Today I went to the zoo. By myself.

Back when my kids were small, I used to use them as an excuse for doing things like going to the zoo, but now that they’re both teens, the zoo has fallen off their list of ‘cool things to do’. This morning, they left for a few days’ of camp up North with some friends, my husband went to yeshiva and then work, and I was left with the whole day stretching out before me.

Many of the women my age (42) in my circles (Israeli, frum) would kill to have a whole day to themselves, I know. But my problem is often the exact opposite: sometimes, I’m really, really lonely.

Strange to say, since we moved to the big city of Jerusalem, I’ve been less lonely than when I used to live in my ‘cosy’ communities of only a few thousand people.

When you ‘fit’ your community, then living somewhere small and intimate can be wonderful. When you don’t ‘fit’ – and let’s be clear, that I have never, ever ‘fit’ anywhere much, hard as I tried – then it can be a recipe for complete despair and mental illness.

It’s not always so easy being one of the rare people who aren’t popping anti-depressants just to get through the day, or who doesn’t have a Facebook account arranging their social life, or who keeps looking for more meaning in life than shopping, refurbishing, eating out and keeping fit.

Here in Jerusalem, I also don’t ‘fit’, but at least I live somewhere so eclectic and strange that I have that in common with pretty much all my neighbours.

In most ways, I’ve made my peace with being alone so much of the time. I’m anyway a writer, and the aloneness is good for the creative process…and it gives me tons of time to talk to God…and it enables me churn books out at the rate of one every three months…

On the days when I’m writing, and lost in my internal world of gathering knowledge, splicing information together and turning out neat, bite-sized articles about all the different stuff I’m learning about, I don’t feel lonely.

But on the days when I don’t feel like typing so much, or I don’t have so much to say, or I really just want to spend some time interacting with real people, sometimes the loneliness is very intense. But you know the weird thing I recently realized? I think in 2016, pretty much all of us are lonely – and the most lonely people of all are the ones surrounded 24/7 by people.

A couple of months’ back, Hashem had me bump into someone I used to know from the old country. Back then, we were pretty good friends (or at least, so I thought) and we were both very, very sociable. She stayed in Britain, I moved to Israel, we fell out of touch. In the subsequent 11 years, I went from being a social butterfly to being a practical recluse, but I was sure that my old friend would still be tripping the light fantastic with 500 other outgoing couples, just like in the old days.

Turns out, I was plain wrong.

My friend hangs out with just two couples these days. Even in London, socializing has apparently gotten a whole lot harder than it used to be.

Why is this? Some people will blame email and i-Phones, and they may well have a point because it’s hard to concentrate on the person in front of your face when the person sending you smileys gets announced by a ‘ping’. Others will blame the stressful pace of life and work, and they may also have a point because an exhausted person can’t do anything much except veg on a couch and stare at the wall.

But I think something much deeper is going on. In the past, there just weren’t so many people who were highly-strung, crazy, selfish and just plain nasty. Interactions weren’t as fraught or loaded. There weren’t as many ‘narcissist’ type people trying to manipulate you and make you feel bad about yourself. Very few people had the sort of medication-induced brain damage that renders a person unable to be real, really interested in other people, or really ‘there’, which is now unfortunately all too common.

In short, a lot of us have been finding that compared to spending a few hours with bona fide crazy people, it’s actually much easier to be by ourselves these days, even though it’s often lonely.

I know that’s what’s contributed to my own circumstances, because while there are a lot of people I could call, so many of them are so complicated and so unpleasant or self-absorbed to be around, I often just prefer my own company.

So it was that today, I went to the zoo by myself. I found myself a quiet corner under a tree to sit and contemplate the world around me, and to talk to God about how lonely I was feeling.

Why do I spend so much of my life alone, God? Why have you arranged things to work out that way in my life, that my days aren’t stretched to breaking by a large family, or a full-on job, or a large circle of friends? Why do I seem to be the only person here, who came to the zoo by myself?

My heart always knows the answers to these questions, and it’s when I talk to God that they get communicated to my head, and when I finally get some peace.

I have many ‘signs’ I’m looking for, to tell me that Moshiach has finally come. One of the biggest is that I’m going to be sociable again, and not so lonely.

Group of three chareidi teens standing praying by the Kotel

Last week, I paid a visit to the city of M. (where I used to live, more than 10 years’ ago) to visit a family member who was staying with someone there. Unbeknownst to me, I mistakenly got the wrong building (many streets in M. have exactly the same buildings, repeated many times on the same street), and I walked up the steps of number 18, instead of number 14.

The hall lights were out, so I couldn’t really see properly as I’d just come in from the broad daylight outside, and was still wearing my sunglasses. I went over to apartment number 1, pressed on the bell, and was in the middle of switching over to my regular glasses when the door opened.

I couldn’t see properly, as I didn’t have my glasses on, but the very blurry woman who opened the door didn’t look like my family member, or anyone he was related to, but I thought maybe she was a friend who’d dropped by, and was opening the door on their behalf. In my still pretty bad Hebrew, I asked her:

“Is this the Plonis?”

Which is when this very secular, very angry woman let me have with both barrels of abuse.

How dare I buzz her door! (It was 6.30pm, not the middle of the night…) How dare I, when she had young children!

Dear reader, I lived in M. for long enough to know that there is an unfortunate breed of Jew there that absolutely HATES religious people. This doesn’t describe everyone there, by any means, but there is a small and very vocal secular minority that takes every opportunity to celebrate their Jew-hatred in any way possible – and apparently, I’d just knocked on the door of one of their cheerleaders.

I got in a nanosecond that this woman’s problem wasn’t that I’d knocked on the wrong door – mistakes like that do happen after all, even to rabidly secular people – the problem was that I was wearing a headscarf, which made me undeniably religious, and hence, Public Enemy Number 1.

The hatred coming off this woman was visceral – I literally felt like she’d punched me in the stomach.

In the meantime, I’d got so upset by her horrendous verbal abuse that I half wanted to punch her in the face…But instead, I simply turned on my heel, and fled outside.

What a psycho! What an anti-semitic nut-job!

I stood outside on the curb trying to calm down from my verbal GBH experience, and trying to work out what had happened to my relative. A quick call showed me that I’d simply gone to the wrong number – and that they were at number 14, flat 1.

But I was so unnerved by my encounter with the rabid hatred of this secular woman, I was still quite shaky, even when I was driving home two hours’ later. And then I really got to thinking:

Why is it, in our politically-correct, ‘equality’ obsessed world that so many secular Jews are willing to honour and respect murderous Arab terrorists; and, they’re willing to honour and respect missionizing Xtians (and even, to sell them Jewish holy sites like the tomb of King David); and they’re willing to respect Italian Catholics, and Greek Orthodox, and Arab Druse, and of course, Scientologists, Moonies, Reform and the Women-of-the-Wall – but they still permit themselves to openly hate and abuse orthodox Jews?

The last 2 weeks, there’s been a cabal of older secular woman sitting on the bench outside my home, loudly saying the most disgusting things about their more religious neighbours. These women have a problem with the amount of rubbish being dropped in the neighborhood – and honestly, there is a lot of rubbish.

