Gosh, so much is going on at the moment, isn't it? It really feels like the world is gearing up for another plunge into madness....Or not. Because there's been so many ups and downs over the last few years, who knows what's really going on.
In the meantime, I received the following long question from David, where he asked a lot of pertinent things which require a response. So here it is!
The first thing to say is that I’m also very pleased that finally a grown-up discussion is occurring around the whole subject of Rav Berland, so thank you, David, for asking your questions in a respectful way.
I’ll do my best to answer them.
The first point to make is that there is an ocean of difference between the coverage of Rav Berland in America and abroad, and the coverage here. While there are also no shortage of Hebrew-language sites spreading false coverage, lies and anti-religious propaganda in Israel, the main difference is that there are also a growing number of sites and people who are telling the other side of the story.
In English, almost no-one is covering the other side of the story, both due to limitations with understanding Hebrew, and also because of other, more sinister reasons. So let’s see what we can do to try to put as many of the facts on the table, in English, as we can.
Your question is very wide-ranging, so I’m going to break it up into chunks, and respond to each point as we go along.
1) The ‘unfortunate videos’
There are two types of ‘unfortunate videos’ that I think you’re referring to. One type are the forged videos of the Rav ‘confessing’ to things he never did (see the clip below) which were laughably passed off as genuine, and played all over secular news sites in Israel.
There may well be other forged videos of this type too. These videos are being put together by the 4-5 men associated with Breslov chassidut in Meah Shearim, who have been behind the whole slanderous campaign against Rav Berland right from the start.
They have started up their own website - ‘breslevemet’ - and they have been feeding the media and the Israeli authorities fake information and forged videos, ‘confessions’ and manufactured accusations for years.
UPDATE: I wrote this before I got sent the latest ‘forged videos’ put out by this bunch of crazy people, where they are posing as students of the Rav trying to ‘crown him’ as Moshiach on Thursday. The idea is to then go around all the batei din with this new ‘evidence’ to get the Rav and his students excommunicated (again!) for being ‘a false messiah and his followers’.
Again, this is really just proving the point about the sort of calculating duplicity that’s going on with these videos. (Click this image to go through to my blog post where you can play the actual video itself).
Then, there are is the genuine video footage of Rav Berland touching a woman’s throat, and on a separate occasion praying next to a woman while holding her hand. Again, Rav Berland’s persecutors put this footage out, together with all the lurid headlines and awful stories being associated with them.
So let’s look at each video in turn.
The woman who was videod with the Rav touching her throat is called Klara Hammer, and if you go HERE you can see a first-hand interview with her (if seeing women in videos isn’t a problem for you) where she very clearly explains that she went to Rav Berland after doing 7 rounds of chemo for life-threatening throat cancer.
The doctors had given up on her, but she went to the Rav as her last hope to save her life three years’ ago- and today she’s healthy!
There is a clear inyan halachically that a blessing can sometimes only take effect when the person being healed is touched in some way. This is clearly what the Rav is doing. If a person has a problem with the Rav touching a woman in public like this - when he’s clearly being video-taped, and when it’s outside, and when he’s surrounded by tens of people - then the obvious question to ask is how else was he meant to have tried to convey his healing blessing, if he could see that touching Klara Hammer’s throat was the only way it was going to take effect?
Would it have been better to do it indoors, not video-taped, away from where other people were standing around? Surely that would be far more problematic, for a number of reasons? But it would have avoided the Rav being criticized and pilloried for touching a woman.
That Klara Hammer’s throat cancer disappeared after getting a blessing from Rav Berland is an indisputable fact. (see video below).
THE WOMAN WHO LOST HER MIND
The second video doing the rounds shows Rav Berland holding the hand of a woman who’s had her face blurred out, while praying.
Why is this woman’s face blurred? Because otherwise, the viewer would be able to see that this woman was clearly demented and severely mentally-ill.
The back-story behind this video is that this woman literally lost her mind, went into severe psychosis, and her family brought her to the Rav for a blessing. The Rav was holding her hand while praying for her, presumably to reassure her, the same way you’d hold the hand of a frightened small child.
Again, after this occurred, the woman in question recovered her sanity and went back to lead a normal life.
