Saturday, July 25, 2015

Longing for the Redemption

Dear Friends, 

Sunday, July 26th, is the fast of Tisha B'Av. 

May it be the last fast of Tisha B'Av and may we speedily greet the Messiah and witness the rebuilding of The Third Temple. 

Yaakov

Here is a link to an article for Tisha B'Av:


Longing for the Redemption

Below, is the updated version of the segment on hating your fellow Jew, from last week's article. 

Hating Your Fellow Jew

Perhaps you do not hate anybody, but how about intensely dislike?

We do not have to go out of our way to spend time with people we do not like; often, it is best to limit contact with those who push our buttons or are just not nice people. But, we are forbidden to harbor personal animosity toward a fellow Jew, as the Torah cautions us (Leviticus 19:17), “Do not hate your brother in your heart…” (In general, it is not a good idea to hate anyone; but hating a fellow Jew is especially sinful.)

Diagnostic questions: Are there people I cannot stand and feel distaste just looking at them? Are there people who I would be happy to hear that they are having difficulties?

Often, we dislike people because they wronged us in some way; in that case, see, “The Freedom of Forgiveness: 3 Strategies to Letting Go.” Other times, some people just rub us the wrong way. When we look at them, we think about their real or imagined faults.

Instead, remind yourself that you do not know everything about them and why they act the way they do; give them the benefit of the doubt, just like you would want others to give you.

Look for shared humanity. Deep within your heart is a place of tenderness and vulnerability; it exists within those you do not like as well. You have more in common with those you dislike than differences. You have flaws and weaknesses, so do they. You try hard to provide for yourself and your family, so do they. You have worries and concerns, hopes and dreams, so do they. Sometimes, you struggle just to get by, so do they. As best you can, feel warmth and compassion for them.

Generally speaking, the people we dislike are those we do not know well. The more we get to know people, their good qualities and struggles, the more we realize that in many ways they are just like us.

The Sages teach that the entire Jewish people are all part of one soul – we are one spiritual entity. When you see another Jew, you are seeing a part of yourself. Just as you are accepting of your own flaws, be accepting of the flaws of others as well, as they are an extension of yourself. Perhaps this idea is hinted to in Leviticus (19:18) where God says to us, “…You shall love your fellow as yourself…” How do you come to love your fellow? By realizing that he is “as yourself” – an extension of who you are.

Action steps: The next time you catch yourself thinking negative thoughts about someone, switch focus to their admirable qualities and the good they have done. Also think about the struggles they face or those they have in the past. Preferably, compliment them for the good you see in them. A sincere compliment is a powerful way to break down barriers between people. In addition, remind yourself that they are a part of you and to accept them as they are. Lastly, look for ways to assist those you dislike or to ask for their assistance; both can help cultivate feelings of closeness.

The above encompasses individuals. Jews can also be divided into groups, e.g., Israelis and those living in the diaspora, Sephardim and Ashkenazim, Chassidim and Mitnagdim, as well as a whole spectrum of religiosity. It is very easy to fall into the trap of looking down and showing disdain for those who are different than us. In addition, we are often quick to label a whole group based on the behavior of isolated individuals.

The next time you catch yourself harboring dislike for a particular group of Jews, ask, “Does everyone in this group act in the manner I find offensive? Am I sure that I would not act the same way or worse if I was in their situation?” In addition, think about their praiseworthy qualities and the good deeds they do, and try to feel some love for your fellow Jews.

Please forward this post to at least one person you think may benefit from it. 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

What is Your Number One Spiritual Stumbling Block?

Dear Friends,

One of the five areas discussed in this article is hating your fellow Jew. The Sages teach that the Second Temple was destroyed because of hatred among our people, and that the redemption will come when we remove this poison from our midst.


Have a great week,

Yaakov 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Av: Restoring love

Dear Friends,

On the 9th of this month – Tisha B’Av – we fast to commemorate the destruction of the First and Second Temples.

Last month, we focused on removing hatred. This month, we will focus on the flip side: Restoring love by apologizing and helping others.

Consider if you may have caused someone distress, by what you said or did. If yes, commit to apologize to them as soon as possible.

