Be Happy for Punishment

One of the 13 Principles of Judaism is the belief of Reward and Punishment. G-d will greatly reward those that followed his laws and punish those that did not. Obviously G-d takes into account all the factors. G-d may punish in this world or the next.

Why should you be happy about that?

Apparently we all know more or less deep down what is right and wrong. Having this concept of reward and punishment allows us to live a meaningful life.

If everything that I do is “good” or doesn’t make a difference, I live a life without purpose. If what I do can be good or bad, my actions in this world make a difference. This fact gives me purpose in life.

Teshuva – Repentance.

Remember that even if one did bad in their life – transgressing the laws of the Torah – the bad can be erased through sincere Teshuva – repentance. If one does teshuva out of fear of punishment – his or her sins are erased. If one does teshuva because they feel that they love Hash-m and fell badly to have gone against His will – their past misdeeds become counted as mitzvahs (perhaps because they prompted him or her to do teshuva).

G-d is Magnanimous

G-d will forgive any sin a person has done if the penitent person is sincere in their teshuva. (for How to do teshuva – seee Starting Over – Wiping the Slate Clean). The four stages of teshuva are :

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

1
2

3

 

4
Cessation
Commitment

Regret

Confession

Stopping doing the misdeed
Firm resolve never to repeat the deed. One is forgiven if he or she is in the same situation & doesn’t commit the sin.
Sincere Remorse for Wrong one did. Obviously one has to know what is right & wrong. To know – A Jew learns the 613 Mitzvot or the (Kitzur) Shulchan Aruch / Code of Jewish Law – regulating Jewish life. A Gentile learns their 7 Noahide Laws.
Verbal Admitting to G·d / Hash-m the wrong one did & asking for forgiveness. If one wronged another, ask forgiveness
Everyone Can Better Themselves. Forgive, Ask for Forgiveness & Be Happy.

(Rambam / Maimonides – Mishne Torah – Book of Knowledge – Laws of Repentance – Ch. 2 & 4 )

A very important point is not to fall to depression due to teshuva (or anything else for that matter). Some remorse to the extent that their remorse turns to depression. Once one has sincerely done teshuva – be happy. G-d – like a parent – wants His children to be happy. It says it in Tehillim / Psalms “Serve Hash-m / G-d with Happiness. Come before him with Joyful song.” Our general mood should be one of happiness. Be happy that you committed to improve. That’s something for which to be happy. The first step in solving a problem is recognizing the problem. Be happy you took the first step.

G-d can solve any problem

Don’t be sad about problems. Learn the lesson from the pain. Do teshuva. Improve. And be happy. G-d can solve any and all of your problems. No problem is too great for Him to provide respite and a solution. We just must turn to Hash-m with sincere prayer and teshuva. Make our small effort to overcome the problem and G-d will solve it

Precautions Against Failure & Positive Outlook

In Pirkei Avot(1:7) 

Nitai the Arbelite says: Distance yourself from a bad neighbor & do not become friendly with a wicked person & do not despair from retribution. (punishment)

If a person is suffering – it could be due to G-d sending them a message to improve or to compensate them for a past misdeed. So the obvious solution is to correct the misdeed. But also not to lose moral or despair from punishment. Repent, Correct, Go on and Be happy.

From Fear to Eternity

I was in the synagogue the other day. On the Bima – where the sefer Torah is placed when it is read – was a book entitled – “From Fear to Eternity – 10 steps to Achieving the Benefits of Being Jewish” by A. Lefkowitz. The title reminded me another reason for why punishment is good. We live in a temporal world. It is a temporary existence. No one gets out of here (the world) alive.But the afterlife is eternal. So if given a choice – it is better to live a challenging life here and a peaceful life in the next world – than vice versa.

Fear of Punishment in this world or the next world – allows us to prevent falling into a trap that may take away our prospect of living eternally. We are really a soul in a body. Once a person dies, the body is left behind and the soul continues to live. Thus fear of punishment allows us to inherit eternity by preventing us from transgressing the laws of the Torah.

The Reason why the Evil Prosper and the Righteous Suffer

An easy answer to the question of “What is the Reason why the Evil Prosper and the Righteous Suffer?” is because there are two worlds. This world on Earth and an after life. Punishment can be in this world or the next. Reward can be bestowed in this world or the next. A person who did great evil – like Hitler, Stalin, your average Terrorist -cannot be properly punished in this world. So G-d grants them a decent life here and punishes them in the next world. To us we see them live a decent, happy life. We do not see what goes on in the next world. So we think that the criminal got away Scott free. But they cannot escape the heavenly judgement. The punishment and reward is much greater in the next world.

On the positive side. We see righteous people suffer in this world – but we see not the great reward in heaven. So we think that he or she gained no reward from all their righteousness. But in the next world they will receive unimaginable reward. Thus we can accept why the evil prosper and the righteous suffer – by understanding this concept of reward and punishment in the next world.

How do I find out what G-d wants from Me?

G-d has a rule that is called measure for measure – Midah Keneged Midah. When a person does something bad – he is punished in the same way or in a manner related to his or her transgression. If one does good he is also rewarded similarly.

In the book “Living Emunah 3 (By Rabbi David Ashear) he relates a story of a woman who was unable to have children. She asked her rabbi – what to do. He told her to reinforce herself in Judaism. She decided to keep the Shabbat, Say Blessings on Food and I think say the morning Blessings. Shortly after she had a child. Some time later – an unusual thing happened when she was lighting the Shabbat candles. She attempted to light the two Shabbat candles- but only one would be kindled. Several weeks passed and every week the same thing happened. She confided her secret to her Rabbi. He asked – Is there something she is not careful about on Shabbat. She replied – we do Shabbat but we leave the TV on during Shabbat. He suggested to refrain from doing this. She committed to doing this and convinced her family. The next week she was able to kindle both candles.
(The story continues – see the book if you want to know the story’s end.)

Another explanation – of don’t despair from retribution – means that don’t despair that the evil will be punished. Those that do evil will be punished in this world or the next. Seeing a wicked person prosper is a test. Will we follow evil because we see the evil prosper? It is also to give people free will. If we see evil people suffering and righteous people prospering we will have no freedom of choice. Everyone will want to be righteous. G-d puts the choice of good and evil before us and it is up to us to choose good. Choose Life.

