When my dad was here a few weeks ago, we got into a bit of an argument sparked off by an ‘internet personality’ rabbi who happens to be a baal teshuva, and who has made a name for himself by having a go at anything and anyone in the Jewish world that he doesn’t agree with.
This ‘rabbi’ has crossed so many lines, halachically, in his personal attacks on others, and in his attacks on many different branches of Judaism, and particularly chassidut, that are clearly coming from a place of complete ignorance.
Rather than have a bit of humility and admit he doesn’t know everything about yiddishkeit, he prefers to spout off long screeds full of sinat chinam and lashon hara, and to try to sow strife and to turn Jew against Jew – and then whenever he’s challenged on what’s he’s said, he claims to have been misunderstood, misrepresented, or taken out of context.
But that’s a lie.
What he’s saying is very clear.
It’s a typical gaslighting technique to tell other people they didn’t really hear what they heard, or that they didn’t understand something in the right way, when they obviously did, and sadly, this ‘rabbi’ is an expert gaslighter.
So now, my dear dad decided to email this ‘rabbi’ directly with the following question, and here’s how he responded (I’m blanking out the name, to avoid unnecessary machloket while still addressing the fundamental point and problem):
THE EMAIL MY DAD SENT:
Shalom aleichem Rabbi [NAME].
Hope you are fully recovered from your journey.
Could you please clarify the following. I told my daughter and son in law that according to you from your lectures that the Breslav worship "AvodaZara" and is a cult religion.
They dispute that it is not true. They want to know on what basis and proof do you draw your conclusions. Can you please name Gedolim who support your opinion.
Toda rabba vekol tuv
THE EMAIL THE ‘RABBI’ SENT BACK:
Their main speaker today (the most popular) rabbi shalom harsh says in his searches that you can't connect to HaShem without connecting first to rabbi Nachman, and he is the only one that can connect you to HaShem.
Without him nothing will help you not your teshuva not your learning torah nothing only rabbi Nachman can save you.
Similar to J.c in Christianity
If this is not a Voda Zara what is??
My dad sent this email to me, to see what I thought, and so this is what I think. First, this is what I sent back to my dad:
MY EMAIL TO MY DAD:
Thanks for this Dad.
You asked Rabbi [NAME] for Gedolim who support his opinion, and he just gave you more of his opinion. Who are the Gedolim who agree with him? Surely if it's that clear cut, there must be some big names that agree with him that he can quote in support. Can you please go back and ask him for other Gedolim who are saying this?
Also, see this explanation by Rav Ofer Erez of the whole idea of hitkashrut to the tzaddikim, which is explicitly explained by the Arizal as a good thing, (amongst other very big rabbis).
Rabbi [NAME] is sadly not a very knowledgeable person, which is why he attacks a lot of what he doesn't understand about the deeper aspects of yiddishkeit. Xtians got the idea of binding to the tzaddik from Judaism, and we need to reclaim it. The same thing happened with the idea of moshiach - the xtians 'took' that idea and then Jews shunned it for centuries. But really, it's the basis of OUR religion and the geula, and we need to understand the concepts properly, in their original Jewish context.
MY DAD IS GOING TO BE WAITING FOR THOSE TORAH SOURCES AND NAMES OF GEDOLIM A REALLY LONG TIME...
Let’s be clear, Rabbi [NAME] is not going to come back with any names of Gedolim who support his opinion, because Gedolim actually know the deeper aspects of the Torah, and understand what’s going on here, and why.
If you watch Rav Ofer’s clip (it’s only 2 mins or so, and it has English subtitles) he explains that the Arizal brings down in his book Shaarei HaKavanot that we should formally bind ourselves to the tzaddikim three times a day.
All the big kabbalists are binding themselves to the true tzaddikim, including Rebbe Nachman, three times a day.
Does this make them ‘xtians’, or idol-worshipers?
Rav Ofer also explains that the Rahash – who is considered to be the ‘Shulchan Aruch’ in terms of kabbalistic practices and kavanot, and is universally accepted as the last word in these matters, states that the halacha is to bind ourselves three times a day to the Tzaddikim.
He also explains that the Ben Ish Hai (not a Breslover, last I checked….) stated that all the words of the Arizal should be considered as though they were said by the Divine presence itself.
So Rabbi [NAME] is basically arguing against the Arizal, the Rahash, the Ben Ish Hai and all the Jewish people’s leading kabbalists.
For sure, he doesn’t even know that, because as I told my dad, Rabbi [NAME] has made a big reputation for himself online by attacking other Jews. Sometimes, we applaud his attacks and think ‘good, someone had to say that!!’ when it comes to the more clear-cut subjects. And then we think that he must be coming from a good place…
As Rabbi Nachman explains in his tale of The Cripple, ‘the talkers’ at the end of days are the ones who go around taking each other out with all their vituperative attacks on other Jews, and this is what paves the way for Moshiach to come.
Rabbi Nachman makes clear that the only people who talk negatively like this, with a shameless disregard for halacha and Torah law, are actually powered by demonic forces who are working night and day to prevent the Moshiach from coming.
When someone has a taste for lashon hara, and for sinat chinam, and for seeing their fellow Jew with an evil eye, and for trying to stoke conflict between Jews, they are always on the look-out for fresh ‘controversies’ that are easy to ignite. And Breslev is an easy target, especially for ignorant and arrogant people who think they know everything, when clearly, they really don’t.
