124 posts categorized "Emuna and Spirituality"

Don Amalek Corleone

Corleone

I was a bit young, but I do remember watching one or two of "The Godfather" movies. I have to admit, I was enchanted by the slickness and smoothness of Vito and Michael Corleone. Even today, as I write this post, I envy their ability to get downright murderous without yelling and screaming. I wish I could do that. I mean, get angry without screaming. Not interested in getting all murderous, thank you very much. 

Obviously, Don Corleone was not Israeli, because everyone knows that Israelis can't possibly hide their true feelings, for better and for worse. I wonder how The Godfather would have played out with an Israeli cast. Vito would be the rash, brutish grandpa that barks out killing orders as he's spitting out sunflower seeds onto the floor. Michael would be the hyper, irrational, but oh-so-charming heir to the Corleonestine dynasty, but without any self-control. When he confronts his brother, Fredo (Fishel in Hebrew,) instead of quitely but forcefully telling Fredo how he broke his heart while grabbing onto both sides of his face, the Jewish version of Michael would start screaming hysterically at the top of his lungs, accusing Fishel of trying to have his own brother killed, as he squeezes with all of his might on both sides of Fishel's face. The scene ends with Fishel's face being squished beyond recognition as his brains come flying out of the top of his head.

Can I ask you something? Do I need therapy? Or is my imagination just extremely active?  

This whole Godfather thing didn't come from my genius brains, though. Hard to believe, I know. Actually, our very own Rav Lazer Brody came up with this amazingly brilliant comparison of Don Corleone to Amalek. Just like Don Corleone and Michael Jackson, Amalek is a smooth criminal. He ain't comin' at you with a whole big drama scene. Uh, uh. He's sneaking up close behind you, pretending to be your best friend and someone who cares about you, and then when your guard is down - BOOM! The kiss of death. You've gotta read Rav Puzo's, I mean Rav Brody's, Hollywood best-seller, The Assassin. 

As if right on cue, Rav Arush has the sequel to The Assassin ready, and you're about to read it here for the first time! After it seems that Michael Corleonestine and his crew are at the brink of falling down into the gehinnom-like abyss because of all of the terrible things they've done, this obscure group of superheros called The Soul-Savers suddenly shows up at the Corleonestine's Lake Tahoe home. They give Michael a copy of The Garden of Emuna, and tell him that Rebbe Nachman says there's no reason for despair in the world! Michael reads the book and decides to make teshuva and does his best to clean up the gigantic mess he's made of his life and the lives of all those he's hurt. Granted, many of those people probably deserved to be killed, because they were no angels themselves, right? But who are we to judge? Let's leave that in Hashem's hands.

In fact, yours truly already has her very own screenplay ready to go! It's a horror movie called The Dreaded Dentist, and it goes like this: a tired, overwhelmed mom of five boys takes her kids to the dentist, and it turns out her 5-year-old has a cavity. Talk about screaming bloody murder! Well, this mom could already imagine the trauma that was to come; the screechy drill. The kid's screams of terror. The nitrous oxide that doesn't really do anything. The bright lights and mask-wearing aliens holding pointy instruments and mini-vacuum cleaners in the kid's mouth. Oh, what fun. But, she remembered about a little thing called personal prayer. So how did horror movie turn out? You'll just have to read the screenplay!

You know, I think that a lot of the murders caused by the Corleonestine families and the other four feuding mafia families could have been avoided if Dr. Zev Ballen would have been their terapista (therapist in Italian.) He could have made them realize that their need for honor, money, and blood was what caused them to be ruthless, greedy killers. In fact, the title, Love or Honor, is a perfect one to complete Breslev Israel's version of The Godfather trilogy! We'll call it "The Sandak," because we actually do have real-life godfathers in Judaism. The Sandak is the one that holds the baby boy in his lap during the circumcision. You know, I'm starting to see a major connection between Jews and Italian mobsters. Seriously, Speilberg, Coppolla, somebody call me! 

I just decided that Rebbetzin Yehudit Channen should have another title  aside from Emuna Therapist. She should be referred to as The Godmother, because she knows exactly what people need in order to feel good about themselves. This week, she deciphers The Language of Love, and explains that in order to create a real closeness with others, we need to know how to speak nicely to them. Husbands, that means you need to know how to compliment your wives. That's especially true for you, David. Are you reading this? The Godmother is happy to help make all of your problems go away! If you want to set up a meeting, contact staff@breslev.co.il. 

