Spiritual Block? Try This

Featured

Over 20 years ago, I was learning with a rabbi. He told the following story. A woman who apparently was following his lectures asked him – “I want to become more spiritual. I want to follow Judaism and Torah – but I just can’t get myself to do it. I don’t understand the Mitzvot – even if you explain them.”

The Rabbi replied “Try eating Kosher food for a month and you might better understand the Mitzvot.”

She had to go through a detox period. Just like one has to detox for overcoming alcohol addiction – they do also for spiritual growth. Part of the process is start eating Kosher, guarding the eyes, removing oneself from impure thoughts and acts. Then a person can become a better receptacle for spiritual growth through Torah.

I didn’t quite understand the connection between understanding Mitzvot and Eating Kosher. Recently I came upon a Sefer / Book By Rabbi Matityahu Glazer – On Repentance and Hebrew Letters called THE PREREQUISITES FOR REPENTANCE
REPENTANCE IN WORDS AND LETTERS.

Hebrew letters have significance – in that the Hebrew word defines their essence of the object. The word for “sin” in Hebrew is Het / Sin / חטא – Het, Tet, Alef.

REPENTANCE IN WORDS AND LETTERS
THE NEGATIVE EFFECT OF SIN
…This comes to teach us that the destructive power of the סתן (Satan) creates a “screen” ( מסך ) which separates and “locks out” (נעל) the Divine light.
מ precedes נ
ס precedes ע
ך precedes ל

 

The numerical value of the words פגם [imperfection – (in matters of holiness – especially promiscuity)] and מגף (plague) is 123 (80 + 3 + 40), which is the same as נגע (nega, plague: 50 + 3 + 70) and teaches us about the common source of these words, which is בלע (bela, corruption: 2 + 30 + 70).

 

מגף (magaf) is related to מגפה (magaifa, plague),the letter ג and פ combining to form the word גוף (goof, body) and showing that he comes as a result of overindulgence in the material world.

 

The word אלף (alef. instruction or learning the same as the name of the letter א) refers to an אולפן תורה (oolpan Torah, “study of Torah”), the acquisition of Divine wisdom, as is written in the book of Job (13:33): אאלפך חכמה (a’alfecha chochma ; “I will
teach you wisdom”). Through אולפן תורה , the study of Torah, a person merits the revelation of the Divine light of א, for the light of the Torah has the ability to penetrate the barriers created by sin. From here one learns that the repentant should involve
himself in אולפן תורה as much as possible. Rabbeinu Yona in “The Foundation of Repentance” (“Yesod Hat’shoova” found in Gates of Repentance)
teaches that for one who is accustomed to learn one page of Torah, a proper repentance should include learning two pages of Torah.

 

The opening of the letter ח (chet ) is directed downwards, which symbolizes the sinner whose tendencies and desires are also directed “downwards,” that is, to his materialistic and baser nature. Opposed to this is the letter ה (hai )-of the same shape but with an opening at the top, hinting to higher spiritual aspirations. Therefore, if a person
blocks his spiritual striving and closes the upper opening of the ה, it becomes a ח (chet , sin).

 

The difference can be clearly seen in the words חמץ (chametz ) and מצה (matza ). חמץ, the leavened food forbidden to eat or even possess during the Pesach festival, is a symbol of the Evil Inclination (it “fills” with a void and emptiness-like the yeast that
puffs up dough, makes it rise and expand but essentially adds nothing). The word מצה (matza, unleavened bread), on the other hand, is the symbol of the Good Inclination. The only difference in the letters of these two words is the “window of repentance”- the slight opening at the top of the ה.

 

ונטמתם בם

“That you should be defiled thereby,” referring mainly to forbidden food that defiles the
soul of man. One of the most impure foods is the חזיר (chazeer , pig), equal to 225 (8 + 7 + 10 +200) as is the word op (kleepa , shell; 100 + 30 + 10 + 80 + 5).

