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September 2019

Rosh Hashanah and Political Correctness

Zachariah's Tomb
Flattery in Judaism doesn't mean that you tell your wife that she's gorgeous when she really is rather plain looking. Flattery in Judaism means telling a wicked person what a nice guy he is. In that vein, flattery is a serious lie. The Gemara in tractate Sota therefore says that flatterers are one of the four groups that cannot receive the Divine Presence. In contemporary jargon, the term for such flattery is "political correctness." Insofar as political correctness fits the Halachic definition of flattery, we can conclude that the politically correct are shunned from the Divine Presence. That means that they forfeit inestimable spiritual abundance and blessings as well as round-the-clock Divine protection.

The above statement sounds stiff, doesn't it? Let's see an example of the devastation that political correctness causes us (For the whole story, see Kings II 12:17-18; Chronicles II 24:15-22; Gittin 57b):

Zachariah the Prophet lived during the time of the First Temple around 9th Century BCE. King Joash reigned in Judea at the time. King Joash, who was raised by his uncle, Zachariah's father the righteous High Priest Jehoyada, at first ruled in accordance with Torah – in truth, justice and in emuna. But, when Jehoyada died at the ripe old age of 130, Joash came under the influence of self-seeking nobles, idolatrous priests and false prophets who encouraged the king to cast aside the ways of Torah for luxury and licentiousness.

Seeing the terrible pit of immorality and idolatry that Joash had fallen into, Hashem sent Jehoyada's son the holy prophet Zachariah to chastise him and influence him to mend his ways. In the Holy Temple, Zachariah admonished both the populace and the ruling mafia for their evil ways and heinous breach of Hashem's Torah. This was in complete contrast to the false prophets who controlled public opinion at the time (much like today's media), telling the populace that everything was fine. It wasn't, as the destruction of the Holy Temple proved several years later.

At any rate, Zechariah's message didn't get many "likes" in the King's Palace, among the bureaucracy or among the general populace. At the nod of King Joash, Zechariah's first cousin who owed his life to Zechariah's father, Zechariah was stoned to death in the premises of the Holy Temple on Yom Kippur that turned out on a Shabbat that year! This was the most despicable deed imaginable, performed on the holiest imaginable day in the holiest imaginable place on earth.

When the Babylonian (ancient Iraq) Army seized Jerusalem and captured the Temple Mount, General Nebuzadran entered the inner chamber of the Holy Temple where the altar is and found the blood of Zachariah boiling on the floor. He asked the priests what that blood was and they told him that it was the remnant of the previous day's sacrifices. He didn't believe them, so he slaughtered a goat to see if the two types of blood were comparable. They were not. Nebuzadran then threatened the priests that he'd rake their flesh if they didn't tell him the truth…

The priests answered, "What can we tell you, sir! There was a prophet among us who rebuked us about matters pertaining to Heavenly service. We ganged up against him and killed him. Alas, for years now his blood has not come to rest."

The General said, "I shall be the one to appease his blood." Nebuzadran then butchered all the members of the Great Sanhedrin (Supreme Court) and the Lesser Sanhedrin, but Zechariah's blood still boiled. He then slaughtered thousands of young priests and young people from priestly families. The blood still boiled. The blood flowed from the Temple Mount down the Kidron Valley like a river. Nebuzadran then spoke to Zachariah's blood and said, "Zachariah, Zachariah! I have destroyed the best of them. Do you want me to kill them all?" The blood immediately came to rest.

When Nebuzadran saw this awesome miracle, he said to himself, "If they, who only killed a single person, were punished in such a way, what will become of me?"

On the spot he fled, giving up his entire lofty station in life and all his property, and became a righteous convert.

***

Don't think that the above episode was a lone one. When King Zedekiah and his false prophets turned to an alliance with Egypt in order to defeat the Babylonians, Jeremiah warned that instead, they should turn to Hashem. He warned that the Temple would be imminently destroyed if the people and the government continue in their evil ways. Politically, this wasn't at all popular. Jeremiah was beaten and thrown into a dungeon (see Jeremiah, ch. 37-38). He paid the price of his political incorrectness, but King Zedekiah and the populace paid a bigger price: Zedekiah's eyes were gouged out (ibid., 52) and the Holy Temple was completely destroyed.

