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February 22, 2017 / 26 Shevat, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘thought’

Saturday’s Chicago Bar Car Bomb Latest in Ongoing Muslim Attacks on American Targets

4 Tishri 5773 – September 19, 2012

Adel Daoud, an 18 year-old from the leafy Chicago neighbourhood of Hillside was charged on Saturday with crimes arising from terrorism after months of surveillance by undercover federal agents.

Thinking that he had loaded a car bomb into the Jeep Cherokee that he was driving, he parked it outside a bar in downtown Chicago and walked away into an alley after doing everything he thought necessary for it to detonate. Safely distant, he then pressed the trigger mechanism in the presence of the agent, intending an explosion and deaths to follow. He was then arrested. Unknown to him, the bomb was inert and was designed not to explode. A preliminary hearing is set for Monday at a U.S. courthouse in Chicago.

The Chicago Tribune’s report says Daoud is a U.S. citizen. It’s alleged that he had been sharing information online about killing Americans in a terrorist attack since last October when he was presumably just 17. The affidavit accompanying the charge sheet [the legal papers are here] says Daoud believes the U.S. is at war with Islam and Muslims. That’s evidently why he wanted his attack to be recognized as terrorism and to be as deadly as possible:

“If it’s only like five, 10 people, I’m not gonna feel that good… I wanted something that’s… massive; I want something that’s gonna make it in the news like tonight.”

Ordinary people living in this terrorist thug’s neighbourhood or in others anywhere else in the United States are, in our view, left to take one of two views:

  1. The US authorities are completely on top of the situation and have all the religiously fanatical wanne-be jihadists and Osama Bin Laden followers under surveillance. They will pounce just in time to prevent the next massacre of innocent Americans whose crime is to believe in something other than what these creatures believe. And the attempted massacre after that, and after that and so on. So there’s nothing to worry about; Or
  2. No one really knows where the next mass-killer is going to come from. In fact, there may be lots of them – a completely unknown number, living in completely unpredictable locations, and they will look perfectly ordinary and will be undetectable until the bombs go off.

Take your pick. For our part, there’s no doubt. America has been lucky, and we need to pray the luck stays good. And to ignore the role that Islamist religious indoctrination is having on parts of American society is simply insane.

Visit This Ongoing War.

Thoughts Make the Man

20 Elul 5772 – September 7, 2012

Dear Friends, the clock is ticking down to Rosh HaShanah. You can hear the shofars blasting all over the world. T’shuva may seem like a towering mountain too high to climb, but it’s really not as hard as you think.

Rabbi Kook teaches that even contemplations of t’shuva have significant value. To understand this, we must look at life with a different orientation than we normally do. Usually, we are pragmatists. We judge the value of things by the influence they have on ourselves and the world. For instance, ten dollars is worth more than five dollars because it can buy more. A doctorate is better than a bachelor’s degree because it can lead to a better paying and more prestigious job.

There are things, however, that have an absolute value, regardless of their tangible impact in this world. Truth is an example. Holiness is another. To this list, Rabbi Kook adds good thoughts. Contemplations of t’shuva, even if they do not lead to a resulting change in behavior, bring benefit to the individual and the world.

This is similar to the question in the Talmud — which is greater, Torah study or good deeds? The answer is Torah study because it leads to good deeds. You might think that if the ultimate goal is the deeds, then they would be more important. But our Sages tell us that the thought processes which lead to the deeds are of primary concern. Being immersed in Torah has an absolute value in itself. Thus, Rabbi Kook writes:

The thought of t’shuva transforms all transgressions and the darkness they cause, along with their spiritual bitterness and stains, into visions of joy and comfort, for it is through these contemplations that a person is filled with a deep feeling of hatred for evil, and the love of goodness is increased within him with a powerful force (Orot HaT’shuva, 7:1).

T’shuva can be dissected into two different realms. There is the nitty-gritty t’shuva of mending an actual deed, and there is the thought process which precedes the action. The value of these thoughts is not to be measured according to the activities which they inspire. For instance, a person may decide that he wants to be righteous. But when the person tries to translate this thought into action, he finds himself overwhelmed. To be righteous, he has to get up early in the morning to pray. He has to stop doing a host of forbidden deeds. He has to watch what he says, and watch what he eats. Before he even begins, his will is broken. Though his wish to do t’shuva was sincere, he couldn’t find the inner strength to actualize his thoughts into deeds.

Rabbi Kook says that all is not lost. This person’s original idea to do t’shuva stemmed from the deepest recesses of the soul, where it was inspired by the spiritual waves of t’shuva which encircle the world. Thus he has already been touched by t’shuva’s cleansing streams. In effect, he has boarded the boat. Though his will power  may be weak at the moment, his soul is longing for God.

Through the contemplations of t’shuva, a person hears the voice of God calling him from the Torah and from the heart, from the world and all it contains. The will for good is fortified within him. The body itself, which causes transgression, becomes more and more purified until the thought of t’shuva pervades it (Ibid, 7:5).

In the beginning of his t’shuva journey, a person must realize the absolute value of his initial inspiration. He has to find a new way of judging the value of things, not always looking for concrete benefits or results. When a person undertakes t’shuva, his thoughts weigh as much as his deeds. T’shuva is not just a process of do’s and don’ts, but rather a conscious and subconscious overhaul of an individual’s thought processes and emotions. Already by thinking about t’shuva one is engaged in it. As the saying goes: you are what you think.

