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July 2019

The Precious Minute

Precious Time 31.8.19
Lives have changed in split seconds. Hundredths of seconds have separated between gold medalists and those who finished 4th and didn't even win a bronze. One heartbeat separates between life and death...

If seconds are so vital, then what can we say about the priceless irreplaceable commodity known as a minute? What's the value of a moment in life, or a life itself? Too many people take their own lives for granted...

Do you think crossing the street or arriving safely at your destination is a foregone conclusion? Not at all. In the USA during the year of 2017, 6,000 pedestrians and over 40,000 motorists and automobile passengers lost their lives in accidents.

In Israel during the same year, 84 pedestrians were killed crossing Israel's streets and another 362 travelers were killed on Israel's roads. To put these figures into proper perspective, we must first remember that each is a sacred, irreplaceable soul. Second, we must realize that these 446 fatalities were over twenty times greater than the number of fatalities that resulted from terrorist attacks against Israelis during the same year of 2017.

One minute – or even less – can save your life. Anyone who has ever been involved in a traffic accident (or in a war) knows that I'm far from exaggerating. Here's how:

Before you cross the street, even if you're at a crosswalk with a green light and you have every right of way, say a short prayer that won't take more than a few seconds: "Father in Heaven, help me get safely to the other side of the street." As we saw in the above-cited statistics, no one can take safely crossing the street for granted.

Before you put your keys in the ignition, take advantage of one precious minute that could save your life. In your own words say, "Beloved Father in Heaven, help me arrive safely at my destination. Guard me from all peril on the roads and guard my vehicle from any damage." You can't imagine how effective, time and money saving such a brief prayer can be.

Whatever you do in life, remember the power of a few moments of prayer.

If you're an athlete, before you go out on the playing field or the competition arena, ask the Creator to help you perform at your very best. You've been training so hard, for weeks and months; that one minute of personal prayer could make the difference between victory and defeat.

Business people know that clinching deals often defies logic. When you expected to make money, you lost money, and vice versa. Before you enter a negotiation, begin a transaction or start a new day of work, ask the Creator to grant you success.

If you're a teacher, ask the Almighty to put the right words in your mouth so that you'll be able to give over the subject matter to your students in the most engaging, clear and comprehensible manner. Pray for your students' success as well and wait and see how you soon become teacher of the year…

If you're a homemaker or a husband who helps with the cooking, ask the Almighty to help the food, cake, challah or whatever you're cooking or baking to come out successfully.

At this point, many people ask, "Do these mini-prayers really help?"

They sure do. We don't come uninvited to other people's homes. By the same token, the Creator doesn't come uninvited into our lives. If we think we're capable of doing anything on our own, He lets us. Then, the results aren't always favorable. On the other hand, when we seek His assistance, He smiles down and says, "Beloved son or daughter, since you are seeking My help, I'm right here with you." This is a signed check from King David, who said, "Hashem is close to all who call Him – to all who call Him in sincerity" (Psalm 145:18).

With the Almighty close to you, you'll not only cross the street safely but you'll enjoy every other blessing in life, all for the tiny price of the precious moment of personal prayer.

May you enjoy an abundance of Divine blessings for everything good always!

With deepest friendship, Lazer Brody


The Truth about Burning Fat

Fat Burning 29.7

Nowadays, more and more workouts claim to be effective at burning fat. It sounds dynamite superficially, but don't forget that the main goal of exercise is improving your overall health and helping you to feel your best. Don't be fooled, though; just because something is labeled as being a “fat burner” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to melt your schmaltz away. By the way, who says that burning fat should be your goal at all?

Let's understand what it means to the body to burn fat.  Sure, low intensity workouts - those done at below 70% of your HRMax (heart-rate maximum), burn fat rather than carbohydrates. That's why they're labelled as fat-burners. But, that's only part of the truth; yes, qualitatively, they do burn fat, but quantitatively, not that much.

