Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Broadcast Over The Baby Monitor

Every night, my wife puts my 15 month-old son down to sleep in his crib. While my three year-old daughter and I wait together in the basement, the baby monitor in my son's room allows me to eavesdrop on a beautiful nighttime ritual between mother and son.

Through the monitor's receiver, I hear my wife speaking soothing and loving words to my son as they walk down the hallway and into his room. Before she puts him down in his crib they say Shema Yisrael together. My wife softly sings the words and my son makes a noise sounding like "saaaa" or "aaaaa" to accompany her.

Hearing these sweet and peaceful sounds broadcast from the baby monitor puts a big smile on my face each night and makes me thank G-d for my family.

Chofetz Chaim On Parenting

Success with children is 100% based on Divine help. All the efforts we expend are only so that when we come before the Heavenly tribunal we can claim that we tried. But ultimate success is in G-d’s hands. Therefore, my friend, remember - one must really pray for his children.

(Chofetz Chaim)

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

A Picture From My Family's Shtetl - Week 9

Eretz Yisrael - Hard-Coded Into My Genes

Five years ago, I attended a lecture on genetic analysis of Jewish origins by Dr. Harry Ostrer of NYU's Human Genetics Program. Along with other volunteers who could trace their family lineage back four to five generations, I provided a "mouthwash" sample for Dr. Ostrer's research.

Many months later, I received a post card from NYU that listed my genetic haplotype. I found it extremely interesting that my haplotype had its origins in the Middle East and that modern science was telling me that Eretz Yisrael was actually hard-coded into my genes.

I have always wondered how my family ended up in a tiny shtetl in Ukraine after centuries of journeys from their home in Eretz Yisrael. While I may never be able to get beyond the brick wall in my genealogical research, I know that one day my family's story will be revealed to me.

Remember the days long gone by. Ponder the years of each generation. Ask your father and let him tell you, and your grandfather who will explain it.

(Devarim 32:7)

A Thought-Provoking Book

The Vision of Eden

Do You Know Who My Ancestor Was?

Yichus is like an umbrella. It is used only when there is a man under it.

(Rebbe Yisroel of Rizhin)

Monday, August 29, 2005

Squeezing An Orange

Trying to squeeze meaning out of a single day is analogous to trying to squeeze a glass of orange juice from a single orange.

Living In The Moment

I started to write a post about gaining the ability to live in the moment and then realized that I had already written everything I wanted to say here.

Only Today

It is essential to realize that the past is gone, the future hasn't happened, and the present is essentially all we have to work with. The important thing to remember is TODAY COUNTS!

(Rebbe Nachman of Breslov)

Friday, August 26, 2005

But What Do You Mean?

While we often say what we think, we rarely say what we mean.

Since emotion often dictates our word choice, we routinely resort to rhetoric instead of speaking in a civilized manner. The emotional rhetoric we use obscures the meaning we are trying to convey.

Sometimes two people arguing a contentious point are not arguing at all. Sometimes they are both essentially saying the same thing and it is only the language they use that sustains the argument and prevents them from recognizing all the areas in which they are in agreement.

Before we even open our mouths we need to be mindful of the need to speak words of civility; simple words that say exactly what we mean.

Speak simply and directly from your heart.

(Piaceszna Rebbe)

Praying Without A Pure Tongue

How can one speak before the King of Kings with a mouth which utters forbidden talk? Would not G-d, as it were, respond, "Who is this shameful person who dares to beg forgiveness of his sins with a lowly tongue? Would he dare serve an earthly king with vessels which are covered with grime?" Surely the king would punish him severely for such disgraceful service! How can one contemplate singing the praises of Tehillim before the "One Who spoke and the world came into being" with a tongue which speaks evil talk? Should not one refrain from bringing an unclean object into the Sanctuary of G-d - out of respect for the Glory that dwells there? Can one not feel a sense of shame, having taken that which was given him to serve his Creator, and transformed it into something despicable? Can one hope to seek G-d's favor with a mouth that is impure? Can one transform an accuser into an advocate?

(Rabbi Moshe Alshich of Tzfat)

Thursday, August 25, 2005


Akiva of Mystical Paths has a wonderful posting today containing Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh's teachings on selflessness.

Read it here.

...also be sure to read Psycho Toddler's wife's thoughts on the experience raising six children here.

My View On Evolution

Last week a Christian asked me what my view was on evolution. I replied, "The question of evolution is completely irrelevant to me. It has absolutely no impact on my daily life. I believe that G-d created the world. I don't concern myself with the details of the process."