So again, should the Rav have tried to dealt with this woman away from everyone else, in a closed room, with no video camera?
CASTING ASPERSIONS AGAINST TZADDIKIM
The people who are persecuting the Rav have an agenda to present him in a certain, extremely negative, light, and to turn everything into propaganda against him and his community.
It’s akin to someone taking against the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, z’tl, and sending stories out to secular news sites about how a big rabbi has been ‘caught’ giving money to young women in his home, and talking to all sorts of women he’s not married to, God forbid.
If you didn’t understand what was really going on in 770, if you hadn’t witnessed with your own eyes the tremendous miracles that were occurring there, and how so many people came back to Yiddishkeit as a result of their personal interaction with the Rebbe, that would sound really, really bad and not at all how’d you expect a ‘kosher’ Jew to behave.
The same sort of thing is going on here.
2) Is it out of place to question these things?
Absolutely not! If we see things we don’t understand, or that trouble us, we absolutely MUST discuss them and seek to gain clarity. To do otherwise is to give an opening to the many charlatans and unsavory characters out there who otherwise would play on our naivete.
But we need to be very careful about how we do this, and everything must be done according to halacha and especially the rules of lashon hara.
Tomorrow, I will re-post my ‘crash course on lashon hara’, BH, that covers the main points to be aware of.
The first thing to understand is that without FIRST-HAND EVIDENCE, i.e. things that you have witnessed yourself, heard with your own ears, seen with your own eyes, it’s absolutely forbidden to pass rumors off as fact to other people, and especially in a public forum.
In this case, the people persecuting the Rav have made up endless slanders and lies, used false names and false personas, paid people to make false claims against the Rav, forged videos of him ‘confessing’ to things he never did - and so many people gullibly swallowed it all whole, because why would someone lie about things like this?!
These gullible people then went around telling everyone ‘facts’ that were actually based on complete falsehoods, worked themselves up into self-righteous rages about things that never occurred, and condemned the Rav for things he never did.
The persecutors and the media then publicised all these statements as further ‘evidence’ to show that the Rav was indeed guilty of what they’d accused him of - and it’s all circular and all based on lashon hara.
So tread very carefully, keep asking God to show you what’s true and what isn’t and stick to the rules governing avoiding evil speech as stringently as you can.
But do ask respectful questions.
That’s the authentic Jewish way.
3) I read a lot in your blog that a lot of the haters have conspired and brought to Beth din many falsehoods. Would that include the Israeli court system? Would you posit that all of that - has been a charade and none of the testimonies nor his own TV interviews carry any weight?
So here, we come to a very fraught, sensitive topic, that is also for the most part completely lost on people who don’t live in Israel themselves.
Many of the Jews who don’t live in Israel have a rosy, unrealistic picture of how the State of Israel comports itself. It’s always the ‘good guy’, always in the right, always acting morally - and when it comes to fighting Arabs, there’s a lot of truth to this view.
But when it comes to fighting a Torah-true lifestyle, religious Jews and what the secular elites in this country call ‘religious coercion’, the State of Israel and the Israeli authorities fight very dirty.
I go into this in much more detail in Volume II of One in a Generation, but here are the basic facts:
THE TV INTERVIEWS
So, the clip of the Rav ‘confessing’ in court has been explained as something he had to do under duress, in order to effectively save his life and receive appropriate medical care. The forged clip of the Rav ‘confessing’ you can see is a complete (and very poorly executed!) fabrication put out by his persecutors within Breslov and publicized by the media.
What about his TV interview with Israeli journalist Amnon Levy, where he apparently confessed again?
Rav Eliyahu Succot was with Rav Berland throughout the 4 hour long interview with Amnon Levy. He stated very clearly that the footage was manipulated by Levy and his studio to have the Rav saying he had done something, when what he really said is that he HADN’T done anything.
Again, see THIS for more details of this particularly grimy example of immoral journalism.
Why would the completely secular Amnon Levy do something like that?
You’ll have to ask him. There’s a lot of journalists with biases and agendas these days, and the truth is always the first casualty of their need to try and brainwash the world into seeing things exactly the same way they do.
