Yesterday, I dropped my parents off at the airport, then drove out towards the Palmachim beach, near Rishon LeTzion. I didn’t get there in the end, because I got sidetracked by something called ‘the mouth of the stream’, which ended up being a nice walk next to a (kind of…) river.
In the UK, it would be classed more as a long puddle, but here in Israel, any body of water, no matter how shallow or stagnant or brown, is a ‘river’.
So I walked next to it, found a big tree to sit under somewhere close and pondered what’s actually going on in my life. Because the truth is, I was having a very strong ‘give up’ vibe again.
I was having that urge to delete my blog again, but this time permanently.
Because I’ve spent the last few weeks up to my neck in lashon hara and sinat chinam, as I’ve been researching the media side of things for the book, and I discovered that things are far, far worse in the orthodox blogosphere than I imagined.
I barely read Jewish blogs today, that’s the truth, except for my Breslov rabbis, and shirat devorah. The other stuff out there is usually just some form of having a go, some form of awful sinat chinam dressed up in holier-than-thou clothing, some form of arrogant and ignorant lashon hara – and clearly, I’m talking about the better sites.
And then, I realized that I’ve also been pulled into more of that than I would like recently, as a result of trying to set the record straight about the Rav and a few other things.
So as I sat under that tree yesterday, I really wondered why I’m doing all this. Anyone who really wants to know the ‘truth’ – about anything – will ask God to show them, and will get some real answers. Anyone who really doesn’t want to know the ‘truth’ – about anything – won’t.
It really is as simple as that.
The last few months, I’ve had emails from so many holier-than-thou psychos who really feel that Ha’aretz – the mouthpiece of the Meretz Party in Israel – should be believed over our holy rabbis.
I’m sick of arguing with these people. I’m sick of dealing with their breathtakingly bad middot and hypocrisy. I’m sick of all the fake ‘rabbis’ and fake ‘prophets of doom’ out there who are simply breaking hundreds of very important laws pertaining to lashon hara and onaas devarim (and millions of other things, besides) with every single Youtube video they record, or ‘message’ they pen.
But pointing all this out, and trying to battle against them, is simply just pulling me down into the same muck.
And that’s not really why I started Emunaroma.
So I sat under that tree yesterday, and the voice whispered at me quite intently: Give up! Do something else! Go back to painting, go back to trying to make stuff with your sewing machine, why do you need to spend so much of your time agonizing over all the mentally-ill orthodox Jewish psychos on the web?
So yesterday, I wrote a short post explaining all this stuff, and basically saying sayonara, at least for a while.
And then today, as I came to post it up, I found this video (in English) in my email from someone I don’t know, that actually really spoke to me. (Shirat eynayim friendly up until minute 3.36, when a couple of ladies pop up).
Don’t give up!
That’s the message.
At the heart of so many of the slanders and libels against Rav Eliezer Berland, there's been one man.
Today, the Israeli Court in Jerusalem awarded Rav Berland's wife, the Rabbanit Tehilla Berland, 3 million shekels in damages against that man, who posed as a 'marriage counsellor' for the Berlands for two years, whilst secretly recording the Rabbanit's conversations without her knowledge.
Then, when this individual lost control of Shuvu Banim - and all the money it was making for him - he started splicing the Rabbanit's words together from his secret recordings and flooded the internet with them, as part of his slanderous campaign against the Rav and his family.
This man had no defense he could file, so the court awarded this enormous amount in damages to the Rabbanit. Apparently, the man's lawyer says he will now be filing a defense that will 'change the whole picture'.
As this individual. and his cronies have been behind every single false cassette, video and audio that's come out against the Rav - and also behind the false recordings that have been made against other leading rabbis - and everyone in the judiciary and the media knows that, things could get very interesting now.
Now, let's see whether the 'news' services that are running this story today like Arutz 7 and Channel 10 start to connect the dots for their audiences, and come clean about who was behind all the forged 'videos' and audios and stories they've splashed all over the place.
I've just googled this story for the English news sites - and none of them are running it. I wonder why not? (That's sarcastic).
BH, the truth will out.
As per DS's heads up, the Rav's persecutors really are trying to stop him from getting to Meron, and with all this stuff going on with Iran (to name just the most obvious), we need to really pray that he gets up there this year.
You can read more over on the RavBerland.com site HERE, but here's the prayer, in the meantime:
The following is translated and adapted from a remarkable little book in Hebrew called ‘No Hope’, which shares a number of true stories of chareidi and Chassidic men in Israel who fell into some serious tumah via the internet – but managed to get out again, with God’s help.
I’m bringing the following story here for a few different reasons, not least because it’s pertinent to the whole smear campaign that was – and sadly still is – being conducted against Rav Berland. Time and time again, if you scratch the surface of the people who are 'anti' Rav Berland, you'll find a whole bunch of spiritual tumah and ucky stuff.
A Zealot for Hashem
I’m an avreich from Bet Shemesh, a real zealot. One of those who goes around spray-painting graffiti on the posters they put up by the bus stops. I’m not going to get into all the details of my family background, but you should understand that I’m meant to be the ‘holiest’ type of person there is.
Because if I’m not so ‘holy’ myself, then why am I screaming so loudly about other people?!
I’m one of those that has ‘the haircut’ and the long black coat and the ginger beard and big glasses – one of those who is ‘disconnected’ from the world. Almost.
Today, after a long and exhausting process over a few years, I can see that the ‘war’ I was conducting against all the spiritual tumah (impurity) seems to have ignited that tumah inside of me. It’s like what one of the Rebbes always says, ‘the outside influences the inside’.
In a nutshell, here’s what happened: I managed to get hold of a second-hand tablet from a secular guy in Bet Shemesh, that he was practically giving away. I wanted it in order to type up all the newsletters and pashkivilim (the posters they put up on the walls in places like Meah Shearim) I was writing against the army draft, and against pritzut (immodest behavior), and a bunch of other things that you have to protest against.
I was also the guy who used to distribute all the stickers against using the internet on my street. And against the ‘chareidi-lite’ people. Against everyone…
And then one day, I found myself deep, deep inside all the tumah that I’d been arguing against, and demonstrating against, and distributing material against.
But I carried on distributing the posters against the internet, and against the army draft, even though I myself had somehow got drafted into the army of the Satan himself, deep in the filth of the internet.
At that time, I understood one thing: I was in some sort of ‘show’. And I had to continue acting my part, and to act it well, so that I wouldn’t lose everything. I didn’t want to be kicked out of my home and my community, so I played my part very well.
When I could no longer learn Torah, I’d just explain that I’d got a job sticking up posters in Bnei Brak, and like that I could waste a couple of weeks. And each time I’d find some new excuse to show them that I was still 100% with the program, and nothing at all had changed. But during that whole time, I couldn’t really think.
It was a joke to say I hadn’t changed. I didn’t know how to change. All I knew was how to try and change other people, and even that was pretend.
THE MOST WICKED PERSON ALIVE
I started to despise myself, and to scorn my daily mitzvoth. I felt like the most wicked person alive. Repulsive. Disgusting. I used to shout against the tumah-dik government in the demonstrations, but now on the inside, I felt like I was even more tumah-dik than they were.
One day, we got some new ‘stock’ in – a bunch of leaflets speaking out against the dangers of the internet. They wrote in a very stylized type of Hebrew, and all of us found it pretty hard going, but we felt it was still part of the struggle we were engaged in to fight the spiritual blemishes being caused by the new technology. So we distributed it.
I thought I should sit down and read it, and I found myself agreeing with every word (that I could understand). At the end of the leaflet, there was a number you could call to get through to the organisation’s helpline for people who’d been damaged by the internet, where you could speak to a psychologist who helped people with internet addictions.
I called them up, and after their initial evaluation of me, they put me in the group of people who had the most serious problems with internet addiction.
