Monday, February 23, 2015

Parshas Zachor 2015

Parshas Zachor – Devarim 25:17-19 – This Shabbos

Parshas Tetzaveh usually precedes Purim, when we read the "maftir" portion describing how Amalek attacked the Jewish people as they left Egypt - even though Amalek lived in a distant land and was under no imminent threat. So why did Amalek attack?

The Torah says that Amalek attacked the Jews "karcha" - which literally means by way of happenstance. Amalek's entire philosophy is that there is no design or providence in the world.
Everything is haphazard, dictated by chance, luck and fate. That's why Haman, a direct descendent of Amalek, decided to kill the Jews based on a lottery, from which the name "Purim" is derived.

Philosophically, Amalek and the Jewish people stand at opposite ends of the spectrum. Judaism believes that the world has purpose and meaning, and that God is intimately involved in our lives. Indeed, that is the very lesson of Purim: Even when things seems bleak, God is there, guiding events. With Haman's decree, it seemed that the Jews were doomed. But then there was a dramatic turnabout.

In our own lives, to the extent we may doubt God's involvement, is the extent that Amalek's philosophy of randomness is part of us. The Kabbalists point out the numerical value of Amalek -- 240 -- is the same as safek, meaning "doubt." The energy of Amalek is to create doubts about what is true and real in this world, and of God's role in directing events in the best possible way. This concept is so important that one of 613 mitzvot is to remember what Amalek did. And that's what we do, every year, on the Shabbat before Purim. So let's take this message to heart, and do our part - to fight Amalek's idea of a random world.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Are Step Parents and Adoptive Parents - Real Parents?

‘Whoever raises another’s child in his house, the Scripture considers it as though he had given birth to him.’ (Megila 13a)

In Judaism step parents are just as much the real deal as birth parents.

Because being a parent is not about the fact that your son or daughter carries your DNA. Rather, it’s about caring for, loving and nurturing a child.

Whoever does so is the child’s true parent.

Monday, February 9, 2015

‘Great is labor for it honors the laborer.

‘Great is labor for it honors the laborer.’ - Gemara (Nedarim 49b)

There is something very special about changing a flat tire or building an IKEA cupboard.

Paying someone to do it for you may save time, but you miss out on the very unique pleasure that the Talmud refers to here.

‘Laboring’ is something very special.

Don’t pass up on it unless you genuinely have something more important to do

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

‘If there is no flour, there is no wisdom.’ (Avos 3:21)

The world does not run purely on spiritual fuel.

We need to eat also.

And if there is no food (or warmth, or shelter, or health etc), there will be no means for spiritual accomplishment either.

Physicality is spirituality if its purpose is for the sake of the latter

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

‘If a person sees that suffering befalls him ......

He should examine his deeds.’ (Berachos 5a)

Just like the physical world, Judaism believes in a cause-effect spiritual world also.

If things aren’t going well in life, likely it’s a manifestation of a spiritual malaise. (could be some correction needed from a prior life)

Nevertheless, the Rabbis tell us that this is the first place to look.

Examine your deeds and see if you are living up to your own values and standards. If not, take the opportunity to make a change.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Is there a Reward for Good Deeds in this World? Part 2

There is no worldly reward for good deeds.’ (Kiddushin 39b)

Imagine that a mother runs into a burning building to save her baby. As she comes out, you give her $100 reward for saving the child. She would be insulted.

The reward of good is the feeling of good itself. Any material reward only demeans the act.

So there is no worldly reward for good deeds – because we human beings are hard-wired in truth not to want it.

Feeling depressed - do something good for some one else - it is its own reward.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Is there a Reward for Good Deeds in this World?

Is there a Reward for Good Deeds in this World?

There is no worldly reward for good deeds.’ (Kiddushin 39b)

Judaism believes that the essence of ‘reward’ for good deeds is in the World to Come.

We live in a world that does not have a great deal of respect for good deeds.

But once we move on, for eternity, good will be the only currency

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Don't be fooled by a simple idea

Don't get fooled by a "simple" idea or talk - Drink it in!

‘A person should always teach his students in a succinct way.’ (Chullin 63b)

People are often impressed by a lecturer who can build sophisticated concepts starting with simple ideas.

That does nothing for me.

I believe that a great educator takes sophisticated concepts – and makes them really simple for people.

He may not sound as clever, but he is helping people a great deal more

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Visiting the Sick - Accomplishes a great Thing!

‘Whoever visits the sick takes away one sixtieth of his illness.’ (Nedarim 40a)

If you’ve been sick, you know how lonely it can be.

