“Ok, I Missed the Mark. Now What?” Jewish Self-Improvement

Get UpG-d is gracious with all his creatures.

He judges with kindness.

According to the ways of a person he judges.

If a person judges others positively, G-d reciprocates.

He goes according to the most actions of the person.

G-d initially created a world with the letter Aleph. Aleph is the first letter of the hebrew alphabet – whose numerical value is 1. There was one way to choose. Either a person would choose the right path or be immediately punished.

The world did not last.

Then he created the current world with the letter Bet. Bet is the second letter – with a numerical value of 2. Now there are two ways to choose. A person is given freedom of choice to choose between good and evil. If a person chooses good – he or she is rewarded. If he or she chooses evil – they are punished.

But Now in the “Bet” world, if a person repents / does Teshuva sincerely – they are forgiven.

If they repent because of fear of Hash-m’s punishment, their sins will be erased.

If they repent because of love of Hash-m – “Oh G-d, You have been so good to me, I love You so much, and I went off Your path, please forgive me!” – G-d changes their transgressions to Mitzvot.

The person by repenting has changed themselves into a new person.

What is important is that a person is going in the right direction.

Some people think that a righteous person never fails.

But this is not so. A person who is righteous, just realizes his or her error and feels badly, gets up and continues upward.

King Solomon says “For Man – There is no righteous person on earth that does only good and never sins.” (Kohelet / Ecclesiastics 7:20) Rashi Explains on it “Thus one should examine their deeds.”

Someone said that the path or the righteous is not a straight line going upward, it goes up and sometimes falls, but the general direction is is that it goes up.

The wisest of All men King Solomon said:

A Righteous Person Falls Seven Times and Gets Up …. (Mishle / Proverbs 24:16)

All people sometimes fail. It is up to us to get up. The main point is to get up and try to reach even higher than if we were on “cruise control”.

The basic Four Steps of Repentance

1. Acknowledgment of Transgression
2. Regret of Transgression
3. Confession and Supplication for Forgiveness to Hash-m / G-d
4. Commitment to Not Commit it Again

Repairing the Consequences of the sin also is part of the process – If someone stole – he has to return the object that he stole. Or If one spoke badly about others (Lashon HaRa’), he can make an effort to teach others about speaking positively.

Knowing what is right and what is wrong helps. Thus it makes sense for a person to learn Torah to know how a person can improve their life. They learn how to “miss the mark” less. H’et / transgression in Hebrew is just that – Missing the Mark.

At times a person walks around life with an burden of sadness upon them. They can’t pinpoint why they are sad. Sometimes it is the sould that feels the pain of the transgression that cries. But as long as the person does not acknowlege or know they are missing the mark – as explained by the Torah – they remain with this burden.

Thus it makes sense for a person to go and seek a reputable Orthodox Rabbi to guide them to the path to self-improvement.

Thus, one gains more more spiritually satisfaction from life and relieves a burden from your shoulders. They also become even closer to Hash-m through this process than they were before.

The Joy of Purity

Tropical island, ThailandIn the simple there is joy.

Simple pleasures, like spending time with a child.

Going on a walk with a friend.

Riding a bike.

Doing the right thing.

Life is such that one experience draws you after another.

Pirkei Avot / Ethics of the Fathers mentions this concept

Good causes Good & Evil causes Evil

Ben Azzai said “Run [even] to do a light Mitzvah (commandment) and run away from the sin for a Mitzvah causes a Mitzvah and a sin causes a sin; for the compensation of a Mitzvah is a Mitzvah and the compensation for a sin is a sin.” (Avot / Fathers 4:2)

A person follows after the heart, leads him to continue in that path.

So it might start simply, but it ends up complicated.

A person goes after money – money may become his master.

At first, he is in control, then the vice takes over and then it controls him.

But simplicity and purity are an alternative.

Simple pleasures.

Following the pure ways of Torah, like

– Not speaking badly about others

– Judging people favorably

– Avoiding the enticing

– Spreading kindness

Leads you to another dimension of pleasure –

the pleasure of purity.

Precursor to Ezekiel Prophesy Fulfilled – “I Will Bring Down Your Arrows…”

their-god-changes-the-path-of-our-rockets-in-mid-air1

Some people read books forward.

Some read them backwards – they want to know the ending before they start.

G-d gave us the ending of stories before they even started – this is what we call prophesy.

A prophet will say what will happen in a future time.

