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13 posts from February 2013

Omri Casspi: Higher and Higher

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Hashem controls the NBA, too. In His infinite wisdom, Hashem engineered that the Sacramento Kings traded their 2009 first-round draft pick Omri Casspi (from Yavne, Israel and the NBA's only Jewish player) to the Cleveland Cavaliers last year. Once Omri came to Cleveland, he met our dear friend Tamir "Jewish Jordan" Goodman. They became great friends. Meanwhile, under Tamir's influence and guidance, Omri has been finding his way back to his Jewish roots. He already puts on tefillin every morning and is becoming just as tall spiritually as his 6'9" physical stature. I had the pleasure of hearing this first hand from Tamir when I visited him in his home last week in Cleveland.

Meanwhile, Omri is recovering from an emergency appendectomy that he had 3 days ago during an away game in Florida. We pray for his full and speedy recovery.

Omri Casspi and Tamir Goodman show that you can learn Torah, wear tzitzit and tefillin and still be a cool Jew and a basketball star. Yiddishkeit is definitely cool.

Confessions of the Mikva Attendant

The following letter is especially relevant to many people, so we decided to share it with you:

Dear Rabbi Brody,

A young woman was sitting in the waiting room of the mikva where I am balanit (attendant - LB) last week, and she had a MP3 player. When her turn came, I called her in, and we struck up a conversation (this was a new face to the mikva, and I do my best to make everyone feel comfortable). I asked her what she was listening to, and she said that she was listening to a lesson from an English-speaking rabbi in Israel about shalom bayit (peace in the home, or marital bliss - LB). I asked her then if there's anything new, or just the same old cliches that so many other people are tossing around. She then pulled the original CD out of her purse, and told me to take it, since she already had it copied onto her MP3. "See for yourself," she said. "Ever since my husband started listening to these CDs, he's been treating me like a princess, lavishing me with love, respect, and consideration..."

Rabbi, I took your CD home and listened to it. What you say in Respecting Your Wife is revolutionary. You could be saving thousands of broken marriages. Let me explain...

I'm the Wailing Wall for most of the women that come to the mikva. Many of them pour their hearts out to me, because they know that halacha (religious law) requires a balanit (mikva attendant - LB) to be ultra-discreet. Thank G-d, I also have a reputation for being very tight-lipped, so I enjoy the trust of the women in our community (and the trust of those that come here from outside the community, and there are many of them - because our mikva looks like a tropical garden with soft music, etc., so women love to come here). Without further digression, you should know that at least 50% of the women that speak to me are not satisfied with their marriages. They have melancholy eyes, and are not looking forward to going home from the mikva. It's a tragedy. I would venture to speculate that the percentage of unhappy wives among those that don't go to mikva is so much higher.

At any rate, I feel an obligation to pass the word about your teachings. I love the way that you keep them real and down to earth, practical and not pie in the sky theory. To be honest, there are no chassidim (except for the local Chabad house) in our area, and chassidic thought isn't exactly what you'd call popular around here. Breslev especially has a bad reputation for weirdos; yet, if the Breslev wives have husbands that live according to your audio teachings, then they can be laughing at the rest of us. I must confess that we have been shortchanging Rebbe Nachman for a long time. I also confess that I have frequently criticized the Breslevers for leaving their wives on Rosh Hashanna. Many of us have husbands who are physically at home, but their minds are millions of miles away. I guess that Uman for a few days a year is a better deal, especially if your husband is with you in heart and body for the rest of the year.

At any rate, when I heard your CD, I almost fainted. The label told me that you're a Breslever, associated with the Chut Shel Chesed Yeshiva and with the Breslev Israel website. I was so embarrassed. Even though I'm considered "tight-lipped" as I said, on numerous occasions in the past, I have been guilty of saying less than complimentary remarks about Rebbe Nachman and his followers. This has been total ignorance on my part.

I called a leading Breslever USA Rabbi on the phone, and asked him how I can repent for turning people off to Rebbe Nachman in the past. He said, "Simple - just turn them on to Rebbe Nachman's teachings in the future!" He was so nice and unjudgmental. When I read the articles on your website, I get the same impression from you too. Maybe that's why the Breslevers' wives are happy - their husbands are nice guys and unjudgmental.

Rabbi Brody, I can imagine how busy you are and I know I've run off at the keyboard. Yet, I feel that there's a message here for everybody - don't prejudge.

Please tell me if you can cut me a deal on my first 100 Arush-Brody CDs. I would be honored to distribute them in our area, because as far as I know, you don't yet have a distributor here. With sincere thanks, DB from the Midwest USA

* * *

100 CDs are already in the air and on their way to DB. I arranged for her to get them at a wholesale price. Not only will she be joining our Outreach team, but she'll be making a few extra dollars on the side too. If she helps just one couple have a happier marriage, then her rewards are unfathomable, in this world and in the next. And, if she helps save just one marriage, then it's as if she has saved an entire world.