You could see that there were those who were addicted to the news, but that you could help them to get their ‘fix’ in a different way. Then, there were those who were addicted to searching for information, or who were addicted to reacting to or commenting on posts, and they needed a different type of treatment.
And me? I was in the group who were only interested in one thing. News? I’d already had enough of that to last me a lifetime. I attended all the demonstrations, what hadn’t I heard, already? The internet interested me for one thing, and one thing only: lust. And the most disgraceful type imaginable.
There were 25 men in this group, and we were all ashamed of our deeds, and how many aveirot (transgressions) we were involved in. But understanding that we were all trapped in the mud also meant that we stopped being so ashamed in front of each other.
I don’t want to badmouth them, because I know it’s really not nice. From their side, they really did make the maximum efforts in the way they believed would help. But really… their maximum didn’t really get anywhere for me. One of the friends who I met there told me that from the time he joined that group, he ended up sinking even further into the dirt. I don’t want to say the same about myself, but you can understand for yourselves that I didn’t want to stay with that group any longer.
A 'sickness' that has no cure?
Something that one of the group’s guides had said, in a moment of candour, was that we were dealing with a sickness that apparently had no cure.
I’d made every effort, and now he was telling me that it was impossible to change…which meant that it really wasn’t my fault. That’s how I quieted down my conscience, and continued acting in the ‘show’.
ROOT OUT THE EVIL IN YOUR MIDST
A couple of months earlier, there’d been a big meeting at the house of one of the biggest zealots in Bet Shemesh, who was one of my good friends. At that meeting he’d explained to our group of avreichim that the work of the moment was to publicise a new pamphlet called: ‘Root out the evil in your midst’, which contained a number of writings on the rumours surrounding one of the rabbis in Jerusalem.
Honestly, I got a bit scared. I’d heard about this Rav for years, and I knew that he was a big tzaddik. Yes, people were whispering about him, but we knew that these rumours were coming from the police and the Zionists, so I was sure that they were the opposite of the truth….We knew everything was a bluff.
When I actually tried to talk to one of the meetings organisers about what was going on, he didn’t want to speak to me. He just thrust a pamphlet at me and told me ‘read this!’
The pamphlet was full of blasphemous statements from the chareidim who were against this Rav, interspersed with ‘quotations’ from a great many of the gedolei hador, from every stream of the chareidi world. I felt that there wasn’t any truth to these ‘quotations’, inasmuch as this was never the way of our Jewish leaders and tsaddikim, to lower themselves to use such coarse language like this.
They didn’t speak this way about the non-Jews, so they certainly wouldn’t talk this way about a rabbi! Who even if he had sinned, he’d certainly already made teshuva for it.
But at that stage, my life was just one big performance, so I felt that I was obliged to trample his name publicly. Maybe somehow, that would help me to quiet my own conscience.
I felt that if I could publicise that this Rav was ‘sinning’, that would somehow allow me to continue sinning myself, in secret, because I’d be proving to everyone that I belonged to the group that was ‘whiter than white’. God should have mercy.
So that same evening, we left in the minivan heading out to Jerusalem, and we distributed that pamphlet in every synagogue we could, but especially around Meah Shearim and Geula. The following day, we drove out to Beitar Illit, to Modiin Illit and to Bnei Brak, before returning home that evening.
The ‘vibe’ in the minivan was very strange. Usually, whenever we went out distributing our material, whatever it was, the atmosphere would be electric. But over these last couple of days, the atmosphere had been very depressed.
What was even more surprising is that this shlichut should have been the most fulfilling and happy. Our economic situation was nothing to write home about, I knew that about myself and also about my friends. Usually, we’d be paid 50 shekels or 100 shekels a night – and the atmosphere would be electric.
For this job, every avreich had received 300 shekels a night, in cash.
But instead of dancing the whole way and feeling happy, there was a very heavy feeling in the air. I felt like I had nothing to lose, so I asked one of the other avreichim if he was feeling the same way, and he admitted that from the day he’d started this particular job, there hadn’t been a single day where he hadn’t been experiencing something very hard at home.
To sum it up, the quiet in the van was because everyone was deeply sunk into their own sad feelings and thoughts.
A ZEALOT COMES CLEAN
That same night, I got a pamphlet in the mail that had been written by one of the zealots who’d helped to write the pamphlet that we’d been distributing. He wrote that he was making teshuva for his evil acts, and that he wanted to publicise soon the whole story of how they’d spun a whole bunch of rumours in order to achieve a certain end – and to make an awful lot of money.
I knew this man, and I knew his address, so I read his pamphlet until three in the morning. I was completely shocked.
I started to understand that I’d got mixed up in a very complicated story, and that all of the money that I’d received to distribute that pamphlet was forbidden money, because it was coming from a very spiritually impure place. That feeling exploded in my heart with the force of an atom bomb.
I suddenly started to feel that I was in a very special test, and I had to go and clarify what the truth really was. This is something that I’d never, ever felt before. I’d always just kept myself busy with the external wrappings.
I just shouted at whatever they’d ‘clarified for me’ that I need to go and shout at. That was the tradition I’d received from my rabbis.
And suddenly, I found myself standing before a huge question mark: Who was I, really??? What was I really doing down here in the world??? What sort of wickedness were people prepared to perpetuate in the world???
And why did I have to be a part of it?
I stayed awake to the vatikin (dawn) minyan, prayed shacharit, then took the bus to Modiin Illit.
The previous night, we’d distributed the pamphlets there, and I felt the need to return there, even though I needed to take two buses to get there, first from Bet Shemesh to Jerusalem, and then from Jerusalem to Brachfeld. I wanted to go and collect up the pamphlets, and burn them.
In one of the synagogues there, I just told someone there about what the pamphlets were really saying, then ran out… All my zealotry seemed to have left me. I was alone, without my friends, there was no ‘action’ pumping me up. But I felt that inside myself, I was still doing ‘root out the evil from your midst’.
And while I was doing that, I was uncovering another part, and another part, of the evil that was actually inside of me.
And so Hashem’s mercy started to shine on me, and only thanks to that, my heart started to open, and I could finally start to understand what I’m about to tell you. I promise you that if this had happened a week ago, I wouldn’t even have noticed.
But when the heart breaks, and is opened, then a small entrance is made and the change can occur.
GOD CREATED THIS, AND THAT IN OPPOSITION
In one of the synagogues [in Modiin Illit], I saw a book which contained some of the shiurim of this self-same Rav for Jerusalem. Next to the book, there was a pile of the pamphlets that I’d dumped there yesterday – talking against this same Rav…
God created this, and that in opposition.
It was miracle that I found both together, and I hoped that maybe I’d merited that no-one had actually opened the pamphlets and read them, in the meantime. The book had been placed mamash next to the pamphlets, maybe it had even been there yesterday night, already, except that yesterday I hadn’t seen anything.
My eyes had still been all spiritually-filthy, and my soul all dried out. But my heart was now newly-opened, and my soul renewed with the dew of teshuva.
I felt so ashamed, there. I opened the book, and this is a little of what I read:
“There are 10 klipot (husks of evil) against every single holy action, every time you want to guard your eyes, there are 10 klipot [against you]. A man closes his eyes – and then they spring open again. He shuts them – and again they spring open. This happens a million times a day, until one day, he merits to guard his eyes.
“Don’t despair! Even if you fall a billion times – just get up a billion-and-one times! This is our work.”
That same day, I threw my computer in the further trash bin that I could find away from my home in Bet Shemesh, and started work, with God’s kindness, on the real job of ‘uprooting the evil from your midst’.
THE YETZER HARA BURNS A MAN UP
Today, there is a yetzer hara (evil inclination) which is like a billion fires. This burns a man up. This drives a man crazy. A man doesn’t know what to do, he’s going completely crazy from his yetzer hara.
