Wednesday, March 25, 2020

There Will Come A Day

This is the most touching poem ever. Read and be inspired. 

There Will Come a Day
By: Yaakov Klein

They will be repaid
These walls
These cold, empty halls
For their unbearable pain
For their anguish

Cherubic faces of small children
Illuminated with excitement
Wide eyes of wonder
The beautiful curiosity of youth
Gave these walls a name:
All dressed up with
Art projects, bulletin boards, a paper alphabet train
They exuded warmth, comfort, and security
So that their precious charges could learn
So that their precious charges could shine

Furrowed brows and open hearts
Swaying, singing, bowing figures
Bound together with a single goal
To heal the world with prayer
To communicate with their loving Creator
Gave these walls a name:
All dressed up with
Ornate wooden cuts, verses of faith, shelves of sacred texts
They exuded majesty, serenity, and sweet familiarity
So that their precious charges could connect
So that their precious charges could shine

Two souls floating down the aisle
To form an eternal bond under a canopy of blessing
Wide circles of exuberant dance
To music that is too loud
Joy that simply knows no bounds
Gave these walls a name:
"Simcha hall."
All dressed up with
Elegant moldings, elaborate light fixtures, glorious drapings
They exuded royalty, illumination, and other-worldly exultation
So that their precious charges could celebrate
So that their precious charges could shine

And then a virus came along and stole their charges away
Away to different walls, walls called
An extreme precaution to stem the spread of illness
A near death-sentence, to these walls
They wept
They whimpered
Their identity threatened and all but shattered

But they did not collapse
No, they dared not collapse
Because they knew that
Difficult as this time-period might be
Spent cowering alone in the eerie silence
Their precious charges would be coming back
Coming back very soon
Very very soon

They stood tall
They stood proud
And they whispered to each other
Through the darkness
"There will come a day"

There will come a day
When the gates are unlocked
And the first busload of children arrive
They will have grown a bit, they will have matured
But their eyes will yet be filled with wonder
Slowly, uncertain in their excitement
They will enter their beloved walls
To join hands with friends
So much more excited
To discover life's answers
Than ever before

There will come a day
When the doors open wide
And the gabbai prepares the shteibel for the very first minyan
Congregants will gather together
The closer the better
Young and old, sephardi and ashkenazi, chassid and litvak
They will have developed immunity to division
During the time of their isolation
Linking arms, binding souls, they will call out
"Amen y'hei Shmei Rabbah"
With more energy
With more gratitude
Than ever before

There will come a day
When the entrance is unbolted
And the guests begin to arrive
Dressed in their finest
Hearts overflowing with the immensity of the celebration
A glorious chuppah saturated with emotion and prayer
The new couple's entrance into crowds bubbling over with joy
A snake formation, hands on each other's shoulders
Dancing the night away
Hearts lifted to heaven
More eager to praise
More eager to love
Than ever before

They will be repaid
These walls
These cold, empty halls
For their unbearable pain
For their anguish

For there will come a day
There will come a day

Saturday, March 21, 2020

The Pail-A Story

Someone shared this with me and the message is so perfect for now. 

I love this story and it seems very apt to share right now. Wishing everyone good health, strength and (yes) joy to get through this challenge. 

From Rabbi Yochanan Rivkin in New Orleans:

In light of everything that is being cancelled, including the prayers at Congregation Anshe Sfard of New Orleans, I want to share a Chasidic story.

The two brothers, the famed Rabbi Elimelech of Lizensk and Rabbi Zushe of Anipoli, often wandered about together, posing as simple beggars. They would mingle with the masses, listening, teaching, speaking, helping and guiding whomever and whenever they could.

Once, while they were traveling with a group of vagabonds, members of the group were accused of being thieves, resulting in the entire bunch being thrown into jail. Confident of their innocence and eventual release, the two brothers sat quietly. As the afternoon progressed, Rabbi Elimelech stood up to prepare himself to pray the afternoon service.
"What are you doing?" his brother asked.

"I'm getting ready for minchah," replied Rabbi Elimelech.
Rabbi Zushe pointed at the pail in the corner of the room. "It is forbidden," he said, "to pray in this cell, because the odor coming from that pail makes the room unfit for prayer."
Dejected, the holy Rabbi Elimelech sat down.

