I'm reposting this from last Chanuka, but with the Carr Fire burning, and the Mendocino Complex Fire burning, and with Portugal, Ireland and the UK burning, and Sweden burning, and Israel's south burning, it's probably even more relevant now than it was when I wrote it. Luminaries of fire - and the people who give them more power and influence - mamash destroy the world.
Someone asked me what I thought the message might be, that God was trying to send the Jewish people, by causing that terrible fire in Flatbush a couple of days ago. I told them I had no idea - because you have to be on an incredibly high spiritual level to even begin to guess at the real reasons for these things, and the people who are genuinely holding ‘there’ don’t rush their views into a Youtube shiur within 24 hours of the tragedy occurring.
But that discussion then brought me back around to pondering the notion of the ‘luminaries of fire and the luminaries of light’.
In Lesson II:67, Rebbe Nachman explains how the luminaries of fire get empowered in the world when the luminaries of light get diminished.
Who are the luminaries of light? They are the true Tzaddikim, and particularly the Tzaddik Yesod ha’olam (Tzaddik, the foundation of the world), the one true Tzaddik that is to be found in every single generation. Rebbe Nachman explains very clearly that when these Tzaddikim, and especially this true tzaddik: ‘becomes renowned and famous in the world, the eyes of the entire world are then opened…whoever becomes his follower…his eyes are opened and he becomes able to see.”
And what, exactly, does this person begin to see?
Rebbe Nachman explain that: “his eyes are opened and he sees and beholds himself, how he is holding in all of the traits…One also becomes able to see and behold God’s greatness in the world.”
In other words, when a person becomes the follower of a true tzaddik, or a luminary of light, he first starts to see himself honestly, and to understand just how many bad middot and negative character traits and behaviors he still needs to work on; and then, he also starts to recognize the hand of Hashem in the world, i.e. he starts to really internalize ein od Milvado - there is only God!
But when people don’t follow the true Tzaddikim, and instead chase after ‘luminaries of fire’ instead, then what happens?
“…when the luminaries of light are subdued, the luminaries of fire are empowered. And fires are caused in the world on account of the names of these ignominiously renowned people becoming great and enhanced, for this causes God’s name to disappear, the luminaries of light to become subdued and the luminaries of fire to become empowered….This is symbolized by the burning of the Temple.”
The lesson continues:
“…what was, is gone. For our Temple has already been burnt. However, now that God waits to return to us and rebuild our Temple, it behooves us not to hinder the Temple’s rebuilding, but rather to endeavor to build it….
“…by mourning over the Temple, one subdues the luminaries of fire, so that the luminaries of light…are empowered. Thus MiT’ABeL (mourning) is the acronym of ‘Lo T’varu Aysh B’chol Moshvoteykhem’ - (you shall not kindle any fire throughout your dwelling places), for by mourning, one subdues the luminaries of fire.”
There’s always so much to try to unpack in Rabbenu’s lessons, so again take all this with the caveat that I understand less than 1%, and that 1% is what I’m sharing here.
There’s a few key things that seem to be jumping out here, as follows:
1) The more we try to make ourselves followers of the true Tzaddikim, the more this will empower the good leaders, the ‘luminaries of light’ in the world, and weaken the ‘luminaries of fire’.
2) ‘Luminaries of fire’ are not just people like Oprah and all those other celebs, big-wigs and Hollywood A-listers getting burned out of their Bel Air mansions by the Thomas fire (which btw, is still burning and set to become the biggest wildfire in California’s recorded history).
‘Luminaries of fire’ are also all those suave rabbis and rockstar rabbanits who are full of themselves, and their own learning, and their own opinions and who frequently make some very harsh judgment calls against their fellow Jews.
It’s those people who magnify their own importance in the world, and who by so doing, minimize Hashem’s greatness. Luminaries of fire never talk about their own flaws, they never describe their own battles, they always have to come off as the clever know-it-alls who have an answer for everything.
If you want a no-fail short-cut to spotting a ‘luminary of fire’, anyone outside of Breslov circles who mocks and disdains Rebbe Nachman and his teachings is almost certainly a luminary of fire. And within Breslov itself, anyone who mocks and disdains Rav Berland is almost certainly a luminary of fire.
3) I’m inclined to think that some huge cosmic event was scheduled for the end of Chanuka, potentially involving a lot more fire and destruction than we’ve already seen - volcanoes simultaneously erupting, North Korean missiles being fired at mainland America, some huge, fiery ball of molten gases and metals coming a bit too close to planet earth - who knows what, exactly.
But as the ‘luminaries of light’ are getting more and more empowered, and more and more people are ‘opening their eyes’ to see what’s really going on in the world, on a number of levels, these decrees are being sweetened more and more.
4) This poor, holy family in NYC were another korban, and their deaths by fire - by the light of the Chanuka candles - has most certainly sweetened the ‘decrees of fire’ hanging over the Jewish people and the world.
5) The more we do our bit to empower the ‘luminaries of light’ and take down the ‘luminaries of fire’, the less these terrible tragedies will have to keep occurring.
6) We can do that, tachlis, by:
That’s a lot of hard work, I know.
But Lesson 67 seems to make clear that THIS stuff is what’s causing all the fires in the world.
Of course, no ‘luminary of fire’ is going to make those sorts of connections for us, because they don’t read (or understand…) Likutey Moharan and they don’t hold by Rebbe Nachman.
So if you really want to know where the truth lies, and what the message really is behind all these terrible fires coming to the world, you have to pray on it, and to ask God to really show you.
There is no other way.
So at the beginning of last week, I was going bonkers again. The house debacle had got stuck again, and what was meant to be a simple concluding agreement kept pinging back and forwards, each time sending my blood pressure a little higher.
Then, there was all this childhood stuff the last few months had stirred up again, which I SO thought I’d worked through and sorted out by no! The lack of stability, the feeling of homelessness, the ‘bad’ people out to get me – I warped back to when I was 7 years old and spending every single night having terrible nightmares that wolves and triffids were chasing after me again.
Hashem, ad matai?!?!
When o when am I finally going to be able to put the past behind me?!?!?