Prophesies are said in a certain form to keep the concept of freedom of choice alive. If something was set in stone – so there would be no freedom of choice.

The Book of Yechezkel / Ezekiel in chapter 38-39, speaks of the war of Gog UMagog. It is a war that will likely take place at the time of Mashiach / Messiah. Apparently it might be able to be avoided if we all do Teshuva / repent.

In any case, this is what it says – that a leader of one of the great nations of the world will come to Israel with his army. G-d will make miracles to aid the Jewish nation. One of the miracles mentioned is :

“I will break your bows of your left hand and the Arrows of Your Right Hand I will bring them down.” (Yehezkel / Ezekiel 39:3)

The Classic commentator the RaDaK (Rav David Kimhi) explains –

“I will strike them until it falls out of their left hand, for the bow is held by a man with the left hand, and he places the arrows with his right hand and he pulls the remainder (string of the bow) back with his right hand,… meaning to say their (the enemies) weapons of war will be useless it will be as if they do not exist”

Baruch Hash-m / Thank G-d, that He will stand for us.

Now is the time to reinforce our faith in Hash-m. When one believes that everything is completely in His control, we can nullify any power in the world.

As we see today,

Anah’nu Maaminim, Benei Ma-aminim, ve-ein lanu al mee le-hisha-ein, ela al Avinu she-ba-shamayim.

We are the Believers (in Hash-m), Children of Believers and we have no one upon whom to rely, except our Father in Heaven.

Plagues Revisited – Will Modern World Learn from What Ancient Egyptians Ignored

china-river-blood-300x168G-d Loves His creatures.

He doesn’t want the wicked to die. He would rather that the wicked repent.

But if a person is adamant on causing bad to the world, through their thoughts, words, or deeds G-d gives them many chances until – they get their last chance.

Recently, a river in China turned red. Chinese officials were baffled. The river usually was clear. Now, it was crimson accompanied by a strange odor. They gave possible explanations – perhaps one of the large factories in the area dumped dye in the water. They said they will investigate it. Apparently, they would have to analyze samples of the water to determine the cause.

In the Torah it states at the time of the Mashiach / Messiah the plagues will return to the world a second time. Is this one of them? I don’t know.

In any case, it reminded me of the First of the 10 plagues – where the river and waters in Ancient Egypt turned into blood.

Four of the reasons G-d sent the plagues – are
1) The Egyptians were being punished for the bad that they did to the Israelites
2) G-d wanted His Glory to be recognized by the nations of the world.
3) G-d wanted to give them a motivation to allow the Jews out of the bondage of Egypt
4) G-d wanted them to realize their previous evil and to repent for the bad they did to the Jews.

The Egyptians were punished but did not change their ways or attitudes. They continues denying the significance of the plagues – that the Jewish G-d is true – until many met their unfortunate fate drowning in the Sea of Reeds.

One person did finally acknowledge G-d – Pharaoh himself. He survived and eventually became the king of another nation – some say it was Tarshish – the city of Gentiles that the Prophet Yonah / Jonah went to announce G-d’s desire that they repent.

G-d sends us messages every day for us to become closer to Him. We see clearly G-d protecting the land of Israel from the Missiles shot at them. Over 2000 have been shot in a span of 20 days, thank G-d, with hardly any casualties. Do We take the message to heart? Does the World?

If we don’t G-d lets our live run it’s own random path.

If we do we are privy to the good of G-d’s kindness – Him guiding our life that the best always be done for us.

The kindness of G-d is such that he willingly forgives and helps those that may have erred in the past. He only expects a small effort – to regret that they went off His path and to commit to avoiding those deeds and replacing them with those that will serve to repair the world. This is called Tikkun HaOlam – Fixing the world through deeds congruent with the Torah.

For Gentiles this means following the 7 Noahide Laws and for Jews accepting the Foundations of the Judaism.

Simple enough.

3 Simple Spiritual Steps for Divine Protection

learning_togetherPeople usually see the world in One dimension – the physical dimension.

Duality of the World – the Spiritual Realm

Jewish People look at it in two dimensions – the spiritual realm and the physical realm.

We see clearly the spiritual dimension in Operation Protective Edge.

Though we do our best to protect ourselves from missile attacks in Israel by a military offensive – we also see the hand of G-d in deterring missiles from causing many casualties.

The Spiritual Dimension has an effect on the physical dimension. Because the Jews pray and follow the Torah, for the sake of Heaven – G-d protects us and our people.