Losing fat while working at low intensity levels sounds too good to be true; it is! A down home Texas wrestling coach once told me that sweat is merely fat that's crying. So, my brother and sister, if you ain't sweating', your fat ain't cryin'; in other words, it's not getting burned. Why? Higher intensity activities produce a much greater post-exercise oxygen consumption (PEOC), what trainers call an "afterburn", which can help you burn a lot of fat for a whole 48 hours after you work out. That's why I usually do either wind-sprints and/or Tabata HIIT (high intensity interval training) on Friday afternoon, so that I'll benefit from the afterburn during Shabbat when I'm consuming much more food that I do during the week (you couldn't resist Rebbetzen Yehudit Brody's cholent either).

What's this all mean? Sure, if you ride a bike or walk at normal pace for four hours, you'll burn a lot of fat. But who has that amount of time to invest in exercise, realistically? Not you and not me. That's why I recommend getting the maximum clout from your workout - more intensity in less time.

Try Tabata training - this classic interval workout has you go as hard as you can for 20 seconds, followed by a 10-second rest. Then, repeat eight times, so the entire series takes about four minutes. Do this with three different moves—like kettlebell swings, kettlebell squats and mountain climbers; with a minutes's rest between each 8-cycle Tabata, the 3-Tabata workout will take a total of 15 minutes. And, you'll earn an awesome afterburn that will continue burning fat for another 24-48 hours.

My alternatives to the Tabata routines are wind sprints and running up sand dunes. Either way, you'll sweat, especially during the summer, and your fat will melt away. Don't forget to eat responsibly (no sugar of junk food) to complement your exercise routine.

G-d willing, you'll look great this summer. Turn off the TV and get some fresh air - exercise and enjoy your summer! Every blessing, LB


Setbacks and Comebacks

Setbacks Comebacks 26.7
We hope that you won't need today's post, so don't bother reading this unless you have a painful issue in your life. Most of us do have something that doesn't tickle, to say the least...

For sure, it really hurts. Maybe you just now flunked your driving exam. Or maybe you just received a rejection letter from the school or job of your choice, or from the person you were hoping to settle down long-term with. Anyone hurts all over from a setback; that's natural and expected. Remember, we're flesh and blood. Emuna - pure and simple faith - does not mean that we fake it and deny the pain! That's lying to ourselves and lying to G-d.

So where does emuna pick us up? Emuna teaches us that despite our lack of understanding how and why, our loving Father in Heaven does everything for the best. Emuna's good news is that there's no law that one must stay down from a setback. Indeed, getting back on our feet requires far more faith and strength of character than staying on our feet without ever having been knocked down. For that reason, King Solomon, the wisest individual who ever walked the face of the earth, said, "A righteous man falls seven times, and gets up again" (Proverbs 24:16). In other words, he doesn't merit the title "righteous" until he has fallen at least seven times.

Don't let a setback get you down. You can't have a comeback until you've had the setback. Don't forget too that even the quarterback, halfback and the linebacker of the winning team are full of bruises and sore muscles.

Take five minutes and ponder the following five points – one point per minute. They'll put you back on your feet and give you the motivation and power to make your own fantastic comeback.