For sure, Rabbi [NAME] has zero interest in really learning the deeper Jewish sources behind the practice of binding to the true Tzaddikim. For sure, he’s going to either try to evade the issue by ignoring my dad’s email completely, or coming back with more of his ‘opinion’ as opposed to any solid Jewish sources or Gedolim who actually support his position.
And this is how these fake, ‘rockstar’ rabbis manage to fool so many Jews that they are the real deal, while all the time they are leading them further away from Hashem and causing huge problems for the Jewish people.
Again, to make this point crystal clear: when a rabbi is ‘fake’, they don’t refer to Gedolim who agree with their controversial positions (because the Gedolim don’t…) and they don’t have a real grasp of halacha, which is why they fall back on their own over-sized personalities and superficial arguments that sound correct to the uneducated masses, but really aren’t.
(Can you imagine what sort of trouble this 'rabbi' could be sparking off between me and my dad right now with his comments, if I hadn't spent years researching how these people operate?)
Let the world of lies fall soon!
And in the meantime, give fakers like Rabbi [NAME] a wide berth. God makes it very clear that He can’t dwell with an arrogant person, and if God isn’t the one who’s powering all of these ‘conversations’ and blog posts and ‘Torah’ lessons, you know who else has stepped into the vacuum to provide the script.
UPDATE: Here's a small selection of the literally hundreds of quotes and stories out there from leading rabbis and rebbes of the last 200 years, Ashkenazi and Sephardi, Chassidic and Litvak, who had only the highest praise for Rebbe Nachman and Breslov chassidut.
Were all these enormous tzaddikim wrong, or somehow didn't understand that Breslov was meant to be some idol-worshiping cult? Was Rav Ovadia Yosef z'tl, the undisputed halachic authority of our generation, somehow misled, when he appeared with Rav Berland in public on two seperate occasions, that Rav Berland was really worshipping idols?
I mean, seriously? We're expected to take the opinion of the slander-spreading, strife-mongering Rabbi [NAME] (who I checked out very thoroughly now, and guess what? He doesn't even have smicha! He's a self-appointed 'rabbi' who spent a few years reading some gemara in Monsey and now he thinks he knows everything) - over the words of some of the biggest sages that ever lived?!
How can anyone with even half a brain cell begin to suggest such a thing? Oy, what a lowly generation we live in. Here are the quotes:
Rabbi Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz, author of "Chazon Ish" called Rebbe Nachman: "The light of lights of truth..." Rav Ben Tzion Apter said that here and there the Chazon Ish would speak to him about the strength and greatness of Rebbe Nachman and each time would say "tell over a teaching of the Rebbe."
Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Alter, the Admor from Ger, after finishing up the Seder on Pesach eve would learn from Likutey Moharan. Rabbi Aharon of Belz: "The level of this book (Likutey Moharan) is indeed very great...Breslover Chassidim are sincere Jews."
Rabbi Yitchak Gelbach was a student of the great Rav Elchonon Wasserman (a student of the Chofetz Chaim) and said that Rav Elchonon used to push his students to draw close to Rebbe Nachman of Breslov.
Rabbi Elya Lopian on Rebbe Nachman's books: "These are real books of ethics."
Rabbi Eliyahu Klatzkin of Lublin: "Any praise you praise Rebbe Nachman with is just the tip (of his full praise) because Rebbe Nachman’s level of wisdom is very high and limitless."
Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler, author of "Michtav M'Eliyahu", quotes from Rebbe Nachman in his books. In a letter to his children, he encouraged them to learn Breslov works in order to merit fear of Heaven.
Rabbi Eliezer Shulevitz, Rosh Yeshiva of Lomza: "Whoever is searching out the truth, eventually reaches Breslov".
Rabbi David Widenfeld, the Gaon of Tschebin: "Rebbe Nachman was the most brilliant of the Rebbe's".
The Admor, author of "Tzemach Tzedek": "By my father (Rabbi Chaim of Kosov, author of "Torat Chaim") the book Likutey Moharan never left the table."
Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz, Rosh Yeshiva of Mir: "Through (learning) Likutey Moharan, the mind is opened." He also said "We work on trying to solve problems (in scripture) and they (Breslover Chassidim) work constantly on 'fear Hashem and love Him all your days.'"
Rabbi Elazar Shapiro of Munkatch, author of "Minchat Elazar": "When the whole world begins to be concerned with and learn 'Sipurey Ma'asiot' (Rebbe Nachman's Stories) - Mashiach will come." He requested that "Hishtapchut HaNefesh (Outpouring of the soul)" be constantly printed.
Rabbi Chaim Meir Hager of Viznitz, author of "Imrei Chaim", said that the book, Likutey Moharan, never left his table. Additionally, he said "this book (Sipurey Ma'asiot) belongs to the Kabbalah."
Rabbi Yehuda Leib, the Sfat Emet, on his death bed requested that 'Sippurey Ma'asiot' be read to him. He then said that the last story hints at the Geulah.
Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum of Satmar: "Rebbe Nachman saw in a vision all the problems this generation would encounter with faith...these days, one cannot be strenghted if not by these books because in them you find real faith." He also said: "You cannot be sincerely Jewish without learning the books of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov." & "The author of Likutey Moharan was completely pure and therefore existed by him the concept of 'and Yosef's brothers were jealous of him'." & "We can see that Rebbe Nachman has more holy presence (resting on him) than other Tzaddikim." Once on Shabbat, he said: " Who can strenghten us?! Rebbe Nachman can strengthen us in such a situation!"
Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak, the Chozeh of Lublin: "Rebbe Nachman is the great light...a holy man...miracle worker of the generation." About Likutey Moharan: "Likutey Moharan speaks for itself...the words are true and straight. They don't need approval from anyone else."
Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky, the Steipler Gaon: "This book (Likutey Moharan) stirs me to fear of Heaven. And, I see that if there is a day that I don't learn this book, I feel lacking in Heavenly fear."
Rabbi Yitzchak Meir of Ger, author of "Chidushei HaRim", took 'Sippurey Ma'asiot' and studied it until he got to the story of 'The Seven Beggars', when he said "until this point, I understood something. From here on - I don't know anything anymore."
Rabbi Yisrael Abuchatzera: "The praised Tzaddikim will take out the Shechina from exile." The 'Baba Sali' also said that his son, Rabbi Meir Abuchatzera, appeared to him in a dream and said to his father: "all the Tzaddikim, here in Heaven, go to hear lessons from Rebbe Nachman."
Rabbi Meir Abuchatzera regularly had books of Rebbe Nachman on his desk. One time he gave his daughter 'Likutey Etzot' (Advice) and said: "Whenever you need advice with anything, look in this book."
Rabbi Tzvi Aryeh Malik, student of the great Maggid: "I investigated him and I did not find any (reason for) disagreement...according to my findings, we all have to be embarassed before him . To say "and he is wiser than all men" is not even the whole praise to say about him."
Rabbi Shalom Moskowitz of Shatz: "Every word which Rebbe Nachman uttered is the deepest of the deep...full of wisdom, ethics, wonderful and awesome advice for a person to fulfill his purpose in the world."
Rabbi Shlomo Mazvil told over that his saintly father came to him in a dream and said to him: "In the upper world, when a Breslover Chassid arrives - there is a huge uproar. They are very viewed with great importance..." He requested that his granddaughter be matched up with a Breslover Chassid.
See more here: http://www.breslev-midot.com/eng/hillulat_moharahn_2005.asp
If you haven't had a look already, I just reviewed Rav Ofer Erez's newest book in English, From the Depths, over on the Jewish Book Review blog HERE.
That book helped me to come through the most difficult time in my life, a few years' back, and it's highly, highly recommended. It's not a long read, it's not complicated, it's written very simply, but it contains a bunch of deep information, so kindly given over, that will explain why sometimes our suffering is just something we have to go through for our spiritual tikkun, and not necessarily because there is something to 'fix' in this lifetime.
The 'fix' in those situations is to know that God still loves us, and that our suffering is being caused by unfinished business from a past life, and to maintain our emuna in His goodness and justness.
Often, so much easier said than done, especially when the carpet gets whipped out from under our feet.
So, check out my review HERE, the pop over to HERE to go buy the book.
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?
As we head into the holiday, I want to wish all my dear readers an uplifting, happy, and peaceful festival of freedom. BH, this is the year we really will get out of Mitzrayim, both collectively and personally.
In the meantime, here's a round-up of some Pesach-related reading material that you may want to check out, if you're taking a quick break from all the cooking and cleaning:
Nesanel Yoel Safran wonders why this holiday tends to take people to extremes, in Extremely Pesach.
Helen Schwimmer shares a peek of what goes on between the covers of her haggada.
Zisi Berkowitz shares a Pesach Parody based on Paul Revere
Rav Ofer Erez explains in his newsletter for Nisan 5778 that our redemption depends on connecting to the Tzaddik
Alizah Teitelbaum writes a heartfelt plea for redemption to come this year.
And all I can say is 'amen', I really hope that will happen too.
There's so much weird weather going on at the moment that it's really no stretch to believe in things like a plague of killer hail heading into Pesach.
Three days ago, enormous hail fell over Lesotho in Africa, and according to the Africa News, it damaged a whole bunch of property and trees and even killed some people. Does that sound familiar to anyone else?
Texas has also been getting enormous hail (although not quite on the same scale - it's only breaking car windscreens not knocking people out.)
And the UK...well, it got battered again with another highly unusual 'cold snap' that also managed to erode 10 metres of sea front in some places in less than an hour, leaving a few cottages literally hanging off the edge of a cliff where for centuries it was solid ground.
The man who owns the home in the picture (below) told reporters that two years ago, he was 90 metres away from the sea...and now he really isn't.
So bits of the UK coast are going missing from some places, and others are suddenly being reclaimed.
With all the 'predictions' coming and going still, it's very easy to think that this is all a big fuss over nothing, and the world is going to continue on its merry way for another 3,000 years. And maybe that's correct, who knows?
Except, except, except....
Rav Berland said the following on the Fast of Esther, and he's never been one for hyping up things to do with Gog and Magog, or death and destruction. His message has always been consistently one of things taking a while to play out, of Jews doing teshuva in their masses and Moshiach coming peacefully.
So when he said this, I really sat up and took notice:
Everything that has occurred up until now will appear to be nothing, compared to what will be in Gog and Magog – it will be the nothing of nothings…!
I don't know about you, but I was kind of hoping that WWII had taken care of most of the 'birth pangs' and destruction of mankind stuff associated with Gog and Magog. The Rav speaks at such a high level, it's impossible to really know what he's referring to, but on the pshat level, it seems to be a pretty clear warning that a rough ride is still ahead.
