As has been going on all year, I'm going into Purim completely unprepared.... I moved house two days' ago, so even just finding my Megillot is a bit of a task (and let's not even talk about getting my oven working or figuring out the hot water.)
But Baruch Hashem, other people are a bit more organised, so here's a quick round-up of some other Purim pieces you may like to read:
hOver on www.ravberland.com, the Rav tells us about the correct mindset we should have going into Purim, HERE.
Over on www.ofererez.com, Rav Ofer tells us that before Hashem is about to make a big spiritual change in the world, the Jewish people first have to go through another test with Amalek. Read that HERE.
Over on the soulfoodie blog, you'll find this:
And then on Sasson, there's a very nice selection of poems, stories and non-fiction pieces about Purim, including:
The recipe for survival that was concealed in my mother's kreplach
V'ne'hafochu - A fish story
And BH, things really ARE starting to turn around in the world for the good this Purim, 5778.
More than a decade ago, when I was still in London, I remember reading the story of some South Korean man who’d become a legend in his own time - online - by becoming the leading player in one of those addictive online games like ‘World of Warcraft’, or some other soul-destroying tosh.
Online, this man was king of his internet world; he had people admiring him from all four corners of the planet; he was super-powerful (online) and had acquired all these (online) abilities to bestow magical powers to other players, come to their rescue, and generally create the world as he saw fit (online).
In his real life?
He was a hamburger ‘chef’ who’d had to move back in to his parents’ home as he’d run out of money to pay his bills, and his parents were urgently trying to get him admitted into some psychiatric institution somewhere to start treatment for the internet addiction that was destroying his real life.
That’s how there came to be a whole story in the papers about him, because the dichotomy between who he was online - emperor of the world! All-powerful king-maker! Savior of thousands, hero to many more - was in stark contrast to who he really was: a guy with severe mental-health issues who had very little to actually show for himself.
The poor man.
THE WORST SINS IN THE WORLD ARE 'NO BIG DEAL' ONLINE
We all know internet porn is bad (but I suspect most of us are still in denial about just how many of our husbands, sons, brothers, fathers, friends and neighbors have fallen into its net, even in the most ‘frum’ neighborhoods…)
And we all know that watching trashy movies is bad (see note above).
And we all know that opening up a channel into our soul for people to fill it with all their terrible anti-true Tzaddikim, anti-God, anti-yiddishkeit rubbish is bad (see note above).
But it doesn’t change the facts that so many of us are still doing all this stuff, all the time, mostly oblivious to just how much damage it’s actually doing to us, spiritually.
It’s so easy to do the absolutely worst sins in the world online, and then to think it’s no big deal.
It reminds me of another story I read, this time within the frum Jewish community, of a pillar of the local community who got busted for viewing really disgusting things online. This man had tried to make teshuva - anonymously - and he’d written a piece explaining how he’d got sucked into those darkest spiritual places in the world because his yetzer kept spinning him the story that what he did online wasn’t really real.
I mean, no-one could see him. He was completely anonymous. No-one else, not even his own wife, really knew what he was up to.
ONLINE 'ANONYMITY' WAS NO PROTECTION
Until that one terrible day when the police finally managed to figure out how to collect the IP addresses of all the ‘subscribers’ to that particular piece of satanic handiwork, and came knocking at his door.
(It’s SO easy for motivated people to find out who the 'anonymous' people online really are, these days.)
The people who get addicted to gambling online have the same problem: their yetzer tells them it’s all just make-believe, online no-big-deal-fun - until the bailiffs come knocking and they end up losing their homes.
Don’t believe me?
Here’s something that I recently read in The Hustle Economy, by a game designer called Alex Larsen:
“I saw semi-frequent posts in my newsfeed about another player losing their house, or going bankrupt from medical bills. Our game was free to play; we made money only through selling special ‘premium’ items.
“Essentially, people were spending money for pixels on a screen, and some of them were spending in the hundreds.”
Who would be dumb enough to waste their hard-earned money, and to risk their real-life homes just to be ‘king of the world’ online?!
That’s what we like to think when we read stories like this.
THE YETZER HAS ALL SORTS OF 'TRAPS' SET UP ONLINE
But the yetzer has traps set up for everyone online. And the one that I see so many frum Jews falling into is the one about speaking and accepting and sharing lashon hara - particularly about the nation’s biggest Tzaddikim.
Back in the desert, Korach et al were consigned to permanent oblivion in Gehinnom for talking badly about Moshe Rabbenu, the tzaddik of the generation. Even 1500 years later, an Arab guide took a tanna to the crack in the desert where you could still hear Korach and his followers proclaiming that the Torah of Moshe Rabbenu was true - and that Korach had made a huge error of judgment that he was going to spend eternity paying down.
It’s instructive to note that in that story, God warns the people of Israel that everyone should move far away from the people who were talking badly about the tzaddik of the generation - because they dragged everyone down to the depths with them.
Their spouses, their friends, their neighbors, even their kids - they all got swallowed up by the earth for associating with Datan and Aviram, and all those other people who made a big name for themselves by speaking badly of the nation’s true Tzaddikim.
Who would be dumb enough to wager their house for an online game?
Who would be dumb enough to wager their eternal soul for an online ‘discussion’ where they freely diss a whole bunch of the nation’s leading Tzaddikim?
The mind boggles.
But in the meantime, we need to stay away from toxic sites that run on lashon hara and evil speech. Hopefully the people behind them will make sincere teshuva before Hashem’s patience really runs out, but in the meantime, protect yourself from their madness and stop visiting these dens of ill-repute online.
MAYBE, IT'S TIME TO BLOCK THOSE 'TOXIC' SITES?
