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Thursday, 26 February 2015

Become a Verbal Creator

Daf Yomi Kesubos 23


The Baal Shem Tov was once sitting and studying with his holy students in the synagogue of Medzhibuzh, when they were interrupted by two congregants arguing bitterly.  At one point, it got so heated, that one said to the other, ‘I would tear you apart like a fish!’  The Baal Shem Tov instructed his students to hold hands and close their eyes.

They shrieked in unison at the image they saw vividly before them.  With holy inspiration, the Baal Shem Tov had presented them with a vision of the man indeed tearing his friend apart like a fish.

The Mishnah states: If a woman says, ‘I was taken captive, but I was not violated,’ she is trusted, for the mouth that forbade is the mouth that permits.   But if there were witnesses that she was taken captive and she claims, ‘I was not violated,’ she is not trusted.

There were once some captive Jewish women brought to Nehardea.  Shmuel’s father appointed guards to protect them from violation by their captors.
Shmuel asked, “Until now, were they protected?”
He responded, “And if they were your daughters, would you be so callous?”

His word were “like an error emitted from the mouth of a ruler,” and eventually Shmuel’s own daughters were in fact taken captive.

Words have awesome power.  We must be so careful what comes forth from our mouths, because mere words have an incredible spiritual effect that ultimately manifests itself in the physical.  “And G-d said, ‘There shall be light.’  And there was light.”  All He had to do was say it, and it was.

Of course, you are not G-d.  But you were created in His image and when the Torah describes His method of creation, it does so in order to impress upon us the awesome power of what we say.  Everything you say makes a deep and indelible mark on this physical world.

But if negative speech has an effect, then certainly positive speech has awesome influence.  If Shmuel’s daughters were taken captive as a result of his conversation with his father, imagine what you can achieve by declaring positive outcomes!  It’s not enough just to think positive thoughts, you must enunciate exactly what you would like to see come to pass!

Let’s say that the medical report says that you have a twenty percent chance of survival. Not only should you pray for complete recovery, you should verbally announce to everyone you see, ‘The Almighty is going to heal me.  Everything will be alright.’  Or perhaps you’ve heard that layoffs will be taking place at your workplace.  Don’t simply pray that it won’t be you; tell everyone that you are fortunate because your job is safe and secure, since the Almighty is watching over you!


Words have incredible power.  Power that we don’t immediately perceive with our physical eyes.  May you merit the faith to always declare positive outcomes and be blessed with health, nachas and abundant prosperity!  

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Don't settle for second best!

Daf Yomi Kesubos 22


When I was working in the financial services industry, I had a secretary who was okay at her job.  She wasn’t great, she was just okay.  She would take half a day to type up a letter for me.  She returned clients’ calls eventually.  She could occasionally figure out how to fix the fax machine.  But she’d done nothing terrible, so it was very hard to let her go.

According to HR professionals, the most difficult employees to get rid of are the mediocre ones.  They’re not that great, but how can you fire them for doing nothing wrong? 

The Beraisa states: If a woman says, ‘I’m married,’ and then later retracts and says, ‘I’m single,’ she is not believed.  If, however, she provides a plausible excuse, she is believed. 

There was once a beautiful woman who was constantly being proposed to, and so she would respond by telling them she was married.  She eventually got married and the Sages asked her for a clarification.
“Originally,” she explained, “when I was approached by men who were inappropriate, I told them I was married.  Now that I found someone appropriate, I married him.”

Just as much as employers will settle for mediocre employees, many people settle for places in life that are mediocre.  They get so used to doing the same thing day in day out that they’ve stopped believing they can achieve great things. They’ve convinced themselves that the status quo is the best their life will ever be.  And things are okay, so why shake it up? 

Don’t settle for mediocrity!  You are a child of the Almighty.  You are a beautiful neshama (soul).  Don’t settle for second-best!   Yes, in the meantime, you might have to act ‘married’ to what you’re doing, but be the best at it and don’t ever forget who you are and the greatness the Almighty has planned for you! 

Once you settle and decide that this is the best you can be, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  As long as you know that the appropriate big break is just around the corner, you will be able to stand tall, knowing how beautiful a neshama you truly are!


The Almighty placed you on this earth to achieve incredible things.  Even if you’re not there yet, don’t ever settle for mediocrity.  May you merit discovering your great mission in life as quickly as possible! 

Be the bearer of good tidings!

Daf Yomi Kesubos 21

A friend of mine recently returned from a trip to Cuba.  He stayed at a hotel in Havana that he booked online.  The website looked gorgeous, but when he arrived there, the place was nothing like they had portrayed.  The rooms were smelly, the bathroom dirty, the carpets were stained and the elevator didn’t work. The TV was black and white and the mattress was an inch thick.  He went on and on and finally told me that he was planning to write a scathing review on Tripadvisor.

I agreed that that would be a good idea and asked him if he’s a regular contributor to the site.
“Actually, I’ve never written a review before.  I’ve never needed to.  All my other travels have been pleasant!”

Rabbi Aba quoted Rabbi Huna quoting Rav: Three people sat down to validate a document and one of them had an objection raised against them.  Until they have signed the document, the other two may testify concerning their friend’s worthiness.  Once they have signed, however, they may be biased, and may not testify and validate his status.

The Gemara asks: What was the objection raised against this judge?  If he was accused of tainted family status, what testimony is required?  We can easily uncover the facts of his status!

When it’s bad news, everyone talks.  When people have tainted status and problems in their life, everyone wants to know all the gossip.  It’s easy to know what’s going on, because suddenly everyone is speaking about them.  People love hearing about the skeletons in the closet. 

Are people as interested in telling and hearing good news?  Do they talk about the wonderful behind-the-scenes chessed (kindnesses) people are performing?   Our Sages tell us that even the greatest Jewish sinners are filled with mitzvos like a pomegranate is filled with seeds!

It’s time to start talking about the incredible virtues you see all around you!  When you hear someone make a disparaging remark about someone else, tell them they have no idea about all the good things that person does!  Now, you might not know what those good things are, but rest assured, you are telling the absolute truth, no matter how the person appears to be.

And even if they don’t have many redeeming qualities, know that they are children of the Almighty.  They don’t have tainted status issues.  They have the most incredible Father!  They were created in His image and no matter what they’ve done, their Father loves them with a greater love than any mortal parent loves their children, regardless of their actions.


