34 posts categorized "Teshuva"

Unsupportive parents

Angry parents
Dear Rabbi,

My name is Sherrie. I live in California, and I became a baalas tshuva last summer, after attending a religious music festival (religious Jewish musicians are the greatest; I'm writing you because one of them told me that you rock!).

My parents are, in short, not particularly supportive of my decision. They think my keeping Shabbos is a waste of a day that could be spent on homework (I'm going into my junior year in high school, just turned seventeen), and that keeping kosher is a hindrance. Now, I have a lot of family issues - we don't have particularly great family dynamics in general. Anyway. So I wanted to ask your advice. Oh wait - I also go to public school and wear a kippah full-time. I got the impression from my musician friend - who's one of your fans - that you're not egalitarian, so I don't know if you like that, but it's what I've chosen to do. 

I've got to go. My mom is yelling at me. Thanks for listening!!


Dear Sherrie,

The way to get your folks on your side is to avoid any disrespect, and simply be a model daughter, just sweet, considerate, and loving; that'll be a showstopper! Disrespect to parents is worse than eating treif. Let them see how observant Judaism is simply making you a better person, but under no circumstances should you compromise on Shabbat, Kashrut, modesty, or what you know and believe is right (when in doubt, ask a rav that you trust). Be careful never to lose your temper, and even when your folks get all over your cage, simply grin and bear it - it'll cleanse your soul.

As for the egalitarian business, I'm not going to tell you what to do; if you're really searching for the truth, Hashem will help you get there. Most importantly, talk to Hashem for an hour a day in your own language. Make sure you read The Garden of Emuna too. Judaism without emuna is like a car without an engine - you won't get so far. May Hashem bless you always with all your heart's wishes for the very best, LB

Freedom: Life After the Web

Let my people go
Dear Rabbi Brody,

I'm 19, and torn between two worlds. On one hand, I want to be a Baal Tshuva - I love Lazer Beams, but I get inspired and then end up surfing over to one of my favorite porno sites, and then (...severely edited - LB) ... I end my day going to sleep super depressed and disappointed in myself. Why can't I just be courageous enough to start putting on tefillin and keeping Shabbos? Rabbi Brody, can you help me out? Can you explain to me what's happening to me? I'd be forever grateful. Thank you, Steven from California

Dear Steven,

Every soul requires a heavy dose of love. Jewish souls especially require a refined, ultra-high spiritual octane form of love that Kabbala terms Chessed d'Kedusha, or lovingkindness from the realm of holiness. This love is achieved by dedication in performing a mitzva, by prayer with Kavanna (focused intent), by Torah learning, and by doing charitable deeds for one's fellow human. Also, this love is attained through a gratifying marital union.

The laws of the spiritual realm are similar to those of the material realm. Just as there is no void in matter, there is no void in spirituality. When a person fails to provide his or her soul with Chessed d'Kedusha, then the sphere of Chessed d'Sitra Achra, or Impure (unholy) lovingkindness, fills the void. Promiscuity and pornography are prime sources of Chessed d'Sitra Achra, all dangerous and addicitive, the type of chocolate-covered poison that destroys one's soul, Heaven forbid.

Simply speaking, Steve, we need to help you replace the detrimental elements that have pervaded your soul with the beneficial. Here's a gameplan that I'd recommend for you:

1) Torah - in LA, there are plenty of Torah lessons. Start attending them. In fact, you can catch me here this weekend. Also, begin learning as much of Rebbe Nachman's books as possible - they're an amazing balm for an aching soul.

2) Immerse yourself in a mikva as much as possible.

3) Say psalms 16, 32, 41, 42, 59, 77, 90, 105, 137, and 150 every day - this is called the "Tikkun HaKlali", a general all-purpose spiritual medication for a soul that's been infected by Chessed d'Sitra Achra.

4) Talk to Hashem every day in your own words, and ask Him to help you.

5) Steve, build a life without the web - there is life after the web!

Steve, most of all, don't be down on yourself. Don't listen to the hellfire and brimstone preachers that send people to purgatory and give you a guilty conscience. Rebbe Nachman of Breslev says that if you believe you can make a mess of things, then believe that you can correct. Consider coming to Israel for a year or two for Yeshiva, and if that's not possible, think about a local Yeshiva for Baalei Tshuva. I'd like to see you make some solid spiritual gain, and then meet a wonderful young lady and start a family within the next two years or so.

