Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Your Face is Public Property

Question of the Week:

A quick question. . . my friends often tell me to smile more. But how can one always just smile and be happy if (not so) deep down one has pressing troubles, worries and problems to deal with? Must I smile when I am not in the mood?


What has smiling to do with your mood? What has the look on your face to do with the feelings in your heart?

Your face is not your business. It is public property. You only have to look at your own face once briefly in the morning. Everyone else has to look at your face all day. So just because you are in a bad mood or going through a rough patch, doesn't mean everyone else has to be brought down too. The people around you deserve to be greeted with a pleasant face.

Of course, smiling is not only for the benefit of others, but for your own benefit too. The number one cause of misery is not life's troubles but rather self-absorption. The more you think about yourself and your predicament, the more you marinate in self-pity, the more miserable you become.

On the other hand, when you look outside of yourself, look around you and see how you can be of service to others, when you smile not because you are in the mood but because others deserve to be smiled at, you start to feel upbeat and light again.

This is not to say that there are never any real reasons to be sad, or that smiling is a magical cure for depression. The point is that smiling is a duty you have to others. And when you focus on your duties rather than your difficulties, you are on the road to happiness.

Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Moss

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Happy for Others

How is it possible to be happy for someone else when they experience a joyous time in their lives and you are left waiting and watching?

Such a situation comes up all the time - when someone gets a job and you are still looking for one, when someone gets into a school/seminary/college that you wanted to get into, when a friend gets engaged before you - it's a challenge many of us experience on some level.

It boils down to learning how to deal with disappointment on your end while at the same time being happy, really happy for your friend's good fortune.

The first thing to remind yourself, although you know this in your sleep, is that Hashem runs the world and He knows what is best for you. He does everything not just for a reason, but for a good reason! You don't know why He decided that it's best for your friend to get into that school, to get that job or to get that guy - all before you but He knows why it's best!

There's a mashal you may have heard about a tapestry - when someone is sewing it, if you look from the bottom, it looks like a big mess and you can't see or understand the beauty of the big picture. All you'll see are knots and a mixture of colorful strings hanging around. However, if you sit up on top, you'll get to see a beautiful picture with details you never would have imagined when looking from below.

I think the nimshal is pretty clear. When we are down here on this world, we don't understand the seemingly unclear, messy threads that are hanging from up above. But after 120 years, when I person goes up there, they can see with 100% clarity the beauty in the tapestry Hashem has sown!

Another thing to keep in mind is that someone else's good fortune will not in any way take away from the good you are going to have when your time comes. You will get to experience that joy and happiness when Hashem decides the time is right for you. Everyone has their time and everyone has their yeshuah that is going to come for them!

The job your friend got is perfect for her and even if you think you could have gotten it or would have gotten accepted if not for her, it's not true! If you would have gotten that job, it may not have worked out best for you - the traveling, the coworkers, the environment, your relationship with the boss, your schedule or whatever else it may be. Hashem has His plans and He has a reason why He made it that she got the job and not you. But this does not take away from your good and your chance - you will get something that's good for you! Just keep davening!!

That school/college/seminary was obviously not meant to work out for you because had you gone there, you would not be the person you are a few years later. You may have learned things differently or come out with different hashkafos had you gone there. You wouldn't have made the friends you have today had you gone there - because Hashem put you in this specific place (whether it's a school/college or seminary) so that you could get to know people who you can form relationships with that will be a benefit for you.

That guy your friend got engaged to is perfect for her. Even if it seems like he has some of the qualities you are looking for (which makes sense because friends tend to be similar so they may be looking for similar guys), he is her guy! There are little details and nuances of his personality and background that will make it work for the two of them to get married and it just wouldn't work out for you. Iy"h they will make a great couple together! Hashem has someone in mind for you and her simcha, her joy will not in any way take away from the joy you will experience when you get yours! In fact, it may be multiplied because of the things you have gone through to get to that point! When you wait for something and you finally get it, it's so much more precious and you appreciate it so much more!

Were you ever jealous of someone else's glasses prescription? Why not?

It's because this is something they need to be able to see better and if you wore their glasses, not only wouldn't it help you see more clearly, it may even cause you to bump into things because it's too strong or too weak for you. Your friend's glasses are made to fit her eyes so that when she puts them on in the morning, she can see with 20/20 vision. You don't need her glasses to see well! So of course there's no purpose in wanting them!

