Friday, May 28, 2010

Speaking Carefully & Davening for Others

There are many lessons we can learn from the incident mentioned in this weeks parsha, Parshas Beha'aloscha - the story of Miriam getting tzara'as.

Just to backtrack, Miriam spoke about her own brother, her brother that she loved (Moshe) and only spoke to one person (Aharon) and didn't say anything mean or bad. All she did was equate him with the other nevi'im. This was not harmful to him in any way and nobody else knew about what she said. Yet, she still got tzara'as.

We learn from here how careful we have to be with the way we speak. It is so easy to speak negatively about other people. How about if we tried to become more aware of the things we say so we can make sure that every day we say at least one positive thing about or to someone. It can be a compliment directly to that person or you can tell someone about how another person did something nice to help you out. Speaking positively will surely make this world a better and happier place!

We can take a lesson from the fact that Moshe davened for her. He said to Hashem, "Ana kel na refa na la" - Hashem, please heal her now. He kept his tefillah short because the entire Jewish Nation was waiting to continue traveling through the desert. According to the Or HaChaim, Moshe’s tefillah was answered immediately and Miriam was healed of her tzara'as although she still had to remain separate from the rest of the camp.

We see from here how important it is to daven for other people. We all know individuals who are going through hard times. Who knows what the extra tefillah can do to help bring their yeshuah one step closer? This will also make you into a more caring and sensitive person. Thinking beyond yourself and your needs helps you get rid of the selfishness inside of you.

If we felt closely connected to others and really cared about them, we would have them in mind in our tefillos more often.

Rabbi Shalom Shwadron frequently relates the following incident to illustrate how different a person will react when he really feels someone’s suffering.

A little boy was playing in front of Rabbi Shwadron’s house in Jerusalem. The child fell, and received a nasty cut. Hearing the child’s cries, Rabbi Shwadron ran outside, put a towel over the cut, and rushed over with the boy to the home of a doctor who lived nearby. As he was running, an elderly lady noticed his concern and distress and thinking it was one of Rabbi Shwadron’s children, called out, "Don’t worry, don’t worry. G-d will help."

It so happened that the boy was the woman’s grandson. Rabbi Shwadron was curious to see her reaction when she would realize the child’s identity. Sure enough, as soon as she realized that it was her own grandson, she stopped saying, "Don’t worry," and started screaming at the top of her lungs, "My Meir! My Meir!" while neighbors tried to calm her down.

When someone else’s child is involved, you might detachedly say, "Don’t worry"; but when your own child is involved, you’ll shout.

(Heard from Rabbi Shalom Shwadron, quoted in Love Your Neighbor, p. 129)

Let us take a lesson from this weeks parsha and speak more positively about others. And next time you daven, try to have someone else in mind. So many people need yeshuos! And always remember, Hashem can do ANYTHING!!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Dress to be Blessed
What is the dream of every Jewish girl?
To find the best chosson in the world.
Oh, how you daven day and night!
That torah should be his real delight.
Your dream can come true.
It’s all up to you.
If you are careful, with the way you dress and speak,
You can be zoche to reach the mountain's peak.
The reward for this mitzvah is so great,
Let us all stop and appreciate.
That Hashem repays one thousand times,
It is really true, it's not for the rhymes!

You will be zoche to have children who love Hashem,
And who light up the world to those around them.
They will have great middos that truly shine.
This comes from a mother who is careful all the time.
From illness and sickness you will be protected.
In addition, your heartfelt tefillos will be accepted.
Hashem will bentch you with riches and wealth,
This mitzvah will truly improve your health.

Techiyas Hameisim may seem so far away in your eyes,
But let me tell you, you'll be in for a surprise.
The sweat, from the times you covered your skin,
Hashem will pour it over your body and techiyas hameisim will begin.
Your face will have an everlasting glow,
This is something important you should know.

You will feel confident and respected,
As long as with as smile, this mitzvah you perfected.
You will feel Hashem in everything you do,

Especially, when things are confusing or hard for you.
The ultimate geula, we all are waiting for,
There is so much that Hashem has for us in store.
In whose zechus will we get to greet?
Moshiach ben David who we are longing to meet.