But at the same time, a person can always find within himself a spark of intelligence. Even with all his lusts, and all his internal fires, and all of his sins, and all of his falls, the ‘point of the crown’ always exists.
This matter was clarified by the Arizal. [He explained] that even if all the fires of lust in the world are burning a person up, they burned up his wisdom, they burned up his understanding, they burned up his daat (spiritual insight), his chesed, gevurah and tiferet, everything’s got burnt up, the ‘point of the crown’, or keter, always remains.
As this point of the crown will continue to send arrows into his heart – what are you doing?! Where are you headed?! Why are you burning up your whole brain?! The point of the crown remains, in every circumstance.
And this is what’s written in the holy books, that all the enjoyment of a Jewish soul, all the yearning of a Jewish soul, even if he’s the biggest evildoer, the biggest crook, he’s still always just looking to be gathered back to Hashem.
The yearning for Hashem always renews itself.
Where are the people who are persecuting Rav Berland - apparently poor 'rabbis' from Meah Shearim - getting the hundreds of thousands of shekels required to run their campaign against him?
Over the years, they've taken out full-page ads in newspapers, hired massive billboards in chareidi cities, printed and distributed hundreds of thousands of smearing pamphlets and leaflets, run slanderous websites churning out libels and forged videos 24/7 and run a smearing media campaign worthy of the KGB.
All of this takes a huge amount of money.
Who is funding them?
Thursday evening, when the news of the 10 teenagers who lost their life in the crazy flash-flooding hit Israel, my two teenage girls were in very somber moods.
One was feeling pretty scared about even going outside, as clearly, the world had just got pretty dangerous if even a bit of rain could end up killing a minyan of Jews. The other one was deeply sad about what had just occurred – both for the loss of life, but more for the outpouring of sinat chinam, or baseless hatred, that occurred straight after it.
The media initially got the details of the tragedy wrong, and reported that the dead teens were boys – yeshiva students - from the Har Etzion Yeshiva in Gush Etzion. That lead to an outpouring of disgusting comments on websites like Ha’aretz and elsewhere, as ‘enlightened leftists’ rushed to try to pour salt on the wound.
It was so disgusting, that the externally secular journalist Ivgeny Zarubinski took a screen shot of the comments (below), and posted it up on his Facebook page decrying the horrible hatred.
My daughter showed me what he’d written, and told me her friends were also so upset by all the sinat chinam flowing around such a tragedy.
I told her the way to fight this is person by person – i.e. by uprooting all these feelings of hate for other Jews from within ourselves. Because while it’s nice to tell ourselves that only loony-left Ha’aretz readers have a problem with awful sinat chinam, even a quick glance at so many apparently ‘orthodox’ blogs and websites tell a very different story.
Immediately after the event, one popular ‘orthodox’ blog had a post up naming and shaming a really awful Haaretz reporter’s coverage of the tragedy, that ended with this barb:
[The reporter] need not be concerned about one thing. When he finally leaves this world, Israeli TV won't spend more than a few seconds noting his passing.
Why write this? It’s just promoting sinat chinam, and lashon hara. How is that meant to help anyone?
Then, the first commenter on that post said:
Hope his daughter dies in a flashflood.
Which is just as obscene and hateful a comment as you’d find anywhere on Ha’aretz.
Is this really how orthodox Jews should be behaving?
Is this really the sort of discussions we should be promoting on our websites, and the sort of comments we should be posting up?
Over on another very popular ‘orthodox’ website, I found this recent example (sadly there were SO many to choose from…) of hateful speech and sinat chinam against other Jews, written by the blog’s owner:
The Kipa Seruga is the emblematic identifier of Religious Zionist Jews. That is the kind of Kipa warn by most settlers, including these disgusting ‘Hilltop’ animals pretending to be human.
I don’t read this blog, thank God, but even a quick glance through the posts and the comments showed that it is stacked to the gills with lashon hara, hatred, ignorance of other Jewish traditions and beliefs, particularly in the charedi world, and an overwhelming arrogance and belief in the rightness of their own opinions, regardless of how so much of what is written flies completely in the face of Torah law.
And this is apparently one of the most ‘popular’ blogs in the ‘orthodox’ Jewish world, God help us.
The sinat chinam and lashon hara is flowing all over the orthodox internet, and every time we read these articles, link to them, or give their authors any space or respect, we are basically injecting ourselves with more poison against other Jews, delaying the geula, and bringing more tragedies down on ourselves.
And so much of this horrible hatred is happening unperceived, as it’s being tagged as ‘interesting debate’ or ‘fearlessly discussing controversial topics’ – because then, apparently, it’s OK to spread your hatred of other Jews far and wide.
As long as you can claim you’re only interested in the truth, it’s OK to call Breslov ‘idol worship’, or call Chabad ‘Jewish Replacement Theology’, and to speak awful lashon hara about some of the leading sages in the Jewish world, referring to them as ‘am ha aretz’ who ‘teach childish drivel’ and ‘the Torah of fools’, God forbid.
The hatred that is delaying the geula isn’t just lurking on the pages of Ha’Aretz and Ynet.
It’s also in our own hearts. And our own families. And our own communities.
And our own blogs.
Why did so many of us want to believe that most other Jews were 'evil' Erev Rav?
I was pondering why so many 'frum' people – including me – warmed to the messages coming out of the autistics that most Jews today are a sort of sub-class, sub-Jew called the ‘Erev Rav’.
Why did so many of us want to believe their messages that it’s a mitzvah to hate other Jews, and that it’s a good thing to want to see whole communities of people destroyed en masse?
How could we fall for such evil ideas? How could we believe for a moment that God would close the door to teshuva for anyone, and make it impossible for anyone to come back to him?!
God wants Jews to return back in teshuva, He doesn’t want Jews dead in their millions, God forbid. If people don’t make teshuva, it’s true that this worse-case scenario could still happen, God forbid – but it’s not at all what God wants!!
But when frum Jews sit there for day after day, and year after year, reading blogs telling them that:
Tel Aviv isn't Israel, it's not Israel at all, and also Haifa - not Israel.
Or reading things that conclude that it’s a ‘duty and a commandment’ to hate your fellow Jew, like this:
G-d established a time and place for love and for hate, and in the right time and place, each is a duty and a commandment. The Torah never contained, and never will contain, a concept of “groundless love”, just as the Torah absolutely rejects the concept of “groundless hate”.
Then we start to get the answer. We slowly but surely brainwashed ourselves into believing that black is white and that good is evil, and filled ourselves up with self-righteous anger and hatred and arrogance – and so many other really bad middot – that completely blinded us to our own part in perpetuating the ongoing suffering and the exile of the Jewish people.
In this shiur by Rav Ofer Erez (with full English subtitles) on how to fix baseless hatred, you can see a very complete refutation of this statement that ‘the Torah never contained, and never will contain, a concept of ‘groundless love’, that brings a number of sources across the Gemara and the Torah.
So-called ‘groundless love’ is the only antidote for sinat chinam, and the only way we’re going to get geula the sweet way.
Again, that doesn’t mean that we ‘love’ evil actions and accept them. Rav Ofer explains very, very clearly, that we must continue to demonstrate against evil ACTIONS, and that we can and should hate evil ACTIONS.
But it’s an enormous mistake to say a Jew is fundamentally EVIL. Or fundamentally un-saveable. Or fundamentally ‘Erev Rav’ and unable to make teshuva and return to God.
I’m as upset as the next person when I hear people call chareidi Jews things like ‘leeches and parasites’. I’m also upset when people call hill-top youth ‘animals’. I’m also upset when people say disgusting things about dati leumi yeshiva students who they mistakenly thought died in a terrible tragedy. I’m also upset when so-called ‘rabbis’ mis-characterise and slander whole segments of committed, Chassidic Jews simply from their own ignorance of deeper Jewish concepts and ideas.
