Jewish Education & Intermarriage – Winning the $100 Bet

For the third meal of Shabbat / Seudah Shelishit at our Synagogue we have an open forum of discussion. Sometimes I pose a question on a Jewish Law Topic and ask the people their opinion on the situation. Then I provide the answer from the Torah.

Leaving a Child Back – Positive or Negative for the Child?

At one of the side conversations – one person mentioned his kid was to be left back – so he took his child out of the school.

I mentioned – depending on the situation – it might be good for a child to remain in the same grade the next year in order to be the head of the class – in age and possibly intelligence – than to go to the next grade and be the youngest and not at the top. He said it might be a blow to the child’s confidence to know they were being left back.

I think a parent must be truthful to answer that question and see what’s best for the child. Will it be a blow to the child’s confidence or help his confidence? And evaluate if the decision is not being made because it be a blow to the parent’s social standing – that their child is left back.

Different opinions.

The Advantages of a Torah Day-school Education

The conversation turned to giving a child only a Jewish education at home and placing them in a Public school versus giving them a Jewish education at home and placing the children in a Traditional Orthodox Day School or a Yeshiva. Some were saying a public school education was better. Some said they have Jewish friends.

I mentioned that the Jewish schools are highly advanced in dealing with social issues and have an education that gives them not only secular knowledge – but a Yeshiva teaches them something far greater – the ability to think. Many Yeshiva students get into the Top Universities because of their developing their ability to think by attending a Torah Day school.

I mentioned a statistic – 70 out of 100 Jewish children that go to a public school, end up marrying outside Judaism. Meaning these children have a 70% intermarriage rate. While 2 out of 100 Jewish children that went to a Orthodox Jewish Day School for 12 years end up intermarrying. (See 1990 National Jewish Population Survey)

A friend at the table who is an Israeli wouldn’t accept it. He bet me $100 dollars that that is not true. I sent him the statistic.

Really I regretted betting him the $100. I should have bet him if I was right – he should put his children in a Torah Day school.

70 Tips to Protect Kids (and Yourself) on the Internet

The best medicine is preventive.

Judaism teaches the importance of purity in thought, speech, hearing, sight, and deed.

A child learns and lives. What he hears at home and by the media will train his or her thought patterns. Provide them with purity and Torah they will live pure lives.

One of our jobs as parents is to teach our children in such a way that their souls will remain as pure as when they were born throughout their lives. We are guided to that goal through the teachings of Torah. And by imparting it  to the children through the teachings of Torah – through learning it together with them, sending them to Torah day schools and bringing them up in a home conducive to Torah and Mitzvot.

Protecting thoughts from impurity does not only apply to children but to ourselves. Unfortunately many marriages were broken due to social media, improper usage of internet and smartphone apps.

Someone said – before the street was the street and the home was the home. With the TV – we bring the streets into our home. Even more so with the internet.

We thus provide a list of ways to protect the home and family from improper usage of the internet. The best way is to limit technology. Use a flip phone instead of a smartphone, but if the pros outweigh the cons of having a smartphone – we provide some simple methods of protection.

To protect one has to have a rudimentary understanding of technology. If one is not so tech oriented – perhaps they can take counsel with tech protection organizations – like smartconnectionsny.com.

Here is some basic info about technology.

The internet is basically one computer “talking” to another computer. To gain access to internet – one uses a modem or router as the device that allows the computers to communicate.

the basic set up is:

Home Computer —> Modem/Router  —-> Internet Server Computer

Let’s add three more elements : The browser, protection program and the Cloud DNS.

The Browser – like Chrome, internet explorer, firefox or safari is a program that enables the computer to interpret the other computers information. They usually communicate with a language called HTML. The browser can prevent pop-up ads and also other improper material. Some browsers allow extensions or add-ons to be downloaded and incorporated into  browsers that can help you in your parental control quest.

