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

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Finding Torah inside of ourselves- from "Bilvavi Miskan Evneh"

Many people suffer very much from the fact that they feel a hole in their lives. They think that they are the only ones who feel and suffer. They look at the mitzvot and they are not getting the right sense of satisfaction out of it, so they may be tempted to look out of Yidishkeit for happiness. A man has to know that the pleasures outside of Yidishkeit will never satisfy them. It is like a princess who marries a farmer. Any gift that the farmer will bring her will never satisfy her. The pleasures of the secular world will never make us feel better. I examined all of the ways that people seek pleasure and realized that they will never fill the hole in my life. They all came down to nothing, they are not life, they are only distractions. The thing that is missing in our lives, is our connection to Hashem. Until we find a way to really connect to Hashem with all of our being, we will never feel better. The life that I am seeking is in me, the more Torah that I find inside of me, the better that I feel. There are times that we eat nice things, or go away on a vacation, but that is not life, that is rest or distaction, life is only found by connecting in a deeper way to the Torah.
The way to really connect to Hashem is to scream out to him and beg him to help you to form that connection. It worked for me, it will work for you.

from a shiur by "Bilvavi Miskan Evneh"
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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Why do we have two holidays for the Torah -- Shavuot and Simchat Torah?

If the holiday of Shavuot celebrates the receiving of the Torah, why was Simchat Torah -- immediately following Sukkot -- chosen as the day to end and begin the annual Torah reading cycle?
Furthermore, why do we have two holidays for the Torah -- Shavuot and Simchat Torah? They are also celebrated so differently. On Shavuot, we stay up all night learning Torah. And on Simchat Torah, we dance.
The need for these two holidays has been explained in a parable that has been handed down from generation to generation.
Once a king issued a proclamation. Any one of his subjects was welcome to try for the hand of his daughter. On one condition: The potential suitor was not allowed to meet or see his daughter before the marriage.
The proclamation caused quite a stir. Soon the local inns were buzzing with speculation and rumors. "I hear she is a real shrew," said one. "I heard she is a deaf-mute," said another. "I know for a fact that she is a total imbecile," intoned a third. Round and round the rumors flew. Finally, a simple wholehearted Jew spoke up. "I am willing to marry her. How bad can she be? After all, she is the king's daughter and we all know how great our king is."
Word quickly spread and the suitor was led to the palace. As it turned out, he was the only one who volunteered. The king accepted the match and the wedding date was set.
After the lavish wedding, the groom escorted his bride to their new home. She removed her heavy veil, and he was astounded at her beauty. Remembering the rumors of her reputed faults, the groom decided to thoroughly test her. He engaged her in conversation, tested her in character and refinement and found himself pleasantly surprised. In every way, she excelled beyond his greatest hopes and dreams. Overjoyed, he held a lavish party to celebrate his good fortune.
The King in the parable is God. When He wanted to give the Torah, He offered it to each nation in turn. All the nations refused, each one claiming some fault in the Torah they would not be able to live with. When God offered it to the Jews, they said 'Naaseh VeNishma' -- "we will do, and then we will understand" (Exodus 24:7). The Jewish people accepted the Torah without having seen it, as they were grateful for all God had done for them.
Though the Jewish people fully accepted the Torah, they feared a loss. They assumed that the numerous obligations in the Torah would deprive them of their pleasures and freedom. Similarly, the groom in the parable married the king's daughter fearing he would be disappointed in other areas. But as the Jews learned the Torah and applied it's teaching to their lives, they were pleasantly surprised. Not only did they not have to give up anything, they found the Torah maximized their pleasure in every way.
Therefore at the conclusion of reading the Torah, when we have again delved into its teachings for a full year, we make a party on Simchat Torah.
On Shavuot, we stay up and learn all night to show our readiness and anticipation to receive the Torah. Because it is an intellectual appreciation, we stay up all night learning Torah. On Simchat Torah, however, we dance -- expressing the emotional joy of the body. We are showing that even our bodies have gained tremendously by keeping the Torah.
Ask anyone who has increased their Torah observance and they will tell you the same. At first, each feared, according to his or her nature, that some aspect of the Torah would be restrictive. Be it keeping Shabbat, kosher, family purity or laws of proper speech, each encountered an area that tested their resolve. However, they kept the Torah knowing it was the most meaningful thing to do. And as they grew in their Judaism, they found their lives enhanced in every way.
It is with this renewed appreciation that we approach Simchat Torah. We are filled with gratitude and awe for the great gift that God has bestowed on us with love.
((based on Otzar haShavous quoting Rav Avraham and the Dubno Magid)
by Rabbi Benyamin Buxbaum from Aish.com
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from "Getting to Know Your Soul"

