I just got back from a whirlwind trip to Uman over shabbat, and I’m so pleased I went. Last week, I was literally starting to feel like I was disintegrating, there was so much din in the air.
After Uman, I’ve got some energy and some clarity back, and I feel more like a human being again. Not that Uman was ‘easy’ – it’s never that, but it’s always worthwhile, as Rabbenu has a way of bringing things up to the surface that need acknowledging and resolving.
We took a red-eye to get there before Shabbat on Friday, so I fell asleep shortly after we checked in – and had one of the nastiest nightmares I’ve had in ages. I started dreaming the whole room was smoking and on fire, which meant I started screaming my head off – and my poor husband had to shake me awake.
This is maybe what happens when you’ve been watching Youtube videos of lava in Hawaii spurting 100s of feet into the sky. And that ‘event’ so isn’t finished yet, by any means. It’s probably only just beginning.
I went to the Kever, did some Tikkun Haklalis and prayed for various people, then got back to my strangely quiet hotel when I noticed something interesting: half the guests were deaf, and had come together as part of a group of deaf women from Israel.
So instead of shrieking, ululating and very loud statements of kappara aliy and chaim sheli, there was a lot of hand gestures and soft grunting noises going on in the lobby.
The women came from across the religious spectrum, and they were clearly having a whale of a time. Those deaf people ‘talk’ in a much more real way, these days, than most of the rest of us. They look into each other’s faces, they just don’t barge in with ‘clever comments’ (because no-one can hear them anyway) and they wait patiently for their turn to speak. I was extremely impressed.
Then came the Friday night meal, and another glorious sight: 50 deaf women wordlessly ‘singing’ Shalom Aleichem together in sign language. It was beautiful.
So, we ate, bentched, then went back to bed exhausted – and I had yet another bad dream.
This time, I was in Jerusalem trying to get Shabbat ready, when there was a flash flood and my car suddenly got swept out of the car park and down some hill towards the Al Aqsa mosque. I was standing there holding a salmon in my hands, unsure what to do next.
Again, I woke up in a bit of a panic – I mean, salmon is pretty expensive. I calmed down, gathered my wits about me, and realized that the toilet in the hotel room was running, and figured that might have contributed something to my dream. Then I got changed and headed off to the Kever.
I had some big insights there, even though I was so tired, spiritually and physically, I could barely open my mouth to pray. Sometimes, you just have to sit quietly and receive the information you’re being sent, and internalize the insights you’re being given as a free gift.
So that’s what I tried to do.
We had one other couple at our table, who clearly weren’t (yet…) married. The guy was a new baal teshuva, and he was trying to persuade his girlfriend of the deeper and more spiritual aspects of life.
At the next table sat a Chassidic family, be-strymelled and be-cloaked, straight out of Meah Shearim. Then there was the deaf community, and around another 10 families or groups of various sizes and appearance.
And that is really the magic, the miracle of Rebbe Nachman. That so many people from such different backgrounds can come together, and focus on what unites them, instead of what superficially divides them.
You only get that sort of tremendous unity, or achdut, going on by Rabbenu, although sometimes you can also find it by other big inclusive tzaddikim like the Rashbi in Meron, and Rav Berland.
I’ve noticed that so many of the people who are ‘anti’ Rebbe Nachman, and ‘anti’ Breslov are also the ones that cause so much strife and dissent amongst the Jewish people. They are the ones who spend an awful lot of time dissing and criticizing ‘the other’, and looking for other people’s flaws and defects to harp on and magnify.
No-one is interested in that stuff by Rabbenu, quite the opposite. In Uman, you get a small taste of the beauty that’s hidden in every Jewish soul, however ‘weird’ or different they may look from the outside. Including yours.
After someone has been to Uman, and seen how fervently all the blonde-haired ‘secular’ ladies in tight jeans and tattoos pray; or how the be-wigged anguished mother breaks into tears by the tomb; or how there is good and bad mixed up in every single one of us, the trouble-makers have to work so much harder to try to convince you that ‘the other’ is so bad, and so dangerous, and so different.
Maybe, that’s why the haters can’t stand Breslov and the real tzaddikim.
We got the red eye back to Israel, and I had my nightmare scenario on the plane: sat next to the fattest woman in the world, stuck in the middle seat while she blocked the aisle (and the toilet…). She promptly fell asleep, which means she spread over half my seat and I started to feel more than a little claustrophobic.
(My husband wanted a window seat, to make it easier to sleep. I acquiesced, as he’d let me go for the aisle on the flight in. I spent the next three hours fighting back the urge to wake him up as ‘punishment’.)
