38 posts categorized "Teshuva"

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


Rotten Ramens

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I bet you're probably wondering what in the world that is. If you're not, I worry for you. Well, as you can plainly see, it's a fork. A fork with dried up old ramen noodles on it. Now, you're probably wondering where I found this creation. Well, that's a no-brainer. It was on the floor in the back row of my junkmobile. My kids found it today as we came back from our disastrous outing at IKEA. Why is IKEA spelled in ALL CAPS? 

As I pulled up to our driveway, the kids were already halfway out of the car, hysterically laughing from their discovery. Here's a better view.

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OMG WHAT IS THAT?? I'm horrified. To find that moldy mess in my car?? Actually, I'm not really that surprised because my car really is a disaster. I just can't keep up with the kids bringing all kinds of food and snacks in the car, and of course none of them bother to take their snacks and wrappers out of the car. And my short-term memory is also horrendous, so I forget that there is a garbage dump in the backseat. And, I'm just so busy that I don't even have five minutes to waste going through the car. It's funny because I'm always cleaning up my house; but the car? Maybe twice a year. Maybe.

Here's one more angle, because I couldn't stop taking pictures of it because it was so disgusting.

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Now this is interesting. I bet you're wondering if I put that fork there so I could hold up the noodles without having to touch them. Absolutely. NOT! Whichever one of my kids ate this left the fork in the cup of noodles, and over the last several months (?!) they dried up in that position. Un-believable. 

Aside from feeling compelled to post this because it's so gross, I actually gained a little insight from these rotten ramens. I realized that our souls are also vulnerable to mold overgrowth of the spiritual sort. All of our bad deeds probably look this frightful on our souls. Oy, what if it looks even worse? 

Well, the good news is that Hashem gave us an easy way to keep our souls clean. It's called cheshbon nefesh, or daily accounting. Every day, we're advised to go over all of our deeds, both good and not-so-good. Then, we're supposed to make teshuva (repent) for them. If we've hurt someone else, we need to ask forgiveness from them.

This way, our souls are cleaned off, and we don't risk getting toxic mold buildup and harsh judgments as a result. The judgments literally do the dirty work for us, cleaning us up because we didn't do it first through our daily teshuva.

So, don't delay! Keep your souls sparkling and fresh with your daily spiritual cleanup! Doesn't that sound like a toothpast commercial?

And just so we don't end on a sour note, here's something sweet I made tonight!

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It's a hot apple cider with a cinnamon stick and some apple slices in it. And, oh yeah, it's got a splash of bourbon in it, because I've had a rough day. But really, the bourbon gives this drink an awesome kick. If you want the recipe, send me a comment and I'll happily give it to you.

Wishing you all a Chodesh Tov, Chanukah Sameach, and a big Shabbat Shalom!

~Racheli


Mrs. Fix-it

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I've decided that I earned the prestigious title of "Mrs. Fix-it." As you can plainly see, I'm quite the handy woman. Yesterday my car was supposed to go through its annual test, but the guy that was supposed to pick it up called me while I was outside re-attaching my rear tail light cover. In the end, he didn't come by, and I'll have to wait until when did he say he was supposed to come again? Goodness, gracious.

My dad is gonna be so proud of me when he sees how nicely I fixed up the light. It's so funny, but in Israel, I suspect that most people won't burst out in laughter when they see me driving around with my light taped up. In the States, it's like a major God forbid. Something embarrassing like that could ruin a potential shidduch (match) for my kids one day, double God forbid.  

As you can see in top picture, below the light is the dent that happened when I backed up into the tree on the sidewalk a few weeks ago. Oops, did I just write "I"? I meant my husband. Anyhow, since then, I've been driving around with the plastic tail light cover laying on the floor in between the two front seats. I'm so happy I didn't throw it away!

Hopefully, my seamless taping job will get my car a passing grade, so I can actually drive it around legally. Over here, we can't renew our car registrations until we pass "The Test." I'll keep praying that my "test" goes OK...

Until then, allow me to share what I realized: teshuva can fix everything! And believe me, it does a much better job than my tape hackjob. Teshuva not only fixes things good as new, it can even make them better than before! Reish Lakish says that teshuva from love can turn your transgressions into your merits. Now I'm all for that! At this rate, I have so many potential merits, I might end up sitting next to Sarah Imenu in Heaven one day. 

Every day, you can fix what you did wrong. Talk to Hashem and tell Him that you want to grow closer to Him, but your annoying transgressions are holding you back. He may gladly oblige and wipe your slate clean just because He sees that you really mean it! Now that's what I call love!

Have a great day!

-Racheli


Ten Days of Teshuva

Shana Tova everyone! Racheli here, and I'm just winding down from "the day after." Every day after a Jewish holiday should be its own holiday known as "The Day After Holiday Holiday." You know, I just realized that there is a day after chag like that in Israel. It's called Isru Chag, and I think it has something to do with wrapping up the holiday, or getting a chance to do all the laundry before heading back to work. After my day after, I have a burning existential question that's on my mind. Maybe one of you knows the answer.

My question is: why do white shirts get all the stains? It's an amazing phenomenon, isn't it? My kids' other shirts sometimes get some food or G-d-knows-what stains on them, but nowhere near the amount of stains as their white Shabbat shirts get. Why couldn't Shabbat shirts have been black? 

Anyhow. These ten days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are the most important ten days of our entire year. Although our deeds were judged on Rosh Hashana, and the judgment will be sealed on Yom Kippur, Hashem in His unbelievable mercy has given us the famous "Ten Days of Teshuva" in between.

So here's what we need to focus on. Listen up, yo. Teshuva is certainly repenting for past misdeeds, committing to never do them again, and trying to start fresh. BUT. If you do all of these things without the desire to draw closer to Hashem, then your teshuva is meaningless. 

The actual meaning of teshuva is "to return." What do we want to return? Where do we want to return to? 

We want to return to Hashem. We want to re-establish a close, intimate connection with our Creator, our loving Father who wants nothing more than to have a relationship with us. The mantra that should be in our minds these next nine days is: "Hashem, I want to get close to You. I want to have a closer connection with You. Please help me do that." 

The best part is that as soon as we have this desire in our hearts and in our minds, we are automatically catapulted to the level of a tzaddik, a righteous person, without having done anything more! Based on this desire alone, we can overturn any harsh judgments that might be hanging in cryogenic suspension or whatever, and bring about a completely new and improved year!

Once you have this desire firmly implanted in your heart, you are unstoppable! Nothing will stand in the way of your teshuva! May we all be blessed with an inscription in the Book of Life for a sweet, happy, and healthy year, Amen!

 


V'hi She'amda: The Eternal Promise

Even though I am cold-turkey on political issues, there are still those who are asking for my reaction to the USA's venomous criticism of Israel: I'm delighted. Maybe now, our people will finally learn that there's no one to trust but Hashem. We certainly can't trust our own elected leaders, who prefer political expediency to justice and truth and who brazenly declare in the media that they refuse to heed Hashem's laws. I pray that we all come back to Him in complete teshuva; this would be the finest response to both our so-called friends abroad, to our enemies and to our own elected officials, none of whom surprise us in the least.

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!


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!!

~Sherrie~

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