NURTURING THE HUMAN
o matter how accomplished we may be, no matter how wealthy, happy or talented, at some point we all find ourselves seeking a deeper meaning in life. We constantly yearn for meaning, stability and physical and emotional wellbeing, and we need tools to assist us with appreciating the good in our lives and inspiration and guidance to help us when we struggle or are in crisis.
framework for a life of meaning and purpose. Over the past year, we have brought you diverse events, lectures, workshops and classes that fused traditional and authentic Jewish wisdom together with contemporary themes to enhance a holistic body and soul connection. Please enjoy this year’s edition of “Nurturing the Human Spirit.” We hope it enhances and deepens your outlook on Emotional Wellbeing, Mindful Parenting, Purposeful Prayer and Connected Living.
Here in Chabad Malvern’s Meaningful Living Centre, we believe, that the teachings, messages and guidance of Judaism nurtures the human spirit and supplies a
All our love, Velly Slavin and Rivkah Yurkowicz
E HUMAN SPIRIT TABLE OF CONTENTS
01 EMOTIONAL WELLBEING 15 MINDFUL PARENTING 23 PURPOSEFUL PRAYER 31 CONNECTED LIVING
Design and Layout: Reuven Centner from Creative Chinuch. Photo by Lawrence Walters
4 WAYS TO TRANSCEND
SELFISHNESS By Simon Jacobson
1. Pursue Knowledge
t’s true that selfishness is part of human nature — just like selflessness and goodness are also part of human nature. The challenge we face is not overcoming human nature, but choosing which attributes of our nature we want to cultivate within ourselves. Selfishness seems to come easier to us than selflessness because:
Our reflective and objective minds allows us to transcend the subjective interests of our impulsive emotions. This is the essence of healthy knowledge: being able to see things from a perspective that is not driven by self-interest, and the exploitation of others. Learning about things that refine life counteracts selfishness. In order to go outside of yourself and your own interests, you need to know what options are outside yourself, and how you can access them. What does the world look like beyond the sphere of your prejudices? How have other people transcended their own setbacks? Expanding your knowledge base — in a humble way — will allow you to shift your focus from yourself to others, and to the greater good and infinite world around you.
It doesn’t take much effort to take care of your own needs, and ignore others. “The world” is selfish. You see selfishness all around you. Why then should you be different? “Survival of the fittest” demands putting yourself first. Selfishness is commonly understood as being synonymous with “human nature.” Why fight our very nature?
2. Give Charity
The fact that arrogance and greed feel “natural” is a reflection of the narcissistic culture we live in. And yet, all self-growth is predicated on transcending what we’re used to — getting out of our comfort zones — and growing into what and who we want to be. If you are frustrated with your own selfishness and you want to develop selflessness instead, the following four tactics, based on Kabbalistic principles, should help you nurture the better aspects of your nature.
Giving money to charity is a sure way to free you from the tentacles of your selfinterest. Money epitomizes self-absorption. When you give money to charity, you are giving of your efforts, your abilities, and your time. When you give to charity, you receive something important: You fulfill the fundamental human need to share what has been given to us. Fulfilling that need — within yourself — brings you into contact with, and closer to, your attributes of selflessness.
Selfishness is commonly understood as being synonymous with “human nature.” Why fight our very nature? 3. Practice Faith
4. Love Unconditionally
The ego is a voice that covers up the free and pure voice that we were born with, also known as the “still small voice”, the “inner child”, and “the soul”. True faith, not blind faith, is not the absence of reason, but a transcendent force that is beyond reason. It allows you to travel within yourself, to a place that is beyond the conventional personality you project, to a place where your still small voice is doing the talking. When your still small voice speaks, you experience no ego and only connection to the infinite world around you. When you focus on the now, you take your selfishness out of the equation.
True love is unconditional love. With superficial love, you love the other in order to have your own needs met. With true love, you love the other unconditionally, whether they meet your needs or not. When you practice unconditional love in your personal relationships, you are exercising your “selflessness muscle”. You are simultaneously overcoming your own selfishness, and making selflessness your default mode of operation.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Rabbi Simon Jacobson is the author of the best-selling book Toward a Meaningful Life. He heads The Meaningful Life Center, which the New York Times called a “Spiritual Starbucks.” Rabbi Jacobson was responsible for publishing the talks of the late the Lubavitcher Rebbe, where he headed a team of scholars that memorized and transcribed entire talks that the Rebbe gave during the Sabbath and holidays.
DEALING WITH ANGER: A 3 STEP PROCESS By Velly Slavin
This article is the combination of three blog posts from Velly’s Happiness Hacks Blog. www.chabad.com.au/ HappinessHacks
Introduction: Anger Danger
In the Kabbalah, anger is analogous to fire. Fire can easily grow out of control and its nature is to consume and destroy anything in its path. The same holds true with when one is fired up and overcome with anger. We losecontrol of the ability to properly assess any given situation. This lack of judgement leads to mistakes, often very damaging ones. As Will Rogers once said: “People who fly into a rage always make a bad landing.” Love builds and anger destroys. A lifetime of work and toil can vanish in one moment of anger. It is for this very reason that the great Jewish philosopher Rambam, who largely advocated to always find the middle ground between two extremes, makes a clear exception to the rule when it comes to anger. In his ‘Laws of Personal Development’, he states the following: “Anger is an exceptionally bad quality. It is proper to distance oneself from anger to the furthest 3
“Love builds and anger destroys. A lifetime of work and toil can vanish in one moment of anger.”
extreme and train oneself not to become angry even in response to an incident that rightfully calls for anger.” Even if anger is justified it invariably leads to loss of control and so often to regrettable conduct. Anger doesn’t necessarily result from not being a mensch, for the anger might be logically justified. But not being a mensch will result from anger. When anger makes its appearance, to a large degree it takes over the very faculty needed to contain it –a person’s objective thinking. For this reason it’s very important to have an action plan in advance, so that we are ready to mobilise when the moment of need arises.
everything ok?” Anger is often based on split-second determinations. We see something, and without knowing all the relevant information, we make judgments and assessments while filling in information gaps with ‘logical’ assumptions.
Here are three things to stop and consider when a scenario that makes us react angrily presents itself.
Nothing heals anger better than time.That’s the difference between feeling angry in response to something, and responding to something with anger. The passage of time will allow you to assess things rationally and with a clear mind.
1. The complete picture
Steven Covey, author of the best-selling book ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’, writes that he was once traveling on a train when a man entered the train with his two sons. The children were acting rowdy and annoying some of the commuters. When this continued for a while, the irritated Covey asked the father why he didn’t do something to control his kids. “We just got back from the hospital where their mother died,” the father replied. “I don’t know how to handle it, I guess they don’t know either.”
The power of the pause allows you to ask yourself the question: Am I operating with the full picture? This advice is more profound than it first seems. Anger naturally dies away. It disappears by itself. When anger first explodes, it appears to be a raging fire that cannot be stopped. But doesn’t the biggest conflagration eventually burn out?
Covey operated with an incomplete picture, as a result of demanding without clarifying, he brought on more pain to an already grieving father, and he himself become overwhelmed with regret. All would have been different had he approached the father with an innocent question “Hey, is
Pausing for time and not acting immediately allows the anger to: A. die away; and B. gives us time to see if we are actually operating with the full picture.
3. Who is in the picture?
2. The larger picture
The first step applies to all interactions, regardless of who you are upset at.The second step applies to significant relationships.
How does one control anger when after due deliberation, the original feelings have been verified? If the infraction is between people who are in an important relationship, the offended party would be wise to put the incident in proper perspective by viewing it as part of a bigger picture.
The following pertains particularly to spousal relationships. When we do something wrong and it is brought to our attention, generally our first response is denial. It’s simply our instincts kicking in. We declare: “I did not do that.” When we can no longer deny that we did something wrong, our next response is to rationalise. We say: “I know you think I did something wrong, but allow me to explain why it is really not wrong at all.” When we cannot rationalise, our third response is to justify. We say: “I know it was wrong, but let me explain why in this particular situation I had the right to do that.”
