Lamborghini Stuck in Traffic – What’s Stunting Your Growth?

Driving ahead to the left of me was a Black Lamborghini Aventador. I was stuck in slow traffic. So was he. He got about 30 yards of space so he sped up and then quickly stopped. The idea of a fast sports car is prestige and speed. Well at least he had one – prestige. Regarding speed – he was going about my speed in my old van.

Superheros in Judaism – Superpowers of the Jewish Righteous

People are the same way. G-d endowed people with tremendous abilities. We can even achieve – Super-Human abilities like we see many true instances in the Torah.

Superpowers mentioned in Torah

Some superhuman acts brought in the Torah include invisibility – like Pinhas, being averse to effects of fire – like Avraham Avinu (in the fiery furnace), transporting from one place to another in an instant (kefitzat haDerech) – like Yaakov Avinu (Jacob), walking through walls, seeing the future – like prophets, seeing what is happening in another place, transforming things from one thing to another (like Yosef HaTzadik), transforming oneself into another being, freezing a person, levitation / flying (like Pinhas), levitating objects. (Perhaps I’ll make a new post on it with further details – further on).

So why don’t we achieve? We’re slowed by traffic.

Thank G-d for Free Choice

G-d made the world for a person to choose between good and evil. We say a blessing  in the Daily Morning Blessings for this gift – “Barukh… HaNoten laSechvi Bina leHavchin ben yom uben layla.” / Blessed are You, Hash-m,… Who gives the heart of man the Ability to choose between Day (ie, good) and Night (ie, evil).”

A person can achieve great heights in good or in evil. And with both he or she can achieve the powers above. Witchcraft, sorcery, talking to the dead and black magic are all real according to Torah. But they are all forbidden – because it is using forces for evil.

Whatever can be done through evil can also be done through powers of good. G-d made it that way for a person to be able to have freedom of choice. If a person could only let’s say become rich by doing good – people would only be good – not for good itself – but to become rich.

What’s Stunting Your Growth?

I was at a Bar Mitzvah party last night. I mentioned – that at 13 a boys starts putting on Tefillin / Phylacteries – the black crown on the head and arm sign that a Jewish man wears. At the age of 13 (according to the Hebrew Year) – a Jewish boy becomes responsible to do mitzvot like a man. A girl becomes responsible at 12 for woman’s mitzvot. (Why 12? A girl matures earlier than a boy.)

Knowing our Goal in Life – Self-Improvement through Torah

After a Jewish boy is born he is circumcised. One message of Bris Milah is that a person is not born perfect – it is our job in life to perfect ourselves. Another message is that a person should direct their passions towards those permitted by Torah.

Attaching Ourselves to the One Who said “Let There Be Light”

Tephillin – allude to a crown and attachment to Hash-m. A crown to remind the wearer that he is nobility – that he is a child of the King / Hash-m – making him a prince. Recognizing his high stature and responsibility teaches the Bar Mitzvah – that he has importance in this world to make it better. This gives him self-esteem & confidence to face, overcome challenges and build the world.  Attachment to Hash-m is one of the ways we establish a connection to Him and emulate Him.

So – anything that creates a detour to our relationship with G-d will stunt our growth – excessive involvement in – politics, gossip, watching videos, TV, sports, etc.

The Difference between Permitted & Forbidden pleasures in Judaism

Exercise is good – overdoing it is not. Eating is good – overdoing it is not. Judaism – is not averse to pleasure. In fact it encourages permitted pleasure. Usually – the pleasures of Judaism – are pleasures that build a society, build a family, build an individual – spiritually, physically & materially. If you look at many of the pleasures forbidden by Torah they are pleasures that do not have purpose. They are pleasure without purpose or Pleasure for only for the sake of pleasure.

Change Yourself – to Change the World

Once a rabbi wanted to change the world. He saw he could not. He said he will change his country. He was not successful. He said perhaps his province. No luck. His city. Nope. His family – no success. He finally decided to change himself. Eventually – he changes the whole world.

A good place to start to better oneself – for Gentiles is to learn about the 7 Noahide laws from Torah. For Jews – it is to learn the Shulchan Aruch & Pirkei Avot.

 

The Value of Pain – The Spiritual View of a Jew on Alleviating Pain

Each Yeshiva / Torah Learning institution has a goal. In Hebrew it is called a Shita שִׁיטָה / frame of mind or mindset. Telz Yeshiva – in the outskirts of Cleveland – brought it’s shita to the United States from Europe. They emphasize the importance of proper conduct of a Ben Torah / a Torah learner.

