Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Day One

Day one in BT yeshiva should be like this: congratulations you accomplished something incredible. Celebrate. Sit back. Enjoy. Take it all in. You don't have to do anything.

Day ten: Ok, now lets move forward. Let's learn about the religion, take it into your heart. But don't get anxious.

This is not what usually happens. What happens is they fill you with fear and stuff your head with complexity. They make you feel small, this BT thing. They pound you with their politics and mock your background. They dump more mitzvos and Torah on you than you can handle. The result is hyper anxiety.

But what you should be feeling is comfort in that now you have found God. That is what happens when people become Christian. They are found. They feel clean. They don't feel alone anymore.

We need to take a page out of their book and help BTs to feel that way.

Monday, April 9, 2018

idol worship messes up the mind

Avodah zara confuses the mind. If you worship anything other than God, your thinking will be off, oftentimes very off. So vaccines, countries, colleges, professions, celebrities, people, even children, anything you worship will mess up your thoughts.

what i didn't learn in yeshiva

The last lines of Koheles tell us that the most important thing in life is emunah. "The sum of the matter is to fear Hashem and to keep His commandments." It tells us also that emunah is not a mere feeling, not a momentary inspiration, but a product of keeping the commandments of which there are many types: duties of the heart, duties of the limbs, thought, feeling, and action, mitzvos between people, between man and G-d, between man and himself. Every day we keep many mitzvos and over a lifetime we grow to be people who fear Hashem. You cannot do it in a moment or overnight.

I learned none of this in BT yeshiva. Didn't learn about Hashem, emunah, or mitzvos. I learned only about one mitzvah - Gemara study. Even that one I didn't learn well because they leaped right into it without a very necessary overview. And I didn't learn about gradual development because we were expected to go from zero to 60 in a week's time.

I also didn't learn it after yeshiva in the local synogogue because there we had daf yomi and not much more, maybe a little mishneh berurah.

So it took me decades but I'm telling you what the Koheles tells us.

And I learned something else over the years, particularly from living in Israel. Anybody who doesn't know this purpose of life is a complete pain in the neck to himself and to everyone else for the Jew is built for emunah and the mitzvos. If he puts his primary energy elsewhere, he tears the world to pieces. Today, not knowing this is the norm, the abnormal norm, which is why we didn't learn about emunah in yeshiva.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Financial and life advice

The goal is financial independence not wealth and certainly not super-wealth. Super-wealth is amongst the rarest of brachas and aiming for it can leave you broke. Live simply, save your pennies, and look to start your own business - that is the best way to financial independence. Sometimes your own business means a partnership with others. That's fine. Sometimes it means rising high in an organization - but that is a hard road and usually involves losing your personality and values. Many more achieve independence with their own businesses. Get married. Brachos stay with you via the woman. But get a women who lives in reality, lives simply, and understands that money doesn't grow on trees and happiness doesn't come from high living. Don't marry anyone else unless she comes with a trust fund. Trade looks for good values.

If you are middle or lower class, put some money in your simple home and some in index mutual funds. Some in the USA, some in Europe, some in Asia. Put some of your cash in foreign currency, especially the strong ones like the Swiss Frank. Take 5-10% of your money and gamble in the stock market but no more than that. You'll likely lose it. The market is pretty rigged.

Don't bury yourself in your work, especially if you are working for someone else. Work hard but not too hard. Someday that someone else will burn you, that's before or after he has gotten rich off of you and others like you.

Don't aim to learning full time. Learn in the morning and night and work in the day. That's normal life. If you find 10 million dollars in your bank account, we can talk about adjusting that schedule. 

Know that college is mostly a scam, a way for children of the rich to enjoy themselves as they conduct research that you pay for. Don't borrow for college. Go to a public college at night preferably online while you work and build real skills. Major in something that will lead to earning an income. You can educate yourself just fine with books and online lectures. 

Do some chesed, make it 10% of your life if you want, but your primary responsibility is to yourself and your family (presuming your goal is to live simply). That's not selfish, it's survival. We are talking to working people here, not ones who go on cruises. The rich need to do much more. 

Friday, February 23, 2018

Your swing

Don't change your swing. It's what got you into the big leagues. Just change where you stand in the batter's box - Pete Rose

The relevance to BTs is obvious. The frum world has a certain culture, or a few similar cultures, that are incidental to Halacha or even Avodas Hashem. You don't have to alter  your personality. Obviously we try to improve ourselves, clean up the language, reduce the secular references when in a group that isn't familiar with it. But you keep your personality. You don't have to become frummie. And you can keep your secular wisdom and benefit from it. Don't change your swing.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Real Chizuk

I just listened to an interview that was supposed to address the question of how a person who feels hopelessly mired in sin can do teshuvah. And the answer given was a tirade against contemporary permissiveness and featured the line "your life isn't your own, it belongs to God" (paraphrased a bit).

I wasn't surprised. Whereas I can find all kinds of Xtian ministers giving pep talks to the despairing, the frum world seems incapable of it. I recall a talk at Ohel given some years ago where several rabbis were supposed to give support to a boy who was abused by his brother and responded that the boy needed to do teshuva.

There is a darkness sitting upon the frum world. It's din gone haywire. We have become incapable of giving chizuk.

I went to a talk a few years ago that was entitled something like tips for learning Torah with your son. And the talk was all about how a rav becomes the kid's true father.

What has happened to us? For a person who doesn't know better, the religion can seem like one big assault of din. Is there any love in Judaism?

The Modern Orthodox days justifying killing of Palestinians. The Yeshiva world just pummels everybody with authority and threats and ridiculous expectations. The Chassidic world I don't know so much about as they talk Yiddish.

So let's address it. To say your life isn't your own has a certain philosophical truth but don't take it too far. God owns your life but He gives it back to you when it says in Pirkei Avos, if I am not for me, who is for me, and raise the child according to his way. Your life is yours under the guidance of God. Anybody who tells you that in absolute terms your life isn't your own doesn't believe the same about himself. He's trying to own the both of you. And yes, we see that Menashe did teshuva even though he killed scores of people. There is hope for all of us. What matters most, says R' Miller, is what you are in the end.

As for the abused boy doing teshuva, that is just stupid. And the rabbis who talked that way were famous names. They are so out of touch, so lost. They don't know how to comfort. He was not bar mitzvah for one thing. And even if he were, he was dominated by an older brother.

The rav teaching Torah becomes like a father in small dimensions. Let's not get carried away. These things aren't to be taken literally. A good father teaches the basics of Torah life and those are everything. The Vilna Gaon always gave honor to the teacher who taught him aleph-beis.

Sigh. So sad what we have today.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

for a shiduch

Q: Where should one take a girl for  a date?
A: I imagine he means for a shidduch. You don't go for dates! For a shidduch. The best place that costs the least money is Grand Central Station. That's not private, it's a kosher place, and there's no admission, it doesn't cost anything (R' Avigdor Miller, #486 in Q&A 2, p. 88)