Shalom Bayit - Coping with College

This post is dedicated in merit that Hershel ben Etya Sarah have a yeshuah.

Why Millennials Can’t Grow Up
By Elisheva Maline

A sick mother once phoned Rebbetzin Kanievsky with the following, "Rebbetzin, I've been bedridden for the last six months and am heartsick over it. How can I raise my children when I've been reduced to calling out instructions from bed?"

Rebbetzin Kanievsky replied, "You raise them by teaching them how to cope with life." (This is more or less the gist of the story.)

The message from this anecdote is applicable to mothers across the board. Rebbetzin Kanievsky, whose communal as well as national activities had earned her the nickname 'Mother to All,' was reminding the young mother that following a generic list of instructions does not a good mother make. "What's important," the Rebbetzin reiterated, "is teaching your children how to deal with life's ups and downs gracefully," (starting with her personal ailment).       

In today's world, nicknamed the age of the millennial children, the youth are bombarded by technology, helicopter parenting and the iphone twitch (when a person continuously twitches his neck or hand to check his messages, even when the phone is not present). More than ever, the focus is placed on academic achievement and successful careers. Also, thanks to the constant updates in technology, information is more accessible and therefore, more avenues to job opportunities are available. However, as the pace of our environment skyrockets, people's stress levels pick up as well. Why? In the parent's mad dash to provide their children with good credentials and skills so they get into the best colleges, and essentially, the best careers, parents fail to provide their offspring with the space necessary to build those basic life skills which will enable them to stand on their own one day. Instead of encouraging them to pick up after themselves, plan out their own schedules so that they can have time for the things they want to do as well as the things they need to do (like homework and studying), the older generation tends to do it for them. It's faster to clean up your kid's room rather than haggle with him to do it himself. It's also easier. Unfortunately, the Result is that while young adults come to college with a lot of AP's and academic credentials, they discover that they don't know the steps necessary to handle simple things time management, budget management, picking majors, making friends etc. They are OVERWHELMED.

Building up one's career is important. As with all things, though, it needs a balancing act. A good college education is important, as is a viable, well paying career. However, dealing with a messy breakup, booking plane or bus tickets, planning a dinner party for friends, planning out daily schedules so one can set aside time for homework, getting enough sleep, exercising, eating well, getting to classes and work on time and remaining cheerful throughout is essential for the emotional well being of everyone. Does not success come with many faces?

What does Judaism have to say about all this? The greatest form of charity is providing man with a means by which he can work so that he can earn his own wages. In the same vein, parents can give their children room to experience that they have two feet on which they can balance quite well. They will not always need mommy and daddy to fix it; they can stand on their own.

In any case, don't stress over small details. Make today ridiculously amazing.

Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan

This post is dedicated in memory of Etya Sarah bat Yitzchak ha-Levi. May it be an aliyah for her neshama. 

Taken from Women of the Waters Blog
About the month of Cheshvan. Also called Marcheshvan, this is the 8th month, when counting from Nissan. Eight is a number that is beyond nature (seven being a number of completion in Judaism, think 7 days in a week, 7 years in a shmitta cycle, etc.), therefore this month is associated with the coming of the Moshiach - an idea that is beyond the norms of what most people expect. Eight months from the beginning of spring means we are winding down the fall season. In Israel we have begun the rainy season (ideally). There is a custom to wait until Sukkot is over to begin adding the blessing for rain in the daily Amida prayers. In this spirit, the month is associated with the historic Flood of Noach's time - the מבול which began on the 17th of Cheshvan and ended a year later on the 27th. The following day, the 28th, G-d brought out the first Rainbow, a sign that He will never destroy the earth in this way again.

The mazel, sign, of the month is Scorpio, or a scorpion. In Hebrew it's called an עקרב which is related to the word עקב which means heel. The scorpion is synonymous with the snake in mystical thinking, and therefore is representative of the serpent in the Garden of Eden, which led to man's downfall. Interestingly, the sense for this month is smell - the only of the five sense that wasn't corrupted by the sin of eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden.

