Tag Archive: inspiration

Lessons from Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch & Guy Kawasaki

Guy Kawasaki, the legendary Silicon Valley venture capitalist and co-founder of AllTop.com, recently wrote, “As a follow-up to the beating heart, researchers at the University of Minnesota have used a similar technique to create breathing lungs in the lab. Lead researcher Angela Panoskaltsis-Mortari, associate professor of pediatrics and pulmonary medicine, believes the ‘possibilities are endless’ for using the approach to increase the number of lungs needed for transplant into people with lung cancer and irreversible lung diseases.”

Now, when I see things of this sort or watch these “Lungs” function, the first thing that comes to my head along with the word “awesome” are the words of Tehillim 104:24: “Mah Rabu Masecha Hashem!” I also recall the famous story involving Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch zt”l (for more on his real name see here) and how Rav Hirsch towards the end of his life, made it a point to visit the beautiful French Alps. When asked why he had done so, Rav Hirsch reportedly responded, “after 120 years, when I appear before the Creator of the World and  He asks, ‘Samson have you seen the magnificent French Alps?’ I want  to be able to answer in the affirmative!” This also goes in line with the words of Rabbi Yitzchak Menachem Mendel Danziger, who in his sefer, Yismach Yisrael (Chanukah #2) relays to us that the Almighty is so gracious that he designed the world in such a matter that from the dust of the Earth or other aspects of nature, we can acquire high levels of Yiras Shomayim and fulfill the words of Mishlie 22:4!

In light of the above, it is only fitting to share that Rav Hirsch did not translate the words, “Mah Rabu Masecha Hashem, Kulam Bechochma Asisa, Malah Ha’aretz Kinyanecha,” in its typical fashion of:  How manifold are Your creations, Hashem, You’ve made them all with wisdom, the earth is filled with Your creations.

Instead, he places a comma between Haaretz and Kinyanecha and translate kinyanecha in the imperative. Hence, the verse of Tehillim will read:

How manifold are Your creations, Hashem, You’ve made them all with wisdom, the earth is filled with them, (you/man) acquire it! In other words, that one should increase his awe of Hashem and his appreciation for His world by taking the time to observe and appreciate nature and the way in which every detail is designed.

While I have never visited the Alps, nor do I know when I will have such a chance, I believe that we can still fulfill this insight of Rav Hirsch through viewing Video clips such as this one and appreciate the fact that we have breathing lungs created for us not for use strictly in the lab, but for life! Thank you Hashem!

Chachma from LeBron James & Coach John Wooden

Just last week, the nation turned in to hear where, the self proclaimed, “King James,” a.k.a. LeBron James would decide to play the game of basketball! Indeed, people are still wrapped up in all the hoopla of LeBron James leaving his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers, and joing the Miami Heat! However, I’d rather focus on a man who recently passed away, just a few months ago, on June 4th, at the age of 99: Coach John Wooden. Coach Wooden, was someone who in my opinion fulfilled the words of our Sages who teach, “yesh chachma bagoyim” there is wisdom among the nations! Indeed, Rashi also contends that he who truly values wisdom will seek it wherever it can be found. In fact, our Sages even institute a special blessing to be said upon meeting a great non-Jewish scholar. In short, Coach Wooden is the polar opposite of “King James.” For instance, despite receiving other offers throughout the years, he never left his beloved UCLA Basketball Team. Moreover, he was a man of great ethics and principals. However, as related in this Rick Reily ESPN.com Video below, his greatest love was not the game of basketball. Instead, it is and remained, even after she died – his wife. For years on end, he would still write her poetry and cry over his lose of his beloved life companion.

Additionally, being that we believe that Secular knowledge is not inherently negative (see here), I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that although his UCLA Bruins won a record 10 NCAA national championships and their 88-game winning streak is the longest in major collegiate basketball history, his favorite part of coaching was leading the practice sessions in which he taught the fundamentals that were the foundation of his success. He would teach his players everything from the proper way to put on their socks to lacing their shoes! After all, he used to say, “It’s the little things that make the big things happen.”