So, I’m exhausted. Every time I dropped off, the fat lady managed to flop an arm the size of a tree trunk onto my leg. She’d half wake up, fold it back over her three stomachs, then fall asleep and drop it back on me again. Like, 10 times a minute.
As I said, Uman always brings out what’s simmering underneath, so I realized a few things:
So, there’s a lot of work to be done before I’m all fixed up and ready to accept the Torah.
And only a week of the Omer to go!
So either Hashem has to cut me some slack here, or it’s going to be another wild week.
The king’s viceroy came to him with a very worrying report: thanks to all the crop-spraying and GMO food being grown, within three months the whole population would suffer from (hopefully…) temporary brain damage, which would cause them to act insane.
“What should we do?” asked the viceroy. “Should we just top eating gluten altogether?” The king weighed the matter up carefully, then responded: “No. We’ll also have to eat that poisonous stuff and start acting like crazy people. But!” he continued. “We will have t-shirts printed up bearing the legend: ‘Remember, you are crazy.’ I will see your t-shirt, and remember that I’m nuts, and you will see mine, and do the same.”
And so it was agreed.
Four months’ later, the GMO and MSG and Round-up had done a great job of making everyone insane, so the king sent the viceroy on a mission to go from house to house, to distribute the millions of t-shirts they’d printed up with ‘Remember, you are crazy’ on them. As the viceroy had also gone nuts at this point, he thought it was a great idea.
He rolled up to the first house, rang the bell, and waited. Suddenly, three externally-mounted surveillance cameras swung round in his direction, and focused in, while a taut voice barked out through the intercom “What do you want?! Did the people of the Great Star send you?”
The viceroy cleared his throat, and replied: “I’m from the king. We’ve got a food supply problem that is sending us all crazy at the moment, and I’m trying to educate people about it. I’m also giving out these t-shirts.” The viceroy held one up to the nearest camera, which seemed to scan it carefully and nod.
“Listen, buddy, I’m fine, but my neighbor really needs to hear what you’re telling him. I’ve been warning him for years that the people from the Great Star are about to open up a vortex in the sky and suck everyone up over to a different dimension – and the guy can’t hear a word I’m saying! So try next door.”
Because the viceroy was a little crazy himself, he did as the man suggested.
He tramped up to the rhinestone-encrusted door, and rang the bell. It was opened by a woman in her 50s with dyed-blonde hair and an unfortunate habit of wearing too-tight black tank tops. “Yah?” she drawled out. “I’m from the king…” the viceroy began, but that’s as far as he got.
“Can’t be!” she cut him off. “The king lives here, and I’d know if you were working for us.” The viceroy was temporarily speechless, so the woman decided to prove her point. “Ellllvisssss!!!” she yelled behind her. “Come here a moment, honey, someone wants to see the king.”
An aging, overweight man with 10 rings on each hand and a huge, dyed-black quiff suddenly appeared behind her. “Elvis, honey, tell this guy who you are,” the blonde gatekeeper prompted. “I’m da king!” Elvis exclaimed.
“How can that be?!” the viceroy remonstrated. “Elvis died more than 30 years ago!” “Geez, you guys and your conspiracy theories…” the blonde rolled her eyes theatrically. “Elvis honey, you’re alive aren’t you?” The man grunted “Uhuh”, and went straight into a rendition of “You ain’t nothing but a hound-dog.”
Just then, the viceroy felt his phone vibrating – a message. He pulled it out and read: “Remember you are crazy, and so are they.” It was from the king. The viceroy mopped his face with his hanky, gosh, that was a close call. They were so convincing he’d got a little confused there for a moment.
Elvis and his sidekick didn’t want a t-shirt telling them they were crazy – because clearly, they weren’t – but they suggested that the viceroy try the guy next door, who had some very strange ideas about the Palestinians being real partners for peace.
Because the viceroy was a little crazy, he took their advice.
Sadly that guy was out flying kites over the Gaza fence, so the viceroy left a t-shirt in his mailbox, and continued on to the next house. There, the door was opened by a professorial looking gentleman in tan chinos and a tasteful, blue-tinted shirt. “Can I help you?” the professor replied.
The viceroy swallowed. Wow, this guy was so polite and ‘normal’ it was actually freaky. He explained about his mission, while the professor continued to listen intently, occasionally nodding. When the viceroy finished his tale, the professor invited the viceroy in, to discuss what they could actually do to spread more awareness of this problem.
Again, the viceroy swallowed nervously. This guy was acting so nice, it was really weird. “Do you mind if I ask Rita to join us?” the professor asked. The viceroy was meant to be guarding his eyes, but these sort of challenges unfortunately came with the job of trying to do hafetza. “Sure,” he muttered, “why not?”