All these brachos sound too good to be true,
Is it possible to have them all happen to you?
You may know people who are as careful as can be,
Yet they do not get all this- it’s clear to see!
We must remember that Hashem has His plans,
Although at times we may not understand.
Even though right now you do not see the fruits of your labor,
We know for certain Hashem will save it for later.
Everything is calculated perfectly,
Whatever happens, is for your good ultimately.
We know for certain that by upgrading ourselves in this mitzvah,
We are holding in all the bracha,
We surely will be rewarded with tremendous hatzlacha!
Written by: Devoiry Saull
(Taken from Daughters of Dignity)

Happy First Birthday SB!

Tomorrow, yud daled sivan, is Shalom Baruch's first birthday. It is a big day for me and it's exciting too!

It is amazing for me to look back and see how much he has grown and changed since he was born. He came into this world as an innocent and precious little child, unable to do anything but cry and look around. He didn't know anything about the world. A newborn baby is like cement-it is up to you to shape them. Everything you say to them will affect them. It is such a responsibility to have a tiny little child, a precious neshama, to take care of.

A baby is totally dependant on his parents to take care of him. And within one year, he learns so much. He learned to smile, babble, play with toys, crawl, eat real food, stand and so much more. There is so much that we can learn from little kids and especially from babies.

Shalom Baruch (or SB) is now learning how to walk. It is unbelievable to watch his determination while he is trying it out. He takes his walking toy and holds on to it while he takes a few steps and then...plop! He falls onto the floor. But does he start to cry and give up right there? Nope! He picks himself up, laughs and tries again. Step, step, step, step, plop! And again. He just never gives up. Incredible! Like it says, "Sheva yipol tzaddkik v'kom" - a tzaddik falls seven times and still gets up. No matter how many times he falls, he does not despair, he keeps strong and tries again. How many falls does it take until we say, "that's it, I'm done trying?" and give up? Let us look at this little tzaddik and follow in his teeny footsteps! Remember, the only way he'd learn to walk is by trying again. If he were to give up, even after the tenth time, he would never learn. The fact that he keeps on going no matter how many times he falls is what makes him succeed and soon he will be walking like a pro! But it all starts from getting up after that plop!

Looking back at this past year, there is so much growth and change that SB experienced. In the beginning it was week-by-week and then it was month-by-month. First he learned how to smile, then roll from his stomach to his back, then from his back to his stomach, then he started to grab toys, he learned how to giggle, he started to crawl, he got his first tooth, he would stand while holding on to the couch, chair, a toy (or my skirt!), then he started to leave go and stand on his own. He's already starting to talk and say little things, like "hi" or "baby." (I'm still trying to teach him how to say "mommy" but that's another story!) What is interesting is that by little kids, you see so much change happening from one year to the next. I can't even compare where he was when he was born a year ago to what he is up to now.

And now you have to ask yoursef, how much do I change in a week? a month? a year? When you look back at where you were last year at this time and see where you are today, are you happy with what you see? What can you do to make sure that by the time you get to next year, you will be able to look back at this past year and say, "Wow, I feel so good about where I am now!"

I remember holding SB when he was still a newborn and looking into his pure little eyes while trying (unsuccessfully) to sing elokei neshama. The song I was singing had a very touching tune and I just could not get through the song without crying. It was so emotional to try to sing this song to such a pure little baby. I would think to myself, You are so young. So innocent. You don't know anything about the big world out there. And I wish you could stay this way. I was a baby like you too. We all started off this way. But what happened? What can I do to keep your innocence and purity so you always stay on the right path, always love Hashem and always want to do the right thing? And I was never able to get to the end of the song. I would sing and think along with the meaning of the words...tehorah hee-the neshama you placed inside of me is pure...v'ata meshamra b'kirbee-and you are watching it inside of me...v'ata asid litlah mimenee-and in the future you will take it away from me...u'lihachazira bee l'asid lavo-and at the end of time you will return it to me. Oh, Hashem, please let this child's neshama remain whole and pure and untainted. Let him live a full life...a happy life, a beautiful and fulfilling life. And I would cry and cry (if I even got to this part of the song). And Shalom Baruch would just look at me with his little eyes, blink, blink, blink and look around, unaware of my emotions.