Many families send their small kids to dispose of the trash, and they simply can’t throw the bags into the high, communal dumpsters, so they tend to just leave them places, and it is unsightly. By my o my, the amount of unvarnished hatred and plain old anti-semitism this rubbish is unleashing from these older secular matrons has been extremely shocking to me.

They sit there describing their fellow Jews in terms that would make any died-in-the-wool member of the Third Reich proud. Two things seem to upset them the most: that frum families have so many children (because frum children are like, vermin, or something) and that frum families are frum.

The ringleader of this cabal went beserk two weeks’ ago, and started smashing glasses all around her flat – while cursing everyone in the loudest, most coarse terms – in order to prevent small, frum children from playing anywhere near where she lives and dropping trash!!!. This same women complains incessantly at everyone, regularly abuses people in the worst ways, rules her own family with terror tactics, rage fits and hyper-critical abuse – and thinks she’s somehow superior to all the frum families living around her, because she does sponga three times a day and puts her trash in the bin.

If you’ve been reading even a little bit of the stuff I’ve been posting up here, and on my spiritual self-help website, you’ll know that she’s a classic example of someone who is literally mentally-ill, and has some very serious and disturbing emotional issues.

Which I guess is bringing me to the crux of this post, which is that I think that instead of just making more excuses for these anti-semitic, hate-filled, mentally-ill, Jewish psychos that we unfortunately all know, we have to start calling a spade a spade, and to start calling them out on their horrible racism.

Whenever anyone hates another Jew just because they look different to them, that’s a sign that something has gone seriously wrong with the empathy, compassion and a bunch of other things you need to just be a healthy functioning human being.

Regardless of whether someone is externally religious, or externally secular, whenever someone is relating to their fellow Jew like a piece of garbage, and emotionally or physically abusing them, that’s a sign they are seriously mentally ill. Full stop.

And when more of the ‘sane’ people on both sides of the religious / secular divide starts to truly get that, then all the false divisions perpetuated by the psychos will dissolve, and we’ll go back to being One People, with One Heart.

Ken yiyeh ratzon.

Group of three chareidi teens standing praying by the Kotel

The place where I live in Jerusalem is a very unique mix of extremes.

There are extreme chareidim here – mostly Breslevers with long payot and big families. Then, there are extremely secular people here – with long hair and big tattoo collections. Then, there’s a third group made up of Mizrachi types that have lived here 50 years’ and are generally just plain bonkers.

We don’t fit into any of these groups, so we kind of watch the communal politics going on from the sidelines.

The latest battle lines were drawn over the garbage that keeps getting dropped by small kids.

Kids drop wrappers on the floor, that’s just what they do. But because some of the families here also send very, very small kids to take out the household garbage, and because they are too small to throw it into the communal dumpster, sometimes there is a lot of rubbish flying around.

The tension has been simmering under the surface for months, but the last few weeks it seems to have burst into the open. One of the more secular neighbours who’s lived here 50 years (as she keeps telling everyone loudly on the street…) suddenly went beserk and started smashing glasses all around her apartment to ‘stop kids from playing there and dropping rubbish.’

Sure, she tidied it up again half an hour later, but the message had been sent that hostilities were ratcheting up a notch.

It’s a strange thing that there are people who get very upset about environmental pollution and rubbish being dropped, but who apparently couldn’t care less about spiritual pollution.

So it is that for the last few days, there’s been an unholy gathering of self-appointed, demented ‘garbage watchmen’ getting together on the bench just next to my bedroom window.

The conversation is pretty standard: One complains about the ‘disgusting’ datiim in the neighborhood, and how much mess they make and how little responsibility they take. Then another starts yelling:

‘They have eight children!!!!! Eight children in one room!!!’

And then they start discussing their latest strategies to get all these ‘disgusting charedi people’ to clean up their act.

The first few times it happened, I yelled ‘Sinat Chinam!!’ as loudly as I could out my bedroom window, but I’m a softly-spoken Brit so no-one heard. When I tried to yell again, my husband came and gently escorted me to a different room.

“It’s not going to help,” he told me. “You can’t fight fire with fire.”

Hmmm.

Over the last two days, the chareidi women in the neighborhood have started to fight back.

I caught them having a pow-wow in my stairwell, discussing all the crazy secular people who keep coming up to them while they’re sitting on a bench, who start yelling at them for having so many children and making so much mess.

I have no idea what happens next, but what I can tell you is that I have days when my life feels like a bad episode of the Muppet Show. You remember those two cranky old men in the boxseat? That’s what’s going on by my bedroom window.

Eight children!!!! Who can put eight children in one room?!?!?”

When it started up again this morning, I seriously debated going down with my video camera to film them. ‘You have a very important message for Am Yisrael!’ I wanted to tell them.

‘Let’s record it, upload it to YouTube, and then you don’t have to keep repeating it (loudly….) every single morning.’

Sigh.

Is it just me, or are people getting more and more crazy and intolerant?

I mean, WHO smashes glasses around their house on purpose just to keep small kids away? Who cares more about dirty sweet wrappers than filthy speech? Sometimes I look around, and I think ‘How is Moshiach meant to come when things are still like this?

My husband tells me it’s always been this bad, and that God is going to redeem us because He loves us, and not because we deserve it. Maybe he’s right.

But I can tell you is that if the Muppet Show doesn’t give it a rest soon, I might just have a Miss Piggy moment myself, and start karate chopping the more annoying characters.

Hiiiiiiiiya!

Last week, a day before I was meant to go on holiday with my family, I started to feel REALLY bad.

Nothing particularly sparked it off – there was no horrible news, Baruch Hashem, no stock market crash that wiped out all my savings (which is one advantage of not having any savings), no visit from the tax man, or unpaid bills for a million shekels.

But all of a sudden last Sunday, I started to feel really, really bad. Like there was no point continuing, like everything was doomed to failure, like I was NEVER going to get out of the hole I felt I was in.

Together with this horrible mood, I got a stomach ache that was so bad that I was literally finding it hard to breathe, and that’s when I really started to panic. I get a lot of somatic pain, where my emotions express themselves in my body, so I’ve learned when things are ‘emotional’ i.e. 99% of the time, and when they aren’t.

This pain was 100% emotional / spiritual, and was literally choking me to death.

I did all my usual coping things – like pressing acupressure points, and doing some cardiovascular exercise, and trying to take deeper breaths, and main-lining some lavender essential oil, and talking to God about what was going on and trying to figure out what was underneath all this stuff – but nothing worked.

Suddenly, I got the crazy notion in my head that I had to go and see Rav Arush ASAP. Now, even though I’ve lived in Jerusalem for two years, and my husband learns in Rav Arush’s yeshiva, I have never gone to visit the Rav all this time. But Sunday I felt so bad, even my famous British reserve dissolved. I had to find the Rav, pronto!

As soon as my husband got back from learning, I had him walk back with me to the yeshiva, to see if the Rav was in his office. He wasn’t there. So then, we tried the Rav’s house. As we got up to the outside door (which was fitted a few years’ ago, to stop people pestering the Rav night and day) there was a man standing outside it, who suddenly got buzzed in.

