Achieved the American Dream. Now What?

Sold Home For Sale Sign in Front of New HouseThe American Dream – buying a new house.

You did it. All yours. (with all the mortgage payments)

Congratulations.

You worked hard for your money and now you have a house to show for it.

Ok.

Now what?

A person needs to feel they are accomplishing.

Many people who achieve success – a certain financial stature – don’t feel the happiness that they expected. They thought “when I reach this point I will be happy.” They arrive at financial independence, but didn’t find the assumed satisfaction that they expected. Because they think that reaching a certain status will give them satisfaction.

It is not necessarily the achievement itself that procures satisfaction. The striving to achieve it, the striving to do good and be good eventually will bring meaning and happiness into one’s life.

A person wants to do good.

Producing good by doing Mitzvot / the 613 Torah Commandments is quintessential to satisfaction.

Travelers travel to find something deeper and more meaningful.

One need only travel to a good Jewish library or bookstore to start a journey to a more satisfying life.

Respecting the Little Old Lady counting Pennies

MP900314327Old man or lady.

They walk a little slower.

Lovable, caring, particular or even crabby.

So dear.

White hair gives them a special right of honor.

Torah says “Stand up for them.”

Not only to give your seat on a bus, but as a sign of respect.

Why?

The Elderly have experience of life. Experience of living. Times of yonder that you know through stories and history books, they lived.

They dealt with all kinds of people.

They overcame problems and challenges.

We can gain strength and learn from their triumphs.

Those that followed the path of Torah boost our confidence.

Stand with respect.

When the Bully takes a Fall

Pyramid of KhafreYes. You remember him.

He used to take the weakling’s snack money.

He was stronger.

He was more popular.

He used his strength to intimidate others.

Or it could have been his words.

“If you don’t listen to me, you’ll see!”

There are many bullies in the world.

Those that use strength to intimidate. Those that use violence. Those that use armies.

The Jewish people have a weapon against them.

Prayer.

It says in Tehillim / Psalms (20:8):

“These [nations – battle] with chariots, and these with horses and we [the Jewish people] with the name the L-rd, our G-d we call.”

With G-d’s protection, Our prayer and Torah study can deflect rockets.

Living the Positive

If you look at life most of our life is filled with good. We have air to breathe, water, food, clothes, shelter and all the other good. We have life itself.

Living positive is a matter of putting our focus on the good we have.

Yes, We do have challenges.

Our prayer can bring much blessing.

With it we can overcome the challenges and bullies in our path.

Why Bad things Happen to Good People

In the 13 principles of Belief of Judaism from the RAMBAM, Maimonides,

One says that G-d punishes evil & greatly rewards the good.

Some may ask,

Where is the justice? Why don’t we see it?

Why do Nazi’s live a life of peace, after the cruelty to so many?

Why did the innocent perish, while the cruel thrive?

The Talmud (Tractate: Berachot) says, this is the question that Moses asked G-d.

Why do bad things happen to the good and good to the bad?

The Talmud answers :

G-d said – that a Righteous person sometimes transgresses. He is paid back for the bad in this world and is given a life of eternal happiness in the next world.

The Wicked sometimes do good. So they are paid for the good they do in this world and are punished in the next.

There is justice. We just have to be patient.

Like it says in Ethics of the Fathers / Pirkei Avot (17):

Nitai the Arbelite says: Distance yourself from a bad neighbor & do not become friendly with a wicked person & do not despair from retribution.

One way to interpret the last part is:

Don’t dispair, the wicked will eventually be punished.

If we understand not, still. We are also in good company for

Rabbi Yannai says it is not in our hands [to explain] the tranquility of the wicked & also not the suffering of the righteous. (Pirkei Avot 4:15)

Our job is to do our responsibilities. To get sidetracked or stunted because we don’t understand or because of the bullies is not productive. Find out. Ask questions. But in the end, our questions should not limit us from believing and achieving.

