Antisemitism, USA: The Emuna Factor

Bomb Threat USA 2017 JCC
As soon as I got off the plane at the start of my recent trip to the USA, I received a call from a family very close to me in Chicago. They told me about a chain of antisemitic crimes in their neighborhood, one very close to their home. They were visibly and understandably concerned, especially for the welfare of their children.

For Breslev Israel and yours truly, St. Louis is one of our favorite cities and a bright star of emuna on America's Midwest map. Just this week, the historic "Chesed Shel Emet" Jewish cemetery there was terribly vandalized. Meanwhile, Jewish Community Centers in a dozen different US cities have received some sixty bomb threats recently.

It certainly seems that a tidal wave of antisemitism is in our faces lately. The question is, is this a new epidemic of Jew-hating on the rise, or simply old business?

It depends who you ask.

A Jerusalem Post editorial calls this a shocking rise. The Washington Post and the Forward both say that nothing is new and that there's no need for alarm. Who is right? Who do we believe?

We don't believe any of the above sources, for they all ignore the emuna factor. 

What do I mean by the emuna factor? The emuna factor is the only key to understanding the events around us, whether on a personal scale or on a national or international scale. The emuna factor tells us three key spiritual facts that underlie every event or occurrence in the universe; they are:

  1. Everything comes from the Almighty - the Rambam says in the 1st of the 13 Principles of Faith that, "He alone did, does and will do every deed."
  2. Everything the Almighty does is all for the best - there is no exception to this rule, whether or not we understand (See both The Garden of Emuna and The Trail to Tranquility for elaborate explanations of this point).
  3. Everything the Almighty does is all for an explicit purpose - no occurrence in the universe is random, happenstance or fate; it's all the result of precision Divine Providence down to the tiniest detail.

Now, let's apply the emuna factor to the current wave of antisemitism in the USA. We see that everything is coming from the Creator; He is using the free choice of the Jew-haters as an alarm clock to make American Jews stop and think that Jews can only trust in Him and not in their host country, despite their house with the swimming pool and tennis court in Great Neck or their posh 42nd floor condo overlooking the Atlantic in Miami Beach. Intrinsically, a Jew is no more safe in Monsey or Lakewood than he is living in Sderot or Gush Etzion. Hashem is reminding American Jewry that they need Him, not the ADL or any other activist organization.

The good news is that this wake-up call has been devoid of any bodily injury, Heaven forbid. The Almighty simply wants to arouse American Jews from their spiritual slumber. Glatt-kosher delis and pastry shops aren't what He's looking for. Hashem wants all of us to strengthen emuna. When we wake up in time, He won't need to send any louder wake-up calls.

Consequently, whether antisemitism in the USA is on the rise or whether it's old business is a moot question. The real question - the one that the future of the Jewish People depends on - is whether the Jews of America - and the Jews of Israel - will cast their eyes to the Almighty for salvation and not put their trust in all types of organizations and political leaders who really could care less about anything than their own padded seats. For that reason, as long as anyone worries about strengthening him/herself in emuna, he or she has nothing else to worry about, especially antisemitism, which is no more than a stick in the Almighty's all-powerful hands.

My esteemed and beloved teacher Rabbi Shalom Arush told me emphatically to make he following promise in his name: anyone who helps us spread emuna will be guaranteed Divine protection against any calamity, including antisemitism in the USA. If you'd like to help us to spread emuna to your city, drop us a line at staff@breslev.co.il. The light of emuna will readily disperse the darkness of evil.


Love with no Bounds

Loving Father
A person's main remedy in life is to maintain joy. Joy is above the intellect. Our true source of joy is remembering that Hashem loves every one of us unconditionally. His love knows no bounds and there are no limits to his compassion, mercy and loving-kindness, as we'll learn in today's emuna shiur.

Today's shiur and broadcast, entitled "Love with no Bounds", will take place, G-d willing, in the ground-floor main sanctuary of the Chut Shel Chessed Yeshiva on 13 Shmuel Hanavi Street in Jerusalem at 7PM Israel time (12 noon EST); the shiur is open to the public - both men and women are invited. You can see today's lesson here - the broadcast, as well as our lessons posted from now on - are Mac and iPod compatible. If you tune in too early to the live broadcast link, you'll be sent to the main page of the Breslev Israel website, so try to tune in on time.  If you are not able to view today's broadcast live, then G-d willing, you'll be able to see the video tape of it later this coming week on Lazer Beams. 


