Advice and Guidance

Beware: The Expanding Succoth Waistline

Succoth 10.10.19
Holiday to Shabbat to holiday, with heavy meals and tons of snacking on the way. Don't forget that a minute on the lips is a year on the hips, if you're not careful. That's why this post is so vital before the upcoming week of Succoth:

This post, if you follow it, will aid your health and save you from needless holiday weight-gain.

Parenthetically, I don't believe in dieting of any kind - a person who learns how to live and maintain a healthy lifestyle doesn't need to diet...

Most diets are unhealthy fads that lead to short-term, unhealthy weight loss and long-term frustration, metabolic and/or nutritional imbalance, ailments of all kinds and weight gain. The extremes go from Paleo/Primal on one end that tells you to eat all the meat and fat you want but stay away from carbs, to total vegan on the other end that tells you that an egg, sardine or chicken breast will kill. Neither extreme approach is in accordance with Torah and the Rambam's timeless advice on nutrition. But, let's save that discussion for another time. Meanwhile, the best advice is what I call "Ivri", eating just the way our forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did. That means eating foods as close to the way Hashem created them, with no interference from food manufacturers and genetic modifiers. With that said, let's talk about Succoth...

In Judaism, Succoth is the annual "joy harvest", where we gather happiness for an entire year. The problem is that with multiple daily festive meals, visiting friends and relatives in their Succas and partying all week long, most people gather pounds in addition to the joy. And, the excess weight eats away at the joy…

Today's "Strength and Serenity" advice might save you from adding two inches to your waistline this Succot. None of us want to go the route of gaining needless weight, so let's do a little holiday-eve preparation with this food for thought:

The perennial post-holiday problem of many Jewish people is the added calories, pounds, flab, and cholesterol of a week of eating and rejoicing in the Succah. As Brodyhealth.com is committed to the health of body, mind, and soul, we've composed a few guidelines to combat the expanding Succoth waistline.

Beware of empty calories: empty calories come from nutrient-scant foods, especially manufactured products, fast food and junk food. Stick to what I call nutrient-dense foods, where you get the most nutrients from each calorie consumed. Here, the winners are fresh vegetables, fresh foods and naturally dried (not roasted or salted) seeds and nuts. Nutrient-scant foods (cakes, pastries, sweets, soft drinks and liquor) are outright dangerous to the body.

Beware of the cakes: Many people want to make a blessing on the Succa every time they enter it. But, one really shouldn't make a blessing unless he eats something. For that reason, many folks eat cake ("mezonos", at a minimum amount of a little over and ounce) so they can say the "Leshev B'Succa" blessing, the blessing to sit in the Succa. If a person eats 2 ounces of cake 3 times a day, that adds another 840 calories to his daily intake. The Melitzer Rebbe shlit'a says that one should make a "Leshev B'Succa" blessing only when eating a proper meal that includes washing your hands and breaking bread. So, don't eat cake for the purpose of making a blessing to sit in the Succa. If a person eats 3 average-sized portions of cake a day for the 9 (outside of Israel, 8 in Israel) days of the Succoth/Simchat Torah holiday, he'll gain more than two pounds. We suggest eating sliced fresh carrots or sliced green apples instead of the cake.

Beware of the liquor: Many people make a "Lechayim" every time they visit the Succa of a friend and relative. In Israel, quite a few people that barely touch alcoholic beverages all year long keep them on hand to serve guests, and end up toasting glass-per-glass with the guest. A one-ounce shot of vodka or 86-proof Whiskey is 70 calories, while an ounce of a 72-proof liqueur such as Kahlua or Banana Liqueur is a hefty 117 calories. 3 "Lechayims" a day is enough to pick up another half pound during the week of the holiday. Adding that to the cakes (see above), you've already gained 2.5 pounds during Succoth. Putting the weight on is so much easier than taking it off.

Beware of sweet beverages: Succoth is a time when parents allow the Pepsi and the Coke to flow freely all week long. Now hear this - an 8-ounce glass of Coke Classic is a whopping 97 calories, just as caloric as the equivalent amount of beer or of a slice and a half of bread. A person that drinks 6 glasses of cola a day will gain almost a pound on Succoth, plus wreck his/her teeth and gall bladder in the process. We suggest that you reach for the mineral water, sparkling water, or herb tea instead, for they have zero caloric value.

Beware of snacks: People like to munch in the Succa. We all know that you can't eat one Frito or potato chip - therefore, those plastic bags empty fast. One ounce of fritos, potato chips, or our Bamba and Bisli add another 160 calories to your calorie-galore score. If a person drinks two glasses of cola and consumes two ounces of snack foods a day, he'll gain over a pound during Succoth. Again, fresh carrot and cucumber sticks are a virtually non-caloric and healthy replacement for the junky snack foods. And, if you want something sweet, try Madjool dates or dark chocolate that's 85% cocoa or more, but limit yourself to 2 dates or 2 chocolate squares a day.

