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On the back of a few emails about the post on Marriage Guidance – Israel style, I just wanted to elaborate a little more on how to get a good husband:

Pray on him every single day.

Every single day, ask God to help your husband overcome his bad temper, his poor self-esteem, his confusion, his doubts, his bad behavior and warped ideas.

Because we all have these issues, even the very best of us, and a woman’s job is to help to fix her husband’s soul by praying on him (and herself and her family) as much as she can.

That is the secret ingredient, the special sauce, that can turn even the worst relationship between a husband and wife around.

Any marriage counsellor who is not telling a couple to get God involved in the process, can’t really help you long-term and is probably doing way more harm than good.

And any wife who is not willing to pray on her husband, is going to have plenty of challenges and heartache to deal with. (Like, more than you’d get if you were actually praying, because getting marriages to last the distance is hard work, even when you are talking to God a lot.)

We’re not talking about doing six hours a day here, or even six minutes. All it takes is a tiny bit of effort, a smidge of empathy about where all these issues the husband has is actually coming from, and a touch of emuna that God really can do anything, if we get Him involved.

Try this:

  • Buy a bumper bag of tealights, 50, or 100.
  • Light one every single day in the merit of your husband, and say a few words to God about what you’d like Him to work on, e.g. “Please help him stop being so angry, God. Please help him to like himself more. Please help him to stop worrying so much about money, and killing himself at work. Please help him to be nicer to me and the kids. Please help him to realise – all by himself – that when a man looks like he’s 8 months pregnant, no-one finds that attractive, and he needs to join a gym…” – Whatever comes to you.
  • At the end of the 50 days, take your journal and note down any improvements – because I guarantee you’ll see some.
  • Go buy another bumper bag of tealights.
  • Repeat steps 1-4 until you have the man of your dreams.

This may take some time, it’s not a ‘quick fix’, it’s true.

But if at the end of five years solid of doing this you don’t have a wonderful marriage, I’ll eat my hat.

We women, we wives, have so much power to transform, improve and rectify all the problems in our marriage. But that power is only to be found in our prayers, and if we’re not regularly talking to God, we simply can’t get to it.

And we can’t outsource the job of fixing the husband to anyone else, however much we really might want to.

It’s time for some Torah sources, to help us start deconstructing the idea of aliyah.

Off the back of the discussion that’s been taking place around the Deconstructing Geula post, I thought I’d write something deconstructing the whole idea of aliya.

This is such a fraught topic, and so many bad middot and other subconscious impulses come into play with this subject, which is why I’ve generally stayed away from it in my writing. But, after that atrocious book was published to great acclaim in the orthodox Jewish world, which was ‘anti aliya’, to the point of degrading it even as a God-given mitzvah, I think it’s time to look at this subject in some depth, and to deconstruct what’s going on with it.

The first, and really primary, place to start is this:

Does God want Jews to live in Eretz Yisrael, at this stage in time?

Because if the answer is ‘yes’, then there has to be an extremely good reason for not moving here, if you consider yourself to be a God-fearing Jew.

So, without any further ado, let’s dive in the deep end, and see if we can answer the two parts of the question:

  • Does God want Jews to live in Eretz Yisrael generally; and
  • Does God wants Jews to live in Eretz Yisrael now.

THE BIBLICAL MITZVAH TO DWELL IN THE LAND

The following comes from 110b in Ketubot (Artscroll Translation):

“A person can force all the members of his household to go up to Eretz Yisrael to live there, but he can force none of them to leave there.”

The footnote to this clear pronouncement says the following:

[According to Rashi] If a family is living in some country outside of Eretz Yisrael and the father or mother decides that the family should move to Eretz Yisrael, the entire household is coerced [by the Rabbinic Court] to accede to the wishes of the parent and to go and live in Eretz Yisrael….According to some Rishonim, there is a biblical mitzvah to settle Eretz Yisrael…..[o]ther Rishonim maintain that there is no positive commandment to settle Eretz Yisrael.

However, even those authorities agree that it is a worthy cause to live in Eretz Yisrael.

(Which is why they enacted the law that would enable someone to ‘force’ his family to move there, with him. Or her.)

By the way, the mitzvah of settling the land doesn’t depend on ‘the land’ being an easy place to live.

When Moshe’s 12 spies go to take a look at Israel, 10 of them can only see the negative points of the country.

It’s hard there, there’s giants. The land devours its inhabitants. The people are really rough and rude. It’s full of wife-beating Arabs and awful daycare centers. The bureaucracy’s a nightmare, it’s too hot, I can’t get a decent job and my wife will miss her parents too much….

What does Caleb, the spy who figured out that you make it in Israel by doing a lot of hitbodedut and praying at the tombs of holy people tell them, in reply?

We can do it, if God is with us, we’ll eat the Caananites for lunch! There’s no problem that God can’t solve! Israel is where we’re really going to discover if we have emuna, or not, where we’re really going to grow into believing that Ein Od Milvado, there is only Hashem!

Come on, guys, the last 40 years you’ve been giving all these Torah sermons about ‘what God requires from us’, and ‘living our emuna’, and having faith – now it’s time to put your money where your mouth is, and to really live it! So what, you’ll lose your social status?! So what, you don’t speak the language properly and no-one appreciates your PhD?! So what, you can’t even figure out how to ask for a stamp in the post office?! 

All that stuff is humbling, and we know a humble person is much closer to God. God can’t dwell with an arrogant person, we know that! This is your chance to really get humble, and then to get real and stop thinking you’re such a big tzaddik and success, and then to get closer to God. Whaddya say?

 

We know what the spies said: Thanks, but no thanks.

They had prestigious, well-paying positions outside of Israel. They had respect. They had ‘their’ seat in shul, they had their established set of friends, they knew where to get the best chicken. They had nothing against visiting Israel every year for Pesach – still cheaper and nicer than having to clean their own home and cook everything themselves – but that’s as far as it goes.

Was God happy about this?

Nope.

The spies got punished awfully for slandering the land, and putting their fellow Jews off from moving to Israel.

But, your kid is going to struggle in school! Your husband is going to miss out on his amazing Rav, his amazing chavruta! You have a nice bunch of friends here, in the desert! But, you don’t speak the language, you can’t get a good job there, you won’t be able to afford your own home if you move to Israel, the place is full of wife-beating, idol-worshipping Canaanites, the divorce rate there is 80%….

Everybody has the same fears, the same concerns. People can’t live on thin air, it’s true. But again, God often expects some mesirut nefesh, some self-sacrifice from people, in order to keep His mitzvahs.

If someone is interested in working on their soul dimension, then Israel will be appealing to them for a lot of reasons (and if they aren’t, it won’t be, also for a lot of reasons.)

Let’s explore that idea a bit more, tachlis.

ISRAEL IS THE LAND OF EMUNA

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov teaches that Israel is the place where you’re going to learn some real emuna. How? Because you’ll be surrounded by miracles and challenges every second of the day.

In Chutz L’Aretz, a person can sin and sin and sin again, and because spiritual matters are more hidden there, they don’t feel the effect of their sins until the end of their lives – usually when it’s way too late to change course and fix things.

There in the hospital, with a tube up their nose and a drip in their arm, they finally start to realize how much of their life they wasted, chasing after stuff, and holidays, and traif food, and non-kosher experiences, and money, and status, and their own bad middot, because God was out of the picture.

God can hide much easier in chul. You don’t keep Shabbat, you don’t keep kosher, you don’t pay your 10% to charity, you don’t pay any attention to what God really wants from you – you’ll just keep swallowing your Prozac, drinking your G&T and going on holiday, or shopping, or working like a dog to drown out any inner discomfort you feel as a result.

And God lets you.

That’s why being in galut is such an ordeal, spiritually such a test. Because it really can seem as though you can game the system, and live a good life even if you’re a bitter atheist with terrible character traits.

But in Israel, it’s not like that.

It says that you walk dalet amot, four amot, in Israel, and that atones for your sins. Do you know why? Because every dalet amot here, you’ll be faced with another rude person, another problem, another challenge, another issue, that has been 100% tailored by God to bring your bad middot to the fore, and to show you what you still have left to work on.

Really? You’re not so bothered about gashmius? Let’s see how you’re going to cope when every brand of kosher-for-Pesach mayonnaise in the country has kitniot in it. Let’s see how much you start craving all the brands in TX Maxx, let’s see how you cope with just one toilet between seven people, and no cleaning help.

And there’s more tests, too. Like, trying to find a school for your kid; and trying to deal with the wounded ego of your spouse, who used to be a ‘bigshot’ in shul, or at work, but is now scrabbling to hold it together as a relative ‘nothing’ in Israel; or dealing with the tremendous loneliness and boredom of being an Anglo in Israel on Shabbos, which used to be filled up with six hour long Shabbos lunches, and ‘kiddush clubs’ at shul (that went on to 1pm…) and yet more shiurim on how to keep super-machmir standards of kashrut. Etc.

And we didn’t even get into the tests involved with having rockets fired at you on a regular basis, or people trying to stab you just for being a Jew, or getting shot or run over as you wait for a bus.

All these things, all these difficulties, build a person’s emuna like nothing else.

Because if you don’t turn to God to deal with the difficulties in finding work, or finding a place to live, or the million and one other things that force you to get real in Israel very quickly, you can quickly sink without a trace.

That’s why Israel is the land of emuna – dafka, because it shows a person what they need to work on, and how far away they are from really having emuna, and really serving Hashem properly, 24/7.

So when people point to the hardships of living in Israel as a reason to not make aliya, they are kind of missing the point – if they’re really interested in the more spiritual dimension of life.

Which honestly, a lot of people really just aren’t. Even in the ‘orthodox’ world.

Now, let’s take a look at some of the halachic arguments underpinning the ‘anti’ aliya argument.

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TORAH-BASED ARGUMENTS FOR NOT MAKING ALIYA

This approach was basically set out by the late Satmar Rebbe, Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, z’tl, in his book V’Yoel Moshe.

