Tuesday, 31 August 2010 16:10

patience as suffering

Written by rebbetzin malkah

The Hebrew word for patience is savlanut, which also means "tolerance."

This same Hebrew root also gives rise to words that means "suffer" (sevel) and "burdens" (sivlot). If we equate being patient with suffering, and patience as tolerating that which is not our will, we will have an easier time in difficult and unpredictable moments.  Once we lose the ability to have patience, anger or intolerance bubbles up within us. It is at that lowest point when we experience those feelings that we have mistakenly assumed we are masters over all, and we shun the ability of the Master of the Universe to work through us in an unplanned moment or sequence of events.

The next time you encounter a situation which brings you to the brink of losing your patience, practice this simple meditation.

First, take a few deep breaths.  Then, imagine a pine tree, one not larger than 5 feet tall with at least 30 branches that have offshoots.  As you imagine this tree before you, take upon the task in your mind to gently pluck every needle from the branches starting from the from top of the tree. Work your way down all branches of the tree in a very methodical way in your mind - slowly and deliberately.

What this will achieve for you is a mental focus, lowering of your blood pressure, controlled imagery, and will lessen your sensitivity to the matter at hand.  Guaranteed, the situation will become less urgent and more manageable.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010 15:32

from the mussar masters

Written by riverton mussar

art-pearls"Woe to the pampered one who has never been trained to be patient. Either today or in the future he is destined to sip from the cup of affliction."  -- Rabbi M. M. Leffin, Cheshbon ha-Nefesh

"Slowness to anger [shows] much understanding, but a short-spirited person elevates foolishness." -- Proverbs 14:29 Stone Tanach

"The key to everything is patience.  You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it."  -- Arnold H. Glasgow 

"Patience is the ability to idle your motor when you feel like stripping your gears."  -- Barbara Johnson

"Patience is not passive; on the contrary, it is active; it is concentrated strength." -- Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton

"Perseverance prevails even against Heaven." -- Talmud, Sanhedrin 105a

"A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute." -- Mishlei 15:18

"Experience has taught me this, that we undo ourselves by impatience. Misfortunes have their life and their limits, their sickness and their health." -- Michel de Montaigne

"I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me and heard my cry." -- Tehillim 40:1

"Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the LORD." -- James 5:10

"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." -- Ephesians 4:2

Monday, 23 August 2010 12:04

meditations of the BeShT

Written by riverton mussar

art-yafa-homeOn his 16th birthday, the Baal Shem Tov wandered into the open fields to meditate on the significance of the day. He had been lodging at a local inn in a nearby village, managed by Aaron Shlomo the innkeeper and his wife Zlata Rivka. The simplest Jews, they were barely literate in daily prayers. but both were God fearing, and praised God at every opportunity. "Blessed is He forever!" offered the innkeeper, while his wife would say, "Blessed be His Holy Name." In the fields the Baal Shem Tov recited Psalms with great feeling, concentrating on the various mystical intentions associated with each verse, that his mentor the hidden Tzadik Rabbi Chaim had imbued him with. Immersed in spiritual thought, he suddenly saw Elijah the Prophet standing before him. Although he had merited such visions before with the other mystics, he was humbled by this first vision alone, a smile on the Prophet's countenance. Said the Prophet, "You invest such effort in meditation, trying to attain lofty levels, while the hearfelt words said by Aaron Shlomo and his wife cause a delight in Heaven, more than the commotion caused by the esoteric meditations of the righteous. When God is blessed, this causes great satisfaction on High, particularly when offered by simple folk, whose sincere faith unites them constantly with the Creator." The Baal Shem Tov later shared this revelation with the circle of hidden mystics and suggested they inquire after the welfare of the common folk in their travels. This will cause them to praise God, and if they are not faring well, our concern will cause them to arouse Divine mercy with their supplications.1


1. The Great Mission: the life and story of Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov, Eli Friedman, Kehot pub, p. 16-17

Monday, 23 August 2010 11:56

questions to ask yourself

Written by riverton mussar

art-questionsUse these questions to evaluate your day:

  1. What tests did you encounter today?
  2. Were there any surprises today that caught you off guard?  Were they based on some pre-set expectations you had?  How did you handle them?
  3. Think of several good things that happened today.  What was your reaction to them compared to the difficult things?
  4. If you were unsettled today by something, what did you do to get yourself balanced?  What worked and what didn't?
  5. Were you able to use prayer or meditation to calm your soul?
Sunday, 22 August 2010 23:46

finding equilibrium

Written by rav rafael


  1. Do you become emotionally unstable when you hear news, either good or bad?
  2. Do you become distressed when you experience unexpected pain or pleasure?
  3. Do you lose equilibrium when a chair or table is moved from one room to another?
  4. What happens if you find yourself in the company of people you do not know?
  5. Can you handle unexpected requests to lead or speak in public?
  6. When you are already overburdened, what happens when someone adds another thing to your to-do list?  Do you get flustered and short tempered?