The Protection Program – this program that is on the home computer that protects the home computer from threats – like spyware, viruses, root-kits, trojan horses, malware, and inappropriate information.  The threat protection programs include include windows defender, spybot search and destroy, ZoneAlarm, Comodo Firewall Pro, Avast, AVG Anti-Rootkit, Spyware Blaster, AOL Active Security Monitor, McAfee SiteAdvisor, LinkScanner Lite, McAfee Total Protection, McAfee LiveSafe, Bitdefender Internet Security, Symantec Norton Security Deluxe, Kaspersky Internet Security, Webroot SecureAnywhere Internet Security, Kaspersky Total Security, Bitdefender Total Security, Symantec Norton Security Premium, Trend Micro Maximum Security, and others. Some are free for basic services. Some include parental controls others do not. Some protect against websites sites include k9.

The Cloud Control DNS – is a computer that is on the internet that the information that is sent to you passes through before it reaches your computer. This includes opendns.com. (See instructions for opendns installation here)

The Questions to ask

Social media sites are sites that allow people to communicate with one another for the sake of socializing through computers. Many exist. Recognize how one’s children are using the social media may provide info on whether the social media is a positive benefit for their kid or is it a negative influence. Are they using it properly or is it helping them to go down further in morality.

Parents may ask questions like – does my kid really need a cell phone 24 hours a day? Do they need a smart phone? How are they using social media? Do they need 24 hour internet access? Do they need access to certain apps? Do children lock their doors for periods of time? Does the Wifi have to be on all the time?

Choosing the Right Browser – Why I Uninstalled Google Chrome

I like google. They help us find info.

  • (I once wrote an email to Google that they could get many Mitzvot if their reason for providing the search engine is to do the Mitzvah of kindness in helping people find information – rather than for the money.)

Chrome is a good browser. But it may be too good. It has a mode – like internet explorer and firefox – called private browsing or incognito mode. This feature allows people to surf without a trace of what they did. great for kids that don’t want parent to find out where they surf.

I tried to disable private mode in Chrome. One article gave 28 steps on how to do it. A bit too many steps for me. apparently you have to do the reverse to reinstate it. I just decided to uninstall it. Some browsers on the computer or smartphone or tablet are made to protect from inappropriate sites.

Protection Tips

Here are some tips to prevent children from accessing sites you don’t want them to be on. We will include a gamut of ideas – some extreme (more secure) to less (less secure).

Caveat – remember to write your passwords in a secret place but accessible by you in case you forget.

The List below includes many ideas – i am sure there are more – and some are repetitive but may be phrased differently to gain a better understanding.

6 Things to Protect Family from Technology

There are 6 things a person restricts to prevent improper usage of technology
Restrict :
RT: the Router or Modem – which provides the internet service – through passwords and other restrictions
CP: The computer – through filters
PH: the smartphone – through passwords
AP: the apps or programs – through passwords or disengaging usage or preventing installation or removal of programs
MH: the mobile hotspot
GN: the availability of all of them

    More Secure

1. GN: Do not use or allow use of a internet, computer, TV, smart phone or tablet for kids or adults. (Our school has a policy that students are not allowed to use internet or smart phone). Rid yourself of devices that capture internet or at least minimize them.

2. RT: Do Not install internet service at home.

3. PH: Rid yourself of your current and/or old (and others) smartphones. Old smartphones can capture internet as well. Use a flip phone instead.

    Less Secure

4. RT: Internet Router Filters: Remove Internet from the House or restrict it to only certain computers. Parental controls allow on the router allow one to restrict which computers use the internet, what time the internet can be used by particular computers and to block any sites that have improper words in their url. (internet address)

4a. RT: Use an internet provider that already filters the internet.
Here are some sites that can help you with filters:
http://venishmartem.com/devices/computers/
A program to help secure smartphones – www.webshadow.org
how to lock down your wireless network
For those who are coping with challenges – guardyoureyes.com

5. GN: Put strong passwords on, Change the passwords regularly to and/or disengage :
– Access to Router administration. change your router pw regularly
– access to the wifi
– the computer (before it boots) and after it boots
– the smartphone
– particular apps on the smartphone
– the mobile hotspot

5b – Restrict Access to programs on computer or phone.

For iphone: it is easier to secure than an android. Some people buy specifically iphones because it has stronger parental controls. Use “settings” to lock access to apps.

