Dec 20, 2009

Vayigash, Weekly Torah Portion, Chaya Lagumsky, 12-20-09

Turning Darkness Into Light. Interrelationship between this Jewish month of Tevet, Chanukah, and this week's Torah portion.
Artscroll Stone Chumash, pages 250-267.

Dec 13, 2009

Chanukah, Chaya Lagumsky, 12-13-09

The Light of the Jewish Soul

Dec 7, 2009

Instructions For Living

Short, powerful video of Rabbi Noah Weinberg's teachings.
Click (or double click) here:  Instructions For Living

Dec 6, 2009

Vayeishev, Weekly Torah Portion, Raize Guttman, 12-06-09

Don't Be Misled
Artscroll Stone Chumash, pages 198-221.

Nov 29, 2009

Vayishlach, Weekly Torah Portion, Raize Guttman, 11-29-09

Strategies To Beat Our Evil Inclination
Artscroll Stone Chumash, pages 171-197.

Nov 22, 2009

Vayeitzei, Weekly Torah Portion, Raize Guttman, 11-22-09

Recognizing the Source of All Good
Artscroll Stone Chumash, pages 144-170.

Nov 10, 2009

Photo Album: Gem 7 Israel Trip, May 4-13, 2009

"Leaving Israel", a poem by Raize Guttman

Raize shared this poem with participants of the Gem 7 and Gem 8 Israel Trips on their final day of the program. She wrote it when she had to return to the States after learning in seminary in Jerusalem (Yerushalayim) many years ago. Since then, she has returned to Yerushalayim where she and her husband are raising a beautiful Torah-true family with many kinderlach (children) k'neinah hara.

I hope never to lose this feeling,
This special feeling my heart,
For I will need it to sustain me,
For very soon I will depart.

A place so filled with holy people,
Their deeds, their lives with Torah goals.
The air so sweet, each breath we take,
Puts life anew inside our souls.

Here the tune of children learning,
A love for Torah that can't be erased.
How is it - all Hashem's precious
He put into making this one tiny place.

A feeling of love so deep, so real,
So special beyond any cost.
How could it be- when we leave for awhile,
This deep-rooted feeling is suddenly lost?

That feeling that was so burning inside us,
That with it nothing could equate,
Now just lives inside of us,
In a sadly dormant state.

We have to strive to bring it forth,
To never let it die or fade,
For there is no place in this world,
Worth Yerushalayim as a trade.

I hope never to lose this feeling,
This special feeling in my heart.
For I will need it to sustain me,
All the time we are apart.

Nov 8, 2009

Vayeira, Weekly Torah Portion, Raize Guttman 11-08-09

Guests vs G-d
Artscroll Stone Chumash, pages 78-105

Nov 1, 2009

Noach (con't); Lech Lecha, Weekly Torah Portion, Raize Guttman 11-01-09

The Beginning of the History of the Jewish People
Artscroll Stone Chumash, pages 54-77

Oct 18, 2009

Bereishis, Weekly Torah Portion, Raize Guttman 10-18-09

A New Beginning & The Key To Happiness
Artscroll Stone Chumash, pages 2 - 29

Sep 18, 2009

Rebbetzin Feige Twerski's class

"Listening to Rebbetzin Twerski's shuir [class] connected me to the essence of mankind and to it's relationship to Hashem. She has the ability to weave these two domains into a wise, uplifting and practical tapestry of life. Rebbetzin Twerski has the rare ability to communicate both the ethereal & practical aspects of religion with much wisdom & ease. The hour of teaching flew by and I was left in a place of inspiration and peace."

Sep 13, 2009

The Focus of Rosh Hashana Prayers, Raize Guttman, 9-13-09

The Complete Artscroll Rosh Hashana Machzor (prayer book)

Sep 6, 2009

Sep 3, 2009

Ki Savo, Weekly Torah Portion, Raize Guttman, 8-30-09

Artscroll Stone Chumash, pages 1068-1085

Aug 25, 2009

Heather DeSilva (Gem 4)

Heather and Necha Golda met for dinner at Cafe Rimon last week during Heather's visit with her family in Jerusalem. Heather enjoys calling in regularly to Gem TeleTorah. She was on a Gem Israel Trip spring 2007. Her son and his family live in Beitar Illit, a suburb of Jerusalem. Heather lives in Mississauga, Ontario Canada.

From Drop Box

Aug 24, 2009

Ki Seitzei, Torah Portion of the Week, Raize Guttman, 8-23-09

Beating the Evil Inclination (Yetzer Hara)
Artscroll Stone Chumash, pages 1047-1067

Aug 19, 2009

5 Ways to Misery

Effective strategies for a miserable life.

Shoftim, Torah Portion of the Week, Raize Guttman, 8-16-09

Judging Ourselves Carefully; Are Our Motives Pure?
Artscroll Stone Chumash, pages 1024-1045

(To play recording, click on the little black pointer triangle. When playing, the triangle changes to 2 vertical bars. To pause, click on the 2 bars. To resume playing, click on triangle again. To increase volume, click on tallest of escalating bars. To decrease volume, click on shortest of escalating bars. Please email if recording not working.)

Aug 16, 2009

Re'eh, Torah Portion of the Week, Raize Guttman, 8-9-09

How We See Ourselves & The World, Giving Tzedakah, & other life lessons
Artscroll Stone Chumash, pages 999-1023

(To listen, click on the little, black pointer triangle. When recording starts playing, the triangle changes to 2 bars. To pause, click on the 2 bars. To resume listening, click on the triangle again. To increase or decrease volume, click on escalating bars to left of "share".)

Aug 2, 2009

Eikev, Torah Portion of the Week, Raize Guttman, 8-2-09

What Does It Mean To Fear G-d?
Artscroll Stone Chumash, pages 981-997

(To listen, click on little triangle to left of white rectangle. To pause, click on 2 bars to left of white rectangle. To resume listening, click on triangle again. To increase or decrease volume, click on escalating bars to right of white rectangle.)

Michaela from Gem 6 making aliyah this week!

Photos of Michaela (and her mom, Sheila) during Gem 6,last November (2008).

Want to see live webcast of Nefesh B'Nefesh's flight that Michaela and her husband will be making aliyah on? Go to for live Webcast of August 4th 2009 Flight Arrival Israel 7:45am, UK 5:45am, USA - ESDT 12:45am
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Jul 20, 2009

Jul 15, 2009

Jul 13, 2009

Gem TeleTorah participants

Daniella Moriel (from Toronto, Canada, visiting her sons in Jerusalem) listened to Raize Guttman's Gem TeleTorah class together with Necha Golda at her Jewish Quarter home.
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Mattos & Masei Torah Portions of the Week, Raize Guttman 7-12-09

Pages 901-935, Artscroll Chumash, Stone Edition

Jun 25, 2009

Mazel Tov!!!

Janet Rothman (Gem 3) daughter's wedding in Jerusalem at the Great Synagogue, June 24, 2009 Mazel Tov!!!
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Loving Your Fellow Jew pt 9 Raize Guttman 6-21-09

Marital Harmony

Jun 23, 2009

Jewish online learning site

Ready to move up to the next level of learning? Click on:

Jun 15, 2009

Loving Your Fellow Jew pt 8 Raize Guttman 6-14-09

From all of the GEM participants, we wish you, Necha Golda [our fearless leader], a very happy birthday!

Jun 11, 2009

Partners In Torah

Over-the-phone Jewish learning with your personal trainer.
Totally free. Judaism made user-friendly.
Your pace.
Your focus.
Your Judaism.
Check it out! Go to:

Loving Your Fellow Jew pt 7 Raize Guttman 6-7-09

May 27, 2009

Next Gem Israel Trip (Gem 10): Oct 18-26, 2010

The next Gem Israel Trip for Jewish Women Ages 30 and over (even way over) is Oct 18-26, 2010. The program price is $1895 (double room, airfare not included).

* Appropriate for Jewish women of all backgrounds and levels
* Forge lasting friendships with English-speaking Jewish women worldwide
* Settle and stay in one hotel for the entire packing, unpacking or schlepping luggage
* Created and led (with a lot of Heavenly help!) by Necha Golda, an Old City, Jerusalem resident who will take care of you as if she were your "Israel Mommy"
* Have the time of your life and get your spiritual batteries recharged! 
* For more info and to apply now, go to

May 18, 2009

Loving Your Fellow Jew pt 4 Raize Guttman 5-10-09

Mrs. Raize Guttman,
Loving your fellow Jew #4

May 4, 2009

Class notes: Loving Your Fellow Jew 5-3-09

Loving Your Fellow Jew pt 3 Raize Guttman

Joy & Seeing the Good + a spiritual "stress test"

We are going to climb up another rung in our ladder of AhavasYyisroel (Loving Your Fellow Jew) today!
Two weeks ago we spoke about judging people favorably. Last week we spoke about giving honor to everyone. This week we’re going t speak abut joy and seeing the good in everything. When we are happy we can properly get along with others well. That is the way to serve Hashem [G-d] properly.

