Featured Rosh Hashana Guest – Rabbi Ya’akov Trump – Rabbi Of Young Israel Of Lawrence Cedarhurst – Self-Actualization

We spend an awful amount of time talking about self-actualization. Every kid who goes to school is taught from an early age that they can be the one to change the world. We tell them that if they follow the route they will become the next Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos or Steve Jobs. Even on a more attainable level, kids are given the sense that if they are to count as anything in society they really ought to be an Instagram or Twitter influencer. They just need to discover in themselves that convergence of ability and passion and then they will be ready to transform society.

In truth, this sentiment is not a bad thing at all. It is important for our kids to grow up believing in the possibility of making a difference. They can and should find their G-d given talents and utilize them in the Torah and secular world. It is a true blessing that we live in a society today that demands that we thrive and not just survive.

However, there is one part of this whole equation which is blatantly missing. In Judaism, the life-mission of a human being has two components. The mission is expressed in a famous verse in Tehillim:

סוּר מֵרָע, וַעֲשֵׂה-טוֹב

“Avoid evil and do good”

(Tehillim 34:15)

That means, as important as it is for a person to find their unique abilities and share them with the world, it is equally important for a person to discover their vices and subdue them. Every person is born with gifts and challenges. What this pasuk describes is that before one even gets to working on what one is great at, one needs to work on what one is bad at. The self-actualization movement spends little, if any, time on the latter. It preaches about change, impact and influence without necessarily talking about becoming a better human being to those closest and dearest. A product of success from this movement could be a person who has huge financial and social impact on society but could remain their entire life a morally bankrupt individual.

To make this a little clearer, the Torah introduces Parshas Ki Teitze with the following words:

כִּי-תֵצֵא לַמִּלְחָמָה, עַל-אֹיְבֶיךָ

“When you will leave to war against your enemy.”

(Devarim 21:10)

Sholom Noach Berezovsky, the Slonimer Rebbe, indicates that the battle the Torah is describing is not just a war against the armies of the enemy. The battle being described is also about the internal enemy: one’s inclination to follow one’s passions and instincts till the point of self-destruction – the Yetzar Harah. If one reads this section of Torah with this renewed perspective, the Torah actually offers specific guidance into the intricate internal struggle one has with one’s evil inclination.

One pointer the Torah offers is that the battle is the fact that it is against ‘your enemy.’ Every person has an aspect in their personality which is their greatest vice. It is their internal nemesis. It could be anger, arrogance, tardiness, carelessness or the many darker parts of the human character. The Torah is advising us is to identify that corner and spend one’s entire life overcoming it. When you enter the war of character development, make sure that it is with your specific enemy, not anyone else’s and not the easier parts of our character.

The irony is that a person may spend their entire life self-actualizing and sharing their abilities with the world to the degree that they may end up completely ignoring their internal work. As important as it is to self-actualize, it is equally, if not more, important to self-reckon and self-correct. That may be the very reason we were placed on this earth. Our soul might need that specific correction to achieve perfection.

As we begin our new year together, let’s remember the dual mission we have ahead of us. We have a phenomenal amount to share with the world and we should keep ratcheting that up every year. But we also have unique aspects of our personality which we need to reform and change by the end of our sojourn on earth. Let’s take this year ahead as a time to improve ourselves and improve the world around us.

Rabbi Ya’akov Trump serves as the Rabbi of the vibrant community of Young Israel of Lawrence Cedarhurst. It is his passion to share his passion for the Torah and its relevance in contemporary times. He is featured speaker on YUTorah.org, has his own Nach Yomi website, has a itunes podcast and recently released an App on both the ITunes and Google Play stores. Rabbi Trump has been involved in many community wide projects including being hub coordinator of the Shabbos Project in the Five Towns-Far Rockaway bringing hundreds and thousands together raising the bar of Shabbos and the Five Towns Drug Awareness panel. Rabbi Trump teaches Halacha at the Shulamith High School for girls. Rabbi Trump is co-chaired the 59th annual RCA Convention for hundreds of Rabbis across America. Rabbi Trump grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa. After graduating high school, he spent several years in Kerem BeYavneh in Israel followed by Ner Yisrael, Baltimore. He holds a BA in Mathematics from Yeshiva University and has taken multiple Actuary exams. While completing Semicha at RIETS, he served as Rabbinic Intern in Kesher Israel DC, Young Israel of Jamaica Estates and the Beth Din of America. He spent two years as Rabbinic fellow of the YU Torah Mitzion Kollel of Chicago creating new programs and shiurim. He has been a scholar at many programs including the OU Convention, Sharmel Caterers Pesach program, Kosher Rustic and the OU West Convention. He and his wife, Malka, and children live in Lawrence.


Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim – Associate Rosh Yeshiva – PTI – Passaic Torah Institute – Parsha Re’eh – Achieving True Wealth by Giving

Rabbi Sorotzkin runs the organization Lev L’Achim in Eretz Yisrael, an organization specializing in being mekarev (bringing closer to Judaism) those who don’t have a religious background. He received a strange phone call one day. “Hello, this is Menachem Dvir. Every month I have been donating ten dollars to Lev L’Achim. Now I would like to increase that to eleven dollars each month.” Rabbi Sorotzkin encouraged the man to call his office to handle the change. “Please, Rabbi Sorotzkin, I want you to handle it,” said Menachem. Sensing there was more to the story, Rabbi Sorotzkin said, “OK, tell me, what prompted you to increase your monthly donation?” Menachem explained, “I have a small income and I give what I can to Lev L’Achim. I really feel what you do is so important. A few months ago, my wife gave birth to a healthy baby. Now that things are calmer at home, I am able to come on time to my evening kollel. I just received my first stipend for coming on time and I’m giving maaser (a tithe) on it!!”

Rabbi Sorotzkin was taken aback. Here is a Jew who is making a very minimal income, yet he wants to make sure he is always giving the appropriate amount to charity based on his income. A few months later, Rabbi Sorotzkin was speaking with a wealthy donor and shared this moving story. The man had already written a check, but then re-thought his donation. “Rabbi, I’m so impressed by that individual’s attitude to charity that I’m increasing my own donation by $5,000!”

This same wealthy donor was visiting Eretz Yisrael and asked Rabbi Sorotzkin to allow him to see more of Lev L’Achim’s work, as well as meet some of the great Torah leaders. At the end of the trip he wrote another check…for $90,000!! In the end, Lev L’Achim received a total of $100,000, all inspired by the one-dollar monthly increase of Menachem. This one dollar became worth one hundred thousand! This story is written in Sefer Zera Shimshon [English Edition] by my cousin, Rabbi Nachman Seltzer.

I believe the foregoing story gives insight to a pasuk in Parshas Re’eh. Hashem instructs Bnei Yisrael to give a tenth of their produce to support the tribe of Levi. The Torah then repeats the directive “aseir te’aseir,” to give a tenth. The letters in aseir—tenth—can also be pronounced as osheir—wealth. The Gemara (Taanis 9a) explains that the Torah is instructing us to give maaser—a tenth—in order that you become ashir—wealthy.

Simply, Hashem is promising that those who take care of the needy with the money with which they are blessed will receive an additional monetary blessing! The wording of the Gemara seems to suggest a directive to give maaser in order to become wealthy. Having more monetary wealth than one needs is a blessing, but it’s not supposed to be a focus of life. Why then should we focus on becoming wealthy when giving maaser?

Referring to the earlier story, we can offer an explanation. The promise of wealth is referring not only to monetary wealth but also to spiritual wealth. The reward for the tzedakah we give is much greater than the amount donated. Any help the recipient receives monetarily as well as emotionally accrues to the giver as a reward. And when the donation encourages others to give as well, the original giver’s reward includes all the additional donated money. Menachem’s additional monthly dollar donation became worth the reward for a gift of $100,000, since it was a catalyst for that donation. In the same vein, the Torah is telling us to give maaser to become spiritually wealthy, because the ultimate reward is much greater than the initial monetary investment.

Rabbi Shimon Schwab gives another perspective. Pirkei Avos tells us, “Who is an ashir—(wealthy person)? Someone who is happy with what he has.” True wealth is a feeling inside that I have all that I need. That is a true blessing. Hashem promises that when you give maaser He will ensure that you have a feeling of contentment with all your possessions.

We live in an era with an abundance of luxuries and comforts. The amount of possessions we amass and continuously purchase is enormous. Yet, having more doesn’t necessarily make us happier. In fact, it can make us feel poorer, for the more we have the more we want. Wealth can be a great blessing, but a true feeling of wealth is when we feel we have what we need. That’s the true blessing Hashem promises to those who give maaser: if you give the amount you should, I will bless you with a true feeling of wealth. You will feel truly content with what you have.

Aleeza Ben Shalom – Dating Profile Tips

Matchmakers read thousands of profiles, and it’s a real challenge to get yours to stand out. It’s also difficult to differentiate your unique traits from the multitude of those searching for their soul mates on dating websites.

Let’s examine the following real dating profile (it’s from an awesome human being who gave me permission to feature her profile, and yes, she is available). I have not met her in person; in fact I haven’t spoken with her yet. However, from her profile I have a clear picture of who she is and what she is looking for. I want to point out a few key points that make her profile a success.

Overall, the most important thing her profile gets across is that she clearly knows herself and understands what she is looking for. That doesn’t necessarily mean she’ll get what she wants, but she is better equipped to find men who are like-minded and to have a more positive dating experience until she meets Mr. Right.

