Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Pray to G-d. Don't be ashamed to do the right thing!

When a Jew performs the mitzvot and is not embarrassed by his Judaism, he then has the ability to even change the actions of a non-Jew.

There was once a wealthy Jew who would every so often take a vacation on his yacht. On one such journey he kept asking his non-Jewish captain which direction was East. The captain answered him, then asked him in surprise: 'You are not a captain nor a sailor who is involved in sailing this yacht, so why are you so interested to know which direction east is?"

The Jew answered: "Three times a day I pray to the Master of the world, in the morning, in the afternoon and in the evening, there is a special prayer, called the shmonei esrei, and we are commanded to say this prayer facing in the direction of the city of Jerusalem, which is in the East.
So when i am home", continued explaining the Jew, "I know which side is East, but on the boast which is constantly moving I dont know which direction we're in."

The non-Jewish captain was impressed. He said, "If a rich and successful man like you can stop everything three times a day in order to pray to the Creator then i too should every day pray to Him".

Some time later when the Captain met this Jew again, he told him that ever since they talked about Prayer, he talked to his friends and family about the necessity of thinking about the creator and praying to Him.

The captain ended by saying, 
"If all the people in the world would think about the Creator and pray to Him, the world would be a much better place than it is today."


How we slept at night determines a lot of how we perform the next day.

That's one good reason to get into the "Bedtime Shema" routine, which can be found in your prayerbook.
Let go of the maddening thoughts of the day.  Let the highlights of your day flash through your mind. Look for the sparks of beauty you came to this world to find. Discard the mess-ups.

You want those mess-ups to be forgotten. The best way to accomplish that is by forgetting the mess-ups of others that affected you. As Rava, the Talmudic sage, would say, "Those who ignore the impulse to get even, all their sins are ignored in the heavenly record."
That's why we preface the Bedtime Shema with a short paragraph declaring our forgiveness for all who may have slighted us.

When we say the Shema Yisrael, we declare that behind all that happened today there is only One G-d. If we say it with intense mental focus, it cleanses the soul.

We should ponder on G-d's kindness that allows us to start each day anew.  And move our soul closer to G-d and further from that which ties us down.

The Rebbe Rashab said that the reciting of Sh'ma before retiring at night is, in miniature form, like the Confession before death. But then one leaves the marketplace permanently. With the Bedside Sh'ma every night, however, one is still in the middle of the "market" and we can still accomplish.

We finish the bedtime prayers with the Hamapil blessing, requesting a peaceful night, entrusting our soul in G-d's faithful hands and praising Him for that which we witnessed today, that His glory illuminates the entire world.

Having difficulty falling asleep? Try saying, thinking or visualizing the words of Shema.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Power of Speech!

Man below is a reflection of the Above. The power of human speech below mimics the creative power of Divine speech. Divine speech creates reality. Our words and how we language our thoughts is a process of continually creating the world around us.
Just as we have the power to create with speech, we have the equivalent ability to destroy through speech. Our words, which are our projections and vibrations, alter the inner frequency of the universe, for good and for the opposite.
Occasionally we may stumble and speak ill about others or ourselves. When that happens we need to re-calibrate and undo past negative words by using speech itself. Speaking our thoughts aloud makes them more concrete. The power of our speech is that it creates our reality.
We should accustom ourselves to repeat positive affirmations as we go through our day. This can empty the mind of inappropriate thoughts and create positive realities.
You may find yourself voicing your thoughts to yourself with words such as “I am not a good person, I am lazy, incompetent, etc....” Consciously reverse these statements and voice them aloud. Try saying “I am essentially a good person, I can and do have the inner resources to change the direction of my life”. Begin to create a positive reality for yourself through positive speech
Whether there are words that you have spoken that need to be amended, or words that should have been said and were kept silenced, this is the week to express and reverse through speech, creating our ideal reality through using our words correctly.
Note the way that you use your speech and ensure that your words are not destructive. Consciously use your power of speech to build, uplift and create a better reality.

Do Good. Be perfect. Perfect the world.