Ethics of our Fathers: Chapter 3, Mishneh 13 “if the spirit of ones fellow is pleased with him, the spirit of Hashem is pleased with him. But if the spirit of ones fellow is not pleased with him, then the spirit of Hashem is also not pleased with him.” We see here a direct connection between finding favor in Hashems eyes and getting along with each other.

When there’s controversy Hashem says “I’m skipping town and I’m not stickin around for this”. When a husband and wife have peace within the house, Hashem is there with them.

B’simcha means with Happiness. Machshava means thought. These two Hebrew words are made up of the same letters because happiness is not a result of situations; Happiness is a result of positive thoughts.

Mishneh 16: “Rabbi Yishmoel says ‘be easy going to old people and be pleasant to young people and greet all people cheerfully”. From here we see that that the only way to get along with everyone is to treat them with happiness.

How do we become that upbeat happy person??

Let’s do a stress test: 1 = Never, 2=rarely 3 = sometimes 4 = frequently 5 = all the time
I eat a healthy breakfast
I have no pain in my joints or muscles
I have cheerful thoughts
I can concentrate when I read
my teeth and jaws are comfortably relaxed
when I have to wait for someone I look for something constructive to do
I enjoy meeting new people
I function well even if the room is stuffy
heartbeat is study and regular
I feel a strong connection to my family
I am able to be calm when others are inefficient or late to appointments
I have no trouble asking for help when I need it

I feel energetic at the beginning f the day
I can handle my responsibilities even when i'm in pain
when there is a lot to do, I plan ahead and make lists
I push off dealing with issues
I dwell on past mistakes
my neck or back hurts in the morning
I feel responsible to make difficult people e happy or satisfied with me
I scream
I get dizzy and feel as if I cant walk
I am too busy to sort out my thoughts and feelings
I start but don’t finish routine tasks
I feel jealous of friends and neighbors
I misplace things
I have trouble expressing my feelings
I am uncomfortable disagreeing with others
I get tension headaches
I panic when I go to the doctor or dentist
I forget names, numbers, telephone messages and what I am supposed to do next

Add up the two separate columns. 1-15 and 16-30
Take the second number from the second list and subtract it from the first number. [Use a calculatorJ]

If you scored 20-30: you are probably an inspiration t others. You have the ability to view difficult sit as challenges rather than obstacles. You got a great score!
10-20, congratulations you have learnt to take your stress in stride. You will probably want to listen to this class to learn how to deal with aspects of stress. You’re doing great
0-10 like most people you experience stress. Rather than knocking yourself, congratulate yourself on being honest with your feelings. I’m sure you’ll gain a lot from this class.
If you scored less than zero, listen very carefully J

Apr 22, 2009

Moshiach's Hat, Loving Your Fellow Jew pt 1

"Twas the night of the Geulah, - And in every single Shtiebel.
Sounds of the Torah could be heard coming from every kind of Yeedel.
This one in English Some in Hebrew, some in Yiddish.
Some saying Pshat And some saying a Chiddish.
And up in Shamayim The Aibishter decreed:
"The time has come for My Children to be freed."
"Rouse the Moshiach From his heavenly berth.
Have him get in his chariot, And head down to earth."
The Moshiach got dressed And with a heart full of glee,
Went down to earth and entered The first Shtiebel he did see.
"I am the Moshiach! Hashem has heard your plea!
Your Geulah has come! It's time to go free!"
They all stopped their learning; This was quite a surprise.
And they looked at him carefully, With piercing sharp eyes.
"He's not the Moshiach!" Said one with a grin,
"Just look at his hat, At the pinches and brim!"
"That's right!" cried another With a grimace and frown,
"Whoever heard of Moshiach With a brim that's turned down?"
"Well," thought Moshiach, "If this is the rule,
I'll turn my brim up Before I go to the next shul."
So he walked right on over To the next shul in town.
Sure to be accepted, Since his brim was no longer down.
"I'm the Moshiach!" he cried, As he began to enter,
But the Jews wanted to know first If he was Left, Right, or Center.
"You're clothes are so black!" They cried out in fright.
"You can't be Moshiach You're much too far right!"
"If you want to be Moshiach, You must be properly outfitted."
So they replaced his black hat with a kippah that was knitted.
Wearing his new Kippah, Moshiach went out and said:
"No difference to me what I wear on my head."
So he went to the next shul, For his mission was dear,
But he was getting frustrated with the Yidden down here.
"I'm the Moshiach!" he cried, And they all stopped to stare,
And a complete eerie stillness filled up the air.
"You're the Moshiach?! just imagine that!
Whoever heard of Moshiach - without a black hat?!"
"But I do have a hat!" the Moshiach then said.
So he pulled it right out and plunked it down on his head.
The shul started laughing, And one said: "where's your kop?"
You can't have a Moshiach With a brim that's turned up!"
"If you want to be Moshiach And be accepted in this town,
Put some pinches in your hat And turn that brim down!"
Moshiach walked out and said: "I guess my time hasn't come.
I'll just have to return to where I came from."
So he went to his chariot, But as he began to enter,
All sort of Jews appeared From the Left, Right, and Center.
"Please wait - do not leave. It's all their fault!" they said,
And they pointed to each other And to what was on each other's head.
Moshiach just looked sad And said, "you don't understand."
And then started up his chariot to get out of this land.
"Yes, it's very wonderful That you all learn Torah,
But you seem to have forgotten a crucial part of our Mesorah.
"What does he mean?" "what's he talked about?"
And they all looked bewildered, And all began to shout.
Moshiach looked back and answered, "The first place to start,
Is to shut up your mouths and open up your hearts.
"To each of you, certain Yidden Seem too frum or too frei,
But all yidden are beloved In the Aibishter's eye."
And on his way up he shouted: "If you want me to come,
Try working a little harder On some Ahavat Chinam!"

Apr 5, 2009

Birchas Hachama - Blessing for the Sun

We will say the blessing on the sun on Wendsday, April 8th in the morning.

"Here Comes the Sun" an Aish Article:

Here is a link for the prayers:

To find a Birchas Hachama ceremony near you:

Background of birchas hachama - a speech

Mar 25, 2009

Passover (Pesach) Spiritual Cleaning, Raize Guttman 3-22-09

March 22, 2009
Mrs. Raize Guttman on:
Spiritual Cleaning for Pesach

Mar 17, 2009

Mrs. Chaya Hoffman, Her Mother's Holocaust Story

We had a very special guest speaker! Mrs. Chaya Hoffman speaks about her mother's incredible journey and survival through the Holocaust. A truly inspirational speech.

