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

Monday, May 31, 2010

Say one Bracha a day with Joy

The best way to build up your relationship with Hashem is to say one Bracha a day with Joy.  Joy even more then kavanah will bring you to Bitachon.

from the Naaleh Shiur:
Joyful Trust
Teacher: Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller Class: Bitachon: Meaning of Trust

Thinking that will bring you to Simcha.

Simcha is a middah (character trait) that can be developed, it is not a response to events in our life. Fun is not simcha, pleasure is not simcha. Simcha is serenity, it is an attitude towards the outside that comes from trust in Hashem.

If you believe that only Hashem is in charge you will not be afraid of other things. You will know that everything comes from Hashem and other people and things are just agents of Hashem.  Even if you close a door by making a wrong decision, Hashem can open another door and help you go where you want to go.

This way of thinking will bring you to Simcha.

from the  Naaleh Shiur:
Joyful Trust

Teacher: Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller Class: Bitachon: Meaning of Trust

Friday, May 28, 2010

We often confuse being and having.

We live in a world where people confuse being and having.  They think that happiness comes from having things, but true happiness comes from being something-being a Jew, a good student, a mother, a father, etc.

from the Shiur:
Helping Children Appreciate their Siblings

Teacher: Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller Class: Bringing Torah to Life: Deepening our Children's Jewish Experience
Added: May 25, 2010

In OA we learn to seek happiness outside of having a lot of food.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Story from the Chofetz Chayim

A Rabbi came to a town and drank the water and saw that it was very sandy.  He asked someone why the water was so bad and they said "what can you do, this is the way it is."  He made a rule that no one could use the water without boiling it first.

The Rabbi was passing by the town and he saw a big fire, and he asked someone, "why don't you put some water on the fire?"  They told him, "we are waiting for it to boil".

The Chofetz Chayim said that when it is an emergency we use whatever we have.  He said that in these times everyone has to do what they can to be Mekarev other Jews, even if we think that we are not good enough.

from the Shiur by Rabbi Orlofsky (lots of fun to listen to and extremely inspiring)


As an aside, I have often heard that BINGE stands for  But I'm Not Good Enough..  We are all good enough, Hashem created us and we can all acomplish a lot in our lives.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Looking for the Yad Hahsem in our lives.

When Benei Yisrael where in the dessert they never knew when they would have to move their camp.  Hashem would send them a sign and they would have to move on.  It didn't matter if they liked one place better then another, sometimes they stayed in a place for a short time and sometimes for years.  Despite this they never complained. In our lives we have times of ease and times of trouble.  We have to know that it is all coming from Hashem.  Life is not always about movement, there are times when just handling the nisyonot that Hashem has given us is a time to hold on to our emunah and keep in one place.  In the dessert it was clear what Hashem wanted us to do, our challenge for this generation is to see Hahsem's message in our own life.  If we look for the hand of Hashem, we will see it, but if we don't look, we will never see it.  Often we can only see Hashem's hand by looking back at the events of our lives.  A good way of seeing the hand of Hashem is to make an effort to tell stories of Hashgacha Pratis.
Parshat Beha'alotcha: Triumphant Travels

Teacher: Mrs. Shira Smiles
Class: Parsha for Our Lives 5770
Added: May 25, 2010

Monday, May 24, 2010

Face life with joy, despite your fears.

Dealing with anxiety.  You take the information from your head, you take the imagery from your heart and you take the concrete action from your gut.  These three things together come from the mind, heart, liver-Moach, Lev, Kaved.  Together they spell out Melech, you have to be the king over your mind heart and liver, then you have to turn it over to Hashem because Hashem is the true king.

Our real fear comes from our fear of our sins and its consequences.  Guilt causes anxiety.   Sometimes it comes from guilt from actions long ago that we do not even remember.

The trick is to know that you are afraid of your fate because of your actions.  Do not be pained, be critical of your misdeeds.  Worry, how am I going to bring more kedusha into my life?

We have to respond by knowing that nothing happens unless Hashem wants it to.  Bravery, not being afraid of anything, comes from a blockage, a lack of the knowledge that life is precious.  If you truly value life, you will be afraid of doing the wrong thing, that will bring bad results.

