Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Do an Act of Kindness and Increase Your Mitzvos BEFORE Rosh Hashanah


As Elul is drawing to a close and we prepare for Rosh Hashanah it is beneficial to increase in our mitzvos, especially those that include an act of kindness to a fellow Jew. Please join us in spreading kindness to some special Jews that need our help.

Some months ago, a little 2 year old sustained a burn to the dorsum of her left hand. She has been undergoing treatment for the scar management and has pressure garments. In addition, the use of Kelocote has been very beneficial for her. Kelocote is a product that is silicone based and helps to reduce keloidal scarring. Since it is in a tube and in an ointment gel format rather than a gel sheet, it is easy to apply to little fingers.

This special little 2 year old is very involved in her rehabilitation process, but her mother is a single Mom and needs help to provide the Kelocote for her child. If you are able to help at all, you can go to the link Kelocote:Shopping For Goodness and order the Kelocote directly.
There are two different sizes; you are welcome to send either size, according to your means.

If you send it to Rebbetzin Shear:

P.O. Box 1796, Main Central Post Office, Jerusalem, 91017
I will make sure that the Kelocote gets to her. In this way, both mother and child are able to remain anonymous which is a higher form of giving.

If you are unable to donate a tube of Kelocote, you can make a contribution either by sending a cheque to the above details or going to the donate button on the blogspot
http://leivesther.blogspot.com/

It is difficult to predict how many tubes will be required. The healing process of scars is generally 6 months to 2 years. She has already used about 6 tubes of Kelocote and at present we estimate the need for a further 8 tubes. If you are concerned as to whether further tubes are still required, please email shoshanah.s@gmail.com

Thank you for your kindness and for bringing relief to the life of a little 2 year old.

Please stay posted or sign up to receive further postings on this blog to hear of other mitzvos that you can do, prior to Rosh Hashanah.

By uniting in helping our fellow Jew, may we all merit a year that we merit the Final Redemption.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Counteracting Stress



In our previous article about stress, we learnt some practical ways to manage our situation, alter our environment, delegate to others etc. Now let us take a more spiritual look at the same topic and learn that it is possible not just to manage our stress but in fact to counteract it.

A fundamental teaching of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chassidism, is that every single detail in our lives is directed by G-d and has a divine purpose. Quite a concept, and for most of us, very difficult to digest. How, for example, are we to be grateful when a difficult experience in our lives occurs?

The Mishna teaches that we are to recite a blessing to thank G-d for the bad, as much as for the good. Is this really possible? In addition to this, Rabbi Nachum Ish Gam Zu teaches that everything is for the good, and as Rabbi Akiva would say “Everything that the Merciful One does is for the good.” The above teachings are really one and the same. But how can an ordinary person apply this to his/her life? How can we teach ourselves to think like our righteous teachers?

When one confronts a difficult situation, the body experiences physiological changes that doctors call “the stress cycle” or the “fight or flight response.” When these physiological changes occur repeatedly over an extended period of time, the result is one of an array of medical problems from stomach ulcers, arthritis and skin irritations, to headaches, lowered immune response, heart attack and more. What can we do to combat this?

The stress flow chart – a medical chart demonstrating the changes that occur to the body during a stressful moment – show that at the beginning of the cycle, a stressful situation or event is perceived by the body as a potential danger that could even possibly result in death. Our subconscious mind does not discriminate as to the severity of the stressor – thinking that it could even cause death! The fact is the subconscious mind perceives a danger, and thereafter brings ones previous memories and experiences into play preparing the body to escape as best and quickly as possible.

The truth is that there is no need for the stress cycle to even begin. Included in the rehabilitation process for one who has had a heart-attack, G-d forbid, is for the person to learn various stress management techniques.

Keeping in mind the teachings of our rabbis, let us take a look at how practically in today’s time we can manage our stress and then go beyond managing stress to increasing our ability to prevent stress from affecting us. We can actually stop the body’s response to stress by perceiving the situation or life’s events differently and thereby become both healthy and happy.

