middot equanimity rebbetzin malkah
rebbetzin malkah

rebbetzin malkah

Malkah Forbes, born in Upstate New York, studied Computer Science at SUNY Oswego (B.A.), where she met her future husband, Jason.  Soon after, they moved to the  Seattle area where her husband could pursue his career in software engineering. In tandem, Jason was studying to become a rabbi. After Jason received his smicha (rabbinic ordination) from the UMJC, both he and Malkah became leaders of their current congregation, Beit HaShofar Synagogue in SeattleWA.  Currently, Malkah is an active rebbetzin and not only teaches Hebrew, but helps to oversee and spearhead new synagogue programs.  Her latest project includes Riverton Mussar, which she and her husband co-founded in 2010.  She has been a frequent contributor of drashes for the UMJC website, served on the board of the UMJC National Sisterhood, Achot, and has been a speaker for various sessions at the UMJC International Conference.

When Malkah is not writing for Riverton Mussar, she can be found enjoying her three teenagers, her two delightful cats, working on her interior and garden redesign business, knitting, and sporting a serious game of Mah Jongg.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010 10:27

freedom of information?


An encrypted cache of uncensored documents that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has circulated across the Internet may ensure that a huge array of secrets will be revealed even if the website is shut down or Assange is arrested.  — online news 12/4/2010

Saturday, 27 November 2010 22:58

not free from it

art-workloadRabbi Tarfon would say: The day is short, there is much work [to be done], the workers are lazy, [even though] the wages are great and the Householder is insistent. He would also say: It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task, but neither are you free to absolve yourself from it. If you have learned much Torah, you will be greatly rewarded, and your employer is trustworthy to pay you the reward of your labors. And know, that the reward of the righteous is in the World to Come.  --Avot 2:15-16

Friday, 26 November 2010 14:30

holistic diligence

art-dishesSomeone once told me that he heard his rosh yeshiva say, "The most dangerous person in the world is someone on his way to do a mitzvah." For some, nothing matters but for them to do their mitzvah, no matter what.

 One of his disciples had invited him for Friday night dinner. R. Israel[Salanter] had stipulated that he would not dine anywhere till he had satisfied himself that the kashrut was above reproach. The disciple informed R. Israel that in his home all the Halachot were observed with utmost stringency. He bought his meat from a butcher known for his piety. It was truly "glatt" - free of any Halachic query or lung adhesion (sirchah). His cook was an honest woman, the widow of a Talmid Chacham, daughter of a good family, while his own wife would enter the kitchen periodically to supervise. His Friday night meal was conducted in the grand style. There would be Torah discussion after each course, so there was no possibility of their meal being "as if they had partaken of offerings to idols." They would study Shulchan Aruch regularly, sing zemirot and remain seated at the table till well into the night.

Having listened to this elaborate account of the procedures, R. Israel consented to accept the invitation, but stipulated that the time of the meal be curtailed by two full hours. Having no alternative, the disciple agreed. At the meal, one course followed another without interruption. In less than an hour, the mayim acharonim had been passed around in preparation for the Grace after Meals.

Before proceeding with the Grace, the host turned to R. Israel and asked: "Teach me, Rabbi. What defect did you notice in my table?"

R. Israel did not answer the question. Instead he asked that the widow responsible for the cooking come to the room. He said to her: "Please forgive me, for having inconvenienced you this evening. You were forced to serve one course after another - not as you are used to do."

"Bless you, Rabbi," the woman answered. "Would that you would be a guest here every Friday evening. My master is used to sit at the table till late at night. I am worn out from working all day. My legs can hardly hold me up, so tired do I become. Thanks to you, Rabbi, they hurried this evening, and I am already free to go home and rest."

R. Israel turned to his disciple. "The poor widow's remark is the answer to your question. Indeed your behavior is excellent, but only as long as it does not adversely affect others."1 

                              --The Mussar Movement, Volume I, Part 2 pages 226-228

Friday, 26 November 2010 14:10

rungs to climb

art-ladderThe Hebrew word for diligence is zerizut.  Zerizut translates to alertness, enthusiasm, agility, nimbleness, alacrity, expedition, smartness, briskness. 

This definition doesn't necessariy have to do with the physical, although it can depending on the circumstances. It is better equated to the state of the soul and the mind - and the ability of our intention to go from thought to action.  We have to be ready to react, ready to do, able to do and in constancy of action.  Alertness and expedition are the definitions of focus here:  with an understanding of something coming our way, we are ready to act and expedite whatever it is before us.

I always view this as a ladder.  Whenever I have the ability to counsel someone in our shul regarding learning, observance and growth, I am always relating their journey as one on a ladder.  Ever climbing, but doing so one rung at a time.  No one jumps up a ladder - this is sheer foolishness and can lead to a devastating fall.  Only in climbing, can we reach our destination. 


