This poem was at the end of a post written by Esther Cameron, over on Sasson, and it really spoke to me.
It's always darkest before the dawn, and for sure it's pretty dark right now for a lot of people. But BH, the light of Zot Chanuka will turn it all around.
Let us keep one another from despairing
though desperate matters in the world abound,
build bright the thought of one another’s caring
to keep at bay the fierce eyes all around.
Let’s each be witness to the other’s world:
before the other’s eyes let each unroll
those maps of truth that lie in darkness furled
when unperused by any kindred soul.
Granted, we lack the power to turn the course
of history, which tomorrow as today
declines from bad to worse and worse and worse;
yet, while we can, let’s mock it in our play.
Each moment of shared truth and shared delight
sets a bright star against the faithless night.
(Let him lift up his eyes and his heart to us,
To the light,
Last month, I picked up a dog-eared copy of the life of Napoleon Bonaparte, and for some reason, I actually read it. Napoleon was born to Corsican parents just before France invaded Corsica, which depending on how you look at it, was probably the biggest lucky break the French republicans ever got.
Because the newly ‘Frenchified’ Napoleon was a born artillery genius.
When the people who cut off King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette’s heads (which actually was a good thing, as the Bourbon kings of France, Spain, and other parts of Europe were completely and utterly corrupt) found their revolution stalling under their feet, a young corporal called Napoleon bounded up with his guns, and saved it.
From that lowly start, Napoleon rose to become the Emperor of France, and he had quite an empire going for over a decade. He was probably the most fair and principled ruler Europe had seen for at least two thousand years – which is not saying much, as Europe’s rulers have nearly always been degenerate low-lifes.
Long story short, Napoleon, and the French Revolution completely changed the face of the world, in a myriad different ways.
And it seems to me, history may be about to repeat itself.
This week, France is in virtual melt-down as a bunch of yellow-jacketed protesters are flooding the streets, outraged at yet another tax hike being imposed on their petrol. France’s youthful President Emmanuel Macron has bought all the ‘man-made climate change’ baloney hook, line and sinker.
That means he’s made privately-owned cars Public Enemy #1 (while basically ignoring all the Radical Islam terrorists floating about France), and has been hiking taxes all over the place to ‘save the world’ from fossil fuels.
But the people are revolting.
The French always are. But it seems to me, something big is about to shift in France, because there are literally millions of people taking to the street over there, and the politically-correct President is also a snowflake who has no idea how to really handle a bunch of angry citizens who are marching for his head.
Not literally, like in the old days (or at least, not yet…) – but they want his resignation, and they want it NOW. And the party who will probably take over when that happens is Marine Le Pen’s National Front (recently renamed 'National Rally').
Le Pen came second in last year’s Presidential Election, but now the shine has well and truly rubbed off of Macron and his cronies, she is surging ahead in the polls so strongly, I really don’t know what could stop her land-sliding into power, if there’s another election.
Meanwhile, Britain is lurching from bad to worse, in the wake of Brexit. There are headlines all over the place saying that Jeremy Corbyn, that openly Hamas-loving loonie Leftie, could be PM by 2019. I doubt it’ll be that fast – but I don’t doubt that something dramatic is on the cards there, too.
And then, there’s the US.
Ah, the US.
All last week, I was learning about the two million (and some say, 18 million) Native Americans that were routinely massacred during the middle of the 19th century, by greedy pioneers with guns in one hand and gospels in the other.
There’s a lot to say about that subject, but for now, let’s focus on the one thing that I’m still very interested in: volcanoes. Do you know the Native Americans used to consider the volcanoes in their midst to be sacred ground? Do you know how many native ‘legends’ there are describing absolutely massive eruptions, earthquakes, floods, and even big parts of the North American continent breaking off and sinking into the Pacific?
(And all this happened in the last few thousand years…)
Do you know, that the American government has been drilling its fracking wells and geothermal pumping ops on the flanks of a whole bunch of volcanoes that they believe to be dead or dormant, but which are really still alive and kicking?
Partially, they’re doing that to try to alleviate some of the seismic pressure that regularly comes across the continent every 200 years or so, and that could destroy the USA’s infrastructure literally in a minute, were it to happen again. And partially, they are doing it to get all the oil, gas, steam and minerals out of the ground, that is currently worth some very big bucks.
But, the point is this: the USA was built on greed, mass-murder, and an over-weaning xtian arrogance that they were the new 'chosen people'.
If the 90,000 or so greedy gold-rushers who swarmed into California had treated the locals a tad more kindly, and a tad less selfishly, maybe they would have realized that trying to build their new world on one of the most unstable, seismically-active and potentially dangerous bits of real estate on the planet was not such a good idea.
When it comes to volcanoes and earthquakes, the American continent is an absolute basket-case. That’s why the Native Americans were semi-nomadic, that’s why they regarded the volcanoes in their midst with such awe, and that’s why their folklore is packed to the gills with tales of exploding mountains, floods, fire that travels under the ground and ‘fights’ between Heaven and earth.
A few days’ ago, Anchorage in Alaska was hit with an enormous 7+ magnitude earthquake, that caused so much deformation of the ground, roads literally dropped 10-15 metres.
And probably, this is only the beginning of the dramatic geophysical events that will start playing out over there, between now and 2030.