We all started out this way!! Each and every one of us came into this world pure and without any aveiros. And while your neshama is still in your body remember that Hashem is watching over and protecting you at every moment of the day. Before you do something, before you read something, think for a second, "is this good for my neshama?" Will it bring me closer or farther away from Hashem?

Now that we are baruch Hashem approaching Shalom Baruch's very first birthday, there is so much more I want to say but just don't know how to say it. It is such a privelege and a big responsibility to be able to raise such an adorable little boy-who still is innocent and pure. I hope he is able to keep his purity for a long time and we are able to teach to do the right thing always.

We'll take brachos (and presents lol) anytime!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Rejection - Strengthen Your Emunah

Question: How do you take a rejection as something positive?
Is one to think that I am a no gooder, if someone does not want them?
How is one to channel their emotions in the right direction?

(This question was emailed to me a while ago, but I'm posting it now because I think many of you can gain from it. And to the person who originally asked this question, I edited the answer a bit so it's a drop different from when I responded to your email - so you can go ahead and reread it now.)

First of all, it is a very hard thing to be rejected, whether it is rejection from a school or seminary of your choice, a job or college, or a boy you were dating. I have no way of knowing what type of rejection you are talking about, but rejection in any form is hurtful and painful. So don't feel bad if you feel you need to cry and let out the painful emotions in whatever way works for you (writing, music, art, tears).

The first thing to remember is that if you were stronger in your emunah, you would firmly believe that this rejection is the best thing for you right now. Even if you don't understand how it is best for you, you would believe it and it wouldn't hurt you as much. So a good step to do is to work on strengthening your emunah. Remind yourself that Hashem loves you like a parent loves their child and like a friend loves a friend and like a husband and wife love each other. (There are many comparisons of Hashem's love towards us in Shir Hashirim - we are called Hashem's child, sister, friend, beloved...) Tell yourself again and again that whatever is happening to you is for your ultimate good and for the good of your neshama. The reason you were rejected - you don't know why it happened but you do know and should tell yourself that it is for a good reason, for your ultimate benefit. And when you do get to that point of reaching where you wanted to get to (again, I don't know what brought this question but it can be anything - getting into the right school/seminary, job/college or chosson(!) that you were waiting so long for), you will be able to look back and realize why whatever it is that you had wanted so badly was not good for you in the end!

I recommend reading a book on the topic of Emunah which will help you fill your heart with more emunah and trust in Hashem. It is important to remember that He loves you, cares about you and does everything for your good. He can do anything and wants to help you - you just need to turn to Him, talk to Him, tell Him how you feel and connect to Him in a more real and deep way.

Don't think of yourself as a "no gooder"! Every person has positive qualities and I'm sure you do to! If you were rejected, this is Hashem's way of telling you: This (school/seminary/job/college/boy) is not best for you! I have something much better in mind for you! This is a very big step but try to think of this rejection as a gift from Hashem. It is a beautifully wrapped package - and it is Hashem's way of telling you, "I love you!" because He is saving you from something that would not be good for you!! If it would be good for you, He would give it to you! And since it is NOT good, He doesn't want you to have it! It doesn't in any way mean you are no good - just the opposite! It shows that you are special and this place/person is just not for you! You are special, you are a treasure, you are Hashem's child and He loves you and only has the best things for you in mind!! By reminding yourself that the reason why you were rejected is because Hashem has something much better in store for you, you will be able to accept this test with love and realize that He is doing this only because He loves you more than anyone in the world!!!

