Connecting with G-d, Man and Self – the Jewish Way

This week’s Parasha / Torah reading is Vayera / and He [G-d] Appeared.

G-d Visits Avraham

Hash-m / G-d appears to Avraham after the third day of his brit milah / circumcision to do bikur holim – visit the sick. Avraham – sees travelers and is so desirous to do the mitzvah of hachnasat orchim / inviting guests – he asks G-d to wait for him while he does the mitzvah.

Angelic Visitors

The 3 visitors are really angels. The angels ask – “Where is Sarah your wife?” Avraham answers “she in the tent.” (Bereshit / Genesis 18:9) The angels come and inform him that he will have a baby boy. Sarah laughs and wonders if she will birth children when her husband is so old. Avraham also laughs inside when he hears the news. G-d asks Avraham “Why did Sarah Laugh? Why did she say that she was old?”

Torah of Kindness

The Torah starts with Hesed / acts of loving kindness – Hash-m clothing Adam & Hava / eve – and ends with acts of loving kindness – Hash-m buries Moshe. Avraham is the Av / Forefather – that is exemplary in hesed / kindness.

Three Things upon which the World Stands

Pirkei Avot / Ethics of the Fathers contains teaching of qualities for a person to emulate to reach perfection. It says in pirkei avot Chapter 1 – mishna 2 “Shimon Ahatzadik says … Al shelosha devarim holam omed – al hatorah, al haavoda ve algemilut hasadim.” The worlds stands upon 3 things – on Torah, On Divine service – prayer & on acts of loving kindness.

Three Things for Spiritual Satisfaction in Your World

We usually understand this mishna on a macro level – as the reason that the entire world survives – is because of these three things. But we can also understand it on a personal level – that the reason why a person lives – meaning has meaning and fulfillment in life – is because of these three things.

Judaism – How to Connect

Judaism is the the ultimate teacher of making connections. There are three ways to connect in life – connecting to our fellow person, connecting to G-d and connecting to ourselves. The Torah is teaching in the mishna 3 ways to connect – Our world stands because of the Torah – that teaches us to connect and better ourselves, prayer allows us to connect with Hash-m and doing acts of kindness is our manner of connecting with others. Each of them giving us spiritual satisfaction.

The Source of Satisfaction

We are basically souls clothed in a body. What gives the soul satisfaction is what makes us happy. The Three things above give our soul satisfaction and make us happy. Things that are the opposite make us not happy.

Let’s take connecting with others. It is best done through doing kindness. A great thing that we learn that we gain satisfaction more from giving to others than from receiving.

To Have satisfaction – we develop our relationship with Hash-m. Thus prayer and learning Torah – helps us to develop that relationship. Someone said “When I Pray – I talk to G-d. When I learn Torah – G-d talks to me.”

Torah teaches us how to be a stable person. How to deal with situations. What attitudes are healthy in life. What is a healthy productive lifestyle. It affects our mentality to allow us to ultimately achieve more of our potential in life. It helps us to put our priorities in place. (See article on Torah teaches Marriage – Society teaches Divorce)

Why do the Angels Ask – to Help Increase Appreciation of Others

In the parasha  – the angels ask Avraham “where is Sarah?” Avraham answers “She is in the tent” Why do they ask that question? –

Rashi – the Torah Commentator – says they ask the question to endear Sarah to Avraham. Avraham will answer she is in the tent & it will help him to realize Sarah’s great modesty. He will thus appreciate her more.

It is a mitzvah to make a person love another person more. You are motivating Veahavta lereacha kamocha – you shall love your fellow like yourself. And we do not do the opposite – to speak badly of others – because it causes gratuitous hatred – sinat hinam.

Why did G-d not ask Why Avraham laughed? – to Help Avraham Connect with Himself

Hash-m asks “why did Sarah laugh?” he didn’t ask why did you Avraham laugh

One answer is – because Sarah was a bit skeptical. Avraham was not. If Sarah was a bit skeptical – it was a reflection on Avraham.

