Do You Have a Rav?

Pirkei Avos says that you should aseh lecha rav – make for yourself a Rav.

What do you think is the most important aspect of a Rav:
– Answering Halachic Questions
– Teaching you Gemora and other aspects of Torah
– Giving you Hashkafic Guidance

Do you have a Rav for all these categories? What categories have you seen others lacking in?

Would you be willing to pay a small fee to a Rav to guide you in these areas?

Do you think others with a Rav would be willing to pay a small fee?

Six Constant Mitzvos

In an introduction to Sefer HaChinuch, the author singles out six mitzvos (commandments) that one is obligated to fulfill on a constant basis. These mitzvos, he writes, should not be absent from a person’s consciousness for even one second of his life. The six constant mitzvos are:

– Emunah: Faith in Hashem
– Lo Yihiyeh: The prohibition against idolatry
– Yichud Hashem: Hashem’s Oneness
– Ahavas Hashem: Loving Hashem
– Yiras Hashem: Fearing Hashem
– Lo Sasuru: Do not stray after your eyes and your heart

Since it is not humanly possible to perform six actions at the same time – and certainly not on a constant basis – it is clear that these mitzvos are meant to be performed through thought alone. Even so, however, it is difficult to understand the very premise of the obligation to fulfill Six Constant Mitzvos, for how is it possible to think about six different things at the same time? And even if someone could theoretically master the art of juggling six different thoughts in his mind simultaneously, how would he then go on to fulfill all of the other mitzvos of the Torah – let alone lead an otherwise productive life?

It would seem, therefore, that there must be a different idea behind the Six Constant Mitzvos.

Making Decisions without Active Thought
How many times a day do we think about the force of gravity?
It is quite possible that days, years, or decades go by in which we do not think about gravity at all. At the same time, however, our awareness of the existence of a gravitational pull in the atmosphere is evident in nearly every movement we make.

We sip coffee from a mug, and then place the mug down on the table. An astronaut traveling in space could not have done that. He would need some apparatus to hold the mug (and the coffee!) in place.

Even the simplest movements we make require an awareness of gravity. We would not be able to walk, lie down, or shake hands without it. Now that we are thinking about gravity, we realize that we would not be able to accomplish very much without its existence.

Although we are constantly aware of the force of gravity, we do not need to think about it on a conscious level. Our actions reflect our awareness of this invisible force as a constant presence in the atmosphere, even though we give little or no thought to it.

The idea behind the Six Constant Mitzvos is that each of the six represents an awareness that you must have. These six “awarenesses” should become so ingrained in your psyche that they should be reflected in all of your actions.

Art Scroll has just released a new sefer on the Six Constant Mitzvos based on a series of lectures given by Rabbi Yitzchok Berkowitz at Aish HaTorah in Jerusalem. Rabbi Berkowitz is a a leading posek and Rosh Kollel in Jerusalem, a pioneer in chinuch and kiruv and co-author of a work on shemiras halashon, A Lesson A Day. In this beautifully written, profound and yet readable work, we see that the mandate to fulfill these commandments is not an impossible task, but something that we all can do. Through stories, real-life practical examples, inspirational insights, and a deep understanding of Torah thought, Rabbi Yehuda Heimowitz, in collaboration with Rabbi Shai Markowitz, have produced a penetrating yet fascinating book that sets us thinking and striving.

Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller New Sefer and Mp3

Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller was in Kew Gardens Hills on Tuesday. Here is the shiur she gave at Congregation Ahavas Yisroel on Chesed in Turbulent Times.

Rebbetzin has a new sefer, co-written with Sara Yoheved Rigler called Battle Plans: How to Fight the Yetzer Hara. Here is an excerpt from the book.

The book draws from the Maharal, Ramchal and the Chassidic and Mussar Masters to give specific strategies for battling the Yetzer Hara in different situations such as when you’re frustrated, angry, bored, egotistical, tempted by desire, etc. Well worth the price.

Costs of Orthodox Jewish Life Survey

Many times in the past on this blog, we’ve discussed the extremely high costs of Orthodox Jewish life, from kosher food to tuition. A good friend of this blog, Ezzie of SerandEz, has set out to determine just what it costs singles, couples, and families to live in different Orthodox communities. To that end, he has created a survey to determine just how much it is that people spend, and it has been quite the eye-opener for many.

Please take the survey, read the introduction to understand just what it’s for, and help build a better economic future for the Jewish community. Then send it along to all your family and friends so they can do the same.

We Regret to Inform You of the Passing of Rabbi Noah Weinberg

From Aish

We write these words with great sadness and disbelief — our beloved Rosh Yeshiva, HaRav Yisrael Noach ben Yitzchak Mattisyahu Weinberg – passed away this morning, Feb 5/ Shevat 11.

