Yitzchok Friedman, Consultant & Coach
אליעזר מילרוד, Ashqelon
Yafo, Tel Aviv
Rishon Le Zion
דם המכבים, Modi`in
What is Chometz
There seems to be major confusion online when the thrilling and exhilarating movie trailers totally mislead the viewing public. When they actually see those movies after previewing the trailers such as Superman Returns or The Beaver with Mel Gibson, they feel totally deceived, duped, and angry, since the movies are terrible.
When this happens the general consensus after the movie is usually the same with everyone. What a letdown! The trailer looked so good how could it be that the movie was so awful?
In reality, this happens to us on a daily basis as well when we look at the cheesecake or pizza and our mouths start to salivate at the attraction to devour that scrumptious food. An hour or so later we are beating ourselves up about how come we keep falling into the same old traps.
According to Chasidus, this is all included in the concept of Chometz.
Chometz is the fake blown-up lure that causes our imagination to run freely, hiding its true face and reality.
Chometz pretends to be the answer to all of our problems, the one thing that will make our lives complete and in the end, it turns out to be just a bunch of hot air!
The yeast in bread makes the bread rise. It takes the same flour and water that is in flat matzos and turns the bread into something many times the size by filling it with air.
Chometz is the friends in one’s life who pretend to care about you, just until you really are in need of true friends. Chometz is the quick fix that solves an immediate problem but causes an even bigger one as a result.
Our job over this holiday is to look around and remove these stumbling blocks to our growth and development. When we clean out the clutter and the false fantasies in our lives we are left with quality; quality of friends, and quality of mind, which in return leads to quality of life.
Matzos on the other hand resemble the beauty of simplicity. It says I am exactly what you see, flour and water. No additional fanfare to distract you from reality.
I may not be as attractive or tasty, however, I am authentic and I have the ability to provide you with sustenance, and nourishment for a healthy future. I am the food in your system that humbles you. I am the food in your body that allows you to learn from rejection and rebuke and build off of it.
I am the food in your body that allows you to ask for and accept help from others that care for you. I am not complicated, and I will tell you what you need to hear because I really care about you and you really need to hear this.
Matzah says if you learn to live with more of me in your life you wouldn’t be so dependent on so many other things for happiness. Matzah says that when it's only bread and water and no one and nothing else we can have a truly deep and meaningful relationship!
Have a wonderful holiday.
Soon it will be that time of the year when many of us will be taking some time off by going on a spring break. It’s the perfect time to put away the winter clothes, boots, umbrellas and get ready to welcome the blooming flowers.
One of my favorite things to do on spring break is to take my children bowling. In our local bowling alley, there is an arcade area and after we finish bowling my children each get some tokens to spend on whichever game they choose.
For me, it's always fascinating to watch the children choose how they spend their tokens. Which game attracts which child? This way I am able to learn something new about each one's personality.
One of my children when she was younger would always spend all her tokens on the electronic grab, a prize game. You know the one where a shiny fancy prize is glimmering and looks so easy to grab.
You maneuver the joystick and you are certain that in a few seconds and a bit of fancy maneuvering that expensive toy will be yours for just one token. We would suggest that it’s not as easy as it looks and perhaps considers other games. However, the attraction to the expensive prize was too much to resist. Then one year she approached the game admired the prize and said you're beautiful but you're not for me!
This week the Torah world lost its top ranking General, Rav Chaim Kaminetzky zt”l. There were so many people that came to show their respects the government had to close down a major highway and turn it into a parking lot for public transportation.
One must take a few minutes to ponder the situation. A man that never held a proper job, never ran for office, wasn't a world-famous entertainer, was being greeted by over half a million people who were physically present and hundreds of thousands more via satellite.
The answer in my opinion is in this week’s Parsha. The Parsha starts off discussing the infinitely spiritually lofty services of the Holy Temple and ends up with describing what type of creepy crawly insects and animals are permissible to eat and which ones are not permissible. Which foods we can elevate the holy sparks trapped inside of them and which ones we cannot. Which foods will have a positive impact on our character and which ones will have the opposite effect.
Chassidus explains that both concepts are in the same Parsha for us to understand. That from the Divine’s position there is absolutely no difference in service to him. He appreciates the service of the Jew who is fighting off the most disgusting temptations just as much as the one who is serving Him, the Holy of Holies.
Rav Chaim not only knew the entire Torah and reviewed it annually. He greeted each and every Jew with the same warm smile. There was no one too small in his eyes to help and there was no subject too complicated for him to understand.