I went to see my One Brain woman, who is usually so very good with this stuff, and even she couldn’t help me. So I knew I had to get on a plane, and go and see the one person who could help me sort all this stuff out at its root: Rabbenu.
My poor husband got dragged with me, and we went to Uman for Shabbat. Derech Tzaddikim absolutely insisted (literally) that we book into the fanciest hotel in Uman as everything else was apparently booked up, so we duly did that, and for the first time ever, I was in a hotel in Uman that apparently had some sort of room service.
But still no bath.
(Don’t ask me why there are no baths in the bathrooms in Uman hotels. Until recently, you were lucky to get a toilet in the same room that you didn’t have to share with 12 other people, so I guess we’ll have to wait for the baths another 10 years, or so.)
I got to Uman so absolutely, completely exhausted.
So much has been going on, for months, and internally it’s been intense, intense, intense. Usually, I go off and try to do six hours but dear reader, this time around, I just couldn’t. I did a couple of hours here, a couple of hours there, and I just left the rest to Rabbenu to sort out.
Let me tell you: he did.
I have no idea why more people, especially more Anglo people, don’t go to Uman. Every visit I make, I dump another load of inner childhood angst, another mega-load of crazy-person-ness, another ton of heartache, worry and fear.
But what I really wanted to tell you about is Rabbenu’s pipe.
On Shabbat, I saw someone in the kever who I have had a massive grudge against for around 4 years. They didn’t know it, of course, but I’ve been carrying around negative feelings towards them for years. And then, Rabbenu arranged for them to be in the kever.
This person was not a friend, but a ‘mashpia’, and we barely even spoke face to face more than once. But certain things occurred that were very upsetting to me, and I held them responsible, at least partially, for some very difficult experiences I had to go through.
So there they were in the kever. And they were still annoying! And I found all these hard feelings welling up again, so I asked God to let me make peace, real peace, and to finally let go of all my hakpada, because as much as it’s hurting others, it hurting me the most.
While all that was going on, I just got a mental picture in my head of Rebbe Nachman and his pipe. Which was pretty weird. But then, my husband made a comment later about Rebbe Nachman smoking a pipe himself, even though he used to warn his students away from smoking in very strong terms.
So then, why did he do it himself?
The answer is: true tzaddikim sometimes do things, confusing things that don’t seem quite right, for reasons that are far above and divorced from anything we could conceive as being the ‘real reason’. If we were less arrogant, we would understand that so much of what we don't understand about the real tzaddikim, or that we think is 'wrong', is simply because we aren't on the level they are.
(Clearly, I'm not talking about breaking clear halachas here, take a breath.)
And then I thought of this mashpia, who I know is the real deal, but who I’ve still had some great difficulties with, nevertheless, and Rebbe Nachman’s pipe came back to me as the answer to the kooshias that I’ve had about them, for years.
After Shabbat, we went to Medzhibozh for a day, before the airport, and the peace and calm of that place was so, so amazing. My husband and I went to the Apter Rebbe’s restored old shul, and just spent half an hour learning some Torah there. It was so awesome. So quiet. So simple.
No phones, no busy, no crazy, just a few roosters crowing, and some Torah.
I got a taste of that old life, before it all got so complicated, and I felt a little sad that it’s so hard to come by in our present world, where everything is busy busy all the time.
In the gift shop on the way out, I found a simple carved wooden pipe for the bargain amount of $2, which I bought as a reminder of Rabbenu’s pipe. And that we can’t know the reasons why massive tzaddikim sometimes do confusing things that don’t always look right to us.
That pipe is going to have pride of place on my shelf, so it can hopefully shut down any self-righteous fits about big tzaddikim before they even start up.
But in the meantime, Uman has done it again.
So, when are you going to book your ticket?
Attention, ladies: If your husband is currently driving you bonkers, send him to Uman!
I know, I could give you the whole big shpiel about how sending your husband to Uman for Rosh Hashana will bring world peace, and speed the coming of Moshiach, and help to rectify the whole of Am Yisrael.
And that stuff’s all true, and all described in detail in various Breslov sources. But girlfren, really? You should send your husband to Uman for Rosh Hashana because between you and me, I know how annoying that guy can be, at least occasionally.
Yes, he’s sweet, and good-hearted and hard-working and often quite loving and generous. But he’s also half-earth, and that ‘earthy’ bit of him is far to drawn to making money, and cheering on the team, and spouting off ridiculous opinions, and spending too much time watching movies or surfing online.
I know how hard you’ve tried to get him to make more effort with the kids, and to get him to stop walking around like an egotistical stuffed-shirt, and to get him to open up and to be ‘real’ about what he’s really feeling, and what fears and worries he’s got that are really causing him to act and believe the way he does.
I know all this stuff makes pulling teeth (the old fashioned way, with a piece of string and minus anaesthetic…) look like a walk in the park, which is why I’m here to tell you straight what works to get the guy back on the right spiritual path. And it’s spelled:
Like so many of the Uman ladies out there, I don’t send my husband for an expensive, inconvenient jaunt to anti-semitic Ukraine just for the heck of it. I encourage him to go because I know how much spiritual help he’s going to get by Rabbenu at Rosh Hashana, that’s going to carry him - and me - through all the challenges we have to face in the coming year.
I know that sending my husband to Uman for Rosh Hashana means he’s going to come back with a drop more humility, a tad more introspection, an ounce more gratitude and generosity, a page more of learning, a bissel more emuna.
The guy goes to Uman, and he comes back and realizes all by himself, without me saying a word, that he needs to spend more quality time with the kids, or that he needs to stop worrying about money so much, or that he needs to start playing soccer again. (Hey, not every revelation you get in Uman is easy to predict…)
When our blokes go to Uman, they come back better husbands, and nicer dads. They come back with a lot more of a clue about their real path in life, and how best to travel it. And most important of all, they come back with much more appreciation for their homes, families and the good cooking of their loving wives.
And this stuff is priceless, never mind all the other spiritual ‘saving the world’ stuff that goes on there at Rosh Hashanah time.
