And here's another one from Rav Glazerson, also discussing the process of redemption laid out by Rav Eliezer Berland, between 5776 and 5781:
Such confusing times we live in, aren’t they? Part of what I’ve been finding so hard is just how quickly ‘friend’ can become ‘foe’ and vice-versa, the last few years.
It’s hard to trust anyone. It’s hard to really know where anyone is really coming from these days.
Back in 2015, I realized that God has done all this on purpose, because what He really wants is for us to keep talking to Him every single day – about everything going on in our lives – and to not just turn our brains off, and give away our free choice to other people.
That ‘other person’ could be a doctor. They could be a politician. They could be a scientist, or a schoolteacher, a parent, or even a rabbi.
Because free choice is the whole reason God made us; it’s the defining ability of a human being, and it’s something we have to exercise all the time – even if that means we’re going to end up making a mistake, or suffering something we’d prefer to not have to deal with.
I know there is a lot of controversy raging about the vaccines issue right now. (For my take on it, see THIS post.)
I was doing some praying on what’s really going on with it all, and here’s what came to me: the story of Rav Eliezer HaGadol, and the Sages, in the Gemara.
Turns out, Rav Eliezer HaGadol was 100% right, when he and the Sages were arguing about the halachic status of an earthenware oven. Rav Eliezer was so right, the river ran backwards, the walls of the yeshiva caved in, and a bat kol, a voice from Heaven, even announced that Rav Eliezer was correct.
But the rest of the Sages still banded together, ignored all these phenomena, and actually ex-communicated Rav Eliezer! The cherem was only lifted shortly before he died, so the Sages could attend his funeral.
We are talking about massive tzaddikim here – including Rabbi Akiva, the redactor of the Oral Torah, the teacher of Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai, the person who said that no-one in his generation was on the level to rebuke another Jew.
Yet, even Rabbi Akiva joined the other Sages in excommunicating his teacher, and the most outstanding Rabbi of the generation, Rav Eliezer HaGadol.
And Rav Eliezer HaGadol was 100% right, don’t forget! Even the angels said so!
So, what was really going on here?
In a nutshell: Jewish unity.
Having peace between Jews is the single most important thing, the single best guarantee of good health and blessing.
At the end of last week, I spoke to one of my relatives in the States who is a believing Jew, a quick thinker, and more amenable than most to hearing new ideas. I broached the vaccines topic with him – and I was amazed at how he was having a hard time accepting even the most basic ideas.
Like, the stronger a person’s immune system is, the easier they will find it to fight off disease easily.
Like, germs are around us all the time, and the main factor in whether we’ll get really sick (which is really just God, but we couldn’t really get to that level in the discussion) is whether we’re already weak and ailing in some way.
Like, the measles vaccine doesn’t guarantee immunity from measles – even according to the Department of Health’s own figures, 3% of all people fully vaccinated will still develop measles.
So that means measles can never actually be fully eradicated.
The man just couldn’t hear it. He just couldn’t agree. He’s living in a world where he’s bombarded with information telling him that germs are the only factor causing disease, and that vaccines are the solution to avoiding disease.
He told me one other piece of information that I thought was very pertinent: Apparently, there’s been a few measles breakouts in Monsey, amongst predominantly chassidish communities.
“Having a measles epidemic in the Jewish community is making us look bad to the goyim,” he told me. “We already got blamed for the Black Death in the Middle Ages, we don’t need to give them any more ammunition.”
I have a feeling this last sentiment may be holding more weight when it comes to the hysteria over the measles outbreak than any of the other things so far discussed
But bottom line is: most of the people out there are so caught up in the world of lies that even if they are sincere, believing, thoughtful Jews, there is still no-one to really talk to when it comes to broaching the topic of how health really works.
So, what are our rabbis to do? Are they to promote divisive pronouncements that a majority of even frum Jews are literally incapable of accepting or following? Where is that going to lead?
So, even though Rabbi Eliezer HaGadol is figuratively right, the Sages chose unity and achdus, and hoped that God would keep everyone healthy and well.
Did they make the right decision? Honestly, there’s a machloket about that.
But what all this comes down to is that there is no shortcuts, and that the only way to get through this world in one piece, sanely, without being overwhelmed by doubts and confusions on all sides, is to keep talking to God every single day, and asking for clarity and emuna.
The last thing to say is this: Any rabbi who counsels a couple with conflicting opinions on the issue of vaccines to get divorced over the matter is not coming from a good place at all, spiritually.
God values peace above all else. God values shalom bayit above all else. And if a rabbi is saying to divorce because the other person wants to vaccinate, or doesn’t want to vaccinate, then get the heck away from them.
Bezrat Hashem, God will help us all to find our path through this maze, and to stay close to Him, and to keep our kids truly healthy in all ways, spiritually, emotionally and physically.
After I put this up, I realized I'd forgotten perhaps the most important point of all, which is that our rabbis make the reality.
When that Bat Kol came out from heaven, the Sages argued that halacha was not decided in Heaven, it was decided on earth - by the true rabbis that God had set over the people.
And God agreed!
