Monday, June 25, 2012

Pure Eyes

I posted this before and wanted to share it with you that the summer is here, it is a good reminder to all of us.

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!

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Sun's Impact

I came back from the park yesterday with the start of a suntan. I’m starting to get some color and I like that. I even noticed that I’m starting to get a watch mark. I always loved those. I could move my watch away and show off just how much color I’m getting. When I was a lifeguard in high school together with my sister, we would always compare our watch marks to see who got a better suntan.

This all made me think…about things that impact us and how they make an impression…and a strong one.

How does the Torah impact your life? How much of a mark does it make on your soul? When you hear a dvar torah, do you take it to heart? Do you see if there is something you can take from it?

I think of Torah as the sun…with it’s warmth and the good feelings I get when I hear something that touches me, that clicks, that answers my questions and makes things sound so right. I want it to impact me in the deepest ways possible. I want to get that mark on my soul…and I want it to stay there for a long time.

My daughter, Chaya Gitty, with her light skin, got a sunburn. Her cheeks were all red this morning yet she’s too young to know that too much exposure to the sun is not good for her and she needs suntan lotion. It was my job as her mother to take care of her, to load her up with the protective sunscreen so she wouldn’t get burned.

I think about how I have to teach my children the right way. I do not want them to get burned, to have a bad taste for Yiddishkeit. I want them to sit in the warmth of the sun, of our Torah and love every bit of the mesorah I am to give over to them. I need to do this by setting boundaries…by giving limitations…and also by knowing when to give in. it’s a tough balance. But I’m learning.

I need to know that each child is an individual. And just because I don’t get burned by spending a day out in the sun…because my skin is so much darker than my kids, that doesn’t mean the same sun will be okay for my kids, leaving them with a beautiful suntan instead of a sunburn.

And…it’s not just my kids. Everyone is on a different level. What works for me may not work for someone else who is not at the same place as me. Not everyone has the same skin tone.

Torah, like the sun, is full of warmth. You need to know that when it comes to spiritual growth, it must be done slowly. Just like too much exposure to the sun can cause one to get burned, trying to take on too much too fast can end up hurting.

Who would ever think there are so many lessons to take from a trip to the park and my suntan? :-)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Let Go of the Mouse

This is one of my favorite aish articles.

Let Go of the Mouse by Sara Yoheved Rigler

An antidote for control freaks.

Obeying Microsoft's recommendations can lead to catastrophe. That's what happened to me when I innocently clicked on "Yes" in the window that recommended condensing my emails in order to save space on my hard disk. Some 20 minutes later, the job was done -- and my last month and a half of emails had disappeared.

"Don't panic," I told myself. "They must be in there somewhere." But as the specter of dozens of red-flagged emails that direly needed replies began to haunt me, I became increasingly agitated. A frantic 45 seconds later, I called Microsoft Israel's technical support.

Yaniv was reassuring. "Don't worry," he calmed me. "They're in the Recycle Bin on your desktop." Lo and behold, they were! But how to get them back into my Outlook Express?

"Well, it's a little complicated," Yaniv said. "I don't think you'll be able to do it on your own. Are you willing to share control of your computer with me until we solve the problem?"

A person drowning in cyberspace will agree to anything. "Yes, Yes!" I promised.

The first thing he had me do was download the program, "Microsoft Easy Assist." Then a window appeared asking if I was willing to share control of my computer with a Microsoft technical support assistant. "Yes," I clicked emphatically.

A small blue box appeared in the lower right hand corner of my screen. It asked the same question again. Apparently relinquishing control is not so easy for some people. "It's okay, Yaniv," I told him on the phone. "I trust you." I clicked, "Yes," and the little blue box switched messages. Now it assured me that at any time I wanted to withdraw control from the technical support assistant, all I had to do was click the appropriate box. "Why would I want to do that?" I wondered. "He's helping me do what I could never do by myself. I guess some people really have control issues."

"Okay, are you ready?" Yaniv asked.


"Now let go of the mouse."

"Excuse me?"

"Let go of the mouse. I'm going to control your mouse."

Let go of my mouse? I sat there with my hand frozen on my trusty mouse.

"If you want me to restore your emails," Yaniv explained patiently, "You have to let me control your mouse."

I let go.

Like some preternatural Ouija board, my pointer started to move by itself. I was doing nothing. He was doing everything.