One who thinks that he, along with everyone else, is great, is not conceited. Conceit is when one feels, "I am higher then you." But this element does not have to be negative. It can be a source for personal growth...this element can motivate you to improve.

from "Getting to know your soul"
by The author of Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh

As we grow it is sometimes hard to know how to see ourselves. This insight is important, there is nothing wrong with seeing the good in ourselves, in fact it is important to see our positive points, as long as we don't hold ourselves above others.

This new book by Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh is amazing, I recommend it highly.
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Sometimes Yom Tov can be challenging.

A few of my friends on OA have given in to the challenges of Yom Tov and lost their abstinence. Remember- A tzadik falls seven times and gets up. One way to look at this is that they became a tzadik because they got up after falling. Even if you loose it, keep going strong. You can regain your strength.
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Monday, September 27, 2010

God adds a special day at the end of Sukkot, a day of great intimacy with our Creator, as He asks His Jewish children to remain with him for extra personal time together.

Imagine you throw a huge party and invite everyone you know. But this is no "regular" party: It's one solid week of food, music and fun. Eventually things wind down and people begin to leave. As the host, you quietly go over to a few of your best friends and whisper: "Stick around after everyone else leaves -- that's when I'm breaking out the good stuff."

Each year God has a weeklong celebration called "Sukkot." In ancient times in Jerusalem, the service in the Holy Temple during the week of Sukkot featured a total of 70 bull offerings. This, the Talmud explains, corresponds to each of the 70 nations of the world. The Temple was not just for Jews. When King Solomon built the Temple, he specifically asked God to heed the prayer of non-Jews who comes to the Temple (1-Kings 8:41-43). And the prophet Isaiah refers to the Temple as a "House for all nations" (Isaiah 56:7).

The Temple was the universal center of spirituality, a concentrated point where God-consciousness filtered down into the world. In fact, the Talmud says that if the Romans would have realized how much benefit they themselves were getting from the Temple, they never would have destroyed it!

And then, at the end of Sukkot, God added a special day. It's called Shmini Atzeret, literally the "Eighth Day of Assembly". On that day, only one bull was offered -- representing the Jewish people. It is a day of great intimacy with our Creator, as He asks His Jewish children to remain with him for extra personal time together. (Talmud - Sukkot 55b)

Shmini Atzeret is a full public holiday, as described in Leviticus 23:36. Even though it immediately follows the seven-day Sukkot festival and is often considered part of Sukkot, it is, in fact, a separate holiday. This means that the She'hechiyanu blessing is recited, and the obligation to sit in the Sukkah does not apply.


Nachmanides (12th century Spain) explains a beautiful kabbalistic concept: Seven is the number of the natural world. There are seven days in the week, seven notes on the musical scale and seven directions (left, right, up, down, forward, back and center). "Seven" -- represented by the seven days of Sukkot -- is the world of nature. "Eight" -- represented by Shmini Atzeret -- is that which is beyond nature.

The Jewish people, says the Talmud, are beyond nature. We have survived every imaginable persecution, exile, hardship and expulsion. And still, we have achieved and thrived far beyond our numbers. As Mark Twain wrote: "All things remain mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?"

The "secret," as we know, is the special gift that God gave to the Jewish people: The Torah. As Rabbi Emanuel Feldman writes:

"Torah is the mysterious bridge which connects the Jew and God, across which they interact and communicate, and by means of which God fulfills His covenant with His people to sustain them and protect them."

Therefore it is no coincidence that on Shmini Atzeret we also celebrate the completion of the yearly cycle of Torah readings and the beginning of a new cycle. This event is lovingly referred to as "Simchat Torah," literally "Rejoicing of the Torah." (Outside of Israel, Simchat Torah is celebrated the day after Shmini Atzeret.)

