Heaven Help Me!

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I'm beginning to notice a new trend. After Shabbat, my stomach is on full display, sticking out like nobody's business. All week, I'm pretty good about not eating chewy, fluffy, soft, heavenly challah and desserts that explode with chocolate. But on Shabbat, something happens to me and I just. Can't. Resist. I'm at the challah's mercy, and no amount of inner war with myself is able to keep me from devouring these goodies.

Even cleaning up after the Shabbat meals is so difficult for me! I see half-eaten pieces of dessert strewn across the table, and even the saliva that one of my kids or guests left on them is not gross enough to keep me from wanting to eat them. At that point, I realize I'm in great danger, so I start to pray: "Hashem! Please help me to guard my eyes and not desire the dark, rich, moist chocolate cake! Hashem, have mercy on my wretched soul! What match am I against my Evil Inclination, who would like nothing more than to see me succumb to my desires and stuff my face with chocolate cake until I can't breathe?? Heaven help me!" 

As I shove the germ-infested pieces of chocolate cookies into my mouth in bitter defeat, I try to rationalize that there's always tomorrow, and I can start over again. That's great and all, but it doesn't help me fit into my workout clothes for the next three days. By the end of the week, I'm back to square one and ready to start my once-a-week war with my Yetzer. It's pure torture, I tell you! 

Why didn't Hashem answer my desperate call for help? After all, I did pray a very genuine and meaningful personal prayer from the depths of my tortured soul. Where was Hashem when I needed Him?

Ah, but of course! Rav Shalom Arush has the answer to my question! You see, it's not enough to pray once in a while to overcome your base desires, especially when you know you are a slave to them. You can't go from acting Like a Wild Donkey to behaving like a civilized human who is not controlled by every physical whim, just by praying a bit here and there. Nonsense! So how much time and effort should one invest if he's serious about overcoming his personal lusts? Well, you're gonna have to read the article, silly! As a matter of fact, maybe I should, too. I've got to finally approach Shabbat armed and ready for battle. 

As all of these feelings of imaginary hunger welled up inside of me as a result of reminiscing about my Shabbat sweets, I decided to channel all of that potential energy into eating a half a cold basil pesto chicken. Literally, I just ate half a chicken. With one hand. Because I didn't want to get the other hand dirty while typing. Subconsciously, I didn't want to fully give in to the chicken, so eating with one hand was a way of kind of resisting the fact that I was eating. Half a chicken. Also, I wanted to believe that there are half the calories since I only ate with one hand. 

Speaking of halves (it's not "halfs," right?) Rav Lazer Brody writes about the mitzvah of giving half a shekel on Rosh Chodesh Adar, which is just around the corner! Yesh! I'm already shopping around for Purim costumes for myself. And the kids. But before we get that far, Rav Brody explains to us the spiritual meaning behind the concept of giving half a shekel, by using the make-you-weak-in-the-knees example of The Duet.  Seriously, I think he could have made a fortune writing romance novels. What do I mean? You'll have to read the article to know what I'm talking about! 

You know, the concept of half applies to marriage, too. A man is considered half a man before he's married. Like I tell David all the time, "You're only half a man without me, because I'm the other half." Speaking of romantic marriages, you don't want to miss my story about the most romantic honeymoon ever in the history of honeymoons. I'm talking about my honeymoon, in fact, and I'm being completely sarcastic. Actually, our honeymoon was the first time my husband saw the Iraqi Eyes come out. That sounds exotic and all, but it's really quite scary. Believe me, you've got to read this one! And I'm not saying that just because I wrote it. Promise!

Okay, this next article is one that I can totally not relate to, because Dr. Zev Ballen, our amazing Emuna Therapist, talks about a person's selfish streak. Believe me, hubby has a streak big enough for the both of us. Does that mean I have half a streak? I guess. Anyhow, Dr. Ballen explains that there is a way to overcome The Selfish Streak, and it's not as difficult as you might think! Well, his way isn't as difficult as my way. My way can be summed up in one word: marriage. I'm going to forward this article to David asap. 