God bless him, my husband leaped into the open doorway, and then a couple of seconds’ later, he motioned to me to come in – the Rav was standing in the doorway and was happy to talk to me.

Dear reader, these things really don’t happen so often. Catching the Rav is much harder than you might think, but I kind of knew God was going to help me speak to him, because I was feeling the most desperate and down I’d been feeling for a very long time.

The Rav summed up my problem in about two seconds: I was spending far too much of my time beating myself up, and focusing on my bad, instead of looking at the good, and it was literally choking me to death.

He told me to read ‘The Garden of Wisdom’ every day, and that would solve the problem.

As soon as we left the Rav’s house, I felt so much better. For starters, I could breathe again and my stomachache had reverted back to its low-grade ‘normal’ status.

I got home and opened up the Garden of Wisdom, which is Rav Arush’s commentary on Rebbe Nachman’s tale of the smart one and the simple one. It said: ‘The Gift of Life’, and then went on to explain how when a person doesn’t have simple emuna, they literally live a hellish existence.

Man, I could relate.

As I wrote a few posts’ back, there are some extreme mood-swings coming down the pipe at the moment, and anyone who isn’t prepared for it could literally go bonkers (if they aren’t already…) I thought I was pretty insulated against the worst of it, because I do hitbodedut every day, and mind-maps, and look for God’s messages, and appreciate I have a lot of things I need to work on.

But I was wrong.

And without Rav Arush’s help, I don’t know what would have kept me from hitting the bottom last week, as I was sliding down there pretty fast.

Without our true Tzaddikim, where would we be? What we do? How would we stop ourselves from engaging in a poisonous paranoid fit, or a bout of toxic self-hatred, or destructive jealousy and rage?

There’s probably a lot more to say, but the world really is going mad. Even non-Jews in the UK, that most staid and conservative of places, are starting to notice that things are just not so normal at the moment.

It’s the birth pangs of Moshiach, and he really must be coming soon after all, because last week, they really, nearly, took me out.

A couple of weeks’ back, my husband told me that he’d heard rumors that another massive prayer rally was being organized in Hevron for the 4th of July (this Monday night).

At that time, I was a little puzzled: things had been pretty quiet in Israel for a good few months already, since the last time Rav Berland asked for a prayer rally in Hevron.

The following day after that prayer rally, there was the huge terrorist attack in Belgium – but things in Israel suddenly (and miraculously….) quietened down.

And it stayed quiet for months. Until a couple of weeks’ back when Arab terrorists shot up the café in Tel Aviv, killing four people.

Hmm.

Last week, a last minute message went around that they were holding an impromptu prayer gathering at the Kotel ahead of Rav Berland’s court hearing in South Africa, which would have hopefully seen the Rav returning back to Eretz Yisrael, bringing geula with him (as stated by a number of tzadikim and kabbalists, including Rav Dovid Kook).

Hmm. That’s strange, I thought to myself.

Why have a prayer gathering now, plus another one next week in Hevron, after the hearing?

A few days’ later, things are already in much clearer focus. The South African judge refused to free Rav Berland – and that same day 13 year old Hallel was stabbed to death by an Arab terrorist who broke into her home in Kiryat Arba and murdered her in her own bedroom.

You could literally feel the heaviness in the air after that news broke, because it was bad enough that it happened. More than bad enough. But what made it worse is that it felt like it’s all kicking off again.

A little later, there was another stabbing attack in Netanya, with two wounded.

Motzash, I found out the terrible news that there had been another shooting in the Har Hevron hills again, killing a father of 10 and badly wounding his wife, and also injuring two kids.

By this stage of the game, it seems like all we can do is pray for God to turn things around and have mercy on us, because it’s becoming clearer each day that the terror doesn’t stop because of anything the Government is doing to help us: it’s all spiritual.

When Am Yisrael makes more collective teshuva, the terror stops. When we backslide, it starts again.

The point is, that this time last week I really had no idea why Berland had called for a prayer rally tomorrow in Hevron. I mean, the terrorism stopped! It’s been quiet for months! Who’s going to show up, Monday? These were all the things that I thought.

Now, I can see yet again how the real Tzaddikim in our midst can literally predict the future. It seems obvious that Rav Berland knew that the terrorism was going to start again, and he prepared the ‘balm’ – i.e. the prayer rally – before the blow.

This whole year it’s been unchartered waters. On the one hand, the stage seemed set for Moshiach to show up at the beginning of the year. But as the days have turned into weeks and then months, and things don’t seem to have changed it’s hard to know what’s going on, or even to guess about what’s around the corner.

At least, for me.

But not for the first time, the events of the last few days have proven yet again that when you’re a Tzaddik of Rav Berland’s calibre, you really can predict the future. Just as the Rav stated there would be a third intifada when everything was quiet – and no-one listened – seems he knew the Arab violence would flare up again this week, too.

When someone has the sort of track record for accurately predicting the future that Rav Berland has, maybe we should start to listen him about other things, too? Like the fact that Moshiach is only going to come when we actually stop obsessing over things like Nibiru and start to focus on clearing up our bad middot instead?

Or, that the only reason he had to go into exile in such shameful circumstances was because there was an outstanding Heavenly decree giving Iran permission to nuke Eretz Yisrael, unless something was done pronto to change it?

Rav Berland left more than three years’ ago now.

Many people, including some of our leading kabbalists, have been telling us for more than year that Iran already has a nuclear weapon. Have you stopped to ask yourself what’s preventing them from using it, or why Iran’s nuclear bomb has stopped making front-page news recently, when it’s been a staple feature of Israeli news for the last decade or so?

Have you wondered WHY the arabs stopped trying to stab us for a few months, or why they haven’t started blowing up buses again, or using their tunnels, or sending rockets over from Gaza and Lebanon again?

What’s stopping them?

If you think it’s something the government or the army is doing, then you clearly don’t live in Israel.

Doesn’t it strike you as weird that the very same day the Rav’s return to Israel got pushed off again, the Arab terrorism kicked off again?

Our teshuva (or lack of it…)  is what’s making all the difference, together with the mesirut Nefesh of our Tzaddikim, like Rav Berland, who has been sitting in a dregs-of-the-earth prison in South Africa for the last three months just to atone for our sins, while people who should know better continue to slander him all over the internet.

It’s a strange world we live in, that when autistic Jews start predicting the end of the world and ‘death stars’ that we all sit up and listen, and give them maximum respect and attention. But that when a Gadol HaDor tells us that our lack of Teshuva, and the terrible things we’re doing online, is bringing down one harsh decree after another, forcing him into exile to try and fix the problem – no-one wants to know.

Waiiiit a minute: this man isn’t autistic!!! How could he possibly be able to predict the future just by learning Torah 24/7, sacrificing himself repeatedly for Am Yisrael, and taking on all sorts of terrible things upon himself, including being falsely accused and slandered all over the world?

