The Benefits of an Old Used Car

I asked my mechanic today if he needs an assistant. I had so many car troubles – I know many car parts, troubles, and their solutions. He laughed.

He told me it is more worth my time to learn & teach Torah. He told me a story that once – I believe Moshe Reichman – a Multi-Billionaire – asked – the Gadol HaDor – great Rabbi of the Generation – could he retire and just sit and learn Torah. Rav Shach said – He supported so many Yeshiva Students – with his wealth – that he should remain in business and keep his Torah learning schedule.

A Greater Place in Heaven

I then told him a story – Once Moshe Reichman asked Rav Schach – “Who will have a greater place in Heaven – Himself – because he supported so many Torah learning Institutions and Yeshivot or Rav Shach who was the Torah leader of the Generation?”

Rav Shach replied – “I don’t know who will have a better portion of Olam HaBa / in Heaven – but I know I have a better portion in Olam HaZeh / this world.” Moshe Reichman was a billionaire. Rav Shach lived very simply. He meant that living & Learning Torah was greater than the life of a billionaire.

The Benefits of an Old Used Car

I said to my mechanic – It is good to have an old used car. Why? Because the troubles that you have are an atonement for sins. Instead of physical harm – the atonement goes on the car. So spending $1000 for a new Intake Manifold isn’t so bad – after all.

Rabbi Harvey Gornish, an Orthodox Rabbi, brought a story in response to a question – “How did King Solomon / Shlomo Hamelech learn the language of the animals?”

In I Kings 3:5–14 Solomon begs G-d for the wisdom of a LEV SHOMAYA or understanding heart, and a Midrash informs us that when he woke up from what he thought was a dream (3:15), he found that he could understand the chirping of the birds.

There is a remarkable follow up to this Midrash. One day a friend of Solomon, obsessed with learning the secrets of the birds, implored the king to teach him this secret language. Solomon cautioned him that it would serve him not well and lead to disaster, but the friend was relentless. Upon learning how to understand the chirping birds, the man heard two birds conversing and was shocked to hear that they were speaking about himself, warning that tomorrow his house would burn down. Shrewdly, the man raced to the market and sold his house to a idolatrous gentile. How happy he was to incur no loss when the house burst into flames on the morrow.


A week later he heard the birds warn that his cattle would die of a plague. Once again he shrewdly sold them quickly and suffered no loss. Finally, the last avian warning was that HE was about to die. Terrified, the man ran to Solomon begging for advice.

Solomon explained there was nothing he could do; the man had tried to outsmart the Al-Mighty, and deserved his fate. The merciful G-d had tried to awaken him to repentance by depriving him of a somewhat painless monetary loss; a house, some cattle, etc. But NO, HE was too smart to allow G-d to do this. So finally, there was nothing left with which to punish his sins except to take his very life.And that was That.

And so the Torah warns us in Deuteronimy 18:13 Tamim Tihihey Im Hashem Elokecho: Be WHOLEHEARTED with Hashem your G-d. Refrain from astrology, divination, fortune telling and tarot cards in order to outwit your fate. It can not be done and it is a sin to try. Instead TRUST in His love that whatever befalls you was not only necessary, but also the best outcome that is beneficial to your soul. Trying to outsmart the Al-Mighty is really for the birds!

Spending $1000 for a new Intake Manifold isn’t so bad – after all.

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.

Mazal Tov! Does Judaism Believe in Astrology or The Real Months of the Zodiac

Strive for Truth

I Overheard the Rabbi in synagogue teaching “Michtav MeEliyahu.” In English it is Called “Strive for Truth.” A Sefer / book by Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler. He was talking about the influence of the Jewish Months.

The Time Spiral

Time in Judaism is not a straight line – it is a spiral. Imagine a spiral. in the middle is the beginning of time. Each complete single spiral represents the Jewish year. Draw a circle around the spiral. Make 12 slices – as you would in a pizza (instead of 8 slices – 12 slices). Each slice has a particular influence in the world. Each slice is a Jewish Month. Each Slice represents a particular influence on the world. As the spiral goes outwards we grow.

The True Astrology

He asked “Why do the Zodiac signs – start in almost the middle of secular calendar months? He  mentioned that really Astrology / the Zodiac signs correspond to Jewish months – which are months based upon the moon – a lunar calendar adjusted to the Solar Calendar.

