Friday, March 25, 2005

Offline Until April 12

Although I am not leaving for vacation until next Thursday, I have decided to begin my blogging vacation today.

I should be back posting on Tuesday, April 12.


Update - March 30: Despite my son's lingering roto virus and the house's termite infestation (being treated today) we are still planning to leave early Thursday morning.

Update - April 5: We successfully made the 13.5 hour car trip and thank G-d everyone is now healthy and having a great time.

Who Is Controlling Who

If you choose not to do something positive because what other people will say, haven't you admitted that they now have a certain power over you?

Reading the Megillah Backwards

One who reads the Megillah backwards has not fulfilled his obligation. (Talmud - Megillah 2:1) One who reads backwards refers to those who treat our yearly festivals like old-fashioned relics, cumbersome observances whose time has long passed. Such a person has not fulfilled his obligation, for this wrongful attitude prevents him from experiencing the deep riches contained within the festivals.

(Baal Shem Tov)

Thursday, March 24, 2005

No Need To Speak

Let your actions reveal your opinion.

Not In Her Vocabulary

My two year old daughter and I were looking through a Zoobooks magazine on Tuesday night and came across an illustration of some game poachers armed with rifles in a jeep chasing a cheetah. Out of curiosity I pointed to the picture of the rifle and asked my daughter what it was. She stumbled over an answer and finally just looked at the picture unable to say anything. She had never seen anything like this before and this word was not in her vocabulary.

While the realities of the world have proven that man has a need for weapons, it is unfortunate that we cannot return to a time when we look at a picture of a gun and do not know what it is or what it is for.

Sophisticated Jokes

One of the biggest obstacles in the search for truth is other people, especially those who make fun of religion with 'sophisticated' jokes. They are under the spell of philosophical speculation and other current ideas. The damage they cause is quite obvious. They have the power to corrupt people completely, G-d forbid. What is even more insidious is the sharp wit of people who give the appearance of being respectable and well meaning, but who have a way of turning all kinds of religious matters into a joke. Many people are deterred from true religion because of this. At least where the blatant mockery of the philosophers is concerned most people have the sense to be wary and keep away, knowing as they do that philosophy has the power to deprive you of both worlds, this one and the next, and to throw you down into the lowest pit of hell, G-d forbid. But the 'wit and wisdom' of those who give the impression of being decent and religious can be more dangerous because their words possess a certain aura of truth. Travel the path of purity and you will walk in trust. Keep well away from this crowd and pay no attention to their humor and wise ideas. Walk with simplicity and purity along the ancient path of our forefathers.

(Rabbi Nachman of Breslov)

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Preparation: A Question For Those Knowledgeable in Chassidus

Unfortunately I do not have a lot of new Purim related material to share. I am still trying to scratch the surface and get a better understanding of this holiday myself.

While I was reviewing books on the subject, I ran across this teaching from Likutey Moharan II:74:

Purim is a preparation for Pesach. Through the mitzvah of Purim we are protected from the chometz on Pesach.

In my own slow-paced learning of Likutey Moharan, I have not yet reached this lesson. I can't say that I fully comprehend what Rebbe Nachman of Breslov is trying to teach us. I know that joy is the main aspect of Purim and that chometz symbolizes the character trait of arrogance. I don't yet understand how the joy we experience on Purim helps protect us from arrogance.

Supporting A Machlokes

Whoever supports a machlokes (controversy) is blotted out, and no memory of him remains.

(Bamidbar Rabbah 16)

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Shmiras Einayim

And for the sin which we have committed before You by a glance of the eye. - from the Yom Kippur prayers

The concept of shmiras einayim, guarding one's eyes, is not something that is widely valued in Western society. It is certainly not valued in places where shmiras halashon, guarding one's tongue, is routinely ignored. A cursory internet search of the phrase "shmiras einayim" comes up with very few results.

Why is this?

Have we perfected our neshomas to the point where we don't need to speak about this concept any longer?

Have we decided that we simply are not affected by the sights that we permit our eyes to see?


Looking at forbidden things leads to sin. The eyes see and the heart desires. ...Even innocent gazing causes sin; it turns your heart to trivialities and confuses your thoughts, making it difficult to concentrate on your prayers. By nature, a person cannot look at anything without thinking about it. ...When you dull the vision of the soul, you erect a barrier between yourself and G-d and become incapable of perceiving higher truths.

(Pele Yoetz)

Monday, March 21, 2005

My Daughter's Favorite Uncle

Who is it? Uncle Moishy of course!

We are not related to Uncle Moishy, but my daughter sure wishes we were. As I am writing this she is dancing next to the computer to the sounds of Uncle Moishy - Volume 12. She can't get enough of him. She enjoys him so much so that she gets upset on Shabbos when she can't watch him. She now understands and tells others at shul, "Uncle Moishy is sleeping. It's Shabbos. Uncle Moishy sleeping on Shabbos."