In the midst of all this, Rav Berland has been giving over some very disturbing shiurim recently, where he’s talking about Moshiach dying, and how there are now more enormous judgments hanging over Am Yisrael, on an even bigger scale than we saw six years’ ago, when the Iranian nuke scare was at its zenith.
Once again, we seem to be reaching a collective tipping-point. Once again, we seem to be standing on the edge of the precipice. For the people who are yearning so much for ‘the end’, let me just mention that Moshiach coming doesn’t mean everyone gets a first-class ticket to come take up residence in a swanky new apartment building in the Holy City.
What it means, at least first, is that the world is going to be plunged into the sort of chaos that will make materialism utterly meaningless. Who knows, when the dust finally clears, what that Moshiach world is actually going to look like?
USA = ESAV, make no mistake about it.
You only have to read the accounts of what was occurring there all through the 19th century – and take the blinders off, and realize just how many of the world’s current problems can be laid at the feet of American greed and self-centredness.
It’s ‘goodness’ is for show, it’s ‘piety’ is all external.
Don’t forget, the USA closed its borders to Jewish refugees fleeing Hitler, and refused to bomb the tracks that led to Auschwitz. And they knew what Auschwitz was, and who was being taken there, as did the UK, France, and the other Allies, too.
God has a lot of patience, and a lot of compassion. But there’s still a limit, and my guess is that any demands that Jews withdraw from even one square metre of Israel will be the match that lights the fuse connected to the thousands of volcanic ticking time-bombs located under America.
We know from our prophets that a third of the world will be utterly destroyed before Moshiach comes, and a third will be greatly damaged. Based on history, based on the spread and activity of the volcanoes in the world, and of the fault lines in the tectonic plates, the West Coast of the North American continent has very high odds of being in one or both of those categories.
And you know where else has historically been hit with massive seismic and volcanic activity?
Greece and Italy.
Italy, in particular - where the Roman Exile began - still has the most volcanically active bits of ground in the whole of Western Europe.
And, you remember that New Zealand was in the lead of the funny business at the UN against Israel, as Obama’s stooge, just before he left office? Well, guess where else is sitting smack dab on hundreds of active volcanoes?
I could go on and on, but let’s sum it up like this: Pretty much every nation in the world has some sort of volcanic or seismic weakpoint, that God can switch on, or agitate, in the blink of the eye.
The only reason more people aren’t stressing over this is because they’ve swallowed all the fake science baloney that tells them these volcanoes, etc, are billions of years old, (sic), and they have nothing to worry about.
So, what can we do?
What can you and me, the regular people, the regular Jews, do, to try to ease us in to the next stage of geula without seeing half of America sink into a massive lava lake, or collapse under the Pacific ocean, in the next decade or so?
The answer is so simple, but still so hard:
Support our true Tzaddikim and work on our own bad middot.
And top of the 'True Tzaddikim' list is Rav Berland.
As time goes on, I see more and more of the people who have publically gone against the Rav being outed as just plain disturbed individuals. Thank God, it’s getting easier and easier to see that nasty, crazy people with bad middot are very vocally ‘anti’ the Rav, and that everyone else is not.
I was heartened by these new videos from Rav Glazerson (scroll down to see them), because it showed me that this clarity really is starting to get out there, and to be amplified in the world.
But in the meantime, the Rav really needs our help. He’s 80, he’s maintaining a schedule that no-one else can keep up with (believe me, I’ve seen them trying), and he is doing his very best to bring geula for us the sweet way.
But our bad middot keep getting in the way.
Between you and me, I already know that no-one is going to read this and throw away their i-Phones, or read this and publically apologise for all the machloket they’ve caused, or make teshuva for all the lashon hara they’ve spoken, or people they’ve hurt.
We are the ‘heels’ of Moshiach, after all, that dead, numb, super-tough piece of skin at the very bottom of the body that nothing can really puncture.
But we can still do something: we can come and pray with the Rav in Hevron, this Sunday night, December 9th, 2018.
In the past, I’ve seen the tremendous power these prayer gathering have to mamash tip the spiritual balance back in a better direction, and sweeten the judgments that are piling up against all of us.
A couple of years’ back, the Rav called for a prayer gathering in Hevron, to end the so-called ‘stabbing intifada’ that had been sweeping Israel for months and months. They held the gathering, 10,000 people showed up to pray, including Rav Arush – and the stabbing intifada suddenly faded away.
You can’t make this stuff up, you can’t fake it.
Yes, I know it’s hard schlepping off to Hevron late Sunday night after you’ve stuffed your face with yet more donuts, but is it harder than seeing the chaos in the world intensify? Or going through another war with Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in the North?
Is it being harder than being nuked by Iran, or seeing half of America explode and collapse?
And let’s not even talk about what’s going on in our own lives.
So, BH, I hope to see you there on Sunday. Yes, there’s a women’s section, yes, there are very cheap buses to and from Hevron that will be running all night. The Rav put out a recording just now saying people should come without worrying how they are dressed, or whether they will ‘fit in’.
Who cares what you're wearing?!
What’s important right now is Jewish unity and Jewish prayers.
What’s important right now is to heed the words of the True Tzaddikim, and not to make the mistake of thinking someone else out there is going to pick up the slack.
Come and do your bit to sweeten the judgements. Come to Hevron and pray with the Rav.