Majesty of Man – Proper Etiquette

Walking down the street with a Telz Yeshiva Alumni – I was impressed to hear of the high standards of personal etiquette recommended of Yeshiva Bachurim / young students. “In Telz people would bring laundry to the laundry room in a briefcase rather than a laundry bag – because it is unbecoming of a young budding Torah scholar to carry a big bag of dirty clothes.” I was impressed. “A person would not drink directly from a bottle. Using a cup is more befitting.”

Bottle Woe – The Nerve Dilemma

He told me – he knew of someone – that did drink from a bottle. The Popular Pop of that time was Royal Crown Cola. The student was drinking from a bottle. Another student bumped into him unintentionally. His front teeth were broken.

He went to a dentist that mentioned he had the option to keep or remove nerves from his teeth.

Encounter with a Gadol – Great Sage

He went to speak with the Rosh HaYeshiva – Rabbi Mordechai Gifter. The Rosh HaYeshiva mentioned to him that if he had the option of keeping his teeth’s nerves – he should do so. Someone he knew in Europe had his nerves removed from his teeth. Several weeks later half of his face welled up due to an infection. He couldn’t feel the pain. The pain that he would normally have felt was not able to warn him of the spreading infection. If he caught it earlier – he would not have to have a much more serious operation now.

The Value of Pain – the Message

Pain is usually viewed as bad. No pain is good.

Pain is not necessarily bad.

Pain can be a message.  It teaches us – there is something that needs correction. The proper question – we should ask then when experience pain is “Why I am experiencing this pain?”, “What is the Cause?” – not just how can I alleviate the suffering. Alleviating the pain may deal with the symptom but not the cause of the pain.

Suffering may be from physical pain, emotional pain, psychological pain or spiritual pain.

The Purpose of Pain

The reason of the pain? To prompt one to improve. The tooth story is a good example.

Are You treating the Cause or the Symptom?

One who treats a problem to alleviate the pain – may be treating the symptom – not the cause. Let’s say the person had nerves to feel the pain. Instead of taking antibiotics to treat the infection he took pain killers. He alleviated the symptom but not the cause.

The Spiritual Connection of Pain

G-d sends us pain. We try to alleviate the pain. But really we should ask “What does Hash-m want from me?” “Am I the cause of my own pain?” “How can I improve myself to not ever get this pain?”

Spirituality & Alleviating Physical Pain

Firstly – if the pain is a sign of a physical ailment – the Torah says to seek proper medical treatment from a competent, reputable Doctor. It says you shall very well guard your soul. One is not allowed to live in a Town where there is no Doctor.

There are 248 members of the body. A Jew has 613 Mitzvot / commandments from the Torah. 365 prohibitions that we avoid 365 days a year and 248 active commandments that we do with the 248 members of our body.

Each part of the body is connected to a particular Mitzvah. If one lacks in a particular Mitzvah it has an effect on that member of the body that it corresponds to.

So the second step – is to also see what spiritually one can do to rectify the spiritual aspect of one’s life to cure the physical member of the body.

Spirituality & Alleviating Emotional Pain

Hash-m made a physical nature in the world. An Apple falls. Heat rises. Plants grow. He also created a spiritual nature that corresponds to the physical world. One general spiritual rule of nature is called Midah Keneged middah. Measure for measure. One that does good gets good. One that does the opposite gets the opposite.

If someone yelled at you – check if previously you perhaps raised your voice at someone else. Do Teshuva / Repentance according to Torah and apologize when in order.

Spirituality & Alleviating Psychological Pain

When one feels down – it might be due to your soul’s feeling down. Really the mental condition of a person depends upon their spiritual soul’s state. The person is composed of a body and soul. G-d through the Soul gives the body life. If the soul is happy the person is happy. If the soul is sad – the person is sad. Doing good deeds makes a person happy. Doing bad deeds make a person sad.

The major problem of people seeking the elusive happiness and not finding it  is because they think that pursuing bodily pleasures and comforts will make them happy. At times the pursuit of pleasures makes a person even more depressed. It is not pleasure that will make one happy – the satisfaction of the soul that will.

