"They motioned to the guards not to take them away until they finished the 'silent Amidah' prayer."
The Power of Affirmations
Affirmations are powerful. They work for us or against us. Every statement we tell ourselves about who we are and what we find possible is really an affirmation. Positive affirmations build us. Negative affirmations do the opposite. So right now you can tell yourself a great affirmation: "I choose better, higher, and wiser self-talk each and every day."
Love yehuda lave
The 10th of Tevet - Siege of Jerusalem
| || |
by Rabbi Noah Weinberg
| || |
Siege of JerusalemThe Tenth of Tevet marks Nebuchadnezzar's siege of Jerusalem 2,500 years ago. What is the message for us today?
| || |
In Jewish consciousness, a fast day is a time of reckoning, a time to correct a previous mistake. What happened on the Tenth of Tevet that we have to correct?
On the Tenth of Tevet, 2,500 years ago, Nebuchadnezzar began his siege of Jerusalem. Actually, there was little damage on that first day and no Jews were killed. So why is this day so tragic? Because the siege was a message, to get the Jewish people to wake up and fix their problems. They failed, and the siege led to the destruction of the King Solomon's Temple.
Today we are also under siege. Much of the Jewish world is ignorant of our precious heritage. Children whose Jewish education ended at age 13 now carry that perception through adulthood. The results are catastrophic: assimilation in the diaspora, and a blurring of our national goals in Israel.
So what's the message for us? Wake up and understand. What does the Almighty want? If there's a siege, hear the message now. Don't wait for the destruction.
If the Jewish problem today is a lack of appreciation of our heritage, then the solution is clear: increased love of Torah, love of Jews, and love of Israel and Jerusalem. The Almighty is telling us: The siege will not be lifted until you correct the mistake.
Responsibility To Teach
The Talmud speaks about two sages concerned over the threat of Torah being forgotten by the Jewish people. As a precaution, Rav Chiyah captured a deer, slaughtered it, and gave the meat to orphans. Then he tanned the hides and wrote five separate scrolls, one for each of the Five Books of Moses. He took five children, and taught each of them one book. He then took six more children, and taught each of them one of the six orders of Mishnah, the oral law.
Then he told each of the 11 children: Teach what you've learned to each other. With this, the Talmud says, Rav Chiyah ensured that the Torah would never be forgotten by the Jewish people.
This raises a question: 11 children is a pretty small class. Why didn't Rav Chiyah simply teach all the children all the books? Why did he teach each child only one book?
The answer is that the children having to teach each other was essential to the process. To ensure that Torah should not be forgotten, you have to teach what you've learned to others. That's the secret. You've got an obligation to your fellow Jews. If you know something -- teach it.
Realize that the most destructive, painful, contagious disease of all is ignorance. Ignorance leads to wasted lives and untold suffering.
So if you know the key to happiness, teach it. Do you see human beings walking around depressed, half dead? Give them some joy. If you have the ability, you must help. Otherwise you'll always bear the knowledge of what you "could have done."
This is not about "forcing your opinion" on others. No. A good teacher conveys information that allows the student to get in touch with what he already knows -- and re-discover it on his own. Get others to see and understand it on their own terms.
Don't sell yourself short. You have the ability to make a dramatic impact on others. You don't have to be a U.S. Senator to make a difference. With one piece of wisdom you can help humanity.
The director of Aish HaTorah's Russian Program is Rabbi Eliyahu Essas, a former refusenik from the Soviet Union. He lived there at a time when it was totally illegal to study Torah. Consequently, Rabbi Essas had nobody to teach him, and at the time, he didn't know how to even read Aleph-Bet. So he got a hold of some underground books, hid out from the KGB, and began to teach himself Torah.
After awhile, word got out that Rabbi Essas knew Torah, and people started coming to study in secret. But of 5 million Soviet Jews, Rabbi Essas was one of the few teaching Torah. So you can imagine that his time was in great demand. That's why Rabbi Essas made a rule: "Before I begin teaching you, you must agree to teach over what you've learned to others." In this way, Rabbi Essas was able to multiply his effect.
Although we don't live under an oppressive Soviet regime, the concept still applies to us as well. You learned something precious? Say to yourself: "That was fascinating. How did it change me? What did it teach me about living? Now how can I transfer this insight to others?"
