Continuing with the FAQs I've been getting about Rav Eliezer Berland, one of my correspondents sent back this, which I want to reproduce here because it really shows how the yetzer hara is fooling upright, God-fearing individuals into speaking, believing and spreading lies.
Thank you for your response. [To the question about the Breslov 'beis din''s psak against Rav Berland and his community.]
Thank you for your response, as it’s giving me an opportunity to demonstrate just how deceitful, conniving and frankly plain evil the people who are persecuting Rav Berland actually are.
You are obviously well-versed in the Halachot of Beis Din, so you must know that it’s against halacha for:
1) A judge to judge a case where he has a clear personal interest, or stated bias
2) To judge a case based on the evidence of only one side of things.
Betzalal Galinsky appeared on stage at a rally against Rav Berland that was held in Bet Shemesh last year, and was organised by Rav Berland’s main group of persecutors within Breslov, including Yom Tov Cheshin.
He’s known as an opponent of the Rav, and is clearly unfit, halachically, to ‘judge’ any matter involving Shuvu Banim or Rav Berland.
Zev Frank also appeared onstage in Bet Shemesh, and is also a known, long-time opponent of Rav Berland within Breslov, and again is consequently unfit, halachically, to ‘judge’ any matter involving him fairly.
None of the men in the ‘beis din’ convened by the Rav’s opponents sit on a beis din anywhere else; none of the usual, known Breslov poskim who give psak halacha were involved in this beis din, or were asked to be involved in this beis din.
Why not? This is a huge matter, after all, and not something that should be left to amateurs with no experience of judging on beis din.
How can a beis din ‘judge’ anyone without hearing both sides of the story? Rav Berland was not called to this beis din, he gave no evidence to it.
This ‘beis din’ contravened halacha in the two very serious ways set out above, at the very least.
I’m so sorry that someone as obviously refined and God-fearing as yourself has had the wool pulled over your eyes, because these are not ‘uninterested parties with no axe to grind’ and the ‘beis din’ they convened contravened a number of very important Halachot and made a mockery of the Shulchan Aruch.
Lastly, as I noted previously, two statements were fraudulently combined - this so-called ‘beis din’ statement, and a previous statement made about R’ Kramer that had nothing whatsoever to do with Shuvu Banim and Rav Berland, and that was signed by a number of genuine gedolim and God-fearing people.
This is not a new tactic, and it’s been used by the people persecuting Rav Berland and his community on many occasions before.
I’m very pleased you gave me the opportunity to help clear this up, as God forbid they should continue to make anyone else stumble in such damaging ways.
What’s really going on here?
This same process has been playing out for more than five years already, and each time it happens again, it’s giving more of the people who believed all the baseless slander and lies about Rav Berland in the past another chance to come to their senses and make teshuva.
Here’s how it works:
Rav Berland’s opponents within Breslov, particularly centred within Meah Shearim, cook up some new sort of contrived beis din scandal against the Rav and his Shuvu Banim community, either by:
What happens next:
You can basically split this into three reactions:
1) People who already have a personal animus against Rav Berland and his community, including figures within Breslov, the secular authorities and the media immediately seize on this ‘evidence’, puff it up, add more lurid (and completely falsified….) details and splash it all over the place.
2) ‘Neutral’ observers who unfortunately believe and accept lashon hara, or who are naïve enough to believe that everything they read online, and everything they are told by other people must be 100% true, believe these lies and start passing it off as ‘fact’ to others - in direct contravention of Jewish law.
3) Other observers who are aware of the laws of lashon hara, and / or who are aware that many people have an enormous vested interest in portraying orthodox rabbis and orthodox Judaism as ‘bad’ who either:
a) Keep their mouth shut and reserve judgment, as they don’t have enough first-hand information to really know what the truth is.
b) Fight against these lies with all their strength, as they have the core information required to make an informed judgment about what is actually going on here.
Analysing the latest smear campaign against the Rav
If you look through every single instance of a new slander being manufactured against Rav Berland and his community, you will see that people uniformly react in one of these three ways.
And so it is with this latest smear.