Jewish Months & their Influence

Mazal is the astrological influence.  Adar (Pisces – the sign of fish) – the month of Purim – has good Mazal for the Jews. Haman thought he could persecute the Jews in that month – because he thought Jews would be occupied eating – because fish eat other fish. Nissan – the Jewish Month when the Jews were freed from Egypt – has an influence of freedom in it. The Purity of the Young Girl – Virgo – is the Month of Elul – when the Jews do teshuva (repent) for their transgressions. It  is the Month before Tishrei. Tishrei – the month of Rosh HaShana – is when the people of the world are judged. Thus the sign for Tishrei is the Balance scale because it represents judgement. The Flood of Noah occurred in Cheshvan – the sign of scorpion – because scorpions are water resistant creatures. (Rokeach Bereshit 7:6-13)

There is an excellent set of Sefarim / Jewish Books called – “The Midrash Says” – which explains the stories of the Torah. Their Passover “Little Midrash Says Haggada” (p.97) – has a list of the Mazalot. It explains that when the sun is found in a particular area of the sky where a pattern of stars is found – that has an influence over events. Hash-m causes the monthly Mazal to influence events in the world. The Egyptians picked up on this and worshiped that constellation. Hash-m told the Jews to sacrifice the lambs – as a test of their faith – in the month when the lamb constellation was strong – Nissan – to show to the world that it is only Hash-m / G-d who has power over the Mazal. Nissan is the Month of Passover.

Jews are above the Mazalot. Meaning with prayer and actions they can change what may be destined for them.

Chart of Jewish Zodiac

Hebrew

Name

Transliteration English

Name

Description Hebrew Month Hebrew Month Stars in the Constellation Dates of Sun’s Presence

טָלֶה

Taleh Aries “ram/sheep”

נִיסָן

Nissan March 21 – April 20

שׁוֹר

Shor Taurus “bull/cow”

אִיְּיַר

Iyar April 21 May 21

תְּאוֹמִים

T’omim Gemini “twins”

סִיוָן

Sivan May 22 –

June 23

סַרְטָן

Sartan Cancer “crab”

תַּמּוּז

Tamuz June 23 – July 22

אַרְיֵה

Aryeh Leo “lion”

אָב

Av July 23 –

August 23

בְּתוּלָה

Virgo “virgin”

אֶלוּל

Elul August 24 -September 22

מֹאזְנַיִם

Moaznayim Libra “scale”

תִּשְׁרֵי

Tishrei September 23 –

October 23

עַקְרָב

Akrav Scorpio “scorpion”

חֶשְׁוָן

Cheshvan October 24 – November 22

קֶשֶׁת

Keshet Sagittarius “bow”

כִּסְלֵו

Kislev November 23 – December 21

גְּדִי

G’di Capricorn “horned goat”

טֵבֵת

Tevet December 22 January 19

דְּלִי

D’li Aquarius “water bucket”

שְׁבָט

Shevat January 20 February 18

דָּגִים

Dagim Pisces “fish”

אַדָּר

Adar February 19 March 20

 

If a person wants to look into their Astrology information – it is better to go to a person who follows Torah – who is knowledgeable in the matter. Some horoscopes are just made up by newspaper writers and people who are not versed in true Astrology. A person should also seek what is the Jewish law before consulting astrology, fortune tellers, hand readers, etc. – because fortune telling, soothsaying, magic, witchcraft, etc is forbidden by Torah for Jews & Non-Jews – according to the 7 Noahide laws of the Torah for all people of the world.

What is the Reason for Turmoil in the World?

Corona. 4000 Rockets sent against Israel by terrorists. 45 People Perish in Meron. A Building Falls in Surfside, Florida. Iran attacks the US. Fears of Impending Floods. What is happening here?

Why the Turmoil in the World?

The world is going through turmoil. What is the reason?

There is a word for reaching the truth by experience – by trying a way of life and rejecting falsity. I thought it was catharsis – but apparently that means releasing pent up stress.

In a sense a person follows a path in life – then either they discover it is good or not good. The stress they had by following a particular way of life is removed when they find another “truth” – until they find the real truth.