You have way too much time to feel sorry for yourself and think about how no one cares about you.

And that usually makes you feel worse.

Visiting lightens the burden of that thinking and takes away some of the pain and helps lighten up a life

Monday, January 26, 2015

Green Speech #34 - Sticks and Stones ........etc - True or False?

Another type of forbidden speech explicitly forbidden by the Torah is— ona’as devarim (hurting people with words), verbal abuse.

Only recently in social work and psychology has society come to recognize a fact which the Jewish people have known since the Torah was given: words can hurt — and they can hurt a lot; sometimes even more than physical abuse.

Alcohol good for Wisdom?

Alcohol good for Wisdom?

‘Whoever retains a clear mind under the influence of wine possesses the qualities of the seventy elders.’ (Eruvin 65a)

This is not suggesting that it’s fine to get drunk. We Jews only get drunk once a year on Purim (which is coming up soon J).

Rather it means that a spiritually developed human being has the wherewithal to maintain a level of underlying consciousness even when seriously impaired by alcohol

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Green Speech #33

Green Speech #33 –Loshon Hara Causes Unnecessary Fights
In general, don't repeat what Someone else said

The president of a school is unhappy with the executive director’s efforts in an unsuccessful school function. He conveys his feelings to a board member who relates the conversation to the executive director. The executive director responds furiously: “He said that the event was a failure because of me? He is the one who never attended any meetings!”

The board member wastes no time in reporting this response to the president. The president sends the volleyball of blame over the net by saying, “I never came to the meetings because he never called me to confirm them!” The executive director then sends the ball back by saying that if the school would hire a secretary for him, then there would finally be someone who had the time to confirm appointments and meetings.

Before anyone realizes what is happening, the disagreement has snowballed into a full-scale machlokes, all because of one small sentence that should not have been repeated, and certainly not to the subject of the comment.

Rechilus is the name given for gossip - saying something over what someone else said or did. It is in the broader category named Loshon Hara (improper speech) - It causes much fighting.

When this happens a person is transgressing two negative commandments instead of one.

In addition to the sin of loshon hora, he has transgressed the commandment “Do not be like Korach and his assembly” (Bamidbar 17:5) in which the Torah warns us to reject the ways of Korach, who stirred up much strife and controversy against the leadership of Moshe Rabbeinu.

Even a Poor Job Builds Self Respect - #2

‘A person should rather engage in work that is beneath his dignity than rely on charity.’ (Bava Basra 110a)

It often seems, with the welfare system in this country, that people would rather take money from the government than accept a job that does not suit them.

As I explained yesterday, Torah suggests that this is a mistake.

Life might be more comfortable but at the end of the day, human beings simply do not enjoy being takers. In the end of the day it undermines self respect.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Loshon Hara worse than other sins?

Green Speech #32 –

Some Rabbi’s say that in the following way the improper use of words and speech is worse than all other Negative Torah prohibitions. When speaking Loshon Hara the person wasn’t lured by some earthly temptation, It’s not a physical desire, something our bodies are interested in, attracted to –the Torah understands that
we are merely physical beings and takes that into consideration

The improper use of our words and speech there is no physical enjoyment in it. Then why is being done? It is throwing off God’s yoke from us and the expectation that we should guard our mouths. It’s like saying I understand that Hashem commanded me to refrain from Loshon Hara but my own priorities are……

In that way the commandment of  “You shall not desecrate My Holy Name” (Vayikra 22:32) is transgressed It’s like saying that what Hashem says isn’t so important.

Our mission is to sanctify Hashem’s name and in that way the improper use of words and speech negates Our purpose and mission in the word

Speak wisely my friends

Even a Poor Job helps to build Self Respect

‘A person should rather engage in work that is beneath his dignity than rely on charity.’ (Bava Basra 110a)

Earning one’s own living brings a level of self respect that means more than the work itself.

In other words, it doesn’t matter how demeaning a job might be, the fact that it is a job and a person is contributing, makes it less demeaning than relying on the charity of others.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Green Speech #31

Green Speech #31 - We focus on the Faults of Others

When speaking Loshon Hara about another you are usually at that moment focused on the faults of someone else.

The truth is that at that moment it comes out of your mouth you appear smug, haughty and conceited in the eyes of the person you are telling.

When you speak Loshon Hara in a conceited way, a person violates the Torah law of “Be careful less you forget Hashem your God” – Arrogance is the one specific traits which upon all other bad character traits lie.

It is not easy to convey to another how they appear when they are saying something negative about the next guy.  If we saw ourselves on tape of how we really speak about others we would be quite surprised.