It is really a cause and effect situation – positive spiritual efforts cause good, abundance and protection of the world. And spiritual degradation causes the opposite.

Thus, because of the spiritual efforts of the Jewish people, we are protected.

Jewish Amulets for Protection

Spiritual aids exist that help protect a person.

Kosher Mezuzas on the doors offer better protection of your home.

A Segula – is somewhat of an amulet or act that a person may do to affect a positive outcome.

For instance, King David had the Tehillim / Psalm 67 engraved in the Shape of a Menorah on his Shield. When he would contemplate the Tehillim in that shape he would receive divine protection.

Other Segulas for protection include – reading and believing in the 13 principles of Judaism from the Rambam.

Another One is to know clearly in one’s heart that “Ein Ode Milevado” – There is Only Hash-m / G-d. Meaning that only G-d controls all outcomes in the world.

Apparently these segulas are more effective when a person is also observing the Mitzvot properly.

Spiritual Growth

These offer excellent protection. Yet, the best protection, I feel is spiritual growth.

G-d wants us to be close to Him.

He sometimes sends difficulties for us to become closer. So if we respond to his messages, and make efforts to warm our relationship with Him, He will offer us greater protection. Obviously, desire for protection is not the main reason why someone should make a spiritual effort, but it is a fringe benefit.

The turmoil that occurs in the world causes us stress, it is nice to know that we have a safe haven – Hash-m to turn and look to. The Turmoil we see today may be the precursor to a war that the Jewish Prophets (Yechezkel / Ezekiel ch. 38-39) predicted, called the war of Gog Umagog.

Some of the things known about the War of Gog UMagog is that Gog is a leader, from a country in the North, that will battle against Israel. The Messiah will direct a military operation against Gog defending, Israel. The Messiah will be victorious. Some say the battle will last 3 hours. The Torah Genius, the Vilna Gaon said the war would last 12 minutes. It is possible if we are meritorious we will not have to be subject to this war.

Why People Sometimes Die Young

We cannot fathom the mysteries of G-d. Some Ask why bad things happen to good people?

Taking into account the spiritual dimension of life mentioned above, we can understand why people sometimes, G-d Forbid, die young. Sometimes it is because they came to this world to repair a transgression for what they did in a previous lifetime. They have a short stint, because when they make their reparation, they finished their spiritual objective in this life – and their soul is free to go back to Heaven.

A person comes to this world to earn reward to be able to live comfortably in the next world. If a good person starts descending spiritually too quickly and has no hope for improvement, G-d sometimes allows their life to be taken to prevent them from losing the reward for the next world that they already accumulated.

What to Believe in Today

G-d puts a person in a certain situation to see where they are holding. He puts them in a situation to see how they will react. Apparently, those that express their support or expose their biases in the conflict, are being prompted to do so by G-d. Then He will have a reason to either reward or punish them.

Thus it makes sense now for one to integrate the Torah’s outlook into their views. Not only will they see things, in a more objective manner, and will align their views with G-d’s perspective, but ultimately it will help them to be protected. Instead of relying on opinions of morality from “Human Right’s” activists, rely on morality from the one that created Humanity – G-d & His Guidebook – the Torah.

For a Jew to survive – it would be helpful to become familiar with the 13 principles of the Rambam and accept them. For a Gentile to Survive they should learn more about the 7 Noahide laws.

How to Live Long – Doing acts of loving-kindness

On the other side of the coin, by looking at the spiritual dimension, we learn how a person can improve his or her chances to live long.

Just doing kindness in itself helps a person merit to live long.

But there is another reason why a person merits to live long doing kindness. Doing acts of loving kindness – other people in the world will need this person’s kind deeds. G-d does not want to upset people. If a person would die, some people who love this person would feel badly or suffer by losing this kindness he or she was offering. Thus G-d spares their life.

There were two rabbis from the house of Eli. Members of the family of Eli had a propensity to live a short life. One Used to go out of their way to do acts of kindness. The other did not. The one that did kindness lived till 60 – the one that didn’t lived to 40.

Three Simple things one can do to improve their chances of protection.

1. Spiritual Growth – Doing a Mitzvah protects a person while they are involved in it. Slowly but steadily increasing Mitzvah observance will help a person to be protected. Teshuva – Regretting, and rejecting transgressions of the past and taking a new Mitzvah Upon oneself, little by little, when one is ready is the way to go. This prevents stagnation and makes life a beautiful growing process.