***

Let's do some soul-searching this Rosh Hashanah: has anything changed? Are we any different than Zachariah's generation? Are we too afraid to speak up for truth and justice? Does anyone dare today to be politically incorrect and blow the whistle on public-sanctioned exhibitions of things that the Torah calls abominations? Does anyone dare lift a voice against politically-powerful people who are proven serial child molesters? Does anyone protest the unethical business practices that go on in the workplace?

Iran, Hezbolla and Hamas don't scare me in the least. The lie of political correctness should terrify all of us, for its outcome has been devastating throughout our history. As a New Year's resolution for 5780, we should commit to seek the truth, heed our true spiritual leaders and come back to Hashem. I pray that Hashem will always give us the boldness to buck social convention and immorality and the courage to cling to the truth of His Torah, no matter what the odds or how politically incorrect it may be. My heartfelt blessings for a signature in the Book of Life for a wonderful New Year, 5780, amen!


Beware of Judgment Traps

Judgment Trap
Rebbe Nachman of Breslev teaches (see Likutei Moharan I:113) that before an accused person is finally sentenced in the Heavenly Court, the judges ask that person if he/she agrees to the verdict.

Who would be so daft to agree to a guilty verdict against themselves? You're right - no one. Ah, but here's the trick: If the Heavenly Court would ask us about ourselves, surely we'd have a whole string of "justified" reasons and excuses to get ourselves off the hot-seat. But, the Heavenly Court is crafty; we are asked to judge another person. Our judgment of a fellow human is in effect our judgment against ourselves, what's known as "the judgment trap". Chapter 12 of the Book of Samuel II shows us a prime example:

Nathan the Prophet asked King David for his opinion in judging a difficult matter: "There were two men,” said Nathan, “one rich and one poor. The rich man had very thousands of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing but one small ewe which he cared for in his own house alongside his children. The ewe ate from his bread, drank from his cup, and slept in his midst, just like a daughter.”

Nathan continued. “Then a guest came to the rich man. The wealthy host was too stingy to slaughter any of his own sheep to serve to the guest, and instead took the poor man’s ewe and prepared it for the guest.”

King David was outraged by the haughtiness and hardheartedness of the rich man, and declared, “As G‑d lives, the man who did this deserves to die! He shall pay fourfold for the ewe, since he did this and had no pity!”

By issuing a verdict in the case set before him, David had unwittingly set the rules for his own prosecution and conviction!

Nathan the Prophet cried out, “You are the man! David recognized the scope of his sin, admitted his guilt and repented for his actions. Afterwards, Nathan the Prophet conveyed G‑d’s message that He had accepted David's atonement.

We have to be extremely careful to avoid falling into "judgment traps" such as the one described in the above example. Before we voice an opinion, we should stop and think that we may be sentencing ourselves for a very similar misdeed. In order to avoid inadvertently sentencing ourselves with stiff verdicts, we should be lenient and understanding with others.

These last days before Rosh Hashanna are notorious for being weeks of "judgment traps". The best policy is to speak minimally now, limiting our speech to prayer, Torah learning, and nurturing healthy family relations. Limit speech to the barest necessity for whatever business, trade, or profession that we need to make a living. When we do speak, we should exercise extreme caution to avoid judging others. If we do judge others, we should go out of our way to give them the benefit of the doubt, be lenient, tolerant, and understanding. This is especially critical in our judgments of our spouses, children, and parents.

Nobody escapes judgment traps, so don't fall into them in the first place. Hopefully, having become aware of judgment traps, we won't sign harsh verdicts against ourselves or against our fellow human never ever again. May G-d bless all of us for an inscription in the Book of a long and healthy Life for a wonderfful New Year 5780, amen.


Marital Tune-up and Preparing for Rosh Hashana

Marriage Mechanic 23.9.19
Nothing is more frustrating for a couple than not getting along, especially when the husband and wife can’t pinpoint any particular problem. They love each, are more than compatible, yet constant bickering blemishes their marital bliss. They simply seem to be arguing all the time as if some inexplicable atmosphere of tension hovered in their home.