Even the thought of t’shuva brings great healing. However, the soul can only find full freedom when this potential t’shuva is actualized. Nonetheless, since the contemplation is bound up with the longing for t’shuva, there is no cause for dismay. God will certainly provide all of the means necessary for complete repentance, which brightens all darkness with its light… ‘A broken and contrite heart, O God, Thou will not despise’ (Ibid. Tehillim, 51;19).

When we recognize the value of our thoughts, we discover a very encouraging concept. One needn’t despair when confronted by the often difficult changes which t’shuva demands. This is especially true in the initial stages before a person’s increasing love for G-d makes all difficulties and sacrifices seem small. Even if a person cannot immediately redress all of his wrongdoings, he should know that there is a great value in just wanting to be good. One can take comfort that he wants to be a better person. With God’s help, he will also be able to actualize his yearnings. But in the meantime, just thinking good thoughts is already strengthening his inner self and the world.

The Ravages of Justice

18 Elul 5772 – September 5, 2012

Here are the refugees from Migron in their relocation camp, in Givat Hayekev.

They are cleaning up their new homes, also known as “caravillas” (combination caravan and villa.

A caravilla is composed of several prefabricated sections that are joined on a foundation. They vary in size from about 650 to 1,000 square feet.

The biggest of these enclaves was established in Nitzan, north of Ashkelon, with 250 caravillas, which has grown to more than 500.

Let’s face it, it’s a trailer park.

The work of Peace Now and a cabal of several other anti-Zionist Jewish organizations, funded mostly by foreign states, is done here.

On to the next salami slice.

Since I was 12, when the territories across the armistice line of 1949 were captured—in 1967—I have opposed the forced transfer of civilian populations. But when I was a kid, we all thought it was the Arabs were would be protecting.

Folks on the left were saying how they would throw themselves in front of the trucks that uprooted Palestinians from their homes.

Now it turns out we were wrong. Arabs don’t get transferred. Ever. The only civilians getting thrown on the trucks (or buses) are Jews.

And no one throws themselves in front of the trucks.

Because it’s done by decree of the Supreme Court, executed by a right-wing government.

Everyone cites the slogan from Deuteronomy, “Tzedek, tzedek tirdof” – Justice, justice shall you chase.

These days it’s “justice” that’s chasing us.

Fellow Jews, here’s a personal solution: when you daven shmoneh-esreh today, all three times, when you get to “birkat ha’minim” – the additional blessing added by the sages to curse out the enemies within – say it with a lot of kavanah. Say it like you mean it. Pound the shtender in front of you with rage when you say it. And if you happen to be the ba’al tfilah today – cry it out loud like a wounded man.

At least show that you’re angry, for Heaven’s sake.

(Yes, I wrote all the key words in Boro-Park style so the GSS won’t come after me… I’m just a coward sitting at his desk, but an angry coward.)

A Tale Of Two Friends

13 Elul 5772 – August 30, 2012

Dear Readers

The grass is always greener on the other side. Or is it?

Below is a fictional illustration of this human foible – focusing on the perceived benefits in another person’s life while failing to appreciate your own.

A Tale Of Two Friends

Suri looked at the full-length, wall-to-wall mirror that some thoughtful contractor -who must have had daughters – had installed in the ladies’ room of the wedding hall. It was quite insightful of him to have done that, as if he knew all too well that the friends and close relatives of the chossan and kallah who were marching down to the chuppah needed a full head to toe view of them-self before they were put on public display.

Especially the single girls – who needed to make the best possible impressions on the ladies among the assembled guests who dabbled in shidduchum, or who had eligible sons in the parsha. And if you were an “older” single of 25 like she was – and your 20-year-old sister was the kallah, – it was extremely crucial that you look your best.

Most importantly, the smile you affixed on your face had to look genuine, not plastered on, and had to radiate confidence and joy.

In other words, Suri had to make sure that the sadness and sense of failure that permeated her inner core did not show. She had to look cheerful and gracious when the inevitable onslaught of “im yirtzeh Hashem by you” and “maybe you are too picky” comments, would assail her. By looking proud and assured, perhaps the pitying looks would not accompany these well-meaning, but nonetheless painful remarks.

Squaring her shoulders and holding her head high, Suri walked out of the room with a smile on her face that would have have made any actress proud.

Several hours later, a very tired and emotionally drained Suri gratefully entered her room, threw off her sweat-stained gown and collapsed in her bed. She had managed to keep her composure despite the fact that she silently “heard” the word nebach attached to every mazal tov she was greeted with.

The wedding of course, had been beautiful, her sister dazzling and her mother had been radiant with relief – one less single daughter to worry about.

Some of the guests, her mother had confided on the way home, had approached her with suggestions, and hopefully, a few would actually follow through on them. Suri had told her not to get too excited; that they were probably men whom people expected her to be grateful for the opportunity to date.

After hitting 24, well-meaning but clueless people, had tried to set her up with men who were totally inappropriate for her – the widely held belief in the community being that anything was better than nothing. Divorced men with kids who were in high school when she was born, and men with obvious physical and emotional challenges were being redt to her. And she was chastised as being “picky”!

Too wound up to sleep, Suri let her mind wander. She enviously thought of her best friend Miriam. Everything seemed to have fallen in her lap. She had been introduced to her future husband during her seminary year when both were Shabbat guests of the rav and rebbetzin who were their respective teachers.

