With thanks to the Almighty, I'm back home safely in the Land of Israel and my beautiful hometown of Ashdod, just in time for Shabbat. I call the photo above (doctored image), "Yearning for Shabbat" - it conveys the soul's elated feeling as the Friday afternoon sun sets over the Mediterranean, ushering in the Sabbath Queen. Nothing is so conducive to body-soul health as our holy day of rest. Blessings for a lovely Shabbat and for all your heart's wishes for the very best. Yours always, LB
I'm 16, going into eleventh grade, and very unhappy. My best girlfriend is really popular at school and shul (we're conservative), and I'm not. In all honesty, I'm just as attractive as she is, and my grades are just as good as hers. At first, I thought maybe my clothes were out of style, so I went out and begged my mom to buy be the same clothes as my girlfriend. But, at any party or function, people flock to her and I feel like a tagalong. It’s really the pits. I do my best to talk and act like my girlfriend, but she's considered campus queen and I'm ignored like a wallflower. Rabbi, can you give me some kind of spiritual advice to make me popular too? I know you're busy with serious problems, but this is hurts me a lot, so please try to give me a quick answer. And thanks for the advice you give on your blog. Respectfully, Melanie from Canada
Imagine that a tractor didn't like its own appearance, and tried to imitate a Mercedes. The whole world would laugh! Then, the tractor would neither perform its function as a tractor - plowing fields, hauling produce, and the like - and certainly would fail miserably as a Mercedes. On the other hand, if a Mercedes tried to do the job of a tractor, it would get stuck in the mud and fail within a minute.
Melanie, The Almighty gave you your own very special package of abilities and aptitudes for performing your task in this world. When you try to be someone else, you have a double failure: First, you can't succeed in being the other person, because you lack the emotional, intellectual, physical, and spiritual tools that Hashem gave to that person. Second, when you attempt to be someone you're not, you fail to develop and to utilize your own unique Heaven-imbued attributes and skills.
The Talmud teaches that when a person seeks prestige, prestige eludes the person. Stop trying to be popular, and don't try to imitate your girlfriend. Be yourself: How? Act, speak, and dress in a manner that's natural and comfortable for you. Often, it's better to sit at home reading a good book, writing a poem or an entry to your diary, or baking a cake for Shabbat than it is to hang out with a bunch of peers that just gossip and waste time, if they don’t do things much worse. Also, stop tagging along as your girlfriend's prime groupie. Accept the fact that she's classroom queen. You should start fulfilling your own role as a cherished daughter of the King (Hashem) - the daughter of The King beats the classroom queen any day of the week.
When we need the approval of others, we become emotionally cripple because we make our happiness depend on the way they react to us. Not only is that ridiculous on our part, but being an emotional cripple and dependent on others for approval is just as problematic as being a physical cripple who might be dependent on crutches. The only way to attain true emotional freedom from peer pressure and from others is to cling to Hashem – that will give you tremendous strength.
One additional important point: When high school boys flock around you, they're not looking to discuss the Rambam, European history or the theory of relativity. Being popular with them is dead-end cheap popularity. Genuine popularity comes from being an upright human - compassionate, kind, charitable, modest, yet firm and courageous in your beliefs.
The entire world respects the bold nonconformist that stands up for his or her principles. Do you know why? It’s simple - Hashem respects such a person. When The Almighty is pleased with a person's actions, He grants that person a divine aura, an indescribable spiritual light that emanates from the face and serves as a magnet to attract other people. Possessing such a divine aura is genuine popularity.
I do suggest that you eat healthfully and get regular exercise, especially during these summer months. The better you feel in shape, the more self-confidence you'll have.
