Yesterday, I was listening to Rav Eliyahu Meirav’s interview with the Israeli media, and I felt very sad. For those who don’t already know, Rav Meirav’s stepson, Yosef Cohen, Hyd, was one of the two Nahal Chareidi soldiers gunned down at Givat Assaf, close to Bet El, last Thursday.
Rav Meirav was raised on the totally secular Shomer Hair Kibbutz of Bet Alfa, and was a fighter pilot in the IDF airforce. He made teshuva after the Yom Kippur war – along with so many others of that generation, who’d seen with their own eyes just how limited the army really was.
Rav Meirav met Rav Berland – and became one of his closest students.
If you read the secular press descriptions of Rav Meirav, you’ll notice that they kept stressing that he was part of the Breslov ‘sect’. That’s their way of using subtle language to keep dissing religious people anyway they can, and to sow division and hatred.
After Rav Meirav’s son was killed al Kiddush Hashem, all those ucky news sites with their agendas to sow hatred and strife between the Jewish people started running false stories about how Yosef had been ‘thrown out of his home’ for joining the army, and how his parents had ‘sat shiva’ for him even before he died.
Because hey, why miss any opportunity to put the boot in to the chareidi community, and especially the Breslov Chassidic ‘sect’?!
This led to the absolutely sickening spectacle of Rav Meirav and his wife having to give interviews to the press – before they’d even buried their son – refuting the lies that had been spread about their family.
I listened to Rav Meirav speak – about Yosef’s last words, about his own background and teshuva, and most of all about the need for us to stop all the awful hatred, and to come together as one people, respecting each other’s differences – and it really made me pause for thought.
The haters out there are on all sides of the equation.
They read Ha’aretz, they live in Tel Aviv, they hate any hint of yiddishkeit, and they use the media to paint awful pictures of frum Jews as ‘blood-sucking, medieval parasites’ at any opportunity. But that’s not the only place you’ll find them.
You’ll also find plenty of apparently ‘frum’ haters out there too.
‘Frum’ haters pour scorn on the Jews who don’t live in Israel and wait for big comets to smash into America and kill everyone. They hate people who want to convert to yiddishkeit, they hate people who don’t conform, they hate people who aren’t ‘frum’, or who aren’t ‘frum’ enough, or who are too ‘frum’, or not the right sort of ‘frum’.
‘Frum’ haters also hate people who don’t vaccinate….and they hate people who do vaccinate. They hate people who voted for Trump, and people who go to Uman for Rosh Hashana (or who don't go to Uman for Rosh Hashana); they hate people who don’t think exactly like them, and see the world exactly the way they do.
Every bit of the Jewish world is riddled with this disease of hating other Jews – including our bit.
And there is no segment of society that is doing better at loving our fellow Jews than any other.
We all have the problem and we all need to work on it.
One of the things that drew me to Breslov, and drew me to Rabbenu, is that in Rabbenu’s tent, everyone is welcome. When you go to Uman, you stop seeing people as ‘frum’ and ‘not frum’, or as part of your group or not part of your group.
You just see them as individuals, as Jews.
And some of those Jews are really nice, and really deep and really holy – however they may look externally. And some of those Jews are really not so easy to get on with, and have a number of obvious bad middot and issues – however they may look externally.
The yetzer works overtime to convince us that ‘our bit’ of the Jewish world is fine, the best, the shining example for the rest of Jewish society, while all the other bits are the ones with the problem.
But it’s not true! Not at all!
The problem comes down to this:
There are Jewish people who look for reasons to hate other Jews, and there are Jewish people who look for reasons to try to love them.
And both groups are scattered and embedded across all the different segments of Jewish society.
Sadly, our world being the morally-degenerate mess it currently is, it seems the people who hate the most are also the ones with the biggest mouths, and the biggest audiences, and the biggest following on Youtube.
The haters pop-up all over the place, to have a go at others, and to put the boot in, and to harp on about how great they are, and how great their group is – always at the expense of others.
I’ve had to learn the hard way, that this is not at all what God wants from us.
I’ve also had ‘hating’ tendencies that I’ve had to really work on, and to try to uproot, over the last few years. That process of teshuva taught me that the haters ‘hate’ because they actually don’t like themselves very much at all. And that they’re secretly jealous of other people, and it’s the envy that causes them to diss the other Jew, the other group, so loudly, so poisonously, so arrogantly.
