Saturday, December 7, 2019

Three Lessons I Learned from Sol Rosenkranz: Holocaust Survivor and Volunteer Extraordinaire

My community and the Jewish community at large recently lost a national treasure, Sol Rosenkranz, of blessed memory. Sol, a Holocaust survivor who went through six Nazi labor camps, passed away at the age of 101.

I want to share with you three lessons of the many that we can learn from Sol:

1. Be persistent and never give up hope. Sol experienced a number of tragedies and hardships in his life. They began during the Holocaust, but continued even during his later years, when he lost his son, daughter-in-law, and first and second wives. After every setback, Sol kept going. Later in life, when many slow down, Sol did not. It was only a few short years ago, when Sol would come regularly to the synagogue, morning and evening. For a period of time, I often walked home with him after the evening service. He walked slowly and I could see that it was difficult for him to come to the synagogue. But if something was important to Sol, he was persistent and refused to give up.

Sol and his brother Henry lost their entire immediate family in the war. He met his wife Sally after the war and together they came to America. Sol wrote, in a self-published memoir, “On the boat we were each given $8.00 and that was the only money we had…” Having lost almost everything, Sol kept his focus on the future, on rebuilding his life.

Recalling his experiences during the war, Sol wrote, “Most of all, I thank God for helping me through some very difficult situations that easily could have turned out differently. What I have learned from this experience is the value of being kind to others and never to lose hope.”

What is a challenge or setback in your life? Think of Sol’s tenacity. Refuse to give up and take the first step to move forward in your life.

2. Look for the good in life and in those around you. Sol was a positive and upbeat person. He relished the good in his life and was quick to compliment others. Unfortunately, many people are very stingy with their compliments. It costs nothing, yet is priceless to the recipient.

When you see the good in others, do not keep it to yourself, compliment them. Who do you appreciate in your life? Tell them today and often. No matter how hard your life is now, look for and thank God for the blessed aspects. Even if you cannot find any now, then like Sol, never lose hope. Always believe that things can and will get better.

A fellow congregant at Congregation Ohav Sholom, Mark Becker, once asked Sol how he could believe in God after witnessing the Holocaust. He responded, “I experienced too many miracles not to believe.”

That was Sol, always focusing on the good.

Even if you went through horrors like Sol, you too can focus on the good in your life and see the good in others. You too can be optimistic that with God’s help, things will get better. Until they do, have faith that God is with you every step of the way.

3. Be a giver. Throughout his life, Sol was a giver. He volunteered at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles for thirteen years. After he moved to New York City, he volunteered at Congregation Ohav Sholom and the Museum of Jewish Heritage. At the museum, over a span of more than twenty years, he educated tens of thousands of visitors about the Holocaust. He also renovated, at his own expense, the cemetery in his hometown of Krosniewice, Poland, a family project he was especially proud of.

Ethics of the Fathers teaches (1:2) that one of the three things upon which the world stands is kindness. With Sol gone, there is a void of kindness in the world.

To fill that void, we each have a sacred responsibility to become even greater givers than we already are. God gives us unique resources and talents to be of service to others. There are so many ways we can help others: donating to charity, giving physical assistance, encouragement, advice, or helping someone find a job or spouse. When you hear that someone you know is going through a difficult time, think about what you can do for them. Sometimes, all you can do is pray; do not discount the power of prayer.

Every day, God sends us opportunities to be a giver and do our part to sustain the world. Let us follow Sol’s example and grab those opportunities with both hands.

As the world struggles with the coronavirus pandemic, these lessons are as timely as ever. Individually and as a society, we are dealing with an unprecedented challenge. Instead of feeling helpless, focus on what is within your control:
  • Be persistent and refuse to give up.
  • Look for the good in your life.
  • Compliment and encourage others, as we all have our challenges.
  • Trust that God is giving you the strength you need to overcome.
  • Help those who are less fortunate than you. By looking out for each other we will get through this together.
May Sol’s memory be a blessing.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Kislev: Gratitude

Dear Friends,

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

Rosh Chodesh Kislev begins Wednesday night, the 27th of November and lasts for two days.