Mar 3, 2009

Blessing of Peace

Mrs. Raize Guttman
March 1st

Last week we started the blessing of thankfulness. This blessing is really a new and continuation of that blessing. This is considered part of the blessings of thanksgiving and yet we are asking for peace. In this blessing we begin to ask Hashem for all sorts of things, peace, life, goodness etc.The first question is, if this blessing is part of the thanks, why do we suddenly start asking for so many things? It sounds like we’re back to the requests
Whats going on?
The answer is a foundation of Jewish life. One of the greatest expressions of thanks to G-d is asking Him for more. When we ask for more we acknowledge that He is the source of everything. The word hodaah means thanks and to acknowledge or confess. A major aspect of thanking Hashem is to confess/acknowledge that everything comes from G-d. How do we make this grand a statement that everything stems from Him? By asking for more!
When we want to thank a person for something, we give to them. We give a present, compliment, smile etc. we give to express our appreciation. If someone would give us something and then ask for more, it wouldn’t be very nice. If you give your daughter a new necklace and then she asks for another one, you would not be very pleased!
If we think that we’re giving Hashem something by doing a mitzvah, were very wrong. There's nothing that G_d needs so there's nothing that He lacks. The only way to give to Him is by taking, thanking and asking for more. This is Hashems greatest pleasure. We constantly ask for more and more and by doing so we make a big declaration that Hashem can do anything and nothing is out of His power.
This idea explains the interesting punishment that the serpent who enticed eve to sin got. This serpent received a curse – G-d said that the serpent will crawl on his stomach and eat dust. Whats the curse? Wherever he’l go he’ll have food! G-d was saying to him “Get out of my life and don’t bother me. You are independent” To be independent of G-d is the worst curse that there could be. The greatest blessing is to be dependant on G-d. Its interesting that it says about Leah, that she had 4 sons. Her 4Th sons name was Yehuda. Which means to thank. After she had Yehuda and said “This time I express such unbelievable appreciation for having 4 sons!” She figured everyone would have 3, and she was so overly thankful. And after that she stopped giving birth for a while. A couple of years later she had Yissachar. Why? She stopped asking! She felt that Hashem gave so much to her, how can she have the “Chutzpa” To ask for more?? But its not chutzpa! If G_d gives you good, THANK HIM and ask for more!!! Its not too hard for G-d. We are saying “Gd you are omnipotent and all powerful.” The last bracha of the shmoneh esrei. What is it that we’re asking for? ”The last is the most beloved” This is most beloved because it’s the blessing of peace. Rashi tells us “If there's no peace, there’s nothing”. Before I continue, I want to discuss the concept of bowing before we say modem. In the beginning of the shemoneh esrei in the praise section, we bow twice: in the beginning and the end of that paragraph. We bend our knees and bow our heads. This signifies our subservience to G-d. then we come to the end and we also bow twice. But when we say “modem” We bow differently. At the end of the modem, we bow without bending our knees. It’s a different kind of bowing because its not a subjugation, it’s an expression of so much gratitude. It’s a nodding of the head rather than a bowing of the knees. Modim has the focus of “Thank you Hashem for everything”. If we look throughout history, we see that in Hashems eyes, the most beloved thing is that people should get along with each other. The temple was destroyed because there was hatred. The only way to build is when there's kindness and peace. Three examples to show how beloved peace is to G-d. Abraham had a bris [circumcision]. He was in terrible pain and it was the hottest day ever. Hashem took the sun out of its outer shell so no one would go out and disturb Abraham. Hashem himself came to visit Abraham instead of sending him guests. G-d is asking him how he’s doing. All of a sudden 3 Arab nomads come towards Abraham's tent. G-d sent him guests, who were angels in the forms of guests. He jumped up and said “Gd, thank you for coming to visit me- but I have something more important to do! I have to take care of my guests!” G-d was not insulted, he was very proud of Abraham. Talmud tells us “Its greater to welcome in guests than to greet the divine presence.” G-d says, don’t worry about my honor. What I really care about is that you should take care of one another. We see how G-d puts himself aside so that there should be peace between people. The generation after the flood is called the generation of Bavel. They decided that they would conquer G-d. We’re going to build a tower up to the sky and wage war with G-d. All the people got together in unity and they went about to build this tower. Both of these generations were punished. The generation of the flood was punished for stealing and not treating each other nicely. He destroyed them all. If there is no kidness G-d decided to restart. The next generation, everyone was very kind to each other. They all love each other and work together. They have a great goal. How does G-d punish them? He just mixes up their languages. This is how all the languages came about because G-d mixed them up. If we would look at these two situations, and I was G-d – one generation would steal one grape from the proprietor until the guy had no grapes left. They were very tricky in the way they stole. They didn’t value one another. The next generation, if I were g-d I would say “These people want to wage war with me!” It sounds worse that that they want to conquer G-d. he said, its so nice that they are working together! I'm not going to bring a plague or hurt them, I'm only going to mix up their languages. By the flood? They stole from each other! The purpose of the world is kindness. We see another example of how unity peace and brotherhood is more important in the eyes of G-d than the relationship of us and Him. The third example which is very appropriate for today. There are two holiday that sound similar. Purim and Yom Kipurim. Yom Kipurim means a day Like Purim. If I would ask you whats the holiest day of the year, you’d say yom kippur! But its not true. Why is purim greater?On Yom Kippur we’re like angels, we go to shul, we stand all day, we don’t eat we don’t drink. Were focused on us and G-d. a day between man and his maker. Purim is a day where we are all day long involved with other people. We have to give shalach manos, gifts to the poor, we have to have a meal together. We are involved all day long. G-d tells us the purpose of life in this world is your relationship between man and man. On Purim we have many opportunities to enhance that relationship to show love, brotherhood and kindness to one another. On yom kipur, even though it’s a very holy day, we don’t have opportunities to enhance our relationship between man and man. Its between man and g-d. When you come up to the next world, that’s when you’ll be totally focused on your relationship between man and G-d. You wont be able to do kind things for other people in the next world. Its about enjoying the radiance of the schechina. This short world that were in now, we are meant to “Chap a rein” To grab as many mitzvos as we can between man and man. To create shalom, peace love and unity among people. Since Purim has a greater potential for heightening the relationship between me and man, it is holier than yom kippur.Purim is the holiest day of the year. The purpose of these examples is to show us how shalom, love, unity and peace is truly the most beloved and important thing to G-d.What is peace? Now that we know its so important lets figure out what it is!Peace is not the absence of war. It is every individual working together with his special talents and abilities and appreciating the abilities of the people around him. Every individual working together towards one goal.When a Jew meets another Jew “Shalom Aleichem” And they answer “Aleichem Shalom” In order for us to have peace we need each other. All Jews are connected. For there to be true peace in the world, we need each other. This knowledge alone should help us get along together. It doesn’t always have to be the way I want and what I say. Some times it will be my way, and some times yours. We will each take our individual strengths. Instead of rubbing each other the wrong way we should focus on the good in each other and try to achieve this goal of peace. In this bracha we ask for 3 different types of peace. Which is taken from the three verses of the priestly blessing of peace. “May g-d bless you and guard you” “may he shine his face to you and favor you” “ may G-d lift his face towards you and grant you peace”We ask for all of these three ideas in this blessing. We start by saying “Please give us Peace, goodness, blessing, graciousness, kindness and mercy” This is referring to the peace that encompasses all of these ideas. This is inner peace. Having peace of mind. This highest form of peace, or Rav Shwab explains –“ the wonderful feeling that your soul is at peace with G-d.” its an inner acceptance and peace of whatever is happening around you. Story with Avigdor who is 4. We were sitting in the living room, and yesterday Baruch Hashem we had a thunder storm and it was just beautiful. Avigdor and I were sitting in the living room and the wind started blowing and making whooshing sounds. Avigdor asks me “What is that?!” I told him it’s the wind blowing and that Hashem is making the wind blow. Avigdor says “mommy, that’s Hashem talking to me!” I said “What is Hashem saying to you??” “He is saying I love you Avigdor!!” All of a sudden there was a flash of lightening and he said “Ma, you see how much Hashem loves me?? He just took a picture of me!”To feel so beloved in the hands f hashem. We wish this inner peace on us and all of the Jews. There's a beautiful prayer in English, that I say all the time because it expresses all the things we want to say. “G-d, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, to change the things I cannot accept, and the wisdom to know the difference.” That’s the first level of peace. The second level of peace is“Our Father grant us all together with the light of Your face.” This is true peace and unity among all Jews. We are asking for true brotherly love. When we request this, Hashem will reciprocateJust as the Jews all camped by Mt. Sinai with one heart. It was in the merit of this unity that we received the Torah. At the end of grace after meals we say “G-d give strength [Torah] to the Jewish people, only if He has blessed them with peace.”G-d spoke face to face with every Jew by Mt. Sinai. Each of them became a great scholar. This is why the gemarrah says, Torah Scholars increase peace in the world. If you’re always having fights, controversy and friction with other people, you can’t be a Torah scholar. G-d shines his face to those who try to make peace with everyone. What does the “light of G-ds face” mean? What does it mean when we say ‘her face lit up’ it means when a person smiles from ear to ear. Light was the first thing that G-d created. We know on the first day of creation G-d created light. It’s the fasted creation. First you see the lightening, because light travels faster than sound. Light travels over a thousand miles per second. Why is light the fastest creation> Because when one smiles on someone, it has an amazing power to in a split second enter the other persons heart. When we say to G-d “The light of Your face” We are meant to emulate Him and spread peace in the world with a smile. It’s a amazing to see how a person can feel so low, and you flash them a smile it can sometimes completely change a mood. The power of light is the power of your smile. We say, G-d please bless us all of us as one. Only through the power of us being one – G-d will shine his face upon us as a gift for us shining our faces on others.
“Because it was with this light that You gave us Living Torah, Kindness, Charity, Blessing, Mercy, Life and Peace” With G-ds smile He gave us Torah. Torah is meant to be alive. With this beautiful light of his face he gives us Torah and says “live it up!!” Don’t just do mitzvos, live them, experience them and love them. The desire to do kindness for others is a special blessing from Hashem. Its not just a given and we should pray for it. To love to do kindness for others is the main point. We continue to detail the blessings of shalom. We should give charity to one another. Everyone should bless each other. We should show one another mercy. We should help everyone to live a normal life. What people need we should help them to live. Go and help others. And Peace is mentioned again, just in case you got into a fight, you should make up and reestablish peace!The third type of peace is the absence of war. This is what we say “It should be good in your eyes, to bless the entire nation of Israel always with Your peace” That is G-ds protection. At all times, somewhere in the world there is bloodshed, fighting and warfare. If we could observe the world from space we would see that someone somewhere is murdering someone. We say “at every moment, at all times we are totally dependant on your blessing of peace”. This is what we ask for in the last part of the bracha.We end off this beautiful blessing with “Blessed are you G-d who blesses His people Israel with Peace”This mentions all three types of peaceinner peacepeace between all JewsProtection from our enemies and any sort of dangers that are lurking
May we be zoche to true peace in every sphere. And with this we have concluded the last blessing of the shemoneh esrei.
Q: How is Yom Kippur like Purim if historically Purim comes later than Yom Kippur? A: We are talking about the essence of the day being since the purpose of life in this world is to focus on our relationships with people. Since Purim focuses on people there's more potential of growth than a day like yom kippur. So we say that Yom Kippur is a very holy day but it doesn’t have the potential of Purim. A lot of people destroy there Purims from drinking. A person should drink just so much that their spirit soars. Not to get so drunk that you throw up all over the floor. The reason for all this is because the Yetzer Hara tries so hard to destroy the holiness of the day. Purim is a great day of prayer! Make sure to talk to Him on Purim because we have this beautiful potential of love and peace on Purim. We have such a tremendous opportunity to Pray to G-d. Imagine if all day your children got along and there was no fighting. You as a parent would be so happy you’d be willing to do anything on Purim!

