Tuesday, August 31, 2010


This video is sooo painful to watch!!!!!!
I jst feel that this is the realest lesson that we could learn about what this galus is!!!
We feel so far away from hashem and hashem wants us back soooo badly all he wants us to say, "Hashem i want you back in my life!!!" hashem misses us more than we could ever imagine hashem never ever leaves us he thinks about us all the time but we forget abt him!! pls wake up this rosh hashana!!!! its literally a few days away!! pls think about what your last yr was like, it was all planned on Rosh Hashana pls just tell hashem that you are sorry for all the pain you caused him and tell him what you did and then hashem will show you how much he forgives you!!!
pls share with us any comments that you gained from this movie clip since its really powerful!!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Prepare for Rosh Hashana-Two Videos

Here are some videos you can watch to help you prepare for Rosh Hashana - watch them and use some free time to really think about the awesome day that is coming up! Your whole year is going to be decided on this day!!!! Every little bit of it!!! So when you watch these videos, think about all that happened this past year and how it is up to YOU to make this year a special one!!

Please pass this message on to your friends and tell them to come and watch these inspiring and moving videos!!!!!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Parshas Ki Savo-What a Lesson!

Thank you to my amazing sister-in-law Shira who is back from seminary and wrote up this beautiful dvar torah for this weeks parsha. I'm posting it here with her permission.

This weeks
parsha, Parshas Ki Savo, has a lot to do with what's going on in our lives. Hashem commands us about bikkurim, that we have to bring the first of our produce to the Beis Hamidkash, so to speak "giving it back" to Hashem. But Hashem's no Indian giver. He's teaching us a huge lesson. Its like a reality check. Yeah, you may have plowed and sowed, and threshed and saddled up your cows BUT ITS NOT YOURS. Every single thing that we have in our lives down to your toes was given to you as a gift. Hashem gives us halachos to remember that nothing is ours. Everything is borrowed.

If you think about it, its unsettling. Your ego doesn't let you accept this. That all of your accomplishments, everything you ever bought with your own money, all of those shiny new
seforim you have, we're all provided for you by Someone Else. Yeah, you did the hishtadlus. But at the end of the day its really all about Who enabled you to do everything you've done.

Many of us are dealing with making major decisions in our lives. We are figuring out where to go after seminary. We all have this drive to be successful, to make something of ourselves, to satisfy that need to feel accomplished. We're all worrying about similar things, trying to work things out on our own, asking for help, and davening our hearts out. We all need so much from Hashem.

When you bow in shemoneh esrei, when you recognize that really everything comes from G-d, its supposed to create a feeling of humility. When we bow, were laying that karbon on the mizbeach, putting those bikkurim before Hashem, showing Him that really its not me, its You. Hashem, You gave me this to use. Help me dedicate this, willfully, honestly, and wholeheartedly to You. Please provide for me what I need because really, I can't do this myself. Its all You.

So often in our lives, we
daven for things and they come to us. Hashem continuously shows us how much He loves us, and we continuously forget how we felt when we davened so hard for something and we got it. Because now we have it, and now we want more stuff. I don't know, maybe its just me, but I think its a common problem. Being human, we forget the intense feeling of relief and happiness that we felt when our prayers were answered. We forget how grateful we felt, and how close we were to Hashem at that moment, when we felt the intensity of His love and care for us. When we're going through something really difficult, its really hard to feel that love. Our hearts rebel as we let frustration and hurt take over us, and we allow negative thoughts to seep in, our yetzer hara in disguise. Hashem gives, Hashem takes, and Hashem gives again. All out of love. Don't think but this time its different. Even when everything is going wrong, hold on to that foundation of faith that you built throughout your life and make it rock solid. Remember how Hashem saved you, and gave to you, and worked things out for you, and keep reminding yourself over and over of every single thing. Look back at every good memory. And cry. It really works.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Urgent Recall Notice

Here's a great email my friend sent to me.


Regardless of make or year, all units known as "HUMAN BEINGS" are being recalled by the Manufacturer. This is due to a malfunction in the original prototype units code named "Adam" and "Eve" resulting in the reproduction of the same defect in all subsequent units. This defect is technically termed, "Serious Internal Non-morality," but more commonly known as "SIN."
Some of the symptoms of the SIN defect:

[a] Loss of direction
[b] Lack of peace and joy
[c] Depression
[d] Foul vocal emissions
[e] Selfishness
[f] Ingratitude
[g] Fearfulness
[h] Rebellion
[i] Jealousy

The Manufacturer is providing factory authorized repair service free of charge to correct the SIN defect.

The Repair Technician, G-d, has most generously offered to bear the entire burden of the staggering cost of these repairs. To repeat, there is no fee required. The number to call for repair in all areas is: P-R-A-Y-E-R.

Once connected please upload the burden of SIN through the REPENTANCE procedure. Next, download ATONEMENT from the Repair Technician, G-d, into the heart component of the human unit. No matter how big or small the SIN defect is, G-d will replace it with:

[a] Love
[b] Joy
[c] Peace
[d] Kindness
[e] Goodness
[f] Faithfulness
[g] Gentleness
[h] Patience
[I] Self-control

Please see the operating manual, TORAH, for further details on the use of these fixes. As an added upgrade, the Manufacturer has made available to all repaired units a facility enabling direct monitoring and assistance from the resident Maintenance Technician, G-d . Repaired units need only make Him welcome and He will take up residence on the premises.

WARNING: Continuing to operate a human being unit without corrections voids the Manufacturer's warranty, exposing the unit to dangers and problems too numerous to list.

