Sanctify yourself through the permissible... Yevamos 20a

Divrei Torah to provide Chizuk in the struggle to balance spiritual and physical needs.

L'Iluei Nishmas Mirkah Bas Yosef

Friday, April 30, 2010

We live in a world of Illusions.

We live in a world of Illusions, we think that we are free, but we are not. The only person who is free is the person who is involved in learning Torah. We are so controlled by our desires that we miss the true meaning of life.

Making the most of yourself.

What does the soul of a gadol look like? Exactly like ours, the only difference is that they worked on themselves. When we look at a gadol we are looking at a mirror of what we could be like if we would work on ourselves.

from a Shiur by Rabbi Wachsman, "Reaching New Heights, Powerful Perspectives on Shavuos"

from the Chofetz Chayim Heritage Society

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Overcoming temptation as a preparation for Shavuos

Hashem responds to us like a mirror.  When we expose the Elokus within ourselves Hashem comes towards us.  The time of the Sifiros Haomer leading up to Shavuos is a time when we are able to reveal this holiness within ourselves.  Shavuos is a time when we can see and hear Hashem's revelation.  How do we bring out the Elokus within ourselves? Every time we have a temptation and we overcome the temptation and we break our physical nature we are taking the Elokus that is within us and bringing it to the forefront. The more that we do this the more that we are developing our own holiness.
This day, Shavuos, is the purpose of creation.  A person has to imagine the power and awe of Kabolos HaTorah to understand what our neshamas are living through. We have to use this opportunity for growth.
The only one who is truly free is the person who is occupied in learning Torah.  We have to make ourselves free from all temptations and devoted to the Torah. Sometimes the temptations of the world are so overwhelming that we think that we are in a jail, but it is not true, we do have the ability to break free of our Taivahs (desires). 

Torah  is so sweet that if we were to taste the true taste of Torah we would give up all of the temptations of this world to do nothing but learn Torah. The real neshamah of the peson is the same in a gadol as in a simple person, the only difference is that the gadol worked on himself to bring it out.  On Shavuos we have the opportunity to grow and bring our holiness out.  We have to daven that Hashem should allow us to feel the tree sweetness of Torah so that we can desire nothing but Torah

from a Shiur by Rabbi Wachsman, "Reaching New Heights, Powerful Perspectives on Shavuos"

from the Chofetz Chayim Heritage Society

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sefirat HaOmer is a time of challenges.

Hashem conceals himself and makes it seem like he isn't here. If we were given Hashems presence as a gift it would always remain external. The only way that we can become a godly person is by internalising his midos by meeting challenges.
Sefirat HaOmer is a time of challenges.

from a Shiur by Rebbetzin Heller

Preparing for Shavuos.

Every time that we have a Taivah(desire) for something physical and we deny it, we are elevating the spiritual side of ourselves and making ourselves a more spiritual person.
from a Shiur by Rabbi Wachsman, "Reaching new Heights, Powerful Perspectives on Shavous"

If we don't prepare for Shavuos we are wasting a tremendous opportunity.

Once there was a poor man who lived across the street from a very rich man.  Every day he would look longingly at the rich man's house wishing that he could experience what it is like to live like that.  One day the rich man saw him looking at him and asked him what he wants, he said that he would like to experience what its like to live like that  for just one day.  The rich man is a sport so he tells him that in three months he is going away and he has some meetings with people who do not even know him.  The rich man offers him the opportunity to fill in for him for the day and experience the life of a rich man.  Three months go by and the poor man shows up just as the rich man is pulling away. His clothes are torn and his hair is long and straggling.  The rich man says,"I thought you forgot, why didn't you get your hair cut and dress nicely"  The poor man says, "I didn't realize that I had to prepare".  The rich man drives away, and the poor man is whisked inside to try to find something that will fit him and go to a meeting.  The poor man has no idea how to behave in rich society.  He does not know how to use a menu at a restaurant, how to answer a simple question, how to give a speech.  He makes a total fool of himself.  When the rich man comes home he asks him how it was.  The poor man says that it was worse then being poor, all day long nothing but humiliation and laughter. 

If only the poor man would have prepared a little, he would have enjoyed the day.  If he would have dressed nicely and learned how to behave he could have been treated with  the honor that he so deeply wanted.
This is a mashal of us before Shavuos. If we don't prepare for Shavuos we are wasting a tremendous opportunity.  The days of Sefias HaOmer are an opportunity for growth
from a Shiur by Rabbi Wachsman, "Reaching New Heights, Powerful Perspectives on Shavuos"
from the Chofetz Chayim Heritage Society

Why do Jews love eating so much?