Without exception, all the false testimonies can be traced back to the same 4-5 people who are ‘anti’ the Rav within Breslov Meah Shearim - all men! These men persuaded some women to lodge false complaints, posed as women themselves on Facebook etc to make allegations, and basically made up story after story - in collusion with a number of journalists - that everyone knew to be completely fake, right from the start.
4) As an innocent bystander who would like to hear from the Rav, is it not expected that I should believe his own words that he himself says in the interviews? Would you expect from the audience otherwise? Would he expect from the audience otherwise?
This has been a very hard test for Am Yisrael.
The Rav was under serious threat of being re-imprisoned for months if he came out with any public statement explaining what had really happened, or protesting his innocence directly.
He may still be under threat from the courts, I don’t know. What I can tell you is that the Rav’s lawyers asked me to take things down from Emunaroma that they felt could harm the Rav vis-à-vis the authorities, and that I also received requests from other rabbis to not publicise their statements openly supporting the Rav, for fear of reprisals.
Under those circumstances, it’s very understandable why so many people, even upstanding, God-fearing people, have stumbled in this test.
But BH, now the time is hopefully right to address this terrible miscarriage of justice, and to put the spotlight back on the real guilty parties.
And in the middle of all this, it’s the small guys who just want to know the real truth, and who really just want to see justice being done who will end up making the most difference to what actually happens next.
Rav Berland’s case is a catalyst for huge, and hopefully hugely positive, changes to start occurring in the frum Jewish world, and elsewhere.
And answering your respectfully-posed questions here on Emunaroma is part of that process.
So thanks, David!
I've been going through my blog archives, and there's some really good stuff in there that I think would be good to re-post, so over the next few weeks, you may see some 'old' articles that I'm recycling, usually because they deal with things that are still relevant today.
Like most of the people reading this, the first time I heard about the Erev Rav in any ‘real’ way was from the autistics.
The more I read the autistics, the more I started suspecting other people of ‘being’ Erev Rav. Initially, it answered so many questions, cleaned up so many problems! I mean, the only reason that a Jew would or could act in such a horrible, disgusting way could only be because they must be Erev Rav….
Like many others, the Erev Rav quickly became a kind of obsession by me. And when I get obsessed with things, I research them as much as I can, and I try to bottom them out as much as possible. So, I threw myself into reading anything I could about the Erev Rav, including a document called ‘The Modern Erev Rav’, which brings together a lot of the sources about the Erev Rav in English.
By the time I’d finished going through that document, I had a very clear understanding of what sorts of things the Erev Rav did, and that the Vilna Gaon, amongst others, was telling me that I should cut them out of my life and avoid them as much as possible.
So over the next few years, that’s what I tried to do. (This was when I wrote that series on the Erev Rav over on www.breslev.co.il.)
As a result, I lost so many friends, stopped speaking to so many close family members, and even started suspecting my husband of being an Erev Rav (! - if you ever met the guy, you’ll understand just how crazy that particular statement is…) And then, I came to the ultimately disturbing conclusion that I myself must also be an ‘unfixable’ Erev Rav, because I also spoke lashon hara (sometimes…) and made trouble between people (sometimes…) and was obsessed with making a name for myself (sometimes…)
It’s axiomatic that when you follow God’s laws, and really try to give God what He wants, you see brachas and blessings from doing that. Dear reader, all I got from cutting all the supposed ‘Erev Rav’ people out of my life was heaping doses of heartache, misery and suffering.
Today, we are ALL 'Erev Rav' people
The more I tried to run away from ‘Erev Rav’ people, as the Vilna Gaon’s students suggested, the more I came to realize that in 2017, we are ALL Erev Rav people.
At the same time as this was going on, I realized that the secular world was also noticing the negative character traits associated with the Erev Rav, particularly the traits of lack of compassion and empathy for others and rigid thinking, and defining them as the basis of personality disorders, especially Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).
According to modern psychiatry, most of these personality disorders, but especially NPD, can’t be fixed. The person with NPD will stay permanently broken, egotistical and nasty. Again, I spent years and years going through all the literature on personality disorders, and measuring it up against my own experiences of difficult people, and it dovetails amazingly with all the ‘Erev Rav’ stuff.
