The last few days there’s been so much din, or judgment in the air it’s been pretty hard to think straight. There has been so much going on this week ‘behind the scenes’.
As usual, the path to ‘redemption’ is proving to be anything but smooth, and we’ve been having some ongoing and completely unexpected issues with trying to finalise the purchase of our house. Without some serious help from Hashem, things could get very complicated, very quickly on that front.
I guess we’ll find out what will be.
In the meantime, I’m not worrying about it, because on Wednesday I found out that someone I was close to in university had actually passed away a little while back at the age of 48. One day they just didn’t wake up.
So steady jobs and house ownership is all well and good, and I’m not at all knocking them. But they still pale into comparison to good health, staying happily married and actually being alive, and baruch Hashem, on that last score I’m doing OK, so really, what is there to complain about?
It’s a very useful perspective to cultivate, as the world is continuing to go even more bonkers.
If it’s isn’t the weather - crazy floods in Australia and Santa Barbara, crazy snow in the Eastern seaboard and the UK, 5 inch hail in Alabama and South Africa, bolts of lightning coming out of clear blue sky that’s ‘randomly’ killing a whole bunch of people across the African continent, to name but a few - then it’s crazy dictators with nuclear weapons and no obvious brakes on their appetite for destruction.
Syria is still seeing hundreds if not thousands of civilians being killed and dispossessed every week, even as the official ‘ceasefire’ creaks along.
The world’s financial markets are rocking around like a dingy in the middle of a hurricane, as Trump is going into ‘protectionist’ mode in the US. (Say what you will, but as a President of the US, he is actually doing what’s in the best interests of that country.)
The Arabs have started stabbing people, and running people down, and shooting people up again both in Israel and now France. The dreaded ‘peace plan’ is due to be unveiled soon, and that always brings a huge uptick in Arab violence, because God just uses them to put a spoke in the wheel of the West’s ‘best intentions’ for Israel.
But the strangest thing of all, at least to me, is all this weird stuff with the poisoning of a former Russian double-agent, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter Yulia, in the UK.
I was speaking to a London-based relative of mine with slightly paranoid tendencies who told me there’s this new website called ‘The Blast Zone’ that’s all the rage, because it tells you how fast you’ll be toast if the UK gets nuked. If my relative is at work, he’ll get incinerated immediately if they bomb London. If he’s at home in the suburbs, then it’ll take him three days to die from radiation poisoning.
I had to ask him: Why are you even looking at all that stuff? Who in the world is talking about nuking London, that this is even on your radar?
He told me: Kim Il Jong or Putin.
Apparently, the war of words with Moscow is getting so abrasive, at least a few people in the UK have pinged back into full ‘cold war’ mode, when worrying about getting nuked is what everyone did before breakfast.
But in 2018, is that really on the cards?
So, I started to dig around a bit with this Skripal stuff, and some very interesting things emerged, like the links between Skripal and Christopher Steele and Pablo Miller. These last two are ex-British secret service men who were apparently hired by the Clinton Foundation to pull together the ‘Russian Dossier’ on Trump.
I guess that Dossier was meant to lead to Trump being impeached, and then ‘sanity’ returning to American politics, but looks like God had other plans and now, the tables are starting to be turned all over the place and trails are starting to be followed back to some highly inconvenient places.
Rebbe Nachman told us very clearly that ‘the talkers’ would take each other out in the lead up to Moshiach being revealed in the world, and it looks to me like this Russian spy saga is another part of that process. Because if Putin wanted the Skripals dead, they’d be properly dead, and there would be no ‘obvious’ clues leading back to the Kremlin.
Russia is for sure bumping people off all the time - and so is America, and so is France, and so is Britain, and so is Israel, and so is every other government you care to name. Murdering ‘undesirables’ has been the name of the game for a very long time, Commandment Number 6 notwithstanding.
