Saturday, September 26, 2015

Taking Refuge in a Sukkah of Faith

Dear Friends,

This Sunday night, September 27th, begins the festival of Sukkot.

Please click on the title for an article relating to the holiday:

Taking Refuge in a Sukkah of Faith

There will be no post next week.

Have a Chag Sameach (Happy Holiday),


Saturday, September 19, 2015

Repairing Our Mistakes: How to Ask for Forgiveness

Dear Friends,

This Tuesday night, the 22nd of September, begins Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
In order to atone for sins between us and our fellow, we have to apologize and make amends, when applicable.

The article below is a quick guide to asking for forgiveness.

Have a Gmar Chatima Tova, may God inscribe us in the Book of Life,


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The 8 Item Repentance Checklist

The purpose of this checklist is to focus your attention to areas you may want to improve. Look over this list and choose one area you are motivated to address. Just focus on that area and once you have strengthened it, check it off and choose another one. Many of these areas contain multiple levels of fulfillment and are discussed in greater detail in my other articles.

Between us and our fellow:

1. Don’t harm emotionally. Do I do my best not to hurt people emotionally or cause them distress in any way? (For example, family members, employees etc.)

Ways I may have harmed others include: Being hyper critical, shaming them, calling them names, making hurtful comments, ignoring them or speaking negatively about them. (If anyone comes to mind who you have emotionally harmed, ask them for forgiveness.)

2. Don’t harm financially. Do I do my best not to hurt people financially?

Ways I may have harmed others financially include: Being late in agreed upon payments, withholding monies belonging to others, not keeping my word or taking advantage of people. (If anyone comes to mind who you have financially harmed, make amends and ask for forgiveness).

3. Do acts of kindness. Do I give generously to charity, according to my means? At least weekly, do I spend time helping others?

(Be on the lookout for opportunities to be of assistance to others, e.g., giving emotional or material support, advice, or helping someone find a job, a spouse or a needed resource.)

Between us and God:

4. Show proper reverence for the sanctuary. Do I show proper respect for the sanctuary by not talking to others during the prayer service and by not leaving the service when the stirring words from the Prophets are being read (during the Haftorah)?

5. Pray formally and informally. Do I recite daily at least one prayer with intention? Do I connect with God during the day, thanking Him for what goes right and asking for His help with challenges?

6. Study Torah. Do I set aside time on a regular basis to study God’s Torah?

7. Avoid spiritual pollution. Do I do my best to stay away from temptation and spiritual pollution?

For example, as best I can, do I stay away from morally loose environments and am I discriminating in what I read, watch and listen to, avoiding that which harms me spiritually?
(Strongly consider an internet filter; is one possibility available for free.)

8. Observe the commandments. Do I do my best to observe the commandments?

For example, observing Shabbat and the festivals, keeping kosher, the laws of Family Purity, yichud (forbidden seclusion), negiah (forbidden touch) etc. (If not, you can focus on a particular commandment you are motivated to strengthen your observance of.)

This High Holiday season, which area do you choose to strengthen?

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Saturday, September 12, 2015

Tishrei: Torah Study

Dear Friends,

This post is about the Jewish month of Tishrei, as it relates to The Chazak Plan: A 12 Month Journey to Spiritual Strength.

Rosh Chodesh Tishrei, Rosh Hashanah, begins Sunday night, the 13th of September, and lasts for two days.

Until after Yom Kippur, the focus on repentance continues. Choose an area of your life to repair or upgrade and add it to your daily checklist.

After Yom Kippur, the focus switches to the festivals of Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. On Simchat Torah, we celebrate the completion of the yearly cycle of the Five Books of Moses and begin a new cycle with the book of Genesis. Now is a great time to join this annual study of the Bible. There is tremendous spiritual power in learning the same portion studied by millions of Jews around the world. Next Simchat Torah, when you finish the Bible, your celebration of the holiday will be even more meaningful.

Spend time each week learning the weekly Torah portion – there are many excellent articles, translations and commentaries available. (Two worth looking into, among other good choices, is The Stone Edition Chumash and The Gutnick Edition Chumash.) Preferably, each day, study 1/7th of the weekly portion (also known as an aliya) or study the whole portion on Shabbat.

If possible, study at least weekly with a partner, either the Bible or a different area of the Torah. To find a partner, you can contact your local synagogue or kollel, or go to, who will pair you with a partner free of charge.

Torah study nourishes the soul as food nourishes the body. Study Torah every day of your life – even if only for a few minutes, e.g., reading a few pages from a book, an article, or listening to a class during your commute or while exercising. Preferably, have a set inviolate time for Torah study. Input into your checklist what and when you plan to study.

The two most important areas of Torah to study are (A) teachings which inspire you and (B) Jewish law – so you know how to act.

Questions for the month:

“Which behavioral change will I incorporate into my life?”

“Which translation or commentary on the Bible will I use for the upcoming annual cycle?”

“What area of Torah am I currently most drawn to? Who can I study it with, or from which resources?"

Have a Shana Tova, 


Saturday, September 5, 2015

You: As God Intended AND New Transformative Question

Dear Friends,

This article is about Rosh Hashanah and how the holiday elicits the question, “Am I living my life as God intended when He created me?”

You:As God Intended

This week I added a new question to the article, What’s the Point of It All? The Power of Transformative Questions.

Here's the new question:

Am I a giver or a taker? 

To determine which one you are, ask yourself the following questions, “Am I more focused on what I can do for others or on what others can do for me? When the needs of others clash with my wants, to whom do I give priority? Am I willing to inconvenience myself to help someone out?”

Ethics of the Fathers teaches us to look out for ourselves (1:14), “If I am not for myself, who [will be] for me?” But once our needs are met, our focus has to shift toward helping others as the above teaching continues, “And if I am [only] for myself, what am I?”

Big egos can lead to people being self-centered and selfish. They think, “OK, so I'm inconveniencing others, but I want it my way.” Or, “OK, so I could help someone out, but why should I spend my time or money helping them?” When we are humble, we realize that we are no greater than anyone else; in God’s eyes, the needs of others are just as important. In addition, with humility, we realize that without our Creator we would have nothing and be nothing. We are more than happy to share the blessings He gives us to fulfill His commandment to help His other children.

We have a natural tendency to focus on ourselves; the way to focus on others is to consider them part of ourselves. On a deep level, we are all one, creations of God. When we view others as an extension of ourselves, then when they are lacking, we are lacking; when we help them, we help ourselves.

Have a great week,


Saturday, August 29, 2015

How to Unlock the Hidden Power of Prayer

Dear Friends,

During the High Holidays, we spend a lot of time immersed in prayer.
This article discusses three keys to enhancing our prayers. It also discusses hitbodedut, both the commonly practiced form as well as silent hitbodedut.

Have a great week,


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Is Your Commitment to Judaism Strong Enough?

Dear Friends,

Continuing the theme of introspection before the High Holidays, here is a choice between two articles. 

This one gives 8 strategies to help us strengthen our commitment to Judaism. It has been updated and now includes diagnostic questions.

Have a great week,