In our daily lives, so much anger and anguish can be prevented if we adopt a broader outlook. After completing the first step and ascertaining that indeed an action that logically warrants anger has transpired, it’s time to ask yourself the next question: “In one or two weeks from now, if I think back to this indiscretion, will I still be bothered? Will I still consider it consequential?” It is safe to say that for the vast majority of irritating moments, the answer will be no. What looks like a mountain now is almost certain to appear as a molehill when viewed through the rearview-mirror.
The Talmud states: “People do not see their own faults.” People tend to justify and excuse their own bad behavior. Also, we have a holistic view of ourselves. Our faults are covered with a layer of self-love.
And if you determine that the infraction is such that you will still be bothered about it in two weeks, then you must probe a bit deeper and ask yourself whether it merits endangering your relationship with, for example, your spouse, parent, sibling or close friend. Think of all the good times, the wonderful things they undoubtedly did for you and vice versa. Will your anger, however justified, actually help erase the other person’s wrongdoing? If we work with healing the relationship or issue at hand as the end result, anger rarely has any place in the equation.
This self-love is so strong that many of us, aware of certain things that we did, accept these faults of our own with relative equanimity. If we view our spouse as our self, then faults of the spouse and problems in the marriage become our own problem. Practically, this means that when a spouse messes up – whether inadvertently or intentionally – we don’t judge. We understand that this is simply a personal challenge that must be addressed and overcome in the context of a whole person and relationship.
“How does one control anger when after due deliberation, the original feelings have been verified” Conclusion: Human Humility
The Kabbalah also equates fire with arrogance. The nature of fire is to constantly rise, so it is with arrogant people, they constantly attempt to rise above others. The word for man in Hebrew is Adam which comes from the Hebrew word Adamah (Earth), for man was first fashioned from the earth. Interestingly the English word ‘human’is derived from the Latin roothumusmeaning earth or ground. When we are grounded and free from arrogance, it’s called humility. When we take ourselves too seriously, we are told “get over yourself.”It’s a perfect statement. Get over self. Transcend ego. When we become an Adam, truly ‘Human’, it is harder for the actual emotion of anger to arise within us to begin with.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Velly is the Director of the Chabad Malvern Meaningful Living Centre and Co-director of Chabad Malvern’s Giving Kitchen, where he fulfils his two greatest passions in life; teaching Judaism’s timeless relevance and meaning, and cooking for charity. Enjoy Velly’s happiness blog www.chabad.com.au/ happinesshacks
Emotional Wellbeing fragile, deep and strong woman warrior. A woman who is facing an excruciating challenge with candor and courageous faith—a challenge that has changed her family’s lives in unimaginable ways. Dina married Yitzi Hurwitz in 1996. “I never met anyone with so much joy and excitement. He literally danced when he walked.” She was sure that no one else could possibly have such a deep love. Their delight and happiness shines from pictures of the two. The young couple started a Chabad center in Temecula, Calif., a small community about 100 miles from Los Angeles. “Yitzi’s life dream was to be a foot soldier of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and show people how beautiful it is to be Jewish,” explains Dina. A hands-on father, he adored their growing family. Life progressed, filled with the normal demands of work, travel, community, family.
WOMAN WARRIOR DINA HURWITZ ON PAIN, FAITH, HUMOR, STRENGTH
In 2012, everything changed. Yitzi started complaining, “Something’s not right with my mouth,” he said. Friends joked about the non-drinking rabbi who had slurred speech, sounding drunk. Six months of testing led to a devastating diagnosis: bulbar onset ALS, the most aggressive type of this neuromuscular disorder more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Communication between the brain and muscles fails to work properly, and the muscles slowly atrophy and die. At first, Yitzi’s speech was affected, with some diminishment on his left side, but many normal activities were still possible. He was able to communicate through a text-to-voice app. But the disease forged mercilessly ahead.
By Miriam Karp
oogle Dina Hurwitz. You may find a video of a poised, articulate, lovely woman speaking before thousands of fellow Chabad emissaries at their convention in 2016 or before an attentive crowd at a Chabad House. “She’s got it all together,” you may think.
Dina helplessly watched “this outgoing musician, storyteller, dancer, rabbi and great
But behind that smooth facade lies an honest,
communicator, who could talk to anyone in the world,” lose all those abilities over the period of a year-and-a-half.
of readers. Dina shares her path, how she learned to differentiate between pain and suffering, and how a woman who was “completely paranoid about public speaking” realized that she had vital life lessons to share. She now speaks about her story in many venues around the world with humor, poignancy, a few tears and, most importantly, gritty, real-life inspiration that every member of the audience can take home and apply to their challenges, big or small.
Today, Rabbi Yitzi is bedridden and mostly paralyzed. A tracheotomy has extended his life well beyond the expected two-year duration. After nearly five years, this dancing, singing beacon of life is more than 95 percent immobile, except for two things: He can smile, and he can move his very expressive eyeballs. Period.
Following are a few of the many powerful
Many would be tempted to wallow in self-pity or anger. But the couple has heroically risen to the challenge. Even with these unimaginable limitations, Yitzi expresses intense love and optimism, and deeply touches many lives, combining the latest technology and his ironclad determination to find whatever way possible to give and spread happiness. He shares his indomitable spirit by laboriously writing a blog with the movement of his eyes, focusing on each letter with a Tobii gazeactivated keyboard; a daylong, exhausting task. This weekly blog has thousands of followers around the world.
insights Dina has learned:
Identity: If asked who we are, most of us would describe our talents and our work, as this forms our identities. As Dina watched all these talents slip away from Yitzi, she realized that he never lost his self. His core was a loving soul. As a teaching goes: “We’re not a body with a soul, we’re a soul with a body.” Left with only his eyes as a means to communicate, she says in some ways he’s exactly who he always was. “We all are a soulburning strong. We have value—whoever we are and whatever we do or don’t or can’t do— just by virtue of being alive.”
And as for Dina? At first it was about sheer survival (mental, physical and logistical): raising their seven children, dealing with ongoing complex medical issues, finances and countless other demands, without collapsing or marinating in bitterness. But this enormous challenge has grown, and grown her, into more.
Pain vs. suffering: Dina describes the time her attitude started to expand, about two years after the diagnosis. Yitzi had to have a tracheotomy, adjust to it and start having 24/7 nursing care. “We all have pain. It’s part of life. But suffering is pain without purpose. I slowly started to realize that maybe I could find purpose in this, maybe I could help others.”
She has cried. And mourned. And been bitter. And coped. And laughed. And loved. And learned.
She shares her insights, frustrations, faith and compassion freely. A small family blog, “The Caffeinated Thinker,” started before Yitzi’s illness has grown into an honest and empathetic source of strength for thousands
With characteristic candor and humor, Dina assures her listeners that she’s no Pollyanna. “I’m REALLY good at being non-happy. I believe in using our G‑d-given talents. Mine
is kvetching and complaining, and I use them well!” Yitzi can now communicate with his wife via texts to her phone. Since his typing is so slow and arduous, he has many saved messages that he can resend. One she often receives is: “You kvetch so nicely.”
“The pain we feel is directly related to the love we feel. If we are lucky, then the pain is excruciating. That means the love was so very powerful and special, and this is a gift we do not all get. So don’t hide from it, it is not a bad thing, it is a reflection of the love we have, and that is a blessing.”
So when Dina talks about choosing our attitude and choosing happiness, we listen. Not only is it her nature to enjoy a good kvetch, she’s got more than every possible reason to do so. She says, “If it was just me, I would have just closed myself in a closet and cried forever. But I have seven children and a husband who need me.”