If only we were able to view life with such crystal clear vision, viewing other people's joys in true jealous-free lenses, the world would be a much happier place. May you always be able to feel real joy when you hear about other people's simchos and good fortune and may each of you be able to experience your own yeshuah soon!

And one more thing - don't stop davening! Thank Hashem for the goodness He bestowed upon your friends and keep asking Him to give you that which you have been davening for all this time!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Answers to our Tefillos

I wrote this a while ago and wanted to post it again for those who may not have read it and for those who want to reread it since we can always use a reminder...

We are now living in very difficult times. We all need personal yeshuos and refuos and it’s hard when we daven so hard and don’t see an answer.
First of all, we need to keep reminding ourselves who is in charge. No matter what situation we are in, we must keep remembering that no matter what, Hashem is in charge, He is running the show, He knows what is best for us and He can do anything at any time!! He can perform miracles - right in front of our eyes!
Just like He is the one who makes a person sick, He is the only one who can heal, not the doctors or anyone in the hospitals - only Hashem! He is the one who brings about every single shidduch, every single yeshuah and He runs the world!! And never underestimate the power of our tefillos.

Sometimes we daven for something and we don't see immediate results. In fact, this is not something that happens sometimes, it happens all the time! We daven and daven and beg and cry and we say to Hashem, "why?" or "when will you finally answer my tefillos?”
We expect that when we daven for something, since our tefillos are so powerful and pierce the heavens, we should get answered right away!
But this doesn't happen. It doesn't work that way.
R' Shimshon Pincus gives an amazing, down-to-earth mashal to explain this.
After you eat something very fattening, do you run to the mirror and say, "Ohmygosh! I gained weight!!"??
No! It doesn't work that way! It takes time!!!
Just like the second you eat, you will not see the extra pounds showing up when you look at your reflection in the mirror, you will not see immediate results as soon as you are done davening for someone or something - it takes time!!

When you daven for someone, your tefillah never goes to waste - if you don't see an answer, many times it's just that Hashem is saving the tefillah for another time when you least expect it, or didn't even deserve it, or didn't even daven for something - and then the yeshuah just "comes" and you wonder - "what did I do to deserve that?" It's because Hashem took out the tefillos that you davened that long time ago and uses it for a time when you need it most!!

Here’s a story I know personally that shows this point. When I was in elementary school, a girl in my grade had a family member that got sick with cancer. Everyone davened so hard for this girl’s sister. She was still young (just 19 years old) and had a whole life ahead of her. The family, the school, everyone was davening. And then…she passed away. It was so sad!

A few years later, Chaya Sara was walking with this girl’s sister (let’s name her Rivka, just for the story) and as they were crossing the street, a car turned in and hit Rivka. Her body went flying up and then fell down on the street with a thud. It was a very scary moment. Chaya Sara was totally fine, the car didn’t touch her, but the girl she was walking with was lying on the ground. Hatzalah was called and Rivka was brought to the hospital.

When her parents heard that their daughter was in a car accident, they thought, “We cannot lose another one!! Hashem, how much more do you think we can handle?! Please, please, do something to save us from any more pain!!”

Well, there was a real miracle. Rivka was brought to the emergency room and emerged without a scratch! She was totally fine!

Ask Chaya Sara if you want to know if this story really happened! She was there, walking with this girl when the accident happened!

So you see that sometimes, we may not see an answer to our tefillos right away, but Hashem saves those tefillos for when we least expect it and for when we need it most! The tefillos that everyone davened for Rivka’s sister were saved for her and she experienced a miracle!!

Let’s keep reminding ourselves that Hashem can do anything to anyone at anytime - He holds the power to heal, bring simcha and joy into our lives and He gives each person the strength they need to go thru life’s many difficult challenges.

You may want to read the comments on the original post - and for additional details of the story from Chaya Sara.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Pure Eyes

After my last post, I wanted to give some chizuk to all of you on how to keep yourself pure and guard your eyes especially during the summertime.

People think only men have to watch their eyes and that women do not have to be so careful. But I want you to know that it is not true. One of the
sheish mitzvos temidiyos, the six constant mitzvos (that can be done at any moment of the day and one receives reward for doing it) is in this week's parsha, Parshas Shelach. It says, v'lo sasuru acharei levavchem v'acharei eineichem, you should not look after images or things that are not appropriate for you - this applies to women just as much as it applies to men!

