Sunday, September 27, 2015

An addict uses Judaism’s ancient method to move forward after addiction, and a beautiful story

Love Yehuda Lave

The Biblical Museum of Natural History

Posted: 24 Sep 2015 01:10 PM PDT

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A story about holding grudges!!

No here is A beautiful and touching story that will give us much to think about. The story was told over by Rav Go'el Elkarif who said he heard it from the person to whom it happened.

    There is a fellow who owns a jewelry store in Eretz Yisroel. One day, not long ago a nine year old girl walked into the store and said, "I am here to buy a bracelet". She looks through the glass cases and points to a bracelet that was three or four thousand dollars. The man behind the counter asked her, "You want to buy that bracelet?" And she says, "Yes". He says, "Wow, you have very good taste. Who do you want to buy it for?" She says, "For my older sister". He says, "Oh that is so nice! Why do you want to buy your older sister this bracelet?" The little girl says, "Because I don't have a mother or father, and my older sister takes care of us. So we want to buy her a present, and I'm willing to pay for it". She pulls out of her pocket a whole bunch of coins that totaled seven shekel, eighty agurot, which is a little less than two dollars. The fellow says, "Wow! That's exactly what the bracelet costs". He wraps up the bracelet and says, "You write a card to your sister while I wrap the bracelet". In a short amount of time, he finishes wrapping the bracelet, he wipes away his tears, and hands the little girl the bracelet. 

     A few hours later the older sister comes in and says" I'm terribly embarrassed. My sister should not have come here. She shouldn't have taken it without paying." He says to her, "What are you talking about?" She says, "What do you mean? This bracelet costs thousands of dollars. My little sister doesn't have thousands of dollars, she doesn't even have ten dollars. So she obviously didn't pay for it". The fellow who owns the jewelry store says, "You couldn't be more wrong. She paid me in full. She paid seven shekel, eighty agurot, and a broken heart. I want to tell you something. I am an alman, I lost my wife a number of years ago. People come into my store every single day. They come in and buy expensive pieces of jewelry, but all these people can afford it. When your sister walked in, for the first time in so very long since my wife had died, I once again felt what love means". He gave her the bracelet and wished her well. 

    Says, Rav Go'el Elkarif, we come to the Ribono Shel Olam and we want to buy something very expensive. We want to buy life, but we cannot afford it. We don't have the money to pay for it. We don't have the zechusim. So we come to the Ribono Shel Olam and we empty our pockets, with what? A kabbalah here and a kabbalah there; I'll keep cholov yisroel during the Asrers Yimei Teshuva, I'll keep pas yisroel like the Mishnah Brura says, I'll pick up the phone and call someone who is lonely, I will learn an extra five minutes mussar, I will be kind, I won't speak lashon harah for two hours; something small. The Ribono Shel Olam says, "Oh, you don't know how long it's been since I've felt what love means". The Ribono Shel Olam sees how much we are willing to do, how much we love him, and he says, "You know what? You have touched my heart. Here it is, paid in full". 

    Have a great beginning to your Teshuva and a great year.

How to Move Beyond Your Shameful Past

How to Move Beyond Your Shameful Past

An addict uses Judaism's ancient method to move forward after addiction.


A life of drinking, drugs, and rock 'n' roll was infinitely less glamorous than it may have sounded. Even though he had left it behind, my patient had not succeeded in creating a new life for himself. He was unable to form new relationships and unable to fix his old ones. It didn't matter that he'd been sober for the better part of two years; the poor guy was paralyzed with embarrassment.

So hiding in his basement apartment and delivering pizzas, my patient had effectively removed himself from society until a chance meeting with a mutual friend ended in a referral to my office. My new patient was quick to tell me that his previous experiences with therapy hadn't helped at all.

"All therapists want to talk about is the past," he said. "Beyond asking about my mother, all they care about is 'traumatic experiences.' Don't they know that the most traumatic thing to do is to bring up all the bad stuff I did back in the day?"

I agreed with him and said, "And the truth is that you haven't been able to get past it because you're too ashamed to move forward."

"How could I not be ashamed," he wondered. "I once hit someone in the head with a bottle over a girl whose name I can't even remember...I should be proud of that? I spent three months in jail for that one."

"You don't have to be proud of it but you don't need to be ashamed either," I told him. "You've been sober for two years now. The person who did those things is long gone. He's probably still in jail somewhere or maybe even dead for all we know. The person who's sober and sitting here right now is a totally different man."

"What does that even mean?" he asked.

