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Posts Tagged ‘Moshe Rabbeinu’

The Living Megillah (Part Four)

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

I have often been told that, when it comes to Jewish self-discovery – teshuvah, it is easier to reach out to females than to males and, indeed, there are some indications of this. But I have found this theory to be wrong. If, in some circles, there are more females attending Torah study programs, it is only because the men have not yet been tapped. The truth is that the pintele Yid is as potent in males as females and is able to ignite the heart of a man even as that of a woman. Just as the pintele Yid is not affected by the ravages of time, so it is not subject to gender differences.

Tommy’s story is a case in point. His first Hineni encounter occurred on a Tuesday night at my Torah class at KJ. He had been dating Donna, a lovely woman, who, for some reason, insisted that he come to my class. Tommy himself was a personable businessman from a totally secular background. He had no knowledge of Judaism and that Tuesday night class was his first Torah exposure.

As always, the formula worked – the magic of Hashem’s words are so powerful that they can awaken even the most dormant, assimilated heart. So it was that, as Tommy absorbed the teachings of the parshah, the pintele Yid in his neshamah started to flicker, and in no time at all, burst into a flame. Tommy wanted to find out more, obtained a copy of one of my books and asked me to sign it for him.

“What is your Jewish name?” I asked.

“I don’t have one,” he answered matter-of-factly.

“Are you certain?” I asked. “Could it be that someone in your family …your parents, an elderly aunt or uncle, might know what your Jewish name is, even if you, yourself are not aware of it?”

“No,” he assured me. “While they are Jewish, they are Reform Jews and I was never given a Jewish name.”

When I encounter such situations, it always raises a red flag and makes me wonder whether the person had a proper Bris. As we know, Jewish males are named at their Bris, so if a person has no Jewish name, it is possible that he never had one, or more likely, that a surgeon, rather than a mohel, performed the circumcision. While such an individual may have undergone a surgical procedure, he was not inducted into the Bris – G-d’s covenant… and indeed, upon further investigation, Tommy discovered that a surgeon had performed his circumcision in a hospital, but the covenant that Hashem sealed with our Father Abraham, binding us for all eternity, was never sanctified.

I explained to Tommy that this omission had to be rectified, and suggested that he attend my son, Rabbi Osher’s Talmud shiur and make arrangements with him to contact a mohel. At the same time, I told him to ask Rabbi Osher to take him for tefillin. The tefillin, I explained, represent a sign between the Jewish people and the Almighty G-d and have to be donned every weekday by every Jewish male. Tommy had a lot to digest as I explained the deeper significance of tefillin.

I told him that one of the prayers said when placing the straps of the tefillin around his middle finger would be “I will betroth you to Me forever, and I will betroth you to Me with righteousness, justice, kindness, and mercy. I will betroth you to Me with fidelity and you shall know Hashem.”

Tommy absorbed it all with utmost respect and, as he was about to leave, I told him that when he met the mohel, he should tell him that I suggested his name be “Tuvia.” For some reason, that was the name that came to my mind. I explained to him the name was comprised of two words – Tov – good, and Kah – G-d. “May this name be a blessing for you… that you may be a good servant to G-d. Tuvia smiled, but his eyes were moist. “That’s powerful,” he said, “very, very powerful. I thank you.”

The following Monday, Tommy did attend my son’s Talmud class at our Hineni Center and soon became a regular, but every time my son tried to make arrangements for the bris or the tefillin, something intervened. Tommy, as many others who were hurt by the economic turndown, found himself overwhelmed by business concerns that took him on the road. Thus, his meeting with the mohel and getting the tefillin kept getting delayed.

Then, one day, he called my son and said, “Rabbi, I’m ready for the tefillin.”

Delighted, Rabbi Osher took him to Sofer Stam, a Judaica store on Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn. Rabbi Pincus, the proprietor, has a marvelous way of imparting the awesomeness of the mitzvah of tefillin. He shows how the tefillin are actually made, explains their contents, and makes the entire experience both inspirational and memorable. Incredibly, no sooner did my son and Tommy enter the store than the renowned mohel, Rabbi Paysach Krohn, walked in.

