I Wish Parents Would Stop…

I was asked this week: As a teacher what do you wish parents would stop doing?” This was my response…

Firstly, I wish parents would stop loving their children conditionally. Conditional love is the most devastating aspect of misguided parenting. Love is a fundamental and core need for every human being. Children who grow up in homes where they are loved for what they do (or don’t do) rather than for who they are, become dysfunctional. Children crave and depend on the love of their parents for their sense of self-esteem and self-worth. Over the years I have counselled many adults who in their childhood were loved conditionally by their parents and as a result, now struggle to cope with life. They experience every interaction as a judgement and are so fearful to fully engage or express themselves. It can take an individual who was not genuinely and unconditionally loved, hours of counselling and years of emotional rehabilitation to heal the wounds.

Moshe Rabenu loved the Jewish People, irrespective of their actions. Sure he was angry with their rebelliousness, frustrated with their actions, disappointed by their demands and heartbroken by their protests. But in spite of it all, he loved us so deeply, that he was willing to sacrifice his life in this world and the next for us. This is the love our children need. We can be disappointed, frustrated and heartbroken by them but we can never stop loving them.

Secondly, I also wish parents would stop trying to live their lives through their child. I see this time and again. Parents who failed to seize the opportunities that life presented to them, manipulate their children to live their unrealized dreams and aspirations. These parents place intense pressure on their children to live up to expectations that are neither realistic nor beneficial for each particular child.

The Ariza”l writes that just as the physical face of each person is different, so too are the emotional and intellectual dispositions of each person different. Every child is unique, with a unique personality, talents and desires. Every child has a unique core purpose and the distinctive potential to fulfill that purpose. It is the duty of every parent to give every child the greatest opportunity to reveal and express that unconscious potential. So instead of parents trying to mould their children into the people they failed to become, they should focus on creating a loving, caring and nurturing environment within which the child can actualize their unique potential.

Finally, I wish that parents would stop being afraid to discipline their children. When there are no boundaries, when children don’t receive the fundamental life skill of discipline, then they will struggle to actualize their unique potential. By discipline, I don’t mean an authoritarian or draconian approach but rather a system that educates the child to take responsibility for their decisions. ‘Free Will’ is a core Jewish belief. Hashem set up a world of cause and effect. He gave us a manual to guide us towards living a fulfilled and purposeful life. He also gave us the choice to follow that manual or not. Children need to learn that although they are free to act, there are consequences for making good and bad decisions – a lesson that not enough of our children are learning.

Visit Rabbi Aryeh Goldman at A Mindful Jew.

A Guide for a Mindful Purim

Purim is a holy festival that will retain its significance even after the ultimate redemption. Purim commemorates the story of Hashem, who, while remaining camouflaged beneath the veil of nature, was and continues to be intrinsically involved throughout the history of the Jewish People. Purim is the story of a people that have a relationship and connection with G-d that defies logic and reason. Purim is the time when we train ourselves to see beyond the mask and reveal the truth and beauty contained within. Throughout the entire Megillah, there is no mention of Hashem, and yet His hand is choreographing each scene in this epic story.

It may appear paradoxical to write a guide for a Mindful Purim, especially for a festival where you are instructed to loose your mind. It is specifically because of the mayhem that Purim is that makes it so easy to miss the opportunities that the day contains. However, through mindful practice we are able to tap into the intense spiritual energy that is enclosed within the festival, and experience it in an uplifting and meaningful way.

The message of Purim is contained within the four primary mitzvot of Purim:

a. Megillat Ester: The reading of the Story of Ester.

b. Matanot La’evyonim – Gifts to the Poor.

c. Mishloach Manot – Friendly Food Packages.

d. Mishteh – A commemorative feast with family and friends.

There is a common thread that is woven through each of these mitzvot, and when performed mindfully, can transform the experience by forging deep and unifying bonds between family, friends, and members of your community. These mitzvot were established to counter and disprove Haman’s accusation that the Jews are a disconnected and divided people. This led to our near destruction, and therefore, the process of rectifying our historical blunder is by acting in ways that reunite us in a spirit of love and harmony.

