Monday, 27 August 2012

Brachot. (Blessings)

As some of you may know, there are many blessings that are required to be said throughout the day, and there are extra blessings in addition.

There are blessings for almost everything. There are blessings for smelling something nice (Not required), to the daily Shema (Required), and everything in between. Some blessings are different for specific people, like women, men, Kohanim (Cohens or priests) or Levi'im.

Almost all of the necessary brachot (blessings) are found in a siddur (Prayer book). You can find this in any jewish book store. They are also available in english. For more depth in this subject, I suggest that those interested purchase an english-hebrew siddur. Also, a copy of "Understanding the Siddur" by Shirley Stern would be very helpful.

Warning: You do NOT have to say EVERYTHING in the siddur, every day.
Hopefully, soon I will be able, (God willing) to explain all of the blessings in depth with instruction.

But for now, a little story you may enjoy:

The young boy sat beside his parents in the synagogue. All around sat the members of the congregation- his friends, his parent's friends, and many others whom he did not know. All held their prayer books before their eyes and prayed the words of service.
But the young boy did not pray. He did not know the prayers. He had just begun to study at hebrew school. All he had learned so far were the letters of the hebrew alphabet- the alefbet.
The young boy longed to pray with the others. There was so much for which to thank God. There were joys and fears he wanted to share. There was love and gratitude he wanted to express. He knew that all these feelings were discussed in the prayers. If only he could pray with the others.
At last, the young boy could contain himself no longer. He began to pray silently to himself-not in the words of the prayer book, but in his own words.
"Oh, God," He prayed, "I would like to thank you for the beauty of this world I live in. I would like to tell you of my fears and joys. I would like to share my hopes and dreams. But I do not know the prayers. I only know the alefbet. But you know the prayers. God, please listen as I recite the alphabet, and please, won't you put the letters together into the proper words and prayers?"
And the boy began to recite silently, "Alef, Bet, Gimmel, Daled, Hay, Vav..."

This story explains a lot about Davening (Praying).
But first, let me explain. For someone who is just now, tuning into their relationship with God, I would not say that full prayer, everyday, is absolutely mandatory. Neither would most, if not all, Rabbis.
However, if you are religious, in a religious community, and you pray every day, 3 times a day (For a man) then I would say, you must pray.
This is a harsh statement to make. Why would I demand that this religious person prays? It's none of my business! And I agree, however, if someone were to ask me, I would say to pray.
A religious person who prays every day, why would he stop his daily prayers?
Possibly because of 2 different reasons. One, he is very upset at God for hardships in his life. Or two, he doesn't feel like it, he's lazy, he wants to sleep in.
Both are unacceptable.
When you have troubles in your life, why do you want to wallow around and feel miserable for yourself? There are people with worse out there! Not only should you be grateful for what good you have in your life, but for the bad also. Say "Thank you God for having my car towed!  I now don't have to pay for gas."

If you have troubles in your life, the worst thing to do is to stop praying, either from the siddur or from your own words (which are acceptable.)
I heard personally from Miriam Peretz, an amazing woman, who lost 2 sons during thier army service in Israel on separate occasions. She told us, that even through all the hardships, never stop praying to God. You can be as angry and upset at him as you want. But never stop praying.
I'll take this one step further. Tell God that he's a jerk. Tell him he's a bad friend. Tell him that he doesn't understand what you're going through and its so obvious that he doesn't care. While all of these are untrue, tell him this. He can take it. He'll understand and it will make you feel better. But never stop praying, because once you do, there's no hope.

Another important fact, you don't need to pray from the Siddur to have it considered as praying. Just talk as if you are two old friends. Remember, he knows everything about you. He loves you anyway.

In the movie Eat Pray Love, she prays to God for the first time and she says...
"So I decided to pray. To you know, God. And it was such a foreign concept to me, I swear, I almost started with, I'm a big fan of your work."

It's okay to feel uncomfortable in the beginning. It will be easier over time.

I will end this post with a bracha (A blessing) for everyone reading this.

May Hashem (God) grant you the Wisdom, Insight and Kavannah (With heartfelt intentions) to make the most of all your teffilot (Prayers).

Saturday, 18 August 2012

What is Judaism?

The fundamental question that so many ask daily:
What is Judaism?

Well folks, I've got some answers for you.

Judaism is a fence.
What do I mean a fence? Judaism is similar to fences in a couple different ways.