Why are we accustomed to both finish and re-start the reading of the Torah on the same day? The Sages explain: "To show that the Torah is beloved to us like a new object and not like an old command which a person no longer treasures. Since it is brand new to us, we all run to greet it." We sing and dance for hours around the bima (the platform where the Torah is read), carry the Torah Scroll, and express our joy at having the opportunity to come so close to God.

On Shmini Atzeret, as we complete this holiday season, we offer a special prayer to God for rain. Rain represents the blessings of growth and abundance. Through all the hard work of Elul, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkot, we have come a long way. Our task now is to carry that energy throughout the year.

by Rabbi Shraga Simmons from Aish.com

Hoshanah Rabbah: A Kiss from GOD

Sunday, September 26, 2010

On Sukkas we celebrate that Hashem Loves us.

Why do we commerate the Anenei HaKavod on Sukkas, and not the other miracles that Hashem gave to Bnei Yisrael in the dessert.  The answer is that we needed food (man) and water (Miriam's well) to survive, but the Anenei Hakovod were there to make us comfortable.  Therefore, we celebrate Hashem's love, that he gave us not just what we need, but he even gives us extras to make us comfortable.

heard from Reb Yakov Pascal

Ben Bag Bag Taught:

You should study the Torah from all sides and you will always turn up new knowledge, because all the wisdom of this world is in the Torah. You should look into it all of your lifetime and grow old and gray with it. You should never move away from it, for there is nothing in the world that is better than the Torah. (Pirkei Avos 5:26)

All the diets in the world never worked for me. I cannot deny the wisdom of some of their food plans, which were well thought out and balanced. Some of these programs even used similar strategies to those I use today. But try as I might, I had no lasting success. The key component of Torah was missing. Only when I added this component, was I able to make a dent into my problem.

Today I use Torah and Tefillah on a daily basis to help me stay abstinent. It helps me sort out trivialities from true priorities. The result is a serenity I never knew before.

Hashem's natuaral bounty

All man's toil is for his mouth, yet his wants are never satisfied. Better is what the eyes see than what is imagined...That, too, is futility and a vexation of the spirit. (Koheles 6:7 and 9)

Man labors incessantly to satisfy his cravings, which, alas, remain unappeased. Better that we should enjoy the little we have, than the futile quest of unsatisfied longing. (Artscroll Machzor).

Thankfully, I fully enjoy G-d's natuaral bounty today. My palate has been cleansed through abstinent eating, and I am able to appreciate the subtle and wonderful flavors in the food Hashem provides. There is no need for me to adulterate my food with unnecessary ingredients, which are usually calorie laden. The special foods I prepare for Yom Tov are a colorful mix of vegetables, and the tastiest fish and meat I can find, and I present these on a beautiful table setting.

No longer am I chasing an elusive dream, that the next thing I ingest will give me that "high" that I seek. My "high" comes from making my Shabbos and Yom Tov meals special sacrifices on my family table and partaking of food in a controlled manner. Only in this way, have I found contentment and the ability to have an ever closer connection to Hashem.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Ari says that the Sukkah is like a hug from Hashem

On Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur we do Teshuvah from Yirah (fear) but on Sukkas we do Teshuvah from Ahavah.  This means that all of our sins become considered as virtues.  The root of most of our sins comes from lack of Emunah.

The Ari says that the Sukkah is like a hug from Hashem which brings us to Teshuva from Ahava

from the Shiur on Naaleh:
Cycle of Teshuva

Teacher: Mrs. Shira Smiles Class: Sukkot: Time of Our Joy

A suggestion for Yom Tov

HaRav Noach Orlowek, in his sefer My Child, My Disciple quotes HaRav Chaim Pinchus Sheinberg on page 131: "Parents should not offer sweets too often as an incentive for good behavior. Too many sweets can be conducive to the development of a personality which is geared to pleasure seeking, especially in the realm of physical gratification. Toys or games are therefore preferable, especially since they can be shared."
Pleasure seeking and physical gratification is the apex of the secular world surrounding us - priorities from which we specifically distance ourselves on Simchas Torah.