During this month we celebrate the festival of Chanukah, which commemorates the miracle of the oil, the victory of the Maccabees over the Greeks and the rededication of the Second Temple. A key message of the festival is expressing gratitude to God for the miracles He performs for us.

Each day, either at the beginning or end of the day, spend time feeling grateful for the blessings your Creator gave you. Thank Him for His many gifts, for the bright side/silver lining of your difficulties, and for signs of His help amidst your challenges. Consider inputting this daily practice of expressing gratitude into your checklist.

In addition, express your appreciation to others. You can do this in person, on the phone, via a quick email or text, or with a written note.

Questions for the month:

“What is something I am very grateful to God for? What can I say to Him to express my appreciation?”

“Who is someone who has helped me? How can I express my appreciation?”

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


Saturday, November 16, 2019

Everything Works Out in the End: Even when it doesn’t appear to

Dear Friends,

In the moment, when faced with challenges, we struggle and don't know what will be.
It's important to remind ourselves that:

Everything Works Out in the End: Even when it doesn’t appear to  

Have a great week,


Saturday, November 2, 2019

Surrendering to God: 3 steps to transcend your ego

Dear Friends,

An important element of prayer is surrendering to God: realizing that we can't do anything without His help and that only He knows what is best for us.

Surrendering to God: 3 steps to transcend your ego

Have a great week,


Saturday, October 26, 2019

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 Monday night, the 28th 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. In addition or instead, you can recite daily one Psalm with understanding (longer Psalms can be read over two to three days).

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.

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?”

How to Unlock the Hidden Power of Prayer

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


Saturday, October 12, 2019

Taking Refuge in a Sukkah of Faith

Dear Friends,

This Sunday night begins the Festival of Sukkot.
There will be no posts during the holiday.

Taking Refuge in a Sukkah of Faith

Have a Chag Sameach!


Saturday, October 5, 2019

Audio Download and Repairing Our Mistakes: How to Ask for Forgiveness

Dear Friends,

This Tuesday night is Yom Kippur.

Here is a link to an audio class I recently gave on the High Holidays which discusses how to enhance our prayers and 10 possible New Year's resolutions.

Preparing for the Yamim Noraim: Practical Suggestions

One area that Yom Kippur does not atone for is sins between us and our fellow. For those, we need to ask for forgiveness and make amends when appropriate.

Repairing Our Mistakes: How to Ask for Forgiveness

May we all be sealed in the Book of Life,


Saturday, September 28, 2019

You: As God Intended

Dear Friends,

Sunday night, September 29th, is Rosh Hashanah.

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

Have a Shana Tova,


Saturday, September 21, 2019

We All Go Through Spiritual Winters. What to Do During Yours

Our relationship with Judaism often goes through seasons. Sometimes it’s summer, with clear skies and the sun shining; we feel fired up about our Judaism and close to God. Then there are winters, cold, cloudy periods; we feel filled with doubts and distant from God. When you experience a cold season, realize it’s normal and just a reflection of your feeling of distance from God, not God’s distance from you or Judaism’s objective value. God is always close to you and Judaism will always be our people’s lifeline and source of meaning in our lives.

Even righteous people experience spiritual winters. They know it’s part of the journey and do not live their lives based on how they feel in the moment. They live based on their convictions, what they know to be true. As the prophet Habakkuk taught (Habakkuk 2:4), “...The righteous shall live by his faith.” They are not guided by passing feelings toward Judaism. They are guided by their faith in God and in the truth of His Torah. They hold on tightly to this faith and keep moving forward, even during tumultuous times. Because they do not give up, they are able to move through cloudy, stormy periods to states of clarity and connection to God.

Our relationship with God cannot be based on passing moods; that would be serving ourselves, not God. To truly serve our Creator, our relationship with Him must be unconditional. As our Creator, our relationship with God is embedded in our very DNA and can never be severed.

The periods that test our loyalty to God serve to strengthen our bond with Him. We cannot forge a truly deep relationship with God unless we work hard to develop it. To earn the bliss of an unbreakable bond with God, both in this world and even more so in the World to Come, that bond needs to be tested. Instead of fleeing at the first sign of a spiritual chill, expect those periods and use them as an opportunity to demonstrate that your relationship with God is unconditional. Come what may, you are sticking with God and will do your best to fulfill His will.