Soul mission: “Let’s imagine for a minute that G‑d took our hand in His and said: ‘I have a job for you. It’s going to be a hard one, but I know you can do it. Your path will be full of heartbreak and difficulties, yet you will be able to help and comfort many. When it’s time, I will show you how important it was and how necessary you are, but until then, although you will comfort many, none will comfort you.’ ”
When they were told that Yitzi only had two years, she thought long and hard. “What are the next two years going to be like? Mommy falling apart or a time full of good memories? I learned and decided that there’s really little we can control, any of us. But we can choose our attitude. Happiness is really a choice. Depending on our attitude, that’s in many ways how well we’ll do.”
This is probably true for most of us. Our challenges are straight from G‑d, and we know He is good and kind, and the only reason He would put coal through the fire is to make a diamond. Our souls were each told something like this on their way down, and we really have no say in that part of the deal. The part we do have a say in is what we do with it.”
About anger and arguing with G‑d: Not an angel, she describes her journey through the grieving steps of anger at G‑d. “G‑d, if you think this is going to make us stronger, or better, or teach us something I guarantee You that it won’t work. Soon You will realize nothing good will come from this, and You will give up on this grand plan.” After many ups and downs, and much inner work, she eventually had the realization that there might actually be some good in the midst of this tremendous challenge. “Occasionally, I feel slightly wiser. I can see so much good and can use this to comfort so many others. I see how Yitzi has inspired so many in need of inspiration and reminded us all not to take life for granted. He may be locked in his body but his mind and heart and soul sing with freedom.”
Finding purpose and acceptance: “As stubborn as I am, I refused to accept that this reality is ours for the long haul. That refusal allowed me to constantly imagine a miracle and things going back to ‘normal,’ yet prevented me from using this challenge in the way that Yitzi does, as a platform to reach those in a similar situation. He was the Chabad emissary in our small community of Temecula, and now he is an emissary to many people of the world trying to live with the challenges G‑d has given them. If the cost wasn’t so high, I would say he has been given a promotion. I don’t think I will ever achieve the level of peace that he has,
“We all have pain. It’s part of life. But suffering is pain without purpose.”
yet it’s time to stop dreaming and get to work. Since Yitzi got sick, I have had the pleasure of sharing our story and the lessons we have learned with many people around the world. It is my way of finding purpose in our challenge. I never expected or wanted to be a speaker. I am shy and private, and this is so far from my comfort zone. Yet here I am. I have found a way to make my husband proud and bring comfort to people.
than the vitamins (but take the vitamins anyway). Buying new lipstick or shoes can be very helpful as well, but sometimes, the thought that buying something will somehow change my circumstances is laughable or cryable. Reading a good book, coloring with my kids, watching the waves at the ocean—all good. Each person takes care of themselves their own way, but it has to be done.”
On self-care: “People who are the caretakers for a loved one, usually women, give their everything for months or years on end, often begin to fall apart and learn the hard way how important it is to take care of themselves as well. I am not very good at it, but I am learning. Make sure to eat at least two meals a day, preferably healthy. Vitamins are essential. Seven cups of coffee and two bars of chocolate are not helpful, no matter what. Walking in a place with more trees than people sets my heart at ease. Talking to a good friend who loves me, even when there is nothing left to love, is even more important
Dina’s honesty, courage, sharing of struggles, pain and growth have benefited so many. She has taught by hard-earned lesson with words from the heart, helping us learn to choose happiness and honestly share our humanness with those around us; to cherish each moment of life and each muscle we can move; to appreciate each smile and word we can share and give. Printed with permission from chabad.org ABOUT THE AUTHOR Miriam Karp is an award-winning writer, artist, Judaic studies teacher and lecturer. Her paintings explore intimate moments in Jewish life.
THE 7 HABITS OF HEALTHY PEOPLE Judaism has a very wholistic
Organization (WHO) definition of health. According to WHO:
view of health. Judaism con-
Health is defined as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
siders a human being to be a
Physical well-being involves both function and fitness. When our body is functioning well, all of the parameters of health routinely measured by your doctor such as: heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol remain in the normal range without taking any medications. When we are physically healthy we are neither underweight nor overweight.
combination of a physical body and a G-dly soul. By Dr Anne Abelman MBBS FANZCA www.optibod.com.au This article is based on a talk given by Anne at the Chabad Malvern Shavuot Tikkun Leil Ten Talks program
A healthy person digests their meals with ease. They don’t suffer from symptoms such as heartburn, indigestion, bloating or bowel disturbances. When you’re healthy, you feel energised when you wake up in the morning and your energy levels stay stable during the day. You don’t suffer from lethargy, fatigue or daytime tiredness.
e are taught to strive for balance and harmony in body, mind and soul. The Torah teaches us to care for our physical bodies because they are the houses of our souls.
When we are physically fit we are strong, flexible and able to do mild exercise effortlessly. Touching our toes, carrying our
In contrast, we have the World Health
“On good days we have enough willpower to take care of ourselves. But some days we just don’t have the energy. We’ve completely run out of willpower.” shopping and walking up stairs without getting breathless are all markers of being physically healthy.
we all know that we should be doing all of these things on a regular basis but the problem is not the knowing, it’s the doing.
People who are mentally healthy have no trouble with problem solving, concentration or remembering things. They are able to tolerate stressful situations well and are resilient. Being mentally healthy means that we can keep our emotions and moods in check.
We know what we should be doing but how do we actually get ourselves to do it? You walk through your front door, glad that your day is finally over. You’re exhausted. You’ve had a particularly stressful day. You’re starving and you know that you should snack on some veggie sticks or wait till dinnertime.
Social health means that we are able to interact with other people, form and maintain relationships and participate actively in community life. Being a productive, contributing member of society is an indicator of social health.
You know you shouldn’t grab a quick sugar fix but before you know it the chocolate, chips or cookie is in your stomach. You didn’t even taste it! On the good days we have enough willpower to take care of ourselves in the ways that we know will make us feel better and keep us healthy.
To maintain good health we need to incorporate the following 7 healthy behaviours into our lifestyle: drink enough water, eat nourishing, nutritious food, limit the amount of chemicals and preservatives that we put on and into our bodies, move our bodies, relax, sleep well and connect with other people.
But some days we just don’t have the energy. We’ve completely run out of willpower. Willpower is not something that is constant. It is highest in the morning and wanes as the day goes on. The more decisions we have to make in a day the less
These 7 behaviours are pretty obvious and
Emotional Wellbeing willpower we have at the end of it. There are many things that affect our willpower and there are things we can do to build more of it. One of the things we can do to keep our willpower levels higher is to make less decisions each day.
and the whole behavioural pattern happens automatically. Think of the way a river meanders through a valley.It always takes the same path because that’s what is easiest. Your mind is the same, once the same set of neurons start firing together, they become wired and you only have to do the first thing and the entire sequence happens automatically without your thinking about it.
The way to do this is to create patterns of behaviour that we do automatically without thinking. It’s estimated Once a behavior is A habit is has three comthat 40-45% of the a habit, you do it things that we do every ponents: the cue, the actual automatically. You day are automatic don’t make a decision routines that we do about whether you behavior and the reward. unconsciously. We do it or not. It just call these automatic happens. The less decisions you make the behaviours habits. more willpower you have. When you get in the shower you always wash In recent years, there’s been a lot of research yourself in the same order. I don’t know done in the psychological and neurological exactly what your personal washing routine fields in an attempt to better understand is but I do know for sure that you do it the our behaviours, both conscious and same way everyday automatically without unconscious. ever even thinking consciously about what you’re actually doing. We now understand how to create new habits and how to modify those habits that The same goes for brushing your teeth and don’t serve us. getting dressed. A habit is has three components: the cue, the Every time we do something actual behavior and the reward. Most people automatically,we don’t think about it are in the habit of brushing their teeth consciously and we save energy and morning and night. The cue for the brushing willpower by not having to make a decision. teeth habit is usually a combination of Habits form as shortcuts in our brain when being in a particular place, your bathroom, we repeat the same behaviours over and at a particular time. The cue is when the over again. Initially when we do something automatic behavior starts. In this example, new we have to think about exactly what the habitual behaviour is the actual brushing we’re doing. Once we’ve done the same of your teeth. The reward for brushing your thing several times, a pathway begins to teeth is that fresh minty feeling in your form in our brains. The more we repeat mouth. the same behaviour the stronger and more There are many different strategies that we stable that pathway becomes. Over time can use to design new habits to support us the neural pathway becomes so ingrained in our goal of living a healthier life. I will
focus on just one of these strategies today, a technique I call the shoelace strategy.
without thinking. With repetition, it had become a habit. The shoelace strategy works because you tie the trigger of the new habit to something that is already happening regularly in your day.
