web analytics
October 25, 2014 / 1 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘experience’

Preparation is Key to a Successful Shabbat

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

“It is a Sabbath of Sabbaths for you, and you shall afflict yourselves, It is an eternal statute” (Vayikra 16:31).

This is how our Torah sums up the upcoming experience of Yom Kippur: a Sabbath of all Sabbaths. Rather than use the more colloquially known “Yom HaKippurim,” The Day of Atonementthe Torah reading of Yom Kippur morning uses the above term to summarize the twenty-five hour experience we are about to step into.

This once-a-year “Sabbath of Sabbaths” is not alone; our weekly Shabbat is coined a “Sabbath of Sabbaths” as well (see  Shemot 31:15, 35:2, Vayikra 3:3).  However, there are many distinctions between our weekly Shabbat versus the “once a year Shabbat,” ones that make it highly doubtful that any of us would   naturally state that Yom Kippur is just another Shabbat. After all, the tenth day of Tishrei is devoted to fasting in place of the three obligatory Shabbat meals, praying almost all day in place of far more free time, and abstaining from other prohibitions that are totally permissible on Shabbat. Alas, if G-d decided to coin the same phrase for both, it’s incumbent upon us to try and seek the similarities between these two elevated days in our calendar.  Allow me to extrapolate but one that the former clearly possesses, to which the latter, in my opinion, has not been properly privileged: preparation.

There isn’t a Rabbi or Teacher that preached during the past few weeks, and didn’t state, in some way or another, how vital it is to “prepare” for the Days of Judgment. Teshuva, introspection and other such terms were surely refrains in any sermon or class, imploring us not to “stumble into” Yom Kippur without the proper period of preparation.

And indeed, preparation seems to be exactly what is on the menu at this time of the year. Jews of Sephardic decent began to recite Selichot  prayers forty days before Yom Kippur (Code of Jewish Law, OC 581:1,). Ashkenazic Jewa began Selichot at least fourdays before Rosh Hashana (Rama’s glosses, ibid), allowing at least four days of “inspection” of oneself, as one would inspect a sacrifice for blemishes prior it’s offering (Mishna-Berura, ibid, 6). As we draw closer to Yom Kippur, preparations increase greatly, as articulated beautifully by Rav Solovetchik:

“I remember how difficult it was to go to sleep on Erev Yom Kippur. The shochet (ritual slaughterer) used to come at the break of dawn to provide chickens for the Kaparos ritual, and later the people would give charity…Minchah, vidui, the final meal before the fast (seudah hamafsekes), my grandfather’s preparations all made Erev Yom Kippur a special entity, not only halakhic, but emotional and religious as well.

Erev Yom Kippur constitutes the herald that the Ribono Shel Olam is coming…  (A. Lustiger, Before Hashem, page 60-61).

If all the above preparations are so vital for the “Shabbat” of Yom Kippur, are they not critical also for the weekly “Shabbat?” If both are called “Shabbat of Shabbats,” why should just one require preparation, while we stumble into the other with none?

Indeed, it’s known that “One that was busy preparing on the eve of Shabbat will eat on Shabbat, and one that didn’t prepare will not eat on Shabbat (Tractate Avoda Zara 3a). While this seems like good advice rather than a rabbinical edict (i.e., the prohibition of cooking would prevent one who didn’t pre-prepare food from eating on Shabbat), this is not the only statement that speaks of preparing for the Shabbat. Just as the Code of Jewish Law deals extensively with the Laws of Shabbat, there are endless chapters dealing with the Eve of Shabbat (OC, chapters 249-252, 256 & 270), from what should be done in honor of Shabbat, to what one should refrain from due to the oncoming holiness of the day.

The list goes on and the idea is clear: we are about to enter a twenty-five hour period of time with just family, friends and G-d, without distractions of the email, phone, work and more. If we want to have a profound “Shabbat” experience, it is vital that we prepare for it prior to its commencement.