Don't forget: Teaching benefits you as well. Until you share an idea, it's not yours. It remains but a hazy notion in your imagination. Having to explain an idea to others forces you to clarify it for yourself. You've taken it out of potential and made it a reality.
When you teach someone, make sure they understand how important it is to teach it over to someone else. If they do, then that's part of your success as a teacher. That's ensuring that Torah would never be forgotten by the Jewish people.
There's one more lesson to be learned from the story of Rav Chiyah. By teaching the 11 children only one book each, these children knew they had to learn from one another. The Jewish people are one and we're all in this together. Every person is worthy of profound respect, regardless of their beliefs and level of observance, and there is something to be learned from everyone.
We live in serious times. Whether it's assimilation in America, or international forces pressing our holy city of Jerusalem, the message is essentially the same: The siege is on and the clock is ticking. We have to communicate the Torah message to our people. It is a matter of utmost national urgency.
Who is responsible? We who believe in the power of Torah and the eternal mission of the Jewish people are required to act. To teach wisdom and be a "Light Unto the Nations."
On the Tenth of Tevet, when Nebuchadnezzar surrounded the city of Jerusalem, we did not get the message. Will we get the message now? Will we change? Will we wake up to reality?
You've got to care. If you don't make the effort, you don't care enough. You have powers. Are you going to use them?
January 1st is another painful day for the Jewish people---no need to celebrate it
In 46 B.C.E. the Roman emperor Julius Caesar first established January 1 as New Year's Day. Janus was the Roman god of doors and gates, and had two faces, one looking forward and one back. Caesar felt that the month named after this god ("January") would be the appropriate "door" to the year. Caesar celebrated the first January 1 New Year by ordering the violent routing of revolutionary Jewish forces in the Galilee. Eyewitnesses say blood flowed in the streets. In later years, Roman pagans observed the New Year by engaging in drunken orgies -- a ritual they believed constituted a personal re-enacting of the chaotic world that existed before the cosmos was ordered by the gods. Do we really want to celebrate a pagan holiday?
Early Catholics did not accept this pagan date as the New Year at first. When the calendar system of Anno Domini was first introduced by Dionysius Exiguus in 525 of the common era, he assigned the beginning of the new year to March 25. This date is called Annunciation day in the church because it is they claim, the day of the announcement by the angel Gabriel to Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Yeshu.
So while the pagans celebrated January 1 as the beginning of the year, Christians celebrated March 25 as their beginning of the year. After William the Conqueror was crowned at Westminster Abbey on December 25th in 1066, he announced that the New Year would take place on January 1st after the Roman custom and to forever commemorate his monarchy. The Christians weren't very pleased and about a century later, the year 1154 ended on the 31st of December, but the start of 1155 was delayed to 25-March. And things continued this way for the next 500 years.
The Julian calendar as set up by Julius Caesar counted 365 ¼ days per year and the rule was to add one extra day every four years to allow for that extra quarter. But the year is actually 365 days, 5 hours 48 minutes and 46 seconds as the Rabbis knew more than a thousand years prior. And those missing 12 minutes year after year add up. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII ( one of the greatest anti-Semites of all time) abandoned the traditional Julian calendar and established the Gregorian calendar which differs from the Julian in three ways: (1) No century year is a leap year unless it is exactly divisible by 400 (e.g., 1600, 2000, etc.); (2) Years divisible by 4000 are common (not leap) years; and (3) once again the New Year would begin with the date set by the early pagans, the first day of the month of Janus - January 1. The Pagan New Year would become the Christian New Year.
And how should one celebrate a Christian New Year? On New Year's Day, Pope Gregory XIII decreed that all Roman Jews, under pain of death, must listen attentively to the compulsory Catholic conversion sermon given in Roman synagogues after Friday night services. On Year Years Day 1578 Gregory signed into law a tax forcing Jews to pay for the support of a "House of Conversion" to convert Jews to Christianity. On New Year's 1581 Gregory ordered his troops to confiscate all sacred literature from the Roman Jewish community. This included copies of the Talmud, Jewish law books and Torah scrolls. Thousands of Jews were murdered in the campaign. New Year's sounds more like a day of mourning as it is this year than a day of celebration.
