Friday, September 30, 2005

At The Olympics Three Times A Day

I continue to wrestle with the question why my "best" davening is only at times when something bad is happening or when I really need something. Why can't I always daven with a passion and the knowledge that He is listening? I am cognizant of the reasons why I need to daven with kavanah and have tried many techniques to maintain my kavanah, nevertheless sometimes my davening simply falls short. Sometimes I am merely reading Hebrew words out of a book.

Can an athlete compete every day as if he were at the Olympics?

If Rabbi Mendel of Premsylan felt this this way, what makes me think that I will be successful?

I know the only answer to this question is that I have to daven for the ability to daven.

Like a diamond, a prayer's value is far more dependent on its internal purity than its mass. The small, flawless diamond is worth far more than the larger, imperfect one.

(Rabbi Heshy Kleinman)

Purity Of Thought

The purity of one's thoughts may be determined from his lips.


Thursday, September 29, 2005

Singing To The Nurse

A nurse came over to my house on Tuesday night to take a blood sample as part of the application process for a life insurance policy. My three year-old daughter is quite an extrovert and made sure to introduce her Ernie doll to the nurse while I was filling out all the paperwork at our kitchen table.

As the nurse took blood from my arm, my daughter sang a song she learned in nursery school:

"Mr. Ram, may we use your horn? Need it for a shofar and that is why you were born.

Yes, yes take my horn. Use it for a shofar. Remember how to blow it and don't be such a loafer."

The nurse did not seem to notice the song's subject matter or questionable rhyme. I sat and smiled since I always find it quite humorous when my daughter uses Jewish terminology when speaking with non-Jews. Earlier in the day my wife told me that my daughter told a neighborhood girl about doing mitzvos and asked the girl if her mother sent "mitzvah notes" along with her to school that told the teacher how she helped out around the house. It is obvious that my daughter does not yet quite understand that the whole world is not Jewish. She just continues to sing her little songs:

"Say your brochas loud and clear. Shanah tovah u'mesuka, have a happy, sweet new year."

They Are In For A Surprise

Both my daughter and my son will be psyched when they learn that I just got concert tickets for one of their favorite performers. The November tickets are not for a concert of Yosef Karduner or Simply Tsfat, but rather for a man with a large letter Mem on his black hat.

...and to think, the last concert I went to was B.B. King in 1997.

Response To Suffering

There are three ways that a human being can respond to suffering: the lowest level is with tears; a more elevated level is with silence; and the highest level yet is when one can transform his distress into a beautiful melody.

(Kotzker Rebbe)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Ideas Sloshing Around In Your Head

One of my friends is a musician trapped in a bureaucrat's body. We get together once a week to talk during our lunch break and often discuss the topic of writing. While he has written, published, and recorded songs, my only writing outlet is this blog. Nevertheless, our common interest in the creative process makes for interesting discussions.

My friend recently related that a well-known songwriter told him that a person has to "have a life" in order to be able to write. A person cannot simply sit on top of a mountain or seclude himself in a cabin overlooking the ocean and expect a continuous flow of inspiration. Wisdom gained from a conversation or lessons learned from events in daily life often makes the best material.

As numerous bloggers have noted, writing on a consistent basis changes the way you look at the world. Writing enables you to make sense of all the ideas sloshing around in your head.

Controlling Speech

After saying something, it has control over me; before saying it, I have control over it.

(Sefer Chassidim #86)

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

A Picture From My Family's Shtetl - Week 13

Let 'Em Fall!

This past weekend we spent a lot of time over at a nearby park. My 15 month-old old started trying to climb the ladder on the side of the large play structure. He fearlessly climbed to the top rung and then stayed there for a few moments, unsure how to make the next big leap over. Eventually he climbed back down and tried again a few minutes later.

I stood nearby amazed at my son's determination and confidence. As he climbed higher, I encouraged him, but made sure to keep my distance so as not to smother him. When he fell from the top he instinctively put his arms up and caught hold of the top rung. His unsuccessful attempts to get to the top of the ladder did not dissuade his efforts. His falls did not bruise his confidence.

I am going to continue to let my children fall down. This is the only way they will learn.

We do not go through life with a person holding us tightly when we put our feet up on the ladder's first rung. We cannot build our children's self confidence without stepping back and resisting the urge to step in. Parenting is a balancing act. There is a very fine line between being overprotective and being the Great Santini.

