yomzYom HaZikaron: The Sacred Privilege of Awareness

By Ariella Bracha Waldinger

I never knew anything about Yom HaZikaron when I was living in America. The 4th of Iyar had no relevance to my life. I lived by the American calendar not the Jewish calendar. But thank G-d, since coming home to our nation’s divinely ordained biblical inheritance, my mind knows, my heart knows and my soul knows the date and if I ever forget, the sirens that pierce the airwaves (one at 8PM and one at 11AM) remind me of the sacred privilege of Yom HaZikaron awareness.

Yom HaZikaron is a special day set aside as a time of remembering the fallen soldiers of Israel, as well as the civilian victims of war and terrorism. It is a precious day that offers national solace to the memory of the fallen, as well as communal support to the families. Unlike America, where it is a day of shopping and play, here in the Holy Land, the character of the day is like a 24-hr fast from all public places of entertainment. All businesses, schools and stores are closed. All radio and TV station broadcasting is devoted to stories and songs dedicated to the fallen of Israel. Yom HaZikaron is officially observed for all of those who fell since 1860 when Jews were first allowed to live outside the city limits of Jerusalem in what was then known as “Palestine.”

One of the many commemorative  practices that take place during the 24 hour period is the scroll of names that is broadcast by government-owned television stations. The names of the fallen are scrolled on the screen in chronological order (rank, name, Hebrew date of deceased and secular date) over the course of the day. Names appear for about 3 seconds each…..3 sacred seconds to remind us of the life they gave up for a cause they believed in with their very life.

My heart is especially heavy this year as the holy date approaches, for who would have imagined last year in 2015, what we would be faced with, as the high holidays arrived and terrorism reared its ugly, ferocious, beastly head. The losses are so fresh and so real and so painful. When one is close to the source of suffering, it is more intense and impactful.

I believe every Jew, wherever they may be, owes it to their nation to mark their calendar with the date of YOM HAZIKARON AND TO DEVELOP AN AWARENESS OF THE SACREDNESS OF THE DAY. This day bears a message for every Jew as to the debt of gratitude they owe to those who gave their lives in the fight for reclaiming our sovereignty in our G-d given land.

In a telling article written by Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis in a pamphlet entitled, “Zionism, A Challenge to Man’s Faith,” she lays out the truth about what it is like to be a citizen of the State of Israel, on the line, as she tells the following story:

In the Holy City, I met a woman who related a tale which reflects the agony of Zionism in the 20th and now 21st century. The woman of Jerusalem had a son named David who was 20 years old. She had a sister, who lived in New York, who had a son the same age named Chaim. Chaim, the American cousin came to Jerusalem for a year of study. Then suddenly, the Yom Kippur War broke out. Both boys were in synagogue together praying side by side. David, still wrapped in his talit (prayer shawl), without pausing for food or water, ran to answer the call of his people. He bid farewell to his cousin, his mother, his father, and to his young bride. He felt he had no choice but to go forth to defend his people.

The following day, the mother in Jerusalem, received an emergency call from the United States. “Please, please, a near hysterical voice called across the great ocean…Where is my Chaim? Please do not let him do anything rash…you must find him and get him out on the first plane to safety. We are sick with worry. I want him home!” The mother in new York was overcome with fear…and somehow in her agitation forgot to ask about David….her sister’s son…the son of Jerusalem, whose heart at that very moment was pierced by a shell in the Golan….(Northern Israel).

TWO SISTERS…TWO MOTHERS…TWO SONS

The Rebbetzin then writes the following:

The story haunts me. It leaves me no peace…For indeed, if the land of Israel has been given by G-d as an inheritance to all Jews, then by what right do we in the United States go to sleep in security, knowing that our sons are well and sound, while our sisters lie awake with a gnawing fear gripping their hearts…asking the question, “Where is he now?” …whispering a silent prayer, Hashem, Almighty G-d watch over him…”

The Rebbetzin continues:

No matter how much the American Jew has given and will give on behalf of Israel, he will never equal the sacrifice of those who live there and offer their very lives for the land.

No Matter how much the American Jew continues to give, he will never be able to justify the fact that he belongs to the generation that was given Jerusalem yet opts for New York or Los Angeles.

To have witnessed 2,000 years…to have suffered the agonies of exile…to have dreamt and hoped to have been given the land only to reject it! How will the Jews in exile answer to future generations when they ask, “Where were YOU?”

The message of the day is clear….the Jewish nation owes its independence first and foremost for the miracle G-d wrought in returning us to our homeland but secondly to the pioneers, soldiers and citizens who have and will sacrifice their lives for its existence and its future.

Please take note of the day and honor the memory of its fallen and the families left behind. Also please offer special prayers for those victims still recovering.

yom hazikaronIDF soldiers participate in a memorial ceremony on the Israeli national Memorial Day, in honor of fallen soldiers and the victims of terror attacks. Each soldier stands before the grave of a fallen serviceman.

Scheduling Yom HaZikaron right before  Yom Haatzmaut is intended to remind people of the price paid for independence and of what was achieved by the soldiers’ sacrifice. This transition shows the importance of the day among Israelis, most of whom have served in the armed forces or have a connection with people who were killed during their military service.

Carrying Egypt Within

amazingtree

Carrying Egypt Within: The Curse of Bondage

By Ariella Bracha Waldinger

We carry Egypt within us through the doubts we feel,

 Or by denying our greatness as Jews is real,

Or not believing that a spiritual life has true appeal,

Or forgetting that Shabbat is our covenantal seal!

 

We carry Egypt within us when we shove our Jewish values aside,

Or don’t feel our Jewish Pride,

Or Stay in Exile and hide,

Or refuse to take our Country’s side.

 

We carry Egypt within us when we forget our Jewish reason for being,

Don’t understand the things we are seeing,

Or strive for a life that isn’t spiritually freeing.

 

We carry Egypt within when we disconnect from our nation,

Don’t honor the rituals of Jewish celebration,

Or live our lives in spiritual stagnation.

 

But when we remove Egypt from our midst,

We can dance with our soul,

Become more whole,

Play our true role.

 

We can claim our Torah crown,

Become more renown,

Beat the enemy down,

And stop wearing a frown.

 

We can glitter like a star,

As we learn who we really are,

 

Give G-d True Glory,

By remembering the message of the Passover Story

Don’t carry Egypt within,

Cause you will never win.

 STEP OUT OF DARKNESS AND COME INTO THE LIGHT THROUGH THE TEACHINGS OF THE HOLY SEDER ON PASSOVER NIGHT.

 

 

 

 

 

King of the Months: Nisan—the Month of Miracles

27242_165King of the Months: Nisan—the Month of Miracles

by Ariella Bracha Waldinger

Did you know that Nisan is called the “King of the Months?” Nisan, by definition is the month of miracles because its root is from the Hebrew word Nes, which means miracle. It is the month of nessim—miracles. This alludes to the many miracles performed by G-d for our ancestors in Egypt, as well as  for the Jewish nation during their journey to the Promised Land.