When such a person lives amongst us we have the ability to trust in his clarity of vision and guiding light for us to make the right decisions in life.
Many times in life situations sometimes present themselves as no-brainers. The enthusiasm of the moment and the drive to grab a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity blind us from seeing the other realities.
A person who lives his life by making sure to present all major choices and decisions to people like Rav Chaim, lives a life without any second-guessing and regrets.
They might not always get the answers they were hoping for however, many times they have the pleasure of looking back and seeing just how lucky they were for seeking the Tzadik's (A person who cares for nothing but service to Hashem; he does so by helping all those he meets) advice.
Have a wonderful Shabbos.
Having Skin In The Game!
It was June 1950 and in a jam-packed synagogue in Israel on a Shabbos morning, there was going to be a special event, unlike any other event this community had ever experienced. A sweet young orphaned boy named Yisrael, who had survived the holocaust, was celebrating his Bar Mitzvah today.
He had spent many months rehearsing the Torah reading. Time and time again he went over it until he had the exact tones and the pitch just the way his teacher had taught him.
It was time for him to start and suddenly Moishe, the regular Baal Koreh (Torah reader) came in. Moishe had his Tallis on and was headed to the Bima as he did each week. The gabbai (a synagogue official) stopped Moishe and said, “There’s a Bar Mitzvah this week weren't you informed? You are not reading, Yisrael is reading today!
Moishe, an elderly man started fuming! “For years I have read the Torah here. I spent all week preparing. No one told me about the Bar Mitzvah! I never take any money for my services, I demand to read the Torah!”
The people in the synagogue were all curious as to what all the commotion was about near the Torah, when suddenly young Yisrael looked up at Moishe handed him the Tallis and said, “ Moishe, I am young and yes I also prepared for the Torah reading however, because of my youth and with G-ds help I will have many more years to read from the Torah. Here take the Tallis and you read today and he climbed down from the Bima.
Little Yisrael turned out to be correct about his predictions because he grew up to read the Torah many times and speak the words of the Torah in front of thousands of people worldwide since he became the Chief Rabbi of Israel Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau.
These past ten days Jews throughout the world sacrificed their comforts to help their Ukrainian Jewish Brethren. Emergency flight missions and many other evacuation and rescue missions have been taking place. Jews sacrificed their comforts to make room for the Jews and other Ukrainian people that are now homeless. Millions of dollars in donations have poured in worldwide to make sure that each refugee knows that they are not alone in their struggles.
That as one nation we do not turn a blind eye to our brothers in need. As Natan Sharansky, (An Israeli politician and human rights activist) said so eloquently last week, “When I was growing up in Russia Jews did whatever we could to remove the word Jew from our official documents, now the nations are doing whatever they can to get the word Jew put on to their documents to get some of the world support that we are providing.”
This week's Parsha talks about the sacrifices that are made in the temple. Do we really think that Hashem needs our animals? The answer is that the only way for us to reach our potential and to build a healthy relationship with our inner core is through sacrifice.
On college campuses, they have these fraternities that the only way to get into them is to pledge a particular fraternity; a sort of hazing ritual to show your dedication to the fraternity.
In the business world, you can only raise money from other investors if you have what is called ‘’Skin in the game.” This means that unless you are putting in some of your own hard-earned money into this investment don't ask me for mine.
Sacrifice proves the authenticity of a trusting loving relationship like nothing else. Go ask two army veterans who risked their lives for each other in the war, if they have any closer friends in the world.
So Hashem says to the Jewish people: I gave you plenty of abundance in the world because I want to be close to you. If you want to be close to me sacrifice something close to you, for me.
Have a wonderful Shabbos!
I am passionate about helping people reach their potential and generate more good deeds in the world
It was late August 1991. I was sitting on the airplane looking out of the window as takeoff began. I was leaving the United States for the very first time in my life. As the plane ascended slowly the skyscrapers of NYC started appearing smaller and smaller until the point that there was no real difference between anything or anyone below.
For me, it was a silent goodbye to a chaotic childhood in desperate need of repair. The feelings in my heart were a mixture of fear and excitement. I was heading to Israel the land of my heritage, however, besides the name I didn't know her. I didn't speak the language or understand their mentality. However, a resilient voice buried deep inside of me told me that I was heading in the right direction.
After a 15-hour flight which included a refueling stopover in Athens I had finally arrived. I exited the small terminal to find tens of people holding balloons and flowers in anticipation of soon seeing their returning loved ones.
A jealous voice inside spoke up saying wouldn't it be nice if someone caring and loving was waiting to greet you? Wouldnt that be exactly what you need right now?