Soon after, Rabbi Elimelech began to cry. "Why are you crying?" said Rabbi Zushe. "Is it because you are unable to pray?" Reb Elimelech answered affirmatively.

"But why weep?" continued Rabbi Zushe. "Don't you know that the same G-d who commanded you to pray, also commanded you not to pray when the room is unfit for prayer? Be happy that G-d has afforded you the opportunity to obey His law at this time, no matter what it is."

"You are right, my brother!" exclaimed Rabbi Elimelech, suddenly smiling. The feelings of dejection banished from his heart and mind, Rabbi Elimelech took his brother's arm and began to dance from joy as a result of performing the mitzvah of not praying in an inappropriate place.

The guards heard the commotion and came running. Witnessing the two brothers dancing, the guards asked the other prisoners what had happened. "We have no idea!" they answered, mystified. "Those two Jews were discussing the pail in the corner, when all of a sudden they came to some happy conclusion and began to dance."

"Is that right?" sneered the guards. "They're happy because of the pail, are they? We'll show them!" 
They promptly removed the pail from the cell!

*    *    *    *
As Jews, we need to know that refraining from a Jewish practice such as attending synagogue because of a danger to life and health is as much a mitzvah as engaging in those practices under normal circumstances. We need to joyously thank G-d for allowing us to fulfill his Holy Will, whatever it is. And, perhaps, in merit of that joy, He might just take the pail away...

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Real Success-Purim 2020

Purim is here, we feel it in the air,
It is a time of festivities as we are aware,
So as I like to do year after year
I’ll explain a deeper message and with you I will share.

On Purim we dress up in costumes and masks,
We hide our true selves for people to guess and ask,
It's part of the fun but there's something more,
There's a deeper aspect here that we can explore.

When we cover our faces on the outside,
We are allowing the external to hide,
And then we can focus on what's in our souls,
The inner part of us that it's special and whole.

The world we live in measures success,
By what can be seen by the eyes and how it's expressed,
A big house, lots of money or letters after one's name,
Are some things that show someone "made it" in this fake game.

But the Torah tells us true success is seen by,
The struggles we overcome that are hidden from the public eye
Changing our habits and improving our character traits,
Like overcoming negativity, laziness or anger make us truly great.

These internal successes don't get awards and aren't seen,
But that's exactly what counts in the greater scheme,
So on Purim we hide our face behind the mask,
As we challenge ourselves with this most difficult task.

Of focusing on fixing what's inside our hearts,
This day of Purim is the best time to start,
Because by removing the emphasis from success seen by all,
We can overcome internal struggles every time we fall.

Let's remember that the Torah values our efforts when we try,
And with Hashem's help we'll be able to soar and fly!
Let's all remove our masks and zoom in on what's inside,
And may we be proud of the perfected character we will find!

So c'mon, let's celebrate our internal successes that are true and real, 
So deep, inner happiness we will be able to feel! 

A Freilichen Purim!

Monday, March 9, 2020

Instant Insight Purim Poem

A Purim Instant Insights by Rabbi Feigenbaum

Since after Shabbos it will be Purim day,
A Dvar Torah on the Megilla is appropriate to say.
I know everyone likes it under two minutes for no one has time,
But please bear with me as we offer this Vort in rhyme.

It’s not my thought – though it is an aynfal,
I saw it in the sefer of Rav Galinsky zatzal.
It’s on Megilas Esther, Perek Vav Posuk Yud Beis,
Let me read it to you, so you know what the text says.

After leading Mordechai through the streets, poor Haman embarrassed to the core,
It was avel v’chafoi rosh that he entered through home door.
Avel means mourning, and chafoi rosh means garbage on his head,
The famous Medrash here teaches us what’s really being said.

As any school child knows, Haman’s daughter looked out the window with glee,
And took a pail of garbage to throw on the big loser she did see.
For it must be her father high up there on the horse,
And the poor fellow who is leading – oh that must be that rasha Mordechai of course!

So with a l’sheim yichud and great kavanah she picked up the pail,
Aimed it very carefully so this great mitzvah would not fail.
Down went that garbage - a perfect hit, a bullseye!
But then she looked a little closer and she gave out a sigh.

“Oh no what a mistake! It can’t be! That was not the plan!
I garbaged the head of my father – I hit the wrong man!”
But when garbage is thrown, it cannot magically come back up and rise,
So she jumped out of the window, and that was her demise.

