Chillul Tefila Bifarhesia, as well as halachicly challenged verbiage and dress, are external manifestations of a critical lack of personal yiras shomayim which has lethal consequences.
During Rosh Hashona, when it is customary to greet friend and stranger alike with good wishes for the upcoming year, I try to avoid uttering the phrase, “Have a happy and healthy New Year. The sentiments expressed are fine and sincere, but to me the words have lost their clout by overuse – the way, “have a nice day” has, or “I’m sorry,” uttered without thought as you move your way into a crowded train. It’s become an automatic , unthinking response.
Instead I say to everyone I care about that they should have a year in which they will have “peace of mind”. Having peace of mind means all is well in the major aspects of one’s life – there are no dire health, parnasah, (livelihood) shidduch, shalom bayit or child – related issues eating away at you, preoccupying your thoughts and your actions. It means restful sleep at night, and no stomach churning anxiety as you reluctantly face a new day in the morning.
This year I as I uttered these good wishes, I found myself wondering how does one achieve a state of being where true peace of mind/spirit envelopes you? The fact is, that there are very few people, if any, with perfect lives, where everyone they are connected to – parents, spouses, friends, children and themselves are in good health, have no social or educational issues, financial problems, or other significant concerns.
I realized that one can attain this state of well-being by simply having hakarat hatov – acknowledgement and therefore appreciation of the good in one’s life. There, might be room for improvement – the kids could get fewer colds and ear infections, or have better grades, your spouse could be a bit more complimentary, your boss a bit more generous, your 22 old year old daughter could have more suitable dates – but life is generally at a madraga (level) that is worth being grateful for. You have the job, the spouse, the children, the health – all you have to do is embrace your good mazel and be content. Contentment with your lot is the path to peace of mind, and the ability to say, “Modeh Ani” when you wake up ? and mean it.
But sadly, there are men and women and children who have experienced soul-shattering turmoil and horrific loss. Though there are aspects of their lives that are good and worthy of appreciation, they have gone through an excruciatingly painful, non-fixable catastrophe whose dark immensity overshadows that good and diminished it.
Living consists of emotional pain so intense and overwhelming that it consumes the person totally and he/she cannot escape it. Everyday objects and activities release bullets of emotional agony. A school bus that goes past your home that no longer stops, an empty bedroom full of belongings, a Shabbat table with unused chairs. There is no running away from the spirit-breaking confines of a new reality.
The sorrow that threatens to bend the core of one’s being to the breaking point, often is intensified by a gangreneous guilt that gnaws away at the soul, much like a woodpecker pecking away at a tree, constant and consistent and relentless.
How can these neshamas wrapped in grief find peace of mind – even a tiny modicum of it.
It is through Hashem’s ultimate gift to mankind – faith in Him.
But what does faith really mean and how to achieve it? I can only offer my feelings and thoughts on something that many greater than me throughout the ages have grappled with.
Faith is trust. Unwavering, undiluted, doubt-free trust, which can only be attained through love. Case in point. A baby getting a needle that causes it seconds of pain – which to the infant seems like forever – trusts the actions of its parents. It does not stop loving them because of this seemingly cruel act. It does not say to itself, “My parents are evil, they hurt me and let me down, I don’t want anything to do with them. I reject them.” Rather it trusts its parents so completely that every painful act perpetrated by them is accepted and received and internalized as being something that was to its benefit, even though it has no idea as to how the “torture” inflicted on it could possibly be a good thing.
The baby has total, unobstructed faith in its parents, it trusts them unequivocally – because it loves them with all its soul.
Hashem in his kindness has given us a blueprint for attaining trust in Him. It is contained in the Shema, which begins with Judaism’s ultimate declaration of faith – (one uttered by martyrs as they were murdered) “Hear Oh Israel – Hashem is Our G-d, Hashem is One.”
Immediately following this declaration is an admonishment: ” and you shall love your G-d with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your resources.”
We are not advised to fear G-d. Obviously, it takes no effort to be afraid of an Almighty G-d who can turn your life inside out with a blink. Nor is loving someone a challenge when life is wonderful.
But loving someone unconditionally despite the fact that He has brought pain and suffering – in spite of the pain and suffering – is the ultimate act of trust. Being able to say without hesitation yet without understanding it that, “this (the apparent tragedy) too is for the good” is the supreme achievement of faith and love for Hashem and the only path to consolation and the nechama crucial for peace of mind.
Although you may never be relieved of your sense of loss and your heart will always be bruised and there will be an emptiness in your soul, your pain can be soothed to the point of it being bearable, allowing you to take your first steps on the path to true peace of mind. If you can believe whole hardly, that Hashem controls every nuance of our lives – then guilt is a torture that is underserved – and one you wrongly inflict on yourself. Guilt is an unmitigated conceit – since you are saying you are in control and responsible and not Hashem. Faith in Hashem’s mastery of the universe will soothe your soul’s wounds and sleep will be attainable.
Attaining and maintaining love in Hashem and an acceptance of His unfathomable ways can be, and is the ultimate challenge even to those seeped in Yiddishkeit from the day they were born. But the reward is a life lived, if not b’simcha, at least with peace of mind.
