Sunday, October 31, 2004

A thought for daylight saving time

The principle of the Jewish calendar varying according to the discretion of the Sanhedrin is interpreted to symbolize that man can be master over time, rather than be subject to it.

(Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski)

Saturday, October 30, 2004

?'s, ?'s, and more ?'s

What do you get out of blogging?

Have you found that blogging changes the way you think about things?

Friday, October 29, 2004

some random thoughts on my family

My wife is a stay-at-home mom. With two small children at home [a toddler and a baby] she is lucky if she gets 5 minutes to herself a day. I try to sympathize and be helpful, but honestly speaking, how can I truly understand what she has to deal with on a daily basis. I have a certain limited understanding what her day is like from the times when I watch the kids and give her time to go out just for herself. In reality I cannot imagine what this might be like day in and day out with no break.

A father has a unique dilemma as well. He is responsible to take care of his family, yet in order to take care of his family he must LEAVE his family for the day in order to make money to provide for them.

These were just some random thoughts I thought I would share.

whisper or SHOUT

To some G-d calls in a whisper, to others with a shout - depending on how close they are to Him.

(Rebbe Nachman of Breslov)

Thursday, October 28, 2004

the BIGGEST smile

In order to find an answer to my question I asked the happiest person I know; James.

James is an African-American guard in my office building. Every day, without fail, James has a big smile from ear to ear. He is ALWAYS in a good mood.

Yesterday I stopped and asked him how he could be happy every day, rain or shine.

He replied simply, "I'm just a happy person!".

I pushed him a little more and asked how he was able to be happy; how he was able to not let other people's bad moods bring him down.

He answered, "You just gotta be happy with yourself."


Who is wise? He who learns from all people. (Pirkei Avos)

A Class Suggestion for Berlitz

It is easier to learn several languages and become accustomed to speaking them, than to refrain from saying unnecessary things.

(Rabbi Aryeh Levin)

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

More on tones

A while ago I posted about tone of voice. For those who are interested in this, I encourage you to read Chapter 4 in Rabbi Eliyohu Goldschmidt's book Dear Son which was just released by Artscroll. Rabbi Goldschmidt devotes the entire chapter to this subject.

Wake up!

How can I not comment on the news yesterday?

G-d willing, this will never actually happen, and Jews will always live in Gaza!!

Here is my question to my fellow Jews in golus who are against the "disengagement plan":


We must all daven that Hashem rips up this decree!

Now is not the time to remain silent.

The Lazer Beam

My blog is not totally anonymous anymore.

I showed my blog to my wife last night thanks to the advice of The Lazer Beam.

It was hard to remain totally anonymous. I have always believed that I am doing something wrong if I cannot tell my wife. In marriage, one should be able to confide completely in one's spouse. Obviously I was not even listening to myself in the time I was keeping my blog secret. As I have said before, I am not perfect, I am only human.

My wife was amazed that I kept a secret from her for over a month. She was not upset. She even liked my blog :)

Thank you as well to all you who left comments on this subject. I do read them all with great interest. I truly appreciate everyone taking the time to respond.


Why is it that people always choose to be stringent in those areas where others can find out about it? Wouldn't it be far better to be strict with oneself in such matters as slander, additional Torah study, greater concentration in prayer…

(Rabbi Eliyahu Chaim Rosen)

Tuesday, October 26, 2004


Does another person's bad mood rub off on you?

If so, how do you deal with it without letting it drag you down into a bad mood as well?

I would be interested in hearing from all of you. Thank you and have a fantastic day!

A Genealogist's Dream

Genealogy is one of my hobbies. However, I have only been able to trace my own family back to about 1840 in the "Old Country". It has always been a dream of mine to know the complete history of my family -- from their exile from Eretz Israel after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash to their wanderings through Europe before winding up in Russia.

I have always thought it would fascinating if we Jews, who are not Cohanim or Levi'im, would know which tribe we descended from. I have wondered if having this knowledge would give us enlightenment into our own individual personalities.

I recently came across an interesting teaching in Rambam's Mishneh Torah. It said: "When he [Moshiach] defines the lineage of Israelites, he will make known their tribal lineage alone, stating; "He is from this tribe and he is from another tribe."