Because it’s clear to all of us: things are not going to continue like this for very much longer.
Such confusing times we live in, aren’t they? Part of what I’ve been finding so hard is just how quickly ‘friend’ can become ‘foe’ and vice-versa, the last few years.
It’s hard to trust anyone. It’s hard to really know where anyone is really coming from these days.
Back in 2015, I realized that God has done all this on purpose, because what He really wants is for us to keep talking to Him every single day – about everything going on in our lives – and to not just turn our brains off, and give away our free choice to other people.
That ‘other person’ could be a doctor. They could be a politician. They could be a scientist, or a schoolteacher, a parent, or even a rabbi.
Because free choice is the whole reason God made us; it’s the defining ability of a human being, and it’s something we have to exercise all the time – even if that means we’re going to end up making a mistake, or suffering something we’d prefer to not have to deal with.
I know there is a lot of controversy raging about the vaccines issue right now. (For my take on it, see THIS post.)
I was doing some praying on what’s really going on with it all, and here’s what came to me: the story of Rav Eliezer HaGadol, and the Sages, in the Gemara.
Turns out, Rav Eliezer HaGadol was 100% right, when he and the Sages were arguing about the halachic status of an earthenware oven. Rav Eliezer was so right, the river ran backwards, the walls of the yeshiva caved in, and a bat kol, a voice from Heaven, even announced that Rav Eliezer was correct.
But the rest of the Sages still banded together, ignored all these phenomena, and actually ex-communicated Rav Eliezer! The cherem was only lifted shortly before he died, so the Sages could attend his funeral.
We are talking about massive tzaddikim here – including Rabbi Akiva, the redactor of the Oral Torah, the teacher of Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai, the person who said that no-one in his generation was on the level to rebuke another Jew.
Yet, even Rabbi Akiva joined the other Sages in excommunicating his teacher, and the most outstanding Rabbi of the generation, Rav Eliezer HaGadol.
And Rav Eliezer HaGadol was 100% right, don’t forget! Even the angels said so!
So, what was really going on here?
In a nutshell: Jewish unity.
Having peace between Jews is the single most important thing, the single best guarantee of good health and blessing.
At the end of last week, I spoke to one of my relatives in the States who is a believing Jew, a quick thinker, and more amenable than most to hearing new ideas. I broached the vaccines topic with him – and I was amazed at how he was having a hard time accepting even the most basic ideas.
Like, the stronger a person’s immune system is, the easier they will find it to fight off disease easily.
Like, germs are around us all the time, and the main factor in whether we’ll get really sick (which is really just God, but we couldn’t really get to that level in the discussion) is whether we’re already weak and ailing in some way.
Like, the measles vaccine doesn’t guarantee immunity from measles – even according to the Department of Health’s own figures, 3% of all people fully vaccinated will still develop measles.
So that means measles can never actually be fully eradicated.
The man just couldn’t hear it. He just couldn’t agree. He’s living in a world where he’s bombarded with information telling him that germs are the only factor causing disease, and that vaccines are the solution to avoiding disease.
He told me one other piece of information that I thought was very pertinent: Apparently, there’s been a few measles breakouts in Monsey, amongst predominantly chassidish communities.
“Having a measles epidemic in the Jewish community is making us look bad to the goyim,” he told me. “We already got blamed for the Black Death in the Middle Ages, we don’t need to give them any more ammunition.”
I have a feeling this last sentiment may be holding more weight when it comes to the hysteria over the measles outbreak than any of the other things so far discussed
But bottom line is: most of the people out there are so caught up in the world of lies that even if they are sincere, believing, thoughtful Jews, there is still no-one to really talk to when it comes to broaching the topic of how health really works.
So, what are our rabbis to do? Are they to promote divisive pronouncements that a majority of even frum Jews are literally incapable of accepting or following? Where is that going to lead?
So, even though Rabbi Eliezer HaGadol is figuratively right, the Sages chose unity and achdus, and hoped that God would keep everyone healthy and well.
Did they make the right decision? Honestly, there’s a machloket about that.
But what all this comes down to is that there is no shortcuts, and that the only way to get through this world in one piece, sanely, without being overwhelmed by doubts and confusions on all sides, is to keep talking to God every single day, and asking for clarity and emuna.
The last thing to say is this: Any rabbi who counsels a couple with conflicting opinions on the issue of vaccines to get divorced over the matter is not coming from a good place at all, spiritually.
God values peace above all else. God values shalom bayit above all else. And if a rabbi is saying to divorce because the other person wants to vaccinate, or doesn’t want to vaccinate, then get the heck away from them.
Bezrat Hashem, God will help us all to find our path through this maze, and to stay close to Him, and to keep our kids truly healthy in all ways, spiritually, emotionally and physically.
After I put this up, I realized I'd forgotten perhaps the most important point of all, which is that our rabbis make the reality.
When that Bat Kol came out from heaven, the Sages argued that halacha was not decided in Heaven, it was decided on earth - by the true rabbis that God had set over the people.
And God agreed!
Yes, I know what's going on is difficult. I know vaccines are not the health panacea they are made out to be by the Pharmaceutical industry. But at the same time, if our rabbis are saying we should vaccinate, we now have an additional layer of spiritual protection for our vaccinated children that wasn't there before.
