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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Shomer Shabbat’

An Almost Successful Baal Teshuvah

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Question: Someone tried to observe Shabbat but could not hold out from violating its laws in the latter part of the day. Does he receive a reward for the amount of Shabbat he observed? Or is reward based on the principle of “all or nothing”? In other words, does Shabbat observance require a total commitment such that partial observance is comparable to not observing Shabbat altogether?

Answer: The following is cited in the name of HaGaon Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l: The Torah extols the efforts of Calev ben Yefuna to persuade klal yisrael to ignore the 10 Spies who argued that the Jews would not be able to defeat the Canaanites in battle. Yet, Calev did not succeed. While he may have swayed the people for a short period of time, his efforts were ultimately to no avail. The people sided with the 10 spies, not Calev. Why then does the Torah praise him and why did Hashem reward him?

Rav Moshe argued that this story teaches us that even if one does not succeed in performing a mitzvah, one still receives a great reward for one’s effort. Just as the Talmud (Yoma 85a) contends that one may violate Shabbat for to save a person who may only live for a short period of time, so too with performing mitzvot – even temporary success is deemed important. (See Sefer Kol Ram, Chelek Rishon by Rabbi Avraham Fisheles, Parshat Shelach.)

Although a person may not be fully Shomer Shabbat, his efforts are not wasted and still deem him worthy of reward.

Rabbi Cohen, a Jerusalem Prize recipient, has written several works on Jewish law. His latest, Jewish Prayer The Right Way (Urim publications), is available at Amazon.com and Judaica stores.

Borders And Boundaries (Part 1)

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

          Recently, I came across a talk show whose topic of discussion was about managing personal finances. Several people asked the show’s guest, a financial expert, for advice. Most of them were financially in what my parents, a”h, referred to in Yiddish as gehakte tzurris (deep trouble). All were sinking in a quicksand of debt. Most had maxed out their credit cards and some faced the loss of their home.

 

         A break from the litany of woe being expressed on the show came from a woman who stated that she had, over a period of several years, managed to repay over $40,000 of credit card debt. Members of the audience cheered and applauded her- but I couldn’t help wondering how this seemingly intelligent, well-spoken woman had allowed herself to get into such a mess in the first place.

 

         The circumstances that led to her debt were not discussed. Perhaps it was due to circumstances beyond her control, like medical bills not covered by insurance. But based on the little that I heard, my impression was that she, like so many North Americans, just wanted it all – now.

 

         Today’s society seems to be about immediate gratification with no regard for future consequences, a culture beset with a seemingly contagious lack of self-discipline or self-control. If there is something you want, you get it – regardless of affordability.

 

         I feel this chronic self-indulgent behavior is fueled by two factors – low self-esteem and an absence of boundaries.

 

         Most people don’t have what I call a personal “border control.” They have no boundaries. There are no “nos” in their life. Restrictions and limits that were the norm just a generation or two ago are viewed as old-fashioned and seemingly obsolete.

 

         I remember a time when it was a booshah and a charpah (shame and embarrassment) for an unwed girl to have an intimate relationship, let alone be an unwed mother. Pregnant girls were sent out of town to have their babies, thrown out by their families or forced into “shotgun weddings.” Nowadays you are considered a freak and an object of ridicule if you exercise restraint until you’re married. As for single motherhood, it’s become quite fashionable and even respectable in many circles.

 

        Behavioral “fences” have been removed, and I believe one of the reasons for this is the secularization of society. Religious practice for many, both in the Christian and Jewish worlds, has gone the way of the buggy whip.

 

         I remember as a child in Toronto that on Sundays, the city was closed for business. Very few stores were allowed to be open on Sunday – a situation that caused a great deal of financial hardship for Shomer Shabbat businesses that had to remain closed the entire weekend.

 

         Today, however, North America is buying and selling 365 days a year.

 

         The beauty of religion, especially Orthodox Judaism with its myriad rules, prohibitions and regulations, is that it promotes self-discipline. From a young age, children raised in religious homes are taught they can do some things sometimes, but not everything every time. Immediate gratification is not on the agenda in religious homes. Children learn patience, self-discipline and self-control because they must. And eventually, it becomes second nature to wait for what they want.

 

         The ingrained habit of holding off from getting what they want immediately can only serve to maximize their ability to avoid self-destructive behaviors like gambling, drinking or overspending.

 

         For example, obesity in North America is becoming an epidemic – and it is no surprise. When you grow up without restrictions, when you eat what you want whenever you want day after day, you do it – and the consequences are dire. When you’ve never had to hold back or when you aren’t used to doing things you’d rather not do (like awaking early to daven) it is unlikely that you will have developed the discipline to, for instance, hold back on fattening foods or exercising daily.

 

         Sadly, there are Jews who do not believe in a Divinely-given Torah and reject its rules and regulations. Of these Jews, most were never given the opportunity to experience Yiddishkeit. Some, however, were brought up religious, but for various reasons went off the path.