Rav Teitelbaum wrote his book after going through the holocaust. He saw half a million of his Hungarian compatriots sold out by the Zionist government in Israel, who were offered the chance to buy the freedom and lives of the Hungarian Jews by the cash-strapped Nazis – and who turned it down.

The whole sordid tale is told in Ben Hecht’s excellent book, Perfidy, but the Satmar Rebbe was one of the brands snatched from the conflagration in Hungary, and he had personal experience of this most ugly face of secular ‘zionism’. The awful actions of the secular politicians in Israel before, during and after WW II almost certainly influenced the opinions he put forth in his book.

Remember, the Israeli authorities in the 1950s were irradiating the kids of Moroccan immigrants in the tent camps, and cutting off people’s payot, and selling Yemenite children to the highest bidder. They were yucky, ugly people in every sense of the word.

Many of our other leading orthodox leaders, within Israel and without, also recognized who they were really dealing with, and that the secular leadership in Israel was spiritually corrupt, and corrupting to a very high degree.

The Satmar Rebbe took this idea to an extreme in his book, where he puts forward the idea that the anti-Torah Zionists in Israel caused the holocaust to happen, at least indirectly, by their actions, and by ‘forcing the time’ for returning to the land. (We’ll look at what this ‘forcing the time’ is referring to, in a moment.)

First, there’s a partial translation of some of the Satmar Rebbe’s words in V’Yoel Moshe, HERE, which the following ideas are taken from. The Satmar Rebbe avers that:

  • The anti-Torah Zionist groups in Israel caused the holocaust by ‘informing’ on the Jews in Europe to the non-Jewish authorities, and making trouble for the Jews there, in order to turn up the heat and get these Jews to move to the fledgling State of Israel.
  • That these anti-Torah Zionist groups “violated the oath of hastening the end by claiming sovereignty and freedom before the time.”
  • That the secular Zionist groups performed several “cruel actions” before, during and after the war which also lead to the death of hundreds of thousands of Jews.
  • Furthermore, among those who have moved to Eretz Yisrael in these times, most of the immigrants from Arab countries were living peacefully and tranquilly in their countries, lacking nothing, until the establishment of the heretical kingdom in Israel. Through the establishment of that State they began to suffer hatred and persecution in their countries, and the Zionists themselves aided this through their wiles, so as to increase the persecution until they would be forced to emigrate to Eretz Yisrael, destitute and with nothing, and they glorified their saviors, but the truth was the opposite – that [the Zionists] had brought about all of the destruction in the first place. (Va-Yo’el Moshe 123)”

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THE THREE OATHS ‘PREVENTING’ ALIYA

The idea of the three oaths that prevent Jews from returning to Israel before God actually wills it comes from the Gemara (Ketubot 111a), where it brings a discussion between R’ Zeira, who wanted to make aliya to Israel from Bablyonia, and Rav Yehuda who said:

Whoever ascends from Babylonia to Eretz Yisrael transgresses a positive commandment, as it says: “They will be brought to Babylonia and they will be there until the day that I attend to them – when I shall bring them up and return them to this place.

Rav Zeira said that this verse is referring to the sacred utensils that were used in the Temple service, but that people are permitted to make aliya, still. Rav Yehuda disagrees, and says that the verse I have adjured you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by gazelles or by hinds of the field etc means that the Jews are bound by an oath not to ascend to Eretz Yisrael until the Final Redemption.

Rav Zeira says that’s not what this verse means. Rather, he says it means that:

The Jewish people should not converge upon Eretz Yisrael in a wall of force, but that an individual is permitted to settle there, if he wants to.

Rav Yehuda again disagrees, so then R’ Zeira explains there are three oaths, as follows:

  • The Jewish people should not converge upon Israel as a wall of force;
  • Hashem adjured the Jewish people to not rebel against the nations of the world [to try and force their way back to living in Israel before the time God wanted that to happen]; and
  • Hashem also adjured the idolaters (i.e. the non-Jewish nations) not to subjugate and terrorise the Jews more than was required.

R’ Zeira explains that any case, an individual is never adjured to not make aliya to Eretz Yisrael.

This discussion in the Gemara is ‘sandwiched’ between the following statements:

BEFORE: Whoever dwells outside Eretz Yisrael, it’s as if he worships idols.

AFTER: The people dwelling within Eretz Yisrael are forgiven of sin.

This discussion is the halachic basis for the Satmar position, together with some other groups, for why it’s not a mitzvah to make aliya.

But you’ll notice, even in this discussion, it’s clear that the main ‘problem’ being discussed is for groups of Jews to ‘ascend’ all at once. There is no problem for individuals to make aliya, and as is clear from the surrounding text and discussion in the Gemara, the Sages considered it a very praiseworthy thing, to move to Israel.

ARE WE AT ‘THE END’ OR NOT?

The main argument revolves around a discussion of whether we are at the ‘the end’ of the galut, as determined by God, or not. If we’re at ‘the end’, then there is no problem at all with making Aliyah en masse.

If we aren’t at ‘the end’, then it’s good for individuals to make aliya, but still problematic for large groups to come on aliya.

Here’s a few suggested reasons for why the 3 oaths have been superseded:

  • The nations of the world actually gave permission for the State of Israel to be created, back in 1948.
  • The Gemara in Sanhedrin (98a) says that “when Eretz Yisrael gives forth fruit abundantly, it is a sure sign that the redemption is coming”. This was already happening in the early 1900s, in the time of Rav Avraham Kook.
  • Only very large groups coming in a short period of time violate the ‘oath’, it doesn’t apply to a slow trickle of Jews moving here.
  • The Ari’s student, R’ Chaim Vital, said that the oath only applied for 1,000 years.
  • The Vilna Gaon states that the oath applied to rebuilding the Temple, not to resettling the land.

And then, there’s all the evidence we see with our own eyes today, and things that we feel with our own hearts, that tells us whether we are at ‘the end’ or not.

DON’T CONFUSE ‘THE STATE OF ISRAEL’ WITH ERETZ YISRAEL

Another important point to make here is that the State of Israel should not confused, or conflated, with Eretz Yisrael.

When we talk about moving to Israel, we’re not talking about the State. We’re talking about moving to the land that God gave to the Jews more than 3,000 years ago.

Sooner or later, the secular ‘State’ will fall away – as Rav Kook describes it, as the ‘peel’ around the fruit’.

SUMMING UP WHAT’S GOING ON WITH ALIYA, AND RELIGIOUS JEWS IN CHUL

This is a long post, I know (but still probably not doing real justice to the subject….) But let’s try to sum it up, and bring all this information together into something practical and easy-to-digest.

  • If you are a God-fearing Jew, and keeping mitzvahs is important to you, then moving to Israel is a big mitzvah for an individual.

Not one of the Rishonim or Achronim commentators disagrees with this statement.

  • If you want to come to Israel as part of a very large group of people moving here ‘all at once’, there is a Torah view that this is prohibited, as long as we haven’t yet reached ‘The End’.
  • If we’ve reached ‘The End’, the three oaths don’t apply anymore anyway.
  • There’s lots of things that suggest we are now in the stage of ‘the end of days’ – not least, all the pronouncements by the nations’ leading rabbis that we’ve reached ‘the End’.

That’s a basic sum-up of the halachah.

Now, I just want to spend a little bit of time, finally, to explore why more orthodox Jews aren’t moving to Israel.

GETTING REAL

There are three main reasons why more orthodox Jews aren’t coming to Israel:

  • They are scared to come out of the comfort zone.
  • They really do want to come, but God isn’t let them.
  • They actually don’t care so much about keeping mitzvahs, getting closer to God, or working on their emuna.

I won’t belabor this segment, as this is where things can get very sticky. Each person knows what’s really in their heart.

There are people who really do want to come, but are stuck outside for a whole bunch of reasons that really are out of their control. For these people, they are learning emuna and humility by being kept away from Israel.

Then, there are others who really don’t want to come at all, and are just looking for excuses to justify their own spiritual shortcomings – at Israel’s expense.

Then, there’s the third group, who would like to come in theory, and know that it’s good to be here, but are too scared that they won’t have the lifestyle, the money, the connections, the big house, or the career they currently have now, if they leave.

But if we truly have reached ‘The End’, then God will find a way to coax everyone who really can, to make aliya, and He will open the gates to the Holy land, one way or another.

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You might also like these posts:

Deconstructing Geula

More Rebbe Nachman on Israel

There’s been quite a bit of discussion on the Deconstructing Geula post, which I put together to try to explore what happens practically, the day after Moshiach actually shows up, and how different the experience is obviously going to be, depending on where we actually live at that point in time, and how much emuna we really do have.

I thought it would be useful to bring the discussion I’ve been having with Devorah, one of the commentators, here, as its own post. I’m working on a post which will look at the halachic basis for staying out of Israel, in the time before Moshiach comes – because there is one, as set out by the late Satmar Rebbe, R’ Yoel Teitelbaum – but this is a useful subset of the discussion:

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Devorah says

March 14, 2019 at 15:30

Rivka, Rambam represents just one opinion. There are different opinions. There’s another opinion that says that the Divine revelation at the time of geula will be like har Sinai, the yetzer hara, sicknesses, and death will disappear, the miracles will be bigger than in the Exodus, all forms of negativity will disappear.

Rivka Levy says

March 17, 2019 at 13:18

Thanks for the comment, Devorah.

By the time the Israelites got to Har Sinai, they’d already lost 4/5 in the plague of darkness, had to leave their homes in Egypt, and experienced 10 plagues and enormous fear and upheaval. So, it seems to me that what you’re describing is what comes AFTER what I’m describing precedes it. We need to have emuna to get to geula, and there are no short-cuts to acquiring it.

Devorah says

March 18, 2019 at 04:56

I know Rivka but not in the final Geulah.

