Thursday, December 30, 2010

Teshuva and Snow

Who writes about Teshuva in the middle of the winter? Isn't that something we only talk about during Elul - the month before Rosh Hashana?

The truth is,
teshuva is something we should be focusing on every day. I know it is emphasized very strongly in Elul but we mention forgiveness in shemona esrei every day in the bracha of selach lanu when we say, forgive us Hashem because we have sinned...

We all do aveiros. We all do things we shouldn't. Then we look back and feel bad. Guilty. Regret. And we wish we can wipe it all away. And luckily, we can! Hashem has given us the gift of
teshuva - the ability to start fresh and begin all over again.

Hashem says,
if your sins would be as red as scarlet, I'll cleanse you so it will be as white as snow. What is the connection between teshuva and snow - besides for that white, clean color?

When you watch someone shoveling snow from afar, it looks so easy. But when you try to do it on your own, you realize how much strength and energy it takes to make a path for people to walk on. It may be easy to tell other people to change, watch them do the wrong thing and criticize. It's so much simpler to tell the world exactly what is wrong but when it comes to changing yourself, now that's real work. Instead of judging other people and noticing the things they are doing that need to be changed, look at yourself and realize what you have to do to become better.

The longer you leave the snow on the ground without shoveling, the harder it gets to actually get rid of it because it becomes hard and icy. The longer you let that
aveirah stay in your heart, the harder it can get to work on it - because your heart becomes icy, hard like stone and when you get used to doing the wrong thing, it doesn't seem so bad anymore so you may not even think it's something you need to change. But if you notice right away that you did something you should not have and you talk to Hashem about it, you will have an easier time with the teshuva process.

Tell Hashem,
I'm sorry I did this. I know it's wrong. I wasted my time. I looked at, and listened to things I shouldn't have. I yelled. I got angry. I wasn't honest. I wasn't respectful to my parents/teachers. I said things I should never have said. The things I have done dirtied my neshama and I want to make it clean again. Please Hashem, help me overcome the temptation next time it arises! I cannot do it without your help!!

Also, when one person makes a path in the snow, they have now made it easier for everyone else to walk on that street/road. You will not know about all the people who have walked down that path after you shoveled, but you surely deserve to be rewarded for every person who benefited from your hard work. When you change for the better, other people are looking and you can influence them without even knowing about it. When you decide to do something because it's right or not to do something because it's wrong, you don't know who is watching you and how you can cause them to copy you (
If she can do it, so can I!)- and then the reward is yours to keep!

So take a lesson from the snow and try to focus on something that you can change now. You will feel cleansed after!!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tears for Tefillah

Sometimes you just get frustrated. It's a fact of life. Things don't always go the way you want them to go and you just feel lost. You try to hold back the tears but you can't. And you just start to cry.

It's not a bad thing to cry. It's actually healthy. It's a way to let your emotions out and you feel better after wards. But sometimes you are crying for things that in reality are petty. Little things. Or many little things that piled up and by the time the day is done you are spent and need to just get it all out of your system. It's not one big thing but many small things that went wrong and then one tiny little frustration was the straw that broke the camel's back.

Tears are very powerful. It says, "Sha'arei dema'os lo ninalu" - the gates of tears are never closed. When a person davens with their heart, with their emotions and their tears, their tefillos go straight up. So if the gates of tears are never closed, why are there gates in the first place?

Because sometimes a person cries for silly things. Petty things. Like at the end of a frustrating day. You just have to let your emotions out and you just cry. But shouldn't you take advantage of the power of tears and do something worthwhile with them?

So how about this. When you feel you need to cry for those annoying things that went wrong during your day, use that powerful opportunity for tefillah so you can bring about something really big. Instead of just letting those tears slide down your cheeks and disappear into thin air, let those tears travel the heavens...and accomplish something with them.

When you are annoyed and those tears are falling down your cheeks, take a moment to use those tears to daven for something you need. Or for someone you know who needs something. Or for the entire Jewish Nation who is waiting for our ultimate dream to come true!

Today, the straw broke my back (for the what number time this week?!). There are so many little annoyances that can come along with raising children. It's so normal. It only makes sense that a mother like me will start to cry. But while I was crying together with my baby, I thought to myself, why not use this opportunity to daven for her future? And that's what I did. For those two extra minutes, I hugged my daughter real tight and begged Hashem to give her a good life.