Thanks for writing, Melanie. May Hashem help you make the right choices in life. Blessings always, LB
In the age of cyber and hi-tech, so many of us spend much of our lives sitting. And, if you're a university or yeshiva/kollel student, you're in the same club of those whose spend a good half of their waking hours sitting. The way a person sits has a profound impact on his or her overall health; for that reason, correct sitting posture is something we all should know and be cognizant of. In this 6-minute vid, we use a balance ball to demonstrate the optimum way to sit. Enjoy it and have a lovely new week:
So many people are unhappy and frustrated because they do things that they don't want to do and are unhappy about doing them. Rabbi Lazer therefore teaches an amazing very very simple rule: in Hebrew it's called. "Rotzeh u'mesameach" = I want to do it and it makes me happy, the two conditions for doing something, a rule of thumb that has one important exception. Enjoy today's body-soul lesson and have a beautiful Shabbat!
My wife is a remarkable person. She’s responsible with money and our house is always in decent shape, in other words, there’re never dirty dishes in the sink by the end of a day and things always look presentable. Just one thing makes me really miserable. My wife is an artist, and she spends hours on end in front of the canvas. I feel like she pours her entire heart out in her paintings, and there’s nothing left for me. I’d like to walk or talk in the evenings, but right after dinner, she’s back down in our basement (her studio) painting away until the wee hours. I feel really neglected, especially now that all our kids are married and out on their own. Please give me some advice, because I’m getting more and more resentful of my wife’s painting and our marital peace is eroding – I can feel it. With appreciation for your taking the time to read this, HJ from New Jersey
You’ve given me a lot of info, between the lines too. But, be happy – G-d willing, with a little fine tuning, your situation will soon be much better.
First of all, have you thanked Hashem for your marvelous blessings? Do you know how many people complain to me that their wives are either slovenly, or spendthrifts, or both? By your admission, your wife is both careful with money and a good housekeeper. That’s magnificent, and you should truly be thankful.
Second, many people have unbelievable shalom bayit (marital peace) breakdowns when they’re suddenly left alone with no more kids at home. So many husbands and wives drive each other crazy. Yet, your wife has found a lovely emotional release of oil painting. That too is a blessing! The love she used to pour into her children’s souls when they’d come home from school every day is now being poured into the paintings. I’m sure that her paintings are most expressive.
Wait, HJ, that’s not all: your wife is not leaving the house for hours a day, testing your imagination as to her whereabouts. She’s home. She’s not at the country club neglecting her home, nor at the shopping mall squandering your money.
So here’s the bone of contention – you want the love and attention that the paintings are getting. In the meanwhile – as long as you lack that love and attention – you’re getting more and more resentful. Let’s see how that affects your marriage:
Practically, HJ, you’re in line for a handout from your wife. According to Kabbala, you are now a female, because in a relationship, the man must give and the woman receives. That’s how Hashem created the world. Procreation is accomplished by the man giving and the woman receiving. Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai says that the husband is the sun and the wife is the moon. She has no light of her own, so he must shine light on her. So if you want to receive, HJ, you are playing the spiritual role of a woman; two women can’t get along in the same kitchen…
Since you are not shining light on your wife – only resentment – she looks for light in her paintings. They smile back at her.
Now, let’s move over to the positive mode. Don’t wait for a handout from your wife. If you want light, go to the Torah – she’ll shine infinite light on you. Go speak to Hashem in personal prayer – He’ll listen to your every word like the most loving Father he is and He’ll give you all the attention you need. Torah and personal prayer are the place to fuel up emotionally and spiritually. Your head should be in a tractate of Gemara and not into your wife’s daily routine. Give her space, especially since she’s such a good wife.
Instead of resentment, take interest in her art. Go downstairs to the studio and bring her a cup of her favorite tea while she’s painting. Compliment her and take genuine interest in what she’s doing. You’re not going to beat her, so join her! Take her to an art gallery on Sunday and for a walk in the park afterwards. Smile at her and never frown. Give her the light and she’ll soon be enchanted by you. Suggest topics for her to paint. Proudly frame her best paintings and hang them in the most prestigious wall of your home. Give her the love and lavish her with attention and I guarantee you that you’ll get it back with big dividends!
