139 posts categorized "Jewish holidays"

The Aquatic Seder

Aquatic Seder
We all know how we want our Seder night to be, but there are usually surprises along the way - that's part of the Passover turf. Why, As Rabbi Shalom Arush teaches us, Passover is the holiday of emuna, and you don't strengthen emuna by eating chocolate ice-cream...

Imagine coming home from synagogue and looking forward to start your Seder, but the house is flooded. No joke - this is a true story as you can see in The Aquatic Seder, Rav Shalom Arush's Passover message in this week's special Pesach issue of Breslev Israel web magazine.

Here's a moving story about my father, of blessed memory: At the time, I was ten or eleven years old. It was the first day of Passover, and I was in the local Conservative synagogue with my father for Passover services. "Pop" was by no means religious, for his father had already left the fold of observant Judaism when he left the pogroms of Ukraine for Canada, but he had a really warm Jewish soul. He loved every Jew, respected Torah scholars and was constantly giving charity. He had the burly exterior of a kid who grew up on the tough side of town and of a World War II veteran, but underneath it, he had the softest heart in the world. Seeing a sick baby would bring tears to his eyes. Seeing a poor person would break his heart. But hearing anyone badmouth Jews would make his blood boil... don't miss the rest of Four Sons, all at the Table

Rebbe Nachman of Breslev's famous story about the two vagabond guests for Passover teaches that we should always have patience, otherwise we’ll miss the treats on the way, as we see in The Bitter Herbs.

Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach teaches that Seder night is when we tell our children there is one G-d. There is one Torah. There is Eretz Yisrael. There's no time to waste - there's much to do in One Short Night...

Rebbetzen Chana Bracha Siegelbaum gives us a beautiful explanation of women's role at the Seder Table with Four Cups, Four Mothers.

While we're on the subject of Seder night, can you guess why it is God's Favorite Night...

You'll find a treasury of more Passover articles here.

To round out this week's Breslev Israel web-mag, see these great articles:

Racheli Reckles: Abusing Antibiotics, a must-read, especially if you have children.

Dr. Zev Ballen: The Double Bind, how to escape a negative pattern.

Yehudit Channen: Golden Years - is there life past 60? 

Dovber Halevi: Hi-tech and the Chafetz Chaim: did teh Chafetz Chaim envision smartphones?

Lori Steiner: The Emuna 26 - practical points of emuna.

Shai Mor: A Time to Shine, a tale of two sons...

Important Reminder! There are only 24 hours left to fulfill the mitzva of Kimcha D'Pischa. Don't miss out! Big Beams Blessings for a wonderful week and a joyous Passover!


V'hi She'amda: The Eternal Promise

Even though I am cold-turkey on political issues, many of my dear friends in Judea and Samaria, our biblical heartland, have been asking for my reaction to the USA's surprising (sic) backtrack on campaign promises, to the extent that President Trump is even retaining two ex-Obama very left-leaning advisers, while cooking in the White House kitchen a new (not KP) recipe for a  two-state solution.

We can't say a word about the American administration when our own political leaders should really be in the furniture business, because all they care about is the chair they sit on. Ideology? Truth? You will find neither in the current blue-and-white regime. Maybe now, our people will finally learn that there's no one to trust but Hashem. We certainly can't trust those who change their opinions as frequently as they change their socks and prefer political expediency to justice and truth. So, my Pesach-eve message to my cherished brothers and sisters in Judea and Samaria is that it's time that we all come back to Hashem in complete teshuva, asking His forgiveness for any trust we put in human beings, in Israel or abroad.

The Gemara (tractate Sanhedrin 97b) says that the Nation of Israel (aka the Jewish People) will be redeemed as soon as they make teshuva, in other words, return to Hashem and the ways of His Torah. The Gemara then asks, what happens if the Nation of Israel doesn't make teshuva? Rebbe Yehoshua answers that if Israel doesn't make teshuva, then Hashem places them under the influence of a wicked king whose evil decrees are as severe as Haman's, and then they make teshuva.