This is the fundamental question that every person who has begun to change their life asks: can I really become a new person or will I always be carrying that baggage along with me?

A person that is sincere in their repentance is a changed human being.

This is also the same question that Maimonides asks in his book, "The Laws of Teshuvah [Repentance]." His answer is clear: a person that is sincere in their repentance is a changed human being. Maimonides teaches that a person who does Teshuvah should say, "I am a different person and not the same one who did those things," (The Laws of Teshuvah 2:4). A true Ba'al Teshuvah – a master of personal change – is an entirely different human being from the individual who previously did the things they came to regret.

Most people have done things they aren't too proud of and want to rectify these prior deeds. One of the most dangerous traps for the person who wants to change their life is shame. An individual who hurt someone else or hurt themselves is often too embarrassed to say "I'm sorry" or too scared to move on; being stuck on the shame of a prior misdoing makes it impossible to ever move forward.

In my office, I've found talk therapies that focus on reliving and re-experiencing trauma facilitate a vicious cycle of shame for patients and don't prepare them for a future filled with new opportunities. This is diametrically opposed to the writings of Maimonides who teaches, "It is a sin to remind a Ba'al Teshuvah of their past," (The Laws of Teshuvah 7:8). A person can't beat themselves up for what they've done and moving forward isn't just advisable, it's the point of the process itself!

My patient had spent two years of sobriety torturing himself for having done a slew of things he could never undo. Until he committed to letting it go, he'd be unable to use his tremendous talents to do anything productive with the rest of his time on in this World.

So I asked him, "You spent years hurting yourself with drugs and alcohol. Do you really think the point of getting sober was to kill yourself with guilt? That part of your life is over, a new chapter's begun."

"What should I do then, just forget about what happened and hit the reset button? Maybe I'll just pretend I never did all those bad things and start a brand new life," he chuckled

"Exactly," I told him. "A brand new life as a sober, smart, and dedicated human being who is finally ready to fix the world, starting right now."

Starting right now for all of us. We've spent Rosh Hashanah thinking about who we want to be in the coming year and Yom Kippur is waiting. Now is the time for teshuvah. And in case you were curious, my patient got better and decided to pursue a career as a music therapist. He spends the rest of his time as a mentor at a sober living facility in Jerusalem.

How is Sukkot Observed? (this guide is for out of Israel)

How Is Sukkot Observed?

For forty years, as our ancestors traversed the Sinai Desert prior to their entry into the Holy Land, miraculous "clouds of glory" surrounded and hovered over them, shielding them from the dangers and discomforts of the desert. Ever since, we remember G‑d's kindness and reaffirm our trust in His providence by dwelling in a sukkah – a hut of temporary construction with a roof-covering of branches – for the duration of the autumn Sukkot festival. For seven days and nights, we eat all our meals in the sukkah – reciting a special blessing – and otherwise regard it as our home. Weather permitting, some even sleep there.

We reaffirm our trust in His providence by dwelling in a sukkah
Another mitzvah that is unique to Sukkot is the taking of the Four Kinds: an etrog (citron), a lulav (palm frond), at least three hadassim (myrtle branches) and two aravot (willow branches). The Midrash tells us that the Four Kinds represent the various types and personalities that comprise the community of Israel, whose intrinsic unity we emphasize on Sukkot.

On each day of the festival (except Shabbat), during the daytime hours, we take the Four Kinds, recite a blessing over them, bring them together in our hands and wave them in all six directions: right, left, forward, up, down and to the rear. (The Four Kinds are also an integral part of the holiday's daily morning service.)

Sukkot is also called The Time of Our Joy; indeed, a special joy pervades the festival. Nightly Water-Drawing Celebrations, reminiscent of the evening-to-dawn festivities held in the Holy Temple in preparation for the drawing of water for use in the festival service, fill the synagogues and streets with song, music, and dance until the wee hours of the morning.

Out of Israel, Sukkot runs from the fifteenth through the twenty-first of Tishrei. The first two days of this festival (in Israel only the first day) are a major holiday, when most forms of work are prohibited. On the preceding nights, women and girls light candles, reciting the appropriate blessings, and we enjoy nightly and daily festive meals, accompanied by the Kiddush. In Israel we have only one day at the beginning and end of the festival.

Celebrations fill the streets with song and dance until the wee hours of the morning
The remaining days of the festival are Chol Hamoed ("intermediate days"), when most forms of work are permitted. We try to avoid going to work, writing, and certain other activities – many families use this time to enjoy fun family outings.