Whatever the hater is criticizing so much in others, that ‘thing’ is somehow embedded in their own souls.
So, I listened to Rav Meirav talk, and I wondered ‘how can I do more, to get from hate to love’?
How can I do more, to make my house a ‘no-tolerance for sinat chinam’ zone?
I’m going to pray on it, and I’ll let you know what I come up with.
Because one thing is for sure:
Nothing is slowing up Moshiach more, or causing us more problems and heartache in our own lives, than hating other Jews.
UPDATE: You can see Rav Meirav giving over his message of unity in English, below:
Let me just tell you again, my kids are vaccinated (minimally).
But what is clear to me that vaccines do have some potentially serious side effects, and no-one should be taking the decision to vaccinate - or to not vaccinate - lightly, nor trying to make that decision without putting God in the picture.
The Western medical profession always like to paint the rosiest picture of medical interventions like drugs and surgery. But all drugs and surgery have potentially very serious side effects, and the options have to be weighed up very, very carefully before we make whatever decision God encourages us to take.
Below, you'll find an interview (17 minutes) with a doctor who completely changed his ideas about vaccines, after seeing some of his patients regress into autism, and other serious side effects, caused by vaccine damage.
This MD believes in God - that's why he's speaking out. And he's part of a group of MDs called Physicians for Informed Consent, who are trying to ensure that all parents have the full information required, before they choose to vaccinate or not.
(The first minute is a little annoying, but the woman shuts up after that, and the rest of the interview is actually really good.)
THIS ISN'T JUST ABOUT VACCINES, IT'S ABOUT WESTERN MEDICINE GENERALLY
Here's some other articles you may want to peruse:
The whole of Western medicine is built on the notion of bullying people and scaring people into taking medications, instead of looking at their lifestyle choices, stress levels, and bringing things back to God and making teshuva.
Is this really the Jewish way?
[Shmirat Eynayim friendly, at least as much as anything on Youtube is.]
I just went to the Physicians for Informed Consent website, and they have an excellent PDF on both measles and the MMR, which just gives parents information without trying to 'bully them' into vaccinating, or not vaccinating. You can access both those PDFs HERE.
Yesterday, I had my kid’s parents’ evening. Thank God, she’s doing better this year (Uman really helped), but as I sat there for an hour (outside the wrong classroom….) waiting for my turn to speak to the teacher, I started pondering why it is school = torture.
Because make no mistake about it, it really does.
Both for the kids, and for the parents.
I’ve been pondering on how the only real difference between school and prison is that in prison, you get let out early for good behavior, while in school, good pupils are expected to add on another 3-4 years to their sentence by going to university.
And I’m not sure about this last one, but I think the food is probably better in prison.
One kid keeps finding spiders in the lettuce, dead flies stuck to the tomatoes, and other pieces of ‘mank’ that should be no-where near a kitchen, and especially not an apparently ‘kosher’ kitchen.
The other one just keeps getting fed white pasta…and more pasta…and more pasta… Except on Chanuka, when the pasta is replaced by donuts. Her candida is now way off the charts, and she’s bloating up like the proverbial blimp – and I’m just waiting for her sentence to finally end, in June, so I can start her proper school detox program.
The other one just eats cans now – cans of tuna, cans of corn, anything to avoid the insect-infested salad and dry bread. (I know, doesn’t this sound Victorian?) And her spots are also way off the charts.
Sometimes, I wonder if school was designed by the medical establishment, as it’s hard to think of a better way of wearing kids down, filling them up with poisonous things of all stripes, and stressing them out no end.
And we all know, stress is the underlying cause of nearly all illnesses, not least because it weakens the immune system a whole bunch.
And we all know, school is incredibly, awfully stressful.
Part of it is the endless, pointless, exams, where the kids aren’t really being taught to think for themselves, but just to regurgitate material, like some masticating bovine.
Part of it, is the endless, pointless expectations and pressures on the student to conform, and to fall into line, and to become one with the herd.
And part of it is the fact that school goes on for way too long.
As my kids have passed through this penal system called ‘school’, I’ve come to realize that they could easily finish their bagrut by 16, and then be off doing far more useful things with their life.
I’ve seen how each one got so depressed and miserable that first year of high school, at age 14, because they could feel in their bones that they were completely and utterly wasting their time, and wasting their lives.
