The High Holidays are always a very busy, intense time - even without multiple trips abroad and close family members dying - but this year seems to have been hectic on so many levels, I’ve hardly had time to pause for breath.
The New Year is just over three weeks old, but it’s already had so many ups and down.
Last week, I headed into Succot feeling completely wasted again, like I’ve been burning the candle at both ends so much, there’s no wax left. BH, we left Jerusalem to spend the first day of chag by our friends in Caesarea with a bunch of other expats. It was such a different vibe from the one we’d left behind in Jerusalem, but on some level, it was very good for us.
Then we came back to the full-on spiritual intensity of festivals and shabbats by the Rav, Rav Berland, and boy, was there a lot going on the last few days.
The Rav’s folks built an enormous succah that literally took up most of the street by the Rav’s home in Musrara, and well over a thousand people were davening with the Rav in that massive temporary ‘shul’ over Succot.
On Simchat Torah, the Rav surprised everyone by taking the whole crowd - well over a thousand people, including men, women and children - for a massive ‘hakafa’ all round some of the seediest parts of downtown Jerusalem.
For almost two hours, the Rav led a procession of frum Jews all around Mahane Yehuda, Tzahal Square, Jaffa Street and even the Jerusalem town hall. At one point, some of the residents living along Jaffa Street opened their windows and started showering candies down on the crowd.
How someone who almost needed to have his leg amputated two months ago can stand up for almost 24 hours a day - repeatedly - and walk two hours all over Jerusalem on Simchat Torah is yet another of the open miracles you witness daily by Rav Berland.
On Friday night, the Rav spent literally the whole night praying - my husband left around 9pm to come home and eat supper with us, but he told me that the Rav and the rest of the community hadn’t even started Ma’ariv yet. Later, he found out that the prayers went on to 1am in the morning!
And then the Rav was back just a few short hours later to begin praying with the netz, or dawn minyan.
I used to hear stories of things like that happening at Shuvu Banim, and find them a little hard to believe. Now that I’m experiencing it (at a slight distance…) myself it’s awesome. And even more awesome when I remember that the Rav recently had a number of serious surgeries to remove a bunch of tumors and a kidney, barely eats anything and is 80 years old…
People, how can anyone fake this stuff? And even if they could fake it for themselves, how could anyone persuade a thousand (plus) people to fake praying Shabbat evening prayer for seven hours straight along with them, and then come back for round two just three hours later?
It has to be seen to be believed.
So watching the fully-free Rav in action has definitely been one of the big ‘ups’ over the last few days.
So what are the downs?
Well, they’re mostly all internal struggles. Like the ongoing struggle to feel like I’ve got some energy again, and that I’m getting enough sleep to function like a human being. I got completely exhausted from ‘sitting shiva on speed’ in the middle of the High Holiday period, and it’s only now I feel I’m starting to recover.
I didn’t move out of Jerusalem the whole of Succot, except to go to Hevron to pray one morning. I didn’t have the energy or inclination for any other festivals, events or days out.
Another big down has been all this recurring ‘Jews for j*sus’ stuff, which has frankly completely boggled my mind and is continuing to disturb me on a very fundamental level. I know some of the people involved, and I can’t for the life of me understand how such thoughtful, deep and committed Jews have got caught up working for missionaries.
The whole thing is bothering me on so many levels, I don’t really know what to say or think about it, other than BARF!!!!
So that’s been quite a big downer.
We’ve also started looking for a house around the neighborhood, and that’s also had its own challenges. Things are so unbelievably overpriced in Jerusalem at the moment that literally no-one can afford to buy anything.
The greedy estate agents and real estate developers who have created this enormous mess continue to go bust every week, as nothing is really selling. But when you’d like to try to finally settle down again and buy something modest to put roots down in the holy city, it can be pretty demoralizing.
But then, I read about all the stuff happening with ‘Hurricane Harvey’ over in Hollywood, and it heartens me tremendously that the olam hafuch, or upside-down world we’re all living in is slowly starting to right itself.
I mean, really? Is anyone REALLY shocked that gay-loving, promiscuity-promoting, God and marriage-bashing Hollywood is run by degenerate, immoral low-lifes?! Why is that news NOW, all of a sudden? What actually changed?
Maybe the answer is simply that God has finally had enough of all the hypocrisy and all the immorality and all the aggressive atheism, and is finally starting to clean house.
I hope so.
So on balance, 5778 is shaping up to be a very interesting year, full of twists and turns, but with an elderly Tzaddik keeping an eye on proceedings from his corner of Jerusalem, and ‘sweetening’ whatever needs straightening out as we go along.
And that last thought is extremely comforting.