On a spiritual plane, such an inexplicable atmosphere of tension is the result of the couple's uncorrected past sins, which enable stern judgments from Above to linger over their household and disrupt the peace in their home.

It’s ridiculous to let marital peace elude you. The little bickering – unchecked – can escalate, Heaven forbid. A little fine-tuning, especially before Rosh Hashana, will help us nip it in the bud.

Here's how:

Every day we are judged in the Heavenly courts on all of our thoughts, words and deeds.

Every day, each of us is judged about every aspect of our lives. When a person is found guilty of a transgression, he or she is dealt with accordingly. They'll invariably incur some sort of suffering designed as a wake-up call to initiate self-assessment and teshuva for the sin they committed.

Once the judgment has been decided, some form of creation – whether mineral, plant, animal, or human – acts as an emissary to deliver the assigned affliction.

As a result of these judgments from Above, many families find that their home lives are full of strife, arguments, disputes and aggravation. In homes like these, the husband or wife wonders: "I only said one word! How did it blow up into a full-scale fight?" The reason that small issues blow up into such huge arguments is because the Heavenly court has sent a number of judgments down on to their home, causing even mundane matters to become a source of friction and suffering. Once again, that’s the “inexplicable atmosphere of tension.”

As long as they have spiritual “dirty laundry”, in other words, misdeeds that they haven’t atoned for, the husband and wife will have a difficult time in getting along because The Divine Presence is lacking in their home. Until they manage to mitigate the harsh judgments that have been leveled against them, nothing will bring The Divine Presence back. So really, no marital consulting will be effective if the husband and wife don’t repent and thereby erase their outstanding spiritual debits.

Either a couple lives in harmony and the Divine Presence dwells within their home, or they live with the fire of constant strife. There is no third option. A married couple can’t act like two strangers in a Cold War under the same roof with no need for the Divine Presence to be in their home as long as they are acting civilly towards each other. A married couple is a union of two opposites – both spiritually and physically. Without the Hashem’s presence in their home, they can’t even stand to be in each other’s company!

Our sages list a number of transgressions which result in the Divine Presence leaving a person’s home. I prepared this list as an aid for preparing for Rosh Hashana, thus enabling us to identify our shortcomings, get rid of them, and fine-tune our marriage accordingly by bringing the Divine Presence back into our home. They include the following:

  1. Immodesty. For Hashem to allow His Divine Presence to dwell in a couple's home, the man and wife must be modest and holy. The Torah says (Deuteronomy 23:15), “So that He should not see anything unseemly among you and would turn away from you.” If a woman wants the Divine Presence to dwell in her home, she must dress modestly, even in the privacy of her home. Hashem observes the laws of His holy Torah; consequently, He turns away from immodesty.
  2. Flattery. This doesn’t refer to giving a compliment, but it means telling evil that it’s good.
  3. Dishonesty. The Divine Presence can dwell only in a place of truth.
  4. Slander and Gossip. Hashem despises wanton speech, for our powers of speech were meant for holy purposes such as prayer.
  5. Malicious Jest. Hashem loves every human and is sorely grieved in an atmosphere of people making fun of others.
  6. Sadness. The Divine Presence departs from a place where there is no joy.
  7. Anger. Anger is the main reason that Divine Presence departs from a person's home. Marital peace requires an anger-free home.
  8. Dissatisfaction. Whatever their circumstances, a couple should always make every effort to be happy with their lot in life. The Torah warns (Deuteronomy 28:47), that calamity results "Because you did not serve the L-rd, your G-d, with happiness and with gladness of heart."
  9. Whining and Complaining. The single biggest thing guaranteed to bring down a harsh judgment on a person is whining and complaining, for they indicate that a person doesn't appreciate all the many blessings that the Almighty has given him/her.

Teshuva – penitence - not only mitigates harsh judgments, but it enables a person to connect with G-d. Once connected with Hashem, one’s life becomes much smoother. Without teshuva, life becomes a thorny path of endless tribulations. Without Divine assistance, even the smallest undertakings are difficult and unsuccessful. Such a life is full of bitterness and suffering.

