Around seven years' ago, Rav Shalom Arush suddenly started warning everyone that war with the Arab states surrounding Israel was imminent.
I remember being glued to the shiur of his English-language translator, Rabbi Lazer Brody, as Rabbi Brody said: 'All-out war is imminent'. What sparked this off was the threat of millions of Arabs trying to cross the border into Israel as part of an organised march.
At that time Rav Arush said that people were completely underestimating the impact of what millions of Arabs trying to surge into the country could achieve, even if they were unarmed and apparently 'peaceful'.
In the event, nothing came of this and Rav Arush later explained that a number of the nations' tzaddikim had got together and managed to cancel the decree, or at least to push it off to some in the future.
Tomorrow, Seder night, the first night of Pesach, Hamas is trying to arrange for a million Gazans to try to 'rush' the border with Israel. Again, this could be something, it could be nothing, but given the 'atmospheric stress' nearly all of us are picking up at the moment, I can't help feeling something is around the corner.
Yesterday night, I woke up at 4am to find a gale blowing around - winds of over 50 mph were blowing around Jerusalem and are still going, although now they are more like 30 mph. Doors were slamming, washing was trying to fly away, trees were bowing and bending - and I suddenly felt a huge sense of panic.
Not so much because of the wind, more a feeling that 'something' is going down.
Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. Who knows. In the meantime, I went to find Rav Arush's comments on the war of Gog and Magog from seven years ago, and I'm reprinting them below, as they seem as timely as ever.
And I hope this time of harsh judgment will pass as uneventfully as all those that have come before it.
Rabbi Shalom Arush: The Final Struggle of the Gog-Magog War
It’s no longer a dream: all of our contemporary spiritual leaders have expressed that this is the final generation before Moshiach. Just as in a hand-to-hand combat situation, when a fighter gets the upper hand and is close to defeating his enemy, then the enemy summons all of his strength in one final effort to overcome. If the fighter withstands the enemy’s tremendous final effort, then he wins, but it’s not easy.
The fighter is the Nation of Israel, the Jewish people all over the world. The enemy is the Yetzer Hara, the Evil Inclination (EI). The people of Israel are fighting for emuna, for truth, for the values of Torah. The EI is fighting tooth and nail against emuna, against any mention of Hashem’s name. The EI knows that only emuna (faith in the Sovereign Power G-d) can bring Moshiach; once Moshiach comes, the EI is finished. Therefore, he’s using all his forces to try and destroy emuna.
You don’t have to wait in dread for the war of Gog and Magog to begin – it has already started.
The prophecies lead us to believe that Gog and Magog is a physical war; we live with a daily threat from not only Iranian missiles, nuclear attack, and Qassam missiles. We can’t even trust that a tractor or a bulldozer isn’t being operated by a suicide bomber. Iran is open declaring that it wants to wipe Israel off the map; Hamas controls Gaza and the Hizbulla has a free hand in Lebanon to do what it pleases. The term powderkeg is an understatement.
In effect, Israel is safer than Europe or the USA. Consider 9/11 in New York City, the murder of Ilan Halimi in Paris, and the subway bombings in London, together with a tremendous resurgence of anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe, Australia, and South Africa. Jews around the world aren’t safe either. Worse than anything, thousands of Jews have been exiled from their homes within Israel itself, and thousands more are now being threatened with exile. This far surpasses our darkest nightmares.
Yet, despite the physical threats, Gog and Magog is a spiritual war; nuclear weapons might be able to destroy a Jewish body, but the Jewish soul, a tiny spark of Hashem, lives on forever. Gog and Magog is a global assault to destroy emuna, the pure and complete faith in Hashem.
By destroying emuna, Gog plans to sever the Jewish soul from the Creator, Heaven forbid. When a soul is severed from the Creator, it withers, and dies a spiritual death. The death of a soul is a far greater tragedy than the death of a body.
These are the most difficult times in over 3300 years of Jewish history. Never has there been so much assimilation. Assimilation kills 100 times more than international terror. It used to be confined to the USA and Europe, but now, it’s even hit Israel. Not long ago, I got a call from a broken-hearted mother whose daughter fell for a handsome classmate in Hebrew University – only, the classmate was an Arab. The daughter is now living in an Arab village near Ramalla, and her kids could conceivably grow up to be shahidim, suicide bombers.
This period is so difficult, with so many tests in emuna that the Talmudic sages said Yete velo achimena, let Moshiach come, but we don’t want to be a part of the generation that receives him.
Intermarriage, divorce, unbearable emotional and financial problems – just thinking about the problems of this generation is enough to give anybody a migraine.
There’s only one way to overcome the final onslaught of the EI – each of us has to add the light of emuna to the world. The Lubavitcher Rebbe once said that a little bit of light can defeat a whole lot of darkness.
The Torah in Parshat Vayishlach says that Jacob sent “Malachim” to Esau. Malachim has a double meaning in English, both “angel” and “messengers.” Rashi interprets that Jacob sent actual angels, for he had angels at his disposal.
Rebbe Nachman of Breslev teaches (Likutei Moharan, II:1) that Hashem created the Jewish soul so that it could reign over the angels. This is the ultimate purpose of Jacob’s descendants, that by their prayers, their ability to rule over their own bodily urges, and their good deeds (since each good deed creates an angel of holiness), they rule over the angels.
