Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Trying: On Writing and Child Rearing


I hear the rumble of a drill upstairs. I wonder what my neighbours are doing up there. I feel the hardness of the seat. The chair is not good for sitting long, but sit long I do in it. 

The air is cold around my legs, and I want to dress more warmly but dressing more warmly means that I have to wash my hands afterwards and then my hands will be cold, colder than they are already. 

I have a burning, cold burning like menthol on my face on the sides and the cheeks. I wonder if I'm allergic to something or if this an emotion. I know that I am afraid to write and do the projects I have set out for myself. I have a terror of being exposed but I think that this is what I was meant to do with my time right now. I very much want to start to teach writing but I'm afraid and sure that no one will want to take a class from me since I want to be paid and since I've never published a thing. I can only try.

I can only try.

I just thought again about the girl that wanted to know how do raise a girl like my daughter. 

You can't do anything about anything in the world except want it and fear G/d.

So I feared G/d, probably not enough, but enough.  Enough that what I wanted was not to disappoint Him by doing things with/to my daughter that she couldn't have a relationship with Him. I want my children, all of them, to be with G/d. To love Him and fear Him and to want Him, to want to walk with Him more than anything else that they could have in the world.

What can I say? I wanted it and G/d said "Yes, you can have these kinds of things, you can have these kinds of children."

Children don't belong to us.

They are given to us to work on ourselves and to guide them to enter a relationship with G/d. 

That's all.

This is cross posted at my other blog "The Flashlight". 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Using Elul Effectively


 I've been reading and listening to lectures to prepare some writing exercises for Elul, but it really a tall order!  I'm going to give some quotes from some of the articles I've read.  You can use these to help you get focused in your writing on the z'man we've started:  Days of Repentance and Tshuva.

This is an outtake from an article by Rav Nosson Weisz of Aish HaTorah on Parshat Shoftim:
At the very beginning of the Days of Awe we are summoned to take ourselves in hand and appoint internal judges and officers over our characters and behavior and prepare ourselves to face judgment. We are urged to do this in order to avoid having to face God's judgment. By weighing and judging our characters and actions on our own, repenting any wrongdoing and instituting the changes that are needed to correct our faults we can avoid the harsh scrutiny of the heavenly Court. God always prefers to leave matters to human initiative and only people who fail to judge themselves are submitted to the jurisdiction of the Divine Court.

* * *

But coming to grips with the "days of teshuva" can be problematic. It is one thing to command people to execute actions on demand, but it is quite another matter to ask people to experience feelings on demand. God designed us with the requisite circuitry to be able to direct ourselves to perform actions that are at variance with our feelings. Such self-control has its limits but the ability to discipline ourselves regardless of how we feel is definitely part of the human repertoire. But God did not supply us with the requisite switch to turn our feelings off or on. To experience a feeling on demand is difficult indeed.
Maimonides devotes the entire first chapter of his Hilchot Deot, the Laws of Character Development to the topic of changing one's character and developing the ability to experience certain feelings; the basic strategy presented there is based on behavior control. Through the execution of a controlled course of behavior that goes against the grain it is possible to affect character change over the course of time. For example, a tendency to stinginess can be overcome by deliberately behaving in the manner of a spendthrift over a period of time.
The point is clear: human beings simply do not have the spiritual equipment to effect immediate changes in their attitudes, feelings or characters. Understanding that you are on the wrong track does not in itself suffice to put you back on the right one. Maimonedes knew this a thousand years ago; psychiatrists have finally arrived at the same conclusion only recently. Knowledge does not alter character, feelings do. This phenomenon of human nature creates a very special problem when it comes to repentance.

* * *

For repentance must come from the heart. True repentance requires the recognition and acknowledgement of character faults and the resolution to correct them in one's heart. As Maimonides explains:
What is teshuva? The sinner has to stop doing the sin, he must put it out of his mind and resolve in his heart never to go back to doing it again... to the extent that The One who Knows the Secrets of the Heart (i.e. God) can testify that he will never return to this sin again. (Maimonides, Laws of Repentance 2:2)
As such, repentance does not seem to be a phenomenon that can be squeezed into a particular time slot or season. It is a process that requires constant focus and attention; it can only be attained gradually, over a long period of time, whose duration is bound to vary from person to person.
How can God order all Jews to begin to repent on command at the start of the month of Elul and complete the process by Yom Kippur in light of the fact that He failed to supply us with the necessary equipment to carry out instantaneous character changes?
To acquire the tools we shall require to approach this problem, let us begin by examining the historic origins of these 40 days of teshuva that begin with Rosh Chodesh Elul and end with Yom Kippur.

* * *

You can read the rest here.

Show, Don't Tell on Rosh HaShannah


We spend a lot of time the new year in synagogue.
We crown Hashem King.
We ask him to remember our covenant with our fathers Avraham, Yitzhak and Yaacov.
We blow a shofar.

At home, we eat a festive meal with symbols of the kinds of things we want in the new year.

The idea of eating something sweet will bring sweet things into our lives is a bit strange, though.  What does it mean?  Where did our rabbis learn this idea?

Yaacov and Rachel communitcated through symbols or signs.  We learn this in the midrash.  They suspected, rightly! that Rachel's father Lavan, would switch the sisters just before the wedding ceremony so Yaacov gave Rachel signs so he would know that he was marrying her. But Rachel taught her sister Leah the signs before she married Yaacov, so Leah wouldn't be embarrassed and humiliated in front of everyone.