The question one must address is “What are the pleasures that make the soul happy? And which are those that dampen it?” I found from experience – that pursuing bodily pleasure only for pleasure – may give temporary pleasure – but in its wake is sadness. If it is sanctioned by Torah – it brings happiness in it’s wake.

The Definition of Spirituality

Spirituality brings happiness. To understand a concept we must properly define it. Spirituality is having a positive, loving relationship with Hash-m / G-d. To enjoy such a relationship – we follow G-d’s Law – the Torah as a guide to develop that relationship. The Jews follow 613 commandments. The Gentiles follow 7 Noahide laws.

The Three Dimensions of Relationships

A person who relinquishes their relationship with Hash-m/ G-d relinquishes one satisfying relationship of life. A person has a relationship with himself or herself (Ben Adam Le’atzmo). They Have a relationship with people and nature (Ben Adam Le’havero). They have a relationship with G-d (Ben Adam La’Matkom). A non-believer or an atheist or one who disconnects themselves from their Judaism – disconnects from a satisfying relationship that they could possibly have.

The Call of Your Father in Heaven

Pain may be a call for a person to search out a satisfying relationship with G-d – through Torah. G-d is our father. He wants a relationship with His children. Hash-m communicates with us daily. He sends us messages, gifts, kindness, blessings, abundance. Do we communicate with Him? One just has to observe their daily life and see all the blessings.

Measure for Measure from G-d

When people ignore all Hash-m’s kindness – G-d may act with them the way they act with Him – ignoring them – leaving them in the hands of nature. A woman once served her family straw for dinner. The were in wonder – what happened with her. She told them – “You never appreciated – when I served you the best of meals. So I thought for you everything is the same whether it is delicious or not. So I served  you straw – it’s much easier to prepare & you don’t appreciate the good food when I make it for you anyway. A parable to teach us to be appreciative of our blessings.

Sweet Melancholy vs. Happiness

Memories of my youth – I remember my old friends and old experiences. I remember with sweet melancholy. Some memories I remember with Joy. I try to distinguish between that feeling of melancholy and the feeling of Joy. My happiness was many a time sweet melancholy. How do I know? Because Joy is an elation – melancholy is a form of sadness.

From experience I have found that doing good, providing kindness, helping others, learning Torah are sources of happiness. Also from Experience , I found pursuing pleasures not sanctioned by Torah is a source of sadness.

The closeness to Hash-m / G-d is a good barometer that is correlated with a person’s happiness. Doing good brings you closer to Hash-m – you become closer to the source of life & happiness. Thus one is happy when they are close to Hash-m. Or more accurately – the closer one is to Hash-m – the greater is their potential and actual happiness. The farther one is from Hash-m – has the opposite effect.

Pain Prompts People to Pursue Truth

In my youth I was like any youth – I sought attention, I did my share of trouble. I pursued fun, ate non-kosher. I played sports. My world was a world of the average boy. But certain difficulties – like skin problems – prompted me to question life. My question “Why Me?” I was a decent person. Ok, I did my share of trouble – but I wasn’t so much worse than others – “or was I?”

How could I get back to being the Handsome young man – people told me I was? What could I do? I thought I could go to a skin doctor – but I thought that the pain was a message from G-d to tell me to improve. It is very hard to break a habit. It is hard to change your lifestyle. It is hard to change your attitude – but a little pain to wake you up will motivate you to pursue avenues that you otherwise you would not have considered.

My pain motivated me to improve my relationship with myself (Ben Adam Le’atzmo) by improving my outlook on life to correspond more to the Torah Hashkafa / outlook. I learned the importance of proper conduct of a Ben Torah. I improved my relationship with people (Ben Adam Le’havero) – by being more considerate of others feelings. I strengthened my relationship with G-d (Ben Adam La’Matkom) by praying to Hash-m, talking to Him, observing Mitzvot. Through Study of Torah Study, Reading Torah Stories, Learning Pirkei Avot / Ethics of the Fathers and making more of an effort to observe Mitzvot / Torah commandments – I made my self-improvement effort to become a better person.

Use Pain to Gain

Some take pain and fall into depression. Some take pain and use it as a spring board to pursue truth and follow it regardless of the changes to one’s lifestyle it entails.

Looking back and looking at the positive points I gained from following the path of pursuing truth & Torah – I am grateful to Hash-m for the hard – but beneficial message he sent me. Now I try to conduct myself in a way to not need those messages anymore.