“Shalom Aleichem, Reb Paysach!” my son greeted him, delighted at this marvelous turn of events. “You are just the person we want to see!” And so it was that right then and there, a great simcha took place and all the men in the store joined in the celebration as Tommy entered the Bris of our Father Abraham, and became Tuvia.

But the story doesn’t quite end there. Amazingly, this all happened on Parshas Shemos, the parshah in which the birth of Moshe Rabbeinu is announced and, as we know, one of the names of Moshe Rabbeinu was Tuvia.

Coincidence? Think for a moment…. When I gave the name Tuvia to Tommy, could I have possibly have known that it would be on parshas Shemos that he would have his name given to him? Coincidence? Think for a moment – when my son, Rabbi Osher decided to go to Sofer Stam with Tommy for his tefillin, could he have possibly known that precisely at the moment they arrived, Rabbi Paysach Krohn would walk in (and mind you, Rabbi Krohn does not reside in Brooklyn). …. Coincidence? Think about it. How is it that Donna, Tommy’s date, who was not particularly observant, and is not a regular at Hineni, insisted that Tommy attend my Torah class although they were not dating seriously?

No. There are no coincidences. In the Holy Tongue every word is definitive. Mikreh, the word for coincidence, also means, “Karah MeiHashem – It happened from G-d.” Nothing, but nothing, in our lives is random. The Almighty oversees the world, guides our every step and our every breath. We need only keep our eyes and ears open to see His Hand.

So how are we to understand it all?

There is yet another covenant that G-d sealed with us, a covenant that dictates our lives and is embedded in our souls. We recite it every day in our prayers… a covenant that it is recorded for all time in the Book of Isaiah: “Zos Brisi osam – This is My covenant with them: ‘And the words that I shall place upon your lips shall never depart from your lips, nor from the lips of your children or your children’s children’ thus sayeth the L-rd, forever and evermore.”

We are witness today to the fulfillment of that Covenant. Hashem is gathering His lost neshamos and bringing them home – and it’s happening all over the world. In recent years, I have traveled on every continent, visited Jewish communities on every part of the globe and, time and again, I saw the great miracle reoccurring. I receive countless e-mails from people who read my books in the various languages in which they have been translated. These letters and e-mails all contain the same message: “Thank you for connecting me with our Torah. I am on the journey home.”

Today Tuvia defines his life through Torah. He confided to me that, “while the economic crunch has made these last years very challenging, nevertheless, all my stress has been rendered inconsequential by the inner joy that I discovered through Torah and mitzvos.”

I could share with you many more amazing stories. The saga of the pintele Yid has no boundaries or limitations. I have chosen to write about just a few of these amazing events, and I do so in honor of my revered, beloved saintly father, HaRav, HaGaon, HaTzaddik, Avraham HaLevi Jungreis, zt’l, who told me to write the “Living Megillah” that relates the miraculous saga of the pintele Yid that is embedded for all eternity in the heart of every Jew and is unfolding before our very eyes.

Ego Strengths – And Their Absence

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

Throughout our lives, we will all experience endless irritations and frustrations, as well as many losses, such as losing a job, suffering betrayal and abuse, and the death of a loved one. What makes the difference between those who stay down and those who pick themselves up and start rebuilding? The answer is the level of ego-strengths the person possesses. I do not mean “ego” in the sense of egotistical, self-centered or arrogant, but rather in the sense of knowing what you like and dislike, how – and with whom! – you want to spend your time, as well as validating your right to actualize talents and strengths without being ashamed of your limitations.

We recognize people with ego-strength because:

They are not afraid to honestly acknowledge and feel the full range of their feelings, yet do not get bogged down in bad mood states for long.

When they suffer a loss, they push forward, focusing on what they can give to others and accomplish, not allowing self-pity or resentment to cripple them.

They use these painful events to strengthen themselves spiritually, focusing on compassion, humility, creativity and faith.