So, with the cakes, the l'chayims, the cokes and the snacks alone - without the heavy meals that include kugel and fat meats, you've already gained close to 5 pounds. And, if you drink diet beverages and use artificial sweeteners, you might not gain the weight but you'll be likely to suffer from headaches and anxiety.

True, tradition is important; that is, as long as it doesn't ruin your health. At the Brody homestead, whole-grained rice, buckwheat groats and quinoa have replaced fried farfel and oil-dripping kugel. We don't fry, but broil and bake. We eat loads of veggies and fresh fruit, and drink local mineral water. Fish and lean poultry have replaced the lamb and veal, and we eat beef sparingly. Dessert is homemade applesauce, fresh cantaloupe cubes, a square of 85% (minimum) chocolate or an almond-stuffed fresh date. Our bread is home-baked and whole-grain, preferably spelt with minimal or no yeast. We want to control what enters our bodies; the manufacturers care about making money, not about our health. That's why we don't buy their products. Our bodies weren't designed to digest the myriad of chemical additives and preservatives that they force-feed us. By the way, we do male a l'chaim over a glass of a fine Land-of-Israel dry red wine, which is rich in rich in many antioxidants that contribute to cardiovascular health and other perks for the body, including fighting inflammation and blood clotting, as well as reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer.

The Rambam gives an important reminder - don't eat until you're full. The stomach resembles a washing machine - if you overload it, it can't do the laundry. By the same token, an overloaded stomach can't digest, resulting in indigestion, another common Succoth ailment.

A great way to combat the the expanding Succoth waistline is to walk for an hour a day. Better yet, while you're walking, talk to Hashem in personal prayer. That way, your body gets its exercise and your soul gets its nourishment, that is none other than connecting with Hashem. What could be better? BrodyHealth.com wishes you a happy and healthy Succoth with no indigestion and no expanding waistline, amen. If you need further advice, feel free to contact us.


Ten Tips for an Easy Yom Kippur Fast

Easy Fast YK
Fasting doesn’t necessarily mean suffering. There’s quite a bit we can do to alleviate the bodily and mental stress that normally accompanies a fast. Today, the day before the fast, follow the following guidelines:
 
1. Cut down your caffeine intake to minimize headaches. That means stop drinking coffee, tea, and cola at least eight hours before the fast, and preferably twenty-four hours before the fast.
 
2. Avoid salty, spicey, and fried foods on the day before the fast.
 
3. Avoid white sugar, white flour, and white rice. Eat whole-grained foods such as brown rice and whole-wheat bread or challa.
 
4. Drink a lot of water all day long.
 
5. Eat a good breakfast that includes fruits, veggies, eggs or sardines, and whole grains.
 
6. The pre-Yom Kippur meal (se'uda mafseket) should include baked or broiled fish, a veggy salad, consomme, a small portion of chicken or turkey, and a side dish of complex carbohydrates such as kasha or quinoa. Substitute sweet deserts with watermelon or other water-retaining fresh fruit, and a cup of herb tea with a whole-grain cookie.
 
On Yom Kippur:
 
7. The more you immerse yourself in prayer, the less you'll think about food.
 
8. Rest between prayers. Don’t run around outside, especially in the hot sun. Save your voice for prayers. Idle talking will make you thirstier, and will detract from the holiness of the day.
 
After the fast:
 
9. Drink two glasses of water, and then eat solids gradually, so as not to shock the digestive system. Begin with fruit, like plums or grapes. The worst thing people do is to consume pastries and soft drinks, or “lekach un bronfan” (cake and liquor) right after the fast (these are unhealthy anytime, all the more so right after the fast when they give your body a shock of glucose).
 
10. Forty-five minutes to an hour afterwards, one can eat a balanced meal with protein, complex carbohydrates, and vegetables. After eating, relax for an hour with your favorite book (preferably Gemara of the laws of Succoth from Shulchan Oruch) and your favorite beverage, then begin constructing your Succa.
 
Attention diabetics, heart patients, folks with high blood pressure, and people whose health depends on regular medication - you must be especially careful to ask your doctor if you are capable of fasting, and then consult with your local rabbi, giving him the doctor's exact opinion. For many such people, it is a mitzva not to fast on Yom Kippur.
The Israel Cancer Association recommends that cancer patients not fast without approval from their physicians. Fasting could cause considerable discomfort in cancer patients, who need a lot of liquids to alleviate side effects of chemotherapy. Again, first consult the doctor and then the rabbi. Give the rabbi all the details that you received from the doctor.
Don't let children (boys under the age of 12 or girls under the age of 11) be overzealous. Make sure they eat on time.

