Monday, March 31, 2014

Night of Questions

I posted this last year and wanted to share it with you again.

I am standing in the kitchen having a discussion with my son while I work. We are talking about the makkos, and my ever so curious boy has a lot of questions. He really wants to understand.

We go through the makkos one by one and I try my best to describe each of them to him.

I get up to makkas arov, that of the wild animals.

My son has a lot of questions.

"Why did the animals hurt the mitzriyim?" he wants to know.

I give a simple explanation.

"They were so mean to the yidden. The mitzriyim made them work really hard and they hurt them. So Hashem punished them. Are we allowed to hurt? Nooo. We have to be nice to other kinderlach."

I am feeling proud of myself for sticking that little lesson into our conversation.

But my son has his own take on it.

"Hashem is so mean." he tells me.

I stand there open-mouthed for a minute and I just want to pinch my son's cute cheeks.

I try to explain it to him a little more. I explain how Hashem punishes anyone who hurts the yidden and how hard the mitzriyim made the yidden work. How they hit them and the yidden used to cry.

I describe the different animals and what they did to hurt the mitzriyim. How some animals kicked with their feet and how the elephants hit with their trunks.

My son is so "there"; it seems like he is living the story along with those back in mitzrayim.

And then he says, "Mommy, who punished the animals?"

He realizes that no one gets away scot-free. And if the animals hurt the mitzriyim as a punishment for hurting the yidden, then the next step is that the animals must get punished too.

I am done. My mind is racing. I love the way this little kid thinks.

And I wonder...when do WE stop thinking and asking? When do our minds stop questioning and just accept everything we are told?

And more importantly...why?

Why don't we continue to ask?

In Judaism, not only aren't we afraid of questions, but questions are encouraged. We are supposed to ask, inquire, delve, learn and hopefully come out with a deeper understanding and feel more satisfied inside.

On Pesach night, parents do so many unusual things.

Why?

Kidei sheyishalu...so that the little children should ask.

But it's not only the little ones who should be asking.

All of us, no matter our age, should be encouraged to open our minds and our hearts and ask those questions that have be bothering us for some time. And if the Seder night is not the right time for it, save it for another time, but don't forget about it.

So hold on to this message...and never stop asking.

Because the more we ask, the more chances we have for answers. And answers add so much depth and meaning to our lives.

The Seder night is a night of questions. It's a time to think and a time to ask.

May you be able to achieve clarity amidst confusion, depth when you are searching for meaning and may you always find the right people to ask your questions to. And most of all...may you be able to get answers that satisfy you and make you feel like you can keep asking. There is so much growth you can attain when you ask and you learn!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Purim-Unmasked


I am sending this poem along with my Mishloach Manos this year. 

Purim is here, a day full of fun
With costumes and smiles for everyone
This year the kids got to make their own choice
We let them express their own inner voice
Often the costumes we choose reflect what's inside
Although all year we may choose to hide
Our inner essence is revealed on this Purim day
By the things we dress up as-it’s as if we say
This is what I want, who I wish I could be
For my little ones it's a giraffe, a policeman and a kallah so pretty
But even adults, we sometimes wear masks
Throughout the year when we go about our daily tasks
We act as if, we pretend and we go on with our day
Even though we wish we were different, we wish we could change
Purim is a day when that mask can be removed
When we can look at ourselves and see how we want to improve
This day can be the beginning of a better you
Just like the Jews in Shushan who were keemu v'kiblu
They accepted the Torah with love in their hearts
And now you can do the same-it is in your power to start
To become the person you always wished you could be
So that next year, when you look back, you'll be proud of what you see
V'nahapoch hu-the miracle wasn't just the physical one
That the decree was revoked and over their enemies the Jews won
There was also a spiritual turnover-inside each and every Jew
They connected to the mitzvos with an excitement that was new
You can harness the power of this day and use it to change something
Becoming better as a person and growing closer to the King of Kings
So that this day will be more than Mishloach Manos giving
It will be used to enhance the way you are living.
So whether the mask you wear is revealing or concealing
May you be able to make those changes, for it is the best feeling
To look in the mirror and be proud of who you became
Knowing that from now on you will never be the same
By using this day to become a new and better you
May you be able to experience an internal v'nahapoch hu

Feel free to share this message with others. If you do pass on this poem, I'd appreciate if you left a comment or sent me an email. Thank you.