And again, I've gone through a lot of the Rav's material at this point, and while he does talk a lot about destruction coming to the world every 70 years, and Iran trying to nuke us, and other things of that ilk, in the past it's always been joined with other upbeat remarks about how previous generations tzaddikim could have saved their generation by taking shame and humiliation upon themselves.
So I really don't know what to make of this, tell you the truth.
Other than we definitely need to hang on to our tzaddikim and to ask Hashem to show us who the true tzaddikim really are. Whatever is currently cooking in the world, the Jewish people have always been saved by submitting ourselves to our tzaddikim and doing what they tell us.
It was like that in Egypt, with Moshe, it was like that in Shushan, with Mordechai, and it will be like that with Moshiach, when the call goes out to 'bring in your cattle' because some huge flaming hail is about to fall from the sky....
And in the meantime, life continues. And Pesach is around the corner. And if you'd like a good place to donate some kimcha de pischa money to with a Breslov flavor, then please take a look HERE.
Rav Ofer Erez's organisation really is helping some very poor families in Jerusalem celebrate Pesach with the basics they need - and we're really talking about the basics here. Some of these families were my neighbors, and when Rav Ofer says they don't have anything, he's really not exaggerating.
Ka'ayal Ta'arog is really keeping a lot of frum Breslov families going in Jerusalem, and it's a huge mitzva to help out, if you can and that speaks to you. Go HERE to donate, and may we all be blessed with a happy, kosher Pesach.
Massive hail, massive floods, cold snaps, earthquakes and other weird phenomena not withstanding.
A few years’ back, an acquaintance of mine invited me to come with her to Ashdod, to go and take a look at some exciting-sounding cheap clothing place for kids. It was quite a hot day, and when I got into the car I was already sweltering.
Now, I knew this acquaintance had some ‘issues’ around spending money, but before I got into the car with her on that boiling Summer day, I had no idea how bad they actually were. Two seconds in, I told her I was hot. She opened the windows (half - we were on a motorway) - and that’s when I started to get that horrible, claustrophobic feeling that I was about to have a really challenging couple of hours.
Because while I can tolerate heat to a point, I can’t stand being in a hot car with no air-conditioning in the middle of an Israeli summer. I literally feel faint and want to throw up. But my acquaintance clearly had zero intention of turning on the aircon under any circumstances, because air-conditioning costs money.
I understand that we have to be careful with money, I really do. I also understand that sometimes, there isn’t money for petrol, and there isn’t money for food. And that under those circumstances, you can’t blow it on air-conditioning.
But we weren’t talking about those sorts of circumstances.
On the journey back, I swore to myself I would never, ever get in a car with that acquaintance again, because the lack of control I had over the situation was so distressing for me and I really, nearly threw up a few times. I was tempted - a few times - to just plonk down 50 shekels on the dashboard and to ask her to turn on the aircon, but that wouldn’t have gone down at all well with this particular person.
She could see I wasn’t handling the heat very well, but she was so intent on saving a few cents she simply couldn’t put my need to overheat ahead of her need to save money. And she also couldn’t accept that maybe, it was reasonable of me to want the aircon on in those circumstances, so there was nothing else to talk about.
A few months after that experience, another acquaintance asked me if I’d drive her to the Baba Sali. It was now winter in Israel, and not so hot, but this acquaintance had a very low tolerance to anything resembling heat, and she asked if we could put the aircon on.
Partially, it was because it really wasn’t hot at all in the car, and partially, I was also mindful of the cost of the gas (which she hadn’t offered to help me pay for, despite her wanting to make the trip) and partially, again, it was that lack of control thing.
I turned the aircon on - resentfully - and for weeks and even months afterwards, I tried to figure out why I’d been so upset about doing that. After all, I knew firsthand how horrible it was to feel like you were suffocating to death in a too-hot car. So why was I reacting with such bad grace to this second acquaintance?
After this second acquaintance asked me for a few more favors - like driving her to hospital at 1am for an emergency scan so her husband could stay at home with her kids - the penny finally dropped: there was zero gratitude blowing back from this acquaintance, who was very keen on the idea that people should be committed to the mitzvah of doing kindnesses for others.
Or at least, kindnesses for her, because the kindnesses coming back over the fence were few and far between.
This all happened 5-6 years ago, when I was the height of my process of discovering that so many people (including myself…) are literally crazy.
What makes this a problem is not that people have their foibles, because we all have our eccentricities and our ‘red lines’ many of which are completely illogical but no less powerfully policed.
The bigger problem by far is that we aren’t honest enough about our own issues, so we can’t figure out genuinely useful compromises. If my tight-fisted friend could have explained that she could see I’m half-dying in the heat, but that she simply couldn’t justify the ‘waste’ of money switching the aircon entailed, but she’d be very happy to give me the option of paying to cover it - we’d have both have been happy and that friendship probably would have lasted a lot longer than it did.
Similarly, if I could have been honest with my other acquaintance that I was feeling like she was taking me for a ride, and using me as an unpaid taxi service (like when she commanded me to switch the music I was listening to, because she didn’t like it) - things would have also been much easier, at least for me, and we could have figured out a compromise that worked for both of us.
And if we couldn’t, then I’d have known much earlier on to put this person on my ‘awkward’ list, and to give her a much wider berth.
