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Response to “Unsure”

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Dear “Unsure”,

You are torturing yourself unnecessarily. As a fifteen year-old, why would you expect to ‘know for sure’ all the truths of Torah? How are you supposed to ‘know’ who created the world?!

You don’t how an airplane flies or how an antibiotic works. You’ve never seen a germ or a virus, and probably don’t know where your spleen is or what it looks like. Does any of this matter? No, you live your life based onknowledge received from the past without need to reinvent the wheel.

G-d created the world and gave the Torah on Mt. Sinai unless you have witnesses to the contrary.

The best and wisest minds among our sages, every one of them smarter than Einstein, studied the Talmud for three thousand years without doubt of its origin and you are not sure!

So you feel guilty as if you are responsible to prove or confirm cosmic truths! Get real. Relax. It’s not your job. Your job is to elevate yourself to a more productive, noble, respectful life every day.

Work on that. I guarantee you won’t regret it!

All I Got Was Words

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Speaking of words… here’s a really old classic.

 

All I Got Was Words

by: unknown

 

When I was young and fancy free

My folks had no fine clothes for me

All I got was words:

Gott vet geben!

Gott tsu dankn!

Zoll mir nur leben un sein gezund.

 

When I was wont to travel far

They didn’t provide me with a car

All I got was words:

Gay gezunt!

Fuhr pamelech!

Hob a glicklikhe reise!

 

I wanted to increase my knowledge

But they couldn’t send me to college,

All I got was words:

Hob seichel!

Zei nit kein nahr!

Toire iz di beste schoire!

 

The years have flown. The world has turned.

Things I have forgotten, things I’ve learned,

Yet I remember:

Zog dem eemss!

Gib tsedakah!

Hob rachmaness!

Zei a mentsch!

Mentch 101

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A young man once went to the home of an older Chassid. He knocked on the door but nobody answered. He knocked again; he came back- tried repeatedly- until finally the older Chassid answered the door. And the young man said: “I came to get instruction to be taught how to be a mentsch. Teach me how to be a mentsch”. The older Chassid replied “the lesson has already begun. I didn’t let you in when I didn’t want you to come in, and I do let you in when I want you to come in. A mentsch can bring in what he wants and leave out what he doesn’t want. A mentsch is not a victim of his environment”.

There’s Nothin’ To It… Part III: Nothing is Everything

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Roses are red

Violets are blue

But beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.

 

Round is round

Square is square

But beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.

 

Why? What is beauty? What makes it so different? (I know… we’re talking about intimacy. I’m getting to it…)

Beauty is the result of harmony. Harmony is the absence of conflict. When you have two colors and they blend nicely, you have a beautiful shade of color. Red alone is red. Yellow alone is yellow. To become beautiful, the two have to mix. But if they mix badly, if they clash, the result will be ugliness.

If the colors blend pleasantly you have beauty. But the beauty is not a thing you can point to. You still have only the two colors, red and yellow, no new ingredient has been introduced. The beauty is what you don’t see, namely, conflict. The red is not arrogant, demanding all the attention. Nor is the yellow. They leave room for each other. They absorb each other. It is that humility that is beautiful. But how do we see humility? We see the absence of conflict; we see what is not: nothing comes between them and that pleases the eye.

Holiness is like that, too. It is not something you can see; it is the absence of conflict. It is holy because of what it doesn’t have – duality.

Now to intimacy. When two people can remove all possible obstructions between them; when nothing at all gets between them; when they have a connection that is not dependent on any thing – that is intimacy.

Love can come from having many things in common, but intimacy is much more than love. Intimacy is more sacred, more pure, more dangerous and it can make babies!

The baby is not produced by some things alone – just some stuff contributed my mother and father. Babies are made by what is absent between them – duality. “And they shall become one flesh”. Remove all things that separate one person from another. They become one. That which allows such oneness can also produce a child.

So here’s the thing: Intimacy that is motivated by the desire for conquest is not the real thing. Conquest is a thing that comes between them. Sexual pleasure is also a thing that can come between man and wife. Ask your grandmother, “What do husband and wife do behind closed doors?” and she says, “Nothing.” Do you think she’s lying or not willing to tell you? She is telling you the truth. ‘No-thing’ is the perfect description of intimacy. If they were doing ‘some-thing’ it would no longer be intimate.

