Monday, February 28, 2005

Simple Faith

In June 2004, David Hatuel asked the Sanzer Rebbe, Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Halberstam, whether a settlement in Gaza should construct a permanent or temporary ark for Torah scrolls dedicated in the memory of Hatuel's murdered family. The Sanzer Rebbe replied that a temporary ark should be built, not because of the planned withdrawal from Gaza, but because one day the ark will need to moved it into a larger shul once the settlement expands.


This Purim send shalach manos to Jewish families in Gaza.

Always Beginning

"And Hashem appeared to him in Alonei Mamre, and he was sitting at the entrance of the tent during the heat of the day." (Bereishis 18:1)

Avraham Avinu was sitting in the entrance of the tent, he had not yet gone inside, into the inner sanctum. In his great humility Avraham never felt that he had achieved any accomplishments in his spiritual work. He held himself to be also just a beginner, he was always focused on what he still had to learn. He was still sitting in the entrance of the tent.

(Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk)

Friday, February 25, 2005

A Little Further Along The Journey To Simplicity

Since writing this post, I have stayed away from the mainstream news. My mind feels clearer and not cluttered with random fragments. I decided that if there is important news someone will tell me about it.

Many people have remarked that they too know people who don't know what is going on in the world and never read the newspaper or watch the nightly news. They find these people to be ignorant.

I am not arguing with them.

However, I think there is a difference between not watching the news and choosing not to watch the news.

There is a difference between the person who does not watch the news because he is too busy watching football games, reality TV, or NASCAR and the person who does not watch the news so that he can deal with matters of the neshoma.

Think me to be a simpleton. I profess to be no more.

The Mask of Moshe

While trying to understand the deeper meaning for Moshe Rabbeinu's mask in the end of this week's parsha, I found this.

The Reward Of Silence

Fortunate is he who listens and keeps quiet; one hundred evils pass him by.

(Talmud - Sanhedrin 7a)

Thursday, February 24, 2005

More Thoughts On Blogging

It continues to fascinate me that people all over the world can relate to the daily thoughts that float between my ears. I talk to my wife about my blog and the comments and feedback I receive. Last night I jokingly told her, "You never knew how interesting your husband really was!". She smiled.

I have noticed that 75% of the comments I receive come from women. It is an interesting phenomenon. I am not sure if I understand the reason for this.

Her Toy & My Toy / Her Gashmius & My Gashmius

My daughter was upset on Monday because a tiny bit of paint got scratched off her toy Tracy airplane. As far as she was concerned Tracy was broken. The fact that her toy now had an imperfection bothered her so much that she completely fixated on the imperfection for some time.

Later that day while driving, a small stone hit my windshield an put a small crack in it. My wife looked over at me and requested that we not let this small thing rob us the enjoyment of my day off from work. The size of the crack would not necessitate replacing the whole windshield. In fact, if the crack remained small, nothing would need to be done.

The timing of this event made it easy to draw a parallel between the paint scratch in my daughter's toy and the crack in my windshield. If I wanted my daughter to continue to enjoy her toy despite its imperfection I needed to set an example and follow my own advice not to let a little thing bother me. That is what I did. I put the crack in the windshield out of my mind an muttered "zol zein a kapara" under my breath.

If we are concerned with our ruchnius we need to be able to live with imperfections in our gashmius.


"Zol zein a kapara" is a Yiddish expression that means "it should be an atonement". It is an expression said when something unfortunate happens in order to be able to view the event in proper context.

Don't Become Shy and Timid

People may mock you or put obstacles in your way. But don't allow yourself to be put off by them and don't become shy and timid. You may think they are better than you or on a higher level. It may even be true and perhaps they really are on a higher level. Even so, as long as your motive is for the sake of Heaven you must be firm and bold in the face of those who are confusing you and keeping you from the path of life.

(Rebbe Nachman of Breslov)

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Intelligence: A Stumbling Block?

Can intelligence get in the way of parenting? While occupied with children the parent has to turn off his mind to some to degree from his own intellectual pursuits.

On the weekend I wake up at 5:00 and go downstairs and learn until my wife and children wake up at 7:00. I cherish this time alone. I spend these two hours exercising my brain since I know that I will have to turn it off once the children are up. I have found that taking this time to myself helps me be more fully devoted to my family during the course of the day.