The Rav’s opponents convened a false beis din, put out a statement condemning the Rav and his community, and then spread that via their usual channels, including posting up statements on the walls of Meah Shearim, and getting the word out there via their established network of haters.
Next, misguided people like my correspondent unwittingly started spreading this false propaganda all over the place, adding more fuel to the fire.
Next, a real beis din, real rabbis, came out with a psak condemning the original mockery of a statement from the false beis din:
And then, the Rav’s own students - including such luminaries as Rav Shalom Arush, Rav Ofer Erez and Rav Shmuel Stern also put out a statement condemning the latest slander and falsehood:
The whole ‘case’ against Rav Berland was built on lies like this.
And each time it happens again, it gives the unwitting ‘neutral observers’ in group 2 the chance to make some real teshuva, and to admit that they were wrong, duped, mislead.
Volume II of One in a Generation will set out the whole story in far more detail, but in the meantime, I just wanted to dissect this latest smear, so you can see how the Rav’s opponents have been operating over the last 5-6 years in real time.
But the truth is starting to come out!
And I really hope that after this latest episode, more people will realize how they’ve been deliberately mislead by some very unsavory characters both within and without Breslov, and make whatever teshuva they need to make.
I recently posted up about One in a Generation, the new biography about Rav Eliezer Berland in a public forum, and I got back a few comments that I thought should be addressed properly as FAQs (not least so I don't spend the next two weeks emailing the same things over and over again.)
If you have any additional comments you want me to try to address, drop me an email and if I can give you a bit more clarity, I'll do my best to answer, if I can.
Q: Are you part of Rav Berland’s community?
Before I started researching ‘One in a Generation’, all I knew about Rabbi Eliezer Berland is what I’d read in the media, same as everyone else.
But as a long-time investigative journalist who’s covered a lot of ‘fraudulent rabbi’ stories, there were a number of details about the investigation that just didn’t add up when I was reading the coverage.
So I started researching the story myself, and I came to the shocking conclusion that Rav Berland was actually the victim of a terrible campaign of slander and lies.
The more I researched, the more people I spoke to, the more interviews I conducted, the more I came to the conclusion that far from being the low-life that was portrayed in the media, Rav Eliezer Berland is actually a truly saintly individual.
Q: Why would anyone want to frame Rav Berland for a crime of this sort?
There are many answers to that question.
Some people within the old-school Breslov community always saw Rav Berland as an outsider, and felt threatened by the huge number of baal teshuvas (formerly secular Jews who return to religious observance) he was attracting into Breslov chassidut.
Over the years, the Rav also attracted a ‘lunatic fringe’ of people with severe mental and emotional problems who gravitated towards his unique brand of unconditional love and acceptance of the other.
These individuals frequently tried to ‘own’ the Rav - they’d try to enter into his apartment, jump into his car, follow him around to every event and gathering, and ultimately tried to force the Rav to do their bidding by all sorts of threats and violence. 4-5 of these individuals - all men - are behind the slanderous, false claims of abuse levelled at Rav Berland.
Then there’s also the ‘deep state’ aspect, where the Israeli Court system and police service is heavily influenced by a number of high-ranking individuals who have huge personal animus against anything they perceive to be connected to orthodox Judaism.
Q: There are a number of influential rabbis who have had no trouble at all with the police or Israeli authorities, so surely that argument doesn’t hold water?
If you look at the numbers of leading rabbis who have been hauled in for questioning for ‘racism’ and ‘incitement’ and ‘sedition’ over the last few years, you’ll find some impressive names there, including the late Rav Yitzhak Yosef, ztl, (Rav Ovadia Yosef’s son), the late Rav Yoram Abergel, ztl, the late Rav Uzi Meshulam, ztl, and Rav Y.Y. Pinto, amongst many, many others.
Rav Berland was high-up on the authorities list of ‘difficult characters’ for years, because of his continued visits to holy tombs in Palestinian-controlled areas that the Israeli government wanted to make off-limits after the failed Oslo accords.
