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Happiness Hacks

Happiness Hacks

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Happiness & Spirituality

 For a 2 minute audio version click here 

The Hebrew word that most approximates happiness is osher.   In the Torah, the osher sense of happiness is achieved through spiritual activity.  In Jewish teachings, physical actions cannot bring happiness because man’s physical desires can never be totally satisfied.  Even things that at one point in life made us very happy, eventually fail to make us happy.  We experience an emotional spike of joy when we get something new, but then the new becomes normal and we don’t find happiness in normal. So we look for the new new.  The cycle never ends.  When we are so focused on getting more, we lose the chance to focus on what we already have.

Spiritual experiences, on the other hand, cause a much longer lived pleasure.  It is a rich pleasure that does not easily recede over time. 

The Torah’s examples of activities that lead to Osher are: Those who hold onto the Tree Of Life, that is, the Torah.  (Proverbs 3:18).  A Torah way of life, if lived properly, gives a person an inner feeling of wellbeing and satisfaction along with feelings of accomplishment and spirituality that can change a person’s entire attitude about life.

Another example is from Isaiah 56:2:  One who keeps the Shabbat and does not violate it is called happy.  A properly experienced Shabbat brings feelings that last well beyond the one day. 

The very first verse in Psalms begins with the statement that he who does not follow the advice of evil doers and who does not go in the path of the wicked will be happy.  By associating with and following the path of righteous people, one can experience a special feeling between people who care about each other.

Spiritual pleasure does not always need to be religious in nature.  Examples are experiences of deep friendships or meaningful experiences of personal growth.

There’s no Fun in Hebrew

For a 2 minute audio click here 

Many people tend to associate being ‘happy’ with having ‘fun’.  In Biblical Hebrew, however, there is no word for the latter.* Obviously, fun cannot be the definition of Jewish happiness.

Simchah is often the Hebrew word used for the state of being happy.  It’s a close approximation, buts it’s not the true definition of Jewish happiness.  For example the Torah commands us to be sameach on the holiday of Sukkot. But firstly how can the Torah command one to feel an abstract emotion such as happiness?  And secondly, why is Sukkot the only chag singled out for happiness?

Therefore sameach is generally translated as a term of satisfaction or appreciation.  This is, after all, something that one can be commanded: to appreciate what we have and to be satisfied with what G-d has given us.  As the famous dictum from ‘Ethics of our Fathers’ says “Who is truly rich?  One who is sameach/satisfied with their lot.”  The truly rich person in Jewish terms is the one who appreciates what he has, no matter how much or how little.

Thus to be commanded to be satisfied and appreciative on the festival of Sukkot makes sense.  This is a holiday that comes post-harvest.  For some it’s a time of self-indulgence or relaxation following physical labours.  For others it’s a time of frustration after a disappointing crop.  Hence the commandment of Sukkot is to be satisfied with one’s lot. 

Not appreciating what we have and always desiring more, means that our minds and hearts are focused on something negative: on that which we don’t have. This desire is not only the result of unhappiness and the need to fill the emptiness unhappiness creates.  It is also the original bridge to unhappiness. It is itself a cause for unhappiness. In this sense, it is a negative and harmful human trait.

Satisfaction and appreciation are still not the definition of Jewish happiness, but they definitely are the first steps that lead to it.

*Modern Hebrew has borrowed the Arabic word Kef to mean fun.

Of Miracles and Tests

 For a two minute audio recording click here 

Tests demand from us more strength or abilities than we think we have. Through a test we have the ability to go beyond what our rational mind limits us to.

In Hebrew the word for test is ‘nesayon’ and the word for miracle is ‘nes’. Tests and miracles are closely related. A miracle is when G-d breaks out of His standard pattern of natural law and demonstrates unlimited powers. A test is when G-d invites you to do the same.