Thus Haman was an avel, mourning for the daughter he’ll never again see,
And came home with garbage on his head, and now must leave for the Queen’s party.
Asks Rav Galinsky – this Medrash is entertaining,
But Chazal only teach us information if there’s some lesson we’ll be gaining.

Says Rav Galinsky – there is a lesson here for every member of our nation,
Like Haman’s daughter, we also judge others without sufficient information.
Oh we assume we know it all, we’ve heard, we read, we did see,
It’s right there on that blog, it was my best friend who told me!

Well, before you take that garbage and on another person’s head you do dump,
You better check it out carefully, or you might be the one who must jump.
Learn from Haman’s daughter – things are not always what they appear to be,
Dan l’kaf zechus your fellow Yid – don’t be so quick to judge what you see.

And just because someone has a blog, or knows how to post comments on the net,
Does not mean that by reading them, Olam Haba you will get.
Garbage that is thrown on another, makes a mess and makes a smell,
And cannot be taken back, and causes the one who threw it to end up in…. well --

 Like Haman’s daughter, who came to a sad and swift end.
But there is a way that sinas chinam in Klall Yisrael we can mend,
We can create achdus – we can all agree to disagree,
And just talk about the issues, and not about the others personality.

So if you have this great urge to forward, to post and to send,
Maybe pass on this poem – and sinas chinam we can end!

A Freilechen Purim!

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Tuesday, December 31, 2019

A Lesson in Parenting

There's always a first time, right?

But to me, this little encounter was surprising and upsetting at first; it was enlightening and empowering at the end.

I was in a toy store with my baby and I was bouncing him up the steps in the stroller. In the past, any time I was in a public place with a staircase and my baby, someone offered to help me.

When I went to shul for a kiddush and was bouncing the stroller down the steps to the simcha hall, someone offered to help me.

When I was walking up the steps to a friend's house and someone saw me with the stroller, he offered a helping hand.

And this time, this woman watched me bounce up the steps one by one and waited patiently as I slowly made my way up the steps. She followed along with me, but didn't gesture or offer a helping hand.

It was surprising, but I continued on my way as she conversed with her little girl about the toys in the shop. 

A few moments later, I watched as her daughter bumped into a box from a neatly stacked pile of toys and continued on, without turning back to pick up the box she knocked over. My own little girl rushed to straighten out the boxes.

Okay, it happens, I thought to myself.

But when that happened a second time, I wasn't so sure. When the same girl casually continued looking at the toys on display after knocking something down a second time, I knew this wasn't a coincidence.

And I thought about it.

I realized how much power and influence we parents have over our children.

Children learn more from what we do than from what we say.

When we model good behavior, they will follow in our ways.

And when we model carelessness and disregard for another's feelings, our children will do the same.

It's not her daughter's fault that no one ever taught her to look out for other people. She was just following what she saw from her own mother.

Now, I'm not judging this woman and there can be numerous reasons for why she didn't offer to help.

Maybe she has back problems and can't lift anything heavy.

Maybe she has other health issues that would prevent her from offering the specific type of help I could have used.

But after seeing this young girl exhibit the exact same carelessness as her mother, I took this very powerful and empowering message for myself as a parent.

We can tell our children all the right things.

We can lecture them about how to act in private and how to behave in public.

But the most profound way to teach them is by modeling the behavior we want them to emulate.

We can tell them not to yell at their siblings when they're upset, but if we yell at them when we are angry, what will they learn to do? We need to work on ourselves to maintain our own inner calm, even when we're stressed, annoyed or angry. 

We can speak about the importance of honesty, forgiveness, responsibility and all the other good virtues, but the best way for them to really internalize their importance is by modeling honesty, by being forgiving and taking responsibly for our actions.

They will learn to trust in Hashem and to believe that everything that happens is for the good if they see us responding to difficult situations with words of emunah and faith. With actions that show we believe Hashem runs the world and we have faith in Him. 

It's in our hands to help the next generation acquire the skills they need to navigate the complex world we live in. We can help them succeed by working on our own selves.

