Today, I walked back from davening a little with Rav Berland’s minyan in Musrara to Baka, past the Liberty Bell Park, where the lamp-posts on all the main drags are festooned with rainbow flags.
My stomach lurched.
When Trump came, everything was stars and stripes. When the President of Guatemala came, everything was the Guatemalan flag. When four French Jews were killed in the Hyper Cache attack, everything was ‘Je suis Charlie’ and Tricolors.
Everything is a rainbow.
And my heart sank.
Who is the ‘guest of honour’, the Head of State who is being honored like this? It can only be the Samech Mem himself.
So I walked back pondering what’s the best way to show God I really do care about this enormous desecration of His name, and the truckload of tumah this is piling up on every street corner and inside every house. Because make no mistake, it’s already breached the walls.
My youngest has been having a running argument with her best friend about all this surrogacy stuff, because her friend thinks that gay men should be allowed to rent-a-womb to try to get round the simple fact that biology (and clearly, God) is not on their side.
My daughter’s friend comes from a very frum background, where both parents are in kiruv, so I was astounded. Maybe she’s just trying to hold ‘edgy’ views to upset her parents, I have no idea, but what I do know is that the tumah has already breached the walls.
In the UK, another friend was telling me how her 7 year old grand-daughter – who goes to a modern orthodox Jewish school – started asking her: “Grandma, what do you call that thing that’s not a man, or a woman?” My friend was stumped, so the kid explained. “You know, it’s between being a man and a woman…You can’t call them ‘he’ or ‘she’, so what do you call them?”
How on earth is a seven year old in an orthodox Jewish school even talking about this stuff?!
The tumah has already breached the walls.
MOST ORTHODOX JEWS DON'T UNDERSTAND WHAT THE REAL PROBLEM IS
A huge part of the problem is that most orthodox Jews simply have no idea about the spiritual dimension to spermatozoa; they don’t know that it contains billions of souls, and that the koach of those billions of souls are entrapped in the dark side – and literally used to fuel all the evil in the world – when men engage in intimate acts without the appropriate kedusha.
This also applies to single men, this also applies to licentious and adulterous men, this also applies to when men are with their wives while using contraception that hasn’t been rabbinically-sanctioned. Long story short, any time a man is doing something like this outside the bonds of marriage, where there is no possibility for creating a life, even just in theory, then all that ‘soul power’ is getting delivered straight up to the dark side.
That is why it’s such a problem, spiritually.
But a person can be ‘orthodox’ all their long lives, and never even have the first idea about this underlying spiritual reason why spilling seed is so very, very bad. So then they think ‘hey, no big deal! Let people live how they want! Let people be who they really are! Let them adopt, let them make babies in test-tubes, no big deal!’
But spiritually? It’s a massive deal. It’s mamash fuelling all the forces of evil in the world at the spiritual level.
And then, there’s the poor kids themselves that are raised in unnatural homes. Modern medicine has split bodies off from souls, so it has mostly no idea of just how many illnesses, physical and mental, results from unfinished business from parents and grandparents.
It’s hard enough raising healthy, emotionally-balanced children when you actually love the other half of their gene pool, and actually know who they are. But can you imagine finding out that your ‘dad’ was an anonymous sperm bank donor? Or some poor women who was ‘rented out’ for nine months to create you?
Do you know what torture to a person’s psyche this stuff actually causes?
A while back, I was talking to an older woman who confided that her parents had conceived her out of wedlock – they’d had a shotgun wedding a few months before she was born. This woman was well over 50 – and she was crying when she told me still feels so dirty, from how she was conceived.
I was so shocked that five decades on, this was still causing her so much pain.
But that completely pales next to the mental suffering and spiritual anguish all these poor kids being raised in unnatural families are going to have. And I think that’s what’s upsetting me the most, that these parents are so incredibly selfish to be deliberately bringing children into the world with so many emotional handicaps.
It’s all about doing what’s good for them, the parents, and nothing at all about doing what’s right for the kid.
This stuff is far deeper, far more fundamentally disturbing to a person than our modern society is anywhere near being able to accept or understand, stuck as they are in the ‘body-centric’ view of the world that discounts and dismisses the soul. But those kids are being condemned to a lifetime of massive emotional and spiritual angst and unhappiness.
So, the question returns: How do I show God that I really do care about the terrible things going on all around me?
What does God want from me, right now?
Here’s what I’ve come up with so far: Every time I see a rainbow flag, I’m asking God to help all these people to develop some yirah shemayim and make teshuva. I’ve also decided I have to stop listening to that one George Michael song I still love so much, and any other music by ‘rainbow’ people. Ditto for reading any books, opinion pieces or other output.
Because it’s impossible for these people to be coming from a good place, or to be having a positive impact on me, for as long as they are directly fuelling the forces of evil in the world.
Wherever possible, I’m going to vote with my feet and with my wallet, to avoid any of the companies and organisations who have come out publically in favor of all this stuff, including those companies that ‘proudly’ let their employees have a day off last week.
And then, there’s the whole ‘pride’ thing.
Pride = pride, or arrogance, and that’s something else I’m going to try my best to work on and take down in myself. That I shouldn’t think I’m better than others, that I shouldn’t unnecessarily hurt others, that I shouldn’t act like an angry, selfish, materialism-obsessed superficial pig, and I shouldn’t big myself up and big others down, because honor really only belongs to God.
And the last thing on the list is tznius. To try to pick it up a little again. I’m not sure how yet, but that’s the plan and we’ll see what God inspires me to do.
What more can I do? What more can I say?
I desperately want God’s honour to be restored in the world, and for people to stop acting like body-obsessed, selfish animals. That’s what I want, God.
But only God can really give it to me.
I know that received wisdom states that teenagers should be pressed into service, and should be tidying my house as well as their own rooms, but as usual chez moi it’s all backwards.
Yesterday, after weeks of watching my kids’ rooms descend into a maelstrom of mess and chaos that is really just reflective of what’s going on internally, I decided to grab the dustpan and brush, and enter the dragon’s lair.
The one room wasn’t so bad – a bit dusty, just a couple of old bowls of cereal, nothing too scary.
The second room, well, that was way more challenging.
