Saturday, June 27, 2020

The Freedom of Forgiveness: 3 Strategies to Letting Go

Dear Friends,

Forgiving someone takes effort, but holding on to bitterness and animosity has a heavy cost...

The Freedom of Forgiveness: 3 Strategies to Letting Go

Have a great week and take care,


Thursday, June 25, 2020

What Happened to On Ben Pelet? AND Audio Download

Dear Friends,

Here is the link to my parsha class:

Below is a written version of a drasha (speech) I gave in the past on Parshat Korach.

Have a Shabbat Shalom,


In this week’s Parsha, Parshat Korech, we started off with a listing of those who were involved in the rebellion of Korech against Moshe Rabbenu. One man listed is On ben Pelet. But later on On disappears from the scene. What happened to On?

The Gemara (Talmud) in Sanhedrin (109b) explains that On’s wife saved him from sharing the same fate of Korach. He had initially joined the rebellion but his wife convinced him that it was a foolish thing to do and helped him extricate himself from the rebellion. By doing this, she saved his life and that of his family as well.

On ben Pelet’s wife was a good influence on him. The Gemara in Sanhedrin also discusses a wife who was a bad influence, and that was the wife of Korach. She instigated him to rebel and goaded him on.

We often think, “Who am I that I can influence others?” But this is misguided humility. Hashem gives us tremendous power to not only change our own lives, but to change the lives of those around us as well.

Parshat Korach showcases the influence we can have on each other. In the case of On ben Pelet’s wife, through our influence we can save someone’s life, or in the case of Korach’s wife, the opposite can occur, God forbid.

What are some ways we can be a bad influence on people? When we are naysayers and throw cold water on people’s hopes and dreams. When we are a bad role model or hyper-critical of others.

How can we be a good influence on people? First we must see the amazing potential and goodness within everyone. When we genuinely like and care about people, they will be more open to being influenced by us. We influence people by sharing with them inspirational articles we’ve read or classes we attend. We also have a positive impact on people by teaching by example and by encouraging and complimenting them.

Another way to influence others is to do what On ben Pelet’s wife did and give advice when appropriate. If you know someone who’s struggling with a life challenge or you see them heading down the wrong path, if you think you can help them, don’t hold back!

Ask them if they are interested in your advice and if they are, share your thoughts with them.

For our own challenges, what do we do if we don’t have a spouse like the wife of On ben Pelet?

We must seek out wise people to consult with and get their advice and encouragement.

A common mistake people make is to make big decisions or try to handle difficult challenges on their own, without consulting with others who have wisdom and life experience, such as rabbis, rebbetzins and other mentors.

Until now, I’ve focused on being a good influence on others. But we must also be a good influence on ourselves. If we frequently berate and scold ourselves, if we call ourselves terrible names and say how hopeless we are, is that going to motivate us to improve?

We must be our biggest fan!!

We must spur ourselves on to overcome the challenges we face.

I want to end with some powerful questions we can ask ourselves:
Which do I do more, criticize others or compliment them?

Am I focused only on myself and my family, or do I take an interest in others and give them encouragement?

When I talk to myself, am I nasty and hyper-critical, or am I loving and encouraging?

Don’t let a day go by without encouraging and complimenting yourself and others. Then, B’ezrat Hashem (with God's help), we will all reach great heights.

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Saturday, June 20, 2020

Tammuz: Forgiveness

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 Sunday night, the 21st of June 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 must 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 ourselves and others (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 yourself and others.

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, as this hurt only harms you.)

“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 13, 2020

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Saturday, June 6, 2020

The 12th Way to Examine Your Soul

Dear Friends,

In a previous post, here, I highlighted online free resources for Torah learning. One of those resources was the third chapter of the Gate of Introspection (Examining the Soul) in Duties of The Heart, by Rabbi Bachya ibn Pekuda, where he lists 30 ways to do introspection. This classic, written hundreds of years ago, is still inspiring and applicable to this day.

For today's post, I want to highlight the 12th way of doing introspection, to give you a taste of his wisdom. In this entry, Rabbi Bachya ibn Pekuda discusses the following truth: People often spend an inordinate amount of time and energy on the pursuit of money, when at the end of the day, they may have little to show for it. At the same time, they often neglect the needs of their soul, where any effort they would have put in that area would have yielded eternal reward.

In addition to making reasonable efforts to be able to support ourselves and our families, the author is urging us to “exert yourself in what you need for your final end." We do this by doing acts of kindness, giving charity, learning Torah, praying and observing the other mitzvot as best we can.

Take care and have a great week,


Quoted from Sefaria here:

“THE TWELFTH: (the pursuit of physical) To make an accounting with oneself at a time when one's heart is excited and diligent for worldly matters, applying himself fully with his utmost ingenuity and maximum ability, and to weigh this against one's laxness in matters of his final end, and his straying from the service of his G-d.