2. Torah Learning – Torah learning in itself protects a person even after they stop learning. Asides from being pleasurable, engaging and satisfying it helps a person to gain consolation from the difficulties. Setting a fixed time daily can be done by anyone. A plethora of Jewish Torah books exist in most English and other languages. Dedicating even Five Minutes daily – reading an Artscroll Chumash or learning with a learned Rabbi – over the phone – does wonders. A Gentile can learn about the 7 Noahide Laws.

3. Doing Acts of Kindness – helps a person to live long. Kindness includes providing hospitality for guests, visiting the ill, burying the dead, making peace between people, not speaking badly about others. Prayer for others well-being, and including yourself is also a kindness. Doing Kindness stems from the Mitzvah of “Loving Your Fellow.”

Some of the Specific things the Torah mentions to be saved from the war of Gog uMagog is – Partaking in the three meals of Shabbat, especially Seuda Shelishit (the 3rd meal). “Being occupied with Torah and Hesed / Kindnesss” is also mentioned by the Torah as a way to be saved from the war.

Someone once mentioned to me that “being occupied with Torah” means – Learning Torah.

And doing “Kindness” – means Teaching Torah.

Signs of the Jewish Redemption Close

hamikdashJews have been waiting for the redemption for thousands of years.

When the redeemer – the Mashiach – will come, ultimately he will cause peace to reign in the world.

Prophesies Fulfilled

Many Torah prophesies have been fulfilled.

It is up to us to pray and repent to merit the redemption.

If we repent and return to the ways of the Torah and call to Hash-m we will not need an all out war – called the War of Gog uMagog*. If we don’t we might have to go through one.

Some prophesies are that the world will align against Israel.

There will be great Miracles – like the Time of the Exodus from Egypt. We see many Miracles with our own eyes today that over 1,800 Armed rockets were shot at the citizens of Israel, with hardly any casualties.

This fact in itself could prompt a person to open their eyes – that G-d is protecting the Jews. If you know that G-d is protecting them, so the natural thing to do – after accepting the truth of the Torah – is to take heed to G-d’s message and be thankful to His great kindness.

The great Torah sage – the Vilna Gaon – said that the war will last about 12 minutes.

A great contemporary sage – Rabbi Haim Kanievsky, said – that “If we merit it, the redemption is very close.”

Rabbi Kanievsky alluded that this year there might not be a need to fast on the 9th of Av. When a person getting married asked him, when would be a good date to get married, he mentioned “the 9th of Av” (Av is a Jewish Month) / Tish’a B’av – which is usually a day of national mourning for the destruction of the Temple. Someone else asked the Rabbi to write a letter of approbation for his book. Rabbi Kanievsky asked “What is the Subject?” He replised “Laws of Mourning on the 9th of Av.” Rabbi replied, “There’s no need to write one, for it will not be relevant anymore.”

Now is the time to make more of an effort to follow in the pleasant paths of the Torah.

May we merit that this year be the year where the true redeemer will arrive – to bring peace to the world.


* To be protected during this period of the birth-pangs of the Messianic times the Torah says one should be diligent to partake in the third meal (and the other two) of Shabbat – Shalosh Seudos / Seuda Shelishit.

G-d Protecting Israel – The Message of the Missiles

city_of_davidKing David wrote Tehillim / Psalms expressing the human condition of the Jewish people. Jews recite them to express our innermost emotions and soothe our fears by appealing to the mercy of Hash-m.

In times of distress or happiness we express ourselves and our hearts with prayer and psalms.

The Shortest Section in Tehillim is 117. It expresses that the Nations of the World should praise Hash-m / G-d.

As it says:

Give Laud to Hash-m All [ye] Nations, Give Praise to Him All [ye] people.
For He Strongly Bestowed upon us [the nation of Israel] his loving-kindness
and the truth of Hash-m is always,
Praise Hash-m. (Tehillim / Psalm 117)

The question arises is why did King David tell the gentile people of the world particularly to extol Hash-m, shouldn’t the Jews also laud Hash-m?

At times nations of the world make plans to try to harm the Jewish Nation. G-d sees their plans and foils them. Only those who wanted to perpetrate these acts knew of their plans and saw firsthand how they were foiled. King David says to these people who knew of these plans and saw first hand, the Hand of G-d foiling them should offer praise to Him.

