The Dynamics of Change – 5 Easier Ways to Change Habits

Change is a challenge. People want to do the same as yesterday and tomorrow like today. We have things we know we must change – but we are so used to it – how will we do it?

For Yom Kippur / the Day of Atonement – there is a question in the Talmud if one must actually repent / do teshuva to receive atonement from Heaven or is teshuva not required to receive atonement – meaning the day itself causes atonement. It concludes one does teshuva to receive atonement.

The four parts of Teshuva / Repentence are :

Opportunities to Clean the Slate – Teshuva / Repentance – 4 Steps of Repentance

1. CessationStopping doing the misdeed

2. Commitment – Firm resolve never to repeat the deed. One is forgiven if he or she is in the same situation & doesn’t commit the sin.

3. RegretSincere 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.

4. ConfessionVerbal Admitting to G·d / Hash·m the wrong one did & asking for forgiveness. If one wronged another, ask forgiveness

Why do children not hold grudges & adults may carry resentment? Children choose to be happy over being right. Adults choose being right over being happy. (Tzemach Tzedek) (Rambam / Maimonides – Mishne Torah – Book of Knowledge – Laws of Repentance – Ch. 2 & 4 )

A study on change found two points that can help us change:

  1. Build in Slack into your change – at times a person changes. They may fall a bit.
  2. It is easier to do something new than to change a habit.
  • Build in Slack into your change – at times a person changes. They may fall a bit.

Let’s say they are on a diet – and they eat a cookie. So they say “How can I have done that? Now I am going to eat a whole bag of cookies.”

All wisdom comes from the Torah – like it says in Pirkei Avot (5:22) – “Turn it over [the Torah] and Turn it over. For all is in it.” A verse in Mishle / Proverbs (24:16) by King Solomon states: “Seven times the righteous falls and gets up. But the irreligious stumble with one misfortune.”

The path to righteousness is not a straight line going upward. A person goes up and at time falls. Then tries again and goes higher than before and may fall again – and they keep going up. The line of change is like a stock chart of a good stock. It goes up and falls a bit. Then it goes up again and falls a bit. You wouldn’t get rid of a stock that has great earning potential – because it goes down a point or two. Don’t give up on your change if you fall a bit.

  • It is easier to do something new than to change a habit. Complement habit to something new

It is easier to do something new than to change a habit. A habit is ingrained in a person. After many years of doing the same thing – it is difficult to change. If a person wants to change they can complement it with a new action. If you drink a lot of Soda when you go to the restaurant – you can say – every time I go to the restaurant I will take my friend that annoys me about drinking soda.

Here is one that is related – that was put into my mind:

  • Make something that you want to do dependent upon what you don’t want to do.

I used to procrastinate more than I do today. The above is a concept I used to reduce procrastination and become more efficient. Let’s say you like to check your emails. You might procrastinate to write memos. Make a RULE – “Do not check emails – until I write memos.” Stick by the rule.

  • Change your “Got to” to “Get to”

At times we look at something as a chore – “I have to cook”, “I got to do the laundry“, “I got to get up.”

Change your perspective that it is a privilege. “I get to cook” – I like cooking. I want to cook to help the family be healthy – I get to do that mitzvah! I am helping my loved ones to have a good nutritional meal and be healthy. What a great merit.

  • Wake up before you snooze.

I forgot when the snooze button was created – some say 1847. There is snooze button on the alarm clock. There is snooze mode sleep. I have another 5 minutes. When you get up before the snooze – I is easier to get up than getting up after snooze. If you procrastinate – in the beginning of the day – by hitting snooze – it might make it easier to procrastinate the rest of the day.

 

The Yield Sign & Judaism

The Shabbat / Sabbath between Rosh Hashana / the New Year & Yom Kippur / the day of atonement is called Shabbat Shuva. The Shabbat of Return.

Hash-m gives us Seven days between Rosh Hashana & Kippur to fix our faults for that day of the year. What does G-d want from us? If we didn’t put on Tephillin, we start putting it on. If we didn’t go to synagogue on time – we try to come on time. Hash-m basically wants us to advance one step further. Take the next Mitzvah upon yourself.