But I’m also upset when people state that Tel Aviv is not really part of Israel. Or when they state that most secular Jews are ‘Erev Rav’. Or when they write awful lashon hara and evil speech, condemning and criticizing everyone else who happens to be different from them just so they can feel like they are superior and ‘the winners’.
If I’ve learnt one thing from my kids, is that they won’t let our generation’s sinat chinam pass unchallenged. My daughter saw me looking askance at the bald, kippa-less head of the obviously Russian Ivgeny Zarubinski, and took me to task for the obvious distaste I must have showed that she’d been reading stuff from someone like him.
“Ima, he’s really nice. He writes really nice things about Jews,” she gently upbraided me.
And as usual, she was so right.
It’s not how the person looks, or what image they’re trying to portray to the rest of the world about how righteous and how frum they really are that counts, it’s what they’re saying, and thinking and doing that really matters.
Ivgeny’s post inspired my daughter (and me…) to make some serious teshuva about our own problems with sinat chinam. Other posts from apparently ‘orthodox’ bloggers frequently just inspire more hatred, more poisonous comments, more harsh judgment, and more lashon hara.
So now you tell me: who’s doing more to hasten the geula, or slow it down?
When it started to rain so incredibly hard again in Jerusalem yesterday, out of rainy season, which ends at Pesach (as per our daily prayers), what came to mind was Rebbe Nachman’s teaching that a flood of atheism would come to the world, and that even ‘big’ rabbis would have atheism literally ‘dripping out of their pockets’.
Then, the horrible news came in about the teens who’d been swept away by a flash-flood in the desert, and the incredible pictures (like the river flowing down Yoel Salomon Street above, or Yaffo below, in the very heart of the pedestrianized centre of down-town Jerusalem) started going viral on my daughters’ phones, and we all sat in our flat a little awe-struck at Hashem’s power and might.
A little bit of rain can do an awful lot of damage, God forbid, and lead to terrible destruction.
This morning, I started looking through Rebbe Nachman’s books to see if he said anything else about floods. He did. I’m bringing it below, and the hairs stood up on the back of my neck when I read it:
TZADDIK (the English translation of Chayey Moharan), #417
(In the section called: Avoidance of Philosophy and the Importance of Faith)
There were rumours that the Czar wanted to introduce a number of decrees against the Jews, including a regulation requiring Jewish children to be taught secular studies and foreign languages.
Regarding this decree, the Rebbe said that the Jews should call a fast, and cry out to God more vehemently than against all the other decrees. This decree was more calamitous than any other evil in the world, since it would turn the children against religion completely – as have indeed seen, because of our many sins.
The brutal fact is that anyone who enters this path becomes totally estranged from religion. Many God take pity on his people Israel, and save a remnant of all their throngs.
The Rebbe once said:
“Oy! Oy to us! That we do not devote the least thought to how we can save our children and the generations to come from these evil, storm-ridden waters, which threaten to engulf the entire world, God forbid.
"For this is the only way to describe the spread of secular studies, the study of foreign languages and philosophy.”
May Hashem comfort all the families who lost their children in this terrible disaster, and may we as a people wholeheartedly return to the path of simple emuna and Torah observance, so that we won’t have to go through any more of these awful tragedies.
Around 15 years ago, back when I was still living in London, my husband brought home a book from the Golders Green branch of Steimatzky called ‘Galia: Messages from Heaven’. Galia was a severely disabled young woman who couldn’t speak or communicate.
At that time, ‘facilitated communication’ – a process of using a keyboard of alphabet board and a ‘facilitator’ to help severely disabled people ‘communicate’ – was just becoming all the rage, so Galia’s mother tried it – and opened up a flood of what she believed to be ‘messages from Heaven’, via Galia.
My husband was so taken with that book, he read it in one sitting. I was so taken with that book, I stayed up to 2am to read it. We bought 50 copies, and distributed it to everyone we knew.
And so, our obsession with ‘facilitated communication’ and ‘messages from Heaven’ via autistic children began.
For years, I held the messages from the autistics to be a sort of modern-day prophecy, and they impacted my life in a number of profound, and with hindsight nearly always negative ways. The autistics gave rise to my obsession with ferreting out ‘erev rav’ people in every corner of my life.
They gave rise to my shrill and judgmental insistence that family members and friends should make aliya NOW, before the end of the world occurred.
(So many people stopped responding to my emails at that stage, and who the heck can blame them?!)
The autistics stoked my paranoia about all the bad and evil things in the world; they encouraged my harshly judgmental tendencies about other Jews and other Jewish groups; and they fed my arrogant belief that only ‘true believers’ like myself who lived in Israel would make it through to geula.
THE SPELL FINALLY BREAKS
Around five years’ ago, after spending the best part of a decade waiting for the autistics ‘prophecies’ to finally materialize as promised, the spell finally started to break, and I realized that something was quite wrong with the picture.
I’d followed the path laid out by the autistics, and it had only lead to enormous relationship issues, an enormous flowering of my own bad middot, and a tendency to see the world as all bad and black, instead of the beautiful, good place that Hashem created – and that chassidut encourages us to acknowledge and uncover every single moment.
That is the path of emuna. To see the good in yourself, and in your fellow Jew, and in the world, and in God.
And the path of the autistics seemed to have led me to a place where I was doing the exact opposite.
Still, I didn’t want to cause a stir and speak out against the autistics at that point, because maybe I was wrong? And also, there were still a lot of people who held the autistics to be ‘good and holy’, and I wasn’t going to spark off a machloket for no reason.
But over the years, as the dire prophecies and predictions have continued, and as I’ve watched the formerly good and thoughtful people who peddle them dissolve into a puddle of paranoid hatred of Jews who aren’t exactly ‘like them’, I’ve increasingly come to the conclusion that the ‘messages’ the autistics are given over are coming from a bad place, and are actually akin to witch-craft.
I know that’s a strong statement.
Read on, to learn the information and halachot that I am basing it on.
'ALPHABET BOARD' OR OUIJA BOARD?
The first hint I had that maybe facilitated communication was really not a spiritually good thing for Jews to be engaging in was a couple of years’ back, when I happened to read a one-liner by someone comparing the ‘alphabet board’ used by the autistics to a Ouija board, that’s used to communicate with evil spirits.
That was kind of shocking to me at the time, so I filed the idea away until the time when I would be really ready to explore it properly.
Then a few months’ back, my husband came home from shul with one of those glossy leaflets they print out in Israel, where they publicise people’s clinical deaths stories, to try to encourage others to make teshuva.
Some are better than others, but this one happened to be about a séance a bunch of secular Israeli soldiers had conducted on their army base during the Gulf War. And what I read made my hair stand on end, because it just sounded so familiar.
THE GULF WAR SEANCE
Here’s a free translation of the relevant bits:
Sharon: “I got to the tiny room where 50 other people were waiting. There was a table, and four of my friends were around it, and they were in the middle of the séance. They ‘brought down’ the soul of the father of one of the guys sitting by the table, ‘Aryeh’, the father of Nimrod, and starting asking him questions.
“I suddenly yelled out: ‘What are my parents doing right now, in their home in Jerusalem?’ The spirit replied: ‘Your mother is talking on the telephone, and your father and brothers are watching T.V. in the salon.’ I ran to the communal telephone in the hall, and called home. He was right! I’d got my first ‘true’ answer, personally, from the séance.”
(Before we continue, I just want to point out that these disembodied spirits that were being talked to via the séances often give a lot of right answers and correct predictions and useful information, and even encouraged more mitzvah observance at the beginning of the process, to ‘hook’ people into believing in them and relying on them.)
ONE PROBLEM AFTER ANOTHER
Let’s get back to the story, where another participant, Yonah, explains that at the time the soldiers were receiving all these ‘messages’, they were being hit with one difficulty, problem and issue after another in their personal lives – which is exactly what happened to me, the whole time I was SO into the autistics:
Yoni: “This was a very difficult period of time incidents and problems – car accidents, very bad luck, everything going wrong and failing, mamash! Anyone who so much as touched a finger to the séance, anyone who participated in it, even just for a minute, found that their personal circumstances suddenly became very difficult.