He then pushed me for an explanation of the laws of kashrus. After I provided him a thorough explanation, he commented that he thought that these laws were only man's interpretation of a biblical text that was also written by man. To this I replied, "Your opinion is also just an opinion."

Ivory Tower Philosophy

Philosophy and doctrine removed from daily action can have only weak influence over us.

(Rabbi Elie Munk)

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Media's Ventriloquist Puppets

After imbibing Diet Pravda to the point of satiation, it is not uncommon for people to become ventriloquist puppets of the media. Before they have even critically analyzed the information, they spout out news commentators' opinions as if they were their own.

Rare is the person who is not parroting the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, or CNN.

Rare is the person who stops drinking Diet Pravda and starts to espouse his own educated opinions.

Why Tomorrow?

If we are not better tomorrow than we are today, why have a tomorrow?

(Rebbe Nachman of Breslov)

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

A Picture From My Family's Shtetl - Week 8

An Effort To Compile Breslover Minhagim

from The Breslov Center for Spirituality and Inner Growth website:

Are There Any Breslover Minhagim?

Many people have questioned us over the years about Breslover minhagim. Other Chassidic groups have customs that define them and bind their members to one another and to their leaders, past and present. What about Breslov?

The fact that no one ever made an official Breslover "Sefer ha-Minhagim" tells us something: in past years, there was little need. The Breslover community was relatively small, and passed along its traditions by word of mouth and by example. However, today Breslov has grown exponentially, attracting people from virtually every background. Therefore, many newcomers to Breslov legitimately seek guidance in this area of Chassidic life.

In response to this need, the staff of the Breslov Center has collected numerous Breslover minhagim and spiritual practices, with the intention of posting them on this website. At present, we are going over the material with Rav Elazar Kenig, shlita, in Monsey, NY, to make sure that what we have written is correct. When this review process is complete, we will add the text to the "Learn" page -- G-d willing, sometime during Menachem Av. Those interested should please check the Learn page periodically.

"Maybe You Are Right"

My mother recently taught me a technique she sometimes uses to put an end to never-ending arguments (ex: Democrat vs. Republican).

In the heat of an argument, she simply says, "Maybe you are right."

Immediately, this takes the wind out of the other person's sail and leaves them speechless. The other person hears these words as "Maybe YOU ARE RIGHT" and not the words as my mother intended them, "MAYBE you are right". After a lot of practice using this on my father, my mother has perfected this technique into an art form. I too have used this technique on a few occasions and found it to be quite effective and entertaining. Nothing looks sillier than a person who is desperately trying to argue but doesn't have anyone to argue with.

A Soft Reply

A soft reply turns away anger.

(Mishlei 15:1)

Monday, August 22, 2005

Question & Answer With Rabbi Lazer Brody - Part IV - Decisions

A Simple Jew asks:

The Melitzer Rebbe recently said that I "should know that Hashem decides everything, and we decide nothing."

How does this relate to the teaching in Pirkei Avos 3:19, "All is foreseen, but freedom of choice is given"?

How are we to apply the Melitzer Rebbe's advice in our daily life?

Rabbi Lazer Brody answers:

The Gemorra tells us (Nida 16b) of an angel named "Layla"; Layla brings every drop of human seed before Hashem, immediately before conception, and asks: "Hashem, what shall this person be - strong or weak, smart or stupid, rich or poor?" Later, the Gemorra seems to contradict itself when it says (ibid.), "Everything is preordained, except for the fear of G-d". The Gemorra concludes that there is no contradiction here, since Layla doesn't ask Hashem whether the person will be pious or evil - Hashem leaves that up to the person.

We have no choice about the raw materials, i.e. native traits, that Hashem grants each of us. We do have the choice how to utilize these materials. For example, a person may be granted a native IQ of 130, but waste these powers on idol pastimes and laziness. On the other hand, a person may be born with a below-average IQ of 90, but with diligence and desire, that individual can become a scholar. Rebbe Nachman of Breslev explains for example, that the wisdom of Torah stimulates and develops a child's brain, while the philosophies of the nations stifle brain power.

Since Hashem is the manufacturer of the human soul, the Torah is the soul's Operator's Manual. The more a person follows the Torah - i.e. making a choice for good, the happier and more successful that person will be. The opposite also holds true - a choice that transgresses Torah will be detrimental to the soul and to personal development. For example, every marital conflict can be traced to a deviation from prescribed Torah "midos", or proper character deportment.