If that’s hard to do (and it’s also hard for me to do, so I really hear you) - consider using something like ‘Site Blocker’ which is a free, safe add-on for Chrome that lets you block sites that you know are toxic, but (like many other toxic things…) are strangely addictive.
I started using it last week, and I feel SO much happier!
Let the South Korean fast-food guy be ‘King of the World’ without you…
You’ve got better things to do with your time.
The Sultan Knish blog has nailed it with this blog post explaining just how corrupt and rotten Israel's judiciary and police actually are.
As time goes on, it's going to become increasingly obvious that a 'fair trial' in Israel is an oxymoron.
On that note, I know many readers ordered the book on Amazon only to be told their order was cancelled. There have been so many challenges getting the book out, that I wasn't too surprised that we've hit another bump.
It's a processing error that may take another three weeks (!) to resolve - which is crazy as this is the 10th book I've put out via Amazon, and that's never, ever happened before.
In the meantime, you can get it on Barnes and Noble instead - with free shipping to the States! - and for a little bit cheaper, so it's all for the best, HERE.
If you ordered it from Israel, hang tight: we are working on a much cheaper option for people in Israel which will avoid high overseas postal charges, but it'll take a few more weeks for us to figure things out.
If you're in a rush, you can order the Kindle on Amazon HERE and then email me for a PDF that I can send you to actually print off and read.
But BH, more and more of the behind-the-scenes corruption in Israel is starting to ooze out of the woodwork now. We live in interesting times...Baruch Hashem we have our tzaddikim to guide us through them.
Last Wednesday, as the boxes started to mount up in the small apartment and as the floor space (and table space and counter space and every space…) started to disappear under cardboard, I asked my husband if we could go away for Shabbat.
Both the kids were out for Shabbat anyway, and there was nowhere to sit, or cook, anyway and the Rav was also doing his ‘big gathering’ in the North, that I felt like going to, for a change.
The husband, tzaddik that he is, agreed, so I rang around a few places and ended up booking Hotel Ron in Tsfat. Thursday, I continued to pack like a crazy person and around 8pm, we headed up North.
The Rav does his gatherings late, and the plan was to try to stick with the program as long as we could, then drive on to Meron and sleep in the car until day break, when we’d make our way to Tsfat.
Finding the location was an adventure in itself. Thanks to the ongoing persecution of a bunch of people who have taken it upon themselves to threaten every hall that hosts the Rav with bankruptcy and closure, these gatherings are happening in increasingly unusual locations.
The last time I went to one, in Beer Sheva, they put up a massive marquee last minute in someone’s tile warehouse. This time round it was a proper events hall - in the middle of an Arab neighborhood.
It’s hard to know who was more surprised, the local Arabs who suddenly had a whole bunch of Breslov chassidim descend on the hall (with their own refreshments, natch…) or the Breslovers who had to drive past a bunch of xtian effigies in glass boxes and huge light-bulbed crucifixes while trying to find the place.
Never a dull moment…
We got there around 11, the Rav showed up around 12 midnight, and less than an hour later, word went out that the gathering was re-locating to Meron. So, we got back in our car, joined the throngs of people driving off to Rashbi - and somehow managed to lose everyone.
I anyway was so knackered I fell asleep in the back of the car, but my husband tried to find everyone for a bit, before also falling asleep in the front. I woke up at 6am, went to do an hour of hitbodedut in the tomb, and ended up spending most of the time perched overlooking the beautiful greenery, wondering where all my ability to do six hour prayer sessions has gone, these days.
Life has been so busy for months, it’s hard to catch my breath.
The hotel said we could book in at 12pm, and it was only 8am, so I said to my husband: ‘Let’s go to Lake Montfort!’ We headed out, got lost, took a wrong turn - and ended up driving by Rashbi’s cave in the now Arab village of Peki’in. So of course we stopped!
The village seemed like it was deserted at that time of day, so we went and had a wander around, found Rashbi’s cave, and saw the massive Carob trees that are still sprawled all around it.
It was really cool. I’ve been wanting to see Rasbhi’s cave for years already.
Next stop was ‘Lake’ Montfort which was impressive for Israel, but about the size of a large puddle, for people who come from rainy Britain. Still, we walked around in the sunshine and enjoyed the view before heading off to Tsfat - which someone told me ages ago is one of the biblical cities of refuge.
And in many ways, it still feels like that.
After checking in, we went for a walk around the Old City, through the artist’s quarter and then down to the old Tsfat cemetery. I’ve been going to Tsfat for a decade already, and this is the most bustling and alive I’ve ever seen the old city there. It really seems to be going through some sort of renaissance.
The husband went for a dip in the Ari’s mikva while I went to do some praying by his grave.
There’s a lot going on at the moment, and I came with some heaviness of spirit and upset which very quickly lifted after an hour in the cemetery.
I heard someone talking about Chana and her 7 sons being buried in Tsfat, so I decided to try to find them. We were headed in completely the wrong direction when a couple of yeshiva boys with a guide to graves in their hands passed by. I asked them if they knew where Chana was buried and they gestured to the other side of the massive cemetery, and told us to try there, instead.
My husband gave me his quizzical half-eyebrow - finding a grave in Tsfat is not so easy, particularly if it’s not so well-known - but I told him let’s try anyway! If God wants us to find it, we’ll find it.
As it happens, God wanted us to find it.
As we got close to that side of the cemetery, where people are buried in the caves under the mountainous dips of Tsfat, we heard this gorgeous harmonizing coming from one of the caves. It was so beautiful, and the cave acoustics were amazing. We drew closer to see what’s going on, and my husband turned to me and smiled: the writing above the cave entrance proclaimed ‘Chana and her 7 sons’.