First let’s choose one of the 7 healthy behaviours. Most people know that they need to drink more water but that knowledge doesn’t always translate into taking the appropriate actions so here’s a way to bridge that gap.
The great thing about using the science of habit formation is that you can design a new habit that is specific for the way that you do things and if you don’t get it quite right the first time you can modify things until they work perfectly for you. The key to transformation is personalisation.
The behaviour that we want to incorporate into our lifestyle as a healthy habit is drinking water. Using the shoelace strategy, we find an action or activity that occurs often during our day or a place that we visit often during our day and we make this a cue for our new behaviour, in this case having a drink of water. For this particular habit our cue has to be something that occurs multiple times a day or somewhere we go multiple times a day because drinking water is something that we want to do regularly throughout our day. It’s important that the frequency of the cue you choose matches the frequency of the new behaviour that you want to create a habit out of.
This is just one example of how we can design habits for ourselves to ensure that we incorporate more healthy behaviours into our lives. The more healthy habits we can design and adopt, the healthier we can become without having to rely on willpower. I’m often asked if it’s easy to make the 7 healthy habits a part of one’s life and I always say that the concepts are simple but it takes effort and commitment to make any change stick in your life.
When I wanted to get myself to drink more water I thought that because I spend a fair amount of time in my car, all I had to do was bring a water bottle with me in the car and I would drink more water. That strategy didn’t quite work for me. I had the water bottle in the car but I still forgot to take a sip.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Dr Anne is a medical practitioner, nutritionist and health coach. She believes in the innate ability of the human body to heal itself given the right physical, mental and emotional environments. She has a mission to educate, empower and inspire women to nourish themselves back to optimal health with an optimally functioning body.
The cue had to be more specific. What else do you do when you’re driving around in the city? You stop at red lights. I realised that stopping at a red light was a really appropriate cue to get myself to take a sip of water. It happens very frequently and is a convenient time to take a drink.
Dr Anne knows that it’s possible for women of all ages to look better, feel better and live better. Once you know what to do and you have the tools make yourself do what needs to be done, you’ll be able to design a healthy sustainable lifestyle for yourself. You’ll be able to get slim & get healthy and stay that way permanently.
At first, I had to be mindful and remember to take that sip of water when I stopped at a red light but pretty soon I was doing it
DRIPPING WATER: GENTLE PARENTING By Sherri Mandell
ripping water. That’s how a parent has to speak: like a slow and constant drip.
Think of the child as a crop. There are different ways of watering crops. You can pour water on them with rotary sprinklers, a whirling deluge; or you can conserve your energy and work on the roots, gently, through a network of connections called drip irrigation, which
was invented here in Israel. You can drip on your children. And one day they will grow in the direction you have guided them. I learned this concept of gentle parenting recently when a woman told me something very important, something I wish I had known when I was parenting little kids. But it is still relevant for parenting older kids: You just keep saying it. Whatever it is. Ad nauseum. You just keep saying the same thing. The kids don’t have to buy it. They don’t have to do it. They don’t even have to listen. But if you keep saying it, eventually it will seep in. Maybe not now—maybe when they are twenty. But they will hear your voice. Isn’t that what a parent is, anyway, ultimately: a voice inside of a child?
“Isn’t that what a parent is, anyway, ultimately: a voice inside of a child? ” Think of our religion—how we say the same things over and over: the weekly Torah readings, the prayers. The hope is that those words one day will enter us, define us, change us— slowly.
son was murdered when he was thirteen. Before he was killed, I used to force the matter at hand with my children. I wanted them to do what I wanted them to do. Now. Not later. Not tomorrow.
G‑d, after all, created the world with words. And He didn’t have to yell to create.
But losing a child makes you revaluate your priorities. Makes you reevaluate everything. You don’t expect things to go your way. You don’t expect. You know that you can do your best and the worst can happen. All you can do is try.
This gentle method takes a lot of pressure off of the parent. She doesn’t have to get her way. She just has to define her way, describe her way, articulate her way, know her way; and just by uttering her way, she plants a seed within the child that can lead to movement. We usually think of movement as quick: quick obedience, rapid listening. But children aren’t built for rapid response to their parents. How often it is that they don’t respond, at least not the way you want them to. I remember when my kids were little I would ask them to stop screaming. I would ask them again. I would tell them. And then I would scream at them stop screaming. I would lose it. I was Crazy Mom. But as we moms grow up, we also learn. There is no need to force things. I learned this lesson in a very painful way. My
So now when I hear parents yelling at their kids I am a little bit shocked. I used to get into crazy power struggles with my kids. I wanted them to clean their rooms and do their homework and brush their teeth and sit at the table and go to sleep at a proper hour and I wanted them to obey me. After my son’s murder, it was so clear that the control I thought I had was false. I had no power. Now I was happy because they were alive. I truly appreciated them. I wanted to be with them, just to be with them. I didn’t need them to listen to me. It’s amazing that the power struggles stopped. Now for me to get into a power struggle
with a child is rare, very rare. Yes I occasionally lose it, but I don’t have to be right and I don’t have to force my will. I can be like water, dripping on a rock. The great Sage and scholar Rabbi Akiva, a man who first studied the Torah when he was forty and had no confidence that he would be able to learn it, noticed the way that water had hollowed a cavity in a rock. He said something to the effect that if gentle water could hollow a rock, then the words of Torah (which are compared to water) could also penetrate him. Our words are water and sometimes our children are rocks. But rocks can be sculpted. Especially if you are willing to wait.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Sherri Mandell is the author of The Road to Resilience and The Blessing of a Broken Heart. Both books can be found on amazon.com
GETTING PAST THE WHATEVER ATTITUDE By Chana Weisberg
parent turns to her teenaged son and asks, “What’s bothering you?” “Whatever,” answers the kid with a disconsolate shrug. A father questions his daughter, “Have you finished your homework? Did you study for your test?” The daughter turns up the volume on her head-phones and mutters, “Whatever.” Overheard in conversation: What should we do about the terrorism? About the starving children in Africa? About global warming? “Whatever.” To me, nothing captures the spirit of the times like this ubiquitous whateverness. We are a Whatever Generation who lives by the motto of “live and let live.” Our openness is lauded as tolerance, but to me it smells more like apathy. I’ve noticed that when I ask my children what they want for dinner, I’ll never hear “Whatever”; I’ll be very specifically
informed which foods they like and dislike, and how they prefer it to be cooked. But as soon as something beyond our most immediate needs is at stake, it becomes too much of an exertion to express a passionate stand, to formulate a well-reasoned opinion, or to intervene with practical assistance. So we suffice with “Whatever.” “Whatever” means I don’t really think that you sincerely care. Even if you are concerned enough to ask, I don’t think that you’ll put forth the necessary effort to change the situation or help me improve my circumstances. So, let’s be honest: if you don’t really care about this and I certainly don’t, then why are we even bothering to discuss it? So the teenager sulks silently and explores all kinds of harmful pursuits in order to forget his misery. The couple joins 50% of the married population in divorce court because they couldn’t be burdened with the extensive effort necessary to work through their conflicts. And our children continue to feel that their education is irrelevant. I’m not sure how this whateverness became so ingrained in our society. Perhaps it began as true tolerance for the practices of others. Maybe the media bombardment of atrocities and calamities—natural or man-caused— created within us this defense mechanism to counteract feelings of absolute helplessness in the face of so much tragedy. Or maybe it happened with the fast-paced speed of technological advancement: with the whole world our village, we sense ourselves to be insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Regardless of its causes, this caustic apathy needs to be counteracted from the roots upward, beginning with the earliest and most formative years of our children’s lives.
