It’s Just G-d Saying Hello.

About 10 years ago or so I was in Yeshiva with my friend Avraham. He told me that he was changing the names of his phone extensions in his rooms and somehow they got automatically changed to names that he wanted instead of the ones that he had entered. I told him, perhaps you were dreaming. No. Perhaps you programmed them and you forgot. No. Perhaps a friend came over and changed them. No. I tried to find a rational reason for how they changed. None of my propositions fit what actually happened.

He said “Hash-m” can do anything.” I agreed. “So what is the problem of Him changing the names of my extensions?”

I replied “Why would G-d do such a thing?” I can understand if he would make you meet someone to help you in some matter, but why would G-d want to change your phone extension names?”

“I don’t Know” he answered, “it just happened?”

This past Motzi Shabbat / Sortie of Shabbat, I was at a Melave Malka / the Fourth Meal after Shabbat. The speaker was Rabbi Feifer. He told 4 stories about Hashgacha Pratit / Individual Supervision by G-d.

Rabbi Feifer was in a local Kosher Mini-market. The manager, recognizing him, asked him if he had time to answer a question. Sure, he replied.

“Once a year I usually drive to Florida with my family after Shabbat. I went and stayed a week. After Shabbat was over I started driving back to New York. At about 7 o’clock in the morning – I was tired. I decided to pull off on one of the exits in North Carolina to get some sleep in a parking lot. After my nap, I go out of the car and I notice a fellow Jew. I approached him to say hello and the person turns out to be my old boss. I asked him what he was doing there. He said his daughter wanted to see one of the amusement parks in North Carolina. I asked myself, what are the odds of meeting my boss in the middle of North Carolina.” He asked the Rabbi “Why would G-d do such a thing?”

Some people would call it coincidence but – the Torah says everything is orchestrated by G-d.

The Rabbi thought of a story that happened recently in Israel. An organization in Israel – called Lev Le’achim – invites secular Jews to learn in a Yeshiva to acquaint themselves with Torah.The Yeshiva decide to take a group of boys to Tzefat for a Shabbaton / Shabbat Outing. A secular boy who was staying at the Yeshiva was invited to attend. They told him it would cost about 350 – 400 shekels. He replied, I’d really like to attend but I don’t have the funds. But I learned in the Torah this week that any expenses made for the honor of Shabbat will be reimbursed by Hash-m. “He says borrow on My account and I will pay.” So I will go but I will pay you after the Shabbaton. They agreed.

After the Shabbaton they made the calculation – each boy would have to pay 388 Shekels and 66 Agorot. He asked them for a couple days to pay for the trip. When He arrived to his dorm room, he saw a letter. “Dear Son, we wanted to wish you a happy birthday. As a gift we decided to give you one of each denomination of Israeli Currency.” There was a 200 Shekel note, a 100 shekel note, a 50, a 20, a 10 shekel coin, a 5, a 2 and a 1. A 50 agorot and a 10 and a 5 and a 1. Totalling – 388 Shekels and 66 Agorot.

Rabbi Feifer mentioned that in a taxi in Israel – the cab driver asked him how to say the hebrew word for “Nes” in English. He replied “Miracle.” He said “do you understand? It is 3 words?” “What 3 words?” “Mi Rak El” which translates to “Who? Only G-d.” (Some say Jews made the Latin Language.) He also mentioned the word “Coincident” is “Kah” – translated as G-d. and the word “incident.”

Rabbi Feifer said sometimes G-d just sends a message to say hello. I’m here. I just wanted to remind you. What we sometimes call coincidence – is really G-d saying Hello.

I’m So Handsome – I Turn Heads – A Solution to the Lightness of Being

People are basically smart. So what causes us to do the dangerous, the foolish and the wrong? People have basically what they need. Why do we feel empty inside?

It is the things that turn our heads.

Primary Values vs. Secondary Pursuits

A person knows deep down the primary values of life – it’s good to get married. It’s good to have children. It’s good to give them good values. It’s good to live a wholesome lifestyle. It’s good to live healthy. It’s good to be clean. It’s good to be clean from sin. It’s good to be productive and not waste time. It’s good to pursue spirituality – closeness to Hash-m. It’s good to learn Torah.

But many people go off the path. We spend our times pursuing nothingness. Until the lightness of being wakes us up.