The tribe of the month is Menashe מנשה whose letters rearraged spell נשמה or soul. They also contain the root משה or Moshe - who redeemed the Jews from slavery in Egypt and משנה Mishna, which is the canonization of Jewish oral law. Much can be said about the connection between these three words and this month, but we will leave you with one idea: that through the study of Torah, given to us by Moshe, our neshamot are able to thrive, even in exile for thousands of years.

Parshat Shavua: Noach

This post is dedicated in memory of Shlomo ben Aryeh Zalman. May it be an aliyah for his neshama. 
By: Shayna Chana
In this week's Torah portion we read the story of the Tower of Bavel. First we see all life on Earth was wiped out due to immoral behavior. Then, as soon as society has a chance to repopulate, the people again rebel against G-d. There are a few opinions as to the motivation behind the building's construction: some commentators say the people wanted to reach up to heaven and destroy G-d (ch"v) so that life on Earth couldn't be destroyed again, others say the people attributed the flood to natural causes, and the tower was being built to hold up the sky and prevent it from crashing down and flooding the world again. In any case, we see something confusing: people in this society weren't so many generations removed from the flood.

They knew exactly why G-d caused the destruction, and of His promise not to do it again. If this is the case, why all of this activity to prevent something that they should know isn't even true?

We see from this example how quick people are to forget the past and make the same mistake. As the old saying goes, "Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it." So even though the generation chose to ignore the mesorah they have and try to 'defeat' or otherwise act up against the Creator of the World, because they were unified in their mission, G-d chose not to destroy them. Instead, he struck them down with new languages, 70 in all, and spread the people around the planet, so they would no longer be able to easily unify for destructive purposes. We also see the power of unity. It's such a rare thing for everyone to agree easily on anything.  G-d valued this ability to cooperate, so it's something we should recognize as important. Let us all be able to communicate with those around us, Even if it feels like they are speaking another language, and work to be unified in our lives for Mitzvot, what G-d values as good.

The Seven Laws of Noah

This post is dedicated in memory of Etya Sarah bat Yitzchak ha-Levi. May it be an aliyah for                                                             her neshama.

-By Elisheva Maline

It's no secret nowadays that Jews aren't looking for converts. Therefore, it wouldn't be surprising if someone added, “And we just want to be left alone.”  However, this statement is untrue. Jews have a calling: they are meant to be “A light unto the nations” (Isaiah 49:6). This means that we are Hashem’s PR (Public Relations): we were given an instruction manual, the Torah, through which we could learn how to achieve closeness to  G-d and thus spread the good word. 

Taken from "The Courage to Live with Uncertainty"
The Seven Laws of Noah were introduced to Adam and Chava during the six days of Creation, centuries before the Torah was given at Mt. Sinai. During the time of Noah, “The earth had become corrupt before G-d and the earth had become filled with robbery” (Genesis 6:11). Once the deluge cleared the earth of this and in order to prevent this from happening again, G-d established these laws and made clear to humanity: this is how we trek down the moral path of existence, straight as an arrow. 

Whether one is going for the best wife/husband award, looking to be an honest businessman or loyal friend/citizen of the state, he can use these laws as a blueprint for the build up of a personal infrastructure. We are the cornerstones of existence! When each of us takes responsibility for his immediate surroundings, he continuously recreates a beautiful world.

