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We should be like geese!

Wednesday, 5th January 2011


Next Autumn, when you see geese heading south for the winter, flying in a "V" formation, you might consider what science has discovered as to why they fly that way.  As each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird immediately following.  By flying in a "V" formation, the whole flock adds at least 71 percent greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own.  
People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going more quickly and easily, because they are travelling on the thrust of one another.

When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go it alone and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird in front.  
If we have the sense of a goose, we will stay in formation with those people who are heading the same way we are. 

When the head goose gets tired, it rotates back in the wing and another goose flies point. 
It is sensible to take turns doing demanding jobs.

Finally - and this is important - when a goose gets sick or is wounded by gunshot, and falls out of the formation, two other geese fall out with that goose and follow it down to lend help and protection. They stay with the fallen goose until it is able to fly or until it dies; and only then do they launch out on their own, or with another formation to catch up with their own group.
We must have the sense of a goose, and stand by each other in the same way.  

Self sacrifice

Wednesday, 29th December 2010


Rabbi Yissachar Frand tells the story of the Z'viler Rebbe (the Rabbi of Zvil), Rabbi Gedaliah Moshe Goldman, who was interred in a Siberian labour camp during World War II.  It was a miserable, back-breaking experience, but at least the one solace was that it was not a Nazi extermination camp.  One Shabbos (Saturday), the commandant summoned both the Rebbe (Rabbi) and another Jew, a frail, old man, to his office. "You are both free to go. All you have to do is sign these papers and go," he said.

The Rebbe reached for the papers and stopped.  How could he write on Shabbos?  True, it was a release, but could he desecrate the holy Shabbos?   After all, as bad as it was, it was not life-threatening.  He was young and strong.  Even if he would be detained there for a few more years, he would survive.

"No, I am sorry, sir. While I appreciate your kind gesture, I cannot desecrate my Shabbos," the Rebbe replied.

"Are you insane?" the commandant screamed. "I am granting you freedom. How can you waste such an opportunity?"

"I understand and appreciate your kindness, but it is my day of rest. I may not write."

"If you do not sign, you will rot in this place," the commandant responded with disgust.  He then pushed the papers to the old Jew and said, "Okay, now, you sign the release papers."

"I am afraid that I cannot sign either.  The same law applies to me," the old man said.

"You two are both insane," the commandant said in disgust and retrieved the papers.

"Wait!" said the Rebbe, "I will sign his papers.  Let him go free."

"I do not understand.  You just told me that you cannot write on Shabbos.  Yet, you are willing to sign his papers?  Have you taken total leave of your senses?  Why are his papers different from yours?"

"There is a major difference, " the Rebbe explained,  "I am young and strong.  I can survive here. He, on the other hand, is old and weak.  He will not make it.  Therefore, if he is not prepared to sign, I will sign for him."

The commandant was so impressed by this act of selflessness that he allowed them both to leave without demanding their signatures.

Annoyed by the guy on the phone at Shul?

Tuesday, 21st December 2010


How much does the guy on his phone  in Shul bother you?
It apparently bothered this one person enough to want to make a video of it.
The video, to the tune of ‘Numa Numa’ with Lego people, delivers an important message regarding texting and talking on the phone during davening.

Click the image below to watch the video!

Click here to view video!

Every Little Counts

Monday, 20th December 2010


Elijah Ben Solomon, better known as the Vilna Gaon (April 23, 1720 – October 9, 1797), was the foremost intellectual leader of non-Hasidic Jewry in eighteenth century Europe.  Among Jews, he is often referred to the The Gra—from the Hebrew acronym "Gaon Rabbi Eliyahu."
Towards the end of her life, the wife of the Vilna Gaon made a deal with her righteous friend that whichever of them would die first would come to the other in a dream and tell over what it is like in the World to Come.

After some time, the friend of the Vilna Gaon's wife passed away.  As agreed, after some days her departed soul visited her friend in a dream.

