The Enemy Between You & Your Spouse (or Friend)

I was listening to a shiur / Lecture of Rabbi Meir Eliyahu (in Hebrew) on the subject of Improving Personal Character traits (הרב מאיר אליהו | תיקון המידות שלך | משכן יהודה – התשפ״ב) . He talked about a small pamphlet he picked up in Florida on Kiruv / to motivate a person to do teshuva. He said the pamphlet talked about Alice in Wonderland. I didn’t know the story. But apparently – Alice ate a mushroom. Then she fell asleep. When she woke up – she saw a cat. The cat asked her “Where do you want to go? – right or left.” She responded “I don’t know.” The cat then said to her “If you don’t know where you want to go – any path will get you there.”

That was the message – that if a person has no goal, or objective in life he or she will follow any path and apparently get to no where special. If a person has goals – it will help them to achieve in life.

The Torah provides many mitzvot (commandments) for Jews (613 commandments) and Non-Jews. (7 Noahaide Laws). These laws allow a person to achieve several things – a pleasant life – the ways of Torah are ways of pleasantness. A life of connection to oneself, to others and G-d. A life of meaning. A life that has purpose and where one achieves purpose. Rabbi Eliyahu mentions that in a Sefer / of the Vilna Gaon – he says that the purpose of life is to break one’s character traits. If a person is an angry person – G-d wants him or her to become a more calm person. If they are stingy – they are to work on becoming more generous.

My Rebbe used to say – a person’s mind should control his heart – not the other way around. The way of Torah is of Peace.

So now you know. Your goal – break those bad character traits. Assure peace in the Home. Try to act pleasant.

Rabbi Eliyahu said that one who yields to the will of others (in things not against Torah) will live longer. It makes logical sense – because he or she will let things slide, let it pass, not take it personally – and live a less stressful life. But also Has-m will grant the person a longer life. In the Zohar – Rav Krospedai died. He, a great scholar, told the heavenly court – he was cut off in the prime of his life, he had much more correcting to do. He wanted to come back in the same body. They granted him his wish. Why? Because he was Maavir al Midotav – he “passed over his character traits” – ie, he let things go. He held no grudges. He forgave and forgot.

Ok – so where is that enemy?

The Torah teaches us of our greatest enemy. It is an enemy that wants our destruction in this world and the next. He is the snake. He is that voice in your head – telling you “don’t take that from your spouse”, “answer them back”, “put them back in their place” and the such to create quarrel – not peace. We call it the “Yetzer HaRa'” / the evil inclination.

Everyone has one. The greater the person the greater the Yetzer. Before this entity was a physical snake. When Hava / Eve and Adam ate from the tree of Knowledge it became ingrained in her and him.

So now you have an enemy – the Yetzer HaRa. Your wife has the same enemy – the Yetzer HaRa’. Think of this – let’s say you had an acquaintance that was a family acquaintance. He or she would come to your house. When your wife would have a qualm – they would rile her up and add fuel to the fire. When you were upset – they would do the same to you to escalate the heated exchange to higher heights.

The smart person would not get angry at their spouse. They would kick that acquaintance out of the house. Your new option – don’t get back at your spouse – kick the Yetzer HaRa’ out of the house – your mind. He/She instigates – you cool things down. He tells you get angry – you think “If I answer her/him back – I will not have peace for 10 hours. (or more) I might as well swallow my pride and do something more productive with my time.”

Hash-m also gave us the Yetzer HaTov – Good inclination – telling you “calm down”, “be patient”, “this will also pass”, “say something to calm things down”, “create peace”.The idea is to listen to the Yetzer HaTov – not the Yetzer HaRa’.

Do it for a more peaceful existence. And Remember to learn Mussar – Jewish ethical works like Pirkei Avot – and your headed on the right path.

 

 

 

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.

Your Personal Messages from G-d

G-d communicates with us daily. We just have to understand His messages.

