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This is a bit belated, but if you are interested in Pesach posts (and a recipe for traditional Moroccan Pesach soup, which can be adjusted for non-kitniyot eaters), then please click on "Pesach" in the sidebar under "Categories."
Or click here:
Experiencing an insult, embarrassment, or criticism is always some kind of atonement.
And that's a good thing (even though it really burns).
But it's also often a hint for your own behavior.
And while it's very good to remain silent in the face of critics and slave-drivers, and accept your kaparah with good grace, it's even better to use the offensive behavior as a springboard for your own self-improvement.
For example, many people have someone in their life whom they can never please.
It could be a family member, a neighbor, a boss, a co-worker...and no matter how much you contort yourself into a pretzel to cater to their desires, your efforts are never good enough.
And yes, that feeling of never, ever being good enough no matter how hard you try (and especially if you do actually try) is soul-destroying.
At the same time, it's good to take a step back into Hashem's Great Love for you and in that warm, secure place of His Love, examine your own behavior for bursts of criticism, insults, and other stumbling blocks...and also maybe an atom of truth packed deep inside the other's complaints, mockery, or demands.
It's important to note that you aren't necessarily looking for behavior as appalling and hurtful as what you might be experiencing or accused of.
Many times, Hashem supercharges the hint/atonement just so you don't miss it.
So you might be looking at very occasional behavior on your part or a very small or side way in which you are kind of doing what you are accused of.
Or you might be looking at very quiet critical comments you've made or barbs you've said in jest.
You might be looking at behavior you only act out with one person. (For example, sometimes we fall into less-than-ideal patterns within long-term relationships, especially those formed when we were younger and more self-absorbed.)
But what if you just don't see it?
Digging Down to the Root Issue
Let's say that you are one of these people who is always very careful with your speech.
And you're very careful with how you treat others in general.
You are a naturally sensitive and thoughtful person who has worked hard at being even more sensitive and thoughtful toward others.
In fact, you rarely even feel the urge to take someone to task. You don't offer constructively intended criticism disguised as "loving advice" and you honestly don't understand the desire to shoot barbs or hurtful "jokes" at others.
Or, let's say that you are the least lazy person you've ever heard of, yet the other person keeps insisting you ARE lazy. (Maybe it's a spiritual indolence rather than a physical or behavioral indolence?)
Or, let's say that you did discover some ugly warts of tactlessness or hostility -- but you went to work on them and behave much better now.
Yet your nemesis (or series of nemeses) just isn't letting up on you.
So what gives? (This is what I asked myself as I rolled some paint on a wall in a futile attempt to cover up some toddler art...yes, it was a housepainting hitbodedut & self-accounting!)
Anyway...what about one's attitude toward Hashem?
This can be a struggle because maybe things are truly wrong and harsh in your life.
But do you thank Hashem enough for the things that do go right?
Do you tell Hashem how Great He is and how much You love Him, even if you don't always show it?
Or is it that no matter how much Hashem does for you, it's never, ever good enough?
And yes, of course there are always things we need and Hashem grants us losses and disadvantages in life specifically so that we will ASK HIM to remedy these and grant our requests.
So we can request the fulfillment of our desires AND also profoundly appreciate Hashem.
I just found out that Rav Miller's Hagaddah: The Making of a Nation, is available as a free PDF for everyone here:
Thank you very much to Toras Avigdor for their dedication to spreading Rav Avigdor Miller's Torah, and also for letting me know about the free Hagaddah.
Chag kasher v'sameach to everyone!
Recently, someone forwarded a short parsha newsletter to me.
It included some very practical life advice connected to the parsha, then featured a family-oriented Q&A at the end.
You might have heard of its author, Rabbi Shimon Gruen, because he also gives talks on Torahanytime.com. (Actually, I only realized after viewing his website that I'd watched a couple of shiurim of his on Torahanytime.com and found his shiur to be full of good sense, insight, and compassion. Very nice, indeed.)
