Learning Lessons from Lego

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

He asked his father to build it with him.

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

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

Nice True story.

What do you learn?

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

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

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

Things you can learn from Lego:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Personal Messages from G-d

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Convincing the Atheist of G-d – by

Belief in G-d is logical.

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

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

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

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

Solution two is impossible.

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

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

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

Exploring Truth

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

Experiencing G-d

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

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

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

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Someone told me of a podcast they heard on Resilience.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Recycle Life – Uplifting Yourself with the Bad of Your Past

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

Uplifting Yourself – Regretting the faults of the past

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop The Self Destruction

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

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

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

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

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

The Dog Walkers Dilemma

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

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

Some try to avoid me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walk away or help a fellow Jew – you decide.

Judaism Will Free You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Torah is what will free you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Jew is closer to Torah than one might think.

6 Rules for Good Relations – With Spouse, Kids & Friends

I walked in to the Inauguration Reception for HaChaim VeHashalom Beit Midrash / House of [Torah] Study. I see a Rabbi that I faintly recognize. It was Rabbi Bousu – the Grandson of the Baba Sali. He was discussing the subject of “Shalom Bayit” with some men. I listen in. “It is a positive commandment from the Torah to have peace with your spouse! It’s not enough to just do some kind things to her. You should try to assure that she is happy. If she is happy you will be happy. Think of ways to make her happy. Pray to find things and Do things to make her happy. If you do so you will have success!” said Rabbi Bousu. He mentioned why a person will have success in business, materially, spiritually and learning Torah. “Because where there is peace – the Shechina [Divine Presence] dwells. Where the Shechina dwells there is success.

I asked him the source : He said it was in Sefer Chareidim. I looked it up – but was not able to find the source he said. But I tried to figure out what it was on my one. This is what I found:

סֵפֶר חֲרֵדִים – פֶּרֶק ד – מ”ו
[תְּהִלִּים פֶּרֶק-לד-טו] סוּר מֵרָע וַעֲשֵׂה טוֹב בַּקֵּשׁ שָׁלוֹם וְרָדְפֵהוּ: – ‫דְּאוֹרָיְתָא‬‫ הִיא‬ ‫דַּאֲפִלּוּ‬ ‫בִּשְׁעַת‬ ‫מִלְחָמָה‬ ‫צִוָּה‬ ‫י‬ת’‬ ‫לְהַקְדִּים ‬‫שָׁלוֹם‬ ‫שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר‬ ‫ {דְּבָרִים כ:י} כִּי-תִּקְרַב אֶל-עִיר לְהִלָּחֵם עָלֶיהָ וְקָרָאתָ אֵלֶיהָ לְשָׁלוֹם: ‫וּמִנָּאֶה‬ ‫סְמָ”ג‬ ‫בְּמִצְוַת‬ ‫עָשָׂה‬‫ וְכָל‬ מָקוֹם ‫שֶׁיֵּשׁ‬ ‫שָׁלוֹם‬ ‫אֵין‬ ‫הַשָּׂטָן‬ ‫יָכוֹל‬ ‫לְקַטְרֵג‬ ‫שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר‬‫ [הוֹשֵׁעַ ד:יז]  חֲבוּר עֲצַבִּים אֶפְרַיִם הַנַּח-לוֹ: ‫צִוָּה‬ ‫הקב”ה‬ ‫לִמְחוֹת ‬‫שְׁמוֹ‬ ‫הַגָּדוֹל‬ ‫שֶׁנִּכְתַּב‬ ‫בְּקָדוֹשׁ’‬ ‫עַל‬ ‫הַמַּיִם‬ ‫לָשִׂים‬ ‫שָׁלוֹם‬‫ בֵּין‬ ‫אִישׁ‬ ‫לְאִשְׁתּוֹ‬ ‫וְהָרוֹצֶה‬ ‫לִזְכּוֹת‬ ‫בְּמִצְוָה‬ ‫זוֹ‬ ‫יִזְהָר ‬‫בְּמִצְוָה‬ ‫אַחֶרֶת‬ ‫וְהוּא [אָבוֹת א:ג]‬ ‫וֶהֱוֵי דָּן אֶת כָּל הָאָדָם לְכַף זְכוּת ‫תָּמִיד‪,‬‬‫מִמִּנְיָן‬ ‫תרי”ג‬ ‫‪:‬‬

