Top tips for a succesful marriage. Tip 1.

Rabbi Pliskin talks in his book ‘Marriage’ about the 10 top tips for a succesful marriage. I assume though they are geared to men, they are equally appicable to women. Here they are. Warning! A lot of these are easier said that done.

  1. The best preparation for Yom Kippur is to say to Hashem “I forgive my wife for everything and anything she ever said or did wrong to me.” And the best time to say this is this very moment or any time you think about her having said or done anything wrong. Once you forgive her, keep in mind that you have already let it go.

Every trait in the right proportions

Yaakov is on his death bed and saying his final words to his sons. He scolds Reuven and Shimon for being too quick to anger, when they destroyed a whole city for kidnapping their sister, Dinah. “I will divide them among the rest of Yaakov and I will spread them among Israel.” Rashi explains that this implied that as poor people, scribes and teachers of young children, the tribe of Shimon will be scattered across the kingdom, travelling to make a living and the tribe of Levi who were not given a portion in the Land of Israel would have to travel around the country to threshing floors for their terumot ( the portion of the yaerly crop the Torah prescribes for Leviim).

The Chaim Sofer offers a different slant on this verse and says that the dividing and spreading in this verse refers to the anger of the tribes of Shimon and Levi. Shimon and Levi overacted with violence. But the other tribes did nothing for the benefit of Dinah. This was improper for they should have taken some action. Therefore Yaakov said “I will take away some of the anger of Shimon and Levi and spread it among the other brothers for they need more than they have now. Then they will all have this trait in a proper amount.”

This is very interesting because it means that there is place for the trait of  ‘anger. Rabbi Pliskin adds that “anger causes inner physiological reactions that give one more physical strength and energy. But this should only be used in situations when this physical strength is needed for self-defense or to defend others not in daily situations.

“The Hebrew word for trait is ‘midah’ which means measure. One must study Torah sources to clarify the right time, place and amount for each trait. To be a complete person every trait must be used. Fortunate is the person who has mastered a proper balance”

Tefillin to die for – by David Goodwin

This just came through by email from Dave, so sorry if you are on his mailing list as well, but it’s worth it for those that haven’t heard this:

Below is a miraculous story forwarded to me by one of my friends at the Laniado Hospital about what one Jew was prepared to do in the Holocaust in order to fulfil the simple mitzvah of wearing tefilin. Well worth reading in my opinion.

While he was in Dachau, a Jew who was being taken to his death suddenly flung a small bag at Judah Wallis. He caught it, thinking it might contain a piece of bread. Upon opening it, however, he was disturbed to discover a pair of tefillin. Judah was very frightened because he knew that were he to be caught carrying tefillin, he would be put to death instantly. So he hid the tefillin under his shirt and headed for his bunkhouse.

In the morning, just before the roll call, while still in his bunkhouse, he put on the tefillin. Unexpectedly, a German officer appeared. He ordered him to remove the tefillin, noted the number on Judah’s arm, and ordered him to go straight to the roll call.

At the roll call, in front of thousands of silent Jews, the officer called out Judah’s number and he had no choice but to step forward. The German officer waved the tefillin in the air and screamed, “Dog! I sentence you to death by public hanging for wearing these!”

Judah was placed on a stool and a noose was placed around his neck. Before he was hanged, the officer said in a mocking tone, “Dog, what is your last wish?” “To wear my tefillin one last time,” Judah replied.

The officer was dumbfounded. He handed Judah the tefillin. As Judah put them on, he recited the verse that many say while winding the tefillin around the fingers: Ve’eirastich li le’olam, ve’eirastich li b’tzedek uvemishpat, ub’chessed, uv’rachamim, ve’eirastich li b’emunah, v’yodaat es Hashem-‘I will betroth you to me forever and I will betroth you to me with righteousness, and with justice, and with kindness, and with mercy, and I will betroth you to me with fidelity, and you shall know Hashem.’

In silence, the entire camped looked on at the Jew with a noose around his neck, and tefillin on his head and arm, awaiting his death for the ‘crime’ of observing this mitzvah. Even women from the adjoining camp were lined up at the barbed wire fence that separated them from the men’s camp, compelled to watch this ominous sight.

As Judah turned to the silent crowd, he saw tears in many people’s eyes. Even at that moment, as he was about to be hanged, he was shocked: Jews were crying! How was it possible that they still had tears left to shed? And for a stranger? Where were those tears coming from?

Impulsively, in Yiddish, he called out, “Yidden, don’t cry. With tefillin on, I am the victor! Don’t you understand? The victory is mine!”

The German officer understood the Yiddish and was infuriated. He said to Judah, “You dog, you think you are the victor? Hanging is too good for you. You are going to get another kind of death.”

Judah, my father, was taken from the stool, and the noose was removed from his neck. He was forced into a squatting position and two large rocks were placed under his armpits. Then he was told that he would be receiving 25 lashes to his head–the head on which he had dared to place tefillin. The officer told him that if he dropped even one of the rocks from his armpits, he would be shot immediately. In fact, because this was such an extremely painful form of death, the officer advised him, “Drop the rocks now. You will never survive the 25 lashes to the head. Nobody ever does.” “No,” Judah responded, “I won’t give you the pleasure.”

