Jews With Views

Opinions & Rants On The Jewish World

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23 Shevat
“Master of the world, Who reigned before anything was created” (Siddur).


The prayer Adon Olam is the opening prayer of the morning service; some congregations also recite it at the close of the evening service. It is also included in the extended version of the prayer upon retiring.

Adon Olam’s being both the opening and closing prayer is similar to the practice of beginning the reading of Genesis on Simchas Torah immediately after concluding the last chapter of Deuteronomy. There, we indicate that Torah is infinite; like a circle, it has no beginning or end. So it is with prayer, which represents our relationship with God. Since God is infinite, we never reach a finite goal in relating to Him.

Indeed, the cyclical natures of prayer and Torah not only indicate that there is no end, but also that there is no beginning. Secular studies have levels of graduation which indicate that one has completed a certain level. In Torah studies, we do not complete anything. Indeed, each volume of the Talmud begins with page two rather than page one, to teach us that we have not even begun, let alone ever finish.

Growth in spirituality has no limits. The symbolism in the cyclical format of Torah and prayer is that we cannot say that we have even reached the halfway mark in spiritual growth, much less the end. This realization should excite us, not depress us, because our potential is infinite.
Today I shall …

try to understand that regardless of how much I think I may have advanced in spirituality, I have hardly even made a beginning.

7 Adar
[Just before Moses' death] God said to him, “This is the Land that I promised to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob” (Deuteronomy 34:4).
The Midrash says that Moses pleaded to live long enough to be able to enter the Promised Land. He surrendered his soul only after God instructed him to enter Heaven and inform the Patriarchs that the Israelites had come to their Land and that God had indeed fulfilled His promise to give the Land of Israel to their descendants. To fulfill God’s will was dearer to Moses than his craving to enter the Land.
It is only natural to cling to life, and the thought of leaving this world is depressing. However, if a person develops the attitude that he lives only in order to fulfill God’s will, then life and death are no longer polar opposites, because he lives to do the will of God, and when that will requires that he leave this world, he will be equally obedient.
The seventh day of Adar is the anniversary of Moses’ death. He wanted to enter the Promised Land so that he could fulfill the commandments and thereby have a new opportunity to fulfill the Divine wish. He surrendered his soul willingly when he was told that there was a special commandment for him to perform, one that could only be achieved after leaving this earth.
We refer to Moses as Rabbeinu, our teacher. He not only taught us didactically, but by means of everything he did in his life – and by his death, as well.
Today I shall …
… try to dedicate my life to fulfilling the will of God, so that even when that will contradicts my personal desires, I can accept it with serenity.
6 Adar
Solomon] was wiser than all men (I Kings 5:11), even wiser than fools (Midrash
What does the Midrash mean by “wiser than fools”?
A man of means was once a Sabbath guest at the home of the Chofetz Chaim. He insisted upon paying the sage in advance for the Sabbath meals – an insulting demand. To everyone’s surprise, the Chofetz Chaim accepted the money.
After the Sabbath the Chofetz Chaim forced the guest to take the money back. He explained, “Had I refused to accept the money before the Sabbath, the thought that he was imposing upon me might have distracted from the man’s enjoying the spirit of the Sabbath. Although it was foolish of him to feel this way, I wished to put his mind at rest.”
Not everyone thinks wisely all the time. Some people have foolish ideas. Yet if we oppose them, they may feel they have been wronged. Insisting on the logic of our own thinking may not convince them in the least. In such instances, it may require great wisdom to avoid offending someone, yet not submitting to his folly.
By accepting his guest’s money, knowing that he would return it to him after the Sabbath, the Chofetz Chaim wisely accommodated this man’s whim without compromising on his own principles.
A wise person may be convinced by a logical argument, but outsmarting a fool truly requires genius.
Go to the ant, you sluggard, consider her ways and become wise (Proverbs 6:6).
The Talmud states that had the Torah not been given, we would have been held accountable to learn proper behavior from observance of lower forms of life. As Solomon says, we could have learned diligence from the ant. The Talmud adds that we could have learned modesty, fidelity, and respect of others’ possessions by observing certain animals’ behaviors.
We might ask: “Without Torah to teach us, how would we have known which animal traits to emulate? Perhaps we would have learned indolence from the alligator, which basks in the sun all day, and ruthlessness from predatory animals!”
People are endowed with an inherent sense of decency and morality. We are expected to use this innate power to judge right and wrong. The Torah only clarifies and emphasizes for us what we could have achieved on our own.
The Talmud thus teaches us that corruption is not only wrong and sinful, but actually unnatural. People do not sin because they have unnatural desires, but because they fail to exercise their innate intellect. If we think before we act, weighing the pros and cons of what we do, we are less likely to go astray.
Today I shall …
… be aware that the dignity of a human being lies in the capacity to think before acting. I will not allow myself to be less than a dignified human being.
God considers a good intention as though one had performed a good deed (Kiddushin 40a).
Our time is finite, and therefore every moment is precious and irreplaceable. Yet sometimes we waste precious moments because we do not have something constructive to do.Some people carry a small book with them, so that if they must wait for a bus or sit in a waiting room, they can use the time productively. It may be a book of Psalms or something to study. It may be a notebook to record an idea or jot down plans. While this practice is excellent, what about the times when we are in bed and cannot fall asleep, or are walking down the street and we cannot read?An excellent idea is to think about how and when to perform a commandment when the opportunity arises. Plan how we can contribute more to charity or other benevolent deeds, or make mental inventory of the sick, lonely, and needy, and think about how we can bring cheer into their lives. One can reflect on the opening phrase of the Shema, and reassert one’s belief in the unity of God and in His providence. One can dedicate oneself to serve God with all one’s heart, soul, and might, as we declare when we recite the Shema.One can also think about self-improvement and how to avoid doing things that one regrets having done. This is part of the commandment to repent, and can be fulfilled at least partially by meditation and concentration.If one had idle cash and knew that it could be invested for great profit, one would certainly seize the opportunity to do so. We ought to do the same with idle time.

Today I shall …
… try to utilize every moment of the day constructively.
See more books by Rabbi Abraham Twerski at

27 Shevat
May there not be anguish nor grief nor sighing on the day of our rest (Siddur).
It is noteworthy that the Hebrew words for these types of distress are all in the singular: an anguish, a grief, a sighing.
Many years ago, when my brother was gravely ill, I visited a rabbi in Israel and asked for a berachah(blessing) for his recovery. As I left, the rabbi said to me, “May you have many worries.”
Noting my astonishment at this unusual berachah, the rabbi said, “When you have many worries, then things are in order. It is when you have only one worry that things are bad.
“You see,” he explained, “life is never free of worries. Ever since Adam was expelled from Gan Eden (paradise), life has never been without problems, but these are the normal stresses of everyday life.
“If something extremely bad occurs, people forget all their usual daily worries and become totally preoccupied with this single, truly serious problem. For example, your worry about your brother’s serious illness is pre-eminent and has displaced all other worries, because they all pale in comparison.
“My wish for you is that you have many worries, so that none be of such magnitude as to obscure all others.”
Today I shall …
… try to realize that the fact that I can list a number of things that are unpleasant is actually a favorable sign, because none of them is so severe that it obscures all the others.
#1115   Ask Other People, “What Are You Grateful For?”
A great question to ask other people: “What are you grateful for?”
Most people are grateful for many things, but this isn’t necessarily on the forefront of their minds. It’s like the thoughts of being grateful are on the hard disk of their mental computer, but not on the screen of their minds. By asking someone, “What are you grateful for?” they bring the thought of gratitude up to their mental screen.
After some people, when they have answered this question, you might add a comment like, “You are fortunate for that.” “That’s a wonderful thing to be grateful for.” “So you always have what to be grateful for.”
(From Rabbi Zelig Pliskin’s book: Thank You! Gratitude: Formulas, Stories, and Insights: Artscroll Publishers)
See Rabbi Pliskin’s new book “Life Is Now”
And God spoke to Moses face to face, just as a person would speak to a friend (Exodus 33:11).
Moses was the only prophet to whom God spoke directly, just as a person would converse with a friend. However, this uniqueness went only one way; every single human being has the ability to speak to God directly, “as a person would speak to a friend.” Indeed, we should do so.
In this way, we can fully express our innermost feelings. True, we address God as the King of the Universe, which He is. We also plead with Him as a child does with a parent, which He is. But we certainly would never tell a king everything about ourselves, and we all have things which we would never want our parents to know. With a friend, however, we have fewer restrictions and less resistance. We can reveal everything to a friend, even things that we would be too embarrassed or otherwise reluctant to tell anyone else.
The Torah refers to God as “a friend” (e.g. Proverbs 27:10), because it wishes us to have this relationship with God, as well as that of subject to sovereign and child to father.
One might ask, “Since God knows our thoughts, why should we reveal them to Him verbally in prayer?” The answer is that by doing so, we reinforce our relationship to Him as a friend.
When you complete your formal prayers, add some of your own composition, and speak to God as a friend.
Today I shall …
… try to enhance the quality of my prayer by revealing to God everything that is on my mind, just as I would with a trusted friend.
6 Tishrei
And what does teshuvah consist of? [Repentance to the degree] that the One Who knows all that is hidden will testify that he will never again repeat this sin (Maimonides, Laws of Teshuvah 2:2).
“How can this be?” ask the commentaries. “Inasmuch as man always has free choice to do good or evil, to sin or not to sin, how can God testify that a person will never repeat a particular sin? Is this not a repudiation of one’s free will?”
The answer to this came to me at a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, at which the speaker, a man who had been sober for twenty-one years, said, “The man I was drank. The man I was will drink again. But now I am a different man.”
A sin does not occur in a vacuum. A person who is devout does not abruptly decide to eat treifah. A sin occurs when a person is in such a state that a particular act is not anathema to him.
Consequently, repentance is not complete if one merely regrets having done wrong. One must ask, “How did this sin ever come about? In what kind of a state was I that permitted me to commit this sin?”
True repentance thus consists of changing one’s character to the point where, as the person is now, one can no longer even consider doing the forbidden act. Of course, the person’s character may deteriorate – and if it does, he may sin again.
God does not testify that the person will never repeat the sin, but rather that his degree of repentance and correction of his character defects are such that, as long as he maintains his new status, he will not commit that sin.
Today I shall …
… try to understand how I came to do those things that I regret having done, and bring myself to a state where such acts will be alien to me.
The number of the Children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor counted (Hosea 2:1).

The Talmud (Yoma 22b) asks: The first section of the verse states that the number of Jews will be equal to the number of grains of sand of the sea. Therefore, although the number will be gigantic, nevertheless, it will still be a finite number, like the sands of the sea.

Conversely, the second phrase states: which cannot be counted – suggests that number of the Children of Israel will be infinite. Hence, the verse contradicts itself regarding the quantity of Klal Yisrael, whether or not they will be able to be counted.

The K’sav Sofer offers an insightful resolution to this question. He explains that the infinite scope and endless depths of the Torah make it impossible for one individual to fulfill the entire Torah. Indeed, the complete fulfillment of the Torah requires the participation of every member of Klal Yisrael. Each soul must contribute his unique portion of Torah. Only when all the Torah portions of every Jewish soul – are joined together – is the entire Torah manifest.

In general, the number of people in a group can be counted because each person is separate entity. Whereas, regarding the group of Klal Yisrael, each member is only a complete entity when joined to all the other parts – forming together the entire Torah.

Hence, there can be no completion of the part (i.e., the individual) or the whole (i.e., Klal Yisrael) without the inclusion of every single Jew.

In light of this, we can understand the verse from Hosea. The number of the Children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea – meaning that Hashem will bless Klal Yisrael so that there will be a massive quantity of Jewish people.

Which cannot be measured nor counted – it is irrelevant to count them individually because all of them together will be considered as one individual.

Hosea’s vision of the Messianic age is that Klal Yisrael will unite to create the manifestation of the Torah.  Hence, the level of one Jew over the other will be insignificant. Instead, Klal Yisrael will join together under one leader – with one singular goal. There will be not divisiveness among them, and they will have one common mindset – to link together to fulfill the Torah.

TODAY: Let the holiness of Rosh Hashanah inspire us to  unify as one indivisible people.

Towards the end of his life, Moshe Rabenu informed Klal Yisrael of his impending death (Devarim 31:2): Moshe said to them, “I am a hundred and twenty years old today…” Meaning: “Today my days and years are filled on this day; on this day I was born and I this day I shall die, i.e., he died on his birthday.”

In these words, Moshe revealed the secret of completeness. The Midrash (Bereishis Raba 58:1) explains this idea from the verse (Tehillim 37:18): HaShem knows the days of those who are complete… Says the Midrash: “Just as they are complete, so too, their years are complete; HaShem completes their years from the day of their birth to full years, so that] the day of their death falls on the day of their birth.”

The worthiness of tzadikim is expressed in the term that HaShem calls them, i.e., they are called ‘complete’. The Midrash continues: “The essential principle of days is completion of a life cycle. As Rabbi Yochanon stated: ‘The days of the righteous are like a complete circle.”

The significance of this concept is that just as a circle has no angles, rather it is completley round – so too – the deeds and affairs of those who are completely righteous are whole and complete. This wholeness is reflected in the days and years of their lives – which span a complete cycle – from day of their birth to the day of their death.

