Tuesday, July 22, 2014

History

My son is making a puppet show with some stuffed animals. He picks up the Pooh bear. 

"What does Winnie the Pooh like to eat?" I ask. I'm sure he doesn't know. I never told him.

"Honey!" He smiles. 

When I ask him how he knew that, he tells me that two years ago, his morah read him a book and showed his class a video about Winnie the Pooh.

Two years ago? And this kid remembers?

I know my son. And I know he has a good memory. He is extremely observant and doesn't forget little details. But still, for him to remember that Pooh loves to eat honey...it gets me thinking.

The things we look at, the books we read, the websites we visit, the videos we watch, the music we listen to,  the billboards we look at, all these things make an impression on us. They stay with us forever. 

 *   *   *

Have you ever checked your browsing history on your computer? Press Ctrl and H on your keyboard at the same time and you will see a comprehensive list of all the websites you've visited along with the dates and times you clicked on the pages.

Employers can use this-and other more sophisticated means-to check up on their employees to see what they are up to during down time at work.

Parents can check up on their children to see what they are doing while they are online.

There is a record of everything you do, every link you click on, every page you access.

Sure, you can go incognito.

Yes, you can try to hide your tracks, visiting webpages using anonymous browsers.


And you can delete your browsing history when you are done your session.

But...Hashem has a record.

Hashem sees every single thing you do. 

Every single page you visit. 

Every single click of your mouse.

Glance of your eyes.

Hashem keeps track of every action you take-online, at home, at school, at work and in the privacy of your home.

Wherever you are, Hashem is watching.

Da ma l'ma'alah mimcha-ayin ro'ah v'ozen shoma'as v'chol ma'asecha beseifer nichtavim. Know what is above you-an eye that sees, an ear that hears, and all your actions are written in a book-a book that records everything, that doesn't miss out on a single thing.

It's a pretty scary thought.

Hashem watches everything. 

Hashem remembers everything.

There is no deleting what you saw, listened to, heard or watched. 

My son...he has a pretty good memory. I am sometimes shocked by the things he can recall, the little details he reminds me of that I don't remember.

The computer...it keep track of everything. Every click, every page, every visit.

But...Hashem...He is way beyond all that. 

He sees all and He doesn't forget.

Ever.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Candlesticks

My silver is turning
Gold
It's starting to look
Old
And so I take out
The silver polish
So I can make
My candlesticks
Gleam
Shine
Sparkle.
I put on my gloves
Start scrubbing
Rubbing
Elbow grease
Eyebrows crease
In concentration
Determination
To get these candlesticks
To shine.
 
Isn't it interesting
I think
That I have to
Dirty
These candlesticks
In order to get them
To shine?
Can't I just use 
A little soap
In the hope
That they'll get
Clean?
The polish
With the sponge
And my rubbing
And scrubbing
Turn these gold looking
Sticks
Into a beauty
A silver
A color so clean
That it gleams
From all the pressure
From all the dirt
From all the suds
That are part of
This process.
 
I process
This
And I know
That it is all the dirt
All the work
All the pressure
The pain
The hardships
The scrubbing
And rubbing
The tough cleaning
Called Life
That make
My soul
My essence
The person
I will one day
Become
Shine
Gleam
Become clean.
 
I will endure
I will persevere
I will stay strong
So I can
Become stronger
Better
And shine
Brighter
Just like
My candlesticks.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

When You Have Reason To...

Today, Yud Zayin Tammuz is the beginning of the Three Weeks. 

The purpose of a fast day, whether or not you are actually fasting, is to bring you to do teshuva, to change, to do something different. 

The Bais Hamikdosh was destroyed because of sinas chinam, baseless hatred. Because people had negative feelings towards others for no real reason. 

"She gets on my nerves."
"I can't stand her."
"She knows just how to push my buttons."
"I'm embarrassed to be seen around her."

But...what about when you do have a reason to hate someone? 