Then, like some preternatural Ouija board, my pointer started to move by itself. With my hands tightly folded on my lap and my eyes wide, I saw the pointer moving rapidly and clicking. Every move was accompanied by Yaniv's first-person plural declarations, "Now, we'll click here. Now we'll open up this window. Now we'll right click on this." It was a royal "we." I was doing nothing. He was doing everything.

Ten minutes later the phantom emails were sitting pertly back in my Outlook Express. Yaniv told me to click on the little blue box withdrawing permission for him to control my computer. I did so reluctantly. Obviously, he knew how to run my computer better than I did.


While some of us are worse control freaks than others, all of us resist relinquishing control of our lives to God. We human beings have been in competition with the Almighty ever since Adam and Eve were seduced into eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge by the enticement: "You will become like gods."

What's wrong with wanting to control your own life rather than letting God be God?

First of all, thinking that you are in ultimate control of everything that happens to you, which is the same as thinking that you are God, is crazier than thinking that you're Napoleon. This delusion bumps up against reality every time that you get stuck in an unexpected traffic jam, or your flight is delayed three hours (causing you to miss your connection), or you get sick on a day when you simply can't afford to miss work.

The best damage control is to realize that you are not in control, like the sign that hung in my bedroom three decades ago: "LET GO AND LET GOD." If you don't surrender control, you will still be sitting on the runway as the hours tick by, but your blood pressure will be catapulting to dangerous levels and you may find yourself shouting at the stewardess or making vain threats never to fly that airline again, even though it's the only one that flies to Xanpliwey.

The day after my Microsoft lesson in letting go, I found myself in an unpalatable position. I had agreed to deliver a welcome basket to an important family arriving in Israel to study Judaism. My assignment was to take a taxi to the neighborhood where they would be staying and to visit with them for fifteen minutes to make them feel comfortable. They were due to arrive on a Friday afternoon. On Thursday I carefully shopped for the perfect assortment of fruit, salads, sushi, chocolates, plus junk food for the children. Then I found the ideal basket. With meticulous care, I arranged each item in the basket.

On Friday at noon, I started phoning the two cell numbers I had been given. They were not turned on. With mounting dismay, as the onset of Shabbat drew nearer and nearer, I kept dialing the numbers, to no avail. My teenage son suggested that I just go and drop off the basket, whether or not they were there, but I responded that the whole point was for me to visit with them. My daughter suggested that maybe they had arrived early in the morning and had turned off their cell phones because they were now sleeping, so I should just go and ring their doorbell. That would be even worse, I pointed out. I'm supposed to make a favorable impression and instead I should annoy them by waking them up?

At 4 o'clock their phones were still turned off. Finally, in desperation, I called a taxi and went. As I sat in the cab in a state of heightened anxiety -- What if they're not there? What if I wake them up? -- I suddenly heard Yaniv's voice: "Let go of the mouse."

I had done everything I could do, and now I was no longer in control.

With a jolt I realized: I had done everything I could do, and now I was no longer in control. God runs the world. It will be the way He wants it. I let go of the mouse, and relaxed.

When I got to the address, I found the landlord watering the garden. I asked for the family who was supposed to be staying upstairs. He informed me that their flight had been rerouted, and they would be arriving in Jerusalem only minutes before Shabbat. He let me into the apartment to drop off my basket and refrigerate the sushi and salads. I left my card with a message of greeting, resolving to call them after Shabbat. And that was that. It didn't work out the way I had planned; it worked out the way God had planned. And who knows which scenario was ultimately better? By letting go of the mouse, I returned home relaxed and content, instead of frustrated and vexed.


The second reason to let God be God is that He does a better job of it than we would. Just as relinquishing control of the mouse to Yaniv had yielded a better result than my trying to solve the problem, sometimes we are afforded a glimpse of how God is more qualified than we are to run the world.

Jerusalem resident Hedy Kleiman was visiting her father in Toronto for two weeks. Her father had been chronically ill with kidney disease for eight years. With both of his children living in Israel, he had been well taken care of by his wife. Since her mother's death nine months before, however, Hedy had flown to Toronto twice to help her father. This time she found him weaker than before, but stable.

On Tuesday night she was scheduled to fly home to Israel. At noon on Tuesday the phone rang. It was El Al calling for Hedy. "How did you get my number in Toronto?" Hedy asked, perplexed. The El Al clerk said she had called Hedy's number in Jerusalem, and her son had supplied the Toronto number. El Al was calling to ask Hedy to agree to be bumped from her flight that night. In exchange, El Al would give her a reservation for Thursday night plus a free ticket Tel Aviv-Toronto.