In response to that my resilient voice assured me not to worry one day, you will have many family members waiting to greet you here as well.
I continued to look for transportation amongst the public transportation options when a fellow student introduced himself with a friendly smile as Jonathan and offered to share a taxi to the school. I felt my resilient inner voice winking at me as if he was saying I told you everything will be alright.
Waiting for me at the administration office was a clean-shaven man with a warm smile who introduced himself to me with a firm handshake as Joe. I remember thinking to myself that he was the coolest Rabbi I ever met. Just a simple no frills friendly Joe.
The student body was a real mix of personalities and backgrounds many of them I knew from back home. I immediately recognized the groups. In one corner were the hockey Jocks and in another corner were the guys with long hair into heavy metal music. My group was the Brooklyn street kids wearing leather jackets speaking a kind of Jewish Italian English. In addition to the familiar groups, there were now a few new ones as well.
A Los Angeles group told us gang stories that made the streets of Brooklyn sound like an amusement park. Everyone was working hard to keep up their facade of toughness and strength so as not to be embarrassed about just how scared they were of being 5000 miles away from home with a return ticket many months down the road.
Slowly, however, the authentic warmth of the staff and the second-year students helped us let go of our coping mechanisms and accept ourselves for who we really are. It was now Rosh Hashanah a new year was starting and I felt clean of dirt and darkness and ready to slowly allow myself to connect with my inner core once again.
In this week's Parsha Netzavim, Moshe tells the Jewish people that everyone is gathered here today from the water carriers to the wood choppers. Chasidus explains that this Parsha is always read before Rosh Hashana since the word today connotates the day of Rosh Hashana.
Water carriers and woodchoppers resemble the fact that on Rosh Hoshana the diversity of levels of classes of citizens is forgotten. We are one group waiting to coronate their creator as King of the Heavens and the Earth.
The blowing of the Shofer is a level of communication that is pre-verbal. It's simple and uncomplicated like a child's cry. This is all part of the process of returning to our inner infinite core. A place before things complicated our relationship with the divine. A place where we can allow ourselves to be our authentic selves vulnerable yet confident, caring, curious, calm, and compassionate.
Have a wonderful Shabbos and a Happy and Sweet New Year inscribed in the book of life!
On June 12, 2014, three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped at the bus/hitchhiking stop at the Israeli settlement of Alon Shvut northeast of Kfar Etzion in the West
Bank, as they were hitchhiking to their homes. The three teens were Naftali
Fraenkel, Gilad Shaer, and Eyal Yifrah.
My wife and I were vacationing in Amsterdam at the time of their abduction. The
local Jewish community was devastated and in shock. Everyone was sincerely
concerned for the boy's and their family's well-being.
A special community prayer was quickly organized at the local shul, to do their
part in helping bring the poor boys home.
The shul was jam-packed with Jews
from all backgrounds praying together and begging the heavens for a miracle.
There were the locals and quite a few visitors vacationing from all over the world.
Tears were flowing as the sobbing prayers grew louder and louder. It was a very emotionally moving communal event even amongst people that had never met
before in their lives, yet at that moment it felt like we were one big family.
When we returned home to Israel after our trip, we noticed that the only thing
predominantly on people's minds wherever we went, was that everyone was
yearning to hear good news. For many weeks worldwide prayers were held
throughout the Jewish world begging for mercy from up higher up.
On June 30, 2014 search teams found the bodies of the three missing teenagers in a
field northwest of Chevron. They had apparently been shot to death shortly after their abduction.
My wife and I decided to pay a visit to the families that were sitting shivah ( a period of seven days’ formal mourning for the dead, beginning immediately after the funeral.) Even though we did not personally know them we felt that it was the
least we can do to help console the families. People waiting in line for the Fraenkel
house were wrapped all around the house and all the way down the block. It was
noted that thousands of Jews from all over Israel felt the same way as we did.
This week's Parsha, Ki Savo. Moshe tells the Jewish people that they are about to enter the land of Israel. They will fight wars and conquer their enemies. The land will be divided up amongst the tribes of Israel. You will work your fields and plant
your orchards and when you have your first fruits you should bring them up as an offering of gratitude to Hashem.
Our sages explain something quite amazing, that the lands were conquered in
stages and when a tribe's land was conquered their families were allowed to settle in their land and start working their fields.
However, even though the first families
might of had their first fruits rather quickly they could not offer an offering of the first fruits until all the tribes had conquered their respective lands.
The reason is that this offering has to be given with a feeling of complete
happiness. It cannot be that a Jew will have complete happiness when he knows
that other Jews have yet to receive their land and first fruits.
