Spiritual Block? Try This

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

ונטמתם בם

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Just Shout – The Easy Way Out

The shout comes out. Poor kid. Poor you.

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

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

Are You Really More Productive by Shouting

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

Productivity in Education

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

Did You Win the Education Game?

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

Treat every act as an act of building.

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

Four Ways to Stay Calm When in a Rush

I used to take the subway to school. I was late for class. And as you’d expect – when in a rush – the train stops between stations. The announcer gets on “We are experiencing a longer than usual stop light. Please be patient.” His announcement makes me more anxious to get to class. But then I think to myself “By me getting upset – will this cause the train to move faster?” Apparently not. That thought calms me down.

At time we are anxious to get somewhere – so we turn on “I’m in a rush mode” Just turn that mode off. Turn on “I’ll get there when I get there” or I’ll get there when G-d wants me to get there mode.”

People sometimes rush to the red light. I figure “What – should I speed to get to the red light faster?”

I’m in a rush – driving a cool 55 mph. Some guy – goes into my lane driving 30. It’s the solid white lines on both sides and or other cars aren’t letting me in. Should I get upset at the other driver? No. Like he said “Oh – let me annoy that driver by driving 30 mph.” No. He just drives that way. Maybe G-d organizaed it that way to test my patience muscles. If I flinch with anger – I lose. If I stay calm – I win.

 

Is it Smart to Hold a Grudge?

I’m in a rush. I pull into the passing lane. I need 55 mph. He’s going 40. “What’s with this slow poke? What’s this guy doing. Learn how to drive! This is the fast lane!” The anger wells up.

Typical mind thoughts. It happens to me – I used to think somewhat that way – I learned to think a bit different.

I figured “Yes – this guy chose the exact time just to pull right in front of me to annoy me when I am in a rush!?” Doesn’t make sense. This guy was driving the way he usually drives – G-d arranged that this guy be in front of me when I am late. G-d is putting me through the stress test. – Will I get angry? – Will I get upset at the guy? Will I understand that G-d organized it this way as a test.

If it is the latter – there is no reason to get angry. G-d knows what he is doing. He put this “slow poke” in front of me to let me stretch my patience muscles.

OK – now let’s stretch it a little further. Someone takes your new pocket calendar – you have important names and addresses that you need.

Should you Get angry? Hold a grudge? Obviously, he or she cannot take what is not theirs. But how do you react? Will you be upset? If it was destined to happen to you – – it would have happened to you in another manner. Think: Would this happen to you in another manner if he didn’t take it? Perhaps your dog would have chewed it up?

If you think he is a messenger of Hash-m that wants your best interest – you can find a way to not hold a grudge. In Torah it says “Don’t hate your fellow in your heart”

Clean yourself. Clean your emotions.

 

Are People Really Insulting You? – the Woman Who Beat Up Her Husband

A friend came up to me on Shabbat. “I am really upset – This person treated me like a bum. My aide and I were sitting quietly and he told me that we don’t sit here like a bum.”

What am I to do? Tell him that he didn’t do it. He did it.

I said – maybe the person who complained thought you were someone else.

I told him a true story.

Once a rabbi with a beard was peacefully walking down the street. A woman walked up to him and started yelling. “How dare you come to my neighborhood! After all the pain you caused me when we were married! You have no shame?!” Her anger turned violent. She started hitting him with her purse. “take that!”

“Excuse me lady. I am not your ex-husband.” She took a good look and apologized. Oh I am sorry – I thought you were my ex. He caused me so much pain. Forgive me.”

A friend asked him – were you upset at her after what she did to you? He replied “No. She wasn’t beating me up – she was beating up her ex-husband.”

At times a person insults you. He might not be angry at you – perhaps he or she had a bad day and you happen to be in the way of that person’s anger.

You can take it personally. You can use it to change for the better. Or you can say perhaps the anger is directed at someone else or something else I did at another time.