So, you see, ‘no-thing’ really is everything.

In a materialistic society, it is hard to relate to what is not a thing. We don’t understand G-d, beauty, holiness or intimacy because we are busy looking for the thing. But enough already…

 

There’s Nothin’ To It… Part II: Sophistication – Disintegration

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Holiness is a state of harmony; oneness. Duality is unholy. Divisiveness is evil. Fragmentation is dead. Holiness has a cadence. So does life. The parts of life all flow together in harmony creating a seamless and therefore pleasant experience.

Sophistication has brought ruin to life. Because we are sophisticated we think physical contact between man and women is just polite (a hand shake) and not sexual. We also think sex need not be intimate (or meaningful), but that it can be casual; exploratory; recreational. We also think intimacy need not mean marriage: a meaningful relationship doesn’t have to be permanent. We then think marriage need not be a family; (married with children or married without children.) So, touch is not sexual, sex is not intimate, intimacy is not marriage, marriage is not children. Like pearls without a string, the precious parts of life never become a necklace; they don’t hang together.

But wait! There is more.

If touch is not sex, sex is not intimate, intimate is not marriage and marriage is not children, then… children doesn’t mean marriage and marriage doesn’t mean intimate. You can have a child without marriage and you can have a child without being intimate. But what kind of child can this create? A cute little thing that will resent you, hate itself and be bent on self destruction?

Holiness is life; cadence. Un-holiness is de-cadence! It breaks the rhythm; life decomposes into a series of good feelings. Moments of pleasure, not one of which ever reaches critical mass and together do not produce life. Soon they lose pleasure and become empty rituals with only a memory of joy, what follows is ennui, despair, Prozac, etc. To regain life, find the sanctity. Find the thread that brings it all together; the whole that is greater then the sum of its parts. That which is not a thing, that which turns things into life. It’s called intimacy. But enough already…

 

There’s Nothin’ To It… Part I: Men Fear Nothing

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Women have many fears. Men fear nothing.

This is not to imply that men are fearless – not so! Men have one great fear, and what they fear is nothing – because man comes from nothing. Man was created from nothing (dust) and will return to nothing (dust.) Thus, man’s primal memory is of nothingness. G-d fashioned man out of earth and breathed into him a life – man existed before he lived – this memory of nothingness haunts man all his life and make him desperate to prove that he is something.

Men have a more fragile ego which they hope to hide with their machismo. To a man, every slight or criticism suggests that he is, in the end, really nothing. That hurts. Man is afraid of his own annihilation; women have no such fear.

Woman was created from a living man. Her primal memory is of being a man. Crush a woman’s spirit and she will revert to primordial state by losing her identity in some guy. She will become him. Crush a man and he will become a nothing.

Treat a man like dirt and he is frightened. Treat a woman like dirt and she is indignant.

Man needs to go from zero to one and always worries whether he made it. Woman needs to go from one to ten; for her zero is not in the equation.

When Hillel told the man on one foot “That which is hateful to you do not do unto to others” he was referring to ‘that’ thing which all men hate – being reminded of their nothingness.

Men spend their lives trying to prove themselves. Wealth, power, fame, women. Whatever goes from zero to sixty, but none of it works.

The most accomplished men have not rid themselves of this demon. One misstep, one criticism can cause annihilation. The most powerful men are often the most paranoid.

Now we know why men are not comfortable with what s not: “It’s not about you” or “its not what you have that counts” or “ask not…” or “Thou shalt not”.

Men just don’t like what is not. It suggests nothingness. In fact, men don’t even like ‘no.’ Being told ‘no’ destroys a man because he hears ‘no-thing’ and he must protect himself from annihilation. (A woman should never be in a position where she has to say ‘no’ to a man she likes.)

But… however… on the other hand… conversely, should a man accept his nothingness and make peace with the fact, he will free himself of his demon. Humility for a man is life-giving: “If in fact I am nothing and it is not about me, then whom shall I serve? What good shall I do? I am available. Send me. “Hineini!”