The Almighty loves all His children.  Their status is impeccable.  May you merit always spreading good news about everyone and defending the honour of all His children!

Can you convince someone to believe?

Daf Yomi Kesubos 20


We live in spiritually tragic times for our people.  With every demographic report, we find fewer and fewer Jews affiliating with their heritage.  Our mission, as committed, dedicated Jews, is to convince our brothers and sisters of the importance of Judaism to their lives.

But how can you convince somebody of something they don’t believe in?  Either they believe or they don’t.  And if they don’t, what’s the use in trying?

Rabbah taught: If two people know testimony, but one forgot, the other may remind his friend.

Rabbi Ashi had knowledge of testimony relating to Rabbi Cahana.
He said to him, “Do you remember the matter?”
He replied, “No.”
Rabbi Cahana continued, “Don’t you recall that such and such took place?”
Rabbi Ashi responded, “I don’t know.”

Eventually, Rabbi Ashi remembered and testified.  He noticed that Rabbi Cahana was confused.
He said to him, “Do you think I’m relying upon what you said?  Of course not.  I gave the matter much thought and finally remembered.” 

We all stood at the foot of Sinai when the Almighty declared, “I am the L-rd, your G-d who took you out of the land of Egypt.”  We all sat under the Holy Throne in Heaven as souls before we came into this world, hearing our Divine mission in this world.  We were all there.

But some of us forgot what happened.  Some souls forgot the testimony.  And so Rabbah teaches us that we should remind our friends of the testimony.  We have an obligation to tell our brothers and sisters what happened at Sinai, what happened under the Holy Throne.

But the key is that the aim is not to convince them of something they don’t believe in.  They were there, you just need to remind them.  And if they focus hard enough, just like Rabbi Ashi, they will remember.

Let me share with you an incredible idea that Rabbanit taught us all recently at PI@BI (Prophetic Inspiration at Beth Israel).  Emunah doesn’t mean blind faith.  Maimonides tells us that the obligation is “to know that there is a G-d.”  Not to believe, but to know.  Knowledge comes from experience.   Knowledge comes from thought and focus.  You can’t convince someone to believe but you can convince them to stop and think why they’re here.  Most people go through life without ever bothering to think.  Your job is simply to remind them to be focused.  And they will remember.


You don’t need to convince anyone to believe.  They were there.  May you merit the opportunity to remind our brothers and sisters to simply stop and think.  They will remember and become a source of blessing to themselves, to you, and to the people of Israel!  

Never shelve your imperfections

Daf Yomi Kesubos 19


A couple of years ago, I was out in New York with a friend of mine.  We were meeting his cousin for dinner at Dougies.  I miss Dougies, it was a meat and potatoes guy’s paradise.  The first thing they’d give you was a huge bib so that you could check your inhibitions at the door and just dig into your meal.

Anyway, our meals came and my buddy and I got up to wash.  I mentioned to his cousin that we were going to wash and he responded, “Oh, I’m Social Orthodox, we only wash on Shabbos.”

The Prophet declares in the Book of Job, “If iniquity be in your hand, put it far away; let not crookedness dwell in your tent.”
Rabbi Ami taught: One may hold on to an unedited holy book for up to thirty days.  Henceforth, it is forbidden to retain. 

One of the most incredible aspects of our tradition is the fact that we have been flung to the four corners of the world and have maintained the same practices, texts and liturgies.  Other religions have multiple versions of their scriptures, but we have always been so precise in our copying and editing, to the extent that it is forbidden to retain an unedited copy of Scripture!

Note that Rabbi Ami doesn’t say it’s forbidden to hold on to the unedited texts for even a day.  Sometimes it takes time to get that material up to scratch.  It can’t be done overnight.  But you can’t simply put it away on the shelf and say ‘I’ll get to it eventually.’  Certainly, one should never put it aside and just accept the status quo.  Thirty days and no change is unacceptable.

We all have imperfections in our ‘tents.’   Our job in this world is to constantly strive to improve upon those imperfections and never settle with the status quo.   It goes without saying that ‘Social’ Orthodoxy has the same Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) as everyone else and we wash for bread every day of the week!  If you’re not yet up for the task, don’t just accept the status quo, commit to attaining eventual improvement!

G-d doesn’t expect you to become an overnight tzaddik (holy man), but He wants to know you’re committed to constant improvement.  It’s forbidden to shelve those unedited volumes.  You put them on the shelf and you’ve accepted that the status quo is the best you can be.  You can be so much greater!  You can be spiritually uplifted!  Just as long as you never accept things the way they are!


Nobody is perfect.  Your job in this world is to grow.  May you never settle with the status quo and merit a lifetime of constant improvement!

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

You have dozens of kids you don't know about

Daf Yomi Kesubos 18


What should the topic of conversation be at the Shabbos table?  Should you talk politics?  Current affairs?  According to Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski, it’s all about the kids.  Talk parsha (the weekly Torah portion) with them.  Ask them what they’re learning in school.  Even if you have guests at the table, it doesn’t matter, says Rabbi Twerski.  The guests must know that Shabbos is about the children.

After reading Rabbi Twerski’s sage advice, we adopted this policy in our home for some time.  Until one day it backfired when a young man came into my office to chat.  He had some concerns that he spoke about with me, but at the end of the conversation, he shared something that had been troubling him.

“A couple of months ago, my wife and I were at your Shabbos table and we felt like extras.  You seemed to be focused on your own children.  You hardly asked us about our lives.  We were wondering why you’d even bothered inviting us.”

The Beraisa taught: Rabbi Eliezer ben Jacob says: Sometimes a person must take an oath due to his own admission.  How so?  If one claimed to an orphan, ‘I owed your father a maneh (one hundred zuz), but I repaid him half of it,’ he must swear to that effect.  And this case is one such example of taking on oath due to his own admission.  But the Sages say:  He is merely akin to one who is returning lost property and is exempt from swearing.

The Gemara inquires: Does Rabbi Eliezer not agree that if one returns lost property he is exempt from swearing?
Rav answers: We are dealing with a case where the child initiated the claim against the debtor.
The Gemara asks: But the master taught that we do not demand an oath on account of the claim of a deaf-mute, deranged person, or child?
The Gemara answers: What does child mean?  Adult child.  Why is he called a child?  For with regards to his father’s matters, he is like a child.

