Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Google’s firm grasp

If someone were to ask me if I would willing to lose the ability to maintain focus when reading long pieces of text, subject myself to countless distractions every hour of every day, and develop a compulsive tendency to check for bits of information that ultimately have no bearing on my daily life, would I agree to this proposition?

I don’t think any sane person would agree, yet my actions revealed that I had already agreed wholeheartedly.

After learning before work, I use to check my Blackberry for new Gmail messages. I checked again (perhaps maybe even a few times) when taking public transportation to my office. Once I got to my office, I used to rush through my work in order to once again access my Gmail and read through the latest postings from my 232 subscriptions on my Google Reader. Keeping my Gmail and Google Reader open throughout the entire work day, I subjected myself to constant distraction from my work. Commuting home each night, I would resume repetitively checking my Blackberry and pick it back up once again after putting the kids to bed. (Interestingly, I never had a problem turning my Blackberry off before Shabbos or limiting usage on Sunday when spending time with family).

I never considered just how much the Internet affected me until I read a book which detailed its impact on how the brain functioned and described phenomena that I inherently knew were true in my own life.

On Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Nissan, I described the extent of my Internet usage to my wife and asked for her advice how to control this technology and not be controlled by it. Surprised by just how much I used the Internet throughout the course of the work day, my wife suggested that I begin by strictly limiting my access to Gmail and Google Reader to just three times - 10:00 am (30 minutes of access), 2:00 pm (1 hour of access), and 8:00 pm (15 minutes of access).  I started adhering to this new regimen this past Sunday and I have already noticed some immediate positive results. Limiting my access to Gmail and Google Reader has clearly shown me that I receive very few important e-mails and relevant Google Reader items each day. It makes me wonder why I needed to spend so much of my life for a miniscule amount of true information.

In a future posting, I will plan to share my observations of other benefits I notice from my attempt to reclaim my mind from Google’s firm grasp.

Monday, March 26, 2012

עַל עֲרָבִים בְּתוֹכָהּ תָּלִינוּ כִּנֹּרוֹתֵינוּ

On the willows within it we hung our harps. For there our captors requested words of song from us, with our lyres playing joyous music, "Sing for us of the song of Zion." (Tehillim 137:2-3)

At times, the yetzer hara becomes the captor of your mind. It wants to control the song you sing and humiliate you at the time it has subjugated you.

Here you can benefit from your inherent stubborn nature by turning it against the yetzer haraKnowing that your yetzer hara doesn’t have your best interest at heart, you must remind yourself that everything that it tells you is wrong - and conversely, everything it tries to dissuade you from is correct.

When the yetzer hara tells you to stay at home and daven Ma’ariv instead of davening with a minyan, you need to force yourself to do the opposite. Tell yourself, “The yetzer hara doesn’t want me to go to shul now!” Hearing yourself say these words will give you the stubborn resolve to do just the opposite! In this way, you will hang up your harp on the willows, and refuse to play the yetzer hara’s song.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Breslov Center's New Site

Received via e-mail:

Just in case you didn't know -- the Breslov Center of New York has switched to a new format at a new URL:

We now integrate announcements with original essays and translations of Breslov texts on a wide range of topics, including Breslov customs (work-in-progress).

A new series of postings related to Pesach will begin next week.

Check it out!

Monday, March 19, 2012

הַלְלוּהוּ כְּרֹב גֻּדְלוֹ

Praise Him as befits His greatness (Tehillim 150:2)

Sitting in the Kloiz in Uman last Erev Rosh Hashanah at 3:30 am, I suddenly broke out in tears before Selichos even began. Crying oceans of tears, I had an overwhelming feeling of the greatness of Hashem. How was it possible for me to serve Hashem according to His greatness? He is so big, and I am so insignificant in comparison. Pulling myself back together, I was comforted in the thought that Hashem, in His supreme compassion, regarded the little things that I did - such as saying Selichos - as my service of Him. At that moment, I first began to have an understanding of the extent of Hashem’s love for me.


No man serves Hashem according to His greatness. If you have some conception of Hashem’s greatness, you will not understand how one can claim to serve Him. The highest angel cannot say that he truly serves Hashem. (Sichos HaRan #51)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

התבודדות על ספר תהלים

(Picture by Yaakov Klein)

In the introduction to his commentary on Sefer Tehillim Tiv HaTehillos, Rabbi Gamliel HaCohen Rabinowitz wrote,

“It is to be regarded as a great and precious accomplishment to have the privilege to produce your own, new commentaries on the verses of Tehillim, drawn from the roots of your soul during the recitation of the chapters of Tehillim, when you uplift yourself to a high spiritual level. One may then discover ideas and nuances, new insights into the holy verses, and even new ethical concepts. Such new commentaries and discoveries are sent to a person by the Almighty Himself, while the person is reciting Tehillim.”

With these words in mind, I initiated a project on Erev Shabbos Tetzaveh to spend time in hisbodedus and focus on the meaning of a single kapitel of Tehillim each week; asking Hashem to reveal its personal meaning to me.

In order not to get frustrated and overwhelmed by the size of a project that will take a minimum of 150 weeks to complete, I decided not to begin with the first kapitel, but rather start at kapitel 150 and proceed in no particular order – other than by first focusing on the kapitlach that make up the Tikkun HaKlali.

I plan to write down the thoughts that come to me during hisbodedus and post them on a weekly basis, beginning next week. With Hashem's help, I hope to spend time on all 150 kapitlach and share my thoughts with you.