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.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Plea to an OTD friend

Dear friend,

I spoke to you just 2 months ago. You told me how life is just so difficult, and you just want to be married already. I tried to give you chizzuk and told you not to worry. You'll find that special guy. You'll have righteous children.
But I didn't try my best. I wasn't listening to you. I didn't feel your pain strongly enough. I didn't understand the severity of your misery.

And now, 2 months later, you are no longer frum. Shabbat is Saturday. Food no longer needs a hechsher. Activities and hobbies are no longer shiurim and chessed events, but rather bars, clubs, and parties. You've traded your kiki rikkis for arms and collarbones, and your skirts for pants.

You feel that everyone from your previously frum life is judging you. I'm trying not judge you. I'm sure many people have already tried to guilt trip you. To convince you. To make you feel terrible about this choice.
But I don't want to guilt trip you. Nor do I want you to feel terrible. Nor will I explain to you how your averot have consequences and can lead to you not having a share in olam haba.
If you want to give up your olam haba, that is an unfortunate choice, but it is your choice. It is a sacrifice you would like to make in order to (try) to have pleasure in this world.

But my dear, dear friend. Forget olam haba for a minute.

If you're searching for happiness, do you think you'll find it at the club? If you're searching for a kind, caring, loving husband who will make you the only woman in his life & only have eyes for you and no other female, do you think you'll find him at the local bar? If you're aiming to raise righteous, well-behaved, pure children, do you think that behavior will be learned from TV, ipads, and unfiltered internet?
But most of all, how will you have happiness if you don't have HaShem? Having a close relationship with HaShem is the most fantastic feeling in the world. Feeling HaShem's presence and hashgacha in your daily life is the strongest form of joy. If the only reason we're on planet earth is to feel close to HaShem and have a relationship with him, what will be your reason for living? What will be your meaning in life? What will be your direction?

Do you only want to realize the answer to all of these questions when you're 50, when your marriage is failing, your physical beauty is diminishing, and your children are totally secular? What will you do then? Won't you regret that you allowed the best years to slip through your fingers? Won't you despise having an empty life, void of meaning, of destination, of faith?

My precious friend, many people may have given up on you.
But HaShem has not given up on you. You have a holy neshama, and your neshama will always feel misplaced in a body, in a home, that is not serving its' purpose in life.

It is never too late to do teshuva. But there are times when it can be more painful to do teshuva, with many more regrets. Regrets that could have been prevented.

Be wise. Don't wait until the "never too late" point in life.

I pray that you will be on the right derech and realize that running away won't solve any of your problems.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Don't Let Life Pass You By

I hate facebook.
For many, many reasons. That's probably a topic for a different blog post, though.
But the main reason I hate it is for it's fakeness.
So many people are miserable and yet trying to prove to the world (aka all of their facebook "friends") that life is just awesome and perfect. See my carribean hotel with the pool in front? (never mind that I was bored most of the time and got into a fight with my friend that night) See my night out with my super handsome hubby? (never mind that he was drunk the whole night)

I couldn't bear a day with facebook because I would be saddened. Saddened by how many people just allow life to pass by. Hours and hours to be wasted.

When the Torah wants to wish somebody a long life, the bracha is "arichut YAMIM" and not "arichut SHANIM". Why's that? Why wish a person many days instead of many years?
Because a Jew needs to make each DAY count. Not every year. Each day needs to be as fulfilling as possible. A person needs to aim to reach his inner core and most deep potential every single day. We need to strive to grow closer to HaShem with each and every moment and day that we live and breathe.
The answer is so powerful. And so scary. Because it means that there are so many people who live long lives and many years but haven't really lived a day in their life.

Why does HaShem bless us that we're able to wake up in the morning and have the ability to breathe, see, speak, taste, smell, hear, and understand?
So that we will use these G-d blessed "instincts" for avodat HaShem. Not for anything else. Just for closeness to HaKadosh Baruch Hu.