Everyone likes to imagine themselves as a child at heart.  And certainly, we are all still children of our parents.   What’s more, when it comes to various aspects of our lives, each of us still has a long way to go in terms of our growth and maturity. 

I am indebted to that young man who opened up my eyes to my Shabbos table and how I could take care of all the ‘children’ around the table.  In one way or another, that’s each person sitting there.  Sure, I have a duty to my own children to teach them the parsha, but what about the spiritual children whom I had invited over – did they know the parsha?  Did they feel like an active part of the Shabbos table?  Did they feel loved and appreciated and integral to the future of our people, the same way I wanted my biological children to feel?

One’s passport is only one indicator of age.  It might be able to tell you how many years have passed since a person came into this world.  But it can’t tell you how emotionally, psychologically, or spiritually mature they are.  Everyone is a child in some aspect of their lives.  When you seek their welfare, you become their ‘parent’ in that sphere. 

Children need our attention.  But we live in a time when most of our people are spiritual children.  May you merit to parent hundreds and thousands of our people and get much nachas from all of your kinderlach (kids)!  

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Your spouse is amazing!

Daf Yomi Kesubos 17


 The holy Chasidic master, Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk would spend months on the road in self-imposed exile.  On one such jaunt, he found lodging and sat down to dinner with his hosts.  Sensing the special guest that he was, the balabusta (woman of the house) served Reb Elimelech his portion of soup first.  Bringing the spoon to his lips, he realized that she must have slipped with the salt.  The soup was barely edible.

He watched as the balabus (man of the house) took his first sip of soup.  His face went bright red and he was about to scream at his wife.  Reb Elimelech didn’t waste a moment. 
He jumped up and exclaimed, “What delicious soup!  It tastes just like my mother, of blessed memory, used to make it!”

All of a sudden, the balabus’s demeanor changed.  His temper had cooled and he sat there beaming as Reb Elimelech lavished praise on his wife’s culinary abilities. 

Rabbi Shmuel bar Nahmeni taught: It is permissible to gaze at a bride throughout the first week of her marriage, in order to make her beloved to her husband.
Rashi explains:  When the groom sees everyone looking at his new wife, he will be infused with desire for her beauty.
The Gemara concludes: But the Halacha (law) does not accord with him (since it is never permissible to gaze at another woman).

While the Halacha ultimately forbids you to gaze at this young lady, clearly Rabbi Shmuel’s message is that one should strive to increase the love between spouses.   Extolling their physical beauty is perhaps not the wisest course of action.  But there are many other praises you could bestow upon your friend’s spouse that would further their love to one another.

When someone tells me what an amazing speaker and manager my wife is, I brim with pride.  When they tell me how sensitive and caring she is, it warms my heart.  When they tell me what an awesome job she does balancing family, career and the shul, I am overflowed with emotion. 

Now, don’t I already know all these things about her and so much more?  I know that she is the most awesome woman on the planet.  That’s why I married her!  Nevertheless, there’s no limit to the bond of love between husband and wife.  We spend a lifetime working on deepening that bond.   If you can add to that deepening by praising a person to their spouse, you have achieved a mitzvah for which you will be rewarded ‘in this world, but the ultimate reward will be saved for the World to Come!’

Anything you can say to increase the love between spouses is a huge mitzvah.  You never know when you will say just the right thing to endear a person to their spouse.  Human beings constantly seek approval and recognition from other human beings.  When your friend hears you extolling their spouse, the love between them automatically grows.  Tell them what an amazing person they’re married to.  If you know of a special chesed (kindness) they’ve performed, tell them how impressed you are.  They will become warm and fuzzy over their spouse, which is how they should be feeling!


Bringing peace between spouses is one of the greatest mitzvos you can do.  Peace is not only necessary when they’re fighting; shalom comes from the word shalem, meaning complete.  The deeper their love, the more complete they will feel in their marriage.  May you merit imbuing husbands and wives with passion and love for one another and bringing shleimus (completeness) to many marriages!

Can you be a Zionist living in North America?

Check out my Ted talk at the Rabbinical Council of America: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t__jR4N8Gak


Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Should you tell your friend how ugly their kitchen is?

Daf Yomi Kesubos 16

Sharon and Michael had just finished redoing their kitchen.  They invited us over with a number of their friends for a party.  Now I’ll admit, I was a little taken aback as I walked in.  I like the retro look but their eighteenth century theme was a little too much, even for me.
‘What do you think?’ beamed Sharon.
Her neighbour, Jenny, was the first to reply.  ‘It’s a little off, if you ask me.  What were you thinking?’
Before she could continue, I chimed in, ‘I think it’s absolutely stunning!’  I went on to praise the lighting and their choice of faucets and asked them where they found their flooring.
That was more than enough to get them to refocus and proudly tell us the whole story of their new kitchen.

How do we dance before a bride?  What should we say?
The House of Shamai says: Praise her as befits her.
The House of Hillel says: Extol her for her beauty and attractiveness.

The House of Shamai asked the House of Hillel, “What if she were lame or blind, would you still call her beautiful and attractive? Does the Torah not say distance yourself from falsehood?”
The House of Hillel replied, “And in your opinion, if someone were to make a poor market purchase, would you praise it to him or speak ill of it?  Of course you would praise it!”
From here our Sages declared: A person’s opinions should always be pleasant towards others.

Many people feel the need to constantly let others know the ‘truth.’  Our Sages make it very clear that concern for hurting another’s feelings is a more important value than ‘saying it as it is.’  Our job is not to be blunt and tactless; we must always think about building people’s confidence.

Every time you speak, you need to ask yourself: what am I trying to accomplish by my comments?  Your goal must forever be to make others feel special and wonderful.  If you have nothing nice to say, better not to say anything at all!   

But really, that’s not good enough. You should always be able to find something nice to say to build a person’s confidence, even if it means bending the truth a little.   After all, everyone wants to think of their spouse as beautiful and the worst that could happen would be that they were previously unsure about their decision and you’ve just come and clarified in their minds that they chose well.  Please G-d, they’re going to live with this person for the rest of their lives, they might as well be as excited as possible about them!

Before you make any comment, you must always ask yourself what the outcome will be.  If you’re going to make the other person feel good, you’re on track for your mission in life.   If they will just feel awful, what exactly do you feel you’ve accomplished?  Maybe it’s the new car they’ve purchased or the new kitchen they’ve installed.  You don’t have to drive it or live in it, you just need to make them feel good about it!