A freilichen Purim!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Nine Years

Nine years
Nine long years
Until she understood
Why
Until she was able to see
Why
Esther
Simple
Good
Pure
Esther
Was taken 
By force
To 
The king's palace
Of course
I will not be
Chosen
She thought
Of course
I'll go
Right back
Home
But
Surprise of surprises
She was
Chosen
Why?
She didn't understand 
Why?
Why would
A girl so good
A girl so pure
Be chosen for
This task
Did she ask?
Did she question?
Or did she accept
Without questions?
Was her faith
Also simple
Pure
And good
Just like she was?
She lived in the King's palace
For nine years
Nine long years
She didn't know why
She had to live with him
For so many years
She couldn't know why
Couldn't make sense
Of the senseless
So whether she questioned
Or accepted
Without questions
Whether her faith was super strong
Or she felt weak and uncertain at times
One thing remains.
Inside her heart
She didn't understand.
But when she was the one
To save the Jewish Nation
To bring about
The salvation
That's when
She was able to understand
Why
Why she was chosen
Why she had to live
In the King's palace
For so many years.
The confusion
The uncertainty
Turned into
Clarity
It was all crystal clear!
It all made sense!
There were no more questions.
Hashem had a plan
And now
She was able to
Understand.

We live our lives
And many times
We have questions.
We don't understand 
Why
Why things happen
Why we have to go through
Certain challenges
Why we have to live with
Certain things
Why we have to experience 
Tough stuff.
Sometimes
We get a glimpse
A peek
Into why
Sometimes
We can
Understand
Just a little bit
Of why
We see change
We see events
We see things
That could not have happened
Had we not
Gone through
Lived with
Experienced
Certain things
And sometimes
Sometimes
We just can't make sense of it
Sometimes
It just doesn't make sense
And we ask
(Or we think)
Why?
Why??
WHY??
We sigh
We cry
We try
To understand
And we can't
Understand
Hashem's plan
And we get frustrated 
But we must remember
That there IS a plan
There IS a reason
For every single thing
We go through
Every day
Every month
Every year.
Nine years
Is what it took
For Esther 
Queen Esther
To understand
The plan.
It may take us
Nine years
It may take more
And
We may never
Understand
While we are alive
But we must strive
To internalize
This emunah
This faith
That there is a reason
Even when we don't see it
Even when we can't get it
Hashem does
Hashem knows
Why
We have this exact
Life.
And
It is for 
Our ultimate benefit
Our ultimate good
Yes we should
Try 
To internalize
This
Message.
My bracha 
To you is
That you should be blessed with
Strength to pull through
When you can't understand
The power to believe
Really believe
When things don't make sense
The ability to connect
To daven
To seek out
To question
To come closer to
Hashem
When you feel
Confused
Alone
Unsure
Afraid
Just like Esther did
When she was
Confused
Alone
Unsure
And so terribly afraid
When the fate of
The entire Jewish People
Was in her hands
When she stood before the King
And directed her heart
To the King of Kings
With the words
Keili Keili 
Lama azavtani
She asked
She questioned
She expressed 
Her pain
To the Only One
Who has the answers.
May you be able to connect
In the same profound way
And may you be able to see
To know
To really understand
The reason for
Your experiences
I don't know 
How long it will take
But Esther
She waited 
Nine years
May you be able to persevere
Pull through
Your challenges
Your life
And come out
Stronger
As a person
As a Jew
Stronger
In your belief
That the King of Kings
Knows
What He is doing
And may you
Be able to look back
In Nine years
From now
(Or less)
With clarity
Crystal clear clarity
Understanding
Knowing
And believing
Why.
And if you still don't understand
And you still don't know
May you still believe
May you still be strong
In Nine years from now.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tefillah-Our Essence

A friend of mine emailed the following thought that was passed on to her. Someone heard at a shuir from Rav Tzvi Meyer Zilberstein’s sister.

