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

Sunday, October 31, 2010


Achieving Happiness and Fulfillment Through Yiddishkeit:
How To Find It Within Ourselves and Share It With Our Families, Friends, and Acheinu Kol Beis Yisroel

Come join Rebbetzin Heller as she shares her life lessons learned from over three decades of teaching at Neve Yerushalayim. Rebbetzin Heller is internationally renowned as an outstanding scholar of Jewish studies, as well as a noted author and speaker. A gifted lecturer, Rebbetzin Heller has been a full-time faculty member at Neve Yerushalayim College in Jerusalem since 1980.

$10 Admission

For Women and Girls Only


Passaic - November 9th

The Sage Residence

105 Ridge Ave Passaic, NJ

1:15 PM

Five Towns - November 9th

Young Israel of Lawrence - Cedarhurst 8 Spruce St. Cedarhurst, NY

8:00 PM

Monsey - November 10th

The Resnick Residence

22 Voyager Ct. Monsey, NY

11:00 AM

Brooklyn - November 10th

Agudath Israel Beis Binyomin

Ballroom, 2913 Ave. L Brooklyn, NY

8:00 PM

For more information, please email yweinberg@projectinspire.com or call (646) 961 4961

The moral issue involved in losing weight.

  Hashem gives us a body that is our responsibility to take care of.  If we abuse our body by overeating, we are going against Hashem's will.  We have a moral responsibility to take care of our body.

From a Shiur on Naaleh:  Who is the Provider

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

The power of praying to serve Hashem.

When we ask Hashem for something and we are asking for selfish reasons we may not have our prayers answered, but if we ask for something so that we can do Hashem's will more effectively, we are much more likely to have our prayers answered.

from a Shiur by Rabbi Lazer Brody    The Garden of Riches: No More Debt!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Having the stength to go against the tide.

Good Shabbos Everyone. In this week's parsha Chayei Sorah, we read about the deaths of Avrohom and Sorah, who were the father and mother of the Jewish people. The Rabbis tell us: "The deeds of fathers are an example for the children." Because we are all children of Avrohom and Sorah, we can learn from their actions.

One of the ways that Avrohom and Sorah distinguished themselves is in the decision they took to go against the cherished ideals of society and to build their own lives based on a belief in the One G-d. For this reason is Avrohom referred to in the Torah as "Ha'Ivri" - "The Hebrew". Rashi explains that the word "Ivri" is related to the root of the word meaning "on the other side."

It is as if Avrohom put himself on the other side of world opinion. The whole world at the time worshipped idols. Yet Avrohom believed in the One G-d. That is why we, the children of Avrohom, are called Hebrews, because we follow in the footsteps of a man who set himself apart from the entire world. Avrohom was not intimidated by the fact that he held a minority opinion. So too can we be inspired by the example of our forefathers and mothers who made the decision to worship Hashem against the popular view at the time.

The following inspirational story will encourage us even more to rededicate our lives to Torah and mitzvahs and the service of Hashem.

After the concluding prayer, Dan quickly walked to the front of the shul in Jerusalem. Dan said "Good Shabbos" to the rabbi and a few other people he knew, and at once made his way toward the back. It was time to get home to make Kiddush for the family. On his way out, a sudden impulse struck him and he turned around to watch the people filing out. His eyes slowly scanned the shul. Was there anyone who needed a place to eat?

Who's that sitting toward the side wall? I know almost everyone here, and I don't believe he's been here before. Thought Dan to himself. Dan approached the young man, scanning him with an experienced eye. Dungarees, backpack, dark skin, curly black hair -- looks Sephardi, maybe Moroccan. He extended his hand in warm welcome. "Good Shabbos. My name is Dan Eisenblatt. Would you like to eat at my house tonight?"

The young man's face broke in an instant from a worried look to a toothy smile. "Yeah, thanks. My name is Machi." The young man picked up his backpack, and together they walked out of the shul. A few minutes later they were all standing around Dan's Shabbos table.

As soon as the family started singing Shalom Aleichem, Dan noticed that his guest wasn't singing along. "Maybe he's shy, or can't sing," he surmised. The guest gave another one of his toothy smiles and followed along, limping badly but obviously trying his best.

Even after the meal began and the guest had relaxed somewhat, he still seemed a bit fidgety and was mostly silent. Dan picked up the signal, kept the conversation general and centered his remarks on the weekly Torah portion, mixed with small talk about current events.

After the fish, Dan noticed his guest leafing through his songbook, apparently looking for something. He asked with a smile, "Is there a song you want to sing? I can help if you're not sure about the tune." The guest's face lit up, a startling change. "There is a song I'd like to sing, but I can't find it here. I really liked what we sang in the synagogue tonight. What was it called? Something 'dodi.'" Dan paused for a moment, on the verge of saying, "It's not usually sung at the table," but then he caught himself. "If that's what the kid wants," he thought, "what's the harm?" Aloud he said, "You mean Lecha Dodi. Wait, let me get you a siddur."

Once they had sung Lecha Dodi, the young man resumed his silence until after the soup, when Dan asked him, "Which song now?" The guest looked embarrassed, but after a bit of encouragement said firmly, "I'd really like to sing Lecha Dodi again." Dan was not really all that surprised when, after the chicken, he asked his guest what song now, and the young man said, "Lecha Dodi, please."

"Don't you want to sing something else?" he suggested gently. His guest blushed and looked down. "I just really like that one," he mumbled. "Just something about it -- I really like it." In all, they must have sung "The Song" eight or nine times. Dan wasn't sure -- he lost count.

Later, when they had a quiet time to talk, Dan said, "I was just wondering, Where are you from?" The boy looked pained, then stared down at the floor and said softly, "Ramallah." Dan's heart skipped a beat. He was sure he'd heard the boy say "Ramallah," a large Arab city in the PLO controlled area north of Jerusalem. He quickly caught himself and then realized that he must have said Ramleh, an Israeli city.

