Monday, September 26, 2011

What Will You Pray For?

Rosh Hashana is coming up...and fast. It's a big day and a day with potential for a lot of things.

I think back to this year and some of the many things that happened to me personally and to the people close to me. Things that happened in the world around us. So many things happened this year. Some good. And some...not so good. There were simchos, so many happy things that happened this year - engagements, babies born, milestones, weddings...and there were tough things that happened to. I met people I never thought I would, made a new (and precious) friendship, and lost out on a relationship too.

Sometimes, before Rosh Hashana, I go through each month of the year - and each yom tov - just to remind myself of the different things that happened this year. I want to remember the details so I can remind myself that there is so much happening on high on this huge day. You can do it too. It helps put things in perspective before Rosh Hashana starts. Tishrei and all that came with last Rosh Hashana (I was in the emergency room with my mother-I wrote a post on it last year), Yom Kippur and Succos...skipping over to Kislev, Chanukah, when I gave birth to my daughter, Chaya Gitty...Adar and Purim, Nissan and Pesach, Counting towards so many things happened this year.

This coming Rosh Hashana, I will not be in shul. Baruch Hashem, I have a job-to take care of my children. It's a tough transition, from a day full of spirituality and holiness, in shul with everyone else, to playing on the floor with little kids and keeping them entertained and happy. So I'll probably get to daven a little bit while my kids take a nap's not the same as spending the day in shul, looking down at the men in their talleisim and just getting caught up in the emotion of the day along with everyone else.

But this is my job. I'm not complaining. It's a bracha. It's just something I'm not used to yet. In a few years I'll be used to this new reality. But for now, it's just so new and so...different.

And so I decided after so many different things that have been going on, that this year, my tefillos are going to be different. I'm not going to have that much time to daven all the real things that are in the machzor, where we crown Hashem as King and request all the things we need so that we can do our job in this world properly.

There are so many things that we all need - personally, for ourselves, for our families, for our friends and those close to us. Every single person has needs and the outside can be quite tricky but deep down inside each person knows that it all comes from Hashem and we only have Him to rely on. For yeshuos in every form. For the sick people to be healed. For the childless to give birth. For engagements and weddings...parnassa...clarity...children coming back and choosing the right path...for proper guidance in chinuch...keeping our children on the derech and making them love being frum...for shalom bayis...for answers to our questions...for the ultimate redemption.

And so, this year, I am going to be praying for...miracles. For things that only Hashem can do and nobody else. We all know deep down that everything comes from Him but...when it comes from a natural place, when you can look at a yeshuah and give credit to another person, it's easy to forget who it really came from.

Things are so confusing. I don't understand why things happen. I know there's a reason but I don't have all the answers.
I know Who to turn to and it's to Him I will pray.
It's to Him I will ask...for miracles.
Because He can do anything.

This Rosh Hashana, what will you pray for?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

You Can Fight Back!

To my star pupil,

I am writing this letter to let you know what I think of you. Up here in heaven things are not like they are down on Earth. Over there, people only know what they can see. If they see a person is "successful", they think that he is the greatest guy. When they see somebody struggling, they think he might be one of the weaker elements.

Let me tell you something. Hashem gives every person certain abilities that nobody knows about down where you live. Some people are capable of tremendous things, while others were put there for much smaller purposes. Only Hashem in His infinite wisdom is able to give every person exactly what he needs, to reach his potential.

I am very misunderstood. Most people hate me, and I don't really blame them. Most people think that my job is to make sure that they fail in all aspects of Mitzvos, and that I rejoice every time they sin. This is the furthest thing from the truth. Did you ever watch a boxing coach train his student? It is really a funny sight. The coach will put on gloves, and fight against his student. At first, he won't hit him so hard, or throw his best punches. But, as the student gets better and better, the coach will start to fight him harder and harder. He does this so that the student will improve his skills, and become the best boxer he can be. This is where it gets strange. Every time the coach knocks down the student, the student gets yelled at!! But finally, when the coach threw everything he has at his student, and not only does he withstand the beating, but he knocks the coach down, there is nobody in the world happier then the coach himself!