Why ‘force-feed’ Tanach to students and then set exams on it?
Just so they’ll hate it so much when they’re adults, they’ll never open up a sefer of navi ever again in their lives?
One kid tells me her Tanach teacher just projects biblical verses up on the screen in the darkened classroom, and drones on in such a boring voice that my kid is usually asleep within 5 minutes. I’ve asked her to record it, as it sounds like a fabulous sleep aid and healthy replacement for Lunesta.
And then there’s sport, where they’re expected to drop to the floor and do 10 press-ups a minute, mamash like boot camp.
Except boot camp is less stressful, because no-one is grading your press-ups in boot camp, and telling you that the rest of your life depends on how well you do those 50 stomach crunches.
Here’s what I can see about school:
My kid comes home telling me all sorts of stuff that is the ‘mainstream’, secular view of the world (even though she’s in a religious ulpana) and I have to explain that there’s another view of things. We discuss, we argue – and she starts to see that so much of what’s she’s being told is actually just not true. And certainly, not in alignment with the authentic, Torah view of things.
But then, that puts her in a quandary. Once, she made the mistake of trying to discuss an alternative view of things with one of her teachers, and the teacher was extremely disconcerted and didn’t know what to do with her.
(The pupils aren’t the only ones who are being brain-washed in school.)
So I told my kid: ‘Play the game, nod and smile, and keep your mouth shut. Tell the teachers whatever they want to hear that will get you a passing grade and keep you out of trouble, and then come home and ask me your real questions. We’ll go find things out together.’
Because I don’t pretend that I know everything. (My husband would probably say I’m lying.)
2. It’s the main cause of teenage’d depression.
Not least, because most of it is a complete and utter waste of time, and has only been put in place as a brain-washing program by the secular atheists who run governments and universities.
Thank God, I live in Israel where a huge chunk of the society is already very suspicious of school.
Thank God, I’m not stressing my kids out endlessly about bagruts, or making a living, or going to university blah-de-blah-de-blah.
I tell them:
Just get through your prison sentence, and try to get a bagrut if it’s at all possible, as it’s a pain to go back and do it when you’re older. But, you CAN go back and do it when you’re older, if you need to figure things out first. And only go to university after you’re married, and if you really need a degree for the career you want to do. Otherwise, avoid it like the plague!!!
Yes, there are some good things about school, it’s true. Learning how to self-motivate, complete tasks, get on with other people, work as part of a team and problem solve is all useful stuff.
I find that these skills are mostly developed after hours, when the students are working together to figure out how to properly game the system and stay out of trouble.
Horrible, torturous school.
Throw-back and relic of Victorian times, when children were expected to be ‘seen, but not heard’, and cruelty to children was considered necessary for building their character.
There’s got to be another way, don’t you think?
Around 3 years ago, my life was in a real mess.
Me and my husband had lost everything we owned, we felt completely alone in the world, we were arguing with just about everyone you could think of or imagine, and to top it all off, I then had four early miscarriages in the space of a year and a half immediately before, during and after our move to Jerusalem.
To say we were going through the wringer was kind of the understatement of the century.
And still moshiach hadn’t come, and still no geula, but I just couldn’t take it anymore, and I either really needed life to get much easier, nicer and better pronto, or I didn’t really want to carry on.
(I get emails from a lot of people, BH, and I know so many people have reached that stage at the moment, may God send us all the balm and the cure and the solution for all of our woes.)
I always thought I had emuna, but at that stage in my life, I was in serious danger of falling away from yiddishkeit, God forbid. I’d been let down by so many of the rabbis in my life, and I’d been through so many difficulties and problems despite trying to follow all the extra chumrot and super-duper frummie stuff I’d been told would guarantee me the easy life that I felt like the floor had been ripped away from under my feet.
And then on top of everything else, came those four miscarriages, back to back, at the single most stressful, financially precarious moment of my married life. I’m sure the awful stress I was under contributed a great deal to the miscarriages, but long story short, I was completely and utterly wasted at all levels of body, mind and soul by the fourth one, and I was ready to throw in the towel.
Believing in miracles again
At that point, I started reading the Knishta Hadar newsletter that my husband was picking up from Chut Shel Chessed every few weeks – and what I read blew me away. What, there was still a rabbi out there who was the real deal?! Who was doing mamash open miracles?! Who could really help the people who turned to him with their problems?!