Except, I came to the same problem with that stuff, too: I started to notice that I MYSELF sometimes acted like I had NDP, (especially after I went through the worst year of my life, when I got hit with so many traumatic experiences that my capacity to feel compassion or empathy for anyone else pretty much completely disappeared.)
Trauma is what makes people act like narcissists
Which is when the turning point happened, and I realized that TRAUMA is what makes people act like narcissicists, etc, and what makes people act like Erev Rav, etc.
So then, I started researching trauma, and C-PTSD obsessively, and again it was a perfect ‘fit’ for what I was seeing around me and experiencing in myself, and it convinced me once and for all that just as personality disorders CAN be overcome, so can Erev Rav traits.
Then, I started looking for proof from authentic Jewish sources that this was the case, and I hit the jackpot with various teachings from Rav Berland and Rebbe Nachman himself, a lot of which I bring down in the book Unlocking the Secret of the Erev Rav.
Jews don't believe in bad people, only bad actions
So, here’s where we currently stand:
It’s not a Jewish idea to call someone ‘bad’, anymore than it’s a Jewish idea to call someone ‘Erev Rav’. Xtians go in for that sort of global, meaningless ‘good and bad’ people rubbish.
By contrast, Jews talk about good and bad DEEDS, good and bad TRAITS, but we don’t give people labels like good and bad, because we understand that is something that only God is qualified to do, at the end of a person’s life, when all their merits and sins are weighed up together in the Heavenly court.
In that sense, the Erev Rav is a completely false paradigm. Who can claim to be qualified to call someone an ‘Erev Rav’ and to assume that person can never make teshuva and will be permanently consigned to an eternity in Gehinnom?!
People with pronounced ‘Erev Rav’ traits aren’t just left-wing politicians or corrupt journalists, you know. If we’re honest, then we’ll admit that each and every one of us know people, are related to people, talk to people EVERY SINGLE DAY that fit at least some of the criteria set out by RASHBI and the Vilna Gaon (amongst others) for the Erev Rav.
We’re not just talking about Shimon Peres here, we’re talking about your ‘Erev Rav’ mum, and your ‘Erev Rav’ kid, and your ‘Erev Rav’ spouse. Do you really want all these people to be permanently consigned to destruction and Gehinnom?
Lacking compassion for others is a key 'Erev Rav' trait
And if the answer is ‘yes’, then there’s an enormous irony here, because only people who have a severe lack of compassion and empathy for other people (which remember, is one of the key traits of the ‘Erev Rav’ as identified by our Sages…) would willingly go around accusing others of being ‘Erev Rav’, with all that entails.
That’s why the authentic Jewish approach is to talk about EREV RAV BEHAVIOUR, and not EREV RAV PEOPLE.
It’s a crucial, massive distinction.
Because people can always stop behaving like Erev Rav, but they can’t stop being Erev Rav.
God loves everyone
God is full of kindness and compassion for His creations. Does it really sound realistic to you that this kind, merciful Creator would create a category of person that can never, ever make teshuva, no matter what effort they make to improve, no matter how much suffering they go through?
Does that sound ‘right’ to you?
God can do anything!
We saw in the Torah so many times - including in this week’s parshat Korach - that God was going to destroy the Jewish people because of their disgusting behaviour, but didn’t because the Tzaddik of the generation, Moshe Rabbenu, prayed for them.
Which brings me to my last point for today (although I will be returning to this subject again and again, until we all start to really get what I’m going on about here):
If we really want all the horrible ‘Erev Rav’ type traits and behavior that are definitely flowering all over the place in our modern world to really disappear, we need to pray for other people, and also for ourselves.
Again, asking God for help, and really believing in God’s mercy and compassion and willingness to help out, and really building a genuine, personal relationship with God is something that people with pronounced ‘Erev Rav’ tendencies find very difficult to do.
That’s one of the reason’s why hitbodedut, personal prayer, is the fastest and most effective way of neutralizing a person’s ‘Erev Rav’ tendencies, because it goes to the very heart of the problem, namely that ‘Erev Rav’ people don’t really believe in God in any real way, and certainly don’t believe that He’s compassionate, kind and good.
SO TO SUM UP:
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.