Monday, September 20, 2010

World's Biggest Esrog

from http://mysticalpaths.blogspot.com/ This is a very stressful time of the year.  A time for us to exercise our recovery muscles.  Keep up the good work.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

More from Rabbi Leib Kelemen on Sukkas

There are some people who make lists of their accomplishments and take them into the Sukkah to read there.  This helps then to see the spiritual acquisitions that they made in the past year which brings them to a state of Simcha.  (See previous post)

from the Shiur:

Sukkos: The Secret of Happiness # KL 546
by Kelemen, Rabbi Leib

When I heard this it made me think of the gratitude list that everyone in my fellowship of OA writes every night.  Sometimes when I need chizuk, I read my old journals.  Now I know that I should take them into the Sukkah to read.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Rabbi Leib Kelemen on Sukkas

Sukkas is the next window of opportunity coming up.  The specific mizvah of Sukkas is happiness.  What makes peoplee happy? What is the definition of Simcha?  Simcha is a sign that the person is healthy and everything is functioning properly.  If my body, mind and soul is healthy, I am happy.  What causes simcha is acquisitions. The amount of Simcha you attain from an acquisition depends on how long that acquisition will last,  Spiritual acquisitions last for ever.  But it is hard to see those things.  A person who tries to achieve happiness by buying things is like a princess who marries a peasant and he brings her gifts that are meaningful to him but they are meaningless to to the princess.  Even though it is a mitzva to buy a gift for Yom Tov, the only truly lasting happiness comes from spiritual acquisitions.  Every external gift will eventually be taken away and cause pain, but spiritual gifts last.
You can only internalize Torah when you are truly happy.  When you are happy you are able to internalize Torah and turn it into midos.  In order to grow properly from a Yom Tov, it is necessary to be happy on Yom Tov. Bad things come to us because we are not happy, so we are not able to grow spiritually.  Happiness is a spiritual state of receptiveness of Hashem's goodness.
When you are looking for a Rav, look for someone who is always B'Simcha.

When Hashem is giving us blessing we have to show that we are happy with what he gives us so that he will want to give us more.

from the Shiur:
Sukkos: The Secret of Happiness # KL 546
by Kelemen, Rabbi Leib

Friday, September 17, 2010

The more you immerse yourself in prayer, the less you'll think about food.

from Lazer Beams by Rabbi Lazer Brody
This applies on Yom Kippur but also the whole year long.

Dvar Torah from a Torah 12 Step meeting

Zochrenu L' Chaim- Remember us for life-he who desires life.  Hashem wants to help us if we are willing to let him into our life.  The life that I was living was not working-we have to put down our addictions and constantly turn to Hashem and understand that Hashem can really change me.

Instead of focusing on our problems focus on asking Hashem to help us.

Then we have to look at ourselves, what is our part of the problem.  When we turn to Hashem it should be on a deeper level, honestly admitting our part of the problems.  We have to ask Hashem to help us let go of our negative traits, to be willing to change.

We have to remember that Hashem will not forgive us for the sins that we did to someone else until we ask them for forgiveness.

If we don't see Hashem it is not because he is far from us, it is because he is so close to us that we take it for granted.  We have to learn to look in to find Hashem. 

A personal note

Please mochel me for anything I posted that was incorrectl, or unclear.  I wish all of my readers a Gmar Chasima Tova, and may this be a year of growth for all of us.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

From this year's Teshuva Drosha by Rabbi Wachsman

On Rosh Hashana there was a gzar din for us, and Hashem is sitting waiting for us to do Teshuva to wipe away any evil decree.  We don't understand that whether or not Iran will be able to cause major tragedy is being decided on Yom Kippur and not by governments.  Hashem is waiting for our teshuvah today.

We learn that Teshuva, Tefilla and Tzedaka avert the evil decree.  Let us look at what this means.

