Sunday, October 20, 2013

Chai Lifeline Shabbaton for Bereaved Parents this coming Shabbos
They asked me to speak at Lunch - Not a clue as to what to say.
The following is a very raw rambling of my attempt to write

I was asked to say a few words at this festive meal for a few reasons – 1) You already know why my wife and I are here, 2) I do speak a lot and have spoken a few times about what lessons I have learned from the tragedy and lastly I am pretty much never at a loss for words – so I said “sure”

•    As much as I tried to figure out what I thought might be helpful to convey to everyone here – I couldn’t think of one thing

•    I could speak to an audience that hasn’t necessarily experienced what we have but us?

•    You know, even when people tried to comfort me and said “there are no words” as well meaning as they tried to be –those words of “there are no words” felt so hollow, so contrived, so…. Not comforting- I was in too much pain to hear any word.

•    So what I could say here today?

•    Even when someone shared with us that they had experienced the same tragedy I was like in my mind “ you know I can’t take this- all my compassion and mercy is already used up for me and my family –telling me about your child is a burden for me

•    Even if you are not alone in your life - I do have to say that there is such  an acute feeling of existential loneliness- certainly if you are shouldering this completely alone - one feels totally alone,

•    So alone if there isn’t anyone who understands you, if there isn’t anyone who can really care just exactly how you are feeling, if there isn't anyone who can experience the thoughts you have just as you have experienced them

•    At some point most people yell out to the heavens and say “I’m so alone” – and sometimes as much as you might have a partner who would like to share “your” pain –they just can’t.

•    Seemingly they just can’t get on the same page as you and completely lift your burden

•    And you just can’t blame them at all – they can only do the very best they can – they are so totally innocent – reacting to only what just comes to their mind –limited as to their thoughts –a prisoner of their own constraints and pain

•    So much so you sometimes can see their pain and come to a realization as to just how lonely they are – and wow what they must be feeling-oyyyyy- Until you engender your feelings for them

•    “I feel so badly for them-my spouse- my partner- and just sometimes at that moment of love and compassion for them – my own loneliness –for just a moment –maybe more disappears

•    But even when not in your own compassion – just realizing that they are doing just the very best they can –can take the sharp edge of the anger of feeling so alone –

•    the sharp edge of your being critical and judgmental of your partner and spouse and forgiving of the fact that that your partner and spouse is doing little to alleviate your pain

•    Nothing is perfect- I can’t have someone totally on my page- taking care of the depth of agony that I feel, they can’t (no matter how close you are with your spouse)  take care of my feeling so lost, so confused

•    But hopefully I do have someone in my life that shares my very same loss –our daughter- and  while not my whole page can my spouse share

•    She is the only one who is going through the same agony and terror albeit in a different way and in that there is an opportunity (if you can reign your criticalness and judgmental-ness) 

•    To further create an indelible, unbreakable bond that only he/she can do- that is deeper than every before the loss –

•    Even with a vulnerable -bare – a brief acknowledgement that I too am am my own living hell from a common place - a common source - and in my own way, which is only what I can do am I sharing this experience with you.

•    And in that maybe, perhaps your immense yoke can ease  a little bit and your spouse and in that way your spouse can become a source of comfort in a way that no-one else can possibly do

•    This was all – that I have absolutely nothing to say to all of you that I think would be helpful –

•    I could share something that I have found to be helpful to me

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Must Read! Devori Stern’s (15 yrs old) Talk in Bais Yaakov –In memory –Shoshie a’h

Devori has been chosen to be the 10th grade representative at Bais
Yaakov for the high school “Mishmeret” program. This program of the
Chofet Chaim foundation has been chosen as a way of educating and
Inspiring the girls not to speak Loshon Hara (negative, hurtful and derogatory
Speech) which is a serious prohibition of our Torah. The following is Devori’s
Talk this past week to the entire high school to kick off this year’s program.
Did I mention that this year’s entire program is dedicated in the memory of
Our beloved Shoshana Rachel bas Elimelech –may her memory be for a blessing.

Good Afternoon
Loshon hara is a very lowly thing that mostly hurts ourselves. Every time  you
Speak Loshon Hara you are hurting yourself more than the person that you
Are talking about. Every time you speak Loshon Hara you are sprinkling a
Little bit of dirt on your Neshama (soul). Most times that we speak Loshon Hara
It is because of our own insecurities and not because of anything else.

Let me give you an example. You have a terrible voice, you literally sound like a
cow when you say Modeh Ahni ( aprayer). Now this girl Sarah is an amazing singer!
She can do solos, harmony  and pretty much do anything with her voice. So Sarah
Is chosen to have the big solo part in the play. She messes up on one word. You
consider yourself “a music critic” and you go around and say “OMG –did you see Sarah?
She totally messed up the solo? You don’t even realize that it came from your own

Does this make you really feel good? Does this really help you? The answer is no! You
Are only hurting yourself, you are trying to make your own insecurities go away! Sarah
Might have made a mistake but the one that is getting hurt is you, the one who is getting
An avira (sin) is you!

So let me ask you a question: When next Yom Kippur comes and Hashem wants to forgive
You for all of your actions. How is he going to do that? When it comes to Loshon Hara and
speaking about others Hashem can’t forgive you only the person you spoke Loshon hara
about.  I don’t think she is going to like it when you tell her uummmm that you spoke Loshon
hara about her and you are sorry. She is not going to be so forgiving. Are you going to
remember all the times in the year when you spoke Loshon Hara? No! So how is Hashem
going to forgive you?