Click here to download your copy of the guide where we discuss each mitzvah separately and offer practical suggestions for how to unlock the energy through mindfulness practice to achieve the desired outcome of unity and love.

The Simple Path Starts With Why

Judaism is simple. Jews are complex.

What do I mean by this statement?

Gd created a beautiful world. The plan was straightforward. He places us in a world in order to benefit and give of His goodness. Period.

So you ask, what happened? Why is there so much suffering, war, illness and tragedy.

And I respond.

We have become detached from Gd’s original kavana (intent). It’s that simple, my friends. Hashem laid out a clear and simple path for us to follow. It contains 613 pieces of advice on what you need to do in order to live a perfect life full of meaning and purpose.

Why then do so many Jews feel disconnected and confused? How have we have become so detached from His original kavana? Why is living a Jewish life so complicated?

I have just completed reading Simon Sinek’s book on leadership “Start with Why”. Although Sinek’s target audience is clearly the business world, the principles he lays down have a far broader reach. Let me explain.

Sinek developed what he calls “The Golden Circle” that contains three concentric circles. The inner circle is WHY? The middle circle is HOW? The outer circle is WHAT? He explains that all businesses are quite clear on what they do. Fewer business have an effective and efficient process for determining HOW they do WHAT they do, while a handful of business know WHY they do WHAT they do.

What differentiates highly successful businesses from those that are mediocre is there starting point. If you begin with the WHAT you do before you have developed a process for HOW you will do it before you have clearly defined WHY , then you are heading down a path where mediocrity at best and bankruptcy at worse are the more likely outcomes.

If, however, you start from the inside out, then you create a very different reality. When we have a clearly defined WHY, you are clear WHY you or your business exists? Your WHY will naturally give birth to HOW should you run your business, it will be clear which best practices and processes are fully aligned with your WHY. And then that HOW determines WHAT exactly you need to do to give expression to your WHY

The model is simple and brilliant.

When it comes to Judaism most Jews are familiar with WHAT they need to do. We know there is a Torah that contains mitzvot that we need to adhere to. Fewer Jews know HOW to keep those mitzvot, while an even smaller number understand WHY. This, in my humble opinion, is the tragedy of Jewish Education today.

In Jewish Day Schools we teach our children what to do and offer them guidance in how to do it properly but it is less common to find educators who inspire their students with the WHY. How many of our students or their teachers know the WHY of Judaism? And perhaps herein lies the reason for their disconnect. When my WHY is unclear, my WHAT lacks meaning and purpose.

As Jews, our WHY is defined by the Giver of good, by Gd himself. Our WHY is to connect with Gd – uldovcha bo. We are even given the WHAT in the form of the Torah. The Torah is an instructional manual on WHAT we need to do to fulfill the WHY. The HOW is left to our domain. HOW we choose to infuse and express our emotional connection to Gd is our unique purpose. As long as your HOW does not conflict with the WHAT, and the purpose of Halacha is to set the rules of engagement, then you have complete freedom to connect with Gd through the unlimited expression of your energies, talents, skills and gifts in the world. The more you express your HOW, in alignment with the WHAT, in order to achieve the WHY, the happier, more fulfilled and more connected you feel.

Judaism is experiential. Volumes about Gd can be written and hours of lectures can be presented but until one actually experiences the connection with the Divine it all remains theoretical. So while the WHAT (experience) is critical, it is far more uplifting when the WHY is at the fore of the conscious experience.

We invest a huge amount of time and energy attempting to discover and calculate our purpose. Why am I here? Should I be a plumber or a teacher? What am I meant to be doing with my life?

The answer, dear friends, to all these questions, lies in our ability to follow the simple path laid out before us by our Creator. Simply stated

To connect to Hashem,
by fulfilling His will
as described in the Torah
in my unique way.

Rabbi Goldman writes at hitoreri.com

Jonah-itis

Do you suffer from Jonah-itis?

If you have one or more of the following symptoms you may be suffering from Jonah-itis:

– You are an expert in distracting yourself from doing what you are supposed to be doing.