While the authorities couldn’t get away with openly targeting every big rabbi, they have no qualms about pushing their 'anti-Torah' agenda whenever they are given even the smallest opening to do so.
There is a pronounced ‘anti-religious’ and ‘anti-chareidi’ vibe extant amongst Israel’s ruling elites, many of whom effectively control the country’s media, courts and bureaucratic functioning.
As the proceedings against Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu continue, more and more people within Israel itself are starting to wake up to the very corrupt practices found at every level of the Israeli media, police and courts.
Q: Why did Rav Berland plead guilty in court, if he was completely innocent of all charges?
The Rav was suffering from life-threatening cancer which the Israeli Prison Service was refusing to allow treatment for. The courts also refused to allow the Rav - who was almost 80 at the time this was occurring - to await trial under house arrest, as is the usual practice.
For month after month, the court kept postponing the trial that would categorically clear Rav Berland’s name, while his state of health steadily deteriorated.
Eventually, the Rav was told by his team of lawyers that it would be better to ‘confess’ to something small and arrange a plea bargain and reduced sentence - that would include being given permission to have his illness treated - than to die in prison.
Q: Is One in a Generation just part of a ‘white-wash’ attempt on behalf of the charedi community to hide more wrong-doing under the carpet?
No, absolutely not.
Twenty years ago, I lost my job on a Jewish newspaper for trying to write an expose on an orthodox ‘rabbi’ who was embezzling money from charitable funds, and doing a few other things besides.
Over the last two decades, I have consistently taken an uncompromising stance on tolerating any forms of abuse within the Jewish community, and have frequently written on these topics in a number of forums.
I don’t tolerate, or make excuses for any forms of abuse, full stop.
I wrote this book to get to the truth of the matter, and to try to publicize the terrible miscarriage of justice that has been perpetrated here. It’s the same principle and the same motivation that’s always underscored my investigative journalism.
And I’m also not ‘chareidi’ myself, so I have no personal reasons for trying to ‘white-wash’ anything within that particular community.
Q: Why is the book coming out in two volumes?
The first reason is that the sheer weight of material was becoming too much to actually print in one tome. Volume I is already 310 pages, and while it covers the first 75 years’ of Rav Eliezer Berland’s life, it’s still really only half the story.
Volume II will take an in-depth look at the people behind the slanderous campaign of lies that was waged against Rav Berland, and is much more explosive material, legally.
That book is being checked and double-checked by the lawyers before we can release it for publication, and that’s a very lengthy, involved process. We didn’t want to slow down the rest of the book in the meantime, so we decided to release the material in two volumes.
Q: When is Volume II due for release?
Hopefully sometime around the Summer. The story is still evolving - the people persecuting the Rav within the Breslov community are continuing to manufacture new lies and slanders all the time. But at some point soon, we’ll have to conclude the story at whatever point it’s reached.
I guess there could always be a Volume III, if necessary!
Q: Why isn’t the book available in Jewish bookstores?
The short answer is that it’s far too controversial for Jewish bookstores, especially at this stage when so many people are only going on the false accounts they’ve read about or seen in the media.
I hope that as more people start to know the true story, that will change by the time Volume II is ready, and we’ll have more distribution channels in the Jewish world. For now the book is available on Amazon, and it will also be available on the Book Depository site too, which has free shipping worldwide.
Again if you have a comment or question that you’d like me to address (that doesn’t involve an expletive…) please feel free to email me HERE. This is a very important topic, and I’d be very happy to try to answer your questions about it, if I can.
Oooh ah, if I told you about all the stuff that's gone on behind the scenes with getting this book out, that would be a tale in itself.
And I'm still pretty nervous about what stunt the crazy people who have been persecuting the Rav might try to pull when they find out that this book is about to hit the bookshelves....but in the meantime, it's finally ready to pre-order!
This is Volume I, and it fills in a lot of the background about who Rav Eliezer Berland actually is, and how he came to be the defacto leader of modern-day Breslov.
Volume II, when that finally sees the light of day, will cover the years of the Rav's exile and incarceration, and explain what's really being going on for the last five years, and why.