When in Israel, someone asked me for a donation. I checked my pockets – no change to be found. I wanted to give. He then said to me in Hebrew “Yesh Bo Mamash.” There is something there. In Hebrew – the word “Mamash” is spelled Mem-Mem-Shin. Those are my Hebrew initials. Apparently he didn’t know that. He was telling me there was money in my pocket.

I thought of the message – perhaps Hash-m was telling me – You have capabilities – Mamash.

So I took the statement – that may have offended others in the positive way.

If you listen to the messages and hear what happens to you daily – you can understand where Hash-m wants to guide you or test you.

If someone asks you for a donation – it might mean that you need a kapara / an atonement or a zechut / merit. Or perhaps G-d simply wants you to give you an opportunity to do a mitzvah.

In Morocco – once a rabbi saw a person with a sign of death on his face. He went up to him to ask him for Charity. Charity saves from death. He pleaded with him to give charity to save him. I don’t think he gave in the end. I don’t know the rest of the story.

Even if you pass a person talking with a friend and you over hear them saying “Your friend is so generous.” It might be a message for you – either in the positive way – that you are also generous – or perhaps you should work on your generosity.

The other day a rabbi told me a story. He said that someone told him that people should be more generous in giving blessings to others. He said he took it to heart. He was sitting at someones house – and children were kind of looking for attention and running around him. A bit annoyed – instead of screaming at them – he shouted “Zei Gezunt!” “Be Healthy” in Yiddish. The children continued running around him and started also yelling “Zei Gezunt.”

I took it as a message that perhaps I should be more flowing with blessings and positivity and compliments.

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.

What Makes a Child More Resilient? Yetziat Mitzrayim / the Exodus from Egypt

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Someone told me of a podcast they heard on Resilience.

What allows a person to become resilient. Among other things – the author of an article on the subject mentioned – that if a child learns of family member’s past, their challenges, their triumphs, their difficulties, their jobs etc. the person apparently learns to be more resilient. It makes sense. If a family member encountered a difficult situation and overcame it, I can too. If they made it through tough times, I come from the same blood and also have it in me.

If they encountered a road block, i am not the only one in that situation. Other people are in the same boat and just like they eventually jumped over it, I can too.

G-d showed His Kind Hand in someone else’s life, He will also help me.

Hearing stories of family, of history of our people apparently transmits the same inner strength. It’s not just learning history – it’s transmitting values, valor and inner strength.

Every year, on Pesach / Passover, we tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt. It not only gives us national unity in experiencing a common suffering that we overcame – but it transmits the power to overcome struggles. The power of resilience.

Our Shabbat. We eat together. Connect. Sing. Share stories & divrei Torah. The eating together helps us connect. We learn from each other and become stronger to face the week ahead.

 

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20 questions that can help you to evaluate how much your children know about you were formulated by Dr. Marshall Duke and Dr. Robyn Fivush. They created the “Do You Know?” scale in 2001 to ask children questions about their family in order to test the hypothesis that children who know more about their families are more resilient and can handle challenges better than children who have limited knowledge about their families.

The questions, designed to ask children things they would not know directly, are as follows:

1. Do you know how your parents met?
2. Do you know where your mother grew up?
3. Do you know where your father grew up?
4. Do you know where some of your grandparents grew up?
5. Do you know where some of your grandparents met?
6. Do you know where your parents were married?
7. Do you know what went on when you were being born?
8. Do you know the source of your name?
9. Do you know some things about what happened when your brothers or sisters were being born?
10. Do you know which person in your family you look most like?
11. Do you know which person in the family you act most like?
12. Do you know some of the illnesses and injuries that your parents experienced when they were younger?
13. Do you know some of the lessons that your parents learned from good or bad experiences?
14. Do you know some things that happened to your mom or dad when they were in school?
15. Do you know the national background of your family (such as English, German, Russian, etc)?
16. Do you know some of the jobs that your parents had when they were young?
17. Do you know some awards that your parents received when they were young?
18. Do you know the names of the schools that your mom went to?
19. Do you know the names of the schools that your dad went to?
20. Do you know about a relative whose face “froze” in a grumpy position because he or she did not smile enough?