Feb 23, 2009

Blessing of Thanksgiving

February 22, 2009
Mrs. Raize Guttman
We are going to be speaking about thanking Hashem! Which is something that we all I’m sure we’re all very interested in and we should be doing most of the time. The last part of the shmoneh esrei is actually catered to this specific need and this specific object of thanksgiving. This is the place that we attempt to express our hakaras hatov [appreciation] to Hashem for all of the millions of kindnesses that he does for us every second.
This is also in place of the korban todah [sacrifice of thanksgiving] that was given in the holy temple. If you remember last week, we spoke about the service in the Holy Temple which constitueted all the sacrifices. This blessing is the continuation of that in the sense that in the holy temple, part of the service was the sacrifice of the korban todah. When we say this blessing [at least until moshiach comes] this is in place of that sacrifice.
The question is what is appreciation? What is hakaras hatov? I think the answer to that question is in the word hakaras hatov – it literally means recognition, to be conscious of the good. The first step of trying to achieve some sense of appreciation of g-d is to recognize the good. its not enough to have good, many people have lots of good but they don’t recognize it. Therefore they’re not happy and theyre not grateful for it.

The second way is to appreciation is to recognize that all Good is really G-d!!
Good is two “O”s and G-d is one “O”. Hashem is the true source of al; good
When we use the expression recognition of the good, what it really means Hatov, the one and only source of goodness! So hakaras hatov really can be translated as recognition of G-d.
The more one brings God, and awareness of G-d into his life the happier he will be
And this is the first thing we say in this blessing.
If you look into the blessing “we thank you” Why? What’s the first thing we’re going to thank Hashem for? We go through a whole long list of things we’re going to thank Him for. The first thing we thank Him for is “That you are Hashem our G-d”! That is the very first thing to thank Hashem for, the fact that G-d is our G-d. that we have this G-d and we have relationship with him and we have this connection to Him, and there’s no greater good than that. That’s hakaras Hatov Recognition of Good or recognition of G-d. Recognition of G-dliness which is really the same thing.

The essence of every Jew is hakaras hatov, is thankfulness, is appreciation. What’s the first words you say when you wake up in the morning? You open up your eyes and the first thing you say is “Modeh Ani”. Modeh is the same word that we are using here in this blessing. I thank you Hashem. In essence, grammatically speaking we should really be saying “Ani Modeh” “I thank You Hashem.” And yet we don’t say that, we say “Modeh Ani” Rav Shimshon Pinkus tells us why, the first thing you should say when you wake up in the morning should not be “I”.

The first thing you should say is “I thank You Hashem!”

This is how we begin our day, this is how we begin life is with thankfullness. The name of the Jew is Yehudi. We’re all called Yehudim. What does this mean? Yehuda comes from the name that Leah gave her fourth son. The first son she called Reuven, the second son she called Shimon and the third she called levi and the fourth son she called Yehuda.
Why? It says “Hapaam odeh es Hashem,” I am so overcome with thankfulness, I’m overcome with gratefulness! I have four sons already, who ever dreamed that i would have four sons? Based on the name Yehuda – which means to thank, we are called Yehudim. We’re not called Reuvenim or Shimonim… some of us are called Leviim, but all of us are called Yehudim. That means a Jew. Why? Why is the name of a Jew Yehudi? Because that’s the essence of a Jew! What does it mean to be a Jew? A jew means someone who wakes up and says modeh ani, he is connected with Hashem, he is filled with hakaras hatov.

How important is it to have hakaras hatov??
I once learnted that the more hakaras hatov a person has in this world to that extent will a person be able to enjoy his place in the afterlife forever and ever and all of eternity. Meaning, the amunt of hakaras hatov, appreciation and the amount of g-dliness a prsn finds and looks for and sees in his life here, that’s how much a person is going to enjoy g-dliness in the next world.

My principal In high school [Rabbi Kramer] once taught us this. He said imagine the next world as a big ampithetar like Madison square garden and everyone sits all around and theshow is in the middle of the field. Lets say olam haba is that big ampitheater. Everyone has a portion in the world to come so Everyone has a different seat.Some people have box seets, those are The really righteous people, they get the box seats. Then all along people have portions and seats and The people in the back in the bleachers all the way up they need binoculars to watch the show. Those are the least of the righteous people. What is the show that we’re all going to be watching in the next world? That is the schnina, that is G-ds presence. We are all going to be sitting around in the next world enjoying the radiance of the schnina.
This is what the Mesilas Yehsarim, the Path of the Just [the book that I told you about last week] is how he starts off his first chapter he talks about
The concept of the next world is enjoying the radiance of the schina. Wow it sounds beautiful! We’re all going to be sitting in our allotted portion, enjoying the radiance of the shchina forever and ever and all of eternity. It sounds nice it sunds loveley, but it sounds a bit boring after a while, no? I mean, how long can you sit and watch the same show?? The answer is depending on how much you appreciate the show that’s how boring or not boring or exciting it will be for you.
ForA person who spends his entire life seeking out G-dliness, Hashem “hakaras HaTov” , recognizing the good in his ife and recognizing Hashem in his life,
Everywhere he goes he is searching for Hashem

My grandmother used to love going shopping in the shuk. After we had a couple of bombings and all kind of nebach tragedies in the shuk here in Israel, I used to tell her “Bubby please do me a favor, don’t go to the shuk! I’ll get you the vegetables in my neighborhood and I’ll bring them over to you, so I’ll pay a few shekels more, I don’t care. But do me a favor, I’m scared, don’t go to the shuk. I don’t want you walking around the shuk.” And she used to tell me:
“Raizy, I have to go to the shuk! When I go to the shuk I see ahsem! Everywhere I turn I see Hashem. I see so many different types of people, beautiful oranges and beautiful apples and so many different types of fruits and vegetables. Everywhere I go all I see is Hashem.” I said “You know what Bubby? If all you see in the shuk is Hashem, then go to the shuk!”
I always think of my grandmother, no matter where you are no matter what you’re doing always look for the good. Always look for G-d. It’s the same thing, G-d is the source of all goodness.
HWne a person tries to find meaning and purpose in his own life and everything that happens to him, such a person will come up after 120 years and all of a sudden will look at the show, he’ll look at the show and say Wow! This is what I’ve been seeking for my whole life! This is what I have been after, and here it is! It will be the most beautiful fascinating, interesting, enjoyable show for ever. His soul will never get enough of that which is soul was seeking his whole life.
For a person who spent nhis life in this world running after trivialities and all kinds of silliness, that really did not connect him to G-d in anyway, he didn’t look to see the beauty in the world and the beauty in his life. He’ll come up and see the schina and wont mean anything to him he wont have any connection to it. Such a person, to sit in his portion forever and ever and all of eternity that will be gehennom!
The next world really is hell and heaven in the same place. For some people it will be hell and for some it will be heaven depending on how much appreciation and awareness of the good he ran after and saught his entire life.
Appreciate G-d, seeing the good and that’s why we are called yehudim and that’s why we say modeh ani when we wake up.