Firstly, in the holocaust, Jews were almost constantly surrounded by walls or barbed wire. You're going to ask, "But the Jewish religion has been around for thousands of years before the holocaust. How does the holocaust define Judaism when all the way back then they had no inkling of the future events?"
Let me explain a certain truth of the jewish world. This truth is hard to cope with. The reality is, everywhere, when we as a nation finally start to settle, we are thrown out with such a force that the horrors echo throughout the world. This happened in many different places including, during the destruction of the first and second beit hamikdash (Temple), the spanish inquisition, and more recently, the holocaust.
Unfortunately, human nature entitles denial as a reasonable reaction to difficult current events and thus we continue to be shocked when we realize that our neighbors rufuse to help us when we are in our time of need and when men come breaking in our door to use our children as scientific experiments.
THIS is why judaism is a fence.  Because we HAVE to remember this simple fact: Do not get comfortable. We are never safe, religious or not. We will never truly belong, and that's okay. What makes people extraordinary is the ability not to belong to the mass huddle of people and to still survive. So we should not be content with our daily, boring lives. We should yearn for the redemption of the messiah with all of our being. Why would we not? What normal human being do not want peace on earth?  Nothing is good enough and the only way it will be is through our own hard work, blood, sweat, and tears. This is the jewish mentality, which leaves us with our next fence.

The second fence is how we keep the halachot (Rules/ Regulations/ Laws). There are halachot for almost anything we do in life, teaching us how to take an ordinary action and how to elevate it. One example of this is after using the bathroom and washing our hands as required, there is a special blessing to say to thank god for the proper functioning of our body. This is not seen in many other places.
But that is just a rule. What's the fence?
The fence is how we make sure to remind ourselves, and how to make sure we keep the rules. The analogy to this would be that to make sure we remember to say the blessing after relieving ourself, we would have a little sign placed on the wall outside of the bathroom in plain view with the blessing written on it.
Major Rabbis have said that some one who tries to make it more difficult for themselves to not be able to break the law is considered a tzadik, or a righteous person.
As many of you may know, the jewish people seem secluded into their own communties. This is true in many cases. This is moslty because the more religious want to fence off any distractions from their avodat hashem, (Service to God). This however, is not required or entirely recommended because we as a nation must have pride, but not excessively so. Which brings us to our next fence.
The inner one.
What is our inner fence? What is inside it? What's outside? Why should it be there in the first place?
Imagine our personalities behind a fence. What IS the fence? Our humility.
This is not ordinary, usual, embarrassment.
Humility has another definition; to be humble. In this way, everyone has to find their own balance between realizing their self importance and imperfections. This is a great test for us. There are many cases of anorexia, bulimia, depression, even those who hurt themselves. All these examples are for those of us with self confidence issues. However, there are plenty of examples of the opposite, where people have excessive pride and self worth.
The fence should be there to remind ourselves that, while our inner lights and talents can shine across the border, there are others in the world who are better. We should remind ourselves that we are created equal under Hashem (God) and only he is greater than anyone on this earth.

Thursday, 9 August 2012


Shalom everyone!
Welcome to my blog. Here I will share interesting concepts from Judaism in life and maybe answer some questions people ask about.

But first, a few ground rules.

1. Please no explicative or foul language. Such will not be tolerated.
2. Please respect other people's opinions, even my own.
3. I understand that when you spend your life devoting yourself to something, it becomes very personal to you. However, I'd like to stress the importance of equality and kinship that I expect to be shown here.
4. When asking a question, please do so in a proper manner. I would love to answer all questions as long as they are reasonable.
5. Please do not spam.
6. Please when debating do not go on with it to bother others. It makes the whole experience unpleasurable.
7. Please no inappropriate comments.
8. This blog is NOT about putting down other religions. Please recognize this.
9. Please realize that I started this post with the word Shalom and that is what I expect from everyone here.
10. Please realize that God loves everyone and that includes you as well.
11. Please realize that if your intentions aren't positive whatsoever, you are simply welcome to go to another website.

Please feel free to comment or email me with any questions you have. I would be happy to answer them as soon as possible.
I understand that some questions you may have may be inappropriate and if it is a reasonable question I will answer it.
Also, feel free to tell me ideas and possibilities for the future, concerns you have, and realize that if anyone here needs any help in any way, they can come to me for advice and possibly assistance if needed. I will do what ever is in my power to support and help everyone along the way.
More importantly, Have FUN and Learn something new!