The Vilna Gaon says that the difference between a Jew and a non-jew is in his nefesh habehemi. The Jew has the ability to take the physical world and elevate it into a spiritual thing. When a Jew eats on Shabbos and Yomtov it can become a holy thing, if done right. The Jewish Soul longs for Kedushah, and the holiness of eating in a spiritual way.

Adapted from a Shiur by Rebbetzin Heller

Don’t Forget About The “Small” Mitzvos!

Sometimes as we grow in our spirituality, we tend to forget the “smaller” spiritual pursuits. When I say ‘forget,’ I mean that we tend to take lightly and not place enough emphasis or give enough chashivus to (what seems to us) the ”smaller” mitzvos. This is a big mistake.

For example, a Chashuv Ben Torah who can explain and expound upon a difficult Rav Akiva Eiger, might be too quick to dismiss the importance in saying the entire karbanos every morning during Shacharis. He might say to himself “anyone can say Karbanos”! However, I’m a Talmid Chacham, this is too small for a person of my stature.. Or, he might not take heed of his outward manners and social behavior.

It is a grave mistake to lack in appreciation for the nuances of our Yiddishkeit which are just as important as we grow, as it is in how it enables us to grow in the first place.

An analogy to explain this, is like a Jew who climbs up to the 10th branch of a tall tree. He looks down and sees how far he’s come and how much he has climbed and he feels a profound sense of accomplishment and empowerment. He thinks to himself, look how much I have achieved, who needs the tree trunk at this point!…and he proceeds to cut the trunk down! Of course, he will naturally fall down with the trunk and smash his head!

We must becareful not to ‘cut down the trunk’ when we grow in our spirituality!

April 19, 2010 by ylevi

כל העולם לא נברא אלא בשבילי

A universal crisis, millions of people stranded, billions of dollars lost, and one volcanic eruption in Iceland causes chaos across the European continent. Within all these tumult, one Jew merits a smile of loveliness from the Creator of the World, as if whispering to him - my son, the whole world was not created except for you כל העולם לא נברא אלא בשבילי.

The story begins with a young Yeshiva student, an 18 year old Yerushalmi, that came down with a fulminate hepatic failure and was mortally ill.

With little hope of receiving a liver transplant in Israel, Rav Firer sought to send the boy emergency to Brussels, the world center of liver transplants. The only problem however, is that Brussels under no circumstances transplants non-EU patients in order to save the scanty supply of livers for Europeans. Nevertheless, it was decided to send him to Brussels despite the full knowledge of negligible chance of receiving a liver.

The young Yeshiva student had no choice but to include his name to the long waiting list for a liver transplant. In the meantime, he tried to maintain his learning despite the illness, consciously aware that it will takes weeks, months, and even years till he will be able to be given a new liver. Many patients were on the waiting list, and his name was somewhere on the bottom… And when his turn does finally arrive, it must completely match his blood type and other medical criteria. If it’s not a perfect match, he will need to continue waiting … for a miracle.

However, רבות מחשבות בלב איש ועצת ה’ היא תקום Many thoughts in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of HaShem shall stand. HaShem had a different plan for this young Yeshiva student and HaShem’s loyal servants produced avalanches of hot ash, rock and gas on Europe, causing Europe to completely shut down its skies into a no-fly zone. No one can leave and no one can enter; a self-imposed siege in the euro zone skies. It is during this time that a young religious Yerushalmi man in the capital of Belgium is sitting in the yeshiva learning Torah.

During the course of the shut down airspace above Europe, a person dies in the hospital in the capital of Belgium, a person whom agreed to donate his liver to anyone that might need it. Astonishingly, a liver that is perfectly parametric for our young Yeshiva student.

Health authority of Belgium began searching the liver transplant waiting list but ‘unfortunately’, not even one patient was able to fly into Belgium for the very needed healthy liver transplant due to a volcanic eruption in Iceland.

As they advanced further on the waiting list, they reached the young Yeshiva student. However it was not offered to the boy due to his lack of citizenship. As the clock closed in on the deadline for time in which the the liver’s lifespan for transplanting, the precious healthy liver cannot be wasted and must be swiftly replaced with a diseased liver, no one else was able to arrive in Belgium for the transplant except this young Yerushalmi.

With the clear Divine Intervention, this budding talmid chacham received the liver and is now recovering from surgery.

