Learning Lessons from Lego

It was a camp raffle. The prize – a new Lego set – Truck and command center. The little boy davened / prayed to Hash-m. He won.

He asked his father to build it with him.

His father – reluctantly followed him to the Lego set sprawled out on the sheet.

When he started he got into building. The father started telling his son “pass me this piece.” until finally he finished the truck.

Nice True story.

What do you learn?

Firstly – it is important to connect with children. It is not just giving them the toy – but helping them to build it. You are not just building Lego. You are building a relationship. Connect with things that he or she are interested in.

Also – prayer of a pure child or a sincere prayer to Hash-m / G-d works. The child prayed & won the set. We can pray too – even for little things – a parking space, that you can find one more bottle of your favorite drink, that you pass that test…

Sometimes you don’t want to do something. You take the first step and you get into it. Many don’t want to step into an Orthodox synagogue. Take a step in. Ask the rabbi to learn something with you.

Things you can learn from Lego:

Build one vehicle at a time. – choose a task and concentrate on that task. Better to work on it than to multi task.

Dump the Lego pieces on a sheet – put all the pieces you need in one place so that you can easily complete the task and not lose one – or lose your time searching for it in the middle of a task.

Separate Lego into piles of similar colors. Then separate the large pieces and small pieces. This will help you find the pieces you search for more quickly. – Separate your tasks into similar tasks. separate large tasks ad small tasks. Do the easy tasks first. Or break the big tasks into digestible smaller tasks. When you see the small tasks – the big task doesn’t see the task as so daunting.

It says in the Torah – I forgot the source – that when people will go to the next world – the achievers and non-achievers will cry. The achievers will see all that they accomplished as a big mountain and cry and say – wow I can’t believe I accomplished all that.

The non-achievers will see what they could have accomplished as a small mound and cry and say – wow i didn’t know it was so easy to accomplish that which I thought was so hard.

You can do it. Just break it down and take the first step.

Convincing the Atheist of G-d – by

Belief in G-d is logical.

You have two choices to explain the existence of the world:

1) The World was created by a Highly Intelligent Creator that keeps it going daily.

2) The World was formed and continues to function through random atoms and molecules combining in perfect formations every single second.

It seems that Solution One is much more logical. The World shows Intelligent Design.

Solution two is impossible.

Agreeing with solution two is slightly akin to one saying he put plastic and metal in a blender – and an iphone came out – operating system included – with the latest apps and updates.

But people who already convinced themselves of non-belief in G-d for any reason – like, they would prefer not to know that G-d exists because it would put a damper on their pursuit of pleasures – unless, they are very honest & seek truth – would be hard to convince. They already made up in their mind they don’t want to believe.

What’s the problem with atheists? They are doing bad to themselves – because they could reach a higher level of reaching their potential if they did believe.

Exploring Truth

Torah Judaism is not afraid of questions. Truth is not afraid of questions. On the contrary Torah welcomes and encourages questions. That is the way you learn. In general a person learns Torah in a Chevruta – one-to-one. This allows learners to ask questions and sound out possibilities to get to truth.

Experiencing G-d

I was talking to someone and they told me that a rabbi found a different way to convince the non-believers of belief in G-d. He shows them nature. He explains that nature is a manifestation of G-d’s ways. By experiencing nature – you experience the greatness of G-d in a tangible way.

Bring them on a hiking or boating trip. Bring yourself on a nature trip and appreciate the wonders of G-d.

The Dog Walkers Dilemma

At our synagogue we sometimes lack one or two people for a minyan. A minyan is a quorum (group) of 10 Jewish men that can say certain prayers together.

I take to the streets. One of the common sites are the dog walkers. I ask them politely – “Do you happen to be Jewish?” Some say yes, some say no, some don’t answer.

Some try to avoid me.

I don’t know why – Covid is basically over 🙂

But let’s examine what is going through their mind. Let’s zoom in to their brain.

Guy in Street’s Brain: “What does that guy want from me? Perhaps he is going to ask me for a favor? OK. I can do that as long as it is not to heavy.”