OMG I can't believe that this concept of half is popping up again. But this time, it's not in a good way. Rebbetzin Yehudit Channen, our other incredible Emuna Therapist, describes the excruciatingly painful time in her life when her sister, Rivka, suddenly became a paraplegic at age 45. Overnight, she went from being an active, vivacious woman to being stuck in a wheelchair without having any feeling from the waist down. How does one spiritually recover and even grow from such an impossible situation? You'll have to read Yehudit's life-changing insights in Lean on Me. 

After reading Jennifer Woodward's latest article, I'm so relieved that I'm not the only stubborn one around here. Okay, she doesn't live here, in Israel; she lives in the Pacific Northwest, which is almost like Israel, except for the 8 feet snow that can fall in 36 hours. She learned the hard way that doing things the hard way isn't always the best way, and finally came to the conclusion that there is a weird connection between Ice Spikes and emuna. Go figure. What are ice spikes? Great question! Read the article.

As I'm wondering how to cancel out all that chicken I just ate, Lori Steiner comes along and tells me how to Neutralize It!  So maybe she wasn't referring to the chicken, as how can she write about me eating something like two weeks before I eat it, right? But seriously, she gives us awesome tips that will help us turn around any negative situation. Thanks, Lori! Now can you work on the same concept with food? But without actually having to not eat the food? What does that even mean?

I'm so tired I can't see straight. Hinda Lieberman also couldn't see straight, but not because she was tired. It's because her glasses were broken. As exciting as that sounds, the really amazing thing is how she figured out a misunderstanding that had gone on for six months, during which she assumed the other guy was wrong. How did she finally manage to remember what really happened six months before? I can't even remember what happened yesterday! It was during her Personal Prayer session, of course! We can all learn from her example that personal prayer helps with everything - even unsettled accounts! 

Wishing you a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious week! Of course I didn't actually write that word!

~Racheli


Who Did What in Washington?

Shavua Tov, blessings for a wonderful new week!

First of all, I'm happy to report that I arrived home safely to my beloved homeland this past Thursday night.

When our speaking tour in LA, Houston and Monsey, New York was concluded, Rav Arush continued on to Latin America with my Spanish-speaking colleague, Rabbi Yonatan Gal'ed. I boarded the Amtrac from NYC to DC, looking forward to visiting my 90-year-old Mom, may Hashem bless her, and spending some two days of cherished chill-time with my two brothers in the DC area. Hashem had different plans. As soon as I arrived in DC, I took a cab to Mom's apartment in an assisted-living facility on Connecticut Avenue. I found her choking for breath; she was suffering from pneumonia and congestive heart failure. She had to be rushed to the hospital. For 48 hours, things were touch and go but with Hashem's mercy, she bounced back.

When I wasn't with Mom in the hospital, I was spending as much time as I could out in the woods by the Northwest Branch of the Potomac, near where my brother ZZ lives. When I came back to his house after my personal prayer session (yes - Hashem is in the Washington, DC area too), we went to Mincha prayers at his synagogue. One man greeted me and said, "Hey, Rabbi Lazer - you arrived here the same day that Bibi did! Do you plan to go the White House too?"

"To tell you the truth," I said, "my only reason to go the White House would be to give Donald Trump a copy of The Garden of Emuna and The Trail to Tranquility. Other than that, Hashem has a fantastic office out on the Northeast Brach trail - I just went there to visit Him. Beats the White House anytime." The man who greeted me walked away. He looked at me as if I had nerve talking about emuna in a synagogue...

It turns out that at the same time I was talking to Hashem in the woods right outside Washington, DC, Bibi was talking to Trump in the White House. Bibi should have joined me in the woods.

Why?

When you speak to Hashem, you get results. Maybe your request isn't fulfilled on the spot, but you right away get closer to Hashem, something that's conducive to every blessing in life.

When you speak to flesh and blood, you never know what you're getting. Already, people are baffled by President Trump's confusing positions where he seems to be backing down from campaign promises. But Trump doesn't run the world - Hashem does. Rather than putting trust in him, Israel should put its entire trust in Hashem, for whatever Hashem decides, that's what will be.