This is exactly how I feel. If you fail right away, and don't even try to fight back, I see that there is not much talent to work with, and so I take it easy on you. But if you get back up swinging, I realize that I may have a real winner here, and so I start to intensify the beating. With every level that you go up, I increase the intensity of the fight. If you finally deal me a blow that knocks me out, I will get up and embrace you and rejoice with your success.

Sometimes my job is very disappointing I see a person with a lot of potential and I start right in on him. He fights back for a while, but when the fight gets too tough, he quits and just remains on whatever level he was on. (And he usually ends up going down!) I feel like yelling at him, "Get up you fool! Do you have any idea how much more you could be accomplishing?!" But I am not allowed to do so. I just leave him alone, and go try to find another promising candidate.

If I have chosen you to be the target of my more fierce battles, it was not for no reason! You have tremendous ability! You were born into a very special family, you have Rabbeim who really care about you, and parents who would help you grow in Torah and Mitzvos. You are a very respectful and kind person.

I am writing to you now, because I have a very serious request to ask of you. Please don't step fighting! Don't give up! I have been beating too many people lately, and I am losing patience, Believe in yourself, because I would not be involved with you as much as I am if I didn't think you could beat me. Know what your strengths are! A great Rabbi once said: "Woe is to he who doesn't know his weaknesses. But, 'Oy Vavoy' to him who doesn't know his strengths - for he will not have anything with which to fight."

Always remember one thing: you have a secret weapon at your disposal. I shouldn't really be telling you - but I will anyway. Hashem himself is watching our "training" sessions very closely. I'm pleased to inform you that He's rooting for you! If things should ever get tough, almost too tough to bear, just call out to Him with a prayer, and He will immediately come to your aid. I wish you the best of luck, and I hope that after 120 years when your time is up in that world of falsehood, you will come up here to the world of truth, where I will be waiting for you with open arms, to congratulate you on your victory, and personally escort you to your place next to the Kisey HaKavod.

Sincerely, and with great admiration I remain,

Your Yetzer Hara

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

We must prepare ourselves for such an incredible day!! you must see this:)


This was posted before. I think it's something important to read at this time of year.

The following question was submitted anonymously.

If a person feels they can't forgive someone, must they say they forgive them?

They don't want to forgive them because they caused them so much pain, however they don't want to suffer the consequences of that action. What to do?

I'm sure that there are other people reading this blog that also have this question and I'm so glad you asked it so I can try to answer it for all those who were wondering but just didn't ask. I really respect you for trying to find a way to get past the hurt and work on really forgiving others for the pain they have caused you-that is really something to look up to!

Forgiveness can be a very difficult thing. On one hand, someone else hurt you and on the other hand, you know it is a very dangerous thing to hold on to the past without letting go.

One important thing to remember is that every single thing that happens to you is from Hashem. Of course we all know that as a fact but internalizing it and really feeling it when things are tough or when someone hurts your feelings is another story. If a person hurts your feelings, says something to make you feel bad, embarrasses you or does anything that makes you not want to forgive them, know that this is all from Hashem. S/he cannot do anything to hurt you if Hashem didn't want it to be that way.

Maybe it's a kapparah - if you are embarrassed in public or if someone says something to hurt your feelings and you don't answer back, you are seriously erasing your aveiros in a way that you cannot imagine! And what a better time to get your aveiros erased than before Yom Kippur! I'm sure we can all use that - a quick "delete" of our sins so we can become cleansed.

Maybe this is a way for you to work on your middos, on being more accepting, on not letting things get to you. If someone hurt you in a way that made you feel really bad, you need to think about it-why does this hurt me so much? Maybe I'm holding on to something too strongly and I need to let it get past me?

And maybe it happened for unknown reasons-unknown to you, that is. Because Hashem has a plan, He knows what He is doing and just know that this is all for your good, for the good of your neshama, for your spiritual growth. You can take this as a way to let yourself become a more giving, forgiving person.

Keep telling yourself again and again no one can hurt me in any way unless Hashem wants it to be. I may not understand why He wants this to happen, but I know that whatever happens in my life is not in my control. I will work on myself to look past the things that hurt me so I can forgive.

Forgiveness is not for the other person-it's for yourself. It's so that you learn to become a better person, a person who can give in, a person who can say it's okay.