The Search for Truth

The path of Avraham Avinu / Abraham our Forefather was to investigate the ways in life. He investigated until he could find truth or rejected it if it was lacking truth. He rejected all idolatry, until he found G-d / Hash-m. Yitzro / Jethro did the same. Yitro followed all forms of Idolatry, Religions and cults until he came to the conclusion to the truth of the Torah. He then converted to Judaism. (Judaism does not require a person to become Jewish to receive a place in heaven – a gentile just follows the 7 Noahide laws from the Torah – for the sake of the Torah). Many of the “Ism”s came and went or came thinking it could solve the world’s problems – yet they did not – like communism, anarchism, fascism, Marxism, totalitarianism, liberalism, socialism, etc.

One day there will be no more war – when people find the truth. It takes effort and willingness to give up one comforts to find truth. Would you switch your smart phone for a flip phone if it meant pursuing truth?

G-d’s Messages

G-d / Hash-m is sending messages to the world. We think it as a bunch of random events – but really they are a wake up call for us to return to Our Father in Heaven and finally seek His help – seek His guidance – seek to do the good in His eyes – not only in ours.

Messiah on the Doorstep

We are in the period of the Messianic times.

Two ways to bring Truth to the World

The sad truth is logically – there are two ways to bring truth to the world. One by allowing people to find truth. In the over 5700 years of the world existence – the entire world never achieved that status. One nation did – the Jews  – when they received the Torah at mount Sinai where millions of witnesses heard G-d speak.

The Second way is to eliminate people who follow not the truth. There are grim prophesies that say in “World War 3” – if people don’t search for truth – One Third of the world population will remain. One Fifth of All Jews will remain.

Opportunities to Open Our Eyes

Thus G-d is giving us opportunities to open our eyes and return to his ways – Jews by following their Torah Commandments and Gentiles – by following their 7 Noahide laws from the Torah.

Ask a competent Orthodox Rabbi to explain you your questions on the world. He’ll probably be able to answer. The problem is – many people are attached to their lifestyles and want a semi-truth. A truth allows them not to change. It’s possible – but really should put all their lifestyle on the line if it means pursuing truth – that was the way of Avraham Avinu / Abraham our forefather – that’s the way of Yitro / Jethro.

News to Jews

To observant Jews, News is not just an outlet to learn what is happening in the world – it is a message from G-d / Hash-m to repent / Do Teshuva, improve and to return to Hash-m’s ways.

G-d is One

We say it in the last line of Aleinu Leshabeach / It is incumbent upon us – the Concluding prayer Jews say 3 times a Day. And on that Day Hash-m’s will be One [meaning all people will recognize Him as the True G-d] and His Name will be One [He will be the G-d that everyone will call to]. (Zecharia 14:9)  Zecharia also has some prophesies of our current time period.

Search for Truth

A simple message – a challenging task – search for truth.

What’s Stopping My Success? Breaking Barriers to Blessings

Torah to Your Inner Self

A Person Following Torah becomes their real self. The Torah contains the guidelines to help a person reach their essence. A person’s essence is their soul. Think of it. A body is basically a sophisticated network of physical material. Normally a body should be inert. What gives it animation? A Soul. So really the soul is the essence of the person. The body is the “clothing” of the soul – so to speak.

Through following the Torah laws person sheds the secondary and focuses on the primary. One gets in touch with their soul, becomes closer to the Creator / Hash-m and thus becomes much more of an individual – as opposed to a follower of trends and fashions. I know. I used to be a trend setter and fashion follower.

Individualist Rabbis

Thus you find Orthodox Jews who are very different in terms of goals, aspirations and skills. This applies to Rabbis as well. You have Rabbis that do computer research on Torah – like Rabbi Matityahu Glazerson. You have outreach Rabbis – Like Rabbi Noach Weinberg, z”l – the Founder of Aish HaTorah. You have Great Rabbis in Jewish Law – Like Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Zt”l. You have Rabbis that are Kabbalists – Like Baba Sali, zt”l and Rabbi Yitzhak Kaduri – involved in the Mystical secrets of Torah.

The Tale of Blocked Blessing

I think I heard this story from Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein. A business man – involved in various lucrative business ventures – noticed that many of his deals went bad just when he was ready to close. He went to a kabbalist Rabbi – who knew the spiritual nature of the world. The businessman explained his problem. The Rabbi responded “Your children are stealing from you!” The man was very surprised. “How is that possible? My children are 3 years old and 8. They can’t steal?”