Be a builder!  Use every opportunity to make others feel good even if you might not have made the same choices.  May you merit always sharing pleasant opinions and making every person you meet feel they are the most special person in the world!

   

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Do you like surprises?

Daf Yomi Kesubos 15


Drive past any Tim Hortons in Canada and you are guaranteed to see a long line of cars waiting to be served.  I could never fathom why anyone would want to wait so long for a cup of coffee when you can whiz straight through the Starbucks drive-thru. 

But one day my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to try Tim Hortons and see what all the fuss was about.  Not wanting to die from caffeine-withdrawal while I was waiting, I whizzed through my regular watering hole and with my Starbucks cup in hand, I joined the Tim Hortons line.

Three hours later, I arrived at the window. 
‘I’ll have a double-double, please’ (that’s Canadian for ‘cup of coffee,’ which incidentally is much easier to learn than figuring out what a ‘skinny grande macchiato espressappuccino’ is).
‘There you go,’ said the barista as he handed me my coffee.
‘How much will that be?’ I asked.
‘Oh, no need to pay, the lady in the car in front of you already paid for your cup.’ 

I was flabbergasted at the generosity of a total stranger.  Immediately, of course, I handed a ten dollar bill to the barista and told him I was paying for the person in the car behind me. 

The Torah states, “If there should be a man who despises his fellow and ambushes him and rises against him and smites him and he dies . . . you shall show him no pity.”
Rabbi Shimon says: The word ‘ambush’ teaches that he is not guilty unless he intended to murder.

While one is not guilty unless he intended to do something wrong, the good news is that when it comes to doing the right thing, you are rewarded even if you had no intention to do the mitzvah!  You may have brightened up someone’s day just by smiling and you’ve unintentionally performed a mitzvah for which you’ll be rewarded in this world and the next!

But if intent is derived from the idea of ambush, then imagine the reward you could expect to receive for ambushing somebody with a good deed!   Everybody loves a good surprise.  And if His children get pleasure from being surprised, do you know how much pleasure G-d gets? 

There are loads of ways throughout the day you can ambush people with acts of kindness.  Maybe it’s the cup of coffee you purchase for the next customer.  Maybe it’s the toll charge you pay for the car behind you.  Maybe it’s the anonymous envelope you drop in the mailbox of the single mother.  Maybe it’s the out-of-the-blue Shabbos invitation you extend to a widow.


Surprise someone today!  There’s no greater mitzvah than one performed with the intent to please another!  And guess what?  You’ll make your Father in Heaven very happy too!  May you merit a life full of surprises!

Monday, 16 February 2015

How to respond to your critics

Daf Yomi Kesubos 14

I was once watching an interview with a famous celebrity. 
Brimming with confidence, he was responding to all the questions, until she asked him, ‘How do you feel about so-and-so?’ 
He looked at the interviewer with a blank stare and replied sheepishly, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t know who that is.’
She replied, ‘Seriously?  He’s your biggest critic in the New York Times!’

The Rabbis taught: Who is considered a widow of uncertainty able to marry a cohen?   Anyone who has no concern of illegitimate, Gibeonite, or royal slave status.   Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar quoted Rabbi Meir: The nation of Israel knows those of illegitimate status amongst them.  And the fact that one is silent and does not protest when he is called illegitimate is because he believes that those of illegitimate status have a reputation.
Rashi explains: His silence is not an admission.  He is simply not bothered by what they are saying.

Many people go through life constantly worried about what others are thinking and saying about them.  And so they end up either too busy responding to their critics to accomplish anything.  Or alternatively they take the ‘safe’ path through life and don’t say or do anything noteworthy at all.  It’s not worth wasting your precious time on the naysayers – they will always find something negative to say.  

If you know that you are doing the right thing, who cares what anyone else is saying about you?  Some people mould their lives or even create careers around criticizing others!  If you are one of those who actually accomplish things in life, you don’t ever need to bother responding to the cynics and the critics.  It’s just a waste of your time and energy.  And you know how precious your time is and what you could accomplish with that extra time and effort!

Certainly, if you want to grow, sometimes you need to listen to constructive criticism.  The way to distinguish the constructive critics from the destructive criticizers is to ask which of them shower praise and give credit where credit is due.  The right people will offer praise at least eighty percent of the time.   Contrast that with the destroyers – you’d be lucky if you heard twenty percent praise from them!


Ignore the critics!   They’re just going to weigh you down and slow you down.  They’re not helping you on your life’s mission, they’re out to destroy.   May you merit the clarity of purpose to forge ahead and not even hear what the naysayers are saying!  

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Ninety percent approval rating is good enough

Daf Yomi Kesubos 13


The Purim Megillah concludes with the statement that Mordecai was “favourable to most of his brethren.”   What a strange way to describe the hero of the Purim story!  Here was a fellow who, together with Esther, saved the entire Jewish people from annihilation, and the Megillah tells us that most people liked him!?  Who could not have liked him after everything he did for them?

The Mishnah states: They saw a woman secluded with a man and questioned her, ‘What is the nature of your relationship?’ She responded, ‘He is Ploni Cohen.’
Chief Rabbi Gamliel and Rabbi Joshua say: She is believed. 
Rashi explains: She is therefore still permitted to marry a cohen.  We don’t assume she has had relations with someone improper.
But Rabbi Joshua says: We cannot live according to her word.  We assume she has cohabited with a Gibeonite or bastard unless she brings proof.

The Beraisa states: Rabbi Joshua asked them, ‘Would you not agree that if a woman was taken captive and there were witnesses to that effect, and yet she claims that she was not violated, that she is nonetheless not believed?’
They responded, ‘That is true, since most idolaters are promiscuous.’

The Gemara asks: Rabbi Joshua should distinguish between the cases.  There, in the Beraisa’s case, most of her captors would invalidate her status (as they are idolaters).   However, here in the Mishnah’s case, most Jewish men are kosher and should not invalidate her status!
Rabbi Joshua ben Levi taught:  The one whose words validate would validate even where most are invalid.  The one whose words invalidate would invalidate even where most are valid.

Some people use their words to validate people, while others use their words to invalidate.   Those who use their words to speak optimism and positivity are always trying to find the good in other people, so that even when there is nothing to validate them, they still find some redeeming quality.  Sadly, those who use their words to be cynical and pessimistic always find a way to be negative, even when the object of their scorn is entirely valid! 

