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.
The last few days, I’ve had a few emails from a few different people that are demonstrating that the vaccine debate in the orthodox community, particularly in the US, is starting to burst wide out into the open.
Personally, I think this can only be a good thing. I’m not ‘idealogical’ about this either way, I just want to know what the real truth is when it comes to whether vaccines are:
a) Safe as claimed
b) Effective as claimed
My view -about everything - is always that the available information should be clearly put on the table, and that people should be encouraged to question, evaluate, and decide for themselves.
This is part and parcel of people having God-given free choice to decide for themselves and to bear the consequences for their actions and decisions, and whenever I see healthy debate being squashed, or people trying to control others and close a respectful discussion down, my red flag immediately goes up that something isn’t quite right with this picture.
On that score, I want to bring your attention to a recent article written by a Rabbi Yair Hoffman, that was published HERE. You can see the full text for yourself here, but this is some of what Rabbi Hoffman has to say about what he views as the Torah imperative to vaccinate:
“The anti-vaccination advocates have two concerns that are often intertwined. The first is the MMR vaccine itself. They believe that there is some heretofore unidentified element in it that causes autism. The second is that some vaccines contained the preservative thimerosal, which contained ethyl mercury, a type of mercury that had been suspected of causing autism. Thimerosal has actually been removed from the MMR vaccine with no accompanying drop in the incidence of autism. No matter; this has not impacted the anti-vaxxer movement.”
Rabbi Hoffman is presumably going on the information given out by the FDA / CDC on official Governemnt websites like THIS ONE, which state:
Current Status of Thimerosal in Vaccines
If you plain English this carefully-worded answer, you’ll find that what it’s really saying is:
1) While vaccines for young children are now available in a formulation that doesn’t contain thimerosal
2) The ACIP doesn’t actually recommend that these ‘thimerosal-free’ formulations should be the ones that are routinely given to the general public.
I.e. You have to specifically ask for a thimerosal-free vaccine, and vaccines including thimerosal, specifically the flu vaccine, are still being routinely given to children in the US.
What about Rabbi Hoffman’s contention that there is no proven link between vaccines and autism?
Here’s what I found on THIS website, and please do go and take a look for yourselves:
“In 2008 top public health officials at HHS conceded that vaccines caused autism.
You’ll notice that thimerosal is NOT being discussed here as specifically causing autism, but that exposure to the vaccines themselves caused a ‘metabolic overload’ that triggered Hannah’s autism.
The issue if far deeper than a simple discussion of thimerosal (i.e. mercury, one of the most dangerous neurotoxins known to man) causing all the problems.
The human immune system wasn’t designed to be exposed to three very serious illnesses in one shot, even if vaccines are 100% effective and 100% safe.
On the safety front, I’m personally highly convinced at this stage that there is a significant risk associated with vaccines. On the effectiveness front, it’s clear that flu shots can’t be working, because the flu they vaccinate against is last year’s strain, and this year’s strain has mutated already.
But that’s where I’d like to learn more, personally, because if vaccines are also not effective (as can clearly be seen with the flu shot) and also pose significant health risks, or if there is a safer way to achieve the same sort of effective protection against contagious diseases in a non-toxic way (as seems to be the case with so called homeopathic ‘green vaccines’) then it becomes a no-brainer to not vaccinate.
So where does the truth really lie?
Over on Sasson, you’ll find two highly recommended articles setting out an alternative view of vaccination in halacha, written by a dayan in the US who does not vaccinate his own children, but who is scared to publish under his own name due to the pressure tactics he fears (probably justifiably) could be used against him as a result:
Vaccines in halacha - Part 1
Vaccines in halacha - Part 2
If you compare and contrast the approach of Rabbi Hoffman and this Dayan to the subject, you’ll find that the ‘pro’ vaxxer cites very few real sources of information, or up-to-date facts, and relies quite heavily on trying to persuade his readers to vaccinate, or else.
By contrast, the ‘anti’ vaxxer cites hundreds of footnoted sources of recent information and evidence to support his position, which is always a good sign that you’re dealing with someone who is on a search for truth, and who is trying to share the clues he’s finding along the way with as many other people as possible.
The issue is clouded because of the assumptions that a lot of rabbis are making that the information they are being provided by the pharmaceutical industry and the Government etc is 100% reliable and truthful.
That certainly flies in the face of so much evidence to the contrary, including all the falsified trials about anti-depressants and many other medications.
In the meantime, I’m also trying to collect as many ‘clues’ for us all to follow as well, so we can continue learning for ourselves, and deciding for ourselves, with God’s help, where the truth really lies.
To that end, another excellent recent piece over on Sasson about the need for questions to be properly asked and properly answered about vaccines in the Jewish community, which you can read HERE, turned up this video (at the top of the post) from the World Mercury Project.
It’s a quick 9 minute view, shmirat eynayim friendly, and basically describes how vaccines are treated as ‘biologics’ (whatever that means) and NOT medications by the FDA, which means the US government doesn’t require new vaccines to go through the drug testing process in the first place.
The Safety Trials process for vaccines is corrupted
The video also shows that the ‘safety trials’ that have been conducted on vaccines typically last for a maximum of 4 days, i.e. a kid is monitored for 4 days after their injection, maximum, and then if they don’t immediately have a fit or worse, God forbid, they are no longer monitored.
Of course, the incubation time for things like asthma, severe learning disabilities and a bunch of other very serious illnesses that the ‘anti’ vaxx lobby claim are caused by vaccinations don’t show up in 4 days, or even in 4 weeks, and often not even in 4 months…
And the last thing to note is that even with this minimal sort of oversight and checking, around 60,000 children in the US are still being formerly registered as having some sort of serious reaction to vaccines every single year. And there’s a strong suspicion that this undisputed, official figure may only be the tip of the iceberg, as so many parents are being actively discouraged from linking any chronic or acute health issues to their kid’s vaccinations.