Despite loss, they engage in positive activities (exercise, cleaning, chesed, learning, etc.), knowing that all feelings are transient and eventually fade.

They empathize with others, willing to hear and “hold” the pain others are experiencing without trying to reduce or eliminate the pain.

They are self-disciplined, resisting temptations and fighting addictive urges, even if doing so means going against the crowd.

They take responsibility for their actions, not blaming others and maintaining their independent sense of self-worth, knowing their essence is good and holy even if others are scornful or dismissive.

They accept their limitations, striving constantly to do their best.

They set firm limits, saying “No” even if it means disappointing others or risking ridicule and rejection. They avoid people who drain them physically or emotionally.

People who lack ego-strengths can be recognized by the following signs:

They are on a perpetual roller coaster, controlled by their moods, fears and anxieties, constantly thinking, “I can’t cope with life.”

They take everything personally and, therefore, are easily insulted.

They give up easily, thinking, “What’s the use? I’m a loser and a failure.”

They give their personal power over to others, feeling “big” when others admire them and “little” when others are disapproving.

Their sense of self is rooted in others. Since they believe, “I’m not good enough,” they are sure others feel the same way about them. Thus, they don’t trust those who care about them and fear those who don’t.

They try to control others with guilt tripping, anger and resentment.

They constantly complain about not getting enough from people; there is never enough love, help, understanding, approval, respect, compassion or sensitivity.

They constantly judge themselves and others as inferior or superior, rating people according to their looks, income, accomplishments and other superficial factors, turning relationships into competitive power struggles.

Fearful of ridicule and rejection, they give up their own dreams and then complain, “I can’t do what I really want, because they won’t let.”

They are undisciplined. If an urge to explode or addictive impulse arises, they give in to it, feeling that, “I don’t have the strength to fight.”

Ideally, parents should help their children develop ego-strengths during their formative years. But if they were not able to do this for you (often because they, themselves, did not have such strengths), you can begin to develop them now, on your own. This requires that you make small, conscious efforts during the day to think and act differently from the negative script you adopted earlier in life. It’s a lot like making the decision not to wear the same clothing you wore when you were five!

1. Realize that only you have the power to determine your self-worth. People think they have the power to decide who is “big” and who is “small.” This is an illusion. You are a ben/bat Melech! This gives you worth – even if others think you’re a “nobody.”

2. Shlomo HaMelech said, “No one gets even half their heart’s desires fulfilled” (Koheles 1:13). Feeling, “I deserve more,” leads to bitterness. Remind yourself, “Hashem gives me everything I need. It might not be all I want, but I’m getting exactly what I need for my growth.”

3. Know that you can always give – even if only a smile or a word of praise or gratitude. Being in the giving mode puts you in the driver’s seat.

4. Notice and value your smallest acts of self-discipline throughout the day. For example, eating 1 cookie instead of 10 – or no junk food at all? Great! Then, from the thousands of victories you have each day, write down the 5 you are most proud of in a little notebook. Every act of self-discipline is an act of self-respect!

5. Make a conscious effort to practice gratitude. Write down 5 things for which you are grateful each day.

6. The greater the pains, the more action you must take. If you don’t have the time or money for a gym, take brisk walks or turn on the music and dance.

7. Keep telling yourself, “Even if I’m not all I’d like to be, I choose to love and accept myself as I am right now and to know that Hashem loves me.” Even if you think this is a lie, thinking the words over and over throughout the day will have the same effect as a tow truck pulling a car out of a snowdrift. The alternative, i.e., continuing to dislike and feel like a failure, is not a healthy choice!

Notice and value your healthy choices. You can choose right now to think an inspiring thought! The ability to choose is what distinguishes us from animals. Each time we value a healthy choice, we strengthen the “Moshe Rabbeinu” within us and this is what enables us to take ourselves out of “Mitzrayim.” No one else can do this for us – no therapist, advisor or pill. So give yourself some soul food today!

