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!
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.