Politics Ruining Your Life? Use Time More Productively

My friend is a traveling salesperson. He sells yarn to retail stores. He told me that one Knitting Club had a sign posted: “No Political Discussions Here.” I heard many offices and schools apply the same creed.

We applied the same message in our synagogue.

Once people started discussing politics at a friendly breakfast in the dining hall. One was a Republican – the other a Democrat. Each was touting their candidate. One became offended and left the synagogue and never returned.

It was too bad. He was a nice man. He had much to gain from Judaism.

Now – no more politics in our shul. Yes we limit “Freedom of Speech” in order to have peace in the synagogue. Want to discuss politics? Go outside – go to a restaurant – but not in our Synagogue. A synagogue is a place for peace – not quarrel. A place to grow – not a place to stagnate with ideas that bring people no where. You will rarely convince the other party that you are right. What will you be left with – bad feelings.

Rabbi Brandt from France told a joke:

The Evil inclination / Yetzer haRa came to Noach / Noah before the flood and wanted to enter the ark. “I’ m sorry you can’t enter the ark. You have to enter as a couple. Where  is your mate?” he told him. The Evil Inclination searched around and decided to marry Quarrel Mongering. Noah let them in. Eventually – they had a baby. They called it Politics.

Vote – very good. Write to your congressman. But political discussions are rarely lucrative. I met a person who refused to marry a person with different political views. I asked what if the person you meet is kind, sensitive and has the right Torah values but would vote for the other candidate – would you refuse matrimony? He explained he wouldn’t think it would be a good match.

“Lev Melech BiYad Hash-m” (Mishlei / Proverbs 21:1) King Solomon – the wisest of all men – said “Like Channeled waters, the heart a king is in the hands of Hash-m / G-d – He directs it to whatever he wishes.” G-d directs the heart of the rulers to achieve His own purpose. (See Commentaries on the verse.)

So in actuality – our comments will make no difference in how the politician will act. Our actions of kindness towards others may influence the politician. Because when G-d sees us doing His will – He will influence the politician decide to do things that benefit people – like we helped people benefit with our kindness. Prayer to Hashem also makes a difference.

Many a time a parent is very adamant upon their views. What do they teach children – to hate people with views different from theirs. To argue. To adopt the views and “morality” of society.

They spend their time trashing others – so the children learn its alright to insult others – like their friends and family.

Being too much into politics also detracts from one’s Torah learning. If one is constantly involved in political discussion – the opportunity cost is losing time to learn Torah. The Torah what it means to be Jewish. It teaches:

Learning to respect others. Learning to do acts of Kindness. Learning to respect parents and grandparents. Learning to be a peaceful person. Learning to establish a positive relation with friends and family. Learning to establish a relationship with our Creator.  Learning the True morality of Hash-m. Learning to be respectful with all people – regardless of their race or face or occupation.

Political discussions is sometimes anti-ethical to the Torah. The Torah promotes gratuitous love between our fellow Jews. Political discussion may cause gratuitous hatred.

Political discussions may turn off people – like potential friends, old friends or potential marriage mates. It may get a person so involved that people lose sight of the priorities in life – getting married with a Torah-minded mate, doing kindness with others that may not share your political views, establishing a Torah family, etc.

My recommendation to any politically opinionated person : Spend at least as much time studying Torah as you do expressing your political views. Many sites exist. You will live a more serene life – a life full of peace, love and understanding. See our links section for a list of sites. Gentiles can take time to learn about the Torah’s 7 Noahide laws for all humanity.

The Torah tells us in the time of Mashiach people will be polarized. Some on one side of the fence. Others on the other side of the fence. I hope to be among those on the Side of the Torah and Hash-m. Amen.

Increase Your Joy in the Month of Adar – A Segula to Gain Salvation from Difficulties

In the Talmud – Taanit 29a we learn

§ The mishna teaches that from when the month of Av begins, one decreases acts of rejoicing. Rav Yehuda, son of Rav Shmuel bar Sheilat, said in the name of Rav: Just as when Av begins one decreases rejoicing, so too when the month of Adar begins, one increases rejoicing.

A Segula / “Propituous Amulet” To get salvation from all difficulties is in the month of Adar – this month –

Write the following on a paper:

משנכנס אדר מרבין בשמחה
מזל אדר דגים
🐟


Draw a fish on the bottom of sign and post the sign in your home (some say opposite the door on the western wall).