May we be able to do the hard work so we can be in the best place possible on an emotional level, on a spiritual level and on every level in between. And may our children follow in our positive ways.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

A Stabbing

A stabbing
In Monsey
Leaves me shaking
There's this
Inside of me
And I want to do something!
To protect myself
And my family
It's getting too close
Too close to home
First Jersey City
Now Monsey
It's too scary
And I'm scared
Scared for
My safety
Scared for
My family
Scared for
My Nation 
The Jewish People
I want everyone
To be safe
I have ideas
I have plans
Things to do
Things not to do
We can't lock ourselves
In our houses
In our homes
This is crazy! 
Our homes are not safe
The streets are not safe
This world is not safe
And I want to protect myself
And all those close to me
So we won't be touched
By this unseen force
Of destruction 
Of death
Of hatred 
And suddenly 
It hits me
I need to give up control 
To the One who controls everything 
I never had control 
Over my safety 
And security 
In the first place
Hashem controls
It all
He controls 
Whether I wake up every morning 
He controls 
My every breath
And He controls 
Who walks the streets
Who pulls the trigger 
He controls 
Who pulls out
A machete
And He continues 
To protect us
To watch over us. 
We don't understand 
We don't have to 
His crazy plan
It's too big
For our little brains
To understand 
But we must
Strengthen our trust
Pray for those who are hurt
And hope
For their healing
And hope 
For our safety 
All the while
That He is the one
Who controls it all. 
Heal those who were hurt
Protect us all
And keep us safe
Bring us 
The ultimate safety 
And security 
Under the wings of
Your shechina.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Watching from the Window

Every morning, as I walk my daughter to the bus stop, I wave to the crossing guard who stands at her post across the street from my house.

“Have a great day!” I wish her as I walk back to my house to get my little boys ready for yeshiva. Since they have a direct ride to their school, they don’t have to be walked to a bus stop. They wait right outside my house until their ride comes.

I used to stand outside with them and wait together with my little baby, waving them off to school every morning. But now that the weather is colder, I don’t want to take my baby outside. So I stand inside my warm house while my boys don their coats and knapsacks and I watch them go from my post at the window.

I wave to them as they get into the car.

I blow kisses to them as they close the car door.

I send up a little prayer as they drive off, asking Hashem to give them a good day. They should learn well, have a good time with their friends and come home safely.

One day, as I watched them from my spot at the window, I saw a strange man walk over to them and start talking to them. My heart stopped and I ran to the door, opened it and yelled out, “Is everything okay?”

The man looked relieved. “I just saw two little boys standing outside by themselves so I got nervous.”

“I’m watching them from the window the whole time!” was my response.

Phew. That was a little scare.

And I thought to myself, No one else can see me watching my children as they wait for the car to come pick them up, but I am there. I don’t leave my spot at the window until they are safely in the car and on their way to school. Does the crossing guard who watches all the little children walk to school and wait for buses and car rides know this? Does she know that I don’t take my eyes off my boys for even a moment?

And then I realized, Isn’t it the same with Hashem? He is always watching us. Always watching over each of us with the same love and care that I watch over my children. And although we can’t see Him, we know He is there. Peeking through the windows of the Heavens, coordinating events in our lives so everything happens with such precision and accuracy.

Sometimes, we are lucky enough to see Him so clearly, and it’s like we can wave back to Him and say, “Hashem, I know that was you! Only YOU could have made all this happen to me.”

But when we don’t see Him, we still know and believe that He is watching over us.

Just like I watch my children from the window.

May we be able to feel Hashem watching over us every day of our lives.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Succos-It's Temporary

We leave our homes
For a smaller home
Exposed to the elements
Aren't we always exposed?
Hashem knows everything
All our thoughts
We can't hide from Him
We can face Him
We can embrace Him
And remember 
That just as our home
Is temporary 
And after eight days 
In this temporary abode
We go back 
Back to our comfortable home
We will all one day 
Leave this world
Our stay here
Is temporary 
We aren't here
Let's use our time
In this temporary world
To do things
Good deeds
That last
That leave
An everlasting impact
On those around us

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Elul - More Time

I'm posting this here again because it's such a good message.

I got a ticket.

For an expired meter.

I was frustrated and upset. 

I rushed out of a store after waiting on line for way too long and saw the two police officers...slowly walking away from my car. There was the familiar orange color of the ticket tucked into my windshield. I ran.

I ran after them. 

I begged and pleaded with them to please take the ticket back, do somethinganything so I wouldn't have to pay the money.