Without out the slightest effort, Miriam had found her zivug and shortly after returning home, had gotten engaged. She was barely 19 when she married and 20 when she gave birth to her bochur Avi, who was joined in quick succession by a sister and brother. Suri loved her best friend and was truly happy that marriage and motherhood had come to her so effortlessly. Go figure, she had even had mazal with the genders of her kids – a boy and a girl back to back – and she was expecting again. Suri thought of her father’s cousin who had just had her fourth girl and the sliver of disappointment that her husband must have felt – as much as he embraced this new bracha in his family.

Miriam had never had to experience the horrible pressure and relentless stress that she herself was under. From being tastefully dressed, made up and coiffed every time she stepped out of the house – even just to mail a letter, “in case someone sees you,” her mother would admonish. Then there were the hours in front of the mirror spent getting ready for a date, knowing that all that effort would be a waste of time, trapped into making and listening to small talk ad nauseum because, though from the start she knew the guy wasn’t shaich, “you never know – sometimes when you meet it just clicks.”

Romney, Ryan, Rule

11 Elul 5772 – August 29, 2012

Following a hard couple of years of campaigning—debating a man who makes pizza, a man who wants to cut off aid to Israel and a woman who receives her instructions directly from the Almighty—and after treading the dark, frozen fields of Iowa and the dark, frozen woods of New Hampshire, and after eating more roadside donuts and burgers and fries than is medically advisable to a man half his age, Willard Mitt Romney, American businessman and former governor of Massachusetts, first Mormon to receive a major party’s nomination and one of the wealthiest men ever to pursue this high office – was officially picked by the Party of Lincoln to run for president.

For many reasons of internal harmony and disharmony, the colorful roll call vote came not at the end of the convention, as is usually the case, but on Tuesday. Delegates also adopted the most conservative platform in U.S. history, and nominated Rep. Paul Ryan to be Romney’s running mate.

A point about our modern politics, to those of us who thought the U.S. was run by mostly WASPs: the Republican ticket this year is comprised of a Mormon and a Catholic. The Senate majority leader, Harry Reed – also a Mormon. House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor – a Jew. The Supreme Court – basically Catholics and Jews.

You think Presbyterians have lost the urge?

For Love or Money – The Real Cost of a Wedding

9 Elul 5772 – August 26, 2012

When your child was a newborn baby, you probably thought that this moment would take forever to arrive. Think of all of the effort that you have put into your child over the years, with so many hopes and prayers that they would grow up to find a suitable spouse and one day you would proudly stand under the chuppah and watch the happy couple tie the knot.

Unfortunately, despite all of the hopes and dreams, many parents either don’t or can’t put so much effort into saving the money that goes into paying for the wedding. There could be many reasons for this. Maybe the parents didn’t think too much about it, and because the thought of a wedding always seemed so far away, they woke up too late and did not invest their money sensibly and in time. On the other hand, the parents may have tried their best to put money aside to pay for their children’s weddings, but try though they did, there was simply not enough. Perhaps their income was just not high enough, or maybe some other events happened within the family, like a sudden illness, that consumed all of their savings unexpectedly before they could be channeled into a wedding.

Unfortunately, another huge factor in this equation is peer pressure. Very often, families feel that they have to keep up with the Joneses in a big way. It becomes very important to them, for example, to hold the wedding in a certain, fancy hall. Even though the other hall down the road is large enough for their needs, “no one” gets married there because it is not quite as upmarket as the most popular hall in town, and therefore the parents feel the need to find the extra few thousand dollars that it costs to use the fancier place. And then of course, if you are using the fancy hall, then you can only take a fancy caterer, and so on and so forth.

Finding those extra dollars is not always so easy. And this is where the debt trap comes into play. As a financial adviser, I have often met families who are drowning in debt. To keep up appearances, they decide to borrow money from a loan fund. But when the time comes to pay off the debt, their financial situation has not suddenly improved. In fact, the additional expenses of the wedding have gobbled up most of their resources, and there is nothing left to pay back. So guess what happens? They go to another loan fund to obtain money to pay off the first debt … and so on and so forth until this unfortunate family falls even more deeply into a financial black hole.

Let’s go back to the beginning of this story. If the family had been content to make a more modest wedding, with fewer trimmings, they would not only have saved several thousand dollars, but they would have also saved themselves a lot of heartache.

Marriage is not meant to be a financial free for all, and using a topflight caterer will not guarantee anyone’s future happiness.

Before you decide to drown yourself in debts from banks, gemachim, and elsewhere, take a few steps back. Think about how much you really can afford to pay before taking on the bills, and where you are going to find the money. And once you know how much money you really have at your fingertips, decide which kind of wedding you are prepared to make.

For more information on how to plan a wedding wisely, read this article at the Profile Perspectives site.

Around The World In Three Hundred Days: Reflections On A Year In Israel

6 Elul 5772 – August 23, 2012

As a person who grew up close to New York City, where everything is impressive and accessible, I never felt much of a need to go anywhere. In typical New York fashion, I considered local parks sufficient greenery, and never thought about traveling to places where the sky might be visible or that might have clean air. So it is not surprising that until last year the extent of my world travel consisted of several trips upstate, going to visit friends in New Jersey and Connecticut, and a couple of trips to Boston. In comparison, almost everywhere I could have chosen to go in the year after high school would have outshone all my previous travel experience. However, even if I’d have gone all over the world beforehand, I am convinced that nothing would have compared to the experience I had of spending this past year in Israel.