What about when you have negative feelings towards someone who hurt you?

When you keep all your hurt inside, it will continue to bubble and boil until that pot of emotions overflows and explodes over one last straw.

It is important to learn how to deal with those emotions. 

How to deal with difficult people that Hashem put into your life for a reason.

How to express those feelings so you could make things better.

Express how you feel. Tell the other person that you are upset, hurt or angry. But if you do it in the heat of the moment, they will probably have a hard time hearing you. If you wait until things are calmer, there is more of a chance of working through what is bothering you in a way that is productive...with both of you being open to hearing each other, without any of you feeling defensive or under attack. A calm conversation leaves more room for open communication.

And when you focus on how YOU feel, instead of on what the other person did wrong, you are helping the other person learn you, learn your needs and what makes you tick. Instead of them feeling like they are in the wrong for what they did, you are making them aware of what things hurt you. What things bother you. And then they could focus on doing things differently next time. Because its about making you happy. Not hurting you. Being in tune to your feelings.

Relationships are complicated. 

People are complicated.

Life is complicated.

But you can learn some tricks and tips to work on making the complicated things in your life a bit more bearable. When you have tools in your hands, when you know how to deal with challenging situations, you will feel empowered to keep trying, to keep going, keep learning and keep growing. 

And that's exactly what we are here for.

May you be able to work on keeping things peaceful with those you love and are close with and may you find the right path to achieving harmony among all those you come in contact with.

Have a meaningful fast!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Peace

Why?
My heart screams
Why?
Why did this have
To happen?
How?
How?
My insides shout
How did this happen?
How did Hashem
Allow this to happen?
And how?
How will these families
Go on?
Be comforted?
Will they ever
Find comfort
In this loss
In this brutal murder
Of their young sons?

I know
I know there are
No
Answers
In this world
I know this is
An upside-down world
Where good and bad
Are confused
Where happy and sad
Are diffused
Where we don’t know
What is true good
What is really bad
We just don’t know
But there is a plan.

I know
That
I don’t know
But still
I can’t help it
I can’t help crying
I can’t help feeling
This pain
I can’t help wishing
To understand
I know I can’t
I know I wont
In this world
They do.

Those up There
They understand
They know
They are at peace
In a better place
While we
Down here
Continue to
Struggle
Question
Ask
Wonder
Challenge
Wish
And cry.

They don’t need to
Struggle
Or question
They have no
Questions
They have no
Tears
These young boys
And all the other
Little boys
Whose lives ended
Way too soon
For those
Close to them.

They are happy
Up There
Their neshamos rejoice
In that very special place
Reserved for those
Very special souls
Who are held so close
To the One Above
Caressed with love
They know
It’s all for the good
They understand
This is how it should
Be.

There is a plan
Hashem’s guiding Hand
Orchestrated this.
But…this?
Something is amiss
I imagine bliss-up There
So then why
Did they have to die
Like this?
In a way
That makes everyone
Cry?
Why?
If they are going
Up to a place
Of eternal Peace
Then why?
Did they have to die
With such hatred
By bloodthirsty
Murderers?
Animals.
Is that how
They rose
Ascended
To the melech malchei hamlochim
To the place
Of Ultimate Peace?
By dying
This way?

Perhaps-
Perhaps it is
The peace
The unity
The achdus
The togetherness
That was achieved
Through these
Two plus weeks
To find
These missing
Boys
Our boys
Perhaps this
Peace
That came about
Through their
Disappearance
Through their
Tragic story
The unity
The prayers
The mitzvos
The tzeddakah
The peace
Between all
The breaking
Of barriers
Between all
Colors, stripes
Levels and types.

Maybe
Just maybe
The zechus
Of the peace
Their death brought
To this world
Down Here
Brought them up
Way up
There
To a place
Of Ultimate
Peace.

No, they didn’t die
With hatred
They died
With love
Unity
Brotherhood
Achdus
Connection
Between all
Jews.

