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.
At the beginning of last week, for no obvious reason, I was in a really bad mood.
I don’t think I was the only one. Increasingly, I’m seeing how so much of our moods are the function of a ruach, or spiritual ‘wind’ that Hashem floods into the world that’s designed to press all our stress response buttons. When that happens, we come out fighting, flighting, freezing, going into hyper ‘people-pleasing’ mode – and the only way to get a grip on this is a lot of hitbodedut and self-awareness.
Which of course, 99.9% of the world aren’t doing, and don’t have.
So I think the violence and madness is only going to increase in the meantime… but let’s get on with the story.
I’ve started teaching a class again in Jerusalem, on Deeper Needs, and before the ladies showed up for Monday’s class I rushed out to the local supermarket to get some biscuits and water. The supermarket never has enough change. Like, never.
And I’ve made a practice of paying with cash wherever possible ever since we ran out of money a few years ago, and my cards stopped working in the most embarrassing of ways.
There are few things more excrutiating than ringing up a huge amount of shopping – and then your card doesn’t work. To be honest, it’s also excrutiating when it’s only a little bit of shopping, but at least that’s easier to forget about.
So, I have a credit card, but I try to avoid using it whenever possible.
And the supermarket has no change.
So, last Monday, I was there with my water and my biscuits, when the always grumpy woman on the till started haranguing me for not getting my shopping out of the basket and on to the conveyor belt fast enough.
I felt ‘fight’ well up in my chest, but God helped me to squash it. Phew!
10 seconds later, she’d rang up the total – 23 shekels – and I gave her the 100 shekel note I had in my purse to pay for it. She started humphing, asked me if I had anything smaller, I said I didn’t. And then she started haranguing me again, and told me I should pay with a credit card instead.
I felt ‘fight’ well up in my chest again – and this time, I couldn’t contain it. I grabbed the 100 shekels out of her hand, and shoved a credit card into it with such bad grace, and with such a malevolent look on my face that even the grouchy old supermarket bag got a shock.
“Why are you cross with me?!” she asked, incredulous.
“Because you got cross with me!” I answered back.
The rest of the transaction passed in silence, and I left the shop fuming.
Of course, ten minutes later I sat down to give a class on fixing bad middot, and dealing with things like anger and fear.
God always plans it like that, so I give over these classes from a place of maximum humiliation and shaflut. “Listen, gals, this is what we’re meant to be doing, but in the meantime you should know my fight reaction just kicked in at the super, and it’s a miracle I didn’t punch the old bad on the till in the chops.”
So all week, I’ve been thinking about how to fix this. How can I fix this?
The answer that came back in hitbodedut was this: chocolate.
So today, I returned back to the supermarket that has no change, I carefully picked the grumpy till lady’s line, and I bought some chocolate – for her.
I gave it to her, and it was the first (and probably last…) time I ever saw her smile.
HaKol beseder, geveret, she grunted out.
Peace had returned to Gotham City.
Until the next time they run out of change.
On Shabbat, I was doing a long hitbodedut session, trying to figure out a few things in my life. As is my wont, I happened to open up Likutey Moharan, to see if it would give me any hints on some of the things I was pondering, and I got to this, Lesson 56:
Matzah represents dispute for the sake of heaven, an aspect of knowledge, of peace, of healing, for peace is healing, as in, “Peace, peace, for the far and the near, says God, and I will heal them.” (Isaiah 57:19)
Honestly? I had no idea what Rabbenu was on about at that stage, or what the take home message was meant to be.
On Sunday, I went up North to do some praying at the Tzaddik of Yavniel’s kever – because I have a daughter who’s approaching 18, and I figured it can’t hurt to daven for a good match in advance – and then we also swung past Rashbi, in Meron.
I was feeling pretty weird and not so well on Sunday, as a result of all the space weather flying around at the moment, which is perturbing the interior of the planet, and also perturbing the human soul.
