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.

 

Be Happy Now

In physics the law of momentum exists. If an object is moving it will continue to move.

In the world of emotions momentum does not exist. A person can be angry one moment and in the next in a state of joy.

We choose our reality. We choose what to get stuck on.

Someone did bad to me – so I have to have hate that person?

Children fight. In the next minute they are best friends. Babies cry, the next second they laugh.

Because someone angered me – it should not ruin my day. Move on.

A person chooses to be happy or sad on a rainy day. Look at the good and we’ll find reasons to rejoice.

This is applicable in many a situation. The person who is angry at G-d for whatever reason – the Holocaust, a past suffering, that a religious Jew did something against them – is not acting rationally. Why should G-d be blamed?

If once my company’s boss reprimanded me – should I never work again for that company or any other company. No.

Those who do blame G-d or others for their miseries – found a convenient excuse -that does not hold water. And is not worthy of their cutting off relations with G-d. It is a ploy of the evil inclination. For we focus our vision only on the limited pain we experienced and forget the infinite good we experience every moment.

In the end one will see all the things that we thought that were bad were ultimately for our benefit. We will see the mountains and mountains of good that G-d provided for us all these years and we may have been stuck on a small detail that someone hurt my feelings.

Look at the good – not the bad.

Be happy now. It’s your choice.

The Winning Mindset – Overcoming The Attitude of Mediocrity

Read a Newspaper. Especially the Editorial.

Is their slant their message?

Preaching Papers

do your due diligence. are articles of news or of preaching its own message?

The Religious Papers. The Scientific Papers. The Liberal Papers.

Is its general theme: “Yes. I’m Right. Now I have the right to put others down or impose my views.”

The Mindset of Mediocrity – The “I’m Right. You’re Wrong” Attitude

Mediocrity is based upon a mindset. The mindset of “Basically, I’m Right and You are Wrong.” It’s living based upon criticizing what other people do wrong to you or others. People with this attitude stay the same and don’t progress as much as they can. For their focus is on others and don’t work on self-improvement.

Their lives are dependent on the actions of others. They base their lives on the people they dislike the most. Not on ways they can improve their own actions or do good for the world or at least themselves. This is the UN, this is the BDS, this is the story of many countries whose goal is to complain against the Jews or Israel.

Criticizing Attitude Leading to Stagnation

But can also be our own story on some small scale. Stagnation is one of the reason’s why lashon harah / evil speech – speaking badly of others – even if it is true – is forbidden in Torah. It stifles growth. Instead of focusing on self-improvement you focus on others lacking.

Let me blame others so I won’t see my deficiencies – in thought, deed or action.

Open Minded to Torah even if it may not fit my current views

Some people refuse Torah because – it doesn’t fit their lifestyle.

A friend who when he was returning to the path of Judaism – would check upon which of the 13 Principles of Judaism by the Rambam – he felt comfortable with until he accepted all of them. He grew to understand the principles of Judaism.

Difference Between Torah and Other Religions

Rejecting Torah because it is a “religion” is stereotyping. Torah is not remotely close to any other religion. Of the almost 80,000 religions in the world – all are man-made. The Torah was handed down by G-d to millions of witnesses. That’s a far cry from one man transmitting a message and G-d himself transmitting His own message to millions of people.

Rejecting Torah – due to personal habits that go against it – is like rejecting a free New car because you don’t use the air-conditioner. Or rejecting going to gym because you have to work a bit. If you want to get in shape you have to work at it.

Global or Local Attitude of Mediocrity?

One should ask – does my “focus on other’s actions” attitude encompass my being or is it relegated to certain times, people or places?

True Path to Freedom – Torah

It could be a global mindset or one used for a by an individual in a particular aspect of life. In any case it should be treated by opening one’s mind and vistas to Torah. A person who thinks the thoughts of G-d / Hash-m is free. (Provided they act upon them as well.)

The intelligent will determine what G-d wants and follow His will. Why? Because more than even you yourself, G-d knows and wants what is better for you.

The Search for Truth

The attitude of “I’m Right. Now I have the right to put others down.” is not the way of Torah. That it an attitude that leads to stagnation and decadence.

Torah will say – receive the message – now see what is truthfully wrong in this situation and see what you can learn to correct yourself. The Torah will say search for Truth – not for giving yourself a pat on the back or to allow yourself righteous indignation – but to find out what is really right in G-d’s eyes.  And then correcting yourself. Regardless of what is your point of view.

The Torah says every day is a new opportunity to improve and become a new and better person. Rejuvenation daily.

Some will hold on to “religion” because it is their religion or their lifestyle. Drop the attitude of “being stuck to one point of view” and follow truth. Follow G-d’s will. Sometimes what you think G-d wants is not what He actually wants. Some will think making pogroms or killing innocent people is right – for that is what their religion says. Is that want G-d really wants – innocent people – His children to be hurt? Follow truth – not “religion”.