Have you ever seen a couple that just met?
They can't stop talking to each other.  They are on the phone all the time, talk non-stop when they are together, ignore all their family and friends.

Five year, ten years, twenty years later, the same couple don't talk like that.  Often they can know exactly what is going on with the other through a glance, or a tip of the head, or  slight movement of the hand.  At some point, a relationship moves beyond words to a higher level of communication. This is the kind of relationship that Yaacov and Rachel had.

And this is the kind of relationship that we are showing Hashem that we have with Him when we use symbols on Rosh HaShannah:  we're so close to You, we don't have to use words.  We can have these foods on the table and we know that You will understand the meaning behind them, because we have this special relationship with You.

On Rosh HaShannah we want to renew our special relationship with the Creator of the Universe and we want Him to see us a close and unique.  We want Him to look at us as individuals.  So we use signs and symbols that only an initmate will know.

Show, don't tell!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Recommended writing teacher and new course!

I've worked with Shifrah Devorah Witt and she's wonderful.

Writing as a Spiritual and Creative Preparation for the New Year
Special Elul-E-mail course
Begins Rosh Chodesh Elul (register now!)
Many of us have heard that the king is in the field in the month of Ellul and that this is the perfect time to approach him. But who you are when you approach the king is entirely up to you. In this three week course we will focus on using writing as a tool for personal growth. Each week you’ll be given a topic of the week that will gently guide you into a different part of self. By the end of the three week process you will, G-d willing, have written three separate pieces and have a vision for what is next to come for your writing and your life.
Journaling exercises are also available upon request.
For more information please contact me at 054-801-8483. Or

Shifrah Devorah Witt, M.A., M.F.A.

Creative Writing Workshops & Healthy Cooking Classes in Jerusalem. 
Manuscript Development and Writing to Heal Coach. 

Author of Inside Secrets to the Craft of Writing
and co-author of The Complete Asian Kosher Cookbook
and The Best of Mexican Kosher Cooking

Friday, August 03, 2012

I haven't forgotten about the blog but

I've been under the weather with a summer cold/sinus infection and we have a new granddaugher.
I'll be posting again very soon, bil nader.

Shabbat Shalom

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Towards Elul: Way #1 Be Aware of Every Moment

Reprinted from

Way #1 Be Aware of Every Moment
by Rabbi Noah Weinberg
To achieve significant results in life, the effort must be constant. Don't waste a minute.
Imagine you're stuck in traffic, and another driver is taking dollar bills and throwing them out the window. You can't believe it. The guy is whacko. Every five minutes, another dollar flies out the window!
You probably never saw this. But you have seen someone throwing five minutes out the window.
Maybe you even did it yourself. The bus takes off and you're really enjoying the scenery: "Oh, a hill... look at that store... and there's a park!"
It's not so bad for the first few minutes. But then the cash register starts ringing up more wasted time. Ding! Ding!
To become a great human being requires applying your mind constantly, until it pervades every fiber of your being.
It all begins with a decision, a commitment. Try saying aloud: "Life is an opportunity. I want to use my mind, and be constantly moving toward my goal."
You may notice some resistance as a little voice protests inside: "No way! All work and no play will make Jack a dull boy. C'mon, let's space out and watch TV!"
Does this mean being an obsessive workaholic? Of course not – you still need to sleep!
Let's understand. "Constant striving" means that when you sleep in order to be more productive, then the sleep becomes part of your overall goal. It's the same with eating and exercise.
So what about relaxing?
Of course it's okay to relax. But relaxing means "changing gears." Your relaxation should be purposeful and directed. Think of something else that's not as exerting, but is still meaningful. For example, shift your focus to nature, music or art. Sometimes, even a simple change of scenery, a cold drink, or a breathe of fresh air is enough to recharge your batteries.
But don't space out.
We do this, because it is painful to be constantly aware, to be constantly "on."
To break through that pain, focus instead on the pay-off. When you are constantly aware, every experience becomes a lesson in life. For example, if you are in a dentist's office, you could use that time to reach any number of crucial insights:
  • I'm lucky to have teeth. A toothless life would be much less pleasurable.
  • If there is such a thing as dental hygiene, there must be a concept of spiritual hygiene, too. I wonder what it is.
  • Without the pain of the drill, my teeth would fall out. Perhaps some other difficulties in life also help me accomplish good things.
  • The human body is so intricate. The integration of teeth, gums, tongue and saliva is an incredible feat of anatomical and physiological design. How did it all come about?
Whatever you are doing at any given moment – watching the news, working on a business deal, talking to a friend, reading this article – give it your full attention. Decide that you are willing to take the pain of thinking, of being aware, all day long.

