Sanctify yourself through the permissible... Yevamos 20a

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

L'Iluei Nishmas Mirkah Bas Yosef

Friday, April 29, 2011

This story makes me think of Yosef Mokir Shabbos- and reminds us that Hashem is in charge of our financial future.

FUNATO, Japan – There are no cars inside the parking garage at Ofunato police headquarters. Instead, hundreds of dented metal safes, swept out of homes and businesses by last month's tsunami, crowd the long rectangular building.

Any one could hold someone's life savings.

Safes are washing up along the tsunami-battered coast, and police are trying to find their owners — a unique problem in a country where many people, especially the elderly, still stash their cash at home. By one estimate, some $350 billion worth of yen doesn't circulate.

There's even a term for this hidden money in Japanese: "tansu yokin." Or literally, "wardrobe savings."

So the massive post-tsunami cleanup under way along hundreds of miles (kilometers) of Japan's ravaged northeastern coast involves the delicate business of separating junk from valuables. As workers and residents pick through the wreckage, they are increasingly stumbling upon cash and locked safes.

One month after the March 11 tsunami devastated Ofunato and other nearby cities, police departments already stretched thin now face the growing task of managing lost wealth.

"At first we put all the safes in the station," said Noriyoshi Goto, head of the Ofunato Police Department's financial affairs department, which is in charge of lost-and-found items. "But then there were too many, so we had to move them."

Goto couldn't specify how many safes his department has collected so far, saying only that there were "several hundreds" with more coming in every day.

Identifying the owners of lost safes is hard enough. But it's nearly impossible when it comes to wads of cash being found in envelopes, unmarked bags, boxes and furniture.

Yasuo Kimura, 67, considers himself one of the lucky ones. The tsunami swallowed and gutted his home in Onagawa, about 50 miles (75 kilometers) south of Ofunato. He escaped with his 90-year-old father and the clothes on his back. But he still has money in the bank.

That's not the case for many of his longtime friends and acquaintances, said Kimura, a former bank employee.

"I spent my career trying to convince them to deposit their money in a bank," he said, staring out at his flattened city. "They always thought it was safer to keep it at home."

The number of safes that have turned up in Ofunato alone is a reflection of the area's population: In Iwate prefecture, where this Pacific fishing town is located, nearly 30 percent of the population is over 65.

Many of them keep money at home out of habit and convenience, said Koetsu Saiki of the Miyagi Prefectural Police's financial affairs department. This practice is likely compounded by persistently low interest rates, leaving little financial incentive for depositing money in a bank.

As in Iwate, local police stations in Miyagi are reporting "very high numbers" of safes and cash being turned in.

"It's just how people have operated their entire lives," he said. "When they need money, they'd rather have their money close by. It's not necessarily that they don't trust banks. But there are a lot of people who don't feel comfortable using ATMs, especially the elderly."

A 2008 report by Japan's central bank estimated that more than a third of 10,000-yen ($118) bank notes issued don't actually circulate. That amounts to some 30 trillion yen, or $354 billion at current exchange rates, ferreted away.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What really causes us to suffer in this world?

Sometimes when things are very difficult, the biggest source of our suffering is our refusal to accept Hashem's agenda for our lives instead of our own.  We have to realize that only by surrendering to Hashem's plans for us instead of our own plans can we truly achieve our tikun in this world.

from a Shiur on Aish.com
Shelanu: Discovering Your Personal Freedom # BY 678 B

by Berkovits, Rabbi Yitzchak


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Addict-like behavior when it comes to technology- Another reason to apreciate Yom Tov

Time to turn off everything and tune into the real source of information.

A 2009 study at Stanford University found that, surprisingly, persistent multitaskers perform worse than infrequent ones on tests that require them to jump from task to task. It seems they were more easily distracted by irrelevant information thrown up during the evaluations.

That suggests continual multitasking may impair the filter that keeps our brain from flitting from thing to thing - making it harder to resist, say, the siren song of cat clips.

Some psychiatrists worry that people are increasingly demonstrating addict-like behavior when it comes to technology, unable to ignore its pull, even when it negatively affects them.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/04/16/BUTO1J0S2P.DTL#ixzz1JpcguKKL

Waiting to get Past the Bitterness of Life

Once a Jew and a German banded together to go around begging. The Jew taught the German how to pretend to be a Jew (since German and Yiddish are quite similar). This way the Jews, who are kind by nature, would help him.