Keeping People in Line

Other reasons to be happy for punishment – because as it says in Pirke Avot (Chapter 3:2.) on the subject Civilization without Government:

Rabbi H’anania deputy of the Kohanim / Priests says: Pray for the peace of the government – for if there were not its fear, a man would swallow his fellow alive.

Many people don’t do evil because of fear of punishment. Thus we live in a better world because of it. It helps us ourselves to live a better life. Whenever bad is done by a person – that person will ultimately suffer – either through guilt, being put in prison, physical punishment. This punishment can be administered by man – the courts of law – or by heaven – by the courts above. Thus the fear of punishment is for the ultimate good of man.

Once my uncle was about to hit his young son for something he did. The son said “I already learned my lesson – there is no need to hit me.” If we learn our lesson there is no need for punishment.

Our parents punished us. We are better people for it.

Ways to Avoid Punishment – A Mitzvah is an Advocate

Obviously we would rather not incur punishment. The way to avoid it is to learn what the Torah expects from us and do it. I learned it the hard way – difficult times that came my way – prompted me to reflect on how to better my ways. But in Pirkei Avot it tells us clearly how to avoid punishment.

In Pirkei Avot (4:11 ) it says:

Rabbi Elie’zer ben Yaa’kov says: one who does one Mitzvah will acquire one advocate & one who transgresses one sin acquires one accuser. Repentance & good deeds are like a shield against punishment.

An extreme example of this is King Hordus / Herod . He killed 45 great Jewish sages. He asked Shimon ben Shetach – his brother in law – how he could avoid punishment. He said you extinguished the light of the world, to repent you must illuminate the light of the world by renovating the 2nd Holy Temple in Jerusalem. This is what he did.

Being Happy All the Time – letting go of grudges & Loving Your Fellow Jew

The Torah commands us to love our fellow Jew as ourselves. Based upon this the Chofetz Chaim in His Sefer / Book – Ahavat Yisrael mentions that bearing a grudge or hatred for a fellow Jew incurs punishment.

In Chapter 2 on Repercussions of Baseless Hatred & the Stringency of the Torah Regarding it – he writes:

And here will be explained why is this sin more grave than other sins.

1) For each sin it is unusual that a person will transgress upon it every single moment. [If a person is not unrestrained — G-d forbid]. However, this sin of baseless hatred a person transgresses every single moment when hatred is awakened in his heart. And at times, the hatred remains in him for a month or a year or more. And the transgressions of Torah Prohibitions from the Torah are multiplied without limit.

Being punished every single moment for gratuitous hatred is difficult. But apparently that is better than living a life of hatred. Knowing one will be punished for every single moment he hates a fellow Jew – motivates us to let go of our hatred. Letting go of our hatred makes us live a more peaceful and serene life.

But we can also look at the flip side of the coin. If we are punished for every single moment of hatred – it means that every single moment we have a choice to hate or to love. Our hatred of others isn’t a given. It is in our hands to let go of the hatred every single moment. It is in our hands to let go of sadness every single moment and live happy lives – every single moment.

 

Reasons for the Influx of Converts to Judaism, Reincarnation & Antisemitism

Many people want to be Jewish. It is challenging. But – the gain outweighs the pain. Truthfully a Gentile – need not become Jewish to obtain a place in heaven. By observing the 7 Noahide laws from the Torah they can receive a portion in heaven – albeit – not as great as a portion that a Jew who observes Torah receives.

At the time of Mashiah’ / Messiah the gentiles will ask G-d to give them a Mitzvah / commandment to show that they also can observe the mitzvahs as the Jews.

Gentiles / Non-Jews given a Mitzvah / Commandment

In a Toras Aish (Sukkot 5765 / Volume XII Number 3) a booklet with Thoughts From Across the Torah Spectrum, RABBI DOV KRAMER explains in an article called – Taking a Closer Look

The prayers recited during the recently concluded High Holidays include the desire/plea that “all of humanity (Jew and non-Jew alike) join together to fulfill Your will.” In the Haftorah of the first day of Succos (Zecharya 14:16), we read that this request will be realized during the Messianic period; “And it will be that all who are left from all of the nations, who had come against Jerusalem (to wage war against it), and they will come up every year to bow before the King, the G-d of Hosts, and to celebrate the festival of Succos.” Why is this holiday singled out as the one during which all the nations of the world will come to acknowledge G-d?

 

Most of the commentators explain that the war of Gog and Magog, the final war before Moshiach comes, will take place on Succos. Since it will be the wondrous miracles performed in this war that will cause all to recognize the One True G-d, it will be this same time every year that the nations return to pay homage to Him.

 

Rashi, however, has a different approach. The Talmud (Avodah Zarah 3a) describes a conversation between the gentile nations and G-d, where they ask if they can start from scratch (and thus be worthy of the same future as the Nation of Israel). Eventually, G-d gives them one “easy” commandment to fulfill, to live in a Succah. It is because of this “mitzvah,” given to the gentiles as their last opportunity to show that they deserved to be included in all of the Torah’s commandments, that (according to Rashi) the other nations come to Jerusalem every year to “bow before G-d.”

 

Here is a synopsis of the end of the conversation between G-d and the gentiles: The gentiles request a “do-over,” that they be offered the Torah again, so that they can (now) fulfill it. G-d responds that it’s really too late, as reward can only be given in the world to come to those that worked for it in this world. Nevertheless, “I have one easy commandment, namely Succah, go and fulfill it.” The Talmud asks how G-d can offer such a thing, when a verse explicitly implies that mitzvos cannot be performed in the world to come- to which it answers that G-d does not use “excuses” to prove His point, so wanted to give them an opportunity to show whether or not they really would keep the commandment(s) if given the chance.

 

Initially, each gentile goes and builds a Succah, but when G-d makes it extremely hot (and therefore uncomfortable in the Succah), they all leave it-kicking it on their way out. Even though one who is very uncomfortable is not obligated to stay in the Succah, by kicking it they showed that they never really wanted to fulfill it (see Maharal).

Becoming in Tune with Oneself / The Reason for Antisemitism – If You cannot Join them – Beat them.