Practice makes perfect, but nobody’s perfect. So is perfection attainable or not?
In Tanya, R. Schneur Zalman points out that on one hand, man is prone to selfishness and self-justification. On the other hand, man is in control over his impulses; he is not an animal and has the free will to act as he wills at any given time.
In other words, we might not be perfect, but we have the choice to do perfect. Or to put it in psychological terms, not everything that is wrong with us on the inside do we necessarily have to bring into expression on the outside.
This is the perfection which, R. Schneur Zalman tells us, we can achieve—to become a person who, despite being rife with imperfections on the inside, chooses to behave perfectly on the outside.
Feeling like doing something selfish and rotten but forcing ourselves to do something altruistic and noble is called a decent human being. Whenever we overcome our impulses to behave in a particular way, we are making the decision to do what ought to be done. Behavior is a choice.
It's like asking a Jew, “Did you eat on Yom Kippur?” and he answers, “Well, I felt hungry in my stomach.”
He did not eat! He didn’t. He just felt like eating..
Our job is to put our own imperfections aside and take actions that help make a perfect world.
A Jew has not only the license but the obligation to pursue perfection in his or her deeds. After all, there is really nothing stopping us. “Everyone is just as much of a mentch as he wants to be.”

Debatng with horses. (Horses within)

Rabbi Dovid Tzvi Chein known as the Radatz, was a legendary Lubavitcher chassid renowned for his scholarship and piety. He served as the chief Rabbi in the city of Chernigov. Every year before Shavuot he’d walk to the town of Lubavitch, to spend the holiday with the Lubavitcher Rebbe who was residing here. However, as he aged, the long trek from Chernigov to Lubavitch became increasingly difficult for him, forcing him to make this trip only every second year.
His children suggested that in order for him to continue his annual tradition they would hire a horse and buggy to drive him to Lubavitch.
The elderly chassid refused the offer.
“After 120 years, when I will arrive to the upper worlds,” he explained, “I do not want to waste my time on discussions and debates with the horses. If they assist me in my travel to Lubavitch, they will demand part of my reward for going there.
“In truth, I can defeat the horses in debate. But, in a world of divine splendor, why should I waste my time debating horses?”

And the moral of the story:
We, too, have a “horse,” the animal within, to contend with. This internal animal is driven by selfish impulses, and resists acts of selflessness and G‑dliness.
When faced with an opportunity to do a good deed, such as demonstrating love for a fellow or giving charity, there is no place for negotiations and debates with a horse regarding the fulfillment of a divine precept.
It is a waste of time.

Wishing you a wonderful day, a day filled with doing good.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Humble Mountain. Shvuos.

The Midrash relates that when G-d wanted to reveal His holy Torah to the Jewish people, every mountain came before G-d and boasted of its perfection and beauty, yet it was precisely Mount Sinai - a small and unassuming mountain that refused to boast - that G-d chose to give the Torah on.

Neither the mountains' impressive height, prime location or other physical characteristics were taken into consideration. Not only did these features not convince G-d, as it were, to choose them, but their boasting had the opposite effect. For the Torah could only be given on a place where side issues were irrelevant; the Torah was revealed purely for its own sake.

The giving of the Torah on humble Mount Sinai contains a lesson for all of us in how we are to observe G-d's commandments. Personal considerations, motivations and/or rewards are not the real reason we perform mitzvot. Rather, a Jew fulfills the Torah's commandments solely because such is the will of G-d.

Observing mitzvot brings delight to the spirit, refines our character attributes, and purifies the soul, but the desire to obtain these personal benefits is not the Jew's genuine motivation.

Our motivation and intent in heeding G-d's word must be unadulterated by thoughts of personal gain or advantage. We serve Him solely for the sake of serving Him.

In fact, even if had G-d commanded us to perform actions which would not be rewarded, we would carry out His will with the same joy and vitality with which we observe the Torah commandments, solely because He wants us to!

"Cut the Challah, no blood will be lost!"

In Ethics of our Fathers, chapter 4 it says:  Ben Azzai used to say: “Do not regard anyone with contempt, and do not reject anything; for there is no man who does not have his hour, and nothing which does not have its place.” (Avot 4:3)

One late Friday afternoon a poor man, who had not eaten in days, stood in the doorway of the home of Rabbi Yitzchak of Kalush. Smelling the freshly baked bread he held out his hand for something to eat. . .
The cook, wanting to save the freshly baked challot for shabbat looked around for an old, stale piece of bread, the kind that is usually given to beggars, but she found none.

“Slice up a loaf of the fresh bread” a man’s voice said, “no blood will be lost because of it.
And so she cut into the, soft fresh challah, and gave the poor man a thick slice to eat, which he ate greedily. As he left, a man with kind eyes nodded to him. He was the one who had told the cook to cut the bread. The poor man knew that this man had saved his life.

Time passed. The poor man was not a very successful beggar. He did better as a thief. In time, he became the leader of highway robbers. They would rob highway travelers and as often as not, they would then kill their victims.

