But I gave you a nice, fat post to keep you busy until Sunday, when I get back.
I will fill you in then, because my trips to Uman are never dull.
Have a great week!
Baruch Hashem, I'm off to Uman in a day or two, so there won't be a lot of posting this week.
But I gave you a nice, fat post to keep you busy until Sunday, when I get back.
I will fill you in then, because my trips to Uman are never dull.
Have a great week!
Legend has it that there are some people who naturally find life easy, enjoyable and stress-free. I am definitely not one of those people.
Growing up, I expended a huge amount of energy struggling to fit in, manage, not feel depressed, not get capsized by some huge emotions, and to feel like my life was somehow worth all the huge effort it sometimes took just to get out of bed.
My depressions were a steady feature of my childhood. They worsened in my teenage years – with one particularly bad one lasting for about three years, coinciding with my family moving from the UK to Canada when I was 14 – and then popped up consistently for the next 15 years’ or so, whenever life got stressful.
At that stage, I tried to cope with my inner turmoil by throwing myself into my education, and then afterwards into my work and career. I also found that competitive sports helped to reduce the inner tension I permanently felt, so I was out playing tennis, basketball, netball, or soccer six times a week.
To get myself to sleep, I would read obsessively – anything to avoid the need to ‘think’ or to ‘be’ - until I literally fell asleep with the light on.
That’s how I coped with all the stress and misery I felt, until the age of around 27, when my first daughter was born, and my anxiety levels started to zoom through the roof. I felt a permanent panic that ‘something’ bad was going to happen to my child, God forbid. In the day, I worked even harder, stuck her in childcare for as long as I could, and tried to avoid any quiet ‘down’ time.
But at night, when I finally started to relax and unwind a little after a jam-packed, hectic day, that’s when all my repressed anxiety and fear would start leaking out. I’d always been a fitful and restless sleeper, but becoming a mother was the last nail in the coffin. Even when I was reading and exhausted, I couldn’t get to sleep for hours. And I would wake up from nightmares two or three times a night, frantically searching for my daughter, convinced that something awful had just happened.
I put it down to new mother-itis, and tried not to think too much about it. But by the time kid number 2 showed up a couple of years’ later, I was turning into a nervous wreck – but so quietly that no-one, including myself, really realized what was happening. Externally, life was going amazingly well: my husband was earning good money as a lawyer, I’d just started my own successful PR business, we lived in a nice home, had our two children, had a good group of friends…
But inside that perfect picture, I was feeling increasingly trapped, stressed-out and miserable. I was working like a dog, and I couldn’t seem to tell my clients ‘no’, or to put reasonable boundaries in place so that I’d have a life outside of my business.
My kids were coming down with one health issue after another, like terrible eczema, wetting the bed, severe allergies and then asthma – all holistic health signs that ‘something’ was severely out of kilter in our home life, but at that point I was completely clueless about why it was all happening, or what I was meant to do about it all.
My relationship with husband was also fraying, as both of us seemed to have got trapped in a bubble of superficiality that made it really hard to relate to each other, or really feel the other person. For years, we both felt like we were living with a lodger who chipped in to pay the bills, but otherwise didn’t bother you very much.
I tried to fix things with the tools I had available then: I signed up for six sessions of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) which did help me to get my work / life balance a bit more liveable. I also learnt how to mind-map – initially as an organizational tool for my burgeoning business – and that also helped with some of the external, superficial pressures that were stressing me out.
But with two small kids and a crazy work schedule, my exercise route for coping with all the internal tension that was continuing to build inside of me had disappeared – which is when the panic attacks showed up. Now, on top of the intermittent depressions, the sleep issues and the digestive problems that had started after I’d been put on an industrial load of antibiotics to counter strep after the birth of my first daughter, I was having some real problems breathing.
I’d get some random thought in my head about ‘something bad’ happening to me or my loved ones, and then I would feel frozen with fear. My heart would start racing, I would start to feel very hot, sweaty and claustrophobic, and then my breathing would go super shallow and I’d be struggling for air.
After the second time it happened, I finally bit the bullet and found a shrink. She came recommended, and was apparently one of the ten best psychologists in the country. She taught me some ‘diaphragm breathing’ exercises, and helped me to get my breath back, at least temporarily.
She advised me to come visit her twice a week – which at more than $500 a pop quickly became a habit I couldn’t really afford. But I was scared to stop, and convinced that it wouldn’t take much longer until this super-ace psychologist would finally work out why I was turning into a nervous wreck, and cure me.
In the meantime, we moved country, to Israel, and my life fell apart in a big way. The day after we moved, we got word that the court case we’d been fighting with the mortgage company had gone against us – wiping out all of savings.