“Unlike the Egyptian Exodus, when many Jews did not merit to leave Egypt, with regards to the future redemption we are assured that no Jew will be left behind—including the Ten Lost Tribes.” Source: https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1122197/jewish/The-Future-Apportionment-of-Israel.htm

Also, the Jewish people will not have to leave galut in haste because unlike in the Geulah from Egypt when the Jews still had some measure of evil in them, in the final Geulah the evil inclination in them will already been annulled. This is the kabbalistic explanation I remember from the book of Tanya and from the moshiach and Geulah online forum that still existed a few years ago. If you’re still scared, you can change ur emotions and invoke miracles in your life by practicing gratefulness. Kol tuv

Rivka Levy says

March 18, 2019 at 12:23

Devorah, do you live in Israel, or in Chul?

Rivka Levy says

March 18, 2019 at 12:54

Thanks for the link – I had a look, and I can see that what you quoted is the opinion of the author, Rav Silberberg, but he didn’t include any sources or references for that opinion. Can you point me in the direction of any sources?

At the same time, I found this on the Chabad website talking about the time immediately before Moshiach comes, here: https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/100900/jewish/The-Time-Before-Mashiach.htm

Which has copious sources from the Gemara, and explains that the situation will be very scary before the Messianic Era actually kicks off (see below).

Which brings us back to the original point of whether we can get to the Messianic Era without the ‘birthpangs’ and suffering that is so amply described, in so many of our sources, as being part and parcel of the run up to the Messianic Era.

Again, if you have a Torah source you can reference to support your point of view, I’d be very interested in seeing it.
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III. Ikvot Meshicha: The Time Immediately Before Mashiach

The time appointed by G‑d for the Messianic redemption is a closely guarded secret.1 Nonetheless, we are offered many hints to recognize its proximity: when certain conditions come about, await the imminent coming of Mashiach.

Most of these conditions are quite disturbing, clearly displaying a situation of the very “bottom of the pit.”2 One major source describes the world-condition in those days as follows: increase in insolence and impudence; oppressing inflation; unbridled irresponsibility on the part of authorities; centers of learning will turn into bawdy houses; wars; many destitutes begging, with none to pity them; wisdom shall be putrid; the pious shall be despised; truth will be abandoned; the young will insult the old; family-breakup with mutual recriminations; impudent leadership.3

Other sources add: lack of scholars; succession of troubles and evil decrees; famines; mutual denunciations; epidemics of terrible diseases; poverty and scarcity; cursing and blaspheming; international confrontations nations provoking and fighting each other.4 In short, it will be a time of suffering that will make it look as if G‑d were asleep. These are the birthpangs of Mashiach, bearable only in anticipation of the bliss that follows them.

“When you see a generation ever dwindling, hope for him… when you see a generation overwhelmed by many troubles as by a river, await him.”5 “When you see nations fighting each other, look toward the feet of Mashiach.”6

Little wonder that some sages expressed apprehensions about those days in terms of, “Let [Mashiach] come, but let me not see him.”7

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I guess those scared Sages should also go and work on their gratitude….

Rachel in NY says

March 18, 2019 at 19:05

We are THERE, Rivka. We have already experienced everything you listed in your above comment. No reason to assume it has to get worse!

Rivka Levy says

March 19, 2019 at 09:42

It’s definitely tough now, you’re right.

But I’d like to see a Torah source for this part of Devorah’s comment:

“Also, the Jewish people will not have to leave galut in haste because unlike in the Geulah from Egypt when the Jews still had some measure of evil in them, in the final Geulah the evil inclination in them will already been annuled.”

I still have an evil inclination, and so do a whole bunch of the people who are living in Galut, and also here in Israel. What needs to happen, before that evil inclination gets ‘annulled’? I’d like to see a Torah source for that, because in my experience, evil inclinations get ‘annulled’ through suffering. That’s the catalyst for real teshuva. But I’m very happy to see a Torah source that provides some other route.

Devorah says

April 2, 2019 at 14:52

Rivka the Torah source of ” not leave in haste” is in the book Tanya and see also point 2 here: http://ruchoshelmashiach.blogspot.com/2012/07/i-will-redeem-you-in-end-like-beginning.html?m=1

I think it’s based on yeshayahu 52:12
https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/15983#showrashi=true

I am sorry to tell you though that I also read somewhere in the meantime ( sorry I lost the link) that it all depends on us. If I remember well. You can Google these things. I may find more when I will have more time to look. Sorry, I am not a rabbi ..

Re the evil inclination annulled. how? : I think thru the birthpangs of Jewish history, and of mashiach. Could also in the end happen suddenly like at har Sinai. It says it will be like that. Hashem will reveal himself to the whole world with greater revelation than at har Sinai and suddenly the evil inclination will be annulled. Darkness can’t exist in the presence of light

Re whether we can get to the Messianic Era without the ‘birthpangs’ and suffering that is so amply described: of course. Darkness can’t exist in the presence of light. Talmud says in order to survive in the times of the birthpangs of mashiach one needs to occupy himself with Torah and gemilut hassadim.

Also, gratefulness evokes miracles.

I too believe we have already suffered enough and we’re already there.

Question to you now after been reading ur other site: could it be that all these leftists that are anti Torah and wanna make peace with the enemies suffer from c-ptsd (toxic shame, self hatred etc) ??

Rivka Levy says

April 3, 2019 at 09:44

Hi Devorah, I’m grateful for you taking the time to share sources.

I will BH write a longer post on this, as what you’re referring to is also part of why Satmar talks about the 4 oaths, restraining Am Yisrael from ‘ascending to Eretz Yisrael as a wall’.

From the first link, the post ends with this:

“And so it is with the service of each and every individual – there is no time to say, ‘I’ll change, when I have the time’, because these could be the very last moments of galus, and after these will come ‘the years about which you say ‘I have no desire for them” – ‘night like day will shine’, the complete redemption by means of Mashiach. ”

That seems to suggest we can’t expect Moshiach to ‘change’ things for us – NOW is the time we need to be doing the work on taking down the yetzer, etc, and fulfilling the mitzvah of making aliya (or at least, WANTING to make aliya).

The 4/5 died because they didn’t want to move out of their comfort zone. It could be that when the Tanya teaches the geula will come ‘comfortably’ and not in haste, that means that the Jewish people had 70 years to get their act together and move to Israel at a time when it was most convenient for them, and they could still come with their assets, and not just some old matza to eat…

There’s a lot of clarification required, and I think it requires a proper blog post, not just a 2 minute response on a comment. So, BH when I have some time I will put that together, with as many sources as I can find.

Re: crazy lefties – they for sure have C-PTSD! That doesn’t excuse them (or any other of the angry, aggressive, narrow-minded and abusive people out there) – but it does explain how they got like that, and it also points to how they can get ‘fixed’ somehow.

Devorah says

April 3, 2019 at 12:16

Rivka, Remember that someone who suffers from c-ptsd could also have the fawn response, not just the fight response. I think most inhabitants of Tel Aviv fawn. It’s really bad. How do they react whenever they see the rockets flying over TLV? “Oh poor Palestinians, you are starving again. It’s about time that our gov treats you more like family” ??

Devorah says

April 3, 2019 at 21:20

And let’s remember, Israel’s enemies also have c-ptsd.

Before the elections, some questions for meditation:

Who should we vote for? Which politician doesn’t have or has the least c-ptsd ?
What if a Torah observant politician has c-ptsd but a non Torah observant politician doesn’t have it? Who should we rather vote for?

Rivka Levy says

April 4, 2019 at 10:00

“The hearts of the kings are in Hashem’s hands” – who we vote for doesn’t matter so much (although clearly much better to vote for someone with daas Torah behind them, because even if we think we know who has C-PTSD and who doesn’t, what do we really know?)

If WE make the teshuva required in our dalet amot, our leaders will have siyatta dishmeya and things will work out, even if they are lunatics. And vice versa.

Devorah says

April 4, 2019 at 18:02

“If WE make the teshuva required ”

Currently according to statistics only 20% of Israelis keep Shabbat.

We need a non-lunatic spiritual as well as political leader.

No one wants to follow a lunatic even if he has daas Torah (remember for instance that NY born rabbi politician who got thrown out of the gov and then shot) and Torah requires one to be healthy!!

Rivka Levy says

April 6, 2019 at 22:02

If someone truly has daas Torah, they won’t be a lunatic. Just because someone has the title of ‘rabbi’, doesn’t mean they have daas Torah.

Also daas Torah is not generally a result of an individual effort, it’s the result of many yireh shemayim people coming together to come up with opinions that reflect genuine daas Torah – that’s why the Sanhedrin had 70 members, that’s why a Beit Din has 3 members. You can’t just have one person calling the shots in true Yiddishkeit.

Daas Torah is a consensus view.

Also, the teshuva required is not just in Israel. I don’t know where you got that stat from about Shabbat – can you please give a source? But I can tell you 100% for sure, that there are far more mitzvahs happening in Israel, and far more people with a true connection to Hashem in Israel.

Doesn’t mean that there aren’t mitzvahs occurring in Chul too, or that there aren’t people with a connection to Hashem there, too, because obviously there are. But our sources say clearly that Israel is the land of emuna. You feel Hashem’s guidance here 24/7, that’s part of why it’s sometimes not easy to live here, you can feel the spiritual judgments in the air, and they can drive you bonkers – or make you make teshuva.

Devorah says

April 7, 2019 at 22:28

Rivka, So who is this person in Israel’s politics that presently has daas haTorah acc to you?

Re the stat: “11% simply as religious, and 9% as ultra-Orthodox. According to the Israel Democracy Institute, the percentage of ultra-Orthodox is slightly higher.”

Source:

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/latest-population-statistics-for-israel

80% of Israelis believe in G-d (stat of 2012)

https://www.haaretz.com/jewish/1.5175991

Rivka Levy says

April 8, 2019 at 10:37

Daas Torah is collective, it’s not about an individual.

There is no one person in Israeli politics with “Daas Torah”, but there are political parties who clearly state that they don’t act before first consulting ‘Daas Torah’ – i.e. the collective wisdom of yirat-shemayim rabbis who are extremely learned in the finer points of halacha, and who are genuinely striving to try to give God what He wants.

Politics is dirty, there’s no way around it, but at least those types of parties have an additional ‘check’ on their negative impulses.