כי האדם עץ השדה, man-אדם is compared to a tree. The three letters which make up the  word adam are aleph, daled and mem. If we take the inner hidden letters of the word אדם , not the actual letters of אדם  but the remaining hidden letters of those three letters
אלף – the lamed and peh from the word aleph
דלת – the lamed and the taf  from the word daled
מם –  the second mem from the word mem
we are left with the word – מתפלל.
Tefilla is the pnimiyus of Adam, it is our sap and Tefilla has to come from our p'nim and be an avodah shebalev. The more Tefilla is drawn from the depth of our heart, the more powerful it is.
Deep inside the neshama of אדם- he longs to come close to Hashem, and the way to do that is through Tefilla.

What a beautiful thought. 

R' Shimshon Pincus expounds on this throughout his sefer, She'arim B'Tefillah (which has been translated into English, Gates of Prayer). 

Hashem implanted within the nature of the world that when someone is suffering, they call out for help so they will be protected them from harm. If someone screams out for help when they are in trouble, it will arouse the mercy of those close to them and they will rush to their aid.

If you take this on a bit of a deeper level, you can understand something more profound. Any time someone screams, it is really a call-out of tefillah. When someone lacks something, when they are in pain, they call out for help. And their call is really directed to the only One who can help them. 

Even when someone is alone and there is no one around to help, if they feel they are in danger, they will let out a yell. Imagine someone climbing a ladder and it starts to wobble. There is no one around, no one to call out to. But, they will still let out a piercing scream. To Whom is this scream directed? It is a scream that's very source is that of connection, of yearning, of wishing and hoping they will stay safe-even if there is no one at the foot of the ladder to keep it steady. They are calling out to the only One who has the power to keep them safe.

The essence of each person, the inner core, is one of connection. 

Hashem created each of us with many things that are lacking. Although we are very blessed and we have been given so much good, we are lacking in different ways and we feel it daily. Parking spots (especially in this weather!), the need to arrive somewhere on time, safe driving, success at school or work, health for minor and major illnesses, success in our day-to-day lives, we always need something from Hashem. 

Does a day ever go by where you felt that every single thing went right and you didn't need anything from Hashem? 

There's a reason why Hashem made it this way. There is a purpose. 

Since a person knows that Hashem is the only One who can help him, He will naturally direct his call to the Source, the One who has the Power to help him, to save him, to get him out of any predicament. 

Sometimes we need more energy, sometimes we need more strength, sometimes we need things to just go right. We all need some sort of salvation. And Hashem is the One who can bring it about.

When things are hard, when things are going wrong, dig into your soul, into your essence. You were created with an ability and a desire to connect. It is in you. It is part of your makeup. Hashem made you this way so that you will be able to achieve d'veikus, a true, close bond with Him. A connection that can become so strong, if you only tap into your inner self and utilize your moments of need to talk to the One who can help.

May you be able to use the times of need to connect to Hashem and may you be able to get closer to Him on even deeper levels than you've already reached. May you be able to use the good times as an opportunity to open your heart and talk to Hashem, by thanking Him for the blessings you have and may you not need the tough times to get you to draw closer to Him.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Purim Katan

Purim Katan is tonight, Thursday night and tomorrow, Friday.

The Dvar Torah below, emailed to me by a friend of mine, is from Rav Avraham Schorr Shlita regarding the power of tefillah on Purim Katan.

He quoted a Chidushei Harim that explained a reason for the mitzvah of "chayav inush lbisumei bepuryah", the mitzvah of drinking on Purim.