I was never much of a traveler. In fact, I preferred to have my life as orderly as possible, and hated the idea of living out of suitcases. The thought of packing a bag or two and taking off into the wilderness was completely foreign to me, as was packing out of my school dorm each weekend to stay at a stranger’s house, armed with nothing more than an address and the reassurance that if I wouldn’t like my hosts, I wouldn’t have to go back. As a typical demonstration of the nature versus nurture argument, all my neatness tendencies and obsessions for orderliness took a back seat when I found myself in a foreign country, halfway around the globe from all that was familiar to me.

The first experience in Israel that stands out in my mind was that of traveling on the roads. Somehow, all highways in developed countries have the remarkable characteristic of existing beyond space. If one were to ignore the road signs, one could imagine being anywhere, on any highway, as long as they don’t turn on the car radio to the local station and have it blast out music in a foreign language. In some ways, therefore, the trip from the airport to Jerusalem, where I would be spending the year, was a comforting experience; even if every other part of life would be different than anything I’d ever known, at least the highways were the same as those I knew from America.

As I looked around the bus at the twenty people I’d never met and with whom I now would be living, I wondered how the relationships I hoped to form with them would compare with my first jet-lagged impressions. I was distracted from those thoughts, however, when I noticed the groves of palm trees along the side of the highway. This was the first time I had ever seen palm trees, but the only thought I had at the moment was, “I didn’t know they grew here!”

Over the course of the year, I got to see more palm trees, as well as many other natural and historical sites. My class visited the Dead Sea, Ein Gedi Waterfalls, the Banias Waterfalls, Masada, and many other sites and attractions that Israel has to offer. Living in Jerusalem also gave me the opportunity to visit the Western Wall periodically.

The Western Wall experience was very special to me. Going to the Wall was a time for me to pray and connect with G-d, when I felt particularly lonely, or whenever I felt the need of a break. There is a special feeling I would feel as I went through the security checkpoint and into the plaza surrounding the Western Wall, which lasted until I’d leave, always a bit regretfully and usually turning around an extra few times to engrave the image of the Wall in my mind. Since I have gotten back to the States, there were times when I felt lonely or overwhelmed, and my first instinct would be to take a bus over to the Western Wall, before realizing that from here, that journey would necessitate a plane trip, not just a simple bus ride within Jerusalem.

One of the most exciting aspects of living in Israel was getting to taste the different types of foods that are common there. When I first arrived, jet lagged, disoriented and tired, I tried to stick to the most familiar looking foods I could find. As time went on, however, I had lots of fun experimenting with Israeli and Middle Eastern style foods.

It’s My Opinion: A Perilous Journey

30 Av 5772 – August 17, 2012

A dilapidated old boat recently came ashore in South Florida. The rickety vessel was a small, old fishing boat. Eighteen passengers were crammed aboard. Its engine was recycled from an old Soviet automobile and had a fuel leak. A tree branch propped up the sail. The hull was cracked.

The “Esperanza” – the Spanish word for hope – arrived in Miami from Cuba last Wednesday. The journey was perilous.

The human condition has a strong component of self-preservation. What could possibly drive individuals to take such a dangerous voyage? What circumstances would justify the risk to human life?

Fidel Castro was the sweetheart of the Cuban people when he came to power 52 years ago. The population took to the streets chanting his name. They thought the country would undergo a change. They thought everyone would be equal and prosperous.

Fidel led the charge against the rich. He confiscated their mansions to convert them into apartments for the poor. He advocated a slew of government-centered programs in health care, education and jobs. He was the patriarch who would care for all needs. He also would tell his compatriots what to think and what to believe. His efforts were a dismal failure. The Communist system does not work. It has failed everywhere it has been tried.

Cuba today is a decimated country. Most of the population lives in a primitive state of abject poverty. There is no commerce, no hope. The job creators – manufacturers and businesses – fled to friendlier places. The desperation is palpable.

The Cuban balseros (rafters) have risked their lives on many occasions to escape Cuba. They have come in leaky boats, inner tubes tied together and rafts.

The Cuban exile community is a hard-working population that has enjoyed success in America. The American dream has always been the ideal of equality of opportunity, not equality of accommodations for all. Many Cubans have risked their lives to escape Castro’s tyranny. Obviously, to them, life in those circumstances was not worth living.

Elections in America are coming soon. We should take this opportunity to appreciate American democracy.

Why Your Best 20th Birthday Present is a Pension

27 Av 5772 – August 15, 2012

When you are in your early twenties, it seems as if you will always be young. At this point in your life, you may have completed your university studies and now you are out there in the work world, or perhaps you are still studying towards a further qualification. You may be newly married at this point, or still waiting to find the Right Spouse before tying the knot. Whatever you are doing, retirement may be the furthest thought on your mind.

However, retirement will not stay on the horizon forever. Before you know it, the years pass, and you will hopefully find yourself established in life with a career and family. You have a definite professional path, and you are working hard to put food on the table and make sure that you, your spouse, and children have everything you need. The only studies that you are thinking about now are your children’s tuition fees. And this is how it goes, as the years pass. The nature of your needs and goals will change through life – until the time comes to retire and enjoy the fruits of your labors.