Me: “Hi sir do you happen to be Jewish?”

Guy in Street’s Brain: “OK. I’ll answer truthfully.” Speaks: “Yes – how can I help you?”

Me: “We’re missing one person to complete a Minyan – can you help us? Someone has to say Kaddish.” (The Mourner’s Prayer for a lost relative.)

Now comes the Dilemma that goes through his mind in a split second:
“Should I continue walking my dog? My dog needs its attention and daily walk. I got this dog to feel that I am a caring person. And taking Care of an animal is caring.”

“Or Should my caring of the dog just be training for becoming a better person towards humans. I can care for the Dog – but I also have to care for people. G-d did put me in this world for a reason. Is walking the dog what I hope to accomplish in life – or becoming a more caring individual – now through helping an Orthodox synagogue help a person to say Kaddish for a deceased love one?”

It’s not only Dog walkers. We all have to make these decisions daily.

Walk away or help a fellow Jew – you decide.

Judaism Will Free You

I was speaking with my uncle from Madrid, Spain. We were talking about the parasha / weekly Torah reading of Hukat. It talks of the Para Aduma / Red Heifer that purifies the impure.

It talks of Healing – through looking at a snake. The Jews were being bitten by snakes. To be cured – they looked at a large copper snake. The object of their ailment was part of their cure. One major principle in medicine.

It talks of the death of Ahron, haCohen / the High priest. Men and women cried when Ahron died. He used to make peace between people and couples. He would go to one upset party and say your husband feels terrible that he hurt your feelings. He went to the husband – and said the same thing about the wife. When they saw each other they would make peace. Ahron knew that making peace was not based upon logically explaining the other’s position. A quarrel is an emotional discord – not a logical one. So he healed feelings with feelings – by sometimes stretching the truth to make peace.

I told my uncle – how can we apply it to ourselves. We let things pass. Let things go or not bother us. It’s not ignoring a problem – but giving people the benefit of the doubt. Not taking things personally. Looking at the other’s point of view. Not being hyper sensitive. Having a healthy level of self esteem.

If a person calls you a donkey – it does not mean that you are one. The Torah goes on to say “If someone calls you a donkey – put a saddle on your back.” Meaning don’t take it personally.

Somehow he told me a story about in a forum of around 600 people in a university in Spain they had a debate. Someone chided him and said why do the Jews deserve to be called the Chosen people. He replied – we Chose to represent the Ethics of G-d to the world. For that we were persecuted by others – because people don’t like the goodie goodie – he reminds them of their ethical failings. We took the hits for other people’s lack of ethics. If a person wants to be a part of the chosen people – he can choose to do so. He or she can convert – but with taking this status comes responsibility. People applauded his answer and candor.

He mentioned to me something that I overlooked in Judaism. We regularly mention the exiting from Egypt in Judaism – that G-d with a strong arm took a once slave nation from a mega-power nation.

He mentioned the birth of the Jewish people starts with freedom. When we were liberated from Egypt. A person’s quest to become closer to Hash-m / the definition of spirituality – starts with freedom. Wanting freedom from one’s problems. Freedom from the subjugation of society. Freedom from the subjugation of the media that to sell you a product employ spin doctors and false news.

Though we became subjugated to Hash-m / we became a people with free minds, free choice and free of personal addictions and vices.

Torah is what will free you.

A Secret to Save a Marriage on the Rocks

Many years ago, I spoke with a man who was in the process of divorce. He had some kind of argument and he mentioned the word “Divorce.” The woman didn’t take kindly to it. The woman changed her attitude from one of tolerance to one of vengeance. One word triggered her.

Is Divorce always the man’s fault? I think that a man can usually save a marriage. Is it his fault? His wife also does damage. That could also be the man’s fault because he could have did more research or soul searching before he married his wife. He could have looked into how she deals with people (and vice versa) and made a decision with his mind rather than his heart or desires.

A man recently wrote a book on the subject. The article about is is called “This is How your Marriage Ends.” He mentions some of the concepts above.