The rabbis make the reality!
That's a fundamental foundation of Emunat Tzaddikim. And the true rabbis in our midst see much further down the road than we can, and are taking many more factors into account than are immediately obvious to the rest of us.
Again, Rabbenu is 100% anti-doctor. That is the Breslov path. And yet, he was pro-vaccines.
How these two things really go together is something requires an awful lot of hitbodedut, but go together, they do. And as I've said before on this blog, Rabbenu is always right.
Rebbe Nachman tells us: it’s a huge mitzvah to be happy! And to be happy all the time!
But then he also tells us: Happiness is also the single hardest thing to achieve in life, and you are going to have to work at it ad 120, to really get there.
Which is why when I sometimes have a sad day or two, I don’t get too freaked out about it.
Honestly, there’s a lot of hardships going on in the world. Barely a day goes by without an email bringing its own tale of nasty disease, horrible divorce, or some other massive personal challenge.
We can’t close our eyes to the suffering that’s going on all around us – to do that turns us into unfeeling robots, and that’s not what God wants. At all.
At the same time, we also can’t let other people’s ‘stuff’ take over too much of our headspace, or take out too much of our joy. Because when we’re down, we get distanced from God, we get discouraged and demoralized, and we don’t tend to do very much to build the world.
Main-lining Youtube videos generally does not build the world!
Moping around in bed, or on the couch, instead of washing up or making the supper generally
does not build the world!
Getting in bad moods about how unfair it all seems, somehow, or how pointless, generally does not build the world!
At the same time – we can’t close our eyes to the suffering all around us. And especially not to the suffering that we ourselves still experience deep down inside.
So then, what’s the answer?
How do we walk this narrowest of bridges?
Honestly? I don’t really know.
But what seem to work for me at the moment is to not run away from the occasional sad feelings that still crop up, and to not ignore them, but also to not give them too much encouragement.
“Ok, Rivka, you want to feel sad that the evil pioneers killed a whole bunch of Native American tribes off in such vile, awful ways? You can! But only for half an hour. Then remind yourself that God is running the world, and snap out of it.”
Ditto, when I saw that poor, abused boy on the bench after he’d been kicked out of the house by his folk. My first inclination was just to feel really, really sad. But after a couple of hours of that, I realized it wasn’t really helping. It wasn’t building the world. It wasn’t putting God in the picture.
All it was doing was making me angry, apathetic and overwhelmed with thoughts of how ‘bad’ the world actually is, and how retarded so many parents appear to be.
So first I snapped out of it, with God’s help. And then, I spent a week seeing if there are any opportunities for me to start volunteering with at-risk teens in Jerusalem, and there might be.
We can’t ignore the darkness, we can’t just wish the evil away – we’re not on that level.
But at the same time, Rebbe Nachman tells us: don’t lose your simcha! Hang on to your happiness! Really, that’s the way out of the gloom, it’s the winch that will hoist you – and everyone else - out of all the yuck, and into the geula.
Following this advice is really not easy, especially as so many people are struggling today.
But one thing I do know for sure, and this is it:
Rebbe Nachman is always right.
I’ve been going on about the link between rising magma, rising seismicity and wildfires for a while now, in connection to what’s been happening in California.
Dutchsinse – the amateur geophysics genius on Youtube who seems to know far more about real science then most of the ‘real’ scientists out there – basically nailed the process of what’s occurring:
There’s a big earthquake that occurs out to sea, but close enough to get the plates moving.
That seismic activity shows up as a swarm of much smaller quakes striking on the flanks of a whole bunch of volcanoes, including many officially listed as ‘dormant’ or ‘dead’.
Within a few days of those earthquakes striking, the wildfires begin.
Because the earthquakes mean that magma is on the move, and as part of that seismic activity, some of the volcanic gases contained in magma – including methane – are released from the ground, and seep up through the surface of the earth, where they can spontaneously ignite, if the conditions are right.
And all it takes is a spark, so getting the methane to light is not so hard, especially if you’re God.
Back in THIS POST, I linked to the fact sheet from the USGS that explained how methane has been leaking out around the Sutter Buttes volcano in the Sacramento Valley for centuries.
Sacramento Valley is the location of most of those wildfires in California, and the ones that weren’t located in that area were also located very close to ‘old’ volcanic fields that had recently experienced swarms of micro-quakes.
A few days’ back, Dutchsinse happened to mention that Australia had experienced a rare (for them) earthquake. Then today, there are stories of awful wildfires breaking out all around Deeptown and Round Hill in Central Queensland.
Authorities are describing these fires as ‘unprecedented’ – because Australia is still at the close of its rainy season. Even though most of the rain fell very late in the season, causing drought conditions for the first part of the Australian winter, at this point, the ground is soaked (and they’ve been having ‘unprecedented’ flash flooding).
So yes, heatwave, blah blah blah. Drought, blah blah blah.
But something else appears to be going on here.
Queensland is full of volcanoes, and ‘extinct’ volcanic fields – including the ‘Agnes Water Volcanics’, which happens to be right where the fires are breaking out around Baffle Creek.
Lucky for the residents, the scientists have dated most of the volcanoes and volcanic fields in Queensland to the Triassic age – i.e. some 200-250 million years ago (sic) – based on a few plant fossils that were found in some sandstone.
