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.

Use Sweet Words

A sweet talker – in common vernacular – is someone with an assured and ingratiating manner. they are called a charmer or a flatterer. A person who professes beliefs and opinions that he or she does not hold in order to conceal his or her real feelings or motives

The Three Weeks – Between the Difficulties

The Three Weeks between the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av is a difficult period for the Jews and the world. This is the period when the Babylonians & the Romans attacked and destroyed the First and Second Beit Hamikdash / Holy Temple in Jerusalem – respectively.

Origin of Difficult Period

This period of difficulty was initiated in the Hebrew Year 2448 when the Spies – in the Dessert at the time of Moshe Rabbeinu / Moses Our Teacher –  return from 40 days in Israel with evil reports of the Land of Israel. Jewish people cry in despair, give up hope of entering the Land of Israel. G-d says to them since you cried in vain I will give you a reason to cry.

Build Your Faith in Hash-m & Yourself to Overcome Suffering

It started with a lack of faith in Hash-m / G-d and a lack of faith in themselves. To truely fix a problem, we go to the source – we solve the causes – not the symptoms. The problem to fix “Faith in Ourselves and Faith in Hash-m”

The Sweet Soul

My cousin – a sweet young soul – passed away at the tender age of 28 – right before this 3 week period of difficulty. He talked sweet – but was not a sweet talker. He was sincere, shy and kind. He was careful about his words – he used words that would not hurt, vex, sadden or offend people.

Rabbi [Yehuda HaNasi / Judah the Prince] made a feast for his students, and brought before them tender tongues and tough tongues. They began to choose for themselves the tender tongues and left alone the tough tongues. He said to them, “Know what you are doing! Just as you are choosing the tender [tongues] and leaving alone the tough ones, so shall your own tongues be with one another. Therefor Moshe warned Israel, ‘and when you sell goods… [you shall not wrong one another]’
Vayikra Rabbah 33

Emmanuel – my cousin – “could not say no.” he was so sensitive to people’s feelings he didn’t want to make them feel badly by insinuating rejection of a request.

Lift People Up

We can learn from Emmanuel Issachar to lift up people. Any person you meet – Don’t spare kind words. Don’t spare your smile. Lift them up. Lift yourself up & you can better lift others up. Lift up others with you.

 

Lift Yourself & Others Up

Ok. I ended the title with a preposition – “UP”. In grammar you’re allowed – but it is less formal. It sounds a little better than “Lift Up Yourself”. OK.

In any case – there is a mitzvah in the Torah for two towns that finds a dead body in between them – to measure the distance between their town and the body and the one that is closer makes a declararion “Our hands did not spill this blood and our eyes did not see” (Devarim / Deut 21:7)

It is the elder Jewish sages of the town that make the declaration. How can we think that the elders are going to kill an innocent person? The Bekhor Shor says : We did not see him to give him food for his journey and to accompany him after he left.

Accompany others with good words

Accompaniment is an important part of saying goodbye. When a guest comes to our house we provide three things – Ochel, Sheina, Levaya. Avraham Avinu had an Eshel – a tent. He used to do all three – give food, provide lodging and accompany the people when they left. When one goes on a trip we accompany them a bit and leave with positive words of Torah.

When a person passed to the next world we also accompany the departed to the grave.

In all accompaniment / Levaya – We are basically saying we are here for you. We give them Hizuk – strength to continue the journey. We say a kind word, we say a prayer to Hash-m, we give them a hug. They feel they have a friend. They feel loved.

This is why the elders make that declaration “We did not spill this blood.” We assume the person on the road met bandits or other danger (that was common at that time) and they did not have the emotional fortitude to put up a fight and thus succumbed to their wounds. If the elders saw the person and accompanied them – perhaps the person would still be alive today.

Thus – for us – we can learn – lift up people.Any person you meet – Don’t spare kind words. Don’t spare your smile. Lift them up. Lift yourself up & you can better lift others up. Lift up others with you.

(I didn’t end with a preposition. 🙂 )

The Value of Pain – The Spiritual View of a Jew on Alleviating Pain

Each Yeshiva / Torah Learning institution has a goal. In Hebrew it is called a Shita שִׁיטָה / frame of mind or mindset. Telz Yeshiva – in the outskirts of Cleveland – brought it’s shita to the United States from Europe. They emphasize the importance of proper conduct of a Ben Torah / a Torah learner.