Where did Jacob get angels from? Jacob reached a tremendous spiritual level, and thus achieved a tremendous control over the angels in his lifetime. But even so, as the holy Zohar teaches, Jacob didn’t trust his own ability. He, like all other subsequent tzaddikim – all descendants of Jacob – cried out in prayer to Hashem. This principle is the underlying theme of this series.
With everything that tears my heart, one thing hurts me more than anything else: Rebbe Nachman of Breslev teaches that when Israel was in exile in Egypt, even worse than their bodies, their power of speech was in exile. That means that they couldn’t pray. They couldn’t talk to Hashem. In other words, they were in deep spiritual slumber.
I am fighting to keep my emunah each and every day. Despite the headlines in the news, the atrocities perpetrated by our enemies, the atrocities perpetrated by our co-religionists, and my own failings, I cling with faith to Hashem. I realize the yetzer hara is testing me, and this is what I remind myself when I feel like slipping back to old habits.
As we head into the holiday, I want to wish all my dear readers an uplifting, happy, and peaceful festival of freedom. BH, this is the year we really will get out of Mitzrayim, both collectively and personally.
In the meantime, here's a round-up of some Pesach-related reading material that you may want to check out, if you're taking a quick break from all the cooking and cleaning:
Nesanel Yoel Safran wonders why this holiday tends to take people to extremes, in Extremely Pesach.
Helen Schwimmer shares a peek of what goes on between the covers of her haggada.
Zisi Berkowitz shares a Pesach Parody based on Paul Revere
Rav Ofer Erez explains in his newsletter for Nisan 5778 that our redemption depends on connecting to the Tzaddik
Alizah Teitelbaum writes a heartfelt plea for redemption to come this year.
And all I can say is 'amen', I really hope that will happen too.
Over on the Shuvu Banim website in English, they've just posted up a truly awesome video of Rav Berland and Rav Dov Kook that was taken motzae shabbat just past, Shabbat HaGadol, in Holon.
When I saw this video, I got shivers down my spine even though I couldn't really understand what was being said. I just had the feeling that this was massive, huge. I don't know why, exactly.
But then I got the translation in English, and it mamash appears as though these two massive tzaddikim were engaged in something very meaningful motzae shabbat, that was directly connected with bringing the geula.
If you want the full English translation, then go take a look at the Shuvu Banim post HERE.
If you just want to see the video in the original Hebrew, press play.
There are huge things going on weather-wise all over the planet right now. Again, when Am Yisrael left Egypt, and when the sea split, and when we received the Torah, these were all 'comet' events.
So when Rav Berland says that Hashem is going to do more miracles for us soon like those He did for us during the time we left Egypt, the mind boggles as to what he's really talking about.
But if you ask me, the chances of geula really happening soon just went up a whole other level.
Every year when I’m about to get overwhelmed by the mess, the expense, the cleaning of Pesach, I ask myself: ‘isn’t there some sort of short-cut I could do, to just get the fun stuff out of this experience and leave all the yuck behind?’
Because Pesach routinely comes along with SO MUCH yuck. Even when you’re working on yourself. Even when you’re trying your hardest to just have emuna, and to just let God get on with running the world.
I’ve had Pesachs when I tried so hard to clean everything just so, and even a week earlier than usual, so I could take my girls away for a short break with the neighbor’s girls up the road. That was a disaster. Pesach seemed to last for three months that year, the ‘break’ was a stressful fight-fest, and then on seder night my husband got completely knocked out by the first glass of wine and was practically comatose.
Recently, my Pesachs have gone in the other direction, where it’s been hard to muster up the energy required to actually clean. Anything. The first couple of years this happened, I just kind of pushed through the weariness and fatigue, because I had enough OCD going on about chametz that it gave me the energy required to actually do something about it.
But this year, my chametz OCD has receded considerably (which is probably a good thing…) but it also means the ‘panic button’ has been disconnected from cleaning for Pesach. Add to this a very nice article in Hamodia a couple of weeks’ ago making it clear that most of what we consider ‘essential’ in cleaning for Pesach is actually OCD-induced chumras, and voila! I really haven’t felt like doing much.
So then, I started exploring other shortcuts to getting Pesach done, like:
a) paying someone else to do it or
b) expecting my kids to act like the adults in the house.
I know many, many mothers manage to off-load all their household chores onto their children, and that the children even don’t mind it (OK, I made that last bit up, but the first part of the sentence is definitely true.) But in my house, I’ve never quite managed to pull that off. The more I expect of my kids, the less they do.
The less I’m in their face about cleaning and helping, the more they actually start volunteering to do all sorts of things around the house. But when it comes to Pesach, I forget this rule and start to expect things from them - and this is where the problem really begins, because we are just talking a completely different language.
To me, ‘morning’ means sometime before 11am. To them, ‘morning’ means ‘some time after I wake up’ - which could be 2pm in the afternoon. So I’ll ask them to clean something, or arrange something in the morning, and because it’s Pesach, each chore is carefully nested and stacked within 15 others, so choreography is key.
