Torah Word – What to Ask for in Prayer

The Parasha / Weekly Torah Reading – Behar – talks about Shmittah – letting the land rest from laboring the field every seven years.

If one does this G-d will give blessing in the sixth year that it will produce enough for 3 years. One for the sixth year, one for the seventh and one for the first year of the new Shmittah cycle. It says:

“if you follow my ordinances … You will dwell securely in your land . And I will give you fruit to your satiety. And If you will say “what shall we eat in the seventh year – for we will not plant and not harvest?”  I [Hash-m] will command My blessing that in the Sixth Year – it will provide [enough] produce  for three years.” (Vayikra / Leviticus 25:18-21)


*Question:* – It seems that a person that has a doubt as to relying on G-d by letting his land rest on the seventh year (because he asked “What shall we eat…”) G-d will give this blessing of “produce for three years”. Shouldn’t the blessing be given to people who have faith / Emunah in G-d that he will provide?

*Answer:*    There are two kinds of blessing – in quantity or in quality. A person who has doubts – G-d will give the blessing of quantity – so they can actually see with their eyes the blessing. The quantity of three years of produce.

To those that have faith – G-d will give the blessing of quality.  Their fruit will be so nutritious that one fruit will provide enough nutrition as 3 fruits.”

When asking blessing from Hash-m  – ask for quantity and quality.

Money that will be used for spiritual growth and helping Klal Yisrael & the world – not for Taxes or Medical expenses.

A soulmate that will have good midot / character traits, desire for growth, values and hashkafa / Torah outlook that will make me & Hash-m happy.

Children that will follow Torah and be righteous…

A path in life that will help me to find true spirituality, growth & truth & that will be pleasing to you Hash-m / G-d …

To get accepted into a school that will help me to achieve my potential in life …

Be specific and detailed – but not too detailed to give G-d “leeway” to give you good. Don’t pray to marry a particular person.  G-d knows best if a particular person is good for you to marry. Pray to Marry a person who will have the qualities that you desire – if it is good for you.

May our good prayers be answered* – Amen.


*Hash-m is the Name of G-d to whom we direct our prayers.

The Vegetarian Dilemma – Being Kind with Child’s Body & Soul

Ask your local Vegetarian or Vegan – why don’t you eat meat?

Many will answer, “I am against cruelty done to animals.”

That’s good.

Torah Against Animal Cruelty

The Torah is the first code with laws against cruelty to animals. “Tzaar Baalei Haim” – forbids causing animals to suffer. Ritual slaughter – Shechita – assures the animal feels little or no pain during the slaughtering process.  “Ever Min HaH’ai” – One of the Seven Noahide Laws for all humanity – prohibits eating a limb taken from a living animal. An animal must be dead – before chopping it up. For non-Jews death means the animal must have stopped moving. For Jews – that means that Shechita had to have been done.

Animals “Kosher” for Non-Jews

Judaism allows the eating of Kosher animals for Jews if it was properly slaughtered according to Jewish law. Torah allows gentiles to eat animals as long as the animal was dead before is was chopped up.

Vegetarian – the Ideal State of Man?

In the time of Adam – the first man – people were not allowed to eat animals. After the Flood of Noah, people were allowed to eat animals. Apparently being a vegetarian is the ideal state of man.

There is a statement in Talmud – meat should only be eaten by Torah Scholars – not an ignoramus. (Peachim 49b)

Animal Souls – the Gilgul & Dibuk

Why? One reason given is that they know how to do the ritual slaughter properly. Another is apparently – in an animal there is a soul. Every Animal has a low level soul. There are five levels of the soul – Nefesh, Ruach, Neshama, H’aya & Yeh’ida. Animals have the lowest level – the Nefesh. Humans have the Ruach – apparently that allows people to talk. There is the Neshama – that are for people spiritually connected. Jews receive and extra Neshama on Shabbat. Rashi says – that’s one reason why people eat more on Shabbat.