If someone were to do a remake of The Godfather today, I have no doubt that President Trump would make an excellent Godfather. Dovber HaLevi makes an amazing connection between Trump and the ancient Pharaoh, who likened himself to a deity. Pharaoh was the Egyptian version of the Godfather, you know. Dovber points out that just as in ancient Egypt, the world and the media are turning Trump into a deity by spotlighting every single move he makes and everything he says. I've got it! In Dovber's screenplay, Donald Trump would be called Don Trump Corleonestine and the title of the movie would be "The God." Talk about genius!! Okay, so maybe we'll stick with Dovber's original title, Hashem's Trump Card. I'll try not to cry as I finish off my glass of fine Italian red wine. 

David once told me he had a basket of riches for me, and I thought he meant lots of diamond jewelry. Well, I was wrong. What a shocker. Instead, he presented me with a basket of dirty laundry, which I did not find very amusing. I would have preferred Dennis Rosen's Basket of Riches, because at least his riches are valuable. In fact, they're more than just valuable - they're priceless! Don't let these riches pass you by!

Lori Steiner has ruined my day by reminding me that Passover is around the corner. I'm just kidding, Lori! I love Passover, especially the cleaning- because I can get rid of lots of stuff under the excuse that I'm "cleaning for Pesach." Gosh, I hope David doesn't read this! Lori gives us some great tips to get our cleaning in high gear without freaking out and squeezing our murderous, back-stabbing brothers' heads until their brains come flying out. Check out Lori's latest in Defining a Kosher Passover.  

Yes. A terapista is in high order. And so is sleep. Have a wonderful week! (And try to keep your brains in your heads, okay?)

~Racheli

 


Rav Shalom Arush: Always Grateful

Here's a treat for Shabbat Zchor and Purim: My beloved teacher and spiritual guide Rav Shalom Arush, may Hashem bless him, says that the light of Purim is Hashem's ever-vigilant Divine Providence that is constantly performing miracles that are concealed within seemingly "natural" events. For this, we must be grateful always. Enjoy the following five uplifting minutes and have a wonderful Shabbat and a very joyous Purim!


How Embarrasing!

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Don't worry, I have an explanation. You see, this time it's really not my fault. The kids and I were on our way to the airport to pick up David from his #ravarushhoneymoon. I pulled into the parking garage, which was incredibly poorly lit. No spots. Obviously. Are there ever spots available on the first floor of an airport parking garage? 

So I was about to make a right turn to head up the ramp, and BOOM! I screamed like a hysterical lunatic (woman) as it happened. But I quickly recovered (was too lazy to get out and check the damage) and kept driving up the ramp. When I finally found a spot, I sent my oldest son out of the car first to inspect the damage. At first, he didn't see anything because it was so dark in there, but then, he got this huge smile and started going crazy from excitement. "Ooooh, Aba's gonna be sooooo mad!!!" he began yelling as he jumped up and down. "Oh no he ain't," I thought to myself. 

Since hubby has read The Garden of Peace, he knew better than to try to blame me for something that was simply not my fault. How could it be my fault? After all, would I be in the parking lot if he didn't go out of town? I should have been a lawyer.

Most normal people would be too embarrassed to post their disasters online. But not me! For some reason, I didn't get the embarrassment gene. What can I say - I'm defective. I'm going to have to blame my mother for this. 

After reading Rav Shalom Arush's latest article, I feel so much better. He says that It's an Embarrassment for us, the King's children, to behave in ways that are not befitting of us. That makes my embarrassment look so minuscule in comparison, doesn't it? You know what else is an embarrassment? The horrible 4th grade school picture that my brother just emailed me. I don't know how he got it, but oh boy, wait 'til I get my hands on him. Actually, am I allowed to hit him? If not, can I hit him with a broom stick? What about if I wear boxing gloves? Doesn't it not count as touching him, then?