Theres a beautiful commentary on these words by the Toras Chaim, he says such a beautiful thing that I’m going to read it inside

“It seems that we must interpret, since G-d blessed is He, does kindness with every man, every day and every time and every minute. However the person who is experiencing all of these miracles doesn’t realize all of the miracles going on around him. He assumes that the world runs on its natural course, and he doesn’t feel that every step that he takes and every move that he makes, and every breath that he breathes it is all directly from G-d. and it would be appropriate that a person should thank and he should bless every minute, constantly, for every step for every movement and every breath a person should constantly be saying thank you. Any person who does not recognize every minute that everything is from G-d but just assumes that of course I’m able to move my hand! This person is as if he is someone who doesn’t believe, he is like a heretic. Since it is impossible that a person should stand from the morning until the night and he should give constant praise and thanks for every step and every movement and since anyways most of the world is running after silliness and nonsense and not involved in these lofty thoughts; Everyone is running after money. Therefore the men of the great assembly, since we really should be thanking Hashem every minute, the men wrote down this prayer so that every morning, afternoon and evening we should be thanking Hashem so that a person can encompass in this one blessing, all of the breaths that he breathes and all of the constant kindness and wonders he can fulfill his obligation of thanking Hashem all day long by saying modem and having in mind that I really wish I could thank you all day long. Hashem I am thanking you now Tati thank you for all the chesed and kindness you do for me. Therefore we say these words “Modim anachnu lach”

This is exactly what the blessing is talking about

“We thank you Hashem that you are our G-d and the go-d of our fathers, you are our rock, you are the rock of our lives” It’s a sign of strength. We can always rely on Hashem. He is strong and reliable.
“The shield of our salvation” Any salvation any type of yeshua, it all comes from Hashem.
“It is You Hashem for every generation therefore we thank you, we will relate your praise” For our lives that are committed into your hands. I’m a nothing and anybody if not for you. For the miracles that happen to us every single day. For the wonders, for the favors that you do for us that are there for us at all times. The difference between your miracles and “your wonders” miracles are the changes in nature.
Then there are the wonders like breathing and rain. That really are truly miraculous but
There’s no difference between nature and miracles except that nature happens frequently but miracles happen infrequently.
Its equally as miraculous as splitting the sea! We view one as a miracle as absolutely amazing and earth shattering. Equally so we thank G-d for the wonders for the things he does for us all the time. The favors that you do all the time, in the evening, morning and afternoon” this is the same thing that we said before. In this blessing of modiim. The men do when they daven three times a day. And we end off by “You are the good” when we say hakaras haTov, this is what we’re talking about. Why is he good? Because Your compassion never ends. You are merciful because your kindness never ends. For always we hope to you. Meaning that the only one that we can trust and look to for any type of help or mercy is to You. It’s interesting because here we see that G-ds goodness is based on his mercy. We are saying that everything tat G-d does is good. Only G-d can have true ercy on someone because only G-d knows what is truly good for us

When it comes to us, we can have mercy on someone only as much as we can see. We try to alleviate that suffering but we don’t really know why they are suffering maybe this suffering is really good for them! But G-d and his mercy are intertwined. His goodness comes from his mercy

G-ds Mercy is found in his name “Yud Key Vuv Key” Every name is a manifestation of a different attribute of G-d. Whenever we have the name “Ado ---“ Whenever we see that name written out, its G-ds mercy.
Yud and Hey, and Vuv and Hey stand for past present and future. G-d is all merciful past present and future. The connection is that the only reason that G_d is all merciful and completely compassionate is because G-d sees the whole picture. We have a limited understanding and we don’t have a full understanding of what G-d

How they were affected in the past or who they’ll be effected in the future. We make judgments based on the picture we see right now. The definition of Good is not what we like or makes us feel comfortable. Anything that brings us closer to G-d is good. He is merciful because he sees the whole picture. He knows what happen before and he knows what the ramifications are. He sees how you’re playing your role.

They’re not! They are all coming from G-ds mercy. Being able to see the whole picture. His goodness is pure because He knows exactly what we need.

1. Be Makir – open his eyes and focus on all the wonderful and beautiful things he has in his life. That’s the first step, open up your eyes and look and see and

Trace all this goodness back to its source, finding G-d and recognizing him in every aspect.
Remember that recognizing the good doesn’t mean if it feels good then its good and everything that Hashem does is for our good. This is a way that we can truly feel appreciation to G-d always. We don’t have to wait for everything in life to be perfect. Everyone has their tests and their difficulties. And probably those tests and difficulties are where we’re going to grow the most.
In order to achieve great levels in the world to come
G_D knows all of that. For this we have to appreciate G_d and feel hakaras hatov. And recognize G_d in every aspect of life

The second part of this blessing we say for all the kindnesses “May Your name be blessed, our King always and forever” For all of these G-d, we exalt you and bless your name forever.
“All of the life will thank you forever” What we’re talking about is the entire world. Animals and every aspect of nature that every aspect of the entire universe sings its own special thanks to G-d.
Perek Shirah, what it is is the entire universe, the sun the moon the ocean, every aspect of the world has its own special verse, from psalms every one has its own special prayer of praise and thanks to G-d. The entire world is so indebted to you for all the good that you do. Every aspect of the world, naturally thanks G-d. That’s what they do, they don’t have free choice. Man is only the being in the entire world that has the free choice. Out of our own free will and that raises us up over every aspect of life including the angels! They sing praise because that’s what they were created to do. When a person chooses and really thanks G_d for whatever situation it is, whatever it is, to say “G-d I am totally connected to you! You love me, you are filled with mercy and filled with goodness, and is perfectly suited for my needs. All of life praises you G-d but man

The word Chaim stands for 4 different types of people who have an extra measure of gratefulness of G-d. People who say birchas hagomel, which people do after 4 different situations. Anyone who has experienced chaim will especially thank you.

Ches= choleh, someone who was ill and was healed.
Yud= yam, someone who travels over the oceans and arrives at their destination safely
Yud= yissurim, anyone who was locked up in jail and got out of jail, has an extra measure of thankfulness to G-d.
Mem= midbar, someone who travels through the desert. Years ago that’s how people traveled.

They will praise your name in truth. G-d who is our salvation and our help, forever.
The question on these words is why do we first say thank you to Hashem for being or salvation and then for being our hope?
Don’t stop praying and realizing that im in a desperate need ofG-ds help and not to take things for granted. Therefore we say after we experience a salvation where we feel g-ds kindness in a tremendous way, don’t stop thanking Hashem and thanking him constantly for all the regular things you thank him for. Don’t just live from one big thing to another big thing. I’ll give you a story
When I was in high school, we had a teacher her name was Mrs. Press. She’s now the principal, she received a whole bunch of phone calls within 6 months she received all of the se different phone calls.
She gets a phone call from a girl “Everything’s fine, but I’m having such anxiety because everyone is getting their seminary acceptances. Once I know where I’m going and have it all straightened out ill really be able to enjoy life. I can’t think straight”
another phone call from a girl who came home from pesach “I love seminary and love Israel, but I don’t know, I cant really fully enjoy myself because I’m so worried about what’s going to be next year. I’m just so nervous that I find myself so anxious. Once things fall into place I’ll be happy.”
Another one, from a girl a year out of seminary “Everything’s fine, I started dating and the whole shidduch scene is driving me bananas, I’m so worried I cant eat and cant sleep. I see girls who are much older than me who are not married”
A girl who was engaged, “Such a wonderful chosson, everything’s great but the engagement period is such a crazy time. It’s so uncomfortable, once I get married things will fall into place. I’m so nervous and worried I cant really enjoy myself
A girl who was married a year “So nervous, I’m not pregnant, once I’m pregnant and everything’s ok, I find myself not being able to enjoy myself. Once I am pregnant I know for sure that I’ll be happy!”
And you could already imagine, the next girl is pregnant and she’s all worried until she gives birth, then as the child grows up.
Issues in life don’t disappear; at every stage in life there are other hurdles to deal with. Not to have hakaras hatov now is a sin!!
“Yesterday was the past, tomorrow is the future, today is a gift and that’s why its called the present.”
Its up to us to truly acknowledge that present and not to always be worried and nervous. These things take us away from bonding with our creator.
We end of this beautiful blessing with “Blessed are you G-d, whose name is good and to whom it is fitting to praise”
The lechem ra’av says the first letters of these words spell out: Hey Shin, a Vuv a Nun and a Lamed. All of those leters to gether spell out “Halashon” The tongue. The whole purpose of a tongue is to thank Hashem.