Next time Bibi comes to Washington, he should include this place in his itinerary - for results, it beats the White House:


Keep Moving Forward

Coconut rice & vegetables

Mmmm, mmmm! Doesn't that look just delicious? Here's another one of my friend Tena's healthy and delicious creations. It's coconut rice and mixed vegetables. I'm so frustrated that I can't eat it right now. Tena, will you please reconsider moving in with me? I'll even let you put my kids to bed and spend 1-on-5 quality time with them while I'm out enjoying my peace and quiet. At least think about it. 

If you want this recipe, email me at racheli@breslev.co.il and I'll send it to you!

What does this picture have to do with the title of this post? Well, nothing, really. I didn't want to put a picture of a guy on a moving walkway, and I'm hungry, so I thought I could at least enjoy looking at yummy food if I can't eat it right now. But now I realized that I actually made things worse for myself. Great, my stomach is grumbling.

So let's talk about this title. What does it mean to move forward in life? It means that you're evolving in your personality and abilities. For example: I was realizing lately that I have greatly improved my Zumba skills, to the point where I'm not tripping over myself and bumping into other people. Okay, so I'm not really bad at all, but I have seen a great improvement. My sister calls me the JLo of Beit Shemesh. I kinda like that! 

As it happens, I love to lift weights as well. I've gotten to be friendly with many of the women in the gym, but I've noticed over the past 8 months that many of them stay at the same level they were on when I joined. In 8 months, I've increased the amount of weights I'm lifting several times. It's very motivating to see myself getting stronger.

But I wonder why some of the others stay at the same level of weights. I actually told one woman that she could clearly lift heavier weights, but she refused to even try, saying it was too hard. 

Unfortunately, this is how many of us behave in life. Hashem is trying to push us to the next level, but how many times do we refuse to budge because we think it will be too hard? Fear of the unknown and fear of failure can be completely incapacitating, and can cause us to freeze in our forward progression in life.

That's why emuna is so key. When we learn to trust Hashem, to believe that we can handle the situations He's trying to put us in for our own personal growth, this is when we are able to move forward. 

What about when things aren't clear? When we're not sure if the direction we're being pushed in is actually what Hashem wants for us? The only way to know is to talk to Hashem about it. Tell Him you're confused and you need clarity, so you can make the right decision. 

We all have so much untapped potential hiding inside of us; things that we can do that we never imagined were possible. Do you not know what your hidden talents are? Do you want to develop the talents that you're already aware of? Then ask Hashem for help! 

I really believe that everyone has a certain gift that Hashem gave them. Whether it's art, music, helping others, cooking, being empathetic, etc., each one of you has a special and brilliant diamond inside that's just waiting to sparkle. Your potential is so much greater than what you're aware of. You just have to ask Hashem to help you reveal it.

Wishing you a wonderful and insightful Shabbat!

~Racheli


The Countdown Begins

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Yesh! That's Hebrew for "Yes!" Tomorrow, David will be home! I don't know why I'm so excited, because it just means more laundry, more mess, more cooking, more dishes, OMG I just realized I went through the same feelings last time he came back from his trip. Does that mean I have conflicting feelings about my husband? I'd better speak with Rebbetzin Channen, our Emuna Therapist, about this.

Today, he had 25 minutes to run into a store and buy a "few" things, since predictably he went over the weight limit. I told him not to order so much stuff, but he didn't listen! Okay, you know I'm being completely sarcastic, right? In my defense, it's hard to remember what I ordered, and to figure out if it's all gonna fit in one suitcase. Since he had another 50 pounds of space, he did a power shopping run at one of the discount stores, 'cause that's how we roll. 

I wanted a new pair of slippers, so he starts sending me pictures of slippers. Then, I started to wonder where I can make myself a T-shirt that says: "My husband traveled the world with Rav Arush and all I got were these lousy slippers." Wait. That wouldn't make sense. I can't talk about slippers on my T-shirt. Can I put a caption like that on my new slippers? You see what happens to my brain when it's overtired? It don't think straight.