Recently I saw a homeless man rolling in dirt and excrement.  This person was repulsive, if he would walk in the room you would go take a shower.  This is what a neshama looks like.  Hashem takes off the soiled garment.  He can become beloved and close to Hashem.  The Yetzer Hara wants us not to be matzliach in our Teshuva, to think that we can go live our lives as we want.  The Chasam Sofer says that the Yetzer Hara masquerades as the Yetzer Tov thinking that everything is fine and we can continue the way we were. To have a wonderful Yom Kippur then to think that right after Yom Kippur we can go right back to the way we were.  We have to come back to our root, with small steps, but each small step has to be like iron, rock solid.  If we are looking and trying, the hole in the needle is tiny but it is made of iron.  As small as it is, an iron Kabalah will show that we can change. 
Hashem is going to look for those who are Kodosh, who raise themselves a level.  The purpose of the Yetzer Hara is that we should overcome it and become greater.  There is such a Yetser Hara for immorality that we has such an opportunity for Kedusha by overcoming it.  We can get used to the most abnormal things as long as we keep doing it.  We walk around with machines that are portals to incredible sources of Tumah.  We can make Kabolos and get by without it. For Kedusha.  We do not realize how many lives are being destroyed by these machines. If we don't make a decision to change we won't change.
We have to stop and think, I can be better then this, I can be great.

If a person lives 80 years he will spend 30 of them in Shabbos, Yom Tov, and erev Shabbos and Erev Yom Tov. We have to make a decision, what are we going to do with this time.  If we want to keep something from Yom Kippur, take something, decide on something that is real and get closer to Hashem.  Only the kli of Shalom lets us take something real away with us. 

Hashem is waiting for our Tefillos.  At least on Yom Kippur think about the words of the Tefillo before we say them.  As long as we are in this world we can still talk directly to Hashem,  at least on the Yomim Norayim.
Every single Tefillah will  produce results, even if a person is not that righteous, so imagine the tears of a yiddisha mama. We have to talk to the Ribono Shel Olam.

Tzedaka= it is very difficult times.  Mosdos are staggering under these difficult times.  We have to give Tzedaka.  Nothing in the world saves us like giving Tzedakah.  If someone is able to give and he doesn't, Hashem hates him and his Torah.  You can't hide money from Hashem, he knows if a person is living up to his responsibilities.  There is a tremendous joy in giving Tzedaka. 

from last year's Teshuva Drosha by Rabbi Wachsman

Teshuva on Yom Kippur is different then the rest of the year, all year long we tell Hashem that we are sorry for what we did going against Hashem's mitzvot.  On Yom Kippur we are telling Hashem that we are sorry for what we did for ourselves, because we are part of Hashem and when we damage ourselves we are also hurting Hashem. Hashem can not bear when we fall into sin, it is hurting Hashem and he is begging us to do Teshuva, to return to our source.

Hashem is waiting for even a thought of Teshuva from us.  We have to regret our past misdeeds.  We have to realize that we are not separate from Hashem.

Call in info for Rabbi Wachsman's anual Teshuvah Drosha tonight

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Rabbi Wachsman on how we become cleansed on Yom Kippur.

The Chida says that there is a special light on Yom Kippur that is so intense that just being in that light cleanses us of our Aveiros.
from Grasp the Gift of Teshuvah volume 3

A quote from Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman

 Its Erev Yom Kippur, pick up a telephone and call someone that you are mad it, do it as a zechus for all of the cholim in Klal Yisrael.

from Grasp the Gift of Teshuvah volume 3

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Remorse and Change

How can we make a commitment to change in the future if we know that realistically we will never be able to keep our commitment.  Even if we try and fail, Hashem sees that we really want to change and credits us for that sincere desire to change.  But we have to make a start.

from a Shiur on Naaleh:

Perception and Purification
Teacher: Mrs. Shira Smiles Class: Elul and Rosh Hashana: Days of Closeness and Awe
You might also like:

The blame game.

When we want to prepare for Yom Kippur, we have to accept responsibility for our actions and stop blaming other people for our faults.   Even though it rattles our ego, we have to have the courage to take a different direction.
from a Shiur on Naaleh:
Perception and Purification

Teacher: Mrs. Shira Smiles Class: Elul and Rosh Hashana: Days of Closeness and Awe

Check out this video from Aish.com for Yom Kippur


To My Star Pupil,

I am writing this letter to let you know what I think of you. Up here in heaven things are not like they are down on Earth. Over there, people only know what they can see. If they see a person is "successful", they think that he is the greatest guy. When they see somebody struggling, they think he might be one of the weaker elements.

Let me tell you something. Hashem gives every person certain abilities that nobody knows about down where you live. Some people are capable of tremendous things, while others were put there for much smaller purposes. Only Hashem in His infinite wisdom is able to give every person exactly what he needs, to reach his potential.