Anyway, I found the newsletter content very "real" and the advice & mussar displayed uncommon perceptiveness, and I also felt the design and color-scheme of the newsletter very pleasant & readable.
To manually subscribe to his newsletter, send an email to this address:
For what it's worth, I'm unusually happy and impressed with his parsha newsletter. (And I generally avoid subscribing to things. But this newsletter is really well-done & not overwhelming.)
Also, this is Rabbi Gruen's website:
(CORRECTION 19/4: Leha'ir mean "to illuminate" in English. As Rabbi Gruen says, his slogan is "to illuminate with clarity and understanding.")
No, I was not asked to blog about Rabbi Gruen or his website, but it's good Torah hashkafah I think others will find refreshing and beneficial.
If you want to check out a sample before you sign up, here's the Pesach issue:
Torah Lessons for the Home by Rabbi Shimon Gruen
Here is an inspiring and encouraging message from Rav Avigdor Miller on Pesach, Tape #116:
In downtown Manhattan, if they wouldn’t interfere, then in a short time you’d be amazed, because the streets would become jungles.
Just think: A grass seed potentially has the power of breaking concrete.
Simply by its innate God-given nature to grow, to thrive and flourish, a seed has the potential to overwhelm and conquer things much stronger and gargantuan.
Just like the Jewish neshamah.
Rav Miller's Hagaddah
You can access the most up-to-date transcriptions of Rav Miller's Pesach lectures and his booklets HERE.
For those in the Flatbush or Lakewood areas, they printed a few hundred more copies of Rav Miller's Haggadah, which you can purchase for $5 at the following locations:
Toras Avigdor subscribers received a free PDF of Rav Miller's Haggadah.
(It seems to be around 240 pages.)
Chag kasher v'sameach - Wishing you all a kosher and joyous Pesach.
Needless to say, my personal views fall on the side of the right-wing conservative camp, in both Eretz Yisrael & America.
But because the bar of decency and good values has been pushed so far down in America, conservatives end up catering to that level, even when better values and a higher level of decency are what people really need.
Conservatism Not Quite Up to Par
For example, when it comes to premarital hanky-panky, conservatives focus almost solely on preventing pregnancy rather than extolling the virtues of waiting for marriage.
(Yes, there are conservatives like Ben Shapiro extolling the virtues of pre-marital abstinence, but the discussion still focuses more on pregnancy-prevention.)
In addition to pregnancy-prevention, conservatives speak a lot about alternatives to abortion. It has never been easier to be an unwed single mother than it is today (which has its upsides and downsides) and adoption is also an option.
But there are problems with both unwed single motherhood (and unwed motherhood in general) and yes, there are problems with adoption. Yet while some conservatives do discuss the importance of marriage before motherhood (including the value of even shotgun weddings), the downsides of adoption are ignored, presumably because of the fear of a potential mother choosing abortion in order to supposedly “save” herself and her unborn child potential suffering.
Furthermore, many conservative female pundits have taken on dressing like bimbos (when all men still need to wear full suits and ties in order to be taken seriously as professionals), presumably to burst the stereotype of the staid religious conservative woman. To my mind, there’s a happy medium of looking classy and stylish without looking like a cocktail waitress, but despite the intelligence and integrity of a lot of these women, they obviously disagree.
Conservatives are having the Wrong Discussion
Finally, this whole thing with Joe Biden is just weird.
Now, many of you women reading this have been out in the professional environment. You’ve worked with men.
How acceptable or common was it for a male co-worker to stand behind you, put his hands on your shoulders and start rooting through your hair like a hog in search of truffles?
It’s wasn't! And it's not! And we all know that.
For those of you guys were not shomer negiah at some point in your life, how many of you pawed your female colleagues and snorted her hair — and did so in a high-level professional situation, like during White House ceremonies?
None of you! (Probably.)
It’s not normal behavior and we all know this.
And yet the conservative media focuses on how this is worse than Trump’s improprieties (to point out Leftist hypocrisy) and how the women didn’t seem to enjoy it and because they were in a situation with important dignitaries and on camera, didn’t feel like they could protest in any way.
