Self Esteem and Teshuva

22 09 2014


Last night Rabbi Twersky gave a shiur on the psychological aspects to Teshuva. His main point was that in order to do real Teshuva we need to have a positive self-esteem.


Because in order to have meaningful relationships with anyone, including Hashem, you need to have a healthy and positive self-esteem and self-image. The problem is that many do not have a positive self-esteem – this damages and limits our ability to do Teshuva.

Why don’t we have a positive self-esteem and what do we need to work on?

He suggested a number of factors.
1) We are too dependent on the approval of others.
2) We try to please too much.
3) We have been damaged by our childhood experiences.
4) The Ýetzer Harah’ also creates negative, destructive feelings.
5) We aim too high. Often highly accomplished people, suffer from self-esteem problems, as they are never satisfied with where they are.
6) Keeping the wrong company can also damage a persons’ self-esteem. Self-esteem is infectious.
7) We don’t fully appreciate we do have a certain amount of control of our fate – more than we realize.
8) We don’t set realistic goals and don’t strive to live purposefully.
9) We get confused between 1) ornamental, and 2) functional values. We put too much of an emphasis on ornamental – aesthetic values, at the expense of the more important and long term functional values. It’s the functional values that give us more meaning and happiness and contribute to our healthy self-esteem.
10) We don’t appreciate we are individuals and each have a certain role to play and only we can perform that role.

Unlike animals, we can communicate through speech and can forgive, and practise humility and attempt to cope with feelings of inadequacy and inferiority.

Once we are conscious of the importance of a healthy self-esteem, we can begin to do Teshuva.

Benjy Singer.


5 Ways ‘My Shteiblech’ will make the Chagim much easier for the whole family

15 09 2014


It’s Chagim time again and Mr Worry is getting very worried and busy. In fact Mr Worry isn’t sleeping at the moment!

So many questions that will be arising over the next few weeks that My Shteiblech will be answering.

But firstly, what is My Shteiblech?

It’s very simple – My Shteiblech is a portal of information which uses Social Media platforms (Facebook Page/ 2 Facebook Groups, Twitter and a Newsletter) to share and post very accurate and useful information to the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem community.

My Shteiblech comprises of 5 Social Media platforms you should all like, subscribe to and use:

1) Weekly Newsletter:

2) Facebook Page:

3) Facebook Group for the Jerusalem area (you can post in this group):

4) Facebook Group for the Tel Aviv area (you can post in this group:

5) Twitter: @myshteiblech

Divrei Torah/ HalachaRav Yoni Rosensweig, Adam Ross and myself write Divrei Torah on the Parsha, Chagim and Halacha throughout the year which we post on My Shteiblech. Over the period of the Chagim, we will be writing interesting and original ideas you can share at the Yom Tov Table.

Your questions on Halachah: Rav Yoni, as usual will be available to answer all your questions – Thanks Rav Yoni!!

Here are just 10 queries My Shteiblech will be dealing with ( There will be many more too..):

1) How I am going to find 6 meals over Rosh Hashanah and over Succot? ( if you’re single like many of us)

2) I’m trying out the Tel Aviv scene for the Chagim- Where can I daven and meet new people? Who can host me for meals?

3) What time are Selichot? At night and early morning?

4) What are the Halachot of Shabbat following Yom Tov?

5) What Shabbat Shuvah Drashot/ Shiurim are going on and where/when? Is Rav Benny Lau speaking in the morning and afternoon? Is Rav Goldvicht speaking over Succot? What shiurim are happening over Chol Hamoed Succot? Where can I do Tashlich?

6) Where can I buy good quality Arbaah Minim?

7) What’s going on over Chol Hamoed? What fun events and activities are going on for the whole family? What are the Halachot of Chol Hamoed?

8) Where can I register for seats in the popular shuls – Nafke minah, Ramban, Yakar etc.. What shuls have babysitters and programmes for young children?

9) What time are the Hashkama minyanim over Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur?

10) Where are Hakafot Shniyot taking place?

So, it’s very simple – Join the 5 My Shteiblech social media platforms and make your Chag much easier – Don’t give Mr Worry anything to worry about!

We look forward to you joining us,

Benjy Singer – Founder and Manager of My Shteiblech.

Massechet Moed Katan: Simcha and Aveilut – Two sides of the same coin.