The Seven Laws of Noah:
1. Do not blaspheme G-d – Although gossiping, obscenities and idle chatter can be viewed as "only human", speaking kindly, softy and in a controlled manner is viewed as divine. Speech is what separates people from animals. Lihavdil (to enunciate the point), Shakespeare wrote, “Brevity is the soul of all wit.” 
2. Do not murder – Every civilized country agrees that the government does not sanction illegal bloodshed, and yet it happens. Even worse, it has become glorified in the media. Worst, there are thousands of suicides every year and the numbers are mounting. I don’t mean to be a downer but life is precious and the question everyone should be asking is “Who gave anyone the right to snuff out this soul's light?” 
3. Do not engage in incestuous, adulterous relationships – Intimacy is one of the most basic ways a person can emulate G-d: two people becoming a part of the ‘creation’ process. By twisting this natural bond between man and woman, we're moving away from the style of living G-d had in mind for us since the beginning of time. Homosexuality, incest and bestial relations are all forbidden under this heading. I’d like to make note: Jews and non-Jews are also forbidden to connect with one another.
4. Do not deny G-d Paganism, before Christianity gained world domination, gave one the freedom to choose whichever G-d(s) he wanted to worship: the g-d of love, the g-d of war, the g-d of nourishment, perhaps the g-d of death. Atheism, originally starting out as a theorem  in the mid 19th century also gave one the freedom to announce, "there's no such thing as monotheism (or any G-d ism for that matter)." However, since the theory of evolution has remained an unsolvable riddle to this very day it will probably go the the same way ancient Greek mythology did within a handful of decades. It seems the commandment given not to deny of G-d has been included as one the Noachide laws simply because disproving G-d was, and is, too tempting. However, any truth seeker will take comfort in, “Knowing Who is above you: a watching eye, an attentive ear…” (Ethics of our Fathers 2:1) Life has a rhythm, nothing is random and the One holding the reigns is taking care of us.
5. Do not steal – The reader may recall that the straw which broke the camel's back in Noah’s generation was petty theft. People can become founts of generosity with their personal possessions if they learn to have respect for property rights. This midda (character virtue) was missing in Noah's day. Do you know why stores nail their chairs to the floor and banks tie their pens to little strings? People, stop nabbing other peoples’ property. 
6. Do not eat of a live animal – Law #6 did not actually come into play till after the deluge. This is because humanity was vegetarian up to but not post the flood. 
7. Establish courts: legal systems that ensure law obedience – Our rabbis of blessed memory wrote, "Sometimes, war comes to the world through a delay of justice and the perversion of the Torah's teachings.”

What can we do to make the world a better place? The Noachide Laws are a wonderful place to start. 

Sukkot: When Every Jew Counts

This post is dedicated in merit that Hershel ben Etya Sarah have a yeshuah.

By: Samantha Hulkower
Sukkot: The Four Species

If you live in a Jewish area, you'll have noticed Sukkas going up as soon as Yom Kippur ended (around Jerusalem I noticed some being built before Rosh Hashanah!). You could get whiplash moving from a time of such deep introspection as Yom Kippur, to Sukkot, which is known in Hebrew as 'the time of our joy'.

Nothing in the Hebrew calendar is a coincidence, so if Sukkot comes less than a week after the period where we spend so much time working on our selves and mending our relationships with others, there has to be a connection.

We need look no further than the 4 species that are so symbolic of the holiday: the lulav, etrog, hadas, and aravah. When I first started learning about Sukkot I found it a little odd to put such emphasis on something that looks like it should go in a vase on the table in your sukkah, and I was even more confused once I saw people shaking it around! As I learned more, it all started to make sense. 

There is a concept brought down in the midrash (the oral portion of the Torah) that the four species correspond to the four types of Jews in the world:
  • Etrog: It is in the citrus family and looks sort of like a lemon. It has both taste and a pleasant scent. This corresponds to Jews who have both wisdom, which is defined as Torah learning (taste) and do good deeds (scent).
  • Lulav: This is a branch from a date palm, which are very tasty but have no scent. These are Jews who have wisdom, but don't use it to do good deeds.
  • Hadas: This is from a myrtle tree, which has no taste but a nice scent, and represents Jews who do good deeds, but for whatever reason, don't learn Torah.
  • Aravah: Comes from a willow tree and has no scent or taste. This is the category of Jews who are lacking in both wisdom and good deeds.
You cannot fulfill the mitzvah of shaking the four species if any one of the types of trees is missing. In addition, they all must be in pristine shape, if anything is bent or broken or has blemishes they also can't be used. This is supposed to represent the fact that all Jews are necessary for us to function as a whole. Even if you think that a particular group of Jews is deficient and lacking in something (which I'm sure you don't), G-d still says that everyone has a role to play and one group is as necessary as the other - you can't have two etrogs and no aravot if you want to do the mitzvah. It is a good reminder that we all have something of value to offer those around us, even if it isn't so evident at first.
Chag sameach!

Yashar LaChayal

The majesty of the Western Wall

Nefesh B'Nefesh