This meditation will help you focus on the goal and stimulate confidence in your walk, whatever that may be.
(Note:  For more information on meditative techniques, see the source Jewish Meditation by Aryeh Kaplan.)

Find a comfortable seat in a quiet place.  First, take a few deep breaths. Deep breathing brings oxygen to your brain and helps clear the mind. Close your eyes. Continue breathing until you feel relaxed.

The focus of this meditation will be upon climbing towards Hashem in our tasks/goals. Using a phrase from Psalms 139 for meditation, choose whether you will say the Hebrew or the English. Repeat it until you are comfortable with it and can say it from memory:

אִם־אֶסַּק שָׁמַיִם שָׁם אָתָּה

(Im esaq Shamayim sham Atah) 

If I ascend into Heaven, You are there.....

--Psalms 139:8

Meditate on this phrase above (either Hebrew or English) for at least 10 minutes without interruption. As you are meditating on this phrase, try and bring your mind to goals or tasks you have difficulty accomplishing, or setbacks that are before you. 

Imagine that a ladder is before you.  Slowly begin to climb this ladder, rung by rung.  Continue meditating on the phrase above, realizing that as you are climbing, you are drawing nearer to your goal.  Keep your sights on the rung just above you - no higher.  Realize your climb is towards Hashem and to achieve what is in His will. Continue to climb these rungs, one at a time: slowly, diligently, deliberately.
Try and truly imagine the climb, the gentle and persistent movement - hands on the rungs, feet on the rungs.
Keep your sights above, looking for the next rung, and don't stop climbing.

As you slowly and gently end your meditation by opening your eyes,  try to maintain a sense of quietness for a time after  - allow the experience to flow through you and feel its effect.  Try and take with you what you have gleaned from this meditation.  By being more at ease, viewing the "rungs" of life in your mind, you can come away from this kind of introspection ready to be diligent in your daily walk and confident in the end goal: to reach Hashem, one rung at a time, through purposeful living.

Friday, 19 November 2010 13:22

and to keep it

art-recycleAnd the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and to keep it. --Genesis 2:15

Friday, 19 November 2010 12:57

the portion in my cup

art-kiddushcupThe Hebrew word for frugality is keemutz.  Keemutz translates to thrift, economizing, frugality, retrenchment.

Thursday, 18 November 2010 10:41

saving to give

art-tzedakahIf there will be among you a needy person, from one of your brothers in one of your cities, in your land the Lord, your God, is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, and you shall not close your hand from your needy brother. Rather, you shall open your hand to him, and you shall lend him sufficient for his needs, which he is lacking. –Deuteronomy 15:7-8

Friday, 12 November 2010 11:30

righteousness as focus

art-shvitiThe Hebrew word for righteousness is tzedekTzedek is almost impossible to translate, because of its many shadings of meaning: justice, charity, righteousness, integrity, equity, fairness and innocence.

Friday, 12 November 2010 10:46

righteousness as thoughtfulness

art-run2A person running to do a mitzvah can destroy the world on his way. -- Rabbi Yisrael Salanter

Perhaps one of the hardest things to attain is righteousness.  We strive to pursue that which will bring heaven on earth; yet at the same time, we sometimes disregard those around us or hurt our fellow man in the process.  How is this righteousness?  The mere truth is that it isn't. 

Thursday, 11 November 2010 11:21

fix yourself and save the world

art-maskFor thus we find in the case of Cain, who killed his brother, that it is written:  the bloods of your brother cry unto me: not the blood of your brother, but the bloods of your brother, is said i.e., his blood and the blood of his [potential] descendants.  (Alternatively, the blood of your brother, teaches that his blood was splashed over trees and stones.) For this reason was man created alone, to teach you that whosoever destroys a single soul of Israel, scripture imputes [guilt] to him as though he had destroyed a complete world; and whosoever preserves a single soul of Israel, scripture ascribes [merit] to him as though he had preserved a complete world. --Talmud, Sanhedrin 37a

Page 8 of 12

this week

Moshe Rabbenu teaches loving-kindness
Here's a drash on loving-kindness adapted from my book Creation to Completion, wh . . .
chesed and truth
For the Torah was given through Moshe; chesed and truth came through Yeshua the M . . .
chesed and forgiveness
In his commentaries in both the Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur Koren Machzorim Rabbi . . .
how the world stands
A woman died and left no money to pay for her funeral. She was an inhabitant of o . . .
His chesed is always there!
One of the high points of the Passover Seder every year, especially when our ki . . .
do a chesed
There was an older gentleman I used to to interact with fairly regularly at a Ra . . .
bottled up kindness
'The kindnesses of the Lord I shall sing forever; to generation after generation . . .
showering chesed
The Hebrew word for loving-kindness is chesed.    . . .

Member Login

Login to access podcasts, special content, discussion forums and user blogs.