Check this out:

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And this:

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That is so not cool. Why is he sending me pictures of these things? More importantly, why don't we have them in Israel? Isn't it so weird that there are more and better kosher options outside of Israel than in Israel? It's the Yetzer, man! The Yetzer, I tell you!

I'd better get some rest so I can be ready to tackle the  extra 100 pounds of dirty laundry I'm going to have to do this week.

Yipee. 

My thinking is cloudy, and I'm trying to figure out an emuna angle to all this. Yesh! Here it is. It's been a long almost-two weeks. Thank G-d things were normal with the kids. By normal, I mean the usual amount of screaming, fighting, crying, and refusing to brush teeth and get into and out of bed. But throughout the times when my husband travels, it's comforting to know that one day the trip will be over, and life will go back to its regular routine, G-d willing.

Many of us suffer through very long periods of extremely challenging and difficult times. These days, no one has it easy. But with emuna, we can help relieve a lot of the negative feelings we have about going through such trying experiences. One day, the tough times will pass, and Hashem will show us how much we have accomplished and how much we have grown and learned, especially from the challenges.

Let's make an effort to really internalize this message, because the alternative isn't that great, right? In life, we basically have two choices: to suffer by believing that everything is random and without a purpose, or to believe that everything is orchestrated by God for reasons we can't possibly understand. Isn't the second one so much better?

I'd love to hear your stories of how you have grown through difficult times and have seen in the end that what you went through was the best thing for you. You can write in a comment, or email me at racheli@breslev.co.il

Have a wonderful day!

~Racheli 

 


My Medicine Cabinet

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Okay, so it's not really "medicine" and I don't keep it all in a cabinet. I wanted to share these little helping healers because I don't believe in suffering unnecessarily. Hashem gave us plenty of tools to help us not only alleviate our suffering, but to speed up the healing process. There's no reason we need to be martyrs. Unless, of course, you enjoy suffering because you're a masochist. 

Obviously I'm not referring to western medicines, which don't do much to speed up the healing process, unless that healing process includes breaking down the body's defenses... in the process. Think antibiotics.

I'm going to have to rant a bit, so bear with me. Yes, antibiotics are a wonderful discovery. They can absolutely be lifesaving. But where is the logic of putting an atom bomb in the body to kill off all of the good bacteria, which is plays such a primary role in eating up and fighting off the bad bacteria? So they all get killed together, and there are few survivors left.

Do you know what happens then? The body's landscape becomes like an abandoned Beverly Hills mansion. It's almost completely defenseless against illegal immigrant invaders and squatters that want to loot and claim it as their territory. As a result, the body becomes more susceptible to illness, and the vicious cycle continues. So why are antibiotics so over-prescribed these days? Why aren't doctors helping people strengthen their immune systems, so their bodies can fight off the infection or virus themselves? Why not give the body a chance to do one of the trillions of amazing functions that Hashem created it to do? 

Well, I know the reason, but I'm not telling you yet, just because I want you to really think about it. When you come up with a good reason, send me a comment and we'll talk about it further. 

The first thing we need to do is create a strong foundation that will support good health. I've been talking a lot about this lately, and the bottom line is: a healthy diet and exercise = a healthy body. A healthy diet means mostly vegetables and fruits, complex carbs, healthy fats like coconut oil and olive oil, and minimal animal protein and processed foods. 

Since we can't avoid ever getting sick again, it's a good idea to have a few important items in your home for when you need them. I'm going to give you a quick rundown, and I encourage you to find out more about each of these things on your own. 

1) Bentonite Clay- made from aged volcanic ash, this clay is a powerful detoxifier. Mine is a gray powder, and I mix about half a teaspoon in with a cup of water. When wet, the clay swells up like a porous sponge and becomes negatively charged. Most toxins and heavy metals have positively charged molecules. The clay sweeps through the digestive system and soaks up all of the garbage like a giant industrial-sized wet-vac. I use it when I feel nauseous, and it's perfect to help you get rid of food poisoning. You'll start to feel better within minutes! Here's a great list of how it works and other ways you can use it. Also, it's excellent at stopping diarrhea, but not necessarily from stomach viruses. That's our next little guy in line.