Balance of Good & Evil for Freedom of Choice

In this world – evil & good exist. They balance each other out. G-d did this to allow a person full freedom of choice. One can do miraculous deeds through purity – and one can do magical deeds through impurity – black magic. If only good had the power to do miraculous deeds – people would abandon evil. If only people who did good would become wealthy – people would become good – but not for the right reasons. They would be good to become rich – not because Hash-m told them to do good.

The Quick Fall

The Jews they were prompted to do the sin of the golden calf – attributing divine powers to a physical object – because the Satan / Evil Force showed them that their leader Moshe Rabeinu / Moses was deceased. They were so despondent they fell quickly to follow after a foreign idol.

A person can fall two ways – the Evil Inclination introduces anti-ethical and anti-Torah ideas little by little. Thus he chips away at a person’s morality – until he or she falls.

Another way is for a person to become despondent and fall very quickly to do evil deeds.

The Quick Rise

On the other side of the coin – a person can rise very quickly. He can become very inspired or motivated to follow Torah ideals.

Or little by little – through learning Torah, Listening to Torah lectures, attending Torah classes at an Orthodox synagogue – he or she grows slowly.

The Steady Path of Self Improvement and Self Growth

Either method to rise is good. Yet the Torah prefers a person to rise slowly. This helps a person stay the course and continue in a steady path of growth.

Yielding to others (Being Mevater) – for things that go not against Torah is a good thing. We yield to others at times – to create peace. We yield our will to the will of Hash-m – that’s how we grow. Like it says in Pirkei Avot (2:4) – on Doing the Will of Hash·m:

He [Raban Gamliel] used to say, make His [G·d’s / Hash·m’s] will as your will in order that He will make your will as His will. Nullify your will before His will in order that He will nullify the will of others because of your will.

God gives us a tremendous opportunity. Let’s use it to grow.

Gratitude to the One Who Gives

This week’s parasha – Ki Tavo – talks of the first fruits / Bikurim. Farmers bring the first fruits that blossom – of the 7 species special to Eretz Yisrael / the Land of Israel – to the Beit HaMikdash / the Holy Temple in Yerushalayim / Jerusalem.

He says a text and he gives the fruits to the Cohen. The rich people who would bring fancy baskets of gold and silver – the Cohen would return the basket. Yet the Cohen would not return the baskets – made of reeds – of the poor people. Why?

  1. The poor people worked hard to make the basket – Hash-m appreciates the hard work of the common man for a Mitzvah.
  2. The poor people – may have put the best fruits on top and the lesser quality fruits on the bottom – thus we didn’t want to embarrass him by taking out the fruits.
  3. The Cohen was sending a message that I’ll take this basket – so that, with the help of G-d – you will return next year with a gold basket.

The Mitzvah of first fruits is to show that all that we have we owe our first and foremost gratitude to Hash-m. We also do the redemption of first born boys and first born animals showing our gratitude that all we have is a Gift from G-d.

A Tale of Two Tailors

The King’s Banquet

Once upon a Time two Jewish tailors were having a hard time making a living in their town. Their solution : to go from town to town searching for tailoring jobs. They were traveling for several years. They arrived at a town and saw the governor of the town was troubled. They asked what is bothering you. He replied – he needed to prepare clothing for royal family for the king’s banquet and he could not find qualified tailors.

Family in Jail

“We could do the job!” they assured him. He tested them – finding that they were qualified. After about a year the king had his banquet and was very satisfied with the clothing. The king thanked the tailors and gave them a large sum of money. The queen whispered to the king – “should we tell them about the Jewish family is in prison because they did not pay their taxes?” The king mentioned it to them. They asked how much money do they owe. He said “300 Gold Rubles.”

Redeeming Captives / Pidyon Shevuim

One tailor said to the other – let’s do the mitzvah / commandment of redeeming captives. The other tailor replied “I have to bring money back to my family.” The tailor who suggested helping the family counted his money he earned and found he had just enough to redeem the family.

The family was so thankful. The praised him and blessed him.

The Rich gets Richer – the Poor Remains Poor

The tailors returned to their town. One with much money –  the other poor. The poor person came home and told his wife of the story. The man was forced to go from door to door to ask for money to support his family. The other tailor became wealthy.

