“The Bully”, Part 1
Editor’s note: Zev Ballen recently made Aliya from the USA. Not only is he a highly qualified psychotherapist, but he’s a talmid chacham and a Breslever Chassid who spends most of his time learning in the Chut Shel Chesed Kollel in Jerusalem. Breslev Israel is delighted to feature his essays, which shed light on the true path to emotional health.
Bullying and emotional terrorism is not a new phenomenon, but recently it’s skyrocketed into public awareness with four teenage suicides. ABC news reported that according to the U.S. Department of Education there are 160,000 children a day who do not go to school because they are afraid of being bullied. Children and adults who are challenged mentally or physically are often targeted. The “victim” might be overweight, gay, or just someone that a self-righteous emotional terrorist thinks needs to psychologically crippled. Emotional terrorists feel justified in taking the law into their own hands; From the playground, to cyber-bullying to the misuse of the legal system and other forms of media – Emotional terror and bullying has reached epidemic proportions. Offenders will seemingly stop at nothing in order to degrade, defame and psychologically destroy their intended victims.
In his fascinating book, The Trail to Tranquility, Rabbi Lazer Brody holds us spellbound with his penetrating insights into the problem of emotional terrorism. He lends us his unique perspective as both a Rabbi and former Israeli Special Forces Commander on how we can turn the tables on any Bully and even end up feeling grateful for the “trauma.” In this article, you will learn how the initial shame of being terrorized can be transformed into courage, joy, and a sense of purpose. In our battle against sadism we will draw upon the ancient wisdom of our ancestors rather than the advice of so called “experts.” If you, dear reader will only summon the will to help yourself or someone who you care about to break free from being terrorized, you will be guaranteed a King’s reward in this world and the next and you and your loved ones will be the beneficiaries of countless material and Spiritual Blessings. Anyone who will spread these ideas to people that need deliverance from abuse should merit to live long and healthy lives and see only good from all of their offspring.
In dealing with this subject, I will be drawing from Rav Brody’s gem, The Trail to Tranquility, the wisdom of our Sages,and my 32 years of experience as a licensed psychotherapist.
According to the strict interpretation of Jewish Law, someone who repeatedly brings shame on another by slandering, disgracing, and humiliating him is liable to the death penalty. During the time that the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem, one who brought this type of damage upon his fellow man was excommunicated. Rav Brody teaches us, that verbal abusers are so numerous today that religious Courts no longer have the time or ability to punish the offenders; but, this is not good news for bullies. As King David said: “He who digs a pit to ensnare one’s fellow man eventually falls in the very same trap.” (Psalms 7:16). Now that the more lenient earthly courts won’t hear the bullies’ cases, they are almost certainly going to be convicted and immediately punished by the much less merciful Heavenly Court.
Harold (imaginary name) is a well-known psychological terrorist. He is 58 years old, and 5 feet 1 inch tall (in his shoe lifts). He has never married and still lives with his elderly mother. As a first class bully, Harold gets his kicks out of circulating letters to blacken a person’s reputation; leaving hundreds of threatening and vulgar phone messages, harassing people with phony lawsuits or, yes, even sending dead animals to people through the mail. Harold wants to cripple people with his rage; being completely dominated by Evil, his Divine soul had no choice but to fly out of his body and hovers somewhere above him. Many of his “victims” have never seen his face because like many villainous cowards he hides from the public fearing that someone might see him. Harold will be a good example because of the severity of his spiritual malady.
One of Harold’s targets was a man called Zev. Harold kicked off his campaign of terror by mailing out hundreds of slanderous letters about Zev to people in Zev’s community. Then he brought three bogus lawsuits against Zev. Even though all three suits were dismissed, Zev was forced to spend a lot of money to legally defend himself. Harold, on the other hand found a lawyer to take the case on contingency. Harold works in an office, as a front, so that he could steal supplies and use their high-speed copy machines for his slanderous letter campaign against Zev and others. From the tone of Harold’s letters, it is likely that in addition to being a psychopath (one who cannot differentiate between right and wrong) Harold has multiple perverse addictions. Harold was harassing Zev in a number of other ways too. He called Zev’s advertisers and told lies about Zev in order than they not run Zev’s ads anymore. He called several professional organizations that Zev belonged to in an effort to discredit him. He put up defamatory posters wherever Zev would go to give public lectures. Zev’s house and car’s were vandalized and his children were threatened. Harold attempted to use the internet to hurt Zev’s reputation.
This has continued for six years and yet none of Harold’s terror tactics have harmed a hair on Zev’s head. True, the ordeal has cost Zev some time, money and slights upon his honor, but overall Zev has only grown materially and spiritually from Harold’s constant barrage of attacks and he is living now as he has never lived before. Let’s see how this works.
