Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What a Story!!

A highly respected woman, the wife of a prosperous businessman in the Hungarian city of Pressburg, adopted the custom of periodically donating a sum of money to the yeshivah, on the condition that someone there recite Kaddish for the souls of those unfortunates who have no one to say it for them. The yeshivah administration agreed, appointing one of the students to recite Kaddish for those departed souls.

After some time, the woman's husband passed away. His business suffered greatly without his leadership, and eventually fell into such dire straits that the woman was forced to close it down.

Her financial situation worsened dramatically.

As time passed, she was faced with a new problem. Her two daughters had reached marriageable age, but from where was the money to come for their weddings? The mother bore her burdens in silence, courageously resigned to her fate.

There was, however, one thing she was not willing to accept. The recitation of Kaddish must not stop just because she could no longer afford to pay her usual stipend.

In great bitterness of spirit, she turned to the yeshivah administration, pleading with them to continue the Kaddish custom until her fortune turned and she would once again be able to pay. The Yeshivah, moved by the widow's sincerity, agreed to do as she asked. The promise filled her with boundless joy. With beaming countenance, she left the yeshivah and started for home.

Her situation did not press upon her quite as much as before. As long as Kaddish would be said, she felt she lacked nothing in this world. As far as her two daughters were concerned, she would place her trust in Hashem. The merciful Father of orphans and the compassionate Judge of widows would surely see their poverty and supply them with suitable grooms and all their needs.

One day, as the woman stepped out into the street, she saw an elderly Jew approaching. His beard was full and white, and his face shone like the sun. The woman was startled by the warmth of his greeting -- after all, the old man was a stranger to her. Her surprise grew when he began conversing with her, asking about her situation and that of her children. The woman sighed deeply, pouring out the tale of her hardships. She described her fall from prosperity to poverty, to the point that she lacked the means with which to marry off her grown daughters.

"How much do you estimate you need for their wedding expenses?" the old man asked

"What's the difference?" she sighed. "With all due respect, why do you wish to know?"

Rather than responding, however, the man pressed her for an answer until she gave him the estimate he wanted. Immediately, he drew a page from his notebook and wrote instructions to the local bank to pay her the amount she had mentioned. Because this was a very large sum of money, he suggested to the stupefied widow, it was preferable that the note be signed in the presence of witnesses. They would see with their own eyes that he was signing over the money, and would add their own signatures to that effect.

Astonished and shaken, the widow went to the yeshivah to request that two students accompany her. The old man asked them to witness his signature on the check. For additional security, he asked them for a piece of paper, on which he signed his name once again for authentication purposes. He handed the check to the woman with instructions to redeem it at the bank on the following morning.

The whole business seemed extraordinary to her. Why had the old man, a stranger to her, seen fit to show her such largess -- to the point of covering the entire wedding expenses for her two daughters? Nevertheless, she hurried to the bank the next day to try her luck.

When the bank clerk read the check, he stared at the widow in amazement. He looked at the check again, then again at the widow. In some confusion, he asked her to wait. Check in hand, he went into the manager's office. The bank manager took one look at the check -- and fainted dead away!

A babble of distress and bewilderment arose from every corner of the bank. The clerks, hearing of the incident, hustled the widow into a small room and stood guard over her to make certain she did not leave. Clearly, something was amiss. When the manager recovered consciousness, he demanded to see the woman who had brought in the check. As she stood before him, trembling, he demanded an accounting of how she had come by the check.

"I received it just yesterday from a very respectable Jew. There were two witnesses to his signature, too," she explained anxiously.

"Would you be able to identify the man who gave you the check, if you saw a picture of him?" the manager asked.

"Of course I could! And I have no doubt that the two yeshivah students who witnessed his signature could identify him as well."

The manager reached into his desk and pulled out a picture.

"Yes!" The woman beamed. "That's the man. He's the one who so generously gave me the check."

Slowly, the manager turned to his clerks. "Give this woman the money," he ordered. "And then let her go."

It was only after the widow's departure that he confided his story to those present, who were naturally agog with curiosity.

"The man who gave that woman the check," he said, "was my father -- who passed away 10 years ago. Last night, he appeared in a dream and told me these words:

'Know this. Since you strayed from Judaism and stopped reciting Kaddish for me, my soul found no rest -- until this woman, this widow, came and arranged for the recitation of Kaddish for those who have no one to say it for them. The Kaddish they said for me in the yeshivah, on that woman's instructions, led to ascendancy and peace for my soul.'

"'Tomorrow morning, this woman will appear in your bank with a check that I have given her to cover her daughters' wedding expenses.'"

"When I woke up this morning, I was shaken by the dream. I described it to my wife, who just laughed. But when the woman appeared with the check, I realized that the dream had come true."

(Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld would tell this story, adding that he was one of the yeshivah boys who witnessed the signature.)

What an amazing story!! I got it as an email a while ago and when rereading it now, decided to share it with all of you. You can learn that when a person does a mitzvah, they will get paid back for it at some time. The reward for each thing you do will come - sometimes at a time you expect it least, but need it most.

Another thing I found amazing about this woman is that she took a mitzvah that no one was doing and said, "I will do it!" I remember hearing that a meis mitzvah is also a mitzvah that is "dead," meaning that people are not careful with it anymore. This woman made sure that people were saying kaddish for those who don't have anyone to say it for them. In this zechus, Hashem took care of her when she felt she did not have anyone to help her! Each person can take this lesson to heart and say to themselves, "which mitzvah to I notice that is not being fulfilled properly or fully?" and then see if you can bring an awareness to those around you or try to do something so that this mitzvah is done the right way!

Any other lessons you can take from this story?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Lessons from a Doctor's Visit

I had to go to the doctor today for something that should have been a really quick checkup. In and out. When I got there, I was told that the doctor went out to daven mincha and would be back in about 10 minutes. I figured that if I’m waiting there anyway, I might as well take advantage of the time and daven mincha there. I usually don’t get to daven (more than just the brachos) on a regular day so for me, this was exciting!

Now, this doctor has no clue that he gave me an opportunity to daven! He just did what he does every day at that time, he leaves his office to daven mincha with a minyan and doesn’t schedule any appointments at that time. Since I just had to walk in and be there for about 3 minutes, I did not need to schedule an official appointment (they told me to come anytime, which is why I came and he wasn’t there). I think it is an amazing thing that you can do something – and it can be a “regular” thing for you and you have no idea that you are inspiring someone else or giving them a chance to do a mitzvah!

Just to tell you a little bit about this doctor, so you can hear how special he is, I’ll share a few things with you. He has these signs hanging in his office like, “mitzvah gedolah le’hiyos b’simcha tamid” and you can’t help but smile… :-D He has other inspiring signs around his office too.

I’ve been at this doctor many times. I don’t wanna go into the gory details of why I had to come back to this foot doctor every 6 to 8 months, but I’ll tell you that every time he had to give me a shot to make my toe numb, and he saw that I was in pain, he asked me, “Are you mochel?” or “I’m sorry for hurting you. I hope you are mochel me.” And I was totally floored! I mean, this is your job!! You are doing this so that I could feel better! And you are asking me for mechilah for giving me a needle and causing me pain??!!!

There are some really special people in this world. It makes me think, “mi k’amcha yisroel!” Here you have a doctor, who has a job that involves having the patient go through a small amount of pain so they could feel better in the end, and he asks for forgiveness for hurting me!! That is amazing!

This is also a great mashal for pain in this world. We do not understand why we have to go through certain painful situations but we do know that pain is a kapparah and it erases our aveiros. It’s like my toe – it had an infection and needed to go through a certain amount of pain (needle plus other stuff which I wont go into…) in order to heal. When Hashem puts you through pain, it is in order to get rid of the infection on your neshama. Once you go through the pain, there is a certain healing process that your neshama goes through. It may take a few days, it may take a few months, but once you experience it, your neshama is cleaner than before, it is healed!!!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Asarah B'Teves

Today is Asarah B'Teves, the 10th day in the month of teves where most of us are fasting.

Why do we stop eating?

I think, that when we stop eating, it gives our minds time to think and we can then focus on other things. We do think about food a lot on a regular day. Breakfast. Drink. Snack. Drink. Lunch. Drink. Snack. Snack. Supper. Drink. Snack. Drink. Snack...and Midnight snack?!
Yes, so when we stop for a moment and ask ourselves, why aren't we eating today? we should come up with some answers.