At the 25th lash, Judah lost consciousness and was left for dead. He was about to be dragged to a pile of corpses, and then burned in a ditch, when another Jew saw him, shoved him to the side, and covered his head with a rag, so people wouldn’t realize he was alive. Eventually, after he recovered consciousness, he crawled to the nearest bunkhouse that was on raised piles, and hid under it until he was strong enough to come out under his own power. Two months later he was liberated.

During the hanging and beating episode, a 17-year-old girl had been watching from the women’s side of the fence. After the liberation, she made her way to the men’s camp and found Judah. She walked over to him and said, “I’ve lost everyone. I don’t want to be alone any more. I saw what you did that day when the officer wanted to hang you. Will you marry me?”

The rest is history. The couple walked over to the Klausenberger Rebbe and requested that he perform the marriage ceremony. The Klausenberger Rebbe, whose own kiddush Hashem is legendary, wrote out a kesubah by hand from memory and married them. I, Rabbi Yosef Wallis, their son, keep and cherish that kesubah to this day.

From the forthcoming book by Rabbi Aaron L. Raskin. 

Acquire a friend

(Ethics of the fathers 1:6): Yehoshua ben Perachia says: ‘Acquire yourself a friend.’

Acquire a friend not by spending money on him but by spending time with him: listen to him, care for him, put youself out for him. This advice can be applied to any relationship that you want to flourish whether it is with your spouse, parents children or colleagues.

Why the Jewish identity follows the mother

Rashi says that Yaakov knew that Yosef was upset with him (Yaakov) that he buried his mother Rochel near Beit Lechem rather than in the Cave of Macpheilah where Yaakov wanted to be buried.

The Chumash Gutnick edition says that Rochel lost her own spiritual luxury – the privilege of being buried in the Cave of Macpheilah – in order to help her children. This represnts the unparalleled quality of the ‘Jewish mother’ who is always willing to sacrifice her own needs, spiritual or physical, for the sake of helping her children.

And this is the inner reason why Jewish identity follows the maternal and not the paternal route. For even though the father possesses a greater degree of spiritualiy – since he has the privilege of observing more mitzvot than a woman – the quality of a Jewish mother is nevertheless greater. She is willing to forego much of that spirituality in order to enable her to raise a family with tender loving care. And since this quality is even more quintessentially Jewish than the spirituality of the man, it is the mother that actually makes her children Jewish.

Lessons in not acting impulsively

When Yaakov was on his deathbed, he said to Reuven:

Unstable as water, you shall not have pre-eminence

Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz commented that the Torah does not usually  give metaphors as it does here. The Torah’s metaphor is showing us the living reality of the trait of impulsivity. Impulsive as water. Just as water flows quickly, so is the behaviour of the person who acts impulsively without thinking carefully about what he is about to do. The Torah’s metaphor serves as a constant reminder of the dangers of being impulsive. Whenever you see water flowing, tell yourself thoughts that will slow down your reactions.

Choose Life! – from Stephen Rosenabaum

From The Guardian February 1, 2012 (Top 5 regrets of the dying)

Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book called “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.” Ware writes of the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives, and how we might learn from their wisdom. “When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently,” she says, “common themes surfaced again and again.” Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Ware:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me (most common regret).
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

If any of the above talk to you, I invite you to raise your consciousness each day (for a week) by incorporating it, at an appropriate moment, in your daily tephila. Our holy Torah tells us to ‘choose life’.

Finding meaning in things that seem to hard to fathom

“And  Yosef said to his brothers, I am Yosef.”

The Chofetz Chaim commented that from the time the brothers first came to Egypt to get food and Yosef spoke to them roughly and accused them of being spies, they were very puzzled about what exactly was happening. In both encounters with Yosef they had many questions about their experiences. But as soon as thry heard the words, ‘I am Yosef’ all their questions were answered. The difficulties they had understanding the underlying meaning of the events they experienced were now completely clarified.

Similarly, said the Chaofetz Chaim, when the entire world will hear the words ‘I am Hashem’ all the questions and difficulties that people had about the history of the world will be answered. The entire matter will be clarified and understood. Everyone will see how the hand of the Almighty caused everything for our own benefit.

Why you should pack your bags and come to Israel

Rashi writes that the Jewish people settled comfortably in Goshen, whereas the Midrash usnderstands that, to the contrary the land ‘grasped’ them and posessed them. However in truth there is no contradiction here, as each commentary is speaking from its own viewpoint: Rashi explains that at the literal level, the Jewish people prospered in exile. The Midrash however gives a deeper insight, and explains that even while the Jewish people appeared to be superficially to be prospering in exile, in truth however their very presence in a non-Jewish land was ‘grasping’ them away from Jewish values.

Chumash, the Gutnick edition.

Lessons in communication from Yehudah

“And Yehudah approached (Yosef) and he said, please my master, allow your servant to speak in the ears of my master. And do not become angry at your servant for you are like Pharaoh”

We can learn a number of important principles in communication by studying how Yehudah talked to Yosef.  Yehudah calls himself ‘servant’ twice and Yosef ‘master’ twice. He had his goal in mind and in order to make the other person more open to listen to what he had to say he spoke with great respect to him while at the same time putting himself down. One loses nothing by doing this and gains much. Only pride prevents people from using this approach more often. But it is a very powerful tool.

Rabbi Pliskin, Growth through Torah