And that’s why even Mordecai who saved our nation from annihilation was praised as being ‘favourable to most of his brethren.’   There will always be cynical people who will find something negative.  The Megillah teaches us not to sit back and do nothing so that you don’t earn your critics.  Make a change!  Save the day!  And pay no attention to the naysayers!   The greatest compliment one can receive is ‘most people find you favourable’ because the pessimists will never be happy.

Be an optimist.  Be that person who brightens up the room.  Be the one who always finds something good to say about every person and every situation, no matter how invalid it may appear.   We have one tzaddik (righteous person) in the shul whose father taught him: no matter what missteps a rabbi might take, you should always be there to support him (except of course, if criminal activity has taken place).  Our shul has had its fair share of rabbis, some good some mediocre.  And yet this mensch took his father’s advice to heart and has always found a way to back the rabbi, no matter the situation.


There are enough people in this world who are going to criticize.  Be the person who infuses the room with light!  May you merit always finding the good in every person and every situation, even when matters appear dim and people seem invalid to everyone else!

Saturday, 14 February 2015

You have royal blood!

Daf Yomi Kesubos 12
 
When the Children of Israel left Egypt, they were instructed to request gold and silver from their neighbours.  The Midrash tells us that the poorest Israelite left Egypt with ninety donkeys laden with gold, silver, and precious jewellery!   But why did they need these adornments?  They were setting off on a forty year sojourn into the desert.  Why would they need money?

Imagine the slave mentality the Children of Israel had developed after two centuries of bondage.   They were born slaves, their parents and grandparents were slaves.  All they knew was life as a slave.

And then they leave Egypt and each morning, mommy would call over her little ones, place a gold necklace upon them, and tell them, ‘You are a princess.  You are a prince.’  Suddenly, their whole self-image was transformed.  They would not grow up thinking of themselves as slaves; they were princes and princesses, children of the King of kings! 

The Mishnah states:  A maiden receives a kesubah payment (in the case of divorce or death of the husband) of two hundred zuz.  The beth din (court) of the priests would impose a kesubah payment of four hundred zuz.
Rabbi Judah quoted Shmuel: They did not say this matter only with regards to priestly courts, rather even prominent Israelite families who wanted to act as the cohanim (priests) may do so.

Priestly families empower their children with a sense of pride and self-respect.  From a young age, they instill within them the confidence of knowing that they are special.  G-d has chosen them for His service.  And so they imbue every detail of their lives with this feeling of uniqueness.  If common folk provide their daughters with a kesubah valued at two hundred, then their priestly children deserve four hundred. 

Shmuel teaches that while priests have a natural tendency to boost their children’s self-confidence, you too can create that special feeling within your Israelite family.  You don’t need to be born of a priestly family to be a priest.  If you act like a priest, you become a priest.

And you are a priest!  You are a child of the Almighty, Who declared, “And you shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”  We are no longer slaves to Pharaoh; G-d calls us His firstborn children.  You are a princess!  You are a prince!

When you go through life taking pride in the knowledge that you are royal, your entire perspective on life changes.  You have incredible potential.  You can accomplish amazing things in life.  Don’t ever settle for second best.  You can achieve all your dreams.  Don’t ever give up on becoming your best!

You are a prince of G-d!  You are destined to achieve greatness in your life!  May you merit the frame of mind to always remember who you are and what you can accomplish as a royal child of the Almighty!

Free yourself of the hassle of G-d


Daf Yomi Kesubos 11

Rabbi Matisyahu Solomon tells the story of a young Israeli man who had tried every pleasure imaginable.  One day he hears about a major rave taking place down south and he sets off to take part.  He gets there and is about to enter when he sees a fellow wearing a kippah walking quickly past the dance hall doing his very best to keep his eyes glued to the ground so that he does not cast his eyes at any improper sight.

The young man is amazed:  Here he thinks that he is encountering the highest form of pleasure he can imagine and for some reason this other fellow has chosen to get past the scene as quickly as possible.  Where is he rushing to?

He engages the man in conversation, they strike up a friendship, which eventually leads to them learning together on a weekly basis.  Today, the young man is an esteemed Rosh Yeshiva in Israel.

Rabbi Huna taught: The beth din (court) may convert a child. 

Why does Rabbi Huna need to teach us this law?  It is a merit for him to become Jewish and one may bring merit to a person even without their consent!

The Gemara answers: I might have assumed that a gentile prefers his freedom, therefore Rabbi Huna teaches that that is true regarding an adult, who has already tasted the forbidden fruit.  But regarding a child, it would be a merit.

Most people, sadly, will go through life preferring their ‘freedom’ to the yoke of Torah.   Why bother with mitzvos when you can go through life without all the hassle?  They don’t realize that Torah isn’t a burden; it’s uplifting!  It provides the ultimate pleasure!  A life without purpose is a life chained to the hardship and pressures of this world.  When you invite G-d into your life, you experience true freedom! 

A life of Torah and mitzvos is not burdensome; it is invigorating!  That’s why it’s a merit to convert a child.  They are still pure and will have no regrets, only gratitude!  If only we could all share that attitude!  If only, we could regain our childhood innocence! 

Living with purpose and knowing that G-d is guiding your life will take your breath away!   May you merit the strength to overcome your temporal freedom to experience the ultimate freedom! 

Thursday, 12 February 2015

How the Divine flow can change you


Daf Yomi Kesubos 10

The accountant was dumbfounded.  He had gone over Sherrie’s books three times and he couldn’t believe his final numbers were correct.  But sure enough, she had made almost as much as in previous years, despite her battle with cancer over the last year.

“Are you sure?” she asked him as he presented her with his findings.

“Absolutely,” he replied, “this is a miracle.  In my forty years in the profession, I’ve never seen anything like it.”

The last year and a half have been extremely challenging for Sherrie as she struggled to balance visits to the cancer clinic for radiation and chemo with her psychology practice.  She was convinced that the bottom line would suffer as a result of her needing to cut back at work.  But, lo and behold, miraculously, the Almighty had provided her with almost the same income as the previous year, despite her lightened workload!

Praising the Almighty’s provision of blessing, King David declares in Psalms, “You visit the earth and water her . . . watering her ridges abundantly, settling her furrows, You make her soft with showers, You bless her growth.”

