Joseph and Ruthie Pearlman are our neighbors in Yerushalayim. Joseph is a lawyer and talmid chacham. Ruthie is a writer of mystery stories.
I don’t do book reviews and I don’t read detective stories. (OK, I confess that one of my favorite books in the “old days” was Sherlock Holmes, about the legendary detective who could see through every sham and emerge victorious over all those nefarious characters.)
Ruthie Pearlman has published eighteen books! When she presented us with a copy of Dark Tapestry (Menucha Publishers), I never thought I would read it, but one page led to another and then I couldn’t put it down. Mrs. Pearlman just happens to be brilliant. She is a thorough researcher who knows all about things like computer hacking and the London Police. She also has you totally riveted to her amazing characters.
But, as I said, I don’t do book reviews. So why am I telling you all this?
Mrs. Pearlman’s book illuminated my life.
The sequel to Dark Tapestry is called The Movement.
The Movement describes the workings of a very dangerous cult. Mrs. Pearlman takes you inside and shows how a cult turns normal people (in this case, religious Jews) into zombies. It is convincing, perceptive and frightening.
We are in the midst of Chodesh Elul. We need to look inside. We need to know who we are and how to get out of our spiritual box. I am going to call The Movement a mussar sefer. It taught me where I came from and helped me understand what I need to do.
This past Shabbos I was zoche to hear the words of the Gadol Rabbi Yitzchak Berkovits Shlita”h speaking about teshuva. His message was extremely straightforward. Basically, he said that we have to be realistic. “Tefasta meruba lo tafasta … If you aim for too much, you will get nothing.” (Rosh Hashana 4b)
Don’t try to jump to the madreiga of Moshe Rabbeinu, the G’ra or the Chofetz Chaim. We are not there. Aim for your exact challenge in ruchnius, and -- Rabbi Berkovits added pointedly – each one of us knows exactly where our challenge is! Work on your challenge, the challenge you face every day. You can pinpoint it. When you have progressed, then go to the next level … your next challenge, not someone else’s challenge.
I was reminded of the “sulam” our Father Yaakov saw in his dream. We climb one rung at a time. If we reach for five, we are going to fall, G-d forbid.
I realized from Mrs. Pearlman’s book that I had grown up inside a cult very much like The Movement. It was not located in a manor house in the North of England, but rather in the heart of New York City. Over the span of more than a hundred years it has lured thousands of Jews into its spiritual spider’s web.
The founder, a Jew, was obviously – like Mr. Stein in The Movement -- a brilliant speaker who knew how to hypnotize his audience. Many New York Jews at the time were ripe fruit, just looking for a way to rationalize their desire to abandon the Mesorah of their parents and grandparents. I never knew the founder, but his successor was also a brilliant Jew whose words could put his audience into a spiritual trance from which they would never awaken.
I saw it all in this book, how I and my friends were anesthetized, the brilliant Jews who became successful businessmen, authors, doctors, lawyers, scientists … and walking robots. My wife and I still try to speak to them, but there is an impenetrable curtain between us. They tune out our words because they have been hypnotized and are afraid of the light. My best friends from childhood will no longer speak to me.
Mrs. Pearlman’s book brought it all home, what happened to all those holy children who were snatched away from the Torah of their ancestors, like the Holocaust children given over to the care of Catholics who baptized them. The hypnotic words droning from the mouths of our “leaders” turned their souls to jelly and destroyed their lives.
In fact, my friends, the entire world is in the process of becoming a giant cult. Billions of people watch mouths opening and closing on TV and listen to the droning voices of dictators who are creating armies of zombies marching to their mindless babble.
The miracle of how my wife and I escaped is beyond comprehension. Now we understand how Hashem took His children out of Mitzraim “b’yad chazaka … with a strong hand,” from a land saturated with avoda zara. The call of a distant voice from Sinai somehow reached our ears.
“Shema Yisroel!” May all Am Yisroel hear the Voice and awaken.
“Sing out, O barren one …. with abundant mercy I, [Hashem], shall gather you in. With a slight wrath have I concealed My countenance from you … but with eternal kindness shall I show you mercy, [says] your Redeemer, Hashem.” (This week’s Haftara)
May our eyes open and our hearts be liberated! May we all see the Complete Redemption soon in our days!
Avoda Zara: Idol worship
Chodesh Elul: The Hebrew month before Rosh Hashana
Madreiga: Spiritual level
Mesorah: Torah heritage
Mussar Sefer: A book which offers spiritual guidance
Zoche: I had the merit of ….