Avraham was possibly skeptical about another matter – like when he asked G-d “How will he know that his descendents will really inherit the land. Avraham should also look into correcting himself. Hashem was  teaching Avraham to be connected to himself – knowing what really is motivating him and to teach him to better himself as well.

Changing words for peace

Sarah was astounded that her old husband would have a child. Hashem told Avraham  says that Sarah said that she – not Avraham – was too old to have children. He did this to not ruin the peace between Avraham and Sarah.

The Motorcycle of My Youth – Dreams Dashed for the Good

In my youth, our family took vacations with my cousins in Washington, DC. They really lived in Silver Spring – Maryland. But we called it Washington anyway.

I would hang out with my cousins. We would go on trips together. We roasted marshmallows by their fireplace. My older cousin would tell me spooky stories with a funny ending. On Shabbat I would take long walks and talks with my cousin. For some reason we would end up by some parking lot – when we would then return home.

My uncle – Jacques – married to my father’s sister – would welcome us. We were part of the family. At the Shabbat Table and in general – he would tell puns and jokes that required some thinking. We dubbed them “Tonton Jacques Jokes.” (“Tonton” is Uncle in French).

One of his classics was when we were walking on Rosh Hashana to do Tashlich on – when we go by a body of water to release our sins – like it says in the Pasuk / Verse in Micha 7:19 :

יָשׁ֣וּב יְרַֽחֲמֵ֔נוּ יִכְבֹּ֖שׁ עֲוֺֽנֹתֵ֑ינוּ וְתַשְׁלִ֛יךְ בִּמְצֻל֥וֹת יָ֖ם כָּל־חַטֹּאותָֽם׃

He will take us back in love;
He will cover up our iniquities,
You will hurl all our (iHeb. “their.”) sins
Into the depths of the sea.

Walking to Tashlich, Tonton Jacques turned back to us and said with a smile “Depeche Vous!” / Hurry Up You (pl).

Peche in French Means “Sin”. “De” as a prefix in French – like in English means to remove – like in Desalinate. His words had a double meaning – “Hurry Up” & “Remove Your Sins”. I guess the joke is funnier when you hear it in French.

Tonton Jacques loved to buy old stuff from the auctions. I remember walking into his office. He had all these neat machines. Once he took me to an auction. I eyed one of the items – it was a spiffy motorcycle. Although – I was around 10 at the time – I really wanted him to buy the Motorcycle for me. I imagined myself riding it. I hinted to him – wow – that motorcycle looks like a bargain. He didn’t get the hint. I think He ended up buying a box full of miscellaneous office items. I was upset – but I got over it.

Looking back I am grateful he didn’t buy that Motorcycle. I don’t think the police would have taken kindly to a 10-year old riding a Motorbike. Also – it is safer to drive a car. I also wanted a car in Washington. I was attracted by the Triumph TR7. But that faded as well.

I didn’t get the Motorcycle – but I did take some serious bicycle trips in Washington. I would take a bottle of water and some Moroccan cookies and went riding into the city. Once I ended up next to Walter Reed Veteran Hospital. I didn’t know how to get back. No GPS in those days. No Cell Phones either.

I was lost. I wasn’t so observant when I was young. But I did pray. I remember connecting to G-d. I spoke with Him in my own language. I remember praying once when walking to school “G-d – if You exist – make a lightening bolt strike next to where I am walking far enough for me not to get hurt.” Lightening never struck. I didn’t see the proof of G-d that way – but I saw it in other ways.

I needed help finding home base. Hash-m kept me – a young boy lost in the streets of Washington DC – without a helmet (it wasn’t required by law those days) – safe.

I knew my cousins lived by Second Avenue in Silver Spring and 16th street. I guess I asked some people and I found my way home, Barukh Hash-m.

Gratitude to the One Who Gives

This week’s parasha – Ki Tavo – talks of the first fruits / Bikurim. Farmers bring the first fruits that blossom – of the 7 species special to Eretz Yisrael / the Land of Israel – to the Beit HaMikdash / the Holy Temple in Yerushalayim / Jerusalem.

He says a text and he gives the fruits to the Cohen. The rich people who would bring fancy baskets of gold and silver – the Cohen would return the basket. Yet the Cohen would not return the baskets – made of reeds – of the poor people. Why?

