The Victory of Hannukah – Building Yourself with Light

King Antiochus was notorious for conquering countries with a strong hand. When conquering Israel – his objective was not just physical subjugation – but mental subjugation. His war  wasn’t just a war against nations – but a war against spirituality. Spirituality is basically connecting with the Creator of the Universe – Hash-m.

He outlawed Circumcision, Rosh Hodesh / the New Month, and Shabbat. The Jews fought back and after a war lasting almost 25 years – Hash-m gave victory in their hands – they won the war. The major miracle was the Jews’ victory over the superpower of that time – Greece.

We know that in the end – when the Jews come to purify the Holy Temple / Beit HaMikdash -they find one jug of oil with the seal of the Cohen Gadol / Chief. This oil, that is supposed to last one day, lasts eight days.

G-d Loves the Sincere Efforts of the Common Man

The Rambam says that if the Mizbeach / Altar is broken – one is not required to light the Menorah. The Greeks broke the altar  So why did they want to light it? There was no Mitzvah / commandment to light the Menorah. It was just a commemoration – to remember the Mitzvah. So why did G-d make a miracle if they weren’t even doing a Mitzvah? Apparently, G-d appreciates even the small, sincere efforts that a person makes to establish a connection with him.

My friend told me a story of a woman who ordered a “Kosher” Hot Dog for her son in Manhattan on Passover. On Passover we are forbidden to eat bread. She was very adamant that the vendor not put the Hot Dog on the bun. “Don’t Touch the Bread with the Hot Dog!” I am sure that Hash-m had satisfaction from that woman’s sincere effort to avoid allowing her son to eat Hametz – leavened products on Passover.

Build What Others Want to Break

I was listening to Rabbi Shaked Bouhdana. He mentioned an interesting point. Antiochus outlawed Circumcision, Rosh Hodesh / the New Month, and Shabbat. The Jews fought hard to have the freedom to do these Mitzvot and others. It turns out that Hanukah Lasts 8 days – the same amount of time a child born waits to be circumcised. Since Hanukah lasts Eight days – it is sure that at least one Shabbat will fall during Hanukkah. There is always a New Month that falls on Hanukkah. When we fought for a Mitzvah that others wanted to outlaw – we won by having a greater level of sanctification for these three Mitzvot.

If we use our forces for the positive growth spiritually we gain in a greater way than what we originally had.

Building Your Personality

Some people are fragile. Send one word out of place – and here comes the fire. Someone asked me how to deal with difficult people. I said – we shouldn’t look at people who upset us as our enemies. Ultimately – our deeds that we sent out are boomeranging back to us.

The Boomerang Principal – Midah Keneged Midah / Measure for Measure

If we got angry at a spouse – this anger will find it’s way back. So the smart thing to do is to recognize this principal and when someone lashes out at us – realize that that might be the fruit of our previous misdeed. So if we lash back at them – it is akin to a (pardon the comparison) dog biting a stick that was thrown at him. We bite at the stick – the person who lashed at us – but we forget that we were the one who initially threw the stick.

Fight fire with water – not fire. Calm the situation. Don’t fuel the fire.

 

The Jugs of Oil that Yaakov Went Back For

Yaakov / Jacob took the right of the first born & blessings from Esav / Esau, his brother. Esav wanted to kill Yaakov. He went to make peace with Esav. The Night before his meeting with Esav – Esav’s Angel encountered Yaakov and wrestled with him till the morning. The Angel encountered him when Yaakov was going back over the river to get some small jugs he forgot.

By Morning time the Angel had to leave to sing praises to Hash-m. Yaakov – told him to bless him and also asked his name. The Angel told him he would no longer be called Yaakov – but Yisrael – for he wrestled with the Divine and won. When asked about his name he responded “Why do you ask my name?”

The Angel was the Evil Inclination – the Satan. Why did he come to attack Yaakov at this time? He had many other opportunities to attack.

Yaakov was going back to retrieve the small jugs of oil. It represented the spark in each and every Jew that cannot be tainted. Some say that the Jug of oil was the actual Jug of oil that was used for the miracle of Hanukah. The angel wanted Yaakov to give up hope on this spark of holiness. Yaakov struggled for all the sparks of holiness – even in a Jew that is very far from Judaism. He still had hope.

When the Romans conquered the Jews and wanted to ransack the Holy Temple in Jerusalem – they were afraid to enter. They sent in a Jewish Informant against the Jewish people. They told him – anything he found he could take. He went in and took the Menorah. They said that is a prize of war that they wanted to keep to show their victory. They told him to take something else. He refused – he said I angered my G-d once – I don’t want to anger Him again. They threatened him with death. He died as a Martyr not to anger Hash-m.