For Android:

A special app has to be downloaded to lock apps on an Android. Search apps called “applock”. on an android lock the settings for 2 reasons – 1 to lock the access to children using the Mobile Hotspot. 2 To block children from. One produced by Cheetah – called CM applock on android allows a password on selected apps. It also takes pictures of intruders who tried to access the program – but entered the wrong password.
Lock access to using browsers like chrome or other browsers.

6. RT: Use a service called OPENDNS – found at opendns.com that protects the router from inappropriate sites.

6a RT: Disney offers hardware that is called “circle” that protects family from improper internet usage for about $90. (see meetcircle.com). There is another hardware called koala as well.

7. RT: Turn of wifi – when not using it. change password to wifi regularly.

8. CP: Install Internet filters. – Like K9 (http://www1.k9webprotection.com/) on your devices – iphone.

9. MH: Disengage – mobile hotspots. A mobile hotspot allows a person to access the internet through a smart phone. To get around wifi restrictions – Children can borrow phone and use moblie hotspots for wifi. Put a password on the mobile hotspot application (with an applock program) or buy a phone or service that does not offer it. Note: the mobile hotspot app may not appear in the applock locking app list of programs. In that case one must lock the settings.

10. PH: change password to your phone frequently. A numerical passcode or text password is more secure than a “swipe” password. A swipe password can be easily guessed by children by watching parents unlock phone or by looking at the reflection of grease on the screen. (thus it makes sense to clean phone screen and change password regularly.)

11. CP: change your administrative and system password to your boot up system of computer. for windows based computers – one usually presses f2 or f12 when booting up system.

12. CP: remove the ability to boot up your computer with a usb or cd drive. some can bypass filter by using a USB key with another operating system.

13. AP: Check browsing history regularly to see if there are any inappropriate sites that were accessed.

14. AP: Use only browsers that you can disengage privacy mode or incognito. Incognito mode or secret mode allows a person to surf the web without being recorded in the history.

a program called incognito gone (for windows) (http://incognitogone.com/) allows you to remove incognito mode in several browsers. in order to do it manually see articles below.

https://github.com/wmwood/IncognitoGone/releaseshttps://community.spiceworks.com/how_to/75544-how-to-disable-incognito-mode-in-google-chrome

another way (we recommend the above) to disengage incognito is below. (We tried it but it did not work.)

http://www.thewindowsclub.com/disable-private-browsing-internet-explorer-chrome-firefox mode. In windows you can get around it by

To disengage incognito or private browsing in Windows Internet Explorer
If you are experienced making changes to your computer’s Registry, you can permanently disable the “In-Private” browsing function so that it cannot be turned on by user settings.  If you have never done this, DON’T TRY …………get someone you trust to make this change for you.

Windows key +R

enter regedit and click OK

Navigate to….. HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Safety\PrivacIE

Create a new D-Word “Start Mode”  and give it a value of “0”

Save…OK

15. AP: Use a keylogger – any typing into computer will be recorded

16. GN: Teach children the dangers of inappropriate material.

17. GN: Learn about punishment for releasing seed in vain.

18. GN: Split the password. Husband knows one part of password and wife knows other. And they don’t tell each other their own half.

19. GN: Pray to Hash-m / to help you have a home clean of trash

20.  GN: be in touch with technology hotline. one is called (http://www.smartconnectionsny.com/) They can help you secure your technology for free or a very reasonable fee.

21. AP: In email filter out certain words to send immediately to trash.

22. RT: Put filter words to block sites in router

23. CP: Parental filters on mac or windows to prevent usage of computers at certain times.

24. RT: Restrict / Block all computers from your router except for the one(s) you use. Restrict Time of usage. This is done by logging on to router – see the particular router’s instructions.

25. GN: Use internet only for business.

26. RT: Don’t use wifi. If Kids want to use computer let computer be in a place where there are people who pass by. or limit Wifi by turning it off at certain times. Restrict time of computer usage. Only allow certain computers to log on to your router.