Now, all of this sounds nice in theory. But practically, it is very, very difficult.
And I think it's difficult because the yetzer hara knows how to get our priorities mixed up.
For example, I'm a work at home wife & mother to 2 kids (yes I gave birth to a second holy beautiful neshama BH!) I have friends who are at the "same point" in life - either stay at home moms with 1+ kids or they work outside and send their kids to daycare, but either way, many of my friends complain how rote their day is, and how meaningless and boring they're finding married life w/ kids to be. I hear things along the lines of "wow. Life is so mundane. I wake up, need to change diapers, feed the kids, drop them off at daycare or take care of them throughout the day, come home, do laundry, cook dinner, and sleep. I have no time for shiurim. I have no time to open a sefer. I'm just always tired!"
Suddenly, marriage isn't such a dream anymore. There are no lavish vacations. Eating out often may not be an option. Finances are tough. The scale's number are getting higher and clothes don't fit as right. (That's part of the joy of motherhood! :))
It's easy for a woman to feel worn out from all of this.
But NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ladies, if a woman feel that way, her priorities are OFF!
The Arizal teaches us that women come into this world perfect. We are here to take care of our husbands & encourage their limud Torah and to raise tzadikim and tzadikot children who will light up the world.
THAT'S IT!! (okay, we also need to do avodat hamiddot, keep mitzvoth, and be modest...)
But that is our ikkar.
Sounds like fluff? It's not.
Chazal teach us in Gemara Brachot 17a - "nashim b'mayi zachyan" -- what mitzvah does a woman do that earns her olam haba? (Afterall, a man's ikkar is limud Torah. But we don't get a mitzvah for learning Torah, so how can we merit olam haba??)
The answer is through sending our husbands to learn Torah and our children to learn Torah.
Because what else are we living for, if not Torah? Why live life, if not to be close to HaShem and earn our place in olam haba to be the closest we possibly can be to Him?

And anything we do for our husbands and children is a mitzvah. So yes, doing laundry, cooking, changing diapers (Rav Meir Eliyahu quotes a big Rav -- I forgot who -- who said that every time a woman changes her child's diaper, it's k'ilu she put on tefillin. Not joking!), singing songs to your toddler who wants to hear the same thing over and over and over again...
all of that is a mitzvah.

This doesn't only apply to married women.
This also applies to single women. I have a single friend who has told me she is making a lot of money per hour and has all this money and has no clue what to do with it. She goes on vacations. She buys nice clothing. Now what??
SUPPORT LIMUD TORAH! Give tzdaka. BH you're able to give more than 10%. (I hope she's reading this because I didn't tell her this when we spoke on the phone. I love you btw.)
The Gemara tells us that supporting Torah is one of a woman's main missions in this world. A single woman should support Torah (by giving to a kollel, a needy avrech family, a shul, etc.) as much as she can. There is no limit to this.

Find meaning in the most "mundane" of daily life. Say a l'shem yichud before doing these things.
"I'm cooking a kosher healthy meal so that my husband will have koach for his Avodat HaShem"
"I'm getting dressed this morning because I am a bat Melech, and it is a priviledge and honor to be a tznua"
"I'm eating so that I'll have koach and energy to pray to HaShem"
"I'm exercising so that I'll be healthy and be able to continue doing mitzvoth without any health distractions"
"I'm working so that I'll have money to buy food for Shabbat kodesh, to clothe my wife and kids, to pay rent for our home which is a mikdash me'at, etc."
etc. etc. etc.
The list is endless.
And this will also help you stay away from the bad things that waste time, and therefore, waste life and meaningful days. For ex, there's no l'shem yichud before watching a movie. Sorry. There isn't.
TV doesn't energize anybody. It kills brain cells and inhibits a person's potential. It imbues shtuyot in our subconscious minds, and these shtuyot don't aid anyone's avodat HaShem.
(perhaps I'll write a radical post or have my husband be a guest writer for why Disney truly isn't so clean and actually damages a person's outlook towards dating, marriage, and more.)

May we all be zochim to make each and every day count. May we each reach our true potential and may we all always feel close to HaKadosh Baruch Hu!