"Buy a new one," one of the police officers said. "There's nothing I can do, but quick, buy a new meter card and I'll explain..."

"But..." I stammered

"Just buy it-if there are six minutes between the time on the ticket and the time on your new meter card, you..."

I didn't listen to the rest. 

I got a quarter, quickly put it into the machine and checked the time. It said 2:13pm.

I grabbed the orange ticket and compared the time. I was "caught" at 2:09pm. My new meter card showed four minutes after the time the ticket was issued.

I waited for the policeman to explain the rest, while trying to calm my pounding heart.

"Now you have a way out," he explained. "Since there are less than six minutes between the time you were ticketed and the time on your new card, you can now fight the ticket. There is a six minute grace period...and you can say that you were in middle of getting a new card and you had to get quarters from your car and during that time you got a ticket."

I'm not sure about the lying part and making up a story, but if there is a way for me to get out...if the judge will give me six minutes of time...I will not have to pay this ticket. I am grateful.

Rosh Hashana is almost here.

We feel so unprepared.

What?? Elul passed already?

It's been almost 30 days...what do we have to show for ourselves?

But Hashem is a Ba'al Rachamim.

He is not out to get us. He doesn't want us to have to pay for our mistakes, for our negligence, for our lateness.

And so we were give the gift of Teshuva. And the gift of time. And more time.

When we repent, show real, true regret for the things we may have done wrong, the good things we should have done but never did, the lost opportunities, the mistakes we made, Hashem listens.

He is aware of the circumstances that may have caused us to fall. And unlike the police officers who didn't care about the long line that caused me to be delayed by a few minutes, Hashem understands and takes all those "excuses" into account. 

When we are sincere about the kind of person we wish to become, Hashem hears.

When we ask Him to help us change, because it is just too hard for us to do it alone, Hashem listens...and He will help us.

But more than that, Hashem blessed us with time...and more time.

Yes, the meter is running out, but we can "buy another card." After Rosh Hashana, we are given ten days, the aseres yimei teshuva and after that we have Yom Kippur.

Look at how much rachmanus Hashem has!

He keeps giving us more and more time to do teshuva and come closer to Him!

That is not to say that we should push it off to the last minute (even though the last minute is almost here!). We should utilize the time we have now to think. Think about the past year...and the coming year...and the brachos we would like to see in our lives...and the changes we would like to see in ourselves...and start now. 

We may feel discouraged by the fact that so much time has passed and we haven't even made a dent in the changes we wish we could make, we didn't use Elul much...and we went through our daily routines without even thinking about teshuva. But we should not dispair! Just like when the meter was out, instead of slowly strolling back to my car, I RAN, we can all run now. Instead of sauntering through the next few days as if we don't have a care in the world, let's show Hashem how becoming the person we want to be is important to us. Let's show Hashem that we want to change, we want to become better, different, elevated, spiritual, growing people. 

Let's use the little time we have left to think about the past year...the things we did that we wish we would never have done, things we may have read, watched, listened to, spoken about...and let's think about ways we can put up safeguards so that we don't stumble every time. Yes, we may fall, but falling is part of the process of growing. And like a trampoline, realize that sometimes we can jump even higher because of our downs, because of our falls. It is all part of the beauty of spiritual growth.

Change isn't easy. But we are given another gift-the gift of tefillah. And we can ask Hashem to help us become the person we dream of becoming. It may seem far off...but with baby steps, we can get there.

Thank you, Hashem for the gift of teshuva. Please help all of us use whatever time we have left until the yom hadin to utilize that the fullest!

Friday, August 23, 2019

Parshas Eikev

Moshe Rabbeinu tells Bnei Yisroel not to be afraid of conquering the land of Eretz Yisroel. And if they do start to feel scared or nervous, they should think back to the miracles Hashem did for them when they left mitzrayim. They will realize that just as Hashem helped them in the past, He will continue to help them fight these battles and take over the land.  

In life, we are sometimes afraid to look ahead. We don't know what the future will bring and we don't know how we will overcome our battles. We need to fortify ourselves with emunah and remember the times Hashem helped us in the past. When we think about other times Hashem helped us pull through, we will feel strengthened and know that He will help us this time too. 

May we hold on to our faith in Hashem at all times, by looking back at the times Hashem helped us and staying confident that He will be there for us in the future!