He told a story that happened in the times of the Bal Shem Tov. There was a terrible decree against the Jews, everybody prayed and did various mitzvos but nothing changed and the decree was still in place. Finally, the Bal Shem Tov instructed one of his followers to go to a distant town and find a certain drunkard and bring him back to the Bal Shem Tov. The messenger was advised not to allow the drunkard to drink so that he would be sober when he was brought to the Bal Shem Tov. When the drunkard was brought to the Bal Shem Tov, he asked the drunkard for a bracha that the decree be abolished, he gave a bracha and immediately the decree was annulled.

The Bal Shem Tov explained to his close followers that this person had done an unbelievable mitzvah of saving a girl; the mitzvah of Pidyon Shevuyim and in shamayim they were so moved that it was decreed that whatever this person would ask for would be granted immediately. Suddenly in shamayim there was a big debate, how can a simple person be given such unbelievable power of blessing? Maybe he will use it for the wrong things! So they decreed that he would be a drunkard all the time so he would not even realize this power that was given to him.

"The Chidushei Harim explained that on Purim there is a law that "kol haposhet yad nosnin". Anyone who asks, you have to give. This is true also regarding praying, when we daven to Hashem he has to answer our requests. So to counter this unbelievable power of prayer, the chachomim made the law of drinking on Purim so that we don't use the day for praying for the wrong things. The Chidushei Harim continues that if somebody feels that he wants to be smarter then the chachomim and he won't drink and will sit and daven all day long, he is wrong for not listening to the chachomim." (I am not getting into the issue of drinking vs. not drinking on Purim over here. I am just repeating the dvar torah the way it was sent to me. :))

There is a mishna in megillah that says "ein bain adar rishon l'adar shenie ele krias megillah umatonas levyonim bilvad"; there is no difference between the first adar and the second adar only that you can not do your obligation of reading megillah and presents for the poor.
The power of prayer remains exactly the same; however, by the first adar the rabbis did not make an obligation to drink.

So here we have a day that has the tremendous power of prayer and the chachomim did not counter it with an obligation to drink.

Let us use this Friday to daven to Hashem for all the right things, klal yisroel is living through difficult times and there are many things to daven for...we should be all be zoche to see moshiach bmihera byomeinu.


Today is a powerful day. May you use it well and may Hashem answer your tefillos. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Little Leaf

We live near a train station. From our window, we can watch the trains come and go. My little Moishy loves watching them. He gets all excited when he hears the engine of another train coming, stops what he is doing and runs to the window shouting "tchayy".

Recently, we started adding a "look out for trains session" before he takes his nap. Moishy sits on my lap and we look out the window together, waiting for the next train to come. We wave "hi" together and then say "ba-bye" to the train as it disappears from view.

Sometimes, many times, a train pulls up the second we sit down together and look out the window. Other times, it takes a little longer. But...so many times the train comes right away.

And I wonder...I think about the famous story about a rebbe who went on a walk with his chassidim in the forest. One chassid asked his rebbe why so many leaves were falling off the trees. The rebbe said he would watch out for the next leaf that fell and give him an answer.

As they continued to walk, another leaf slowly fluttered down to the ground. 

When the rebbe lifted up the leaf and saw a little worm under it, he explained the following, "This little worm was crawling in the forest and the sun was beating down its back. It was uncomfortable. So it called out to Hashem and cried, "Please Hashem, I am so uncomfortable. I am so small. I don't know what to do to help myself. Please, help me. Only YOU can help me." And so, Hashem commanded the wind to blow over all the trees in that forest. The wind blew and blew until it shook the leaves of one tree and one leaf detached from its branch and slowly fell to the ground. It swished this way and that until finally, it fell down...right on top of the little worm."

R' Yom Tov Ehrlich sings this song in yiddish. I don't remember the whole song, but I do remember the beautiful words at the end. Un der kleineh veremel iz eingeshlufin zees-loosely translated as-and the little worm fell asleep ever so softly...comfortable now, shielded from the blazing sun.