Rabbi Hana of Baghdad taught: Rain waters, quenches, fertilizes, refines and draws down.

Rain is a metaphor and a symbol of the Almighty’s blessing.  The same way that we can see rain that descends and provides more than a mere drink for creation, similarly the Divine blessing is more than just a light shower.

When G-d sends His blessing, it has multiple goals.  Firstly, it waters, i.e. the Divine blessing is refreshing.  It is invigorating.  When you open yourself up to the Divine flow of energy, your entire being becomes reenergized and full of life.

Secondly, just like rain, it not only provides water, but a good rainfall completely saturates the earth.  When G-d sends His blessing to the world, it’s not a sun-shower.  G-d sends enough blessing to completely quench your thirst.  The Almighty’s blessing is limitless!

Third, a good rainfall serves to fertilize the earth, opening it up to release its inner nutrients.  Likewise, with Divine blessing, you can transform yourself from within.  You have the power to be a source of energy and power.  But in order to release those nutrients, you need to open yourself up to G-d’s flow of power.

Fourth, the rain refines.  Not only does Divine blessing bring out the best in you, but when you allow the Divine energy to enter, you become a stronger, better, more refined person.  When you open yourself up to the Divine power, you become transformed.

And finally, the rain draws down.  It is the connection between heaven and earth.  Likewise, the Divine flow of energy connects the spiritual with the physical – elevating the physical and drawing down the spiritual into this world.  When you make yourself into a vehicle for the Divine, you draw down G-dliness into your life.  And that’s when miracles happen.  When Sherrie placed herself in G-d’s hand, her life became supernatural, no longer dictated by the forces of nature.  And when G-d is providing, there is no limit to his abundance!

Rain is fulfilling.  It is invigorating.  It is thirst-quenching and saturating.  It is transformational.  And it is connecting.   If these descriptions are all true of physical rain, how much truer are they of the Divine flow!  May you merit becoming a vessel for spiritual rain and never cease accepting, becoming transformed and connecting to the Divine downpour!   And may you too experience miracles throughout your life!
 

Think positively and it will be positive!


Daf Yomi Kesubos 9

King David watched as the beautiful Bathsheba went out to bathe on the rooftop of the adjacent building.  In a fit of burning passion, he found himself inexplicably drawn to her.  Conspiring to be with her, he sent her husband Uriah out to the frontlines of the battlefield and cohabited with her.    Following Uriah’s death on the battlefield, David married Bathsheba.

The prophet Nathan subsequently appeared before King David and chastised him for his ill-conceived actions.  As punishment for his behaviour, he and Bathsheba would lose a child.  And indeed no sooner was the baby born than he died.

The Gemara asks: Why was Bathsheba not forbidden to marry David?

Rashi explains: A woman who has an affair is subsequently forbidden to both her husband and her lover.

Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachmani quoted Rabbi Jonathan: Whoever would go out to war in David’s army would write a gett (bill of divorce) to his wife.

Rabbeinu Tam explains: The gett would take effect immediately just in case the husband did not come back from the war.  This way, the wife would be freed from the uncertainty of being an agunah – chained woman, who cannot remarry until she definitely knows her husband is dead.

No doubt many women were spared from the terrible plight of spending their lives chained to their missing husbands.  Nevertheless, in David’s case, this injunction had unfortunate consequences.  David capitalized on the fact that Uriah had divorced his wife and utilized the opportunity to take her unto him.   And presumably theirs wasn’t the only marriage negatively impacted by the injunction.

There is no indication as to how long this injunction remained in effect.  Certainly, Israeli soldiers who go out to war today don’t divorce their wives, thank G-d.  After all, why would you set out assuming the worst outcome?  Instead, soldiers should be promising their wives the world before setting off, knowing that, with G-d’s help, they will be home soon.

When you set out with the assumption that things will turn out bad, you are opening yourself up to negative energy and G-d forbid, you can set in motion a self-fulfilling prophecy.   Instead of assuming the worst, switch those negative thoughts to positive thoughts!  And you will open yourself up to a purely positive flow of Divine energy!

Even when things seem bleak, tell yourself: I know that according the laws of nature, things may appear problematic.  But G-d works in the supernatural!  You may have been laid off from work, but the Almighty can grant you a job earning twice as much in the blink of an eye.  You may have received a bad medical report, but only the Almighty holds the keys to good health and bad health.  Keep thinking positively and the Divine light will flow into your life and overpower the natural order!

A popular Yiddish adage says, “Tracht gut, vet zayn gut!” – think positively and it will be positive!  You have the ability to determine the ultimate outcome by controlling whether to allow yourself to be controlled by the natural order or to draw down supernatural energy into your life.  May you merit a life filled with positivity and may you always remain in control as the Divine energy emanates throughout! 

G-d wants to give you everything!


Daf Yomi Kesubos 8

After years of hiding from his brother Esau, Jacob is ready to return to the land of Canaan.  He realizes that G-d has blessed him abundantly with a beautiful, large family and material prosperity.

Turning to G-d, he proclaims, “I am tiny of all your kindness!”

Rashi explains that Jacob is concerned that maybe he has used up all his merit and reward with his success and prosperity.  Perhaps there’s nothing left in his spiritual bank account now when he really needs it to face the final confrontation with Esau.

What blessings are made for the bride and groom?

Rabbi Judah says, “You shall bring joy to these beloved friends, as You brought joy to your creations in the original Garden of Eden.  Blessed are You, Hashem, who brings joy to the groom and bride.”

Isn’t it a bit of a stretch to ask G-d to provide us with the same degree of satisfaction that Adam and Eve enjoyed in the Garden of Eden?  That level of joy has never been experienced in this world since we were evicted from the Garden almost six thousand years ago!

Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz explains that our Father in Heaven wants us to ask the world of Him!  He loves us dearly and wants to shower us with abundant blessing.  There is no shortage in His granary of prosperity; no bottom to His well of giving!  When we ask G-d for our needs and wants, we shouldn’t be asking for a quarter or half of our desires, He wants us to pour out our hearts in prayers for abundance!

Indeed, the Ohr HaChaim clarifies that Jacob didn’t feel that he had used up His prayer account with G-d, for there is no end to G-d’s infinite blessing.  Rather, Jacob was merely expressing how small and unworthy he felt in the face of the Almighty’s abundant blessing.  He felt so humbled and undeserving before G-d, but knew that G-d has no shortage of blessing.