 

טמא Impurity is the Blockage of the Spiritual. טמא (tameh , impure) has the same letters as אטם (otem obstruction). Impurity causes a general breakdown of the spiritual structure of a person. Just as an אטם in the body is a barrier that prevents the
flow of blood to the heart, so too does impurity ( טומאה, tooma ) prevent spiritual abundance and existence from reaching the heart and brain of a person. The evil impurity caused by an עברה (aveira transgression) can be clearly seen in its letters רע בה (ra-ba, “evil in it”). This is what our Sages mean when they say (Yoma 39a): עברה מטמטמת לבו של אדם
– “Sin dulls the heart of man.” Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler (Michtav M’Eliyahu ) writes: “The sin itself is the dullness-the desire for and cleaving to the sin does not allow a person to find something to oppose it.”

The Power of Humility as a Prerequisite for Overcoming One’s Sins.

 

חטא  (chet, an unintentional sin) involves a lack of thought at the time of the transgression. When one’s mind-the אלף ( א , alef )-is “plastered over” (טח tach ), the result is sin, חטא. Intentional sins (עוונות) comprise -עוות – נ (avoot noon, “the distortion or corruption of the letter נ, which represents understanding). These letters also allude to the power of thought and purity (עיון, eeyoon ), which
is connected to the Fifty (נ = 50) Gates of Impurity  and Understanding,

A pleasant eye”) עין נוה is ( ענוה )The source of humility”

 

The Chida says that the power of humility is so great that it can mend one’s sins; the letters of ענוה (anava , humility) are the same as those of the word העון 190 (ha’avon, the sin). As our Sages say (Rosh Hashana 17a) כל המעביר על מדותיו מעבירין לו על כל ; “Whoever overcomes his feelings, all his sins are passed over.”

 

Repentance out of humility and love for G-d changes negative actions into positive ones. This amazing concept is unique to Torah thought: not only is a person capable of wiping the slate clean, he also has the ability to turn the negativity he has caused in the world into a positive force.

טמא – tameh is impurity. The letters also spell – Alef, Tet, and a Mem – spell Atum – which means blocked or clogged. If a person removes themselves from transgression – they will open up this blockage of the Spiritual.

Keep Calm & Move On – Stopping the Self Pity

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making & Breaking Family Connections

The Chinuch Lessons from Expert Educators

Recently Rabbi Nehemia Gramma spoke at our school’s Chinuch Melave Malka / education Saturday night dinner. The Title or the talk was “Raising Children with Tranquility”. He spoke of what is making kids unmotivated to advance.

He gave three ingredients necessary for a proper chinuch. Chinuch is different than education. Education comprises of teaching kids knowledge. Chinuch means we are also teaching children to be good people as well. Most schools teach knowledge. Torah schools also teach kids how to become better people.

Is Only Love Necessary?

He mentioned that many a time parents think that you just “have to love them” That’s the cure-all for all teenage problems. He said two other ingredients are necessary. Setting clear boundaries of what is right and wrong – what is acceptable and not. And thirdly a motivation for personal growth.

Examples of How Setting Boundaries Improved  Motivation

He gave examples of how he helped kids who were uninterested in school into motivated achievers. One kid was given all he wanted – but he was failing in proper proper people skilled. The study partner of the teenager was called by the director. He told him to avoid interaction with the kid for he was a bad influence. The teen was to hurt – he decided to shape up – instead of feeling bad for himself. He became a top student.

Education is More than Love

It is true that love is a necessary component in helping the child to grow – but it is not the only one. The other two are necessary.

Building the Child

Love is not giving a child every thing they want. It is giving them the tools to deal with life in a positive fashion. There will be ups and downs – but the child will be built up – not spoon fed.

This is applicable to relationships. Giving without expecting requiring responsibility  spoils the child. Giving them all the gadgets is not healthy for their emotional and relationship development.

Torah is a Venue for Developing Real Relationships

Torah Judaism is all about interaction and relationships. We eat together. We pray together. We learn together. We do mitzvot together. We rejoice together and comfort one another. Together as a family. Together as Friends. Together as congregants.

Establishing connections – like spending quality time together is a healthy part of growth and emotional maturity.

The interactions – allows for building people and relationships.

Technology vs. Relationships

Today’s generation is in a bind. On one hand they crave family ties. On the other hand they are addicted to media and technology.

I once gave a presentation in class. I mentioned that about 94% of households have a TV. I cracked a joke about the 6% of people who did not have one. People laughed.

Now the joke is on me. I am among the 6% without a TV.

In 2017, an average U.S. consumer spent 238 minutes (3h 58min) daily watching TV.[1]

Introduce a new media – the smart phone – and it becomes a pocket TV.