She said as follows : " I am not permitted to tell you what it is like here, but I will tell you one you remember last week when we were out walking together... a woman across the way dropped her bag and all her vegetables fell to the ground and we ran over to help her?
Well you cannot believe the reward I received for just doing that one little mitzva (good deed), greater than anything you can possibly imagine!

But you know what is more? Your reward will be so much greater than mine...because you saw her first and took the first step!"

From here we see a simple but profound message, we cannot imagine the enormous reward for even the smallest of mitzvas (good deeds), and what is more, even the very last detail is accounted for and rewarded in an unimaginable way.

So when we next have the opportunity, don't forget that every little counts.



The Two Horses

Wednesday, 8th December 2010


Just up the road from my home is a field, with two horses in it. From a distance, each horse looks like any other horse.  But if you get a closer look you will notice something quite interesting ... one of the horses is blind.

His owner has chosen not to have him put down, but has made him a safe and comfortable barn to live in. This alone is pretty amazing.  But if you stand nearby and listen, you will hear the sound of a bell. It is coming from a smaller horse in the field.  Attached to the horse's halter is a small, copper-colored bell.  It lets the blind friend know where the other horse is, so he can follow.
As you stand and watch these two friends you'll see that the horse with the bell is always checking on the blind horse, and that the blind horse will listen for the bell and then slowly walk to where the other horse is, trusting he will not be led astray.

When the horse with the bell returns to the shelter of the barn each evening, he will stop occasionally to look back, making sure that the blind friend isn't too far behind to hear the bell.

Like the owners of these two horses, God does not throw us away just because we are not perfect, or because we have problems or challenges.  He watches over us and even brings others into our lives to help us when we are in need.

Sometimes we are the blind horse, requiring guidance from the little ringing bell of those who G-d places in our lives.  And at other times we are the guide horse, and must help others to find their way.

The Broken Flask (A story for Chanukah)

Wednesday, 1st December 2010


Rabbi Paysach Krohn, in his book, "Echoes of the Maggid,", tells a beautiful inspirational story from Rabbi Shabsi Yudelevitz, one of the famous magiddim of Jerusalem.

It is about a poor Rabbi who, a 100 years ago, had to go to Milan, Italy to collect money for his family. When he got off the boat he met a wealthy man. The man was Jewish and invited the Rabbi to spend Shabbos (the Sabbath) with him.

At the meal that night in the wealthy man's mansion, the Rabbi saw a beautiful closet filled with exquisite silverware, crystal bowls, flasks and cups. Then he spotted what seemed to be way out of place in such a display - a broken glass flask, with sharp points of jagged glass jutting out. The wealthy man noticed the Rabbi's look and asked him if everything was all right. When the Rabbi excused his curiosity and asked about the broken flask, the wealthy man was more than happy to tell him the story.

The man was born in Amsterdam and came to Italy at the age of eighteen to help his sick grandfather run his business. Eventually, his grandfather died and his parents wanted him to liquidate the business and return to Amsterdam. The man however was very successful in the business and decided to remain in Italy. He was doing so well that he even opened up a 2nd branch. However, he was so engrossed in the business that one-day he forgot to daven (pray) Mincha (afternoon prayers). The next day even Shacharis (morning prayers) slipped away and one by one he stopped doing Mitzvos (commandments). Eventually he married and had children but he was leading a secular life. Although he remembered that he was Jewish, his practice of Mitzvos was almost nil.

One afternoon, he was walking in the street and saw some children playing. They all seemed to be very happy, but then he heard one of them screaming and crying bitterly.  He kept repeating, "What will I tell my father? What will I tell my father? No one could console him. The wealthy man went to see what the problem was. He found out that the boy came from a poor family and that his father had saved a few precious coins throughout the winter to buy a flask of oil for Chanukah. His father warned him to come straight home with it and not to stop and play with his friends, as the flask may break. The boy didn't listen and sure enough, while he was playing, the flask broke and the oil spilled out.
The man consoled the boy and bought him a bigger flask of oil than he had and he sent the now happy boy straight home with the precious oil.