In the space of an hour, I solved the mystery of where all the socks in the house had disappeared too, as well as all the deodorants. For the last five months, I usually have to go play ‘hunt the BO Basher’ because as soon as I buy one, it goes missing. Baruch Hashem, three of them were safely recovered and are now being reunited with their loved ones.
Then, there was the bags of mouldy clothes, which had been taken for a swim at the Lifta before the Three Weeks started, then donated to science, who used them to grow all sorts of weird strains of mould, some of which I’m sure will save a life someday.
In the meantime, the smell from opening the bag nearly knocked me out.
So, straight into the bin it went.
I discovered five toilet rolls under one bed (which also resolved that mystery, of why I can buy a new bag and three days later it’s already finished.)
I discovered stolen goods that had been the object of many an argument, with both sides claiming the other one had used it – and thus lost it – last.
I found two old, broken phones, one old, not quite-yet-broken computer, and four phone chargers, one of which may actually work.
I will spare you the details of the peach pits I found growing into the floor tiles, the old bottles of water that could probably half refill the Kinneret, and a few other things that were so gross they also just went straight into the bin bag.
As I was pottering around, I pondered the strange overlaps between teenagers and hamsters.
Hamsters also stuff all sorts of things, including food, under their beds. Hamsters also like to pile things up on the floor of the cages. Hamsters also get the most active around 2.07am, which is when you can hear them twirling around on their squeaky wheels, and whooping it up on WhatsApp.
Hamsters can also bite if you try to handle them, and frequently run away if you approach their cages.
In short, hamsters and teenagers are very, very similar.
It’s that ‘animal or angel’ dichotomy going on, and in our generation, our teens have such a big battle to pull out of ‘hamster’ mode and to give true expression to the enormous soul that every single one of them actually is.
It’s so easy, as a parent, to fall into the trap of reinforcing the inner ‘animal’, that’s telling them 24/7 that they are lazy, that it’s all pointless, that they’re bad, that they’re never going to get there, they’re never going to be able to pull out of the muck and mud that is material life in 2018.
But when I go and tidy up their rooms – at great personal risk to life and limb – I’m sending them a different message. I’m telling them: you are an angel! You are a bat melech, a very holy soul. Look, God even sent you a servant to look after you!
Sure, you have some hamster tendencies right now, it’s true. But it’s not the real you. The real you is so much better, so much holier.
And you will get there, my daughter!
And in the meantime, I need to find myself a gasmask or something, because those bags of mouldy clothes probably rank up there with asbestos.
Did you ever wonder why so many people are choosing bizarre ‘rainbow’ lifestyles, or tattooing every little bit of skin they possess, or sticking massive rings through their nose so they look like stuck pigs?
Did you ever ponder oabout what makes a leftist a leftist, or what makes a Jew prefer Palestinians to their own people, or what makes a Jew marry out or leave the faith?
If you sit and think about this for a while, sooner or later the idea will pop up that these people weren’t created ‘gay’, or ‘lefty’ or self-hating, but somewhere along the way, they got so disconnected from their true self, from their soul, from God, that their inner landscape tipped upside-down, and good became bad, and black became white.
And in nearly all cases, this happened because these people grew up in extremely dysfunctional circumstances.
They grew up in homes that were battlegrounds, where kids were used as human shields or pawns. OR, they grew up in homes where they were belittled, guilted and smacked around. Or, they grew up in homes where they weren’t really seen, or weren’t really heard, or weren’t really acknowledged, and now they walk around like the ghost of childhood past, desperately trying to get attention any which way they can.
And in case you think this only happens where this is ‘obvious abuse’, it really, really doesn’t. Emotional neglect – where the child isn’t related to as an independent individual, where the parent is too plugged into Facebook, or work, or their own social network, or their own problems, to really talk to their kid and listen to them on their level – can do just as much spiritual damage as ‘obvious abuse’.
Do you think it’s a coincidence that as the family unit has exploded into a billion smithereens over the last few decades, that all these people are popping up who are ‘choosing death’ over choosing life?
That rainbow man is probably the way he is because on some deep, deep level he has some really heavy baggage vis-à-vis his mum that he never acknowledged, and has never sorted out.
Often, these people will yell the loudest about how ‘amazing’ their mother is, but it’s usually just a case of protesting too much.
And when women can’t bear to think of settling down with a man, and find men physically repulsive, you can betcha that underneath all that is a very dysfunctional relationship with a parent or older male relative.
Same is true for tattoos, nose rings and boring huge holes where your earlobes are meant to be: people feel awful about themselves, they feel so low and lowly, they feel so unseen and lost, and they are scribbling that message all over their bodies in permanent ink.
Same thing for leftists and self-hating Jews and anyone else who hates and is angry all the time (and yes, that includes ‘rightists’ and frum people, too…), and who can’t see anyone else’s point of view and is always ranting on and on about their rights and other people’s wrongs.
THE MONSTERS UNDER THE BED
What connects all these people together is that they are still fighting the childhood monsters under their bed.
And some of those monsters are really, really scary.
So what’s the answer? What are we meant to be doing about all this?
A little while back, someone was telling me a story about a huge kiruv personality who’d seen every single one of the children in their own family go off the derech.
I don’t know who this person is, I don’t know the details, but I can tell you one thing for sure: our relationship with God is based on our relationship with our parents.
If the parents are loving, compassionate, joyful, kind, caring and really ‘there’ for the kid emotionally, those kids will generally find it very easy to believe in a caring, compassionate and loving Creator, and will want to spend a lot of time in His company.
And if the parents are cold, selfish, self-obsessed, emotionally-absent, punishing, capricious, condescending and angry – then those kids will have no problem believing that God is just waiting for them to put a foot wrong, so He can smite them into a million pieces.
And who wants to be waiting for the hammer to fall on them like that all the time?
So, here’s how you can do your bit for the world, and stop the rainbow people, and leftists and atheists from taking over the world: love your children with every fibre of your being, and put what’s good for them ahead of what’s good or convenient for you.
Work on your bad middot, especially anger.
And most of all, ask God every single day to let your kids grow up as happy, emotionally well-adjusted people who feel loved, and cared for and protected from ‘bad’.
We’re all messing our kids up in one way or another, despite our very best efforts.
But if we ask God to fill in the gaps, and to help them develop in a healthy way physically, emotionally and spiritually, that’s really all that’s required to ensure that our kids will be on the side that’s trying to build the world, instead of trying to destroy it.