The Kabbalist asked “Do you ever spill your seed?” The man responded affirmative – he explained hesitantly that he goes on many business trips without his wife and thus he falls to the temptation of spilling the seed in vain – which is forbidden in Torah. The Kabbalist explained – that when he did this it created defective spiritual children in the other worlds. When pipes of blessing for this man started flowing – these children would complain to G-d and say look what their father did to them and thus the flow of blessing stopped. Thus he kept losing his business deals.

No Person that Never Sins

There is not a person in the world that only does good and never sins – according to the laws of the Torah. Some accept this as their nature and have no remorse for the bad they have done or don’t even recognize it as bad – either because of ignorance or because they say “everyone else is doing it.”

From the Story we see how blessing is blocked. Sins block blessing. Lack of merit also may block blessing.

Things that Block Blessing

In Torah – there is a physical nature in the world and a spiritual nature of the world. Gravity causes things to fall to the ground in the physical world. Sins block blessing in the spiritual world.

Quarrels also block blessing. Once a married couple was childless for many years . They were in a quarrel with another family. Finally after many years – one decided to get up and ask for forgiveness. When they made peace – the couple had a child.

I heard a story of another childless couple. All the time they were living in a house – they weren’t able to have children. Once in cleaning the house they found inappropriate magazines in the attic above their bedroom. They threw them in the garbage and shortly after they had children.

It’s possible that a person promiscuous when single – might have sins come to block their blessing them when married. Although a newly married couple is forgiven of their sins – the repercussions might still come to block them.

The Evil Eye

Blocked blessing may be caused by the Evil Eye / Ayin HaRa’. Keeping things simple might be a way to avoid blocked blessing. What is the Evil Eye? When a person feels slighted because of someone else’s blessing – G-d takes out the books of both and sees if the person really deserves his blessing. Someone shows off their new Land Rover in front of a person – whose car was just repossessed. G-d then sees if he really deserves that car.

A Rabbi, in charge of an organization – Bonei Olam – that helps childless couples to bear children – asked Rav Steinman, zt”l – why are their so many childless couples. He answered – because of Ayin HaRa’ / The Evil Eye. He Said that Either they had a lavish wedding, or moved into a lavish home after their wedding. (Story from Torah-box.com)

The Rabbi tried to confirm this by asking some of the people who he was dealing with if they had a large wedding or got a large apartment after getting married. Many of the couples answered affirmatively.

Unblocking Blessing

 To unblock blessing – it might be as simple as doing Teshuva (repentance). Teshuva in Torah starts by recognizing ones faults. One then regrets those faults or failings. One makes an effort to correct them. And One commits to not doing them again.

If someone wronged someone else – they can go and apologize. Or if you see your friend – who may have slighted you in the past is suffering – forgive them with all your heart. Remove yourself from all quarrels.

To Remove the Evil Eye from oneself – there are many remedies or segulas. A Sefer called  רפואה וחיים can be found on a site called hebrewbooks.org (search refuah) – that contains remedies / segulot against it. The Moroccan Jews know of certain spices to make incense to rid oneself of it.

Prayer & prayer with tears always are a way to break down the barriers of blessing.

Being thankful for what G-d gave you also opens doors. A special prayer of thanks to Hash-m – can be said.

Tikkun HaKlali – תיקון הכללי  by Nachman of Breslov – מחבר: נחמן מברסלב‎
are a group of ten psalms arranged by Rebbe Nahman to atone for sins and especially for wasted seed. Rabbi Nachman

Tikun haklali can correct & infuse the 10 powers of the soul with spirituality & joy. It corresponds to “Ten Kinds of Music” · frequencies of holiness · corresponding to ten Sefirot (Spiritual Emanations of G·d). It undoes 10 forces of impurity & opacity, blocking soul & preventing passage of Divine abundance, understanding & clarity. It opens doors to blessing & unblocks blessing withheld due to sin. The 10 Psalms / Tehillim are 16, 32, 41, 42, 59, 77, 90, 105, 137 & 150.

 

What Messages is G-d Sending with the Corona Virus?

Many years ago, I was a traditional Jew. What seemed a nice in Judaism to do – I would do. What didn’t fit into my lifestyle, I put aside. I would eat Kosher inside the house, but eat non-Kosher outside – when I went out with friends. I ate the Shabbat meal with family, but would go to see movies afterwards. I observed Judaism because of tradition.

I kept falling. Disregarding Torah & Mitzvot. Not because I was against it. I loved Judaism – but to me it was a nice tradition. In my descent from Judaism – G-d sent me a wake-up call – sufferings. One of my main concerns as a growing teen was – to be popular. This wake-up call taught me there is more to life than to win the popularity contest.