One day, they stopped a certain Jew. With rough shouts they tied him up, and took his money. Then suddenly, the chief took a second look. Instead of seeing the usual terror in his victim’s eyes, there was a glance of absolute calm, and in his eyes was a look of a profound kindness.
Suddenly the chief realized he had seen that look before. “Take this!” he said, throwing the money back into the Jew's lap. “Unbind him and let him go! he commanded to his men. “I owe this man a debt!”
“Do you remember?” he said to the Jew. “Once a poor beggar came to your door just before your holy day. ‘Give him some bread,’ you said. ‘No blood will be lost because of it.
“I bet you never dreamed that the blood not lost would be your own! Go in peace, Rabbi Yitzchak of Kalush!”

Be Inspired! - STAY Inspired! - Sefira

When the Jews left Egypt they were embarking on a spiritual journey that was to end with their receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai.This journey involved ascending the ladder of holiness rung by rung.
The deliverance from Egypt and their witnessing G-d’s power in its full glory allowed them a degree of inspiration. And their next job now was to lift themselves to that level of inspiration on their own, through their own work and endeavors.
The seven week period that we are now in,  between Pesach and Shavuot is that period for effort and growth that will show that we are sufficiently inspired to be able to accept the Torah.
The task that lay before the Jewish people as they left Egypt is the task we face throughout our lives.We all have moments when we feel inspired - It could be a class or a speech that we hear or even a specific event in our lives that make us reconsider the path that we are taking. But as we all know this inspiration that we receive soon evaporates within our usual day-to-day existence.But we really ought to use those moments of inspiration as a catalyst for incredible growth and improvements in our service of G-d.

The key is to take that impulse and then work to sustain those sparks of enthusiasm to enthuse us every day to ensure that the initial ember never dies but keeps carrying us forward.Those flashes of inspiration are a gift from G-d and our job now is to create the inspiration ourselves.
This may not be easy and may take intense work on our part to keep stoking the fire, but if we do this we will be living a life inspired.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Reward of being Hospitable - Parents of R'Zusha Anipoli & R' Elimelach of Lyzansk

Eleizer Lippman and his wife, Mirush, were unusually hospitable people. Weary travelers and/or hungry beggars were never turned away. Their boundless hospitality did not go unnoticed in the Heavens. And a discussion up on High ensued as to how best to reward the couple. But then the Adversary stepped up and commented: "What they are doing is not really so difficult. So, some of them are poor and dressed in rags. A bit disheveled or even smelly. What of it? Would they treat a repulsive beggar with as much kindness and care as anyone else?" questioned the Adversary with a cynical smile.
And so it was decided that Eliezer and Mirush would be tested.
Days later, a leper knocked on the door of Eliezer and Mirush. Mirush smiled at the leper and invited him in.  "It is not necessary for me to come inside. I know what I look like" said the leper as he pointed to his many open, oozing sores and his matted hair.
"I have not bathed for months." he said quietly, ashamed of the horrific odor he emitted.
"Please do come inside," Mirush offered and she led him in and prepared warm, nourishing food. She insisted the leper stay in their home until he was healed.
Twice a day, Mirush applied special creams to the leper's sores. As his skin improved, Mirush carefully peeled off the ragged clothing which had been sticking to his body. Then Mirush arranged for the leper to bathe and she gave him a new set of clothing.
After a few weeks when the leper fully recovered they gave him some money, and Reb Eliezer accompanied him part of the way. The guest then said to Reb Eliezer, "In the merit of the kindness and hospitality you show toward every person, including a leprous beggar like myself, you and your wife will raise children who will be righteous tzadikim." 
From that time forth, their children began to excel in Torah learning, performance of mitzvot and in the refinement of their personality. Two of their sons, are the famous great R. Zusya of Anapoli and R. Elimelech of Lyzhansk.

