tears pricking up around the bulging blue eyes.

“Rivka, I have my problems and I’m poor and I’m sick. But….were you laughing at me?”

Susannah, where is this coming from? Why on earth would you think I would be laughing at you?!

I was so shocked she thought that, I was so upset that’s what she believed.

I looked at her, she looked at me, and then she smiled a relieved smile.

“I had to check, Rivka, that’s all. Don’t mind that I asked you.”

That time, she didn’t ask for anything. No food, no money, no toilet paper. She came all the way to my flat just to check I really was who and what I was holding myself out to be.

Later that night, when I told the story over to my husband, he told me that he’d noticed she’d had a funny look on her face as she’d left, because the kid on the phone had started laughing just then.

“I thought then it could look a bit bad, like we were mocking her,” he told me.

I had no idea.

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For two days, I tried to make some teshuva about this. It’s so easy, to cause hurt to other people. It’s so easy, to ride rough shod over another person’s feelings.

God, I don’t find Susannah’s visits so easy or comfortable, but I will do my best to be friendly and welcoming to her once a week, whenever she comes, and to treat her with proper respect!

This week, she came back. I opened the door and looked at her, and she looked at me.

What can I do for you this week, Susannah, what do you want?

She cleared her throat.

“Rivka, can I have some coffee? And do you have some food you can give me now?”

Her timing was perfect. For once, I’d gone off to the supermarket mid-day, and I had a juicy watermelon waiting to be cut up and was in the middle of making some supper.

I gave her a plate of watermelon chunks, made the black coffee with two sugars, and disappeared back to my writing, while the potatoes for supper continued to boil.

Everything OK?  I asked, when I came back in to check on them.

“Rivka, it’s heaven!” she told me. “The melon is so good!”

Ten minutes later, she’d conked out on the kitchen table, and slept the sleep of the exhausted for a little while, until I’d finished making the fish cakes. I gave her some mashed potato, the ubiquitous canned goods, and two rolls of toilet paper.

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She’ll be back.

And each time she comes, I’m strangely grateful. Susannah is not a pious woman, not at all. But this last time – on a Wednesday – she wished me Shabbat Shalom.

And I know I’m buying my way into Gan Eden for the price of a tin of beans, and a box of cornflakes.

Photo by Artem Beliaikin @belart84 on Unsplash

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