Who 2,500 years later is still being remembered and serenaded by Am Yisrael. Unbelievable.
We packed a lot into a day and a half, including praying in Meron, praying by the Arizal, finding Chana and her 7 sons, praying in Rav Yosef Karo’s shul, and visiting the grave of Rav Yehoshua ben Chanina, and Rebbe Nachman’s shamash Reb Shimon, who moved to Tsfat and was murdered by Arabs in the surrounding hills whilst doing hitbodedut.
It reminded me how much I’ve missed visiting the holy graves the last couple of years, caught up in a pace of life that’s been really, really crazy.
I got a lot of clarity in Tsfat, I got a lot of inner strength, and I got the energy to come back home and to carry on packing, and to carry on writing, and to carry on trying to shine light into the world, even when sometimes it’s hard and I’m tired of dealing with psychos.
Am Yisrael is so beautiful.
And we are so blessed to be part of this beautiful Jewish story, that is continuing to unfold in all of our lives, linking us back to our ancestors and forward to geula and Moshiach and true peace in our times.
One of the commentators on the last post, Mike, has never heard of Rav Stern, Rav Kook of Tiveria or Rav Arush. He also - correctly - wanted 'proof' that these people really did say what they are quoted as saying.
Ah, if only people would be this discerning and careful when they read things on Ynet and Arutz Sheva too!
I responded to to Mike in the comments section, but it struck me that many new readers from abroad may also not know who these rabbis are, or how to find the original sources (most of which are in Hebrew.)
So I'm re-posting my comment here for them too, to make it super-easy new readers to understand just how 'big' these rabbis actually are, and to see / hear / read their comments about Rav Berland, etc, first-hand.
Thanks for the nudge, Mike!
Rav Chaim Dovid Stern is known as the 'mekubal of Bnei Brak' and is one of leading rabbis of the generation. Mishpacha interviewed him here 4 years ago: http://www.mishpacha.com/Browse/Article/4464/Spiritual-Currency
(See an excerpt of the Mishpacha story, giving some of Rav Stern's achievements in the Torah world, below)"
This video (above) is on YouTube, and shows Rav Stern very clearly praising Rav Berland (this was filmed last year, and is in Hebrew with English subtitles).
Rav Stern is not only a rebbe for chassidim. He unites thousands both in Israel and around the world, likely because of his multifaceted affiliations. He is Hungarian-born, but he grew up among the giants of the litvishe community and was personally nurtured by the Chazon Ish. At the same time, Rav Stern is fully proficient in chassidic Torah and the esoteric world of Kabbalah; 40 years ago he received an endorsement of his enormous powers of tefillah from the Beis Yisrael of Gur zy”a. Yet he combines chassidus with the Torah of his rebbi muvhak, Rav Yechezkel Levenstein ztz”l, his mentor from the time he was a bochur in Ponevezh. (In fact, the shiurim of Ponevezh rosh yeshivah Rav Dovid Povarsky that were prepared for publication are based on Rav Stern’s notebooks from yeshivah.)
Rav Dov Kook is also one of Israel's leading kabbalists, and you can see his wikipedia entry (in Hebrew - there isn't one in English) here:
Above, you can see the video of Rav Kook speaking about Rav Berland.
Below, this is Rav Kook's hand-written note where he says Rav Berland is a gilgul of Rabbi Eliezer HaGadol, (who you'll recall was excommunicated and then re-instated by the Beis Din of his time).
Plus you can hear a recording of Rav Kook's nephew giving over the message from Rav Kook re: the Breslov chassidim and Rav Berland here:
Rav Shalom Arush has sold literally millions of copies of book about emuna, and is one of the best-known rabbis in the world today, both in Israel and in the English speaking world. Here's his wikipedia page (in English):
You can see a full English translation of the statement that Rav Arush put out together with Rav Shaknazi where he said 'woe to anyone who believes badly about Rav Berland, even in his heart', plus also download a PDF of the original statement in Hebrew, here:
To make it super-easy for you, on the left you can see the original statement, and on the right is the English translation of the last big, where he says 'Woe' to anyone who believes these falsehoods.
(If it's too small to read, just click the link above and it will bring it up much bigger.)
Plus, if you scroll back to the post called 'Anatomy of a Smear', you will see that Rav Arush - together with a bunch of other leading Rabbis within Breslov - signed on the recent statement decrying the 'false beis din' that was recently convened by Rav Berland's persecutors within Breslov.
Other rabbis who have come out in support of Rav Berland
The list is growing longer by the day, but here's a few more rabbis who have publicly come out in support of Rav Eliezer Berland:
1) Rav Shimon Badani
Following the passing of Rav Ovadia, z'tl, Rav Badani took over as the spiritual 'head' of Shas.
He's a member of Moetzet Chachmei HaTorah, the head of the ‘Torah Ve Chaim’ kollel in Bnei Brak and a very senior Sephardi Posek in Israel.
Below, you'll find Rav Glazerson's video around Rav Badani's statement that anyone speaking lashon hara about Rav Berland will 'inherit Gehinnom'.
Rav Yitzhak Dovid Grossman
Rav Grossman has been a staunch supporter of Rav Berland over the years. You can see his Wikipedia entry here:
And here's just one of the instances of Rav Grossman's involvement in the Rav Berland story, which dates back to when Rav Berland's persecutors in Meah Shearim tried to get Rav Shechter embroiled in another false 'machloket' with Rav Berland and Shuvu Banim, two years' ago:
(You can hear Rav Grossman's own statement (in the original Hebrew) HERE.)
