How I discovered for myself that doing a pidyon nefesh with Rav Berland (aka Eliezer ben Etia) really works.
The last couple of years, I’ve been having an ‘interesting’ time, health-wise. If you’re occasionally visiting the spiritualselfhelp.org, you’ll know that I’m a big believer in soul, body and mind being intrinsically connected to each other.
In fact, that’s the main premise underpinning my next book that’s hopefully out soon, called ‘Talk to God and Fix Your Health’. The main idea is that physical illnesses are only the manifestation of ‘soul’ illnesses, which if they aren’t fixed at the spiritual level, next show up as ‘mental and emotional’ illnesses, and only then show up in the body.
As usual, I learn all this stuff the hard way.
I started writing that book to share my own experiences of getting stuck in a few incredibly difficult spiritual experiences, that had a massively negative impact on my emotional state, and then my physical health. To cut a very long story short, I had so many things going wrong the last couple of years’ that I got mired in a huge amount of desperation and despair, despite all my attempts to keep picking myself up in hitbodedut.
Let’s be clear that without the hitbodedut, I would not have come through losing my house, friends, business, money, faith in humanity and marbles anywhere near as easily as I did, but that doesn’t mean it was a ‘fun’ experience. There was one time last year, when me and my husband were utterly stuck financially, and we were reaching the end of the proceeds of selling our house that had been keeping us going, that I really felt as though my next move was going to be to a dumpster, God forbid.
I don’t know if you’ve ever hit that sort of low place in your own life, but let me tell you: if you stay there for any length of time, sooner or later it kills you.
You lose your will to live, to keep going, and that’s just not something that can continue for long without some serious consequences.
Things started to really turnaround last Chanuka, when I took a trip to Uman and spent most of it extremely angry at Rabbenu and God for dealing me such a difficult hand. But by the end of the trip, the anger had dissolved, the profound disappointment had surfaced, and the bad, icky stuff was finally making its exit, spiritually.
It still took a few months for things to pick up in my actual life: Baruch Hashem, around Purim my husband started working again, and Hashem sent Him some easy ways to make parnassa that enabled him to carry on learning part-time in yeshiva, which had been our big dilemma as it seemed as though he’d only be able to go back to work if he stopped learning.
But physically, I was still wrecked.
I’d been living on my nerves for years and it took its toll. I felt drained and fatigued a lot of the time, and dizzy and ‘out of it’. I upped my energy med stuff, I started doing 3 tikkun haklalis most days, I stuck lentils all over my hand (that’s a story for another time) and it all helped. But I was still not 100%, most days.
Rosh Hashana rolled around, and the first day I felt so ill. It miraculously lifted just as nightfall fell, and I wondered what sort of year I was going to have. I hoped it was going to be different, better, and I told God I couldn’t cope with another few years’ like the last ones I’d been through. No way, Hose.
Things mostly got better, but then ‘the matzav’ kicked off, and I found my stress levels were going through the roof, especially after my kid’s teacher’s husband got stabbed to death in the Old City.
My nervous system, which was slowly recovering after all the financial stress, and moving stress, and social stress, and spiritual stress of not knowing what God really wanted from us, took a nosedive again, and I started to get pretty bad headaches, and to feel pretty lousy again.
O no! And this time, I was still drinking green smoothies, eating veggies, walking everywhere and doing my daily energy exercises and doing hitbodedut. I’d also made my peace with a bunch of people and God, so I had no idea what else I could do to start to feel better (other than move to somewhere quiet where everyone’s over the age of 60, like Switzerland…)
Enter: Rabbi Berland, aka Eliezer ben Etia
They’ve started translating a whole bunch of things about Rav Berland into English, and God arranged for me to read one story after another about people he’d helped who were facing much more serious health issues than me. People who the doctors had given up on. People who really had reached the end of the line.
These people had done a pidyon nefesh with Rav Berland, and got better again. I sat on the fence for a whole month, but then as the headaches and weakness kicked-in again, I decided I had nothing to lose except a bit of cash. We got in touch, I emailed the gabbay details of the problem – and from the minute I sent the email, I started to feel better.
Last week, I paid over the pidyon money (it was quite a lot still, but nowhere near what I was expecting) – and I’ve broadly been headache free since then, despite having some ongoing huge stresses. (I know, I know, when are there not huge stresses?)
Somehow, the spiritual weight has been lifted off, and terrorists, school moves, financial issues and book production problems notwithstanding, I actually feel pretty darned good, BH!
But I was still cautious about rushing into print. I’ve learnt so many times that when I share these things, I get really tested on them, and I didn’t want to go back to feeling ill again. But then at the Baba Sali, I got nudged to write a public ‘thank you’ to Rav Berland, and to not worry about the outcome.
So here it is, in all its glory.
You can read more about Rav Berland’s pidyon nefesh HERE. You can get in touch and arrange your own pidyon nefesh HERE. You can read a whole bunch of background articles explaining how pidyon nefesh actually works and why HERE. And if you’re struggling with any serious or chronic health issue, I urge you to take the leap of faith, and contact his gabbay.