Since we're on the subject of embarrassment... I have a question. Should I be embarrassed that some of my kids come back with their sandwiches completely uneaten, day after day? Does that say something about my poor sandwich-making skills? I never used to go through a day without eating my lunch. It was actually the highlight of my day at school! I remember one time, sitting down in the massive school cafeteria and opening up the container of sardines that my dad had sent me. I loved sardines dripping in lemon juice and oil, but when I opened up that container, it quickly became apparent to me that none of the other kids appreciated gourmet food. Kids started holding their noses and screaming at the top of their lungs, "What is that smell?!!!" Maybe I should have brought Peanut Butter and Banana  sandwiches instead. Who knew that you could learn about exceeding your limitations from a sandwich? Check out Rav Brody's latest!

These days, it might not be considered embarrassing to be pregnant before you're married, but just think back a few decades. It was shameful to the max! Well, we live in more "tolerant" times, and Aaron writes to me, telling me, "My Girlfriend's Pregnant." Should he marry her or shouldn't he? Oh, what to do? You don't want to miss my answer in my latest!

Our beloved Emuna Therapist, Rebbetzin Yehudit Channen, talks about how she was ashamed to be happy when she was growing up. For various reasons, she was taught that happiness is not something you are allowed to have, especially if others around you are suffering. So what finally gave her Permission to Rejoice? And here's a challenge - see if you can figure out the amazing Divine Providence in this article. I'll give you a hint: it has to do with the timing! 

Speaking of being happy, our other amazing Emuna Therapist, Dr. Zev Ballen, asks some fascinating questions: what exactly is the reason having gratitude improves the quality of life? Well, I never actually thought about it. I guess that's why I'm not a therapist and he is! So, are you Granted, or Taken for Granted? Which is it??

Lori Steiner's latest, Rich King, Poor King,  just reminded me of David's grandmother, Esther, a"h. "Rich or poor, it's nice to have money," she'd say. What a wise woman. She'd also say, "I'll eat anything that doesn't eat me." Except I never actually saw her eat anything. But that never stopped me from enjoying her delicious food! I'm sorry. When I'm tired, I just start to ramble. But seriously, guys, this is a beautiful allegory (is that the right word?) of a king who lives in a kingdom, and, well, you'll have to read the rest! Lori, I'm waiting for a novel!

Dennis Rosen hits it right on the money with his warning about the Quicksand of Despair.  He reveals a big secret in how the Evil Inclination traps us in his death clutches. And guess what - it has nothing to do with the actual transgression you just did! Go figure! So what is it? Well, read the article already!

I'm so relieved to discover that Yael Karni is human, as she doesn't always feel like praying. Whew! What a relief! But she may be superhuman, because she actually went to the trouble to discover tips that would help her strengthen her connection when she needed it most. I'm so happy that she saved me (and the rest of you) the trouble of having to figure it out myself! Check out her suggestions on how to improve your Intimate Connections.

So I'm trying to expand my vocabulary a bit, and I went onto thesaurus.com to find synonyms for awesome. Can anybody tell me why HAIRY is one of the synonyms??? I'm serious!

Have a hairy week, yo!

~Racheli


Kapparah!

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Life is never boring around here. Tonight, one of my younger boys got a hold of a hammer that some naive and irresponsible parent let him play with, and was running around with the hammer in his hand. As much as I would love to blame David, he was at work, so I'm still looking for another alibi. I am confident that I'll come up with something. 

The strange thing is that I heard a bang while I was in the kitchen and I saw him running like a crazy person with a hammer in his hand, yet it didn't register that the bang was actually the hammer hitting something. I have no idea why! And then, like hours later, I was talking with my father as I was sitting on the couch, and in mid-sentence, my eye caught the massive scars running through the windowpane. 

I happened to be on video chat with my dad, and all he could see was me suddenly looking off to the side, my eyes bugging out and my jaw suddenly hanging three inches open. He was like, "What? What?" I couldn't answer him. All I did was show him the evidence. He shook his head in belief.

Thank God a million times that there was only one piece of glass on the floor, and that was it! And double thank God that the glass didn't actually break into a million pieces in the house. Also, considering the enormous time lapse between the breaking of the glass and my realizing what happened, thank God no one stepped on any broken glass! Triple thank God that the glass didn't break the whole way through, because then there would be a huge hole in the window and freezing air would be coming in all night. And maybe a few chutzpah (nervy) cats. 