Where do we find the term “King of the Months?” The Bnei Yissaschar teaches that because Nisan corresponds to the tribe of Yehudah, the tribe chosen for royalty, as well as it’s designation as the first month, Nisan became King over all the other months. In fact the other months of the year are numbered starting with Nisan as the first.  Also, according to the Mishnah, Nisan marks the New Year for the counting of the Rule of Kings.

The book, Yalkut Yosef, Hilchot Pesach, based on the teachings and halachic decisions of Rav Ovadia Yosef OBM, informs us of a teaching of the Maharil. “He teaches that Nisan is the King of Months primarily because of the festival of Passover. Additionally, the Lehorot Natan on Parashat Shemini, page 64 adds that when the Exodus took place, manifesting miracles far beyond the laws of nature, it was implying that a King can break the rules at any time and no one can object.  Since these wondrous miracles which wielded the Greatest Miracle in history were performed by the King of Kings and took place in the month of Nisan, the month is endowed with the title and quality of Kingship.

tovotRosh Chodesh Nisan (the first of Nisan) is blessed with ten sparkling crowns, personified by ten events, which also allude to its Kingly character. On this auspicious date, the Sanctuary in the wilderness, built by the Israelites, was inaugurated and became a fitting resting place for G-ds Divine presence—the Shechinah. “So great was the glory of G-d that covered the Sanctuary, that even Moses was afraid to enter.” (Stone Chumash commentary on Vayikra)

The ten events by which Nisan was honored are:

  1. Creation was completed
  2. Nachshon, Prince of the tribe of Yehudah brought his inauguration offering to the sanctuary
  3. Aharon was anointed and began his duties as High Priest (Kohein)
  4. The first communal offerings were brought
  5. Holy Fire descended from Heaven to rest upon the holy Altar
  6. Sacrificial portions were eaten by the priests in designated areas
  7. The Divine Presence i.e., the glory of G-d, known as the Shechinah, rested her presence on the Sanctuary
  8. Aharon as the High priest blessed the nation with the first Kohanic Blessing, which is still recited today
  9. The ability to sacrifice on private altars became forbidden
  10. The day was designated as Rosh Chodesh and the month henceforth became the first month of the year

(Shmot:12:1-2) Our sages also teach that numerous sections of the Torah were revealed on this date.

There is a Midrash on Parshat Shemini (The Midrash Says) that teaches

“there is a link between the final day of the Sanctuary’s inauguration and the first day of the creation of the world. From the beginning of Creation until the Shechinah, G-ds Divine Presence, descended to rest upon the Sanctuary, the universe lacked spiritual perfection. On this day, the aim and purpose of Creation was realized. Therefore the day was honored specifically with ten events to indicate that the final Inauguration day of the Mishkan (the Sanctuary) was of no lesser importance than the day on which the universe came into being. Therefore, just as the world had been created by ten Divine pronouncements, so was the consecration of the Mishkan marked by ten outstanding features.”

Rabbi Zvi Ryman in his book, “The Wisdom of the Hebrew Months” teaches the following: On Rosh Chodesh Nisan, HaShem commanded Moshe to instruct the Jewish people to take a sheep (one of the G-ds of Egypt) and tie it to their bedposts, in full view of the Egyptians. How scary? The Jewish people would later slaughter it as a Korban Pesach (Passover offering) in order to be redeemed. Moshe himself, asked G-d how He could request this of the Jews, who could likely be stoned to death by the Egyptians for killing their G-ds. HaShem answered Moses, saying “By your life, they will not leave Egypt unless they slaughter the sheep before the eyes of the Egyptians, thus proving that the gentiles’ idols are powerless.” Who can fathom the courage and self sacrifice required of a people who had so recently been subservient to the Egyptians and now had to boldly slaughter the gods of their former masters?” This aspect of self sacrifice, in order to perform G-ds will, teaches us the essence of the Jewish people which is at the root of their souls.

An additional factor relating to the kingly nature of Nisan is related in the Talmud, where it teaches that according to Rebbe Yehoshua ben Hananya, our forefathers, the patriarchs, were born and passed away during the month of Nisan. Their emergence into the world brought great spiritual bounty, as well as powerful Divine emanations. This aspect provides a power boost to the already dynamic month of Nisan.

Just thinking about the arrival of the month of Nisan, The King of Months, excites me in both an emotional and spiritual way because Passover is my favorite Jewish holiday. I cherish the epic, dramatic Redemption from bondage which G-d wrought on behalf of his beloved nation. I never tire of the story and I love learning more about its depth of meaning embedded in the month and the holiday. It arouses within me an intense passion for my nation, my G-d and His gift of the Holy Land.

May you greet Nisan in a deeper way, as the powerful aspect of Kingship becomes revealed. As a result, may you see yourself as possessing royalty—sons and daughters of the King of Kings gifted with the mantle of royalty. May you savor every aspect of the royal month of Nisan and enter into the grandeur of Seder night in a joyful and elevated way. May you celebrate the nobility of our people as you partake of the Seder foods and perform the many beautiful rituals.

With love, Ariella Bracha

P.S. JUST A REMINDER: As a result of the dedication of the Sanctuary in the desert on the first of Nisan, the Princes of the twelve tribes began bringing their tribal offerings. Therefore, it is highly commendable to commemorate the Sanctuary’s inauguration by reading the verses taken from the section of the Torah (Parsha Naso, in the book of Bamidbar) describing the offerings brought by the tribal princes. http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/495713/jewish/The-Nasi.htm

 

Behold the Glory: Rosh Chodesh

Surreal_World_2008_by_riolcrtBehold the Glory: Rosh Chodesh

by Ariella Bracha Waldinger

Behold the glory of Rosh Chodesh, because in ancient times, it occupied an exalted position in the matters of public life. The Hebrew word for month is “chodesh,” which also means newness. Rosh means head. If you think about it, the head of anything denotes great importance i.e., the head of a company, the head of the Sanhedrin. Therefore, the day of Rosh Chodesh, which serves as the head or beginning of the month, declares its newness, as the day approaches and also instructs us about its importance.

In Temple times, the day itself was declared in a festive manner. The head of the Beit Din would declare, “Sanctified” and all Jews in attendance would declare “SANCTIFIED, SANCTIFIED!” (Mishnah, Rosh Hashanah 3:1). Afterwards, the Rosh Chodesh sacrifices were offered on the altar in the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple). The offerings were accompanied by the amazing sounds of the silver trumpets piercing the airwaves, along with the extraordinary, uplifting soul song of the Levite choir. Additionally, the incense offering contributed to an extraordinary, visual air show, as its fragrance not only perfumed the air but rose upwards to Heaven for all to see.  Can you picture it? The extraordinary festivities of the Jewish nation gathered together and the depth of meaning arising from the rituals being performed on this special and sacred day?