I love repeating this story to my children. It's such a good message for them to hear-again and again. They need to know that every little thing is calculated. Every leaf that falls down to the ground has a purpose. That Hashem takes care of every single person. If Hashem cares so much about the comfort of one little worm who called out to Him in prayer, don't you think He cares about each one of us? How important it is for us to call out to Hashem when we are uncomfortable. How it doesn't matter if it's something small, like if we are cold or hot or itchy or whatever, we can ask Hashem for anything. Nothing is too small for Him. And He cares. And He listens. And He answers....sometimes. (I don't tell them about the sometimes yet...they are not old enough to understand that there is so much that we cannot understand. :))

And I wonder...while I am sitting there on the bed with Moishy on my lap, looking out for the next train to come, is that too calculated? 

I wonder...there are so many people waiting for the next train. Some of them are in a rush, some of them are in no rush at all, many of them busy with their phones, tablets and games. Perhaps some people take a few steps forward and look out to see if the train is coming, if it is at the next station.

When the train finally does come, is that calculated for my little boy? Is that Hashem's way of giving over this message? I wonder if He's saying to all the passengers waiting to move on with their day, to get to work, to shop, back home or wherever they need to go...You need to wait another 30 seconds. There is a mother getting her son's pacifier and blanket together and they will be looking out the window in another few moments. This train has to come at that precise minute. Just another few seconds and your train will arrive...so that mommy and baby can come to the window and see the train at the exact moment that they sit down together.

Is this also part of Hashem's plan?


I like to think it is. It makes me feel loved and cared for.


It helps me see Hashem in the little things. So that when I have a hard time seeing Him in the bigger things, in this big confusing world I live in, I can know without a doubt that every single thing is calculated. That He knows what He is doing. Even when I don't see it. Even when I don't understand.

While I wait for the train to come roaring down the tracks, I have the daily opportunity to remind myself that Hashem  IS there. He IS watching. He IS taking care of me...of my little baby...and He is watching over the whole world with precision that can only be attributed to Hashem Himself. 

Thank you, Hashem, for this reminder.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Problems

While going through my 10th grade journal full of articles and poems I wrote for writing class, I found the following. I wanted to share it with you. 

Did you ever think about how bad life is?

We have so many problems.

Little kids have problems. They scraped their knee. Their friend didn't share their snack with them. They didn't get a red smiley sticker. They couldn't stay up until 8:00 like their big brother. Their arts and crafts ripped. They couldn't wear their favorite dress today. They didn't get a red lollipop. They left their snack at home. They weren't picked for Shabbos Mommy. Their Morah didn't let them be chazanis. They didn't have a stationary collection like the rest of their class.

Teenagers have problems. They failed a test. They didn't get into dance for the school play. Their teacher looked at them the wrong way. They have 15 detentions. They have ugly braces. Their haircut didn't come out good. They don't have "any" clothing. They have too much homework and no free time. They didn't get accepted to camp. They have politics. They have no talents. They have too many boring teachers who just cant understand why they always fall asleep during class. They just found another pimple and they are so ugly. They are so fat and must go on a massive diet. They cant get the phone at night so they have no time to "socialize."

Some people have problems, lo aleinu. They lost a parent. They have a sick child who needs constant care. Their best friend was killed in a suicide bombing. They lost a child. They are struggling to put bread on the table. They have a relative fighting in the war against Iraq. They have a special child who must have expensive therapy to continue. And the list goes on and on and never ends.

Now look at these problems and see how much you have.

You have a pure neshama returned to you every morning. You wake up each morning to a beautiful sunrise. You have eyes that see the beauty of nature. You have ears that hear all the everyday sounds that are taken for granted. You have clean air to breath and food to eat. You have a brain that works. You have a roof over your head. You have loving parents. You have siblings who care about you and friends to lean on. You have a beautiful world to live in. think about this and think about where it's coming from. Acknowledge who it's coming from and thank Him. If not, Hashem will have to make you acknowledge it using another method.


One last question I have for you: Did you ever think about how good life is?