Over on Rav Ofer Erez's new English website, there's some very useful advice on the thorny subject of how we can actually judge others favorably in practice.
Rav Ofer helped me so, so much when I got stuck on seeing the bad in other people - and suffering a great deal from doing that - so I'm so pleased that his wisdom is finally making it out into the wider English-speaking world.
You can see his practical advice for how to actually do judging favorably, in practice (that I got stuck on for around five years....) here:
PS: Thanks so much to everyone for their kind words and support. Dear readers, you are the best! I'm so touched that my good news is also bringing a smile to your faces.
People, you are amazing.
One of Rebbe Nachman’s followers was once asked whether he could recount any of the open miracles that Rebbe Nachman was reputed to have done. He turned to his questioner and told him:
“Me! I’m the biggest miracle of all. You had no idea what Rabbenu did with me!”
I have to admit that when I first heard that, I wasn’t so impressed. I mean really? What’s the big deal that now someone started eating kosher, or even grew some impressive side-curls? Lots of people do those things without Breslov, so how was that meant to be a proof of Rabbenu’s
These days, I have a different view.
Around three years’ back, at the time when I was writing The Secret Diary of a Jewish Housewife, things seemed so very bleak. Me and my husband had been broken into a million pieces by everything we’d gone through, from the finances turning sour through to losing our home, through to having no-one to talk to - at all! - because we’d both turned into holier-than-thou martinets.
By God’s grace, we managed to hang on to our marriage, our kids and our sanity, but it was a very close call.
I look back at that awful, absolutely awful, time, and I wonder: How on earth did me and my family come through all that in one piece? And not only in one piece, with more equanimity and genuine simcha than we had before everything fell apart.
How did that happen?
Or more precisely, following the advice of Rabbenu, which includes talking to God for at least an hour every single day, knowing that everything that happens is 100% determined by Hashem and for our own good, and going to Uman every time you think you’re really going to crack up because you simply can’t take it anymore.
There’s other stuff in there too, like working on your bad middot, understanding that everyone, even the psychos, are just a mirror reflecting your own ‘uck’ back at you, and doing your darndest to have no despair in the world, even when really, you’re drowning in it.
All that stuff really, really helps.
But ultimately, it’s Rabbenu that got me through the last few years, and into a space where things are really starting to turn around, BH.
Yesterday, we signed on a house in Jerusalem.
We can’t move into it for another six months (long story…) so I have to go live somewhere else for a while, but who cares?
A home of my own in Jerusalem!
I had really given up on owning a house of my own anywhere, let alone the holiest city in the world. Let alone, one of the holiest neighborhoods. Let alone, a place where you can literally see Har HaBayit out your window if your apartment faces in the right direction. (Mine doesn’t).
But who cares?!
My husband sighed a big sigh today, and told me he couldn’t believe how far we’ve come the last three years, what miracles God has done for us.
There’s a mitzvah to publicise the nes¸ so let me end with this: Two days ago, after two months solid of wrangling with our seller, it really looked like our house was going to fall through. Her horrible lawyer wanted to put a clause in the contract that no person in their right mind would ever agree to, as it basically amounted to underwriting a blank cheque.
We’d given in on every other matter, so our hopes weren’t high that our seller and her horrible lawyer would back down, and for once, we simply couldn’t be the ones to compromise.
We really needed a miracle for things to move.
Luckily, we live in Musrara, so my husband nipped over to Rav Berland’s shteibel and amazingly managed to get near enough to his podium to ask him what to do, and whether to continue.
“Continue!” the Rav told him.
Although frankly, we couldn’t see how that was really possible.
The next day, all by herself, the seller came around and pulled the impossible-to-agree-to clause so we could actually close the deal.
We got the house.
But the biggest miracle is still me.
Baruch Hashem, I've had so little blow-back from all this stuff so far I think it counts as open miracle. Either that, or a lot more people are starting to wake up and to realize that they are being told a whole bunch of lies by a whole bunch of people across a whole bunch of subjects - and this is just one more of them.
I've had a few more questions asking for clarification, so here are my responses:
I just saw a psak din, signed by 4 people. They sat as a beis din, they are big talmidei chachomon, know choshen mishpat well, and know how to investigate stories and take testimony, and see if the testimony is reliable. These people have no personal axe to grind.