If we believe we can achieve. If we believe it will be good, it will be good.

Being Thankful for Life – The Morning Blessings

Sun Rising over LakeUpon awakening, one the first words a Jew says in bed – even before washing hands – are

“Modeh (Modah / for female) ‘ani le·fanei·cha melech h’ai ve·kayam she·heh’ezarta vi nish·mati ve·h’emlah, raba ‘emu·natecha”

It translates as:

I am grateful before You, Living & Eternal King, that You returned my soul to me with grace. Great is Your faith [in me.]

We start the day with thanks to our Creator for allowing our soul to return to us another day.

We start the day with a positive praise. With appreciation of G-d and Appreciation of G-d’s gift to us – our soul.*

Many walk around with a grudge on their back – why did this happen or that. Why the holocaust? Why did I lose my money? Why did I lose my job.

We can always ask questions to keep us down.

But G-d wants to bring us up. So we start the day by looking at the positive. “I am alive!” Isn’t life the greatest gift. So we thank G-d.

We say in Modeh ani: “Great is your faith.”

One way to interpret that phrase in Hebrew is “great is your trustworthiness” that you restored my soul.

Another way to interpret it is “great is your faith” in me. That you believe in me. You endowed me with such abilities to be able to fulfill any Mitzvah and overcome any challange.

G-d believes in you.

If G-d, Knower of all, knows He can rely on us, We too can believe in ourselves.

The Morning Blessings that we recite also give us greater appreciatiation for the things we may take for granted – Giving us a better appreciation of life.

Start the day right.

==

*The Modeh Ani & Morning Blessings are found in Our “My Mini-Siddur” – A Free Jewish Prayer Book.

Motorcycle Man and the Pitfalls of Dating

Motorcyclist Hitting the Open RoadMotorcycle man.

That motorcycle. So sleek and Strong. Attracts glare and stare.

What is 40K when you want to impress.

Wow. Look at the rider.

Muscles galore. And handsome too. Probably has a big wallet to afford that bike.

Smooth talker. Cool walker.

Maybe make a date?

No. Got to wait.

There is something to contemplate.

He has the personality – but what about the family?

Is the personality an act? or is it a fact?

what happens when the cards or down? Or the times? Does his facade come tumbling down?

Is the guy serious? Does he want to marry?

Is he nice? Or does he care too much about his bike?

Will he make a good father?

Will he bring his kids up to respect land and G-d?

Or just his hot-rod?

Does he even care about others. Or just his mother?

Is he in the relationship just for the fun? Does he care about anyone? Including you?

==

I read a book – I believe it was called – The Magic Touch by Gila Manolson. She is an experienced teacher from the Discovery Seminar offers the thought-provoking Jewish perspective on Touching.

A story in the book is an eye opener on Dating. She is a professor and asks the class – How many are dating. Many raise their hands. She challenges them not to touch for one month. She leaves hurriedly. Some take her up on the challenge.

Those that take her up on the challenge lead them to discover their partner and some eventually get married. Why. Because when the physical aspect is put aide, it allows them to appreciate the other’s personality.

In the book she causes rife between certain couples because of the following question:

How many of you have the intention of marrying your dating partner?

A few raise their hands. One woman was sincerely ticked off because her dating partner who was taking the class with her did not raise his hand to the affirmative. All those years of dating was to satisfy his desire for companionship and fun. But he had no intention of tying the not. All those years, that she could have been building a family were lost with one question.

In Jewish Law a man does not generally touch a woman unless she is his mother, daughter or wife.

Touching and familiarity leads to intimacy. When intimacy starts, the heart takes over and objective thinking takes a backseat.

There’s more to touching than most of us realize.

Today, people date for a good time. They swing from person to person – till they realize it is too late. They should have thought about building a family or getting married when they were younger.

Dating according to Torah is to get to know if the person is right for marriage.

Sit down. Take some time off from the rat race. Where are you going. Are your relationships fruitful or dead-end.