In short, Hashem preordains whether we'll be a barber, baker, or candlestick maker, but we decide whether we'll be tzaddikim or reshoim. Despite our efforts, our income is predetermined. But, we have a literally limitless potential for spiritual gain.

Question & Answer - Part III can be found here.

Visit Rabbi Lazer Brody's website

Your Mission

Every person was born to a mission in life that is distinctly, uniquely and exclusively their own. No one -- not even the greatest of souls -- can take his or her place. No person who ever lived or who ever will live can fulfill that particular aspect of G-d's purpose in creation in his stead.

(Lubavitcher Rebbe)

Friday, August 19, 2005


The woman who kindles her Shabbos lights with joy brings peace into her home, and merits the blessing of children who illuminate the world with Torah. Thus, she brings peace into the whole world and long life to her entire family.


Disengagement's Questions

What happens if the Arabs make life uncomfortable in the rest of Yehudah and Shomron?

What happens if the Arabs make life uncomfortable in Jerusalem?

What happens if the Arabs make life uncomfortable on Rechov Sheinkin in Tel Aviv?

What happens if the Arabs make life uncomfortable in Ramat Aviv Gimmel?

What is the one place in Eretz Yisrael that is worth keeping?

Where do we go when we have given everything away?

At what point will we say enough is enough?

At what point will we stop ceding territory to pacify our enemies?

At what point will we regret dragging our brothers and sisters from their homes?

At what point will we realize that Disengagement was a horrible mistake?


No matter what kind of holy activity you are engaged in, you must never fail to be concerned for another person.

(Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Conversation With Chabakuk Elisha - Ahavas Yisroel

Chabakuk Elisha observes:

How many times have I heard people speak about "Ahavas Yisroel" (the commandment to love our fellow Jew)? How many times have I heard that we were exiled from our land, and our Holy Temple destroyed, due to baseless hatred of our fellow Jews?

A hundred? A thousand? More?

I don't know how many - but if there was ever an example of lip-service, this is it. I've heard people speak about this with an urgency, with a passion, and with emphasis - but I don't think people actually think about what those two words mean. I realized early on that when we say Ahavas Yisroel, we aren't thinking about the people we don't like or agree with - rather, we're thinking of how important it is that everyone else should love us.

Watch children, they recognize this instantly. Ahavas Yisroel is interpreted to mean that we must love the people we agree with, or that don't oppose us. I remember that while I was a young student in Yeshiva I heard various Rabbis speak to us about Ahavas Yisroel - but not more than 15 minutes after the speech you could get into a conversation where they would verbally bury other Jewish groups, other Rabbis, or even students. I saw this in not one or two schools - I saw it everywhere.

I speak to friends and acquaintances - and we all believe in Ahavas Yisroel - but everyone (myself included) has their list of Jews that we have little compassion for.

Just recently I heard these words again, but this time I didn't just do the mindless robotic nod to those words. Suddenly, I looked around and thought - Hey! Those words just bounced off the walls here, but no one heard them! Everyone was smiling, nodding, agreeing, but those words made no difference. They were meaningless and insignificant words.

I think we must find a new phrase. Ahavas Yisroel has lost any meaning - maybe we can find a new phrase to express the thought? Maybe we can come up with a phrase that will cause us to think about those words? Any ideas?

A Simple Jew responds:

Chabakuk Elisha, my friend, I agree with you 100% that the term "Ahavas Yisroel" has been rendered meaningless by many people. At the same time, this doesn't mean that Ahavas Yisroel has lost its inherent meaning. If a person misuses soap, it is still soap.

A chassidic rabbi once related to me that the Torah provides a listing of all the birds that are kosher and those that are not kosher. One of the non-kosher variety of birds is the "chasidah". Given its name that is rooted in the word "chesed" - kindness - it would sound like this is a kosher bird. How could a kind bird not be a kosher bird?

The chassidic rabbi explained to me that this bird, the chasidah, is a bird that is only kind to others like it - other chasidah. The lesson we draw from this is that if we are only kind and to others exactly like us we are acting like the chasidah, and thus acting in a way that is not kosher. Behaving like the chasidah is the antithesis of Ahavas Yisroel.

As you rightly pointed out, perhaps the term "Chasidah" is what people have in mind when they say "Ahavas Yisroel".