Dan said, "Oh, I have a cousin there. Do you know Ephraim Warner? He lives on Herzl Street." The young man shook his head sadly. "There are no Jews in Ramallah." Dan gasped. He really had said "Ramallah!" His thoughts were racing. Take a deep breath and let's get this straightened out. (In the context of the political history and the current events in Israel, this was a highly unusual occurrence.) Giving his head a quick shake he told the boy, "I'm sorry, I'm a bit confused. And now that I think of it, I haven't even asked your full name. What is it, please?"

The boy looked terrified for a moment, then squared his shoulders and said quietly, "Machmud Ibn-esh-Sharif." Machmud was looking even more terrified now; obviously he could tell what Dan was thinking. Hurriedly he said, "Wait! I'm Jewish. I'm just trying to find out where I belong."

Dan stood there speechless. What could he say? Machmud broke the silence hesitantly: "I was born and grew up in Ramallah. I was taught to hate my Jewish oppressors, and to think that killing them was heroism. But I always had my doubts. I used to sit and wonder, Weren't the Yahud (Jews) people, too? Didn't they have the right to live the same as us? If we are supposed to be good to everyone, how come nobody includes Jews in that? "I asked these questions to my father, and he threw me out of the house. Just like that, with nothing but the clothes on my back.

By then my mind was made up: I was going to run away and live with the Yahud, until I could find out what they were really like." Machmud continued: "I snuck back into the house that night, to get my things and my backpack.

My mother caught me in the middle of packing. She looked pale and upset, but she was quiet and gentle to me, and after while she got me to talk. I told her that I wanted to go live with the Jews for a while and find out what they're really like, and maybe I would even want to convert. "She was turning more and more pale while I said all this, and I thought she was angry, but that was not it. Something else was hurting her, and she whispered, 'You do not have to convert. You already are a Jew.' "I was shocked. My head started spinning, and for a moment I could not speak.

Then I stammered, 'What do you mean?' "'In Judaism,' she told me, 'the religion goes according to the mother. I'm Jewish, so that means you're Jewish.' "I never had any idea my mother was Jewish. I guess she didn't want anyone to know. She sure didn't feel too good about her life because she whispered suddenly, 'I made a mistake by marrying an Arab man. In you, my mistake will be redeemed.' "My mother always talked that way, poetic-like.

She went and dug out some old documents and handed them to me: things like my birth certificate and her old Israeli ID card, so I could prove I was a Jew. I've got them here, but I don't know what to do with them. "My mother hesitated about one piece of paper. Then she said, 'You may as well take this. It is an old photograph of my grandparents, which was taken when they went looking for the grave of some great ancestor of ours. They went up north and found the grave, and that's when this picture was taken.'"

Dan gently put his hand on Machmud's shoulder. Machmud looked up, scared and hopeful at the same time. Dan asked, "Do you have the photo here?" The boy's face lit up. ""Sure! I always carry it with me." He reached in his backpack and pulled out an old, tattered envelope. Dan gingerly took the photo from the envelope, picked up his glasses and looked carefully at it.

The first thing that stood out was the family group: an old-time Sephardi family from the turn of the century. Then he focused on the grave they were standing around. When he read the gravestone inscription, he nearly dropped the photo. He rubbed his eyes to make sure. There was no doubt. This was a grave in the old cemetery in Tzfas, and the inscription identified it as the grave of the great Kabbalist and tzaddik Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz -- the author of "Lecha Dodi."

Dan's voice quivered with excitement as he explained to Machmud who his ancestor was. "He was a contemporary of the Arizal, a great Torah scholar, a tzaddik, a mystic. And Machmud, your ancestor wrote that song we were singing all Shabbos: Lecha Dodi!" This time it was Machmud's turn to be struck speechless.

Dan slowly stood up, still in awe about what had happened. He extended his trembling hand and said, "Welcome home, Machmud. Now how about picking a new name for yourself?" (From: Monsey, Kiryat Sefer, and Beyond, Reb Zev Roth, the names have been changed. verified by Reb Mordechai Neugroschel, who heard it from the host himself.)

Machmud surely risked his life to take the path that he did. Through Machmud's heroism we are reminded of the characteristics of Avrohom and Sorah, who put themselves on the other side of world opinion. When we see the self-sacrifice that one Jew went through in order to observe his faith, we can be inspired to put even more effort into our own service of Hashem. Good Shabbos Everyone
from a regular email that I get

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Lifting ourselves out of an earthen existence.

A person can become earth like, stuck in one place, or a person can take nisyonos and elevate them self.  When Ephron sold Avraham the Maarat Hamachpala, he could have inscribed himself forever as a Tzadik who gave him the land, but instead he gave into his baser instincts and sold it to Avraham for a lot of money. When we face a difficult nisayon we have to realize that we are being given an opportunity to lift ourselves up.  That our actions will influence our future.  We should always strive to be a giver, not a taker. 

from a Shiur on Naaleh: Parshat Chayei Sarah    Teacher: Mrs. Shira Smiles

Monday, October 25, 2010

Debt free living.

Rebbe Nachman gives 20 reasons that a person becomes debt ridden.  Among them are: lack of emunah, loshon harah and depression.  Really they are all related.  If we truly accept that everything in from Hashem we will not speak ill about other people and we will not fall into depression because if everything is from Hashem then it is all for the best.

from the Shiur  "Debt free living" by Rabbi Lazer Brody

I just got an email that there is a new book about this topic that has just been released by Rabbi Shalom Arush, translated by Rabbi Brody.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Resentment is taking poison and hoping the other person is going to die....an oa saying

When you forgive someone the person you are helping is yourself.....from a Rebbetzin who does not want to be quoted.

Emptiness as a source of growth.