We mention this concept in tehillim, perek chaf gimmel (23) when we say, Hashem Ro'ee - Hashem is my shephard. This means that Hashem takes care of us like a shephard watches over his sheep, making sure they have enough food and drink and constantly taking care of them. Then we go on to say,
Lo Echsar, I lack nothing. This means that you have whatever you need. And the most important thing to keep in mind is: IF YOU DON'T HAVE IT, YOU DON'T NEED IT. Hashem knows you best and knows exactly what you need. So if He thinks something is good for you, He will give it to you. And if He thinks it is not good for you, He will make sure to hold it back from you. But remember, everything that Hashem does is for your ultimate good. So even if you don't understand it right now, the situation you are in is best for you!

It is normal and okay to have emotions after experiencing rejection of any sort. It's okay to cry. It's okay to feel down and upset. It's normal to be hurt. But don't let these emotions overtake you. Instead, use these emotions to turn to Hashem and beg Him for your own personal yeshuah. Tell Him how much it hurts you. Talk to Him like a friend and let everything spill out. Hashem understands you better than anyone in the world because He created you and He knows how you work!! Try to channel your emotions towards your loving Father and use your feelings to come closer to Him. You will feel so much better after you speak your heart out to Him.

One other thing to keep in mind is that you are not alone. There are other people experiencing similar feelings of rejection. Daven for them too. Keep them in mind when you tell Hashem how you feel and beg Him to bring an end to the pain these other people are feeling too! And in the zechus of davening for others, may Hashem answer your tefillos and may He bring a yeshuah to all those who need it!!


Friday, May 21, 2010

Parshas Naso and the Shabbos After Shavuos

This week's Parsha speaks about the korbanos of the nesi'im. The torah lists every nasi and what korban he gave even though they each gave the exact same korban. We know that the torah is very careful with each letter and there is nothing extra there so why does the repitition? Why doesn't it just list the animals of the korbanos once and mention that all the nesi'im gave the same thing?

We can take a few lessons from the fact that the torah repeats the karbanos of each Nasi. Firstly, we see that Hashem values each person as an individual and that every person is special. Even though they were all the same, the torah specifies what each nasi gave to show us how important they were to Hashem. And we can take this lesson for ourselves as well. Each and every one of you is special and has value! Although you may look at other people around you and think that you are very much the same, remember that to Hashem, you are unique, you are an individual, you are special and you are valued!

Here is another beautiful message (quoted in R' Frand on the Parsha)

When the second nasi, Nesanel ben Tsuar, had to bring his korban, he decided to bring the exact same one as the nasi before him, Nachshon ben Aminadav. Nesanel wanted to avoid the conflict that would undoubtedly arise if he one-upped Nachson’s korban and brought more. In order to avoid any jealousy, resentment or competition he brought exactly the same korban. That idea must have appealed to Hashem because the Torah lists each korban of every shevet even though they were identical. Hashem showed his pleasure as well by allowing the korban yachid of the Nesi'im even on Shabbos, when only a korban tzibur is allowed. Why? Because these karbanos promoted a sense of community and harmony, so Hashem considered them to be just like a korban tzibbur. They had the public interest in mind.

We live in a world where people have a lot and sometimes feel the need to show off what they have. We should take a lesson from this and try to be modest int the way we present ourselves to others and try not to arouse jealousy and bad feelings of others through the good that we have. If Hashem blessed you with plenty, try to use it to serve Him better, give tzeddaka and help other people! If you make a fancy party or celebration, others feel that they must match or outdo your party. It is not fair to them to do that - it makes other people jealous and causes lots of unneeded stress. Instead, use the extra time, energy and money for other things-to help people who are not as fortunate as you and who could use the extra cash.

If you are able to go shopping and you have the money to buy yourself nice things, you don't have to show it off and make other people jealous. I have a secret for are not the only one who likes nice things! Everybody does! So when you buy a fancy new bag or get a new phone, it's okay to show your friends but make sure you are not boasting in a way that makes other people look at you enviously and want what you have. It can cause so much pain to other people who are not able to pay for such luxuries.

The reason for modesty in Judaism is not only to protect ourselves, it is to protect others. We determine what a Torah lifestyle and standard of living is and if we raise that standard, we’re inadvertently tempting others to follow suit whether or not they can afford to.