I'm very misunderstood. Most people hate me, and I don't really blame them. Most people think that my job is to make sure that they fail in all aspects of mitzvos, and that I rejoice every time they sin. This is the furthest thing from the truth. Did you ever watch a boxing coach train his student? It is really a funny sight. The coach will put on gloves, and fight against his student. At first, he won't hit him so hard, or throw his best punches. But, as the student gets better and better, the coach will start to fight him harder and harder. He does this so that the student will improve his skills, and become the best boxer he can be. This is where it gets strange. Every time the coach knocks down the student, the student gets yelled at!! But finally, when the coach threw everything he has at his student, and not only does he withstand the beating, but he knocks the coach down, there is nobody in the world happier then the coach himself!

This is exactly how I feel. If you fail right away, and don't even try to fight back, I see that there is not much talent to work with, and so I take it easy on you. But if you get back up swinging, I realize that I may have a real winner here, and so I start to intensify the beating. With every level that you go up, I increase the intensity of the fight. If you finally deal me a blow that knocks me out, I will get up and embrace you and rejoice with your success.

Sometimes my job is very disappointing I see a person with a lot of potential and I start right in on him. He fights back for a while, but when the fight gets too tough, he quits and just remains on whatever level he was on. (And he usually ends up going down!) I feel like yelling at him, "Get up you fool! Do you have any idea how much more you could be accomplishing?!" But I am not allowed to do that. I just leave him alone, and go try to find another promising candidate.

I've chosen you to be the target of my more fierce battles, and it wasn't for no reason - you have tremendous ability! You were born into a very special family, you have rabbeim who really care about you, and parents who would help you grow in torah and mitzvos. You are a very respectful and kind person.

I am writing to you now, because I have a very serious request to ask of you. Please don't stop fighting! Don't give up! I have been beating too many people lately, and I am losing patience, Believe in yourself, because I would not be involved with you as much as I am if I didn't think you could beat me.

Know what your strengths are! A great rabbi once said: "Woe is to he who doesn't know his weaknesses. But, 'Oy vavoy' to him who doesn't know his strengths - for he will not have anything with which to fight."

Always remember one thing: you have a secret weapon at your disposal. I shouldn't really be telling you - but I will anyway. Hashem himself is watching our "training" sessions very closely. I'm pleased to inform you that He's rooting for you! If things should ever get tough, almost too tough to bear, just call out to Him with a prayer, and He will immediately come to your aid. I wish you the best of luck, and I hope that after 120 years when your time is up in that world of falsehood, you will come up here to the world of truth, where I will be waiting for you with open arms to congratulate you on your victory, and personally escort you to your place next to the Kisey HaKavod.

Sincerely, and with great admiration I remain,

Your Yetzer Hara

This is a letter that is going around, and I wanted to share it.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Don't infect others with your bad mood.

When you go out in public with a cold you would never dream of coughing and spreading your germs all over.  Your face can cause more damage then your germs.  When you go around in a bad mood with a miserable face, you are spreading that bad mood and infecting others.

from a Shiur on Torah Anytime:

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis: Teshuvah - Guaranteed Happiness

Is it worth it?

There is a sickness in human nature that we always want what is forbidden to us. When something is really tempting you strip away the element of temptation from its being forbidden, the "glitzy garment" and ask yourself if it is really worth it.
from a Shiur on Torah Anytime:
Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis: Teshuvah - Guaranteed Happiness

Don't Rank your Mitzvot.

When we think about Mitzvot and Aveirot would should never think that this one is more important then that one because it will lead us to discount "minor" ones, and this will lead us to sin.  We should view all mitzvot as equally important.
from a Shiur on Aish Audio:

Rabbi Yitzchak Kirzner ztl

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Dynamics of Achieving Real Change by Rabbi Kirzner

Very often arrogance is what leads us to sin.  If we want to change we have to change the source of the sin and not just the sin.

We have to portray this change in our deeds and actions.  We have to show that we are a changed person.