So although I hope for all of you never to have to shed a tear, I know it's only normal for the little things that go wrong on a regular day to take its toll on a person. And while you will be crying, take a moment to daven for something you are waiting for...because you never know which tefillah will make that yeshuah, that salvation you so desperately are waiting for finally happen.

I'm gonna run...I hear Chaya Gitty crying...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

When You Hear Good News

How should you react when you hear good news?

I know what we do when we hear that someone is sick. We quickly take out our tehillim and start davening, begging Hashem for a yeshuah, for a salvation. But what about when we hear that someone got engaged? Shouldn't that cause us to do the same? Shouldn't that make us run to our tehillim and start thanking Hashem for such an exciting simcha?!

Hashem wants us to turn to Him. He wants us to acknowledge Him. There are plenty of ways to get us to remember that He exists and He's the One running the show. If we open our tehillim as soon as we hear about a simcha, maybe, just maybe, He will not have to give us tzaros, hardships, painful moments to get us to turn to Him.

When you hear that someone had a baby, someone got engaged, someone is getting married, someone is having an upsherin/bar mitzvah or reaching any other exciting milestone in their life, take a moment to thank Hashem for that! Say a perek of tehillim to thank Hashem for the simchos and exciting things happening in your life! Because if good things remind you that Hashem is in charge of everything that happens and that's what gets you to open up your tehillim, perhaps Hashem will not have to give you names of people who are sick to get you to say tehillim!

You can say Mizmor L'sodah or any other chapter that talks about praising or thanking Hashem. This way, you will turn your thoughts to Him whenever you hear good news and always remember that He is the One behind everything that happens!

Hopefully, when you turn to Hashem to thank Him for all the good things that happen to you, He will continue to send more good things your way - because that is the easiest way for Him to get you to acknowledge Him! Hashem wants to give you good, He wants to fill your life with happiness. But He also wants you to remember Him at all times. So if you keep thanking Him every time something good comes your way, He will continue to shower you with brachos!!

May you always find things to thank Hashem for and may He continue to give you things to be grateful for!

Baruch Hashem, a very close friend of mine just got engaged last night. Training myself to react to a simcha with a perek of tehillim on my lips took time, but by now it's (almost) second nature. After saying, "Mazel tov" (and getting the details of course), it's an automatic response to say "Mizmor L'soda" - thank you Hashem for such wonderful news!!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Appreciation - a Video

Watch this video to see the importance of appreciation! Take a moment to thank someone who has touched your life - you never know how you can impact theirs!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fasting - Asarah B'Teves

This was posted before but since once again we are here on the tenth day of teves, I thought it would be a good idea to post this.

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

Why do we stop eating?

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

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

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

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

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

I'm not.

So what can we do to get it back?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Newborn Baby

Looking at a newborn baby is always a reason to marvel at the awesomeness of Hashem's creations. You see a tiny little person with all the body parts that an adult has, working perfectly. The same two eyes that you and I have, the newborn has. Ten fingers, ten toes, a heart that beats (ever so fast!) and a digestive system that works just so. It's just unbelievable to see it all in a tiny human being.

I am holding a precious little newborn baby as I type this. She's all dressed in pink (what other color can you dress a girl in anyway?!) and is looking around at the big world around her. Just one week ago, she made her grand entrance into this world with a loud "waaa" and I got to shout, "It's a GIRL!" with such excitement! Baruch Hashem another healthy baby has been born!

I take a look at this little princess who doesn't know anything about the world and just hope. Hope for her to grow up happy, healthy and always know the beauty of the life she was so lucky to be born into. A little baby is just so pure, so innocent...there's so much we can give over to them...they're like a piece of cement - they will learn whatever you teach them. What an awesome responsibility!

When I see a newborn baby, I cannot help but marvel at the fact that all of us started out like this. It is such a miracle to see how a child grows - from something so tiny into a little baby and then into a toddler...where did all that time go? And that we also went through these same growing be where we are today.

I look at her and think: she is pure potential. She has not done anything yet - not good and not bad. She has the ability to become...anything!!

