| Spirit and Sparks |

The Month of Joy

Making feeling joyful a priority


The Month of Joy

Mrs. Malkie Klaristenfeld

This month’s parshiyos focus on the building of the Mishkan. The root of the Hebrew word Mishkan — shin, chaf, nun — means “drawn to it.” We were drawn to the Mishkan, and more importantly, the Shechinah was drawn there too; this was its resting place in This World.

The pasuk says, “V’asu li mikdash v’shachanti b’socham.” To dwell with the Shechinah, we needed to bring ourselves to the Mishkan. But first we must create space for the Shechinah to rest. That’s a task that often feels impossible.

The pasuk also tells us, “V’yikchu li terumah.” Rav Moshe Weinberger explains that terumah comes from the root word “l’harim,” to lift. Hashem wants us to make Him the most important thing in our lives; lift ourselves up toward Him, to make connecting to Him deeply our top priority.

Chazal state, “Mishenichnas Adar, marbim b’simchah.” But how can we feel simchah while experiencing challenges? The Sfas Emes says that the only way to increase joy is to allow the spirit of Adar to penetrate deep within us.

Although we all know that many times this is difficult, we must try our utmost to take the lesson of the Mishkan, and create space for Hashem’s Shechinah, making feeling joyful a priority.

The Yerushalmi states that this is the month when distress turned to joy, agony to simchah. When something good occurs in a specific month, it sets the tone for the entire month. These thoughts help us understand how we can allow simchah to penetrate our beings and bring Hashem into our lives.

We can do it! Let’s tap into our inner resources and lift ourselves toward Hashem.

Mrs. Malkie Klaristenfeld is the director and founder of Knafayim and director of volunteers of PCHAI Chai Lifeline


Step-by-step guide to developing yiras Shamayim and ahavas Hashem: Part 3

Can one acquire real yiras Shamayim and ahavas Hashem through an inspirational kumzitz?

According to the Baal HaTanya — no. Feelings that rise suddenly disappear just as quickly. Only feelings generated by sustained thought have permanence, changing us for real. Even if we go through a period when thinking, even for a few minutes, this is too hard for us, the thinking we did previously changed us, and that change remains. And when we begin meditating again, we can start again easily.

We know that Hashem is One. He fills all the worlds, He surrounds all the worlds, He is beyond all the worlds. This meditation can make that knowledge real:

Hashem fills the room/space I’m in... the space of the square acre/block around me… the entire neighborhood… city… state… country… continent… the oceans around it… the entire earth… giving life and existence to all the infinite and infinitely complex creations in it…

He fills the enormous space surrounding the earth… our planetary system with the sun at the center… our galaxy with thousands of stars, each light years away from all others… and our galaxy is but one of almost infinite galaxies…

He fills the spiritual worlds, which are so huge they make all of physical existence seem like nothing… and there is a hierarchy of spiritual worlds, each wiping out the one beneath them with the brightness of their shine…

And Hashem also surrounds creation… beyond creation… and all of creation is nothing before Him, just one ray of His infinite light… and He is infinitely greater than His light…

And Hashem, before Whom I’m not even a crumb, loves me and cares about me and considers me very important to Him. He has a job that He needs me to do, and it’s before His constant gaze that I serve Him…



Rebbetzin Esther Reisman

Who doesn’t struggle with distraction during tefillah? Here are small, doable steps that are surprisingly helpful in keeping you focused.

Change your siddur. The new fonts and layout can prevent the lulling effect of routine.

If you can, choose a tefillah and sing it!

Focus on just one short tefillah, or even just one line in a tefillah.

There are fundamental tefillos we say so often, we don’t even hear ourselves saying the words. Slow down dramatically. You can use this technique to taste the majesty of Ashrei, a powerful source of bitachon and a preparation for Shemoneh Esreh.

Learn a sefer on tefillah together with a friend at a pace that works for both of you. A small investment of time can help you tap into the richness of davening.

The pressures in our lives that make it hard for us to focus can be reframed to serve as a glue for connection. For example: “Hashem, I’m taking care of Your children, please take care of all of us,” or “I’m so anxious about ______, please help me feel calm.”

Rebbetzin Esther Reisman is a mechaneches at Bais Yaakov Academy and rebbetzin at Agudas Israel of Madison, WI


A Promise Kept

On the spectrum between extreme budgeting and complete bitachon, we fall somewhere in the middle. My husband and I try to generate as much income as we can and track our spending (ask Amazon how many times we bought faux leather patches for our faux leather couch), but the costs of supporting a frum family — just the basics — are insane.

So how do we do it? Miracles clothed in nature. A constant string of them. Here’s the latest:

We were experiencing a particularly tight financial crunch, and my chest felt tight from the pressure. My husband kept on saying, “It’s because we don’t separate maaser consistently. Hashem says that we can test Him with tzedakah. One who gives maaser will become rich!”

“The money gets used up before it comes in,” I told him.

“That’s no excuse. When $1,000 comes in, we didn’t get $1,000, we only got $900. Ten percent doesn’t belong to us.”

I took his words to heart when I noticed that our already tight and inadequate income was being squandered on the most annoying kind of expenditures: fixing that which shouldn’t have broken, $350 to the exterminator, $160 to fix the washing machine.

I set up a series of automatic maaser payments and was feeling good about it when I noticed that the newly fixed washing machine had sprung a leak where the rubber was slightly ripped.

“I’m sorry, Hashem,” I said. “A deal is a deal. I didn’t set up this deal. You did. You said that if we give maaser, we’ll be rich!”

Well, guess what? The leak stopped. It did. Don’t ask me how or why, because the rip is still there, but the leak is gone.

And since we started giving maaser consistently, somehow, we’re making it through the month again, each time with a different mini-miracle clothed in nature.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 779)

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