So I CAN’T cook, however much I want to, until the kitchen counters have been cleaned and covered. If the person assigned to do that job doesn’t wake up on time, doesn’t feel good, can’t figure out how the sponge works - there are millions of obstacles, you simply wouldn’t believe what can happen - then I get stuck having to do it myself.
I can just completely let go, and let things happen in their own sweet time.
And I’m not there yet, although each year it gets closer and closer. I know this is just a test from God. I know the real cleaning for Pesach is all my bad middot and Pharoah-nic tendencies to slam around the house muttering about how ‘lazy, lazy’ my kids-cum-slaves are.
Don’t they know this is the whole point of having children?!? So I won’t have to do the chores myself?!?
So in the meantime, I get stuck with some huge bad middot issues that I know is the real work to be done, because honestly apart from Pesach, my kids are actually really sweet, and really lovely, and would really put themselves out tremendously to help me.
There’s just something about this time of year that makes all that goodwill evaporate, and that seems to pit me against them in a really ucky way that no-one ever comes out of happily.
Last year, we had people putting their feet through bathroom doors in a rage because no-one had set the seder table (and no, that wasn’t a kid.) I understand they also have bad middot to ‘find’ and dispose of. I understand that just as my mini-Pharoah is waking up in me, it’s doing that inside of them, too.
We all think that someone else should be the ‘slave’, and we’re all upset that the ‘slave’ isn’t working hard enough….
I so want geula. I’m really sick of cleaning for Pesach. Not just this year, but every year, because I don’t have a cleaner, and my kids-cum-slaves apparently always get liberated BEFORE Pesach, and because sometimes, I really can’t understand why I have to work so hard to get to that tiny bit of ancient pretzel that’s down the back of my couch.
I know, all this stuff is achieving wonderful spiritual rectifications that I can only guess at, because I certainly can’t grasp them in the here and now. I don’t want my bad middot anymore. I don’t want to have unreasonable expectations anymore. I don’t want to be lazy and apathetic, and I also don’t want to be enslaved and worked to the bone.
So what’s the answer? What’s the shortcut to the joy of the festival without all this back-breaking work and grumpy power struggles?
Maybe this Pesach, I’ll finally find out.
Over Shabbat, I was pondering the vision of the Prophet Ezekiel (like you do) and wondering about how it actually felt to be those dessicated, dried-out bones brought to life.
Remember, this didn’t occur in one shot. It’s not like one second they were ancient lifeless skeletons, and the very next, wham! they’d morphed into Gal Gadot lookalikes. No, the process was extremely slow, gradual, and from the bones’ perspective, extremely frustrating.
Think about it. You’re lying there, you gave up already, you’re done already, let the world just carry on turning and leave you alone. You did your bit for humanity and now you’re dead and just hoping, finally, for a little peace and quiet.
And then all of a sudden, you realize, probably with some horror, that your sinews and veins are growing back. I mean, does that hurt? As all your bones start to knit back together, and all the interconnected muscles and cartilage starts to criss-cross everything like some highly weird reverse zombie movie, what are the bones themselves thinking?
Or maybe God was kind to them, and their brains only grew back last, so they didn’t have to sit there watching all this stuff happen to them and their neighbors, while a million questions race through their heads:
“Am I going to grow back young?”
“Am I going to grow back fat?”
“Am I going to grow back healthy in body and soul, or am I going to have to go through that agonizing death from lung cancer all over again?”
Questions, questions, and if I’ve learned one thing about authentic Yiddishkeit, it’s that for every good, satisfying answer you get, there are already plenty more questions waiting in the wings.
So being a skeleton during Ezekiel’s vision must have been pretty nerve-wracking, to put it mildly. I mean, this had never happened before. What if the whole process suddenly tailed off mid-way, and you’d end up a bunch of ugly-looking gristle with eyeballs? I mean, no-one actually told them that this was the full monty, a whole redemption / regrowth package going on.
It would be all too easy for some of those dry bones to think to themselves that Nebuchadnetzer was doing some weird radiation experiment on them, or something, and that instead of being revived for good things, it was going to be a weird, twilight existence as a half-alive, half-dead person.
Me being me, I see a lot of parallels between those bones and us, in this generation. So many people today are emotionally and spiritually ‘dead’, and a whole bunch of people actually prefer things that way, because being alive necessitates feeling things that are sometimes overwhelming, or painful, or upsetting, or disturbing, or anxiety-inducing, or often all of those things at once.
“Leave me alone, God, let me go back to sleep!” they mutter, as God desperately tries to dig them out of their mausoleums and lonely places. “I don’t want to connect to anyone any more, I don’t want to feel anything. I just want to stay here and quietly dessicate. So please, save all that geula hocus pocus for someone else, I’m busy.”
Sometimes, I feel like that myself.
But I can still see the bones are stirring, and the veins are started to pulse with new life again, at least in a few locations. But before we continue, I need to know honestly: is this process going to hurt? And am I going to come back young, thin and gorgeous or not?
Because a girl has to be prepared.
The last few days there’s been so much din, or judgment in the air it’s been pretty hard to think straight. There has been so much going on this week ‘behind the scenes’.
