So, I ran away with my husband to Tsfat for Shabbat, that city of refuge, where the Arizal, Rav Yosef Caro, Rav Moshe Cordovero, and a few other massive tzaddikim are buried in the ancient graveyard, that dates back to first temple times.
One of my kids wanted the house to herself, to throw an 18th birthday party for her bestie, and the other one had a Shabbat away with her school, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to ‘get away from it all’, for a weekend, and try to regain some equilibrium.
Just one problem: the hotel couldn’t find our booking.
And we got there 10 scant minutes before Shabbat began.
And the hotel was completely, utterly, totally booked up.
I looked at my husband, he looked at me, and for a minute there, I thought I’d be spending Shabbat in the car, just eating the nosh we’d brought with for the meals.
The nice manager type immediately got on the phone, and called another hotel which had lots of room – of course it did! It was so skanky!
But it was a bed. It had a toilet. So we ignored the pink fixtures dating from the 1970s. We made peace with the fact that the entire bathroom was overlooked by a neighboring building and had no curtains. And we were grateful that God put it into our heads to bring a duvet with, as the one thin blanket on the beds was no match for a cold winter night in Tsfat.
A bed is a bed is a bed. Even if it’s right next to a wall that’s as cold as a block of ice, and abuts a built in wardrobe so snugly, you can’t really wiggle your toes.
And a toilet is a toilet is a toilet. Even if it’s salmon pink, older than your children and overlooked by neighbors.
And the nice manager type told us we could come back to his hotel for the meals, so we also had food aplenty to eat, Baruch Hashem.
My husband headed off to the Carlebach-style shul in the Old City, while I headed down to the graveyard, to do some tikkun haklalis. The sun was lowering over the hills that face the Old City of Tsfat, and the fields where the Ari and his disciples used to go out on a Friday night, to greet the Sabbath Queen.
As I looked out over those massive mountains – Meron, Shammai, Hillel, and Nof HaYamim – all I could in the distance was the streaks of red, purple and bluey-grey that announced the sun’s departure. Some of the clouds were piled up in weird shapes that suggested more mountains, and a whole other vista, a whole other world, just there over the hills.
I couldn’t take my eyes off the view. I just stood there for 15 minutes, drinking it all in and somehow feeling as though I’d arrived at the edge of the world, and something much better was just there, over the distant peaks, waiting to unfold.
I cried a bit – I don’t even really know why – and then I started to feel a little better, and a little more hopeful, than I’ve been feeling of late.
I tramped back up the four million stairs leading into the Old City, and went to stand outside the shul my husband was davening in. That shul has a reputation for achdut, or unity. You get just about every type squeezed into its four walls, and they were singing their hearts out when I got there.
The women’s section was full to busting – people were crammed in at the top of the stairs, trying to get a peak at the action – so I decided to wait downstairs on the street, and watch the stars appear over Tsfat.
After 10 minutes or so, an older lady who was also standing outside came over and asked me if I spoke English. I told her I did – and long story short, while my husband was welcoming the Shabbos with 400 Jews and a lot of dvekut with Hashem, I got stuck talking to a staunch Baptist from Oregon, who started telling me about ‘the rapture’ and ‘the tribulation’.
Thankfully, the rest of Shabbat picked up significantly.
The hotel we were eating in had tons of youth groups. The guy who started up Shabbat.com was there, and he was talking about the need for achdut, and Jewish unity. Then there was another group there of English-speaking yeshiva high school boys from Bet Shemesh, and from the way their Rebbes were talking at the meals, I could see that it was a school that was trying very hard to put the ‘inner dimension’ of the student first.
And then, there was the group of black-hatters from America, who also seemed to be on some sort of yeshiva group tour of the holy land.
Long story short, there were a lot of different people together in that hotel – and all speaking English! The only Hebrew I heard spoken was by the Arab waiters.
Later in the afternoon, we took a free tour of the Livnot building in the Old City, which you can learn more about HERE.