What most people don't know about the controversy surrounding Rav Berland is that is has been whipped about by a small group of extremely disturbed individuals within Breslov chassidut itself.
These people have been trying to get Rav Berland and his community 'ex-communicated' for many, many years already, and they have played the leading and main role in fabricating all the allegations against him.
In terms of this latest 'beis din' scandal, Rav Berland's detractors within Breslov have done this on many, many occasions before.
Their usual modus operandi is to work in 3 main ways:
1) Find upright people who are ignorant of the true situation, tell them a bunch of lies about the Rav and his community (which sound very convincing coming out the mouths of apparent 'rabbis' from Meah Shearim) and get them to condemn this behavior.
2) And / or then add the signatories of people who are known to be 'anti' Rav Berland to this condemnation from 'objective third parties'
3) And / or then fraudulently add forged signatures from 'named' rabbis whose signature carries weight, either by straight out forging the signature (as has happened with R' Meir Shechter), and / or by fraudulently combining a previous statement that was signed on by 'big' rabbis with this new 'psak din'.
In this case, Rav Berland's opponents within the Breslov community in Meah Shearim used all three tactics - there was an old statement that was released when R Moshe Kramer was attacked by a creditor (who had nothing to do with Shuvu Banim) in Meah Shearim and had his shtriemel knocked off a few months back.
Many, many rabbis affixed their names to a public statement decrying this behavior. Rav Berland's opponents merely cut and paste their new 'psak beit din' together with these signatures, and then publicized it all over the place.
I hope this clears it up, and I'm very happy to answer more questions you may have, if I'm able to.
Do you know R. Berland, or was this based completely on research?
I have seen Rav Berland - from a distance - on a number of occasions now, but the bulk of the book was written before he returned to Israel, and was based solely on research and interviews.
Have you seen this website: breslevemet?
Ah, the infamous 'breslevemet' website.
Why infamous? Because this is one of the principle ways that Rav Berland's detractors use to get their horrible lies and slanders out there into the wider community, and lapped up by eager journalists who are only too keen to print something salacious, regardless of how absurd, outlandish or obviously fraudulent it is.
A careful reader of this website will see that the people behind the site make no bones about wanting Rav Berland dead, God forbid.
The site is full of lies, hatred, evil speech, forged 'psak din', forged videos, fake stories of big tzaddikim saying horrible things about Rav Berland... you name it.
This is the source of most of the lies - and it's so very slick and professional! You can see that the people who have devoted the best part of a decade to trying to take the Rav down, and to literally kill him, God forbid, are continuing to put a lot of time, effort and money into their endeavors.
Whenever any negative news 'surfaces' about Rav Berland in the more mainstream media, you can be sure that it will appear on this site first. And the journalists giving you their 'scoop' will never tell you that they are getting their slanderous, fraudulent stories from the same person, the same source every single time.
Above, you'll find a clip of the infamous 'rape confession' video that so many Israeli news sites rushed to serve up to their readers and viewers, along with the most lurid headlines imaginable.
Even today, so many people tell me things - that they are CERTAIN ABOUT!!!! 100%!!!! - based on this video.
But if you click this short clip, it will show you the 'forged' version that was concocted by the Rav's persecutors in Breslov, and the people who are behind 'breslevemet', and then it will show you the original clip, including what the Rav really said.
The Rav was convicted on the back of such patently false 'evidence' as this.
And 'breslevemet' if full of such forgeries and fakeries.
BH, if you reallly want to know the truth about Rav Berland, and what an enormous Tzaddik he truly is, read One in a Generation. You can get the book on Amazon HERE, and I'll let you know when it's also available via the Book Depository, if you want free delivery to Israel.
The truth will out, BH!
If you have a question about One in a Generation or about the scandalous persecution and incarceration of Rav Eliezer Berland, please email me, and I'll do my best to answer it if I can.
Someone did a search to find out who registered the 'breslevemet' domain. Does this name sound familar to anyone out there?:
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 so true that you sometimes only appreciate what you have when you don’t have it any more.
For three long years, I’ve been bewailing being stuck in my current apartment, the so-called ‘rented dump’ which was a third of the size of my old house in the village, and that has only one toilet.