Rosh Chodesh was the first commandment given to the Jews in Egypt, even before they had been liberated (Shmot 12:2). It was an extraordinary and loving gift from G-d because it gave the Jews the gift of time, along with their own calendar. This signified G-d’s trust in them and His desire to empower them after generations of slavery. It also taught the importance of time.

Rosh Chodesh is also a monthly call to emulate the moon, to whom the Jews are compared. Just as the moon is renewed each month, so too the Jewish people are given a new opportunity each month to make amends, improve their lives and ultimately draw closer to serving the King of Kings.

What is so important about Rosh Chodesh?  I will quote the exact words from the The Biala Rebbe in his book “MEVASER TOV, THE MERIT OF THE RIGHTEOUS WOMEN”, so I do not dilute its power, truth and beauty. He writes the following:

“There are two essential facets to Rosh Chodesh. One is that it encompasses the potential for all that will occur in the following month. Additionally and most importantly, Rosh Chodesh is a time of renewal, a new face to time, in which the world is transformed from one state of being to another. A new reality is conceived, which never existed before. The power of Rosh Chodesh is so great that it acts retroactively, bestowing on the day that precedes it, the title “Yom Kippur Katan” which means the small Yom Kippur.”

This teaching serves as an instruction for us to seek atonement, akin to the day of Yom Kippur itself, in order to become worthy recipients of the blessings and Divine light that will emerge in the new month.

According to the Rebbe, few people understand the extraordinary hidden power waiting to become manifest in the time frame of Rosh Chodesh. To my astonishment, The Rebbe writes that

“According to the Zohar (Terumah 150b), the fires of Gehinnom cease on Rosh Chodesh.”  This is as a result of its nature as a powerful protective force. He continues, “Rosh Chodesh is not mundane at all and its spiritual influence is greater even than Yom Tov, as shown by its powers to cool Gehinnom. Rosh Chodesh touches the very roots of our soul, in a subtle and hidden way. It is the apparently mundane, hidden nature of Rosh Chodesh that enables its holiness to be transmitted through what would otherwise appear to be an ordinary day. At present its powers are concealed, thus magnifying its power.”

According to the Kabbalah, each month offers new energies which equate to new opportunities to actualize our potential. According to Sefer Yetzirah,(The Book of Formation), each month of the Jewish calendar has a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, a Zodiac sign, one of the twelve tribes, a sense, and a controlling limb of the body that corresponds to it. Each of these aspects is a channel that opens and becomes manifest at the arrival of Rosh Chodesh.  Through tapping into these openings, we can access the deepest wisdom and achieve transformation.

It appears that today, the celebratory aspect of Rosh Chodesh has lost its deep significance, due to the loss of the Beit Hamikdash. Rosh Chodesh however, should not be taken lightly, even with the absence of the Holy Temple and its importance should not be downplayed. Rosh Chodesh is likened to the festivals themselves. (Bamidbar10:10) Chazal teaches in Shavuos 10a that Rosh Chodesh itself is called a festival. The prophets compared it to Shabbat (Yeshaya 66:23).

The Mishnah Berurah writes that one who spends money on Rosh Chodesh feasts is praiseworthy. Also, in a chapter of the Shulchan Aruch that contains only one law, it teaches that “it is a mitzvah to enhance Rosh Chodesh meals.”

I believe that through our awakened comprehension of the greatness of the day, we can truly “BEHOLD THE GLORY OF ROSH CHODESH,” A Divine Gift from G-d Himself to the Jewish People. We can strive to restore it to an aspect of its former glory, by honoring it and celebrating the day in special and unique ways. We can tap into its hidden spiritual dynamite and dramatically benefit our souls and our nation and most importantly, deeply express our gratitude to The HOLY ONE, BLESSED BE HE.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS: The next Rosh Chodesh is Friday night (Shabbat) April 8th.

With Blessings of love, light and awareness of all G-d’s magnificent gifts to us and all the world. Ariella Bracha Waldinger

 

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The Purim Masquerade: Nothing is as it seems

purimshpielThe Purim Masquerade: Nothing is as it seems

Our Rabbis teach that we wear costumes and disguise ourselves on Purim because nothing is as it seems.

Purim is all about THE MASQUERADE! We also wear costumes for several other very important reasons:

  1. because the miracle of Purim was disguised in natural events and dressing in costume alludes to this fact
  2. The Talmud (Megillah 12a) writes that the Jews at the time were actually pretending to serve other gods, therefore G-d pretended HE would destroy the Jewish people, and miraculously, HE did not. Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Shapiro, the Bnei Yissaschar (vol.2 on Adar) writes this is the reason we pretend to be someone else on Purim, since the Jews as well as G-ds actions were masked by other intentions.
  3. to commemorate Mordechai being dressed in the King’s royal garments as his reward for saving the King’s life.

zorroAnother reason for wearing a costume on Purim is because it ties us into the Purim celebration and festivities. I love the energy of celebrations especially holy ones. Fortunately, Praise G-d, I have an extraordinary husband who goes along with my Purim playfulness and also dresses in costume, even when he doesn’t feel like it.  This year my husband is dressing as a dashing black-clad masked man and I am dressing as his partner, the mysterious golden masked woman of valor and we both share the same identity…….ZORRO….I GUESS I AM ZORRAH. Anyway, what’s that all about, you might ask?  See if you can figure it out on your own but if not, I will give you a clue. It has to do with all the tyrannical villains roaming our Holy Land and killing innocent Jews.

20160320_140227Zorro, which means fox in Spanish, was a fictional character of Spanish nobility who cunningly defended his nation from the villains. Avraham, my husband, represents the heroic Zorro and I, his beloved wife, represents the female version and am known as Zorrah. We are devoted partners who fight heroically to defend the Chosen Nation of G-d, the Jews in G-ds beloved Palace. We are cunning as foxes with keen observation skills. We blend into the environment and lead normal lives in the community. However, when tyranny arises, and heroes and heroines are needed, we step out of our ordinary lives, cloak ourselves in our camouflage and artfully and skillfully, go after the bad guys.

I find it fascinating to reflect on the fact that truly, my soul intuition chose this costume, as an inner arousal made itself known to me. I am even more stunned by my deep inner, passionate longing to be a warrior for G-d in our Biblical homeland. Even more-so, this particular character, clearly represents the current Purim story manifesting in our Holy Land.  And I believe it represents a cosmic longing by most people to don their inner warrior garb, defeat the enemy and live in peace not just in Israel but throughout the world.

From the time I was a child, I loved playing dress-up and masquerading as something or someone other than whom I was. Don’t get me wrong, I liked who I was but I loved the somewhat mysterious and adventuresome idea of the game of masquerade. It intrigued me and excited me. It brought out my inquisitive and playful nature as well. From the deepest place, I believe masquerading and wearing costumes is all about inner exploration and transformation.