These days, I generally spot these people much earlier on, mostly, so it’s much easier to avoid getting dragged into all these horrible, complicated situations which really just boil down to a power struggle where you are being forced to do things that you really don’t want to do.
The ‘control’ belongs to God. The ‘power’ belongs to God. The more I can live by that credo, the easier it is for me to get along with my fellow human being, even the really crazy ones. At the same time, I have to recognize that I’m not an angel or a tzaddik, and that I also have my own red lines and wants about how things should be.
If I ignore that side of things too much, I get extremely moody, miserable, stressed and even sick.
Getting the balance right between these two things, so I’m not completely self-centred and selfish, and also not completely spineless and a doormat, is the work of 120. No problem is ever 100% the other person’s fault, but figuring out the percentages is really, really hard.
And as Pesach approaches, this is one of the key bits of work that we all have to do. Rav Ofer writes that true freedom is getting out of all our bad middot and negative desires and behaviors.
And as usual, I seem to have my work cut out for me.
A few days’ back, I had four nights in a row of extremely intense dreams. This happens sometimes. I can go for months and months without dreaming anything much, and then have a bevy of whopping, big meaningful dreams one after another.
The first dream was a really awful nightmare about the force of evil being maintained in the world by thoughtless people who really had no idea what they were messing with, or what bad things they were unleashing as a result.
Thank God, I don’t get dreams that disturbing very often, but when they come, around once a year, I walk around panic-stricken and shaken for at least a day afterwards. And then there were two more internal, but still intense dreams. And then on the last day, I dreamt the whole country was being flooded by an enormous tsunami.
The weird thing about that tsunami is that while it was towering over me five stories tall, I actually didn’t get wet. It passed me by somehow, and went and flooded everything else.
It wasn’t a bad dream, like that other nightmare, but I felt I was getting some clue I had to go and research more, not least because when I was walking around Tel Aviv getting soaked to the skin a couple of months’ ago, I saw a really strange municipality sign affixed in a couple of locations.
Report from Hamodia: YERUSHALAYIM -Israel is not considered a high-risk country for tsunamis, but the Tel Aviv Municipality and Israel Police on Thursday decided that signs warning of the possibility of a giant wave hitting Israel’s coast were necessary anyway. The new signs warn that Tel Aviv beaches are a “tsunami hazard zone,” with the warning listed in English, Hebrew and Arabic. However, instructions on what to do are listed only in Hebrew and Arabic.
It was a brand new, blue and white ‘tsunami warning’ sign, which told the good citizens of Tel Aviv which direction they should run away in, should the city be hit by a tsunami.
That sign struck me as so very weird, because as far as I can tell, Tel Aviv has never, ever come even close to experiencing a tsunami. And if it did, running away a few metres up the road isn’t going to help anyone, much.
So I sat down, googled ‘tsunami’ - and I realized it was the seven day anniversary of when that massive tsunami hit the Fukishima nuclear reactor in Japan. Hmm. Maybe that was the tsunami vibe I’d picked up? Tsunami past, not tsunami present?
I googled a bit more, and I came across some videos by MrMMB333, who has been a gentle but obsessive observer of freak weather for a few years’ now. In contrast to so many of the ‘Prophets of Nibiru’ on the internet, he’s never made any big claims, never set any dates in stone, generally never even said the word ‘Nibiru’, or anything like that.
All he does is collate information from a number of satellite feeds, and other people who are also measuring strange things like huge spikes in UV readings across the North American continent, and he shares that info with his viewers with mild comments about things being ‘mighty strange’.
He had a whole bunch of recent things up on his site about what he calls ‘water anomalies’, namely strange shoreline phenomena that is seeing parts of the coast all over the world being strangely inundated with water, while other parts of the coast are being strangely exposed, and the sea water has somehow ‘disappeared’.
For example, parts of Europe and the UK got hit with Storm Emma a couple of weeks’ ago, and in the wake of that storm, an old Roman aqueduct that had been submerged for centuries suddenly appeared off the coast of Spain. How? Somehow, all the water in that area receded - permanently - and it revealed a ‘new’ stretch of coast including this ancient aqueduct.
Then weirder still, Storm Emma headed up the west coast of the British Isles, on the Irish side of the country, and on the east coast of Britain, facing France, a new massive stretch of coastline suddenly appeared, containing a massive forest of ‘7000 year old’ (sic) tree stumps.
Again, what’s strange about this is that these new/ old stretches of coast seem to have been permanently acquired. Something fundamental is shifting the earth’s oceans around and gently, gently, starting to re-draw the map of the world.
WHEN MOSHIACH COMES THE WORLD IS GOING TO CHANGE RADICALLY
For months, the messages I’ve been getting in my hitbodedut sessions is that the world is going to change, radically, but also (relatively…) very slowly and gently this time around. There will be no massive and instantaneous wrenching of the earth’s mantle without warning. Things will happen in due course, the world will probably experience a new ‘Matan Torah’ type event at some early stage of the open geula process.
But Moshiach will be revealed by then, and telling people to ‘bring in their cattle’, or to move country, or whatever it is they need to do to stay safe. This is how it happened in Egypt. Moshe the redeemer showed up, was believed by some of the people, not believed in by many of the others, things started to get pretty strange, weather-wise - and the whole test was whether to believe Moshe was ‘in control’ of events, as the prophet of Hashem, or whether it was all just comet-induced freak weather.