For this reason, it is important not to let the years run by without planning for the future. No matter how old you are, whether you are 20 or 55, you need to make sure that you have a pension plan and to put some of your money aside into savings and investments. Since there is no guarantee that your company’s pension plan or the government’s pension plan will be enough to cover your retirement needs, it’s important to have a personal savings plan which could make up the (potentially large) shortfall. No one wants to end up dependent on the goodwill of their children, who may well be supporting their own families by this time.

Of course, every family has its own situation, levels of risk, and specific needs and goals, which is why you need to find the pension plan that is the best for you, whether it’s an IRA, 401(K), or any of the other options that exist out there. There are many different factors to consider. For further ideas on how to plan for retirement, read http://profileperspectives.com/dont-let-retirement-creep-up-on-you/.

Planning for retirement now, while you are young, can make all the difference to your future.

Olympic Runners Would Die…

24 Av 5772 – August 12, 2012

http://israelisoldiersmother.blogspot.co.il/2012/08/olympic-runners-would-die.html

Olympic runners would die if they lived in Shderot and a rocket hit.

What an amazing concept – the fastest men in the world…wouldn’t reach safety if they found themselves just 200 meters away from a shelter during a Color Red alarm in Shderot. Fifteen seconds of warning…that’s all the residents there have.

I wonder if anyone in the Olympics has thought of this comparison – one that people in Israel’s south live with every day. Thank you to the IDF for the above thought…it is a chilling one.

The Children Are Ready

19 Av 5772 – August 7, 2012

(((CLICK BELOW TO HEAR AUDIO)))

Rabbi Chaim Richman, the director of the Temple Institute in Jerusalem, joins Yishai. Together, they discuss the creation of a video produced by the Temple Institute entitled “The Children Are Ready”. The video, which depicts the creation of a sandcastle model of the Third Temple by children, has become extremely popular on Youtube. They move on to talk about responses to the video from radical extremists and how there is no militant undertone given or intended in the video and end the segment by talking about how many Jews are scared of the Temple Mount and how the thought of a Third Temple is unsettling to many Jews.

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
Yishai on Facebook

Misunderstanding Anger (Part II)

9 Av 5772 – July 27, 2012

In Part I, we discussed how misunderstandings trigger anger and how different people can see the same trigger differently. I wondered if we could identity a common denominator in most disagreements and if so, was it possible we could eliminate teen aggression, couple aggression and arguments between friends, family and peers? Is there a way to bring about fewer altercations, better family unity and understanding between people with less arguments and fighting?

What is your definition of an opinion? Before reading ahead, think for a moment. An opinion is a personal perspective, feeling, belief or desire. A person can try to support that opinion, however, they may base it on unsubstantiated information, in contrast to fact-based beliefs. A fact is something that has really occurred or is actually the case. The usual test for a statement of fact is verifiability; that is, whether it can be shown to correspond to experience. In other words, a fact is something that can be proven true while an opinion is someone’s feelings about a particular topic.

Opinions are usually very personal. It is based on what I think. That is, my opinion is based on my understanding or misunderstanding, assessment or analysis of a situation. Inasmuch as an argument uses evidence, facts, statistics, testimonials, etc. to persuade the listener, an opinion is a personal response using logic and personal experience and background.

Why is it that people interpret what they hear from others as a personal attack rather than the other person’s opinion? I think its because we have a tendency to be set in our beliefs. We want to believe what we believe, so we take things personally. One easy way to see this in action is to watch when people discuss either religion or politics. People have a difficult time when others disagree with their religious or political opinions because they feel they are “right” and, therefore, the other person must be “wrong.” If I’m right you must be wrong. If you don’t agree with me, then you are challenging my “rightness.” This is just a microcosm of the bigger picture.

The question is: Why can’t we accept another person’s opinions without feeling as if they are challenging us? On a subconscious level, most people really want others to be like themselves, think the way they think and believe what they believe. Of course, most of us will deny this, but through studies and observations it has become clear that this is very often the case. Each of us has an unconscious need to be right. Therefore, too many of us can’t handle daily challenges because we interpret them as personal attacks.

Once a person interprets a situation as a personal slight, he automatically tries to “defend” himself and that leads to a disagreement, argument and fight. This is the beginning of conflicts, family feuds and disagreements of various degrees.

The natural response to a challenge or angry response is what I call the “anger circle.” That is, anger is so contagious that if one senses that another person is angry with them, the natural reaction is for them to get angry with that person. Look around and observe this for yourself. Watch how anger leads to more anger. For example: A teenager is late coming home for curfew; his mother is waiting at the door. She is upset and angry because he is late again. When the teen comes in the door, how does he react to that anger – he gets angry. Why? She didn’t do anything to him. The answer is simple: anger is contagious. In fact, when the son gets angry all that happens is that the situation escalates.

Lately I have been challenging some of my anger management clients with the following statement: “There is no such thing as emotions.” Of course, when I say this they think their therapist has finally lost it. Their comments are usually along the lines of, “What do you mean there is no such thing as emotions!! My anger, my depression, my love, my anxiety! Ed, are you crazy. Of course there are emotions!” At that point I ask them to let me finish my sentence, “there is no such thing as emotions – without thoughts.” This is a critical statement, one that must be fully understood. All emotions are derived from the brain, from our interpretation of events, comments or situations. For example, if someone tells you that you are the most special person in the world, that they love you dearly, their life would not be the same without you, how would that make you feel? Most of us would feel cared for, appreciated, happy and so forth. However, if those same words of flattery were in a language you did not understand, you would not have those same wonderful feelings. In fact, you would probably have no feeling whatsoever. That is because the brain must translate, analyze and process what was said into thought and then the feelings come from that. This is a basic example of “there is no such thing as emotions – without thought.” Our thoughts lead to our feeling, which, by the way, lead to our actions and behaviours.