Recently I have been thinking about how people more intelligent than myself deal with this issue. I am by no means a great intellect, far from it. I graduated from college with a 2.67 grade point average.

There are plenty of very intelligent people with advanced degrees and small children at home. I wonder if it is more difficult for them to "put there brain aside" when dealing with their children. I wonder if intelligence to some degree can be a stumbling block.

Too much intelligence is not good. It makes one over think even the most trivial decisions and does not allow one to live in the moment. Too little intelligence can potentially be dangerous.

Exactly where is the line?

Like most things, I think the answer is somewhere in the grey zone.

Teaching A Child to Have Faith

Teaching the child to have faith in G-d and His Torah is the main aspect of his education. Parents should make him aware that everything they give him is a gift from G-d. Thus they will instill in the child a love for Him, and for the parents whom Heaven has delegated to provide his needs.

(Rabbi Moshe Feinstein)

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

What What Is Not There Says About What Is There

Without reading the commentaries on this week's parsha, one finds fault with Aharon's actions during the episode with the golden calf. The text of the parsha does not explicitly tell us Aharon's motivations nor detail all of his delaying tactics to prevent the Jewish people from committing this aveira.

Perhaps there is a reason why all the details that allow us to view Aharon in a more positive light are not immediately apparent and why they are relegated to the commentaries. It could be to teach us the lesson to judge other people favorably and not to rush to judge another person until we have the whole story.

Just One Prayer

May it be G-d’s will that I be worthy in my lifetime of being able to pray properly one prayer before the Creator.

(Rabbi Mendel of Premsylan)

Friday, February 18, 2005

Anti-This, Anti-That

If you are so against something be against it. Don't let it consume all your thoughts and energy.

There is no need to tell others about it day after day.

They heard your opinion the first time you told them.

"Being against" something is a state of inaction.

Do something productive with your negative energy.

Lesson From The Desert

Do you know the real sin of our forefathers in the desert? Not their rebellious behavior, but their ensuing depression.

(Rabbi Tzadok HaKohen of Lublin)

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Thoughts On Simplicity From Musings Of A Jewish Soul

I really liked these thoughts on simplicity from Musings of a Jewish Soul.

Remembering Franklin

I worked with an African-American man who had a heart attack and died at his desk. Franklin was wonderful person, with a heart as big as his muscles. Franklin, then in his thirties, lifted weights after work and had muscles so big that he had to have dress shirts custom made to fit his enormous chest and biceps.

My desk was located close to Franklin's desk and we would talk often. He was a very gentle individual and we got along very well.

On March 31, 1998, I left the office to go out to lunch. This would be the last time I would see Franklin alive. Co-workers told me that he had a heart attack in his chair shortly after I left for lunch. Paramedics rushed him to a near-by emergency room, however it was too late. Franklin did not make it.

Franklin's death hit me like a ton of bricks. It was a wake up call that I heard loud and clear. At the time of his death my wife and I were still dating and I was on the fence about getting engaged. Immediately after Franklin died we started looking for a ring and were engaged almost a month later.

Seven years later I now realize the important role Franklin played in my life. I have a beautiful wife and children thanks in some degree to him. He was the catalyst. I wish he were alive so I could thank him.

Everyone in our life is there for a reason. We just may not know the reason.


Every once in awhile I like to read a novel. I mainly read non-fiction. I just started the new novel by Pearl Abraham. So far I am enjoying it.

Also, has anyone read this book by Naomi Ragen?

Taking Up Space In the Mind

When a person admits unholy thoughts to his mind, the holiness of his mind is reduced in direct proportion to the space occupied by these degraded thoughts.

(Rebbe Nachman of Breslov)

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

No Fear

There is a well known story about the Baal Shem Tov, then just five years-old, sitting at the deathbed of his father. His father's last words to him before passing away were:

"Yisroel, my son, do not fear anything other than Hashem. Love every single Jew, with all your heart and with the flame of your soul, no matter who or what he is."

I have always thought that this was an incredibly high level to aspire to. I cannot even imagine a level where one eradicates all fear aside from his fear of Hashem.