In the Gulf war, we saw scuds fired at Israel and foiled. Now, we see hundreds of missiles being fired at Israel and each one being foiled by the Hand of G-d. This psalm is very appropriate now to recite to praise Hash-m for all the open miracles.

In the time before the coming of the Mashiach / Messiah – the Torah says we will witness miracles greater in magnitude than those of the 10 plagues. Apparently this is one of them.*

Recognizing the great miracles and Kindness of G-d / Hash-m in protecting our nation, should prompt us to strengthen ourselves
in doing acts of kindness for one another,
in asking forgiveness from Hash-m for past deeds,
in doing the Mitzvot and
in making peace among ourselves.

Let’s pray to Hash-m for the continued protection and well-being of our nation in this difficult period.


* To be protected during this period of the birth-pangs of the Messianic times the Torah says one should be diligent to partake in the third meal (and the other two) of Shabbat – Shalosh Seudos / Seuda Shelishit.

Getting Things Done – Motivation Revisited

Businessman Wearing RemindersBeing a productive member of society is a goal of many.

Why?

More than just a nice thing to do, apparently it stems from a Mitzvah / Torah Commandment.

It is possible that this same Mitzvah explains the reasoning behind Theodore Herzberg’s theory of Motivation in employee management.

In an Article on Motivation in Business Mr. Herzberg explains that at work people are satisfied by certain factors and dissatisfied by other factors. He Has a Two Factor Motivation Theory.

Motivators – certain Job factors at work – satisfy employees. But a lacking them at the workplace will not dissatisfy workers.

Hygiene Factors are certain environmental factors at the workplace related to dissatisfaction of employees. But lack of dissatisfaction with them will not satisfy employees.

Motivators or Job Factors include
Achievement
Recognition
Work itself
Responsibility
Advancement
Growth

Hygiene Factors include
Company policy and administration
Supervision
Relationship with supervisor
Work conditions
Salary
Relationship with peers
Personal life
Relationship with subordinates
Status
Security

Mr. Herzberg backs up his theory with empirical evidence from surveys. He shows similarities between workers in various countries. He poses the question himself why do these Motivators Motivate?

Apparently the answer is:

G-d made humans with an innate sense of what is right and wrong. What is right and wrong is explained in the Torah – in the Mitzvot / Commandments. One of the commandments of the Torah is LiYishuv Shel Olam / Settlement of the world.

G-d gave commandments for all humanity – these are the 7 Noahide laws. These are 7 Major categories – which are actually 30 laws. The 25th law of the 30 in the Category of Law and Order is Settlement of the World. By Working a person builds the world, making it a livable place. Working is a Mitzvah. A person who works because Hash-m / G-d gave the commandment to settle the world gets a greater reward than a person who just works because they need to make ends meet.

Apparently, this Mitzvah is linked to the satisfaction of people. People who accomplish this Mitzvah gain greater satisfaction from work and are more motivated, because they feel that they are fulfilling the Mitzvah. All the Motivators are related to the proper settlement of the World – Achievement, Recognition, Work itself,
Responsibility, Advancement, Growth

The Mitzvah that may unconsciously serve as the motivation for people at work.

We learn, several things – accomplishing Mitzvahs satisfy people. Apparently, the soul is satisfied, so the person is satisfied.

The opposite also applies, at times a person feels rotten inside, but they cannot pinpoint why? It is possible because they are disregarding certain Mitzvahs that cause the soul sadness.

Obviously, a good place to start is to learn more about Judaism.

Making one’s activities correspond to the Mitzvahs is one way to reach higher levels in personal satisfaction.

Getting Things Done
One’s Getting things done can also be improved through knowing the outlook of Torah.

Want to know something is right? See what the Torah says.

Some people never get married. Their goal in life is to enjoy themselves and to escape commitment. What does the Torah say?

The Torah helps people to see life in the proper light and directs a person’s life to achieve their potential in life.

A person has a commandment to be fruitful and multiply. Thus marriage is an obligatory commandment for males and a recommended commandment for females.

A person who takes the commandment to get married to heart will treat it as a requirement to get done. One should take finding their soul-mate as seriously as one normally would search for a job.

Sometimes when asked why they tarry to marry – a person of marriageable age says “I have to find a Job… or I have to get my degree… I need to have a substantial amount of money in my account… before I get married.”

But G-d doesn’t pose those requirements. People pose these requirements on themselves.