The last 12 months or so, since last Elul, I’ve been feeling like the whole Jewish calendar somehow got mixed up, at least for me. The whole of Elul, instead of lifting me up to the heights of teshuva, something happened to show me that I was not on the lofty spiritual level I really thought I was, and spent weeks feeling absolutely heartbroken and kind of washed-up, Jewishly.
It’s hard to be a baal teshuva the first time around. It’s even harder when you’ve been a baal teshuva for 20+ years, and then God shows you how much work you still have to do.
But then it was Rosh Hashana. A new year! A new beginning! A time to turn things around. I couldn’t find a shul to daven in, so I went to the default local shul, full of ‘traditional’ Moroccans.
There was a Downs syndrome boy on the other side of the partition who got so excited by the Shofar blowing, he started making all sorts of yells and weird noises.
Of course, you’re meant to be quiet when the shofar is blown. Of course, this precious soul was bringing God so much more nachas with his whoops then all the studied ‘silence’ of the rest of us.
Immediately after shofar blowing, some idiot man started berating the boy and his father and demanded that they leave the shul immediately. On Rosh Hashana! The argument spread to the women’s section and there on the first Day of Judgment, the most awful sinat chinam was going on, all for the best, most holy reasons, of course.
I didn’t know it then, but that shul was right next to the house we were destined to fail at buying this year, which plunged us into our own maelstrom of self-righteous arguments and sinat chinam. Probably, the woman who was selling it was sat in the women’s section too, being covered in all that machloket fall-out.
The whole thing showed me how hugely important Rosh Hashana really is, it really does set the tone and create the blueprint for the year. Thank God, my husband was in Uman by Rabbenu for Rosh Hashana, because I dread to think how much worse things could be, otherwise.
Then, the first of the days of awe – my mother-in-law unexpectedly died, and me and my husband found ourselves back on a plane to the UK. I spent the majority of the days of awe eating fishballs from the only kosher deli in town (where all the nice serving people are Liverpudlian yoks) and packets of blueberries, serving tea and making ‘small talk’ at the shiva – just like you’re not meant to do – and then topped that off with unavoidable ‘hugs’ with grieving men from my husband’s extended family.
The only plus in my favor is that by compromising our ‘religious standards’, and eating food we wouldn’t usually eat, and keeping quiet about things that upset us and disturbed us greatly, we made a lot of peace with a lot of people we’d been fighting with for years.
But we got back to Israel erev Yom Kippur, and I was so exhausted I literally slept the whole way through the chag.
Succot happened in a fog – not least because we’d just been told our landlord was selling the apartment we’d been renting for 3 ½ years, so it was no stretch to feel the ‘temporary’ nature of our lives and our dwelling, and Chanuka also passed in a blur as we were trying to buy AND also trying to rent something for six months and both my kids were stressed to the max over their new ulpanas (dorming high schools).
All year, it’s felt like the festivals have been creeping up on me before I was ready, and that I have been so spiritually unprepared and on the back foot and doing everything at ‘bare basic’ level.
Two days before Purim, we moved house, so that was another holiday that passed in a blur.
Then Pesach arrived, and with it a bunch of guests for seder that we’d recently made peace with in the UK. Kids were trying to blow out my Shabbos / Pesach candles, flipping the toilet light on and off (because I forgot to tape it down….), pressing the door buzzer for two minutes, really loudly…
We had a slight stand-off by the end of the seder, as the guests wanted to skip Hallel, and I refused. I told them ‘leave if you want, but we’re going to the end’. So a compromise was reached where my husband sped-read through Hallel in the record time of 11.36 minutes so peace would continue to reign.
But I didn’t feel so happy about it. I felt maybe I was compromising too much for the sake of peace….
The next day, the first day of counting the Omer, the bombshell dropped that the bank had pulled their mortgage approval, plunging us into months of machloket, yeoush, anger – and enormous work to try to rustle up some real emuna.
All year, God has been showing me that He wants peace, not standing on principle, and all year, I’ve been trying to give Him what He wants, but it’s come really, really hard.
So, we get to the week before Tisha B’av, and the situation with the house is giving me no peace. Their disgusting lawyer tells us we ‘burnt their house’ and I know that’s a hint from God to look past the puppet show and see what’s really going on here.
But I can’t sleep, I can’t concentrate, I’m consumed by agitation and fear and rage – and we just hit the nine days when it’s all about fixing the sinat chinam that ‘burnt God’s house’ and is still continuing today.
God, what am I meant to do to fix this! The situation is so bad, it’s so unfair, it’s boiling up every bad middot I own!!!
God told me last week: Go and do six hours, and beg Me to help you make peace.
So that’s what I did. The day after I did that, my husband got a phone call from the estate agent that brokered the deal: the other side want to talk, without lawyers, they want to come to some agreement.
We met on Friday – erev Tisha B’av! – and again, God is the one that made the peace because all we did for an hour was argue. It looked to me like we were going to end up in court. Me and my husband stepped outside to discuss what was going on (and to avoid punching someone…) and when we returned 10 minutes later…. The other side had transformed.
Gone was all the blaming, distortion and power plays. On the table was a simple proposal: pay our costs to date, and we’ll finish everything peacefully next week.
We still need to agree what those costs actually are, but a sum was named that sounded reasonable, and much better than the amount our ridiculous contract stated we needed to pay.
Bezrat Hashem, the sinat chinam disappeared, and the path of peace prevailed.
Instead of Tisha B’Av, I feel like I’m already in Elul.
Let’s be clear, that it wasn’t us that did anything. God did the many miracles last week, and I also tried to bind myself to all the tzaddikim of the generation before we sat down at the table, to let them take over the actual discussion.
All I did, a lot, was yearn for peace, and ask God to save me from being overwhelmed by my enormous bad middot, especially my arrogance and my victory-seeking tendencies.
Because making peace is not easy, not at all. It means coming off my high horse, and trying to see the other side, and accepting that everything that’s happening is only and solely coming from Hashem.
I’m writing this on the tenth of Av – this year’s pushed-off fast of Tisha B’Av. And I’m writing this because the one thing Hashem really wants from the Jewish people is for us to make peace with each other.