During a spiritual winter two approaches can help reignite our passion for God and Judaism. First, remove impediments which smother our inner fire, the soul’s innate yearning for its Creator. Second, do things which stoke the flame within. Ultimately, a passionate feeling of connection to God is a gift from Him; we cannot force it to happen. But we must do our part. To start, pick at least one item from each of the two categories below. Do your best and ask God for help.

Removing impediments:

1. Reign in distracting behavior. If you spend too much time on distracting behavior, e.g., excessive smartphone or internet use, even over-working, you will not have time to deepen your relationship with God. Every relationship needs attention to develop. Distracting and addictive behavior robs us of the focus we need to build a relationship with God. Praying with intention, studying Torah, and speaking to God takes time. Are you putting in the time? If you are distracted, you will not hear the voice of your soul yearning for God. Ask, “Which behavior am I engaging in that’s distracting me from focusing on the important things in life? How can I reign in that behavior and make better use of my time?” For more on this topic, see, “Overcoming Our Soft Addictions.”

2. Enhance your moral purity. Moral purity exists on a spectrum, the more we guard our moral purity, the more room we make for God’s presence in our lives. If a person’s mind is filled with sinful thoughts, that is going to chase away holiness from their life. Rebbe Nachman of Breslov spoke about this often. Moral impurity dulls the natural pull we feel to our Creator. The more we purify ourselves the stronger our yearning will be for God, to learn His Torah and speak to Him in prayer. To enhance your purity, remind yourself of God’s presence which surrounds you always. Fill your mind with elevated thoughts and have safeguards to keep you away from impurity. When you lapse, recite Rebbe Nachman’s Tikkun Haklali (Psalms: 16, 32, 41, 42, 59, 77, 90, 105, 137, and 150), put in stronger safeguards and begin again with a fresh start. For some, committing to short periods of moral purity, such as a week or month at a time, can be a helpful tool to transform ourselves into the type of person who refuses to be sullied by sinful behavior. Ask, “What can I do to strengthen my moral purity?” For more on this topic, see, “4 Ways to Safeguard Your Moral Purity.”

3. Avoid cynical people. Were you ever passionate about something, until you spoke to a cynic who drained you of all enthusiasm? Avoid people who make light of serious topics, especially those relating to spirituality. When they cannot be avoided, steer the conversation to light subjects, where cynicism is less damaging. Whenever possible, surround yourself with people who are a good influence. Ask, “How can I distance myself from those who spiritually bring me down? Who are positive people I can spend time with? Is there a Torah class in my neighborhood where I can meet like minded people?”

4. Strengthen your observances. When a person feels connected with God, they can often sense that doing the mitzvot strengthens that connection and sin weakens it. This creates a feedback loop where the more connected you feel to God the more you want to do mitzvot and avoid sin, which thereby increases your closeness to God. The reverse is also true. Each sin a person does cools off even more their passion for Judaism which can lead to further sin, creating a downward spiral. Unless one strengthens oneself, what began as a slight slip can lead to a massive spiritual decline. To protect yourself, as soon as you experience a small slip, quickly catch yourself from stumbling further and straighten up, which can be as easy as committing to stronger safeguards or to do your best to avoid that mistake in the future and begin again with a fresh start. Ask, “In which area of my Judaism have my observances weakened? What commitment do I make to strengthen that area?” For more on this topic, see, “How to Strengthen Your Commitment to Judaism.”

5. Treat others well.
Mistreating God’s other children will weaken your relationship with your Father in Heaven. Do not gossip, say hurtful things, cause financial harm or withhold monies due. To enhance your relationship with God, treat His children well. Ask, “Is there anyone who I have not treated appropriately? When will I contact them to apologize?”