That’s why the sorcerers only grudgingly acknowledged that the ‘finger of God’ was somehow involved from the third plague onwards. But even by the plague of hail, many Egyptians were still denying Hashem’s kingship of the world, and refused to heed Moshe’s warning to ‘bring in their cattle’ when that plague struck.
HOW DID DATAN AND AVIRAM MAKE IT OUT OF EGYPT?
A few weeks’ ago, my husband asked Rav Ofer Erez why Datan and Aviram made it out of Egypt, and didn’t die in the plague of darkness with the other 4/5 of Am Yisrael? I mean, they were pretty ucky, yucky people, and they were behind so many of Moshe’s problems right from the start, with their evil speech, criticism, heresy and trouble-making.
Rav Ofer said there were two explanations:
1) That Datan and Aviram were actually enormous souls. He told my husband there’s a midrash that says they actually didn’t leave with the rest of the Israelite camp, because they thought they were only going out for three days, and then returning to Egypt, so they couldn’t be bothered coming along for that.
It’s only when the Egyptians realized that the Jews were going for good and set off in pursuit that Datan and Aviram grabbed their things, and tried to catch up with them. The midrash says an amazing thing: the sea split again, just for these two evil-doers.
They had so much potential in their souls, but they used it all for bad. So that’s one explanation, Datan and Aviram were not ‘standard’ evil-doers and potentially extremely lofty souls.
2) Another explanation is that the Jews that died in the plague of darkness died for a specific reason, and not necessarily because they were ‘bad’. And the specific reason given by the deeper Jewish sources is that they didn’t believe in the Tzaddik’s ability to redeem them.
Clearly, some ‘bad’ people made it out of Egypt - Datan and Aviram, Korach, the Erev Rav etc etc. Clearly, being ‘good’ wasn’t the measure of who made it out.
Believing in the Tzaddik was.
As it was then, so it may well be today.
After that tsunami dream, I did some serious hitbodedut about it, trying to figure out the message, at least for me. I got a picture in my head of a massive Rav Berland holding back the waves, and all these half-dead people who’d been buried in the sand kind of levitating up out the ground and floating after him.
To me, the message was clear. There is some sort of tsunami coming, whatever that actually means, that will overwhelm the world. But if you’re following after the Tzaddik - whoever that ultimately turns out to be - you’ll be ok, you’ll stay dry.
And if not?
I shudder to think.
When we were reading Parshat Zachor last Shabbat, I kept wondering to myself who Amalek is today. After all, Rav Ofer HERE says that since World War II and the holocaust, when the Germans proved themselves all too worthy of the name ‘Amalek’, Am Yisrael has been continually engaged in the battle against Amalek.
Rav Ofer says it has to be that way right now, because before each time the way the world was being run spiritually changed in some massive way - like when the Torah was given, when King David was crowned King, when the Second Temple was rebuilt - the Jews first had to battle Amalek.
In a moment, I’ll bring a bit more of the really interesting evidence pulled together by the renegade genius Immanuel Velikovsky about who Amalek actually was in biblical times, but before I do that, this is what Rav Natan of Breslov has to say about Amalek (taken from THIS article on the Breslov.org website):
Reb Noson writes that Amalek corresponds to burning lust, the strife between husband and wife, between a person and his community and the hatred directed against the true tzaddikim (Likutey Halakhot, Minchah 7:20).
Given all the controversy going on at the moment against the true Tzaddikim, I found that pretty darned interesting. But there’s more:
“The Torah writes, [Amalek] smote the hindmost among you” (Deuteronomy 25:18). Our Sages teach: “[Amalek] separates the tails and throws them high (Tanchuma, Ki Taytze 10).
WE ARE ALL STILL FIGHTING AMALEK TODAY
After reading Rav Natan’s words, I can see that we really are all up to our necks still fighting Amalek today.
But now, let’s turn our attention to who Amalek actually was in the past. There’s some interesting details about the nation of Amalek that have always puzzled many people.
On the one hand, most historians have always been careful to portray ‘Amalek’ as a bunch of wild Bedouin tribesmen who were wandering in the desert when they happened to cross the path of Am Yisrael, on the way to receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai.
Yet in Parshat Balak, when the evil Bilaam is trying to curse the tents of Jacob he actually comes out with the following blessing instead: “…his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted.”
Agag, as we know from the time of the prophet Samuel, was a name used by the Amalekite kings, so this Agag mentioned by Bilaam would appear to be a forerunner of the ‘Agag King of the Amalekites’ who ended up being drawn and quartered by the Prophet Samuel a few hundred years’ later.
In that same parsha, the Torah tells us about Bilaam: “And when he looked on Amalek he took up his parable and said: ‘Amalek [is] the first of the nations, but his latter end shall be that he perish forever.”
HOW DID AMALEK GET TO BE 'THE FIRST AMONGST NATIONS'?
How come the Torah is referring to this rag-tag bunch of travelling murderous Bedouin as ‘the first of the nations’? And what is the big deal for Am Yisrael to have a king that is higher than the Amalekite King Agag, if we’re talking about a bunch of itinerant desert-dwellers?
Get ready for this next piece of info, because when I read it, it completely blew me away.
CHAOTIC 'WEATHER' AND MATAN TORAH
As we know the Torah was given amidst what you’d probably call some ‘extreme weather’ activity. The whole world was in an uproar as Hashem had caused one miracle after another to happen by way of the proto-planet Venus coming in a little too close for comfort towards Planet Earth.