Animals and plants are more spiritually connected than we would assume. Animals have a soul. Talk nicely to a plant and it will grow better. A Japanese scientist tried an experiment on water. He would talk nicely to water and freeze it. Other water he would speak not- nicely. The water that was spoken nicely to, had beautiful crystals formed. The water that was yelled at had irregular and non-symmetrical crystals formed.

Blessing Before Eating

This might be one reason, why we Jews say a blessing before eating anything. (We have a Blessing card for food available free at the Freebies / Store Section) (Gentiles can also say the blessing for food – provided they say “G-d of Israel” instead of “Our G-d” in the blessing.) When we say the blessing – we beautify the food physically – as shown in the experiment.

But more than that – we transform the physical into spiritual energy. Also we unlock the soul that was in the food.

Soul Transmigration

When a person sins – some are punished by their soul coming back to life in an object. It could be in a rock, a plant, a tree, a fruit or an animal or a person. (For instance – Kabbalah says – one who acts with immorality with a gentile or a Jew – their soul might come back incarnated as a dog.)

When a person says a blessing on the food – that soul is released from the object and is able to make a reparation and the soul is uplifted to another degree. ie, a soul that was in a fruit – is elevated and may be able to go into an animal body.

Apparently – that is one reason why only Torah Scholars should eat meat – by them saying the blessing on the meat or using the energy for a holy purpose – like learning Torah – they are able to make the proper reparation – Tikkun to the food – allowing the soul in the food to be elevated.

Helping the Soul in the Animal

If a vegetarian says the blessings on food – he might want to reconsider eating meat. Many a time he doesn’t want the animals to be hurt because his eating of the food – may cause hurt to the body of the animal. But if he or she really wanted to be considerate of animals – they would try to eat animals and say the blessing – thus helping the soul of the animal to receive a reparation. I guess they’ll just have to help the souls in the fruits and veggies.

Helping the Soul of the Children.

I hear parents shout at children – “no candy for you!” They recognize the importance of healthy teeth and bodies. The parents are concerned for the health of the child’s body. If only parents would be so concerned about the health of the child’s soul.

The child who is helped to follow Torah and Mitzvot – will have a healthy soul. For this a Jewish child must have a healthy diet – of Kosher food, Prayer, Torah learning, acting kind with others, following Jewish law / Shulchan Aruch – Love of Hash-m, Emunah, Shabbat meals, doing Mitzvot, Torah Day school. Just like a Jewish parent or child is well versed in the mathematics tables for being a good student – being well versed in the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch / Abridged Code of Jewish Law is a way for a child to grow into and parent to raise spiritually well-balanced children. A non-Jewish child – should be taught the 7 Noahide laws from Torah by a reputable Orthodox rabbi.

Many parents disregard – intentionally or unintentionally – the child’s Spiritual health & well-being. They give in to the social mores of society yet disregard the spiritual consequences of their actions. They give a child an unfiltered cell phone or internet that causes them to fall prey to improper websites and activities. They send them to colleges – without protection from cults, drugs, drinking, fraternity initiations – that may cause their spiritual downfall.

Attaining Best of Material & Spiritual World

A caring parent – cares also for the spiritual welfare of the child according to Torah. G-d gives parents the tremendous gift of a child. He expects us to return the child as pure as he or she was – as when they were born. Thus prudence asks us to be concerned that our children will live a safe life – but also a life that their children will be worthy of receiving a place in heaven.

The path of the middle is correct. Spiritual, mental and physical health are all important factors of which to be prudent. A parent that has the primary goal that their child should receive a place in the world to come – through Torah & Mitzvoth – usually attains the best of both worlds – the physical and spiritual worlds.

Jewish Books for Kids and Teens

Jewish Book Reviews

The variety of Jewish books today is wider today than ever before. Books for children, teens and adults. Books in English, French and Hebrew abound. Books on all Topics. Kosher versions of popular books and even textbooks. Fiction Suspense Novels. You name it – there is probably what you search for.