The sufferings made me introspective. I asked – “Why is G-d doing this to me? I am basically a good person.” I was. But I did have my areas to improve.

I decided that my quest of being popular had to take a back seat to being a good human being. I re-thought out my philosophy of life. I thought that G-d had a plan for me and I had to follow His rules rather than the path of popularity. In retrospect – the difficulties I suffered – were well worth what I gained.

The Corona Virus is an ailment that much of world fears. Millions of messages are sent daily – how to avoid it. But the person who wants to go to the root of the problem will ask not only – “How do I avoid it?” but “What does G-d want from me?”

G-d is in control of what happens to each individual in the world. He decides based upon the individuals actions. This – in Judaism – is called Middah Keneged Middah – measure for measure. The way a person acts towards others will come back to him or her. Act kind. Kindness will return to you. It also works for acting negatively.

We all have things to improve. Perhaps we must work on our anger or our generosity or our attitude towards others or our observance of Torah and Mitzvot. Most know what they have to work on to become a better individual. If we don’t we can study the works of Mussar / Jewish Ethics – Like Mesilat Yesharim – the Path of the Just, Pirkei Avot – the Ethics of the Fathers.

It seems with the Corona Virus – Hash-m / G-d is sending a message to each person. Define and refine yourself. It seems that fittest – in good qualities – will survive. Is changing one’s philosophy to follow the will of G-d worth it? It’s a much better bet than to wear a mask.

We are today in the messianic times. The Book of Zecharia talks about the Messainic times. It is interesting that in the 2nd Chapter of Zecharia it mentions that four “horns” are going to gore the world. A horn in Hebrew is the same word used for a Crown – Keren. In plural they ar caled carnot. (sounds like Corona). The Radak mentions that the world will be punished for Being against Israel in History. (ie, the pogroms, persecutions, holocaust, anti-semitism the UN that finds any reason to pass a resolution against Israel). The Commentaries say that the Messiah will come to remedy the situation.

In Zecharia 13:8 it mentions that one-third of the world will survive. Is this talking about Corona Virus? I don’t know – but one thing that is sure – is that it is up to us to take both spiritual and physical precautions – to be saved. On Yom Kippur we say – Teshuva / Repentance, Charity (to worthy Torah Causes) and prayer can save a person. Pray to Hash-m / G-d and He will help.

You’ll Get Over It – So Get Over It Quicker

A person needs time to cope. Something good or the opposite happens to him or her, it takes time to adjust to that change. People like to feel safe. They want an unchanging world.

One might steer clear of Judaism at times for that reason. Because they are reluctactant to adhere to the change that Judaism may impose on their lives. People accept atheism for that same reason – it is easier to stick to one’s antiquated ways than to accept a G-d that will require them to adhere to a set of laws – namely the Torah.

At times it is good to resist change – like when one has particular Minhagim – Jewish customs of their fathers. At times the Torah requires change – as when one must improve their character traits to become a better person. The Torah is the ultimate guide to Self-Help & Self-Improvement.

Likewise their are standard times specified for a person to cope. Like if a person just gets married – he or she has seven days to be surrounded by family and friends after the Hupah – Jewish wedding ceremony. This is called the Sheva Berachot – where for 7 days the newly wed couple celebrates their marriage at meals offered by friends and family. . Another standard time to cope is if a person, G-d forbid, is in mourning. They have seven days where friends and family visit them. In a sense – Shabbat – the Jewish Sabbath is a day to unwind and release negativity and rest from the slights of the week.

But some need more time to adjust emotionally to a situation. If a co-worker, a boss or a spouse insults or embarrasses a person, it will take time to calm down. It will depend on the person, the situation, the attitude of the victim. If that same person did something more minor – like interrupted you – the coping time is less. But apparently you are in control of your reaction. You are in control of your coping. You can choose to get over it quickly or let it linger.

The Pirkei Avot / Ethics of the Fathers says it in several places :

In Chapter 2 Mishna 10. They said three things: Rabbi Elie’zer says: Let the honor of your friend be as dear to you as your own & do not be easily angered & return [in repentance] one day before your death.