Rav Grossman said as follows:
Rav Yitzhak Meir Morgenstern, and Rav Mota Frank
In Feb 2017, the Rav's persecutors within Breslov Meah Shearim again tried to embroil the Rav and his community in a contrived scandal, by paying Arabs to smash up the Breslov shul in Meah Shearim, which they then tried to blame on Shuvu Banim, Rav Berland's yeshiva.
You can see the full story for yourself, HERE.
In response to that, Rav Yitzhak Meir Morgenstern and Rav Mota Frank put out the following statement:
When news of this terrible chillul Hashem reached the ears of Rav Yitzhak Meir Morgenstern, shlita, he immediately put out a statement decrying the terrible actions of the Breslov zealots, Rav Mota Frank when hearing this urged his followers to do everything they can to start publishing books – including in English – that tell the true story of who the Tzaddik and gaon Rav Berland really is.
Here is Rav Morgenstern's biography, from the Hebrew wiki and a very brief English translation:
He is a Chasid of Ger from birth. He learned in the Yeshivas of Lucerne and Gateshead. He is married to the daughter of R' Yosef Lubinsky from Antwerp (known as the Chantshin Rabbi). He moved to Yerushalayim after his marriage and learned with R' Eliezer Shlomo Schick and R' Nissan Dovid Kivak. He is also close to R' Tzvi Hirsh Rosenbaum (Kretchnifer Rabbi-Siget).
If you click HERE, you'll find an interview Mishpacha did with Rav Mota Frank in 2016, and below, is a clip of Rav Berland officiating at Rav Frank's recent wedding of his son.
There are so many more Rabbis who have come out publicly in support of Rav Berland, incluiding Rav Yekutiel Fish, Rav Chaim Perachia HaKohen (the 'Milkman'), Rav Elazar Mordechi Menzer.
And many, many more who support the Rav 'behind the scenes' but who are not speaking out either because Rav Berland himself has asked them not to, or because they are concerned about reprisals from the Rav's persecutors, who have been working hand-in-hand with the Israeli police and anti-religious media to sow trouble and dissension for anyone they believe is supporting Rav Berland and his community.
But the truth will out.
You can get 'One in a Generation': Rabbi Eliezer Berland, from Haifa to Uman on Amazon HERE. (There are some miniot going on with Amazon at the moment, but they will be sorted out soon, BH, and we are also working on a much cheaper option so you can order the book direct from us. I will keep you posted, BH, but the Kindle option is still working for Amazon.
It was on my list to re-post this next anyway, and as usual it's perfect timing...
A crash-course in the laws of Lashon Hara
It’s known that the Chofetz Chaim believed that lashon hara, or evil speech, was the main cause of our long, bitter exile. The Chofetz Chaim stated on more than one occasion that as soon as the sin of lashon hara was fixed, the exile would end and the Moshiach would come.
Rav Chaim Dovid Stern stated that ‘Rav Berland is the last test before Moshiach.’
What does this test involve? Lashon hara, in all its many, soul-destroying forms!
How do we pass this test? By not engaging in any of the forms of evil speech that destroyed our Second Temple, and are keeping us in exile. Sadly, most of us don’t seem to realize how much of what we’re saying and doing, especially online, is directly contravening the laws of lashon hara in the worst ways.
So to fix that, I’ve put together this crash-course in Lashon Hara, based on the practical halachas contained in the book: Purity of Speech.
Basic background to Lashon Hara (evil speech)
Every time a person engages in Lashon Hara, they can transgress 17 negative and 14 positive mitzvot.
The Torah tells us we shouldn’t ‘peddle’ gossip to other people by passing on ‘juicy’ information - even when it’s true!
And that we also shouldn’t accept, or cause other people to accept, false reports.
These are mitzvot d’orayta, straight from the Torah.
THE DEFINITION OF LASHON HARA:
Lashon Hara is when someone speaks evilly about, or believes someone else’s evil report about another Jew. Specifically, the evil speech about another Jew does one of the following things:
AGAIN, THESE RULES APPLY EVEN WHEN THE INFORMATION IS TRUE. WHEN THE INFORMATION IS FALSE AND LIBELLOUS, THEN THE TRANSGRESSION IS MANY, MANY TIMES GREATER. AND WHEN THE PERSON BEING SPOKEN ABOUT IS A HOLY RABBI, THE SIN IS COMPOUNDED.
Many people think that if they’re just writing something on the internet, that’s not Lashon Hara.
This is completely untrue.
It’s just as forbidden to write negative information as it is to say it.
Also, if you write something anonymously, that still doesn’t get you off the hook. God knows exactly who you are, and you’re still accountable for what you wrote about another person, and any damage you might have done as a result.
Even if the information you’re passing along is well-known and already in the public domain, it’s still forbidden to talk about it.
RECHILUS, OR CAUSING HATRED TOWARDS A FELLOW JEW
There’s another category of Lashon Hara, or evil speech, that’s called Rechilus, which involves causing other people to hate another Jew.
THE DEFINITION OF RECHILUS IS:
Anything you say or write which causes people to start hating another Jew.
If what you’re saying / writing / passing along is going to cause someone else to have ill-feelings towards a particular Jew, or group of Jews, then that is rechilut, another very serious form of evil speech.
Even if you agree with the information, it’s still forbidden to repeat it.
HOW YOU FIX THE SINS OF TALKING LASHON HARA / RECHILUT
To make Teshuva for the sin of TALKING evilly about another Jew, you have to do the following:
If you don’t do these four things, you didn’t fix your sin, spiritually.
WHEN IS IT PERMISSIBLE TO TALK NEGATIVELY ABOUT A FELLOW JEW?
There are some, rare, instances when it’s not only permitted to talk negatively about a fellow Jew, but you are required to do so. (Before you jump off using this as a heter, please go and talk to a Rav who knows the detailed laws required. This is just a basic guide.)