People receive tribulations to encourage them to atone for their transgressions. When people scrutinize their own deeds and atone for them, the Almighty has no need to send them any additional suffering. As such, nothing can fine-tune a marriage like a bit of daily teshuva.

Blessings for a wonderful New Year 5780, LB


Cramming Syndrome

Cramming Syndrome 20.9.19
Karen and Richie were both physical education majors at the University of Maryland's College Park campus. Both were superb all-around athletes, each with a specialty: a remarkable gymnast, Karen was looking forward to a career as a fitness trainer and gymnastics coach while Richie aspired to be a top-level strength-and-conditioning expert and swimming coach. They had much in common and planned to get married after graduating. Meanwhile, you'd always find them together, whether in the same classes or mostly enjoying outdoor and athletic activities. They played tennis and golf together and on weekends they'd go on long bike rides along the old Potomac River towpath near Seneca, Maryland or drive down for sun & surf at Ocean City.

Just as Karen and Richie loved the same things, they hated the same things. Their pet hate was Organic Chemistry 202. This was a required course for phys-ed majors just as it was required for pre-med students. There was no way around it. Karen and Richie could easily breeze through most of their studies, but there was no way to breeze through Organic Chem – you had to sit yourself down at a desk and learn, then learn, then learn some more. Were it not for this nemesis, their university days would have been play-school paradise, but alas, there's always a bump in the road...

Having cut most of their classes, the happy-go-lucky boyfriend and girlfriend decided that the bald-headed nerd who taught Organic Chem couldn't teach them anything that wasn't in the textbook; all the formulas and types of compounds seemed clear, no different than what the instructor was writing on the blackboard, so why sit in class on a balmy Maryland springtime afternoon, when you could be sunbathing or water skiing on the Chesapeake Bay?

The clock never stopped ticking; minutes, hours, days and weeks transpired until the ax suddenly hovered above their necks – final exams. They had only three days to prepare for Judgment Day in Organic Chem. That's when the talk about cramming started...

Karen and Richie didn't really open a book until 48 hours before the final exam. A 452-page text book in Organic Chemistry is quite different from a 452-page novel. It's not something  a person can sail through. Sometime, one can struggle with a single solitary page for a week. So, how do you cram 452 pages of ions, anions, carbonates, oxides, alcohols, phenols and carbides in three days?

First, you pull all-nighters.

You would think that phys-ed majors and fitness freaks don't do things that are detrimental to their health. Not so, if they're hit with the cramming syndrome…

How does one go for two days without sleeping? Phys-ed majors or not, you destroy your body and your brain with over-the-counter No-Doze pills and drink Turkish coffee and RedBull as if they were water. In short, you become a zombie with big black circles under your eyes and heart palpitations at the ripe old age of 22.

After the exam, the campus couple crashed, and it took a good two weeks for them to recover from the trauma they brought upon their bodies. Is it worth it? OK, even if they did pass the test (barely), they didn't retain a single thing of what they crammed. Consequently, the cramming added nothing to their education or personal development, except for enabling them to get their degrees. And, that's the best-case scenario...

***

Don't think that the cramming syndrome is only characteristic of university students like Karen and Richie.  Many folks suffer from it too. All year long, they do what they like, forgetting that they too have a day of “final exams”, when the Heavenly Court examines a person's every deed, spoken word and thought for the entire year. This final exam is the annual judgment day, known as Rosh Hashana. This final exam is no joke – it's life and death, as we say in the Rosh Hashana liturgy, “Who by fire, who by flood, who by the sword, and who by a wild animal...”

How do we prepare for such a final exam? Who can possibly account for what they thought, said or did nine, six or even three months ago?

Fortunately, The Almighty gave us a week of "Selichot", when we ask forgiveness and move into repentance mode. Beginning this coming Saturday night, we simply admit to Hashem what we did wrong, ask His forgiveness and pray for His help in improving ourselves. Penitenec, or teshuva as we say in Hebrew, is the "spiritual shower" required to maintain one's spiritual hygiene, where people should assess themselves and rectify what needs correcting every single day.