May their souls
Rise up
May their families
Be blessed
With comfort
From
The Only One
Who can.
May their families
Be strengthened
By the unity
And peace
These little boys
Brought
Onto this world.

This is part of an even longer poem I wrote after I heard the very sad news about these boys and tried to work though some of my questions by writing out my feelings. If you want to see the whole poem, send me an email.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Haunted

I can't sleep.

Every time I close my eyes, I see those three smiling faces. The faces of the three boys we all became so familiar with over these past two weeks.

The sweet, happy, innocent faces of three young boys who just wanted to come home for shabbos.

And I cry.

I can't sleep.

Every time I try, I hear that last phone call. "Chatfu oti" I hear. I hear those animals yelling at our three boys. I hear them screaming, "Rosh Limata" again and again. I hear the gunshots.

I try to squeeze my eyes shut, stop my pounding heart, but those images remain with me.

I am haunted. 

I am in that car with those three boys. I feel their terror. I feel their panic. My heart constricts with pain. I see the guns, I feel the bullets. I feel the confusion and utter sense of loss as these boys-our boys-me-face their unknown, scary, near-death.

And I have so many questions.

What went through their minds during those last moments?

Who died first?

How much did they fight back?

What was it like for the boys who were still alive to see their friends being shot? Killed?

How much pain were they in?

How?

Why?

And I know that I will never know.

But I ask.

I am thirsty. Thirsty for knowledge.

I want to know.

Everything.

I want to understand.

Something.

I know I cannot understand.

But I want to make sense of this.

I want to try.

I want to make sense of the senseless.

Of this crazy, horrific story.

I read everything I can.

I check the news, hoping to gain insight. Clarity. Understanding.

All I get is confusion.

I don't understand.

I can't understand.

I can't wrap my head around this.

My mind can't stretch far enough to understand this.

My head feels like it's going to explode.

My mind has wandered far enough.

My heart feels so much pain.

I'm back in the car with these three boys.

I am haunted.

I can't think other thoughts.

I cannot be distracted-not at this hour.

How are these parents functioning?

How are the siblings dealing with this?


I am far, far away from them all. But I feel so close.

Am Yisroel is crying.

We are all mourning together.

We all feel this incredible pain.

There is so much we don't understand. So much we can't understand.

Yet, one thing we do know.

These three boys are sitting together, in a place so lofty and so high, reserved for the kedoshim, those holy souls whose lives were taken just because they were Jews.

And they understand.

They know.

They know why.

This all makes sense to them.

And I try to find a measure of comfort in that.

In the knowledge that Someone understands, even though I cannot.

This unbelievable tragedy connected Am Yisroel and brought us all together.

We are One Nation, united. We are not divited by externals-by the kind of yarmulka we wear, by the way we cover our hair, the way we dress, the shuls we daven in. We are One.

We all connected through this painful story and davened to Hashem to #BringBackOurBoys.

Hashem listened.

He heard.

But He brought those boys back to His throne. Close to Him.

That's where He wanted them.

They are up there, at peace, at Home.

We are down here, confused and so alone.

Hashem, now we daven, bring US back Home.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Let Go of the Mouse

This is one of my favorite aish articles. I posted it before and wanted to share it with you again.

Let Go of the Mouse by Sara Yoheved Rigler

An antidote for control freaks.

Obeying Microsoft's recommendations can lead to catastrophe. That's what happened to me when I innocently clicked on "Yes" in the window that recommended condensing my emails in order to save space on my hard disk. Some 20 minutes later, the job was done -- and my last month and a half of emails had disappeared.

"Don't panic," I told myself. "They must be in there somewhere." But as the specter of dozens of red-flagged emails that direly needed replies began to haunt me, I became increasingly agitated. A frantic 45 seconds later, I called Microsoft Israel's technical support.

Yaniv was reassuring. "Don't worry," he calmed me. "They're in the Recycle Bin on your desktop." Lo and behold, they were! But how to get them back into my Outlook Express?