Discovering a Concealed Blessing

Once a person wanted to give him a valuable coin. He asked him what will you give me in return? The poor man said I’ll give you a blessing. The man needed a blessing because he had an important meeting with wealthy people that evening for a business deal. That evening he noticed that the deal went unusually smoothly.

He thereafter – searched for this poor man before doing a business deal to receive a blessing.

The Power of Blessing

People found out his power of blessing. They started lining up to receive a blessing. The Baal Shem Tov – a great Rabbi – asked his students to ask the man to come to him to talk. At the meeting – he inquired what special deed he did that gave him this power of blessing. He said I don’t know. Finally the Baal Shem Tov told him – the fact that he redeemed the Jewish family – Hash-m gave him the power to bless others and have the prayers readily answered.

I heard this story from Moshe – with whom I learn Torah. He told me he heard it in French from Rabbi Avi Assouline.

We think that blessings are only those that give us material benefit – really there are many blessings for which we can be thankful – good health, children, healing, wisdom, the ability to give blessings, etc.

At times we receive blessings – but we take them for granted. Or someone does something good for us and thank the other profusely – but do not take into account that it was Hash-m who ordained that we should recieve the blessing. The person who helped us get a job or gave us that business deal – was an agent of Hash-m. So really we should first thank Hash-m then thank the person who was the agent.

Malki Tzedek / Shem made that mistake. We can learn from him to give the thanks in the proper order. First thank G-d – then thank the agent.

I think that thanking G-d is appropriate at a personal event – like a Brit / Bris / Circumcision, a Bar Mitzvah or a Wedding. I thought it might be proper for a person to take upon themselves a new mitzvah – as a thanks for G-d that he allowed us to have a new child, to marry off a child, etc.

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 Benefits of an Old Used Car

I asked my mechanic today if he needs an assistant. I had so many car troubles – I know many car parts, troubles, and their solutions. He laughed.

He told me it is more worth my time to learn & teach Torah. He told me a story that once – I believe Moshe Reichman – a Multi-Billionaire – asked – the Gadol HaDor – great Rabbi of the Generation – could he retire and just sit and learn Torah. Rav Shach said – He supported so many Yeshiva Students – with his wealth – that he should remain in business and keep his Torah learning schedule.

A Greater Place in Heaven

I then told him a story – Once Moshe Reichman asked Rav Schach – “Who will have a greater place in Heaven – Himself – because he supported so many Torah learning Institutions and Yeshivot or Rav Shach who was the Torah leader of the Generation?”

Rav Shach replied – “I don’t know who will have a better portion of Olam HaBa / in Heaven – but I know I have a better portion in Olam HaZeh / this world.” Moshe Reichman was a billionaire. Rav Shach lived very simply. He meant that living & Learning Torah was greater than the life of a billionaire.

The Benefits of an Old Used Car

I said to my mechanic – It is good to have an old used car. Why? Because the troubles that you have are an atonement for sins. Instead of physical harm – the atonement goes on the car. So spending $1000 for a new Intake Manifold isn’t so bad – after all.

Rabbi Harvey Gornish, an Orthodox Rabbi, brought a story in response to a question – “How did King Solomon / Shlomo Hamelech learn the language of the animals?”

In I Kings 3:5–14 Solomon begs G-d for the wisdom of a LEV SHOMAYA or understanding heart, and a Midrash informs us that when he woke up from what he thought was a dream (3:15), he found that he could understand the chirping of the birds.

There is a remarkable follow up to this Midrash. One day a friend of Solomon, obsessed with learning the secrets of the birds, implored the king to teach him this secret language. Solomon cautioned him that it would serve him not well and lead to disaster, but the friend was relentless. Upon learning how to understand the chirping birds, the man heard two birds conversing and was shocked to hear that they were speaking about himself, warning that tomorrow his house would burn down. Shrewdly, the man raced to the market and sold his house to a idolatrous gentile. How happy he was to incur no loss when the house burst into flames on the morrow.