With blessings and prayers for your success, LB
Torah in the gym? Why not? Besides, body and soul health go hand in hand. In today's emuna and inspirational video clip, Rabbi Lazer cites the Torah in Parshat Shlach to show the importance of a healthy self-image and how to attain it. Don't miss this:
I wrote today's post as an encouragement for myself...
In case you don’t yet know any Hebrew, I want to teach you a vital Hebrew word – Simcha. It's much more than joy, more than happiness, more than gladness. It's the deep inner feeling of contentment and gratification, no matter what's going on in your life at the moment or how difficult things are. Simcha - once again, the deep inner feeling of contentment and gratification - is the most dependable indication of spiritual and emotional health. After emuna, simcha is the next word to add to your vocabulary. What's more, emuna and simcha are the dream couple. Just saying both words already makes us feel happier.
The Rambam teaches us that a person can influence him or herself by his or her own actions. If we force ourselves to smile, the first time or two will be mechanical, but the third smile will be for real. So wherever you are right now – in the office, on the subway, in the kitchen, in your living room or even in a hospital bed, let's continue the day with a smile; yes – right now, cherished friend, put a smile on your face. When you're happy, your brain functions much better, and you'll more readily internalize what we’re talking about. So look in the mirror, show us your teeth, and pretend you're doing a toothpaste commercial.
Happiness is a statement that we like the way Hashem runs the world. Happiness is therefore the key to success, for when a person is happy, Hashem is with him in measure-for-measure fashion.
Sadness causes worry and anxiety. Rebbe Nachman of Breslev says that all sickness and disease stem from lack of happiness. Ask any doctor: when a person is happy, not only the heart but the whole body functions at its optimum. In fact, the Rambam, history's greatest doctor, teaches that sickness come from worry and anxiety.
The holy Zohar teaches that sadness is the worst transgression in the Torah. That sounds a little strange, so we really should ask why. How can sadness be worse than eating on Yom Kippur or violating the Shabbat?
Suppose a person accidentally turns on the lights on Shabbat. He or she is disappointed in themselves, but they ask forgiveness the next time they pray and finished. With teshuva, the blemish of a misdeed is totally rectified. The sin has been cleansed and wiped away.
But, sadness is heresy – an expression of dissatisfaction with Hashem's way of running the world, which is none other than denial of Hashem. For that reason, the Zohar says that sadness is the worse type of idol worship. Just as Rebbe Nachman says it’s a mitzvah to be happy, conversely it's a terrible sin to be sad. Sad people neither pray nor do teshuva, so with each day of sadness, they drift further and further away from Hashem.
The basis of genuine joy is contentment with your own lot in life, with whatever Hashem gives you. How do you achieve this? The one-word answer is Emuna
Many people write me and tell me that they have emuna, yet they're still not happy. By emuna, they mean that they have a general belief in Hashem; the type of emuna one needs to attain happiness isn't the living-room discussion emuna, but the emuna in your heart that everything Hashem does is for the very best. With that level of emuna, worry falls; when worry falls, a person's tension and anxiety levels fall way down and the heart becomes free to be happy.
To attain genuine joy, a basic belief in Hashem isn't enough. We must believe that everything Hashem does is for the best. Until a person believes that everything is for the best, he doesn't have emuna.
How do we arrive at the level that we believe that everything is for the best? We speak to Hashem and ask him to help us observe and understand to the limits of our God-given capabilities how everything in our lives is for the very best. And where understanding kicks out, emuna kicks in.
Have a more than a joyous Shabbat! Warmest regards and blessings, LB
I had every intention to prepare an emuna body-soul health vid for today, but Hashem had other plans for me. I had to get back on a plane and return to the USA to perform a mitzva that no one else can do for me - honoring my 93-year-old Mama, may Hashem bless her.
I have been blessed with awesome sibs, each one a star in his/her own right. While I've been in Israel, they've been caretaking for Mama, who has already been fighting a long and tough bout with congestive heart failure. After careful consideration and consultation - while taking into account both Mama's wishes and Jewish Law and Bioethics - we've taken Mama off the remedy-seeking agenda and put her on a comfort-oriented agenda. In other words, she's in hospice care, usually administered when the attending physicians feel that the patient is approaching the final stage of life on this physical earth.