As always, watch the video, and decide for yourself.
If any ‘pro’ vaxxers out there have detailed, credible information to specifically answer these points and concerns, I’d love to hear from you, as would most of the Jewish parents out there.
But as time is going on, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that while the ‘anti’ vaxxers have an impressive amount of information to share and a willingness to discuss the matter to its depth, the ‘pro’ vaxxers generally do not.
The only way to really get clarity on this matter is for us to keep taking it back to God, and to ask Him to show us what's really going on here, and how He wants us to react. No-one can control what really goes on with their children and their health, whether they load their kid up with every shot going, or do the exact opposite.
God is the only One who's really calling the shots when it comes to our health. So whatever conclusion we ultimately come to about whether or not to vaccinate our children, we still need to be asking Hashem to look after our kids 24/7.
Because that's really what's going to make all the difference.
UPDATE: One of the commentators, Daisy, apparently has a lot of useful background info on vaccines on her website HERE. Please check out the comments for more details.
Six weeks’ ago, when I was starting to pack up the tiny flat, my kid and her friends decided to rearrange all the furniture. They did a really good job, except they ended up shoving one of my huge, solid wood dining chairs in the corridor-room on the way to the back bedrooms.
That fateful day, I groped my way over to my kid’s bedroom to go and wake her up - and slammed straight into that massive piece of wood. I think I probably broke my toe.
Because we were in the middle of packing, I couldn’t find my helichrysum oil, I couldn’t find my sujok stick, my lentils - none of the things I usually use to deal with these minor emergencies. I was also so stressed from the move (because we still hadn’t found a place to rent, and we also were in the middle of trying to find a place to buy) that I couldn’t really pray on my toe to figure out what the message was.
Because God puts messages in everything, we just have to try and decode them.
So it took a month for the toe to heal up, and it’s still been a bit puffy and sore, but Baruch Hashem, on the mend!
Until that fateful day two days ago, when I stubbed it again, this time against the broken glass top of my oven that had been shoved somewhere for safe keeping.
Let’s be clear, I dealt with this situation with something approaching zero emuna.
I was so angry that I’d just stubbed that same poor toe that I banged the glass top away from me - and it smashed into a million shards. And I had nothing on my feet. So it took me half an hour to sort that particular mess out.
Then, I ended up having to take a kid to school again, like has been happening all year if I want her to actually make it there. And there was tons of traffic and I needed a wee. And then, 20 minutes away from home I got a phone call from the other kid, who had missed the bus to her school that was even further away and was now waiting for a bus that simply hadn’t come in an unfriendly Arab part of town.
So I made a U-turn, drove to pick her up - and quietly started to fume.
Just that morning, I’d written a sanctimonious post (draft....) on how a parent’s self-sacrifice, or mesirut Nefesh, is what really helps their kids to get through their issues, and for their kids’ souls to heal. Rav Arush wrote that in ‘Education with love’, and it’s been a credo I’ve been trying to hold by for the last seven years.
But two days ago, God showed me that yet again, my yetzer was causing me lots and lots of problems by taking things to extremes. Even something good, like sacrificing yourself for your kid, can end up being warped and unhelpful.
After I spent five hours taxi-ing my teens around before I’d even had breakfast, with a newly-swollen toe and a feeling of increasing anger and dissatisfaction, I started to realize that once again, I am approaching a ‘change point’ in my life.
For two days solid, I stomped around my new, bigger apartment feeling really awful, yelling at everyone and everything and emitting ‘dangerous Ima’ vibes.
Part of the problem was that I just realized that while I’d been blaming a lot of issues on my lack of space and cramped living quarters, many of the problems are actually much deeper than that.
I may have left the rented dump behind, but I was hugely disappointed to find that I’ve brought the ‘rented dump’ mindset of constriction, complaint and lack with me.
But life is so good!
So why have I been feeling so ucky the last few days?
The feet always allude to emuna. The feet are the place that the dark forces grab on to, to pull a person to oblivion. That’s part of the deeper spiritual reasons for dancing, and picking our feet up off the floor, because it breaks the hold of these evil forces.
So I danced a bit around the flat yesterday, and started to feel a little better.
Then, I sat down and tried to work out what message God is giving me, and this is what I got:
1) Sacrificing ourselves for our kids, especially our teens, doesn’t mean we give them a ‘get out of jail free’ card. They also have to learn responsibility and accountability, and if the price of missing the right bus because they got up too late is an hour of uncomfortable waiting in an Arab neighborhood of town, so be it.
2) I’m over-protective of my kids because I sometimes get scared about all the ucky people out there. But I need to trust Hashem more, that He will look after them, and send them the help they need whenever they truly need it.
3) I am running myself into the ground by trying to smooth out other people’s issues. Even though I love those other people so very much, this is not what God wants. He sends each of us tests to help us grow closer to Him, and to work on our emuna, and sometimes the highest help you can give a person is to step out of the way and encourage them to take everything back to God.
4) I still feel half-stuck. True, the gashmius side of things is now looking up, Baruch Hashem, but spiritually and emotionally, I’m still dealing with a bunch of things that aren’t really getting anywhere fast, or obviously improving.
5) I need to start going to more Kivrei Tzaddikim again. Kever Rachel is up the road from me, and it’s high time I paid it another visit.
There’s more insights popping up too, but I can see that change is on the horizon.
I can’t carry on the way I have been.