Yes, I know what's going on is difficult. I know vaccines are not the health panacea they are made out to be by the Pharmaceutical industry. But at the same time, if our rabbis are saying we should vaccinate, we now have an additional layer of spiritual protection for our vaccinated children that wasn't there before.
The rabbis make the reality!
That's a fundamental foundation of Emunat Tzaddikim. And the true rabbis in our midst see much further down the road than we can, and are taking many more factors into account than are immediately obvious to the rest of us.
Again, Rabbenu is 100% anti-doctor. That is the Breslov path. And yet, he was pro-vaccines.
How these two things really go together is something requires an awful lot of hitbodedut, but go together, they do. And as I've said before on this blog, Rabbenu is always right.
Rebbe Nachman tells us: it’s a huge mitzvah to be happy! And to be happy all the time!
But then he also tells us: Happiness is also the single hardest thing to achieve in life, and you are going to have to work at it ad 120, to really get there.
Which is why when I sometimes have a sad day or two, I don’t get too freaked out about it.
Honestly, there’s a lot of hardships going on in the world. Barely a day goes by without an email bringing its own tale of nasty disease, horrible divorce, or some other massive personal challenge.
We can’t close our eyes to the suffering that’s going on all around us – to do that turns us into unfeeling robots, and that’s not what God wants. At all.
At the same time, we also can’t let other people’s ‘stuff’ take over too much of our headspace, or take out too much of our joy. Because when we’re down, we get distanced from God, we get discouraged and demoralized, and we don’t tend to do very much to build the world.
Main-lining Youtube videos generally does not build the world!
Moping around in bed, or on the couch, instead of washing up or making the supper generally
does not build the world!
Getting in bad moods about how unfair it all seems, somehow, or how pointless, generally does not build the world!
At the same time – we can’t close our eyes to the suffering all around us. And especially not to the suffering that we ourselves still experience deep down inside.
So then, what’s the answer?
How do we walk this narrowest of bridges?
Honestly? I don’t really know.
But what seem to work for me at the moment is to not run away from the occasional sad feelings that still crop up, and to not ignore them, but also to not give them too much encouragement.
“Ok, Rivka, you want to feel sad that the evil pioneers killed a whole bunch of Native American tribes off in such vile, awful ways? You can! But only for half an hour. Then remind yourself that God is running the world, and snap out of it.”
Ditto, when I saw that poor, abused boy on the bench after he’d been kicked out of the house by his folk. My first inclination was just to feel really, really sad. But after a couple of hours of that, I realized it wasn’t really helping. It wasn’t building the world. It wasn’t putting God in the picture.
All it was doing was making me angry, apathetic and overwhelmed with thoughts of how ‘bad’ the world actually is, and how retarded so many parents appear to be.
So first I snapped out of it, with God’s help. And then, I spent a week seeing if there are any opportunities for me to start volunteering with at-risk teens in Jerusalem, and there might be.
We can’t ignore the darkness, we can’t just wish the evil away – we’re not on that level.
But at the same time, Rebbe Nachman tells us: don’t lose your simcha! Hang on to your happiness! Really, that’s the way out of the gloom, it’s the winch that will hoist you – and everyone else - out of all the yuck, and into the geula.
Following this advice is really not easy, especially as so many people are struggling today.
But one thing I do know for sure, and this is it:
Rebbe Nachman is always right.
I’ve been going on about the link between rising magma, rising seismicity and wildfires for a while now, in connection to what’s been happening in California.
Dutchsinse – the amateur geophysics genius on Youtube who seems to know far more about real science then most of the ‘real’ scientists out there – basically nailed the process of what’s occurring:
There’s a big earthquake that occurs out to sea, but close enough to get the plates moving.
That seismic activity shows up as a swarm of much smaller quakes striking on the flanks of a whole bunch of volcanoes, including many officially listed as ‘dormant’ or ‘dead’.
Within a few days of those earthquakes striking, the wildfires begin.
Because the earthquakes mean that magma is on the move, and as part of that seismic activity, some of the volcanic gases contained in magma – including methane – are released from the ground, and seep up through the surface of the earth, where they can spontaneously ignite, if the conditions are right.
And all it takes is a spark, so getting the methane to light is not so hard, especially if you’re God.
Back in THIS POST, I linked to the fact sheet from the USGS that explained how methane has been leaking out around the Sutter Buttes volcano in the Sacramento Valley for centuries.
Sacramento Valley is the location of most of those wildfires in California, and the ones that weren’t located in that area were also located very close to ‘old’ volcanic fields that had recently experienced swarms of micro-quakes.
A few days’ back, Dutchsinse happened to mention that Australia had experienced a rare (for them) earthquake. Then today, there are stories of awful wildfires breaking out all around Deeptown and Round Hill in Central Queensland.
Authorities are describing these fires as ‘unprecedented’ – because Australia is still at the close of its rainy season. Even though most of the rain fell very late in the season, causing drought conditions for the first part of the Australian winter, at this point, the ground is soaked (and they’ve been having ‘unprecedented’ flash flooding).
So yes, heatwave, blah blah blah. Drought, blah blah blah.
But something else appears to be going on here.