Then he will see and feel that his thoughts for matters of this world are the highest of his thoughts, and his aspiration for this world is the higher of his aspirations, because all the various types of possessions will never be enough for him in the least, on the contrary he is like a fire, the more wood is added, the more it increases flames, and all of his heart and intent will be drawn to it day and night. He will not consider anyone a close friend except one who helps him in them, and no one a friend except he who leads him to them. His eye will be to the times it is good to buy, and the times it is good to sell. And he will observe matters of the selling rates for the whole world. He investigates where they are cheap and where they are expensive, and when they go up and when they go down. He will not refrain from travelling to faraway places. Neither heat, nor cold, nor stormy sea, nor long desert roads - all this out of his hope to reach the end of his desire but there is no end to it.

It is possible that all of his efforts will be for nothing, and he will not attain anything except a long suffering, exertion, and toil. And even if he attains some of what he hoped for, perhaps he will not get any benefit from it, but instead will only guard it, manage it, and protect it from potential damages, until it will go to he who G-d decreed it should go to, whether while he is still alive, as written: "at mid life he will leave it" (Yirmiya 17:11) or after his death, as written: "they will abandon their fortunes to others" (Tehilim 49:11).

The wise man already warned us against zeal and exertion for amassing wealth, as written: "Labor not to be rich: cease from your own wisdom" (Mishlei 23:4), and he spoke of the calamity found in it, in saying "Will you set your eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven" (Mishlei 23:5), and the other wise man (King David) taught us and permitted us to make efforts in earning money for our basic needs only, in saying: "If you eat the toil of your hands, you are praiseworthy, and it is good for you" (Tehilim 128:2).

And likewise, the pious man asked G-d to give him his livelihood only in the basic amount, and to distance him from wealth which leads to the luxuries, and from poverty which leads to loss of morals and torah, in saying: "Two things have I asked of you; Do not give me poverty nor wealth, provide me with my food portion" (Mishlei 30:7), and the rest of the matter. Like him, we find our forefather, Yaakov, who asked G-d only for his basic needs, in saying: "If G-d will be with me, and He will guard me on this way, upon which I am going, and He will give me bread to eat and a garment to wear" (Bereishis 28:20).

Wake up my brother! Look at the deficiency of that which you hurry and pursue - to maintain your body in its natural state. Your association with it will only be for a short time, it will not be spared from pain and it will not be saved from troubles while you are attached to it. If it eats too much, it will become sick. If it eats too little, it will become weak. If you clothe it more than it needs, it will become uncomfortable, and if you leave it naked, it will be pained. Furthermore, its health and sickness, its life and death are not according to your will and not in your control, rather everything is directed by your Creator.

Where is the superiority of your soul over your body? And the exaltedness of its world over the body's world, its rising above (after death) while the body descends below, its spirituality versus the body's physicality, its unchanging nature versus the body's changing nature, its eternal existence versus the body's deteriorating and disappearing existence, its simple form versus the body's composite elements, its pure essence versus the body's baseness, its wisdom and understanding versus the body's beastliness, its tendency for the virtuous traits versus the body's tendency for the disgraceful traits.

If you conduct yourself in this kind of zeal and effort for the rectification of your body, in spite of its lowliness and baseness, and despite your weak capacity to save it from damage or to benefit it, how much more is it your duty to conduct yourself with this zeal and effort for the rectification of your soul, which is so important and which you will be left with (forever), and which you were commanded to guide its matter, and to look into things which will rectify it in acquiring wisdom and understanding, as written: "Buy the truth, and sell it not" (Mishlei 23:23), and "Get wisdom, get understanding" (Mishlei 4:5), and "How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! and to choose understanding rather than silver!" (Mishlei 16:16), and "So shall the knowledge of wisdom be unto your soul" (Mishlei 24:14), and "If you are wise, you shall be wise for yourself" (Mishlei 9:12), which means that the spiritual acquisitions are yours. No one can ever steal them from you, unlike what occurs by physical acquisitions.

See, my brother, what is between the two things, and what is between the two matters. Turn away from the luxuries of your world, and exert yourself in what you need for your final end. Do not say: "I will share the fate of the fool" (who does not make this accounting). Because more will be claimed from you according to your higher level of understanding, and your punishment will be greater. The accounting demanded of you for your neglect will be stricter. Do not rely on a claim which you will have no grounds for, and do not rest assured on a plea which will be used against you and not for you.

The discussion to complete this subject is too lengthy, let it be enough for you what I have aroused you on it, and taught you according to your understanding. Contemplate my words, and understand my allusions. Investigate them in the book of the torah of G-d, and the words of our sages. You will see their explanation from the verses, from logic, and from the talmud, with G-d's help.”

Thursday, June 4, 2020