Trying To Please Everyone

Finding favor in the eyes of everyone is an unattainable goal; to be spared from their reproach is not possible.

(Rabbi Moshe ibn Ezra)

Monday, September 26, 2005

Aliens Invade Suburbia

Houses in my neighborhood are over $200,000 more expensive when I bought my home four years ago. In 2001, my neighborhood was reasonably-affordable and full of extremely friendly and down to earth people. As the price of housing continues to rise in the metropolitan area, many of the original owners are now selling their homes for a tremendous profit to wealthy buyers.

All of this changes the character of the neighborhood. While our neighborhood once prided itself on being a bastion of sanity in a sea of insanity, lately their has been an influx of material-minded people who are bringing this insanity along with them.

Slowly, slowly these people will one day become the majority.

And I will be left in the minority with my "alien values".

Mit gelt farshtopt men der velt dos moil - Yiddish saying

Money makes the world keep its mouth shut.


A true leader does not command. He sets an example.

(Rabbi Moshe Alshich of Tzfat)

Friday, September 23, 2005

Blog Pressure

Anyone who blogs and posts on a daily basis knows that there is tremendous pressure to come up with new material. I am happiest when I have written two or three days worth of posts in advance and am off the hook from racking my brain for new ideas.

Blogging this past year has been incredibly fulfilling, namely it has put me in contact with all of you who comment on my blog and provide insight and encouragement. It has been fulfilling to know that there are others out there who can relate to what I write and who look at the world with my eyes. Blogging helps me escape the mindlessness of my life in the office. My blog is the one place, other than my home, where I have a voice that is listened to by others....and perhaps it is only because you don't know me that you continue you read my words.

As Pearl pointed out, blogging is an addiction, but an addiction with many benefits. As tempted as I am to walk away, I don't think I can.

Not yet.

Opening Lost Worlds

Music works wonders on a person's memory; it opens previously lost worlds.

(Rabbi Moshe Yechiel Elimelech of Levertov)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Three Year-Old Translation Trivia Question

What does this mean?


The last Trivia Translation Question can be seen here.

Seven Days In October

Below is an e-mail that I sent to my boss last month:

{Name here}

Good afternoon. I was taking a look at the Jewish calendar for October and realized that many Jewish holidays would be falling out on weekdays; seven days total spaced over the course of four weeks

During past years, I was able to take off only a few days from work since many of these holidays were on weekends, but this year it appears that all seven days occur during work days. With your permission, I would like to request in advance the following days off work since these are holidays where work is prohibited according to Jewish tradition:**

Tuesday, October 4 - Rosh Hashanah
Wednesday, October 5 - Rosh Hashanah (second day)*
Thursday, October 13 - Yom Kippur
Tuesday, October 18 - Sukkot
Wednesday, October 19 - Sukkot (second day)*
Tuesday, October 25 - Shemini Atzeret
Wednesday, October 26 - Simchat Torah*

* Aside from Yom Kippur, all the above holidays are observed for two days outside of the Land of Israel. See here for an explanation:

Note: I plan to take leave-without-pay for these days once my remaining leave time is exhausted. Also, I do not plan to take leave time during November or December.

Information on each of these holidays can be found here:

Rosh Hashanah:

Yom Kippur:


Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah:

** Sources for the prohibition of work on these days can be found in the 29th chapter of the Book of Numbers. The sources for the individual days can be found below:

Rosh Hashanah:
Numbers 29:1

Yom Kippur:
Numbers 29:7

Numbers 29:12

Shemini Atzeret
Numbers 29:35

Simchat Torah
Second day of Shemini Atzeret

If you have any concerns or questions about my absence from the office on these days, please let me know. Thank you in advance for your consideration and understanding.

All the best,

{Name here}

Use Of Time

Once you have found the meaning of life, will there be enough life left to live meaningfully?

(Lubavitcher Rebbe)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

One Step Closer

As of today, we have two weeks left to prepare for Rosh Hashanah. Whether Rosh Hashanah falls out early or late on the calendar, I never feel quite prepared for its arrival. I don't think I will ever feel prepared.