A baby cries. He feels a lacking. He wants to be fed, changed or to be held.

Give him a toy and he will be distracted for a moment, until he realizes his need was not met. He is still hungry, he is still cold, he is still wet.

So you give him another toy -until the toys no longer satisfy him.

It’s the same for us. We feel a basic need. We get a toy – let it be an ipad, a smart phone, a tv, facebook, internet, xbox, whatsapp, news, amazon. You name it. It turns or heads. We focus on the secondary and leave behind the primary.

So when we get tired of our toy, we get a new one.

But we cry inside because the toy doesn’t serve our primary need. Some become depressed. Some quit life. Unfortunate – because the answer to their lacking was in their grasp.

As a youth, I personally was on the secondary track. Following beauty and banality. Till G-d sent me a painful message. I feel lucky to have listened to the message – to return me to the primary track. Some learn about the primary life through pain, some through feeling the incredible lightness of being, some through a moment of truth, some through gratitude to Hash-m / G-d. Some never find the path for following the handsome is tempting.

Observing Torah – the only divine law whose giving was witnessed by millions of people – helps us keep us on the primary track rather than pursuing secondary toys.

Remove the Hatred from Your Heart – The Secrets of Yosef

Last week’s Parasha – VaYigash – we have the momentous meeting between the two kings. Yosef (known as Tzafenat Paneach – revealer of Secrets) was the Viceroy of Egypt. Yehuda was the king among the tribes.

In Miketz (the week before’s Parasha / Torah Reading) – Yosef planted his Silver “magical” goblet in the sack of Binyamin. Yosef (who the brothers did not recognize) said he would take Binyamin as a slave as a punishment for stealing. His purpose was to see if the other brother’s would defend Binyamin – Yosef’s maternal brother – thereby showing their regret of selling Yosef. Yehuda comes and defends Binyamin and offers himself as a slave instead. He was prepared to kill or be killed. He did a sincere teshuva (repentance) for selling his brother Yosef.

Afterwards Yosef reveals himself to the brothers. They are afraid, but he bears no grudge against them for having sold him.

How is this possible – one might ask – for him not to have a grudge or harbor hatred against his brothers for having treated him with cruelty?

Three answers are:

  1. Belief that all comes from Hash-m / G-d & Hash-m does all for the best. Anything that a person does for or against you is for your ultimate good. They are just an agent.

We saw Yosef’s tremendous trust and belief in Hash-m when Pharaoh took him out of prison to interpret his dream. Pharaoh says to Yosef “I heard You are a great dream interpreter.” Yosef answers “Without Me” – ie, it has nothing to do with me “G-d will answer Pharaoh’s dreams.” Yosef’s complete belief in Hash-m’s providence – allowed him to understand that the actions of the brothers was directed by G-d – for Yosef’s ultimate benefit. The brothers who sold Yosef were only G-d’s agents. If it was not them – someone else would have sold him. Thus that helped him remove the hatred for his brothers from his heart.

Yosef also mentions this point when, after he revealed himself to the brothers, he says do not be angry at yourselves for having sold me – it was all directed by G-d to allow me to feed you during the years of famine.

2. Look at the other’s pain

People experience sufferings. We look at people who did badly to us as wicked – but they also have pain. Perhaps they acted in a certain way because they were in pain. Perhaps that Cashier lashed out at you because her boss lashed out at him a couple minutes before.

When Yosef met his brother Binyamin – he hugged him and cried on his neck(s). Rashi explains Yosef saw with “Holy Foresight” that the two Temples that were to stand in the portion of Israel of the Tribe of Binyamin (Jerusalem & Environs) were going to be destroyed because of Gratuitous Hatred. He thus cried for the pain of Binyamin. Feeling another’s pain makes it harder to hate.

3.Look at a person from close

The Parasha starts with VaYigash. “Yehuda Approached.” He approached Yosef not just physically, but emotionally. (see the Ohr HaHaim haKadosh’s commentary there) He tried to make a connection with the person – to understand where he was coming from. At times one stands afar and hates from afar. We don’t understand their trials, their tribulations, their point of view. By doing this Yehuda and Yosef was able to overcome hatred.

This is Chanukah! A day for Prayers to be Answered.

This is Chanukah! / Zot (in Hebrew means this) Hanukah.