With G-d's blessing and the above guidelines, you'll have an easy fast. May all of us be signed and sealed in the Book of Long and Happy Lives for the best year ever, amen!


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


Finding Your Spiritual Guide

Spiritual guide 5.9.19
Here's a thought on this week's Torah portion, "Shoftim":

"A prophet from your midst, from your brethren, like me, shall Hashem your G-d establish for you; to him shall you heed..." (Deuteronomy 18:15).

How can we recognize the true prophet, the spiritual leader that the Torah refers to in the above passage?

The Torah itself asks, "How can we know the word that Hashem has not spoken?" (ibid 18:21). Even more perplexing is what Rashi says here, "Don't listen to him unless he's an expert for you and a known tzaddik like Elijah on Mount Carmel who sacrificed from a platform during the time that platforms were forbidden."

We're left with a perplexing question: how can a simple person possibly determine who is the genuinely righteous spiritual guide that he should listen to?

Two yeshiva boys who came from two different Chassidic groups were once arguing who is greater, A's rebbe or B's rebbe. Their debate became so vocal that the Mashgiach[1] of the Yeshiva overheard them. On the spot, he summoned both students. He asked young-man A, "Do you know how to say the Ata Chonantanu blessing[2] by heart?" Young-man A rattled off the blessing with ease, in one breath. The Mashgiach then turned to young-man B and asked, "Can you say the Vatodienu blessing by heart, the blessing that we say during Kiddush when Yom Tov comes out on Motza'ei Shabbat[3]?"

Young-man B's face flushed with embarrassment. He stuttered, made a few abortive attempts, but he couldn't recite the Vatodienu blessing by heart.

The Mashgiach consoled young-man B and said, "Don't be ashamed, because I don't even know how to recite the Vatodienu blessing by heart - in fact, I don't think that anyone does. Do you know why? We say the Ata Chonantanu blessing every single week on Motza'ei Shabbat, when Shabbat is over. As such, everyone knows how to differentiate between the holy and the mundane. Yet, we rarely say the Vatodienu blessing - sometimes an entire year or two can go by without having a Yom Tov fall right after Shabbat. In like manner, few of us can differentiate between holy and holy."

With an understanding smile, the Mashgiach turned to young-man A and said, "Your rabbi is your gateway to Heaven; he knows your soul, your talents and your unique qualities, your strengths and your weaknesses. But your learning partner's rabbi knows his. There is no one single spiritual expert and guide - each person has his according to the inclinations of his soul and Divine providence. Therefore, respect each other, and respect each other's rabbis. Both are holy."

The Mashgiach's analogy is alluded to in Rashi's above commentary, "an expert for you", for you in particular. Each righteous spiritual guide enjoys special Divine assistance for those who earnestly seek his help and advice. Since a truly righteous individual is accustomed to nullifying himself, he is sensitive to the needs of others. Still, we haven't answered our original question: How can a simple person possibly determine who is a genuinely righteous spiritual guide that he should heed?

The answer is simple: if the spiritual guide is capable of identifying a person's spiritual weaknesses, even if the latter individual doesn't know how to determine them on their own, then this is probably your "personal expert". This is what the above Torah passage hints at when it says, from your midst - Hashem helps the truly righteous spiritual guide to see a person's inner spiritual dimensions so that he can help that person get closer to Hashem. And, by virtue of his sensitivity to his students and to those who seek his help, he is able to identify what bothers them and provides them with the needed remedy to cure their aching souls. Also, one truly loves his or her "personal expert" even when he chastises them. So, if he scolds you and you still love him, listen to him, for that's your true spiritual guide, your "personal expert".

Blessings for a wonderful Shabbat and weekend, LB

[1]    Academic supervisor

[2]    The blessing made during the Shmona Esrei of Maariv on Saturday night, which is the blessing that thanks Hashem for differentiating between the holy and the mundane.

[3]    Saturday night


Five Vital Questions to Ask Your Physician

5 Questions Physician
One of my main tasks as a health coach is to refer people to the proper medical professional to attain more specialized care for their health issue, whether it's a cardiac problem, diabetes, or any other chronic ailment. As a health coach, my job is to keep healthy people healthy, or even healthier, and to help ailing people to find the best proper treatment.

It's not enough that you find the right physician. It's imperative to ask that physician the right questions. Here are the five most vital questions one needs to ask, not only in relieving the chronic condition, but in improving overall health:

  1. Should I lose weight, maintain my weight or gain weight?
  2. What are the foods I need to eat and what must I avoid?
  3. What is the best type of exercise for me, including recommended frequency and intensity?
  4. Should I limit alcohol, caffeine, or anything else from my diet?
  5. How does stress affect my particular situation and how can I avoid it?

Any treatment or medications that ignore the vitally-needed answers to the above questions will be only partial at best in its effectiveness. Yet, by rectifying diet, exercise, weight control and stress, one will not only improve his or her quality of life but in many cases, overcome the health challenge altogether.

What's more, don't ever forget Who the real Healer is. Prayer, charity and good deeds always help. G-d willing, we hope to do a separate post soon in the vital questions to ask your rabbi or spiritual guide in coping with any health ailment.

At any rate, when choosing the right physician, keep in mind that if he or she does not exercise or lives an unhealthy lifestyle, they in all likelihood won't be able to help you live a healthy lifestyle. Health professionals should be role models and should be living a healthy lifestyle. If they don't, proceed with caution.

One important note - before a fast day like Tisha B'Av or Yom Kippur, if you have a health issue, consult your physician - then your rabbi - before you fast. Meanwhile, have a wonderful Shabbat and a meaningful and easy Tisha B'Av fast. 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.


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


The Wallflower

Wallflower 26.6
Dear Rabbi Lazer,

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

Dear Melanie,

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


Hubby Wants a Handout

Handout 19.6
Dear Rabbi Brody,

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

Dear HJ,

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


The Love Barometer

Love Barometer 31.5
Dear Rabbi Brody,

I'm one of your non-Jewish readers, but since I consider you both my health and spiritual coach, I depend on you for body-soul guidance. So first of all, thanks to you for opening your heart and for being there for me, and thank you for your lovely new website. You have an uncanny way of writing and saying what I always need to hear.

Here's my issue: I've been dating someone for 6 weeks, and he already says that he loves me and wants to marry me. He seems special, but this is really too fast for me, and to be honest, my head is more than a little bit in the clouds. On the other hand, I'm afraid of losing this dude. What do I do?

Sincerely, Connie from Southern USA

Dear Connie,

“He already says that he loves me…” - Real love is only possible after marriage, when the two partners have a mutual commitment and a common goal. What people in today’s world refer to as “love” is basically nothing more than animal urges and Hollywood-style flash-in-the-pan infatuation that is ever so short-lived as soon as those urges are temporarily satisfied. To be candid, lust is not love, and many people discover this only after they’ve been badly hurt and taken advantage of. I don’t want that to happen to you, Connie.

At any rate, you can try this "love barometer" on your boyfriend - it's simple and foolproof:

1) How often does he think about you: Once a day, once an hour, once a minute? This is reflected better by deeds (notes, phone calls, text messages, small acts of kindness, little presents, etc.) than by words.

2) Ask him if he knows what makes you happy and what makes you sad. If he answers that he can't possibly know the answer because he doesn't know you well enough, then his proclaimed love for you is none other than an illusion. How can he love what he doesn't know?

3) Is he a good listener? Does he value the things you say and treat you with respect? Don't confuse lustful flattery with respect.

4) When he speaks to you, close your eyes and listen to his voice: Is there friendship, kindness, and compassion in that voice, or only lust? Don't let physical attraction overwhelm your good judgment.

5) Is he interested in your family background? Is he interested in meeting your parents and taking you home to meet his? This is a sure-fire sign of an individual with serious and honorable intentions. On this point, if he passes the test so far, I urge you to meet his parents and other people who are close to him. One’s family and friends can oftentimes say quite a bit about a person.

6) Does he talk to you about his goals, dreams, and aspirations? Are they materially oriented or spiritually oriented? Can you identify with them?

In picking a partner for life, you're better off using your brain than your heart. Is the person kind and considerate? Is he even-tempered? Is he decent? Is he dependable? Is he modest? Does he come from a family with healthy interpersonal relationships? Do you have a common goal? In order to make a decision, you need to do some serious homework and check out this guy.

Once again, meet his parents. If he has a connection with a clergyman, by all means make an appointment with that clergyman. Talk to his friends and acquaintances. Speak with his roommates or colleagues. Make sure there are no skeletons in the closet like substance, gambling, or porno addictions. You'll be saving yourself from unpleasant surprises and raising your chances for future success.

Don't worry - if he really cares about you, you won't lose him in the extra few weeks that you’ll need to be doing your legwork and homework. If he's only trying to use you for a good time, then let him walk and good riddance. Whatever you do, don't let meaningless coffee-house expressions of love make your head spin.

Connie, the most important effort in finding the right mate is prayer - the more the better. Keep me posted. Blessings and smiles always, LB