 

In Chapter 4 Mishna 1: Who is the strong person? One who conquers his [evil] inclination – as it states “Better is one who is long to anger than the mighty & one who conquers his will than one who conquers a city” (Mishle / Proverbs 16:32)

 

In Chapter 5 Mishna 11: There are four measures in temperaments: One who is easy to anger & easy to calm – his gain goes out with his loss. Someone who is difficult to anger & difficult to appease – his loss goes out with his gain. Difficult to anger & easy to appease is pious; easy to anger & difficult to calm is wicked.

All these statements point to the fact that one is in control of their temperament. You choose to get angry. You choose to calm down and how long it will take you. It takes time to change one’s temperament – but it can be done. (How? – that’s another post we’ll have to write.)

One way to calm down is to think – “Eventually I’ll get over this unpleasant situation. I might as well get over it sooner than later. Let me go of my anger today.” You’ll be better for it. You’ll feel better for it if you expedite your calming down process.

There was once a Rabbi – that remained calm in worrisome situations. Someone asked him how can you not worry in these situations. He replied “I really do worry. But I worry quickly.”

Worrying about the past present or future may be normal, but unproductive. The past has already passed. The future you never know what will happen. And the present passes in the blink of an eye.

Don’t worry – be happy.

 

Please Don’t Change. Become a Better You.

I talk to people. I sometimes teach them about Torah. Some answer “I’m good.” As to say – I don’t need to learn I’m already good. Apparently everybody is good in their own eyes. Torah is compared to salt. Just as salt brings out the taste of the food by pulling it out – the Torah pulls out the good of the person. The Torah asks more from us than just to be good. It asks for us to become better daily.

G-d made you unique for a purpose. With your particular traits, you can change the world for the better. The question is ” How can I do that?

A good starting point is to read Pirkei Avot. It will give you the basic foundations of being a good person. That’s a good starting point.

Another is to ask the question at home, at work in general – “What can I do to help?” Can you help at home. Can you help others on the job? Can you help your friends? Your family? the world?

Apparently – you become a better you when you become a bigger giver. The Torah teaches us how to give, what to give, what not to give, what to teach, what not to teach, what philosophies, outlook and values are for the ultimate good of yourself and society.

Become a better giver.

Help others.

The Apple & the Secret to Self-Appreciation, Meaningful Living & Communication

In the center of the Mizbeach / Altar in Mishkan / Tabernacle – after burning the offerings – the Cohanim would place the ashes in a pile. This was called the Tapuach – the apple – because it resembled half of an apple. There was a Mitzvah to remove ithe wastes before starting the new day’s offerings. This service was called the terumat hadeshen.

The Altar had several pyres of fire. The fire on the mizbeach represents a man’s soul. At times it is covered with ashes – which cause the fire of spirituality and desire for closeness with G-d to wane. Our Job is to remove these external impediments to help us develop a closer relationship with Hash-m / G-d.

Two ways to deeper Self-Appreciation

The process of becoming closer to ourselves is twofold. One goal is to remove impediments. A second goal is to dig deeper into who we really are deep inside.

This process applies to discovering ourselves and to communicating with others.

The Danger of TV – Superficial Family Relations

Our communication with others is mostly superficial. “How are you?” Do we really care or are we making polite conversation. The problem is not strangers. The problem is our close relatives and friends. Do we prefer gathering around a screen munching snacks and fruits than getting to know our children?

Unfortunately the opportunity cost of TV and computer time is less profound relations with children, spouses, siblings and parents. But the point of this article is not to bash TV. It is to remind ourselves that our job in life is to develop deep and meaningful relations with others.

I saw a cute cartoon. A man was on his deathbed with his family surrounding him. His last words were “I wish I would have watched more TV.”

No one regrets TV. People do regret not having more deep family relations.

So we fall prey to the superficial. What the other was wearing. What was a great restaurant. Fine. Stay on that level – but lose out on meaning.

In Pirkei Avot (4:20) – it Says

Elisha ben Abuya says: One who learns as a child is compared to what? To ink written on new parchment. And one who learns as an elder is compared to what? To ink written on scraped parchment.

 

Rabbi Yose bar Yehuda, man of Kfar HaBavli, says: One who learns from young ones is compared to what? To one who eats unripe grapes and drinks wine from its press. And one who learns from elders is compared to what? To one who eats ripe grapes and drinks aged wine. Rebbi says: Do not look at the jug but rather at what is in it. For there are new jugs full of old, and old that do not have even new within them.