As an adult, I love flexing my creative muscles and imagination. I love taking on new roles and trying on new and starkly different identities that teach me about myself. My first Purim in Israel, I dressed as a wizard with a beautiful magic wand. This was a very unusual choice for me because, I wore all black and normally I dress very colorfully. A wise friend taught me that a costume reveals an inner desire or longing wanting to be revealed. I reflected on her insights and the truth of my choice of costume did reveal itself. I had met many people at the Kotel (Western Wall) praying for various difficult issues. I felt their pain and deeply desired to wave a magic wand and take away their heartache and suffering. I hadn’t realized how deeply I had been affected until I examined the hidden meaning behind my choice of costume.

The next Purim, I was deeply drawn to a beautiful butterfly costume. There was simply no other choice for me to make. I realized my inner reality was transforming and I was emerging from the pain and sadness I had felt the year before. Personal growth along with faith and trust in G-d had brought about the transformation and I embraced my beautiful butterfly with intense joy.

Purim is the most joyous festival on the Jewish calendar and is celebrated by almost every Jew at some level and in their way. Children especially love the merriment and fun. Store-keepers say it’s their favorite time of year. To some people, it may seem frivolous but hidden inside the joy and frivolity of the Purim Masquerade is the dynamic life teaching: “NOTHING IS AS IT SEEMS.”

Purim Sameach to all of KLAL YISRAEL. May we strive to comprehend on the deepest level that HaShem is always communicating with us through everything that is happening in our lives, especially all the good.  May gratitude spill out of our hearts and mouths constantly.

I will close with the soul stirring words of Av HaRachamim:

May the Father of compassion have mercy on the people that is borne by HIM, and may HE remember the covenant of the spiritually mighty. May HE rescue our souls from the bad times, and upbraid the evil inclination to leave those borne by HIM, graciously make us an eternal remnant and fulfill our requests in good measure, for salvation and mercy…Amen

ENJOY PURIM AND DRESS UP AND CELEBRATE WITH LOVE AND BLESSINGS, ARIELLA BRACHA

This essay is dedicated to Shimon Ben Avraham who passed away today. He was definitely a ZORRO

Holistic House Cleaning for Passover

Holistic House Cleaning for Passover

pessachby Ariella Bracha Waldinger

Passover cleaning is upon us as we step into the second month of Adar on our way to the month of Nisan and Passover. The current reality of the world is divisive, filled with negativity, fragility and chaos.  Life in our beloved Eretz HaKodesh is similar and we also feel the chaos, disharmony and fragility of life and of the world around us. We suffer greatly from the tragedies of our current state of affairs. Therefore, it behooves us to make every attempt to bring gentleness, harmony and wholeness into all our endeavors. I would like to suggest one way that we, as Jewish women can create positive energetic shifts and restore a semblance of balance to the world. It is through a commitment to embrace “Holistic House Cleaning for Passover.”

What do I mean by “Holistic House Cleaning?” The term holistic is characterized by comprehending how the parts of something are intimately interconnected to its whole. This understanding creates a powerful and dynamic resonance that has the potential to be extremely positive. Therefore, instead of approaching the task of Passover cleaning in a negative fashion, as a daunting task to be dreaded, we can choose to look at it in a new transformative way.  From the shift of consciousness, we can choose to comprehend on a deeper level the beautiful parts that we will bring into alignment with the whole, as we holistically clean our home in order to gear up for the exquisitely moving and soul stirring SEDER.

We know as Jewish women that if we fight against the task of Passover preparations or approach it in a negative way, an internal war breaks out and we and our family bear the brunt of the negativity and toxicity. Besides, Chazal state, it is an obligation for every member of the family to enjoy the Pesach Seder.  In my opinion, we cannot engage in the Seder with positivity and joy if we have spent the preparation time in negativity and resentment.

big-cleanersLet’s be realistic: Passover cleaning has reached unnecessary and overwhelming levels and women are creating nervous tensions in their homes as a result. Let us be mindful of the true mission of Passover cleaning which is to rid the house of chametz—leavening. Chametz is representative of the evil impulses deep within a person’s soul. This entire cleaning process translates into ridding our souls of any spiritual impurities. This is the integration of the cleaning of our physical house to the cleaning of our inner, spiritual house. This concept is extraordinary! We are given the ability to clean out our inner spaces through ridding our homes of chametz. The symbolism embedded in the work we are doing rewards us with the gift of freedom of body and spirit on THE SACRED NIGHT OF THE SEDER!

So, what’s a woman to do who does not enjoy her Passover housecleaning tasks? Several options are available:

  1. hire help
  2. trade babysitting for cleaning
  3. bribe your husband or children or negotiate with them
  4. work as a team with a friend on each of your homes (it’s more fun)
  5. go away for the entire holiday
  6. accept the reality of your tasks in the home and apply Torah principles in order to do it B’Simchah (with joy).

My favorite example of what a woman CAN do is taken from a book called “Loving What Is” by Byron Katie. Byron Katie is an American speaker and author who teaches people how to end their own suffering around any and all issues through a process of inquiry. One of her greatest quotes is “when you argue with reality, you only lose 100% of the time.” Passover cleaning is a reality and we do not have to suffer through a process that is inherently a blessing. If we do, we are negatively impacting ourselves instead of blessing ourselves and our home.

In the book, Katie tells a story of walking into her house after a business trip. She goes into the kitchen and sees dishes piled in the sink. Instead of getting angry and losing her footing, she simply starts washing the dishes and one by one, she finishes in an easy uncomplicated, unemotional way. It fills her with joy and she goes on to the next task and same thing, no emotion or negative, energy-draining thoughts. She just completes the task in front of her. She states, “When you become a lover of what is, there are no more decisions to make, because you embrace the practice of loving the task in front of you and moving through it instead of battling against it.” Katie says “We are really alive when we live as simply as that…embracing what is in front of us without all the emotional knots we tie ourselves up in.” I agree wholeheartedly. It feels so FREEING.

Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller in her book, “More Precious than Pearls” (insights on Eshet Chayil) writes the following in relation to “She works willingly with her hands“. She relates that many women do their household duties without any great deal of enthusiasm. This comes from thinking only in terms of the unpleasant consequences of not doing what needs to get done i.e., having to live in a messy house. “If this is a woman’s motivation, she is not giving the gift of an orderly, clean home in a loving manner but is concentrating instead on fear of consequences……two very different perspectives on the same task.” The same reality applies to Passover cleaning and preparations.

The Gra on his commentary on Mishlei speaks about the unhappiness of one who seeks a certain result but does not appreciate that the process which leads to that result has its own inherent value. The Eshet Chayil is capable of manifesting a deep desire and true inclination to do what needs to be done…stemming from a deep appreciation of why she is doing the things she does. This is the wisdom of the Jewish woman and we all have it within us.

