Connecting to G-d

There are 613 commandments or laws (mitzvahs) that are mandated in the Torah. But said another way, there are 613 ways to connect to G-d.

Every Mitzvah performed by a Jewish person is a real opportunity to connect to G-d. To interact with the Aibishter (all mighty) on a personal level.  I challenge you to make every mitzvah count, and to put a little bit of yourself in every mitzvah you perform.

Its simple. Actually, it is real simple.  A simple as, maybe, changing the location where performing a mitzvah or adding in your own words or actions.  The addition of a bit of your own flair helps you to connect to G-d in a personal way.  I am aware that when performing mitzvahs it is way easier to add your own personal touch then with other mitzvahs. We all know of mitzvahs that take a little extra thought and creativity in order to personalize, but making a mitzvah your own helps to keep it fresh and exciting, not just a rote activity.

This is me davening Shacharit on Cypress Mountain. Time to get away from usual Shul and home prayers and daven in nature, one of the wonders and creations of Hashem.

Last Sunday, Chabad of Richmond went on a community hike to Eagles Bluff on Cypress Mountain where Shacharit took take place followed by a bit of nosh, consisting of beagles, fruit and a wee bit of Schnapps, and then a Chassidic meditation class on living in divine space.

For me the purpose the hike was not only a chance to interact with community members outside of Shul, but an opportunity to get in touch with mind, body and soul, hiking for the body, davening and meditation mind and soul.  But more importantly it was an opportunity to connect to Hashem, G-d,  in a unique place and in a unique way. While I was davening at Eagles Bluff, I was putting my unique twist on morning prayers by being in a unique place and using my surrounding to connect to Hashem in a new way. Being out in nature, with some of the people I care most about in my community, absolutely gave me a different perspective and unique meaning to the prayer book words. I found myself pausing a bit longer on certain words to think about its meaning and how it applies to Hashem and the environment I was in. Also, at times, I was inserting some of my own words that made absolute sense at that particular time and place.

Even though It was windy and cold on top of the mountain, I felt warm. While davening my tallis kept blowing with the movements of the wind, but I kept absolutely still. At other times, when the wind died down, I found the freedom to move about and enjoy the natural environment I was in.

The time spent on the mountain last Sunday gave me a unique perspective to my connection to Hashem.  For the first time ever in my life, while davening, I felt the presences of G-d in all directions, north, south, east, west, up and down. Maybe it was that there was no fixed walls of home or Shul to limit G-d’s presence. Maybe it was that the ever present winds brought the divine presence to me in all directions. Most likely it was just the euphoria of davening with great people in a great place. But what was true and constant is that I did put a bit of myself into my davening which enabled me to connect to Hashem in a whole new way.


Like most people, there are times in my life that I need to motivate. Motivated to take one more step, keep moving forward and not be tempted to lie down and take the worst of what life and society has thrown upon me. Sometime one has challenges that are small and can be overcome easily. Some even disappear with no action taken. At other times, no matter how hard you try, or don’t try, the challenge is just too great to let it sort itself out with little to no personal action.  Often, before one tackles these types of challenges, they need to be motivated, or inspired to  get the energy to face the challenge head on, and not stop until it has been conquered.

Below is a video I recently saw that has really come to inspire me and symbolise my struggles. It appeals to be on a raw emotion level. Maybe it will appeal to you as a motivational tool.

I also find that when tackling challenges, especially serious life changing or life pathway (derekh) threatening, one needs to be in the proper frame of mind. In the last few years I have come to realize that this frame of mind must be happiness. Unbridled joy to be exact. I have come to realize that if one is truly thankful for the little things one has, they can be happy, even when faced with challenging situations.  

Below is a video I recently came across that helps me to be, and stay, happy. I don’t know what the words mean exactly, but the images, tune and context (Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav) always helps me to keep a happy, positive and joyous frame of mind and spirit (neshama/ruach) every day.

These videos have come to me at a good time. Dank tsu Got (thanks to God).

Shlichus – What is your Mission?

Is this me or what?