Thanks for giving the source for the stats – there’s a lot of manipulation of these things going on in the press in Israel, as they are trying to ‘force through’ anti-Shabbat legislation by claiming the majority don’t want it. Here’s what I found about the state of shabbos observance, from two years ago:

Towards the 69th Independence Day of the State of Israel, the Central Bureau of Statistics published a report according to which the population of Israel is approximately 8,680 million. 9% stated that they are ultra-Orthodox, 11% religious, 12% traditional religious, 24% traditional and not so Religious, “44% are not religious and secular.

I.e. 56% of the country keep Shabbat, in some form or other. Again, the reason that you’re seeing all those headlines screaming ‘only 20% are frum!!!!’ is because there’s a lot of political manipulation going on in this country, and huge agendas all over the place. Most of Israel keeps shabbat, but the 44% that doesn’t is often extremely vocal and ‘anti’ religion. It’s v polarised. But that 44% are in charge of the media, the courts and (most of…)the political parties.

Devorah says

Can you post the URL of the article about the stat?
Besides traditional doesn’t mean keeps Shabbat. It usually means they go to shul on rosh hashana and Yom Kippur, they do the pesach seder, brit mila and they install a mezuza.

The entire Middle East is one crazy region. The Arabs beat their wives, the Israelis beat their children, kick their brothers out of their homes and at least half of them divorce but, they wanna make ‘peace’ with the terrorists. Insane!

Rivka Levy says

April 9, 2019 at 09:09

The stat comes from here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Israel

“It usually means they go to shul on rosh hashana and Yom Kippur, they do the pesach seder, brit mila and they install a mezuza.” –

This is a chutz l’aretz definition of ‘traditional’. If you look at the link above, you’ll see that:

“85% [of Jews in Israel] participate in a Passover seder.”

“98% of Israel Jews Perform ‘Brit Milah’ Circumcision” – See here: https://hamodia.com/2017/12/27/poll-98-young-israeli-parents-held-bris-children/

Mezuzahs are ubiquitous in Israel – there is hardly a doorpost without them, and even self-defined ‘secular’ Jews put up mezuzahs – and also, erect sukkahs on Succot.

All this means that a ‘traditional’ Jew in Chul would probably self-define as a ‘secular’ Jew here. In Israel, traditional means the Shabbat is observed in some notable way – people will eat the Friday night meal, they will go to shul, they will not drive, minimum.

In regard to your comments about ‘half of Israelis beating up their children’ – 1) where on earth did you get that from? 2) it’s total lashon hara about Jews in Israel to say that – are you saying that wife-beating and kid-beating doesn’t happen in Jewish communities outside of Israel, or that Israel is somehow ‘worse’ than other places?

On what basis? This comes from a report on domestic abuse in the US Jewish community: (https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-life-and-religion/265934/safe-at-home-2)

“In Jewish families, domestic abuse occurs at about the same rate as in the general population (15-25 percent), among all socioeconomic levels and denominations including the unaffiliated, reports the Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse.”

I know it’s more comfortable to keep demonizing Israel, as that helps to justify why Jews live in Chul. I get that, I understand it. No-one is pretending Israel is perfect, anything but. But the discussion boils back down to ‘what does God want from me, and where does He want the Jewish people to live?’

The answer to the second part of that question is obvious, but it’s qualified – and sometimes superseded – by each person’s individual path in life.

This morning, there were rockets from Gaza in Kfar Saba.

Are we supposed to believe this is another ‘mistake’? That Ahmed tripped over that darned carpet again, and fell against the ‘launch’ button?

Rav Berland was talking about rockets hitting every part of the country 4 months ago, and telling us the decree is serious and imminent. Which other Rav was trying to pull 50,000 Jews together in prayer at that point in time? Or pointing out that all the politicians in the world, all the ‘iron dome’ systems in the world simply aren’t going to help us, this time around?

We are down to the wire.

The threat is real, and growing stronger by the day.

Today, there were rockets in Kfar Saba.

And the Rav has told us clearly: Only prayer, only tehillim, can stop these rockets.

There is going to be another prayer gathering on Monday, April 8th, in Hevron. It’s hugely important that as many of us as possible get there, and throw our ‘prayer power’ behind the Rav’s effort to sweeten this decree.

Because the next rocket from Gaza could be coming through our roof, God forbid.

What if we don’t live in Israel?

Do we still have to worry, do we still have to care about all this stuff?

It’s a post for another time, but it comes back to that whole idea that we can’t run away from God, and His plan for us. Jews can certainly dodge rockets from Gaza by staying in chul.

But that doesn’t mean they’ll get the ‘easy life’ – because there is no such thing.

We can’t run away from God, even if we don’t live in Israel.

We won’t get a rocket through the roof (probably….I was talking to someone yesterday who is convinced civil war is around the corner in the US and the UK…), but we’ll get some other wake-up call.

There’s so much heartache and suffering going on behind closed doors all over the world.

So many of us are trying to stay in the comfort zone, even though it’s literally killing us, and preventing us from being the people, the Jews, God designed us to be.

And God doesn’t want us to do that anymore, as it’s holding up geula.

In the old days, I used to make plans to do a long hitbodedut every single day of a 3-day Purim heading into Shabbat – and sometimes, they even used to come off.

But not, it seems, these days.

I’ve actually been struggling with a lack of motivation since Rosh Hashana, when I deleted Emunaroma to avoid getting pulled into any more ‘machloket’ with pretend-perfect crazy people.

And for three months, I did nothing much, because I didn’t want to have any more machloket in my life, and whatever I write, it always seems to end up there, somehow or other.

So then, back in December, I felt God wanted me back online, and with a heavy heart, I agreed.

Because I really don’t want any more machloket in my life!!! I just want an ‘easy’ life now, thanks very much, Hashem.

For months, I’ve been avoiding getting into anything too controversial again, as much as possible (although in our PC world, full of snowflakes just waiting to get offended so they can take out all their inner turmoil on you, that’s really much easier said than done.)

But I’ve been trying.

Now, you’d think that making a resolute effort to pursue the ‘easy’ life would be making me far more relaxed, chilled out, and overall happy-feeling. Believe me, I also thought that would happen.

But, man, was I wrong.

Instead of being more chilled out, laid back, exercising more, using all my energy to whip up healthy cakes, and go to the gym, and to spotlessly clean the house and iron my husband’s shirts (poor man…), I’ve actually been struggling to wake up most mornings, because what’s the point? My kids are big enough to get off to school without me, no-one needs a sandwich made, or a pair of sneakers found, so what’s the point?

 Sure, I’ve still been doing stuff – lots of stuff, even – but nothing really has been exciting me too much, or grabbing me. Why? Because while it’s kinda meaningful, it’s also kinda bland. And bland is not enough to have me jumping out of bed in the morning.

But ‘interesting’ stuff is always inherently risky, in any number of different ways. It can draw people against you, it can draw you into disputes and patterns of thinking that are very unhealthy and destructive. It can lead to a lot of stress and complication….

So, I’ve been caught on the horns of a furious dilemma.

But today, Purim day, I realized something profound: I’m here to serve God, for the good, and also for the bad. I’m not here to have an easy life. And pursuing that ‘easy’ life is actually making my life anything but easy.

Externally, it’s relatively peaceful and tranquil, Baruch Hashem. Internally, I’m fighting a raging tempest that wakes me up 4 times a night, and gives me no rest. I’m falling apart physically. I can’t ignore God’s prompts anymore.

This is so similar to what happened to me before we moved to Israel. The risks associated with moving were so huge – in London, we both had good jobs, a nice house, a community, family, the language etc etc. It was far too scary to even contemplate aliya.

But then, God sent me a bunch of inexplicable panic attacks, and a series of bad nightmares about getting stuck in London during a terrorist attack (this was months before the 7/7 terror attack actually occurred, which killed 52 people in London) – and after the third time, I told my husband we have to do it, we have to move to Israel.

Because God was giving me no peace, and my ‘easy life’ was becoming a living nightmare.

And it’s happening again.

That’s what I realized, this Purim.

There is no running away from God.

Jewish Women: What’s really a ‘healthy role model’ for our daughters?

One of the things I keep hearing from the people trying to force orthodox publications to publish pictures of women is that our girls ‘need to have more Jewish women role models’.

On the face of it, that sounds like a reasonable argument, a reasonable wish. But as with so much of what passes as ‘intellectual discussion’, as soon as you start to explore it in any depth, it doesn’t stand up.

The elephant in the room is that:

The first, and most impactful role model in a girl’s life is her own mother.

If that mother is caring, compassionate, forgiving, emotionally-balanced, working on her own bad middot and honest that she’s not a ‘perfect being’, it’s hard to believe that a Jewish girl would really need to be seeing 2-D pictures of frum ‘superwomen’ in an orthodox publication, to turn out OK.

And there are other ‘real life’ role models for our girls, too. Every grandma, sister, cousin and aunt is also a ‘role model’.

Every female friend they have is a ‘role model’.

Every female teacher they come into contact with at school is a ‘role model’.

Ditto every rabbanit, every person they see and stand next to in shul, and even the check-out girl working at the local supermarket.

All these real-life Jewish women and girls are role-models in the deepest sense of the word – both for good and for bad.

And even those ‘bad’ role-models can be very helpful, because my girls have learned so much about how NOT to behave, and how NOT to parent, and how NOT to teach, by observing these ‘bad’ role models with their bunch of bad middot.

So, the idea that my kid desperately needs to see a 2D picture of some woman doing her best to look ‘glamorous’, or ‘wise’, or ‘role-model-ly’ just doesn’t fly, in real life.

All these people pushing that line – do you really expect me to believe your kids don’t have Whats App? That they aren’t bombarded with images of a million fake ‘friends’ on Facebook 24 hours a day? That they aren’t spending so much of their time ogling another frum female fashion victim on Instagram?

Really?

Our girls, our teens, will only ‘lack’ the sort of female role models they need if the Jewish women in their immediate environment aren’t caring, and aren’t compassionate, and aren’t forgiving, and aren’t emotionally-balanced, and aren’t working on their bad middot, and aren’t being honest about their own flaws and hang-ups.