Starting today (Tuesday) at night,
From the lighting of the eighth and last candle of Chanukah,
And until Wednesday when the stars came out,

There is a possibility for every man and woman to change everything that was written and decreed for them on Rosh Hashanah and signed on Yom Kippur!

This is what the Ari HaKadosh and the students of the Baal Shem Tov, on the last day of Hanukkah, call it “Chanukah,” because we read in the Torah reading (of Hanukkah) that “this is the dedication” of the altar is given blessing and success in material & spiritual matters.

The kabbalists said that every person on this day has power in prayer that will be received in heaven just like the prayer of a perfect tzaddik (righteous person)!

And for those who have a lot of prayer and supplications on this day of Chanukah, the Book of Psalms says:
“From Hash-m was “this” it was wonderful in our eyes”
In other words, HaShem gave us this Chanukah as a gift so that we could carry on miracles and wonders!

Therefore, it is fitting for each and every one after lighting the candles to sit next to the menorah and ask the Creator for all that is missing and give thanks for what you have.

And try to find free time on this day to pray from the bottom of our heart to Hash-m / G-d and ask for livelihood, a good marriage mate, health, etc. Everything can be achieved on this holy day in prayer Amen.

זאת חנוכה!

החל מהיום (שלישי) בלילה,
מהדלקת הנר ה-8 והאחרון של חנוכה,
ועד ליום רביעי בצאת הכוכבים,

יש אפשרות לכל איש ואישה לשנות לטובה את כל מה שנכתב ונגזר עליהם בראש השנה ונחתם ביום הכיפורים!

כך גילו לנו האר”י הקדוש ותלמידי הבעל שם טוב, שביום האחרון של חנוכה הנקרא “זאת חנוכה”, מפני שקוראים בתורה פרשת זאת חנוכת המזבח ניתן לזכות לשפע ברכה והצלחה בכל הענינים בגשמיות וברוחניות.

ואמרו המקובלים כי כל אדם ביום הזה- יש כוח בתפילתו שתתקבל בשמים בדיוק כמו תפילה של צדיק גמור!
ועל מי שמרבה בתפילה ובקשות ביום הזה של זאת חנוכה נאמר בספר התהלים:
“מאת השם היתה זאת היא נפלאת בעינינו”
כלומר שהשם נתן לנו את זאת חנוכה במתנה כדי שנוכל להמשיך על עצמינו נסים ונפלאות!

לכן ראוי לכל אחד ואחת לאחר הדלקת הנרות, לשבת ליד החנוכיה ולבקש מהבורא כל מה שרק חסר לך ולהודות על מה שיש לך.

ולנסות למצוא זמן פנוי ביום הזה להתפלל מעומק הלב ולבקש פרנסה, זיווג, בריאות וכו׳ הכל אפשר להשיג ביום הקדוש הזה בתפילה אמן .

Hanukah – Things to Pray for Each Night

The Kedushat Levi says that each night of Chanuka is mesugal, an auspicious time for different things to daven / pray for:
1st night -not to be lonely or depressed
2nd night– Shidduchim, Shalom Bayis, to find your marriage partner and marital peace
3rd night- Good children, Happy children and healthy (Chasam Sofer ztk’l says when you cry in front of the candles you can be sure your tefilos / prayers are answered)
4th night– 4 lmahos / 4 Matriarchs – To be a healthy and wholesome woman/mother in the 4 walls of your home, of true essence
5th night — Chamisha Chumshei Torah, The Five books of Torah. Daven / Pray that your husband should be a ralmid chacham / Torah Scholar as well as your children. By the 5th night more of the menorah is lit up than not. Pray for more light in your life, for clarity.
6th night – Simcha / Happiness – You can have everything and still be sad, therefore pray for joy and happiness
7th night – Happy and Peaceful Shabbat – zmiros / Jewish Song Sing, Divrei Torah / Words of Torah said by your Seuda.Shabbat / Meal of Shabbat is the source of all berakha / blessing.
8th night– mesugal / auspicious time to pray for barren women. 8 is above nature, powerful day to pray.

Kedushat Levi says if you are planning to start something new, if you start it on Chanuka it will be blessed, Bezrat Hash-m / with the help of G-d.

Swallowing the Bitter Pill and Sweetening the Aftertaste

Two things threw me off the other week.

One – a guy told me off before I was to make speech.