Rocket Hits Eshkol Region

2 Av 5772 – July 20, 2012

A rocket from Gaza hit the Eshkol region in an open area at 2:49PM on Friday. No injuries or damage was reported.

Perhaps they thought they were shooting Ramadan fireworks.

Three Reasons To Buy Dividend-Paying Stocks

28 Tammuz 5772 – July 18, 2012

Have you thought about investing in dividend-paying stocks? As the name suggests, these are stocks that pay out a certain percentage of the company’s earnings as a dividend periodically (usually quarterly) to the investor. Recently, dividend-paying stocks have received a good press in publications such as The Wall Street Journal. Have you considered why dividend-paying stocks might be good for you?

Here are three possible reasons for thinking about dividend paying stocks:

1. You can reinvest the dividend payments in the same stock. Chances are you originally bought the stock because you believed in the fundamental strength and stability of the company. As long as you continue to believe in the strength of the particular firm, if you reinvest your dividend income in the company and continue to buy more shares of the same stock, you will increase your position in a company that you believe is strong. If you choose carefully, your investments might turn out like those of Grace Groner, a secretary at Abbott Labs. Her $180 investment in 1935 eventually grew to $7 million (which eventually went to fund a foundation to benefit students of Lake Forest College.)

2. Dividend-paying stocks have the potential to maintain a certain amount of stability when the market gets rough. Stocks that pay dividends are generally considered safer in a down market because they still keep a certain level of value and generate income in the form of a regularly paying dividend. Even if the stock value drops, unless the board of directors vote to eliminate the dividend, you can still anticipate receiving a periodic check.

3. The need to pay out dividends to shareholders can keep a company’s management in check. If the board of directors knows shareholders expect a dividend on a regular basis, they may be more likely to avoid embarking on risky projects that could end up fundamentally destabilizing the company. Since stockholders will only continue holding onto their shares if they believe in the fundamental stability of the company, both the board of directors and shareholders have a common interest in furthering the company’s profits.

If reading the above has convinced you that to buy dividend-paying stocks for your portfolio, wait a minute before you call me (or your broker). First, read my next post, to learn about potential problems with dividend-paying stocks. As always, don’t invest in anything until you get proper advice from a licensed financial advisor.

Free Stock Trades Can Make You Lose Money. Here’s Why.

26 Tammuz 5772 – July 15, 2012

Have you ever found yourself buying a t-shirt that you would never normally be seen dead in, simply because when you walked into the store, you saw the sign, “Buy one, get one free”? And what about the window-cleaning gadget that you picked up from a street vendor for only $2 because he promised you that this was a bargain price and it would do wonders for your windows? Both of these purchases were totally useless, and you will probably consign them to the garbage next Pesach. But you still bought them. Why? Because they were either totally free or cost you next to nothing.

Similarly, when you are stock trading, have you ever been tempted to invest in a commission-free trade? These sound really great. You can choose your investment and if you put in a certain minimum, you don’t need to pay brokerage fees. Wonderful – you are saving money. But are you really?

Dan Ariely, a researcher specializing in behavioral finance, talks about “the power of free.” This is when people are tempted to be more reckless simply because the offer is free. Dan noted that when a New York nightclub offered free tattoos to its customers, even though the conditions were very far from optimal cleanliness, many of them actually took up the offer. In fact, his researchers discovered that 68% of those who received tattoos would not have bothered if they had not been free.

When you pay a fee for stock trading, you are less likely to be reckless because the thought of wasting these few extra dollars on something that may not work acts as a deterrent. But when you get a free trade, you may find yourself feeling similar exhilaration to a gambler in a casino. When the roulette wheel spins and he wins a little money, he takes it and throws it back into the game – promptly losing everything. Falsely, he thinks that as he won once, he can keep on winning. A free stock trade, in the eyes of many, has to be a good deal by virtue of the fact that it’s free, but that is not necessarily the case. While you may win some, you are just as likely to lose.

Secondly, you should always ask yourself the question of why something is free. Take a closer look at it. For example, if you are offered an ETF (Exchange Traded Fund) without needing to pay a commission, why is this? Perhaps it is because the ETF is in some niche segment that you would never normally consider and is far less lucrative than other types of ETFs. It is therefore extremely important to remember that even though such a trade is offered as a free deal, nothing has changed about the underlying investment.

The “power of free” is definitely an absorbing subject. If you want to avoid getting sucked into low-quality trades or landing up with a free jar of free lemon chutney when you purchase a hideous red plastic vase for half price at the supermarket, learn more by watching Dan Ariely on YouTube, where he discusses this subject at greater length.