Rebbi reveals a secret about learning. “Do not look at the Jug or container – but rather at what is in it”. You can have a young Torah scholar – that has much to teach and an old man that has no Torah knowledge.

Rebbi’s statement also reveals to us the secret to communication, self-appreciation and meaningful living. Don’t look at superficial appearance – dig deeper and look inside.

Let’s apply his statement to each.

Successful Communication

Want more successful communication? Don’t look at the only the words that come out of a person’s mouth or actions – try to understand their needs. There is a child that causes trouble – because they want attention. They do things because they want a reaction from you. They would rather a negative reaction than total ignoring from your part. If you were attuned to the child or spouse’s needs you would not be getting flustered by your relationship or conversations.

Write down on paper – what you think the other person’s needs are 1) In general 2) in particular.

It is simple for a child who is causing trouble. Their need in general is 1) Attention. Love. Appreciation. Their need at the moment is 2) Having fun with a parent.

The Rice experiment of ..  He had three containers of rice with water. He spoke to one nicely. The Other he spoke negatively and the third he ignored. The one he spoke to nicely after a period remained white. The one he spoke negatively became black. The one he ignored  became moldy.

Don’t Look at the container (the words) look at what is in it (the needs of the person).

Marshall Rosenberg was able to settle a 35 year old marital dispute within 20 minutes after each one recognized the other’s needs.

Self-Appreciation and appreciation of others

People Judge other’s and themselves harshly. They think they are bad. The fact that a person feels guilty for a thing they did bad – shows that they realize that they did bad and because they feel guilty – they are actually good. Bad people don’t feel remorse – they rationalize that the bad they did was good. Also one can always do teshuva / repent if they missed the mark.

At times a child or other does an act. They spill the ice cream on the floor. The child was trying to serve their younger sibling. You can either look at the negative – they spilled the ice cream or that they were trying to help their brother.

Don’t look at the container – look at what is in it – he tried to help. Praise him for that.

Praise yourself for your good aspects. The Torah wants you to be happy about yourself. The more positive you are – the more you can accomplish.

More Meaning

Abraham Herzberg wrote an article about motivation of employees in the Harvard Business Journal. He found that employees are satisfied by a job because of certain factors. But become dissatisfied because of the lacking of other factors.

The factors that caused satisfaction were called Motivators. The factors causing dissatisfaction were called Hygiene factors.

Two-factor theory distinguishes between:

  • Motivators (e.g. challenging work, recognition for one’s achievement, responsibility, opportunity to do something meaningful, involvement in decision making, sense of importance to an organization) that give positive satisfaction, arising from intrinsic conditions of the job itself, such as recognition, achievement, or personal growth.

  • Hygiene factors (e.g. status, job security, salary, fringe benefits, work conditions, good pay, paid insurance, vacations) that do not give positive satisfaction or lead to higher motivation, though dissatisfaction results from their absence. The term “hygiene” is used in the sense that these are maintenance factors. These are extrinsic to the work itself, and include aspects such as company policies, supervisory practices, or wages/salary.

Meaning comes from contributing to a better world or a bettering a company. Doing an activity that helps you pass the time doesn’t usually bring you deep satisfaction. It helps you pass the moment in an agreeable way.

It is interesting to note that there is a commandment from the Torah (for Jews and non-Jews) to build the world. By working and doing an honest job helps to build the world. Thus we see that the list of Motivators above – are linked to the commandment of building the world. Meaning that achieving meaning is linked to following the commandments of the Torah. The Jews the 613 commandments found in the Shulchan Aruch. And for Gentiles is following the 7 Noahide laws of the Torah.

When we look deeper in to ourselves, others and the purpose of life – we find a more beautiful world out there.

You Stole the Cookie from The Cookie Jar – How do I Fix it?

Do Good.

Don’t do bad.

Got the warning too late?

You did the bad deed?

Now what?

Is it really bad?

First of all ask : Is what you did really bad in G-d’s “eyes”?

If you don’t know the answer to that question – ask a competent Orthodox Rabbi.

G-d told us what is good and bad in The Torah – the only divine law that was given by G-d before millions of witnesses.

A Jew learns what is right and wrong from the Shulchan Aruch  / the Set Table and 613 Commandments of the Torah (see Sefer Mitzvot Gedolot, Mitzvat Hinukh, Sefer HaMitzvot).

A gentile determines what is bad and good from the 7 Noahide commandments from the Torah / Sheva’ Mitzvot B’nai Noach.