A couple of months’ later, we were burgled, and the robbers cleaned out all the expensive equipment we had in our home office, plus my jewellery. As we’d just moved, I hadn’t got around to insuring anything, so we had to pay out of pocket to get everything set up again.
Next, my husband’s main client declared bankruptcy, leaving us to deal with tens of thousands in unpaid bills. And then my beautiful, lucrative, successful business tanked overnight. It went from earning around $50k a month to earning less than $1k.
At that point, I’d taken on a few employees to keep things ticking over while I moved country, and I was optimistic that this was just a temporary blip, and that things would swing back up to prosperity soon. I marketed my tail off; I applied for new contracts all over the place. I cut my prices. All to no avail. Six months’ later, I’d completely run out of steam to resuscitate my company, and I’d gone into heavy debt trying to keep all the salaries paid while I was waiting for the work to return.
I fired everyone – and wished I was dead. My depressions had never really gone away even in the good times, but now that my life had hit the skids in such a spectacular way, they were back with a vengeance. There were days were I felt so heavy and sluggish, I literally couldn’t get out of bed. I’d mope around the house all day, crying my eyes out about how difficult, bad and horrible my life was.
Nothing could get me into a happy mood. Not family outings, not entertaining, not holidays, not even spending the little bit of money the bank was still giving us on a shopping splurge. Life seemed black and hopeless, and I spent most of my days wishing I was dead, instead of having to suffer so much.
By this point, I was up to seeing three different shrinks on two continents, but the more I talked to them, the worse I felt. At some point, someone suggested that going on medication might be a good idea for me, to ‘get me through the bad patch’ – and when I heard that, I bolted.
I come from a family that abhors doctors and mistrusts medicine, and when that instinct kicked in big time, I ran away from all my shrinks. Truth be told, it wasn’t so hard: they were costing me a fortune and I no longer had the money to pay for it all, plus the results had been pretty pathetic, and the thought of having to try to analyze another dream was making me feel nauseous.
That’s the first time I got God involved in my healthcare: I was sobbing my eyes out again, unable to get off the couch and make supper, or interact with my two small girls, and I raised my eyes to the heavens and silently screamed at God: ‘God! Help me! Get me out of this mess! I can’t carry on like this!’
Two days later, my depression lifted, and it’s pretty much never been back since.
But while the depression disappeared at that stage, the stress, anxiety and tension I felt was only getting worse. I was becoming paranoid about terrorists, and terminal illnesses, and pollution, and going bankrupt and having to live out on the street – you name it, I worried and obsessed over it.
When I was 35, I developed some weird lumps in a breast overnight, and that sent my panic-o-meter into overdrive, because I was convinced that I must have cancer, God forbid, and that I probably only had a few months’ left.
Around six weeks’ later, the specialist reassured me it was nothing major and would go away by itself – but the mental damage had already been done, by that point, and physical illness became my bete noire. If anyone in my family coughed, had a headache or seemed to be more tired or exhausted than usual, that would set off a wave of panic and anxiety that literally had me throwing up from fear.
It’s hard to describe the sensation to anyone who hasn’t had the misfortune to experience it for themselves, but when you get trapped in the grip of an overwhelming emotion like fear or anxiety, it literally tears your soul and sanity to shreds. You just feel so gross and horrible that you’ll do almost anything to get it to stop.
Anything could set the horrible feeling off, and I felt completely powerless to stop it. I couldn’t run away from it, I couldn’t drown it out, I couldn’t ignore it, and sleep was the only respite I could find from it – and even that didn’t always work, as sometimes it would follow me into my dreams and give me the worst nightmares ever.
Thankfully, that stage ended after about three months, when we decided to move to a much quieter, rural location, and a lot of the external stimuli that had been setting my anxiety off disappeared.
My husband had a good job, we’d moved to a quieter community, my kids were in a good school. I was really hoping that after the last few years of intense difficulties and emotional and physical health problems, I’d finally get to take it a little easier, and have the chance to figure out what God wanted me to do, when I actually grew up.
A couple of months after our move to the quiet idyll, I started to get weird headaches and stomachaches, that I’d never experienced before. I ignored it as long as I could, but then my eyes went really blurry when I was driving on the motorway, and I realized that ‘the problem’, whatever it was, had gotten urgent again.
I booked myself for an eye exam with a specialist – nothing. I went to see my GP, who wrote me a prescription for a whole bunch of antiobiotic eye drops – which I decided not to take. Because at that point, after many years of secondary infertility and dealing with all manner of arrogant, unpleasant doctors, I’d come to realize that most of them had very little idea what they were actually talking about.
But as my eyes continued to be blurry, and my headaches continued to pound, I knew I had to do something, but I had no idea what.