Throughout the medieval and post-medieval periods, January 1 - supposedly the day on which Jesus' circumcision initiated the reign of Christianity and the death of Judaism - was reserved for anti-Jewish activities: synagogue and book burnings, public tortures, and simple murder.
As such Israelis felt they shouldn't celebrate New Year's day, but still needed an excuse to party on New Year's eve. So in Israel, these celebrations are called "Sylvester." Tis was the name of the "Saint" and Roman Pope who reigned during the Council of Nicaea (325 C.E.). The year before the Council of Nicaea convened, Sylvester convinced Constantine to prohibit Jews from living in Jerusalem. At the Council of Nicaea, Sylvester arranged for the passage of a host of viciously anti-Semitic legislation. All Catholic "Saints" are awarded a day on which Christians celebrate and pay tribute to that Saint's memory. December 31 is Saint Sylvester Day - hence celebrations on the night of December 31 are dedicated to Sylvester's memory. Amazing, Israeli's celebrating the day of an Anti-Semite and the one who prohibited Jews from Jerusalem.
For Jews, The day is more an anniversary of mourning then one where we could possibly engage in reckless and drunken merriment.
Paraphrasing Rabbi Kelemen, many who are excitedly preparing for their New Year celebrations would prefer not knowing about the holiday's real significance (and most never even heard of the Tenth of Tevet.) If they do know the history, they often object that their celebration has nothing to do with the holiday's monstrous history and meaning. "We are just having fun."
He tells us to imagine that between 1933-45, the Nazi regime celebrated Adolf Hitler's birthday – April 20 – as a holiday. Imagine that they named the day, "Hitlerday," and observed the day with feasting, drunkenness, gift-giving, and various pagan practices. Imagine that on that day, Jews were historically subject to perverse tortures and abuse, and that this continued for centuries.
Now, imagine that your great-great-great-grandchildren were about to celebrate Hitlerday. April 20th arrived. They had long forgotten about Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen. They had never heard of gas chambers or death marches. They had purchased champagne and caviar, and were about to begin the party, when someone reminded them of the day's real history and their ancestors' agony. Imagine that they initially objected, "We aren't celebrating the Holocaust; we're just having a little Hitlerday party." If you could travel forward in time and meet them; if you could say a few words to them, what would you advise them to do on Hitlerday?
When I wrote this way back when I concluded ….. So now that I have completely ruined your New Year's eve plans let me end with a thought from my club going days. (I guess all of life's experiences have lessons). Those of us who would party in Studio and Xenon every night would know that on New Year's Eve, one takes the night off. New Year's Eve was known as the night 'the regular people' came out and we considered ourselves anything but regular.
As Jews, we should remember that we are special, so this year before you run out to party, consider the origins of the day especially for us. The first Jewish New Year's day was the day that G-d created man. The first January 1st was the day Caesar ordered the murdering of Jews. And this year it coincides with a real Jewish day of mourning. As Jews we celebrate Rosh Hashana with family and in prayer. We have our New Years day! Maybe we can leave January 1st to everyone else. Why not leave it to the regular people? And remind yourself that you really are more than just regular. You are very special!
We must get the message. Before the destruction. Now is the time.
by Sara Debbie Gutfreund
| || |
One Habit Can Change Everything5 strategies to making resolutions that stick.
Not knowing what else to do and having always wanted to see the pyramids, Lisa decided to go on a trip to Egypt. On her first morning there she woke up in her hotel room and reached for a cigarette. She didn't realize that she was actually trying to light a pen until she smelled burning plastic. Feeling more depressed than ever before, she left the hotel to see the pyramids. But when she stood in the middle of the enormous desert, something shifted within her. Suddenly she thought that maybe what she really needed was a goal, some kind of direction for her life. And so on the way back to the hotel in the taxi, Lisa decided that in one year she would return to Egypt and hike across the desert.
The idea didn't make any sense. She was overweight, had no money, didn't know the name of the desert she was looking at or even if the trip would be possible. But Lisa needed something to strive for, and the desert trek became her focus. And she knew that in order to survive the hike, she would need to quit smoking. So over the next six months, Lisa replaced smoking with jogging. And that one habit change set off a whole series of changes in her life. It changed how she worked, ate, slept and saved money.