Majesty of Man – Proper Etiquette

Walking down the street with a Telz Yeshiva Alumni – I was impressed to hear of the high standards of personal etiquette recommended of Yeshiva Bachurim / young students. “In Telz people would bring laundry to the laundry room in a briefcase rather than a laundry bag – because it is unbecoming of a young budding Torah scholar to carry a big bag of dirty clothes.” I was impressed. “A person would not drink directly from a bottle. Using a cup is more befitting.”

Bottle Woe – The Nerve Dilemma

He told me – he knew of someone – that did drink from a bottle. The Popular Pop of that time was Royal Crown Cola. The student was drinking from a bottle. Another student bumped into him unintentionally. His front teeth were broken.

He went to a dentist that mentioned he had the option to keep or remove nerves from his teeth.

Encounter with a Gadol – Great Sage

He went to speak with the Rosh HaYeshiva – Rabbi Mordechai Gifter. The Rosh HaYeshiva mentioned to him that if he had the option of keeping his teeth’s nerves – he should do so. Someone he knew in Europe had his nerves removed from his teeth. Several weeks later half of his face welled up due to an infection. He couldn’t feel the pain. The pain that he would normally have felt was not able to warn him of the spreading infection. If he caught it earlier – he would not have to have a much more serious operation now.

The Value of Pain – the Message

Pain is usually viewed as bad. No pain is good.

Pain is not necessarily bad.

Pain can be a message.  It teaches us – there is something that needs correction. The proper question – we should ask then when experience pain is “Why I am experiencing this pain?”, “What is the Cause?” – not just how can I alleviate the suffering. Alleviating the pain may deal with the symptom but not the cause of the pain.

Suffering may be from physical pain, emotional pain, psychological pain or spiritual pain.

The Purpose of Pain

The reason of the pain? To prompt one to improve. The tooth story is a good example.

Are You treating the Cause or the Symptom?

One who treats a problem to alleviate the pain – may be treating the symptom – not the cause. Let’s say the person had nerves to feel the pain. Instead of taking antibiotics to treat the infection he took pain killers. He alleviated the symptom but not the cause.

The Spiritual Connection of Pain

G-d sends us pain. We try to alleviate the pain. But really we should ask “What does Hash-m want from me?” “Am I the cause of my own pain?” “How can I improve myself to not ever get this pain?”

Spirituality & Alleviating Physical Pain

Firstly – if the pain is a sign of a physical ailment – the Torah says to seek proper medical treatment from a competent, reputable Doctor. It says you shall very well guard your soul. One is not allowed to live in a Town where there is no Doctor.

There are 248 members of the body. A Jew has 613 Mitzvot / commandments from the Torah. 365 prohibitions that we avoid 365 days a year and 248 active commandments that we do with the 248 members of our body.

Each part of the body is connected to a particular Mitzvah. If one lacks in a particular Mitzvah it has an effect on that member of the body that it corresponds to.

So the second step – is to also see what spiritually one can do to rectify the spiritual aspect of one’s life to cure the physical member of the body.

Spirituality & Alleviating Emotional Pain

Hash-m made a physical nature in the world. An Apple falls. Heat rises. Plants grow. He also created a spiritual nature that corresponds to the physical world. One general spiritual rule of nature is called Midah Keneged middah. Measure for measure. One that does good gets good. One that does the opposite gets the opposite.

If someone yelled at you – check if previously you perhaps raised your voice at someone else. Do Teshuva / Repentance according to Torah and apologize when in order.

Spirituality & Alleviating Psychological Pain

When one feels down – it might be due to your soul’s feeling down. Really the mental condition of a person depends upon their spiritual soul’s state. The person is composed of a body and soul. G-d through the Soul gives the body life. If the soul is happy the person is happy. If the soul is sad – the person is sad. Doing good deeds makes a person happy. Doing bad deeds make a person sad.

The major problem of people seeking the elusive happiness and not finding it  is because they think that pursuing bodily pleasures and comforts will make them happy. At times the pursuit of pleasures makes a person even more depressed. It is not pleasure that will make one happy – the satisfaction of the soul that will.