But at this stage, Rav Berland’s track record is so much more compelling than the autistics, and also much more hopeful: Do Teshuva, and everything will turn out fine. And Teshuva doesn’t have to be a big deal, even: just look for the good in yourself and others, stop speaking badly about people, and instead, start talking to God every day.

And that way, Nibiru will stop being a problem. The Arabs will stop killing Jews. And we’ll finally get what we’re telling everyone we really want:

Moshiach, redemption and an end to the madness.

Front cover of one in a generation Volume 1, biography of Rabbi Berland

It’s time for setting the record straight Rav Eliezer Berland, aka Eliezer ben Etia.

With all the talk of Rav Berland’s imminent return to the Holy Land, the slanderous talk, or lashon hara has unfortunately also returned with a vengeance.

In some ways, I can understand what’s going on. In this world where the media is feeding us lies and half-truths 24/7 about absolutely everything, you can kinda understand why it’s so hard for people to accept that the media tells lots of lies about lots of things, lots of times.

The media is controlled by powerful people in the world, and every single one of those powerful people has a personal agenda, and a set of vested interests, and a view of the world that they want to disseminate to the masses.

That’s a fact.

And the media in Israel is no different from the media anywhere else in the world, and you could even argue that the biases, personal opinions and vested interests are even bigger here than elsewhere.

The point is this:

In 2016, no thinking person who is interested in the truth should automatically take anything reported in the press at face value, before checking and rechecking what they’re being told.

Which brings us on to the subject of this particular post, inspired by a phone call from a friend of mine who was still struggling to believe that the media actually tells lies, or that there are powerful figures in Israel who are so against orthodox Judaism, they are willing to stoop to the lowest of levels to smear some of our biggest Tzadikim, including Eliezer ben Etia, aka Rabbi Berland.

Again, in some ways I can understand the problem: God has created the world so that the forces of good and evil are always evenly balanced, in some way. What that means in this instance is that for every ‘good’ holy Rabbi who’s being framed and persecuted for political reasons, there’s at least one ‘bad’ unholy so-called Rabbi who truly is guilty of the most appalling deeds.

So how can we know who is who, or what we’re really dealing with: an appalling miscarriage of justice, or the rightful prosecution of terrible crimes?

That’s’ what I hope to share with you, in this post. It’s going to be pretty long, as I also want to bring snippets and quotes from other places to provide enough background, context and additional information for you to start seeing the huge holes in the web of lies that has been woven around Rav Berland.

1: Who is Rav Berland (aka Eliezer ben Etia)?

Many people, especially in the English-speaking world, only heard about Rav Berland three years’ ago, when he hit the headlines. But in Israel, Rav Berland has been known as a superlative Torah scholar, devoted communal leader, and holy Rabbi for 60 years’, already.

In his early years in Bnei Brak, he had a chavruta with no less a personage than the Steipler Gaon, and he was marked for greatness in the more mainstream Yeshiva world, before he discovered the teachings of Rebbe Nachman, and forged a new path in Breslev Chassidut.

You can read more about Rav Berland’s early years and impeccable Torah credentials here:

In the 1970s, Rav Berland started a fledgling baal Teshuva movement that attracted many secular Israelis to start to explore and learn about their religious background. This was back before the baal Teshuva movement was popular, and those early figures who started reaching out to less religious people were treated with a great deal of suspicion and hostility by certain elements in the mainstream ‘frum’ world.

But that didn’t deter Rav Berland, and he slowly but surely started to build a yeshiva and community for baal teshuvas that included such modern-day luminaries as Rav Shalom Arush, Rav Ofer Erez, and Rav Tzanani, plus many, many others – before they got ‘frum’.

You read more about the early beginnings of Shuvu Banim, Rav Berland’s yeshiva and organization, HERE.

Over the years, Rav Berland forged very warm ties with many religious leaders, across the whole spectrum of Jewish society, many of whom praised him in the highest of terms.

TO SUM THIS PART UP:

Rav Berland was a Torah prodigy, and was recognized as being a superlatively holy, spiritual person from a very young age, by some of the leading figures in the religious world, including the Steipler Gaon.

He gave up all that prestige and potential honor to follow his heart towards the path of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev, at a time when the frum world considered Breslev to be only for bona fide ‘crazy’ people.

A few years’ later, he again went against the tide of prevailing attitudes and frum public opinion to open a yeshiva for baalei Teshuva, and devoted his life to trying to bring more people closer to Yiddishkeit, and Rebbe Nachman. At times, his work necessitated huge amounts of self-sacrifice on behalf of his students, many of whom will happily tell you their own stories of how much Rav Berland put himself out on their behalf.

So far, this doesn’t sound like a person who’s got an abusive ‘power’ complex going on, does it?

So now, we’re starting to get into the meat of this post.

Eliezer ben Etia, and The Deal

Anyone who regularly reads ‘geula’ blogs, or the posts by the autistics will know that many figures in the Jewish world have been predicting terrible things for the Jewish people for the last decade or so.

But so far, thank God, those predictions have come to naught, despite all the wars, terrorism and intrigue Israel and the world has been caught up in. So what happened?

It’s now common knowledge among many in the Hebrew-speaking frum world that some years’ ago, there was a meeting of the three biggest Tzadikim in the country: The Baba Elazar, Rav Eliezer Berland, and the generation’s leading kabbalist (whose identify I’m not revealing out of respect to him – you’ll see why in a moment.)

These three giants each agreed to take some terrible form of suffering upon themselves, to atone for the sins of Am Yisrael, and let us have the geula the sweet way, without the terrible wars, deaths and suffering that would otherwise be required.

The Baba Elazar took it upon himself to be killed al kidush Hashem – and that’s what occurred a little while later, when he was shockingly stabbed to death in his own waiting room.

Rabbis agree: The Baba Elazar’s death saved Am Yisrael from harsh decrees

The Kabbalist took it upon himself to be exiled from Eretz Yisrael.

And Rav Berland took it upon himself to be slandered so terribly, that he would lose his good name (which is also akin to being ‘murdered’, in many ways.)

For some reason, the Kabbalist left Israel – but couldn’t cope with the ordeal of going into exile, and was forced to return. Undaunted, Rav Berland took on BOTH decrees: the decree of losing his good name, and also the decree of exile.

Years before he actually fled the country, Rav Berland was hinting to his students (and even telling them outright) that he would have to leave the country for an extended period of time, and that he would be persecuted for a number of years, in order to atone for Am Yisrael.

So many of his students heard him say this first-hand, that when it actually came to pass some years’ later, they already knew what was happening and why. This is one of the main reasons why Rav Berland’s own community have been 100% rock-solid behind him, the last three years.

The Rav’s ‘escape’ from Israel

If we next look at the truly bizarre course Rav Berland’s ‘prosecution’ has taken, we’ll also start to recognize that the whole situation is completely abnormal. For many weeks after the ‘news’ broke, the Rav left his home in Jerusalem, and was living in Beitar Illit, where he gave shiurim to hundreds of people, and received many, many visitors.

The Israeli authorities didn’t arrest him. Why not?

And why, if Rav Berland was simply a fugitive trying to escape justice, did he tell hundreds and even thousands of people where he was going?