The Hot Pot that Broke the Glass Table Cover – Calming Your Anger

They just installed the glass cover on our table top. Looks nice. I see them install it. Coming home later that day, I see a big crack in the glass. What? The first day we get it?

All is for the Good

Gam zu leTova. Also this is for the good. Perhaps it was a Kapara – an atonement for a deed. This is the lesser bad of two options of atonement.

The Evil Eye

Some will say it is Ayin HaRa / the Evil Eye. If someone sees something and they admire or desire it – they might cause an eventual damage to that object. How? We explained it before – G-d listens to the prayers of people. He also hears the heart of people. If someone wants something that you have – Hash-m pulls out the books of deeds of both people – He judges between them and if the one that lacks the object is more worthy or the one that has the object is unworthy – something happens to the object. Was it Ayin HaRa? Perhaps.

The Hot Pot

I find out someone – it doesn’t matter who – happened to put a very hot pot onto the glass. The tension caused by the heat in the glass caused it to break.

The Physics – A Free Physics Lesson

Heat causes objects to expand. Cold causes things to contract. If one places a Hot object on the glass – the glass heat is expanding the glass. The molecules in the cooler area around it is remaining stable. The expanding area is restrained by the cooler area and it breaks the glass.

A Lesson For Us – Don’t Get Heated Up

We sometimes get into a heated argument. The extreme heat breaks the relationship. It wasn’t worth it for a small matter to break the relationship. How important is the matter to you? Is it important enough to break the relationship? Decide it before the heat breaks the glass. Cool yourself down – don’t add heat to the fire. You won’t have to pay another $250 to replace the glass again or pay for a broken relationship that you will have to rebuild.

4 Types of Temperaments

In Pirkei Avot / Ethics of the Fathers 5:11 it says – There are 4 types of people – one gets angry quickly and calms down quickly. One who gets angry slowly and calms down slowly. One who gets angry quickly and takes much time to appease. One who gets angry slowly and is appeased easily. Let’s make efforts to be like the latter.

Rehearse Reaction to Situations that Anger

How? Rehearse in your mind how to react to particular things that anger you. And how to react in general. Count to 10 before you react. Take a glass of water before reacting. Act don’t react. Control Yourself – don’t let anger control you.

 

What is True Love? – the Torah View

The Foundation of the Torah

Once a Gentile came to Shammai – He said “Convert me to Judaism, if you can teach me the entire Torah while standing on one foot.” Shammai – thinking he was mocking him – drove him away with his measuring stick. The gentile came to Hillel. He said “Convert me to Judaism, if you can teach me the entire Torah while standing on one foot.” Hillel said “what is hateful to you – don’t do to others – this is the entire Torah. The rest is all details based upon that foundation.” The gentile decided to convert to Judaism.

You Shall Love Your Fellow as Yourself

Rabbi Akiva said – The foundation of the Torah is veahavta lereacha kamokha – “You shall love your fellow like Yourself.”

Reasons Why a Person May Divorce His Wife According to Torah

When discussing Divorce in the Talmud – Rabbi Akiva said a valid reason for divorce is “One can divorce his wife even if she burns his meal.”

His opinion seems contradictory. If one should love his fellow like himself – why should he divorce his wife on such a trivial matter?

The Foundation of Love

Rabbi Akiva reveals a foundation of the Torah that guides a person to live a life of Truth. Rabbi Akiva says that his love for his wife (and his fellow) should be true love. Love based upon the appreciation of the person – not based upon – what do I gain from the person. If burning a meal is enough for someone to get upset and want to divorce his wife because of it – then it is not true love – and if he wants he may divorce his wife.

Fish Love

Once a person said “I Love Fish.” His fellow replied “If you loved fish – you wouldn’t catch it, skin it, cook it and eat it. You just love yourself.” A question to ask is our love based upon a matter or based upon the other. This is what it says in Pirkei Avot / Ethics of the Fathers – (Chapter 5:16)

What is Love?