And they’ve all got so good at it, that they can pass all sorts of assassinations off as untraceable ‘accidents’ and ‘illnesses’ these days. So what on earth is going on here? Europe and the UK seem to be making a huge fuss over something that really doesn’t seem to justify it, given the way the world has been working for years.
When another Russian ex-spy, Andrei Litvinenko, was obviously poisoned to death in the UK a few years’ back, no-one raised an eyebrow. When a number of other Russian ex-spies and oligarchs all got mysteriously run-down, or ‘committed suicide’ in the UK, no-one uttered a peep.
So the official British protests over the Skripals are extremely strange.
My view is that God is getting the Brits and the Europeans to pick a fight with the Russians as part of the process of the ‘talkers’ outing each other’s skeletons. For once, Russia isn’t behind this high-profile poisoning. But my best guess is that Putin will now be highly motivated to find out who was, and to publicise that information all across the world.
And then, things will start to get really interesting.
Ah, Moshiach, who is going to be sane enough to really greet you, when you do actually finally show up? Things are moving so fast, and are potentially so stressful in a million different ways, my brain has kind of shut down and gone into hibernation.
This is the famous holy apathy that Rav Ofer Erez taught is the only way to get through this last, final stage before Moshiach actually comes. Because really, if we took all this stuff seriously, we’d all just have a nervous breakdown and then no-one would be able to make seder.
But serious it still apparently is. So, as I don’t pop pills or smoke joints to deal with my anxiety, I guess I better schedule in some more long hours talking to God and maybe, visiting some Kivrei Tzaddikim.
Because the world is getting crazier by the moment, and I still have to make Pesach.
A few days’ back, I had four nights in a row of extremely intense dreams. This happens sometimes. I can go for months and months without dreaming anything much, and then have a bevy of whopping, big meaningful dreams one after another.
The first dream was a really awful nightmare about the force of evil being maintained in the world by thoughtless people who really had no idea what they were messing with, or what bad things they were unleashing as a result.
Thank God, I don’t get dreams that disturbing very often, but when they come, around once a year, I walk around panic-stricken and shaken for at least a day afterwards. And then there were two more internal, but still intense dreams. And then on the last day, I dreamt the whole country was being flooded by an enormous tsunami.
The weird thing about that tsunami is that while it was towering over me five stories tall, I actually didn’t get wet. It passed me by somehow, and went and flooded everything else.
It wasn’t a bad dream, like that other nightmare, but I felt I was getting some clue I had to go and research more, not least because when I was walking around Tel Aviv getting soaked to the skin a couple of months’ ago, I saw a really strange municipality sign affixed in a couple of locations.
Report from Hamodia: YERUSHALAYIM -Israel is not considered a high-risk country for tsunamis, but the Tel Aviv Municipality and Israel Police on Thursday decided that signs warning of the possibility of a giant wave hitting Israel’s coast were necessary anyway. The new signs warn that Tel Aviv beaches are a “tsunami hazard zone,” with the warning listed in English, Hebrew and Arabic. However, instructions on what to do are listed only in Hebrew and Arabic.
It was a brand new, blue and white ‘tsunami warning’ sign, which told the good citizens of Tel Aviv which direction they should run away in, should the city be hit by a tsunami.
That sign struck me as so very weird, because as far as I can tell, Tel Aviv has never, ever come even close to experiencing a tsunami. And if it did, running away a few metres up the road isn’t going to help anyone, much.
So I sat down, googled ‘tsunami’ - and I realized it was the seven day anniversary of when that massive tsunami hit the Fukishima nuclear reactor in Japan. Hmm. Maybe that was the tsunami vibe I’d picked up? Tsunami past, not tsunami present?
I googled a bit more, and I came across some videos by MrMMB333, who has been a gentle but obsessive observer of freak weather for a few years’ now. In contrast to so many of the ‘Prophets of Nibiru’ on the internet, he’s never made any big claims, never set any dates in stone, generally never even said the word ‘Nibiru’, or anything like that.