Thank you for your immediate attention.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Teshuva - Don't Give Up

This was posted last year but I think it's a very important message and good to reread.

Now that we are in Elul and it's a time for all of us to do teshuva, I feel that there is something very important to remember.

There are so many areas in which we can all improve. I don't know if there is anyone who can say that they feel that Elul is here and they don't know what to work on.

If you need some ideas, here they are - working on anger, patience, respecting your parents and people older than you, shmiras halashon, judging favorably, saying brachos with kavannah, tefillah, noticing Hashem in your life more, thanking Hashem, complimenting others, spending time wisely = not wasting time, jealously and the list goes on and on...

Anyway, what I wanted to point out is that when a person tries to work on something and then feels like that specific thing they chose to fix is becoming soo much harder to do, here's what you can think of.

Here's the mashal: When someone is walking down the street holding a bag of garbage, he doesn't have to think for a minute that someone will rob him and try to steal his dirty bag. But when someone is holding a bag full of diamonds, he has to be careful with it and make sure that no one steal it! The robber wont bother chasing the guy who is on his way to throw out his garbage but he will look out for someone carrying those diamonds and jewels.

It works the same way with the yetzer hara - whenever he sees that you have something valuable to gain, that's precisely when he will go and "chase you" and make it hard for you to succeed! Only because he knows that you have something really great at the end, if he loses, that's when he goes and makes it hard for you! That's when it's worth the fight for him!
So when you are trying to work on something and that specific thing gets hard for you (like, you are working sooo hard on talking respectfully to your parents, why is it that today you feel this massive urge to answer back?!), just remember that the yetzer hara is putting up a fight because he sees that you will get major zechusim if you win!

So keep trying - especially when it's hard for you, because know that when you win, you will be on top and your reward is even greater than all the diamonds and jewels!!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Working on Middos

At times, you may have to deal with people who are different than you. It can be difficult and it can be frustrating but the most important thing to remind yourself is that you have to let it pass and not let it get to you. Tell yourself that Hashem put you in this situation so that you can work on refining your middos and become more tolerant of others.

Every person has their quirks and the things that make them tick. It may be hard to deal with people who are not exactly like you and do things differently than the way you are used to. But by telling yourself over and over again that Hashem is giving you an opportunity to work on yourself you will grow from the experience instead of just becoming annoyed.

Every person has positive qualities. So if someone is doing something that bothers you, a good way to deal with it is look out for the good – notice the things you like about them or the things they are good at so that you can get past the things that make you frustrated.

When someone does something and you cannot understand why, try to be dan l’kaf zechus. There are so many reasons why someone would do something that at first glance makes no sense or why they would not be able to do a favor for you. Think of a time when you were in a similar situation and think of what the reasons were that you did what you did.

I heard a great way to excel in this area – judging favorably. If you would be in the same situation, what excuse would you come up with for yourself to explain why that happened?

We are all so good at excusing ourselves. When we do something that looks wrong, we have so many ways to explain our actions. When someone asks us to do a favor for them, we come up with so many reasons why we couldn’t. I was too tired. I didn’t realize what you meant. It was a misunderstanding. I was busy. I was on the phone. I didn’t hear your message. I totally heard wrong! I thought you said you wanted me to…I was away. I was sleeping. I was preoccupied with something else. I needed to relax and couldn’t jump up and run to help you right when you asked.

We have so many ways to say the (almost) same thing! It just wasn’t a good time for me.

So why is it that when someone tells you they can’t do it does it bother you so much? She’s also human! She is also allowed to have her reasons for not being available at the exact second that you needed her!

Come up with excuses for your friends when they do things that are not the way you wanted them to be. Slowly, you will become an expert at judging them favorably. This will help eliminate stress and disappointment and a lot of arguments can be avoided.

Now’s the time to work on polishing our middos until they shine!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Teshuva - A Poem

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

Hashem gave us all a very special gift,
And with it each neshama can get a lift,
It has awesome powers and teshuva is its name,
And without it our lives just wouldn’t be the same.

I have the ability to get rid of my aveiros from the past,
And even turn them into mitzvos that forever will last,
But of course I must make sure to do it right,
The three step process will turn darkness to light.

Because my neshama is a diamond shining so strong,
And it gets darker each time I do something wrong.
So the first thing to do to make it shine once again,
Is to verbalize and say, “I’ve sinned against Hashem.”

I must specify the aveiros I did, say them all out,
Hashem hears when I say them, there’s no need to shout
Just by saying them all, one by one,
The first step of the teshuva process is already done.

The next step is charata, to sincerely feel in my heart,
That the aveiros I’ve done made me move far apart,
From my Father in Heaven who loves me so
He gives and gives and never says no.

How could I be so ungrateful and do the wrong thing?!
He does so much for me, He’s my father and my king,
I feel so embarrassed to have done what I did,
And I hope to improve this year and become a better yid.

Feeling bad for what I’ve done is step number two,
And in the third step I must be earnest and true,
I will do everything I can to make sure,
That I will not repeat these aveiros anymore.

I will try to figure out what was the cause,
Of my feeling of carelessness to Hashem’s precious laws.
Yes now is the time to work on planning ahead,
And through this my aveiros will turn into mitzvos instead.

For there is nothing in the world that could be greater,
Than when someone does teshuva out of love for his creator,
So let us all grab the chance while Elul is still here,
And through doing teshuva may we all have a beautiful year!

