Rebbe Nachman taught that the ‘whole world is a very narrow bridge’ – and that’s particularly true in terms of spiritual matters.
Right now, I feel I’m treading the narrowest of narrow bridges with all this research into what is really going in our Jewish world. I know what’s at stake here, and I worry – a lot – about getting this wrong.
In the meantime, I just keep asking God for guidance, and I keep trying to do my best to just stick to the ‘facts’, or at least, the information being presented as ‘facts’, as there are just so many lies going on it’s hard to keep it all straight.
And to keep underlining with a big red pen, again and again and again, that the line between ‘demonically-possessed, practical-kabbalist sinner’ and ‘miracle-working, holy of holies saint’ can actually be as thin as a hairsbreadth.
In the Tanach, you find the story of King Menashe, the people-sacrificing, demon-worshipping son of the righteous King Hezkiyahu, who almost had the merit of being the Moshiach.
This snippet comes from the RavBerland.com site, HERE:
It’s written that [King] Menashe just by himself used to slaughter a thousand people a day for his idol, and to throw them into the fire.
We have to ask the question, how someone so very evil could be the son of someone who was so very righteous?
Yet, we see this happening time and time again throughout Jewish history, when chief idol-makers like Terach could give birth to an ‘Avraham’, while huge tzaddikim like Yitzhak Avinu could also give birth to murdering, adulterous religious hypocrites like Esav.
There is nothing new under the sun.
As part of my attempt to read more Tanach, as per the Rav’s instructions, I’m almost done with Sefer Shoftim now, where I just read the story of Gideon’s son, Abimelech.
Gideon was one of Am Yisrael’s most righteous Judges, who went to battle the Midianites – successfully! – with just 300 men, those men who hadn’t kneeled to the Baal.
He has a bunch of wives, a bunch of sons, including one called Abimelech.
And this Abimelech rises up after Gideon dies – and literally murders 68 of his siblings (one escapes…) just so he can proclaim himself king in Shechem.
And this admixture of ‘terrible bad’ and ‘awesome holiness’ continues all the way through the Tanach.
The biggest trick evil pulled off, was convincing us all it doesn’t exist.
That widespread abuse isn’t rife in our orthodox communities, as well as in our secular communities…
That just having the title ‘rabbi’, or even learning Torah, or kabbalah at a high level, automatically confers a degree of super-special holiness on a person…
That we ourselves aren’t full of bad middot, and evil actions, and negative thoughts….
But the truth is, that ‘good’ and ‘bad’ can only exist in relation to each other.
We have to ‘turn from the bad’ and ‘do good’ – but first, we have to acknowledge that the ‘bad’, the evil, really exists, and is really a problem.
And the higher you go up the spiritual ladder, the harder and more serious the tests between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ become.
I just came across a story from Tsfat (in Russian), that demonstrates very nicely how it’s dafka the people who are at the top of the spiritual totem pole, who can run the greatest risks of falling to the bottom.
It’s called the ‘Great Deed of Yosef Della Reina’.
Here’s a snippet of how that opens, followed by a synopsis:
It was at this time that Rabbi Yosef della Reina, a scribe and scholar of the Secret Wisdom, lived in the ancient mountain city of Safed in the Holy Land. It was unbearable for him to constantly hear about deaths and illnesses, wars and pogroms, famine and misery, especially since, as they say, he had seen all this and even experienced it himself.
So, this great kabbalist Rabbi Yosef Della Reina decides he’s going to force God’s hand, and bring the geula once and for all.
He brings together five of his leading students, tells them about what he is trying to do, and warns them of the potential dangers ahead, and together they head into the forest for weeks of seclusion and rigorous spiritual preparation for what they want to try to achieve.
Then one day, in the dead of night, Joseph roused the disciples, and they stood in a circle, holding hands, and began to recite the Great Names of the Lord, the sound of which makes the whole world shake as if it were cold with fear….
This was repeated over and over again until two high angels, Metatron and Akatriel, appeared before Yosef and his disciples. There are no angels above them, for they stand at the very Throne of the Lord.
“We can help you,” the angels said, ” if you help us.” Every person has an image that lives in our higher world, and so do you. And he has been given a power that we do not have, because you are a human being.
Salvation does not come for many centuries, because we cannot enter the halls of the evil king Samael and the evil queen Lilith and drive them out. They put up three barriers in front of us.