Now, don't get me wrong, you should not let yourself become a doormat. If someone keeps hurting you again and again, perhaps you need to reevaluate your relationship and see if it is going in the right direction. I don't know who it is that hurt you that you are trying to forgive - but know that if it is someone with whom you can end a relationship or maybe make them realize your side, maybe you need to do that: talk it over. Tell the person that you feel hurt by whatever was done/said to you. Try to get that person to understand your side.

Also, some things are so trivial, so unimportant that when you will look back in a little while, you will realize that it was so not worth getting upset about. Of course, right now when you are in that situation, it hurts and it hurts terribly. But when you look back after you are over and done with it, you will be able to see that these things pass and things will get better.

You may have heard that if you forgive other people, especially when it's hard for you, Hashem will forgive you. What could be better than that? Now, before Yom Kippur, don't we all want forgiveness for our aveiros? By you going the extra step and saying, I will find it within myself to forgive this person and get past the pain, Hashem will forgive you for the things you may have done that were "too much"!

I hope this helps answer your question and if you still have more to add, you can email me, submit another question anonymously or just drop a comment. Either way, can you please leave a comment to let me know that you read this post and if it helped at all?

May you be able to forgive all those who have hurt you with a light heart and may this year be one where we all achieve full forgiveness from Hashem!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Power of One Letter

We all know that words have incredible power. They can be used to break and to destroy but they can also be used to build and to heal. I want to share a story with you.

This past shabbos, Parshas Ki Seitzei was my brother Shalom a"h's bar mitzvah parsha. I spent shabbos with my family and we talked about him and remembered some stories. My mother repeated something I had never heard before.

(If you are new to this blog and haven't read the story, you may want to start reading it by clicking on this link.)

One of the lifeguards who came to help do CPR (when he heard that Shalom fell down from the tree) makes a siyum every year on the yartzeit and calls in so we could hear it over the phone. He is now married and lives in Eretz Yisroel but he still never forgot Shalom on his yartzeit. He gets a group of bachurim together and they eat cake and say their brachos...every single year.

I'm always curious to know why someone like that-who didn't have any real, personal connection to my brother until the day he passed away would go out of his way to learn something and finish on the yartzeit, make a siyum and call us so we could hear him saying it while taking the time difference into account as well...

Well, this year we found out-from his wife.

After my brother fell from the tree, he was able to stand up and walk around for a few seconds while being supported by a few boys. They were quickly told to put him down because if there was a spinal injury, it is most important to keep the patient still and not move him around to minimize the damage to the spine and prevent paralysis. Shalom lost consciousness a little later and some lifeguards came to do CPR to try to revive him. This lifeguard was one of them and unfortunately, they were not able to do anything for my brother. There was one EMT who did CPR the entire trip to the hospital and kept him alive until he got there. He passed away a short while later.

When this lifeguard got home from camp, his mother told him, "This is your fault! You should have saved the boy! Why didn't you try harder? You didn't do enough!"

Could you imagine the guilt?
Could you imagine his pain?

How could someone say that?
Obviously, this was meant to be! If Hashem wants someone to remain alive, they can fall from the highest tree and survive. Hashem wanted my brother back. His time was up. There was no way in the world anyone who tried anything would have been able to bring him back to life. This was the will of Hashem.

This boy had a very hard time. His mother put the blame on him and he was living with a very strong feeling of guilt in his heart.


After we got up from shiva, my mother sat down to write thank you notes to all the people involved - those in camp who helped try to save my brother and a personal note to each of the lifeguards who did CPR on him.

When this boy got a letter in the mail and saw my family name in the return address, he started shaking. He was terrified to open it up. He thought for sure it was a letter putting him down and asking him why he didn't do more to save Shalom.

But he got the letter and so he opened it.

He was shocked when he read it. It was written with such warmth, with words of thanks for trying to do whatever he could to save my brother.

He took that letter and hung it above his bed. He read it every single day. At least once a day.

He became a new person.



He was able to live normally again. The family didn't blame him so of course it wasn't his fault. This was meant to be.

And that is why every single year on my brother's yartzeit, he makes a siyum and calls us so we could join in and hear it over the phone. Because of one letter that he got in the mail that changed his life around and helped him realize that he did all he can and he was appreciated by our family - just for trying.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Women, Elul and the Shofar

This was posted before but the message is great!