Recycle Life – Uplifting Yourself with the Bad of Your Past

There is no One that does not sin. Really only 4 people never sinned. So if you are not one of the 4 – like me – what can we do when we realize that we didn’t live up to our standards or the Torah standards?

Uplifting Yourself – Regretting the faults of the past

King Solomon – the wisest man in history – says (in Mishlei / Proverbs) – Sheva Yipol Tzadik ve Kam – Seven times does the righteous person fall – yet gets up. Apparently one of the differences between the wicked and the righteous is that the righteous saw that they fell – took themselves in hand and decided to improve. The wicked fell and either said to him or herself – “i’ve fallen and i can’t get up” or let me justify my behavior.

No one wants do do bad. Even robbers justify their behavior – “I am helping to save my family by stealing.”

So they spiral into worse and worse behavior. They lose self-esteem. They downgrade themselves, and society and unfortunately may inflict damage on either.

Torah tells us confront the failing. Apologize to Hash-m. Make a resolution to not repeat it. And stick to it. (see the Jerusalemlife.com article – “starting over – wiping the slate clean in Judaism“)

Some will go to the opposite end of the spectrum. If they faulted through acting inappropriately through drinking – they take upon themselves not to drink. (Drinking liquor is not forbidden in Judaism – as long as it is Kosher.)

So we learn from our past and become better. We learn from our sins and learn to avoid it. If we change and do teshuva / repent through fear of G-d – G-d will forgive our sins. If we do teshuva becasue we love G-d and feel badly we let him down – our sins turn to mitzvot. Why? Because, our sin was an impetus to get us to become better.

Stop The Self Destruction

In the Parasha / weekly Torah reading of Pinhas – The Jews were enticed to sin with the Midianite women. A plague started that killed 24,000 men who were involved with these women. Pinhas – courageously got up and killed the leader who was brazenly defying Moshe / Moses and the Torah. This stopped the plague. It then says “And the plague stopped. [Space in Torah] then it says “Count the heads of the Children of Israel.” The hebrew word for count used is “Se’uh” – meaning lift up.

So the episode teaches us – if a person falls into sin. Stop. Don’t continue and justify the behavior. If suffering occurs – there is a time to stop ruminating on the past and going ahead to improve and to lift your head up. The fact that you want to improve is praiseworthy.

It says in the Talmud (Berachot) someone who says “Ashrei” (Happy is the One Who Hash-m is their King…) – One of the Tehillim / Psalms of David HaMelech 3 times a day is assured of a place in the World to come (meaning a place in heaven). What does this mean – a person who just recites these verses will be forgiven of his sins?

Talking with a friend, I was informed that Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch – says that the word in Hebrew for happiness –  Ashrei – comes from the root  “Ashur” – which means Acceptance – connotes advancement.

Apparently a person who just chooses to advance and improve themselves – instead of falling into despondency –  will be likely to receive a place in the next world.

The Intelligent Design Test

Intelligent Design is a concept that says If you look at the world – it seems that it was formed with Intelligent Design.

That is the statement. The Repercussion – that G-d created the world.

Some are fighting it. They would rather accept the illogical than to accept logic.

Let’s examine Intelligent Design.

Does the world have order? Yes.
Example : The Animal kingdom, the Plant kingdom.

Does the world have structure? Yes.
Example the Sun comes out every day due to the Earth revolving on its axis. The moon revolves around the earth.

Does the world have movement? Yes.
People move. Animals Move. Plants move.

Does the world have growth? Yes.
Animals grow. Plants grow.

Does the world have function? Yes.
The sun functions to provide light and vitamin D to plants. The rain Irrigates the world.

Does the world have interaction between parts? Yes.
The Human body systems interact together.

Does the world have interaction between different beings? Yes.
Males and Females – though are two different types of beings – interact together to be able to reproduce.