The remedy for many of these troubles comes through conditioning.  One must approach whatever is disturbing and confront it.  Understand it through touching, feeling, questioning of intention.  Seek the root of your discomfort.  Many times our reactions to situations obscure the real root of the problem.  It is much easier to condition one's self once the root is addressed. 

For example, if you are overworked and any new tasks make your existing work unmanagable, perhaps you should try organizing your workload by making lists and prioritizing the more important things to do.  By writing them down, you don't have to remember all the details.  As new items arrive, simply adding them to your list can help eliminate some worrisome thoughts.

Thursday, 19 August 2010 13:16

fountain of youth

Written by rav rafael

art-coachOnce, the Baal Shem Tov went to spend Shabbat in Polnoye, the hometown of his student, the "Toldot", Rabbi Yaacov Yosef of Polnoye. The Baal Shem Tov was traveling in quite a fancy carriage and a resident of the town, a well known instigator, used the opportunity to disparage the Baal Shem Tov for what he deemed unwarranted opulence.

Thursday, 19 August 2010 13:04

nachash nachash

Written by rav rafael

art-nachashThe scene is years ago in Israel shortly after the second destruction. The great sage and Holy saint Rebbe Elezar (the son of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai; grand master Kabbalist and author of the Zohar) was walking with his holy friends in an open field discussing deep mystical secrets found in some sentence of the Torah. It was a very hot day and they were pleasantly surprised when they came upon a remarkably beautiful spot carpeted with flowers and shaded by gracious trees.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010 10:47

calm spirit despite the storm

Written by rebbetzin malkah

art-kinneretIt happened on that day at the turning of evening that he said them, “Let us go across to the other side of the sea.” They left the crowd of people and took him in the boat where he was, but other boats followed him. A great, stormy wind arose, and the waves were flooding inside the boat, to the point where it was almost full. He was asleep on the cushion in the stern of the boat, so they woke him up and said to him, “Rabbi, are you not worried about us? We are perishing!” He woke up and reprimanded the wind, and he said to the sea, “Hush and be silent!” The wind calmed down, and there was a great silence. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Why are you lacking emunah?"  --Mark 4:35-40, DHE

Tuesday, 17 August 2010 10:46

idol worshipper or not?

Written by rebbetzin malkah

Lessons in Tanya, Iggeret HaKodesh, Epistle 25

And this [will be understood] by first considering the teaching of our Sages, of blessed memory: “Whoever is in a rage resembles an idolater.”

The reason [for this] is clear to those who “know understanding,” because at the time of his anger, faith in G‑d and in His individual Divine Providence has left him. For were he to believe that what happened to him was G‑d’s doing, he would not be angry at all.

It would seem, at first, the statement that someone who is in a fit of rage is an idolater is a very heavy judgement.  But upon further examination, it makes complete sense if we remember we are not our own gods.  If we accept that we have limited effect on our destinies, then unplanned and unexpected events don't unseat us from our own self-made thrones. We are simply part of the Divine drama:what is required of us is to handle this life with noble equanimity and not seek our own understanding. This story below from the Talmud illustrates this idea of gam zu l'tovah (also this is for the good).

Tuesday, 17 August 2010 10:46

Abraham lifted up his eyes...

Written by rav rafael

God's final test for Avraham was the most unsettling of all the 10 tests.  God's request that Avraham sacrifice his son and give up his future went against the most fundamental traits in his personality.  What was Avraham known for?  Radical hospitality.  Our tradition teaches us that he and Sarah were the embassadors of kindness among all the people they sojourned with.  Of our ancestors, he and Sarah were the embodiment of chesed (kindness).  The tragedy of Avraham and Sarah's life was that until an old age, they had no children through which they could plant seeds of kindness into the world.  When God opened Sarah's womb and brought the miraculous birth of Isaac, Avraham's lifetime of service and faithfullness to the one true God met its reward.

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