During these Days of Awe – Yamai Noraim – I wish you and Klal Yisrael success in your davening and true peace of mind, all the days of your lives.
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Nearly half a million of them fought in Red Army uniforms, under communist slogans but with a personal vengeance that was solely the result of Jewish experience. More than the “Greatest Generation,” they were the living superheroes hidden in plain sight.
It’s all over.
The orchestra is still, the lights are dimmed. Your simcha outfits hang in your closet, silent witnesses to a time you will treasure in your mind and heart forever.
After noticing that you can’t log into your computer, your pulse quickens as you are called into your supervisor’s office. S/he has some bad news. You are being laid off. You have 15 minutes to clean out your desk and surrender your cell phone before security escorts you out of the building. Job termination, especially in the corporate world, can be heartless.
I have always had a problem with the Omer. Doing the mitzvah of counting the Omer was of course pretty easy. Remembering to start the second evening of Passover and remembering to stop the day before Shavous took a little concentration but somehow I always managed. No, for me the nagging problem was always why was I doing this in the first place, other than the fact it was a biblical (according to the Rambam) commandment.
With the semi-mourning period of Sefira behind us, and the festival of Shavuot as well (as evidenced by the tightness of our clothing due to over-indulging in irresistible versions of cheesecake that is an integral component of celebrating our receipt of the Torah), our community can look forward to participating in joyous engagement parties and weddings.
Dear Dr. Yael:
Do you really believe that the Internet is the reason why the divorce rate is so high among young couples? This may be so in some cases, but what about the fact that many singles are pressured to get married at a young age despite not having any idea what they are looking for in a mate? And add to that the fact that many are pressured to make a decision about marriage after dating for a very short period of time.
From the moment they stand under the chuppah, newlyweds have two years to enjoy the special bliss that new love brings. This new finding, reported by the New York Times, is based on a study undertaken by American and European researchers. 1,761 people who got married and stayed married over 15 years were followed. The research shows that after two years the couples moved into a more companionable state in their relationships.
Shel Silverstein’s 1974 poem “Where The Sidewalk Ends” is intended to paint a magical picture of a world of peace and serenity far away from the “black and dark streets.” At the time, perhaps the end of the sidewalk was a place that was “measured and slow.” Today, however, for many parents, where the sidewalk ends can feel like a scary place.
The next chapter of the award-winning novel.
Florida is famous for sparkling water. We have the beautiful Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico surrounding our coast. We have bays, lakes, canals and, of course, an incredible abundance of swimming pools in homes, resorts, apartment complexes and city parks.
The buzz is back as Camp Gan Israel Florida Overnight gears up for another fantastic summer, CGI Florida style. What makes CGI Florida so different from all the other overnight camps? It’s all in the details.
Leah Katz, a TeenZone camper at Oorah’s TheZone summer camp and an 11th grader at Midwood High School, read her winning essay about how TheZone changed her views on Judaism at the Jewish Heritage Awards Ceremony held at Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes’s office in April. The purpose of the Jewish Heritage Essay Contest is to acquaint public school students with Jewish history and customs and to help foster a deeper understanding of Jewish culture. The contest is open to students of all ethnic and religious backgrounds. Leah’s essay is reproduced in full below.
Moshe Sharett, the head of the Jewish Agency’s Political Department, visited Egypt in 1945. In Cairo he met a most remarkable young woman, a beautiful journalist who was the darling of Egyptian high society – from high-ranking military brass, to culture icons and Muslim sheikhs, to the court of King Faruk.
The two proceeded to talk about everyday things and surprisingly her mother-in-law did not find anything else to criticize. This occurred a few more times, with my client changing the topic every time by complimenting her mother-in-law or mentioning something positive about her.
One of the subjects I was taught as a young child in school was Tefillah. Since we spoke only Ivrit during our Limudei Kodesh and secular Hebrew studies – literature, creative writing and Jewish history – we pretty much understood the words we were davening.
Shortly before Pesach, I received a rather agitated call from a long time reader of The Jewish Press who pleaded with me to write a column regarding what she insisted was the unwarranted high cost of Pesach food – in particular shmurah matzah – and how hard it was for young families to pay what she felt were over-inflated prices in order to keep strictly kosher.
The price of deliberate obliviousness is very high – emotionally, physically, socially, and financially.
How is it possible that a person of seemingly normal intelligence (nowhere does it say he is simple) not have the ability to ask a question – to not react and enquire as to the why of the hustle and bustle around him?
It was one of those cold, rain-soaked evenings – the kind that make you look forward to a hot drink, a good book and a soft couch to curl up on. With those happy thoughts in mind, I proceeded to cross to the other side of the street.
The other day I was shopping at a large supermarket and happened to go down the frozen foods aisle, past the endless freezers containing every imaginable flavor, shape and size of ice cream. I rarely buy. Rather I am like a tourist in a museum – gawking at wondrous objects that I know I can’t take home with me.
He stood his ground despite the intense pressure to do what everyone else was doing. His integrity was more important to him than “fitting in.”
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/love-trust-and-faith-achieving-true-peace-of-mind/2004/10/20/
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