Hedy was nonplussed. She had five children at home to take care of, as well as a job that had already given her more than her share of vacation time. On the other hand, she thought, a free ticket would enable her to return to Toronto for her mother's yahrzeit in April. And why, she wondered uneasily, had El Al selected her, out of hundreds of passengers, to be bumped?

"First of all," responded Hedy, "I can't fly Thursday night. The plane would land on Friday too close to Shabbat. What about Saturday night?"

"Saturday night is solidly booked. The best we can do is give you a reservation for Sunday night."

"I can't decide without speaking to my husband and my boss at work," Heddy waffled, "I'll call you back."

"No, we'll call you back," the El Al clerk insisted. "How many minutes do you need?"

"Ten," Hedy answered. She couldn't reach her husband (who told her later that he would have advised against it), but her boss okayed the extra days. When the El Al clerk called back with uncharacteristic promptness, Hedy agreed to be bumped and fly on Sunday night instead.

Late Saturday night, Hedy's father suddenly felt sick and asked her to call an ambulance. By Sunday morning, he had lost consciousness. Hedy recited "Shema Yisrael" and the traditional "Vidui" [confession] for him. At 11:30 Sunday morning, he died. Thanks to her celestial travel agent, his beloved daughter was at his side.

For Sara Yoheved Rigler’s Spring Tour schedule or to order her new book God Winked, visit her website,

Monday, June 11, 2012

My Big-Little Boy

Yesterday was a big day. Shalom Baruch had his upsherin.

It's a transformation. Suddenly, the long pony is gone, the curls are gone and all that's left is a cute little boy (with the same fun, wild personality) with a whole different look. He starts to look adult. His face still has those little baby features but now I start to expect so much of him. It looks like he went through such a major change...until he has his first tantrum. Then I realize, he's still the same little kid he was before his haircut.

I look at my big little boy and I think about so many things. I think about my hopes and dreams for my oldest child. I think about the role model I want him to be for his younger siblings and how I hope he will show them the right way. The oldest child has a certain responsibility. His siblings look up to him and want to follow what he does. When the oldest child is good, does what is right, listens to and respects his parents, his younger siblings (hopefully) follow in his lead. I hope my son will be the proper role model for his siblings.

I look at that yarmulka he wears so proudly and I hope he will always be so proud of the yarmulka on his head. I hope he will never, ever want to take it off. That he will love Judaism...each and every part of it. That his heart will be filled with love AND fear of his creator. A yarmulka is meant to be a reminder...Yarei Malka, fear of the king. 

And I wonder...

A man keeps his head covered at all times to remind him that there is always something, Someone above him. Is that the reason why a woman also covers her hair? Is that supposed to be a reminder for her too? 

Da ma l'malah mimcha...know that there is Someone above you...remember Hashem him in your mind...think about Him. Think about Him when you make decisions in your life, when you are unsure of right and wrong...

I hope my son will be able to make the proper decisions as he grows up. There are so many temptations out there. When I think about what it will be like to raise my children in our generation, in the generation of technology, where you get things you want faster than you can snap your fingers, I get scared. It's scary to raise a child in a generation like ours. But I daven and hope for siyata dishmaya and that Hashem help me teach my children properly, every step of the way. That I do the right things, instill love for Him in their hearts and teach them by example what it means to be good, to do what's right.

I look at his proud smile as he runs to put on his tzitzis in the morning. I hope he will always kiss them the way he did this morning. With such happiness, with such excitement. How will he hold on to his innocence, to his love for this mitzvah? 

Tzitzis are meant to be a reminder, v'lo sasuru acharei levavchem v'acharei eineichem. Do not not let your eyes wander...Shalom Baruch, if I could engrave just one message on your heart, this would be it. V'lo sasuru...Don't let your eyes wander. Don't look at things you shouldn't. Don't look at what other people have with jealousy. Keep your eyes pure. Keep your heart pure. Hold on to the precious innocence you have now. Focus on what you do have and be happy with it. Don't keep looking further, for more and for better. Because it may not be better. It may not make you any happier. What you have is best for you.

I look at my little boy and I feel blessed. Thank you Hashem for helping me reach this milestone.