Whenever you pursue a specific goal, it should be without interruption. It's actually better to study for one hour straight, than for two hours with interruptions. Interruptions break our train of thought and limit our ability to retain information. They take the power out of learning.
Set aside a certain time when you block everything else out, where you will not budge from the activity you're focusing on. Don't sit down and then get up to open the window. Then get up to fetch a Coke. And get up again to close the window. And get up to turn on the radio.
Make up your mind: "I am going to do 'X' for one hour straight. No bouncing up and down!" For an entire 15 minutes, don't stop. Not to change your seat, not to get a drink, not for anything that isn't life-threatening!
You can practice this while riding on the bus, or waiting at the dentist's office. Set yourself a goal of 15 minutes to focus exclusively on one subject. It may be a problem you're having at work, a personal goal, or an issue in a relationship. For example, you might say to yourself, "The next 15 minutes I am going to devote to thinking about my family, how I can help them, why I love them, my pleasure in them."
Or try devoting 15 minutes a day to be aware of every aspect of life around you – from the blood coursing through your veins to keep every cell alive, to the ant crawling across the ground under your feet. For that 15 minutes, you are totally attuned to the miracle of being alive.
Then, at the end of these 15 minutes, appreciate how the time was well spent. Time that otherwise would have been wasted...
Little by little, increase your time. First 15 minutes, then 30 minutes, then one hour, then two hours. Once you hit four hours, you're sailing.
The Vilna Gaon, the great 18th century Jewish scholar, said that the first three hours and 59 minutes is stoking the furnace. By the fourth hour, the pot is boiling.
And don't stop. Because if you take the pot off the fire – even for a few minutes – you have to reboil it all over again.

To really get into gear, you need to find your rhythm.
The human body loves patterns. Even the most daunting tasks become fluid when set into a schedule. This means doing the activity in the same place, at the same time, and in the same way (as much as reasonably possible).
That's why Judaism has certain pre-set activities every day. When waking up, for example, we say: "Thank God I'm alive." It's a moment of conscious appreciation for getting another chance, another day. This awareness gets us up on the right side of the bed, starting our day on a high note.
When it comes to any goal, make a certain time of the day "holy." For however much or little time, make a commitment and be consistent every day. There is power in that commitment. You know you are going to change. Your life will be different.
Try it. Commit yourself 365 days a year, for the rest of your life: When you wake up in the morning, appreciate being alive.

Life is not one-dimensional. It must be studied from every side and turned upside down.
Study the same subject for a long period of time. Don't bounce around superficially from one topic to the next. Choose a topic you love and become an expert in at least one aspect of life. Become engrossed.
Whatever subject you choose, there is always more to learn. Even as you move to other areas of knowledge, be alert to pick up information pertinent to previous topics. This allows for cross-referencing, and ultimately, a deeper understanding.
Whatever you learn, make sure you don't forget. How many times has an insight struck you with astonishing clarity – and then slipped out of your mind the next day? The insight is fleeting if you don't capture it in some way. It has to sink into your bones and permeate your mind.
This means constant review of one's learning in some form or another.
Verbal repetition is powerful. It clarifies an idea and brings it into reality. That's why we repeat the Shema twice a day, and why we review the Torah year after year. The Sages of the Talmud would repeat any new insight 40 times – and repeat an especially vital idea 101 times.
It's kind of like "Remember the Alamo!" Of course, you may forget the Alamo, but you can remember this article in a catch-phrase like "Make Every Second Count" or "Live to the Max." Whatever moves you and gets you energized, repeat it again, again and again. Make it your refrain, your background music. When you wear out one phrase, get yourself another. Whatever works has power. * * *
Imagine someone asking you, "What do you do?" You answer, "I'm a lawyer," or "I'm an engineer," or "I'm an accountant."
Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!
Suppose you see someone going to sleep, and you say to him, "What do you do?"
He says, "I'm a sleeper."
"You're a sleeper? How do you make a living doing that? Who pays you to sleep?!"
That's my point exactly. When you add up the hours over a lifetime, you spend more time sleeping than being a lawyer.
The essential you is not the lawyer. It is the thinker, the seeker, the living, breathing human being who loves, who is continually growing, who desires greatness, who hungers to know more. Identify with this. It is who you really are.
Ask a woman with four children: "Who are you?" She answers: "A mother." But that's only one aspect of who she is (albeit an important one). She's also a friend, a community volunteer, an educator, a chef, a nurse, a child psychologist, a thinker, an information gatherer, a pursuer of truth, and more.
Unfortunately, we develop this identity problem early in life. Every child is asked: "What do you want to be when you grow up?" This question has subtle implications that can damage a developing personality. The child is thinking: "What's wrong with being 'me?' Is 'me' so terrible that I have to 'become' something different when I grow up?"
The Sages say: "Make the study of life your main occupation, and your profession secondary." The question is not "what are you doing for a living," but rather "what do you do for life?" If you see yourself as a "thinker," then thinking becomes a priority. So update your self-definition. Learn your whole reason for living and live it fully.

The bottom line is you have to decide: Is life good or not?
This comes down to a more basic question: Does life have purpose? If it doesn't, then there's no reason not to waste time, because nothing really matters anyway. But if you believe there is a purpose to life, why would you want to waste any bit of it? You'll want to understand every aspect of life, to do the most with the limited time you have.
Jewish consciousness says that the worst crime is murder.
Human beings were created for pleasure. Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden. In Hebrew, Eden means "pleasure."
When you commit yourself to what a human being was destined for – a life of pleasure – you will go out searching for the highest pleasures. Along the way, you'll make distinctions between pleasure and comfort, between necessary pain and needless suffering. And through the process, you'll discover the true meaning of life.
The Torah says: "Abraham was old and he came with his days." Many people can become old without their days, because they may only experience growth over a year. But Abraham and Sarah had daily growth spurts. They got as much out of living as possible.
Make the commitment to discover life's deeper pleasures. It could be the difference between a useful life and a wasted one.