6. Enhance your mood and energy levels. If you generally feel apathetic and unmotivated, you will likely feel the same about your Judaism. Try strategies to enhance your mood and overall energy. Begin by getting more sleep, exercising (in sunlight when possible) and eating a healthy diet. Ask, “Am I generally upbeat and energetic or lethargic and in a low mood?” What can I do to enhance my mood and energy levels?” For more on this topic, see, “The FAR Plan: Three Steps to Emotional Health.”

Stoking the flame:

1. Listen to uplifting Jewish music. A heartfelt, stirring melody can often help us shift from feeling spiritually cold to hot and inspired. Rebbe Nachman of Breslov taught the importance of dancing and clapping. Daily, or at least on a regular basis, put on uplifting Jewish music and dance and clap to the music. (If possible, learn the meaning of the words to the Hebrew songs). This can help you break out of a stagnant, disconnected state and enhance your mood. Ask, “Whose music do I find uplifting or who can I ask for a recommendation?”

2. Study Torah. Preferably daily, study Torah that inspires you. Many find Chassidic thought especially inspiring. One inspiring work which details practical teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov is A Bit More Advice available at (Currently, the site has a free App and offers a free e-book on Rebbe Nachman if you sign up for their newsletter.) In addition, set up at least a weekly study session, preferably with someone who is passionate about Judaism. One of the benefits of studying with a partner is that we are often able to put more effort and toil into studying with someone than studying alone. Toiling in Torah study elevates us and increases our feeling of connection to God. Ask, “What book or class will I try, or who will I ask about setting up a study partner?”

3. Find an inspirational rabbi or rebbetzin. Find a role model who is passionate about Judaism to inspire, advise and encourage you. How do you know when you have found the right mentor for you? When you notice that your relationship with them is having a positive impact on you. Think of possible role models who live nearby or with whom you have crossed paths and stay in touch with them. Call or speak with them regularly, perhaps monthly, to maintain a connection. Reading a biography of one of our righteous men or women is another great way to get inspired. Ask, “Who is someone who may be a good spiritual mentor for me? When will I reach out to them to develop a relationship? Which biography of an inspirational role model will I buy or borrow?”

4. Tune into God’s presence.
God is with us throughout our lives, whether we feel His presence or not. During the day, bring to mind that God’s glory fills the world – His presence is in every cell and atom. Realize you are standing before God at all times. Shift your awareness, from inward – centered on your thoughts – to outward, tuning in to God’s presence which surrounds you always. The more you think about God, the more you will see His guiding hand in your life and feel connected to Him. Every time we say a prayer or a blessing over food is an opportunity to tune into God’s presence. Throughout the day, think about God and ask Him to help you do His will.

5. Pray. Prayer is a key source of spiritual vitality. We pray three times a day so even just slightly improving our prayers, perhaps focusing on one prayer to say with greater intention, will have a big impact. In addition to the daily prayers, aim to recite Psalms daily (glancing at a translation to understand the words). Also speak to God informally, in your native language. Thank Him for the blessings in your life and the times you felt His guiding hand. Tell Him about your challenges and plead with God to bring you closer to Him. When possible, visit Israel, praying and studying Torah there; it is easier to feel a connection to God while in His Holy Land. Ask, “What can I do to say my prayers with greater concentration? Am I willing to recite a portion of Psalms daily? Am I willing to try speaking to God informally in my native language?” For more on this topic, see, “How to Unlock the Hidden Power of Prayer.”

6. Get out of your comfort zone. Think about your current spiritual level in terms of prayer, Torah study and doing acts of kindness. Now pick one of those areas and at the next opportunity, push yourself to go beyond what you usually do; pray with greater intensity, study with increased focus, extend yourself even more on behalf of another. These short bursts of intense spiritual exertion will help you break free from a spiritual winter and add more warmth and fire to your spirituality. Ask, “In what way will I increase my exertion to reach a higher level of prayer, Torah study or act of kindness?”

Some of us have felt periods of inspiration in our lives, others not yet. The above strategies can help both groups, but if you have felt inspired in the past, try to reconnect with that feeling. Recall a time when you felt inspired or close to God. What were you doing and thinking about at the time? How did it feel? Can you feel now some of that elevated feeling of Divine connection?