As we mentioned, when in a difficult situation, the body tends to immediately perceive that you are in potential danger. When teaching stress management, an example we give is to imagine you are walking in nature and suddenly encounter a hungry lion. In this situation you have two choices, you can either, stand still and hope the lion walks past you or you can run for your life. Hence the term of the “fight or flight” response.

When we bring Torah into the picture we find an amazing thing. There is a situation of a prophet of ours, Daniel, who was thrown into a lions den, and instead of being eaten alive he survived. Excluding the possibility of a miracle, is there any way to understand how this can happen?

Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi who wrote the Tanya and began Chabad Chassidus, teaches us that we have two souls, an animal soul and a G-dly soul. It is our function in this world to train the animal soul to use its desires for a divine purpose. In this way we transform the animal soul – first to nullify it, so that it has no say whatsoever, and thereafter to alter it completely and transform it into another G-dly soul.

Chassidus teaches us that when we learn to master our animal soul, then the animals of this world are no longer a threat to us. In other words, if we work on ourselves the way our rabbis request and teach us to, then confronting a lion in nature will no longer be a reason for our body to react with fright or flight.

From the Torah perspective, the best way to master our animal soul is through the study of Chassidus. However, not all of us are able to spend all our time immersed in Chassidic learning. So it is that Hashem has provided us with another practical way to increase in mastering our stress, namely through the very practical concepts taught by therapists.

If we combine both schools of thought, we find that there is a pattern or recipe that we can follow to improve the approach we take to the events of our lives.

As we know, from the time of birth, a Neshama or spark of G-dliness enters a body and traverses through a series of events and adventures in its journey to perform various tasks in this world. As the Baal Shem Tov teaches, each of these events is designed and directed specifically to enable us to achieve a specific goal. Our animal soul has a hard task trying to keep us from achieving our goal, and one of its strategies is to make us think that each event is very stressful.

So it is that our animal soul or subconscious, may make us believe that the family we were born into is wrong for us. If only our family understood us better. If only our family had more money or a bigger house or lived somewhere different. If only it was healthy. In fact, any array of reasons can be found as to why our family is causing us stress. We could also look at our schooling or our work, or any given situation and find a myriad of reasons as to why this is far too stressful for us to cope with.

Instead of stepping into the stress cycle, let us take a step back. Let us remember that Hashem has hand picked exactly who your family will be, exactly what community you will live in, how much money you have, whether you are healthy or have some kind of medical condition. Since everything has been set up for you to achieve a given goal, it automatically follows that you are exactly where you need to be.

The first step then is to acknowledge that there are no mistakes in Hashem’s creation and that there is a reason and purpose for whatever you are going through. If it is difficult to acknowledge that you are exactly where you need to be, carry out the following simple and beautiful exercise:

- Go into nature and spend some time observing the grass if there is any, the sand if there is, the plants, if there are animals, insects or birds. Just notice. Notice the sounds and the sights, the smells and the movements.

- Now think about how the bird or butterfly or bee knows when to begin to fly. We can try to come up with all sorts of biological or physiological occurrences, but the truth is that every single insect, creature and human being only moves because Hashem at that moment wills it to move and in that way via His angels, directs the animal or creature or human to move. If we look further we have to admit that every blade of grass is next to exactly the blade of grass that it needs to be. Every flower is exactly the color it needs to be and the specific shape, size and beauty. Every bee or butterfly lands on exactly the specific flower it needs to at a given moment and not another.

We can look and find so many ways in which every single detail is completely Divinely directed. By contemplating on these kinds of thoughts for just a few minutes each day, we help to train ourselves to recognize that just as every aspect of nature is directed by G-d, so too is everything in our own lives.

In addition to these practises involvement in prayer, acts of goodness, kindness, Torah learning and the fulfillment of G-d’s commands further help us to increase our faith while at the same time receive protection and assistance from Heaven.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Understanding Stress and How to Manage or Reduce it in our Lives


Modern medicine more and more has come to acknowledge the role that stress plays in our health and well being. In fact if one has a stroke or heart attack, G-d forbid, one of the vital components of the rehabilitation process is learning stress management and to develop a healthy, balanced lifestyle.