There’s still time to book his ticket and lodging, and to make it even easier for you, I’ve pulled together some numbers to call. Try:
Derech Tzaddikim: +972-2-541-0100 - www.zadikimtours.com
David Bargshtein Tours: +972-2-999-2955 - firstname.lastname@example.org
Netivim Tours: +972-2-633-8444
Glatt Tour: +972-2-547-7600 - www.glattour.com
And if you want to do it the easy, 'anglo' way, try Inn Uman with Rav Arush and Rav Brody:
I know it’s not easy to pull the money together, I know it’s not easy to manage without him over the High Holidays for a few days, I know it’s mamash mesirut Nefesh (self-sacrifice) for the ladies who stay behind with their challenging broods.
But let me end by sharing the story of a lady I met a few years’ back, who was adamant that her husband shouldn’t go to Uman at Rosh Hashana, because Rosh Hashana was family time.
She was experiencing some serious difficulties with him, and his behavior, and no therapist or counsellor could touch them with a barge pole.
So, I suggested she send him to Uman for Rosh Hashana, and I got back a very stony stare, and a big explanation of how Rosh Hashana was a time when the family should be together.
Last year, she got divorced.
This is re-posted from last year, but it's so good, I think I may just keep posting it back up every Elul...
Over Shabbat, I happened to pick up Rebbe Nachman’s Tales, and I happened to open it up in the middle of the story of the Master of Prayer, who is trying to save the foolish people in the land of money from their ‘religion’ of worshipping wealth:
“These people also had images and icons of the wealthy people who were their gods. They would embrace these images and kiss them. This was part of their religious service.”
Steve Jobs, anyone? Forbes Rich List, anyone?
Anyway, so I was reading on, and then I came to this passage:
“The Mighty Warrior spoke to the King about the people in the land which had fallen into the worship of wealth. The Warrior said to the King: “I heard from you that the only way to release those who are immersed in the worship of the lust for wealth is through the path that I had to the sword.
“That is true,” replied the King. The King then told the Mighty Warrior that on the road to the sword there is a path to the side. That path leads to a Mountain of Fire, upon which crouches a lion.”
Now, the ‘Mighty Warrior’ in the story seems to represent ISIS / Iran / Radical Islam, who is scaring the pants of the wealth-worshipping people in Israel (and elsewhere).
But the notes explains that ‘the sword’ can also refer to gehinnom. And gehinnom, as we know from the previous post, is to be found under the earth’s crust and is directly connected to magma and lava.
So when I read about this path that leads to a Mountain of Fire, I sat up and took notice. Rabbenu continues:
“The Mountain of Fire is totally invisible.” – i.e. no-one even knows that it’s there.
“There is another path off to the side leading to a Kitchen….The food is cooked by the Mountain of Fire, and although the Mountain of Fire is very far away, there are channels and pipes from the Mountain of Fire to the Kitchen.”
This is describing underground lava tubes, channels and flows that connects the Mountain of Fire to Jerusalem (the location of the 'Kitchen').
In the Master of Prayer, the Kitchen and the Mountain of Fire play the key role in getting the people who worship money to finally make teshuva, and to return to God. But the really jaw-dropping bit of all this is when I went to read Chapters 30-31 of the Prophet Isaiah, which Rebbe Nachman tells us he based this particular tale on.
I’m just going to quote it verbatim, then sum up at the end.
“Behold, the Name of Hashem is coming from afar. His anger is flaring and the burden is heavy. His lips are full of rage and His tongue is like a consuming fire. His breath is like a raging stream…
“Hashem will make heard the majesty of his voice, and He will show the potency of His arm, with raging anger and with the flame of a consuming fire, with smashing, torrent and hailstone.
“For Assyria will become devastated by the voice of Hashem, as if He struck with the stick….and He will fight wars against them like the waving of the hand.
For Hell has been prepared from yesterday, it has been readied even for the king. [God] has deepened and widened it, its inferno has much fire and wood, and the breath of Hashem is like a stream of Sulphur burning within it.”
Doesn’t this sound so, so much like a massive volcanic eruption? That sulphuric smell goes along with geothermal springs and underground volcanic activity. That ‘tongue of fire’ thing – take a look at these pictures (above) from the USGS of Fissure 8 in Hawaii.
The world is currently being convulsed with ‘smashing, torrent and hailstone’ – if you go to the Watchers website and just scroll down the latest stories, here’s what you find for the last few days:
Japan: 38 killed by 16ft floodwater, 50 missing, roads collapsing, millions of people being forcibly evacuated.
France: 36,000 lighting strikes in less than one day, 7cm hail damaging and destroying houses, cars and crops.
Earthquakes going off all over the place, including most recently Russia, Mayotte, Mexico - and of course, Israel.
That stuff is connected to the volcanoes waking up, because the same cosmic radiation that is affecting the seismicity of the earth is also affecting the climate.
There is so much more to be said, as always, The volcano thing has been under the radar for most of us because we bought the lies we were taught in school, that the last time all these things blew their tops was millions of years ago, so we can go back to sleep – nothing to worry about here!
HARRAT ASH SHAMAH IS MUCH BIGGER THAN YELLOWSTONE...
Until Daisy mentioned Yellowstone, I didn’t think to compare that with Harrat Ash Shamah, but you know what? Harrat Ash Shamah covers 15,000 km, while Yellowstone only covers around 9,000 km.
I went to look at what the Smithsonian has to say about Harrat Ash Shamah. Here’s a little of what they said:
"The dark-colored lava flows in this NASA Space Shuttle image (with north to the left) lie at the southern end of the Es Safa volcanic field. This basaltic field (also referred to as As Safa), lies SE of the capital city of Damascas (Dimashq) and contains at least 38 cinder cones.
A boiling lava lake was observed in the Es Safa volcanic area in the middle of the 19th century. This volcanic field lies within the northern part of the massive alkaline Harrat Ash Shaam volcanic field that extends from southern Syria to Saudi Arabia."
Then, I went to Google Earth to go and measure where that Es (Al) Safa Lava Lake was – it’s the dark area you can still see very clearly on this map, and it measures 20km across – massive!