How can a person be ready for this day that determines what will happen in the year to come? How can a person be confident that his year was full of more mitzvos than aveiros? How can a person be confident that his teshuva during the month of Elul was sufficient to have his name inscribed in the book of life?

Rabbi Meir Kahane wrote, "Rosh Hashanah is one step closer to the gateway out of this world and into the next one. It is a time to rehearse the speech that we will make - all of us - some day, before the Supremest of courts, as we attempt to explain the meaning of our lives below."

With two weeks left, we continue to prepare, knowing that we can never truly be prepared.


If there are those who hate you here below, you can be sure that there are those who hate you On High as well.

(Rebbe Nachman of Breslov)

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Simon Wiesenthal z"l & Me - 1987

As a teenager, I corresponded with Simon Wiesenthal for some time after reading his autobiography The Murderers Among Us. I finally got a chance to meet him during a family vacation to Europe when I was fifteen years-old. The above picture was taken in his office in Vienna in 1987.

A Picture From My Family's Shtetl - Week 12

Guest Posting From Chabakuk Elisha - Selflessness

This past week we read about the mitzvah of Shiluach HaKen. The Torah forbids us from taking eggs from a mother bird, unless we send the mother away first - since taking her eggs away before her eyes causes the mother undue pain and we don't want her to be present to see it happen. The Torah guarantees long life to anyone who fulfills this mitzvah.

There are many interpretations for this commandment. Some say the reason why we perform it is because it parallels the mitzvah of honoring parents. Others say that it is because of Tzaar baalei-chaim (the prohibition of causing pain to another living thing). Chazal teaches us that performance of this mitzvah can bring children to the childless and hasten the redemption. There are elaborate discussions of this matter among all the commentaries, and it is indeed an unusual mitzvah for many reasons. However, there is one interpretation that always struck me as fundamental:

How is it that we can eat animals or eggs in the first place? G-d had initially forbidden man from eating animal products, and it wasn't until after the flood that G-d allowed man to eat animals. The reason that we are allowed to eat animals is that there is "upward mobility" in the food chain:

There are 4 basic life forms: Domem (inanimate matter - minerals), Tzomeach (plant life), Chai (animals), Midaber (speaking beings - humans). Each life form is elevated by becoming fuel for the higher form of life that consumes it. Plants absorb minerals, animals consume plants, and humans consume animals. Each time, the lower life becomes part of the higher life, and thus is elevated.

Now, what is it that makes humans unique? What makes humans the highest form of life?

A human has one thing that other life forms do not - self sacrifice. Animals are driven by their own self-interest, but a human has a potential for altruistic motives and self-sacrifice. There is, however, one exception to this rule; a mother protecting her young. Here we see an animal that will put its life at risk for another. Therefore, when we are dealing with an animal in this state, we are no longer "above" her and she is presently on our level. As such, we are forbidden to take her and her children. First we must send her away, and only then are we permitted to take her eggs.

The mitzvah of Shiluach HaKen teaches us that our humanity is defined by our selflessness. It is the mother bird that reminds us to ask ourselves the question, "Have I been a human lately?"


A man is shown in a dream only what is suggested by his own thoughts.

(Talmud - Berachos 55b)

Monday, September 19, 2005

Some More Book Recommendations

What Do You Mean, You Can't Eat in My Home?: A Guide to How Newly Observant Jews and Their Less Observant Relatives Can Still Get Along

Trust Me! An Anthology of Emunah and Bitachon

Praying With Fire: Ingiting the Power of Your Tefillah - A 5-Minute Lesson-A-Day


Despite the fact that I usually do not discuss Jewish topics around some of my relatives, I am still perceived as being "so religious", and my actions are sometimes mistakenly interpreted to be commentary on their lives.

Many times, I am between a rock and hard place since some of my family members are incredibly uncomfortable about any exterior displays of Jewishness. They subscribe to Yehuda Leib Gordon's philosophy, "Be a Jew inside your home and a man on the street." Judaism to them is something that should only be observed internally. They become uneasy around all things Jewish, sometimes even hesitating to put up a mezuzah on their doorpost since this would only call attention to the fact that their house is a Jewish home.

I do not utter judgmental comments or give disapproving glances at what others do. With less-observant relatives, I strive to build bridges and be as accommodating and considerate as possible while not compromising my beliefs. Sometimes, however, it feels like my efforts are an exercise in futility. Although Gordon's philosophy is the antithesis of how I live my life, I continue to struggle to see things from their point of view and remind myself that we are all Jews and one family.