2) Kyolic Garlic Extract- This is an aged garlic extract that has undergone some kind of process that I don't understand which removes the irritating and strong-smelling nature of garlic. It also supercharges the garlic's healing properties. It is well-known to suppress an enzyme in the liver that creates cholesterol, therefore helping to lower LDL cholesterol. Aside from being an excellent supplement for cardiovascular health, it's also great for helping to cure gastroenteritis, or stomach viruses. You take a tablespoon in some water about three times a day. I've taken it, and I can tell you that the flavor is very mild. Definitely read up more on this one! 

3) Arnica - This is an absolute must for anyone with kids in the house, or anyone who's klutzy, or both. It's excellent for relieving bruising, especially if you put it on immediately after your kid bangs his knee into the table for the 30th time. I've read that it's also good for pain relief for muscles and joints, but since I haven't used it for that, I can't say for sure that it works. However, if you have used it for pain relief, please let the rest of us know!

4) Vitamin D3- This is arguably the most powerful immune-boosting vitamin. It's especially important in the winter, when we're not exposed to direct sunlight. Unless you live in Miami like I used to. In that case, you're exposed to direct sunlight 359 days of the year. For the rest of us that turn into ghosts from October through March, vitamin D3 is super crucial to have. It's not only good for your bones and your immune system. It's also been touted as one of the top anti-cancer vitamins. Two things: first, you need to take it with a fat, as Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. Second, you can take lots more than the RDA, which is only 400 IU's. I've seen many say that it's just too low, and you can take even 10 times that amount without experiencing any toxicity. If you're afraid to do that, stick with at least 1,000 IU's a day. You can give it to your kids, especially the little ones that get their daily infestation fix from preschool.

5) Oregano Supreme- Over the years, I've tried every type of herbal and homeopathic formula to help me get over a cold faster. But nothing works as well for me as this brand. I take three pills, twice a day when I start to experience symptoms, and within two days, my symptoms are not only lessened, but mostly gone! However, I would suggest you continue to take them for another two days minimum after your symptoms disappear. Just last week I felt myself getting a potentially bad cold, and I took these little babies, and within hours, I started to feel better. When my symptoms started to get worse again, I took another round. 

6) Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey Whiskey- Okay, so it's not really a medicine per se, but why not put it on this list? Doesn't whiskey have some antibacterial properties or something? And for sure it has pain-relieving properties. So I'm leaving it on this list. Not to mention that the honey flavor tastes awesome! I put half a shot in my hot apple cider, and oh, boy, talk about goooood!  

If you have anything you'd like to add, please share it with the rest of us. Inquiring minds want to know! 

Have a wonderful, virus-free day!

~Racheli


Momzilla!

Chanukiah

That's a pretty interesting chanukiah, isn't it? (The kids and) I made it for our school's chanukiah building contest. This project taught me a lot about myself; namely, that I HATE school projects. I imagine I'm not the only one. Did I mention that I found three new gray hairs on my head this week? I just knew it was going to happen! Oy, the stress of dealing with five wild boys all by my weak little self while hubby is away saving the world. Okay, y'all know that I'm not weak. In fact, I'm actually a 100-foot tall, fire-breathing monster. With horns. It's true! 

The truth is that it's always stressful dealing with my kids, whether or not David is here. Because really, even when he's here, he's not really here, because he's at work. So basically the only difference between him being here or out of town is twofold: one, I can't yell at him to help me get the kids ready in the mornings, and two, I can't yell at him to come home and spend quality time with the kids, which is really secret code for "get them off my hands and help me get them to bed already!"

What does all this stress have to do with the picture? Well, that picture caused me a lot of stress. Like a whole bucket o' stress. Costco sized, yo. In a two-pack. But instead of being hard on myself for realizing that I am really a Momzilla in disguise, I've decided to congratulate myself on a job well done. Because if I don't congratulate myself, ain't no one else gonna be congratulating me!  

If you're a parent, you don't want to miss my latest article. If anything, it will give you great comfort to know that as messed up as you may be, you're in good company! Believe me, I ain't no tzaddekess (righteous woman!) 