If we have to pay the game of finding fault let’s focus on ourselves


God does not overlook the reward of any human being.’ (Baba Kama 38b) How reward and punishment work in Jewish thinking is quite complex. Suffice to say this, though. Even the most evil person in the world, God still values the good that he does, no matter how small. Rather than being overshadowed by the bad, it stands out as a precious anomaly. Every good decision that every human being makes is of deep and lasting value in the eyes of God.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Get Wiser

And scholars get wiser as they grow older.’ (Shabbos 152a)

This is the converse of yesterday. Scholars are seekers of wisdom. They don't solely rely on yesterdays formula. They seek input, feedback, understanding. Looking to always exchange pieces of their puzzle, getting rid of bad pieces and adding new ones.

Are you holding on dear tight out of insecurity to a puzzle that no longer produces happiness and productivity for you?

And the formula for wisdom is simple – he who seeks will find.

So the older a scholar gets, the more wisdom he will have assimilated and the wiser he will be.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

More Ignorant as you Grow Older?


‘The ignorant become more foolish as they grow older.’ (Shabbos 152a)

Ignorance has nothing to do with intelligence and everything to do with choice.

There is a inherent comfort Wisdom brings responsibility.

The longer a person makes a choice of ignorance, the more comfortable they become with it and the more reason he finds to justify it.

His foolishness becomes more entrenched and intractable.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Green Speech #28

Green Speech #28 - Be Careful Where You Sit and Who With!

One should be very careful not to sit with a groups whom you know they talk about people as

Rabbi Eliezer told his son Horkanus. “My son, do not sit with groups that talk about the faults of others, because these words rise up to Heaven and are recorded there.

And anyone who participates in such gatherings is listed in Heaven as a member of a group of evildoers.

This is referring to a group who has all together corrupted their character by becoming habitual in their speaking about others. It has become who they are and what they do.

Finish It!

‘Someone who begins a good deed, tell him to finish it.’ (Tanchuma Aikev 6) It’s easy to get enthusiastic about doing something good, but the real challenge is to see it through. New is always fun and exciting. But true good requires us to stay committed all the way to the end. Finishing the good deed is much more meaningful than simply getting it started.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Green Speech #27

Green Speech #27 -Listening to Loshon Hara -Encourages

Certainly easier said than done but listening to Loshon Hara (someone speaking derogatory, hurtful, damaging words and gossip) is not only  a negative prohibition unto itself but also - by listening to someone speaking to Loshon Hara you are unintentionally providing a stumbling block for the blind.

When listening to unavoidable Loshon Hara try not to show interest-perhaps it will limit the amount of Loshon Hara spoken because maybe they will feel that there isn't a willing audience.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Green Speech #26

Green Speech #26:
When speaking Loshon Hara- ( Words & Speech that are derogatory, hurtful, damaging and gossip)

You compound the resulting ill-effects of your speech by causing others to listen to the Loshon Hara. Jewish wisdom teaches us that there is not only a prohibition against speaking to Loshon Hara but listening to it as well.

When you speak Loshon Hara you also transgress another prohibition "Do not place a stumbling block before the blind" by causing others to listen to the Loshon Hara. - they transgress by listening you compound your transgression by making someone else listen to Loshon Hara.

The more listeners present, the more sins one commits. If, for example, a person speaks at a table where five people are present, then the violation of “Do not place a stumbling block before a blind man”  is multiplied by five.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Green Speech #24

Green Speech #24

In the Torah, Moshe’s righteous sister Miriam was afflicted with tzara’as because she said something about Moshe that had just the slightest taint of loshon hora.

Her words were well intentioned and she spoke only to her brother Aaron, yet she was immediately punished with tzara’as and the Jewish people had to delay travel for seven days until she was cured.

If Miriam was afflicted after speaking Loshon Hara that was: slight, well intentioned and only to her brother to help the other brother what does that say to us about our words and speech? And she had a great track record up until then.

True Miriam was one of a kind of righteous women of her generation and she is judged according to Her greatness….by  a hair breath

Still…… we must be more careful what we say and how we say it

Take me seriously

 ‘A man cannot be a Prophet in his own town.’ (Zevach Pesach 54:2)

In the place where you grow up and to the people who you grow up with - you will never be taken seriously – no matter how much you achieve. (let's put it another way - you will be taken much more serious by strangers)

To Barack Obama’s mother, he is a cute little boy, not the President of America.
it’s just a reality of life.

There is one exception ........ my own family and friends who treat me like I'm the best - thank you for all of your bday wishes

Thursday, January 8, 2015

What's more important?