We must impart two basic values to our children, values that Judaism has been espousing from time immemorial:
day of creation. Our sages explain that this was to teach us responsibility to our world. If a human being acts with morals and ideals, acknowledging his responsibility for the rest of creation, he is higher than all creatures. If, however, man shuns his responsibility, he has sunk lower than even the smallest insect crawling on the earth.
The Torah teaches us that when G‑d created the first human being, Adam, He created him as a single individual (unlike every other plant or animal species). The reason, explain our sages, is that G‑d wished to teach us, for all perpetuity, the importance of every human being; that every person is indeed an entire world.
Our challenge is to inculcate our children with these essential, foundational beliefs: You matter. You are important. You are a being with infinite potential. You are a whole world, and you can make an impact. Respect yourself. Respect who you can be. And act in accordance. As great as you are, your greatness is only reflected in realizing that there are things greater than you that are worth sacrificing for: values and morals, community and family. Your personal happiness is not an end to itself, but you must feel a sense of responsibility for your world.
On the other hand, mankind was created last of all creations, on the sixth
“We are a
These simple but fundamental values are what distinguish us as human beings. They are essential for us to believe and for our children to trust.
Because there is just too much at stake for us to abandon our children to the cruelties of an irreverent and irrelevant whatever world.
Generation who lives by
Printed with permission from Chabad.org
the motto of
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
“live and let
Chana Weisberg is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org. She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul.
LESSONS FROM MY FATHER Elie Wiesel’s Son On His Rebellion, And His Father’s Love In honour of Elie Wiesel’s first yahrtzeit, his only child reflects on the greatest gift his father gave him. By Elisha Wiesel
“Just be.” As the cancer progressed with episodic violence, and my father came closer to his end, I would often ask what I could do for him. And, smiling, he would hold my hand and look into my eyes and say: “Just be.” Nothing more than that. There were no more requests. No message he needed me to deliver, no instruction he needed me to absorb. Now the only thing he wanted to convey was his love for me, and his faith in the direction I would take my life. He wanted me to understand what my existence meant to him, not the concept of a son, but the actual me, the good and the bad and the imperfect and flawed, the whole package. “Just be.” My education from my father had begun at an early age. When I was only a few years old, he followed the instructions, as best he could, of rabbinic sages who said parents must teach their children to swim. Though my father could not swim, and my mother was terrified anytime he went near a pool, he arranged for instruction for me. His educational demands had been more specific some 30 years ago, though with no less love and confidence in me. “Be
a good student,” he said. “Be a good son. Be a good Jew.” As a young adult, I did the opposite. I raged against my school, against my parents and against my tradition. My father was ill-equipped to explain the rules of modern adolescence, and I raged against myself. His love seemed too heavy to bear, the confidence he had in me grievously misplaced. There is a chasidic story of the Baal Shem Tov, who was once approached by a chasid, bemoaning how far his son had strayed. The rebbe’s surprising answer: Love your son more. My father must have heard this story because he lived it. He believed in me even when I did not believe in myself. He believed in me as I set out on a journey that would take me very far from Judaism and from him. And he believed in me even as I shouted at him that I wanted nothing to do with his religion, that I wanted to be an X factor in every equation he and my mother had used to project my life, that I would be an atheist or a Buddhist, anything but what he told me I had to be. My father kept telling me to be a good student, a good
“How could my father love me the way he did, when my disrespect was so severe?”
son, a good Jew. But he said it more quietly. And he kept setting an example by studying Torah himself, by revering the name of his own parents, by defending the Jewish people and Jewish values. Perhaps he had learned more than I realized in watching the instructor teach me, when I was 2, how to swim — that the most important part of the teaching is in the letting go. How could my father love me the way he did, when my disrespect was so severe? His love for me was an impossible love. His belief in me was an impossible belief. But he had a way of holding impossible beliefs. And now I, too, have impossible beliefs, beliefs that do not square with rational thought. I believe he is still with me, still believing in me. In the moment when he died, he went from being somewhere to being nowhere — and then he was everywhere. It was as though I could feel the universe resonating with his love for me, saying: I am still loving you. I will always love you. I am with you in everything you do. Do you remember when Ben Kenobi was struck down in “Star Wars” (Episode IV) and becomes more powerful than ever? It was like that, except that I
alone could feel it. I can feel him loving me even today, if I just open myself up to it. “Just be.” I spoke to a friend recently who always felt while growing up that she was never good enough for her father. There was always one more trophy to win, one more Ivy League school to add to her resumé. When I ask her about her relationship with him, she says she can always hear her father whispering in her ear: “not good enough.” What will she hear for the rest of her life once her father has passed? And what will that do to her? I spend a lot of time these days thinking about how I want my children to remember me. One day my son and daughter will say Kaddish and observe Yizkor for me. Will my flaws loom larger in their memory than the things I did right? Will they remember me as having loved them like crazy, and having believed that they can do anything they set their hearts and minds to? Yizkor is for the dead and for the living. It is a reminder of our own mortality. It is a reminder to decide who we want to be and how we want to be remembered. Do you say everything you have to say, the way my father did, until there is nothing left? Are you squeezing every last drop of experience out of your time on this Earth? Did someone, anyone, have a better day today because of something you said or did? If you are a parent whose children still live with you, do you come home early from work every so often to play a game with your kids? Are you figuring out how to teach your children — and when to stop teaching them and start trusting in them, and acknowledging that this may be the greatest lesson of all? And when they ask you what they need to do next, or what they can do for you, will every fiber in your being transmit to them: “Just be”? ABOUT THE AUTHOR Elisha Wiesel is the son of Marion and Elie Wiesel.
“Jewish parents ha
POSITIVE PARENTING This article is from Velly’s “Heart Work” exercises: meaningful and relevant explanations and meditations that Velly presents on select prayers in our Shabbat and Yom Tov davening. Our Goal is for the Chabad Malvern davening experience to extended beyond the walls of Shul, where the inspiration gained can be easily applied to modern day life. By Velly Slavin
ust as parents are obligated to raise children who will become emotionally, morally and practically self-sufficient adults, Jewish parents have an added responsibility to raise children who are ‘Jewishly’ selfsufficient. G-d entrusted us with Jewish children. The education they receive needs to nurture their unique Jewish identity and soul. Nurturing our children’s ‘Jewishness’ is not only our obligation to G-d, but also our obligation (and gift) to our children. The Jewishness of our children is central to their identity. When we help them realise this special potential, we give them the greatest possible gift – the gift of self-development and self-expression. The gift of being themselves. We need to give our children Judaism in a form that allows them to own it, one that encourages and enables them to become
ave an added responsibility to raise children who are ‘Jewishly’ self-sufficient.”
independently Jewish and proud practicing Jews.
Mitzvot as the greatest possible gift. In our daily morning prayers we declare: “Fortunate are we! How good is our portion, how pleasant is our lot and how beautiful our heritage.”
But how do we accomplish this difficult feat? Our relationship with Judaism, studying Torah and keeping the Mitzvot certainly comes with challenges, and at the same time it is the greatest blessing. Calling it the greatest blessing is not being in denial, it’s about our choice of focus.
It’s time we impart that message to our children
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Velly Slavin is the Director of the Chabad Malvern Meaningful Living Centre and Co-director of Chabad Malvern’s Giving Kitchen, where he fulfils his two greatest passions in life; teaching Judaism’s timeless relevance and meaning, and cooking for charity.
This choice will have a tremendous impact on our children. The way we view our Jewishness, is the key to how (and whether) our children will embrace it. Essential for Jewish continuity is a positive attitude towards Judaism. The ingredient that helps ensure that our children become self-sufficient Jewish adults is a healthy dose of Jewish pride as well as viewing Judaism, the Torah and
Enjoy Velly’s happiness blog www.chabad. com.au/happinesshacks
SEVEN AWE-INSPIRING PRAYERS THAT JEWISH WOMEN SAY By Yvette Miller
udaism offers prayers to say for every occasion.