Real courage comes from doing the right thing at the right time. A real tzadik understands that every second is enormously precious as a means, not as an end.

There is a place for anxiety, it can bring a person to improve themselves. If you have bitachon you will be able to face life with joy, despite your fears.

from the Shiur:

Teacher: Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller Class: Bitachon: Meaning of Trust

Added: January 13, 2008

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The ripple effect of our actions.

Hashem judges us by the effect that our actions have on other, not just by our actions. The ripple effect of our actions are as important as our actions themselves. We learn from this that we have to take into account how our actions are going to effect others and not just our actions themselves. We can cause others to come to greatness from the greatness of our actions.
from the Shiur:
Yehuda's Admission
Teacher: Mrs. Shira Smiles Class: Seeds of Moshiach: Yehuda and Tamar
Added: May 11, 2010
Class Number: 8 of 9 Time: 48:29
Topics: Chumash / Our Forefathers

We often talk about the "service" that we do by staying abstinent, and how it is helping others. We can see the way that our abstinence has ripple effects, and we can also think about what brought us to become abstinent.

Friday, May 21, 2010

It is a true wonder when the physical and spiritual are both working together.

Why does a Nazir bring a sin offering after he finishes his period of abstinence from Wine? Is it because he did something wrong by abstening from the physical world? No it is because he reached a high level by exercising self-control, and now that he is returning to the physical world he brings a sin offering.

The nazir has a problem, he knows that he can not balance they physical and spiritual world corectly. He knows that he needs extra help to create this balance by putting limits on himself to try to create a place where integration is a reasonable goal. Since there is concerne that he should not fall back into the weakness and overdo the world of desire, he has to create an extra boundry, the sin offering to build him up and prevent a further fall.

This is the reason that the Torah portion Naso talks about the Sota, and the Nazir. They both come from the lopsided relationship between the physical and material world. If a person witnesses a Sota he should take it as a message that he needs to realign the relationship between the physical and the spiritual in his own life.

The Nazir is refered to as a "Pella" (wonder) because he was able to control his desires. The relationship between the Guf (body) and the neshamah (soul) is also considered to be a pella. That is the reason the the blessing of Asher Yatzar says "Mafli Laasot". Becuase it is a true wonder when are physical and spiritual are both working together.

from the Shiur:
Naso: Holiness Through Self-Control # KY 035 A
by Kirzner ztl, Rabbi Yitzchak

The response to seeing an unfaithful woman's punishment was to become a Nazir - abstaining from wine, haircutting, and various other things to preempt him from following the same path. But wouldn't we assume the reaction to witnessing such gruesome consequences would in itself be a deterrent? Rabbi Kirzner discusses the far ranging effects what we see has on us, and the Nazir's underlying lack of appreciation of physical and spiritual synthesis.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Why the Torah was given to Man

When Hashem wanted to give the Torah to Moshe Rabeinu, the angles protested. Hashem told Moshe to hold onto his holy throne and give them a (Teshuva) answer. The angels asked why the Torah shold be given to men who are going to sin, when it can be given to angels who are perfect. Moshe answered that the Torah was written for men not angels, the mitzvot are for men to do. But another answer that Moshe gave was Teshuva. Yes man will sin, but he can do Teshuva

Heard from Reb Yakov Pascal

Monday, May 17, 2010

Important things to do to prepare for Shavuos

1) Stay connected to Hashem- be ready to go beyond the outside- try to think about Hashem whatever you do. As you are shopping and cooking focus on bringing the simcha of Matan Torah into your physical life.

2) Really looking at what is holding you back from growing spiritually. Realize that the power to change is not coming from inside of us, it comes from Hashem.

3) Believe in yourself and your ability to grow. Be willing to change at every moment, never saying "Now is not the time for change". Be willing to start again.

From a Shiur by Rebbetzin Heller about preparing for Shavuos

Spiritual growth comes from consistency.

One of the atributes of Hashem is Netzach.  Hashem keeps the world running on a consistent basis. We do not have to worry if the sun is going to stop shining. We know that Hashem is consistent. One of the most important things that we have to do is to try to emulate Hashem. The Omer helps us to grow in this way because it helps us to work on the consistency of our avodah.