It makes me wonder that if I only feared Hashem, how would I have responded in this situation?


The Torah praises the Children of Israel for keeping private things private. In counter distinction to modern western culture where all dirty laundry is washed in public, the Torah attitude is that not everything is for the public eye. Some things are meant to remain known only within the community or the family, or between husband and wife. When everything intimate is public knowledge, it violates the goodness of the tents of Yaakov. Additionally, we see that the nation of Israel voluntarily situated their tents such that they should not violate the privacy of their neighbors. That means that they were not interested in their neighbor's business. They possessed the emotional refinement to prefer not to know "interesting" things about the people around them. This is a trait which requires cultivation and maturity.

(Rabbi Chaim Dovid Green)

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

My Life As A Boomerang

Lately I have felt as if I were a boomerang that flies the same linear path each day. To and from work, along the same route, seeing the same things. To and from my building at lunchtime. Out to learn and back to my cubicle....402 steps each way.

Perhaps I am writing this since I have not had a vacation since November 2003. I am really looking forward to taking a vacation with my family in April. It will help me escape the prison of routine and help me press the refresh button in my brain.

Maybe I should re-read what I wrote here.

Who Is Wise? One Who Listens to George Costanza

I have a trait that I need to overcome. The trait is laziness. I generally don't like to make plans, however after overcoming my initial resistance and desire to do nothing, I am always happy that I actually made plans and went out to the event or got together with the person. Like George Costanza on Seinfeld, my first inclination is usually wrong and the opposite is usually right.


Unless you continue to uproot the quality of laziness from within you and plant in its stead diligence and efficiency, your inclination will get the better of you and you will experience spiritual failure.

(Piaceszna Rebbe)

Buying Bad Attitudes

You must guard against acquiring others' unresourceful and counterproductive ways of looking at things. You would not pay money to buy these attitudes, so do not accept them even when they are given for free.

(Rabbi Zelig Pliskin)

Monday, February 14, 2005

Maintaining Composure

The Baal Shem Tov had a unique interpretation of a verse in Tehillim (16:8). The verse states, "Shivisi Hashem l'negdi samid" - I have placed Hashem before me at all times. The Baal Shem Tov explained that the word "shivisi" has the same root as the word "shaveh" - meaning equal. Thus, the verse can also be read, "It is all equal, Hashem is before me at all times." We should view every event that we experience with equanimity, knowing that everything comes from Hashem and is ultimately good.

Viewing everything as equal is extremely difficult. It takes a tremendous amount of work and practice. I am not even close to reaching this level. Working to maintain composure in the face of ridicule and insult is something I am now working on.

I am tested on a daily basis by a co-worker named "Sandy". If you could imagine a person with no soul that person would be Sandy. We work together in a "cube farm" and my cubicle is located next to her cubicle. Every day without fail, Sandy is in a horrible mood and breathes fire at all those around her. She has unreasonably high expectations with herself and others and is constantly frustrated and angry. Because of the proximity of my cubicle, a lot of this is taken out on me.

Perhaps I should look at Sandy as a test. Hashem arranged that she would sit next to me to teach me to overcome my own anger and to teach me how to maintain my composure when being verbally assailed.

G-d willing, Sandy will disappear into thin air when I have learned this lesson and have passed the test.

Waiting For A Flawless Child

Children are important. Very important. They alone guarantee the perpetuation of our heritage and holy faith from generation to generation. But you are also very important. You have an obligation to yourself, an obligation to see that you, too, turn out to be a good Jew. For in the end, you alone will have to account for all your years and deeds. In the final analysis, only your good deeds will accompany you and be permanently on your side. In connection with this, Reb Noson once said: It seems that everyone feels the need to leave over something for his children. This itself is a debt. Ask anyone who’s ever lived why they work so hard and he’ll tell you, “I do it for my children.” You’d think, said Reb Noson, that since everyone is working for his children, you’d see such wonderful children. I’m still waiting to see that flawless child! The one that everyone sells his life for!

(Rabbi Eliyahu Chaim Rosen)

Friday, February 11, 2005

Question & Answer With Rabbi Lazer Brody

A Simple Jew's Question:

How does one maintain a focus on ruchnius with a furnance that dies or a faucet that starts spewing water? These things eat up a person's time, taking him away from the more important things in life.