“Me and Sharon got into a car crash. This was the time when one of the ‘spirits’ had been telling us all about the Treblinka death camps, during a séance that lasted for four hours. There wasn’t a single person in the room that who didn’t return to his bed in tears.”
Sharon: “During one of the séances, we ‘brought down’ the dead father of one of the guys, and he started talking to his dad and asking him all these questions that only he would really know the answer to.
“At the end of the séance, he asked his dad: ‘Is there something I can do for you, dad?’ His father replied: ‘Yes! Go and pray shacharit in base’s synagogue tomorrow morning, and say kaddish for me.’ And honestly, that’s what he did. We tried to ‘bring down’ his dead father again after that, but we weren’t successful. In the merit of the kaddish, he’d gone up a level and he’d managed to leave the Kaf HaKela.”
[The spirits that ‘talk’ via séances and facilitated communication are the ones who are ‘stuck’ in the world of chaos, due to their many, unrectified, sins. Holy, rectified souls in Gan Eden don’t contact people via Ouija boards.]
Sharon continues: “We tried to say the name of Hashem during the séance – and the glass we were using exploded!”
Yoni: “One time we got a ‘lying spirit’, who made a lot of confusion and balagan. He gave everyone there the date when he said they would die. He told one soldier: ‘You’re going to die from a bullet fired with a hand-gun’. Another one he told: ‘You’re going to get stabbed to death.’ Another one he said: ‘You’re going to die in a car accident.’ He gave 10 guys a date, and the way they would die…”
THE EVIL SPIRITS GIVE OVER A ‘TRUE’ PROPHECY
And to ‘prove’ that its words were true, this spirit also gave them a ‘prophecy’ about the exact time the Gulf War would begin – which turned out to be correct. So the poor soldiers were hooked, and believed ‘everything’s true!’ They started holding séances almost every night for a year and a half, except for Shabbat, when they couldn’t get hold of any of these evil spirits in the Kaf HaKela.
Yoni continues: “Again during this time, we received a lot of blows, one after the other. Car accidents, illnesses, injuries…”
The account continues with how finally, the Satan himself showed up to what ended up being their last séance, and that one of the participants suddenly ‘died’ during that session, and stayed dead for a whole hour while the doors to the room ‘magically’ locked themselves shut and no-one could get in or out. The forces of darkness had taken over, and it’s only the merit of the pious grandfather of the soldier who ‘died’ that enabled him to return to this world.
Needless to say, all those soldiers tried to make teshuva afterwards, and they went to visit a big kabbalist for a blessing who first refused to see them or have them enter his home, they were so deep in spiritual tumah. The Rav upbraided them for trying to summon dead spirits – before they’d even told him their story – and told them they had to go and use a mikvah ASAP, before he’d even speak to them.
Ad can. (You can find this story for yourself in the original Hebrew on the www.b-h.org.il website.)
WHAT’S THE CONNECTION WITH FC AND THE AUTISTICS?
So what does this have to do with facilitated communication and the autistics? For the answer, we need to now go over to a book called Alternative Medicine in Halacha, by Rabbi Rephoel Szmerla, which has hundreds of pages of careful notations and halachic sources.
The chapters on Kinesiology and Dowsing bring down a number of pertinent halachas that are also relevant to facilitated communication with severely mentally disabled people. The question is posed as to whether using muscle testing to determine the physical state of a person’s body or health constitutes:
NICHUSH – the prohibition against following omens
KISHUF – the prohibition against engaging in sorcery
KESIMAH – the prohibition against trying to ‘divine’ information about the future.
Here’s some of what the author has to say about this subject:
“The Torah commands: There shall not be found among you…a diviner…a follower of omens, or a sorcerer. (Devarim 18:10).
“Nichush means acting in accordance with irrational and illusory signs….Kishuf is the performance of a miraculous act…Kesimah is the art of divining, exploring the unknown by hidden means….Additionally, some have raised the concern that verbal testing may violate the commandment: You shall be wholehearted with Hashem your God (Devarim 18:13), which the Gemara interprets as prohibiting consulting fortune tellers and astrologers.”
Let’s go down to the passages on Kishuf and Kesimah, as those two are the most pertinent to our discussion here on whether FC with autistic children is actually permissible or not. Rav Szmerla continues:
“Any act that defies the laws of nature is suspect of being achieved through sorcery, and is forbidden.”
(In case you’re wondering, muscle testing doesn’t defy the laws of nature and is permitted, but with one important caveat about asking questions about the future, that we’ll cover in a moment.)
The passages on Kesimah are even more interesting. Rav Szmerla continues:
“Rambam describes kesimah as follows (Mishna Torah, Hilchot Avoda Zara 11:6):
“What is a kosem [diviner of hidden information]? It is a person who performs some act in order to empty and disconnect his mind from all things, to the point that he predicts the future and says: ‘This thing will happen; this will not happen; it is wise to act thus; beware of that.’
“Some kosems manipulate sand or stones, others screech at the ground, swaying and screaming, yet others gaze upon a metallic mirror or glass bowl. They do so until they start to envision and relate the future.”
Sefer HaChinuch (#510) explains further:
“Rambam means to say that a kosem mentally disconnects [from the physical world] and focuses all his intent and senses on the concept he wishes to know. As a result of this strong mental isolation and disconnection of the mind from all worldly things, his spirit mingles with the spiritual entities that have knowledge of near future events.”
But here’s another crucial piece of information about Kesimah:
“All Rishonim agree that kesimah prohibits only divination of the future. Uncovering hidden information from the past or present is unquestionably permitted.”
Basically, if you want to use FC to question an autistic person about themselves, and what sort of food they’d prefer, and whether they are comfortable in their new bed, or happy in their living arrangements, while that still could be problematic for a different reason (which we’ll come onto in a moment), in terms of whether you’re performing witchcraft, sorcery and divination, you probably don’t have so much to worry about.
But as soon as you use FC to try to find out information about the future, or to get ‘prophecies’ about what might be about to occur, you are 100% transgressing the very strict prohibitions against kishuf and kesimah, and you are also transgressing the prohibition against tamim tihyeh – i.e. consulting astrologers and fortune tellers.
(As a side note, this is also true of kinesiology and dowsing, too. If you use muscle testing to try to predict the future, or ask a ‘dowsing’ pendant who you should marry, you also just tripped deep up to your neck into the realm of the forces of tumah. It can be a very narrow bridge.)
THERE IS NO SCIENTIFIC BASIS FOR THE VALIDITY OF FACILITATED COMMUNICATION
The last bit of the puzzle, in terms of who is actually ‘giving over’ all these messages about the future that come from the autistics comes via a bunch of sources on Wikipedia, which you can read for yourselves HERE.
Wikipedia usually has a very anti-holistic health bent, and is written from a perspective that doesn’t believe in the spiritual realm, so I take it with a pinch of salt. Nevertheless, what I discovered about FC is that since that bright start around 25 years’ ago, when everyone started hailing it as a communication breakthrough for seriously mentally disabled individuals, it’s now being almost universally condemned as a bogus and dangerous practice.
Here's a small part of what that entry has to say:
The concept and technique of facilitated communication is one that has been increasingly debated over the last few decades with the vast majority of evidence indicating that it is not scientifically valid. However, this information has not stopped many individuals from using this technique under various circumstances and furthermore, advocating for its effectiveness.
The overwhelming majority of evidence from studies conducted on the efficacy of this technique has revealed that the likely explanation for any "positive" results—that is, anything indicating that facilitated communication has worked—can be attributed to the facilitators themselves. Be it the facilitator attributing their own beliefs and views onto the individual, or the creating a pseudo-personality for the disabled individual based on their previous encounters with them, it is clear that the facilitator is really the one doing all the communicating.