Does it Have interaction of weather systems? Yes.
Evaporation brings water to form clouds. Wind pushes clouds. Rain drops water on land.

Does the world Have Reproduction? Yes.
Animals, Humans, Fish, Birds all reproduce.

Does the world have Prediction? Yes.
One can predict that something will happen. You can predict where the sun will be at a certain time during the day.

Does the world have regularity? Yes.
The earth rotates around its axis every 24 hours.

Does the world have a food chain? Yes.
Fish eat plants. Bigger fish eat smaller fish.

Does the world have systems? Yes.
In a human and animals – There is the circulatory system, the nervous system, the digestive system, the endocrine system, the skeleton system.

Does the world have continuity? Yes.
One plant or animal will help to create another of its species.

Does it have stored information? Yes.
DNA stores information about creatures.

Does it have laws of nature? Yes.
Gravity will pull an object to the ground at a certain rate.

Does it have design? Yes.
Trees look alike. Humans look alike. Similar Animals look alike.

Does it have intelligence? Yes.
Birds can build nests. Ants store food.

Does it have Diversity? Yes.
No two people have the same fingerprints or DNA.

Does it Have relationships? Yes.
Parents care for their children.

Does it have families? Yes.
Families live together to help the group survive.

Does it have Music? Yes.
Birds make music.

Are their heavenly bodies? Yes.
Stars, planets, meteorites, asteroids.

Does it have speech? Yes.
Humans can speak to each other.

Does it have communication between beings? Yes.
Animals communicate in various ways with one another.

Does it have energy? Yes.
Fire, electricity, nuclear energy.

Does it have Building Blocks? Yes.
Atoms are building blocks of elements and molecules. Molecules are building blocks of matter. Cells are building blocks of living beings.

Does it have microsystems and macrosystems?
See Nuclear physics and microbiology. See astronomy and earth science.

Does it Have Logic? Yes.
A tree that is watered grows. A ball that is thrown flies.

Does it have kindness? Yes.
All animals are fed on a daily basis.

Wisdom & the Menorah

The Meiri / commentator on Mishna and other Rishonim / First Rabbis  say that the Beit Hamikdash’ / Holy Temple Menorah’s seven lights represent the seven wisdoms. The Rishonim classify them as follows:

1) Tevunah, the ability to understand and draw conclusions.

2) The knowledge of nature – in subjects like chemistry and physics.

3) The knowledge of the soul – or as Rav Aharon puts it, the study of psychology.

4) The knowledge of biology

5) Music

6) Metaphysics… (philosophy)  and

7) The knowledge of Torah …. which is the most significant branch.

All the lights of the Menorah pointed to the center branch representing Torah. Torah encompasses all wisdoms. Torah is Hash-m’s word and the ethics of the world. Intelligence is possible without Ethics. The menorah teaches – intelligence without ethics – can destroy a society or a person. The Roman empire fell due to its decadence.

Given the above: Does that show Intelligent Design or not?

I came up with a new law of Intelligent Design:

Any thing that has any of the following – order, structure, movement, growth, function, interaction between parts, interaction between different beings, interaction of micro or macro systems, Reproduction, Prediction, regularity, a food chain, systems, continuity, stored information, laws of nature, design, intelligence, Diversity, relationships, families, Music, heavenly bodies, speech, communication between beings, energy, Building Blocks, microsystems and macrosystems, Logic, kindness – necessitates Intelligent Design.

or to make it simple – here is one question:

What Takes More Intelligence to Make –  Eyeglasses or an Eyeball?
– a hearing aid or an ear?
a dialyzer – or kidneys?

If you take the logic further you can come to the conclusion that Torah is the true law of the world with 4 questions.

in any case

Once a secular cab driver in Israel wanted to chide a religious Jewish passenger. He wanted to show the superiority of human intelligence. He showed him his watch- “Do you see this watch – imagine how superior is the intelligence of man – that he made a watch that only loses one second every thousand years!” Unfazed the religious Jewish passenger responded – “Imagine the intelligence of the Being that created man that was able to create such a watch!”