  1. The poor people worked hard to make the basket – Hash-m appreciates the hard work of the common man for a Mitzvah.
  2. The poor people – may have put the best fruits on top and the lesser quality fruits on the bottom – thus we didn’t want to embarrass him by taking out the fruits.
  3. The Cohen was sending a message that I’ll take this basket – so that, with the help of G-d – you will return next year with a gold basket.

The Mitzvah of first fruits is to show that all that we have we owe our first and foremost gratitude to Hash-m. We also do the redemption of first born boys and first born animals showing our gratitude that all we have is a Gift from G-d.

Lamborghini Stuck in Traffic – What’s Stunting Your Growth?

Driving ahead to the left of me was a Black Lamborghini Aventador. I was stuck in slow traffic. So was he. He got about 30 yards of space so he sped up and then quickly stopped. The idea of a fast sports car is prestige and speed. Well at least he had one – prestige. Regarding speed – he was going about my speed in my old van.

Superheros in Judaism – Superpowers of the Jewish Righteous

People are the same way. G-d endowed people with tremendous abilities. We can even achieve – Super-Human abilities like we see many true instances in the Torah.

Superpowers mentioned in Torah

Some superhuman acts brought in the Torah include invisibility – like Pinhas, being averse to effects of fire – like Avraham Avinu (in the fiery furnace), transporting from one place to another in an instant (kefitzat haDerech) – like Yaakov Avinu (Jacob), walking through walls, seeing the future – like prophets, seeing what is happening in another place, transforming things from one thing to another (like Yosef HaTzadik), transforming oneself into another being, freezing a person, levitation / flying (like Pinhas), levitating objects. (Perhaps I’ll make a new post on it with further details – further on).

So why don’t we achieve? We’re slowed by traffic.

Thank G-d for Free Choice

G-d made the world for a person to choose between good and evil. We say a blessing  in the Daily Morning Blessings for this gift – “Barukh… HaNoten laSechvi Bina leHavchin ben yom uben layla.” / Blessed are You, Hash-m,… Who gives the heart of man the Ability to choose between Day (ie, good) and Night (ie, evil).”

A person can achieve great heights in good or in evil. And with both he or she can achieve the powers above. Witchcraft, sorcery, talking to the dead and black magic are all real according to Torah. But they are all forbidden – because it is using forces for evil.

Whatever can be done through evil can also be done through powers of good. G-d made it that way for a person to be able to have freedom of choice. If a person could only let’s say become rich by doing good – people would only be good – not for good itself – but to become rich.

What’s Stunting Your Growth?

I was at a Bar Mitzvah party last night. I mentioned – that at 13 a boys starts putting on Tefillin / Phylacteries – the black crown on the head and arm sign that a Jewish man wears. At the age of 13 (according to the Hebrew Year) – a Jewish boy becomes responsible to do mitzvot like a man. A girl becomes responsible at 12 for woman’s mitzvot. (Why 12? A girl matures earlier than a boy.)

Knowing our Goal in Life – Self-Improvement through Torah

After a Jewish boy is born he is circumcised. One message of Bris Milah is that a person is not born perfect – it is our job in life to perfect ourselves. Another message is that a person should direct their passions towards those permitted by Torah.

Attaching Ourselves to the One Who said “Let There Be Light”

Tephillin – allude to a crown and attachment to Hash-m. A crown to remind the wearer that he is nobility – that he is a child of the King / Hash-m – making him a prince. Recognizing his high stature and responsibility teaches the Bar Mitzvah – that he has importance in this world to make it better. This gives him self-esteem & confidence to face, overcome challenges and build the world.  Attachment to Hash-m is one of the ways we establish a connection to Him and emulate Him.

So – anything that creates a detour to our relationship with G-d will stunt our growth – excessive involvement in – politics, gossip, watching videos, TV, sports, etc.