It is uncanny for any event to turn out successfully without months of preparation,  Thus too, our weekly Shabbat-event, even while refraining from the thirty-nine prohibitions, and making Kiddush, can easily turn into a wasted experience, or G-d forbid, a disastrous one, if not properly prepared for. Thus lamented Rav Solovetchik:

True, there are Jews in America who observe the Sabbath. The label ‘Sabbath observer’ has come to be used as a title of honor in our circles…But, it is not for the Sabbath that my heart aches, it is for the forgotten ‘eve of the Sabbat’ There are Sabbath-observing Jews in America, but there are not ‘eve-of-the-Sabbath’ Jews who go out to greet the Sabbath with beating hearts and pulsating souls… (Pinchas Peli, On Repentance).

And indeed, even if you buy “ready-made” Shabbat food, pay someone to clean your house, and even have someone else bathe your kids, much spiritual and mental preparation is needed for Shabbat to become a true experience; Have you put thought into what will be the topic of discussion at the Shabbat table? Have your kids prepared a Dvar-Torah to share? Which games will you play with your kids over Shabbat? How will you balance your time between your guests and friend, and the time with your husband/wife and kids? Is there inspiring reading material in the house? How will this Shabbat be different from all others?

Memory And Belief In The Wake Of The Holocaust: An Interview with Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, formerly the chief rabbi of Israel and currently chief rabbi of Tel Aviv, visited the United States recently to address the Siyum HaShas at MetLife Stadium and to appear at a Chabad Shabbos retreat in Fort Lauderdale.

Rabbi Lau spoke with The Jewish Press about his account of coming of age during the Holocaust, first published in Hebrew as “MeMaamakim” and translated into English as “Out of the Depths: The Story of a Child of Buchenwald Who Returned Home at Last” (Sterling/OU Press).

The Jewish Press: How were you able to recollect so vividly what you lived through as a very young boy during the Holocaust?

Rabbi Lau: This question has been asked of me many times. There are three answers.

First, God blessed me with a wonderful memory and so I was able to recall events that occurred many years ago.

Second, I am sure you remember something about first grade when you were six years old, like the name of your teacher and the first day of class. Well, if you can remember something like that, which was perhaps dramatic but certainly not traumatic, how much more can someone remember something that is not only dramatic but, unfortunately, traumatic?

Third, every time I finished a chapter, I would fax what I had written to my brother Naphtali, who is eleven years older than I am, and I would ask him to be my fact checker. Naphtali was surprised that all my facts were correct and he himself wondered how I was able to remember what happened to me during my awful experience during the Holocaust at such a young age.

There are those who survived the Holocaust and turned away from Hashem in terms of the observance of mitzvot. What do you say to people who have gone through the same experience as you but turned out so different?

Yes, unfortunately, there are many whom I encounter who have turned their back on the synagogue. I refer them to the third chapter of Tehillim, where King David, speaking from the perspective of the Jews’ enemy, states, “They say let us eradicate them [the Jews] as a nation,” which refers to the physical destruction of the Jews.

But then King David continues, “and there will be no remembrance of the Jews ever,” which refers to their spiritual eradication, chas v’shalom. I explain, with a great deal of empathy and sympathy, to these survivors that they are handing the ultimate victory to the Nazis, for although they physically survived, their spiritual survival has been eradicated. And instead of bringing solace and comfort to their parents and great-parents who were killed by the Nazis, they are bringing gratification to the Nazis.

I know these words penetrate many of the survivors and give them pause to think about how they should lead their lives. It is not easy. I also refer them to Tehillim 92 where King David says “How great are your wonders O God,” which refers to the absolute marvels of the natural world we see around us and can barely understand.

King David continues, “Your ‘thoughts’ are so deep” and not comprehensible by humankind. I ask them, “If we cannot truly fathom God’s wonders in what we can physically see in nature and the world around us, how can we understand God’s intent and reason for this horrible tragedy that befell our people?”

Would you describe your book as an autobiography or as a story of the Holocaust and the beginnings of the state of Israel – or a little of both?