And it was last active around 1850, and probably had everything to do with the Tzfat / Tiberias earthquakes which struck in 1837, destroying those cities.
What boggles the mind the most is that the official papers on this site have dated it to 100,000 years ago using argon-potassium (K-Ar) dating…. Which is clearly rubbish! And even the Smithsonian website is listing it as being so, so much younger and majorly active 170 years ago. And it’s only around 150km away from the North of Israel…
God has kept this ‘Mountain of Fire’ invisible to all of us, at least until now.
But according to Rebbe Nachman, it's going to play a crucial role in getting the Jewish people away from their stocks and shares and property prices, and back to God.
We live in very interesting times.
No-one would argue that everyone has their own fair share of heartbreak, upset and stress in life. It manifests in different ways for all of us, according to what God decides we need to experience or rectify, but heartbreak, upset and disappointment are ‘bad’ experiences for all of us, whatever’s causing them.
Many years’ ago in London, I had a good friend who was very competitive (I also was very competitive at that point – survival of the fittest, after all!) We would compete over many issues, including how many people we’d invited for seder, how much money we’d given to charity, how early we’d got into work (she beat me – regularly showing up to the office at 5am was completely off my radar.)
It was only many, many years later that I realized we’d also been competing on how much suffering we were going through, too. I’d tell her my story of infertility (before God blessed me with my two amazing kids) and she’d counter that with something awful that had just happened to her sister.
I’d tell her about my stress at work, and she’d counter that with her ‘awful boss’ story. This pattern continued when we both got to Israel. I’d tell her how we’d lost our house and run out of money, trying to ‘win’ the ‘I’m suffering the most, be nice to me’ battle, and she’d counter with how she was on the verge of divorce…or how her kid was cracking up…or how she was under so much stress she needed anti-depressants….
On and on it went.
Until one day, I realized what was going on, and I had to start pulling myself up on it.
Why are you trying to squeeze sympathy out of people, Rivka? Why are you trying to throw your problems in other people’s faces? Don’t you think everyone has their ‘thing’ going on, too? Don’t you think everyone feels their own pain at the moment?
We are a pained and afflicted people, everything is contusion and wound, from head to foot. The prophet told us it would be like this, before Moshiach comes.
The question is, what can we really do about it? We all have problems we can’t solve, we all have stress we can’t defuse, we all have situations and circumstances that are stretching us to breaking point, in some way or other.
Trying to compete over whose problem is bigger, or more painful, or more deserving of sympathy is utterly pointless, and just causes more division and ‘competition’ between us.
Because who is in a position to really measure it, anyway, and to decide whose pain is greater?
So the answer has to lie in a different direction.
The answer has to lie in developing some emuna, and putting God back into the picture. Everything that’s happening right now is coming from God, for the apparently ‘good’, or for the opposite. Everything that’s happening right now contains a message about what we ourselves need to work on, acknowledge, rectify or improve.
This is the three rules of emuna, that Rav Arush set down so clearly in his books, namely:
I’ve noticed a lot of people have a problem with that first rule. What, God’s behind the Palestinians, behind World War II, behind everyone’s problems and suffering?!?
That’s the first rule of emuna, and it’s the first principle of faith codified by the Rambam. God did, does and will do everything.
Without that starting point, we will spend many long years barking up the wrong tree and blaming everyone and everything for things that actually all boil back down to our own relationship with God.
Who kicked the people out of Netiv Avot?
Who is sending incendiary kites, and rockets, over the Gaza border?
Who is ultimately behind all the injustice and ‘bad’ in the world?
To think otherwise makes us a xtian who believes that the devil has equal or even greater powers than Hashem, and is somehow operating ‘above’ God’s explicit control, God forbid.
That’s heresy! That’s anti-emuna!
That’s the opposite of what it means to be a believing Jew, a believing human being.
Ein od milvado.
So the first stage is to work on acquiring this level of emuna, and that by itself is a lifetime’s work.
But then, there’s the next stage, that everything that’s happening to us is somehow ‘good’. Again, how can this be? How can a holocaust be ‘good’, how can losing a child be ‘good’, how can being made homeless, or getting sick, or having your field all burned up by a Palestinian kite be ‘good’?
Again, the answer boils down to whether you accept that we are here to work on our souls, and to rectify things spiritually (which is the Jewish understanding of things) or whether you think God owes you a great life in the here and now and that this world is really where it’s all at (which is the Greek / xtian view of things.)
Once, a man who was suffering from terrible pains in his teeth and body came to see Rebbe Nachman. He’d been suffering awfully for years, and couldn’t take it anymore. The Rebbe told him: Even with all the pain you are suffering right now, just one singe in gehinnom is so much worse!
We are in this world to pay down our spiritual debts, and to fix the things we broke, and to develop our souls by clinging to God in the midst of all our difficulties.
We are not here to lead an easy life.
Again, when I first read these ideas, I was really angry and upset about them, and didn’t want to accept their validity. It goes against everything a Western (xtian…atheist…materialist) person is taught to believe about the purpose and point of life.
Drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die!
Jews don’t hold by that. Jews believe ‘do mitzvahs, learn Torah, do kindnesses for others and be happy with your lot, because tomorrow we die and that’s when the real joy and enjoyment and bliss starts.’
And the main mitzvah we have to do is to learn some emuna, and to understand that ein od milvado, there is only God, and God is good, and none of our suffering is stam, random.
Which brings us to the third rule of emuna: what’s the message, or lesson?
For as long as we refuse to see God’s hand in our lives, and for as long as we’re blaming other people, and we’re angry at other people, we can’t figure out the real response to this question, and we will look to superficial external reasons like our skirts not being long enough, or our kashrut not being strict enough.
Of course, tznius and kosher are important, that’s not what I’m saying. But I’m saying the real work to do down here is our middot, our personality traits, our way of looking at the world, and interacting with other people.
If we are keeping basic mitzvahs like kosher, taharat mishpacha, tznius and Shabbat, then the first place we need to look for the ‘message’ is in our middot.
God wants good middot, not just the longest skirt
I spent years agonizing over my skirts until I realized that God was far more upset with my harsh judgment of other people, and my anger issues, and my problems with hatred and jealousy and feeling sorry for myself.