Every day of Sukkot, including Chol Hamoed, we recite the complete Hallel, Hoshanot, and Musaf, and the Torah is read during the morning service.

The seventh day of Sukkot is called Hoshanah Rabbah ("Great Salvation"). According to tradition, the verdict for the new year – which is written on Rosh Hashanah and sealed on Yom Kippur – is not handed down by the Heavenly Court until Hoshanah Rabbah. On this day we encircle the bimah (synagogue reading table) seven times while holding the Four Kinds and offering special prayers for prosperity during the upcoming year. During the course of the morning prayers it is also traditional to take a bundle of five willow branches and beat them against the ground five times.

Sukkot is immediately followed by the independent holiday of Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah.

The Sukkah: The Holiday Hut

What: A sukkah is a hut built to provide shade. That's why it must sit beneath the open sky—not under a patio deck or even the branches of a tree. The walls can be made of any material, as long as they are secure and don't flap about in the wind. The roof, however, (we call it s'chach), must be of unprocessed materials which have grown from the ground. Bamboo poles, thin wooden slats, and evergreen branches are popular choices. Just make sure to use enough s'chach so that the inside of your sukkah will have more shade than sunlight. Those living in the fast lane can buy a prefab sukkah and bamboo mats. Inquire at your local Judaica store, or click here.

For eight days, make the sukkah your official home
How: For eight days, make the sukkah your official home. Don't panic: As long as you eat your meals there, you're okay. But try to include anything else that you would normally do in the house—like reading a book or talking with a friend. We sit in the sukkah from sundown on the 14th of Tishrei through nightfall of the 22nd of Tishrei.

It is a mitzvah to eat all meals in the sukkah (a "meal" is defined as more than two ounces of grains -- e.g. bread, cake, pasta). Some people have the custom of eating snacks in the sukkah as well. Before eating in the sukkah, the following blessing is recited:

Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to dwell in the sukkah.

his blessing is made when your meal or snack includes a grain-based food.

Raining? If it's really uncomfortable, there is no duty to sit there. Come back when the weather improves. Nevertheless, many chassidim will eat in the sukkah no matter the weather. It's too great and rare a mitzvah to squander...

It is particularly important to eat at least one k'zayit (approx. 1 oz.) of bread or challah on the first evening of the festival in the sukkah, between nightfall and midnight.

Who: Dwelling in the sukkah is a mitzvah for everyone, though the obligation applies mainly to men over the age of thirteen (children as young as five or six should do so too).

Why: The sukkah commemorates the Clouds of Glory which surrounded and protected our ancestors during the forty-year desert sojourn which followed the Egyptian Exodus. Our willingness to leave the security of our homes and spend eight days in a flimsy outdoor hut demonstrates our faith in G‑d and His benevolence.

The Four Kinds: The Lulav and Etrog

Every day of Sukkot (except Shabbat) we take the arba minim, a.k.a. "Four Kinds." Sukkot is a seven-day holiday starting on 15 Tishrei and concluding on 21 Tishrei.

What are the four kinds? A palm branch (lulav), two willows (aravot), a minimum of three myrtles (hadassim) and one citron (etrog). The first three kinds are neatly bundled together—your arba minim vendor can assemble it for you. Click here for a guide to binding the lulav.

Not all sets of arba minim on the market are kosher. Check with your rabbi. And treat your set with TLC—they're fragile goods!

Arba minim is a man's obligation. For women, it's optional but encouraged. Best place for doing this mitzvah is the sukkah, the outdoor holiday booth.

Hold the lulav in your right hand (unless you're a lefty), with its spine facing you. Face east and say:

Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us regarding taking the lulav.

Pick up the etrog in your left hand.

[On the first day of Sukkot (or the first time on Sukkot you get to do this), at this point say:

Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the Universe, who has granted us life, sustained us and enabled us to reach this occasion.]

Bring the lulav and etrog together—you've done the mitzvah!


Treat your set with TLC—they're fragile goods!
the custom is to wave the arba minim in all six directions—south, north, east, up, down and west. Click here for an illustrated guide to shaking the Four Kinds.

Take along your arba minim to the synagogue for the morning services. We wave them again during the Hallel prayer, and then parade them around the synagogue during the Hosha'anot ceremony.

Jewish unity is one of the central themes of Sukkot. The four kinds you are holding symbolize four types of Jews, with differing levels of Torah knowledge and observance. Bringing them together represents our unity as a nation—despite our external differences. So in this spirit of unity, be sure to share your arba minim with your Jewish friends and neighbors!