I once heard an incredible thought on this topic from R' Zecharia Wallerstein.

He spoke about how the guests who came to Avraham Avinu's house washed their feet before entering his home because there was sand in their feet and they worshiped the sand. Since he was so careful not to let a trace of avodah zara, idol worship, into his home, he had them wash their feet before letting them in to his house.

So the question is, how far can a person go? If these people worshiped the sun, would he have closed all the shutters? It's only sand!

But Avraham was showing that you can never be too careful. He took such great care in making sure not to let a speck of avodah zara, in this case the sand, into his home - even though it was so tiny.

And we see what an effect this had on his son because later on, Yitzchok became blind from the sacrifices of his son Eisav's wives, sacrifices of idol worship. Why did he become blind from this? Because his neshama was so sensitive to even the tiniest crumb of avodah zara that he couldn't handle the tumah, the impurity, that came from the smoke of the sacrifices. This is what caused him to become blind! It did not affect his wife, Rivka because she didn't grow up in a home where even a little piece of sand was not allowed into the house by those who worshiped it!

There is only one body part that is so sensitive to something as small as a grain of sand. If you had sand between your fingers or toes, it would not irritate you. However, if a grain of sand somehow got into your eye, it would bother you to no end. You would be busy trying to get it out, rolling your eye in all directions, rinsing it with water, and doing anything possible to get it out of your eye.

But what's the big deal??? It's ONLY a grain of sand!!

It IS a big deal because the eyes are extremely sensitive.

This shows you just how sensitive your eyes must be spiritually and each person must guard them so carefully. You must not allow even the smallest grain of sand into your eyes! We learn from Avraham how important it is to be careful with what you let into your eyes.

There's a famous saying, "the eyes are the windows to the soul" - whatever you let your eyes see will have an everlasting impact on your neshama. So guard your eyes carefully, especially in these summer months!

When you walk outside and see women who are less dressed than dressed, turn your eyes the other way! Look in the opposite direction!

When you are online and see a link, picture or video clip that looks tempting, quickly close the tab or window you are open to. Don't let yourself stumble! Be strong! Resist the temptation and keep those grains of sand out of your eyes so that you don't irritate them with things you shouldn't be seeing!!

I know it's hard. It's hard for me too. But think about how irritating it would be if you had a piece of sand, one tiny grain, stuck in your eye. Think about how quickly you'd run to the sink to flush your eye with water.

May you have much hatzlacha keeping your eyes pure!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

He is Two Years Old Now

Today was Shalom Baruch's 2nd birthday.

There is so much that happens in two years of a person's life, especially in the first two years of their life. The growth and development that happens from the time a baby is born through the toddler stages are literally astounding. From learning how to smile, recognize peoples' faces, eat solids, crawl, walk, talk, put words and phrases together to come out with a coherent thought, play and share, it is truly a miracle to watch a child learn so much.

Today, I took time to remember the moment Shalom Baruch was born, the doctor's shout of "It's a BOY!" and my relief to have finally given birth. It wasn't until close to 14 hours later, when I was alone in the hospital bed without any visitors, while I was holding my son that it hit me: this is MY son. My own child. My precious baby that I will love and care for all my life. Nothing could take that love away.

I remember the intense feelings I felt as I looked into my little newborn's eyes, tears rolling down my cheeks, trembling and shaking and talking to my baby, telling him all I wanted, wished and dreamed for - all the hopes I had for this tiny, pure, innocent

I remember thinking at the time: there is no one else here in the room, just me, Hashem and my precious little one.

It was such an intense few minutes.

I'll remember it forever.

It makes me think, didn't we all start off this way?



What happened?

How did we become so contaminated?

There is so much garbage out there.

We need to keep our eyes, our ears and especially our brains pure and clean.

The internet poses so many challenges. With just one curious click of the mouse, you can find yourself reading, watching or listening to something that certainly should not enter your soul, that pure neshama that you were born with.

So on this day, I take it upon myself, as a
zechus for my own children, to be extra careful with the things I look at and read so that they remain as pure as possible. The challenge is incredible. In the summer especially, there are all kinds of people dressed (or not!) outside and it is so easy to take that second glance. It takes work to look away, to guard my eyes, to not click that link and read something that is not good for my neshama.

