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

 


Paradise

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Okay, the strangest thing just happened. I had a completely different idea for this post, but that can wait until I tell you what happened. First of all, shavua tov! I hope you all enjoyed a leisurely Shabbat, whatever that means. Now I'll get to my crazy story.

I didn't have any clue as to what I should post, so I decided to look through the pics on my phone to see if anything interesting came up. All in all, I was sitting at my computer for about an hour, going through emails and whatever. So I'm scrolling through my pics and this one of a T-shirt popped up. I took it a couple of weeks ago when I managed to get out of Bet Shemesh and reach civilization, i.e., a big city. I was at the Azrieli mall in Tel Aviv and saw this shirt hanging there, which I found so funny because I'm from Miami Beach, and aside from the fact that it really does look like Paradise, it also looks a lot like Tel Aviv these days, so I don't understand what all the hype is about. Actually, Tel Aviv and Miami are too similar in too many ways, if you get my drift.

Anyhow, as I'm downloading this picture onto my computer, I'm trying to tune out David's guitar playing that's grating at my ears from the living room. He was also playing for the same amount of time that I was on my computer. Then, as this picture is uploading, I hear him suddenly start to sing some lyrics from a song back in the '80's, about Paradise. I couldn't believe my ears!

I called him over, wondering if he had seen my email of the picture to myself, because he also gets my emails on his phone. Talk about nosy! And then I remembered that I didn't put anything in the subject line, so there was no way for him to know what I was sending myself. So in the exact same minute, he's singing about Paradise as I'm downloading it onto my computer!

Is that not totally crazy?

It's funny when these things happen, isn't it? We may think that things like this are random, but they're not. Hashem is always working behind the scenes, pulling the invisible strings in our heads. When you're thinking of someone and they suddenly call you, it's not random. It's Hashem.

Now I totally forgot my original point. Give me a minute.... Oh, yeah. So Paradise is not a place. It's a state of mind. 

I know it's hard to believe for those of us that aren't multimillionaires, but you can have everything and be miserable. 

If you are truly happy with your life, then you are living in Paradise.

Why did I keep writing Paradise with a capital P? 

Blessings for a wonderful week!

~Racheli


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


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