The ADAHAN FUND has no office or salaries to pay. All donations are gratefully accepted and will be given directly to the impoverished people who turn to me for help. Send to 13/5 Uzrad, Jerusalem 97277 or 2700 W. Chase, Chicago, 60645. I can be reached at emett@netvision.net.il, 011-972-2-5868201 or www.adahan-online.com

Helping Our Children Deal With Tragedy (Part I)

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

Dear Rabbi Horowitz:

We are all aware of the terrible churban that recently took place in Yerushalayim’s Merkaz HaRav yeshiva, where eight precious neshamas were taken from us.

How can I explain and respond to my children when they ask why Hashem has punished these young innocent bachurim, who were the “cream of the crop?” What is going on in Eretz Yisrael (and in Sderot and Ashkelon in particular) is very frightening to kids, especially when young children are suffering so much.

How can we explain the right hashkafah to children who are questioning Hashem’s ways?

TZ

Rabbi Horowitz Responds

There is a timeless Yiddish saying, “Vos es feilt in hasbarah, feilt in havanah,” that is probably most appropriate in analyzing your dilemma in responding to your child’s questions. Loosely translated, it expresses the stark truth that when we find it difficult to explain concepts to others (hasbarah means to explain, while havanah denotes understanding) it is often because we ourselves don’t understand them fully.

This adage often rings true in the arena of parenting, as so many of the challenges we face when raising our children are really issues that we as parents are in the midst of grappling with. So I guess we ought to discuss both of the following issues simultaneously: How do we process tragedies through a Torah lens, and how do we respond to the questions that our children pose in trying to understand them?

Since this is such a difficult subject I will start with the don’ts before the do’s, as it is a far easier place to begin.

Do not suppress the questions of your children – about this topic or any other.

Always keep in mind that you never solve anything by taking that easy route. As I often note, an unasked question is an unresolved one. Creating an environment where your child can freely ask you anything that is on his or her mind means that you are positioned to properly be mechanech him or her.

Do not be intimidated or frightened to admit that you don’t have “all the answers” – especially to questions as difficult as these. It will, in all likelihood, be very refreshing for your child to see that you are also finding this challenging. In fact, you will have the opportunity to model appropriate behavior when you are stumped or find yourself looking for answers that are over your pay grade – by posing the question to a rav, rebbitzen or gadol with whom you are comfortable. This can perhaps be done even in the presence of your child.

Do not verbalize or even imply that respectfully asking for answers to questions like these is disrespectful or represent a lack of emunah in Hashem. To the contrary, you ought to explain that looking to gain insight into the workings of Hashem is really a sign of closeness to Him.

It might not be a bad idea to mention that the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” is one that has been asked by our greatest leaders and nevi’im over the centuries. According to the Gemara (Brachos 7a), when Moshe Rabbeinu implored Hashem, “Hodieini na es drachecha – Please make Your way known to me” (Shemos 33:13), Moshe wanted to understand the age-old question of why so many righteous people suffer while it often seems that the wicked are prospering. This was the “derech” of Hashem that Moshe wanted to understand.

In fact, according to Rashi, it seems that this was something Moshe had wanted to ask previously, and waited until the opportunity presented itself – namely when Hashem’s mercy was granted to the Jews when He forgave them for the sin of the eigel (golden calf). It would seem that Rashi was wondering why Moshe chose that specific time to ask Hashem for the understanding of His “derachim,” for this request – at least at first glance – does not seem to follow the logical thread of Moshe’s beseeching Hashem to forgive klal Yisrael.

What is noteworthy and perhaps worthwhile mentioning to your child is that a simple reading of those pesukim would indicate that even our greatest leader and navi, Moshe Rabbeinu, was told by Hashem that a full and complete understanding of His “derachim” cannot be granted to humans during their lifetime.

You may worry that your child (and you) may be distressed to find out that there are no easy answers to these questions. But in all likelihood, the fact that our greatest tzaddikim were preoccupied with these thoughts will be comforting to him or her and not leave them feeling like they are on the outside looking in just because they are bothered by these questions.

