I am writing to you from the celestial city of Tz’fat (Safed), set amidst the green hills of Israel’s beautiful Galilee, where I moved from Jerusalem with my dear wife just over a month ago, finally fulfilling a dream of many years to live in this holy place.
It is close on 5 years since I fell ill and had an operation to remove a life-threatening cancerous growth. After four years of treatments, much soul-searching and Teshuvah, and a second operation 15 months ago, I finally embarked on a naturopathic healing protocol prescribed to me last year by a veteran Jerusalem doctor, and today, with praise and thanks to G-d, I am feeling strong, energized and clear-headed.
The last operation left me with compromised mobility. As I could no longer climb up 40 stairs to our 3rd floor Jerusalem home of 35 years, we had no option but to move. It was hard to conceive of leaving Jerusalem, but with four of our children already living in Safed with their families, we chose to be near them. The many preparations, packing and moving took much energy, but thank G-d they are all behind us, and we are now settling into our new home, which is comfortable, airy and bathed in sunshine, with beautiful views to the hills and mountains of the Galilee and over the Kinneret Sea.
Letter from Jerusalem ON HOLD
As long as I am in Safed, it would be misleading for me to continue writing under the banner of “Letter from Jerusalem” as I have been doing for the past thirty years when I was located in Jerusalem. To be sure, just as soon as Mashiach appears, I will want to be in Yerushalayim like a shot. And if it will then still be relevant, who knows? Maybe I’ll resume “Letter from Jerusalem”.
As for now, I am hereby taking a new direction with the inauguration of my new series: Northern Breeze | Torah thoughts from the celestial city of Tz’fat.
As a subscriber to the LFJ mailing list, you will automatically be subscribed on the new Northern Breeze mailing list, and you are free to unsubscribe at any time. If you are not subscribed but would like to receive my Northern Breeze emails, you may subscribe here.
Oslo and the birth of LFJ
I started the Letter from Jerusalem (LFJ) series in the mid-1990s soon after the inception of the so-called Oslo “Peace Process”, which rapidly transitioned into the unending terror nightmare that Israel endures until today. At that time, Jewish lovers of Israel whom I was meeting on my teaching tours in USA, Canada and UK clearly had little or no grasp whatever of the cynical intentions of the leftist Israeli leaders who had cooked up the Oslo broth and who were being idolized in the mainstream media for what was portrayed as their visionary statesmanship. Few Jews outside Israel had any inkling of the ever more deadly realities on the ground, known all too well by those being targeted daily by Arab terror attacks. The naïve ignorance of most Jews outside Israel was understandable given their dependence on mainstream media (not least the Jewish establishment media), which were pulling out all the stops to cosmeticize the so-called “Peace Process” – until eventually the murderous reality of the Olso nightmare could not be concealed.
Back in the 1990’s Internet was a new channel for many people. As a former BBC journalist-turned-observant Jew, living in Jerusalem and witnessing the unfolding Oslo nightmare, I felt an obligation to offer people in the Diaspora regular email commentary on the situation from the Torah perspective. For several years I wrote weekly to a steadily expanding list of subscribers, for whom interpreting current events from a Torah perspective was apparently a novelty. By the time of the “Second Intifada” (2000 onwards) and the Gush Katif expulsions (2005), the sordid reality was nakedly visible to all but the willfully self-blinkered. Among the majority of Torah observant and Zionist-inclined circles there was now far greater awareness of the seriousness of Israel’s strategic situation, and there were also numerous commentators far more competent than myself, such as to make my regular LFJ posts redundant.
In more recent years I have used LFJ periodically as a platform to offer Torah insights into developments in Israel and the wider world, as at the time of the Covid lockdowns, the great 2020 USA election fraud, and the beginning of the Ukraine war.
However, in the same period I have received my own share of punitive bites amidst the new waves of totalitarian censorship that have been imposed on what were originally supposedly genuinely inclusive platforms, such as Amazon, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. My Facebook posts were flagged as “false information” and I was put in “Facebook Jail”. My YouTube channel was warned on the grounds of “Covid disinformation” (I dared to question scientific infallibility). In January 2021, Amazon peremptorily cancelled Azamra Institute’s publishing account on the grounds that our publication of translations of kabbalistic works by the saintly Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (RaMChaL) somehow violated their community standards (!) All this has led me to reconsider my presence on Internet and its purpose.