Once again, we recognize that Maimonides, one of our great Rabbi’s and a doctor, teaches that we should work to prevent illness or dis-ease rather than wait for a problem and then attempt to resolve it. With this in mind, let us take a look at stress and how it affects our life with a view to how we can manage our stress and prevent illness as best as possible.

The first step to managing any stress that you have in your life, is to understand what stress is. The medical dictionary described stress as “any physical, emotional, social, economic or other factor that requires a response to change.”

Selye in 1978 defined stress as: “the body’s response – physiological and psychological – to any demands placed on it, whether that demand is pleasant or not.”

Robert Burns in his book Coping with Stress states that: “stress is any demand that requires some kind of physical or emotional readjustment. A stressor is an event that produces a stress reaction and can be pleasant or unpleasant, exciting or disheartening. Any experience can be stressful. And what is stressful for one individual may not be stressful for another.”

Looking at these definitions we see that stress contains both positive and negative aspects and may affect one positively or negatively. Events that are exciting and positive, generally one would think do not require any intervention or to look at in any way. To a certain extent this is true, however Maimonides teaches that we need everything in moderation and warns against becoming overly joyous or excited just as much as one should control ones anger or other negative responses to situations. Without going into too much detail here, an obvious reason to be careful when one is particularly joyous or excited is so as not to have an accident, G-d forbid.

In looking at the definitions of stress, it is evident that what is perceived as a stressor is a trigger or spring board for change or a response. Although our body usually considers this situation as potentially dangerous, one can in fact work with the situation in order to use it for progress and growth.

When we teach stress management, a common illustration as to how the body responds when it thinks the situation is stressful is to consider you were going for a walk in nature and suddenly encountered a hungry lion. In this situation you have two choices, either to run away as fast as possible or to stand still and wait for the danger to pass. In both situations your senses have to be functioning at their optimum and your muscles need to be ready to react as quickly, smoothly and skilfully as possible to assist you to get out of danger. As a result the body puts out certain hormones which assist those muscles needed to react quickly to be ready to work effectively and those that are not necessary e.g. the muscles of digesting food in the stomach to be still at that time. If one is in a given situation that one has to react to quickly as an event that occurs only occasionally, then one is able to handle that given occurrence.

However when your body is constantly regarding events in your every day life as stressful in a negative way, then the repetitive physiological changes that take place can be harmful to your body. Hence such illness as skin disease, stomach ulcers, heart attacks, most forms of cancer, allergies and more are considered as stemming from stress.

Now that we understand a little of what stress is and how it affects our body, let us look at how to work with it to be able to respond to whatever occurs in our life in a manner that is productive, effective and conducive to health and progress rather than dis-ease. The next step is to look at our daily habits and make sure that they support a healthy lifestyle. Included in this is how much sleep you get and whether the sleep is restful and rejuvenating or if you wake feeling more tired than when you went to sleep. That your diet is balanced and healthy, making sure to eat home cooked food rather than fast foods and that your diet contains each of the major food groups including plenty of roughage and water to ensure effective elimination of waste.

As part of how much water you drink, keep in mind that our body is comprised primarily of water and that we require on average 8 glasses of clean, pure water daily. If you are healing from an illness or undergoing a stressful situation, your body may require more water.

Make sure you are getting regular exercise that includes an increase in heart-rate for 20 minutes at a time 2-3 times a week. This helps your body to manufacture certain hormones which help with feeling more relaxed and positive. It also helps the heart and circulatory system to work well not to mention training your muscles. Those who are fit are able to handle life’s events in a more balanced manner and are less likely to feel the negative physiological effects of stress.

While looking to your health, it is important to develop healthy habits to cope with stress and not to turn to such substances as cigarettes, alcohol, drugs or excessive exercise or excessive sexual relations. Instead it is good to learn various relaxations techniques. For one that can be practising deep breathing, for another listening to classical music or engaging in some kind of creative activity; some enjoy walking in nature and others might enjoy cooking, baking or even household tasks. Of course all the types of sport like Yoga, Martial arts, pilates are very good for toning the body and increasing good, deep breathing. What is relaxing for one is not necessarily relaxing for another and it is important to find what works for you. What is important though is to make sure that whichever activity you chose to do as a form of relaxation is carried out in a healthy manner and that you do make sure you breath deeply. Shallow breathing in and of itself is a strain to the body as it limits the amount of oxygen that gets to the muscles and around to all the organs.