In order to correct this we need to strive to perceive the holy and pure neshoma in every Jew. Once we do this we will be able to treat our fellow Jew with Ahavas Yisroel and restore the meaning to this term.

Chabakuk Elisha responds:

Very true indeed. But how do we get past the commonly shared mindset that blocks those words from penetrating? My question is really based on the famous adage of the Kotzker Rebbe z"l:

"If we think as we thought, talk as we talked and act as we acted, then we'll be what we were."

Somehow I'd like find a word, a phrase, a way - something that makes us stop, think & understand - to help the message penetrate. I don't know what it is that I'm looking for, but we need a way to teach ourselves, our neighbors, and our children, that Ahavas Yisroel is as important as not turning on a light on Shabbos - if anything, Ahavas Yisroel is the most important mitzvah in Torah.

Looking For The Good

A person who can find good in everyone personifies the aspect of Moshiach... Moshiach will be the defending counsel for all of Israel, even the wicked.

(Rebbe Pinchas of Koretz)

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Observations On Disengagement

Disengagement has shown that political affiliation, whether left or right, makes little difference. Both right-wing and left-wing governments have done tremendous damage to rights of Jews living in Eretz Yisrael. While left-wing parties actively speak about dismantling Jewish settlements, right-wing governments have expelled more Jews from their homes than their left-wing counterparts.

Disengagement has shown that an Israeli government that does not hold Eretz Yisrael to be sacred, can potentially cede any part of Eretz Yisrael for reasons of "political expediency".

Israelis need to remember that if Jews do not have a right to live in Hevron, then they don't have a right to live in Tel Aviv.

The fundamental question that now must be addressed is, what gives the Jewish people a right to Eretz Yisrael?

How the Israeli government answers this question will determine the fate of the Jewish state.

Consolation In The Month Of Destruction

Megillas Eichah is written in alphabetical order. The reason for this is because its author, Yirmiyahu, foresaw the destruction and realized that holiness and divine sustenance would be taken from us. He thought it would be impossible for Israel and the world to exist, and out of great bitterness, he almost fainted away.

Then he saw that no matter how low we sunk, we would still have the Aleph Beis. He realized that the combinations encompass all things, as we find in Sefer Yetzira. Realizing that the Torah would therefore remain with us, he was then comforted.

It is for this reason that the month of destruction is spelled Aleph Beis - the first two letters of the alphabet.

It is also because of this that the Yom Kippur confession is written in alphabetical order.

(Kotzker Rebbe)

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Question & Answer With Rabbi Dovid Sears - Disengagement

A Simple Jew asks:

What conclusions have you drawn from watching the events in Gush Katif and the Shomron?

Rabbi Dovid Sears answers:

I am deeply pained by the plight of our brothers and sisters in Gush Katif, who have been vilified and betrayed by the government that sent them there in the first place. Only a little while ago the so-called "settlers" were the best religious Zionism had to show for itself -- sacrificing themselves to build up the land, with conspicuous success, and striving to build bridges with their secular counterparts. What a cruel fate that today the tables have turned, and the powerful forces of "post-Zionism" have made common cause with Israel's enemies around the world to delegitimize and destroy these thousands of idealistic and hard-working families. The Arabs who voluntarily fled Israel during the War of Independence probably had it better than the Jewish residents of Gush Katif who are being dispossessed from their homes and communities to create a Judenrein Palestine. (Imagine if Israel were to force such a population transfer of Arabs from their homes and villages on the other side of the 1967 borders?)

The nation has been split down the middle over Sharon's benighted plan. However, maybe this will force the religious Zionist world to rethink its position. The only true Jewish leadership is that of the Torah and the tzaddikim who personify the values of Torah. This Tisha be-Av, the idea that a secular government could possess sanctity and be embraced by the religious as the "aschalta de-ge'ulah" [beginning of the redemption] went down like the Titanic. We can only hope that not everyone aboard will be lost.

Rabbi Sears's last posting on this blog can be read here.


Avoid associating with people who are known for telling lies and you will be worthy of detecting deceivers.

(Rebbe Nachman of Breslov)

Monday, August 15, 2005

Ribbono shel Olam! When a Jew drops his tefillin he is shocked and distressed. He lifts them up from the floor, kisses them with reverence, and fasts the entire day to atone for their humiliation. Ribbono shel Olam! Your tefillin, the Jewish people - for two thousand years they are lying downtrodden on the ground. When will you raise them up? When, when will you raise them up?

(Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev)

Friday, August 12, 2005

The Flames Continued Throughout The Tenth Day

How is it that we do not cringe each time we see a picture of the gold dome sitting atop the site where the Beis HaMikdash once stood?

Have we become so desensitized over the years to this insult, whose presence clearly manifests that even in Eretz Israel we are still in a dark golus?

I shudder when thinking of the planned expulsion of my brothers and sisters in Gush Katif and the Shomron, knowing that the same baseless hatred that brought about the destruction on the day of Tisha B'Av will bring about a destruction on the day after as well.

Any generation in which the Beis HaMikdash is not rebuilt, is considered as if they had destroyed it.

(Talmud Yerushalmi - Yoma 1)

What Is the Blessing For Martyrdom? - A Question From The Kovno Ghetto - 1941

A Jewish man named Eliyahu who had fled from Warsaw to Lithuania, thus escaping the German snare, was aware that most people waiting in the plaza would be put to death by the following day. He asked me, "What is the precise text of the brocha that sanctifiers of G-d must recite before being put to death? Does one say 'asher kideshono bemitzvosov al kiddush Hashem' [Who hallowed us with His commandments and command us about sanctifying the Name] or 'vetzivonu lakadeish es Hashem' [...and command us to sanctify the Name]? He wished to know the precise text to use in order to fulfill what might turn out to be his final mitzvah. Besides, he wanted to tell as many people as possible what blessing to recite if their turn came to die.

(Rabbi Ephraim Oshry)

Thursday, August 11, 2005

An Interview With Rabbi Yaakov Meidan

Today, my friend Chabakuk Elisha sent me a thought provoking article from Haaretz entitled "Nobody is Listening". It is certainly worth reading.

In this article Rabbi Yaakov Meidan commented:

"After 2,000 years of exile, in which we dreamed of having a state from which we would not be driven out, that dream has been shattered. Suddenly it turns out that Jews can be expelled. Suddenly it turns out that homes of Jews can be laid waste. That Jewish graves can be uprooted. After 50 years in which we thought that none of this was possible, this act returns us in large measure to the tragic Jewish situation of pre-Zionist times."

A Wonderful Posting

Soles and souls

Question & Answer With Chabakuk Elisha - Throwing Reason Out The Window

A Simple Jew asks:

Have you found that you made the most important "decisions" in your life by throwing rational thought out the window and relying solely on faith?

Chabakuk Elisha answers:

It's weird, but yes, I do.

It's funny that you ask me this, since I've often been fascinated by this fact. I'm a guy who is generally tormented when it comes to decision making and I struggle with even minor decisions and yet, when it came to major decisions, I have had a far easier time!

I wish I could shed more light on this, but it's all guess work on my part.

It seems to me that when faced with a real big question I don't rely on myself as much, whereas smaller questions torment me. Maybe as a result, I jump into tough choices with a leap of faith, whereas smaller issues fool me into thinking that I have more control over the matter, and therefore they become a never ending parade of "on the other-hand".

I can spend a week trying to decide about a triviality, but I had very little trouble when I met my wife deciding that she was "the one". I can never decide what to eat, where (or if) to go on a vacation (mind you, I still haven't gone on one in 13 years) but I decided to move across the country with my family, and no job lined up, twice. How did I know this was the right thing to do? How did I know it would work out?

I don't know; I just relied on G-d.

I can't really explain it, but about those bigger things, I just felt that it was the thing to. I was confident that this was the decision to make. I don't know why I knew, I just did.

Sometimes we do something because we know that it's right, even if it doesn't completely make sense. In Chassidus there is concept of "shtus dikedusha" holy foolishness; this is the performance of a holy act that may be somewhat illogical, which is a rectification for real (unholy) foolishness. I'm not sure how or when this technique should be employed, but if we know it's the right thing to do, and we know it fits G-d's will, there is a confidence that pushes us forward - even if it might not make complete logical sense.

At the Red Sea, the Jewish people were faced with a humdinger of a choice. They had the Sea before them, and an angry, vicious army behind them in hot pursuit. What would we have done? What did they do?

Immediately four groups formed:

1. Decided to commit suicide by throwing themselves into the waters, rather than be overtaken.

2. Wanted to return to slavery.

3. Prepared for a show-down, and battle the Egyptians to the bitter end.

4. Started praying.

G-d's response to Moses was that all four approaches were wrong. Rather, G-d directed him to Tell the Jewish people, Go Forward.