How is this? Several minutes before he was willing to ransack the Temple – in one moment he changed to become a Very Righteous Jew – who gave his life for the Sanctification of Hash-m’s name? The answer – the holiness of the Temple inspired him and removed all of the coverings of impurity that covered that Holy spark within him.

Every Jew has a holy spark within him or her. They just have to uncover it. A Jew should never give up on spirituality – a connection with Hash-m. They are closer than they think.

 

Keep Calm & Move On – Stopping the Self Pity

A family member mentioned to me that someone I know is now ready to get married. He told me the reason why they weren’t ready until now was – they were in a relationship that went bad and it took them 10 years to get over it.

I feel badly for them. That precious time does not return.

OK. The relationship ends – take a week to recuperate. Some days off. 10 years? A bit much. A person should know that the clock is ticking.

What can we learn? We get involved with certain attitudes. This attitude stops us from progressing. I’ll push off making cold calls. I am reticent of following Torah – what will my friends say? I am too depressed to find a new job. Come on – let’s get over it and just do it.

The evil inclination does not just make a person sin – afterward it makes a person feel sad and depressed. So not only will he make a person do a Torah prohibition – but after that it will make a person sad and depressed to prevent the person from doing positive Torah commandments.

If we don’t feel happy – make the motions to be happy and happiness will eventually come. If we are stuck – make the motions – and we’ll get out of the rut and move forward.

Take 2 for a More Productive You

People procrastinate. It isn’t always the work they shun. It may be that they have more interesting things to do. So they’ll put that “maintenance” chore on the side to do more creative work.

I am not into filling out forms. I am not into routine work. But you have to do them.

Should I take ten minutes to do them? Ten whole minutes? How about Five? Five – not bad. Two Minutes? That’s doable.

Take the two minutes to start the “push off” task. Once you start, it’ll be more easy to continue. One way to get you to start the task is to make starting the thing seem doable. Once you start – continue.

Apparently the same applies to advancing in Judaism. Learn Torah for two minutes. Learn Two Halachot / Jewish laws a day. Learn Two Mishnayot a day. Do 2 new Mitzvot a day.

I now understand why it says “One who learns Halachot / Jewish Laws daily – is promised a place in the World to Come.” The minimum of a plural is two. Get started – go far.

Black Quarter in My Pocket – Glad to See You Back

Is it painted or is it just dingy? This black quarter got me thinkin. Some mark dollar bills – apparently to see if they will see it again.

If they do – what a woo. How happy if they will be if they see that long lost dollar.

So you’re happy to see a coin. Will it do something special? Not really. Just a nice coincidence.

A kid, a friend, a relative – more precious than mere money. Should not we be happier. Even if we just saw them yesterday?

A thought to think. A reaction to have – glad to see you again.

Tons of Things to Do at Home Office and Kids are Acting Up – How to Stay Calm

You have to get back to your home office. Tons of things to take care of. You chose the home office either because of convenience or by force majeure – see covid restrictions.

One reason why we get angry is because I have to be productive – this cute little kid is preventing me from doing so. I have important work to get done – this kid is stopping me.

Just Shout – The Easy Way Out

The shout comes out. Poor kid. Poor you.

G-d gave us kids to educate them to become good, kind people. He gave us a pure kid and expects that after 120 years he remains pure, sweet and nice.

That’s one reason why we put them in a Torah School. So how does that help me not to get angry?

Are You Really More Productive by Shouting

At the moment we are in “I have to get things done mode” We think – my productivity is more important than my educating my kid to be a “Mench” / good human being. I am being productive doing work – I am not being productive catering to my child’s whims.

Productivity in Education

Stop right there. That’s where we err. By responding kindly and with care – we are teaching our child to be kind and to care. We are being tremendously productive in educating our children how to properly respond in stressful situations. How to act nicely even under pressure. What can be more productive than teaching a child to be a kind, caring, sensitive person?

Did You Win the Education Game?

You shout – you lose. You lose the opportunity to teach kindness and patience.

Treat every act as an act of building.

That is what Torah is about: building – building people, building relationships – with people, ourselves and Hash-m.

Four Ways to Stay Calm When in a Rush

I used to take the subway to school. I was late for class. And as you’d expect – when in a rush – the train stops between stations. The announcer gets on “We are experiencing a longer than usual stop light. Please be patient.” His announcement makes me more anxious to get to class. But then I think to myself “By me getting upset – will this cause the train to move faster?” Apparently not. That thought calms me down.

At time we are anxious to get somewhere – so we turn on “I’m in a rush mode” Just turn that mode off. Turn on “I’ll get there when I get there” or I’ll get there when G-d wants me to get there mode.”