  • Plan out what you want to accomplish. If you know what you're after, you'll pursue it with more vitality.
  • Plan in the evening how you'll get up in the morning. Don't let the snooze button control your life.
  • To start off on the right foot, get up 10 minutes early and say the Shema.
  • Review your day. See what the obstacles were. Strategize how to avoid them in the future. Review what you learned in the past 24 hours.
  • Catch yourself day dreaming at least once a day and examine: "What am I doing right now, and how could I use this moment more effectively?"
  • Become a student of life. Study wherever you are. Have books, thoughts, etc. ready to keep your mind growing. (No staring out the window like a zombie.)
  • Memorize pieces of wisdom. It will give you something to learn as you walk down the street or wait in line at the supermarket.
  • Pick appealing catch-phrases, to inspire yourself on the spot, and to wake yourself up when you feel like drifting off.
  • Frequently ponder the question: What is the purpose of life? What am I doing on this planet?
  • Plan ahead now. What do you want to study? What do you need to realize your ambitions? How do you want to grow?
Everyone says that "time is money." But which is more important: five minutes or a dollar? Time is the greatest opportunity of your life. Don't waste a minute of it.
  • The worst murder is premeditated.
  • The worst premeditated is of family.
  • Even worse is murder of self – i.e. suicide.
  • Spiritual suicide is worse than physical suicide.
  • Killing time is spiritual suicide.
Author Biography:

Rabbi Noah Weinberg, of blessed memory, was the dean and founder of Aish HaTorah International. For 50 years, his visionary educational programs brought hundreds of thousands of Jews closer to their heritage.

This article can also be read at:

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tehillim Day 5


Tehillim 29  תהלים כט

Hashem's voice is upon the waters.
Almight of glory thunders, 
Hashem is upon [the] many waters.

The voice of Hashem is in  power, 
the voice of Hashem is in beauty.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Tehillim Day 4


Tehillim 23   תהלים כג

[May] only good and kindness pursue me
all the days of my life, 

and I shall dwell in the House of Hashem
for long days.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Tehillim Day 3


Tehillim 19  תהלים יט

The skies recount the glory of the Almighty
and His handiwork is related by the firmament.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Tehillim Day 2


Tehillim 15  תהלים טו

Hashem, who will sojourn in Your Tabernacle?
Who will dwell upon Your holy mountain?

He who walks in wholehearted integrity
and deals righteously
and speaks truth in his heart.

Tehillim Rosh Hodesh Day 1


Tehillim 1  תהלים א

But only in the Torah of Hashem
is his desire,
and His Torah he meditates day and night.

He will be like a tree
set into the ground near streams

Tehillim Day 29


Tehillim 145/ תהלים קמה

Your Kingship is the kingship for all times,
and Your dominion is in every generation.
 Hashem supports all the fallen, and straightens all the bent.

Tehillim Day 28


Thank Hashem for He is good,  הודו לי"י כי טוב
for His kindliness endures forever.  כי לעולם חסדו

Thank the G-d of gods,  הודו לאלקי האלוקים
For His kindliness endures forever.  כי לעולם חסדו

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Prayer 29 Tammuz


Birkat Avot continued

"Each one of the Avot had their own individual merit in Service to Hashem.  They each served Hashem in his own distinct way."  pg. 113

We strengthen and awaken these traits when we pray this first blessing.
We are connecting ourselves to the Avot.
Hashem is above time and space and He experiences the Avot and their prayers as if they were alive, so when we make the effort to connect ourselves to them, it is more than just remembering, if we identify ourselves with them, through Hashem we become part of their lives, they are effectively praying for us, with us and about us when we make this blessing.


Write today with the full knowledge that you have the support from our Fathers behind you urging you to success!

Prayer: Rosh Hodesh Av


He brings a redeemer to their children's children, for His Name's sake, with love. (From the siddur)"We see that the culmination of Zeuchut Avot=merit of the Fathers- is in the redemption or the coming of the Messianic Age."  pg. 116

On Rosh Hodesh Av when the most difficult time in the Jewish calendar begins and the mourning for the destruction and loss of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem intensifies, we continue in our daily prayers to remember that we are promised, in the merit of our forefathers, that Hashem will redeem us and reveal Himself and His Name with love.

Melech, Ozeir u'Moshia u'Magen  מלך עזר ומושיה ומגן
 King Helper Savior and Shield
"There are four levels of Siyata D'Shmaya ( heavenly help)"
pg. 116-117 [From Jewish Meditation by Aryeh Kaplan, Schocken Books, pg.117]

Melech, a King, Who remains in His palace providing help from afar;  Ozeir, a Helper, Who can be readily approached for assistance-an initial acknowledgment of our close relationship with Hashem;  Moshia,  a Savior, always close enough to rescue us, even at a moment's notice (as when a drowning person is plucked from a raging river);  and Magen, a Shield, Who protects us from harm when there is not even a moment available for a savior's assistance.


Use one or all of the following words in a piece:

King  Redeemer
Shield   Helper
Father   Merit
Rescue   Protect

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Prayer 28 Tammuz Bircat Avot


The first blessing in the Shemoneh Esrei is Bircat Avot.