It didn't make much sense, but it was the right choice, G-d's choice. Sometimes we get a message like that (I think), and it can sure help a decision along.

Anyone have any other ideas?

Chabakuk Elisha's last guest posting can be read here.

Know and Realize

A person should know and realize that the Creator, may He be exalted, is watching him, and nothing is hidden from Him: neither his outer or inner life, neither his outer appearances nor his inner convictions. And He knows whether a person's trust in Him is sincere or not.

(Chovos HaLevavos - Shaar HaBitachon, Perek Gimmel)

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Caffeine Detox Timeline

Below is a timeline of events for my ongoing caffeine detox:

Day 1

12:15 pm - First rumblings of very minor caffeine headache
2:30 pm - Throbbing headache - hard to concentrate on what others are saying
7:45 pm - Exhausted

Day 2

8:00 am - Felt sluggish
3:00 pm - Strong caffeine headache after waking up from nap

Day 3

8:00 am - Brain felt like it was crying out for caffeine
2:30 pm - Minor headache
4:00 pm - Headache is gone

Day 4

7:30 am - No headache
8:30 am - Ate my lunch after experiencing ravenous hunger
10:15 am - Very minor throbbing headache
11:00 am - Headache is stronger when I stand up from a seated position

Day 5

6:00 am - Muscles in shoulders are tense
9:30 am - Hard to motivate myself to work
1:00 pm - Felt fine
2:15 pm - Muscles in neck are tense
4:45 pm - Relief from muscle pain

Day 6

6:00 am- Feel great with a clear mind

Through Faith

Through faith one is worthy of children. The Hebrew word for faith is Emunah. Turn the letters into numbers, and the Gematria is Banim - children.

(Rebbe Nachman of Breslov)

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

A Picture From My Family's Shtetl - Week 7

A Letter To My Daughter On Her Birthday

Below is a letter that I wrote to my daughter on her first birthday in 2003. I plan to give it one day when she is old enough to understand.

August 9, 2003

My little one:

Today is your birthday and you are now a year older. I want to tell you a story, a true story that happened on this date one year before you were born.

On August 9, 2001, a Palestinian suicide bomber walked into the Sbarro restaurant in downtown Jerusalem and detonated himself. Fifteen people were killed and 130 were injured. The bomb was packed with nails, screws, and bolts to intensify the damage. The people in the restaurant were murdered simply because they were Jewish.

Among those injured in the bombing was a little girl named Haya.

Haya and her family were waiting in line waiting to get pizza when the explosion occurred. A witness to this horrible scene related seeing Haya’s family, "They were actually burning. Then Haya’s brother cried out ‘Daddy, Daddy, save me!’ and the father yelled back to him ‘Don’t worry, say with me Shema Yisrael.’ And suddenly there was quiet…"

Haya’s mother, father, and three siblings did not survive.

Haya was left an orphan at 8 years old. From her hospital bed, Haya Schijveschuurder told a radio reporter these words, "Hashem knows what He’s doing. He wants to tell us that we need to behave a little bit better and that soon Moshiach will come and that then all the dead will rise again."

Why did I tell you this story? I told this story to connect you to our people and to our history. I told you this story to make you sensitive to the suffering and pain of others. I told you this story so you would learn the words of this little girl whose faith is an example to us all.

Remember this story every year on your birthday. Give tzedakah to the Jews in Eretz Israel in their memory. Learn to see everyday as a blessing and as an opportunity. Remember, the only thing you truly posses is time. Time itself is a gift.

May the Ribbono shel Olam always have nachas from you little one.



One Sincere Tear

One sincere tear is a source of salvation in the world.

(Rabbi Aryeh Levin of Jerusalem)

Monday, August 08, 2005

Dispatches From The Home Front - August Edition

One of my "chores" around the house is vacuuming. Performing this chore presents a reoccurring problem since both my son and daughter are scared to death of the looming presence and monstrous sound of vacuum cleaner. As soon as they see it they start crying. The crying intensifies louder when I plug it in and turn it on. Last Thursday night my daughter instructed me:

"Daddy, Turn it off, Turn it OFF! TURN OFF THE BULLDOZER!!"


My almost-three year-old daughter will randomly get up on top of an overturned bucket, flail her arms, and sing the words "ROCK'IN in the STYLE!".

Don't ask me. I have no idea where this one comes from.


Last Wednesday night my daughter was in the playroom arranging all her toys. When my wife asked her what she was doing she replied, "Me making a bris."


