Saturday, August 29, 2015

How to Unlock the Hidden Power of Prayer

Dear Friends,

During the High Holidays, we spend a lot of time immersed in prayer.
This article discusses three keys to enhancing our prayers. It also discusses hitbodedut, both the commonly practiced form as well as silent hitbodedut.


Have a great week,

Yaakov


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Is Your Commitment to Judaism Strong Enough?

Dear Friends,

Continuing the theme of introspection before the High Holidays, here is a choice between two articles. 

This one gives 8 strategies to help us strengthen our commitment to Judaism. It has been updated and now includes diagnostic questions.


Have a great week,


Yaakov

Saturday, August 15, 2015

What’s the Point of It All? The Power of Transformative Questions

Dear Friends,

As Elul is a time for introspection, here is the link to the updated version of this article. It now has 16 questions.


Have a great week,

Yaakov

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Elul: Repentance

Dear Friends, 

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

Rosh Chodesh Elul begins Friday night, the 14th of August, and lasts for two days.

Elul is the time of year to take stock of our lives and prepare for the High Holidays. Most of us have at least one area in which we struggle; perhaps it is being ethical in business, being moral, being charitable and kind, refraining from hurting others, or some other area. Correcting our key flaw(s) is a main component of our life’s mission and why God put us in this world.

Pick one area on which to focus and choose a manageable change you will make on a daily or weekly basis; input this change into your checklist. If possible, speak to your rabbi or spiritual mentor for guidance. The focus on repentance continues into next month until after Yom Kippur.

Questions for the month:

“Which area do I struggle with, which I am motivated to address this Elul?”

“What is a manageable commitment I will make to repair this issue?

“Is it clear to me what area to focus on and how to repent, or, who can I speak to for guidance?” 

Readings for the month:

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Nourishing Yourself with Faith during Difficult Times

Dear Friends,

Along the theme of Shabbat Nachamu (a Shabbat of consolation which follows Tisha B’Av), here are two articles of comfort for difficult times. They are updated versions of previous articles.

Nourishing Yourself with Faith during Difficult Times: Part I

Nourishing Yourself with Faith during Difficult Times: Part II

Have a great week,

Yaakov

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