A man is usually less insulted by slights than a woman. So taking a slight to his honor – may be easier for him than a slight to woman. Also they get insulted in different ways. A woman considers a man who does not consider her needs – as a slight – even if he said nothing. If the man does nothing – it is not nothing. A man who wants to save or maintain his marriage is obligated to help around the house.

A man who answers the question on a date for marriage – will you help around the house – with a snide remark, or a hesitating yes or a not really – is starting off on the wrong foot.

A man who seeks to feel where the woman is coming from is starting on the right foot. Even though a man may consider trivial what a woman considers as important. He should understand that like a child is so upset for a candy that he or she did not get – it behooves him to take seriously her wants and needs – emotionally, physically and spiritually.

Yaakov / Jacob Avinu spends much time convincing his wives that it was time to leave their father’s house and go to Israel. Until they felt it in their hearts – he kept on explaining.

Empathy and feeling for a wife’s challenges will help a man maintain a healthy marriage. This can be done by understanding her. He can repeat what she says like – if she says “I had a hard day at work.” He can say “You look like you had a hard day today.” so that she will feel that the husband understands where she is coming from. Parroting words – while including feeling her travails with your heart – will reinforce a marriage.

Let her insults slide off you. Don’t respond to her insults with yours. You are interested in calming the situation. The person who is in emotional control has the upper hand. Your goal is not to win a fight or to show your right. Your goal is to have peace at home.

We mentioned in another article that – having peace with a wife is a positive Torah commandment. A wise man will think “Is it better for me to respond to her insult? or is it better to refrain and accomplish a positive commandment from the Torah

If You Go in My Statutes – Making a 180 on a Ship / You’re Closer to Torah than You Think

Im Behukotai Telechu / If you go in my statutes. Last week’s Parasha / weekly Torah reading was – Behukotai. Behukotai / My statutes – Rashi says is “Learning Torah” because the next part of the verse says “and if you will observe my Mitzvot”. The next verse says – if you do so – you will get rain in the proper time and other blessings.

So we list that of primary importance first – First Torah learning, then observing Mitzvot. Obviously both are necessary. Another question is why does it says – telechu /you will go? It should say learn my statutes. Apparently there is a message to improve daily – not to remain stagnant. Some people are the same that they were 20 years ago. The Torah wants us to be better every day.

What are statutes? statutes are laws that are seemingly incomprehensible. So why does the Torah use these words for learning Torah? A question of Rabbi Yisrael Salantar.

Rabbi Solomonovich explained in a recent Dvar Torah / Torah speech – that Rabbi Samson Rephael Hirsch said that – a Hok / statute comes from the word Hek / bosom – denoting something close to the heart. He mentions that to one person something may be incomprehensible one but beloved by others.

He gave the example of an American person going to Europe. He hears that over  billion people are watching the “World Cup” soccer match. He asks “Don’t these people have better things to do with their time than watching people kick a ball into goal?”

Then a European person comes to the United States and hears that hundred’s of millions of people are watching the “Super Bowl” American football game. He says to himself “Don’t these people have better things to do with their time than watching people kick a ball into goal?”

Both don’t understand the other’s appreciation of the game. Yet they understand the appreciation of their own country’s favorite sport.

Similarly to an outsider coming into the Beit Midrash / House of Torah study – they ask “what are these people doing here studying?” Do they want to become Rabbis? The outsider does not understand why people study Torah. But the insider understands that it brings light to their soul. It helps them connect to others and to G-d. It helps them to grow spiritually and to connect to real Spirituality – meaning becoming closer to the creator of the world – Hash-m. 

A Jew is closer to spirituality than they might think. They may think that approaching orthodox Torah Judaism is far from them – yet it is not.