As it turned out, the viceroy had nothing to worry about. “Rita” was a bearded, strapping 6ft 2, built like the proverbial brick house, who had a thing for twinsets and high heels. The viceroy’s eyes nearly fell out of his head. “Rita, this gentleman has just shared some very disturbing information with me, about the state of the nation’s mental health, and I’d appreciate your input.”
“I just knew something was up!” Rita responded warmly. “Last week, I saw someone walking down the street wearing a bright orange top with grey slacks! If that’s not a sign of global insanity, I don’t know what is!”
The viceroy fumbled for his hankie again. It had suddenly got pretty hot in the professor’s cosy kitchen. Suddenly, his phone rang: it was the king. “It’s the boss,” he mouthed to his hosts, “I have to take it, sorry!” The viceroy took the call outside, and the king kept is short and to the point.
“Don’t forget, everyone is crazy!” he reminded his loyal servant. “Give them a t-shirt and get the heck out of there. I’m having a lucid moment, and I’m starting to think it was a really bad idea to send you out on this mission.”
So the viceroy made his excuses, and left.
On the way home, because he was a little bit crazy himself, he decided to try one last time. He lifted his hand to knock on a door, when it suddenly opened by itself, and he found himself face-to-face with an obviously observant Jew.
“I know why you’re here,” the Jew observed drily. “And I know what you want.” Because the viceroy was crazy, he believed him. “How do you know?” he asked the Jew incredulously. The Jew took a step towards him and told him in a conspiratorial whisper: “My sofa told me! My sofa is one of the hidden lamed vav Tzaddikim, and whatever the sofa predicts, it always comes true!”
Wow, this was amazing. Talk about saving the best to last. “Can I speak to the sofa too?” The viceroy asked in awe. “Sure,” replied the Jew. “But please take your shoes off first.” The shoe-less viceroy shuffled into the salon, overcome by the huge honor he was being shown. “Ask the sofa anything you want!” the Jew prompted him, so pleased to have gained another convert to the cause.
“Honored sofa, what can I do to hasten the cause of good in the world, and to bring peace to all men?” The sofa answered: “Stop spending so much time reading all those horrible, slanderous stories online about the true Tzaddikim.”
The viceroy had been bending over reverentially, to hear the sofa’s answer, but at this he immediately snapped up straight and shook his head. “I may be crazy,” he told the Jew, “but that’s still the most insane thing I’ve heard all year.”
And with that, he left a t-shirt in the simple Jews hands, and headed back to the palace.
When it started to rain so incredibly hard again in Jerusalem yesterday, out of rainy season, which ends at Pesach (as per our daily prayers), what came to mind was Rebbe Nachman’s teaching that a flood of atheism would come to the world, and that even ‘big’ rabbis would have atheism literally ‘dripping out of their pockets’.
Then, the horrible news came in about the teens who’d been swept away by a flash-flood in the desert, and the incredible pictures (like the river flowing down Yoel Salomon Street above, or Yaffo below, in the very heart of the pedestrianized centre of down-town Jerusalem) started going viral on my daughters’ phones, and we all sat in our flat a little awe-struck at Hashem’s power and might.
A little bit of rain can do an awful lot of damage, God forbid, and lead to terrible destruction.
This morning, I started looking through Rebbe Nachman’s books to see if he said anything else about floods. He did. I’m bringing it below, and the hairs stood up on the back of my neck when I read it:
TZADDIK (the English translation of Chayey Moharan), #417
(In the section called: Avoidance of Philosophy and the Importance of Faith)
There were rumours that the Czar wanted to introduce a number of decrees against the Jews, including a regulation requiring Jewish children to be taught secular studies and foreign languages.
Regarding this decree, the Rebbe said that the Jews should call a fast, and cry out to God more vehemently than against all the other decrees. This decree was more calamitous than any other evil in the world, since it would turn the children against religion completely – as have indeed seen, because of our many sins.
The brutal fact is that anyone who enters this path becomes totally estranged from religion. Many God take pity on his people Israel, and save a remnant of all their throngs.
The Rebbe once said:
“Oy! Oy to us! That we do not devote the least thought to how we can save our children and the generations to come from these evil, storm-ridden waters, which threaten to engulf the entire world, God forbid.
"For this is the only way to describe the spread of secular studies, the study of foreign languages and philosophy.”
May Hashem comfort all the families who lost their children in this terrible disaster, and may we as a people wholeheartedly return to the path of simple emuna and Torah observance, so that we won’t have to go through any more of these awful tragedies.