Whether or not you were able to recapture some of that feeling now, know that the possibility of a deep feeling of closeness to God exists every day of your life, because God is with you every day of your life. Do your part to cultivate and deepen your relationship with your Creator and wait patiently for Him to gift you that feeling of closeness.

Deepening our connection with God takes time. Be prepared for challenges and setbacks along the way. Keep moving forward even when you feel uninspired and distant from Him. As best you can, avoid that which weakens your relationship with Him and do that which strengthens it. The tenacious efforts you put into coming closer to God will propel you to higher levels of connection to Him. With perseverance, at the right time, God will awaken within you a passion for Judaism and a burning desire for even greater closeness to Him.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Saturday, August 31, 2019

“Am I a Faker or a Genuine Person?”

Dear Friends,

Chodesh tov. Today is the first day of Elul.

The first step to improving yourself it to believe that you can.

If we believe that we are genuine, good people, capable of repenting, we will put in the effort to upgrade our behavior. If not, we won't.

So ask yourself:
“Am I a Faker or a Genuine Person?”

Have a great week,


Saturday, August 24, 2019

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 30th of August and lasts for two days.

Elul is the time of year we 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 major part 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; You can input this change into your calendar or checklist. If possible, speak to your rabbi or spiritual mentor for guidance. The focus on repentance continues into next month until after Yom Kippur.

As the High Holidays involve reciting many prayers, for suggestions on how to enhance your prayers, see, “How to Unlock the Hidden Power of Prayer.”

Questions for the month:

“Which area do I struggle with that I’m motivated to address this Elul?”

“What is a manageable commitment I will make?

“Is it clear to me what area to focus on and how to repent (if necessary)? If it is not clear, who can I speak to for guidance?”

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


Saturday, August 17, 2019

The Red Heifer in Our Lives

Dear Friends,

In the Torah, there are commandments we understand and those we do not. A prime example of one we do not understand is that of the red heifer (Numbers, 19:1). It is a ritual done to purify those who became contaminated through contact with a dead body. When the Temple stood, as long as one was impure, they were not allowed to enter the Temple until they underwent this ritual.

The laws and details of the red heifer defy logic, e.g., it purifies the impure, but contaminates the pure (the priest performing the ritual). A key lessen we learn from the red heifer is that there are laws in Judaism and events in our lives that we do not understand, and that’s okay.

God is all knowing and we are not, by definition we will not understand all of God’s commands and actions. While we do not understand why or how the red heifer works, we do know that it achieves purification. We do know that through the red heifer an impure person is elevated and able to enter the Temple.

In our own lives, while we do not understand why we have specific challenges, we do know that like the red heifer, those challenges purify and elevate us. Our difficulties enable us to have a closer relationship with God in this world and to enter His heavenly Temple in the next.

May the ritual of the red heifer be restored and the Third Temple speedily rebuilt in our days.

Have a great week,


Saturday, August 10, 2019

"Adversity, Humility, and then Acceptance" AND "Seeking the Divine Presence"

Dear Friends,

Sunday, August 11th, is Tisha B’Av, where we fast to commemorate the destruction of the First and Second Temples.

The first article relates to suffering in general and the second one specifically to Tisha B'Av.

Adversity, Humility, and then Acceptance

Seeking the Divine Presence

May we speedily witness the coming of the Messiah and the rebuilding of the Third Temple.


Saturday, July 27, 2019

Video/Audio of Class And Av: Restoring Love

Dear Friends,

This past week I gave a talk in memory of my friend Dr. Jerry Gross of blessed memory.

Below is a link to the video version. The video begins with a tribute to Dr. Gross. Toward the end of the video, the sound quality diminishes.

10 Things To Do Every Day of Your Life (video version)

Below is the audio version of just the talk without the tribute.

10 Things to Do Every Day of Your Life

The rest of this post is about the Jewish month of Av as it relates to The Chazak Plan: A 12 Month Journey to Spiritual Strength.

Rosh Chodesh Av begins Thursday night, the 1st of August and lasts for one day.

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 next step: Restoring love by apologizing and helping others.

