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February 2017

25 posts from March 2017

Purifying the Vocal Domain

Expressions of Gratitude
Until recently, I had never understood Rebbe Nachman's teaching in Likutei Moharan II:74 that Purim is preparation for Pesach. Sure, on Purim, we begin learning the laws of Pesach because religious law requires us to begin reviewing the laws of a festival thirty days before the festival, and Purim is thirty days before Pesach. Yet, once I heard a recent shiur from my beloved teacher Rav Shalom Arush shlit'a on the nature of the klipa (negative spiritual force) of Haman-Amalek, Hashem illuminated my eyes and the token fell in my brain with the explanation of just how Purim connects to Pesach and what our spiritual preparations for the upcoming holiday should be. Specifically, we must rid ourselves of a certain negative trait and replace it with a positive one, as we'll explain with Hashem's loving grace in today's shiur.

Don't miss today's important emuna lesson and broadcast entitled "Purifying the Vocal Domain," which will take place, G-d willing, in the ground-floor main sanctuary of the Chut Shel Chessed Yeshiva on 13 Shmuel Hanavi Street in Jerusalem at 7PM Israel time (12 noon EST); the shiur is open to the public - both men and women are invited. You can see today's lesson here - the broadcast, as well as our lessons posted from now on - are Mac and iPod compatible. If you tune in too early to the live broadcast link, you'll be sent to the main page of the Breslev Israel website, so try to tune in on time.  If you are not able to view today's broadcast live, then G-d willing, you'll be able to see the video tape of it later this coming week on Lazer Beams. 


The Gluten-Free Scam

6a00d8345263cd69e201b8d26a5feb970c-800wiI hope that title got your attention. These days, we're bombarded by gluten-free labels on almost everything. I even see bags of chips labeled gluten-free, as if to imply that rotten potatoes deep fried in rancid, toxic canola oil are suddenly healthy because they don't have gluten. And, yes! Canola oil really isn't healthy! 

I actually was eating gluten-free pasta and bread for a while, and for one reason only: it didn't make me bloated. However, you should know that this latest genius marketing propaganda that paints gluten as the Devil is just that - genius marketing propaganda. In reality, only people that suffer from Celiac need to be eating gluten-free. For the rest of us, we're just contributing to our declining health - and our declining bank accounts. Gluten-free is crazy expensive!

This article gives a great history of how the GF (gluten-free) explosion began. It turns out that the same guy who did the original study to see if gluten really did cause GI upset actually did a follow-up study that disproved his first study! He ended up saying that there was no causal relationship between gluten and GI upset in non-Celiac sufferers. Furthermore, other studies have shown that eating GF products leads to all kinds of nutrient deficiencies, and Celiac sufferers are included in that. 

Who, all of a sudden, decided to turn gluten into a big bad fluffy monster? I'll tell you who - the genius that got rich off of it. 

But, wait! How can this be? Aren't all doctors and scientists running around like Chicken Little for the past several years, screaming that the sky is going to fall if we keep eating gluten? Take, for example, Dr. Oz. I gotta be honest - I don't like the guy. But here he is, right on camera, saying that gluten-free products are a scam. A scam, I tell you!

When I was on my GF kick, I thought that new horizons were open to me. I thought I could eat all the GF muffins, cookies, and pasta I wanted and I wouldn't gain weight. WRONG! Newsflash, folks - GF products are loaded with fat, sugar, additives, preservatives, and, the ultimate Devil, carbohydrates! 

Okay, so carbs aren't the ultimate Devil. You need healthy carbs, like vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains. You most certainly don't need processed white flour garbage. 

Let's take a look at the nutritional label of a popular GF pasta. Did you see the calorie count? 200 calories! PER 2 OUNCES! The carbs? 44 grams PER 2 OUNCE SERVING! Fiber? ZERO! I don't know about you, but even my 3-year-old can eat at least double that! Two ounces is a complete joke! Let's estimate that a normal adult serving is 8 ounces. That means that you're eating 800 calories and 176 carbs in one sitting! I can't even believe those numbers! Did I do my math right?