Our next step in tackling stress is to identify what factors are posing a stress to you. Is it your family, your home, where you live, your neighbours, too much work, too little work. Whatever is happening in your life, write about it describing all the various factors. For example let us consider that the stress is that you have such a high work load that you work 12 hours a day, have to travel for 2 hours to and from work and hardly see your family. Clearly this will pose a problem to your body as you are not getting a balance in your life. Once you have described all the factors take a look at whether this is temporary or a permanent problem. Perhaps at your work everyone is working to a common, exciting goal that will end within a few days and after that there will be much progress for all. If that is the case then one needs to look at the positive outcome that will follow and use that as a motivator to get through the temporary increase in work hours. At the same time you can ask family and friends to help perhaps with shopping, housework or cooking so that the pressure of responsibilities at home are lessened and you can focus on this short term project.

If on the other hand you have been landed with an extra work load that is beyond what you can manage then you need to talk to a supervisor. Discuss what your job description is, what parts of the work is good for you and which aspects are too much. Included in this identify which tasks you can delegated to another or can you perhaps look at some ergonomics to structure the environment so as to help you fulfil your role at work.

We have learnt thus far a little about what stress is and how it can affect ones body. We have taken a look at how to work on developing a healthy lifestyle and a few concepts of how to begin to work with a given situation in order to reduce stress, delegate, alter your environment or re-focus how you perceive your situation in order to manage it more effectively.

The topic of stress is too large to cover completely in one article. I hope that this has provided some useful thoughts and ideas for you, the reader. If stress is something that poses a major problem in your life or your ability to enjoy life and realise your potential, please contact Shoshanah to set up a series of sessions looking at stress management.

You are welcome to either email shoshanah.s@gmail.com or click on the "Live Person" button (situated at the top right of this blog) to set up a series of sessions live with Shoshanah.


I look forward to hearing from you and working together to develop a life of meaning and purpose that is free of stress, anxiety and negativity.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Alone - Yet Never Alone

Through my work as an occupational therapist, there have been many occasions that clients have expressed a feeling of being alone, afraid to be alone or isolated in this world. This article will look at the topic of aloneness and help you to recognise that while on the one hand, every human being is really alone; at the same time we are never alone at all.

The Torah teaches us that against our will we are born, against our will we live, against our will we die. Every soul, at the moment it is about to enter a body and the life journey in this world, begins a process all on its own. Even if one is born as part of a set of twins, triplets or other multiple births, at the time of birth, each baby is in many ways completely alone. On its own it has to travel through the birth canal unaware of what it will encounter when it emerges into this world.

Throughout life, no matter if we are in a crowded room, engaged in a loving relationship or at a given time on our own, the truth is that your own given experience of a situation, event or relationship is unique to you. No other human being will experience it in exactly the same manner, and no other person (except perhaps the Moshe of the generation), no matter how close they are to you, will be able to fully understand exactly how your life is for you.

During those times when we are literally on our own is when we tend to comprehend our aloneness in this world. Though we usually think of being alone as a negative, let us look now at a joyous event and acknowledge that even then we are alone in a very real manner. Think for a moment of a Kallah getting married, as she sits and waits for her Chassan (groom) to come and identify her as the one that he had chosen to marry. Her mind is usually focused on prayer for her future. During this time, she is literally alone in her experience, even though it is probably the most joyous day of her life. As she walks around her Chassan under the Chuppah, even if she has her mother and mother-in-law in front and behind her, even though she is circling the man she is about to unite with in marriage, even though a crowd has gathered to witness her happy occasion, still, in this experience she is alone.

Pirkei Avos (Ethics of our Fathers) teaches that we are to remember that at every moment there is an Eye that sees, an Ear that hears and everything is written down in a book. This Mishna is to help us to keep ourselves from sinning. Let us take another look at exactly what this means.

Every moment of our life, there is an eye that sees everything, the eye of Hashem, Master of the Universe. The Eye of G-d notices everything. It can see into your heart, it sees the truth of everything. It sees if you feel strong or weak, happy or sad, every detail is seen by G-d.