You can degrade someone if:
Even if they meet these criteria, you can only talk negatively about them if the following 5 conditions are met:
BELIEVING LASHON HARA
This is where it gets even more interesting, because in some ways BELIEVING lashon hara is even more problematic than speaking it. To give a common example, believing that story in the Jpost or on Arutz Sheva is just as big a sin as if you actually wrote it yourself.
It’s forbidden to:
THIS APPLIES EVEN IF THE INFORMATION IS TRUE, AND IF THE 5 CONDITIONS FOR GIVING OVER INFORMATION FOR A POSITIVE OUTCOME HAVE NOT BEEN MET. WHEN THE INFORMATION IS FALSE, THE GRAVITY OF THE SIN OF BELIEVING IT IS COMPOUNDED MANY TIMES OVER
The only times it’s OK to listen to lashon hara is when:
SOMEONE IS ONLY CONSIDERED TO BE A ‘TRUSTWORTHY’ PERSON IN THESE CIRCUMSTANCES IF:
And even when all these very difficult criteria are met, halacha still expects us to judge the person being spoken about favorably, especially if they’re a holy person.
A last, important, point to note is that it’s still forbidden to believe evil speech, even if it was repeated to you by a respected person, such as your rabbi, for example.
If all the conditions of passing information along l’toelet, for a positive purpose, as described above, have not been met by the ‘respected person’, then they are still transgressing the laws of lashon hara - and if you believe them and listen to them, and worse, pass the information on to others, than you are too.
HOW YOU FIX THE SIN OF BELIEVING LASHON HARA
To make Teshuva for the sin of BELIEVING evil things about another Jew, you have to do the following:
IF YOU ALSO PASSED THE INFORMATION ON TO OTHER PEOPLE, THEN A FIFTH STEP IS ALSO REQUIRED:
NB: The Chofetz Chaim describes a ‘baal rechilut’, one who repeats negative information about their fellow Jew, as a rasha, (evil person), because of the number of sins they transgress by speaking lashon hara.
[I had a pic of Rav Berland as the sandek at Rav Kook of Tiveria's bris here, but suddenly got nervous that I don't actually know who took it, and I don't want to get sued for thousands of shekels again, so I decided to remove it for now.]
PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS OF THESE LAWS TO THE SUBJECT OF DISCUSSING RAV BERLAND
And you need to make some serious teshuva, including contacting Rav Berland to apologise to him.
THE GROWTH IN THE THROAT
In case anyone thinks this stuff is being exaggerated, and it’s not such a big deal because ‘everyone’ is doing it, a man went to Rav Chaim Kanievsky a couple of years’ ago because the doctors told him he had a cancerous growth in his throat.
Rav Kanievsky told him that the growth had occurred because he’d spoken badly about Rav Berland. The man got on a plane to Morocco, where the Rav was then staying, to go and apologise in person to him, for what he’d said.
I’ve heard many other similar stories being reported to - where the person involved is now publicizing what they did, and what happened to them as a form of teshvua - so please, be VERY careful when discussing Rav Berland.
The honest position for most people is:
Remember, Rav Berland is the last test before Moshiach. And avoiding lashon hara and rechilut, as set out above, is the way we’re all going to pass it.
One in a Generation: Rabbi Eliezer Berland is coming out on March 1, 2018, BH. We are working on getting a few hundred copies printed in Israel, which we'll be able to sell for much less than the print-on-demand arrangement we currently have on Amazon, so stay tuned. You can also get it as Kindle on Amazon for $3.99, again from March 1.
Before we begin, here’s one of my favorite infographics, showing the Erev Rav traits versus true Jewish traits.
You’ll notice that speaking lashon hara, indulging in harsh judgments against others, brazenness (which is refusing to accept that you ever do anything wrong, or may be at fault), trying to make a name for yourself, craving honor - all these things are very clearly associated with the Erev Rav.
The Gemara teaches that when a Jewish person lacks compassion, we should question whether that person’s feet stood at Mount Sinai. Anyone who knows their Erev Rav sources properly knows exactly what this is referring to.
Before we go on, again, I just wanted to bring this excerpt talking about (trauma-induced) Narcissistic Personality Disorder, as it’s so useful to help you understand the context of what is currently playing out online, and in the media, both in the Jewish and non-Jewish world:
“People with NPD won’t (or can’t) change their behavior even when it causes problems at work or when other people complain about the way they act, or when their behavior causes a lot of emotional distress to others.”
Here’s how NPD plays out in real terms:
(As an aside, I've noticed that blogging and having a public 'platform' can definitely bring these tendencies out and exaggerate them. It's one of the reasons I'm very keen to keep pointing out my own flaws and to field questions on Emunaroma, and to give others a platform to express themselves, too, so it's not just 'all about Miiii'.)
Why this stuff is important to know:
I’ve spent the last 3 years researching and writing about mental health issues over on spiritualself-help.org and in a bunch of books, and what I learned is that Erev Rav tendencies and personality disorders are one and the same.
People act like ‘Erev Rav’ because they are mentally-ill, and mental illness is primarily caused by experiencing serious trauma and / or emotional neglect, especially in childhood.
And it can be fixed and changed when God, and connecting to our true Tzaddikim are in the picture!
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov’s whole work in this final generation before Moshiach was to give our generation the tools we needed to overcome all the heresy, and mental illness, and ‘Erev Rav’ traits that would be flooding the world at this stage.
If anyone wants to learn more, Unlocking the Secret of the Erev Rav gives all the background to this concept, including sources, but it’s very important to understand one thing:
The only way the Erev Rav can get fixed is by coming close to the Tzaddik of the generation.