One of the reasons why Hitler said he hated Jews in Mein Kampf – was because the Jews gave the world 2 things – A conscience. The Idea of Perfecting Oneself. He wanted to live as a barbarian – without a conscience. Thus the reasons he said that he committed his atrocities.

A Gentile or even a Jew against Torah Observant Jews who is in tune with their real feelings may want to examine from where these feelings emanate / come. They may ask – Is it that they have a desire to become Torah observant themselves – but their attachment to the materialism causes them to beat them (Jews) rather than to join them?

If this is the case it makes more sense to at least take a small mitzvah upon themselves and do something constructive with these feelings rather than using their feelings destructively.

Why Gentiles want to Become Jewish

But the main point here is – why do some non-Jews feel a compelling desire to convert to Judaism?

For some it is a Desire to connect with the Source of All life – the One who said “let there be light!” – Hash-m.

In Torah it explains that before G-d gave the Torah to the Jews at Mount Sinai – He proposed it to the other nations. Each asked – what is in the Torah. To a nation that had a tendency towards stealing – He said – “Do not Steal. is one of the commandments. The collective nation rejected accepting the Torah upon themselves. Until when the Torah was offered to the Jews – the Jews said “We will do it and We will hear it.” Meaning first we will accept the Torah. Then we will hear what is in it. Some Gentiles in certain nations – wanted to accept the Torah, but were excluded from the privilege of observing it because their nation rejected it. Some of these souls – came back to life and eventually became converts to Judaism.

There were also some individual Jews who did not wish to accept the Torah at mount Sinai. They eventually became – those against Torah or those that “converted” to another religion. (Conversion of a Jew to another religion is really impossible – a Jew will always remain a Jew in G-d’s eyes. Even though a Jew can go through the motions of “converting” to another religions – their soul will remain Jewish and they are responsible to follow Torah and they will be Judged as a Jew (according to their observance of Jewish Law / Shulchan Aruch) in the afterlife).

The Migrating Souls

However for some, another reason plays a part. During the course of history – many Jewish souls greatly diverted themselves from the path of the Torah or rebelled against it. G-d sometimes gives these souls an extra chance to redeem themselves from what their soul did in a past life. Their soul comes back in the body of a non-Jew because their soul desires to become attached again to the source of life – Hash-m.

In a previous Post in jerusalemlife.com – entitled Truth Seekers – Of Ministers & Missionaries that Made the Move to Judaism  I wrote about two former-gentile ministers whose sincere search of truth led them to convert to Torah Judaism – Rabbi Yehuda Peretz and Gavriel Sanders.

Rabbi Yehuda Perez, originally Alfredo Diaz, came from Mexico. His father was interested in spirituality and tried all kinds of religions until he founded a church. His sect had great respect for Jews. His son, Rabbi Peretz, started on the track to become a Pastor. At one point he was reading the bible. He had questions regarding the discrepancies in the Bible. He tried comparing different versions of the Bible to find his answers. He didn’t find his answers. He found out that the versions differed markedly between one and the other and between the original Hebrew texts. He was not satisfied with the answers.

 

So he prayed to G-d to help him find the truth and the answers to his questions. Shortly after he met a Jewish person and was enthralled. He started asking his questions to the simple Jew and he answered them satisfactorily. Alfredo, was greatly impressed, and learned that the answers to his questions were found in what the Jewish man called the Oral Torah. He kept on asking questions that the man deferred by suggesting that Alfredo ask some of the orthodox Rabbis in Mexico.

Alfredo continued his search for truth until he finally converted to Judaism. He Moved to Israel and married a Jewish woman. He continued his Jewish studies and Became and ordained Rabbi. Now he is Rabbi Yehuda Perez.

Tapping in to Previous Lives – through the Autistic Savants

Rabbi Perez once went to an autistic person who has a soul that highly in contact with the heavens. (for those interested Books (Secrets of the Soul) and a site (dani18.com) that reveals their messages exist). His name I believe is Binyamin Golden – who is able to communicate through a process called Facilitated Communication (FC). FC Is done through computer chat communication with the autistic person.

He asked Binyamin – who was he in a previous life. Binyamin Told him –

Your soul was previously in a person who died in the Gas Chambers of the Holocaust. In your previous life you were also married with someone who had the same soul as your current wife.

His current wife was a Moroccan Jew.

Rabbi Perez then asked why was his current wife born Jewish – while he was born as a gentile?

Binyamin Told him –

At the last moments of your previous life you did not do Teshuva / Repent from abandoning the Torah. You thus were born as a non-Jew – because to compensate for your lack of Teshuva – in a past life you had to make an extra effort to become Jewish in this life. Your wife – did do Teshuva the last moment and thus she was reincarnated as a Jewish woman.

The world – in this state is supposed to last 6,000 years. We are in Year 5,778 from creation. Many souls are coming to the world to make a tikun / reparation for abandoning Torah in a previous life. At times a person has sinned so much – that the only way they can be purified and forgiven is if they die sanctifying the Name of Hashem / Kiddush Hash-m. Some of the people in the Holocaust died for that reason.

Thus many converts are coming to convert to Judaism – because these migrant souls are being reborn.

Who Are You?

The Ariz”l said that most people born today are from souls reincarnated from past lives.

Are you one of these reincarnated souls? I don’t know. Hypnosis (see – the book the Coming Revolution – by R. Zamir Cohen or an article on his site hidabroot.com – that talks about Hypnosis to a past life) or speaking with one of these autistic people (see dani18.com – apparently you can email them) through Facilitated Communication might be able to help you on that one. But really all you need is to be true to yourself- true to truth. true to finding truth and pray to Hash-m / G-d and Hash-m will help you find the Truth.

Following Torah – either the Shulhan Arukh for a Jew or the 7 Noahide Commandments for non-Jews are pretty simple once you get used to doing them. One just has to take that first step of making taking small steps towards learning them and observing.

 

 

Selective Forgetting – Overcoming Difficulties of Your Past

I had a nice childhood. I remember spending summers in Silver Spring, Maryland with my cousins. We went to a camp called Candy Cane City. It was fun.