Consider if you 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, consider checking 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 charity box. 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 discussed in, Abraham + Isaac + Jacob = You. The topic of not wronging others is discussed in, “What is Your Number One Spiritual Stumbling Block?” The topic of apologizing is 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.)

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


Saturday, July 20, 2019

“Why?” 5 Reasons for Suffering

Dear Friends,

This Sunday, the 21st of July is a fast day. We fast to commemorate 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.

Fast days are meant to be times for introspection, repentance and growth.

“Why?” 5 Reasons for Suffering

Take care,


Saturday, July 6, 2019

Saturday, June 29, 2019

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 2nd of July and lasts for two days.  

On the 17th of this month, we fast to commemorate 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. 

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. 

Check off on your checklist each day you complimented someone, or at least spent time thinking about a person’s good points. 

For additional discussion on the sin of hating one’s fellow Jew, see, “What is Your Number One Spiritual Stumbling Block?

Questions for the month:

“Who in my life do I feel hatred toward or greatly dislike?” (Pick one person and depending on the situation, either work on forgiving them or on reducing the hurt you feel.)

“Who pushes my buttons? Can I focus on their good points and be more complimentary and understanding?” 

“What is the first step I can take to try to resolve a conflict I have with someone?”

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


Saturday, June 1, 2019

Sivan: Living the Torah’s Wisdom and "The Ten Commandments: Exploring Their Hidden Side"

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 3rd of June and lasts one day.

The festival of Shavuot begins this Motzai Shabbat, Saturday night, June 8th and lasts for two days. 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 for example the 10 Commandments, 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.

Question for the month:

“What area of observance will I strengthen this month or at least learn more about?”


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


Saturday, May 25, 2019

Saturday, May 11, 2019

6 Ways to Kick the Criticism Habit

Dear Friends,

Being critical of others is a difficult habit to break, but well worth the effort.

6 Ways to Kick the Criticism Habit  

Have a great week,


Saturday, May 4, 2019

You’re Not Arrogant, But Are You Truly Humble?

Dear Friends,

Chodesh tov.
Humility is not all or nothing. The more humble we become, the more we will benefit.

You’re Not Arrogant, But Are You Truly Humble?

Have a great week,


Saturday, April 27, 2019

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 4th of May 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 relationship with them.

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.

Input into your checklist the following practice or a related one: 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.

In addition, this month, work on being less critical of others. Start by focusing on the person of whom you are most critical. Consider using your checklist and check off each day you were able to avoid criticizing them. You might want to start off with just avoiding being critical during a set time of day, i.e., morning, afternoon or evening, and build from there.

Questions for the month:

“Which of my relationships do I need to strengthen? What is the first step to doing that?”

“Which relationships need better boundaries or for me to distance myself from? What is the first step to doing that?”

“Do I want to form new healthy relationships? What are some ways I can do that?”

“Which person in my life am I most critical of? For this month, am I willing to commit to give them at least as much compliments as criticisms?”

During this month, read up on the type of relationship you are currently dealing with. Here are links to articles on specific relationships:




Relating to your parents

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


Saturday, April 13, 2019

What Worked for Our Ancestors: 5 Lessons from the Exodus

Dear Friends,

Passover begins this Friday night, April 19th. During the Seder, we will recount the story of the Exodus. Here are 5 lessons we can learn from it.

What Worked for Our Ancestors: 5 Lessons from the Exodus

Happy Passover, Chag Kasher Vesameach,


Saturday, April 6, 2019

"Where Am I Holding?"

Dear Friends,

A key step to growth is to know where you are currently holding and which area could use strengthening.

Some people think they have so many flaws, the situation is hopeless. Others think they're beyond reproach and feel little motivation to improve. Both perspectives are counterproductive. If we don't try to grow or don't think we need to, we won't.

Instead, realize that we all have areas where we can grow and that we all have the ability to improve. Choose one thing you will do to improve in an area that you are motivated to address. If you're not sure which area to work on or how to improve, ask someone wise.

Stop thinking you're something that you're not, (either that you're hopeless or flawless), to discover who you can become.

Have a great week,


Saturday, March 30, 2019

Nissan: Spiritual Spring Cleaning

Dear Friends,

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

Rosh Chodesh Nissan begins Friday night, the 5th of April and lasts one day.