...Rebbe Nachman presents the feeling of emptiness in a different light-not as a failing, but to the contrary, a springboard to finding true meaning. It is admittedly painful to feel empty, but once awareness enters, it becomes possible to fill the void with genuine, fulfilling content.
The same process is evident in nature. A seed must rot in the ground and be almost obliterated before it can undergo the wondrous transformation that leads to the growth of fresh foliage, flowers and fruit. Similarly, if a person acknowledges his deficiency and makes an effort to seek answers he will ultimately experience growth and spiritual blossoming-even if he must first undergo a degree of pain.

from the book, "Journey" by Erez Moshe Doron of Lev Hadavarim p.26

This feeling of emptiness led many of our to fill ourselves with food instead of spirituality. With OA we learn to address the feeling of emptiness without trying to fill it with food.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Narrow BridgeWorking with Anorexia

By Elana Mizrahi

I have to admit, I'm easily brought to tears. I don't know whether it's because I'm overly emotional, overly sensitive, or both, but these eyes of mine, they fill like wells in a heartbeat.
I sat before one of my students. A woman who four months ago was living, or I should say dying, on sixty calories a day. Now, with a lot of help, I repeat, a lot of help, she's at her minimum weight, looks stunningly healthy, and has eyes that amongst their sadness also shine forth with life.

At times it is one step forward and two steps backA guitar lay next to her. "Play me something," I requested. Transformation. I saw metamorphosis, thinking back to the girl who came to us four months ago and to the woman who picked up the guitar now.

"The entire world is a very narrow bridge. A very narrow bridge. And the principle is not to ever be afraid." She sang these beautiful verses of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov and I cried. I couldn't help myself. My eyes became wells of tears as I joined in with her, "The principle is not to ever be afraid."

A year ago I started working with young women who have eating disorders. It is not an easy job. I have moments where I want to quit. I tell myself, "I'm not qualified for this. I'm not strong enough for this. I just can't do it." My boss tells me, "If you don't, who will?"

At times it is one step forward and two steps back. What do I do with them? I teach them exercise, I do reflexology on them. In between I always share with them a bit of Torah—it's not the body alone that is starving, but also the soul. I relate to them the words of our Holy Sages. I take them to the graves of righteous individuals (tzaddikim) and share with them stories: stories of hardships and stories of survival. Everyone has their story; I have mine.

I explain, "The Sages tell us that the righteous fall seven times and get up." I relate in the words of my teacher, "It's not that the righteous are righteous because they are the ones who can pick themselves up, but the fact that they fall enables them to become righteous." The only way to ascend at times is by means of descent.

I tell myself, "The statistics are not good. The chances of full recovery are slim. G‑d I can't do this, but You can. With You there are no statistics, no numbers. Let me be Your messenger and heal these precious women." Suddenly I feel less afraid. Whatever I do, I am not a failure.

"The entire world is a very narrow bridge. A very narrow bridge. And the principle is not to ever be afraid."

Imagine our forefather Abraham with his wife Sarah. G‑d came to him and told him, "Go. Leave everything that you know and go." "To where?" "To the place that I will show you."

They went and what did they do? They revolutionized the world. Two people. Rashi explains that Abraham did acts of kindness and converted the men while Sarah did acts of kindness and converted the women. What if Abraham had said, "I can't do it. I'm not qualified for the job"?
They revolutionized the world. Two peopleI remember when I was eighteen years old traveling alone in Europe. I arrived in Venice. I saw by the historic synagogues a sign that read, "Chabad. Kosher Pizza." I hesitantly walked in, "Shalom Aleichem! Welcome!" boomed a loud voice. It was not the first time, nor will it probably be the last time, that a friendly voice called out to me in some far-off place. His smile said it all. "What can I do to help you, my fellow Jew?"
Yes, what can I do to help you? I wish I had all the answers. I wish I had a magic wand that would make all the suffering and pain of my students go away. Unfortunately I don't.

I'm not a prophet, I'm not a magician, I'm just a simple Jew with a heart and two hands to extend to another. I'm probably not qualified, but then again, maybe it doesn't really matter. After all, the principle is "not to be afraid, at all…"

from chabad.org

Looking above nature for the solutions to our problems.

When you bring souls close to Hashem, Hashem brings souls close to you.  Rabbi Brody says that kiruv is the first thing that a childless couple should start doing.  He says that we should be looking for solutions to our problems above nature, not in nature.

from a Shiur by Rabbi Lazer Brody

Are the Twelve Steps Kosher? from Rabbi Avraham Twerski

The 12-step programs have been a very effective method of overcoming the scourge of a variety of addictions—alcohol, drugs, food, gambling, sex—and several others. Some opinions have been voiced regarding the propriety of these programs for Torah-observant Jews, and I’d like to bring some clarity to the issues.

Inasmuch as most of the meetings are of mixed genders, this has been raised as an objection. This is not a fault of the program, but rather a logistic problem, and can be resolved by forming separate meetings for men and women.

Since the majority of meetings are held in church basements or social halls, some feel that these are Christian programs. The sad fact is that very few synagogues have made themselves available to program meetings. Inasmuch as the various addictions have seriously affected many Jews, it would be a mitzvah for synagogues to open their doors to meetings.

It may be argued that the first of the 12-step programs, Alcoholics Anonymous, was the outgrowth of a Christian group. This is true. However, as we shall see, the content of the 12-step programs is not only compatible with Torah, but actually seems to have been adopted from Torah sources. I cannot understand how the founder of AA, Bill Wilson, had access to concepts that we find in the Talmud and the mussar writings. The fact hat they were adopted by a Christian group hardly disqualifies them, just as the kedusha in the amidah was not disqualified by its adoption into the Lord’s Prayer.

Some people mistakenly thought the 5th step to be like the Catholic confession. As we will see, it is not.

Let us now look at the 12 steps.

Step #1

We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.

