Saturday, October 30, 2021

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 Thursday night, November 4th and lasts for one day.

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, preferably at the beginning 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 an email or text, or with a written note.

For a discussion on gratitude, see the first tool in, “6 Tools to Enhance Your Mood."

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?”

May God grant us success in the coming month,


Saturday, October 16, 2021

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Noah Got Drunk. What's the Message to Us?

Based on a talk I gave over Shabbat:

In this week’s Parsha, Parshat Noach, we read about Noah, a righteous person: From the entire world, he and his family were the only ones worthy of being saved from the flood. He was tasked by God to ensure the survival of the entire animal kingdom. As he left the Ark, having successfully taken care of the animals, he was at the height of his success. Yet, after he leaves the Ark, the first thing he did was plant a vineyard and get drunk. As the Torah says (Genesis 9:20), “Vayachel Noach...”, “Noah debased himself...”

How can someone who was on such a high level fall so drastically, debasing himself and getting drunk?

The commentators explain that when Noah left the Ark, and saw a desolate world, he realized all that was lost and all that was needed to rebuild. He became despondent. How will he ever rebuild the world? This led him to look for relief in alcohol.

What can we learn from this?

I want to share with you two messages:

The first is to never lose hope. No matter how dire a situation is, whether health or financial or other circumstance, God can turn things around in the blink of an eye.

Rebbe Nachman writes, “Ain yiush beolam klal.” There’s never a reason to despair. God can always turn around even a dire situation.

Rebbe Nachman’s student Rav Nosson wrote the following in a letter, I quote from the book, Healing Leaves: Prescriptions for inner strength, meaning and hope: “If I have done nothing other than to make known to you that a person must never despair, no matter what, this would be enough. Know that this is the real truth for every person in every time. If everyone in the world knew this and genuinely believed it, the world would already have reached a state of complete rectification.”

Sometimes we try, especially in an area of spirituality, but we have a setback and think, “what’s the point in trying? I’m never going to reach the level I strive for.” But what we don’t understand is that getting up from each fall is part of the process of spiritual growth and is what God wants from us!

Here’s another power quote from Rav Nosson: “A person's main test in life and the essence of the refining process he must undergo, is that, through all the declines and falls and through all that he experiences, he should not allow himself to become distanced from God, from Torah or from prayer.”

Regardless of the setback, don’t allow your connection to God to weaken, never stop learning, never stop praying.

The second message we can learn from Noah getting drunk is the importance of believing in yourself. Upon leaving the Ark, Noah probably thought to himself: “The world that was is gone forever! How will I ever be able to rebuild?” And so he became depressed.

But later on, was Noach and his family able to rebuild the world?

Yes. Everyone alive today descends from Noah.

Often, our greatest challenge, what is holding us back, is not believing in ourselves, not believing that we can accomplish great things.

Before we can achieve something, we need to think that with God’s help we can do it, otherwise, we won’t even bother trying. Often, people sabotage their success by telling themselves all the things they will never succeed at and it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. The truth is that they could have accomplished so much more, but only if they would have believed in themselves.

What is something you want to achieve? Make a step by step plan on how you will get there. Use the power of visualization and visualize yourself working toward and achieving your goal.

I watched a fascinating interview with R’ Eli Stafansky on Artscroll’s website. R’ Eli gives one of the most well attended Daf Yomi classes in the world. Thousands of people watch his class on the Talmud on a daily basis. You might think he must have been a top student. But as R’ Eli says in the interview, he wasn’t the best in his class. Preparing the class also doesn’t come easy for him and he spends a lot of time on it. He says he’s a regular guy who likes to learn Torah and wants to share the excitement of learning Torah with others.

But how does someone go from teaching the Daf Yomi to a handful of people to thousands? It takes a lot of Divine assistance but you also have to believe in yourself. If you believe that you can achieve greatness, then you will never lose hope. You will get up from every setback and keep plugging away until you succeed.

We all have the potential to achieve greatness but we need to push ourselves past our comfort zones to get there.

What new goal will you choose to help YOU reach YOUR personal greatness?