No mitzva in the Torah brings dividends like the mitzva of Outreach. When you put a CD in someone's hands, you're task is just as important as my saying the lesson. You become a first-string player on our team, and bask in the glory of every victory, namely, bringing another soul closer to Hashem.

Quite a few people have invested maaser (tithe) money in Emuna Outreach books and CDs, and have seen tremendous blessings by distributing them in their neck of the woods. You can too!

Don't Wait Another 10 Years

Debbie finally arrived in Israel last month, after ten years of longing. She has been corresponding with me for a little over a year, and the first thing she did was to show up at my Wednesday evening weekly Emuna talk and broadcast in English from the Chut Shel Chesed Yeshiva in Jerusalem. G-d willing, she'll be working in the mornings as an English teacher and spending her afternoons at a women's seminar for Baalot Teshuva.

Debbie wrote a message that we wants me to convey to all of you; it's really profound:

Rabbi Lazer, please tell your readers how I wanted to make Aliya ten years ago when I was 21. I also wanted to learn more about Judaism. I let my mother talk me out of both. During the last ten years, I wish I could say I've been treading water, but it's worse. I floated from job to job, had a miserable relationship with a person outside of our religion who I lived with for four years, and have sacrificed my own aspirations to keep mom happy. I was miserable and lost my self-esteem. You gave me the courage to pack up and do what I really want. Pass the message on to others - don't waste a decade of your own lives to keep others happy. Come to Israel today, and claim your Jewish birthright. Live your own lives. 31 is better late than never...

No, Debbie, don't cry over spilt milk. With Hashem's help, your Emuna will strengthen and you'll meet a good guy very soon. Your message is an important one.

The ingathering of the exiles is just one more sign of the wonderful times that await us in the rebuilt Jerusalem of Eretz Yisroel, amen.

Pleasurable Parnassa: The painless way to make a living - part 2

With trust in Hashem, a person doesn't think about money all day long. Peace of mind is only two words away – Hashem provides.

Business is one continuous test of faith. Businesspeople are tested every single second: If they believe that their livelihood comes from Hashem, then they're calm and composed, conducting their affairs on an honest basis. If they believe otherwise - that their income depends on their own efforts and aptitude - then they're most likely working much too hard and wasting energy looking for all types of ploys – legal or otherwise - to make money.

One's entire life depends on emuna that Hashem provides for every creation. Emuna creates a clear, clean, and shining spiritual pipe that abundance flows through, directly from heaven to a person's bank account or dinner table. Drinking from the pipe of emuna is like drinking from a silver goblet. Without emuna, one drinks from the spiritual equivalent of a sewer pipe, where one's income is contaminated with negative emotions, bad health, and damage to the soul.

Decide which option in life you'd prefer, because basically, there are only two:

First, you can believe that Hashem predetermines your income, and that every last cent designated for you will reach you at an exact time and in its entirety, if not from one source, then from a different source, if not today, then tomorrow. As a result, you are calm and composed, and avoid the troubles of illegal and dishonest business procedures.

Or second, you don't believe in Hashem or in His ability to support you, and you bang your head against the wall trying to make a living, angry and irritable most of the time because life is a living death. You sink into debt, you're confused, and you can't think clearly with the tensions and stress that weigh you down. Oftentimes, you catch yourself cutting the corners of honesty and wholesome business practices in trying to make an additional buck.

Remember! A person receives his or her heavenly stipend to the cent. By cheating, lying, or dealing dishonestly, a person won't earn a cent more.

Here's an example: Joe and Harry are both store owners; each is destined to earn one hundred thousand dollars this year. Joe earns his money honestly and in good faith, and therefore enjoys it. Harry wants a lot more money than what Hashem gives him, so he wheels, deals, lies, and steals, bringing in a gross income of an additional fifteen thousand dollars. Harry will now suffer sicknesses, accidents, home damage, income tax investigations, law suits, and any number of other aggravations. As a result, he'll lose the fifteen thousand that wasn't destined for him, and he won't enjoy the hundred thousand that was destined for him, since he'll be busy running to doctors, lawyers, repairmen, and the like.

True, a person can't lie in bed and say "Hashem will provide", because that's relying on an outright miracle, something we're not allowed to do. But, as long as you're trying your best and doing a reasonable day's work (that's all you're expected to do - if in doubt, consult your personal rav or spiritual guide as to what a reasonable day's work is for you), then the miracle of Hashem's personal supervision over your livelihood is clothed in seemingly natural circumstances.

Spending money you don't have and buying on time, whether with loans or by plastic, is destructive for parnassa. If Hashem wants you to have something, He gives you the wherewithal. Don't say that you trust in Hashem when you squander, charge on your credit cards, or purchase things that aren't necessary; that's not trust, but stupidity.

Emuna and bitachon (complete faith and trust) must be complemented with common sense, thrift, a careful budget, and making do with what Hashem gives you.