The question one must address is “What are the pleasures that make the soul happy? And which are those that dampen it?” I found from experience – that pursuing bodily pleasure only for pleasure – may give temporary pleasure – but in its wake is sadness. If it is sanctioned by Torah – it brings happiness in it’s wake.

The Definition of Spirituality

Spirituality brings happiness. To understand a concept we must properly define it. Spirituality is having a positive, loving relationship with Hash-m / G-d. To enjoy such a relationship – we follow G-d’s Law – the Torah as a guide to develop that relationship. The Jews follow 613 commandments. The Gentiles follow 7 Noahide laws.

The Three Dimensions of Relationships

A person who relinquishes their relationship with Hash-m/ G-d relinquishes one satisfying relationship of life. A person has a relationship with himself or herself (Ben Adam Le’atzmo). They Have a relationship with people and nature (Ben Adam Le’havero). They have a relationship with G-d (Ben Adam La’Matkom). A non-believer or an atheist or one who disconnects themselves from their Judaism – disconnects from a satisfying relationship that they could possibly have.

The Call of Your Father in Heaven

Pain may be a call for a person to search out a satisfying relationship with G-d – through Torah. G-d is our father. He wants a relationship with His children. Hash-m communicates with us daily. He sends us messages, gifts, kindness, blessings, abundance. Do we communicate with Him? One just has to observe their daily life and see all the blessings.

Measure for Measure from G-d

When people ignore all Hash-m’s kindness – G-d may act with them the way they act with Him – ignoring them – leaving them in the hands of nature. A woman once served her family straw for dinner. The were in wonder – what happened with her. She told them – “You never appreciated – when I served you the best of meals. So I thought for you everything is the same whether it is delicious or not. So I served  you straw – it’s much easier to prepare & you don’t appreciate the good food when I make it for you anyway. A parable to teach us to be appreciative of our blessings.

Sweet Melancholy vs. Happiness

Memories of my youth – I remember my old friends and old experiences. I remember with sweet melancholy. Some memories I remember with Joy. I try to distinguish between that feeling of melancholy and the feeling of Joy. My happiness was many a time sweet melancholy. How do I know? Because Joy is an elation – melancholy is a form of sadness.

From experience I have found that doing good, providing kindness, helping others, learning Torah are sources of happiness. Also from Experience , I found pursuing pleasures not sanctioned by Torah is a source of sadness.

The closeness to Hash-m / G-d is a good barometer that is correlated with a person’s happiness. Doing good brings you closer to Hash-m – you become closer to the source of life & happiness. Thus one is happy when they are close to Hash-m. Or more accurately – the closer one is to Hash-m – the greater is their potential and actual happiness. The farther one is from Hash-m – has the opposite effect.

Pain Prompts People to Pursue Truth

In my youth I was like any youth – I sought attention, I did my share of trouble. I pursued fun, ate non-kosher. I played sports. My world was a world of the average boy. But certain difficulties – like skin problems – prompted me to question life. My question “Why Me?” I was a decent person. Ok, I did my share of trouble – but I wasn’t so much worse than others – “or was I?”

How could I get back to being the Handsome young man – people told me I was? What could I do? I thought I could go to a skin doctor – but I thought that the pain was a message from G-d to tell me to improve. It is very hard to break a habit. It is hard to change your lifestyle. It is hard to change your attitude – but a little pain to wake you up will motivate you to pursue avenues that you otherwise you would not have considered.

My pain motivated me to improve my relationship with myself (Ben Adam Le’atzmo) by improving my outlook on life to correspond more to the Torah Hashkafa / outlook. I learned the importance of proper conduct of a Ben Torah. I improved my relationship with people (Ben Adam Le’havero) – by being more considerate of others feelings. I strengthened my relationship with G-d (Ben Adam La’Matkom) by praying to Hash-m, talking to Him, observing Mitzvot. Through Study of Torah Study, Reading Torah Stories, Learning Pirkei Avot / Ethics of the Fathers and making more of an effort to observe Mitzvot / Torah commandments – I made my self-improvement effort to become a better person.