Kapparah!

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Life is never boring around here. Tonight, one of my younger boys got a hold of a hammer that some naive and irresponsible parent let him play with, and was running around with the hammer in his hand. As much as I would love to blame David, he was at work, so I'm still looking for another alibi. I am confident that I'll come up with something. 

The strange thing is that I heard a bang while I was in the kitchen and I saw him running like a crazy person with a hammer in his hand, yet it didn't register that the bang was actually the hammer hitting something. I have no idea why! And then, like hours later, I was talking with my father as I was sitting on the couch, and in mid-sentence, my eye caught the massive scars running through the windowpane. 

I happened to be on video chat with my dad, and all he could see was me suddenly looking off to the side, my eyes bugging out and my jaw suddenly hanging three inches open. He was like, "What? What?" I couldn't answer him. All I did was show him the evidence. He shook his head in belief.

Thank God a million times that there was only one piece of glass on the floor, and that was it! And double thank God that the glass didn't actually break into a million pieces in the house. Also, considering the enormous time lapse between the breaking of the glass and my realizing what happened, thank God no one stepped on any broken glass! Triple thank God that the glass didn't break the whole way through, because then there would be a huge hole in the window and freezing air would be coming in all night. And maybe a few chutzpah (nervy) cats. 

Instead of getting all freaked out about it, I realized that it happened for a reason, and that reason must definitely be to atone for hubby's sins. Because y'all out there know that I ain't got no sins. I have a talent for blaming everything I ever did wrong on my husband; even the things that I did before I met him. You know, because I was forced to spend much of my late teens and early '20's waiting for his sorry self to mature enough for me. Of course, the fact that no one got hurt made it much easier to accept this tribulation with love. I may be delusional, but I am not perfect. But maybe I am, if I'm delusional. I'm confusing myself. 

Just a question: if I identify as a perfect person, does that make me perfect? Like, if it works for people that want to identify themselves as the opposite gender and force people to recognize them as such, then why shouldn't it work for me? I've decided that I'm going to identify as a millionaire/perfect personality/gorgeous/dripping in diamonds and workout clothes/lady of leisure, and you're going to have to recognize me as such. And if you don't, I'm going to sue you in court for discrimination and not yielding reality to my warped fantasies. And I'm going to win. God bless America.

Back to the broken glass. You see, broken glass has the same gematria as kapparah, which means spiritual atonement. Like I said, it's much easier on the nerves and the stomach to recognize such unpleasant occurrences as a kapparah, and to be grateful that things weren't worse. Because what's the alternative? Torturing yourself? Wallowing in self-pity and wondering why this had to happen? Questioning if God loves you? Wondering if God even exists?

I tell you, emuna is the end-all and be-all of life. If we can train ourselves to believe that it's all good, especially when it looks all bad, this saves us tons of headache and heartache. Of course, in this case it doesn't save me the 1,000 shekel it's going to cost me to replace the window. Maybe Rav Arush can come up with a cure-all for that one, too.

Have an awesome day!

~Racheli


Heaven Help Me!

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I'm beginning to notice a new trend. After Shabbat, my stomach is on full display, sticking out like nobody's business. All week, I'm pretty good about not eating chewy, fluffy, soft, heavenly challah and desserts that explode with chocolate. But on Shabbat, something happens to me and I just. Can't. Resist. I'm at the challah's mercy, and no amount of inner war with myself is able to keep me from devouring these goodies.

Even cleaning up after the Shabbat meals is so difficult for me! I see half-eaten pieces of dessert strewn across the table, and even the saliva that one of my kids or guests left on them is not gross enough to keep me from wanting to eat them. At that point, I realize I'm in great danger, so I start to pray: "Hashem! Please help me to guard my eyes and not desire the dark, rich, moist chocolate cake! Hashem, have mercy on my wretched soul! What match am I against my Evil Inclination, who would like nothing more than to see me succumb to my desires and stuff my face with chocolate cake until I can't breathe?? Heaven help me!" 