For example, if a girl (or any kid…) grows up in a home where the mother is ‘angry’, and continually raging about all the ‘bad things’ that ‘everyone else’ is doing to her, and is constantly trying to suck-up everyone else’s attention and kudos, and is living life as a resentful, emotionally-unstable ‘permanent victim’ where they can’t see anyone else in the picture – then that kid will grow up with a lot of emotional difficulties and relationship issues.

And no amount of 2D pictures of frum ‘superwomen’ in orthodox publications is going to change that.

At its root, it seems to me that all this ‘ortho-fem’ stuff is really one big, massive complaint against Hashem, and how Hashem is choosing to run His world.

God made us a man, or a woman. God put rules in place that would dictate what is, and isn’t appropriate and halachically-acceptable for us to do.

Like it or not, a Jewish woman’s main role in the world is to focus on raising emotionally-healthy children, and helping her husband to fix up his bad middot.

If you can do that and still have your big, shiny career and 15 PhD diplomas on the wall, go right ahead.

Personally, I couldn’t.

Personally, I saw that I had to choose between making sure I was present for my kids, and really ‘present’ in my home, and being the flesh-and-blood role model they actually needed, OR continuing to have my ‘great’ career and making a big external splash in the world.

When I was that ‘successful’ career woman, I had such bad middot, and I was so angry and stressed all the time. My kids suffered so much from me trying to be that frum superwoman (with a cleaner, and a full-time nannie, who buys most of Shabbos in from the caterers) that the ortho-fems keep pointing to as ‘the ideal’.

Real achievements aren’t external. And real role models for our daughters can’t be found on Instagram, or in 2D pictures in frum publications.

Our kids need emotionally-healthy mothers, not more glossy pictures.

==

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Learning some lessons from the first feminist in Israel.

After I wrote this post on whether orthodox Judaism can ever really go together with feminists, some thoughtful person tried to educate me via email about something she called ‘toxic masculinity’. Here’s how she described it:

“[W]hat feminism opposes is something called “toxic masculinity.” Toxic masculinity is basically someone with the middos or Eisav–they pursue power, hold brute force above kindness, look after their own interests instead of others, don’t care about justice, care mostly about their own taavos and material interests. They only express motions like rage and disdain, not tenderness or compassion.

“Healthy masculinity is basically someone who has “good Jewish middos”: they have self-control, pursue justice, hold spiritual (Torah) and emotional goals above material ones, look after other people, and don’t misuse power.”

Sadly, I must be an incorrigible barbarian because when I read that, I laughed so hard I nearly fell off my chair.

In my house, we all know who has got issues with so-called ‘toxic masculinity’ – and it ain’t the man! Sure, Eisav had bad middot – he was the root of evil in the world, after all. But he didn’t have bad middot just because he was a man. If you look through Tanach, there are plenty of examples of murderous, idol-worshipping women with awful middot, too.

If you crack open the book of Kings (and the book of Chronicles), you’ll find the story of the first ‘feminists’ in Tanach, (i.e. ladies who put their own ‘rights’ and own ideas about ‘religious freedom’ ahead of Torah obligations and rules).

Israel’s first ‘feminists’

First up, is Queen Jezebel, who so thoroughly ruled over her husband, King Achav (Ahab) of Israel, that she managed to induce him to build a temple to her new Baal idol, and also got his permission to kill hundreds (and maybe even thousands) of Hashem’s true prophets.

The prophet Ovadya was a steward in the King’s palace, and he managed to hide the last 100 true prophets away from Jezebel’s murderous hands in two caves.[1]

You can just imagine how the conversations in that household used to go, can’t you?

Jezebel: Achvee, all these rabbis are bothering me. Every time I want to sacrifice a child to Moloch, or burn some incense to the Baal[2], they tell me I can’t do it, it’s against halacha.

King Achav: Jezebel, my love, I can’t believe these ignorant people are discriminating against your wish to worship in the way you choose! In the name of open-minded ‘religious freedom’, I give you permission to hunt down every last one of those antiquated men with beards, and to kill them as brutally as you wish!

Jezebel: Achvee, it’s so wonderful that I married such a tolerant, non-discriminating person like you! I’m going to write a Facebook post about it.

So anyway, Jezebel the feminist clearly wore the pants in that particular household[3], and man, did she abuse her position.

As well as murdering hundreds and thousands of God-fearing people in cold blood (all in the name of ‘religious tolerance’, natch), she was also instrumental in causing the Ten Tribes to fall so deeply into idol worship, they never recovered and were permanently exiled from their land.

Again, you can imagine how that was done, can’t you?

Jezebel: Achvee, I’m not worshipping in that orthodox Temple anymore. People keep looking at me funny when I want to read from the Torah, and I keep getting comments that wearing a pant-suit to shul isn’t respectful. That’s so disrespectful of me, and my feminine power! Achvee, build me somewhere I can go and be comfortable on Rosh Hashana, and where we can sit together, and where I can also give drashas, and share the wisdom of my forefathers!

King Achav: Yes, my sweet! Let’s reform this antiquated religion of ours! It’s not suitable for modern times, for modern, feminist women like yourself. And I’m also sick of that bearded fruitcake Elijah threatening me with God’s wrath every time I break out the cheeseburgers. And he was also pretty unhappy that I married you in the first place in that civil ceremony. These people belong in the dark ages! What shall we call this new Temple of ours? Temple of the ‘Baal’?[4]

Jezebel: I prefer ‘Temple of the Isha’.

So anyway, Jezebel was a real feminist power-house.

She managed to get a bunch of idolatrous temples built up all over Samaria and the Kingdom of Israel, and to pull millions of Jews away from believing in God, and His Torah, and His tzaddikim (the ones she hadn’t just murdered in cold blood.)

But that still wasn’t enough for her. That pesky kingdom of Judah, to the south, was still worshipping the One True God in the Temple in Jerusalem, and the people there simply weren’t interested in having ‘Welcoming the Baal’ ceremonies in the Women’s Courtyard every month. So one day, Jezebel had an idea.

Jezebel: Achvee, let’s create an organization that will promote feminists’ rights, and minority rights, and Baal worshippers’ rights, and get those pesky orthodox rabbis and their stupid religion out the way. All their talk of serving Hashem is just stopping people from living in harmony, and coming together. It’s so much easier to serve the Baal! He lets you marry whoever you want, eat whatever you want, do whatever you want, and you can even spend Yom Kippur sunbathing on the beach in Tel Aviv!

We need to re-educate those dumb, backwards people in Jerusalem, and get them to stop shoving their old, outdated ‘Torah’ down everyone else’s throats.

So, King Achav called together his accountants and lawyers, and together they created The New Jerusalem Foundation, which would channel millions of dollars to every subversive idol worshipper they could find in the Kingdom of Judah.

And their work bore poisonous fruit very quickly!

Within a decade or two, after constant sniping from the feminists on Facebook, even the otherwise righteous Judean King, King Jehoshaphat decided that in the name of achdut and tolerance (and to stop all the carping), he should marry his son, Crown Prince Jehoram, to Princess Ataliah, the daughter of Jezebel and Achav.

Like her mother before her, Ataliah was a hard-core feminist, and a worshipper of the Baal[5]. The first thing she did was encourage her husband to murder all his siblings after he ascended the throne of Judah, so he wouldn’t have any competition. Jehoram, King of Judah, initially wasn’t so sure, but Ataliah managed to persuade him[6].

Ataliah: Jehoree, what’s the big deal?! Don’t tell me you really buy into all that 10 commandments stuff about ‘Don’t murder!’ That’s so pre-historic of you! All that stuff was just made up by rabbis to keep open-minded Baal-worshippers like us under their thumb! Do you know how many people I know, who left Yiddishkeit, because they weren’t allowed to sacrifice their child for the Moloch? We need to open things up here, and tolerate the different streams of Judaism. Baal Judaism and Moloch Judaism is just as valid as ‘orthodox’ Judaism![7] And where I come from, everyone is murdering their siblings to keep hold of their throne. It’s real politik, the way the world really works! Stop being such a doss!

Jehoram, King of Judah didn’t want to be thought of as backwards or as discriminating against his feminist wife’s more modern beliefs – and he was also a little concerned about losing his revenue stream, if one of his siblings made a grab for the throne – so he acquiesced, and had all his brothers murdered[8] in the name of ‘freedom OF, and freedom FROM religion’.

Fast-forward 20 years, and things were going downhill for both kingdoms.

Both countries were being continually harassed and threatened by external enemies from both the North and the South. Achav was dead, his idol-worshipping son Jehoram, King of Israel, had just been murdered by the Israeli General, Jehu, who then also went after Jezebel.

Jezebel heard him coming inside the palace, and her last recorded act (which she live streamed on her i-Phone) was to apply mascara to her eyes, and fix her hairdo[9], before being pushed out of a window at the royal palace.

Forget about praying, or making teshuva a moment before she died, that stuff wasn’t for a modern, feminist woman like her.

(After viewing the footage, feminists in Jerusalem were horrified by this senseless violence against one of their own, and organized a vigil in her memory in Tel Aviv, which was attended by 20,000 prominent idolworshippers.  Channel 2 also covered the story, and blamed her death on – who else? – the rabbis).

The idol-worshipping Jehoram, King of Judah had died from an incurably painful intestinal disease, and his son, the anti-Torah[10], idol-worshipping Ahaziah, had made the mistake of going to visit his cousin, the King of Israel, just as Jehu was killing the whole royal family, so he was also murdered.

When the Queen Mother Ataliah heard this, feminist that she was, what did she decide to do? She decided it was time for the Kingdom of Judah to have its first female prime minister – because anything men can do, feminist women can do better!

So, she declared herself the ruler, then she gave orders for every single male inline to the throne (including her own children and grandchildren) to be poisoned to death.[11]

Luckily for the House of David, Ataliah’s daughter, Jehosheba, was sick to the back teeth of all the Baal worship and feminist clap-trap she’d grown up with. She’d become a sincere baal teshuva, and married the Kohen Hagadol, Jehoiada. When her mother, Ataliah, started murdering all her male grandchildren in cold-blood, Jehosheba spirited away her nephew, a baby prince called Yoash, into the Temple, where she hid him for 6 years, until she and her husband could depose Ataliah in a coup.