Hineini means, “I have resolved my obsession with survival, I have disarmed my ghost that haunts men and I am not longer distracted. So what do you need?”

Whereas women are capable of nurturing by nature – “I am something, I don’t need to ‘become’, so if someone does need I can help” – men can become nurturers if and when they become comfortable with their insignificance. This leads us to another subject: intimacy. But enough already….

 

On Happiness

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Here’s a thought that came up in a conversation one night after our broadcast Bais Chana class:

The simple truths in life are what brings happiness. This means focusing on simple realities: life is good, being a Jew is good, having my family is good, etc. This enables you to be happy. However we need to distinguish happiness from contentment. To be content is different from being happy in the following ways. Contentment must be earned – happiness is free. Happiness is related to gratitude – contentment is related to satisfaction. Happiness is the absence of doubt – contentment is the successful resolution of doubts.

Therefore, simple truths will produce happiness, but only achievement will bring contentment.

So I am happy to be what I am, to be included in G-d’s vast eternal plan. A part of the chosen people, able to serve Him at any time. But if I don’t actually serve Him and accomplish some good in my life I will not be content. Contentment is measured by effort. The harder I try the more content I will be.

What do you think?

Toxic Thought

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“Have you ever stopped to think – and forgot to start again?”

Have you ever had someone ask you a question and you try to answer but they don’t seem to be available to your response? Sometimes, people ask philosophical questions but before you can give the answer you first have to help them think. They were not brought up to think; they were never taught to think.

A healthy mind can consider any subject objectively, unless one has been bribed. Then, those who can see clearly become blind and the righteousbecome twisted.

Tanya says, “The mind governs the heart by nature.” The mind can disagree with its own heart and rule against the heart’s desire.

The mind can disagree with its heart! That’s a good description of a healthy person. But a toxic person has toxic thinking as the addicted person has addictive thinking.

In toxic thinking, though, the mind can be defied in a number of ways. Let’s use this scenario: A woman is told, “The man is old enough to be your father. He has been married four times. He abuses women. He has no job and will take all your money!”

 

Toxin A – Will vs. thought:

“I don’t care. I want to marry him!” In this instance the mind is silenced by the will.

A willful person is governed by his will, and “nothing can stand in the way of will.” Our will is a dictator, a bulldozer. It does not tolerate interference, not even the interference of thoughtful logic.

 

Toxin B – Opinion vs. thought:“The man is old enough to be your father, he’s been married four times etc.”

“You don’t know him. I know him. His previous wives didn’t understand him. I do. I know what I am doing!” The mind is fixed on an idea and can’t think further.

 

Toxin C – Love vs. thought:“The man is old enough to be your father, etc.”

“But I love him. I can’t live without him! My heart will break if I can’t marry him!” And tears flow copiously. Emotion overwhelms the mind.

 

Toxin D – Compassion vs. thought:“The man is old, etc.”

“I know, but he is so lonely. He has no one. Everyone judges him and rejects him. I’m the only one who can help him!” Here pity cancels logic.

 

In each case, when challenged, the response will be moral indignation:

“Are you telling me I can’t have what I want?!”

“Are you calling me stupid? Don’t you think I know that?!”

“How can you ignore my love? How can you be so insensitive?!”

“You don’t care about people like I do. You are too judgmental.”

 

And in each case the thinking has been shackled. The mind must agree with the demands of will and emotion or risk being dismissed altogether.

 

The mind can also be poisoned or drugged:

“There is nothing wrong with an older man – everyone gets old anyway.”

“He is not abusive – he hits women only when they deserve it.”

“He never hit his third wife – she hit him first.”

“He is not lazy. It’s just impossible to find a job under this corrupt government. We’re moving to Canada.”

 

Here the mind is not ignored: it is toxic. The mind is thrall to the bias of the heart, or addicted and inseparable from the feelings.

 

A healthy person should be able to think:

My heart tells me one thing but my mind does not agree.

I like this but should I do it?

I think I should, what do you think?

I want to go but maybe you don’t want to go.

 

This independence of mind from heart is what parents and teachers should be giving their children and students.