16. All love that is dependent upon a matter – when the matter is nullified the love is nullified. And when it is not dependent upon a matter – it will never be nullified. What is the love that depends upon a matter that is the love Amnon & Tamar. And that that is not dependent on a matter, that is the love of David & Jonathan. [At times the love of someone is really love of self-gratification – like one who says: “I love fish.” If he really loved it he wouldn’t kill it. This is love that is dependent on a matter].

What is True Love

Real love is an appreciation of the person. Many today marry on because they think consciously or unconsciously “what’s in it for me?” If you ask a person – why do you want to marry this person? They will reply “Because I love him or her.” Scratch a little deeper ask “Why do you love this person?” They will say “They make me happy.” That love is based upon what they do for you – not your appreciation of them.

What’s More Important a Good Meal or Respect for Your Spouse, Child or loved one?

When trivial matters annoy you about a person, it means that that trivial matter has in a sense more importance than the respect of the person. If you express anger at your spouse because they burned the meal, it may mean that your eating a good meal is more important to you than the honor, respect or feelings of your spouse.

Let it Go

The wise person, the loving person will say “Let it go.” “It’s OK” “everything doesn’t have to be perfect.” While I was saying this Dvar Torah / Word of Torah at the breakfast Table – someone accidentally spilled my cup of Orange Juice on the Table and in my plate. My immediate thought was to have a reaction – but I realized I was saying a Dvar Torah to forgive others and be accepting of others faults and imperfect acts. So I said calmly “Let’s get some Towels and clean this up.”

You Overlook Your Own Faults – Overlook the Faults of Others

Torah wants a person to have real love for others – as one loves themself. A person overlooks his faults – he should overlook faults of others.

If you want to correct someone – correct them, at the proper time, with the proper voice, in the proper place with love -for them – not anger – because of the slight to you.

King Balak was afraid of the Jews after they killed two giants Sihon & Og. Balak took – the gentile Prophet Bilaam to curse them. Bilaam had one blind eye. An alusion that we too should sometimes close our eyes to the failings of others. If we see their failings – we should ask what can we do to help them – rather than jumping on them for every small detail. Give people room to grow. Give people leeway to make a mistake. Usually mistakes are not done on purpose.

Lack of Self-Serenity Causes Dissatisfaction with Others

Their first two letters of For both Balak and Bilaam are Bet, Lamed. Together they Spell – bilbul – Confusion. The Inability to think or reason in a focused, clear manner. Lack of peace of mind or Confusion causes a person to be unsatisfied. If you have a calm state of mind – it’s easier to control your immediate reactions. If you learn mussar works you are better prepared to deal with stress. Believe it is good and it will be good. Believe Hash-m sends only good – and you’ll see the situation in a positive light.

One Rabbi said that the Hebrew Letters of Balak represent veahavta lereacha kamokh / Love Your Fellow as Yourself. A student said “I don’t understand Balak is spelled with a Bet, Lamed and Kuf – the first letters of the words veahavta lereacha kamokh – are Vav, Lamed, Kaf.” The Rebbe replied – If you love another you will overlook the small mistakes, slights and faults.

 

Improve Your Communication & Marriage – Learning from the Parrot

One of the secrets of a good marriage is good communication. The Torah teaches successful communication.

I met some people at a wedding recently. I gave them our “You are Special Card” by Ohr Binyamin. It lists 36 reasons why you are special. I told them once someone asked me “Do You have a card on Shalom Bayit / peaceful relations at home?” I replied: Yes – read one of these reasons on the card to your wife every day. A wife needs to feel appreciated by her husband. A simple “thank you” or buying her a gift regularly can go a long way for more peaceful relations. Take 2 minutes a day to think about & do what you can do to make your spouse happy.

Learning from Animals

The Talmud says we can learn from all men. It goes to the extent to say we can also learn from animals in Eruvin 100b:

Rabbi Yoḥanan said: Even if the Torah had not been given, we would nonetheless have learned modesty from the cat, and that stealing is objectionable from the ant….