Obviously, the best course of action is to devote an hour a day to personal prayer, when we examine everything we did in the last 24 hours and do our necessary teshuva. That way, there's no need for cramming the year's 365 days – which we can't possibly remember everything that requires correcting – into the few remaining days before Rosh Hashana. Yet, most people stall until the last week or the last three days. That's tough…

It's tough to cram in a week. Yet, our compassionate and merciful Father in Heaven knows that we're human, so He gives us a one-week cramming period every year before Rosh Hashana – it's called the Selichot Week. Let's get to work! Blessings for a wonderful Shabbat and a very happy New Year 5780, LB


5 Steps to Loving Yourself

Loving Yourself 17.9Many people mistakenly think that if a person loves himself, then he's a narcissist...

The world is utterly confused between narcissism, a definitely undesirable trait, and loving yourself, which is a key to your happiness, success and emotional health in addition to being the vital element in your relationship with yourself, with others and with the Creator.

Narcissism is excessive to exclusive interest in oneself and one's physical appearance. The narcissist is far from happy, for he or she craves praise and admiration. He wants to be the center of the show and needs everyone to tell him how great he (or she) is and looks. In that way, the narcissist is an emotional cripple, entirely dependent on compliment-handouts from others.

The person who loves himself is the exact opposite and entirely independent: he who loves himself doesn't need any outside reinforcement. He's happy with himself, no matter how seemingly unsuccessful or limited he might be.

If we don't love ourselves, we won't be able to love anyone else. A person who doesn't love himself is never satisfied with himself or with anyone around him, he's not even satisfied with the Almighty!

If you want to be happy right now, and not wait until you become rich, get elected to the Senate or find the spouse of your dreams, then you must learn to love yourself. If you wait for the dream to materialize, you'll find that even then, you won't be truly happy, because loving yourself doesn't depend on that dream coming true either or on any other external condition.

Here's how to love yourself in a few easy steps: repeat these steps every day until they become second nature.

  1. Step #1: Look in the mirror, close-up. Don't focus on your clogged pores or on your broken nose (like mine; when I look east, my nose looks west). They mean nothing. Don't count your gray hairs, if you have them. Look into your eyes. See into the wonderful soul reflecting from those eyes. Do this for a whole minute, 60 seconds. If you have tears in your eyes, that's fine. If you start crying, that's even better. If you blurt out, "I love you," that's wonderful. This just might be the first time that you looked at your real self.
  2. Step #2: Repeat the first of the Rambam's 13 Principles of Faith. Encapsulated, tell yourself that you believe that everything comes from the Almighty and that He alone did, does and will do everything. 
  3. Step #3: The Torah tells us that we are Hashem's children and that His love for us is unfathomable. For sixty seconds, tell yourself, "G-d loves me." Don't simply repeat it – contemplate it and feel gratitude in your heart for the zillions of life's blessings. Now, move on.
  4. Step #4: Think now that since the Creator is a loving Father-in-Heaven, and He loves me, He therefore created me with everything I need to be happy. Think how your apparent shortcomings are not shortcomings at all, because the Creator doesn't give you what you don't need to fulfill your purpose in life. Now, look for your good points. Think of your three most beautiful qualities.
  5. Step #5: Tell yourself how much you love yourself, just the way you are, right now – the whole package as is. Since you love yourself, you're now ready to love everyone else. Think now how much you love life and love G-d. Thank Him for these 5 steps and now have a great day!

Can you imagine what you've just accomplished?

A person who loves himself will never lie, because he or she doesn't need to invent stories to try and make themselves look great in other people's eyes.

A person who loves himself will never speak lashon hara, evil speech, about anyone.

A person who loves himself will never ridicule any other human being.

A person who loves himself will never flatter evil or evil people, and tell them out of fear (of being accepted or of losing a job) that they or their evil deeds are wonderful.