So here it is - every genealogists dream! Maybe we should stop searching for birth certificates, death certificates, census records, and immigration records and start putting our emphasis on something else ;)

A Thought on Thoughts

Clear your mind so that you are not thinking too many thoughts. Your only thought should be: "How do I serve G-d with joy?" The word b'simcha [with joy] has the same letters as the word machshava [thought]. Therefore, all thoughts that come your way should be directed to serving G-d joyfully.

(Rabbi Menachem Nachum of Chernobyl)

Monday, October 25, 2004

Remember Rachel

Tonight on Rachel Imeinu's yahrzeit, thousands of women across the globe will remember Rachel.

Advice from John Gotti's Defense Attorney

I listened to a tape from Rabbi Yissocher Frand the other day that really made me think.

Rabbi Frand talked about speaking positively about our fellow Jew and about maintaining a postive outlook on life. Rabbi Frand said that we should look to John Gotti's defense attorney as an example to emulate in our dealings with other Jews.


John Gotti ran an organized crime family, murdered people, robbed people, etc., yet from listening to his defense attorney you would have thought he was a tzaddik!

Why did he do this? Because he was PAID to do so!

There is a lesson we can learn from this which is applicable in our daily lives. Gotti's defense attorney was paid to only see the good in his client, and because of this he only presented Gotti in a positive light. We need to see ourselves as the PAID defense attorneys of every Jew. Hashem pays us a reward a thousand times larger than what Gotti's attorney received when we speak favorably about another Jew.

We need to speak of our fellow Jew only in a positive light. This is what we are paid to do.

This is a lesson I hope I will be able to internalize.

The tape I listened to was tape #209 "Loshon Hora -- Dealing with the Sickness Rather Than the Symptoms"

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Why my father does not like inspirational posters

My father dislikes inspirational posters - the kind you see hanging on the walls of offices. He says that these posters only are displaying what the office is lacking; teamwork, motivation, excellence, etc.

Similarly, I was thinking that the quotes and Torah teachings that I post must display what I, myself am lacking. It is not my intention to post these to be "preachy", but only so that I will remember to be congnizant of them.

Litmus test

Charity and kindness are the litmus test which prove the sincerity and purity of one's Torah study and mitzvah observance.

(Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feur)

Saturday, October 23, 2004


One of the spiritual diseases of our generation is the habitual neglect of simplicity, and the preference for so-called enlightenment and superficial brilliance.

(Rabbi Yosef Yitzhak Schneerson)

Friday, October 22, 2004

I must have been on another planet....

I can't believe I have never heard his music before! I want to give a big thanks to MOChassid and Blog inDm for turning me on to Yosef Karduner. I received the CD I ordered in the mail last night and was blown away when listening to it for the first time. His music touches the neshoma on a very deep level.

Thanks again MoChassid and Blog in Dm.

Have a great Shabbos!

New perspective on old times

I lern the weekly parsha every day with Rashi's commentary. Year after year I lern it over and over. Each year I try to gain some new insight that I did not have the previous year.

This year I am lerning the parsha with the perpective that the stories in the Torah are stories about my own family history, not just stories of what happened to people who lived a long, LONG time ago. We all know that Avraham, Yitzhak, and Yaakov are the "forefathers", but we rarely think of them as our own great-great-great.... grandfathers. We refer to Avraham as "Avraham Avinu" (Avraham our father), but I would argue that the concept of "Avinu" just doesn't sink in for the majority of us.

We read the stories about Sarah, Rivka, Rachel, and Leah, but we don't think about them as we think of our own grandmothers. We all say that the patriarchs and matriachs are our ancestors, but do we really mean it?? It is so hard to connect back to people who lived in a time long before even our grandparents were born.

So, this year I am lerning Chumash with this idea in mind. Before reading about Avraham, I am going to say to myself "My great-grandfather Avraham". I will be interested to see what new perspective I gain from doing this.

Stay tuned...


One of the greatest tragedies of intellectual human experience is that we study Torah stories when we are 55 in the same manner as we studied them when we were 5. (Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky)

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Secrets: a follow-up question

I appreciated all your comments yesterday and have a follow-up question for you.