Use Pain to Gain

Some take pain and fall into depression. Some take pain and use it as a spring board to pursue truth and follow it regardless of the changes to one’s lifestyle it entails.

Looking back and looking at the positive points I gained from following the path of pursuing truth & Torah – I am grateful to Hash-m for the hard – but beneficial message he sent me. Now I try to conduct myself in a way to not need those messages anymore.

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.

Save Your Marriage – 4 things to Do to Save or Improve any Marriage

You have to give credit where credit is due. Thus I must confess that the suggestions to improve any marriage are from a book called “Garden of Peace” by Rabbi Shalom Arusch. He writes one version for Men and one version for women. Each version is geared to teaching what the other spouse needs.

But some advice [that I must also try to apply more often myself] is what I learned over the years from learning Torah.

So yes – if you apply these rules you can save thousands of dollars [of marriage counselling fees]- and possibly your marriage.

First For Men:
To have a successful marriage – understand that your wife wants your appreciation. So the main things that you can do to make her happy are – Say thank you for what she does many times a day. Give gifts to show your appreciation.

Secondly don’t criticize condemn or complain. A woman is called a help mate – know that she can help you become a better person. She is focused on that issue – so what you think is nagging and screaming is an opportunity for you to become better. “Why do you leave your books lying around?!” You can either think – oh no she is criticizing me again or wow this is an opportunity to become better and to be more concerned for my living environment and the others around me. She is attuned to your emotional and spiritual growth.

Don’t treat your wife as your psychologist or therapist. Don’t downgrade yourself in her eyes. She might get the impression that you deserve this lack of respect that you told her that you received from the boss.

Go to Shaharit / Morning prayer services at an orthodox synagogue everyday before you go to work.  A woman who sees her husband lying in bed when she is awake may get a negative impression of her husband. Don’t talk too much with her – that might also lower her esteem for you.

Many men will find fault with the woman. It becomes a shouting match. A big no no! Because you can’t win an argument with a woman. She will either be insulted and you gain nothing. Or she will get you back one day.

A woman wants things to be taken care of. she wants to feel that the husband is responsible and taking care of things. Thus if she asks to do something around the houlse make sure it gets done. If you have to hire someone – fine but get it done.

The idea of a marriage in Torah is to bring up a wholesome family that respects one another, other people and G-d. This is done through following Torah. If a woman can help you be a better person – you should be thankful – not resentful.

For Women
A man wants respect. He needs to feel that you are on the same team – not trying to break or outdo him or use him as your cleaning lady. Obviously he must help around the house – but the things he does should be respectful. Talk with respect – not with anger and condescending remarks or threats.

Mutual respect is what the Torah wants from both from you. Your acting with respect to your husband will prompt him to act with more respect to you.

Part of the idea of marriage in Torah is to have a positive relation where one completes the other. One helps the other. Together they raise children that are beautiful people in the eyes of man and G-d. Thus The wife should encourage her husband to learn Torah. She should also enroll her children in a Torah day schoool . This is how she assures that the next generation will be respectful and serve G-d. He example will also serve as a lesson to children to act with respect.

The Torah is the greatest guide for self-improvement. It teaches a person to act with respect and kindness. Thus encouraging the husband and bringning kids to Orthodox Torah day schools – will engender a more peaceful and loving home. For that – her husband will become greater and appreciate her more for that.

Are You Alright Pal – Thinking About the Next Guy

I’m in my car driving back at night with my window open and stop at a red light. A man parked with his blinkers, outside the car shouts out “Are You Alright Pal?” I think he’s talking to me. I wave to say yes I’m OK. But then I notice a man sitting on the curb. He shout’s back “I’m Ok. I’m just stuck!” I didn’t know what he meant by stuck. I saw the other guy taking care of him. The light turned green and I zoomed away.

I reminisced about another incident that occurred that day. I saw an old African American woman, walking on the street with her grocery carriage. She was leaned over it and stopped for a short while. I was in my car. I stared to see if she was OK. She seemed alright. But who knows, perhaps I should have stopped to see if she was alright.

Today, we have many opportunities to help others. The question I ask is “are we doing enough to help others?” Thinking and helping out our fellow is the basis of the Torah – VeAhavta LeReacha Kamokha – “Love Your Fellow as Yourself.”

