Monday, September 29, 2008

Why Not!

This morning I was pondering yesterdays post and was reminded of a quote I once heard in the name of John F. Kennedy [the person, not the airport] "Some people look at the past and say "Why"? I look and the future and say "Why not!"

Tomorrow we can turn EVERYTHING around and make a different future for ourselves filled with LIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!

Ksiva Vichasima Tova!!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Looking Forward

"I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past."

Thomas Jefferson

On Rosh Hashana we commemorate the creation of Man. Zeh hayom tchilas maasecha. We don't talk about the sins of the past in our davening because we HAVE NO PAST. Just today we were created. So don't dwell on the mistakes of the previous year but on the great plans for the future. [Rav Yaakov Katz Shlita]

G-d is Father and G-d is King and we will remain completely faithful to the relationship. After we profess our devotion, G-d guarantees that He will reciprocate.


I also want to take this opportunity to thank you for visiting Alleyways and allowing me to share with you some Torah and Ruchniyus.

No More Excuses

Everybody knows the story of Reb Eliezer Ben Durdaya who was involved in unprecedented moral depravity [see Avodah Zara 18]. At the end of the story Reb Eliezer says the words that are the key to self growth "AIN HADAVAR TALUI ELA BE" - It is up to ME. In other words, no more passing the buck, no more excuses! I have to make the change. How many people there are who are waiting for EXTERNAL circumstances to change in order to engage in the Tshuva process.

Don't wait!!!

If not now - when?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Simcha Of Tshuva

"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony."

Rav Kook in his seminal [good word!] work Oros Hatshuva talks about how tshuva MUST bring a person to true happiness. However this can only be achieved when a person is completely sincere in his declaration of remorse. If a person still harbors doubts that maybe his sins aren't so bad after all then he will not be at peace with himself because he will experience the contradiction between what he is saying and what he is feeling.

[P.S. In the chagim section we have many shiurim on the Rambam's hilchos tshuva. Enjoy!]

Love and blessings to all of my sweet friends!!!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Forbidden Speech And Its Remedy

"I never said most of the things I said."

Yogi Berra

How is that possible Yogi??

Teshuva! Even if a person says the dumbest or most inappropriate thing, if he does proper teshuva Hashem wipes his slate clean!!

The power of Teshuva.

The question is, can we be as forgiving as Hashem towards someone who spoke against us?

Love and Blessings!!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Exclusive Interview

How's life?

I'm not alive, I'm dead.

Oh. So how's .... death?



Yes. It has completely changed my perspective.

In what way?

Well, when I was alive, I spent my whole existence in the pursuit of money. Now that I died - no more money. Also, no cellphones, no internet access, no breakfast, no newspaper, no NBA, NFL or even fantasy baseball leagues. I am BORED TO DEATH over here [no pun intended]. All there is, is spirituality. The only guys having fun over here are the ones who were involved in spirituality when they were alive. You know, the learners, the daveners, the "right wingers" who spent their whole lives running after mitzvos. People whom I derided as being fanatics. Now they are basking in G-ds glory. Everybody else is just bored. People who could only relate to physicality when they were on earth are finding the going extremely rough. The regret they feel is searing. The jealousy - excruciating.

So when does it end?

It doesn't. Unless they are lucky enough to get another go-round in the world. But many that do, end up making the same mistakes they made the first time.

Earlier, you made a reference to money. Are you saying that in the world of truth money is meaningless?

No, don't put words in my mouth! Money IS important. As a MEANS, not as an end. When you have money you can give it away. For tzedaka, buying gifts to gladden people, paying yeshiva tuition etc. But too many people blow the importance of money out of proportion. When I was alive people gave me so much honor just because I had money. I thought I was a hot-shot. Over here nobody cares. An angel told me the other day that I should have read what the dollar bill says "In G-d we trust". Instead my whole life was "In the Almighty Dollar I trust".

So how much money did you lose when you died?

About 15 million dollars. Was I stupid! The 15 mil I was able to enjoy for just a few years and now for the rest of eternity I am left with nothing. Just a few haphazardly done mitzvos. Frankly, even when I was alive I didn't really enjoy my money. I couldn't sleep at night. Always worried about fluctuations in the market. It made me so nervous and tense and I would take it out on my wife and kids.

Do you have any message for the living?

