Archive for March, 2011

2 Recent Uplifting Moments of Chizuk from Sports!

I’m sure we all remember the cutesy message from the famous story The Little Train that Could in which the little train is able to persevere against seemingly impossible odds and delivers goods that people expected only a Big Train could deliver. Sadly, while we may believe in this story as children, we often forget it’s message as we mature and enter adulthood. So what can we turn to as men? I believe one of the places we can look to is the world of sports! Below are two inspirational stories of people who aren’t well known, but who worked against all odds to achieve greatness.

Meet Anthony Robles. Although he was born without a right leg, young Anthony didn’t let that stop him from dreaming—and ultimately achieving his goals. The Arizona State senior won the national title at 125 pounds earlier this month on March 19. What’s more, this victory capped an unbelievable 36-0 season. For him to achieve this feat with both legs would have been a seemingly impossible accomplishment. And yet, he didn’t let his lack of a right leg get in the way!

On the flip side of things meet Kelly Gneiting (full story here). He weighs a whopping 400 pounds! Still, Gneiting is a dreamer. Finishing a marathon and running 26.2 miles is a goal he’s wanted to reach since he was a young boy. Unfortunately, he feel on hard times and turned to food for comfort. He ate and ate and ate until it got in the way of his being able to even earn a living. In the late ’90s, he discovered sumo wrestling after watching a tournament on ESPN. Eventually, he used his weight to become a national champion sumo wrestler! Still, he wanted to achieve his boyhood dream of running a marathon. And so, for weeks on end he trained to finish the L.A. Marathon and set a Guinness record in the process.

Guess what? After 9 hours, 48 minutes and 52 seconds he crossed the finish line and sent a message to a society obsessed with being thin. “Big people,” he said, “can do the unimaginable.”

And so, while the world marvels at Kobe Bryant’s ability to shoot a ball yomam valaylah (see video below and this link), both Anthony Robles and Kelly Gneiting are the latest on a long list of recent uplifting moments in sports that can teach us how to win the Game of Life and stay true to our plan for spiritual success.

If you gain Chizuk from sports, I recommend you checkout the blog of Rabbi Joshua Hess or follow him on Twitter @RabbiHess. He blogs about sports and religion as the FANatic Rabbi and will give you a great perspective on life using the world of sports as the backdrop!

Heartwarming Mussar from a Two-legged Turtle!

The following story recently took place in Brazil: A turtle had an unfortunate run-in with an electric fence. Ultimately, veterinarians were left with no choice but to amputate BOTH of the turtle’s front legs. Facing a life slower than even a normal pokey turtle pace, the team at Veterinary Hospital of Uberaba came up with a creative solution—wheels! With the help of two wheels typically used for office furniture, the hapless turtle was back on the move, wheeling around the hospital in no time.

I believe this story is something we all can learn from! Turtles are known to be incredibly slow.

This Brazilian turtle was seemingly doomed to live a life as: The Slowest Turtle Known to Mankind!

And yet, due to a healthy dose of effort and persistence on the account of the veterinarians to not give up on this hapless turtle—he will be able to carry on with life for many years to come. This episode reminds me of the famous quote from Denis Waitley who states, “the results you achieve will be in direct proportion to the effort you apply!” In this instance the veterinarians put a great amount of effort and thought into how they could restore a semblance of normalcy for this little turtle. In so doing, they accomplished their goal, and by extension, taught us all a lesson as well.

You see, if on a particular day you find yourself feeling a bit down—think of this cute turtle! After all, even if you feel like there is no hope…all you need is a bit of effort, persistence, and belief that the Ultimate Doctor—Hashem—is looking out for our best—and wallah there will be a new set of wheels right around the corner that will help us be back up and running!

Venafochu: Lessons We Can Learn from Japan!

I’ve watched and marveled at the human spirit that has been exhibited in the aftermath of the horrendous natural disasters that hit Japan a week ago to this day. I can not even fathom what it means to live through a 9.0 Earthquake…let alone to experience what seemingly feels like a million aftershocks! And then…as a cherry on top, there was a Tsunami that swept away villages, cities, and even an airport!

Moreover, the world is waiting with baited breath hoping that radiation will not hurt or kill many more people. This was a natural disaster. One in which, as Rav Brazil alluded here that we must learn from. We simply can’t ignore this incident! Frankly, all the technology we have in this advanced world could not have prevented these tragic set of events.

In one week I have seen that humanity has been using the old conventional means as well as the new methods that we have via technology for GOOD and not for EVIL.

Below, in the first clip you will see how people used the good old fashioned human chain to preserve the life of the elderly as well as young children.

In the second clip you will view how people found their lost sibling through a Twitter stream!

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

We need to learn from this episode. We need to  learn from how people are collaborating. We need to remember  how valuable our world and our lives our. After all, in one second EVERYTHING can be venafochu!

INFOGRAPHIC: All About Hamentashen!

All across the world, people will soon be celebrating the joyous holiday of Purim. Like many Jewish holidays, there is also a food item that carries great significance. While Jews enjoy munching on a couple of Latkes and a Jelly Doughnut on Chanukah, we relish eating the seemingly hundreds of variations of Hamentashen that are available in your local grocery, bakery, or even home oven!