The Zohar brings down how the Erev Rav are actually ‘sparks’ of Moshe Rabbenu’s soul, which is why he wanted to bring them out of Egypt and rectify them.
That first time around, the job was too big for him, but over the last 3,300 years, each of the Tzaddikim of the generation have been involved with this task of rectifying the soul-sparks from the Erev Rav, because when that is completed we will have finally rectified the world, spiritually, and we can get to geula.
In Rebbe Nachman’s story of The Cripple, he depicts the Tzaddik of the Generation as a wondrous tree, with every type of healing and bounty in its leaves.
Rabbenu tells us that there are large communities of demons in the world whose whole purpose in life is to spread lies and slanders about the true Tzaddikim, to prevent people from drawing close. Every few years, the king of these demons tries to totally uproot the tree, but the tree lets out a piercing scream that reduces these demons to jelly, and scares them off.
So in the meantime, they content themselves with digging ditches around the tree (with their lashon hara, trouble-making and slander) that prevent it from being ‘watered’, and from truly blossoming in the world.
The human beings in the world have no idea that half the planet is populated by these ‘demons’, many of whom presumably have blogs and write things online, and have no clue that these demons are focused on one thing, and one thing only: keeping people away from the true tzaddik of the generation.
Rebbe Nachman teaches us that at the end of time, the ‘talkers’ amongst the demons will turn on each other, and start a civil war.
This one will give an interview to the Jpost decrying corruption in the police, while ‘that one’ will give an interview to Channel 2 decrying corruption within the Knesset.
This ‘rabbi’ will speak evilly about that ‘rabbi’, this organization will slag off that organization, this blogger will criticize that blogger - and all this will lead to massive earthquakes and natural disasters, that means that finally the ditches collapse, and the tree - the True Tzaddik of the generation - finally gets watered.
And then we have geula.
Looks like we are getting very close!
So, judging by the contents of my inbox this morning, we’re seem to be very, very close. But in the meantime, pay attention to all the ‘Erev Rav’ tendencies, and NPD traits that are coming to the fore at the moment, and know that most people today are literally insane, and shouldn’t be taken too seriously.
BH, when the True Tzaddik is finally revealed in the world, he’ll hopefully give them (and the rest of us!) another chance to come clean, admit that we have some serious mental health issues, and to make the teshuva we so desperately need to make.
Because God really does want all these people back.
And the only people who’ll tell you different are the ones who are struggling with some enormous (but fixable!) ‘Erev Rav’ / NPD tendencies themselves.
As always, your comments and questions are welcome, as long as they don’t contravene the laws of lashon hara. God forbid we should act like ‘demons’ and put more evil speech, slander and strife into the world!
Gosh, so much is going on at the moment, isn't it? It really feels like the world is gearing up for another plunge into madness....Or not. Because there's been so many ups and downs over the last few years, who knows what's really going on.
In the meantime, I received the following long question from David, where he asked a lot of pertinent things which require a response. So here it is!
The first thing to say is that I’m also very pleased that finally a grown-up discussion is occurring around the whole subject of Rav Berland, so thank you, David, for asking your questions in a respectful way.
I’ll do my best to answer them.
The first point to make is that there is an ocean of difference between the coverage of Rav Berland in America and abroad, and the coverage here. While there are also no shortage of Hebrew-language sites spreading false coverage, lies and anti-religious propaganda in Israel, the main difference is that there are also a growing number of sites and people who are telling the other side of the story.
In English, almost no-one is covering the other side of the story, both due to limitations with understanding Hebrew, and also because of other, more sinister reasons. So let’s see what we can do to try to put as many of the facts on the table, in English, as we can.
Your question is very wide-ranging, so I’m going to break it up into chunks, and respond to each point as we go along.
1) The ‘unfortunate videos’
There are two types of ‘unfortunate videos’ that I think you’re referring to. One type are the forged videos of the Rav ‘confessing’ to things he never did (see the clip below) which were laughably passed off as genuine, and played all over secular news sites in Israel.
There may well be other forged videos of this type too. These videos are being put together by the 4-5 men associated with Breslov chassidut in Meah Shearim, who have been behind the whole slanderous campaign against Rav Berland right from the start.
They have started up their own website - ‘breslevemet’ - and they have been feeding the media and the Israeli authorities fake information and forged videos, ‘confessions’ and manufactured accusations for years.
UPDATE: I wrote this before I got sent the latest ‘forged videos’ put out by this bunch of crazy people, where they are posing as students of the Rav trying to ‘crown him’ as Moshiach on Thursday. The idea is to then go around all the batei din with this new ‘evidence’ to get the Rav and his students excommunicated (again!) for being ‘a false messiah and his followers’.
Again, this is really just proving the point about the sort of calculating duplicity that’s going on with these videos. (Click this image to go through to my blog post where you can play the actual video itself).
Then, there are is the genuine video footage of Rav Berland touching a woman’s throat, and on a separate occasion praying next to a woman while holding her hand. Again, Rav Berland’s persecutors put this footage out, together with all the lurid headlines and awful stories being associated with them.
So let’s look at each video in turn.
The woman who was videod with the Rav touching her throat is called Klara Hammer, and if you go HERE you can see a first-hand interview with her (if seeing women in videos isn’t a problem for you) where she very clearly explains that she went to Rav Berland after doing 7 rounds of chemo for life-threatening throat cancer.
The doctors had given up on her, but she went to the Rav as her last hope to save her life three years’ ago- and today she’s healthy!