That’s when a friend told me about a natural healer who was making housecalls to my community once a week. I booked an appointment, and the man was a revelation.
For the first time ever, here was someone explaining to me about how my food and nutrition was affecting my physical health!
I’d been skipping lunch for years, avoided lettuce like the plague and thought a fruit smoothie was the epitome of healthy. All of a sudden, I started hearing how bad table salt is, and how nasty margarine and soup powder mixes were, and how important it was to drink enough water, cut back on the sugar and eat way more vegetables, if I wanted to make my health issues disappear.
Wow! Who knew? So I enthusiastically embraced the healthy eating creed, threw away all my white bread, switched to sprouted spelt and started making green smoothies. And the first couple of months, I felt great on the new diet. My eyes cleared up, I started to have energy again.
Then my husband’s father died very unexpectedly, and my life once again got turned upside down. We went through a period of super-stress involving a lot of family infighting and disagreements, which led to my husband getting so depressed he couldn’t work for a couple of years, and me getting so stressed my whole body was tense like a bow string, and my mouth was dry all the time.
I found another alternative healer who diagnosed Candida – the fungus that lives off yeast and sugar – and suggested I cut out all sugar, and start to take grapefruit extract every day. Again, the pattern continued: a couple of months feeling good, but then either the old symptoms and issues would return, or I’d get some new issue to deal with. Like super-itchy skin; or losing my voice for weeks; or developing a very stiff, painful neck; or having a flare up of strange lumps in my mouth, or other places; or a complete lack of energy; or insomnia – and many other things, besides.
On the emotional front, the paranoia, panic and depression and mostly gone, but I just felt out of it most of the time, like I was living life detached from my surroundings, family and friends.
As the stress and the arguments swirling around us reached a crescendo, I woke up one morning feeling like I was dying.
I had these weird electrical impulses running up and down my spine that were painful but not like anything I’d ever experienced before. I literally felt as though my body was coming apart at the seams, and that I was being turned inside out.
I debated going to hospital, but something stopped me, and I decided to do a big talk to God session instead, where I really asked Him to show me what on earth was going on with my health and my life, and what He wanted from me.
After a couple of days, I started to get some answers:
The next week, I went to visit a naturopath who told me in no uncertain terms that negative emotions like hatred and anger could be stored in the body, and could do even more damage, healthwise, than even the biggest bar of milk chocolate. She advised me to make my peace with the people I was feuding with, and to adopt a very strict macrobiotic diet, full of seaweed.
I took half her advice, and made up with a whole bunch of people. I felt instantly better. But still not 100%, which prompted me to start learning more about holistic health, and how our body, mind and soul really all fits together.
At that stage, I qualified as a trained aromatherapist and kosher healer, trained as an energy medicine practitioner and learned all about the Chinese energy meridians and how they interconnect with our emotions. Some of my old workaholic habits returned, and I set out to read up on everything and anything I could find that would teach me more about human health really works, and where God fits into that picture.
Here’s what I’d already figured out by myself: Human health was complex, and most physical or emotional health problems couldn’t be ‘fixed’ by focusing on just one area or practice, like eating healthy, meditating, or taking your meds as prescribed.
There was an interplay going on, and from my own experiences I could see how God had been using my health issues to send me messages about what needed to be fixed or changed in my life.
Sometimes, the messages were pretty simple and obvious, like ‘eat better and stay away from margarine.’ But other times, the messages were far deeper, but I hadn’t been able to figure them out because I’d been completely unaware of the links between my physical health problems and my underlying emotional issues.
When I thought I was dying, for example, the naturopath told me that my spleen and gallbladder meridians were both incredibly weak. It’s only later that I learnt that the spleen meridian is connected to things like compassion and sociability, and being able to deal with the outside environment and negative emotions, while the gallbladder meridian was connected to anger, intolerance and judgment.
At the time, I hadn’t realized just how angry, intolerant and uncaring I was becoming towards others, or how overwhelmed I’d gotten from all the toxic emotional fallout of having to deal with so many ‘difficult’ people and circumstances. If I’d known earlier what messages my physical health problems were sending me, it would have saved me so much heartache and grief.
The next thing I figured out was that including God was a crucial part of solving the mystery of human health, because nothing happens randomly, for no reason. God always starts out small, and it’s only when we keep missing the clues and the prompts He’s sending us to change course that the messages start going up to scary, unmissable proportions.
Once I got the message that I needed to rethink some of my beliefs and attitudes and behaviors, most of my health issues cleared up fast, without any other big changes to my diet, exercise routine or lifestyle.
I realized that the only way to figure out what those messages really are is to have a full and frank conversation with God about what’s going on with you and your health, because NO-ONE ELSE can properly make those connections for you, no matter how well-meaning they might be.