Story of R. Chaim Kanievsky and the Man with Half-Face Paralysis

A man suffering from paralysis of half the face – possibly Bell’s palsy ailment – where half the face droops – came to Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, zt”l. He explained his disorder to him and asked for a blessing. Rabbi Kanievsky thought a moment and asked the man “Are you willing to wear a beard?”

After some contemplation – he replied “Yes”.

R. Kanievsky said “it Says in the Torah ‘VeHadarta Penei Zaken'” (Vayikra / Leviticus 19:22) – you shall honor the countenance of the elderly – meaning you shall respect an elder. Words in Hebrew have vowels separate from the consonants. The Word Zaken (Zayin, Kuf, Nun) can also be pronounced Zakan – meaning “beard”. Taking the phrase with those vowels now the verse would read ‘VeHadarta Penei Zakan’ – which changes the meaning to “A Bearded face will be Beautified.”

He grew the beard and the slowly his Bells Palsy was cured.

 

The Prayer (and Solution) for Shalom Bayit / Peace at Home

In a recent Shiur / Lecture Rabbi Meir Eliyahu mentioned that after his lectures the two most frequent Berachot / Blessings that people ask from him – are that they or someone should find an appropriate mate / Shidduch and a prayer for Shalom Bayit / Peaceful relations at Home – usually between man & a wife.

He mentioned in passing – once someone asked Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Aurbach, zt”l – a Gadol / Great rabbi from a recent previous generation – “Why didn’t the Anshei Kenesset HaGedolah / Men of the Great Assembly include in the Amida / Standing Prayer (said in daily Jewish Prayer Services) a prayer for Shalom Bayit / Peace at Home?”

He Responded “They did” – [in one of the last paragraphs of the Amida – it says And those that curse my soul – let me remain silent] –  “and let my soul be like the dust of the earth to all.”

The reason why many don’t have Shalom Bayit is Expectations – “Aren’t you supposed to serve me? – aren’t you supposed to agree with me? Aren’t you supposed to respect me? Aren’t you supposed to appreciate me? Aren’t you supposed to bring money home? Aren’t you supposed to clean the house?”

If you  consider yourself as dust – you don’t have such high expectations. You don’t get into quarrels.

Pray for peace – but just as important work on your middot / character traits.

There are segulas for Shalom HaBayit (Shin, Lamed, Vav, Mem, Hai, Bet, Yud, Taf in Hebrew.) – like reading Tehillim / Psalm 119 / the eight verses corresponding to each of the letters for Shin, Lamed, Vav, Mem, Hai, Bet, Yud, Taf.

But learning works of Mussar / Torah Ethics like Messilat Yesharim / Path of the righteous, Hovovot HaLevavot / Duties of the Heart, Shaar HaBitachon / Gate of Faith in G-d from the Beit HaLevi – can also help. Check out Feldheim & Artscroll for their Mussar Sefarim / Books.

Pray for Peace but Work on Your Middot.

Gaining Emuna in Hash-m / G-d

Faith / Emuna in G-d takes time. A person lives a more fulfilling life with Hash-m than without. He or she sees the hand of G-d. He or She is never alone. They always have Hash-m to turn to for problems, concerns or prayer.

A great book on the subject is “Living Emuna” by Rabbi David Ashear. He tells stories and gives Torah guidance on how to gain emuna.

I was recently listening to a Shiur / Lecture on the subject by Rabbi David Ichay in French. He told the following story:

Once someone asked the Hazon Ish – a Great Sage of the past generation – how can one gain emuna. He said “When you go out to buy shoes – ask Hash-m to help you find the right store. Ask Him to help you find the right pair. Ask Him to help them to have your size.” As Jews we don’t just turn to G-d when we are in desparate need – but even for the small matters as well. This is how we build belief – this is how we build a relationship.

If we put our trust in Hash-m we can overcome any concern.