Yes! Spend your lives looking to do favors for people. Show everybody you meet respect and love. Be generous with your money. The only investment that really lasts for a significant period of time is tzedaka. Eternity is quite long. Don't leave davening early. Talking to G-d develops a relationship that is so crucial when it really counts. LEARN AS MUCH TORAH AS YOU CAN. And last but not least - when financial times are rough - don't sweat it. G-d is running the show and He knows what is best for us. Maybe, maybe, maybe, it will serve as a spiritual wakeup call for so many who really need it.

Thank you for your time.

No, thank YOU for the opportunity to share some of the insight I have gained with others who still have the chance to fix their lives.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Having Fun Is NOT Everything

I don't think people are bad, just misguided. Let me explain.

Recently a couple I know got married. Another [religious] couple I know [old friends of the Kallah] was invited to the wedding. They inquired as to whether there would be mixed or separate seating. The answer was: Separate. Well, they said [very politely], we are really sorry but we won't really enjoy the simcha if we don't sit together so we are not going to attend.

I am not being critical of this couple. A] It is not my place and B] it makes me feel physically ill when I am critical of people.


But I do want to relate to the ATTITUDE. When a person is invited to a simcha the reason he attends is NOT in order to enjoy himself. You attend a simcha to enhance the joy of the ba'al hasimcha. Having a "good time" is IRRELEVANT. That doesn't mean that one SHOULDN'T have a good time. It just means that the goal is the other persons gratification and not yours. Having a good time is a by-product. If one prefers to sit with his/her spouse, that is LOVELY. It is great if you enjoy the company of your spouse. But to refrain from fulfilling the super-duper mitzva of adding to the joy of a fellow Jew because it won't be so much fun???? That comes from an attitude that I can only deem - self-centered.

That is Western Culture. I, I, I, I. How does that make ME feel? How will this decision affect ME? This is a topic that requires not a post but a book so I am just presenting the tip of the iceberg. There are countless examples: Interrupting a conversation to answer a cell phone, cutting lines, being noisy in residential neighborhoods at night, not returning phone calls, pushing someone when walking by, ignoring traffic laws, not paying back loans on time etc. times ten million.

The way to relate to another person is simply as follows: Pretend that you were the other person and act accordingly. Everybody knows it but how many fulfill it????

I think many people won't understand what I am talking about because in order to fully grasp it one must spend years studying mussar sefarim, but I tried.

One note: The writer of these lines makes no claims of perfection in this [or any] area. I am light years away from the Torah ideal. You are probably much much greater than I [me? I am also lousy at grammar as you have probably noticed]. I am not saying that in order to sound modest but because it is the truth. But maybe there is ONE person out there who will become SLIGHTLY better due to these words.

That alone will be the greatest reward I can ask for.

By the way, I went and had an AWESOME time and even had the most personal and meaningful conversation with a complete stranger that I have ever had in my life. And my wife enjoyed herself on the other side of the mechitza.

Love and blessings!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Don't Push It Off!

In light of the previous post it is worthwhile reviewing a halacha related to asher yatzar. How long does one have to say it after relieving oneself?

Well, that depends on your origin. If you are Ashkenazi then it SHOULD be recited immediately but you still have up until the next time you feel the need to "go" to make the bracha.

Sefardim should also say it immediately but have only up until a half hour [and some say 72 minutes]. After that - too late.

Chassidus teaches that "It's never too late" - but that is talking about teshuva and not brachos.

Love and blessings!!

Not A Laughing Matter

Kenneth M.Prager, M.D.
Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, New York

When I was an elementary school student in yeshiva - a Jewish parochial school with both religious and secular studies - my classmates and I used to find amusing a sign that was posted just outside the bathroom. It was an ancient Jewish blessing, commonly referred to as the asher yatzar benediction, that was supposed to be recited after one relieved oneself. For grade school children, there could be nothing more strange or ridiculous than to link to acts of urination and defecation with holy words that mentioned God's name. Blessings were reserved for prayers, for holy days, or for thanking God for food or for some act of deliverance, but surely not for a bodily function that evoked smirks and giggles.

It took me several decades to realize the wisdom that lay behind this blessing that was composed by Abayei, a fourth-century Babylonian rabbi.

Abayei's blessing is contained in the Talmud, an encyclopedic work of Jewish law and lore that was written over the first five centuries of the common era. The Jewish religion is chock-full of these blessings, or brachot, as they are called in Hebrew. In fact, an entire tractate of Talmud, 128 pages in length, is devoted to brachot.

On page 120 (Brachot 60b) of the ancient text it is written: "Abayei said, when one comes out of a privy he should say: Blessed is He who has formed man in wisdom and created in him many orifices and many cavities. It is obvious and known before Your throne of glory that if one of them were to be ruptured or one of them blocked, it would be impossible for a man to survive and stand before You. Blessed are You that heals all flesh and does wonders."