Instead of getting all freaked out about it, I realized that it happened for a reason, and that reason must definitely be to atone for hubby's sins. Because y'all out there know that I ain't got no sins. I have a talent for blaming everything I ever did wrong on my husband; even the things that I did before I met him. You know, because I was forced to spend much of my late teens and early '20's waiting for his sorry self to mature enough for me. Of course, the fact that no one got hurt made it much easier to accept this tribulation with love. I may be delusional, but I am not perfect. But maybe I am, if I'm delusional. I'm confusing myself. 

Just a question: if I identify as a perfect person, does that make me perfect? Like, if it works for people that want to identify themselves as the opposite gender and force people to recognize them as such, then why shouldn't it work for me? I've decided that I'm going to identify as a millionaire/perfect personality/gorgeous/dripping in diamonds and workout clothes/lady of leisure, and you're going to have to recognize me as such. And if you don't, I'm going to sue you in court for discrimination and not yielding reality to my warped fantasies. And I'm going to win. God bless America.

Back to the broken glass. You see, broken glass has the same gematria as kapparah, which means spiritual atonement. Like I said, it's much easier on the nerves and the stomach to recognize such unpleasant occurrences as a kapparah, and to be grateful that things weren't worse. Because what's the alternative? Torturing yourself? Wallowing in self-pity and wondering why this had to happen? Questioning if God loves you? Wondering if God even exists?

I tell you, emuna is the end-all and be-all of life. If we can train ourselves to believe that it's all good, especially when it looks all bad, this saves us tons of headache and heartache. Of course, in this case it doesn't save me the 1,000 shekel it's going to cost me to replace the window. Maybe Rav Arush can come up with a cure-all for that one, too.

Have an awesome day!

~Racheli


Who Did What in Washington?

Shavua Tov, blessings for a wonderful new week!

First of all, I'm happy to report that I arrived home safely to my beloved homeland this past Thursday night.

When our speaking tour in LA, Houston and Monsey, New York was concluded, Rav Arush continued on to Latin America with my Spanish-speaking colleague, Rabbi Yonatan Gal'ed. I boarded the Amtrac from NYC to DC, looking forward to visiting my 90-year-old Mom, may Hashem bless her, and spending some two days of cherished chill-time with my two brothers in the DC area. Hashem had different plans. As soon as I arrived in DC, I took a cab to Mom's apartment in an assisted-living facility on Connecticut Avenue. I found her choking for breath; she was suffering from pneumonia and congestive heart failure. She had to be rushed to the hospital. For 48 hours, things were touch and go but with Hashem's mercy, she bounced back.

When I wasn't with Mom in the hospital, I was spending as much time as I could out in the woods by the Northwest Branch of the Potomac, near where my brother ZZ lives. When I came back to his house after my personal prayer session (yes - Hashem is in the Washington, DC area too), we went to Mincha prayers at his synagogue. One man greeted me and said, "Hey, Rabbi Lazer - you arrived here the same day that Bibi did! Do you plan to go the White House too?"

"To tell you the truth," I said, "my only reason to go the White House would be to give Donald Trump a copy of The Garden of Emuna and The Trail to Tranquility. Other than that, Hashem has a fantastic office out on the Northeast Brach trail - I just went there to visit Him. Beats the White House anytime." The man who greeted me walked away. He looked at me as if I had nerve talking about emuna in a synagogue...

It turns out that at the same time I was talking to Hashem in the woods right outside Washington, DC, Bibi was talking to Trump in the White House. Bibi should have joined me in the woods.

Why?

When you speak to Hashem, you get results. Maybe your request isn't fulfilled on the spot, but you right away get closer to Hashem, something that's conducive to every blessing in life.

When you speak to flesh and blood, you never know what you're getting. Already, people are baffled by President Trump's confusing positions where he seems to be backing down from campaign promises. But Trump doesn't run the world - Hashem does. Rather than putting trust in him, Israel should put its entire trust in Hashem, for whatever Hashem decides, that's what will be.