As usual, the path to ‘redemption’ is proving to be anything but smooth, and we’ve been having some ongoing and completely unexpected issues with trying to finalise the purchase of our house. Without some serious help from Hashem, things could get very complicated, very quickly on that front.
I guess we’ll find out what will be.
In the meantime, I’m not worrying about it, because on Wednesday I found out that someone I was close to in university had actually passed away a little while back at the age of 48. One day they just didn’t wake up.
So steady jobs and house ownership is all well and good, and I’m not at all knocking them. But they still pale into comparison to good health, staying happily married and actually being alive, and baruch Hashem, on that last score I’m doing OK, so really, what is there to complain about?
It’s a very useful perspective to cultivate, as the world is continuing to go even more bonkers.
If it’s isn’t the weather - crazy floods in Australia and Santa Barbara, crazy snow in the Eastern seaboard and the UK, 5 inch hail in Alabama and South Africa, bolts of lightning coming out of clear blue sky that’s ‘randomly’ killing a whole bunch of people across the African continent, to name but a few - then it’s crazy dictators with nuclear weapons and no obvious brakes on their appetite for destruction.
Syria is still seeing hundreds if not thousands of civilians being killed and dispossessed every week, even as the official ‘ceasefire’ creaks along.
The world’s financial markets are rocking around like a dingy in the middle of a hurricane, as Trump is going into ‘protectionist’ mode in the US. (Say what you will, but as a President of the US, he is actually doing what’s in the best interests of that country.)
The Arabs have started stabbing people, and running people down, and shooting people up again both in Israel and now France. The dreaded ‘peace plan’ is due to be unveiled soon, and that always brings a huge uptick in Arab violence, because God just uses them to put a spoke in the wheel of the West’s ‘best intentions’ for Israel.
But the strangest thing of all, at least to me, is all this weird stuff with the poisoning of a former Russian double-agent, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter Yulia, in the UK.
I was speaking to a London-based relative of mine with slightly paranoid tendencies who told me there’s this new website called ‘The Blast Zone’ that’s all the rage, because it tells you how fast you’ll be toast if the UK gets nuked. If my relative is at work, he’ll get incinerated immediately if they bomb London. If he’s at home in the suburbs, then it’ll take him three days to die from radiation poisoning.
I had to ask him: Why are you even looking at all that stuff? Who in the world is talking about nuking London, that this is even on your radar?
He told me: Kim Il Jong or Putin.
Apparently, the war of words with Moscow is getting so abrasive, at least a few people in the UK have pinged back into full ‘cold war’ mode, when worrying about getting nuked is what everyone did before breakfast.
But in 2018, is that really on the cards?
So, I started to dig around a bit with this Skripal stuff, and some very interesting things emerged, like the links between Skripal and Christopher Steele and Pablo Miller. These last two are ex-British secret service men who were apparently hired by the Clinton Foundation to pull together the ‘Russian Dossier’ on Trump.
I guess that Dossier was meant to lead to Trump being impeached, and then ‘sanity’ returning to American politics, but looks like God had other plans and now, the tables are starting to be turned all over the place and trails are starting to be followed back to some highly inconvenient places.
Rebbe Nachman told us very clearly that ‘the talkers’ would take each other out in the lead up to Moshiach being revealed in the world, and it looks to me like this Russian spy saga is another part of that process. Because if Putin wanted the Skripals dead, they’d be properly dead, and there would be no ‘obvious’ clues leading back to the Kremlin.
Russia is for sure bumping people off all the time - and so is America, and so is France, and so is Britain, and so is Israel, and so is every other government you care to name. Murdering ‘undesirables’ has been the name of the game for a very long time, Commandment Number 6 notwithstanding.
And they’ve all got so good at it, that they can pass all sorts of assassinations off as untraceable ‘accidents’ and ‘illnesses’ these days. So what on earth is going on here? Europe and the UK seem to be making a huge fuss over something that really doesn’t seem to justify it, given the way the world has been working for years.
When another Russian ex-spy, Andrei Litvinenko, was obviously poisoned to death in the UK a few years’ back, no-one raised an eyebrow. When a number of other Russian ex-spies and oligarchs all got mysteriously run-down, or ‘committed suicide’ in the UK, no-one uttered a peep.
So the official British protests over the Skripals are extremely strange.
My view is that God is getting the Brits and the Europeans to pick a fight with the Russians as part of the process of the ‘talkers’ outing each other’s skeletons. For once, Russia isn’t behind this high-profile poisoning. But my best guess is that Putin will now be highly motivated to find out who was, and to publicise that information all across the world.
And then, things will start to get really interesting.
Ah, Moshiach, who is going to be sane enough to really greet you, when you do actually finally show up? Things are moving so fast, and are potentially so stressful in a million different ways, my brain has kind of shut down and gone into hibernation.
This is the famous holy apathy that Rav Ofer Erez taught is the only way to get through this last, final stage before Moshiach actually comes. Because really, if we took all this stuff seriously, we’d all just have a nervous breakdown and then no-one would be able to make seder.
But serious it still apparently is. So, as I don’t pop pills or smoke joints to deal with my anxiety, I guess I better schedule in some more long hours talking to God and maybe, visiting some Kivrei Tzaddikim.