If you would realize the satisfaction that Hashem has from your fight for Kedusha (holiness), you'd be jumping for joy all day long. This is your true freedom, Steve. With Hashem's help, you're going to go a long way. Hoping to see you, Lazer Brody

Thwarting Terror

The short-term solution to staying safe is to pray before you leave your house and to thank Hashem when you arrive at your destination safely. Learn as quickly as you can some basics in self-defense. A small but very effective pepper spray canister is also a good idea to have with you. In the long-term, teshuva and extreme care in observing the mitzvoth of man and fellow man will uproot terrorism altogether. Meanwhile, smile and don't fear - Hashem is with you.

Thwarting Terror

Tough Opposition on the Field

Spiritual Growth
Dear Rabbi Lazer,

I'm writing this to you for two reasons: first, you don't know me and I feel really embarassed talking about this to a rabbi that knows me; and second, since you too are a Baal Teshuva, I'm hoping you can understand a fellow BT that was born in the spiritual gutters far away from Torah. I became observant about five years ago, when I finished my masters degree. As a university student and a popular dude at that, I guess you can say that I did about everything and enjoyed it too. I won't go into the reasons that I made teshuva, but I became very disgusted with my lusty lifestyle. I began to learn Torah and was drawn especially to the teachings of the Zohar. I did an about face and made serious efforts in developing my personal holiness. With daily mikva, daily teshuva, and total immersion Torah, I became a new person. Two years ago, I was introduced to a young lady who after three dates became my fiance. We are blissfully married, in no small thanks to The Garden of Peace, which I live by.

So what's my problem? I thought I had deleted my naughty x-rated past from my brain. On Yom Kippur, the Yetzer gave me a triple whammy. During Kol Nidre, a really raunchy image flashed before my eyes which I won't describe, but it was something from the lowest part of my past. The same thing happened during Mussaf, and the same thing happened again in Neila. During the three highest points in the Yom Kippur prayers, I was watching myself in x-rated movies from my own past, the exact opposite of holiness. Why did Hashem shtup me with these terrible thoughts? What could I possibly have done wrong to be pushed away like this? I had such aspirations of clinging to Hashem with real devotion in this year's prayers, and I blew it. I feel devistated and dejected, as if I've been totally defeated. What can I do? Please help me. Thanks so very much, David from California

Dear David,

The Yetzer - the Evil Inclination - wants you to think that you're a loser. The exact opposite is true - this Yom Kippur, you have attained a lofty and admirable soul correction. You're the winner, my man; here's how:

Back in your university days, you thoroughly enjoyed doing the lewd things that so embarassingly popped into your head during this past Yom Kippur. Yet now, the forbidden acts that you once enjoyed are now a source of shame. Your shame during Yom Kippur is not only a sign of humility and holiness, but a soul correction for the past. Having done teshuva out of love (hear our CD on the subject), your past transgressions now become valuable merits to your credit. What's more, when you did those wrong things, you didn't know they were wrong. You can be proud of yourself, for Hashem is proud of the unbelievable growth that you've made in five short years. Don't ever forget that spiritual growth and serving Hashem are like football - you can't gain an inch without facing tough opposition; that's why the rewards are so great. Keep plugging away, slowly but surely, for you'll be a big winner. Remember also that as a BT, you're now playing in a championship league. Be happy, David - you're doing great. With blessings for joyous Chol Hamoed and a wonderful year, LB

2 Forward, 1 Back

Those who climb
Dear Rav Lazer,

I have a master's in engineering from the Technion in Haifa. I spent three years in active duty as an IDF paratrooper. I've had Hizbulla missiles land in my back yard. I've managed to compete for the last 18 years in the dog-eat-dog world of Israeli hi-tech. After having become a Baal Teshuva (newly observant Jew - LB) 2 years ago, I started being a shomer brit (guardian of the covenant, maintainer of personal holiness - LB) six months ago and it's the toughest battle I ever had. After 28 crystal-clear days and feeling great about myself, I blew it. What's wrong with me? Am I back to zero? Menachem from Northern Israel

Dear Menachem,

I guarantee you that Hashem has phenomenal gratification from what you're doing. The biggest tzaddikim have setbacks. True spiritual growth is two steps forward and one step back; don't be disappointed when you fall, because today's fall is higher than yesterday's success. In your corner with a big hug, LB 

The Miracles of Hanit

Today is Memorial Day in Israel for our martyred soldiers, of sacred and blessed memory.