The Second – a guy corrected me during a speech.

Life goes on. Uncomfortable. But because it is uncomfortable it does not mean that it is bad. I looked into my own misdeeds and found two incidents that may have been the cause of these reactions.

But after some introspection – I realized that the comments were not necessarily just punishments – but suggestions for me to improve.

I took their points into consideration and hopefully said a better speech the next time around.

So should I hate these people.

No. On the contrary, they did good for me. They helped me improve my speaking skills.

Learn from Avraham Avinu / our patriach. King Avimelekh took his wife Sarah captive. When he returned her and apologized – Avraham did not hold a grudge. He blessed him to be healed and healthy.

Life at times may throw you off. Be ready for the swing and do not be thrown off by a hook.

Comedians are ready. They know hecklers in the audience. Some react well. Some are thrown off.

But if we base our lives on self-improvement these comments – should evoke thankfulness in us. If someone tried to help you – even if it was not in the most pleasant way – let it slide – they did you a favor to help you become better.

Go on. Carry on. Move ahead – it is not worth your hate. It is not worth your emotions to hold a grudge.

I know people who hold grudges. “A” did this to me. I will not speak with him. I will avoid him or her for years and years until one day they realize their foolishness and regret. People have grudges against me. I don’t know why. But all is for the good. Let them be. I have no ill will towards them.

King David had the right attitude. When Shimi Ben Gera insulted him – he told his soldiers not to harm him. He said that it is not him who is insulting me – It is G-d sending me a message for self-improvement through him.

Once a young man had a jealous friend. He was of the age to get married. When people inquired about the young man for a possible match with their daughter the jealous friend would always supply negative information. The boy was upset. He asked his Rebbe – “Why is this person doing this to me? He is driving away many potential mates.” The wise rebbe responded – “G-d does all for the good. Perhaps you love your Torah learning so much – that it would take you much time to go out on a date, and get acquainted and then find out it was not a good match. Perhaps G-d is helping you to use your time to Study rather that to deal with all dating process. When the right one comes Hash-m will put them on your path.”

That’s what happened. The father of the woman he ended up marrying – did not use his jealous friend as a reference.

Look at the good in the bitter. Look at the light in the darkness. Look for the good in all situations.Don’t become bitter – become better. Every minute is a new minute to be happy. To let go of a grudge and bitterness. Choose happiness. And live a happier life.

G-d wants our good – it is up to us to have enough faith that G-d does only good and to be creative enough to figure out what is good about any situation.

Breaking Through Your Glass Ceiling – The Secrets of Success in Judaism

G-d loves the average person.

Going about their day making an honest day’s pay.

In G-d we trust – is their motto.

Deep down we know that there is a G-d. Deep down we know that there is a concept of good and evil, of perfection and breaking out of our self-imposed, psychological limits.

But how do I know it is so?

I was born with a set of values, ideals, DNA and circumstances. Can I break out of all of those to excel beyond the average person?

Yes.

How?

The first question to ask is “what is greatness?”

What is Greatness?

Greatness is reaching our potential in doing good for the world. Each person has tremendous potential to help make the world a better place. Each person finds purpose and achieves their personal purpose in the world – through the good that they provide in the world through their unique attributes and talents.

Goodness is Defined By Torah – Not by What One feels is Good

This good is defined by Torah.

At times a person thinks they are doing good, but are doing the opposite according to Torah. An example is a person who give a druggie drugs. Giving is usually kindness. But if one helps others to endanger their lives – materially or spiritually – it is cruelty.

The Torah says – one who is kind with the cruel ends up being cruel with the kind. A person who is wants clemency for terrorists – thinks they are doing kindness – but really this is cruelty because – they are condoning evil and causing that perhaps others will earn from him or that person might redo their misdeeds.

Being Great starts off with defining precisely what is good in G-d’s eye’s according to Torah. Then following that path that the Torah condones.

Greatness and success in terms of the Torah has nothing to do with the person’s bank account. A person who is wealthy can be a great person – if they give charity to proper causes or can be wicked if they give their money to hurt others.

Torah success is based upon goodness. It is not based upon wealth. A person can be a millionaire but if he beats his wife – anyone will not consider them a success. Success and greatness is based upon goodness according to Torah.