When she made the trek across the desert one year later in the air-conditioned, motorized tour with a half-dozen other tourists, the caravan carried so much food, water, tents, and global positioning systems that she probably would have accomplished her goal without giving up smoking, but she hadn't known that when she first set her goal. And by the time she made her way across the desert, her smoking habit had already been replaced. A few years later Lisa lost 60 pounds, bought a house, went back to school for a degree, become engaged and held the same job for more than three years.
She agreed to participate in a scientific study examining how forming new habits affects our brains. And researchers saw something fascinating when they looked at images of Lisa's brain. Her old habits, detected from a set of neurological patterns, were still visible on the brain scan, but they were being crowded out and overrun by her new habits and urges. But the scans also revealed that the areas of her brain associated with addictive craving and hunger were still active. Her brain was still producing urges that made her smoke and overeat. The difference was that there was new, stronger activity in the area of Lisa's brain where self-discipline and inhibition begin. And that activity kept getting stronger every time the scientists took a new brain scan. (From The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg, Prologue XIV-XV – a highly recommended book)
Lisa's story shows us how transforming just one habit can change a whole series of aspects of a person's life. But it also shows us how careful we must be to keep fighting our old habit loops because they are still imprinted in our minds, just waiting for an old trigger to set them off once again. This is perhaps why New Year's resolutions are so hard to maintain.
Here are five strategies to jumpstart and hopefully continue new habits for 2015.
1. Choose one habit. It takes a lot of energy to fight an ingrained habit. Choose one habit that has the potential to set off many other changes in your life. In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg refers to this habit as a "keystone habit" because it automatically re-programs so many other areas of our lives. Examples of keystone habits, among many others, are exercise, eating dinner as a family and eliminating an addiction.
2. Prepare new rewards. Every bad habit rewards us in some way; otherwise, we wouldn't automatically repeat it even when we know it is holding us back. Whether a bad habit comforts us, reduces stress or alleviates boredom, we need to figure a new set of rewards that can accomplish the same goal. The rewards can be small, like a piece of chocolate or they can be more significant like a vacation planned after you meet certain milestones. But we should make a list of a variety of rewards, so that we have them on hand, and we won't need to rely on an old habit to feel better.
3. Become aware of cues. Learn to understand what sets off bad habits. Is it a certain time of day? Is it unexpected stress? Is it a challenging relationship in your life? Is it loneliness? You can do this at first by just writing down what was happening right before you reached for the cake or the cigarette or the drink. Once you can see how often and when these cues happen in your life, you can begin to figure out a plan to respond to them.
4. Create a new routine. Having a list of all the cues in your life prepares you for the next step which is to create a new routine in response to the cue. Lisa's cues were set off anytime she felt depressed or hopeless, and she used to respond to her cues by smoking. In order to prepare for her desert trek, she set up a new routine of jogging instead of smoking. But it is generally better to have a list of new routines you can use in case one of them falls through, and you can't use it.
5. Make a plan. Many people are able to begin new routines and habits but find themselves regressing when they are faced with unexpected stress. Make a plan for what you will do, if and when life throws you a curveball. In The Power of Habit, Duhigg calls this strategy preparing for "inflection points" the times in our lives when we know that our discomfort and therefore, the temptation to quit will be very high. The problem is that we often don't know when our inflection points will arise, so it is important to write out as detailed a plan as possible for what we will do when we are extremely stressed or tired or frustrated. For example, someone dealing with a temper habit can write down that he will walk into a specific room, he will count to a certain number and afterwards, he will give himself a pre-planned reward.I once heard a motivational speaker say that if we are tougher on ourselves, then life will be easier on us. I have found that to be true; the more we demand of ourselves, the easier it is to respond to life's demands. This is especially true when we are throwing out old habits and creating new, healthy ones. If we take one bad habit and transform it, we know now that God helps us by setting up a whole new loop in our minds that will make other changes easier. And the more we follow that new loop, the more self- discipline and strength we will find within ourselves. Just like we say at the end of each book of the Torah: "Be strong, be strong and then you will be strengthened