What happened on Asarah B'Teves? Since I'm not in school anymore, I couldn't even remember! All I was able to think of was a song from one of the tapes I heard when I was younger. (I think it was from Rebbe Alter.) The song goes like this:

Long ago on Asarah B'Teves
Do you know what happened children
The seige began
Nevuchadnetzar and his army
Surrounded Yerushalayim...

Today was the beginning of the Churban Bais Hamikdosh. It was the beginning of the destruction of Hashem's home. It was the first step towards losing the clarity that existed when the Bais Hamikdosh still stood. And that is why we are fasting. We are fasting to remind us of what we lost, what we are missing and what we can get back.

Do you want the Bais Hamikdosh back? Are you comfortable in galus?

I'm not.

So what can we do to get it back?

You know the answer. I know the answer. It's an easy answer. But it may not be so easy to do. Because if it was, then we wouldn't be where we are right now.

I think that what we can do to make moshiach come faster is this: Choose one thing bein adam lamakom and one thing bein adam lachaveiro that you will change and improve on. It can be something new that you will choose to do from now on or it can be something you want to improve and become better in. One thing between you and Hashem, (davening, learning, thanking, speaking to Him, brachos or any one mitzvah that you feel you can do better) and one thing in the way you treat other people (going out of your way for someone, helping, smiling, appreciating).

And if you need more ideas, look at the poll on the right. And remember, this is individual for you, because you have to look deep inside yourself and think of what you know you need to change.

Just one more thing, here's a quote that I made up that I think you can use for your bein adam lachaveiro change:

"A compliment a day goes a very long way!"

To read more about Asarah B'Teves, click on this link and this link.

In the zechus of all the changes you make, may you to see real changes in your life and in the lives of those around you!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

So as not to Embarrass...

I got this email a while ago and I think this story really teaches us an important lesson in how to treat other people.

By: Rabbi Pesach J. Krohn
At a recent Sheva Berachos party for a newly married couple held at the Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem, a groom told a story that astounded the guests.

The young man had a stellar reputation as one who always did the right thing; hence his tale of something that happened in his youth was startling. His interpretation of what transpired made the evening memorable.

In his talk, the groom thanked the family that hosted the Sheva Berachos, and spoke glowingly of his parents and his bride's family. He spoke about the significance and responsibility of marriage, sprinkling his words with biblical verses and teachings of the Sages. Finally he said he wished to speak of "a turning point" in his life.

It happened when he was in fifth grade. A classmate, Naftali, came in one day showing everyone an expensive new watch he had just received as a gift. His mother had warned him not to take the watch to school lest it get lost or broken, but he disobeyed. He wanted to show the fancy new watch to his friends and classmates. At recess, with everyone running out to play ball, the boy took off his watch, and left it on his desk, so there would be no risk of scratching or breaking it during recess.

When he returned to class after recess, the watch was gone! He let out a hysterical shriek. How could he come home without the watch? His parents would punish him severely. There was no consoling the boy as he cried, begging his rebbi (spiritual mentor) to help him find the watch.

The rebbi , who had been standing in the hallway for most of recess, was quite sure that no one had entered the classroom since recess began, neither the custodian nor boys from another class. His instincts told him that it was a boy in his own class who had probably taken it on the way out or in from the playground.

The rebbi got everyone's attention and said, "I know that it may have been tempting for someone to take Naftali's watch. We all saw that it was very beautiful and quite expensive. However, we must get the watch back to him. Did anyone here take it by mistake? And if yes, would you like to return it?"

No one stirred as the boys nervously glanced around to see if anyone was admitting anything. The rebbi waited a few moments and said, "I guess I have no choice. I am going to ask all of you to stand up front, facing the wall and I am going to go through your pockets to see if it's there. But I am giving you one more chance to admit that you may have taken it by mistake. Look, it can happen. Someone just wanted to admire the watch so he may have picked it up and then inadvertently put it into his pocket."

Again no one said a thing. The rebbi called up the boys and asked them to stand against the wall and not to turn around even for a moment until he gave them permission. The groom's face turned red as he explained what happened next.

"I was the third boy in line. Once everyone was in place he started going through the pockets of every boy, and he found the watch in mine. I had been hoping against hope that he wouldn't find it, as I planned to return it to Naftali after school. However, now the rebbi had the culprit. I was shaking as I waited for him to shout at me, or express glee that he found it.

"Instead he continued checking every single boy! When he finished searching the last boy, he said, 'You all can go back to your seats. I have the watch.'

"As I walked back to my seat I had to hold myself back from crying. I understood what the rebbi did and how he saved me from being embarrassed. He had continued the search so no one could figure out who had taken the watch. As we sat down he didn't even look my way so no one could possibly have any inkling who the guilty party was. He resumed teaching. I decided then and there that someday I would like to be like him."


The groom, a rabbinical student in one of the world's most prominent institutions of higher Jewish learning, indeed became a wonderful person because his spiritual mentor protected his dignity and afforded him honor back in the fifth grade. With that gesture, the rebbi laid the foundation for the validation of a student in a new generation so that he eventually would do the same for his children and disciples.

Rabbi Paysach J. Krohn is a world famous inspirational lecturer and author of, among others, the just released In the Spirit of the Maggid: Inspirational stories that touch the heart and stir the spirit, from where this story was adapted.

I think this is so amazing! We see how careful we have to be with other peoples feelings! Just because someone did something wrong, that does not give you an excuse to yell at them, accuse them in public or embarrass them. Here you see a shining example of a rebbe who, instead of hurting his student's feelings was ultra careful!

I think that a very important thing when giving mussar to someone who did something wrong is not to speak to them in public! The shabbos table is not the right time/place to tell your kids that they did something wrong. If someone in the family needs to be spoken to about something they did, it should be done in private, in another room, away from all the siblings...this way, at least they have their dignity!

Right now, b"h, I am not in that stage, so it is easy for me to talk. B"h, Shalom Baruch doesn't know how to upset me much (besides for when he wakes up at 3, 4 and 5 o'clock in the morning or like yesterday when every single diaper of his was dirty - ok, I wasn't upset, just frustrated!). But I do hope that when he does grow up and I have something to tell him about his behavior or something he (or his siblings iy"h) did that upset me [me? get angry?! NO WAY! lol] , I remember this important lesson: Don't embarrass your children in front of other children! If you need to speak to them about something they did, take them into another room and...speak calmly!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Parshas Mikeitz

In this weeks parsha, Parshas Mikeitz, we read about Paroah's two dreams. One of the dreams was about seven skinny cows that ate seven fat cows.
Chaya Sara wrote a great post about it a while ago which you can read here. I think that even if you've read it once before, you can gain from reading it again.

Read and take the lesson to heart!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Chanukah - a Time to Daven by the Menorah

Tonight is the last night of Chanukah. When the menorah is lit, it is a very special time to daven to Hashem. What should you daven for?

First of all, Chanukah is a special time to daven and ask Hashem for clarity in understanding Torah! We all have our questions that we would like to find answers for! So when you stand by the candles tonight, open up your heart and daven to Hashem! Beg Him for clarity! Beg him for answers! Say, Hashem, I only want to serve you better! And if I understand these things, I will be a much better Jew!!

Daven for those people who have not yet seen the beauty of yiddishkeit! Daven that Hashem should show them the light of torah so that they too will want to come home! Daven for Hashem's children who have left the path of torah, the path of beauty! Daven for them to meet the right kinds of people so they can be inspired to come all the way home!!

Daven to have the light of Torah shining in your home always!

Ask Hashem for yeshuos for all the people you know - there should be light and salvation and happiness in their lives! There are so many people who need refuos, sick people who spend so much time at doctors and in hospitals...daven for them to get better!

There are people who are waiting for all kinds of yeshuos...I don't have to go through each one. But each person knows at least one person who wants to get married, needs to find a job, is looking for the right kinds of friends, is looking for clarity...so daven for them!

Daven for the end of this long galus! Daven for moshiach because we need Him so badly!!! We see in the story of Chanukah that no matter how hard they try, the goyim cannot kill us out!! The Greeks were so much greater and powerful than the small army of the macabim but when you have Hashem on your side, you will win!! So daven that we should also be zoche to see that - the day when moshiach will come and we will be let out of this galus!!