– You have clarity in your core purpose, your mission, but rationalize why you should not actually be fulfilling it.

– You would rather die than move out of your comfort zone to accomplish something awesome.

– You would be prepared to spend exorbitant amounts of money to escape your reality and calling.

This disease is debilitating and may have disastrous consequences if not treated at the first sign of symptoms. Be warned that ignoring the symptoms is not an option – you will need to accomplish your core purpose whether you like it or not and whether you want to or not.

At the root of these symptoms is an individual’s unwillingness to admit that they are in this world to fulfill a higher spiritual purpose.

This disease was first is diagnosed in Jonah (Yona HaNavi) and is therefore named after him. None other, then Gd Himself, gave Jonah his personal mission. Yet he rejected it. He tried to escape. He rationalized it as not a good thing. Instead, he was willing to spend all his money to board a ship to nowhere and give up his life rather then surrender to a higher will. But ultimately Gd’s will must be fulfilled and Jonah had to surrender his personal desire and rational understanding to that of Gd.

Teshuva is a 3 step process:

1. Acknowledging and letting go – acknowledge the mistake and articulate exactly what went wrong. Feel the pain of the moment and meditate on it briefly. Let go of the resistance/rationalization/negativity. Recognize that it is our own inhibitions that are holding us back from accomplishing what we have been sent here to accomplish.

2. Taking ownership – verbalize the resistance or negativity either in writing or orally. This does not need to be communicated to anyone but keep it and return to it if and when faced with similar challenges in the future.

3. Commitment – committing to move forward is the most important step of all. Acknowledging, as human beings, our fragility and vulnerability to making mistakes whilst committing not to look at our mistake as a failure but rather as an opportunity to learn and grow.

You know my friends, from the beginning of time all the way back to Adam, Avraham and Moshe a certain pattern was evident. These people were heroes…men who had the courage to rise to a challenge and change the world in the process. Before doing so however they each went through a deep and usually painful internal struggle. It was only their persistence in the face of adversity, their desire and unbinding resolve to achieve the seemingly impossible that enabled them to become the heroes of history.

This same pattern can be observed among all heroic men and women who have made a real difference in our world. We all have a hero inside of us that is waiting to be discovered. Unfortunately it is usually only by overcoming massive internal inertia, a tragic event or some other a major challenge that helps you discover who you really are. You are the hero in this story of yours.

And perhaps my friends this is the reason that we read Maftir Yona towards the end of Yom Kippur – as a remedy to Jonah-itis. Yom Kippur is a call to action to each one of us to do teshuvah – to acknowledge and let go of our sins, our mistakes; to take ownership of our resistance and negativity and to commit to bring the tikkun/the repair to the world that only you can bring through the fulfillment of your core purpose, your unique mission.

This Yom Kippur the choice is yours.…or may be its not.

Elul…make the most of it

Elul…sweetness, light, redemption.

This is the month that Hashem gives us the opportunity to determine our destiny. Not to succumb to a fate that is inconsistent with our innermost desire but the choice to proactively affect our lives. The Slonimer Rebbe z”l writes that on Rosh Hashana we choose the life we want to live and ask for the tools that will assist us in refining and lighting up our world. Elul is a 30 days of preparation so that you have absolute clarity when making that decision.

The fact that you woke up this morning and are able to read this message is Hashem telling you, “I want you here, you have a mission to accomplish, and this mission has been waiting since the beginning of time for YOU to achieve.” We are here, partnering with Hashem to make a difference. We are granted the years of our life to fix, resolve and leave our mark, as we live our legacy. We don’t have much time. Seize the opportunities that are granted to you and make a difference.

We each have incredible potential and it’s about time that we stop talking and reading about it and take action. Live every day of your life to your best. Not the best…but YOUR best!

The questions we should be asking ourselves as we account for our existence are:
“Why am I here?”
“Am I living a meaningful life?”
“Am I living consistently with my values?”
“Am I the best spouse, teacher, friend, mentor, parent that I can possibly be?”