We are acknowledging that we are praying to the same G-d that our fathers Avraham, Yitzhak and Yaacov prayed to.
We are part of an unbroken chain of Jews that are connected to the same G-d.

When I say this first blessing, I have this image in my mind:

I'm standing next to the three fathers, Avraham, Yitzhak and Yaacov.  They are these spiritual giants and I'm this little tiny ant-like person compared to them.  We are all standing, waiting to come into the presence of Hashem and of course, they are going to get in and stand in front and I pipe up:  Please let me in because I'm with them!

On a certain level, I feel like I'm a gatecrasher, but I have these special friends, and they speak up for me and so I get in too, and I'm just as welcome as they are.  But I always have to remember that they are ones that made that possible.

Write about someone that helped you become who you are today.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Prayer 27 Tammuz


If I were to have the opportunity to speak to an important world leader, I'm sure I would be at a loss for words.  If I didn't prepare myself ahead of time, it would be a waste of time as I probably wouldn't be able to think of something to say or ask that was meaningful.

Consider the following and write your impressions:

Our teachers and leaders have given us the precise text in the exact formula to say in front of the Creator and Ruler of the Universe!
We have the perfect words for every time of life, everyday of the year to make the most of our meeting with our Father and King.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Prayer 26 Tammuz


This day begins Chapter 4 in the book called Kavannah in the Shemoneh Esrei.

"The Shemoneh Esrei paryer was comosed at the beginning of the Second Temple era."
"Rabban Gamliel created the current format of this prayer 400 years ago after the Destruction of the Second Temple." pg. 104

The words of the Shemoneh Esrei prayer are devinely inspired to create a force that penetrates the heavens.
The order of the blessing within the prayer helps kavannah.  pg. 104

It is important to understand the words in this prayer.
Read the prayer word by word, review the meanings with a teacher or a translation, checking that you understand each one.
Write about any new meanings you find or awareness you have of this prayer.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Prayer 25 Tammuz


In the Mishnah Avot 3:15 "..and everyting is according to the abundance (quantity) of his mitzvot rather than the quality"

"with regard to tefillah, however, quality is clearly more desirable than quantity...Why does tefillah operate differently?"  pg. 101 Praying With Fire, Rabbi Heshy Kleinman Artscroll/Mesorah

Prayer is Humility.
A person, compared to Hashem, is nothing.
When we come to Him in prayer, we are admitting this reality.
Hashem has all the power. 
He is the only one making things  happen.  He is the source of all.

When we pray we are bringing ourselves to  Hashem like an offering at the Temple.  An offering had to be flawless to be an acceptable sacrifice.. So too our hearts must be pure and our intentions pure when we pray. 

How can we use these ideas to improve our wirting?

Writing and prayer are alike in many ways:

For both we have to show up on time and regularly for them to happen at all.

We have to begin!

We have to realize that without humility, we won't be able to write very well.
But we have to have a sense of worthiness, too.  We have to know that our words need to be heard.

The more we write, the easier it becomes.
If we have trouble praying or writing, most of the time the best way out of being stuck is to keep moving and eventually things break loose and they flow.

No prayer is wasted!
No writing is a waste of time!

Prayer and writing are always a work in progress.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Parshat HaShevuah Pinhas Bamidbar/Numbers


Bamidbar/Numbers 25
11 'Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned My wrath away from the children of Israel, in that he was very jealous for My sake among them, so that I consumed not the children of Israel in My jealousy
12 Wherefore say: Behold, I give unto him My covenant of peace;
13 and it shall be unto him, and to his seed after him, the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was jealous for his God, and made atonement for the children of Israel.'

Peace is shalom  =  shalem  = whole or complete.

Hashem's seal or signature is Truth, but His name is Peace.

Hashem is One, Whole and Complete = shalom.

The ultimate Truth is one that creates unity or PEACE.

Peace is the highest form of truth.

These ideas come from a lecture by Rabbi Ari Kahn that you can listen to here:

Aish Audio  Parshat Pinhas

Monday, July 09, 2012

Tehillim Perek 91: 19th of Month


Tehillim 91/ תהלים צא

Because he clings to Me with desire
I will save him;
I will strengthen him, for he knows My Name.

When he calls upon Me, I will answer him;
I am with him in distress,
I will free him and honor him.
I will satiate him with longevity,
and will let him see My deliverance.

Tehillim 19th of the Month


Tehillim 90/ תהלים צ

My Master
a dwelling place You have been for us in every generation.
Before the mountains were born,
and You brought forth the earth
and the inhavited world,
from world to world
You are Almighty.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Tehillim 18th of the Month


Tehillim 86/ תהלים פח
Hashem, G-d of my deliverance;
by day I cried [before You]
At night I stood before You [in prayer].

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Prayer 14 Tammuz


A Jewish woman today will usually tell you she never has enough time to pray the way that she wants to.

Know this: Prayer is above time.

For example, we learn that Avraham Avinu prayed for Stoam, and those prayers preserved the Jews in exile in Egypt.

Prayer is not about time.  It isn't about quantity.  

It's about quality.

If we want to be with Hashem, He will find a way for us to do this.
Our main objective is to want the closeness, no matter how much time we have to devote to prayer.

The Maharal teaches that when we pray with sincerity, we give up our very being to Hashem, because we recognize His greatness and our inadequacy.  Humility lets us see Hashem's total power over everything in world and when we are in this place, then He can make up any lack we have. 