What about GF cookies? Let's find out, shall we? Are you sitting down? Hold on to something, because you're about to faint.

In a box of prepared GF Betty Crocker chocolate chip cookies, 2 cookies = one serving. In one serving, you have 150 calories, 63 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 25 mg of cholesterol, 160 mg of sodium, 23 g of carbs, and 13 g of sugar!! And remember, that's only for 2 cookies! Who in the world eats only 2 cookies? Someone like me could easily finish off 8 cookies in three minutes or less. Let's call a "real" serving 6 cookies. That means you're eating 450 calories, 189 calories from fat, 21 grams of fat, 75 mg of cholesterol, 480 mg of sodium, 69 g of carbs, and 39 g of sugar!

Is it any wonder we collectively suffer from such poor health?

If you want to eat healthy and lose weight, stay away from processed foods! As I wrote in Bye, Bye, Diabetes, when you eat unhealthy foods, especially ones that are high in sugar, you trigger your body to release insulin in direct proportion to the amount of sugar you're ingesting. Insulin, if you recall, is a fat-storing hormone. It tells your body to store the calories you've just eaten as fat. The higher your insulin goes, the more fat you will store. The more fat you store, the more unhealthy you become.

So where is the logic in eating gluten-free if you don't have Celiac?

Although Celiac disease is severely under-diagnosed, it is estimated that at most, about 1% of the American population suffers from it. But what about the millions of people that truly suffer from non-Celiac gluten sensitivity?

Well, who said it's really gluten sensitivity at all? This is a fairly new label, and it's quite trendy these days. There is so much conflicting information about it, that it's really hard to say for sure what's causing increasing numbers of people to be more sensitive to grain-based products. Could it be GMO's? Could it be the infamous herbicide glyphosate? Could it just be the fact that these products are so processed, that our bodies don't even recognize them as food?

I don't know. But what I do know is this: if you want to be healthy and lose weight, you've got to cut back on the processed garbage. All of these white breads, pastas, and cookies are completely unhealthy, whether they're GF or not. If you don't have Celiac, switch to whole, organic, and sprouted grains. A good general rule would be: if it's processed and loaded with preservatives, don't buy it - even if it says whole wheat whatever.

So there you have it. I hope this post saves you a ton of money. Even more importantly, I hope it motivates you to start eating foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. 

I'd love to hear your comments! 

~Racheli


R U Scared of Sin?

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I'm in a fog. It seems I may have drank a bit too much last night. I don't think I did, but that could be because I lost count after my third glass of wine. What got into me? I'm not a big drinker. I don't like not being able to walk in a straight line. But, boy did I enjoy laughing! I'm one of those people that can't stop laughing when they get a little tipsy. And I'm not talking about a quiet laugh. Oh, no. I'm talking like loud, over-the-top, obnoxious, snorty laughs. 

I've gotta work on my tznius. Really. Shame on me. How un-ladylike.

Lucky for me, Purim only comes once a year, so that means I'm only a bit looney once a year. Okay, that's not really true. I'm looney all year long, but on Purim I can blame the wine. The rest of the year I just blame my husband. In case you haven't noticed, it's one of my favorite hobbies. 

Oh, and I have to thank my soul sista, Sunny Levi, for this gross picture of her grizzity gross gluten free, organic "hamantashen." Sunny, I love you, but these things look awful! Can you send me some?? Even though they look horrible, I'm sure they're absolutely dee-licious, because I know what a fantastic cook you are. I'm just wondering if you're ever going to speak with me again after you read this post.

So how many of you party animals got smashed yesterday? Are you wallowing in regret today? Jewish guilt? Fear of punishment? Can you even remember what happened yesterday? 

Thank G-d, I know about the power of teshuva, so I did some of that yesterday as I was sobering up. I promised not to make myself look like an idiot in front of my kids if we're around other people. Because I certainly seem to have no problem looking like a crazy person at home, when there's no one else around! Am I starting to make myself look bad? Should I take a public opinion poll? NEVER! 

