Food Prices Flying – Dealing With it the Jewish Way

Prices are flying. Eggs – someone told me – doubled their price. Good for you vegans. But for the non-vegans – what to do? Become vegan?

It seems like one of the prophesies of the time of Machiach is revealing itself – wine will be expensive.

Save? Hoard? Go on a diet?

The wisdom of Torah is greater than other wisdoms. Other wisdoms will tell you what to do from logic and point of view of the physical world. The Torah will explain what to do taking into account the metaphysical and spiritual world.

We explained before that – there is a physical nature in the world. A spiritual nature also exists. Do good – get good back. What goes around comes around is a Torah concept. It’s called Midah Keneged Midah.

Want to get – give. Want G-d to be generous – be generous with others.

Think of it. It is 180 degrees from what one would expect. If you only think of the physical world – it makes sense to reduce your spending on others. Torah it tells you do opposite. Spend for charity. Spend for the poor. You need two things also. Faith in Hash-m. Belief in the concepts of the Torah.

Obvious you are not obligated to go overboard. 10 percent to 20 percent of one’s income is the recommended average and maximum giving for for charity. What is spent for shabbat, Torah education and yom Tov is not included. Meaning if in Heaven they declared he or she would get 100K that year. They will get it. But if he is going to spend 20K for Shabbat and 40K for Orthodox Torah Day Yeshivas – he will receive $160K.

But let’s bring it down to be able to understand this concept on the physical or material plane. I told some people – an accountant or a bookkeeper should not be a company President or CEO. Why? Because if the company loses money – their obvious advice will be to reduce spending, use cheaper materials, cut corners.

The Marketing people will say – spend more for marketing, for salesmen, for better quality products, invest in new products. Spend more. Making less? Spend more.

If a person is losing money – check out his tzedaka giving. Obviously you should know what is charity. Someone will say good – I will give 10% to animal rights. Tzedaka has a very specific definition. It is for worthy, needy  people according to Torah, for Torah causes, for hachnassat Kallah – for helping to pay for a Kosher (not just the food) wedding for a couple in need.


What Children Want Most from Parents


Rav Shimshon Rephael Hirsch was a rabbi in Europe about 200 years ago. Born in 1808 – he explained Judaism with a point to inspire the intellectual Jewish populace. He wrote that the main thing that a child wants from parents is Love. “The Love that you give to the child is greater to the child than any gift in the world you can give them.” When someone asks the child – does your father (or mother) love you? their answer should be a sure answer – “of course”.

This lesson does not only apply to children but to students, friends, spouses and oneself.

I heard this shiur / lecture from a live broadcast from a The Beit Knesset Moshayov from Yesterday (in Hebrew).

What is love?

To understand how to educate children – it is not enough to “Just love them” but to understand what love really is. Love means giving for the interest of the child – not for our personal interests. People err. They think if I buy them a toy, a game – that expresses my love. It does but is that what the child wants? Apparently – they would rather a hug than a roller coaster ride. They would rather quality time than an expensive vacation. They would rather a kiss on the cheek – than a Play station.

I was listening to a rabbi – he told two stories. One child on Passover – found the Afikomen / the piece of Matza that is hidden by some families at the Passover seder. The child that finds it can choose their prize. Some ask for toys, games, Jewish books and the like. This child asked for a kiss on the cheek from the father.

Affection is important – but the way that the child wants it – not the way that we may want to give it. A child understands more than we think. They know when you hand them a video – you’re basically telling them – I have more important things to do.

So how can we bond with children?

The Shabbat Table

When the family enjoys the Shabbat meals together – it is a great way to bond. We talk with children. We give them attention. We sing together – interact together – learn together – eat together and develop as a person. We say words of Torah and encourage to do the same.

No Substitute for Spiritual Bonding

Some think that taking the kid to the local park is a substitute. Truthfully – in the park a parent sits on the bench and the kid disappears with their friends until it is time to leave. Where is the bonding? Take them to a baseball game? OK. We watch grown men throwing a ball around. What about watching TV? The TV is the center of attention – the child is just a spectator – secondary to what appears on the screen. Give them a cell phone? A nice way of saying occupy yourself with this while I carry on my own life. Go shopping together? the focus is on the buying – not on the kid.

The Torah School

Many Jewish parents send their children to public school. I myself went to one. One of the the main qualms of parents is – Jewish Day school costs money. OK. But did they ask themselves – what is the best interest for my child’s emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical development. A public school only teaches secular knowledge. A Torah Day school teaches secular knowledge and how to be a beautiful functioning person that wants to help society and be a good person deep down.