Every moment of our life, there is an ear that hears, the ear of Hashem, Master of the Universe. The ear of G-d hears everything. Even when one whispers to oneself, Hashem still hears it. Even if someone talks to you behind closed doors and thinks no-one will hear, still G-d hears everything.

Every moment of our life is written down in a book, it is recorded in Shamayim (heaven). So if one goes through a difficult experience and turns to Hashem in prayer, this is noted down in your book. If someone says or does something to you that is upsetting, G-d forbid, and you manage to summon inner strength and guard your tongue, this is written down. Everything, both the good and the seeming bad is noted down and Hashem will remember everything. For all your effort, for every moment in which you turned to Hashem instead of falling to despair, you will be rewarded either in this life or in the world to come.

Usually this Mishna is brought to us to prevent us from sinning out of fear of what will be written in our book and what will happen if we stumble. Instead of keeping from sin out of fear, let us look at it from this new point of view. Wherever you are, no matter how alone you might feel, Hashem is with you and sees and hears everything. So do the right thing not out of fear of what will happen if you do wrong, but out of appreciation to Hashem for watching over you and always being with you.

If ever you feel you are in the space of feeling isolated, remember, no Jew is ever alone for Hashem is with you always, everywhere. …. …..

If ever you feel scared and alone,
Whether in a crowd, or mamash on your own.
Turn to Hashem and offer up a prayer,
Know in your heart that wherever you are, He’ll be there.
Take comfort in the words of the following Psalm
Let these thoughts bring you inner calm.

For it says in Psalms …. “He does justice for the exploited, He gives bread to the hungry; Hashem releases the bound. Hashem gives sight to the blind, Hashem straightens the bent; Hashem loves the righteous. Hashem protects strangers, orphan and widow He encourages…” (Psalm 146, vv 8 – 10)

In the first book of the Torah, after the first sin, Hashem asked Adam HaRishon, Ayeka, where are you? We are taught that Hashem asked this as an introduction to open up a discussion with Adam. However, it also serves as a reminder that just as we cannot hide from Hashem, so too we are never left alone. However, unlike a person trailing us who might be at times annoying or not able to deliver what we need – as mentioned above in the words of Psalms, Hashem is not only with us but also provides for our every need including our salvation.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Upcoming Photographic Seminar


Shear Success Photographers and the Israel Center in Jerusalem are proud to present to you a Wonderful Photographic Seminar.

The Seminar will be taught by Nissin Konikov and Evan Kotler,
experienced photographers for over 20 years in a variety of fields.

___________________

The Photography Seminar will focus on
Ambient Lighting, Studio Lighting and Posing for Studio Shots.

The Program is looking very exciting, we need you to join us to help in making it a success.

Who is eligible?: Intermediate level photographers from late teens and up.

Please note: There will be separate seating for men and women.

Date: 4 November 2008

Time: 14h00 to 20h00 (i.e. 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.)

For those interested in davening in a minyan, the Seminar will be preceded by Minchah and followed by Maariv.

Refreshments will be served.

Cost of the Seminar is NIS 250 per person

Pre-registration is required.

For further details or to book your place, please email shearsuccess@gmail.com or
call Shoshanah at 052 767 7074 or Eliyahu at 052 767 7073

We look forward to hearing from you.

If you are interested in further Photographic Seminars please notify us regarding your interests and needs.

Once a Jew - Always a Jew!


The following story is one of many very moving incidents relayed about one very inspiring Jew who survived the holocaust. The Klausenberger Rebbe, Rabbi Yekusiel Yehudah Halberstam, was no ordinary Jew. He was the leader of a community in Hungary, with a complete devotion to Hashem and to inspiring and comforting his fellow Jew. The Rebbe had been married with eleven beautiful children when WW2 began. When Hungary was invaded, the Klausenberger Rebbe and his family were taken along with their fellow Jews.