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, September 12, 2011

Teshuva - A Poem

I posted this before and 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, September 8, 2011

Creating Your Own Garden

This was written by a friend, R.P. Thank you for emailing it to me and giving me permission to post it here for everyone to read and gain from!

Life is full of challenges. We are constantly faced with tests that come in all different shapes and sizes.

The point of these challenges are to bring out our innermost potential of who we really are, who we can become and it's there for us to really become closer to Hashem.

However, It's up to us on how we'll face it.

How does a flower become a flower? It doesn't just come- You have to go out, plant a seed in the garden, water it every day, be on top of it, and slowly, each petal starts opening up until one day you see that a beautiful fresh flower blossomed!

So too, every nisayon we go through is like it's own flower. When we are put into a test, it didn't just come to you, Hashem planted this seed in front of you, and now it's up to you! It's in your hands how you'll choose to respond to it!

Now, when you go through this test, every action you take, every move you make, every positive thought you think, every step you are taking is making this seed start to grow. It's opening up petal after petal. And while your going through it, you are not alone. Hashem is watering it and helping you go through it. Until one day, all of the sudden, you overcame this test and the flower grew and blossomed into a beautiful flower. All of the sudden you grew and became a better person. Not just a better person but a different person. Now, your inner potential became YOU! IT BECAME A PART OF YOU! It's not hiding anymore inside of you. It's YOU!!!

So every test you pass is like another flower that just blossomed. And one day, you'll look back and what will you see? You'll see a gorgeous garden in front of your eyes! You'll see flowers and trees and grass and lilies and roses and dandelions and daisies. You'll see all different types of flowers. And what is it? Sometimes, you were faced with big tests, and that's why there are trees. Sometimes you were faced with small tests, like everyday challenges, so the grass grew. Sometimes there were medium sized tests, so the flowers, lilies, dandelions, roses and daisies grew. And you'll say- What? You mean me? I created this garden myself?

And one day, you'll be able to see the real garden you created. It's called Gan Eden. It will be a garden full of pleasure. Not just pleasure, but REAL pleasure! A pleasure that's everlasting!!! It's the best pleasure that there ever is. Every second of this pleasure is better than all the pleasures in the world from the beginning of creation until now. It's better than all the pleasures that all the people in the world put together ever had! You might have gone through pain and suffering, but look at your reward!!! Look what Hashem wanted to give you! He wanted to give you the best pleasure that there ever can be! That pleasure is being SO close to him. You'll feel Hashems shechina right on you!!! You'll feel so connected to Hashem, you won't want anything else in the world besides that!!!!

So, Please use every challenge for growth! Make that flower! Make that tree! Make that garden! And make every challenge meaningful! Don't ignore it! Please! Don't let any flower wilt! Don't let it slip by!

And remember- Whenever you go through any test, every second is precious. It's a time where you have the ability to express your real emunah. Your emunah becomes REAL. It's a time where you can reach a point in emunah that you won't reach without these tests. Treasure each moment. We don't ask for tests but once you get them, realize what you can make out of it!!! Realize how much you can grow and who you can become!!! It's ALL up to you. No-one else. Because Hashem gave you these unique nisyonos that only YOU can handle. Even if it seems impossible. Hashem knows what he's doing! He knows you can pass it. If you would not be able to, Hashem wouldn't give it to you. And Remember- Hashem gives you these tests because he loves you and only wants to give you the best that there EVER is!!!!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Never Too Late

Chazzal teach us that Chizkiyahu Melech Yehudah was amongst the greatest leaders of our people. He enacted laws that would cultivate Gedolim and Talmidei Chachomim in all of Klal Yisroel and our people flourished under his reign. Yet, Chizkiyahu saw with prophecy that he was destined to have a child who would be as wicked as he was righteous. He was thus afraid to produce a child. However, he was advised not to engage in influencing and tampering with the destiny and master plan of Hakadosh Baruch Hu. It was not his 'cheshbon' to influence the heavenly ordinances.