"Well, it's a little complicated," Yaniv said. "I don't think you'll be able to do it on your own. Are you willing to share control of your computer with me until we solve the problem?"

A person drowning in cyberspace will agree to anything. "Yes, Yes!" I promised.

The first thing he had me do was download the program, "Microsoft Easy Assist." Then a window appeared asking if I was willing to share control of my computer with a Microsoft technical support assistant. "Yes," I clicked emphatically.

A small blue box appeared in the lower right hand corner of my screen. It asked the same question again. Apparently relinquishing control is not so easy for some people. "It's okay, Yaniv," I told him on the phone. "I trust you." I clicked, "Yes," and the little blue box switched messages. Now it assured me that at any time I wanted to withdraw control from the technical support assistant, all I had to do was click the appropriate box. "Why would I want to do that?" I wondered. "He's helping me do what I could never do by myself. I guess some people really have control issues."

"Okay, are you ready?" Yaniv asked.

"Yes."

"Now let go of the mouse."

"Excuse me?"

"Let go of the mouse. I'm going to control your mouse."

Let go of my mouse? I sat there with my hand frozen on my trusty mouse.

"If you want me to restore your emails," Yaniv explained patiently, "You have to let me control your mouse."

I let go.

Like some preternatural Ouija board, my pointer started to move by itself. I was doing nothing. He was doing everything.

Then, like some preternatural Ouija board, my pointer started to move by itself. With my hands tightly folded on my lap and my eyes wide, I saw the pointer moving rapidly and clicking. Every move was accompanied by Yaniv's first-person plural declarations, "Now, we'll click here. Now we'll open up this window. Now we'll right click on this." It was a royal "we." I was doing nothing. He was doing everything.

Ten minutes later the phantom emails were sitting pertly back in my Outlook Express. Yaniv told me to click on the little blue box withdrawing permission for him to control my computer. I did so reluctantly. Obviously, he knew how to run my computer better than I did.

LET GO AND LET GOD

While some of us are worse control freaks than others, all of us resist relinquishing control of our lives to God. We human beings have been in competition with the Almighty ever since Adam and Eve were seduced into eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge by the enticement: "You will become like gods."

What's wrong with wanting to control your own life rather than letting God be God?

First of all, thinking that you are in ultimate control of everything that happens to you, which is the same as thinking that you are God, is crazier than thinking that you're Napoleon. This delusion bumps up against reality every time that you get stuck in an unexpected traffic jam, or your flight is delayed three hours (causing you to miss your connection), or you get sick on a day when you simply can't afford to miss work.

The best damage control is to realize that you are not in control, like the sign that hung in my bedroom three decades ago: "LET GO AND LET GOD." If you don't surrender control, you will still be sitting on the runway as the hours tick by, but your blood pressure will be catapulting to dangerous levels and you may find yourself shouting at the stewardess or making vain threats never to fly that airline again, even though it's the only one that flies to Xanpliwey.

The day after my Microsoft lesson in letting go, I found myself in an unpalatable position. I had agreed to deliver a welcome basket to an important family arriving in Israel to study Judaism. My assignment was to take a taxi to the neighborhood where they would be staying and to visit with them for fifteen minutes to make them feel comfortable. They were due to arrive on a Friday afternoon. On Thursday I carefully shopped for the perfect assortment of fruit, salads, sushi, chocolates, plus junk food for the children. Then I found the ideal basket. With meticulous care, I arranged each item in the basket.

On Friday at noon, I started phoning the two cell numbers I had been given. They were not turned on. With mounting dismay, as the onset of Shabbat drew nearer and nearer, I kept dialing the numbers, to no avail. My teenage son suggested that I just go and drop off the basket, whether or not they were there, but I responded that the whole point was for me to visit with them. My daughter suggested that maybe they had arrived early in the morning and had turned off their cell phones because they were now sleeping, so I should just go and ring their doorbell. That would be even worse, I pointed out. I'm supposed to make a favorable impression and instead I should annoy them by waking them up?

