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Thursday, 29 January 2015

Prophetic Inspiration!!

Check out our first episode of PI@BI:

Get great service every time!

Daf Yomi Yevamos 117

It was Boxing Day afternoon.  I walked into Future Shop to purchase a new laptop and waited in line for the service associate.  But boy, did he look like someone I didn’t want to have to deal with.  He was being ratty with the customers and I was standing there wishing I’d chosen a different queue.  And then I realized: this poor fellow has probably been here since five o’clock this morning getting ready for their 6:00am opening. 

My turn arrived and I exclaimed, “That’s a fine watch you’re wearing.  What is it?”  His demeanor changed in an instant.  He was proud to tell me it had been his grandfather’s and was made in Switzerland.  I then asked him about laptops and can I tell you?  I think I must have received the best service of any customer that day! 

King Solomon declares in Proverbs, “As water reflects a face to a face, so is the heart of man to man.”
Rashi explains: When one peers into the water, he sees the reflection of his own face.  If he is happy, he sees happiness.  If he is despondent, that is the face he will see.   So too is the heart of one person to another.  If one loves his fellow, he will receive love in return.  And if he despises him, he in turn will be despised by his fellow.

Long before Louis Armstrong, King Solomon taught, ‘When you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you.’   Later, the Baal Shem Tov similarly instructed: view the world as a mirror.   If you want to feel loved, send out the love to all around!  If you want service with a smile, make sure you’re the first to give them a reason to smile!  Smiling is actually one of the most contagious diseases.

Sometimes you feel the need to criticize.  Actually, nobody likes to admit to criticizing.  They prefer to “critique.”  There’s no shortage of critics in this world.  No shortage of people who can find something negative to say.  Leave the critiquing to them; trust me, they’ve got it all covered. 

You want to be the person who is remembered as the constant smiler, as the constant optimist, the one who always has a positive thing to say, the one who brightens up the room.  And guess what?  When you do that, people will respond to you with a smile, with optimism, with positivity, with brightness!

It’s time to look in the mirror.  Actually it’s always time to look in the mirror!  Don’t you look great!  Doesn’t the world look great!  May you merit always being the light that enters the room and with enough smiles, maybe even the critics will come around one day!

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Learn the Art of Teleportation

Daf Yomi Yevamos 116

 A couple of years ago, Bradley moved his family to Edmonton from out east.  He was hired to work in the oilfields making six figures and he was willing to do it despite the fact that he would have to live apart from his family in Edmonton most of the time.   That was working out more or less until three months ago when the oil companies started laying off thousands of employees.  He too became a victim of the downturn and was left with no job and a family to support.

Brad was despondent.  He didn’t know how he would pay the bills and he saw no reason to stick around in Edmonton.  He moped around the house for months until last week he received a surprise call.  It was a local member of the community offering him a job. 
“I know you are a person of integrity.  You work well with your hands and have good people skills.  I’d like you to come and manage one of my departments.”
Suddenly, Brad had a job making good money and he would no longer need to be away from his family for extended periods!

There was once a gett (bill of divorce) found in Sura with the following wording: In the city of Sura, I Anan bar Hiya of Nehardea do hereby release and divorce my wife, Plonit.  The rabbis searched from Sura to Nehardea and the only Anan bar Hiya they found was one Anan bar Hiya of Hagra who was living in Nehardea.   Indeed, witnesses came forth and testified on that day when the gett was written, ‘Anan bar Hiya of Hagra was with us in Nehardea.’   Was this the same man?
Rava suggests: Maybe he took a flying camel.  Or perhaps he teleported using the Divine Name. 

Many people look at their lives and get despondent.  Things seem to be so bleak that they can’t imagine ever climbing out of the hole they find themselves in.  But that’s only because we are looking through our mortal eyes.  From G-d’s perspective, things can turn around in the ‘blink of an eye.’  All He needs to do is send you a flying camel or teleport you to a completely different place – a magical place – and your life will be transformed.

You might think to yourself, ‘How will I ever get out of debt?  I’m in way too deep!’  But all the Almighty needs to do is to grant you a better paying job and you could be debt-free in no time at all!  You might be thinking, ‘I’m stuck in this dead-end position for life.’  But the Almighty has flying camels coming your way!

If you have faith that the Almighty can do anything, you will believe that your life could be transformed in a moment.  The Almighty has a storehouse full of blessing to bestow upon you.  Turn to Him, place all your faith in Him and He will teleport you to a magical place in life!

How to become a Miracle Worker

Daf Yomi Yevamos 115

Our forefather Jacob escapes from the land of Canaan from the wrath of his brother Esau and spends many years in the home of his uncle Laban in Haran.  While working for Laban, he becomes wildly successful.  But it wasn’t just his own fortune that prospered.  All around him people experienced prosperity – Laban and his children become incredibly wealthy with abundant flock and cattle. 

The home was ablaze and filled with smoke.   While the old lady managed to escape, her husband wasn’t as lucky.
“They set our house on fire,” said the poor woman, “My husband died but I got out.” 
In such a situation her testimony is not admissible, for we respond to her, “Just like you had a miracle occur, he too could have had a miracle happen to him!”