It means “when Adar enters we increase the Joy. The zodiac sign of Adar is Fish. 🐟”

All the good blessings from Ohr Binyamin &
http://www.jerusalemlife.com
Live Better Forever
Amen.

Sources:

סגולה from הרב אברהם בן שבתי in his sefer ילקוט
אברהם 686
https://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=7657&st=&pgnum=170
https://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=7657&st=&pgnum=171

Don’t Save Your Joy for Tomorrow. Enjoy Your Day Today.

G-d wants you to be happy. Look at the great world He created. Someone asked a question – why did G-d create sharks? What do they do? One answer is – if the world did not have sharks – the world would feel like it is missing something.

The world is perfect the way it is today. Yes – we are WorldPerfect. So what’s with all the crime? Wars? Sadness? It is an involved answer – but it is there to balance the world and to motivate us to improve the world. If we act properly – doing our Mitzvot in life – we make this world better and reduce the need for all the negative factors to motivate us to do good.

But that’s not the point. The point is that many people say – “I’ll be happy when…” Fill in the blanks. Don’t try to be happy just for tomorrow. Be happy today.

How?

Count your blessings. You’re alive. You have friends. You can breath. You have family. You have money. You have food. You have clothes. You have a home. You have abilities to allow you to find a job. You are unique. The list goes on.

You choose to be happy. You just have to want it. Choose life today.

Don’t Let Your Tears Go to Waste on Others

Babies cry. Adults cry. A baby cries when hungry, thirsty, uncomfortable or in pain. An adult cries more often because of emotional pain.

Although the gates of prayer were locked, the gates of tears remain open (see Talmud :Berachot 32b) . Thus we have another way to get our prayers answered. Tears.

What happens? A person needs a shoulder to cry upon. They relieve their hearts of their burdens by speaking with another individual or to Hash-m. They relieve their burden, but they forget to ask for salvation.

Yes – tell your troubles to Hash-m. But don’t stop there. Cry out & pray to Hash-m for what you need. “Hash-m give me strength, patience & wisdom to deal with this class of rowdy students.” “Hash-m, please help me to find the best job to support my family in a dignified manner that will also let me dedicate time to learning Torah.”

Use your tears to improve your lot. Don’t use them to destroy someone else’s lot. You might be angry at another that brought you to tears. You have a choice to pray for their detriment or for your uplift. Pray for your uplift. G-d will listen.

You gain not by someone’s downfall. You do gain from your uplift. Use your emotional pain to thrust your tefilot / prayers to heaven.

Be specific in your prayers. Don’t just say Hashem – find me a mate. Pray, please Hash-m find me a mate that has good middot / character traits, from a good family, that learns Torah & will be able to support a family by the end of the month. You fill in your requirements.

Even tears of gratitude, or just verbal gratitude to Hash-m, should be accompanied by prayer. Once you say thank you – you insinuate that you are satisfied with the outcome. Ask for more benedictions, even when you say thank you.

G-d will turn your tears of pain into tears of joy. Amen.

What Kind of the 5 Seekers Are You? Truth, Goodness, Pleasure, Relationship or Spirituality. And What Gets You There?

Man is called a Go-er / Mehalekh in Hebrew.

Apparently a person wants to achieve something in this world. He does not want to stay idle. A person works, plays sports, creates & learn.

This is the world for doing. In the next world it is a world to receive reward for our deeds we accomplished in this world.

Thus we seek. We seek perfection.

Rabbi Yigal Haimoff once explained the reason why seek perfection is that we were created by G-d. We now wish to emulate our creator.

Why Be a Winner?

It’s seen frequently in everyday life. We want to root for the winning team. We want to win – not lose. Why? We want that perfect product. We are upset when we get a small dent or scratch on our new car. Why? We recognize the value of perfection. We want to emulate the perfection of Hash-m.

I came up with five things people seek.

Truth, Goodness, Pleasure, Relationship or Spirituality.

There could be other things.

Most people seek a combination of all. But each focuses more on one aspect than another.

Is there a path that will bring a person to all of these aspects of life? Like the Theory of Everything in Science.

Apparently.

10 Commandments or 7?

I talk to gentiles / non-Jews sometimes. I teach them that there are seven commandments for all people in the world – The 7 Noahide commandments of the Torah given to Noah and Moses at Mount Sinai by G-d.

One typical response I get is “I Thought there are 10 commandments?”

So I explain – Yes. There are 10 commandments for the Jews and 7 Commandments for the Gentiles.