At 4 o'clock their phones were still turned off. Finally, in desperation, I called a taxi and went. As I sat in the cab in a state of heightened anxiety -- What if they're not there? What if I wake them up? -- I suddenly heard Yaniv's voice: "Let go of the mouse."

I had done everything I could do, and now I was no longer in control.

With a jolt I realized: I had done everything I could do, and now I was no longer in control. God runs the world. It will be the way He wants it. I let go of the mouse, and relaxed.

When I got to the address, I found the landlord watering the garden. I asked for the family who was supposed to be staying upstairs. He informed me that their flight had been rerouted, and they would be arriving in Jerusalem only minutes before Shabbat. He let me into the apartment to drop off my basket and refrigerate the sushi and salads. I left my card with a message of greeting, resolving to call them after Shabbat. And that was that. It didn't work out the way I had planned; it worked out the way God had planned. And who knows which scenario was ultimately better? By letting go of the mouse, I returned home relaxed and content, instead of frustrated and vexed.

THE BETTER CONTROLLER

The second reason to let God be God is that He does a better job of it than we would. Just as relinquishing control of the mouse to Yaniv had yielded a better result than my trying to solve the problem, sometimes we are afforded a glimpse of how God is more qualified than we are to run the world.

Jerusalem resident Hedy Kleiman was visiting her father in Toronto for two weeks. Her father had been chronically ill with kidney disease for eight years. With both of his children living in Israel, he had been well taken care of by his wife. Since her mother's death nine months before, however, Hedy had flown to Toronto twice to help her father. This time she found him weaker than before, but stable.

On Tuesday night she was scheduled to fly home to Israel. At noon on Tuesday the phone rang. It was El Al calling for Hedy. "How did you get my number in Toronto?" Hedy asked, perplexed. The El Al clerk said she had called Hedy's number in Jerusalem, and her son had supplied the Toronto number. El Al was calling to ask Hedy to agree to be bumped from her flight that night. In exchange, El Al would give her a reservation for Thursday night plus a free ticket Tel Aviv-Toronto.

Hedy was nonplussed. She had five children at home to take care of, as well as a job that had already given her more than her share of vacation time. On the other hand, she thought, a free ticket would enable her to return to Toronto for her mother's yahrzeit in April. And why, she wondered uneasily, had El Al selected her, out of hundreds of passengers, to be bumped?

"First of all," responded Hedy, "I can't fly Thursday night. The plane would land on Friday too close to Shabbat. What about Saturday night?"

"Saturday night is solidly booked. The best we can do is give you a reservation for Sunday night."

"I can't decide without speaking to my husband and my boss at work," Heddy waffled, "I'll call you back."

"No, we'll call you back," the El Al clerk insisted. "How many minutes do you need?"

"Ten," Hedy answered. She couldn't reach her husband (who told her later that he would have advised against it), but her boss okayed the extra days. When the El Al clerk called back with uncharacteristic promptness, Hedy agreed to be bumped and fly on Sunday night instead.

Late Saturday night, Hedy's father suddenly felt sick and asked her to call an ambulance. By Sunday morning, he had lost consciousness. Hedy recited "Shema Yisrael" and the traditional "Vidui" [confession] for him. At 11:30 Sunday morning, he died. Thanks to her celestial travel agent, his beloved daughter was at his side.

For Sara Yoheved Rigler’s Spring Tour schedule or to order her new book God Winked, visit her website, www.sararigler.com.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Thanks for Sharing

Have you ever walked outside and heard blaring music coming from a car driving down the street?

Whenever that happened while I was out, I'd say to whoever I was with, "Thanks for sharing!" The music coming out of those cars weren't usually songs I'd want to listen to while having a massage. They were songs I'd choose to listen to while doing exercise. Or maybe I'd rather not listen to those songs at all... :-)

For a while, it was hard for me to understand why someone would do that. Why do they have to drive down the street and "share the wealth" with people who never asked for it? Why couldn't they just enjoy the music in their own car and not have to make so much noise?