Queensland is full of volcanoes, and ‘extinct’ volcanic fields – including the ‘Agnes Water Volcanics’, which happens to be right where the fires are breaking out around Baffle Creek.
Lucky for the residents, the scientists have dated most of the volcanoes and volcanic fields in Queensland to the Triassic age – i.e. some 200-250 million years ago (sic) – based on a few plant fossils that were found in some sandstone.
If you hold by the idea that the world is only 5778 years old, as the Torah tells us, clearly this dating is plain wrong.
What if the volcanoes, and the volcanic fields in Australia are all starting to wake up, same as we’re seeing California?
Again, there is a reason that the American continent, and particularly the West coast, and Australia were sparsely inhabited by ‘primitive people’ when the ‘civilised’ Europeans discovered them a couple of centuries ago, and started a systematic program of ethnic cleansing and mass murder.
Let’s do the maths together:
(See HERE for more details on this, if you like maths).
A couple who lived in the UK 2,000 years ago, at the time of the Roman invasion of Britain, would have an estimated 500,000 descendants, 16 generations later (400 years). By a thousand years later, they’d have an estimated 50 million descendants.
Science tells us Australia and California (and everywhere else) are billions of years old.
So, where were all the people?
Why were there only a maximum of 600,000 people living in the whole, gigantic West of America 200 years ago? Why only 250,000 Australian Aborigines found in the whole continent, when the Europeans made ‘first contact’ in the 19th century?
Could it be, that these places experienced regularly, massive geological upheaval and change, which periodically wiped out nearly all the inhabitants in one go, as the ground raised up out of the sea, cracked, plunged into it, and magma and volcanic gases spread across the earth?
While you’re chewing that over, I had an email from the North of Israel this week, that told me there has been a fire burning uncontrollably near the Zaki stream, at the foot of the Golan Heights, in the Betiha Valley. (I haven't been able to independently verify if this is true - if anyone lives close and can give me more info, or better yet, take a picture, please do!)
The Zaki Stream was one of the places that got closed in the Summer, because of an outbreak of Leptospirosis in the water sources in the area of the Golan Heights. (It’s a post for another time, but I think the leptospirosis outbreak is somehow linked to the earth becoming warmer, or the gases being released, as magma rises towards to the surface.)
The Golan Heights is volcanic, and still active – there are at least 16 volcanoes there.
Israel has also been experiencing a higher number of small quakes in and around the North over the last few months. (Go HERE if you want to keep tabs on Israel’s earthquakes yourself.)
Is the same scenario playing out all over the world?
Are the volcanoes waking up? Is magma on the move?
Are things about to change in a spectacular fashion, throwing large parts of the world back to the Stone Age as part of the birth pangs of Moshiach?
I guess we’ll find out.
You know what?
Something good is starting to happen, I can feel it in the air.
The last few days, I’ve been getting yet more bashing via email from yet another anonymous online psycho who actually lied about what his real name is, even when I made writing with a real name a condition of accepting comments on the blog.
(Because ‘anonymous’ and ‘psycho’ always go together, online.)
The problem with these people is that they affect the whole tone and mood of my writing, because I’m still not on the level where I can just ignore them and happily gather up all the spiritual diamonds they are flinging at my head.
That’s a big part of why I took the blog down, repeatedly, the last few months, because I kept feeling it was being hijacked by anonymous psychos, who don’t like it when I write about loving other Jews; and who get very angry when I write about the importance of working on our own bad middot instead of pointing fingers; and who get very upset when anyone suggests that hating other people is not what God really wants.
And like it or not, those people have been setting the tone for most of the ‘discussion’ online for over a decade. No wonder it’s so ucky and poisonous! No wonder, so many people have gone seriously bonkers the last 10 years! No wonder that so many of us are feeling alienated and turned off from our fellow Jews and other human beings!
It’s exactly as our Sages said would occur at the end of days, when all of these disturbed people start setting themselves up as ‘leaders’ and fake spiritual mentors.
These bullying types push themselves ‘to the front’ in every area of life, Jewish or not, and set a tone for human relationships that basically comes down to shaming, flaming and insulting people personally until they break and go along with what they think, or what they want.
No wonder, communication between people has fallen into the gutter over the last decade, in so many different ways!
But something is starting to change.
Around the edges, the good is making a come-back, and the anonymous psychos and spiritual fakers are starting to beat a retreat.
I’m seeing that more and more of us are waking up to what’s really going on, and we’re starting to move away from them, and their pernicious influence on our thinking and outlook and faith.
More and more people are looking for ahavat Yisrael, not more tirades and rants and sinat chinam.
More and more of us are looking for sincerity, and ways to practically give God what He wants, and not just pointless, harsh and judgmental theorizing about what ‘perfect’ people should be doing in a ‘perfect’ world.
The worm is turning. The tanker is turning around.
I know that doesn’t look so obvious still, but I can see it coming.
There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
Mina Gordon, one of the writers over on SassonMag.com, just set one of her poems to video. It originally appeared on the Chabad.org website - and it's here below, too.
Just what I needed to get in my inbox today.
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.
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 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