Use the special time you have tonight, on the last night of Chanukah, to daven and come close to Hashem!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Chanukah - Miracles, Big and Small

On Chanukah, in V’al Hanisim, we say “bayamim ha’heim, bazman hazeh” that Hashem did nissim in the past and continues to do nissim for us now. Look around. It is very easy to see the nissim that Hashem does for us every day. Just open your eyes and you will see it!
Are you able to breathe? That is such a HUGE miracle! If you learn biology, you will start to understand just a little bit about how amazing it is that your body works the way it does. Your heart pumps the blood, it goes through your whole body and that is how you are able to function! You eat some food and your body knows exactly how to digest it properly! Is that not the coolest thing ever??

When you visit a new doctor for the first time, you are asked to complete pages of questions relating to prior and current illnesses, operations, conditions, and medications. B"H, I am able to keep checking the “No” box to most of these questions. (Okay, I am allergic to penicillin so I have to fill that in.) However, the fact that the questions are being asked is reason to believe that these conditions and concerns are, r"l, more prevalent than we think. Every so often, try to imagine yourself filling out those forms, checking “No” after “No” in each and every box, and exclaiming, “Thank You, Hashem, Thank You, Hashem for the nissim veniflaos that you bestow upon me, every day of the year!”

But it’s not only that. It’s not only the amazing fact that your body works so well that you can thank Hashem for during this special yom tov of Chanukah. We say in Modim, “V’al nisecha shebichol yom imanu” – we thank Hashem for the daily miracles He performs for us. There are so many times that Hashem performs miracles for us – every single day!

For example – you were walking down the street and that car almost hit you but you were walking fast enough for it to miss…
Or you were driving down the highway and you arrived at your destination without anything dangerous happening…yes, this one just happened to me! I was driving on the highway because we went away for shabbos Chanukah and trust me, you would not have wanted to be in the car with me! it was quite a scary trip, let me tell you! Why? Because this was my first time driving all the way on my own. I recently learned how to drive highways (okay, I drove once on the highway with the driving instructor and once for about 15 minutes when we were going away for shabbos – and my husband took over cuz it was just too scary, I was not ready)! I’m still getting over the fear of highways and I’m telling you one thing for sure, there were certain parts of that trip where I felt like I AM NOT THE ONE DRIVING THIS CAR!! I was soo scared and flipping out and I was like, Hashem, you are driving this car! Not me!! I was going sooo fast, really fast and it was on a curvy part of the road – at an exit and I was really scared that I’d hit the trees…but b”h I was safe!! Hashem really was watching over me while I was in the car! And b”h we made it to our destination safely! And I was able to say, “I did it!” but yes, this was truly a miracle – my own Chanukah miracle!!

And these miracles happen all the time! Hashem is guiding you and watching over you all the time!

Sometimes, Hashem saves you from something and you don’t even know about it – it’s called PREVENTION – the times Hashem prevented something terrible from happening to you! This is another thing to thank Hashem for – the nissim that happened to you that you don’t even know about! Someone could have gotten upset with you and yelled at you but they didn’t…you could have tripped and fallen and scraped your knee but you caught yourself from falling…

There are small miracles and big miracles happening to you daily, you just have to look out for them and you will see Hashem with you! Chanukah is a time to thank Hashem for the small and the big miracles that have happened to you – anyone want to share their stories??

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Chanukah - A Time to Strengthen Our Emunah

Tomorrow night is the first night Chanukah. There are many messages and lessons we can all take from this special time. Chanukah is a time to strengthen our emuna – our trust in Hashem. We see that even when things are hard for us, there is a glimmer of hope, a special light that shines through the darkness. What is this light? It is the light of emunah – trusting in Hashem that He knows what is best for us and He can do anything and that whatever situation we are in right now must be best for us, that is the light that can illuminate our lives, even when things are dark.

This is an email from Desperate Faith that will definitely help you strengthen your emunah in Hashem. I think that if you want to really gain from this post, it would be best to read it twice. There is a lot you can get from it and reading it a second time will help it really seep in and penetrate your heart.

Ever wondered what living happily ever after really means?

People who read my blog often send me emails or comments telling me that they hope for a time when me and my family can live happily ever after. It's a beautiful bracha. People read my blog, they read stories of pain, sadness, hurt and worries. And they wish for a happy ending, a day when my blog will be filled with stories that convey hope, joy, and fullfillment.

But what does it mean to live happily ever after? And how does a person get to live happily ever after?

Firstly, for those who haven't read my blog, let me tell you a little bit about me and my family.

It wasn't that long ago that my father was a successful business man. When his business collapsed, he tried to rebuild. In the ensuing ten years the efforts to rebuild the former glory of the business have proven (to date) futile. My family exhausted, first their savings, then their credit.

At some point, about three years ago, my parents were struck with the gut wrenching reality. They had nowhere left to turn, aside from their fellow yidden. I don't think there are adequate words in the English language to describe the emotions that are involved when a man slides all the way from the top, from the "ba'al tzedaka" category, to the rock bottom, and becomes the taker. I don't think it really is possible for someone who hasn't experienced it to understad the deep, heart wrenching pain and humiliation of tzedaka checks, of weekly food boxes. And I don't think anyone who hasn't lived in it can understand the kind of uncertainty and unrest foreclosure brings to a house, and to the people living in it. And nobody who has only slept under warm and dry roofs can fully appreciate the difficulty of lying in bed, listening to the rain. Not rain outside the window, but rain dripping in the hallway.

All that is nothing compared to a decision I had to make a little while back. It was about two years ago when I realized that my family wasn't making it with the tzedaka they were receiving. At first it was hard, but now it's become second nature.

Take out debit card. Swipe. Remind self that money comes from Hashem. Sign receipt. Thank Hashem for having a job. Take bags, go home, and watch as your earnings get chewed up and swallowed by your family.

My nature has always been selfish, so it has been the most incredibly difficult thing to overcome. I watch my little sister pick up the phone to make a call, and I fight the urge to knock the phone out of her hand and tell her that I paid the bill, and the phone is MINE. My sister is reading the Mishpacha magazine, and I want to read it. I have to restrain myself not to tell her that I bought it, and I should get priority. One would think that two years of giving away 100% of my earnings would make it easier for me, but that's not how it went.

Let me explain. If I hadn't come to an appreciation of Hashem's presence in my life, as well as His totality in our entire world, I wouldn't find the inner strength to open up my checkbook and write my father a check for $3000. But I have learned about this, and suddenly I am able to give. I am able to live!

Hashem is the source of all blessing. He is the one who provides for the rich family down the block, He is the one who provides for my family, and He is the one who provides for you, the reader. When a person comes to really, truly believe and feel this, they suddenly have no worries left.

Imagine if a man would promise you that if you will just believe him, he'll support you fully for the rest of your life. It might sound suspicious, it might sound hard to believe, but you have nothing to lose by believing him, and everything to lose if you don't. So you might as well try it out, right?

Let's take this a step further. Imagine if this very same man had made this deal countless times in the past, and he had come through each of those times? Would you hesitate for half a minute? No way! You would blindly believe in him, because you want him to shower you with all of his abundance!

Hashem makes us that very same promise. "Ha'boteach baHashem, chesed yisovivenu." Hashem's promise is clear. It doesn't matter if you are a tzaddik or a rasha. Or doesn't matter who you are or whether you deserve it. It simply says, "habote'ach," anyone who believes in Hashem is guaranteed full support for the rest of their lives. What a deal, right?

But wait, it gets better! Look at Hashem's track record! Since the begining of time, Hashem has supported all people who place their trust in Him! There are countless stories of people who lived on nothing but pure and simple bitachon. It never fails.

And now, we can go back to our original question. What does living happily ever after entail? How does a person live happily ever after? It would seem, based on my family's situation, that living happily ever after, for us, would mean a sudden influx of cash. A lottery win. But is that a guarantee for happiness? Are no rich people unhappy?

The problem in this world is that people think that "happily ever after" is something that will just "happen" to them. Sadly, that isn't the case. Cemeteries all over the world are filled with the bodies of people who died waiting for "happily ever after" to "happen." What they don't realize is that it doesn't "happen." Happily ever after is a state of mind, a state of understanding.

Happily ever after means recognizing that Hashem is in charge. No matter what situation you face, He put you there for a good reason, that He has provided you with the tools to get through it, and that He is holding your hand and helping you through every step of the way.

While life may sometimes be hard, it all comes from Hashem, and it is, therefore, only good. Worries become irrelevant when a person develops a deep understanding of Hashem's goodness. It may seem tough, the mountain may seem insurmountable, but Hashem has the power to help you through all of it.