When we have to give an accounting of our deeds before Hashem we will be faced with the consistency of our deeds. We might explain that we did not give more Tzedakah because we did not have money, but Hashem will examine how we spent money and if it is found that we wasted money on trivial things, we will be faulted for not giving money to Tzedakah. If we are faulted for not learning, we may say that we did not have time. Then we will be held accountable for the time we wasted.

from a Shiur by Rabbi Zev Leff "The Omer and Consistency" on Aish

Our success on OA also depends on consistency. We have to weigh and measure our food every meal. We have to use the tools every day. This is the path to health.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Notes from Bilvavi Miskan Evneh-Rav Schwartz's 3:00 Shiur from the day of learning about preparing for Shavuos

Smiyat Haozen is an important way of preparing for Kabalas HaTorah. We are aquiring the same Torah that was given to us on Har Sinai. We are trying to "reaquire" it. Every generation, every gilgul has to go through the process of kinyan. We have to say "Naaseh V'Nishmah" We have to accept to do the Ratzon (will of Hashem) and to become a Kli (vessel) to listen to Hashem's will. Our Avodah is to return to that point after "Naaseh V'Nishmah". The voice that the Yidden heard at Har Sinai was not just then, it continues for all generations, it goes from one end of the world to the next. When you listen to that Kol (voice) your life will be completely different.

When Hashem spoke to Shmuel Hanavi, he did not realize at first that it was Hashem speaking to him. Hashem is always talking to us we just don't always hear it. We often think that it is other people speaking. Kabalas HaTorah means listening to the voice of Hashem. First they heard Hashem directly, then they heard Hashem through Moshe. When we listen to the Torah we are hearing Hashem's voice. Sometimes we hear it directly, and sometimes through the Rabbis. When you do Hashem's will you are listening to Hashem's voice.

Everything in creation reveals Hashem's existence. When you are aware that everything is from Hashem, then you will come to see Hashem's voice even in physical creations, even inanamate objects.

Hashem gave us the Koach Hadibur which has the ability to create good or to destroy.

If you have an orchestra and everyone is playing a different tune it will sound horrible, but when they are playing together it sounds beautiful. The whole world is like an orchestra playing the same song- the Dvar Hashem.

When you want to connect to another person, you need to feel that the person is open to hearing what you have to say. If you are not open to them you can not be a kli for them. Not everything is communicated with words. A baby is able to comunicate a lot without words. If you love a person you are able to connect without words, just like a child's voice is pecious to us even if we don't like everything they say. The Baal Shem Tov says that Hashem feels the same way about us.

If you listen to Hashem's voice, you will be able to hear the good in the bad.

You have to acustom yourself to listen to the voice of Hashem, to hear that everything around us is from Hashem.

We are only isolated becuase we isolate ourselves by refusing to hear the voice of others.

Mamad Har Sinai was a time of complete Achdus and everyone said the same thing at the same time. Our voice comes from our pure neshamah. We said "Naaseh V'Nishmah" at the same time because we were connected. We have to stay connected to all of klal Yisrael. We often shut people out when we don't want to hear them. We have to remember to love the voice of other Yidden.

These are my notes, if something is wrong it is my fault.

Focus only on the present day and hour.

Rabbi Tarfon said: "The day is short, the work is great, the workers are lazy, the wages are high, and the Master is insistent."pirke avot chapter 2 mishna 15

Rabbi Nachman says: How can we meet the heavy quota of the work is great each and every day? The answer is to focus only on today, as the Book of Psalms advises: "Today! If you heed His voice!" (95:7) This is a fundamental rule in the service of Hashem:Focus only on the present day and hour.

from the Breslov Pirke Avot page 104

It is nice to know that our Rabbis have been telling us to take it one day at a time for a very long time. It didn't originate with AA.

Friday, May 14, 2010

What does it mean to accept the Yolk of Torah?

A person who gets married knows that he is accepting additional responsibility but accepts it so that he will have the additional benefits of marriage. When a person accepts the Yolk of Torah he is accepting the additional responsibilities, and gaining added benefits. Just like a married person has to work together with their spouse, taking them into account in all of their plans, we are married to the Torah and we have to take the Torah into account in all of our plans.