How does one resolve the apparent contradiction between the two teachings below, and how are these teachings applicable to our anonymous blogging activities?

Do all things in a hidden manner, so that people should not be aware of your piety. (Baal Shem Tov)

If we find we have to conceal something and keep it secret, it means we are doing something wrong. (Kotzker Rebbe)

I don't have an answer. That is why I am asking.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

FEEDBACK REQUEST: Keeping your blog secret

Do you keep your blog anonymous? - even from your own family and friends?

If so, why? I would really like to hear people's thoughts on this issue.

Are you a good father?

"Are you a good father?"

This is a question I don't think I can answer.

The Talmud says "...even if the whole world judging you by your actions tells you that you are righteous, regard yourself as wicked.’" (Niddah 30b). If I applied this teaching to parenting I would be presumptuous and arrogant to say with certainty that "I am a good father" and "My kids are going to turn out to be great kids".

I have two young kids. How do I know how they will turn out?

I try to give my kids lots of attention and love. I daven for them every day.

Am I perfect? No.

Am I a good father?

Only time will tell.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Rebbe of the Warsaw Ghetto HY"D

Today, the 4th of Cheshvan, is the yahrzeit of Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, also known as the Piacezna Rebbe, or the Rebbe of the Warsaw Ghetto. On this day in 1943, the Rebbe was murdered in the gas chambers of Treblinka.

Before his deportation from the Warsaw Ghetto, the Rebbe placed his manuscripts in a tin container and buried them in the ground beneath the ghetto. Not until after the war were his manuscripts discovered.

Below is one of his teachings from his sefer Chovos HaTalmidim:

"If you are discouraged because your immediate ancestry is undistinguished, lift yourself up and gaze beyond, deeper into your past. You are descended from holy men and women, from prophets, from the sages of the Mishnah and Talmud, from great rabbinic masters and tzadikkim. The Talmud states (Pesachim 66a) that the people of Israel, if they are not prophets themselves, are at least children of prophets. It is clear from the context that the Talmud is not referring to the distant past, but means to suggest that even now a spark of the prophetic power of his ancestors is to be found within every Jewish child. All you have to do is dig for it and you will discover it within you."

In honor of the yahrzeit of the Piaceszna Rebbe HY"D, tzedakah can be given to an organization that is dedicated to honor his memory; Aish Kodesh

Tzedakah checks can be sent to:

Cong. Aish Kodesh
P.O. Box 361
Woodmere, NY 11598

Note: This is an organization that I, myself am giving to. I post this information only because I am " who wants to give and wants that others should give..." (Pirkei Avos - 5:16).

Monday, October 18, 2004

Comments on Comments

It has been almost a month since I started blogging. Posting to my blog and looking at the blogs listed on JRants has become part of my daily routine during last month.

I want to thank all of you who have left comments or simply dropped by once in awhile. I hope to hear from more of you. If you don't feel comfortable posting a comment, send an e-mail to me at to say hello.

Thanks again and keep the comments coming!

Jewish Music and a Story

Today is the 3rd of Cheshvan. In honor of the yahrzeit of Rebbe Yisroel of Rizhin I thought I would share quote I like from the Rebbe on music. (Note: niggun = melody)

"Just as a mikveh purifies, so too does a niggun purify."

...and here is a story about the Rebbe that makes one think:

Once a man came to the Rizhiner and complained about his horrible disease, stating that his affliction interfered with learning and praying. The Rebbe put his hand on the sick man's shoulder and said, "How do you know, my friend, what is more pleasing to Hashem, your studying or your suffering?"

For more information see "The House of Rizhin: Chassidus and the Rizhiner Dynasty" by Rabbi Menachem Brayer

Sunday, October 17, 2004

from a book I am reading now...

Here is a passage that I like from a new book I am reading. The author writes about meeting a chassid on plane and striking up a conversation with him:

"Do the Hasidim believe in reincarnation?" I asked.

He looked at me and smiled. "I believe you can be reincarnated in your own lifetime."