Ataliah never went to visit that orthodox Temple once during her reign – once she took over the country, the Baal worshipping feminists stopped having their monthly ‘do’ in the women’s courtyard – so she never figured out what was going on until it was too late[12].

Ataliah continued to worship the Baal – and a whole bunch of other idols – right up until the end, when Jehoiada had her executed, and the Talmud even relates that she ‘married’ (ahem…) an Ashera tree on a regular basis. Because hey, when you’re a feminist who needs men?!

Especially with all that ‘toxic masculinity’ they have going on.

It’s amazing what you can learn when you crack open the pages of Tanach, not least, as King Shlomo so wisely stated way back when:

There is nothing new under the sun.

=====

“Do not turn to idols…R Chanin said: ‘The verse is interpreted to mean: Do not turn to that which comes from your minds[13].’” – Tractate Shabbos 149a

 

FOOTNOTES:

 

[1] Kings I, 18:4

[2] “Evil though he was, without Jezebel’s contemptible influence, Achav would not have followed the Baal, which required the revolting practice of sacrificing children.” – Malbim, Artscroll footnote to Kings I, 16:31

[3] “There had never been anyone like Achav, who sold himself to do what was evil in the eyes of Hashem, because Jezebel his wife had incited him.” – Kings I, 21:25

[4] “[Achav] erected an altar for the Baal in the Temple of the Baal that he built in Samaria” – Kings I, 16:33

[5] “[Jehoram] went in the way of the Kings of Israel, just as the house of Achav had done, for Achav’s daughter had become his wife; he did what was evil in the eyes of Hashem.” – Kings II, 8:17

[6] “Scripture implies that the queen’s influence was decisive in corrupting Jehoram.” – Kli Yakar, Artscroll footnote to Kings II, 8:18

[7] “Just as Athaliah’s mother, Jezebel, brought the Baal to the Ten Tribes, so her daughter influenced Jehoram to bring it to Judah” – Artscroll footnote to Kings II, 8:18.

[8] “[Jehoram] had brothers, the sons of Jehoshaphat – Azariah, Jehiel, Zechariah, Azariahu, Michael and Shephatiah….Jehoram rose up over the kingdom of his father, and…he killed all of his brothers by the sword” – Chronicles II, 21:2-4

[9] “Jehu then came to Jezreel. Jezebel heard, and she put mascara on her eyes and adorned her head, and she looked out of the window.” – Kings II, 9:30

[10] “Rashi cites the Sages’ tradition that Ahaziah’s wickedness was so extreme…he took a Torah scroll and erased all mentions of Hashem’s name, and replaced them with the names of his idols.” – Artscroll footnote to Kings II, 9:27.

[11] “When Athaliah, Ahaziah’s mother, saw that her son had died, she arose and exterminated all the offspring of the royal family.” Kings I, 11:1

[12] “[Yoash] remained…in the Temple of Hashem, hidden for six years, while Athaliah reigned over the land.” – Kings II, 11:3

[13] The word אלילים (idols) is cognate with the word חללילים (recesses – of a man’s heart and mind) – Rashi: cf. Chidushei HaRan and Tos. Rid).

==

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THE 24 HEAVENLY COURTS

In Lesson I:215 of Likutey Moharan, Rebbe Nachman tells us:

Know: There are 24 types of pidyon nefesh, corresponding to 24 courts of justice. For each and every court, there is a unique corresponding pidyon nefesh to ameliorate its judgments. Therefore, a ransom is not always effective, since not everyone knows all 24 pidyon nefesh, and even if one does, he cannot perform them, and when one does not perform the specific ransom required by a specific court, it is not effective.

Now, let’s go back to Chayay Moharan (translated as Tzaddik, #181), where Rav Natan tells us:

“[T]he Rebbe said it is impossible to make a pidyon nefesh unless one knows all 24 kinds of pidyon nefesh, and how to sweeten the judgments of the 24 courts. He compared this to someone being sued in the courts of Kiev and trying to defend himself in the courts of Kaminetz.

“How can you make a pidyon nefesh for someone if you don’t know what court they are judging him in? At that time, too, the Rebbe said that there is a pidyon nefesh so exalted, that it has the power to sweeten the judgements of all 24 courts…

“He said only one in a generation knows of those 24 pidyon nefesh.”

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So know, we’ve learned that there are 24 courts in heaven that are cranking out the judgements against us, and that in order to ‘sweeten’ the judgment against us by paying over money for a pidyon nefesh, we need to know which court is actually trying our case.

Each of our true tzaddikim have influence in one, or some, or many, of those 24 courts of justice. But there is only one tzaddik in every generation who has access to all 24 courts. And so a pidyon nefesh given to that tzaddik will clearly be the most effective.

There’s a passage from One in a Generation Volume 1 that explains this very nicely:

“Rav Berland had begun corresponding with Rav Yitzchak Kaduri in his younger years, and sent him many letters containing a number of questions he had about Kabbalah. After their correspondence had continued for some time, Rav Kaduri started occasionally telling some of the people who came to him for help that Rav Berland was the one tzaddik in the generation who controls all 24 of the Heavenly courts, and that only he could help them.

This sentiment was echoed in more recent times by Rav Yoram Abergel, zt” l, as the following account shows: “A year and a half ago, around six months before his untimely death,  I went to ask Rav Yoram, zt” l, a number of questions, and one of them concerned all the commotion surrounding the tzaddik and gaon, Rav Eliezer Berland,” explains Dan Ben-Dovid, one of Rav Abergel’s close followers.

“I didn’t really know very much at all about Rav Berland, shlita, or his Shuvu Banim community. But there was so much commotion going on around him, the matter came to my attention. So, I asked Rav Yoram Abergel, ‘Honored Rabbi, there are a lot of things being said about Rav Berland, with people saying all sorts of different things about him.’

“Rav Yoram gave me a very big smile and quietly whispered in my ear, ‘Rav Berland, shlita, rules over the 24 Heavenly courts.’”

RECAP:

Let’s recap where we’ve got to so far:

  • We all do, say and think ‘bad’ things all the time, that we don’t properly acknowledge or make teshuva about.
  • All these sins lead to harsh judgments being made against us in the 24 heavenly courts.
  • Those harsh spiritual judgments manifest as illnesses, money problems, shalom bayit issues, mental health problems, feelings of sadness and depression, relationship problems etc.
  • The suffering itself helps to atone for these sins, and to ‘pay down’ our spiritual debt.
  • But, there is another way we can ‘sweeten the judgments’ and that’s by paying a true tzaddik a sum of money to perform a pidyon nefesh for us.
  • While many of our true tzaddikim are familiar with a few of the heavenly courts where these judgments are made, only one tzaddik in a generation knows all 24 courts, and can affect the outcome in all of them.
  • A pidyon given to this one tzaddik will thus be the most effective. But pidyons given to other true tzaddikim can also work wonders, if they have influence in that specific heavenly court where the harsh judgement was actually made.
  • You have to ask God to help you find out who this ‘one tzaddik of a generation’ is, because not everyone will merit getting access to the ‘spiritual shortcuts’ this tzaddik can give them.

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THE RIGHT ATTITUDE TO HAVE, WHEN GIVING A PIDYON NEFESH

So, now we get to that part of the post that I’ve left until last, because it contains some of the knottier issues that so many people have with paying over a pidyon nefesh.

The main place to start is the knee-jerk reaction I get from so many people with very shaky belief in true tzaddikim, that you can basically sum up as: it’s just a big scam.

Why would someone believe that?

There are a few possible answers to that question. Maybe, they don’t read Likutey Moharan, and the other Breslov works. Maybe, they do read them, but don’t believe that Rebbe Nachman of Breslov was really a tremendous tzaddik who had a much better grasp of how the world really works, than they do.

Maybe, they do believe what’s written in Likutey Moharan etc, but they have real doubts about how to find the ‘one tzaddik’, or a true tzaddik, in our generation.

Maybe, they’ve paid money to pseudo-tzaddikim in the past, and didn’t see any benefit or improvement.

And the last option is that maybe they’ve paid money over to a bona fide real tzaddik, but their specific problem still hasn’t been solved.

Let’s go through all of these possibilities, and try to address them, to see what’s really going on ‘underneath’.

  • PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT THE CONCEPT OF DOING A PIDYON NEFESH, OR HOW IT’S MEANT TO WORK

This is the easiest to solve. Take a look at Likutey Moharan 1:215, and the other sources mentioned above. You can also take a look at THIS explanation of the concept of doing a pidyon nefesh, for more background.

  • PEOPLE DON’T BELIEVE THAT REBBE NACHMAN WAS A HUGE TZADDIK WHO KNOWS WHAT HE’S TALKING ABOUT

Mockery, agnosticism and arrogance are huge problems today, even in the externally orthodox world. In Sefer HaMiddot, section on Tzaddik, #134 it’s written:

Mockery prevents one from going to the tzaddikim.

It’s also written (#130):

Judgments are sweetened through faith in tzaddikim.

It’s no coincidence that the people who mock and talk against the true tzaddikim experience tremendous suffering. God should have mercy on them.

  • PEOPLE DON’T KNOW HOW TO FIND A ‘TRUE TZADDIK’, OR WHO TO TRUST TODAY

This is another easy issue to resolve: Ask God to show you who is the real deal. There is no other way of finding it out.

Within 3 days of me and my husband starting to do this a few years back, we got some very definite answers that completely transformed our life.

  • PEOPLE HAVE BEEN BURNED BY ‘PSEUDO-TZADDIKIM’ IN THE PAST, AND ARE NOW VERY WARY

I have so much sympathy for you, as I also went through something similar. The answer, again, is to start exploring the issue in hitbodedut, and to ask God to show you which bad middot tripped you up into wanting to believe these pseudo-tzaddikim were the real deal.

