34 posts categorized "Teshuva"

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


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