(I wrote a whole big post about how God has frequently used comets to fight for the Jews, which I might re-post after this goes up, BH, to give you more context and background, but it was basically another ‘Nibiru’ show, just 3,300 years ago.)
So, the whole world was in chaos, and as our sources teach us, just as the sea split for Am Yisrael in Egypt, so every other body of water in the whole world also split at the same time. Can you imagine what sort of forces were in play on the planet at that time, what sort of Heaven-sent winds and hurricanes must have been gusting about, for every body of water to split?
(As an aside, Rav Berland recently taught that the reason Yitro converted was because the water in his cup also split at that time. 3,300 years ago, everyone was going on about ‘electro-magnetic forces’ and near misses with comets causing all the weird weather, earthquakes, sea-splitting, comets showers etc. But when Yitro saw that the water in his cup also split, he said:
“This is only God’s doing!! No comet would cause the water in my teacup to split!” And he immediately decided to convert.)
So anyway, there’s the hurricane to end all hurricanes going on, there’s hundreds of volcanoes exploding all over the planet, huge tidal waves and tsunamis flooding all over the place, massive earthquakes, the whole of the world is literally upended and held above the heads of Am Yisrael before Matan Torah….
And it affected every single nation and country on the planet, not just Egypt.
AMALEK DWELLED IN WHAT WAS THE ARABIAN PENINSULA
And one of the places it happened to effect severely was the Arabian peninsula, where the Amalekites had recently been living. When the sea split by the Sea of Reeds, Arabia also got pounded by terrifying forces of nature, cities crumbled, comets fell - and the Amalekite survivors packed up and decided to try their luck in Egypt.
This was back before CNN, so everyone just thought that other places must be doing better than their neck of the woods was. The Amalekites crossed the path of Am Yisrael en route, and because they had zero fear of God and hated the Jews tremendously, they started a war with Am Yisrael just when the rest of the world was poised to convert en masse and to recognize Hashem in the world, after the terrifying experiences they’d just gone through.
After Joshua defeated them on the battle ground, the Amalekites then headed off to Egypt, as per plan A - and became the infamous Hyksos rulers of Egypt, or ‘shepherd-kings’.
According to Velikovsky,
“In the history of Egypt the most frequently mentioned names of the Hyksos kings is Apop….Agag I appears to be Apop I, and Agag II was Apop II…who reigned…some four hundred years later.”
We know who ‘Agag II’ was: he was the Amalekite king who King Shaul went to battle, but who he failed to kill, as per the instructions of Hashem, as delivered via the Prophet Samuel. Shaul let Agag live, and during that additional time he managed to father a child who would become the ancestor of Haman, the next ‘big name’ in the nation of Jew-hating Amalekites.
Velikovsky brings a lot of supporting evidence for this idea in his book ‘Ages of Chaos’ Volume I, but if Amalek went on to become the Hyksos rulers of an Egypt that was left completely ruined by the aftermath of the 10 plagues and the Exodus, that would certainly explain why Bilaam referred to them as ‘first amongst nations’.
The last bit of the puzzle, for now, is who actually got rid of the Hyksos kings after they’d ruled Egypt for 400 years, and how Amalek and the Jews fit into this picture.
Again, what you are about to read is mind-bogglingly awesome:
Egypt was liberated from the Hyksos by King Shaul and the Jewish people!
Let’s piece all the bits together, first from the Egyptian ‘historical’ side of things, and then from the Torah-true side of things. There’s a document called the Sallier Papyrus I which documents how the last Hyksos King called Apop II (Agag II) sent a humiliating demand to a native Egyptian prince called Seknenre, who ended up being arrested.
Something called the ‘Carnavon tablet’ then tells the story of how Seknenre’s son, Kamose, rebelled against the Hyksos with the help of some foreign troops. Now, Egyptian monuments never praised foreigners or outsiders, so the story of how the Hyksos was beaten is phrased very oddly by an Egyptian noble and eye-witness to the battle:
“’One’ besieged the city of Avaris” - the capital city of the Hyksos Pharoahs. “’One’ fought on the water in the canal [riverbed] of Avaris…’One’ fought in Egypt…’One’ captured Avaris.”
Who is this ‘One’ who did all these things on behalf of the native Egyptians, and finally put an end to the Hyksos rule of ancient Egypt? Let’s go over to book of Samuel, where we’ll pick up some very interesting clues:
Samuel I 15: 2-3:”Thus says the Lord of Hosts, I remember what Amalek did to Israel, how he laid in wait for him on the way, when he came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy everything that they have!”
So then King Shaul went and gathered: “two hundred thousand footmen, and 10,000 men from Judah” and marched off to do battle. A little later, Samuel tells us: (I 15:5) “And Shaul came to the city of Amalek, and laid in waiting in the stream.”
Again, notice how far from being impoverished Beduin, the Amalekites have a proper city of their own, and notice how at least some of the fighting being described by Samuel occurs ‘on the water, in the canal of Avaris’.
Later on, in Samuel 15:7-8, the prophet tells us that: “Shaul smote the Amalekites from Havilah until Shur, that is over against Egypt. And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive.,,”
King Shaul is the ‘one’ described in the Carnavon tablet by the Egyptian eye-witness!
There’s so much more to say about all this, and I hope to share more of how the events described in our Torah truly do appear in the annals of history in future posts.