Don’t wait until Rosh Hashanah, do it now, in the seven or so weeks we have until the Yom HaDin. Make peace with your relatives, even if you’ll have to suffer through a ‘man hug’, eat dodgy fishballs and rush through the more meaningful bits of your seder.
Make peace with the people you’re arguing with, even if it’s going to cost you some money, and the satisfaction of seeing them eat it.
But most of all, make peace with your husband (or wife…) and your children. Stop holding all those old grudges in your heart, and stop blaming them for the things that aren’t going right in your life.
Last week, on the Ari’s yarhtzeit, my teenager started telling me some really hurtful, yucky things about myself– all the things I secretly worry about, but try not to notice too much. She threw them all in my face, which to be fair I completely deserved, because I’d started berating her about not taking school seriously enough and wasting her life, which wasn’t really accurate or fair.
So, she hit back with ‘teenage troof’, maximum strength, and as my blood started to boil – the oven shorted out and a small fire sparked behind it, right next to the gas pipe. We both held our breath for a very long second. Thank God, the fire burned out, I turned off the gas, she turned off the electric mains, and I unplugged the scorched oven plug with a long, grateful sigh.
Machloket is what burns down the house.
Machloket is what burned down the Temple.
This Tisha B’av, let’s really try to fix the problem at its root: i.e. in our own homes, and our own lives.
Following on from the discussion in the comments on THIS post, one of my readers sent me an email where she made a very profound point, that I'd like to share with you. She wrote that:
'I really wish that just wanting to be a mother and a wife and taking care of your home wouldn't be looked down upon. That instead of praising women who earn a PhD or become a mayor or the like, we would praise mothers who keep it together when their toddler throws a tantrum in the supermarket or the wife who is cleaning the floors for the 1035th time.
"I think one of the problems today is that nobody wants to have the wife's role, that also women want wives who take care of the drudgery of housework and childrearing. However for me personally I have come to realize that as difficult as it is to being a wife and a mother when I am taking care of my children I am actually building eternity."
This precious reader really hit the nail on the head:
No-one wants the job of being a wife today.
All the elements of that job are being outsourced, because we value it so little. The cleaning is going to the nice Polish lady, the caring is going to the nice Phillipino lady, the cooking is being catered in, the kids are being sent out to sleep-away camps, and if anyone actually wants to have a real, deep conversation and pour out their heart - hey, that's what shrinks and counsellors are for!
I'm part way through reading 'From Darwin to Hitler', which is actually a much more nuanced and well-written book than perhaps its title might suggest.
Part of what happened post-Darwin is that all the 'thinkers' in Europe started seeing human life in terms of 'valuable and productive to society' or 'worthless and pulling society down'.
Disabled people, criminals, and people with mental and physical health problems were in this last category, together with different 'races' and poor people, depending on how racist and snobby the Darwinist 'thinker' actually was.
And the only people in that first, 'worthy' category were people who earned money and helped society flourish. Mothers weren't valued, except as the 'source' of society's future workers. But the actual 'job' of being a mother, being a wife - that was completely devalued and looked down upon.
(And yes, there were a whole bunch of Zionist, atheist Jews who thought that way too. This lead directly to the shocking idea that women should give their babies over to other people to raise as soon as they'd given birth and go back to being 'productive members of society' again, which was the Kibbutz ideal way of life for a few decades, until even the atheist Zionists started to figure out that was completely retarded and damaging to everyone involved.)
Darwin's false, atheistic science completely warped the fabric of society in so many profound ways, including how many of us women have been brainwashed into believing that we only have value if we are working and have a paid job.
But as my correspondent put it so eloquently, the real job, the real value we add to the world is by expending our precious time and effort primarily and principally on trying to raise happy, emotionally-healthy kids who are still connected to their souls.
And if that wasn't enough of a full-time job, we also have our hands full trying to help unrectified husbands get over all their issues and become the amazing people God created them to be, too.
Just before I sat down to type this, I had another upsetting fight with one of my teens, who is still going through a lot of stuff and acting horribly, as a result. The last two days, she's been giving me the strong 'vibe' that all her problems are down to me and my cack mothering abilities, and as someone who quit my career to look after my family, that's pretty painful.
Motherhood is very hard! Motherhood is often very unrewarded and taken for granted (especially by moody teenagers). But being a mother, and being a wife, is the most important, precious job we have in the world, despite the awful wages and cack employment conditions and mouthy co-workers (who all think they are the boss).
It sucks that you can't quit the job no matter how bad it gets, and there is no paid sick leave or overtime!!
But that's the main job we women got given to do by Hashem.
And as someone who used to have a high-flying career, I can tell you that being at the office is definitely the easier option.
A couple of weeks’ ago, I had to go for a ‘talk’ with my kid’s teacher and headteacher at her high-school. The kid had skipped one day too many, and even the patience of her understanding Israeli school teachers was starting to wear thin.
When they asked the kid how she was getting on in the school, which is half-boarding, the kid explained how it’s hard to make friends because everyone is stuck in their phone. Like, everyone.
The teacher immediately cut in, and said that she’d also observed that, and that she could see how all these ‘smart phones’ were completely ruining the generation, and making it so hard for normal, friendly interaction to happen between the students.
They’ve all been in school together for a year, and they are still practically strangers, because it’s easier to play candy crush than to come out of your shell and really talk to someone else.
It’s so sad.
Since we had to move out to a different part of Jerusalem four months’ ago, both my kids have been feeling lonely and isolated in the hosue, as we now live a 50 minute walk away from their friends.
The older one is busy studying for bagrut, and boards full-time, so she notices it much less. But the younger one? The younger one is sinking a little, and I feel powerless to stop it.
We had another fight over it yesterday, as I noticed she spent three hours solid on her phone, texting.
“What do you want me to do instead, what?!” she challenged. “I can’t just go downstairs and put a sign up that I want some friends! There’s nothing to do here!”
She’s right. There’s nothing to do here.
Except shop a little, or eat out a little, and really, how much can you do even that?
But that’s not all. When I was telling her she spends too much time on her phone, she snapped back that I spend too much time on my computer, and that I also have no friends and she’s just mirroring me.
(See, the Breslov ideas are sinking in, one way or another…)
It bothered me a lot, because I think she’s right. Sure, I’m a writer by nature, and if I wasn’t typing on a keyboard, I’d be scribbling on a pad or scratching a stylus into mud, but aside from that, life is pretty lonely at the moment.