Many people are lured by exotic places and ascetic gurus when searching for spirituality. Many a time they are disappointed by gurus because although these gurus may seem spiritual – putting on the whole act – meditation, asceticism, the hairdos, the followers, the barbs, etc. – they are dishonest. They fail in the basics of honesty. Gil Locks was a guru – who found Torah after experimenting with many cults and religions – he can tell you many stories of their dishonesty.

In Judaism – spirituality goes hand in hand with honesty, goodness, kindness. The greater one reaches to achieve these ideals through action – the more spiritual one becomes. A rabbi once said “Your spirituality depends upon the materialism of others.” Meaning By you giving a poor person food to eat (material) you grow spiritually.

We Can All be Great.

We can all be great.

How do I know? Open up a Humash (the 5 books of Moses / the Artscroll Stone Chumash is what I recommend.)

There we learn the stories of Avraham, Rivka, Leah and Rachel. All have one thing in common. They were completely righteous – yet they grew up in a house where impurity and impropriety reigned.

Abraham’s father – Terach – was an Idol worshiper. Abraham used his mind to deduce that anything that has a limit cannot be a G-d. If it has a body, if it is physical if it can be destroyed it cannot be a G-d. He rose to tremendous heights – influencing the entire world.

Rivka, Leah and Rachel all lived  in families of idol worshipers. Yet they chose righteousness over the convenient and the fad and fashion of the day.

How? They attached themselves to the source of life – Hash-m / G-d. They used their mind to control their hearts – instead of the of vice versa. They used Torah as a guide to their actions – rather than emotions. Their kindness was the pinnacle of kindness.

But they also knew another great secret:

Turning on the Dime – breaking the momentum of Sadness & Mediocrity

What ever situation that I was in yesterday or that I find myself today doesn’t not require me to act the same way in the future. Meaning every day is new day to grow. What my family is, what my friends are, what I was yesterday – puts no requirement on how I can be today. Yesterday I could have been in the dumps – today I can be happy. Yesterday I could have been following mediocrity – today I can be following greatness. I am an independent individual. I am not attached to the values or opinions of my friends or my society. When I attach myself to being Good and doing good – that’s when I am happy. That’s when I reach greatness. I attach myself to Hash-m’s guide – and I learn the secrets of greatness.

Every week – in the Parasha – weekly Torah reading – we learn a lesson in greatness. Every Halacha – Jewish Law found in the Shulchan Aruch for Jews – or 7 Noahide laws for all humanity – helps me to reach that greater perfection. The Jewish law is formulated to help me achieve the greatness that most people ignore, fuzz over or dream about but do not pursue.

Becoming Great starts from learning Torah – and following Halacha. One then slowly develops the mindset and outlook that will bring a person to greatness.

Step By Step – Grow a little every day

It starts with one small step. A commitment to grow through little by little following the Halacha / Jewish law pertinent to them. Women have certain laws pertinent to them in Torah. Men do as well. Cohanim have certain laws. Gentiles have certain Torah laws. It all starts by following Jewish laws. And growing step by step – little by little accepting new halachot – each will open up a new vista for you.

Attachment to G-d

A True Story. A man was having difficulty finding a Job on Wall street. He asked JP Morgan – a great banker at that time – to walk down Wall Street together with him. For this he was willing to Pay $100 cash. He agreed. After the short walk – people took notice of him. They saw he was associated with a great banker – and the job offers started flowing to him. When we attach ourselves to G-d through Torah and Mitzvoth – the doors start opening. The story of JP Morgan illustrates this. The difference is is that G-d himself will open the doors for you.

The Reward of Greatness

Apart from the intrinsic good for all the world bestowed by my pursuit of being great from the Torah – G-d’s Guide to greatness – (why Torah? It is the only time in the history of man that millions of witnesses heard G-d speak to give a divine document – the Torah) – I receive great reward.

In a Shiur / Torah Lecture of Rabbi Yeshayahu Pinto – he mentioned three concepts about achieving greatness.

Teshuva Before a Mitzvah

He mentioned the How teshuva / repentance is essential before a person does a Mitzvah. If one does a mitzvah when attached to bad – some of that mitzvah so to speak feeds the bad side. A good example is let’s say you become rich. You have a group of friends that appreciate you because of your net-worth rather than your self-worth. When you make money they gain – because you share your wealth with them. If you have a group of friends that are also righteous – those are the people.