Pesach was coming, so the Jew taught the German how to behave when invited to someone's home for the Pesach Seder. He explained to him that first they would make the Kiddush and then wash their hands… The one thing that the Jew forgot to mention was the eating of the bitter herbs.

When the German came to the Seder he was ravenous, not having eaten for the whole day. He was gleefully anticipating eating all the good things the Jew had told him about. But at first, all they gave him was a tiny piece of vegetable dipped in saltwater for Karpas, and they carried on reading the Haggadah.

The German was desperately longing for the meal. He was delighted when they started eating the Matzah. But all of a sudden they gave him the Maror, which was terribly bitter in his mouth.

The German thought this was the entire meal, and all they were going to eat was the Maror. He immediately ran out, bitter and hungry, thinking to himself that the Jews were truly cursed. “After all that ceremony, this is what they give to eat?!?” He returned to the synagogue and went to sleep.

Later on the Jew arrived, his face beaming, fully satisfied from eating and drinking. “How was your Seder?” he asked. The German angrily told him what happened.

“Oh you stupid German,” said the Jew. “If you had only waited just a little longer you would have enjoyed the best meal, exactly like me.”

So it is in serving God. After all a person's efforts and exertions to draw closer to God, he is subjected to a little bitterness – because the purification of the body comes through bitterness. The person thinks there will never be anything except bitterness, and immediately runs away.

If he would just be willing to wait a while and endure this little bitterness in order to purify the body, he would later experience every kind of vitality and delight. In serving God, first one experiences the bitterness of the purification of the body, but afterwards one enjoys the vitality.

By Rebbi Nachman of Breslov



Pesach Inspiration and Enjoyment

Friday, April 15, 2011

Cinnamon Tea- a healthy natural sweetener

Place a bottle of Cinnamon Sticks in a pot of water and cook for an hour or two. The water will become cloudy, your house will smell yummy and you can use it to sweeten your herb tea and cooked fruit without artificial sweeteners.

for more abstinent recipes go to: http://tiforoafood.blogspot.com/

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Don't miss this remarkable Shiur

In the rush of preparing for Yom Tov it is easy to miss this Shiur that was recently added to Naaleh.com   In it Rebbitzin Heller discusses the lack of unity in the Jewish People and discusses its root causes and how we can overcome the problem.  Her insights are inspiring and uplifting.  
Tragedy: A Call to Unity

Teacher: Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

Class: Fogel Family Remembrance Program

Added: April 11, 2011


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Unnecessary attachment to a physical thing.

As I was turning over my kitchen I remembered something that I read in a Sefer by Bilvavi Miskan Evneh about the pain that we feel separating from the physical world after we die.  He mentions that a Tzadik has no problem with this, is is like taking off one set of clothes and putting on another.  As I was getting rid of my extra chometz I was thinking about how difficult this has been in past years.  It made me feel like I was parting with something of value, that I had invested in and didn't want to get rid of.  I realized that this feeling of attachment to a physical thing has caused me unnecessary and silly pain.  By emotionally detaching from it, and declaring it valueless in my mind, I could make the turnover much easier.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

We have to put more effort into our faith, instead of faith in our own efforts.

Rav Matisyahu Solomon

Using the spiritual strength of Pesach to free ourselves.

Pesach is a time of freedom.  At this time of the year we are able to use this inherent strength to free ourselves from our Yetzer Harah and from our physical desires.

from: The Shiur on Naaleh:  Freedom from Self to Self

Teacher: Mrs. Shira Smiles Class: Jewish Calendar III (Pesach-Shavuot)
Added: March 28, 2011 Time: 59:26

Tolerance for ourselves and for others.

If one is more honest, he is aware of his good and bad points, and can accept and deal with his faults. What kind of person can best accomplish this?  One who has a deep personal connection within himself.  Sometimes we are more tolerant with others then with ourselves, because we can't cope with our own faults.  But if we have a secure place inside, we can handle a little difficulty.  Without it, the faults are too painful.

from the book, "Getting to know your soul" by the author of Bilvavi Miskan Evneh.

This is very helpful advice for working on step four.

Creating an ability to connect.

When we maintain a connection to our innermost self, we forge a deeper connection to our friends. Even if we don't like someone, we will be able to tolerate him more.  Our feeling of ta'anug will give us more ability to connect.

from the book, "Getting to know your soul" by the author of Bilvavi Miskan Evneh.

One of the benefits of joining OA is the focus on developing a connection with my innermost self.  While this is a goal that I am working on, I remember that we seek "progress not perfection".