But a few prayers said by women offer a distinct path to communicate with the Divine. Here are seven amazing prayers that can help women ascend to new heights in self-awareness and help us forge an even stronger connection with G‑d.
“In these precious moments, I reflect on the generations of women who have prayed such words and lit these Shabbat candles before me.” 23
1. Made According to G‑d’s Will The “Morning Blessings,” are a series
of short prayers typically said each morning upon arising, thanking G‑d for allowing us to wake up and greet a new day. Tucked into these many special blessings, Jewish women (1) utter a beautiful prayer: Blessed are You, G‑d, our L‑rd, King of the Universe, for having made me according to His will. It’s an expression of utter trust in the Almighty, who created women as “the Crown of Creation.” In Judaism, women are seen as endowed with innate spirituality. Whereas men require an extensive network of Mitzvot and religious obligations in order to feel close to G‑d, women need no such external props. It is our nature to be nurturing and spiritual, which are the highest qualities in Jewish thought. Thus, instead of thanking G‑d for giving us tools to access higher spirituality, this prayer allows us to pause for a moment and thank G‑d for something even greater: for endowing us with an innate sense of holiness. This blessing also reminds us to use this G‑d-given quality to grow and nurture others throughout our day.
home and our loved ones. In these precious moments, I reflect on the generations of women who have prayed such words and lit these Shabbat candles before me.
2. Ushering in Shabbat With Prayer My favorite moment of the week comes a few moments before Shabbat begins on Friday afternoon. Like most Jewish homes, the business of the workweek is nonstop; on Friday, that pace only intensifies. Finally, my daughter and I gather in the dining room, ready to usher in Shabbat with our prayers. (2) First, we drop money into the Tzedakah box near our Shabbat lights; this helps elevate us and remind us of the loving, giving people we hope to be. Lighting the Shabbat candles, we close our eyes and wave the light towards us, symbolically bringing the sanctity of the Day of Rest closer. Then, with our eyes still covered, we carefully pronounce the timeless blessing: Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, Who sanctified us with His commandments, and has commanded us to kindle the light of the Sabbath. Afterwards, while we’re still immersed in the holiness of the moment, we say additional prayers. We ask for a complete recovery for sick people in our community; we pray for the welfare of others; and we ask G‑d to bless our
3. Baking Challah With Prayer While not every Jewish woman bakes fresh challah each week, making challah from scratch is a soothing, beautiful way to connect with generations of women who came before us, all working to make their families’ Shabbats meaningful and complete. We also gain an additional opportunity—the beautiful Mitzvah to make a blessing over separating challah(3). Just as in other areas of our lives, when we are not free to use all that we’re given by the Divine, but are commanded to share it and help others, so, too, with our challah: a small portion of it is reserved for other use. In the days of the Temple, this portion would have been given to the Kohens who worked in the Temple; today, the portion we separate is burned. After mixing all the ingredients together in a dough, we say the blessing, Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to separate challah. We then separate a small piece of dough.
4. Wishing Farewell to Shabbat In some households, a special prayer is said just as Shabbat is leaving, right before the Havdalah ceremony marking the end of the weekly holiday. Just as women bring Shabbat into the Jewish home, some women have the custom of saying this prayer as Shabbat leaves. The prayer is written in Yiddish, the traditional language of Eastern European Jews. As I recite its beautiful words, praying “that the coming week may arrive to bring perfect faith . . . love of and attachment to good friends, attachment to (our) Creator” and other blessings, I feel that I am part of a chain of Jewish women going back countless generations, all wishing for peace and love and good things for their families and their communities. I conclude with the timeless wish: “May this week arrive for kindness, for good fortune, for blessing, for success, for good health, for wealth and honour, and for children, life and sustenance, for us and for all Israel. Amen.” I feel energized, ready and hopeful to face the new week.
5. Bedtime Ritual In many homes, it is the women who most often tuck their children into bed at night. This gives us a lovely chance to say a central prayer with our kids, the Shema, which has connected countless generations of Jews with the Divine: Hear O Israel, G‑d is our L‑rd, the One and Only. It’s a powerful lesson to share with our children; at the end of the day, it is G‑d who is our most constant companion and aide in life. Not too long ago, the power of reciting these timeless words with our children saved Jewish children from growing up in Catholic orphanages and allowed them to connect with their Jewish community again. At the close of World War II, Rabbi Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman travelled to Europe looking for Jewish children whose desperate parents had entrusted them to convents and Catholic orphanages. Priests and nuns shielded these children and saved their lives, but at the cost of their Jewish identity. When the Rabbi asked if there were any Jewish children in their institutions, they insisted there were not. Instead of leaving, Rabbi Kahaneman famously would begin reciting Shema Yisrael. In each place, Jewish children would remember how their parents used to tuck them in at night, saying those words. “Mama, mama!” Jewish children would cry out, remembering their mother’s tenderly tucking them into bed and whispering this timeless Jewish declaration together with them. He was thus able to bring many Jewish children back to their people.
nourished in nature by rain—and remind us that everything we have comes directly from the Divine. We immerse ourselves in the waters of the Mikvah, then recite the blessing, Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the Universe, Who Has Commanded us to Immerse (in the Mikvah).
6. Thinking of Others at Life’s Important Moments It’s a beautiful custom in Judaism that at some of life’s most important moments, we think of others. We Jewish women recognize that we are in heightened spiritual moments, and so we pray. We pray for ourselves, for our future happiness and for others. Many Jewish brides-to-be collect the names of friends and others who need a blessing, and in the holy moments before they stand under the Chuppah, use that intensely spiritual time to pray for health, for healing and for others to find their mates soon as well.
Afterwards, while we are still standing in the Mikvah’s warm waters, it’s customary to take a moment to commune privately with G‑d, asking the Divine to bless us, our families and to honour any personal requests we’d like to make. It’s an intensely holy moment—an auspicious time to review our relationship with the Divine and to pray. These are just a few of the special moments that Jewish women have historically used to reach out beyond the constraints of our everyday lives. They infuse our lives with holiness and bring ourselves, as well as our families and communities, a little closer to the Divine spark we all long for in our innermost souls. FOOTNOTES 1. There are varying customs regarding whether to recite this blessing. One should follow one’s own custom. 2. If no women are resident in the home, then a man lights the Shabbat or holiday lights. But when a woman is present in the home, she performs this vital task. 3. A blessing is only said when we make a large batch of bread dough, one that uses more than 3 lbs., 11 oz. of flour.
7. Immersing in the Ritual Bath Each month, it is traditional for Jewish women to visit a Mikvah, or Jewish ritual bath, a week after the conclusion of her last menstrual period. The prayers we recite in the midst of the Mikvah are unique. We are at our most in tune with the natural world in this setting, surrounded by “living waters”—waters
Printed with permission from chabad.org ABOUT THE AUTHOR Yvette Alt Miller, Ph.D., is a mother and adjunct professor of political science living in Chicago. She is the author of Angels at the Table: A Practical Guide to Celebrating Shabbat (Continuum, 2011)
ne morning, I woke up and couldn’t breathe.
THE POWER OF SAYING ‘THANKS’ By Lily Smythe
In the moments that followed, I silently begged G‑d to help me, to save me, to return to me the gift I had taken for granted. Those were the most heartfelt prayers I had ever uttered, and when I could finally taste the air again, I cried out to G‑d in thanks. I will never forget this episode as long as I live. The feeling of choking and spluttering and gasping for air, as my lungs terrifyingly closed up, was not one that will leave in a hurry. When I began to breathe again— after what felt like hours of asphyxiation—I felt sicker than I ever had been before in my life. But I was alive. As I recovered, I said the morning prayers. Thanking G‑d for my soul and body felt especially heartfelt after what had happened to me that morning following
“In Judaism, we
a bout of sickness. I’ve not felt anything like it since; it taught me a powerful, if terrifying, lesson.
don’t wait for loss
Never take anything for granted!
to say thank you.