All this sounded far too good to be true, in the bitter, super-cynical state I was in back then.
But, I’m half-Moroccan, and while that fact often gets me into so much trouble, on this occasion, it was actually the source of salvation. Because my Moroccan side started saying: “Try it out! What have you got to lose at this stage? Ask for a blessing, pay a pidyon, and see if works! This Rav is the last shot you’ve got to keep believing that real tzaddikim actually exist…”
So, I called up the hotline, I sent in a brief email describing the 4 awful, early miscarriages, and how much physical, emotional and spiritual difficulty I was going through, and then, I waited for a response.
From the moment I spoke to the Rav’s gabbay (attendant), I already started to feel better than I’d been feeling, physically, for two years. And that’s what got me thinking: This Rav is the real deal.
Still, I waited to hear what the Rav himself had to say.
The Rav was in South Africa back then, so his attendants were recording his messages on WhatsApp and emailing them back to people. After a couple of days, I got sent an audio message via email where the Rav addressed me directly using my Hebrew name, and it’s hard to explain it, but I felt for the first time in my life that someone had finally ‘seen’ me.
Someone had finally ‘heard’ how much pain I was going through. Someone was behind me, finally, I didn’t have to stagger on alone any more.
I was told I needed to pay 5,000 nis as a pidyon nefesh, and I did that happily – I was already feeling better and happier than I’d felt for years.
Things moved fast after that. On the advice of Rav Berland, my husband moved over to the Shuvu Banim yeshiva, and so many of the difficulties and issues that we’d been struggling with for years just kind of resolved or disappeared.
Life got bearable again. Life even got kind of nice, mostly, again. We made peace with so many of the people we fell out with, we felt healthier and happier again, our parnassa started to do so much better, Baruch Hashem.
Throughout all my difficulties, I’d been praying my socks off, doing hours and hours of hitbodedut, and going to Uman regularly, and trying to make teshuva.
All that stuff is so important, and so helpful, but at this stage, it’s clear to me that there’s only so much we can do by ourselves, especially in this spiritually lowly generation.
If I hadn’t had the merit of connecting with Rav Berland three years ago, I dread to think what would have happened. As it was, I can tell you without the shadow of a doubt that the Rav is what pulled me and family through the hardest few years of our life, in one piece, and with our faith and sanity still intact.
And that’s why now, I am willing to do whatever it takes to try to help the Rav, in whatever way I can.
On the one hand, I know that if I hadn’t started writing about the Rav, it’s possible that I’d have far more readers at this stage, and certain that I’d have had far fewer unpleasant interactions with all the anonymous internet psychos out there.
It’s possible more people would have bought more of my books, and it’s also possible that I’d be part of the ‘chummy club’ of frum internet people who all promote each other’s stuff, and rub each other’s backs, and keep each other happy.
If I’m honest, making the decision to be behind the Rav 100% publically hasn’t always been easy, especially when there’s been another wave of lies and slander that’s rippled out of the recesses of some extremely disturbed people’s imagination.
If I’m honest, sometimes all I want to write about is my kids, and life in Israel generally, and all my holistic health stuff and mental health stuff. People like that, people respond positively to that, I know.
Before I start typing, I try to ask God to send me the words that He wants me to write, and I think that's why so often over the last two years, when I’ve sat down to write apparently ‘normal’, what’s come out is ‘geula’ and off the wall.
So often, I’ve decided to just leave the Rav’s stuff to one side for a bit, and just to concentrate on the everyday life stuff more, and then God pulls me right back around to writing more unexpected, often dramatic updates.
Dear reader, I yearn for ‘normal’.
But it seems, God is getting ready for ‘geula’.
So at this stage, I can’t think of anything more worthwhile to do with my time, and with my blog, and with my writing, than helping the Rav anyway I can.
After everything he’s done for me and my family, it’s the least I can do for him.
And this is what the people who are persecuting the Rav, and the people who are slandering him, will never, ever understand:
People don’t support the Rav with everything they’ve got because they’ve been brainwashed, or are part of a cult. If you see how the Rav really operates, you’d understand just how laughable these accusations really are.
People will do anything for the Rav for the simple reason that they know how much they owe him.
I owe the Rav so much. His blessings, his pidyonot, his advice helped me to make a 180 degree turnaround, and to go from a life that was literally a living hell, to one that is pretty nice, most of the time.