The Bad Baby Sitter

Let’s put aside the negative aspects and influence of the media these days. Let’s talk about the effect of the media on the family connections. The smart phone has become today’s new baby sitter. The kids are acting up – let me give them the smart phone. Kids are bored – let me put them in front of the TV.

Wise?

On an immediate convenience perspective – it is a simple way to shut children up or shut them out of your life for a few moments. Yes you have more important things to do. Really? That’s not usually parent’s intention – to shut them out – but kids are smart and understand the message. Parent’s convenience – has sent this message to children. Now parents ask – why are children so distant or acting up? You gave them a machine that teaches them how to act in the street. What do you expect.

The Media Dividing Wall

On a purely relationship / personal connection perspective when a family watches TV together – it is akin to putting a wall between them. Instead of interacting together – they have a device between them that separates them. Call it a cell phone or a TV – but it separates families. I’d rather interact with my parent than to watch a video – even if the parent put that smart phone in my hands.

Kids crave real relationships. Meaningful relationships – much more than a screen to help them pass the time – without reason or rhyme.

Structuring Your Life – the Easy Way

It’s good to know about yourself. A person who knows their challenges, strengths and weaknesses – is better equipped to self-improvement.

Myers Briggs Test

I took personality tests. One I tried is the Myers Briggs Personality Test. It defines a personality into one of 16 groups based upon Four Two-Factor scales. One is Introvert (I) – Extrovert (E). Another is Intuition (N) or Sensing (S). Thinking (T) – Feeling (F). Judgemental or Perceptive (P)

So
ESTJ is: extraversion (E), sensing (S), thinking (T), judgment (J)
INFP is: introversion (I), intuition (N), feeling (F), perception (P)

It comes out to 16 different basic groups.

I tried it several times – once I was an INTP another time is was marked as an INFP.

These are the general employee characteristics of these groups:

ISITEJ

Inspector

ISIFEJ

Protector

INIFEJ

Counselor

INITEJ

Mastermind

ISETIP

Crafter

ISEFIP

Composer

INEFIP

Healer

INETIP

Architect

ESETIP

Promoter

ESEFIP

Performer

ENEFIP

Champion

ENETIP

Inventor

ESITEJ

Supervisor

ESIFEJ

Provider

ENIFEJ

Teacher

ENITEJ

Fieldmarshal

The Do What You Want – When You Want Personality

I Forgot why I was telling you this. Oh Yea – I am not into structure. I’d rather do my thing when I want. Do whatever interests me at the moment. Get up when I want and stay up until I fall asleep. I wanted to say whatever I had on my mind and follow my fancies.

I don’t think that I would be the ideal employee doing those things.

I did hold a Job that was more or less flexible. I was more or less successful. But I had to set boundaries and rules for myself – to get to work on time, to finish projects on time, to fulfill my requirements.

The Guide to Structure in Life

What helped me in life was my decision to follow with orthodoxy the precepts of the Torah. For my wanting to get up late – I had to get up to go to synagogue daily – to pray with a minyan – a quorum of 10 Jewish Men. For my wanting to just do what I wanted – when I wanted – I had to follow the 6 day week – working Six Days and Resting on Shabbat. For wanting to speak my mind without care for hurting others or talking badly of others – the Torah taught me laws of Onaat Devarim (Hurting Others) and laws of Lashon HaRah. I regret I used my mouth to hurt others – but now I am more careful.

The Self-Improvement Path

For wanting to follow my fancies – the Torah provides guidelines or what is acceptable and the Torah makes it a Mitzvah to get married, have children and raise a family with the Torah as a guide. I followed halacha / Jewish law – which gives a person rules to live a productive and meaningful life.

That’s what I did. Yes I made many mistakes and still do. I veered from the path & fell into my past habits. But little By little I reduced my falling off the path.

I’m still trying to improve. But the Torah put me in line and structured my life.

Take 2 for a More Productive You

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elifaz is Saved by Yeshiva – The Influence of a Place of Torah

Esav / Esau – in this week’s parasha / weekly Torah reading – VaYetze – instructs his son Elifaz to kill Esav’s Brother Yaakov / Jacob. Elifaz encounter’s Yaakov and tells his uncle that his father instructed him to kill Him. Elifaz is concerned about following his father’s orders as he thinks that Honoring one’s parents – supersedes killing Yaakov.