David HaMelekh says in Tehillim: Ani tefeelah  I am prayer.

How are you prayer?


Tehillim 14th of the Month


Tehillim 72/ תהלים עב

May his name endure forever,
as long as the sun,
and may men bless themselves by him
and may nations praise him.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Tehillim 13th of the month


Tehillim 69/ תהלים סט

For Hashem will deliver Zion, 
and build the cities of Judah,
and they will settle there and possess it.

Prayer 13 Tammuz


The Ramhal tells us that prayer is a means of getting closer to Hashem. 
Hashem and His blessings do not change, but our experience of Him and His abundance depends on our state.
Just like a dirty window lets in less light, or a window with the shutters closed or the blinds pulled down lets in no light, so with us and the effort we put into our prayers allows Hashem's light to come in to our lives.


Imagine what kind of window you are standing infront of when you pray.
How clean is it?
How wide or tall is it?
How far away from the window are you standing?

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Tehillim 12th of the month


Tehillim 66/ תהלים סו

  Go and see the works of G-d;  awe inspiring in [His] acts towards sons of man.

About Prayer 12 Tammuz


I'm starting a new series of exercises and meditations about prayer.
The source of these ideas are in a book I recommend :
Praying with Fire:  Igniting the Power of Your Tefillah  A 5-minute Lesson-A-Day by Rav Heshy Kleinman, published by Artscroll Mesorah.

How does prayer work?
Most of us think of it in one of several ways:  thanks, connecting, requests.

Gving thanks and connecting are pretty clear.
But requests is a little problematic from the stand point that hashem is running the world, and He's One and perfect, so how can we ask for anything, to change the way things are if He's already got it all locked up and going the way it should be.  This world is an expression of His will, right?
Isn't it chutzpah, or ungrateful to pray to have things differently?
What is prayer doing?
Prayer, sincere and heartfelt, avodat halev, a work of the heart, changes us.
Once we have prayed, we are different people.
And then Hashem can relate to us differently, and change outcomes, situations  because we have worked on ourselves and we deserve something new, different than what had been up until we prayed.*

"the new person who emerges from the spiritual growth is deserving of a new level of Divine Blessing." pg. 73 ibid

Exercises :

Write about how the experience of prayer changes you.
Write about one thing what you would like change through prayer.

* Sefer Halkrim, Maamar 4, Ch. 18

Monday, June 25, 2012

Showing Up


A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Almalek.  
I've been struggling with my Almalek lately.
The gematria is  doubt/ספק

Sometimes I seriously doubt my ability to write and that what I have to say is overly dramatic or not well thought out.

Silly; stupid; not significant.
vacuous - empty - senseless - blank - foolish - vacant

I haven't written in a couple of weeks and I feel like I'm about to burst.

Today I just made myself log on at and write.
I got through it and did a little over 750 words in about 30 minutes.  

This is with my husband in the house working with a plumber and two apprentice plumbers, the drill going and shouting from the courtyard into the bathroom window to turn the water on and then turn the water off, and then the electric jackhammer thud, thud thudding away on the cement block walls. 

A pipe broke.

One of them was in the bathroom floor and the other was inside my head.

And now the words are coming out.  

I wrote, cold, without a rough draft or hours of thought, a comment on a blog post too.

And to total strangers! 

I saw the blog post on another list I belong to and it looked interesting so I jumped over there and it reminded me of something that I learned last week, so I wrote about it. 

Then my husband came home from the bank and told me that someone had deposited money in our checking just keeps flowing. 

This feels good.

Have a productive day.  Today, tomorrow, everyday.

And don't ever let your Almalek scare you out  of writing.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Parshat Shavuah Shlach (Bamidbar/Numbers 13-15)

The spies told themselves they were weak, like grasshoppers.  Then they decided that the inhabitants of Canaan thought they were grasshoppers, too.
How did they know what these people thought when they never spoke to them?
They projected their own sense of self worth on the Canaanim.

Another issue is:  what should have been their attitude to the task of taking over the Land of Canaan?

Which is realistic?  Saying  Yes, I can  or No, I can't.
It's true that I can't do anything without the help of G-d.  I can't move my body or wake up in the morning, I can't dress myself or eat. 
On the other side, since everything is controlled ultimately by G-d and He is Infinite, I should be able to do anything, if I will it and G-d permits it.

We and the spies have to understand that we can do anything if we believe that G-d is with us.

What are you telling yourself about writing? 

Do you believe in your story?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Keeping A Journal


Hashem has given us this wonderful opportunity to get closer to Him.
Are we doing all we can to take advantage of this?

One of my goals in writing is connect to G-d.  I want everything in my life to be channeled through my understanding of G-d and what His will is.

Keeping a journal is one way to use our writing to connect regularly with Hashem.

Miriam Adahan recommends writing down something that you felt happy about or liked each day.

Writing about happiness or good things is an excellent journal practice and it's also a way to keep moving forward in you relationship with Hashem.

Why?  The effect of Amalek takes over if you don't keep moving in a positive way.
Amalek is the cooling down of enthusiasm.  The voice inside that says, "so what?  Don't get carried away.  Nothing matters.  Who are you?  Who do you think you are?"  Amalek will tear down your excitement and your sense of self worth.  Sometimes it's more subtle and will tell you to "keep balanced" or to find " the middle path".