The Difference between Permitted & Forbidden pleasures in Judaism

Exercise is good – overdoing it is not. Eating is good – overdoing it is not. Judaism – is not averse to pleasure. In fact it encourages permitted pleasure. Usually – the pleasures of Judaism – are pleasures that build a society, build a family, build an individual – spiritually, physically & materially. If you look at many of the pleasures forbidden by Torah they are pleasures that do not have purpose. They are pleasure without purpose or Pleasure for only for the sake of pleasure.

Change Yourself – to Change the World

Once a rabbi wanted to change the world. He saw he could not. He said he will change his country. He was not successful. He said perhaps his province. No luck. His city. Nope. His family – no success. He finally decided to change himself. Eventually – he changes the whole world.

A good place to start to better oneself – for Gentiles is to learn about the 7 Noahide laws from Torah. For Jews – it is to learn the Shulchan Aruch & Pirkei Avot.

 

Purity Counts – the Benefits of Cleansing the Mind

We associate the color white with purity. In the Torah / 5 Books of Moses – the brother of Rivka and father of Rachel & Leah has a beautiful name – Lavan. Lavan means white in Hebrew. Although he had a beautiful name – he was wicked.

Wickedness of Lavan

We say it in the Passover Haggada – “Arami Oved Avi” – “An Aramean (Lavan) destroyed my father (Yaakov / Jacob).” Since Lavan tried to kill Yaakov – he is considered as if he actually did it. Thus we say “An Aramean destroyed my father.”  and not “An Aramean tried to kill my father.” For certain – if they attempt to do an evil act — it is considered as if they actually did it.

Misleading Purity

At times the world of marketing – leads us to believe that certain things are pure and certain things are right. It may be so – it may not.

What is Purity?

There is a difference between Holiness and Purity. Holiness is one who is careful to follow the laws of the Torah with precision. He is loved my man and Hash-m / G-d. A Holy person can be impure. A pure person – can be unholy.

Defining Purity

There are various kinds of purity – purity of the heart and purity of the body are two.

Purity of Heart

Purity of the heart – means a person is careful to guard their heart of hatred. They guard their eyes from seeing the prohibited – improper images – like those of idolatry, the face of wicked people, immodest people and images. They guard their mouths from speaking evil – they speak no evil about others – even if it is true (see laws of Lashon HaRa), they do not flatter, they have clean language. From their mouth emanates truth and kindness. They guard their ears from hearing bad about others. They keep their hearts far from grudges, animosity and controversy. They keep their mind pure as well.

Purity of the Body

A person’s body can become impure several ways. A person who touches an unclean animal – like a lizard, rodent or insect can become impure. A person who touches a dead body or who is in a building with a dead body or in a cemetery also contracts impurity. A menstruating woman or a man that has a seminal issue also contracts impurity. A person’s hands become impure when they sleep – thus we do netilat yadayim / washing of the hands in the morning.

To achieve purity of the heart one reads, learns and applies sefarim / Jewish books on Mussar / Jewish Ethics.

To achieve purity of the body one may immerse in a natural body of water, like a river, ocean, or mikve.

At times a person feels cloudy of mind. They feel depression. They may feel anger. Certain things that bring upon themselves impurity cause depression, anger and being unsettled.

The solution? Purify yourself.

 

 

There is No Coincidence Unless … You Believe in Coincidence or G-d’s Daily Providence

As the Joke Goes: A guy is running late to an interview in Manhattan. He’s looking for parking. He prays to G-d : “Hash-m – please help me find a parking space. If you do I will start keeping Shabbat, putting on Tephillin regularly, and keeping Kosher. He turns the corner and right in front of his appointment site – he finds a parking space. He declares “What a Coincidence!”

G-d’s Individual Supervision

Hashgacha Pratit is Individual Supervision. For certain individuals – who believe in Hash-m’s Providence – He will guide the situation. If not He will leave the situation to “chance” – rather let things be guided without His help. Bar Kochba was a great warrior. He believed in Hash-m. He won battles consistently. Rabbi Akiva thought that he was Mashiach / Messiah. He asked Hash-m to “step aside” and let him take care of his battles. He was killed soon afterward.