I know how low I fell, after that last miscarriage. I had no energy left, no hope left, no emuna left.
And the Rav somehow picked me up, put me back together, and set me back on my feet.
So, even though I’m yearning for ‘normal’, and I’m yearning to be a little more accepted, and a little more ‘standard, in the meantime, I will carry on posting up whatever is required to help the Rav, even when it’s 'out there', even when it’s disturbing and upsetting.
What can I do?
It seems increasingly likely that the days when ‘normal’ was normal, are drawing to a close.
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.
You know, I’m writing this knowing that most people aren’t really interested in reading about – or working on – their bad middot.
I know that.
It’s hard work, it’s yucky, we’d all much prefer to think that Moshiach hasn’t shown up because of everyone else’s personality disorders and dysfunctional behavior.
I know that.
And yet, masochist that I appear to be, I’m going to keep writing about this stuff for at least a little while, because at some point, maybe we’ll all have an epiphany, and realise that the work we have to do down here is really just on improving ourselves, instead of trying to point fingers at everyone else.
So in this post, I wanted to come back to the infographic showing how Rebbe Nachman describes the genesis of some of our main bad middot (which I spiffied up a little, after some helpful comments from reader Rachel) – and take a closer look at how the bad midda of jealousy can lead to a lot of people’s anger issues.
Strange to say, while jealousy is all-pervasive in our society today, most people – until fairly recently, including myself – have no idea just how much it’s playing into their anger issues. If you’d have asked me 10 years ago whether I had a jealousy problem, I would probably have shrugged, and told you ‘no more than anyone else’.
Sure, I occasionally had pangs of envy about other people’s bigger houses…or better jobs…or bigger families…or better hair – but jealous, moi?! Really, not.
Or so I thought.
Then I started going to Uman, and to the Baal Shem Tov, and it was actually in Medzibozh the second time I ever went to the Ukraine that I had one of the most disturbing dreams of my life: I was with a good friend of mine in the dream, and I was hating her guts and wishing awful things of her, because she was well and truly beating me in the ‘perfect life’ stakes.
In the dream, she had tons of super-successful gorgeous children…and they were all coming to visit her in her swanky office because she also had a great job…and she had a basketball court in her office for her kids to come and shoot some hoops at….and she lived in an amazing house that was spotlessly clean right opposite from her work….
And and and – I woke up from that dream literally gagging on all the terrible, jealous feelings that had just risen to the surface, and that’s when God really showed me, “Uhuh, honey, you really do have a jealousy problem.”
Since then, I’ve had ample time, and ample opportunity to really get to grips with it, and mostly, I’m doing much better than I used to be. The pangs of jealousy come less often, and last less long, Baruch Hashem! And a big part of that improvement is due to trying to count more of my blessings, and to stop taking things for granted.
Still, until I put together that diagram, I hadn’t realized how jealousy is one of the main motivators for anger, but over the last few days I’ve been pondering that, and it makes perfect sense.
For example, for as long as I was secretly jealous of the people who hadn’t left their comfort zone, and status, and easy-money jobs to make aliya, I was SO self-righteously angry about the people who hadn’t (yet…) moved to Israel. It was all dressed up in holy clothes, natch, but underneath all the rants about the people who weren’t moving to Israel, there lurked that green-eyed monster, jealousy.
What, they can stay put in their careers, and their social group and the comfort zone and still be considered good Jews?! That just didn’t seem fair… it didn’t seem right…
This attitude only finally vanished when I went back to the UK 2 years ago, and realized once and for all what a huge present God gave me and my family when He let me move to Israel. I came back to Israel completely and utterly UN-jealous about all the people who still live in London, poor them.
But for as long as I secretly wanted what they had, and what I resented having to give up myself – man, I was so angry at them!
And I think this same dynamic is playing out all over the place.
When stay-at-home mums start ranting about working mums, or vice-versa, it seems to me that on some deep, subconscious level, the person is really just jealous of what the other mum is doing.
Otherwise, why do they care so much? Why so angry? Why so disapproving? Why so upset?
And the same is true for so many of the subjects that are being dressed up in self-righteous clothing. You sir, you're ranting about people going to see movies because really, you're jealous, and you wish you could do it too, without feeling guilty.
And you ma'am, you're ranting about people spending Pesach in a fancy hotel because secretly, that's really what you'd like to do....