Speaking for myself, I got tripped up by my own arrogance, anger and harshly judgmental tendencies. It was only once I’d suffered through a whole bunch of horrible things that I bought on myself with these bad middot that I was willing to start acknowledging my own issues. At that stage, I started to see through the ‘pseudo tzaddikim’ I’d been enamored with, and also came away from reading stuff from the autistics etc, and life started to be so much nicer and better.

The whole world really is a mirror. The more we work on our own bad middot, the more we’ll naturally be attracted to good, honest and true tzaddikim.

  • PEOPLE HAVE PAID A PIDYON NEFESH TO A REAL TZADDIK AND THEY DIDN’T SEE ANY MOVEMENT

Of all the issues, this is clearly the hardest one to really address. What’s going on with that?

A little while back on the ravberland.com website, I read THIS story, about a man who had to go back to Rav Berland 12 different times, to pay 12 different pidyon nefesh, before his son came out of the coma he’d been in for 10 years.

After I read that story, I did a lot of pondering about it, to try to really understand what was going on there.

Why didn’t the Rav just tell the man to pay one, massive, pidyon nefesh upfront, and gamarnu? Or, why didn’t the Rav explain to the man that he’d need to pay 12 different pidyons before it would work, instead of telling him each time his son would now wake up?

I was very puzzled about this, so I did some hitbodedut on it and here’s what I got back:

The Rav is not a caspomat. Even though doing a pidyon nefesh is a powerful spiritual shortcut, it doesn’t mean that we ourselves don’t have to also make our own teshuva, and also keep working on our own emuna, and particularly, our own emunat tzaddikim.

It’s still a joint effort.

The miracle that man was asking for, to resuscitate a boy who’d been in a coma for 10 years, was absolutely enormous, by any measure. Clearly, the money alone couldn’t pull it off. The father also needed to ‘deserve’ the miracle he eventually got by:

  1. Going through the tremendous suffering of having his hopes dashed on 11 different occasions, before his son finally regained consciousness, and
  2. Working on his emunat tzaddikim, in a very real way, to not go sour half-way through the process and start bad-mouthing the Rav to anyone who would listen for not ‘delivering’ on what he’d promised.

And those three things together is what lead to the harsh decree ultimately being torn up, and the boy waking up.

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What can we learn from this?

I know so many people who have seen swift, immediate and massive turnarounds from doing a pidyon nefesh with Rav Berland. They have no questions. I also know people who have seen immediate but small improvements, that are slowly gathering steam. Most of those people also don’t have questions about what’s going on, and can see it’s a process.

Then there are those who apparently see no change, no turnaround.

Like the man in the story.

We had something a little similar when our house purchase went so spectacularly wrong, last year. My husband paid a pidyon – and nothing seemed to move. Then he went back and the Rav told him to pay another pidyon – and nothing seemed to move.

Then, he went back again, and the Rav told him to pay another pidyon, and that’s finally when we got the breakthrough that helped us to get out of the whole mess and put it behind us.

For a few weeks there, we also had no idea what was going on, But we knew one thing: no money you give to a true tzaddik is ever wasted.

God decreed we had to go through that horrible house purchase, clearly it was something we had to experience. But paying the pidyon meant we could get out of the yucky situation as soon as we’d done the tikkun, and that we wouldn’t be permanently traumatized and embittered by it.

After it happened, we learned a great deal about ourselves, and what we still needed to make teshuva about, and at this stage, I can see that I deserved what happened 100%, and I’m grateful for it.

That experience brought out a whole bunch of ‘bad middot’ that had been hiding out in my blind spot, and that I had no idea were even there.

Our true tzaddikim are operating on a level far, far above us. We have no idea what’s really going on, what really needs fixing. Sometimes, the amounts of money required to ‘fix’ the problem are so astronomical, most people would baulk at the sums.

Maybe that’s why, sometimes, the Rav splits it up into many different payments.

Maybe that’s why, sometimes, we also have to continue to suffer for a bit, or have to work on our emunat tzaddikim, or have to make an effort to not start slandering and spreading lashon hara.

Because that suffering also atones, and brings down the ‘debt’, that teshuva also atones for us, until the pidyon can actually take care of the rest.

Who knows?

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WHEN YOU SHOULDN’T GIVE A PIDYON NEFESH

So, let’s end this post with a brief discussion about when you shouldn’t pay a pidyon.

Don’t do a pidyon nefesh if:

  • You aren’t doing it 100% with a full heart – i.e. you aren’t 100% happy to give over the money, regardless of the outcome, or you begrudge the payment.
  • You won’t be able to stop yourself from slandering and speaking badly if it doesn’t work out how you wanted it to.
  • You don’t really believe in the concept of doing a pidyon nefesh, and secretly think it’s ‘just a scam’.
  • You don’t have a lot of patience, and expect everything to be rectified ASAP (the one place this doesn’t apply is with life-threatening emergencies where time is of the essence. But even then, it may take a day or two, a week or two.)

If that might happen, it’s better for you – way better for you – to keep your money to yourself.

Giving a pidyon to a real tzaddik is a tremendous zchut, a tremendous merit – just as giving any money / gifts / help to them is.

If you’re relating to the whole thing like it’s some transaction at Walmart, that comes with a money-back guarantee – you probably shouldn’t be doing it. Remember what Rabbenu taught us in Sefer HaMiddot:

#153 Someone who draws close to the Tzaddik, but who doesn’t do it innocently, will eventually become an opposer.

Our true tzaddikim are not salesmen, they don’t ‘owe’ us anything. On a number of occasions, I’ve seen with my own eyes how Rav Berland has either refused to respond to requests to a do a pidyon, or how he’s given the petitioner a blessing, or a prayer to be recited, or a practice to be followed, instead of paying over money.

We pay over the money for a pidyon nefesh to help ourselves, not to help the tzaddikim we’re giving the money to. But we’re not always helped in the ways we expect. Vis:

#172 Through the gifts that one brings to tzaddikim, a person can subdue their enemies, and neutralize the evil spirit that hovers over themselves.

#182 One who benefits the Tzaddik from his belongings, it is as if he benefited all the Jewish people, and he is saved from death.

#196 Connection to the Tzaddik is a great healing.

#209 Through the livelihood people provide for the Tzaddik, all their sins are forgiven, just as the Cohen’s eating of the sacrifices atoned for those who offered them.

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May God help us to develop the emuna, and the emunat tzaddikim we really require to get through the last of these birthpangs of Moshiach in one piece.

Click HERE for more posts on Pidyon Nefesh.

 

Everything you need to know about Pidyon Nefesh – Part 1

The whole idea of giving a pidyon nefesh to a real Tzaddik has to be one of the most misunderstood, confusing and murky concepts in Jewish thought.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to deal with this subject via email, or a phone call, so I think the time has come to try to sort it all out in a methodical fashion, and bring as many of the sources and explanations as I can into one post.

(Now that I’ve actually written this, I’m going to split it up into two posts, one after the other.)

But before we can get to the basic idea behind a pidyon nefesh (which is not just a Breslov idea, btw, and not even just a Chassidic idea. Many Sephardi kabbalists also hold by the idea of doing pidyon nefesh) – we first have to talk a bit about the idea of the True Tzaddik.

Which is probably the second most misunderstood, confusing and murky concepts in Jewish thought, so this is going to be one heck of a long post!

After some consideration, I thought the easiest way to dive into the topic is to just bring some of what Rebbe Nachman explains about the Tzaddik, and true tzaddikim, in his book, Sefer HaMiddot.

QUOTES FROM SEFER HAMIDDOT (Taken from the chapter called Tzaddik):

#12 Putting in effort to draw close to tzaddikim is beneficial for serving God.

#20 Don’t be disturbed by the fact that the tzaddikim accept financial support from others in order to run their households with wealth and honor – would it be better for them not to take from others, and not to lead? For the more delight and expansion the Tzaddik has, the more his soul expands, and then there is a resting place in which the Divine Presence may dwell. Therefore, one should not come to the house [of a Tzaddik] empty-handed.

#40 In the merit of serving a great man, one is saved from death.

#46 Giving money to benefit a tzaddik is like serving in the Holy Temple.

#82 Sometimes, a tzaddik elevates someone and then humiliates them, and this is for the person’s benefit.

#107 Sometimes, through giving one bit of satisfaction to the Tzaddik, and through the little action one does for him, one merits the World to Come.

#122 The blessing of a Tzaddik is a pidyon.

#127 One who puts the Tzaddik to the test, it’s as if he put God to the test.

#130 Through faith in Tzaddikim judgments are sweetened.

#136 There is no Tzaddik who does not endure attackers and investigators.

#150 God gives parnassa to a tzaddik through the community, in order that he will have some connection with them, and so that when God remembers the Tzaddik, he remembers them as well.

#151 The coming of Moshiach depends on drawing close to the Tzaddik.

#153 Someone who draws close to the Tzaddik, but who doesn’t do it innocently, will eventually become an opposer.

#172 Through the gifts that one brings to tzaddikim, a person can subdue their enemies, and neutralize the evil spirit that hovers over themselves.

#182 One who benefits the Tzaddik from his belongings, it is as if he benefited all the Jewish people, and he is saved from death.

#196 Connection to the Tzaddik is a great healing.

#209 Through the livelihood people provide for the Tzaddik, all their sins are forgiven, just as the Cohen’s eating of the sacrifices atoned for those who offered them.

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Ad kan, from Sefer HaMiddot. As always, it’s highly recommended to look up the quotes yourself, as I just picked out a few, and there’s much more that could be said.

What I wanted to try to bring out with these quotes are two key points:

  • Giving money / help / gifts / support to tzaddikim is always very beneficial to a person, and goes a long way to cancelling out our sins and helping us to overcome our yetzer haras and negative character traits. And this is without us even getting into the specific discussion about a pidyon nefesh, which we’ll come to shortly.
  • All of the things described above only apply to True Tzaddikim – and not ordinary rabbis and rabbanits, nice as they might be. Even more so, these benefits don’t apply to giving money to ‘pretend’ holy people.