I was a kid in the mid-70’s. People sported fros and big owl glasses, bell-bottoms and those gaudy suits and ties. I remember taking my cousin’s bike – going on a bike adventure by myself in the streets of Washington, DC. My cousin and I would take long Shabbat walks and for some reason we would end up in a public parking lot – where we could see a nice view of the area. I remember the Evil Knievel Toy Motorcycle and those Cars that you’d pull the belt that would spin the car-wheel and letting it jump over my makeshift ramps – watching them fly.

But like all – I also had my share of difficulties. I can’t say that my challenges were as great as other people’s but I did have times of Joy and times of suffering.

I don’t know if my fun childhood – made it more difficult to cope with my more difficult teenage years. I had great teen years – but I was introduced to this concept I knew little of – called suffering.

Positive Suffering

In a sense suffering is painful. But it is also can be seen in the positive. It cleanses the imperfections in one’s comportment and one’s blemishes in their soul. I became more introspective. My suffering made me I realize that hurting others to make the class laugh was wrong. I learned of other comportments to change & character traits and deeds I had to improve. I resolved to become a better person. Anybody can start over and wipe the slate clean.

Looking back, I took the life lessons – to do good and not hurt others – but I left the pain behind.

Some people take the pain with them and forget the lessons.

Others take both.

Suffering & Closeness to G-d

Suffering makes it easier to become closer to Hash-m. We cry out sincerely to Him when in the depths. When everything is going well – have money, children, nice apartment and car – unfortunately many forget G-d. And then to those he loves – he may send a wakeup call. Some want pain to help motivate themselves to become Closer to G-d and to do Mitzvot. King David wanted suffering to help him feel closer to G-d. A high level – not for everyone.

Looking at the Past and Future – Kosher

Rabbi Yosef Sitruk, z”l – former French Chief Rabbi – said that The signs of a Kosher animal represent two ways of looking at the world. Two kosher signs for an animal is that it chews its cud and has split hooves. Chewing Cud – represents bringing back past. Jews from middle-eastern countries – Sephardim – usually would say how the past were the “good old days” and bring them up again and again. He used the term Yahsra – loosely translated as “what a difference between then and now – accompanied by a melancholy feeling of the glorious past that is gone.”

He said that the split hooves – represent an attitude of always trying to innovate and go ahead. He compared that attitude to the Jews from occidental countries – the Ashkenazim – that rely more on innovations in teaching, psychology, technology, etc.

So chewing old memories could be good. Provided you remember the good. But dwelling on past pain can be counterproductive if it stifles you or stops you from being productive or it causes you depression. Let it go.

Let it go.

You have to move on in life.

Reasons why G-d Sends Suffering

G-d sometimes sends difficulties for a person to overcome and become a stronger better individual. He sends difficulties so a person will become closer to Him. Like a parent who withholds allowance from a child who’s living away from home – in order that the child call his parents sometimes.

G-d only does Good – finding the reason for your Suffering

If G-d does only good – how can I understand my suffering? Apparently if you think hard enough or think of past difficulties – you can find a lesson to learn. Perhaps something you gained, something you improved. A worse situation that you avoided by encountering difficulty. Be creative. Perhaps you became more spiritual, closer to G-d? Thousand of reasons. Choose one that fits you best.

Choose Your Memories

You choose which memories to bring to the forefront. It could be you enjoying life or you in pain. You choose. You choose what to think about. You choose what to dwell upon.

When I just got married an uncle of my wife said – remember this period of the first year – where everything is special. Put it in a bottle. When you encounter difficulties – open the bottle and draw from it.

In Pirkei Avot / Ethics of the Fathers two Mishnayot talk about a person forgetting – one about forgetting sin and one about forgetting his Torah learning. It says:

Torah Study & Toil to Forget Sin
Rabban Gamliel son of Rabbi son of Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi says: – “Great is the study of Torah with Derekh Eretz [lit. “the way of the world” either – with livelihood or with proper conduct] – for with the toil in both [temptation to] sin is forgotten. And all Torah that is without Derekh Eretz – in the end it will be nullified & causes sin. And whoever toils with the community, let them toil with them for the sake of Heaven – for the merit of their fathers helps them – & their righteousness will stand forever. And you [who toil with the community] I will consider it as if you yourself achieved it. (Avot 2:2)

Forgetting Torah

Rabbi Dostai, son of Rabbi Yannai in the name of Rabbi Meir, says: Whoever forgets one thing from his [Torah] learning – Scripture, considers as if he is liable for his life. As it says: “Rather guard yourself & guard your soul very well lest you forget the things that your eyes saw.” (Devarim/ Deut. 4:9) One might think that this even applies if his studies were too difficult. The Torah [thus] teaches “Lest you remove it from your hearts” (ibid) – behold he is not liable for his life until it [the learning] settles within him & then he removes it from his heart. [intentionally] (Avot 3:8)

Putting the Subject matter of the Mishna’s aside – we learn two things about forgetting – One – that one can forget sin by being involved in Torah, community and work. Forgetting pain can also be forgotten such. Occupy yourself with the positive. With Mitzvot. Note the that both mentioned  – Torah Study and Working are Mitzvot / Commandments from Torah. Learning Torah is a Mitzvah (Jews learn Torah, Gentiles Learn about Noahide Laws). Working is a Mitzvah – the Mitzvah of Settling the world. By occupying yourself with both you forget your sins – but you also forget your pain.

Temporary vs. Long Term Relief from Suffering 

Apparently these are the best things a person can use to forget. Once a person said he got over depression by watching comedies. I tried. It didn’t work.

A Cause of Suffering

Apparently – one source of depression comes from the soul. You are really your soul. It is possible that depression is linked to the fact that a person is not producing Mitzvot. Thus the soul is depressed.

When I was depressed, I used to do the same. Watch comedies. For me – it was like “Chinese Food” – you eat it, but right after you are hungry. I would watch to pass time but right after I still felt depressed.

Learning Enlightens the Soul

Learning Torah enlightens the soul. So the soul’s sadness is lifted. It is a Mitzvah to serve Hashem with happiness – so sadness is also a domain of the Yetzer HaRah / the evil inclination. He does not want you to be happy. His job is to keep you down so that you don’t produce Mitzvot, do kindness. He provides for you a negative attitude that makes you unproductive of Mitzvot. That is his job. Your job is to bear away from His suggestions. To choose not to become depressed. To speak it out with friends or family to resolve your difficulties – so you can become productive in achieving your potential for doing good.

