Thursday, June 27, 2019

Geula: Where the Trees of the Field Clap Their Hands!

Geula: Where the Trees of the Field Clap Their Hands!
By Esther Mandella

Yeshayahu 55:12 says
For ye shall go out with joy,
And be led forth with peace;
The mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, 
And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.…/Bible_(Jewish_Publicatio…/Isaiah

Have you seen a tree clap today? Have you heard a mountain sing? How about a hill? Above are the words of the great and poetic prophet Yeshayahu. If you have listened to the distant clap of a tree, you might not be too far off from personal geula, redemption!

Rashi tells us that these verses speak of an end to our exile from Eretz Yisrael. I see this as not just an end to physical exile, but spiritual exile as well! We are being drawn close to G-d each time we take a moment and choose in our heart to connect with Him.

Have you ever seen the painter Bob Ross on television? He is fascinating to watch! He begins with a few colors on a canvas, and soon, before you know it, with a few brush strokes a tree appears, and soon a forest opens up in front of your eyes!

That is what geula feels like! Yesterday, you went outside and maybe didn’t even notice the trees. The hills that stood in the distance were an afterthought as you drove about doing errands, doing this and that. But today . . . You decided to spend time with Hashem. You asked Him to speak with you through His Torah, through inspired teachers and rabbis and through your simple davening.

Now, you go outside, and you notice the neighbor’s child smiling, the birds are chirping, the wind has a sweet aroma, and what’s that? The winds are blowing through the trees, making it appear as if they are clapping their hands. You clasp your own hands together involuntarily.

You meet with a friend on the same derekh, path. You speak words of emuna, faith. Did you know some translations of the verse above talk of the people of the mountains singing as well? You find yourself singing words of Torah.
It is like Hashem has claimed for His own, and you can’t help singing His songs, thankful to be a part of the dance! As you feel His presence today, sing, clap your hands and feel the taste of geula sparkle within your smile and your fingers. And look up, the mountains just might be singing along!

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Emuna Judaism: Walking on the Derekh!

Emuna Judaism: Walking on the Derekh!
By Esther Mandella

Emuna Judaism: Walking on the Derekh!
By Esther Mandella

Have you ever seen a flower begin to blossom? It starts out like a little bud, and stretches its back towards the sun, taking in all the healthy rays, and opens up in all its grace.  That is the picture to have in mind when you think “Emuna Judaism.” 

All Judaism is centered on faith, emuna.  However, there are times in my life, that I have put the cart before the horse, so to speak.  We all have the human tendency to focus upon the “how-to” so much, we completely forget the “why-to”! 

Have you ever fought with your family on the way to your shul or congregation? “We have to get there on time,” perhaps you lashed out with more than a growl than a sentence. Grumpy and unhappy you slink into shul, bringing inside a dark cloud upon your head so large, the weatherman would be predicting a hurricane to arrive anytime now!  

This is an example of how easy it is to put the seeming practice of mitzvot, before the why of mitzvot. The word derekh means path or way.  We have placed the word Emuna before Judaism, to help transform the way we think!  Mitzvot is our path of connection to Hashem.  I want to help you walk on that derekh eith a beautiful, honest, service of Hashem in your daily life!

So, why do we do mitzvot anyway?  It all goes back to a special day at Sinai that you attended.  Hashem, G-d, asked us if we wanted to be His special people, to sign His marriage contract, so to speak.  To agree to follow His ways forever. It is a question for the ages!  The story of the centuries!

Perhaps we blushed with the magnitude of the question before us?  With emuna building in our hearts, we said yes, yes, and yes! We would figure out all the details later!  We just knew we loved Hashem, He had saved us from the Land of Egypt, proven Himself to us in too many ways to count. Now, it was our turn!

There were many people and peoples before that mountain so long ago! People of Hebrew heritage, and groups of people who simply wanted to serve Hashem alone.  They each in their own way felt the call to come out into the desert, to this mountain, to meet this appointment! Together they said yes to G-d, were placed into a unique relationship with the G-d of the universe!

Emuna Judaism is for EVERYONE who wants to practice the Jewish faith!  With faith first, we begin in the right relationship, with a beautiful crystal clear, foundation on which to stand!  Once, we stand, we can walk on His Derekh!  We walk in Judaism, letting emuna be our guide!

3 Easy Ways to Learn More Hebrew

3 Easy Ways to Learn More Hebrew
By Esther Mandella

I know you are busy! You are running a household, a home business, helping at your congregation, time is not a luxury you can afford.  That is why in this article you are going to find 3, I promise very EASY, ways to learn more Hebrew, and never break a sweat.

Learn while you sleep! Learning while you sleep, also called hypnopedia, can be just thing you have been looking for learning in a relaxed and soothing way! Simply search YouTube has various Hebrew options that can run all night long!  Listen to vocabulary words and even full phrases as you drift off to slumberland! All of us take a bit to fully fall asleep.  You are sure to enjoy a few minutes of conscious learning, and then throughout the night, you will be taking in more and more! Even if your fluency doesn’t triple overnight, you will become more aware of the correct accent of your Israeli cousins! Plus, there is nothing liking learning to help with insomnia!