Okay, these are good points.
But the main point is that HE SHOULDN’T BE DOING IT AT ALL.
ESPECIALLY to the little girls who are so obviously uncomfortable with his pawing and whose parents either don’t or won’t put a stop to it when they are standing right there (presumably, once again, because of the situation and the cameras).
And his whole obviously fake & lying “excuse” of just being a warm, friendly guy — why don’t we see him pawing male staff members, if he is such a warm and naturally touchy-feely dude?
How come he’s not snorting through THEIR hair?
And why is the deciding factor whether the women like it or not?
Decency Works Both Ways
Yes, it’s important to note that the women (and the young girls for that matter) DON’T seem to like it at all.
But let’s also look at it this way:
Let’s say that you’re a guy at a high-level professional government conference or ceremony, which is being filmed nationwide. Now let’s say one of your female colleagues whispers to you something like, “Hey, could you please start vacuuming my hair with your nose and pawing my shoulders?”
Would you do it?
Most likely not.
Because it’s REALLY weird and inappropriate to do something like that!
It just IS.
Torah Hashkafah Sets the Standard
The above conservative fail (or partial fail, if you will) highlights one of the many brain-straightening aspects of Judaism.
Halacha forbids Jewish men from looking at women, even if she wants to be looked at.
Halacha forbids Jewish men from touching women, even if the woman demands to be touched.
It’s just plain forbidden.
It’s not appropriate. It’s not allowed.
And while the halacha isn’t exactly the same for non-Jews, it’s suffice to say that throughout history and in the vast majority of cultures including and up until today, pawing women and rummaging through their hair with one’s nose was considered inappropriate (at best—I’d like to see someone try this in Saudi Arabia).
Anyway, the point is one of PERSONAL responsibility and PERSONAL decency, regardless of what the other person is doing or saying.
The other person’s response shouldn’t necessarily be the deciding factor for common decency.
Notre Dame is a place you hear of all your life, giving it an aura of familiarity.
But in my case, I didn't have anything but the vaguest idea about it.
So when it burned, I wondered what it all meant (in addition to wondering what sparked the blaze).
Then I learned it's a repository of items holding profound significance for Yoshke-worshipers.
"Crown of thorns" possibly worn by their founder, eh? That's pretty symbolic. (Firemen saved the thorns and other meaningful relics, but still. These objects no longer have a "home" or a place of honor. Very symbolic.)
Notre Dame is also a church.
Even more symbolically, one journalist insisted that rebuilding Notre Dame is essential to the survival of the Catholic Church. This implies that the destruction of Notre Dame threatens the Catholic Church in some way.
And even more symbolically, this fiery destruction occurred during what they call "Holy Week." I didn't know what this was, but I discovered that it's one of the most important times of the year for Yoshke-worshipers, as it commemorates his death and his (ahem!) "resurrection."
By the way, I also discovered that many cultures around the world celebrate "Holy Week" in a disturbing manner:
Parades of self-flagellation on bare backs until blood is drawn, a gorily graphic (yet painless) re-enactment of Yoshke's torture and execution in Trafalgar Square in London, a LITERAL re-enactment of the torture allegedly suffered by Yoshke in Mexico (the star is chosen for his high moral fiber & strong physical stamina to endure the very real suffering), and so on around the world.
Photos show that parading adults in Spain dress up in the KKK-esque robes and tall pointy hat-masks of the Inquisition.
How loving, gentle, and compassionate it all sounds! [sarc]
Anyway...such an old, traditional, and classic symbol going up in flames during such a profoundly significant week?
It definitely means something.
And it's also important to note that halacha advises burning heretical material.
(Please see the answer to How to Dispose of a "Jews for J." Prayerbook.)
On page 220 of the first volume of Words of Faith, we encounter Rav Levi Yitzchak Bender’s Talk #17: Pe-sach — Only Tefillah!