Otherwise, all the anger and harsh judgement calls and OTT name-calling and villification just wouldn't be in the picture.
Again, to recap: Anger doesn’t just appear out of nowhere. It’s caused by a couple main bad middot. One of those bad middot is JEALOUSY, what we’re discussing today, but anger can also be caused by FALSEHOOD and, indirectly, by FEAR (which in turn is caused by ARROGANCE, FLATTERY and WORRY).
Any way you slice it, angry, disapproving people have a bunch of bad middot they need to work on, and Rabbenu has helpfully set out where that work should really begin.
Again, I really get that no-one really wants to read this stuff.
It’s so much easier just to pretend we’re all perfect, and everything that’s going wrong in the world, and in our families, and with our relationships, is just Donald Trump’s fault.
But what can I do? I really want geula, I really want Moshiach, and the only way we’re going to get that any time soon, without the whole world disappearing into some fiery vent in the earth’s crust, is by working on our bad middot.
We all have them, you know. I'm not the only person in the world with a huge jealousy-leading-to-self-righteous-anger problem.
But sometimes, I get the feeling I'm the only one who's willing to admit it.
The following is a translated excerpt of a shiur Rav Eliezer Berland gave a few years ago, on the topic of 'Azamra', aka the importance of judging our fellow Jew favorably.
“Vayetze Yaakov Vayelech Charana” (‘Yaakov left and went to Charan’) (Bereishis 28:10)
The Torah tells us: “Vayetze Yaakov” (‘and Yaakov left’). When Yaakov left Beersheba, he’d already completed the seven levels of holiness, the seven Sefirot, namely: Malchut, Yesod, Hod, Netzach, Tiferet, Gevurah and Chessed. These are the seven ‘Gevurot’.
“Vayelech Charana” (‘and he went to Charan’). Yaakov went to Charan, to the place where the roots of din, or judgment, was found because he wanted to draw down chessed, or kindness, into the world, and to bring shefa (bounty) into the world, because the work of the Tzaddikim is to bring chessed and shefa into the world.
From the moment that Rebbe Nachman of Breslev came into the world, he sweetened all of the judgements in the world until the end of all generations. He drew down Shefa into the world, he drew down Chessed into the world, and he announced that there are no more wicked people, and that the age of wickedness in the world had come to an end!
From the moment that Rebbe Nachman was born, the age of wickedness finished; there were no more wicked people in Am Yisrael, as he himself revealed in Lesson 282 of Likutei Moharan (popularly known as ‘Azamra’).
In that lesson, Rebbe Nachman explains: “Od me’at v’ain rasha”, (‘a little more, and there is no longer a wicked person). Just a little more - today, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow – and we’ll already see that there won’t be any more wicked people in Am Yisrael, because everyone will be on the path of teshuva, or repentance.
This verse, “Od me’at v’ain rasha”, comes from Tehillim (the book of Psalms), and Rabbenu explained its simple meaning: Just a little more! A little more, and there will be no more wicked people, and everyone will be Tzaddikim, and everyone will reach the level of
“Your entire nation are Tzaddikim” (Yeshaya 60:21).
One Jew will become a Tzaddik today, another one will become a Tzaddik tomorrow, and yet another one the day after. And the one who will become a Tzaddik after a few days will fulfil the verse: “the smallest one will be like a thousand, and the youngest will be like a vast nation” (Yeshaya 60:22).
This ‘small’ one will rise up and up, as the greater the soul that a person possesses, and the more refined their soul, the more difficulties and obstacles they have to overcome when they want to make Teshuva.
Rabbenu teaches us in Lesson 282 that there is no such thing as a wicked person in Am Yisrael! There is no such reality. Even if you see a completely wicked person, from his head to his feet, you can’t see any Yiddishkeit in him at all, he is completely anti-Torah, anti-observance, God forbid, even if it seems to you that there was never a more wicked person than this since the creation of the world, you should know that the main problem is that this person simply lacks da’at, or spiritual awareness.
But a huge fire of holiness still burns inside of them! A raging fire of holiness and yearning for Hashem Yisbarach burns inside of every Jew, just that it’s covered over by mountains of dust. Their neshama is on fire for God, but it’s covered in a layer of dirt. These Jewish souls are like spiritual volcanoes; from the outside, a huge mountain covers the heat and the lava flowing just beneath the surface, but the moment the fire and the lava burst forth it consumes the entire mountain. The mountain explodes!