What happens when we sin and don't make teshuva for it? Well, Rav Arush explains that we're actually creating our own judgments because of our lack of teshuva. Our judgments take the form of all kinds of bad stuff that happens to us, and thus we become afraid of these things, such as getting sick or getting pulled over by the cops. These types of things happen just to awaken us to do teshuva, not to torment us. As Rav Arush says, when you Fear One, Fear No One. If we have the right, healthy types of fears, no other threat will affect us, because we know it's coming from Hashem for a certain reason. 

Hey, I just found out that Dracula was related to Haman! No joke! They were both wicked, blood-thirsty killers. I'm pretty sure that Haman had fangs, too. He was certainly evil enough. And here's another similarity: they both had countless children. It's true! I've heard that Haman had hundreds of kids. And according to Rav Brody, Dracula also has not hundreds, but millions of kids. He says that anger turns a person into a demon, and this demon can double for one of Dracula's Kids.  Come to think of it, I also looked like Dracula's daughter when I took off my eye makeup. I was a scary sight! 

Even though my article this week talks about an interesting situation I encountered at the grocery store, I would just like to say that I do not spend my entire week at the grocery store. It's possible that it's more than half, but I'm afraid to actually think about it too much. Crowded grocery stores aside, Hashem sends us Hidden Opportunities to do great things, but the problem is that they're hidden. That was redundant, wasn't it? Could I still be a little drunk? Don't answer that. 

Thank G-d Lori Steiner is thinking clearly, because she's got loads of insights to share about Purim and the month of Adar. They're all to insightful for me to appreciate at this moment, but I want you to check out her Radar in Adar and then tell me how profound it is! Why does David keep closing the bathroom door? Doesn't he know I'm desperately trying to think?

I just took at look at the clever title of this next article, and I instantly knew that it was written by our uber-talented Emuna Therapist, Rebbetzin Yehudit Channen. This week, she shares how she helped women in her Connective Writing course gain invaluable perspective on the most difficult parts of their childhood. She helped them discover, through Writing the Wrong, that the painful situations they experienced were exactly what they needed in order to flourish later in life. You don't want to miss this one!

I'm telling you, our writers are all so insightful, I wonder what on Earth I'm doing in such awesome company. This week, Dovber HaLevi clearly shows us how the working world functions according to how Hashem wants things to happen, and not according to our physical efforts. You can see it all around you and likely in your own life - how hard you work has little to do with the success of your efforts. Why is that? Dovber explains it all in Opportunity Knocks

Wow, this is amazing. Dr. Zev Ballen, our other wonderful Emuna Therapist, talks about a similar theme to Rebbetzin Channen's in his latest article! He reflects on his own painful situations in his childhood, and shows on a very personal level how they have all worked to build him up into who he is today. He calls it Productive Pain, and I call it "Read this article right now!" 

I just had a good laugh while reading David Perlow's latest article. As he's describing what a mikvah is and how it can be used to spiritually purify us, I remembered my David on our honeymoon in Israel. It was January, freezing cold, and he decides he's going to leave me in the taxi as he hops from mikvah to mikvah, spiritually purifying his holy self. One mikvah happened to be absolutely freezing, and only after he dunked did he realize his kippah was still on his head, so he had to dunk again. The water was basically frozen, and so was his kippah. Serves him right for leaving me in the car on our honeymoon so he can enjoy Taking the Plunge. You know, I would enjoy taking the plunge in a nice Jaccuzzi. Is that too much to ask? Is it? Really?

Rav Brody shares with us an encouraging Purim insight in his article, Above the Sun. He explains that if we go by the rules of nature, then our future looks bleak. What an understatement. But, if we go above the rules of nature, then the possibilities are endless! And how do we go above the sun? Read the article!

Wishing you a happy Shushan Purim, or an enjoyable day off if you're not in a walled city!

~Racheli


Megilla, 2017

When you look close enough, you can see how Hashem is preparing us for Geula. The light of Megilla shines every year as we see in today's very special Purim lesson. Enjoy, and blessings for a wonderful new week and a very happy Purim!

Don't miss our other Purim posts below! 