It is interesting to note that we begin our Passover cleaning in the month of Adar—the month of great joy.  It is also the last month of the year according to some, so it is all about tying up loose ends. We finish our Passover preparations in the month of Nisan, which is the first month. It is all about new beginnings, rebirth and renewal. We see from this, the wisdom embedded in the Jewish calendar to guide and instruct us in the details of our lives.

digital-art-cyril-rolando-silenceNisan is the month to leave our personal restrictions. It is the month in which we celebrate our freedom and our redemption. There is a powerful, heavenly influx of movement towards freedom and rebirth that enables us to go forward in our lives. Knowing this, we can choose to perform our entire Passover preparations with an abundant flow of inner joy, vitality and personal power while drawing down enormous blessings into our homes and into the world. Just as G-d gifted the Jewish nation with freedom from slavery, we can return our gift to Him by freeing ourselves from the slavery of assigning negativity and disdain to an incredibly spiritual task.

This year, choose to embrace HOLISTIC HOUSECLEANING FOR PASSOVER. Turn on the music and sing and dance while you work. Open the windows and let the warm spring breeze envelop you in a sunny influx of joy and by all means, perform your Passover preparations with wisdom. Your soul will thank you and so will your family and G-d will richly bless you.

With Blessings of love, light and holistic living. Chodesh Tov, Purim Sameach and Happy Passover cleaning, Ariella Bracha Waldinger

Tu B’Shvat: Man as a Tree

Tu B’Shvat: Man as a Tree

Heather+Cowper+Olive+Tree+ArgassiA tree of the field

The Torah in Deut. 20:19 refers to Man as a “tree of the field.” Tu B’Shevat is the holiday of this dimension. The essence of Tu B’Shavat is related to the fruit trees in the Land of Israel because it was the specific calendar date set aside for the tithing of the fruit and orlah from the trees. These tithes refer to a portion of the fruit taken from the tree and given to the Kohanim and Levites. Tithing the fruit from the trees was obligatory during Temple times. The entire holiday provides a focus on the Land of Israel and the significance of fruit trees to which man is compared.

Fruit trees and tithing

The beauty of the tithing practice of sharing and giving teaches us that in Eretz Yisrael, one plants a fruit tree for many reasons.

  • One plants a fruit tree primarily because it is a mitzvah to build up the Land.
  • Secondly, one plants fruit trees in the land to share his bounty and good fortune with his nation, as instructed by G-d.
  • Thirdly, one plants fruit trees for the value to both the Land of Israel and his offspring and to reap the fruits of his holy endeavors. Throughout time, Kabbalists have used the fruit tree as a metaphor to understand G-ds relationship to the spiritual and physical worlds, as well as to teach us our role in this world.

Who does not respond soulfully or emotionally to the sheer grandeur of a majestic tree standing stately like a monument before our eyes?  Or a wondrous fruit tree sharing the fragrance of her beautiful blossoms? The tree is one of the most powerful symbols of life, renewal, growth and continuity and each aspect of the tree’s formation and development has something of value to teach us.  Every part of the tree is utilized for the good of mankind. It is astonishing to me that G-d compares us to a fruit tree but it is essential to understand, that it is for the sole purpose of our personal development and should not be taken lightly.

479be2ba1953858be4f498307428b8eeThe development of the tree

The development into a full-fledged, fruit-producing tree is a most dynamic and inspiring transformation. The tree develops in a magnificent way demonstrating to man how to reach his highest potential.

  • First and foremost is the development of the tree’s root system.
  • Afterwards, the trunk and body of the tree, as well as its branches and leaves come into being.
  • Finally the time arrives when the tree bears fruit.
  • The roots are hidden beneath the surface of the tree and are not visible for others to see and yet, it is from them that the tree derives its main life-force.
  • The trunk and body of the tree including its branches are in a constant state of growth.
  • The fruit tree attains a state of completion only when it bears fruit. The entire process of development is one huge miracle just like the birth and development of a human.

Man is like a tree

So too man possesses a trunk and a body and has roots and branches. He also has the ability to produce fruit. Thus, we see the amazing degree of similarity between between man and a tree.

According to an article in the magazine, Living Jewish,

“Man’s roots are his faith because through his faith he derives his true life force which comes as a result of his belief in G-d, Judaism and Torah. It is his faith i.e., his roots, which anchors and bind him with G-d. Once a person has attained the level of viable roots of faith then a Jew’s trunk, branches and leaves must be tended and nourished through the study of Torah and the performance of good deeds. In spiritual terms, according to the article, this means that a Jew can never be satisfied with faith alone, for then he would be like a tree that laid down roots but never developed a trunk, branches or leaves. Furthermore, just as a tree’s body grows constantly, so too should there be constant growth on the part of every Jew for it is only then that he truly bears fruit. In bearing endless fruit, he affects his friends, neighbors and family for generations just like a tree.”

Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller in an Aish.com article titled, “L’Chaim to the Trees,” wrote the following,

“Like a tree, our first experience with reality is physical and tangible. Then we grow beyond our roots. We extend our branches towards the heavens as we search for connection and meaning. We devote our lives to the production of fruit because we yearn to leave an enduring mark that we too were here.”

Rabbi Avraham Branwein in an article titled, “Tree that Tastes Like its Fruit” also notes the many similarities between man and a tree.

“So too with a person; in order to ascend spiritual levels, one needs to work on their character traits. Pruning the tree refers to distancing oneself from bad traits. Watering is accomplished through Torah, which is compared to water. Furthermore, through mitzvahs and good deeds, the person develops and is converted from a non-fruit bearing tree to a tree which produces fruit.”

In an extraordinary book titled, The Twelve Dimensions of Israel, the author, Nechama Sara Nadborny, also elaborates on the parable that man is likened to a tree of the field. She reminds us “the roots of our tree are the solid foundations we have in the world which arise from our relationship to our ancestral roots.” She further states,

“The more we absorb the life force of our true heritage by meditating on and living with the character traits of our forefathers and mothers, who are the living Torah, the more we become rooted in life just like a tree. The more solid our roots, the greater is our ability to grow.

The trunk of our tree, our torso, is our individuality, our unique center which when combined with the instruction of the Torah, enables us to blossom. When we are truly connected to the wisdom of the Torah, we free ourselves from the natural tendency to uproot ourselves or fall into self-centeredness, disconnected from the soil of our soul essence.

Our branches which reach out in many directions represent the relationships towards which we extend ourselves. The taller we stand in relating to the pride of our heritage, the better we are able to, like the tall tree, receive the sunlight, represented by our inner visions. Our higher vision provides the inspiration to live in the present and strive forward with a keener awareness of our mission and purpose.

As we give birth to our fruits, which represent children, projects, good deeds and mitzvot, we must strive for a balance in order to become healthy manifestations of our true potential.

Like the tree itself, growth is a continual process of receiving light which on the human level equates to higher levels of consciousness. These higher levels of consciousness are then creatively absorbed into our interactions with others which transforms our lives and positively benefit our nation.”

What a blessing we have in the holiday of Tu B’Shvat with all its deeper teachings and implications relating to fruit trees in the Holy Land. The holiday of Tu B’Shvat gives us a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the renewal of trees in the Holy Land, as well as an opportunity to partake of the delicious fruits themselves. By eating from the special fruits of the Land, we tap into the infinite love of our Creator as well as the holiness embedded in the fruit itself.