May you have a year full of every kind of beracha,
And may you always feel content and always be b’simcha,
May you be able to serve Hashem with all your heart and soul,
And may we meet in Yerushalayim, the Jewish nation as one whole!!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Practical Tips During Elul - Part 2

Question: We are in Elul and I know I should be doing teshuva and improving myself. I understand that we are in a special time and could probably even write a bunch of divrie torah on the topic too! But since the summer started I've kind of been in this slump and haven't really been working so much on myself. Its not like I'm short on what to work on, I know there are things I would like to change. I was hoping that by the time Elul rolled around I would have gotten out of it but now its Elul and im still feeling this way. Do you have any ideas on how to get out of it?

Click here to read the first part of my answer.

Let's just say you need to work on helping your mother the first time she asks. The first thing you have to do is be aware of the fact that this is what you need to fix. Then, come up with some sort of plan-what will you tell yourself to feel motivated to help her when she asks you the first time and not just push it off? You know what makes you tick and what the right thing you need to tell yourself is. Ask Hashem to help you - especially when it's hard. Tell Him how you feel and how difficult it is and how you really want to listen the first time. Then, at the end of your day, check yourself and count your wins. If you were able to overcome this challenge even once a day, you are moving in the right direction.

Or let's say you know that you always end up stumbling in lashon hara when you shmooze with your friends on the phone. It's very hard to stop because it is so tempting! So the way to correct that is with baby steps. Catch yourself once a day so that you are aware that you stumbled. Once you notice that you did it, you will be able to work on correcting it. Then, talk to Hashem and tell Him how you feel - that you really don't want to do it but it's so hard! Ask Him to help you stop speaking negatively about other people. Think of ways you can stop yourself from speaking Lashon Hara - either by cutting your conversations short, switching topics, trying once a day to ignore a phone call if you know that person is someone who might make you stumble.
And remember, count your wins! Don't be discouraged if you keep falling - the yetzer hara wants you to give up so he makes you focus on the times you didn't accomplish so you'll stop trying! Every time you DO overcome, every time you don't give in, you are climbing higher!! That's what you need to focus on.

Let's say you know that you need to work on time management. You spend so much time online or just not doing anything and you wish you can feel that you were more productive by the time the day was done. So being aware of this issue, knowing that it's something you need to work on is the first step. Then you need to brainstorm, think of what you can do to make sure you don't waste so much time during your day. Maybe you can give yourself a time limit - an amount of time you will spend on the computer and then you will get off - and set an alarm when the time is up so you know you have to stop. If you have too much free time because it is the summer and you aren't so busy, maybe you can think of ways to keep busy.

Listen to a shiur on the phone (Kol Halashon has a TON of shiurim to keep you inspired and uplifted! Their number is 718-906-6400.) or online (like
Torah Anytime or Simple To Remember). Read a book or learn something together with a friend every day or once a week at a specific time. Sign up for Partners in Torah so you can teach someone who wants to learn more about Judaism.
Ask Hashem to help you use your time in a productive fashion. Tell Him that you want to feel accomplished and use your time wisely. At the end of the day, look back and see how your day went and if you did something that made you feel good about how you spent your time. And remember, count those wins! That is what will help you move forward the next day - by noticing that the day before you were able to do it.

I only gave you a few examples but I'm sure you can use these suggestions for other things that you need to work on.
Try to use this equation and "plug it in" to whatever you need to work on.
Be aware of what you need to work on.
Notice when you stumble so you know what makes you fall.
Think of ways to fix it - see what "talks to you" to help you get out of it.
Talk to Hashem about how you feel and ask Him to help you correct your mistakes.
Count your wins so you don't get discouraged and you keep climbing.

I know it's hard. It's going to take work. Change doesn't happen on it's own. That's what Elul is all about - you have to think about what you need to do and then be active about what you want to fix.

I hope this helps you!

Practical Tips During Elul - Part 1

Someone emailed this question to me. After responding to her, I realized that so many people are probably thinking the same thing so I decided to post it here (with her permission, of course). I'm putting this here in two separate posts so it's not too long to read at once.

Question: We are in Elul and I know I should be doing teshuva and improving myself. I understand that we are in a special time and could probably even write a bunch of divrie torah on the topic too! But since the summer started I've kind of been in this slump and haven't really been working so much on myself. Its not like I'm short on what to work on, I know there are things I would like to change. I was hoping that by the time Elul rolled around I would have gotten out of it but now its Elul and im still feeling this way. Do you have any ideas on how to get out of it?

Answer: Thanks for your question-I think it's a very important one and a question that many other people have. It's so special of you to ask this - it shows that you really care about your spiritual growth and don't want to just let Elul slip by too quickly! You want to take advantage of this special time and really accomplish!

What you have to keep in mind is that it's not going to happen automatically. It would be nice if when Elul came around each and every one of us would suddenly shift gears and be in "teshuva mode" and just start changing. But it doesn't work that way at all! It takes thought, time and work. Even if you know you have to work on certain things (don't we all have things we have to work on?), the only way for change to happen is with work!

So where do you begin?

The good thing is, you know it's Elul and you know that you have things to work on. So that's already a start. Now you have to move on to the active part of turning the changes you want to see in yourself into a reality. One thing to do is to take baby steps. Do things slowly. Slow change lasts. When you do things too quickly (too much too fast), it can become overwhelming and then you will end up slipping back (possibly lower than when you started because it gives you a feeling of hopelessness and then you end up giving up) and that's not good.

Pick something you know you are good at and work on improving it one little bit.
You have a friendly personality? Greet people with a smile. Engage in conversation with somoeone. Cheer up the people you are around.
You are able to write well? Write out something inspiring email it to your friends.
You have free time on your hands and love old people? Visit them in the hospital or nursing home once a week.
Any talent or quality that you do have can be built upon and improved so that you become better in that area.