Rabbi Lazer Brody's Answer:

The wake up calls do waste time, but it's Hashem's message to us to think about the tremendous amounts of time we waste. When the furnace goes and we have to run around looking for repairs, Hashem is saying, "What, the Super Bowl was more important than Baba Kama? You have time to waste? OK, I have plenty of messengers to help you waste time!" And, after you waste $750 good green bucks fixing the thing, Hashem is saying, "If you would have given maaser properly, you could have given another $750 to a worthy Torah scholar in Eretz Yisroel. You find it difficult in parting with your money for a mitzva? I have plenty of messengers that will help you part with your money for a tzora." Our job is to open our eyes, do Tshuva, and correct what needs correcting. Unfortunately, many folks close their hearts, eyes, and ears to Hashem's messages.

Theft of Time

Theft of time is every bit as serious as theft of money.

(Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto)

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Residue of the Mind - A Question and Thought


What would you do with your time if you stopped watching television and reading the newspaper?


Imagine a time when you would send a potential employer the URL to your blog rather than sending your resume.

Thanksgiving Day on Rosh Chodesh Adar

My great-grandfather arrived in the United States on Rosh Chodesh Adar 107 years ago. The family that remained behind was murdered by Ukrainians and Germans during the Holocaust.

Rosh Chodesh Adar is my family's personal Thanksgiving day.

Many of us take for granted that what we write in newspaper editorials or even on our blogs could send someone to prison in another country. The vast majority of us have never lived under an oppressive totalitarian regime and do not take the time to truly appreciate the freedom we have in this country.

Today is my day to do just that.

G-d bless America!


A person is required to recall any miracle that may have happened to him and his family. This should be commemorated with a festive meal and with the giving of charity.

(Rabbi Avraham Danzig)

Note: In order to express my gratitude for all the things that this country has given to my family, I am giving tzedakah to Operation: Enduring Traditions, an organization that assists Jewish soldiers serving in the American armed forces.

I post information about this organization only because I am " who wants to give and wants that others should give..." (Pirkei Avos - 5:16).

A True Leader

The true leader does not attribute his failures to others. Rather, he looks for the fault in himself.

(Rabbi Elie Munk)

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

"Very Good!" - Creating "Artificial" Happiness

I used to respond "not bad" when someone asked me how I was doing. Over time I realized that this was a negative statement and I needed to change my stock answer to this oft asked question.

People told me that I needed to respond to this question with the words "Baruch Hashem" since it is a common response for religious Jews. I noticed, however, that some people even replied "Baruch Hashem" in an unhappy tone of voice thus reflecting the opposite meaning of what they were saying.

Positive words need to be complemented with a positive tone of voice. For the past few months I use the response "Very Good!" no matter how I am feeling. I say it with enthusiasm. The first few times it felt a bit forced, however over time the brain begins to relate to the words and the once artificial sounding "Very Good!" becomes an honest "Very Good!".

You can actually trick your mind into changing your mood by changing your response to this one question. Whether you say "Very Good!" or "Baruch Hashem" say it in a happy tone and you too will be happy.

It Should Not Be A Burden

It's a mitzva to enjoy your learning.

(Rabbi Lazer Brody)

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Business Card Questions

What would you have printed on your business card if you could not include your position title or place of work?

Would you freely hand out business cards if your business card was an honest description of your neshoma?


If G-d were to show you your true colors, you would not be able to continue living for one hour.

(Kotzker Rebbe)

Barrels Full Of Holes

Learn to see yourself as the day laborer who is paid to pour water into barrels which have holes. If he is foolish, he says, “Why waste my time?” But the wise man says, “I’m paid by the day. What difference is it to me if the barrels fill up or not? They’re paying me to pour water.”

(Vayikra Rabbah 19:2)

Monday, February 07, 2005

Small Talk Using Up My Words

Silence makes us uncomfortable. It makes us so uncomfortable that we fill up every second with speech. Most of the time it is meaningless speech called "small talk".

I used to despise small talk. I was so horrible at it so most of the time I just remained silent.

