Sunday, September 28, 2014

Goyish music - what's so terrible??

I really enjoy music. I like to sing. I like to listen to acoustic, classical, rock, pop music, etc.
Music really helped me get through so many challenging, and often miserable, stages in my when I was a new baalat teshuva, sitting in my room all alone with nobody who understands me and many who were judging me.
Or when I was dating. Or experiencing a heartbreak...a issues...
music was always my comfort. It would help me calm down and help my soul elevate and heal.

I would listen to secular music but make sure that the lyrics were "kosher." And to be honest, that music helped me so many times to get through whatever it was that I was dealing with.
But after getting married, I stopped connecting with that music. I suddenly felt like it was coming from a wrong place. The romantic love songs were often so dirty or just...not about true love and felt foreign to me. I no longer sympathized with the break up songs. The rock songs suddenly became depressing and meaningless.

Now, every time I turn to music it's an Avraham Fried, Meydad Tasa, Itzik Eshel, Shwekey, etc. song and that is also the music that my children listen to. Hearing a song like "Ma Ashiv" by Mordechai ben David or "Ki Hirbeisa" by Avraham Fried or "K'ayal Taarog" by Shwekey can change around my whole day.
I have no idea how to explain it, but my mood and outlook towards music is so much more positive now. Every song I hear has positive vibes. Has productive lyrics. Has soul touching ability and elevates my emotions instead of bringing them down. Every song has a purpose, depth, and elements of holiness to it.
This is the kind of music I want resonating in my mind. In my home. In my relationships.

I recently heard a moving story:

Rabbi Wallerstein told the girls in his kiruv high school - let's do an experiment. People may think that secular dvds, music, movies, etc. doesn't negatively affect them because "I'm different."

So, he put on a popular rap song and asked everyone to close their eyes.
Then told them to write what they envision while listening to the music.
After 4 minutes of listening to this song, the papers read: hate, darkness, depression, anger, rage

Then he put on "Mama Rochel" and asked everyone to close their eyes again and listen to the music.
Then told them to write what they envision while listening to this song.
Their papers read: warmth, potential, love, HaShem, protection....

Rabbi Wallerstein's point of conducting this exercise was to show them that the music goes somewhere. It doesn't just go in one ear and out the other. It touches your soul, your mind, your thoughts, and impacts your mood.

Granted, not every secular song is a rap song or vulgar, but this story really made an impression on me.
It made me wonder - what kind of music do I want touching my soul?

So yeah. It's been 3 years since I've been exclusively listening to Jewish music, and I feel such a difference.
Thank G-d, being that I have a fulltime job as a wife & mother (and some other job for money ;)), I don't have as much time alone time as I previously did and can't listen to shiurim daily, go to Shul on Shabbatot, read as many books, etc. as I used to. I would assume that my relationship with HaShem and emuna would suffer because of that. And yet...I feel so much closer to HaShem and spiritually aware than before.
I really think it is somewhat due to surrounding myself in a home and environment that yearns for kedusha and eliminating the music I would listen to.

I'm not really sure what the purpose of this post was. Just thoughts/reminiscing/ideas and some introspection.
I hope to be able to listen to a aseret yemei teshuva related shiur this week & record it on this blog.

Wishing everyone a Shana Tova & Gmar Chatima Tova!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Chizzuk For Elul

I'm sure y'all have heard the phrase "live every day as if it's your last."
It's one of those played out, overly quoted lines that basically means live life to the fullest.
Now while "the fullest" can be defined in many different ways, according to Judaism, it means make the most out of your potential by doing as many mitzvot as possible and being as close to HaShem as possible.
Afterall, do we really know which day is our last day? We all hope to live until 80, 90, 120...
But who really knows? I'm sure everyone, unfortunately, can think of somebody who tragically died unexpectedly at a young age, in a weird incident, etc. (lo aleinu)

So I'd like to share with you a very moving email that shook my neshama and screamed "It's Elul! Do Teshuva!" It is from, which is a fantastic website that distributes daily Sephardic halacha to thousands of Jews around the world.

May we all be zochim to do full teshuva during this holy month of Elul and have a wonderful & productive year of 5775 (in Hebrew: Tash'aah. Tav - the last letter of the Hebrew Alphebet. And Shaa'ah means hour. So "last hour"...this year is hopefully the year of the geula. It's our last chance for teshuva, so yalla! :))