The four sins of lying, evil speech, ridicule and flattery sever a person from the Almighty. The soul, in order to be happy, must be connected to the Almighty. By loving yourself, not only do you maintain that connection, but you smile all day long. Nothing in the world is better. Every blessing, LB


Overweight, Lustful Eating and Self-Image

Overeating 16.9.19
Let's define "lustful eating": lustful eating means that we eat when we don't need to, either out of boredom, compulsion, as a means of trying to console ourselves or as source of recreation, when we strive to satiate our bodily appetites with no regard to our spiritual and physical health. Lustful eating is the opposite of healthy eating. The three main types of lustful eating are eating unhealthy foods, overeating and binge eating. Lustful eating is not only detrimental to the body, but to the soul as well, as we'll soon see.

According to the Rambam, lustful eating the #1 cause of all disease, even the nasty big C, the disease that won’t don’t even like to mention by name. Lustful eating also creates an iron curtain between a person and Hashem. So, a person can’t possibly get close to Hashem until he or she overcomes their lust for eating. These are not my words, but the words of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev.

Western society’s preoccupation with pleasure seeking and appetite fulfillment is fertile ground for lustful eating, but it's not the root of it. The root, as many psychotherapists will tell you, is a low self-image. A person who can't see his or her own self worth will suffer from being overweight and out of shape, but they won't go past a mere one-time paltry effort because they don't believe that they are capable of succeeding in getting into shape. I see this time and again in my clients; just as important as teaching them healthy eating habits and exercise, I work with them on their self image. Nine out of ten people with weight and fitness problems, in my experience, had or have an abusive parent who robbed them of their feeling of self worth from a tender age. Let's go deeper. 

In Likutei Moharan, Part 1,Torah 47, Rebbe Nachman says: “One who is entrenched in the lust for eating is far from the truth, and severe judgments hover over him."  

The lustful eater encounters Rebbe Nachman's above teaching and protests vehemently: "What, is Rebbe Nachman calling me a liar, just because I'm into the cookie jar more than I should be or just because I down a pizza with a couple cans of cola?" Cherished friend, if you eat like that, you can't possibly care too much about yourself. What's even worse is that you're unaware how much Hashem cares about you, loves you and wants to be healthy. What's worse yet is that you don't believe how much Hashem cares about you, loves you and wants to be healthy. Sorry, but in that respect, the lustful eater is far from the truth.

Hashem loves you - guaranteed - and He wants you to love yourself. All the negative comments that the abusive person in your life made when you were little were the biggest lies in the world. Tell yourself over and over how much Hashem loves you; say it to yourself a thousand times a day. Once you internalize it, the distance between you and looking and feeling your best is much much shorter. Hashem loves you - I promise. G-d bless for your good health!


A Spiritual Solution for Strong Bones

Spiritual Calcium
The same principles that apply to the material world apply to the spiritual world, as we see in this week's Torah portion, Ki Tetze.

"…and you were tired and exhausted and did not fear G-d." (Deuteronomy 25:18).

The Torah doesn't waste a single letter, much less a single word. So why is the Torah seemingly repetitious in the above passage when it says "tired and exhausted"? Wouldn't one description of fatigue have been sufficient here?

Rebbe Nachman of Breslev teaches (Likutei Moharan I:67.8) that when a person prays without intent in his heart, he arrives to a state of "soul fatigue", when the slightest spiritual tasks seem to be heavy burdens. This tiredness of the soul causes a weakening of the bones.

In fact, virtually all of our physical problems stem from spiritual problems. Your nutritionist and your osteopathic surgeon may be baffled at your bone problems, especially if you eat naturally and consume a lot of calcium. This is the very reason why a truly holistic health coach must be abreast in the health of your soul as well as in the health of your body, as Rebbe Nachman reveals to us.

The remedy for this soul fatigue is to pray with such fervor and intent to the extent that he can feel the prayer in all his bones, as it is written, "All my bones shall say, Hashem, who is like You?" (Psalm 35:10). Such prayer, explains Rebbe Nachman, revives the soul and thereby solves the problem of soul-fatigue. In addition, it adds vitality to the bones.

Simply speaking, prayer with strong intent is spiritual calcium.

With Rebbe Nachman's teaching in mind, we can now understand the above passage much better. The two adjectives "tired and exhausted" are by no means superfluous. Whereas "exhausted" indicates physical fatigue, "tired" comes to describe a tiredness of the soul, or soul fatigue. We can also readily understand what the Midrash teaches, that the spiritually-weak lagged behind and outside the protective Cloud of Glory and therefore became easy prey for Amalek, because they had bad cases of spiritual osteoporosis.