Words As Weapons: Learning To Use Words Positively

24 Tammuz 5772 – July 13, 2012

Just a few days ago, I bumped into a former student in the supermarket. When she saw me, she stepped away from her shopping cart full of fruits and vegetables and warmly hugged me. “Mrs. Schonfeld, I wanted to tell you something that you said to me a few years ago that has stayed with me until today.” We had worked together on social skills to help her feel more comfortable when meeting new people. I tried to jog my memory and remember something specific I had said to bolster her confidence, but nothing particularly stood out. Instead, I smiled and said, “Yes, Sarah, what was it that I said?”

Her eyes filled with tears and she revealed, “You mentioned that when I smile, I often smile with my eyes too and that my whole face lights up. You told me that my sincerity comes through when I genuinely smile. As I was going on shidduchim, I would always remember what you said about my smile and would hope that others felt the same way. And then, when I went on a shidduch with someone who seemed really special, I had a stronger belief in myself. Most importantly, I didn’t hesitate to smile. And, now we are married and already have our first child.”

I congratulated Sarah, chatted with her for a few minutes, and then continued with my shopping. As I was picking out my string beans, I began to think a troubling thought. One comment that I had made to Sarah several years ago had influenced her in wonderful ways. Yet, I did not even remember making the comment. Of course, in this instance, the comment I made was positive and helpful. However, what about comments that might have indirectly hurt one of my students? Years later, an accidentally ill placed comment could still have a negative effect. Simple words can have such a huge outcome on those around us. That’s why we have to be so careful about both what we say and the way we say it.

Sticks and Stones Can Break My Bones,
But Words Will Last Forever

Many of us remember our parents telling us that if people called us names or hurt our feelings, we should simply tell ourselves, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never harm me.” Unfortunately, that logic does not hold true. In fact, verbal abuse can be as harmful, if not more, than physical abuse.

The New York Times reported several extreme instances of verbal abuse or bullying. In March, 2007, 17-year-old Eric Mohat shot himself after a long-term tormentor told him in class, “Why don’t you go home and shoot yourself; no one will miss you.” More recently, Carl Jospeh Walker-Hoover, an eleven-year-old boy from Springfield, Massachusetts hung himself after being incessantly hounded by classmates about his appearance.

The instances above are radical cases of verbal abuse and bullying; however, they illustrate the power of words and their effect on children’s psyches. Often, we underestimate the consequences of our comments, but even seemingly innocuous comments can have disastrous results. A poem by Chani Zirkind beautifully demonstrates how five simple words can change a person’s life:

WORDS

I burst out laughing when I heard her say,
The funniest joke I heard all day.
She didn’t say one, she didn’t say two,
I marveled at what her humor can do.
I was sitting here just moments ago,
A little bit bored and a little bit low,
And in she walked with her comments and all,
And my gloominess left with no trace at all!
I wondered what part she had in the play,
I heard took place in the school yesterday.
I sat and imagined the friends she attracts,
Her lucky campers with whom she interacts.
Baruch Hashem for a talent like hers!
Creating happiness just out of words…
Words
I’m not so sure
Words
There’s more to her.
What I thought
isn’t true
Because of what
words
can do.
I’ve seen her true self with family at home,
But once she steps out her humor’s unknown.
Yes, she’s tried to tell others her jokes,
But what occurred put down her hopes.
Someone said five words, no more,
That closed her in, closed up her door.
Her self-confidence to never give up,
Was lost in a comment,
“I thought you grew up.”

Adult Impact on Children

Miriam Adahan’s book Sticks and Stones: When Words are Used as Weapons transplants the discussion of verbal bullying into the realm of Jewish thought. Rashi explains that Lo sonu (Vayikra 25:17) refers to hurting others with words – ona’as devarim. There are multiple examples of ona’as devarim:

Shopping For Priestly Garments

22 Tammuz 5772 – July 11, 2012

I receive letters and e-mails every day from all parts of the world. Sadly, there is no shortage of problems. Pain and suffering abound. How to navigate the turbulent waters of the world we live in is a challenge for everyone.

Every once in a while, however, I receive a letter that seems so outlandish I suspect it’s fictitious – someone playing a prank. Such was the case with the following e-mail.

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:

I am so confused and troubled. I am scheduled to get married in two weeks. Two months ago, my father announced he had to go to Paris for a very important business deal. My mother loved the thought of going to Paris and decided to accompany him. Although we hadn’t finished our shopping for the wedding, we scrambled to find the right gown and while we couldn’t decide which one to take, we did settle on a certain designer.

“Anything that you choose there,” my mother assured me, “will be stunning.” As for Mom, she decided to get her gown in Paris.

When my parents returned, my mother took a look at my dress and thought it was awful. I had already paid most of the money – a huge sum – and they refused to give a refund. It’s now two weeks before the wedding, and it’s doubtful whether they can have a new gown in time. I am miserable. I have nightmares about looking ridiculous at my own wedding.

As I mentioned, my mother bought her gown in Paris and, frankly, it is embarrassingly tasteless. My mom and I have been fighting. We keep blaming one another. So what do we do?

I’m curious as to how many readers think the letter is authentic. Well, the fact is – I made it up. Why did I do it? Sometimes, in order to drive home a point, you have to draw a graphic illustration. We, you and I, we are the kallah and the mishpachah. The greatest day of our lives, the ultimate wedding, is quickly approaching, and to our chagrin we are unprepared.

You and I went to a couturier for a specially designed dress. We spent a small fortune on it only to discover we won’t be able to wear the dress on which we lavished so much money. At the end of the day, G-d forbid, we will stand like schnorrers begging for entree to a great wedding hall.