 

When a child says, “I don’t want to” and the mother says, “But you have to do what you have to do” she is helping the child free his mind from the immature emotions that govern a child’s behavior.

 

“You don’t feel like playing now but your friend is here and wants to play, so be nice.” The mother is showing the child that he can be bigger than his moods; that he can think beyond his impulse and actually consider another opinion, another’s option.

 

Without this training the child’s thinking will be addictive and toxic, and as an adult incapable of a relationship with a spouse.
By the way, we are all guilty of some toxic thinking. It’s just a matter of finding it in ourselves and detoxing.

Pet Peeves: Just Words?

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Example: Government leaders who say, “We have the right to defend our citizens.” Is it really a ‘right’? Or do they mean ‘responsibility’? Every government is obligated to defend its citizens from threats domestic or foreign. Should a government feel that they are incapable of such defense, they must resign and let someone else govern. Is it just words? Or is it wrong-headed?

Example: Rabbis who equivocate, “We believe G-d spoke to our ancestors at Mt. Sinai.” We believe? Who’s we? Believe? Do you or don’t you know? It’s been 3,000 years and you still don’t know? And you’re a rabbi!

Did G-d create the world – yes or no? You believe he did? Maybe you should take up knitting! Is it just words or does it reveal a lack of conviction – the conviction that every Jew should have?

Example: Teachers who say, “G-d wants your Mitzvahs but doesn’t need them.” Let me understand this: G-d wants what he doesn’t need? He’s too perfect to need but not too perfect to want?

He wants every Jew to keep kosher yet not every Jew does; is He still perfect? He creates the world with a purpose – an important purpose – yet whether this purpose is achieved doesn’t matter to Him?! He doesn’t need it?

G-d says “I am a jealous G-d” but He is not really jealous?! He says non-kosher animals are an abomination, but thier not His abomination?!

We call Him “Father and King” but He doesn’t need His children or Hispeople?! He doesn’t need Pharoah and the Egyptians to know Him – even as He gives that as His reason for ten plagues of human suffering?!

Wants. Needs. Is it just words or does it trivialize Him to claim that He demands what He does not need?

Example: Calling intimacy “Making love.” Does one ‘make’ love? Love is a feeling. Does one make feelings? Love means attraction. Does one make attraction? I know you can feel love; I don’t think you can makelove.

Love is a very nice feeling and is often apropos to important relationships. But how can you compare it to intimacy? Love is personal; intimacy is interpersonal. Love can’t be regulated; intimacy must be regulated. Love can’t turn ugly; intimacy can. Love can not produce a baby; intimacy can.

So calling intimacy ‘love’ is degrading and vulgar. It reduces the sacred to a feeling; the spouse to an object of one’s mood; the baby to an intruder on a personal experience. Is it just words or we losing sight of all that is holy.

Example: People say “I doubt that”. Often they really know nothing at all about the subject. So what is doubt? What’s wrong with saying, “I really don’t know?”

“Do you think there is life on Mars?” “Nah, I doubt it”. Is that supposed to mean that you know something about Mars that makes you doubt it would support any kind of life?

How old do you think the world is? Do you think the Torah is Divine? Who do you think wrote the Zohar? Are you not sure or are you sure you don’t know? Is it just words or do we have a hard time being honest?

How do I know Torah is True?

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Dear “Unsure”,

You are torturing yourself unnecessarily. As a fifteen year-old, why would you expect to ‘know for sure’ all the truths of Torah? How are you supposed to ‘know’ who created the world?!

You don’t how an airplane flies or how an antibiotic works. You’ve never seen a germ or a virus, and probably don’t know where your spleen is or what it looks like. Does any of this matter? No, you live your life based on knowledge received from the past without need to reinvent the wheel.

G-d created the world and gave the Torah on Mt. Sinai unless you have witnesses to the contrary.

The best and wisest minds among our sages, every one of them smarter than Einstein, studied the Talmud for three thousand years without doubt of its origin and you are not sure!

So you feel guilty as if you are responsible to prove or confirm cosmic truths! Get real. Relax. It’s not your job. Your job is to elevate yourself to a more productive, noble, respectful life every day.

Work on that. I guarantee you won’t regret it!