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Yom Hadin is almost here and this time of year brings with it a range of emotions. Some people are excited - a new year, the start of school, new clothing. For others, Rosh Hashanah instills fear - the need to correct wrongdoings, to beg for forgiveness and make promises to be better. For still others, there is a feeling of being overwhelmed - either by the awe of the Yom Hadin or perhaps the reality of so many days of Shabbos, Yom Tov, Shabbos (that's a lot of cooking and baking). We are often so busy taking care of all the “things" that need to be done, that we don’t have enough time for spiritual and emotional preparation. It feels like most years I come to Selichos feeling as if I haven't done enough to prepare.
Two major news stories involving two famous men named Armstrong occurred within days of each other recently. Was it random happenstance? Or was there hashgacha involved? We know that nothing happens outside Hashem’s realm and power. But did Hashem have a specific reason for these two events occurring together when they did?
We asked several experienced mechanchim for their insights on how to shepherd children from their first “Modeh Ani” to the understanding that Hashem alone holds the key to every aspect of their existence. Here are the key principles they shared.
It is hard to believe that Elul is upon us and that the Day of Judgment is only one month away. In a short 30 days we must face our Creator and have our deeds evaluated in the hopes of a receiving a merciful blessing for a good and healthy year. We spend the month of Elul focused on repentance, and we learn the holy books of mussar to inspire us to grow and change.
As a teenager, I suffered from occasional panic attacks, social anxiety, and more than the usual amount of teenage angst. In today’s drug-obsessed society, I would certainly have been given psych meds; thankfully, back then, it was expected that maturity would bring greater resilience and awareness. And so it was.
I was preparing a shiur to honor the memory of my father, Paul Magill, a”h, on the 20th anniversary of his passing, and I was looking at that week’s sedrah, Parshas Re’eh. I was struck by the words, “See, I present before you today a blessing and a curse. The blessing: that you hearken to the commandments of Hashem, your God, that I command you today. And the curse: if you do not hearken to the commandments of Hashem, your God, and you stray from the path that I command you today, to follow gods of others, that you did not know.”
Everyone knows the feeling you get when you want to do something you can’t do. There is always that temptation to do - especially because you know you can’t. Or sometimes it’s because you want to prove you can. Sometimes it’s because people expect it of you. Sometimes it’s a combination.
I can probably read your thoughts: “Elul? I’m still in the Catskills! We haven’t even gone shopping at the Back-to-School sales yet!” That is true, but on the other hand, this week is Shabbos Mevorchim Elul, when we announce Rosh Chodesh Elul. Before you know it, we will be deep into Elul! Let us see how we can utilize this Shabbos to start getting ready.
I was going crazy. I couldn’t stand it another minute. Yes, I was feeling sorry for myself. I had been blessed, b’li ayin hara, with children very close in age. Surely having one child after the other was a blessing to be grateful for. I knew there were many people who would give a million dollars to have such a “problem.” But still, it was very stressful. But that wasn’t the hardest part, and it wasn’t the main reason for my feelings of despair.
Hashem gave the Jewish people the special privilege to keep kashrut. Kashrut is a decree that we just do because God commanded us to; we do not understand why we are doing it. When one keeps kashrut, he only eats pure, fit, and halachically permitted food. Even when one eats non-kosher food unintentionally, the non-kosher food becomes a part of a person and has harmful effects. Hashem is making us keep kashrut because He loves us; Hashem only wants the best for us and our health.
In our previous blog, we mentioned that Moshe Rabainu offered 515 prayers to Hashem, at the beginning of this week’s Torah portion, begging Hashem to let him enter the Land of Israel. Some people have trouble making up prayers if it isn’t written out for them in a siddur. So here’s a prayer I wrote for coming to the Land of Israel. Print it out and say it every day for the next 515 days. If it doesn’t work, crumple up the page, send it to me, and I’ll eat it.
Moshe Rabainu didn’t say any of the other 515 excuses you usually hear. Just the opposite. Moshe begged again and again and again, 515 prayers, to be granted the incomparable blessing of entering the Land. Today, there are people frummer than Moshe. The Land of Israel isn’t glatt enough for them. Or they don’t like the government. Or they’re worried about finding jobs, as if the hand of Hashem is too short to feed them. They prefer to rely on Uncle Sam instead.