If you take a moment to think about these questions, you’ll already start to see that the picture being painted in the media of Rav Berland doesn’t add up.

Later on, when the Rav left the country to go to Africa (again, HOW did he manage to escape being arrested at the airport, if he wasn’t receiving Divine assistance?) – we saw the same pattern again.

Within hours of him landing in Morocco, in Zimbabwe, in South Africa, in Holland, in South America, hundreds of people had been explicitly told about where he was staying and how to get messages to him, and even, how to fly out to meet him.

Again, does this sound like someone who is a) fearful of the authorities or b) simply trying to escape being brought to justice?

OR, does this sound like someone who knows he has a job to do, but also knows the parameters of that ‘job’ have been predetermined by Hashem, and who is determined to carry on serving Hashem, and his community, to the best of his ability?

When Rav Berland ‘disappeared’ from Holland – despite being under police guard – that was one of the clearest signs that he was still enjoying Divine favor, and able to pull off some out and out miracles.

When people truly are guilty of the terrible crimes being slanderously attributed to Rav Berland, they are very far away from God. God doesn’t do open miracles for people like that.

Throughout his three year exile, Rav Berland has continued to work miracles for literally hundreds of people, and you can hear many of their stories first-hand on the Knishta Hada hotline (mostly in Hebrew).

The reaction of other Tzadikim

As mentioned, there are unfortunately many scandals in the orthodox world, just as there are in every segment of society these days. Many years’ ago, I worked as a journalist on a Jewish paper, and I experienced my fair share of ‘bent’ Rabbis and the fall-out that came along with them.

Unfortunately, I’ve also had more recent experiences of very damaged individuals who are pretending to be Tzadikim. We live in a very mixed-up world, and not everyone who is a ‘Rabbi’ is a good, upright person.

BUT – when these ‘fake’ Rabbis are revealed for who and what they truly are, their support – especially amongst other religious leaders – usually dries up very fast. And even if they do continue to receive support, it’ll be ‘behind the scenes’ as opposed to being given in a public or open way. (It’s a separate post, but it’s useful to mention here that ‘birds of a feather flock together’ – true Rabbonim are normally connected to other true Rabbonim, and the reverse is unfortunately also true.)

Even after Rav Berland was publicly accused and went into exile,

ELIEZER BEN ETIA HAS ENJOYED UNWAVERING SUPPORT FROM SOME OF THE BIGGEST TRUE TZADIKIM IN THE COUNTRY.

Again, this point cannot be overstated. Tzadikim like Rav Shalom Arush, or Rabbi David Abuchatzeira, are at such a level of holiness that they can literally see straight through into a person’s Neshama.

They know if a person is telling the truth or lying, if they’re truly as good as they look, or not. Both of these Tzadikim – plus many, many more, including Rav David Kook in Tiveria, Rav Matityahu Glazerson, the Milkman plus Rav Elazar Mordechai Menser, have come out firmly in support of Rav Berland.

If he was truly guilty of the crimes he’s being accused of, this simply wouldn’t be the case.

Below, I’m bringing some of the more recent statements from these huge Rabbis, in defense of Rav Berland:

Click HERE to download an English Translation of the Knishta Hada newsletter put out by Shuvu Banim, that has many, many quotes from leading rabbis in defense of Rav Berland.

Plus some of the latest:

http://en.shuvubanimint.com/2016/02/02/watch-rabbi-matisyahu-glazerson-read-chief-rabbi-of-israel-yitzchak-yosefs-letter-requesting-diaspora-jews-to-host-and-accept-rabbi-berland-and-shuvu-banim/

http://shiratdevorah.blogspot.co.il/2016/05/his-return-will-usher-in-redemption.html – Rav Kook speaking about Rav Berland’s return to Israel

http://rabbieliezerberland.blogspot.co.il/2016/05/listen-to-words-of-rav-aaron-boymil-all.html – ‘All the Gedolim are praying for Rav Berland’

“Don’t think that only Anshei Shlomeinu in Breslov are praying for Rav Eliezer Berland, Shlita.  All of the bigAdmorimRabonim, and Tsadikim from the whole world are praying for the Rav, Shlita

“From Rav Shteinman to the Belz Admor, to the Gur Rebbe until Rav Kanievsky, everyone is praying for Rav Berland, Shlita, and are always interested in what is happening with him.  The gabbai of Rebbe David Abuchatzera, Shlita, called me personally last week and told me that the Rebbe wanted to know what’s happening with Rav Eliezer Berland,Shlita

“The house of Rav Shteinman called and wants to know what’s happening with HaRav.  The son of the Belz Rebbe himself called me to find out what’s going on with the Rav and said that his father wants to know.  It’s not that Rav Eliezer Berland, Shlita, is alone in the world and only his chassidim are the ones that care about him. 

“All the Gedolim of Israel from the whole world care about the Rav and are praying for him.”

If you’re casting aspersions against Rav Berland, aka Eliezer ben Etia, then you’re also casting aspersion against all of these Torah giants.

This is really the crux of the issue. There is no ‘middle way’ with Rav Berland and his Rabbinic supporters. Either, they are all huge Tzadikim that know something the rest of us don’t, OR they are all swindlers trying to deceive Am Yisrael.

I can only speak for myself, but my husband studies at Rav Arush’s yeshiva every day. We’ve seen Rav Arush in a number of situations, both our own and other people’s, and Rav Arush is 100% the real deal.

Ditto for Rav Ofer Erez, another one of Rav Berland’s old-time pupils and a staunch public defender of the Rav.

Who can dare to question the integrity of people like Rav Arush? Or Rav David Abuchatzeira? Or Rav Kook? Or the hundreds of other leading religious figures who have come out publicly in support of Rav Berland?

But that’s exactly what’s happening every time someone entertains the doubt that somehow, these Rabbonim either don’t know what they’re talking about, when it comes to Rav Berland, or that they’re also somehow ‘in’ on the whole thing.

“But why would people lie, like that?”

To people who live outside of Israel, it might seem strange that the people in authority here would view an elderly Rav like Rav Berland as being as big a threat as Hamas or ISIS. But when you live here – and you don’t believe everything you read in the media as being the gospel truth – it’s very easy to see how there is a whole swathe of the ruling elite who positively loathe religious people.

And religious people who are making more Jews religious, like them, are public enemy number one.

Why?

Because religious Jews aren’t going to vote for that ruling elite. And religious Jews have big families, which means they are going to ‘take over’ the country and turn it into Jewish Iran. And religious Jews (generally…) don’t believe in diplomacy, and land-for-peace, and ‘anything for an easy life’.

In the last 20 years, the baal Teshuva scene in Israel has exploded. That’s a very worrying trend for the ‘powers that be’, and they are very happy to do whatever they can to discredit Yiddishkeit, and its leaders, in any way they can.

Rav Berland is by no means the only Rav who’s recently been falsely persecuted by the authorities, and I highly recommend you go and research this issue for yourself.