If you hold by the idea that the world is only 5778 years old, as the Torah tells us, clearly this dating is plain wrong.
What if the volcanoes, and the volcanic fields in Australia are all starting to wake up, same as we’re seeing California?
Again, there is a reason that the American continent, and particularly the West coast, and Australia were sparsely inhabited by ‘primitive people’ when the ‘civilised’ Europeans discovered them a couple of centuries ago, and started a systematic program of ethnic cleansing and mass murder.
Let’s do the maths together:
(See HERE for more details on this, if you like maths).
A couple who lived in the UK 2,000 years ago, at the time of the Roman invasion of Britain, would have an estimated 500,000 descendants, 16 generations later (400 years). By a thousand years later, they’d have an estimated 50 million descendants.
Science tells us Australia and California (and everywhere else) are billions of years old.
So, where were all the people?
Why were there only a maximum of 600,000 people living in the whole, gigantic West of America 200 years ago? Why only 250,000 Australian Aborigines found in the whole continent, when the Europeans made ‘first contact’ in the 19th century?
Could it be, that these places experienced regularly, massive geological upheaval and change, which periodically wiped out nearly all the inhabitants in one go, as the ground raised up out of the sea, cracked, plunged into it, and magma and volcanic gases spread across the earth?
While you’re chewing that over, I had an email from the North of Israel this week, that told me there has been a fire burning uncontrollably near the Zaki stream, at the foot of the Golan Heights, in the Betiha Valley. (I haven't been able to independently verify if this is true - if anyone lives close and can give me more info, or better yet, take a picture, please do!)
The Zaki Stream was one of the places that got closed in the Summer, because of an outbreak of Leptospirosis in the water sources in the area of the Golan Heights. (It’s a post for another time, but I think the leptospirosis outbreak is somehow linked to the earth becoming warmer, or the gases being released, as magma rises towards to the surface.)
The Golan Heights is volcanic, and still active – there are at least 16 volcanoes there.
Israel has also been experiencing a higher number of small quakes in and around the North over the last few months. (Go HERE if you want to keep tabs on Israel’s earthquakes yourself.)
Is the same scenario playing out all over the world?
Are the volcanoes waking up? Is magma on the move?
Are things about to change in a spectacular fashion, throwing large parts of the world back to the Stone Age as part of the birth pangs of Moshiach?
I guess we’ll find out.
You know what?
Something good is starting to happen, I can feel it in the air.
The last few days, I’ve been getting yet more bashing via email from yet another anonymous online psycho who actually lied about what his real name is, even when I made writing with a real name a condition of accepting comments on the blog.
(Because ‘anonymous’ and ‘psycho’ always go together, online.)
The problem with these people is that they affect the whole tone and mood of my writing, because I’m still not on the level where I can just ignore them and happily gather up all the spiritual diamonds they are flinging at my head.
That’s a big part of why I took the blog down, repeatedly, the last few months, because I kept feeling it was being hijacked by anonymous psychos, who don’t like it when I write about loving other Jews; and who get very angry when I write about the importance of working on our own bad middot instead of pointing fingers; and who get very upset when anyone suggests that hating other people is not what God really wants.
And like it or not, those people have been setting the tone for most of the ‘discussion’ online for over a decade. No wonder it’s so ucky and poisonous! No wonder, so many people have gone seriously bonkers the last 10 years! No wonder that so many of us are feeling alienated and turned off from our fellow Jews and other human beings!
It’s exactly as our Sages said would occur at the end of days, when all of these disturbed people start setting themselves up as ‘leaders’ and fake spiritual mentors.
These bullying types push themselves ‘to the front’ in every area of life, Jewish or not, and set a tone for human relationships that basically comes down to shaming, flaming and insulting people personally until they break and go along with what they think, or what they want.
No wonder, communication between people has fallen into the gutter over the last decade, in so many different ways!
But something is starting to change.
Around the edges, the good is making a come-back, and the anonymous psychos and spiritual fakers are starting to beat a retreat.
I’m seeing that more and more of us are waking up to what’s really going on, and we’re starting to move away from them, and their pernicious influence on our thinking and outlook and faith.
More and more people are looking for ahavat Yisrael, not more tirades and rants and sinat chinam.
More and more of us are looking for sincerity, and ways to practically give God what He wants, and not just pointless, harsh and judgmental theorizing about what ‘perfect’ people should be doing in a ‘perfect’ world.
The worm is turning. The tanker is turning around.
I know that doesn’t look so obvious still, but I can see it coming.
There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
Let’s see if we can apply what we’re discovering about what really sparks off our bad middot to the recent, absolutely bonkers, ‘measles madness’ that’s apparently going on in the States right now.
I basically read no Jewish news sites, so the first I heard of all the balagan about a measles epidemic was when I started getting phone calls and emails from a few of the people I know there.
One person – a non-vaccinating mother – told me that even some of her friends were turning on her over the whole measles thing, and sending her emails blaming her, *and people like her*, for the recent death of a child from measles. Then today, someone forwarded this email on to me, that she’d just received from someone clearly very upset about her public decision to not vaccinate:
"You are a Rodef and Mazik according to all Gedolei Yisrael spanning all spectrums of Judaism. You might want to think twice before you go out against all of these big people. You might want to think about what you are going to answer to Hashem after 120."
