Jan 31, 2015

And Emuna - Faith Too

continued from previous post
There is one other theme, that of Emuna - Faith, which is enormously popular now too.  So why didn't I write that there are three themes, rather than two? Because I think that the hashgacha pratis theme and the emuna theme overlap, although of course, they are two different concepts.
R' Lazer Brody's translation of R' Shalom Arush's Garden of Emuna is enormously popular with over 1.5 million copies sold.  There is even a "universal" edition which is non-denominational. 
More recently, R' David Ashear's emuna messages have become very popular.  I wrote about his 4 minute shiurim and emails here and there is also his book and R' Yechiel Spero's book.
And for a number of posts on emuna-faith, see here

Jan 30, 2015

Themes of Recent Times

There are two themes which have made great inroads in recent years. They are, hashgacha pratis (divine providence) and gratitude.

Have you noticed it too? When I was growing up, it wasn't commonplace to tell hashgacha pratis stories.  Today? These stories are everywhere.  There is a column in the Jewish Press, Lessons in Emunah, books and stories galore.  There are the books, There is no Such Thing as Coincidence volumes 1 and 2, When the Time is Right by Dvora Kiel and the bestselling Small Miracles series whose purpose was to introduce the concept of hashgacha to the general public..

As for gratitude, there are numerous articles I've come across on the subject.  How many times have you encountered the suggestion that you keep a Gratitude Journal and record, daily, what you are grateful for? There's R' Pliskin's Thank You book, R' Shalom Arush/R' Lazer Brody's Garden of Gratitude (see this post: here) and R' Wallerstein/Finkelman's book on gratitude along with a journal.

When it comes down to it, these two themes are fundamental to Yiddishkeit.  In fact, if you were asked to pick two concepts that would be recurring topics in articles, lectures, and books, you couldn't do much better than these two themes (however ... see next post).  They are about acknowledging that there is a G-d and that He supervises the world in a most particular way, and being grateful to Him and all He provides us with, which presupposes G-d's goodness, His love for us, and how all He does is for our benefit.

Jan 27, 2015

And G-d Has the Last Laugh

Yesterday, before the MONSTER STORM hit, with the predictions of it being the WORST STORM EVER, I was skeptical.  We have been subjected to dire prognostications in the past.  The media has a field day with it.  They love ominously announcing: WINTER STORM WATCH and updating us every few minutes.
But how many times does it pan out? I haven't done a study on it, but in my life experience, on many occasions the prophecies of doom do not materialize.  I get the feeling that even those hyping the massive storms don't quite believe in their own hype, but they hope that it will come true so they will be proven right.
In this case, they claimed that the NYC area would get as much as two feet of snow.  What actually happened? 6.3 inches or 7.8 inches (depending on the news item and the wind) of snow fell in Central Park.
When Hashem unleashes a storm, whether rain or snow, He shows His might.  Likewise, when Hashem withholds rain.  The weather is one of the few areas in which man has no control.  It would have been difficult if we would have had the blizzard they were predicting, and I davened that it should be much less than they said it would be. 
I thought, true, Hashem shows His might in a blizzard, but if Hashem makes it much less than they predicted, this would also put Man in his place.  Man can't control the weather but he thinks (or pretends) that he can forecast what will take place.  It's not like the meteorologists make it clear that this is an educated assessment of the weather patterns and things can change (because they often do).  They present their forecast as fact, and their forecasts are given names like AccuWeather to make you think that you can rely on them for accuracy.
So when I got up this morning and looked out the window, I could see that it was nowhere near what they had said it would be, and I was amused.
see this post: here

Jan 25, 2015

Al Taam V'Rayach ...

We say there's no accounting for taste or, in the Hebrew version, "על טעם וריח אין להתוכך." I tried a store bought cookie from one of those packaged, plastic containers and thought it was less than mediocre, really sub-par, and I wondered how did this company manage to make such a lousy chocolate chip cookie? They didn't even look good.
A few hours later, I was present when one kid took one of these cookie and said, yum, these cookies are soooo good.  I found that astonishing enough but then another kid echoed the same sentiment!
Maybe they have never tasted good (never mind excellent) chocolate chip cookies before and this is all they know? Or maybe to each his own.

Jan 19, 2015

Disciplined Thinking

Someone presented the following situation.  She had married off her first child and due to an oversight, they had not given a bracha to an uncle. 

After the chuppa, her mother told her that the uncle was upset and he and his wife were leaving.  Of course, the baalas simcha was mortified to hear about this and she apologized and begged the uncle to stay.  Naturally, this shterred (disturbed) the simcha.

Her question was, what should she have done? *

The answer given by the speaker was, the Satan intervenes at holy and special times and we cannot allow it.  What she should have done was determined that she was not going to deal with this situation at the wedding; she would deal with it the next day.  The wedding is a time for simcha and gratitude!