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Fear and Joy

Every time we daven we should be filled with extreme Fear and Joy.  Fear is understandable, but what is the Joy?  We should be filled with Joy that we have an exclusive audience with the one source that can actually solve our problems.

Heard at a Meeting quoted from "Praying with Fire" 

The Zohar refers to matzah as "the bread of faith."

The centerpiece of Passover is, of course, the matzah. The Zohar refers to matzah as "the bread of faith." Presumably, this is because the Israelites left Egypt in such great haste that they could not take along any provisions, and took only the unleavened dough with them. With trust in God they headed into the barren desert where no food was available. The matzah, therefore, represents the Israelites' faith and trust in God.

Rabbi Zvi Elimelech of Dinov (Bnei Yissaschar) provides an additional insight. The prohibition of chametz on Passover is much harsher than that of other forbidden foods. For example, if a piece of non-kosher meat falls into a pot of kosher food, and the volume of the kosher food is at least 60 times that of the non-kosher meat, the food may be eaten. However, if a tiny crumb of chametz falls into a huge vat of food on Passover, even if the volume is infinitely great -- a million to one -- the entire vat of food is prohibited. The tiniest crumb of chametz cannot be considered negligible.

Bnei Yissaschar explains the difference between chametz and matzah. Matzah is never allowed to be left without someone working it. From the time the flour and water are combined, the dough is kneaded, promptly rolled out, perforated, and baked. Nothing happens to the matzah that is not the direct effect of someone handling it. Not so with chametz, where the ingredients are mixed and then set aside for a period of time to rise. The latter process is spontaneous, occurring without anyone's doing anything to make it rise.

Matzah and chametz, therefore, represent two perspectives. Chametz represents the idea that things can happen by themselves, while matzah symbolizes that nothing happens unless someone makes it happen. There is no spontaneity.

The Torah did not wish to deprive us of bread all year, but when we celebrate our independence and our free will, the matzah reminds us that there is no spontaneity in the world. Everything is at all times under the direct providence of God. Except for the choice in behavior, of moral and ethical acts that God assigned to man, there is not even the tiniest occurrence that is spontaneous. The Baal Shem Tov was very emphatic about this, saying that if someone digs into sand, each of the millions of grains of sand falls into the place where God wills it to be. Not even the placement of a grain of sand is without design.

Matzah, therefore, symbolizes that everything in the world, great and small, is under the direction of God. That is why the Zohar refers to matzah as "the bread of faith."

from Rabbi Abraham Twerki


Thanks again Lynda

Emotional Slavery

by R' Abraham Twerski MD
Many families gather together for the Passover Seder. They eat the matzah and the bitter herbs, drink the four cups, and recite the Haggadah. The house is free of all chametz. In our prayers we refer to Passover as "the festival of liberation." These are wonderful mitzvot. But, what do we take from Passover into our daily lives?

It should be obvious that Passover is more than a kind of Independence Day celebration. Who prepares for an Independence Day two weeks in advance, making the house chametz-free to a degree of operating-room sterility, replacing all dishes and cookware, and having a sharply restricted diet for eight days?

The deeper significance of Passover occurred to me when a recovering drug addict told me that when his father began reciting the Haggadah at the Seder, and said, "Avadim hayinu (we were slaves)," he interrupted him. "Abba," he said, "can you truthfully say that you were a slave? Your ancestors were slaves, but you don't know what it means to be a slave. I can tell you what it is like to be a slave. All the years that I was on drugs, I had no freedom. I had to do whatever my addiction demanded. I did things that I never thought I was capable of doing, but I had no choice, no free will. I was the worst kind of slave."

This is a precious insight. Slavery is not limited to a despotic Pharaoh or a slave owner. A person can lose his freedom and be a slave to himself, to his habits and negative character traits. A person who cannot break free from cigarettes is a slave, as is someone who cannot break free from gambling, from excess food, from the Internet, and even from the office.

A person whose self-concept is dependent on what others think of him, or whose behavior is totally determined by what he thinks others want him to be, he, too, has no freedom. He is not free to do what he thinks is right and proper, but what others think is right and proper. Anytime one loses control of any aspect of one's behavior, one is a slave.

The entire Haggadah is essentially a text on breaking free from all forms of enslavement, internal as well as external.

This understanding of Passover and the Exodus explains why we have an entire week of celebrating independence. For political independence, one day of parades, picnics, and fireworks suffices. For the realization of obtaining true personal freedom, an entire week of contemplation is necessary...

thank you Lynda for sending me this link!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Dose of Tranquility for Pesach Cleaning-Dealing with BREAD CRUMBS durring Pesach Cleaning.