A tzaddik lives every moment to the fullest, and gives his whole heart to serve HaShem – in Torah, Mitzvoth, and deeds of loving-kindness. Hence, there are no ‘side moments’ in his life. He treasures every second of life that HaShem bestows upon him. Therefore, he recognizes the opportunity in every moment – and – lives it to its highest potential.

Therefore, just as he fulfills his days, so too, HaShem blesses him with days and years that are complete.
[Based on Da'as Torah of Rav Yerucham HaLevi]

TODAY:Consider every second of your life of as an opportunity to perform a vital service to HaShem or your fellow.


Good leadership is a vital element in a nation’s success.  The spiritual goals of the Nation of Israel require different leadership qualities than other nations. Yet, it is not simple to abstract rules of leadership from the profound wisdom of the Torah.  Therefore, we ask: what is the essence of a good Jewish leader?

When HaShem appointed Yehoshua as Moshe’s successor, he referred to Yehoshua as “a man of spirit.” In light of the fact that every person has a “spirit” or soul, what was unique about Yehoshua’s spirit?

Yehoshua accepted and loved every member of the People of Israel. He was a “man of the spirit,” meaning that, his spirit embraced every person in his great community. He was a living example of Abraham, who loved all of his fellow man.

Now, this is interesting. Jewish leadership is not about power, a smooth tongue, and ego. It is about GOODNESS. Simply put, the Jewish leader is good and does good to others. His model of goodness is the greatest and most important function of a Jewish leader. His goodness uplifts his people and inspires them to be good.

The verse states (Daniel 12:3), “And those who teach righteousness to the multitudes will shine like the stars forever and ever,” Rashi writes, “The teachers of children turn many to righteousness, because they train them to go the way of the good.”
May we ourselves fill our hearts with love and understanding for every person. As a result, we will be true leaders – and spread the light of goodness to the entire world.
[Based on the Ohr HaChaim and Ohr Yisrael]

TODAY: Open your heart to accept every person in love and spread goodness to mankind._________

Fame and Happiness
Many people mistakenly think that being famous will automatically make them happy.
But happiness depends on what goes on in your mind and not what happens “out there.” Hence if you are thinking negative thoughts, you will be sad even if everyone else in the world is speaking about how great you are. Conversely, if you think positive thoughts, you will feel good even if no one gives you honor.
Happiness is dependent on your thoughts and not on what other people say about you, unless you tell yourself you cannot be happy without the approval and honor of others. But when such is the case, the main problem is not that others do not give you honor, but that you tell yourself it is awful that other people do not give you the honor you arbitrarily demand.
(Rabbi Pliskin’s Gateway to Happiness, p.269)

Shammai said, “Say little and do much.”

Torah study, as well as the performance of Mitzvoth and good deeds, delivers pure spiritual nourishment to our souls. Therefore, when we engage in Torah study and Mitzvah performance we feel wholesomely fulfilled. What’s more, a far greater measure of joy awaits us in the world of Eternal life, i.e., our reward in Gan Eden for the Torah we studied and the Mitzvoth we performed.

The delightful pleasure of the World to Come is supreme. However, as long as we are stationed in this earthly realm we are unable to perceive the splendor of the Next World, which is a completely spiritual dimension.

We have said that, (1) Torah and Mitzvoth deeply sates our soul, and (2) as long as we are in this world, it is impossible to perceive the joy of Gan Eden. However, the combination of these two important concepts may actually diminish the number of Mitzvoth that we perform! Why is that so?

On one hand, we find deep contentment from doing even a minimum of Mitzvoth; on the other hand, we lack the awareness of the glory of the World to Come. Therefore, once we engage in one Mitzvah, we might lack motivation to perform more Mitzvoth.

In order to compensate for any lack of Mitzvah motivation, our Sage’s advice us to, “Say little and do much.” Meaning, even if we have performed a Mitzvah that we feel good about – we should say to ourselves, “I have done a few Mitzvoth – yet there are so many more I can perform!”

This strategy stirs us to perform more and more Mitzvoth. In that way, the increase of Mitzvoth that we perform will enhance our joy in this world, and acquire for us a full measure of delight in the World to Come.
[Based on the commentary of Rav Chaim Voloshin]

TODAY: Reflect on this idea: “I have done a few Mitzvoth – yet I can bring myself more happiness by performing so many more Mitzvoth.”__________


After the Children of Israel encamped around Mount Sinai,”You have encompassed this mountain long enough; turn yourselves Northward” (Devarim 2:3). The Hebrew word Tzefonah – has three meanings: (1) “Northward,” (2) “Hidden,” and (3) “Wisdom.” Therefore, the verse can be interpreted according to the literal meaning, i.e., “travel Northwards.” In addition, the verse may be understood according to two esoteric interpretations, “Hide yourselves,” or “Flee to the wisdom of Torah.”

What is the meaning of this cryptic message? The Midrash explains that HaShem conveys these words of advice to the Jewish people during the precarious period of our exile:

“Rabbi Chiya said, ‘Tell them if you see that Esau wants to contend with you, do not stand against him. Rather “hide yourselves” from him until his sovereignty passes.’ Rabbi Yehudah ben Shalom added, ‘B’nai Yisrael asked, “Where should we flee?” HaShem responded, ‘If you see him poised to attack you, then flee to ‘the wisdom of the Torah.’”

The period of our exile has been fraught with danger and hardship. However, HaShem reveals that the Torah will be a sanctuary for us, even during the darkest moments. Indeed, if not for the great wisdom found within the holy Torah, – its comfort, light, and joy – we would not have been able to survive.

Even more, despite a world against the People of Israel and Torah values -  a world bent on wiping us off the face of the map – we have endured. Under the most trying challenges, we have succeeded to flourish. Despite what we have suffered, the fact remains that never has so much good emerged from so few.

Our secret?

“Flee to the Torah.” The Torah has been and will always be our stronghold of protection and oasis of spirituality. May we strengthen our commitment to Torah study. In turn, we will be protected from our enemies, and merit countless powerful blessings in this world as well as the world to Come

Today: Know that when you study Torah today, you are bringing Divine protection upon yourself and Klal Yisrael.

Rabbi Abraham Twerski and Aish HaTorah
One who withholds grain will be cursed by the nation (Proverbs 11:26).
This verse refers to people who have knowledge and refuse to share it with others. Our Sages strongly criticize these people. The Talmud states that prophets who did not convey their prophecies to the people committed a grave sin. The Sages extend this principle to one who has gained insights into the Torah and does not make them available to others.
This principle applies to skills and talents. In the Sanctuary, those Kohanim (priests) who possessed certain talents were soundly condemned if they guarded them as family secrets.
Exclusive economic rights such as patents and copyrights pose no problem; inventors and authors should enjoy the profits of their labor. However, when the question is not one of income, but merely one of pride in being the sole person to possess information that others could use and enjoy, the Talmud spares no words in its condemna tion.
We pray to God to grant us wisdom, and if we possess a particular skill, we should recognize it as a Divine gift. We should be grateful for having been chosen as the recipient of this gift, and so we should never be selfish and claim this gift as our exclusive property. Rather, we should make our talents and knowledge available to everyone.
To the degree that people can teach, they are obligated to do so, regardless of their status in life. If others fail to take advantage of what a teacher has to offer, that is their misfortune.
Today I shall …
… refrain from keeping to myself any knowledge or information that can be helpful to others
“Consider the wonderful feeling of love and affection that is aroused within your heart when someone greets you with a warm and friendly smile, as alluded to by King Solomon (Mishlei 27:19): “Just as water reflects the face that looks upon it, so too, the heart of a man reflects his fellow.”
Moreover, if it were the king who greeted you with a warm and friendly smile, how your heart would surge with joy and excitement. You would feel great love and respect for the king; and you would honor and praise him, exceedingly.
How much more so, should our hearts be filled with unbounded joy and love for HaShem when we contemplate on HaShem’s declaration of love for us, as it says (Devarim 4:7): “For what other nation has HaShem so near to them, as HaShem is so near to us whenever we call upon Him?”; and His promise to love and protect us throughout the generations, as it says (Vayikra 26:44): “And even when they are in the land of their enemies I will not reject them nor….break my covenant with them, for I am HaShem their G-d.’”
King Solomon said that “Life emanates from the splendorous countenance of the King.” The favor and grace of the King radiates life, itself.
From the time HaShem revealed His splendor and goodness to our Patriarch Abraham some four thousand years ago, his descendents – throughout the ages – have found special favor in the eyes of Heaven. How fortunate we are that HaShem, the Eternal King, shines his abundant kindness and love upon us every second of our existence.
TODAY: May the knowledge that HaShem is truly “smiling” upon us fill us with everlasting joy – and life!
The Salant Center
eMussar – The Wisdom of Personal Growth
The Saba of Kelm taught, “A little bit holds a great deal.” Meaning, there are some things in life that produce a powerful benefit in small doses. One of these “small dynamos” is encouragement. For instance, when HaShem appointed Yehoshua to succeed Moshe as the leader of Klal Yisrael, Moshe said to him, “Be strong and courageous.”
Yehoshua was the greatest student of Moshe and a Prophet. Nevertheless, Moshe recognized the importance of encouraging him. The words of Moshe strengthened Yehoshua and he succeeded to bring the People of Israel into the Land of Israel and conquer the thirty-one kingdoms.
Encouragement can also be effectively applied to oneself. For instance, when Klal Yisrael engaged in harlotry with the Midianite women, all of the leaders stood by in a state of helplessness. Pinchas ben Elazar, strengthened himself and found the courage to stand up to – and put an end to – the immorality.
If not for his action, the entire nation would have died. Therefore, the “little bit” of pulling himself together, produced “a great deal.” Specifically, his heroism saved the entire Nation of Israel.
May we strengthen ourselves as well as other people in Torah study, good deeds, and virtue of character. A “little” encouragement will be the catalyst of “a great deal” of wisdom, kindness, and elevation.
[Based on Ohr RaShaz of the Alter of Kelm, Rav Simcha Zissel]
TODAY: Encourage yourself and strengthen a friend – and generate a great deal of goodness.
I will teach the defiant Your ways, and the sinful will return to You (Psalms 51:15).
Every human being craves happiness. People are more than willing to spend great sums of money in the hope of achieving happiness. Unfortunately, their efforts are usually in vain, because happiness cannot be bought. Luxurious homes, sumptuous feasts, and lavish occasions may provide transitory pleasures, but never true happiness.
Living with faith and trust in God can deliver the sought-for happiness. The reason more people do not achieve happiness is because they fall short of the requisite degree of faith and trust in God. We may worry about our financial future and the ability to provide for our families the way we would like, especially during economic downturns. When adversities occur, we are likely to become deeply dejected. A profound and unquestioning faith and trust in Divine benevolence will provide the serenity, security, and convictions that could eliminate these worries and sadness.
People have varying degrees of faith and trust. The higher their level, the lesser are their worries and sadness. If we were able to achieve complete faith and trust, our dispositions would be such that happiness would radiate from us.
Today I shall …
… seek to strengthen my faith and trust in God so that I may achieve true happiness and be an example for others.
Transgressions against a fellow man are not forgiven by Yom Kippur until one makes amends (Yoma 85b).
Prior to the High Holidays, a man asked his rabbi for guidance in doing proper teshuvah. Among other things, the rabbi instructed him to make a list of all the people he had harmed, because unless one obtains forgiveness from those whom one offended, teshuvah is incomplete.
Before Yom Kippur, the man returned and showed the rabbi the list he had made of people he had harmed. “Your list is incomplete,” the rabbi said. “Go back and finish it.”
The man was bewildered. How could the rabbi know whether the list he had made was complete or not? Nevertheless, he gave it greater consideration and indeed added several names to the list. To his surprise, the rabbi again rejected the list as being incomplete.
“What is it that you want of me?” the man asked. “You forgot to put yourself at the top of the list,” the rabbi said. “When you do improper things, you harm yourself. Not until you realize that improper behavior is self-destructive can your teshuvah be complete.”
This is an extremely important point. Indeed, Moses stressed this in his final message to the Israelites. I have placed before you life and death, blessing and curse … to love your God, obey him and cleave unto him, that is your life (Deuteronomy 30:19-20). Moses made it clear that fulfilling the Divine will is life, and deviating therefrom is self-destructive.
Just as we might be considerate of others not to harm them, we should also show the same consideration for ourselves.
Do not stand on your neighbor’s blood (Leviticus 19:16).
This mitzvah is one of a group which require a person to be considerate of others’ rights and possessions.Examples include returning a lost object to its rightful owner, helping load and unload a beast of burden, lending money to the needy, etc. According to the Talmud, the above verse means that we should not stand idly by while someone else’s possessions are being destroyed, if we can do something to save them. The uniqueness of this verse lies in the graphic image used: standing idly by while another’s blood is being shed.
I often receive calls such as this: “A friend of mine is drinking far too much, and I see that he is in the process f ruining himself. What can be done for him?” When I explain to the caller that as a true friend, he should try to approach his friend and, in as gentle and non-judgmental terms as possible, inform him of his concern, the answer is usually, “I don’t want to get involved. Isn’t there something that you can do?”
Alcohol is not necessarily the only problem that may ruin us. We may observe a person entering into a business venture with someone known to be unscrupulous and opportunistic, or into a relationship which we believe is a serious mistake. It may not be pleasant to try to deter a person from whatever path he or she is taking, and we may indeed be told to mind our own business. Nevertheless, we should not shirk from making the effort. Even advice that is initially ignored may make an impression and lead to reconsideration.
If the Torah had used less forceful words, we might indeed take refuge and mind our own business. The metaphor of considering it equivalent to standing idly by and watching someone’s blood being shed emphasizes the gravity of the responsibility to prevent others from harming themselves.
The Rambam’s Formula for Change-Part II

Since Mussar is a personal excellence program that provides a specific method of character trait improvement based on Torah text, it’s safe to assume that if you’re reading this, you want to improve your character traits and that you are on a spiritual quest. Before we begin, it may be wise to take a moment and do a little soul-searching.