We cannot fathom The Almighty's love for us and His infinite mercy. Despite the fact that we haven't made Teshuva from Love, which is what we need to do in order to be redeemed, and despite the fact that our own misdeeds put us under the boot of each generation's wicked kings, Hashem has made an eternal promise to deliver us from their hands. That's the V'hi She'amda prayer that we recite each year in the Haggada.

Let me share with you something additional about Hashem's love for His people: The Heavenly Altar and Throne is known as Upper Jerusalem; it is situated directly above Mount Moriah, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which is known in the Zohar, Midrash, and Gemara as Lower Jerusalem. Hashem refuses to dwell in Upper Jerusalem until His permanent dwelling on earth - the Holy Temple - will be rebuilt in Lower Jerusalem (see Gemara tractate Taanit 5a, Midrash Tehillim 122, Vilna Gaon's elaboration of Zohar, Safra DeTzniuta, ist Chapter). Many evil world leaders are denying our right to the area of our own Holy Temple. Once again, we have no cause to be angry at them, for as soon as we make real teshuva, they will crumble. But, until we make teshuva, those evil leaders should be forewarned that by disenfranchising Israel from what they call East Jerusalem, they are in effect trying to disenfranchise The Almighty. Cherished brothers and sisters, that won't happen, period.

Hashem has no gratification by forcing us to make teshuva. When we strengthen our emuna and seek Hashem on our own accord, we sanctify His Holy Name. Let's wake up, beloved brothers and sisters. It's either nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles or emuna books and CDs; the choice is ours. Now you can understand why Emuna Outreach is working so hard to spread emuna around the globe - Rav Shalom Arush says that every emuna book or CD neutralizes one ballistic missile. When Moshiach comes, he'll show us all how emuna saved lives; the Gemara says that anyone who saves one life is considered as if he or she saved an entire world.

V'hi She'amda is a Passover song whose words come from the Haggada. It conveys a very timely message for the Jewish people: He who stood by our forefathers stands by us to deliver us from the hands of our enemies in every generation.

One of Jewish music's favorite sons, my dear friend Yonatan Razel, wrote a beautiful melody for this song, which he sings here with the king of Jewish singers, my very special friend Yaacov Shwekey. You'll get shivers up your spine and tears in your eyes listening to them. We're sure you'll enjoy this musical treat as much as we do. Enjoy it and have a wonderful Shabbat, Seder night and Passover holiday!


Spiritually Preparing for Passover

Pesach Commando

We hope everybody is making preparations for Passover with big smiles on their faces. The house will surely be clean, but don't forget the soul. Passover is coming fast and we must prepare ourselves for true liberation - freedom of the soul.

The minute one loses one's personal sense of worth and a positive self image, he or she becomes a slave.

Lack of self-respect, self-deprecation, and ignorance of one's own marvelous qualities and heritage are tickets to the slave train. Shame or embarrassment about one's ethnic or religious background is tantamount to carrying around an iron shackle with a 50-lb. ball and chain.

These feelings of inferiority are an invitation to let society dictate how you should live your life. People who feel inferior are weak; it's easy to exploit a person with no backbone. Controlled and exploited people are the most miserable creatures on the face of the earth.

For a Jew, one of the most important Passover preparation - after getting rid of the chometz - is learning who we are and why we're celebrating. Modern society often discourages us from learning about our wonderful background, our G-d, and what emuna - the full and simple faith in Him - can do for us in every level of life, be it emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and even physical.

Emuna helps you feel good about yourself.  As soon as you begin feeling good about yourself, you become free. Every human has an inherent right to freedom; that's the universal message of the Passover holiday. Happy Passover preparations!


The Holiday of Emuna

Pesach cartoon

If I were Moshe Rabbeinu, I would say: "For the next 40 years we do Zumba and cross training until we're about to collapse, and in between all that we'll power walk and eat lots of guacamole-flavored manna."

By this cute cartoon, it seems that the manna really did become whatever we wanted it to be. It's a good thing we don't have manna today, because I'd be eating a full, all-you-can-eat buffet every night. This year more than ever, it's way too easy to eat whatever you want on Pesach. There's no feeling of lack any more. You can eat all kinds of cakes, cookies, even pizza that are from potato starch and gasp gluten free! But be forewarned: gluten free is a big scam! Aside from being a necessity for those with Celiac, gluten free just means TONS OF SUGAR. 