May we merit to ingest the deepest Torah teachings of Tu B’shvat, while digesting the special fruits and foods of the seder itself.

May we uplift the act of eating and rectify it at its source in order to draw down the dynamic blessings hidden in the food.

May we fully comprehend the meaning of man as a tree of the field and utilize its wisdom to truly blossom and grow all the days of our life.

With love and blessings for health, prosperity, wisdom and refinement, Ariella Bracha

Turning Inspiration Into Action

garden-wallpaper-hd-12-decoration-inspirationTurning Inspiration Into Action

By Ariella Bracha Waldinger

I always feel sad as the sun sets on the last day of Chanukah and I can no longer kindle the lights of my Chanukah candles. Waiting an entire year to perform the mitzvah again seems far away and yet in truth, I know a year passes very quickly. The question always arises in my mind after the departure of a holiday filled with powerful spiritual messages, rituals and fulfilling experiences: “How can I personally turn the inspiration of the holiday into action that will keep me living inspired?” I am certain many people ask the same question.

It has been suggested by numerous Rabbi’s that if you truly want to keep the inspiration alive, you must create a plan of action. Rabbi Simon Jacobson teaches that “action changes human beings, moves mountains and ultimately changes the world.” He further explains that, “Performing an action melts the tension between matter and spirit fusing them into one. Matter is temporary but tangible while spirit is eternal but intangible and therefore, the solution is to fuse the two.” For example, when you make a blessing over food, it uplifts the mundane act of eating to the realm of holy thus creating a spiritual entity from the fusion of the two. The act of eating is thereby refined and transformed. This spiritual act manifests holiness and brings blessings in the world.

As I look at the English letters of the word CHANUKAH, they actually guide us into ACTION.

  • The C in Chanukah stands for CHOICE
  • The H in Chanukah stands for HOPE
  • The A in Chanukah stands for ACTION.
  • The N in Chanukah stands for NULLIFY or NATION.
  • The U in Chanukah stands for UNITY.
  • The K in Chanukah stands for KINDNESS or KEEP
  • The A in Chanukah stands for AWARENESS.
  • The H in Chanukah stands for HEROS, HEROINES AND HONOR.

To summarize the message of the letters (which are not in the same order as the word Chanukah):  TURN INSPIRATION INTO ACTION

We must make a choice to nullify our will for G-d’s will in the hope that through our actions which are being done out of kindness for our nation’s purpose and mission in the world, we will develop the awareness that to become a true hero or heroine, we must choose the honor of G-d and our nation above our own self interest and in so doing, bring unity to our people in our land which will keep alive the hope and yearning for Moshiach and the Torah-true living that we long for.

Then, we can become the true candle of G-d and shine our light into the world with genuine Jewish warmth and vitality. We will become warriors for G-d and His Nation just like the Maccabees who represent the ultimate manifestation of the above summary.

I leave you with a reminder that Prayers on behalf of our nation at this time when we are facing great challenges is one of the best actions you can take. They are powerful and vital to the safety and well-being of our Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael. The Maccabees prayed and cried out to HaShem constantly. Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky reminds us that every single prayer has the ability to change the world we live in. He also reminds us that Yishmael which literally means, “G-d will hear his voice” are not embarrassed to pray and they do it no matter where they are. We are fighting someone who has the exact same power as us: Prayer. Thus, we must make it a priority.

Below is a link to a beautiful Prayer to be recited by inhabitants of Eretz Yisrael. When I came across it in the book, “To Dwell in the Palace” edited by Tzvia Ehrlich-Klein, and I read the prayer, it took my breath away. I have also included the Prayer for the State of Israel, as well as, the prayer for the safety of the IDF. Please say them every day and may it bring blessings to our nation.

http://bataliyah.blogspot.co.il/2012/09/prayer-for-residents-of-eretz-yisrael.html

English Prayer for the State of Israel

Our Father in Heaven, Rock and Redeemer of Israel, bless the State of Israel, the first manifestation of the approach of our redemption. Shield it with Your lovingkindness, envelop it in Your peace, and bestow Your light and truth upon its leaders, ministers, and advisors, and grace them with Your good counsel. Strengthen the hands of those who defend our holy land, grant them deliverance, and adorn them in a mantle of victory. Ordain peace in the land and grant its inhabitants eternal happiness. Lead them, swiftly and upright, to Your city Zion and to Jerusalem, the abode of Your Name, as is written in the Torah of Your servant Moses: “Even if your outcasts are at the ends of the world, from there the Lord your God will gather you, from there He will fetch you. And the Lord your God will bring you to the land that your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it; and He will make you more prosperous and more numerous than your fathers.” Draw our hearts together to revere and venerate Your name and to observe all the precepts of Your Torah, and send us quickly the Messiah son of David, agent of Your vindication, to redeem those who await Your deliverance.

Manifest yourself in the splendor of Your boldness before the eyes of all inhabitants of Your world, and may everyone endowed with a soul affirm that the Lord, God of Israel, is king and his dominion is absolute. Amen forevermore.

Prayer for Members of the Israel Defense Force

He Who blessed our forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – may He bless the fighters of the Israel Defense Force, who stand guard over our land and the cities of our God from the border of the Lebanon to the desert of Egypt, and from the Great Sea unto the approach of the Aravah, on the land, in the air, and on the sea.

May Hashem cause the enemies who rise up against us to be struck down before them. May the Holy One, Blessed is He, preserve and rescue our fighting men from every trouble and distress and from every plague and illness, and may He send blessing and success in their every endeavor.

May He lead our enemies under their sway and may He grant them salvation and crown them with victory. And may there be fulfilled for them the verse: For it is Hashem, your God, Who goes with you to battle your enemies for you to save you. Now let us respond: Amen.

May we merit to hold sacred the inspiration we gain from all our holidays and act upon their depth of meaning, living inspired, passionate lives, turning inspiration into action on behalf of our beloved and holy Nation.

AM YISRAEL CHAI!

With Blessings of love and light, safety and well being for us, Am Yisrael and the world. ARIELLA BRACHA

 

A Modern Chanukah Miracle

 

fog in the forestA Modern Chanukah Miracle

By Ariella Bracha Waldinger

 

Salvation on the Heels of Death

One year ago, during the holy, joyous festival of Chanukah, that celebrates the epic miracles wrought by G-d on behalf of the Jewish people, death claimed the husband of a dear friend named Shoshana. Shoshana is a healer, a PHD homeopath, energy practitioner, medical intuit and all around wise woman who has spent her life helping and healing others.

Shoshana’s husband had cancer for more than a year and they both did their best to stem the tide of its advancement but to no avail. As the end drew near, the family gathered together at the hospice. It had been a long and difficult journey but Shoshanah remained at his bedside and was present as his soul left his body. She knew his time was winding down, due to her experiences with death and dying over the years. It gave her the knowledge to read the signs and yet it caught her off guard that it happened erev Shabbos Chanukah. The adult children had made plans to stay nearby for Shabbos, but Shoshana had planned to be home.

