Thursday, July 28, 2016

Jewish Meditation and I need your help

Rabbi Yehuda Lave

Respect For Other People

Your respect for other people comes from your deep awareness that they are created in the Almighty's image. Therefore you never treat anyone else condescendingly. You never belittle anyone. You realize that everyone has something you can learn from. You realize that you need to respect everyone you encounter. This way of interacting with others is an expression of humility.

Love Yehuda Lave

As part of my respect for other people, I need your help to help spread my blog.

I saw a friend at the Hovitz Chaim Deli on Tuesday and he loves my blog. I hope you feel the same way. I do it as a labor of love but I want to spread it to a wider audience. It would be a great favor to me if I could send my blog to your contact list. Obviously not everyone will want to be a regular member, but all they have to do is unsubscribe or sign up for once a week. I don't charge and I don't put on any commercial advertisements, all I ask is to let you spread my message of how to walk in G-d's way and be a better person to your contacts. If you have 10 or 50 or 100 people you email to, my list will grow substantially. I will do it all. Just write to me and tell me you are willing and I will give you a letter to send to your contacts to introduce me. You will be doing a great Mitzvah.

your friend

Rabbi Yehuda Lave






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Why we fast

Last Sunday, we observed the Fast of the 17th of Tammuz which ushers in the Three Week of semi-mourning culminating in the fast of Tisha B'Av.

It might therefore be beneficial to delve deeper into the purpose of fasting in order to cultivate an appropriate state of mind as we enter this sad period.  To that end, I share with you an insight from my colleague, R. Yehonasan Gefen with my laced-in comments.

The Ben Ish Chai, zt"l, writes that there are two main purposes of fasting.  The first reason is fairly apparent. Fasting diverts a person from physical indulgences so that he can focus on more spiritual matters. That is, as the Rambam states (Hilchos Ta'aniyos 5:1), fasting ought to induce a mood of teshuva, of serious repentance.

His second reason is a little less obvious. When a person fasts, he feels hungry and endures considerable discomfort.  By placing himself in such a predicament, he becomes acutely sensitive and appreciative of the constant distress that a poor person experiences throughout his life.  This increased awareness will heighten his feelings of empathy for the poor man's condition and will move him to offer greater assistance to his unfortunate fellow.

The Ben Ish Chai applies this explanation to clarify an enigmatic statement in the Talmud. In Berachos (6b), we are told that, "the reward for fasting is charity."  He explains that the Talmud is telling us that the "take away" of a day of fasting is that it will inspire a person to give charity.  His very act of fasting will sensitize him to be more caring about the less fortunate people around and accordingly will arouse within him the desire to help them to a greater degree. 

Now, "charity" can be fulfilled in dollars and cents, or it can find expression by the manner in which we treat others. Treating another "charitably" means to be understanding and forgiving. It means to consider how a bit of chesed on my part might make all the difference in the life of another. Broadly speaking, "fasting" is a deprivation of sorts; physical, yes, but it can extend to emotional anguish or emptiness as well. By temporarily placing oneself in a situation similar to that of a person in distress – by fasting - one is able to show a far greater appreciation for his fellow's plight and thus respond with the charity of chesed

Here's but one example.

Rav Shach, zt"l, excelled in doing chesed by showing an understanding of his fellow's challenges.  On one occasion, he heard about a widower who was depressed to the point that he stopped functioning.   Rav Shach decided to visit the man in an attempt to bring him out of his misery.  Receiving no response to his knock, he let himself in and found the man lying motionless on the couch. "I know what you are going through," he said to the man.  "I'm also a widower.  My world is dark and I have no joy."  The man's eyes lit up for the first time in months - this encounter was the catalyst of the man's resumption of a normal life.  What was Rav Shach's secret? By stressing that he too experienced the feelings of losing a spouse, he showed the man that somebody truly understood his pain.

This lesson of fasting is particularly relevant to the 'Three Weeks' we are about to observe. Chazal tell us (Yuma 9b) that the Second Temple was destroyed because of failings in the area of bein adam lechaveiro, man's relation to his fellow.  If, by fasting, we can deepen our compassion for others and engender feelings of warmth and kindness to them, then these three weeks can help repair the terrible sins of the past and hold out Gd's promise of Tisha B'Av transforming from a day of mourning to a day of festivity.

Good Shabbos.

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