132 posts categorized "Jewish holidays"

Oops! I Did it Again

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Last night, as I was putting my kids to sleep, I was overcome with the urge to clean out my husband's shelf in our tiny closet. Now I'm sorry I didn't take a picture of the shelf before I cleaned it, because it was a total disaster. Plastic bags were piling up on top of each other, loose change was laying around, and all kinds of wires and G-d knows what were clogging up my shelf. Since my little boyfriend decided he was going to sleep in my bed last night, I did my best to persuade him otherwise by leaving the light on and cleaning the closet without attacking him with kisses. 

Finally, he decided to go sleep in his own bed, and I decided that half of the junk needed to go. So I threw it away. Fast forward a few hours. David came home and wanted to eat dinner. Since Thursdays have turned into my "fast food" night, (OMG!) I showed him the vegan kebabs that I had so expertly warmed up in the oven. He wanted to see the nutrition info on the bag, and I pointed to the garbage can. "How am I supposed to eat it if I don't know how many calories are in it?" he asked. "Why are you so concerned, Mr. Universe?" I told him. "It's not like you're gonna see a difference one way or another!" Ouch. Why do I write this stuff?

So we argued about it for a while, and finally he decided he was going to go through the garbage and look for the bag. I couldn't believe it. As he was making his way down the pile, he noticed a bag of stuff that looked familiar and pulled it out. 

Uh, oh. 

He took it to the counter and opened it up. I tried to ignore what he was doing, but soon enough he called me over. "What is this?! Why do you keep throwing my stuff away???!" He was sooooo mad as he pulled out his brand new eyeglass case and held it up in front of me. "What?" I asked, all innocent-looking. "I never saw that eyeglass case before!" "That's because I just bought it!" Like, oops. "Well, that's what you get for being such a slob!" I snapped at him. And then we enjoyed a nice romantic glass of red wine together.

I thought I would write about this because Pesach is less than a month away, and that means that suddenly everyone goes into hyper-cleaning mode. Since I'm always in hyper-cleaning mode, I felt that I should kick it up a notch and go into hyper-throwing-out mode - you know, in honor of Pesach. 

So what's my point? I've realized that cleaning for Pesach is similar to personal prayer. If you do it all year long, you don't get unexpected surprises popping up in your life , or in your garbage. Wait. That doesn't even make any sense. Isn't every surprise unexpected? I mean, if it was expected, how could it be a surprise? 

Gosh, I'm so profound.

Personal prayer, especially a daily self-assessment, is like Pesach cleaning all year long. There is no way you can remember what you did wrong or right like, nine months after you did it. I can't even remember what I did five minutes ago. So how can you do teshuva for something that you don't remember doing? And if you didn't do teshuva for it, then by default you've created judgments for yourself. It's sad, but true.

Every day we have an opportunity to spend a few minutes in self-introspection, so we can clearly see what we need to work on. If we don't try to improve ourselves, our negative character traits could end up in the garbage, right next to my husband's eyeglass case. And wouldn't that be a shame?

On that note, have a happy, healthy, and restful Shabbat!

~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


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!


Purim: Hashem's Mercy

Rebbe Nachman of Breslev teaches (Likutei Moharan I:64) that Hashem created the world in order to reveal His mercy, because if He hadn’t created the world, He would have no one to whom He could reveal His mercy.

What do we learn from Rebbe Nachman’s teaching? We come to the conclusion that if Hashem created the world and all the creations therein in order to reveal His mercy – and you and I are His creations – then Hashem created us in order to have mercy on us and to show us His mercy.

With this in mind, we all must tell ourselves:

1) Hashem created me in order to have mercy on me and to show me His mercy;

2) Everything that happens in my life from A to Z is a result of Hashem’s mercy on me.

3) Since everything Hashem does is mercy for me, I have to thank Him for everything that happens in my life.

That's what Purim is all about - Hashem does fantastic miracles and saves our entire nation from annihilation, not because we deserve it, but just to show us His mercy. May Hashem perform unfathomable miracles for us this Purim, which is this coming Saturday night and Sunday (Sunday night and Monday in Jerusalem) and may we all rejoice on this exalted and holy day!

For those who are fasting today, blessings for an easy fast.

Guide for the Purim-Perplexed: To make life easy for our readers, especially those who are newcomers to observant Judaism, Breslev Israel and the Beams have prepared a day-to-day guide for celebrating the joyous holiday of Purim. Click here for to see your day by day and mitzva by mitzva guide, which is easy to read and clear to understand.

On a lighter note, Walt Disney illustrator Ken Becker made me a Purim costume - he turned "Uncle Sam" into "Fetter (Uncle in Yiddish) Lazer" - look at what will soon be appearing on the windows of all the military emuna recruiting offices: Hashem Wants You


Drinking Wine on Purim

Achashverosh
Remember, we drink red wine on Purim not to get drunk, Heaven forbid, but because our sages tell us to. To get the true benefit of our wine-drinking, we must pray before every glass we drink. If you do, you can drink a whole bottle of red wine without getting drunk. Remember, the mitzvah is to drink red wine, not whiskey, vodka or anything else.

Use the following prayers, which you can download for your convenience:

Rav Shalom Arush's Prayer Before Drinking each Glass of Wine:

English - עברית

Happy Purim!

Important Notice: Rabbi Shalom Arush can be your shaliach (representative) in fulfilling the mitzvoth of Zecher Machtzit Hashekel (commemoration of the mitzva of giving the half shekel) and Matanot L'evyonim (gifts to the poor) on the day of Purim. Simply Donate to Emuna Outreach during the coming days before Purim and Rabbi Arush will make sure that the money will be distributed on the day of Purim.


Bittersweet Heaven

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I'm starting to realize that I'm a strange kind of health freak. You know, the kind that likes the physical results of being healthy, but if promised that junk food wouldn't take its toll on me, I'd be all over that. Maybe when the Mashiach comes, junk food will suddenly be healthy, yet still taste like junk food. Really, is it too much to ask?

In the meantime, I've perfected my Chocolate Blob recipe, and even though it's only 15 minutes before candlelighting, I just had to share it with you guys. Maybe one of you on the other side of the Atlantic can still make this in time for Shabbat and Tu B'Shvat. 

I call it Bittersweet Heaven. It's just about the same mixture that I posted earlier this (?) week, but instead of the bar of year-old-100% cocoa, I used straight cocoa powder. I melted coconut oil, date honey, cocoa powder, and caco nibs that don't melt. When it was all mixed together, it looked like brown mush. To that, I added walnuts and lots of dried cranberries. When it was still warm, I scooped it out and put it in the fridge. You can add any dried fruit. I bet dried apricot would be out of this world.

If you're feeling fancy, you can roll these into balls, and then they'll look like real truffles. If you're feeling super fancy, you can then roll the balls in dried coconut flakes. OMG, I can't stop thinking about these. Somebody help me!

It's actually much softer than the blob, which is more like a brittle bar. This is kind of chewy. But baker beware: you won't be able to stop eating them!

Have a wonderful Shabbat and Tu B'Shvat!

~Racheli