Then, look at the thing(s) you know you need to work on. You need to really be into it - think about it every single day at a certain time and come up with a plan on how you are going to fix yourself. Tell yourself that once a day, you want to make sure you don't stumble in that area.
It's hard for me to be specific when I don't have real examples that relate to you, but I can try to give you some of my own examples.

Click here to continue on to part 2.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

How Far?

Sometimes you go through something and then you just say, "Hashem, how much more do you think I can do? How far do I really have to stretch myself? Isn't it enough already?"

If you were able to hear Hashem respond to you, you'd probably hear Him say, "My dear child, my precious child, I love you so much and I have only the best things in mind for you. I know that what you are going through right now is hard and you feel like it's too much but through this you will come out a better person - and that's what you were put into this world for, to perfect yourself and refine your character. So yes, it may feel like a lot for you right now but I know you can do it!"

When things are tough and you feel like it's just too much for you to do, feel Hashem encouraging you along the way. Let these words enter your heart: Hashem loves me. Say it again and again until it penetrates. Keep reminding yourself, tell yourself, He knows what's best for me.

Hashem created you. He knows you better than anyone else because He knows what makes you tick, what is too much and exactly how much you can handle. What you are going through now is perfectly designed for your personal growth. You can fly! You can soar!

You have to keep telling yourself that you CAN do it and you WILL. Try to take it slow. Face your challenges with a smile even when it's hard. Tell yourself that you will be happy no matter what. You will come through, you will persevere, you will go higher. That smile that you wear on your face, even if you don't really feel happy will eventually make you happy.

Like they say, fake it till you make it. Just keep that smile plastered onto your face and eventually you will start to realize that no matter what you are going through you have so many reasons to be happy!

Count how many things from this list you have and think about how fortunate you are to have them!

  • A pair of eyes that work and help you see where you walk each day.
  • Two ears that can hear music, conversation, noise.
  • A brain that understands and comprehends.
  • Ten fingers that can type, grab hold of things, touch.
  • A mouth with a tongue and teeth that can taste and eat all the delicious foods there are.
  • A digestive system that works properly so you can go to the bathroom on your own.
  • Two feet that walk or run.
  • A house to live in.
  • Air conditioning in the summer and heating in the winter.
  • Washing machine and dryer to keep your clothes clean.
  • A school/camp to go to or a job to keep you busy and help you earn a living.
  • Money for necessities or luxuries.
  • Life itself.

When you think of the things you have that cannot be bought with money, you will realize how lucky you are to have them! Hashem gives you so many gifts on a constant basis - all He wants you to do is say thank you!

So when things are difficult and you are not sure where to turn, think about the things you have that you should thank Hashem for. Remember that He knows just what you need to help you become a better person - all the pain He puts you through is for a purpose. Perhaps it's so you can understand and help other people who go through similar tests in life and become more sensitive to their needs. Maybe you need to work perfecting on a certain middah and it can only be done if you are in the situation you were put into.

There are many reasons why Hashem puts people through hardships. You may never know the exact reason why you had to experience something. But what you do know is that Hashem has a good reason for every single thing He does even if you don't see it right now. Whatever you experience is for the ultimate good of your neshama. Hashem loves you and only wants the best for you!

May you always feel happy and content knowing that you have the most Loving Father taking care of you!

The Doctor

This poem was written by Chaim Bashevkin and was in the Yated last year. I think it has an incredible and powerful message. Enjoy!

The doctor's office
Cloaked in dread
A somber spirit looms
Fills each one of the rooms

The tears are clearly
The husband and the wife
Is there anything
That we can do
That may just save his life?

"I'm sorry,"
Said the doctor
"There's nothing I can do
I wish there was
Some miracle
That I can offer you"

They both left the room
And shuffled back on home
When suddenly
A ring was heard
Coming from the phone

The doctor
Found a protocol!
He said it's guaranteed!
And so the couple
Rushed back in
With superhuman speed

"It may take
Too much effort"
The doctor did explain
"And nausea and tiredness
And often lots of pain"

"Of course! Of course!
We shall comply
If this can bring the cure!
No task you ask
Is beyond us
We're positive! We're sure!

"We'll wake up
Before dawn each day
We'll follow protocol
We'll listen to
Each word you say
We'll miss nothing at all!

"We'll read instructions
We will not skip a word
We won't ignore
A thing you say
For that would be absurd!

We'll watch our actions
We'll eat just what prescribed
We'll study what
The doctor said
And every word transcribed

For somehow when
We know "it works"
No treatment is a pain
We'd follow
Every therapy
With zest and not complain

Imagine that the doctor
Who truly holds the key
Would tell us the prescription
To true eternity

We'd wake up hours
Before dawn
And reach each slichah slowly
We'd open up
Our eyes and ears
To only items holy

We'd follow
Shaarie Teshuvah
Like a sacred guide to cure
If we believed
In every word
If we were really sure

Would it be hard?
To learn some more
And give more charity?
Recite each bracha
Loud and clear
And bentch with clarity?

If we'd believe
The doctor said
That this would work for sure
We'd follow
Every protocol
Not treat it like a chore

We're in the Elul hospital
The prognosis
Is grim
They said that there
May not be hope
To save our life and limb

And suddenly
The Doctor gave the cure
Prescribed it
And He promised us
Recovery for sure

Bud suddenly
We're tired
We'd like to fall asleep
Not listen
When the shofar sounds
And not wake up and weep

If only
The Almighty
Would wear a nice white coat
And come in
With a stethoscope
On every word we'd dote

So wake up
My dear readers
Let's follow the prescription
And I'm sure
Health and happiness
Will be our great inscription

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Women, Elul and the Shofar

I was just wondering about this specific question and then read the answer in today's Hakhel post! I wanted to share it with all of you.