Just as a married person does not perceive his new state as a lessening of his life, we must see the benefits to us from accepting the Yolk of Torah. When a person throws off the Yolk of Torah, Hashem gives them a different Yolk, We should rejoice in our relationship with Hashem.
from a Shiur by Rabbi Wachsman about preparing for Shavuos

When we voluntarily accept the rules of OA (L'havdil) we are accepting the added responsibility, but we are getting so many benefits. Giving up excess food, and regaining our health is a worthwhile trade.

Enjoying the physical side of Shavuos.

Why do we have to eat a Seudah on Shavuos? Why is it forbidden to fast on Shavuos? We are like a Chasun at his Chasunah. We have to rejoice and show that we are happy to "become married to the Torah". Just like a Chusan is permitted to cry in anticipation of his chasunah, but he must eat and rejoice at the Chasunah, we have to enjoy the physical side of the Yom Tov too.

from a Shiur by Rabbi Wachsman about preparing for Shavuos

"Just do the next right thing."

Rebbetzin Heller quoting the Maharal says that there will be times of spiritual strength and spiritual weakness. We should use the times of spiritual strength to prepare for the times of weakness. I find that sometimes when I have a real struggle, even though I have grown from it, I feel extremely depleted. That is the time to keep the OA saying in mind, "Just do the next right thing." Don't think about long term, just do what is right now.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Our Table can be a source of Bracha.

If a person does not say Divrei Torah at his table it is as if he has no connection to Kedushah. When he does say Divrei Torah at the table, Hashem takes that table and makes it part of Himself and 2 Malachim proclaim brachos on the table. They say that this table should always have bracha and it should always be there. This person should have strength and power and ability when he needs it.

This small little action that takes a few minutes a day can make a major difference in a person's life. We all run looking for segulahs and brachas, but we often overlook this tremendous source of bracha.
from the Shiur by Rabbi Wachsman about preparing for Shavuos, he is quoting the Yosod HaShoresh HaAvodah, Shaar HaBrichoros, which is quoting from the Zohar, Parsha Terumah.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Preparing for Kabalas HaTorah -Notes from a Shiur by the author of Bilvavi Miskan Evneh

One of the ways of preparing for Kabalas HaTorah is learning from every person. You may ask, "what does this have to do with the Torah?" Don't we learn that we have to acquire a Rav. The answer is that we do have to have a Rav, but we also have to learn from everyone.

How do we learn from every person- by being humble. At the time of Kabas Torah the Jewish people we like one person with one heart. To receive the Torah we have to work to be on that level.

Just like a Sefer Torah is not kosher if it is missing a single letter, the Jewish people are not complete if we are missing a single neshamah. When we are humble we are able to give to each other and to receive from each other. Many of our Tefilah are in the plural because that is how we receive brachah.

Moshe Rabenu was able to receive the Torah because he was on the level of feeling connected to every Jew.

The achdus of Klal Yisrael is the essence of receiving the Torah. Hashem chose us as a whole, he did not chose individual. That is why we say, "Atah Bacharbanu". We thank Hashem for choosing us, not for choosing me.

If a person holds himself as a yachid( an individual) he will not be worthy of receiving the Torah. That is why "V'ahavtah L'rayicha kimocha" is a Klal gadol b'Torah.

Two things bond us together, Ahavah and Emunah (Love and Faith). A parent will always love a child even if the child misbehaves, but the same parent may not have faith that the child will always behave properly.

Hashem always loves us and he always has faith in us. The difference is that Hashem created us and he knows that we have an inner essence that is pure because Hashem created us pure. We have to have Emunah in Hashem's creation that all of Klal Yisrael have an inner and pure neshamah.

How could Hashem give us the Torah if he knew that we would sin? The answer is that the Torah was given to us as a people, it was not given to individuals. If that is the case how can we have Emunah in individuals when we know that they may sin. The answer is that we have to be able to judge everyone favorably. We have to know that there essence is pure even if there outside is not.