From my own experience, I know it’s very, very hard to really know who is ‘real’ and who isn’t today, let alone who is a ‘true tzaddik’ and who isn’t.

There is only one way to really know this with certainty, and that is:

To pray on it, and to ask God to show you who is a real tzaddik.

Yes, we’re talking about doing regular hitbodedut again, because without it, you’ll trip up. Even with it, you’ll probably still trip up, especially at the beginning. Why? Because we are drawn to the rabbis and rabbanits that most mirror and reflect our own views and beliefs back at us.

If we are angry, judgmental, arrogant hypocrites who think we’re perfect and all the problems in the world are simply everyone else’s fault – that’s the sort of people we’ll be drawn to, those are the types of Torah classes and ideas and ‘proofs’ we’ll want to hear. It takes a lot of time to start clearing all those bad middot out of the way, but when that starts to happen, we’ll find ourselves open to hearing about judging others favorably, and about taking responsibility for our own issues, and about working more on our own bad middot.

And that’s when God will start to draw us closer to the really holy people, the true tzaddikim in our midst.

So, the first part of the equation is that giving money and gifts to true tzaddikim is always beneficial to a person, at least in the spiritual realm, but that it’s not so easy to know who a true tzaddik is, and there are a lot of ‘pseudo-tzaddikim’ out there.

Now, let’s talk more about the concept of the Pidyon Nefesh itself.

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REBBE NACHMAN EXPLANS WHY WE SHOULD DO A PIDYON NEFESH:

In the Kitzur Likutey Moharan (translated into English as ‘Advice’, by the Breslov Research Institute), it says the following about Pidyon Nefesh:

  • When a person is sick, a pidyon nefesh (monetary redemption) is the pre-requisite of any cure. Only after the redemption has been made does the Torah give the doctor permission to cure (See Likutey Moharan, II:3)

  • When a person fills the mouths of the Sages with wine, it is accounted for him like a redemption (LM 1:41)

  • Getting up for Tikkun Chatzot (the midnight prayer for rectification) has the same power as a redemption.

  • It is a good practice to always give money for a pidyon nefesh. This is the way to sweeten the power of harsh judgments at all times, and to be saved from them. Even when nobody in the house is sick and you have no particular problems, it is still good to present money for a pidyon nefesh, in order to prevent any problems or sickness, God forbid (Chayey Moharan Section on Serving Hashem, 92).

This isn’t just anyone telling us this, it’s Rebbe Nachman, one of the biggest rabbis in Jewish history.

And he’s spelling it out clearly, that if you want the best chance of avoiding harsh sicknesses and other big difficulties, you should regularly pay a pidyon nefesh, even if you’re not currently experiencing any problems!

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HOW DOES A PIDYON NEFESH WORK?

To understand this, we first have to state something obvious, but which is often so hidden from so many of us, in our ‘pretend perfect’ world:

Nobody is perfect, and every single one of us is constantly transgressing Torah commandments and hurting other people every minute of every day.

The best way to minimize the judgements against us is by going over the past 24 hours in hitbodedut, to try to figure out if that angry outburst, that slanderous email, that nasty behavior, that spiteful comment, was really as justified and ‘holy’ as it seemed at the time.

This is a crucial part of the teshuva process, and if we’re doing regular teshuva, that’s the main way how we can keep these harsh heavenly decrees that are building up against us every single day in check.

But, even if we are regularly doing that (and especially if we’re not…) we all have our blind spots, we all have our flaws and issues, particularly in the area of man and his fellow man. And if those sins aren’t properly atoned for, they can cause harsh judgments to be sent down to us by the Heavenly Court.

Those harsh spiritual judgments manifest in all sorts of ways, including financial problems, health problems, shalom bayit problems, mental health issues where we just feel sad and depressed all the time, problems with the kids etc etc etc.

Now, the suffering itself atones for our sins.

This is a well-known concept, that when we’re going through harsh experiences, that is ‘paying down our debt’, spiritually. That suffering cleans off the spiritual stains we have on our souls, as a result of all the stuff we’re doing wrong (constantly….) that we aren’t acknowledging, or making teshuva about.

ONE WAY OR ANOTHER, THE SPIRITUAL DEBT WE’VE RUN UP HAS TO BE PAID OFF.

There are three main ways we can do this:

  • Clean it off with daily hitbodedut / cheshbon hanefesh / teshuva (but remember, we all have blind spots, which means that we’re for sure not catching everything we’re doing wrong and need to fix.)
  • Experience the suffering we brought down on ourselves as a result of our own behavior and flaws.
  • Pay a pidyon nefesh, a sum of money for a redemption, to a true tzaddik, which is a different sort of ‘suffering’, because parting with our cash is very hard for most of us to do.

The Tanach makes regular reference to money as damim, ‘bloods’.  Why is it called this?

Because we literally sweat and spill our own blood in order to earn that money, to get it together. It’s very dear to us, we’ve sacrificed so much time, effort, energy, whatever to attain it.

And there’s another factor to toss in here, which is that some of our suffering – especially in this generation, the last before Moshiach finally comes – is because of sins that we committed in past lives.

When that’s the case, we can’t even get to it via a daily teshuva process, however much we try. So then we’re really left with just the last 2 options on the list.

And sometimes, even a pidyon nefesh can’t get us out of the harsh decree, because that is our tikkun for a previous life, and it can’t be avoided.

In the next post, let’s take a look at how the pidyon nefesh process actually works, in Shemayim.

School A had a problem with the girls in school using their phones too much, and probably surfing inappropriate content.

School A was a ‘religious’ school, inasmuch as it wanted its students to keep Shabbat and kosher, and to believe in Hashem, and to grow up wanting to live in Eretz Yisrael, and being good people, and keeping the Torah as much as they could.

With no pressure.

Many of School A’s students had their nose pierced, and five earrings in their ear, and the school also turned a blind eye to the girls who wore jeans under long tunics. The school also encouraged the students to decorate the walls, and were thrilled when one girl drew a massive ‘Ha Esh Sheli’ picture on the upstairs wall, while another girl penned a saying from Rebbe Nachman next to it.

For the end of year play, the school decided to stage a drama that was based on the story of a young woman who used to be chareidi, but who fell off the path – but then returned wholeheartedly and more sincerely than before, after a trip to Uman. School A isn’t perfect, not at all. There’s a lot of issues, a lot of people struggling with their yiddishkeit and their emuna.

But School A is honest about what’s going on, and isn’t trying to hide things under the carpet.

So when School A realized there was a phone problem, they decided to organize a panel, and to invite student representatives from each of the classes, to sit on it, together with some parents and teachers. They also decided to bring in a bunch of different speakers, and to start sharing around educational material about the dangers of smartphone addiction – for everyone, grownups included – for the panels to discuss, and to help formulate a healthy, workable policy for the school that really tried to tackle the problem at its root.

They sent a letter home to the parents to inform them of what was going on, and invited any interested parent to come and join one of the panels.

School B also had a problem with the girls in school using their phones too much, and probably surfing inappropriate content.

School B was a ‘religious’ school, inasmuch as it had a reputation it felt it had to maintain, and a public image to guard. Of course, it also wanted its students to keep Shabbat and kosher, and to believe in Hashem, and to grow up wanting to live in Eretz Yisrael, and being good people, and keeping the Torah as much as they could.

But that wasn’t the priority.

The priority was for the school to retain the appearance of its students being the ‘right sort’ of religiously observant, and to dress the right way publically. Nose rings were banned (so the girls who had them bought clear bits of plastic to stick in their noses during school hours.) Skirt lengths were religiously policed (so the girls bought skirts that were super-easy to roll down for school, and then way, way up for on the way to and from school).

And the end of year play could only be done by students who were either studying dance or drama as part of their curriculum, because the main thing was that it should appear to be a totally professional production.

School B isn’t perfect, not at all. There’s a lot of issues, a lot of people struggling with their yiddishkeit and their emuna.

But School B isn’t being honest about what’s going on, and believes that lots of pious lectures from the school’s educators about having emuna, etc, is all that’s required to really tick the ‘personal development’ box.

(Most of the students in School B are on Ritalin or Concerta.)

So when School B realized there was a phone problem, they decided to resolve it in a very superficial way. They sent a pompous letter to all of their parents informing them that any student coming to school without the Etrog filter on their phone, or otherwise with a ‘kosher’ (WHATever) smartphone would have the phone confiscated and get into lots of trouble.

In the meantime, lots and lots of the girls figured out how to bypass the filter. Lots and lots of girls had a ‘kosher’ phone for school, and a totally unfiltered phone for everywhere else. The school knew this was happening, but the school didn’t care, because the only thing it was really worried about was looking the part.

As the months wore on, more and more of the girls in School B started to drink alcohol. And to smoke cigarettes. And to stop dressing tzniusly. And even, to stop keeping Shabbat. As long as they didn’t do this on the school’s time, or on the school’s premises, the school turned a blind eye to it.

It didn’t send out any letters to the parents, it didn’t organize any special educational events, because doing that would be an admission that School B’s students had a problem, and School B wasn’t about to do that in a rush. There was an appearance of perfection that needed to be maintained.

But the behavior, attitudes and environment in the school continued to erode.

Eventually, things got so bad, that even School B realized it had to do something. So, it sent out a carefully worded letter to the parents, informing them that from now on, there would be zero tolerance for any lack of respect towards the teachers, or absence of derech eretz.

The problem was definitely all with the students, and School B would be launching another series of preachy, fake-emuna type lectures from its highly unpopular and hypocritical educators, to try to get the student in the school to stop being so bad.

When the parent of one of the girls in both these schools read those emails – which popped into her inbox 10 minutes apart – she called up the kid in School B, and she told her:

We need to get you out of that place ASAP. It’s only going to get worse from here.

And thankfully, Hashem heard that parent’s heartfelt prayer that her kid should go somewhere far less hypocritical, and far more spiritually healthy, where the people in charge saw their students with a good eye, and did their best to relate to them as precious, if struggling, human beings, instead of ‘robots’ or enemies.

The End.

Or really as we all know, just the beginning.