(Cross Posted on The Jewish Connection)

Leaders Reflect Their Constituents

When you arrive at a city and do not know the nature of its people, pay attention to its public servants. If they are righteous and wise, so will be the people of the city. And if these are not - neither are those.

(Rebbe Pinchas of Koretz)

Friday, September 16, 2005

No Time For Patience

On Wednesday night, I went into my 3 year-old daughter's room after she fell asleep. I sat on the floor near her bed and watched her for a few minutes. Sleeping in her soft pink pajamas, she looked like a little angel. Her face and plume of red hair stuck up out of the blanket, and she snored ever so slightly. As I sat there, I realized that everything that I needed in this world was already within my house. I didn't need tomorrow or the next day, I only needed the present.

With this realization, I became aware that I need to learn how to enjoy the process of waiting. I am an impatient person by nature and feel restless until I obtain my goals.

While people commonly say that we need to take time to "smell the roses", how many of us really do this on a consistent basis?

How many of us can truly enjoy the journey before we have reached the destination?


The pain we experience in childhood is meant to teach us that we must travel a path of suffering along our journey in life. Just as out teeth cannot pierce through the gums without causing us suffering, likewise it is impossible for us to attain anything worthwhile without tasting the bitterness of pain and misfortune.

(Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein)

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Caffeine Detox - Part II

It has been a little over a month since I undertook my caffeine detox. The most noticeable benefit of this detox is that I sleep great. As soon as I put my head on the pillow each night, I am out cold and sleep deeply the whole night through.

In the past, my wife packed a can of Diet Coke along with the kids' sippy cups and snacks before we would leave the house. Now, without caffeine, my wife told me that she noticed that I have a renewed energy level and am not as sluggish when I get home from work.

I feel much calmer and peaceful without caffeine. At the same time, I notice that those around me seem to be hyped-up and easily irritated. For the time being, I will stay away from soda and coffee and see if this detox has other positive benefits.

Adding Spigots

Imagine a barrel of wine that has one spigot, and thus only allows a limited flow. If one were to add more spigots, it would not increase the total amount of wine contained in the barrel. Rather, it would merely serve to let the existing wine pour faster. There is nothing one can do to add to the wine in the barrel.

The same is true regarding one's livelihood. Perhaps a person thinks he can increase his income by working longer hours. In reality, however, all he will "accomplish" by this is to decrease his spiritual merits, for by increasing his working hours he will automatically decrease the amount of time he devotes to spiritual pursuits. He will lessen the amount of time he devotes to Torah study, speed up his davening, or forgo davening with a minyan. As for the apparent increase in wealth that he perceives, it is actually an illusion. Hashem will see to it that he will lose all to an expenditure that would not have incurred otherwise, such as a doctor's bill or repair of property damage, or worst of all - that he received this increase at the expense of his portion in the World to Come.

(Chofetz Chaim)

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Rebbe Pinchas of Koretz

Today, the 10th of Elul, is yahrzeit of Rebbe Pinchas of Koretz, a disciple of the Baal Shem Tov. The Baal Shem Tov once remarked of him, "A soul such as that of Reb Pinchas comes down to this world only once in 500 years."

In 1790, Rebbe Pinchas of Koretz set out to journey to Eretz Yisrael in order to settle in Tzefat. En route, he fell ill and only made it to the Ukrainian shtetl of Shepetovka.

There is a fascinating story behind his sefer Imrei Pinchas. Seven years after the Holocaust, a survivor returned to Poland and recounted this story:

One day while I was staying in Breslau, Poland, a Polish non-Jew appeared at the Jewish community house, carrying a package containing some papers. Attached to the outside of the parcel was letter. Upon opening the package we were astounded to find that it was the manuscript of the great Rebbe Pinchas of Koretz. The accompanying letter was written by Rabbi Pinchas Chodorov of Tarnov. It was written as a last will during the final days of the ghetto in Tarnov...I did not sit still until I had redeemed the manuscripts from the non-Jew, paying the full price - more than I could afford. I did this in order to present to the public the Rebbe's word's "that cleave with flames of fire." I pray to G-d that this merit will protect me and my dear family, and that it may be a memorial to the soul of my only son Meir and the other members of my family all of whom perished in the Holocaust, Hashem yinkom damam - May Hashem avenge their blood.