As the wealthy man was walking home that evening, the little boy's words rang in his ears. "What will I tell my father? What will I tell my father?" And then he thought to himself, indeed, “What will I tell my Father ...  my Father in Heaven - after 120 years?”  He had drifted so far from Judaism that he had forgotten that it is was almost Chanukah.  What excuse would he have when he stood before his Father in Heaven on that final Judgement Day?

The man walked back to where the children were playing and picked up the broken pieces of glass from the flask and took it home with him. That night, to the surprise of his wife and children, he lit a Chanukah candle.
The next night, he lit two, and with each passing night, he increased the amount of candles. He stared at the candles as they flickered and sparkled, remembering his parents' home back in Amsterdam. He had gone far away - maybe too far.
The wealthy man concluded his story, "That Chanukah was the beginning of my return to the observance of mitzvos. Eventually, with the understanding of my wife, we began training our children the way we were brought up. Our road back had started with that broken flask and the words of that boy, 'What will I tell my father?' That is why I keep that flask as a treasured memento of what changed my life."

The Gabbai

Tuesday, 23rd November 2010


The gabbai's ( a lay person who volunteers to perform various duties in the Synagogue) eyes moved rapidly across the familiar faces of the men packed into shul (synagogue) on this sunny Shabbos (Sabbath) morning.
Shloime Kaufman, the gabbai, had been going through this routine for the past twenty years, looking out over the congregation and at his many friends and neighbors a world of warm-hearted people with whom he shared his life. Choosing a few each week for aliyos (being called up for a portion of the Torah reading) was a job that came with its difficulties, but it also gave him the weekly opportunity to count these blessings. This secure, contented world in which he found himself was all the more precious because, by any law of logic or probability, it should never have come into existence.
The world Mr Kaufman had known as a child and young man in Poland had been erased. It had collapsed all around him, snuffing out the lives of his loved ones.  At the time, he had thought that surely the few survivors who managed to emerge from the rubble alive would be left with nothing no yeshivos (colledges), no shuls, no gedolim (Torah sages) to guide them.
And yet, here he was, the grandfather of a beautiful, Torah-observant family, the gabbai of a thriving shul, surrounded by friends and family.  Better to relish the miracle of the present than think too much about the searing pain of the past.
Mr.  Kaufman scanned the rows of men as the Torah was removed from the ark.  His eyes rested upon an unfamiliar face, a man about his own age with a short grey beard. He hadn't seen him in shul before.  He surmised that he must be a guest.  But there was something very familiar about this face.
Suddenly, the man's features and expression jarred loose a powerful flash of recognition in Mr.  Kaufman's mind.  It was Menachem Reiner, his closest childhood friend.  It was Menachem, the boy with whom he had grown up in their small Polish shtetl (village), with whom he had attended yeshivah in Bialystock.  It was Menachem, the young man to whom he had clung, and who had clung to him, as they began their cattle-car journey into the fearsome blackness of Auschwitz .  They had promised each other to stick together, they had given each other courage and hope.  Bearing the numbers the Nazis had tattooed on their arms, they had found in each other the strength to hold onto their humanity and resist becoming only numbers.  They had vowed to help each other survive, both in body and soul.
And they did survive, Boruch Hashem (thank G-d).  But when the war ended, each went his own way, eager to begin anew.  For sanity's sake, they each tucked the past away into a deep, locked box that would be opened only on rare occasions.  Menachem had settled in Israel , and Shloime Kaufman had obtained a visa for America .
Consumed with creating a future and healing the wounds of the past, they had lost touch with each other.  That was forty-two years ago.  Now, with unbelieving eyes and trembling hands, Mr.  Kaufman beheld the unmistakable face of his friend once again. Shlomie decided in his mind: Menachem Reiner would get the sixth aliyah (call up to the Torah).