Once a couple was having a Jewish wedding on a boat in Paris – on the Seine River. The boat rode off onto the river. They were about to have the wedding. The Rabbi asked who are the witnesses for the wedding. In order for the wedding to take place two Kosher witnesses are required – they must not gamble, they must be Shomer Shabbat / Observant of Shabbat according to the Jewish code of law / the Shulchan Aruch and be male. One witness fit the description, the other did not. He searched the ship to find someone else to be a Kosher witness. He did not find one. He had an idea. He asked someone he trusted if he was willing to accept to become “Shomer Shabbat”. The man was hesitant. He explained “If the the couple does not have two Kosher witnesses – they will not be able to be married.” The man agreed to become Shomer Shabbat to allow them to get married.

A Jew is closer to Torah than one might think.

Learning to Give Compliments from a Rabbi

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A New Book by Artscroll Publishers, “Yedidi – Rabbi Shmuel Berkovicz, whose warmth and caring inspired people to strive for greatness by Rabbi Yechiel Spero” is about a Congregation Rabbi that lead with love.

Recently, in the Weekly Mesorah Heritage Foundation’s Torah pamphlet called “AT THE ARTSCROLL SHABBOS TABLE – WEEKLY INSPIRATION AND INSIGHT ADAPTED FROM CLASSIC ARTSCROLL TITLES” Acharei Mos / פרשת אחרי מות / כייט ניסן תשפייב / 5782 / APRIL 30, 2022 / ISSUE #88 – it talks of his all compassing love for others.

Here is a quote I found particularly Helpful in the quest to make others feel good.

It Doesn’t Cost Money
Shlomo Hamelech / King Solomon teaches (Mishlei / Proverbs 25:11), “Tapuchei zahav be’maskiyos kasef davar davur al ofnav” Like golden apples carved on silver plates, so is a word spoken in its proper place.” Rabbi Berkovicz was the master of saying the right thing, at the right time, in the right place. He understood the power of a compliment and did not hold back. No one was too smart or too simple, too old or too young, too chashuv or too insignificant for a compliment from Reb Shmuel. As he always said, “Es kost nisht kein gelt. It doesn’t cost money to make someone feel good!”

The Smart Phone & Tolerance – Where Are You Holding Spiritually?

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In a Beit Midrash / house of Torah study in Brooklyn, someone asked me to use my phone. I said “sure”. When I pulled out a Smartphone – he said “Oh, no thank you.” I wanted to help him but he didn’t want to use a Smartphone – because it is an object of temptation and wasting time. I respected him for that. I now use a flip phone for personal use.

Someone I know stopped using a Smartphone. His rabbi told him to stop. He listened. Once a Jew with a knitted Kippah in Israel asked him to take a picture of him with his smartphone. The young man replied in a nice way “sorry, I try to stay away from smartphones.” The man replied in Hebrew “Ashreicha” / “Happy are you” [meaning that’s a great thing].

Others would not react so kindly. The question is why do we react a particular way to people with higher Torah standard than us? Some react to one who proposed something that is above their standards by accepting, being positively envious and aspiring to also do the same. Others may react by yelling and insulting the person. It happened to me several times.

Can You Handle Truth?

Knowing how we would react to higher Torah standards indicates what spiritual level we are on. Are we envious of people with higher spiritual Torah aspirations in a positive way – by wanting to emulate them now or in the future or envious in a negative sense – by degrading or looking down upon them?

What is Our Level of Spiritual Aspirations?

Torah is truth. Torah is Hash-m’s / G-d’s word. G-d knows all and does only good. We are limited beings. Our objective is to emulate the kindness of G-d. Thus it is important to know where are we holding spiritually. 

So – it is helpful to ask ourselves are we willing to go all out to do the utmost to accept those who have higher Torah standards or are we going to put the others down because we feel uncomfortable that we are not on their level? Or worse – G-d forbid – change what we think the Torah says because we want to feel comfortable?

I once had a conversation with someone in college – a secular Jew. I explained that it is better to accept G-d’s word – the Torah and say – I accept that the Torah is G-d’s word – but I am currently not on the level – than to say I am on the level – and  think of rejecting the Torah or try to change what they think that the Torah says.

It’s a challenge. But this is true Tolerance – to accept the people’s actions – whose actions are on a higher level than yours. That’s true Tolerance. Even greater is wishing & aspiring to also be on that higher level.