He understood the message and bore this child whom he named Menashe. Sure enough, Menashe grew up to be one of the most wicked people in our history. Where his Father had promoted spirituality, Menashe stifled it. Under his reign, our leaders were killed and their "blood flowed through the streets". Torah learning was forbidden and idolatry carried the day. Chazzal tell that Menashe was ultimately captured by opposing forces and thrown into a cauldron of burning water. As he lay trapped in the water with his flesh burning off his body, the Gemorah says that he began to call out to all of his idols by name, imploring them to save him from his predicament! He begged this idol, the other idol etc. Of course, none of these idols whom he had worshipped his entire life, came to help him in his time of need! Finally, the Gemorah relates that when Menashe was at the end of his rope, so to speak, he called out to Hakadosh Baruch Hu with the following proposal:

He said "Hashem, please help save me from my predicament - for if you do not, then "kol anpin shavim" - You are all the same! Meaning; - Menashe was telling the Ribbono Shel Olam - "look, I called out to all of my Idols and they could not help me. Now I am calling out to you. If you cannot help me either, then you are just like them; you are all the same!

The Gemorah relates that the Angels quickly intervened and closed the Sharei Shamayim (Gates of Heaven) so that the pleas of this Rasha would not reach the Kisei Hakavod! What happened next is a complete mystery. Hakadosh Baruch Hu "drilled a small hole" in his heavens to allow the voice of the dying Menashe to come up to his throne and he proceeded to save Menashe's life in a most miraculous way (as the Gemorah tells).

This story is a complete mystery!

For one thing, why did Hashem decide to save the life of this Rasha - who had spent his entire life rejecting Hakadosh Baruch Hu while attempting to wipe out all vestiges of spirituality from our people? Moreover, when Menashe finally did reach out to Hashem, look at the seeming Chutzpah with which he approached this! He actually makes conditions with Hashem! He equates Hashem with his worthless idols and says that If Hashem doesn't help him, then he is the same as the rest of those idols!! The sheer chutzpa of this statement! Of course the idols were not in a position to save him! They cannot! However, if Hashem were not to save him, it would be completely justified...after all, he didn't deserve it!

There are really two puzzling questions here
  1. Why did Hashem save him?
  2. What was the meaning behind Menashes cryptic and seemingly brazen plea to Hashem?
The answer to these questions is incredibly beautiful and a lesson for all of us.

Menashe's plea to Hashem was beautiful and profound in its depth. He was actually telling Hakadosh Baruch Hu the following:

"Look, I know what a Rasha I have been all of my life and that I am completely unworthy of your salvation. However, my Father (Chizkiyahu) always taught me as a child, that our Father in heaven displays kindness without boundaries or limitations. I was taught that your mercy for your children is without borders and not impeded by and contained within the framework of any yardstick or measure. Therefore, if you do not save me now in my time of need and despair, this would be an indication that I have simply strayed too far and that I am beyond salvation. This would mean that it is actually possible for a human being on this Earth to sin so badly, that he would actually place himself beyond the scope of your mercy. This means by extension, that your mercy is finite; that it is limited by the constraints of finite boundaries. If this is the case, then you are not the Hashem I was taught about in my youth!!

Upon hearing his pleas, the Malachei Hashareis moved quickly to block his prayers from advancing to the Kisei Hakavod. However, Hashem destined otherwise. Hashem created an opening for Menashe's tefillos to reach his heavenly throne and he actually granted him his request and saved his life!


Hashem wanted to make an example of Menashe and to teach all future generations that it is never "too late" to do Teshuva and to repent. Indeed, there is no such thing as a Jew straying too far from the fold...there is no such thing as Hashems' patience and mercy being overridden by the sins of a Jew.

No Jew is ever beyond salvation, because G-Ds' mercy and patience is without boundaries or limitations!

Indeed, the lesson we take from Menashe ben Chizkiyahu Melech Yehudah, is both profound and timely. It is never too late for a Jew to do Teshuva and come closer to Borei Olam!

Heard from Heard From Rav Shimshon Pincus zt"l;

Monday, September 5, 2011

we need to learn how to reconnect to the world around us.without texting every min. of the day. adorable video you must see this!!!!

Do You Deserve It?

Sometimes, when things get tough, a person can think to themselves, what did I do to deserve this?

But in truth, if you think about it, what do we really deserve?


Does Hashem owe you anything at all?

He wakes you up every morning.

He keeps you breathing every second of the day.

He gives you so many little things-little things that you may sometimes fail to notice because they seem so insignificant-until they are taken away.