27. GN: Learn Torah Laws of Yichud / Seclusion – apply to computer. Put the computer in a public place where people come in and out to prevent people from doing things in secret. I once asked the Helper of Rabbi Elyashiv about Internet Usage. He said – it should be only used for business – and it should be treated with the same laws as Yichud.

28. GN: Think of futility of sites – it only makes you feel badly afterwards.

29. GN: Think of the day of death. Pirkei Avot. You will be judged and everybody will see your activities on a big screen in heaven.

30. GN: Send your activity by email to a trusted person through program like k9.

31. GN: Refrain from having fashion magazines and other periodicals that have tempting ads at home

32. GN: Observe Laws of Tzniut / Modesty.

33. GN: Be wary of friends of kids that are techies that steer your kids to bypass filters.

34. RT: Don’t show your wifi name publicly. On router administration panel one can choose that the wifi name not be displayed publicly. Change the name and password of the wifi access regularly.

35. RT: Assure your neighbors don’t have open usage wifi. or ask them to not give password to your kids.

36. RT: disengage wifi router button – called WPA.

37. CP: on tablets and macs – set up app access carefully.

38. GN: See if there is suspicious activity on your computer. Like – if you finished using one program and then when you log on you find another program running. Or if you use only a small amount of data on your phone and you see a lot of data being used. (see settings – data usage). If your google search brings up previous searches with improper words – be wary. Some AppLock or AppBlock programs take pictures of intruders.

39. PH: Clean your phone window – to prevent children finding out phone passwords. Children can guess the swipe code based upon finger prints on window.

40. GN: Speak openly about what you expect from kids – if they break rules make consequences

41. GN: educate them in a way that they will be able to make the right choices – Torah education

42. PH: Don’t leave Your phone lying around without supervision

43. GN: Use non common passwords

44. AP: Install web browsers with reporting features – like webshadow.

45. GN: get advice from professional – shmirateynayim.org guardureyes.org http://venishmartem.com/

46. GN: Learn about the consequences and punishments of immoral activity – A Torah book that treats the subject is called “Kav HaYashar”

47. CP: Remove the internet browser application – on apple products – one can easily remove or limit access to applications like app store, safari (the apple browser) etc. this is done through settings – users & groups – select user (press lock to unlock) – then go to parental controls

48. CP: Change password to computer – in windows computers usually there is a boot-up password and a password to get into windows. change both regularly

49. AP: Don’t use multiple browsers or browsers that have privacy / Incognito / Secret mode. Privacy mode – allows a person to browse without websites being logged into history. Some browsers allow a password to be used to engage privacy mode. Put on a password on privacy mode.

50. GN: Monitor the data usage of your applications on your phone. If you notice that mobile hotspot is using a lot of data and you don’t use mobile hotspot – perhaps someone in your family is using your phone. On android – go to > Settings – data usage – see which applications are using much data.

51. CP/PH: An Apple Iphone is more able to be secured from unauthorized access (without using external programs) than an android phone (i speak about the android version 5 – i don’t know about the newer versions). It has parental controls built into the operating system. Android has a program called “Family Link” (which works on Android 7.0 Nougat).

52. PH: On Android – specify which apps and content can be downloaded

Set up parental controls
  • On the device you want parental controls on, open the Play Store app .
  • In the top left corner, tap Menu Settings Parental controls.
  • Turn “Parental controls” On.
  • Create a PIN. …
  • Tap the type of content you want to filter.
  • Choose how to filter or restrict access.

53. GN: Children learn from parents. Limit your own technology usage to set a good example for children.

54. GN: Be on the same page with your spouse regarding tech usage. At times one spouse wants to be more restrictive while the other wants to be less restrictive – discuss what is important together.

55. GN: Install programs, apps and browser extensions that enhance parental control.

56. GN: Make policies at the house – no internet before homework. No usage after 9:00 pm or before 7:00 am. Some can be assured through router settings. Enforce them.

57: GN: Work with School to make and enforce policy. Here is an example of a school policy. One school we know disallows students from smartphone and internet usage.