Commit to goodness & Greatness

A person likes to follow the path traced for him or her by society. It’s easier that way. I want to be like the next guy. What will people think. The first step to goodness is committing to doing good. And like what we mentioned good is defined by Torah. Not how to be great?

Commit to being great. But also set specific goals. I want to be able to teach others Torah. I want to help homeless people find shelters. I want to give away chickens to poor Jewish families for the Shabbat meal. That’s the starting point. Then put a number to it. Rabbi Noach Weinberg, of Aish Hatorah (Aish.com) had a specific goal – he wanted to reach out to a hundred thousand Jewish people to bring them closer to Torah & mitzvot. Apparently he did reach his goal. He was a great person – but had specific goals.

Torah is part of the plan.

If you look at the great people in the world, Abraham, Isaak, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, David or more contemporary, the Chofetz Haim, the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh, the Ari HaKadosh, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef – led their lives based upon Torah ideals. Having a regular Torah learning session in one’s daily schedule – even if it is only five minutes to start is a good starting point.

The Last Day of Life

One’s reward in life depends partly upon their last day of your life. If a person is constantly growing – his past experiences serve to make him what he was today. So if the last day of his life he was doing great deeds for mankind – it will be counted as if he was doing these great deeds his or her entire life. Obviously if he did teshuva for his past improper deeds and he wished that he did his current good deeds for all of the days of his past life.

Only the Good Die Young?

At times a person is taken from the world, G-d forbid, at an age earlier than they were destined to die. Some reasons – a person put themselves in danger, a person did many transgressions, or a person was turning towards the bad side. Let’s say a person died at the age of 100 instead of 120. He had 20 more years to live. Those 20 will be added to his or her heavenly reward as if he or she were doing the righteous deeds they did during their life.

Sarah Immeinu / our matriarch died relatively young at the age of 127. Her husband Avraham – lived till 175. He was supposed to die at 180. If both were supposed to live till 180, both of them will be rewarded in heaven as if they did 180 years of Mitzvot, kindness and good deeds.

Achieving greatness is attainable. Really everyone wants to be good. G-d put in this world an element to make it more challenging – it is called the evil inclination. It is the voice inside you that says “You can’t do it. You are worthless. You are a loser. You shouldn’t be good with that person. Take revenge. Hate that person. Follow the crowd. Everybody is doing it. I don’t want to look like a goody goody.”

Be Positive

Throw those negative thoughts in the fire and start your day and life with positivism. Every day

Upon awakening, one says:
Modeh (Modah / for female) ‘ani le·fanei·kha melekh h’ai ve·kayam she·heh’ezarta vi nish·mati ve·h’emlah, raba ’emu·natekha

I am grateful before You, Living & Eternal King, that You returned my soul to me with grace. Great is Your faith [in me.]

Hash-m Has faith in Us. Do we have enough faith in ourselves?

Believe [in yourself] and achieve.

Technology Control & Texting Etiquette

Control.

Life is about control. Controlling ourselves.

In control of our emotions and thoughts, we live a life of happiness. Letting the situation control us, we are swayed by the winds of emotion.

Judaism is about control and limits. To let our mind control our hearts and not vice versa. Leading us to make smart decisions that we will not regret and will be happy with in the long term.

Below is an interesting list of limits that we can place upon ourselves to live a more meaningful life with building relations between ourselves and others or G-d, instead of relations with us and technology.

Be Happy for Punishment

One of the 13 Principles of Judaism is the belief of Reward and Punishment. G-d will greatly reward those that followed his laws and punish those that did not. Obviously G-d takes into account all the factors. G-d may punish in this world or the next.

Why should you be happy about that?

Apparently we all know more or less deep down what is right and wrong. Having this concept of reward and punishment allows us to live a meaningful life.

If everything that I do is “good” or doesn’t make a difference, I live a life without purpose. If what I do can be good or bad, my actions in this world make a difference. This fact gives me purpose in life.

Teshuva – Repentance.

Remember that even if one did bad in their life – transgressing the laws of the Torah – the bad can be erased through sincere Teshuva – repentance. If one does teshuva out of fear of punishment – his or her sins are erased. If one does teshuva because they feel that they love Hash-m and fell badly to have gone against His will – their past misdeeds become counted as mitzvahs (perhaps because they prompted him or her to do teshuva).