Livnot basically organizes for volunteers to come and dig, hike and learn in Israel, and has been going for over 40 years. 20 years ago, they wanted to expand their operations and extend the building they bought in the middle of the Old City of Tsfat.
When they started renovating, one of the workers found an underground passage. After 20 years of digging, and 35,000 volunteers, Livnot uncovered a huge, 16 room community centre in their basement, that dates back to the times of the Ari, in the 16th century.
While they still have another 200 metres to uncover, they’ve fixed up around 6 of the rooms and give free tours around it on Shabbat. As well as a bunch of small, underground houses and water cisterns, we also saw the communal mikva, the communal kitchen (which contains a huge stone oven, that Livnot has got working again, and where you can come and bake challot), and a few other rooms besides.
All Shabbat, I was asking God for some direction, some spiritual inspiration.
It seems so hard to keep going at the moment, for a number of reasons.
When I heard the story of how Livnot found the Ari’s community centre – one of only three buildings from that time that remained standing, after the horrendous earthquake that struck Tsfat in 1837 – it gave me a lot of hope.
Sometimes, it can seem that the light is so covered over, so hidden under layers of dirt and decay. But I felt like God was saying all shabbat: “Keep digging! Keep going! Sooner or later, you will hit the paydirt!”
It may take 20 years of hard work, but eventually it will pay off.
Ken yiyeh ratzon.
One of the things that happens when the terror attacks start up again is that you become hyper-sensitive to ambulance sirens. So it is, that every siren portends another pigua, God forbid, and you go quiet and start listening to see if that one, lone siren, is going to be joined by many others – the sure sign of terror stalking the land.
On Shabbat, I fell asleep on the couch, and started dreaming about crashes and sirens. I woke up with a start – to find one ambulance, 5 ‘first responder’ motorbikes, a first responder car and even, a first responder on a bike, right outside my building.
In the middle of the road, there was an unconscious Domino’s Pizza delivery guy, lying a good 4 metres from where his bike had fallen. They stretchered him into the ambulance, blared off to hospital, and the locals all gathered around to discuss.
Was it a pigua? (terror attack). Was it a hit-and-run? Had the pizza guy just fallen off his bike randomly, in the middle of a quiet Jerusalem street on Shabbat, and somehow knocked himself unconscious?
In the meantime, it just brought back again how fragile life actually is.
One of my correspondents lives in the shadow of a live volcano, In Central America, a place where they also get a lot of large earthquakes. I asked her if that was scary, and she told me that after she learned most accidental deaths happen in the bathroom, she stopped worrying about the volcano up the road.
God is in charge.
Whatever He decides, goes.
It’s a very useful lesson, isn’t it? Especially if you’re a parent of teenagers who have an uncanny knack of finding themselves in the middle of the ‘action’, wherever that action tends to be.
What am I going to do? Lock them in a box for the next five years? Chain them to their beds, so they can stay ‘safe’ at home but go completely bonkers?
(It’s still tempting…)
But after the last, horrible, spate of terror attacks a couple of years ago, where people were being stabbed and run over on my doorstep on a regular basis, I realized life is to be lived, and that I can’t let my fear of ‘what might be’ run my life or control my children.
True, I can’t rely on miracles.
But also true, we all rely on miracles every single day just to function. Every morning I wake up in one piece, that’s a miracle.
There’s a bumper sticker in Israel that reads:
“You woke up this morning. Everything else is a bonus.”
At times like this, it’s good to be reminded.
One of my kids is in school in a yishuv that’s smack bang in the middle of the area that’s been experiencing all the terrorist attacks of the last three days. 12 minutes drive from Ofra, 10 minutes drive from Givat Assaf, 14 minutes drive from Bet El (when there’s no traffic).
Also, everyone caught up in that shooting attack in Ofra has siblings, or parents, or cousins in my kid’s school. And the young woman who was seriously hurt in yesterday’s shooting at Givat Assaf is the commonarite, or local head, of the Beit El branch of the youth group Ariel, so a whole bunch of the kids in the ulpana know her directly.