As I shove the germ-infested pieces of chocolate cookies into my mouth in bitter defeat, I try to rationalize that there's always tomorrow, and I can start over again. That's great and all, but it doesn't help me fit into my workout clothes for the next three days. By the end of the week, I'm back to square one and ready to start my once-a-week war with my Yetzer. It's pure torture, I tell you! 

Why didn't Hashem answer my desperate call for help? After all, I did pray a very genuine and meaningful personal prayer from the depths of my tortured soul. Where was Hashem when I needed Him?

Ah, but of course! Rav Shalom Arush has the answer to my question! You see, it's not enough to pray once in a while to overcome your base desires, especially when you know you are a slave to them. You can't go from acting Like a Wild Donkey to behaving like a civilized human who is not controlled by every physical whim, just by praying a bit here and there. Nonsense! So how much time and effort should one invest if he's serious about overcoming his personal lusts? Well, you're gonna have to read the article, silly! As a matter of fact, maybe I should, too. I've got to finally approach Shabbat armed and ready for battle. 

As all of these feelings of imaginary hunger welled up inside of me as a result of reminiscing about my Shabbat sweets, I decided to channel all of that potential energy into eating a half a cold basil pesto chicken. Literally, I just ate half a chicken. With one hand. Because I didn't want to get the other hand dirty while typing. Subconsciously, I didn't want to fully give in to the chicken, so eating with one hand was a way of kind of resisting the fact that I was eating. Half a chicken. Also, I wanted to believe that there are half the calories since I only ate with one hand. 

Speaking of halves (it's not "halfs," right?) Rav Lazer Brody writes about the mitzvah of giving half a shekel on Rosh Chodesh Adar, which is just around the corner! Yesh! I'm already shopping around for Purim costumes for myself. And the kids. But before we get that far, Rav Brody explains to us the spiritual meaning behind the concept of giving half a shekel, by using the make-you-weak-in-the-knees example of The Duet.  Seriously, I think he could have made a fortune writing romance novels. What do I mean? You'll have to read the article to know what I'm talking about! 

You know, the concept of half applies to marriage, too. A man is considered half a man before he's married. Like I tell David all the time, "You're only half a man without me, because I'm the other half." Speaking of romantic marriages, you don't want to miss my story about the most romantic honeymoon ever in the history of honeymoons. I'm talking about my honeymoon, in fact, and I'm being completely sarcastic. Actually, our honeymoon was the first time my husband saw the Iraqi Eyes come out. That sounds exotic and all, but it's really quite scary. Believe me, you've got to read this one! And I'm not saying that just because I wrote it. Promise!

Okay, this next article is one that I can totally not relate to, because Dr. Zev Ballen, our amazing Emuna Therapist, talks about a person's selfish streak. Believe me, hubby has a streak big enough for the both of us. Does that mean I have half a streak? I guess. Anyhow, Dr. Ballen explains that there is a way to overcome The Selfish Streak, and it's not as difficult as you might think! Well, his way isn't as difficult as my way. My way can be summed up in one word: marriage. I'm going to forward this article to David asap. 

OMG I can't believe that this concept of half is popping up again. But this time, it's not in a good way. Rebbetzin Yehudit Channen, our other incredible Emuna Therapist, describes the excruciatingly painful time in her life when her sister, Rivka, suddenly became a paraplegic at age 45. Overnight, she went from being an active, vivacious woman to being stuck in a wheelchair without having any feeling from the waist down. How does one spiritually recover and even grow from such an impossible situation? You'll have to read Yehudit's life-changing insights in Lean on Me. 

After reading Jennifer Woodward's latest article, I'm so relieved that I'm not the only stubborn one around here. Okay, she doesn't live here, in Israel; she lives in the Pacific Northwest, which is almost like Israel, except for the 8 feet snow that can fall in 36 hours. She learned the hard way that doing things the hard way isn't always the best way, and finally came to the conclusion that there is a weird connection between Ice Spikes and emuna. Go figure. What are ice spikes? Great question! Read the article.

As I'm wondering how to cancel out all that chicken I just ate, Lori Steiner comes along and tells me how to Neutralize It!  So maybe she wasn't referring to the chicken, as how can she write about me eating something like two weeks before I eat it, right? But seriously, she gives us awesome tips that will help us turn around any negative situation. Thanks, Lori! Now can you work on the same concept with food? But without actually having to not eat the food? What does that even mean?