Some of the Favorite Books for and about Kids are:

The Torah Town Series.
Today, we have access to a variety of Jewish book that help parents nurture our children. An excellent Series, written by Baruch Chait is the Torah Town series. It is basically about a Town that runs things according to Torah principles. From the same author is The Incredible Voyage to Good Middos (Charachter traits).  It presents life challenges to help people improve their character traits. The stories usually end up with a moral. Interesting and excellent to help spark up conversations with the children or for children’s bedtime stories. The books help parents to deal with sometimes sensitive subjects by having the book as an intermediary for discussion. The books are so popular that the author put out a series.

A gamut of Jewish children’s  books can be found at Feldheim

The Book of Amazing Facts and Feats
– The Creator’s World and All That Fills It – By Nattan Hurvitz and Aharon Yosef Hoffman
As the title says – the book explains the wonders of the world in the perspective of Judaism. It brings out the wonder of creation and the world with exciting details and pictures.

Dealing with Children and Young Adults
Rabbi Dov Brezak is a noted author and lecturer that gives invaluable advice to help parents with upbringing children. Written in a perspective of a Rabbi and Psychologist, his books have helped countless families to improve family and parent/children relations.

Chinuch in Turbulent Times – Practical Strategies for Parents and Educators is one of his popular works. It is available at Artscroll. (Chinuch – means education in Hebrew)

Many books are available at popular book sites like Feldheim, Artscroll and the Israel Book Shop.

Or one can peruse in a Jewish Books Store.

Improving Your Family Relationships by Limiting TV Viewing

zinnia 2Imagine the good in the world created by taking one hour a day from watching TV to improve another person’s life – Especially if that person is your own child.

Sometimes we see things more objectively with a cold head.

Let’s investigate together objectively the value of Television.

Before taking a decision on something that affects the family, responsible parents evaluate the effect that that decision will have on the long-term future of the family.

There are many considerations to take into account (see below) but here we will focus mainly on Relationship between Family Members

Some Considerations:
1) Effect on Values
2) Effect on Well-being of Family
3) Effect on Productivity
4) Effect on Opportunity costs
5) Effect on Outlook in Life
6) Effect on Social Development
7) Effect on Relationship between family members
8) Effect on Character traits
9) Effect on Safety of Family
10) Effect on Education of Family
11) Effect on Convenience
12) Effect on Financial status of Family
13) Effect on Finances of Family
14) Effect on Mitzvah Observance & Torah Study
15) Effect on Perceived Status of Family
16) Effect on Creativity
17) Effect on Creative Output
18) Effect of Wholesomeness of Family
19) Effect on Entertainment of Family
20) Effect on Psychology
21) Effect on Happiness of Family
22) Effect of Relationship with Hash-m
23) Effect on Self-Esteem
24) Effect of Tranquility
25) Effect on Satisfaction in Life
26) Effect on Health
27) Effect on Continuity Of Family

Some considerations overlap, some have an affect on one another. For instance by allowing a person to be more creative, we are helping them build their self-esteem. Also, to be fair the decision should not be made in a vacuum – meaning the Value of watching TV can be compared to the value of doing kindness, learning Torah or being creative.

Families prioritize what they find most important. For some number 23 – Happiness of Family is most important. For Some number 22 – Relationship with Hash-m is most important. Based upon what is important to you, you will decide what is best for the child. (Putting the nagging of the children aside :))

We are all intelligent.

Intelligence is shown by thoughts and by action.

Let’s put things into perspective. Who are the most important people in your life? Most would say, “my immediate family. “

So does the TV improve those relationships or not?

To see things objectively we should ask people who have seen both sides of the coin. Life with and without TV.

Occasionally a town in the us drops TV for a week. They report better communication, more wholesome activities, less stress and better relationships.

Apparently, what they are saying is true.

Having a relationship with a person is much more fulfilling than having one with an image box. And even more fulfilling with family.

When a child talks with a parent and either is involved watching TV (or using the computer) undivided attention is not present. This is not respectful to the parent or the child.