"The Gematria of Elul (67) is the same as the Gematria of binah (67), understanding - for when one acquires sufficient understanding, he will be moved to do Teshuva."

With this awareness, we can perhaps suggest the answer to a question which may initially trouble many women. (This was the question I was just thinking about this morning!!)

Why is it that men have the benefit of the Shofar being blown every weekday morning in Elul to awaken them to the special times while women davening at home have no such fearful reminder? We may propose that the Shofar is intended to instill the binah, the understanding in a person to recognize his position and situation and do Teshuvah. Women, on the other hand, are blessed with a binah yeseira - a special level of binah, which jump starts them without the actual need of the Tekias Shofar every morning.

Indeed, Binah's sharing of the same gematria as Elul, may indicate to us that women are on a heightened level of awareness the entire year!

In a similar vein, the Yarmulke which men must wear to remind themselves to subjugate themselves to their Creator is not worn by women because though their added level of binah - they are already Yarei Malka - they are a step ahead in the fear of their Creator. The Shofar, then, is the great equalizer - we all have a little over three weeks to get the job done - let's really succeed this year!

I think it is amazing that when you have a question and really want to know the answer, Hashem will send it your way! It was as if Hashem was giving me a little message that if I want to find answers, He will help me get them!

Another thing for us to focus on is that we should find ways to arouse ourselves to teshuva, even if we do not go to shul every morning and hear the shofar. Women have a special intuition that allows us to be in touch with our emotions and the unique time that we are in and we do not need the daily shofar blowing as a reminder to wake up!

Monday, August 16, 2010


Chain Reaction

Here are two meshalim that have a very good lesson. You may have heard them before, you may have not. But the lesson is so important.

The Hole In The Boat

A man was called to the beach to paint a boat. He brought his paint and brushes and began to paint the boat a bright, new red, as he was hired to do. As he painted the boat, he noticed that the paint was seeping through the bottom of the boat. He realized that there was a leak, and he decided to mend it. When the painting was done, he collected his money for the job and went away.

The following day the owner of the boat came to the painter and presented him with a large check. The painter was surprised. "You have already paid me for painting the boat," he said.

"But this is not for the paint job. It is for mending the leak in the boat."

"That was so small a thing that I even did not want to charge you for it. Surely you are not paying me this huge amount for so small a thing?"

"My dear friend, you do not understand. Let me tell you what happened."

"When I asked you to paint the boat I had forgotten to mention to you about the leak. When the boat was nice and dry, my children took the boat and went fishing. When I found that they had gone out in the boat, I was frantic for I remembered that the boat had a leak! Imagine my relief and happiness when I saw them coming back safe and sound. I examined the boat and saw that you had repaired the leak. Now you see what you have done? You have saved the lives of my children! I haven't enough money to repay you for your 'little' good deed..."

A Piece of String

A wealthy merchant bought a wonderful candelabra for his home. It was a masterpiece, made of pure crystal and studded with precious stones. It cost a real fortune.

Because of the candelabra's massive size, the ceiling in the merchant's dining room could not support its weight. In order to hang this beautiful candelabrum, a hole was bored in the ceiling, through which a rope was run and fastened to a beam in the attic.

Everybody who came to the house admired the wonderful candelabra, and the merchant and his family were very proud of it.

One day a poor boy came begging for old clothes. He was told to go up to the attic, where their old clothes were stored, and to help himself to some. He went up to the attic, and collected a neat bundle of clothes. After packing them into his bag, he searched for a piece of string with which to tie it. He saw a rope wound around a nail and decided to help himself to a piece. So he took out his pocketknife and cut the rope.

Crash! There was a terrific smash, and the next moment the whole family rushed to the attic crying: "Look what you have done! You have ruined us!"

The poor boy could not understand what all the excitement was about. He said: "What do you mean, ruined you? All I did was to take a small piece of rope. Surely this did not ruin you?"

The merchant replied, "Yes, all you did was to take a piece of rope. But it so happened that my precious candelabra hung by it. Now you have broken it beyond repair!"

These two stories, have one moral: Very often, by doing what seems to us a "small" good deed we never know what wonderful thing we have really done. And conversely, in committing what seems to us a "small" transgression, we are causing a terrible catastrophe. Both good deeds and bad deeds cause a "chain reaction." One good deed brings another good deed in its succession, and one transgression brings another. Each of them, no matter how seemingly small, may create or destroy worlds.

Don't you think these two stories are worth remembering?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Milestone-Thank You!

I just want to thank each and every one of you for visiting this blog and continuing to read on a constant basis. It is only because there are people out there reading what I write that I continue to post things as often as I can. Today, this blog has reached a milestone of 10,000 visitors, people who want to learn more, grow and change. What a nachas ruach to Hashem, how much He must be smiling up there when He sees that His children want to do the right thing and what to become better!!

Think about how much my brother, Shalom a"h is smiling in
shamayim when he gets little present boxes of zechusim sent up to him so he can go higher and higher in gan eden! This is all from you, the readers, who are growing and gaining from this blog. The more you read and get inspired, the higher he goes! What a nechama!

It is a true inspiration to see that so many people are looking to grow and looking for ways to come closer to Hashem and I am so happy that I am able to help you along. I hope you all continue to gain from this blog and I am able to continue providing you with inspiration for a long, long time.

Thanks again for visiting and please keep coming back!