The Kiss of Life

A five year old child was wetting their bed. The parents tried giving him gifts to motivate him to not do so. They asked psychologists. Talked with him. Nothing worked. One rabbi heard the problem and said perhaps the kid lacks affection from the parents. He instructed them to spend time with him at night, read him the Shema Yisrael before sleeping and give him a goodnight kiss. Within the week that they started – they solved the bed wetting problem.

Lech Neche et HaAm – Go and Speak nicely with the people

Menashe Yeshoshua – speaking on on Education in his sefer / book Shaarei Hamishkan writes on the verse “Go and speak calmly with the people.” When G-d spoke to Moses – he said Go and speak calmly with the people. The Nursing woman speaks with baby softly. This is the way we are to speak with the child.When we want to correct the child we correct the improper action – but the love should remain. We don’t say you are the problem. We do not say “You are selfish!” We try to instruct them on being more selfless – by being selfless ourselves and the like.

When the Jewish people rebelled – Moses asks G-d “Am I their father that I should calmly guide them like a nursing woman to the nursing baby?”  This is teaching us that the parents – all have the ability to calmly educate the child. G-d gave us this ability. We are to believe in ourselves and in Hash-m / G-d that He gave us the ability to do so and will help us to get the proper results.

The Mystery of Teenagers at Samson the Mighty Grave

Shimshon HaGibor / Samson the Mighty was a Nazir / a Nazarite. A Nazarite is not allowed to drink wine, eat grapes or consume other grape products. He was a Judge, tremendously strong and a fierce defender of the Jewish people. His physical might was from heaven. For the Rest of the story – see the Book of Judges (chapter 14-17).

Just recently someone knocked at my door to collect money. He told me his cause was to raise money for Shabbat meals for Young teenagers that come to visit Samson’s grave. He, the caretaker, was perplexed when he saw so many youth visiting there.

He asked them why they come. They told them they wanted to connect with someone who is strong and powerful. They admired his might and apparently his plight in defending the Jewish people.

After youth many seek truth. They want to find real meaning. Apparently this is a step in  their search for meaning in life. The Shabbat meals give them a taste of Judaism and give them a taste and feel of meaning.

Apparently the secular education did not satisfy their person. They did not find the satisfaction or meaning they wanted.

The Sefer Hovot HaLevavot / Book Duty of the Heart – explains that a person is composed of a body and soul. This soul is on a high spiritual plane. It is not satisfied by physical pleasures. Doing good and following Torah is what gives it satisfaction.

Their soul drew them to the mighty. But the mighty Samson recognized that his physical and spiritual strength came from the Mighty One above – from Hash-m / G-d.

Guidebook to Life – by G-d – the Torah

As a teenager – I was one of the popular crowd. I would crack jokes in class – but I was smart enough to make them sporadically to not get kicked out. Once a teacher took me out of class to explain that my behavior of cracking jokes was unacceptable – and if I continued I would be sent out of class. I listened. In my yearbook one teacher wrote something like – “one day when you become a bit more mature you will be a nice guy.” I was already a nice guy – I just liked to joke around.

In Hebrew school I would never study. I think I had a series of zeros on my tests. Then the teacher talked to me after class – saying that I was a smart kid and she knew I could do better. I heeded the words and started getting 100’s on the tests instead. I would try to figure out what my average was based upon the zeros and hundreds. I tried to fiure out how many 100’s I had to get in order to get a passing grade. I think I passed.

My drive to differ continued in college. I was the different one – everyone was preppy – I was the one wearing two watches on my wrist and multi-colored sneakers or sneakers – each a different color.

I don’t know if people got the message. I wasn’t trying do be different to get attention – I was trying to show the world – don’t just follow after society – be yourself – think and act – don’t just act after others – then think.

I guess I still have the same attitude today. I feel people should think more about things – before just blindly following the norms and mores of society.

I started becoming more Torah observant at around 15 years of age. It was a slow process. First I started keeping Kosher outside. Then I started observing Shabbat. Then I started learning Torah. I got my MBA and then I went off to Geneva, Switzerland to start a Marketing Director job. My travels – got me thinking. When I returned to the US I decided to enroll in a Yeshiva. I was about 25 when I started learning Torah seriously.

My high school friends and I became distanced due to the winds of life. It didn’t mean I liked them less – I just put my priorities on different things – like spiritual growth, Torah learning, introspection and following Torah way of life.