G-d is Magnanimous

G-d will forgive any sin a person has done if the penitent person is sincere in their teshuva. (for How to do teshuva – seee Starting Over – Wiping the Slate Clean). The four stages of teshuva are :

Opportunities to Clean the Slate – Teshuva / Repentance – 4 Steps of Repentance בסד

1
2

3

 

4
Cessation
Commitment

Regret

Confession

Stopping doing the misdeed
Firm resolve never to repeat the deed. One is forgiven if he or she is in the same situation & doesn’t commit the sin.
Sincere Remorse for Wrong one did. Obviously one has to know what is right & wrong. To know – A Jew learns the 613 Mitzvot or the (Kitzur) Shulchan Aruch / Code of Jewish Law – regulating Jewish life. A Gentile learns their 7 Noahide Laws.
Verbal Admitting to G·d / Hash-m the wrong one did & asking for forgiveness. If one wronged another, ask forgiveness
Everyone Can Better Themselves. Forgive, Ask for Forgiveness & Be Happy.

(Rambam / Maimonides – Mishne Torah – Book of Knowledge – Laws of Repentance – Ch. 2 & 4 )

A very important point is not to fall to depression due to teshuva (or anything else for that matter). Some remorse to the extent that their remorse turns to depression. Once one has sincerely done teshuva – be happy. G-d – like a parent – wants His children to be happy. It says it in Tehillim / Psalms “Serve Hash-m / G-d with Happiness. Come before him with Joyful song.” Our general mood should be one of happiness. Be happy that you committed to improve. That’s something for which to be happy. The first step in solving a problem is recognizing the problem. Be happy you took the first step.

G-d can solve any problem

Don’t be sad about problems. Learn the lesson from the pain. Do teshuva. Improve. And be happy. G-d can solve any and all of your problems. No problem is too great for Him to provide respite and a solution. We just must turn to Hash-m with sincere prayer and teshuva. Make our small effort to overcome the problem and G-d will solve it

Precautions Against Failure & Positive Outlook

In Pirkei Avot(1:7) 

Nitai the Arbelite says: Distance yourself from a bad neighbor & do not become friendly with a wicked person & do not despair from retribution. (punishment)

If a person is suffering – it could be due to G-d sending them a message to improve or to compensate them for a past misdeed. So the obvious solution is to correct the misdeed. But also not to lose moral or despair from punishment. Repent, Correct, Go on and Be happy.

From Fear to Eternity

I was in the synagogue the other day. On the Bima – where the sefer Torah is placed when it is read – was a book entitled – “From Fear to Eternity – 10 steps to Achieving the Benefits of Being Jewish” by A. Lefkowitz. The title reminded me another reason for why punishment is good. We live in a temporal world. It is a temporary existence. No one gets out of here (the world) alive.But the afterlife is eternal. So if given a choice – it is better to live a challenging life here and a peaceful life in the next world – than vice versa.

Fear of Punishment in this world or the next world – allows us to prevent falling into a trap that may take away our prospect of living eternally. We are really a soul in a body. Once a person dies, the body is left behind and the soul continues to live. Thus fear of punishment allows us to inherit eternity by preventing us from transgressing the laws of the Torah.

The Reason why the Evil Prosper and the Righteous Suffer

An easy answer to the question of “What is the Reason why the Evil Prosper and the Righteous Suffer?” is because there are two worlds. This world on Earth and an after life. Punishment can be in this world or the next. Reward can be bestowed in this world or the next. A person who did great evil – like Hitler, Stalin, your average Terrorist -cannot be properly punished in this world. So G-d grants them a decent life here and punishes them in the next world. To us we see them live a decent, happy life. We do not see what goes on in the next world. So we think that the criminal got away Scott free. But they cannot escape the heavenly judgement. The punishment and reward is much greater in the next world.

On the positive side. We see righteous people suffer in this world – but we see not the great reward in heaven. So we think that he or she gained no reward from all their righteousness. But in the next world they will receive unimaginable reward. Thus we can accept why the evil prosper and the righteous suffer – by understanding this concept of reward and punishment in the next world.

How do I find out what G-d wants from Me?

G-d has a rule that is called measure for measure – Midah Keneged Midah. When a person does something bad – he is punished in the same way or in a manner related to his or her transgression. If one does good he is also rewarded similarly.