It may be time to ask ourselves the question… have we become complacent and learned to accept our limitations? How often do you find yourself saying, “that’s just the way I am” or maybe, “I’m just too ____.” You fill in the blank. Describe a character trait of yours that you have become accustomed to accepting, as part of who you are. Maybe, you are forgetful, disorganized or frequently late. Do you simply say, “That’s who I am, I always forget something.” Or it might be a little more serious, something that might cause discord in relationships, work situations or discontent within yourself. Arrogance, anger, critical comments, negative vision, inconsideration may be a few examples of behavior that might cause serious harm to oneself and to others. But, are we really willing to change? Do we hang on to old habits simply because “it’s just who we are?” It may be easier to hang on to the past only because we’re familiar with it. Often, we accept a specific trait because we just can’t seem to let go of the past. We become bound, shackled and anchored down to past negative behavior. Sadly, we become comfortable with certain behaviors or situations, even if they cause us harm. And usually, change seems impossible… until now.

When we began our mussar journey, we enlisted in Basic Training, Boot Camp for the Soul.
We made a commitment to it and we were sticking with it. Even if the lessons got too tough to handle. Even if we felt we couldn’t hold it together for another second when we needed to PAUSE. Even though we wanted to let loose with words we knew we’d regret. Even if we had to apologize too many times for not being compassionate or kind enough. We made a commitment to change. And we aren’t going to quit.

We enlisted in Mussar Boot Camp. The Torah is our drill sergeant and Hashem is our General. We made a committment and we are going to do everything we have to do by following His orders to improve our spiritual ranking.

In Mussar Boot Camp, we have to be able to look at ourselves and admit that we will no longer be complacent and simply accept our old ways. We now know more about being the best we can be. Our goal is to give it our all, in all situations-24/7. We can no longer believe “that’s just the way I am” as an acceptable answer. We are determined and certain that we can be better. Our thoughts are less judgmental, our words are kinder and our actions are more mitzvot-based. We are serious and we are committed.

As with all sincere hard work, the benefits come flowing as a result of it. One of the many benefits has been a heightened sense of awareness of ourselves. Just okay is no longer okay, or acceptable. We have a higher standard to strive for. Our perspective has changed. Our path is directed, stable and grounded. When times get tough, we have a solid foundation to hold on to. Change becomes possible. In fact, it’s our constant reality. A strict daily exercise routine of mussar lessons, according to the Torah as it is coming directly from Hashem is making positive transformation a part of our reality. We are already reaching new spiritual heights.

The first step in basic training is starting over.
We have to become fresh, vibrant and new.
We have to clean the slate of the past.
Whatever used to be, whatever we thought about ourselves- no longer exists.
The exact method for doing so is revealed to us in this week’s text.

The Rambam teaches us (from the Talmud) that certain changes can nullify a decree. One is a name change. There are times when a person has to change a name in order to change his mazal. Sometimes, a person changes his name to change the way he views himself. For instance, people change their name to feel more mature. Or someone may change their name to their Hebrew name to connect with their nishama. But, one doesn’t always have to literally change his name so that he can make a new start. The Rambam teaches us simply by declaring yourself as new is enough to make you a new person. Ani acher=I am different. I am a different person. I am not the same person I used to be. As simple as it is, the declaration of being new, that in itself, makes us new. We can emerge as new, if we learn to look at ourselves as new.

The sincerity to change, that alone, is enough to change a judgment. Regret of the past cleans the slate and erases the past. Hashem created this pathway for us to liberate ourselves. (This is certainly evident on Yom Kippur). Our task is to stay on the path and commit to it with sincerity.

If we want to start over with basic training and continue on to higher spiritual ranks, we must first, and always start with the positive perspective. Our job is to imbue ourselves with positive actions. This diffuses the negativity of the past. If we don’t start with the positive first, we become overwhelmed and we won’t be able to overcome our struggles. Negativity breeds negativity and then we can’t extricate ourselves from the past. Even if our efforts may seem small and we live in a world with many challenges, every little step we take is a step in the right direction.. a spiritual direction. Hashem rewards us for our efforts, even if they are small.

The exercises that train us daily are tefillah (prayer), tzedaka (charity), teshuva (repentance), Torah study and mitzvot. This daily work-out constantly trains the physical body to do spiritual acts. These acts elevate our spiritual ranking and get us closer to the Highest in Command, HaKadosh BaruchHu.

If we follow this daily regimen we can change our spiritual chemistry. When we become new, we are a different person, we separate from the past, nullify decrees and re-claim our true essence, our soul.

Mussar basic training is not for the soul. Our soul is pure and holy. It’s the physical level that needs to be re-trained. Through the daily regimen, we can achieve spiritual rewards. By seeing our own spiritual potential, by not becoming complacent and submitting to negative traits as acceptable, we can enhance our spiritual quest in ways we could never have dreamed of.

May Hashem strengthen us and continue to spiritually elevate us to higher ranks.
Blessings for a beautiful week.

And you should know this day… that 0,11.99″Hashem is God, in the heavens above and on the earth below, there is none other (Deuteronomy 4:39).
One Torah commentary explains this passage to mean that if one has an awareness of God, there is nothing more to know. This idea requires clarification.
The principles of faith of Judaism that were revealed at Sinai and through the prophets are absolutes, and, as axioms, are not subject to argument. In this sense, it is proper to state that “about God,” there is nothing more to know.
Judaism does not require stagnation of the mind, however. Within the framework of the basic principles, Judaism has always encouraged the persistent search for truth. Throughout Jewish history, great scholars – the Ari in Kabbalah, the Baal Shem Tov in Chassidus, Rabbi Yisroel of Salant in Mussar, and Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik in Talmudic analysis, to name several more-recent leaders – have electrified their contemporaries and future generations with their original insights.
Judaism is vibrant, and the Jewish mind must be productive. Just as we cannot have a valid geometry if we postulate that two parallel lines intersect, so w annot develop valid ideas of Judaism by abrogating any of the basic principles of the faith. The search for an ever-deeper understanding of Torah, however, should never end.
If you encounter your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering astray, you must return it to him (Exodus 23:4).
In this mitzvah, the Torah makes two demands: (1) to go out of our way to return a lost animal to its rightful owner, and (2) to overcome our hostile feelings towards our enemy if the lost animal is his.
If this is what is demanded toward a mere belonging of an enemy, how much more are we responsible when we see friends going astray and acting improperly? Yet, how often do we avoid telling them that we feel what they are doing is wrong? We rationalize by saying: “We do not wish to interfere in their private affairs. How they run their life is their own business,” or “We don’t want to offend them.” A popular billboard declares: “A true friend does not allow a friend to drive drunk.” If you truly care for others, you will take the necessary steps to protect them from themselves, even if they may be angry at you for doing so. Honesty is more potent than sympathy. A person who has suffered from grievous mistakes often says: “If only someone had stopped me!” Drunk driving is not the only destructive behavior which a true friend would try to stop. Whenever we see that a friend is doing something which we sincerely believe to be wrong, we have a responsibility to convey our opinion to him or her. Failure to do so comes from either of two rationalizations: (1) I am not really his or her friend, or (2) I really do not believe the behavior is wrong. In either case, we are guilty of insincerity.
The ultimate happiness formula is trust in God. This trust gives you peace of mind. This trust transforms your life and adds a spiritual dimension to all that you do. Sincere trust in God makes you wealthy. If others just think you have this, it’s like others just thinking that you are wealthy. If you say the right words but don’t yet feel them, it’s like saying, “I am wealthy,” before attaining actual wealth.
How do you know when you need to increase your trust in God? When you worry about the future, hear the inner message: “Trust in God.” When you are intimidated by another person, hear the message: “Trust in God.” When you are upset about the way something turned out, hear the message: “Trust in God.” When you don’t attain what you wished for, hear the message: “Trust in God.”

“‘Rabbi Nachum bar Yitzchak said, “Whoever brings joy to a bride and groom at their wedding, HaShem rewards such a person with the merit as if he rebuilt one of ruins of Jerusalem.’”

Our sages teach (Yoma 9): “During the period of the second Temple the people of that generation were involved in Torah study; the performance of Mitzvos; and acts of loving kindness. If so, why was the Temple destroyed? The Temple was destroyed because of the baseless hatred that was prevalent during those times.”

The primary axiom of the Torah is: “Love your fellow as you love yourself.” In fact, HaShem created heaven and earth on the condition that mankind loves each other. Our fulfillment of the injunction to love every person creates the proper atmosphere in which HaShem desires to dwell amongst us.

Baseless hatred, the undoing of this great principle, was the sin that brought about the destruction of the Temple. Therefore, the rectification of that sin is baseless love i.e., the return to the axiom of, “Love your fellow as you love yourself.”

During the course of a wedding many different people come together to celebrate with the bride and groom. Many of these people would have little reason to associate with each other. The reason for this lack of friendship ranges from simply not knowing one another to actually knowing – and disliking – each other.

However, at a wedding everyone puts aside their differences and dances together in order to collectively bring joy to the new couple. This great act of free love, care, and unity is the healing for baseless hatred. Therefore, those that participate in the wedding feast and bring joy to the bride and groom rectify the sin of baseless hatred. Accordingly, HaShem rewards them as if they restored one of the ruins of Jerusalem.

May HaShem reveal the splendorous Divine Presence upon us. At that time unity and love with fill the hearts of all mankind – and we will experience the rebuilding of the Temple, soon and within our days.
TODAY: Make a sincere effort to befriend someone who you are distanced from

I stand between God and you (Deuteronomy 5:5).
We can also read the verse to mean that it is the “I” that stands between God and you. Indeed, many commentaries make the illuminating interpretation that the ego not only forms the barrier between God and people, but it also separates us from our fellow men and women.
Self-centeredness renders us unable to empathize with others – to share in their distress or participate in their success. When we are completely preoccupied with ourselves, we lack the time and capacity to be attentive to others, and barriers to communication inevitably develop.
The great works of mussar and chassidus stress that people must efface themselves before God, because to the degree that they are occupied with their own importance, to that degree they separate themselves from God. Even sin cannot separate a person from God the way vanity does. It is of the vain person that God says, “I cannot coexist in his presence” (Sotah 5a).
Self-effacement does not mean low self-esteem. How? If people realize that their abilities are gifts from God, they can then be both humble and aware of their skills and talents.
If we allow awareness of our potential to go to our heads, however, we begin to consider others inferior to ourselves. Our hollow feelings of superiority not only disrupt our sense of belonging with others, but also cause the vanity and arrogance which repel the Divine Presence.
Today I shall …
… try to recognize my self-worth, while being aware that my strengths are a Divine gift. I am no better than any of God’s creatures, and I should not allow barriers to develop between myself and them.
Mordechai said to respond to Esther, “Do not think that you can save yourself [from Haman's decree of annihilation] because you are in the royal palace” (Esther 4:13).
Esther, the heroine of the Purim episode, received this sharp rebuke from Mordechai. No Jew should ever assume that anti-Semitism will affect only others but not oneself. No one has immunity. Every Jew must know that he or she is part of a unit, and a threat against any Jew anywhere in the world is a threat to all Jews.
History has unfortunately repeated itself many times. Spanish Jews who held powerful governmental positions were sent into exile along with their brethren. Jewish millionaires and members of European parliaments were cremated in Auschwitz ovens. Throughout the ages, those who had thought to escape anti-Semitic persecution by concealing their Jewish identities sadly learned that this effort was futile.
Esther accepted Mordechai’s reprimand and risked her life to save her people. In fact, the Megillah (Book of Esther) tells us that Esther had not revealed her Jewish identity because Mordechai had instructed her to keep it a secret. She never would have stayed hidden in the palace and watched her people perish. Mordechai spoke his sharp words not to her, but to posterity.
Some people simply refuse to accept history’s painful lessons. In defiance, they continue to say that they will be different. Neither any individual who feels secure for any reason nor any community that lives in what it considers to be a safe environment should have this delusion of immunity.
Mordechai’s message reverberates throughout the centuries: “Do not think that you can save yourself by hiding when other Jews are being persecuted.”
Today I shall …
… be forthcoming and proud of my Jewish identity and at all times retain a firm solidarity with my people.
King David said (Tehillim 68:4), “The righteous will be glad, they will delight before HaShem; they will rejoice with happiness.” Meaning, the righteous will “be glad and delight” in the Mitzvah that they perform; additionally they will “rejoice with the happiness” of the reward of the Mitzvah that HaShem grants them.
The Talmud tells us (Pesachim 68b) that when Rabbi Sheshes would complete the review of his studies, he would sing, “Rejoice, O my soul, Rejoice O my soul.” What is the significance of twice repeating the phrase? Rabbis Sheshes’ intention was first to ask rhetorically: “In what shall my soul rejoice?” Then he responded, “My soul should rejoice in the very joy of the soul that delights in the study of Torah!”
[Based on the commentary of the Chidah to Pirkei Avot]

TODAY: When you perform a Mitzvah, discover the joy that awakens in your soul – and rejoice!