And all that sugar raises your insulin, and high insulin means you're storing more calories as fat instead of burning them. So eater beware. Don't end up with a Pesach Potbelly. I'll do my best to follow my own advice too, for once.

Speaking of potbellies, did you know that Pesach is connected with emuna? I have no idea what those two things have to do with potbellies, but I didn't have another lead-in. And I'm very, very tired. Like, fading out tired. This last sentence took me six minutes to write. Let's focus on the Pesach/emuna connection. Rav Brody talks about the strange contradiction between the bread of poverty and joyous celebration. Certainly these two don't go together, right? Wrong! Rav Brody makes an amazing connection between matzah and emuna, and I promise it's much better than my lame connection between potbellies and emuna. Don't miss this must-read article before Pesach, A Most Welcome Guest! 

Rav Shalom Arush says that to appreciate Pesach, we must learn gratitude as well. Amazing. I'm not exactly sure how, but in the midst of getting ready for Pesach and freaking out on our kids because they keep sneaking food into their rooms, we're supposed to look for our good points and thank Hashem for them. I've gotta try that sometime. I think that focusing on our Good Points and Gratitude is a great way for us to save our sanity and keep us from doing something that might get us a little jail time, if you get my drift. 

My featured article this week has nothing to do with Pesach, but it has a whole lot to do with emuna! You'll be amazed by this true story of a good friend of mine, who came back to Judaism through her Japanese student who wasn't Jewish, as she was living in Japan and teaching English and she ended up marrying him, and then there was this massive earthquake, and you seriously have to read From Riches to Righteous! 

I can't believe it. It happened again! I got chills at the end of Rebbetzin Yehudit Channen's article! How does she do it?? Read the amazing story of Shlomo, her son, and do your best to learn from her example. I know I will! Enjoy these beautiful Fruits of Emuna!  They're low-carb!

Dr. Zev Ballen gives us great tips for how to get out of the same destructive patterns that we fall into when dealing with our kids. I have absolutely no idea what he's talking about. But for all the rest of you parents that aren't perfect like I am, do yourselves and your kids a big favor and read Ending the Crazy 8.

It's obvious to me that Jennifer Woodward is one totally righteous woman. Just the title of her article alone is something I couldn't even write. While she's sharing her personal journey through some tough challenges and her attempts to reach Level 3 emuna, I'm still scratching my head and wondering if I'm ever going to reach Level 1. I'm really not kidding. Are any of you as amazing as she is, that you can see The Beauty of Tribulations in your life? Please, let me know who you are! I want to be your friend!

You know, I'm starting to wonder what I'm doing in such awesome virtual company. Dr. Rivka Levron writes about her amazing and terrifying (for me) car crash with The Flying Tire, but from the aspect of complete Divine Providence. Seriously, who does such a thing? I'm making myself sound more pathetic as I write, aren't I? Well, that's a-okay! 

Oh, brother. Here's another righteous one. Lori Steiner writes about Blessing the Evil Inclination.  Yes, it's true. Our evil inclinations are actually here to help us get closer to Hashem. Lori gives us great tips that help us use him for our benefit while not falling into his wily trap. What does wily mean? I'm too lazy too look it up. 

Just when you thought you couldn't be as righteous as our writers, I'm here to tell you that you can! Be a part of Rav Arush's incredible Kimcha d'Pischa fund, which gives food for Pesach to impoverished families. Imagine what beautiful blessings you will receive by sponsoring a poor family's Seder! It's priceless, I tell you! 

So that's it. I'm packing up and going on vacation to Eilat. By myself. Sometime in the next 20 years. In the meantime, I hope you all have a wonderful Shabbat and Pesach Kasher V'Sameach! 

~Racheli


WOW!!

Multimom2

I can't believe it! I actually found a caricature of myself! Okay, so it's not entirely accurate. Instead of a tennis racket, I would be holding a free weight, and instead of holding a cute little baby I'd have five wild genetically modified monkey/boy hybrids climbing all over me and fighting. But aside from that, this pic is spot-on. I even wear a crown on my head all day. And I really am that skinny. Almost.

