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?

Saturday, June 6, 2015

“Am I a Faker or a Genuine Person?”

We all know people who are genuine and sincere. They strive to do the right thing, whether in public or in private. Then there are fakers, people who appear to be upstanding and sincere, while their hidden actions tell a very different story.

At times, we may ask ourselves, “Am I a faker?”

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Sivan: Living the Torah’s wisdom

Dear Friends, 

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

Rosh Chodesh Sivan begins Monday night, the 18th of May, and lasts for one day.

The festival of Shavuot occurs during this month. On Shavuot, we celebrate receiving on Mount Sinai the Torah, God’s instruction manual for life. Even those who are unaffiliated, without realizing it, observe part of the Torah. Take the 10 Commandments for example, many already believe in God, do not worship idols, honor their parents, do not commit murder, adultery etc.

Begin at whatever level of observance you are currently on, and pick one area you are motivated to strengthen this month. At the end of each day/week, mark off on your checklist if you kept that observance. 

Readings for the month:






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

Yaakov

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Iyar: Enhancing Our Relationships

Dear Friends,

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

Rosh Chodesh Iyar begins Motzai Shabbat (Saturday night), the 18th of April, and lasts for two days.

The period known as The Omer occurs during this month. During part of The Omer, we commemorate thousands of Rabbi Akiva’s students who died in a plague. The Talmud teaches that the plague occurred because the students did not treat each other with proper respect.

This month we focus on treating others well and enhancing our relationships with others and with ourselves.

Our relationships play a pivotal role in either enhancing or negatively affecting our emotional, physical and spiritual health; toxic relationships drain us, while healthy relationships nourish us.

Make a list of your key family, work and social relationships. Decide which ones to strengthen or repair, which ones need better boundaries or for you to distance yourself from, and ways to foster new healthy relationships.

At least once a week, schedule one-on-one time with someone in your life to strengthen that relationship; shut off your cell and give him or her your undivided attention.

Readings for the month:

6 Ways to Kick the Criticism Habit

How to Give Constructive Feedback without Sounding Critical

6 Ways to Deal with Critical Family Members

How to Stop Hating and Start Loving Yourself

Personal Growth: How to Upgrade Your Skillset

Also read up on the type of relationship you are currently dealing with. Here are links to Aish.com articles on specific relationships:

Dating

Marriage

Parenting

Relating to your parents

Have a Shabbat Shalom, and may God grant us success in the coming month,

Yaakov

Sunday, March 29, 2015

5 Steps to Heal From a Loss: How to feel whole again

When we lose a loved one, we feel as if a part of us has been ripped out, leaving a gaping hole in our heart. We wonder, “Will I ever feel whole again?”

Over time, our pain will lessen and the hole in our heart will begin to close. Here are five proactive steps we can take to help us move through our grief.