I'm so tired I can't see straight. Hinda Lieberman also couldn't see straight, but not because she was tired. It's because her glasses were broken. As exciting as that sounds, the really amazing thing is how she figured out a misunderstanding that had gone on for six months, during which she assumed the other guy was wrong. How did she finally manage to remember what really happened six months before? I can't even remember what happened yesterday! It was during her Personal Prayer session, of course! We can all learn from her example that personal prayer helps with everything - even unsettled accounts! 

Wishing you a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious week! Of course I didn't actually write that word!

~Racheli


Who Did What in Washington?

Shavua Tov, blessings for a wonderful new week!

First of all, I'm happy to report that I arrived home safely to my beloved homeland this past Thursday night.

When our speaking tour in LA, Houston and Monsey, New York was concluded, Rav Arush continued on to Latin America with my Spanish-speaking colleague, Rabbi Yonatan Gal'ed. I boarded the Amtrac from NYC to DC, looking forward to visiting my 90-year-old Mom, may Hashem bless her, and spending some two days of cherished chill-time with my two brothers in the DC area. Hashem had different plans. As soon as I arrived in DC, I took a cab to Mom's apartment in an assisted-living facility on Connecticut Avenue. I found her choking for breath; she was suffering from pneumonia and congestive heart failure. She had to be rushed to the hospital. For 48 hours, things were touch and go but with Hashem's mercy, she bounced back.

When I wasn't with Mom in the hospital, I was spending as much time as I could out in the woods by the Northwest Branch of the Potomac, near where my brother ZZ lives. When I came back to his house after my personal prayer session (yes - Hashem is in the Washington, DC area too), we went to Mincha prayers at his synagogue. One man greeted me and said, "Hey, Rabbi Lazer - you arrived here the same day that Bibi did! Do you plan to go the White House too?"

"To tell you the truth," I said, "my only reason to go the White House would be to give Donald Trump a copy of The Garden of Emuna and The Trail to Tranquility. Other than that, Hashem has a fantastic office out on the Northeast Brach trail - I just went there to visit Him. Beats the White House anytime." The man who greeted me walked away. He looked at me as if I had nerve talking about emuna in a synagogue...

It turns out that at the same time I was talking to Hashem in the woods right outside Washington, DC, Bibi was talking to Trump in the White House. Bibi should have joined me in the woods.

Why?

When you speak to Hashem, you get results. Maybe your request isn't fulfilled on the spot, but you right away get closer to Hashem, something that's conducive to every blessing in life.

When you speak to flesh and blood, you never know what you're getting. Already, people are baffled by President Trump's confusing positions where he seems to be backing down from campaign promises. But Trump doesn't run the world - Hashem does. Rather than putting trust in him, Israel should put its entire trust in Hashem, for whatever Hashem decides, that's what will be.

Next time Bibi comes to Washington, he should include this place in his itinerary - for results, it beats the White House:


Keep Moving Forward

Coconut rice & vegetables

Mmmm, mmmm! Doesn't that look just delicious? Here's another one of my friend Tena's healthy and delicious creations. It's coconut rice and mixed vegetables. I'm so frustrated that I can't eat it right now. Tena, will you please reconsider moving in with me? I'll even let you put my kids to bed and spend 1-on-5 quality time with them while I'm out enjoying my peace and quiet. At least think about it. 

If you want this recipe, email me at racheli@breslev.co.il and I'll send it to you!

What does this picture have to do with the title of this post? Well, nothing, really. I didn't want to put a picture of a guy on a moving walkway, and I'm hungry, so I thought I could at least enjoy looking at yummy food if I can't eat it right now. But now I realized that I actually made things worse for myself. Great, my stomach is grumbling.

So let's talk about this title. What does it mean to move forward in life? It means that you're evolving in your personality and abilities. For example: I was realizing lately that I have greatly improved my Zumba skills, to the point where I'm not tripping over myself and bumping into other people. Okay, so I'm not really bad at all, but I have seen a great improvement. My sister calls me the JLo of Beit Shemesh. I kinda like that! 