What about bread crumbs on your kitchen floor? There are various opinions in halacha, but I'm going to present one in particular that is easier to understand. We established that the third category -- "garbage" -- is defined as anything that cannot ferment another dough, and is so non-edible that even a dog wouldn't eat it. According to most halachic authorities, there is one more substance that is defined as "garbage": Chametz that is smaller than a kezayit (about 30 grams) and you would not use it for anything. This is something most people call "garbage" -- you would easily throw it away and in your mind it's nothing. Crumbs fit into this category. The only kind of crumb that's problematic is one you'd pick up with your finger and put on your tongue. So leftover crumbs from the table are in fact "chametz." Leftover crumbs on the floor, which you wouldn't eat, are garbage. Therefore, any crumb that you would consider dirt (and is smaller than a kezayit) does not have to be gotten rid of. (The fact that a baby eats it does not turn it into chametz. Because when a baby decides to eat something, it is not a conscious decision that "this is food." If you have non-food around, a baby will eat that, too!) from: Pesach Cleaing made easy: By knowing what and how to clean, Passover cleaning needn't be a chore. by Rabbi Yitzchak Berkovits http://www.aish.com/h/pes/l/48970611.html

Monday, April 4, 2011

Nissan a time for rejuvenation.

Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the new Hebrew month of Nissan begins this year Monday at sundown and Tuesday, April 5, 2010.

It’s been a rough winter, not only in Israel, but around the world. The natural dreary feeling of the year’s frosty months became even more acute as a result of natural disasters around the world, political unrest in the Arab world, and a sharp increase of terrorist activity within Israel. Yet, there’s no need to despair. Hashem gave us a special gift, a remarkable time for rejuvenation known as Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the first day of the Hebrew month of Nissan.

The very first commandment that Hashem gave to the Jews as a people was to establish Nissan Nissan as the first month of the year (see Exodus 12: 1-2). The first day of the Hebrew month of Nissan is also the date when the Mishkan – the temporary portable Temple that was used in the desert – was inaugurated. Nissan therefore has an innate quality that’s conducive to rejuvenation.

from: http://lazerbrody.typepad.com/lazer_beams/

Natural Therapy

In our recent OA convention they had a Yoga Laughter  therapist come for a session of Laughter Therapy.  This Shabbos I was treated  to the real thing.  My granddaughter turned to me and said, "Smile, and Smile  and Smile again"  Then she broke out into hysterical laughing until I was laughing along with her.  She kept doing it all Shabbos.  It is amazing how much a little laughter can make you feel good.  TRY IT YOU'LL LOVE IT! It can really take away some of the pre-Pesach stress. 

Friday, April 1, 2011


Each morning when we arise, we say a special prayer - "Elokei neshamah" - thanking HaShem for granting us our holy soul. The prayer begins with the words: "My G-d, the soul which You have given me is pure; You created it, You formed it, You breathed it within me..." (Brachos 60b)

The word "soul" in this prayer refers to and includes the three ascending levels of the soul. Namely, (1) nefesh - the seat of our earthly drives, (2) ru'ach - the spiritual forces within, and (3) neshamah - the holy essence of the pure soul. Accordingly, "You created it" refers to the nefesh; "You formed it" refers to the ru'ach; and "You breathed within me" - refers to the neshamah.

The three levels of the soul span the spectrum from the base instincts of nature to the highest levels of purity and holiness. In light of this, we have the capacity to elevate ourselves from the lesser instincts to the highest virtues of character.

As we navigate our path in life, there is a clear way to determine which aspect of the soul is prominent. The nefesh seeks pleasure whereas the neshamah desires only to give pleasure and benefit to others.

Each morning as we arise we begin a new chapter in our life's journey. The Elokai haneshamah prayer guides us to attain the proper spiritual orientation. We reflect on the ascending levels of our soul - and uplift ourselves - to our holy essence.

We define ourselves by deciding to draw from our neshama - the highest and most authentic identity of the self. As we go through the day, we continue to elevate ourselves by actively choosing to serve others in each situation. Each time that we assume the giving mode we strengthen our soul and elevate ourselves a little bit higher.

May each daily recitation of the Elokai haneshamah prayer, help us to discover new vistas of our holy soul,

[Based on the M'harsha to Brachos 60b and Mictav M'Eliyahu]

thank you to Lynda for sending this to me.
TODAY: Stretch to reach for your highest inner goodness - a holy entity of pure kindness.
from:  The Salant Foundation
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