Chodesh Tov to everyone of my dear readers. May this Nissan bring the Geulah we are waiting for with such fervor and trepidation. Please, Hashem, send us Mashiach now! Amen.
Look at this revelation from Above I just discovered! Who was it that said that the coronavirus pandemic is a direct result of the persecution and badmouthing of the Tzaddik of the generation? Quite a few said so (I don't have all the sources offhand but clearly remember reading and hearing this - I found one and added it to the first comment below, check it out).
Now however, see for yourselves, and ask yourselves if this could possibly be true. Could it be that the coronavirus is a direct result of badmouthing and attacking the Rav?
First, see the shocking editorial on Arutz7 from three weeks ago, just as Rav Berland was being arrested. The glee, the delight, the lashon hara, the sarcasm.... I want you to read it carefully, not because I believe in it, but so you can see what happens next.
- On March 5th, 2020, right after the Israeli elections, the video about the Rav was shown on Kan 11 - this editorial, dated the same day, mentions it. That is also the day I wrote my previous article about the Rav called "Setting the record straight on Rav Berland...".
- Then on March 11, 2020, Shushan Purim, Governor Cuomo designates New Rochelle, NY, as the largest cluster of coronavirus cases in the US.
- And today, March 25th, Rosh Chodesh Nissan 5780, what do we read?? You won't believe it! See below, from the very same author of this first editorial full of anti Rav Berland vitriol, from the same Josh Nass...
And by the way, who is Josh Nass? Look at his bio:
Oh my goodness, I can't believe it.... - or rather, of course I can! - ..... one of Josh's clients is the NEW ISRAEL FUND, a front for the Ford Foundation, one of Am Yisrael's and Torah's worst enemies! What is going on there? Josh, who are you, what on earth are you doing??
So here are the two editorials, one after the other. You read, and then decide if there isn't a divine message in this apparent coincidence, in this set of strangely random occurrences. NOTHING is random in this world, EVERYTHING is from Hashem. And as Jews we better realize this and open our eyes, whoever we are: G-d is speaking to us and we better listen. So please, Josh, listen, and learn.
One more thought: if BADMOUTHING RAV BERLAND had such a horrible effect, how much GOOD could come from DOING THE OPPOSITE, respecting him, listening to him, honoring him, helping him? Listen, Josh! Maybe your doing Teshuvah and asking for forgiveness and even helping the Rav could help stop the pandemic? Just a thought.
1. First editorial:
A frightening Jewish cult
I first became aware of Eliezer Berland thanks to some truly extraordinary investigative journalism on the part of a number of Israeli news outlets. While it seemed that many people — especially hassidim outside Berland’s circle — were ignoring Berland, Israeli journalists realized there was a story and followed it, showing the immense value of fearless reporting.
Berland came to notice — again — in the fall when Nurit Ben-Moshe, an Israeli grandmother, sued him for his part in her daughter’s death. This served as a clarion call to journalists and law enforcement, who earlier this month arrested Berland. This man, who has proclaimed himself a manifestation of God, is most recently in trouble for conning some of the most vulnerable members of society.
He allegedly preyed on those with serious, sometimes even terminal, illnesses, such as cancer, and convinced them to give him tens of thousands of shekels in exchange for his blessing and “medicine,” which it turns out was antibiotic drops and Mentos mints. Nurit Ben-Moshe’s daughter, Shoshi, a follower of Berland’s along with her husband, paid Berland a king’s ransom to pray for her and, when Berland told her not to undergo medically recommended chemotherapy, she obeyed. Then she died.
Berland clearly cared nothing for these people. All he cares about is his wallet. Even after some of his followers had died being treated by his blessings, he continued to extort money from their families, claiming that with payment he would ensure they were among the first to be brought back to life when the Messiah comes.
In light of all this, while the investigation continues, I hope Berland will be remanded indefinitely as his trial unfolds, both to protect future victims from him and to prevent him from fleeing. He has fled prosecution before, showing that he has no qualms about breaking Israeli law. Several years ago, he was charged with sexual assault and he went on the lam. After being in hiding for a few years, he finally was put on trial in Israel. Sadly, he served less than a year for his crimes and his adherents remained steadfast regardless.
The actions of which Berland is indicted should make anyone with even a semblance of a moral compass feel sick and angry. Yet his followers stand beside him. They defend him. When police went to arrest Berland, his followers attempted to stop police. They threw themselves in front of police cars and attempted to restrain officers, causing injuries.
When asked about Berland’s crimes, his followers either deny them or, more often, defend his actions as being holy. They twist rabbinic teachings to support Berland. And those who don’t blindly follow Berland? They become marked as enemies. Thanks to Berland’s followers, Nurit Ben-Moshe is no longer allowed to see her grandchildren. Those who have agreed to act as witnesses for law enforcement have been physically assaulted and, according to a film made public recently by, much much worse. The film, linked here in Hebrew and shown on Israel television station Kan 11. is a documentary on Shuvu Banim and contains claims that a group of his Shuvu Banim followers of murdering a young man who reported being beaten up by them to the authorities. It is making waves in religious circles in Israel).
Simply put, these people are a cult.
Sadly, Judaism — like any other religion — has its fair share of cultists, people who distort teachings and practices, usually in service of a charismatic and unprincipled person. We have seen this before. While Berland is not a manifestation of God, he may be a manifestation of Shabtai Tzvi syndrome, a Jewish cult leader in the 1600s who misled thousands of Jews.