I have no idea why other people have to go through what they go through. But I can tell you that I’ve had to go through what I’m going through because I have a lot of bad middot that really needed addressing, and the suffering I’ve experienced broke my arrogance and forced me to turn to Hashem for comfort and support.
That is really the only solution to all of the problems, be it forced evictions, Gazan rockets, terrible illnesses, or heartbreaking divorce proceedings.
I don’t believe any of this suffering – mine or other people’s - is stam, or that it’s unfair. I believe God is behind everything that’s happening to all of us.
And because I’m trying to believe that, I know that God will help me to figure out the real lesson I need to take away from everything that’s happening to me, and that sooner or later, it will all turn around for the good.
This is really, really hard work to do, in practice. But what’s the alternative?
A few years’ ago, we had a regular charity collector who’d come to our door (in an increasingly aggressive way), and spend half an hour bitterly telling us how he used to be a very rich man, but had lost all his money.
The first six times, I felt so sorry for him, and gave generously. But then, as the months went by and he continued with his bitter, angry rants on my doorstep, I started to dread his visits. I started to reduce the amount I was giving him, I started to pretend I wasn’t home when he came knocking.
It really taught me a big lesson about trying to accept my suffering with emuna, because no-one wants to listen to a never-ending stream of complaints, judgment calls, anger and bitterness, however ‘justified’ it might be.
We just need to take our complaints and our suffering back to God.
And that’s the whole point.
Ephraim Geltman is a good friend of my co-writer on One in a Generation. He publicly 'came out' as a Rav Berland supporter on Facebook a few months back, and he got hit with an absolutely enormous tsunami of sinat chinam and evil speech.
But Ephraim is a very brave, and very sincere individual, and recently, Ephraim sent this video along plugging the book on his Youtube channel, which I'm happy to share with you.
While we're here, let's do a mitzvah: Does anyone know someone who would be a good match for Ephraim, marriage-wise? He's located in Israel, works in the holistic health field, and is into Breslov. If you can think of someone suitable, please drop me a line HERE.
When my dad was here a few weeks ago, we got into a bit of an argument sparked off by an ‘internet personality’ rabbi who happens to be a baal teshuva, and who has made a name for himself by having a go at anything and anyone in the Jewish world that he doesn’t agree with.
This ‘rabbi’ has crossed so many lines, halachically, in his personal attacks on others, and in his attacks on many different branches of Judaism, and particularly chassidut, that are clearly coming from a place of complete ignorance.
Rather than have a bit of humility and admit he doesn’t know everything about yiddishkeit, he prefers to spout off long screeds full of sinat chinam and lashon hara, and to try to sow strife and to turn Jew against Jew – and then whenever he’s challenged on what’s he’s said, he claims to have been misunderstood, misrepresented, or taken out of context.
But that’s a lie.
What he’s saying is very clear.
It’s a typical gaslighting technique to tell other people they didn’t really hear what they heard, or that they didn’t understand something in the right way, when they obviously did, and sadly, this ‘rabbi’ is an expert gaslighter.
So now, my dear dad decided to email this ‘rabbi’ directly with the following question, and here’s how he responded (I’m blanking out the name, to avoid unnecessary machloket while still addressing the fundamental point and problem):
THE EMAIL MY DAD SENT:
Shalom aleichem Rabbi [NAME].
Hope you are fully recovered from your journey.
Could you please clarify the following. I told my daughter and son in law that according to you from your lectures that the Breslav worship "AvodaZara" and is a cult religion.
They dispute that it is not true. They want to know on what basis and proof do you draw your conclusions. Can you please name Gedolim who support your opinion.
Toda rabba vekol tuv
THE EMAIL THE ‘RABBI’ SENT BACK:
Their main speaker today (the most popular) rabbi shalom harsh says in his searches that you can't connect to HaShem without connecting first to rabbi Nachman, and he is the only one that can connect you to HaShem.
Without him nothing will help you not your teshuva not your learning torah nothing only rabbi Nachman can save you.
Similar to J.c in Christianity
If this is not a Voda Zara what is??
My dad sent this email to me, to see what I thought, and so this is what I think. First, this is what I sent back to my dad:
MY EMAIL TO MY DAD:
Thanks for this Dad.
You asked Rabbi [NAME] for Gedolim who support his opinion, and he just gave you more of his opinion. Who are the Gedolim who agree with him? Surely if it's that clear cut, there must be some big names that agree with him that he can quote in support. Can you please go back and ask him for other Gedolim who are saying this?
Also, see this explanation by Rav Ofer Erez of the whole idea of hitkashrut to the tzaddikim, which is explicitly explained by the Arizal as a good thing, (amongst other very big rabbis).
Rabbi [NAME] is sadly not a very knowledgeable person, which is why he attacks a lot of what he doesn't understand about the deeper aspects of yiddishkeit. Xtians got the idea of binding to the tzaddik from Judaism, and we need to reclaim it. The same thing happened with the idea of moshiach - the xtians 'took' that idea and then Jews shunned it for centuries. But really, it's the basis of OUR religion and the geula, and we need to understand the concepts properly, in their original Jewish context.
MY DAD IS GOING TO BE WAITING FOR THOSE TORAH SOURCES AND NAMES OF GEDOLIM A REALLY LONG TIME...
Let’s be clear, Rabbi [NAME] is not going to come back with any names of Gedolim who support his opinion, because Gedolim actually know the deeper aspects of the Torah, and understand what’s going on here, and why.
If you watch Rav Ofer’s clip (it’s only 2 mins or so, and it has English subtitles) he explains that the Arizal brings down in his book Shaarei HaKavanot that we should formally bind ourselves to the tzaddikim three times a day.
All the big kabbalists are binding themselves to the true tzaddikim, including Rebbe Nachman, three times a day.
Does this make them ‘xtians’, or idol-worshipers?
Rav Ofer also explains that the Rahash – who is considered to be the ‘Shulchan Aruch’ in terms of kabbalistic practices and kavanot, and is universally accepted as the last word in these matters, states that the halacha is to bind ourselves three times a day to the Tzaddikim.
