Category Archives: Mussar

Jonathan Pollard and the Happiness of Freedom

Imagine how Jonathan Pollard felt this Shabbat, leaving jail after a 30-year prison term! How many times during those three long decades did he dream about being a free man: taking a long walk on a beach, meeting a friend in a coffee shop, embarking on a trip with his wife, taking a luxurious bath, praying in a beit knesset?

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Yom Kippur – You’re Doing it Wrong

No days were as festive for Israel as Tu B’Av and Yom Kippur –Tractate Ta’anit.

What is the Mishna trying to tell us? We understand why Tu B’Av, a magical day of love, was considered a happy day. But Yom Kippur? Isn’t that supposed to be the day that we punish our bodies by fasting and reflect on the many awful things we did in the previous year? How does that promote simcha (Jewish joy)?

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Crucial Practice for Post-Rosh HaShana Happiness

One of the number one things most of us will be praying for on Rosh HaShana, the Jewish New Year, is happiness. Jewish joy (simcha) is the nectar that will enable us to have a sweet New Year.

But it’s not as easy as merely requesting happiness from G-d. We have to work hard and partner with G-d to advance spiritually. And the first step is a technique called “cheshbon hanefesh,” or “an accounting of the soul.”

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A Jewish Father’s Important Catchphrase on Father’s Day

My father isn’t particularly religiously observant. But this Father’s Day I am thinking about something he said over and over to my siblings and me during our childhood that has profoundly affected how I practice Judaism and live my life.

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Learning from David Blatt

No first-time NBA coach has been as analyzed and criticized as the Cavaliers’ David Blatt — maybe ever. (Sam Amico)

Writing for Fox Sports Ohio, Sam Amico also notes that a national basketball writer with 30 years of experience said he has never seen another NBA coach so “loathed by the media.” LeBron James, Blatt’s star player, has sometimes also seemed to undermine and openly disagree with his coach.

We can debate why  Blatt, an American-Israeli Jew,  has come under such fire, but I think it’s his response that is actually more important from the perspective of obtaining greater simcha (Jewish joy).

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What is YOUR Chametz?

Pesach (Passover) is coming soon and we Jews are busy searching for and cleaning the chametz (leavened food that is forbidden on Pesach) from our homes. But we must not get so busy searching for the pretzels our kids stuffed behind the couch cushions that we forget to look for the chametz inside of ourselves.

What is this internal chametz? It’s all the detritus – the negative character traits, immoral desires, etc. – that impurify us and hold us back from being the best that we can be.

What is YOUR chametz?

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The Day After Israeli Elections and Pesach

The Israeli election is officially over and some Israelis, American Jews and even the American president seem bitterly disappointed with the result. It’s only natural that after any election there will be some hard feelings and sadness. This is especially true in Israel, where elections seem like life-or-death affairs that will entirely determine the fate of a vulnerable population surrounded by enemies.

So it wasn’t surprising to see name-calling and bitterness on social media following the election results. Although I can understand the disappointment, I think this is a good time for all of us to take some deep breaths and remember that anger is almost never productive for bringing about positive social change or justice.

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Byron Katie’s Secret

Have you ever read the book Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life by Byron Katie? In the book, Katie lays out four questions that she says help people alleviate mental suffering and anguish, improve relationships and truly see reality as it is.

Many people swear by this method of inner inquiry, which Katie calls “The Work.” I find it interesting, though, that an alternate technique that Katie admits renders her method unnecessary is buried at the end of the book.

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A Secret Weapon for Happiness

Bridget Jones’s Diary was a book (and series of movies) about a young British woman who was constantly writing down resolutions in her diary…and then breaking them. I can relate.

I’m almost 40-years-old and since high school I have been writing out pages of resolutions to live by. Sometimes I stick with them longer, other times I break quickly. But eventually procrastination and/or laziness get me every time. This feeling of being undisciplined is poisonous to my self-esteem and I constantly feel like I’m not living up to my potential.

Judaism offers a secret weapon that is CRUCIAL for the search for simcha (Jewish joy)…

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