The Torah says hurting innocent people is forbidden. Killing is forbidden. (In the Seven Noahide Laws – for Gentiles and in the 613 commandments for Jews) Sorry, a Pogrom is Just plain Wrong.

The Great Torah of the generation will be able to tell you what G-d really wants. Why? Because Torah is the only document that G-d gave before millions of witnesses. Thus it is obviously His will.

In business – the quality experts say don’t blame. Fix the Problem. Don’t say that it is Steve’s fault for the bad paint job on this car. Fix the process – don’t push the blame. Fix yourself. Don’t push the blame.

Don’t criticize, condemn or complain is a Jewish concept. Those who adopt it will be able reach higher levels of success than those who don’t.

To Be Continued…

Developing The Winning Mindset – Part 2 – Listening to G-d’s Messages for Self-Improvement

Developing The Winning Mindset – Part 3 – What Aristotle Taught Alexander to Be Able to Conquer the World –

 

 

Fancier Car, Yes. But I have Better Driver – What is Real Success

A question strikes me at times. Why would a person spend hundreds of thousands on a car, when they could get from point A to Point B spending much less. I chalk it up to a “Status” thing.

Ok – yes you do need a GPS and some other gadgets, but spending for a car what you could pay for a house?

Apparently – an expensive car makes them feel more worthwhile.

It makes them feel successful.

It’s good to be successful – provided you use your money the proper way. To help your family get a Torah education, to educate them to have good values, to help other people – to support Torah causes.

But what is real success? Money? Not really. You can cave a Billionaire that beats his wife. Is that success? No. He is successful financially – but as a person he missed the mark.

Real success is being the best person that you can be. For that You can’t just put the money on the table and become an instant success. It requires consistent and hard work on one’s character traits, learning works of Mussar / Torah Ethics – Like Pirkei Avot – stretching yourself to help others, refraining from speaking badly of others – even if it is true. Refraining from taking vengeance. Changing hateful thoughts to positive ones. Changing grudges to love. Not so easy.

It is a whole regimen. Put the effort into self-improvement and you can become that great person you want to be.

Once I heard a lecture of Rabbi Igal Haimoff. He said that the reason we want that perfect box of cereal, that perfect car is because we recognize the value of perfection. G-d is perfect. We want to emulate Him. Thus, you are upset when someone scratches your iphone – it’s not perfect anymore.

Want to be a real success? Try reaching your potential – through using your talents to help others – in accordance to Torah. For that you must know your talents. Work on your character traits.

Just do it and you’ll be a better driver.

Who Loves You Kid? Who in the World Loves You the Most.

Ever Ask “Who in the World Loves Me the Most?”

Your parents? Your children? Your Spouse?

Child Love

I was a fellowship student in an American University. As one of my responsibilities  to grade assignments- I had to read student’s essays answering the question “Who is your Greatest Hero?” Interesting answers. Who was cited most as a ‘Hero’? Batman? A movie Star? A Musician? A president? No. The Student’s Parents.

People recognize who did the most for them in their lives. I would expect young college students to be a bit more vain. But they recognized the great effort and sacrifices their parents made for them. That’s why Honoring Parents is an easily understandable commandment. We show gratitude to those that did the most for us.

Parental Love

I heard that parents love children more than children love parents.

Understandable. It says In Pirkei Avot / Ethics of the Fathers “According to the Pain is the Reward.” The more pain one puts into a person or project – the more rewarding it is when they bear fruits. The more love they have for the person. Thus it is understandable why parents love children more than vice versa. Parents will stay up at night to tend to a child. Ask a child today to clean their room and get an answer is “Maybe later.”

Love of Spouses

So is it parents who love you the most? Is it your spouse that tells you they love you? Not really. Many a time love between spouses is “Love that’s dependent upon a matter.” It tells us what true love is in Pirkei Avot. – “Love that is not dependent upon a matter.”

I love the person – not because what they can bring me or give me. I love them because I recognize their intrinsic value as a person.

The reason for the great divorce rate today is because – what people call love is infatuation. The infatuation fades, the marriage ends.

Fish Love

Love that is dependent upon a matter is best illustrated by someone who says they love fish. Ask them – if you love fish – why do you catch it, then skin it, then fry it and eat it. You don’t love fish – love eating fish. You love what the fish gives you, not what you can give to the fish. Loving is giving – not taking. “Love” of many couples today is taking – fish love.

What is Love?

Apparently the one who gives you the most (in your best spiritual, psychological, emotional and material interest) loves you the most. Who gives you the most? G-d.