These are not “one off” questions, they are questions that can and need to be asked daily. These are the questions that help orient our lives and make them meaningful. Truthful answers to these questions have the power to help us transcend adversity and embrace each opportunity to reveal our inner essence.

We can be assured (but never perturbed) when at the moment of enlightenment, as we feel that we have discovered our unique mission in this world the inevitable happens. There will be a distraction. There will be obstacles. There will be challenges. And that is part of our story. Overcoming difficulty brings you closer to your mission. We are not born at the peak of a mountain, because it is not so much about the destination as much as it is about the journey to arrive there.

Hashem charges us to live a fulfilled life whereby we realize and actualize our dormant potential. We must act with courage to leap beyond our comfort zone to live our legacy.

אלול spelt backwards is לולא which translates as “if only”. This precious month is about reflecting all those lost opportunities throughout the year when I could have or should have but didn’t. It’s about asking for forgiveness for not bringing to the world what I was meant to. It’s about resolving to remain steadfast and committed to my mission.

May it be your will Hashem that we are granted clarity. That we are strengthened in our resolve to foster a deeper relationship with You as we embrace our unique mission in this world and remain loyal throughout the journey.

Rabbi Aryeh Goldman has released an ebook “Days are Coming – Inspiration for Elul and Tishrei”. Subscribe at hitoreri.com to receive your copy.

Faigy Mayer…the story of the lost princess

For those of you who have not yet heard of the tragedy of a young woman who took her life then you should. Faigy was a young woman who grew up in the Chassidic community in New York and after a turbulent life dealing with mental illness left that community. Last week she ended her life, leaping from a 20 story building. Her death torments me. I find no peace and share my troubled thoughts…

My heart aches and my eyes shed endless tears for you Faigy. For your dreams that are no longer, for the talent that is no longer and for the search that has ended prematurely. For those that refused to see and feel and reach out when you were obviously hurting so much. For your friends. For your parents, siblings and family. For Hashem whose pain must be far greater then mine.

You ran away from a world that I was drawn to. In the world that you felt imprisoned I found my freedom…and yet I feel your agony. Behind the images you posted and the anguish you expressed I see a princess lost in the abyss of her struggle to find inner peace and purpose.

Are you not the lost princess that Rebbe Nachman spoke off…I guess that the wait for the warrior that was meant to come and rescue you took too long and the pain was too unbearable to sustain.

We judge you not….for who are we to judge…we are all on a journey fraught with challenge, hope and uncertainty. Along the way each of us rise and fall while we experience the events and interactions that bring us closer to our purpose…although at times it appears that our experiences are in fact distractions from that purpose.

Faigy my heart doesn’t just ache for you…I cry for all the other lost princess and princes who in their search become so lost that they rather surrender then persist. I cry that a community that I love chose to abandon rather then understand you.

We need to find a way forward. We need to ask some hard questions and talk openly to find the answers. The truth is that there is a growing number of our youth that are opting out and we need to ask ourselves why? I don’t pretend to have the answers but I cannot bare the agony of another lost princess choosing to surrender rather then live.

To all the other lost princesses and princes out there my heart is open and my prayers are that our ever patient G-d grant you the time and means to heal the wounds and reconnect in a meaningful and inspired way.

Rabbi Aryeh Goldman writes at hitoreri.com

INSPIRATZON – the Process of Transforming Inspiration into Willpower

By Aryeh Goldman who writes at hitoreri.com

The function of inspiration is to give us an insight into whom we are and offer us an opportunity to realign ourselves with our inner purpose. However, when inspiration is not converted into something tangible and real it is wasted and the lost opportunity can leave us feeling empty and unfulfilled.

I have created a new term – INSPIRATZON – based on what my teachers have taught me. In order to make inspiration meaningful, for it to be sustained, we must almost instantaneously make a vessel for it. That vessel, is referred to as Ratzon or willpower. Our Ratzon is the driving force behind all our spiritual movement and development. Once we convert inspiration into a focused and burning willpower, no obstacle can stand in its path. You see, the inspiration usually comes from outside of us, driven by the G-dly intent of redirecting our desire away from physical and temporary pleasures towards a more spiritual and meaningful existence.