Hashem gave us perfection and purity as a gift on Shavuos. We took this gift and defiled it. If that is the case why are we celebrating what happened on Shavuos? We don't make a holiday on the day that the Bais Hamikdash was completed because it was destroyed after that. The answer if that the Torah remained on the same level. Even though the Luchos were destroyed the Torah remains the same. The connection that Hashem created on Shavuos remains there and every person has the ability to connect to it. Klal Yisrael has the ability to be perfect. The way that Hashem created us and choose us means that this potential exists in us today.

Because Hashem has Emunah in us we have to have Emunah in this inner potential. Even though we fell we still have the potential.

We have to know that there are times of aliyah and yeridah in our lives but we have to grow. Hashem believes in us, and we believe in Hashem. This connection is Matan Torah.
Hashem does not give up on anyone.

If you want to be close to Matan Torah you have to make achdus the basis of your life. We fell from the level of the first Matan Torah, but we have to prepare to get back there. It seem so far, but we can do it.

If a person was in the hospital for a serious illness and he also had a minor problem and his family was busy running around looking for a doctor to cure the minor illness and forgets the life threatening problem, we would call them fools. Yet this is what we are like. We focus on particulars but don't work on our achdus. What distances us from the Torah is our lack of achdus. We have the Torah as an eternal gift. We were given this gift because of our achdus, we have to work on getting it back. We must have ahavah and emunah in all of Klal Yisrael, no one can separate from it.

To achieve this goal we have to make ourselves worthy of receiving the Torah by changing ourselves entirely. Everything that Hashem said is fact and the basis of our life. We can do it. Just like a ger changes form a Goy to a Yid in one day, we can change ourselves completely. We do not have to change small details we have to change our entire being.

These are my notes from the first Shiur with the author of Bilvavi Miskan Evneh at 12:00 on May 9, 2010. If there are any mistakes it is my fault not the Rav's.

Ash clouds, Missiles, and a Crazy Chamsin from Lazer Beams

If we knew the miracles that Hashem does behind our backs, we'd all be break-dancing in the middle of the Beltway at rush hour.

Nobody seemed to notice the connection between the volcanic ash cloud that was edging toward Israel, threatening to ground all air traffic, the crazy weather in Israel now, the military war games in Iran, and Israel's frantic efforts - even using Russia as a go-between - to fend off war with Syria and Iran. All these are pieces in one big puzzle that Hashem is putting together to hasten the redemption. The redemption is coming, as we mentioned yesterday. How it will come depends on our actions.

So what's the connection? And what's the big miracle? And why were Bibi and Peres panicking?

Under the guise of maneuvers, the Iranians were in strike formation. They and the Syrians saw the volcanic ash cloud as an opportunity to pour a massive barrage of missiles on Israel, while the Israeli Air Force - who they're scared stiff of - would be neutralized by the jet-engine-destroying cloud. The volcanic ash cloud choking Israeli air space would have made us sitting ducks to Syrian, Iranian, and Hizbulla missiles, Heaven forbid.

So what did Hashem do? Monday night, when the cloud ash cloud was set to reach Israel via a Westerly wind, the winds suddenly shifted here and became a 30-40 MPH searing hot desert wind, what we call the Chamsin, blowing in from the Saudi Arabian desert southeast of us, driving temperatures up to the high 90's (F) here on the coast, with sandstorms that coated our flat with a dust film. As soon as the ash cloud was blown away from Israel, the weather turned to a comfy 80F, sunny, with gentle 5 MPH winds from off the Mediterranean.

Hashem foiled the Iranian's plans. The IAF was back to policing the skies full force. There were large scale aerial maneuvers here that communicated the message to Iran and its proxy Syria, "Don't mess around with us." Frustrated, the Iranians began flexing macho muscles and firing Fajr-5 missiles into the sea and threatening the US Navy. Achmedinejad is begging for someone to kick him in the teeth. I'm sure Hashem will oblige.

Meanwhile, Hashem is showing us how much He loves us. Let's show Hashem how much we love Him. Let's strengthen our emuna and do our best to spread emuna all over the world. We must believe that we have the power to make this world a better place.

Thanks so much for the miracles, Hashem. You are, were, and always will be The Greatest there is. We sure love you.

