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15 posts from June 2010

The Greenhouse


One of the first things in child education that I learned from my beloved rabbi and spiritual guide Rav Shalom Arush, may Hashem bless him, is that criticism and comments destroy a child. Parents hate criticism and comments, so why do it to their kids? A child's home should be a greenhouse of warmth and sunlight – smiles, compliments and positive reinforcement are the water that helps a child's soul bloom like a beautiful flower.

Some kids become stifled – either they're afraid to say a word, because they know they'll be shot down with criticism, or else they can't say a word, because unthinking egotistical parents have robbed them of their self confidence. Such kids remain recluses all their lives – they're the butterflies that never come out of the cocoon or a withered plant that never received enough water and sunlight to flower and to grow new leaves.

A major sickness of twenty-first Century kids is that their parents are selfish babies that are self-indulgent in their own pursuits. Rather than giving their kids personal attention and quality one-on-one time, they buy their kids "goodies." Not long ago, I was a guest in the home of a well-to-do family; the kids had bedrooms with their own phones, computers, DVDs, and wall to wall toys. Yet, the mother was never home, for she enjoyed her outside-the-home status as a major macher in the community. When the father wasn't in the office, he was on the golf course with his clients, casually sealing deals and looking to make more money. No wonder the kids were spoiled brats, nervous, an undisciplined. Emotionally, they were like kids from Biafra – starving.

Continue reading The Greenhouse on this week's issue of Breslev Israel web magazine.

Also in this week's issue:

This coming Tuesday is a fast day, the Seventeenth of Tammuz. Rabbi Pinchas Winston tells us about The Lessons of the Seventeenth of Tammuz.

Rav Shalom Arush writes about the spiritual root of the most catastrophic day in Jewish history in One Night's Crying.

Rav Kook zatza"l teaches us the lesson of this week's Torah portion - Pinchas - in Refining Zeal.

Rivka Levy asks a basic question about certain things in life - Worthless or Priceless?

Chevruta is part 11 of The Baal Shem Tov: The Early Years, a delightful series for the entire family.

Soul Essence is part 23 of Rabbi Erez Moshe Doron's gripping spiritual allegory Warriors of Transcendence.

You're Welcome is Bracha Goetz's poem about having guests.

Don't miss these fantastic new CDs, on sale now at Breslev Israel's online store:

1. Man and Woman, One Soul - this is a must-hear for men and women alike, to solidify your deep relationship with your spouse.

2. I Believe, a musical CD with an emuna message (Lazer's English narration), featuring the Shalom Banayich boys choir.

More exciting new CDs on the way soon, G-d willing. Have a great week!

Introducing "Calming Waters"

Surprise! Here's a sneak preview of our new album "Calming Waters", 100% music for the soul with no lyrics or narration whatsoever. Ten out of the eleven melodies are my original compositions, given to me as a free gift from Hashem during personal prayer out in the fields, seashores, and hills of our beloved Holyland. Israel's soil, flaura, and fauna are intertwined in this music, which will certainly heal and gladden an aching soul. Musical accompaniment, arrangement and production by my cherished spiritual brothers Menachem Herman and Jeff Horvitch. This particular track is "Tree of Life", composed in loving memory of Jeff's mother who passed away in South Africa recently. G-d willing, the CD will be released and available in about 4 weeks at Breslev Israel,

Emuna's Role in Child Education


Once, I was walking late at night in my neighborhood, one of the Chassidic bastions of Ashdod, and I circumvented a playground, where there were these two Chassidim with black hats and long coats playing on the swings and the sliding board. They thought that nobody saw them; I imagined that they weren't allowed to play as kids, so they're trying to compensate now. But, at 26 and 27 or so with a wife and two or three babies at home, they should be doing other things…

When we rob a child of what he or she needs, the deficiency will show up later – that's why it’s so important to let children develop naturally. Hashem created them as children, and not as 30 year-olds.

A major mistake that parents make is by loading emotional weights and pressures on a child, which the child's tender soul can't handle. One of the prime examples is when parents discuss financial problems and worries within earshot of the children; that's tantamount to taking five 50—pound sacks of potatoes and piling them on the back of a 50-pound child. The child can't stand such a weight, for it will crush him, G-d forbid. He needs to know that everything at home is fine and there’s nothing to worry about. If not, then children end up paying the price of their parents' lack of faith and trust...

Continue Reading Emuna's Role in Educating Children in this week's issue of Breslev Israel web magazine. Also featured this week:

The Perfect Ploy by Rabbi Shalom Arush.

A Big Fat Zero by Rivka Levy.

Two Sides of Growth by Rav Kook zatza"l and Sparks by Rabbi Pinchas Winston are commentaries on this week's Torah portion, Balak.

Spiritual Graduation, by Shalvi Weissman.

The Secret, by Tzvi Meir Cohen.

Visit to the Ancient Mines, gripping part 22 of Warriors of Transcendence by Rabbi Erez Moshe Doron.

