| Spirit and Sparks |


Step-by-step guide to developing yiras Shamayim and ahavas Hashem


Part 1

We all know the importance of yiras Shamayim and ahavas Hashem. But how do we develop these attributes?

The Baal HaTanya demystifies the process of acquiring yirah and ahavah by explaining the step-by-step mechanics of how the soul works. Using his guide, every single person can develop true awe and love of Hashem, the kind we think are reserved for story-book tzaddikim.

The three key soul powers are: knowledge, understanding, and focus. We first need to know some facts about Hashem’s greatness, understand those facts, and then focus on them for whatever period of time we can. For beginners, focusing for two minutes at a time is an achievement. As we do this spiritual exercise, we’ll be able to focus for longer and longer periods.

Focusing on Hashem’s greatness will lead us to yiras Shamayim. Then, when we know that this awesome G-d cares and provides for us, we’ll feel love toward Him. The deeper our knowledge of Hashem’s greatness, the deeper the love we feel.


Change in Practice

My Elul kabbalah is helping me survive buying a house. When Elul arrived, I was toilet training, sleep training, and hunting for a house. There was so much going on, I couldn’t imagine adding something to my life like “bentsh out loud” or say an extra kapitel Tehillim.

Instead, I realized that the challenges in my life shared a common denominator — I was in middle of the process. I’m a goal-oriented person. I make decisions quickly; I like to check off “done” and then move onto the next task. I hate being in middle of something. But that was where Hashem was putting me.

So, I went with the flow. My Elul kabbalah was to work on being okay with being in middle of a process. I didn’t need my toddler to be toilet-trained, I just had to go through the steps and not be desperate for it to be over. I stopped stressing that it was taking so long, and instead thought, “What’s my next step?” and then got on with it.

While the toddler is already trained (yay!), and the baby sleeps pretty decently on most nights, we’re still looking for a house that we can afford (yes, in Brooklyn). But I’m okay, I’m not stressed.

When I feel the tension rising — I want to buy already! — I take deep breathes and tell myself that the process of buying a house is a destination all of its own. It’s where I’m growing and stretching. Eventually, we’ll have a home, but meanwhile, we’re on an adventure and gaining knowledge and skills.



“You have three options when dealing with an angry person: speak gently, be silent, or go away.”

—Tzemach Tzaddik



Why is there so much conflict in my life? I want shalom so badly, yet I’m surrounded by machlokes. This seems like a pattern in my life. Why does it have to be like that?

Rebbetzin Tamar Taback: Life is a war. We engage in battle with our own lower urges, experience tension with other people, and encounter worldviews that oppose ours.

There are two types of spiritual light. The first is already integrated within us, a result of the spiritual battles we’ve fought and won, visible to others through our personality and our actions. The second is unrevealed light, which appears as darkness, conflict, and strife. This great light is potential — unclaimed and unlived.

As we move through life, we’re at the edge of our next moment, the next battle that will reveal our true potential. When we have all integrated all of our light, Mashiach will come.

Thus, what looks messy is actually Messianic. What seems dark leaves a shadow of light in its wake. It was only when Yaakov battled with the archangel of Eisav that he became Yisrael, the name representing the full expression of his potential. Don’t resist the process. Embrace the conflict and reveal your hidden light.

— Rebbetzin Tamar Taback is the founder of thenexus.org, the online Torah school for “pre-messianic women,” and is currently teaching the “Rise! Into our femininity through modeling the Imahos” series.


Medical Escort

If not for the fact that my heart was pounding in my ears, I might have chuckled aloud. What sort of twisted joke was this? Placing a well-established medical practice next to a decrepit liquor store? “See our top-rate specialist, get a terrible diagnosis, and then drink your sorrows away!”

Not the most attractive PR. Nor the safest!

I scanned the crammed parking lot, praying for an open spot that was a mere five-second sprint to the door of the practice. No such luck. I grabbed the last available spot, directly across from the Patterson Avenue liquor store, and bolted toward the clinic door like the all-star marathon runner that I’m not.

From the waiting room window, I noticed a handful of drunks huddling around a Camry, looking highly threatening. As I continued to scrutinize them, my spine straightened — they were encircling my Camry!

Just then, my name was called. I stepped into an exam room. Dr. R. expertly assessed me, but as the appointment neared its end, my apprehension became more pronounced.

“Dr. R.,” I meekly began, “I’m scared to go to my car because it’s surrounded by hoodlums. Is there anyone from your office staff who can watch me from the window of the clinic?”

“Certainly,” he calmly replied, “I’ll make sure of it.”

He escorted me to the front desk, muttered something to the secretary, and disappeared. Three minutes later, my checkout was complete. Suddenly, without any fanfare, Dr. R. reappeared. To my shock, he proceeded to serve as my security escort. Suited in his foreboding white coat and armed with only a 3M Littman stethoscope, he confidently walked me to my car. The gangsters, amid an aroma of alcohol and tobacco, parted ways for the kind doctor at my side.

I hastily left Dr. R. and his motley neighbors in a cloud of grateful exhaust.

Beyond his advanced degrees and specialist title, Dr. R. demonstrated compassion and humility. To paraphrase a philosopher, I paid the hefty medical bill to the doctor for his expertise; for his kindness, I remain indebted.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 766)

Oops! We could not locate your form.