What can we learn from parrots? Parrots repeat what a person says.

Empathy in Marriage

A spouse seeks empathy – an essential part of communication. Empathy means that you understand & feel the feelings of the other person. Men tend to be “problem solvers”. Women tend to be “Empathizers”. How do you empathize with someone? Repeat what they say in other terms – sincerely. For instance: Wife comes home from work and says “The boss was upset that I came late today.” The natural reaction of the man is – “Let’s put on the alarm a little earlier for tomorrow.” The wife doesn’t necessarily want to hear solutions. She wants you to feel for her that she was upset by the boss being upset. By empathizing you validate the other’s emotions. A more proper response would be – “I understand that it is upsetting when your boss feels frustrated.”

One lesson learned from the parrot.

You can also learn it from the Torah – in Pirkei Avot / Ethics of the Fathers chapter 6 – One of the 48 ways to acquire Torah is – Noseh Be’ol Im H’avero / Carrying the burden with your fellow. Noseh Be’ol also includes noticing the burden of your fellow and doing what you can to relieve it. You see a large pile of laundry – put a couple loads in the washer and dryer. Sensitivity to others is one way to become greater person.

The Wife Mirrors the Husband’s Actions

Once my aunt in a department store. She was looking for her sister, who looked similar to herself. She saw a woman and she waved. The Woman waved back. She thought she found her sister – when she realized that she was looking at a mirror.

G-d runs the world Middah Keneged Middah / Measure for Measure – what one does – comes back to them. One of the reasons G-d commanded a person to get married is for each to grow together. Having a partner – gives you many opportunities for growth. What a man does – is sometimes shown to him through his wife. If one gets angry at his employee – when he comes home his wife may become angry at him. If he was kind – she may be kind with him.

So – if a man sees that his wife is not acting with respect – the obvious – but incorrect – reaction is being upset with her. The Torah’s recommended reaction is not to correct her – to but to correct yourself – correct the action you did that prompted your wife to become upset.

If she reflects your deeds – you should not get angry at her – correct yourself and that will hopefully extinguish the negative attitude of your wife. Obviously – your reaction also depends on the situation. This is a simplified answer – to bring out the point. This point is also brought in the book “Garden of Peace” by rabbi Shalom Arusch.

Don’t Let Your Tears Go to Waste on Others

Babies cry. Adults cry. A baby cries when hungry, thirsty, uncomfortable or in pain. An adult cries more often because of emotional pain.

Although the gates of prayer were locked, the gates of tears remain open (see Talmud :Berachot 32b) . Thus we have another way to get our prayers answered. Tears.

What happens? A person needs a shoulder to cry upon. They relieve their hearts of their burdens by speaking with another individual or to Hash-m. They relieve their burden, but they forget to ask for salvation.

Yes – tell your troubles to Hash-m. But don’t stop there. Cry out & pray to Hash-m for what you need. “Hash-m give me strength, patience & wisdom to deal with this class of rowdy students.” “Hash-m, please help me to find the best job to support my family in a dignified manner that will also let me dedicate time to learning Torah.”

Use your tears to improve your lot. Don’t use them to destroy someone else’s lot. You might be angry at another that brought you to tears. You have a choice to pray for their detriment or for your uplift. Pray for your uplift. G-d will listen.

You gain not by someone’s downfall. You do gain from your uplift. Use your emotional pain to thrust your tefilot / prayers to heaven.

Be specific in your prayers. Don’t just say Hashem – find me a mate. Pray, please Hash-m find me a mate that has good middot / character traits, from a good family, that learns Torah & will be able to support a family by the end of the month. You fill in your requirements.

Even tears of gratitude, or just verbal gratitude to Hash-m, should be accompanied by prayer. Once you say thank you – you insinuate that you are satisfied with the outcome. Ask for more benedictions, even when you say thank you.

G-d will turn your tears of pain into tears of joy. Amen.