They Say what are the commandments that are missing. So I explain A Gentile does not observe the Sabbath. and other differences.

At this point I must determine whether this person is genuinely interested in learning more, or if it is a curiosity question or if the question is to challenge me back to say  that their religion says otherwise and they actually observe the Sabbath.

If I feel that they are a person that follows religion because of religion I back off and say well read more about it and I tell them about them some websites that teach the Torah’s Noahide Laws. Why do I back off? Because some people have already made up their mind on their way of life. They will not change even if you show them the truth. These are people of religion that are not truth-seekers.

These people – with no intention to deride them – are similar to some people who were told that Mount Helens was about to erupt and that they had to evacuate their homes. They did not evacuate because they said “that is where they lived all there lives and they did not want to abandon their homes.” Many died because of this attitude.

There are other people that follow religion but also follow truth. If I prove to them that the truth is is that a non-Jew should follow the 7 commandments rather than the 10 – they give it a chance.

Why Gentiles Do Not Observe the Sabbath

What is the proof that only Jews follow the 10 commandments? Pretty Easy. If I say to a class – everyone wearing a blue shirt can go out to recess. If a person who is wearing a yellow shirt goes to recess – they will not be following my instructions.

In the 10 Commandments it says – “I am the G-d who took you out of Egypt…” Who did G-d take out of Egypt? The Jews. So the commandments apply to everyone who G-d took out of Egypt and not others.

So of utmost importance for any person is to follow truth. Truth will bring them to truth. Feelings will not bring them to truth. Some people say – I follow religion or any other path because it feels good. But that can be self-destructive – as we see alcoholics who follow a lifestyle of inebriation – which is not the path that G-d wants from us. So feeling cannot be the determinant of the truth of G-d or the True path of G-d.

To find the path of Truth, Goodness, Pleasure, Relationship or Spirituality.

Logically we can figure out that G-d wants all of the above for all people. How? G-d is one of the partners in Every human being.

Proof that G-d Wants Your Pleasure, Happiness & Good

There are 3 partners in every person on earth – the Father, the Mother and G-d. If parents want children to live a meaningful, purposeful, happy life thus G-d also wants his children to live such a life.

So now the question is how does G-d want us to find all of those aspects of life?

Apparently G-d is not going to give a person a gift of life without giving them the instruction booklet. You would not expect to a car or any other machinery or appliance you buy to not come with instruction or a users manual.

What is the User Manual of G-d

So one of the biggest questions that person must answer correctly in life is what is the Instruction Manual of G-d for humans?

If you answer correctly, you win the Jackpot. All the good aspects of life mentioned above follow. Sure one will still live challenges – but at least it will be challenges with a purpose – not challenges without purpose or challenges that distance a person from G-d.

Spirituality – the Definition

Spirituality is basically- establishing a close relationship with G-d. Thus what better way to establish a relationship with G-d than following His commandments.

The Pursuit of Truth to Arrive at the True Law of G-d

Abraham – our Forefather followed the path of truth to establish a relationship with G-d. He traced a path for us. He showed us that accepting the status quo or following fads or societal norms will not necessarily bring you closer to Hash-m / G-d.

G-d is Good & wants you to emulate Him

We can see the tremendous kindness of G-d daily. He feeds the entire world. Not Just humans, but all the living creatures, plants andimals, insects, fish birds. That is a tremendous act of kindness. Most people in the world live a good life – a life to be thankful for. So we see that G-d is good and he wants us to act with Goodness -thus His Instruction Guide must teach us about kindness.

Improving Relationships

Relationships – the Kindness that one does is mainly through interaction and relationships with other human beings. Thus G-d’s instructions must also include how to have more positive relationships.

Determining the true guide of G-d is pretty easy. Only once in all man’s history did G-d appear to millions of people. This is when G-d appeared at Mount Sinai and Gave His Torah. Everyone heard G-d speaking. No other document or religion claims this national revelation. Some try to piggyback on the Torah and say yes G-d revealed Himself to the Jews but “changed his mind.”

Not really logical that G-d, who has knowledge of all – the most intelligent being in the world – the seer of past, present and future will give laws and then change His mind.

Thus only the Torah fits the bill.

Thus all the 5 aspects of life can be bettered through Torah observance. Ask your local Orthodox Rabbi.

Depression – A Springboard to Happiness? Curing the Suffering of the Soul.