  1. Only doers fail. People who drive sometimes get traffic tickets. People who don't drive don't ever make wrong turns. Wouldn't it be ridiculous if an elderly person bragged that he never committed a traffic violation, if he never drove a car? The first consolation of a setback is the knowledge that you are a doer.
  2. Setbacks teach, and usually trigger a stronger second effort. Failure guards us against complacency and arrogance. When we fail, we realize that we need to improve. Oftentimes, a second effort is far superior to even a best first effort. Don't be angry with yourself; just try harder. Failure is like your soccer team losing a goal – the other team may have scored a point, but the game's not over! A setback helps us try harder and reach higher, thereby enabling us to fulfill a higher level of our potential. And, if you've failed that driving test, it simply means that with a few more lessons and additional practice, you'll be a much better driver on the road, for your own safety and for the safety of everyone else on the road.
  3. Setbacks strengthen faith. If we were constantly successful, we'd probably walk around with our noses in the air. Then, we'd be ugly, heaven forbid, because few things are uglier than arrogance. The Creator loves humility and wants us to realize that He is the source of both our setbacks and comebacks, failures and successes. He gives us a setback (yup, it's not your fault!) because He wants us to pray a lot harder and earnestly seek His assistance for our next effort. If our lives were a perfect string of successes, we'd almost certainly neglect our spiritual development.
  4. Experience is life's best teacher. The experience of a setback, especially a painful one, drives a lesson home immediately. Usually, we are slow in internalizing and implementing what we learn. After a setback, we have a golden opportunity to better ourselves immediately.
  5. Small-scale setbacks assures large-scale success. Where would an actor prefer to forget a line, in rehearsal or on stage? A failure in rehearsal often assures a better performance on stage, since the actor makes a special effort to polish the rough edges of his or her performance. Sometimes, small failures are none other than preparations for large successes. Rejections are Divine filters to keep you away from unwanted paths. Rejected? Don't be dejected. Something much better (job, soul-mate, etc.) is on the way.

Therefore:

Don't ever despair when you have a setback. Try harder, ask the Creator for help, and then be positive that you'll do much better the next time. Depression and despair stem from the dark, spiritually impure side, and prevent you from being happy. Despair perpetuates inner turmoil and creates a barrier between you and Divine light. With these five minutes of motivating ourselves, we now mobilize the strength within us to make a great comeback. It's the real deal.


Kabbalah 101: Secrets of Creation

We're broadcasting today's lesson from one of creation's classrooms - a citrus orchard east of Ashdod. You'll soon see why...

Today, we'll learn one of the amazing secrets of creation, revealed right in the beginning of Kabbalistic writings. You'll see how one of G-d's names is the mathematical key to unlocking secrets of creation. Don't miss this, it's an eye-opener:

Secrets of Creation from lazerbrody on Vimeo.


5 Responsible Ways to Lose Body Fat

Body Fat 22.7
Mark went on a diet to be slimmer for the beach season. He dropped 30 pounds, from 190 to 160, in a relatively short time. But, he didn't look any better. What's more, at 190, he could do 50 pushups but now at 160 he can barely do 32. What did he do wrong? Fad diet? "Guaranteed quick weight loss"? Both, and more. Mark lost weight irresponsibly...

Don't make the same mistake. Read this, because we want for you what you want for yourself - to look better and to feel better.

The classic weight-loss mantra says, "Burn more calories than you take in, and fat comes off." That's not so simple. If the calorie deficit comes from merely eating less calories than you burn, without incorporating exercise into the equation, then the body will relinquish muscle mass much quicker than it will burn fat. What's more, muscle weighs much more than fat! So, don't let the scale fool you. With that in mind, let me give you several key signs that you're losing muscle mass rather than fat:

  1. You feel sluggish and your every-day functioning is impaired;
  2. You've lost a lot of weight in a short time;
  3. Your body has shrinking circumferences, but your pinch-fat is the same. Since you've lost muscle mass, your body-fat percentage is even higher than it was when you weighed more and you've actually lost strength (#1, above). What's more, when merely losing weight (muscle mass) rather than fat, your body won't be more attractive; quite the opposite...