If you believe that G-d can bless you abundantly, He most certainly will!  He loves you dearly.  He gets nachas when He sees you prosper.  When you maintain your faith in Him, He will bless you with the world.  He will grant you the joy of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden!

Your Father in Heaven loves you beyond your wildest dreams.  Just like a parent who would do anything for their child, G-d wants to grant you all your wishes.  May you merit the sustained faith in the Almighty that will draw down abundant blessings of health, nachas, and material and spiritual prosperity!

When should your kids start Sunday school?


Daf Yomi Kesubos 7

A couple who were about to give birth came to the Baal Shem Tov for a blessing.

“Rebbe, when does the mitzvah of chinuch – educating our child – begin?” they inquired.

“Nine months ago,” was the response.

Rabbi Meir would say: How do we know that even foeti in their mothers’ wombs sang the song of gratitude at the Red Sea?  For the Psalmist declares, “In assemblies, bless G-d, Hashem from the womb of Israel.”

Many parents unfortunately take a lackadaisical attitude towards educating their children in our holy heritage. ‘Oh, when they get older, they’ll figure it out.’  Meanwhile, from the earliest age, they’re trying to create Einsteins of their babies and they’re feeding them Baroque music and multiple languages.

Chinuch begins at conception!  Everything you do influences your unborn child, let alone your born children!  What you see, where you go, what you listen to – all make their mark on your dear little ones.  It’s a huge responsibility to raise a child – you are now the bearer of the mesorah ­– the tradition that your parents handed down to you and you in turn will pass on to the next generation. 

You wouldn’t wait to educate your child in reading, writing or table manners.  Why delay the spiritual education of your child?  It’s vital to instill within them the values and teachings of Judaism from day one or even earlier!  From the moment you realize that you are becoming parents, you need to reassess the spiritual climate of the home. 

Are we eating the right foods?  What should our policy be towards TV viewing in the house?  What do we talk about over dinner?  How does our Shabbos look?  All of these matters will have a profound effect upon your children – it’s their environment and you want to make that as pristine as you possibly can.

Parenting is one of the most Heavenly pursuits in this world.  It is imitatio Dei – the emulation of the Almighty, our Father in Heaven.  May you merit the wisdom and discipline to provide a spiritual sanctuary for your children to grow up in a Divine environment with timeless values!
 

Stop being so hard on yourself and even harder on everyone else!


Daf Yomi Kesubos 6

Judah had found a wife for his son Er, but no sooner had they married than the Almighty took Er.  Tamar was then joined in levirate marriage with Er’s brother, Onan, but he too acted inappropriately and was taken by G-d.  Scared that the same thing would happen to his youngest son, Shaila, Judah sent Tamar back to her father’s home to wait until his son would grow up.

After many frustrating years of waiting, however, Tamar began to abandon hope of ever being wedded to Shaila.  Desiring to remain part of Judah’s holy family, she disguised herself as a harlot and waited for Judah himself.  Three months later, Judah discovers that Tamar is pregnant.  Unbeknownst to him, he is the father.

“Take her out to be burned,” he declares, furious that she gave herself up instead of waiting for his son.  She produces his ring, seal and staff and inquires as to whether he recognizes the items. 

Filled with remorse, he admits, “She is more righteous than me,” and calls off the public execution.

What changed?  If she had acted immorally and deserved capital punishment for her infidelity, what difference should Judah’s admission have made?

The Mishnah states: A virgin should get married on a Wednesday.

The Gemara asks: Is it permissible to have the first marital relations on Shabbos?  When the hymen is broken, does it merely release stored blood or has one made a wound, which is forbidden on Shabbos?

In the academy of Rav, they would say: Rav permits, but Shmuel forbids.  In Nehardea (where Shmuel was the rabbi), they would say: Rav forbids, but Shmuel permits.

Rabbi Nachman bar Yitzchak taught: Here’s the key – These students were lenient upon themselves and those students were lenient upon themselves (for each adopted the view that their rabbi permitted the act).

We all tend to be lenient when it comes to thinking about ourselves and our actions.  Just like Judah, who suddenly viewed Tamar’s behaviour in a completely different light once he realized he was personally involved, we all judge ourselves with greater favour than we judge others. 

Next time you rush to judge another unfavourably, ask yourself: If it were you, could you find a justification?  When you are the one acting out of line, it’s easy to find excuses and rationales.  But when it’s someone else, we suddenly forget all the rationalizations.  The best way to judge others favourably is to put yourself in their shoes.  And if you couldn’t imagine yourself in their shoes, then you most certainly shouldn’t be judging them!

Everyone is lenient on themselves.  It’s time to start finding leniencies and excuses for others.  May you merit the ability to always think of ways to excuse others’ inappropriate behaviour and always judge them favourably! 

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Designer hearing aids


Daf Yomi Kesubos 5

Remember the days when being nearsighted was something people were embarrassed about?   They’d call you ‘four-eyes’ in school; and so glasses tended to be as minimalist as possible.  Then suddenly, some bright spark decided that eyewear could be a fashion statement.  All of a sudden, big bold frames are back in and even people who don’t need glasses are wearing them!

The same thing is now happening in the hearing aid world.  For many years, manufacturers strove to make hearing aids as small and unobtrusive as possible.  Until one day someone decided ‘why should it be any different to spectacles?’ And so now you can get all sorts of designer hearing aids in bold fluorescent colours.  Soon we’ll see everyone wearing them as a fashion statement!

Concerning the obligation to carry a tool to clean up after oneself when going out to war, the Torah states, “You shall have a spike upon your weapons-belt (azen).”

Bar Kapara expounded, “Do not read your ‘azen,’ rather read your ‘ozen’ (ear).  For if a person hears something inappropriate, he should place his finger in his ears, as Rabbi Elazar taught: Why are human fingers like spikes?  For if a person hears something inappropriate, he should place his fingers in his ears.

In the yeshiva of Rabbi Ishmael, it was taught: Why is the entire ear hard but the tragus (end of the ear) soft?  So that if one hears something inappropriate, he can push his tragus inside.

The Rabbis taught: A person should not listen to idle chatter, because the ears are the first limbs to burn.