He also explains that the Ben Ish Hai (not a Breslover, last I checked….) stated that all the words of the Arizal should be considered as though they were said by the Divine presence itself.
So Rabbi [NAME] is basically arguing against the Arizal, the Rahash, the Ben Ish Hai and all the Jewish people’s leading kabbalists.
For sure, he doesn’t even know that, because as I told my dad, Rabbi [NAME] has made a big reputation for himself online by attacking other Jews. Sometimes, we applaud his attacks and think ‘good, someone had to say that!!’ when it comes to the more clear-cut subjects. And then we think that he must be coming from a good place…
As Rabbi Nachman explains in his tale of The Cripple, ‘the talkers’ at the end of days are the ones who go around taking each other out with all their vituperative attacks on other Jews, and this is what paves the way for Moshiach to come.
Rabbi Nachman makes clear that the only people who talk negatively like this, with a shameless disregard for halacha and Torah law, are actually powered by demonic forces who are working night and day to prevent the Moshiach from coming.
When someone has a taste for lashon hara, and for sinat chinam, and for seeing their fellow Jew with an evil eye, and for trying to stoke conflict between Jews, they are always on the look-out for fresh ‘controversies’ that are easy to ignite. And Breslev is an easy target, especially for ignorant and arrogant people who think they know everything, when clearly, they really don’t.
For sure, Rabbi [NAME] has zero interest in really learning the deeper Jewish sources behind the practice of binding to the true Tzaddikim. For sure, he’s going to either try to evade the issue by ignoring my dad’s email completely, or coming back with more of his ‘opinion’ as opposed to any solid Jewish sources or Gedolim who actually support his position.
And this is how these fake, ‘rockstar’ rabbis manage to fool so many Jews that they are the real deal, while all the time they are leading them further away from Hashem and causing huge problems for the Jewish people.
Again, to make this point crystal clear: when a rabbi is ‘fake’, they don’t refer to Gedolim who agree with their controversial positions (because the Gedolim don’t…) and they don’t have a real grasp of halacha, which is why they fall back on their own over-sized personalities and superficial arguments that sound correct to the uneducated masses, but really aren’t.
(Can you imagine what sort of trouble this 'rabbi' could be sparking off between me and my dad right now with his comments, if I hadn't spent years researching how these people operate?)
Let the world of lies fall soon!
And in the meantime, give fakers like Rabbi [NAME] a wide berth. God makes it very clear that He can’t dwell with an arrogant person, and if God isn’t the one who’s powering all of these ‘conversations’ and blog posts and ‘Torah’ lessons, you know who else has stepped into the vacuum to provide the script.
UPDATE: Here's a small selection of the literally hundreds of quotes and stories out there from leading rabbis and rebbes of the last 200 years, Ashkenazi and Sephardi, Chassidic and Litvak, who had only the highest praise for Rebbe Nachman and Breslov chassidut.
Were all these enormous tzaddikim wrong, or somehow didn't understand that Breslov was meant to be some idol-worshiping cult? Was Rav Ovadia Yosef z'tl, the undisputed halachic authority of our generation, somehow misled, when he appeared with Rav Berland in public on two seperate occasions, that Rav Berland was really worshipping idols?
I mean, seriously? We're expected to take the opinion of the slander-spreading, strife-mongering Rabbi [NAME] (who I checked out very thoroughly now, and guess what? He doesn't even have smicha! He's a self-appointed 'rabbi' who spent a few years reading some gemara in Monsey and now he thinks he knows everything) - over the words of some of the biggest sages that ever lived?!
How can anyone with even half a brain cell begin to suggest such a thing? Oy, what a lowly generation we live in. Here are the quotes:
Rabbi Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz, author of "Chazon Ish" called Rebbe Nachman: "The light of lights of truth..." Rav Ben Tzion Apter said that here and there the Chazon Ish would speak to him about the strength and greatness of Rebbe Nachman and each time would say "tell over a teaching of the Rebbe."
Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Alter, the Admor from Ger, after finishing up the Seder on Pesach eve would learn from Likutey Moharan. Rabbi Aharon of Belz: "The level of this book (Likutey Moharan) is indeed very great...Breslover Chassidim are sincere Jews."
Rabbi Yitchak Gelbach was a student of the great Rav Elchonon Wasserman (a student of the Chofetz Chaim) and said that Rav Elchonon used to push his students to draw close to Rebbe Nachman of Breslov.
Rabbi Elya Lopian on Rebbe Nachman's books: "These are real books of ethics."
Rabbi Eliyahu Klatzkin of Lublin: "Any praise you praise Rebbe Nachman with is just the tip (of his full praise) because Rebbe Nachman’s level of wisdom is very high and limitless."
Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler, author of "Michtav M'Eliyahu", quotes from Rebbe Nachman in his books. In a letter to his children, he encouraged them to learn Breslov works in order to merit fear of Heaven.
Rabbi Eliezer Shulevitz, Rosh Yeshiva of Lomza: "Whoever is searching out the truth, eventually reaches Breslov".
Rabbi David Widenfeld, the Gaon of Tschebin: "Rebbe Nachman was the most brilliant of the Rebbe's".
The Admor, author of "Tzemach Tzedek": "By my father (Rabbi Chaim of Kosov, author of "Torat Chaim") the book Likutey Moharan never left the table."
Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz, Rosh Yeshiva of Mir: "Through (learning) Likutey Moharan, the mind is opened." He also said "We work on trying to solve problems (in scripture) and they (Breslover Chassidim) work constantly on 'fear Hashem and love Him all your days.'"
Rabbi Elazar Shapiro of Munkatch, author of "Minchat Elazar": "When the whole world begins to be concerned with and learn 'Sipurey Ma'asiot' (Rebbe Nachman's Stories) - Mashiach will come." He requested that "Hishtapchut HaNefesh (Outpouring of the soul)" be constantly printed.
Rabbi Chaim Meir Hager of Viznitz, author of "Imrei Chaim", said that the book, Likutey Moharan, never left his table. Additionally, he said "this book (Sipurey Ma'asiot) belongs to the Kabbalah."
