Do You Know Who I Am?! – Knowing Yourself

Private+Test+PaperI Attended State University of New York (SUNY) at Albany. In one of the mega classrooms that hold about 500 students, the professor told a story.

Once he was administering a test.

He gave the class a warning that the exam would be finished in 5 minutes.

“OK. All papers in!”

A young student kept scribbling their last answers.

Finally, they brought the paper to the professor.

“I am sorry. You are too late. I am no longer accepting exams.”

The student, shocked and dismayed, exclaimed “Do You Know Who I Am?!”

The professor, with a class of so many students, did not know most by name.

He admitted “No.”

The student then shoved their paper in the middle of the stack of the hundreds of exams on his table.

They said “Ok. Thank you for the course.” and walked away, smiling sheepishly, knowing that the professor would not be able to disqualify the test by recognizing them or the exam.

Clever.

We all are important people.

People don’t always recognize who we are or our work we contribute to the world.

But that does not matter too much. What matters is what G-d thinks of you.

If you are on G-d’s good side, that’s really what matters.

So what is the litmus test to see if G-d is pleased with you?

Pirkei Avot / Ethics of the Fathers (Chapter 3:9) says :

“He {Rabbi Hanina be Dosa] used to say whoever who the spirit of creations have satisfaction from them, G·d has satisfaction from them. Yet if the creations do not gain satisfaction from them, then G·d does not gain satisfaction from them.”

I used to follow fads and fashion. I was also a fashion setter. My reason for fashion was not arbitrary. I wanted to make a statement. I used to wear two watches, the long overcoat, the multi-colored sneakers and a “felix the cat” hat. My statement was – “Don’t just follow blindly what society does. Think your life out.” The hat was to keep my head covered. Apparently the people thought my individuality was unusual – and brushed it off. I don’t know if anyone asked why I dressed such. Perhaps they were being polite. Perhaps they didn’t care. But that was my message “Do things because you think, not because everyone else does it.”

When you are concerned more with what G-d thinks of you, people will also like you. When your goal is to please others, sometimes you end up following fads and fashions that are not you. When you reach into your soul to find out who you really are this is when you find true happiness.

It comes through honesty, sincerity, effort, Torah study, self-introspection and self-improvement. Yes effort is required, but you ultimately find out who you really are and how to reach your purpose and potential in life.

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A Bearing Point on Morality – What is Right and Wrong?

Blue metal compassA person is born with a moral compass.

Abraham, our Forefather, used his moral compass to teach him to find the One G-d, in a time and place that idolatry was rampant. Each one of us too can use it to find the true path in life.

One can feel their bones what is right and what is wrong.

If this was not true, one would not be able to be judged in the afterlife.

If so how does one commit a crime?

It is not that one says to themselves that what they are doing is wrong and commit a crime. They say what I am doing is right because of a, b or c.

People steal, not because they recognize it is wrong. They do it because they convince themselves that they need the money to live. Their life supersedes the property of someone else.

With an imagination, anybody can convince themselves that they are the most moral person in the world.

But obviously they are not.

They can steal and feel good about it.

They just have to justify it to themselves.

Jewish Morality

This is sometimes the reason, why many Jews are appalled by the values of the world.

Many in the world see no wrong when a country sends missiles upon innocent people in Israel.

But when the same happens in another country, they make big rallies and manifestations.

This is why the Torah says:

“The Wisdom (ie, science) of the Nations – believe. The Torah (Moral Law) of the Nations – Don’t believe.”

What is moral? What is not?

There is one morality in the world. The Morality of G-d.

Why? Because as long one thinks that man determines what is moral, morality is subjective. Morality is subject to the whim and interests of man. Man can justify genocide. The Nazis did so. They said that for the good of the world, it must be rid of the “inferior races.” It is not that they said what they were doing was wrong. They said that genocide was right, because they were ridding the world of “inferior” people.

G-d only appeared once in the entire history of man to an entire nation. This is when G-d gave the Torah at Mount Sinai.

G-d never changed his mind. To say G-d changes his mind is a tremendous problem in theology and logic. Judaism says G-d does not change his mind. It is the only way of life that states this fact. Many religions are based upon the theology that G-d changed his mind – he decided to change His law or His people. Both suppositions pose tremendous problems in theology. Judaism is the only religion that does not subscribe to that error in theology. Not only that but it opens up a pandora box of each religion justifying doing what they want in the name of their religion. They can justify pogroms, crusades, inquisitions, autodafe and even genocide.