Next time Bibi comes to Washington, he should include this place in his itinerary - for results, it beats the White House:


The Greatest Kiddush Hashem

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Isn't this picture incredible? It's the Helix Nebula, one of the closest nebulae to Earth at a mere 700 light years away. After trying to understand what a nebula is, I couldn't get past the whole expanding ionized gas from a dead star thing, so I gave up. If you're a curious and brainy type, or just plain curious, you can read about it here. 

I don't know about you, but pictures like these just put me in a state of awe. As in, "Awe my God, is that fo' real??" Seriously. Stuff like this should boggle your mind. Looking at the world around you should boggle your mind. Just looking at your own body should boggle your mind. Life is incredible. Hashem is incredible. How does He sustain every single thing in Creation at every moment? 

Isn't that thought enough to hike your awe-factor through the roof? 

A few weeks ago, I was talking with Rav Brody and he mentioned a common question that people ask him: "Why did Hashem put me here?" To which he answers, "So you can learn emuna."

So I was thinking about this, and aside from the next obvious question, which is , "Why do I need to learn emuna?" I also tried to clarify exactly what aspect of emuna he was referring to. Here's what I came up with. 

Historically, Jews have performed the greatest kiddush Hashem (sanctification of Hashem's name) by dying as martyrs. Until the Enlightenment, Jews generally didn't have a problem with emuna. They accepted Hashem's will for better and for worse. 

But with the Enlightenment came tremendous skepticism and doubt as to not only the Creator's will, but the existence of a Creator at all. Now, Jews faced a new enemy: temptation from the outside world coupled with the illusion that God doesn't exist; or if He does, He's not directly involved in our lives.

This is anti-Torah and anti-emuna thinking. Today, we've come to correct this mistaken idea that everything is random, and to believe with all of our hearts that Hashem is here, He knows what He's doing, and He's doing it all for our best. That's what it means to learn emuna.

But there's more. You see, it's not enough to have emuna. We also need to know why we need emuna. The answer to this question can be found in two words: Thank You. If you can go through a difficult time and say "Thank You" to Hashem with all of your heart, even though you don't understand why things have to be this way, then you know you have emuna. Nothing brings you closer to God than really knowing in your heart that He loves you and wants the best for you. 

"Thank You" is the aspect of emuna that helps us create a close relationship with God. Without emuna and especially "Thank You," He's just a far-off Creator that we may intellectually believe in, but not feel a connection to.

I promise you that saying "Thank You" is the greatest kiddush Hashem there is. And one day, you will see how precious those two words were, both to you and to Hashem. 

Wishing you an awe-full week! Terrible play on words. So sorry.

~Racheli


Emuna Fanatics

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It took me 20 minutes of fighting with myself to get out of bed to take this horrible picture. I'm freezing, and my fleece robe is in the dryer. You know, the dryer outside. I know what you Israelis are thinking. At least I have a dryer. You're right - I'll give you that. Anyhow, this blob is a concoction of cocoa and other stuff that I threw together after salivating over my kids' pizza dinner. I know what you guys are thinking. This lady's a health fanatic and she's giving her kids pizza dinner? Can anyone spell hyp-o-cri-sy? Did I spell it right?

In my defense, David is leaving on the big Rav Shalom Arush tour to the States, so we treated the kids to pizza. I'm so NOT looking forward to two weeks of stress  fun with my kids all by myself! I think I'm going to take a before and after selfie so I can compare how many gray hairs I'm going to sprout over the next two weeks. Speaking of gray hair, tonight I saw a woman in her '60's with violet hair! What's up with that? She even had a purple sweater to match! Now I'm wondering why I didn't take a picture of her.

Anyhow, as I was salivating and watching them devour slice after gooey slice while I ate a flax cracker with hummus and avocado salad, I was suddenly overcome with the urge to eat something that resembled something unhealthy. So I made chocolate.

It's a variation of a "healthy" chocolate recipe of coconut oil, date honey, and cocoa powder. Except I used cacao nibs instead of cocoa powder. But the craziest thing was that these nibs wouldn't melt! I have no idea why! Does anyone know why cacao nibs don't melt? Aren't they made from cocoa powder? So I had this mixture boiling in a pan, and I could see that these things weren't melting, so I threw in a half a bar of 100% cocoa that my dear friend and fellow writer Sunny Levi gave me like 8 months ago. Then, I threw in walnuts and craisins. I put it in the fridge for as long as I could keep myself away from it, and when I tasted it, it was dy-no-mite

So I confess. I'm a chocolate fanatic. That's never going to go away. I'm also a diamond fanatic, a shoe fanatic, and a workout clothes fanatic. And a workout fanatic. Okay, I'm also a Walmart fanatic. If you see David on the trip, PLEASE don't tell him how much stuff I ordered from Walmart. He doesn't yet know that he's gonna have to bring back another suitcase. Again!