That, my friends, is living happily ever after. And I, Baruch Hashem, am currently living happily ever after.

After reading this, I think we can all say wow. But don’t just say wow and go on with life! Read this blog post a second time so this message really enters your heart!! Here is a girl who really lives with this emunah and realization of Hashem in her life! She is truly happy because she knows and sees Hashem’s goodness in her life!

You want some more chizuk from this amazing malach of a girl? Read her blog by clicking on this link.

And may you be zoche to come to this realization yourselves so you can truly live happily ever after.

Suffering? What?! Not these days, No one is in pain...come on!

This is one cute idea on a new twist to suffering!!

A man went to the barber shop to have his hair cut and his beard trimmed. As the barber began to work, they talked about so many different subjects. When they eventually touched on the subject of Hashem the barber said:"I dont believe that Hashem exists."

"Why do you say that?" asked the customer.

"Well, you just have to go out in the street to realize that Hashem doesn't exist. Tell me, if Hashem would be real would there be so many sick people? Would there be abandoned children? If Hashem existed, there would be neither suffering nor pain. I can't imagine a loving father would allow all of these things."

The customer thought for a moment, but didn't respond because he didn't want to start an argument. The barber finished his job and the customer left the shop. Just after he left the barber shop, he saw a man in the street with long, stringy hair and an untrimmed beard. He looked dirty and unkempt.
The customer turned back and entered the barber shop again and he said to the barber, "You know what? Barbers do not exist."

"How can you say that?" asked the surprised barber. "And I just worked on you!!"

"No!" the customer exclaimed. "Barbers don't exist because if they did, there would be no people with dirty long hair and untrimmed beards, like the man outside."

Ah but Barbers do exist!!

"What happens is, people do not come to me."

"Exactly!" affirmed the customer. "Thats the point! Hashem too does exist! What happens is people don't go to him and do not turn to him for help."

He is ready to "cut your beard" you just did not go in and ask him!! (Hashem is the best barber he trims away your pain its soo good!!)

As you turn to Hashem and have a real heart to heart talk with him you will feel some of the pain leaving you!! Bec. you are going to the One who can cure everything!!
How do I do this??
Take a walk by yourself or go into a room where you can be alone and just start with one min. "Hashem you know i had a hard day today... my teacher yelled at me, telling me i am irresponsible bec. I did not have my work with me"....or I upset my mother this morning and now I am in such a bad mood!! (def. not you maybe your friend you could tell this too... you never have a hard day!! just kidding) so now wait for Hashem to answer you...
maybe someone will call you at night and say please can you babysit for me I need someone like you who is very responsible... now you see hashem made her say these words to make you feel better, just bec. you did not have your work does not mean that you are forever labled irresponsible...
Or when you come home you help your mother with a smile and she totally forgets about the morning... she says thank you soo much for your help...now you feel soo much better.(by the way when you leave from beg. of the day till end, people forget how they were in a bad mood over a small tiny thing!)
so these are the messages that we have to look out for so that when we come to him we will see Hashem really being there for us!!
this def. does not do justice to real suffering its just a cute idea!!

The message is prob. pretty clear, Hashem wants us to talk to him and ask him to help us so that he could be there for us in our pain! well someone might say, Hashem is the one who gives me the pain why should I want turn to him??? Don't we all at times feel like, Hashem why are you doing this to me??? Where are you when I need you the most? However we have to look for him and notice all the little things that he does. When you actually sit down and have a conversation with Hashem the way you talk to a friend you will feel so much lighter! how? bec. HASHEM HAS A STORAGE BOX WHERE HE TAKES AWAY PAIN FROM PEOPLE AFTER YOU SHARE IT WITH HIM HE TAKES IT AND STORES IT AWAY AND YOU DONT FEEL THE PAIN HALF AS STRONG AS BEFORE!!
If you open up your heart and your mind to hear the messages that hashem is sending you, you can hear them for real.
Live your life with your eyes wide open not just to look, but to look and see
what messages has Hashem sent to me!!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

One Thank You

Firstly, I want to thank each and every person who voted on the poll on the right. I appreciate the feedback and it's good to know what people want to hear! After all, the purpose of this blog is to keep you inspired, so the best way to do it right is to write things that you want to read about.

So far, I see that a lot of votes went for "change/growth" which I think is so special!! Hashem, look at your special children! They all want to change and grow and become better! They are looking for inspiration and want to come closer to you! What do they want to hear more about?! Your children want to know how they can change, how they can grow, how they can become better!!

There are many areas in which we can all improve. I would like to try to choose different areas and address specific topics to change and grow in. For today (or should I say tonight?!), I'm going to do something which can really be life-changing, if you really do it right and take this seriously.

We have so much good, so much bounty, so many "extras" in our lives. There is so much to thank Hashem for, it is not normal! Did you ever notice how much we have?! Take a look next time you go grocery shopping - look at the aisles and aisles and shelves full of food. There are so many choices out there! You wanted to buy a little snack? Well, there are all kinds of snacks and depending on your taste, you can find so many different varieties of foods...you'll see super snacks (in how many flavors?), potato chips - rippled, bar-b-q, honey-bar-b-q, ketchup potato chips, onion garlic...How many choices of cereals are there? So many different companies, choices, flavors, colors and shapes! Did you ever think about what a bracha this is? Hashem has showered us with so much good - we have to just open up our eyes and see it! There are so many brands for each food item we want, ketchup, pasta, cheese, orange juice - wait, how many choices of drinks are there these days?! Snapple, soda, even water! You can choose what flavor water you'd like to drink! Is this not chasdei Hashem? Can't you just feel Hashem's love when you see all the choices He gave you?!

So for today, I'm asking you to challenge yourself. Give yourself a specific time of day (right when you wake up in the morning, while you brush your teeth, while you eat breakfast, on your way to school/work, at recess/lunch break, on your way home from school/work, while you prepare supper, a few seconds after you are done eating supper, while you get ready for bed or those few seconds you have before you close your eyes and drift off...or you can choose any other time of day that works for you) and at that time, tell Hashem THANK YOU. Say, Hashem, I want you to be a part of my life. I will now take this time to Thank you for ONE thing that went right today or for ONE thing I am grateful for. (You can change the number to two, three or four, if you'd like, I'm just trying to make this as simple as possible so everyone can feel that they can do it.)

See how long you can keep this up for. You did it for a day? Great! A week? Even better! Each time you thank Hashem, you are growing in your relationship with Him and becoming a better, happier person. You are appreciating the gifts Hashem gave you - and that is something special!

I'm not giving any other ideas for now - I'll wait and see what you can come up with. If you would like to share your thoughts, I'd love to hear it! What are you thankful for?!

The list can be endless...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Scars of Love

There is a story told about a little boy who lived in South Florida and decided to go for a cooling swim in the old swimming hole behind his house. In a hurry to dive into the cool water, he forgot to check the water for dangers before he jumped in. He didn’t realize that as he swam towards the middle of the lake, an alligator was swimming to the shore.

In the house the mother was looking out the window and saw the two as they got closer and closer together. Terrified, she ran toward the water, yelling to her son as loudly as she could. Hearing her voice, the little boy became alarmed and made a u-turn to swim towards his mother. But it was too late. Just as he reached her, the alligator reached him.

From the dock, the mother grabbed her little boy by the arms just as the alligator snatched his legs. That began an incredible tug-of-war between the two. The alligator was much stronger, but the mother loved her son too much to let go. A farmer happened to drive by and heard the screams, raced from his truck and shot the alligator.

Remarkably, after weeks in the hospital, the little boy survived. His legs were extremely scarred by the vicious attack of the animal, and on his arms were deep scratches where his mother's fingernails had dug into him in her effort to hang on to the son she loved.

A newspaper reporter, who interviewed the boy after the trauma, asked if he'd show him his scars. The boy lifted up his pant leg. And then, with obvious pride, he said to the reporter, "But look at my arms. I have great scars on my arms, too. I have them because my mom wouldn’t let go."