Because the world is getting crazier by the moment, and I still have to make Pesach.
Another oldie but goody. How many predictions of death and destruction from the autistics (and others...) have come and gone since I wrote this two years' ago?
We've all become so immune to real warnings from real Tzaddikim, and so confused and apathetic about what's going on in the world because we've been relying on 'false prophets' and tumah-dik sources of information and insight who keep putting a false spin on what is truly happening, and why.
Whatever is going on out there, the true tzaddikim are really the only people we should be listening to and paying attention to. It's like in Egypt: Pharoah's advisors could all 'predict the future' to some degree, but they couldn't see the full picture, and so their predictions were distorted half-truths.
And we're still chasing after the Prophets of Ov and Yidoni today...
There was great excitement in the town: the town crier had just gone round the streets yelling at the top of his voice: “The bone has a message! The talking bone of Ov has another message! Everyone come gather in the town square!”
Mothers rushed out of their homes, leaving their boiling pots of soup unattended. Fathers put down their Gemaras and left their shop-fronts: The Talking bone of Ov had a message! They were about to find out what was really going on in the world.
Only in the house of Rabbi Gershon did this news not cause a stir. Rabbi Gershon was sick of all the messages from the talking bone of Ov, and also its competition, the talking bone of Yidoni. It was never uplifting messages about how much God loves His people. It was never a message to make real teshuva and to come back to God, and to start treating other people more kindly and more gently.
The talking bone of Ov was always full of ‘oys!’, and full of the whole-scale destruction of the Jewish people and conspiracy theories that elbowed God out the picture, and just caused people to walk around panic-stricken about the terrible tidings they’d heard.
Who needed that?!
In his youth, Rabbi Gershon had also been a follower of the talking bone of Ov, but in recent years, he’d started to ponder why the talking bone never mentioned the nation’s holy rabbis, and all the work they were doing to sweeten the decrees hanging over the Jewish people. It never talked about the importance of going to Uman for Rosh Hashana. It never brought messages of hope…
Still, he knew why people continued to run out of their homes to listen to the talking bone of Ov every few weeks: human beings hate uncertainty. We all like the idea that we know what’s coming next, and that we’re prepared for it. Knowledge is power.
Rabbi Gershon sighed deeply and picked up his chumash. He started to read again about divination and sorcery, and why our Sages had outlawed all those weird attempts at trying to predict the future like raising the dead, or listening to a talking bone that someone had shoved in their armpit.
Information is power. Knowledge is power. But information can also be used to mislead and deceive, and knowledge can also be used to control and manipulate.
Rabbi Gershon sighed again. When the sages of the generation pasted up posters telling the town residents to stop speaking so much lashon hara, and to spend more time praying and learning Torah and less time visiting the local market and circuses, no-one was interested. No-one ran from house to house, trying to gather a crowd to hear what the Sages were saying.
But this talking bone of Ov showed up, and hey presto! It immediately pulled in a crowd of thousands with its messages of imminent death and destruction.
Did people realize how ridiculous they looked, hanging on every word of a talking bone?!? Did they understand that there are no short-cuts, spiritually-speaking, and that the only people who really knew what was going on hardly ever communicated that to the masses?
Did they understand that the only way to get though the world in one piece was by making sincere, genuine teshuva, and coming back to God? It didn’t matter how many tins of tuna the talking bone told you to stock up on, how much death and destruction was being predicted (typically to coincide with the next Jewish holiday…) - even if you knew all that, even if it was true, how was it really going to help you?
Rav Gershon’s ponderings were interrupted from shouts and screams from the street. As his friend Shlomo rushed past, Rav Gershon called to him from the window, and asked him what was going on.
“The talking bone has predicted that a tidal wave will smash into our village on Shabbat, and destroy everyone who isn’t wearing sackcloth and ashes. I’m running over to Rami Levi right now to pick up some sackcloth, and 50 tins of tuna,” Shlomo called over his shoulder.
“But we’re 3,000 foot up a mountain!” Rav Gershon called after his friend. “And the sea is 30 miles away!” But Shlomo had disappeared already.
Rav Gershon sighed again. Shabbat would come, and be ruined for most of the villagers who would sit there with fear in their hearts and terror on their faces. Never mind that the last 83 predictions of earthquakes hitting on Chanuka, nuclear bombs being dropped on Pesach, and ginormous Martian cockroaches invading on Purim hadn’t materialized.
Whatever the talking bone said, that was law.
Rav Gershon returned to studies, and pondered the world around him. A world were people preferred to listen to talking bones, CNN and Arutz Sheva, instead of listening to the words of our true sages.
There's so much weird weather going on at the moment that it's really no stretch to believe in things like a plague of killer hail heading into Pesach.
Three days ago, enormous hail fell over Lesotho in Africa, and according to the Africa News, it damaged a whole bunch of property and trees and even killed some people. Does that sound familiar to anyone else?
Texas has also been getting enormous hail (although not quite on the same scale - it's only breaking car windscreens not knocking people out.)
And the UK...well, it got battered again with another highly unusual 'cold snap' that also managed to erode 10 metres of sea front in some places in less than an hour, leaving a few cottages literally hanging off the edge of a cliff where for centuries it was solid ground.