Which is the greatest thing that we all have to be thankful for.

Feb 18, 2009

Feb 10, 2009

Blessing of Having Our Prayers Answered (Shema Koleinu/Hear our Voices)

February 7th
Mrs. Raizy Guttman
It’s a very special bracha that we’re up to. We’re actually up to the last of the 13 intermediate blessings, the thirteen requests that encompass all of our individual and collective needs.
The first 6, lets do a quick review, were the requests for the individual. We ask for da’as which was knowledge and insight. We ask for repentance, forgiveness. We ask for geulah which is our personal redemption from our individual difficulties and problems in life. We ask for health and healing. The 6th is sustenance and livelihood.
The following 6 are reqests for the nation as a collective whole and therefore map out the stages and requests for the messiah. Because these are everything that we can hope for. Anything that we could hope for will take place when moshiach comes.
Ingathering of the exiles when all Jews will come together. We spoke about blowing the shofar and G-d making great miracles.
The 8th blessing was the blessing of restoration of the true judges where we’ll have the great leaders to guide us in the spirit of torah.
the 9th blessing is the removal of evil
the 10th is the blessing on the tzadikim which is the elevation and reward of the good where everyone will get exactly what they deserve
the 11th is the rebuilding of Jerusalem, the rebuilding of the holy Temple
the 12th is the rule of moshiach and what will happen when moshiach will come and a descendant of king david will rule

The last of our requests now is an all encompassing prayer that unites all the previous requests and gives meaning and purpose to all our prayers. It is a request that all our prayers be answered. All of our prayers that we asked for up until now, now we collectively ask that G-d answer all of our prayers. In this short but deeply meaningful prayer, we gain many insights into the essence of prayer and different strategies on how to have our prayers answered. As we go through the words we will point out a few of these strategies and how to achieve them. This prayer is also called all encompassing because one is encouraged to speak to G-d in his own words. In any language and to beg G-d for his own personal requests and we’ll point out the exact place that one can do this in this prayer.
Rav Hirsch Shatz points out that the previous blessing of Moshiach, of the kingdom of David, we concluded our reqests about the future redemption, and with this prayer of “listen to our voice” we return to the present and our prayers in exile. The words of this blessing are actually very appropriate for begging G-d to save us from the exile. The first time that these words were said were by the angels. When did the angels say these words? The angels said “Blessed are you G-d who answers prayers” When? When the Jews were in exile in Egypt. Now how appropriate is this Saturday night of when we just read about this in shul. We just read about the exodus from Egypt how G-d took the Jews out of Egypt and split the sea. And this is exactly when this blessing that we’re speaking about tonight, the angels said these words when the Jews were in exile in Egypt and were crying out to G-d to save them. Therefore this is a real Exile prayer that G-d should help all of us individually and collectively from all the difficulties that we experience in exile just as He did for the Jews in Egypt and heard their cries and answered them.
So we begin with the words “Shema Koleinu”. If you want to look in your siddur, the first words of this very beautiful and personal and meaningful prayer is “Listen to our voice”. Now, we don’t say listen to our prayer. We don’t say listen to our reqests our supplications, rather we say listen to our voice .Now the voice symbolizes the inner voice of a person. It symbolizes the true deep down desire of a person. I’ll give you an example: when Sarah wanted to send Yishmael [Abrahams son] out of the house, because he wasn’t be a good influence on Yitzchak, Abraham was a little bit wary about this. I mean, Abraham was Mister Chesed, Mister Kindness. He invited everyone into his house! And now he has to throw his own son out of his house?! It was a very difficult thing for him. And yet G-d comes to Abraham and says “Whatever Sarah tells you to do, listen to her voice”. And what’s the significance of “listen to her voice”? Why didn’t G-d just say “listen to her!” Whatever Sarah says listen to her. Or listen to this particular thing. Whatever she tells you right now it’s a good thing. But He didn’t say that, He said “listen to her voice”. Meaning whatever Sarah tells you. Meaning anything that Sarah tells you Abraham, listen to her because she knows what she’s talking about, right? She has an innate connection to spirituality which is her voice.
So we say to G-d, that although we don’t always know exactly what to say, and sometimes we say the words and we don’t fully understand or appreciate what we’re saying. We tell G-d to overlook our human frailties and to look straight into my neshama, my inner voice. My true inner will which is only to become close to You.
So we see the first strategy in having our prayers answered is also probably the most important and practical strategy. Is by focusing on that inner voice. Not just telling G-d to do so, to say “Shema Koleinu” and then totally not concentrate on what we’re saying. We don’t say “OK G-d, You just look inside my soul and answer me”. But no! By focusing on that inner voice by trying very hard to concentrate and express what is truly inside of us. And this is achieved through having real intent. By really looking at the words that we’re saying. And that’s why we’re having these classes! All these classes are for the purpose of helping us truly understand what we’re saying so that we can tap into that voice and not just mouth off the words that are written in the siddur but actually have a deep understanding of what we’re saying, which is our inner voice.
Its true that we tell G-d that even if I don’t have the right intention, please G-d, answer my prayers anyway. But if we want to really arouse the Divine mercy we can concentrate carefully on the words that we’re saying. Like it says “A prayer without intent is like a body without a soul.” Just mouthing off the words does not show G-d our inner yearning for closeness to him, right? One would not speak to a doctor with whom he’s begging to save his life in a passive and distracted way. He would beg him “Please please find a cure for my illness!” This person is suffering in terrible pain for months and months. All the more so when we pray to G-d who is really the only one who can help us and save us from anything.
Rav Elyah Lopian used to stress that the main requirement for prayer is two fold. What are the two main intentions? The two main things a person should focus on when he’s praying? He says number one, we have to focus and concentrate on what we’re saying. Meaning know the meaning of the words, understand what you are saying. And number two remember to whom we are saying it. Not to lose focus that I am standing now in front of G-d and speaking now directly to him. Its like if I were standing now in front of that doctor, we wouldn’t forget in the middle of the conversation that we were talking to the doctor! So the same way that of course we see the doctorand he’s a human being and we’re talking directly to him, and with G-d we don’t see Him right in front of us. Our goal is to strive to see G-d right in front of us. That’s the very first thing the Shulchan Aruch tells us [the way a jew is supposed to live his life, ittells us how to wake up in the morning, what we’re supposed to do, how we’re supposed to get dressed how we’re supposed to take a shower. There’s a way to do everything. When a Jew lives by the shulchan aruch he knows exactly what to do always.] The very first words of the shulchan Aruch are “Place G-d in front of me at all times” And if a jew would really do that and live that and always focus on “G-d is in front of me, what does G-d want from me now? If G-d is watching me, how am I going to act now?” And certainly certainly when we pray this is so important. Like R’ Elyah Lopain says these are the two prerequisites. Thes are the main requirements for prayer 1. Know what you’re saying and 2. know to whom you are saying it. Remember that we’re speaking directly to G-d.
Now in order for one’s prayers to be accepted ones heart and inner voice hav eto participate in this process of prayer. So in tehse words we ask G-d “Tap into my inner voice” My true deep intention. And we have to not just ask G-d to do that and make our own efforts to bring out that inner voice. The true inner me, my soul and my desire which is to cleave to G-d and to do His will. We have to try and bring that out as much as possible when we pray. We should be careful to say the words clearly but this is far less important than the intent that is behind the words. We compare ourselves to children of G-d just as a baby and toddler speaks gibberish. You know when a baby starts to talk he says “mama, baba, gaga” and of course nobody understand what the child is talking about except for who? The mother! The mother knows exactly what the child is saying when he says “Baba” It means he wants a bottle! The mother totally understands his language even when it is totally incomprehensible to anybody else. Because she loves her child and she knows what is his intention even when his words are not clear. Somebody who lisps for example or stutters or has any sort of speech impediment preventing him from speaking clearly should not be dismayed by his inability to daven clearly. We know that moses had a speech impediment and yet he was the only man who ever spoke face to face with G-d. I think there’s such a tremendous lesson to learn from this. That moses who couldn’t even speak clearly, he could hardly speak properly. And yet he was the one who was chosen to be the leader fot eh jewish people, to teach Torah to the Jewish people, to speak face to face with G-d so that nobody could later say “G-d, I couldn’t do it because I had a speech impediment” or “I couldn’t do that because I had something else” nobody has an excuse because look at Moses! The truth is that G-d wants the heart and He looks inside our heart to hear our inner voice and we have to do ours by having the proper intention and concentration when we pray.
Now the word tefillah which means prayer, says Rav Shwab actually comes from the word “Pilel” Which means to think. As in the verse in beraishis [48:11], and it says there “I never thought I would see your face”. Therefore, continues Rav Shwab ust saying the word, just the outer voice without thinking them without the inner voice means absolutely nothing. Ones general kavana nad mindset during prayer should be that every minute of hjis life and all of his sustenenc eis totally dependant on g-d this should be our intention. One does not know what the next moment will bring. And when one stand before G-d in prayer he should be aware that he is one heart beat away from oblivion.
Rabbi nachman of breslov used to say [I’m not sure if I have the right words, because I prepared this class on the airplane. As I was coming here. I had a window seat which was wonderful. I kept looking outside and feeling like “What is holding me up?? What is holding this plane up. All these people! This plane weighs a lot, what is holding us up?” I still don’t know how it works! Someone once tried to explain it to me. I was talking to a pilot and he tried to explain to me how the plane stays up. It was very fascinating but I dindt really understand what he was saying. And as I was sitting on the plane and I was prepareing this class about being one heart beat away from oblivion, it was very appropriate because I really felt lik e the whole time I was praying to G-d, “G-d please down let this plane fall down!”]. So Rabbi Nachman of Breslov used to say

“Imagine that you are dangling
by the thinnest hair over
the ocean waves that are
roaring below.
Because dear friend…
You are.”