So, you can go HERE to pre-order it on Amazon, and the book itself should be sent out to you on or around March 1st, 2018 - aka, Purim day.
I thought that was very fitting, given just how upside-down the world is at the moment, and how this book is hopefully going to play it's own small part in righting it.
After March 1st, BH there will also be a Kindle e-book available, and possibilities to buy the book from the Book Depository (which has free postage to Israel) and also direct from the ravberland.com website, which I think is planning to offer cheaper prices for bulk buyers.
In the meantime, it's out! And you can pre-order it HERE.
Now things are probably going to get interesting.
It’s often happened to me that God gives me a tremendous flash of insight in my hitbodedut, or talking to God, sessions, that I then have to try to explain to other people in logical terms.
And I usually struggle to do that, as the insight I get in hitbodedut isn’t a linear argument or a progression of information, it’s a quantum leap from one place to a completely different reality.
My poor husband has been on the receiving end of this so many times that now he just mutters ‘bina yetira’ when I’m trying to explain why I’ve just done something else that doesn’t make any sense, logically, yet I feel 100% with every fibre of my being that it’s the right thing to do.
So with that intro, here goes the ‘logical’ explanation which really only partially describes why I pressed ‘delete’ on my blog, motzae Shabbat.
Why I pressed 'delete' on my blog
It started a little earlier in the week when two things happened:
1) I got sent links to a really good, in-depth expose of the crazy psychos who have been hounding Rav Berland for well over a decade, and it was frankly more than a little disturbing to see the lengths these people were going to, when it came to trying to hurt and disrupt the Rav.
2) The draft of One in a Generation, the biography of Rav Berland, finally passed through all the editorial checks and obstacles, and was put up on Amazon for pre-order just a couple of hours before Shabbat came in, here in Israel.
I’ve known for months already that this book marks a huge turning point, at least spiritually, in the ongoing battle between truth and lies in the Jewish world. Rav Kook from Tiberius told us all very clearly that everything that happens with Rav Berland is directly connected to the geula, the redemption of Am Yisrael.
So I knew the publication of the book would mark a big upswing in something, that would probably kick-off the next stage of geula. (I only found out after Shabbat that probably the exact same time the book went up on Amazon, that Israeli jetfighter got shot down by Iranian proxies in Syria…)
So anyway, I’ve been feeling pretty excited, but also pretty nervous about this book coming out, because while it’s going to be a game changer, I was anxious about the anti-Berland psychos targeting me and trying to cause me issues and damage the way they’ve been doing to everyone else who is publicly ‘pro’ the Rav.
This is a very big reason why so many people who are ‘pro’ the Rav are keeping shtum, because no-one really has the stomach to fight these people.
You’ll remember a few months back, I got sued for the enormous sum of 40,000 shekels for posting up a picture of Rav Berland in court which I thought was covered by ‘fair use’, seeing as my blog is not commercial and I was writing about the story.
Long story short, even with a lot of help from the lawyer husband of a friend, my own lawyer husband, and a lawyer I had to pay to deal with it, I still ended up paying out around 7,000 shekels, because these people are ruthless.
"Why do I feel so anxious?"
Shabbat morning, I had a huge amount of anxiety going on, and as I started to dig around, what came up is that I was very nervous about the ‘anti’ psycho brigade combing through four years of Emunaroma to find another picture they could try to use against me, or another careless use of words that they could use to try to use to damage me in some way.
I also realized that they may try to hack my site and disable it, the way they did to ravberland.com a few months ago.
Which is when God gave me my brainwave: If I deleted my archive myself, on my own terms, ensuring that I had copies of all my articles saved on a stick somewhere, then these people wouldn’t be able to use Emunaroma against me.
As soon as that idea popped into my head, I felt so, so happy and really relieved.
Which is when I realized some more things about why it would be good to make a new start here on Emunaroma. With God’s help, I’ve built up quite a big audience over the last few years, which is a huge privilege - and also a huge responsibility.
And I haven’t always managed to carry that responsibility appropriately. While most of the time I’ve very careful with my lashon hara, and with trying to see Am Yisrael with a good eye, I’ve had times when that’s not the case, and I don’t want those things ‘out there’ permanently, bringing who knows what judgments down on my head.