So let's take the lesson and keep our ostentatious behavior to a minimum and our Ahavas Yisrael to a maximum.

* * *

We are now at the shabbos after Shavuos. You can make this shabbos extra special by taking the lessons and messages from Shavuos into Shabbos and stay on that high. There is so much we can learn from our precious gift, the Torah. When you are able to take a lesson from the torah and apply it to your everyday life, you see and feel that the torah is eternal and that although it was written so many years ago, you can relate to it at all times. In every generation and at any given moment, you can learn something practical from the torah. This should help you appreciate how lucky you are to have such a special present and love it more and more-because we can live with it every single day!

Hope you are able to make this Shabbos extra special by thinking about how lucky you are to be part of such a wonderful nation and how fortunate you are to be given such a precious gift-the torah, whose lessons can be applied to any situation, at any time!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Shavuos Thoughts, Once Again

This was posted last year but I think the message is still powerful and you can gain from reading it again.

Here are some beautiful thoughts on Shavuos.

There is no ONE mitzvah that we do on Shavuos. On Pesach, we eat matzah and marror, on succos, we sit in the succah and shake lulav and esrog, on Rosh Hashana, we blow the shofar, etc…but on Shavuos, there is no specific mitzvah that we must do. The difference is, that on Shavuos, all we have to do is want to accept the Torah and that’s all! When Hashem went to all the nations, He asked them, “Do you want the Torah?” and they all answered no for various reasons, but the underlying reason was the same: they were not willing to change their lives around to live by the rules of the Torah. Esav cannot live without murdering and Yishmael cannot live without stealing. They cannot live without filling their desires and doing whatever they want. Hashem is waiting to hear each and every one of us say, “I WANT to accept the Torah today, I WANT to live a life of connection to you! I am willing to make real changes in my life to become closer to you and elevate my level of avodas Hashem!”
And on Shavuos, it is as if Hashem comes around again and asks each person, “Do you want My Torah?” Every person should ask themselves, “Do I want to accept the Torah???!!!”

We might think that when Bnei Yisroel said na’aseh v’nishma, they were saying, “Hashem, we are willing to accept Your Torah even if it’s bitter for us,” but NO! Bnei Yisroel said, “Hashem, even if the Torah is hard for us, chiko mamtakim, v’chulo machmdim, it is sooo sweet and so delicious!! We know that even if it’s hard for us, we are sure that in the end, it will be the sweetest thing in the world!”
For example, a Jew who is not frum looks at people who keep Shabbos as if they are in a prison and feels so bad for them. But once he gets to taste the beauty of Shabbos, and he realizes what you could do on Shabbos, he knows how lucky we are and doesn’t say that anymore!!!!
When Aharon Hakohen died with the misas neshika, (he died with a kiss from Hashem,) his brother Moshe asked him, “What do you see?”
Aharon answered, “I can’t describe it to you but all I can say is I wish I would have gotten here earlier.”
When you ask a ba’al teshuva what it’s like to keep Torah and mitzvos, he can tell you, I feel like I got a kiss from Hashem. I can’t describe it to you but all I can say is I wish I would have gotten here earlier!!
We have to realize how truly lucky we are to have the Torah, which teaches us how to live the best life in the world!!! Shavuos is the time to appreciate what we have and tell Hashem, I want to live with you!!
(R’ Shimshon Pincus zt”l)

Rabbi Milstein said that it’s very easy for us to list our five least favorite mitzvos, but if chas v’shalom, the goyim would not let us keep the mitzvos, (g’zeiras hashmad) which five mitzvos would be the hardest for us to give up?! Did we ever think about what our most favorite mitzvos are?! So tonight, when you lay down in bed, think about it! Think about which mitzvos you love and you would never want to give up for anything!! And realize how lucky we are to have the Torah and mitzvos as our guide of how to live!!

Shavuos is the time of the birth of Mashiach so may we all be zoche to greet Him THIS YEAR IN YERUSHALAYIM!!

May you all have a beautiful and inspiring Shavuos!!