On the negative side – Tolerance is not accepting the actions of others that go against Torah. That is decadence. Real Tolerance is being respectful to others regardless of what they do. That does not mean to condone their actions. Hold people accountable for their actions but act respectful when dealing with them.

Deep down a person wants to do good. Every Jew has a spark of the Divinely given soul that wants do do the Will of G-d. The question is how will the situation that causes spiritual cognitive dissonance be expressed emotionally? Positively or negatively. A person can always grow. At times a person can react negatively at first way and after learning the importance of the mitzvah will change and react positively. This happens through learning works of mussar / Jewish Ethics and halacha / Jewish Law.

The Torah is the divine work that G-d / Hash-m gave the Jews to become closer to Him. A person who wants to become closer to Hash-m tries to find ways to become closer – by accepting Mitzvot. Even greater is trying to bring other’s closer to Hash-m. Like it says in Pirkei Avot  / Ethics of the Fathers 1:12

“Love Peace & Pursue Peace – Love the creations and draw them closer to Torah.”

In the Sefer / Book “Or La’amim / A Light unto the Nations” (p. 17) Rabbi Yoel Schwartz explains Bringing people closer to Torah & Hashem is a Mitzvah D’Oraita (A Torah Based Commandment). He brings accountability of Jewish people to teach the 7 Noahide commandments to all people in  Midrash Vayikra Rabba 6:5 (on Leviticus 5:1 & Deut 4:39) and the Positive Commandment to do so in Rambam (Maimonides) in his “Book of Commandments” (Positive Comandment 3) quoting Sifri Devarim 32:2

explaining the Verse in the Shema Yisrael:

You are to love Adonoy, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your possessions. (Devarim / Deut 6:5)

 

“We have already explained that this commandment (love of Hash-m/ G-d (Devarim 6:5)) involves calling upon all mankind to worship Him and to believe in Him”

The Baby Brought You a Gift

A new baby is born. How can we make the other siblings happy? What can we do to prevent jealousy? Bring them a gift when the baby is born. Some parents go to the extent to tell the siblings – “The Baby Brought You a Gift.” Is it truthful? I don’t know – but that’s not the subject today.

Where Prophesy Resides Today

Baba Batra 12b – says Rabbi Yoḥanan said: From the day that the Temple was destroyed, prophecy was taken from the prophets and given to “fools” and children. Prophesy was removed from the world – it was given to children. We can understand this in various ways.

Autistic Savants

Regarding the prophetic “fools” – this might refer to the autistic people. A method of communication with autistic people was discovered called “Facilitated Communication” People use a computer as communication device for the autistic person to type on. The person asks a question and the autistic person responds by typing the answer. They found these people to have highly developed souls that know things of the spiritual world that an ordinary person knows not. A book on the subject was written called “Secrets of the Soul.” An entire website is dedicated to it.

Children Savants

Regarding the prophetic “children” – this may refer to children that recite a Torah verse in response to a question asked. Children used to learn Torah verses by heart. A person wanting an answer to a question  would ask a random child what verse they learned and that verse would at times give a response to their question.

Another explanation by rabbi Shimon ben Elazer in the Talmud that a house, a child, a woman even though there is no nichush – there is prophesy.

A sefer called Etz Chaim – written by Rabbi Haim Vital the talmid / student of the great Sage and Kabbalist – Rabbi Yitzhak Luria – the Ari”zl. He says If a person’s mazal / fortune increases, or intelligence in Torah,  after buying a house, or after having a child or marrying a wife. Rabbi Salman Eliyahu – Kerem Shlomo – writes on the Etz Haim. He says Every child that is born to a person brings a gift – like a better income, or better fortune or better Torah understanding. When the child leaves the house – he takes the gift with him.

This also applies to gentiles. Judaism is against abortion – unless the fetus is threatening the immediate life of the woman. He is another reason why people shouldn’t abort children – perhaps they will bring you a good fortune.

The Baby will Bring You a Gift.

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.