In the human experience we cannot escape the fact that we will be challenged both from without and within.  These conditions pose a big challenge to our moral and spiritual development.  But our biggest challenge and struggle is also our biggest asset.  For when we indeed overcome challenges through toil, this triumph introduces us to a new and higher level of existence.

 The following story illustrates this point. 

A man once visited the Lubavitcher Rebbe and confided, “I have a problem.  I’ve started to become more Torah observant, but I have a girlfriend who isn’t Jewish and I plan to marry her.”  The man braced himself for some kind of rebuke.  The Rebbe’s response took the man by total surprise.  “I envy you,” the Rebbe said.

“The tests you face are ladders that elevate you to great heights.  There are many ladders in life.  The ladders present themselves as life’s challenges and difficult choices.  The test you face is the ladders that elevate you to great heights; the greater the challenge the greater the ladder.  G-d has given you this difficult test because He believes you can overcome it and has endowed you with the ability to do so.  Very few are presented with a ladder as challenging as yours.  Don’t you see, then, why I envy you?”

The Purpose of Challenge

 For an under 2 minute audio click here 

Man is gifted with many talents and strengths.  But all too often they are not actualised.  When we face new challenges, however, we are able to rise above mediocrity and realise our enormous potential.

Challenges can extract the very best from us. As Nachmanides writes “The purpose of a test… is to take something from potential to reality.”

The Hebrew word for test and challenge is nisayon.  But nisayon can also mean ‘experience’ or ‘training’.

Challenges are a divine communication that let us know that we are capable of more, prompting our very best efforts and the use of the full extent of our abilities.  Challenges also teach us that this strength we never knew we had can be tapped into even in times that are not so distressing.  In this sense, pain is a call to action; it’s not enough to “get by”, but one must strive to reach greater heights.

Our forefather Avrohom faced 10 particular tests. With each test, Avrohom tapped deeper into the reservoirs of his soul.  This is indicated by the Torah’s very first command to Avrohom, ‘Lech Lecha,’ which is usually translated as “go for yourself.”  But in Chassidic thought it is translated literally as “Go to yourself” i.e. your true innermost self.  Avrohom’s tests were a journey deep into his soul to discover what he was truly capable of.

The Guilt Trap

 For an under 2 minute audio click here 

Sometimes unhappiness results from our feeling inadequate and not appreciating our self-worth.  We define ourselves by past failings and mistakes. Perversely our mind finds comfort in these feelings by rationalising them and portraying them to be noble feelings of guilt.  However these feelings can be very destructive. They can demoralise a person and detract from his or her energy to be focused on the present and the future.

Chassidism teaches that one of the ploys of our evil inclination is to overwhelm an individual with self-righteous guilt over past deeds.  When one is happy within one’s self, he or she has more self-control and doesn’t surrender to every impulse.  But a sad person who is overcome by guilt loses that power of resistance.  This is the evil inclination’s plan: to lure a person into feeling bad about past behaviour in order to entice him/her into even worse behaviour in the future. This leads to an even deeper feeling of degradation, which leads to a search for worse indulgences and so the cycle repeats itself.

Nonetheless it is crucial to take stock of our actions. Without this process how can one improve?  But to ensure that these reflections inspire growth rather than guilt entails ignoring the thoughts when they appear in our mind and instead appointing the time for self-examination ourself.  When we take charge of the process, our thinking is proactive, seeking positive change, not reactive which leads to guilt. We will know if our stocktaking was productive based on the results of the sessions with ourselves.

Transforming Envy

For a 2 minute audio click here  

Envy can be a force for good. 

When someone feels envious, it can motivate them to reach greater heights and often, is a catalyst for great achievements.

While we see envy as a negative trait, it is not inherently so.   It can be harnessed towards positivity. 

The challenge we face when dealing with envy is channeling jealousy in the right direction.

What is the turning point?  What is the juncture that brands envy as a trail to destruction or as a springboard to achievements?

Envy is a problem when we are blind to our own faults and blind to the opportunities that our failings may give way to. Envy becomes destructive when the opportunity for self-improvement is lost. 