A person's physical fatigue frequently stems from spiritual fatigue. One doesn't tire when he or she is doing something that they truly enjoy. To go a step further, the lack of desire that leads to spiritual fatigue also leads to sadness and depression. Wherever there are sadness and depression, the Divine Presence takes leave. In spirituality, there is no void. When the Divine Presence leaves, Amalek and the forces of evil descend on a person and overcome him immediately.

According to Rebbe Nachman's advice, there's a remedy for soul-fatigue, a way for one to rescue himself from the clutches of Amalek, the evil inclination, sadness and depression, which all go together since negative emotions stem from the evil inclination. How? A person should simply begin to pray with enthusiasm and with heartfelt intent until he can feel the warmth of the prayer in his entire body. If there's no "heart" in the prayer, and it's lip-service alone, then on a spiritual plane, one's heart becomes distanced from one's soul, a phenomenon that causes soul-fatigue. Under the principle of "divide and conquer", the more one's heart and soul are separated, the greater the soul-fatigue and the easier it is for the evil inclination - "Amalek" - to attack and subdue a person.

The good news is that anyone can rescue himself from Amalek and from soul-fatigue. Let him start by reciting one of his daily blessings with joy and enthusiasm. Imagine how miserable life would be without eyes; now, recite pokeach ivrim with all the joy in the world. Thank G-d, if you're reading this, you haves eyes! How fortunate you are to have such a wonderful gift from Hashem. Imagine how embarrassing life would be if you had to walk around all day long wearing a dusty burlap sack with holes for the head and the arms and nothing more. Now, get dressed and recite malbish arumim with such fervor and happiness, really thanking Hashem from the bottom of your heart.Try it - you'll feel better in an instant. This is the way we should approach all of our prayers - observing our blessings, taking nothing for granted and showing our gratitude with enthusiasm. This is the basis of the type of fervent, enthusiastic prayer that not only adds energy to our souls but cures our bones. Try it and have a lovely Shabbat!


7-Minute Exercise Routine for Total Beginners

7-Minute Exercise Routine for Beginners from lazerbrody on Vimeo.

Today is your last day for excuses that you can't exercise, or you're too out of shape, or two old, or whatever. This is the routine that I give to my beginning diet and conditioning clients, which anyone can do on their own level. In seven short minutes, you'll fuel your metabolism to the point that your body will burn more calories long after you complete this exercise. What's more, the "endorphins" - the "feel-good hormones" that result from exercise, begin to flow after 7 minutes of exercise. Here's the routine:

Minute #1 - Warmup - 30 seconds of neck circles (15 seconds in each direction) followed by 30 seconds of arm circles (15 seconds in each direction)

Minute #2 - Warmup - 30 seconds of seal claps followed by 30 seconds of hula hoops (15 seconds in each direction)

Minute #3 - Cardio - 60 seconds of marching, stepping as high as is comfortable for you

Minute #4 - Strength - 60 seconds of curl & press, with dumbbells or any other weighted objects you have at home, like bottles of water

Minute #5 - Flexibility - 60 seconds of side lunges

Minute #6 - Combining cardio with strength and flexibility - 60 seconds of squats

Minute #7 - Cooldown, hug yourself while bending down, followed by a big upward stretch and thanks to the Almighty!

Do this every day, and wait and see how good you feel! G-d bless for great health, LB


Bouncing Back from a Setback

Winner's Code 9.9
Sure, it really hurts. You lost the match. Maybe you just now flunked your driving exam. Or maybe you just received a rejection letter from the school, job or marital prospect of your choice. Anyone hurts all over from a setback that's natural and expected. Remember, we're flesh and blood…

The 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 strength of character than staying on our feet, without ever haven 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 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. When we do, we usually discover that our second effort yields much better results and reveals potential that we didn't even know that we had. Remember, the setbacks all come from a loving Father in Heaven and they're all for our very best. Now smile, because it's all good. Yours always, LB