In my growth – I was never really tempted to follow another religion or cult. Firstly because I am Jewish – I guess it was proper for me to investigate my religion first before trying others. But another reason was – of the little that I knew I knew that the Torah was the only divine document given to man by G-d before witnesses of millions of people. G-d appeared only once to a nation in history – and that was the Jewish people at Mount Sinai – where He gave us the Torah.

Why should I seek spirituality from some guru – when G-d himself was telling me – in the Torah – what spirituality is. Spirituality is basically doing things that will make you closer to G-d. G-d already told me in the Torah – all other ways of life couldn’t beat that.

— To Be Continued —

Jewish Education & Intermarriage – Winning the $100 Bet

For the third meal of Shabbat / Seudah Shelishit at our Synagogue we have an open forum of discussion. Sometimes I pose a question on a Jewish Law Topic and ask the people their opinion on the situation. Then I provide the answer from the Torah.

Leaving a Child Back – Positive or Negative for the Child?

At one of the side conversations – one person mentioned his kid was to be left back – so he took his child out of the school.

I mentioned – depending on the situation – it might be good for a child to remain in the same grade the next year in order to be the head of the class – in age and possibly intelligence – than to go to the next grade and be the youngest and not at the top. He said it might be a blow to the child’s confidence to know they were being left back.

I think a parent must be truthful to answer that question and see what’s best for the child. Will it be a blow to the child’s confidence or help his confidence? And evaluate if the decision is not being made because it be a blow to the parent’s social standing – that their child is left back.

Different opinions.

The Advantages of a Torah Day-school Education

The conversation turned to giving a child only a Jewish education at home and placing them in a Public school versus giving them a Jewish education at home and placing the children in a Traditional Orthodox Day School or a Yeshiva. Some were saying a public school education was better. Some said they have Jewish friends.

I mentioned that the Jewish schools are highly advanced in dealing with social issues and have an education that gives them not only secular knowledge – but a Yeshiva teaches them something far greater – the ability to think. Many Yeshiva students get into the Top Universities because of their developing their ability to think by attending a Torah Day school.

I mentioned a statistic – 70 out of 100 Jewish children that go to a public school, end up marrying outside Judaism. Meaning these children have a 70% intermarriage rate. While 2 out of 100 Jewish children that went to a Orthodox Jewish Day School for 12 years end up intermarrying. (See 1990 National Jewish Population Survey)

A friend at the table who is an Israeli wouldn’t accept it. He bet me $100 dollars that that is not true. I sent him the statistic.

Really I regretted betting him the $100. I should have bet him if I was right – he should put his children in a Torah Day school.

Improving Your Family Relationships by Limiting TV Viewing

zinnia 2Imagine the good in the world created by taking one hour a day from watching TV to improve another person’s life – Especially if that person is your own child.

Sometimes we see things more objectively with a cold head.

Let’s investigate together objectively the value of Television.

Before taking a decision on something that affects the family, responsible parents evaluate the effect that that decision will have on the long-term future of the family.

There are many considerations to take into account (see below) but here we will focus mainly on Relationship between Family Members

Some Considerations:
1) Effect on Values
2) Effect on Well-being of Family
3) Effect on Productivity
4) Effect on Opportunity costs
5) Effect on Outlook in Life
6) Effect on Social Development
7) Effect on Relationship between family members
8) Effect on Character traits
9) Effect on Safety of Family
10) Effect on Education of Family
11) Effect on Convenience
12) Effect on Financial status of Family
13) Effect on Finances of Family
14) Effect on Mitzvah Observance & Torah Study
15) Effect on Perceived Status of Family
16) Effect on Creativity
17) Effect on Creative Output
18) Effect of Wholesomeness of Family
19) Effect on Entertainment of Family
20) Effect on Psychology
21) Effect on Happiness of Family
22) Effect of Relationship with Hash-m
23) Effect on Self-Esteem
24) Effect of Tranquility
25) Effect on Satisfaction in Life
26) Effect on Health
27) Effect on Continuity Of Family

Some considerations overlap, some have an affect on one another. For instance by allowing a person to be more creative, we are helping them build their self-esteem. Also, to be fair the decision should not be made in a vacuum – meaning the Value of watching TV can be compared to the value of doing kindness, learning Torah or being creative.

Families prioritize what they find most important. For some number 23 – Happiness of Family is most important. For Some number 22 – Relationship with Hash-m is most important. Based upon what is important to you, you will decide what is best for the child. (Putting the nagging of the children aside :))

We are all intelligent.

Intelligence is shown by thoughts and by action.

Let’s put things into perspective. Who are the most important people in your life? Most would say, “my immediate family. “

So does the TV improve those relationships or not?