The book is not a biography or even an autobiography. It is a book of emunah, of faith. It was my desire to give strength to Holocaust survivors and their families, to know that despite what we went through, we can succeed and prosper.

Why is there little if any Holocaust education in yeshivas, particularly among haredim?

This is something I have been working on for many years. I was the first person appointed to the Yad Vashem Council who had a “yeshivish” background. I soon discovered there was a haredi department at Yad Veshem that was rarely used or visited. I succeeded in obtaining the cooperation of thousands of haredi rebbeim and teachers to visit for several days and to learn lessons on the Holocaust to be taught to their students. I also was involved in publishing various kinos that recall the Holocaust.

Dyslexia And Dysgraphia: Struggles With Reading And Writing

Friday, September 7th, 2012

Shifi and Shana were neighbors and their mothers had been getting together before they could even roll over. Now that the girls were in second grade, they did their homework together.

“Shifi, your ‘d’ is so funny! It looks like a banana,” Shana giggled.

“It’s not a ‘d,’ Shana, it’s a ‘b.’ And I can’t help it. It just comes out like that!” Shifi responded.

“What do you mean it’s a ‘b?’ It looks like a ‘d’ to me, but Morah says I keep making those mistakes anyway,” Shana said, blushing.

“Yes, but she keeps telling me I need to write neatly. I’m trying, but I can’t do it. Maybe we can trade. I’ll read for you. You write for me!” Shifi said eagerly, handing over her pencil.

While Shifi and Shana could be two girls who are experiencing regular struggles with reading and writing, if these issues continue, it is possible that they each suffer from a different learning disability: dyslexia or dysgraphia.

Dyslexia

The National Institute of Health defines dyslexia as characterized by difficulties with accurate or fluent word recognition, by poor spelling and decoding. Dyslexia is a learning disability that is neurological in origin and often runs in the family. Children with dyslexia experience trouble reading when taught through traditional instruction.

Though the symptoms of dyslexia manifest in different ways, some common symptoms for a kindergartener through fourth grader are:

* Difficulty reading single words not surrounded by others. * Slow to learn connections between letters and sounds. * Confusion around small words such as “at” and “to,” or “does” and “goes.” * Consistent reading and spelling errors, including: Letter reversals such as “d” for “b.” Word reversals such as “tip” for “pit.” Inversions such as “m” and “w” and “u” and “n.” Transpositions such as “felt” and “left.” Substitutions such as “house” and “home.”

Children with dyslexia are often well-adjusted and happy preschoolers. Research shows they begin to experience emotional problems during early reading instruction. Over the years, their frustration mounts as classmates surpass them. Often, these children feel they fail to meet others expectations. Teachers and parents see a bright child who is failing to learn to read and assume he’s “not trying hard enough.” This can cause children to feel inadequate.

Children with dyslexia frequently have problems in social relationships. This is because they have difficulty reading social cues or dyslexia affects oral language functioning. Additionally, without proper intervention, these children will fall farther behind their peers.

Dysgraphia

It’s hard for people to understand that children can have a learning disability that affects only writing. Most people assume that if you do not have trouble reading, then writing should be a cinch. Or, parents assume that trouble with writing is a physical impediment rather than a mental one. Dysgraphia, a learning disability that affects writing abilities, debunks these myths.

Dysgraphia can manifest itself as difficulties with spelling, handwriting and trouble putting thoughts on paper. Children who suffer from dysgraphia often have reading skills on par with other children their age. Dysgraphia is not simply a motor problem, but also involves information processing skills (transferring thoughts from the mind through the hand onto the paper). If your child has trouble in any of the areas listed below, additional help may be beneficial:

* Awkward pencil grip and body position * Illegible handwriting * Avoiding writing and drawing tasks * Tiring quickly while writing * Saying words out loud while writing * Unfinished or omitted words in sentences * Difficulty organizing thoughts on paper * Large gap between written ideas and speech

There are different effective strategies.