Step #2

Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

This is essentially the Talmudic statement (Kedushin 30b) that one’s yetzer hara (evil inclination) increases in strength every day, and were it not for the help of G-d, one would not be able to withstand it. In other words, without the help of G-d, we are powerless over the yetzer hara. Indeed, the Talmud relates that two of our greatest tzaddikim were tempted by Satan and were actually in the process of submitting to the sin, and were saved only by the intervention of G-d. (Kedushin 81a).

The Talmud refers to sin as due to temporary insanity (Sotah 3a). Thus, just as we are powerless to resist the temptation to sin without G-d’s help, so the alcoholic is powerless to resist the temptation to drink, and only a Power greater than oneself (which we define as G-d) can prevent the insane behavior.

Step #3

Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of G-d as we understood Him.

The phrase “G-d as we understood Him” has been a source of confusion. It was meant to avoid reference to the deity of any religion. The Jew should say, “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of Hashem.” This step expresses two Torah concepts. (1) Set aside your own will in favor of the will of Hashem (Ethics of the Fathers 2:4) and (2) “Cast upon G-d your burden, and He will sustain you” (Psalms 55:23).

Step #4

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves

All sifrei mussar repeatedly stress the importance of chesbon hanefesh, a personal accounting which could not be expressed any better than “a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” This must indeed be fearless, because it takes great courage to honestly search oneself and confront parts of our character and personality whose existence we may be reluctant to acknowledge.

In doing a moral inventory, we must list our assets as well as our liabilities, our merits as well as our faults, because only this way can we achieve a true self-awareness. The mussar authority, Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz said that if a person is unaware of one’s faults, one does not know what one must correct. However, a person who is unaware of one’s character strengths is even in a more sorry state, because one is unaware of the tools one has to live a proper life.

Step #5

Admitted to G-d, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

This step has been misconstrued as being the Catholic confession. This is not so. In his guide to proper living, Rebbe Elimelech of Lizensk says that a person should avail oneself of a trusted friend, to whom one can admit everything has done, and even the objectionable thoughts and desires one has harbored. Verbalizing these breaks the hold of the yetzer hara.

Step #6

Were entirely ready to have G-d remove all these defects of character.

Step #7

Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

We generally can control our behavior, but we may have little or no control over some of our feelings. It is evident from the Talmud that we are born with some character traits, some of which we can sublimate and redirect to positive goals. We may not, by our own efforts, be able to extirpate some undesirable traits.

The saintly Chafetz Chaim was known to pray tearfully at the Ark of the Torah that G-d relieve him of his feelings of anger. The Chafetz Chaim never exhibited anger, because he was in control of his behavior, but he could not eliminate feeling angry, and he prayed that G-d remove these.

Obviously, we must do our homework to rid ourselves of objectionable traits, and this is how one becomes “ready to have G-d remove all these defects of character.” Once one has done whatever is within one’s power, one can then “ask G-d to remove our shortcomings.”

Step #8

Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

Step #9

Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

The Talmud says that whereas a person’s sins are forgiven on Yom Kippur, this does not apply to offenses committed against another person. Divine forgiveness is granted only if one has genuinely sought forgiveness from the person one harmed or offended.

It is of interest that there is a difference of opinion between ethicists whether a person should seek to make amends if doing so would be displeasing to the victim. A man asked me to forgive him for having spread a bad rumor about me. I did forgive him, but I wished that he had not told me about this, because now I was worried about what bad rumors might be circulating about me.

In such cases, Rabbi Yisrael of Salant said that one would be better off not asking for forgiveness, because this aggravates the person. The Chafetz Chaim, however, said that one must ask forgiveness nevertheless. I was amused that Bill Wilson had gravitated to the opinion of Rabbi Yisrael of Salant.

Step #10

Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

In Alei Shur, Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe says that one should carry a notebook and record occurrences of a moral or ethical nature, and review them at the end of the day.

One cannot emphasize strongly enough “when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.” The natural tendency is to defend a mistake and rationalize it. This is a gross error. Recent political events have proven that “cover-ups” do not work. One will have much better results if one overcomes the tendency to defend a mistake, and admit it promptly.

Step #11

Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious with G-d, praying only for knowledge of His will and the power to carry it out.

The mussar and Chassidic literature is replete with this principle.

Step #12

Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Torah teaches us that we have a duty of arvus, of mutual responsibility for one another. There is a Scriptural mitzvah of tochacha, of giving reproof for improper behavior. Indeed, if one has the possibility of positively influencing another person and fails to do so, one is held responsible for the other person’s misdeeds.

The Talmud says that there is one verse on which all of Torah depends: “Know G-d in all your ways” (Proverbs 3:6), Torah rejects the idea “Give unto G-d that which is His and unto Caesar that which is his.” We do not have two standards, one for religion and the other for the secular. We are required to practice the principles of Torah “in all our affairs.”

My book, Self-Improvement? I’m Jewish, was written at the request of a recovering alcoholic who wanted a program based on mussar. At the end of the book, I cited the 12-steps, pointing out that they essentially comprise a program based on mussar.

God's cake..

Someone just sent me this and it is a very powerful message.

Sometimes we wonder, 'What did I do to deserve this?' or 'Why did God have to do this to me?' Here is a wonderful explanation!

A daughter is telling her Mother how everything is going wrong, she's failing algebra, her best friend is moving away.

Meanwhile, her Mother is baking a cake and asks her daughter if she would like a snack, and the daughter says, 'Absolutely Mom, I love your cake.'

'Here, have some cooking oil,' her Mother offers.

'Yuck' says her daughter.

'How about a couple raw eggs?' 'Gross, Mom!'

'Would you like some flour then? Or maybe baking soda?'

'Mom, those are all yucky!'

To which the mother replies: 'Yes , all those things seem bad all by themselves. But when they are put together in the right way, they make a wonderfully delicious cake! '

God works the same way. Many times we wonder why He would let us go through such bad and difficult times. But God knows that when He puts these things all in His order, they always work for good! We just have to trust Him and, eventually, they will all make something wonderful!