The Torah tells us look at the good character traits.

Before you are entangled in a relationship – ask:
Is the partner Jewish? (If you are Jewish)
Will the partner follow the 7 Noahide laws?
Will they make a good husband or wife?
Will they want to keep a kosher home?
Do they have values that are in congruence with the Torah’s?
Are they kind hearted?
Are they honest?
Are they open to growth or do they want remain at the status quo?
Will they bring up the children according the pleasant paths of the Torah?
Will they send the children to a Jewish Day school or a Yeshiva?
Do they want to learn Torah regularly?

Nice Motorcycle. But how far will it get you?

The Sabbatical Year – New Year – New Attitude

Cow Grazing in PastureSix years we work our field. The seventh year, we let it lay fallow.

Rest for field. Rest for a farmer.

This Torah concept, that every seventh year we give a sabbatical to our field and farmers is called Shemitah.

This year is a Shemittah Year. In Eretz Yisrael / the land of Israel, we stop commercial tilling of the fields. Each one’s field is free for anyone to take crops for personal consumption.

This rest allows the farmer more time to devote to Torah study and greater spiritual pursuits.

It allows the field time to recuperate from its momentous production.

In the Shemitah Year – all debts are forgiven. One who owed a thousand dollars last year will owe no money this year.

Debts are not carried over to the next year.

All money that was owed is forgotten.

Putting aside the details of the law, we can learn that once a year has past – we can avoid carrying over bad feelings from bygone days.

The past is the past.

Now, one can let go of animosity, hatred, feelings of anger. It is a new year.

One can live with a new positive attitude.

Let go of the bad.

Bring in the good.

Grab the Bottle from the Baby – Aren’t You Sweet?

MP900337279In the first Mishna of Talmud Tractate Succot it says that a Succah that is higher than 20 Amot (One Ama = about 1 1/2 to 2 feet) is not Kosher.

One reason given why this is so is that:

If a Succah is higher than 20 Amot (About 30 – 40 feet) one does not recognize that one is in a Succah – because the ceiling is too high to feel you are inside.

Another is that : One Must be in the shade of the Schach (the earth grown Succah roof), not in the shade of the walls. If it is higher than 20 Amot one is no longer in the shade of the Schach but in the shade or the walls.

A third is that : The Succah must be a temporary dwelling. If you build a succah higher than 20 Amot, you must use materials that will make it permanent. Temporary materials will not be able to withstand such a high structure.

Apparently we can learn three principles of Judaism from these reasons

If we take the wals to represent this materialistic world and the Schach (the natural, earth grown roof) to represent G-d’s contribution in our lives we can learn:

1. To live properly in this world, we are enjoined to recognize G-d’s hand in our lives on a daily basis. This is one of the first Halachot (Jewish Laws) in the Code of Jewish Law (Shulchan Aruch) – regarding Daily conduct of a Jew (Orach Haim). It says “Shiviti Hash-m leNegdi Tamid” / “I place G-d before me consistently” is a great principle in the Torah.

2. A second lesson – is to recognize the good that G-d provides for us daily. Appreciating all the good of G-d will allow us to develop a greater relationship with Him.

3. Thirdly, we learn that we are only on a temporary journey in this world. When we instill in ourselves that we will one day return to heaven – we will be more careful about our actions.

If we look at the good in every situation, our lives would change immensely for the better.

Grab a bottle from a baby and he will likely cry.

Why?

He loves his milk.

He didn’t know that the milk went sour.

But the loving parent knew. So he grabbed it away.

But the baby didn’t.

We just have to remember we have a loving father that watches over us.

We don’t always understand the why in life.

Suffice to know, that our loving father knows why what happens to us is good.

Clearing Away Animosity – More Serene Living

MP900387602It is after Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement.

Hopefully we were inscribed for a year of good and plenty.

If we did the three major things to nullify a decree – teshuva / repentance, tefillah / prayer, and tzedaka / charity – we likely will be inscribed for good.