The First Lebanon War broke out in the year 5742 (1982). On Erev Rosh Hashanah of that year, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l delivered a powerful and uplifting speech which seems ever so appropriate for us after just having experienced a difficult period of time, i.e. Operation Protective Edge in which our soldiers battled courageously against terrorist elements in the Gaza Strip who brazenly threatened the lives of millions of Israeli citizens. Unfortunately, the Jewish nation sustained priceless losses of human life. Similarly, the Jewish people, especially the residents of Southern Israel and many innocent children, were made to live in terror fearing the worst and the unexpected at any moment. It is therefore an opportune time to share the words of Maran zt”l (with some additional insights) with our readers in order to infuse them with the strength and support necessary for the upcoming year.
“Many tragedies have befallen us this past year, especially regarding the First Lebanon War, a war resulting in much bloodshed in which over six hundred IDF forces were killed, among them many G-d-fearing individuals especially the forty Hesder Yeshiva students. This is besides the multitude of injured soldiers, many of whom will remain handicapped for the rest of their lives, some without hands, feet, or eyesight. All this is in addition to the many people killed in fatal car accidents throughout the course of the year, for not a day passes without a deadly car crash.
If we stop to think about this, all of these horrific incidents were decreed to befall us on Yom Kippur. If only we would be aware of the harsh Heavenly decrees hovering above our heads, we would certainly storm the gates of Heaven in prayer in order for the King of all kings to nullify these decrees and save us from our enemies.
Would all the individuals who are no longer with us have known that this would befall them this year, we can only imagine how much they would have awakened themselves to repent fully on Yom Kippur and to shed copious tears in order to nullify this harsh decree. Certainly, not only would they have acted accordingly, for the families of these individuals would likewise not rest until they succeeded in nullifying the harsh decree against their loved ones if they would only know what lay in store for them. However, Hashem’s secrets are not revealed to us.
Fortunate is the man who takes all of this into consideration ahead of Yom Kippur, for one who repents beforehand is forgiven. One should think that he is also numbered among those for whom this year will be their last and then pray, confess, and beg Hashem to grant us all a good and sweet new year.
Picture the following: One wakes up in the morning feeling healthy, invigorated, and full of smiles. The individual says goodbye to his family (not realizing that this will be his final farewell), gets in his car, and drives off to work contently in Tel Aviv or Haifa. Sometime along his journey, at a busy intersection, a truck speeds out of control, crosses the divider into the opposite lanes, and smashes head on with this individual’s car killing him instantly. Did this person realize that this would be his end? If he would have known that this was to be his end, he certainly would not even have left the doorway of his home and he would have locked the door with seven locks. However, this human being with eyes of flesh brought himself to his own death, as the Gemara (Sukkah 53a) states that one’s own feet carry one to his place of death.
On the other hand, if one has more of an intellectual outlook, one will understand and realize that we are all in harm’s way and the world is erupting all around us. Who knows what the next day will bring? We do not only do we require Heavenly mercy from a security standpoint; one requires Heavenly mercy and assistance in every aspect of life, including meriting to bring children into the world, raising and educating them, one’s livelihood, health, peace, tranquility, and the list goes on and on. Every individual must know that everything is in Hashem’s hands and what will befall a person throughout the course of the year is being decreed during these days. Any decree has the ability to be changed from one extreme to the other during this time through repentance, prayer, and charity. After the Days of Awe, this task becomes infinitely more difficult.
Fortunate is the individual who focuses on this idea and capitalizes on these awesome days by repenting fully, for Hashem shall accept and heal him.” (See Ma’or Yisrael-Derashot, page 4)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Banim Atem L'HaShem

Many people can relate to the concept of having an all loving Father in Heaven.

I did (and do), but my belief that HaShem is my loving Father Who only wants the best for me has been significantly strengthened since I became a mother BH.

There're so many different instances when one of my kids is crying cause he just doesn't understand what's going on. He thinks I'm hurting him but really I'm helping him. For example, vaccines. No parent likes taking their child to the doctor in order to get a shot. But this shot, however painful it may be, is preventing way more painful and dangerous diseases. So this preventive measure needs to be taken (and btw, according to Rav Elyashiv z"l and many other Rabbanim, it is a mitzvah and chiyuv to vaccinate your children).
So my baby cries when that sharp needle goes into her soft, delicate little leg. It hurts me so much, and I just wish I could take the pain for her. But I can't. This is what needs to be done. It's for her own good. But I can't explain it to her. I mean, I can. But she wouldn't understand. When she's older BH, I'll be able to explain it to her. But for now - an explanation wouldn't do any good.

That's how it is with HaShem. He's our parent Who loves us so much. But we need to sometimes go through pain, yisurim, difficulties, in order to prevent a bigger problem later on. It is HaShem saving us and doing something for our own good, but we just don't understand. We don't see how this could be for our benefit if it hurts so much. An explanation wouldn't be able to justify the pain because we are too "young" and not capable of understanding. Perhaps when we're older (hindsight is often 20/20, right?) but not at this moment.

Every time I take one of my kids to receive a shot/vaccination, I remind myself of this.

And I've seen this happen to me so many times. BH I have been zocha to see how many yisurim I went through were for my benefit, making me stronger & wiser and often saved me from ruining my life.
For example, back when I was in shidduchim (as anyone who followed my blog from the beginning knows), I suffered immensely from the first ever close relationship that I was in. I was dating someone who, for years, I hoped to be married to. I allowed myself to be vulnerable and completely trusted him, thinking that he would definitely be my husband. Well, after he suddenly & unexpectedly ended it, I was just miserable. I felt as if someone cut open my bleeding heart and threw it on the floor in front of me. There were many days where I couldn't stop crying. Why wasn't I good enough?
I felt as if I would never find better. And in fact, the more I dated, the more I realized how nobody "measured up" to him. Was I doomed forever? Would I ever find somebody with whom I'll have such an emotional and close relationship?
I can't even begin to put it in words how wrong I was to be sad after he broke up with me. Other than becoming frum, up until that point, it was the biggest bracha HaShem ever blessed me with. If I would've been married to him, my life would've been miserable. I will not go into detail because one day he, or a relative, may find this blog, and it would make them feel bad. But I know HaShem saved me because I fully believe, with 100% honesty, that I would have never, ever been happy with that man.
My husband, baruch HaShem, is better than any person I could've ever dreamed of. I am so thankful to HaShem that I had to go through those years of painful shidduchim to find my other half and best friend. It was all worth it.

I am not blogging about this in order brag. I am sharing this to show everyone that although we may be suffering and going through such nisyonot, it really is for THE GOOD, and if we just hang in there, daven, and work on ourselves, things will really start looking up. Keep your head up and have emuna! Gam Zu L'tova is not just a phrase. It's not just a played out, nice sounding concept. It is absolute emet, and one must believe with his whole heart and neshama that HaShem loves every single Jew, and there is not one speck of cruelty in HaShem. He does everything for us out of love and care, hoping for us to be close to Him and make the right choices to lead wonderful and meaningful lives.