These are the kids that stand at the trempiadas (hitch-hiking posts) and bus stops up and down Route 60, the road that leads out past Pisgat Ze’ev, and then forks between Ramallah to the left, and Bet El, Ofra, and the northern route up through the Shomron on the right.
I know it well.
I was driving it almost every day for six months last year, when my kid was having a nervous breakdown most days and just couldn’t get herself to school on the bus.
This is the road, these are the communities, being hit by this awful spate of terrorist incidents.
Yesterday, even before I heard about Givat Assaf, I got an email from the school’s principal explaining how the kids were down in the main hall reciting tehillim together, and how counselling services were being offered to any kid that required them.
You know, I hate getting emails like that.
My kid was late home from school, of course.
Budding ‘hill top yoof’ that she is, she and five of her friends decided to make massive banners stating “Am Yisrael Chai” and “Jewish blood is not hefker” (ownerless). Then, they went and climbed up on some of the rocks next to the junction that pulls off into the yishuv where they’re studying – on that self-same Route 60! – to pin them to the fences up there.
Thank God, she told me all this after she was home safe.
“Ima, do you beep when you agree or when you disagree?” she asked me. “Because we had a lot of Palestinian cars beeping us.”
For once, I was speechless.
Then that night, both kids told me there were going to an atzeret, or gathering, in Jerusalem, organised near the PM’s residence, where they were going to sing songs, light candles, and ‘demand’ that the Government do something to beef up the security in the West Bank.
My kids are very idealistic. They are very good, holy kids.
Probably, they are also a little naïve.
What can I tell them?
“Dear children, the government can’t do anything to stop this current wave of violence, and really, we just need to open our eyes and realise what’s really going on. The government is over a barrel. Whatever they do, it’s only going to escalate the situation, and bring all the Jew-haters in the world after us.”
It’s exactly as Rav Berland said a few days ago, that if we lift more than the tiniest finger to really start defending ourselves, the whole, PC, Jew-hating world will be after us in all in the international (kangaroo…) courts of law, screaming ‘war crimes!!!’ and ‘genocide!!!’ and ‘sanctions!!!’ and who knows what else.
There are no military solutions that really solve the problem.
Really, the government knows this. That’s why they are so big on pseudo-reassuring bluster, and so short on real, concrete action.
I wish more people in the religious community here would realise that, and stop pinning all their hopes on the army, and on some massive ‘offensive’ to finish the problem off.
The problem is coming from God, the Arabs are just a stick in God’s hand, to bring the Jews back to Him, and get us all to make teshuva.
If more of us would realise that, then more of us would have showed up to the Rav’s prayer gathering in Hevron on Zot Chanuka, to try to get the awful decrees the Rav could see coming down the pipe cancelled, or sweetened.
As it is, now there are atzerot and gatherings of a different kind happening this week, and large groups of people reciting tehillim together in very different circumstances.
My kid showed me a clip she’d been sent on WhatsApp of people taking the law into their own hands, and smashing the windows of Arab cars in the West Bank with stones.
She wanted to know what I thought, because she was of the view that this is what it would take, for them to stop killing Jews so freely.
I told her that answering senseless violence with more senseless violence doesn’t solve anything, and just brings us Jews down to the terrorists’ very low spiritual level.
So what, then, can we do?
Pray. Make teshuva. Stop pinning our hopes on the IDF, and the government, stop wasting our time discussing politics and arguing with each other, and reading all the God-less news sites.
God wants the heart. God wants us back.
And when more of us give God what He really wants, the violence will stop, and the problem will disappear by itself.
This is what I told my kid, who is now in her room reciting the Tikkun HaKlali, because there was another stabbing in Bet El this morning, and there is talk that her school is going to close on Sunday in protest, and to ‘force’ the government to do something.
Of course, closing the school doesn’t change anything (except to make my kid very happy to have a free day off.)
This is out of our hands.
Because the hands are the hands of Esav.
And the voice is the voice of Yaakov.
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?
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
This morning, I walked past my building on the way to the Kotel at 7am – and saw an older man slapping what appeared to be a sleeping teenage boy on one of the benches outside my home.