You can see the Bigness of a person, by the amount and quality of help they provide for people in need. And vice versa. Are we helping only when convenient or when not? Are we helping when people reach out to us or do we reach out to others to help?

The closer the person is to us the more responsibility we have to help and do kindness. Are we doing enough to help others?

Make that phone call to see how others are doing. Answer your old friend’s phone calls. Observe your surroundings to see what others need and do what you can to help. Little by little – you become bigger and a giver. In turn – you get more meaning and become a happier person. But don’t neglect the one closest to you – Yourself.

Are Your Ethics Stunting You – Get a Set of New Ones

A person lives a short term in this world.

THE Obligations to Achieve

In this small space of allotted time – one is to learn, observe the commandments partaining to them, learn torah, get a job, get married, have children, determine your purpose in life and accomplish your mission. Not necessarily in that order.

Where Your Ethics Stop Your Growth

People get stuck or stunted by the advertising of ethics of the world.

What Drives Your Ethics?

I am a vegetarian. I have to be slim. I have to eat healthy. I have to accept all people. All people are equal. I have to help the downtrodden people.

Behind all these ideas are a set of values. I am a vegetarian because I love animals. (Did I mention I have a parakeet.) I am into fasting because I want to be slim. I am into BDS because we have to protect the world from Israel. (Not me – but someone might think that way)

Ethics Cannot Be Determined by Feelings but may be investigated by What You Feel

Perhaps the above thoughts are right. Perhaps they are wrong. Who says feelings are necessarily – the proper way to determine ethics. I might feel one way about a matter and someone else might feel another way. So feelings cannot be the way to determine proper ethics.

Abraham determined what what right and wrong based upon his thoughts and feelings – His Kelayot / Liver taught him what was  right and wrong.

נאמר בקורבנות בספר ויקרא: לְעֻמַּת “הֶעָצֶה” יְסִירֶנָּה (ויקרא ג ט) לשון עצה, ובחז”ל נאמר מפורש שהכליות יועצות “לב מבין, כליות יועצות” (ברכות סא)

חז”ל אומרים על אברהם אבינו ע”ה: אב [תרח] לא למדו [לאברהם], ורב לא היה לו, ומהיכן למד את התורה? אלא זימן לו הקדוש ברוך הוא שתי כליותיו כמין שני רבנים והיו נובעות ומלמדות אותו תורה וחכמה, זהו שכתוב: אֲבָרֵךְ–אֶת-יְהוָה, אֲשֶׁר יְעָצָנִי; אַף-לֵילוֹת, יִסְּרוּנִי כִלְיוֹתָי. (תהלים טז ז) (מדרש רבה בראשית פ סא פס’ א)

Ethics, according to Torah, are not man-made – they are G-d made. The Torah tells you what is ethical – because it is G-d given. That is why a person can generally feel what is right or wrong.

Do Your ethics determine your feelings or your feelings determine your ethics?

The problem starts when a person has a strong feeling – their feelings try to convince them that what they are doing is right. People who support BDS – first they have a feeling of Hatred for Israel or Jews – then they convince themselves it is ethical to support BDS. (I Don’t think G-d wants a person to hate His Chosen People.)

A person loves animals. Their loves for animals taints their ethical viewpoint – to sometimes value an animal’s life over the life of a human.

“I love animals.” I once asked a class – if you could spend a million dollars to save an old ladies life – or that same money to save a racehorse that broke it’s leg – what would you do? One student answered – the racehorse.

The Values of Torah – the Value of Human Life

Obviously – that is not the values of the Torah. The Torah places life of a human being above animals and above most commandments.

A Jew who desecrates the Shabbat is liable for a strong punishments. (A gentile is  not commanded to observe the Sabbath – on the contrary it is better that they do not observe it – it is forbidden according to Torah.) Yet if a person is in danger one is allowed to “desecrate” the laws of Shabbat to save their life.

Syncing Our values with Values of the Torah

Ok. That is our Job in life – to synchronize our values with the values of the Torah. G-d / Hash-m is non-biased. We are biased. One day we can be angry at a person – the next day we can love that person. So our ethics can be swayed.