To avoid the above three signs, our goal should be losing fat, not losing weight. The tightness of your skirt or trousers is a much better indication of fat loss than the bathroom scale is. Stay away from crash diets that offer quick results of weight loss. So, instead of losing weight, let's talk about losing body fat, and doing so responsibly. Here are five ways to do just that:

  1. Lift weights: lifting weights builds muscle and muscle is catabolic, meaning that it fuels metabolism even when it's not toiling. I prefer body-weight and free-weight exercises to weight machines. You don't even need weights - carry home the grocery bags from the supermarket. 
  2. Get daily cardio: walking or riding a bike for 30 minutes daily is great, but the more cardio is versified, the faster the fat will fall away. I try to do wind-sprints or running up sand dunes at least once a week. Incorporate plyometric exercises like burpees and HIIT at least once a week and you'll further fuel your metabolic fat-burning capability.
  3. Split your meals: rather than eating humongous meals, take the Rambam's advice and eat well below your stomach's capacity. The four or five smaller meals are preferable to the two or three tremendous ones, for the body will burn the smaller meals' calories much more efficiently.
  4. Drink cold water, and lots of it: water has no calories! If it's cold, your body will have to burn calories to maintain its 36.8C (98.6F) body temperature. What's more, water is essential for your brain and heart's proper function, your energy level and for keeping your body waste-free.
  5. Consume healthy snacks: prefer fruits and veggies over carbs. Celery sticks, with their high fiber content, will make the body work hard and burn calories.

Wait and see how quickly and favorably your body reacts to the above five points. The results will be encouraging, but be patient and don't give up! There's no reason in the world that you shouldn't look and feel great, especially now in the summer. Blessings for your success, and let us know how you progress! Yours always, LB


The Soul Correction and Second Chance

Sometimes we find ourselves in the exact place or circumstance where earlier in our life, we had some type of setback or misdeed, not acting in a way that we'd be proud of today. This is a gift from Above, enabling us to perform a soul correction on ourselves, in this lifetime. Enjoy this encouraging 90-second clip and have a lovely Shabbat!

The Soul Correction and Second Chance from lazerbrody on Vimeo.


Togetherness and Good Health

Healthy Together 16.7
Does this sound familiar?

Your spouse or the someone you care about is overweight and sorely out of shape. Whenever he/she gets pressured by anything, they console themselves with chocolate croissants or donuts. You've tried everything to get them to diet and/or exercise, but even if they loses two pounds in one week, they'll gain back four the next. What do you do? You're trying your very best not to look at attractive members of the opposite sex, but with your partner more and more turning you off, it's getting to be increasingly challenging...

The above scenario is a compendium of real ones that I deal with in personal, health and fitness coaching. The more I've been hearing such stories, the more I felt the need to lay out a few guidelines that will likely help you and your spouse to improve your quality of life, physical and emotional health and relationship as well. Try implementing the following suggestions:

  1. Your prayers for your spouse are formidable, much more powerful than you can ever imagine. Invest a few minutes of prayer for them in your own words. Ask the Almighty to uplift their self-esteem and to help you give them the love and attention that they need so that they won't have to find solace in sweets, which are poison for the body.
  2. Buy your spouse a gift of a new pair of walking shoes and take walks together; start with a few minutes and work it up to an hour, at least three times a week. If you have small children, it's worth it to pay a babysitter during this hour. You can't imagine what it will do for your health and relationship.
  3. Diet never helps. You must influence your spouse to change their thinking and lifestyle, but this should be done as a couple, for they'll be much more willing if it's done together. Cakes, cookies, ice-cream and other sweets as well as soft-drinks and other sugary manufactured foods should be considered taboo, for these substances destroy health. Together, go on an eating regiment (lifestyle, not diet!) that is based on foodstuffs that are unadulterated by manufacturers. Get all white sugar, corn syrup solids and modified starches out of your life - that includes cereals, cakes, cookies and most manufactured foods. Compensate with the best fruits, veggies, fish, meat and poultry, and cheeses. Once you lower carbs, you can enjoy nuts and seeds without worrying about gaining weight.
  4. Like all of us, your spouse thrives on love. Make the first move and give him/her that love, and I promise that they'll bend over backwards to please you. Meanwhile, offer your spouse the incentive of a nice chuck of money to buy new clothes every time they drops a size or two. The new clothes will cost only be a fraction of doctors and meds required for treating the ailments that result from neglecting diet and health.

