Ohr Binyamin Distributes Free Water and Judaica at Israel Day Parade

It was a Hot Day in New York City – on Fifth Avenue at the Israel Day Parade. After a Hiatus due to Covid – Ohr Binyamin took back to the streets to distribute free water, candy and Judaica to spectators. Many were thankful to have water for themselves, kids and parents.

“Why are you doing this?” a woman asked a staff member. “Achdus.” [unity] the man quickly answered. Ahavat Yisrael / love of fellow Jews is a great mitzvah.

Ohr Binyamin – publisher of the JerusalmLife.com site – handed out over 400 bottles of water and over 150 Newly printed “My Little Siddur” / Jewish Prayer Books. We made and met old friends. “It was a pleasure to see the smiling faces and connect with people on the street again. It was also great to be able to connect people searching for authentic Judaism the means of connecting to Jewish spirituality by providing answers, advice, blessings and Jewish materials that will help them in their quest and thirst for Jewish spirituality.” said Matatia Chetrit, president of Ohr Binyamin.

6 Rules for Good Relations – With Spouse, Kids & Friends

I walked in to the Inauguration Reception for HaChaim VeHashalom Beit Midrash / House of [Torah] Study. I see a Rabbi that I faintly recognize. It was Rabbi Bousu – the Grandson of the Baba Sali. He was discussing the subject of “Shalom Bayit” with some men. I listen in. “It is a positive commandment from the Torah to have peace with your spouse! It’s not enough to just do some kind things to her. You should try to assure that she is happy. If she is happy you will be happy. Think of ways to make her happy. Pray to find things and Do things to make her happy. If you do so you will have success!” said Rabbi Bousu. He mentioned why a person will have success in business, materially, spiritually and learning Torah. “Because where there is peace – the Shechina [Divine Presence] dwells. Where the Shechina dwells there is success.

I asked him the source : He said it was in Sefer Chareidim. I looked it up – but was not able to find the source he said. But I tried to figure out what it was on my one. This is what I found:

סֵפֶר חֲרֵדִים – פֶּרֶק ד – מ”ו
[תְּהִלִּים פֶּרֶק-לד-טו] סוּר מֵרָע וַעֲשֵׂה טוֹב בַּקֵּשׁ שָׁלוֹם וְרָדְפֵהוּ: – ‫דְּאוֹרָיְתָא‬‫ הִיא‬ ‫דַּאֲפִלּוּ‬ ‫בִּשְׁעַת‬ ‫מִלְחָמָה‬ ‫צִוָּה‬ ‫י‬ת’‬ ‫לְהַקְדִּים ‬‫שָׁלוֹם‬ ‫שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר‬ ‫ {דְּבָרִים כ:י} כִּי-תִּקְרַב אֶל-עִיר לְהִלָּחֵם עָלֶיהָ וְקָרָאתָ אֵלֶיהָ לְשָׁלוֹם: ‫וּמִנָּאֶה‬ ‫סְמָ”ג‬ ‫בְּמִצְוַת‬ ‫עָשָׂה‬‫ וְכָל‬ מָקוֹם ‫שֶׁיֵּשׁ‬ ‫שָׁלוֹם‬ ‫אֵין‬ ‫הַשָּׂטָן‬ ‫יָכוֹל‬ ‫לְקַטְרֵג‬ ‫שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר‬‫ [הוֹשֵׁעַ ד:יז]  חֲבוּר עֲצַבִּים אֶפְרַיִם הַנַּח-לוֹ: ‫צִוָּה‬ ‫הקב”ה‬ ‫לִמְחוֹת ‬‫שְׁמוֹ‬ ‫הַגָּדוֹל‬ ‫שֶׁנִּכְתַּב‬ ‫בְּקָדוֹשׁ’‬ ‫עַל‬ ‫הַמַּיִם‬ ‫לָשִׂים‬ ‫שָׁלוֹם‬‫ בֵּין‬ ‫אִישׁ‬ ‫לְאִשְׁתּוֹ‬ ‫וְהָרוֹצֶה‬ ‫לִזְכּוֹת‬ ‫בְּמִצְוָה‬ ‫זוֹ‬ ‫יִזְהָר ‬‫בְּמִצְוָה‬ ‫אַחֶרֶת‬ ‫וְהוּא [אָבוֹת א:ג]‬ ‫וֶהֱוֵי דָּן אֶת כָּל הָאָדָם לְכַף זְכוּת ‫תָּמִיד‪,‬‬‫מִמִּנְיָן‬ ‫תרי”ג‬ ‫‪:‬‬

Sefer Haredi – Chapter 4 – 46.
[Psalms Chapter 34:15] Depart from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it: It is a Torah Commandment that even during the time of war Hash-m commanded to start off by offering peace as it says “When you approach to a city to battle it – call out for peace.” (Devarim/Deut 20:10) And the Smag [Sefer Mitzvot Gedolot] counts this as Positive [Torah] commandments. And any place that there is peace – the Satan cannot accuse – as it says: [Hosea 4:17] Ephraim joined to idols – let him be: [Athough they were sinning – G-d said let them be – because they maintained peaceful relations] The Holy One Blessed Be He commanded to erase His Great Name written in Holiness with water [in Sota Ritual] to place peace between a man and his wife. And one who wants to merit this mitzvah – should be careful of another Mitzvah [Pirkei Avot 1: 3] “And judge every man favorably” [lit, on a scale of merit] always – from the count of 613 Mitzvot.

Rule # 1 – Be proactive in pursuing peace – meaning be yielding – seeking peace not arguments.

Rule # 2 – Judge people favorably

I heard and interview with Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein – z”l. In an interview he was asked “What is the most important thing that one should do for a healthy family?” His answer: Give them time.

The children want to connect with the parents and the spouses also want to. The greatest detriment to this is : Technology. My family wants to connect – instead I am on my cell phone, computer, watching videos. A big turn-off. They want to connect and you would rather connect with that video or whatsapp message.

Rule # 3 – Search for ways to make others happy.

Rule # 4. Give them time and be there for them.

Rule # 5 – Help out and Be present.

Rabbi Eliyahu Benhaim – said “Better than giving your wife a diamond ring – offer her to do the dishes.”

Rule # 6 – Be happy. Smile and make others happy.

Show a Bright face not a sad face. A face is part of the public domain – don’t “damage” people with your scour.

What Children Want Most from Parents

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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.

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

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

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

Just Shout – The Easy Way Out

The shout comes out. Poor kid. Poor you.

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

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

Are You Really More Productive by Shouting

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

Productivity in Education

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

Did You Win the Education Game?

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

Treat every act as an act of building.

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

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.