Obviously if people start speaking lashon hara (gossip), you’re not going to sit there with your finger in your ear.  That’s pretty rude and you don’t want people to think you’re trying to be ‘holier than thou.’  What Bar Kapara means is the second you stick your finger into your ear to scratch it, people will lose their train of thought and there’s your opportunity to jump in and switch the topic of conversation.  Of course, if you can change the subject without reverting to the old ‘finger in the ear’ trick, it’s much better for your overall reputation!

The meaning of the Rabbis’ obscure declaration that the ears are the first to burn is that ears are extremely sensitive.  Nobody ever needed to replace their legs because they danced too much when they were young.  But a lot of people have hearing issues because they attended one too many rock concerts.  And in fact, when you go outside in minus forty, the ears are the first to get frost-bite!  That’s a sign from Heaven about the sensitive nature of ears.

You have to be so careful what you allow your ears to hear.  Remember, lashon hara is useless if it falls on deaf ears.  You need an active listening audience for lashon hara to take effect.  Don’t allow your ears to provide that audience!  Your ears are very sensitive, which means that all too often we believe what we hear, no matter how ludicrous the report. 

It’s quite telling that the Almighty alerts us to the fact that eyes and ears are extremely sensitive and subject to gradual loss of sight and hearing.  That doesn’t mean, G-d forbid, that if someone is short-sighted, he’s been looking at inappropriate things.  It’s merely a reminder from G-d that eyes and ears are extremely sensitive and you need to be so careful what you do with these vital organs.

Don’t listen to inappropriate talk!  Develop ways to get yourself out of conversations that are unworthy of your holy ears!  May you merit hearing only good things and speaking positivity to the ears of all those around you!

Friday, 6 February 2015

Can G-d occupy a body of flesh and blood?


Daf Yomi Kesubos 4

A professor of religious studies recently put forth his theory that Christianity did not invent the notion of G-d incarnating Himself in a human body.  Kabbalah and Hasidism have similar conceptions and this idea was an ancient Jewish idea.  After all, according the Hasidism, the Rebbe or Tzaddik is treated like G-d!

The Beraisa taught: If the bread was baked, the meat slaughtered, and the wine mixed, and then the groom’s father or the bride’s mother died, we remove the body to a room and we take the bride and groom to the huppah.

Rafram bar Papa quoted Rabbi Hisda: This is true only where they had already given water onto the fleish (meat), but where they had not yet given the water onto the meat, it still may be resold.

Water is always a metaphor for Torah, as the prophet Isaiah declares, “Yo, all who are thirsty, come to the water.”  Our mission in this world is to infuse our physical flesh with the spiritual energy of Torah, thereby becoming spiritual beings.  We may still appear to be physical, just like everyone else around, but once you become so infused with spirituality, you are living on an entirely separate plane of existence.

Notice the word Rabbi Hisda uses.  He talks about ‘giving’ the water onto the flesh.  That is the same word we use when making the blessings over the Torah.  “Blessed are You, Hashem, Who gives the Torah.”  And in fact, it is the root of the word matanah, meaning a gift.   The Almighty gave the Jewish people a special gift – the ability to fuse physicality and spirituality.   Just like when you take a piece of cowhide and write some Hebrew letters upon it, you can create a spiritual item called a Torah scroll, so too G-d took physical human beings and granted them the ability to transform themselves to become spiritual.

But like any gift that you don’t work for, you often don’t appreciate it.  That is certainly true of the gift of Torah.  We all have the potential gift of transformation to the spiritual, but it only happens if you’re prepared to work for it.  That’s a true gift – not one that will simply be regifted or gather dust on the shelf – one that is truly appreciated by the receiver.  When we work to accept the Torah, we can truly appreciate G-d’s gift to us.

Sadly, most Jews will just sprinkle a little Torah water on their flesh and not really let it penetrate.  That’s not enough – you could probably still resell that piece of meat.  You need to immerse yourself deeply in the water of Torah if you wish to transform your flesh from physicality to spirituality.

That’s not a Christian concept.  That’s the ultimate goal of Judaism – to become a vehicle for the Divine. Very few people achieve this lofty level.  It’s not that G-d has become a human being.  It’s that human beings have discovered their Divinity and are now living a spiritual existence.  That’s the nature of the Tzaddik in Hasidism and it’s a level that we must all strive towards.

You can live a spiritual existence!  But you must be prepared to accept the Divine Gift and to saturate your life with it.  May you merit living spiritually and becoming an expression of G-dliness in this world!

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Stop hitting the snooze button!


Daf Yomi Kesubos 3

I was chatting with one of our new Dafyomians who told me that he used to set his alarm for six o’clock, so that he could be at Shacharis for seven.  But he found himself continuously hitting the snooze button day in day out.  Now that he was coming to our new Daf Yomi shiur (class), he set the alarm for five and jumped out of bed! 

“It’s a miracle,” he tells me, “suddenly I’m able to get up no problem!”

The Mishnah states: A young maiden is wed on a Wednesday.

The Beraisa teaches: Why?  The Sages were concerned for the dignity of Jewish maidens, such that a man should toil in preparation for the wedding for three days – Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and then marry her on the Wednesday.  In times of danger, they began the custom of marrying on Tuesday and the Sages did not protest.  On Monday, however, one should not marry.  But if they were under duress, it is permitted. 

The Gemara asks: What is meant by duress?

Rava answers: Such as armies passing through town that may maraud the wedding.

The Gemara inquires: What is the case? If they are entering and moving on, just delay the wedding.

The Gemara answers: We must be dealing with invaders that are here to stay.

Friends, the enemy wants to maraud the wedding and he’s here to stay.  The only way you can outsmart him is to make the wedding early, before he even gets into town.  That’s why getting up at five instead of six you suddenly feel refreshed.  Because you’ve confused the yetzer hara – your bad inclination.  He’s all ready to hit that snooze button at six.  But before he realizes what’s going on, you’re already on your way to the shiur! 

That’s the only way to be victorious over him.  You need to beat him not at the game, but to the game.  You’ve already won before he even got there. 

Let’s say you’re struggling with dealing with a difficult person.  The yetzer hara tells you to shut that person out of your life.  Instead of listening to him and avoiding the problem, send them a beautiful mishloach manot (Purim basket) this year!  The enemy is not going anywhere, so you might as well beat him to the feast!

The yetzer hara is not just passing through your life.  Once he arrives, he’s here for the long haul.  Make sure you make it to the feast before he does.  May you merit outwitting the enemy every time by always being the first to the party!