Depression.

A Dark Corridor in the Path of life. Can you bring the light back?

Yes – if you want to.

Everything can be viewed as good and be used for the good. Even Depression.

If it serves as a springboard for bettering oneself – it can be used for the good.

People feel depressed because of chemical imbalances or other reasons that they cannot pinpoint or perhaps they can pinpoint.

The first point to overcome depression is to find the cause. At times one would need a professional psychologist. I tend to shy away from that – because I feel many a time a person can get back on their feet themselves.

But if a person feels they may harm themselves or others – they should seek help from a relative or friend or a professional or a competent Orthodox rabbi.

The advantage in a competent Orthodox rabbi is that he has the viewpoint of the Torah that gives him a larger view of the problem and the solution.

Finding the Cause

The four steps of solving a problem are:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. What are the causes of the problem?
  3. What are solutions?
  4. what are the best possible solutions?

Sorting the causes, symptoms

One might think a symptom is actually a cause or a cause is a symptom.

For instance perhaps a person feels that the fact that they are not married leads them to depression. Perhaps it is the depression that is causing them not to be married. They can’t show a cheery disposition to potential mates – so the potential suitors or mates may become turned off. It might be a catch-22 situation.

Perhaps they feel that their dead end job is causing them to be depressed. Perhaps it is not their job – but that they are not performing to acceptable levels of efficiency or effectiveness.

Perhaps their cause is really a reason that is linked to something more deep.

The Evil & Good Inclination

Really – the bottom line is that one chooses to be depressed or not. There is a concept in Judaism called the evil inclination & the good inclination. The evil inclination causes a person negative thoughts. The good inclination causes a person positive thoughts.

You Choose Happiness

The evil inclination wants a person to be depressed. Why? It wants the destruction of man in this world and the next. So he places negative thoughts in your mind that you can choose to listen to or to disregard or contradict.

It might tell you in your mind “You are a nobody!’

so you can fall into the trap and think “I am a nobody”

or you can counter and say “I am a great person!”

It might cast into your mind “You can’t!’

so you can mistakenly think “I can’t!”

or you can counter and say “Yes I Can!”

It might cast into your mind “Your doing such a bad job!’

so you can mistakenly think “I’m doing badly!”

or you can counter and say “I’m doing great!”

One Simple mind technique – counter the negative thoughts with the positive.

The Real You – Is the cause a Material cause or a Spiritual cause

One of the first question a person should ask is “who am I?” Am I just a body or do I also have a soul?

Judaism knows a person has a soul. Logic also concurs with this point of view – for what animates a person? It must be a soul – otherwise there is no reason for a person to be inanimate as a chair – unless there is an “engine” animating him or her.

So really a person is a soul. There are various parts of the soul. The Nefesh, Ru-ah’, Neshama, Chaya, Yehida.

The Nefesh animates a person or animals. It is the lowest part of the soul. The Ruach – apparently allows a person to speak. The Neshama has a higher spiritual calling – to cling to G-d.

Why should you know this?

Because since you are a soul – if a person is depressed – it emanates from one of these souls.

Thus at times a sadness or depression can be caused by a suffering of the soul. Thus Repentance can help the depressed soul. By a person starting over & wiping the slate clean – it can help them remove their depression. Sometimes transgressions sully the soul and make it more difficult to feel a connection to G-d. The soul’s greatest desire is to make be connected with Hash-m. How does one Wipe the slate clean? Start by learning Torah that applies to you as Jew or the Torah’s Noahide laws – if you are a Gentile.

Obviously the material causes should also be dealt with. For example, If one sees they are not finding the right mate for getting married – perhaps one has to spend more time on the phone trying to find a suitable mate from matchmakers.

The soul’s connection to Spirituality.

A person feels a lacking. They want spirituality. They may either know this – that they need spirituality or they may think “I feel sad but I can’t pinpoint the reason”. Or they pinpoint the reason but they attribute it to a material cause – when it is really a spiritual cause that is causing their suffering.

Dealing with that spiritual suffering may also not only remove the suffering but also solve the problem. We’ll give an example.

A person is sad that they are not married. It is understandable from a material standpoint – in the fact that a person wants a productive, sharing & loving relationship. From a spiritual standpoint – it is understandable for a person to be depressed – because the soul wants to fulfill Mitzvot to help them be closer to G-d. One mitzvah of the Torah – for Jews and Non-Jews is to be fruitful & multiply. To have children that will populate the world.

