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