Monday, May 17, 2010

What a Special Nation!

I wanted to share a few things with you that will help you feel so lucky to be part of the Jewish Nation. Thinking about these things now, right before Shavuos, will help enhance your appreciation for who you are and where you come from.

Just think for a moment about what a special nation we are part of. The Jewish people are constantly doing chessed for each other. Which other nation will you find stories such as these? If a Jew is stranded on the highway, he will be stopped by absolute stranger and offered help, a cell phone or a ride. After giving birth in the hospital, bikur cholim organizations come by with food and drinks. Neighbors bake cakes and cookies for each others simchos and are genuinely happy for one another. The amount of chessed in our community and in our nation is just astounding!

Take out a list of the gemachs that are out there and you will be blown away by the ideas that people come up with - just so they could help others out in a time of need!

Here's a small list of the table of contents of the Hakhel gemach list that I have:
  • Support Groups
  • Hotlines
  • Shidduchim
  • Service Gemachs
  • Bais Avel Gemachs
  • Medical Gemachss
  • Baby-items Gemachs
  • Children's Gemachs
  • Hachnosas Orchim and Food
  • Household Gemachs
  • Clothing Gemachs
  • Simcha Clothing Gemachs
  • Simcha Gemachs
  • Wedding Gemachs
  • Money Gemachs
  • Seforim and Lending Libraries

Now, this is just the table of contents!! Then you go through the pages and you are blown away by the many different things people offer - just so that they can help you out and make your life easier! Is this not special? Isn't this amazing?!

So you open to the next page just to get a teeny glimpse into how people so badly want to help. There's Chai Lifeline, Shomrim, Chaveirim, a shaitel wash and set gemach, a gemach for briefcases, bris outfits, car seats, purim costumes, shoes, clothing, wedding gowns, a video projector, linens, flower centerpieces and the list goes on and on. Think about it, you should feel so happy and so lucky to be part of such a wonderful nation who always wants to do for other people!!

And where does this idea of giving and helping come from? The torah, of course. We learn to follow the ways of Hashem and just like Hashem is always giving to us - our health, our families, our brains, food, clothing, gorgeous weather, we should also try to constantly give and give. And look at how the Jewish People have worked on this middah so well!

When you think about this small part of what makes our nation so special, you will feel so lucky and will want to emulate these amazing people too.

Another thing you can try to do to make your Shavuos more meaningful is try to learn something practical that will enhance your appreciation for the Torah. We are lucky that we live in a generation with so many books and seforim translated into many languages so all you have to do is buy the book, pick it up and read it! Go to Artscroll's website or to Feldheim's website and see how many books and seforim there are out there on any topic and on any level! You can be spoon-fed the inspiration, all you have to do is pick up the spiritual food, it's right there for you, and eat it - feed your soul!!

You can choose books on the topic of emunah, shabbos, pirkei avos, the parsha or inspirational stories about our gedolim. Find something that talks to you, that will inspire you. The choices are numerous and there's definitely something out there for everyone!

May you realize this yom tov what a treasure you have, how lucky you are to be part of the Jewish people and may you find ways to continue being inspired and uplifted! Remember, you are so lucky to be part of such a special nation and the fact that you are part of it makes you special too!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Preparing For Shavuos

Over shabbos, I read an amazing piece from R' Shimshon Pincus and I wanted to share it with you.

Shavuos is compared to the wedding between Hashem and Bnei Yisroel. On Pesach, we got engaged, sefira is a time to do the preparations and get ready for the wedding and Shavuos is the BIG DAY. Before a person gets married, they are not committed to the person they married. But once the chuppah is over, they are husband and wife and they promise to be faithful to one another.

There are three stages in shidduchim. The first one is the actual checking out and dating. At this point, both the boy and the girl have to agree to continue on. If the girl or the boy doesn't want it, there is no shidduch. The second part is the kinyan which again requires the absolute consent of both the boy and the girl. When he proposes, they are only engaged if she says "yes" and she will only get engaged if he asks her, "will you marry me?"!! They both must want it and agree that they want to get married. One they agree and they get married, they are bound to each other.