Over time I began to realize that small talk, however, is necessary to exist as a "normal" member of society. It is a necessary evil in the work place. If I have nothing in common with a person, now I can always resort to talking about the weather or giving a day of the week status. I am convinced that many people talk about sports, movies, and television for this same reason.

Each day I have numerous "small talk" conversations with colleagues in my building. Word after useless word comes out of my mouth over the course of the day leaving me exhausted by the time I return home at night to my family. Is there any wonder why I don't feel like talking in the evenings?

The Baal Shem Tov taught that each person is allocated a certain number of words that he can speak before he dies. It is unpleasant to think that my words are being used up with small talk.


My mother, known to be very quiet person, often repeats this anonymous quote, "There is no point in speaking unless you can improve upon the silence." I think this sums it all up nicely.

Perfect Agreement

Your mouth and your heart should always be in perfect agreement.

(Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 63:5)

Friday, February 04, 2005

TEMPESTing the World

To what degree do we need to "TEMPEST" the world from outside emanations?

Some maintain that our minds should be protected to filter out emanations containing non-Jewish content.

Is this really possible in golus? How can we live in a country and totally cut ourselves off from our surroundings?

Others maintain that our filter should be minimal.

If so, how do we draw the line?

Some maintain that the emanations should not be filtered and our minds should be allowed to receive everything.

Doesn't this just lead to stimuli overdose?

I don't have an answer. I am still searching for one.

Even With Silly Things

As a result of day-to-day problems, human nature tends towards depression. Everyone has problems. A person has to work very hard to force himself to be constantly joyful and to do whatever he can to make himself joyful - even with silly things.

(Rebbe Nachman of Breslov)

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Goodbye Google News - Continuing the Journey to Simplicity

I wrote about the subject of overexposure to the news back in November. I have slowly reduced my own exposure during the past few months.

After speaking with a like-minded colleague at work, I decided to stop looking at Google news and reduce my news intake even further to the point that I am essentially getting all my news by glancing at headlines in newspaper boxes on the street and through blogs/e-mail.

I can't say that I feel that I am missing anything.


Last week I read this book on the subject. With a brilliant premise, it had tremendous potential. I felt betrayed after finishing it since it did not go far enough and settled for the easy Hollywood ending. I don't recommend it.


A person must be particularly careful not to hurt his wife's feelings and not to cause her pain with harsh words, for a woman is sensitive by nature and even a slight hurt will bring tears to her eyes. And G-d, blessed be He, pays heed to tears, for the gates of tears are never closed.

(Shulchan Aruch)

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Crawling Backwards

My eight month old son started crawling backwards on Monday. He was even able to sit himself up after laying flat on his back. My lil' tzaddik appears to be very proud of his new accomplishments. At 20+ pounds (in the 95th percentile for weight), he looks like a little Michelin Man.

It is amazing how quickly children develop at his age. One day they cannot do something and the next day they are already doing it. Before I know it, he will be up walking around and saying "Mama" and "Dada".

The Microphone In Your Home

What a child says in the street, the parents have said in the home.

(Talmud - Sukkos 56b)

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Second Guessing Yourself Into Inaction

No matter what you choose to do there is always someone who will disagree with you and find fault with what you are doing or trying to do. Even if you discovered the cure for cancer or AIDS a detractor may still take issue with your motives or the method which led to your discovery.

A person waiting for a consensus for his every move will be standing in the same frustrating place. He will be a spectator his entire life, watching what other people do.

An individual finally reaches the conclusion that if every thing he does is wrong in someone else's eyes, he might as well do what he wants to do.

If you know you are doing the right thing, just do it.

Opponents are evidence that you are moving forward. Their power comes from your fear of them.

(Lubavitcher Rebbe)

Remembering the Revolt - February 1, 1944

Sixty years ago on this date, the Irgun Zvai Leumi (IZL) declared their revolt against the British Mandate in Palestine.

As a teenager, I found the book "The Revolt" in my high school library. I read the book countless times and it continues to be one of my favorites. I was probably the only kid in my high school whose hero was Menachem Begin.

To this day I read everything I can get my hands on relating to the Irgun and LEHI. I am fascinated with this period of Jewish history and have been fortunate to spend time with Irgun veterans on previous visits to Israel.


Worrying can crush a person.

(Pele Yoetz)