People sometimes rush to the red light. I figure “What – should I speed to get to the red light faster?”

I’m in a rush – driving a cool 55 mph. Some guy – goes into my lane driving 30. It’s the solid white lines on both sides and or other cars aren’t letting me in. Should I get upset at the other driver? No. Like he said “Oh – let me annoy that driver by driving 30 mph.” No. He just drives that way. Maybe G-d organizaed it that way to test my patience muscles. If I flinch with anger – I lose. If I stay calm – I win.

 

The Spiritual Cry or Grudging – a Wise Choice?

He took my pencil. I am angry. I won’t talk to him for 10 years.

Smart?

OK. Sometimes the stakes are greater than a pencil – but is it worth it to grudge your best friend, spouse, brother or family member for it?

Think it through. Be real.

What if you found out that the person you had a grudge moved away. Would you still be upset?

The Spiritual Cry

In last week’s Parasha – Avraham – comes to Eulogize his wife Sarah and to cry for her. In the Torah the word to cry is written with a small Kaf. It means that Avraham minimized his crying – because he didn’t want people to think that he put into question G-d’s justice.

Another reason was Avraham was in control of his emotions. He cried what was necessary. My Rebbe taught me “Our Mind should control our emotions not vice versa.” Does it make sense to be angry at the person who took your money – he or she was a messenger from G-d. If that person didn’t do it someone else would have taken the money. Learn from the message – perhaps you have to be more honest with others.

Another reason brought by the Zera Shimshon is that – there are different types of cries – one is for the material loss another was the spiritual loss. If one cries the latter – then G-d collects their tears and stores them in his treasure house. Sarah was Avraham’s soul mate – the small kaf is telling us he was crying for the spiritual loss. Another reference to the spiritual cry – is prompted by the question – Why doe the verse say that Avraham came to “Eulogize and Cry.” First a person cries then they Eulogize? One answer is that his cry was a spiritual cry for the spiritual loss.

A man and a wife – if married properly are soul mates. Each one completes the other. Each one can build the other spiritually – through doing kindness, serving G-d and Torah.

This is a possible explanation of Pirkei Avot – On 3 things does the world stand On the Torah, On the Avoda (Service of Hash-m) and on Kindness. To make a world stand – these things are needed. To make a marriage last – these things are needed.

G-d wants you to have peace – as it says “Don’t Hate Your Fellow in Your Heart.”

 

Connecting with G-d, Man and Self – the Jewish Way

This week’s Parasha / Torah reading is Vayera / and He [G-d] Appeared.

G-d Visits Avraham

Hash-m / G-d appears to Avraham after the third day of his brit milah / circumcision to do bikur holim – visit the sick. Avraham – sees travelers and is so desirous to do the mitzvah of hachnasat orchim / inviting guests – he asks G-d to wait for him while he does the mitzvah.

Angelic Visitors

The 3 visitors are really angels. The angels ask – “Where is Sarah your wife?” Avraham answers “she in the tent.” (Bereshit / Genesis 18:9) The angels come and inform him that he will have a baby boy. Sarah laughs and wonders if she will birth children when her husband is so old. Avraham also laughs inside when he hears the news. G-d asks Avraham “Why did Sarah Laugh? Why did she say that she was old?”

Torah of Kindness

The Torah starts with Hesed / acts of loving kindness – Hash-m clothing Adam & Hava / eve – and ends with acts of loving kindness – Hash-m buries Moshe. Avraham is the Av / Forefather – that is exemplary in hesed / kindness.

Three Things upon which the World Stands

Pirkei Avot / Ethics of the Fathers contains teaching of qualities for a person to emulate to reach perfection. It says in pirkei avot Chapter 1 – mishna 2 “Shimon Ahatzadik says … Al shelosha devarim holam omed – al hatorah, al haavoda ve algemilut hasadim.” The worlds stands upon 3 things – on Torah, On Divine service – prayer & on acts of loving kindness.

Three Things for Spiritual Satisfaction in Your World

We usually understand this mishna on a macro level – as the reason that the entire world survives – is because of these three things. But we can also understand it on a personal level – that the reason why a person lives – meaning has meaning and fulfillment in life – is because of these three things.

Judaism – How to Connect

Judaism is the the ultimate teacher of making connections. There are three ways to connect in life – connecting to our fellow person, connecting to G-d and connecting to ourselves. The Torah is teaching in the mishna 3 ways to connect – Our world stands because of the Torah – that teaches us to connect and better ourselves, prayer allows us to connect with Hash-m and doing acts of kindness is our manner of connecting with others. Each of them giving us spiritual satisfaction.

The Source of Satisfaction

We are basically souls clothed in a body. What gives the soul satisfaction is what makes us happy. The Three things above give our soul satisfaction and make us happy. Things that are the opposite make us not happy.

