journey

Even though the world is half ‘back to normal’, at least for now, it’s still not an easy place to be.

You can see it in large and small ways, like, for example, the way people are driving on the streets. Israel has never been a ‘polite’ society of drivers, to put it mildly, but things have gotten even worse here, the last few months, as a direct result of all the ‘torture’ we’ve been through the last couple of years.

And that comes out on the roads, where more and more drivers refuse to give way; more and more drivers aggressively try to push in; people speed like crazies; they weave between lines, totally spaced-out; they drive super-slowly, because they are really scared to be driving at all.

The driving shows that a lot of people are in a really bad space, mentally, at the moment.

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But who said that the run-up to Moshiach and geula was meant to be ‘easy’?

Who said, that the world, and us within it, was just meant to carry on its merry way, until one day Moshiach showed up and TA-DA!!! Just like that, we’re into geula and the world of truth?

That there was nothing left to do except polish some buttons?

That’s a Disney-fication of geula; a fiction, a child’s bedtime story.

And once we understand that, then we start to also understand why life is challenging each and every one of us, in some very difficult ways.

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A few days ago, I had some long email exchanges with someone who has been through a very difficult patch for the last few years, in just about every way.

Financial issues, health issues, relationship issues, social issues. And throughout it all, the test was to stay close to Hashem, to stay close to His Torah, and to not give up and ‘frei out’.

This is some of what they wrote to me, about what they have been learning from that whole process of real, painful, soul-wrenching teshuva. The kind of teshuva that really gets a person into the world of truth, and out of the world of Disney-fied lies.

With their permission, I’m sharing it below.

(English is not their first language, so this may be a little clunky in parts.)

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It is easier to blame others than to work on oneself.

It is not easy to take time to pray or read Tehillim etc, instead of spending the day watching movies or sports or whatever they like.

It is not easy to accept your own guilt, it is easier to blame others for what they are doing to me.

It is not easy to remain silent.

It is not easy to forget offenses and grudges.

==

It is not easy to work on your middot.

I have had a slow and painful process, but we have fought every day to eradicate bad behaviors.

We fail, we get angry, we fall, we get up, we continue, we suffer and we try again.

And in the middle of all that there is so much pain, wounded pride, ego on the ground.

It is easier to turn around, turn your face and blame someone else, like your parents, partner, children, boss, even Hashem.

Being a victim will always be easier.

====

Me and my husband went through what I’ll euphemistically call a ‘bad patch’ for around 12 years, shortly after we made aliyah.

We had severe financial issues, lost our home twice, health issues, miscarriages, ‘social outcast’ issues for being English-speaking Breslovers (back before that was acceptable…), more ‘social outcast’ issues for discovering Rav Berland, family problems – you name it.

Hashem threw everything at us, except the kitchen sink.

And the first few years, I just kept whining about why is God doing this to me?? Why is He punishing me so much?!

Then one day, after years and years of doing hitbodedut for an hour every single day, I finally realised something that changed the whole picture:

I totally deserve everything that is happening to me, and probably, I deserve even more.

====

We all have bad middot, we all have work to do, to fix our souls.

That’s why we are down here, walking around.

There is a job to be done here, and it’s a messy, painful and often exhausting process.

God, in His great kindness, tries the gentle approach first, to get us to change and shift, and to recognise that WE have the problem, not everyone else around us.

But if we refuse to accept that WE are the ones that need to change, that WE aren’t perfect, that WE have a lot of flaws and ego and bad middot that are often hidden, but nearly always justified or whitewashed even when they do come out from under the parapet – then that’s when life often has to get really difficult.

And this is not a ‘punishment’, difficult as it is to through all that horrible stuff.

It’s the process that most of us have to go through, to stop blaming other people for our problems and to actually get to work on fixing our bad middot – the whole point of being alive.

====

I look back at those 12 years of torture now, and I can see how much I benefited from them, in so many different ways.

The financial difficulties finally got me out of ‘house buying OCD’, where all you do is obsess over how much your house has increased in value, and how much better or worse your neighbor’s house is.

The miscarriages taught me how very precious my children really are, and how much they deserved to have a parent who would do their best to really listen to them, and really try to put what was good for them ahead of what was easier and more comfortable for me.

The health issues taught me about my limitations, as a human being, and how good health is the single biggest present God can give a person. Something I was totally taking for granted, before I was ill.

And being a social outcast for a few years also taught me so much, not least, that you have to be nice to people, if you want to have friends.

And also, that while it’s nice to be ‘socially accepted’, there are some things – maybe, a lot of things – that are still worth losing your friends and social status over.