Step one in life is to recognize that the Almighty is bringing miracles into your life constantly.  Nothing is by chance, nothing coincidental.  If you would take note of how many coincidences happen in your life each day, you would quickly realize that G-d is guiding you.

Once you have faith in the Almighty’s guidance, what then happens is the spillover effect.  Not only will you experience miracles in your life, but all around you, you will see miracles.  Just like Jacob placed himself into the hands of the Almighty witnessed miracles in his own life, so too all those around him were blessed with miracles on his account.  Likewise, when Joseph descended to Egypt and began to work in the house of Potiphar, not only was Joseph successful, but Potiphar’s house was blessed with prosperity on account of Joseph’s faith and righteousness.

You could become a miracle-worker, drawing down the Divine into everyone around you.  The Almighty is already overflowing your life with miracles.   Once you recognize the Almighty’s hand in your life, you will become a source of miraculous blessing to everyone! 

Monday, 26 January 2015

Is your kitchen no longer kosher enough for your children?

Daf Yomi Yevamos 114

Will and Kate had become more and more committed to Torah and mitzvos over the years.  Will had grown up in a traditional home, and his parents, Liz and Phil, kept a basically kosher home.   When Will and Kate went around to his parents’ place, they could always figure out what they were comfortable eating and what they weren’t.  But now, they were struggling with whether they should send their little one, George, to stay with the grandparents.

Liz and Phil were deeply offended.  “You don’t trust us with our grandchild?” they cried.

A person should not tell his child, ‘Bring me a key’ or ‘Bring me a seal’ on Shabbos.  Nonetheless, he may leave him plucking grass or throwing a ball in the public domain.
If the child of Torah scholar regularly visits his unlearned maternal grandfather, we are not concerned that they may feed him untithed food.  And if he subsequently found fruit in his kid’s hand, he need not take it away.

Children themselves aren’t obligated in mitzvos.  We, as parents, have a mitzvah called chinuch – to educate them so that when they reach the age of majority they will know what do and be accustomed to doing it.  But some parents forget the purpose of chinuch and act contrary to the intent of the mitzvah.   While it is forbidden to actively ask a child to transgress Shabbos on your behalf, the Talmud points out that when they are transgressing a rabbinic Shabbos injunction, you don’t need to be concerned.  How many times do we see parents scolding their child for walking out of shul with a candy in their mouth?  That’s definitely not educating them in the beauty and joy of Shabbos!

And chinuch should certainly not be the cause of shalom bayis (family peace) discord.   If your parents want to look after your children, trusting them means that you trust they won’t be feeding your kids treif (non-kosher)!   If they respect your values and lifestyle choices, they will do the right thing by your kids, even if they personally don’t maintain the same standards of kashrut.   It is indeed offensive of you to question their integrity and ultimately, their ability to adequately look after their grandchildren.

Chinuch is one of the most important mitzvos – after all, it’s the foundation of Jewish continuity.  But never forget that it’s only training for later – don’t let your zealousness in the mitzvah of training impede the real mitzvos of chinuch and shalom bayis.   May you merit educating your children demonstrating the positivity and light of Torah and always showing them that the ways of Torah are peaceful and beautiful!

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Never lose your keys again!

Daf Yomi Yevamos 113

Our Millie is in grade ten.  She’s thirteen years old.  We’re fortunate to have her in an exclusive class of three intelligent girls and they’ve managed to breeze their way through school.  Actually, most boys and girls could probably accelerate the curriculum, but there’s a reason why we generally keep kids in school until the age of eighteen.  We want their formative years to be a time exclusively dedicated to education so that they understand throughout their lives that life is all about learning. 

Sadly, the message gets lost on too many.  The moment they’re finished school – or if they’re lucky, university – that’s the end of their education.  Instead of appreciating all the time and money their parents invested in infusing them with a love of learning, they spend their lives engrossed in work and play.  And unfortunately, as true as that is of secular education, it’s even worse when it comes to Jewish learning.  How many of our brothers and sisters “graduated” at their bar/bat-mitzvah and never studied a Jewish word since?   How sad indeed.

Rabbi Isaac bar Bisna lost his keys to the study hall in the public thoroughfare one Shabbos.   He approached Rabbi Pados, who instructed him, ‘Bring some boys and girls to the area to play.  If they find the keys, they’ll bring them back.’

How many adult Jews have lost their keys to the study hall?  How many adult Jews never even owned a set of keys to the study hall?  We pride ourselves on being the People of the Book, but painfully, most Jews can’t even read the Book.  

Rabbi Pados’s advice is to bring some children to find the keys.  When you were a child, your life was dedicated to learning.  It’s time to find those keys you had as a child and reopen the study hall!   Many of us are accomplished in our secular careers but our Jewish knowledge is downright embarrassing.  And maybe that’s what keeps us out of the study hall.  But as Ethics of the Fathers teaches, ‘One who is bashful will never learn.’  Open up your mind and heart and unlock the wisdom of the Torah!