Focusing on Doing Good During Elul

What things should you do during Elul to make this month a productive and accomplishing month, so that you can look back at the end of the month and say, "Wow! I really changed!"?

The thing to focus on now is asay tov - doing good things before you focus on the sur may'ra - refraining from doing bad. This means that you should concentrate on doing all the good things you are doing each day and just add a little something to make it even better.
(From: Leket Reshimos on Elul - R' Nosson Meir Vachtfogel)

Here are some suggestions:

When it comes to davening, you can try to daven with a little bit more kavannah than usual. Look into your siddur. Say the words a drop slower than usual. Say them loud enough so that you can hear each word that you say. Sing a song that will inspire you before you start the next part.

If you are walking down the street or in the grocery store, look out for opportunities to help other people. Hold the door open for others on your way in and out. Offer to help someone find a specific item. Smile at the woman ringing up your purchases. Help someone carry their bags to the car. Put your shopping cart back where it belongs. Do these things with a smile.

Help your mother out cheerfully. Ask her what she needs before she asks you. Or better yet, do it without being asked. Be extra kind to your siblings. Speak softly even when they are getting you annoyed.

Walk into work every day for the next week (or more, if that's possible) with a smile. Say good morning with a happy tone of voice and facial expression to your coworkers. Try to be extra pleasant when talking on the phone to clients and take the extra moment to think about them and what you can do to help them in the best way possible.

Before you eat a meal, be it breakfast, lunch or supper, look at the food you are about to eat and thank Hashem in your heart for giving you so much bounty-so many choices of foods, so many colors and tastes. Then, after you thought about it for a minute, go ahead and make the proper bracha. Putting those extra seconds of thought into it just before you eat your meal can help you have real kavannah when you make a bracha.

On your way out of the bathroom, think for a minute about how lucky you are to be able to go by yourself, without the help of anyone, without needing machines hooked up to your body. The fact that your body works so well on it's own is a real, true miracle! So take those extra 20 seconds to say the words of
asher yatzar slowly and carefully!!

Before you leave your house in the morning, look in the mirror and ask yourself
do I look good? What does good mean? YOU and only you can define that word.
Are you neat and put together? Are you walking outside and making a kiddush Hashem with the way you dress, the way you walk and the way you talk?

Throughout your day, look out for ways to do little things - little things that will make a big difference in the lives of other people and in your own life. Now that we are in Elul, it is time for you to focus on being proactive, on doing as many positive mitzvos as possible so that you can tip the scales in your favor. Hashem is here! He is close to us! He wants to give us all the brachos and good things!

It's up to you to make it happen. By concentrating on how you can improve the things you are doing one little notch, one level higher, you can make this year a good one.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Your Personal Gift of Time

We have so much time during the day
Are you one of those who lets it waste away
Or do you try to take advantage and say
I'd like to accomplish come what may

Time slips by so quietly yet so very fast
Before you know it a few hours have passed
Make each moment eternal, make it last
By grabbing each opportunity that flies past

There is so much you can do to use it well
With a smile you can answer the ringing doorbell
Thank your mother for supper when delicious it does smell
Offer to help someone if you notice they fell

When you wake up in the morning
And the alarm clock so loudly does ring
Praise to the One Above you should sing
"Modeh Ani" you say to your Father, your King

While a healthy breakfast you do eat
It shouldn't be too difficult a feat
To have extra concentration for your treat
By mouthing the words while you sit in your seat

On your way to work or school or camp
Think thankful thoughts, soon you'll be a champ
It will lift your spirits instead of being damp
Appreciate all you have - you'll shine brighter than a lamp

Wherever you go, try to greet people with a smile
It will surely be worth your while
When walking down the grocery aisle
Or bumping into a parent or child

To try to have a happy face
Because you are in a public place
People want to see you react with grace
They enjoy pleasant people no matter their race

While you stop with someone to schmooze
Or at the store buying new shoes
Having positive facial cues
Can uplift someone who has the blues

If during the day you do find
Boring thoughts occupying your mind
Think of ways you can be kind
Spread goodness and warmth to mankind

Think of how you can help someone out
I'm sure they'll appreciate it without a doubt
Instead of getting annoyed or having to pout
A great big thank you to you they'll shout

If you try to think of how you can
Always come up with a plan
To use your time wisely - be a man
Do the best you possibly can

You will feel better about who you are
You will be able to go very far
Aiming higher and reaching for the stars
Improving your middos so they're up to par

There's so much more that you can do
Think about it-you know it's true
So spend some time thinking how YOU
Can improve and come closer to HaKadosh Baruch Hu

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Always Watching

We are now right at the start of Chodesh Elul. It’s the beginning of a big month, a month that we all hope to fill with change and growth. Change does not happen on it’s own – it’s something that requires work, time, thought and effort.

I learned that the Jewish calendar year can be compared to a spiral staircase – although we have the same yomim tovim every year, we are (hopefully) climbing higher and higher every time we reach that point in the calendar. The year goes in a circle and we come to the same spot again every year but we hope that this year we are at a higher level than we were on last year.

It is a very big challenge to keep climbing and going higher. It can be compared to standing on an escalator that is going downward. If you do not make sure to step up, you will automatically be going downwards. It's a climb! But it is definitely worth it when you reach the top.

One way to make sure you utilize the time during Elul to the fullest is by thinking shivisi Hashem l'negdi samid - (I always have Hashem before me) as many times as you can throughout your day. This pasuk is so powerful and can change the way you act at any moment.