Since the house has imploded, I’m feeling pretty lost in the world. I don’t want to stay in this lonely flat (which is actually very nice, just in completely the wrong area) and I also don’t want to have to move into an expensive dump just to live in the ‘right’ area, because I don’t think I can live like that anymore.
So I’m stuck.
My husband (who does actually know a lot of stuff, and is often very useful) tells me that I have a bad case of yeoush, or despair, at the moment, and that we all do in generation. He’s also walking around a little like a brain-dead zombie, from all the stress and uncertainty we’re going through (again…) at the moment.
I so want things to change, he so wants things to change, but at this point, I just feel like I have no option on the table except holy apathy. When I was in Uman, I managed to squeeze out another couple of six hour praying sessions, but since then, even just keeping my regular hour a day is challenging.
I have a lot of yeoush about what’s going on, and that I can’t seem to change or do anything about, not by praying, and not by trying, and not by hustling.
In the meantime, my kid has taken to playing a song on her phone with the chorus ‘let’s be lonely together’. When I’m hanging up the washing, she’ll suddenly appear behind me and tell me: “Ima, let’s be lonely together.”
She’s a very deep kid.
She’s in a very lonely place.
And so am I.
Two days back, both my teens came back from their ‘national religious’ high schools in a state of semi-panic. For once, it wasn’t exam pressure or social issues, it was something much more existential and Orwellian: the looming threat of nuclear war.
After Bibi dished the dirt on Iran, clearly hoping to nudge Trump into nixing the Iranian nuclear deal, the whole country seems to have kind of frozen in place, expecting an imminent Iranian nuke in response.
Now, that stuff is passé for us geula blog aficionados, I know, who love to discuss all that stuff before breakfast (at least, in theory). But I don’t remember it being a topic of conversation in my girls’ ‘national religious’ high schools before, and it’s having some profound effects.
One of my kids told me her and her class had read through the whole of the prophecies of Gog and Magog in the book of Ezekiel. The bit she was particularly freaked out about this section, helpfully headlined: ‘Prophecy against false prophecy’, in my Artscroll edition (Ch. 13).
“The word of Hashem came to me, saying, ‘Son of Man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel…who prophesy out of their own hearts…
Each person can decide for themselves who these ‘false prophets’ are who are misleading the nation, and how that might be connected to all the freak weather we're currently experiencing.
But my daughter and her friends were particularly struck by the pouring rain / huge hailstones / stormy wind / annihilation bit, especially given the recent tragedy when 10 teens around their age died in a flash-flood in the desert.
(Interestingly, some really big hailstones – 2 cm diameter – also fell in Israel last week - see the Youtube above. And parts of the US are predicted to get 4-inch hail this week, which is definitely big enough to kill you, if that drops on your head from a height.)
So that, combined with their Bibi-inspired nuclear war freak-out meant that they suddenly got all unusually biblical on me, and started talking about wars, floods and mountains collapsing.
(Interestingly, that just happened in North Korea, when the nuclear test site they built under a big mountain collapsed after the last test, effectively putting their nuclear program on ice and prompting Kim Jong Un to sue for peace, instead.)
Then the youngest piped up: ‘Ima, I don’t want to die in a nuclear war.’
I reassured her that nobody does. But that also, if God decides that’s actually what’s going to happen, lo aleinu, getting incinerated in a nano-second is actually one of the better ways to go, in terms of how much that would actually hurt.
We had a big chat about dying, and nukes, and the purpose of life from a Jewish perspective, for a good half an hour, and then it was time for them to go and get on with sorting out L’ag B’omer.
This conversation taught me many things, not least that even our teens are picking up the panic in the country that Israel may be on the verge of another war, and also apparently picking up the deeper geula vibe that inevitably strengthens at these times.
Maybe, that’s also why I’ve been feeling pretty ill the last few days, and all achy, dizzy and a little pukey. There’s a heavy vibe in the air, and that’s often the pre-cursor to ‘something’ kicking off in the world, as I’ve written about many, many times before.
Or it could just be that I’m also feeling pretty scared, on a number of fronts, about what the future is going to hold. Not so much about Iranian nukes because hey, I do that for breakfast, remember! My fears have more to do with keeping on the right side of Hashem, and away from all the truly bad people out there.
RASHBI DOES IT AGAIN
The last five years, I’ve been going up to Meron on L’ag B’omer with my husband, but this year I didn’t know if I could hack it. I’d been in bed for two days, and really didn’t feel great. But we really need some miracles this year on the house front (I know, some things never change).
And then I found out Rav Berland was going to be up in Meron after all, as his opponents simply couldn’t find a legal case to stop him, hard as they tried. So that gave me the strength to do the 9 hour round trip up to Meron and back.
We left at 3am today, and got back an hour a go.
And I feel so much better.
I was too tired to do any fabulous hitbodedut up in Meron, but I felt very peaceful up there, and I got a strong sense that whatever is going to happen, it’s all ultimately going to turnaround for the good.
At least, for the people who are sticking close to our true tzaddikim and trying to work on their own bad middot.
And if not then you may want to seriously consider springing for a jumbo-pack of super-strength anti-anxiety meds instead.
Because it seems that stormy times are ahead.
Thursday evening, when the news of the 10 teenagers who lost their life in the crazy flash-flooding hit Israel, my two teenage girls were in very somber moods.
One was feeling pretty scared about even going outside, as clearly, the world had just got pretty dangerous if even a bit of rain could end up killing a minyan of Jews. The other one was deeply sad about what had just occurred – both for the loss of life, but more for the outpouring of sinat chinam, or baseless hatred, that occurred straight after it.
The media initially got the details of the tragedy wrong, and reported that the dead teens were boys – yeshiva students - from the Har Etzion Yeshiva in Gush Etzion. That lead to an outpouring of disgusting comments on websites like Ha’aretz and elsewhere, as ‘enlightened leftists’ rushed to try to pour salt on the wound.
It was so disgusting, that the externally secular journalist Ivgeny Zarubinski took a screen shot of the comments (below), and posted it up on his Facebook page decrying the horrible hatred.
My daughter showed me what he’d written, and told me her friends were also so upset by all the sinat chinam flowing around such a tragedy.