====

Point is, all the difficulties, all the suffering, they rubbed off a lot of the ‘hard edges’ of my yetzer hara.

And at this stage, while I pray I’ll never have to go through all that again, I am still experiencing enormous benefits of going through that very painful process.

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Being a ‘victim’ will always be easier, in some short-sighted, temporary ways.

Blaming other people for our own issues and flaws means we can continue to duck the real work to be done, and continue walking on our self-righteous way, as the ‘Ms or Mr Perfect’ in the picture, where everyone else has got a hell of a lot of work to do to get to geula, while we just carry on polishing some buttons.

But that’s not the Breslov path.

It’s not the path of Rebbe Nachman, it’s not the path of real emuna.

And it doesn’t lead a person to the ultimate goal, tachlis, of fixing their souls, and actually doing the job we were all sent down here to do.

====

One last thing:

It’s only when I finally got to Rav Berland, that the enormous suffering we had been enduring for years finally started to let up, and to get ‘sweetened’.

The more of his teachings I started to learn, the more of his prayers I started to say, the more charity and pidyonot  I started sending in his direction, the sweeter my life got.

To give one concrete example, reading Rav Berland’s small compendium of prayers to get rid of anger (which you can find HERE) literally defused my anger in half an hour.

I’m half-Moroccan, and in the past, the anger came very fast – and did a lot of damage, especially to the people around me like my husband and kids.

I’ve been working on, praying about, my anger for years and years, in hitbodedut.

But reading that little booklet of Rav Berland’s prayers is like a short-cut, for when I’ve had some strong (justified….) feelings of anger that even the hitbodedut couldn’t really get rid of.

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We are here to work very hard on acknowledging and uprooting our bad middot, not to just ‘polish buttons’.

And there is a ton of that hard work to do, before we can really step out of the world of lies, and into the world of truth.

So, take heart, dear reader.

This process is difficult, painful, and sometimes so hard to endure.

But it’s also totally deserved, and leading us to where we need to be, to really be part of geula and that world of truth.

But only if we stop blaming everyone else, come out of denial about our own bad middot, and knuckle down to the real work of actually trying to fix them.

====

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17 replies
  1. Hannah
    Hannah says:

    Dear Rivka, somehow you are describing my life with different tests than yours but the process and the outcome are similar. And I cannot thank you enough for having showed me the path to the Rav.

    Reply
  2. JR
    JR says:

    “The driving shows that a lot of people are in a really bad space, mentally, at the moment.”

    Fortunately, long term trends show driving in Israel is getting safer. See here: https://www.itf-oecd.org/sites/default/files/israel-road-safety.pdf
    “The long-term trend shows that traffic in Israel has become safer for moped riders, pedestrians and passenger car occupants”
    I’ve heard countless times from Americans how lousy Israeli drivers are, but the statistics show Israel’s roads to be safer than the USA.

    “people speed like crazies… they drive super-slowly”
    As the old joke goes: ” “anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac”
    The truth is that you’re not going to notice the hundreds of sane safe drivers who are driver liking you. (Though an old-timer told me that he davka notices the gracious drivers who so often yield to him- something that was uncommon for him fifty years ago.) The outlying “idiots” & “maniacs” are going to get all the attention.
    That being the case, there are some fine traffic safety organizations out there that can use donations and volunteers.

    Reply
    • Rivka Levy
      Rivka Levy says:

      JR – I wanted to ask you what you think about that tweet from Germany’s health ministry showing that 1 in every 2000 injected people are suffering from severe illnesses as a result of the Covid shots?

      Do you think maybe ‘the conspiracy theorists’ also managed to hack into the German government’s Twitter account, to send out fake stats that have no basis in reality?

      Reply
      • JR
        JR says:

        The number I saw was 1 in 5000. Are those independently verified or self-reported? What are these side effects? Are they serious? Are they temporary?
        Are they actually caused by the shots?
        All these questions need to be answered, and the risk of the vaccines needs to be measured against their benefit. This is especially the case when the benefit of the vaccinates have been waning due to the new variants. It could be that it may longer be recommended for lower risk individuals (e.g. young people without health issues) to take the vaccines. Perhaps, with enough data we can establish finely grained recommendations to different subsections of the population.
        These issues must be addressed soberly, with clear scientific evidence and without hysteria.
        And it goes without saying that governments must make transparency a priority.