All he does is collate information from a number of satellite feeds, and other people who are also measuring strange things like huge spikes in UV readings across the North American continent, and he shares that info with his viewers with mild comments about things being ‘mighty strange’.
He had a whole bunch of recent things up on his site about what he calls ‘water anomalies’, namely strange shoreline phenomena that is seeing parts of the coast all over the world being strangely inundated with water, while other parts of the coast are being strangely exposed, and the sea water has somehow ‘disappeared’.
For example, parts of Europe and the UK got hit with Storm Emma a couple of weeks’ ago, and in the wake of that storm, an old Roman aqueduct that had been submerged for centuries suddenly appeared off the coast of Spain. How? Somehow, all the water in that area receded - permanently - and it revealed a ‘new’ stretch of coast including this ancient aqueduct.
Then weirder still, Storm Emma headed up the west coast of the British Isles, on the Irish side of the country, and on the east coast of Britain, facing France, a new massive stretch of coastline suddenly appeared, containing a massive forest of ‘7000 year old’ (sic) tree stumps.
Again, what’s strange about this is that these new/ old stretches of coast seem to have been permanently acquired. Something fundamental is shifting the earth’s oceans around and gently, gently, starting to re-draw the map of the world.
WHEN MOSHIACH COMES THE WORLD IS GOING TO CHANGE RADICALLY
For months, the messages I’ve been getting in my hitbodedut sessions is that the world is going to change, radically, but also (relatively…) very slowly and gently this time around. There will be no massive and instantaneous wrenching of the earth’s mantle without warning. Things will happen in due course, the world will probably experience a new ‘Matan Torah’ type event at some early stage of the open geula process.
But Moshiach will be revealed by then, and telling people to ‘bring in their cattle’, or to move country, or whatever it is they need to do to stay safe. This is how it happened in Egypt. Moshe the redeemer showed up, was believed by some of the people, not believed in by many of the others, things started to get pretty strange, weather-wise - and the whole test was whether to believe Moshe was ‘in control’ of events, as the prophet of Hashem, or whether it was all just comet-induced freak weather.
That’s why the sorcerers only grudgingly acknowledged that the ‘finger of God’ was somehow involved from the third plague onwards. But even by the plague of hail, many Egyptians were still denying Hashem’s kingship of the world, and refused to heed Moshe’s warning to ‘bring in their cattle’ when that plague struck.
HOW DID DATAN AND AVIRAM MAKE IT OUT OF EGYPT?
A few weeks’ ago, my husband asked Rav Ofer Erez why Datan and Aviram made it out of Egypt, and didn’t die in the plague of darkness with the other 4/5 of Am Yisrael? I mean, they were pretty ucky, yucky people, and they were behind so many of Moshe’s problems right from the start, with their evil speech, criticism, heresy and trouble-making.
Rav Ofer said there were two explanations:
1) That Datan and Aviram were actually enormous souls. He told my husband there’s a midrash that says they actually didn’t leave with the rest of the Israelite camp, because they thought they were only going out for three days, and then returning to Egypt, so they couldn’t be bothered coming along for that.
It’s only when the Egyptians realized that the Jews were going for good and set off in pursuit that Datan and Aviram grabbed their things, and tried to catch up with them. The midrash says an amazing thing: the sea split again, just for these two evil-doers.
They had so much potential in their souls, but they used it all for bad. So that’s one explanation, Datan and Aviram were not ‘standard’ evil-doers and potentially extremely lofty souls.
2) Another explanation is that the Jews that died in the plague of darkness died for a specific reason, and not necessarily because they were ‘bad’. And the specific reason given by the deeper Jewish sources is that they didn’t believe in the Tzaddik’s ability to redeem them.
Clearly, some ‘bad’ people made it out of Egypt - Datan and Aviram, Korach, the Erev Rav etc etc. Clearly, being ‘good’ wasn’t the measure of who made it out.