When I was going through what I was going through, a lot of people had their own theories as to why it was happening. We were too extreme! We weren’t extreme enough! We just needed to eat more chlorophyll! We needed to loosen up a little! We needed to absorb more magnesium by regularly bathing in the sea! We needed to avoid using bleach in our home! We needed to get our act together! We needed to pray more! We needed to pray less!
On and on the conflicting, pointless advice went, and in nearly all cases, it was completely wide of the mark. Most people have their own inbuilt bias or lense for how they view the world, and they tend to filter everything through that, and react accordingly. That’s why the healthy eating guru will tell you to take more herbal preparations, while the more spiritually-minded advisor will tell you to give more money to charity, while someone else will advise you to spend half an hour focusing on your breathing, as the ‘cure’ for all your issues.
Who’s right? Maybe, all of them – or maybe, none of them. In my own case, I had to do a lot of talking to God and figuring things out on my own before I finally started to make some profound connections about why things were happening.
The other reason why God has got to be in the mix somewhere is because it’s inevitable that at some point, you’re going to hit a problem or difficulty that you simply have no idea how to solve or resolve. At those points, if you’re holding God’s hand you’ve always got somewhere to turn, and someone to ask for help.
But if you’re not, those apparently unsolvable problems can sometimes break you into pieces, and make the process of recovery a whole lot more fraught, traumatic and drawn-out than it needs to be.
Ultimately, this is what I realized, and what I now want to share with you:
Maintaining good physical, emotional and spiritual health has to be tackled across all three levels of body, mind and soul, together.
Leave any one of these areas out, and you won’t get a clear, accurate picture of what's really causing your health and happiness issues, or what you can do to resolve them permanently.
In order to figure out the messages contained in your health, you have to be able to decode them across all three of these levels– and that’s what my system can teach you.
A lot of the information is already out there, but no-one else (at least, in the English-speaking world....) has put it together in such a comprehensive, easy-to-understand and practical way that will teach you everything you need to know to figure out why you’re getting ill, or miserable, and what you need to do to turn things around and start to enjoy your life again, and to feel great.
I’ve taught many, many people this system over the last few years, and I’ve seen some huge breakthroughs happening.
As a result of implementing the God-based holistic health system in my own life, I’ve seen the following things happen:
If this system could work for the chronically depressed, anxious, nervous, and physically-ill person I used to be, it can work for anyone! That’s why I wrote the book ‘Talk to God and Fix Your Health’, and that’s why I’m putting together a number of new, online courses that I’m going to start sharing with you over the coming weeks.
If you want to take the next step with me on your journey to better health and happiness, join my email list, where I’ll be sharing some invaluable tools, tips and techniques with you for how you can also start to love your life again, and to figure out how your emotions and physical health issues actually hold the key to developing true happiness, good health and a more authentic and satisfying spiritual connection to God.
A little while ago, I had the privilege of attending one of those ‘women’s entertainment things’ in Jerusalem. I stopped doing that stuff when I was going through my fanatical frum stage, but the last few months they’ve come back on my radar, and broadly speaking, I usually quite enjoy them.
A friend of mine happened to treat me to this production, and when I showed up at the theatre I found I was seated next to a whole bunch of people who I used to know from the first place I lived in Israel – the place we had to sell up our massive house and leave, because both mine and my husband’s businesses went bust.
For years, I couldn’t even go back to that place for a visit, as it would inevitably spark off so many feelings of self-loathing and despair – ie, I would start reliving my last few, incredibly difficult, months there. Now I know that’s a common thing that happens when you went through a very traumatic experience, but for years I was blaming the place itself, the people, everything, really.
But that’s not all: there were also a bunch of people there that I hadn’t seen for years from the second place we lived in, that we had to sell up our massive house and leave because I was having enormous panic attacks and living in fear that terrorists were going to break into my house and murder me, God forbid.
It got so bad, that I still can’t spend more than five minutes in that yishuv, and I’ve never really been back to visit anyone. Bad associations, again.
And then, there were a handful of people there from the last place we had to sell up our massive house and leave, because we ran out of money and were basically going bonkers there.
Whoah Bessy, again.
That’s quite a lot of traumatic situations, difficult memories and overwhelming emotional triggers to deal with in one night. But you know what? God helped me, and I mostly even enjoyed myself.
Until this morning.
I woke up this morning feeling the beginnings of that ‘down’ feeling that if you don’t acknowledge it ASAP and go and find out what’s sparking it off and what you need to do to counter it, can quickly spiral down into the blackest depression.
Luckily, I’ve worked out enough things to quickly recognize the following:
So after a bit of reflecting on who’d I’d spoken to and what they’d said, I came up with the following:
Still, when someone commented that my kids were like ‘army brats’, that still stung enough to make me feel pretty down about my worth as a mother, the morning after.