Further examination into this technique has discovered various examples in which the disabled individual using facilitated communication could correctly respond to simple questions only when the facilitator was in the room to hear the questions. This included asking the facilitator to leave and then proceeding to show the disabled individual a picture of an animal. Next, the facilitator would return to the room and be asked to help the individual answer the question: "what animal did I just show you?"
In all of these cases, the questions were answered incorrectly. However, when asked questions while the facilitator was in the room, the correct response would be made. Shockingly, this technique has also led to a series of false s***** abuse cases in which the facilitator would indicate that the disabled individual revealed that they had been abused. Unsurprisingly, these cases were later dismissed upon the discovery that these false accusations were actually a result of the facilitator fabricating these stories.
Finally, even further defining facilitated communication as a pseudoscience, the American Psychological Association (APA) issued a statement indicating that facilitated communication studies have repeatedly demonstrated that it is not a scientifically valid technique and that it is a controversial and unproved communicative procedure with no scientifically demonstrated support for its efficacy.
Organizations that oppose facilitated communication
DOES THIS SOUND LIKE ‘KESIMAH’ TO YOU?
Here’s a bit more from Wikipedia, which brings the account of a facilitator who stopped doing FC when she realized she herself was the source of all the ‘messages’ being given over:
Former facilitator Janyce Boynton, who came to reject the technique after taking part in double-blind trials, later reported that she received training from Syracuse University that took for granted that the process worked, and that the complexity of facilitation made it hard to realise that messages were coming from her expectations and not from her patients:
"When you’re facilitating, you’re so distracted by other things. You’re carrying on conversations, you’re asking and answering questions, you’re trying to look at the person to see if they’re looking at the keyboard...Your brain is so engaged that you lose sight of what’s happening with your hand...that’s what makes it feel like it’s working because the more you practice it, the more the movements feel really fluid.”.
Doesn’t this sound so very similar to how the Rambam describes how a Kosem ‘empties their mind’ by repetitive rituals as a prelude to making their predictions about the future?
TO SUM UP:
So, let’s sum up where we’ve got to with this, and then please do go and make your own minds up whether the autistics’ ‘messages’ about the future are really coming from heaven, as claimed, or some other place.
a) The ‘messages’ are actually coming from the facilitator themselves, who is consciously aware of this. If this is done consciously, then while it’s still deceptive, it’s much less of a problem halachically when it comes to the question of whether witchcraft and divination is involved (but also doesn’t say much for the quality of the information being given over.)
b) The ‘messages’ are actually coming from the facilitator themselves, but this is happening ‘unconsciously’ – which means that the facilitator may well be taking the role of a kosem, as described by the Rambam and Sefer HaChinuch, even if this is not their intention, and ‘channeling’ messages from other spiritual entities which we can generally assume are those lost souls trapped in the World of Chaos.
c) The messages are coming from some other place or force external to either the facilitator or autistic person themselves, i.e. the same forces of tumah that show up during séance sessions with Ouija boards.
2) Halacha absolutely forbids FC to be used to try to answer questions about the future, or to give over ‘messages’ or ‘prophecies’ about the future.
May God help us all to stay far away from all these forces of tumah in the world, and to only follow in the path of simplicity, emuna, and a whole-hearted belief in God’s goodness, and our true tsaddikim.
With so many marriages exploding around me, I’ve been learning some things that I never knew before. One thing I learned this week is that in this olam hafuch, there are apparently a lot of women in Israel who are refusing to take a get from their husband.
Yes, you read that right.
The way the law is set up here, the courts come down really, really heavily on ‘get-refusing’ husbands, and basically treat them as criminals. Like you, I initially thought this was an amazing thing! I campaigned on behalf of a young aguna in London, whose ex was trying to extort millions of pounds out of her wealthy family. It took a good few years of communal pressure (plus a couple of million pounds still…) but in the end he gave the get.
So I was thrilled to hear things are different in Israel. Another aguna I knew was stuck get-less for over 20 years. Then her daughter got married in Israel, the dad flew in for the wedding, and on the way out of Ben Gurion he was arrested and jailed until he gave the get. It took two days!
So that was amazing.
But now, I’ve been hearing more and more stories of how things are being taken to a very unhealthy extreme the other way, with men being forced to cede all of their financial rights, and all of their custody requests, before the women will accept the get the men are trying to give them.
Because as long as the women can tell the court that the man hasn’t given them a get, the court can and does impose a number of punitive measures against him until this situation changes.
Again, if the man is refusing to give a get straight up, as ‘punishment’ or ‘vengeance’ – then punitive action against him is usually the right course of action to take, on many levels.
But, if the woman is refusing to accept the get solely in order that she can dictate all the terms of the divorce without having to take the husband’s feelings and needs into account?
This doesn’t seem right to me.
I heard of one case where a woman refused her get three times, until the husband agreed to cede 100% of the house to her – and to keep paying the mortgage on it.
I know kids should be taken care of as much as possible, I really do. But I can’t help but think that if providing the kids with a home is such an over-arching imperative, why are people so quick to rush for a divorce in the first place? Don't they know that getting divorced is going to cause everybody - including them - huge financial challenges?
Getting divorced doesn’t add more money to the pot, doesn’t make it easier to pay the bills. Now there are two households to run instead of one, and while the husbands definitely do owe the wife something – as per halacha – I’m getting increasingly turned-off by people who initiate a divorce whilst continuing to have completely unrealistic expectations of the high standard of living their ex-husbands apparently ‘owe’ them for choosing to give up on their marriage.
If the man was unfaithful, if he was physically violent, or terribly, destructively abusive, or a compulsive gambler, or a dangerous drug addict, then it goes without saying that the circumstances are very different from what I'm describing here, and the divorcing wife needs as much support and help as possible.
But here's the thing: I’ve seen women in those circumstances, and when they get divorced they are so grateful to be free of danger their husbands pose to them and their children, getting money out of their ex tends to be the last thing on their minds.
The sort of divorces I'm talking about don't involve any 'abnormal' mental illness or abuse (because let's be honest, we're all crazy today, and none of us treat other people the way we really should). Really, it's more the case that the wife just doesn't want to deal with the challenge of being married to a difficult, unrectified person anymore, but she still wants full access to his pay packet.
Here's the thing: men are also people.
Unless they fit the description three paragraphs back, they should also be treated with a little compassion. It’s hard enough bringing home the money when you have a home and a family to support you. When you’re working just as hard to pay the mortgage on the house you used to own while you slum it in a rented bed-sit, that can’t be an easy thing at all.
I know divorce is super-complicated, and it’s almost never black and white. But again, why are so many people believing the lies they are being told that divorce is the easy option, and the solution to all their problems, and easier than staying in a difficult marriage?
If a man was dodging his responsibility to pay the bills when you were married to him, how is divorcing him going to change that? If he couldn’t get you a nice house when you were married to him, how is he going to do that as your ex? If he didn’t ‘get help’ for all his mental issues and emotional problems – all of which will manifest themselves in your kids, if they aren’t properly sorted out – when you were married, why should he do that know you’re divorced?
All of us are so messed up today, that every single couple probably has good grounds for divorce, if the point of staying married is to enjoy yourself and have a lot of money.
But the Torah doesn’t say anywhere that this is what marriage is meant to be about.
The Torah view of marriage is that it’s a way of rectifying the world as you work on yourself, and your own issues and problems that your spouse is simply reflecting back at you.
As usual, the ones who suffer the most from this madness are the children.
MARRIAGE IS WORK
I’ve been married 20 years now, and me and my husband have been through our fair share of ups and downs. I’ve had so many internal demons to try to face down, he couldn’t work for two years, we no longer own our own house, we’ve had countless trials and tribulations that put a big strain on our relationship.