In case you’re still in doubt, this link will take you to the story of the secular chief of police who was given the ‘job’ of framing Rav Berland. He came to Rav Arush in tears a few months’ back, wanting to know how he could fix his sin, because since then he’s gone through a divorce, been involved in a number or serious accidents, and has seen his life implode.

Click HERE to read that story for yourself, and hear the recording.

Rav Berland’s prophetic powers

Last but not least, I just wanted to mention that Rav Berland predicted the current intifada many months before it began, and has successfully been ‘ahead of the curve’ in a number of ways, even while in exile.

Read what Rav Berland said about the present Intifada a year before it began

The people around the Rav have experienced many ongoing open miracles, including recently when the South African police came to arrest the Rav, turned his hotel complex upside down looking for him, but apparently couldn’t ‘see’ him as he walked down the stairs straight in front of them, and left the building.

Hundreds of other people saw the Rav leave, only the South African police couldn’t see him….

This is the same point I made earlier: God doesn’t do open miracles like this for people who are guilty of the crimes that Rav Berland is accused of.

If you want to read more true, first-hand miracle stories about the Rav, which have happened since he left Israel, I highly recommend you pay a visit to his website, and particularly the following links:

TO SUM UP:

We live in very confused upside-down times. It’s impossible for us to know who to trust, or who to believe, if we’re not talking to God every single day.

If we talk to God every day and ask Him to help us, He will clue us in about who the hypocrites in our midst truly are – and there are many of them, at all levels of religious and non-religious Jewish society.

But that’s not the only way we can know what’s true.

If we have a Rav ourselves that we KNOW is the real deal, 100%, kosher (and again, if you’re not doing hitbodedut every single day, I wouldn’t rate your chances of being able to actually know that with any certainty) – and that Rav is 100% behind Rav Berland, dayenu.

Because only someone who’s 100% connected to God can tell if someone else is 100% connected to God, which is where our emunat tzadikim really comes in.

You don’t have to believe me, because I’m nothing and no-one.

BUT – to not believe Rav Arush? To not believe Rav Kook? To not believe Rav David Abuchatzeira?

That’s a huge problem, spiritually-speaking.

So let’s end our defense of Rav Berland with this:

  • Don’t believe everything you’re told by the media.
  • Check into everything yourself – and if you don’t have firsthand evidence, proceed with extreme caution.
  • Click on the links you’ve been given here, to help you fill out more of the picture
  • Ask yourself if so many of our most holy Tzadikim would really risk their souls and reputations to publicly come out in defense of someone who was guilty of what Rav Berland has been falsely accused of.
  • Think about whether you can honestly say that you know more about what’s going on than these holy Rabbis do – many of whom spent years learning with Rav Berland, many of whom are clearly the holy of holies in their own right, and many of whom are the most straight, upright, humble and tznius people you could ever hope to meet – about what’s really going on with Rav Berland.
  • Ask yourself if God would continually do so many open miracles – both personally and communally – for a person accused of what Rav Berland has been accused for.
  • For a deeper spiritual understanding of what’s really going on with Rav Berland, read THIS.

And then, pick your side.

On one side, Rav Berland, Rav Arush, Rav Kook and Rav Abuchatzeira et al.

On the other side: A bunch of low-life politicians, bent policemen, slanderous journalists and I don’t know who else.

There is no middle ground with this issue.

So, who’s side do YOU want to be on, when Moshiach shows up?

You can buy the biography about Rav Eliezer Berland, (Eliezer ben Etia) One in a Generation Volume 1, on Amazon, and on the Book Depository. Buy Volume 2 HERE.

UPDATE:

Today (June 3) is the day of Yesod she be Yesod in the counting of the Omer, or ‘foundation focusing on foundation’, or ‘sense of purpose focusing on sense of purpose’.

Yesterday, I got a phone call asking me if I’d heard any more about Rav Berland’s imminent arrival back in Israel. I hadn’t, but I sent my husband off to yeshiva to find out from his source if there was any more news.

Then, I did the usual trip around some of the geula blogs to see if anyone had anything about the Rav’s return. There was a post over on Shirat Devorah (see HERE) with a clip from Rav Dovid Kook, the kabbalist in Tiveria, explaining how Rav Berland’s return to Israel is going to usher in the redemption.

I so hope that’s the case.

This counting the Omer has been such an intense time, that maybe, just maybe, geula really is around the corner.

I hope that by the time you read this, today, Rav Berland WILL be back home, and that things WILL be proceeding geula-wise, the sweet way. Because today is ‘foundation of foundation’, and the biggest tzadikim are said to be the ‘foundation of the world’, so it would be very fitting if today was the day Rav Berland returned.

(BTW – if you haven’t yet paid your 98 nis monthly protection pidyon from terrorists, please go HERE to do that ASAP. Even if geula comes the sweet way, there’s still going to be quite a rough ride involved, at least in parts, until we really finish the process.)

As for me, I’m spiritually exhausted at the moment.

Every day since Rosh Chodesh Nissan has brought its own trials and tribulations, and ‘middot  growth opportunities’.  It seems to me that God is dealing out a whole bunch of last chances to people, to take their blinkers off and finally see what’s going down in their lives.

It’s like there’s all this spiritual light coming down into the world ahead of Moshiach, but wherever it hits a ‘blockage’, it’s causing a lot of pain and drama and anxiety. Clear the blockage (which is usually related to working on a bad character trait, or a weak connection to Hashem) – and the light can pass through your life easily again, giving everything a rosy, warm glow.

Don’t clear the blockage (which is what I’m still seeing SO many people do) – and you literally start to crack-up and go insane.

Thus it is that the problems are spiraling up out of control, the negative character traits are coming to the fore like never before, and the health issues are plummeting to greater depths.

Why?

Hashem gave us a clue as to why this is all happening in last week’s parsha, where we learned of the many curses that would befall Am Yisrael if they related to God ‘casually’. That’s an interesting word, isn’t it?

What does it mean to relate to God casually? Maybe, it means that we don’t even take God into account, and pretend like everything that happens is completely random and down to chance. Maybe, it means that even though we profess to be believing Jews, we still don’t want to admit that God is behind every tiny thing that’s going on in our lives, so we make big speeches about ‘how it’s impossible to know what God wants’, etc, or how ‘everyone has their troubles’, so we don’t need to be too fussed to try to work out WHY God is making us sick, or poor, or miserable.

Maybe, it means that we relate to God like a lifestyle choice, something to boost our energy and give us a high, like a good workout or spinach smoothie, just somehow better.

Or maybe, we talk about how God is going to do a whole bunch of things to everyone else, leaving us to blog contentedly about the destruction of the world that somehow isn’t going to affect us.

God wants us to put Him first, even when it’s inconvenient, uncomfortable and difficult. He wants us to explore every little thing that happens to us from a place of understanding that it’s part of the meaningful dialogue Hashem is trying to have with us, about what we need to acknowledge, work on, or fix, in some way.

To put it another way, we’re back to Rav Arush’s three rules of emuna, namely:

  • Hashem is doing everything in the world
  • Everything Hashem does is for the ultimate good
  • Everything is a message

Those three rules of emuna make every tiny thing that happens to us meaningful and important; the exact opposite of casual and insignificant.