The funeral will be today at 1:30 pm, at the Ahavas Torah Shul in Kiryat Zanz, Jerusalem, and will proceed from there to Har Menuchos.

Words at this time feel wholly inadequate to describe the greatness of Rabbi Weinberg, of blessed memory. The shock is too great and the pain too fresh, but the situation demands a few words, and over the next week a more fitting tribute will be created.

Rabbi Weinberg was a Jewish leader and visionary par excellence. Every fiber of his being was animated by the reality of the Almighty and the truth of Torah. He lived with the awareness of God — His infinite love and awesomeness — and the power of Torah to instruct us on how to live a most meaningful life.

Rabbi Weinberg passionately believed in the greatness of every human being, because God Himself testified to the inherent greatness in every human being.

Rabbi Weinberg exuded love and concern for every Jew, and was a beloved father to thousands.

Rabbi Weinberg dedicated his life to bringing a renaissance within Jewish people, to reach out to every Jew and reconnect him to the depth and meaning of our heritage. The Jewish people are meant to be a light unto nations; Rabbi Weinberg undertook the task to galvanize the Jewish people and inspire us to live up to our mission and be Kiddush Hashem – to sanctify God’s Name in this world.

“The hidden things are for Hashem, our God, but the revealed things are for us and our children forever, to carry out all the words of this Torah” (Deut. 29:28). Rabbi Weinberg lived with the reality that the all the revealed things are our responsibility. If masses of Jews are assimilating, it’s our responsibility to bring each and every one back. If there is a threat to the Jewish Nation or to the Western world, it cannot be ignored. We must meet the challenges facing us head on and do whatever we can to remedy the situation.

Rabbi Weinberg was fighting the battles of the Jewish people until his last day. Today we are orphans.

Should I Argue Against Evolution or for a G-d Directed Evolution

I have a work associate who seems interested in Torah, but he likes to challenge me about contradictions between Torah and science and other things. He recently asked me about the Torahs views on Evolution.

On the one hand, I could say that that I don’t believe in evolution and there are many holes in evolution theory and that scientists are biased against a belief in G-d. On the other hand, many secular Jews accept the scientific consensus that evolution did take place, and I could make the case that a G-d directed evolution would not necessarily contradict the Torah.

My Rav holds that you don’t have to take a 6,000 year creation literally.

What approach makes more sense when dealing with non observant Jews?

– Jack

OHEL is Looking for Homes for Foster Children

OHEL is looking for a long term or pre-adoptive foster home for a foster child, Judah. Judah has been in foster care since the age of three. When Judah was nine, he was moved to a residential setting in order to best help him with certain psychiatric and emotional issues. He is doing very well at the residence and they have decided that it’s time for him to be placed in a home.

Judah is 12 years old. He is very sweet and loving. He is very charming and engaging. He has significant learning disabilities but he is very smart. He has an inner strength that is hard to describe. He has dealt with adversity in a way that is simply inspiring.

But like any little boy, Judah needs a lot of love. Two of Judah’s siblings have been adopted and Judah longs for a family like they have. He needs attention, structure and stability. He needs a home. He needs a family.

If you are interested, or if you know anyone who is interested, you can either email one of his previous foster parents at emansouth@aol.com or contact Shulamit Marcus at the homefinding department at Ohel at 718-851-6300. Attached is an article with more information written by his previous foster father.

If you do not feel that you or anyone you know is able to meet Judah’s needs; please consider opening your own heart and home to another young person in need of foster care – and please also talk to your friends, family members and neighbors about doing the same. Ohel is constantly searching for foster families in the metropolitan area who can provide foster children with a loving and nurturing home. There is a particular need for families in Brooklyn. Please call Shulamit Marcus at 718-851-6300 for more information.

Rav Kook’s Vision of T’shuva and The Ease of BT Integration

Rabbi Mordechai Y. Scher

I begin this post with a clear modaah/disclaimer: this is *not* a finished product. I know that I have not carefully thought this through. I know that a talmid chacham (that’s not me, so I’m exempt? I can’t say that, at the risk of demeaning my revered teachers) doesn’t put out something unfinished/lo m’tukan. Yet…

There have been quite a few posts over time that return to the topic of ‘how long will I be a BT?’, or ‘when do I become integrated into general frum society?’, or the like. I have found it largely difficult to relate to these posts; and I (think) I realize now that different circles really do have different social dynamics, even among observant Jews. I know I’ve gotten older, my mind a bit feeble; but I just don’t remember I or any of me chevra being concerned about such things. I don’t recall opportunities to be accepted (shidduchim, a place in a particular yeshiva/beit midrash, invitations, etc.) being limited or circumscribed.