We both dealt with all this stuff by upping our hitbodedut and trying to work on our emuna that everything that has happened is just coming from God, and is coming to rectify something. Sure, I could have blamed him for everything, he could have blamed me for everything - but that's the anti-emuna approach.
The emuna approach is to accept that we are both flawed, we both need a lot of fixing, and that underneath it all, we're both actually really nice people. Our job is to pray, get God involved in overcoming our challenges, and to try to see the good as much as possible in each other and in our lives, and to take nothing for granted.
Right now, I don’t work (for money…) so my husband is paying for everything.
Right now, I am so grateful to my husband that he goes out every single day and makes a living for me and my children. That he puts a roof over my head, and food on the table, and lets me do whatever it is I do (for no money…). My husband signed the ketuba with minimal requirements to look after me materially, so this is his responsibility, I know.
But I am still so grateful to him for all the effort he’s making on my behalf, because earning a living today is incredibly stressful and hard. My husband doesn’t ‘owe’ me my own home. He doesn’t ‘owe’ me thousands of shekels every month in spending money. He doesn’t ‘owe’ me a cleaner, a car, nice holidays.
And we’re still actually married.
And for his part, every time my husband finds a clean pair of socks in his drawer, he's grateful. (Full disclosure: doing the washing on time is not always so easy for me ;-)
So you want to get divorced, that’s up to you. But then take responsibility for what your choice is going to do to both your finances and your family and your standard of living. Don’t just view your ex-husband as some sort of ATM that ‘owes’ you stuff, and rejoice in how low you can bring him so that he’s walking around in shabby shoes and lives in a 25 sqm dump of a room.
He’s also suffering. He’s lost everything – his wife, his family, his home and his self-esteem. For the sake of your kids, you need to work with your ex to ensure he also still has some hope and some joy in life, and also, at least a little of the money that he’s working so hard to bring home.
Otherwise, your divorce won’t be the answer to your prayers and the big ‘solution’ you think it is, even if you do manage to walk away with all the money. It’ll just be a gateway to years of bitterness, hatred, anger and suffering.
And as always, it’s the kids who will suffer the most.
God-forbid, I'm not trying to be needlessly controversial by writing this piece. Simply, I can see there is a lot of hypocrisy going on in the frum Jewish community where women are loudly banging the 'equality' drum on the one hand and demanding equal rights, but still expecting the man to pick up all the debts and financial responsibility when it comes to divorce.
The men themselves aren't allowed to point out the inconsistencies that are abounding all over the place without being called 'misogynist', so I'm simply trying to point out that when any party in a divorce ceases to view the other person as a human being, and ceases to have a minimal amount of compassion for them, this is a reflection of bad middot, and will only cause unnecessary suffering and damage to the family over the long run.
No-one should be trying to force their terms unilaterally on the other party in a divorce.
Divorcing couples need to talk to each other and take the other person's viewpoint into account. If they do that, maybe some good can be salvaged from the divorce, and the destruction and hurt will be minimised.
But if you take one message away from this post, let it be this: DIVORCE IS NOT THE EASY OPTION. Sometimes, it's still the necessary thing to do, but in most situations, it's only going to make a challenging set of circumstances even worse.
Every now and then, I get the urge to run away.
To just drop all the ‘grind’, all the responsibility, all the annoying people, upsetting circumstances, arguments, scandals and chores, and to just run away.
People do this all the time.
Some people escape down the neck of a bottle of red, others go up in a puff of illegal smoke, or down the hatch with completely legal prescription meds. Still others chant themselves into an absence of feeling, or run themselves into a high, or work themselves into a place of oblivion, or amateurly act like nothing’s really going wrong under the surface.
And then, there’s always the escaping from self that comes from watching Netflix and Youtube, or surfing Facebook, or diving into the pages of a fiction.
Sadly for me, I don’t do any of these things (not including Mr MMB333, who I think it’s fair to say doesn’t exactly count.)
So then what?
How do I run way from all the arguments, injustices, people telling lies to the world and most of all to themselves? How do I find that space, that place, where I can finally just stop worrying about the evil that’s eating up the world, and just see the good? How can I get away from all the baggage I still seem to be dragging along within myself?
I’m stuck wishing I could be a little more ‘normal’ and a little less weird again, even though barely a week goes by without some other corner of neighborhood ‘normal’ exploding.
Last week, it was another couple we used to be close to who recently divorced. This week, it’s another argument with a good friend who is seriously losing her marbles and living in a fantasy land that I doubt will last much longer than the end of the month, when all the credit extended finally and completely runs out and the bailiffs come knocking.
The evidence is everywhere:
For as long as we don’t acknowledge our own problems, our own issues, all the lies we’re choosing to tell ourselves, all the people we’re actually hurting with our behavior, nothing can really change, transform or improve.
But I know, this is not the normal approach to life.
The normal approach to life is to strive after nice-looking houses, and fancy cars, and expensive holidays, and stunning yom tov tables and outfits, and to try to fit a few mitzvahs and a bit of Torah learning in around all that important stuff.
Working on our own bad middot is simply weird. Admitting our own errors is unthinkable. Talking to God regularly is something only eccentrically strange people do. Trying to peek past all the very ‘normal’ lies we’re all telling ourselves about how things really work in the world, and how much responsibility we actually bear for our own misfortunes, is just abnormal.
I know that, I really do.
And yet, I can’t seem to get more ‘normal’, hard as I try.
Which is when I really want to run away, because maybe in that different place, I’ll finally find others who are also strange.
I just got sent this nice, short (8 min) video about Rav Dov Kook, which is a nice intro for readers who may not be so familiar with this Tzaddik of Tiveria.
While all this stuff with Rav Berland was going on, lots of people wanted to know why more rabbis weren’t coming out publicly in support of him.
While a very small percentage of rabbis were themselves taken in by the lies and slanders they were hearing, many of our true rabbis stayed quiet for a different reason: They knew that if they started trying to defend the Rav and pointing out the evil people behind this whole, terrible miscarriage of justice, they would be the next ones with their heads on the chopping block.
At the height of the persecution and slander of Rav Berland, around two years’ ago, some of his supporters tried to rally the generation’s leading Rabbis to begin publishing letters of support for the Rav, to try and redress the balance and inform the public about what was really happening.
One Rav who was asked to participate responded,
“They [the people who are persecuting Rav Berland] are Erev Rav, and it’s forbidden to get involved with them, or give them any strength or attention. If I come out against them, then tomorrow they will turn on me, and they will also start telling lies about me, too.”
This same concern was heard many, many times from other leading Rabbis in Israel.
In the clip that Rav Glazerson released three years’ ago called: ‘The appearance of Rav Eliezer Berland in Torah codes,” Rav Glazerson showed how the words “Eliezer Berland Tzaddik” appeared together with the words, “The arising of the Erev Rav against Judaism.”
Some notable apikorsim already came out with awful slanders against one of the Rav’s biggest defenders, Rav Chaim Dovid Stern, God forbid. Then another one of the Rav’s defenders, Rav Yitzhak Meir Morgenstern, had his synagogue demolished by the Jerusalem municipality shortly after positive statements that he’d made in defense of Rav Berland were publicized.
A couple of years’ ago, another very famous rabbi asked his son to contact me here, on Emunaroma, to take down a statement he’d made defending Rav Berland because he was scared of reprisals against him and his yeshiva.
And now, it seems to be the turn of the kabbalist and tzaddik Rav Dov Kook of Tiveria, God forbid.
Rav Kook warned his students before Shabbat that the Israeli media are planning a ‘blood libel’ against him, probably beginning this coming week, and he asked his followers to pray for him.
Dear readers, I’m asking you to please pay attention to the awful character assassination that is about to begin, and to work with me to expose how these erev rav types who just love to spread false gossip and rumours around, especially about the gedolei hador, really work.