There are three partners in the creation of a person. The mother, the father and G-d. The Mother gives the blood, the father the bones and G-d gives the soul.

G-d gives a person a soul, life, air to breath, food, clothing, money, a home, health, transportation, vacations, family, friends, a world, nature, and makes every single cell in one’s body function and grow continuously. I can go on, but better to keep it short.

If we recognized the tremendous kindness that G-d / Hash-m provides for us at every single moment – we would be a different person. Like we say in the prayer Nishmat on Shabbat – “If our mouths were as wide as the sea … we would not be able to thank you for all the kindness you do.” G-d gives you all – independently of what we “give” to Him – He loves us because of our value as a person. He loves us because we are his children. Without expectation of a “favor” in return.

Love of God

G-d loves you more than your parents love you.

Yes, your Father in heaven loves you more than your father or mother on earth.

A parent sometimes gets fed up with a child who goes off the proper path. G-d always has hope for His child. He doesn’t give up on you. He loves you even when you think He forgot you.

Have problems? Turn to Hash-m. He’ll help. Regardless of what you did in the past. He’s always there with open arms. And when you have time try to become better. How? Try starting over – by wiping the slate clean.

It says that even a parent can forget a child – but G-d will never forget you.

Know you are loved.

Selective Forgetting – Overcoming Difficulties of Your Past

I had a nice childhood. I remember spending summers in Silver Spring, Maryland with my cousins. We went to a camp called Candy Cane City. It was fun.

I was a kid in the mid-70’s. People sported fros and big owl glasses, bell-bottoms and those gaudy suits and ties. I remember taking my cousin’s bike – going on a bike adventure by myself in the streets of Washington, DC. My cousin and I would take long Shabbat walks and for some reason we would end up in a public parking lot – where we could see a nice view of the area. I remember the Evil Knievel Toy Motorcycle and those Cars that you’d pull the belt that would spin the car-wheel and letting it jump over my makeshift ramps – watching them fly.

But like all – I also had my share of difficulties. I can’t say that my challenges were as great as other people’s but I did have times of Joy and times of suffering.

I don’t know if my fun childhood – made it more difficult to cope with my more difficult teenage years. I had great teen years – but I was introduced to this concept I knew little of – called suffering.

Positive Suffering

In a sense suffering is painful. But it is also can be seen in the positive. It cleanses the imperfections in one’s comportment and one’s blemishes in their soul. I became more introspective. My suffering made me I realize that hurting others to make the class laugh was wrong. I learned of other comportments to change & character traits and deeds I had to improve. I resolved to become a better person. Anybody can start over and wipe the slate clean.

Looking back, I took the life lessons – to do good and not hurt others – but I left the pain behind.

Some people take the pain with them and forget the lessons.

Others take both.

Suffering & Closeness to G-d

Suffering makes it easier to become closer to Hash-m. We cry out sincerely to Him when in the depths. When everything is going well – have money, children, nice apartment and car – unfortunately many forget G-d. And then to those he loves – he may send a wakeup call. Some want pain to help motivate themselves to become Closer to G-d and to do Mitzvot. King David wanted suffering to help him feel closer to G-d. A high level – not for everyone.

Looking at the Past and Future – Kosher

Rabbi Yosef Sitruk, z”l – former French Chief Rabbi – said that The signs of a Kosher animal represent two ways of looking at the world. Two kosher signs for an animal is that it chews its cud and has split hooves. Chewing Cud – represents bringing back past. Jews from middle-eastern countries – Sephardim – usually would say how the past were the “good old days” and bring them up again and again. He used the term Yahsra – loosely translated as “what a difference between then and now – accompanied by a melancholy feeling of the glorious past that is gone.”

He said that the split hooves – represent an attitude of always trying to innovate and go ahead. He compared that attitude to the Jews from occidental countries – the Ashkenazim – that rely more on innovations in teaching, psychology, technology, etc.

So chewing old memories could be good. Provided you remember the good. But dwelling on past pain can be counterproductive if it stifles you or stops you from being productive or it causes you depression. Let it go.

Let it go.

You have to move on in life.

Reasons why G-d Sends Suffering

G-d sometimes sends difficulties for a person to overcome and become a stronger better individual. He sends difficulties so a person will become closer to Him. Like a parent who withholds allowance from a child who’s living away from home – in order that the child call his parents sometimes.

G-d only does Good – finding the reason for your Suffering

If G-d does only good – how can I understand my suffering? Apparently if you think hard enough or think of past difficulties – you can find a lesson to learn. Perhaps something you gained, something you improved. A worse situation that you avoided by encountering difficulty. Be creative. Perhaps you became more spiritual, closer to G-d? Thousand of reasons. Choose one that fits you best.