The time of his passing was 3:20pm, Friday afternoon and Shabbos was beckoning her with its early candle lighting time constraints. Shoshana was forced to leave him very quickly in order to get home to light her Chanukah candles before her Shabbat candles. The situation was tense and emotions were vibrating throughout her body. As she exited the hospice at 3:35pm, she was completely emotionally disarmed by the sight that befell her. Everything was blanketed in thick, heavy fog with extremely limited visibility. The darkness and heaviness seemed to be mimicking her feelings of loss and grief. The poor visibility was strange and unexpected at that time of day but the most eerie component was the veil of stillness that engulfed the area. This factor too felt like a mirror of her inner world that had become hushed by the deep loss of her husband. It was an eerie feeling that sent shivers up her spine. It felt as if nature was concealing its light and grieving along with her.

Shoshana was physically exhausted, emotionally numb and desperately needing a way to get home. By now, taxis were no longer operational due to the approach of Shabbos and she had no car. Shoshana immediately raised her eyes heavenwards and asked G-d to send her salvation i.e., a miracle. I have no idea if she had a conscious awareness of the spiritual energies for miracles and salvation contained in the month, due to her intense grief. But regardless of her state of mind, a magnificent miracle would soon manifest as a precious Chanukah gift, given directly by the hand of G-d in the Land of Miracles at the time of miracles.

While assessing the dilemma of getting home, Shoshana became alerted to a sound in the distance. She began to peer intensely through the fog, looking around because she thought she was hearing what sounded like a very old car chug chugging along. It sounded slow but seemed to be steadily moving in her direction. Suddenly, a car emerged out of the dense fog. It was not a private car but an old, beat up taxi driven by an old Arab man in a kefiah (Arab head scarf). The sequence of events presenting itself felt like a spellbinding scene in a movie thriller and she didn’t know whether to laugh or cry as the old Arab man in the miracle taxi asked her if she needed a ride.

Shoshana quickly jumped in and told him her husband had just left the world and she needed to get home fast. She said, I do not even know what time Shabbos starts. He responded, “Shabbos starts at 4:09pm, get in and I will get you home.” He sped along the deserted, fog laden streets racing against time to deliver her straight to her door, in time to light her Chanukah candles and then her Shabbos candles. Her inner intuition told her she was going to make it home in time and she took a deep breath, fell back against the seat and relaxed for the first time in months. It seemed to her, as if the car was flying and suddenly she was home. She quickly opened the door handle to run inside her house, but before departing asked the old Arab man, “How much do I owe you?” He said, “Nothing, go light your candles!”

Shoshana raced in the door, her mind a whirl of thoughts, feelings and emotions. As she prepared to get things in order and light her Chanukah candles, she wondered if the taxi ride with the old Arab had been a dream. She ran to the window to search for his taxi but there was nothing other than fog staring her in the face. Shoshana had no time to process her feelings about the miracle G-d had personally wrought for her but as she lit her Chanukah candles and said the blessing after kindling the lights “We kindle these lights to commemorate the saving acts, miracles and wonders which You have performed for our forefather and for us,” the reality hit her full force. She felt G-ds divine presence through the miracle and it enabled her to chase away the shadow of death that lay upon her heart. G-ds salvation blanketed her in a feeling of comfort as she felt His warm embrace through His miraculous intervention. Shoshana continued on with the last part of the blessing…..”To offer thanks and praise to your great Name for Your miracles, for Your wonders and for Your salvations.” Shoshana would be forever grateful for G-ds kindness during this time of intense grief and loss and, she would strive to tell over, every year the story of “A modern Chanukah Miracle on the heels of death.”

 

May this miraculous month of Kislev be a time of much needed miracles for the Jewish nation the world over but especially in Eretz Yisrael. May we strive for awareness of the constant miracles G-d performs for each of us. May we express daily our gratitude for G-ds protection and miracles throughout Jewish history and plead that HE continue to do so especially in the Holy Land. May we also merit great healing on all levels during this miraculous month of Kislev. May all our efforts to bring light into the world bring about the final redemption with Moshiach and the Beit HaMikdash in Eretz HaKodesh.

With Bountiful Blessings of Love and Light and Healing, Ariella Bracha

Chanukah Sameach

 

 

Aliyah, Teshuva and Israelis: What do They Share in Common?

3-questions-for-lifeAliyah, Teshuva and Israelis: What do They Share in Common?

Aliyah, teshuva and Israelis: What do they share in common? They can be:  Stressful! Scary! Humbling! Frustrating! Challenging! Hard work! Anger-Inducing!  But ultimately all three can bring us into greatness if we open ourselves up to truth.

When the initial shock of making Aliyah begins to settle in and you recognize you are living in the Middle East, surrounded by enemies, struggling to figure out every aspect of your life, one could say a pushy, direct Israeli who doesn’t mince words, is the last challenge you want. However, when you begin to understand that your association with him holds the key to your future success, it becomes vital to accept and appreciate them in order to solicit their help in moving through the maze of adjustments. In order to be successful in each endeavor, self–abnegation and reaching out for help and guidance holds the key to successful Aliyah, teshuva and learning to deal with Israelis.

Since we are in the ten days of teshuva, and the hot blog topic for many new immigrants appears to be the challenge of dealing with Israelis, I wanted to present the connection it shares with both doing teshuva, as well as making Aliyah, in the hopes that as we go into Yom Kippur or settle in as new immigrants, we make peace with all three.

Jews, as new immigrants exposed to Israelis for the first time, clearly state their aversion to being identified as Israeli, due to negative perceptions associated with Israelis. Perhaps as facts are revealed and our deeper understanding shifts, we may find teshuva is in order, due to the negative judgments we have placed on the host citizens of our new country—the place we now call home.

Aliyah, teshuva and learning to deal with Israelis are processes, whose end result is not achieved overnight. They require knowledge, awareness, honesty and a willingness to suspend self, in order to achieve a new way of being, as we strive to become better Jews by serving G-d and our nation in our ancient homeland. Maintaining shalom is imperative throughout each process, as the second Temple was destroyed as a result of baseless hatred. We have too many enemies including our yetzer hara, to create undue animosity between ourselves and our new Israeli family, as we work at settling in.

In an online business article about Europeans working with different cultures, the following observations are made based on their perception of Americans:

Americans consider themselves to be: professional, polite, boundary conscious, and respectful to others.

However, other cultures perceived Americans as: bureaucratic, artificial, self-indulgent, politically correct, people pleasers who apologize all the time, lack personal power, are spoiled as well as passive-aggressive.

On the other hand, their observations of Israelis were:

Israelis consider themselves to be: caring, creative, direct and honest while other nationalities perceived them as arrogant, stubborn, rude and pushy.