God is crazy about you. He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning. Whenever you want to talk, He'll listen. He can live anywhere in the universe, and He chose your heart.

Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we are here we might as well dance! 'Life isn't about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain.'

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Understanding the Pillar of Salt

Why did Hashem punish Lot's wife with such a severe punishment.  What was so bad about looking back at the destruction of Sodom?  The answer is that any time there is destruction and punishment, it is coming from Hashem.  By looking at this punishment she was seeing a strong revelation of Hashem's strength that she was not supposed to see.  She should have had Emunah that this was what was going to happen and not have gone against the warning she was given.

When we see Hashem's judgement in the world we should realize that it is a revelation of Hashem's strength and compassion, that he does not let things go unpunished, and we can never know what the true reason for it is.

Parshat Vayeira: Salt of the Earth

Teacher: Mrs. Shira Smiles Added: October 19, 2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Growth through obstacles

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov explains that the obstacles that a person encounters in life are designed to enhance that person's desire.  For that reason, before a person makes a significant accomplishment in the service of Hashem-especially in the acquisition of something that is vital to his or her Judaism such a enhanced holiness-the person is tested with a series of obstacles.  her or she must overcome these obstacles to attain their goal.  Nevertheless, the obstacles are the agents that extract a person's very best efforts in making spiritual gain, since obstacles fuel desire.

from Chassidic Pearls  by Rabbi Lazer Brody p.8

Sometimes it seems like just when we are beginning to really get somewhere, it gets even harder.  We have to remember that this is not the time to give up, it is the time to try harder.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

There is no place or thing without Hashem

It is important to know that there is no place or thing disconnected from Hashem because if you think that something is not connected to Hashem you will think that you can act in an unholy manner towards it.
From a Shiur by Rabbi Kirzner.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Pursuit of Happiness from Rabbi Zev Leff.

In Florida they have dog races where they have dogs running around a track chasing a fake rabbit.  This rabbit is electric and it always runs enough ahead of them to keep them going, but they never catch it because if they did they would realize that it is not a real rabbit, and they never run again.

We are like those dogs, chasing a fake rabbit.  We spend our lives chasing after fake goals and we are never happy.

Real happiness comes from closeness to Hashem.

from a Shiur on Aish.com by Rabbi Zev Leff

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The secret of life from Rabbi Tatz

 A person is inspired artificially at the beginning of any phase of life, but to acquire the depth of personality which is demanded of us, Hashem removes the inspiration. The danger is apathy and depression; the challenge is to fight back to the point of inspiration, and in so doing to build it permanently into one’s character.

Why a Good Time Never Lasts

Inspiration and Disappointment
by Rabbi Akiva Tatz

When I first started OA I was on a high, I was losing a lot of weight and felt so good to be fully controling my eating for the first time in my life.  Now I am still happy to be abstinent, but it is not the same high.  I have to work on appreciating what I have a attained and not looking for the fireworks of the first few months.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The importance of discipline.

We learn that we have to emulate the ways of Hashem. Hashem disciplines us in many ways. We know that when bad things happen to us personally or as a nation Hashem is not showing us that he does not love us he is guiding us in the right direction. To show our love to our children and our students we need to set limits and natural consequences. This may be hard for us to do but it is essential for them to learn to grow in the right direction.

From a shiur by a Rebbetzin who wishes to remain anonymous.

In OA we need to learn to be strong and do the same when we are sponsoring someone. One of the things that we are sharing is our strength, and we give this over by being strong and putting boundaries. Sometimes we are tempted to be kind and let them get away with things that are really hurting their program. This is not really being nice to them it is hurting them.

3 levels of isolation that harm us.

 There is isolation from Hashem. Isolation from other people, and there is isolation from our self. Any time that we are isolated from one of these we become involved in fear. Fear is very damaging.
from a Shiur by Rabbi Lieb Keleman "Love & Fear" http://www.simpletoremember.com/media/a/LOVE_and_FEAR/

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The root of needless fear is self imposed isolation.

To the extent that I am in love, I will not feel fear.  If I am connected to Hashem I will not have fear.  The root of needless fear is self imposed isolation.  This causes me to be thrown into a world of fear.  Isolation from Hashem creates fear.  If you speak loshon harah you are isolating yourself from Hashem because you are going against Hashem's will.  The more that you isolate yourself from Hashem and you enter a world of fear, the more that you are hurting yourself.  When you isolate yourself from your inner being, you also create a great deal of fear and hurt yourself.
When I think there is nothing other then Hashem to fear, I am coming closer to Hashem, Fear of Hashem  is healthy.

from the Shiur by Rabbi Leib Keleman, "Love & Fear"  http://www.simpletoremember.com/media/a/LOVE_and_FEAR/

Seeking Kedusha

Kedusha is connection, Tuma is separation.  When we are connected to Hashem, we grow in Kedusha.  When we are distant from Hashem we lose kedusha.  Loshon Hara separates us from others, and by extension from Hashem.

The western world thinks that productivity is our highest goal, really relationship should be our highest goal.
To achieve real kedusha, spend parts of your day unplugged from technology, devoted to achieving uninterrupted connection.

from the Shiur by Rabbi Lieb Keleman, Marriage - Making Room in Our Lives for Those We Love


Monday, October 11, 2010

The danger of mixing light and dark.

Why is it that Avraham was able to live with numerous idolaters that he was trying to bring under the wings of the Shechina, but he was unable to live with his own nephew Lot.  The Netivot Shalom says that the answer is that Lot was a combination of goodness and evil in such extreme measures that it was dangerous for Avraham to be near him.

Shira Smiles says that we have to look for this trait in ourselves and try to control it.  When something is obviously evil, it is easy to reject it, but when it seems like it might be one way and it might be another way, it can be confusing and lead us astray. One of the most dangerous things is when we do something that is wrong, and we try to convince ourselves that it is a mitzvah.  We have to be careful to be clear about what is truly good and what is truly evil, and not to confuse them.  When they are mixed together it is very hard to see clearly.