Without getting into all the discussion about vaccinations generally (you can go HERE to read a very thoughtful, and meticulously-researched article on the subject, written by an orthodox American posek), I think it’s useful to really understand what’s actually playing out here.
God is just using the vaccination thing to draw attention to the real work to be done here, i.e. working on our middot.
And the same is true of pretty much every ‘great debate’ currently raging in the Jewish community. As soon as we get too caught up in the details, we lose sight of that big picture, but everything that’s going on around us right now – whether it’s Trump, Brexit, California’s fires and stirring volcanes, measles epidemics, terrorism – all of it is just God trying to talk to us, and trying to give us a message.
So, let’s see if we can get past all the superficial stuff, to see what’s really going on with the measles madness in America, right now.
Let’s go back to that curt, three line email. What are the underlying emotions, or ‘vibes’ we can pick up from it, to see where the writer is really coming from? This is what I picked up:
Now, let’s go back to our infographic from the last post, which sets out how these different bad middot are actually related.
There are two main routes to anger:
Route 1 is JEALOUSY.
I don’t think that’s at play with our pro-vaccine abusive emailer, (although jealousy is often a huge factor behind many people’s anger issues. We’ll return to this subject another time.)
So, it seems to be FEAR that’s leading to this emailer’s ANGER.
So now, let’s take a look at what’s causing the FEAR, as that is the key to understanding where this person is really coming from, and dealing with the problem at its root.
The FEAR is being caused by WORRY and ARROGANCE.
Where is the WORRY coming from? That’s pretty easy to figure out. It’s coming from the media stories about kids dying from measles, it’s coming from the schools, it’s coming from the people in the medical industry who are using all parents’ innate concern and love for their children to motivate them to vaccinate their children.
(Again, with absolutely no judgment about whether vaccinating is the correct route, or not.)
When we boil things down, we start to understand that this emailer is worrying that their kid may be injured or killed by an infectious disease, God forbid. That’s the first bit of clarity.
Already, that should enable us to feel a lot more compassion and understanding for the other person, because aren’t we all just worrying about our own children, too?
But there’s another factor in here, too, which is ARROGANCE.
ARROGANCE is the one sin that Hashem can’t stand, that He can’t be around. When a person has the bad trait of ARROGANCE, it basically means they have very little real emuna, they aren’t seeing God in their lives at all, and they think everything is in their own control, and down to them.
By contrast, emuna is when you live with the idea that EIN OD MILVADO, there is only Hashem.
If Hashem wants your kids to get sick or pass away, God forbid a million times, no vaccine in the world is going to prevent that.
This is the very uncomfortable truth that a lot of people –even in the frum world - find very, very hard to accept.
Now, God isn’t a tyrant, God isn’t a sadist. God forbid, He isn’t looking to maim and kill our loved ones. What God is trying to do, is to get us to face up to our bad middot, and to work on strengthening our emuna.
In the case of the measles vaccination, the ‘truth’ that has to be accepted by everyone, on both sides of the debate, is that God is running the world, and whatever God decides, that is what will be.
If God wants your kid to be healthy and strong, that’s going to happen even if you shtup your kid with a million vaccinations. And if God doesn’t want that, that’s what’s going to happen even if you shtup your kid with a million vaccinations.
This is the truth.
But, when people are ARROGANT, they don’t acknowledge that truth, which is when they start telling themselves lies about what’s really going on, and looking for scapegoats to blame for the fact that life is not 100% in their control.
These FALSEHOODS then lead to self-righteous ANGER – and then voila, people start acting like psychos and sending OTT emails.
THE FALSE PARADIGM
Giving the OTT people in our midst more information about the pros and cons of vaccination is not going to help at all, or calm them down.
Because the real problem isn’t a lack of correct information. The real problem is a lack of emuna.
When people have very little emuna, they come to believe that their child’s health is 100% in their own hands, and dependent on their own actions, and that God is out of the picture.
This false belief is what makes them feel justified in writing such ANGRY, yukky emails to the people who happen to be on the other side of the debate to them.
The better course of action would be for us to figure out what’s causing our feeling of overwhelming FEAR, and to work on that instead. Rabbenu is telling us “the more you can reduce your WORRY - (which would include getting proper information, researching the subject to its depth, and minimizing the consumption of news, generally) – the more you will reduce your FEAR!”
At the same time, we need to be working on our ARROGANCE, too, which basically means working on our emuna that God is running the world, and what God decides happens.
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE EQUATION
The key thing to note is that the bad middot described above can play out on both sides of the vaccination debate. If someone believes that eating healthy and avoiding vaccinations is all they need to do to keep their children fit and well, that’s also ARROGANCE.
God is the one deciding things, not us.
That ARROGANCE can also lead to FEAR, FALSEHOODS, and then OTT ranting about vaccinations, and self-righteous, attacking ANGER.
Wherever we stand in relation to the subject of vaccination, the real and only answer is just to keep asking God what He expects and wants from us. If a person is working on their emuna, and asking God for guidance to do what’s best, then if at the end of that discussion with Hashem they decide to vaccinate their children – then that’s what best for them.
And, if at the end of that discussion they decide to not vaccinate their children– that’s what best for them.
AND NO-ONE SHOULD BE CRITICISED FOR FOLLOWING THE PATH GOD HAS LAID OUT FOR THEM.