While I was at Rashbi, I got the strong notion that I needed to try to make peace between close friends of ours who are currently going through one of the most yucky divorce processes I’ve ever seen in my life. Both their families have some very toxic elements, and sadly those toxic people have come to the fore now, and have just made an enormous mess of what was already a very difficult situation.
I didn’t want to get involved.
We still love both the people, we can still see both the sides. The last thing I wanted to do was stick my oar in and draw the cannon fire in my direction.
But for the last two weeks, God has given me no peace. Sure, it’s the easier option – the much, much, much easier option – to sit on the sidelines and watch them destroy each other. But I love them, and I’ve had this growing feeling that I had to try to break through all the poison to see if there’s something we could do to bring them at least a little closer together again.
Long story short, I tried and failed. My husband tried and failed. Apparently, both parties are as stuck as they ever were.
That’s how it looks.
But in my hitbodedut, I started to feel like somehow or other, just the effort we made is going to lead to some improvements down the road, (like, years down the road…) even though right now it seems so bleak. Why? Because for the first time in months, we made them hear a perspective that was closer to objective truth, and not just the warped perspective of ‘it’s all the other person’s fault’ that their echo chamber is encouraging them to believe.
But man o man, it was hard going.
Both me and my husband felt physical ill, both before and afterwards, from the anxiety of ‘getting involved’ in such a yucky situation. But what can we do? We love them. And strangely after our conversations, I felt much more at peace, even though we apparently failed miserably.
Yesterday, I decided to write an answer on Quora about the earthquake forecaster Dutchsinse, explaining how his methodology is scientifically sound, and adding in some more pertinent details from other scientists who have also been shut down and sidelined for daring to challenge the narrative about what’s really going on with the earth’s climate and seismicity.
Two hours later, I’d still only got one view: my own.
Which is when I started to realise that Dutchsinse really is being monitored by the US government, and really is being actively shut down and maligned publically, because you can write about the most inane things on Quora and instantly get at least 10 people reading it within a minute of posting it up.
That gave me a real pause for thought, because I’ve had a lot of insights into what’s really going on with the earthquakes and volcanoes on the continental US, and in other places, like Australia, New Zealand and Italy.
Then, I checked the earthquake activity for Israel HERE, and I saw that the magnitudes for the quakes in our region have recently jumped into the 4s….
Today, I woke up with the very strong certainty that God wanted me to re-start my blog, to start writing about all this ‘knowledge’, because knowledge is peace, and peace is healing. And the one thing the world needs so very much right now is healing.
Of course, I spent an hour arguing against it in hitbodedut:
“But God! I still have really bad middot!! A big part of the reason I deleted the blog a couple of months ago was because I didn’t want to get pulled into any more interactions with the anonymous psychos and mentally-ill derangos who lurk behind every landing page and comment! If I start blogging again, I may well get pulled into disputes and that in turn will activate a whole bunch of bad middot that I really don’t like or want.”
God told me this:
Rivka, you are for sure going to make a whole bunch of mistakes going forward. You aren’t perfect, and the psychos on the web are a big test for everyone. BUT…. Matzah represents dispute for the sake of heaven.
And matzah, as we all know, symbolizes humility.
If I keep working on my arrogance, and if I don’t try to kid myself that I’m perfect, and that I don’t have any more work to do on my bad middot, and if I keep asking God to show me what He really wants, I think it’ll be OK.
And in the meantime, there are so very many lies being told, and so few people still standing up to counter them, that I definitely have my work cut out for me.
So, I think I’m back.
That’s the message I seem to be getting right now, so I will go with it, and we’ll see what happens.
Tachlis, I’m re-adopting a zero lashon hara policy on the blog – including for myself!
And we’ll see how it goes.
There are huge things happening in the world, and no-one is really talking about what’s actually going on, and connecting the dots. I have a lot of insights to share with you. And BH, I really hope I can write as a Kiddush Hashem, and keep making whatever teshuva is required to make this blog a vessel for peace and healing.
But bottom line: I’m returning to the fray.
NOTICE: The blog is only restarting at this address temporarily.
I will be migrating this blog over to a new site at: rivkalevy.com