The worst thing possible is when you think you are close and really you are so far.

from a Shiur by Shira Smiles on Parshas Lech Lecha from Kol Halashon

One of the most important keys to success in OA is clear and honest thinking.  When we begin to find excuses for slacking off, we are confusing light and dark, and risking falling down.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Hashem doesn't live in your heart if desperation lives in your heart.

When a person wants something so badly that they are willing to do anything to get it, it means that he thinks that he has a better agenda then Hashem. Its not that they don't believe in Hashem it is just that they want what they want.  Hypocrisy is the enemy of Yiras Shamayim.

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

"Death Trap" from Aish.com

The situation seemed hopeless. We were sitting ducks inside a tin, rolling coffin.

by Yehuda Yifrach

If a miracle hadn’t happened that Friday afternoon as we were driving to our Shabbat destination, this article would never have been written. Instead you would have read the standard description of a horrible terror attack. “Six Family Members of Amona Killed.” The political reactions would have been immediate; the eulogies short and heart rending.

But a guiding hand from Heaven made things happen differently, so that I am here and able to relate what happened that day.

We were on our way to spend Shabbat in the pre-military training program in Neve Zuf. We had just passed the intersection near the old British police station when out of the blue I started thinking about a number of terror attacks that had occurred and wiped out entire families. I thought of the Zur Family, the Secheveschovs, the Hutiels -- and then wondered why in the world I was bringing up these depressing incidents now.
I pressed on the gas pedal again and again, but the motor had died. About two kilometers west of the intersection, I had to slow the car because of a sharp swerve in the road. Suddenly I heard gun shots at close range. I yelled at my wife and kids, “Get down! We’re being shot at!” At the same time I stepped on the gas to gather speed and get out of danger’s range. To my horror the motor didn’t react. I lowered the gear and pressed on the gas pedal again and again, but realized, in shock, that the motor had died. The first bullet must have hit the mechanics inside the hood. (I later found out that the bullet passed through the radiator and oil pump, emptying the oil tank within seconds.)

The situation seemed hopeless. We were sitting ducks inside a tin, rolling coffin.

The terrorist continued firing at us methodically, another bullet every two, three seconds. Our vehicle had turned into a death trap in which my wife and our four panic-stricken children sat captives. We were likely to get hit any minute.

It was a lose-lose situation: If I get out of the car and start firing my small revolver at my unseen assailants, I’ll expose the family even more. And there is no way to flee the scene with a dead motor.

I figured that the firing was coming from the southern mountain to my right, so I turned the steering wheel and guided the car into the opposite lane, as close as possible to a rock outcrop at the side of the road, to get out of the Palestinians’ vision.

When the car stopped I quickly got out, grabbed the kids and literally threw them, one after the other, into the bushes around the edge of the mountain. The little one started to cry, “Ima!” and ran into the middle of the road hysterical. I ran after her, scooped her up and pushed her into the arms of her sister. Only then did I have a chance to release the trigger of my gun and look around for the terrorists.

There was a lull in the shooting and I imagined that they must have cut back to check on the number of victims they’d killed. So I advanced in their direction to prevent them from reaching my family when they started up again. As I crouched my way back across the road I was thinking, “How exactly am I going to conduct a shoot out with an unknown number of assailants and my small 26 Glouck revolver which has only ten bullets in it?"

I couldn’t see any sign of the attackers, so I returned to the car and decided to stop the first car that passed by to get my family out of there. The first two cars that I tried to flag down were Palestinians. They almost ran me over as they simply picked up speed and fled the scene instead of stopping for us. Right after them, a Rabatz (security officer) from one of the settlements drove up, evaluated the situation and helped me evacuate my wife and kids. Then a patrol of border police arrived, closed the road and began to sweep the area. At that point, for us the incident was finished.

I simply cannot understand how they didn’t hit us. But I couldn’t get over the experience. We had clearly been spared by an outright miracle. When I survey the lay of the land and the distances involved, I simply cannot understand how they didn’t hit us. They stood above the road, several meters from our slow rolling automobile, methodically shooting fatal bullets, one after another into our vehicle. Yet they missed every time (except for that first bullet which damaged the car).

For me, this was an unnerving experience. I’ve had my baptism by fire in the Army, but this was something completely different. That Shabbat eve we faced the Angel of Death and looked into the very whites of his eyes.

Even now as I’m sitting at the computer writing these lines, they could have been conducting our funerals. They could be eulogizing us, and relating how Ayelet was finishing a course in coaching and had begun her new book; how Maayan was an outstanding student and wrote the weekly family newspaper, how Ateret had finally learned to ride a two wheeler without the help of auxiliary supports, how Raanana loved to sing, and how Malachi, the baby, started to walk only this week.

When I think about that fateful Friday, how humdrum and conventional what could have been the last day of our lives. Like other people who have had near death experiences, I realize how short and precious life is and how important it should be to live it to its fullest, without wasting time and energy on day dreams, false desires and nonsense.

But beyond my personal story, I’m thinking there is the bigger one. Usually we’re all taken up with our personal lives, what I call the Small Story. We’re completely involved with our careers, our family, and the constant urgent demands on us. News and politics pass over our heads, and don’t really bother us or interest us that much. But in the background the Big Story is always there, the story of the Jewish nation, which after 2,000 years of exile finally returned and established an independent government of its own. And, as in all generations, there are no lack of those who are trying to destroy us.

There are moments in one’s life when the Big Story pushes its way into the Small Story. These are moments of clarity, when matters become crystallized, and the essence of our collective fate takes over.

The Big Story comes on the screen and reminds us of the difficult truth that we try so hard to ignore: we live in a bad neighborhood, surrounded by real and dangerous enemies, and if we don’t stand up and protect ourselves, we cannot survive.