For example, if you think about this pasuk on your way to work/school/camp activity, you can try to come up with ways to bring Hashem into your day more. If you are about to make a bracha, this can help enhance your kavannah. Thinking about it can cause you to refrain from negative speech because if you remember that Hashem is watching you, you will not want to do the wrong thing! When you are faced with a decision and are unsure what to do and this thought comes to mind, it will surely help you gain more clarity.

Give yourself a time during the day when you will think about it - at least once. It can be while you eat breakfast or lunch, before you check your emails or even while you are on the phone with someone. You can let this pasuk go through your mind when you have some quiet time in middle of your day.

There is a famous story about the Chofetz Chaim who had hired a wagon driver to take him somewhere. While they were passing a farm, the driver abruptly stopped the wagon and climbed down in order to steal something from the farmer. He left the Chofetz Chaim in the wagon as a lookout. As the driver embarked on his mission, the Chofetz Chaim called out: "He's looking!" The driver raced back to the wagon, spurred the horses to a vigorous gallop and made his getaway, the Chofetz Chaim in tow.

When they had gotten a safe distance away, the wagon driver turned to the Chofetz Chaim and asked, "Who was it that saw me?" The Chofetz Chaim gestured upwards and said, "He sees everything."

Yes, we all know Hashem is always watching us and sees everything we do.
But how can we make it more real to us?

By thinking about this pasuk, shivisi Hashem l'negdi samid more often during the course of your day, you will be more aware of Hashem's presence in your life. This will help you think twice before you act and help you make the right choices - positive choices.


Inspiration gained from this post should be a zechus for the
aliyas neshama of my friend's mother, Ruchama Rivka Sondra bas R' Yechiel whose forth yartzheit is tonight and tomorrow, Beis Elul. May we soon be reunited with the coming of Moshiach and techiyas hameisim!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Rosh Chodesh Elul

Here's a link to last year's post on Rosh Chodesh Elul.

There is so much to accomplish this month-may you all be able to have a meaningful and productive Elul so you come into - and out of - the yomim nora'im clean and pure!

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Fox and The Vineyard

Tonight is Rosh Chodesh Elul. We are about to enter a very important time in the hebrew calendar, a time of closeness and connection to Hashem. Think about how lucky you are to have an opportunity to come back to your Loving Father! He gives you so many chances to come close to Him and show Him that you really want to do the right thing-by thinking about what you have done and how you want to become better.

There's an amazing mashal I want to share with you.

A fox passed a vineyard full of delicious grapes and wanted to eat some of them. However, there was a fence enclosing the vineyard that blocked him from going in. He did notice that there was a small hole in the fence and if he would fast for three days, he would be able to squeeze in and eat the grapes. So that is what he did.

After three days, the fox was skinny enough to make his way through the hole. He feasted and enjoyed all the grapes in the vineyard and when he was ready to leave he realized that he would not be able to get out because he ate too much and gained too much weight! So once again, he fasted for three days and only then was he able to get out of the vineyard.

The fox then realized that he did not gain anything from the vineyard because he left the same way he had gone in. We have to ask ourselves the same question-will we leave the world the same way we went in or will we have things that have true value to take along with us. Elul is a time to ask ourselves these questions - what are we taking with us into the new year? What mitzvos and good deeds do we have to show for ourselves?

Each one of us is put into this world and there are so many temptations and things that look exciting - but we have to remember that we are in this world for a purpose, not just for the materialism and we need to focus on the things that last.

This past shabbos, I heard a continuation of this mashal.

There was a smart fox who watched what the first fox had done and said to himself, "I will not be a fool like this one." And here is what he did. After fasting three days so he could get through the hole in the fence, he ate and enjoyed the grapes. In the meantime, he threw a whole bunch of grapes over the fence so that when he gets out of the vineyard, he will have more grapes to eat. So even though he had to fast to get out, he thought ahead and saved for the future.

The woman who I heard this mashal from gave an interesting twist on the nimshal.

Elul is coming. It's a hard month but it is a very rich month. There is so much to gain from what comes after it-the yomim nora'im, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Succos. Some people are like the first fox and they leave the yomim tovim the same way they came in. The day after yom tov you wouldn't even know that they experienced such awesome days. However, if you want to be like the smart fox, you need to throw the grapes over the fence, you need to prepare properly and think ahead so that you will come out of these days enriched and a better person.

Elul is a very big month. There is so much to gain and so much to achieve. Now that we are entering such a crucial time in our calendar, it is up to us to use our time well and take advantage of the closeness we have with Hashem.

Let's think ahead so that we use each day to the fullest so that when we come out of Elul, we can say that we didn't just eat the grapes but we saved some for later - so that we can take the inspiration we get from Elul and the yomim tovim that come after it and come out a truly changed and better person!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Never Too Busy

Tefillah is something we try to do every day. Some people have time to daven with a siddur every day and others simply daven in their own words.

How can we add some more excitement to our davening?
One important thing to do is recognize what an amazing opportunity we have to be able to daven to Hashem and speak to Him at any given moment. He is always available for us and never too busy!

A Jew was seen davening with exuberant joy and enormous ecstasy in the back of the shul. No one knew who he was and people assumed that he must be a visiting tzaddik who understood the depth of meaning and mystical association of each word in the siddur.

After davening, the Rabbi welcomed him as befits a personage of distinction. “No, Rabbi,” he said, “I am but an ignorant tailor who can hardly pronounce the siddur correctly.”

“But,” the Rabbi asked, “How do you experience such enormous kavanah and simcha shel mitzvah?”

He replied, “I feel overflowing happiness in the realization that my station in life so low that no one bothers or has time to listen to me. I said “Good morning” to Reb Shmuel, the banker, in the street this morning and he didn’t turn to acknowledge my existence. I stopped Reb Dovid, the judge, to tell him something. He told me to make an appointment with his secretary. Even here in shul, the shamesh doesn’t know my Hebrew name so he doesn’t give me an Aliyah. No one bothers to take note of me.