A man has joy in the utterance of his mouth, and a word at the right time, how good it is (Proverbs 15:23).
As a rule, silence is golden, and generally we do not regret having held our peace. But exceptions exist to every rule, and sometimes not saying the proper thing is wrong.
We often keep silent because we do not know what to say. Especially in cases where others have suffered great personal losses, what can we say? Every conceivable remark seems so inadequate.
Not only do we tend to remain silent, but the awkwardness of keeping silent may cause us to avoid the discomfort of such a situation. Suppose we hear that an acquaintance lost a child in a traffic accident or to a serious illness. What can we say? It is one thing to pay a condolence call to someone who has lost a parent and say, “Please accept my sympathies.” It is the way of the world that parents die before their children. These words are so empty, however, to grieving parents who have lost a child. Since we do not know what to say, we may simply avoid the bereaved family and thereby add loneliness to their suffering.
May God spare us all from such experiences. But if, God forbid, we have heard of a tragedy, we should not stay away or keep silent. If we feel another’s pain, we should not hesitate to say so. “I feel along with you” are simple words, and when said in sincerity, can support distressed spirits.
Words cannot restore anyone’s loss, but there is truth in the adage that “A sorrow shared is halved.”
Today I shall …
… try to be of help to people who are suffering, if only to let them know that I sincerely feel along with them.
One who degrades another person is a fool, and a man of understanding will make himself deaf to his words(Proverbs 11:12).
When people feel good about themselves, they have no need to enhance their self-evaluation by berating others. Those who do so are exposing their own poor self-worth and to what extremes they will go in order to achieve any feeling of worth.
Solomon points out that the one who listens to such prattle is no better than the speaker. Why would anyone waste time listening to such gossip and slander unless it served some purpose? A person with good self-esteem would turn a deaf ear to such talk. Furthermore, one who listens to gossip provides the talker with an audience, thereby actually encouraging more gossip.
Solomon calls a wise person “a man of understanding.” The wisdom here consists of understanding the psychology of gossips. They need to berate others for their own self-worth, and they are not above lying to disparage others. You can be certain that the person who speaks badly about someone else to you will eventually speak badly about you to someone else. The only approach, therefore, is to completely shun a gossip.
In his epochal work on lashon hara (gossip), the Chofetz Chaim states that the transgression of listening to lashon hara is every bit as serious as speaking it. If someone tries to make a listener out of you, leave, or at least politely say that you are not interested in the subject.
The Most Common Mistake of Outsiders
One party comes over to you and tells you the negative things someone else said or did. You experience righteous anger. This person is certainly right, the other person is certainly wrong. You might tell your source, “I agree with you. He’s an awful person.” You might censure the other person, “You are an awful person.” You might tell others, “This person is an awful person.”
Did you hear both sides in the presence of each other before forming any opinion whatsoever? If not, the Torah considers what you heard as a “false report.” (The Chofetz Chaim elaborates on this in his classic work. See Prohibitions, no.2)
“The map is not the territory.” This basic principle of General Semantics applies to every story and report you ever hear. Details are always left out. Words describing any situation are never an exact portrait of any interaction. What was the entire context? What were the exact words that were used by both sides? What was the exact tone of voice of each segment of the interchange? Even when someone reports what he himself said with total accuracy, the tone of voice totally transforms the energy that was exchanged. What were the facial expressions? What were the intentions, motivations, and assumptions?
King Solomon compares an outsider getting involved in an argument that is not his to a passerby who pulls the ear of a dog (Proverbs 26:17). The calm dog was harmless. Pull his ear and you’ll have problems. Taking sides in a quarrel that’s not yours is even worse when you don’t really have the entire picture. Those who impulsively take sides often don’t realize how many mistakes they will be making.
Every word an outsider says to a party in a quarrel can either make the situation better or worse. Whenever someone tells you about a situation that is either already a quarrel or could easily lead to a quarrel, ask yourself, “What can I say now that will be conducive for peace?” And when the answer is, “I don’t really know,” keep quiet. It’s a major mistake to make things worse.
THE FAITH AND TRUST OF PSALMS_________9:10______

“And HaShem will be a tower of strength for the oppressed, a tower of strength in times of distress.”

The phrase “the oppressed” refers to a person who is ailing, enduring great hardship, and whose heart is broken.

The sore troubles that he endures deplete his energy and weaken his spirit.
Whereas, “times of distress” refers to times of trouble: such as war, judgment, or catastrophe. In either case, i.e.,
whether facing the internal trouble of “the oppressed” or the external trials of “times of distress,”
the person in crisis might assume that HaShem has abandoned him.

However, King David reveals that in both cases HaShem is a source of strength to

a suffering person – supporting him and giving him courage to withstand his hardship.
Without HaShem’s assistance, “the oppressed” would not be able to survive his difficulties.
Therefore, HaShem injects strength within him so that he can bear his burdens.
So too, during periods of misfortune, HaShem is a tower of strength in times of distress
That is, he will protect the weaker person from being overpowered by a stronger opponent.

Once a person develops the awareness that HaShem is a tower of strength for him, he will be fully confident in HaShem.

Even when he finds himself “oppressed” or “in times of distress”
he will have the faith that HaShem will provide him with constant support and protection.

Throughout the long history of our people we have faced awesome dangers

but nevertheless we have survived. In our weakest moments HaShem has always strengthened us and delivered us.
Just as HaShem has saved the Jewish nation in countless times of trouble, so too, he will save each individual.

Even when your strength is failing and your spirit is crushed, trust in HaShem and call out to Him.

There is no time when HaShem is closer than when He comes to sustain a person in hardship.
He will be a tower of strength when you are oppressed and save you in times of trouble.
[Based on the commentary of Rashi to Psalms]

TODAY: When you are in trouble remember that HaShem is supporting you.

-     When things are really tough realize that HaShem has not abandoned you.

-     It is axiomatic that HaShem gives strength to those who are in a weakened state.

-    HaShem has saved us countless times in the past

- HaShem will come to our rescue in every crisis.

He who loves his wife as he loves himself and who respects her even more than himself …
it is of him that the Scripture says, “You will know there is peace in your dwelling” .
The secret of peace in the home is the awareness that husband and wife are not two distinct individuals living in a contractual relationship, but are one unit. If they love each other, they are also loving themselves, and if they respect each other, they are also respecting themselves.
I heard a man say, “I used to argue with my wife. Then one day I realized that I did not like to lose an argument because I did not want to be a loser. On the other hand, if I won the argument, then my wife would have lost, and I did not want to be married to a loser. The only solution was to stop arguing.”
In marriage, there is no winner and loser. In any given situation, both spouses either win or lose.
The Torah emphasizes the concept of unity in describing the marriage relationship: Man shall cling unto his wife and they shall be one . Anything less than that, any situation where one considers him or herself superior to the other or triumphant over the other, falls short of this concept of marriage.”
Today I shall …
… try to realize that marriage is a fusion, a unit rather than a union, and that whatever I do to my spouse I am doing to myself as well.


Moshe thought about the situation in Egypt quite deeply and was troubled:

HaShem revealed to me that the time has come for B’nei Yisrael to be redeemed. He sent me to Egypt to free them from slavery and lead them out of Egypt. I thought that since their time of deliverance arrived their bondage would ease up. But since I have come to Egypt things have gotten worse for my people. On the other hand, if their time of freedom has not yet arrived, so why did HaShem send me now? It would have been better to send me when the time for redemption arrives.

Hashem responded, “The time of redemption had definitely arrived. However, regarding your question of, “Why are things bad if it is the time of redemption,” the answer is, “I am revealing aspects of both mercy and justice.’

Before Moshe Rabenu returned to Egypt, HaShem had revealed to him the highest level of prophecy, i.e., the Ispecluria. Indeed, HaShem did not show this level of prophecy to Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaacov. Nevertheless, the human intellect, not even Moshe Rabenu, can understand all the ways and reasons of HaShem.

However, once HaShem revealed His goodness, His kindness, His love for B’nei Yisrael, and that He is the Master of the Universe; there is one overarching rule for us to follow.  That is, regardless of the situation, HaShem asks of us, “TRUST ME. THINGS WILL BE GOOD!”

May we instill within our hearts steadfast faith in HaShem and His promise to redeem us. In turn, we will have inner peace and merit to see the final – and glorious – redemption!
[Based on the Magid Mesharim of Rebe Yosef Cairo]

TODAY: Discover peace of mind through accepting those things that you don’t understand – and TRUST HASHEM

The beginning of wisdom is the fear of God (Psalms 111:10).
Would it not have been more appropriate to refer to the fear of God as the beginning of piety rather than wisdom?
One of the Chassidic masters interpreted the above verse most uniquely. “The fear of God,” he said, “refers not to man’s fear of God, but to God’s fear.” It might seem strange to speak of God as having fear, but his explanation quells this objection.
God has decreed that people have free will. Although everything else in the universe is under Divine control, God wishes our moral choice to be free, and He therefore does not intervene to influence our moral decisions. Since God wishes us to be just and virtuous, He thus has a fear that we will harm ourselves by sin. This fear is similar to that of parents who fear that their young children may harm themselves by doing things that they do not recognize as dangerous.
If we would realize that everything else in the universe is controlled by God, and that only our moral choice is not under Divine control, we would then concentrate on moral choices and leave everything else up to God. It would be wise, therefore, if we had the fear that God has for us; namely, that we might sin. We show wisdom, not just piety, if we devote our attention to what is not under Divine control.
THE FAITH AND TRUST OF PSALMS____________119:176_____

“I have strayed like a lost sheep – Seek, your servant, for I have not forgotten Your Mitzvoth.”

Under the blazing desert sun, a lost sheep searches for his flock. As the sheep wanders over the endless sands, the scorching heat quickly depletes his strength. Lacking the knowledge to find his flock, his only hope is for his shepherd to rescue him.

King David compared his spiritual situation to the lost sheep,  “Just as the sheep lost his way, so too, I have lost the way and do not know the proper path that I should take. My situation is as hapless as a lost sheep in the desert. Just as the sheep thirsts for water to drink, so too, I have no water for my soul to drink.”

Therefore, he cried out to HaShem, his Shepherd, “Seek, your servant, Meaning, I have lost the trail. Since I am your servant, please show me the way, “for I have not forgotten Your Mitzvoth.”

Yet, if he has “not forgotten the Mitzvoth,” why did he say that he lost his way?

Even though King David was a great and holy tzadik, nevertheless, he knew that at times the negative impulse influenced him in thought or deed. He felt that since he was missing total perfection, he was distant from the shade of Torah and the cool waters of its wells.

In his humility, he likened his situation to a lost sheep. He called out to his “Shepherd” to seek him out and return him to the correct path.  May we observe the Mitzvoth and pray to HaShem to save us from being swayed by the yetzer hora. Then, He will purify our hearts and lead us to the upright path.
[Based on the commentary of the Metzudas David to Tehillim]

TODAY: Ask HaShem to illuminate for you the path of goodness.

No one ever anticipated (Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai) with a greeting in the public place (Berachos 17a).
The Talmud states that when Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai met someone in the street, he always initiated the greeting, and that never, in his entire lifetime, did he ever wait to be greeted first.
Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai is one of the most outstanding personalities in Jewish history. After Jerusalem fell to the Romans, in 70 C.E., he served as both the political and religious leader of the Jewish nation for forty years. He is singlehandedly responsible for the survival of Israel during that difficult era.
When this great leader walked down the street, he undoubtedly engaged in important conversation with his colleagues and disciples on the vital issues of the day. We certainly could understand that he could not interrupt such weighty discussions to respond to people who greeted him, let alone to initiate greetings to others.
Still, the Talmud states that regardless of his preoccupation with the leadership of Israel, this great personality never waited to be greeted first, and not even the importance of his position could cause him to expect recognition from others.
The great Hillel prophesied about Rabbi Yochanan that he would be “a father of wisdom and a father to many generations.” Rabbi Yochanan was a leader who followed in the footsteps of Moses, whose humility also paralleled his greatness.”
Today I shall …
… try to consider every person as being worthy of recognition, and avoid the false pride of expecting to be acknowledged first
Beware and guard yourself lest you forget the words that your eyes witnessed [at Sinai] (Deuteronomy 4:9).
While forgetting is a spontaneous occurrence, it is nevertheless perfectly appropriate to instruct someone not to forget. Personal experience is that if we have something extremely important to do and we are afraid we might forget it, we leave ourselves various reminders to make certain that we remember.
Except when it is due to an aberration in the brain, forgetting something is an indication that it was of relatively little importance. How do you feel when someone who you expected would remember you does not know your name? Also, do you not feel awkward upon meeting someone and having to admit you do not remember his/her name? These feelings are due to the awareness that forgetting something indicates that it was not all that important.
The revelation at Sinai at which we received the Torah was not only the most important event in the history of the Jewish nation, but also the event that should be the fulcrum of the life of every individual Jew. It is the Divine origin of the Torah that makes its values permanent and unalterable, rendering it beyond human manipulation. If we forget the Divine origin of Torah, we are likely to tamper with it and adapt it to comply with our own wishes. When this occurs, all values become relative, and this may result in the behavior of the individual and the group being determined by expedience, hardly a standard of ethics that dignifies a human being.”
Today I shall …
… try to remember that there are fundamental and unalterable values that should guide me, and that these are the will of God as revealed in the Torah.
L’zecher nishamos Rav Yochanon Motel ben Rav Ephraim and Moras Esther Leah bas Rav Yehudah Yoseph   B”H
Discover Your Goodness
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Rabbi Zvi Miller