It seems to me that some of this has to do with what are considered seminal influences in those circles, and what are perceived as ‘end-points’ in those circles.
Read more Rav Kook’s Vision of T’shuva and The Ease of BT Integration

Achdut at Gate 6

I recently spent two weeks in Israel, due to a family wedding and spring break, and I have always found that one of the most unifying, one-with-the-Jewish-people experiences ever is in the waiting area for the flight to Israel.

There is something to be said about being with a bunch of Jews getting ready to fly to Israel, our homeland. Jews dressed in all sorts of garb, listening to all sorts of music, speaking all sorts of languages – in the end, we are all Jews, and we are, as one, flying to Israel.
Read more Achdut at Gate 6

Boxing In – Boxing Out

David and I both went to SUNY Albany, although at different times. We were recently shocked to see that the school made it to the NCAA Tournament and were tied with the number 1 team, Connecticut with 6 minutes to go in round 1. They lost the game but I can now segue into a basketball analogy.

Boxing out is the process by which you try to keep a player out of the action when going for a rebound. There are also many defenses that try to keep the key players out of the action, through a boxing strategy.

There is another type of boxing out that goes on – and that is painting someone with whom you have a difference into as small a corner as possible in order to show the small mindedness of their position. Most people don’t fit into nice boxes, but nonetheless, attempts to box people remain, this is also called labelling and stereotyping.

One of our goals here is to undo this boxing, by trying to understand alternative viewpoints – not necessarily accept them, but at least understand them. I think BTs have the most to benefit from this, as the boxes we are painted into are often the smallest.

A Ba’al Teshuva’s Story…or Am I a Ba’al Teshuva?

First off, let me tell you my name. I’m Martin Fleischer, from Kew Gardens Hills, NY, and I’m 46 years old, married 24 years and have 2 daughters, ages 17 and 13. I do know that I feel more Frum than ever before, but I often wonder if I’m a “true” Ba’al Teshuva in the plain sense of the term. However, according to Rabbi Zev Leff in “Outlooks & Insights”, and another source I heard once but don’t remember, in a way, all Frum Jews are “Ba’alei Teshuvah”, each striving to do what Hashem really wants from us.

Here is my story:
Read more A Ba’al Teshuva’s Story…or Am I a Ba’al Teshuva?

Starbucks and Shushan Purim

Realizing that many of us have difficulty gearing up for work on shushan purim, Starbucks is giving away free coffee today.

SEATTLE – Starbucks says it will give away free cups of coffee on Wednesday between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. at 7,500 of its stores nationwide. The Seattle company expects it will give away 500,000 cups of coffee in its two-hour ‘national coffee break.’

Is this a great country for the Jews or what?

Keeping in Touch with Before Teshuva Friends

Make new friends,
But keep the old,
One is silver,
And the other gold.

This was always one of my favorite songs throughout childhood. My family moved around a lot when I was younger, so it was difficult to sustain friendships while changing locations every few years. My friendships, even today, are mostly ones that have lasted a few years, rather than decades or since kindergarten.
Read more Keeping in Touch with Before Teshuva Friends

Project Inspire and One People, One Purim

I had the pleasure of going to an Aish Kiruv Seminar at the White Shul in the Five Towns last night. The first lecturer presented a very short excerpt from the Discovery Seminars. I have heard the material in much more depth many times and I think it needs an update to take into account all the available objections now easily accessible on the Internet.

The second part discussed the four major reasons that people don’t approach Judaism. I found that part very insightful and enlightening. Part of the presentation was an introduction to Project Inspire, which provides very practical ways for ordinary folks like us to be involved in introducing more Jews to our incredibly rich and beautiful heritage. Please take the time to check and get involved with Project Inspire.

One of the great ideas coming out of Project Inspire is to have a monthly campaign to introduce people to Judaism. For the upcoming campaign in March, Purim and Shaloch Manos is the focus. Many organizations in addition to Aish are joining in a program called One People, One Family, One Purim. Please visit the site and seriously consider participating in this worthy endeavor.

Tachlis-Where Do We Go From Here?

I have to give my “hats off” to the people who decided to start this website. I wish that the Baalei Tsheuva world would have just melted and mixed with the FFB world to the point where you wouldn’t know the difference between any Yid. However, we all realize that that isn’t true.

I see the number one problem of BTs is that they don’t have a Rav, thereby having no guide through the process of life. Many BTs studied somewhat in Yeshiva or seminary but then once they moved on they never kept in “real” touch with their Rebbaim or Rebbetzins (I am not dealing with who’s to blame, that’s not the purpose of the article). Then there are those who never learned in Yeshiva. What’s a Yid supposed to do? Many times the local shul where you daven doesn’t have a Rav who can handle the issues of the FFBs, let alone the BT whom he doesn’t really understand.
Read more Tachlis-Where Do We Go From Here?