To see things objectively we should ask people who have seen both sides of the coin. Life with and without TV.

Occasionally a town in the us drops TV for a week. They report better communication, more wholesome activities, less stress and better relationships.

Apparently, what they are saying is true.

Having a relationship with a person is much more fulfilling than having one with an image box. And even more fulfilling with family.

When a child talks with a parent and either is involved watching TV (or using the computer) undivided attention is not present. This is not respectful to the parent or the child.

It’s not just media is the message.
You know that it is unpleasant when you are in a middle of a conversation with a friend and your friend starts talking on the phone with someone else. Talking to a couch potato or computer/phone/ipad/work addict isn’t pleasant either. You know they only have half of their attention on what you are saying. The other half of their attention is on the latest news. It also sends a message to the other person … “my work/TV/phone/computer is more important than what you are saying.” We wonder sometimes where the lack of attentiveness of children comes from – here’s a possible source.

Basics of Positive Relationships
Giving undivided attention to another is one of the basics of a positive relationships. Knowing the other’s interests, challenges, strengths and positive points is another. Once known, doing things related and discussing them will help in the relationship and the development of the child or other person.

Unfortunately some are more in touch with the lives of celebrities than those of family or friends.

Sometimes, a person is so involved in a show or a program, when someone disturbs them, they snap at them with angry words. Hold on! Remember, your children come first.

Less Stress for Children. Less Parenting Stress.
I used to watch TV. I don’t miss it. Really, not one bit.

Sometimes I ask a person why they watch TV. The basic answer I get is “I have to be informed.” But in today’s day and age TV is not necessary for news. There are fine periodicals like Mishpacha Magazine, or Hamodia or Yated Ne’eman that has “all the news that’s really fit to print.” 🙂

When one sees violence on TV it stresses a person and creates a negative and fearful image of the world. You can be informed without being stressed out. Imagine what it does to children. The latest crimes, the violent schemes of the world on the big screen. Good or not good for family? You decide.

Why do children have nightmares? The Talmud in tractate Berachot discusses dreams. It says that a person sometimes dreams of what they thought about during the day.

Less TV, less stress.

More Deep Relationships with Family
If the major interests of a family is their occupation with celebrities it detracts from their relationship with their children .. or at least makes it more shallow. When one takes an interest in children, their relationship improves markedly.

More Wholesome Activities

So what should one do instead of TV to build relationships?

Get involved with the Torah community together
Do Mitzvas or Kindness Together as a Family
Bikur holim – there are groups and organizations like Bikur Holim that go to hospitals to visit patients there, some that cook for families that Just had a baby.
Read a Kosher novel – that usually have a theme with a positive morale or are educational. Many are available online at Artscroll, Feldheim, etc. One that is an excellent is “The Voyage to Good Middos” Series By Rabbi Baruch Chait. Where kids learn to improve their character traits by hearing stories of Middos challenges. It can serve to develop a good conversation.
Play board games with family
Learn Torah with family members
Invite a Torah scholar to your house to give a lecture
Say the shema at bedtime for kids. We say Shema two times a day – the morning and at night. A child that sleeps with a shema and nice Jewish bedtime story will also have nice dreams.

Most Torah Observant Jews have No Tv. For the above reason, for the opportunity cost of watching TV and for the negative influence TV has on the kids and family.

To sell ads TV many times appeals to the lowest common denominator. The advertisers get what they want – ratings. It shows violence, disrespectful youth, immorality, and the improperly dressed. There used to be a saying “The street is the street and the home is the home.” TV has effectively brought the street into the home. Is it in the best interest of the child? You decide.

Help Your Children Be Themselves
As a parent our we were blessed with our particular children because we have the greatest possibility of helping them develop their greatest potential – in regards to Torah & Mitzvot. We want them to express their real self – their soul. Limiting TV has the effect of increasing the individuality of the person. He is not influenced to be like a celebrity. He is freer to express his own-self and individuality.

They can express themselves creatively. Instead of escaping or “killing time” they express themselves through productive activities. They blossom and become more themselves.

Can’t go cold turkey? Try to make limits. No TV during supper. No TV/Computer/Phone/Ipad between 7 and nine. No TV one day a week. Anyone has the right to turn off the TV at any time for any reason without receiving derision from other family members. This is family time. Little by little you will be able to kick the habit.

I don’t think anyone ever said when the kids we’re moving out or on their deathbed : “Too bad I should have watched more TV.” But many have said… “I wish I could have spent more time with my family.”

Turn off TV. Turn on life.