“HaShem is my light and my deliverance – whom shall I fear? HaShem is the source of my life’s strength – of whom shall I be afraid? When enemies approach me to consume me, they stumble and fall. If an army should encamp against me, my heart would not fear, if war were to rise against me – in this I trust.”
King David states that he does not fear any situation because HaShem is his light and his deliverance. He allegorically compared his troubles to ‘darkness;’ therefore, he declared that HaShem is the ‘light’ of his deliverance. In addition, he recognized that HaShem is the source of his life’s strength.
If a person is ensconced in a mighty fortress, he still worries that, perhaps, his enemies might overcome him. Whereas King David said, “Whom shall I fear?” Meaning, since he recognizes that HaShem is the source of his life’s strength, he knows that HaShem will continue to shield him from harm.
In addition, even if his enemies attacked him he did not fear for two reasons: (1) because he knows that HaShem is the source of his life, i.e., HaShem wants him to live; and (2) he remembers the many times when his adversaries came to overthrow him and they, themselves, stumbled in defeat.
What’s more, King David asserted, “even if I am confronted by a force that far outnumbers me,” i.e., a force rises up against me, “nevertheless, I will not fear.” That is, my heart trusts in HaShem because He is my light and my deliverance.
King David feared neither adversary nor any danger. He constantly strengthened his steadfast faith in HaShem by, (1) declaring that HaShem is the light of his deliverance and (2) by increasing his awareness of the many times that HaShem came to his rescue.
The sages of Mussar teach us the importance of continuously and consciously intensifying our trust in HaShem. May we fortify our faith in HaShem so we fear no enemy or hardship. Then, HaShem, the ‘light of our deliverance’ and the ‘source of the strength of our lives’ will raise us on high. [Based on the commentary of the Radak to Tehillim]
TODAY: Express verbally to yourself: “HaShem is the light of my deliverance and the source of the strength of my life.”
“My transgressions are known to me and my sin is ever before me” (Psalms 51:5).Lo, I was begotten in sin, and my mother conceived me in iniquity (ibid. 7).
In this heart-rending psalm, David begs for forgiveness for his relationship with Bath-Sheba.
While David does state that he was “begotten in sin,” or in other words, that he may have been born with the character trait of intense passion, he does not cite it to free himself of guilt. In verse 5, he owns up to his transgression and does not try to absolve himself. David accepts full responsibility for his behavior, even if it comes from an inherited trait.
How refreshing is this thought! How different it is from the teachings of modern psychology, which so often scapegoat parents and excuse even the grossest misbehavior by arguing that the person was a victim of early-life experiences or influences that distorted his or her values, and hence should not be held responsible for subsequent misdeeds.
In this exquisite psalm of teshuvah (repentance), David rejects this position. He says that we must assume responsibility for our behavior, regardless of factors from our past.
Today I shall …
… try to avoid projecting blame onto others, and accept full responsibility for whatever I do
If one person does more and another does less, they are both equal before G-d if they have sincerely dedicated themselves to Him (Berachos 5b).
All that can be asked of people is to do whatever is within their means. No one is expected to do more than one can, but by the same token, anyone who does less than that is derelict. For example, people of meager means who give a small amount of money are considered to have performed that mitzvah satisfactorily if they have given whatever they can, whereas wealthy people who give a thousand times that much but could have given more are considered derelict in their performance of this mitzvah.
The key to proper fulfillment of a mitzvah is dedication. One who performs a mitzvah perfunctorily may seek to get away with the bare minimum required for its fulfillment, whereas someone who is dedicated will invest himself in the mitzvah to the very maximum.
This dedication must be to G-d. While it is praiseworthy to dedicate oneself to the community or to friends, the recipients of one’s benevolent actions may be so grateful to the benefactor that the latter may get carried away by this outpouring of gratitude, and believe that one has done enough. The only true judge of how much one can and should do is God; hence, it is only a sincere dedication to God that can lead one to perform mitzvos to the fullest of one’s capacities.
Today I shall …
… try to sincerely fulfill my obligations toward G-d and toward my fellow man by doing the utmost within my means.
See more books by Rabbi Abraham Twerski at
All the ways of a person are pure in one’s eyes (Proverbs 16:2).
As a rule, people do not do anything that they believe to be wrong. Those who do wrong have somehow convinced themselves that what they are doing is in fact right. They justify themselves with ingenious rationalizations.
If we are so susceptible to our minds playing tricks on us and deluding us that what is wrong is right, what can we do to prevent improper behavior? Solomon provides the answer: Direct your actions toward God, and your thoughts will be right (Proverbs 16:3).
The distortion is greatest when the motivation is, “What do I want?” If we remove ourselves from the picture and instead ask, “What does God want?” the possibility of distortion shrinks.
While there is less distortion in the latter case, we cannot say that distortion is completely absent. Some people have strange ideas about what God wants. However, if we take ourselves out of the picture and are motivated to do what God wants, there is greater likelihood that we might consult someone in a position to give us an authoritative opinion as to the will of God. While this is not foolproof, there is at least a chance of escaping the distortions of rationalization that are dominant when one seeks to satisfy primarily oneself.
Today I shall …
… try to dedicate myself to doing the will of God, and try to learn what His will is by studying the Torah and accepting guidance from Torah authorities
Yahrtzeit of Rabbi Joshua Isaac Shapira, a leader of 19th century European Jewry known by the nickname Reb Eisele Charif. The story is told that when his daughter was ready to get married, Reb Eisel sought out the top yeshiva student. He entered the study hall and announced: “I have a very difficult question on a passage in the Talmud. Whoever can supply the correct answer will have my daughter’s hand in marriage.” Soon a long line formed, and one by one the students tried to provide the answer. And one by one, Reb Eisel explained how the answers were incorrect. This went on for days, but when no one came up with the correct answer, Reb Eisel packed up and left. He had just reached the edge of the city, when he heard a voice shouting after him: “Reb Eisel, Reb Eisel!” He turned around to see a young man running in his direction. The student explained: “I know I wasn’t able to satisfy the condition for marriage, but just for my own sake, could you please tell me the correct answer?” “Aha!” shouted Reb Eisel. “If you have such a desire to know the truth, then you will be my son-in-law!”
L’zecher nishamos Rav Yochanon Motel ben Rav Ephraim and Moras Esther Leah bas Rav Yehudah Yoseph   B”H
The Salant Center
The Wisdom of Personal Excellence
There is no greater test of faith than affliction. However, if we hold our faith that HaShem is with us and pray to Him, He will reveal Himself. Accordingly, the heartfelt prayers of our enslaved brethren in Egypt awakened the awesome miracles of the Exodus.
So too, the People of Israel suffered greatly under the Greek oppression. However, they trusted that “HASHEM WAS WITH THEM,” Their sincere prayers and courageous actions awakened the miracles of Chanukah. He was close and revealed His love, kindness, mercy, and holiness.
[Based on Ha'arus HaTefilah citing the Ramban]
TODAY: If you are in a tight spot, know that the HaShem is close to you – pray to Him and He will rescue you.
In truth, everything in life is a miracle. Miracles happen to each of us every minute of every day, as we recite in the daily Modim prayer, in which we thank G-d for the everyday miracles.
There are two kinds of miracles; There are miracles that contradict and defy the laws of nature, as in the story of Chanukah . Then there are the miracles which G-d performs within the laws of nature. Chanukah is a reminder that everything, starting with life itself, is a miracle and should not be taken for granted. Realizing this, we would be more thankful and much happier with whatever we have.
The Maccabees could have said, “There is not enough pure oil to rekindle the light; it is not worth trying.” What they did was to take what little they had and to have faith that God would support their efforts. A paradigm of Jewish history: sometimes we lacked physical freedom, but our spiritual and cultural freedom were unbounded.
Today, there is a new challenge. Almost every Jew in the world lives in conditions of physical freedom. We have to ensure that we do not allow our spiritual and cultural freedom to diminish because of complacency or indolence. However little we sometimes have to build on, we have to have faith that we will succeed.
Moshe Rabenu was mystified. As he reviewed the Torah he noticed that one verse might be misinterpreted. The verse that caught his attention records a statement that HaShem said to the angels, just before He created Adam, the first human. Specifically, HaShem said to the angels, “Let us create man in our image.”

Yet HaShem is the sole Creator. The angels are His ministers, who are bound to carry out His will. They did not assist in the creation of man. If so, why did HaShem say, “Let us create man”?

The answer is profound. HaShem consulted with angels in order to express His respect for them. Even though they took no part in creation, HaShem shared His plans with them and acknowledged their presence. In effect, He asked them for their permission before He created man!

HaShem teaches us an important lesson in human relations. That is, one who has authority over others should consult with them and ask permission from them before he takes action. Sensitivity to others is the very essence of all interpersonal relationships.

Yet, Moshe was concerned that some readers might mistakenly take the plural tense, “Let us create,” as an indication that there are two Creators.

However, HaShem considered it more important to teach the lesson of sensitivity, care, and respect; than to be concerned that someone might misinterpret the verse!

Astounding! HaShem values the lesson of respectful humility towards others, even more important than His own honor!
[Based on Ohr Meir, of Rav Meir Chadash]

TODAY: Do your best to be respectful, sensitive, and considerate of others – even if they are younger or subordinate to you.

L’zecher nishamos Rav Yochanon Motel ben Rav Ephraim and Moras Esther Leah bas Rav Yehudah Yoseph   B”H

The Salant Center
The Wisdom of Personal Excellence

Dedicated by Manfred and Rose-Ellen Leventhal in loving memory of:
Yechiel ben Rav Pinchas, Gittel Rus bas Rav Meyer,
Meira Leah bas Rav Michael,
Elya Moshe ben Rav Yonah, Avraham Hillel ben Rav Yeshaya – Z”L.


“Release me from this net which they have set for me, for You are my strength. I entrust my spirit into Your hand, You have freed me, HaShem – Almighty and Faithful G-d. I will greatly rejoice in Your kindness, for you have seen my distress, You know the trouble of my soul.”

When King David’s enemies surrounded him, they were certain that he would not escape their grasp. Despite the bleak situation, King David responded with a declaration of unwavering faith in HaShem, “Release me from this net which they have set for me, for You are my strength.”

What’s more, King David, when captured by his adversaries boldly declared, “You have freed me.” Since he placed his soul in the exclusive trust of HaShem, he was certain that HaShem, the Faithful, would rescue him! Even more, He was confident that HaShem, the Almighty, has the capability and power to deliver him.

In addition, King David said, “I will greatly rejoice in Your kindness.” That is, “After You save me from them in Your kindness, I will rejoice in Your kindness. And I will thank You for seeing my affliction – You turned to me to deliver me from mortal danger; You knew my soul was troubled – and in Your kindness You saved me.”

Amazingly, when King David’s life was at risk not only did he pray to HaShem and maintain steadfast faith that would HaShem deliver him – even more, he sang a victory song to HaShem!  Anticipating his release his miraculous release, his heart filled with joyous thanks to HaShem for His care, kindness, and rescue.

May we hold our faith in HaShem, under all circumstances and trials. Undoubtedly, He will rescue us and we will sing to Him a joyous and triumphant song, “I will greatly rejoice in Your kindness, for you have seen my distress.”
[Based on the commentary of the Radak to Tehillim]

TODAY: Entrust your soul to HaShem’s care and know that He will surely rescue you.

And what does teshuvah consist of? [Repentance to the degree] that the One Who knows all that is hidden will testify that he will never again repeat this sin  (Maimonides, Laws of Teshuvah 2:2).
“How can this be?” ask the commentaries. “Inasmuch as man always has free choice to do good or evil, to sin or not to sin, how can God testify that a person will never repeat a particular sin? Is this not a repudiation of one’s free will?”
.The answer to this came to me at a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, at which the speaker, a man who had been sober for twenty-one years, said, “The man I was drank. The man I was will drink again. But now I am a different man.”
A sin does not occur in a vacuum. A person who is devout does not abruptly decide to eat treifah. A sin occurs when a person is in such a state that a particular act is not anathema to him.
Consequently, repentance is not complete if one merely regrets having done wrong. One must ask, “How did this sin ever come about? In what kind of a state was I that permitted me to commit this sin?”
True repentance thus consists of changing one’s character to the point where, as the person is now, one can no longer even consider doing the forbidden act. Of course, the person’s character may deteriorate – and if it does, he may sin again.
God does not testify that the person will never repeat the sin, but rather that his degree of repentance and correction of his character defects are such that, as long as he maintains his new status, he will not commit that sin.
Today I shall …
… try to understand how I came to do those things that I regret having done, and bring myself to a state where such acts will be alien to me.
The desire to please everyone often stems from a lack of confidence in one’s own convictions. If I know what I want and believe it to be right, I will pursue my path. While I know full well that some people may disagree with me, I must accept it as inevitable; if others are displeased because I do not defer to their wishes, that is their problem, not mine.
It is true that responsible people have the obligation to consider conflicting opinions and avail themselves of competent guidance, and that flexibility and compromise do have their place (it is appropriate to rethink one’s position on controversial issues and not be obstinate in maintaining one’s position, no matter what). Still, people cannot satisfy everyone while maintaining their own integrity.
Dedicated by Manfred and Rose-Ellen Leventhal in loving memory of:
Yechiel ben Rav Pinchas, Gittel Rus bas Rav Meyer,
Meira Leah bas Rav Michael,
Elya Moshe ben Rav Yonah, Avraham Hillel ben Rav Yeshaya – Z”L.