Pesach is the first part-Hashem wants to take us as a nation and we have to want to be close to Him. During sefira, we are engaged and getting ready for the grand wedding-Kaballas HaTorah! When we get to Shavuos, we reach a point where we say, "na'aseh v'nishma" and then we are bound to Hashem. Now there are two parts in our love and commitment in this marriage. The first one is "Anochi Hashem" and the second one is "Lo Yihiyeh Licha."

Anochi Hashem means that we are connected to Hashem like a husband and wife, with the love they have for each other. Lo Yihiyeh Licha means that we promise to be faithful and not do anything that will disconnect ourselves from Hashem. We are making an agreement with Hashem that we will continue to keep the Torah and not do things that make us stray from it. We will try our best, our hardest, to stay close to Him by doing the mitzvos and we will stay far away from things that distance us from Him.

We are now during the sheloshes yimei hagbalah, the three days before Shavuos that are meant to be used in preparation for the big day, the day that we are getting married to Hashem. We have to think about where we stand, where we are going and what we want this marriage to look like. How can we make sure this will be a relationship that will last? We have to look at what we are busy with and think, are we doing things that help us get closer to Hashem?

We need to build our love for Hashem by thinking and thanking Him for all the good things He continually does for us. How often do we notice the many brachos we are blessed with? Do we constantly thank Hashem for our health? Our families? Our friends? The many different foods and bounty we are so lucky to have?

We need to remain faithful to Hashem by getting rid of the things that distance ourselves from Him. Is the music you are listening to, the things that you read and watch, are they helping you get closer to Him or are they making you move further away?

These are important questions to ask yourself before Shavuos comes-during these next few days. This is how you can prepare for Kaballas HaTorah, by thinking about the things you do in your life and making decisions to focus upwards. Focus on the good you have and thank Hashem for it. Focus on the things you are doing and think about how you can make sure your actions bring you closer to Hashem!

May you all be able to prepare well for the big day...the grand wedding! And may it be a relationship that lasts forever!!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Shavuos - Why Was The Torah Given in The Desert?

One of the most popular questions raised regarding the Giving of the Torah, is why it was given in the desert.

HaRav Shimshon Pincus Z’tl, looks at the question from a different perspective. HaRav Pincus asks not why the Torah was actually given in the Midbar, but rather why the Torah was not given in Eretz Yisroel. After all, does not the very air of Eretz Yisroel itself make one wise? Wouldn’t the intense kedusha of Eretz Yisroel have a unique and special effect on those receiving the Torah?

HaRav Pincus answers that we must put the Giving of the Torah in its proper perspective. On Pesach, HaKadosh Baruch Hu chose us as his Kallah, as his bride. The Shidduch was made, and we celebrate our new relationship over Pesach. The days of Sefirah are the equivalent of the engagement period - between the Vort and the Chasuna itself. Shavuos is then, the Great Wedding, where Hashem came out to greet us as a Chosson steps forward to greet his Kallah. The period after Shavuos is the time in which the newfound relationship was to be firmly and eternally established.

We can now understand why the Torah had to be given in the desert. A Chosson and Kallah need time with each other, without any distractions whatsoever - not even holy or important ones - in order to form an eternal bond. Giving the Torah in Eretz Yisroel would be the equivalent of getting married in a kitchen, even if it was Glatt Kosher LeMehadrin! As soon as the Chupa was over, the Chosson would soon be learning how to use the Shabbos Clock, and the Kallah would start figuring out how to make cholent! Just as the Yichud room follows immediately after the Chupa so that the newlyweds can focus on each other and only on each other, so too, did we need our special time to be separated from everything else and unite with HaKadosh Baruch Hu.

In order to connect to Hashem, we have to disconnect from the world for a moment. We have to get rid of the distractions and things that hold us back from getting to know Him. The best place to do that is in the midbar-in the desert, where there are no iPods, cameras, videos, magazines, computers with internet! All these things can be major distractions and hold us back from connecting to Hashem so this is what the midbar comes to teach us-about being alone, just us and Hashem, nobody else!