The man who owns the home in the picture (below) told reporters that two years ago, he was 90 metres away from the sea...and now he really isn't.
So bits of the UK coast are going missing from some places, and others are suddenly being reclaimed.
With all the 'predictions' coming and going still, it's very easy to think that this is all a big fuss over nothing, and the world is going to continue on its merry way for another 3,000 years. And maybe that's correct, who knows?
Except, except, except....
Rav Berland said the following on the Fast of Esther, and he's never been one for hyping up things to do with Gog and Magog, or death and destruction. His message has always been consistently one of things taking a while to play out, of Jews doing teshuva in their masses and Moshiach coming peacefully.
So when he said this, I really sat up and took notice:
Everything that has occurred up until now will appear to be nothing, compared to what will be in Gog and Magog – it will be the nothing of nothings…!
I don't know about you, but I was kind of hoping that WWII had taken care of most of the 'birth pangs' and destruction of mankind stuff associated with Gog and Magog. The Rav speaks at such a high level, it's impossible to really know what he's referring to, but on the pshat level, it seems to be a pretty clear warning that a rough ride is still ahead.
And again, I've gone through a lot of the Rav's material at this point, and while he does talk a lot about destruction coming to the world every 70 years, and Iran trying to nuke us, and other things of that ilk, in the past it's always been joined with other upbeat remarks about how previous generations tzaddikim could have saved their generation by taking shame and humiliation upon themselves.
So I really don't know what to make of this, tell you the truth.
Other than we definitely need to hang on to our tzaddikim and to ask Hashem to show us who the true tzaddikim really are. Whatever is currently cooking in the world, the Jewish people have always been saved by submitting ourselves to our tzaddikim and doing what they tell us.
It was like that in Egypt, with Moshe, it was like that in Shushan, with Mordechai, and it will be like that with Moshiach, when the call goes out to 'bring in your cattle' because some huge flaming hail is about to fall from the sky....
And in the meantime, life continues. And Pesach is around the corner. And if you'd like a good place to donate some kimcha de pischa money to with a Breslov flavor, then please take a look HERE.
Rav Ofer Erez's organisation really is helping some very poor families in Jerusalem celebrate Pesach with the basics they need - and we're really talking about the basics here. Some of these families were my neighbors, and when Rav Ofer says they don't have anything, he's really not exaggerating.
Ka'ayal Ta'arog is really keeping a lot of frum Breslov families going in Jerusalem, and it's a huge mitzva to help out, if you can and that speaks to you. Go HERE to donate, and may we all be blessed with a happy, kosher Pesach.
Massive hail, massive floods, cold snaps, earthquakes and other weird phenomena not withstanding.
November 2016, the whole family was in the car taking one of my kids back to her ulpana, up North. After a pregnant pause, the oldest one said to me: “Ima, how do you know Rav Berland really didn’t do everything they say he did?”
This was just after the Rav’s ‘show trial’, where he had to plead guilty to 3 relatively minor counts in order for the courts to release him for treatment for some very serious cancerous growths. Of course, no-one really knew that at the time, so it just looked really, really bad.
I sighed, and told my daughter about the pidyon Nefesh I’d done with the Rav the year earlier, that had resolved three years of a chronic, debilitating health issue that had been getting worse and worse. “He’s a holy man,” I told my daughter. “God doesn’t work miracles like that through frauds.”
The discussion continued, because the youngest also had kids in her class that were avid Youtube watchers, and who claimed to ‘personally know’ the victims involved. Again, I didn’t try to shut my kids up or close them down, because they were asking valid questions that deserved a response, however ‘weak’ that response seemed to sound, back in November 2016 when so many of the facts were still obscured.
We discussed it for an hour, we talked about the prohibitions of listening to and believing lashon hara, or evil speech, and at the end of the hour, I hoped that enough had been clarified to at least encourage my kids to avoid discussing the subject with their friends, so they wouldn’t get pulled into a big argument.
It's impossible to avoid the argument
We have a big picture of the Rav in our home, and every time one of my kid’s friends would see it, she’d start up a whole discussion about how she wished we’d take it down, with a pointed look and flashing, indignant eyes. I changed the subject, and made any ‘lashon hara’ discussions out of bounds in the house.
This kid is a really good kid. She’s really passionate, she’s really kind, she really cares about other people. Sadly, she and her family also treat Youtube videos as a valid source of ‘news’ and consume a lot of ‘news’ online.
This Shabbat, a bunch of my girls’ friends came for Shabbat, and a few minutes after candlelighting, a huge shouting match began in the kitchen. This is not unusual with opinionated teenage girls, so I let them get on with it for half an hour. Then I caught Rav Berland’s name being mentioned, and the penny dropped what they were arguing about.
The picture had sparked this girl off again, and a huge argument had developed. Except now, out of the group of 7, there were 5 girls defending the Rav, and two still accusing him. I decided it was time to get this discussion properly out into the open, as whispering in backrooms - about anything - is never a good thing.