Believing in the Tzaddik was.
As it was then, so it may well be today.
After that tsunami dream, I did some serious hitbodedut about it, trying to figure out the message, at least for me. I got a picture in my head of a massive Rav Berland holding back the waves, and all these half-dead people who’d been buried in the sand kind of levitating up out the ground and floating after him.
To me, the message was clear. There is some sort of tsunami coming, whatever that actually means, that will overwhelm the world. But if you’re following after the Tzaddik - whoever that ultimately turns out to be - you’ll be ok, you’ll stay dry.
And if not?
I shudder to think.
This is another oldie, but goody, from a couple of years' ago.
The birth of Moshiach
We’re all so used to all the ‘birthpangs of Moshiach’ imagery that’s been tossed around for decades already, that I think many of us have forgotten what a birth is actually like.
Births are messy - blood, poop and I-don’t-know-what other gross things flying around the place.
They’re incredibly stressful - until the very last second when the baby pops out, everyone has a worry that it might not get there, God forbid, or that something could go wrong to harm the baby, or the mother.
They’re long, drawn out processes with a lot of stopping and starting - “I’m in labour!” - no, it’s just Braxton Hicks. “The contractions have started!” They’ve stopped again. “I’ve been having painful contractions for three weeks, already, I MUST be more than ½ cm dilated by now!!” etc etc
By the time the mother is ready to have the baby, she can’t move, can’t sleep, can’t really eat without getting terrible heartburn is and heartily SICK of the whole thing already - and that’s before the kid even makes it out into the real world.
Why am I telling you this?
Because I think a lot of us have a false image of what’s going to be going on in the world when Moshiach finally shows up. We think he’s going to call a press conference to announce he’s Moshiach, have a bunch of angels show up to coronate him, and then start riding around Jerusalem on his white donkey doing the ‘regal wave’ thing and magically disappearing all the problem people in our midst.
It’s not going to be like that at all. Moshiach is going to enter the world exhausted, after a long, difficult, messy and painful birth process where he’s been covered with every type of spiritual filth and cack you can imagine.
Remember, King David, the forbear of the Moshiach, was incorrectly considered to be a mamzer by his father and brothers for many long years, which is why he was sent out to tend the flocks and go and fight off lions and bears at just three years’ old.
Yishai was hoping something would eat him, and get rid of that ‘embarrassing’ family issue.
Remember, Tamar, the forbear of the Moshiach, was incorrectly accused of acting like harlot, when she got pregnant by Yehuda in a ‘libum’ arrangement to perpetuate her dead husband’s spiritual legacy (she had twins because she had two dead husbands to perpetuate, by that point.)
Can you imagine what Channel 2 would be saying about these people today?
“Chief Rabbi’s daughter admits to being a prostitute!!!!!!!”
“Rabbi Faker-so-so says: “This woman MUST face justice, and be burnt alive!!!”
“David’s own father shuns him: ‘The man is a MAMZER, and should be eaten by a lion!!!”
“EXCLUSIVE: David’s brothers admit: He forced the Prophet Shmuel to crown him at gunpoint!!!
We’re scared for our lives!!!”
And so on, and so forth.
And then, all the armchair commentators would be having a field day.
“How can this man be KING when he’s clearly committed so many war crimes?”
“Yet another cover up by the religious establishment. King Amalek would NEVER have acted like this…”
“I can’t believe they let Tamar off the hook. She’s guilty as charged! Look at how she acted! If she wasn’t guilty, then why didn’t she just SAY THAT in court? I can’t believe these people.”
The Zohar curses anyone that views the Torah as ‘history’ with terrible curses. The Torah is a blueprint for living that’s as relevant for us today, in 2016, as it was 3,000 years’ ago.
So bearing that in mind, let me ask you something:
Who's side would you have been on?