Last week, the local Chabad shlichim in my area arranged a communal seder - for free - for 120 people. That’s an awesome achievement, by any measure. Where do they get their strength from, their energy, their ahavat Yisrael to keep doing this stuff?
It can only be from the late Lubavitcher Rebbe.
As I was thinking about this, I started to ponder how much you can tell about a person by the rabbi they follow. Rebbe Nachman teaches that you can see the ‘imprint’ of a person’s rabbi on their follower’s ‘face’ in some way, with a true student resembling their rabbi more and more.
This is certainly true when a person is doing their best to follow a true Tzaddik and holy person, and sadly, if we’re following a yucky ‘controversial’ apikorus-type rabbi, that will also rub off on us, too.
And if a person doesn’t follow any rabbi? Well, that tells its own story.
YOSHKI ALSO DIDN'T BELIEVE IN HAVING A RABBI
Yoshki, the founder of xtianity notably didn’t follow rabbis. the Talmud relates how when he tried to interrupt his teacher, Rabbi Yehoshua, in the middle of his prayers, the Rabbi gestured to him to wait until he was finished, but Yoshki got offended and stalked off.
The Talmud then recounts that Yoshki ‘set up a brick and started worshiping it’. There are different explanations for what that actually means in practice, but one very strong explanation is that this meant that Yoshki started worshipping himself as the last word, and the ultimate ‘opinion’ on every subject.
This has sadly been a xtian trait ever since. Even today, so many xtians and ex-xtians have perfected the art of slagging off our true rabbis and true Tzaddikim (who xtians like to term ‘Pharisees’, but a Pharisee was just that generation’s ‘haredi’ rabbi) as being ‘backwards’ and ‘corrupt’ and people no-one should listen to.
The argument is always the same, although 2,000 years have passed since Yoshki first came out with it. “Don’t be scared to think for yourselves!!” he used to yell at his disciples, as he encouraged them to break one Torah law after another.
“Eat rice on Pesach, you don’t have to follow the rabbis or halacha! Hardly anyone actually believes in the Shulchan Aruch, it’s not binding on any Jew!” he’d inform all his eager disciples.
But then occasionally, someone would stand up and challenge him: “Er, esteemed rabbi yoshki, that’s not what Rabbi Akiva up the road in Bnei Brak is saying….”
“Him?? That’s just Jewish replacement theology,” rabbi yoshki harrumphed. “You don’t need any rabbis! They are mostly nearly all corrupt erev rav that no-one properly xtian….er, Jewish, needs to listen to. You just need to be a good person, and stop worrying so much about all those petty laws and rules that just bring everyone down and ruin their Pesach.
“Now, let’s all go over to mine to bake our own soft matzahs for Seder - and guess what! No-one needs to wait between eating chicken and drinking a glass of milk, either! That’s another outdated ‘law’ those pathetic, Pharisee-haredim came up with when they had nothing better to do! They are teaching you the Torah of exile!
“So chicken enchiladas with cream sauce it is for Seder night! I can’t wait!!”
XTIANS HATE RABBINIC JUDAISM
King Shlomo himself taught us there is nothing new under the sun, so it’s really no surprise that xtians, and so many of the Jews who grew up in xtian environments in the West still have such a distaste for ‘rabbinic Judaism’, and are still firmly committed to ‘worshipping the brick’.
They absorbed that arrogant, completely un-Jewish outlook in galut, in exile, and sadly they are continuing to bring it into every aspect of their Yiddishkeit.
Something else xtians love (apart from being able to eat chicken enchiladas with cream sauce on Seder night) is ‘Armageddon’ type prophecies where the whole world dies a yucky, violent death - except them and the people who think the same way they do.
Sadly for me, I went to a xtian school and I read through the book of Revelations more than once. Poor me, that I had to go through that.
So this ‘Armageddon obsession’ struck me with all the recent ‘Nibiru’ stuff that was going on online with WSO and a bunch of the other ‘xtian-inspired’ sites out there. The basic idea, again perfected by xtianity and its adherents over two millennia, is this:
Come up with a terrible prophecy, the more gory and dramatic the better, where billions of people are going to die awful deaths, because they aren’t ‘good enough’ and don’t believe the same things that you do.
If you can also find a way to disparage and tarnish the reputation of our real Tzaddikim and holy rabbis while doing this, preferably by dismissing them all as erev rav, or as ‘people who are scared to think’, or people who are somehow ‘practicing another religion’, then you get extra bonus points.
Next, hype-up all this ‘end of the world’ stuff unceasingly for as long as you can keep it going.