The Divine Matchmaker

Once a Noble Woman asked a Rabbi – after G-d has created the world – what is G-d doing? He replied he is matching couples. The woman said – that’s all? I can do the same thing. She took 1000 menservants and maidservants and married them together. After the Marriage – they came back to her complaining – one had a broken arm, one a black eye, each with another wound. She told the Rabbi – “Your G-d is truly superior.”

Rabbi Michael Toledano of Ohr Baruch Yeshiva in Yerusalayim explained – “It is not just that G-d is matching couples for marriage. Hash-m is matching a person with a toothache with the right dentist, a building contractor with someone who needs a house, etc. That is the meaning of Mezaveg Zivugim / matching couples.”

If one prays to Hash-m – Hash-m will help. If One believes in Hash-m’s providence He will help. One who does not – He leaves to the hands of “chance.”

Hearing G-d’s Messages

Emmanuel AssarafTo see and understand G-d’s providence we are to be observant to the daily messages he sends us. About a Month ago – my cousin Emmanuel passed away in Florida at the ripe age of 28. He was a kind, smiling, soft-spoken soul.

I feel a bit guilty that I should have reached out to him more. I should have learned Torah with him. If I did perhaps  he would have had the merit to live longer. I regret my indolence towards him. He was a good person.

But with all my other activities it slipped my mind. But G-d apparently did send me messages. I looked on my Talit and Tefillin bag today. I noticed on the tag the name of the artist who made it – embroidered there was “Emanuel”. I didn’t pay attention to that detail. I didn’t make the connection that it should have reminded me of my cousin – perhaps to reach out to him.

I regret. What now? Let’s learn to reach out the people we can help.

Emmanuel in Hebrew means “G-d is with us.” Let’s also learn Hash-m is with us.

When Life Crashes or Judaism & the Art of Computer Maintenance

My Computer crashed yesterday. It wasn’t the first time. A long while back I had Microsoft Windows. I got the “Blue Crash Screen”. I had to figure out how to get my computer back up. I tried their recommended methods. No avail. I tried another version of Windows – but I had to find that Windows key to get it back. Didn’t work. Finally I just backed up my files and installed a new  Operating System instead of Windows – Linux. Fedora to be exact. Yesterday I just reinstalled Fedora again.

OK. Initially – It took time to adjust to a new Operating System. But now I am still running Linux. Yes I have Laptops that run Windows – but I am fine with Linux.

When Life Crashes

Similarly – a longer time ago I was living the high life. Yes I had ups and downs – but I was having a good time. Till my life crashed. I experienced sufferings as a teen. Yes – teen problems but crushing nonetheless. So I tried to make small changes to my life. I was sure – deep inside – the crash was a message from G-d / Hash-m. Before I became more dedicated to Judaism – I didn’t hesitate to make a Joke at the expense of other’s discomfort. I was funny – but at times I could hurt others feelings. For that I regret. The sufferings prompted soul searching.

The Connection between computers & life

We experience ups and downs. Many a time – these can be interpreted as messages. Messages from G-d / Hash-m to improve. To become closer to him. G-d is our father – and at times He steps in to wake us up to that fact. Or wake us up to strengthening our relationship with Him.

At times it is a little crash – like losing a wallet. At times it is a bigger crash – like losing one’s savings in the Stock market. Computers at times run slow, or fail – but it is up to us to get them up & running again. Like in life- when in difficulty – we try to find out how to get up and running again.

Don’t Give Up

But G-d does not want us to give up. If there are troubles – it is a time to reflect and prompt ourselves to improve. Embarrassing a person in public is forbidden in Torah. It is like killing. So as a youth – due to my troubles – I became more sensitive to people’s feelings. I apologized to the people I might have hurt. Now I try to joke in a way to bring a person up not down.

The Nurse that Gave Up

Some give up when life becomes harder. When sufferings raise their head. That’s the last thing G-d / Hash-m – your Father – wants from you. I still feel badly for the nurse who gave up on life – when she encountered so many cases of Covid – some she helped to save – some she couldn’t.

G-d  doesn’t want us to give up. At times He wants us to change our perspective on life. To take on a Torah perspective. In life it is forbidden for a person to take one’s life. The closer a person is to the person he/or she kills the worse it is. Killing – the one person that is closest to oneself, who is oneself – is one of the worst transgressions.