We are now like the Chosson and Kallah less than a week before the Chupa. The anticipation, the last minute preparations, the prayers that everything goes right...but we must also remember that the goal to be achieved when Shavous arrives is not only the marvelous and incomparable moment of the Wedding itself, but also the raising of our own personal ever-special and eternally-lasting relationship that must follow, as expressed by the love that we have for Hashem, the improved way in which we study His Torah and the devoted manner and especially warm care in which we perform His Mitzvos!

We need to set aside some time during the day or during week and make it special and use it to connect to Hashem. Turn off the music, shut down the computer, don't look at your cell phone, stop texting (!), reading or whatever it is that you are doing and instead, use the time you have to show Hashem you want to connect to Him by doing something that will bring you closer to Him!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

What Matters Most...

I posted this once before but was asked to post it again for those of you who did not read it yet. I'm not sure how many people, when finding this blog, go back to the posts and read all of them from the beginning. Either way, rereading this can still have a powerful effect. Enjoy!

The first time the Torah mentions money is in Parshas Chaya Sara. The Torah writes about Avraham Avinu purchasing Me’oras Hamachpeila so he can bury his wife, Sarah. I think there is a very powerful lesson to take from here. This is a reminder for us – the Torah is telling us where money goes and that it does not accompany a person when they die!

Whenever we look around and we see different people going about their daily lives, it is very easy to become jealous. This person is pretty, this one dresses so well, she has a nice car, she is always buying new things and she is always happy. It may look like the people you see have a perfect life – problem free! But no! Nobody’s life is perfect! What you see is just on the outside and you have no clue what is really going on behind the makeup and behind the smile, behind the well-dressed person walking down the street. Everyone has their hardships. And although it is easy to become jealous because of what you see on the outside, remember what the Torah says about jealousy – kinas sofrim tarbeh chochmah, it is okay to be jealous of the deeds of a righteous person because then it will push you forward to become better too. So when you see someone who looks like she has the perfect life on the outside, remind yourself where all the money, clothes, jewelry and cars go – they are not here forever!

Instead, look around at the people you see and the way they act and try to see what you can learn from them! That will definitely take you further in life and then you will be happier because you will be using your eyes and heart to search for ways to become better, instead of looking at other people wishing you had the same!
And then, when you look back at how you spent your time, you will see that you have grown as a person, you have used all the chances you had to learn from others, grow and change for the better instead of eyeing what they have and wanting it too!!

Here is a beautiful video that illustrates this point:

What matters most is how you spend your dash, that teeny little line in between the from and to of a person’s life! It does not matter how much money you have, it does not matter how many things you have, what matters is the way you spend your time in this world!
So don't spend your time thinking about the things the people around you have, instead, notice the good things you see people do so you can learn from them and become better!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Happy 1st Birthday To Our Blog!

Candyland Birthday Cake

Happy Birthday to our blog! Today is our first birthday - a year ago this blog was born thanks to Chaya Sara Rabinowitz. She is the one who gave me the idea to help her get it started and she is the one who continues to give so much inspiration to every person she meets and to the world!

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of our readers out there. It is because of you that this blog has continued going because without each of you, there would be no reason for either me or Chaya Sara to keep posting inspirational things for you to read. It is the questions you ask that are the springboard for more posts, more inspiration, more growth and more knowledge. Each person who comes to read this blog is truly valued and appreciated for giving us a reason to continue writing.

I want to give each of you a bracha that your thirst for inspiration should never end. Hashem should bentch you with clarity to know, understand and appreciate the greatness of being a Jew. He should help you find the answers to all your questions in a way that satisfies you and makes you love and enjoy being a frum Jew.

You should live a healthy, long and productive life and find ways to improve your relationship with Hashem every day. You should be able to be a walking example to all those who see you of what it means to be a Jew.

And most of all, may you find true happiness and always remember that Yiddishkeit is so beautiful and you are so lucky to be part of such a special nation!

Looking forward to many more years of inspiration and growth b'ezras Hashem!