I had a few emails from people who are feeling more than a little confused.
Who can they trust?
How do they know, if something is really ‘true’ or not?
If one person says that Rebbe Nachman got them out of the dark, and then another person says that Rabbi Ploni got them out of the dark – who is to say, which one is good, which one is ‘right’? Maybe they are both ‘right’?
Or maybe, they are both ‘wrong’?
These are difficult questions, but important questions.
And there is a simple answer to ‘how do we really know’ who and what to trust and that’s this:
We have to beg Hashem to show us the truth.
And there are no shortcuts in this process.
But here’s the thing:
The real ‘world of lies’ that a person has to get out of, is their own internal one.
Because the ‘rabbis’ and ‘leaders’ we follow, the ‘truth’ that we recognise is really just a mirror of our own soul.
And for as long as our soul is mamash still trapped in its own world of lies, it’s almost impossible for a person to really know what is ‘true’ or ‘false’ in the world around them.
Let’s give some practical examples.
For as long as someone is still justifying their own self-righteous anger, and still thinking that there are times when anger, and lashing out at other people is a great thing – they will be drawn to angry people, self-righteous and vindictive people.
Whisper this: Most people who are consistently angry are very hard to be around, and usually have a lot of bad middot.
That’s not my opinion.
The Sages teach:
When one gets angry, all sorts of demons control him, and even the Shechina (the holy Divine Presence) doesn’t stand by his side.
המקרע בגדיו בחמתו והמשבר כליו בחמתו והמפזר מעותיו בחמתו יהא בעיניך כעובד ע”ז שכך אומנתו של יצה”ר היום אומר לו עשה כך ולמחר אומר לו עשה כך
“If one tears his garment in his anger, breaks his utensils in his anger or scatters his money in his anger, he should be in your eyes as one who is performing idolatry. For thus is the craft of the evil inclination: today it tells him “do this”, and the next day it tells him “do this” until it tells him “perform idolatry” and he goes and performs it”.
If you want to hang out with people like that, if you want to take ‘advice’ from people like that, if you want to follow an ‘angry’ rabbi, or an ‘angry’ lifecoach guru – whatever – feel free.
But just be aware that for as long as a person is justifying anger, their own and other people’s, then:
And that’s not a recipe for a happy, successful life.
One thing you quickly learn about Breslov, and especially about Rav Berland’s branch of ‘Breslov’, is that you can forget about getting any honor, status or respect from other people, if you’re sincerely following that path.
What, you’re that brainwashed cretin that can’t really see what’s going on with Rav Berland?! Who didn’t believe all the Channel 13 exposes about him?! Who’s just a brainwashed cult-member with no mind of their own and no independent discernment?!
For as long as a person would like others to respect them for their ‘religious sincerity’, for the path they’ve chosen, or to impress others with just how holy, inspirational, ‘righteous’, and ‘right about everything’ they truly are, they will be drawn to leaders, to organisations, where they can leverage some of that ‘respect’ out of other people.
Ooooo, your rabbi got invited to the White House?!
Your organisation has connections all over the world and is the ‘Chief Rabbi’ of pretty much any country you care to mention?
Your people get massive government grants and kudos; they have a lot of ‘political muscle’ to save their adherents from yucky court cases; they can connect you, business-wise, all over the place….?
If that sounds appealing to you, then true Breslov – Rav Berland’s Breslov – is not your path.
True Breslovers have been dissed and derided from the day Rebbe Nachman got back from Eretz Yisrael, and told his followers that he’d bought them a gift from the Holy Land:
That people were going to be criticising, mocking them and persecuting them all day long.
Now, we can ask: What sort of present is that, Rabbenu??
All these other guys are hanging out with Putin, and getting invited to the White House, and people write long screeds about how amazing and wonderful and great they are, and they fancy shuls all over the place, and summer camps for the kids and all the politicians just totally love them to death!
And what does real Breslov have to offer?
Nothing like that.
A lot of poverty. A lot of arguments with your family members and friends, who think you joined a cult. A lot of dissing from people on Facebook, who assume you must be a retarded moron for not believing Channel 13 like all the really enlightened people do.
But what ELSE does real Breslov have to offer?
Humility. A real connection to God. The inner peace that comes from really connecting to your soul, and trying to do the work God sent you down here to do. A connection to the True Tzaddik.
The sort of advice that really can solve even the most difficult problems, and get your soul out of the world of lies and into the world of truth.
But…. if you prefer ‘status’ and nice kiddushes and fancy shuls and political clout, then ‘real Breslov’ is going to sound about as attractive as a bucket of cold sick.
I could go on and on, but what’s the point here?
The point is, that for as long as a person is not doing regular hitbodedut, is not accepting that they are full of bad middot and flaws, is not doing the painful, difficult job of clarifying their own internal world of lies….
They are going to find this process of ‘birur’ increasingly hard and confusing, going forward.
Sometimes, I get emails from xtians (thankfully not so many these days….) who like to tell me how Yoshki helped them ‘out of the darkness’ and ‘into the light’.
They like to tell me how much more patient, and enlightened, and happy, and ‘spiritual’ they are, now that they’ve found ‘the lord’.
What am I meant to tell them?
Am I meant to say, yeah, carry on believing in that guy, because it’s at least better than worshipping the devil….?
Birur is a process.
It’s like scaling a mountain.
The higher you go, the more difficult the journey becomes, and the thinner the atmosphere gets.
But when you finally get to the top, the view is awesome.
That’s when you can look around, and just see how everything really looks without all the skyscrapers and lamp-posts in the way.
You can see how beautiful the world really is.
Let’s just have a quick reality-check moment, that I am no-where near the top of the mountain.
I am a small person, in so many ways, with a lot of bad middot that I know are bad, wrong and destructive.
I have to do hitbodedut for an hour every single day, to try to ‘catch’ those bad middot in action, before they drag me under or destroy the world too much.
It’s a constant process of noticing what I’m breaking, and then trying to fix it.
But one thing I do know:
The path that Rebbe Nachman laid out for his followers does eventually lead right to the top of that mountain.
And if I keep going, even if I get discouraged and overwhelmed some times, and have to take a break – eventually, with God’s help, I will get there.
So, believe in whoever you want to.
Follow whoever you want to.
Defend whoever you want to.
Promote whoever you want to.
But know, that until and unless you clarify your own ‘world of lies’, you will have an innate bias that will consistently lead you away from what is really true.
That doesn’t mean that you won’t climb the birur mountain in some way, at least partially, but there is only one path to the very top of it, and you find that path by doing regular hitbodedut every single day, and working on rectifying your bad middot.
May Hashem give us all the merit to find that path.
And may He give us the strength to continue moving forward, when all we really want to do is give up and go to sleep.
And may He move all the obstacles, and distractions and confusions out of the way, so we can finally see where we are really headed, and what we really need to do to get there.
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