My nine-month son has different musical tastes. Each night when my wife gives my daughter a bath, my son and I listen to Yosef Karduner or Matisyahu. These are his two favorites and he excitedly kicks his feet to their music.

Our nighttime listening sessions are interrupted as soon as my daughter gets out of the bathtub and hears Yosef Karduner or Matisyahu. Hearing a non-Uncle Moishy CD causes her to yell, "TURN THE MUSIC OFF! TURN IT OFF!!!". For my daughter the entire world of music is easily divided into two groups: a) non-Uncle Moishy music, and b) Uncle Moishy music. She insists on listening to him in the car and now when she watches television all she wants to watch is the Uncle Moishy Chol Hamoed Pesach 2004 DVD.

My daughter made it clear who her favorite musical artist is on Sunday morning at the Jewish book store. Her strong little two-year-old voice could be heard reverberating off the walls, "NEW UNCLE MOISHY. WANT NEW UNCLE MOISHY. ....UNCLE MOISHY!!"

Yes, we caved in. We now have a new Uncle Moishy CD to add to our vast collection of CDs and DVDs.

Action Before Understanding

The arm tefillin represent physical action while the head tefillin represent the intellect. By putting on the arm tefillin first we are reconfirming our complete faith and commitment to Torah. When we accepted the Torah on Sinai - we first said that we would fulfill the Torah then we would listen to what it involves and try to understand its meaning. So too by tefillin, we bind them upon our arm as a sign that we fulfill the mitzvah simply because we were commanded to, then we place the tefillin upon the seat of our intellect - to say that even though we may not (yet) fathom their meaning nevertheless, we place our complete trust in Hashem.

(Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch)

Friday, March 18, 2005

Standing In The Rubble

If a person enjoys tearing down ideas, the resulting question becomes, "What idea of value do you have to replace the one you tore down?"

A person who does not build is left standing in the rubble of torn down ideas.

Need An MP3 Player Recommendation

Could someone recommend a good but inexpensive MP3 player?

When Soft Is Louder

The words of the wise are heard when spoken softly, more than the shout of a ruler of fools.

(Koheles 9:17)

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Our Most Effective Weapon

In siman beis of Likutey Moharan, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov teaches that the main weapon of a Jew is prayer.

The Jew has a tremendous power, he only needs to recognize and use it. A "New Middle East" will never come about through concessions and the economic development of enemies. The Situation will change for the better once the Jewish people put aside their petty differences and make use of their most effective weapon to fight their battles.

It is time that we open our eyes.


* For further reading on this issue I highly recommend the chapter "The Battlefield of Prayer" in Rabbi Frand's new book in which he writes, "But how do you fight back against Yishmael? Is it with guns, grenades, missiles? No. We have to counteract the strongest weapon in his arsenal, and that is prayer. Yishmael prays, and we have to pray more sincerely in order to defeat him."

From A Kotzker Sefer Not A Political Science Textbook

Peace does not mean yielding. Peace gained through easy surrender will not endure. The only true peace is the one that results from lengthy battle and negotiation. All points of the dispute must be clarified before the truth can be reached. It will be difficult, but peace achieved though this method will have permanence.

(Kotzker Rebbe)

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Overindulgence For The Sake Of Heaven

In his March 14 posting, Rabbi Yehoshua Karsh wrote, "I have also proven over and over, that I am willing to sacrifice layers of experience for the sake of comfort." His posting insightfully analyzes the role of "comfort" in American society and the struggle between gashmius and ruchnius.

Chassidus teaches that gashmius should be ultimately used for the purpose of ruchnius. American Jewish life, however, has provided many examples where people initially indulge in the comforts of gashmius "for the sake of Heaven" but eventually forget the "for the sake of Heaven" aspect and just simply overindulge themselves.

In this land of overwhelming gashmius is it still possible to maintain a focus on ruchnius?

While Chassidus would argue that that gashmius and ruchnius are not mutually exclusive, it appears that there is a very fine line between them. Exactly where this line is, I do not know.

Hopefully Rabbi Karsh's posting will be the beginning of a deeper discussion on this issue.

Societal Influences

It is man’s nature to be drawn after the character and actions of his friends and companions, and to act like the people of his country.


Tuesday, March 15, 2005

A Lightening Of The Weight On My Shoulders

This past weekend we had dinner at the home of a family who has four young children, one of whom is severely autistic. I cannot even imagine the dedication and selflessness that it takes to care for this child. It completely humbles me. Seeing this child was a lesson for me to remember that no matter how difficult I think my problems are, there are always others with problems that will make mine pale in comparison.