So we can learn from this a person in a dead end relationship where the man or woman does not want to commit to marriage – or perhaps one does not want to have children – might cause depression because they are not fulfilling the commandment of being fruitful & multiplying – which causes the soul to be sad.

The solution – strengthen one’s commitment to observing the Torah’s commandments for Jews or Gentiles. This will in essence 1. make the soul happier. 2. make a person more deserving to find a worthy soul mate and thus help you attract higher quality prospective mates. If you do the commandments – G-d will match you with someone on your level. My advice to Jewish singles thus is to reinforce themselves in Torah Study & Mitzvot and make an effort to find a worthy mate. Apparently this also Gentiles – if they reinforce themselves in observing the Seven Noahide Laws from the Torah – G-d will help them find a more worthy mate.

Or perhaps a person is sad because of their dead end job. Jews & Gentiles have a commandment to build the world. If a person is not producing and they are sad about it, it might mean they (and their soul) are sad because they are not fulfilling the commandment to build the world. The person might think they are sad because they are in a dead end-job. But really they are sad is because they are not fulfilling the commandment of building the world.

Time will Heal

A person who was a manic depressive went to King Solomon. He asked for a ring that would make him happy when sad and calm when happy. Solomon made a ring that said “Also this will pass.”

Time heals wounds. It also takes time to return to happiness. If one works on oneself regularly and follows good advice it can take shorter. But usually depression does not change over night. It takes time – so be patient with yourself and others.

The Error of Searching For Spirituality in Exotic Places

A big error that people make is to search for spirituality in places that make them feel spiritual. Feeling spiritual does not mean a person is actually spiritual. It means that they feel spiritual. Whatever that means.

The Real Spirituality

Real spirituality is feeling close to the One and Only Creator of the Universe – G-d. The Jews call Him Hash-m. That is the definition of spirituality – being close to G-d.

to really be spiritual one must determine two things:

1. One must be able to find the real G-d

2. One must be able to find the real path to G-d.

This is rather easy to determine through logic.

(See our article: What G-d wants From You)

Here is a brief way to find out both – The real G-d is the only G-d that appeared to millions of people at Mount Sinai. All other human conceptions of “god” were never followed by a national revelation. Thus the G-d of the Jews is the real G-d.

The path to find G-d is to follow the Rules that G-d gave when he appeared to millions of people at Mount Sinai. The Torah. The Torah has laws for Jews and Gentiles (Non-Jews). Gentiles follow their laws – the Seven Noahide laws – to gain a place in heaven. They do not have to convert to Judaism to gain a place in heaven. They just have to follows the Noahide laws because the Torah says so. If a Gentile so wishes – they can decide to convert to becoming Jewish.

So all following of the other cults and paths is like shooting an arrow in the wind. Why take a circuitous route – when the path is simple and clear?

The reason I say this, is not because I was born as a religious Jew. I investigated, had good experiences and bad, did Mitzvot and transgressed, did good and bad, did right and wrong – was correct and made errors. With Hash-m’s help – my beacon – Logic, reasoning and common sense helped me to come to these conclusions.

And G-d Said “let there be Light”

In Parashat (Torah Reading) of Noach (Noah) we read G-d commanding Noah to make an Ark to save himself from the flood. He says make a skylight for the ark. (In Hebrew – Tzhohar Ta’aseh LaTeva). Tzohar means illumination. Teva in Hebrew means Ark. Teva also means words.

צהר תעשה לתבה ואל־אמה תכלנה מלמעלה ופתח התבה בצדה תשים תחתים שנים ושלשים תעשה

Make an opening for daylight in the ark, and terminate it within a cubit of the top. Put the entrance to the ark in its side; make it with bottom, second, and third decks. (Genesis / Bereshit 6:16)

Rav Nachman of Breslev in Likutei Mo’hran (112:1) Says the main point in making light to your words – means to search for truth. Because the seal of G-d is truth. Truth is like light. If a person is stuck in a dark room – and he finds not the door – he needs light. Light will illuminate the dark room to allow himself a way out of the darkness. If one follows truth – they can also find a way out of their own personal darkness.

In Tehillim / Proverbs (6:23) it says

A Mitzvah is a Candle and The Torah is Light. Some read Tehillim / Psalms to get out of darkness. Some learn Torah. Torah is one light that can help you out of the darkness.

 

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.