        Reply
        • Shimshon
          Shimshon says:

          https://virologyj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12985-022-01831-0

          “Adverse effects of COVID-19 vaccines and measures to prevent them”

          “Recently, The Lancet published a study on the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines and the waning of immunity with time. The study showed that immune function among vaccinated individuals 8 months after the administration of two doses of COVID-19 vaccine was lower than that among the unvaccinated individuals. According to European Medicines Agency recommendations, frequent COVID-19 booster shots could adversely affect the immune response and may not be feasible.
          ….
          These clinical alterations may explain the association reported between COVID-19 vaccination and shingles.

          Hmm, reduced general immunity. Not just reduced response to Covid reinfection. After eight months, with no noticeable reduction in effect. Give it up, JR. Best to accept the snowballing truth now instead of later.

          Reply
          • JR
            JR says:

            That citation is not a study, but an opinion piece. Try to cite first sources.

            Why not refer to the actual Lancet paper itself and cite where it claims reduced general immunity”?

            Please cite proof that the vaccine can cause a flare up of shingles. Provide actual numbers, and then compare them with the association with covid infection and shingles. If the covid vaccination is less likely to cause shingles than covid infection, then you’ve got no claim. If covid vaccination is more likely to cause shingles than covid infection, then you still have work to do. That because the amount of expected excess cases of shingles may be low enough to consider it a rare side effect that doesn’t erase the overall advantage of whatever immunity the vaccination provides.
            A further question would be whether the shingles concern should affect both those who’ve had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine equally.

    • Simon
      Simon says:

      Yes, my favorite “syndrome”, death.
      As God said, “From dust you are and to death syndrome shall you succumb.”

      Reply
      • Shimshon
        Shimshon says:

        Are you being sarcastic or serious? Sarcasm does not translate well from spoken to written.

        “Look at how close together the dates are! All three died in a 3 day period just days after they gave the 4th shot. All are young doctors.”

        Reply
    • JR
      JR says:

      He’s citing the story of unexplained deaths of three young physicians in Mississauga (suburb of Toronto) in a short period of time, and implicates the vaccine. This is very very poor science. Not only hasn’t he shown the vaccine to be the cause, but he hasn’t shown that the event is remarkable. Statistics do allow for rare events to occur sequentially on occasion. Given enough places, and enough time these “coincidences” will occur.

      Now, Mississauga has a population of 700,000 people. I don’t know how many young doctors it has. Suppose that number is x. The question then becomes: is Mississauga remarkable in that 3 out of those x doctors died within a few days? If not, then we should see most other similar cities with about x young doctors across the world experience such a tragic event. Why hasn’t Kirsch mentioned these other places? Either he hasn’t done his research properly or Mississauga is unique.
      But if Mississauga is unique, then vaccination which is not unique to Mississauga can’t be the sole explanation.
      Is this the first time Mississauga ever suffered from such a tragedy in its medical community? Has Kirsch shown that the current tragedy has not occurred before? If not, then Kirsch hasn’t done his research properly. If yes (which he hasn’t) then the current tragedy is not unique and can’t be so easily pinned on vaccinations.

      ” snowballing truth”
      Errors can snowball too.

      Reply
      • Shimshon
        Shimshon says:

        The usual resort to “correlation is not causation” idiocy.

        The aphorism is not true. It may or may not be true, because sometimes correlation equals causation, and other times it does not. A correct form of the aphorism would be: correlation does not necessarily equal causation. But that is too nuanced for the “show me the science” morons.

        JR, it’s not science, poor or otherwise. I never said it was. It is yet another observation in a very large body of observations. If there were no actual problem, you would not be seeing clearly orchestrated reports in the media about “SADS” and the like. As I mentioned, the only reliable metric to know something is seriously wrong is the total number of excess deaths, and they are skyrocketing. Also of note is the total number of births in various places that is cratering. But to you, it’s all just a series of coincidences, eh?

        So much verbiage to say so little of substance. Are you too lazy to do any research yourself? Clearly, you are, or too lacking in curiosity and discernment. The Lancet study is cited directly in the link I provided, retard:

        Nordström P, Ballin M, Nordström A. Risk of infection, hospitalisation, and death up to 9 months after a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine: a retrospective, total population cohort study in Sweden. Lancet. 2022;399:814–23. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(22)00089-7.

        Reply
  3. JR
    JR says:

    “The usual resort to “correlation is not causation” idiocy.”
    It’s not idiocy. It’s the basis of scientific research. Buy why harp on that when the bulk of my comment was that you don’t even have “correlation”? You haven’t shown the event to be anything more than a statistical fluke. It’s an anecdote.

    “It is yet another observation in a very large body of observations.”
    Observations of what? It’s also an observation in a colossal body of non-observations.