For young children, here are some suggestions:

* Use paper with raised lines so children can feel the lines on the paper, allowing them to stay on track. * Experiment with different pens and pencils. * Practice writing letters with exaggerated arm movements. This will help improve the motor memory without the pressure of the paper. * Encourage proper grip, posture, and paper positioning. If you aren’t sure how to help your child with this – don’t push it off too long! The later you correct these concerns, the harder it is to unlearn the bad habits.

Study: Highest Suicide Rates Among Religious Homosexuals

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

A new study published this week and presented at the European Symposium of Suicide and Suicidal Behavior in Tel Aviv, examines for the first time the suicide rates among different segments of Israeli youth, Kipa reports. According to the study, which examined the scope of non-documented suicide attempts among Israeli youth in several communities, it appears that 3.5% of the young people interviewed attempted suicide.

The study indicates that most of the victims did not receive emergency room treatment, and therefore were not included in the Ministry of Health’s records on suicide. The study, which determined that the number of suicide attempts among Israeli youth is 20 times higher than reported in official statistics, examined a total of 1,134 teens.

The most significant statistic was recorded in the segment focusing on suicide rates among the LGBT community. A staggering 20% of the homosexuals and lesbians surveyed reported suicide attempts – 112 times the rate among the general population.

But the rate is even higher among religious LGBTs. According to Dr. Chana Bar Yosef, the study’s director, “this is a sector that does not get enough notice, and it is a hotbed for suicides that you later hear about after the fact. The suicide rate among the religious homosexuals is the highest because they experience more distress when confronting their families.”

HOD, The organization for Religious Homosexuals has been working for several years now to decrease the suicide attempts of religious homosexuals “by increasing awareness of the issue in the educational and rabbinic institutions.”

The World’s Greatest Joy

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

Jews who have become religious, ba’ale t’shuva, describe t’shuva as the most joyous experience in their lives. Very often, a gleam of happiness shines in their eyes. Their speech is filled with an excited ring, as if they have discovered a secret treasure. Even people who have tasted all of life’s secular pleasures insist that the experience of t’shuva is the world’s greatest joy.

What is the reason for this? What is the source of this joy? Rabbi Kook writes:

T’shuva is the healthiest feeling possible. A healthy soul in a healthy body must necessarily bring about the great joy of t’shuva, and the soul consequently feels the greatest natural pleasure (Orot HaT’shuva, 5:1).

First, it is important to note the connection which Rabbi Kook makes between t’shuva and health. As we previously learned in our blog about the Olympics, a healthy body is an important foundation of t’shuva. Contrary to the picture of the penitent as a gloomy, frail, bent-over recluse who shuns the world, the true baal t’shuva is healthy, happy, robust, and bursting with life.

When a person rids himself of bad habits, like overeating and cigarette smoking, his health is improved. Without these harming elements, he is stronger and more vibrant. So too, when one rids oneself of bad moral habits and base character traits, his spiritual health is improved. Without these negative influences, his soul is free to receive the flow of Divine energy and light which fills the universe. When he is both physically and spiritually healthy, his capability to experience the Divine is greatly enhanced. It is this “meeting with God” that brings the influx of joy that every baal t’shuva feels. When the unhealthy walls which had separated him from God are eliminated from his life, he stands ready for life’s greatest discovery — the discovery that God and the spiritual world are real. Suddenly, God’s love and kindness surround him. All his sins are forgiven. Instead of darkness, there is light all around him and a pool of endless love.

Rabbi Kook writes:

 In measure with every ugly thing which a person eliminates from his soul when he inwardly longs for the light of t’shuva, he immediately discovers worlds filled with exalted illumination inside his soul. Every transgression removed is like the removal of a blindfold from the eye, and an entire horizon of vision is revealed, the light of unending expanses of heaven and earth, and all that they contain (Ibid, 5:2).

The new spiritual horizons which the baal t’shuva discovers give him a feeling of freedom, as if he were soaring through air. This new-found freedom comes when the walls blocking God’s light have been razed. The baal t’shuva is freed from the bad habits and passions which had enslaved him in the past. He escapes from a web of wrongdoing. The lack of godliness which had pervaded his actions, his thoughts, and his being, is erased. Freed from his darkness, he can experience the wonders of God.