Yaakov tells him – there is a way to accomplish both – killing Yaakov and Honoring parents. Yaakov tells him “Take all my money. A poor person is considered as if he is dead.” Elifaz learned that in the Yeshiva – either with Yaakov or Yitzhak / Issac his grandfather.

Several lessons :

Help People to Do Good

If you can help a person do a Torah Mitzvah – help him or her.

The Power of a Yeshiva / Torah Study Hall and Torah Study

The Steipeler Gaon, Zt”l – Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky learns from this The influence of sitting in a Yeshiva has great power. Elifaz – who was ready to kill his uncle did not do so – because he learned in a Yeshiva.

Just in sitting in the Yeshiva has an influence – learning Torah there has even more of a positive influence. If a person is tempted by his or her evil inclination – bring the evil inclination to a Torah study hall. Hash-m says “I created the Yetzer HaRa – I created Torah as an elixir.”  It also says in Talmud Kiddushin (30b) :

A Sage from the school of Rabbi Yishmael taught: My son, if this wretched one, the evil inclination, encounters you, pull it into the study hall, i.e., go and study Torah. If it is a stone it will melt, and if it is iron it will break, as it is stated with regard to the Torah: “Is not My word like fire, says the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29). Just as a stone shatters a hammer, so too one can overcome his evil inclination, which is as strong as iron, through Torah study. With regard to the second part of the statement: If it is a stone it will melt, this is as it is stated with regard to the Torah: “Ho, everyone who thirsts, come for water” (Isaiah 55:1), and it states: “The water wears the stones” (Job 14:19), indicating that water is stronger than stone.

Black Quarter in My Pocket – Glad to See You Back

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

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

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

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

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

The World Created with Truth

The Signet of Hash-m / G-d is Truth.

The World was created with Hebrew Letters. Each day was created with a sequence of 3 letters – starting from the hebrew letter Bet like bet of Bereshit. Each Letter has a numerical value. Gematria is determining the value of words with these values. Alef = 1. Bet = 2. Yud = 10. Kaf = 20. Kuf = 100. Resh = 200. Shin = 300. In gematria Ketana = each letter has a single digit – so Yud = 1, Kuf = 1, Resh = 2. Shin = 3

(Alef is starts the 10 Commandments with the word Anochi (I am) – that starts with the letter Alef)

Emet means Truth in Hebrew. Emet in Hebrew is written Alef Mem Tav = 1 + 4(0) + 4(00) = 9

Each day was created with three letters. Each time you add them up it comes to 9 – representing truth.

Day One was created with Bet Gimel Dalet – 2 + 3 +4 = 9

Day Two was created with Hei Vav Zayin = 5 + 6 + 7 = 18 = 1+ 8 = 9

Day Three was creaated with Het Tet Yud = 8 + 9 + 1 = 18 = 1 + 8 = 9

And so on.

Sheker = falsity is written Shin Kuf Resh = 3 + 1 + 2 = 6

If the world was started with Alef – that has one three letter sequence as Kuf Resh Shin (the letters of Sheker) = Each three letter sequence would equal 6 – signifying falsity. Thus each day was created with a three letter sequence starting with Bet – signifying truth.

If you start with Alef – the three letter sequence adds up to six:

Alef Bet Gimel = 1+ 2 + 3 = 6

Yaakov was the Forefather that is known for his carefulness regarding Truth.

In parasha Toledot – When his mother Rivka told Yaakov to get the blessing from his father Yitzhak – by pretending he was His brother Esav – he dreaded doing it. He didn’t want to lie.

It is apparent from his words to his Mother “Perhaps my father will touch me and I will appear as a trickster and bring upon myself….” Genesis (27:12)

“Perhaps” is a word to express hope of happening not distress of it happening. He should have Said “Lest my father touch me….”

The Vilna Gaon explains that Yaakov / Jacob would have rather been caught by his father than to have expressed a lie.

הרב שקד בוהדנה | פרשת תולדות | ה׳תשפ״ב – ראשון לציון

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

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

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

Just Shout – The Easy Way Out

The shout comes out. Poor kid. Poor you.

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

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

Are You Really More Productive by Shouting

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

Productivity in Education

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

Did You Win the Education Game?

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

Treat every act as an act of building.

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