Vaccinations don’t prevent illnesses from striking – only God does.
Not vaccinating doesn’t prevent illnesses from striking – only God does.
At the end of the day, there are parents on both sides of the vaccination question who are feeling a lot of FEAR about their children’s health and well-being, and that’s what is motivating the vitriol and ANGER. If more of us understand where all of this is coming from, then we’ll have a much better chance of finding a way forward together that promotes achdus, empathy and understanding of the other person’s position.
And maybe, that's the whole point.
I still can’t get that homeless kid on the bench out of my mind. You know, the one who got kicked out of his home on a Friday night, presumably because he’d done something to break Shabbat.
The last two weeks, I’ve been thinking it over and over – how can parents do that to their own flesh and blood? How can people have so little empathy, so little understanding, for what it really means to be a teen growing up in 2018?
I know that somewhere along the line, that kid’s soul agreed to all this, and that being kicked out of his house is something that he needs for his own tikkun, or spiritual rectification. God doesn’t make mistakes, and everything that’s happening is meaningful, and on some very deep level, 100% deserved.
But at the same time, I can’t get over how utterly clueless this kid’s parents really must be.
In a nutshell, here’s the problem: Most people today have really bad middot.
And, because most people today also have really weak emuna, they don’t know, or don’t understand, or don’t want to accept that all that bad stuff they see in their kids, and especially their teens, is actually just their own bad middot being reflected back at them, and amplified.
Rav Arush (and a bunch of the other genuine Breslov rabbis) talk about this a lot. For example, in Maayan Ganim (a compilation of some of the best bits from a lot of his books), we find the following:
P 278: “One of the first things that a parent needs to do is to check whether or not they are excessively scaring their children. And if they are – then they need to completely stop doing this. Parents are obliged to be good friends with their children. Their children should be able to tell their parents everything, without fear.”
And, we also find this:
P 244: “If a parent sees some sort of hisaron (lack /issue) in their children, they should take it a sign that they themselves still have some work to do. Then, the parent will see with their own eyes how slowly, slowly, this starts to effect the child, and the whole household.”
I do my very best to follow this advice, and I have to tell you: I have a great relationship with my teens, Baruch Hashem, bli ayin hara.
And again, that last one is really what I see so few other parents, frum or not, chareidi or not, really doing in any way, shape or form.
I know, it’s hard.
It’s much easier to try to outsource everything to the school shrink, or just get some Cipraxil for Junior, or to blame the kid’s friends, or all the sugar they mainline from the school kiosk.
I know how much guilt most of us parents are lugging around, how much worry, how much internal panic and overwhelm, how much stress.
But, until we really accept that:
Our kids’ problems all boil down to our own, unrectified bad middot
We just ain’t going to get to Moshiach, any time soon.
And this is also closely connected to the whole subject of proper rebuke, that we’ve been discussing, because to put it bluntly:
Only disturbed individuals enjoy criticizing other people – and this goes double, when it comes to criticizing our children.
Again, people go to such great pains to dress up their own bad middot as ‘chinuch’, or some big mitzvah from the Shulchan Aruch, but the simple fact is that THE WORLD IS JUST A MIRROR.
So the more you feel compelled to blast other people’s issues and bad middot, and the more ‘bad’ you see in other Jews – and again, especially your own kids – the more ‘bad’ you really just have in yourself.
All the critics in our midst find this idea extremely hard to swallow. I know that until I started to really get to grips with my own bad middot, I also used to find this an extremely upsetting and disturbing idea.
What, I should just let ‘bad’ have a free hand? I shouldn’t try to protest? I shouldn’t try to fight all the darkness out there?!
It’s taken me years and years and years to finally realise that the one place I need to be fighting the darkness is solely within. I am the only person I can really influence, I am the only person I can really affect, I am the only person I can really improve.
Sure, we have to still protest BAD BEHAVIOR, and bad deeds, of course we have to do that.
But, there’s a world of difference between criticizing a bad action, and painting someone as a globally ‘bad’ person.
All of us, even the biggest saints, will occasionally do bad actions. That’s what teshuva is for, and that is why we all are meant to be doing a cheshbon hanefesh every single day, to try to catch those ‘bad’ actions in ourselves.
But when it comes to being able to say who is really a ‘bad’ person – no-one is on the level to judge that. Only God.
Again, the critics in our midst hate this idea.
They prefer to split the world up into ‘good’ people, who can do no wrong even though they are filled to the brim with bad actions and evil speech, and ‘bad’ people, who can do no right, and who will never make teshuva, and must be condemned to everlasting purgatory.
But this isn’t authentic Judaism.
And it certainly isn’t chassidut.
And it definitely isn’t Breslov.
What it is, really, is just an excuse for people to keep indulging their own bad middot, and to avoid having to face down their own demons, and to carry on blaming everyone else for the fact that Moshiach didn’t show up yet.
And personally, I’m so sick of it.
So, to sum this post up: People who enjoy criticizing others are very disturbed people who are doing untold damage to the world, and particularly their own families; and the main and really ONLY person we should be rebuking is
There seems to be some confusion about whether it's permitted to rebuke, and the right and wrong way to do it.