I want Emunaroma to be a positive blog, to spread light and God’s goodness in the world, and ranting on about nasty people is not the best way to do that.
Now, I’m not saying it won’t happen again, because it probably will. But at least I got rid of the backlog in the meantime.
Words are so powerful
Another reason I pulled the plug is because having a ‘big’ blog presence can lead to some serious ego and arrogance problems. Words are so powerful, and there’s something very spiritually corrupting about the idea that ‘XX thousand people are reading my blog!’
I wanted to do some ‘blog teshuva’ and humble myself, so God doesn’t have to send me other hard things to do that job for me.
Another reason why I pulled the plug is because the idea of a new start is just so appealing.
I’ve had many occasions over the last few years when I had enough of blogging, and being so caught up online.
The plus of blogging is all the tremendously awesome people I’ve met through doing Emunaroma, but as the pressures on my time have grown astronomically over the last few months, I’ve been spending so much time typing, and so little time living, that I felt a desperate need for a grand gesture to redraw the balance.
Pressing ‘delete’ showed God, and showed me, that there is so much more to me and to my life than my blog.
With that certainty, I can now carry on blogging happily, and I’m not worried now that I’ve blogged my soul to the devil, and I’m stuck posting things up for the next 50 years just to keep my audience happy.
I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem
How different the world would look if people only blogged about things that were actually good to blog about, and not just out of a need to keep the audience coming back for the next installment.
So I’m hoping that by pressing ‘delete’, I will stop being part of the addicting internet problem, and make a small move in the direction of being part of the solution.
I can hope.
And the last reason I pulled the plug comes back to wanting what I write to be ‘real’ in some way, and not just virtual. Rav Ofer explained once that this world offers us fake ‘pleasure’ and fake ‘achievements’ to fool us into thinking there’s nothing else to aim for.
Every time hundreds of people read a blog post, that’s a really nice feeling. It gives me some real pleasure. But in the meantime, I feel like I want to be an author of books, real books, not just an author of virtual blog posts, however much I enjoy writing them.
The more time I spend online, the less time I’m writing real books. And real books is what I want to show my kids, and their kids, and what I want to fill my own shelves with.
A friend brought this point home to me last week when she emailed me an invite for her son’s bar mitzvah, then reassured me that she’d call to remind me too ‘because no-one really pays attention to things that are just on-screen.’
She is so right.
And I need to spend more time migrating my stuff off-screen and onto Amazon and the Book Depository.
All of these reasons sound reasonable, logical, possible. But none of them really capture the real reason why I pressed ‘delete’ on my blog, which is this:
Once I understood that this is what God wanted from me, I was happy to give it to Him.
In my own small way, it’s a korban I’m offering up to the Al-mighty, and I hope He finds its aroma pleasing.
And that’s why I know it’s going to lead to really good things happening, even though I can’t for one second explain what they might be.
Binah yetirah or crazy person alert.
You can decide, dear reader.
But in the meantime, I’m feeling happier about continuing to write for Emunaroma then I have been for a very long time.
Over shabbat, I was doing quite a bit of praying, about quite a few things.
It struck me that I am way too 'over-invested' in Emunaroma spiritually, in a way that I hope to explain more about in a future post.
All the internet gurus out there make us feel as though we have to keep endlessly churning things out online to have any 'weight' in the world. But what really remains of digital stuff that remains purely digital?
So, I've decided to start over, to let go of all the ego investment that's gone into Emunaroma the last 3 1/2 years, and to make a new start. I will be fiddling with the site over the next few weeks and making some more tweaks, but the other thing I decided is that I'm going to carry on printing my best posts out as books.
The best of Year 1 of Emunaroma became The Secret Diary of a Jewish Housewife, and I'm going to continue printing those books, I decided this Shabbat, even if only for my kids to know what life was like at this stage of the world's development.
It was pretty scary, in theory, pressing delete on my blog.
But I have to tell you, I know that so many blessings are going to flow from this.
To be continued...