Like simple health.
Nothing complicated.
Just the fact that you can breath...what happens when you get a cold? All of a sudden you realize what a gift it is to be able to breath from your nose!

He gives you a social life.

He gives you a job, a school, things to do to keep you busy.

He sends people who care into your life.

He is constantly giving, giving, giving.

Even if you do good things does that make you deserving of anything?

Hashem created you! He doesn't owe you a thing.

The fact that you can do those good things, the ability to walk to do chessed, the strength you have to help others...all this comes from Him.

But...He loves you.

And so...He continues to give to you.

So next time you wonder if you really deserve something difficult that is happening in your life, take a moment to think about all the good things you have that you don't either deserve.

Hashem loves you.

He'll never stop giving.

Say thank you and are lucky you get so much more than you deserve.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

True Greatness...True Kavannah

This is some of what I read on shabbos and it really changed my perspective on what it means when we say that we believe we daven to Hashem and only to Him.

What does it mean to daven with kavannah?

When a person has a strong need, it can be very easy for them to take out a siddur or tehillim and pour their hearts out to Hashem. They can daven with such intensity and then when they are done they feel like, "Wow! I just davened with such kavannah" and it's a great feeling.

For example, if someone has a relative who is very sick and needs a refuah, they take out their siddur and start davening and begging Hashem to please heal their relative...and their tefillah is full of an intense feeling of concentration. But what are they really concentrating on? Their own needs - the fact that they need their family member to be healed.

True kavannah says R' Shimshon Pincus zt"l is when a person totally nullifies themselves and comes to the realization that only Hashem can help them. It is when a person doesn't just beg Hashem to heal their relative...and it's not that their tears come from a feeling of desire to have the person healthy. The real thing is to have the following thoughts:

Hashem, only you have the power to heal the sick. You are so great, so lofty, so high but at the same time you care about little me and the things I need. Your greatness lies in the ability to come down and relate to me - a human being on this earth. You are so powerful and you can do anything! Please, Hashem, heal so-and-so.

Hashem is so great, He is so high but He is also able to have a relationship with people like us. That is true greatness.

The philosophers of the past did believe in G-d. The difference between their belief and ours is that they felt that Hashem is so far above us that not only doesn't this world interest Him but He can't possibly have any contact with us.
For example, the giant Og Melech Habashan was so tall and mighty that he was able to uproot a mountain. But he is unable to climb into a tiny ant hill - only because he is too big for that!
We on the other hand believe that Hashem is "hamagbihi lashaves, hamashpili liros bashamayim u'va'aretz" - He dwells on high yet lowers [His eyes] to look into the Heavens and earth. His greatness lies in His ability to be so high up yet at the same time He can lower Himself to relate to human beings who live in this world.

There is no pain that Hashem doesn't feel. Nothing is petty in Hashem's eyes. Let's say a person goes shopping and is disappointed because the shoes she chose doesn't quite match her outfit...Hashem feels that pain! (R' Pincus used a mashal of a man whose tie didn't match his suit but it's the same idea.) There is no pain felt by a Jewish person that Hashem does not feel. Isn't that heartwarming?!

This is the definition of Hashem's greatness. He is so lofty and so high but He is still able to connect to each of us on a personal level.

When a person davens with more emotional energy, that is not called davening with more kavannah. Increasing kavannah means increasing your awareness of Hashem's unlimited ability to do anything for you. It means saying (or thinking), Hashem, you are so great. You are so powerful. Nothing stands in the way of answering my tefillah. Your abilities are endless and you love me so much. You care about me and you feel my pain. You control every little thing that happens in this world. So please Hashem, heal this sick person!

It's not that the person's desire for the sick person to be healed is any less. It's that the person increases his awareness of Hashem's unlimited kindness and concern for each and every one of us. He cares about us on a personal level. He can do anything! If so, surely Hashem will send a refuah shelaima!

Sometimes, a person davens with intense emotion and all the while they think about all the things they want Hashem to do for them and give to them. But they don't even think for a second about Hashem Himself! His greatness, His love for us and His power to do anything. By thinking about the greatness of Hashem while you daven, you will add so much beauty to your tefillah!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Always Watching

I wrote this last year and wanted to share this with you again.

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 fifth yartzheit was today Beis Elul.