125 posts categorized "Emuna and Spirituality"

The Greatest Kiddush Hashem


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.


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! 


Bout of a Lifetime

Happy new week! I'm so excited! It's only a few days away! Before I know it, hubby will be back from Breslev Israel's "Starting Over" tour with a massive suitcase overstuffed with, well, stuff! You Americans may think I sound pathetic. I remember my aunts visiting us from Israel and buying the strangest things, like toothpaste and Ibuprofen. I was like, they don't live on the moon. Why would they buy painkillers and cheap shoes here? Give me a break! 

Ah, the irony. It's just perfect. Who do you think is ordering painkillers and cheap shoes now? Yep. That's right. Rub it in, why don't you. BTW, does this count as my teshuva for having made fun of my aunts when I was younger, since I'm admitting that I do the same thing? Sure, why not.

All this reminiscing made me remember my grandfather, Eliyahu, a"h. My grandparents usually came to visit us once a year from Israel, and they spent most of their quality time with us on the couch, watching television. My saba's favorite program to watch was WWF. Yes. Wrestling. I come from a weird bunch, don't I. Well, since we only had three tv's in the whole entire house, my siblings and I were stuck watching the garbage for hours at a time. We learned a lot of moves and used them against each other. My favorite was the jumping from the corner on the top rope move. I tried that a few times from the edge of the couch.

But no one out there can compare to the best, most famous wrestler of all time. And I'm not talking about ear-chomping gourmet Mike Tyson. I'm talking about none other than our forefather, Jacob. His Ultimate Death Match with the Angel of Death would have gotten the best ratings in tv that night. Rav Brody refers to this most famous Fight Night by asking some thought-provoking questions: why are we called the Nation of Israel? Why not just the Jewish People, or the Nation of Jacob? What happened when Jacob overcame the angel of Esau? Find out his insightful answer in Bout of a Lifetime.

Speaking of fighting, anyone with an addiction knows it's a fight that is nearly impossible to win. The evil inclination is just too strong. Or is he? Rav Arush has a few tips that can help anyone overcome an addiction in Drugs, Dice, and Denial.

It's no secret that I hate drug dealers. But there's no drug dealer I hate more than Big Pharma. Now that winter is upon us, they predictably overwhelm us their flu hysteria tactics. Is the flu shot guaranteed to protect you from the flu? Does it lessen the severity of the flu? What are the side effects of the flu shot? What if I don't take the flu shot? How can I protect myself? Read all this and more in my article, Forget the Flu Shot.

How is it possible that people with Alzheimer's or Dementia can suddenly engage in meaningful conversations, while at the same time, they can't remember what country they live in? Rebbetzin Yehudit Channen gives us a profound answer based on her work with such patients in Everlasting Soul. And don't forget - she's our newest Emuna Therapist, hand-chosen by our very own Dr. Ballen, and she's accepting appointments now! Contact staff@breslev.co.il to set up an appointment.

Isn't it interesting to note that many of the people closest to us are the most different from us - family members in particular? Why does Hashem match up such opposites? Dr. Zev Ballen gives us the answer in The Smartest and the Bravest.

Jennifer Woodward gives us a great example of what it means to have a flaw in your emuna in The Laughing Gas Crutch.

Nearly everyone who has gotten married found out after the wedding that their spouse has certain qualities that they don't like. Everyone except my husband. Just ask him. Lori Steiner explains why it has to be this way in The Rude Awakening.

David Perlow gives us great tips on how to make praying more enjoyable and meaningful in Amida Prayer Ploys.

Have a fantastic week!


Hangin' Up the Shoes

Retired Shoes
My wonderful doctor of Chinese medicine in Jerusalem spent three hours checking me from head-to-toe the day before yesterday. After tailor-making the Chinese-herbal remedy I'll be needing to take care of myself, she told me in no uncertain terms: my heart is incapable of meeting the demands that I've been making from it. I must slow down...