I told her the way to fight this is person by person – i.e. by uprooting all these feelings of hate for other Jews from within ourselves. Because while it’s nice to tell ourselves that only loony-left Ha’aretz readers have a problem with awful sinat chinam, even a quick glance at so many apparently ‘orthodox’ blogs and websites tell a very different story.
Immediately after the event, one popular ‘orthodox’ blog had a post up naming and shaming a really awful Haaretz reporter’s coverage of the tragedy, that ended with this barb:
[The reporter] need not be concerned about one thing. When he finally leaves this world, Israeli TV won't spend more than a few seconds noting his passing.
Why write this? It’s just promoting sinat chinam, and lashon hara. How is that meant to help anyone?
Then, the first commenter on that post said:
Hope his daughter dies in a flashflood.
Which is just as obscene and hateful a comment as you’d find anywhere on Ha’aretz.
Is this really how orthodox Jews should be behaving?
Is this really the sort of discussions we should be promoting on our websites, and the sort of comments we should be posting up?
Over on another very popular ‘orthodox’ website, I found this recent example (sadly there were SO many to choose from…) of hateful speech and sinat chinam against other Jews, written by the blog’s owner:
The Kipa Seruga is the emblematic identifier of Religious Zionist Jews. That is the kind of Kipa warn by most settlers, including these disgusting ‘Hilltop’ animals pretending to be human.
I don’t read this blog, thank God, but even a quick glance through the posts and the comments showed that it is stacked to the gills with lashon hara, hatred, ignorance of other Jewish traditions and beliefs, particularly in the charedi world, and an overwhelming arrogance and belief in the rightness of their own opinions, regardless of how so much of what is written flies completely in the face of Torah law.
And this is apparently one of the most ‘popular’ blogs in the ‘orthodox’ Jewish world, God help us.
The sinat chinam and lashon hara is flowing all over the orthodox internet, and every time we read these articles, link to them, or give their authors any space or respect, we are basically injecting ourselves with more poison against other Jews, delaying the geula, and bringing more tragedies down on ourselves.
And so much of this horrible hatred is happening unperceived, as it’s being tagged as ‘interesting debate’ or ‘fearlessly discussing controversial topics’ – because then, apparently, it’s OK to spread your hatred of other Jews far and wide.
As long as you can claim you’re only interested in the truth, it’s OK to call Breslov ‘idol worship’, or call Chabad ‘Jewish Replacement Theology’, and to speak awful lashon hara about some of the leading sages in the Jewish world, referring to them as ‘am ha aretz’ who ‘teach childish drivel’ and ‘the Torah of fools’, God forbid.
The hatred that is delaying the geula isn’t just lurking on the pages of Ha’Aretz and Ynet.
It’s also in our own hearts. And our own families. And our own communities.
And our own blogs.
Why did so many of us want to believe that most other Jews were 'evil' Erev Rav?
I was pondering why so many 'frum' people – including me – warmed to the messages coming out of the autistics that most Jews today are a sort of sub-class, sub-Jew called the ‘Erev Rav’.
Why did so many of us want to believe their messages that it’s a mitzvah to hate other Jews, and that it’s a good thing to want to see whole communities of people destroyed en masse?
How could we fall for such evil ideas? How could we believe for a moment that God would close the door to teshuva for anyone, and make it impossible for anyone to come back to him?!
God wants Jews to return back in teshuva, He doesn’t want Jews dead in their millions, God forbid. If people don’t make teshuva, it’s true that this worse-case scenario could still happen, God forbid – but it’s not at all what God wants!!
But when frum Jews sit there for day after day, and year after year, reading blogs telling them that:
Tel Aviv isn't Israel, it's not Israel at all, and also Haifa - not Israel.
Or reading things that conclude that it’s a ‘duty and a commandment’ to hate your fellow Jew, like this:
G-d established a time and place for love and for hate, and in the right time and place, each is a duty and a commandment. The Torah never contained, and never will contain, a concept of “groundless love”, just as the Torah absolutely rejects the concept of “groundless hate”.
Then we start to get the answer. We slowly but surely brainwashed ourselves into believing that black is white and that good is evil, and filled ourselves up with self-righteous anger and hatred and arrogance – and so many other really bad middot – that completely blinded us to our own part in perpetuating the ongoing suffering and the exile of the Jewish people.
In this shiur by Rav Ofer Erez (with full English subtitles) on how to fix baseless hatred, you can see a very complete refutation of this statement that ‘the Torah never contained, and never will contain, a concept of ‘groundless love’, that brings a number of sources across the Gemara and the Torah.
So-called ‘groundless love’ is the only antidote for sinat chinam, and the only way we’re going to get geula the sweet way.
Again, that doesn’t mean that we ‘love’ evil actions and accept them. Rav Ofer explains very, very clearly, that we must continue to demonstrate against evil ACTIONS, and that we can and should hate evil ACTIONS.
But it’s an enormous mistake to say a Jew is fundamentally EVIL. Or fundamentally un-saveable. Or fundamentally ‘Erev Rav’ and unable to make teshuva and return to God.
I’m as upset as the next person when I hear people call chareidi Jews things like ‘leeches and parasites’. I’m also upset when people call hill-top youth ‘animals’. I’m also upset when people say disgusting things about dati leumi yeshiva students who they mistakenly thought died in a terrible tragedy. I’m also upset when so-called ‘rabbis’ mis-characterise and slander whole segments of committed, Chassidic Jews simply from their own ignorance of deeper Jewish concepts and ideas.
But I’m also upset when people state that Tel Aviv is not really part of Israel. Or when they state that most secular Jews are ‘Erev Rav’. Or when they write awful lashon hara and evil speech, condemning and criticizing everyone else who happens to be different from them just so they can feel like they are superior and ‘the winners’.
If I’ve learnt one thing from my kids, is that they won’t let our generation’s sinat chinam pass unchallenged. My daughter saw me looking askance at the bald, kippa-less head of the obviously Russian Ivgeny Zarubinski, and took me to task for the obvious distaste I must have showed that she’d been reading stuff from someone like him.
“Ima, he’s really nice. He writes really nice things about Jews,” she gently upbraided me.
And as usual, she was so right.
It’s not how the person looks, or what image they’re trying to portray to the rest of the world about how righteous and how frum they really are that counts, it’s what they’re saying, and thinking and doing that really matters.
Ivgeny’s post inspired my daughter (and me…) to make some serious teshuva about our own problems with sinat chinam. Other posts from apparently ‘orthodox’ bloggers frequently just inspire more hatred, more poisonous comments, more harsh judgment, and more lashon hara.
So now you tell me: who’s doing more to hasten the geula, or slow it down?
With so many marriages exploding around me, I’ve been learning some things that I never knew before. One thing I learned this week is that in this olam hafuch, there are apparently a lot of women in Israel who are refusing to take a get from their husband.
Yes, you read that right.
The way the law is set up here, the courts come down really, really heavily on ‘get-refusing’ husbands, and basically treat them as criminals. Like you, I initially thought this was an amazing thing! I campaigned on behalf of a young aguna in London, whose ex was trying to extort millions of pounds out of her wealthy family. It took a good few years of communal pressure (plus a couple of million pounds still…) but in the end he gave the get.
So I was thrilled to hear things are different in Israel. Another aguna I knew was stuck get-less for over 20 years. Then her daughter got married in Israel, the dad flew in for the wedding, and on the way out of Ben Gurion he was arrested and jailed until he gave the get. It took two days!
So that was amazing.
But now, I’ve been hearing more and more stories of how things are being taken to a very unhealthy extreme the other way, with men being forced to cede all of their financial rights, and all of their custody requests, before the women will accept the get the men are trying to give them.
Because as long as the women can tell the court that the man hasn’t given them a get, the court can and does impose a number of punitive measures against him until this situation changes.
Again, if the man is refusing to give a get straight up, as ‘punishment’ or ‘vengeance’ – then punitive action against him is usually the right course of action to take, on many levels.
But, if the woman is refusing to accept the get solely in order that she can dictate all the terms of the divorce without having to take the husband’s feelings and needs into account?
This doesn’t seem right to me.
I heard of one case where a woman refused her get three times, until the husband agreed to cede 100% of the house to her – and to keep paying the mortgage on it.
I know kids should be taken care of as much as possible, I really do. But I can’t help but think that if providing the kids with a home is such an over-arching imperative, why are people so quick to rush for a divorce in the first place? Don't they know that getting divorced is going to cause everybody - including them - huge financial challenges?
Getting divorced doesn’t add more money to the pot, doesn’t make it easier to pay the bills. Now there are two households to run instead of one, and while the husbands definitely do owe the wife something – as per halacha – I’m getting increasingly turned-off by people who initiate a divorce whilst continuing to have completely unrealistic expectations of the high standard of living their ex-husbands apparently ‘owe’ them for choosing to give up on their marriage.
If the man was unfaithful, if he was physically violent, or terribly, destructively abusive, or a compulsive gambler, or a dangerous drug addict, then it goes without saying that the circumstances are very different from what I'm describing here, and the divorcing wife needs as much support and help as possible.
But here's the thing: I’ve seen women in those circumstances, and when they get divorced they are so grateful to be free of danger their husbands pose to them and their children, getting money out of their ex tends to be the last thing on their minds.
The sort of divorces I'm talking about don't involve any 'abnormal' mental illness or abuse (because let's be honest, we're all crazy today, and none of us treat other people the way we really should). Really, it's more the case that the wife just doesn't want to deal with the challenge of being married to a difficult, unrectified person anymore, but she still wants full access to his pay packet.
Here's the thing: men are also people.
Unless they fit the description three paragraphs back, they should also be treated with a little compassion. It’s hard enough bringing home the money when you have a home and a family to support you. When you’re working just as hard to pay the mortgage on the house you used to own while you slum it in a rented bed-sit, that can’t be an easy thing at all.
I know divorce is super-complicated, and it’s almost never black and white. But again, why are so many people believing the lies they are being told that divorce is the easy option, and the solution to all their problems, and easier than staying in a difficult marriage?
If a man was dodging his responsibility to pay the bills when you were married to him, how is divorcing him going to change that? If he couldn’t get you a nice house when you were married to him, how is he going to do that as your ex? If he didn’t ‘get help’ for all his mental issues and emotional problems – all of which will manifest themselves in your kids, if they aren’t properly sorted out – when you were married, why should he do that know you’re divorced?
All of us are so messed up today, that every single couple probably has good grounds for divorce, if the point of staying married is to enjoy yourself and have a lot of money.
But the Torah doesn’t say anywhere that this is what marriage is meant to be about.
The Torah view of marriage is that it’s a way of rectifying the world as you work on yourself, and your own issues and problems that your spouse is simply reflecting back at you.
As usual, the ones who suffer the most from this madness are the children.
MARRIAGE IS WORK
I’ve been married 20 years now, and me and my husband have been through our fair share of ups and downs. I’ve had so many internal demons to try to face down, he couldn’t work for two years, we no longer own our own house, we’ve had countless trials and tribulations that put a big strain on our relationship.
We both dealt with all this stuff by upping our hitbodedut and trying to work on our emuna that everything that has happened is just coming from God, and is coming to rectify something. Sure, I could have blamed him for everything, he could have blamed me for everything - but that's the anti-emuna approach.
The emuna approach is to accept that we are both flawed, we both need a lot of fixing, and that underneath it all, we're both actually really nice people. Our job is to pray, get God involved in overcoming our challenges, and to try to see the good as much as possible in each other and in our lives, and to take nothing for granted.
Right now, I don’t work (for money…) so my husband is paying for everything.
Right now, I am so grateful to my husband that he goes out every single day and makes a living for me and my children. That he puts a roof over my head, and food on the table, and lets me do whatever it is I do (for no money…). My husband signed the ketuba with minimal requirements to look after me materially, so this is his responsibility, I know.
But I am still so grateful to him for all the effort he’s making on my behalf, because earning a living today is incredibly stressful and hard. My husband doesn’t ‘owe’ me my own home. He doesn’t ‘owe’ me thousands of shekels every month in spending money. He doesn’t ‘owe’ me a cleaner, a car, nice holidays.
And we’re still actually married.