The Jewish prayers are unique. Our prayers are unlike those of any other faith. As a baal teshuvah (returnee to Judaism), I’ve been curious about many religions, and have read and explored their liturgies, hymns and prayer offerings. Within many of them, the central theme of thankfulness is present, but I’ve never seen it explored the way it is in Judaism.
We say it every day, for reasons not immediately obvious.
In Judaism, thankfulness is before us every moment of our lives. We thank G‑d when we wake up and go to sleep; before and after we eat; when we pray; when we wear new clothing; even when we use the bathroom. Life is one long expression of thanks to our Creator, through our words and our deeds. This unique, constant thankfulness resonates with us all. When you’ve lost something or someone, you are engulfed with grief, but aware of what you had. You realize, at last, how precious a gift G‑d had given you.
Because often, these reasons are the most valid of all.” Printed with permission from chabad. org ABOUT THE AUTHOR Lily Smythe is a Jewish woman living in London, England. She became interested in Judaism in her late teens, and after discovering her local Chabad house began a journey towards leading a Torah-observant lifestyle.
TWO-FACED HONESTY HYPOCRISY IS NOT ALWAYS A BAD THING I
By Naftali Silberberg
ntegrity is perhaps the most soughtafter character trait. Whether searching for a spouse, business partner, employee or friend, honesty is usually a nonnegotiable quality. When necessary, we make compromises regarding intelligence, disposition or other character flaws -- but we simply refuse to deal with someone who is perceived to be hypocritical and duplicitous.
so wish we could accommodate its wishes. Why don’t we? What is holding so many of us back from losing ourselves in the beautiful words of the prayerbook? Why can’t we block out all other thoughts and focus on G‑d for a few minutes a day? The culprit is our integrity.
“Who am I kidding? Me praying like some kind of saint?! You think I can fool G‑d with At times, however, a strong sense of integrity my prayers? He knows very well exactly who can be a significant impediment to spiritual I am. He saw what I did yesterday and the growth, and the cause of one’s undoing. day beforehand, and has a pretty good idea what I’ll be doing later today after prayers. Take prayer as a prime example. We are The same mind which was yesterday certainly aware that prayer is intended to be occupied with xxxx should now meditate on much more than a few minutes of mindless G‑d?! Believe me -- G‑d has no interest in muttering. Prayer has the potential of being my spiritual delusions of grandeur!” a personal audience with the Creator; an excursion into a spiritual world. Deep down The same is true in other areas of life -- we we all long to experience true prayer. We can are uncomfortable with certain mitzvot or sense our soul tugging at the leash, and we Jewish customs because we believe that
“Who am I kidding? Me praying like some kind of saint?! You think I can fool G‑d with my prayers?” observing them would be hypocritical. Often we aren’t concerned about what others will think; it’s our very own conscience that is stopping us. An examination of the Jew’s unique psyche should solve the integrity “issue.” Rabbi Isaac Luria, the famed 16th century mystic, taught that in addition to the standard soul which animates every human being, the Jew possesses a second soul -- a G‑dly soul. Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi explains this concept in very practical terms: Every person has many desires, many of which are naturally contradictory. For example, the dieting person simultaneously wishes to eat cake and to lose weight. When the alarm clock rings in the morning, many of us have conflicting desires -- wanting to awaken and wanting to throw the alarm clock out the window. Yet, looking beyond the surface reveals that these desires aren’t so contradictory after all -- they all stem from a yearning for self-gratification. The problem is that life is filled with so many paths to self-gratification. [Generally, these paths can be divided into two categories: a) The easy ones which lead to immediate but shallow gratification, and b) the hard-fought decisions which bring profound fulfillment.] The question is which path to self-
gratification will I choose today? Taste buds or self-esteem? Sleep or self-discipline? The agendas of the G‑dly soul and the human soul, however, really are conflicting. Each has a completely different objective. The human soul naturally craves that which will yield physical or emotional selfgratification. The G‑dly soul, on the other hand, has no sense of ego or personal agenda whatsoever. Its only desire is to serve G‑d and connect to Him. Prayer (or any other Torah commandment) is an expression of the G‑dly soul. All those activities which render the prayer “hypocritical” are expressions of the human soul. So where is the hypocrisy? The G‑dly soul’s integrity is absolute. It was never involved in any activity which contradicts its passionate prayer. It suffered silently while the human soul was in the driver’s seat, but now it is overjoyed that the time for prayer has arrived. Now it can take control and express its love for G‑d. So forget about what happened yesterday and what may happen later today. Right now it is time to pray; go ahead, indulge your G‑dly soul and focus on your prayer. Interestingly, after doing this several times you will notice that your “yesterdays” and “later todays” will suddenly start looking much nicer too! “A little light dispels much darkness.” Printed with permission from chabad.org ABOUT THE AUTHOR Rabbi Naftali Silberberg is a writer, editor and director of the curriculum department at the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute.
PASSING THE BUCK By Samantha Barnett
I’m going on the Birthright trip to Israel,” I announced to my friends in my weekly class on the Torah portion. “You are going to love it!” they all assured me. “You will feel right at home,” they said. It was nice bidding my class “bon voyage” as they supported me on my journey. As I walked out the door one of my classmates ran after me. “Wait!” he said. His arm stretched out between us. A crisp dollar bill was folded in between his fingers. “Thanks, but I can’t take your money,” I said laughing, nervously. What was this for? “It’s for tzedakah (charity). Give it to the cause of your choice when you are in Israel,” he said. Before I could protest, he left
and went back into the classroom. I stood outside staring at the dollar bill. I wondered why he wanted me to take his money. I tried to rationalize what had just happened, but it just seemed strange. I decided to do it anyway. He trusted me with his dollar, and I might as well do as he wished. When I went to Israel and donated the dollar, I had no idea why I was doing it. But I was happy to give the dollar to someone I felt might need it, and I had great pleasure helping out my friend back home—even though I felt his request was rather odd. As time went on, I noticed that other people would receive dollars when they announced they were going on a trip somewhere. I wondered about this strange tradition, and so I asked about it. I found out that it was actually a Jewish custom passed down by our sages. They say to give a coin to the traveller. The reason is for protection. How would my friend’s dollar protect me on my trip? According to the sages, there is extra protection given to someone who is en route to perform a mitzvah. Since I had a mission to give charity on behalf of my friend, I was not only protected, but I was doing a mitzvah.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe also handed out dollar bills to people who came to see him. When asked why, he would tell them that when two Jews come together, it should bring something good for a third Jew. The dollar was for charity. That dollar my friend gave me was so powerful. On the other end of the world, I was doing a mitzvah that he put into action. His mitzvah was mine as well. That single dollar made a difference, however big or small, in the life of a third person. However, the buck did not stop there. Once I learned the meaning of my friend’s dollar, I instituted it as my own custom when I heard my friends were going on their travels. It was even better than just wishing them “a safe trip.” It wasn’t just words anymore. It was an action. It was like I was investing in their safety. It made my words more meaningful. With my newfound tradition, I felt happy giving my friends a chance to do something good in the world. We were on a mission together. We were teammates. On the last day of her vacation to California, I gave my friend the dollar. She folded it lengthwise and then folded the corners in, until all you
could see was the “one” on the back of the bill. This is how she remembered that this bill was designated for charity. The “one” represented G‑d. The American dollar explained the custom well: “In G‑d we trust.” I loved her idea. It is a fundamental belief in Judaism that there is only one G‑d. According to the Torah, the word for charity, tzedakah, is often misinterpreted. Its real meaning is “justice.” A word with a similar root to tzedakah is tzaddik. A tzaddik means a righteous person. It is the ultimate compliment for a person to be called this, and it is what every Jew should strive to be. A tzaddik is a person who is one with G‑d because he does what is right. He makes others believe that there is good in the world and inspires them to want to be better. By using the money G‑d gave us to make the world a better place, we are investing in His world. We are doing what is just. Giving a dollar to my friends for their journeys symbolized to me the way G‑d must feel. Humans are on the journey of life. G‑d provides us with an income and asks us to give a portion of it to charity. He does not tell us where to give, but gives us the freedom to choose. He only asks us to spend it on our “travels” in order to help others. The inequalities we see are there so we can help fix
them. With a smile and an opened heart, we become ambassadors for the Almighty on earth. We are His partners.