For your convenience, the following is a table of 20 factors that are detrimental or conducive to parnassa, that I compiled from "Sefer HaMidos" by Rebbe Nachman of Breslev:

Detrimental Factors

Conducive Factors

1. Lack of trust in Hashem

1. Trust in Hashem

2. Cruel to others

2. Compassionate

3. Lewdness

3. Shmiras HaBris

4. Alcohol

4. Spiritual awareness

5. Disdain of Torah

5. Respect of Torah

6. Tomfoolery

6. Clean speech

7. Desecrating the Sabbath

7. Honoring the Sabbath

8. Failing to repent for old sins

8. Tshuva

9. Sadness and depression

9. Happiness

10. Ingratitude, especially to Hashem

10. Gratitude and prayer

11. Stinginess

11. Charity, especially a full tithe

12. Idol worship and blasphemy

12. Strengthening faith in Hashem

13. Immodesty

13. Modesty

14. Anger

14. Patience

15. Judging others severely

15. Judging others fairly

16. Dishonesty, fraud, cheating

16. Integrity

17. Arrogance

17. Humility

18. Infidelity

18. Honoring one's wife

19. Domestic strife

19. Peace in the home

20. Instigating hate between people

20. Making peace between people

May Hashem bless you always with abundance, amen!

Pleasurable Parnassa - part 1

Today and tomorrow, we'll be talking about how to take the pain and aggravation out of making a living

A fundamental principle in emuna that underlies parnassa, one's effort to earn money and make a living, is that a person's livelihood for the year is predetermined from Rosh Hashanna. You don't have to chase money with a net - Hashem gives it to you.

The practical manifestation of emuna is one's level of trust in Hashem. Trust includes the awareness that Hashem sustains all His creations, and that He does His job dependably. Therefore, those who trust Hashem aren't worried where their next meal is coming from; they know that He who has fed them in the past will continue to do so in the future. They also know that their livelihood doesn't depend on their craftiness or on their cunning – it depends on Hashem only.

No one can detract from the income that Hashem designates for a person. The Talmud states emphatically (tractate Yoma 38b) that one human is incapable of touching a fellow human's intended portion. Equipped with this basic fact, a person need not worry nor fear anyone or anything.

Trust in Hashem – internalizing the fundamental principle of emuna that one's livelihood is predetermined and exclusively from Hashem – enables a person to conduct his or her business affairs with confidence, a clear mind, and a healthy outlook. Stress, anxiety, and worry fall by the wayside. With trust in Hashem, a person goes through life with inner peace, avoiding the pitfalls of crazy wheeling, dealing, and chasing money at the expense of their physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Sound exaggerated? Here's what futile chases after money do to a person:

·         Emotional damages – worry, anger, stress, and anxiety that also result in depression and severe changes of mood;

·         Physical damages – the above emotional strains increase chances of heart disease, digestion disorders, strokes, and cardiovascular problems, heaven forbid. Also, they are springboards for substance use and addiction, namely, alcohol, tobacco, and drugs.

·         Spiritual damages – money chasers forget the Torah's laws, and often resort to dishonesty, fraud, thievery, and other transgressions, all of which severely blemish a person's soul.


To be continued tomorrow, with Hashem's loving grace

Controlling all of Creation

Rebbe Nachman of Breslev teaches (Likutei Moharan I: 34), that every individual has the potential of being a "righteous governor". Certainly, each of us has the potential of being righteous, a "tzaddik", for the prophet said, "And your people are all tzaddikim!" (Isaiah 60:21). A tzaddik has the special ability to govern over all of creation.

Reb Natan of Breslev explains (Likutei Halachot, Yora Dea, Mila 4:16), that "Creation continues to exist and function by virtue of Israel's service to Hashem, and their blessings and praise of Him, blessed is He." In simple terms, every creation fulfills its purpose in the universe thanks to the prayers and songs of Israel, thanking and praising Hashem. For example, when Israel blesses Hashem for creating the sun, moon, and stars, they glitter and illuminate! As such, the Israel that controls nature is virtually above the level of nature; nature cannot control Israel.

Rabbi Alexander Ziskind of saintly and blessed memory writes explicitely (Yesod VeShoresh HaAvoda, Gate 3, Section 5) that Israel governs over creation and that creation must comply with Israel's directives. In his elaboration of Psalm 148, he notes that a person in this lowly physical world has the power of commanding all the creations – both in the upper worlds and in the lower worlds – to praise Hashem; they are required to obey, as a fundamental law embedded in the very fiber of creation. Anyone who realizes that his or her prayers, Psalms, and songs of praise have the power to dictate orders to all of creation will surely acquire a burning desire to sing constant songs of thanks and praise to Hashem; these songs of thanks and praise are a scepter in a person's hands that enables him or her to rule over nature.

Do you know what that means? With songs of thanks and praise, together with emuna, one can order bacteria and viruses to leave the body, and they must adhere!Ovenbird_singing_a

All of creation sings to Hashem. Why don't you join in?