You and I can identify with this little boy. We all have our own scars as well. Not from an alligator, or anything quite so dramatic, but the scars of wrong decisions and mistakes. Some of those scars are unsightly and have caused us deep regret. But some wounds are there because Hashem wants to protect and provide for you in every way. But sometimes we foolishly wade into dangerous situations. The swimming hole of life is filled with peril – and we sometimes forget that the yetzer hara is waiting to attack. That's when the tug-of-war begins. As the yetzer hara scars your legs with aveiros, Hashem is scarring your arms with tzaros only to get you out of the yetzer hara's grasp. Don’t complain that your tefillos concerning your tzaros aren’t being answered because they are the answer. Be very grateful for those scars on your arms because it is telling you that Hashem did not and will not let you go.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Thousand Marbles

This story has an very powerful lesson - read it and let me know what you think...

The older I get, the more I enjoy Sunday mornings. Perhaps it’s the quiet solitude that comes with being the first to rise, or maybe it’s the unbounded joy of not having to be at work. Either way, the first few hours of a Sunday morning are most enjoyable.

A few weeks ago, I was shuffling toward the basement shack with a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and the morning paper in the other. What began as a typical Sunday morning turned into one of those lessons that life seems to hand you from time to time. Let me tell you about it.
I turned the dial up into the phone portion of the band on my ham radio in order to listen to a Sunday morning swap net. Along the way, I came across an older-sounding chap, with a tremendous signal and a golden voice. You know the kind-he sounded like he should be in the broadcasting business. He was telling whomever he was talking with something about “a thousand marbles.”

I was intrigued and stopped to listen to what he had to say. “Well, Tom, it sure sounds like you’re busy with your job. I’m sure they pay you well, but it’s a shame you have to be away from home and your family so much. Hard to believe a young fellow should have to work 60 or 70 hours a week to make ends meet. Too bad you missed your daughter’s dance recital.”
He continued, “Let me tell you something that has helped me keep a good perspective on my own priorities.” And that’s when he began to explain his theory of “a thousand marbles.”

“You see, I sat down and did a little arithmetic. The average person lives about 75 years. I know, some live more and some live less, but on an average, folks live about 75 years. Now, I multiplied 75 times 52, and came up with 3900, which is the number of Sundays that the average person has in his entire lifetime.

“Now, stick with me, Tom. I’m getting to the important part. It took me until I was 55 years old to think about all this in any detail,” he went on, “and by that time I had lived through over 2800 Sundays. I got to thinking that if I lived to be 75, I only had about a thousand of them left to enjoy.

“So I went to a toy store and bought every single marble it had. I ended up having to visit three toy stores to round up 1000 marbles. I took them home and put them in a large, clear plastic container right here in the shack next to my gear. Every Sunday since then, I have taken one marble out and thrown it away.

“I found that by watching the marbles diminish, I focused more on the really important things in life. There is nothing like watching your time here on this earth run out to help get your priorities straight.

“Now let me tell you one last thing before I sign off with you and take my lovely wife out for breakfast. This morning I took the very last marble out of the container. I figure if I make it until next Sunday, then I have been given a little extra time. And the one thing we can all use is a little more time.

“It was nice to meet you, Tom. I hope you spend more time with your family, and I hope to meet you again on the band. Good Morning!”

You could have heard a pin drop on the band when this fellow signed off.

I guess he gave us all a lot to think about. I had planned to work in my basement that day; instead I went upstairs and woke up my wife.
“C’mon! I’m taking you and the kids to breakfast.”
“What brought this on?” she asked with a smile.
“Oh, nothing special. It’s just been a long time since we spent a Sunday together with the kids. Hey, can we stop at a toy store while we’re out? I need to buy some marbles.”

I think this is amazing! We have so much time on our hands. Let's try to take a message from this and use the time we have to do things that are productive and bring us closer to Hashem.

What things do you think you can do to make each moment last? How can you use your time in the right way?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Lenses and Clarity

I was taking off my lenses the other day and started to think about how amazing it is that something so thin and tiny can help me see so far. I put this little thin, clear (hard to see or notice) thing into my eye and presto! I can see! Not only can I just see, but I can see just as clearly as a person without lenses who has 20/20 vision! Besides for the fact that this is an amazing invention, there is a great lesson we can learn from this.

Sometimes, all you need is that one answer or that one mashal to make everything crystal clear to you. You may have a whole bunch of questions on a certain topic and then when you hear this one thing, it makes everything else, all the questions and all the doubts, fall into place. And then you can understand everything and all your questions disappear. You go to a speech and you hear an amazing thought, an amazing piece of inspiration, and suddenly, your worries get smaller and you feel like you have the strength to go through it. You read a book that inspires you just in the area you needed chizuk.

When the 11 brothers stood before Yosef, the mishneh lamelech, they did not know who Yosef was and why they were being questioned about the way they came through the gates separately and why they were accused as spies. They did not understand why they were invited for a whole meal, why they were chased and why they had to go through so much pain when they just came down to Mitzrayim to get some grain and food. But then, Yosef said, “Ani Yosef!” and everything became clear. Suddenly, they understood why they had to go through all that he did.

We now live in a very crazy, confusing world. We are in galus. Things do not make any sense! We look around and see a world of pain, death, sickness, children leaving the beautiful path of Torah thinking they will find happiness and excitement somewhere else…only to learn that they were so wrong. We look around and see people who look so happy, who have everything going for them and it is confuses us. Things don’t look fair! We have questions, we want answers and we just want to understand…and it’s the one answer that we are waiting to hear that will make us understand. When moshiach comes, Hashem will say two words and everything will become crystal clear – Ani Hashem! I am Hashem! I was here all along and I have a reason for each and every thing that I did and for everything that happened in your life!!

May the time come very soon!!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

We all want to come home to our Our Father In Heaven

I'm a long way from Home
I'm so far from the Palace
And I want to return
but I can't find my way
I've been searching so long
I don't know if I can go on...anymore
And if I do return will I find that open door

Father, I long to come back to You
I wish I could ease Your pain
I know I don't look like a princess now
But inside I'm still the same

Oh, Father please bring me back Home
All these years as a peasant have taken their toll
I know I don't look like the daughter You lost
but she's here inside my soul

To be the daughter of the King
to be descended from Nobility
I dream of just how it would be to be-
the daughter of Royalty

To act with grace and royal pride
to have true dignity inside
I've always thought that it must be that I am

a daughter of Royalty

I'm a long way from home
I'm so far from the palace
And I want to return
but I can't find my way
I've been searching so long
I don't know if I can go on...anymore

And if I do return will I find that open door
I'm a long way from Home...
I'm so far from my Home...
Father please bring me Home...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Feedback from YOU!

What topics do you want to hear more about on this blog?

I put a poll on the right so you can all vote - keep in mind that you can select as many choices as you'd like. We want to hear from all of you so we know what you want to read more about. This blog is about inspiring others with all sorts of inspirational information and the only way for us to do that right is with feedback from you!

So please go ahead and vote - and if there are any topics that are not listed on the right, please comment here and we will try to do our best to keep you inspired!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My Friday Night Story - Part 3

Here's the end of my story...but maybe it's just the beginning of her story!!

We got to the house, looked at the name on the bell just to make sure it was the right house and knocked on the door. So the craziest thing is, that the name that we had was this person’s maiden name! Mind you, she is married for over 15 years but for some reason, she is known by both last names. The hostess opened the door, let out a yell, hugged her guest (twice!) and jumped up and down saying, “I can’t believe you are here!!” Then she gave us a little background about her guest. Basically, they meet at their Weight Watchers group every week, but this girl had never had a Shabbos meal before, her parents are against her learning about Judaism, but she was invited as a “no commitment” just to come for a Friday night dinner and enjoy. No books, speeches, lectures…just come and see what a Friday night meal is all about and enjoy it. This girl is thirty-two years old and never had a shabbos meal in her life!! Think about that!! She spent thirty-two years in this world and never spent shabbos surrounded by family with the warmth and love that we all enjoy and take for granted!!

The hostess then said that they already started their meal but, “Don’t worry, my son will do it all over again for you! He will make Kiddush, hamotzi…and I lit the shabbos candle for you already so whenever you are ready, you can accept the shabbos and let it enter your heart!”

The girl was HIGH! Seriously, she was in the clouds that Hashem helped her all along to find her place. The whole thing was amazing!! Every minute of her night was calculated! She got lost, my mother and sister left my house at exactly that minute so they can meet up with her, they came to my house and I knew the hostess because of the one time she had given me a ride, my neighbor was able to give us exact directions to their house and this girl felt Hashem with her every step of the way!