When the world will be humble enough to recognize that true values come from the Torah, then the world will be ready for Messiah.

In certain Arab nations the king would regularly consult the Chief Rabbis for advice.

Apparently, when Pharaoh chose Joseph to lead his nation – it wasn’t because he just saw his intelligence, but because he recognized that he feared G-d.

Morality is essential when a person is in power.

If not, one can use their power for personal gains.

Some may ask, so why do sometimes Jewish people do bad?

The answer is is because they follow not the Torah.

If they followed the Torah they would do what is right.

If a Jewish person steals, it means that they are not following Torah.

The Torah forbids stealing very clearly – it is one of the 10 commandments for Jews and one of the 7 commandments for all humanity.

Killing is forbidden in Torah – it is one of the 10 commandments for Jews and one of the 7 commandments for all humanity.

Adultery is forbidden in Torah – it is one of the 10 commandments for Jews and one of the 7 commandments for all humanity.

The laws are clear in Torah. If one has specific questions – they should consult a competent Orthodox Rabbi.

The Rabbis have Responsa – responses to particular questions – on a wide variety of topics:

What does the Torah say on Euthanasia or Assisted Suicide?
Is abortion permitted if the mother is in danger?
Is a suspected Terrorist considered a rodef – a pursuer to kill – that it would be permitted to kill before they attack?
What are the boundaries of permitted conduct between co-workers of opposite genders to avoid harassment in the workplace?
Is mixing plant species permitted?

A Think tank on ethics is not what the sincere person seeking morality should search for.

One honestly seeking the right thing to do, seeks out a competent Orthodox Rabbi.

Ask them what the Torah says on a particular subject. You’ll be one step closer to knowing what G-d really wants from you or the the world.

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I Wish I Could Have Done More…

blJJ2517060I remember when I was a Fellowship Student in Washington, DC getting my Masters in Business Administration.

I helped professors mark papers and with other work.

One teacher assigned their class a paper to write about their hero or one they admired most. Most wrote about their parents. Apparently a person honestly respects the good that their parents did for them.

A parent or grandparent. They are a special someone.

We have an innate sense of gratitude. We recognize the good they have done for us.

The Torah says to respect parents by not contradicting them or sitting in their seat. By listening to their requests.

One can never adequately repay their parents for all the good they provided.

When the time comes for them to retire, some send them to the old age home or hospital. Correct? Apparently each case must be judged separately. A competent Orthodox rabbi should be consulted. One should also consult one for medical questions – regarding stopping respirators and other life sustaining equipment.

If a parent passes along to the next world, many a time a person regrets things said or says “I wish I could have done more for them.”

The Torah has a solution that soothes the parent’s soul and the conscience of the child.

Reciting the mourners prayer – Kaddish in a quorum of 10 Jewish men – keeps the link between the parent and child.

Doing good deeds in memory of the departed also helps.

Assuring them a proper burial in a Jewish cemetery is part of the responsibilities of a Jewish child. Cremation is forbidden in Judaism.

The smart person tries to do as much as they can to respect the parent while they are alive.

A parent that has a child that does kindness and good for the world, is made proud of their child.

Our great sage, Rabbi Tarphon was exemplary in respecting his mother.

Once his mother was walking on a rainy day. Apparently, it was Shabbat and her sandal’s strap tore. Rabbi Tarphon, in order that his mother not walk in the wet mud put his hand on the ground to serve as a stepping stone for her steps, so that her feet wouldn’t get mired in mud.

When she told the Torah sages this, they replied that even if he did a hundred times more it wouldn’t be enough to properly repay his mother for all the good she did for him according to Torah.

We can always try our best.

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Sending a Gift to a Departed Loved One in Judaism

Solomon-Alexander-Hart-The-Feast-of-the-Rejoicing-of-the-Law-at-the-Synagogue-in-Leghorn-Italy-1850In Judaism we are all connected.

One Jew is connected to a Jew on the other side of the planet.

A Jew rejoices with another’s joy. He is pained when another one suffers.

The connection even extends to those departed.

In Torah there is an afterlife. Great pleasure awaits those who did good.

The reward for even simple good deeds is unimaginable.

Two women used to collect charity for thhe poor together. Once one waved to get the attention of a well-off woman. When the other one died, she came back in a dream to the one who waved. She told her “You can’t imagine how tremendous is the reward for just waving to that wealthy woman.”