God says: ‘You want to pretend like those kidney stones are just a fluke, and nothing to do with all your bad habits and character traits? Here, try this additional debilitating illness on for size!!’

And:

“You want to pretend that you’re hitting the skids financially just because of the economic downturn!? Here, I’m going to cut every source of income you have off from you, until you finally get the message that you need to start treating your wife (the pipe of all abundance in the home) better!”

And so on, and so forth. ‘A fury of casualness’ – a maelstrom of horrible illnesses, difficult experiences, poverty and ill-health, until we finally wake up and realize that none of it was ‘casual’ or ‘random’, and everything right from the start was God.

The last few weeks, I’ve had so many messages that despite all the hard work I’ve done the last few years, THERE ARE STILL THINGS THAT NEED SOME WORK, PRONTO!

Like anger. And resentment. And rage. And hatred.

(Viz: My husband discovered that the person who damaged the windscreen wiper on our brand new car was a neighbor who hates people parking in ‘his’ spot. I was so worked up when he told me I started fantasizing about spilling a box of tacks behind the neighbor’s front wheels etc. Then, I woke up and realized this! This horrible character trait is what God is telling me needs some work! Duh!)

So God has been giving me that work to do in spades, the last few weeks. IF Rav Berland makes it back today, BH, and if the geula kicks off as predicted by Rav Kook – well then, that all makes sense.

And if not?

I guess God is fast-tracking my Teshuva and character development for some other good reason, only known to Him. And I guess that’s OK, too.

Recently, I experienced something that distu disturbing things I’ve ever experienced was a group ‘spiritual healing’ session that was facilitated by an apparently ‘frum’ person.

I thought I was going to a demo of psychodrama, which is where a traumatized person asks different people to pretend to be their mum and dad, and then re-enacts certain scenarios with these ‘stand-ins’ where they get to speak up, run away, have a voice etc, often for the first time in their lives.

Bessel Van Der Kolk writes about how useful psychodrama can be for adult trauma victims who experienced very painful childhoods, so I wanted to go and hear about this approach first-hand.

That’s what I thought I was going to.

What I actually went to was something way different, and I want to share my experience with you, as I think it sums up how confusing, cloudy and even sinister things can be in the Jewish alternative health world.

I got there a couple of minutes late, when the ‘volunteer’ had already been picked, and people were sitting down in a circle, waiting for the action to begin. The facilitator asked the volunteer to pick stand-ins, who would represent different family members, and to arrange them in the middle of the circle. So far so good.

Then, the facilitator asked each of the ‘actors’ in turn about how they felt about one another, and of course, they all really loved each other, and everything was just fine and dandy.

In fact, things were so fine and dandy that it started to seem a bit pointless to me – I mean, a group of amateur actors aren’t exactly going to start revealing where all the family’s skeletons are buried, a) because they don’t actually know and b) because we all like a happy ending.

But then, as more people were picked to represent different, additional family members, something very weird started to happen.

One of the actors suddenly started to sob uncontrollably. Another one – a beautiful young girl – underwent a character transformation, that took her from being her sweet, innocent, optimistic self to a very cold, bitter and angry older woman.

It could be there were other things happening too, but because the change in the younger woman was so dramatic, I couldn’t take my eyes off her.

Long story short, the original volunteer, who’s family life history was now playing out in full colour in front of about 25 other people, was asked to join the tableau, and to start having conversations with all her ‘ancestors’.

It was clearly a very emotionally-charged event and tears were flowing freely.

But here’s the thing: As I was sitting there watching all this, I suddenly started picking up some very strong ‘feelings’ about the personalities of the ‘characters’ in front of me – and that’s when I started to freak out, because while I’m very good at reading people’s characters when they’re enclothed in a physical body and actually talking to me, I’ve never being able to read the character of some person who died a few decades’ ago, and who I’ve never met.

Afterwards, I was told that at least one of the participants also couldn’t describe what had just occurred, and said that the words she found herself saying were not really coming from her.

There were some powerful, powerful spiritual forces being unleashed in that room – and here’s where things get serious, because IF those powerful spiritual forces are mandated and accepted by orthodox Judaism, well, OK then.

But if they aren’t – then they weren’t coming from a good place. Now, I came late. It could be a prayer was said before I got there, or God was somehow involved by the facilitator in a way that wasn’t at all clear to me, I don’t know. But God wasn’t mentioned at all the whole time I was watching this, not even at the end when the facilitator told the volunteer that she’d just ‘fixed’ all her ancestral hurt and issues.

Really?

Really, you can have a group of people act like your long-dead family, and that ‘fixes’ the problem, spiritually?

Is that a Jewish idea? What about free choice? What about the idea that spiritual tikunnim actually require a lot of effort, a lot of change, and some truly difficult inner work?

I’m not ‘anti’ spiritual short-cuts if they’re coming from a good place, and they work. But this demonstration bothered me on a number of levels. As someone who’s worked very hard on trying to fix a whole bunch of stuff, I know how hard big tikunim can be sometimes – literally, you can spend years working on things and see very little movement.

So the apparent ‘ease’ of the process was problematic to me, as God very rarely works that way. The ‘other-world’ aspects of this process were also very disturbing to me, as I felt on many levels that in some way, the participants were being ‘possessed’ by spiritual forces that were external to them, and I just can’t see how that can be good, or kosher.

I felt terrible for the poor volunteer.

For all the facilitator was congratulating her on ‘fixing’ all her past and family issues, and telling her how wonderful she was going to feel now, if it was me who’d walked right into that very public display of my family’s dirty washing – in front of so many different people – that would be enough to give me a serious case of trauma, all by itself.

And lastly, I felt really bad about the actors. I mean, no-one asked them, or warned them, that they might have some sort of disembodied spirit taking them over for an hour. These things are serious, spiritually-speaking, and we can’t just mess around with them at a whim, or deal with them superficially, or follow the mores of different religions or different ‘experts’ as to what’s really going on and what long-term damage it might do – because they don’t know!

I came out of that ‘healing experience’ extremely confused and disturbed. I came home, told my daughter what I’d just seen, and she involuntarily shuddered and said:

‘Uggh, that sounds a bit like avoda zara to me,’ holy soul that she is.

After thinking about it a lot, and praying about it, and asking God for some clarity and guidance, I think she’s right.

Yes, Western medicine is corrupt, and drugs and surgery literally kill as much as they cure. Yes, a lot of the more alternative, natural treatments are much closer to the Torah ideal of how we should treat mental and physical illness – but not all of them.

As the alternative movement gathers steam in the world generally, and in the Jewish world more specifically, all of us need to really be on guard to check, double-check and check again that the treatments and therapies we’re engaging in really ARE kosher.

Just because someone looks frum, doesn’t mean things are being done in a genuinely frum way.

There’s a huge amount of clarification that’s required, as we inch forward into this more spiritual way of being before Moshiach. So don’t be scared to ask hard questions, to insist on being shown how God is being included in things, and which rabbis have mandated the approach or practices you’re being offered, and lastly, don’t be scared to stand up and walk away, if you have to.