Remember that you are unique. 
Only you can tell your story.  
It'll only be told if you write it down or record it in some way.  
It's important to do and do it regularly.

Nothing in life is static and if you aren't going up and forward, you will begin to fall away.

  •  Make a commitment to write down one "Like" or happiness each day for the next week.
  • Start a journal.  It can and should be something easy and handy to write in.  One writing teacher uses kids copy books with funny covers:  it's hard to take myself too seriously when I'm writing in a Superman note book, so I tend to write more and more often!
  • OR  get yourself something beautiful, luxurious and special to write in.  And get a couple of special pens to write with.
I know that if you have been writing and reading about writing for a while that there is nothing new about what I just suggested.  Think about this, though:  this is your running dialog with G-d!  Invest something of yourself to make it happen whatever way works the best for you.

Just Do It!

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Parshat HaShavuah Be'halot'cha (Bemidbar/Numbers 8-12)


This week's parshah describes how Aharon, the high priest, would light the Menorah every day in the Tabernacle. The verse emphasizes that "Aharon did as was commanded" (Numbers 8:3). The commentators point out that this was a special praise of Aharon, in that he didn't divert from the prescribed method of lighting the Menorah.

The Ramban (Nachmanides) explains that the praise of Aharon is that even though the job could have been delegated to someone else, Aharon always did it himself - throughout the entire 40 years in the desert.

The Sfat Emet says that beyond this, Aharon lit the menorah, day in and day out, as if he was doing it for the very first time. 

How can you approach your writing in a fresh way this coming week?

Wednesday, June 06, 2012



I have this on going friendly "argument" with a person I learn Torah with about environmental issues and Judaism.

She is firm that we mustn't pollute.  We have a responsibility to recycle, and be frugal with our resources.  We mustn't take the abundance we have of goodness for granted.

I agree. But I also believe that we mustn't think that we are controlling things, in that if, chas v'shalom, we don't always recycle, or if we are wasteful, that we're doing something horrible and it's damaging the world.

My view is first we were given this world to do G-d's will.  It says this in Breisheit.  The world is ours to use in what ever why we see fit in order to do our mission of connecting with G-d.

Second, Yaacov went back over the Jordan River to get the cailim,(Breisheit 32:25*) and it was there that he wrestled with the angel all night until dawn.  Why did he go back for some simple, earthenware pots?  Because he recognized that every thing he receives in the world is from G-d, and in a sense, it's priceless.  Even some cheap earthenware pots are valuable because of the Source.

Finally,   we pray in Shachrit (at least twice that I could find in my siddur), 'mehadesh kol yom ma'asei breisheit.'  מחדש כל יום מעשה בראשית meaning: that everyday, the acts of creation of the days of Breisheit (Genesis) are renewed.  Hashem is creating the world everyday, a new, and maintaining it.  If that is so, then what damage can we do to the earth, really?

So don't be cavalier, be respectful of the earth and it's resources but don't get too hung up on it either, because in the big picture, Hashem is renewing everything everyday.

Exercise:  Write about any or all of the following:

What do you control?  What do you leave up to G-d?

Do you recycle?  How do you feel about it?

How is renewal different from tshuva?

*Pasuk 32:25 states that, "Yakov was left alone�". Rashi references the Talmud in Chulin 91a that explains why Yakov was alone on the east bank of the Jabbok River (an eastern tributary of the Jordan - Areyeh Kaplan). "He had forgotten some small vessels and went to retrieve them."  

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

The Very First Word


Our day begins with the words:
Modah ani lefanecha מודה אני לפנך

what does "Modah" mean?

I thank You, Hashem


Jumping straight in: words to warm you and your writing up

Take a word from the list and write about it for 5 minutes or for the full length of a page without stopping. Just let it flow out, don't cross out or worry about spelling, grammar or if what you are saying makes sense. Just jump in and write!


Make a list of things you are thankful for. Be concrete.

My List
the coffee maker
my reading light
my friends Anna and Angela
all chocolate chip cookies, everywhere, at all times,
even if I never get to eat any of them

books, book stores, libraries
my fourth grade teacher Mrs Madigan
my purple glitter pen!

Think of three people...
one you want to thank
one you want to thank, but you are unable to do it
one you want to thank you, but they haven't or aren't able to do it

Write about each one

Monday, June 04, 2012


All our blessings begin with the word: Baruch ברוך


Explore the idea

What do you feel when you hear the word 'baruch'?

Take a pen and paper and free associate, writing down what ever words phrases ideas cliche`s images come to mind. Let it rip, no matter how silly, or outlandish it may seem, get it down. Keep going until you run dry of ideas.

When you're empty, read your list. Mark the items that you like, the ones that mean something special to you, the ones you feel you need to explain.

Circle 3 of the marked items, and do a 15 minute timed writing on each one.

Feel free to share your work in the comments section or e-mail me at

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Get More Writing Done: 5 Pockets of Time You Never Knew You Had « DIY MFA

Get More Writing Done: 5 Pockets of Time You Never Knew You Had « DIY MFA

Not everyone can find long blocks of time for writing because real life often gets in the way.  If you are one of those writers who can set aside large chunks of time for your writing, that’s fantastic!  Still, even if you’re a with tons of time on your hands (…and don’t tell us if you are because we might be jealous!), you can still benefit from learning to write in short bursts.  To get more writing done, you need to train yourself to squeeze your writing into small pockets of time.  None of that “waiting for inspiration” or “warming yourself up” for a writing session.  You have to learn to dive in, scribble down a few sentences, then get on with your life.
I’ve had to learn this technique the hard way.  With a 3-month-old son at home, life has become one big series of Pomodoro sessions, only instead of 25 minutes for each spurt of productivity, I never know how much time I’ll have before he starts crying and wanting attention.  Sometimes it’s 20 minutes.  Sometimes it’s 2 minutes.  Sometimes it’s no minutes at all.  Regardless, I have had to learn to make every minute count.  Here are five pockets of time I’ve discovered, pockets of time I never knew I had.

1)  Standing in line.  How often do we wait in line for things?  At the post office or the bank.  At the cafe while we wait for our lattes and cappuccinos.  At the supermarket or the drug store.  In those moments, I pull out my pocket notebook and scribble a few thoughts.  Maybe all I get is a sentence, but it’s still one sentence more than what I had before.

2)  Waiting in doctor’s offices.  One of the things you do a lot of when you have a newborn is wait around in doctor’s offices.  I used to dread those long waits but now I look forward to them.  With the little guy asleep in his stroller or carrier, I can enjoy those moments as prime writing time.  Parents with older kids probably have similar pockets of time available while they sit through a piano lesson or soccer practice, or they’re waiting to pick their kids up at school.

3)  Public transportation.  I love riding buses and subways because they always give me a solid chunk of time either for reading or writing.  I’m especially a fan of subways because they’re underground and there’s no internet so I can’t be tempted to check Twitter or log onto email.  Sometimes I’ll even take the long way home so that I have extra commute time during which to write.

4)  The first and last 15 minutes of your day.  One great way to sneak in an extra half hour of writing each day is to squeeze fifteen minutes in first thing in the morning and last thing before you turn out the light.  You always hear writers talk about waking up at 5am or working until the wee hours of the next day.  Frankly, I find both those scenarios unappealing; I don’t know about you but I like my sleep.  On the other hand, squeezing in an extra 15 minutes at the beginning and end of my day is manageable.  Even though it’s just 15 minutes, those little chunks of time can add up.  By the end of a week, I’ve logged in an extra 3 and a half hours of writing.

5)  Writing breaks.  I periodically take myself out on very short writing breaks.  I’ll grab a quick lunch and while I hold my sandwich with one hand, I scribble a few sentences with the other.  When I’ve finished the sandwich, writing time is over.  I’ll do the same by going to a cafe and ordering a cup of coffee.  I have only the time it takes to consume that drink to write.  It’s not enough to cut into my day in a major way, but still lets me jot down a few paragraphs.  Consider using your lunchtime to do this or take a short coffee break.  Even if you can’t do this every day, if you can sneak in two half-hour writing breaks throughout the week, that’s a whole extra hour you gained right there.

Take-home Message:  You never know when you’ll get a pocket of writing time, so be prepared and always carry a notebook.  I have a pocket-sized notebook and a pen with me at all times.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Float Your Boat


Since I was a small child, I've loved sailboats. 

My uncle had a boat.  He and my aunt lived near the San Francisco bay.  In all the years I was going up, I only once went out on that boat.  I was about 14 years old and I'll never forget it because I was horribly seasick.  I was gray.  Nothing helped, not sitting in the fresh air, not laying down in the bunks.
In spite of this experience, I still loved boats, the sea and salty sea breezes.  In spite of that seasickness, I've wanted to learn to sail.  My uncle was not a teacher, and my seasickness was a real barrier, but I still "wished" to learn to sail.

Fast forward 35 years

I wanted to spend more time writing and to that end I was doing some Internet searches looking for a online writing community to connect with so I could set some writing goals and have some support in achieving them. (Write a lot, everyday!! Finish my stories!! Get them published!!) I'm still looking for that community.

I found a website: which has you make a wish list of goals you want to accomplish, then reminds you everyday  by e-mail and also gives you lists of other people that have similar goals so you can help each other and literally 'cheer' each other on:  you are allowed to give 5 cheers to 5 different goals each day.
So besides writing goals like write 3 pages of practice each day, and blog everyday and finish a book and get it published, I decided to put 'learning to sail a boat' on my list, too.  I even went so far as to find places near my home in Israel that teach sailing. I have the names and phone numbers of the teachers.
I don't know when or if I'll ever do anything about sailing, but now I know that it's possible.  It's only a phone call away.
Long ago when I was at university, a class mate of mine pointed out a line in our Islamic history book, The Venture of Islam:  "The power of wishful thinking is not to be despised."
She said it would make a wonderful bumper sticker.

I believe it is the basis of all of human existence-  we are hard wired to want.  We were created with t need.  We were created 'lacking' חסרים. (Messilat Yessharim.)

Our wishful thinking is our humanity and the Jew is the greatest wishful thinker of them all.
The entirety of Jewish life is built on the forward looking vision of a perfected world.
עולם חסד יבנה

בשנה הבאה בירושלים 

הריני מאמין באמונה שלמה בשלשה עשר עקרים של התורה הקדושה

What do you wish for?
What are you doing to make it happen?