Next: Some practical things you can tell your children (the do’s) to help them get their hands around this most difficult matter.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 12/08/06

Wednesday, December 6th, 2006

Response To ‘I Did Not ChooseTo Be What I Am…’ (Chronicle 12-1)

Dear Choose,

Needless to say, I cannot speak for you. I neither know you nor have I ever – thank G-d – walked in your shoes. I do hope for your sake that you have availed yourself of a proper course of psychotherapeutic evaluation with a competent therapist who can offer you, as a frum individual, the best chance for change. Essentially, such approach is comparable to the physically sick person’s pursuit of medical attention in quest of a cure.

Most SSA sufferers have evolved into their present predicament by circumstances having little to do with their inherent natures. Some have been affected by exposure to an abusive or oppressive parent figure or have suffered other psychological setbacks that have brought them to their current state of affairs. Then there are those who have alas sunk so low spiritually as to be easily influenced by a lifestyle touted in a decrepit secular society as being perfectly normal and acceptable.

A stable two-parent home, one parent of each sex, is the ideal atmosphere in which to care for and bring up the helpless infant and growing child. Full psychosexual maturity renders one capable of entering into a long-term intimate committed relationship with another adult of the opposite sex. A protest of “I can’t” or “I don’t want to” is indicative of failure in attaining that level of psychosexual maturation – the ‘highest’ level from a biological/scientific perspective, from which one has been diverted in childhood.

Having covered basic ground, let’s examine the points of contention you raised in your letter.

You say, “What I do not fathom is how the prohibition of a very specific behavior translates into Hashem not making people whose sexual orientation is homosexual.” Consider this: Adultery is forbidden. Is that to say that no man should ever be tempted to enter into an adulterous relationship? Quite the contrary – since G-d knew that man would be prone to misbehave, He instituted rules to keep him in line. While there are individuals who would never fathom crossing that line, some have natures that make it hard for them to abstain from doing so. In the same vein, there are businessmen who would never cheat, no matter how tempting the circumstance, while others struggle against a propensity for dishonesty. Needless to say, our Creator was well aware that SSA could jeopardize the quality of life as He meant for us to live it. Hence: the warning to steer clear of abhorrent behavior.

“It is the inherent desire of every woman to be desired by her husband.” With all due respect to your concern, this is like saying that every woman who has a baby automatically turns into a loving and caring mother. Certainly, most women need to be loved and desired (and appreciated) by their men. Yet, (as some of the letters to this column have attested), there are women whose love and respect for their man is powerful enough to keep their relationship intact, thriving and satisfying – regardless of the struggles of their SSA-suffering husbands. Naturally, the strength of the foundation of such a relationship is dependent on mutual openness and honesty at the outset. If a woman receives the attention and affection that she needs and deserves, she will remain by her partner’s side for better or worse, even to be his helpmate through his life-ordeal. Understandably, such resolve hinges upon an individual’s personality and stamina. If the parties involved are serious, mature, aware, and determined to make it work, it conceivably can, will, and has.

“Incurable” deafness, a physical disability, can hardly be placed in the same category as a disorder that consumes one with an unnatural desire for intimacy with one of his/her own gender. Hashem did not make you this way. Your “condition” evolved as a result of the psychological constellation of events in your growth and developmental stage – and, admittedly, has thus become your nisayon, your test in life.

Proof positive: If G-d had intended one to resign to his “state of homosexuality” and to accept it as his “fate,” the Torah would have provided guidelines in how to deal with the challenge – the same way the Torah explicitly prescribes allowances for the deaf-mute, the dimwitted and the minor (cheresh, shoteh v’katan). Other than stern admonition, one is hard-pressed to find divine reprieve for the SSA-afflicted. This is not to negate your struggle. But isn’t all of life a struggle? The stresses of life are many and varied, and temptation, granted, is very real. The nisayon hinges not only on resisting its pull, but also in altogether quashing the inclination.