As the Torah reading began, the gabbai felt as if his heart could not be contained in his chest.  He wanted to leap across the rows of men and fall upon his friend in a mighty embrace.  "This must be how Yosef (Joseph) felt when he finally saw his brother Binyamin (Benjamin)," he thought to himself. "All these years!" Nevertheless, he clamped a tight lid on his emotions and performed his duty, calling up each aliyah with the traditional chant of "Ya'amod (arise)" followed by the honoree's Hebrew name.  By the fifth aliyah, however, beads of sweat were sparkling on his forehead and tears were welling up in his eyes.  He prayed that when the time came to call up number six, his voice would be able to break free of his tight throat.
There was no need to ask Menachem his name because he could never forget Menachem ben (the son of) Yehoshua.  For the first time, he began to wonder how would Menachem react when they came face to face?  It was time to call him up, but Mr. Kaufman could not open his mouth.  There were no words fit for this moment.  All the suffering locked away in that figurative box was now out in the open, laid out before his eyes, and it was too much to bear.
The congregation began murmuring and looking toward Mr. Kaufman, fearing that the pale, trembling man was becoming ill.  A deep cry rose up inside the gabbai a cry to Hashem (G-d) that contained in its broken sound all of His children's cries of anguish. Mr.  Kaufman turned in the direction of his friend and at last found his voice.  "Yaamod, 57200148!" he called.
The baffled men in the shul did not understand what had happened.  What was this number?  What had become of Mr. Kaufman?  But in the back of the room, one man understood completely.  The number was Menachem's number, tattooed on his arm as a lifetime reminder of the darkest period of Jewish history, the epic tragedy of his people which he had witnessed with his own eyes.
The entire shul sat in stony silence as Menachem moved slowly toward the bimah (central table on which the Torah is read). Finally, as they saw him approaching his long-lost brother, they understood the scene that was unfolding in front of them. Menachem needed no introduction.  With tears coursing down his face, he cried out, "Shloimele!  Shloimele!  Is it really you?" "Yes, Menachem, it's really me!"
Mr.  Kaufman answered, embracing his friend.  They wept into each other's shoulders, rocking gently.  "Ay, ay, ay, ay, ay," Mr.  Kaufman breathed.
Words were powerless to carry his chaotic emotions.
The entire shul sat spellbound, witnessing a moment that could have melted a heart made of iron.  As these two men stood together, living witnesses to the Jewish people's miraculous survival, it seemed that the Heavens had opened up to declare, through them, that Hashem would never forsake His people. Am Yisrael Chai!  The Jewish nation is alive, and Torah has been rebuilt in America .

The Funeral

Thursday, 18th November 2010


One day not too long ago the employees of a large company in St. Louis, Missouri returned from their lunch break and were greeted with a sign on the front door. The sign said: "Yesterday the person who has been hindering your growth in this company passed away. We invite you to join the funeral in the room that has been prepared in the gym."

At first everyone was sad to hear that one of their colleagues had died, but after a while they started getting curious about who this person might be.
The excitement grew as the employees arrived at the gym to pay their last respects. Everyone wondered: "Who is this person who was hindering my progress? Well, at least he's no longer here!"

One by one the employees got closer to the coffin and when they looked inside it they suddenly became speechless. They stood over the coffin, shocked and in silence, as if someone had touched the deepest part of their soul.

There was a mirror inside the coffin: everyone who looked inside it could see himself. There was also a sign next to the mirror that said: "There is only one person who is capable to set limits to your growth: it is YOU.

You are the only person who can revolutionize your life. You are the only person who can influence your happiness, your realization and your success. You are the only person who can help yourself.
Your life does not change when your boss changes, when your friends change, when your parents change, when your partner changes, when your company changes. Your life changes when YOU change, when you go beyond your limiting beliefs, when you realize that you are the only one responsible for your life.