What is more important someone who has good character or who studies and knows a lot of Torah?

The Torah teaches that ‘Good character comes before Torah.’ (Vayikra Raba 9:3)

Appropriate behavior is a prerequisite to a religious life.

Green Speech #23

Green Speech #23

Back in our most spiritual times, as a people, when we served God in the temple –There was a way that God let us know when we were constantly misusing our gift of speech by speaking: damaging, derogatory, hurtful words and gossip (Loshon Hara)

A skin disease would show up on our skin named tzara’as. In those times people were apt to turn around their words and speech in response to their skin condition.

Today, we have no feedback system that lets us know about how we are doing with using the gift of our speech.

Are you aware of the import of your words and speech? How often do you speak Loshon Hara? When is it most likely? What are your rationalizations? Do you more often think before you speak?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Green Speech #22

Green Speech #22 - Do you want to know what someone said about you especially if it was not nice or downright nasty?

Judaism's primary commandment against speaking Loshon hora and rechilus (gossip) is:

"You shall not go as a peddler of gossip among your people (Vayikra
19:16). In its literal definition, a rachil is a peddler.

“Who is the peddler? Someone who collects information about what people say and do and peddles it to others.”

The classic case of "Gossip" (Rechilus) is , one person tells another, “Do you know what he said about you?”

An overwhelming amount of animosity in offices, homes and neighborhoods comes from the misguided belief that it is good and helpful to report back to people any negative comments made about them.

Many people operate on the theory that we need to know what others are saying about us. But in reality, the Chofetz Chaim says, that this Gossip (rechilus) serves no positive purpose. It creates enemies. He stresses that even if the information is absolutely true, relating it to others destroys the world.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Green Speech #20

Green Speech #20

Next we will see just how damaging Loshon hara is from a Torah perspective by seeing how many positive and negative Torah commandments are transgressed by one simple statement of Loshon Hara.

Again, Loshon Hara is words or speech that is either: derogatory, negative, hurtful, damaging or gossip unless you will save someone else from damage and injury (and even then there are conditions on how and what to say to warn someone of impending harm or damage

Before, we get to that here are some basics of Loshon Hara

The prohibition against Loshon hora applies to information that you are saying even if:

a)    Even if what you are saying is true

b)    Even if the person you are talking about is right there in person 
        (not talking about them behind their back)

c)    Even just by listening to Loshon hara and accepting what the
       person is saying as fact to Loshon Hara you transgress a negative commandment

Friday, January 2, 2015

Green Speech #19

Green Speech #19

Loshon Hara isn’t just another bad behavior, such as showing anger or insensitivity. Though these, too, destroy the fabric of one’s soul, Loshon hora is in a class by itself. When one speaks Loshon hora, he transgresses an explicit negative commandment in the Torah,

 “You shall not go as a peddler of gossip among your people” (Vayikra 19:16).

As one of the 613 commandments, the sin of speaking Loshon hora should be approached with the severity we attach to eating non-kosher food. Just because we do it doesn't make it all right.

So too just like even if we eat non-kosher food but an opportunity to eat Kosher food presents itself - you shouldn't say since I eat Non-Kosher food, it doesn't really matter for me to eat the Kosher food in front of me.

It matters every time I try to refrain from Loshon Hara even if I speak Loshon hara most of the time

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Green Speech - 10th of Teves

Today we mourn the loss of our Temple, the divine presence and dwelling in peace, security and serenity with God in Israel.

Below is the the symptom that wrecks havoc in Achdus (Unity) or lack there of the real cause of all that occurs to the Jewish people

Loshon Hara
Here is a quick synopsis of the damage of which the Jewish people have suffered throughout our history at the hands of perhaps arguably the worst sin there is - Loshon Hora –

1.    The 1st sin ever committed, the result being an exile from the garden of Eden and underlying cause of death (our mortality) in this world

2.    The Sin of the Spies that prevented us from dwelling in Israel (after we left Egypt) wandering in the desert for 40 years

3.    The catalyst which caused the Jewish people to be exiled in Egypt, (Yosef’s report about his brothers (confirmed by Moshe when it was apparent that Dasan and Aviram told Pharoah that Moshe killed the Egyptian)

4.    The cause of our exile today. The Gemara in Yoma says that the Temple was destroyed. The divine presence chased away and kicked out of Israel was the sin of Loshon Hara

The Chofetz Chaim says that it is our Loshon Hara today that prevent us from welcoming back the divine presence, the rebuilding of our Temple and dwelling in peace and security in Israel