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14 posts from November 2010

"Teshuvat HaMishkal": M's Story

I'm writing this letter to my fellow LazerBeams readers with a mixture of tears and smiles. You see, I've been a baalat teshuva (spiritually-awakened Jew - LB) for 15 years. I married the guy of my dreams 13 years ago, who splits his time between working and learning Torah. We have eight fantastic children, baruch Hashem, which we are raising here in Israel. We live in a terrific neighborhood with plenty of English speakers of similar backgrounds to ours. Those are a few of the many great reasons why I'm smiling.

So why the tears? 18 years ago, I was still a wild college student at the University of Colorado, a real party school where almost anything goes. That was before my teshuva and before my marriage. I became pregnant in my senior year. Sure, my boyfriend from back then was not serious and not Jewish. I had every logical and justifiable reason to abort. But still, I snuffed out a little soul. When I read what Rabbi Brody wrote yesterday, "Remember one thing – a pregnancy that’s terminated is something that can’t be corrected either in this world or in the next world," I broke down crying. Sure, back then I didn't know or did I care to know the Torah view on abortion. But my heart tells me that I must make amends, despite the mitigating circumstances from back then when I was an innocent violator, or what they call a tinoket shenishbeta.

Confused and beside myself, I called Rabbi Brody (who my husband and I hold as our spiritual guide) early this morning and asked him to clarify the "can't be corrected" phrase. He quoted Rebbe Nachman who says that there's never a need for despair and that Teshuva corrects everything. He told me that the teshuva must be "teshuvat hamishkal", in other words, its good must equally outweigh and offset the evil of the transgression. That was encouraging: I realized that if I do what I can to prevent others from having abortions, this will atone for the abortion I had.

I took the bus to Jerusalem, and went personally to the Breslev Israel office where I picked up 200 copies of the new CD, Children are Joy, which gives solid reasons for the the baby's right to live and against abortion. Even if only 1 out of 20 potential abortees pay attention to it, I could still be saving 10 little lives. I intend to make sure that this CD gets spread far and wide - I really feel a sense of mission, and the type of good feeling that you get when you know you're doing the right thing. The mere privilege of participating in the distribution of this CD is wiping away my guilt feelings and giving me inner peace. As soon as I got home from Jerusalem, I fed my kids then sat down to write this letter, hoping that it will help at least one other woman feel good about herself too. Were it not for Rebbe Nachman of Breslev and his disciples in this generation Rabbi Shalom Arush and Rabbi Lazer Brody, people like me could be haunted by our past. Not any more - thank G-d we have BT rabbis in this generation who spread Rebbe Nachman's encouragement, light, and hope. So that's my story. Happy Chanuka to all, "M" from Ramat Bet Shemesh in Israel

I really appreciate M's candid and moving letter, and wish her and her family every blessing in the Torah. You can order 100 Children are Joy CDs for distribution at cost price by clicking on this link. Don't wait until the Heavenly Court asks why you sat back and did nothing to stop the Holocaust of abortions. When we have compassion for Hashem's little babies, He has compassion for our little babies. Blessings always, LB

Yesterday, Rabbi Brody

Lakewood Interview

Baruch Hashem, we're home safely to our beloved homeland of Eretz Yisrael. It was wonderful to see all of our cherished friends in Toronto, Ottawa, NYC, Lakewood, and Miami. We have another upcoming trip to the USA in the latter half of January, which tentatively includes NYC, Boston, maybe Baltimore and/or Philadelphia, and possibly the West Coast - Los Angeles and Las Vegas. If you're interested in arranging an emuna evening/lecture/Shabbaton for your community, please write Yosef Nechama , Breslev Israel's general director who handles all of my scheduling, in Israel and abroad.

Below is an interview from earlier this week in Lakewood, New Jersey. We thank Hashem for the success of this past trip, which included appearances in Lakewood, Yeshiva University, the main Chabad community in Miami, and many other wonderful places that occupied virtually every minute of our time. We thank everyone who contributed to help spreading emuna and to making our speaking tour such a memorable two and a half weeks. Shabbat Shalom!

You'll enjoy this:

Big Business, or Why ask a Rabbi?

Dear Rabbi Brody,

I'm an experienced retailer, and until 3 years ago, enjoyed a six-figure-plus income. Lately, whatever business I try turns sour. My neighbor, an orthodox Jew, suggested that I write you and ask for advice, a blessing, or both. I understand the blessing part, but why ask for your advice? Are you a Wharton MBA? Do you understand about business? What's this middle-ages gunk of running to a rabbi for every little thing? I'm not being a wise guy, I just want to know. Yours, Ralph from Detroit

Dear Ralph,

No, I don't have an MBA from Wharton, but I do understand about business. You see, I'm sort of a broker; I help people invest their lives in those endeavors that pay the best dividends. I also help arrange deals between small businessmen like you and between a major investor who'd be interested in helping you succeed. You see, as an orthodox rabbi, I represent a firm with unlimited capital and vast multinational resources. Therefore, people ask for my advice.

I don't solicit new business, and I certainly won't be upset if you don't seek my assistance, because I'm already up to my eyeballs in an ever-increasing pile of mail, that I try my best to answer the same day. To be honest, I'm not that bright, but the Chairman of the Board of the firm I represent likes my performance, so He almost always fulfills my requests. You see, the Chairman of the Board does whatever He wishes whenever He wishes; it's His power and brains that I depend on, not my own. So, in effect, when you ask me - or any other qualified rabbi who dedicates his life to helping people - a question, you're really getting the answer from the Chairman of the Board. That way, you end up succeeding in whatever you do. So, if your business has had tough times the last couple of years, you won't lose anything by asking a qualified rabbi. People that don't ask questions, and that rely on their own brainpower, often make mistakes, and mistakes carry a big price tag.

