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12 posts from October 2018

David Dome: Voice on the Mountain

Our cherished friend and sweet-singer David Dome from London sent me a gorgeous traditional Irish ballad by the name of "Wild Mountain Thyme". He performs this balled ever so beautifully with new emuna lyrics I wrote for him. We now call this lovely song, "Voice on the Mountain," which we hope you'll enjoy. I can't stop listening to it. Sing along - the lyrics appear below the vid.

Melody: Traditional Irish, "Wild Mountain Thyme"
Instruments, Vocal and Arrangement: David Dome 
Lyrics: Rabbi Lazer Brody

Oh Mashiach times a comin'
And the trees are sweetly bloomin'
And The Voice from the mountain
Calls in love and in emuna
Come home Neshama
Come home....

And we'll all go together
To hear The Voice on a mountain
And we'll sing a song forever
Come home Neshama
Come home

I will then say a prayer
By yon high and holy mountain
My love song for my Father
Flows like waters from a fountain
Come home Neshama
Come home...

And we'll all go together
To hear The Voice on the mountain
And we'll sing a song forever
Come home Neshama
Come home.....

Come home Neshama come home
Neshama come home

Hashem forever be with me
For there never is another
And it's His Voice on the mountain
Calling you and me dear brother
Come home , Neshama
Come home......

And we'll all go together
To hear The Voice on the mountain
And we'll sing a song forever
Come home Neshama
Come home
My brother
Come home
My sister
Come home
Neshama
Come home....


The Truth about Anger Management

Cave
"Normal" doesn't necessarily mean "healthy". A cave dweller thinks that darkness is normal, and can't fathom the beauty and the benefits of sunlight. In the same way, tranquility is so elusive today that many people don't even consider it a realistic emotional goal. Yet, if we want to escape a lifelong fate of emotional darkness, we desperately need to find a way back into the "emotional sunlight" that is the birthright of each and every one of us.

A good example of this confusion between "normal" and "healthy" comes from the American Psychological Association. In their position paper on anger, they conclude: "Remember, you can't eliminate anger - and it wouldn't be a good idea if you could. Anger is a natural, adaptive response to threats; it inspires powerful, often aggressive, feelings and behaviors, which allow us to fight and to defend ourselves when we are attacked. A certain amount of anger, therefore, is necessary to our survival."

These words strike me as most peculiar. They seem to assume that we all live in a dangerous jungle, where only the biggest, angriest inhabitants manage to survive. In fact, I can testify from my own personal combat experience in one of the world's most elite military units that anger clouds decisions and lowers effectiveness. If we're talking about survival, an angry soldier is far less likely to survive that a calm one. A good soldier has to be cool-headed in order to function at an optimal level. An angry soldier, by contrast, is a menace to both himself and his brothers in arms. And if that's true in the high-stress battlefield arena, it's certainly true on the city streets.

Most of conventional psychology's anger-management programs are based on the faulty assumption that "containable" anger is a good and even necessary thing. For example, the APA suggests that with anger management therapy "a highly angry person can move closer to a middle range of anger in about 8 to 10 weeks". Translated, that means that you won't break windows anymore, but you'll still be gritting your teeth, clenching your fists, and maintaining your candidacy for heart disease and strokes.

The basic flaw with this approach is easy to understand once you realize an important truth about anger: Fundamentally, anger is an addiction. And you can't "manage" an addiction - as any drug, tobacco, or alcohol rehabilitation specialist will tell you. An alcoholic can't limit himself to two Bloody Marys a day, just as a heavy smoker can't cut back to five cigarettes a day. The results are not permanent! Addiction management requires a huge amount of sustained willpower. Why invest so much physical and emotional energy when better options are available?

Oh, you'd like an example of a better option than substances or anger management? Try combining walking with personal prayer. The Trail to Tranquility will also make a dramatic change in your life for the better. 


Dismantling: a stress-management strategy

Shipwreck

The Talmud offers practical homiletic advice on how to survive under extreme stress:

Shipwrecked

Rabbi Akiva sailed from Israel to Cyprus. Before he left port, he saw his prize understudy, Rabbi Meir, board an older vessel, also sailing to Cyprus. In the midst of their journey, a terrible gale struck the Mediterranean. Rabbi Akiva's heart broke as he gazed into the distance, wincing while the storm lashed into the decrepit craft that carried Rabbi Meir. In a matter of minutes, the latter's ship was utterly destroyed...

A tear slid down Rabbi Akiva's cheek. "What a waste of a brilliant mind!" he lamented.

Several days later, upon reaching the shores of Cyprus, Rabbi Akiva entered a local synagogue and house of study. Flabbergasted, he froze in the doorway. Rabbi Meir was in the middle of a lecture to a group of Cypriot Talmud students. Seeing his esteemed teacher and spiritual guide in the doorway, Rabbi Meir ceased lecturing. "Rabbi Akiva, my honored master, please come inside!"

Rabbi Akiva could barely speak. "M-Meir! Y-You're still alive! H-How did you get ashore?"

"Simple, my master. Instead of focusing on the stormy sea, I rode one wave at a time. I caught wave after wave until I reached the shore!"

* * * * *

Had Rabbi Meir attempted to battle the entire tempestuous sea, he would have expended his strength in a short time. Instead, he used the centuries old formula of "divide and conquer" - Rabbi Meir knew that he couldn't overcome the sea, but he could surely cope with one wave at a time. Even more amazing, he arrived ashore before Rabbi Akiva!

