Ever since I wrote the 'False Leaders and Erev Rav' post HERE, I’ve been getting emails like that, from other people who have been so betrayed and hurt by the ‘religious’ leaders they trusted that it’s plunged them into a huge crisis of faith.
Some of them manage to swim to the other side, and to pick up the pieces of their life within a Jewish orthodox framework again. But some, don’t.
Also a little while back, someone else told me about some really bad advice they’d got from another ‘religious’ influencer, this time an orthodox woman who’s pretty famous on the rent-a-rabbanit circuit.
For reasons of privacy, I won’t share all the juicy details, but let’s just say that the advice was SO bad it was almost fantastically unbelievable that someone could give it over with a straight face.
Now, I’m a big believer in people being able to think for themselves, and to decide for themselves and being able to develop their intuition and self-knowledge to a place where they can actually really trust themselves.
The key, if not the only way, to doing this is by regularly talking to God for an hour a day, aka the practice of hitbodedut, or personal prayer.
When you take that time to reflect on past events, how you reacted, how you felt, what you said, what you thought, what’s bothering you now – PLUS you’re actually including God in the whole process, and asking Him to show you your own biases and blind spots and issues – then sooner or later, God will start showing you the right thing to do; God will start giving you some amazing advice, and God will clear away all the doubts and confusion that we’re all so filled with today, to shine a light on the correct path to follow.
So when I got the phone call from my confused and panicked colleague – who’d been bowled over by the breath-takingly bad advice they’d been given and had no idea what to do next – the first thing I asked them is:
What do YOU think about it?
Once they’d got over the shock of being allowed their own opinion, they could very quickly see for themselves that the advice they’d been given was 100% a crock, and that the person handing out the advice from that place of apparent wisdom and superiority was actually a complete phony.
Dear reader, Rebbe Nachman warned us that in the time before Moshiach, false leaders preaching falsehood would abound.
It takes a lot of self-work, and hitbodedut to be able to figure out who these false leaders actually are, especially as so many of them are wildly popular on the rent-a-rabbi-or-rebbetzin circuit, and public success brings its own patina of respectability and credibility along with it.
But here too, Rebbe Nachman gave us a clue as to how to proceed. In his Book of Traits (Sefer HaMiddot) Rabbenu tells us the following:
If you do not become attached to known liars, you will merit discerning who hypocrites are.
My perush on this: The more we strive after truth, and particularly, the truth about what we ourselves need to work on and fix, and the truth about how flawed we actually are, the easier it’ll be to spot the fakers in our midst, and to call a spade a spade.
Perush 2: It’s hard to think of a group of people that would be more worthy of the epithet ‘known liars’ than our modern media. Ergo, stay away from your news feed and you’ll also start to figure out who the problematic people are, in our midst.
Rebbe Nachman also tells us:
There are those who are great apostates and heretics, but they do not reveal their heresy and people are not aware of the need to guard themselves from them. However, through conducting oneself modestly, one is saved from these heretics.
My perush: Modesty isn’t just about dressing in long skirts and covering our hair. There’s an inner dimension to modesty, which is where we try to avoid honor and publicity and ‘notoriety’ – which is the polar opposite from how the heretics act, even the externally very pious ones.
They’re all out there trying to make a name for themselves, and trying to influence the masses, and trying to be the ‘A’-list speakers and top advice givers in the country.
(To my shame, I think I’ve also been a little too caught up in this mindset in regards to trying to sell my books, and I’m seriously considering scaling everything back at the moment, and just letting God do as He sees fit.)
When we’re trying to be modest like that, then the crass people who are self-promoting (only for outreach purposes, natch); and having their faces plastered all over the place (only for the sake of Heaven, natch); and charging premium prices for people to attend their classes (only for the sake of Bank Mizrachi, natch) – those people and us, well, we just won’t mix.
We won’t like them, and they won’t like us, and via this mechanism, we’ll be saved from the false leaders, heretics and purveyors of bad advice with a first-class hechsher.
It’s such an upside-down world at the moment. The people on the top are, for the most part, really big scumbags. The people on the bottom are, for the most part, the most decent, salt-of-the-earth people you could hope to find. (There’s always exceptions, of course, just to maintain free will and make it really hard to figure out what’s actually going on.)
But you know why that is, don’t you?
Because when Moshiach comes, the whole world is going to flip. God is going to rip the masks off all the false leaders out there, and He’s going to show us what’s really going on behind closed doors in a million different ways.
If you’ve been working on figuring out the truth for yourself, it will all come as a welcome relief to finally have everything so clearly laid out on the table. But if not? Let’s just say they’ll be working overtime in the cardiac arrest unit.