Choose Your Memories

You choose which memories to bring to the forefront. It could be you enjoying life or you in pain. You choose. You choose what to think about. You choose what to dwell upon.

When I just got married an uncle of my wife said – remember this period of the first year – where everything is special. Put it in a bottle. When you encounter difficulties – open the bottle and draw from it.

In Pirkei Avot / Ethics of the Fathers two Mishnayot talk about a person forgetting – one about forgetting sin and one about forgetting his Torah learning. It says:

Torah Study & Toil to Forget Sin
Rabban Gamliel son of Rabbi son of Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi says: – “Great is the study of Torah with Derekh Eretz [lit. “the way of the world” either – with livelihood or with proper conduct] – for with the toil in both [temptation to] sin is forgotten. And all Torah that is without Derekh Eretz – in the end it will be nullified & causes sin. And whoever toils with the community, let them toil with them for the sake of Heaven – for the merit of their fathers helps them – & their righteousness will stand forever. And you [who toil with the community] I will consider it as if you yourself achieved it. (Avot 2:2)

Forgetting Torah

Rabbi Dostai, son of Rabbi Yannai in the name of Rabbi Meir, says: Whoever forgets one thing from his [Torah] learning – Scripture, considers as if he is liable for his life. As it says: “Rather guard yourself & guard your soul very well lest you forget the things that your eyes saw.” (Devarim/ Deut. 4:9) One might think that this even applies if his studies were too difficult. The Torah [thus] teaches “Lest you remove it from your hearts” (ibid) – behold he is not liable for his life until it [the learning] settles within him & then he removes it from his heart. [intentionally] (Avot 3:8)

Putting the Subject matter of the Mishna’s aside – we learn two things about forgetting – One – that one can forget sin by being involved in Torah, community and work. Forgetting pain can also be forgotten such. Occupy yourself with the positive. With Mitzvot. Note the that both mentioned  – Torah Study and Working are Mitzvot / Commandments from Torah. Learning Torah is a Mitzvah (Jews learn Torah, Gentiles Learn about Noahide Laws). Working is a Mitzvah – the Mitzvah of Settling the world. By occupying yourself with both you forget your sins – but you also forget your pain.

Temporary vs. Long Term Relief from Suffering 

Apparently these are the best things a person can use to forget. Once a person said he got over depression by watching comedies. I tried. It didn’t work.

A Cause of Suffering

Apparently – one source of depression comes from the soul. You are really your soul. It is possible that depression is linked to the fact that a person is not producing Mitzvot. Thus the soul is depressed.

When I was depressed, I used to do the same. Watch comedies. For me – it was like “Chinese Food” – you eat it, but right after you are hungry. I would watch to pass time but right after I still felt depressed.

Learning Enlightens the Soul

Learning Torah enlightens the soul. So the soul’s sadness is lifted. It is a Mitzvah to serve Hashem with happiness – so sadness is also a domain of the Yetzer HaRah / the evil inclination. He does not want you to be happy. His job is to keep you down so that you don’t produce Mitzvot, do kindness. He provides for you a negative attitude that makes you unproductive of Mitzvot. That is his job. Your job is to bear away from His suggestions. To choose not to become depressed. To speak it out with friends or family to resolve your difficulties – so you can become productive in achieving your potential for doing good.

Happiness – through torah – may not come overnight – it takes time of consistent work – little strides. Step by step. Slow and steady wins the race.

Choose Happiness

You choose – to be happy. You choose to seek help to get out of depression. Your only Job is to say “G-d please help me to get out of this difficult situation of …..(fill in the blank)” Make an effort to get out of it. And choose the help once it comes.

You choose to banish that thought of “I am a nothing” and replace it with “I am a special person. No one in the world is like me.” (see the “You are special card”). Think “I have great potential.” Think “People love me!” Think “G-d loves me.” instead of all those other negative thoughts racing through your mind.

Be strict – and don’t let bad thoughts come in. If they do say “Stop!” You’re not always in control of the thoughts that enter your mind – but you choose to dwell upon them. So stop the bad thoughts and replace them will positive thoughts.

Choose to Be Helped

A person must choose to be helped. There is a Joke.

Once a person was received a flood warning text. He said “G-d will help me.” He stayed in his home. The flood waters reached his street. The police came – “Do you want a ride away from the danger zone.” He replied – “G-d will help me.” The flood waters got higher. Then – a boat passed by – they asked “Do you want a ride away from the danger zone.” He replied – “G-d will help me.” The waters went higher. A helicopter came – “Do you want a ride away from the danger zone.” He replied – “G-d will help me.”

Ultimately – he drowned. He came before G-d and asked – “G-d why didn’t you save me?” G-d replied “I sent you a car, a boat and a helicopter – what more did you want?”

We choose to seek help. We choose what to dwell upon. We choose our attitude. We choose to pray to Hash-m for help. We choose to be helped when help arrives.

The Second mishna teaches us about intentional and unintentional forgetting. How does one intentionally forget. Apparently one can choose to forget. When the subject matter comes up in their mind – they push it aside with other thoughts – intentionally. This intentional forgetting can be used for the good – forgetting sad events in your life.

Forgetting – a Gift from G-d

It says that forgetting is a gift from G-d. If one would remember so perfectly – that the memories of difficulties would be clear in his mind – his or her life would be much more difficult to bear. After one year a person forgets partially the passing of a dear one. After seven years a person – feels as if the person wasn’t here. Another kindness of Hash-m to help you better cope and get on in life.

 What you think is what you are. Think negative – you’ll be negative. Think positive – you’ll be positive. It’s in your hands to choose.

Think Kindness

Even better is to think of doing kindness with others. You become a kinder person. A Jew who thinks of doing a Mitzvah with others – gets that mitzvah. You think you want to feed every single worthy person in the world, you will be attributed that Mitzvah. You think you want to teach Torah to everyone – you get that Mitzvah. You think to do a Mitzvah and was unable to do it – you get that Mitzvah.

Reasons Not to Think of Doing Bad to Others

A motivation to not think about doing badly to others – is that some people – when they think of doing evil to others – even though they do not do it in the end – the evil they wanted to do are attributed to them as if they actually did it.

We say in the Hagadah of Pesach – “An Aramean (Lavan – the father of Rachel & Leah – who were married to Yaakov / Jacob) destroyed my Father (Yaakov) and we went down to Egypt.” Lavan did not kill Yaakov. He thought seriously about doing it. But he didn’t kill him. But it was attributed to him that he did kill Yaakov – meaning it will be on his record – when he gets to heaven that he actually killed.

Forget the Bad – Forget the Hate – Forget the Grudges

In Torah – we do not hold a grudge. If someone did bad to you – confront them and tell to explain their bad comportment. Let them ask forgiveness or you ask and the story is over.

Ask yourself – this grudge that you’ve been holding against a brother, parent, child – worth it? Did you gain anything from it all these years. Holding a grudge can fall into the category of sinat hinam – gratuitous hatred – also a transgression of veAhavta Le’reacha – you shall love your fellow Jew.

Putting all that aside – was the bad blood worth it all these years?

Forgive – forget – get over it. Obviously, you don’t have to put yourself into a situation in which they would take advantage of you again or bring them to a Beit Din / Jewish court of law to settle the financial affairs – but one is not related to the other. If you are too shy to approach your family member or friend and you want to make peace – You can ask a competent Orthodox rabbi to be an intermediary to approach the person.

Speak No Evil

The secret to happiness is to choose what you think about. It’s possible this is one of the reasons of the many laws against speaking Lashon HaRa’ – Evil Speech – speaking badly of others regardless of it being true or not. You speak badly – you think negatively. You cause others to think negatively. We are to control our thoughts, speech and actions. Speech and actions start from thought. If you nip the problem in the bud – you resolve many difficulties. Don’t think negatively – you won’t speak negatively and you won’t do the negative.

Also this will Pass

A manic-depressive asked King Solomon for a cure to his concern. At times he was ecstatic. At times he was depressed. He gave him a ring that said – “Also this will pass.” He was cured. When he was sad – he thought – “also this will pass” and he would cheer up. When he was ecstatic – he would think – “also this will pass” –  and he would calm down.

Your happiness is dependent upon you thoughts.

Think positive!

Connecting to G-d or Don’t Give Me that Kosher Style. I want the Real Thing!

Jews are connected.

Connected to the One above.

I know it first hand. I meet Jews in the street with all the paraphernalia – nose rings, tattoos, leather jackets. They seem tough on the outside. Scratch a little below the surface accessories and you find a warm heart connected to Judaism.

The struggling Jewish comedians. The doctor who tells me she started saying blessings on food. The Palestinian college student with a Jewish mother. A vegetarian suffering from a tough divorce. And also that non-Jewish woman steeped in materialism, grappling with conversion to Judaism.

Each has one thing in common. They are connected.

Complete Torah Observance? Not there yet.

Connected – yes. Connected in their own way. Connected by coming to the synagogue. Trying to be good to others. By putting on that big white kippah when they enter the shul. The women that cover their hair with a scarf when they come to ask for a blessing from the big Rabbi.  The secular Jews who give donations to hospitals because of their concern for others.

The Torah confirms this saying that each Jew has a spark from the Divine that keeps the Jewish person connected to Hash-m – no matter how far they feel.

G-d Loves People

G-d loves these people. They try. They support Israel or don’t. They eat kosher or kosher style – because they think it’s really Kosher. They don’t know the extent of how much G-d loves them. But those little actions mean much. I heard even that G-d loves you – a person who follows or tries earnestly to follow His laws – more than any person can love you in the world. Even one’s parents. I believe it.

Even the people who get on the defensive when they see you wearing a black kippah. And take out their frustrations out on you. I know one reason why they get defensive – because deep down they also want to be connected as much as you to the Great Power above. Apparently they envy someone they feel has a greater connection.

I love them too.

Don’t want to be be Politically Correct

I try not to be politically correct in life. I’d much rather tell it like it is. I’d rather people hear the truth than to stretch truth to make others happy. Obviously I try to be tactful. So please don’t think I’m doing the politically correct jargon.

The Lost – finding the Right Path & Getting Connected

In a sense I feel for all people. I feel that many are lost – sincerely searching for a path that will bring them to Utopia on earth. I can’t say I found Utopia – because Utopia will never exist. The true Utopia is living a life in which any situation you encounter – stressful or not – you’ll be able to deal with it in the most positive way possible. That’s real Utopia. I  did find a real path that helps me to feel I am accomplishing purpose. Yes, I do stray and sway – unfortunately – but I try keep anchored to Torah.

Yes – synagogue. Yes – Shabbat. Yes – Kosher. Yes – Daily Torah Study & Prayer. Yes – trying to not talk badly about others. Yes – Part of a Torah Community.

The more I try to be connected, the more I feel I need to be connected.

the Path to Spirituality & Self- Fulfillment – Torah Commandments

They say that a Jew is full of Mitzvot / Commandments [they do] as a pomegranate. Why a pomegranate? We as Jews have 613 commandments. (a Gentile has 7 Major categories of commandments – the Noahide Laws – that come to 30 detailed commandments). A Pomegranate has 613 seeds in it. Each Jew is connected in doing a special Mitzvah. Some try to do all. Some pick and choose. The real idea behind a Mitzvah is becoming connected to G-d. True spirituality.

Many people search cults and exotic religions – trying to find spirituality and meaning. But I say – “What more do you want? – when G-d came down and told us – to over 3 million people who witnessed – that this – the Torah – is what He wants.

This is the guide to become close to Him. Spirituality in my eyes is being close and connected to G-d. He already told us. So my job now to become connected is to try to do what I can to follow. Someone asked the Hazon Ish – a great Rabbi who lived in Benei Brak – what is the pathway to spirituality? He said follow Halacha / Jewish law.

I mentioned before that one’s real self is not the body. It is the soul. Please the soul and you will live a happier life. The problem why happiness is elusive is that – people pick and choose Mitzvot. “This is good enough for me.” “This mitzvah doesn’t fit my lifestyle.” So I will pick to follow my own made up religion – of what I think is good and what I think is wrong.

G-d really made it easy for us – He already told us what is right and wrong. That’s not our realm. Our realm is determining whether – the situation we encounter it is right to do A or B – based upon what Torah says. We can’t rewrite the Torah. No one can. Because I know my intelligence is nothing in comparison to G-d’s, I’ll relegate determining what is right and wrong to G-d. I’ll just decide if my intended reaction to a situation fits the Will of G-d as described by the Torah. This makes my life much easier.

Even this week pray – given all our Torah knowledge – that Hashem gives us the wisdom to do His will in each situation.

G-d’s View vs My Personal Interest – Choosing the Greater Good for the World.

I realized – after the fact – What it really comes down to is choosing to let G-d guide your life through Torah is choosing a greater good for you and for all society. I am very limited in my vision and the consequences of my actions. G-d takes all into account. The good for me, the good for society, the good for your family.

My scope is much more limited. I am biased. It’s putting my personal interest aside for G-d – for the greater good of the world. Though – I may not understand G-d’s ways or sometimes even certain of His laws – I follow. Once I know that G-d gave a nation of millions of people a law – where millions of people witnessed the giving of this divine document – I can feel confident following that law. I can feel confident I am doing a greater good for the world by following Torah.

A higher level is doing things leshem shamayim – for the sake of G-d. We have a special relationship with Hashem – for thousands of years He has been helping us with a kind hand. We thus do good for His sake.

We become a greater individual. We become bigger. I look at the interest of others rather than just my own. I follow what G-d wants rather than what I think is right. Usually they coincide. Sometimes they don’t. But in a case of my opinion – and the opinion of the Torah is diffferent – I defer to Torah – for G-d’s wisdom is greater than mine.

Remove Doubt – Remove Suffering

Living a Life of doubt is painful. If I don’t know what is right or wrong, I am always in doubt. Torah takes that doubt away. I just see what Torah says or ask a competent “Orthodox” rabbi what it says about a particular issue.

Years ago someone asked “what should be done with a person on life support”? I didn’t know the answer. I asked a Posek (a Rabbi qualified enough to make Halachic / Jewish law decisions) on “pulling the plug from life support.” I explained the case – He said it was forbidden. I told the family.

They followed and were happy with their decision. They did not live a life of regret asking “Did I do the right thing?” They knew they did the right thing for they based their decision upon Torah.

My Life of Picking and Choosing

I was in the situation of picking and choosing what is convenient for me.The “This doesn’t fit my lifestyle” attitude – until I chose to get off this “double citizenship” – of on one hand following Torah when it’s convenient and not when it is not. It took time. As they say “slowly but surely wins the race.” But once I did commit to follow Torah based upon what it said to do rather than what I thought is convenient – I changed myself and changed my life for the better.

I didn’t choose what I should do and not. I knew I had to do all – my choice was relegated to choosing what I was ready to take upon myself. At one time I took complete eating Kosher inside and out of the house. Then I took complete Shabbat observance. Then I took wearing a Kippah. Then I took Daily Torah study. Each one has their own path to Judaism. I’m still trying to grow. But at least I have a path. Some don’t know the path exists.

Achieving Your Purpose in Life

That same path in Judaism – that brings spiritual satisfaction – brings one to achieving their personal potential and purpose in life. Apparently they are related.

The Real Thing

I don’t want that Kosher style lifestyle. I want the real thing.

I won’t lie. It takes effort. It takes sweat. Going against the grain. Breaking the mold that society builds for you. Moving Forward day by day. Overcoming the challenges – but you know in the end you have a Hand that carries you. A good G-d that watches over you.

Anyone – regardless of their level of righteousness – can have emunah / trust in Hash-m’s / G-d’s providence and He will help them. G-d will even help the thief who prays to Him to be successful in his endeavor to steal from a house. Anyone can repent and start over.

But strong connection takes work. Work at it. Be ready to go the whole 9 yards. And you’ll never be or feel alone. You’ll always be directly connected to the One above.

D’var Torah on Ki Tisa

In parasha Ki Tisa (in Shemot / Exodus) it says

When you count the heads of the children of Israel  .. and you shall give an atonement for your souls & there will not be a plague…”  We do not count Jews by a having a headcount. Each gives Half a shekel and they are counted,  in order not to have a plague.  When one counts,  one limits the Berakha.

Another explanation is: The word for count is Tisa, which also means to uplift. When a person uplifts himself and other people by him growing & helping others to grow in Mitzvot, Torah study and giving tzedaka,  he prevents plagues and other bad things from happening in the first place.

The Chofetz Chaim was asked to donate a fixed price for each bed in new a hospital.  He said he would give a large number. They asked how could he afford that.  He replied by me studying Torah,  there will not need that amount of beds – for people will not become ill. 

Venatenu – in Hebrew for “and you shall give” can be read the same way frontwards and backwards.  A person who gives to a proper Torah charity will receive the money back – usually many times more.*

Using Happiness to Eclipse Problems

A person has much to be thankful for. Regardless of what situation a person is in – and I am not judging those in pain – one can find at least one thing for which to be thankful – that they are alive. We create the reality that we are living by our attitude.

You have a “Poor Me” attitude – you will be sad. You have a “Thank G-d” attitude, you will be happy.

But some things annoy us in life. We all pass difficulties. I recently received a ticket. Yes, upsetting. But deep down I knew G-d had a reason. A reason for my best interest. So I felt a bit consoled.

Here is story I heard recently from the book “Living Emunah 2” – By Rabbi David Ashear. (p 168-170)

Once a person took upon himself a stringency to be careful not to sit next to a person of the opposite gender in a plane – to avoid temptation and bad thoughts. He got on to the airport early – to assure that the ticketing agent would book him next to a man. On the plane he realized that his seat was next to a woman.

He asked the stewardess if he could change his seat. She didn’t want to bother – so she told him “I am sorry that is impossible. If you do not stay in your seat, you will have to leave the plane and your baggages will not be removed from this plane and you will have to purchase another ticket.”

He responded calmly – “Ok. I guess I’ll get off the plane.” A bystander got up and said – “This person will not leave the plane! If he gets off I will get off! And I will take my baggages with me. I will make you go through all the baggages to get my baggages off the plane! You will be delayed until you find them!” The stewardess backed down from her “Don’t bother me” attitude. It took her a couple minutes to arrange seating that would accommodate the man.

After the flight the Jewish man went over to the other man. “I want to thank you for standing up for me. I Appreciate your effort.” The man responded “No problem. Really, I didn’t do it for you. I did it for me.”

He told him the following story –

 

“I have a friend. He was driving a Jewish passenger in his relatively new Taxi cab – he was an observant Jew. The car stalled and he wasn’t able to restart it. He assured the passenger that he’d be able to get him to the airport on time. He started tinkering with engine – He thought it was a minor problem. Finally when he realized time was short, he flagged down another cab for the passenger and they both got into the cab to London Heathrow Airport. They rushed to the gate. My friend pleaded with the gate attendants to let him on. They declined “Sorry – too late.”

He booked another flight and the cabbie went back to his cab. Surprisingly the taxi started immediately upon ignition. A few hours later they heard the news that the flight he was to take – exploded and all the passengers were killed. This was Pan Am flight 103, which was blown up over Lockerbie, England by a terrorist attack.

“From that story I realized that your G-d protects His people.” The man said. “So when I saw you boarding this flight I felt good, knowing everything would be Okay. But when I saw you were getting off, I got very scared and decided if you are leaving, I’m leaving too.”

A parent sometimes scolds a child. Sometimes he may even hit him. But the child understands that it is for the good – and although the scolding may hurt he understands that it is for his best interest.

When one’s child walks into the room – he can think “ok. what does he want now.” or “wow how great is G-d for giving me a child.” When he walks into his house he can think “I hope dinner is ready.” or “Wow. What a blessing G-d has given me such a house.” When he walks to the subway he can think “It’s so cold out” or “Wow. G-d is kind for giving me the ability to walk.”

If we were to look at all the blessings we have at the time we are annoyed or upset, we would let it slide. Our happiness would eclipse our sadness. Our happiness would eclipse our difficulties – especially knowing that G-d is a good G-d that will do the best for you.

Keep Smiling! You’re Alive!

When Friends Forget Friends or Buddies Become Bitter

Remember the good old days. You used to go out with your friend regularly. You had good times and bad together.

They are still a friend on social media. You bump into them sometimes. “Wow. It’s so good to see you! We have to stay in touch. Let’s get together sometimes!”

But you call them at the office the secretary says: “Let me check if they’re here. I think I saw him in the office…” Pause. “Oh, I’m sorry he’s in a meeting right now. Would you like to leave a message?”

No returned phone calls. No response to texts.

“I hope he’s still alive” – You think.

Calling his cell phone it goes immediately to answering service.

Yes, you grew apart over the years. He went his way and you went your way.

Perhaps you became more Torah observant.

What do you do?

I believe a true friend is a friend forever. They are there for you when you are in need and not in need.

A good friend will answer your phone calls regardless if they are busy. They will return your phone calls. Answering phone calls of people you know – I feel is common courtesy. Even more so friends.

Making Peace
If you left things off on bad terms – make peace. If you left on good terms & if the relationship is worthwhile – so try to patch things up. Speak with a third friend to be an intermediary. Visit them when they have a good occasion or a Shiva / 7 days of mourning. Send them Shanna Tova Cards and Jewish Holiday Cards.

Don’t give up. Because they are not friendly – doesn’t mean you should do the same.

Life Goes On
In any case – life goes on.

Your main concern in life should be your own family and taking care of their material, emotional and spiritual needs. Help them to Grow in Torah in Mitzvot.

Gain pleasure from their growth.

Should you become bitter yourself because they don’t answer you? Sorry – Not worth the mental anguish. Make new friends – those that care for you materially, emotionally and spiritually. People that will help you grow in Torah.

And your old friends – pray to Hash-m for their best. At least when you were younger you had a good time with them – and that’s a reason to be still thankful to them – regardless of how they act now.

Look at the good. Be thankful to Hash-m for what you have. Be thankful for your current friends, for your family and your Jewish community. If old friends answer you good. If not – you become a better person by not becoming bitter.

Don’t become bitter – based upon the actions or reactions of people.

Change Rejection – to a Positive Outcome
I needed change for the meter the other day. I asked people on the street for change for a dollar. Most people said “Sorry. I have no change.”

Just like that “rejection” of giving change is not a reason to become upset or evaluate myself negatively – perhaps they really didn’t have change – an old friend who refuses to communicate with you is not a reason to become upset or evaluate yourself negatively – perhaps they don’t realize the value of being in contact with you. Usually it is their loss.

Perhaps one day they will need you and you will respond kindly, without resentment. Without a grudge. They will realize the folly of their giving you the cold shoulder.

Love Your Fellow Jew
The Torah says to love your fellow Jew. Like it says “Ve’ahavta Le’reacha Kamocha”Love your fellow as yourself (Vayikra / Leviticus 19:18).

Live according to Torah ideals – in which your actions are guided by what Hash-m / G-d thinks of you rather than what others think of you.

G-d wants you to love His children. Your love ultimately makes you a better person.