Do you find yourself checking your social media page a lot?  Many people check in with online friends more than once a day.  You can use that habit to your advantage!  Search Facebook with phrases like, “Hebrew Word of the Day,” and many choices will come up!  For free, you will learn a Hebrew word each day effortlessly.  I encourage you to share the word on your timeline so friends can learn too!  Each time you surf on your wall, you will see your new word.  You learned English one word at a time. Soon, your Hebrew will improve too!  Consider joining more than one group to double-time your learning!

Speak Heblish!  What is Heblish you ask? It is simply a funny word that describes a mixture of Hebrew and English.  Don’t be afraid to use your Heblish all day long, especially around family and friends!  Tell them what you plan to do and they will be happy as they learn too! Learned a new Hebrew word today? Use it! If your child wants milk, ask them “if they want to drink chalav.” Are they hungry? Ask them if they “want a piece of lechem?”  Remember practice makes perfect, so keep putting new words into practice!

Sweet Hebrew dreams to you!

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Making Moedim Transformational

Making Moedim Transformational
By Esther Mandella

The hot rays of the sun, made the sweat drizzle off her forehead. Yael, Yeshoshua, and Ariel, her three yeledim, toiled, each gathering the wheat into their baskets.  Their energy surpassed their Ima’s, as they sang and played while harvesting the grain.

It was almost time to give Abba the bikkurim, to take to the Beit Hamikdash, the Holy Temple. Hashem had taught them His Appointed Times, and with simcha they weaved through the fields, picking and singing tehillim. Songs of praise filled their lips.  Hashem had provided once again! Now, it was the time to give back to Hashem, the Name above all Names, who chose them as a special and anointed people.

I began this with a story for a special reason.  As you enter the moedim, the appointed times, it is easy to start thinking of to-do lists that can scroll a mile long.  For now, I am asking you to set that aside and travel back to the time of the Beit Hamikdash, the Holy Temple of Yerushalayim.  

Just like the Ima in the story, we are told to serve Hashem with our bikkurim, firstfruits, but now with the firstfruits of our heart.

As Yehudim, we are to always look back.  The Torah is to be as real for us today as the isha in the field, and the ish, man, bringing his tribute to the Temple.  Why so?  By looking back, we are actually looking forward! 

Hashem WILL restore His Temple again! The Beit Hamikdash will stand as a city of praise for His chosen ones and all peoples who love Him!

As the Holidays come closer each calendar day, I want you to go back.  Open your Chumash.  Allow yourself the smell the air of Ancient Yisrael.  See the grape skin wet and purple on your fingers.  See the yeledim gathering with smiles.  They know Hashem is near!

We are close! Do you feel it?  His Moshiach is arriving soon! His Beit Hamikdash is descending.  Each smile you add, each setting you place at your table, builds a stone in the Temple of the Most-High G-d!

May your Moedim be transformational for you, your household, in the Heavens and amongst us all!

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

What The Torah Says About Intermittent Fasting

What The Torah Says About Intermittent Fasting
By Esther Mandella

Have you heard of Intermittent Fasting? This type of fasting draws the spiritual seeker as well as the person with a desire to be fit.  Judaism has many ta’anitot, fasts, so I was curious to see what I could find out about intermittent fasting and if it truly is something that fits into a Torah lifestyle.  What I found opened my eyes!  Come along on the journey!

Let’s begin talking about what intermittent fasting is and what it is not.  You might not realize it, but you are already practicing it!  Every night you go to sleep you are actually fasting from food.  That is unless you wake up in the middle of the night for that midnight nosh!  When you arise in the morning, you sit down for breakfast, where you literally break your fast!  The simplest form of intermittent fasting simply takes this up a notch!

Instead of breaking your fast in the morning, you hold off your eating until noon.  Next, you stop eating in the evening, giving yourself plenty of time for your body to restore itself between meals.  In Judaism, when we fast, we don’t drink any fluids.  However, with intermittent fasting, liquids such as water or tea are allowed and even welcomed!

Overeating is a common phenomenon that we have all fall prey too.  You are not alone with having devoured that half gallon of ice cream without a single helper!  Nevertheless, Hashem can help us feast on His D’varim, word of Torah, and we can be full!

Yechezkel, Chapter 16 says in possuk 49:

Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom: pride, fulness of bread, and careless ease were in her and in her daughters; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.
When we are full of bread, stuffed to overflow, we can be careless with the things that will be most satisfying, like serving Hashem.   Can we be helping the needy?  Perhaps the next great idea will come from you on how to truly help those around you!  Is there someone in need of a friend, someone stuck in a corner with no one noticing their need?