Don't we all want to keep our purity intact, to the biggest extent possible?

Today is also a day when I can look back and thank Hashem for the many gifts he has given me in these past two years.

A healthy child.

That alone is enough to fill pages and pages of reasons to be thankful.

Two healthy children.

I think I'll stop there.

Hashem, I can never thank you enough.

here is a funny clip of how imp. it is to take messages that hashem is sending ur way before its too late grab the oppurtunity its all in your hands:)

Very powerful message about what we could do to stop the pain in this world!we need you to stop and think I could be the one to end this pain!!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A very powerful message from Rabbi Lazer Brody;)

I want to share with you some amaizing idea that I just read: we must make hashem more real to the world and realize that he is with us every min!!! We need to figure out how to really connect to hashem especially on shabbos, it cant just be all about fish and food does'nt fully connect us its much more than that! It's about starting to talk to him as if he is your best friend because Hashem is the only one who could really open up doors of bracha for us! There are two ways to connect to someone either complain about how everything is noo good or thank them how much good there is!! So to with hashem if we start thinking about our day and how many things went right in our day and then we thank him we have no clue how far that thank you will take you in terms of your connection with hashem!!!!
I just read an unreal story from the book called Garden of gratitude written by Rabbi Lazer Brody..
He said that if a person thanks hashem for all the good in his life he has no clue how much bracha he opens for himself..:)
This story took place many years ago 2 men were walking on a road and suddenly the angel of death appeared before them he said im here to take your life!They got soooo scared since they were able to see him right in front of there eyes!They did not know what to do, they had a few seconds to think..Hashem sent a man who was in need of money to walk by these two guys, when he put his hand out the first guy gave him a few coins for tzedaka and the man thanked him and walked away. The angel of death said,"since you did a kind deed I cant take your life right now but the other guy who did not give him money I have to take his life..the other guy said," what!!I'm not ready to go pls can i have at least one min.." and he started thanking Hashem for his life and for all the good that he bestowed upon him..he also said, "Hashem I am so thankful to you that you are giving me a chance to get closer to you, and when i die i will be so close to you so thank you for wanting me to be close to you." He wasnt ready to die but knew that he didnt have much time to do anything else! As soon as he was done this short prayer of thanks the angel of death said to him,"bec. you remembered to thank hashem I now also do not have a power to kill you." Thank you is even greater than giving tzedaka so now you will live a longer life because you thanked Hashem!! Can you imagine how great it is to thank Hashem:)! So how am I connecting this to shabbos..
bec. on shabb. you have time to reflect on the true connection with hashem so its the best time to stop and think about hashem for real!!
So I give u all a bracha that you should be zoche to realize that thanking hashem is one of the greatest things you could do for yourself and the whole world!!!

Quickie Conversions?

A long while back, someone asked the following question: I had a teacher who said: A ger has soul but it is trapped, once they convert then they untrap it-because they do have a tzelem elokim-that is how it came into context-but if they have a soul but trapped then why do we try to dissuade them? Besides the fact we need to make sure they are serious about it.

To help answer this, I want to post the following question and answer from R' Moss.

Question of the Week:

I often hear rabbis complain that the Jewish people is shrinking due to intermarriage and assimilation. But it is you rabbis who are the major obstacle to Judaism growing! If you would make conversion a bit easier, many more non-Jews would join us. Why do you stubbornly insist on a long and difficult conversion process, when you are closing the door to many potential converts?


I would like to nominate you to be the next Secretary General of the UN. You have come up with a brilliant formula that could greatly benefit the world.

You argue that the Jewish people would grow if only it were easier to become Jewish. Let's apply that logic to some other world issues, and most of our problems could easily be solved.

- Poverty could be reduced immediately. Simply lower the poverty line.
- There would be many more millionaires around if you didn't need so much money to be one.
- The crime rates would drop dramatically if we just legalise criminal activity.
- If we dropped the life-expectancy age from 70 down to 50, people would on average live much longer.

Either Judaism is truth, or it is not. If it is truth, then truth can't be saved by diluting it. And if it isn't, why bother saving it at all?

The road to conversion is a challenging one. Jewish law doesn't make it easy to convert, because becoming a Jew is a serious commitment. If someone is not ready for that commitment, then they shouldn't convert.