During Nissan, we celebrate the holiday of Passover, where we commemorate the Exodus from Egypt. It is a time of freedom, when we free ourselves from that which brings us down spiritually. Now is a good time to "clean house" spiritually and enhance our moral purity, discussed in the article below. 

An aspect of maintaining our purity is speaking in an elevated manner. Are there any words you choose to remove from your vocabulary, at least for this month, that do not reflect the type of person you are?

Using your checklist, you can check off each day you succeeded in speaking in a refined manner and/or staying away from spiritual pollution (or limiting your exposure as best you can).

Questions for the month:

“What is a source of spiritual pollution in my life? How can I shield myself from it or at least limit my exposure to it?”

“What word(s) do I choose to remove from my vocabulary, at least for this month?”


4 Ways to Safeguard Your Moral Purity

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


Saturday, March 23, 2019

Is it really necessary to say this now?

Dear Friends,

Some people have the unfortunate habit of constantly correcting others. When we make a minor mistake, they immediately correct us and show us how we are wrong. Even though it is hurtful to be on the receiving end of these critiques, we sometimes fall into the same trap and act the same way. To avoid this bad habit, before correcting or criticizing someone, pause for a moment and ask yourself, “Is it really necessary to say this now?”

Often, the answer is no. Either it is not a necessary critique, or even if it is, it is not the right time to make the comment. Critiques are best delivered indirectly or at least at an opportune time and in a thoughtful and sensitive manner. For more details, see, “6 Ways to Kick the Criticism Habit.”

This question can also help us avoid the sin of gossiping. When you have the urge to say something that may reflect negatively on a person, pause for a moment and ask yourself, “Is it really necessary to say this?” Sometimes the answer is yes, most often the answer is no. If someone starts talking negatively about a person to you, you can respond, “Is it necessary for me to hear this? If not, let’s talk about something else.”

Have a great week,


Saturday, March 16, 2019

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Ask Yourself, "Am I Overly Stubborn?"

Dear Friends,

There is a place for stubbornness. For example, we should be stubborn when sticking to our principles and living our values. When appropriate, Ethics of the Fathers (5:20) teaches us to “Be bold as a leopard.”

But being stubborn on a day to day basis can have a negative effect on our moods, personal growth and on our relationships.

Here are three ways to decrease unhealthy stubbornness:

(1) Work on developing humility; realize you have been wrong in the past and you will likely make mistakes in the future. With true humility, a person is able to admit when they were wrong and change course.

(2) When talking to others, instead of trying to get them to agree with you, really listen and consider what they are saying. You will learn a lot more that way. As has been said, “If your lips are moving, you’re not learning anything new.”

(3) Ask people for feedback and advice, and give serious consideration to what they say. Instead of focusing on why they are wrong, see if there is a nugget of wisdom you can benefit from.

When we are open-minded and interested in learning new ideas and ways of enhancing our lives, we have laid a solid foundation for growth.

Ask, “Which area of my life am I stubborn about? Perhaps there is a better way of dealing with this issue. Who can I speak to for guidance?”

Have a great week,


Saturday, March 2, 2019

Adar II: and Question to Ask Yourself: "Is it worth it?"

Dear Friends,

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

This year is a Jewish leap year which means that there are two months of Adar. Rosh Chodesh Adar II begins Wednesday night, the 6th of March and lasts for two days.

For this month, we will continue the theme of enhancing our moods. When there is something that negatively affects our moods, an important question to ask is, "Is it worth it?"

For example, getting upset or into an argument over trivial matters. Getting into arguments is rarely worthwhile, especially if one party is agitated and upset; better to wait for a quiet moment to discuss the issue calmly.

Sometimes, the things we argue over have no practical value or benefit, and we are working ourselves up over nothing. When you find yourself arguing over something, ask yourself, “Is this a PD (pointless discussion)?” If it is, then either change the topic or bring the conversation to a close.

What issue in your life is negatively affecting your mood? Is it worth it? 