    ” As I mentioned, the only reliable metric to know something is seriously wrong is the total number of excess deaths”
    So why did you bring up the Kirsch story, if it’s not a reliable metric?

    “Also of note is the total number of births in various places… ”
    Why “various” and not “all”? Sounds like cherry picking.

    “Are you too lazy to do any research yourself?”
    On the contrary, every time I research anti-vax claims I find flaws in those claims.

    “The Lancet study is cited directly in the link I provided”
    But the Lancet doesn’t say what you claim it says. The “Methods” clearly lists only two outcomes studies- both relating to covid. You incorrectly claimed “reduced general immunity” and the paper doesn’t even address general immunity- reduced or otherwise. That’s why I asked you “Why not refer to the actual Lancet paper itself and cite where it claims reduced general immunity”?”
    So, instead of changing the topic- answer one question: Where in the Lancet study do they claim that the vaccine may reduce general immunity?

    Reply
  4. Shimshon
    Shimshon says:

    “Why “various” and not “all”? Sounds like cherry picking.”

    I cannot say “all” because I don’t know. I don’t lie and resort to sophistry. I do not go hunting for this information. It is placed in front of me by others, like this blog here. Taiwan, Germany, and other nations have seen alarming declines in births. 10% would be bad enough. 20% or more in one year is, as one of these observers noted, a S20+ event. This is approaching the odds for winning the lottery, if not surpassing it. Since you don’t care for facts, which is not a surprise, putting them in front of your eyes will not accomplish anything anything.

    “But the Lancet doesn’t say what you claim it says.”

    Again with the sophistry. I didn’t claim anything. Do you need it spelled out? Regardless of what the text of the Lancet study says to you, the letter summarizes its claim thusly:

    “The study showed that immune function among vaccinated individuals 8 months after the administration of two doses of COVID-19 vaccine was lower than that among unvaccinated individuals. These findings were more pronounced in older adults and individuals with pre-existing conditions.”

    The immunity for the mudbloods was LOWER than the purebloods, many months later. Is this so hard to comprehend or acknowledge?

    This is a claim of a policy change or justification that should be easily verifiable: “According to European Medicines Agency recommendations, frequent COVID-19 booster shots could adversely affect the immune response and may not be feasible.”

    Much of the rest of the LETTER (as opposed to the STUDY), is speculative. It too claims nothing. For example: “These clinical alterations MAY [emphasis mine] explain the association reported between COVID-19 vaccination and shingles.” If such an association has been observed, then this is a case where correlation may equal causation, or it may not. It is retarded to say definitively that it does not.

    Reply
    • Shimshon
      Shimshon says:

      JR, as far as the claim in the letter, it could perhaps be hinted at here in the study itself:

      From thereon, the waning became more pronounced, and from day 211 onwards there was no remaining detectable vaccine effectiveness (23% [-2 to 41]; p=0·07).

      Except, when they say “no remaining detectable vaccine effectiveness” they mean, “negative to zero effectiveness,” just like the letter says. The aggregated numbers in the table, when analyzed, will probably reveal the same. If you think what the letter claims is baseless, how about you explain it, and not just tell us that the word salad verbiage says no such thing.

      Reply
      • JR
        JR says:

        “it could perhaps be hinted”
        Perhaps? Hinted?
        In other words, it’s not there. The “summary” you refer to is wrong.
        For the third time: where does the Lancet paper refer to “reduced general immunity”? It doesn’t. It’s an incorrect extrapolation.

        Reply
        • Shimshon
          Shimshon says:

          JR, look at Table 3, section “>180 days”, and particularly, since they were noted in the letter, (also published, thus subject to oversight and review), the subsections “Age ≥80 years” and “Any comorbidity”. The researchers can phrase things any way they like. The tables, however, don’t lie.

          https://www.thelancet.com/action/showFullTableHTML?isHtml=true&tableId=tbl3&pii=S0140-6736%2822%2900089-7

          You are so retarded and literal you need it spelled out for you like a child. Research papers, particularly when going against the conventional wisdom, do not do this. Publish or perish applies here as much as anywhere. This is when they don’t outright fudge the data altogether (for one powerful and recent example: it’s only now coming to wider awareness that the entirety of Alzheimer’s research for the last ~20 years was based on fraudulent research). They minimize findings with phrases like “no remaining detectable vaccine effectiveness” when it is very clear what is happening is “negative to zero immune response”.

          Reply
          • Shimshon
            Shimshon says:

            I know I have to clarify for the likes of JR. Obviously I meant something more like “negative to zero immune response change from baseline”. Pounce away JR.

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