But bending the laws to allow quickie conversions makes a joke of the whole thing. If a law can be bent, then what significance does it have in the first place? To paraphrase Marx (Groucho that is): "I would never join a club that changed the rules to let me in."

Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Moss

To subscribe to emails such as these, send an email to rabbimoss@nefesh.com.au

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Next World

The following question was emailed to me and I'm posting it here with permission from the one who asked.

Q: Is there a proof in the torah for techiyat hameisim and olam habah? Or is that the blind faith type of thing?

A: Everything in this world is a mirror or a mashal to the next world. There is something to learn from each thing that goes on in Olam Hazeh - this world that we can parallel to Olam Habah - the next world.

To answer your question, I want to tell you about a song called "Conversation in the Womb" which is based on a mashal (and I think a medrash or gemara but I'm not 100% sure the exact source) which shows that there is another world beyond the world we live in.

This conversation is between two unborn children (twins) in the womb of their mother. One is a pessimist and the other is an optimist. One believes that after living in the mother's womb, he will die and his life will be over. The other believes that there is a life, a beautiful, sunny, happy life beyond the life he knows right now. The first paragraph starts with the pessimist and the second switches to the optimist and so forth. Here are the words to the song:

My dear brother
Look around and tell me what your eyes behold
Don't deny that you see
It's only you and me
Our existence,
It is empty,
It is cold
Our existence,
It is empty,
It is cold

But dear brother
You must have faith that we are not the only ones
For in the distance there's a place
Where we'll stand up tall and straight
I believe there is a world to come
Yes, I believe that there is a world to come

My dear brother
Don't be blind,
Don't be stubborn,
Don't be set.
Imagination it's all right
But it won't light up the night
What you see is exactly what you get
Oh what you see is exactly what you get

But dear brother
You will surely find when all is said and done
That the future it will show
There is so much we don't know
Oh I believe that there is a world to come
Yes I believe that there is a world to come.

My dear brother
Where have you gone?
Is this the moment I have known?
I can faintly hear the cry
My dear brother must have died
It's all over now forever I'm alone
It's all over now forever I'm alone

But dear brother
Please don't mourn me when my life has just begun
For what you hear are sounds of joy
"Congratulations it's a boy"
Oh i believe that there is a world to come
Yes i believe that there is a world to come
Cuz what you hear are sounds of joy
"Congratulations it's a boy"
Soon you'll be here with me in this world to come
Soon you'll be here with me in this world to come.

So you see that birth is a mashal to the life we live. We only know the reality of our existence in this world and can't imagine anything different. But a time will come when we will live in Olam Habah and it will be a whole new incredible experience.

Hashem created the world and everything in it - there's a purpose and reason for our existence. He did so much to give us such a beautiful world. Do you think it's for nothing? That after this world where we work so hard, live full lives, do mitzvos, help others, connect to Hashem, learn Torah - and then what?!

The next world is the place where we will be rewarded for all the good we have done while we were alive in this world.

It says in Pirkei Avos (4:21), “HaOlam hazeh domeh li’prozdor bifei haOlam Habah; Haskein atzmacha baprozdor, k’dei she’tikaneis la’trakilin” - This world is but a hallway before the Next World; Prepare yourself in the corridor, in order to enter properly into the ballroom. Which means that this world is a place to prepare and get ready for the big event - the big party, the main place where all good things will happen! Let's use our time wisely!

Also, I recommend reading
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt by Rabbi Shmuel Waldman. You sound like someone who is a thinker and who wants to know and understand more, which is so important! It's great to ask questions and feels so good when you get your answers. This book talks about many fundamentals of yiddishkeit and it will explain and answer many questions you may have. It is an excellent book that will give you the knowledge you want and help you understand things on a deeper level.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Over Shavuos, I got to read some interesting and inspiring thoughts. Here is one thing I wanted to share with all of you from one of my favorite speakers/writers, R' Shimshon Pincus zt"l.

The Kuzari states that there are four levels in creation:
Domem - inanimate object, such as a rock
Tzome'ach - growing thing, such as a plant
Chai - an animal, like a lion
Medaber - a speaking living thing, a human being

Just like you can't compare the level of a rock to that of a plant, you cannot compare a plant to an animal - it is on another whole level completely. And the speaking human being is even higher up on the rung than an animal because it has the ability to think and make choices.