Thursday, 11th November 2010


The Jewish nation was blessed to have in its midst the great sage Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman, of blessed memory. His life was one completely dedicated to Torah. He actually left a haven in America in 1939, and journeyed back to Europe so as not to leave his beloved students in times of trouble. Before he was taken prisoner in Kovno, and shot by Lithuanian Police in July 1941, he spoke to some who shared in the horrifying experience. Survivors who were present during those last days shared his holy words.

A man completely ignorant of agriculture came to a farmer requesting to be taught about farming. The farmer showed him his field and asked him "what do you see?" "I see a beautiful piece of land, lush with grass, and pleasing to the eye." Then the visitor stood aghast as he watched the farmer plow the grass under and turn the field into a mass of shallow brown ditches. "Why did you ruin the field!" he demanded. "Be Patient. You will see," said the farmer.

Then the farmer showed his guest a sackful of plump kernels of wheat and said, "tell me what you see." The visitor described the nutritious, inviting grain --- and then, watched in shock as the farmer "ruined" it, walking up and down the furrows dropping kernels of grain into the open ground, and covering them with soil. "Are you insane!" demanded the man. "Be patient. You will see."

After some time the farmer brought the guest out to see the beautiful field lined with straight, green stalks sprouting up from the furrows. "I apologize. Now I understand what you were doing. You've made the field more beautiful than ever. The art of farming is truly marvelous." "No," said the farmer. "We're still not done. You must still be patient." When the stalks were fully grown the farmer came with a sickle and cut them all down while his guest stood open-mouthed as the field became a scene of destruction. The farmer bundled the grain and left it to dry in the field. Later, he gathered the bundles to a place where he beat and crushed them until all of the grains were separated from the straw. Then he piled the grain into a huge hill. The farmer always answered the protests of his guest saying "be patient."

The grain was taken to a mill where it was ground into formless, choking dust. Again the shocked guest was told to be patient. The guest then marveled at the foolishness of making white mud out of the dust and then shaping it into a loaf. After placing the loaf into the oven, the guest asked the farmer, "after all that work will you take it all and burn it?" "Have I not told you to be patient?" asked the farmer. When the loaf was taken out of the oven and the guest was offered a liberally buttered slice, the farmer said "now you understand, my dear friend."

We go through life not understanding the real reasons for the actions of G-d and our trials and tribulations. If only we had the patience to wait a little longer before jumping to conclusions and saying that G-d is cruel to us. We have all experienced difficult times in one way or another and only understood in hindsight why these events occurred and often we can see the conclusion was for the good. G-d has a master plan, sometimes we will see it, but often not.

The blind boy

Wednesday, 3rd November 2010


A blind boy sat on the steps of a building with a hat by his feet. He held up a sign which said: "I am blind, please help." There were only a few coins in the hat.

A man was walking by. He took a few coins from his pocket and dropped them into the hat. He then took the sign, turned it around, and wrote some words. He put the sign back so that everyone who walked by would see the new words.

Soon the hat began to fill up. A lot more people were giving money to the blind boy.   That afternoon the man who had changed the sign came to see how things were.  The boy recognized his footsteps and asked, "Were you the one who changed my sign this morning?   What did you write?"

The man said, "I only wrote the truth. I said what you said but in a different way."   I wrote: "Today is a beautiful day but I cannot see it."

Both signs told people that the boy was blind. But the first sign simply said the boy was blind.  The second sign told people that they were so blessed that they were not blind.  Should we be surprised that the second sign was more effective?

Moral of the Story:
Be thankful for what you have. Be creative. Be innovative. Think differently and positively. When life gives you a 100 reasons to cry, show life that you have 1000 reasons to smile. Face your past without regret. Handle your present with confidence.  Prepare for the future without fear. Keep the faith and drop the fear.  The most beautiful thing is to see a person smiling and even more beautiful, is knowing that you are the reason behind it!!!



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