Let’s take connecting with others. It is best done through doing kindness. A great thing that we learn that we gain satisfaction more from giving to others than from receiving.

To Have satisfaction – we develop our relationship with Hash-m. Thus prayer and learning Torah – helps us to develop that relationship. Someone said “When I Pray – I talk to G-d. When I learn Torah – G-d talks to me.”

Torah teaches us how to be a stable person. How to deal with situations. What attitudes are healthy in life. What is a healthy productive lifestyle. It affects our mentality to allow us to ultimately achieve more of our potential in life. It helps us to put our priorities in place. (See article on Torah teaches Marriage – Society teaches Divorce)

Why do the Angels Ask – to Help Increase Appreciation of Others

In the parasha  – the angels ask Avraham “where is Sarah?” Avraham answers “She is in the tent” Why do they ask that question? –

Rashi – the Torah Commentator – says they ask the question to endear Sarah to Avraham. Avraham will answer she is in the tent & it will help him to realize Sarah’s great modesty. He will thus appreciate her more.

It is a mitzvah to make a person love another person more. You are motivating Veahavta lereacha kamocha – you shall love your fellow like yourself. And we do not do the opposite – to speak badly of others – because it causes gratuitous hatred – sinat hinam.

Why did G-d not ask Why Avraham laughed? – to Help Avraham Connect with Himself

Hash-m asks “why did Sarah laugh?” he didn’t ask why did you Avraham laugh

One answer is – because Sarah was a bit skeptical. Avraham was not. If Sarah was a bit skeptical – it was a reflection on Avraham.

Avraham was possibly skeptical about another matter – like when he asked G-d “How will he know that his descendents will really inherit the land. Avraham should also look into correcting himself. Hashem was  teaching Avraham to be connected to himself – knowing what really is motivating him and to teach him to better himself as well.

Changing words for peace

Sarah was astounded that her old husband would have a child. Hashem told Avraham  says that Sarah said that she – not Avraham – was too old to have children. He did this to not ruin the peace between Avraham and Sarah.

Leadership – Eight Qualities that Made Moses a Great Leader

Moses or Moshe Rabbeinu / Our Teacher – was the ultimate leader. He was a king of Ethiopia. He confronted Pharaoh to let the Jews out of Egypt and initiated plagues against him. He led the Jews out of Egypt. He negotiated with G-d / Hash-m to save the Jewish People. He Fought wars against Amalek and other Enemies of the Jews. One of his most challenging tasks was to Judge and lead the people of Israel for 40 years in the desert.

I recently heard a Shiur / Lecture of Rabbi Meir Eliyahu. He said the secret of Moshe’s success is found in the words : Hazak VeEmatz / Be Strong and Resolute – (in Devarm / Deut 31:7) – when Moshe is transferring the Mantle of leadership to Yehoshua / Joshua:

Then Moses called Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel: “Be strong and resolute, for it is you who shall go with this people into the land that the HASH-M swore to their fathers to give them, and it is you who shall apportion it to them.

These are the qualities that successful leaders have:

H’et – H’ochma – Wisdom and Haritza – effectiveness. It is not just any wisdom – it is Torah wisdom. Torah gives a person wisdom to deal with people and all situations properly. Torah is the thought’s of G-d. Thus after thinking a situation out according to Torah Hashkafa and wisdom – a person makes more intelligent decisions. Effectiveness comes from getting things done – Moshe wasted no time to implement decisions.

Zayin – Zerizut – alacrity / quickness. When Moshe received the commandment to make refuge cities – he quickly established them – even though they were only to be used many ears later. He did not push off the war against the Midianites – even though he knew he would die after the war ended.

Kuf – Kedusha – holiness – When a person is holy – according to Torah – he is able to see things the average man will not.

Vav – Vatranut – yielding and overlooking slights – Moshe overlooked slights to his honor and opportunities for advancement to make peace.

Aleph – Amitzut – Strength / Resolute – Moshe was resolute to do something when he made a decsion to do it.

Mem – Metivat Ishit LaTzibur – Doing personal good for the congregation / Metinut – thought Out and deliberate – Moshe’s primary interest was the good of the congregation – not his personal popularity in the public’s eyes. His concern was to find favor in the eyes of G-d and man. He did not seek votes – seek the lowest common denominator of morality to get approval. He had and lived by the standards of Hash-m & His Torah – and sought to bring people up to those standards.

Tzadi – Tzadik – being righteous – Righteousness is a trait that helps a person keep their position. How many people have fallen because they took bribes, or worse holding a public office.

Moshe was the most humble of all men – yet he was the ultimate leader.