A spiritual mountain of dirt and rocks is currently resting on every Jewish soul, but the day will come when the fire will bursts forth, and consumes all of these mountains of sand and dirt.
In lesson 282, Rebbe Nachman writes:
“And you need to search and find in him a small amount of good. And in that small place, he is not a wicked person.”
Rabbenu is teaching us that here is no such thing as a wicked Jewish person, from his head to his toes, just that it currently seems that way to you.
But it’s only your imagination! You imagine that he’s a completely wicked person, but if you train yourself to look for some little bit of good that he has done, or some kindness that he did to help someone else, you’ll always find even in the most worst wicked person lots and lots of good. And the very act of you finding some good in this person, and judging him favourably, through this very act you raise him up to the side of good, and you can cause him to make Teshuva.
We need to look at every Jew with a ‘good eye’, and stop thinking to ourselves: ‘Well, I made Teshuva and I keep Shabbat, and I learn Torah, so why doesn’t he make Teshuva like me?! Why doesn’t he keep Shabbat like me?! He should be doing the same! I went through what he went through and more, so why doesn’t he also make teshuva!?’
It’s exactly about this that Rabbenu said: “Od me’at v’ain rasha”. A little more! He is going to do it eventually, tomorrow or the day after. You can’t interfere with Hashem’s order for the world, and the order of the teshuva process. The order of Teshuva, when each person will make Teshuva, how he will make Teshuva, this process is hidden from all of His creations, but it’s a process that needs to happen to every single Jew.
Every single Jew will one day make teshuva!
Now, it’s possible to speed this process up, but only if we start looking with a ‘good eye’. Only if a person merits to look at every Jew with a ‘good eye’ then, “he will consider his place and he [the wicked person] won’t be there any more”, [ie, in the place of being wicked]. If people would realize this, and internalize that if they started to judge others favourably, and to stop looking at them with an ayin ra, or ‘bad eye’, then there wouldn’t be any more wicked people in Am Yisrael.
Because it is possible to bring all of them back to make Teshuva, in the blink of an eye.
Even when a Jew appears to be the most wicked person, know that he really has the most righteous Neshama, or soul. It’s the opposite of how it appears to be externally: the more ‘bad’ the Neshama seems, the more righteous it actually is. Only, because it’s so full of righteousness it’s scared. It has a hidden, internal fear about keeping Mitzvot, because it knows if it starts the process of teshuva, it will go ‘to the end’!
There are many Jews who are far away from Yiddishkeit who say, ‘if I start to fulfil Mitzvot, then I will go to the end… not like you! I will go to the end, I will learn Torah day and night; I will become holy, I will purify myself, to the end!’ But to go ‘to the end’ seems very difficult for them.
So, we try to say to them, ‘go at least halfway, and keep half the laws’. But they tell us no, they are not prepared to do that, because by them, they want everything - or nothing. And in truth, if you were to show them and to explain to them how to reach the entire way, and how to become holy, and how it’s really not as difficult as they think, they would all make Teshuva!
Every Jew is a part of Hashem, and every person has Godliness in him. “Man is beloved that he was created in the image of G-d” (Avos 3:14). The heart of every Jew, even the most wicked, burns for Hashem Yisbarach.
There is no Jew whose heart does not burn for Hashem Yisbarach.
Because a Jew is not a cow or a sheep, every Jew is a holy Neshama, that was carved out from theKiseh Hakavod [the Throne of Glory]. Every Jew in the place where he is, even if the burning coals of his soul and heart are currently covered over by mountains of sand, billions of grains of sand, nonetheless, the coals continue to burn.
We need to blow away the dirt covering his heart, the mountains of sand covering his heart, and this is what Rabbenu said – come lets blow away the mountains of sand from his heart, because there is no such thing as a wicked person in Am Yisrael. There is no such thing as ‘chilonim’ [secular Jews], there is no such thing!
There are people who succeed in fulfilling the Torah’s commandments 80% of the time, 70%, 20% and 10%. Every Jew fasts on Yom Kippur, and eats Matza on Pesach. There is no such thing as a ‘secular Jew’! Every one of them fulfils some aspect of the Torah. Every Jew is a holy Jew, a pure Jew.