Not to mention that if you speak Loshon Hara, and you are a gossiper
Hashem will have a hard time forgiving you himself ………….. I mean you are going around
And speaking badly about his children. K…… so why speak it? Cuz it makes you feel good?
2 get her back?.............cuz it is tempting…….. it is not worth it! I mean we all make mistakes
But we can all try to be more careful in the way that we speak toward and about each other.
We can all take upon ourselves a time in the day not to speak Loshon Hara, to be extra,
super careful. Do it with your friends, make it fun………….. it’s not nerdy. I mean come on
am I nerdy?

I’ll even tell you the best part we are doing it in honor of Shoshie Stern a ‘h –my sister.
As we all know, Shoshie was and still is a fun, bright, bubbly, sweet girl…… who spoke
With mostly all positive words and speech. Shoshie always tried to be nice to every single
Person and not to speak bad of anyone. It would mean so much to me, my family and I am
sure a million times more times to Shoshie to participate in Mishmeret, in her name, in her
memory to elevate her Neshama.

So lastly, I just wanted to express gratitude to Bais Yaakov for giving us an environment
Where we all feel comfy to be who you are and not feel judged when we want to grow and
Prosper. Lastly………..

Be Positive and Keep Shoshieing!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Rabbi Mike Talk - November 24, 2013 at Torah Academy of Milwaukee 7:30 p.m.

Rabbi Mike Talk - November 24, 2013 at Torah Academy of Milwaukee 7:30 p.m.

       “Where the Extraordinary meets the Ordinary”
Lessons from the life of Shoshie Stern a’h- A regular, normal 12 year old

Why did the death of a 12 year old frum girl named Shoshie Stern in Boca Raton become a national Jewish story?Why were there over 1,500 people at her levaya and over a 1,000 people at her Shiva?
Why was I95 Shut down to make way for the funeral procession, something usually only reserved for dignitaries? Why are there over 3,000 people signed up for and tuning into Shoshie’s web page “Mitzvot for Shoshie”, Why has there been a distribution of close to 7,500 “Keep Shoshieing bracelets. Why has there been continued, unrelenting Mitzvah activity done in Shoshie’s name?

One of the most interesting and strange things to have transpired after Shoshie’s Petira was the almost shocking realization of just how great Shoshie truly was in her life time.  The enormity of the reaction, impact and lasting impression of Shoshie’s Petira is a testimony that Shoshie embodied within what we all long for. It’s not that we, her family didn’t think she was special;She didn’t fight with her older sister, helped out at home, took care of the other kids, cooked desserts for Pesach, etc however; nothing in particular was glaring, stood out or drew great attention to us nor did we think to others. Shoshie didn’t noticeably excel at anything in particular. Yet when the final tally came in about her life, without exaggeration, her true greatness, when all was said and done, merited for her to be a Rebbe of sorts for our entire family and an inspiration to literally thousands to grow in greater Mitzvah observance.  How did we miss it? How is it possible that the extraordinary can hidden in what seemingly is just the ordinary? Maybe we need to adjust our antennas! Not only could we be missing out on seeing each other’s greatness but do we really know who we are married to and who our children are?

In this talk, I would like to share some thoughts as to: What was Shoshie’s greatness that will inspire us to create more respect, love, peace and unity in our world?  What were the key and the essential components that when added up created that greatness? Why and how each others greatness is hidden from one another? Down to earth-wisdom for living tools for us to see “true” greatness
in the ordinary, appreciate one another in a deeper way, and build the world that we want to live in.   

Torah Academy is located at 6800 N. Green Bay Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53209 – 414-352-6789

Gratitude or Death - Choose Life

The snake spoke to Eve in the garden of Eden to entice her and Adam to eat from the forbidden tree (the tree of knowledge of good and bad). Eve answered back that God said that " you should neither eat of it or touch it lest you die". The snake convinced her to eat it and she didn't die. What exactly had God meant?

After she and Adam ate, God confronted Adam and asked him "where are you" ? Where are "you" in all of this? (How could you do such a thing) - Not only did Adam not admit fault or guilt he blamed it on his wife, Eve, after all she is the one who gave it to him.

The famous Bible illuminator mentions that Adam was guilty of denying the good that was given to him and the following is what perhaps God meant when he said that "lest you will die:

Every moment of life, every breath is a gift from God. Life itself, awareness of life, the ability to have an experience (s) - to be aware of those experiences, - to see, to touch, to hear, to speak, to smell, to taste - every second of life many of us have an opportunity to constantly experience the good that is given to us by the Almighty. God gives us so much, knows what is good and/or bad for us and let's us know that in advance. If you are aware, over time one has the ability to develop an appreciation and a trust that the Almighty does so much for us out of pure unconditional love - When he says something like don't eat from the tree- he should surely have our attention. By eating from the tree-rejecting the relationship, Adam denied the good that continually comes from Hashem.

True life comes from the ability to be aware of, appreciate and experience the good that someone continuously bestows upon you -and to be connected to the source of that good- the moment you don't do that, disconnect from that source, deny the good- that is the definition of true death.

Life is only love

These thoughts are based upon ideas I heard from Rabbi Benzion Twerski - Rabbi of CBJ-Milwaukee - where we spent Sukkot