Rabbi Yehuda Leib, the Sfat Emet, on his death bed requested that 'Sippurey Ma'asiot' be read to him. He then said that the last story hints at the Geulah.
Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum of Satmar: "Rebbe Nachman saw in a vision all the problems this generation would encounter with faith...these days, one cannot be strenghted if not by these books because in them you find real faith." He also said: "You cannot be sincerely Jewish without learning the books of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov." & "The author of Likutey Moharan was completely pure and therefore existed by him the concept of 'and Yosef's brothers were jealous of him'." & "We can see that Rebbe Nachman has more holy presence (resting on him) than other Tzaddikim." Once on Shabbat, he said: " Who can strenghten us?! Rebbe Nachman can strengthen us in such a situation!"
Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak, the Chozeh of Lublin: "Rebbe Nachman is the great light...a holy man...miracle worker of the generation." About Likutey Moharan: "Likutey Moharan speaks for itself...the words are true and straight. They don't need approval from anyone else."
Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky, the Steipler Gaon: "This book (Likutey Moharan) stirs me to fear of Heaven. And, I see that if there is a day that I don't learn this book, I feel lacking in Heavenly fear."
Rabbi Yitzchak Meir of Ger, author of "Chidushei HaRim", took 'Sippurey Ma'asiot' and studied it until he got to the story of 'The Seven Beggars', when he said "until this point, I understood something. From here on - I don't know anything anymore."
Rabbi Yisrael Abuchatzera: "The praised Tzaddikim will take out the Shechina from exile." The 'Baba Sali' also said that his son, Rabbi Meir Abuchatzera, appeared to him in a dream and said to his father: "all the Tzaddikim, here in Heaven, go to hear lessons from Rebbe Nachman."
Rabbi Meir Abuchatzera regularly had books of Rebbe Nachman on his desk. One time he gave his daughter 'Likutey Etzot' (Advice) and said: "Whenever you need advice with anything, look in this book."
Rabbi Tzvi Aryeh Malik, student of the great Maggid: "I investigated him and I did not find any (reason for) disagreement...according to my findings, we all have to be embarassed before him . To say "and he is wiser than all men" is not even the whole praise to say about him."
Rabbi Shalom Moskowitz of Shatz: "Every word which Rebbe Nachman uttered is the deepest of the deep...full of wisdom, ethics, wonderful and awesome advice for a person to fulfill his purpose in the world."
Rabbi Shlomo Mazvil told over that his saintly father came to him in a dream and said to him: "In the upper world, when a Breslover Chassid arrives - there is a huge uproar. They are very viewed with great importance..." He requested that his granddaughter be matched up with a Breslover Chassid.
See more here: http://www.breslev-midot.com/eng/hillulat_moharahn_2005.asp
When troubles strike, there’s a tendency – that we all have – to believe we don’t really deserve our fate, our circumstances, our troubles. That’s human nature, but it’s really not very helpful, because as long as we’re sitting there feeling like we don’t really deserve what’s going on, we are stuck in victim mode.
And victim mode is awful, for so many reasons, including the following:
But the point is this: feeling like a helpless victim keeps you stuck in a really bad place, makes you act in some very negative ways, and tends to ruin your life.
So then, what’s the answer? How do we get out of victim mode, while still accepting that objectively we’re going through some rough stuff, some tough times?
I learnt the answer to this from Rav Berland. A while back, I read a shiur of his where he was explaining that you can deal with anything, you can cope with anything, if you accept that on some level you definitely deserve it.
Again, the Rav has been through so much suffering, he’s talking from first-hand experience. As long as we think some mistake has been made, that it’s not fair, that what we’re experiencing is an enormous injustice, it’s so hard to stand up in the test.
As soon as we put our hands up and say “I’m guilty. I deserve this 100%. God is completely righteous, and it’s my own sins that are causing me these problems” strangely, things start to lighten up and you start to see a real light at the end of the tunnel.
I’ve been trying to work on this the last few weeks, as my whole apartment debacle has been unfolding. For as long as I felt it was undeserved, unjust, unfair, I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, and I was consumed by bad middot including anger, hatred and vengeance.
But at the beginning of last week, God had some mercy on me and reminded me about the Rav’s teaching, so I started trying to apply it.
“God, I’m not 100% sure why I deserve this, but I’m prepared to say that I’m certainly guilty of something that has led to this situation developing. I’d really like to get through this stage as fast as possible, so please show me what I need to make teshuva on, so things can start to improve and move forward.”
As soon as I said “I’m guilty” I started to feel better.
Then, the next part of the work unfolded: what bad middot, what bad behavior of mine has contributed to this mess? Because for sure, God isn’t just sending it stam to make my life miserable. There has to be something I’m doing that’s causing the problem, and once I figure out what it is, things will start to improve.
Again, this is the opposite from staying in angry, helpless victim mode and blaming everyone else for the problem. As soon as I started to take some spiritual responsibility for what is going on, I started feeling way more optimistic that this is all going to turn out for the good somehow.
Because God never punishes. He just educates.
So, I got back a few things, like the ‘yiyeh beseder’ tendency to let important details slide; and a certain greediness that convinced me that we’d be able to register the apartment properly, and easily legalise it’s illegal second storey, which would double its value over night; and a kind of false emuna that I could take impractical risks, and God would just always make it work out, because hey, I believe in miracles!
None of these things are hanging offences, it’s true, but as I noted in the last post, the huge financial disaster that developed was built on lots of people’s very minor character flaws.
The same thing happened when 10 teens died in the desert a few weeks’ ago. The same thing happens when families get ripped apart at the seams and plunged into the agony that is divorce. The same things happen when buildings go up in smoke because of bad cladding, or when poorly-engineered bridges collapse, or when drivers fall asleep at the wheel and then cause a huge accident.
Small flaws often add up to big consequences. God wants us to understand that, to acknowledge that, and to stop making excuses and justifying our bad behavior.
So to put this another way, I’m feeling so much happier, Baruch Hashem, merely as a function of putting my hand up, and saying “guilty as charged”. Sure, I could blame the lawyer, the estate agent, the bank, my husband.