Start with the above four steps and keep me posted. I'd love to reprint your success stories. Remember, togetherness is the beginning of good health and real happiness. You'll be amazed to see how soon, you'll look like a magazine cover couple. My prayers for your success and good health. Blessings always, LB


Body Politic

"Shavua Tov", blessings for a wonderful new week. You haven't heard from my in over a week because I lost my beautiful and beloved 93-year-young mother on Friday 5, 2019 and finished the "Shiva" seven-day mourning period right before the Sabbath. I'm still in the USA, where my wonderful sibs and I have been together in recent weeks, and hopefully will return home to Israel later this week. It's good to be back with you here at "Strength and Serenity":

Trying
A lot of the fad diets have penetrated the Jewish world, which is infamous for unhealthy eating especially on Shabbat. For example, after Shabbat morning services, many congregations sponsor a "Kiddush" brunch of Coca Cola, liquor and pastry, followed by a meal of white Challa, potato and noodle kugels and cholent, with desserts of more cakes, roasted nuts and parve ice cream. Sure, one "cheat day" a week is legitimate, when we loosen up on our diet discipline and partake of a sweet or two, but that doesn't mean a total lack of restraint and going carb-crazy.

What happens? Many have turned to fad diets that promise quick weight loss. And guess what - the quickest weight loss results from loss of muscle mass. Muscle weighs a lot more than fat. Therefore, don't be impressed when you see that adherents of the fad diets have lost tons of weight, fast. Notice that they don't exercise. As a result, their bodies look like big empty burlap sacks draped on bone. At least when they were fat, their muscles had to work to carry the extra weight. But now, nothing. No muscle tone, just empty flab.

Modern society has become so focused on weight loss, that any weight loss seems to be good. It certainly is not. You look better and feel better when you increase your muscle-to-fat ratio. In other words, by exercising and increasing caloric intake - especially with quality protein and good HDL-producing fats - you gain weight big time without adding a millimeter to your waist or hips. In fact, your trousers or skirt fits better than ever.

The impressive initial weight loss of the "effortless" fad diets comes from losing the strategic and vital area of your body - your muscle mass. Therefore, the goal of dieting should be to improve body composition, the percentage or ratio of muscle to body fat, like we said. You do that by losing fat without losing muscle tissue. Maintaining and even increasing muscle mass is critical to weight control, because the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. What's more, as you exercise and add resistance/strength training to your routine, you can actually look thinner and have a smaller waistline, but the scale shows that you gained weight! How can that be? Simple - muscles take up less space in your body, so body weight may stay the same or even go up as you add compact, tight muscle mass. In density, muscle is 22% more dense than fat. In other words, if you've been doing strength /resistance training, your waist is thinner, your skirt or trousers fit great, you look and feel great, but you weigh more! Maybe at 145 lbs, you could only do 20 pushups, but now at 155, you can do 50! Yes, you weigh more but you're much more healthy. Keep on liftin', bro and sis, and put the bathroom scale in the closet!

That's what I call "Body Politic". So, forget about your weight and just be strong and healthy. When you eat right - as natural as possible - and exercise, you'll burn fat and build muscle anyway. G-d willing, we hope to post more body-health and fitness pointers in the near future. Stick with us and meanwhile, stay healthy!


Skydiving

Skydiver 5.7
If you ask people what frustrates them more than anything else, and really probe to the core reason, the’ll most likely answer that situations where they're not in control are probably the worst sources of frustration. A person doesn’t mind a normal headache so much if he or she can take a glass of water and two aspirins, which from experience, they know will relieve a good measure of his pain within the next thirty minutes. But they can’t stand the inexplicable migraine that doesn’t succumb to the pain killers. Why? They can’t control it…

Now ask a person what the worst type of dream is. Many will answer, the free-fall, when a person feels like he’s falling in space, usually waking up in a cold sweat right before he crashes to the ground. What an utter feeling of no control!