I liked this answer because it did not dismiss the situation.  Rather, it gave it its due but at the right time, tomorrow, not today.  We often get caught up in the issue of the moment, feeling outraged/sorry/defensive etc. but we need the discipline to assign the matter its due time.  Shabbos, for example, is not the time.  A simcha is not the time. 

An added bonus, and no small thing, is that by dealing with it later, we will be able to approach it much more calmly and handle it better than in the moment.

* Obviously, I am appalled that someone 1) would be so zealous about his honor and would 2) shter someone's simcha over it, but what the uncle should have done is not the question here.

Jan 18, 2015

Spooky and Sad

Someone told me that her extended family is shocked upon hearing that their cousin is very sick.  She had kept it a secret even from her own parents.

One Shabbos, the mother had a dream that her daughter was sick.  After Shabbos, she called her daughter's house and asked to speak to her.  She was told that her daughter was at the doctor.

This prompted the mother to call Memorial Sloane Kettering and ask to speak with her daughter.  She was given her daughter's room number.  Sadly, her dream was reality.

It's definitely spooky but I assume that the mother had her suspicions before the dream.  The dream reflected what was on her mind, whether consciously or unconsciously.  So I think that rather than the dream being a message from Beyond; it was an expression of her concerns which were based on things she had seen and heard.

Regardless, חיה גיטל בת שרה גולדה needs a refuah shleima.

Jan 17, 2015

I'm Sensitive

What does it mean when someone thinks of themselves as being sensitive? A 4th grader did something for which her teacher had to reprimand her.  The child began to cry and the teacher asked her why.  The child said, "I'm sensitive ..."
The experienced teacher realized this was not something the girl had come up with on her own.  No doubt she had heard it from her mother.  She asked the girl, "Are you only sensitive about yourself, or are you also sensitive to other people's feelings? By doing what you did, you hurt my feelings."
The teacher later called the parent who said yes, she was not careful when she spoke about her daughter not to speak in her presence and her daughter heard her describe her as sensitive.
In fact, the definition of "sensitive" is both 1) being aware and responsive to the feelings of others and 2) feeling easily pained. 
Since Ahavas Yisrael entails treating others as we would want to be treated, if we're sensitive, it should work both ways.

Jan 16, 2015

On Our Own Two Feet

In the paragraph before Shema in shacharis, we say, "v'solichei'nu komemiyus l'artzeinu" (and bring us upright into our land). 

Someone described being in Eretz Yisrael this week and seeing large cars driving by early in the morning before the streets are busy.  Upon asking the taxi driver what that was about, the driver sadly said they were the bodies of the four Jews murdered in Paris. 

One way of understanding the words "and bring us upright into our land" is, we should enter the land on our own two feet, upright, not in a coffin.

I wonder what, if any, link there is between four Jews being killed in a shul in Har Nof and four Jews being killed in a kosher store as they shopped for Shabbos.

Jan 15, 2015

Not so Poshut

In R' Dovid Kaplan's fourth "Impact" book, called Lasting Impact! he tells of a couple who had a baby boy and decided to name him after the mother's grandfather.  But then she began to have second thoughts.  "My grandfather was a very nice man and a fine person," she said to her husband, "but he wasn't a talmid chacham.  He was just a poshute Yid (plain Jew).  Maybe we should name the baby after someone great."
Her husband consulted with his rav who asked, "When did her grandfather live?" When he answered, "He came to America in the 30's," the rav asked, "And where are his children today?"
The husband answered, "All of them are frum and all his grandchildren are bnei Torah."
The rav then said, "Anyone who lived in America in the 30's and 40's and raised a family that produced bnei Torah is not a poshute Yid! Name the baby after him."
The same week I read this story, someone told me that when her husband's grandfather was bringing up his children at some point, when he lost a lot of money (see story that follows) he went to Rabbi Levy to take his girls out of Beis Yaakov.  Rabbi Levy asked him why he was taking them out and when he heard that it was because of money he said something to the effect that money has nothing to do with this and made sure that they remained free of charge! The P.S. to that story is that when the grandfather had more money in later years he repaid the money.

As to how the grandfather lost a lot of money -  he built a dry cleaning business from scratch with partners, with the intention that it would be a shomer Shabbos place.  When it was ready to open, the partners decided that Shabbos was the busiest day for business and that it would have to be open on Shabbos.  At that point, the grandfather pulled out of the business at a great loss of money. A daughter of his remembers the hard times that she went through at that time and how she went to the bank with her mother to redeem a bond so that they would have a little more money.
People like this are not famous, they don't appear in our Jewish history books, but they are far from being "poshute Yidden."  They are Jewish heroes.

Jan 13, 2015

Who Needs the Light?

Someone was saying how naturally, she liked being around positive, happy people.  But there were negative people in her life whom she did not want to spend time with.  Was that wrong of her?

The lecturer replied: We are here to give forth light.

Those who are positive and happy don't need your light.  The negative ones do.

As simple as that.