2. I’m still struggling on some level to accept that us not being in any position to buy a house here – despite having lived here for more than a decade, despite trying to do what God wants – is for my good.I see Mrs X – and I remember the 5 bedroom house with basement I had next to hers, that she’s still living in, and I’m not. I see Mrs Y – and I remember the garden of my house that I worked on for two years, down the road from the house that she is still living in. I see Mrs W, and I wonder why it is God has let these people stay in the same place for years, while I’m still pinging all over the place like some crazy jukebox game at the age of 42.
And then, that causes me some difficulties with God. I start to feel like maybe, He doesn’t really care about me; that I’m invisible to Him; that He’s punishing me, for something.
These are not new thoughts. They are the thoughts that I’ve had to work so hard to counter the last few years, and I guess God was just showing me that on some level, there’s still work to do.
What snapped me out of all the impending misery and gloom that was gathering around me was two things (apparently, there’s going to be lots of numbered lists in this post):
Sure, the ‘army brats’ comment was insensitive, but really I reacted so strongly this morning because I started to feel that I was back there again, in those places of complete despair and shame that I had to pass through on the way out my gashmius bubble.
Once I’m done typing, I’m going to do some EFT, or a TAT, or maybe even some EMDR, to start clearing up that residual ikky stuff, and start liking myself again. Because mostly, my life is so good. And I want to be able to remember that even when I’m spending time around a bunch of blasts from the past.
Well, the book that's really going to change your health, outlook and happiness is out, and it's storming up the Amazon charts at a stonking pace of about 8 sales a week....
I think it's probably a good sign that people are calling me up from all over the place to tell me: "Amazon isn't letting me review your book, even though I just bought it!"
"Amazon is saying that they have no idea when they're going to deliver your book to me, and that's a bit off-putting."
I've emailed Amazon to check what on earth is going on, but in the meantime I already know: miniot. Miniot is a Hebrew word that means 'obstacles', and dear reader if I told you about all the myriad ways getting this book out has been fraught with difficulties you'd probably get bored and fall off your chair around page 3,689 of the big list of problems and issues I've had.
So this is just the latest in a long, long line of miniot, and I thank you for your time and patience while I do my best to sort them out (mostly, by running off and praying by some dead holy people, as that usually gets a faster response than anything more 'standard' you might think to try, like emailing the Amazon helpdesk, for example.)
But I'm not giving up! (At least, not this week. I have to admit that last week, I did give up a bit because I'm only human, and having a sales ranking of 2 million + after all that effort is a little bit demoralising.)
And to help things along, I've decided to try a different tactic: If the miniot are making it hard for me to actually sell the book, I'm going to try and get around that problem by letting you have two different ways of getting a copy of Talk to God and Fix Your Life for FREE:
Way 1: Between February 17 - 18, you can download the Kindle version of the book (worth $9.99) FOR FREE, by clicking HERE (takes you through to Amazon page for the book).
Way 2: Click on the button below to enter the Goodreads Giveaway and win a FREE paperback version of the book (worth $19.99).
I don't mind giving this stuff away for free, because I know how good it is, and how much it's really going to change your life for the better, and I can't think of a better way of proving that than letting you read it for yourself, with no strings attached.
Take that, miniot...
Off the back of the survey from last week (thanks so much to all those who took the time to fill it in, btw, you are the best!) - I'm putting together an online course to BH help people really start to like and appreciate themselves. But in order to really nail the problem, I have one more question - which will probably pop up in that semi-annoying internet way, if it hasn't already.
Once again, it's completely anonymous, and it'll take approximately 10 seconds to fill out.
Translated from the Knishta Chada newsletter.... These are the four victims who were murdered in the attack, may Hashem avenge their blood, but if you read on, you'll see how it could have been so much worse, and that God actually was doing a lot of miracles that day.
Three shots and three brachas
Chaim Biton is a student of Rav Berland and a relative of Zeri Siboni, one of the girls who was trapped in the supermarket Hyper Casher in Paris, when a terrorist went on a murderous rampage there last year.
He told us about an open miracle that had happened to his relative, in the merit of the Rav:
Shortly before last year’s attacks in Paris took place, Zeri had finished her degree in one of the Chareidi Colleges in Jerusalem, and had returned to Paris for a short period of time, with the intention of coming back to Israel. In the meantime, she was working as a cashier in her brother’s supermarket, Hyper Casher. On Friday Erev Shabbat, Parshat Shemot, a terrorist broke into the shop and immediately started firing at anyone who was standing near the entrance or near the checkout, before taking the rest of the people in the store as hostages.