58. CP: Prevent Wifi Password from being shown. In the wifi settings – in windows 7 – and possibly other systems – whoever has access to the computer can see the actual password of the wifi. One can hide the password of the wifi in windows 7. To hide WIFI password in windows 7 do the following. (be careful when changing settings – perhaps if you are not tech savvy – you can ask someone who is)

1. Open a command prompt as an administrator (right click, select “Run as administrator”
2. Run Regedit
3. Browse to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\AppID{86F80216-5DD6-4F43-953B-35EF40A35AEE}
4. Right click on the key
5. Select Permissions
6. Click Advanced button
7. Select Owner tab
8. Highlight Administrators group and then click OK
9. Under Security, highlight Administrators group and set Permissions to Full Control
10. Delete the key

59. RT: Before purchasing a router – see if it has ample parental controls.

60. RT: Some router companies offer extra parental controls for a fee.

61. RT: Some routers offer a Smartphone app to be able to monitor the internet usage from the app.

62. GN: Don’t be quick to jump on the bandwagon for technology. See first if it is good for the spirituality, education and materialism of child.

63. GN: Discuss concerns with Torah educators, Rabbis, social workers and professionals.

64. RT: Limit IP and/or MAC addresses that can gain access to your router. This prevents people from accessing your router with an outside computer or device without your permission.

65: CP: In browser settings set your privacy and security level higher.

66: CP/RT: A firewall is a program that prevents unauthorized access to computer or router. Set up you firewall on computer and router to allow high protection.

67: CP/PH: In your browser download apps that will allow you more safe browsing. In phone look-up “appblock” or “applock” or “parental control” in playstore or appstore.

68. CP: Set site and search engine mode to “restrict” results. Google search allows one to restrict adult sites. Youtube also has a restrictive mode as well.

69. GN: Utilize several methods of parental  controls at the same time (ie, redundancy), so if one fails to catch an improper site, the other will catch it.

70. CP: You should know how to unlock devices owned by children – to allow you to check up on what they are doing from time to time.

71. GN: You should also have access to their email – or at least put filters on their emails. You should have access to their unlock code to serve to prevent them from accessing certain sites.

72. Check Logs of internet usage. Some programs – like K9 and the router will give you a list of all the sites that were accessed. The browser also does this. By checking History – one can see all the sites that were accessed. Crafty children (or adults) may hide their sites by erasing history of sites visited on browser or by using privacy/secrecy/incognito mode on the browser. But the router also has a log of sites visited. So you might want to check that log of sites visited by accessing your router as well.

73. CP: Some browsers and programs will save your password when you log-on. This is called autofill. Avoid using autofill passwords – especially for the K9 (or other parental control program) administrative password, for administrative controls on the computer, for access to the router, etc.

74. CP: Block pop-up ads. Browsers usually have an option to block ads. Set the browser (or get an extension for browser) to block pop up ads.

75. CP: When a child gets a new phone, tablet or computer – before they use it – you should set yourself up on it as an administrator of the item – and set the controls to what is appropriate.

76. CP: Do not give easy access to children to your email or list of passwords. If they do have access – they might bypass certain restrictions on the computer. Thus it makes sense to put on several levels of parental controls. Some programs will alert you to unauthorized access attempts. Be informed.

Everything in life has a price. It is up to us to weigh the pros and cons of limiting technology and the effect it will have on the future morality of the children and the family.

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As we get new info – we will try to update this page. (bl”n – without commitment)

A Time to Act

📖: Beshalah/בשלח

*In this week’s Parasha the Jews are before the Yam Suf / Sea of Reeds with the Egyptians pursuing them.  They cry out to Hashem to save them. Hashem says to Moshe “Why are you crying out to me? Speak with the Children of Israel and Travel on!” At that time Moshe lifts his staff and the sea splits.”

There is a time to beseech help from Hashem. There is a Time to ask for guidance from Hashem.  There is a time to act. G-d was telling Moshe – now is the time to act.

By them having faith in G-d and themselves and making a tangible effort, Hashem split the sea for them. (See Ramban on Shemot /Exodus 14:15)

At times we may wonder why G-d is not answering prayers. He may be willing to answer. But He may just be waiting for us to take the first step towards that goal or to spiritually elevate ourselves to be able to merit the blessing or both.

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.