Ask All Your Questions to an Orthodox Rabbi

So what should that nurse have done. She was suffering from not being able to help as many people she could have. Apparently – she could have presented herself to an Orthodox Rabbi to ask for an explanation for why G-d sent Covid. Why was she not able to save as many people as she could have. Why did she have to witness so many deaths? What was a proper course of action for the future. What is a Torah outlook to cope with her difficult situations.

Pain is not the Worst Thing

People experience pain. But pain is not the worst thing that can happen. Not achieving what one can in life is worse than pain. Pain – like money comes and goes. But one who doesn’t achieve their potential in life – they can’t repair it after death.

David HaMelekh / King David wanted sufferings to come to him – because it gave him the opportunity to turn to G-d on a more emotional level – and to him even pain was preferable to a non-relationship with Hash-m.

Although I shy away from suffering – when I did suffer as a youth – I remember  it was easier to feel closer to Hash-m. All barriers between us were removed because – what was important in my eyes before – became secondary to relieve may suffering. I knew the way was to seek spirituality – by becoming closer to Hash-m through Torah.

How to Fix Life & Computers

When a computer crashes – you can try to fix it with software utilities – or try a new operating system to get your computer back on track. When Life crashes you can change little things and stick to the same lifestyle or you can try to try a new lifestyle that will help you change your outlook and attitude on life. Even if you are a bit unfamiliar – you can reduce the downtime in the future.

I did it with my computer and my life. With my computer I moved from Windows to Linux. With my life I moved from following the flow to following Torah Judaism.

Judaism, Logic & Practicality

People who like computers – in general like logic. I like logic. Judaism was the ultimate source of life for me because it answered all the questions I had and provided a logical framework for everything I do. I also like practicality – in Judaism we translate concepts into actions. It is not enough to say as it says in Torah – “Love Your fellow as Yourself” –  the Torah provides specific laws to put it into action – Like not speaking Lashon HaRah / Evil speech about others, giving charity, doing acts of kindness, etc.

Self-Improvement & Torah.

So what do you do when life crashes? Reflect. Reflect how to self-improve. Reflect how to get closer to Hash-m through Torah – for Gentiles through the 7 Noahide Laws from Torah and for Jews – the Shulchan Aruch – Jewish Code of law. (Link poiints to Kitzur / Abridged Shulchan Aruch)

Sometimes I look back and imagine what my life would be like if I didn’t take steps to improve. I would be a different person than I am today – and I am happy I did take those challenging but highly beneficial steps.

Don’t Just Thank G-d – Do This Too

Weekly we read a new Torah portion / parasha at the synagogue. In parasha Be’haalotecha – Hash-m commands Aharon to light the Menora.

He says : “Speak to Aharon, and say to him; When you light (literally: ascend) the lamps towards the face of the Menorah shall the seven lamps cast [their] light.” (Bamidbar / Numbers 8:2)

Ki Ner Mitzvah ve Torah Or / A Candle is a Mitzvah & Torah is Light. Many Torah commentators explain the Menorah’s significance and what it symbolizes. Some say the 7 branches represent the 7 types of wisdom. Some say that it represents the 7 days of the week. The center being Shabbat. It is possible to explain when one sanctifies the Shabbat – (the face of the Menorah was the center lamp) – the 7 lamps shall cast their lights. When one observes the shabbat – the entire week takes on new holliness and light. The observance of Shabbat gives sanctification for the rest of the week allowing a person greater success.

Another interpretation is that – When you ascend to do the Mitzvot / commandments – you shall bring in Holiness 7 days a week. Our attachment to Hash-m / spirituality is really experienced when we are immersed 7 days a week in Torah and mitzvot. When a person is immersed in Torah 7 days a week then they see the light. They see the light of Torah. They see light in their lives. They see the blessing. When people observe Torah as a nice tradition – when convenient – they do not necessarily experience that light. Thus is why many Jews seek other philosophies – they never sought to immerse themselves in Torah & Mitzvah observance completely – 7 days a week. They didn’t feel the closeness to Hash-m – because Judaism was treated as a nice pastime – rather than life itself.