Now here’s a continuation of this story. I was running into a grocery store on my way home from work to pick up something really quickly for supper the next night and who do I see?! The hostess!! (Do you see how Hashem plans every minute of your day?! I was going to run in and out and as I was going into the store, I saw her walking right in front of me!) She told me that this shabbos was unbelievable for her guest. She was so inspired, so uplifted, she loved EVERYTHING about shabbos! She was only supposed to stay for the Friday night meal but loved it so much, she asked to stay overnight. They set up a bedroom in the basement for her, she went to shul on shabbos morning, went to a shiur on shabbos afternoon, did not pick up her cell phone the entire shabbos, and just loved everything about shabbos! She said it felt so right, so good, she wanted to know everything and keep it all! Of course, the hostess told her that she should take it slow and not take everything upon herself at once but this girl’s life is changing, that’s for sure!! She was on a total high from her shabbos experience!! It looks like she will be spending many more shabbos meals with religious families…and who knows how far she can come, in another few years…

My Friday Night Story - Part 2

Here's Part 2 of the amazing story that happened to me...

After a few minutes of talking and the get-to-know-you introductions, I casually asked, “Oh, so what’s the name of the family you were supposed to eat by?”
When she told me the (mother’s) name, I said, “I know who she is!!”
She jumped off the couch (for real!) with excitement and started to flip out!! She wanted to know how I knew her and was already holding on to her bags and was going to run over to the house. But although I know the lady, I didn’t know exactly where she lives, I just knew she lived within a few blocks from my house but had no clue exactly where.

Happens to be (nothing really “happens to be") that I know her because she had given me a ride once when she stopped by my office and was not able to drive me all the way home because she had to stop by her house to take care of something and then was going to run somewhere else…

So while she sat on the couch, I looked up the name in all the phone books I have and couldn’t find it. I went with Elisheva to two neighbors to ask them if they knew where this family lives. Neither of them answered the door. I went back upstairs and a few minutes later, my husband came home from shul. I quickly explained the whole story to him and we decided I’d go with my mother and sister and try to find the house. Hashem would help us!!
I knocked on the first neighbors door, looked through a phone book that I don’t have in my house and couldn’t find her name. I went to another neighbors (they were already up to the soup and I felt so bad to interrupt!) and they knew who she was and where she lived!! They told me the street name, described what the house looked like, (pass the garage, the first house on that street, with a gate around it…)

Yipee!! Finally! We were making progress!!!

So together we walked listening to this girl tell us more about herself. She totally felt Hashem with her! it was not normal because this girl is not frum, doesn’t know about shabbos and mitzvos and here she is, telling us how she feels Hashem is with her…and she told us that her earliest memory was when she was 3 years old, they made a mi shebairach for her in shul because she was sick with pneumonia and ever since then, she never got sick!! She was always healthy and she felt that it was because of the mi shebairach they made for her in shul!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My Friday Night Story - Part 1

I'm breaking this post up into a few parts because after I put it up here, I realized that it's too long to read at once...

These stories don’t happen to me! I’m telling you! I know I’m Chaya Sara’s sister, but this story is the type to happen to her not to me!!
Anyway, you just see how Hashem is in charge of every little detail of what happens and every minute of your day…

Last week (not this past week, but the week before), I was having a very busy erev Shabbos and my younger sister, Elisheva, called me when I was super busy to ask me if she can come visit me on Friday night. She was planning to come right before candle-lighting when it’s not-yet-dark outside and then she would need to be taken home because in order to walk from my house to my mother, you need to pass through a not-so-safe neighborhood. I was waaaay too tired so I told her that it wouldn’t really work for me since I had a very exhausting week so maybe she’d come another week.
Well, a few minutes after I lit candles, I heard someone coming up the stairs. I went to answer the door and who was standing there? My sister, Elisheva! She was puffing and panting and said, “You don’t understand what happened!!” And then she started to tell me:

I was walking with mommy to come visit you (she must’ve really wanted to come visit me, because she came up with her own plan, walk with mommy and so she’d have someone to walk home with!) and as we were walking, we saw a girl (who was obviously not religious) carrying a bag. She asked us, “Is it shabbos yet?” (sounds like that book…Is it Shabbos Yet?!) and mommy said, “Yes, but let me help you. You look lost!”
So this girl said that she was supposed to be eating by someone but I lost their address. So my mother, being the tzadekes that she is, stayed with this girl to try to help her find her place. Together, they knocked on the door of someone on that block to try to get the address of the family this girl was supposed to eat by. In the meantime, Elisheva came to my house and told me a little bit about the girl they had met. She was reform, never kept shabbos before and her train got delayed and here she was, roaming the streets, trying to find someone to help her. Once she met my mother, the two of them started on their search.

Elisheva was very worried about my mother. They had gone a few blocks away from my house, where the not-so-safe neighborhood gets even worse to try to find this family. Elisheva kept peeking out of the window, opening my door and trying to listen out for my mother, hoping she was okay. I kept calming her down. Finally, after what felt like a long wait, there was a knock on my door…this time it was my mother and the girl she had met.

Now, before I continue my story, I want to just describe to you what this girl looked like, just so you can get a better picture of where she is coming from. She was wearing bright red lipstick, a bright orange long-sleeved t-shirt (and when I say bright, I mean bright, like the type that you need to squint when you look at her, it was so bright!), a flairy mid-length denim skirt (She said it’s the longest skirt she has!), lots of (gold) necklaces of different lengths, a bunch of bracelets, multi-colored sneakers that lace up to the middle of her leg, and carrying a backpack. I don’t know if this describes her well, but this can definitely give you a start.

I welcomed them in, had them sit down on the couch and listened. They ended up knocking on the door of a family with the same last name - but not the family they were looking for. They had walked in the freezing cold and now they were stuck. They guessed that this person was not listed in the phone book and came to me. The girl made herself comfortable and started telling us a little bit about herself and about how sorry she felt that she wouldn’t be able to join that family for the meal. In my head, I was already planning the rest of her shabbos for her. She’d eat the meal at my house and I’d ask my neighbor if she could sleep in their guest room. I hadn’t prepared extra food and since we are only a family of two who eat (my baby’s food is of a different sort!), and I was not sure what we’d do. I figured we’d do the best we can, I definitely have enough challah and dips and salad but when I prepare for two, I already know how much we eat. Well, Hashem runs the world and we just got to see it so clearly!!! We can try to plan but the One Above has everything all planned out for us!!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Lessons on Rav Aharon Kotler's Yartzeit

Today is the Yahrzeit of HaRav Aharon Kotler, Z’tl (R’Aharon Ben R' Shneuer Zalmen), who built up Lakewood and changed the outlook of the world on Torah life and Torah learning. Here are two points from his teachings. May they be a zechus for his beloved neshama and a zechus for us.

* The Ramban writes (in Sha’ar HaGemul) that there are three Judgments that a person must succeed in. The yearly judgment (on Rosh Hashana), the judgment faced upon departure from Olam Hazeh, and a third judgment prior to Techiyas Hameisim. What is the difference between the second and third judgments - after all, the person was not alive any more to perform mitzvos or commit aveiros! HaRav Aharon explains that this judgment is most complete, because it also takes into account all of the ramifications of a person’s actions since they passed away. What did you accomplish, what mark did you leave - did you lead others in the Derech Hashem of Torah and Mitzvos - by your sincere action and your exemplary conduct? If so, all of the actions that succeed you in all future generations of those who learned from you, whether it be children, other relatives, neighbors, co-workers, acquaintances or friends (even of the impressed person sitting next to you on the bus or plane)-all of this accrues to your merit. What we do in our lives is so important, not only for this moment or this year, but for a lifetime, and the generations that succeed them, until the end of days. Appreciate the true significance, the incredible and everlasting effects, of your actions, so that their ramifications benefit you - and the world - literally, to the end of days.

What a lesson!! The work is not over when a person leaves this world...they can affect generations because of the mark they left! Look at our brother Shalom a"h and see how much good came to the world and how many zechusim he is accumulating! So many people have changed and became better after he was niftar!! Our life is not over when we die, we have to remember that while we are alive, we can set an example for others, cause others to change and then the zechusim from their mitzvos become ours forever!!