Zeri was standing closest to the entrance, but miraculously didn’t get hurt by the initial burst of gunfire. She fell to the floor and thought she was going to die like the others who’d already been shot and killed, while the terrorist forced his way into the store.
When Chaim heard that his cousin was working at that time in the supermarket, he immediately called the Rav’s hotline, to request a bracha from the Rav. The Rav said: “Tell them that they don’t have anything to worry about. She will come out on Shabbat, and by motzae Shabbat you will hear that she has been freed and that nothing has happened to her.”
In the meantime, the family didn’t know what had happened to Zeri, and the news was already reporting that several people had been killed in the store. Despite the Rav’s bracha they were still very anxious, so they contacted the Rav again, this time through his driver. At this point, the terrorist was going around the supermarket herding all the hostages together and all of the world was fearfully following the developments in Paris. The Rav again said: “Tell them that they have nothing to worry about, and that they can calm down. She will come out on Shabbat and on motzae Shabbat they’ll hear that she came out healthy and whole.”
In the meantime, the terrorist was scanning the shop and saw Zeri’s foot moving. At that moment, he shot directly at her leg – and again a miracle happened, because the bullet didn’t hit her. The terrorist came over and shouted at her: ‘What’s going on?! It looks you don’t you want to die!’ It seemed as though he understood that she was being protected from Above.
He told her to stand up and said: “Good, if you don’t want to die then you can help me. You’ll do what I tell you to do.” Then he told her to close the shop’s shutters before the police arrived. She began to close the shutters, and when she came to the last section an old man of around 60 years peeped under the shutter and asked if he could come in. She told him: ‘No, no, no, we’re closing, don’t come in!’
He pleaded with her that he just wanted to buy challahs for Shabbat, and that he didn’t have any challahs for Shabbat. He bent down and tried to get in under the shutter - and the terrorist immediately shot him dead. Meanwhile, Zeri’s family still didn’t have any information about what was happening, as there was no communication with anyone inside the supermarket.
Despite the Rav’s double blessing, the family still couldn’t relax. Rav Yaacov Biton, Chaim’s father, contacted another of the Rav’s confidantes to ask the Rav ‘what will be?’ The Rav responded: “Tell them, they have nothing to worry about, they can calm down. She will leave on Shabbat and on motzae Shabbat she’ll come out healthy and complete.”
After they heard the Rav’s bracha the third time, with exactly the same words, they were confident that the promise of the Tzaddik would come good, and that nothing bad would happen to their relative. They continued saying Psalms with emuna (faith / belief) and hope, as they went into Shabbat.
As the saga unfolded, the terrorist wanted Zeri to bring all of the hostages that had fled downstairs to the shop’s basement up to him. Zeri went downstairs, and then came up with only one man, who claimed to be the only one there. The truth of the matter is that there were another 20 people hiding in the store’s freezer.
The terrorist didn’t believe him, and started to get angry. He told Zeri to go down again and to call to the other people down there and tell them to come up. Immediately some more people came up, including a boy aged 3, that the terrorist wanted to kill on the spot.
At that moment, one of the hostages jumped on the terrorist and took his weapon away. Unfortunately, though, the terrorist had another weapon, and he shot the person who’d tried to disarm him in the head and killed him. He also tried to shoot Zeri in the head too, and she felt the bullet graze her cheek – but miracle of miracles, again nothing happened to her.
At the same time, another hostage tried to escape from the store and the terrorist shot him in the face. The wounded man struggled for another three hours, until he eventually succumbed to his wounds and died. Hashem should avenge their blood.
One of the people who was hiding in the freezer downstairs sent an sms message to journalists and told them where they were. The journalists didn’t realize that the terrorist was checking the news channels the whole time throughout the siege, so they wrote a headline that people were hiding in the freezer downstairs at the Hyper Casher. That piece of information flashed up on the screen at precisely the same moment that the terrorist got distracted and turned away from the screen.
Zeri’s brother was one of the shop’s managers. Although he wasn’t actually there, he still managed to access the shop’s closed circuit cameras to show the police what was going on inside the store. At that point, the police believed that they were dealing with two terrorists, a man and a woman, but he told them that the woman ‘terrorist’ was actually his sister, and that the terrorist was forcing her to help him against her will.
The terrorist said to Zeri: “If you don’t do what I tell you one more time, I’m going to kill everyone.” She pleaded with him: “I’ll do whatever you want, please just don’t kill the boy.” He listened to her, and didn’t kill the three year old.
Then he went downstairs with her and told her that anyone he finds down there, he was going to kill them and her on the spot. Another open miracle happened: there was still a number of people hiding downstairs, who went and crouched in a corner when the terrorist coming. Miraculously, the terrorist simply didn’t see them. He went back upstairs and told Zeri that she could live, after all.