The enormity of this miracle was even greater after the successful liver transplant. The doctors said that the young yeshiva student’s liver was very deteriorated and diseased and it was a matter of days his liver would stop functioning completely. The doctors unanimously believe that if this young man had to continue waiting for the liver transplant, he would have been long dead.
from Matzav.com

How many times have we found that the bad turned into good. We do not know Hashem's plans and it can be hard waiting for a solution to our problems, Hashem has his plans.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Food as a spiritual tool.

The table of a Talmud Hacham is like a mizbayach because he uses food as a spiritual tool.

We can change our lives through our eating. The self control gained from going through the steps, and the honesty that is required to work the steps is life changing. Everyone I have spoken to who has followed the program and worked the steps talks about how they have grown spiritually from the process.

The miracle of change.

The vilna Gaon says that the reason that a person is in this world is to change his midos. The problem is that this is almost impossible. It is easier for Hashem to change nature then for us to change ourselves. The only way that a person can change is through a miracle. When you work together with Hashem you can change.
from a Shiur by Rabbi Keleman

Step 2 is: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to
sanity. We can not change ourselves, we need to bring Hashem into the process.

Friday, April 23, 2010

I can't recomend this enough!

I wanted to let everyone know that IY"H, the author of the Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh seforim, Rav Itamar Shwartz, will be in town before Shavuos.

Similar to last year, he will be holding a seminar of three shiurim in one day on Sunday May 9th at Rabbi Mayer Fund's Shul, Sheves Achim in Flatbush, Brooklyn (1517 Ave. H, off corner of East 16th [across from Q Train]). The shiurim will be at 12, 3, & 6 PM. All proceeds are going to publish more seforim by Rav Shwartz. The suggested donation for the seminar is $200. call 516-668-6397 to register.

The Rav's trip is right before Shavuos so the theme, generally, that he will be speaking on relates to how to prepare oneself for Kabalas HaTorah. The Rav will be in North American from Sunday May 9th (the day of the seminar) till Motzoi Shabbos Parshas Bamidbar, May 15th.

Also, there are still one or two slots available that you can have the Rav speak to your community/Shul. Please call 516-668-6397 for more information on that.

Leave those demons behind!

Once there was a king and a queen who could not have a baby for a long time. When they finally had the baby they were overjoyed until they realized that the baby had an ugly deformed mask. They were devastated and they didn't know what to do. How could they admit that they had an ugly baby. One of the kings ad visors made a suggestion, to have a perfect mask made so that no one would know what the baby really looked like. As the child grew and got bigger they made bigger and bigger masks to cover his face. When the prince was a young man and ready to become married he told his bride to be about the mask. She agreed to get married, but she asked to see his face before the wedding to make sure that she could handle it. the Prince took off his mask, and she said, "Your Face looks exactly like the mask".

When you know that you want to become something but you don't know how to do it, you have to "act as if" you are already there. Actions will bring us to reality.
from a Shiur on Aish Audio
Leave Those Demons Behind # SW 916
by Schwartz, Rabbi Shmuel
In OA we always say, "fake it till you make it". If you do all of the steps required (the 12 steps) you will eventually become a different person, and you will see the promises of OA come true.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Gratitude for the Torah

Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato says that the history of the Jewish People can be divided into 4 periods:

pregnacy- the time in Mitzrayim when we lived in darkness, we could not see Hashem

birth- coming out of Mizrayim- the Jews were ejected out as if out of a womb

adolecense- the time in the dessert- a time when we learn to appreciate Hashem, adolescnce is the time when Hakaros hatov is very hard for us.

adulthood- began at Har Sinai-when we could begin to transition from learning to appreciate Hashem, to acting maturely and doing Hashem's will

Our job durring Sefiras Haomer is to work on our appreciation and gratitude towards Hashem so that we will be ready for Shavuos, to recieve Hashem's Torah with appreciation for its true worth.

From a Shiur by Rabbi Keleman

Be as careful with a minor mitzva as with a major one.

Be as careful with a minor mitzva as with a major one, for you do not know the rewards ...Pirke Avot

When we are trying to do Hashem's will it is easy to get so involved with the Major Mitzvas that we forget the minor ones. Of course kashrut and Shabbos are important, but that does not mean that we can forget other mitzvas.

In Oa we have to follow every part of the program. We can't say, I'll weigh and measure my food, but I don't want to go to meetings, or make phone calls. We do not know what part of the program is going to bring us health.