All in all, Coach Wooden was more than a basketball coach, he was arguably the first Life Coach and always more pleased by his players’ success in life than on the basketball court. There’s much we can learn from him. Here are some of his quotes that can relate to us in our daily lives:

  • “Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.”
  • “Never mistake activity for achievement.”
  • “Winning takes talent; to repeat takes character.”
  • “I’d rather have a lot of talent and a little experience than a lot of experience and a little talent.”
  • “A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.”
  • “If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.”
  • “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”
  • It isn’t what you do, but how you do it.”
  • “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”
  • “Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”
  • “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”

In the midst of the era of athletes and sports figures becoming so ego-centric that it’s news when an athlete makes a subtle quiet announcement (see here in regards to Keven Durant)  I hope Coach Wooden’s words will be an inspiration and remind us to keep our eyes on the real prize of life!

I highly recommend: Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success: Building Blocks For a Better Life.

I highly recommend: LeBronathon: How to Hype Up Your Life, by Rabbi Boruch Leff.

60 Minutes, 22 Minutes, 2 Minutes. No Minutes Left?

We live in unprecedented times! With a click of a button you can communicate with practically anyone in the world, transfer funds seemingly instantaneously, and purchase items ranging from diapers to wine all on the internet. And so, gone are the days when the average American could dedicate sixty solid minutes to a sole television news magazine such as CBS’: 60 Minutes. While it still broadcasts into American homes each week, they have had to “spice it up” with additions to the staff such as CNN’s Anderson Cooper or Katie Couric (who really rose to fame on another network!). In all honesty, I don’t watch 60 Minutes, what with living in Jerusalem, not having a television and all, but I do enjoy hearing it in Podcast format. All you have to do is simply download it from iTunes (here) and you can enjoy the famous tick, tick, tick, that starts the show, as well as the vast array of topics that they cover on a weekly basis.

While on the topic of time, I always found it funny that one of the busiest places in the world is know as: Times Square. Here you will see New Yorkers and tourists who appear constantly busy. The hustle and bustle along with the lights is exhilarating to say the least. And yet, one could get soo consumed that a person could loose the importance of time, in the very area that is called, Times Square! Indeed, I’ve hear many people suggest that it’s because of the hectic scene in Manhattan, and more specifically, Times Square, that New York is known as: “The City that Never Sleeps!”

On that note, I believe it’s without coincidence that in such a city there’s a radio station, WINS (1010 kHz), known on-air as “Ten-Ten Wins” that is arguably world famous for their slogan, “You give us twenty-minutes minutes, we’ll give you the world!” Indeed, millions of commuters and listeners tune in each year to this very station to get a quick dose of news, traffic, and weather, in just twenty-two minutes.

Why you might ask?

Truthfully, they want/need to be informed, but for many people that’s all the time they have to spare in their busy chaotic life that they lead on a daily basis.

While many New Yorkers tune in to WINS to hear the latest events as they commute to work every morning, there are millions of Americans across the country who watch NBC’s Today Show to become updated with all the latest happenings across the country. People view this program as they get dressed for work, eat their breakfast, and so on and so forth. And yet, perhaps emblematic of our ever bustling society, the Today Show has just recently introduced: Today in Two Minutes.

And frankly I get it!

In a day in age in which there are many different mediums to advertise on, you need to constantly reach your consumer and target audience. The Today Show doesn’t want to become a “thing of the past!” And so, if they can retain or reel in an additional age demographic by introducing this short new feature…then as we say…Kol HaKavod!

That said, I think it’s important that every person still have some minutes left in their day that they can call: ME TIME! I encourage everyone to set aside even just two minutes that will enable you to learn, grow, and continue to improve and refine your inner-self! It’s important to not get soo wrapped up and consumed by the world we live in. Unfortunately we all know people who if they would take the time to look up from their Blackberry, they might see how much they’ve alienated everyone else around them.  Moreover, they may even realize that the person they have hurt the most by constantly consuming media or the like, is the person that they know as: Me, Myself, and I!