Did you know that there are also emuna fanatics? These people misunderstand the concept of emuna completely. On one hand, they beg Hashem to fix their problems. But on the other hand, they're not doing anything to fix their problems themselves! People, it's not Hashem's job to clean up your mess! Let's take some responsibility, shall we? Oooh, I can just see some folks getting all angry with me. But don't! Once you read my explanation of Fanatical Emuna, you might actually agree with my point! 

Do you know who else was an emuna fanatic? Yehuda, the son of Yaakov our Forefather. He had such unbelievable courage and determination in the presence of the Egyptian viceroy, who was none other than Yosef, his brother. As the guarantor of Benjamin, his youngest brother, Yehuda knew he would do whatever it took in order to return him safely to his father, Yaakov. This feeling of responsibility is what gave him the courage to do whatever needed to be done. Rav Arush explains that as Our Children's Guarantors, we also have a tremendous responsibility to make sure that they stay on the path of Torah and mitzvot.

Rav Lazer Brody talks about a more sinister type of fanatic this week. Last November, there were a number of devastating wildfires throughout Israel, called the Arbor Intifada. Apparently a group of fanatical Palestinians decided to set half of Israel up in flames, because it seemed like a more efficient way to harm and potentially kill Israelis. What does this wicked act of terror have to do with Tu B'Shvat, the new year for the trees that's coming up this Shabbat? Well if you want the answer you've got to read the article! 

Talk about fanatics... Sunny Levi describes a beautiful and enchanting scene she recently encountered on her hitbodedut walk at sunrise. Seriously? Can she get any more perfect? Oy, and her profound insight on Humility in the Trees is just too much! What's next? Is she going to put a soup kitchen in place of her Martial Arts studio in her house? Cure AIDS? Bring world peace??? 

After reading Dr. Zev Ballen's article, I've come to the conclusion that we're all fanatics. This week, he reveals the secret of transference, and shows us that we all subconsciously relate to others in ways that result from our experiences with our parents. Of course, I'm no psychologist, and there's so much more to be said about Those Who Inhabit our Minds, so you'll need to read the article in order to really get this whole idea of transference. You'll also see how crazy you are, because for some reason, psychotherapists have a talent at bringing out the best in us. 

Even though my dear friend Rebbetzin Yehudit Channen is not a fanatic, at one point in her life she was treated like a crazy person. After a severe allergic caused her face to swell to freakish proportions, she found that people were reluctant to interact with her (that's putting it mildly) - even her own doctors! But one very special woman taught her that true beauty is More Than Skin Deep.  Seriously, is there anything that hasn't happened to Rebbetzin Channen? I've got to ask her. 

David Perlow discusses the serious problem of Teens and Smartphones.  As a rebbe of teenage boys in a Yeshiva in Jerusalem, he does his best to help them escape the soul-destroying trap of pornography addiction. He points out that many parents are in denial and don't want to believe their kids might have a problem. Nonetheless, he gives terrific advice for all parents who want their children to be saved from such negative influences. This is a must-read for all parents!

OMG. I got such chills reading Chana Coggan's article on Sweet Surrender!  It might be partly because I'm freeeeeeeeezing and too cold to get my robe out of the dryer. But mostly, it's because this is such a profound article, it blew me away! She explains the true meaning of surrendering our will to Hashem's will, and she shows that giving in is not the same thing as giving up. 

Last but not least, please join me in wishing Rav Brody, Rav Arush, and crew a wonderful and successful trip! Don't forget to click on the link at the top to see if they're going to be in a city near you. And please don't forget to tell your friends about it!

Have an awesome, fanatic-free day! And if you try the chocolate blob, let me know how you liked it! Just don't eat it too late at night because that cocoa will keep you wide awake! 

~Racheli