When the Egyptian establishment shoved Yosef HaTzaddik in prison for 12 years on the trumped-up charges of Potifar and his wife, who’s side would you have been on? I mean, Yosef went to prison!!!! For 12 years!!!! It doesn’t get more clear-cut than that, does it?
Or, when Moshe Rabbenu got shoved down a well in Midian for 12 years, who’s side would you have been on? I mean, he’s a wanted criminal in Egypt, a dangerous fugitive who killed an innocent man!!!!
Or, when Yaacov Avinu ran away from Laban, and then got chased down by him and all his men, who’s side would you have been on? I mean, WHY WAS HE RUNNING AWAY, if he hadn’t done anything wrong???? Why didn’t he stay in the country, with his wealth and his wives, if he wasn’t guilty of doing all the things that Laban was claiming????
What would Channel 2 (funded by the Rasha Corp, Inc) have to say about all these ‘so-called’ holy people? What headlines would Arutz Sheva and the JPost be posting up? What comments would all the ‘experts’ reading about Yosef HaTzaddik from their armchairs in Eretz Yisrael be saying about him? What juicy quotes would they be squeezing out of the wicked Esav, about how terrible his brother Yaacov really was?
“Yes, he did exactly the same thing to me before he left - and that’s also why he ran away!” Esav would tell Channel 2, in an exclusive interview. “He stole my blessings! No one can trust him!”
And then, they’d wheel in one of Esav’s wives (with her face blurred and identify disguised) to pile on the ignominy.
People, the creation is renewed every day! King Shlomo told us there is nothing new under the sun.
Each of our biggest Tzaddikim was covered with spiritual filth, lies, controversy and scandal. It’s always been that way, and until Moshiach comes, it will continue to be that way. In case you’re still unsure, here’s a few more ‘big’ Tzaddikim, many of whom were pegged as being the potential ‘Moshiach’ of their generation, and who were persecuted by the authorities of their time, and vilified by their fellow Jews, including even ‘religious’ people:
Other tzaddikim who ran away and / or were wanted or punished by the authorities
The Rashbi - Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai - who ran away from the Roman police and sat in a cave learning Torah for 12/13 years.
Rabbi Eliezer HaGadol - who was wrongly excommunicated by the Sanhedrin until a day before his death.
The Baal Shem Tov - excommunicated and vilified by even some of the biggest rabbis of his day.
The Baal HaTanya - Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad chassidim, who was persecuted and repeatedly slandered to the secular authorities (including by so-called ‘frum’ Jews…), resulting in him being chased all over the country, and spending time in prison.
Rebbe Nachman of Breslev - Another huge Chassidic master, the Shpola Zeide, took against Rebbe Nachman and started a slanderous campaign against him, that began so much of the controversy against him.
Even his own uncle, another Chassidic Master Rabbi Baruch of Medzhiboz, opposed Rebbe Nachman for a time. (Can you imagine the juicy quotes Channel 2 would have tried to get out of him?)
Rabbi Natan Sternhartz - who took over from Rebbe Nachman, and who suffered the most terrible persecution, including being falsely accused of all sorts of things, and spending period of time in exile and imprisoned by the secular authorities.
And who was behind this libelous, slanderous and even murderous campaign? (Because at one point, they dispatched a murderer to kill Rav Natan, but the man killed the wrong ‘Rav Natan’ and his family instead?) - RABBIS! And not just any rabbis, the most influential chassidic rabbis of their time, including the Savraner Rebbe.
History is simply repeating itself.
If you don’t know what happened before, you won’t know how to pass the test this time around.
Again, the main point is that our biggest Tzaddikim have always been slandered, persecuted and chased by the evil people in our midst. That’s just how it is.
But how embarrassing, if you get up to Shemayim and they show you all the times you pinged on that horrible libel about Yosef HaTzaddik…or all the times you rushed to judgment against the ‘dangerous fugitive’ Moshe Rabbenu…or all the times when you could have stood up and defended King David, but instead you put the boot in, instead.