That’s not always easy, but when you’re dealing with matters where the stakes are just so high, sometimes you simply have no other choice.

UPDATE:

Two years later, I happened to bump into the ‘volunteer’ by the grave of Rabbi Meir Baal HaNess In Tiveria. I asked her if she thought the ‘family constellation’ experience had helped her at all, to resolve the issues she’d been experienced. She replied that it hadn’t changed a thing. So, caveat emptor.

Last Thursday was Israel’s Independence Day, or Yom Ha-Atzmaut, and it’s always an interesting day in my household.

We don’t really fit the mold, religiously or communally, in myriad ways, and Yom Ha-Atzmaut always seems to underline that with a vengeance, because there are so many different decisions to make, like:

  • Do I hang a massive big flag outside the front of my house, like one of my kids wants me too? (even though we’re in a very chareidi neighborhood in Jerusalem that really doesn’t like that stuff so much?)
  • Do I stick an Israeli flag on my car, like another one of my kids really wants me too? (even though I’m worrying someone might deface it and / or try to vandalize my vehicle?)
  • Do I let my kids listen to music, even though it’s smack in the middle of the Omer, where you’re not meant to listen to music until you’ve got up to L’ag B’Omer, on the 33rd day?
  • Do I let myself listen to music, even though I’m not really 100% convinced that this is completely a chag the way the more hard-core dati leumi crowd (like my kids…) thinks it is?
  • Does my husband say Hallel? Does he say takanun?
  • Do we do the BBQ / Mangal thing (like 99% of Israel…) or pretend it’s just a regular day (like Meah Shearim, many former Gush Katif people, and my husband’s yeshiva?)

Questions, questions.

This year, I said: ‘OK! We can do the flag on the car!’

It seemed like a reasonable compromise between the various camps in my home. And we also decided to do a BBQ with my husband’s learning partner from yeshiva and his family, so at least they could talk Torah while we cooked the hotdogs.

Just, the flag thing wasn’t as simple as I thought. My daughter stuck the flag on, when we went to school. But the next morning, found it on the backseat, because my husband took it off when he went to daven in Meah Shearim (worried that someone would vandalize such an obviously Zionist car).

So, she stuck it back on – and he took it off – every day for a week, and sometimes, it happened multiple times, depending on where we were going and who was driving the car.

Finally, the day before Yom HaAtzmaut itself – someone DID vandalize the car, right next to where we lived, and snapped the flag off, leaving only a small, plastic stump to celebrate the holiday.

Over lunch, we discussed a little bit the whole ‘is it really a holiday’ thing.

Personally, my views on the subject seem to change every year, but this year I found myself in a place of quiet gratitude to God that there is an Israel to live in, however flawed, secular and difficult things still can be here, but still thinking that there’s a lot of work to do before we can really celebrate making it ‘back’, in the fullest sense of the word.

The day before the chag, a terrorist stabbed two old ladies in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Arnona, so like Rav Arush says, we can’t even celebrate walking safely in our streets just yet, let alone ‘redemption’ in the true spiritual meaning of the word.

Maybe next year, things will change enough to make it easier to know what to do with the flags, and the music, and the BBQ. I mean, if Moshiach and the Temple is here, then it’s a no-brainer that we’ll nip down to the altar for a wicked lamb shwarma, and then catch the sold-out concert by the Levyim in the Sultan’s Pool, as the fireworks go off over the new Jewish neighborhood of Silwan.

A girl can dream, can’t she?

One of my favorite Rebbe Nachman stories is ‘The Master of Prayer’, which tells the story of a King and his 9 advisors, and how they all get lost and separated from each other as a result of a raging storm-wind.

In the story, each of the 10 lost members of the King’s court becomes the King (or Queen) of a different, misguided faction, until they are reunited. One misguided faction decides that sex is the main point of life; another, that fine food is the goal; yet another, that wisdom is the key thing to pursue.

And then there’s the inhabitants of the Land of Money, who are so obsessed with money that they literally worship the wealthiest members of their land as ‘stars’ and ‘gods’, while treating the poorer inhabitants as lowly animals. In the Land of Money, how much bling you’re flashing around, how many zeros you have in the bank, that’s the only thing that counts, and that’s the only measure of success.

Most of the story revolves around the Master of Prayer’s attempts to rescue the inhabitants of the Land of Money from their delusions, and to reunite the King’s lost advisors – both of which he ultimately accomplishes.

In the story, Rebbe Nachman explains that the lust for money is the hardest one to overcome.

Elsewhere, he brings that Pesach is the festival that comes to rectify the lust for money. Which is where things now start to dove-tail in a pretty neat way, because we all know that Pesach is always just SO expensive.

Even if you live in Israel, and you’re not going crazy trying to find Kosher for Passover plasticware in triple-sealed bags, Pesach still costs money. The matzahs aren’t cheap; the wine isn’t cheap; you need a seder plate, different pots, different plates – it’s all money. And never mind if you’re staying in a hotel in Israel for the holiday. And never mind double if you’re trying to celebrate it in Chut L’Aretz.

Why is this?

One reason could well be that all the expense of Pesach is coming to rectify the lust for wealth, that has so many people in its grip these days.

So it was fitting that I learned the following things last week: I learned that someone who owns a company with a huge £25 million annual turnover (and £6 million gross annual profit) gives an enormous £1,000 to charity a year. (Let me translate this into shekels, for any non-Brits reading this: £6 million = 36 million shekels. £1k = 6,000 shekels)

To put it another way, they’re giving 1/6000 of their annual income to charity.

Can you imagine the embarrassment of these people, when they get up to Heaven and God starts asking them about their business dealings (which is always the first question, as God also knows how to schmooze)? First, it’ll be that puffed-up, super-successful ‘I’m a billionaire’ answer; then, God will hit them with the ‘and how much did you give to charity, from all your millions of pounds?’

And that’s when it’ll hit them: nowhere near enough.

What an embarrassment!

This week, I also met a bunch of people from the UK, some of whom asked me the standard opening gambit question of:

‘Am I working now?’

I said no – proudly – and explained that I’m writing books about holistic health instead.

They immediately changed the subject to something more interesting and meaningful, i.e. the luxury flat they’re currently building, as home number three.

I waited to see if I was going to get that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that used to happen when I’d walk into some of the ‘superior’ and ‘financially successful’ minefields laid out all over the place in London. But you know what? It didn’t come! After waiting a few minutes for any delayed reaction, I realized that I’d finally got out of the Land of Money, and that I didn’t give a stuff that I’d failed the finances test.

I’ve seen so many people with so much more money than me, in so many different circumstances and places, this Pesach.

I used to feel a little jealous about the apparent ‘easy life’ they seemed to have, but now I’ve realized something profound that’s changed the whole picture: When you live in the Land of Money, you’re far away from God.

Until and unless that changes, it doesn’t matter how much cash you’ve stashed, how big your mansion is, or how impressive your annual turnover is, when it comes down to the things that really make life meaningful, happy and fulfilling, you’re still pulling a big, fat ZERO.