Haman's Curse

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A few nights ago I took my kids out for some last-minute Purim/Shabbat shopping, because I just can't learn my lesson. They wanted to "stop by" the toy store, you know, just to schmooze around. Sure. I told them like a thousand times that I wasn't going to buy them anything, but of course they suddenly developed amnesia when they walked into the store. 

As I did my best to hide from my older kids, my little boyfriend, Natan, who's turning three in a few days, walked around the store asking me if I could buy him everything on the shelves. The funny thing was that he asked it so nonchalantly, showing me that he really didn't care about the toys he was asking me to buy him. I found myself saying, "No" every two seconds, while casually checking out the prices on the toys.

Many things were on sale, and if I had wanted to, I could have bought a few of those toys. And that's when I realized something amazing: because the toys were so easy for me to buy, they didn't have any real value in my eyes. Of course, part of that was probably because I wouldn't be playing with those toys, although maybe I would if I actually had some time to play.

For a few minutes, I actually felt what it would be like to be super-wealthy. I gotta be honest - it didn't feel that exciting. All of us, no matter what level of wealth we have, get bored with our stuff. The super-rich can walk around any store and buy anything without necessarily feeling the pinch in their big inflated bank accounts, but they're missing something precious - the excitement that comes along with buying something you really want.

That's why being rich is a bottomless pit. Money makes a person insatiable; he can never have enough stuff. Not only that, he has to constantly get nicer and more expensive stuff, and eventually he gets bored of all of it. This, my friends, is a curse.

Haman suffered the same curse. He was so rich, if he had lived today he would easily be on Forbes' "Top 10 Wealthiest People" list. He might even beat Bill Gates. But, as he states in Megillat Esther, all his riches are worthless when he sees Mordechai sitting at the palace gates. It's true that Mordechai's stubborn unwillingness to bow down to him enraged him. But why exactly was it so important for Haman that Mordechai should bow to him? Why wasn't it enough that the rest of the world bowed to him when he passed by?

Here's what I think. Haman wanted from Mordechai the one thing he couldn't have. Since he couldn't have it, Haman instinctively knew that this was the one thing left in the world that was exciting for him. What else was left? He had money, power, women, a palatial mansion, children. He had everything.

In reality, Haman's curse should be called "The Curse of Everything." Because once you have everything, there's nothing left to look forward to. More of the same just doesn't do it.

Those of you that dream of living the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, do yourselves a favor and dream yourselves out of it. There's a big blessing in not being able to have the dream life that you want. Believe me, Hashem is doing you a massive favor. Just think about how many uber-wealthy people are terribly depressed, suffer from marital problems, and/or have kids that are totally messed up. That's not a happy life. 

Wishing you all a wonderful, meaningful, and SAFE Purim!!

Oh, yeah, so you're probably wondering why I put a picture of sheep at the top of this post. Well, the truth is that I really didn't have a picture ready for this post, so the idea came to me to use this picture and say that these sheep are actually people dressing up as sheep for Purim. And then, as I was uploading the picture, I suddenly remembered that we just read Parashat Zachor, in which King Saul was commanded to wipe out the nation of Amalek, and even their animals, because the sheep might really be people in disguise! I promise you I'm not lying! Isn't that just insane?? And, I took this picture about two weeks ago, because I never saw a bunch of sheep so close to my house. Totally freaky Divine Providence, yo! 

~Racheli


Midnight Hour: Breslev Motown Purim

In loving memory of my father, Yaacov ben Yitzchak, who loved a l'chaim and a good laugh. It's ever so suitable that his yahrtzeit is on Shushan Purim, tomorrow. This one's for you, Pop...

L'Chaim and a Happy Purim with a wonderfully joyous new week!

Breslevers have a good time all year long, and especially on Purim. Here's what happens when Menachem Herman and I get together on Purim; when we're sober, we turn Sweet Home Alabama into Sweet Home Jerusalem. After a couple glasses of vintage Gush Etzion wine, Wilson Pickett becomes a Breslever Chassid, and the Midnight Hour becomes a song about hitbodedut, personal prayer with Hashem in the wee hours. I hope you have as much fun watching this as we did recording it. May your Purim smile last all year long, amen!