Interesting? Which perception is correct? It depends on the individual because the truth lies with our perceptions and experiences based on our own core values and personal bias. The article clarified that as time went on each group learned to value and appreciate the positive values inherent in the other cultural group, in spite of their initial negative judgment and perceived differences.

On November 29th, 1947 ,when the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a Jewish state, it was the ancestors of today’s Israelis who worked through the great struggles that ensued to create, through the grace of G-d, today’s thriving country.  Israel did not become the nation it is today by sheer luck.  Immigrants came to help build the land and the nation and their self sacrifice was enormous. They performed difficult, back breaking manual labor while at the same fighting for their lives, their land and their sovereignty. If we can begin to comprehend for one precious moment, the massive efforts required on the part of the Jewish community in Israel to establish a Jewish state and the skills and personality traits that were developed as a result of living through constant struggles and wars with enormous loss of our people both young and old, I believe, we will come to value and appreciate Israelis, as we strive to learn from them. If we can suspend misconceptions and negative judgments, we will make Aliyah, teshuva and dealing with Israelis more positive and beneficial for everyone and we will with certainty COME INTO THE LIGHT of our soul powers along with making G-ds name great.

According to published articles, as well as my own perceptions and experiences, I will enumerate the many outstanding qualities that make Israelis who they are.

Mahane_Yehuda_Market_P1020256Israelis are real!   This trait alone can jolt the inner nervous system of most unsuspecting Americans and send them back to the airport on the next plane out. I happen to be married to a New York born Jewish husband, who is very much like Israelis. (Yeah G-d, I love it).  Israelis have a genius for improvising and creating. They have brilliant minds. They have a taste for the good life but can live without it. They work hard caring for their communities. They are not afraid to be whom they are and they are not apologetic about it. They are loving and intimate with their friends and family…they establish close, life-long relationships and nourish them. They are affectionate. They have learned the art of living successfully under threats. Israeli’s are bonded by shared experiences which makes them strong. They are courageous. They are warriors. They are direct, pushy if need be, and fight for what they want and do not give up easily. They will strive mightily to figure a way to make what they want happen and they are incredibly resourceful. They are rule breakers. They are playful and love to joke and laugh. They smile easily and are full of kindness. They are warm and friendly and welcoming. They are taught to serve the community from their youth. (65% of high school students are required to do weekly community work for the full school year).

Israelis are not afraid to take risks or even fail. In America and Europe failure has a very bad name and is considered to be a liability against success. Israelis consider it a tool to simply do better.  Israelis are gutsy and not afraid to use their voice nor challenge authority. These are a few of the reasons why the Israeli start up rate is soaring. The IDF shapes the mentality of the young people in Israel to be community minded and nationally aware. Israelis are not spoiled. They work hard and play hard. They are passionate and direct and honest. They are extremely curious and creative. They are friendly and helpful if they want to be and that challenges most Americans. They do not play the game of pretending about anything. They have acquired the ability to push forward against all odds. They love to argue and to negotiate. Most will go out of their way to help you. Israelis do not always follow through on what they say they will do, but there is always a reason behind it.

The most truthful aspect of new immigrants dealing with powerful, non PC Israelis, is that when you are operating in a weakened emotional condition, and are unable to advocate for yourself, you view those who are NOT helping you in the way you need it, as the enemy. I believe the emotional volcano that has lain dormant rises to the surface and erupts in the face of the numerous settling in challenges and the culprit becomes The Israelis and/or Medinat Yisrael. This is a normal and common psychological response but can be deeply problematic if it gets out of hand. It is perfectly understandable that behaviors of others can often cause distress but it does not give us license to condemn them. In fact, when we stand unsure of ourselves, swirling in emotions, and uncertainty, feeling the deep loss of our selfhood and home connections, we tend to judge those closest at hand.

right_handMaking Aliyah, teshuvah and dealing with Israelis tends to remove all the layers of our hiddenness and our essence and character stands bare and vulnerable. They force us to face the truth of who we really are as they confront us with ourselves and break our illusions. In our discomfort, we often strive to find ways to justify our behavior or judgments in order to absolve ourselves of guilt. The key to Aliyah, teshuva and success in dealing with Israelis according to noted teacher, Rebbetzin Tzipora Heller, is to take yourself out of the center of everything. She states that most aveiras are a direct result of pride and arrogance because they cause us to see ourselves as being perfect and see others less than perfect in comparison to us.  If you choose to be intolerant towards Israelis and disparage them, this will be negatively impactful to our entire nation, for we return home to the Holy Land to build not destroy. When we approach Yom Kippur to be forgiven of our sins, we can hardly expect forgiveness if we have not been willing to forgive others. Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach OBM says if you can see the good in others, it means you have merited the highest level of teshuva.

In the extraordinary Book, “Garden of Gratitude”, Rabbi Lazer Brody relates the following, “Hashem knows exactly what we need to move us into the realm of character refinement. Hashem knows that in a life of pampered pleasures, a person won’t make any character improvements and won’t fulfill even a small portion of his personal potential and certainly won’t seek Hashem. He will be light years away from teshuva and spiritual awareness. Such a person will be spoiled and weak; he will probably develop an over-inflated sense of entitlement and an intolerable personality who demand much of many people. On the other hand, life’s difficulties especially upon returning to the Holy Land, will not only strengthen a person but stimulate his search for meaning and spiritual growth.” Aliyah, teshuva and learning to deal respectfully with Israelis has the power to lead us in spiritual maturity which leads to true freedom.

To summarize:  Making Aliyah to live in Eretz HaKodesh and teshuva are two of G-ds greatest gifts to His beloved nation. Israelis are the residents of Eretz HaKodesh and have lived, worked, died and sacrificed to make it what it is today. Just as we owe Hashem an enormous debt of gratitude for our incredible land inheritance and for the chance to do teshuva, we owe our Israeli family acceptance, respect and appreciation. Just as G-d extends His love and Divine mercy through His gift of teshuva because He wants us to straighten ourselves out, we too must extend love and compassion to our Israeli family in spite of the differences. Our motivation should be love and fear of G-d. The challenge is awesome, but it is completely possible to shift perspectives and release negative judgments. Be encouraged by the fact that this is what G-d wants for our nation especially in our biblical homeland. During this time of the ten days of teshuva, G-d is asking us to carefully avoid the pitfalls of sin through positive, refined interactions with our family, friends, community and nation.

May we merit a soulful, deeply connective, and restorative Yom Kippur with a deep teshuva that enables us to accept and rise above our challenges with a renewed spirit and dedication to the King of Kings and His beloved nation in His beloved land.   May we merit to see the connection between Aliyah, teshuva and Israelis and restore each relationship to wholeness and perfect balance.

With Blessings of love and light.  Chag Sameach  Gmar Chatima Tova,   Ariella Bracha

*Note: Please refer to blog post of November of 2012, titled “Becoming Israeli” as it has additional insights which may be helpful.