Sefer Haredi – Chapter 4 – 46.
[Psalms Chapter 34:15] Depart from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it: It is a Torah Commandment that even during the time of war Hash-m commanded to start off by offering peace as it says “When you approach to a city to battle it – call out for peace.” (Devarim/Deut 20:10) And the Smag [Sefer Mitzvot Gedolot] counts this as Positive [Torah] commandments. And any place that there is peace – the Satan cannot accuse – as it says: [Hosea 4:17] Ephraim joined to idols – let him be: [Athough they were sinning – G-d said let them be – because they maintained peaceful relations] The Holy One Blessed Be He commanded to erase His Great Name written in Holiness with water [in Sota Ritual] to place peace between a man and his wife. And one who wants to merit this mitzvah – should be careful of another Mitzvah [Pirkei Avot 1: 3] “And judge every man favorably” [lit, on a scale of merit] always – from the count of 613 Mitzvot.

Rule # 1 – Be proactive in pursuing peace – meaning be yielding – seeking peace not arguments.

Rule # 2 – Judge people favorably

I heard and interview with Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein – z”l. In an interview he was asked “What is the most important thing that one should do for a healthy family?” His answer: Give them time.

The children want to connect with the parents and the spouses also want to. The greatest detriment to this is : Technology. My family wants to connect – instead I am on my cell phone, computer, watching videos. A big turn-off. They want to connect and you would rather connect with that video or whatsapp message.

Rule # 3 – Search for ways to make others happy.

Rule # 4. Give them time and be there for them.

Rule # 5 – Help out and Be present.

Rabbi Eliyahu Benhaim – said “Better than giving your wife a diamond ring – offer her to do the dishes.”

Rule # 6 – Be happy. Smile and make others happy.

Show a Bright face not a sad face. A face is part of the public domain – don’t “damage” people with your scour.

Your Purpose in Life – How to Find It

Rabbi Hanania ben Akashia says “The Holy  One – Blessed be He – wanted to give merit to Yisrael – therefor he increased the Torah & Mitzvot – as it says “Hashem – because of his Righteousness – increased the Torah and made it mighty.” (Pirkei Avot 6:11)

רבי חנניא בן עקשיא אומר רצה הקב”ה לזכות את ישראל לפיכך הרבה להם תורה וכו’

Some explain this as – G-d wanted a person to observe more mitzvot so he gave them a greater quantity of Mitzvot. The Rambam – Maimonides explains – that G-d gave a person a greater choice so that they could choose one mitzvah to do with the best quality.

If one does one Mitzvah to perfection – he or she will be able to receive a portion in Olam HaBa / the World to come.

Rav Shaked Bohdana explained in a Shiur / lesson that the key word is “Meyamay” / in all my days. In the Talmud – we have Kimchit that had 7 Chief Kohens . Cohen Gadol serve in the Beit HaMikdash / the Holy Temple. What was her merit? She responded “In all her days she never let the wallls of her house see her hair uncovered.” (Talmud Yoma / 47a) Meaning she was exemplary in the trait of being modest / Tzanuah. Rabbi Hanan

Rabbi Adda bar Ahava lived long. The sages asked what was your merit that you have long life? He responded In all my days I was never never angry in my household and I never walked in front of a sage that was greater than me. (Talmud Yoma / 47a)

Rav Bohdana mentioned that doing a good need regularly applies not only to a mitzvah from the Torah or From the Sages – but to a good character trait – like we see from Rav Adda bar Ahava.

Consistency is key. When we find a mitzvah that we feel is particularly important – doing it to perfection will give us great merit in this world & reward in the next.

How do we find a mitzvah that we find important? See what good deed or mitzvah or good action that we find important and learn about the details in the Torah and be consistent.

Two small points: One – because we do one mitzvah to perfection – it does not mean that we neglect the other Mitzvot.

Secondly – we should assure that something is a mitzvah from the Torah according to an competent Orthodox Rabbi before we take upon ourselves something that we feel is a Mitzvah. Someone might think giving out cigarettes or encouraging people in a certain way of life is a Mitzvah – it might be just the opposite. Get things clear before you start.