We all have our challenges. Mine has always been my weight. My library is full of diet books, my pantry packed with vitamins, meal replacement bars and protein shakes. My cupboards are crammed with juicers, blenders and other diet promoting paraphernalia. I possess multiple exercise machines, sneakers, training shorts, pedometers and sweat bands. My parents, friends, teachers and doctors have all tried to persuade me and I have been inspired on multiple occasions to lose weight. However, my weight challenge will only be addressed once I cultivate an unwavering inner ratzon/willpower to be healthy. Once I commit to that, then all the other tools will be at my disposal to affect the necessary restoration. But until I am prepared to make that commitment, the exercise equipment will continue to gather dust and the unworn running shoes bare testimony to my failure to convert inspiration into Ratzon.

Many of us begin a program of transformation with the best intentions and are highly inspired. However before long we lose the initial excitement and hit a plateau. This is usually when our true Ratzon is tested. At that moment our persistence waivers and we usually just give up. Champions are born out of a resolute persistence, even in the face of adversity. These legends see the moments of stagnation, the plateau, the challenges, as opportunities to draw upon and reveal their inner Ratzon. And in so doing, inevitably bring themselves closer to their goals.

The Talmud (Avodah Zoro, 17b) tells a fascinating story of Elozor ben Dordoi, who was a man with an insatiable lust. He pursued his temptation at great expense, crossing seven rivers to be in the company of one particular lady. While in her presence and defiling himself, she commented that Elozor ben Dordoi will never repent and return to his source. Her words pierced his heart and he immediately withdrew to the fields. He began beseeching the mountains and valleys, the heavens and earth, the sun and the moon to pray on his behalf…to no avail. Finally he realises he cannot shift the responsibility and declares: “I see that it now depends on me.” He places his head between his knees and begins to cry. In a tragic ending to the tale Elozor reaches such a state of purity that he resembles the innocence of a child and his soul leaves his body. A heavenly voice pronounces that Rebbe Elozor ben Dordoi is invited to Olam Haba and hearing this proclamation Rabbi Yehuda begins to cry. Through his tears he says the words, “Yesh koneh olamo besha’a achat – in just one moment of inspiration one can acquire one’s entire eternal reward”.

This is a powerful tale. Elozor ben Dordoi teaches us that we cannot blame anyone but ourselves for our lack of happiness and success. He teaches us not to ignore the inspiration and that if even he, Elozor ben Dordoi, can hear the embedded message, generate a powerful Ratzon and immediately act on it – then anyone can.

Rabbi Yehuda’s tears bothered me for a long time until a mentor explained that Rabbi Yehuda was not crying for Rebbe Elozor. Rabbi Yehuda was acutely conscious of the incredible potential contained within mankind and realizes how critical it is to transform inspiration into Ratzon if that potential is to be realized. He was crying for each and every one of us who mute the call to self-discovery, fail to create a vessel for the inspiration, fail to seize the opportunities inspiration offers, fail to take immediate action or fail to persist when success isn’t instantaneous.

Ask yourself, what are your challenges? What do you willpower more then anything else in the world? It is critical to have a conscious awareness of our desires for our success depends upon it.

The Succah Hug

Rabbi Aryeh Goldman
hitoreri.com

My family loves hugs. Towards the end of my overseas trips or school camps, I eagerly anticipate my family’s hugs. And the longer I have spent away the more intense these hugs tend to be.

There are times in our lives when we just need a shoulder to lean on or a comforting cuddle. Then there are times when we really need a true bear hug.

The pasuk says, semolo tachas roshi, veyemino techabkaini, meaning, His left hand supports my head (referring to Rosh Hashana) and His right hand embraces me (referring to the sukkos hug). The left refers to the middas hadin which is when Hashem acts with discipline and judgment, while the right is representative of middas hachesed – Hashem’s loving kindness.