In addition, each day of this month, check off on your checklist if you did an act of kindness; it can be something small. If the day is coming to a close and you have not yet done an act of kindness, ask yourself if there is someone you can call or email, who would appreciate that you reached out to them. At the very least, put some money in a box designated for charity. Do not let a day go by without doing something for someone else. As the Sages teach, (Ethics of the Fathers 1:14), “…If I am [only] for myself, what am I?”

The topic of doing acts of kindness is further discussed in, Abraham + Isaac + Jacob = You. The topic of not wronging others is further discussed in, “What is Your Number One Spiritual Stumbling Block?” The topic of apologizing is further discussed in, “Repairing Our Mistakes: How to Ask for Forgiveness.”

Questions for the month:

“Who can I apologize to?” (And make amends if applicable)

“Who can I help?” (Some examples: Giving emotional, financial or physical support, advice, or helping someone find a job, a spouse or a needed resource.)

Readings for the month:

How to Respond Effectively to a Tragedy or Crisis

Who Caused This Crisis?

How to Overcome Your Challenges: 10 Ways

5 Steps to Heal from a Loss

Take care, and may God grant us success in the coming month,

Yaakov



Saturday, July 4, 2015

New Audio Download and The Freedom of Forgiveness: 3 Strategies to Letting Go

Dear Friends,

Sunday, July 5th, is the fast of Tammuz. May it be the last fast of Tammuz and may we speedily greet the Messiah and witness the rebuilding of The Third Temple.

I uploaded a new audio download on my website of a class I recently gave, the title is "What Does God Want from Me?" To access any of the audio classes, click here.

Below is a link to an article for this time of year:

The Freedom of Forgiveness: 3 Strategies to Letting Go

All the best,

Yaakov


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Adversity + Humility + Acceptance = Transcendence

Dear Friends, 

God willing, I plan to start posting a weekly article or a link to one, usually sent out on Sundays. It will either be an article related to that month's theme, outlined in The Chazak Plan, or the coming month's theme. 

All the best, 
Yaakov 

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Tammuz: Removing Hatred

Dear Friends,

This post is about the Jewish month of Tammuz, as it relates to The Chazak Plan: A 12 Month Journey to Spiritual Strength.

Rosh Chodesh Tammuz begins Tuesday night, the 16th of June, and lasts for two days.

This month, the 17th of Tammuz, usually a fast day, falls out on Shabbat. The fast is postponed to Sunday, July 5th. The fast commemorates the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem before the destruction of the First Temple. This is the beginning of the period known as The Three Weeks which ends next month on Tisha B’Av, the day we mourn the destruction of the First and Second Temples. The Sages teach that a key reason the Messiah has not yet come to rebuild the Temple is because of the sin of hating one’s fellow Jew.

We are a small nation surrounded by enemies bent on our destruction. To defeat the hatred against our people, we need to defeat the hatred within our people. This month, go out of your way to be forgiving and overlook the faults of others. Pick one person, and either work on forgiving them or reducing the bitterness you feel.

Ask yourself, “What is the first step I can take to try to resolve a conflict I have with someone? How can I keep the disagreement from deteriorating into personal animosity?”

Related to the topic of forgiveness, one of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov’s most transformative teachings is his emphasis on finding the good in others and in ourselves (Likutey Moharan I, 282). A complementary practice is to realize that we all have difficulties and to feel compassion for our own challenges and for those of others. Each day, look for the good in yourself and others, and feel compassion for the struggles we all face. Then, you will be more forgiving and loving toward others and yourself.

For additional discussion on the sin of hating one’s fellow Jew, see, “How to Remove Your Number One Spiritual Stumbling Block.”

A number of misfortunes have occurred to the Jewish people during The Three Weeks. Because of this, this month and next month’s focus is also on how to overcome adversity.

Readings for the month:

Conflict Resolution: How to Win the Battle for Peace

The Freedom of Forgiveness: 3 Strategies to Letting Go

Discover Your Inner Peace

When Rabbis Behave Badly: How to respond to disturbing news

“Why?” 5 Reasons for Suffering

Take care, and may God grant us success in the coming month,

Yaakov

Thursday, June 11, 2015

When Rabbis Behave Badly: How to respond to disturbing news

Please note, this article is about the issue in general and not a commentary on a particular case

Over the years, we have heard disturbing reports of some rabbis committing unconscionable crimes against children. How do we respond?