The letter accompanying the manuscript read:

To him into whose hands this manuscript may fall: These papers contain one volume of commentaries by the illustrious Rebbe Pinchas of Koretz, one of the disciples of the Baal Shem Tov. They are the only originals extant. They contain a vast treasure of priceless holy thoughts and insights...Since I left my home three years ago, a deportee, driven from place to place, I have carried these papers in my valise, never abandoning them - until now. Now that the "rage of the oppressor" has overtaken us (my dear wife and son and daughter have been stolen from me, may it be the will of our Father in Heaven that I will see them again), and we, the ones who remained, the life we face is precarious and we do not know what the day will bring. Therefore I decided to give these manuscripts which are so dear to me to one of my non-Jewish acquaintances who will hide them until G-d will return the captives from among His people.

I fervently pray that the One Above has decreed that I may live, and that I myself will have the merit of publishing these manuscripts. But if, G-d forbid, my tracks will not be known, I ask him into whose hand this letter will fall, to be aware that Heaven bestowed on you this holy treasure in order that you bring to light the teachings of the saintly Rebbe Pinchas of Koretz. My request is that you include also my own commentaries, so that they be an everlasting memorial for me.

My hands are extended to G-d in prayer that I may live to see the consolation of His oppressed nation and the return of G-d to Zion.

Rabbi Pinchas Chodorov
16 Cheshvan 5703 / 1943

Gravesite of Rebbe Pinchas of Koretz in the Jewish cemetery in Shepetovka, Ukraine, one mile away from my family's shtetl. A month after I took this picture Ukrainian nationalists defaced these tombstones.

My Humility Overwhelms Me

Ever sin requires some sort of action: Raising your hand, moving your feet, curling your lip. Except pride. A person needs only to lie back, yawn, and say to oneself: I am great.

(Rebbe Pinchas of Koretz)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

A Picture From My Family's Shtetl - Week 11

Guest Posting From Chabakuk Elisha: Elul

I had a friend that went to Ireland with a group to see what the state of Yiddishkeit was there. There are a number of interesting stories from that trip, but there is one that stands out in my mind.

I may have some of the details wrong, but the story goes basically like this:

In an Irish village, the group found a Jewish sounding name in the phonebook, and on a lark they looked him up. This Jewish fellow had an office somewhere and they got an appointment to meet with him for 10 minutes the next day.

At their meeting they spoke about Judaism and Ireland, and the Jewish man told them that there is a Jewish graveyard nearby with 9 Jews buried there - and he will be the tenth. Ireland once had a nice Jewish community, but over time they assimilated and intermarried into the general population. Although this Jewish man had no Jewish background, his parents always told him that he was a Jew and that as Jews they believe and pray to G-d who is all-knowing and all-powerful.

The Jewish man then he told the group that he wanted his story told. He spent over an hour with them and told this story:

As he grew up, he was married and started a family. He had a job and was basically successful; all was well. Unfortunately, he developed a drug addiction, and in time he lost it all - his job, his family, everything. The Jewish man went to a clinic, got help, and worked hard to clean up his act, and eventually he started to try to put his life back together.

It was easier said than done, and things were not working out. He was penniless, and nobody would give him a job. No one would trust him or give him a chance, and he was desperate.

As a Jew he finally turned to G-d for help, and prayed. But no help came.

After a while he said to G-d, "Please help me, I'm doing the best I can, and if you help me I will give 10% of my money to charity."

No help came - no job.

After a while he offered G-d 20%, then 30%, then 40%, then 50%.

No dice. He was flat out of luck. A couple months had gone by, and his situation was terribly bleak. He didn't know what to do, or what would become of him.

It was a rainy day in June, the Jewish man woke up in the morning and sat down at his table. Then it hit him. He said, "What am I doing? Who am I fooling? What is this, a game? G-d! I have nothing to negotiate. I'm yours. Whatever your plan is for me, I'll take it. If this is what you want for me, then I am happy to live with your plan. I have been terribly presumptuous in my dealings with you - I am completely subservient to your will."

Suddenly, the phone rang - it was someone who wanted to hire him, based on a business deal he had worked on many years before.