Here's wishing you a great week with plenty of joy and good news.

"Rachem" - Hashem, please have pity

Rachem na literally means "please have pity." In the Birkat HaMazon - the grace after meals - we pray, "Please have pity, Hashem our G-d, on Your people Israel, on Your city Jerusalem, on Zion the dwelling of your exalted countenance, on the kingdom of David Your anointed, and on the great and holy house that is called by your name." This prayer is especially relevant in light of the repeated holy Land of Israel.

What I fail to express in words, 12 year-old Mordechai Shapiro of the Miami Boys choir and popular singing stars Yaakov Shwekey and Mordechai Ben David in song. Here they are singing Rachem. May Hashem have pity on all of us, and end this long and painful diaspora soon, amen.

Emuna, part 3: The key to happiness

In addition to being the universal answer to all that perplexes us, emuna is our most powerful resource. With emuna, a person can overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles and difficulties. Emuna enables a person to withstand pain, excruciating trials and tribulations, and even torture, heaven forbid. The only possible way to sanely weather life’s crises of external ups and downs or internal highs and lows is with a strong and developed sense of emuna.

If we take a good look, emuna is the only power that never fails us. It accompanies us throughout our entire lives, not only in this world, but in afterlife as well.

Many are the situations in life that are capable of breaking the proverbial camel’s back. High stress situations are literally unbearable without a reliable cushion to fall back on; emuna is the best and most comfortable cushion known to mankind. Even if we do fall, it provides us with a soft landing.

Like a soldier trapped in a crossfire, when you’re in a hopeless situation with no solution in sight, emuna comes to the rescue.

When we regard life’s tribulations as the direct result of Divine providence - and not the result of fate, chance, or nature - we are in effect harnessing the power of emuna. The power of emuna instantly strengthens and uplifts the soul; when the soul is strengthened and uplifted, a person is enabled to weather maximum difficulties with a minimum of stress. The uplifted soul enjoys an improved spiritual proximity to its Creator. The closer one is to the Creator, the stronger one feels.

Emuna carries a person to spiritual and intellectual heights that by far surpass the plateaus of even the strongest powers of reason and logic.

Rebbe Nachman of Breslev says that a person with emuna lives a life of good days, no matter what happens in life. Why? When things go his or her way, then the days are certainly good. When things go awry, or when trials and tribulations occur, that person’s days are still good because he or she is certain that everything The Creator does is for the ultimate good. Such a person has emuna that The Creator will also exhibit compassion, and help him or her endure the trials and/or tribulations successfully.

In striking contrast, he or she who lacks emuna, heaven forbid, lives a life of constant and unbearable bitterness. During trying times, such a person has no consolation and literally no one to turn to. Dependence on man is a sore and pitiful substitute to dependence on G-d; the former can do nothing to help us out of a tight situation, while the all-powerful latter can do everything.

G-d is timeless and infinite; so is emuna. The more we cling to emuna, the closer we get to G-d. The closer we get to G-d, the happier we are. As such, emuna is the key to happiness.

Not only is emuna the key to happiness, but with everything that we're facing today, it's the key to oue survival. If you haven't read The Garden of Emuna, please do so soon - you'll ever so happy you did.

Emuna, part 2: Why Emuna?

Why emuna?

According to Kabbala, or Jewish esoteric thought, completing one’s soul correction, or tikkun, is the loftiest achievement a person can accomplish in this material world. Oftentimes, we must suffer or experience hardship in order to attain a higher spiritual level or a correction to the soul, just like a champion athlete must withstand excruciating training sessions to reach higher achievements and peak performance.

Once we develop a deep sense of emuna that The Creator, by way of Divine providence, does everything for our ultimate benefit to guide us on the path of our needed soul correction, then the puzzle-pieces of life suddenly come together in a picture of striking clarity. With these principles in mind, emuna provides all the answers to life’s questions.

On the other hand, life without emuna is dismal at best, often characterized by senseless, illogical, and unbearable suffering. Such a life is tasteless, meaningless, more frustrating than not, oftentimes turbulent, and ultimately disappointing.

Can we afford to live without emuna? In terms of stark reality, a person spends an entire lifetime to succeed, but basically has nothing more to look forward to than a twenty square-foot plot in the local cemetery. One exerts tremendous lifelong efforts in vain, while frequently experiencing sensations of despair and futility. The no-emuna option isn’t so promising, to say the least.

Even if a person experiences difficulty, constant tribulations, pain, and suffering, he or she can be happy and fulfilled when opting for emuna. Emuna adds meaning to our lives.

Emuna behooves us to better ourselves. When we believe in a supreme, omniscient Creator who not only knows every action of each of His creations, but rewards us for our good deeds and punishes us for the opposite, then we’re not likely to murder, steal, or cause even minimal sorrow to our fellow human. In short, emuna makes each of us a better person.

The 3rd and concluding part of "Emuna" will appear tomorrow, G-d willing