G-d forgives transgressions against Him. But he cannot forgive for someone who was hurt by another. One must ask forgiveness from the person.

Asking for forgiveness clears the air and heart from guilt feelings.

At times we ourselves are hurt.

Someone stole from us. They acted inappropriately. They insulted us.

It is normal to feel animosity.

But the noble soul will try to overcome it and move on.

Removing Animosity

Here are some ways to remove feelings of animosity

– Think of what you gained by feeling animosity towards a particular person during the year. Did it make you a better person? Did you feel better? Did you become more noble? Apparently not.

By seeing that you gained not from the animosity. Or lost, because you lost the time that you could have done things more productive. Or that you lost by giving yourself a heart ache when the other person did not care, you can motivate yourself to neutralize these feelings of hate. And replace them with neutrality.

– Think of the acts against you as an atonement for previous wrongdoings. This can be used as a lesson to improve.

– Chalk the minor inconveniences and insults as the price of living a normal life.

– Think “my personal happiness is more important than having this animosity. Thus I forgive.”

– Forgive and Forget.

– If you feel someone is unjustly gaining, and thus you resent this – ask yourself “is this my problem?” if it is not move on. If it is do something tangible to right the wrong. If someone stole from you, bring them to a Beit Din – Jewish court of law and settle things. But to hate silently rarely rectifies things.

– Perhaps they received a position because they had qualities or prayers that were stronger than yours. You have other qualities that are greater than theirs that allows you to excel in your current position.

– Use this emotion as a springboard to improve yourself. If you are resentful because someone got a position instead of you. Work twice as hard, and perhaps you will also be promoted.

– Look at what G-d wants from you. G-d wants you to have a peaceful relationship with others.

– Pray to Hash-m / G-d that he will help you overcome your animosity and allow you to make peace.

– Turn Yourself into an ice-cube. Remove all feelings from your heart – good and bad. Flush them out. Then take back only the good feelings.

– Pinpoint a spiritual reason of why someone did bad to you. i.e. if someone stole from you, perhaps you stole from someone else. Correct that and forgive the other for teaching you to improve.

– The world is tailored for your good. Perhaps you needed that “tweak” to improve yourself, your life, or your outlook.

– G-d sometimes downgrades suffering for a person. Instead of having to lose 100k in the stock market, He might allow someone to insult you. See their act as a manner to spare you from a greater suffering.

– Or give them credit for teaching you a lesson in life. Perhaps you were a guarantor in a loan, and they defaulted, causing you to pay back the loan. Now you were taught a valuable lesson – be more careful before you guarantee a loan. Your $500 lesson, could have saved you from losing thousands of dollars that you would have guaranteed in another loan.

– Remember the commandment to “love your fellow like yourself.” There is also a commandment not to hate your fellow in your heart. (A book by the Chofetz Chaim – Called Ahavat Yisrael -“Loving Your Fellow Jew” – explains their importance.)

– Challenges may open the door for new opportunities. You lost a job because of someone else. You may find a job with greater potential.

– Chalk up their bad action to a bad day. Perhaps they had a rough day and they took it out on you. It is not you that is the problem, it was that you were the person who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

– Take a step back and see their wrongdoing in their perspective. Perhaps they have low self esteem, which caused them to act against you.

– “Let it go.” Don’t regurgitate bad feelings. Replace them with good feelings. Think of all the good things the person did for you.

– Think that when you feel feelings of animosity towards a person, you give them control of yourself. You don’t want to give so much control of yourself to another person.

– Confront person, privately at a calm time to explain that he or she hurt you. Ask them why they did the act that hurt you. Try to make amends.

– Misunderstandings occur. you might think that someone had a bad intention, when they did not. Maybe they took your coat because they thought it was theirs.

– Judge the average person’s actions favorably. (Those that are known to regularly do bad – you need not judge favorably. But you still must act respectfully towards them,)

– Believe in yourself. Think that you are a bigger person that you don’t stoop to their level.

