Monthly Archives: September 2015

Hakhel — Then and Now

Here is my article about Hakhel, in this week’s Jewish Home LA.

Good Shabbos, and have a wonderful Sukkos and a sweet, happy, healthy year!

yehudislitvak.com

Jewish Leap Year

Here’s my article on the Jewish Leap Year in this week’s Jewish Home LA.

Good Shabbos, and kesiva v’chasima tova!

Changing Course — My Story in Inyan this Week

My short story, Changing Course, is in this week’s Inyan (Hamodia’s magazine). Hope you enjoy it. Please share your thoughts in the comments. I’m especially curious if the readers see any parallels between the conflicts portrayed in the story and what’s happening in the world today. Who are today’s Tzaddokim?

I’d be happy to share my own thoughts, but I’d like to hear from you first!

You can comment at yehudislitvak.com.

Delicate Balance

I wrote the following for my shul’s newsletter. Feel free to comment and discuss.

The beginning of the Jewish year, which roughly coincides with the beginning of the school year, forces us to consider our goals for our children’s chinuch. For all of us, the goals are two-fold. We would like our children to develop their unique strengths and talents and actualize their potential. At the same time, we’d like them to become productive members of the community, caring and giving people. At first glance, these goals seem contradictory: the former requires focus on oneself while the latter calls for focusing on others. But both are equally necessary.  The challenge is achieving the proper balance between the two.

According to the Nesivos Shalom (Vol. 1, part 1, chapter 6), self-reflection is an essential component of Judaism. He explains that every Jew has a unique mission in life that only he or she is able to fulfill, and every one of us must examine the gifts Hashem has given us in order to determine our mission. At the same time, in the words of Hillel (Pirkei Avos 1:14), “If I am not for myself, then who is for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I?” It is important to spend time getting to know oneself, but it is also important to use that knowledge to contribute to the community.

How do we achieve this delicate balance? In her book Stages of Spiritual Growth, Batya Gallant writes (page 67), “At a lower level of middas hachessed, my self-care and care for another operate intermittently – I alternate between self-care and care for the other. Yet at a more advanced level of middas hachessed, these two modes converge into one act, where care for myself is experienced through care for the other.” For young children, expressing themselves and giving to others are two separate modes of being. Both modes need to be accessed and experienced in order to grow. But as they mature, children begin to take pleasure in giving, in using their unique strengths and talents to benefit others.

The author of the Bilvavi series similarly describes two modes of being, alone and with others (Getting to Know Yourself, page 58). He recommends setting aside time to be alone, not for the sake of being alone, but in order to connect to the unique powers of our own neshamos and then bring those powers into the world and into our interactions with other people.

As we educate our children, we can explain these concepts to them in age-appropriate ways, encouraging them to discover their own strengths while emphasizing that Hashem gave them these gifts in order to fulfill their mission to help bring about the perfection and completion of His universe. May Hashem grant all of us success this coming year and always.