An addition to the bad grammar category:

Me: Where are you?

Her: "Here me are!"

Toddler Translation:

Shingareen = Figurine [plastic toy] (as in: "Daddy, I want to play with my shingareens!")

Peh-peh-peh-peh= Peppermint Patty (as in: "Mommy, peh-peh-peh-peh!)

Mamamamakeeva = Amar Rabbi Akiva [beginning lyrics from the Uncle Moishy Volume 6 song "Ahavas Yisroel"]

Time For Self-Examination

One must set a fixed period of time for self-examination in regard to all his past, namely all of his delusions, concerning both his character traits and his conduct.

(Rabbi Yosef Yitzhak Schneerson of Lubavitch)

Friday, August 05, 2005

"When The Month Of Av Enters, We Minimize Our Happiness"

A severe caffeine headache in the midst of a fast day makes it extremely difficult to be mindful of the underlying reasons why one is fasting. It is hard to concentrate on lofty thoughts while experiencing pain.

Perhaps the physical pain from headaches is meant to force us recall the national pain experienced with the loss of the Beis HaMikdash. How else can we truly relate to this event on personal level thousands of years later?

Starting today, Erev Rosh Chodesh Av, I am going to see if I can overcome my caffeine addiction. While experts advise those trying to quit caffeine to decrease their consumption gradually, I am going to stop obruptly. My goals in doing so are two-fold: First, it is an attempt to sensitize myself to the essence of this time period, coupling my pain my people's pain. Secondly, I am doing this as personal test of resolve which hopefully will help me understand exactly how caffeine affects me. I got the idea after experiencing painful headaches during the fast of the 17th of Tammuz and speaking with a collegue at work who told me that he sucessfully overcame his caffeine addiction after eight or nine days of severe headaches.

I will report on how my caffeine detox affects my dealings with others and how it affects my davening and Torah study. I am not planning to give up caffeine altogether, but I will be exploring how my mind functions without it until Rosh Hashanah.

Is there no small pleasure, no small indulgence we can forgo as a symbol of solidarity with our suffering brothers and sisters in Israel? Is there nothing we can do on a regular basis to show we care about them?

(Rabbi Yissocher Frand)

If You Want To Belittle Anyone

I heard in the name of the Baal Shem Tov a singular lesson that includes everything: If you want to belittle anyone, belittle yourself. If you want to praise anyone, praise G-d.

(Rebbe Yaakov Yosef of Polonoye)

Thursday, August 04, 2005

An Enormous Squandering Of Potential

It tears my heart open to see the tremendous effort and vast resources devoted solely for the purpose of expelling fellow Jews from their homes in Gush Katif and the Shomron. The manpower and advanced technology dedicated to this task are staggering.

Imagine what we could have accomplished if we had harnessed this energy for a task of unity, Ahavas Yisroel, and kedusha.

The squandering of potential makes one scream to Heaven for rachmonus!

Whoever shows mercy when cruelty is warranted will ultimately become cruel when mercy is warranted.

(Koheles Rabbah 7:16)

If We Don't Believe It, How Will Others?

The Jews must realize that their security and well-being is a matter between them and G-d alone. Even when we are in a situation where we require the generosity and favor of non-Jewish powers, they do not control the fate of our people. Our people’s destiny is dependent on "the power of His works.’’

This is the message which the Jewish people must communicate to the nations of the world -- that G-d has given us Eretz Yisrael and that He determines our security and well-being.
Relaying this message will influence world opinion, for the Torah is accepted by all nations.

When the Torah’s message is communicated to them straightforwardly, without apology, they will listen.

(Lubavitcher Rebbe)

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

"Shema" Prayer To Be Recited Worldwide, Wednesday, August 3, 2005

From Katifund:

On Wednesday, August 3, 2005 (erev 28 Tammuz), when it's exactly 9pm at The Western Wall, the Kotel, in Jerusalem, join every Jew around the world in the most central phrase said in Judaism: the Shema prayer. Saying the first verse takes 10 seconds.

Find your local time corresponding with 9pm Jerusalem time.