And so, a great book I’d like to recommend is: Positive Word Power. As a Husband, Father, Educator, and Jew, there are days where I’m left gasping for air. There are days where I need to ask myself, “where did my ‘ME TIME’ go?” This book is perfect to read by yourself or along with a partner (I read it with my wife!). Through daily lessons, it succinctly allows one to focus on the power of speech and positivity, which in today’s world, can erode rather quickly.

All in all, whether you have sixty minutes, twenty-two minutes, two minutes, or think that you have NO TIME, make it a point to learn this book for your ME TIME. I assure you will only see positive results!

Can you recommend some other book or action that although read or performed quickly can impact your entire day? I’d love to hear from you in the Comments Section below.

Photo courtesy of Leo Reynolds

A Mussar Message from Steve Nash!

As a child, I was a resilient follower of my local sports teams. Frankly, that was an easy task as I grew up in Los Angeles, during an era in which the Dodgers won the World Series and the Lakers…have they ever been bad? Anyways, as time went on my interests began to wane. Nowadays, I would say that when I do tune in to sports I like to follow a different angle. Truth be told, YC noted my current interest in professional sports in this recent Tweet. That said, I’d be remiss to not mention how I’ve been inspired by the playing and preservance of the 36 year-old Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns. Nash, a two time regular season MVP, (finally) led his team to the Western Conference Championships. However, from my prospective, win or loose, he has shown that he has a true love for the game, and by extension, a seemingly innate desire to act as a playmaker and win the NBA Title. In the previous round, in which his team defeated the San Antonio Spurs, Steve Nash was clobbered so badly that one of his eyes was swollen shut! Nonetheless, after withstanding a couple of stitches he quickly headed back out to the floor to resume his role as Point Guard and Captain of his team. Furthermore, as if he enjoyed these altercations, in the current series against the Lakers, he has already been besieged with a broken nose.

So let’s get this straight.

Standing at only a bit over 6 feet tall (see here) he may seem like a giant to us common-folk. However, in the National Basketball Association, he’s really a small guy, who because of his scrawniness, could get unintentionally bruised up, banged up, and so on and so forth. Additionally, he is playing in a league with speedy young men. And yet, despite his “old” age, the wear and tear on his body and his height, the guy is a hoops machine! He just keeps on shooting and winning regardless of what’s stitched or broken.

Likewise, hats off to Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks, who played after seven teeth got knocked out. Guess what? His team is now in the Stanley Cup Finals!

Reading about the stories of Steve Nash and Duncan Keith, reminds me that as human beings, we can live a life in which obstacles are placed in our way. Moreover, at times, things are broken one after another seemingly so frequently, that all we may want to do is curl up into the fetal position and cry! And frankly, if we did so, it wouldn’t be wrong. If Nash or Keith would have taken the rest of the night off they had every reason to not play. After all, it’s not within reason to compete at the highest level with one eye or several missing teeth! That said, they kept their “eye(s) on the prize” and didn’t let anything sway or distract them. The best thing to do in life is to remember the wise words of Bill Copeland who famously remarked, “The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.”

As such, I implore everyone to have a goal in life. If you don’t yet know what your goal is, I suggest you take some time TODAY to define your goal. Define your goal for the next six months, for the next year, for the next five years, and certainly set a lifetime goal! In so doing, you will help ensure that despite any bumps or bruises in your personal road, you will know where the basket or net is to keep on shooting. It may take a bit longer to reach than you anticipated; or you may have to try a different method or approach to reach your goal.  That said, if you pick yourself up, instead of looking for self pity, and keep on entering and shooting in the game called life, you will constantly move in a positive direction.

For another perspective on sports see this recent article by Dr. William Kolbrenner.

Life Lessons from 13 Year Old Jordan Romero

There are many great things that have come with the comforts of contemporary society. That said, there is a side effect that sweeps across children, tweens, teenagers, and even young adults. Namely, people are increasingly coddled. Indeed, in 2008 Newsweek Magazine dedicated an entire article entitled: How to Cope When Your Adult Kids Move Back Home! What’s more, there is even a television program that follows this phenomenon. The show is called,  Bank of Mom and Dad and features parents attempting to help their children cope with the financial reality of living as an “adult.” Unfortunately, many of the “kids” have gone wildly astray and are besieged with credit card debt and a lifestyle that they never could have ever afforded!