Happiness – through torah – may not come overnight – it takes time of consistent work – little strides. Step by step. Slow and steady wins the race.

Choose Happiness

You choose – to be happy. You choose to seek help to get out of depression. Your only Job is to say “G-d please help me to get out of this difficult situation of …..(fill in the blank)” Make an effort to get out of it. And choose the help once it comes.

You choose to banish that thought of “I am a nothing” and replace it with “I am a special person. No one in the world is like me.” (see the “You are special card”). Think “I have great potential.” Think “People love me!” Think “G-d loves me.” instead of all those other negative thoughts racing through your mind.

Be strict – and don’t let bad thoughts come in. If they do say “Stop!” You’re not always in control of the thoughts that enter your mind – but you choose to dwell upon them. So stop the bad thoughts and replace them will positive thoughts.

Choose to Be Helped

A person must choose to be helped. There is a Joke.

Once a person was received a flood warning text. He said “G-d will help me.” He stayed in his home. The flood waters reached his street. The police came – “Do you want a ride away from the danger zone.” He replied – “G-d will help me.” The flood waters got higher. Then – a boat passed by – they asked “Do you want a ride away from the danger zone.” He replied – “G-d will help me.” The waters went higher. A helicopter came – “Do you want a ride away from the danger zone.” He replied – “G-d will help me.”

Ultimately – he drowned. He came before G-d and asked – “G-d why didn’t you save me?” G-d replied “I sent you a car, a boat and a helicopter – what more did you want?”

We choose to seek help. We choose what to dwell upon. We choose our attitude. We choose to pray to Hash-m for help. We choose to be helped when help arrives.

The Second mishna teaches us about intentional and unintentional forgetting. How does one intentionally forget. Apparently one can choose to forget. When the subject matter comes up in their mind – they push it aside with other thoughts – intentionally. This intentional forgetting can be used for the good – forgetting sad events in your life.

Forgetting – a Gift from G-d

It says that forgetting is a gift from G-d. If one would remember so perfectly – that the memories of difficulties would be clear in his mind – his or her life would be much more difficult to bear. After one year a person forgets partially the passing of a dear one. After seven years a person – feels as if the person wasn’t here. Another kindness of Hash-m to help you better cope and get on in life.

 What you think is what you are. Think negative – you’ll be negative. Think positive – you’ll be positive. It’s in your hands to choose.

Think Kindness

Even better is to think of doing kindness with others. You become a kinder person. A Jew who thinks of doing a Mitzvah with others – gets that mitzvah. You think you want to feed every single worthy person in the world, you will be attributed that Mitzvah. You think you want to teach Torah to everyone – you get that Mitzvah. You think to do a Mitzvah and was unable to do it – you get that Mitzvah.

Reasons Not to Think of Doing Bad to Others

A motivation to not think about doing badly to others – is that some people – when they think of doing evil to others – even though they do not do it in the end – the evil they wanted to do are attributed to them as if they actually did it.

We say in the Hagadah of Pesach – “An Aramean (Lavan – the father of Rachel & Leah – who were married to Yaakov / Jacob) destroyed my Father (Yaakov) and we went down to Egypt.” Lavan did not kill Yaakov. He thought seriously about doing it. But he didn’t kill him. But it was attributed to him that he did kill Yaakov – meaning it will be on his record – when he gets to heaven that he actually killed.

Forget the Bad – Forget the Hate – Forget the Grudges

In Torah – we do not hold a grudge. If someone did bad to you – confront them and tell to explain their bad comportment. Let them ask forgiveness or you ask and the story is over.

Ask yourself – this grudge that you’ve been holding against a brother, parent, child – worth it? Did you gain anything from it all these years. Holding a grudge can fall into the category of sinat hinam – gratuitous hatred – also a transgression of veAhavta Le’reacha – you shall love your fellow Jew.

Putting all that aside – was the bad blood worth it all these years?

Forgive – forget – get over it. Obviously, you don’t have to put yourself into a situation in which they would take advantage of you again or bring them to a Beit Din / Jewish court of law to settle the financial affairs – but one is not related to the other. If you are too shy to approach your family member or friend and you want to make peace – You can ask a competent Orthodox rabbi to be an intermediary to approach the person.

Speak No Evil

The secret to happiness is to choose what you think about. It’s possible this is one of the reasons of the many laws against speaking Lashon HaRa’ – Evil Speech – speaking badly of others regardless of it being true or not. You speak badly – you think negatively. You cause others to think negatively. We are to control our thoughts, speech and actions. Speech and actions start from thought. If you nip the problem in the bud – you resolve many difficulties. Don’t think negatively – you won’t speak negatively and you won’t do the negative.

Also this will Pass

A manic-depressive asked King Solomon for a cure to his concern. At times he was ecstatic. At times he was depressed. He gave him a ring that said – “Also this will pass.” He was cured. When he was sad – he thought – “also this will pass” and he would cheer up. When he was ecstatic – he would think – “also this will pass” –  and he would calm down.

Your happiness is dependent upon you thoughts.

Think positive!

Connecting to G-d or Don’t Give Me that Kosher Style. I want the Real Thing!

Jews are connected.

Connected to the One above.

I know it first hand. I meet Jews in the street with all the paraphernalia – nose rings, tattoos, leather jackets. They seem tough on the outside. Scratch a little below the surface accessories and you find a warm heart connected to Judaism.

The struggling Jewish comedians. The doctor who tells me she started saying blessings on food. The Palestinian college student with a Jewish mother. A vegetarian suffering from a tough divorce. And also that non-Jewish woman steeped in materialism, grappling with conversion to Judaism.

Each has one thing in common. They are connected.

Complete Torah Observance? Not there yet.

Connected – yes. Connected in their own way. Connected by coming to the synagogue. Trying to be good to others. By putting on that big white kippah when they enter the shul. The women that cover their hair with a scarf when they come to ask for a blessing from the big Rabbi.  The secular Jews who give donations to hospitals because of their concern for others.