Vain have its builders toiled

If Hakodosh Boruch Hu will not build a house, then in vain have its builders toiled upon it; If Hashem will not preserve the city, in vain does the watchman keep vigil. It is in vain for you that you rise early, sit up late, who eat the bread of toil; but He will surely give sustenance to His loved ones. (Psalms 127)

To me, this portrays that it is not necessarily how hard we work, to normalize our weight or in any other endeavor. We need the component of Tefila, we need to beseech the Almighty for help, so that we may be blessed with His Grace and, thereby with success. There is no other way to success. No "vigils", nor "toils" ever worked for me.

Only when we realize we are completely powerless and add the component of turning to G-d, can we put food in perspective over the long term. When connected to Hashem, the idea of bingeing just falls away. Sanity sets in and we realize that food is a gift which has been granted us, a pleasant way to nourish our bodies and sustain energy so that we can focus on the really important things.

Each day is a new beginning and new opportunity.

This is the history of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the L-rd G-d made the earth and the heavens (Bereishis 2:4)

Hashem created the world with the letter "Hay", leaving two open portals, at the bottom and at the side. Man's natural inclination is to strive to rise. If he succeeds, he can enter through the wide door at the bottom of the "Hay'. Should he, however, stray, he need not fear, for there remains yet another chance, and he can squeeze through the small opening at the side.

Man is not perfect. At the time of creation, Hakodosh Boruch Hu already made provision for the weaknesses of humanity. He created opportunities for man to rise above his failings.

Despite what has previously transpired, I need never despair. Each day is a new beginning and new opportunity.

Focus on gratitude

Let us thank our G-d, let us thank our Master, let us thank our King, let us thank our Savior... (Ein K'Alokeinu)

When I focus on gratitude, the petty annoyances seem to disappear. No longer do I sulk over things which don't go my way. It is evident that the Al-mighty has showered me with abundant goodness.

When I first began to enumerate my gratitudes, I felt it would be boring and repetitious. However, the more I practice, the more evident it becomes that Hashem is continually watching over me as a Father watches over a beloved child. Every day Hashem is helping me. The cumulative benefit of many small things which go right in my day is easy to overlook. But it is each of these small things which calls for my thanks to the Holy One for His special intervention on my behalf.

We thank You for inspiring us to thank You. (Modim D'Rabbanan).

Three bad things that remove a person from this world.

R'Elazar HaKappar taught: There are three bad things that remove a person from this world: Jealousy, lust and honor. (Pirkei Avos 4:28)

Until I was able to humble myself and admit, both to myself and others, that I was a compulsive eater, I could not recover. My honor stood in the way. The conversations in my head were full of excuses. The fault was either in the particular day's circumstances and stresses, or the problem was non-existent, at all. I told myself that I was really capable of taking control, when the time would be right for me.

My lust for the substance of my addiction blinded me to the truth. And when I met a person who behaved appropriately around food, my abnormal logic caused me to think that she was unusual. Although I did not consider myself jealous, I'm sure that, in the recesses of my mind, I was guilty of this too.

Today I look back at the folly of my ways.

A Mashal for facing tragedy.

The Dubner Magged told a mashal of two sailing ships that were traveling on the ocean when a terrible storm broke out. Eventually both ships were destroyed by the waves and the captains of the ships clung to scraps of wood until they were thrown onto the shore after nearly drowning. They were taken to a local hospital and cared for, to restore them to health. One of the captains rested for a few weeks, and then he went back to work on another sailing vessel. The other captain could not come back to himself. He was a broken man. A wise man came to see him and said, "I don't know why you can't get back to yourself like the other captain. You both went through the same ordeal, but he rested for a few weeks and now he is back to sailing but you won't stop moaning and crying about your loss" The captain answered him, "You think that you are a wise man, you don't realize that we did not have the same loss, he was my worker. Both those ships belonged to me. They were filled with precious cargo that was my life's savings."
Rebbetzin Kalmonovitz tells us that we are like the captains of those boats. If we think that we are just Hashem's worker, we will be able to survive the storms of life, but if we think that we are the Captain of the Ship, running the show, we will be broken.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The real root of Yiras Shamayim

The real root of Yiras Shamayim is fearing Hashem in private. We have to be able to tell the truth in the deepest recesses of our heart. Doing Mitzvot in public but not is private is real apikorsis, we have to remember that Hashem always sees us no matter where we are.
from the Shiur:
Parshat Acharei Mot & Kedoshim: Respecting the Respected
Teacher: Mrs. Shira Smiles Class: Parsha for Our Lives 5770
Added: April 19, 2010

What we do and think in private is what really defines who we are. We can not grow without total honesty. We can pretend to work the tools of OA, but if we want success, we need honesty.