R' Yerucham Levovitz, the mashgiach of Mir expounds on that and says that above those four is another rung on the ladder and that is the Yisroel - the Jew. The same way each level is in a totally and complete different category than the one preceding it, the Jew is different than the regular human being who can speak and think and choose right over wrong because we are blessed with the Torah.

Now, there is a sixth level which is even higher than the level of the Jew!!
That is the level of one who toils in Torah. He is on a totally different plane! He is above the level of a regular Jew who does the mitzvos because he is busy with the greatest treasure, the treasure that made us into the chosen nation that we are.

If you would try to explain to someone who has not been exposed to Judaism what it means to live the live of a religious Jew, he just cannot understand it. He doesn't understand how a Jew can keep shabbos. Doesn't it feel like you are in a prison?, he thinks. He can't relate to the fact that a Jew is able to spend 25 (plus) hours without a TV (try explaining to him that a Jew can live all his life without one!), without turning on the light, answering his cell phone, checking his emails, going in the car, turning on the fire to cook food...it feels to him like a real jail!

But if we wanted him to understand what shabbos is all about, how beautiful, how sweet, how precious it is to spend a day away from all the things that distract us from our real purpose in life, how special it is to spend a day together with our families and connecting to Hashem, he would have to experience it himself! We would have to tell him, come with me, come spend shabbos with me and then come again and again until you can feel the glow, until it enters your heart, until you can realize on your own what makes shabbos so special and why we do not feel like we are in prison! It is a day like no other!!

And the same is true for the ben torah. He is on a different level completely than that of a Jew. If you'd try to explain to someone who doesn't understand the value of Torah learning as a goal in itself, and the purpose of sitting and learning all day just to learn Torah, you will run into a brick wall. You cannot explain it to him because he cannot relate to it!

Ahhh, you really want to understand?! Come with me, into the bais medrash! Come for a day, two, three...until you fully experience what it means to learn with diligence, without interruption, just to learn until your face is glowing and your eyes are shining from the depth and awe of the lessons there are in the Torah!

That is the greatness of torah - it elevates the one who learns it to a completely different level of kedushah, of holiness!

How lucky we are to be part of a nation who is full of people who learn for the sake of learning!

This post is not intended to cause hurt in any way to anyone who is not learning. It is meant to give strength to those who see the value in what Torah learning is and appreciate that it is a zechus to be able to be connected to those who learn Torah!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Cheese Blintz Forgeries

Someone sent this email to me - I think the message is great! Many people don't feel inspired by Judaism. Read on to see how this Rabbi answers the question.

Question of the Week:

Judaism doesn't do it for me. To be honest I don't understand what you see in it. I've been there done that, and it's not for me. What do you say to people like me who simply are not inspired by Judaism?

You remind me of the story of the poor man's cheese blintzes.

A poor man was once walking the streets, feeling hungry, when he was struck by a delicious aroma. From out of the kitchen window of a huge mansion wafted the smells of a rich man's breakfast. Looking through the window, he watched carefully as the cook mixed the ingredients and prepared a pile of cheese blintzes. He had never seen or smelled anything so appetizing in his life.

He ran home and told his wife, "We must have some cheese blintzes for breakfast. They are delicious. Can you make me some? All we need is French pancake mix, milk and eggs, some butter to fry them in and cheese for the filling."

"Certainly my dear husband," the kind woman replied. "I will whip up the best cheese blintzes anyone ever tasted."

But when she looked into her pantry for the ingredients, she was greeted by empty shelves. An industrious and resourceful woman, she wasn't phased. "We will have to be a bit creative," she thought to herself. "I haven't got any French pancake mix, but a little potato flour should be just as good. We are a little low on milk. I'll just use water. Eggs.... I don't have any eggs, but I can throw in a few potatoes. We certainly can't afford butter for frying, but I have some old oil that I used last week, I am sure it can be used again. And cheese costs a fortune these days. We will have to settle for some mashed potatoes instead of cheese, that will be close enough."

In no time the delicious breakfast was ready, a pile of home made cheese blintzes. The good wife brought them before her excited and grateful husband, who eagerly bit into the first cheese blintz he had ever tasted in his life. After chewing for a while on the first blintz, his face turned from eager anticipation to bitter disappointment.

"I have to be honest," he said, "I don't really get what those rich people see in cheese blintzes. They really are nothing special...."