We read that stuff now, and OF COURSE we see how holy our Tzaddikim actually were, and how misguided (at best…) the people were who were persecuting them and slandering them.
But that’s the test.
Moshiach is not going to be ‘elected’ like a president. Redemption is a birth process. It’s messy, filthy, stressful, confused and incredibly taxing, spiritually. There are people who are literally trying to kill our holy people, just like they’ve been doing all down history.
Do you REALLY want to be a partner in their activities? Do you really want to end up where Korach ended up, or where Potifar’s wife got to, or even Absalom, King David’s son, who ended up in the lowest pit of Gehinnom?
So take a breath, and try to put the modern events unfolding right now in their proper, historical and spiritual context. As a people, we’ve been down this path before - many times - and always made the same mistake. If we really want Moshiach to happen, this time we need to really see what’s going on - all the lies and forgeries and slander that’s happening - and to pick the right side.
It was on my list to re-post this next anyway, and as usual it's perfect timing...
A crash-course in the laws of Lashon Hara
It’s known that the Chofetz Chaim believed that lashon hara, or evil speech, was the main cause of our long, bitter exile. The Chofetz Chaim stated on more than one occasion that as soon as the sin of lashon hara was fixed, the exile would end and the Moshiach would come.
Rav Chaim Dovid Stern stated that ‘Rav Berland is the last test before Moshiach.’
What does this test involve? Lashon hara, in all its many, soul-destroying forms!
How do we pass this test? By not engaging in any of the forms of evil speech that destroyed our Second Temple, and are keeping us in exile. Sadly, most of us don’t seem to realize how much of what we’re saying and doing, especially online, is directly contravening the laws of lashon hara in the worst ways.
So to fix that, I’ve put together this crash-course in Lashon Hara, based on the practical halachas contained in the book: Purity of Speech.
Basic background to Lashon Hara (evil speech)
Every time a person engages in Lashon Hara, they can transgress 17 negative and 14 positive mitzvot.
The Torah tells us we shouldn’t ‘peddle’ gossip to other people by passing on ‘juicy’ information - even when it’s true!
And that we also shouldn’t accept, or cause other people to accept, false reports.
These are mitzvot d’orayta, straight from the Torah.
THE DEFINITION OF LASHON HARA:
Lashon Hara is when someone speaks evilly about, or believes someone else’s evil report about another Jew. Specifically, the evil speech about another Jew does one of the following things:
AGAIN, THESE RULES APPLY EVEN WHEN THE INFORMATION IS TRUE. WHEN THE INFORMATION IS FALSE AND LIBELLOUS, THEN THE TRANSGRESSION IS MANY, MANY TIMES GREATER. AND WHEN THE PERSON BEING SPOKEN ABOUT IS A HOLY RABBI, THE SIN IS COMPOUNDED.
Many people think that if they’re just writing something on the internet, that’s not Lashon Hara.
This is completely untrue.
It’s just as forbidden to write negative information as it is to say it.
Also, if you write something anonymously, that still doesn’t get you off the hook. God knows exactly who you are, and you’re still accountable for what you wrote about another person, and any damage you might have done as a result.
Even if the information you’re passing along is well-known and already in the public domain, it’s still forbidden to talk about it.
RECHILUS, OR CAUSING HATRED TOWARDS A FELLOW JEW
There’s another category of Lashon Hara, or evil speech, that’s called Rechilus, which involves causing other people to hate another Jew.
THE DEFINITION OF RECHILUS IS:
Anything you say or write which causes people to start hating another Jew.
If what you’re saying / writing / passing along is going to cause someone else to have ill-feelings towards a particular Jew, or group of Jews, then that is rechilut, another very serious form of evil speech.
Even if you agree with the information, it’s still forbidden to repeat it.
HOW YOU FIX THE SINS OF TALKING LASHON HARA / RECHILUT
To make Teshuva for the sin of TALKING evilly about another Jew, you have to do the following:
If you don’t do these four things, you didn’t fix your sin, spiritually.