“Yehudah ben Tema said: Be bold as a leopard; light as an eagle; swift as a deer; and strong as a lion to carry out the will of your Father in Heaven.”

This passage reveals the secret of empowerment and vitality. Usually, when a person expends his energy, he must rest in order to regain his strength.  While this is generally true of worldly endeavors, however spiritual matters follow a different dynamic. HaShem grants an extra measure of power and protection to people who are dedicated to spirituality.

The Prophet Isaiah said, “Those who trust in HaShem will experience a renewal of strength.” That is, when those who devote themselves to HaShem tire, they turn to HaShem for help. HaShem increases and replenishes their strength so that they can perform more good deeds.

Accordingly, the text says: Be bold as a leopard – inspire yourself as well as others to study Torah and perform good deeds.  Now that we are enlightened with the knowledge that HaShem will grant us a surplus of strength, we should not desist from Mitzvoth due to lack of stimulation. Rather, we should feel confident that we can perform Mitzvoth with the “boldness of a leopard.”

Likewise, a period of running begets exhaustion. However, a person whose is engaged in a good deed or Mitzvah will not tire, rather he will “swift as a deer.”  In addition, his determination to complete Mitzvoth will be as mighty like the “strength of a lion.”

Not only does faith helps us to succeed in our affairs, even more, it awakens fresh supplies of energy so that can perform beyond our natural limits. Therefore, when we are fatigued we should pray for new reserves of strength and HaShem will renew our strength.

May we be blessed with love to do good both for Heaven and well as our fellow man. When we are aroused to fulfill HaShem’s will, He will provide us with endless supplies of energy, vigor, and strength.
[Based on the commentary of Rabenu Yonah to Pirkei Avos]

TODAY: When you are tired repeat aloud the verse: “Those who trust in HaShem will experience a renewal of strength.”


Shalom Friends,

Rabbi Salanter that there is “no greater merit than strenghthening Mussar study and practice.”

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Join so many members who have responded, and help us spread the light of Mussar to the world!

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May you and your family be written and sealed for a good, healthy, and happy year!

Rabbi Zvi Miller

Throughout the long history of Klal Yisrael, we have never lacked human resources – i.e., we have always enjoyed a complete spectrum of spiritually talented people. This phenomenon of the completeness of Klal Yisrael is not mere coincidence.

Rather, it was lovingly and wisely prepared for us by HaShem from the beginning of our existence. We find this wondrous concept revealed in the Hazinu song (Devarim 32:6): “Is He not your Father, your Master? Has He not created you and established you?”

The verse is interpreted as follows: Has He not created you – He has created you differently than the others nations of the world; and established you – on every kind of firm base and foundation: out of your midst come your priests, out of your midst come your Levites, out of your midst come your kings – a city which has everything.

The Torah here divulges that if a nation needs to ‘import its talent’ – it is not a nation. Whereas, Klal Yisrael is a nation that is self-contained – a precious treasure of endless depths. Completeness that comes from within is not a natural state. For instance, there is no nation in the world that does not have to import advisors from other nations.

Yet, from our very inception, HaShem has planned – and prepared for us – a fertile and abundant source of all the elements needed to create a total spiritual nation. When we reflect on the endless stream of distinguished and illustrious leaders of our people throughout history – from Avraham Avinu to the Chofetz Chaim – we realize that HaShem has prepared us for success from ancient times until today.

Each Jew is specially gifted, so that together the contribution of each member of Klal Yisrael blends together forming a spiritually perfect nation. May we recognize the special quality in ourselves, and in others, that form us into Am Segualah — the most treasured nation.
[Based on Rashi and Da'as Torah of Rav Yerucham HaLevi]

TODAY: Contemplate on the special gift that each one of your family and friends brings to you.

L’zecher nishamos Rav Yochanon Motel ben Rav Ephraim and Moras Esther Leah bas Rav Yehudah Yoseph   B”H
The Salant Center
eMussar – The Wisdom of Personal Growth
Dedicated by Manfred and Rose-Ellen Leventhal in loving memory of:
Yechiel ben Rav Pinchas, Gittel Rus bas Rav Meyer,
Meira Leah bas Rav Michael,
Elya Moshe ben Rav Yonah, Avraham Hillel ben Rav Yeshaya – Z”L.


The Torah (Devarim 28:47) warns: “Because you did not serve HaShem, your G-d, with happiness and goodness of the heart [unfavorable consequences will occur].”

If a person puts in a sincere effort to do Mitzvoth, isn’t that the main thing? Why should there be a penalty for a lack of gladness in serving HaShem?

Imagine someone, who already has a fine house, takes on a project to build a second house. Since there is nothing compelling him to build the house, he will not put his full heart into its completion. Even worse, he won’t trouble himself to learn the various techniques and numerous details required for construction. He will proceed in a lackadaisical manner – and the ultimate result will be an unfinished eyesore.

Conversely, someone who needs a shelter for his family will put his full energy and intelligence into the project. He is so motivated to get a roof over his head, that he will not even feel the massive and intense effort that he is making.  In good time, a new house will be prepared for his family.

Likewise, if a person does not impress upon himself the bounty of blessings that will be showered upon him for each Mitzvah that he performs – he will undertake Divine service with a half-hearted attitude. His lack of awareness of the pleasantness of Mitzvoth will leave him with no desire to perform them. He will have to force himself to do Mitzvoth – begrudgingly; and even worse, he will neglect to attend to many of the important details of his obligations.

However, a person who appreciates the beauty and pleasantness that emanates from Mitzvoth – both in this world, as well as, the World to Come – will approach Divine service with love and happiness. His is so impassioned to perform Mitzvoth and study Torah, that he doesn’t even sense the effort that he is putting forth. He will give his best to HaShem, because he knows HaShem will bless him with the greatest delights.

May the sublime pleasantness of Torah and Mitzvoth always shine within our souls!
[Based on the commentary of Ohr RaShaz, the Saba M'Kelm]

TODAY: Visualize the light of Gan Eden shines upon you with each Mitzvah that you perform

People share certain biological behaviors with animals, but our mental life is unique to us. Clearly, human dignity does not reside in that part which is animal, but in that part which is distinctly human: the rational mind, the creative mind, the capacity to be spiritual.
Isn’t it simply beneath our dignity to indulge in those behaviors which are primarily animal, rather than uniquely human? As I observe the enormous efforts made and expenditures invested in catering to taste buds, I wonder, “Where is our self-respect?” Granted, we must eat to stay alive, and eating tasty foods may indeed enhance digestion. Still, is it not beneath our dignity to indulge in gustatory delights to the extent that we appear to be more concerned about stimulating our tongues and stomachs than our brains? People who honestly value the truly human part of themselves – their rational and volitional minds – have other priorities.
L’zecher nishamos Rav Yochanon Motel ben Rav Ephraim and Moras Esther Leah bas Rav Yehudah Yoseph   B”H
The Salant Center
eMussar – The Wisdom of Personal Growth

Dedicated by Manfred and Rose-Ellen Leventhal in loving memory of:
Yechiel ben Rav Pinchas, Gittel Rus bas Rav Meyer,
Meira Leah bas Rav Michael,
Elya Moshe ben Rav Yonah, Avraham Hillel ben Rav Yeshaya – Z”L.


HaShem created the entire universe with the attribute of kindness – as King David declared: “The world was created in kindness” (Tehillim 89). In turn, all functions of the entire creation – for instance, the air we breath, the water we drink, the light and warmth of the sun, etc. – are founded upon and flow forth with kindness.

The Talmud (Sanhedrin 37) teaches that all of the creations were created in great numbers – except for man. Adam was created as the sole human in the universe. Hence, HaShem revealed that each individual person is so precious, that HaShem created the whole world for him or her.

The Torah (Devarim 28:9) teaches the purpose of human existence: And you shall walk in His ways. The Talmud (Shabbos 133) explains this verse: “Just as He is merciful, so should you be merciful. Just as He is kind, so should you be kind.”Hence, it is fitting for human beings to instill this precious attribute of kindness within their hearts.

Just as “The kindness of HaShem is forever” so too, man should emulate his Creator: he should continuously aspire to benefit and bestow delights on all creations, as much as he possibly can.

Moreover, reflection upon the kindness that emanates from every cell – and entity – of heaven and earth, sheds light on the good path of life that we should traverse. Also, we learn an additional aspect of kindness from the creations – not to withhold kindness from any entity.  For instance, the sun gives its light everyday, even to those who stray from the truth – and worship the sun.

If the creations of HaShem perform continuous kindness, even to the unworthy, how much more so, should human beings – who are the intended recipients of all HaShem’s goodness – flow forth with uninterrupted kindness. Awareness of the endless, unbounded love of HaShem that bestows beauty and life upon  us,  is the highest inspiration for us to walk in His ways.
[Based on the Ohr HaTzafon, of Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel]

TODAY: Consider the warmth that you enjoy from the sun – beam that warmth to others.

Tasting the Fruits of Our Labor

by Yonatan Udren
The end of the summer is nearly upon us. Many of us will soon be returning from free time and exploration, from time with ourselves and family, and heading back to a structured routine that demands productivity.
As I reminisce, some of my favorite moments this summer were spent at the park right near our home, watching my daughter Zahava take wobbly steps in the limestone pebbles, reveling in the sun-scorched rolling hills and blossoming grape vines in the background.
There is a valuable lesson we can take from such moments of serenity, and that is the importance of process, as opposed to product.
In the beginning of the Biblical creation story, God says “Let the earth sprout forth…fruit trees that produce fruit. The midrashic understanding of this seemingly wordy phrase is that God planned to have the whole tree, i.e., the bark, the leaves, etc., also have the taste of the fruit.
However, in the very next passage, the Torah writes, “The earth brought forth fruit-bearing trees.” What happened to the cherry-flavored bark that God had declared just one passage earlier? The midrash teaches that the earth sinned by not carrying out God’s command that the fruit trees themselves should taste like the fruit.
I heard a deep understanding of this midrash by Professor Yehuda Gelman from Ben Gurion University. God’s initial decision that the tree should taste like the fruit represents God’s desire that we equally focus on the process and product; in other words, the importance put on the process of creation would be as important as the end-result. The earth’s sin was its exclusive focus on the fruits, on the end-goal. Many times we are strictly (or primarily) focused on the product, the fruits of our labor, and the process becomes secondary to the product.
How much life passes us by if we miss the journey and focus completely on the destination? The Torah is teaching us an ideal—move towards your goals with alacrity, but don’t forget to pull over at the fruit stand and taste the cherries along the way
you can find this author regularly at Arutz Sheva,  yes not all is bad..THIS IS  THE GOOD FROM A7

What’s The Point of Prayer?

by Yonatan Udren
Short Torah Ideas for Short Attention Spans
Jews are known for strange behavior. We strap leather boxes to our arm and head, wave palm fronds, hold our fingernails up to candles, and have strings hanging out from our clothes. Bur maybe the strangest thing that we do is pray.
Not only do we pray, but we have three daily prayer services. On Shabbat and holidays we add a fourth; on Yom Kippur we even add a fifth. But for a religion that believes so fervently in an all-powerful, all knowing God, prayer is possibly the least logical alternative.
So the question is not, “Did God hear my prayers?” but rather “Did I hear my prayers?”
They have forsaken Me, the source of life-giving waters, to dig wells that cannot give water (Jeremiah 2:13).
In a world filled with nationalistic pride, where nations, ethnic groups, and individuals are all searching for their historic roots, it is nothing less than mind-boggling that a people who has an unparalleled wealth of recorded and documented history and literature would so ignore its rich heritage. What do most Jewish children know about their people? Only a fraction receive more than a fragmentary awareness of Jewish history. All can identify Twain and Poe, but few know Maimonides or Yehudah HaLevi. They are likely to know much about Nathan Hale and even Simon Bolivar but have never heard of Rabbi Akiva and Bar Kochba. They may remember the Alamo, but not Massada.
Why do we so despise ourselves? Where is our pride? How can we expect our youth to develop a sense of self-esteem if by our own dereliction we fail to convey to them a justified sense of pride in who they are?
We do not need to drink at others’ wells. Our own is filled with sweet, life-sustaining water.
Today I shall …
… do whatever I can to further Jewish education both among adults and children.
See more books by Rabbi Abraham Twerski at
Re’e: Feedback From the Prophets
by Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb
Prophets offer the people constructive feedback
The person who asks, “How am I doing?” is asking for constructive feedback. That person is expressing a need to know whether or not he is doing a good job, and if not, what he can do to correct his work.
“No one has ever mastered Torah study without having first erred and made mistakes.”
The art of giving effective feedback is a very important one. In all human relationships, where there is mutual feedback, a relationship pattern is established which can self-adjust, advance and thrive.
In this week’s Torah portion, we read at length about false prophets. We often mistake the nature of the mission of the prophet, assuming that it is to predict the future. But that is certainly not the mission of the great Biblical prophets. Rather, their mission was, in our terms, to give constructive feedback to the people, pointing out their faults and guiding them in a more positive direction.
The false prophet not only gives false guarantees about the future, complacently predicting peace and tranquility, but assures the people that they are doing nothing wrong, that they need not change their behavior. The false prophet gives no feedback.
The false prophet cannot give proper feedback. He avoids telling the truth if he thinks it will offend. He is unaware of the positive value of effective feedback.
Those who follow him will never benefit from words of correction and guidance. They cannot change, they will not grow  READ IN FULL CLICK


The Salant Center
eMussar – The Wisdom of Personal Growth

Dedicated by Manfred and Rose-Ellen Leventhal in loving memory of:
Yechiel ben Rav Pinchas, Gittel Rus bas Rav Meyer,
Meira Leah bas Rav Michael,
Elya Moshe ben Rav Yonah, Avraham Hillel ben Rav Yeshaya – Z”L.