Part of feeling the Spirituality / Closeness to Hash-m of Judaism is being thankful every moment for the good in one’s life. People get depressed because they see the difficulties, the lackings – the Torah says be thankful for what you have. Do not envy. Look at the half full cup as completely full.

When we have good in our lives – let’s be thankful for every single thing.

When we thank G-d – He sees we appreciate our blessings and provides us with more. But we should ask for more after thanking G-d – to continue giving us the blessing or to give us more.

We learn this from Leah – our Matriarch. When she had Yehuda – which means “I will thank” – she stopped having children for a period. Why? Because sometimes thank you may mean “No Thank You” or “Thank you – that is enough”. Thus when we do thank Hash-m – don’t just express your appreciation – ask for more.

But feeling thankful also entails feeling indebted to the person. Many will go out of their way to help others who did them a favor in the past. This feeling of gratitude – should help to motivate us to do more good, do more Mitzvot, to learn more Torah & to reciprocate the good that we received from Hash-m to our fellows.

Politics Ruining Your Life? Use Time More Productively

My friend is a traveling salesperson. He sells yarn to retail stores. He told me that one Knitting Club had a sign posted: “No Political Discussions Here.” I heard many offices and schools apply the same creed.

We applied the same message in our synagogue.

Once people started discussing politics at a friendly breakfast in the dining hall. One was a Republican – the other a Democrat. Each was touting their candidate. One became offended and left the synagogue and never returned.

It was too bad. He was a nice man. He had much to gain from Judaism.

Now – no more politics in our shul. Yes we limit “Freedom of Speech” in order to have peace in the synagogue. Want to discuss politics? Go outside – go to a restaurant – but not in our Synagogue. A synagogue is a place for peace – not quarrel. A place to grow – not a place to stagnate with ideas that bring people no where. You will rarely convince the other party that you are right. What will you be left with – bad feelings.

Rabbi Brandt from France told a joke:

The Evil inclination / Yetzer haRa came to Noach / Noah before the flood and wanted to enter the ark. “I’ m sorry you can’t enter the ark. You have to enter as a couple. Where  is your mate?” he told him. The Evil Inclination searched around and decided to marry Quarrel Mongering. Noah let them in. Eventually – they had a baby. They called it Politics.

Vote – very good. Write to your congressman. But political discussions are rarely lucrative. I met a person who refused to marry a person with different political views. I asked what if the person you meet is kind, sensitive and has the right Torah values but would vote for the other candidate – would you refuse matrimony? He explained he wouldn’t think it would be a good match.

“Lev Melech BiYad Hash-m” (Mishlei / Proverbs 21:1) King Solomon – the wisest of all men – said “Like Channeled waters, the heart a king is in the hands of Hash-m / G-d – He directs it to whatever he wishes.” G-d directs the heart of the rulers to achieve His own purpose. (See Commentaries on the verse.)

So in actuality – our comments will make no difference in how the politician will act. Our actions of kindness towards others may influence the politician. Because when G-d sees us doing His will – He will influence the politician decide to do things that benefit people – like we helped people benefit with our kindness. Prayer to Hashem also makes a difference.

Many a time a parent is very adamant upon their views. What do they teach children – to hate people with views different from theirs. To argue. To adopt the views and “morality” of society.

They spend their time trashing others – so the children learn its alright to insult others – like their friends and family.

Being too much into politics also detracts from one’s Torah learning. If one is constantly involved in political discussion – the opportunity cost is losing time to learn Torah. The Torah what it means to be Jewish. It teaches:

Learning to respect others. Learning to do acts of Kindness. Learning to respect parents and grandparents. Learning to be a peaceful person. Learning to establish a positive relation with friends and family. Learning to establish a relationship with our Creator.  Learning the True morality of Hash-m. Learning to be respectful with all people – regardless of their race or face or occupation.

Political discussions is sometimes anti-ethical to the Torah. The Torah promotes gratuitous love between our fellow Jews. Political discussion may cause gratuitous hatred.