Before a child is born, maybe first-time parents should take time out of their schedules and care for a special needs child for just one day. The reality they encounter is sure to leave a lasting impression on them.

Not A Badge Of Honor

We have to come to the realization that cynicism is bad, that it's destructive, that it's pernicious and that it destroys. We have to come to the realization that uncontrolled habitual cynicism leads people to the belief that nothing in this world is anything, that cynicism is a slippery slope that will plunge you into the abyss. No one should even have the temerity to pride himself on being a big cynic, as though it were a badge of honor.

(Rabbi Yissocher Frand)

Monday, March 14, 2005

The Demands Of A Toddler

Toddlers are known for their constant demands. After getting what they demand, it is not long before they demand something else. The cycle of need and demand is never ending. From juice to pretzels to a toy, no matter what they have there is always something else that they need immediately.

If we replace juice, pretzels, and toys with new cars, bigger houses, and other material items, have we really matured from the time we were toddlers? Aren't we all still just toddlers when it comes to our "needs"?


* Another thought on needs can be found here.


A man can tell from his dreams if his heart is true with G-d.

(Rebbe Nachman of Breslov)

Friday, March 11, 2005

Rabbi Lazer Brody Has Returned!

Lazer Beams

Here But Not Here

If a person is where his thoughts are, have cellular phones prevented us from being where we are?

Hidden Within The Torah

Every Jew learning Torah must strive to reach for the hidden, the secret, within it. Whether he is learning the text on a simple scholarly level or studying the arcane meaning, he must always try to reach for the mystery, which is the light of G-d in that Torah.

(Piaceszna Rebbe)

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Why Do You Ask?

The fact that you have a question doesn't necessarily invalidate what you are learning. It only means that at the present your mind cannot yet understand, and a deeper understanding will come at a later time. We cannot expect to understand everything immediately. Some things may take years or even decades.

The most important thing about a question is to understand the motivation behind it.

Deliberate vs. Lazy

Outwardly the deliberate person and the lazy person are very much alike, their actions are slow and often delayed. The deliberate person delays, first considering the best course of action. The lazy person does not take the trouble to consider, but simply procrastinates until there is nothing to do but to act.

(Kotzker Rebbe)

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

I Am With Her

My wife is known by others for her kindness, patience, selflessness, and easy-going manner. She is so highly regarded by others that I am known by many people as "Dina's" husband. Despite getting very little time to herself away from our children she always puts on a good face when she is out in public. She makes raising two small children appear to be easier than it actually is. People have confided in me that other stay-at-home moms wish they were more like her. My wife in her humility doesn't understand why.

I try to give my wife as many breaks as I can by watching the kids and letting her go out. I couldn't do what she does on a daily basis. In this regard, she is a much stronger person than I am. I honestly do not know how she is always able to see the bigger picture while in a constant state of sleep deprivation.

I couldn't imagine life without her.


Who is rich? He who has a wife whose deeds are virtuous.

(Talmud - Shabbos 25b)

Trapped In Your Mind

Thinkers are easily trapped in their own wisdom.

(Rebbe Nachman of Breslov)

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Unsolicited Advice

Unsolicited advice - everyone likes giving it, but no one likes receiving it.

As I slowly mature, I have learned not to give unsolicited advice.

When I was in my twenties, I used to wonder why people didn't ask me my opinion of things. Why didn't people want to know what I thought? The reason, I later realized, was because I freely told people my opinion and gave unsolicited advice.

Over time I came to understand something else about unsolicited advice. No one enjoys being told what they should do. They don't want to hear the ideas of someone who doesn't fully understand their situation and does not have to live with the repercussions of their advice.

Today people may think I am a quiet person. It is not because this is my nature, it is because I understand that if someone wants to know my opinion or needs my advice, they will ask me.

Anxious To Hear What You Have To Say

Whenever possible use the soft approach. People can be sensitive, easily embarrassed, easily hurt. Consider their feelings at all times. Say things as nicely as possible. Choose your words carefully. Speak privately whenever possible. Do not raise your voice unless absolutely necessary. Be soft. Everyone will be anxious to hear what you have to say.

(Rabbi Simcha Groffman)

Monday, March 07, 2005

Likutey Moharan

While I have learned some Breslover seforim in the past, I have never tried to learn Likutey Moharan due to its difficulty. I recently finished learning Likutey Etzos [also known as Kitzur Likutey Moharan] and now with the brocha of Rabbi Brody, am going to attempt to slowly start learning Likutey Moharan. Before I begin, I am going to finish these two books on Rebbe Nachman of Breslov.

Earning Your Bread At The Risk Of Your Life

"Man's origin is dust and his end is unto dust. He earns his bread at the risk of his life..." - from the Machzor

Is the person who goes to work each day the "real" you or are you just method acting for your paycheck, pretending that you care about your work?