The expression “You can’t take it with you.” Is somewhat true.

you cannot take anything physical with you to the next world. But Mitzvas – good deeds and commandments from Torah one observed one is able to take.

The currency of the next world is mitzvot and good deeds.

In this world, we use our resources to do Mitzvas. Thus they can be redeemed for reward in the next world.

This is a world of action. The next is a world of reward. For the good you did in this world, you are compensated in the next.

The accounting is made and the reward is given in the next world.

When life ends, so does the reward counter.

But if others did good deeds because of you, your reward continues. If you saved a life, you get a reward for the mitzvot he or she did because you saved their life.

Thus a child that does Mitzvas for a departed loved one, the loved one accrues reward in the next world. Thus we give charity for a departed loved one.

Thus the relatives of those departed have a way of sending gifts to those above.

Another way is called Kaddish.

Kaddish – the mourners prayer – is a prayer said by a man in a quorum of 10 Jewish men.

When a Jewish soul goes to the next world – it is judged and sent through a cleansing process.

This process can be made easier when a relative or a designated individual says Kaddish for them.

It is like one is sending a gift to the next world.

When a person recites kaddish the soul is elevated to another plateau.

Once a woman was about to die. She asked a great rabbi to recite kaddish for her.

He did.

After some time, she came to him in a dream and asked him to stop.

She said his Kaddish was so powerful, that whe was being sent up to heights so great that were too great for her.

When one says Kaddish, the soul of the departed is elevated. The power of Kaddish.

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Solidarity with the French Community – Understanding the Rainbow

RainbowWe send out our sympathies and condolences to the families of the victims. We suffer together with them.

Jews are all one part of a body of people. When one Jew suffers, others – even though they do not know the pained personally – also feel the pain.

Backgrounds and geography lose their sense when a brother suffers.

How can we understand such difficult events in the Torah perspective?

G-d loves his creatures. And does not want the death of the innocent.

Not even the death of the wicked.

He would rather them turn back to good.

The angels sung when the Jews were victorious over the Egyptians who pursued them. Many of the Egyptian soldiers perished in the Sea of Reads. But G-d told them that the Egyptians are also His creatures. It wasn’t proper for them to rejoice.

G-d wants the people of the world to recognize Him, for their own good. Eventually they will when the Messiah will appear.

The closing of one’s eyes caused by suffering, results many a time in one opening one’s eyes. If one has a positive outlook, suffering can be a springboard to help a person become wiser in the ways of G-d.

At the march for solidarity in France, a rainbow appeared. In Judaism, if a rainbow appears it is a sign from above that G-d is giving His dissatisfaction with the state of the world. It was a sign given to Noah after the flood to tell him that people must improve their ways.

So what are we to learn from this rainbow?

G-d does not want the death of the innocent. He wants people to recognize that violence against the innocent is wrong – regardless of what race or background one comes from.

We can learn when bad happens to others, it should be a message to us to improve. If we suffered because someone else suffers, in a sense it shows our level – that we are caring people. But it is also a message to us that we have to strengthen our own personal efforts for self-improvement.

A person should not give up on themselves. Because they did bad in the past, they can always start and improve their ways.

To the world, who sympathized with the French community this past Sunday, The 7 laws of Noah, given to him by G-d, for all Humanity, suddenly made more sense.

The Seven laws are :

The Seven Noahide Laws

They are seven major categories – that with their details consist of 30 laws.

1) Respecting G-d – Not to blaspheme.

2) Being Faithful to G-d – Not to Commit Idolatry.

3) Respecting Human Life – Not to Kill.

4) Respecting One’s Fellow’s Property – Not to Steal.

5) Respecting the Integrity of the Family – Not to commit forbidden relations.

6) Respect of Life – Not to eat a limb taken from a living animal.

7) Law and Order – Establishing courts of law to enforce these laws.

When the world recognizes the need for these universal commandments for all people because the Torah that G-d gave to the nation of Israel – the only time that G-d appeared to an entire nation – we are one step closer to world peace.

This is what we hope for when the Messiah will come.

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Breaking Out of the Mold – Starting Life Anew

MP900440284-1024x1024Life is a bit like the game of Dreidel.

Time spins, landing you in a certain situation. Now you decide what to do.

Although, some of our paths are traced for us, we do have an influence on that path that we take.