This is what Rebbe Nachman says in Likutey Moharan 2:8, about rebuking:
"Though rebuke is of great import, and all Jews are obligated to rebuke each other when seeing that the other is not behaving properly...nevertheless, not everyone is capable of rebuking.
"As Rabbi Akiva said. 'I wonder if there is anyone in this generation who is capable of rebuking' [Eruvin 16b]. And if Rabbi Akiva said this about his own generation, how much more so in our generation.
"When the rebuker is not capable of rebuking, then not only is his rebuke ineffective, but he is also causing a sense of malodorous repulsiveness in the souls hearing his rebuke."
Then, in the translation of the Kitzur Likutey Moharan, translated into English as 'Advice', by the Breslov Research Institute, we find the following, in the chapter on Moral Guidance, p 304:
"There is no contradiction between what was said earlier about the obligation which every Jew has to discuss spiritual matters with his friends, and the statement here that not everyone is fitted to give criticism.
"If you examine the different passages carefully, you will see that the idea that is applicable to everyone is having discussions with friends about spiritual matters: what is the purpose of life? What will remain of us, in the end? And so on.
"Even the simplest of people should discuss these things."
The Kitzur Likutey Moharan then continues:
"The kind of moral criticism which is referred to in the last passage is a completely different matter.
"It means making explicit reference to another person's sins, and saying to him: 'Why did you do such and such?' One should be very careful not to discuss people's sins and bad behavior with them, because one can weaken their soul through arousing this bad smell.
"The distinction between moral guidance and rebuke is implicit in Rashi's comments on the opening words of Deuteronomy, where he says that Moses did not rebuke the Children of Israel until immediately prior to his death."
So, go right ahead and rebuke if you are
a) on the spiritual level of Moshe Rabbenu
b) only going to do it once every 40 years.
Otherwise, Rabbenu seems to clearly be telling us to keep our mouths shut, and just stick to general discussions encouraging the people we know to think more about the spiritual aspects of life.
One of my ongoing issues, which is still ongoing, and still an issue, is how to share some of the insights I get from hitbodedut, and from research, and from Breslov, without completely frying people’s brains out and doing more harm than good.
What can I say?
It’s got better than it used to be, but I know it’s still not great. And, I also know that my bad middot, and in particular, my arrogance, is still really getting in the way of me being more useful to more people.
I’m praying on it. And praying on a lot of things, generally, as some days, it feels like the things I have to work on internally are still multiplying, especially when it comes to the subject of communicating information to others.
Rabbenu warns us repeatedly: Don’t rebuke!
If you rebuke, you’ll just ‘stir up’ all the cack inside the other person’s soul, and make it very hard for them to function, or even, to get out of bed.
Sure, people are neglecting their children left, right and centre. Of course, they’re caught up in pointless stuff, and wasting their precious time on things that don’t really matter (of course, including yours truly…)
No doubt about it, the whole world has weak emuna, and is lying to themselves about a whole bunch of things.
Aren’t we all?
Aren’t I, also?
Of course I am!
So Rabbenu tells us, don’t rebuke! Because first of all, you’ll just do more harm than good, and second of all, Rivka, you’ll just come off as a Class ‘A’ arrogant hypocrite, because who are you to be telling anyone anything?
So-called ‘blast blogging’ is all about trying to call out other people on all the bad stuff they’re doing, and throwing around judgement calls and fire and brimstone like it’s on special deal at Walmart, or something.
I so don’t want to be ‘blast blogging’ – and that’s a big part of why I quit a few months back, as I was finding the so-called ‘geula blog’ scene incredibly poisonous, in that way.
At the same time, I honestly think a lot of the stuff I find out about, and learn, is genuinely useful for others.
So, I’m a little stuck, because the fine line between ‘blast blogging’ and ‘blast talking’ and being a self-important, hypocritical, arrogant know-it-all – and actually putting useful and helpful information out there – is incredibly, dangerously small.
And it’s so very easy to step over the boundary.
On Shabbat, I did a long praying session, to try to deal with some of the internal anxiety and tension that’s been ratcheting up like nobody’s business, the last few weeks again. I got one main message out of that session, and this was it:
DO AS MANY KINDNESSES FOR OTHER PEOPLE AS YOU CAN.
Then, I remembered what Rav Yehuda Zev Leibowitz, the former head of the Lamed Vav Tzaddikim, put across as his ‘last will’ before he died.
Rav Arush has summed the main points up on the back of his little emuna booklets, and it says this:
If we do all that, we’ll have the best chance of making it through the birthpangs of Moshiach, which have kicked off, in my view, but still haven’t reached their maximum crescendo.
But man, doing these things is so hard, sometimes.
It’s so much easier to just keep calling out the faults and flaws in other people, and to tear other people down, instead of squinting into the internal darkness, to see what bad middot monsters still lurk within.
Lucky for us, the whole world is a mirror.
There’s no hiding from our internal issues, when God is flashing them back at us every step we take.
Man, it’s not easy trying to rectify crazy person tendencies, it really isn’t. Sometimes, I feel like giving up. But then, I remember another core teaching of Rebbe Nachman:
There is no despair in the world!!
Rabbenu’s telling me, ‘even you will get there eventually, Rivka. Don’t give up!’
And who am I to argue.
NOTICE: The blog is only restarting at this address temporarily.
I will be migrating this blog over to a new site at: rivkalevy.com