And yet, did you know that these yummy treats are not typically referred to as Hamentashen in of all places The Holy Land!?!?

In Israel, they are called Oznei Haman (Hebrew: אוזני המן‎), which is Hebrew for “Haman’s ears” in reference to our defeated enemy’s ears. And so, thanks to the fine folks of Mishpacha Magazine for these statistics, you can enjoy some fun facts and learn all about Hamentashen!

Feel free to click here to view the INFOGRAPHIC in a high resolution/larger image that you can print, pass on to friends or family, and so on and so forth!

Have a Happy Purim :)

Why I Respect Salman Khan & Charlie Harary!

I’ll admit it. I have only recently heard of Salman Khan. Prior to hearing of this “Professor 2.0,” if you would have mentioned the name Salman Khan, I would have easily assumed it was a new dish at a high end fish restaurant. In all seriousness, what Mr. Khan has done is something that we should all respect! Here was a bright young man with a future that only seemed to suggest that he would become rich…if not certainly comfortable. He was a senior analyst at a hedge fund (prior to the onslaught of the Great Recession), holds an MBA from Harvard Business School, an M.Eng and B.S. in electrical engineering and computer science from MIT, and a B.S. in mathematics from MIT.

On paper and in person Salman Kahn is one impressive individual. And then…he gave it all up!!!

Why?

It all started when he tutored his cousins by posting math tutorials on YouTube. Six years later, he has posted more than 2,000 tutorials, which are viewed nearly 100,000 times around the world each day. Currently, he is the founder and faculty of The Khan Academy a not-for-profit organization with the mission of providing a FREE world-class education to anyone, anywhere. It now consists of self-paced software and, with over 1 million unique students per month. What’s more, ALL 2000+ video tutorials, covering everything from basic addition to advanced calculus, physics, chemistry and biology, have been made by Salman.

I’d venture to guess, that there’s not many people who will give up a life in the finance world to start from scratch and build an online academy. However, that’s exactly what Mr. Salman did. He had a dream and he made it a reality!

In so doing, Mr. Khan is truly rich, for he enriches the lives of millions of people the world over. To learn more about his life work, and his enlightening educational model, I encourage you to set aside time to watch this Ted Talk:

As a Jewish educator it is my hope that we can see brilliant laymen and individuals from within our greater community walk in the footsteps of Mr. Khan and consider not even dropping their profession entirely, but giving of their time and expertise, to educate and empower the future of Klal Yisrael. Solely assuming that, “I’ll just leave it up to the Rebbe,” is not a path that will lead us on new modes of conveying the ancient wisdom of the Torah.

One such person that I can think of is Mr. Charlie Harary.

Mr. Harary is the First Vice President of Residential Operations and Legal Counsel of RXR Realty, (a multi-billion dollar Real Estate Company based in New York). And yet, as someone who considers Rav Shmuel Brazil his Rebbe and who spent time in Yeshiva Sh’or Yoshuv, Mr. Harary gives not solely of his money, but he spends countless hours using his innate and intangible talents (on the weekends as well!!) to educate and inspire young Jews through live presentations as well as a plethora of videos that are posted online.

I’m glad that innovative educational initiatives such as TorahLive exist. I believe that for good or for bad this method of education will be necessary in hundreds of Jewish classrooms around the globe.

Likewise, due to the economy, Hebrew Charter schools have formed (see here).

In short, I see our current stage in Jewish history as a transformative time period. Do we need to solve the Tuition Crisis?

Yes!

But in addition to figuring out how we can afford the cost of a Jewish education, we need to solve the seemingly increased disconnect between Educators and contemporary children who stare at a screen for hours and hours a day (see here).

Our goal should be to show the “Facebook Generation” that the greatest book that there face should be in is called the Torah!

And so, that is why I respect Salman Khan & Charlie Harary…and why you should as well!

Life Lessons from an iPhone App

I’ve enjoyed the ability to pull out my iPhone 4 and snap cute moments of my kids or an interesting scene as I’m out and about walking the holy streets of Jerusalem. That said, while there’s seemingly so many iPhone Apps out there that they are becoming hard to find (see this article by Hillel Fuld illustrating this point) the soon to launch iPhone App Lifelapse caught my eye. You see, I don’t view it as simply another iPhone App. Rather, I consider it a Mussar App. The reason for this is because while we all know that Hashem is watching and recording our actions, with the hectic daily schedules we lead it is hard to remember that we still must account for our every move and decision. Ultimately, we will have to account for  all of our interpersonal relationships. From the  the person we greet in the street to our loved ones at home…we must perform with proper Middos.

Enter: Lifelapse.

This App reminds us that every moment in our life counts and is recorded. And so, while I’m not encouraging you to buy or even try it (quite frankly I can’t see myself doing either of those two things :) ….), the fact that such an App will be available for the consumer, can serve as a perfect contemporary reminder to think before we simply respond to something with a knee-jerk reaction or a crude flippant remark.


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