The profile is indented, and my comments are in italics.

The Profile

“A bit about me…
If there was a snowstorm and I had to be stuck in one store, it’d be a tough call between Michael’s Arts and Crafts and Barnes and Noble.”

Her first sentence hooks the reader. “If there was a snowstorm…” is a very interesting way to begin a profile. If your profile’s first line doesn’t have a hook, someone may not even bother reading the rest. So make your first line a good one. You can start with, “I once…” and add an interesting story or share a fun fact about yourself to entice the reader to read on.

“I love doing creative things (I sew and knit) as well as learning about life and people. My favorite three role models are Lucille Ball (for her humor), Jackie Kennedy (for her beauty and her class) and Eleanor Roosevelt (for her desire to want to improve the world and make it a better, happier place).”

These sentences could have been just generic information. However, because she defined what she meant parenthetically, we aren’t left guessing what creative things she likes or why she values certain role models. We are crystal clear about her preferences and have learned about her values.

“I love to travel and explore the world, meet different types of people and experience different cultures. Friends and family are important to me, and I try to bring joy as much as possible to other people’s lives. I love a good book that delves deep into the human experience and love learning new things every day.”

She doesn’t just say she loves a good book; that wouldn’t tell us enough. She defines what she means: a good book is one that delves deep into the human experience. Wow, powerful. Now I get it.

“I enjoy a good, intellectually stimulating conversation discussing the meaning of life, but also have a practical side to me that values a good work ethic and devotion to a higher cause. I can usually be found doing yoga, swimming, gallivanting through the city or baking up something yummy.

I would like to meet someone who is kind, honest, positive, mature, and dependable; someone who can talk about real things, but also enjoy life with a sense of humor (that’s not sarcastic or cynical!—This is really not a good fit for me as I am pretty sensitive).”

Again, those beautifully clarifying parentheses!

“Someone who has his priorities properly aligned and strives to live by them.”

She could have ended the sentence after the word aligned, but she made a great choice by adding, “strives to live by them.” That is a golden nugget of information. Many people have their priorities aligned, but not all strive to live by them. Some only talk about them. I now understand she is looking for a man who takes action.

“Religiously, I would probably say I am mostly Modern Orthodox (shomer Shabbat and kashrut). I like to learn, daven (pray), say berachot (blessings) when I remember. Most of all, I strive to have good middot (character traits). This is the most important to me, both in myself and in a mate.”

I like that she isn’t afraid to be honest. She says that she tries to learn, pray, and say blessings when she remembers.

“Below are my 3 important traits:

  1. Kind/a mensch – a really good person who people are like, “Wow, what a guy!” someone whose values I strive to emulate.
  2. Has his act together – educated, has a solid profession and knows where he wants to go in life (also nice if he’s passionate about it).
  3. Deep – can discuss intellectual things about life, questions things, can have real, honest, open conversations.”

In all three of the above, she not only listed a trait but defined the terms.

“Qualities that are not fitting for me:

  1. Sarcastic/cynical – says jokes a lot of time as supposedly funny but I think they are insulting and mean—insensitive.
  2. Stubborn/inflexible – unwillingness to change or adapt and/or grow.
  3. Overly critical – notices bad over good, doesn’t recognize or acknowledge good things.”

Some people write, “I don’t want someone who…” By writing, “Qualities that are not fitting for me” she says the same thing in a more palatable way. And again, she did a great job of defining her terms.

“Nice bonuses, but not required:

  1. Musical in some way—singing, instrument-playing, love listening to music and finding new artists.
  2. Funny! – I put this as a bonus because I think I am actually funny so I don’t NEED that in a relationship but it’s a nice plus when your significant other can make u laugh – at silly things, funny situations in a non-mean or teasing way, laughter out of love.
  3. Passionate – If they have their own passions, interests, hobbies…they are interested in life in a different way other than JUST their profession. I like to bake, sew, do yoga, art projects, sing, and I think it’s really cool when other people have their own interests too and pursue those.”

Nice bonuses, but not required,” says to me: ‘If you have these things you are likely to win me over, and while I don’t want to demand them, they are important to me and I think I’ll be best suited to someone like this. And once again, she nailed the clarity.

“Thank you!!!”

The Thank You is an especially nice touch. Clearly this was a dating profile she sent out to friends, family and matchmakers. This ending clearly shows that she is a thoughtful and grateful person. Through two simple words, her character traits are obvious.

Our sages tell us, “In the way that a person wants to go, in that way will he be led,” meaning that if you are clear about what you are searching for you are more likely to find it. So too, if you say you are looking for one thing but really you want another you are likely to end up with what you searched for, not what you desired. Or, as my mother reminds me, “Be careful what you wish for because you just may get it!”

May you have clarity in who you are and what you are looking for, and may you have good people to walk along side you.

Originally published on Aish.com.