– Try to pay bad back with good. When you do something good for another you feel better about that person.

– Or try to look at the good actions of the person to wash away the bad feelings.

– Remember that G-d does only good. Things that happen may occasional be uncomfortable, but ultimately they are for the good. So, unintentionally the person did you good. Think “Gam zu LeTova” – This is also for the good.

– Be creative in finding ways that what a person did to you came out or could come out for the good.

Although you can remove the bad feelings, it doesn’t mean you must be naïve. Learn from your past experiences, but remove the bad feelings from your heart.

All pains and challenges are learning experiences. They help us to grow. What one person uses as a reason to become discouraged, another uses to grow and become better.

This attitude makes life a life of continual improvement, growth and good.

See the good.

Believe in the good and it will be good.

Believe it will be good and it will be good. (Tzemach Tzedek)

The Commandment to Eat before Yom Kippur

VegetablesYom Kippur is the day of atonement. The Day when G-d seals the judgement made on Rosh Hashana. The Day Before Yom Kippur it is a Mitzvah / commandment to eat more.

The Ben Ish Hai says one should eat the day before Kippur the amount of two days worth of meals.

On Yom Kippur, of course we do not eat.

Starting from Candle lighting before nightfall until 3 stars are seen the next day we fast.

The day of atonement is a day for repentance. Several things we do are to refrain from:

Eating or drinking
Wearing Leather Shoes
Marital Relations
Washing
Applying oils or lotions

The reason why we fast is to focus on repentance and self- improvement. To introspect on what we can do better and what we must refrain from in the new year.

Yom Kippur our evil inclination is taken away for only this one day a year to allow us to become closer to the creator. The fasting is an opportunity to become angel-like and be able to remove all external influences to connect and create a deeper relationship with G-d, that we hope will continue the rest of the year.

Gmar Hatima Tova / A Good Finishing Seal for You and your Family.

Secrets of Positive Living – Overcoming Challenges with Ease

White and Pink RosesLife is a gift to appreciate and be grateful for daily.

Though we enjoy, we do encounter challenges on a daily basis.

How we deal with these challenges – our attitude – is correlated with our peace of mind in life.

You choose.

Does the slow check-out line ruin your day or give you more time to reflect on the good you have in life.

Does the negative comments by your spouse cause you to retaliate with insults or think of ways you can improve?

Does the flat tire cause you more stress or give you an opportunity to exercise by changing the tire?

Our attitude has a direct effect on our happiness.

Judaism teaches us secrets of Positive living.

G-d is Good

One Major principal is to recognize that G-d is good and does only good.

He does what is the best thing for you specifically. This is called – Hashgacha Pratit / Individual Supervision.

Internalizing this give you the proper attitude to see any situation in a good light.

And the force to overcome any challenge.

It takes time and practice to get there, but eventually you can.

Now that every Challenge is Tailored for your benefit – instead of getting upset you can use it to grow

This is one of the first messages of the Torah (in Parashat / Weekly Torah Reading Ha’Azinu read) after the New year – Learning Torah makes you grow.

Now that we know of G-d’s concern for each individual, each challenge can be used to propel us to a new level.

Instead of reacting immediately when dinner is not ready negatively when you arrive at home after a challenging day, React Positively.

It will give you some more time to wind down or spend time with the kids.

(It might be useful to eat a small snack before you get home as well.)

Instead of ranking out the cashier who over charged you for an item, take it as an opportunity to improve your tolerance for error.

Instead of using your speech to bring others down when talking about people, use it to bring yourself up by learning to talk with nobility.

Instead of your emotions prompting you to pray for someone who did you bad similar pain, use those emotions to pray fervently for your good.

For instance if someone stole $100 from you, you can pray that that person loses $100. Or you can pray that you will gain $1000.

Or you can think that that $100 was taken from you to spare you from a worse fate.

In life you have the choice to be positive or negative.

Torah teaches us – Live Positively.