When envy is driven by ego, we lose sight of our shortcomings. Most feelings of jealousy actually stem from an inflated sense of self-worth. Therefore, the battle becomes a fight between ourselves and our egos, not between ourselves and the feelings we may have. In order to channel envy for the good we must first deflate our sense of entitlement.

It’s not about us and what we think we deserve.  It is about feeling proud of our family and friends and allowing them to reap the benefits of their achievements.  When we can do that we can then create a space for envy to grow and to be channeled into a momentum for self-reflection and self-improvement.

Our struggle with envy is for the time being.  One day it will be gone forever as Rambam writes regarding he coming of Moshiach “In that era, there will be neither famine nor war, envy or competition, for good will flow in abundance and all the delights will be freely available as dust.   The occupation of the entire world will be solely to know G-d.”

Until that time, it is up to us to identify when envy can become destructive and instead, direct our feelings into a more constructive channel.

Tackling Envy

 For an under 2 minute audio version click here 

Envy is one of the Ten Commandments, but compared to the others it gets very little attention.  After all, when dealing with things like murder and theft, a little jealousy hardly seems to be a concern.

But in truth, envy is an everyday emotion that most people grapple with.  Nobody is free from its harmful influence. It is powerful and destructive and it can cripple our wellbeing.

Crucially, however, Judaism teaches that envy can be overcome and be used at a catalyst for personal growth.  Moments of jealousy are opportunities to transcend our current nature and to refine ourselves.

What is the root cause of envy?

Envy results from self-centeredness.  We view the world through our own lenses, seeing everything in reference to ourselves.  This leads to envy.  When one is unable to view others’ success, achievements and acquisitions in isolation, we grow jealous and ask ourselves “What about me?”

We cannot cure ourselves of envy by fighting it head on.  Why tackle the symptom and not the cause? We must strive for selflessness by dedicating ourselves to being more giving, compassionate and humble.

Then when our friend tells us about their promotion, their holiday or nachas from their children, I can truly be happy for them.  I can see their success in isolation and not in terms of myself.  Then it’s my friend’s moment, not mine. 

This character development is not easy.  It entails expanding our perceptions to include others besides our precious selves.

But it begins with crossing a great divide from our instinctive, subjective and egotistical take on our surroundings to a more spiritual and humble perspective.

Vicarious Resilience; A Personal Journey

Am I in the right place?  I have been asking myself tonight.
After all, tonight is Simchat Torah.
Tonight I should be in 770 dancing amongst the thousands of men and women. 

Thinking of it alone, makes beads of sweat run down my face, my heart pulsate and my legs cry out to me to dance.
Still I know how far I am from the vibe and the fervor.    

I should be a part of this.  I was last year and the years before that.
I should be with my friends holding on to one another round after round.
Every circle another melody, every circle another rhythm, every circle another meaning.

But you can't change reality, and reality leaves me to the quietness of a hospital room.  The silence itself can make a visitor ill.

I sit by Zaidy's bedside, oh how I wish we could talk.
But Zaidy's tired.  Still there is so much I wish to ask:  Simchat Torah in his shtetel, did they dance in the streets?  Simchat Torah in the camps, was there any kind of commemoration?  

Suddenly Zaidy turns to my side. 
He confirms tonight is Simchat Torah, and in a low hoarse voice he begins a story.

The war was over. We had been liberated by the Red Army.
But I had no family and nowhere to go.
I felt as if the group of Jews I was with, were the only Jews left in Europe.
We walked around like zombies, trying to find word from family and friends.  But the more news that came, the worse the news got.

The first time I would be back in a Shul would be Simchat Torah.
With barely a minyan inside, the chazzan gave a davening like you can't imagine.  Even before the war I had never heard anything like it.

As the Chazzan's voice echoed in the room, I told myself, after all this pain and suffering and still there is a Jew who can pray to G-d with such love, fear, and compassion.  There must be many other small groups of Jews all over Europe davening just like us.

