The squatters are out, although the lingering smell of cheap beer, tobacco and weed still made me gag as I went upstairs this evening
Chassidism teaches that everything we see, hear or experience, including supposedly negative or sombre encounters, are orchestrated ‘on High’. We are charged therefore to learn and be inspired from each experience. In fact, the 18th Century Chassidic Master Reb Zushe of Anipoli declared that he was inspired in seven different ways by a thief! (http://www.chabadsussex.org/309299).
Background. Three months ago, we completed the purchase on a four story terraced property overlooking ‘The Level’, in the heart of the ‘student area’ of Brighton. We’ve been busy since preparing the architectural plans and necessary permits, as well as launching a Building Campaign to raise the required funds, so that we can proceed with this exciting project. The building will include a dining hall for sixty, a games room, kitchen, library, office and accommodation for our family.
Despite having safely secured the property according to insurance specifications, the trespassers managed to gain access via the neighbours’ fire escape ladder, breaking in via our roof access. I’ll spare you the complicated British legal procedures for eviction of squatters, though by all accounts, we did remarkably well in concluding the entire legal process and regaining possession within less than two weeks.
To be honest, my former soft spot for some aspects of the views of the British Squatting Community has now dissolved. Mind you, I can’t be blamed. A gaping two foot hole in a perfectly sound wall, stolen fire extinguishers and a chandelier, bags and bags of filth and mess, dozens of empty beer cans, burned fences and graffiti should turn most decent folk off. The invasion of our privacy and the accessing of our private post letters, including bank details, utility bills and correspondence with Brighton & Hove City Council 172.jpgleft us quite disheartened.
But we’re now well on the way to the clean-up, and it’s time for some positive reflection.
Our brain is the most prized space we could possibly own. Its focus and content will engage our heart and our entire being with purpose and perspective, enabling us to find meaning and inspiration in life. From the moment we awake, and throughout our day, our mind is continuously and feverishly developing, analysing and contemplating, just about every bit of information it can process.
But there’s the snag. Ultimately, after all is said and done, our brain may actually conclude its long, arduous day as vacant and void as it began. Meaningless experiences and idle nonsense will effectively render it as unoccupied as it was, and will be, during the hours of unconscious slumber.
If it’s unoccupied, then the Evil Inclination, your personal squatter, will inevitably pounce. He’s sophisticated. Well researched and knowledgeable. He’s familiar with the system and every trick in the book.
In fact, Chassidism refers to him as the ‘Klooginker’ – the brilliant one. He’s complex and advanced beyond expectation.
And even while the Midrash refers to him as the ‘Old, Foolish King’, misunderstanding that may well lead to further blunder. ‘King’ is a reference to his ability to take control of just about any ‘habitat’ or situation. He’s ‘Old’; he’ll claim he’s been around forever. In fact, essentially he’s right, as he enters at birth, while his opponent doesn’t complete his entry until the age of Bar or Bat Mitzvah.
You’d only be further fooled to think he’s the fool. He’s only referred to as ‘Foolish’ due to his uncanny ability to fool just about everyone bar himself.
So here are some practical suggestions to prevent the Yetzer Horah/Evil Inclination from occupying your ‘space’. Be warned; once in he’ll quickly post a legal warning, covering all bases, and claim possession, so don’t waste time leaving your ‘space’ unoccupied while you seek funding or planning consent.
1. Make sure every entry point is firmly secure. Our ears, eyes, nose and just about every faculty that we have, are access points that can be employed by a potential intruder, especially one who is lurking in the shadows, waiting and watching for us to lower our guard. Spiritual equivalents to multi-lever deadlocks, alarm systems, CCTV and good old bolts and window locks are vital security measures. Don’t be complacent.
2. Occupy! Attend at all times. Furnish it. Fill it with all your favourite possessions. Jewish books, Chanukah Menorahs, Matzah covers, Tefillin, Kiddush cups and candles sticks. Oh, and use them. He knows the difference between an unoccupied china closet accumulating dust, and a well used one where he’ll be caught red-handed.
Work there. Pray there. Study there. Sleep there. Walk around. Keep the lights of Torah and Judaism on. In every corner of every room.
Like the squatters, once he’s in, it’ll be considerably more difficult to evict him. He’ll trash the place and leave you feeling shocked, cheated and violated. So keep him out at all costs.
He’s already occupied and claimed possession? Oh no!
Listen. You can take the legal route but it’ll take time. Precious time lost while he’s making a mess of your space and destroying your most personal assets. You’ll lose sleep, struggle to work or focus and feel miserable while he’s having a party in your backyard, smoking weed and drinking cheap beer.
Don’t negotiate. Not under any circumstances. It’s only a stalling tactic which will make you lose further precious time. In fact, our sages tell us that one who ‘wrestles’ with a soiled individual, will inevitably become soiled himself. Don’t engage in any dialogue.
Beat him up. Give him a good old thrashing and chuck him out the front door. Let him know in no uncertain terms that he’s not welcome. That’s the most effective eviction method, as outlined in Tanya chapter 29. It may be illegal according to British Law when dealing with physical squatters, but when managing the Yetzer Horah, it’s an entirely different matter.
Cheap booze and weed, along with a confused perspective on life, are the basic ingredients for a disastrous concoction, with catastrophic ramifications. Single-malt whisky, peppered with inspiring words of Torah and meaning at our Shabbat Table, provide for a blended brew of hope and energy, so that together we can evict the Yetzer Horah once and for all… L’chaim!
It has been brought to our attention that despite careful thought before publishing the above blog post, individuals sympathetic to the Squatting Community may well misunderstand the theme and points above.
Let me clarify: We successfully evicted the ‚live squatters‘ via the legal procedure according to Civil Law, having successfully obtained an Interim Possession Order, and each stage of the procedure was followed as the law requires. As I believe I clearly articulated, the above strategies outlined in the blog post are to be used only in the personal battle with the Evil Inclination.
During the two week eviction process, various positive levels of communication were made with the squatters, and at all times, we ensured pleasant dialogue. In fact, the appreciative squatters advised me that we would find the premises in good order on their departure.
At no time during the process did we anger or upset the occupiers or threaten violence. Judaism and Jewish law is a religion based on basic principles of understanding and respect for every human being. The damages, theft and upset which we experienced, as described in the above post, only hurt their interests and undermine their cause.