We have freedom of choice.

Freedom to do good or bad.

Freedom to be nice or mean.

We landed on earth in a certain place, at a certain time, in a certain family and situation, with strengths, weaknesses.

Now it is up to us to use our strengths and mind to reach the potential and purpose we were put on earth for.

Society’s Expectations

Our country, Society and families have certain expectations of us.

Some good. Some not so good.

Once one is engulfed in these expectations, it is takes thought and effort to break free.

When G-d spoke to Abraham, he said “Go, for yourself, from your land, from your place of birth and from your fathers house, to the land that I will show you.”

He was telling Abraham, in order to grow, you have to get away from these influences to grow and become great.

Why?

Our surroundings have a great influence upon us.

Breaking Out of the Mold – the Pursuit of Truth

When one is outside of their normal surroundings, they can see life in a new light and grow without limiting their growth to the expectations of others.

When I was young I never wore a Kippah regularly outside. When I moved away from my land, my birthplace and my family to Switzerland, I contemplated life. It helped me to recognize the importance of maintaining a close relationship with G-d. I recognized the importance of wearing a Kippah to signify that there is a G-d above me. Apparently, had I remained in the US, it would have taken me more time to arrive at that point.

So how can a person, find the right path. How can a person reach the proper spiritual and material balance in their personality?

Moving to a far off land is one option. But not always practical or effective.

How can a person, who for generations their families were pursuing a certain way of life, like idolatry, break free?

How can a person reach their true selves?

It starts with sincerely pursuing truth.

There was once a person who used to steal. He went to a rabbi. He asked the rabbi, what could he do to kick his desire to steal. The rabbi told him – always tell the truth. The man tried it. Though it was difficult to him, he realized that this was the way for him to get out of the shackles of his stealing binges.

Pursuing truth means questioning our society, our values, our selves to see if our path is a true path.

My Pursuit of Truth

Some of the questions I asked in pursuing Truth and Ethical Behavior:

Am I fulfilling my potential or avoiding facing my responsibilities?

Is my way of life true?

How do I know Judaism is the true religion to serve G-d?

Why do we worship G-d – because of logic, feelings or national revelation at Sinai?

Is it proper to take the last loaf of bread in the store, if you have enough stored in your pantry for a several days?

Is it proper to spend so much time tanning or watching TV, when there are so many other productive things I could do?

Is it proper to use a TV as a babysitter for young children, given the impropriety displayed?

Is television a proper medium to expose my family to give them proper values?

Is it ethical to buy an item at a store, use it for a couple days, then buy the identical item at a cheaper store several days later and return it to the first store?

Can you prove that G-d exists through logic? How?

Can G-d create a Stone that He cannot destroy?

Converts to Judaism, are great, because they truthfully questioned their way of life until they arrived at Judaism.

Search and Find

Apparently, if one really sincerely questioned themselves and their lives sufficiently and prayed that G-d would help them find the true path, G-d would help them arrive at truth.

Judaism is not afraid of questions. A truthful person is not afraid of questions. One that is hiding something is. Judaism’s philosophy is to encourage people to ask as many questions as they could about Torah, because it hides not falsity.

When one does pursue truth – though initially more challenging than following the flow – one lives a happier life. One also lives a more meaningful life, because every act becomes purposeful. Like the Mitzvot. We have Mitzvot / commandments for all aspects of life. Thus, each act we do, takes the proportion of the divine. Each act, however mundane, becomes purposeful for G-d has ordained it. Like eating kosher, one lifts a mundane activity, to become an act ordained by G-d.

Follow Feelings or Truth

Some people base their lives on doing what feels good. Something could feel good but not be true. This is the case for idolatry. There was a period in time in which people had an innate desire to worship false gods. It might have felt good, but it wasn’t the true path. If a person worships a cartoon character, because it feels good, does that make it right? No.

My Rebbe, Rabbi Zecharia Mines, z”l said: “The heart is to be controlled by the mind, Not the other way around.” Many people who are lost, seem to ignore this principle. They follow in a way till the end of their lives and end up with a question on their deathbed.

I heard a story on an *audio about the death of a certain cardinal who was friendly with a rabbi. On his deathbed – he was visited by the rabbi. He asked the rabbi, according to his bible certain events were supposed to take place before the Jews returned to Israel. They did not. The prophesies that were foretold were false. He asked the rabbi “Since the prophesies in his bible were proven false by recent events, does that mean that he wasted his life in dedicating it to a religion whose prophesies were not the truth?” The rabbi, at this moment of truth, had to give him a true answer. The rabbi said “Yes.” The cardinal died in much pain knowing this fact.

