Friday, November 19, 2010

Evidence of Your Purpose

Excerpt from Shabbos Secrets:

When eating Shabbos meals, both the body and the soul share in the mitzvah. But how can we discern whether the meal was eaten l'shem Shamayim, for the sake of the mitzvah, or for the physical pleasure of tasting the savory dishes and fine wines?

Singing zemiros during the Shabbos meal is evidence that your primary purpose is to fulfill the mitzvah of oneg Shabbos.

(Yeitev Lev, Parshas Bo)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

New Website: Chassidic Books & Their History

Received via e-mail from Rabbi Tal Zwecker:

Announcing the launch of a new blog that should interest anyone who enjoys the study of Chassidus, Chassidic Rebbes and Tzadikim; Chassidishe Stories and Ma'asim:

Chassidic Books & Their History

Each week I will add a new post describing some of the classic Chassidic Seforim and Sippurei Tzadikim books, periodicals and what they contain, usually I will choose a sefer or seforim available online for free in PDF format so you can actually download the sefer and study it!

So stay tuned for the launch this coming week...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Musical Interlude

Monday, November 15, 2010

"One of the greatest inventions"

Anyone who knows me knows that I really don't care for cellphones. This piece of technology has single-handledly changed the pace of life as we know it and robbed many people of the ability to live in the present. Today, it is not an uncommon sight to see a person checking their cellphone while walking in a park, or even while wearing tefillin in shul. There once was a time when a person gave their full attention to the event they were attending and not checking their cellphone under the cover of a table.

Last week, my wife and I finally upgraded our aging cellphones which had almost ceased functioning. Although I began by looking for a cellphone with basic functionality, I begrudgingly ended up upgrading to a Blackberry.

Using the Blackberry for the first time, I called the Sudilkover Rebbe to speak to him before he returned to Eretz Yisroel. I asked him what, based upon his life experience, had helped him the most in his avodas Hashem. The Rebbe answered with one simple word, "Tefilla".

He explained to me that a person should talk to Hashem on numerous occasions throughout the course of the day for everything large and small; before learning, before eating, while sitting at their desk at work, and even before routine errands.

The Rebbe then said me something that I didn't expect to hear from him. He told me that in his opinion the cellphone was one of the greatest inventions in the past few decades. The reason for this was because it gave a person the ability to walk on the street and talk to Hashem without giving the appearance that he was insane.

On one occasion, the Rebbe said that he desperately needed to make it to the bank to deposit a check. As he walked briskly towards the bank, he turned off his cellphone and started speaking to Hashem out loud, "Please help me get to the bank before it closes! Please help me to deposit this money and keep the other check I wrote from bouncing!" The Rebbe made it to the bank with one minute to spare and successfully deposited his check. Walking out of the bank, the security guard looked up at him and remarked, "You know you sure were lucky this time."

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Cutting Through Solid Rock

“The samech mem would love to get his hands on this”, a friend warned me last month; reminding me to make backup copies of my book.

Although I have copies saved in online storage, the thought of losing more than a year’s work was enough to give me pause and nudge me to go out and buy a thumb drive to save another copy on. I simply couldn't imagine what I would do if I lost everything at this point.

As I continue making slow but steady progress with my book, I have observed that each step is now becoming exponentially more difficult. I have an internal schedule of how I would like things to progress, yet it seems as if my schedule is constantly being thrown out the window. On numerous occasions when I sit down to work on a new section or edit existing sections, I am overcome with a lethargy that I hadn't felt up to that point. I am forced to summon up all my internal reserves in order to continue on and cast the lethargic feelings aside. More times than naught, I am successful.

Yet, it remains a daily battle.

In order to keep the long range nature of my book project in perspective, I recall the following advice from another friend,

“Hashem wants the book to come out at a specific time; He may have you working on it slowly for lots of reasons, such as learning and experiencing many things that the book needs that you don't have yet.”

Friday, November 05, 2010

For Him Alone

Received via e-mail from a friend:

In the year 1573, there lived a simple Jew in the holy city of Tsfat. He knew how to pray, but never learned to study Torah. Despite his lack of formal religious training, he was exceptionally pure in his deeds and modest in his ways. One night, when he had completed tikkun chatzos, Eliyahu HaNavi knocked at his front door.