Never mind that the prophecies don’t materialize, never mind that the dates come and go and the world keeps turning. The point is just to keep everyone scared and panicked, because then you can control them and keep dragging them down your own particular path to ‘salvation’.
The Catholic Church has been beating this same drum for two millennia, to great effect.
But it’s not the Jewish way.
Orthodox Jews have never been encouraged to seek out ‘prophecies’ and predictions of the future, and in fact we have a number of very strict laws specifically forbidding us from trying to divine what the future holds for us in tumah-dik ways.
But xtians?!? And the Greeks and Romans that inspired them?!? They just lurve their oracles, and their ‘signs’, and their fortune telling stuff. Before any big undertaking, Kings and leaders would usually nip up to the local pagan Temple, sacrifice a bull or two to some dark side force and then ask for a ‘message’ from the other side.
Today, people are still doing this sort of thing notably via séances and Ouija boards, where the messages from the evil spirits involved in all this stuff are spelled out, letter by slow letter, to the unwitting audience.
Facilitated communication from the forces of evil.
Of course, it’s only the old-fashioned Pharisee-Haredim who have a problem with dabbling in all this ultra-tumah-dik stuff. All the more ‘enlightened’ people who aren’t ‘scared to think for themselves’ have absolutely no problem with it.
THE DARK SIDE FORCES ALWAYS BEGIN BY ATTACKING THE REAL RABBIS
Is Niribu / the Star of Yaakov still out there? I think it is, yes.
But it’s impossible to really know what’s going on or when anything may or may not occur, as that information is solely in the keeping of our true Tzaddikim, like Rav Berland and Rav Dov Kook.
I know, I know, the xtian-minded folk who hate Pharisee-Haredi ‘rabbis’ won’t like that idea at all.
But it’s the truth.
Our history if full of ‘false messiahs’ who started their careers by attacking the true Tzaddikim. It began with Korach, continued with Yoshki and Shabta Tzvi, and is still thriving in the midst of all those ‘alternative’ Jewish movements who like to claim you don’t need to listen to rabbis or obey Torah laws.
Just set up your brick and worship it! Don’t let anyone else tell you what to think! You’re as good as Moshe Rabbenu, all those rabbis - and the people who are following them - are just erev rav anyway, don’t you know?
It’s the olam hafuch, the backwards, upside-down world.
May God right it speedily, and may the Jewish people finally rid ourselves of all these yucky xtian-inspired ideas about our true rabbis and Tzaddikim that are definitely doing more than anything else to keep the fires of sinat chinam burning, and to hold-up the geula.
I've been having a lot of internal battles the last few days, not least about which direction my writing is going in, and whether blogging is the best use of my time. While I'm trying to sort it all out, I'm re-posting some good things from the last 3 years of Emunaroma, including this one from December 2017, which is really speaking to me still, wavering as I am between continuing and giving up.
I don’t think it will shock most of the people reading this blog if I confess to having being completely stressed out of my brain for the last three months.
Even before my mother-in-law unexpectedly passed away the day after Rosh Hashana, Elul 5777 had been a really crazy month, and then when my mother-in-law died, the craziness kind of went up a whole other level, and has stayed there for three months’ solid.
Every week there has been something ‘significant’ to deal with, and by last week, I had got so jumpy and grumpy and irritable that I was even yelling at my poor husband in my sleep. Baruch Hashem, I knew I had Uman coming up, so I was really hoping that Rabbenu would work his magic and return some equanimity to me, so I could stop being a mega-stressed pseudo-psycho.
But last week, suddenly Uman looked like it might not happen after all. My mum sent me a text on Friday telling me about the general strike (what general strike?!) that was going to shut down Ben Gurion all day Sunday, the day me and my family were meant to fly out. My adrenals were too exhausted for me to stress any more, about anything, but I decided I should still do a longish hitbodedut on Shabbat, and then leave the outcome entirely in God’s hands.
If He wanted us to fly out, great. If not, great - what else was I meant to do, at this point?
Motzash, we learned the general strike was reduced to a half day, and that our late afternoon flight would be leaving as scheduled. Cue the next obstacle: strikers causing huge traffic jams by the exit out of Jerusalem just as we needed to head off to the airport. I heard about that while I was out getting some last minute bits for Uman, so I rushed home, corralled my family to get ready now!!! and by some open miracle, both my teenagers managed to get changed and ready within 20 minutes.
So, we get to Uman, and after a balmy, dry 10 degrees all of Shabbat, on Sunday the snow and ice showed up - as did ‘Boris’, our Ukrainian cab driver. I’ve been to the Ukraine so often now that the completely crazy way people drive over there doesn’t really faze me anymore. My husband climbed into the passenger front seat, me and my two girls squished in the back. I looked for a seat belt - I had the ‘belt’ but no buckle could be found - so I gave up and went to sleep, because I was exhausted.