It’s not just media is the message.
You know that it is unpleasant when you are in a middle of a conversation with a friend and your friend starts talking on the phone with someone else. Talking to a couch potato or computer/phone/ipad/work addict isn’t pleasant either. You know they only have half of their attention on what you are saying. The other half of their attention is on the latest news. It also sends a message to the other person … “my work/TV/phone/computer is more important than what you are saying.” We wonder sometimes where the lack of attentiveness of children comes from – here’s a possible source.

Basics of Positive Relationships
Giving undivided attention to another is one of the basics of a positive relationships. Knowing the other’s interests, challenges, strengths and positive points is another. Once known, doing things related and discussing them will help in the relationship and the development of the child or other person.

Unfortunately some are more in touch with the lives of celebrities than those of family or friends.

Sometimes, a person is so involved in a show or a program, when someone disturbs them, they snap at them with angry words. Hold on! Remember, your children come first.

Less Stress for Children. Less Parenting Stress.
I used to watch TV. I don’t miss it. Really, not one bit.

Sometimes I ask a person why they watch TV. The basic answer I get is “I have to be informed.” But in today’s day and age TV is not necessary for news. There are fine periodicals like Mishpacha Magazine, or Hamodia or Yated Ne’eman that has “all the news that’s really fit to print.” 🙂

When one sees violence on TV it stresses a person and creates a negative and fearful image of the world. You can be informed without being stressed out. Imagine what it does to children. The latest crimes, the violent schemes of the world on the big screen. Good or not good for family? You decide.

Why do children have nightmares? The Talmud in tractate Berachot discusses dreams. It says that a person sometimes dreams of what they thought about during the day.

Less TV, less stress.

More Deep Relationships with Family
If the major interests of a family is their occupation with celebrities it detracts from their relationship with their children .. or at least makes it more shallow. When one takes an interest in children, their relationship improves markedly.

More Wholesome Activities

So what should one do instead of TV to build relationships?

Get involved with the Torah community together
Do Mitzvas or Kindness Together as a Family
Bikur holim – there are groups and organizations like Bikur Holim that go to hospitals to visit patients there, some that cook for families that Just had a baby.
Read a Kosher novel – that usually have a theme with a positive morale or are educational. Many are available online at Artscroll, Feldheim, etc. One that is an excellent is “The Voyage to Good Middos” Series By Rabbi Baruch Chait. Where kids learn to improve their character traits by hearing stories of Middos challenges. It can serve to develop a good conversation.
Play board games with family
Learn Torah with family members
Invite a Torah scholar to your house to give a lecture
Say the shema at bedtime for kids. We say Shema two times a day – the morning and at night. A child that sleeps with a shema and nice Jewish bedtime story will also have nice dreams.

Most Torah Observant Jews have No Tv. For the above reason, for the opportunity cost of watching TV and for the negative influence TV has on the kids and family.

To sell ads TV many times appeals to the lowest common denominator. The advertisers get what they want – ratings. It shows violence, disrespectful youth, immorality, and the improperly dressed. There used to be a saying “The street is the street and the home is the home.” TV has effectively brought the street into the home. Is it in the best interest of the child? You decide.

Help Your Children Be Themselves
As a parent our we were blessed with our particular children because we have the greatest possibility of helping them develop their greatest potential – in regards to Torah & Mitzvot. We want them to express their real self – their soul. Limiting TV has the effect of increasing the individuality of the person. He is not influenced to be like a celebrity. He is freer to express his own-self and individuality.

They can express themselves creatively. Instead of escaping or “killing time” they express themselves through productive activities. They blossom and become more themselves.

Can’t go cold turkey? Try to make limits. No TV during supper. No TV/Computer/Phone/Ipad between 7 and nine. No TV one day a week. Anyone has the right to turn off the TV at any time for any reason without receiving derision from other family members. This is family time. Little by little you will be able to kick the habit.

I don’t think anyone ever said when the kids we’re moving out or on their deathbed : “Too bad I should have watched more TV.” But many have said… “I wish I could have spent more time with my family.”

Turn off TV. Turn on life.