The Judaism you have tasted is about as authentic as those cheese blintzes. You may think you have been exposed to the Jewish way of life. After all, you sat through a year of bar mitzvah classes, crept into the back row of a synagogue on Yom Kippur every a year and even spent three months on a kibbutz in Israel when you were 19.

This is all very nice. But these are not the ingredients for a true Jewish experience.

If you have never racked your brain over a page of Talmud; if your soul has never been touched by the deeper meanings of the Torah; if you have never felt the embrace of a warm and spiritually committed community; if you have never experienced the peace and holiness of keeping a Shabbos fully and correctly, then you have never had a taste of real Judaism.

Enough of the cheap imitations. Go eat a genuine cheese blintz.
Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Moss

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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Preparing for Shavuos

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

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 approaching 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, June 2, 2011

Shavuos Thoughts

This was posted before 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 so 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!!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Tiny Spark

Yesterday, I had a meeting with someone at work. Her name sounded pretty Jewish but from the way she looked there was no way to tell. Pants and a short-sleeved t-shirt, long brown hair with light yellow streaks (obviously dyed), I couldn't know for sure.

When there was a technical glitch on the computer and I couldn't continue with our meeting, we instead started to talk. She was very friendly and open about her life and I asked her some basic questions about herself.

It was interesting that when I asked her which school she went to, she immediately chose to identify herself with the Jewish one she had gone to up until 5th grade. Although after that she went to public school and then continued on to college, she chose to tell me that she went to a Jewish school. It was geared to Russian girls who came from non-religious homes, just like she did.

It was taking a while for the technician to fix the technical problem on the computer but let me tell you, everything has a reason. Hashem set the stage, for her to come with more than enough time for the meeting before going on to her next stop and for the computer to act up (it barely EVER happens) so that we could talk about Judaism (for close to an HOUR)!

It was amazing to see that when I started telling her little things about torah, I was able to see the interest on her face, like she was listening with her heart and so badly wanted to hear more.

I asked her if she keeps kosher and she said no. I asked her if she keeps shabbos and she said no. But her family does do something each shabbos. Her mother doesn't light candles on Friday night and her father surely doesn't go to shul. The extent of their shabbos is a family meal together every Friday night. No kiddush, no zemiros, no divrei torah. Just a meal with everyone together on Friday night. I told her that what her family does is really big in Hashem's eyes because they are remembering every single week that shabbos has come. And that is what is important.

I told her that people think Judaism is all or nothing - but that's not true. Hashem doesn't expect us to do everything in one day. A person shouldn't think that if they can't keep the whole shabbos they shouldn't even try. I told her how valuable every act she does is in shamayim, how Hashem wants to see that a person remembers that it's shabbos, even if that means not answering the phone the second it rings, waiting a minute to respond to that text message or not turning the TV on for an extra five or ten minutes. Because that is showing Hashem that she remembers that today is shabbos.

It was so sad to see how far removed she is. But it was heartwarming to see how much she wanted to learn and know and how that pintele yid, that teeny flame, is alive in her heart.

I told her a lot of things while the computer technician did his work. I could see that she really wanted to hear more. Her neshama was starving for inspiration and I could see it on her face. My job is not to make her frum. All I wanted to do was give her a positive Jewish experience.

She told me that she would want to learn more about Judaism, she's just been really busy and doesn't have time. When she has children, she would want them to go to a Jewish school so they can learn more about what it means to be a Jew and then hopefully she can learn from them. She is quite a few years older than me but I told her it is not too late to learn, it is never too late to learn more.

I am hoping to follow up with her somewhat over the next few phone conversations with her but it's a hard balance. I have to be able to mix (or not) business with pleasure and must be careful not to cross the line.

What inspired me most about our meeting was that deep connection that every Jewish soul has and nothing can take that away. Speaking to someone who has very little connection to the Jewish nation but yet when she met me she immediately identified herself with the Jewish school she went to and showed such a strong interest in hearing more about yiddishkeit showed me that it never hurts to open up a conversation with someone about Judaism. You never know how they'll react and how years down the line they may remember the conversation they had with you.

May Hashem bring back all the lost souls so they can see with their own eyes and feel in their hearts how lucky we all are to be born into the Jewish nation!

There is so much more in my heart and so many thoughts from that meeting that are hard to put down...but let's hope that one day she will learn more, grow more and realize that she has a treasure in her backyard...and begin to live with it!