Why Torah? Millions is Greater than One

Why Torah? Ethics & Religions are a dime a dozen. I heard over 80,000 religions exists. So why choose Orthodox Judaism’s Torah Ethics?  Because the Torah is the only Divinely given law in the world that millions of people witnessed and heard its being given – when G-d Gave the Torah to the Jews the Torah at Mt. Sinai. G-d doesn’t change His mind – so the laws are as valid today as they were when G-d gave the Torah.

Why It Makes No Sense that G-d Changed His Law and gave it to Another People

Many offshoot religions that used Judaism as source for their teachings – say two things:

1. The Jews Did not Observe the Torah – so G-d Chose another People besides the Jews

2. G-d Changed His laws to Make it easier for people to observe.

Point One is illogical. The Jews always observed the Laws of the Torah in their entirety. Either some Jews or all Jews observed. There was never a point in history when Jews did not observe the Torah.

Point Two is also illogical. G-d, at Mount Sinai, initially gave laws for Jews – the 613 Commandments and Non-Jews – the 7 Noahide laws from the Torah. The 7 Noahide laws are laws that are incumbent upon all people to observe. Those are the Laws by which a Non-Jew will be judged by after they die and go to the next world.

It makes sense to know these laws to get in sync to maximize one’s potential for reward in this world and the next. (See 10 or 7 Commandments – Which do you Observe?)

The Long Short Path

The Children of Jerusalem are known for their intelligence. Once a person traveling to Jerusalem asked a child how to get to Jerusalem. He said “Do You want to take the short-long path or the long-short path?” The man answered “I’ll take the short-long  path.” The Child told him how to go. Traveling down that road, the man encountered a thicket of thorns and thistles. He could go no  further. he returned to the junction where he met the boy, He complained “How come you sent me on this path – I was stopped in the middle by thorns and thistles? I couldn’t go futher” The boy responded “You asked me to go on the short-long path. It was a short distance to get there but in the end you had to come back making it take a long time. The long-short is longer in distance but you get there in shorter time.”

Judaism the Long-Short Path

Most religions or ethics are the short-long path. Yes you feel good following your feelings for a while. Yes you are promised heaven to do something relatively easy. Just do A and get a place in heaven. That is the Short path. But it is plagued with thorns and thistles at the end. If you discover the truth only once you get to the next world – its too late to change. You made-up who you are in this world and you remain that way.

But if you take the time to investigate Torah Judaism and see all the challenges it entails and the benefits it provides – you will find the truth in this world and have time to change into the better person you want to be according to Torah.

I’m a Vegetarian. I’m a Vegan. I’m for Animal Rights – Focusing on the Priorities

Every person has a goal, purpose and potential to achieve. It’s true that there are many worthy causes out there. Obviously, one should focus on one main goal – before getting involved in a side goal.

It is good to support animal rights – for the purpose of the Torah Mitzvah of not causing pain to animals (Tzaar Ba’alei Haim). It is good to be a vegetarian – because it is healthy – which is also a Mitzvah (Venishmartem MeOd LeNafshotechem).

Maximizing Your Good – Focusing Your Kindness

In themselves they are good – but when dedicating oneself to a cause – one should ask two questions One – is this the best cause I can be involved with according to Torah? Two – is this my priority right now?

Let’s say a person can be saving humans lives and he is involved with saving animals lives instead – he or she is not maximizing their potential in doing good.

Let’s say a person is involved in BDS – but they could be spending their time saving animals. They are not maximizing their potential.

Let’s say a person is missionizing for another religion – but they could be involved in teaching people about the 7 Noahide laws according to Torah – they are not maximizing their potential.

In a book of R. Shalom Arusch – I think it is called “Garden of Peace for Men” he talks about a person who is learning Torah all day. He is busy teaching Torah and Learning.” Learning Torah is one of the greatest Mitzvot. But this person is not married yet. Being Married is an obligation from the Torah. Having children is another obligation. This person he says is not maximizing his potential and will be held accountable for not getting married and having children because he did not focus on one of the priorities of life and obligations of the Torah.