I don’t have details of what they have cooked up against Rav Kook yet, but for sure it will be the same sort of unprovable stories, false witnesses, lurid headlines and scandalous lies that they have used to great effect against Rav Berland.
The media – sadly, including the so-called ‘chareidi’ media – starts all this stuff off to boost their ratings and get their audience to turn against the true leaders of the nation. Then, regular people who are either gullible and naïve, or who actually just love to gossip and to stir things up get involved, and start carpeting the internet with all this ‘fake news’ and slanderous lies, making out like it’s actually true because everyone is talking about it.
This is so, so contrary to how observant Jews are meant to deal with rumors and gossip, and I highly recommend you brush up on the laws of lashon hara before this next round of slander begins, so you don’t fall afoul of listening to it and believing, or spreading it further afield.
It’s such a hard test, not least because speaking lashon hara is one of the main tell-tale signs that you’re dealing with someone with pronounced erev rav traits. And so many of the people in the media, and in the Jewish blogosphere – including the so-called ‘frum’ Jewish blogosphere – sadly have a very big problem with this erev rav trait.
But don’t make their problem, your problem.
Don’t believe the lies, don’t get caught up in replying to, or posting up, scandalous comments with no factual basis, don’t visit blog sites and news sites where you’re being fed fake news and lashon hara 24/7, don’t give credence or respect to those journalists and bloggers who enjoy stirring up machloket against our true tzaddikim.
As time goes on, it’s becoming clearer and clearer which ‘side’ these people are really on, spiritually, and where they’re going to end up – for eternity! – if they don’t make teshuva pronto.
It’s a huge test, I know.
But I have a feeling that by turning on Rav Dov Kook, the Israeli media may have finally bitten off more than they can actually chew, and that more and more people out there will start to realise what’s really going on in this country, and with the media and the ruling elites generally, and will make some serious teshuva about believing lies they read or watched on the internet etc.
I certainly hope so.
UPDATE: Below, you'll find the Gemara's definition of an 'apikorus', or heretic. You can learn more about this definition for yourself HERE, and HERE.
A heretic may be distinguished from an apostate in that, although he holds beliefs which are contrary to currently accepted doctrines, he does not renounce his religion and often believes that he represents the true tradition.
Some identify the talmudic minim with the Judeo-Christians, others with unspecified groups who denied rabbinic authority and/or the belief in the coming of the Messiah.
In the Talmud the term apikoros refers to the *Sadducees (Kid. 66a); to those who denigrate rabbinic authority.
Kofer may be best translated as "freethinker." In Sanhedrin the kofer is identified as one who asks needling questions and points out contradictions between biblical texts (Sanh. 39a–b). The term kofer ba-ikkar in rabbinic literature refers to one who denies a basic and essential ikkar ("dogma"; on the various formulations of dogmas in Judaism see S. Schechter, Studies in Judaism (1896), 147–81). Maimonides defines a kofer ba-Torah as someone who denies either the divine inspiration of the Torah or the authority of the Oral Law and the rabbis who teach it, or one who maintains that the legislation of the Torah has been superseded (Yad, Teshuvah, 3:8)
I'm busy pulling the stuff together for the last couple of chapters of the One in a Generation book, and I came across these comments that Rav Berland made about North Korea on Rosh Hashana 5778, just after Hurricane Irma narrowly missed slamming into Miami (you can read his full comments HERE):
“North Korea is going to launch a nuclear weapon, but it’s not going to reach to Miami, because there are synagogues there, and people who keep mitzvot. Perhaps it will fall into the sea. But North Korea has some very unique ideas, and they will aim their nuclear weapons only at Shuvu Banim. But despite all this, there’s no need to worry. Just sit in the succah, and don’t leave it. Anyone who sits in the succah will be protected, and will survive.”
Then I remembered that Shirat Devorah posted up the video of Rav Levi Saadia Nachmani, a Moroccan kabbalist, warning Am Yisrael about North Korea's nukes back in 1994, when the country was at the height of the 'peace process' under Yitzhak Rabin.
So then, I decided I should transcribe some of Rav Nachmani's words for the book, too, to give it more context, which you can read below, as the two tzaddikim are essentially saying very similar things.
And then while I was doing that, I googled Rabbi Nachmani's name in Hebrew to get more background on him, and I came across THIS article (in Hebrew) that said that Rav Nachmani had predicted that the next world war would break out on L'ag B'Omer, 5763. Rav Nachmani had already correctly predicted the dates of the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War at this point, so he had some credibility.
Of course, that didn't happen, but with Trump set to meet the North Koreans any day soon, and with quite a few analysts warning that if it doesn't achieve peace, it could achieve the exact opposite, it just struck me that the words of our Tzaddikim are never said in vain, and that L'Ag B''Omer could be interesting this year.
It falls out on May 3rd, and the US is said to be officially moving its embassy to Jerusalem at the beginning of May, with the ribbon-cutting ceremony scheduled for May 14th, the day Jerusalem was liberated.
Whatever God is planning for the world, teshuva is always the answer, and always the best protection. BH, everything should turn around for the good. But in the meantime, it's certainly an interesting set of coincidences.
RAV NACHMANI ON NORTH KOREA, 1994:
“Do you think there will be peace? Do you think it will be peaceful one day? [You are] total fools! Parshat Ha’azinu is talking about us today. It says: ‘O, foolish and unwise people. A generation that’s crooked and perverse.’
“Do you know what will happen, God forbid? Korea. Do you know who Korea is? Not Syria, not Persia, not Babylon (Iraq) not Qadafi (Libya). Korea will arrive here, God forbid, may the Lord save us.
“And anyone who pays any attention to what’s going on in Korea today, it’s for us. The nukes. It will be very hard for us if we don’t do teshuvah. Understand this! Know that it’s worse than the holocaust! ‘For a fire is kindled in My nostrils, and will burn unto sheoul [i].’ Do you know what ‘sheoul’ is? It’s the capital of Korea.
“It will get to here, and ‘devour the earth with her produce and set ablaze the foundations of the mountain. I will heap evil upon them. I will spend My arrows upon them.’
“What does this mean? We have left Hashem, we think we belong to ourselves, and the PM sits and does what he wants, as if Hashem doesn’t exist, if the land of Israel is his, and he does whatever he wants with it, as if the people are his.
“And the Torah says: ‘For the portion of God is his people.’ You don’t belong to yourselves, you’re His!... We have no dispute with the Arabs. We have a dispute with the God of Israel. If we won’t listen to Him, we will have more and more troubles, and the situation will get worse. Don’t believe these fools! You must beware of them, you must beware of the bad, foreign culture that they brought here.
“You are Jews, sons of Avraham, Yitzhak and Yaakov, who received the Torah, your Torah. You must appreciate it and respect it and fight for it. Not with violence, but peacefully, by making teshuvah…
“If we make teshuvah, then we won’t need to go and fight in the army at 18 instead of getting married. Instead of letting you ‘rejoice in your home’ they take you off to fight. Instead of letting our girls find peace, they take them as soldiers…? I don’t understand this silence! Why don’t we make some teshuva?...
“Why do we keep quiet, and give the power to these fools who kill us? The yetzer hara is not you. It’s a separate force that enters through the ears. You are brainwashed by the media, brainwashed by the press, brainwashed everywhere…
“How long will we be fools. How long will we be naïve and indifferent? How long? We must do one thing, and nothing else. Not violence, and nothing else. Only teshuvah, that’s the answer for them…And then we’ll receive the very best thing, life and peace.”
 In December 1994, North Korea had just shot down a US Army helicopter, killing one pilot and taking the other captive for 13 days. Earlier in the year, the North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung had died, and been succeeded by his son, Kim Jong-Il, who was succeeded by his son, the present leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-Un in 2011. Kim Jong-Un has been notable for aggressively pursuing the development of nuclear weapons.
 Yitzhak Rabin was Israeli PM at this time.