emunah, tefillah, a little mussar, and a shmeck of geula

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Life of Wholesomeness

The vast majority of us live fragmented lives, in which, to the extent that we are somewhat organized, we set aside times for the various activities that define our existence.  There’s a time for learning, a time for family, a time for working and so forth.

And there are times, more than most of us would like, that Hashem appears to be anything but a team player, in that at these times the Ratzon (Will) of Hashem is manifested in direct contradiction to what we had planned for a given part of our day.

As we said in EmunahSpeak: PLAN B:

So what are you doing tomorrow anyway?
Be it learning, work, chesed, taking care of the family or any combination thereof, if you are evenly moderately organized you most probably have your day worked out in advance, as you do every other day.

And then come the speed bumps: flat tires, your child comes home sick from school, emergency trips to the doctor and dentist for stitches and toothaches, a crisis at the office which keeps you there till all hours, your chavrusa doesn’t show up, your car doesn’t start, it snowed 23 inches, and a myriad of other unanticipated horrors guaranteed to trash your plans.

These are our plans, and they do not necessarily comport with Hashem’s Ratzon, for as we also pointed out in EmunahSpeak: PLAN B:

It’s all about looking at life’s curve balls as the real Plan A rather the ruination of what we thought was Plan A.

Plan A is always the best plan for a person because everything Hashem does is for the best and moreover, Hashem wants what is good for you more than you want what’s good for you.  And that’s reflected in the fact that we consistently come up with Plan B.

The thrust of EmunahSpeak: PLAN B was about going with the flow of life’s happenings.  It’s an equal opportunity test of both our patience and our understanding of Hashem’s ways.  None of the speed bumps described therein were volitional in the sense that we weren’t ask if we would like our day trashed.  And nothing is being asked of us except to deal with the hand that we have just been dealt.

Everything heretofore concerns people who live fragmented lives.  It’s about us.  And it’s not about those who live lives of wholesomeness.

It’s not about Moshe Twersky H’yd.

HaRav Mayer Twersky, shlit”a, Rav Moshe’s brother, explains that fragmentation spills over to the way one does mitzvohs.

If one is focused on doing a certain mitzvah then anything that will get in the way of performing that mitzvah will be considered an interference and a disruption.  Another mitzvah becomes interference when one lives a fragmented existence.

He tells us that Moshe Twersky H”yd (who was a walking sefer Torah who did not waste one second from learning) was never focused on Talmud Torah per se. He was focused on doing the Ratzon of Hashem. 

Before a person (in need, be it rational or otherwise) called on the phone or knocked on his door, the Ratzon Hashem was that he should be learning.  Once these people came into his life, the Ratzon Hashem was to deal with them and he would do so even if it took hours and then go back to his learning as if there had been no interruption.

Rav Mayer points out that what sets apart those who live a life of wholesomeness from the rest of us is that when a second mitzvah gets in the way of an already planned mitzvah it’s not interference because it reflects the Ratzon Hashem at that moment.

And the Ratzon Hashem is the only thing that exists for one who lives a life of wholesomeness.

Monday, December 22, 2014

It’s a Process

In EmunahSpeak: Ripping Open the Heavens we spoke of effective tefillah, as in getting the biggest bang out of one’s tefillah effort.   And as we pointed out there, the road to such a goal is paved with the recognition that Hashem is the only address coupled with the sensitivity to express pain over another Jew’s suffering.

But as Rabbi Tuvia Lieff reminds us, tefillah is not just an end game.

It’s also a process.

And in the process of asking you become connected to Hashem because everything that is davened for has more of a tachliss.

Rabbi Lieff tells us that every time someone davens, he is transferring that object of his desire or his particular need into something ruchniyas.  And the only reason that one is able to morph gashmiyus into ruchniyas is because of that tefillah.

We are further told that anything you daven for takes on the greatest value in life, simply by the very fact that you davened for it.   And you have to daven for everything because everything is a nes.