And no bath.
That bath thing upset me so much the first two years because I have had some pronounced germ issues, and the thought of having to use the bath at the local mikvah was pretty challenging, to say the least.
Especially that (thankfully unique…) time when I got there and someone’s clipped toenails were still scattered around everywhere. I almost left… but couldn’t. I came home in such a bad mood, that this was my lot in life, having to bathe surrounded by someone else’s mouldy toenail clippings.
Uck uck uck.
So the bath was a sore point.
The one toilet was also a sore point, for similar reasons. In the West, it’s de rigeur to have a guest toilet for other people, and one you keep just for you. My germ issues loved this arrangement! To bits!
And then suddenly, there was one toilet for everyone: me, the rest of my family, my kids’ 15 girl-friends that would show up for Shabbos, my landlord, the charity collector who knocked on my door, the rare Shabbos guest.
Uck uck uck.
But after nearly four years of this, I have to report that most of my germ issues have reduced greatly, so there is a silver lining to that cloud.
But then, there were other issues like having just one working electric socket in every room. For three years, I had to literally wrap myself in electric cables to be able to print anything off, or to have a light on concurrent with my CD player.
We’d trail a cable across 20 metres of floor to plug in a radiator in during winter. And I’d trip over it every single time I walked around. That’s just how it is.
Then, there was neighbors’ insistence that I should sponga the outside stairs every two weeks, which I just couldn’t do. I have many talents, but housekeeping barely makes the list and sponga is completely off it.
The first time, it took me an hour, I soaked the bottom of my (long) skirt in bleach water, and I couldn’t figure out how to whisk all that water down the stairs and out the entrance fast enough to:
a) actually clean the stairs
b) prevent the dirty water from seeping under my downstairs neighbour’s door.
She came out with an extremely displeased expression on her face, and I could see this sponga thing was just not going to work.
So, I’ve always had one neighbor or other upset about the stairs - both on the rare occasions I tried to clean it, and the far more frequently occasions when I didn’t.
Then there’s the location. Musrara. So close to the Old City, Meah Shearim, Downtown - and the Rav.
So busy. So crazy. So intense. So lonely.
And yet now that it looks like I have to leave, at least for a few months, I’m starting to really appreciate what I truly have in my neighborhood. Even the crazies that have been driving me bonkers for three years.
People around here are alive, they’re real. And I have my place in the pantheon of neighborhood characters, I’m the crazy ‘English’ person that no-one can quite figure out.
They see me pop up at the Rav to read tehillim with my beach chair, then they see me wearing weird hats that no-one else within 5 miles of Meah Shearim would touch with a bargepool.
They hear me blasting out Gad Elbaz (occasionally….) and then hear my household blasting out Tyler Swift, and a few other things besides. I see the obvious confusion on their faces not infrequently, because whatever box they’ve got handy, they can’t quite fit my family into it.
So, we’re kind of famous around these parts, as the weird, semi-frum English family who are into the Rav but whose kids have blue hair.
Wherever we go next, we’ll be anonymous again.
So, the point of this post is that I’m understanding that because I didn’t appreciate my apartment, and because I also didn’t appreciate my neighborhood, at least for long swathes of time, I now have to leave, at least for a few months.
We’re still hoping to stay in Jerusalem, but nothing is coming up for rent remotely close to Musrara except places that are up four flights of stairs in the ‘gay’ area of town where you have to put your oven and fridge on the balcony as there’s no space for them in the kitchen.
And that’s too much of a stretch, even for me.
So dear reader, mea culpa for not appreciating my rented dump enough.
I learned my lesson, the hard way, the same way I always seem to learn my lesson.
But BH, that also means that hopefully when we return to Musrara in the Summer, I’ll have a renewed appreciation for this mad, crazy, intense and amazing neighborhood.
Where Breslov rebbes and crazy chilonim rub shoulders, where you see chassidim on motorbikes, payot flying, where your apparently ‘secular’ neighbor quotes passages of the Zohar by heart, and where every preconceived notion you ever had about life in Israel is challenged head-on.
I’ll miss you Musrara.
But BH, I’ll be back soon.