As Rabbi Elchanan Poupko wrote on Arutz Sheva, the similarities are appalling.
Tzvi claimed to be the Messiah and created his own religion where he was essentially worshipped as a god. He bilked money from his adherents to support his licentious life. Then, when faced with trouble, he quickly turned his back on Judaism, converting to Islam to save his own skin. In response, approximately 300 families who followed him also converted and continued to worship him.
The parallels between Shabtai Tzvi and Berland are clear. Berland is profaning Jewish teachings so that he will be worshiped absolutely.
The lesson in all this is that, just because someone says they are a rabbi and dresses for the part, does not make them so. Berland may call himself a rabbi, but his absolute disregard for Jewish teaching and basic humanity should bar him from the position. He is the opposite of a holy man. He is a snake misleading Jews into sin with him.
Just as Tzvi was excommunicated and banished from several cities, Berland, once the trial is over and if it proves - as seems self evident - that the allegations are true, his actions merit a strong response beyond that of the courts . He must be wholly rejected by the entire Jewish community and banished behind bars for the rest of his life. As for his followers, I hope they can find their way back to true Judaism.
2. Second editorial:
The resilience of New Rochelle - a model in the face of corona
But we are better than this. A dominant trait of humanity is the urge to form community and to care for one another. While we cannot assemble physically as communities right now, our inherent drive for community is still saving lives.
I was raised in New Rochelle, spending my entire childhood there. Upon hearing that the city was the epicenter of a COVID-19 outbreak, my stomach dropped. After all, I still have friends and family there, including an aunt and uncle who were in quarantine up until recently. The fact that the outbreak started at Young Israel of New Rochelle, the synagogue I attended through my childhood, and where I celebrated my bar mitzvah, made it all hit even closer to home for me.
I am incredibly proud of how my home community has reacted to this unthinkable calamity. Despite being placed under quarantine and surrounded by New York National Guardsmen — two situations that could easily cause panic — my home community rose to the occasion.
Almost immediately, community members began to organize food deliveries to those being quarantined; they began to connect even more closely — though not physically — to make sure everyone had necessary supplies. These kindnesses have come from businesses that have gone out of their way to remove roadblocks to service and from individuals bringing meals to neighbors. A group of anonymous donors even had meals delivered from the local Kosher Chinese restaurant, to every household that is a member of YINR; they did this both to help their fellow congregants and to support a local business that, like many businesses both large and small, is seeing a drastic decrease in commerce due to this pandemic.
Of course, these acts of charity and loving kindness are only enhanced due to the professional and coordinated response of the community's leaders in collaboration with the Department of Health, which has worked admirably to keep people informed. Mayor Noam Bramson should be commended for his proactive approach, and for keeping channels of communication open; and leaders of the community within the city, like Young Israel of New Rochelle's Rabbi Reuven Fink, who sprang into action immediately to ensure his congregants were receiving care, even while himself acknowledging he had tested positive for COVID-19.
From Day No. 1, when it was first learned that a New York lawyer had inadvertently brought COVID-19 to YINR, Rabbi Fink and the synagogue’s lay leaders responded quickly, following advice from local experts. Rabbi Fink has been in near-constant outreach with the community — those who are sick and those who are not. He rapidly orchestrated online portals where people could both seek and offer assistance, and he mobilized others to action.
For instance, the Young Israel brought in a group of doctors to counsel community members virtually about COVID-19, its symptoms, its treatment and precautionary measures. Going even further, the synagogue sponsored a Zoom session available to anyone, even those not in the community, in which doctors who specialize in infectious disease answered questions. In another act of community care, people all around the state have been organizing blood and platelet drives to help those who are ill. Donating blood and platelets is vital during this time; reserves are running low and patients — not only with coronavirus, but with many types of illness or injury — need these lifesaving donations.
But physical concerns are only part of the struggle. While it is vital that everyone remain safe and healthy, there are mental and spiritual elements to this struggle, as well. In quarantine, many people feel cut off from the world. Isolation can have alarming impacts on mental health. Despite New Rochelle being in lockdown, people are still connecting. While residents may be isolating physically, they are certainly not isolating emotionally. Through modern technology, people can stay connected so easily without having to leave their home.
As for spiritually, the Young Israel has had that covered, too. Since this pandemic's outbreak, there have been online lessons and study groups for synagogue members, giving them a sense of routine and normalcy. Many congregants were concerned about not being able to attend services to hear Torah reading. The Young Israel live-streamed the Purim service where the megillah was read.
A lot of media attention has been focused on numbers: mainly, the opening of the containment zone and the spread of the Coronavirus through the community. But there is so much more to this developing story. There is compassion, lifesaving help and the tight-knit nature of the community.
Coming from New Rochelle, I know that the community is modest and prefers to stay out of the limelight. But they have been thrust into it; so I urge people outside New Rochelle to refrain from viewing the community or its members through the lens of this pandemic our nation is grappling with; but instead, focus on the amazingly generous and benevolent people of New Rochelle.
Josh Nass is an attorney and public relations professional specializing in media relations, crisis communications and reputation management
On another note, here is an old and moving documentary of the Shuvu Banim Yeshivah in the Old City of Yerushalayim years ago.