In our upside-down world, the chronology used for the Middle East is all based on Egyptian sources, which for various reasons is wrong. So every time archaeologists discover something that is clearly referenced in Tanach, they usually tack on some guff about it their find describing something depicted in our Torah, but at the wrong period of time.
There are so many examples of where this has happened, but take a look at THIS story, about finding the remains of Sdom and Gomorrah, for a recent illustration of the problem.
All those atheist archeologists and Middle Eastern historians and Egyptologists and anthropologists are simply continuing the time-honored tradition of Amalek, albeit not always consciously, of trying to hide God’s presence in the world.
But our Torah is true! The Amalekites existed then - and went down in secular history as the Hyksos rulers of ancient Egypt - and they still exist today, as the people who deny and denigrate our true Tzaddikim and stoke strife between Jews.
And so the battle continues.
As has been going on all year, I'm going into Purim completely unprepared.... I moved house two days' ago, so even just finding my Megillot is a bit of a task (and let's not even talk about getting my oven working or figuring out the hot water.)
But Baruch Hashem, other people are a bit more organised, so here's a quick round-up of some other Purim pieces you may like to read:
hOver on www.ravberland.com, the Rav tells us about the correct mindset we should have going into Purim, HERE.
Over on www.ofererez.com, Rav Ofer tells us that before Hashem is about to make a big spiritual change in the world, the Jewish people first have to go through another test with Amalek. Read that HERE.
Over on the soulfoodie blog, you'll find this:
And then on Sasson, there's a very nice selection of poems, stories and non-fiction pieces about Purim, including:
The recipe for survival that was concealed in my mother's kreplach
V'ne'hafochu - A fish story
And BH, things really ARE starting to turn around in the world for the good this Purim, 5778.
Following on from the 'Erev Rav' discussion below, Rav Ofer Erez just posted up a new clip with English subtitles that kind of makes the point very keenly about the importance of seeing the good in the world.
That means seeing the good in everything that happens to us, seeing the good in ourselves, and seeing the good in other people (even the 'awkward squad' that really do drive us mad with their terrible behavior.)
Again, this is not at all easy, and it's the work of 120 years.
But from experience, it's those people who are struggling to see the good in what's happening to them and around them, and who are struggling to see the good in themselves, who tend to be the most harsh, judgmental and unforgiving about other people.
Judging favorably is going against basic human nature, but it's the key to redemption the sweet way, as it's seeing the spark of Hashem that exists within all of creation, and certainly within our fellow Jews - even if they are the worst of the worst.
I'm not saying ignore bad behavior, quite the opposite. What I'm saying is that anyone who is really doing the work of judging THEMSELVES first of all will start to understand how they themselves got to be the way they did.
And once that happens, then they'll also start to understand how so many other people got to the place they got to, and they'll feel more compassion for them.
Without all the true tzaddikim we have in our lives, without all the help God sent down to us, which one of us can honestly say that we wouldn't be just as nasty and horrible as all these 'Erev Rav' types we see walking about?
If you had the sort of childhoods they'd had, the sorts of experiences they had, the sort of huge inner demons they've had to fight, wouldn't you also act in the same disgusting ways?
Again, it's not excusing the behavior, it's understanding where it comes from. People make trouble and hurt others because they are mentally and spiritually disturbed, they are fundamentally cut off from God, they don't believe God cares about them, or sees them, and they deeply hate themselves.
That's what they're projecting out into the rest of the world.
And the way to cure that problem at its root is to help them re-attach to God, to reassure them that God still loves them, and to encourage them to start judging themselves favorably. That means criticising the BAD ACTION not making global statements about people BEING BAD.
This is a crucial distinction.
Even the wicked King Menashe who the midrash says killed 8 million of his fellow Jews (more than Hitler!), including his grand-dad the Prophet Isaiah, ultimately made teshuva and returned to God.
God wants these people back.
Go read the story about how God Himself dug out a special passage under His heavenly throne to enable the prayers of Menashe to ascend to Him, because the angels were blocking them.
The angels said: "What?! You're going to let Menashe make teshuva?! After all the really awful, terrible things he's done?! No way!!! Who can be more of an 'erev rav' than Menashe?!"
But God ignored them, and welcomed Menashe's prayers, and he ultimately made teshuva.
Looking for the good in these people is what God wants.
And if we don't want to give God what He wants, that's something we really have to go take a careful look, and explore why that is, and why we are so determined to hold on to our hatred and harsh judgments against our fellow Jews.
Because maybe, that's pointing to the fact that deep inside, we also may be feeling a little cut-off from God and God's mercy, and that we aren't really judging ourselves so favorably, or liking ourselves so much, despite all appearances to the contrary.
Whenever I read a rant these days, I come away knowing 100% that this person doesn't like themselves very much, and is struggling spiritually.
And yes, they're still acting like a pig and driving me mad! And yes, I need to stay away from them and their destructive behavior, and to protect myself from becoming collateral damage as a result of their spiritual malaise and inner turmoil!
But from that safe distance, then I can understand why they do what they do, and why they act how they act, and I can ask God to help them out of the hole they are in.
Because if other people don't feel compassion for them, and pray for these disturbed individuals, they will never, ever find their way out, and find their way back to God.
And God wants them back.
Rav Ofer does a much better job of explaining this than I do, so here he is. (You can turn on the English subtitles by clicking the tab at the bottom right of the screen. It's a 4 minute quick view, but he packs an awful lot of Torah into that time.)
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