G-d is in charge of how much a person will make. Don’t try to add requrirements upon yourself that G-d himself doesn’t have. One of the only requirements that a Jew has in order to get married is that the partner be Jewish.

Obviously, you should search for a person with good character traits, someone mentally stable, a person with a good heart. And you must do your due diligence – get references about the potentials mate – ask pointed questions, like do they have a bad temper, are they mentally stable, are they taking any medications, are they seeing a psychologist, etc. And prayer is also in order, but in the end one should treat getting married and having children as a commandment – an obligation to be fulfilled and in the end following in the path of the Mitzvahs a person usually ends up happy.

Caring Effectively – When and How to Intervene for Others

Hand Reaching
The Stranded Driver

You are driving along the highway. You see a person stopped on the the road shoulder with their blinkers on. You are tempted to stop and lend a helping hand. But you don’t. You just zoom by and say someone else will help them.

Is it right?

Apparently, it is right. Why? Because other people can help this person and you have other responsibilities. You are responsible for being there for your family. If others can help this person and you stopped for each person stranded on the side, you wouldn’t get your work done and would hardly see your family. So zooming by is the proper response. Perhaps you can offer a little prayer.

If they are in danger, obviously you may be more obligated to help them. Like it says “Don’t stand by the blood of your fellow.”

Order of Responsibility

There is an order of responsibility. You are more responsible for those closer to you.

If it was a family member you saw on the road, you should stop. If you realize that it is a fellow Jew, perhaps you should stop, if you have no other pressing responsibilities.

There was a Gentile that had a Yarmulka in his car in case he had a flat. He noticed that more people came to help stranded people wearing a Yarmulka.

Why do Jewish people come to aid their fellows? Jews are part of one great family, and we are more responsible for family members than others.

Every Jew is responsible for one another.

Each Jews is an integral part of the whole Jewish people. Like each member of a body that is affected by the pain of other parts, Jews feel for the other members of the Congregation of Israel. If one is pained, we experience pain as well because they are an integral part of the whole.

Efforts made by fellow Jews to support the 3 Kidnapped boys in Israel testify to the this. Jews from all walks of life prayed for their safe return.

Characteristics describing Jews are Shy, Merciful and Bestowing of Kindness.

This makes for a caring attitude for the welfare of the nation and other people.

Why Jews win Nobel Prizes?

I believe that the above is one of the reasons why Jews win so many Nobel prizes. Their merciful trait for others motivates them to initiate a project of good for the world. The trait of bestowing kindness motivates them to work hard to achieve the desired result. Like it says, nothing stands in the way of a will.

Whenever we can help we should do our utmost to help – quickly and with enthusiasm – after thoughtful consideration. Apparently if a person asked you to help, G-d determined that you could possibly help this person in some way and you should do your utmost to help given the considerations below.

Is it Possible For Others to Help

One of the greatest Mitzvah that a person can do is to learn Torah.

If a person asks them to do another important Mitzvah when they are involved with learning Torah – they must ask themselves “Can this mitzvah be done by others, so that I won’t have to stop my learning?”

Thus if someone else can do it, it is better for you to continue learning and let someone else do the Mitzvah.

Considerations in Helping

Before a person throws themselves into a kindness project several considerations should come to mind.

Is this permitted from the Torah?
What is the Torah view of what I want to do?
Is it a requirement or a nice thing to do?
Is this my responsibility?
Is this part of my goal in life?
Can it be done by others?
Is it my priority?
Will the time take away from my responsibility to people closer to me?
Does doing it have negative repercussions on other aspects of or people in my life?

Answering these questions will aid a person to sort out what they should be doing or not.

The Torah Commandments encourage a person to help others. Commandments for returning a lost object. Commandments for helping a person load or unload an animal. Commandments to help the poor to love the convert to honor the parents all encourage the active caring of others.

When to Help Others

A true story: People were learning Torah. A wagon driver came barging into the study hall and asked those learning – to help him pull his donkey out of the mud. The people there started deliberating at length – should they interrupt their Torah learning to help the driver? Finally when they came to the conclusion that they should help, it was too late.

They decided the proper thing to do – they should help – but it took too much time. Eventually they were punished for not helping quickly.

The board of directors of a school is approached by another school for background information on a former employee that the new school wants to hire. The school knows of negative information regarding this employee that could help the new institution – like that he mismanaged funds.