I woke up twice: once when Boris refueled the car with petrol, and another time when he refueled himself with a beer - behind the wheel! This is the traditional Ukrainian way.
My husband later told me that the visibility during that night-time drive was around 2 metres as there was driving snow, and that Boris was going at Grand Prix speeds. I couldn’t really see any of that from the back as it was dark and the windows were all fogged up, but apparently my husband was praying very sincerely for a good 2 hours, until Boris safely delivered us to our hotel.
And man, what a hotel! The first time I went to Uman, 8 years’ ago, there were two showers for 60 women - both located directly opposite the front door. There were power cuts every couple of hours, I had to bring my own toilet roll, there was no mobile phone access, and a lot of the locals were still getting their water from the local well on a sled. It was SO primitive.
The last couple of years, Uman has developed in a no less than miraculous way, and the clearest sign of that was that the new hotel we’d somehow managed to book was actually almost like a real hotel! There were single beds, not bunk beds, a nice (looking….) shower, a door person and a front desk person who both tried to be helpful.
Me and my husband were completely stunned by all this, and my kids were thrilled to be going to a ‘real’ hotel for a change.
We arrived at 2am, so we lit chanuka candles, then went straight to bed. The next day, even before I got to the Kever, I had an urge to do some ‘writing hitbodedut’ in the room before everyone else woke up - and out came a huge list of things that I’ve been mega, mega stressed about over the last couple of months.
No-wonder I’ve been so tense and highly strung!
Once I realized that I’m not just turning into a psycho, and that I truly have been under some immense pressure and stress recently, I felt so much better. But my davening seemed a bit flat the rest of the day, tell you the truth. I went to the Kever 3 times with my kids, recited some Tikkun Haklalis, did some more hitbodedut etc.
But no big revelations hit me this time, and I have to say I felt a bit disappointed. We were leaving at 5am the next morning, so I turned in for the night at 9pm - and at 11pm a new group of loud, crazy secular-looking women from Ashkelon stormed the hotel and tried to turn it into a disco.
This sort of thing happens a lot in Uman, because avodat hamiddot is one of Rabbenu’s favorite things. So I swallowed the loud screams, the ululations, some annoying woman’s really loud, horsy laugh - all of it. But then when they started playing trance music right outside my door at ear-splitting levels and screaming along with it, my patience evaporated and I went into ‘I need to go to sleep now!’ psycho mode.
I opened the door to yell at them to ‘sheket!!!’ and my eyes nearly fell out of my head. Some 20-something woman was literally dancing in the corridor holding a massive i-Phone and just wearing her underwear.
I thought I’d got to the point where nothing in Uman could shock me, but man, I was wrong. I shut the door, stunned. Then opened it up again to yell at them to be quiet, because the thought struck me that if I didn’t manage to shut them up, my husband might have a go instead.
Who wears their underwear in a hotel corridor filled with chareidi men?! In the middle of a freezing Ukrainian winter?! And then starts playing music from their i-Phone loud enough to fracture your skull?!
The mind boggles.
God helped me by sending a couple of other Israeli guests who also came out to yell at them in a much better way than I ever could, and peace returned…For two hours. Then the screaming and beatbox started up again. Again I went out to yell at them and one of them told me:
“Who goes to sleep when they come to Rabbenu?!”
Well, I do.
And this time they finally took the hint and quietened down.
I asked my daughters the next day if they’d heard the crazies in the middle of the night. One of them had slept like a log, and the other one told me: “Yes! I went to join them because I was so bored.”
So now, we get in the car with ‘Sergei’ - a solid lada type car this time, nothing fancy. And I said goodbye to Uman feeling as though I hadn’t really achieved so much this time around, except maybe stop feeling like a stressed-out psycho. Which shouldn’t be under-rated, I admit.
Two minutes into the drive, I started to realize this was going to be a pretty bumpy journey. It had snowed overnight, and now icy sleet was raining down and covering the snow drifts with black ice.
Our driver was really good, but it was pitch black, and they aren’t set up to clear the streets so fast or so efficiently in Uman. BH, we left 5 hours to get to the airport, so we thought we’d still manage it OK, even in the really bad driving conditions. (Boris had taken three hours, but clearly he’d been speeding like a fiend).
20 minutes into the drive, I noticed a bunch of lorries left by the side of the roads, emergency lights blinking, and I started to worry a little. 30 minutes later, we started to hit huge queues of jack-knifed lorries buried in snow drifts all over the highway - and that’s when I started to pray my socks off, as I’ve never seen that before.