Sach: sach—to channel in another direction (when spelled with a samech), to converse (when spelled with a sin)
So we see from this that Pesach is about a personal & verbal relationship with Hashem.
This makes sense because in the Torah's whole saga of slavery and redemption, Am Yisrael rouse Divine Mercy whenever they cried out to Hashem.
Rav Bender recalls the Ari’s promise that whoever is careful from a little bit of chametz on Pesach is guaranteed not to sin the whole year.
And Rav Bender stresses that if we really want to achieve this, it can only happen through tefillah.
There are 2 advantages to doing this:
Like Elul, Nissan is a month of teshuvah.
I’m not the only one to notice that a lot of kaparahs happen during Nissan leading up to Pesach.
Sometimes, it’s hard to see them because it looks like part of Pesach stress, but closer introspection often reveals something similar to what happens to you in Elul.
The Elul-Nissan Connection
Rav Bender quotes Rebbe Baruch of Medzibuz, an uncle of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, by comparing Elul preparations to Nissan preparations.
In Elul & the 10 Days of Repentance, Jews are busy with fasting and repentance.
In Nissan, says Rebbe Baruch, Jews are “busy with preparing geese and fat ducks, fish, and eggs for the sake of the festive banquet” (Leil HaSeder).
If only we would switch the order, says Rebbe Baruch, and do in Nissan what we do in Elul, and repent and pray to be saved from a little bit of chametz on Pesach, then we would be sure not to sin the entire year, and THEN we wouldn’t need the fasts and mortification of Elul & the 10 Days of Repentance because we never sinned. (Yay!)
Rav Bender emphasizes the importance of tefillah in Nissan, especially in the days leading up to Pesach when it is hardest to find extra time for prayer.
“All beginnings are difficult,” he acknowledges as he encourages us to do our best.
You can also talk to Hashem while you’re scrubbing or sweeping or making charoset.
You can thank Hashem and force yourself to smile at least for a millisecond even when you’re stressed out.
Let's finish off with Rav Bender's final words on the topic on page 223:
Adar and Nissan are two months that a person has to make a special soul-accounting.
An inspiring & insightful reader wrote in to note that many gratitude lists focus on the material goodness of our lives.
And what about the non-material riches Hashem bequeathed us?
She makes an excellent point. (Thank you, inspiring & insightful reader!)
So without further ado, here is a list of 25 non-material gifts (whether they feel like gifts or not because everything Hashem does is for the best, whether it feels that way or not) from our Loving Creator:
Thank YOU, Hashem Yitbarach, for...
Note: You can also find an English translation of a popular tefillah of gratitude at:
A Prayer of Thanks to the Creator of the World
And if you're suffering a lot, there's this:
What to Say To God in the Toughest Times
When one of my sons was in yeshivah katanah (yeshivah for the high school years), he made friends with the non-Jewish Ethiopian janitor.
The janitor really liked my son because the janitor knew some English and my son was one of the only people in the yeshivah who could speak English, so finally the janitor had someone with whom he could communicate more easily.
The non-Jewish Ethiopian janitor nicknamed my son “the professor” for his English skills.
Once, the Ethiopian janitor expressed bemusement at Israel’s restraint with its enemies.
“I served in the Ethiopian army,” he said. “And when anyone antagonized our leaders, we were ordered to go in and gun everyone down.”
“Everyone,” he explained, meant “teach-a-lesson” massacres.
Without a drop of conscience, Ethiopian soldiers stormed huts and gunned down entire families — including children.
Why? Because these families were associated with some kind of enemy, who needed to be taught a lesson. After not only witnessing but actively participating in such brutality, he found Israel’s concern over not harming too many Jew-haters both bemusing and amusing.
While my son “the professor” was surprised at the janitor’s casual attitude toward mass murder, the truth is that there have been books and reports on this kind of thing for a long time.
Unfortunately, both criminal gangs (like those who kidnap, dismember, or kill albinos for their mythological healing properties) and state military in Africa commit horrific crimes against humanity without a second thought.