The rest is history. Today the Jewish man is a wealthy and successful man. His life is rebuilt. He speaks to G-d daily, but now without demands.

I try to think about this story every year in the month of Elul.

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

Financial Security

How fortunate are the poor who trust in G-d. It is the rich who are to be pitied, because they think their security is in their wealth.

(Rabbi Moshe Leib of Sasov)

Monday, September 12, 2005

A Dove And An Olive Branch

Ok - everyone get ready for peace.

A Tone Deaf Society

Whether in the office or on public transportation, many people are oblivious to their biting tone of voice. They mistakenly believe that they must communicate their message forcefully, loudly, and sometimes even with theatrics. In this regard, they are not much different than animals that howl, screech, or roar.

If only we could attain a sensitivity to know that sometimes our tone of voice sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard to others.

If only we could hear ourselves as others hear us.

More on tone of voice here.

True Faith

It is easy to be a believer when your belief is not challenged - but it is extremely difficult to hold one's ground when a real crisis occurs. It takes no effort to mouth expressions of bitachon when nothing substantial is at stake, and one may also take pleasure in delightful fantasies of how one would behave if faced with a certain situation. Over the course of time a person learns to fool himself - and everyone around him - believing that his level of faith is much more exalted than that of his peers. In reality, though, his belief in his emunah is merely a means by which he can enrich his pleasant dreams about the uncertainties that life will bring in the future.

However, a person will eventually face a test whereby he can determine if he really has trust or has merely trained his mouth to chirp, "bitachon, bitachon." A time will come when he will encounter a situation that demands faith. Will he meet that challenge, fortified by his bitachon? Or will he ignore it, and turn to vain and futile machinations?

(Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff)

Friday, September 09, 2005

Elul Thoughts

After Tisha B'Av each year I feel as if my blessings for the year start to deplete. It is this time of year that I begin to look forward to the infusion of new blessings that Rosh Hashanah brings. While last Friday I wrote that I felt as if I were stuck waiting at a red light, today I sense that the light is about to turn green again.

Every minute of the month of Elul is precious. Our efforts to improve ourselves and to improve our avodas Hashem during this month are especially important as we approach Rosh Hashanah - the Day of Judgment. As the Gemara (Beitza 16a) states, "All of a person’s earnings are preordained from one Rosh Hashanah to the following Rosh Hashanah."

Ribbono shel Olam, I have so many things that are up in the air for me right now. So many things that are out of my control. It feels as if the globe is rapidly spinning under my feet. It is Elul, help me use my time wisely.

Turning Around

When things are really bad, that’s when they will begin to improve.

(Rabbi Menachem Mendel Hager of Kosov)

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Nachas From My Lil' Tzaddik

With his blonde hair now hanging down to his nose, people are starting to think that my 15 month-old son is a little girl, despite his masculine-looking clothing. Last week, a neighbor stopped my wife and asked, "Is that a boy or a girl?". At 30+ pounds, he looks more like a little marshmallow than a little girl.

My son is an extremely affectionate little boy. Most of the time he is waddling around carrying a little baby doll. He loves babies, lights up whenever he sees one, and always tries to go over and hug them or pet their hair.

My lil' tzaddik is also remarkably gentle for a boy his age. At the kosher deli on Sunday, he walked right over to a booth where a young man with Down Syndrome was sitting. My son crawled up unto the young man's lap, gave him a big hug, and put his head down on his shoulder for a few moments. From the smile on the young man's face, it was obvious that this had just made his entire day.


From the standpoint of the Torah there can be no distinction between one human being and another on the basis of race or color. Any discrimination shown to another human being on account of the color of his or her skin constitutes loathsome barbarity. It must be conceded that the Torah recognizes a distinction between Jew and a non-Jew. This distinction, however, is not based upon race, origin, or color, but rather upon k'dushah, the holiness endowed by having been given and having accepted the Torah. Furthermore, the distinction between Jew and non-Jew does not involve any concept of inferiority but is based primarily upon the unique and special burdens that are incumbent upon the Jews.