By the way,  I can arrange for you to meet the Chairman of the Board at your convenience - you can pick the time and the place. You can even call Him by his nickname - "Hashem". Best wishes for your success, Lazer Brody

Child Abuse: The Worst Sin

"Ricki" from New England has been corresponding with me for over two years now. She's a very talented Baalas Teshuva, attractive, smart as a whip, and her potato kugel is just as mean as her tennis backhand. She could easily be Miss Jewish America, but she's no longer a Miss since her wedding three years ago. She has one other problem - her heart is deeply scarred from a nightmare childhood with an abusive father. We can't even write about 10% of what Ricki went through with her father.

Ricki's first year of marriage was stormy to say the least. But, since she's been in contact with me, we've been trying to heal those scars with emuna. Ricki no longer takes tranquilizers or sees an analyst. Her courage and willpower are deserving of praise. She consented that I share her latest letter to me with you:

Rabbi, I just finished listening to some of your soothing CDs while preparing Shabbos dinner. The good news is that my husband was amazing tonight and helped around the house, spent 30 minutes with me over dinner, and cleaned up after the cooking with a smile and amazing attitude.

I would like to comment on 2 of them/get feedback quickly, if you don’t mind (I'm crying as I write this):

Family Connection: THANK YOU for being totally forthright about the importance about getting away from abuse! Time and again I hear stories of Rabbis trying to keep a wife with an abusive husband, or children told they need to continue to honor him and live with him. It doesn’t surprise me, but thank you for taking a stand! People don’t seem to understand that no connection is better than abuse – “family first” can't be husband over safety of others.  Seeing an abusive family member isn’t worth “having contact” because it’s too destructive.  I wish someone had told my mom, and I wish my step-mom would listen – Get away, stay away, and keep your kids away! Don’t think he won't do it to them because they’re his kids! HE WILL!!!

In terms of your comment about tearing down kids, that they’re “like living dead” – Rabbi, this is a sore spot for me. Those are EXACTLY the terms I use to explain how I feel. I feel like my main goal right now is to attempt to come back to life because inside. So much is dead having been the victim of parental abuse, there is such thick heaviness around my heart. I'm so limited in my abilities due to the abuse I suffered…and it feels so alienating, because most people don’t know how to deal with a walking dead person. Sometimes I just get this overwhelming sense of – “you just don’t get it. You think I'm alive! Can't you see that I'm really dead?” For the most part, they don’t really want to know. Too scary and tears down their little gingerbread house. Even my husband has a hard time understanding, especially with my issues, and mind you he tries really hard. I wish it could all just feel normal and painless. I wish I could feel anything besides pain.

Anyone who says that murder is the worst sin in the world is a liar.  Child abuse is, especially severe physical and sexual abuse. At least with murder the person is dead and doesn’t have to suffer such excruciating pain for their entire life. The child doesn’t even get to know what life is before it’s taken from him/her, and then has to fake it and act like they’re alive in a world that doesn’t want to know the truth and doesn’t want to be reminded of it. I'm trapped in a body that is constantly reliving my death. I must be dead because this is certainly hell.

Which leads me to Hashem Loves Me – what an amazing CD, I think your best ever. SO inspiring and moving. Your explanation of Psalm 3 was unbelievable, and by the end of the CD I was sitting on the floor crying like a baby because someone loves me! It seems so silly in writing but honest I never really believed it until just now. It’s hard to believe but deep inside I don’t believe I'm lovable. I was told in no uncertain terms as a child, over and over again, that I was garbage, that I belonged in the garbage, that I was a monster and horrible words I won't repeat.  You mean I don’t have to be the biggest tzedakis on earth in order to deserve love? I can be imperfect and that’s OK, just keep trying and do your best and that’s enough? Making a mistake doesn’t prove that I really am a piece of sht? I don’t have to beat myself into perfection? I'm still bawling.

Thank you. Good Shabbos.  Sorry if this was a little heavy but those CDs opened up so much… Thank you for being there... Ricki

Tzedaka (Charity)- Everyone's a winner

Hi Rabbi Brody,

Today, my doorbell rang."Daddy, there's a man here asking for you." I know what that meant - a "shnorrer" - a bloak looking for a handout.

So, I got to the door and gazed upon a young man with very long and bushy sidecurls and sporting a frock coat. He was from Israel, he told me in broken English. He grew up in Eilat. Then he showed me his passport with the picture of him pre-peyot...a typical secular Israeli.

"I am Baal Teshuva," he said."I am getting married and need to collect money for the marriage. My family do not help." He showed me his Yeshiva in a photo showing a building very close to the Kotel. "You know Breslev?" he asked.

"Do I know Breslev...sure I do!" I pointed to my heart and said, "this is Breslev." He understood. So did I.

And I gave...the money left my hand...went into his...and a chord of connection was created. Breslev for me brings Torah within my reach; thanks to this young man's rebbe - Rebbe Nachman - my chain mail preconception of shnorrer yielded to the lofty mitzva of Tzedaka. Breslev makes Torah practical, a way of life.

This guy was shining.

The simple gift of no-strings-attached tzedaka reminded me what Rebbe Nachman teaches - focus on simplicity, the basics are what's important. One mitzva of tzedakka is worth more than all of Olam Ha'ze. Everyone's emerges happy - the donor and the receiver.

Thanks for the soapbox! Yours warmly, DD from the London