Spiritual Health

Curing the Age-Old Plague

At this time of the year during the Counting of the Omer, Rebbe Akiva's 24,000 students died because they didn't properly respect one another. We still mourn them, almost 2,000 later, because we haven't yet corrected their sin. We're all still guilty of intramural hate. Do you know why? We haven't yet learned the lesson of the Four Sons on Seder night. Let me explain, with an amazing story from fifty years ago, about my father, of blessed memory...


Fruit of the Soul

In this special lesson for the month of Shvat, we learn about the four types of fruit that our sages speak about. They are:

1) Fruit of the field and tree - vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds

2) Fruit of the womb - our children

3) Fruit of our labors - the result of our career, trade, professional and job efforts

4) Fruit of the soul - one's emuna, prayer and Torah.

All the above four types have one very significant common denominator...


SCS: Spiritual Cataract Surgery

For everything in the physical word, there is an equivalent in the spiritual world. In fact, the spiritual equivalent is the source and spiritual root of that object in the physical world. For example, the same way that the light of the sun acts in photosynthesis to sustain a plant, Divine light acts upon a soul to sustain it in a strikingly similar manner. Just as we have cataract operations to correct cloudy vision in this world, there is SCS, "Spiritual Cataract Surgery" to better the soul's vision. If a person is unhappy in any way, he or she should strongly consider the option of SCS. Learn all about it in today's eye-opening and eye-healing podcast.

Click here for your free mp3 download of this podcast; you are entitled to listen to it on your own device and to pass it on to others as well, courtesy of "Emuna Beams.


7 Steps to Preventing a Panic Attack

Preventing Panic 29.10
To prevent a panic attack, it's important to remember how and why it's happening. King David, the greatest psychotherapist who ever lived, understood the human soul better than anyone else. He said, "Happy is the person whose strength is in You" (Psalm 84:6). In other words, the moment a person realizes that he or she cannot handle a situation on their own, and they turn to the Almighty for strength, then they immediately neutralize panic and negativity. Understand that panic comes from the evil inclination, to disarm and disable a person so that he or she cannot serve Hashem. Our sages in the Gemara teach that no one has the power to overcome the evil inclination on their own. We all in varying degrees are susceptible to panic, but we overcome it as soon as we throw all our problems into Hashem's lap. In the same vein, Rabbi Chaim of Volozyn osb"m said that the spiritual ploy of overcoming any fear or anxiety is simple to remember and repeat ein od milvado,  "There is nothing or no one but You, Hashem!"

Therefore:

Step One of preventing a panic attack is to remember Hashem,

Step Two is to repeat "ein od milvado,  There is nothing or no one but You, Hashem," seven times.

Step Three is to ask the Almighty for help - call his Name out load, be vocal, even yell or scream if that helps you.

Step Four is to get the endorphins (feel-good hormones) flowing. How? Try one of these options: 

    a. Do as many pushups as you can;

    b. Run around the block or jog in place for two minutes;

    c. Do ten burpees.

Step Five is to take ten deep breaths, inhaling as deep as you can and exhaling as slow as you can.

Step Six is to sniff the aroma of lavender oil, which is known for being soothing and stress-relieving. It can help your body relax.

Step Seven is to call a time out, sit or walk in a quiet place, and speak to Hashem and once again, ask for His help and guidance; He'll be glad to give it to you.

Panic and the above 7 steps are mutually exclusive. But, as preparing for war, we must practice maneuvers. Don't wait for a panic attack to implement the above steps - you can do them anytime and they'll make you feel better. Yet, once we never forget Hashem and we always remember "ein od milvado,  There is nothing or no one but You, Hashem," we safeguard ourselves against any and all sorts of panic, fear and anxiety. Try it - it works and has been tested under the most extreme of challenges. Every blessing, LB


Powerlifting for the Mind

KB Gemara
Power-lifting? That's lifting heavy weights, what trainers call "resistance training". What could possibly be power-lifting for the mind?

Pick up a Gemara. Nothing in the world will build your brain muscle like a Gemara. And it's the toughest form of resistance training too - wait till you see the resistance that you get from the Yetzer Hara (evil inclination) the minute you decide to pick up a Gemara.

I invite you to visit an old age home in the ultra-Orthodox areas of Jerusalem and Bnei Brak. Don't be alarmed when you walk into the Bet Midrash (study hall, which every Charedi old age home has), and you'll find two spry nonagenarians animatedly waving their hands in the air, banging on the table and yelling at each other while arguing a point in Talmudic logic and debate. There's no one here with Alzheimer's - these old gents have been doing resistance training for their brains all their lives. Maybe many of their body functions are limited, but they suffer no atrophy of the mind. Their brains work hard.

The Koreans have always been pioneers in fitness. It's no surprise that the Talmud (Mishna and Gemara) has become a smash bestseller in Korea. The Koreans too want to strengthen their brains... 

How is it that Alzheimer's is so rare in the Torah world? While 11% of the general population in the USA over age 65, and 32% of the population over the age of 85 suffers from Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, the estimated numbers are less than a tenth of that among Torah scholars. Take for example the great spiritual leaders of recent years, such as Rav Shach, Rav Leib Steinman shlit'a, Ravi Vosner and Rav Elyashiv, all of sacred and blessed memories, who lived past 100 years old and had crystal-clear razor-sharp minds until their final days on earth.

What is it about the Gemara that strengthens the mind so much? First of all, it's Divine nutrition for the brain as opposed to the passive junk-food that most people feed their brains today. Second, understanding the Gemara requires conscious, sustained mental effort - it does for the brain what an HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout does for the body. Even when a person gets up from his Gemara session, his mind is still contemplating what he learned, just like the after-burn effect of a good workout. Third, learning with a chavruta (learning partner) forces the Gemara learner to be alert, attentive and mentally sharp. There's no boredom here. In fact, chavruta-style learning is fantastic for those who are kinesthetic or audial learners, because of the back-and-forth give-and-take style of learning where it's OK to fly out of your chair, learn standing up or any way else you like.

Bottom line - for a strong mind, nothing beats a Gemara. Blessings always, LB


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.