The steadfast will to always remain with the same beliefs to support the vanities of transgression into which a person has fallen, whether in deeds or in thoughts, is a sickness caused by an oppressive slavery that does not allow t’shuva’s light of freedom to shine in its full strength. For it is t’shuva which aspires to the original, true freedom — Divine freedom, which is free of all bondage (Ibid, 5:5).

Once again, we may be startled. People often think that in discovering God, one is restricting one’s freedom, not expanding it. If one recognizes his Creator, he also has to recognize His laws. For a person who thinks this way, religion is perceived as a yoke of responsibility and bondage. But Rabbi Kook tells us the opposite. The discovery of God is the ultimate freedom. Finally, a person is liberated from beliefs that he held on to in order to justify his errant lifestyle. Finally, he is freed from cycles of behavior which he could not control. Like a criminal who decides to go straight, he can now put his life in line with God’s will for the world. This is the greatest freedom!

Often people are afraid to set out on a course of t’shuva because they associate repentance with pain. While pain is a part of the t’shuva process, the hardships of t’shuva are quickly erased by the joy which the baal t’shuva discovers.

T’shuva does not come to make life bitter, but to make it more pleasant. The happy satisfaction with life that comes with t’shuva is derived from the waves of bitterness which cling to a person during the initial stages of t’shuva. However, this is the highest, creative valor, to recognize and understand that pleasantness evolves out of bitterness, life out of the clutches of death, eternal pleasures out of sickness and pain. As this everlasting knowledge grows and becomes more clear in the mind, in the emotions, in the person’s physical and spiritual natures, the person becomes a new being. With a courageous spirit, he transmits a new life force to all of his surroundings. He spreads the good news to all of his generation, and to all generations to be, that there is joy for the righteous, and that a joyous salvation is certain to come. ‘The humble also shall increase their joy in the Lord, and the poorest among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel (Ibid, 16:6).

We will explore the connection between t’shuva and pain in more detail in further blogs. Here, it is important to note that the pain a person feels when he confronts his sins and his unholy past, is only a temporary phase of t’shuva. It resembles the pain of surgery, when a disease must be cut out of the body. The uprooting of sin brings healing and joy in its wake, but the initial amputation is painful. It is difficult to give up the familiar, even if it be an evil habit. When a person understands this and opens himself up to change, he comes to be filled with a courageous new spirit and joy. His sins are forgiven. His life is renewed, and the world seems to be renewed with him.  Immediately, he wants to share his good fortune with everyone. He tells his parents with a gleam in his eyes, as if he has met the right girl. With unbounded enthusiasm, he phones his brother long distance to turn him on to the great secret which he has discovered. He is so hopped up on t’shuva, he wants the whole world to know. “Hey everybody, listen to me. You want to be happy? You want to be high? Get with it. Don’t do drugs. Do t’shuva!”

Back To School Made Easy

Friday, August 31st, 2012

The new school year is just around the corner, and as the summer days wind down the air is filled with the anticipation of the approaching back-to-school season. During this time, students and their parents often feel the apprehension and worry of preparing for school. Of course, we’d rather take advantage of these final warm vacation days and really enjoy ourselves, but the nervousness of the new school year is palpable. The best cure for this anxiety is to help ease the fear of the unknown by preparing for school. Set your children up for success by helping them prepare for this transition smoothly. Here are some tips to help you and your children experience this season bump-free.

* Display interest and excitement as the school year approaches. If you are enthusiastic and confident about the new experiences your children will have, they will be too. It’s contagious.

* Feelings of nervousness and worry about the new school year are common and expected. Take the time to discuss which areas your child is concerned about. Listen to his/her worries and talk about what to expect on that first school day.