A person should try to control himself even in things that are permitted because any indulgence will lead us in the wrong direction. Controlling our eating will help us to become a more controlled person, which will help us to grow spiritually.

from a Shiur on Aish Audio:

 Rabbi Yitzchak Kirzner ztl

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Reasons Behind Life's Tests

Life is about moving from the world of potential to the world of the actual.  We can have big dreams about building a tremendous Yeshiva and Chesed organization, but it is not as big a mitzvah as putting our hand in our pocket and taking out a dollar and giving it to tzedakah.  Life's tests are there to help us to actualize our potential. from a Shiur on Naaleh:
Reasons Behind Life's Tests

Teacher: Mrs. Shira Smiles Class: Akeidat Yitzchak

Monday, September 6, 2010

How can we tell what our tafkid in this world is?

The Chofetz Chaim explains a way of knowing how we can know what our tafkid, our role in this world is supposed to be.  He says that when a soldier goes out to war he can look at the tools that he was given and know what he is supposed to do.  If he was given pots and pans, he knows that he is a cook, and if he is given weapons, he knows that he is a soldier.  In our lives we have to look at what tools Hashem has given us and  from that we can know what is expected of us.

from a Shiur by Rebbetzin Kalmonovitz

How to survive under extreme stress

The Talmud offers practical homiletic advice on how to survive under extreme stress:


Rabbi Akiva sailed from Israel to Cyprus. Before he left port, he saw his prize understudy, Rabbi Meir, board an older vessel, also sailing to Cyprus. In the midst of their journey, a terrible gale struck the Mediterranean. Rabbi Akiva's heart broke as he gazed into the distance, wincing while the storm lashed into the decrepit craft that carried Rabbi Meir. In a matter of minutes, the latter's ship was utterly destroyed...

A tear slid down Rabbi Akiva's cheek. "What a waste of a brilliant mind!" he lamented.

Several days later, upon reaching the shores of Cyprus, Rabbi Akiva entered a local synagogue and house of study. Flabbergasted, he froze in the doorway. Rabbi Meir was in the middle of a lecture to a group of Cypriot Talmud students. Seeing his esteemed teacher and spiritual guide in the doorway, Rabbi Meir ceased lecturing. "Rabbi Akiva, my honored master, please come inside!"

Rabbi Akiva could barely speak. "M-Meir! Y-You're still alive! H-How did you get ashore?"

"Simple, my master. Instead of focusing on the stormy sea, I rode one wave at a time. I caught wave after wave until I reached the shore!"

* * * * *

Had Rabbi Meir attempted to battle the entire tempestuous sea, he would have expended his strength in a short time. Instead, he used the centuries old formula of "divide and conquer" - Rabbi Meir knew that he couldn't overcome the sea, but he could surely cope with one wave at a time. Even more amazing, he arrived ashore before Rabbi Akiva!

The 2nd-Century CE sage Rabbi Meir teaches us the secret of staying on top when we seem to be buried under an insurmountable load of stress. Don't fight a whole raging sea, or don't try to move a one-ton boulder that's in your way. Take a 5-lb. hammer, and break chips of the boulder. Before you know it, the boulder - that ton of stress on your shoulders - is no longer there!

The secret of handling an overload of stress is dismantling - don't try to deal with all your pressures simultaneously. Ride one wave at a time, and you'll make it safely to shore, too.

from Lazer Beams

Rebbetzin Kalmonovitz speaking tonight in monsey

at 8:00 on Ash.  For more info email me at tioablog@gmail.com

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Self Care vs. Self Indulgence

Many years ago there was a mother with 8 children who was struggling to raise her family in very difficult times. Day after day she worked hard to provide them with a minimal amount of food. She always gave food to her children before herself. Then one day she realized that she had only one egg to feed eight hungry children. After thinking about it she decided that if she split the egg into eight pieces, it wasn’t going to help anyone. She quietly cooked the egg, took it into her bedroom, locked the door, and ate the whole thing. One of the children knocked on the door, and asked, “What are you doing”. She answered, “Ich mach a Mama” (I’m making a mother).

Thank God, most of us have never had to face a dilema like this. Our society enjoys riches that even the wealthiest people of past generations could only dream about. But as mothers, we still face the dilemma of deciding when to put our own needs first.