From the book Shanda: The Making and Breaking of a Self-Loathing Jew by Neal Karlen

A thought about family

When a person faces his judgment in Olam Haba, he is not evaluated according to how much he helped other people. He may be a tremendous activist, may be constantly running from one affair to another, may be constantly involved in one project or another, but his worth is measured according to how he behaved with his wife and children. The way a person acts with his family reflects who he really is.

(Rabbi Chaim Vital)

Friday, October 15, 2004

Tone of voice

One of the things I am working on this year is to be conscience of the words I use and the tone of voice in which I speak.

In 2001 I stopped using curse words. Over the past few years I have been working on continually refining my speech. One can refrain from swearing, but still speak in a manner that is still rough or vulgar. I choose one word at a time to work on, and I think of way in which I could say the same thing in a more dignified way. I stumble ....but slowly, slowly I improve.

I am now also conscience of my tone of voice since I have young children at home. A small child is like a sensitive microphone that picks up everything. They are especially sensitive to tone of voice. I found the following quote in Rabbi Zelig Pliskin's new book that I felt explained this well:

"Our tone of voice communicates messages that can be louder and clearer than the actual words that are said."

Rashi's lesson for us in Parshas Noach

"Noach was a righteous man, perfect in his generations." (6:9)

QUESTION: Rashi comments: "There are some among our rabbis (rabboteinu) who explain this as praise for Noach: Were he living among tzaddikim he would have been a greater tzaddik. Others, however, explain it to his discredit: Noach was only a tzaddik in comparison to his generation: were he in the times of Avraham, he would be considered naught." Why in the negative opinion does Rashi omit the word "rabboteinu"?

ANSWER: The word "rabboteinu" literally means "our teachers." There are many ways to learn from a teacher. One can learn from his behavior, from his manner of speech, and from the knowledge he instills.

In Pirkei Avot (1:6) we are taught to always judge a person favorably, giving him the benefit of the doubt. To judge Noach's status were he living in another generation is to speculate. Thus, the rabbis who praised him are suited to be "our teachers": we can learn from them to always look favorably on another person.

The opinion of the others (who project that Noach possibly would not be so great) may be correct, but they would not be qualified to be regarded as "our teachers" who are to instruct us in judging another person.

From the book "Vedibarta Bam: And You Shall Speak of Them A Compilation of Selected Torah Insights, Thought-Provoking Ideas, Homilies And Explanations of Torah Passages" by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky

Subscribe to Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky's weekly e-mail on the parsha.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

"I don’t care what someone else is doing....."

When I was growing up and got in trouble, I would use the line that every kid uses: "...well everyone else is doing it!". My father would always respond to this by saying, "I don’t care what everyone else is doing. I care what YOU do!".

As adults many of us still resort to using this line. I would imagine that Hashem responds just like my father:

"I don’t care what someone else is doing. I care what YOU do!!"

"As a father has compassion on his children, so does Hashem have compassion on those who fear him" (Tehillim 103:13)

Chofetz Chaim & Blogging

The son of the Chofetz Chaim writes about his father as a young man:

I he would often go by himself into the fields outside of town to make a soul accounting of all his actions of the day... He had a little notebook in which he wrote his "accounts" and the fences [rules of extra self restraint] which he had made for things in which he had stumbled.

I heard from him a few time, many years later, how he wondered that people having even the smallest store kept a notebook to record their accounts... but as for the accounts of their soul, they made no effort to be aware of their situation
[by having a notebook and making a soul account].

(Michtavei HaChofetz Chaim HaChadash - Volume 2, I, Page 7)

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

My kids

Since I had Columbus Day off of work, I got a chance to spend the time with my wife and two young children. I got a chance to see my children during parts of the day when they are at their best; when they are the happiest, when they are the kindest, when they are the most loving.

I realized that the majority of the time I don't get to see my children when they are at their best. I see them at the end of the day when I get home -- usually at the time they are both starting to melt down.

I don't have any answers.... I just think that it is unfortunate.


It seems as we leave the month of Tishrei we are entering a world of negativity - especially now with the elections coming up in November. I can't tell you how many times I have heard people say "We can't take 4 more years of Bush!" or "We can't take 4 years of Kerry!". We CAN take 4 years of whoever is elected president.