Pursuing Truth

The Torah is the only Law that was Given by G-d to a nation of millions of people in the history of the world. No other religion besides Judaism claims this. G-d, who is omniscient – all knowing of past, present and future, does not change his mind. Thus the Torah remains his law.

Those following Judaism – either Jews who follow the Torah or Gentiles that follow the 7 Noahide laws from the Torah are very small in number.

Apparently it is easier to avoid questioning and follow the trodden path than to pursue truth. But those who do, gain immensely. They end up approaching their purpose and potential in life.

Those who don’t question during their lives, sometimes end up with a question at the end of their lives.

Those who do question, and act on the answers to improve themselves, Instead of ending life off with a question – “did they accomplish their purpose in life?” – they end off with satisfaction that they tried their best to achieve it.

==

* A gentile, is not required to convert to Judaism to receive a place in Heaven, they just must follow the 7 Noahide laws / Sheva Mitzvot Benei Noach and their details because of the Torah.

**I beleive the audio was by Rabbi Akiva Tatz at Simpletoremember.com. A good place to start in the pursuit of truth is to listen to audios at the above site and those mentioned in the links section here.

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Cleansing Yourself of Bad Emotions

household cleaner with rubber gloves bucket and sponge..Understand People

Understanding helps us to react properly.

When a child is crying – we may become upset they disturb our sleep.

But perhaps they are in need. In need of comfort or a drink of water.

If we focus on ourselves, our lacking – sleep in this case – we become upset. If we focus on the other, we help to render the life of another into a better life.

One way for a person to remove bad feelings is to understand that another has problems and challenges and needs, just like you.

Put yourself in their shoes for a moment.

Once done, you can more easily empathize with the other.

Don’t Speak or Listen to Derogatory Speech

The Torah has laws that allow a person to see the good in a fellow Jew. Laws of Lashon HaRah / not speaking badly about others – allow us to live more peacefully.

Lashon HaRah is speech that is 100% true – but it is derogatory. The Torah forbids speaking badly about a fellow Jew, unless there is some kind of Toelet / useful outcome. Like if someone is asking you about a potential suitor for their daughter, one may tell them information pertinent to the match – to avoid that the daughter gets married to an unsuitable suitor.

Or if you want your child to avoid bad activities or character traits of a friend, you can talk with them about that person.

Another way to cleanse yourself is to avoid Lashon HaRah / derogatory speech about others.

Lashon HaRah is like fire. You might not have had bad feelings for a person, but because you heard something bad about them you develop them.

I would venture to say avoid listening to things that cause you worry. If all the bad news reported in certain news sources causes you to be fearful in life, avoid it. Get your news from a source that informs without causing you to fear daily.

Avoid speaking badly about others to cleanse yourself of bad emotions.

Be Active in Jewish Community & Torah and Avoid Judging people

Two ways to remove negative emotions is to be active in the Jewish community to help others and at the same time to avoid judging others.

It says in Pirkei Avot (Chapter 2, Mishna 4)

Hillel says “Do not separate from the community. And do not be sure of yourself until the day of your death. And do not judge your fellow until you arrive at his place. And do not say something that is impossible to understand [assuming] that in the end it will be understood. And do not say “when I will be free I will learn [Torah],” perhaps you will not [ever] be free.

Being part of the community allows you to use your talents in a productive manner. To channel your energies for a greater good. This helps you to develop a positive attitude to helping others.

“Don’t Judge a person until you arrive to his place.” – Don’t condemn the person, condemn the actions.

Judge those worthy favorably

It says in Pirkei Avot (Chapter 1, Mishna 6)

Yehoshua son of Perahia & Nitai the Arbeli received it from them. Yehoshua ben Perahia says: Make a Rabbi of/for yourself, & acquire for yourself a fellow [to learn Torah] & judge each person favorably.

The Torah also says to Judge a person favorably. If it is a generally good person, you should udge them favorably. If they are a generally bad person, you can assume their action is bad.

Some may say if you don’t speak badly about others, you will be naive, and the people will continue their bad deeds. That point is addressed, in that you should respect people but suspect them – until you really know them. If you want them to improve, so speak to them directly privately in a nice, gentle way for them to improve their ways.