* Chazal bring that the reason Lot was saved from Sedom was because he remained silent and did not disclose anything to the Mitzri’im when they were told that Sara was Avrohom Avinu’s sister. While this silence by Lot is admirable, it would seem that he had much greater zechusim to save him than this one act of silence. Had he not just taken in guests at the risk of his own life, was he not willing to jeopardize the welfare of his own family members so as not to violate the trust placed in him by his guests...and had he not just baked Matzos in celebration of Pesach?! Why do we have to go back so long, to such a seemingly insignificant event as simply not disclosing Sara’s additional relationship with Avrohom to the wicked authorities? HaRav Aharon answers that we learn from here how much more important it is in the eyes of Hashem if your act or deed is an expression of your own thoughts and efforts - your self-developed “madreiga atzmis” - a level that you have reached or attained by yourself, rather than simply acting in a certain (even good) way because you are used to it, because your parents did it, or because you are fortunately in that kind of environment. This point, HaRav Aharon continues, is incredibly true, even if the habitual or customary item is truly much greater-and even if it involves actual mesirus nefesh-in its performance. Lot’s hachnosas orchim was par for the course, expected, and ordinary-in spite of the adversity and danger, because it was something that simply had to be done and get done. Developing your own area or areas of growth in Avodas Hashem is especially treasured by Hashem. Putting it in further perspective-in Lot’s case-and B’ezras Hashem in ours-it actually planted the seeds for Moshiach. Tread new ground, develop your own new path beyond that which you are used to and is expected of you-for this is your best measure of greatness!

We see many people who are "naturally" good in certain areas and other people who struggle to excel in the same area. Remember what is truly precious to Hashem - when you work on something and climb up the spiritual ladder it is MUCH greater than if it comes easy to you! So when you feel how hard it is and have a challenge, remember, your actions are worth so much more than someone for whom it is an easy thing to overcome!!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My Personal Yetzias Mitzrayim - Part 3 (Conclusion)

In Israel I became closely connected to many caring and incredible people. I felt that their encouragement was genuine and they really believed in me. My mentors guided me patiently and showered me with love. They gave me the ability to love life, the Torah and most importantly, Hashem.

One incident that inspired me was when I was at the Kosel, and I noticed how people were pouring their hearts out to Hashem at the wall. This wall seemed like any other, and I wondered what made it so different that the people kissed it and cried to it with all their emotion. Every type of person would place a written note into the wall. I was so puzzled about what I had observed.

As I was inching my way up to the Kosel, I felt a rush of emotions inside my neshama. Although words cannot describe the feeling, Hashem suddenly opened up my heart and I began to feel an overwhelming connection pulling me toward Him, encouraging me to speak to Him. I felt a very strong pull and I, too, wanted to cry out to the wall. I did not know what overcame me, but I ran over to the wall as if I was meeting a friend I had not seen in years. And then I started crying and shaking as I kissed the Kosel with all my heart.

I felt Hashem pulling me to come and talk to him. I knew in my heart that Hashem was real. From that moment I told myself that I was ready to be Hashem's child and be closely connected to him. I had found the most loving father who was always ready to hear from me; I just had to invite him in. I knew I had found my way home, but that it would be a long journey to reach my destination.

For the first time in my life, I wanted to daven and reach out to Hashem. I felt a change slowly coming over me, and my heart began to unclog. I allowed myself to reach out, and I saw Hashem responding. When my boarding mother contacted me and said that she was experiencing a high-risk pregnancy, my reaction was to run to the Kosel on her behalf. Hashem answered my Tefilos, and she had a great nes; although she gave birth prematurely, the baby did not have any crucial complications. Hashem really showed me how he is always ready to help me I just have to come and ask him.

Once, the Aim Bayis of my seminary, took our class on a trip to the Flower Caves. When we were deep inside one of the caves, we could not believe the intensity of the darkness, especially since we did not come equipped with flashlights. We were screaming in fright, and it seemed to take us hours to find our way out. On the bus ride home, my Aim Bayis sat down near me, and we discussed the terrifying darkness we had experienced. She told me that if a person used his eyes in the wrong way and looked at things that he shouldn't see, he might have to return to this world as a blind person, groping in the darkness, in order to correct his misdeed. This conversation had a profound effect on me, and I started to think about a person's responsibility for his actions. "I can't just act the way I want. I will eventually have to answer for my behavior."

Yet, I could not simply escape the lure of the Yetzer Hara, nor could I extinguish the overpowering enticement to escape into a dreamy world of amusement and bliss. I felt my heart being tugged in opposite directions, and my mind was in a constant quandary.

Before leaving Eretz Yisroel, I wanted to daven and ask Hashem to support and guide me in my quest for autonomy and acceptance. I hired a sheirut to drive me to Har Hamenuchos, where I poured out my heart at the kever of my great-aunt. Then I went to the kever of the Chidah which was nearby, and continued to plead for Hashem's assistance. My heart felt like it would burst, and a waterfall of tears flowed from my eyes. Despite my intense emotions, I felt relief; it was as if a gigantic boulder had been lifted from on top of me. I was now ready to return to the States, equipped with these Tefillos and the knowledge that Hashem would surely remain standing alongside me throughout my ordeal.

When I returned after my year in seminary, I was able to leave go of my anger, and replace it with a calmer composure. It was a slow process and a daily challenge to overcome the temptations that I continued to encounter at every junction. I had to reject the attempts by my boyfriends to rekindle our relationship. I realized that my old friends were not the understanding, caring people I had thought them to be. I needed to search for a new group of friends, but I did not know how to begin. I was still too fragile; I did not yet have the stamina to overcome all these complex issues.

My parents felt I needed to solidify my Emunah, and build upon the foundation that had been laid in Eretz Yisroel. I went out-of-town to attend a second year of seminary, where I grew in ruchnius and developed a yearning for Torah and kedusha. I came home for Yomim Tovim, felt I could connect comfortably with my family and developed new friendships. I felt that I had been blind before, and now I had a pair of glasses that enabled me to see. I used these glasses to gradually and painstakingly find my path in life.

When I reflect back to my teenage years, I wonder why I felt so confused and out of control. What triggered me to become so bewildered, and why did I become entangled in a world of obscurity? One explanation, I believe, is that Hashem prepared me so that today I am able to help teens at risk, since I understand their emotional pain and identify with them in their search to find contentment.

Based on my challenging experiences, I rebuilt my life, using the past as a strong foundation for my future. I have a clearer perception of the struggles others are battling, and I am able to encourage and inspire them in a positive and loving way. I channel my kochos toward reaching out to students in kiruv schools, and speaking at special events and Shabbatons. I act as a mentor to girls who are seeking to find themselves and strengthen their connection to Hashem.

That’s the end of my story. The parts that you got to read – well, that was originally written up to be published somewhere but it never happened. So instead, I decided to share it with all of you. There are other parts and details to my story that were not written here and I do hope at some point to share some of it with you. One thing I did see is that Hashem is with you every step of your life, even when you feel so lost and so alone!! And now, I am able to help teenagers who feel hopeless and confused because of what I went through!!!

I would love to hear what you thought of my story and how you this inspired you...

Monday, November 16, 2009

My Personal Yetzias Mitzrayim - Part 2

Thank you everyone for your comments and feedback!! I really appreciate each one! Here is a continuation of my story...

I hated everyone around me, because I thought that they, too, were looking to find fault with everything I did. My clothes were criticized, because I did not look like a Bais Yaakov girl. I felt rejected, unwanted and unloved. Yet, I built a protective wall around myself, not allowing anyone to communicate with me. I was unreachable, yet I wanted so badly for someone to reach out to me.

I was very unhappy, and extremely confused. Every morning I would ask myself, "Why am I alive? I'd be better off dead! Who needs a life filled with anger, hate and pain? I can't trust anyone, especially those spies who watch what I do and then report to my parents!"

I was known as the messed-up bum who was impossible to deal with. I hated myself because I caused myself so much pain, and I hurt my family so terribly. I turned away from my family, even when they were trying to understand me. I couldn't confide in the people I had once respected, and neither could I trust my parents. I would come home from school, escape into my room, and talk on the phone all night with my new group of friends.

I was angry at Hashem, and I stopped davening. I did whatever I wanted, and I thought that now I would be happy. Boy, was I wrong! I had chosen a place that looked like fun, but in reality it was the scariest place I could be. It was a place where the Yetzer Hara and the Satan resided, succeeding in imprisoning me in their entanglement. I felt more lost than ever, and very alone.