There is a clear inyan halachically that a blessing can sometimes only take effect when the person being healed is touched in some way. This is clearly what the Rav is doing. If a person has a problem with the Rav touching a woman in public like this - when he’s clearly being video-taped, and when it’s outside, and when he’s surrounded by tens of people - then the obvious question to ask is how else was he meant to have tried to convey his healing blessing, if he could see that touching Klara Hammer’s throat was the only way it was going to take effect?
Would it have been better to do it indoors, not video-taped, away from where other people were standing around? Surely that would be far more problematic, for a number of reasons? But it would have avoided the Rav being criticized and pilloried for touching a woman.
That Klara Hammer’s throat cancer disappeared after getting a blessing from Rav Berland is an indisputable fact. (see video below).
THE WOMAN WHO LOST HER MIND
The second video doing the rounds shows Rav Berland holding the hand of a woman who’s had her face blurred out, while praying.
Why is this woman’s face blurred? Because otherwise, the viewer would be able to see that this woman was clearly demented and severely mentally-ill.
The back-story behind this video is that this woman literally lost her mind, went into severe psychosis, and her family brought her to the Rav for a blessing. The Rav was holding her hand while praying for her, presumably to reassure her, the same way you’d hold the hand of a frightened small child.
Again, after this occurred, the woman in question recovered her sanity and went back to lead a normal life.
So again, should the Rav have tried to dealt with this woman away from everyone else, in a closed room, with no video camera?
CASTING ASPERSIONS AGAINST TZADDIKIM
The people who are persecuting the Rav have an agenda to present him in a certain, extremely negative, light, and to turn everything into propaganda against him and his community.
It’s akin to someone taking against the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, z’tl, and sending stories out to secular news sites about how a big rabbi has been ‘caught’ giving money to young women in his home, and talking to all sorts of women he’s not married to, God forbid.
If you didn’t understand what was really going on in 770, if you hadn’t witnessed with your own eyes the tremendous miracles that were occurring there, and how so many people came back to Yiddishkeit as a result of their personal interaction with the Rebbe, that would sound really, really bad and not at all how’d you expect a ‘kosher’ Jew to behave.
The same sort of thing is going on here.
2) Is it out of place to question these things?
Absolutely not! If we see things we don’t understand, or that trouble us, we absolutely MUST discuss them and seek to gain clarity. To do otherwise is to give an opening to the many charlatans and unsavory characters out there who otherwise would play on our naivete.
But we need to be very careful about how we do this, and everything must be done according to halacha and especially the rules of lashon hara.
Tomorrow, I will re-post my ‘crash course on lashon hara’, BH, that covers the main points to be aware of.
The first thing to understand is that without FIRST-HAND EVIDENCE, i.e. things that you have witnessed yourself, heard with your own ears, seen with your own eyes, it’s absolutely forbidden to pass rumors off as fact to other people, and especially in a public forum.
In this case, the people persecuting the Rav have made up endless slanders and lies, used false names and false personas, paid people to make false claims against the Rav, forged videos of him ‘confessing’ to things he never did - and so many people gullibly swallowed it all whole, because why would someone lie about things like this?!
These gullible people then went around telling everyone ‘facts’ that were actually based on complete falsehoods, worked themselves up into self-righteous rages about things that never occurred, and condemned the Rav for things he never did.
The persecutors and the media then publicised all these statements as further ‘evidence’ to show that the Rav was indeed guilty of what they’d accused him of - and it’s all circular and all based on lashon hara.
So tread very carefully, keep asking God to show you what’s true and what isn’t and stick to the rules governing avoiding evil speech as stringently as you can.
But do ask respectful questions.
That’s the authentic Jewish way.
3) I read a lot in your blog that a lot of the haters have conspired and brought to Beth din many falsehoods. Would that include the Israeli court system? Would you posit that all of that - has been a charade and none of the testimonies nor his own TV interviews carry any weight?
So here, we come to a very fraught, sensitive topic, that is also for the most part completely lost on people who don’t live in Israel themselves.
Many of the Jews who don’t live in Israel have a rosy, unrealistic picture of how the State of Israel comports itself. It’s always the ‘good guy’, always in the right, always acting morally - and when it comes to fighting Arabs, there’s a lot of truth to this view.
But when it comes to fighting a Torah-true lifestyle, religious Jews and what the secular elites in this country call ‘religious coercion’, the State of Israel and the Israeli authorities fight very dirty.
I go into this in much more detail in Volume II of One in a Generation, but here are the basic facts:
THE TV INTERVIEWS
So, the clip of the Rav ‘confessing’ in court has been explained as something he had to do under duress, in order to effectively save his life and receive appropriate medical care. The forged clip of the Rav ‘confessing’ you can see is a complete (and very poorly executed!) fabrication put out by his persecutors within Breslov and publicized by the media.
What about his TV interview with Israeli journalist Amnon Levy, where he apparently confessed again?
Rav Eliyahu Succot was with Rav Berland throughout the 4 hour long interview with Amnon Levy. He stated very clearly that the footage was manipulated by Levy and his studio to have the Rav saying he had done something, when what he really said is that he HADN’T done anything.
Again, see THIS for more details of this particularly grimy example of immoral journalism.
Why would the completely secular Amnon Levy do something like that?
You’ll have to ask him. There’s a lot of journalists with biases and agendas these days, and the truth is always the first casualty of their need to try and brainwash the world into seeing things exactly the same way they do.
Without exception, all the false testimonies can be traced back to the same 4-5 people who are ‘anti’ the Rav within Breslov Meah Shearim - all men! These men persuaded some women to lodge false complaints, posed as women themselves on Facebook etc to make allegations, and basically made up story after story - in collusion with a number of journalists - that everyone knew to be completely fake, right from the start.