Translated from Hebrew by Leah Abramowitz


from the ChofetzChayimUSA.org

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Be grateful for minor problems

There are 3 things that we can only earn with suffering, Torah, Eretz Yisrael, and Olam Haba.  When we experience Nisyonos (tribulations) with love from Hashem we spare ourselves much greater suffering.  The Gerer Rebe says that we spare ourselves something 5,000 times worse.

When we realize that by accepting small problems with Emunah we ourselves from having much greater problems because Hashem does not need to send us louder messages.

from a Shiur by Rabbi Lazer Body  "Tiny Triblulations"

Friday, October 8, 2010

Gaining Spiritual Self Respect

Rabbi Nachman teaches that we can not use our mouths as a vehicle for self indulgence.  We have to realize that the way that we eat influences our Kedusha.  When we control our eating we should have two motivating factors, health and an inner sense of spiritual self respect.  It doesn't matter what others think about us, it matters what we think about ourselves.  As we gain control over our eating we raise our level of  self respect, which raises our level of Kedusha.

from the Shiur:

Eating:Advice Series (Rabbi Nachman of Breslov) by Rabbi Yitzchack Kirzner

Now that I have been in OA for a year, I see how much this makes a difference in our lives.  I was just talking to someone today who is also in OA and she said that she feels that the self confidence that she has gained is more important then the weight that she has lost.

Never be embarrased of your Yisurim

A powerful thought from Rabbi Eli Sorotzkin, you should not be embarrased about your Yisurim.  Just the opposite, if you are mekabkel them B'ahavah, you should be proud.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Joyful Trust

No one can give what they don't have.  Since everything that we have comes from Hashem, everything that we are given ultimately comes from Hashem.
Everything that Hashem gives us comes from his great chesed and not because we deserve it. Everything that happens to us is coming from Hashem's decree and will.  It comes through people, but from Hashem.
If we are unhappy, it means that our trust in Hashem is not strong enough.  We have to work on ourselves to trust in Hashem. If you really trust Hashem will will want to do what Hashem wants from you. To accomplish this you have to work on making your will Hashem's will.

from the Shiur on Naaleh: Joyful Trust
Teacher: Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller Class: Bitachon: Meaning of Trust
Added: October 19, 2007

Using our mouths to elevate ourselves.

Noah was saved in the merit of his speech.  We can use our speech to elevate ourselves.  When Hashem said, "Let us make man"   He was teaching us that we have to help each other. We have to use our speech to elevate ourselves and others. When we don't daven for each other, that is a sense of robbery.  We are responsibility for each other. If we don't daven for other Jews, it shows that either we don't care about each other or we don't believe in the power of prayer.

When you see a situation that seems hopeless, even if you feel like can't do anything to help them, you can daven for them.
from the Shiur on Naaleh:
Parshat Noach: Wonderful Words

Teacher: Mrs. Shira Smiles Class: Parsha Topics 5769

Don't give up.

There are often times when we feel far from Hashem and we don't feel that we can even approach Hashem, our job at those times is to take that darkness and turn it into a prayer to Hashem.

We say, "Hashem, I am so distant from you that I can't even daven to you, please make an opening for me."

This prayer will have tremendous strength, and help us very much.

Often when we force ourselves to make a small step in the right direction, Hashem helps us to move much further.  We learn from this that when something feels hopeless we don't have to contemplate whether or not we will succeed, we just have to take the next step.

If Noah had davened to Hashem to save the world, he might have actually saved the world, but he thought it was hopeless, so he didn't even try.  We have to try even when it feels hopeless.

from the Shiur on Naaleh:
Parshat Noach: Wonderful Words

Teacher: Mrs. Shira Smiles Class: Parsha Topics 5769

This is an amazing video about Jewish unity with every major Jewish Star for Rubashkin

An unprecedented music video entitled “Unity For Justice” featuring thirty nine Jewish music superstars made its worldwide debut at a press conference held this Thursday afternoon at the Jewish Children’s Museum in Crown Heights. Recorded to raise awareness and bring about justice for Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin, this eagerly anticipated video features a star studded international lineup of Jewish music’s top voices in addition to both an adult and children’s choir singing  Mordechai Ben David’s hit song Unity. Rubashkin, the former manager of the Postville Iowa Agriprocessors kosher meat packing plant, received an unusually harsh sentence of fifty one years in prison after being convicted of bank fraud and related charges following a federal raid on the Postville Agriprocessors plant in May 2008.
Unity For Justice, the brainchild of Danny Finkelman and underwritten by Trapcall.com of TELTECH Corporation, created an unparalleled opportunity for the biggest names in Jewish music including Mordechai Ben David, Avraham Fried, Lipa Schmeltzer, Yaakov Shwekey, Benny Friedman, Dovid Gabay, Yehuda Green, Gad Elbaz, Ken Burges and dozens of others to literally raise their voices together in unity to show support for Shalom Mordechai Rubashkin and to protest the injustice that has been perpetrated in his case. Recorded and filmed in both the United States and in Israel, Unity For Justice is a dazzling visual and musical production, featuring a dizzying array of global talent from both the religious and secular Jewish communities all uniting as one to create a video that will uplift and inspire while raising awareness for Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin.

Mrs. Leah Rubashkin was on hand at the press conference to issue an official statement from the Rubashkin family in addition to detailing new developments in the Rubashkin case.

One seemingly simple act of kindness can literally save a life

Terror Victim's Kind Act Saved a Life, Parents Say

by Israel News staff

One of the victims of the recent terrorist shooting near Hevron was Kokhava Even-Chaim. Kokhava, 37, was a teacher in the city of Efrat. She was survived by a 10-year-old daughter and by her husband Maimon, a volunteer paramedic who was among the first at the scene of the attack that claimed his wife's life.

As Kokhava's family sat shiva, the seven-day mourning period, they were visited by neighbors and friends who came to give comfort and to share stories about Kokhava. One set of unexpected visitors shared a story about how Kokhava's kindness saved a young soldier.