On Rosh Hashanah we proclaimed that Hashem was our King - He rules the entire universe! What does it make a difference who is president?? Neither Bush nor Kerry is going to turn into a Hitler or Stalin. We may disagree [strongly at times] with their policies, but four years of either candidate is not going to "destroy" the country.

It concerns me to see the atmosphere being polluted by all this negativity. This pollution is no different than that of some big companies that spew poisonous gases into to the air. When it comes down to it, we all have the same recourse; one vote. There is no need to wrap ourselves up in all the filth the surrounds this election.

A person is where his thoughts are.

Note: I plan to vote, but will not vote for either candidate. This is my protest.

P.S. I just realized that I wrote an "anti-negativity" blog - whatever that means...

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

"How Many Children Are You Going to Have?"

Here is an article I read recently that I recommend:

"How Many Children Are You Going to Have?"
by Rabbi Zushe Greenberg

Potato Chips & Rebbe Pinchas of Koretz

There is a story behind most things we take for granted.

Yesterday I took my family to a factory where they make potato chips. I have eaten countless bags of potato chips in my life, but never stopped to think about how they are actually made. Most of the time I simply think of food as coming from the supermarket. It was fascinating to see the whole production process from start to finish. Workers along the conveyor belts would pick out and discard chips that were too dark in color, or chips that were salted too heavily. From its beginning as a potato until it was sealed in a bag and boxed up, each chip was given an amazing amount of attention by factory workers.

If a simple potato chip has such a story behind it, how much more so does our fellow Jew. Rebbe Pinchas of Koretz said, "Every person possesses one valuable trait that cannot be found in any other person." When looking at our fellow Jew, we should not just look at what is external. We need to look beneath the surface and be sensitized to his or her feelings. We need to know that within every Jew there is a holy and pure neshoma.

It is sad to think a potato chip may sometimes be given more attention than a human being.

Watching the potatoes being turned into potato chips, I thought about the saying of the Baal Shem Tov ....everything one sees or hears contains a lesson in how to serve Hashem.

Monday, October 11, 2004

My Guilty Pleasure

This Rosh Hashanah I resolved to come to terms with one of my guilty pleasures. While this was not something that was specifically against halachah, it was certainly something that I knew was not good for my neshoma. This guilty pleasure polluted my ears, and thus my subconscious.

Listening to this totally contradicted my other actions during the day. ....yet for 8 years it was something I "enjoyed".

Since Rosh Hashanah I am happy to say that I have ceased partaking in my guilty pleasure.

To give myself extra resolve I have begun a new ritual before leaving for work. I have started lerning a few short chapters of Tzava'at Harivash. Tzava'at Harivash is an anthology of teachings and instructions attributed to the Baal Shem Tov and his successor, the Maggid of Mezritch. I have found that the holy words of the Baal Shem Tov help uplift the neshoma above the crassness of the world and help purify one's thoughts.

I hope that I will be successful in my resolve and successful in taking the kedusha of Tishrei along with me into the rest of the months of the year.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Blogging: A Torah View

"...record your inner life in a journal. This will not be something you do to earn immortal fame as an author, but rather engrave your soul-portrait on paper. Write down all your inner struggles, your setbacks and successes, and grant them eternal life. This way your very essence, the personality of your soul, your spiritual attainments, your life's inner treasures, will live on forever in the lives of your spiritual heirs as generations to come and go."

(Piaceszna Rebbe)

Wisdom from Rebbe Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev on the day of his yahrzeit - 25 Tishrei

Whether a man really loves G-d can be determined by the love he bears his fellowman, which in turn, depends on his selflessness.

(Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev)

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Keep this in mind on Simchas Torah

I cannot tell you the deeper meaning of the dancing on
Simchas Torah. But one thing I can reveal to you. All the
prayers that did not rise to heaven during the course of the
year will soar upwards on Simchas Torah, propelled by the
fervor of your dancing.

(Rabbi Shalom of Belz)

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

New blog e-mail listserv created!