But when I'm mad? Watch out! I look more like this:

Firebreathing dragon

The past few days I've been doing a lot of this cool fire-breathing technique. It's a shame it's not included in the relaxation breathing techniques that I never do, because if it were, I'd be the most chill mom in the world. Fo' rizzle. 

This second pic is exactly how I feel today. I've had it with the stress of cleaning, cleaning some mo', food shopping, turning over my kitchen, covering stuff up, did I miss anything? The kids have only been home on their Pesach break for one day and I'm ready to run away. They made me blow up our little inflatable pool, and that meant lots of extra laundry. LOTS. Not cool. Then, one of my kids threw a tantrum and absolutely refused to get his hair cut because he wasn't first. And then a whole bunch of other stuff.

As they say, Baruch Hashem! It could be a whole 'lot worse.

Next week, we'll re-experience our liberation from slavery. I can't wait! I love getting drunk and then having to do the dishes and put the kids to bed after slaving away the entire day. 

These past few weeks and the grand finale that we (WOMEN) have been slaving away towards is almost here. And therefore, I'd like to give a shout-out to all of the awesome MOMS that do it all, and then some. So I had this crazy cool chiddush about the word MOM. If you turn it upside-down, it says WOW.  

Like, totally cool! Here, I'll use it in a sentence: WOW, I can't believe how much MOM accomplishes every day! 

Is it really a chiddush? I'm sure someone else thought of it first, but since I didn't know about it, I'll happily take full credit for it. 

Yes, you Dads are awesome too. But I couldn't include you in the WOW, because that wouldn't make any sense. After all, DAD upside-down is nothing. But if you put it in lowercase, like dad, then you'll get pap. Which is also dad, albeit quite a stretch. Pap, pappy, pop, whatever. 

Anyhow, I'd just like to say on behalf of Hashem that He's super proud of all of our efforts. It's truly unbelievable how many things we have on our plates at the same time, and we still do as much as we can to live according to the Torah as best as we can. Kol Hakavod! Hashem loves you, babe.

Wishing you a happy, low-stress, buzzed but not sick drunk, enjoyable, and delicious Yetzias Mitzrayim

~Racheli


If There's No Flour

Emuna Outreach Kimcha 5776
Our sages remind us of the obvious: "If there's no flour, there's no Torah." In like manner, if there's no flour for Passover, there's no matza.

Kimcha1Our esteemed and beloved Rav Shalom Arush, the head of the Chut Shel Chesed Yeshiva, Breslev Israel and Emuna Outreach, does everything in his power to make sure that needy families here in Israel have the necessary foodstuffs for Passover. What's the connection between distributing food for Passover and spreading emuna? Simple - when a needy family that has no idea how they'll handle the exorbitant expenses of Passover suddenly receives shmura matza, eggs, vegetables, wine, chickens and more, their emuna gets a tremendous boost.

Emuna Outreach's Kimcha D'Pischa (Aramaic for "flour for Passover") Fund goes to putting food on the tables of worthy low-income families in Israel. We buy things in bulk and at wholesale prices, so that we get the most out of every dollar in our fund. And, as you see in the adjacent blurry photos from last night (it was late and we were flying, with so much work to do in such a short time), we have to hustle with so many worthy needy families to reach and so little time left until Passover.

Kimcha3This is a wonderful opportunity for you to "host" an entire family for Seder night, many of whom have six children and more. A minimum donation of $180 puts wine, shmura matza, vegetables, eggs, meat and/or poultry and everything else needed for Seder night on their table. This fulfills for you the two tremendous obligations of Kimcha D'Pischa, providing foodstuffs for the poor on Passover, and Kol Dichfin, opening up your home to the poor on Seder night. This is an easy way to fulfill Kol Dichfin, for when you sponsor a family's Seder night, it's the same as if you hosted them in your own home.

You can make your generous tax-deductable donation to Emuna Outreach's Kimcha D'Pischa Fund by clicking here. May Hashem bless you and yours with a truly happy and kosher Passover!


Oops! I Did it Again

IMG_20170316_224512578

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