The 2nd-Century CE sage Rabbi Meir teaches us the secret of staying on top when we seem to be buried under an insurmountable load of stress. Don't fight a whole raging sea, or don't try to move a one-ton boulder that's in your way. Take a 5-lb. hammer, and break chips of the boulder. Before you know it, the boulder - that ton of stress on your shoulders - is no longer there!

The secret of handling an overload of stress is dismantling - don't try to deal with all your pressures simultaneously. Ride one wave at a time, and you'll make it safely to shore, too.

Don't forget also that the best way of dismantling is to take all the problems off your own shoulders and throw them onto Hashem's lap. You do that with an hour a day of personal prayer; that will really make you feel light on your feet!


Functional Fitness and Faith

Functional Fitness

If you're carrying a full-load backpack on an uphill trail without huffing and puffing, you're functionally fit. The same goes for carrying two six-packs of 1.5 liter bottles of mineral water home from the grocery store...

Did you ever ask yourself, "Why did the Creator give me a body?" Surprisingly, most people don't know the answer.

Craig has humongous biceps from the hundreds of heavyweight dumbbell curls he does every day. Yet, when his wife asked him to take down a can of tuna from the top shelf in her kitchen pantry, he couldn't do it because his shoulders were too tight. He simply couldn't raise his arms that high, despite his 6'1" frame. Frustrated, his 5'3" wife stood on a kitchen chair and took the can of tuna down herself.

In her own words, Marianne "feels dead" if she misses a day of spin class. She spins for an hour a day, proud of her figure yet she eats whatever she wants because she burns about 700 calories in one session. But, she's so into her peddling as the techno-background music pumps her up, that she slouches over the handlebars, which she grips tightly. Her figure isn't too slightly because she can't stand up straight. What's more, she can only carry her attaché case to work (weighs about 5 pounds, including laptop) in her right hand because she's developed lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow) in her left arm. So now, in addition to her slouching, she walks with one shoulder higher than the other because she only lifts things with one hand.

Yaacov, in his quest for six-pack abs, does over a thousand crunches a day. Sure, his stomach muscles are like iron but his hip flexors and lumbar spine are so tight that he can't touch his toes without deeply bending his knees. Yaacov looks good on the beach but he sorely lacks inner core strength and like Marianne, his posture is terrible.

Naomi is the women's weightlifting champion of her gym. She can military press and bench press more than women twice her size. Yet, the other day, she bent over to pick up her baby and she pulled her back out.

What's wrong with Craig, Marianne, Yaacov and Naomi? They are into what you might call "cosmetic fitness", working out for the flashy body, the bulging biceps, the six-pack abs, the "Hey, look at me!" legs and the general Miss or Mister America body. Yet, they lack functional fitness. They can't perform basic functions in life. Their workouts are wrong and they oftentimes are detrimental to overall health rather than conducive to it. How?

The muscle/bikini beach crowd focus on isolated muscle groups rather than on multiple muscle groups working together in harmony. In the words of Greg Roskopf, MS, a biomechanics consultant with a company called Muscle Activation Techniques who has worked with athletes from the Denver Broncos, the Denver Nuggets, and the Utah Jazz, "Conventional weight training isolates muscle groups, but it doesn't teach the muscle groups you're isolating to work with others".

Hashem gave us a body to house the soul. The Rambam speaks extensively about maintaining the healthy body in order to maintain a healthy soul. What's more, as the Sefer Charedim teaches us, our various limbs and appendages are for the purpose of performing Hashem's commandments, His mitzvoth. Our motivation in exercise, just as our motivation should be in all our other bodily functions, should be to serve Hashem.

When we're healthier, we're quicker and more agile in our daily functions, particularly in performing His mitzvoth. Therefore, we should focus on "functional fitness". Functional fitness exercises are designed to train and develop your muscles to make it easier and safer to perform everyday activities, such as carrying groceries or playing a game of hide-and-seek with your children.

You don't have to spend hours in a gym. Fifteen minutes a day of functional fitness exercises are sufficient to keep you feeling great. Although I love such total body kettlebell exercises as deadlifts, goblet squats and kettlebell swings because of all the muscles they involve, you don't need any apparatus. Such bodyweight exercises as pushups, front and side lunges, squats and planks will keep you fit from head-to-toe. Shlepping groceries up three flights of stairs works wonders too...

Then again, functional fitness works great with faith: the only thing that beats an hour of walking is talking to Hashem in personal prayer during that hour of walking. G-d willing, time permitting, I hope to do some functional fitness tutorials in the future. Meanwhile, you're welcome to view these. Never forget also that good dietary habits are twice as important as exercise. Shabbat is for delight, but not for eating into oblivion, especially grossly unhealthy things. All good diets tolerate, even encourage, one cheat-day a week but that doesn't mean alcohol and pastry suicide. Like our working out, our eating and drinking should be for the sake of maintaining a fit body to serve Hashem for 120 happy and healthy years, amen! Blessings for a lovely Shabbat and delightful weekend!

Rabbi Lazer Brody is the editor of the Breslev Israel English-language website and the Mashpia Ruchni (Spiritual Dean) of Breslev Israel. He is also a certified fitness trainer and health coach.


Shulem Lemmer: God Bless America

Who says that Chassidic Jews are not cool?

Watch our dear friend Chassidic singer Shulem Lemmer sing "God Bless America" at Fenway Park on Sept. 16, 2018 in front of 35,000 people, during the 7th-inning stretch of the Mets - Red Sox game. This is a phenomenal sanctification of Hashem's Name - we can all be proud of Shulem. Clip courtesy of esteemed friend and Shulem's agent, Yochi Briskman, yochix@aol.com