Be it shidduchim, parnosa, children etc., none of it is any less than Techiyas HaMeisim.  For as we said in EmunahSpeak: Kol Isha, it’s no less a nes for a top Brisker bochur, whose father happens to have more money than Bill Gates, to marry a Bais Yaakov princess charming than for a thirty-five year old dirt poor adopted girl in a wheel chair from twice divorced parents to marry a thirty-six year old Talmud Chochim who amazingly seemed to appear out of nowhere.  It’s all one and the same.  

Nissim only come in one size.  They're not easier nor are they harder.  They just are.  

And for a nes one has to daven.

It’s a whole different understanding of life. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


A few weeks back I commented to my wife that halavai I should have as much Emunah in Hashem as I do in Costco.

After posting over two hundred essays online on a blog entitled EmunahSpeak, it was very unsettling to find myself playing peek-a-boo with the yesod of everything that I have written about these past three and half years.

How could such a thing be?

To be sure, the Yetzer Hora was quite content that I should have such thoughts.  But said contentment was short lived because after some reflection I fingered the culprit, and once nailed I was able to morph a small hashkafic speed bump into some solid reinforcement of the aforementioned yesod of the ideas that have been put forth on this blog since its inception.

The truth is that it’s really not all that complicated.  In the context of Costco or any other competent entity, the Yetzer Hora take’s a walk.  And why shouldn’t it?  What tachliss is there for it to hang around?  

You shop at Costco because you trust their no questions asked return policy or the quality of their product line?   

What exactly can the Yetzer Hora put on the table to weaken that trust?  That the returns are in reality being accepted by Wall Mart or that the quality of their products can be attributed to a competitor?

What you see is what you get without so much as a nano thought to the contrary, so why shouldn’t have faith in Costco that it can deliver on its promises to the public?  The Yetzer has absolutely nothing to sell here, so there’s no pushback.  And without pushback anyone can be a believer.

Not so with Hashem.

When we’re talking Hashem, we’re also talking about a Yetzer Hora that is in 24/7 mode, which means that when Hashem lets you walk away from a six car pileup in which the other five drivers were killed the Yetzer Hora whispers in your ear: airbag or anything else that will cause you attribute your good fortune to something other than Hashem.

You had orange juice for breakfast this morning?

Did you thank Hashem for putting it on your table or were you thinking about Costco who sold to it to you and the fact that they will take it back, no questions asked, even if you finish three quarters of the bottle?

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Ripping Open the Heavens

In EmunahSpeak: So Who are You Relying on…we said that the avodah of bitachon is to train oneself to rely only on Hashem. 

Not Hashem plus your accountant or your expertise.  Hashem knows if you have bitachon in Him or you are relying on the doctor also or your own hishtadlus.  Hishtadlus doesn’t make you a partner with Hashem.  Think of it as the password to the game of life.  It's the equivalent of saying "swordfish" to gain admittance.  Once you have given the password Hashem takes care of 100% of the problem, not the 95% you supposedly left over for Him after you did your 5%.  That Hashem’s 100% might work out to be zilch, zero, and nada of what we have set our minds on in any given situation is of no consequence because bitachon is not results oriented and therefore makes no promises.  It defines how we think not what we get.

And this mindset, not so coincidently is spot on with what’s required for effective tefillah.

And what exactly is effective tefillah?

As per EmunahSpeak: So Say Something Already!, pretty much everything because we learned there that the good news is that no sincere prayer goes unanswered.  That’s heads.  Tails is that sometimes the answer is no.  But even when the answer is no, as it is all too often to suit most of us, it’s no only in the sense of what we wanted.  In terms of what we needed at that moment it was a resounding yes, because everything that happens in this world is for our good. 

Very frum to be sure, but in times like these, when our enemies thirst for Jewish blood as if it were wine, we would very much like that resounding yes to be on the front burner as opposed to the back, and the three words that will make it happen are Ein Od Milvado.

Rabbi Daniel Travis tells us that the Yesod of tefillah is when a person comes to a recognition that Hashem controls everything in the world and that only He can take care of the situation.  

We’re talking complete clarity here that a person burns into his heart.

And when with that clarity in hand, that Hashem is the only one Who can help, such a Jew in anguish expresses pain over a another Jew’s suffering, such a tefillah goes straight up to Shomayim and rips it open.