And the truth is, each one of you can too! You have unlimited potential. When you open your eyes in the morning, you are about to begin a brand new day - with choices that only you can make and decisions that only you can come to. You can make it a great day just by choosing to do the right thing. You can overcome obstacles, you can grow, you can soar!

There's so much to learn from a newborn. And there's so much to teach to a newborn. I hope to be able to teach her all about goodness, truth, happiness, honesty and all the other important things she needs to know in order to live a fulfilling and productive life iy"h.

We named our daughter this past Shabbos -
Chaya was a name we added which means life and Gittel is after a relative who was killed in the holocaust, which means good. We are going to call her Chaya Gitty (or CG for short) and we hope and pray that she will always have a good life!

I probably said it a little better when
Shalom Baruch was born and my thoughts were more coherent but for now, that's my exciting news! Mazel tov and may we hear good news from all!!

(Sorry if this post doesn't flow...I
am pretty tired and not going on that much sleep...)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

At the Chanukah Candles

The following question was submitted anonymously using the form on the right.

I know its kind of late to ask being that Chanukah is almost over but I was wondering, what are we supposed to be thinking when the candles are being lit? And even after when you just look at the lights? Also is this a special time to ask to things and is there anything specific we should ask for then?

It's still not to late to get an answer to your question since there's still another night left to Chanukah. I don't know if there's a source for this but I have heard that when the menorah is lit, it is a very special time to daven for anything.

I also heard that one should look into the flames and let the light of the menorah penetrate your soul. Just by looking at the flickering Chanukah lights, you can affect your
neshama. You should just let yourself the flames. It can really impact you very strongly. It helps you get rid of the negative effects of things that you should not have looked at but saw. We live in a world where it is so easy to see the wrong things. Even without trying, just by walking down the street or turning your head the wrong way, images get thrown into your face and then they stay there forever.

So when you look into the flames and you watch the fire dancing, let it talk to your
neshama - it can help get rid of the tumah, the impurity, that may have penetrated your soul when you saw things you should not have seen.

When you stand in front of the menorah, take a few minutes to daven. Daven for those people who have never seen the beauty behind the Chanukah candles, daven for the people you know who are waiting for
yeshuos, who need a miracle to save them. Daven for those who are stuck in the dark and need Hashem to light up their lives with bracha.

It's a special moment that passes by so fast. The menorah is lit, the family gets busy with supper, cleaning or whatever it is. Some people have a custom to stay by the candles for 30 minutes and say certain
tefillos-prayers and specific perakim of tehillim. Whether or not this is your custom, you can definitely take the time to remain by the candles for a little bit of extra time so you can daven for something you are waiting for.

Think about the two
brachos that are said when the menorah is lit. The first one is that we were commanded to light the menorah and in the second one we thank Hashem for performing miracles bayamim haheim, bazman hazeh, in those days and in our days. Think about the miracles, big and small, that you were lucky to experience in your life. And think about the miracles you wish and hope for...and beg Hashem to make them come true!

May your
tefillos at the candles be accepted and may you be able to purify your soul by looking deep into those flames...and may your neshama always feel like a fire - excited and enthusiastic and ready to do all the mitzvos we are so lucky to be blessed with!

I hope this helps!

Also, please can the person who submitted this question comment to let me know that you read this answer and if you still have a question about what I wrote?

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Poem for Chanukah

It's Chanukah, time to sing and praise

It's Chanukah, Hashem doesn't cease to amaze

It's Chanukah, look deep inside your soul

It's Chanukah, a day to reach our goal

It's Chanukah, Hashem is waiting with open arms

It's Chanukah, it's time to listen to those internal alarms

It's Chanukah, a time heed Hashem's call

It's Chanukah, a time to read the writing on the wall

It's Chanukah, a holy and exalted day

It's Chanukah, a time to send the Yetzer Hara away

It's Chanukah, an opportune time to repent

It's Chanukah, a gift that is truly heaven sent

It's Chanukah, a time for that inner spark to be ignited

It's Chanukah, a time to start getting excited

It's Chanukah, a time to change your life

It's Chanukah, a time to end that inner strife

It's Chanukah, seize the moment as you light the Menorah

It's Chanukah, a time to truly start following the Torah

It's Chanukah, take advantage of these eight holy days

It's Chanukah, it will be easy to change your ways

It's Chanukah, all you have to do is make the leap

It's Chanukah, the endless reward is yours to keep

It's Chanukah, answer the call of "Mi LaHashem Ailai"