Light up our darkness
Today there is no lack of hot topics across the world on which people might benefit from some Torah perspectives, such the “Deep State”, the rising star of China, realignments among the major world power blocs, the Ukraine War, the economic and financial crises, the ever-looming threat of new “pandemics”, the cultural wars of woke-ism vs. traditional faith and values, the spread of Islam, the New World Order, the World Economic Forum, and much more.
Above all there is a need to find ways to address, and with G-d’s help mitigate, the shocking waves of anger, rage, violence, fear, despair, depression, nihilism and other forms of destructive negativity that are today sweeping across the world.
That we are in a time of intense spiritual darkness is undeniable, and this can be mitigated only with the light of Torah Wisdom, the light of G-d’s Truth.
For this reason, I pray that G-d will give me the strength to send you uplifting and inspiring letters breathing the spirit of the latter-day Tzaddikim, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov and Baal Shem Tov, and the spirit of the two great pillars of our faith, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (ARI), which hovers above their gravesites in Tz’fat and Meiron, as it does upon the words of their holy teachings contained in their published works. We live from the breath of their lips!
In the past weeks and with no sign of stopping, under the full glare of the world media, Israel has been rocked by cleverly organized, highly disruptive and far from peaceful “protests” in the name of “Democracy”. The protests are aimed to torpedo legislation proposed by the country’s duly-elected government to curb what is essentially a dictatorship of the left-wing through the self-electing and self-perpetuating, post- or even anti-Zionist High Court of the State of Israel (“BaGaTz”), which for the past thirty years and more has systematically and unilaterally usurped the power to overrule and overturn decisions of the country’s democratically elected Knesset.
It is not my intention to enter now into a discussion of this sorry topic except to express:
- My anguish at the specter of our Jewish brothers and sisters locked head-to-head in futile strife
- My humble opinion that the only long-term viable judicial system for Israel will be one headed by a restored Sanhedrin of genuine Torah sages who despise personal benefit and who are indifferent to the opinions of the jurists of the nations.
I mention the subject of the current protests in Israel only to point out that where I am now, in the holy city of Safed, there have been far fewer of these disruptions, and it is easier to keep away from the toxicity that the rioters and their powerful backers have brought to major cities, roads and highways up and down the country.
Having lived for over 40 years in the very center of Jerusalem, with at times daily demonstrations in our neighborhood over one issue or another to the accompaniment of protracted traffic snarl-ups, the clinging stench of burning garbage for days on end, menacing and sometimes violent standoffs between opposing groups and especially between Haredim and armed and/or mounted police, etc. I am no stranger to such turmoil.
Indeed, I am grateful to G-d that our move to Safed takes us away from the toxicity of the center of the country and particularly that of the holy city, Jerusalem, tragically clothed in sackcloth and ashes at this time of exile under the rule of forces who are turned away from, if not diametrically opposed to G-d’s Torah.
Anyone who seeks to cultivate a “heart of flesh” cannot remain indifferent to what is happening across Israel, or indeed to the trials and tribulations that are today afflicting people across the world.
In these critical times, we must to do everything possible to avoid getting drawn into the vicious cycles of divisiveness, strife and hostility swirling all around us. Let us return with full force to our true mission as members of the House of Israel, servants of the Supreme God, whose perfect unity both transcends and stands at the ultimate root of all differences and divisions. Our task is to connect with Him at all times in our thoughts and through our prayers, Torah study, performance of the Mitzvot and other acts of service. Israel’s ultimate mission is to bring the knowledge of the One God to all the nations.
The Northern Breeze
A harp was hung above King David’s bed, and at midnight the north breeze would blow over the strings and it would play by itself. – Talmud Bavli Brakhot 3b
The way for each one of us to fulfil our godly mission in this world with joy is through uncovering the wellsprings of true SIMCHAH that lie hidden (“TzPhuN”) within our own hearts. These come from the Ru’ach Tz’PhoNi, the “North Breeze” that blows across the harp-strings of our hearts.
This “Northern Breeze” is the spirit of the true Tzaddikim – Moshe Rabbenu, RaShBi, ARI z”l, Baal Shem Tov, Baal HaTanya and Rabbenu Nachman – that breathes in all of the Sifrei Emet, “literature of Truth”, Kabbalah and Chassidut.
May God give us the strength to hear, understand, internalize, teach and proclaim Torat Emet, His Torah of Truth, so that we may see with our own eyes quickly in our times Melekh Mashi’ah revealed in person among us!
May the Almighty bless, keep, guard and protect you, and grant you good health, strength and true SIM’HAH!
Have a Happy, inspiring and elevating Pesach festival!
From the Holy City of Safed
Avraham ben Yaakov Greenbaum