The school I attended was obviously not the right place for me. After being bounced around from school to school and feeling like I was a misfit among society, my parents finally tried high schools in other states. In eleventh grade, my parents met with the principal of an out-of-town school. The principal agreed to accept me out of pity for my parents, but I did not fit in with the girls at all. They were super-religious; I was running away from that. Again I felt like I didn't belong, even though the girls were exceptionally welcoming. They tried to make me feel included, but I had no interest in them at all. When they came to visit me, I had my boarding family tell them I had gone out. I refused to communicate with them.

At one point, my parents intercepted a letter I had sent to my best friend. Based on the contents of the letter, both parents banned us from contacting one another, whether via telephone or letter. However, of course I found ways to circumvent these restrictions. I lied whenever she called, and pretended her name was Malka. My boarding mother once listened into my telephone conversation, and heard me speaking to my best friend. She came upstairs and shouted at me, "You lied to me!" She had these piercing blue eyes that made me want to die from fright. She did not have to say one more word; I was mortified and embarrassed. My world was shattered! There was no one for me to confide in, and I felt that no one understood me. Even the therapist who I was talking to despaired of helping me, and said to my mother, "I can't work with your daughter. She is too angry. I never had such a difficult case. I can't seem to make any inroads with her, and it is pointless to continue."

I didn't want to hear anything about religion and Hash-m, because it seemed so absurd and illogical to me; I was repulsed by it. When my classmates would daven, I would whisper radio songs to myself. Instead of writing notes, I would write letters to my old friends. I refused to allow anything of Kedusha to penetrate the wall I had built around me.

I also spurned the attempts of my sister who was in Israel for a year of seminary, when she tried to reach out to me with sensitivity and concern. When she called and wanted to share a story of Hashgacha Pratis that had happened to her, I defiantly threw the phone away and refused to listen. She did not give up, but sent a huge Mishloach Monos canister from Eretz Yisroel, with a poster inside. The yellow flowers on the poster had two faces in the center, with a quote that read, "Sisters are nature's intended friends, and I'm glad you're mine." I was floored, and thought, "After all the nasty things I did, you still think I'm worth something?!" (This poster meant so much to me that I saved it, and still have it today among my sentimental possessions.)

A new year, my last year in high school, found me without anywhere to go. I felt I was an unwanted failure of a girl. My parents begged the principal of another out-of-town school, but to no avail. Finally, my parents asked a Gadol Hador, Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky, to intercede and speak on our behalf. Rav Shmuel was so caring, and he convinced the principal to admit me, even though the school year had already begun.

It was during this last year of high school that I started to feel hopeful. This school was more open-minded, and more tolerant. My boarding mother had grown up irreligious, and I was able to relate to her. She loved Hashem, and spoke to him openly. This taught me that there might be a way out of all my turmoil.

My sister had returned from Israel, and she took a special interest in trying to show me love and acceptance. She introduced me to one of her closest friends who tried to encourage me with stories of people who did teshuva and changed. After three hours of speaking to me, I turned to her and said, "Why are you talking to me, you're wasting your time? Everything you are saying is going in one ear and out the other. There's no point, I'm not changing."

She looked at me and replied, "Chaya Sara, one day you will be in my place, and you will be able to inspire and change others." I gaped and responded, "Are you nuts?! You don't make any sense. It will never happen to me!" I thought her comment was senseless and bizarre.

My sister and her friend kept in touch with me on a constant basis, and simply would not give up hope. They showered me with presents, sent cards, and had long conversations with me over the phone. Little did I realize that their intention was to purposely keep me busy all night, so that I could not contact my boyfriends. Their warmth and genuine, unconditional love began to permeate into my heart and made a slight impression. I never dreamed that they would succeed in convincing me to write a letter to my boyfriend and break up our relationship.

Just as I felt things were looking up for me in both my new home and my new school, it was time to apply for seminary. I was ready to move on, but again not one school accepted me. I was bad; I was a most unwanted reject. No amount of begging and cajoling could sway any director towards accepting me. There was no hope for me and no place for me to go. I felt worthless.

I secretly decided to try my sister's advice, and I opened my Siddur to daven to Hash-m with all my heart. That day, my mother scanned the newspaper and saw an ad for Project YES. We set up an appointment with Rabbi Mechanic, who promised me that he would not leave me stranded. He and Rabbi Goldwasser worked tirelessly to help me get into a seminary in Israel. And finally in November, I flew off to Israel with great excitement and anticipation.

To be continued...
Please let me know what you think of my story and how you can grow from it...

Friday, November 13, 2009

everyone has huge challenges to overcome... This is my personal Yitzias Mitzrayim

Ninth grade was the beginning of my whirlwind; so many confusing thoughts inundated my mind. I began to wonder about my purpose in life, why I should follow the path of Torah, and my belief in Hash-m was wavering. I was thinking and observing the world around me, and questioning my religious lifestyle.

Then it came, with a force so strong I could not refute it. A false accusation was hurled at me by my high school principal, and it hit me like an avalanche. "We know where you were yesterday. Don't try to deny it. We know what you were doing."

I was just a frightened teen, who wanted so much to be trusted and understood. But here I was in the principal's office, being charged with a crime I never committed.

"Yea, right, just shopping at the mall," the principal's voice reverberated in my ears. "That's all you were doing there."

"I really was. I was only shopping, I promise," I pleaded. "Why won't you believe me?"

"You were hanging out with boys, and at the movies. Go ahead, admit it," he snarled at me.

No matter what I said, my words were interpreted as proof that I was guilty. My tears were misconstrued as admission that I was a liar,and a girl who did not deserve to be in such an elite high school.

These words became my self-fulfilled prophecy. I became all those things, as I embarked on a downward spiral that led me into the depths of a nightmarish pit, from which I could not extract myself.

I felt that if everyone looked down at me and I was not trusted, then why not do whatever I wanted. I tried to convince myself that it was so much more exciting to misbehave and be a part of the other crowd. Together we partied until the wee hours of the morning. We spoke using inappropriate language, and dressed as we pleased. I was accepted by this group without any questions, and turned to them for succor.

On the first night of Chanukah, while my family was sitting around the table playing dreidel, I decided to take my own "spin." I announced that I was going off to the JCC to exercise. After I left, my mother sent my sister to spy on my whereabouts. She came back home and reported that I had turned up the block in the opposite direction, and had definitely not gone to the JCC.

I paid no heed to the agony I was causing my family, nor did I care that I had disrupted the Chanukah atmosphere. Instead of going to the JCC, I went out to the movies with some guys, where I could enjoy a night of fantasy and pleasure. On the way home, I asked them to drop me off at the JCC, since I felt the need to placate that inner voice in my heart which made me feel guilty for lying and cheating. I called my parents from the JCC's pay phone to tell them that I was coming home. They insinuated that something was amiss with my claim of having been at the JCC all night.

When I came home, I was attacked with a barrage of questions about where I had been. My parents had not only sent my sister to spy on me and see where I was going, they had also called the JCC to ascertain if I had been there. I knew I had gotten myself into a huge mess, but still refused to acknowledge the truth. I kept denying their accusations, and claimed that I had gone to pick up a friend of mine and that we went there together.

I used many different tactics to cover up and escape to my other world. I would pretend that I had a "babysitting job," while in truth I had arranged to meet with some guys. Sometimes we went to the movies, other times we went out to shoot pool, and often we just hung out in a nearby park.

One night, when I really did have a babysitting job, I thought of a great idea. No one would suspect anything, and I could invite some boys over to join me. The guys and I were enthralled with each other's company, and were not cognizant of the raucous we were creating. We were absorbed in our rowdy conversation, and were oblivious to the cries of the baby. All the other little kids were woken up, and they came traipsing into the dining room. They were bewildered by the sight that greeted them, and innocently asked me, "Who are those guys sitting on the couch?" I had to quickly think of something plausible, and blurted out, "They're my cousins. Don't we look alike?!"

The next morning, an infuriated Mrs. Klein phoned my mother, and alleged that I was guilty of intolerable behavior while babysitting. My mother was mortified with what she heard, and tried to appease Mrs. Klein. Then she immediately hastened over to pick me up from school, and took me out for brunch. While trying to conceal her anguish, my mother discussed this issue with me, but I vehemently denied it all. I said that a neighbor's son had knocked on the door to ask for some bread, and that Mrs. Klein misinterpreted what her children had said. I was convinced that my mother believed me, but inside I felt dispirited; I knew I had lied.

To be continued... Please let me know what this does for you, how it inspires you...
Because whoever does not know, this is my own real true story of finding Hashem....