From Lazer Beams by Rabbi Lazer Brody

The thing that is really remarkable, is that it could have gone by unnoticed if not for Rabbi Brody’s article. I remember once reading that if Hashem would have caused Hitler to die as a young child we never would have known what we had been saved from, and we have to know that there are similar tragedies that have been prevented that we do not know about.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Hashem does not judge us by our acomplishments

Hashem does not judge us by our acomplishments, Hashem judges us by our efforts. We are not responsible for our achievments in life, Hashem is the one who determines the outcome of our efforts. We are responsible for what we do with what Hashem gives us.

From the shiur on Aish:
Shelanu: What Makes A Parent A Success # TE 678
by Tauber, Rabbi Ezriel

Nothing stands before the will

This morning in my BBA we had an interesting discussion, is the concept "where there is a will there is a way" a Jewish concept. One person said that it is not, that everything is controlled by Hashem, another person said that we learn, "Nothing stands before the will (ain devar omed lifnei haratzon)". This has a practical application in our lives in terms of how much control do we have to change ourselves and our addiction.

I would be interested to hear what you have to say.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The pursuit of Shlaimus

The pursuit of happiness is not a Jewish value, the pursuit of Shlaimus is.
from the Shiur "Parshat Behar & Bechukotai: Rewarding Reward "

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

Running after physical pleasures will not make us happy, it will just make us want more pleasure.  True pleasure comes from Shlaimus. As Luzato says: the only true Shlaimus is Devakus with Hashem.

Following all of Hashem's mitzvot on his terms

Why does the Torah say, "Im Bechukotai Talek"  when it is referring to all of the mitzvahs and not just the Chukim. Because our goal is to follow all of Hashem's mitzvot on his terms, not our terms.  We need a purity of spirit that will allow us to follow Hashem's will simply without our own agenda.

Parshat Behar & Bechukotai: Rewarding Reward

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

Hashem wants us to do the mitzvot without thinking what we think will be best for us.  The more that we are able to do the right thing without figuring out what we really want to do, the more successful we will be in life, and in program.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The stronger your emunah, the weaker your anger and rage.

...A person might be home and hear a terribly loud crash. he looks around and sees that an expensive object has fallen and shattered. Naturally, he will get agitated and angry.

The truth is that one who lives with real emunah will find that the stronger his emunah is in such situations, the weaker his anger and rage. he knows that it was not his son or the strong wind that broke the object, but Hashem Himself!

However, it is obviously very difficult to maintain such equanimity in a highly stressful situation. you must therefore prepare for such eventualities by striving to internalize the awareness that Hashem alone is running the world during peaceful periods that are free of stress. If you do not prepare in this way, when a stressful situation arises, the inclination to fly into a rage will be extremely powerful...

Bilvavi Miskan Evneh, part 2 page 84

We have to work hard to develop ourselves in peaceful times so that we have the tools to respond correctly in stressful times.

You do not have any person who does not have his hour

...He would say: Be not scornful of any person and be not dismissive of any thing, for you do not have any person who does not have his hour and you do not have anything that does not have its place. (Pirkei Avos 4:30)

Because we share on an intimate level with one another, we need to remember that each one of us deserves respect. We may not identify with things that we hear, but it is important to bear in mind that we are all at different points in life's journey. We have diverse experiences to share, and that is precisely why we have so much to gain by connecting.

Hashem is showering us with Chesed.

During the holocaust Hashem was using the midah of din.  Now when we are recovering Hashem is showering us with Chesed.  Chesed in excess can cause problems.  These are the challenges that Hashem is giving us now.  Dealing with an excess of goodness is a tremendous nisayon.  In the "olden days" we did not have the unlimited resources that we have now.
From a teacher who wants to be quoted anonymusly.

The jews of the shtetl  did not  have to worry about a diet, they had to worry about getting enough to eat.
From a Shiur by Rebbetzin Heller

In this time of tremendous plenty we have to realize that more is not better.  This is the way that Hashem is testing us now.  The ironic thing is that we all think that we have it so hard, but we have it very easy compared to the jews of the Shtetl.  We have to take all of the good that Hashem has given us and use what we need, not what we want.
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