4) As an innocent bystander who would like to hear from the Rav, is it not expected that I should believe his own words that he himself says in the interviews? Would you expect from the audience otherwise? Would he expect from the audience otherwise?
This has been a very hard test for Am Yisrael.
The Rav was under serious threat of being re-imprisoned for months if he came out with any public statement explaining what had really happened, or protesting his innocence directly.
He may still be under threat from the courts, I don’t know. What I can tell you is that the Rav’s lawyers asked me to take things down from Emunaroma that they felt could harm the Rav vis-à-vis the authorities, and that I also received requests from other rabbis to not publicise their statements openly supporting the Rav, for fear of reprisals.
Under those circumstances, it’s very understandable why so many people, even upstanding, God-fearing people, have stumbled in this test.
But BH, now the time is hopefully right to address this terrible miscarriage of justice, and to put the spotlight back on the real guilty parties.
And in the middle of all this, it’s the small guys who just want to know the real truth, and who really just want to see justice being done who will end up making the most difference to what actually happens next.
Rav Berland’s case is a catalyst for huge, and hopefully hugely positive, changes to start occurring in the frum Jewish world, and elsewhere.
And answering your respectfully-posed questions here on Emunaroma is part of that process.
So thanks, David!
Just a quick post before I go to bed.
I just got sent this video by a fellow blogger done by someone proclaiming Rav Berland as moshiach.
DON'T BE FOOLED!
This is being put out by the two key people behind the Rav's ongoing persecution.
The plan is to go around posting all these things up all over the internet pretending that they are coming from the Rav's students, and then to go around all the batei din (again...) trying to get the Rav and Shuvu Banim excommunicated (again...) for acting like Shabtei Tzvi and his followers.
So please don't be fooled that these pronouncements are coming from Rav Berland or Shuvu Banim. It's just the next stage of the ongoing campaign against Rav Berland and his followers.
Please let as many people as you can know in advance, so they won't stumble into yet more slander and lashon hara about Rav Berland as a result.
Man, we live in crazy times.
Following on from the 'Erev Rav' discussion below, Rav Ofer Erez just posted up a new clip with English subtitles that kind of makes the point very keenly about the importance of seeing the good in the world.
That means seeing the good in everything that happens to us, seeing the good in ourselves, and seeing the good in other people (even the 'awkward squad' that really do drive us mad with their terrible behavior.)
Again, this is not at all easy, and it's the work of 120 years.
But from experience, it's those people who are struggling to see the good in what's happening to them and around them, and who are struggling to see the good in themselves, who tend to be the most harsh, judgmental and unforgiving about other people.
Judging favorably is going against basic human nature, but it's the key to redemption the sweet way, as it's seeing the spark of Hashem that exists within all of creation, and certainly within our fellow Jews - even if they are the worst of the worst.
I'm not saying ignore bad behavior, quite the opposite. What I'm saying is that anyone who is really doing the work of judging THEMSELVES first of all will start to understand how they themselves got to be the way they did.
And once that happens, then they'll also start to understand how so many other people got to the place they got to, and they'll feel more compassion for them.
Without all the true tzaddikim we have in our lives, without all the help God sent down to us, which one of us can honestly say that we wouldn't be just as nasty and horrible as all these 'Erev Rav' types we see walking about?
If you had the sort of childhoods they'd had, the sorts of experiences they had, the sort of huge inner demons they've had to fight, wouldn't you also act in the same disgusting ways?
Again, it's not excusing the behavior, it's understanding where it comes from. People make trouble and hurt others because they are mentally and spiritually disturbed, they are fundamentally cut off from God, they don't believe God cares about them, or sees them, and they deeply hate themselves.
That's what they're projecting out into the rest of the world.
And the way to cure that problem at its root is to help them re-attach to God, to reassure them that God still loves them, and to encourage them to start judging themselves favorably. That means criticising the BAD ACTION not making global statements about people BEING BAD.
This is a crucial distinction.
Even the wicked King Menashe who the midrash says killed 8 million of his fellow Jews (more than Hitler!), including his grand-dad the Prophet Isaiah, ultimately made teshuva and returned to God.
God wants these people back.
Go read the story about how God Himself dug out a special passage under His heavenly throne to enable the prayers of Menashe to ascend to Him, because the angels were blocking them.
The angels said: "What?! You're going to let Menashe make teshuva?! After all the really awful, terrible things he's done?! No way!!! Who can be more of an 'erev rav' than Menashe?!"
But God ignored them, and welcomed Menashe's prayers, and he ultimately made teshuva.
Looking for the good in these people is what God wants.
And if we don't want to give God what He wants, that's something we really have to go take a careful look, and explore why that is, and why we are so determined to hold on to our hatred and harsh judgments against our fellow Jews.
Because maybe, that's pointing to the fact that deep inside, we also may be feeling a little cut-off from God and God's mercy, and that we aren't really judging ourselves so favorably, or liking ourselves so much, despite all appearances to the contrary.
Whenever I read a rant these days, I come away knowing 100% that this person doesn't like themselves very much, and is struggling spiritually.
And yes, they're still acting like a pig and driving me mad! And yes, I need to stay away from them and their destructive behavior, and to protect myself from becoming collateral damage as a result of their spiritual malaise and inner turmoil!
But from that safe distance, then I can understand why they do what they do, and why they act how they act, and I can ask God to help them out of the hole they are in.
Because if other people don't feel compassion for them, and pray for these disturbed individuals, they will never, ever find their way out, and find their way back to God.
And God wants them back.
Rav Ofer does a much better job of explaining this than I do, so here he is. (You can turn on the English subtitles by clicking the tab at the bottom right of the screen. It's a 4 minute quick view, but he packs an awful lot of Torah into that time.)