Succos is the time of year when Hashem gives us a hug. Interestingly, the succah can be built in a few ways: with two and a bit walls, three walls or ideally four walls. Some of us are ok with a shoulder to lean on (2 and bit wall succah), while some of us need a comforting cuddle (3 walls succah) but then there are those of us who need a huge Divine bear hug (4 walls succah).

After Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, while the intention is for us to purify and discover who we are, some of us are not really happy with what we discovered about ourselves or quite ready to make all the necessary changes. On Succos Hashem says: You are my beloved child and I love you anyway…come and give Me a hug.

It is the only mitzvah that we are are totally engaged in with every fibre of our being. With our clothes, possessions, and as one chassidic master said, “and even with the mud on your boots.”

Perhaps that is why succos is referred to as zman simchasainu – the time of our joy – because for seven precious days, Hashem accepts me and embraces me as I am. It is this acceptance and love that will hopefully spark within me the desire to return the hug, savour it, and remember its warmth when confronting the challenges or relishing in the joys this new year will bring.

Hug Sameach!

How Children View Their Parents as They Mature

By: R’ Aryeh Goldman
R’ Aryeh Goldman writes at Hitoreri

Parents: Step up to the Plate
How are our children to learn and integrate the inspiration and beauty of Judaism into their lives? How can we as parents make Judaism and our vision for our families something that they want to buy into and preserve? What happens when we choose complacency over pro-activity?

The answer lies within each and every one of us. Our children look to us for motivation and inspiration. They watch our every move and want to see if we are living in a way that is consistent with the mission we are trying to inculcate within them. They want to see us as a living model of a tradition that generates meaning, joy and purpose. Our children are in desperate need of people they can look up to as role models for how to live an authentic and committed Jewish life in a modern world and we, my friends, need to step up to the plate.

Throughout their childhood our children view us in different ways:

Birth to adolescence: During this phase children view their parents as perfect beings. They imitate our behaviours, and speech. They form a strong bond in those formative years. During this phase it is so important for us to lay solid foundations of love whereby the child knows and feels that you love them unconditionally. They must know that they can make mistakes and you will be there to support them as they rise again to learn from the experience.

Adolescence to young adulthood: This is the most challenging phase for parents but the most transformational for the child. During this phase of development the child is looking to form their identity and develop a sense of independence. The tension between parent and child that exist during this phase is an expression of the child’s desire to disassociate and disregard anything that they view as an obstacle. Therefore adolescents will seek to push the limits, assert themselves and challenge their parent’s decisions and way of life in an attempt to define their own identity and make independent choices. When the child views the parent as a controller they resist. Therefore the Piazcezna Rebbe Kalonymus Kalman Shapira zt”l advises:

“Thus, it is imperative upon the parent and educator to impress upon the child that it is the child’s responsibility to mature into a loyal member of the Jewish people; and that the parent and educator are only there to help the child help himself understand what the Almighty has instructed”

Ultimately that is the goal of chinuch, to inculcate within the child a sense of responsibly for their lives. Our children need to understand that each child has a unique mission to fulfil in this world and we as their parents are there to facilitate the process. In that way the Rebbe hopes the child will view the parent as a mentor and coach who has the best interest of the adolescent in mind.

Young adulthood: In young adulthood the child then reflects on the education they received and uses it as the platform for how they live their lives and educate their own children. It is common for a child and parent to “reconnect” at this stage of development as the child develops and matures they begin to understand and appreciate the dedication and love that went into their upbringing.

The Torah places a great emphasis on the role of a mentor in a person’s life. It is part of the reason why Torah is to be learned with a Rebbe/Teacher and not in isolation. The Torah is not an archaic theoretical code of life but rather an accessible and practical guide to a meaningful life. This does not come from reading a text; you need to see it alive. So do your children. Their teachers can instruct them how to accurately fulfil the mitzvos but as parents it is up to us to infuse Yiddishkeit with passion as we model a ‘Living Torah’.

We cannot afford to be complacent and take a back seat approach to the chinuch of our children. Our children need us to be proactive in providing them a framework for understanding the world they live in and and want us to create a safe environment to discover themselves. Rise to the challenge and be a positive role model for your children…so much depends on it.