The yetzer thrives when things can't be discussed openly
The yetzer thrives in places where topics can’t be properly discussed, explored and addressed, especially with teenagers. So I invited the group to the sitting room, and I started laying out the real facts of the story.
I learned so much from that encounter. By the end, both the girls who were ‘anti’ the Rav asked me to stop, and wanted to change the subject. They are both really good girls, but I could see that I hadn’t changed their minds with what I’d told them. What had happened is that I’d changed their willingness to slag the Rav off so publicly, as they’d started to realize that they were actually on pretty shaky ground with their ‘facts’ and their ‘victims’ - who all essentially boiled down to the same one deranged woman, the wife of the false witness.
It all boils down to the same two people
That encounter taught me so much about how the yetzer is operating with this stuff. I know all the stories are coming from two people, the false witness and the main persecutor of the Rav within Breslov. But what happens is that people who get caught up in lashon hara like to embellish the story, and like to give it more of a ‘ring’ of truth, so that more people will take it seriously.
So instead of telling you straight: “All the information I have about this comes from watching Youtube videos and reading stuff online from places like Ynet and Kikkar HaShabbat”, they start making up taller and taller stories about the people ‘they know personally’, and the big Rabbis ‘they know personally’ who have apparently said the most scurrilous, horrendous lies about the Rav.
But if you press on the sources - you ask for specific names, you ask for specific details - it quickly becomes apparent that the person you are talking to is lying. It’s human nature. You can’t spend the best part of five years crusading for ‘justice’ against Rav Berland and then easily accept you were wrong, even if the most obvious facts and information are presented to you on a platter.
Which is when I realized that I have to tread very, very carefully from here on in, because God forbid we should ‘win the battle’ with the Rav Berland stuff, and ‘lose the war’.
The point is to get more Jews back to Hashem, not to be 'right'
God forbid that we should prove the truth about what’s really gone on with the Rav, only to have so many holy Jews get even more entrenched in their yetzers because they can’t easily back down or ‘lose’ an argument, even one as important as this.
Rebbe Nachman talks a lot about this ‘urge to win’, and explains that the people who have this usually find it very, very hard to make teshuva. Because in order to make teshuva, you first have to admit you did something wrong, you believed lashon hara, you spoke lashon hara, you went around slagging off the Gadol HaDor.
And that’s a really hard thing to admit.
I realized yesterday, I also have to be much more on guard against my own ‘urge to win’, because the main goal here should be to get as many Jews as possible out of the world of lies and back to Hashem, and not just to mow them down with ‘truth’ and facts.
The adults are finding this even harder than the teens
Yesterday, my husband saw an old acquaintance of his from a different Breslov yeshiva. The guy asked my husband where he was learning, and when he told him ‘Shuvu Banim’ the man took that as a cue to start defaming Rav Berland.
Long story short, it was exactly the same scenario we’d had on Shabbat, except the man was in his 40s and was a talmid Chacham. Which meant that he really should have known better to keep trying to pass off lies as truth, and that he really should have known better when he started calling my husband an ‘apikorus’ very loudly, in the middle of a sandwich bar in Meah Shearim.
Again, when pressed for the sources of his information, and for the facts that would support his point of view, this man tried to angrily dismiss my husband as being an ‘am ha’aretz’ and started verbally abusing him instead.
Again, what made this encounter so distressing was that this man is generally a really good sort, and a nice guy. Again, it underlined just how powerful the spiritual corruption that’s behind all the slander of the Rav actually is. God wants this person back, he doesn’t want him getting even more entrenched in his issues, God forbid.
Lies (and the people telling them...) are so fragile
In Hebrew, the word for lies is ‘sheker’, which begins with the letter shin, ש. It’s taught that this is a very unstable, wobbly letter, because it balances on a narrow point. The smallest push, the smallest challenge, can send it toppling over.
That’s so true. And when that happens, the person caught in the lie then has a choice: either, they can take a deep breath, makes some serious teshuva and admit they were wrong. Or (and sadly, this is by far the more common reaction) they can get even more abusive and blustery as they try to brazen things out.
The paperback of ‘One in a Generation’ on Amazon is being inexplicably held up. There is no obvious problem or issue, just Amazon still isn’t displaying it as being ‘for sale’. I’ve been pondering why that is - why the whole process of getting this book out has been one long catalogue of delays and issues and obstacles - and this week, I think I finally may have worked it out.
The truth has to seep out slowly, so that as many people as possible can have the time to digest it, and to acknowledge it, and to make the teshuva they need to make quietly, without getting pulled under by this need to be ‘right’ at any cost.
It's going to take a long time to turn this tanker around
Reversing five years of slander and falsehoods is not going to be fast work. People’s souls have become so bound-up with the forces of evil that run Youtube and Ynet and Channel 2 that it’s going to be a really hard, long and tricky process to spring them out of that dark place.
It’s immensely challenging, on so many levels, to believe that people with the title of ‘rabbi’ could lie so brazenly, that the Israeli police could be so corrupt, that the courts could be 100% in the pocket of the prosecutors, that the media could fabricate so many falsehoods and continuously refuse to acknowledge the truth.
This goes to the heart of why so many people want to continue to believe ‘bad’ about Rav Berland, even when the facts are presented clearly in front of them.