A week later he heard the birds warn that his cattle would die of a plague. Once again he shrewdly sold them quickly and suffered no loss. Finally, the last avian warning was that HE was about to die. Terrified, the man ran to Solomon begging for advice.

Solomon explained there was nothing he could do; the man had tried to outsmart the Al-Mighty, and deserved his fate. The merciful G-d had tried to awaken him to repentance by depriving him of a somewhat painless monetary loss; a house, some cattle, etc. But NO, HE was too smart to allow G-d to do this. So finally, there was nothing left with which to punish his sins except to take his very life.And that was That.

And so the Torah warns us in Deuteronimy 18:13 Tamim Tihihey Im Hashem Elokecho: Be WHOLEHEARTED with Hashem your G-d. Refrain from astrology, divination, fortune telling and tarot cards in order to outwit your fate. It can not be done and it is a sin to try. Instead TRUST in His love that whatever befalls you was not only necessary, but also the best outcome that is beneficial to your soul. Trying to outsmart the Al-Mighty is really for the birds!

Spending $1000 for a new Intake Manifold isn’t so bad – after all.

Is “the L-rd” the L-rd?

Joe ate the sandwich.

A Simple sentence.

The editor edits it – “The person ate the sandwich”

Who ate the Sandwich?

OK. What’s the difference?

Before the sentence is edited – we know who ate the sandwich. After it is edited – we do not know who ate the sandwich.

The Proper Translation of the Five Books of Moses

I don’t know if “editors” or “translators” changed the proper noun of “Hash-m” to the common noun of “the L-rd” on purpose – to mislead people or to refrain from mentioning the true name of G-d because it is forbidden – but that’s what they did to The Torah / the Five Books of Moses. In many translations or editions of the Five Books of Moses / Humash it says “And the L-rd spoke to Moses Saying.”

That is not an accurate translation – in the Hebrew it says “Vayomer ‘Hash-m’ el Moshe Lemor.” Hash-m Does not mean the L-rd. The Word Hash-m replaces the actual name of G-d. Since we are not allowed to use the name of G-d we use Hash-m.

Hash-m refers to a the Name of the Jewish G-d.

It should say “And Hash-m spoke to Moses Saying.”

What is the difference?

When it says “the L-rd” people think it is a generic name of G-d – so anyone can be misled to believe that it is the god of their choice.

But really it says “Hash-m” – the Name of the Jewish G-d.

Some more recent translations of the Humash / 5 Books of Moses accurately translate Hash-m’s name properly. One such edition is The Artscroll Stone Chumash.

Removing the Wool from the Eyes

In the entire Tanach / Torah – 5 Books of Moses, Neviim – Prophets, Ketuvim – Witings – Only Hash-m – the Jewish G-d – is mentioned as G-d of the Universe.

G-d Wants the Heart

Once a man was doing the Pesach / Passover Seder. He got everything ready in advance. The night of Pesach he donned his nice garments. He started well in advance and started doing the Seder nice and slow – telling the Hagaddah, singing, drinking the wine, eating the matzot and finished eating the Afikomen right before Hatzot / Midnight.

He was smug and proud about the beautiful seder he did.

The next night of Pesach he took a nap before the seder. He woke up with little time before Hatzot. He had to conduct the entire seder in a short amount of time. Quickly he read the Haggadah, drank the wine and ate Matzot – finishing just in time before Hatzot.

He was a bit upset about how he conducted the second seder. He had a dream – telling him – that his second seder was more beloved than the first. Since he did the second seder with sincerity, humility – it was preferred.

Hash-m / G-d wants the heart.

Do it right. Do it with sincerity.

 

When Life Crashes or Judaism & the Art of Computer Maintenance

My Computer crashed yesterday. It wasn’t the first time. A long while back I had Microsoft Windows. I got the “Blue Crash Screen”. I had to figure out how to get my computer back up. I tried their recommended methods. No avail. I tried another version of Windows – but I had to find that Windows key to get it back. Didn’t work. Finally I just backed up my files and installed a new  Operating System instead of Windows – Linux. Fedora to be exact. Yesterday I just reinstalled Fedora again.