9 09 2014

baby crying and laughing

Today we completed Massechet Moed Katan in the Daf HaYomi cycle. One theme that has stood out more than any other in the Massechet is the tension between Simcha – (happiness), in the context of Yom Tov and Chol Hamoed and Aveilut (mourning) as discussed in detail in the second half of the Massechet.

Rabbi Aaron Adler told me a few evenings ago that when Rav Soloveitchik taught Massechet Moed Katan he spoke about the tension between Simcha and Aveilut.

Those who have learnt the Massechet know that these two paradoxical themes are central. The Massechet starts with discussions related to Chol Homoed and Simcha and then proceeds to discuss the Halachot of Aveilut in detail.

Rav Soloveitchik said that the number 7 has national significance. There are 7 days to Pesach and Succot and you had 7 days to bring the Korbanot of Shavuot. The Rav went on to say that both Aveilut and the Simcha of a wedding had national significance too, as they both are centred around the number 7 – 7 days of Sheva Brachot and 7 days of Shivah (even though the Rambam says only the first day is DÓraita). When a person dies or marries this affects and has implications for all of Am Yisrael. Thus, the Rav drew parallels between the concepts of Simcha and Aveilut.

Furthermore, the sefer of Halachot we learn the Halachot of Aveilut from is called, ‘Massechet Smachot’.

It’s in the Rambam that we see most clearly the relationship between Simcha and Aveilut.
In Hilchot Aveilut 1:1, the Rambam says that Moshe Rabbenu was instituted 7 days of Aveilut and 7 days of wedding celebrations. Furthermore, in Hilchot Aveilut 14:1, the Rambam discusses the mitzvah of Gemilut Chassadim and he parallels mitzvot associated with Aveilut, with mitzvot associated with wedding celebrations. I don’t think it is any coincidence that the Rambam brings together in both these places the concepts of Aveilut and Simcha, using the example of a wedding celebration.

We learnt in Massechet Moed Katan, that unlike Shabbat, Yom Tov cancels the Shivah period. Why is that? Because the Simcha of Yom Tov is so strong, it cancels out the Aveilut of the Shiva. On Shabbat there is no Mitzvah of Simcha. Again we see, the two concepts of Aveilut and Simcha in relationship with each other. Here they clearly work against each other.

Rav Soloveitchik explains that the source of the Simcha of Yom Tov that cancels the Aveilut of Shiva is based on Aliyah Le’Regel-coming to Yerushalayim, the Bet Mikdash, to offer Korbanot which they did on the Shalosh Regalim. This extreme Simcha, based on the embrace between man and G-d, is so intense that it cancels out the Aveilut of Shiva.

By bringing together these two opposing forces of Aveilut and Simcha, the Rambam is teaching us an important lesson, that they are both part of the religious and human experience.

Life and death, Aveilut and Simcha, are both equally part of the religious and human experience and we must be able to cope with both. Both Simcha and Aveilut, good times and bad, help us appreciate the time we have more and make us reassert and re-evaluate our direction, what really matters and the quality of our relationships.

In Massechet Moed Katan we see firstly Halachot and Mitzvot relating to Simcha, then the Massechet proceeds to discuss in depth the Halachot of Aveilut. Again, Massechet Moed Katan is teaching us the same message as the Rambam. That Simcha and Aveilut are two sides of the same coin.

Kohelet tells us it’s better to go to ‘Beit Evel’ – a house of mourning, than a ‘Beit Mishte’ – a house of wedding celebrations. Again the Pasuk is drawing a clear parallel between Aveilut and Simcha. Also, in the 3rd Perek of Kohelet, in 3:4, the Pasuk draws a parallel between weeping (Aveilut) and laughing ( Simcha); and wailing (Aveilut) and dancing (Simcha).

So to conclude, these themes of Aveilut and Simcha not only play a key role in Massechet Moed Katan, but are also expressed in other places in Chazal. Aveilut and Simcha, being happy and being sad are two sides of the same coin and we need to realize that they both are equally part of life.

Hadran Alach Massechet Moed Katan!

Benjy Singer.


Parshat Ki Teitzei: How to deal with rebellious and ‘Off the Derech’ children.