 

         Yet by virtue of the borders that a Torah life provides – because of the boundaries and the resultant self-control that is the life-enhancing gift of a Torah lifestyle – they should reconsider their attitude and do themselves and their families a big chesed by embracing Torah for the magnificent blueprint to life that it is.

 

         There are no guarantees of a perfect life. Torah-observant Jews are still human and subject to human weaknesses and frailties, and some – despite being raised in homes with Torah “borders” – still indulge in unfortunate destructive behaviors and activities. But living a Torah life with its promotion of self-discipline will greatly improve your odds.

 

         In my next column, I will speak about the role negative self-esteem plays in and out of control behavior.

In The Fitting Room Of The Soul

Wednesday, December 24th, 2003

Women love shopping. Just ask their husbands. They’ll tell you. She may have had a stressful day, or have a doom and gloom outlook on life. But a short escape to the nearest mall to buy herself a new sweater, a scarf or any other small accessory, and suddenly life looks a little brighter.

It’s a pretty benign habit – if you’re careful not to overtax your credit card.

So, the other day, with 15 minutes to spare and desperately in need of a break, I headed off to my favorite department store. Within moments, I had skimmed the aisles, spotted my purchase, tried it on, and was standing in line waiting my turn at the checkout counter.

The jacket was the right size, a great fit, just my color (a perfect blend of browns and beige), had a designer label, and was reduced to a price you just couldn’t resist. Add to that the saleslady’s encouraging remarks – “It was made for you” – and the nods of approval from fellow shoppers in adjacent change rooms, and it seemed like a sure win.

Of course, in the back of my mind, I knew that though the jacket fit in size, it didn’t really fit in style. To be honest, it was kind of bulky and uncomfortable for indoor wear. I think I even had a similar one sitting in the back of my closet. But after all, the color was exactly what I was looking for, and didn’t they all acknowledge how well it suited me?

Later I remembered that, in Chassidic philosophy, a person’s thoughts, speech and action are termed the “garments” of his or her soul. Just as we express who we are through the clothes we choose to wear, so does the soul express its longings and wants, capabilities and talents – its unique self - by “clothing” itself in thoughts, spoken words, and actions.

Sometimes, we allow ourselves to choose clothes that fit our style. We act, think and speak compatibly with the true goals of our lives. We carefully select those “garments” that should be incorporated into our wardrobes, and those that should be by-passed.

Other times, though, external factors sidetrack us. It may be social pressures, attractive colors, or an external fit. Whatever the case, we ignore the most important factor – is this really expressing the “me” that I feel comfortable with?

Are the life choices I am making in tune with my inner goals? Do they feel right and comfortable with the person I want to be?

Comes a time when we may need to reassess our life’s purchases, big or small. Then, you may find yourself standing exactly where I was the next time that I had 15 minutes to spare.

This time I was at a different counter. It had a sign above it reading “customer service.” After all, I’ll only shop in stores where returns are gladly accepted.

Responses From Readers:

I just read your article, “Chesed in the Midwest” and cried.

Many, many years ago, my daughter attended public school, and we heard about Camp Lubavitch, and she wanted to attend. To register her for the summer, I went to your father, Rabbi Schochet. It was just before Pesach, and he had never met me before. We were recent immigrants and growing up in Communist regime I had no idea about religion.

When I went to your father, it was the first time in my life someone asked me, “Do you have what to eat for Pesach?” I couldn’t answer him. I just shook my head. No one had ever cared about what I had to eat. I went home all the way crying – it had such an effect on me. That’s your father – such a warm person.

So, my daughter attended the camp, and she loved it so much that the next year she went again. We enjoyed the fresh challah she brought home from camp and I bought candles for her, but that was all. The next year, your sister was her counselor, and they had a heart-to-heart talk. My daughter came home, and somehow she had made arrangements to attend a
Jewish day school.

To make a long story short, eventually we became Shomer Shabbat. Your grandmother, a”h gave me kallah lessons, I married a frum man, and my daughter today is married to a rabbi!

I cried when I read your story, filled with such true emotion. I am so thrilled that your father is healthy and your family is well. So many times I get your articles and read them with great enjoyment. Many times, I wanted to write to you, but didn’t. Today, I couldn’t resist. Thanks for your inspiration.

Mrs. R. (via e-mail)



Shalom! I have cried much and even laughed… thank you for sharing such a precious time in your family’s lives… and for such a wonderfully expressed blessing! “May the one who blesses be blessed”… So be it for you and yours…

Todah,
G. (via e-mail)



If you would like to share your comments or suggestions, please e-mail Chana Weisberg at weisberg@sympatico.ca 

Chana Weisberg is the author of The Crown of Creation and The Feminine Soul. She is the dean of the Institute of Jewish Studies in Toronto and is a scholar in residence for www.askmoses.com. She is also a columnist for www.chabad.org’s Weekly Magazine. Chana Weisberg lectures regularly on issues relating to women, relationships and mysticism and welcomes your comments or inquiries at: weisberg@sympatico.ca

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/jewess-press/in-the-fitting-room-of-the-soul/2003/12/24/

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