Skydiving is a very popular sport. Those who skydive live and breathe their skydiving. But let’s ask ourselves: are all the skydivers daft? The answer is certainly not. I’ve known skydivers who are level-headed former paratroopers and combat veterans, some of whom with advanced degrees from university. How can they allow themselves to jump out of airplanes? They perform a free-fall for so many seconds then either pull the cord that opens their parachute or else their parachute opens automatically. They can’t control the speed that they’re falling downward. So what’s the difference between the skydiver and the person free-falling in a nightmare?

One word: trust.

The skydiver trusts that the parachute will open. The free-faller in the dream has nothing to trust.

Someone stopped me in the street recently in my hometown of Ashdod, visibly worried. “What’s going to happen, Reb Lazer? What's with Hizbulla's thousands of missiles aimed at us and we don't even have a functioning government to do anything about it? Have you heard? Iran is about to is about to clash with the Americans in the Persian Gulf at Hormuz, and if so, we’ll probably get attacked with missiles. There's a big chance that we'll get dragged into a war soon. Hey, and I haven’t even mentioned the Atom bomb that the Iranians will have any day. They’re all planning to destroy is. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem is calling on all the Arabs to kill all the Jews. And if all that isn’t bad enough, Yair Lapid could very well be the next prime minister in Israel. We won’t be able to send our children to cheder any more…”

“Slow down, my friend,” I injected at the opportune time, when he stopped to take a breath. “You’ve been listening to a lot of news lately."

“But I must be informed! I can’t live like an ostrich with his head in the ground,” he said, slighted by my suggestion that he’s spending too much time on CNN, YNet and Foxnews.

“Be honest with yourself,” I said. “You’re uncomfortable being in a situation where you’re not in control.”

He stopped and thought. The man had a kipa on his head and was obviously an observant Jew. “I never thought of it that way, but now that you mention it, I think you’re right, Reb Lazer.”

“It’s up to us to do what we can and to make the most productive use of our time. We have the control and the free choice to open up the computer or to open up a Gemara. We can spend an inconsequential hour on Facebook or we can put on our walking shoes and use that hour to walk a few miles and talk to Hashem in personal prayer. Why fret about the things we can’t control when there’s so much more to do in the realm of things we can control? Besides, who is presumptuous enough to think that he can run the world better than Hashem can?”

“But I believe in Hashem,” the man said defensively. “I just have to do my hishtadlut, my own effort, to stay informed.” 

“Our hishtadlut is to strengthen our emuna and our trust in Hashem. He runs the world and He is doing everything not only for the very best, but for our ultimate benefit both on a personal and a national level.” I continued to explain that when we’re worried or up tight, there’s no reason in the world to feel out of control. We can take a time out, push the “reset” button on our brain, and go speak to Hashem in solitary personal prayer for an hour. That’s real control...."

The man unfortunately preferred to perpetuate his worry and anxiety rather than living the sweet life of emuna and trust. Maybe the suggestion to swap Facebook for a walk and talk with the Creator sounded look fairy tales to him. Too bad that people prefer to live their lives as terrified free-fallers, never knowing when the crash moment of doom will arrive, rather than living the exhilarating live of a skydiver who knows that the parachute always opens at the right time.

It’s great being a skydiver when Hashem is your parachute...

I wrote this post to strengthen myself, for I have now returned to the USA urgently because of my mother's rapid health deterioration. Her Hebrew name is Chasia bas Kaila. 


A Lesson from Rebbe Oshiya of Tiria: Connecting with the Creator

From the Upper Galilee near the ancient town of Peki'in, we visit the holy gravesite of the "Amora", the early 4th Century CE Talmudic sage Rebbe Oshiya of Tiria, from whom we learn what it means to truly be connected to the Creator as a person of faith, not merely "religious"... Enjoy this 2-minute clip:

The Lesson of Rebbe Oshiya of Tiria from lazerbrody on Vimeo.