The essence of a Jew is to live above his nature.

The Sefas Emes says that time when a Jew really starts to live is when he begins to break his nature. A Jew has to control his desires not to eat non-kosher food, not to turn on a light on Shabbos, even if he really wants the light, and many more things. Although we live in a world of nature, our job in this world is to learn to break our nature.

The best way to learn to change a middah that we are struggling with is to find a person who has changed himself and was successful in changing that Middah and to observe and follow him.

The Vilna Gaon says that the biggest pain of Gehenom is when they show us what we could have been instead of what we are. We have to break our natural inclinations and become more then we thought we could be.

from a Shiur by Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman about preparing for Shavuos

Controlling my compulsive overeating is something that is totally beyond nature, I am only able to do it with Hashem's help. I turn to my sponsor who has already successful in this area for guidance and she helps me to overcome my natural tendency to compulsively overeat.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Hidden Truth

When a Talmud Hacham teaches a little boy Torah, he simplifies it in such a way that the boy will understand it. This does not mean that the simple Torah that he is teaching him is the whole truth, it is just that in order for him to understand it, the Talmud Hacham has to "hide" parts of it.
When Hashem, who is infinite, wants us to understand Torah concepts, Hashem simplifies things in such a way that we are able to absorb it. When we experience Hashem's truths, it is important for us to understand, that we are only seeing a small part of Hashem's truth.

From a Shiur on Naaleh:Seeking G-d Teacher: Rabbi Moshe Weinberger

Sometimes we feel like a great black cloud has lifted as we experience growth through the 12 steps, and that we know so much. We have to remember that we are only seeing a crumb of truth.

The Omer and Consistency

If we want Hahem to be consistent with us, to give us everything that we need, we have to be consistent with Hashem. Consistency comes from doing something over and over. Reviewing something one hundred and one is much better then one hundred times. We always have to do that extra repetition, because it keeps us consistent. Consistency is the basis of the Torah. Hashem could only give the Torah through Moshe, because Moshe was completely consistent. In order for us to receive the Torah we have to work on being consistent. That is why we have to work on consistency in the time leading up to the giving of the Torah.

If we do not value consistency, we will not value Hashem because Hashem's essence is consistency. This is the midah of Netzach that we have to strive for.

from a Shiur by Rabbi Zeff Leff, "The Omer and Consistency" from Aish Audio

Now that I am on OA I have learned a new level of consistency that I never was able to attain before. Having a sponsor to call every day, and commit to, caused me to learn to be consistent. Now I am trying to use this consistency to grow in Mitzvot too.

Friday, April 16, 2010


Very often when we think about ourselves and our midos, we think that it is positive that we are sensitive people.  It is positive to be sensitive to other peoples feeling, but it is not a positive trait to be overly sensitive to our own feelings.  We have to learn to overcome the feeling that we have a right to be overly involved with our own feelings.  It does not get us where we need to go in life, and it keeps us stuck in misery. From a Torah 12 step meeting.

A Great Mashal about overcoming temptation:

 You suddenlty realize that you have to run to the store to buy toilet paper, and you have to take your 3 young children with you.  You get to the store and the children are crying for candy and nosh and all kinds of things that you do not want.  You grab your toilet paper and pay and get out of there.  Your impulses are like the little kids crying for things that you do not need. 

If you want to get where you need to go in life you have to ignore those voices of "I want".  from a Torah 12 step meeting

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Humility brings Bitachon

If a person has doubts about Hashem, don't work on your doubt, work on your humility. Hashem says that a haughty person can not live in the same world with Hashem.  This means that a haughty person is in a black hole that causes doubts.  If a person is humble, they will see the greatness of this world and all of the good that Hashem created. Real humility means that you recognize your greatness, but you also recognize that it comes from Hashem.

from the Shiur:
Parshat Tazria & Metzora: Profound Purity

Teacher: Mrs. Shira Smiles Class: Parsha for Our Lives 5770

As I walk around looking like a new person (half the size), people stop me to make a fuss.  It is important to remember that it was not me.  I never could have lost this weight by myself, it is not me, it is only because Hashem helped me to find OA and become abstinent and stay that way.

Trust in Hashem

When someone trusts you, it enables you to want to please them. We can apply this principle to our relationship with Hashem.  The more that we trust Hashem, the more that Hashem want to give us.

Heard from an anonymus teacher in a class based on "Shaarim B'Tefilah" by Rav Shimshon Pinchas

Monday, April 12, 2010

Healing The Soul

When you are trying to change yourself you have to be careful not to let a reason become an excuse. A person might say that I yell at my family because that is the way my family dealt with their anger. This might be the reason that you do it but do not let it because a reason to continue to behave this way.

from the Shiur: Healing The Soul # HT 789 B
by Heller, Rebbitzen Tziporah
from Aish HaTorah

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The wisdom of the Torah is God's but no one can partake of it without a rebbe to serve it to him.

Though the wine belongs to the king, those who drink it are grateful nonetheless to the waiter and not to the king, as it says, "for Moshe placed his hands upon him"- the wisdom and greatness of Yehoshua are considered as if they were given by Moshe to Yehoshua, while in fact they came from God (Rashi -Bava Kamma 92b)

The lesson here is that since the wine previously mentioned belongs to the king, no one can possibly take any himself, rather one is dependent on the waiter to bring it from the wine cellar and serve him. So, too, the wisdom of the Torah is God's but no one can partake of it without a rebbe to serve it to him. Thus the rebbe is indispensable and one is indebted to him, the the wisdom is Hashem's. Reb Chaim's Discuourses (Reb Chaim Shmulevitz ztl) p 158

All to often we think that we can get where we need to go without guidance. We have to turn to our Rabbis for wisdom, in OA we have to turn to our sponsor. I see so many people who think that they know better then anyone else, and they wind up very far from where they want to be. We have to be humble, turn to our rebbi, and accept guidance.

Self-imposed slavery

Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe, for not having made me a slave. (Bircas Shachris)

I thank Hashem for freedom from self-imposed slavery to a substance called food. No longer is my brain enveloped in a food fog. No longer does this substance take over my life, dominate my thoughts and actions, reactions and emotions. My relationships are smoother because I have eliminated the "highs" and "lows" brought on my ingesting the wrong foods.

The Torah tells us that it is incorrect to voluntarily submit to servitude. If one chooses to bind oneself to a master, (beyond one's obligation), one is obliged to have his ear pierced at the doorpost, for a servant's time is not his own and he becomes a slave to his master's desires.

I choose freedom today so I may be totally available to serve only the true Master.
guest post by Hessie

Using the tools Hashem gave me.

... "for a bird of the skies may carry the sound, and some winged creature may betray the matter". (Koheles 11:20)

Shlomo Hamelech, blessed by Hashem with Chochma Yeseira (an extra measure of wisdom), reminds us that the nature of "Chai", the highest level of creation, is its difficulty of holding onto a secret. He admonishes that, before one speaks, one should be aware that "a bird in the skies may carry the sound".

And yet, I am not free to shrug off my responsibility, and claim that gossip is part of human nature. I must use the tools Hashem gave me, the double barrier of my lips and teeth, to guard me from gossip and sharing others confidences. If I safeguard others' confidences by maintaining Anonymity, I will be cultivating an important character trait within myself, which will spill over into my life. It's interesting that maintaining abstinence and practice of anonymity in the OA program are both dependent on the closure of the lips and teeth, the natural barriers given us by Hashem.

I cannot totally abstain from speech, and neither can I abstain from all food. Therefore, I must exercise caution, and ask for Hashem's help, in refraining from excesses, both in speech and in the consumption of food.

Hakodosh Baruch Hu never reveals secrets I share with Him. Let me strive, for today, to emulate Him.
guest post by Hessie

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Do not allow yourself to become discouraged.

Sometimes you may make a great effort but find that you still cannot pray. No matter what, do not allow yourself to become discouraged. This is the most important rule of all. Force yourself to say each word of the service with complete simplicity, like a child who is just learning to read. Keep saying the words. In most cases God will then touch your heart with a flame and you will pray with great feeling.

From "The Essential Rabbi Nachman" by Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum p131

The time after Yom Tov is a let down. We looked forward to Yom Tov and seeing our families and the spiritual lift that comes with Yom Tov. All of a sudden, it is over. My sponsor tells me that many people lose their abstinence after Yom Tov. They let there guard down and they think that there is nothing to worry about now that they made it this far, and suddenly they slip. Keep connecting to Hashem. Keep davening.

Friday, April 9, 2010

A brilliant erev Shabbos Labor saving device.

You know it is Bein Hazmanim when you notice your yeshiva bochur spraying the kitchen floor with the sink hose. He explained that it is a quick way of cleaning the floor, he already put the cleaner on it, and this way he does not need a bucket.

Funny enough my patience in this led to the discovery that my mop was not working properly. Because he needed to get a lot of water up from the floor he realized that the mop was missing a piece that causes it to wring out the water. Another case of Gam Zu L'Tovah.

And Aron Was Silent

After the sons of Aron were killed the Torah says that he was silent. This is said in praise of Aron that he accepted Hashem's will. I have taken this as my motto in many things. In fact, I have a sign that says "V'Yidon Aron" hanging on my computer.

Very often the seemingly bad in our lives turns out to be for our good. Sometimes Hashem lets us see this, and sometimes we just have to believe that everything that Hashem does is for the good. May we never be tested like Aron, but may we always have his strength to accept Hashem's will.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Sacrificing For Hashem – Shavuos

As we move towards Shavuos, we must set a list of goals and objectives. We need to sacrifice for Hashem. Sacrificing for Hashem in our times, means giving up something (whether it be a negative behavior etc.) which has become second nature to us; something which we have become accustomed to and almost cannot live without. You cannot quantify the meaning of this in an isolated or individual act of Mesiras Nefesh, since what constitutes an act of Mesiras Nefesh for one person, might not be a big deal (sacrifice) or achievement for another .

We all know where we need to make corrections, let’s do it!

April 8, 2010 by ylevi

The strict measure of justice.

Whenever a person commits a transgression, a destructive being is created, as stated in the Mishnah (Avos 4:13), "He who commits a single transgression acquires against himself a single accuser..."

The strict measure of justice would justify that the Holy One, Blessed is He, should claim, "I do not nourish destructive beings! Go to the one who made you, and derive your sustenance from him". The destructive being would then immediately descend or cut him off from his spiritual source...But the Holy One, Blessed is He...bears and tolerates the sin, and just as He nourishes the entire world, He nourishes and sustains this destructive being until...the sinner repents...(Tomer Devora - Noseh Avon - 2)

Through my own erroneous behavior with food, I created destructive beings, which cut me off from my spiritual source. I can no longer justify filling my body with substances which are detrimental to my health. It is evident that this is not the Will of Hakodosh Baruch Hu.

Today I follow a plan of eating, so that I may be connected to the Supreme Source. I do this one day at a time. There is nothing that succeeds like success.
guest post by Hessie

Occupy ourselves with Chesed

It hath been told thee, O man, what is good, and what the L-rd doth require of thee: Only to do justice and to love mercy (Chesed) and to walk humbly with thy G-d. (Michah 6:8)

When we occupy ourselves with Chesed, we reap the benefits. Our program does not exist merely to "serve us", but we also need to do service. We need to be actively involved. By taking a phone call and giving words of encouragement, we help another. The act of abstinence, itself, demonstrates to others that we are not speaking of the impossible, and that this program is within the realm of reality. It is a way of life many have adopted successfully. And our example gives strength to others to join in our mutual success.

We reap the benefits of proper nutrition and also gain a grand opportunity to perform many acts of kindness.
Guest post by Hessie

Eating is a spiritual experience.

When you eat with correct thought in advance to the mitzvot that you are fulfilling with this food, you are doing something extremely spiritual.  Eating is a spiritual experience because the food becomes a part of your essence.  How we eat elevates the essence of our body and helps us to connect to Hashem.  We become holy by knowing that what we eat has an effect on our soul. Every time that we eat we can say a short devar Torah to elevate the spiritual environment at the table.  If we can not do it at every meal, we can do it on Shabbos.
from the Shiur
Parshat Shemini: Holy Bites
Teacher: Mrs. Shira Smiles Class: Parsha Topics - 5768

Bringing Kedushah into our house.

Physical food has the ability to make a real difference on our neshamah.
The laws of Kashrus are found in the same place as the discussion of the Miskan. This is to teach us that our table is a place where we can bring Kedushah into the house.

from the Shiur
Parshat Shemini: Holy Bites
Teacher: Mrs. Shira Smiles Class: Parsha Topics - 5768

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Harmful abstinence

Harmful abstinence, however, resembles the ways of the foolish gentiles who not only refrain from what is unessential but also deny themselves what is essential and chastise themselves, (often) in strange ways, which the Eternal  totally rejects.  Mesilis Yisharim- Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato p. 98

A person can not eliminate all materialism from their lives.  It is the purpose of the Jew to elevate the physical and bring it to a spiritual plane.  For those of us who want to achieve this level, but are not really there yet, it helps to have a guide (our sponsor) who keeps us on the right path, and keeps us from trying to reach a harmful abstinence.  I think that without my sponsor, I might have become so carried away with my abstinence that I might have gone to the other extreme.  My sponsor keeps me on the right path.