Focus on the Positive

A Good G-d

G-d is good. He does only good to us. Some, ignore or choose to focus on the negative. But if you look deep enough you will see the good in even a difficult or challenging situation. Sometimes you don’t see it right away. Sometimes you need further study or conultation of others that have Daat Torah / Torah Outlook in order to see it, but underlying all situations is good – for you or for the world. If you take an honest, non-biased look, at a situation, putting all self-interests aside, you will be able to more easily see the good. If one person got a raise and you didn’t – perhaps he was coming on time every day to work, while you came late.

See the Good in life

Fine – if your boss is mean, you do have nice children. If your children are giving you pain, it is an opportunity to bond with them on their own level and establish a better relationship with them.

Fix the Situation

Better to do than to complain. Fix the root of the problem not just the symptoms. If your husband is mean with you, find ways to improve the relationship or split.

Pray for Your Good

If your co-worker got a raise and you didn’t, if this upsets you, you might have resentment towards the boss. Instead of praying for the detriment of the boss, pray for the good of yourself.

Know it is a Mitzvah to be Happy

G-d wants you to serve him with happiness. A person’s general mood should be happy. If you are down, remember that you are a great person and G-d beleives in you – that you can reach your potential and you can be happy. You just have to take the first step.

Summary
– Understand People
– Don’t Speak or Listen Derogatory Speech
– Avoid Judging people
– Be Active in Jewish Community & Torah
– Judge those worthy favorably
– Focus on the Positive
– A Good G-d
– See the Good in life
– Fix the Situation
– Pray for Your Good
– Konw it is a Mitzvah to be Happy

*A book about Lashon HaRah in English is The Power of Words by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin.

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Taking the light of Hanukkah with Us

Hanukkah Menora and dreidelThere is something special about the Hanukkah candles.

The light is ethereal.

Apparently, in the lights we find some holiness of the lights of the Beit Hamikdash / Holy Temple that stood in Jerusalem.

I drive through the somber streets on a cloudy or rainy day.

I feel the darkness outside.

I have at times strayed from the good path and felt darkness inside.

How can we capture the light and keep it in our homes and hearts?

Keep the connection with Judaism.

Learning Torah regularly brings light inside.

Doing Mitzvot enlightens life.

Like it says “Because a Mitzvah is a Candle and Torah is Light…” (Mishle 6:23)

Keep connected to the one who said “Let there be light.”

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Man in Search of a Path

Hanukkah conceptI remember my youth.

I had highs and lows.

The highs were high and the lows were low.

Though the times were challenging, the lows did help me.

When I was down, I started to think more clearly about life.

I realized that life was not a necklace of fun times strung together on a string.

I realized that life is much more than that.

In my period of deep introspection, I saw that there is a purpose to life.

In my period of darkness, I realized what many people don’t their entire lives – that life has a purpose and each one of us have a purpose to fulfill here.

Through the storm of pain, I realized that G-d wanted something from me.

I reasoned “If I am suffering, it must be the will of G-d.” So to relieve the pain, I asked myself the question that many others ask : “Why me?”

Then I Asked a question that many don’t ask “What does G-d want from me?”

I was sincere in my quest to find the truth, not so much because I was a spiritual or religious person, but simply because I wanted relief from my suffering.

Instead of trying to resolve the symptom, I went to solve the root cause.

My quest for solace, was lonely. I became a hermit. A man withdrawing into a cocoon.

My quest started with educating myself in Judaism. I went to the library and searched for Jewish books that seemed to have a reliable author – one that believed in the eternity and immutability of Jewish law.

Slowly, I did find solace in the Jewish stories and true tales.

In the stories, I noticed that there was a plan and purpose in life. A person’s actions have an effect on the world and are important. I realized that we are judged for our actions.

In my search for relief, I realized that G-d was guiding my life. Though it was at times bitter, it was good. Because my life took on a new dimension, the dimension of communicating my needs to G-d. I was never alone anymore.

Purposeful Living

Every act can be purposeful.

Like eating food. One can just gobble down any fast food that seems relatively fit for human consumption. Or one can elevate eating into a purposeful act to becoming closer to G-d. In Judaism, we say Blessings before eating – to appreciate the food that G-d gave us. And we eat Kosher to assure that the food will not influence us to take the baser characteristics of the animal consumed – one reason we avoid pork. Then we give thanks after eating. The reason I was eating to be able to use the energy in the food to be able to do more good – through the Mitzvot. The simple act of eating became purposeful. Each act, no matter how small became purposeful.