Speaking of stress, Rav Shalom Arush explains that stressing over making money isn't just pointless; it's also counter-productive. Most of us are familiar with that famous Talmudic phrase, "Mo' money, mo' problems." Well, it's true, especially for those that think they can outsmart Hashem by working on Shabbat. Did you know that making money, observing Shabbat, and enjoying a long, happy life can actually co-exist? Fo' rizzle! If you want The Secret to Longevity, then you've got to read the article! 

You know what else is stressful? An angry wife. Shocking, right? Well, Rav Brody just reminded me that we're exactly in the middle of the Shovavim period, a time of six weeks between Parashat Shemot and Parashat Mishpatim. It's a time that is auspicious for improving personal holiness. What do angry wives and personal holiness have in common? Well, the truth is they shouldn't have anything in common! If a husband is doing his best to guard his eyes and keep personal holiness, unless he's just impossible to be around, or he's completely unhelpful around the house, or he can't figure out how to put the toilet seat down, he may actually have very little to make her angry about. But, if hubby is walking around and ogling every woman he passes, his wife is going to pick up on the vibe that she's not the only women he's checking out - and that leads to Angry Wife Syndrome.

But I promise that this is not just a theory. It's spiritual scientific fact! Rav Brody shows you how The Point System works, so you guys won't have to suffer from any more feelings of being victimized by a crazy, psychotic, bipolar, hormonal, just after birth, overloaded with laundry and too many chores, Wifezilla. (OMG I can't believe I never thought of that word before! I'll have to make an article out of that one, but who in the world could I possibly talk about??) 

I've decided that I'm going to adopt Rebbetzin Yehudit Channen, our lovely and talented Emuna Therapist. I'll adopt her to be a surrogate grandmother to my kids, because apparently she knows how to teach children to say strange words like "please" and "thank you" and... this is tough for me to write.... "I'm s-s-s-sorry." Yuck. I admit - I have a hard time with those words; especially those last two. But Rebbetzin Channen understands how important it is to instill The Might of Manners in young children. Helping them grow into decent, caring, and considerate adults is a gift they will be able to use and grow from for the rest of their lives. I really hope she can do it for me. Anyhow, read this article, NOW! Please?

Last week, our other amazing Emuna Therapist, Dr. Zev Ballen, discussed the idea of transference. This means that we actually transfer our experiences from childhood, namely with our parents, onto others, and this can affect our current relationships in extreme ways; both positively and negatively. This week, he talks about the idea of transference onto Hashem. He is saying that Biography is not Destiny - you don't have to be stuck in the same place you came from, not spiritually, emotionally, or mentally. 

Lori Steiner talks about the rewards of doing good for others, and for children in particular. But I want The Greatest Reward! I also want a good night's sleep, a vacation in a fancy hotel, and a new workout wardrobe. At least I'm getting the third one when David gets back, God willing. I just hope it doesn't add up to an extra suitcase! Don't worry, I already have my reply ready for when he says, "This is gonna cost me another $100!" To which I will respond, "What, I'm not worth $100?" Use my line, ladies. Use it well.

Aliza Neveloff gives us some interesting pointers on Eating Out with the Kids.  Obviously she never went out to eat with my kids, because then she'd write an article called, "Don't You Ever Think About Eating at a Restaurant with these Kids." As it happens, just last night my brother was visiting us and we took the kids out to eat at a fast food shawarma restaurant. Well, it took about 10 minutes just to order because all the kids were yelling at me all at once about what they wanted and what toppings they wanted and what they didn't want and if they could have extra fries on the side and OMG even the guys behind the counter were rolling their eyes at me. Maybe I should re-read this article like 100 times. Or maybe I should just never take them out again until they're all married.

Jennifer Woodward shares enlightening experience she had while enjoying a beautiful day at the beach. While watching the beautiful waves run up to the shore, she suddenly realized that she has Control Issues.  While reading her amazing description of this gorgeous Pacific Northwest beach, I suddenly realized that I have lack of vacation issues, and need to get to a gorgeous beach asap. Jenn, why didn't you invite me? It's not like I'm on another planet! 

Have an awesome week!

~Racheli