Thursday, December 31, 2009

Live Life

The words "live" and "love" are so close to each other. Surely, this can inspire us in some way.

We give ourselves to those we love. We give our time, our thoughts, our money. We give our all. That which we love, we know, is a part of our self -- and we give ourselves to ourselves.

This, then, should be the key to living, the thrust of our lives. We need to give ourselves to our lives. We need to give our all -- our time, our thoughts and money -- to being who we are. We need to love our every day, and not hold back. We need to love our every day with all our love.

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

10 Minutes

Here is an amazing tool to boost the quality of living:

Imagine you have no more than 10 minutes left to live. Imagine that in another 10 minutes you will leave this material world for the world of the spirit, for the world of truth.

Obviously, in such a short time, you can't suddenly climb a mountain, fight a tiger or write your biography. What you can do though, is invest the activity you are doing right now with quality, richness -- a joy and appreciation you haven't experienced before. Color this moment with love. Sing into it a sense of marvel, a sense of awe.

Live and really live, now -- with every part of your whole. Live and really live now -- be happy, and succeed.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Happy Thoughts

Imagine stepping out of a chauffeured limousine. Visualize yourself standing before a beautiful house, encircled by glorious, green gardens. You walk up to the heavy, wooden door and before you reach it, it swings open to you, revealing smiling faces that greet you, that are pleased to see you. You step into a comfortable room, into happy living, and you feel like… You are as happy as… You are more satisfied than…

The above picture can put you -- the entire you -- into a wonderful mood. Aah, this is living -- this is it!

Now, can you create this mood within yourself, without the outside trappings? Can you think thoughts that trigger such a frame of mind? If you can, this is good, excellent -- better than all the limousines, mansions, luxuries and comforts. For, to create such a mood within you is, in truth, to have it all.

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Rejoice and Celebrate

The more we rejoice and celebrate the heavenly help we receive, the more heavenly help we will receive. (Based on Tehillim 20.6)

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Stay Happy

You don't need much time, or even roses, to smell the roses. There must be something within arm's reach, something near for you to enjoy, to appreciate. If not a material object, then an idea, a concept. Look at it. Focus on it. Make yourself a moment of happiness. Such an attitude, then, lights up not only this moment, but other moments as well.

We need to create a mind-set where our happiness doesn't depend on any happening, person or object. Whether the sky shines or rains, whether others are nice or nasty, whether we get the job or lose it -- we stay happy.

Can we be happy when "everything goes wrong"? We need to look not to what is -- but rather, to what is right. We have to focus on the positive. We have to paint our faces with a smile. Then, as we do what we can, the world will follow our bright, sunny example, and do the rest.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Flower Garden

Many thoughts fly through our heads each day, but we choose which ones to focus on and which ones to ignore. This choice affects all that we are...

We may be in the ideal setting, surrounded by beautiful articles -- yet we can choose to think negative, black thoughts. What then happens? These thoughts become a fire. We breathe life into them and they grow -- they become great and strong, and envelop our whole being. Instead of enjoying all we have, we become depressed, bitter, angry. We fume. We are furious.

Our victory and achievement lies in reversing this scenario -- completely.

In other words, even if we are in a terrible situation, surrounded by ugliness, we may choose to focus on something positive, something enjoyable. Then, we may extend this focus -- we may fill our being with it -- and turn our day into a flower garden of contentment and happiness.

To possess such ability, such a tool, is a power -- a gift. The Creator, in His kindness, strives to teach us this ability. He gives us every opportunity to acquire this skill.

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Monday, December 21, 2009


Wealthy people surround themselves with beauty -- beautiful homes, beautiful gardens, beautiful furnishings, even beautiful happenings. We can have this as well. When we train ourselves to recognize the beauty that surrounds our everyday, we are as wealthy as they are.

Moreover, since wealthy people often fail to acknowledge the beauty around them, we -- with our appreciation for all we have - are richer than they are.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

It Depends

What would you rather be: wise, or happy?

There is a certain bliss in being ignorant -- "with more wisdom is more anger, and he who gains knowledge, hurts more." (Koheles 1.18) For instance, can we enjoy our children when we know they must die? Can we enjoy our wealth, our health, when we see it diminish? Can we enjoy life when we envision calamity, tragedy, lurking on each corner, waiting at every turn? (Ibn Ezra, there)

Still, this applies only to the wisdom, the technology and philosophy of a finite world, a world that rusts, rots, dies. Higher wisdom however, knows that the soul is infinite, that there is life after life -- that the Creator rules all, with justice, with mercy. Such knowledge leads us to joy.