“But when I wrap the talis around me and recite the words of the siddur, “Baruch Atta…,” addressing the King of Kings of the Universe, I have the assurance that He is listening to me. Reb Shmuel, Reb Dovid, and the shamesh wouldn’t bother with me but the Melech Ha-olam, the Sovereign and Creator of the Universe hears my prayers, should I not feel most privileged and fulfilled with ecstatic joy? This is the source of my exuberance."

This is what you should realize when you open your siddur to daven! You don’t have to make an appointment to speak to Hashem; He is always ready and listening to whatever you have to say. Thinking about this for a moment before you open your siddur to daven will add a feeling of excitement and joy to your tefillah.

If you are someone who doesn’t have the time to take out a siddur, or anyone else who takes advantage and speaks to Hashem throughout your day, this realization should have a special meaning to you. At any time during the day or night, you can talk to Hashem in your own words. If something is bothering you or something good happened, take the time to talk to your Loving Father! Tell Him how you feel! You are not interrupting Him – ever! He is not on the phone, in a meeting, in middle of texting a friend or checking His emails. :-)

How lucky we are to have the opportunity to talk to Hashem at any time!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Building Patience

I wanted to share an incredible lesson that can be learned from Pirkei Avos of last week.

Chazal teach (Avos 5:2) that there were ten generations between Adom HaRishon and Noach in order for us to understand the degree of Hashem’s Erech Apayim, Hashem’s patience - for ten generations acted wickedly before Hashem brought the Mabul to the world. The very next Mishna (5:3) then continues that there were ten generations from Noach to Avrohom Avinu so that we could, once again, see the degree of Hashem’s patience, in forestalling taking a Mabul-kind of action against the people until Avrohom Avinu came and single-handedly saved the world.

There is a profound lesson to be derived from the juxtaposition of these two Mishnayos.
If we see Hashem’s great patience in forbearing punishment for ten generations before bringing the flood, why do we need to hear about His forestalling for the same number of generations the second time as well? What does it add for us?

The answer provides us with a significant instruction for daily life.

Even if one has worked very hard at controlling himself, at building his patience, at being calm and not angered, there may come a time with respect to a particular person or event in which he fails to restrain himself, and lets out his frustration on a particular person or the people around him. Once this has occurred, one can well rationalize that his Middah of Erech Apayim can (and perhaps even should!) in the future be compromised as to that person or those people - for, after all, he has already tried to be complacent and accepting, tolerant and calm with them, and his attempt at composure and equanimity had failed because the conduct or the situation could simply be tolerated no longer.

Such could be the rationale of an employer vis-à-vis a particular employee, a husband regarding his wife (or vice versa), a parent with his child, a customer with her cleaning help or her customer service representative, or between two students, two neighbors or two friends.

The Mishna in Avos, however, has us appreciate how Hashem Himself dealt with a very similar situation. After ten generations of waiting, Hashem had to bring a flood on the world to allow the world to start again rather than self-destruct forever. If, however, after the flood the people reverted in some way to evil again, one would think they would have only a generation’s chance or two, but ten generations again?! They had already proven themselves to be undeserving, ungracious and intolerable. There was no need to exhibit patience and control to the same degree the second time as the first time! After all, this was a repeat offender!

No, says Hashem, whose Middos it is our life’s goal to emulate, one’s patience is not peeled away and worn thin because of a past history, frustration, exasperating annoyance, an irritating personality or irksome manner. Rather, the same ten generation wait the first time must be true the second time as well. The prize for the Erech Apayim - for the unrelenting perseverance, for not succumbing to all the evil perpetrated by him or her, them or they, was Avrohom Avinu who saved not only his generation but the world and world history forever.

It is no coincidence (as it never is) that this lesson appears and reverberates particularly at this time of year, when we must bone-up on our ability to be Ma’avir on our Middos - to overcome the situations and events, personalities and people who or which have proven themselves to be difficult, thorny, trying , exasperating and even infuriating. Even if the Mabul did come, Hashem teaches us that we must start again at generation one the next time around as well. Impatience does not gets accelerated, and composure must reign, just as it did the first time!

Perhaps the ten generations are the source for the advice to count to ten before saying something that you may regret, taking action that is usually not part of your personality or otherwise losing your mental processes, poise or self-control. Try starting by giving everyone a second chance this week (if you have to start somewhere, start with family) for by having done so, you will have given yourself a second chance as well!

Taken from today's Hakhel post.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Don't Give Up

The Vilna Gaon gave a mashal that can be applied to many areas of Avodas Hashem.

Once there was a girl in the marketplace selling apples.

Some thieves came and started stealing apples.

She just sat and gaped at them.

Someone came over and said, "Don't just stare, Stop them!"

She said "Why should I? They're just continuing and doing it anyway."

"Don't be foolish" she was told "Save whatever you can!"

The same is when we are trying to daven and we didn't manage to have Kavanah for some parts of the Tefillah. We shouldn't give up; we should instead at least save whatever we can!

If you are in middle of davening and realized that you already said so much of it without any thought, at least grab on to whatever you still have-whatever is still left of your tefillah.

If you are in middle of bentching and spaced out a little, continue wherever you are up to with some extra thought and concentration! It's never too late-as long as you are still in middle you can have kavannah and think about the words you still have left to say!

The same is with anything we are working on, even if we fall a little, the key is to not despair, but rather to still hold on to whatever we do have and build on it more and more!