Saturday, October 14, 2017

Cheshvan: Prayer

Dear Friends,

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

Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan begins Thursday night, the 19th of October, and lasts for two days.

On the 7th of Cheshvan, in Israel, prayers for rain begin. For this month, focus on enhancing your prayers. You can pick a section of the prayers to say daily with understanding and input this into your checklist. In addition or instead, you can recite daily one Psalm with understanding (longer Psalms can be read over two to three days).

(If you do not yet pray daily, open up a prayer book and see if any of the prayers resonate with you, or better yet, ask your rabbi or spiritual mentor for a suggestion; recite that prayer every day. Alternatively, read daily from the book of Psalms. There are many excellent English translations available with varied formats; choose one that works best for you.)

One type of prayer, popularized by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, is called Hitbodedut; this is where we talk out loud to God in our native language, unburdening ourselves to Him. Try this daily practice for at least a week, preferably a month. See if it helps you feel closer to God and to feeling His comfort and support.

Part of upgrading our prayers is showing reverence for the sanctuary, and not talking during the prayer service.

Even while we pray for help in specific areas of our lives, we surrender to God, acknowledging that only He knows what is truly best for us.

Questions for the month:

“Which section of the prayers will I focus on saying this month with understanding? Or, what else can I do to enhance my prayers?”

“What issues are weighing on my mind that I can informally speak to God about?”

“How can I enhance the reverence I show for the sanctuary?”

Reading for the month: 

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

Yaakov

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Taking Refuge in a Sukkah of Faith

Dear Friends,

This Wednesday night, October 4th, begins the festival of Sukkot. The next blog post will be God willing after the holiday.

Taking Refuge in a Sukkah of Faith

Have a Chag Sameach,

Yaakov

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Repairing Our Mistakes: How to Ask for Forgiveness

Dear Friends,

This coming Friday night will be Yom Kippur.
Now is the time to ask those we have wronged for forgiveness.

Repairing Our Mistakes: How to Ask for Forgiveness

May we all be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life,

Yaakov

Sunday, September 17, 2017

New Article: 10 Signs You’re a Selfless Giver, 5 Signs You’re Not

As discussed in, “What Motivates You to be Kind? Two Possibilities,” there are two types of giving: Self-centered giving, where one gives expecting something in return and selfless giving, where one gives for the sake of giving. Self-centered giving emanates from one’s lower self, the ego, while selfless giving emanates from one’s higher self, the soul.

The irony is that when one gives to receive, the benefits to the giver are diminished. But when one gives to give, the giver ends up gaining far more than could be imagined.

While some are self-centered givers or selfless givers, many of us engage in both types of giving; sometimes giving from the ego, other times from the soul. The goal is to increase soulful giving, strengthening our soul connection to each other and to our Creator.

5 signs of self-centered givers:

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Tishre and "You: As God Intended"

Dear Friends,

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

Rosh Hashanah begins Wednesday night, September 20th, and lasts for two days.

Here is an article for Rosh Hashanah: You: As God Intended

Until after Yom Kippur, the focus on repentance continues. If you have not done so already during the month of Elul, there is still time before Yom Kippur to choose an area of your life to repair or upgrade; add it to your daily checklist. The reading “The 10 Item Daily Checklist” can be helpful in making a selection.

After Yom Kippur, the focus switches to the festivals of Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. On Simchat Torah, we celebrate the completion of the yearly cycle of the Five Books of Moses and begin a new cycle with the book of Genesis. Now is a great time to join this annual study of the Bible. There is tremendous spiritual power in learning the same portion studied by millions of Jews around the world. Next Simchat Torah, when you finish the Bible, your celebration of the holiday will be even more meaningful.

Spend time each week learning the weekly Torah portion – there are many excellent articles, translations and commentaries available, e.g., The Stone Edition Chumash and The Gutnick Edition Chumash (sections of The Gutnick Chumash can be read for free here). Preferably, each day, study 1/7th of the weekly portion (also known as an aliya) or study the whole portion on Shabbat.

If possible, study at least weekly with a partner, either the Bible or a different area of the Torah. To find a partner, you can contact your local synagogue or kollel, or go to http://www.partnersintorah.org/, who will pair you with a partner free of charge.

Torah study nourishes the soul as food nourishes the body. Study Torah every day of your life – even if only for a few minutes, e.g., reading an article, a few pages from a book, or listening to a class during your commute or while exercising. Preferably, have a set inviolate time for Torah study. Input into your checklist what and when you will study.

Two important areas of Torah to study are (A) teachings which inspire you and (B) Jewish law – so you know how to act.

Questions for the month:

“Which behavioral change will be my New Year’s resolution?”

“Which translation or commentary on the Bible will I use for the upcoming annual cycle?”

“What area of Torah am I currently most drawn to? Who can I study it with, or from which resources?”

Have a Shana Tova, a year filled with blessings,

Yaakov

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Debunking 5 Myths about Repentance

Dear Friends,

With the High Holidays around the corner, it is a good time to review how to repent and debunk some myths surrounding it. 

Debunking 5 Myths about Repentance

Have a great week,

Yaakov

Sunday, September 3, 2017

What Motivates You to be Kind? Two Possibilities

Why do you do acts of kindness? What is your motivation?

There are two main reasons people are kind. First, they want something in return, e.g., praise, honor, or they hope the person will return the favor when they need help. The second, more exalted reason why people are kind is because it is the right thing to do; they give for the sake of giving.