It's now my turn to care for Mama. Temporarily, the rabbi health & fitness coach is now a hospice nurse. The above image is real, showing the type of meds I must pre-prepare daily so that Mama can have them in times of crisis and/or as regularly scheduled. The responsibility is prodigious, but it's a gift from Hashem to enable me to give back a tiny bit of love and gratitude to a young lass who escaped the Holocaust to become a mother that raised her children with unbelievable dedication despite indescribable hardship. Therefore, everything in my life has come to a temporary halt with my entire focus directed at taking care of Mama during each precious extended moment of life that Hashem grants her on this earth.
Our sages tell us that properly honoring our parents is the most challenging mitzva in the Torah; they knew exactly what they were talking about.
G-d willing, I hope to write a post about hospice care and Jewish bioethics in the near future. In the meanwhile, thanks to the support and cooperation of my cherished wife, may Hashem bless her always, I'll be here in the USA until the end of the month trying my best to keep a smile on my Mama's face just as much as my wonderful three brothers and one sister have been doing. May Hashem our parents wonderful health and help us all to properly honor them always, amen.
Shavuot is the holiday where we have a tradition of serving dairy products. With many people, that's problematic because of lactose intolerance, which leads to indigestion, bloating, flatulence and irregularity. Ironically, despite the hype, cow milk actually bleeds the body of calcium and can lead to osteoporosis. What's more, many suffer from milk allergies; a glass of milk is liable to make them break out in acne.
So what do you do, especially of Shavuot? Substitute the "moo" - cow milk, for "maa'aah", goat milk. Even if cow milk doesn't cause you problems, goat milk is umpteen times healthier. Here are a few reasons why:
- Goat milk is more digestible - the protein in goat milk forms a softer curd than cow milk – and this also decreases the irritation that one might otherwise experience with cow milk.
- Goat milk is great for heart health - it contributes to the healthy type of cholesterol - HDL - without upping the bad type of cholesterol, the LDL. What's more, it's a fantastic source of magnesium.
- Goat milk combats inflammation - in Israel, we use goat milk to combat mouth sores. Since goat milk is less acidic than cow milk, people with ulcers can also drink it.
- As opposed to cow milk, the calcium in goat milk adds to bone strength and reduces the chances of osteoporosis.
- Goat milk is a better metabolic agent than cow milk - it boosts the metabolic utilization of minerals like iron, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus. It also has A2 beta-casein, which is far healthier than A1 beta-casein that cow milk contains.
- Goat milk works well for lactose-intolerant people who can't drink cow milk.
- Goat milk more closely resembles human milk and is therefore healthier for babies and toddlers than cow milk and is the next best thing to mother's milk.
The only disadvantage I can think of when it comes to goat's milk is the high price. But, when considering its health advantages and great taste, it's worth it!
By the way, people think that the "Land of milk and honey" (Exodus 13:5) - none other than our holy Land of Israel - refers to cow milk and bee honey. Wrong! The Gemara in tractate Ketubot 111b says the words 'flowing with milk and honey' refer to milk that flows from goats’ (udders) and honey that flows from trees, particularly dates.
With the above in mind, we recommend the "maa'aah" (neigh) of the goat over the "moo" of the cow. Try it, and may you have the best Shavuot ever. Yours with blessings, LB
With Hashem's loving grace, our emuna broadcasts are back. We hope to record weekly, G-d willing. Meanwhile, today's lesson prepares us for Shavuot, this coming Saturday night and Sunday in Israel, and Monday as well outside of Israel.
In today's lesson, we talk about the four types of fruit mentioned in the Talmud - fruit of the field, fruit of the womb, fruit of one's labors and fruit of the soul. What is fruit of the soul, and what's its connection to the Shavuoth holiday? Here's your answer and we hope you enjoy it: