Who’s Cracked the Code on Frum Finances?

After reading “Financial Realities in the Frum World”, “Introducing Your Children to the Financial Realities of Frum Life” and “Changing the Language of the Tuition Debate” – there were many questions, some answers and nothing really conclusive other than there needs to be a change in “the system”.

The whole tuition debate brings to my mind a larger question – how are people making it through the major milestones of frum life and what are people earning that they can exist on a year to year basis?! The numbers boggle the mind & do not seem to add up. If it’s a challenge to pay basic bills and tuition is “killing people” – now add in summer camp?! Then there comes the major frum milestones of bar-mitzva, Yeshiva|Seminary, chassonas and post-chassona set-up – how are people accomplishing this? Credits cards, tzedukah, home equity or ?????

Being in IT, I earn a decent income, B”H – yet we are just barely scraping by with no real money to put away in savings. It doesn’t seem to me that the majority of the frum world is earning 100K – some are certainly earning much more and I believe that they are in the 10% minority. $200K seems to be a very real guestimate as the needed income based on being able to live a middle class lifestyle, afford tuition, summer camp and be able to put away a few thousand per year to save for the major frum milestones.
Read more Who’s Cracked the Code on Frum Finances?

Two Paths To Rosh HaShanah and the Yomim Noraim – Which Will You Choose?

As a person enters the Yommim Noraim there are two, possible paths and feelings that they may experience:

Path #1:

The teshuvah process starts with our supplications during Slichos the week before Rosh Hashannah with prayers such as “To us Hashem is shame-facedness; unto You is Tzedukah”. The days of Slichos pass with deep introspection as the “Day of Judgment” looms ever closer. A sense of trepidation envelops us as we consider how will the scales of Judgment on this day be balanced? Will there be enough mitzvos to tip the scale of merit or the opposite, chas v’Shalom? Will we be written on the book of Life or ……

Rosh HaShannah arrives. While we partake of apples dipped in honey, angles tremble in the celestial spheres above – the world is being judged. Our prayers reflect their trembling and we fill them with supplication. Who can be found without flaws on this awesome day? We beseech Hashem to silence the Accuser and to bless our year with an abundance of life, children and sustenance. The shofar cries forth mirroring the sounds of the soul’s sobbing for deliverance.

The Ten Days of Teshuvah are spent with a keen awareness of how “Teshuvah, Tefillah and Tzedukah avert the severity of the decree!”. We work to add merit to ourselves so that any accusations can be erased and these merits can seal us in the Book of Life for a good and sweet year. We seek the forgiveness of those whom we may have wronged so that we may also be forgiven by Hashem in turn.

Yom Kippur is spent with tears of remorse as our prayers recount our sins and we lament our past. Neliah offers the last opportunity for teshuvah as “the gates of prayer are closing”.

Path #2:

Rosh Chodesh Elul ushers in the “month of accounting”. We take stock and reflect on how the past year was spent in avodas Hashem. It marks the second ascension of Moshe Rebbainnu on Har Sinai to receive the Second Tablets; “Just as the first 40 days were days of auspiciousness, so too are the days from Rosh Chodesh Elul until Yom HaKippor”….. We take advantage of Elul representing an “Ari Miklat”, a “city of refuge” where we utilized our time to complete any lacking in our avodas Hashem and to propel us forward to a state of “All of you are standing this day….”

With three weeks of introspection as well as increasing in Torah, prayer and gemilas chassudim – we turn to Hashem during Slichos and pray “The merciful Judge who answers the poor – answer us!”. While we indeed pray “To us Hashem is shame-facedness; unto You is Tzedukah” – our “shamefacedness” is from recognizing Your greatness. We feel transparent like a candle flickering under the blinding light of the sun at high noon. “unto You is Tzedukah” – we do not request to be judged measure for measure and receive only a limited shining of Your countenance [which would be “Tzedek”, “judgment”] but rather we pine for Your tedukah – an unearned and unlimited radiance of Your Shechinah [“Tzedukah”]. The month of Elul and the week of Slichos provides us the general preparation needed to enter into the coronation of our King:

The Shofar blasts forth as we completely submit to Your will. Yes, we request an abundance of blessings for life, children and sustenance but only so that we may fulfill Hashem’s ultimate desire to have a dwelling place in this material world.

The Ten Days of Teshuvah are spent striving for deeper levels of intimacy with Hashem through our teshuvah, tefillah and tedukah. We seek to repair our relationships since those who are beloved to the one we love, become beloved to us.

Finally, Yom Kippur arrives. We sing our viduy as we are cleansed with the sweat of our mitzvos and tears of joy – we have returned to who we really are and are united completely with our Heavenly Father. Yes, the gates are closing with Neliah – let them close – so that Hashem can be completely alone with His beloved bride – Klal Yisrael.

Two paths – each a 100% “kosher” derek in avodas Hashem. One emphasizes fear of Hashem; the other – love of Hashem. One emphasizes the lowliness of a person; the other – the greatness of Hashem. Each has an advantage the other doesn’t but:

Whereas tears unlock the gates of Heaven, joy bursts through its very walls….

May our teshuvah merit that we experience the sound of the Shofar HaGadol and surely we will be blessed with the ultimate of blessings – the return of our exiles to Zion and the building of the final Beis Hamikdash with the heralding of the complete Redemption.

Originally Posted Sept 21, 2006

How [Do] I Know I Made the Right Choice?

As I became frum [20 years ago at age 19 and fully observant by age 20] and for the first couple of years and afterwards, I would always question “How do I know I made the right choice?”. The answer I came up with then was:

• Everything physical is temporary.
• I believe in a soul.
• I believe in G-d.
• I believe in the Revelation at Sinai.

Those beliefs were the seeds that germinated into a firm conviction of making the choice to become frum with all that it entails. Of course having the commitment to learn four years in Yeshiva and the privileged of learning with VERY patient Rabbonim to field my questions and learning Torah only helped. However, I think one of the interesting dynamics of being a BT is that once you’ve turned your life upside down for something you believe, you will do it again if compelled to do so. So am I frum 20 years later because of habit, community pressure, family pressure, etc? How do I know I made the right choice?

I heard it once said that “Judaism is not a religion, it is a relationship.”. That really captures and underscores everything – I know this is the right choice because I am in a relationship with Hashem. A healthy relationship is a two way street where both define what needs to be contributed in order to sustain and nourish the relationship. So while I may have not initially thought to keep kosher, become shomer Shabbat, observe Taharas HaMipocha, daven 3x a day with a minyan, set times for Torah study etc. – since this is important to Hashem and I want a relationship with Him – then I accustom myself to these things (which may or may not come naturally (most don’t)) to foster our relationship.

Entering into the month of Elul, I am reminded of the verse by Shlomo HaMelech from Shir HaShirim “I am to my Beloved as my Beloved is to me” which makes up the acronym for Elul. So this concept of a relationship between Hashem and every individual Jew being compared to a marriage is not new and Elul is an opportune time to reflect on that.

Marriage has its phases – dating, newlywed and married life. These phases and how they play out in a BT’s experience deserves an article unto itself but the main point is – while dating and being a newlywed are times when feelings of love are overflowing – it is only during the 3rd phase – married life i.e. “I am together with you, no matter what, forever. I am willing to compromise, grow and build a life in partnership with you.” – that living that over time creates real commitment and true love. This 3rd phase is especially real to me because I’m no longer in 1rst & 2nd phases which are often characterized by the “wide-eyed” BT immersed in the beauty of Torah without obligations. Boruch Hashem I’m married, have 8 children [ages 15-1yr], and work as an IT Program Manager as part of an overall Torah lifestyle with all that it entails. Needless to say that while its very beautiful, its also has its challenges. At this stage in life and phase in my “marriage” with all of the “Orthonomics”, I often ask myself “Hey – you are now 40 and living a life based on beliefs and information you had at 19 – how do you know you made the right decision?”.

I know this is the right choice because I am in a relationship with Hashem. So while I may have gotten “married” at 19, I’m in a 20 year long marriage that has been a dynamic relationship filled with discovery, growth, ups, challenges and a love that comes from commitment, not convenience.

Now in Elul it is especially appropriate to review and deepen my “Shalom Bayis”, my relationship with Hashem as the pasuk says “I am to mt Beloved” first, then follows “my Beloved is to me.”.

Wishes for a shanah tovah U’metuka

Parenting by Choice – the Antidote to Today’s Bombastic Culture

Parenting by Choice – the Antidote to Today’s Bombastic Culture

If Jewish identity, pride and general “mentchlekeit, are of value to you and are goals for what you wish to instill in your children – you have more reason to worry than ever. For parents, teachers and Rabbis everywhere – this is the buzz. In a society where internet, TV, DVDs, movies, magazines, iPods and billboards that inundate in a torrential downpour without respite – no group or segment is left untouched (more like “unscathed”) by today’s “24/7-media-at-your-fingertips-and-everywhere-you-turn” culture. Is there an antidote?

Yes.

“Parenting by Choice”.

When my wife and I were parents with “three under three” to chase after, besides consuming tons of books and tapes on “Parenting” – we looked ahead of the game to find the kids who were the ripe fruits of their parent’s labor. We asked them (from teenagers to young adults) – why are you such a “good kid”? They were respectful, well-mannered, intelligent, playful – strong in Jewish pride and intentionally or unintentionally – brought the same out in their friends while living in everyday, “modern” America. Their consistent answer:

“Comes from the home”.

Not the school – not the Rabbi – the home.

Now, did we do a nationwide survey? No. Yet you don’t have to before seeing “a pattern” and a straight answer that resonates with obvious truth:

“Good kids come from the home” or rephrased – “Parenting by choice”.

So what about the kid(s) who seem to come from a home where the parent’s seem to everything “by the book”?! Patience….

We also did some discreet “interviewing” with parents who constantly “kvetched” about their kids or had some real “nachas” issues – were there any “patterns” there? You bet.

Before I “go there” – let’s just say it simply re-enforced what the “good kids” told us:

“Good kids come from the home” or rephrased – “Parenting by choice”.

Are you “Parenting by Choice”?

In HaYom Yom, “22 Teves” p. 13:

“Just as wearing tefillin every day is a mitzvah commanded by the Torah regardless of his standing in Torah, whether deeply learned or simple, so too is it an absolute duty for every person to spend a half-hour every day thinking about the Torah-education of children, and to do everything in his power – and beyond his power – to inspire children to follow the path along which they are being guided.”

As a parent and a IT Program Manager – “Parenting by Choice” means:

“Do we have a plan and are we working it”?

Any serious undertaking with a high value return needs planning and constant monitoring | refining to ensure the plan is being worked, the plan is realistic and is able to adjust to the “unknowns” – why should parenting be any different? Is there any more a serious and valuable undertaking than raising a child who is a ethical and practical benefit to society?

So while we may plan and save for which college our child will attend and what career path they will choose – how much detailed and daily thinking have we put into addressing how to mold our children in a nurturing way that will foster Jewish identity, pride and general “mentchlekeit?

6 Guidelines to “Parenting by Choice”

More of the patterns that we found by “good kids”, the parents who enjoy the fruits of “parental orthodontics” and advice from experts – could be distilled into 6 guidelines:

1. Do “Parenting by Choice” – have and work a plan.

Check – we covered that. The parting comment on this guideline is – doing “Parenting by Choice” means not claiming victimization by a bombastic society – it means taking back control from a bombastic society and culture.

2. Be a Model – don’t expect our children to do what we do not.

I hate this one. It is the hardest and the problem is – it is the “Golden Rule” of parenting. We all know the “Do-As-I-Say-and-Not-As-I-Do” approach breeds contempt and rebellion. The upside is – children, like all challenges in life, bring out the latent strengths within us to force us to be better than we ever conceived. My children force me to be accountable, to grow. As much as I hate it – it evokes more love to them for it.

Some common sub-themes that detail guideline #2:

a. Dedicated and growth centric – If I am not disciplined and striving for personal growth – what do I expect from my kids?
b. Submissive to a “Higher Authority – if we do not listen to a “Higher Authority” (e.g. Hashem, the Torah, Rabbinical guidance) – why should our kids listen to us?
c. Live Judaism with joy and priority
This doesn’t mean to always have a smile plastered on our face. Let me give some examples:

“Oy, Pesach’s (or Shabbos is) coming – all the cleaning, shopping, preparations….”.

“I have to go to Synagogue.” Or as one parent once told me: “I can attend any day except for Wednesday because I have karate class”. What messages are we sending with statements like these? Also, when was the last time you checked your facial expression during prayer? Do you look engaged or like you are doing your tax returns?

Even if we were to observe Judaism to the strictest degree yet broadcast through comments or our body language that it is a burden, we are “missing out” and we don’t attempt to convey the beauty of our rich, 3,300+ years of Jewish heritage with eagerness and enthusiasm – don’t expect “optimal results” or be surprised by kids who “aren’t interested”.

Another, major ingredient is: Martial and community (synagogue) harmony.

As a close friend of mine who directs a school for assisting troubled teenagers puts it – “You can always find marital or Jewish community discord as one of the top three factors contributing to creating troubled kids”. Examples: Synagogue politics or bad mouthing (instead of solution finding with) the Rabbi, school or criticizing your spouse.

3. Have Borders, Consistency & Fairness

Children and teenagers need rules and boundaries – they will test them but crave them they do. They need to know there are rules, there are consequences to their choices and consistency in the follow through to those consequences which will be “a punishment that fits the crime”.

Examples:

A child does not put their toys away. They can put their toys away or the toys will be taken for 1-3 days. Keep to the consequence no matter how much they whine.

A teenager behaves irresponsibly with a privilege – it is revoked. Keep to the consequence no matter how much they “freak-out”.

Don’t we as adults understand this? If we choose not to show up for work – what are the consequences?

4. Build self-esteem.

Guideline #3 doesn’t mean being a cruel dictator or a drill sergeant. We have to put thought into how to bring out the strengths of our children and how to help them, help themselves to compensate in their areas of growth.

Example: Help them think through their homework – don’t just give them the answers.

5. Ask some hard questions and give some honest answers about what we are allowing to influence our children.

Friends, TV, internet, cell phones – the list goes on and on. This is called “Parenting by Choice”, not “My-Kid-Is-My-Friend”. Take control. “Parenting by Choice” is a benevolent dictatorship – not a democracy. And yeah – it’s for Gen X and not the 1950’s. This is a loaded topic and would love to dedicate a future article to it.

Example: Do we have to use media for entertainment or can we find an interactive hobby (“interactive” meaning board games, physical activity – not “Wii” or any “gaming”) ?

6. Pray and pray some more.

To address an earlier statement – what about the parent’s that seem to “do it right” and their kids are not exactly a source of nachas (yet)?

The most important factor is, after all has been exhausted and done – we need to pray (constantly) to Hashem for our children’s success. Like a farmer who works, plows and sweats to plant and nurture a crop – if a drought ensues, if pestilence attacks or an early frost comes – all his work is for naught.

At the same time – if the farmer does nothing – why should he be surprised at a crop of weeds?

Easy? – NO – what’s the alternative? Parent/teacher meetings? Ritalin? Expulsion? Therapy? Drugs? Rehab? Stress? Aggravation? What we put in is, on average – what we get out. If we let a bombastic society put into our children in our stead – why should we be surprised if the result is a bombastic child or teenager?

Our energy as parents is going to be used one way or the other – to invest or to make amends – fortunately, we have influence on how our energy will be spent.

Be Empowered in “Parenting by Choice”

Go here as a great resource for “Parenting by Choice”. Great for listening online or being downloaded for on the go. Targeted at the “frum”, “traditional” and not yet observant – you’ll be refreshed by the real-world depiction and down to Earth, tips and tricks that get Parenting results.

About the author: Avrahom-Moishe Erlenwein is a Lubavitcher, with 7 children (14 years-4 years old), married to a “Women of Valor”, strives to actualize the imminent Redemption and works as a business consultant | IT Program Manager.

No Fasting This 17th of Tammuz & Tisha B’Av

Riding the wave of recent holydays has been a rush. In dizzying succession there’s being fueled by Pesach to relive the exodus from Egypt, gaining freedom from self-limitations, the journey of self-improvement through “Sefiras HaOmer”, breaking the barrier between Heaven and Earth with the Revelation at Sinai, receiving the Torah joyously anew and the humbling privilege of being chosen as Hashem’s nation by the advent of Shavous. Like an adrenaline junkie – I mentally scanned the Jewish calendar for the next signpost that will provide my next “fix”:

The “3 Weeks”.

I was jarred by the shock of being unexpectedly splashed by a stream of mental cold water. My euphoric balloon burst and I felt like I had slammed full force into a brick wall. Darkness. Silence.

The “3 Weeks”.

Images of no music, the sense of foreboding as I plan where & when to travel, rushing to get clothes washed and pre-worn, no showers, the acrid taste of an egg dipped in ashes, hunger pangs from fasting, isolation, shifting in constant discomfort on a hard, overturned bench; breaking my teeth on the unfamiliar and seemingly endless recital of Kinos, looking wearily for the clock to strike “chatzos” (afternoon) and the worst – not being able to greet or smile at the person in front of me as we silently lock eyes – all surged to the forefront of my mind:

The “3 weeks”.

Don’t get me wrong, one of the advantages of the “3 Weeks”, culminating with Tisha B’Av, is to be shaken out of complacency. We could travel through the Jewish year from one Rosh HaShannah to the eve of the following Rosh HaShannah, proverbaily pat ourselves on the back after weighing the preceding years observance of Jewish life – finding ourselves majority on the side merit while beseeching for mercy for the minority of our shortcomings. We could then proceed into the New Year and every year on the same cycle. Tisha B’Av is a disruptor, the litmus test, a reality check – did we really do what we needed to do? If we do not have the Temple, if we are not gathered from exile and have the ability to observe the entirety of the 613 mitzvos – then the answer is and the mirror of honesty we look into reflects a resounding “NO”; we’ve utterly failed despite good and accomplished efforts. Its not about evaluating how well did we live Jewishly but bottom line – did we end our exile? This bitter “failure” creates a fuel for a passionate return to Hashem during the days of Elul, slichos and the 10 Days of Teshuvah.

Despite that “perk” – the images come fast and strong – creating a visceral cringe. Even the Torah readings leading up to the “3 Weeks” seem to re-enforce this foreboding and serve as a preparation for these somber days of historic tragedy:

· Shelach – The sin of the spies & the source of our historic tragedies.
· Korach – the rebellion against Moses.
· Chukas – the death of Miriam & Aaron.
· Balak – the sin of idol worship.

Yet, it needs to be asked – does it really have to be this way? Do we have to resign ourselves to fasting this year as in previous years?

The Rambam (“Maimonides”) writes in his compilation and rulings of Jewish law that “a person should always view the world as evenly balanced – the next mitzvah to be done can tip the scales to bring the world to merit & bring the Redemption.”

Clearly, from a legal perspective – the answer is a resounding: “NO” – we will not have to fast this year if we choose to do something about it.

Do we have to wait for the “litmus test” and the 10 Days of Teshuvah? Is there a way to make a “pre-emptive strike”? What does the Torah empower us to do NOW? What are some of the catalysts based on our Sages recommendations?

· Return to Hashem with a feral intensity in increased learning, prayer, charity and mitzvos observed to the highest standards possible.
· Make a “siyum” during the “9 days” by completing the learning of a Tractate of Talmud.
· Observe Shabbos with accuracy & stringency.
· Learn the Rambam’s laws concerning the Building of the Temple (“Beis HaBechirah”).
· Learn the Prophets concerning the rebuilding of the Temple.
· Actively seek to create unity and peace.
· Perform self-less acts of kindness.

So the choice is really ours to “tip the scales” and there’s an opportunity that stands before us. True, while this choice is offered year round, the “3 weeks” are in actuality an auspicious time. Just as in the month of Nissan our Sages state “In the month of Nissan the Jews were redeemed, so to in the future will they be redeemed.” – similarly the Sages state:

(Yalkut Shimoni, Yermiyahu, 259 ): “The lion [Nevudchanetzar, who is referred to in the Bible as a lion–Yermiyahu 4:7] came on the month of the lion [Av] and destroyed the lion [the Temple, which is referred to in the Bible, especially with regard to the alter, as a lion], in order that the lion [G-d, of Whom is said ‘the lion roars, who shall not fear’–Amos 3:8] come on the month of the lion and rebuild the lion.”

The Rambam also brings the verdict “the days of fasting will be transformed to days of joy”.

So, if you have similar images of Tisha B’Av – let us be rebellious, fight history and use the empowerment of Torah and its mitzvos to bring the complete and true Redemption – NOW!.

Chanukah: Celebrating the Liberation From American Hellenism

We are all familiar with the story of Chanukah – how the Greeks wanted to subvert Jewish life by injecting it with Greek values. Unlike Purim where Haman wanted to destroy the Jewish body as well as obliterate any remnant of Torah learning and mitzvah observance, the Greeks had a much more seemingly innocuous approach – “No, go ahead – learn your Torah, observe your mitzvos, pray to your Jewish G-d but do it with a Greek twistdo it because it makes intellectual sense. As we say in our prayers “to forget Your Torah, Your statutes….”. This was epitomized by the Greeks desire to contaminate all of the oil in the Temple – rendering it halachically permissible for lighting the menorah but defiled nonetheless.

This seemingly insignificant subtlety created a transformation within the masses of Jewry and produced Jews that traded the hallmarks of Jewish identity – Jewish names, Jewish clothing and Jewish speech (which by these distinctions our Jewish ancestors had merited “Yetzias Mitzriyim” [the Exodus from Egypt]) for Greek names, Greek clothing and the Greek language– Hellenists. What began as an enlightened embracement of “modernism” ended in outright idolatrous worship. It was only through the miracle of the “poc shemen” [the Chanukah oil] that brought our nation back from the brink.

Yet how many of us consider that we may have fallen for the same innocuous approach right here in present day America?! While America is a “madina v’maluchus shel chesed” [a nation and government of kindness] where Jews openly and freely live Judaism, its values and cultural message are the same as the former Greek Empire – be a modern Jew; be an American Jew [as opposed to a Jewish American]. You can go to the movies, watch television with theater sound on high definition 36 inch plasma screens, surf the net, go on kosher cruises, choose family planning, have both spouses pursue full-time yet dynamic careers and provide our children with the “best of the best” secular education – yet still be a Torah learning, mitzvah observant Jew.

What seems as pareve [neutral] pursuits are in reality pipelines by which American culture and values are fed to contaminate our Jewish sensibilities. What is the result? An American Hellenist: a transformation of the Jewish masses with names like Joe instead of Yoseph, Abe instead of Avrahom; mall bought fashion that is borderline tznius [modesty] that even when it meets all halachic requirements – still pales to the majestic elegance of women’s “hemishe” [Jewish made] clothing, casual speech instead of refined words permeated with Torah values that befit a prince or princess of Hashem.

This isn’t advocating a shtetl [a ghetto] mentality
. It is no coincidence that this years Chanukah spans Parshas Vayeishev – Mikietz. Yoseph was the only one of Yaakov’s twelve sons with the appellation of “Yoseph HaTzadik”. While his brothers were tzadikim – they were shepherds able to spend their time in isolation and in contemplation of Hashem. Yoseph distinguished himself in his avodas Hashem by being in the heart of the moral depravity of Egypt, glamour of Egyptian aristocracy and potential drunkenness of ultimate power yet maintained his distinction as a Torah Jew.

We do not have to be tzadikim – we just have to be like the Menorah – “a light unto the nations”. By full Jewish names, truly modest dress and words of Torah; by being “un-plugged” from American entertainment/media while immersing ourselves in more Torah learning and mitzvos b’hiddur [performed with the highest of standards] – we can walk among our fellow Americans yet still radiate G-dliness and inspiration; in the world, yet above the world. By having our Jewish purity intact like the “poc shemen” – we look to light every person, place and moment with “…and the pursuit of the world will be knowledge of Hashem”.

Looking for the “Aleph” in Everything

In a previous post Creating Unity and Harmony Instead of Reacting to Strife and Conflict, I highlighted a step by step formula towards creating unity that can be taken by anyone:

1. Absolute conviction in Torah. It is the blueprint for creation as well as a civilized, productive and G-dly society – to offer guidance and to be applied in every circumstance, at all places and all times.
2. Warmth, patience, optimism, the sharing of knowledge, firm in conviction (see “Step 1” above) yet pleasant in tone with a focus on commonality and goodness.
3. The absolute belief and empowerment in the individual which was being interacted with – that they can do [more] good and change the world for good.
4. Always finalized with a call to action for oneself and for one’s immediate as well as extended sphere of influence (a call which reflects the attitude and approach of these 4 steps).

This four step formula equates to “looking for the “Aleph” in everything” that one encounters. What is the “Aleph” and how does one do that?

It is interesting to note that the word for exile, “golus” and the word for Redemption, “Geulah” – the only difference between the two words is the Hebrew letter “Aleph”; “Geulah” [Redemption] contains the “Aleph” whereas “golus” [exile] doesn’t. The “Aleph” represents “the Alufo shel Olam” [the “Master of the World” i.e. G-d].

Many people have a fear of what is going to happen with the imminent advent of the Redemption and they ask – “What will be with all of my business deals, money, property, position of influence and friends (both Jew and Gentile) – will everything will be lost or ruined?!
Read more Looking for the “Aleph” in Everything

You Did Decide to Become a Baal Teshuvah, Didn’t You?

The sun-bathing, snorkeling and scuba diving of Teshuvah

The lifelong process and stages of Teshuvah can be compared to sun-bathing, snorkeling and scuba diving:

Sunbathing is a relaxing way to spoil oneself under the warm embrace of the sun. Tension melts away, you can get a good tan and show off your good looks….

However, as anyone who’s “laid out” before knows – sun-bathing isn’t all that it’s cracked-up to be:

It gets hot after a while and if you aren’t careful – instead of a “golden tone” – you’ll be “peeling” away after a nice, red and stinging sunburn! So, what’s the solution? Cool off by the water of course!
Read more You Did Decide to Become a Baal Teshuvah, Didn’t You?

Creating Unity and Harmony Instead of Reacting to Strife and Conflict

B”H

Creating Unity and Harmony Instead of Reacting to Strife and Conflict
A Singular Approach for Common BT Challenges

Whether you are dealing with family, struggling with secular influences vs. Torah values, observing Judaism in the workplace, deciding which parenting methodology is most effective, finding the balance between “being machmir” [strict observance of Jewish law] or “being maykel” [permitted leniencies in Jewish law], discussing Israeli politics or the Arab/Israeli “conflict”, the roles of men and women in Judaism, identifying with a particular Jewish sect, etc. – there seems to be no shortage of issues which finds the BT under the gun and under fire. What often starts for the BT as an exploration of spirituality, happiness and Jewish identity turns into a three ring circus of hopping from one confrontational issue to the next.

Consider the following scenarios:

You’re frum and your family isn’t (yet). Thanksgiving is coming. How do you deal with the “issues”? Your uncle is “married” to a non-jew (G-d forbid) and they are throwing a “bar-mitzvah” for their son or perhaps your younger sister is having her bas-mitzvah in a Reform Temple – do you attend? You start being challenged by your relatives on issues regarding Judaism – in addition to the issues of Shabbos, shomer negiah and kashrus – Reform vs Conservative vs Reconstructionist vs Orthodox get thrown into the fray – do you feel a burning drive to “stand up” for the honor of the Torah? Your parents want you to finish your college degree whereas you want to go to Yeshivah or seminary – what do you do? Are you bound and determined to show everyone “the light”?
Read more Creating Unity and Harmony Instead of Reacting to Strife and Conflict