With that said, it is well known that a boy celebrates his Bar Mitzvah at the ripe young age of 13 years old. To many people new or familiar to Judaism, this age at first glance may seem a bit young for a boy to be considered “a MAN in the Eyes of G-d!” I have heard many a person comment that this age is simply too young for society, let alone the Almighty, to place adult like expectations upon such young shoulders.

And so, I was relieved to read that in today’s day and age, there are still some kids who put there mind to a gargantuan task, aim to perform and achieve their mission! In so doing, they show us all that at the (what we consider young) age of thirteen, you can after all achieve a lot more than one would think…as long as you put your mind to it and follow through with your aspirations!

A recent instance of the above mentioned can be found in the story of Jordan Romero. Let’s be honest. Most adults would not dare to venture near Mount Everest…let alone climb to the top of this legendary mountain. And yet, that is exactly what thirteen-year-old, Jordan Romero, hailing from sunny California accomplished. He set out to become the youngest person ever to scale Mount Everest! Upon reaching the top he called home to let his mother know that he was at the peak of the world’s highest mountain. I’m certain that his mother was beaming knowing that her son had performed what many would think is simply impossible! To read more about Jordan’s story see here.

All in all, I think it’s a great story of Chizuk and motivation for anyone age 1-120. It reminds us that we can achieve the impossible! Even if we are a small start-up company we can achieve success. Even if we aren’t the smartest kid in the class or let alone in the entire Yeshiva we can climb to our own individual heights and maximize our unique potential as a Jew as well as a human being. And so, the next time you are up against a big challenge and you think that you are just this “little nothing” remember the story of young Jordan Romero, who reminds us all that little kids can achieve big things!

Saying Thank You for our Personal Pesach Miracles

In my preparation for the Pesach Seder (remember we who live in Israel only celebrate 1, that’s right 1 Passover Seder!) I have been researching the words of the great mystic, Rabbi Tzadok HaKohen of Lublin. He reveals that on Chanukah for instance, we recite  a blessing on the amazing miracle that occurred. However, on Pesach we omit this blessing. At the surface this appears rather perplexing given that the Exodus was a miracle “heard around the world!”

Accordingly, he analyzes the differences of the miracles that took place on these two distinct holidays and by extension, explains why if one would recite this blessing on Passover, Hashem would view it as  being verbally brazen. As such, the custom is to not recognize the miracle of  Pesach with a blessing but rather through the Pesach Seder. All in all, whether we make a blessing or not, we all know that the Almighty has certainly performed many a miracle for us on the national level as well as on the individual level.

Sometimes a miracle is obvious.

Sometimes we just need to open our eyes and see the kindness of God. But it’s the searching for the kindness that can be difficult.

Truth be told, there’s soo many more layers to this world, that even our generation that is higly advanced in the fields of science and medicine, has yet to discover. Case in point, if I were to tell you the facts in the following article just several years ago, you would have thought I was joking. And yet, Hashem has decided that now is the time that scientist will begin to regrow limbs and help reclaim what some people may have thought they eternally lost! Read here for all the details. If you need additional inspiration see here.

In general, I’ve heard on several occasions that the Pesach Seder is referred to as the Jewish version of a Thanksgiving meal, in that for many families it may be the only time that everyone comes home and sits at the table together. And so, I call upon every Jewish person to utilize the Pesach Seder (be it if you are making 1 or 2 Passover Seder’s) to say “thank you” to the Almighty not just for the miracles that took place thousands of years ago and that may be hard for us to relate to, but also to the miracles that Hashem gives us on a daily basis. In fact, you may find that when you express your appreciation for the small little things that God provides us with, it will only amplify the great miracle of our Exodus from Egypt and put it in a proper perspective.

Indeed, this year, among many other things, I know that my wife and I will be thanking Hashem for the miracle that is our daughter Ora!