In the book “Living Emunah 3 (By Rabbi David Ashear) he relates a story of a woman who was unable to have children. She asked her rabbi – what to do. He told her to reinforce herself in Judaism. She decided to keep the Shabbat, Say Blessings on Food and I think say the morning Blessings. Shortly after she had a child. Some time later – an unusual thing happened when she was lighting the Shabbat candles. She attempted to light the two Shabbat candles- but only one would be kindled. Several weeks passed and every week the same thing happened. She confided her secret to her Rabbi. He asked – Is there something she is not careful about on Shabbat. She replied – we do Shabbat but we leave the TV on during Shabbat. He suggested to refrain from doing this. She committed to doing this and convinced her family. The next week she was able to kindle both candles.
(The story continues – see the book if you want to know the story’s end.)

Another explanation – of don’t despair from retribution – means that don’t despair that the evil will be punished. Those that do evil will be punished in this world or the next. Seeing a wicked person prosper is a test. Will we follow evil because we see the evil prosper? It is also to give people free will. If we see evil people suffering and righteous people prospering we will have no freedom of choice. Everyone will want to be righteous. G-d puts the choice of good and evil before us and it is up to us to choose good. Choose Life.

Keeping People in Line

Other reasons to be happy for punishment – because as it says in Pirke Avot (Chapter 3:2.) on the subject Civilization without Government:

Rabbi H’anania deputy of the Kohanim / Priests says: Pray for the peace of the government – for if there were not its fear, a man would swallow his fellow alive.

Many people don’t do evil because of fear of punishment. Thus we live in a better world because of it. It helps us ourselves to live a better life. Whenever bad is done by a person – that person will ultimately suffer – either through guilt, being put in prison, physical punishment. This punishment can be administered by man – the courts of law – or by heaven – by the courts above. Thus the fear of punishment is for the ultimate good of man.

Once my uncle was about to hit his young son for something he did. The son said “I already learned my lesson – there is no need to hit me.” If we learn our lesson there is no need for punishment.

Our parents punished us. We are better people for it.

Ways to Avoid Punishment – A Mitzvah is an Advocate

Obviously we would rather not incur punishment. The way to avoid it is to learn what the Torah expects from us and do it. I learned it the hard way – difficult times that came my way – prompted me to reflect on how to better my ways. But in Pirkei Avot it tells us clearly how to avoid punishment.

In Pirkei Avot (4:11 ) it says:

Rabbi Elie’zer ben Yaa’kov says: one who does one Mitzvah will acquire one advocate & one who transgresses one sin acquires one accuser. Repentance & good deeds are like a shield against punishment.

An extreme example of this is King Hordus / Herod . He killed 45 great Jewish sages. He asked Shimon ben Shetach – his brother in law – how he could avoid punishment. He said you extinguished the light of the world, to repent you must illuminate the light of the world by renovating the 2nd Holy Temple in Jerusalem. This is what he did.

Being Happy All the Time – letting go of grudges & Loving Your Fellow Jew

The Torah commands us to love our fellow Jew as ourselves. Based upon this the Chofetz Chaim in His Sefer / Book – Ahavat Yisrael mentions that bearing a grudge or hatred for a fellow Jew incurs punishment.

In Chapter 2 on Repercussions of Baseless Hatred & the Stringency of the Torah Regarding it – he writes:

And here will be explained why is this sin more grave than other sins.

1) For each sin it is unusual that a person will transgress upon it every single moment. [If a person is not unrestrained — G-d forbid]. However, this sin of baseless hatred a person transgresses every single moment when hatred is awakened in his heart. And at times, the hatred remains in him for a month or a year or more. And the transgressions of Torah Prohibitions from the Torah are multiplied without limit.

Being punished every single moment for gratuitous hatred is difficult. But apparently that is better than living a life of hatred. Knowing one will be punished for every single moment he hates a fellow Jew – motivates us to let go of our hatred. Letting go of our hatred makes us live a more peaceful and serene life.

But we can also look at the flip side of the coin. If we are punished for every single moment of hatred – it means that every single moment we have a choice to hate or to love. Our hatred of others isn’t a given. It is in our hands to let go of the hatred every single moment. It is in our hands to let go of sadness every single moment and live happy lives – every single moment.