It's Chanukah, there is no longer a reason to cry

It's Chanukah, let the joy spread to one and all

It's Chanukah, we can - and must - answer the call

(I did not write this poem but got it as an email and wanted to share it with all of you.)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Lessons From Chanukah

There are so many messages to take from Chanukah. There are so many lessons to learn from a candle. The neshama, the soul of each person is compared to a candle. Just like a candle always shines upwards, no matter which direction you turn it, so too, each person truly strives to go upwards. No matter which direction you turn, which situation a person is in, deep down each person really wants to go up, to get closer to Hashem. There is always a flickering flame, a pintele yid, inside the soul of every person. No matter how far they may have strayed, no matter what things they have done in their lives, a Jew always yearns to get closer to Hashem and you can never, ever give up on a Jewish soul.

A person might think to themselves, how important am I? I'm just one little person in this huge world! Does it really matter if I do the right thing? Does it really make a difference if I act in the proper manner? Does anyone really care?

So I wanted to share with you another message we can take from candles, flames and from the Chanukah story.

All it takes is one little flame to brighten up a may have been dark but now the room has been illuminated. That's the significance of one candle.

During the time of the miracle of Chanukah, there was no pure oil to light the menorah. And then ONE jug was found! Just one jug! What could be accomplished with one little jug of oil?! But they tried. The menorah was lit. It was a message as if to say,
we may not have the ability to make this menorah stay lit for the amount of time it will take to get more pure oil but we will do ours and leave the rest up to Hashem. This is the power of one small, pure jug of oil. Hashem did the rest and the menorah stayed lit for eight days!

So when you think you are just one in a million, think about the Chanukah story, the Chanukah miracle and remember how important YOU are! You are one person who has tremendous significance and you can and will shine!

Every night, after the menorah is lit, the following
bracha is said: She'asah nissim La'avoseinu, Bayamim Haheim, bazman hazeh-He performed miracles for our forefathers, in those days, in our times. Chanukah is a special time for miracles. It is a time for us to take a moment to reflect on the miracles Hashem has done for us in the past and a time to daven for miracles in our own lives. Take some time to daven for good things to happen for yourself and for those around you!

May each of you experience your own miracles very soon!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Saved by a Mitzvah

Here is an unbelievable story about how one mitzvah can truly save a person's life! We never know the power of one good deed and how standing up for the right thing can impact our own lives and the lives of others.

David Miller (name changed to protect privacy), an observant Jew, was at Logan Airport getting ready to board United Flight 175. He was going to LA on an important business trip and had to make this flight. A lot depended on it.

He boarded the plane and sat down as the doors closed.

Suddenly he remembered that he had left his tefillin (phylacteries--ritual boxes with straps worn by Jewish men in prayer) in the terminal boarding area. He politely asked the stewardess if he could go back and retrieve his tefillin, which were sitting just a few feet from the gate.

She told him that once the doors closed, no one was allowed off the plane. He asked to speak to the pilot to obtain special permission, but the pilot simply restated the policy.

David was not about to lose this precious mitzvah, or let the holy tefillin get lost, so, not knowing what else to do, he started screaming at the top of his lungs, "I am going to lose my tefillin!"

The crew asked him to be quiet, but he refused. He made such a tumult that the flight crew told him that they would let him off the plane, but even though it would only take about 90 seconds to run out, grab his tefillin, and run back - they were not going to wait for him.

No matter. David was not about to lose his tefillin, even if it caused him great inconvenience or cost his business a loss.

He left the plane, never to re-board.

This was United flight #175, the second plane to reach the World Trade Center. The date was September 11 2001.

David's devotion to a mitzvah saved his life, but the consequences of his actions do not end there.

Originally, the terrorists wanted both towers struck simultaneously to maximize the explosive carnage. Later it was learned that due to David's intransigence, the takeoff was delayed, causing a space of 18 minutes between the striking of the two towers.

The delay made it possible for thousands of people to escape alive from both buildings--because one Jew would not forsake his beloved tefillin!

This story is documented in "Even in the darkest moments" by Zeev Breier.