“When two people come together
Our oneness with our it should Creator reminds us of our oneness with each other. affect a third It is an obligation to help others. It isn’t a choice we person.” have. Ten percent of our how deeply we are connected. earnings must go to aid Do our words and deeds bring other people. That money is about positive or negative not our own, but is set aside consequences? We need each for us to make a difference in the world. That is our mission; other. Are we partnering together to build a better it is what G‑d wants us to do. world? He literally put the power to change the world in our hands Who ever thought that “passing with the literal change he gives the buck” could have a good us. It is our way of being like connotation? The dollar my Him, which is what He wants friend gave me may have just from us. In our mitzvah, my been a small token, but really, friend and I were “one” with it was the gift that kept on both each other and G‑d. We giving. Through his example were working together for a I learned something new and single purpose bigger than established a tradition. What’s each of us. more, I have taught my friends about it too. They, in turn, have The Rebbe was right. When adopted it as their own. Giving two people come together it others the opportunity to give should, affect a third person. Tzedakah is a tangible example is the ultimate act of paying it forward. Who knows, maybe of this, but it is by far not the only example. When two people my friend’s dollar will be the one that changes the world. meet, they have the potential to change the world with both tangible actions and intangible words.
Printed with permission from chabad.org
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Whether we know it or not, we all influence the people around Samantha Barnett is a writer. She lives in Los Angeles, us. Are we setting positive California. examples? We must realize
Shabbat is... Shabbat is Rest: Shabbat is an island of tranquility in the maelstrom of work, anxiety, struggle and tribulation that characterizes our daily lives for the other six days of the week. For approximately 25 hours each week, the world literally comes to a halt: the business is closed, the car stays in the driveway, the phone stops ringing, the radio, TV and computer remain on “off,” and the pressures and worries of material life recede behind a curtain of oblivion. As we cease all creative involvement with the physical world, our focus turns inward -- to family and friends, to our inner self, to our soul.
Shabbat is Jewish Identity: Shabbat is Awareness: On Shabbat we remember that the world is not ours to do with as we please, but G‑d’s creation. On Shabbat we also remember that G‑d took us out of Egypt and decreed that never again shall we be slaves to any alien master -- our jobs, financial commitments and material involvements are the tools with which we fulfill our divine purpose, not the masters of our lives.
Shabbat is the bride of Israel, the soul-mate of the Jewish people. It is one of the most powerful ways to actualize our Jewishness and pass it along to our children. We have remained true to the Shabbat in every place, culture and circumstance of our 4,000-year history has visited -- from the glorious days to the blackest of night. In the words of a famous Jewish writer, “Even more than the Jews have kept the Shabbat, the Shabbat has kept the Jews.”
“We have remained Shabbat is a Taste of the World to Come:
true to the Shabbat in every place, culture and circumstance of our 4,000-year history has visited -- from the glorious days to the blackest of night.”
Shabbat is Pleasure: Shabbat is delicious food, a richly-set table, the glow of candlelight, sweet singing, luxuriant sleep. Throughout the week, our enjoyment of life’s blessings poses a certain challenge: we are physical beings in a physical world, and must be ever watchful that pleasure should not sink to decadence. But on Shabbat, both body and soul are elevated to a higher, more spiritual plane, and to pleasure the Shabbat with food, drink and comfort is a mitzvah, a G‑dly deed.
Shabbat is Spirituality: Shabbat is the soul of the week -- the vision that vitalizes it and the vision towards which it strives. The Kabbalists teach: On Shabbat all the accomplishments of the previous week achieve fulfillment and elevation, and from the Shabbat all endeavors of the upcoming week are blessed. Keeping the Shabbat secures G‑d’s blessing for success for our entire week, and infuses purpose and meaning into our week-long existence.
“In that time there will be no hunger or war, no jealousy or rivalry. For the good will be plentiful, and all delicacies available as dust. The entire occupation of the world will be only to know G‑d.” So do the prophets and sages of Israel describe the Age of Redemption -- the “seventh millennium” that will constitute the realization and fulfillment of six millennia of human history and endeavor to make this world a “home for G‑d.” Shabbat is our weekly taste of this future world. And much like the taste of any delicious food, one cannot truly understand what Shabbat is until one has experience it oneself. In the final analysis, the only answer to “What is Shabbat?” is: Try it! Printed with permission from chabad.org
PURIFYI Connected Living
WAT By Tzvi Freeman
here is nothing more holy in this world, nothing more precious to its Creator, than the union of a man and a woman. It is, after all, the fountain of life. What could be more precious than life—other than the source from which life comes?
And it is holy—because the first, pristine creation of a human being was as male and female as a single whole. That is the way we exist in G‑d’s mind. And so, none of us can achieve wholeness until we regain that original oneness in both body and soul. Precious things are kept in sealed boxes. Roses hide behind the thorns. There are clothes you wear to work or play, but there are also treasures in your wardrobe so beautiful, of such value, that they come out only at special times, under specific conditions. The union of a man and a woman is so precious that if it is treated casually, without conditions or boundaries, it becomes ugly and even destructive. Which all goes to explain why in the Jewish way of life there is a cycle of union and separation between husband and wife. And why the most important institution of Jewish life, next to the home, is the mikveh that stands at the vortex of that cycle. Because precious things only stay beautiful when you follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
There is a very practical reason, as well, to keeping these rules: They keep things sparkling. After all, even swimming with tiger sharks can get pretty dull if it’s the daily fare. On the other hand, a plain stone, if it’s withheld for a while, becomes a coveted jewel. Modesty and the period of separation inject that flavor of the forbidden into a relationship.
Consistently, couples report their relationships rejuvenated when they start living by the rules of separation and mikveh. Perhaps that’s why mikveh parking lots have become so crowded in the past few decades as more and more young couples make it a part of their lives -- some who have no other formal Jewish observance.
A Spa for the Soul Today’s mikveh looks more like a fashionable spa than a ritualarium. Luxurious bath and powder rooms, complete with commode, bathtub and vanity have become the standard. Fresh towels, disposable slippers, a comfortable robe, soap, shampoo, nail clippers and all 35
“The union of a man and a woman is so
TERS the other essentials necessary are usually provided. Many women talk about the immersion in the mikveh as a spiritual high, a state in which nothing stands between you and your G‑d; a return to the innocence of birth; a sanctification of all that is feminine. In fact, it’s not just your soul and body that become spiritually uplifted -- it’s your entire family and home.
Your Child’s Soul There are three partners in the conception of every child: the mother, the father and the One Above. The Talmud explains that the mother and father create the body, and One Above provides the breath of life. The Kabbalists take this a step further: also the spiritual self is a product of the three-way partnership. For the G‑dly soul is too lofty, too holy, to be contained within a physical body without protection. Just as an astronaut needs a spacesuit and a deep-sea diver needs an armored diving suit, so the soul needs an outfit that will allow it to survive and communicate with the body and the outside world. That survival suit is provided by the mother and father. All the good deeds and thoughts a person
precious that if it is treated casually, without conditions or boundaries, it becomes ugly and even destructive.” accomplishes in a lifetime are through the medium of that “suit.” Even the life and blessings that a person receives from Above must come through it. The soul itself may be pure and luminous, but if its suit doesn¹t match, that light will have great difficulty breaking through.
Where to Begin The best way to learn about the mikveh is to consult your local rebbetzin or mikveh attendant. Men can talk with a rabbi. Visit www. mikvah.org for more information and essays, as well as a worldwide directory and photographs and virtual tours of mikvehs around the world. Printed with permission from chabad.org ABOUT THE AUTHOR Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at Chabad.org, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth.
Tishrei 5778. Copyright Chabad Malvern, Creative Chinuch