A moment after this, the terrorist decided he needed to pray, and when he bowed down the police saw what he was doing via the CCTV, and immediately burst into the shop and killed him. It was already Shabbat, and all the hostages left the store, amongst them Zeri Siboni, who will never forget the miracles that Hashem did for her, in the merit of the promise of the Tzaddik, Rav Eliezer Berland.
Straight after Shabbat, the family called her from Israel, and heard the good news: she was alive, and she’d left the store healthy and complete, exactly as the Rav had said.
A little while ago, I was talking to a friend of mine who told me about the latest ‘parenting craze’ to be sweeping the frum world, at least in Israel. In a nutshell, this new system or shitta is telling parents, particularly mothers, that they have to find out what their problem is, in order to raise their kids properly.
Apparently, the thinking is like this: if you can help the parents to uncover the ‘fatal flaw’ or big emotional problem, or personal issue that defines them and their approach to everything in life, including how they parent their kids, then you’ll help them to change their behavior, and peace will reign in Gotham City.
I know, it theoretically sounds great doesn’t it? There’s just one problem: it’s a load of baloney, and in practice it’s going to end up doing far more harm than good to everyone involved.
How do I know all this? Simple: in our quest to be better Jews, and better people and better parents, me and my husband have been through a whole bunch of shitot and systems based on ideas that sounded good in theory, but were actually useless (at best) or very damaging in practice.
Christians believe that people are born ‘fatally flawed’ as a result of the ‘original sin’ where Adam and Eve brought death into the world. By contrast, Jews (especially Breslev-friendly Jews) believe that people are born (and remain) fundamentally good, and that the real them, their soul, is only good and holy, just it got caught up in a bunch of klipot (evil husks) and yetzer haras (evil inclinations) that it needs to fight off and fight through.
That’s the work of this world, and it really can take 120 years to achieve it.
But what’s happening in even the most frum circles is that people are taking a bunch of half-baked ideas rooted in the heresy of modern psychology and psychiatry, or in the idol-worshiping notions of Christianity or the Eastern religions, and then concocting all sorts of ‘workshops’ and ‘parenting courses’ that aren’t based on truth, and only serve to drag participants’ vulnerabilities, difficulties and yetzers out for public scrutiny, without giving them a real solution for how to actually resolve them.
I know so many people, my husband included, who have been caught up and hurt in all the frum public confessionals happening all over the place. (You can read his own account of what happened to him at Shakuf HERE).
But however these things are being dressed up and sold to others, they’re all based on the same basic principles: encourage people to admit their biggest hurts, deepest secrets and darkest shames in front of a bunch of strangers; then, have the group’s ‘guru’ explain to them – publicly – what their problem is, how it’s affecting them, and why it’s so bad. Then – leave them to deal with it. Alone.
If they start to struggle, or feel even more alone, depressed or ‘bad’, explain to them that either:
And / or:
2. Promise to give them the answer to their problem in the next workshop (or six…); or the next private coaching session (or 10…); or the next super-expensive private retreat.
I have seen people keep coming back to these ‘gurus’ and the hugely profitable organisations they’ve built on the back of other people’s suffering for literally years. For as long as they are in touch with the ‘guru’ and the system they’ve built, they’re hopeful that the answer, whatever it is, is just one more group meeting away.
But it doesn’t work like that! Quite the opposite: as time goes on, the participants split into 2 camps: increasingly despairing, angry, empty and cynical, or completely detached from the reality of who they really are, and what’s really happening in their lives and in their relationships.
Neither of these modes is emotionally healthy, or compatible with yiddishkeit.
So what’s the answer? Where are all these frum gurus going wrong, and why are they doing so much damage?
In a nutshell, you can sum it up like this: what helps people to be better parents, and to treat their kids nicer, and to be happier people, and to be able to deal with their issues and flaws appropriately, is when they concentrate on seeing the good in themselves, and developing more self-compassion.
Remember, God arranged the world as a mirror, to show us who we really are, and what we really need to work on. If we secretly believe ourselves to be selfish monsters, or hateful failures, or fatally-flawed and unfixable in some way, that’s the ‘self’ we’ll see reflected back to us from the people in our lives, and especially our children.
The more ‘down’ we get on ourselves, the more we dislike ourselves – all for the best motives in the world - the more we’ll be irritated by, dislike and probably mistreat our kids, who are just our mirrors. By contrast, the more we learn to see the good in ourselves, and to judge ourselves with compassion and understanding, the more that inner goodness will shine out of our kids, too.
(If you’re thinking this sounds a lot like Rebbe Nachman’s Azamra, you’re dead right.)