To be happy we need true wisdom, true perception. And to achieve this we must strive to do good, great acts and to please the Creator. For, "to the person He regards as worthy, He gives wisdom, knowledge, and happiness." (Koheles 2.26)

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009


A great rule of happiness is: never complain. Do not complain to others -- not friends, not family. Do not complain to the Creator. Do not complain to yourself -- even in your thoughts.

To complain gives us a certain pleasure. However, the loss from complaining outweighs any gain. For to complain is to say that we are unhappy -- and when we are unhappy, we can't be happy. Moreover, when we complain we enlarge the reason for the complaint -- we give it extra strength to hurt us. We empower it to possess us.

But when we look for the good in our situation, when we take pleasure in our situation, we attribute an extra pleasure to the world -- and an extra pleasure to its Creator. In this way, the source for our complaint helps us appreciate the beauty of our lives. It opens a door to all that we hope for, and all that we dream.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009


In general, Torah study increases our watchfulness. However, specifically meditating on stories and sayings of our sages that speak of the importance of our service and the far-reaching consequences of our smallest failures teach us to be careful.

Three attitudes motivate us to monitor our thoughts, words and actions. They are, in order of importance, (1) to strive for a whole achievement, (2) to seek respect, and (3) to avoid discomfort and pain.

To strive for a whole achievement
We long to do our best in a full and focused way. Thus, we worry and feel embarrassed that we will overlook or fail to do something we could have easily done.

To seek respect
We realize that the more we reach for and accomplish, the higher will be our standing in the world of truth, a world where all that counts is what we have done with our lives.

This motivation is most powerful. When we perceive that to keep pace with our friends and not fall behind those who are "less than us" is all-necessary, we embarrass ourselves into fulfilling our potential.

In addition, we know that our ability to accomplish and accumulate good deeds, a correct life-outlook and wisdom is limited. What we don't do before we die, we lose forever.

To avoid discomfort and pain
We realize that the heavenly courts will judge our lives to the smallest detail with precision, rewarding and punishing us exactly. Thus, we will strive to fulfill our duty that we may receive our full reward and not suffer any hurt.

The greater we become, the greater our potential to do still more, and the greater our influence and responsibility. The Torah records how the greatest personalities received heavy punishments for what we might regard as small mistakes. This teaches us to watch even our lightest actions and words. (See Mesillas Yesharim, Chapter 4, for examples.)

Never say this act or this moment isn't important, for when we give up on the details of our life, we give up our lives. (Baba Kama 50a)

The heavens judge us strictly, as well as with mercy. They judge us strictly. We need to pay the full price for even the smallest wrong. However, they also judge us with mercy. How so?

We receive time in which to repair the damage we have done.

When the punishment does come, it does not destroy us, allowing us room to make changes.

When we think over and regret our sin, resolving not to repeat them, we become as new people. Our change of heart makes it as though we never committed this sin in the first place. Moreover, at times the heavens may regard the smallest change we make as a full repair.

When we correct our ways, we wipe away the punishment that awaited our old selves. Thus, we can receive both justice and mercy. This is only possible however, when we open our eyes and monitor our actions. (From Mesillas Yesharim, Chapter 4)

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Thinking about Others

Kindness starts with thinking about others. Let's start in just this way. Pick a person, any person, and start thinking about what he needs, what we can do to enrich him, boost him, how can we change his life. With continuous thought, ideas will flow into our heads, and we will find a way to make a real change in his life. (Rabbeinu Yona, Mishle 2.1)

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

By Yourself

What would you rather be: popular or happy?

Normally, a happy person does attract friends, but not always. Many times, he must perform all sorts of tricks to gain laughs, hugs, backslaps. Now, to bring joy to others is an act of kindness, but this is not what we really look for. Our baser nature does not seek to give. Rather, it wants the pleasure, the thrill of receiving admiration, applause and love from others.

We need to remember, though, that being popular makes us happy only for a while. For, the animal we call our ego is insatiable -- we cannot feed him enough. As much as he consumes, he wants more, he demands more, endlessly.

Therefore, we should separate our happiness from our popularity. Our good mood should not depend on how loved or hated we are. We need to be joyous without outside help. Then, when an opportunity to be nice to others, to give pleasure to others comes along, we will perform this without waiting for praise and a pat on the back.