When our side of the motorway got blocked by three parallel lines of lorries - all stalled in their tracks - I was convinced we’d just lost all hope of making our flight. But I figured without Sergei, who neatly reversed back, crossed the dual-carriageway barrier, and started driving at 80 km and hour on the other side of the motorway.
Long story short, we all prayed extremely intently for two hours solid, and somehow or other, we got to the airport just in time to make the flight.
That return trip taught me a great deal about the power of perseverance, and of not giving up in the face of truly overwhelming circumstances.
It taught me about the power of prayer. And it taught me that when things get far too scary to deal with, you can always pull your hat down over your face and manage things that way, too.
The bizarrest thing of all is that after two days of no sleep, and two really crazy trips to and from Uman, you’d think that I’d be feeling even more stressed and antsy. But the truth is, I feel better than I have done in months.
Rebbe Nachman has pulled it off again.
In the meantime, I’m waiting to see what other presents we brought home from Uman. There’s a lot ‘pending’ in my life at the mo, which I hope will move forward soon. If Rabbenu could get us to Borispol airport in the pitch black, on the other side of the road, when even snow ploughs had given up the ghost and pulled over to the side of the road, then anything is possible.
I will keep you posted.
Before we begin, here’s one of my favorite infographics, showing the Erev Rav traits versus true Jewish traits.
You’ll notice that speaking lashon hara, indulging in harsh judgments against others, brazenness (which is refusing to accept that you ever do anything wrong, or may be at fault), trying to make a name for yourself, craving honor - all these things are very clearly associated with the Erev Rav.
The Gemara teaches that when a Jewish person lacks compassion, we should question whether that person’s feet stood at Mount Sinai. Anyone who knows their Erev Rav sources properly knows exactly what this is referring to.
Before we go on, again, I just wanted to bring this excerpt talking about (trauma-induced) Narcissistic Personality Disorder, as it’s so useful to help you understand the context of what is currently playing out online, and in the media, both in the Jewish and non-Jewish world:
“People with NPD won’t (or can’t) change their behavior even when it causes problems at work or when other people complain about the way they act, or when their behavior causes a lot of emotional distress to others.”
Here’s how NPD plays out in real terms:
(As an aside, I've noticed that blogging and having a public 'platform' can definitely bring these tendencies out and exaggerate them. It's one of the reasons I'm very keen to keep pointing out my own flaws and to field questions on Emunaroma, and to give others a platform to express themselves, too, so it's not just 'all about Miiii'.)
Why this stuff is important to know:
I’ve spent the last 3 years researching and writing about mental health issues over on spiritualself-help.org and in a bunch of books, and what I learned is that Erev Rav tendencies and personality disorders are one and the same.
People act like ‘Erev Rav’ because they are mentally-ill, and mental illness is primarily caused by experiencing serious trauma and / or emotional neglect, especially in childhood.
And it can be fixed and changed when God, and connecting to our true Tzaddikim are in the picture!
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov’s whole work in this final generation before Moshiach was to give our generation the tools we needed to overcome all the heresy, and mental illness, and ‘Erev Rav’ traits that would be flooding the world at this stage.
If anyone wants to learn more, Unlocking the Secret of the Erev Rav gives all the background to this concept, including sources, but it’s very important to understand one thing:
The only way the Erev Rav can get fixed is by coming close to the Tzaddik of the generation.
The Zohar brings down how the Erev Rav are actually ‘sparks’ of Moshe Rabbenu’s soul, which is why he wanted to bring them out of Egypt and rectify them.
That first time around, the job was too big for him, but over the last 3,300 years, each of the Tzaddikim of the generation have been involved with this task of rectifying the soul-sparks from the Erev Rav, because when that is completed we will have finally rectified the world, spiritually, and we can get to geula.
In Rebbe Nachman’s story of The Cripple, he depicts the Tzaddik of the Generation as a wondrous tree, with every type of healing and bounty in its leaves.
Rabbenu tells us that there are large communities of demons in the world whose whole purpose in life is to spread lies and slanders about the true Tzaddikim, to prevent people from drawing close. Every few years, the king of these demons tries to totally uproot the tree, but the tree lets out a piercing scream that reduces these demons to jelly, and scares them off.
So in the meantime, they content themselves with digging ditches around the tree (with their lashon hara, trouble-making and slander) that prevent it from being ‘watered’, and from truly blossoming in the world.
The human beings in the world have no idea that half the planet is populated by these ‘demons’, many of whom presumably have blogs and write things online, and have no clue that these demons are focused on one thing, and one thing only: keeping people away from the true tzaddik of the generation.