Until I had that incredible urge.

I was driving down the street listening to a song that I absolutely love. A song that empowers me, that moves me, that pushes me to want to do more, to do my best no matter what is going on. It's a fast song, it has a great beat, and the words are just plain awesome.

And so...I did it. I rolled down my windows and turned the volume up to the max. 

Why? Why did I do that?

It's because...I had something that felt so incredible to me...and I wanted to share that with everyone around me. This song did something to me. It moved me. It inspired me. It talked to me. And I wanted everyone else to feel it too. I wanted them to hear the words, to feel what I was feeling. I wanted them to feel the power of the song so they could be touched the same way the music touched me.

All this got me thinking...

You know, we as Jews have something so incredible. We have the most awesome gift ever. Hashem gave us the Torah. It is a part of who we are, it helps us learn how to be more sensitive and caring to others. It turns us into better people.

Do we ever feel like we really want to share it with others?

When we feel a positive emotion that is so overpowering, we have this tremendous urge to share it with others. It's like when someone is in "simcha mode". When they get engaged, have a baby, marry off a child...or when a very close relative gets engaged, has a baby or gets married...the emotions inside of us are so strong, we just want to share it. We want all our friends and neighbors to know who got engaged to who, who had a baby and if it was a boy or a girl, who got married...all the exciting details of the simcha that make us feel so happy. All we feel like doing is sharing that incredible joy with others.

So...what about our Judaism? Are we as passionate about what we have that we feel this same urge to give over to others and share the wealth?

This year, before Shavuos, take the time to think about it. Think about the things inside you. The things you care deeply about. And if you are passionate about Torah and mitzvos and you have thoughts and ideas you want to share with someone who is not as fortunate as you are, who doesn't have the same Torah background as you have, sign up for a program that will give you the opportunity to share your wealth.

You can sign up to learn with someone on the phone once a week with Partners in Torah. You can learn with someone in person, one on one. And if you don't feel you have that inside you, you can host a kiruv training seminar in your house as a way to help others learn more about kiruv. Or, you may choose to donate some of your ma’aser money to any of the organizations who are involved in kiruv. Oorah also has many ways of getting involved.

Whatever you choose, just realize that you have been given a unique treasure. You own it...and it is a part of you. And if you felt passionate enough about it, you'd also feel like you want to do whatever you can to share it with others. 

Do what it takes to share the wealth. 

It will enrich your life in so many ways.

Monday, May 5, 2014

My Struggles-A Poem

A friend of mine, Rivka, sent the following poem entitled My Struggles to me and gave me permission to share it with you.

I'm shy
Yet I try
I question why
Then I cry

I'm beated
I get heated
I'm unneeded
I'm defeated

I'm oppressed
I regressed
I'm stressed
I'm depressed

I try once more
Although its a bore
I feel sore
My spirit tore

I pay no heed
I plant the seed
I want to succeed
Hashem is in the lead 

I took a message from it. When things get hard, when you feel overwhelmed, it's okay question. It's okay to cry. It's okay to feel.

Sometimes in life, a person feels beaten and knocked down. It gets tough. They keep trying and it feels too hard. 

The way to win, the way to get past it...is to plant that seed. To try to take little steps.To do what you can...and then leave the rest up to Hashem.

We want to succeed. We want to "make it big" in this life of ours. We need to remember Who is leading our lives and turn to Him when it feels like it's too much. We need to do ours, take the steps we can to make positive changes in our lives...and then step back and remind ourselves that Hashem is running our lives. 

Let's hope we see the fruits of our labor in our personal lives. Let's hope we see Hashem answering our call, hearing our prayers, helping us through once we did ours.

May we all merit to see personal yeshuos in our lives and in the lives of those around us!