WHEN IS IT PERMISSIBLE TO TALK NEGATIVELY ABOUT A FELLOW JEW?
There are some, rare, instances when it’s not only permitted to talk negatively about a fellow Jew, but you are required to do so. (Before you jump off using this as a heter, please go and talk to a Rav who knows the detailed laws required. This is just a basic guide.)
You can degrade someone if:
Even if they meet these criteria, you can only talk negatively about them if the following 5 conditions are met:
BELIEVING LASHON HARA
This is where it gets even more interesting, because in some ways BELIEVING lashon hara is even more problematic than speaking it. To give a common example, believing that story in the Jpost or on Arutz Sheva is just as big a sin as if you actually wrote it yourself.
It’s forbidden to:
THIS APPLIES EVEN IF THE INFORMATION IS TRUE, AND IF THE 5 CONDITIONS FOR GIVING OVER INFORMATION FOR A POSITIVE OUTCOME HAVE NOT BEEN MET. WHEN THE INFORMATION IS FALSE, THE GRAVITY OF THE SIN OF BELIEVING IT IS COMPOUNDED MANY TIMES OVER
The only times it’s OK to listen to lashon hara is when:
SOMEONE IS ONLY CONSIDERED TO BE A ‘TRUSTWORTHY’ PERSON IN THESE CIRCUMSTANCES IF:
And even when all these very difficult criteria are met, halacha still expects us to judge the person being spoken about favorably, especially if they’re a holy person.
A last, important, point to note is that it’s still forbidden to believe evil speech, even if it was repeated to you by a respected person, such as your rabbi, for example.
If all the conditions of passing information along l’toelet, for a positive purpose, as described above, have not been met by the ‘respected person’, then they are still transgressing the laws of lashon hara - and if you believe them and listen to them, and worse, pass the information on to others, than you are too.
HOW YOU FIX THE SIN OF BELIEVING LASHON HARA
To make Teshuva for the sin of BELIEVING evil things about another Jew, you have to do the following:
IF YOU ALSO PASSED THE INFORMATION ON TO OTHER PEOPLE, THEN A FIFTH STEP IS ALSO REQUIRED:
NB: The Chofetz Chaim describes a ‘baal rechilut’, one who repeats negative information about their fellow Jew, as a rasha, (evil person), because of the number of sins they transgress by speaking lashon hara.
[I had a pic of Rav Berland as the sandek at Rav Kook of Tiveria's bris here, but suddenly got nervous that I don't actually know who took it, and I don't want to get sued for thousands of shekels again, so I decided to remove it for now.]
PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS OF THESE LAWS TO THE SUBJECT OF DISCUSSING RAV BERLAND
And you need to make some serious teshuva, including contacting Rav Berland to apologise to him.
THE GROWTH IN THE THROAT
In case anyone thinks this stuff is being exaggerated, and it’s not such a big deal because ‘everyone’ is doing it, a man went to Rav Chaim Kanievsky a couple of years’ ago because the doctors told him he had a cancerous growth in his throat.
Rav Kanievsky told him that the growth had occurred because he’d spoken badly about Rav Berland. The man got on a plane to Morocco, where the Rav was then staying, to go and apologise in person to him, for what he’d said.
I’ve heard many other similar stories being reported to - where the person involved is now publicizing what they did, and what happened to them as a form of teshvua - so please, be VERY careful when discussing Rav Berland.
The honest position for most people is:
Remember, Rav Berland is the last test before Moshiach. And avoiding lashon hara and rechilut, as set out above, is the way we’re all going to pass it.
One in a Generation: Rabbi Eliezer Berland is coming out on March 1, 2018, BH. We are working on getting a few hundred copies printed in Israel, which we'll be able to sell for much less than the print-on-demand arrangement we currently have on Amazon, so stay tuned. You can also get it as Kindle on Amazon for $3.99, again from March 1.
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!