Think of what you can do practically to address the situation and decide not to allow it to bring you down. When you find yourself stewing over it, think about something else or engage in a new activity. Don't expect the upsetness to instantly evaporate, but making a conscious decision not to get worked up over something and changing your focus, can be surprisingly beneficial.

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


Saturday, February 23, 2019

Do You Compliment at Least One Person Every Day?

Dear friends,

We are often much quicker to criticize than to compliment.

The problem is that criticism rarely works and usually the outcome is that both the recipient and the giver end up feeling resentful.

Often, a much more useful response is to catch someone doing something right and compliment them.

Every day, aim to compliment at least one person. If you have a smart phone, try using Google Keep or Evernote, to make a recurring daily reminder.

You'll feel good and so will your recipient; a very different outcome than if you had been critical.

Have a great week,


Saturday, February 16, 2019

Who Are You? Getting in Touch with Your Essence

Dear Friends, 

Many people are overly critical with themselves and have a poor self-image. 
To address this, consider:

Have a great week,


Saturday, February 9, 2019

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Adar I: 6 Tools to Enhance Your Mood

Dear Friends,

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

This year is a Jewish leap year which means that there are two months of Adar. Rosh Chodesh Adar I begins Monday night, the 4th of February and lasts for two days. 

Our Sages teach that with the arrival of Adar we increase our joy, culminating in the festival of Purim. Purim commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people during the Persian exile.

While we do not have direct control over our moods, the following are six tools which can be helpful in enhancing them: Gratitude, acceptance, self-compassion, expressing ourselves, addressing festering issues and making lifestyle enhancements (these tools are discussed in the reading below). Many times, even using just one tool will help us feel better and increase our enjoyment of life.

After reading the articles, choose one tool which you will utilize this month. (Since this year is a leap year, you can choose one tool per month.) Then, decide on the one change, technique or behavior, related to that tool, you will do on a daily or regular basis, for at least this month. Add it to your checklist and track how often you do it. 

Questions for the month:

“What do I think is most negatively affecting my emotional health? How will I address it?”

“What will I do this month to enhance my emotional health/mood and become a happier person?”

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


Saturday, January 26, 2019

Personal Growth: How to Upgrade Your Skillset

Dear Friends,

Personal growth often does not happen unless we make it happen, with God's help, by focusing on a specific area to strengthen.

Personal Growth: How to Upgrade Your Skillset

Have a great week,


Saturday, January 19, 2019

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Overcoming Our Soft Addictions

Dear Friends,

Most of us struggle with at least one "soft" addiction. By reigning it in we can live more productive and meaningful lives.

Overcoming our Soft Addictions

Have a great week,


Saturday, January 5, 2019

Shvat: Elevating the Physical

Dear Friends,

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

Rosh Chodesh Shvat begins Sunday night, the 6th of January and lasts for one day.

The 15th of this month is Tu B’Shvat, the New Year for trees. An aspect of this holiday is celebrating and elevating the physical. Part of sanctifying the physical is taking care of the body with which God entrusted you. During this month, choose to upgrade either your sleep, exercise or diet habits.

Pick one change you will make on a daily or regular basis, for at least this month, and using your checklist, track how often you do it. If you find the change very easy, add another one. Some examples: Go to sleep 15-20 minutes earlier each week until you feel refreshed in the morning; exercise 2-3 times a week or go for a daily brisk walk; cut out sugary drinks and/or foods from your diet, limiting them to special occasions. Make water your preferred beverage. If you do not like the way your water tastes, consider a filter.

A related point of focus for this month is to consider if there is an area of your life where your relationship with the physical has become unbalanced and excessive, e.g., overeating, overspending, overworking, or overuse of the internet or your smartphone (surfing, texting, checking email, using Facebook etc.). Most of us have at least one area which, at a minimum, wastes our time and takes us away from more fulfilling activities. This month, pick one behavior to rein in and one behavior you would like to do more of instead. 

Questions for the month:

“What will I upgrade this month, my sleep, exercise or diet habits?”

“Is there an area of my life which has become unbalanced and excessive, which at the very least wastes my time? How will I rein it in and regain control?”

“What would I like to do with the new time or money I free up?”

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