Hanit Image at left courtesy of Haaretz.com shows the Israeli Missile boat "Hanit" being tugged into Ashdod port after having been hit by a Hizbulla missile off the Beirut shore on July 14, 2006, during the Second Lebanon War.

17 October, 2006. A young Israeli Naval sergeant boarded the northbound train in Tel Aviv. I was on my way to a present a lecture in the Haifa area and he was returning to his base in the Haifa port. He sat down across from me, looking at me intently while I was learning my Gemara. I looked up at him, smiled, said "Shalom aleichem!"

He sighed deeply, as if relieved, and sheepishly asked, "Can I talk to you, Rav?"

"Of course," I answered, asking him how he knows that I'm a "rav". He said that he heard me eulogize one of his fallen friends during the war. The sailor had a relatively new beard, an almost new knitted kippa on his head, and the beautifully pure innocence in his eyes of a new Ba'al Tshuva. To make a long story short, he was a crewman on board the Israeli Navy ship Hanit (Hebrew for bayonet) when it was hit by a missile of shore in Beirut.

The sailor, who we'll call Moshe, began to relate the dozens of miracles that happened aboard the Hanit the night that it was hit. "It was Friday night. Usually, the crew would eat Friday night dinner in two shifts. But this time, since we were in a war zone, our three religious crewmen went to Lt. Col. A - the skipper - and begged that we all need Hashem's help. The first miracle is that the skipper agreed to leave only 4 sailors on the bridge, and allowed the whole entire crew to pray together; we piled into the chapel, and said a lengthy mincha and Kabbalat Shabbat. I was bored and wanted to eat quickly then catch a few hours sleep, because I had the midnight watch. But, I stayed with the rest of the crew. Then, all of us had a Shabbat meal together - 15 different sailors said Kiddush, each in the custom of his fathers; I'm talking about guys that aren't (weren't) even religious! The meal was drawn out - I had a headache and was dying to sleep. The religious guys started to say the grace after the meal, and BOOOFF! The missile hit, but on the opposite end of the craft. It should have sank the boat, but it hit a crane right above the chopper landing pad. What a miracle! If that's not enough, the helicopter-refueling tank - filled to the gills with chopper fuel - didn't explode despite the fact that the whole end of the boat was burned..."

At least twenty other crewmen aboard the Hanit should have been killed, but they were saved by Shabbat dinner on the other end of the ship. The four on the bridge all lost their lives.

Moshe had beads of sweat on his forehead; tears glistened in his eyes. "The newspapers don't write about the miracles that we all saw. I ran to my bunk on the deck right below the landing pad. It was charcoal; my metal bunk was completely melted down and all my possessions were ashes. If I hadn't been detained in the chapel and in the dining hall for Shabbat meal, I'd have been charcoal too. I haven't stopped thanking Hashem since - I've changed my life..."

Moshe continued with more miracles, including the engine room burnt to a crisp but a pair of tefillin was found unscathed. If that's not enough, amidst the embers of destruction, the sailors found a Book of Psalms - also unscathed - opened to Psalm 124. Read Psalm 124 and your hair will stand up!

The train was nearing my station, so I gave Moshe a blessing and a fatherly embrace, and we parted. The Hanit took a direct hit from a Hizbulla missile, but Moshe has turned the navy's setback into a victory.


Every day, I meet more and more "Moshes". Unlike many of the politicians, the Israeli on the street - especially the soldiers and the reservists - are diamonds looking to be polished, and have started to ask the real questions in life. They're looking for emuna. Were it not for the wars here, they wouldn't have bothered. 

The whole purpose of the wars is to bring us closer to Hashem. Once we get close to Hashem on our own initiative, Hashem won't have to send us wars anymore, amen. I'd much prefer dancing with Moshiach to eulogizing fallen comrades.