When the man asked, "Who's there?" a heavenly voice responded, "Eliyahu HaNavi, may he be remembered for good." The man opened the door, Eliyahu entered, and his home was filled with light and joy. Eliyahu explained that he had come to teach this man the sweet and blessed secrets of Kaballah. Eliyahu even proposed to reveal the most sought-after mystery of all, the secret of what will be in the end-of-days, and when and how Moshiach will arrive. All this Eliyahu offered with one condition: The man must share with him what he did on his bar mitzvah day that was so meritorious that it earned him the reward that Eliyahu was delivering today.

The man sat for a moment and considered how to proceed. Less than an instant passed before he spoke, but these are the thoughts that raced through his heart in that split-second:

On one hand, this was the greatest gift a person could possibly receive, there was no greater honor, and nothing his own neshoma desired more than to learn with Eliyahu HaNavi and be initiated into the mysteries of Moshiach.

Yet his bar mitzvah deed was something that he had done in complete concealment to avoid any ego gratification so as to keep it utterly pure and for Hashem's sake alone. How could he break his silence now?

But, he would only be telling Eliyahu and not the world. Surely, Eliyahu had his best interests in mind. Surely, Eliyahu wouldn't ask such a thing if it wasn't the right response.

But, as he moved to speak his secret, his neshoma screamed, "No!" Even this would tarnish the purity of his deed. Even this would detract from the act as a pure and selfless offering to Hashem. If he now used that private moment for self-gain, even at the behest of Eliyahu HaNavi, it would betray the intimacy with Hashem created by that deed.

"No, I cannot fulfill your request," said the simple Jew. "What I did then I did only for Hashem's glory. How can I reveal it to others? If for this reason you can't tell me what you were sent to reveal, so be it; it's not necessary. I have a tradition that what a Jew does for Hashem should be hidden from the eyes of humans. It is just for Him alone."

Thursday, November 04, 2010

A Child's Perception

At his wife's suggestion, a friend of mine recently brought his four year-old son along with him on a visit to go see a tzaddik. He had hoped that he would be able to give his son a better understanding for just who a tzaddik is with this first-hand experience.

During the car ride in route to the location where the meeting would take place, my friend tried to explain the importance of going to see a tzaddik in a way that his young son could understand. "It is going to be great. You are going to get to see a tzaddik!", he said.

When the time came and the two of them were ushered into the room where the tzaddik was meeting with people, my friend's son took one look at the tzaddik and then said in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear, "Ok Tattie, I have seen the tzaddik, now we can go home!" My friend tried to speak with the tzaddik for a few minutes, but his son kept pressing to leave, "Nu, nu, Tattie. Let's go already", his son said as he pulled on his pant legs.

Realizing the predicament my friend was in, the tzaddik bent down with smile and gave the little boy a lollipop. The little boy was thrilled, but in his mind it was still time to go. He had accomplished what he had come to do. He had now seen a tzaddik and now it was time to go home to mama'le.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Not a Tzaddik

In the process of editing sections of my book, I sent a short piece to the Sudilkover Rebbe that contained a story about himself. Noticing that I used the term kvittel, the Rebbe suggested that I remove this word.

The term was not appropriate he told me. He then returned the following written edits:

“He is not a tzaddik and therefore it’s not a real kvittel; just a working tool.”

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

"There is no need to search for specially strict practices to take upon yourself"

Although I recognize that I have a propensity for them, I need to always remind myself of this.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Fighting The Dictates of My Stomach

Rabbi Chaim Vital taught that if a person wants to attain greater perceptions in his learning he needs to be extremely careful in saying brochos with great kavana before eating or drinking. His whole learning, in essence, is dependent on this.

Part of my daily learning seder is devoted to learning hilchos brochos and also how we say them, and yet every time I pick up a piece of food or a cup of coffee a whole new battle ensues with my yetzer hara, demanding that I quickly and mindlessly mumble a brocha.

I often disregard the yetzer hara's advice, however, there are times when my actions reveal that I am actually heeding its advice. The cognitive understanding of what I should be doing is pushed to the back of my mind and once again I follow the dictates of my stomach.