We must be happy, no matter our situation. And if the heavens see fit to have others like us, admire us, love us, we will accept the gift gracefully. We will say thank you.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Suit

If I could offer you a suit that was stylish and elegant, and would make you more beautiful than you already are, surely you would want it. Especially, if I added, that it protects you from harmful influences -- similar to a bulletproof vest -- and only costs very little.

Unfortunately, though, I cannot sell you this suit -- for it's a suit you already have. What suit is this? It's your ability to be happy.

Be happy, and you wrap yourself in style and elegance. How can this be so? For happiness is beyond all style, beyond all elegance. Even the wealthiest, most famous, must strive daily to be happy.

Be happy, and be beautiful. Surely, everyone agrees with this.

Be happy, and forget your worries. For happiness stops the calamities of life from hurting you, from crushing you. Moreover, happiness draws the Divine Presence, into you and protects you, even from physical dangers.

Now, to be happy may not mean that you can be careless. Still, you can be carefree. Be happy, and move through life with confidence and flair.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Our every action carries elements of profit and loss. We need to assess each one. Does the profit outweigh the loss -- is it a good proposition? Alternatively, does the loss outweigh the profit -- is it a poor proposition?

Without proper thought and evaluation, we make two mistakes. (1) We don't notice the pitfalls lying along our route. (2) We mistake what is bad for what is good, and what is good for what is bad.

We need a guide, someone who has already reached the destination we need to reach. He can advise and coach us on the right steps to take.

Only with awareness and thoughtfulness, can we be sure that we make the best choices we can. (From Mesillas Yesharim, Chapter 3)

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Monday, December 7, 2009

A Whole World

Our inner world is a whole world. With a trust in the Creator, hoping in His help and salvation, focusing on His unfathomable power, and uncovering the world's beauty, we have everything we could ever want. Why then do we look outside of ourselves for support and encouragement? -- Because we have not yet realized our full intellectual ability to grasp the perfection and richness of our inner world.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Invest Wisely

"What would you rather be: rich or happy?"

"One minute," you'll ask, "can't I be rich and happy?"

"You're right. So let's rephrase the question. What would you rather be: rich and miserable, or poor and happy?"

"Obviously," you'll say, "no one wants to be miserable. What are you saying?"

"Firstly, I am saying, there are people who choose to be rich and miserable.

"But more importantly, we should note, that just as we are ready to put effort -- thought and even money -- to enrich ourselves, so we should be ready to put effort -- thought and even money -- to be happy. Happiness is not free. We have to work to achieve it. We may strive to enrich ourselves -- but we must also strive to be happy. This is the first point.

Now, next the question is, what would you rather be, spiritually rich, or just happy? Would you rather be a lofty personality, an important supporter of communal causes, or simply happy living in this world?

This question however, contains a mistake. For, there is no such thing as spiritual growth without being happy. Even a prophet cannot receive prophecy unless he is happy.[1] To make progress, real progress, we must be joyous.

Moreover, and all the more so, our sages teach that a mitzva done once in pain, with effort, is worth a hundred done without pain, without effort.[2] And since it costs us effort to be happy, it follows that a mitzva done with joy is worth a hundred times more than a mitzva done without joy. To be rich, we must be happy.

[1] Shabbos 30b; Rashi, Breishis 45.27
[2] Michtav M'Eliyahu, Vol.3 p.14; Avos d'Rebbi Nosson 3; see also Shir HaShirim Raba 8.14

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

One Solution

We have two problems. One solution solves them both.

We have two problems. One, the things around us we don't like -- the details that litter, hurt and scar us, that stop us enjoying life in a full way. Two, the good things of life we feel we should have -- the possessions, friends, recognition we want, that remain so far away.

The solution to both problems is one. We need to see that life gives us exactly what we deserve. Our surroundings -- people, things, events -- reflect who we are, what we are right now, in relation to what we could be in the future. Accordingly, as we work on ourselves, as we improve ourselves, that which is ugly begins to disappear, while that which is beautiful begins to enter.

How can you know that this idea works? Taste it; try it. Once you have been on a path of intentional/unintentional self-improvement for two, four, ten years, you'll know that life does get better.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009


We need to ask of our future, present and past actions, Are they good? Should we do them? Are they bad? Should we avoid them? And when they're bad, what precautions can we take to protect us from repeating them?

Even of actions that are good, we must ask ourselves, are they all good? Do they include details that that we need to exclude?

An accounting team will assess the health of a business. This is vital to its success. Likewise, we need to assess our habits, attributes and actions. (From Mesillas Yesharim, Chapter 3)

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