That moment I knew there was still hope.

Zaidy ends his story by saying ‘And that's why Simchat Torah is so dear to me.’

After hearing his story, my recurring question found its answer.
I was in the right place. I was spending my Yom Tov in the Holy of Holies. 

I drank the words of Zaidy's story, and got drunk on its lesson.  I danced the tune of Zaidy's courage.  I carried the Torah, Zaidy's Torah of hope. 

My grandfather and his family were taken to Auschwitz Passover night.   He was the only survivor.  How could he have ever celebrated a holiday again?
My grandfather’s flame was rekindled on that Simchat Torah night.  Never did he not celebrate a holiday to its fullest.

***

One of the most controversial subjects in academic research on the Holocaust is the trauma's impact on future generations. A new study carried out by Haifa University argues that Holocaust trauma signs can be identified among third-generation grandchildren.

Genetic changes stemming from the trauma suffered by Holocaust survivors are capable of being passed on to their children, the clearest sign yet that one person’s life experience can affect subsequent generations.

There are many more studies being done on generational transference of Holocaust trauma. The research is fascinating.  I am far from an expert in this field, so I will not dwell on this topic.  But I know we are going to be hearing and talking a lot about this in the years to come.

For Velly article.jpg 

***

On Friday night, September 16, 2006 – I was a 21 years old post Yeshiva student, walking the streets of my home town Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

I passed a group of 7-8 African American teenagers and thought nothing of it.

Pop. I suddenly felt the most unusual sensation to the right side of my face and I was utterly confused.
I put my hand to my face and saw my hand was covered in blood, and blood was streaking down, now turning my entire white shirt red.

I was no longer able to see from my right eye.

I than felt four hands on my shoulders wrestle me down.
Lying on my back I began kicking those four fists that were now extending towards me.
I know I was shouting but I cannot remember what. 

My attackers then fled, one of them was holding a metal baseball bat.
I had been struck with the bat once across the right side of my face.
I instantly suffered 5 fractures to my face, including a fractured orbital.

I would spend a while in the hospital and needed reconstructive face surgery. 
A quarter of my face is now titanium. (And no, I don’t beep when I go through metal detectors.)

I was home from the hospital.  The police started an investigation, but nobody was caught or punished.  I wanted to move on in life, but I was upset, dejected, and angry.  Very angry. I had plans to travel to South Africa to study for my Rabbinical degree.  But my energy was depleted and my heart was not into it.  I felt like I was sinking.

One late night, a picture in my room caught my eye.
It was a photo of my grandfather and me at my Bar Mitzvah.
My grandfather has his hand on my shoulder.  His normally deep and moist eyes are radiant.  He looks immensely proud.

I was transported back to the night my grandfather shared with me his Simchat Torah story.

I once again listened to that memory he shared.  In my mind I witnessed the destruction and his renewal.

I put the picture back on the shelf and I felt the possibility of transcending my current state and working through my pain.  My grandfather’s lesson on resilience taught me to see my trauma as a set back and to attempt to reach a higher place.  I no longer saw myself as a victim and I never looked back.

*** 

My choice to become a Rabbi was influenced by my Zaidy. Because of him, I am trying to continue to teach and inspire the Jewish generations. When I pray on a Shabbat morning, I can hear my Zaidy’s sweet and calm voice from when he used to lead the prayers and it gives lift to my Davening. 

When I celebrate in my own Sukkah, I remember Zaidy sitting in his and singing his favorite Yom Tov song “Atah B’chartanu – You have chosen us from among all the nations; You have loved us and found favor with us….“ During the Pesach Seder, I am always transported back to my family Seder of old.  My grandfather’s unique tune for the Haggadah makes one feel absolutely free.

Today, I try to imagine explaining generational transference of Holocaust trauma to my grandfather.

He would most probably look at me, shake his head and say something like “Nunu”.