Early on in this horrible journey, the Rebbe lost his wife and all of his children, yet he never gave up hope, prayer and dedication to Hashem. After tremendous suffering and affliction, the Rebbe survived the war and later moved to the USA. In the USA he founded various Torah institutions but is most famous for the establishment of the Sanz-Laniado Hospital in Netanya, Israel.

Bearing in mind this very brief outline of who the Klausenberger Rebbe was, let us return to the particular story of this article. A certain amount of time after being taken to Auschwitz, the Rebbe along with many of the Hungarian community, was moved to work in the Warsaw Ghetto sifting through debris for valuables that the Nazis wanted to claim. During this assignment, the Rebbe had occasion to get into conversation with a particular fellow Jew, a conversation that spanned several days.

It began with the Rebbe asking who the man was. The man was alarmed to find someone who did not know who he was. It turned out that the man had been the banker of the Hungarian Bank and through his hard work, had uplifted the poor economy to a strong one.

The Rebbe enquired as to whether the man had married, and when discovering that he had, asked where his wife was. It turned out that the man had married a non-Jewish woman. With great care, the Rebbe selected pertinent questions, thus guiding the discussion in a specific direction.

The Rebbe asked if the man had provided for his wife. When he answered that he had, the Rebbe asked again where his wife was. How could it be that a wife of 30 years who enjoyed good years with him, would not accompany him with the bad as well?

The Rebbe then asked if the man had any children. When the banker answered that he did have, the Rebbe again asked if the banker had provided for them. The banker assured the Rebbe that he had provided a very good education, the best of schools and provided for all their needs. Again the Rebbe asked where his children were.

Through the discussion the man became agitated as to why the Rebbe was asking such questions. As the hours passed, the banker reflected on the questions and comments of the Rebbe and finally came to the Rebbe acknowledging that he had made a mistake. It is forbidden for a Jew to marry a non-Jew. It is forbidden for a Jew to immerse him or herself in the life of the non-Jews to the extent that they put their identity of being a Jew as secondary.

Through his clever, pointed questions, the Rebbe helped the banker to recognise that once a person is a Jew, he/she is always a Jew. The banker might have had his picture on the money, might have made a major impact on the Hungarian economy but when the holocaust hit Hungary, his non-Jewish “friends” were no longer his allies. At the end of the day, he was still a Jew. As a Jew, if Hashem decrees Jews will suffer, no matter how one tries to hide ones identity, one is still singled out by Hashem to join the other Jews, and in this place, the non-Jewish “family” is not included.

Finally the banker realised the truth and confessed to the Rebbe. The next day the banker returned his soul to Hashem. The Rebbe’s comment on the few days of conversation and interaction with the banker was that he was grateful to have been in the position to assist him to do tshuvah one day before he died.

The Torah states that marrying a non-Jew is so great a sin, that a person who marries a non-Jew is no longer permitted to be called up to the Torah at the time of the reading of the Torah. Since we are taught that Hashem, the Torah and the Jewish people are one, this shows how greatly the error is viewed. By separating oneself from the body of the Jewish Nation, we in turn separate ourselves from Torah and from Hashem,
G-d forbid.

Yesterday we began the new month of Elul. Elul is the month leading up to Rosh Hashanah and a time when Hashem is said to be in the field. We are taught in Pirkei Avot that one of the keys to prevent us from sinning is to think about the end of our days and to repent for our sins, the day before we die.

May this story provide us with the strength and inspiration to search for what it means to be a Jew. To find out how to live up to the example of the Klausenberger Rebbe and the other Tzaddikim of Am Yisrael, and to learn from the mistake of the banker. May we all be zoche to do complete Tshuva this Elul, every day of Elul – for we do not know when our last day will be. May the story also help us to see that when we are ready and willing to return to the ways of Hashem, Hashem can and does send the best messengers to help us to correct our ways. As we say in our morning blessings, Hashem opens the eyes of the blind to see where we have gone wrong so that we can confess our mistakes and return to the right path.

The life of the Klausenberger Rebbe is very inspiring and well worth reading about. To obtain your own copy of one of the books written in English about the Klausenberger Rebbe, please visit our Shopping for Goodness Store and go directly to our section 'Jewish Books'

In this section you will find two books about the Klausenberger Rebbe that will enhance your personal library.


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