The visitors, a middle aged irreligious couple from Kibbutz Hagoshrim in northern Israel, began their story by talking about the hospitality that Kokhava and her husband showed to soldiers stationed in the Hevron area. The family would invite at least two soldiers for every Sabbath meal.

On one Sabbath day a few years ago, the Even-Chaim family hosted two soldiers. Kokhava asked them if every soldier in the area had a place to eat the Sabbath meal, and was told that there was one soldier who had chosen to remain in the barracks because he was unhappy. Kokhava prepared a plate of food for the soldiers to bring to him when they left.

As the two were leaving, she asked why their fellow soldier was sad. They explained that it was his birthday, but his commanding officer had rejected his request to go home for the day and celebrate with his family. The soldier was very upset by the rejection, and had become depressed, they said.

Immediately after the Sabbath ended, Kokhava baked a cake and invited all the soldiers to come over for an impromptu birthday party.

The couple from Kibbutz Hagoshrim explained that the lonely, depressed soldier who Kokhava baked a cake for was their son. He had been so seriously depressed at the time that he considered running away from the army, and even thought of suicide. However, the kindness Kokhava showed him amazed him so much that he was shaken out of his depression.

For that reason, they said, they had come all the way from the north to southern Judea to mourn a woman they had never met.

As one person who heard the story said, "The story shows how one seemingly simple act of kindness can literally save a life."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Don't let yourself slide down the Slippery Slope .

Why did the sins of robbery and adultery lead to the destruction of the world in the time of Noach? The answer is that even though there may be sins that seem much worse, when we ignore the breakdown of societal norms, the end of the story is total societal breakdown. We have to learn from this that when we look at ourselves, are we allowing ourselves to slip a bit here and there? We may think that it is not important, but in the long run, it is the small infractions that lead to a total breakdown and destruction of our own being.

from a Shiur on Naaleh:
Parshat Noach: Slippery Slope Teacher: Mrs. Shira Smiles Added: October 04, 2010
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Monday, October 4, 2010

The greatness of Avraham.

The difference between Noach and Avraham was subtle, but important. They were both tzadikim, but Noach stayed within his ark, Avraham reached out to influence others. In life we have to make the most out of what Hashem gave us, but we have to go further, like Avraham and try to use our gifts to influence others.

From a Shiur on Naaleh by Shira Smiles.

After Shabbos Thoughts- A guest post

When I don’t want to clean up, I eat

When I’m too tired to deal, I eat

When I just want a break, I eat

When it’s me I hate, I eat

When I feel bad for something I did, I eat

When I hurt myself, I run to the food

When someone hurts me, I run to the food

When I can’t deal with my emotions, I run to the food

And what does the food give me?

More pain,

more hurt,

more self-hate,

more misery

So today, for the first time in a long time, I tried not to run to the food for comfort. I prayed and prayed for HaShem to save me from eating. And He helped me.

I always find Shabbos afternoons hard. I feel full from lunch, I’m tired and looking after the children at home. I’ve been in with them for the morning and I’m feeling a little restless. Out comes all the junk food for Shabbos party for the children and I want it too. I don’t want to listen to my HP. I want to do what I want to do. I DESERVE it. Maybe the kids are complaining, maybe the kids are happy, maybe I’m feeling guilty about something. Who knows what the excuse is. I just want it. I want self will, my way. Something for me.

So today, I couldn’t just go for the food, so I had to actually think. What is it that I actually need? I couldn’t do my knee jerk reaction, and stuff the food to shut off the emotion that i’m feeling. I had to think, what am I feeling? What is bothering me and what form of self-care can i do so that i can be refreshed? Well, I realised that I needed some fresh air and I asked my husband to watch the kids for a little while whilst I went out for a walk. It was raining and the sky was grey but I came back a different person. Fifteen minutes by myself to re-align my thoughts. I spoke to HaShem, and asked him to help me. I told Him my fears and concerns and I thanked Him for the beautiful children.

I’ve always felt guilty about taking time out. So instead I ate when I wanted to just have a break. Today, I had the break instead and spent the rest of the afternoon with more patience and love for the children. It’s still hard, and every minute is a challenge but I wanted to write to share the gift that I had this afternoon.

Today is my anniversary- one year of abstinence.

Today I can say that overeating is not about vanity.  I have lost 75 pounds and BH I no longer have many life threatening illnesses.  I am very grateful to Hashem for helping me to reach this milestone.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Beginning the year right.

The Chazon Ish says that one of the possible meanings of the "Tree of Knowledge" is a grape vine. Hashem had intended for man to drink wine for Kiddush from the Aitz Hadaas. Since the first time that man would have had wine was on Shabbos, his neshamah yiseira (extra soul) would have helped him to deal with the internalization of evil. We learn that the first time that something happens is a sign of how it will happen in the future. Therefore, if man had just waited until Shabbos to eat from the "Tree of Knowledge" it would have been entirely different.

This year we are beginning the year off with the advantage of the neshamah yisera. May it be a beginning of a year with extra strength and insight.
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Saturday, October 2, 2010

When less is more.

This Simchat Torah our shul had a black out. They made Hakafas by the light of the emergency escape lights. It was dramatically beautiful. The lack of "proper" light caused a dramatic focus that will stay with me for a long time. The crowd was small and spirited, and it felt like we were transported back in time to the days before electricity.

My einekle told my son she wanted the lights to go back on, he told her that Hashem would make the lights go on soon. She told him that. "Hashem can't make the lights go on, only a goy can turn the lights on on Yom Tov" A few minutes later, the emergency repair crew outside the shul got the electricity up and running. The brights lights went on, the overhead fans and the air conditioners went back on, but the intimacy left.

This got me thinking about the way that abundance in our lives can often mask small things that really count. When we pare down our needs and desires we often enrich our lives.
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