I try to imagine explaining to him generational transference of Holocaust resilience, and I see him once again put his hand over my shoulder, his eyes radiant and proud.

I argue, if we are inheriting trauma, the flip side is an inheritance of resilience.  The trauma comes automatically.  But resilience needs to be worked on and developed. To be witnesses for the survivors is to constantly see their story and see how they relate to our lives today.

My grandfather, Reb Chaim Tzvi Moskovitz OBM, despite his Holocaust trauma, personified faith, goodness and kindness, study and acceptance of all. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him and try to follow in his ways.  His legacy of resilience is a gift I cherish.

I believe that we must study our surviving grandparents’ stories and actively integrate those stories into our lives to strengthen our resilience and help us overcome obstacles.  To grow from our experiences and to become better from our hardships.    

Tell me, is there a better gift that we can give them?

Love vs Respect

Every time a person imposes their self upon others, unhappiness follows. It is an attempt to control the uncontrollable and the result is emotional stress and tension.

Often we have this vision of how other people are meant to be.  Actually the closer they are to us, the surer we are that we know how they should be behaving.  But this is an investment of emotional energy that does not pay off.

The emotion of love drives empathy and concern.  Love is to give.  In Hebrew, love is אהבה whose root is הב, which means to give.  But sometimes, giving when not asked for or not needed is invasive, such as an unwanted opinion. 

Respect, on the other hand, is withholding.  Respect enables us to take a step back and give others the space they need to operate independently, to make their own decisions and walk their own path. For example, respecting another’s opinion even if we don’t agree with it.  Respect is appreciating another’s unique personality and character traits that sets them apart from you.

Love is me going out of my way for you.
Respect is me getting out of my way for you.
Love is something we fall into.
Respect is something we climb into.
Love is me doing what you would like to be done.
Respect is me refraining from doing what you would not like to be done.

Nurturing Respect Exercise

· Identify one relationship in your life, be it family, friendships or workplace, where you can incorporate more respect.

· Reflect on that person’s distinctiveness and strengths and how it can complement you, for at the end of the day, respect is rooted in the sober reality that people are so different from each other and can thus complement each other.

· Think of some practical ways to respect this person’s boundaries. i.e Respecting his or her opinions.  Not trying to control that person. Not judging their actions. Holding back from having disrespectful thoughts of this person.

The key to healthy relationships and interactions, one that avoids disappointment and stress, is to find the proper balance between love and respect.  Because untempered love is smothering and invasive, while untempered respect is distant and uncaring.

“If I am I because you are you, and you are you because I am I, then I am not I and you are not you.  But if I am I because I am I and you are you because you are you, then I am I and you are you; and now we can talk.”
-The Kotzker Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Morgenstern

Purposeful Living

 

Being created in the Divine image comes with the deep responsibility and global mission to bring the world to a higher purpose; transforming the world to be an environment befitting for G-ds presence.

With every Mitzvah, positive action and good deed we do, fusing matter with spirit, we implement this Divine vision for the universe.

Each person contributes to this in a way that nobody else can.  Each person is unique, indispensable,  absolutely necessary and granted with special qualities and distinctive responsibilities to fulfil their purpose.

The fact that G-d put you here indicates that you are needed.  Birth is G-d saying “You matter.”

As Viktor Frankl so powerfully wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning:  “Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfilment.  Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated.  Thus, everyone’s task is as unique as his specific opportunity to implement.”

The question then is where do I fit into this grandiose picture? What is this unique mission of mine?  Where do I find it?  And how do I accomplish it?

Mission Statement

Our internal qualities such as personality, convictions, interests and even weaknesses and vices, once disciplined and channelled, are all part of our distinctive purpose to refine ourselves and the world.

Also, our opportunities, the people we know, places we visit and the various experiences that come our way - although not inherent to our nature – are integral to our purpose in life.