That got my attention.
I was walking up behind the man, so he didn’t notice me watching him. He didn’t notice me watching him do something utterly disgusting to the teenage boy, who I quickly realized was unconscious.
I was so angry, I started yelling at him in my very poor spoken Hebrew: “What are you doing?!? Leave him alone!!! What are you doing to him?!?”
The man turned around, and started telling me that he’d called Magen Dovid Adam, and that the boy had asked him for help before collapsing unconscious on the bench, because he’d been kicked out of his house.
I was pretty sure I’d seen what I’d seen, but not 100%.
So I tried arguing with him a bit more, and then he switched to English (he was a Russian man) and told me more of the boy’s story. The boy had been kicked out, asked him for help, he’d phoned Magen Dovid Adam, then the boy effectively went unconscious.
I decided: I am staying with this boy until something gets sorted out here, and he’s safe.
I ignored the old Russian man (who I’m still convinced was a pervert), and tried talking to the boy. He had his eyes scrunched shut and was in the fetal position. He was clearly traumatized and shocked – not least by the assault on his person that the old Russian pervert had tried to pull off.
But the main thing I could feel coming off that kid in waves was fear: fear of his parents. Fear of what his parents would say once the police showed up, and they were informed that he’d been found half-frozen to death, on a bench in Baka on a Shabbat morning.
The kid was reasonably well-dressed, and seemed to be between 14-15 and orthodox. He had braces and a smart small suitcase with him, good shoes – the family that had kicked him out clearly had at least an average amount of cash.
I told the kid my address, and tried to get him to move off the bench, and come up with me to my apartment – but he couldn’t move. He was literally frozen with fear.
Just then, the police showed up, and the ambulance, and they bodily lifted him on to a chair, and took him away in the ambulance.
The whole scene shook me up tremendously, and I walked off to the Kotel in a bit of a daze.
What sort of 'frum' people could kick their own kid out of the house, on a Friday night, and leave them to be preyed on by the perverts that sadly even walk the streets of the holy city?
I was so disturbed by it all.
Keeping up with the Cohens
When I got home, my kids woke up and I told them I’d found a kid on a bench outside who’d been kicked out of his house by his parents, and did they know anyone else that had happened to? (I left out the bit about the Russian pervert – it was intense enough as it was.)
I was stunned when they told me they knew quite a few people themselves that it happened to.
“Why?” I wanted to know. “Why are the parents kicking their own kids out of the house?”
Sometimes, it’s because they’d been having a big argument. (That happens, and it can happen a lot with teenagers, where a parent says something stupid, gets all their buttons pressed, and then a bad situation turns into an absolute disaster.)
Other times, they told me the kids were being kicked out because the kid had started smoking.
Way to go, retarded parents! Kicking the kid out is the single best way to encourage him to add a drug habit to a smoking habit.
And then the last reason they told me was the most disturbing of all: parents are kicking kids out, because of shidduchim. Apparently, they don’t want to look ‘bad’ that they have a troubled kid at home, so they decide it’s better to send these 14-15 year old struggling souls out on the streets.
I literally couldn’t believe my ears.
Someone, please tell me that this can’t be true? That a supposedly ‘frum’ parent would kick out their own flesh and blood – to be abused and preyed on, on the street – just because that kid is having trouble keeping Shabbat?
I have no words.
So let me end with another plea to all the parents out there who may be reading this:
Please, please, please, love your children unconditionally, with all your might. Give way as much as you can, accept them as much as is possible, keep anger and pride out of the parenting equation any way you can.
I know it’s hard to parent teens these days – I have two myself. But I tell you this:
God will not easily forgive a parent who kicks an underage kid out on to the street just to keep up the appearance of being a heimishe family.
It’s the height of hypocrisy. It’s the height of disgusting. It's the polar opposite of what authentic, orthodox Jewish parenting and chinuch is really about.
And if that’s what is passing for normal behavior in certain sections of the frum world – then we're in big, big trouble.
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