Lofty Souls in the Holy Land

A relative of the Rebbe Maharash once came from the Holy Land to visit him in Russia. While The Rebbe questioned him about the Jews in Israel the visitor commented, "I don't understand what is written that in the Holy land dwell lofty souls. I haven't seen that they are more special there than the Jews here."
"Oh, Let me tell you a story that I heard from my father about a simple Jew in the Land of Israel" said the Rebbe.
There was once a simple Jewish farmer who lived outside of Jerusalem. He did not know how to study Torah, nor did he even understand the words of his prayers. In fact, he couldn't grasp the order of the prayers; when he came to the city once a week to sell his produce, he would go to the local rabbi, who would write down the order of the prayers for him for the seven days of that week.
Once, the farmer came and was shocked to see that the Jewish stores were closed!
What's going on? He thought. Could he possibly have miscounted the days? Was it perhaps Shabbat today?
How relieved he was when he saw a Jew carrying his tefillin. "No, it's not Shabbat". But after inquiring as to what was going on, he was told that it was a public fast-day.
A fast day? Why hadn't the rabbi warned him? He quickly rushed over to the rabbi. "Rabbi!" he cried out. "Today is a fast day!? You didn't write it down and I already ate and i said the wrong prayers!"
"Relax", said the Rabbi. This is not a regular fast day. We just decreed this special fast-day for the residents of Jerusalem because of the possibility of a drought due to our lack of rain, but you don't live here and so you are not obligated."
"When you need rain, you decree a fast?" he questioned. "When my fields don't have enough rain"  said the farmer, "I go out and say to the One Above, 'Father! I need rain.' And then it starts to rain."
 "If that's so" said the rabbi, "Why don't you try it now and let's see if it works here too"
And so the farmer went out and through tears he cried out, "Father in Heaven! Can it be that the people of Your holy city will expire from famine? Don't You see that they need rain?"
Immediately the sky darkened and rain began to fall.
As the Rebbe Maharash completed the story, he said to his visitor , "So? Do you think you are able to distinguish who in the Land has a lofty soul?"

Monday, April 2, 2012

PESACH - Seder - To Reenact/leaving mitzrayim

When The French Emperor, Napoleon,  was running for his life, retreating through Russia with his armies, he once ran into a store to hide. The sympathetic French bed-shop owner hid him under a pile of mattresses. Moments later, Russian soldiers came charging in demanding to know the whereabouts of Napolean. "He is not here, ," said Pierre, the store owner. One soldier seeing the pile of mattresses, dug his sword right in. "If he's hiding under there he's surely dead by now" he said.
And they left the shop
But the sword missed Napoleon.. "Pierre," Napolean said to the store-owner,"you saved my life! How can I repay you?"
"I have everything I need, thank you," replied Pierre. " But tell me, what did it feel like hiding under those mattresses?"
Napoleon was livid. " What!?? -Do you know who you're talking to?! I am Napoleon the Emperor of the French empire!" he roared.
"Guards! Take him to the firing squad,".
Poor Pierre was standing with his hands tied behind his back, whispering his last prayers. Four soldiers drew their guns, awaiting the order to fire.
Suddenly Napoleon appeared. "Free this man!" he commanded. He then turned to Pierre and said, 
"You wanted to know how I felt under those mattresses, "Now you know."

While historians can debate whether this actually happened, we can certainly take a lesson from it.
When we commemorate the Exodus, everything that we do to reenact the story helps us to actualize the experience. By eating matzah, specifically handmade matzah, as our ancestors prepared in Egypt, we relive the episode in a dramatic and genuine way. We recall the haste in which the Jews left Egypt—they didn't even have time to let the dough rise. Through eating bitter herbs, we remember the bitterness of the slavery. With the drinking of four cups of wine, we relive the joy of liberty, reclining expansively like free men.
like them, we too can experience true freedom from our oppressors--be they the "Pharaohs," psychological inhibitions or spiritual obstacles. On the night of the Seder we are released from their chains. It is a night when our essential spark is permitted to shine; when we overcome the limitations that prevent us from being the person that we want to be.

TZAV - Shabbos Hagadol

This week'sTorah portion is called Tzav. Tzav means “Command.” It expresses a command from G‑d about the donation of offerings in the Sanctuary, relating to the general concept of giving charity. But Tzav also means: “Connect.” It expresses the idea that G‑d’s laws establish a connection between the individual and G‑d.
The very fact that G‑d has issued a command to the person imparts a sense of significance to that person’s life. He or she is now bonded with G-d by a Divine instruction. The Lubavitcher Rebbe points out that this connection is there even if the person does not fulfill the instruction. As the Sages put it, “even though he sinned, he is a Jew.” The fact that the 613 commands in the Torah are addressed to the individual gives that person a significant role and purpose. And of course, this role is properly fulfilled by observance of the commands. Yet the person who does not yet observe them has not lost his role in the system.
When it comes to a command such as charity, in which one has to give something away, we all need encouragement. The Sages tell us that this is the force of the word “Tzav” : to give us encouragement through the generations. The encouragement is the knowledge that through this command of G-d we are truly connected with Him.

This Shabbat, is the Shabbat before  Pesach it's called Shabbat haGadol, the Great Shabbat.

When the Jews were in Egypt, they were commanded on that day to take a lamb and tie it to the bedpost. Which they were later to bring as a Pesach sacrifice. The lamb was the god for the Egyptians and so when they saw this it made them very angry but they could not utter a sound in protest.
Many miracles were performed at that time, so we refer to this day as Shabbat haGadol.
We have a custom on this shabbat to read a portion of the Haggadah which tells the story of the Exodus