The following was sent to me by my Rabbi.

Groaning by itself won’t do a bit of good. A groan is only a key to open the heart and eyes, so as not to sit there with folded arms, but to plan orderly work and activity, each person wherever he can be effective, to campaign for bolstering Torah, spreading Torah and the observance of Mitzvot. One person might do this through his writing, another with his oratory, another with his wealth.
Compiled and arranged by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson

While the “quote” is talking about repairing the world, tikkun olam, through Torah and in a Jewish context, my question to you is what do you do to make this world a better place, regardless of religious affiliation, and get people to join in the repairing and  improving  of our world?

Why did I write “is this me or what?”. Well, without going into too much detail in this post, over the last two years or so it has been my “mission”, or more specifically my mission in a Jewish context, to get people to understand the joy in Judaism and Yiddishkeit, and how it can help them analyse their life, better understand it and vastly improve their outlook of daily living.  I have also incorporated into my shlichus (mission) to try and get people to understand that one must not just give and receive in life, but share.  Please see my blog post on sharing

So again, what your mission or shlichus in life. Make it unique and your own. We all have talents we can use to repair the world around us.

By the way I have been sharing, volunteering, helping, engaging etc.. for may years, but not necessarily in a Jewish context. Remember, I am a growing baal teshuvah. You can probably tell from the shift in my blogs focus.

Chochma, Bina, Daat: Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge


Every day, everywhere, especially at work perhaps, we get ideas or abstract thoughts. Some ideas quickly shape into usable form and others need more time for full translation into action. How we chance on an idea is itself worthy of much thought, investigation or analysis. Some seemingly appear from nowhere, a spark, from the depths of our subconscious; others arise from studious thought and consideration, an evolution that blends into construction and conduct. Indeed, if we want to develop the idea into a form that we, or others, can use, our mind must go through a three step process that follows the mind’s intellectual division. The three parts are Chochma, Bina, and Daat.

Chochma is the initial flash of insight one associates with the idea as spark. Initial ideas need to be developed and incorporated into the mind before they can become knowledge. Then comes Bina, the gradual development and articulation of an idea or insight. It’s the refinement or working out of an idea. It answers the question, why is this a good idea? Can this idea be rationally explained? Then comes Daat, often translated as “knowledge” but, in fact, mostly dealing more with comprehension and emotion. When an idea has developed fully, beyond its initial flash or spark, its truth or validity worked out or decided upon and it’s in a form that can be comprehended by others, it becomes “knowledge”.  Daat is also the bridge between intellect and emotion, where the idea goes from an abstract thought towards an emotional feeling, that one knows is the truth, or at least a useable theory that one can bond with and that can and will have meaning and application to actions in life.

9/11 Ground Zero

From news reports I have read, the authorities rebuilding the site of 9/11 in NY City are considering putting a “memorial” Mosque in the area of Ground Zero, where the twin towers once stood. What do you think of this idea? Honestly, I’m not sure how I feel, but the picture below shows two opinion that kind of resonate with me. Maybe they could just have one memorial chapel that could be used by all faiths.

Shomer Shabbos

From the movie The Big Lebowski featuring John Goodman as Walter Sobchak

Am I Shomer Shabbos?  I’m not sure what Shomer Shabbos means in its entirety, but I guess in my own way I am.

What does being Shomer Shabbos (or Shomer Shabbat) mean for me? Well, for starters, from Friday night sundown until late Saturday afternoon, I don’t engage in what I consider work.  I spend time with my family (family day) and attend Synagogue. On Friday night I have a special family dinner starting with the lighting of candles, the blessing over wine and bread and singing of a song or two, which my daughter really likes.  

Lately, my favourite parts of Shabbat is the Kiddush lunch and Farbrengen after Shabbat services on Saturday morning. I particularly like it when the lunch discussions around the table turn into one lively discussion about Chassidut and Torah. But, almost all of the topics discussed over egg, bread and chollent are of fascination to me, as I grow in my knowledge and observance of Judaism and Yiddishkeit. L’chaim!