And for his part, every time my husband finds a clean pair of socks in his drawer, he's grateful. (Full disclosure: doing the washing on time is not always so easy for me ;-)
So you want to get divorced, that’s up to you. But then take responsibility for what your choice is going to do to both your finances and your family and your standard of living. Don’t just view your ex-husband as some sort of ATM that ‘owes’ you stuff, and rejoice in how low you can bring him so that he’s walking around in shabby shoes and lives in a 25 sqm dump of a room.
He’s also suffering. He’s lost everything – his wife, his family, his home and his self-esteem. For the sake of your kids, you need to work with your ex to ensure he also still has some hope and some joy in life, and also, at least a little of the money that he’s working so hard to bring home.
Otherwise, your divorce won’t be the answer to your prayers and the big ‘solution’ you think it is, even if you do manage to walk away with all the money. It’ll just be a gateway to years of bitterness, hatred, anger and suffering.
And as always, it’s the kids who will suffer the most.
God-forbid, I'm not trying to be needlessly controversial by writing this piece. Simply, I can see there is a lot of hypocrisy going on in the frum Jewish community where women are loudly banging the 'equality' drum on the one hand and demanding equal rights, but still expecting the man to pick up all the debts and financial responsibility when it comes to divorce.
The men themselves aren't allowed to point out the inconsistencies that are abounding all over the place without being called 'misogynist', so I'm simply trying to point out that when any party in a divorce ceases to view the other person as a human being, and ceases to have a minimal amount of compassion for them, this is a reflection of bad middot, and will only cause unnecessary suffering and damage to the family over the long run.
No-one should be trying to force their terms unilaterally on the other party in a divorce.
Divorcing couples need to talk to each other and take the other person's viewpoint into account. If they do that, maybe some good can be salvaged from the divorce, and the destruction and hurt will be minimised.
But if you take one message away from this post, let it be this: DIVORCE IS NOT THE EASY OPTION. Sometimes, it's still the necessary thing to do, but in most situations, it's only going to make a challenging set of circumstances even worse.
Every year when I’m about to get overwhelmed by the mess, the expense, the cleaning of Pesach, I ask myself: ‘isn’t there some sort of short-cut I could do, to just get the fun stuff out of this experience and leave all the yuck behind?’
Because Pesach routinely comes along with SO MUCH yuck. Even when you’re working on yourself. Even when you’re trying your hardest to just have emuna, and to just let God get on with running the world.
I’ve had Pesachs when I tried so hard to clean everything just so, and even a week earlier than usual, so I could take my girls away for a short break with the neighbor’s girls up the road. That was a disaster. Pesach seemed to last for three months that year, the ‘break’ was a stressful fight-fest, and then on seder night my husband got completely knocked out by the first glass of wine and was practically comatose.
Recently, my Pesachs have gone in the other direction, where it’s been hard to muster up the energy required to actually clean. Anything. The first couple of years this happened, I just kind of pushed through the weariness and fatigue, because I had enough OCD going on about chametz that it gave me the energy required to actually do something about it.
But this year, my chametz OCD has receded considerably (which is probably a good thing…) but it also means the ‘panic button’ has been disconnected from cleaning for Pesach. Add to this a very nice article in Hamodia a couple of weeks’ ago making it clear that most of what we consider ‘essential’ in cleaning for Pesach is actually OCD-induced chumras, and voila! I really haven’t felt like doing much.
So then, I started exploring other shortcuts to getting Pesach done, like:
a) paying someone else to do it or
b) expecting my kids to act like the adults in the house.
I know many, many mothers manage to off-load all their household chores onto their children, and that the children even don’t mind it (OK, I made that last bit up, but the first part of the sentence is definitely true.) But in my house, I’ve never quite managed to pull that off. The more I expect of my kids, the less they do.
The less I’m in their face about cleaning and helping, the more they actually start volunteering to do all sorts of things around the house. But when it comes to Pesach, I forget this rule and start to expect things from them - and this is where the problem really begins, because we are just talking a completely different language.
To me, ‘morning’ means sometime before 11am. To them, ‘morning’ means ‘some time after I wake up’ - which could be 2pm in the afternoon. So I’ll ask them to clean something, or arrange something in the morning, and because it’s Pesach, each chore is carefully nested and stacked within 15 others, so choreography is key.
So I CAN’T cook, however much I want to, until the kitchen counters have been cleaned and covered. If the person assigned to do that job doesn’t wake up on time, doesn’t feel good, can’t figure out how the sponge works - there are millions of obstacles, you simply wouldn’t believe what can happen - then I get stuck having to do it myself.
I can just completely let go, and let things happen in their own sweet time.
And I’m not there yet, although each year it gets closer and closer. I know this is just a test from God. I know the real cleaning for Pesach is all my bad middot and Pharoah-nic tendencies to slam around the house muttering about how ‘lazy, lazy’ my kids-cum-slaves are.
Don’t they know this is the whole point of having children?!? So I won’t have to do the chores myself?!?
So in the meantime, I get stuck with some huge bad middot issues that I know is the real work to be done, because honestly apart from Pesach, my kids are actually really sweet, and really lovely, and would really put themselves out tremendously to help me.
There’s just something about this time of year that makes all that goodwill evaporate, and that seems to pit me against them in a really ucky way that no-one ever comes out of happily.
Last year, we had people putting their feet through bathroom doors in a rage because no-one had set the seder table (and no, that wasn’t a kid.) I understand they also have bad middot to ‘find’ and dispose of. I understand that just as my mini-Pharoah is waking up in me, it’s doing that inside of them, too.
We all think that someone else should be the ‘slave’, and we’re all upset that the ‘slave’ isn’t working hard enough….
I so want geula. I’m really sick of cleaning for Pesach. Not just this year, but every year, because I don’t have a cleaner, and my kids-cum-slaves apparently always get liberated BEFORE Pesach, and because sometimes, I really can’t understand why I have to work so hard to get to that tiny bit of ancient pretzel that’s down the back of my couch.
I know, all this stuff is achieving wonderful spiritual rectifications that I can only guess at, because I certainly can’t grasp them in the here and now. I don’t want my bad middot anymore. I don’t want to have unreasonable expectations anymore. I don’t want to be lazy and apathetic, and I also don’t want to be enslaved and worked to the bone.
So what’s the answer? What’s the shortcut to the joy of the festival without all this back-breaking work and grumpy power struggles?
Maybe this Pesach, I’ll finally find out.
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