First, Zev started to pray more intensely to be able to understand what Hashem wanted from him. He knew, at least intellectually, that Harold wasn’t doing this to him but that it was all coming from Hashem and therefore it must be in his best interest. Zev found that Breslever teachings in particular provided great comfort to him, so he started to read Rav Shalom Arush’s books and listen to the Torah lectures of Rabbi Lazer Brody. Zev asked for Divine assistance to develop a stronger Belief in G-d’s ability to do anything; and to not be afraid, angry or retaliatory. Zev realized, at least intellectually, that all this was happening to him because Hashem wanted him to change his life but he still did not know in what way. Zev knew that he had made some mistakes and he had to confess them to Hashem and ask the forgiveness of some people. Zev continued to ask Hashem to show him the right path to take.
A wedding invitation came in the mail. Zev opened it but couldn’t believe his eyes. A real blast from the past - Rabbi Bernstein’s daughter is getting married. Next, Zev looked to see who the lucky man is. Can you guess? Would you believe Harold’s nephew! Zev couldn’t believe the “coincidence.” He was very tempted to warn his old friend about the 25 million dollar lawsuit and slew of other offences instigated by Harold and his family against him, but thankfully Zev opted for silence.
Zev didn’t attend the wedding, but he did go to one of the Sheva Brochos (festive meals given for the first seven days after marriage). When Zev entered the party-hall he felt that all eyes were on him. Bullies with Harold’s resume don’t usually come from sweet docile family environments and the “villainous” Zev was not exactly someone that the family expected to join them for their festive meal. Zev nervously took a seat. Having finished the meal, the two families were preparing to say the Blessing over the meal and the seven traditional Blessings said at such occasions. Following this, there would be speeches from both families. Zev tried to act calmly. Rabbi Bernstein sent his son to Zev’s place and honored Zev with the merit of saying one of the Blessings. Zev hesitated and thought: “Here I am at the festive meal of my “enemies” and now I’m being asked to Bless the children of the people who are trying to ruin my life! Zev looked up. Rabbi Bernstein just smiled – but he knew nothing of Zev’s dilemma. Suddenly Zev’s fear turned to courage. There was no denying it. G-d was surely testing him. Zev belted out the Blessing with as much brotherly-love and good will as his heart could muster up. Until that moment, Zev had not understood the gift he had been offered – the opportunity to put aside his own petty concerns and to publicly sanctify the name of G-d.
After the Blessing over the meal, men were being called up to speak. Zev, feeling somewhat better now, looked around the room. He thought about how senseless hatred amongst the Jewish people had destroyed our second Holy Temple. As he eyed the unfamiliar faces, he wondered, “how many of these people hate me and yet don’t know who I really am”. “This shouldn’t be,” thought Zev. His inner-claim against G-d had the force of a demand. “I’m sorry Totti, please forgive,” he heard himself whisper. “Please save me from anger and fear that I may show these people the true power of Your love and way of life.”
It was just then that Zev felt a tap on his shoulder. Rabbi Bernstein smiled warmly and said: “Zev, I know it’s awfully short notice, but couldn’t you come up and at least say a few words”. This was completely out of the question, thought Zev.
“No I’m sorry, Rabbi, I can’t speak in front of all of these people…I’m not prepared…please ask somebody else.” Zev sat and half-listened to the next speech. His stomach churned . He felt very unsettled and unsure of himself. “Totti, please! I know that you haven’t brought me this far for nothing. I’m begging you. Tell me what to do. How can I speak about the virtues of these people?” An answer shot back: “Am I so virtuous and beyond reproach that I cannot find good in my brothers.” He glanced up and Rabbi Bernstein caught his glance. They nodded in mutual understanding that Zev would indeed speak. Zev was introduced by name. There was a stir in the crowd. His wobbly legs schlepped him to the front of the room. He was rarely asked to speak at such occasions. Zev looked out at his hostile audience, took a breath and quietly prayed: “Totti, I feel so helpless without you. I won’t be able to speak without Your Help. Please stay with me and tell me what I need to say so that I may Glorify Your Name.” Zev made his speech and left in a good mood.
A few months later Zev was at home when the phone rang. It was Mr. Wright, Zev’s attorney. “I have good news for you Zev. It doesn’t usually happen so fast, but our request for a dismissal of your case was granted on all counts. The judge threw out the whole thing. It’s over, Zev. You won.” When Zev hung up the phone. He closed his eyes and whispered: “Thank you Totti, thank you. Thank you for speaking for me; for speaking so well in my defense.”
To be continued.
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Zev Ballen, LCSWhas been a practicing psychotherapist for 32 years. He is licensed in Israel and the State of New York. Zev has the endorsements of prominent Gadolei Yisrael such as the Nikolsburger Rebba, Shlita, Reb Yitzchok Fagelstock, Shlita, The Kasaner Rebbe of Forshay, Shlita, Rav Shalom Arush, Shlita, and Rabbi Lazer Brody, Shlita. He resides with his family in Jerusalem where he learns in Rav Arush’s Kollel and maintains a part-time practice. You can write to Zev Ballen at: email@example.com or call him at: 845-362-8600 (US line) or 054-840-9499 (Israeli line).