My Own Step towards Self Care

Recently I took a step toward self care that felt like I was making as big a statement as this mother. As the Jewish Holidays approached, I wanted to make sure that I would stick to my structured eating plan. As part of OA, I eat 3 portions of protein a day. Each portion has to be weighed out before eating. As an observant Jew, I can not weigh my portion on the Holiday itself, so I have to prepare all of my food in advance. With so many holidays coming up, I decided to do something I have never done. I put several roasts in the oven at once. When they were done, I carved them up, weighed them into portions, and vacuum sealed them into bags. All for me.

Now, as I head into the holidays, I do not have to worry about running around at the last minute grabbing my scale and hoping that there is enough protein for me.

Am I taking away from my family by doing this? Of course not. Does it feel good. No. Was it the right thing to do? Absolutely.

I know that my structured eating plan is saving my life. I know that by ensuring that I can continue my eating plan even on the holidays, I am making sure that I do not lose the tremendous momentum that I have gained, and avoiding slip ups. But it feels terribly self indulgent.

We all know the image of the self sacrificing Jewish mother. Wanting to give everything to help her children advance in the world. But does this mean that we need to ignore our own needs? Of course not. So where do we draw the line between self care and self indulgence?

When do we have to put ourselves first.

In the safety instructions on an airplane, the stewardess always says that in case of an emergency, if the oxygen masks are released, all mothers should put their own mask on first before putting a mask on their children. The obvious reason being, that if we can’t breathe, we can’t help our children.

As I examined my thoughts about this dilemma, I remember something that Rebbetzin Tzipora Heller said about self care. A person who is killed from putting themselves into a place of danger is considered worse then a murderer. Why is this?

Because we do not own our own lives, they belong to Hashem.

The closer your access is to anything, the more your responsibility. If you visit your neighbor and find them sick from leaking gas, you have to save them. If you would walk away and leave them to die of carbon monoxide poisoning, you would be like a murderer. This does not mean that you have to walk from apartment to apartment looking for leaking gas, but you have to deal with a problem when it confronts you. This example illustrates the idea that since you have the most ability to save your own life, you have the most responsibility to save your own life.

This brings us back to the earlier question. Where do we make the distinction between self care and self indulgence?

I think that a lot has to do with our intentions and our motivation. If the mother in the story was eating the only egg because she didn’t want to share it with her children, because she was selfish, we might consider her self indulgent. If, on the other hand, she knew that if she didn’t have the strength to keep going, her children were going to suffer more, she was doing the right thing.

A formula for change.

When we think about improving in the new year, we should think about taking on one small thing. When we take on a small kabalah and see success, we feel a sense of accomplishment that causes us to to want to do more.

Soul Food

Teacher: Mrs. Shira Smiles Class: Elul and Rosh Hashana: Days of Closeness and Awe

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The gift of Teshuvah

When Hashem created man he gave him many gifts. Hashem gives intellegence, health,appearance, and many other attributes. The most important gift of all is the gift of Teshuvah. Without Teshuvah all of the other gifts would be worth very little because when we make mistakes we need to be able to correct them or we would not be able to make the most of the other gifts that Hashem gave us.
From a Shiur by Rabbi Kirzner about Teshuvah

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Real growth comes from when we leave our comfort zone.

 There is no success without struggle.

from the Shiur by Rabbi Lazer Brody
180 for the Best

A great comment from a reader

this is so right. israel is number one in the world in 2 areas-agriculture and filtering water. and why is that so? becouse we have no enough water and becouse it is very difficlut to grow plants in the desert!

A different perspective on unity.

When we look at a piece of wood under a powerful microscope you can see it is made up of many little pieces, but when you look at it without the microscope you see one piece of wood.  The wood doesn't change, our perspective does.  In the same way we can look at our fellow Jews and think that they are not connected, but if we look at it from the right perspective we will see that they are all connected to us.  Klal Yisrael is one unit.

From a Shiur by Reb Gutman Locks

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Practical Thoughts on Preparing for Yom Tov

As we head into the very busy time of Yom Tov it is important to plan ahead.  The well known saying goes: "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail."  Many people have shared that the trick to staying abstinent through Yom Tov is to have everything prepared in advance. 

A must see short film from Aish to prepare for Rosh Hashana

This link will take you to you tube. To return to this blog click the back sign.
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