Some people consider themselves “unworthy” to study the holy Torah.  The following parable proves that the Torah welcomes every member of Klal Yisrael to study and follow her ways.

A wealthy man moved to a new county where he did not know a soul. He needed to open a bank account, but he did not know which bank was trustworthy. That very day he met a man who worked for – and highly recommended – a certain bank.

However, being unfamiliar with this foreign country, the wealthy man expressed his reservations. “You have nothing to worry about,” said his new acquaintance, “the reputation of this bank speaks for itself!” The man was not convinced, “What do you mean?” he asked. “This is the fastest growing bank in the country. Here, look at this report,” he said, “In the past two months, 200 new accounts have been opened! This popularity patently demonstrates that our bank is reliable and efficient.”

In the same way that the popularity of the bank proved its worthiness, so too, the fact that the entire Klal Yisrael accepted the Torah at Mount Sinai, proves that the Torah is the perfect path for every type of Jew. HaShem chose to give the Torah to the generation who left Egypt who — because of their life in bondage – were on a low spiritual level. Although they were far from the ways of the holy Torah, nevertheless, they were capable of living and sanctifying themselves through the Torah. Indeed there was not one member of the entire multitude of well over 600,000 men, women, and children who did not accept the Torah.

However, if HaShem would have given the Torah to our Patriarchs — Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaacov – some of us might have assumed that the Torah is only for individuals who are on the high spiritual level of the Avos. Whereas, the unanimous acceptance of the Torah by the spiritually disadvantaged generation that went out from Egypt proves that a Torah life is appropriate for every Jew. No matter what spiritual background they come from, the Torah will elevate them to the highest levels of goodness and purity.

TODAY: Reflect on the fact that you are worthy and capable of living a life devoted to Torah.

Text Copyright © 2004 by


L’zecher nishamos Rav Yochanon Motel ben Rav Ephraim and Moras Esther Leah bas Rav Yehudah Yoseph   B”H
The Salant Center

eMussar – The Wisdom of Personal Growth
Dedicated by Manfred and Rose-Ellen Leventhal in loving memory of:
Yechiel ben Rav Pinchas, Gittel Rus bas Rav Meyer,
Meira Leah bas Rav Michael,
Elya Moshe ben Rav Yonah, Avraham Hillel ben Rav Yeshaya – Z”L.


A Mussar sage was teaching Torah to a young boy. Someone asked the Rabbi, “Who is the boy’s father?” The Rabbi responded, “He is the son of HaShem.” Then the Rabbi explained his unusual answer, “If I would have said, ‘He is Dave’s son or Chaim’s son – then you would have known something about the boy based on your knowledge of the family. How much more, should you understand the special quality of the boy when I tell you that he is the son of HaShem!”

Imagine the positive impact on one’s students of viewing them as “Children of HaShem.” Actually, the Torah states (Devarim 14:1): “You are Children to HaShem, your G-d.” In light of this verse, the Torah advises all educators to approach each one of his or her students not as a child of “Dave or Chaim” but rather as a “child of HaShem.”

The Talmud tells us that Rabbi Preida had a student who had a learning disability. It was necessary for Rabbi Preida to review each lesson 400 times in order for the student to grasp the concept. Only a teacher who regards his students as children of the King of the Universe will achieve this level of patience, goodness, and dedication.

Children are loveable and cute because they are pure and their souls are connected to HaShem. Accordingly, the teacher should approach each student with love, warmth, and gentleness. He should feel that it is a great merit for him to teach the child of the King of kings.

May we learn to view each member of the Community of Israel as a child of HaShem. This approach in teaching as well as in all of our interpersonal affairs will enhance the quality of life of our students, family and friends – and build a generation of successful, happy, and upright people
[Based on Darchie Mussar of Rav Yaacov Neiman]

TODAY:  Take a moment before you interact with others to reflect that they are “Children of HaShem.”

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Put Things In Perspective
When you reflect on life, you will see that many of the things that happen to a person are not inherently good or bad. Rather, it is just a matter of how each person chooses to react to a given situation.
Today, think of a problematic aspect of your life, and then try to imagine how life would be different – not if the situation changed, but if your attitude changed.
(see Rabbi Yosef Hurwitz of Nevardok – Madraigos Haadam; Rabbi Pliskin’s “Consulting the Wise”)
They have forsaken Me, the source of life-giving waters, to dig wells that cannot give water (Jeremiah 2:13).
In a world filled with nationalistic pride, where nations, ethnic groups, and individuals are all searching for their historic roots, it is nothing less than mind-boggling that a people who has an unparalleled wealth of recorded and documented history and literature would so ignore its rich heritage. What do most Jewish children know about their people? Only a fraction receive more than a fragmentary awareness of Jewish history. All can identify Twain and Poe, but few know Maimonides or Yehudah HaLevi. They are likely to know much about Nathan Hale and even Simon Bolivar but have never heard of Rabbi Akiva and Bar Kochba. They may remember the Alamo, but not Massada.
Why do we so despise ourselves? Where is our pride? How can we expect our youth to develop a sense of self-esteem if by our own dereliction we fail to convey to them a justified sense of pride in who they are?
We do not need to drink at others’ wells. Our own is filled with sweet, life-sustaining water.
Today I shall …
… do whatever I can to further Jewish education both among adults and children.
See more books by Rabbi Abraham Twerski at
I asked for Strength.. And G-d gave me difficulties to make me strong.
I asked for Wisdom.. And G-d gave me Problems to solve.
I asked for Prosperity.. And G-d gave me Brain and Brawn to work.
I asked for Courage.. And G-d gave me Danger to overcome.
I asked for Love.. And G-d gave me Troubled People to help.
I asked for Favors.. And G-d gave me Opportunities.
I received nothing, I wanted. I received everything I needed.


For the judgment belongs to God (Deuteronomy 1:17).

When the Tzaddik of Sanz assumed his first rabbinic position, he was approached by someone who wished to sue in the rabbinical court the wealthiest, most powerful person in the community. The Tzaddik sent a court summons to this man, but the shammash (bailiff) returned saying that the man had very rudely turned him away.
The Tzaddik sent a second summons. The defendant responded with a message, “You are new here and very young. You may not be aware that I am the one who supports all religious activities in the community. To be a rabbi in the community requires my approval. Be aware of this and retract your summons.”
The Tzaddik sent a third summons, warning that failure to honor it would result in dire consequences. The rich man then came and surprisingly brought the plaintiff with him. He explained that the entire thing had been a sham that he had staged simply to test whether the new rabbi would have the courage to implement the law, even when his own position was in jeopardy.
The community’s number one citizen welcomed the rabbi, stating, “You are the kind of rabbi we need.”
Not everyone feels this way. Some people try to use “pull” to receive preferential treatment. They should realize that when justice is the issue, it is corrupt to seek preferential treatment and corrupt to give it.
The judgment belongs to God, and when litigants and judges are engaged in a din Torah, they are in the immediate Divine Presence, and there can be no favoritism.
Today I shall …
… remember not to show favoritism, even when under pressure.
See more books by Rabbi Abraham Twerski at
the above from AISH .COM email


Although Moshe was the greatest of all the Jews,

he was the humblest man on the face of the earth. Despite all of his incomparable accomplishments, he considered himself devoid of merits. Therefore, he asked HaShem for a “free gift”. In Moshe’s humble perception of himself; he did not assume that he was entitled to any “reward” or “bonus”. The only thing he could hope for was a free gift from HaShem.

Our Sages teach us that humility is the most precious attribute. To consider oneself empty of merit before Hashem is the state of true humility. Let us follow in the footsteps of our master and teacher, Moshe Rabenu and aspire to the path of humility.
[Based on the K'sav Sefer, Parshas Devarim]

TODAY: When you pray, ask HaShem to grant your request as a free gift.

A song of gratitude … Serve God with joy (Psalms 100:1-2).
People who have sustained adversity often feel very grateful for having been personally spared. When they walk away unscathed from a severe automobile accident, they may be thankful that they did not suffer serious injury. This gratitude may be so overwhelming that it utterly obscures the financial loss of the ruined car.
One might think that victims of automobile accidents or burnt houses would be bitter and defiant, expressing anger at God for the grave loss they had sustained. Instead, it appears to be within human nature to react differently. If we are alive and whole, and our children are safe, our gratitude may be so dominant that anger does not even ap pear.
Strangely, when lesser reversals occur, anger and bitterness do appear. The reason must be that we are not aware of any great danger from which we were spared. The Talmud states that the verse, He does great works alone (Psalms 136:4), means that God alone is aware of the wondrous acts that occur, and that humans who benefit from them are unaware of them.
A person would be wise to always be grateful, even when adversities occur, and apply the same attitude as when one walks away without a scratch from a serious automobile accident saying, “Thank God, I’m safe.”
Today I shall …
… make it a point to be grateful to God under all circumstances
Happiness Without Approval
If you seek approval, ask yourself why you want it in the first place. The answer is that you view approval as pleasurable and giving you happiness.
Realize how much needless suffering your approval-seeking causes you. This will motivate you to master an attitude that allows you to feel happy even when people fail to show you honor and approval.
It is ironic that something one wants for happiness causes so much unhappiness. By giving up the demand for approval, you will ensure yourself greater happiness in life.
(Rabbi Pliskin’s “Gateway to Happiness,” p.282)
One who is needy and refuses to accept help, it is as though he shed innocent blood (Jerusalem Talmud, Peah 8:8).
Maimonides extols what he calls the golden path, the middle way which a person should follow in life. He states that every trait has two opposite but equally undesirable extremes. The proper degree of any trait is not necessarily the median; it may be more toward one of the two poles, but it is never the extreme.
Self-sufficiency is certainly a desirable goal, and striving for independence is commendable. Some indolent people do not even try to carry their own weight. Their parasitism may be so reprehensible to other people that the latter may react by going to the opposite extreme and refusing to accept help when they need it. They may sustain physical injury by starvation or exposure, rather than accept a helping hand.
While accounts of great tzaddikim who subjected themselves to extreme degrees of deprivation do exist, these people had reached a level of spirituality so high that this deprivation would not harm them. For the average person, Solomon’s caution, “Do not attempt to be too much of a tzaddik” (Ecclesiastes 7:16), should prevail. To do so may simply be an “ego trip.” Some bridges can support vehicles of any tonnage; other bridges have a limit on the tonnage, lest they collapse under excess weight.
In this trait, like so many others, people may not be the best judge of their own capacities. Their best move is to seek competent spiritual guidance.
Today I shall …
… allow myself to accept legitimate help and be cautious of over-reacting in any extreme.
Focus On Those You Can Help
Focus on the people you can help, and don’t be obsessed with those you cannot help.
You are a mortal. You, like everyone else, are limited. Obsessing about what you can’t do prevents you from accomplishing what you can do.
(From Rabbi Pliskin’s book Kindness) from AISH  HATORAH
Glad To Help
Be grateful to anyone you help. They are helping you fulfill your life’s mission.
Be especially careful not to speak or act condescendingly when you try to help someone. The good you do can be offset by the damage caused by an insulting tone.
(From Rabbi Pliskin’s book Kindness)

From Rock Bottom to Bottoms Up

(Insights for Tisha B’Av)