* Another great idea is to specifically discuss with your children the various aspects and schedule of the school day. Some scenarios to discuss include the morning bus ride, what davening will be like, different subjects you anticipate they will learn, and the change of teachers during different subject times. You can make the discussion very detailed and really paint the picture of that first day of school. For example, chat about which familiar faces they will see walking into the classroom, who they will sit with on the bus and at lunch, what they will eat during lunch and recess, what activities will they opt for during recess time, and most importantly what to expect at the end of the day. Will they be picked up from school or take the bus home, what will your children find when they walk through the door – you waiting with a smile, a snack and a note on the table from you or a sibling or neighbor to play with. Remember, knowledge and familiarity is the sure way to extinguish the jitteriness of a new school year.

* Help your children acclimate to the school year routine and schedule. Have your children go to bed at “school-night bedtime” for a few nights prior to the first day of school and get up at the time they will need to on school days. This process will ease the adjustment and transition from summertime to school year schedule.

* Create a predictable routine during the first week of school that you will stick with throughout the school year. You and your children should prepare school clothes, book-bags, lunch, and snacks each night for the following school day. Also, have a set routine for after school hours. For example, decide how much time will be allotted to play and unwind after school; when dinner will be served; when homework will get done and a consistent bedtime and routine.

* Find out what materials will be needed for school and make sure your children are prepared with it on the first day. This may seem like common knowledge, but often in the rush to get everything done for school vital materials are forgotten until well into the school year. Having your children prepared with the necessary materials will help prevent anxiety, and empower them on the first day of school to succeed. Moreover, shopping for school supplies can be a fun experience if done with enough preparation (and without the stress that comes with last-minute tasks). These excursions are a great way to turn your children’s nervousness into the similar feeling of excitement for the renewal of the school year.

* If this is your child’s first time attending school, have him/her explore the classroom and school grounds before the first day. This will familiarize your child with the school setting and help reduce his/her nervousness.

Best wishes for a happy and healthy school year.

How to Retire When You Don’t Have Enough Money

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Very often, life doesn’t turn out the way you expect it. For example, over the years you may have dreamed of having a certain income or level of savings when you retire. For various reasons, however, that has not happened. Maybe certain things occurred within your personal life that meant that you had to spend the savings that you worked so hard to accrue, such as a serious illness, major, unexpected repairs to your home, or more. Perhaps you started investing too late, or you put your money into investments that did not bring you the returns that you anticipated. Or maybe you were just one of those people who spent too much every month.

Whatever the reason, if you reach retirement age and you see that you are not going to have enough money for your anticipated needs, what should you do?

First of all, don’t stress about it. Although this is not the ideal situation, you won’t necessarily end up on the street. There are some steps that you can take to make your life a little easier if your nest egg isn’t as large as you would like it to be:

Keep working part time. Consider partial retirement instead of full retirement. Though older people do not always find it easy to get new employment, there are still places where the experience of a senior citizen is appreciated. Any income you receive means that you will be withdrawing less from your savings account.

Turn down the volume. As you are going to face a cut in your income, learn to cut down your expectations. A trimmed budget doesn’t necessarily mean you need to cut out recreation, just find cheaper or free means of entertainment. Visit the library, not a bookstore. Visiting free public museums, going for walks along the sea front, and offering to take your grandchildren for one afternoon may not be as glamorous as a luxury cruise, but they cost a lot less and believe it or not, they can be just as rewarding.

Pay attention to your spending habits. While some people watch their budgets for most of their lives, there are plenty who don’t. If you fall into that second category, it’s time to change. Start taking note of your budget now, even before you retire, and you will be better able to cope with living in reduced circumstances when the time comes.

Keep up with your investments. If you do have a few investments, don’t panic when you retire and start selling them all. Consult with a financial adviser on how to make the best of the investments that you have and what you can do to make the best of your retirement years under the circumstances.

There aren’t any magical solutions to retiring comfortably without adequate savings, but there are certain strategies you can use to avoid and fix personal finance mistakes.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/goldstein-on-gelt/how-to-retire-when-you-dont-have-enough-money/2012/08/30/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: