One of my ongoing issues, which is still ongoing, and still an issue, is how to share some of the insights I get from hitbodedut, and from research, and from Breslov, without completely frying people’s brains out and doing more harm than good.
What can I say?
It’s got better than it used to be, but I know it’s still not great. And, I also know that my bad middot, and in particular, my arrogance, is still really getting in the way of me being more useful to more people.
I’m praying on it. And praying on a lot of things, generally, as some days, it feels like the things I have to work on internally are still multiplying, especially when it comes to the subject of communicating information to others.
Rabbenu warns us repeatedly: Don’t rebuke!
If you rebuke, you’ll just ‘stir up’ all the cack inside the other person’s soul, and make it very hard for them to function, or even, to get out of bed.
Sure, people are neglecting their children left, right and centre. Of course, they’re caught up in pointless stuff, and wasting their precious time on things that don’t really matter (of course, including yours truly…)
No doubt about it, the whole world has weak emuna, and is lying to themselves about a whole bunch of things.
Aren’t we all?
Aren’t I, also?
Of course I am!
So Rabbenu tells us, don’t rebuke! Because first of all, you’ll just do more harm than good, and second of all, Rivka, you’ll just come off as a Class ‘A’ arrogant hypocrite, because who are you to be telling anyone anything?
So-called ‘blast blogging’ is all about trying to call out other people on all the bad stuff they’re doing, and throwing around judgement calls and fire and brimstone like it’s on special deal at Walmart, or something.
I so don’t want to be ‘blast blogging’ – and that’s a big part of why I quit a few months back, as I was finding the so-called ‘geula blog’ scene incredibly poisonous, in that way.
At the same time, I honestly think a lot of the stuff I find out about, and learn, is genuinely useful for others.
So, I’m a little stuck, because the fine line between ‘blast blogging’ and ‘blast talking’ and being a self-important, hypocritical, arrogant know-it-all – and actually putting useful and helpful information out there – is incredibly, dangerously small.
And it’s so very easy to step over the boundary.
On Shabbat, I did a long praying session, to try to deal with some of the internal anxiety and tension that’s been ratcheting up like nobody’s business, the last few weeks again. I got one main message out of that session, and this was it:
DO AS MANY KINDNESSES FOR OTHER PEOPLE AS YOU CAN.
Then, I remembered what Rav Yehuda Zev Leibowitz, the former head of the Lamed Vav Tzaddikim, put across as his ‘last will’ before he died.
Rav Arush has summed the main points up on the back of his little emuna booklets, and it says this:
If we do all that, we’ll have the best chance of making it through the birthpangs of Moshiach, which have kicked off, in my view, but still haven’t reached their maximum crescendo.
But man, doing these things is so hard, sometimes.
It’s so much easier to just keep calling out the faults and flaws in other people, and to tear other people down, instead of squinting into the internal darkness, to see what bad middot monsters still lurk within.
Lucky for us, the whole world is a mirror.
There’s no hiding from our internal issues, when God is flashing them back at us every step we take.
Man, it’s not easy trying to rectify crazy person tendencies, it really isn’t. Sometimes, I feel like giving up. But then, I remember another core teaching of Rebbe Nachman:
There is no despair in the world!!
Rabbenu’s telling me, ‘even you will get there eventually, Rivka. Don’t give up!’
And who am I to argue.
The last few days, it’s been pretty hard to think straight.
There’s always a lot going on in the world these days, it’s true, but between the 500 rockets in 24 hours that Hamas dropped on us two days ago, and the wildfires scorching through California, and the freak weather, early snow and flash flooding all across the globe, including the Middle East – well, I’m just feeling overwhelmed at the moment.
Even when I don’t listen to the news, I’ve still had that uneasy feeling that keeps me pacing the floor of my home, that ‘something’ is going on.
What could that something be?
How much time have you got, to really start answering that question…
But something is definitely going on, and the birth pangs of geula seem to be accelerating.
But tomorrow, next week, next month, the intensity will suddenly disappear again, the pressure will reduce, the stress with drop off, and for another day, week, or month, we’ll all go back to ‘normal’ again.
In those increasingly rare windows of relative calm, that’s when I start planning my next book, that’s when I notice that my floors need a clean, that’s when I have the headspace to try and do some proper hitbodedut again, and to start figuring out where I’m trying to go in my life.
I make some lists, I take some action, I put some irons in the fire – and then boom! The birthpangs start up again, and I find myself walking around in a daze struggling to even put supper on the table.
How long is this birth process going to last, that is the question?
From what Rav Berland said HERE, it looks like we still may have two years left to go. I know a lot of people don’t like to hear that. I know many of us are struggling hard to hold things together in our homes and lives, and we want Moshiach now!!!
But, Moshiach doesn’t work like that. Moshiach doesn’t come and magically change our moany, critical spouses into someone nice to be around. He won’t turn all our off-the-derech kids into yeshiva bochurs or Beis Yaakov girls.
(I’m digressing, but I have to say thank God for that!! I just found out you need 400,000 shekels as a dowry, if you want to marry your Beis Yaakov girl to a full-time learner, otherwise no-one will even look at you. Finally, there’s a silver lining to my kids wearing jeans and piercing their nose!)
Moshiach is not going to come and fix all our bad middot for us with the wave of his magic wand, because he’s not Dumbledore, or Merlin. God gave us the job of working on our bad middot, and all Moshiach is going to do is to help us recognize what they really are.
Talk about a scary prospect!
What Moshiach will do is create more God-awareness in the world. He’ll be part of that process that increasingly makes it clear that only God is behind every little thing that is happening to us, from the fires in Paradise, to the teen who refuses to come to the Shabbat table, to the inability to buy a house, or have another child, or land a good job.
It's all God.
And God is doing everything in order to fix us, and to get us to acknowledge and work on our own bad middot.
So from what I can see, while the freak weather, earthquakes and volcanoes are starting to soften a lot of us up, (and let’s not even talk about Hamas, Brexit and Trump), there’s still quite a long way to go.
A lot has to change between now and 5781 (2021).
And one way or another, like it or not, it probably will.
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