OK. Initially – It took time to adjust to a new Operating System. But now I am still running Linux. Yes I have Laptops that run Windows – but I am fine with Linux.

When Life Crashes

Similarly – a longer time ago I was living the high life. Yes I had ups and downs – but I was having a good time. Till my life crashed. I experienced sufferings as a teen. Yes – teen problems but crushing nonetheless. So I tried to make small changes to my life. I was sure – deep inside – the crash was a message from G-d / Hash-m. Before I became more dedicated to Judaism – I didn’t hesitate to make a Joke at the expense of other’s discomfort. I was funny – but at times I could hurt others feelings. For that I regret. The sufferings prompted soul searching.

The Connection between computers & life

We experience ups and downs. Many a time – these can be interpreted as messages. Messages from G-d / Hash-m to improve. To become closer to him. G-d is our father – and at times He steps in to wake us up to that fact. Or wake us up to strengthening our relationship with Him.

At times it is a little crash – like losing a wallet. At times it is a bigger crash – like losing one’s savings in the Stock market. Computers at times run slow, or fail – but it is up to us to get them up & running again. Like in life- when in difficulty – we try to find out how to get up and running again.

Don’t Give Up

But G-d does not want us to give up. If there are troubles – it is a time to reflect and prompt ourselves to improve. Embarrassing a person in public is forbidden in Torah. It is like killing. So as a youth – due to my troubles – I became more sensitive to people’s feelings. I apologized to the people I might have hurt. Now I try to joke in a way to bring a person up not down.

The Nurse that Gave Up

Some give up when life becomes harder. When sufferings raise their head. That’s the last thing G-d / Hash-m – your Father – wants from you. I still feel badly for the nurse who gave up on life – when she encountered so many cases of Covid – some she helped to save – some she couldn’t.

G-d  doesn’t want us to give up. At times He wants us to change our perspective on life. To take on a Torah perspective. In life it is forbidden for a person to take one’s life. The closer a person is to the person he/or she kills the worse it is. Killing – the one person that is closest to oneself, who is oneself – is one of the worst transgressions.

Ask All Your Questions to an Orthodox Rabbi

So what should that nurse have done. She was suffering from not being able to help as many people she could have. Apparently – she could have presented herself to an Orthodox Rabbi to ask for an explanation for why G-d sent Covid. Why was she not able to save as many people as she could have. Why did she have to witness so many deaths? What was a proper course of action for the future. What is a Torah outlook to cope with her difficult situations.

Pain is not the Worst Thing

People experience pain. But pain is not the worst thing that can happen. Not achieving what one can in life is worse than pain. Pain – like money comes and goes. But one who doesn’t achieve their potential in life – they can’t repair it after death.

David HaMelekh / King David wanted sufferings to come to him – because it gave him the opportunity to turn to G-d on a more emotional level – and to him even pain was preferable to a non-relationship with Hash-m.

Although I shy away from suffering – when I did suffer as a youth – I remember  it was easier to feel closer to Hash-m. All barriers between us were removed because – what was important in my eyes before – became secondary to relieve may suffering. I knew the way was to seek spirituality – by becoming closer to Hash-m through Torah.

How to Fix Life & Computers

When a computer crashes – you can try to fix it with software utilities – or try a new operating system to get your computer back on track. When Life crashes you can change little things and stick to the same lifestyle or you can try to try a new lifestyle that will help you change your outlook and attitude on life. Even if you are a bit unfamiliar – you can reduce the downtime in the future.

I did it with my computer and my life. With my computer I moved from Windows to Linux. With my life I moved from following the flow to following Torah Judaism.

Judaism, Logic & Practicality

People who like computers – in general like logic. I like logic. Judaism was the ultimate source of life for me because it answered all the questions I had and provided a logical framework for everything I do. I also like practicality – in Judaism we translate concepts into actions. It is not enough to say as it says in Torah – “Love Your fellow as Yourself” –  the Torah provides specific laws to put it into action – Like not speaking Lashon HaRah / Evil speech about others, giving charity, doing acts of kindness, etc.

Self-Improvement & Torah.