We, the children of the 21st century, are victims of an obsession with money. We idolize the latest in fashion and turn to Paris, Milano, and Madison Avenue for guidance. We will discover too late, G-d forbid, that what we dedicated our lives to is an abominable waste. The wedding is just around the corner, and we are totally unprepared.

We are in the midst of the Three Weeks, which signal the destruction of Yerushalayim that culminated in the tragedy of Tisha B’Av, when our Temple was reduced to ashes.

The Talmud teaches us that when the great sage Rabbi Akiva saw the site of the destruction, with wild animals roaming the holy grounds, he smiled and comforted us: “Even as this prophecy of destruction has come to pass, so too, shall we behold the prophecy of redemption and rebirth fulfilled. Messiah will come and the Temple shall once again glow in all its splendor and majesty, illuminating the entire world with the Word of Hashem.

Many centuries have passed. Our blood has flowed freely over the face of the earth, and it was not only sword and fire that consumed us but assimilation as well, swallowing up our children in the melting pot of the nations. And now we have entered a time in our history when the footsteps of Messiah are audible – that is, if we know how to listen. Soon we will have to go to that “great wedding” and, as in my fictitious letter, we will be mortified. Our garments will be ridiculously inappropriate.

So let us stop for a moment and ask ourselves how will we feel at that wedding when we meet the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. How will stand before our King, our Heavenly Father? Will we say we had to attend to our business or that we were searching for haute couture and therefore forgot the proper dress code? Will such rationalizations fly? How will we explain it all?

Let’s Do Lunch

19 Tammuz 5772 – July 9, 2012

A homeless man feeds a cat on the streets of Nachlaot, Jerusalem.

We were looking for a cheerful image this morning, but one that won’t belie the assortment of bad news out there. Something that would look good but won’t give the reader the sense that we’re just escaping reality.

So we thought this image of a guy who’s down on his luck but still has enough room left in his heart to share a saucer of milk with a little friend makes us feel good about life without thinking it’s Disneyland out there.

Stay cool. Drink a lot of liquids (mostly because we believe drinking solids is next to impossible).

Midrash and Talmud

10 Tammuz 5772 – June 29, 2012

Man is seldom satisfied with his life. Even when he has done great things, amassed vast amounts of wealth and achieved great fame, he still yearns for more and his soul is not fulfilled. “No man dies with even half of his ambition fulfil­led,” say Chazal.

Thus was it with the conqueror, Alex­ander the Great. Here was a man who top­pled empires, before whose armies people trembled, who set his stamp on lands as far away as India. Still he was not satisfied. He yearned to do something that no man had ever done. He yearned to fly high above the heavens.

Alexander And His Flight

Despite all the mighty deeds that he had done, Alexander was still not satisfied.

“Unless I do a thing that was not ac­complished by all the kings who have preceded me, men will never remember me for real greatness.

“They will only say that once there was a king named Alexander who went and made war and conquered many na­tions and gathered a vast amount of booty and set his heel on the heads of people.

“This is all good, but there must still be something that I do that has never been done by any other man from the days that G-d made the world till the present.”

The Eagle

And so, Alexander ordered that his men capture the most gigantic eagles they could find. Once they had gathered several enormous birds, he chose the greatest among them.

“Starve the bird for two days,” he ordered his men.

At the end of the time, Alexander took a large piece of meat and stuck it on his spear. He then climbed on the back of the hungry eagle and he raised his spear high in front of the eagle’s beak.

The starving bird immediately tried to reach the meat and flew into the air. Higher and higher he climbed as he vainly tried to reach the meat, which hung tantalizingly just before him.

The Earth So Small

Higher yet, the eagle climbed, until Alexander was surrounded by swirling clouds. Looking down to the earth far below, he saw that the towns, forests and rivers appeared as dots and ribbons. He looked to where his great army was camped and he could see nothing but little dots. Alexander’s heart thereupon grew light and his head swelled:

“Who is like me and who can compare unto me? I sit here alone looking at the lit­tle ants below me.”

Another Thought

Suddenly, however, a second thought entered the Greek emperor’s mind.

“If my great army, with all its hordes of men, appear to me to be so small, what do I appear like to my army below? Probably, I have disappeared from view and am like nothing in their eyes!”

The thought was a bitter one and destroyed the great happiness that he had felt just a moment before.

Turning the spear with the meat downward he looked at the earth as his eagle turned to descend. The land rushed forward to meet him and he could now see the people becoming larger and larger in his eyes.

“I, too, am becoming larger in their eyes,” he thought.

When he had descended from the back of the eagle he gave orders that a statue of himself be made and in his hand a round ball –symbolizing the earth – be placed. “This shall be so the people will remember me,” he said.

Can The Dead Wake

One of the great differences between the rabbis and the Tzedukim was over the question of whether the dead will someday be resurrected. Our rabbis, of course, maintained that this was a cardinal prin­ciple of the Torah, that the A-Mighty would some day awaken the dead, while the Tzedukim denied this great article of faith.

One day, one of the leaders of the Tzedukim approached Gevihah, the son of Pesisah:

“Shall the dead really rise? How is it possible? If people who once had the breath of life in their nostrils eventually die and become still and cold, how shall those who are dead ever hope to live?”

Gevihah then asked the man:

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/kidz/midrash-stories/midrash-and-talmud/2012/06/29/

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