Chasidus tells a story of a Rabbi that told his students that he met the prophet, Elijah in a dream.
He went on to tell them that in his dream he asked Elijah to please bring the
Mashiach already. The Messiah in Judaism is a savior and liberator figure in
Jewish eschatology, who is believed to be the future redeemer of the Jewish people.
Elijah responded I can bring him now however if I do a few Jewish souls will
never be fully repaired. So the Rabbi told Elijah in that case then wait until the
process is completed.
One of the suffering students popped out of his seat and asked the Rabbi but why since there is so much pain and suffering, so what if a few souls don't make it?
TheRabbi looked him squarely in the eyes and said because my son if you think that the way then you are clearly one of them.
The Chasam Sofer signifies that the main prayers on Rosh Hashanah should be
focused on praying for the good of the entire nation. One should not focus on yourself at all, for as a united group we are blessed with all of the goodness and are spared any harsh judgment.
(Chasam Sofer was one of the leading Orthodox rabbis
of European Jewry in the first half of the nineteenth century.) When we focus our prayers on our own personal needs, we leave the protective merciful cloud hovering over Klal Yisrael (signifying a sense of community amongst the world Jewry), and to make ourselves vulnerable to harsh judgment would be a Heavenly
Have a wonderful Shabbos.
I once heard someone tell this amazing story that happened about thirty years ago in Jerusalem. A young Jewish couple had gotten engaged and it was customary on the groom's side that his wealthy grandmother would buy the engagement rings for all of the family's brides.
The young bride was a bit embarrassed by the large size of the diamond and she found it uncomfortable to wear since it weighed heavily on her finger. However, her parents encouraged her to get used to it and not to hurt anyone's feelings.
The couple got married and a few months later they were invited to a family event at the home of one of the groom's cousins. His cousin gasped when she noticed that the young bride wasn’t wearing her engagement ring.
The cousin shrieked and in a loud voice said, “Where is your ring?”
Suddenly there was a lot of commotion and the young bride explained that she had unfortunately misplaced the ring but was confident that it would turn up over the next few days. Days turn into weeks, weeks into months and the ring was still missing. In the meantime, the bride was too embarrassed and ashamed to go out to any other family events because of all the criticism about how negligent she was in losing such an expensive ring.
A few days later, her sweet husband apologized profusely to her. “You see my darling wife, it was all my fault that you had to endure my family’s ridicule about losing your engagement ring. He went on, when I finally remembered to pick up my wedding suit from the drycleaners after all this time, I hadn’t counted on finding your diamond engagement ring in one of the pockets of my suit. You must have given it to me to carry for you and I completely forgot about it.”
The wife accepted her husband's apology and was so happy it was found. However, she demanded that he tell everyone from his family, especially his grandmother how it was his negligence, and not hers, which he happily agreed to.
Fifteen years and seven children later, shortly after his grandmother’s passing, the wife requested permission from her husband to trade in the old diamond ring for a new one.
She went to his grandma’s favorite jewelry store and did window shopping.
Approached by the owner, she removed her ring and showed it to him asking him to appraise it, and inquired if he would be willing to buy it back so that she could use the money towards a ring that was more her style. The Jeweler examined the ring and relayed to her that the ring was very nice and that it was worth a lot of money however, he questioned her for wanting him to buy it back since the ring was not from his shop.
The wife surprised by his words reminded the Jeweler who her husband's grandmother was, and how she had purchased all of the family’s jewelry from him for the past thirty years. The Jeweler smiled and surely remembered the lovely wealthy client, however, he insisted that this particular ring was not from his shop as all of his jewelry had a type of hidden signature that this piece was lacking. However, he would be willing to pay a good sum of money for the heavy diamond ring.
The woman took the ring back and told the Jeweler that she needed a few days to consider the offer.
She went home and looked for the original certificate of the diamond ring. Buried under years of important documents she finally found what she was searching for. Just as she had suspected, the date was six months after she was already married. Her husband had felt so bad for her for not only losing her diamond ring but for the constant criticism of losing it, that he went out and purchased an exact replica and took all the blame for misplacing the ring when in fact she was the one who had truly lost his grandmother’s gift of the heavy diamond ring.
She no longer had any desire to sell the ring. Her husband’s sacrifice and utmost devotion to making her happy was the only thing she saw when looking at the ring.
This week’s Parsha, Ki Teitzei (Seventy-four of the Torah’s 613 commandments (mitzvot) are in the Parshah of Ki Teitzei) speaks about what happens when a Jewish soldier goes off to war and finds an attractive female captive and wants to marry her. The Torah goes on to explain under what process and conditions he may marry her.