But to do that would completely miss the point. God sent me these circumstances because He wants to me acknowledge my own part in how this mess got made. And as soon as I do that, the chaos will start to recede, the optimism will start to return, the din will start to lesson – and the good times will start to roll again very, very soon.
I just got back from a whirlwind trip to Uman over shabbat, and I’m so pleased I went. Last week, I was literally starting to feel like I was disintegrating, there was so much din in the air.
After Uman, I’ve got some energy and some clarity back, and I feel more like a human being again. Not that Uman was ‘easy’ – it’s never that, but it’s always worthwhile, as Rabbenu has a way of bringing things up to the surface that need acknowledging and resolving.
We took a red-eye to get there before Shabbat on Friday, so I fell asleep shortly after we checked in – and had one of the nastiest nightmares I’ve had in ages. I started dreaming the whole room was smoking and on fire, which meant I started screaming my head off – and my poor husband had to shake me awake.
This is maybe what happens when you’ve been watching Youtube videos of lava in Hawaii spurting 100s of feet into the sky. And that ‘event’ so isn’t finished yet, by any means. It’s probably only just beginning.
I went to the Kever, did some Tikkun Haklalis and prayed for various people, then got back to my strangely quiet hotel when I noticed something interesting: half the guests were deaf, and had come together as part of a group of deaf women from Israel.
So instead of shrieking, ululating and very loud statements of kappara aliy and chaim sheli, there was a lot of hand gestures and soft grunting noises going on in the lobby.
The women came from across the religious spectrum, and they were clearly having a whale of a time. Those deaf people ‘talk’ in a much more real way, these days, than most of the rest of us. They look into each other’s faces, they just don’t barge in with ‘clever comments’ (because no-one can hear them anyway) and they wait patiently for their turn to speak. I was extremely impressed.
Then came the Friday night meal, and another glorious sight: 50 deaf women wordlessly ‘singing’ Shalom Aleichem together in sign language. It was beautiful.
So, we ate, bentched, then went back to bed exhausted – and I had yet another bad dream.
This time, I was in Jerusalem trying to get Shabbat ready, when there was a flash flood and my car suddenly got swept out of the car park and down some hill towards the Al Aqsa mosque. I was standing there holding a salmon in my hands, unsure what to do next.
Again, I woke up in a bit of a panic – I mean, salmon is pretty expensive. I calmed down, gathered my wits about me, and realized that the toilet in the hotel room was running, and figured that might have contributed something to my dream. Then I got changed and headed off to the Kever.
I had some big insights there, even though I was so tired, spiritually and physically, I could barely open my mouth to pray. Sometimes, you just have to sit quietly and receive the information you’re being sent, and internalize the insights you’re being given as a free gift.
So that’s what I tried to do.
We had one other couple at our table, who clearly weren’t (yet…) married. The guy was a new baal teshuva, and he was trying to persuade his girlfriend of the deeper and more spiritual aspects of life.
At the next table sat a Chassidic family, be-strymelled and be-cloaked, straight out of Meah Shearim. Then there was the deaf community, and around another 10 families or groups of various sizes and appearance.
And that is really the magic, the miracle of Rebbe Nachman. That so many people from such different backgrounds can come together, and focus on what unites them, instead of what superficially divides them.
You only get that sort of tremendous unity, or achdut, going on by Rabbenu, although sometimes you can also find it by other big inclusive tzaddikim like the Rashbi in Meron, and Rav Berland.
I’ve noticed that so many of the people who are ‘anti’ Rebbe Nachman, and ‘anti’ Breslov are also the ones that cause so much strife and dissent amongst the Jewish people. They are the ones who spend an awful lot of time dissing and criticizing ‘the other’, and looking for other people’s flaws and defects to harp on and magnify.
No-one is interested in that stuff by Rabbenu, quite the opposite. In Uman, you get a small taste of the beauty that’s hidden in every Jewish soul, however ‘weird’ or different they may look from the outside. Including yours.
After someone has been to Uman, and seen how fervently all the blonde-haired ‘secular’ ladies in tight jeans and tattoos pray; or how the be-wigged anguished mother breaks into tears by the tomb; or how there is good and bad mixed up in every single one of us, the trouble-makers have to work so much harder to try to convince you that ‘the other’ is so bad, and so dangerous, and so different.
Maybe, that’s why the haters can’t stand Breslov and the real tzaddikim.
We got the red eye back to Israel, and I had my nightmare scenario on the plane: sat next to the fattest woman in the world, stuck in the middle seat while she blocked the aisle (and the toilet…). She promptly fell asleep, which means she spread over half my seat and I started to feel more than a little claustrophobic.
(My husband wanted a window seat, to make it easier to sleep. I acquiesced, as he’d let me go for the aisle on the flight in. I spent the next three hours fighting back the urge to wake him up as ‘punishment’.)
So, I’m exhausted. Every time I dropped off, the fat lady managed to flop an arm the size of a tree trunk onto my leg. She’d half wake up, fold it back over her three stomachs, then fall asleep and drop it back on me again. Like, 10 times a minute.
As I said, Uman always brings out what’s simmering underneath, so I realized a few things:
So, there’s a lot of work to be done before I’m all fixed up and ready to accept the Torah.
And only a week of the Omer to go!
So either Hashem has to cut me some slack here, or it’s going to be another wild week.
If you haven't had a look already, I just reviewed Rav Ofer Erez's newest book in English, From the Depths, over on the Jewish Book Review blog HERE.
That book helped me to come through the most difficult time in my life, a few years' back, and it's highly, highly recommended. It's not a long read, it's not complicated, it's written very simply, but it contains a bunch of deep information, so kindly given over, that will explain why sometimes our suffering is just something we have to go through for our spiritual tikkun, and not necessarily because there is something to 'fix' in this lifetime.
The 'fix' in those situations is to know that God still loves us, and that our suffering is being caused by unfinished business from a past life, and to maintain our emuna in His goodness and justness.
Often, so much easier said than done, especially when the carpet gets whipped out from under our feet.
So, check out my review HERE, the pop over to HERE to go buy the book.
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