Focus on your obligations in the Torah. Focus on Maximizing your Good. Focus on making yourself great – to become a greater giver – and you are one step closer to achieving your potential and purpose in life.

What’s Your EQ? Your Emotional Maturity

People get stuck. If it’s for good – good. But if it’s negative – you got to get out of that negativity.

Some people are petty all their lives. They complain about that they never became who they wanted. They never got that job. They look at others and remain in complain mode all their lives.

Sad.

Breaking Potential

We all have much potential. But we waste it on – cell phones, killing time, being stuck in my way or the highway mode.

We think we know it all. More than even G-d. That was my mistake. I was thinking what G-d wants is not my problem – until I had a rude awakening. I learned the hard way. But now looking back – that awakening – painful as it was – was worth it to awaken me from my living the false dreams that occupies most of society’s mind.

Pleasant Reality

Cool water splashing in my face – I realized what reality really is – and it was a pleasant surprise.

Living a Lifetime of Childhood

I was living the life of a child. I want my new toy. Give it to me or I will be upset. Give me my popularity. Say I am cool. Let me be the Mr. Popular of the clique. I was.

My whole clique prided ourselves on being different. I took it seriously. Others took it as a fad. My friends became lawyers, accountants, finance people – but I held on to the Idea – of not following the crowd – somehow discovering myself in the process.

When you break off from following the clique – you realize that – what you thought was individuality was really following the crowd. Most of the world follows what is popular. Even in religious circles – you form a new clique.

The Way Out

Your only safeguard in life is following the truth. If you are lucky – you will realize the truth of the Torah. If you are not – you will jump from one clique to another – trying to convince yourself that your happy and having a good time or that your truth is truth. I know. I was there in that shell – until suffering broke me out of the shackles of society’s ideas.

The path was painful many days. I started learning Torah. Many years passed and I emerged from my cocoon as a new man. Not following the status quo – but trying to please my Creator. It wasn’t necessarily because I was so religiously oriented – but I thought that that would be the best path to alleviate the pain.

So now I share some of my lessons learned.

The Cookie Story

Once a man bought a pack of cookies in the airport. On the plane the passenger sitting next to him  took a cookie from the pack. The man was astounded that someone would take his cookies without permission. He didn’t want to say anything – so he took one cookie as well. The other passenger took another cookie. He took another one also. The last cookie the other person broke in half and they shared it.

After the trip – he was wondering how a person could be so bold to take his cookies. When reaching into his carry-on – he found – the cookies he bought. The person next to him was taking and sharing his own cookies.

Many things one can learn from this story – one thing is that the person that you think is taking from you may really be helping you out. An example – you give a dollar to a poor person – you think you are Mr. Generous. Really that person is helping you out more – because he helped you to receive reward for the Mitzvah that you did by giving him money.

If the same happened to you – how would you react? Would it bother you? Would you say something? Would you complain?

The way you answer is one indicator of your emotional maturity (or your level of generosity).

Let’s say it was your roommate. Let’s say the cookies were really yours. Let’s say he or she took your things on a constant basis.

Do you rank them out? Do you complain to others? Do you feel all upset? Do you mention to them in a nice way that you don’t appreciate their behavior? Do you swallow your pride and don’t mention anything – but you have a silent grudge towards them? Or do you try to find some way to find a way to justify their actions or pacify yourself?

Your reaction – is an indicator of your Emotional maturity.

I was discussing with someone – saying that the most proper reaction is the latter – to find a way to justify their actions. Why? Because all other reactions will not help you grow. You will react to your friend and thus react the same way the next time around. One will be complaining about people eating their cookies for the next 100 years of their life. They did not change. The same way you came into the world – you go out. Grumpy in – grumpy out.

Growth starts with belief in G-d. If one believes not in G-d – when push comes to shove they will usually act like tiger towards an animal that grabbed his lunch. But to grow – you know that there is a higher authority watching you. You cannot just do anything. You cannot go bonkers or overboard – because of the decorum that G-d expects of you.

The man (or woman) of growth will think – “perhaps that person cannot afford to buy their own cookies. Perhaps they don’t like to go out and buy cookies and think that you are a generous soul that doesn’t mind them serving themselves. Perhaps G-d is testing your emotional maturity. Perhaps G-d is trying to help you become more generous.