Destroy them on Earth, so that your image may destroy them in heaven, and we will bring down Samael and Lilith to Mount Seir, and you will capture them with the power of the Divine Names and bring them to the Temple Mount, where they are to be sacrificed with a special knife.
Then Salvation will come.
What could be a more lofty aim, then trying to drive all the evil and suffering out of the world, finally, and to have geula?
Sadly, Yosef Della Reina stumbles at the last part of the mission, after he’s already captured the Samech Mem and his consort, the evil L.
They start whining that they’re hungry and thirsty, etc. When he ignores that, they start wheedling him to at least just burn some incense for them, so they can be nourished by the smell of it. Kind-hearted Yosef Della Reina agrees to this – and his fate is sealed.
Because they fooled him into ‘burning incense’ to them, which is one of the main ways you typically ‘worship’ demons and avoda zara forces in the world.
The Samech Mem says this:
“Lord, you saw that this man burned incense for me, not for You, as you commanded!”
All the power returned to the demons, and the monsters from their retinue filled the entire area around them. When they realized that everything was gone and saw the terrible creatures, three of Yosef’s disciples immediately gave up their souls to God, and two lost their minds.
And what happened to the righteous Rabbi Yosef Della Reina himself?
There are various endings to this story, versions of which were told across the Jewish world throughout the Middle Ages, even before the Ari was born, and teaching his new, exalted Kabbalah in the city of Tsfat.
In one version, Yosef Della Reina is chased off a cliff by the evil L. and drowns.
After this, Joseph went to the city of Sidon, where he settled.
His ways turned very evil.
He saw that he did not succeed and since he heard from the Divine Voice that he lost this world and the world-to-come, he made a conventant with the malicious Lilith and handed himself to her and she became his wife. He polluted every way possible and used Holy Name of HKB’H to do evil. Every night he would conjure spirits and devils to fetch him his heart’s desire.
Yosef Della Reina went from being one of the holiest tzaddikim in the world, to being one of the very most evil people – and all because he was trying to force Hashem’s hand, with his ‘practical kabbalah’.
Let’s bring the end of the tale, from the DreamingofMoshiach website:
As for me, the fifth student, I was left alone and sick on a sickbed all my life. There is no remedy for my ailment nor do I have any reprieve from the demons. I have written this tale for a memorial.
And I copied this tale from old letters that I found in Tzfat and wrote this story as a warning that no one should attempt to bring the Redemption before its time. We should do Teshuva and HaShem will send the final redemption and His Moshiach thru our merits, Amen Ken Yehi Ratzon.
Apparently, the Ari recognised the soul of Yosef Della Reina reincarnated in a big black dog that roamed the cobbled paths of Tsfat.
The Ari told his students he’d have to be reincarnated another 1,000 times, to atone for what he’d done, and that the dog was just the first of them.
The point is – there can be such a fine line between the holiest of holies, and the evillest of evil.
And that’s why Rabbenu, Rebbe Nachman, warned his followers away from ‘practical kabbalah’, or trying to force God’s hand in any way, particularly in relation to the geula and the coming of Moshiach.
Instead, he taught us to pray with a broken heart to Hashem, and to weep and make teshuva over our own sins for an hour a day – and then God will do as He sees fit.
There is nothing new under the sun.
Boorish ignoramuses and petty criminals with no Torah learning could never have fallen as low as the pious mystic Yosef Della Reina.
Dafka, the biggest evil is going to be found hiding out submerged in the ‘springs of Torah knowledge’, amongst our biggest mystics and erstwhile holy people.
That’s a disturbing idea, I know, but it’s one that we better get used to entertaining, as I have a feeling God is about to blow the whole lid off what’s really been going down in the Jewish community, and elsewhere, over the last 200 years.
And in the meantime… I am continuing to make cautious progress on this ever-so-narrow path.
And I’m praying all the time, that God should just help me to do what He wants, and nothing else.
PS: While I was researching this, I came across an entry for ‘Yosef Della Reina’ on geni, put up by gatekeeper Yigal Burstein, the same guy who is curating a lot of the ‘interesting families’ on geni.
This strikes me as both strange (because he doesn’t link to anyone else, so what’s the point of having him on geni?) – and meaningful.
There is nothing new, under the sun.
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