Putting Your Head In Your Shoes

There once was a shoe merchant very much absorbed in his business. The Alter Rebbe said to him, "This is strange, I have seen people put their feet into shoes, but this is the first time I have seen anyone put his entire head into shoes!"

Friday, March 04, 2005

v'hamaskil yavin...

v'hamaskil yavin...

These words can be found in numerous places throughout the sefer Degel Machaneh Ephraim. Perhaps they are words that should be appended to end of each of my posts. Literally, they can be translated as "and the enlightened one will understand". The Degel ended sections of his sefer with these words because he understood that it was unnecessary to write lengthy expositions explaining the nuances of his words. He knew that people who were in tune to what he was saying and were on the same wave length would understand.

One of the things I did not like about school was the literary criticism aspect of the English class. We would read a book and afterwards dissect it from many different angles. We tried to uncover a book's symbolism and understand exactly what the author meant. We gave our interpretations with certainty, thinking we could truly know what was inside the mind of another human being. Perhaps our interpretations of these books were totally incorrect.

We don't understand what a person has gone through or is going through which leads him to write. We can't always discern the intent or the subtle shades of meaning laying underneath the words.

As I continue learning Degel Machaneh Ephraim I strive to understand its words, knowing that my understanding might never be complete.

v'hamaskil yavin...

A Prayer Against Futility

Please G-d, have mercy upon me that I should not live a life of futility. May I always reflect upon myself, "What am I doing in this world?"

(Rebbe Nachman of Breslov)

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Two Year Old Translation Trivia Question

Can you translate this sentence spoken by my two year old daughter?

"Don't put picture of bilzaribba in the yubarope."

* The answer will be given tomorrow afternoon in the comments section of this post.

Quieting the Mind

Living in an urban area there is always a constant hum of white noise in the background. We are bombarded by stimuli on a daily basis.

We rarely take the time to let all thoughts drain out of our minds to the point where we are just "being". Open and receptive to subtle messages.

We do not need to be alone in the woods, on the top of a mountain, next to an ocean, or out on crystal-clear lake to experience this sense of serenity. We can experience it even in a crowded room. The Pele Yoetz wrote, "You can learn to retain a state of solitude with G-d even when among people by mentally isolating yourself. Fortunate is the person who can attain this level. Keep your eyes downcast to help yourself maintain this type of meditation and raise your heart towards Heaven."

The Inner Golus

It is far easier to physically take the Jews out of golus than it is to remove the inner golus from within every Jew.

(Rabbi Yaakov Shimshon of Shepetovka)

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Bedtime Conversation With My Two Year Old Daughter

After my wife put my daughter to bed last night, I walked by and peeked into her room. My daughter looked up and saw me and said, "Gimme a kiss Daddy".

I sat down on the side of her bed and this was the conversation that followed:

Good Night.

"Night night .....I have a sister" [she doesn't]

What is her name?

"Puppy dog"

Where is your sister now?


Outside? You leave your sister outside in the cold?

"Bring her in for hot chochate .... I have a brother too ....he's cute ...I take good care of him ...Ki m'Tzion tasaaaay TOrah!

Good night

"Night Night"

Need A Tip How To Daven After A Long Day

How do others overcome fatigue before davening Ma'ariv?

Like A Babbling Child

One who reads the words of prayer with great devotion may come to see the lights within the letters, even though one does not understand the meaning of the words one speaks. Such prayer has great power; mistakes in reading are of no importance.

A father has young child whom he greatly loves. Even though the child has hardly learned to speak, his father takes pleasure in listening to his words.

(Maggid of Mezeritch)

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Reading This While I Wait Patiently

As I wait patiently for a sofer to write the parshios for my new tefillin, I am currently reading this very informative book that gives me a better appreciation for all the halachos involved:

Tefillin and Mezuzos - A Pictorial Guide: A sofer shows you how to choose, maintain and understand your tefillin, mezuzah and Torah scrolls by Rabbi Yerachmiel Askotzky

Leaving Just A Few Minutes Earlier

It is amazing what happens when you alter your daily schedule by just a few minutes.

Yesterday I Ieft the office a few minutes early and ran into Shaul, a Polish-born Holocaust survivor, who davens at the shul I used to go to. I have known Shaul for a few years and he even came to my son's bris last year.

Shaul and I were both headed in the same direction and were able to find a seat together and talk. He told me how he survived the war hiding from the Germans in the home of a Polish Catholic family, about his family members who perished during the Holocaust, and about his recent visit back to Poland.

Shaul and I talked about appreciating the little things in life and living simply. Before getting off at his stop, he said, "You just don't realize how your whole life can unravel in the blink of an eye."


Excuses can be given to mortal man. But who can make excuses to G-d, who probes the mind and heart.

(Kotzker Rebbe)