Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The gate of the mind

שאו שערים ראשיכם והנשאו פתחי עולם ויבוא מלך הכבוד

Lift up your heads, O gates, the uplifted, O eternal portals, so that the King of glory may enter. (Tehillim 24:7)

Commenting on this verse, the Degel Machaneh Ephraim explained that the mind is the gate through which a person can enter to approach the King.

This gate is never locked yet we always seem to get side-tracked from ever setting foot on the other side of the threshold. Inside this gate we can approach the King and ask him the question we have always wanted answered. The fact that He may not answer us today should not discourage us. The gate is always open. Perhaps He may answer when we return tomorrow.

Monday, July 23, 2012

A daily kavanah

I said: you are angelic, you are sons of the Most High. However, like men you shall die. (Tehillim 82:6-7)

In Tiv HaTehillos, Rabbi Gamliel HaCohen Rabinowitz commented:

“You, Jews, have the ability to rise to the level of angels and “sons” of the Most High. On one condition, though: “however, like men you shall die,” i.e. provided you always reflect upon the day of death, and you do not distract your thoughts from this. With this power, you will conquer the yetzer hara, as our Sages advises us in the Talmud (Berachos 7b): “If you conquer it, good for you – but if not, remind yourself of the day of death!” Remembering the day of death is a weapon of singular power, with which one can crush the yetzer hara completely, so as to rise higher and higher to the highest levels of spirituality.”

In order to ingrain this teaching into your daily life, take a moment before putting on your tallis each morning and reflect on the thought that the tallis you are holding is the only physical possession (aside from your kittel) that you will be allowed to take with you to the grave.    

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Shabbos Storm

דמינו אלקים חסדך בקרב היכלך
We hoped, O God, for Your kindness in the midst of Your sanctuary. (Tehillim 48:10)

A few weeks ago, a ferocious storm swept through the area and knocked out the power for over a million people. Aside from the Shabbos candles burning in the dining room, our house was pitch black. My family and I quickly made our way down to the cool basement because of the intensity of the lightning and violently howling wind outside.

The next morning, the power remained out as well. Without air conditioning, the temperature inside slowly started creeping up degree by degree. Yet it was Shabbos, and the fact that we wouldn't have electricity and air conditioning on a hot summer day did not mean that Shabbos would be cancelled that week.

We put on our Shabbos clothes and walked to shul. We immediately noticed that even though the shuls in the neighborhood did not have power, they were all full as if nothing happened. Sitting in the darkness listening to the Haftara being chanted, I couldn't help but think that Hashem must be getting so much nachas from His people on this day. While the rest of the world was out in search of gasoline and stocking up on food supplies at the grocery store, His people were in shul davening as they always did on Shabbos.

That Shabbos showed me that no power in the world can come between the Jewish people and their Father in Heaven. I may even venture to say that we may have accomplished more on that Shabbos than what we accomplish davening for a whole day on Yom Kippur.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Relying on your own ideas

ה' ידע מחשבות אדם כי המה הבל
Hashem knows that the thoughts of man are futile. (Tehillim 94:11)

You will find that solely relying on your own ideas and efforts to attain your goals will ultimately be a recipe for frustration. If my children only learn one thing from me, I hope they learn that everything I attained in life of lasting value came about only because I davened long and hard for it.

Review - Bnei Avraham Ahuvecha: Gerim in Chassidic Thought

Monday, July 02, 2012

A thunderous reply

אענך בסתר רעם
I answered you when you called privately with a thunderous reply. (Tehillim 81:8)

Just because you are alone, doesn’t mean that you cannot be heard.  Every word you speak directly to Hashem in hisbodedus in your room or walking through a park makes a profound difference. These words are so powerful that your yetzer hara will fight you tooth and nail to stop. One rabbi who has been spending an hour in hisbodedus for over 30 years told me, “I haven’t missed a day in 30 years, however, there wasn’t a day in which the yetzer hara didn’t battle me and try to convince me to do otherwise. There wasn’t a day where initially I felt like doing it and it came easy for me”  Another rabbi half-jokingly told my chavrusa,  “Do you know how you can become a masmid? Commit yourself to hisbodedus everyday and your yetzer hara will convince you that you could better use your time learning Torah!”

When you call upon Hashem privately, He will answer you with a thunderous reply – giving you more than you could ever have imagined.  All it takes is to start with a small daily commitment of time – just 10 minutes.  No matter how busy you are, you certainly can devote 10 minutes each day to a relationship that will continue long after you have taken your final breath.