Chasidus explains that the Torah understands the natural desire for something new. Something new brings with it an excitement that the human psyche is constantly searching for. Knowing that this particular new thing may very well not be healthy. The soldier must follow a process that will remove this excitement for this captive by having him wait thirty days before being allowed to marry her. Then he will be able to make a well-informed decision and not an emotional one.
In relationships, it is important to not allow your connections to fall into a dull routine. The worst thing one can do is get into a type of lifeless, passive relationship with a spouse. That is why one should be constantly working hard to learn new things about their spouse and to nurture, expand and dedicate oneself to enriching the relationship in order to make it everlasting and perpetual love.
This is also the main point of Rosh Hashanah. It is a time for introspection and a time to examine one’s relationship with Hashem and to make a renewed commitment to taking the relationship to a higher plateau. A new commitment that will lead to a higher level of devotion and Dvekus (attachment.) It will also create an unbreakable bond that didn't exist until now.
Have a wonderful Shabbos.
Over the summer vacation, I took my family on a trip up to the northern parts of
Israel. One of the areas that we toured was the ancient city of Akko (Acre). While
there we visited the famous, Museum of Underground Prisoners. The citadel
of Akko was built during the Ottoman Period over the ruins of a 12th century
During that time the citadel served as the palace of Akko rulers
and then as a prison, army barracks, and weapon warehouse for the local garrison.
During the British Mandate, the citadel served as the main prison for the north ofIsrael. The Museum was used by the British to hold the young Jewish
revolutionists who were waging their war against the mandatory rule and their fight for
their right to establish a national home and the formation of the state in the land of
The history of the prison included a prison break, out of which forty-one prisoners
attempted to escape, and sadly only twenty-seven were successful. The others
either were killed, caught, and or returned to jail.
One of the most fascinating rooms in the prison was a room that was dedicated to
prayers and study.
The room has a picture of the Orthodox rabbi, Rabbi Aryeh Levin ZT” L, also
known as “Father of Prisoners.”
Next to his picture is a letter from the prisoners to him thanking him for his selfless dedication in
making the weekly trek from Jerusalem to the prison to see them and offering them
moral support and guidance.
In the letter, RabbiLevin is referred to as their father and teacher. After spending time with the Jewish
prisoners, he would make sure to visit their family members and update each and
every one of them about what transpired during his visit and how they were coping.
In this week's Parsha Shoftim, Moshe tells the Jewish people that after they settle in
the land of Israel they might want to appoint a king. Moshe lays out five laws that
the appointed king must keep. The first law is that he has to be born amongst his
brothers. The second is that he can’t have too many horses. The third is not to have
too many wives. The fourth is that he should not have too much money. The fifth
and final law is that he must not be haughty and that he must keep to all the laws in
the Torah. The king is not above the law. There can be no double standards in a
Always in life, the love of power corrupts souls and thus one of the most
problematic and common dilemmas arises when a person comes into power. It is all
too easy for him or her to misuse that power. A person can get sucked into the trap
of entitlement due to their elite status.
In this week’s Parsha, Moshe warns the Jewish people that the way to live as a
leader is by example. By understanding that so many people are looking to the
King for guidance. He must be in constant awareness that his actions speak louder
than his words.
Rabbi Levin holding the position of the Reb of Jerusalem could have sent a
student or a friend on this difficult weekly mission and demanded a full report on
each and every prisoner. However, he dedicated his life to showing his fellow Jews
just how important each and every one of them was even though they were in
A true leader forces himself to leave his comfort zone and go down to the lowest places in order to raise up his fellow brothers that have fallen into the darkest of places.
A Jewish leader’s first and foremost responsibility is ensuring that his fellow
brothers and sisters are cared for. As we enter the month of Elul in which we
prepare to greet the King no other acts of preparation are more suitable.
Chasidus explains that each and every one of us can grow into our level of
leadership by simply prioritizing and dedicating a portion of our daily lives to
helping other Jews who are less fortunate.
When we incorporate this humble and selfless attitude into our daily lives, we
elevate ourselves into royalty. Our benevolent actions transform our souls and
symbolically help to empower us when we do get to greet the King of all Kings,
this Rosh Hashanah.
Every day during the month of Elul (from the 14th century, the Hebrew word or
acronym for the phrase, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” referring to
one’s relationship with G-d) is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire a higher
status and a deeper relationship with the source of life.
Have a good Shabbos.
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