They must let the other school know to protect the new school from the same. Otherwise they might be guilt of transgressing the Torah law of “Do not stand upon the blood of your neighbor.” Obviously, a competent rabbi in laws of Lashon HaRah / Evil Speech should be consulted.

When Jewish men pray together, they need 10 Jewish men to say certain prayers – this is called a Minyan – Quorum of 10 men. If people need a Minyan and you are free, your personal preferences should be put aside to help the others or at least help them to complete the Minyan.

How to Help Others

The reason why people rise or fall in life depends upon their view of what is their scope of responsibility.

A married secretary is having a hard time with personal matters, she approaches the boss for support. He does what he can to help and give her comforting words but the brunt of comforting and support should be from her husband. The boss could help his secretary indirectly, by speaking with others – like her family members, or husband, or female employees – to help her with things that other people can help with. For if he helps her directly might create an improper bond of closeness between them. He should help her to a point but the rest he should put on others shoulders – for it is not his problem.

A person proposes a nice woman for a single man to marry. The person knows that she is a good woman. He proposes her to a particular party. The person wavers and is undecided and pushes things off. You can only help him to get married to a point – like it says – you can bring a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.

From the laws of charity we learn the greatest way to help others is to empower them to become self sufficient – ie, provide them with a source of livelihood. Like, it is better to give a person a fishing pole than a fish.

Knowing when to say “Not My Problem” – Three Words for focusing your giving

The general rule is to know what is your place. Know what is your responsibility or and what is not. Knowing when to say “Not my problem” can help you to concentrate your efforts and giving to the people towards whom you have greater responsibility. It will also prevent many heart aches.

Do what you can to help, but put the ball into the court of the person who should be helping.

The boss is crying. If you are a female, Call a male co-worker to calm him. Or call his wife. It is not your problem.

The secretary needs financial help, find ways to support her indirectly.

Priorities in Giving

There is an order of priority in giving charity. They help us to learn how to focus our efforts in our giving.

“Aniecha ve-aniei Ircha Anieecha Kodemim” / ענייך ועניי עירך ענייך קודמים (בבא מציעא עא

Your poor people (ie, of your family) and the poor people of your city, your poor people (of your family) come first.

Meaning if you have charity to give and you can give to a Jewish organization that helps poor people, you might reconsider and give to your brother or nephew, or uncle that is having financial difficulties.

The same applies to time.

If your family needs your time, and strangers need your time, you have more of a responsibility to help your family.

Once a person went to talk with a Rosh Yeshiva about problems of Shalom Bayit / Peace at Home with his wife. His wife complained that he was spending too much time on his Job doing Kiruv /Jewish Outreach by helping others, while he was neglecting his family. The Rosh Yeshiva decided that his wife’s concerns were proper and sided with her. The man did not do enough to focus his giving to his family. Unfortunately, they ended up in divorce.

One must know their priorities in giving.

Your greatest responsibility is to give of your time, efforts or support to your people, your family, your immediate family and yourself. Knowing your priorities leads a person to more fruitful and satisfying relationships with people that your are closest with.

It’s also helpful to remember:

One who is compassionate with others, will receive compassion from Heaven. (Talmud: Shabbat)

Finding the Real Me – Too Cool to Be Cool

IceTorah is reality.

The last letters of the first three words of the Torah – taf, aleph, mem – combined spell Emet in Hebrew – truth.

Reality is related to truth.

Torah is real. Superman is not.

Kindness is real. Hollywood movies are not.

Prayer is real. Propaganda is not.

Undercurrent of Reality

Torah Laws guide the world.

The events of the world are a result of the spiritual and physical actions of the people. If people do good goodness will reign. The opposite also applies.

A person who does a Mitzvah can cause great goodness to be bestowed upon the world. Perhaps because you gave a poor person a dollar, this had a chain effect that caused food to be supplied to a third world nation. We will not discuss the mechanics, but this concept exists.

Guarding One’s Eyes & Protecting Lives

Once a man was sitting in the front of a bus. A woman boarded the bus dressed immodestly. He turned his glance to refrain from looking. Another woman came on, and he closed his eyes again. He decided to go to the back of the bus.

Being tired, he slumbered. He dreamed that there was a bomb under his seat. Upon awaking, he dismissed it from his mind. Slumbering again, he had the same dream. When he decided to check under his seat he saw a package with wires emerging. He immediately notified the driver and all were evacuated from the bus. When all passengers were off, the bomb exploded.