The Torah confirms this saying that each Jew has a spark from the Divine that keeps the Jewish person connected to Hash-m – no matter how far they feel.

G-d Loves People

G-d loves these people. They try. They support Israel or don’t. They eat kosher or kosher style – because they think it’s really Kosher. They don’t know the extent of how much G-d loves them. But those little actions mean much. I heard even that G-d loves you – a person who follows or tries earnestly to follow His laws – more than any person can love you in the world. Even one’s parents. I believe it.

Even the people who get on the defensive when they see you wearing a black kippah. And take out their frustrations out on you. I know one reason why they get defensive – because deep down they also want to be connected as much as you to the Great Power above. Apparently they envy someone they feel has a greater connection.

I love them too.

Don’t want to be be Politically Correct

I try not to be politically correct in life. I’d much rather tell it like it is. I’d rather people hear the truth than to stretch truth to make others happy. Obviously I try to be tactful. So please don’t think I’m doing the politically correct jargon.

The Lost – finding the Right Path & Getting Connected

In a sense I feel for all people. I feel that many are lost – sincerely searching for a path that will bring them to Utopia on earth. I can’t say I found Utopia – because Utopia will never exist. The true Utopia is living a life in which any situation you encounter – stressful or not – you’ll be able to deal with it in the most positive way possible. That’s real Utopia. I  did find a real path that helps me to feel I am accomplishing purpose. Yes, I do stray and sway – unfortunately – but I try keep anchored to Torah.

Yes – synagogue. Yes – Shabbat. Yes – Kosher. Yes – Daily Torah Study & Prayer. Yes – trying to not talk badly about others. Yes – Part of a Torah Community.

The more I try to be connected, the more I feel I need to be connected.

the Path to Spirituality & Self- Fulfillment – Torah Commandments

They say that a Jew is full of Mitzvot / Commandments [they do] as a pomegranate. Why a pomegranate? We as Jews have 613 commandments. (a Gentile has 7 Major categories of commandments – the Noahide Laws – that come to 30 detailed commandments). A Pomegranate has 613 seeds in it. Each Jew is connected in doing a special Mitzvah. Some try to do all. Some pick and choose. The real idea behind a Mitzvah is becoming connected to G-d. True spirituality.

Many people search cults and exotic religions – trying to find spirituality and meaning. But I say – “What more do you want? – when G-d came down and told us – to over 3 million people who witnessed – that this – the Torah – is what He wants.

This is the guide to become close to Him. Spirituality in my eyes is being close and connected to G-d. He already told us. So my job now to become connected is to try to do what I can to follow. Someone asked the Hazon Ish – a great Rabbi who lived in Benei Brak – what is the pathway to spirituality? He said follow Halacha / Jewish law.

I mentioned before that one’s real self is not the body. It is the soul. Please the soul and you will live a happier life. The problem why happiness is elusive is that – people pick and choose Mitzvot. “This is good enough for me.” “This mitzvah doesn’t fit my lifestyle.” So I will pick to follow my own made up religion – of what I think is good and what I think is wrong.

G-d really made it easy for us – He already told us what is right and wrong. That’s not our realm. Our realm is determining whether – the situation we encounter it is right to do A or B – based upon what Torah says. We can’t rewrite the Torah. No one can. Because I know my intelligence is nothing in comparison to G-d’s, I’ll relegate determining what is right and wrong to G-d. I’ll just decide if my intended reaction to a situation fits the Will of G-d as described by the Torah. This makes my life much easier.

Even this week pray – given all our Torah knowledge – that Hashem gives us the wisdom to do His will in each situation.

G-d’s View vs My Personal Interest – Choosing the Greater Good for the World.

I realized – after the fact – What it really comes down to is choosing to let G-d guide your life through Torah is choosing a greater good for you and for all society. I am very limited in my vision and the consequences of my actions. G-d takes all into account. The good for me, the good for society, the good for your family.

My scope is much more limited. I am biased. It’s putting my personal interest aside for G-d – for the greater good of the world. Though – I may not understand G-d’s ways or sometimes even certain of His laws – I follow. Once I know that G-d gave a nation of millions of people a law – where millions of people witnessed the giving of this divine document – I can feel confident following that law. I can feel confident I am doing a greater good for the world by following Torah.

A higher level is doing things leshem shamayim – for the sake of G-d. We have a special relationship with Hashem – for thousands of years He has been helping us with a kind hand. We thus do good for His sake.

We become a greater individual. We become bigger. I look at the interest of others rather than just my own. I follow what G-d wants rather than what I think is right. Usually they coincide. Sometimes they don’t. But in a case of my opinion – and the opinion of the Torah is diffferent – I defer to Torah – for G-d’s wisdom is greater than mine.

Remove Doubt – Remove Suffering

Living a Life of doubt is painful. If I don’t know what is right or wrong, I am always in doubt. Torah takes that doubt away. I just see what Torah says or ask a competent “Orthodox” rabbi what it says about a particular issue.

Years ago someone asked “what should be done with a person on life support”? I didn’t know the answer. I asked a Posek (a Rabbi qualified enough to make Halachic / Jewish law decisions) on “pulling the plug from life support.” I explained the case – He said it was forbidden. I told the family.

They followed and were happy with their decision. They did not live a life of regret asking “Did I do the right thing?” They knew they did the right thing for they based their decision upon Torah.

My Life of Picking and Choosing

I was in the situation of picking and choosing what is convenient for me.The “This doesn’t fit my lifestyle” attitude – until I chose to get off this “double citizenship” – of on one hand following Torah when it’s convenient and not when it is not. It took time. As they say “slowly but surely wins the race.” But once I did commit to follow Torah based upon what it said to do rather than what I thought is convenient – I changed myself and changed my life for the better.

I didn’t choose what I should do and not. I knew I had to do all – my choice was relegated to choosing what I was ready to take upon myself. At one time I took complete eating Kosher inside and out of the house. Then I took complete Shabbat observance. Then I took wearing a Kippah. Then I took Daily Torah study. Each one has their own path to Judaism. I’m still trying to grow. But at least I have a path. Some don’t know the path exists.

Achieving Your Purpose in Life

That same path in Judaism – that brings spiritual satisfaction – brings one to achieving their personal potential and purpose in life. Apparently they are related.

