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?