I nearly pulled my blog off the web, I nearly retired from writing, I nearly gave up on my books, and on my efforts to make a difference in the world, everything.
Like so many of us, I’ve had one enormous challenge after another to deal with the last couple of months, in just about every area. Every time I stood back up, some other ‘spiritual tsunami’ showed up to knock me back down, and I couldn’t wait for the Omer to be finished, already, so life could return to being a bit more ‘normal’ and placid.
God had other plans.
The day before Shavuot, I got a nasty letter from an immoral, rapacious firm of Israeli lawyers telling me they were suing me for 40,000 shekels for illegally using an image of Rav Berland.
It took me a day or two to get the letter properly translated, and in the process of doing that it also transpired that this firm gets a percentage of whatever they can wring out of whichever poor sap they targeted, and so they aren’t interested in apologies and token payments.
They want money - lots of it! - tens of thousands of shekels, and that’s the end of the story.
Dear reader, for the last three years of blogging, I’ve been so careful with copyrighted images, but I made a mistake and thoughtlessly used a picture in the public arena under the impression that I was covered by the ‘fair use’ provision in Israeli law.
And now I’m being sued for 40,000 shekels….
The last couple of years, I’ve really struggled with the idea that my profession as a paid journalist effectively disappeared over the last decade. It used to be that I’d write, and get paid a packet. These days, I write and it only costs me money.
I’d made my peace with that too, mostly, but the enormity of the sum involved, and the fact that it was dafka a picture of Rav Berland that sparked off the lawsuit, pretty much brought me to my knees.
For a couple of days, I had such a crisis of faith that I really just wanted to pull the plug on everything and give up there and then. Because I KNOW that I’m getting hit with so much of this stuff because the yetzer wants me to stop blogging about the Rav, and to stop defending him publicly, and to stop explaining what’s going on.
Spiritually, you don’t get anything as big as that for free.
I knew this from when I used to write for Rav Arush’s site, that every ‘real’ piece I posted up that would hopefully really make a difference, and could potentially really help people, would come at the price of me experiencing more madness and turmoil in my private life.
(In case you're wondering, THAT'S the real reason so many people, even important outreach personalities, stop writing and speaking about the 'real' challenges facing us all, and take the easy route of being superficial and fluffy instead.)
‘OK, yetzer, you win! It’s not enough that my books don’t sell, I get grief over email from demented people, and I’m constantly questioning whether I’m doing what God really wants me to do with my life. Now, you’re also fleecing me out of 40,000 - when I’m trying to figure out how to pay for my kids’ braces and only recently stopped panicking about being able to put food on the table… You win! I give up! I will quit writing and go get a job packing groceries somewhere.’
(That last bit is a lie: my spoken Hebrew is so awful I probably couldn’t even get a job packing groceries….)
To sum it up, I got completely buried in an avalanche of despair and bitterness, and I ran out of the energy required to continue.
This continued for two days, and I started spiralling further and further down until God gave me the brainwave of trying to take a note to Rav Berland. So I collared my poor husband, and we walked over to the Rav’s building. I was crying my eyes out the whole way (as I had been for two days, already) so it was left to my husband to hand the note over to one of the court-appointed security guards outside the building who’s effectively become another of the Rav’s unofficial gabbays.
Two minutes’ later, I started to feel like some of my strength was returning. I stopped crying…I stopped feeling like I just wanted to run away from my life, and from Israel…I stopped feeling that horrible, dead-end despair where you just feel like you’re sinking, sinking, sinking and nothing can ever reverse the decline.
I still went to bed pretty miserable and wasted, but I got up the next day with one thought in my head: I am NOT giving up! I’m not going to stop writing about the Rav, I’m not going to retreat, I’m not going to take the easy route!
The crazy Moroccan genes kicked in, in a good way, and I decided to write the last piece about the Rav I posted up here, and give the yetzer a poke in the eye.
I am not giving up, with God’s help! We’re so close to geula you can smell it in the air.
But the last few days, I came really, really close.