There’s a lot more to say about this, and I think I will be coming back to this idea again and again on my blog. But for now let me leave you with this:
The single biggest thing you can do to improve your parenting, and help your kids, and to build the world, and to become the fulfilled, happy Jew God created you to be, is to learn how to love yourself, and to concentrate on finding all the good He placed in your soul.
And if your course, workshop, or frum guru is not telling you that, or if it’s telling you to focus on your problems, flaws and issues, then run away as fast as your legs can carry you.
Yesterday, I was meant to be driving up North, to see a friend there and have a day out. On my way out of Jerusalem, I saw I was running low on gas so I stopped at the ‘Yellow’ just by the city entrance to fill up before heading out.
As luck (i.e. God) would have it, I got stuck behind an older woman who was having all sorts of trouble with her car. She couldn’t open the cap for the petrol; she couldn’t get her credit card to work; she couldn’t fit the nozzle into the petrol tank; she couldn’t get a receipt printed out. By the end of the whole palaver, I was starting to get pretty antsy. My fingers started drumming on the steering wheel. My leg started involuntarily tapping. Then, when she got back in her car and started faffing around with her lights, her hair, her seat – I don’t know what – I got impatient and beeped her. Not loud and aggressively, but just to remind her that five other people were waiting for her to drive off, already, so they could also get on with their day.
She ignored my beep.
She got out of her car, went to browse in the Yellow’s snacks section, and only then returned and finally put her key in the ignition. It took her another two minutes to figure out the gears and steering wheel, and as soon as I could, I overtook her on the way out of the petrol station, desperate to not get stuck behind her for another five minutes as she tried to figure out how to actually leave the petrol forecourt.
Less than a minute later, I nearly crashed.
I was in the fast lane behind a high truck who was driving fast, but not abnormally so. Suddenly, they skidded off into the slow lane without indicating – and I nearly ran straight into the back of a long line of parked cars, that I hadn’t seen coming because I was behind a high vehicle and it was behind a bend.
There was that horrible screech of tyres, and that heart-stopping moment where I waited to see if the brakes were going to work fast enough to avoid a horrible accident. Thank God, I skidded to a stop barely a foot away from the car in front of me.
It was a very near miss.
So near, that I realized when I started driving off again that at least one of my front tyres had exploded under the pressure of my forced braking at high speed. I pulled off the nearest exit, and parked by the Mevasseret Zion mall to take a look at the tyre. It was completely busted.
I had no idea how to change a tyre, and only around $20 in my wallet, which was enough to pay for a day out, but not enough to buy a new tyre.
Just then, I spotted a gang of four apparently secular teenage boys walking past, and I ran over to them and asked for help changing my flat.
Dear reader, they didn’t hesitate. Despite the fact that only one of them had ever done it before, and that it took a good 40 minutes for them to work out how to work the jack, how to get the bolts off the wheel, how to stick the other wheel on (all with the help of their trust i-Phones…) – they worked with such good grace and patience.
Not for the first time, I said a small prayer of thanks that I live where I live, with the people who live around me.
Where else would I have felt happy asking a gang of strange teenage boys for help? Where else would they have said ‘yes’, and so happily obliged me? Where else would they actually have figured it all out in a way that I was happy to drive my car after they were done?
Who is like your people, Hashem!
On the short drive back to Jerusalem, I pondered why it’d all happened. I mean, nothing happens for no reason, and clearly God was hiding some sort of big message in my near miss. It struck me just as I turned into my own street that I had a couple of people I needed to apologise to.
A couple of years’ ago, I got caught up in a completely skewed mindset that made it a mitzvah to point people’s ‘bad’ out to them, and I’d said a few things to a couple of people that I really shouldn’t have. I realized God was prompting me to make amends, to change direction, and to return and fix things that needed fixing, instead of driving off to the next big adventure.
I heeded the message, and I wrote a couple of emails as soon as I got back.
Nothing happens for nothing in life. If I nearly crashed, got a flat, and got helped in such an unlikely way, it was clearly designed to teach me something.
At least patience – to happily sit behind the faffing old granny, so that I didn’t get caught up in a nearly horrible accident. And gratitude – that I didn’t have a bad accident; that those kids helped me to change my wheel so graciously. And humility – to know I’m not in charge of my life, and to remember that broken things need to be fixed, even if they weren’t broken on purpose.
I'm taking a welcome break of a few days this week, just to chill out, catch up with friends and stay away from the computer...
It's slow posting, at least until Tuesday, and then we'll see if I got my mojo back after the book launch and can start writing up a bunch of the stuff I got out of the survey (thanks to all who participated - there was a bug in one of the questions, so I'll re-post that particular question for anyone interested in re-taking it.)
thankenyou for your patience and understanding.
Books by Rivka Levy: