The Ultimate Relationship Builder – Judaism

Turning back Clocks on Relationship Killers – Phone, TV & Video

Turn Back the Clocks. It was a simpler era. You come home it is almost dark. A hearty “good evening my dear.” Dinner is waiting for you on the Table. Some fresh baked potatoes. Fresh baked bread from the oven.

Dinner finished – you have time to relax with family before bedtime.

You pull out the checker board and challenge a family member to a game. He wins. Perhaps another?

Checkers is a healthy game. It involves thinking, action and interaction.

A person was able to feel and enjoy the presence of the other family member. I get to know their reactions, thoughts and emotions. I appreciate the person. The person feels appreciated.

Technology Servitude

Fast forward to the 21st Century. I come home grab a quick bite. Then attach myself to tech world. Even if the family sits in front of the TV for a completely innocuous show, it reminds me of Big Brother holding the reigns of peoples minds.

I am your screen. I control your thoughts and emotions. I control your opinion. Thus I control your actions.

I am not for videos or TV. They take a person’s freedom away. I follow the crowd to do what’s popular and cool. I let go of my true self to mix in the melting pot of nothingness.

People want real personal relationships. Not a relationship with a screen.

The new drug of the century – technology.

Where can we find relationship builders?

Judaism & Relationship Builders.

Most Torah Laws are relationship builders.

Shabbat

No TV or technology gadgets allowed. No driving. No shopping – just focus on your family / freind relationships, your participation in community and spiritual relationship with G-d.

Spend time with family at Shabbat table. The family says divrei Torah / words of Torah that serves as wholesome discussion at the table.

The family participates in shul / Synagogue together.

The family learns Torah together or attends a Torah lecture.

Kids play board games or simple outdoor games.

Yes the Torah preceded the No Cell-Phone Restaurant meet – where cell phones are placed in the middle of the Table. The first to pick up the cell phone has to pick up the tab.

Getting Married –

Getting married is a Mitzvah in the Torah. It encourages young marriage. Another relationship builder.

Having children is another Mitzvah. Another relationship builder. and developing relationships with the children and the common parents.

Traditional marriage allows a person to have common children – impossible with same gender marriages.

Communal Prayer

A Jewish man prays with a quorum of ten men for three prayer services daily.

People interact together on a personal level.

There they nurture their communication and relationship with Hash-m / G-d. They learn Torah, also an interactive activity.

Torah Study

One Studies Torah either in a lecture or a small group or with a study partner / Hevruta or by oneself.

In each there is personal interaction with others.

In each one learns to better oneself enhancing further personal relations.

Keeping Kosher

One aspect of keeping kosher is to eating animals with negative character traits. Non-Kosher Animals usually have negative character traits or are in certain ways appalling.  A person who consumes certain animals adopts a form of its character traits.

We avoid slaughtering Kosher animals – that we do eat – in an inhumane way.

Going to a Torah Day School

In a Torah Day school children are taught to do acts of kindness, to honor parents, to be respectful to elders, to treat everyone with respect and much more – subjects not taught in public school. While other religions teach hate – we teach love.

Acts of Kindness

Doing acts of kindness are also a Mitzvah, like Helping the poor with money or food,  visiting the sick, lending money and comforting the mourners, etc.

Not hurting People

It is prohibited to speak words that cause pain to another individual. It is forbidden from the Torah to embarrass a person. A Jew controls his temper – he should not get angry.

No Evil Speech

Lashon HaRah is a group of many laws prohibiting speaking badly of fellow Jews – even if the speech is 100% true.

Not Hurting Animals

The Commandment in Torah to not hurt animals is called “Tzaar Balaie Haim” / Pain of Living Creatures. It is prohibited in the Torah for one cruel with animals engenders in himself or herself these character traits of cruelty. What he did to an animal – he might consider doing to others. In Naza Germany one of the training of cruelty in Nazis was to bring up a cat in their home and then to kill the cat with their bare hands.

Saying Kaddish – Connecting with Departed Souls

The soul of the departed goes to a spiritual world. It can no longer be elevated by doing Mitzvot. It is stuck in the place that it earned by doing mitzvot while it was alive. Two things that can elevate the soul is saying the Kaddish prayer for the soul and doing Mitzvot from the Torah for the sake of the soul – like giving charity to a Torah institution li’ilouy nishmat – for the elevation of the soul. The Torah allows one to kindness and even keep a relationship with the departed through the ways mentioned above.

Saying Blessings

Each time I eat, I thank G-d before and after. By Saying the food Blessings – Eating is elevated to enhancing one’s relationship with the creator, rather than being merely a physical act to sustain one’s body. One elevates the food to a spiritual level.

One reason for the saying of food blessings is to unlock a soul that was found in the food. Thus we also do kindness with souls of the past.

Many Blessings exist – Morning Blessings, Blessings on Aromas, Blessing on Mitzvot and After Blessings, blessings for good health. These blessings help not only establish a connection with G-d but also help a person be grateful, be appreciative and appreciate life more.

A small section of laws of Judaism – all related to improving ones relation with family, friends, community and Hash-m / G-d.

Saying Sorry – Making Peace Whether You Are Right or Wrong

I’m Sorry

Two words. But often so difficult to say. I want to be right. If I am right why should I say sorry.

I think “I apologize” might be a bit easier to say. Why? Apparently, the word “apologize” is less comprehensible by others – so it feels as if I’m not admitting my guilt as much.

Whatever you like “I’m sorry” or “I apologize” – they are words we should practice to make peace between our fellows.

G-d wants Peace

Just like parents want peace between siblings, G-d wants peace between our brothers – our fellow Jews.

Ok. Inside I have no desire to make peace with this person that insulted me or took money from me or embarrassed me.  It is his fault not mine.

Asking Others to Explain Wrongdoing

The Torah says – if someone wronged you – so go up to them and in a private conversation – say “Dan, I was really hurt by your firing me, can you justify your actions – I want to be on good terms.” Talk it out. At times you only play the movie of the negative action in your head, but perhaps he or she did what you would have done if you were in their shoes.

Or remember that everything comes from G-d / Hash-m. If someone fired you, this person was just the messenger. G-d really decided that that person was to lose their job for a positive purpose. Now in your new position and see if it was worthwhile being fired – you found a better job, didn’t you? And even if you didn’t one day you will be able to see the good in that difficulty.

Taking Load off Your Heart

I read somewhere that a person was angry with another person because he embarrassed him when he was Bar Mitzvah’ed. His hatred spread to hating all people similar to the one who embarrassed him. He lived his life with a grudge in his heart because he generalized his hatred. He lived with hatred, instead of peace. I’m sure if he would have went up to the person who embarrassed him, that person would have apologized or at least explained his actions. Better to live with peace than hatred.

Good Blood

Hatred is not good for the soul or the health. Gratuitous hatred may cause a person stress or, G-d forbid, even illness. In French when someone has hatred – we call it “Se faire de Mauvais Sang” – literally “to make bad blood.” The English term is also used. Having Hatred causes bad blood. Make peace and have good blood.

All said and good. But I don’t feel like making peace.

The Emotions that Impede Peace

OK. I don’t feel like searching for a new Job, but I have to feed my family. G-d wants me to have peace with my fellow, so I have to be bold and overcome my reticence and do it. Just get over with it.

A person should apologize to someone they had a tiff with in any cast e. (This is providing that the person is angry because of a tiff. If a person hated because you exist – like many anti-semites – you cannot make peace with them because there is no solution to removing their hatred.)

Saying Sorry in Any Case

If you had a tiff with someone and you are right it is much easier to say I’m sorry. My sorry is because I want to make peace. There is always a reason to apologize even if you were right, because you may have said some hurting words. If I was wrong, I should say sorry because I did something wrong.

What you might think is nothing major to you, may be major to someone else. Someone I heard was upset because their friend did not send them a birthday card. I sometimes forget my birthday. But others think it is important that you think of them.

Live a healthier life. Live a peaceful life. Remove Hatred from your heart.

The Eye of the Earth – a Better Attitude in Life

In Parashat / the Torah Reading of Balak (Bamidbar / Numbers 22:2 – 25:8), Balak, the King of the nation of Moav – afraid of the Jews for he saw what they did to the Amorites – commissions a Gentile Prophet Bilaam to Curse the Nation. Balak describes the Jews as having covered the Eye of the Earth (22:5).

One commentator, Rabbi Elimelech Bidderman, explains the concept of covering the eye of the world. He says that the Jews have a different perspective than the world view. The general view of the world is that everything happens by chance or as a result of cause and effect. A man loses money – he was not careful to update his store merchandise. A woman loses a job – she was too talkative at work. These might be the symptoms – but the ultimate reason why things happen is because Hash-m / G-d wants them to happen.

G-d does everything for the good. If one takes that as an attitude – his depression can disappear. Maybe the man lost his money because G-d saw he was spending too much time working and not spending time with the family or learning Torah and He wanted him to find a more lucrative enterprise in which he would work less making more money allowing him to spend more time with the family.

Perhaps the woman lost the Job, so that she could be hired by another firm that is closer to her home or that would give her more responsibilities.

A man without the attitude that G-d does everything and everything He does is for the good – might take up drinking, or become a tyrant at home, or become depressed. With the attitude that G-d does everything good – the man will get up on his feet and look for another business. He will pray to Hash-m to help him find him the right way in life and for making a living and take action.

The woman – who lost her job might start having negative feelings towards her boss or towards her former co-workers that did not “stick-up for her”. She remains bitter towards the old staff. Even when she gets a new job she remains bitter towards them. But looking at the big picture G-d helped her to lose one job and find a much better position. So what’s the reason for the grudge? It wasn’t the co-workers it was G-d – doing it for her Good. The co-workers might have tried to help her – but she only sees the negative.

In Judaism we have laws of Lashon HaRa / Derogatory speech. We should not speak badly of a fellow Jew – without direct constructive purpose. Many a time a person speaks badly about others because they failed to see the hand of G-d. They fail to see the good in the “bad” that happened to them. Looking at the long term picture one can see the good that happened – so why blame others for your suffering. It is possible that much good came out from the difficult situation that one was in and overcame.

Look at the good that came as a result of a negative looking situation, and you won’t have to blame others. We’ll live life with a positive attitude – rather than with a grudge in our hearts.

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.

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!