U.S. East Coast: Wed 2:00 PM
U.S. West Coast: Wed 11:00 AM
Amsterdam: Wed 8:00 PM
Anchorage: Wed 10:00 AM
Athens: Wed 9:00 PM
Baghdad: Wed 10:00 PM
Bangko: Thu 1:00 AM
Beijing: Thu 2:00 AM
Buenos Aires: Wed 3:00 PM
Frankfurt: Wed 8:00 PM
Johannesburg: Wed 8:00 PM
Melbourne: Thu 4:00 AM
Mexico City: Wed 1:00 PM
Montreal: Wed 2:00 PM
Nassau: Wed 2:00 PM
New DelhI: Wed 11:30 PM
Paris: Wed 8:00 PM
Riyadh: Wed 9:00 PM
Shanghai: Thu 2:00 AM

Divine Providence In Your Office

Have you ever looked around at your co-workers and considered that it was hashgacha pratis that they were in the same office with you?

Over the course of our careers we work with countless people, most of whom we lose contact with the day after they stop working with us. Numerous people make their way in and out of our lives and most of the time we never understand why.

Sometimes, however, it is apparent that a person is sent to work in your office in order to enrich your life. Just when you think that there is still a lot to gain from this friendship, the person takes another job and you remain behind.

And sometimes, you are this temporary source of inspiration for another person.

Motivation's Reward

One who causes a mitzvah to be done is greater than the one who performs it.

(Talmud - Bava Basra 9a)

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

A Picture From My Family's Shtetl - Week 6

Question & Answer With Chabakuk Elisha - A Sheretz In Your Living Room

A Simple Jew asks:

Can a person engrossed in watching television truly complain about the media?

Couldn't this person be compared to a person who goes to purify themselves in a mikvah while holding onto a sheretz (an impure creature)?

Chabakuk Elisha answers:

An interesting question.

First of all, I am not a posek, and I am only stating my opinion. People should consult their Rabbi if they want a specific answer.

Furthermore, I don't think that watching television is appropriate, and it is definitely as impure, if not more so, than a "sheretz". Judaism has three basic criteria for high crimes of a spiritual sense: Spilling blood, Idolatry, and Lewdness. Television is a celebration of all three, with the gratuitous violence, the promotion of an un-Godly belief system focused on "other gods," and pervasive sexuality. As such, it really doesn't belong in a religious home.

That being said, we live in a world where most of us do not live based on what is optimal, and most of us make certain "concessions" (we all know what our own are). So, I do think that a person engrossed in watching television can truly complain about the media.

There is some legitimacy to identifying a problem even while one is exposed to it. For example, just because I may belong to a group that is flawed, does not mean that I cannot recognize the flaws, and even complain about them. As to why someone would complain and yet continue to watch television, sometimes people feel that they have no alternatives (even if that's not actually the case), but that does not mean they cannot still see the shortcomings. Hopefully, in time, they will free themselves from this vice -- as all of us would benefit from identifying, and freeing ourselves, from whatever vices we may have!

Chabakuk Elisha's last guest posting can be read here.

A Door Opening Outwards

Woe to the home where the husband seeks his peace in the outside world! Woe to the home whose door opens outwards - where the man tries to draw his wife out of her internal peace, involving her in all the worries and bothers associated with his activities. Once one enters the raging storms of that world, he is soon caught up in them, without escape. If one's home remains a quiet refuge however, he can step out of the storm and strife. Woe to him who opens the door of his home so that the storms of the world enter. Where will he go now, in order to find peace and sanctuary?

(Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov)

Monday, August 01, 2005

Help Jewish Soliders Stationed Overseas

Jews in Green: Operation Tefilah

I Hate Daddy

The Event:

Last Thursday night we were all in the playroom and my almost-three year-old daughter said, "Daddy is yucky. Daddy is stinky. I hate Daddy."

The Initial Response:

My wife sternly told my daughter, "Your are NEVER to say that again!! Do you know how much these words hurt Daddy's feelings??"

To this, my daughter started crying hysterically.

My Response:

I knew my daughter would be unreceptive to my words if she was still inconsolable, so I used a half-dollar coin as a tool to teach her.

After retrieving the coin, I asked my crying daughter if she wanted something special. This immediately broke the ice, and she dried her tears and came over to me on the couch to see what I had for her.

I showed her the coin in my hand and explained that I was giving her this coin, the Talk Nicely Coin, on the condition that she never used the word "hate" again - a word too harsh for such a sweet little girl.

Instead of using the word "hate", I instructed her to use the phrase "I don't like" in its place. I also told her that I would immediately take the coin from her if she ever used the word "hate" again.

From the look in her eyes, I could tell that she understood.

Feedback Request:

How would you have handled this situation?

Unrefined Speech

A word that is unrefined or rough has an effect upon us and taints us.

(Rabbi Boruch Leff)