If you’ve lost the keys to the study hall, it’s time you found them.  Bring back your youthful self and you will find the keys!  May you merit unlocking the doors of the study hall and becoming a lifelong learner!

The Snake in Your Life

Daf Yomi Yevamos 112

Two chasidim, Moishy and Shmelka, were debating the length of time one should spend on prayer.  
Said Moishy, “The quicker one prays the better.  Picture a beautiful garden.  You want to protect it from wild animals and so you place a fence around it.  The closer you place the fence-posts to one another, the greater the protection against any intruders.   The same is true of prayer: the closer you place the words of prayer to one another, the less chance you will give the yetzer hara (evil inclination) to enter and distract you from your prayers, destroying your precious garden.”
Replied Shmelka, “You’d be right if you were certain the wild animals were outside the garden.  But what if the animal is already there with you on the inside and your challenge is to drive it out of the garden?”

Rami bar Hama asks: Why is the case of deaf-mutes different to the case of those who are insane? Regarding the former, the Rabbis allowed them to get married, whereas the latter, the Rabbis did not!
The Gemara answers: In the case of deaf-mutes, the institution of marriage is sustainable, and therefore the Rabbis facilitated their marriage.  For insane individuals, however, whose marriage would not be sustainable – since a person cannot live in the same cage as a snake – the Rabbis did not facilitate the institution of marriage. 

The snake, of course, is a reference to the yetzer hara – the evil inclination within each and every one of us, constantly tempting us to sin, just like it did with Adam and Eve.  The best way to avoid sin is to make sure that you’re not dwelling in the same cage or garden as the snake.   The further away the snake is from your life, the less you’ll fall prey to its temptation.

The purpose of marriage is for a couple to grow together spiritually.  An individual can only accomplish so much on their own without guidance from another.  Marriage brings out the best in one another in order to maximize mitzvah performance and minimize transgression. 

It’s a sin to get angry.  Therefore, the Rabbis determined that one who is insane is not fit for marriage.  It might not be their fault.  But if they will be the cause of their spouse’s sin - since most people do not have the requisite patience to live with someone who is insane and will frequently end up getting angry – the Rabbis deemed them unfit for marriage.   They might be attractive and beautiful, but if they might cause you to sin, marrying them would be like placing yourself in a cage with a snake.  They’re not the snake, G-d forbid – the snake is the yetzer hara who will use the opportunity to make you angry, thereby sinning. 

Every day we begin our prayers asking G-d, ‘Do not bring us to any test.’   If we ask G-d to help us avoid situations of spiritual challenge, how much more so must we avoid placing ourselves into such situations!  Life has enough tests and challenges without placing ourselves into spiritually challenging situations.  As much as possible, you want to avoid getting into the cage with the snake. 

And such situations come up all the time.  The less opportunities you give the snake – the yetzer hara – the less he will be able to lead you astray.  You need to be careful at work and university – don’t ever get into a working relationship that may lead to a situation where you might find yourself alone with a member of the opposite gender!  You need to be careful when you go on vacation that you’ve made provisions for kosher food – don’t tell yourself you’ll figure it out when you get there! 

You wouldn’t willingly walk into a cage with a cobra, so why would you invite the spiritual snake into your life?  Life is challenging enough as it is, without placing yourself into situations of spiritual test.  May you merit a life filled with positive spirituality and may the snake keep far away from you and your family!

Friday, 23 January 2015

The Thirty Day Challenge

Daf Yomi Yevamos 111

Jim has been trying to quit smoking for years.  He’s tried everything – nicotine patches, chewing gum, e-cigs – but he’s found nothing that will stop the cravings.  All he can think of is how on earth could he get through a lifetime without touching another cigarette.  What should he do? 

The Mishnah states:  If a widow who was taken in levirate marriage by her brother-in-law who, within thirty days, says, ‘I did not have marital relations,’ we force him to annul the marriage.  After thirty days, we ask him to annul.  But if he admits they did not have relations, we force him to annul even if it is a year or more later.
Rashi explains that after thirty days we believe him if he says that they cohabited, since beyond that amount of time, a person generally cannot constrain himself.

The thought of not having another cigarette for life is unbelievably daunting for a smoker.  The way to quit is to set yourself a goal of just thirty days.   A month is no big deal, right?  You can do it! 

Listen to the Gemara’s teaching: Most people cannot constrain themselves for a month.  So if you can get past that month, you are a hero!  Don’t think about quitting for life; just get yourself through the month.  After that you can reassess.

And that’s the way to get past any habit or addiction.  Maybe you couldn’t imagine keeping kosher for the rest of your life.  Try it for thirty days.  Maybe you have issues guarding your tongue or your eyes and you think ‘I’ll never be able to give it up.’  Instead of trying to change forever, challenge yourself to kick the habit for thirty days.  That’s a lot more reachable.  And who knows what will happen after that?

For most people, a lifetime of change is too humongous a goal to comprehend.  Don’t try to change forever.  Take the thirty day challenge.  May your life be filled with many successful thirty day challenges!