You choose your reaction. You are not forced to react a particular way. The more mature you are the more cool, calm and collected will be your reaction.

You build your maturity – when you control your emotions. Some just want to let off steam. Some gain pleasure from getting angry. Afterwards they justify themselves by saying “you made me angry.” No one makes you angry – only you yourself decides to get angry.

You choose – either the path of letting off steam or the path to growth. The path to growth will lead you to satisfaction with yourself. The path of letting off steam – you may remain a child – with your childish recations for the rest of your life.

You have before you life and good or death and bad. Choose life. Control yourself and grow. Become more mature. Don’t remain a 10 year old the rest of your life.

You control your reactions – you choose whether you will grow or stagnate.

You choose whether you will become a noble soul or a penny pincher or a tit for tatter the rest of your life.

It is much easier to grow when you believe in Hash-m and Torah. For you know that all that happens to you is for your best interest.

Got a parking ticket & you don’t have great faith – you are miserable all day.

Got a parking ticket & you do believe in Hash-m – you feel great and thankful that G-d saved you from a worse fate.

It takes work, control and belief in G-d – but you can grow to that better person. The Torah is the ultimate self-improvement guide. It teaches us to emulate G-d – what better example can we have?

“That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind” – Learning from Heavenly Messages

It was the fifth manned mission of NASA’s Apollo program. July 16, 1969 at 9:32 am EDT (13:32 UTC) at Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Florida. The Saturn V rocket lifts off with Mission commander Neil Armstrong and pilot Buzz Aldrin. On July 20, 1969, at 20:18 UTC, Armstrong became the first to step onto the lunar surface. His famous words before taking a step down from the Eagle’s ladder -“That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”

G-d sends us messages every day. Apparently that message – heard throughout the world on TV – was a message to us humans. What was G-d communicating to us?

A message that is as relevant then as it is today.

Each one of us has a specific purpose to accomplish in the world. The winds of mediocrity tell us – eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you die. But the attitude is a smoke-screen to mask us from achieving our potential. Like the background music that is played in stores – to keep you in a trance to keep you in the store longer – so that you don’t notice the time passing.

The message “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” is telling us to break out of mediocrity. Many times a day we have an opportunity to do a kindness for others. Many times we have an opportunity to do a small act of kindness. We think it is no big deal – but really it can greatly help another person or all mankind.

Take a person who imparts to a non-observant Jewish person the beauty of Shabbat by inviting them for a shabbat meal. That person thinks – ok so he had a meal by home – no big investment – I was going to prepare food for the family anyway. But it is possible that you changed the person’s life. Your small act of kindness was “one small step for man – but a giant leap for mankind.” Because you changed the life of that person. His life will not be the same for now you opened a door to help him or her develop a closer relationship with the creator of the world. He will now change his life because of a small act on your part.

Take a person who teaches another Jew Torah or a Gentile the 7 Noahide laws. We think “so he took five minutes to teach the other person a Torah lesson.” But in reality you may have saved that person’s life from the despondency of living a life void of spirituality and a relationship with the true creator of the universe – Hashem.

These are small examples. But the message is clear. One of our jobs in life is to do acts of kindness – that for us may be small – but make a great difference in other people’s lives.

Once a person fixed the collar of a person in a Yeshiva. He thought nothing of it. Many years later – the boy whose collar he fixed came up to him and thanked him. He said many years ago I felt lonely and was considering leaving the Yeshiva. But your act of kindness of fixing my collar made me reconsider – because I saw people did care about me. I wanted to say thank you.

Imagine the reward for one small act. All the years that the boy studied Torah in the Yeshiva will be attributed to the boy who did a small act. The reward for Torah study is unimaginable. He did a small step, but it had tremendous ramifications.

Two women used to collect charity for poor people in the neighborhood. They decided together that the one who would eventually die first would come back to the other one in a dream and tell them about judgement in heaven. After many years one woman passed away. She came to the other in a dream. She told her – “Judgement in Heaven is rigorous, but the reward is also tremendous. Remember once we waved at a wealthy woman to get her attention – to collect some charity. You cannot imagine what great reward we were given for that small act.”

A small act of kindness goes a long way.