Shortly after, the man went to see a great Jewish sage – Rabbi Yisrael Abuhatzeira – the Baba Sali. Baba Sali explained the incident – the bus was to explode causing great damage. But when the man did two acts of guarding his eyes, he created two protecting angels. The angels pleaded before G-d and said – You can’t let this bus explode, there is a righteous person on the bus. For this the man had two dreams and the bus was saved.

Following the eyes is also falsity because many times the illusions that one follows are just that – illusions of happiness, satisfaction, comfort. A person who watches a movie is the same person that they were when they went out. It does not change him or his life. It allowed him to spend some time by escaping, but the person remains the same.

A Mitzvah changes a person. They become a more giving or kind person by doing a Mitzvah. Thus it is a reality – for it changes the person for the better.

A person who lives with an attitude of mainly grasping momentary enjoyment, puts reality on the back-burner – for what are they left with at the end of their lives? The enjoyment past, they end up empty handed. Dead-end dates. Dead-end friends.

Yet a person with a Torah perspective lives in reality. Their relationships are to build families. One of the first commandments is to have children. A person following Torah usually ends up with a family that follows the same path of building the world.

What is reality? – How to Find the Real Me

Reality is being yourself. Reality is acting the best way that you can, without being overly or negatively influenced by others.

Some people need the attention or approval of others for their self-worth. But this is in essence falsity, because the approval of others does not determine the self-worth of a person. It might be a sign of the goodness of the person, but it does not determine their self worth. One’s noble acts in following the precepts of the Torah determines one’s value.

Meaning that the kindness that person does determines their self worth, regardless if others recognize this kindness or not.

Approval seeking is in a sense, falsity, because you are trying to determine your self-worth based upon what others think. It is not what others think of you that really matters – it is what G-d thinks of you that matters.

Thus the Torah wants us to be real. In the sense of acting on our best behavior. For this is the real us. The real us – is not just following whatever our emotions dictate. It is using all of our resources – even acting – to be the best that we can be. The Rambam says that we should act in the middle path. If a person has a bad temper – he should try to act in the opposite manner for some time – ie, act very calmly – in order to reach middle path.

The Problem of Living Illusion

The problem of following falsity and illusion is just that – in the end one is left with falsity and illusion.

Once a young Jewish woman was walking naturally down the street. Roman nobles noticed and said “Look how gracefully that young woman walks.” Overhearing this, she tried to walk even more gracefully – apparently to impress the nobles. She was eventually punished – by being taken to be part of a brothel. Her illusion was realized. She wanted to impress strangers by her outwardly acts, so she received a high dosage of the illusion of what she was seeking when she improved her steps. In a brothel, a person is nothing more than a body.

Once a priest was on his death bed. He realized that many prohesies that his book spoke about were proven wrong. He asked his acquaintance, the rabbi at the moment of truth – did he waste his life by following something that turned out to be false? The rabbi thought a moment and wanted to express the truth at the moment of truth and said “Yes.” The priest died with great pain on his face.

When a person dies, G-d will not ask a person why weren’t you like Moses. He will ask you, why weren’t you like you.

Too Cool to Be Cool – Dress for Success, Not to Impress

A person who is cool is one who is themselves. A person who overcame trials in life and became better for it.

Cool is not one who puts on the sunglasses to be cool, because those people are trying to be cool to impress others. Seeking others to validate your own self is a lacking. Rather seek what Hash-m wants to validate yourself. Thus you become greater.

A person who tries to impress others ends up empty-handed. The praise that they give him, do nothing to improve him or her or mean nothing to make their lives better.

Thus the Torah provides guidelines for living reality.

Laws to avoid relations that may lead to dead-end relationships like the laws of Yichud – that prohibit a man to stay secluded with a woman.

Laws of Jewish Modesty – where women cover themselves in a way to not attract attention or desire of others – are also laws of reality – for in the end the woman is appreciated for her true inner being and not her outward appearance. The outward appearance is secondary to the inner person.

Laws of Marriage – that a man should get married at a young age – instead of pursuing unproductive relationships.

Thus the Torah asks of a person to be real. Be yourself. Become the best you can – through learning self-improvement works in Torah (mussar) and working on yourself. Don’t put on a show. Don’t buy fancy cars or dress to impress. Build yourself. Be content with yourself. With Your family. Be a real person – which eventually leads to true happiness. When you are happy with yourself – every day is bright.