I have a tear in my eye but a song in my heart. I promise you that I'm happy and I appreciate the mind-boggling care that Hashem takes of me. But, I won't deny the tear in my eye of having to hang up my track shoes, which less than two weeks ago were sprinting with the wind at a pace that any person 30 years younger than me would have been proud of. Not only can I no longer sprint, but I can no longer run or even jog. Power lifting and kettle bells are out the window. I sold my weight rack. Jumping rope? No way! The extent of my current permissible exertion-level is brisk walking and light exercise like Pilates.

I've turned a page in life. Hashem wants me to redirect my efforts into more Torah and even more spreading emuna. That's exactly what I'm doing. It's all for the best - that's a no-brainer. I sincerely thank Hashem for my cardiac challenge. My time in the hospital and in the aftermath of adjusting to a new reality has given me a sorely needed opportunity for serious introspection and revamping priorities, something we need to do every day of our lives.

Since the purpose of life is to get closer to Hashem, anything that brings us closer is intrinsically good. My heart problems have brought me so much closer to Hashem, to qualify them as a rare gift from Above. Blessings for a wonderful Shabbat!

From My Heart to Yours, Thank You!

Laniado with Dr. Amash
I received so many concerned emails from you, cherished friends, asking where I disappeared to last week, because I always inform you when I go overseas. This time I wasn't overseas - I was in the cardiology ward of Laniado Hospital in Netanya. I'm writing now because I'm home, with Hashem's enormous grace. My wings have been clipped somewhat, but I'm strong, thanks to Hashem.

It was a crazy story. I was in the height of fitness, beyond all the "excellent" levels not only for my age, but for people twenty years younger than me. I was working out every day except for Shabbat of course, and doing full-throttle wind-sprints twice a week. But, during recent sprint sessions, my heart rate was hitting 215, 54 more than what my heart-rate maximum should be. Yet, I felt great. I didn't know what was wrong - my heart or my heart-rate monitor. I decided to have a complete athlete's checkup at Israel's national college of sports and sports medicine, Wingate Institute in Netanya. I flew through all the tests with great scores until the final test - the stress test, where you wear an EKG while walking on a treadmill. The tester, a sports cardiologist, turns up the pace until you're totally exhausted, to determine a number of fitness factors. At the outset of the test, he called his two colleagues to come quickly. His face was ashen. The head cardiologist looked at the chart and said to his third colleague, "Go call an ambulance - dachoof - pronto!" I didn't understand what was flying - I felt great. To make a long story short, normal hearts have a steady even rhythm; my heart was showing a rhythm like the syncopation of Chassidic niggun. They said that I had arrhythmia - atrial fibrillation - so bad that I was in imminent danger, Heaven forbid. An ambulance picked me up and the paramedic wouldn't even let me lift my gym bag...

The doctors wanted to treat me with all types of drugs in preparation for electrical cardioversion, which in lay terms are electric shocks to the heart. I wouldn't let them. I spoke to my beloved rabbi and spiritual guide, Rav Shalom Arush, who prescribed different "treatments". The Melitzer Rebbe, well-versed in medical matters, agreed with everything Rav Shalom said. I followed their advice and I'm now home, feeling great. True, my sprint shoes went to the trash can and I must exercise a lot more "softly", making sure that my heart rate doesn't exceed 161. I'll tell you the whole story in my emuna lesson later this week, G-d willing, because this was surely one of the biggest emuna lessons in my life, brought to me by my loving Father in Heaven. As you can see in the above photo from the emergency room In Laniado, I'm smiling (next to me in the photo is emergency cardiologist Dr. Amash, an Israeli Arab from the village of Jasr al Zarka, who was my favorite physician and himself an athlete). This has all been for the best - thank You, Hashem! And, thank you, cherished friends, for all your blessings and concern, from the bottom of my happy heart to yours, which I hope will be strong and healthy until you're 120 years old, amen!

The Emuna Tattoo

My cherished and esteemed friend Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein from New York City is probably America's #1 rabbi for saving kids that have gone haywire and bringing them back into the fold. He's also one of America's best rabbinical speakers. In the clip below, he's telling a true story he heard from me. You'll love this - enjoy, and have a great new week!