The Real Thing

I don’t want that Kosher style lifestyle. I want the real thing.

I won’t lie. It takes effort. It takes sweat. Going against the grain. Breaking the mold that society builds for you. Moving Forward day by day. Overcoming the challenges – but you know in the end you have a Hand that carries you. A good G-d that watches over you.

Anyone – regardless of their level of righteousness – can have emunah / trust in Hash-m’s / G-d’s providence and He will help them. G-d will even help the thief who prays to Him to be successful in his endeavor to steal from a house. Anyone can repent and start over.

But strong connection takes work. Work at it. Be ready to go the whole 9 yards. And you’ll never be or feel alone. You’ll always be directly connected to the One above.

Problems Causing You Worry? or Worry Causing You Problems?

G-d loves his creatures. He doesn’t even want the death of the wicked. He wants them to correct their ways and He will accept them.

The power of Teshuva / repentance is such – that anyone can be forgiven for their sins if they return sincerely to the good and just path of the Torah. G-d is so gracious that He would forgive anyone that sincerely repents. Anyone. Yes – You, Me and the Average Joes.

So Magnanimous is G-d – His Mercy is unimaginable.  I heard from a rabbi – that even if Hitler would have sincerely repented for all the sins he committed – he would have been forgiven. Yet, now that he did not – he ranks among the most evil men of all times.

G-d is our father. He wants us to have a relationship with Him. If we place our worries upon Him, He will take care of them. Say “G-d, I have a great test or an important interview- I will do my best to do well, but You take care of the rest. I won’t worry because you control all.” Don’t Worry – Have faith in Hash-m and he will handle the rest.

One who worries is basically lacking a bit of faith. He thinks that things don’t happen for the best. If he integrated the fact that G-d controls all and does everything for the best – there is no need to worry. After you put in your best effort, act prudently, take your precautions and pray to Hash-m – put your concerns in the hands of G-d – let Him take care of the rest.

If you do worry – you think that man is in control. If a person does worry sometimes G-d says let the worrier take care of the situation. And lets the “dice roll” for what happens. At times one’s worry is the cause of his problems. If a person worries – that which they worry about – might come to fruition due to their worry. Yes – a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Better to put your fate in the Hand’s of G-d. Don’t put your fate in the hands of men. Understand that only good will occur and it will. Remember G-d is Good. He is our Father. He wants the best for us. No need to worry.

Believe it will be good and it will be good.

Don’t worry be happy.

My Friend, the Demon – Banishing Demons from Your Life

Do demons exist? A friend of mine said he met one.

He was in Florida in a spooky neighborhood late at night. He saw a person that seemed friendly enough. He spoke with them and invited them to talk with him & his friend in his hotel room. He told them to make themselves comfortable. When they took off their shoes, he noticed they had the feet of a chicken. He found a way to excuse himself. “I’m sorry – it’s getting late and I really have to go to sleep.”

3 Demonic Forces

  1. Yetzer hara – the evil inclination is an entity that tells you to do the wrong thing. Remember when a cartoon character had an ethical dilemma – a little angel and a devil resembling the character, appeared on each shoulder. The angel would tell him to do good, the devil bad. He usually listened to the devil and something bad happens to him. This concept is a Torah concept. A person has a Yetzer haTov – a good inclination and an evil inclination. One tells him do good, the other bad. If he does good he is rewarded and the opposite if he follows the advice of the bad.

The Reason for Temptation

The reason for these two inclinations is to give a person freedom of choice. If a person only did good – we would be robots and thus we would have no merit for choosing good. G-d gives us the ability to choose the good to be able to reward us. Thus temptation is an opportunity to become greater. Overcoming each one we become greater and greater.

Temptation is here to help us overcome it and be rewarded. Every time we overcome it we become a greater individual. We become closer to G-d and happiness. When we fail we become farther from G-d and our soul is tormented.

Pinpointing the Unknown Cause of Suffering

This is one reason why people suffer – yet do not know why – because their values are not aligned with Torah values. They satisfy their bodies and simultaneously torment their souls. They feel the sadness of the soul but cannot pinpoint where this sadness comes from. They try drugs, psychologists, alcohol. The simple solution is to align ones values with Torah. Obviously one with problems should consult with a competent and reputable Orthodox rabbi.

It is not doing what you feel is good that will make you happy. It is doing what the Torah says is good that will make you happy. Because you are your soul. Some things you think are good are not actually good according to Torah. Thus what you think may be good – but the Torah does not – may give sadness to the soul.

G-d knows what makes us happy and sad. He created us. And he is our Father. A father wants the happiness of his children. G-d does too. Thus he gave the Jewish people the Torah as the guide to find lasting meaning, happiness and good.

A person might think that having an affair is good. If one does – he or she will torment their  soul. They may think they had a good time physically but their soul is “bleeding.” Thus, a person becomes depressed. Not to mention all the negative repercussions that following the Yetzer HaRa attracts – divorce, hatred, sadness, broken friendships, quarrel, saddened children. Baruch Hash-m / Thank G-d, He gave us the opportunity for Teshuva / Repentance.

Solving Ethical Dilemmas

If it was only so easy that an angel and devil would appear on one shoulder for us to decide. We would just choose the “angel” and be happy. However, the Yetzer Hara / the evil inclination disguises himself as the angel. He tries to convince you that what is bad according to Torah is actually good and what is good according to Torah is actually bad.

Thus a person who does have an ethical dilemma, would be prudent to ask a respected Orthodox rabbi of the Torah’s position of a particular issue. Many people are flying around with values of the newspaper or their political orientation or their heart. Sometimes they are on target with what Torah says – sometimes not. The smart person, who wants to truly do right – will align their values to the will of G-d.

Torah Truth – the Million Man Proof

The only divinely given document – witnessed being given by millions of people is the Torah. No other religion claims this. Only Orthodox Judaism adheres strictly to the precepts of the Torah. Other movements and religions – will say “G-d changed his Mind” or “it is OK to change Torah”. Apparently they think they are smarter than G-d. Rationally speaking, G-d changing his mind is irrational. G-d who is omniscient / All knowing of past present and future will change his mind? Not rational.