I’m certain that it’s without coincidence that merely two days after Ora Rachel was born, Rabbi Zelig Pliskin wrote in his Daily Life Email:
Even if a doctor says there is no chance of recovery, one should not despair. There are an extremely large amount of cases when doctors have given up hope and nevertheless the patient recovered. While it is irresponsible to disregard reliable medical advice when something practical can be done, doctors are only human and are fallible. It is important for doctors themselves to realize this and even when the situation appears bleak, they should realize that while we cannot rely on miracles, medical miracles do occur. Whenever Rabbi Yehoshua Leib Diskin was told that a doctor had given up hope on a patient, Rabbi Diskin would comment, “A doctor has a right to heal, but who gave him the authority to despair?” (Amud Aish, p.158; Gateway to Happiness, p.377)

All in all, this Pesach we must remember that the ‘P’ in the word Pesach stands for Perspective. With a little bit of perspective we could experience a Passover like never before!

Chag Sameach

How to be Happy…Even in a Recession!

Our Sages (see here) relate, “Who is truly happy? One who is content with his lot!” In today’s economic world this statement seems to ring rather loudly. People who spent and spent, and became used to a certain shall we say, “premium lifestyle,” now have to live within their salary–and not their credit cards.

Truthfully, the ancient wisdom contained within Judaism really can allow anyone, through thick and through thin, to live a more meaningful. Let’s be honest. You can either walk around upset at the cards that you are currently dealt; or you can spend your life no longer having to pursue happiness, but rather living a life of eternal happiness!

Indeed, the Wall Street Journal has a blog (yes blogs have gone that mainstream!), “Laid Off And Looking,” that follows eight unemployed professionals as they search for their next employer. Spencer Cutter, laid off from Lehman Brothers last spring, seems to be on his way to realizing what is important in life. He writes:

Now that I have been out of that culture for the better part of a year…I have re-discovered that the quality of my life is not determined by the quantity of my income…I’m focusing a lot less on the paycheck and am placing a much higher premium on a career that will…provide a sense of longevity, stability, and balance. Money is still important, but I’m no longer obsessed…

If there is one thing that some people (and clearly Spencer is one of them) will acquire from this recession we are facing, it is that one needs to occupy their time at a job that serves a purpose and not just look at the amount of zeroes in a paycheck. Spencer seems to be “growing up quick” and realizing that it’s not about wearing the latest designer suit. Rather, it’s about clocking in at a meaningful job and being happy with where you are in life.

To that end, I read with interest that the “happiest place on Earth!” is not Disneyland. instead, it’s the people who live in the Netherlands. Yes….you read correctly…the Dutch are the happiest country! 60 Minutes reports that the Dutch really seem to have realistic expectations of life, and by extension live meaningful and happy lives. As one resident put it:

“Well, in order to see myself as a success I would want to be happy and have a lot of time with my family. I think that’s very important to me. And the money is not that important,” he replied.

“It is more about the softer values, such as not being stressed, and feeling passionate about what I’m doing. ‘Maybe this job is not gonna pay me a lot of money. But I’m gonna love getting up and doing it every day,’” another said.

All in all, while I’m not suggesting that we all pick up and migrate to the Netherlands, I am of the opinion that it’s not healthy to yearn for the “American Dream.” Instead, dream within your own means so that you can follow the timely advice of our Sages. Frankly, once a person has mastered this particular tip on happiness, and it very well may be a tough bone to chew on, you’ll never need to spend your life pursuing happiness or a quick thrill!

Making a Difference

As a teacher, I see the difference one inspirational class or topic can have on a student, let alone on their long term future.

As a person who has the privilege of working with a master educator, namely Rabbi Label Sharfman, I am aware of the myriad of stories that people have about how his class or school for that matter, has enabled their life, family, and marriage, to forever move in a positive direction.

You know what I’ll let you all in on a little secret.

Guess What?

I still maintain a relationship with several of my teacher’s from elementary school to this very day!

And so, I encourage you all to click on this link and share this post with your friends and family.

Who knows, after seeing this short but important link you just may want to send a person who influenced you a: Teacher Appreciation Cupcake like the one pictured to your right.

One final note: Before you click on over, make sure that you have some tissues handy…


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