Political discussions may turn off people – like potential friends, old friends or potential marriage mates. It may get a person so involved that people lose sight of the priorities in life – getting married with a Torah-minded mate, doing kindness with others that may not share your political views, establishing a Torah family, etc.

My recommendation to any politically opinionated person : Spend at least as much time studying Torah as you do expressing your political views. Many sites exist. You will live a more serene life – a life full of peace, love and understanding. See our links section for a list of sites. Gentiles can take time to learn about the Torah’s 7 Noahide laws for all humanity.

The Torah tells us in the time of Mashiach people will be polarized. Some on one side of the fence. Others on the other side of the fence. I hope to be among those on the Side of the Torah and Hash-m. Amen.

Guarding the Eyes – Saving the World. How Modesty Saves Your World.

The Torah teaches control. Control of our eyes, our mouth, our hands, our ears, our emotions and even our nose. We avoid looking at immodest dressed people – to avoid temptation. We avoid looking at the face of a wicked person – his face might have an effect on our spirituality. We avoid looking at the standing grain of a fellow in order to spare his field from an evil eye.

In an older post we mentioned a story:

Guarding One’s Eyes & Protecting Lives

Once a man was sitting in the front of a bus. A woman boarded the bus dressed immodestly. He turned his glance to refrain from looking. Another woman came on, and he closed his eyes again. He decided to go to the back of the bus.

Being tired, he slumbered. He dreamed that there was a bomb under his seat. Upon awaking, he dismissed it from his mind. Slumbering again, he had the same dream. When he decided to check under his seat he saw a package with wires emerging. He immediately notified the driver and all were evacuated from the bus. When all passengers were off, the bomb exploded.

Shortly after, the man went to see a great Jewish sage – Rabbi Yisrael Abuhatzeira – the Baba Sali. Baba Sali explained the incident – the bus was to explode causing great damage. But when the man did two acts of guarding his eyes, he created two protecting angels. The angels pleaded before G-d and said – You can’t let this bus explode, there is a righteous person on the bus. For this the man had two dreams and the bus was saved.

This man saved a bus load of people by his avoiding looking at immodesty. Obviously it works both ways – a woman who dresses modestly also gets tremendous reward.

Guarding Eyes Gives You Tangible Reward in this World

These are the general rewards. Guarding ones eyes also makes a person more refined and helps them to maintain a closer relationship with Hash-m.  One of the things Hash-m dislikes is immodesty and immorality. When it is present – he “leaves” so to speak. The feeling of being void of G-d’s presence is a punishment in itself.

Another outcome of guarding one’s eyes and being modest is a physical reward in this world. A person who guards his eyes will not be attracted by a woman that may be beautiful on the outside, but her character traits leave much to be desired. A person gets used to looks, but a scathing personality is difficult to get used to. A person who marries for beauty – have more of a chance of divorce – because the physical attractiveness may be there – but the basis to build a healthy, meaningful and growing relationship with another may be lacking.

A woman who is modest in dress and attitude attracts people of the same kind. A man that appreciates her for her inner qualities – rather than someone who loves the shell but not the pearl inside. In the end she also will have a greater relationship with the man she ends up marrying – because he will appreciate her for her inner and  outer qualities – making for a better long-term relationship with her spouse in marriage.

The Test of the Internet

Unfortunately internet has made it more difficult to guard ones eyes. Putting a filter on the internet will help – but also safeguarding smartphones from immodesty is also a wise investment. See our previous article on safeguarding children and adults from internet.

Seeing Great Spiritual Sights

There was a rabbi who once covered his eyes for seven years to avoid seeing immodesty and impropriety. When he took off his covering – he was able to see things spiritually that others could not. Another man heard about this and decided also to cover his eyes for 7 years to be able to get he same benefit. He did so. Yet when he finished his shielding his eyes from the exterior, he was not able to see wondrous spiritual sights. He asked the rabbi why he did not merit to also to see these great sights. The rabbi responded “I covered my eyes to not see [immodesty]. You covered your eyes to see! [spiritual sights]”

Nowadays every small effort makes a difference. May we merit great spiritual sights and levels from our small, sincere efforts to guard the Torah. Amen.