[And I really was when I was writing this class!] And this is how we’re supposed to feel when we say this.
We then address G-d directly. The next words that we say after shema koleinu [listen to our inner voice] we say “Hashem Elokeinu” Hashem our G-d. We say “YOU ARE HASHEM!” You are the Great and Lofty, Big and Far, Omnipotent All powerful G-d. And yet at the same time You are our G-d. You are so close to us. The closest possible relationship since You are actually inside of us. My soul is a piece of You G-d. Thus see inside me and hear my inner voice. That’s the connection between “listen to my inner voice” And “Hashem who is so big and so great, and yet You are our individual and private G-d.” Therefore You are so close to me and can know whats going on inside my soul.
Now we continue with the words “Pity us and have mercy on us.” The Avnei Eliyahu explains that theres a difference between these two words that both mean mercy. “Chus” means pity and “Rachem” means mercy. Which is really both the same things. Whats the difference between them? He says that the word “Chus” means pity from the standpoint that we are G-ds creations and his own handiwork. Therefore just as a na artist or a craftsman will have pity on his own work. If I draw a beautiful picture im going to be careful with it. In the same way, G-d should have pity on us because he made us. As we say in the prayers on Rosh Hashana “Have pioty on yoiur handiwork” Chus means G-d have pity on us because You made us. We’re Yours! Rachem on the other hand is a request for G-ds mercy on us because of our lowly state. Not because we deserve anyting but just because “Rachmanus!” We ask “hashem please have mercy on us because we’re nothing. Wehre nobody. We’re nothing and we cant survive one minute without your pity.” And this leads us right into strategy number two in having our prayers accepted.
We must come before G-d with humility. The second strategy is humility. We have to feel totally subservient and powerless and dependant on G-d that without his constant supervision we wouldn’t be around, not even for one second. We actually say this every day when we pray “G-d, the soult hat you put in me is pure, you created it, You made it and You blew it into me, and You babysit it for me.” G-d You babysit that soul that’s inside of me. Because if for one minute you would not be guarding my soul, that’s it I wouldn’t bea ble to live for one more second. How is it that G-d blew into my nostrils my soul and yet my soul doesn’t come out of my nostrils! Or even when I open up my mouth, my soul doesn’t come flying out, or out of my ears. Why is that?> I have all these openings in my body and yet my soul remains inside of me. That’s because G-d is watching over my soul and making sure it doesn’t fly out until the moment that its meant to fly out. So we see here that we are truly powerless and G-d unless he constantly supervices us we cant survive for even one second.
We have to feel completely undeserving for all the kindness that G-d does for me. The reason that we bow at the beginning and end of Shmoneh esrei is to instill in us this feeling of humility. That’s the purpose of the bowing. Now this should be our intention when we are bowing. We are supposed to be thinking atha twe are completely subersvient and humbled before G-d. Its interesting that the High Preist used to bow at the end of every blessing in the shmoneh esrei. And the king used to bow at the beginning and end of every blessing! There are other opinions that say that the king used to remain bowed during the entire prayer. Because the higher ones status is the more he has to bend before g-d and the more he has to work on this characteristic of humility. The higher you are the more you hav eto work on feeling low.
The Shulchan Aruch actually suggests a posture that puts restraint on ones physical posture. Therefore Itcauses one to feel humble. It says one must stand with his feet close together so they’re like one foot . [we all do that] but then he says antoher interesting thing that I didn’t even know this, that one should clasp his hands over his heart, his right hand over his left hand and stand like a slave before his master in awe fear and dread. This posture adds to ones feelings of helplessness and complete subservience to G-d. Its like hwen your feet are together ryou cant walk. And when you r hands are together you cant move your hands. It’s a feeling of being bound up of being tied up like I am powerless. That’s the idea. So that’s the second strategy. The first was to have intention and to tap into our inner voice and to feel that inner voice by really concentrating on the words that we’re saying knowing the meaning of what we’re staying and before whom we are saying it. The second strategy is the strategy of humility, praying with a very humble heart. Feeling completely subservient and completely undersving of all of G-ds gifts.
The enxt words we say are “Accept with mercy and desire our prayers.” Rav Shamshon Refael Hirsch explains that we must realize that our prayers as well as Torah learning and good deeds are creating our destiny and the destiny o the world. The Olas Tomid says that we have no idea how our prayers are beloved up in Heaven. And the great and unfathomable effects that they are having on the universe. Even if our own individual requests are not answered the way we wish. Rav Avigdor Miller adds that tefillah, prayer is our gift to G-d. He receives with Ratzon with desire. It gives Him a sort of satisfaction that His will was initiated and developed. We’re supposed to be feeling that what can we already do for G-d? What can we give G-d? Thers really nothing we can give Him because He’s not lacking in any way. Therefore what can we ever give back to Him? What can we do to show Him how much we appreciate everything He does for us? G-d really desires our prayers. Of course he doesn’t NEED our prayers but he desires them. When we pray to G-d we are giving G-d a “nachas” Like a feeling of joy and satisfaction that we’re praying to Him.
This leads us to our third strategy in having prayers accepted which is having confidence in your prayer. The Chofetz Chaim actually writes that in the merit of these three things our prayers will be answered! If a person has these first three strategies that we just mentioned:
1. Kavanah, real strong intention,
2. anavah, Humility, truly fealing humble and subservient
3. Emunah – belief in the power of my prayer