The Torah Laws for Gentiles are 7. These 7 are major categories and have Mitzvot / commandments related to them. The accepted number of commandments that are “under” the category of 7 is 30. Dr. Aaron Lichtenstein in his book “The Laws of Noah” found sources for 66 commandments that non-Jews are to observe. (perhaps one day we will publish them)

Perhaps a non-Jew ate pork. For a gentile – this is not forbidden. No use for a gentile to feel guilty for something G-d does not consider bad. For a Jew it is forbidden. Why? That’s another story.

How Bad is it?

Stealing a nickel is not as bad as stealing a person’s life savings. OK one fell to temptation and took those new office supplies from work. (For your info these are the top stolen supplies : Post-It Notes, Paper Clips, Tape, Scissors, Toilet Paper, Copier Paper, USB Memory Sticks, Notepads, Pens, Pencils & Highlighters)

Yes it is bad that one did bad, but G-d doesn’t wants the person to be punished – He wants them to do teshuva and better their ways.

Because a person did bad in one area of life it does not mean that they are evil. They fell into the trap in one area of life. A person can be evil in one area of life but righteous in other areas. Because someone stole some paper clips it doesn’t make him into a high scale criminal. Even a person who does evil regularly – G-d does not want their death – he wants them to improve his or her ways. This is what we call teshuva. (Repentance). You can Start a New Page in Life. Repentance – according to the RAMBAM / Maimonides – is 4 different steps: 1. Regret the Misdeed, 2. Confession to Hash-m about it, 3. Stop Doing the Misdeed. 4. Commitment not to do the deed again.

Can You make amends?

Is it something repairable or replaceable? If you stole your friend’s cookie and ate it – buy him or her another one. Let them know and make amends – and make back your friends.

Be wise! Apologize. It’s Better than replaying the same guilt trip in your mind over and over.

Once a bag merchant cheated people by giving them less bags than said in the packaging. Instead of giving buyers 100 bags as said on the box – he would give 96. People wouldn’t pay attention. He felt badly for his misdeed and decided to start anew. He decided to make up for cheating people he would pack more than 100 bags in each box. After his Teshuva – A big company was looking for a bag distributor. They decided to check the number of bags packed by various bag manufacturers. They counted the bags he provided and he got the contract.

Intentional or Unintentional?

An unintentional misdeed is not as bad as an intentional one.

Ask: Was the deed done intentionally or unintentionally? Intentional is that one knows it is wrong but did it anyway. Unintentional can be that you thought it was permitted or you made a mistake – ie, you took a coat that you thought was yours.

Feeling Badly for Misdeed is a Good Sign

If you feel badly for what you did that is already a good sign – it shows that you are cognizant of good and bad. You already did one of the first steps of Teshuva – regret (see above).

Don’t Do Something Worse than what you did!

Unfortunately we hear in the news people who kill themselves because of their doing a misdeed or even being accused of a misdeed. The suicide is worse than the misdeed itself. One who did something bad should go see an orthodox rabbi and talk to him about how to go about Teshuva process.

Killing oneself is one of the worst deeds. Why? Because killing a person is forbidden. Killing a person who is close family is worse. Killing oneself is even worse.

So don’t do a deed that is worse than what you already did. Improve yourself. Commit not to do it again. Say sorry to the people you hurt. Make amends and say sorry to Hash-m and continue your life as a penitent person.

If a person does Teshuva from fear of punishment – G-d forgives their sins. A person who does teshuva because he or she loves Hash-m / G-d and is upset that they went against Him – their sins become mitzvot (merits).

Three People are Forgiven All of Their Sins

Aside from people who sincerely repent – three others receive forgiveness – one who reaches a new position of greatness (ie, they become a ruler), a person who gets married and a person who converts to Judaism. These three people take upon themselves new responsibilities in the world and G-d gives them a clean slate to start with.

Both Jew and Gentile receive a portion in Olam HaBa / The World to Come / or Heaven based upon their deeds in this world. This place is determined based upon their observance of their particular commandments as mentioned above and the good deeds they did in their lifetime. (See sources here.) Their place in the next world (ie, basement or top floor) will depend upon  their observance of these laws.

Every person who did transgress – Jew or Gentile – can Do Teshuva / Repent.

The challenges of life are to help a person to become better. Failed – by doing a misdeed? Do Teshuva. Improve and Try again. You’ll become person in the end.