So what do you do when life crashes? Reflect. Reflect how to self-improve. Reflect how to get closer to Hash-m through Torah – for Gentiles through the 7 Noahide Laws from Torah and for Jews – the Shulchan Aruch – Jewish Code of law. (Link poiints to Kitzur / Abridged Shulchan Aruch)

Sometimes I look back and imagine what my life would be like if I didn’t take steps to improve. I would be a different person than I am today – and I am happy I did take those challenging but highly beneficial steps.

Yearning for a Relationship with G-d – The Month of Av & It’s Significance

The Hebrew months have an influence on the world. In Adar – when Purim falls – it is a month of rejoicing for the Jews. In Av – it is a month of difficulty.

The Month of Father

“Av” in Hebrew means father. We would expect a month that is named Father to be a month of consolation and happiness. Let’s break down the month into parts. The first 9 days lead up to the destruction of the first Beit Hamikdash / Holy temple – by the Babylonians and also to the Second Beit Hamikdash over 600 years later.

The Zodiac Sign of Av

The sign of the Month of Av is the Lion / Leo. One signification of this period is we will be more successful if we rise and reinforce our spiritual efforts – in becoming closer to Hash-m – as would a lion rise to chase it’s prey. This month comes before Elul – whose sign is a pure maiden / Virgo. In the month of Elul Jews do Selichot – prayers asking for forgiveness and purification from sins. We thus get ready for the Month of Tishrei – The Month of the Scale / Libra – when all human beings are judged by G-d.

The Second Part of the Month

The second part of the month starting from the 15th of Av – callled Tu – B’av – were days of rejoicing. Half the month passed and now difficulty turns to rejoicing. The young maidens would dance before the single men – so the young men could search for a suitable wife and court suitable young woman in search of a mate for marriage. Like it says:

There never were in Israel greater days of joy than Tu B’Av and Yom Kippur. On these days the daughters of Jerusalem used to walk out in white garments which they borrowed in order not to put to shame any one who had none …

 

The daughters of Jerusalem came out and danced in the vineyards exclaiming at the same time, “Young man, lift up your eyes and see what you choose for yourself. Do not set your eyes on beauty but set your eyes on [good] family.” As it says, “Grace is deceitful, and beauty is vain; but a woman that fears Hash-m, she shall be praised.” (Mishlei / Proverbs  31:30) (Talmud: Tractate Ta’anit 26b)

“No days were as festive for Israel as the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur,” for there is no greater joy than having one’s sins forgiven – on Yom Kippur for the sin of the Golden Calf and on Tu B’Av for the sin of the spies. In the Book of Judges, Tu B’Av is referred to as a holiday (Judges 21:19).

The First Part of the Month

The first part of the Month deals with doing acts of mourning – how can we reconcile the difficulty with the the Name of the month “father”?

In Eicha / Lamentations – it talks of the destruction of Jerusalem. One of the verses says – “All who pursued her arrived at her.” (Eicha 1:3) Torah verses written in Hebrew can be understood in various ways according to the permitted ways of understanding Torah. It can also be read “all who pursued Hash-m / G-d – arrived – to Her.” (“The Divine Presence” – G-d has no gender – at times He is Referred to as male and vice versa.)

In a Jew’s Life the Goodness of G-d is always present – In good times and the reverse. When the Jewish temple was being destroyed – someone peaked into the Kodesh HaKodashim / Holy of Holies – the most holy part of the Temple. Inside was the Aron / the Ark of the Covenant.

The Cherubim on the Cover of the Ark – represented the relationship between G-d and the People of Israel. When they were on good terms – the Cherubim were facing each other. When the Jews were sinning – the Cherubim looked away from each other. At the time of the Temple’s Destruction the Cherubim were hugging one another.

The Reason of Suffering

King David – was on the level to ask for suffering – because he felt closer to G-d. For him the suffering was worth the close relationship with Hash-m. A sincere father punishes because he loves the child – not out of anger. He wants the child to improve. He wants the child to live a fulfilling, meaningful life – so he chastises and guides his son or daughter through the ways of Torah.

Intimate relationship with G-d

It is this very intimate relationship with G-d that we Yearn for in the Month of Av. It is this very intimate relationship with G-d that we Mourn for on the Ninth of Av.