The Religion Litmus Test

Some people search for a religion to follow. I always give the advice, if one is a Gentile – they should follow the & Noahide laws from Torah. If they really have an affinity for Judaism – so they should speak with a reputable Orthodox Rabbi to learn what how to go about a proper Orthodox Jewish conversion. A Litmus test to determine the veracity of a religion is to compare it to Torah. If a religion is saying “It is proper to make human sacrifices” and the Torah Says “It is forbidden to Kill” obviously the religion is not G-d’s will.

Negative Messages

The Yetzer HaRa wants to kill a person in this world and the next. Thus he implants in him or her  all kinds of negative thoughts and messages – “I am a nobody”, “I am worthless”, “no one likes me”, “I have no future”, “I have no hope for becoming better”, “It is important that I stay with this person because I love him”. He will pull you in all sorts of directions like a magnet pulling metal. The smart person will call his game. The smart person will think.

Overcoming one’s Negative Messages

Regarding Negative messages also – don’t accept things on face value. If the thought enters your mind – “I am a good for nothing” challenge it. Is that really true? I have many good qualities – I help old ladies with their shopping. I hold the elevator door. I say good morning to people. Perhaps its only the Yetzer HaRa talking to you. Discern, what is true and what is your yetzer Hara. Many suicides could have been prevented by a person countering these negative thoughts with positive ones.

Also if you do feel you are bad – because you did something – so improve. It is not a dead end street. You did something bad. OK. Now do Teshuva / Repentance. The four steps: 1. Confess to Hash-m. 2. Regret what you did. 3. Commit to doing Good. 4. And don’t do it again.

Changing Negative Messages to Positive

Some have a personal rule of – every negative comment they make against their spouse or children they must make five positive comments. Perhaps a person should adapt a similar rule for themselves – for every negative message they think – they should think five positive messages. That would prevent many suicides. Being positive, is what the Torah wants from a person. Implant positive messages into your thoughts. “I am smart.” “Help people.” “I learn Torah.” “I help others.” “I am smart.” “I am a good child.” Force yourself to smile. Being happy is what the Torah wants from you.

Overcoming the Yetzer HaRa

The greatest defense against it is to think things out. Discuss it. Speak with a Torah Scholar. Is it really good to give a terrorist nation a nuclear bomb? Am I really as bad as I think I am? Is it really in my best interest to follow a man or woman who is not your husband or wife? Is it really smart to bungy-jump over a river?

Past Experiences

Some live in the past. I remember the good old days. I used to be so happy. I was an engineer, now I am a cashier. I was so happy as a youth… I used to be able to shoot a basketball … Ok. Thank G-d for the past and move on.

Poor Me Syndrome

I know someone who feels badly for himself. He doesn’t have the Job he wants. He feels badly because he is still living the dreams of his youth. It is good to dream. Dream big. But do something about it. He tells you of his dreams and sulks of why he didn’t accomplish them. I told him – change your “Poor Me” in “I Can.” By feeling badly for yourself, it won’t change your situation. Take your life into your hands and start the day anew today. Don’t complain. Do practical things that will bring you closer to your goal. Instead of sulking that you have a dead end job. Take some adult education courses and make yourself more marketable. Sulking is another – tool of the Yetzer Hara to make you depressed and curtail your growth.

The Path to Happiness – Giving Happiness to the Soul

But Torah gives you the path to Happiness. But it is not always the easy path. At times it is challenging. In the long term a person achieves that. At times a person has to purge themselves from the bad.

The Torah even gives a simple formula. Remove [yourself] from bad and do good. First however one must know what is bad and good in G-d’s eyes. Sometimes what feels good is not good in the eyes of G-d. So a religion based upon what feels good or right – might be totally off. Totally against G-d’s will. Thus to really know a Gentile studies the Noahide laws and a Jew studies the Shulchan Aruch.

2. Real Demons – Apparently there are physical demons and others that are invisible or perhaps they can make themselves visible. I don’t know.

In the Talmud it teaches how to see demons. I seriously suggest you not try it. One person who did was so scared he almost went insane – until the Rabbis prayed for him and he lost the ability to see them. Apparently animals can see them. If you hear dogs bark when you pass the might either see you as a predator or they see the evil forces surrounding you. But I don’t want to scare you too much.

King Solomon was replaced by a Demon that made himself look just like him. King Solomon wandered for years until he got back to the palace. When he returned, His advisors did not know who was the real King Solomon. The King – who looked like a pauper – told his advisors – to find out if someone saw the imposter’s feet. They verified and found out that he hid his feet – to avoid showing the chicken feet.

If divorced, don’t start trying to check your former spouse’s feet. They are most likely human.

Once I was in France. I was sleeping alone in a room. I put on the light. I was a bit reassured, because the great Torah commentator Rashi, said “There are no Demons in France.” So I wasn’t so worried.

Later I learned that it is possible that previous to Rashi, there were demons in France. But Since the great Rashi declared that there are no demons – they were banished from France. Another thing I heard – France at the time of Rashi had different borders then than it does today. Thus check out the borders of then before you stay alone in France. Just Joking. Demons don’t like noise or light.

Some don’t take hot showers after mid-night (the mid point between dusk and dawn – not necessarily – 12:00 am), because they say that they hang out in the plumbing outlets of the sink and tubs. Pouring hot water on them may get them angry.

Superstition? I don’t know? In any case, a Jew is not to follow superstitions. So one must sort out what is true and what is superstition.

3. “Friends” who Give Bad Advice – Someone I know was planning to get engaged to a nice young man. The friend who had a bone to pick, possibly jealous of her, convinced her to decline the engagement. She did. The girl regretted sorely listening to her friend.

I heard another story of a woman married to a Cohen. A Cohen is not allowed to marry any divorcee. So, Once he divorces his own wife, she can never remarry him. A regular Jewish man is allowed to remarry his former wife. Provided she did not marry anyone else in the interim.

Her Friends convinced her that she should divorce her husband. Her father-in-law tried to dissuade her. She was adamant. She got divorced. She regretted. She could never remarry her former husband. She listened to friends and lost, living the rest of her life in solitude.

A lesson – listen to those that care for you. Take Torah advice – from those knowledgeable, pray to Hash-m that you find His truth and G-d will help you banish all your demons.