  • This Week’s RRR (Relevant Religious Reference): “(In Messianic Times to come), the Fast of the Fourth Month (i.e. TISHA B’AV, our saddest day of the year)… shall become (a time) of joy and gladness and cheerful feasts…” – Zechariah, 8:19
  • This Week’s SSC (Suitable Secular Citation): “I’ve had an interesting morning. In the last two hours… I’ve lost my job, my apartment … my car and my girlfriend” – JOHN WINGER (BILL MURRAY) to his buddy RUSSELL ZISKEY (HAROLD RAMIS) in the movie “STRIPES”
Rock bottom! It can’t get any worse because there is simply no lower depth to which to sink. In the Jewish calendar and consciousness, there is a “rock bottom” equivalent in the dimension of time: the 9th of Av (in Hebrew, “Tisha B’Av”). Spanning Jewish history, it has been a day that has reverberated with the energy of disaster, repeatedly set aside for the harshest brand of national Jewish wake-up calls. If so, then why do our Sages tell us that in times to come, the 9th of Av will be celebrated as a Holiday of great rejoicing?
Imagine the following tragic scenario: a man becomes caught up in a gambling addiction, which gradually erodes the fabric of his Family life. He’s rarely home, he loses much of the Family’s nest egg, he begins to beat his children…. His Wife does all she can to help him shape up, but she finds that his occasional overtures to correct his behavior are half- hearted at best. Exasperated, she is eventually left with no choice: “I want you out tonight,” she says as she throws his duffel bag at him. “Pack and get out of here.” “But I’ll really change this time!” “Not here you won’t! I refuse to stand here and be insulted by those empty words again. You’re out!” Dejected and completely broken, he takes his bags and walks through the doorway that he is no longer deemed worthy to reenter. Without a plan, he heads for the streets to begin his bitter personal exile. He has no more excuses to make, and no one to listen to them even if he did.
Eventually – after wallowing in self-pity proves fruitless – he decides to commit to a sincere regiment of rehabilitation, and he gradually works his way back to respectability. At long last, he feels that he is ready to try to regain his Family’s favor. They spot him approaching, and before he even reaches the pine door that he had so often pined for, he is greeted with open arms by those who can see that he has truly, and heroically, done it! As he rebuilds his relationships, he finds himself wanting to celebrate the remarkable rehabilitation that led to his jubilant reunion. Which date does he choose? The anniversary of the very day he had hit rock bottom! Had it not been for that fateful day, he probably would have never made himself right again. Therefore, the dark day that spurred on his eventual rebirth & family reunion becomes tantamount to his new Birthday, Wedding Anniversary, and Father’s Day as well. [Adapted from a story told by Rabbi Mordechai Becher]
All of us – the Jewish People – were kicked out of the Home we shared with our Creator. Our Temple was called a “House of Holiness”, where G-d chose to “dwell” in the sense of allowing us to experience a greatly heightened manifestation of His Presence. It served as the spiritual supply station of a universal pipeline, through which Divine energy would be pumped out to the rest of the world. Therefore, when the Temple was destroyed (it stood twice and was destroyed twice, both times on the 9th of Av), the world lost some of the guiding light that emanated from its Global Soul.
The Talmud declares that “any generation in which the Temple is not built, it is as if it was destroyed in that generation.” In other words, if we see that the Temple isn’t rebuilt, we know that we haven’t fully corrected the human flaws that caused it to be destroyed in the first place (e.g. baseless hatred, immorality, & evil speech) – if we had, it would have been reconstructed by now. Therefore, Tisha B’Av is the time to recognize that in one sense, we have hit rock bottom. It is the time to realize just what it means to be living in a world that lacks its illuminating “House of Holiness”.
But as with the protagonist in our story, this sobering, soul-searching realization is meant to serve as “a going down for the sake of going up”, spurring us on to get our lives together and thereby our “House” back in order. Borrowing from a much lighter example, we are in some ways enjoined to follow the lead of John Winger (Bill Murray) after things got unbearably tough for him in the movie “Stripes”. After hitting rock bottom by losing his job, his apartment, his car, his girlfriend, and his pizza (all within two hours), he knew that he had to commit to a radical regiment of change in order to pull himself back up. He decided to “be all that he could be” by joining the Army! We too are called upon to use this time in order to “be all that we can be”. Through this process, we will one day be able to celebrate Tisha B’Av as a uniquely joyous Holiday, the anniversary of the very day that snapped us into reality and allowed us to reunite with our Creator in a rebuilt House of Holiness. May we soon celebrate Tisha B’Av as the day that transformed devastation to celebration – as the day that helped us journey from Rock Bottom to Bottoms Up!
Have a Wonderful Shabbos and a Meaningful Tisha B’Av! Love, Jon & The Chevra

Text Copyright © 2008 by Jon Erlbaum and

Be Independently Wealthy
Attachment makes you emotionally dependent. Become free. Give up your attachments. Allow your happiness in life to be dependent on your own mind and not on anything external. Attachments are normal. We all become attached to people, possessions, our environment and usual circumstances. A master of happiness will appreciate what he or she has while they have them and the moment any specific thing is gone or lost, the focus will be on other things to appreciate and be grateful for. At times, this could be gratitude for the memories that remain. Material and physical objects are temporary, memories are forever.
A master at non-attachment has nothing to worry about. Worry comes from dependence on things remaining the way you wish them to be.
from: Salant Foundation email
Click on this link to see Rabbi Miller’s new book:


“His deliverance is close to those who revere Him.”

The main test of this world, is to TRUST IN HASHEM no matter how “hopeless” the situation. In fact, HaShem sometimes places a tzadik in dire straits to see if the tzadik will maintain his faith. If the tzadik holds his faith, even when there is “no prospect of deliverance,” – HaShem will miraculously save him. Since he has demonstrated that he truly trusts in HaShem, he merits salvation.

Therefore, if a person finds himself in a situation where things cannot get possibly worse, and there is no light at the end of the tunnel, HOLD ON – that is precisely when HaShem will save you if you will only keep your faith!

For instance, when Pharaoh sought to kill Moshe, HaShem did not save Moshe until the “sword rested on his neck,” as per the verse, “HaShem saved Moshe from Pharaoh’s sword.” Since Moshe held his faith in HaShem, even in the face of death, he merited to be saved from Pharaoh’s sword. Indeed Moshe believed that when things could get no worse, then HaShem would reward him and save him for his faithfulness.

Of course, we are not on the level of Moshe, nor do we want such a hard test. However, we can learn from Moshe the importance of maintaining steadfast trust in HaShem. If we hold our faith while confronting the challenges of our lives, we will merit blessing, deliverance, and joy, i.e., “His deliverance is close to those who revere Him.”
[Based on Ohr Yechezchal]

TODAY: Under all circumstances, challenges, and hardships remain calm – and TRUST IN HASHEM


There was once a king who brought in foreign advisors to oversee a special building project in the palace. As soon as they entered the royal town one of the advisors took sick. In fact, he did not recover from his illness until the project was completed. When the time came for them to return home the gracious king instructed his treasurer to pay both of the advisors their full wages.

Before they took their leave from the royal city, both advisors issued special letters that expressed their profound thanks to the king. The king then instructed that one thousand gold coins be paid to the advisor who performed the task, whereas he did not grant any additional benefit, whatsoever, to the advisor who took sick.

The king’s ministers assumed that the king granted special favor to the advisor who worked because his praise was expressed more elegantly than the praise of his compatriot. However the king said that it was just the opposite, “The letter of the advisor who took sick was the more graceful of the two letters. Rather, the reason that I did not allot a bonus to him was because I already granted him much more than his due, for I paid him a full salary even though he did no work. Therefore, he is obligated to thank me. Whereas there was no obligation on the advisor to thank me for his well earned wages. Therefore it is fitting to reward him for his praise and thanks.”

Likewise, when HaShem performs open miracles for Klal Yisrael they are obligated to thank him. Just as the payment to the advisor, who was unable to work, was an obvious gesture of the king’s compassion, so too, when the miracles defies nature, the goodness of HaShem is clearly revealed.

However, when the goodness and deliverance of HaShem is manifest through “natural causes”, we are less obligated to thank HaShem, just as the advisor who received his just wages, was not obligated to thank the king. For instance, the rising of the sun each day has been ordained by HaShem as a statute from the time He created Heaven and earth. Nevertheless, the special quality of Klal Yisrael is that they recognize and thank and praise HaShem for the constant goodness and mercy that He continuously bestows upon us through natural means. In response to Klal Yisrael’s recognition and thanks to HaShem for his “hidden loving kindness”, HaShem grants abundant reward in this world, as well as The World to Come.

TODAY: Feel the warmth of sparkling sun – and express thanks to HaShem

What are we? What are our lives?

… What can we say before You? (Siddur).

from Aish email:
One way to read this prayer is to see the last phrase as an answer to the series of questions posed earlier. Read it: “What are we, and what are our lives and traits? Only that which we say before God.” In other words, I can only know that much about myself which I have the courage to reveal to God. That which I cannot own up to, that which I keep so concealed that I cannot verbalize when I communicate with God, remains alien to me.
The Rabbi of Kotzk interpreted the verse, There shall not be a foreign god among you (Psalms 81:10), to mean, “Do not let God be foreign to you.” To the degree that we alienate ourselves from God, we also alienate ourselves from ourselves.
Tachanun, the practice of daily soul-searching and teshuvah, is more than a ritual. By disclosing ourselves before God, we become aware of ourselves. While tachanun does contain prescribed prayers of confession, it is highly commendable that following them, we enter into a spontaneous conversation with God, telling Him all our innermost thoughts. In this way, we remove the barriers of denial and repression that both cause us to disown part of ourselves and put our correctable character defects out of reach.
Today I shall …
… try to confide in God, and tell him, both in silent and verbal expression, all my innermost thoughts and feelings.

Hillel The Elder

Rabbi Meyer Chaim Brickman | No Comments | Filed in Parasha & Religion Edit
Every Shabbat, during the summer months, we recite a chapter of the Pirkei Avot (Chapters of our Fathers).
One of the teachings of the Talmudic sage, Hillel The Elder, in the second chapter of Pirkei Avot, (sometimes called “Ethics of our Fathers), is, “Do not judge your fellow until you come to his place.”
In other words, if you see someone doing something wrong or something which in your eyes seem wrong, do not judge them, unless you are in their place, in their position and have experienced what they experience.
Often we judge others negatively, without giving any thought as to why they acted that way.  It is only when we find ourselves in their position that we can see that perhaps it wasn’t their fault, as we originally thought.
A man came to the doctor and complained that his wife is hard of hearing.
“How do you know she has a hearing problem?” asked the doctor.
“I talk to her so many times during the day, but she doesn’t answer.  For sure she cannot hear,” he replied.
The doctor thought for a while and said, “I want you to conduct the following test.  First ask her something from across the room.  If she doesn’t reply, get a few feet closer and ask her again.  Get closer and closer to her, a few feet each time, this way you’ll be able to gauge how bad her hearing problem is.”
The next day the man asks his wife from across the room, “What’s for supper tonight?”  No answer.  He walks a few feet closer to her, “my dear, what’s for supper?”  No answer.  He goes another few feet forward and asks the same question.  No reply.  Finally he gets within a foot of her and screams, “What’s for supper?”
She screams back at him, “What’s with your hearing.  For the seventh time!  I told you chicken and potatoes!!!”
Too many times, we see faults in other people and judge them negatively, when the faults may in fact be with us!
Hillel the Elder teaches us, “Do not judge your fellow until you come to his place.”  Get close to him.  Get into his shoes and you may see things very differently.  You may realize that the negative you saw, is not as bad as you thought, taking into account the person’s background or the conditions which he has to endure.
Or you may even see that the fact that you perceived him or her in a negative light may actually be a result of something lacking within yourself, as the story above illustrates.
Rabbi Nachman of Breslav explains it this way: G-d is called “Hamakom” (“the place”).  Here the word “Limekomo” (Do not judge your fellow until you come to his place), means, G-d’s place. Hillel teaches us that unless we see things as G-d sees them, for He sees the past, present and future, we cannot pass judgment on someone else, because we do not see the full picture.
In the second chapter of Pirkei Avot, the Talmudic sage Hillel teaches the following, “Do not separate yourself from the community; Do not be sure of yourself until the day of your death; Do not judge/condemn your fellow until you have stood in his place; Do not make a statement which is not readily understood in the hope that it will eventually be understood; and do not say, ‘When I will have free time I will study,’ for perhaps you will never have free time.”
Each one of these five directives in themselves is a great teaching and benefits everyone who adheres to them.
“Do not separate yourself from the community.”  In the daily Amida service we pray to G-d, “Bestow peace, goodness and blessing, life graciousness, kindness and mercy upon us and upon all your people Israel.  Bless us, our Father, all of us as one…”   Being as one – together – brings blessing to the community and to the individual.
The story is told of a man who attended shul each week day and Shabbat to pray with the congregation.  One day he stopped coming to synagogue.
After a while the rabbi became concerned and decided to pay the man a visit. It happened to be a very cold day when the rabbi came knocking at the man’s home.
The man welcomed the rabbi into his home and together they sat down near the fireplace to stay warm.
The rabbi inquired as to the man’s state of health.  He told the rabbi that his health was good.  His business was also doing well.  In fact, he had no complaints.
“So why did you stop attending shul?” asked the rabbi.
“I have decided that I could concentrate better on my prayers when I pray at home.  Here, I’m not distracted by anyone, so now I pray at home each day.”  The rabbi continued the conversation.
Before leaving, the rabbi picked up the fire tongs. He went over to the fireplace and removed one glowing coal from the rest.  Then he placed it on the side of the fireplace, away form the other coals.
Now watch this single coal and watch the rest!” declared the rabbi.
While the other coals continued burning and warming the room, this single coal slowly lost its glow until it became completely extinguished and cold.
“You see what happens to a hot and glowing coal when separated from the others,” said the rabbi to the man.  “This is the reason why you should come back to shul and continue praying together with the others.  When we pray together one benefits from the warmth of the others.  But, when one is alone, like the single coal, they will eventually become extinguished and cold.”
The next day the man was back in shul.

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  • 1 DACON9 // May 24, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    what would your comment say?

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