Whatever form your demon assumes, whether it be SSA, pedophilia, alcohol/drug/sex addiction, a vile temperament, proclivity for deceitfulness, etc., whether blamed on circumstance or predisposition, your nisayon is to keep it at bay and – moreover – to conquer it completely.

Naysayers take note: Moshe Rabbeinu wrote, “Tosheiv enosh ad dako You turn man back until his afflictions weaken him, his pride is crushed and his arrogance turns to humility, and You call on him to repent” (Tehilllim 90:3) By having us confront challenges, Hashem summons us closer to Him, awakening in us the realization that we can depend only on Him to lift us out of our quagmire.

If we succumb to our animal instincts, what would differentiate us from the four-legged species? Ours is to draw a distinction between right and wrong and to use our intellect to that end – which calls for a dogged determination to crush the temptation and vanquish the desire.

Hashem admits to having created the yetzer hara – adept at zeroing in on our vulnerabilities and coming in for the kill – as well as the antidote to counteract its poison. His directive is indisputable. “U’bachartah b’chayim – life and death, I have given you and I exhort you to choose life” (Nitzavim 30:19).

Title: Moses: A Memoir

Wednesday, February 11th, 2004

Title: Moses: A Memoir
Author: Joel Cohen
Publisher: Paulist Press, Mahwah, N.J.

 

Not everyone who imagines what Moshe Rabbeinu might have thought as he carried the Tablets down the mountain visualizes this scene in the humorous vein of a Mel Brooks. This is a serious book, written by a practicing Orthodox Jew who is an instructor of legal ethics at Brooklyn Law School, and who wants his reader to “appreciate anew the Bible’s view of Moses and his soaring accomplishment.”

“A synergy of the theoretical and the practical, the real and the ideal - Joel Cohen brings Moses out of the shadows of legend, providing new insights and images to a real-life hero of his people,” says Rabbi Marc Schneir, morah d’asrah of The Hampton/New York Synagogue, Manhattan (of which Mr. Cohen is a member), as quoted on the dust jacket.

Cohen’s “biography,” written for both Jewish and non-Jewish readers, memorializes the canon of Judaic philosophy as expounded by the greatest prophet who ever lived.

Some may ask if it’s proper to imagine our greatest leader as a mere mortal, as Cohen has. What purpose does it serve to display a man with feelings and emotions, who may have found impossible the trials and tests of his forbears, including Father Abraham? Is this demonstrative of the spiritual heights that men are capable of, including the leadership of a people who constantly disappointed Moshe?

Most Christian publishing houses, as Paulist Press is, publish works that represent themselves as coming from a “Judeo-Christian” perspective, but from this Moses: A Memoir is a complete departure. Nowhere is the Torah referred to as “The Hebrew Bible,” or “The Old Testament,” and all biblical quotations are from the Hertz Chumash. All his philosophic insights are Judaic, unfiltered through Christian scholarship.

Why should we consider Cohen’s tome at all, when there is so much being published by Judaic and University publishing houses? I’m not certain if this is a first, but the very idea of a Christian publishing house dealing with Judaic themes on a non-confrontational basis is both admirable and refreshing. It’s an attractive, slim volume that will further elucidate many points concerning Moshe, and would make a nice gift.

All the biblical testimonies and legends attempt to explain Moshe to us, but his thoughts are never explicit. Moshe left no private diary sharing his innermost feelings, which are only subject to speculation, and Moses: A Memoir makes an excellent conjecture.

The book made a stir when it first arrived in bookshops this past summer, achieving a surprise
position on the Catholic Book Publishers Association’s bestseller list. Cohen told The New York Times’s book reviewer that it was Rabbi Israel Wohlgelernter of The Young Israel of Fifth Avenue who challenged him to write it.

Joel Cohen’s acts as moderator at legal forums such as one held recently at The Fifth Avenue
Synagogue on “The Religious Felon: A Paradox?” in which he participated with his friend and fellow criminal attorney Ivan S. Fisher, novelist Norman Mailer, and the synagogue’s rabbi, Sol Roth.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/title-moses-a-memoir/2004/02/11/

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