American servicemen shooting from helicopters have felt frustrated and appalled by the throngs of African women with a baby in their arms, milling around the battle zone as entertainment.
And this is very normal in that part of the world.
Culture: Rejecting the Bad while Retaining the Good
Needless to say, this doesn’t include all Africans.
As a positive example, an American Thinker article entitled What I Learned in the Peace Corps in Africa: Trump is Right lauds forward-thinking Nigerians who strove to improve their country (but who ultimately could not break through certain cultural practices than obstruct effectiveness in both business and government).
It goes without saying that those forward-thinking pro-active Nigerian innovators should be welcomed into America. Those are the kinds of immigrants who contribute to the progress and success of their adopted country.
And indeed some of these African immigrants or their children have earned awards for their achievements in their adopted country.
Yet those whose continue to embrace cultural practices and values that hurt society should NOT be welcomed.
Please note that I did NOT say that immigrants need to leave every last vestige of their culture at the door.
There are positive aspects in every culture.
However, if a culture’s values and practices prevent ethical government, productive businesses, and basic human rights (like the right to exist and not be murdered), and an immigrant REFUSES to reject those values and practices, then the adopted country will end up having a problem.
How to Create a Positive Association
When I was a child, immigrants tended to be more patriotic, more appreciative, and harder-working than the average American. Despite the need to start from scratch and to prove themselves, along with all the cultural adjustments, they knew they were in a better place and they knew they had better opportunities and they knew their sacrifice was making a better future for their own children.
That was the stereotype I had of immigrants. Pretty positive, right?
But it was positive because of the immigrants themselves, and not because of any brainwashing or shoving rose-colored glasses over my face to distort reality.
Why You Can't Ever Curb a Pereh Congresswoman
In Somalia, for example, the following are normal, unquestionable aspects of life:
In fact, Somalia is so dangerous that the State Travel Advisory suggests that a potential visitor to Somalia do the following:
The presence and acceptability of such violence can easily influence and desensitize its inhabitants (and future immigrants).
Furthermore, a hatred of the West and its values exists in some parts of Somalia. This can also affect the attitudes of Somalis.
In addition, Somali culture is dominated by a religion that has been widely “misinterpreted” (ahem!) by millions of people around the world for several centuries, resulting in the persecution and death of countless victims.
What's more, this religion relegates non-members to a second-class dhimmi status of severely limited rights — by religious law and with the approval of God (or so their misunderstanding goes…) — but shows particular animosity against any kind of Jewish sovereignty, particularly in the Land that their own religion acknowledges as belonging to King David and the Jews.
So if someone comes from Somali culture to your society and is enthusiastic about rejecting racism (like dark-skinned people receiving more privileges than light-skinned people), tribalism, religious discrimination, misogyny, Jew-hatred, and the devaluation of human life…then great!
But if someone from Somali culture ISN'T enthusiastic about rejecting all that, then maybe you have a problem.
And if you decide to vote such a person into Congress, then you might have an even BIGGER problem.
Putting all the above together, we can see why a Muslim-Somali Congresswoman who has clearly NOT rejected the negative aspects of her culture of origin might disdain Jews, despise Israel, and dismiss the mass murder of 9/11 as “some people did something.”
Because for her, such attitudes are not only normal, they’re even laudable.
And all the denouncements in the world aren't going to change her because her values are deeply entrenched (and she receives global accolades from like-minded fans). Plus American publications run by bobble-heads feature her on their cover, despite her anti-American heinousness.
And quite frankly, critical tweets and editorials, plus lectures on the floor of Congress are peanuts in comparison to what she witnessed or experienced in her country of origin.
In other words, you can take her out of power or put her in prison, but you absolutely cannot stop her or change her mind or convince her to conform in any way. Ever.
She's fully indoctrinated against & therefore immune to such namby-pamby methods, something that even the Right doesn't seem to understand.
Help a frum family get their children back!:
I'm a middle-aged housewife and mother in Eretz Yisrael who likes to read and write a lot.
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