Rebbe Nachman teaches us that at the end of time, the ‘talkers’ amongst the demons will turn on each other, and start a civil war.
This one will give an interview to the Jpost decrying corruption in the police, while ‘that one’ will give an interview to Channel 2 decrying corruption within the Knesset.
This ‘rabbi’ will speak evilly about that ‘rabbi’, this organization will slag off that organization, this blogger will criticize that blogger - and all this will lead to massive earthquakes and natural disasters, that means that finally the ditches collapse, and the tree - the True Tzaddik of the generation - finally gets watered.
And then we have geula.
Looks like we are getting very close!
So, judging by the contents of my inbox this morning, we’re seem to be very, very close. But in the meantime, pay attention to all the ‘Erev Rav’ tendencies, and NPD traits that are coming to the fore at the moment, and know that most people today are literally insane, and shouldn’t be taken too seriously.
BH, when the True Tzaddik is finally revealed in the world, he’ll hopefully give them (and the rest of us!) another chance to come clean, admit that we have some serious mental health issues, and to make the teshuva we so desperately need to make.
Because God really does want all these people back.
And the only people who’ll tell you different are the ones who are struggling with some enormous (but fixable!) ‘Erev Rav’ / NPD tendencies themselves.
As always, your comments and questions are welcome, as long as they don’t contravene the laws of lashon hara. God forbid we should act like ‘demons’ and put more evil speech, slander and strife into the world!
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.)
One of Rebbe Nachman’s followers was once asked whether he could recount any of the open miracles that Rebbe Nachman was reputed to have done. He turned to his questioner and told him:
“Me! I’m the biggest miracle of all. You had no idea what Rabbenu did with me!”
I have to admit that when I first heard that, I wasn’t so impressed. I mean really? What’s the big deal that now someone started eating kosher, or even grew some impressive side-curls? Lots of people do those things without Breslov, so how was that meant to be a proof of Rabbenu’s
These days, I have a different view.
Around three years’ back, at the time when I was writing The Secret Diary of a Jewish Housewife, things seemed so very bleak. Me and my husband had been broken into a million pieces by everything we’d gone through, from the finances turning sour through to losing our home, through to having no-one to talk to - at all! - because we’d both turned into holier-than-thou martinets.
By God’s grace, we managed to hang on to our marriage, our kids and our sanity, but it was a very close call.
I look back at that awful, absolutely awful, time, and I wonder: How on earth did me and my family come through all that in one piece? And not only in one piece, with more equanimity and genuine simcha than we had before everything fell apart.
How did that happen?
Or more precisely, following the advice of Rabbenu, which includes talking to God for at least an hour every single day, knowing that everything that happens is 100% determined by Hashem and for our own good, and going to Uman every time you think you’re really going to crack up because you simply can’t take it anymore.
There’s other stuff in there too, like working on your bad middot, understanding that everyone, even the psychos, are just a mirror reflecting your own ‘uck’ back at you, and doing your darndest to have no despair in the world, even when really, you’re drowning in it.
All that stuff really, really helps.
But ultimately, it’s Rabbenu that got me through the last few years, and into a space where things are really starting to turn around, BH.
Yesterday, we signed on a house in Jerusalem.
We can’t move into it for another six months (long story…) so I have to go live somewhere else for a while, but who cares?
A home of my own in Jerusalem!
I had really given up on owning a house of my own anywhere, let alone the holiest city in the world. Let alone, one of the holiest neighborhoods. Let alone, a place where you can literally see Har HaBayit out your window if your apartment faces in the right direction. (Mine doesn’t).
But who cares?!
My husband sighed a big sigh today, and told me he couldn’t believe how far we’ve come the last three years, what miracles God has done for us.
There’s a mitzvah to publicise the nes¸ so let me end with this: Two days ago, after two months solid of wrangling with our seller, it really looked like our house was going to fall through. Her horrible lawyer wanted to put a clause in the contract that no person in their right mind would ever agree to, as it basically amounted to underwriting a blank cheque.
We’d given in on every other matter, so our hopes weren’t high that our seller and her horrible lawyer would back down, and for once, we simply couldn’t be the ones to compromise.
We really needed a miracle for things to move.
Luckily, we live in Musrara, so my husband nipped over to Rav Berland’s shteibel and amazingly managed to get near enough to his podium to ask him what to do, and whether to continue.
“Continue!” the Rav told him.
Although frankly, we couldn’t see how that was really possible.
The next day, all by herself, the seller came around and pulled the impossible-to-agree-to clause so we could actually close the deal.
We got the house.
But the biggest miracle is still me.