This is the foundation of what Rebbe Nachman taught us, that there are no wicked people in Am Yisrael. It’s forbidden to call any Jew ‘wicked’. It is forbidden to say: ‘this one is wicked’. We need to fix this way of speaking, because there’s no such thing.
How can you believe that so-and-so is wicked? Were you in his place? Do you know where he was born? Do you know who his parents were? What he went through? How can you decide to call a Jew wicked?
How can you decide to call a Jew ‘chiloni’ (secular)? How can you say things like this? Do you think you can decide who is righteous and who is wicked? Do you think that you can really know? You need to know that everyone is righteous, because “Your nation are entirely righteous”, and there are no wicked people in Am Yisrael.
FOLLOWING THE TRUE GADOLEI HATORAH
It's often very hard to see the world through the eyes of our true Gadolei Torah like Rebbe Nachman, and Rav Berland, and to try to judge our fellow Jew favorably - especially when our bad middot are clamoring for a 'target' to attack.
But, to quote something I was just sent by Rav Avidgor Miller, who was responding to someone who had criticised the late Satmar Rebbe's stance on the State of Israel:
"So you’re bringing a proof from yourself? Who cares what you think? Are you a gadol batorah? You’re merely saying your opinion, that’s all. The question is, are we going to ask you, you over there, an unknown man; are we going to ask you for your opinion for the Jewish Nation?! Or shall we ask the great men who have Torah minds, the ones who lead our nation? Who should we ask, you or the great men?
Q: The great men we should ask.
A: So keep quiet. Keep quiet! Keep quiet, then. Your da’as is not da’as Torah, so we don’t care about your opinion. Da’as Torah means that you go to the gedolei Yisroel and ask their opinion. If you get gedolim to tell you that you’re right about it, then you’re right.
Everyone and his dog is entitled to their own opinion. But when it comes to who we should really be listening to, especially on a topic as 'fraught' as rebuke and harshly judging our fellow Jew, I'm following the Gadolei HaTorah, like Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, and Rav Berland.
I write about this way more over on www.spiritualselfhelp.org, but in the meantime, I thought I’d take a look at Rebbe Nachman of Breslov’s ‘Sefer HaMiddot’, to get his take on what’s really underneath our main bad middot.
You can boil most bad middot down to one of the following:
While there are for sure a whole bunch of other bad middot we could add to this list too, if you try to follow them back to where they’re really coming from, you will find them rooted in one of these six.
If you’ve been following me over on spiritualselfhelp.org, you’ll know that I write a lot about the stress response, which basically divides into four main areas of:
The infographic explains it pretty nicely, but these basically correlate to the ‘base’ bad middot in the following ways:
Of all of these flattery is probably the least talked about, and the most difficult to really understand and to get to grips with.
You could describe flattery as people pleasing behavior – i.e. being nice to people because we’re scared of them, or are trying to get something out of them, as opposed to because we really want to be nice to them.
In his book on overcoming Complex PTSD, Pete Walker actually states that you can tell how threatening a person found their parents by how much people-pleasing behavior they engage in as adults, which is an interesting idea.
So, let’s get back to Rabbenu.
I was trying to figure out ‘what bad middot comes first’, because once we can untie the first sin in that bundle, the rest will fall away by themselves. This is what I managed to glean from the Sefer HaMiddot:
Rabbenu also says that sometimes, ANGER comes from bearing a heavy burden. (More on this another time, but sometimes those ‘heavy burdens’ the soul has to bear come from a previous incarnation.)
The infographic lays out the basic relationship between all these different bad middot.
With God’s help, let’s see if we can figure out together the progression of all these bad middot, and then bring it down to ‘real world’ level, so we start to understand what’s going on, what God is really expecting from us, and how we can start to heal ourselves – and judge other people with more compassion.
And all that before breakfast…
As you’re hopefully starting to figure out for yourselves already, bad middot are complicated.
They aren’t things we can just wish away, or suppress, or pretend that we don’t have.
God gave them to us, and He expects us to acknowledge them, and work on them. And BH, that part of the process is not as difficult, or scary, as we might think.
So, that’s what we’re going to be doing here on the blog for the next few posts, as once more people understand where all this stuff is really coming from – and how to really start getting a handle on it – Moshiach really can’t be too far behind.
NOTICE: The blog is only restarting at this address temporarily.
I will be migrating this blog over to a new site at: rivkalevy.com