If you would like to sign up to receive new postings to this blog via
e-mail, send a blank e-mail message to the address below to subscribe:

Powerful thought from Rabbi Yissocher Frand

Unfortunately, most of us live our lives not only without exceeding
expectations, but without even meeting them. I recently saw a
frightening thought from the Zohar. The Zohar teaches that
immediately before a person's death, his soul gives a scream that can
be 'heard' (spiritually) from one end of the world to the next. What is
the soul screaming about? At that moment, G-d shows the soul an
image of what it was supposed to become during its sojourn on earth.
The soul is traumatized by the gap between what it was supposed to
become and what actually became of it. The soul lets out this shriek
which is heard through the entire universe: "Woe is me. I did not
even come close!"

(Rabbi Yissocher Frand)


Subscribe here to receive Rabbi Frand's thoughts on the parsha of the week

Monday, October 04, 2004

A realization that I still have a long way to go...

A Jew who suffers from sitting in the sukkah does not
deserve to sit in the sukkah.

(Kotzker Rebbe)

Tzedakah Appeal for Gaza's Jews

A Message from the Katif Region Development Fund:

"This is a critical time in the struggle for the sanctity
and integrity of the Land of Israel. Today, more than ever,
we are in need of your support. Your aid will be used for
our information activities, encourage acceptance of new
residents, aid families in financial distress due to the
current situation, and bolster our emergency and rescue

Tax deductible checks can be sent to:

Friends of Gush Katif
588 South Forest Drive
Teaneck, NJ 07666

Worse Than a Cigarette

Worse Than a Cigarette

by Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss

I'm going to make a statement now that many of my readers
will find initially very surprising. I am passionately against
smoking. With what we know now about the linkage between
cigarettes and all kinds of cancer, heart disease, and other
lethal lung ailments, it is a real crime that so many youths are
still embracing this deadly habit. But, I would venture to say that
if one had the choice between speaking Lashon Hara and
smoking a cigarette, the Lashon Hara is the worse of the two
evils. For, while smoking kills the body, Lashon Hara also
destroys the soul.

Let's go even one step further. The next time you feel a desire
to talk bad about your Rav, your family member, your neighbor,
a counselor or the like - you might be better off going to
McDonald's and having a beef-and-cheese burger for, while
eating a sandwich of genuine Boor's Head meats, you are
transgressing only a single negative transgression of eating
swine's meat. The Chofetz Chaim teaches us that for the sin of
Lashon Hara, one transgresses seventeen negative
prohibitions and fourteen positive commandments. Of course,
this is not a Wendy's commercial and by no means am I
encouraging you to take a cancer stick in your mouth. I am
just trying to show you that just like we wouldn't consider
stopping into a White Castle and having a treife meal, we
should feel the same dread before talking bad about another

Consider this. The only criminal in the Torah who is ejected
from society is the metzora, the Biblical leper. The word
metzora is a composition of two words: motzi and ra, one
who speaks evil. The Sabbath desecrater does not get
booted out - but the metzora does. This speaks volumes
of how serious this crime is.

The truth is that most of us know heinous the crime of Lashon
Hara is. The problem is that if we are not sensitized to the
subject, most likely many of us are guilty of this habit time and
time again. There is a famous story about when someone
offered her next-door neighbor a copy of Guard Your Tongue,
an excellent review of the Laws of Lashon Hara. She said to
her friend, 'I learned a lot from this. I thought you would find it
helpful as well.' The friend nonchalantly responded, 'I don't
speak Lashon Hara but I'll give it to my husband. He could
use a few pointers.' Or, what about the rabbi who gave a
sermon on the dangers of Lashon Hara and, at the end one
of the congregants came over and said, 'Great speech rabbi.
Too bad the people in the back row weren't here to hear it.
They really needed it.'

Let's remember that Lashon Hara also includes speaking
about specific groups. So, if we speak disparagingly about
boys from a certain yeshiva or if we deprecatingly relate
negatives about a certain type of Chassidus, we are guilty of
Lashon Hara as well. We even have to be careful when we
speak to our parents about our siblings for after all, the terrible
servitude of Egypt started because Yosef brought evil tidings
about his brothers to Yaakov.

So, as we get ready to storm the Kisei HaKovod with our
prayers and supplications, let's make the important
preparation of purifying our mouths and purging them from
all types of sinful speech. In that merit may Hashem hearken
to our prayers and bless us all with long life, good health,
happiness, and everything wonderful.