Intermittent fasting can encourage us to do other things like using our hands l’chaim, to spread life.  Perhaps a new hobby can be learned during those down times, away from the stove, and the table.  I recently began painting wooden signs with Scriptures on them.  Each time someone enters my home they are enveloped with Hashem’s word.  What will you use your hands upon?  What dream awaits you that you can discover when you fast from decadence, and fill yourself with His abundance.  

May you be filled with His Ruach and be satisfied!

Kosher Keto!

Kosher Keto
By Esther Mandella

You have probably seen it! The Keto Diet has swept the world by storm.  Talk to a friend, pick up a magazine, or surf YouTube and you will see it everywhere! People worldwide are seeing great results on the ketogenic diet!

The Keto Diet focuses on high-fat food options, encourages you to intake a low amount of protein, and instructs you to say no to high-carb foods.  The results can be amazing! Before and after pictures are flooding social media, and your friends look great after only months on this diet!

You want to have emuna, faith, that you will have similar results, but you search the web, and all the meal plans appear with glossy photos of high-fat foods such as bacon, bacon, and more bacon.  Not just that, post after post encourages you to add creamy butter to your steak, or better yet, rich, bleu cheese. What should you do? Can this diet, or lifestyle, be for you? Or do you have to put it away as a non-kosher option, that you need to say no to?

Have no fear! In today’s article we are going to discuss awesome ways to make a Keto diet a kosher diet, and in a way that will not break the bank!

To do this properly, we will have to take a look at another diet, the Mediterranean diet, or as I like to think of it, the Torah Inspired Diet.

In Torah times, our people focused on wholesome foods such as fish, with scales and fins, nuts and seeds, and olive oil.  Oil was used to anoint our kings. They were not slathering butter on their heads!

Fish can be fairly inexpensive.  It is also a food that doesn’t need shchita! Jewish tradition teaches that fish lived in the sea, always closer to their source, so it did not require a kosher slaughter to be fit to eat.  This means your local Walmart or Cost savings store will have scores of kosher options to choose from at an very affordable price. Fish like salmon and trout have all those healthy omega 3 fats your brain is craving, and your body can use to burn for energy!

As mentioned earlier, oil was used to anoint kings, kohenim, and used in sacrifices in the Beit HaMikdash, Holy Temple! In our own home, we can make a mini Beit Hamikdash by glorifying Hashem in everything we do! This can include trading the buttery steak, for a pareve food, rich with extra virgin olive oil and aromatic spices!

In Shir Hashirim, Chapter 6 we read:
11I went down into the garden of nuts,
To look at the green plants of the valley,
To see whether the vine budded,
And the pomegranates were in flower.

Nuts are found in positive ways throughout the Tanakh! Let’s follow the chochmah, wisdom, of Schlomo Hamelech and choose the low carb, satisfying fats of nuts.  Remember to look for options that are rich in fats yet also super, low-carb. Pecan and macadamia nuts are rich in taste, and extremely low in carbohydrates, weighing in at only about 1 net carb each! Sprinkling nuts on your yogurt for breakfast, or fish for dinner, can taste great and make you look like a gourmet chef!

Remember to do any diet plan under the guidance of a health professional!
Emuna Judaism is all about applying the Torah to your lives!

May you be satisfied with Hashem’s bounty!

Monday, June 17, 2019

Increase Your Emuna!

Increase Your Emuna!
By Esther Mandella

Many people have different definitions of emuna.  I have heard it called faith or trust. I like that! I have also heard emuna described as an inner conviction that “G-d’s got this.” You are going to be alright. In fact, it was all good in the first place.
The following are three “go to ways” I use when my emuna needs an all-important recharge!
1) Teshuvah
Teshuvah, repentance, might seem like an odd thing to start with. We want to feel better, not worse, right? But trust me, repentance can actually feel great. It is like a strong massage that gets down deep and causes healing to begin! Speak to Hashem about the ways you feel you have gone away from His Torah path, which is what He hopes and expects of you. Tell Him you are sorry. Your heart is crying out to be in right relationship with Your Father. Have your own personal, symbolic Tashlich, so to speak. Let the aveiros, sins, go, washed away down the river of G-d’s forgetfulness. It is a great place to start!
2) Todah
Todah, thanks, and praise to G-d. Remember those times you rested in His care and He filled you with His Ruach of shalom? Recall those times now! Taste them in your mind and heart. Praise Him for it! This is when you were truly alive and in line with things above! Reconnect! It was real then and it can be real now!
3) Let G-d’s Vision be Your Vision!
Sometimes we daven, pray, too small. We ask G-d to fix the tire, and figuratively He wanted to get you the new car! Ask G-d to show you His vision for you! Ask Him to lay it on your heart, move mountains in its way. He is already moving them you know, now YOU can to get to be on the moving truck;)

Through teshuvah, praise, and seeking Hashem’s vision for your life, you will feel your emuna begin to grow and blossom in your heart!