The ideal way for a person to aquire abstinence.

The ideal way for a person to acquire abstinence is to examine the inferior nature of the pleasures of this world, their insignificance, and the serious ills that are likely to emerge from them.
               - the beginning of chapter 15  Misilis Yesharim
                - Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzatto

Pesach was a time of stark contrasts.  As hard as it was to stay abstinent, the benefits were extremely clear.  I walked to Shul, up and down a big hill, and it was easy.  I feel like a whole new world is opening up as my physical abilities improve.  I could get down on the floor and play with my grandchildren, and even get up again without to much difficulty.  Overeating is a serious issue for many on Pesach, and as I emerge from the Yom Tov feeling healthy and good, and I listen to others complain about the misery of overindulging, I am extremely grateful for my abstinence.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Having the proper mental attitude as I begin my Shabbos preparations.

Guest Post:
The following is appropriate when preparing for Shabbos:

And it shall come to pass, that on the sixth day they shall prepare that which they bring in...(Shemos 16:5)

As I begin my Shabbos preparations, I am mindful to begin with a proper mental attitude. Of course, I want to enjoy savory meals in honor of the Shabbos. At the same time, I also want clarity to participate fully in all the joys of Shabbos. To that end, I need to prepare for an "abstinent" Shabbos.
Yes, it is challenging, but it can be done! It is a matter of organizing and prioritizing. By beginning early, I avoid undue pressure. If possible, I delegate some tasks to others, so that they, too, may share in the Mitzvah of preparing for the Shabbos Queen. As I weigh and measure, I can say the words "L'kovod Shabbos Kodesh" and pray that Hashem bless my home with an aura of serenity and tranquility, and that the Kedusha of Shabbos linger and sustain me from one week to the next.

Seeking wisdom from the right source.

Guest Post
Since it is traditional to begin saying Pirkei Avos after Pesach, I have chosen the following:
R' Yose bar Yehudah of Kfar Habavli taught: If someone learns Torah from the young, what is he like? He is like a person who eats grapes that are not ripe and drinks wine that is not yet ready. But if someone learns Torah from older people, what is he like? He is like a person who eats ripe grapes and drinks aged wine. (Pirkei Avos 4:26)

When people have been doing something over a long period of time, they develop a depth and scope that is not possible with lesser experience. I benefit from aligning myself with a person of such expertise.

There is a hierarchy in program (OA), which directs us as to who can guide whom. The wisdom of this is expressed in the above Mishnah. If I want success, I need to find a sponsor who understands me, because she has experienced and mastered the same challenges I am faced with.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Erev Shabbos/ Yom Tov and eating

It is amazing how much you can eat and still think you didn't eat anything.  When you sit down to your weighed and measured food, you know that you had your meal and you don't need to eat anything else.  Now as I look with different eyes, I see that Erev Shabbos/Yom Tov is a time when everyone is busy and they don't "stop to eat" so they just nibble.  I can't believe how much food gets consumed without a feeling of satiation.  I know that I used to do it to and I am grateful for my weighed and measured portion.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Don't be a slave to anything.

The minute one loses one's personal sense of worth and a positive self image, he or she becomes a slave.

Lack of self-respect, self-deprecation, and ignorance of one's own marvelous qualities and heritage are tickets to the slave train. Shame or embarrassment about one's ethnic or religious background is tantamount to carrying around an iron shackle with a 50-lb. ball and chain.

These feelings of inferiority are an invitation to let society dictate how you should live your life. People who feel inferior are weak; it's easy to exploit a person with no backbone. Controlled and exploited people are the most miserable creatures on the face of the earth.

For a Jew, one of the most important Passover messages is learning who we are and why we're celebrating. Modern society often discourages us from learning about our wonderful background, our G-d, and what emuna - the full and simple faith in Him - can do for us in every level of life, be it emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and even physical.

Emuna helps you feel good about yourself. As soon as you begin feeling good about yourself, you become free. Every human has an inherent right to freedom; that's the universal message of the Passover holiday. Happy Passover!
copied from:

Freedom from slavery to your physical desires is a wonderful and empoyering thing. Every person that I have spoken to who has followed the 12 steps and worked the tools of OA has said that they became closer to Hashem through the process.
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