In the merit of these three things our prayers will be answered. The Gemarah in Rosh Hashana brings down a situation of two sick men who were lying on their death bed. Both suffering from the same disease. The first one recovers and goes on to resume a healthy and normal life. The second one got sicker and sicker and eventually died. The Gemarah says “What was the difference between them?” It sayst he first one prayed a complete prayer while the other did not. If you want to look this up it is the Gemarah in Rosh Hashana, 18a. Rav Elyah Lopian comments on this. He says what is the meaning of a complete prayer? What makes a prayer complete? And he goes on to say that it meanst he first man believed in the effectiveness of his prayer. The second man may have prayed with the same intensitiy as the first and he may have understood the meaning of tehwords and he may have prayed with complete subservience and humility and felt undersving and all that, but he ditn truly bleive in his heart that his prayer was going to be effective. So Rashi says that he was “lo niskaven” He didn’t really believ e that his prayer would work. He prayed just in case it could help. Certainly it cant hurt. But he didn’t believe in the complete and tremendous power of his prayer. And this takes a lot of work. To really believe that my prayer has tremendous prayer! My prayer will be effective.
We then say the words “For you G-d, are the G-d who hears prayers and pleadings”. Whats the difference between prayers and pleadings? Tefillah [prayer] coems from the word pillel to think. That’s why the normal terminology that we use when we speak about prayer is tefillah. Like we said a tefillah is a prayer to G-d that is emenating from our thoughts, from logical reasoning. I have to use mypower of thoughts to express the thoughts I have in my mind. That is the simple meaning of prayer. However tachanunim [pleadings] goes deeper. And a step further and much higher level or prayer. Tachanunim means pleading and beseeching. These are prayers that are coming from a different place. They are coming straight from the heart, form the emotions they are an outpouring of ones souls that are usually accompanied by tears. So strategy number 4 is to pray with tears. Pray with deep emotion. The gemarah teaches us in Berachos 32b, From the day that the holy temple was destroyed the gates of prayer are locked. however the gates of tears are never locked. This means that a person’s prayer can reach the pinnacle of heaven but may not penetrate the locked gates of prayer until he cries with emotion and at that moment ht e gates of tears open up. Rav Yonasan Eibishitz says that the numerical value of crying is “bechi” Which is 32 which is the same as the word lev [heart]. One who prays with kavanas halev [emotions of the heart], which is tachanunim [pleading] its not just tefillah. Tefillah is prayer from thoughts and praying from your mind and what’s in your mind. Tachanunim is one who prays with his heart which is a step above. Those prayers enter heaven through the unlocked gates. This also refers to crying out to G-d without actual tears. Meaning even if the tears don’t come, some people find it very difficult to cry. But when one cries out from the depths of his heart, this is also what it means. This is also a crying out even if it doesn’t come with tears.
The Shiltei Giborim writes that whoever cries during prayer, the stars and constellations cry with him. And his prayer is heard. The zohar brings down that prayers with tears are never returned empty. The Satmer Rebbe explains this to mean that when a tearful prayer arrives in heaven, all the prayers that are standing and waiting at the locked gates, because these prayers made it up there. They had humility and they had intent and they had subserviecnea nd all the things hta twe spoke about and a person believes in his prayer. But they were lacking those tears they were lacking that depth of emotions. The satmer rebbe says that all those prayers that are standing and waiting at the locked gate, are swept through to the throne of hashem when one prayer comes in. When you cry and you pour out your heart with that depths of emotion, those tears goes straight up.
A story is told of the Chofetz Chaim who was visiting a small town. And he saw a man sitting by his house and this man was crying bitterly. Why? He had just returned from serving 35 years in the czars army. And Rosh Hashana was coming. The high holy days were coming and he was terribly pained that he had no idea how to pray. He knew he was jewish but for 35 years he was in the army and he had no idea how to pray and he was crying bitterly over this plight. Years later the chofetz chaim returned to this town and he returned to this very place to this street where the man sat and cried, and there stood a bais medrish, a place of prayer and torah learning, a shul! And the chofetz chaim said that he had no doubt that the building was built by the tears of sincerity and yearning of that broken man. And I remember hearing another amazing story. Rav Shimshon Pincus was known for his tremendous depth of emotion and tremendous love for other Jews. One time there was a man in his community who did not have any children ofr many years. Rav Pincus wanted to help him. And he said “Come, were going to go out and im going tot ake you out to nowheresville and drop you off in the middle of the desert somewhere, [I mean he lived in Ofakim which is already in the middle of nowehresville] I’m going to drop you off somewhere and you pour out your heart to G-d. Cry out to him and beg him for a child. The man said OK, Rav Shimshon Pincus took him in his car and dropped him off. It was 12 oclock at night and he said “You pray, I’m going to come pick you up soon.” The man started praying and davening to hashem. He says whatever tehillim he knows. And a half hour later Rav Pincus comes by to pick him up and takes one look at the man and says “are you finished?” the man said “Yeah… I guess so.” Rav Pincus took one look at his face and he said “No. You’re not finished because that’s not what I meant. I want you to cry and beseech Hashem with all your heart! Go back and pray and I’ll pick you up soon.” So its already like 12:30, One in the morning. Rav Pincus drives away and he leaves the man there to pray again. He comes back about an hour later. He takes one look at the man and he says “No. No. That’s not what I meant. You’re going to do this again. I want you to scream and yell and carry on and cry and talk to Hashem like He’s your father and He’s right here in front of you! I want you to cry out your heart to Hashem. I’m going to come back a little later.” And he left this man there in the middle of the night and the man finally understood what Rav Pinkus was talking about. And he started to cry and he started to scream and yell and beg and plead and pour out his heart to Hashem that he was completely totally soacked from sweat and tears. And when Rav Pinkus came back to pick him up, he took one look at him and said “That’s what I meant.” And a year later this man had a child.
We continue with the words “And from before you our King, do not send us away empty handed.” Rav Shwab explains these words so beautifully. He says that when we pray to hashem for our needs, of course we want our needs to be fulfilled and our prayers to be answered. Our prayers always are answered. Sometimes for reasons we cant understand the answer is no. We therefore ask G-d “Do not send us away empty handed” Even if the answer is no we should not go away from our prayer with a feeling of rejection. At least our tefilla should encourage us that we have forged a deeper bond with Hashem through our prayers which is truly the ulimate goal of prayer. We know the story of Chana. Chana didn’t have any children `and she went up to the tabernacle to pray for a childand she was crying and pleasding with G-d for a child, she was baron for 19 years her lips were moving and no sound was coming out. The high priest thought she was drunk she was davening for a child so hard! At the end of her prayer when she finished praying the verse tells us “her face was no longer sad”. Now at that point, Chana had no idea if her prayer will be answered. She didn’t know that 9 months later she was going to have a child and that she was going to have a Samuel the Prophet. She didn’t know that at that point. She had just finished praying and yet she felt uplifted from her prayer. She felt strengthened in her relationship with G-d through her prayer.
Strategy #5: Always have spirituality in mind. Remember that the goal of prayer is coming close to G-d. Even when we ask G-d for wisdom, health, livelihood. For whatever you want. We should always remember that the purpose of prayer is to serve G-d and to come close to Him. If I’m asking for wisdom, I should ask Him for wisdom so that I can serve Him. If I’m asking for health I should be asking for health so that I should be able to serve Him. Everything that I ask should be for one purpose. So that I can serve You and that I can be closet o You. Keeping this in mind when we pray will put all our prayers in the right perspective. And then no prayer will ever be returned empty handed for we have achieved the purpose of coming that much closer to G-d which is the real ultimate goal of prayer.
We end with the words: “For You hear the prayer of Your nation Israel with pity”. Which follows along the same idea that we spoke about before which is the single minded idea of prayer which is closeness to G-d. Here we say the words “This is the one prayer of Your nation Israel” We don’t say the many prayers of your nation Israel, we say it in the singular as if there is only one prayer. The entire nation of Israel has only one prayer. The turht is that there really is only one prayer. Every single supplication and request and yearning of the Jew is this one tefillah of coming close to You G-d. this is the underlying purpose of it all. Everything else that we ask for is just a means to attain that goal. And of course that is a merit. By asking G_d for whatever we want and for having in mind that “im only asking for this thing because its going to help me in my service to you. I’m asking for health sothat I should be able to live long and serve You. Not just because I want it for myself” That’s a tremendous merit so that we’re totallyfocused on the purpose of our prayers is to serve G-d.
David Hamelech says [and we’ve said this many times, its one of my favorite verses. Chapter 27 of Psalms] “There’s only one thing that I ask of You G-d” and then he says “That I sit in the house of G_d all the days of my life, that I should see the sweetness of G-d and I should be ablet o visitn in Your sanctuary.” And G-d says to David “Hey David! You said you were only asking for one thing! And now you’re giving me a whole list of things!” And David says back “G-d, You did the same thing I learnt this from You!” Hashem wrote in the Torah “What is it that G-d wants from you? Only to fear Him. And to love him, to cleave to Him, to follow in His commandments” We have a whole long list of things that G-d is asking for. So why does He make it sound like He only wants one thing from us? Just to fear Him? The truth is that in essence G-d only wants one thing from us: That we have fear of Heaven. But we need all the other things to achieve that. So too says David “All I want is one thing” And we all agree, all we want is one thing. We want to sit in the house of G-d all the days of our lives. Meaning we want to always be connected to G-d. But we need everything else that we ask for in order to achieve that goal. I need everything but its only for one purpose. And this should be our intention. That the purpose of all prayer and every prayer is meant to bring us closer to that goal.
We end off the blessing with “Blessed are you G-d who hears prayer” And this is our decleration of our belief that we are not just standing and talking to the wall. You know, if someone walks in and you’re standing and mouthing words and theres nobody there, you might look ab it strange. But the truth is that we believe that hahsem hears every word that we say. This is strategy #6 “Believe and trust in G-d that He truly hears you. And He loves every effort that you make in your prayer and this is so important in having our prayers answered.

Lets recap:May we be continuously inspired to pray with our hearts and may Hashem hear our inner voice as we pray with sincerity.
1. True Kavana
2. Humility
3. Confidence in our prayers, believe in our prayers that they work
4. Daven with tears, from the depths of our heart
5. Believe and trust that Hashem really hears us and really loves every one of our prayers
6. Always remember that the true goal of prayers is to come close to G-d and not necessarily to receive what we ask for because WE don’t always know what’s good for us. And may we always have true faith and trust that Hashem loves our prayers and hears every word.

May we all utilize this greatest gift or prayer to strive and achieve our potentials in our service to G-d.