It dawned on me that in life we must actively choose the right path. If we just follow the flow, we end up in a life that is many times disappointing. We have certain expectations – and when they are not met, we are upset.

With my new attitude, I realized that every situation I was put in was for my personal good and growth. G-d tailored it for me.

In my relegating many of my decisions – into the hand of G-d – through Jewish Law – Halacha – I realize now, looking back it was the one of the smartest things I ever did. Instead of making many of my decisions based upon feeling, or lack of feeling, I sought the advice of Torah, Jewish Law and Torah authorities.

I recently met a Gentile who was working in the Synagogue. I handed him a card of the Seven Noahide laws for humanity. He thanked me and mentioned he would look into when he had a chance. I mentioned to him that it is unfortunate to go throughout life without plan or purpose.

The Jewish Laws give that plan and purpose.

I tell that to people. A person who regularly learns Torah – especially in a Yeshiva or kollel – is like a ship with an anchor. Those who just follow the fads are just pushed through life with the waves pushing it in any random direction.

Message of Hanukkah

This is the message of Hanukkah. Think your life out. Choose the right path. Let the wisdom of the Torah be your guide, rather than the fads, fashions and whims of the society push you through life, like a ship without an anchor.

Why Judaism?

Why Judaism? Thousands of other religions exist?

Judaism is the only way of life in which G-d spoke to entire nation of millions people to give his law. It only happened once in the history of man.

He never came down to say “he changed his mind” – so the laws are still in effect. The 7 laws for all Humanity and the 613 Mitzvot for the Jews.

The rest of your life starts with one small step. The first step in getting home is to choose the right path.

Thank G-d I found and chose the path. Now I just have to try and follow it according to the best of my ability. Ultimately for my good and for the good of the world.

Happy Hanukkah!

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Understanding When a Baby Cries – Effective Reactions

Elevated Baby (6-12 Months)The Baby.

So cute. So cuddly. You want to play all day.

But you also have work.

Chores. Sleep.

A baby does not speak.

His facial expressions and cries are his words.

Determining Cause of Cries

Once my cousin told me – when the baby cries it could mean one of three things:

a) Time for Feeding
b) Diaper Change
c) Colic or other discomfort

Pretty simple.

You can feel the baby’s hands to know if it is cold.

Holding the baby will comfort.

Sometimes the baby cries before sleeping. It is perfectly normal. I sometimes sing when I am tired. The baby has another way to tell you it wants to sleep.

Take care of the three above and usually the baby will calm down.

Knowing Priorities

At times you are deeply involved in an important project.

You just have to get it done.

The baby has been crying – and you are trying to sleep.

Now what?

First, know what is more important – your baby is more important than your job, your project or your sleep. That helps put things into perspective.

Patience

You have to have patience.

Exercise your patience in other things. When you feel angry speak calmly. Read the “letter of the Ramban” or books like “Anger – the Inner Teacher, by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin” which talk about how to avoid anger.

Patience is built slowly but surely. When you feel anger or stress welling up inside – think to yourself “I have to remain calm.” Think of pleasant thoughts.

Never Take it out on the Baby

Many mothers and fathers were in the situation where they were fed up and took it out on the baby.

They regretted the second after.

But it was too late.

The hospitals tell new mothers – never shake a baby.

It is true. Never shake a baby.

Let someone else take over

If you are fed up let someone else take over.

Take a small break. But don’t take it out on the baby.

Prepare Mentally

Mentally prepare yourself for stressful situations – and think out how to deal with them – when they arise.

Letting the baby cry a bit is ok. But not too long.

Imagine, a baby is crying – and a mother or caretaker yells at it. It is akin to one going to a fast food restaurant and ordering food. All of a sudden a burly man comes out and yells at the customer “Why are you talking so loud!” Sounds ridiculous, but unfortunately it happens.

You order food by talking. The baby orders food by crying.

Think – the baby is crying because it has a need. I must try to find a way to find that need and fulfill it. Then it will stop crying.

Shema Yisrael Lul-a-bye

Sing a lul-a-bye – a tune with nice words like the Shema Yisrael.

The Shema Yisrael is good to sing every night to the baby and children. It helps them to learn belief in G-d and helps them avoid having nightmares.

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