An observant Jew is supposed to recite this blessing in Hebrew after each visit to the bathroom. We young yeshiva students were reminded of our obligation to recite this prayer by the signs that contained its text that were posted just outside the restroom doors.

It is one thing, however, to post these signs and it is quite another to realistically expect preadolescents to have the maturity to realize the wisdom of and need for reciting a 1600-year-old blessing related to bodily functions.

It was not until my second year of medical school that I first began to understand the appropriateness of this short prayer. Pathophysiology brought home to me the terrible consequences of even minor aberrations in the structure and function of the human body, At the very least, I began to no longer take for granted the normalcy of my trips to the bathroom. Instead, I started to realize how many things had to operate just right for these minor interruptions of my daily routine to run smoothly.

I thought of Abayei and his blessing. I recalled my days at yeshiva and remembered how silly that sign outside the bathroom had seemed. But after seeing patients whose lives revolved around their dialysis machines, and others with colostomies and urinary catheters, I realized how wise the rabbi had been.

And then it happened: I began to recite Abayei's bracha. At first I had to go back to my siddur, the Jewish prayer book, to get the text right. With repetition - and there were many opportunities for a novice to get to know this blessing well - I could recite it fluently and with sincerity and understanding.

Over the years, reciting the asher yatzar has become for me and opportunity to offer thanks not just for the proper functioning of my excretory organs, but for my overall good health. The text, after all, refers to catastrophic consequences of the rupture or obstruction of any bodily structure, not only those of the urinary or gastrointestinal tract. Could Abayei, for example, have foreseen that "blockage" of the "cavity," or lumen, of the coronary artery would lead to the commonest cause of death in industrialized countries some 16 centuries later?

I have often wondered if other people also yearn for some way to express gratitude for their good health. Physicians especially, who are exposed daily to the ravages that illness can wreak, must sometimes feel the need to express thanks for being well and thus well-being. Perhaps a generic, nondenominational asher yatzar could be composed for those who want to verbalize their gratitude for being blessed with good health.

There was one unforgettable patient whose story reinforced the truth and beauty of the asher yatzar for me forever. Josh was a 20-year-old student who sustained an unstable fracture of his third and fourth cervical vertebrae in a motor vehicle crash. He nearly died from his injury and required emergency intubation and ventilatory support. He was initially totally quadriplegic but for weak flexion of his right biceps.

A long and difficult period of stabilization and rehabilitation followed. There were promising signs of neurological recovery over the first few months that came suddenly and unexpectedly: movement of a finger here, flexion of a toe there, return of sensation here, adduction of a muscle group there. With incredible courage, hard work, and an excellent physical therapist, Josh improved day by day. In time, and after what seemed like a miracle, he was able to walk slowly with a leg brace and a cane.

But Josh continued to require intermittent catheterization. I know only too well the problems and perils this young man would face for the rest of his life because of a neurogenic bladder. The urologists were very pessimistic about his chances for not requiring catheterization. They had not seen this occur after a spinal cord injury of this severity.

Then the impossible happened. I was there the day Josh no longer required a urinary catheter. I thought of Abayei's asher yatzar prayer. Pointing out that I could not imagine a more meaningful scenario for its recitation, I suggested to Josh, who was also a yeshiva graduate, that he say the prayer. He agreed. As he recited the ancient bracha, tears welled in my eyes.

Josh is my son.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Self Forgiveness

"When a person does tshuva out of a feeling of love for Hashem ["tshuva may'ahava"], he must forgive himself for his sins, just as one would appease a friend whom he insulted in order to receive forgiveness. After he is clean of sin in his own eyes, the holy celestial forces work on this person and all of his sins are transformed into merits."

Rav Kook

Many people have trouble forgiving others. They are filled with anger and bitterness against the world. These people suffer a great deal because very often they cannot forgive themselves either. Once a person achieves the capacity to forgive he can forgive the world - and himself. A person who lacks this capacity is miserable, for the world is evil - and so is he.

But let us not forget: Before forgiving oneself, a pure absolute tshuva is critical.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


Shalom sweetest friends!!!!

My computer was hijacked [sort of].

That is why I haven't posted recently. Hopefully it will soon be recovered.

Love and blessings to all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Powered by WebAds
Segula - 40 days at the Kotel

About me

  • I'm Rabbi Ally Ehrman
  • From Old City Jerusalem, Israel
  • I am a Rebbe in Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh.
My profile