  • Think about your own unique qualities.  Think about the various talents you were blessed with.
  • Now think of how these qualities and talents can be used to bring meaning to your surroundings.
  • Consider the opportunities that come your way i.e. your education, financial resources, position of influence etc.  Nothing is random; all life’s journeys are an opportunity.
  • Consider the people in your life.  People have strengths and weaknesses. Who can you help through troubled times?  Who can you learn from?
  • Finally, the journey of life at times takes us to unexpected places.  We become frustrated with detours and delays.    In truth, wherever we are, whether it’s a place we would like to be on not, we are there for a purpose: to do an act of kindness or to learn something new.  Our focus should shift to what that purpose might be.

 

The cumulative energy of these four factors – personality, opportunities, people and places carry the secret to our purpose in life.

The Forgiveness Challenge

 For a 2 minute audio click here 

Our lives are often cluttered with all kinds of destructive memories and resentments. And if our memories ‘archive’ every time someone slights us, life becomes unbearable.

In the Jewish calendar, the month of Tishrei is a built in annual opportunity to let go of wounds that hold one back, and to move forward toward becoming the person we ought to be.

In our Yom Kippur prayers, we ask G-d to not to hold grudges against us (“G-d, do not remember our former wrongdoings”). But, in exchange, He asks us to act towards others in the same way.

Forgiveness Exercise

Some events are extremely difficult to simply forgive. So start small.

• Identify a relatively minor grudge or resentment that you’ve been carrying around with you. Think about the incident and how it made you feel. To forgive, you need to first acknowledge the reality of what happened and how you were affected.

• Next, identify the cost of holding on to it. Does it cost you energy, vitality, self-esteem, intimacy?

• Then, as hard as it may seem, consider their perspective. You may never understand why they did what they did, but taking the time to see things through their eyes can take the edge off our hurt feelings. Ask yourself: How would they explain what happened? The point isn’t to condone their behavior; it’s to better understand it from their vantage-point.

•Finally, consider your own contribution to the situation – not for the purpose of self-blame, but to better appreciate the full picture behind what happened. Often, without realising or intending it, our actions can contribute to others actions. And when we understand this, it's easier to let go.

“Forgiveness is taking back your power. Forgiveness is taking responsibility of how you feel.  Forgiveness can improve your mental and physical health.   Forgiveness is becoming a hero instead of a victim.  Forgiveness is a choice.”
- Fred Luskin, Forgive for Good

The Forgiveness Journey

 For a 2 minute audio click here 

The Forgiveness Journey


In my previous post I described how by seeing forgiveness multi dimensionally, it allows for one to work on their feelings to be more ready to forgive.

I described how forgiveness is about restoring a relationship, being a spectrum and a process, and most importantly as being a possible exercise.

Allow me to elaborate.

1) Restoring a Relationship
The Hebrew word for forgiveness is Mechilah.  From the most basic perspective, mechilah means “I care enough about offender that I wish them no harm”.

Mechilah is not saying “I need to move on” or “it’s time to forget.”  That’s not forgiveness.   Those are reasons for forgiveness, but not the exercise of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a conscious decision to transform very negative feelings – negative enough that one might want the offender to suffer – to more positive feelings, at least to the extent that I desire the offender suffer no harm

2) Forgiveness is a Spectrum
Mechilah is not a one size fits all implementation. At one extreme there is no reconciliation.  Just no harm wished to offender. On other extreme, there is a wholehearted restoration of a relationship. It depends on the person.  It depends on the nature of the offense.

3) Forgiveness is a Process
The journey of forgiveness can mean that today I forgive on a most basic level and tomorrow I proceed further.  A wound heals slowly.  Take it gradually.  Each achievement within forgiveness opens new possibilities.

4) Forgiveness is Possible
Mechilah does not require you to become best friends over night, but ultimately the mechilah process is achievable.

The Forgiveness Spectrum

 For an under 2 minute audio click here 

In my previous post I wrote how forgiveness is a gift one gives to themselves, and the process of forgiveness drives away depression, stress and anger.  With forgiveness comes healing and self-confidence.  Our mental wellbeing requires that we practice the art of forgiveness.

But if one is hurt, how can they forgo their feelings to feel differently?  They may have been hurt in body, mind or heart. What if one is never ready or interested in forgiving? 

To answer this, we need a deeper understanding of forgiveness.

“There are multiple levels of forgiveness.  Among them:

1. The victim forgives in the sense that the victim desires that the offender should not suffer Divine punishment.  The victim might still harbour animosity toward the offender, but it has been mitigated to the extent that the victim desires that no harm befall the offender.

2. One forgives to the degree that one harbors no animosity toward the offender.  Moreover, the victim desires good for the offender.  Yet, the relationship between the two parties is not as it was before the offense.

3. The victim is completely appeased and therefore forgives wholeheartedly.  The relationship between offender and victim is exactly as it was before the offense.”

- The Lubavitcher Rebbe

Forgiveness is about restoring a relationship.  Forgiveness is a spectrum.  Forgiveness is a process.  Forgiveness is possible.

The Gift of Forgiveness

 For an under 2 minute audio click here

Many see forgiveness as a favour generously granted by an injured party to one who caused hurt or harm.

Fred Luskin, author of Forgive for Good: A Proven Prescription for Health and Happiness, argues based on extensive research, that forgiveness is a gift that you give to yourself.

More than the offending party deserves forgiveness, you deserve to forgive.

The process of forgiveness is not a luxury, but a necessary experience that drives away depression, stress and anger that resulted from that specific negative experience.

As important as it is to remember, it is just as important to be able to forget.

Our lives are often cluttered with all kinds of destructive memories and resentments. And if our memories ‘archive’ every time someone slights us, life becomes unbearable.

With forgiveness comes healing and self-confidence.  Our mental wellbeing requires that we practice the art of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is not a weakness.  Forgiveness is not denying or lessening the wrong that was done to us.  Rather, forgiveness is an effective process of self-empowerment that allows us to overcome the sense of helplessness that resulted from a negative experience.  It is letting go of some of the pain, and moving on to a better place.

In the words of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks “Forgiveness is the only way to live with the past without being held prisoner by the past”

Positive Jewish Parenting

 For an under 3 minute audio click here 

Just as parents are obligated to raise children who will become emotionally, morally and practically self-sufficient adults, Jewish parents have an added responsibility to raise children who are Jewishly self-sufficient.

G-d entrusted us with Jewish children.  The education they receive needs to nurture their unique Jewish individuality and soul.

The Jewishness of our children is central to their identity.  When we help them realise this special potential, we give them the greatest possible gift, the gift of being themselves. 

We need to give our children Judaism in a form that allows them to own it, one that encourages and enables them to become independently Jewish and proud practicing Jews.

But how do we accomplish this difficult feat? 

Our relationship with Judaism, studying Torah and keeping the Mitzvot certainly comes with challenges, and at the same time it is the greatest blessing.  Calling it the greatest blessing, is not being in denial, it’s about our choice of focus.

This choice is fateful, for it will have a tremendous impact on our children.  The way we view our Jewishness, is key to how (and whether) our children will embrace it.

Essential for Jewish continuity is a positive attitude about Judaism.  The ingredient that helps ensure that our children become self-sufficient Jewish adults is a healthy dose of Jewish pride and viewing Judaism, the Torah and Mitzvot, as the greatest possible gift.

“Many Jews believe that what unites us as a people today are memories of the Holocaust and fears of antisemitism.  The Rebbe taught the opposite message. What unites us is not that other people hate us, but that G-d loves us; that every one of us is a fragment of the Divine presence and together we are the physical presence of G-d on earth.  This message – spiritual, mystical as it is – is more powerful, noble and caring than the alternative.”
-Paraphrased from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, phD

In our daily morning prayers we declare “Fortunate are we! How good is our portion, how pleasant is our lot and how beautiful our heritage.”

It’s time we impart that message to our children 

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