5 09 2014


In this week’s Parsha in 21:18-22, we read of the Ben Sorer Umoreh. The Torah tells us that if parents have a ‘wayward and rebellious’ son, then they needed to discipline him. If he did not listen to them, they take him to the elders of the city by the gate. Then after a declaration by the parents, he is taken out and stoned.

What was the sin of the son?

According to the Gemarah in Sanhedrin 70a the boy must have stolen from his parents enough money to buy and consume a large amount of meat and alcoholic beverages. Rashi adds, that if this is how he acts now, he will become a murderous bandit to satisfy his ravenous appetite.

The Torah describes in pesukim in 20/21, how once the parents declare to the elders that indeed their son is a ‘Sorer Umoreh’ and is ‘Zolel Vzovea’ – a glutton and a drunkard, then all the men of the city shall pelt him with stones, and as a result he will die. The reason the Torah gives for behaving in such an extreme way is in order to remove the evil from your midst (21:21).

The Gemarah in Sanhedrin says that this entire process happens during the first three months after his Bar Mitzvah. Rav Hirsch explains that this is the time period a teenager is at most risk from being influenced and is in most need to positive role models.

The Ramban comments that the underlying sins of the boy are: not respecting the authority of his parents, extreme gluttony, a refusal to behave in a way that will bring him close to Hashem.

The R’Bachya says we learn from here that we learn from here a parents’ love of G-d must supersede their love of their children; if the Torah says so the be ready to pass their son over to the courts, and even at the risk of his death. Like Avraham was willing to sacrifice Yitzchak during the Akeidah.

Despite the way the Torah describes the punishment of the ‘Ben Sorer Umoreh’, the Gemarah in Sanhedrin makes it virtually impossible for the Ben Sorer Umoreh to be punished.

The Gemarah in Sanhedrin 71 says both mother and father must be the same height, have the same voice and appearance. My question is, are these conditions coincidental or do they suggest possible reasons why the son became a ‘Ben Sorer Umoreh’ in the first place.

Maybe the parents and home environment are to blame? Maybe the boy was bored, lonely and frustrated and didn’t have suitable role models and friends? The conditions of the parents needing to look and sound the same, imply that the son could well have grown up in a uninteresting, monotonous, uninspiring and non-stimulating home. As a result he rebelled out of sheer weariness and boredom. Of course it’s not right that he didn’t respect his parents – but did they deserve his respect? Did they try hard enough earlier on in his process of going, Óff the Derech’ to put him back on the correct ‘Derech’? Were they even aware of it or were they too busy at work and with their own lives?

The Gemarah in Sanhedrin says that if the episode of the Ben Sorer Umoreh (like the Ír Hanidachat) never happened, why do we need to learn about it? The Gemarah answers to learn the text and commentaries of the passage and receive reward for doing so.

The Rabbis in the Gemarah goes out of their way to redefine and recategorize the Ben Sorer Umoreh, so that the Torah’s gruesome description of the fate of the Ben Sorer Umoreh will never actually happen. What do we learn from this compassionate and humane approach of the Rabbis in the Gemarah to basically make sure the Ben Sorer Umoreh never actually occured?

I think the answer is the sense of understanding and insight the Rabbis had in understanding WHY this young 13 year old boy rebelled and did not respect his parents. Again, in order to become a Ben Sorer Umoreh the mother and father of the boy had to be identical in their appearance. Let’s say they were – what does this tell us about the type of home environment the boy grew up in? I suggested above it implies he did not have a stimulating and challenging home environment and upbringing. As a natural result, he rebelled. But it wasn’t really his fault, it was just an expression of his boredom and frustration.

So how do we deal with children who are, ‘Off the Derech’? Firstly, by working out why. What went wrong? Are they happy? Are they being showed the love they need? Why didn’t their parents and teachers do anything to stop this regression? Do the children have the right friends? Are they going to the appropriate youth movements? Do they enjoy their chugim and after school activities? Are their Rabbanim at school appropriate or are they too intense and serious? Are the parents trying hard enough to provide them with a stimulating home environment? Are they being listened to? Who is advising them? Maybe the parents, teachers and Rabbanim are as much to blame as them ?

Did we hear their cry for help and what did we do??

Just some food for thought,

Shabbat Shalom,

Benjy Singer.

The Founder of ‘My Shteiblech’.