So the truth will have to come out very slowly, to prevent too many people from completely losing their minds. And in the meantime, I can’t rush things along or force the issue. When the time is right, the world of lies will fall, and the world of truth will replace it.
And this week I learned a very clear lesson that if I put the emphasis on ‘winning the battle’ over Rav Berland, instead of winning the war to get more Jews back to Hashem, that really won’t be a good thing for anyone involved.
I need to do an awful lot of praying about how to proceed from here.
A few years’ back, an acquaintance of mine invited me to come with her to Ashdod, to go and take a look at some exciting-sounding cheap clothing place for kids. It was quite a hot day, and when I got into the car I was already sweltering.
Now, I knew this acquaintance had some ‘issues’ around spending money, but before I got into the car with her on that boiling Summer day, I had no idea how bad they actually were. Two seconds in, I told her I was hot. She opened the windows (half - we were on a motorway) - and that’s when I started to get that horrible, claustrophobic feeling that I was about to have a really challenging couple of hours.
Because while I can tolerate heat to a point, I can’t stand being in a hot car with no air-conditioning in the middle of an Israeli summer. I literally feel faint and want to throw up. But my acquaintance clearly had zero intention of turning on the aircon under any circumstances, because air-conditioning costs money.
I understand that we have to be careful with money, I really do. I also understand that sometimes, there isn’t money for petrol, and there isn’t money for food. And that under those circumstances, you can’t blow it on air-conditioning.
But we weren’t talking about those sorts of circumstances.
On the journey back, I swore to myself I would never, ever get in a car with that acquaintance again, because the lack of control I had over the situation was so distressing for me and I really, nearly threw up a few times. I was tempted - a few times - to just plonk down 50 shekels on the dashboard and to ask her to turn on the aircon, but that wouldn’t have gone down at all well with this particular person.
She could see I wasn’t handling the heat very well, but she was so intent on saving a few cents she simply couldn’t put my need to overheat ahead of her need to save money. And she also couldn’t accept that maybe, it was reasonable of me to want the aircon on in those circumstances, so there was nothing else to talk about.
A few months after that experience, another acquaintance asked me if I’d drive her to the Baba Sali. It was now winter in Israel, and not so hot, but this acquaintance had a very low tolerance to anything resembling heat, and she asked if we could put the aircon on.
Partially, it was because it really wasn’t hot at all in the car, and partially, I was also mindful of the cost of the gas (which she hadn’t offered to help me pay for, despite her wanting to make the trip) and partially, again, it was that lack of control thing.
I turned the aircon on - resentfully - and for weeks and even months afterwards, I tried to figure out why I’d been so upset about doing that. After all, I knew firsthand how horrible it was to feel like you were suffocating to death in a too-hot car. So why was I reacting with such bad grace to this second acquaintance?
After this second acquaintance asked me for a few more favors - like driving her to hospital at 1am for an emergency scan so her husband could stay at home with her kids - the penny finally dropped: there was zero gratitude blowing back from this acquaintance, who was very keen on the idea that people should be committed to the mitzvah of doing kindnesses for others.
Or at least, kindnesses for her, because the kindnesses coming back over the fence were few and far between.
This all happened 5-6 years ago, when I was the height of my process of discovering that so many people (including myself…) are literally crazy.
What makes this a problem is not that people have their foibles, because we all have our eccentricities and our ‘red lines’ many of which are completely illogical but no less powerfully policed.
The bigger problem by far is that we aren’t honest enough about our own issues, so we can’t figure out genuinely useful compromises. If my tight-fisted friend could have explained that she could see I’m half-dying in the heat, but that she simply couldn’t justify the ‘waste’ of money switching the aircon entailed, but she’d be very happy to give me the option of paying to cover it - we’d have both have been happy and that friendship probably would have lasted a lot longer than it did.
Similarly, if I could have been honest with my other acquaintance that I was feeling like she was taking me for a ride, and using me as an unpaid taxi service (like when she commanded me to switch the music I was listening to, because she didn’t like it) - things would have also been much easier, at least for me, and we could have figured out a compromise that worked for both of us.
And if we couldn’t, then I’d have known much earlier on to put this person on my ‘awkward’ list, and to give her a much wider berth.
These days, I generally spot these people much earlier on, mostly, so it’s much easier to avoid getting dragged into all these horrible, complicated situations which really just boil down to a power struggle where you are being forced to do things that you really don’t want to do.
The ‘control’ belongs to God. The ‘power’ belongs to God. The more I can live by that credo, the easier it is for me to get along with my fellow human being, even the really crazy ones. At the same time, I have to recognize that I’m not an angel or a tzaddik, and that I also have my own red lines and wants about how things should be.
If I ignore that side of things too much, I get extremely moody, miserable, stressed and even sick.
Getting the balance right between these two things, so I’m not completely self-centred and selfish, and also not completely spineless and a doormat, is the work of 120. No problem is ever 100% the other person’s fault, but figuring out the percentages is really, really hard.
And as Pesach approaches, this is one of the key bits of work that we all have to do. Rav Ofer writes that true freedom is getting out of all our bad middot and negative desires and behaviors.
And as usual, I seem to have my work cut out for me.