(Rabbi Ahron Soloveitchik)

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Breslov Customs and Practices

Part I

A Comment From A Father

Below is a reader's comment to this posting:

Dear ASJ,

I come to your blog via Seraphic Secret. I found your remarks about the baby monitor especially meaningful; in my case, years ago, we too had a monitor in my teenage son Benjamin's Z"L basement bedroom who suffered from type 1, juvenile diabetes and who was prone to hypoglycemic events in the wee hours of the morning. When this did happen, Ben would let out a deeply anguished moan, a genuinely terrifying noise, especially in the middle of the night. The monitor broadcast his cry to our upstairs bedroom; we awoke always panic-stricken, raced downstairs through the kitchen, grabbing the honey on the way down to Ben's room. I used the honey to swab the inside of Ben's cheeks thereby raising his bloodsugar dramatically.

Thank you for having posted such a sweet story! Such a refreshingly pleasant recollection making my own just the tiniest bit less painful! I am ...

Sincerely yours,

Alan D. Busch


Death is nothing but the passage from one corner of the universe to another.

(Baal Shem Tov)

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

A Picture From My Family's Shtetl - Week 10

How Could G-d Allow This To Happen?

"How could G-d allow this to happen"?

This question has been repeated time and time again throughout the centuries. Perhaps it is not really a question but rather a cry of despair. While everyone asks this profound question, no one is capable of understanding the answer. Man can ask this question, but only G-d can answer.

"Could this have happened because of....?"

The answer may be yes or it may be no. Or the answer may be yes and no at the same time.

I don't have the answer, but I know that there is one.

When something bad happens, instead of asking "why", we should ask "how?" - "How can I help?"

A Jew must believe and perceive that everything happens at the hand of G-d, and the Holy Blessed One does not execute judgment without justice, G-d forbid. This is fundamental. It is one of the Thirteen Principles of the Jewish Faith.... Besides this, it is also a source of strength and joy in times of suffering.

(Piaceszna Rebbe)

Shidduch Advice

If a good-hearted Jew marries a convert who is kind, modest, benevolent, and pleasant to others, their children will be righteous and virtuous. Indeed it is better to marry the child of such parents than to marry the offspring of those who are born Jewish but do not possess these fine qualities.

(Sefer Chassidim 377)

Friday, September 02, 2005

Still Waiting For The Green Light

Lately, I have felt as if I were forced to wait indefinitely in a grown-up game of "Red Light - Green Light". The light seems to perpetually be on red, and I am waiting for someone to call out "Green Light!"

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, explaining a teaching of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, clearly described this state of being in an article entitled "Prison Juice":

The worst prison is when G-d locks you up. He doesn't need guards or cells or stone walls. He simply decides that, at this point in life, although you have talent, you will not find a way to express it. Although you have wisdom, there is nobody who will listen. Although you have a soul, there is nowhere for it to shine.

And you scream, "Is this why you sent a soul into this world? For such futility?"

That is when He gets the tastiest essence of your juice squeezed out from you.

While Rabbi Freeman's thoughts are incredibly insightful, I am still left with more questions than answers. I am still at the red light, waiting. I am still at the red light crying out the words from the morning blessings, "Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the Universe, Who releases the bound."

This posting continues a thread left off here and here.

Eating On Shabbos

One should be extremely joyous on the holy Shabbos, and not show even the slightest trace of sadness or worry. Simply "take delight in G-d", and enjoy all the pleasures of Shabbos, in food and drink, as well as in fine clothing according to one's means. For the eating of Shabbos is entirely spiritual, entirely holy, and it ascends to a completely different place than the eating of the ordinary days of the week.

(Rebbe Nachman of Breslov)

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Mortality & Procrastination

After three years of procrastination, I am taking the day off work today so my wife and I can meet with an attorney and have our wills drawn up. Perhaps the reason I have put off doing it for so long is that the process of preparing a will forces me to deal with my mortality.

The most difficult question of this process is deciding who will raise my children if something, G-d forbid, happens to my wife and myself. Thankfully, this decision is not extremely difficult, however, I still cannot imagine anyone else raising our children. Being forced to answer this question makes me want to scream out, "But I don't want to die!!! I want to keep living!!! I don't want anyone else raising MY kids!!!"

Perhaps, I just need to take the "I" out of the equation.

Through Writing A Will

And when you sit down to write your tzavaah, your ethical will, I believe you will discover that all these truths have been there in your heart all along. Facing them will bring them out into the open and illuminate your life.

(Rabbi Yissocher Frand)