As it happens, I love to lift weights as well. I've gotten to be friendly with many of the women in the gym, but I've noticed over the past 8 months that many of them stay at the same level they were on when I joined. In 8 months, I've increased the amount of weights I'm lifting several times. It's very motivating to see myself getting stronger.

But I wonder why some of the others stay at the same level of weights. I actually told one woman that she could clearly lift heavier weights, but she refused to even try, saying it was too hard. 

Unfortunately, this is how many of us behave in life. Hashem is trying to push us to the next level, but how many times do we refuse to budge because we think it will be too hard? Fear of the unknown and fear of failure can be completely incapacitating, and can cause us to freeze in our forward progression in life.

That's why emuna is so key. When we learn to trust Hashem, to believe that we can handle the situations He's trying to put us in for our own personal growth, this is when we are able to move forward. 

What about when things aren't clear? When we're not sure if the direction we're being pushed in is actually what Hashem wants for us? The only way to know is to talk to Hashem about it. Tell Him you're confused and you need clarity, so you can make the right decision. 

We all have so much untapped potential hiding inside of us; things that we can do that we never imagined were possible. Do you not know what your hidden talents are? Do you want to develop the talents that you're already aware of? Then ask Hashem for help! 

I really believe that everyone has a certain gift that Hashem gave them. Whether it's art, music, helping others, cooking, being empathetic, etc., each one of you has a special and brilliant diamond inside that's just waiting to sparkle. Your potential is so much greater than what you're aware of. You just have to ask Hashem to help you reveal it.

Wishing you a wonderful and insightful Shabbat!

~Racheli


The Countdown Begins

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Yesh! That's Hebrew for "Yes!" Tomorrow, David will be home! I don't know why I'm so excited, because it just means more laundry, more mess, more cooking, more dishes, OMG I just realized I went through the same feelings last time he came back from his trip. Does that mean I have conflicting feelings about my husband? I'd better speak with Rebbetzin Channen, our Emuna Therapist, about this.

Today, he had 25 minutes to run into a store and buy a "few" things, since predictably he went over the weight limit. I told him not to order so much stuff, but he didn't listen! Okay, you know I'm being completely sarcastic, right? In my defense, it's hard to remember what I ordered, and to figure out if it's all gonna fit in one suitcase. Since he had another 50 pounds of space, he did a power shopping run at one of the discount stores, 'cause that's how we roll. 

I wanted a new pair of slippers, so he starts sending me pictures of slippers. Then, I started to wonder where I can make myself a T-shirt that says: "My husband traveled the world with Rav Arush and all I got were these lousy slippers." Wait. That wouldn't make sense. I can't talk about slippers on my T-shirt. Can I put a caption like that on my new slippers? You see what happens to my brain when it's overtired? It don't think straight.

Check this out:

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And this:

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That is so not cool. Why is he sending me pictures of these things? More importantly, why don't we have them in Israel? Isn't it so weird that there are more and better kosher options outside of Israel than in Israel? It's the Yetzer, man! The Yetzer, I tell you!

I'd better get some rest so I can be ready to tackle the  extra 100 pounds of dirty laundry I'm going to have to do this week.

Yipee. 

My thinking is cloudy, and I'm trying to figure out an emuna angle to all this. Yesh! Here it is. It's been a long almost-two weeks. Thank G-d things were normal with the kids. By normal, I mean the usual amount of screaming, fighting, crying, and refusing to brush teeth and get into and out of bed. But throughout the times when my husband travels, it's comforting to know that one day the trip will be over, and life will go back to its regular routine, G-d willing.

Many of us suffer through very long periods of extremely challenging and difficult times. These days, no one has it easy. But with emuna, we can help relieve a lot of the negative feelings we have about going through such trying experiences. One day, the tough times will pass, and Hashem will show us how much we have accomplished and how much we have grown and learned, especially from the challenges.

Let's make an effort to really internalize this message, because the alternative isn't that great, right? In life, we basically have two choices: to suffer by believing that everything is random and without a purpose, or to believe that everything is orchestrated by God for reasons we can't possibly understand. Isn't the second one so much better?

I'd love to hear your stories of how you have grown through difficult times and have seen in the end that what you went through was the best thing for you. You can write in a comment, or email me at racheli@breslev.co.il

Have a wonderful day!

~Racheli