Category Archives: Personal Growth

Maximizing Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur is associated with prayer and liturgy that we may not understand, very long services and, of course, fasting. Unfortunately, most people are unaware of the power, meaning and opportunity of the day. In this podcast we go back to the very first Yom Kippur. What happened on that day and how is it represented in the holiday? Why is Yom Kippur both a day of the sealing of judgement and the day of atonement? What is the meaning behind the fasting? Listen and familiarize yourself with the true essence and opportunity of the day and learn how to maximize it!

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Please consider making a donation to help fund our Jewish outreach and educational efforts at https://www.torchweb.org/support.php. Thank you!

Contact:

Website: RabbiWolbe.com;
Twitter: @RabbiWolbe;
Facebook: Rabbi Yaakov Wolbe;
Email: rabbiwolbe@gmail.com.

Please SUBSCRIBE, RATE and REVIEW all my podcasts on iTunes and Android:

Podcasts Links iOS:

This Jewish Life – In-Depth Analysis into Critical Torah Topics;
The Jewish History Podcast – Telling the Remarkable story of the Jewish People;
The Parsha Podcast – A Weekly Analysis and Exploration of the Parsha;
TORAH 101 – An Intellectual’s Introduction to Torah

Podcast Links Android:

This Jewish Life – In-Depth Analysis into Critical Torah Topics;
The Jewish History Podcast – Telling the Remarkable story of the Jewish People;
The Parsha Podcast – A Weekly Analysis and Exploration of the Parsha;
TORAH 101 – An Intellectual’s Introduction to Torah

The Core Theme of Rosh Hashana

Rosh Hashana is the anniversary of the creation of man. It is also the Day of Judgement. What are the various elements and themes of the day and how do they interrelate?

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Please consider making a donation to help fund our Jewish outreach and educational efforts at https://www.torchweb.org/support.php. Thank you!

Contact:

Website: RabbiWolbe.com;
Twitter: @RabbiWolbe;
Facebook: Rabbi Yaakov Wolbe;
Email: rabbiwolbe@gmail.com.

Please SUBSCRIBE, RATE and REVIEW all my podcasts on iTunes and Android:

Podcasts Links iOS:

This Jewish Life – In-Depth Analysis into Critical Torah Topics;
The Jewish History Podcast – Telling the Remarkable story of the Jewish People;
The Parsha Podcast – A Weekly Analysis and Exploration of the Parsha;
TORAH 101 – An Intellectual’s Introduction to Torah

Podcast Links Android:

This Jewish Life – In-Depth Analysis into Critical Torah Topics;
The Jewish History Podcast – Telling the Remarkable story of the Jewish People;
The Parsha Podcast – A Weekly Analysis and Exploration of the Parsha;
TORAH 101 – An Intellectual’s Introduction to Torah

Is Repentance Easy?

“Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.” – Mark Twain

Is it easy to change behavior? Is it easy to repent? In Parshas Nitzavim we see conflicting stances on this matter. In one verse (30:2), repentance is described in a similar way to martyrdom: “And you shall return (repent) to Hashem your God, and you shall hearken to his voice as all that I command you today, you and your sons, with all your hearts and with all your soul.” Reb Chaim Volozhiner notes the overlapping word usage with the verse in Shema, “And you shall love Hashem your God… with all your soul”, which Chazal explain to mean that we must even forfeit our lives for the love of our Creator. By utilizing the same verbiage for repentance, the verse is hinting that changing behavior and adopting a new way of life is akin to the ultimate self-sacrifice. Walking away from ingrained character and behavior demands similar courage, resolve and intestinal fortitude as allowing oneself to die for God. Apparently, repentance is pretty hard. That sentiment is likely shared by those who are intimidated by the myriad components and draconian conditions necessary for complete repentance of Rambam’s “Laws of Repentance” and Rabbeinu Yonah’s “Gates of Repentance.”   

Contrast that with a string of verses (30:11-14) later on in the chapter, describing an inordinately easy mitzvah: “This mitzvah that I command you today – it is not hidden from you, nor is it distant. It is not in the Heavens that you may say, ‘who will ascend to Heaven, and take it for us, and teach it to us, so that we may do it’. Nor is it across the sea that we may say, ‘who will cross the sea for us, and take it for us, and teach it to us, so that we may do it’. Rather, the matter is exceedingly close to you, in your mouth and in your heart to do it.” While the verses themselves do not explicitly identify which mitzvah is being referenced, the great commentaries do. Rashi explains that it refers to the mitzvah of Torah. Ramban disagrees and interprets the verse to be referring to the mitzvah of repentance. How can we understand labeling repentance as being so easy – “In your mouth and in your heart”? Also, how can it simultaneously be exceedingly difficult?

Another point to ponder is the characterization (30:6) of repentance as “circumcision of the heart.” What is intended by this odd classification?  

What is the essence of repentance? There is a misconception that repentance is exclusively sin-centric: To repent you must act in opposition to the sin. My grandfather, Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe זצוקללה”ה, explained that this was precisely the miscalculation of the maapilim (Bamidbar 14:44), the Jews that defiantly attempted to ascend to Israel after the Almighty decreed that the nation will languish in the wilderness for 40 years due to the sin of the Spies, only to be slaughtered by Amalek. Their decision was not without reason. They assessed that the core of the sin of the Spies was resistance to enter the Land of Israel and even proposing to return to Egypt (14:4), and therefore attempting to enter Israel in disregard of the entailed dangers can be the only remedy.  But they were mistaken. Repentance, Teshuva, means to return to the Almighty and to His Will. At that time His Will mandated that they remain in the wilderness for 40 years, and thus accepting that was the correct avenue to repentance. My grandfather would also invoke this notion with regard to the repentance of Rosh Hashana. The days of Rosh Hashana make up the first two of the “Ten Days of Repentance” yet unlike Yom Kippur, there is nary a mention of sin. At its root, repentance is returning to your Creator. On Rosh Hashana that is manifest by us coronating Him as King of the world, and on Yom Kippur the same objective is approached from a different angle by addressing sin.

Given that repentance is about man achieving closeness to his Creator, the process of repentance is bridging the gap between man and the Almighty, between the created and the Creator. Hence, the degree of difficulty in achieving it is contingent upon the distance between the two. In essence, the question of, “Is repentance easy or hard?” is precisely the same question as, “Is man close or distant from the Almighty?” The answer to the latter question hinges upon which of the disparate elements of man is being referenced. The “body” of man, the physicality, the ephemeral – has no commonality with the Almighty. However, our Neshama (Soul) is very similar to its Creator. In one teaching in the Talmud (Brachos 10a), five parallels between the Almighty and the Neshama of man are enumerated; another (Niddah 30b) plainly equates the purity of the two. As such, we indeed have an element of our being that is already extremely close to the Almighty and thus repentance for it is natural and seamless.

With this understanding, the conflicting messages about the difficulty of repentance can be reconciled. It is true that repentance is really difficult. By default we identify as an ephemeral body, and in that state repentance is unachievable. To repent we must shed ourselves clean of that attitude and identity. That is a painful process, akin to martyrdom. However, once we identify as our true and lasting element of self, our Neshama, we are already in close proximity to our Creator, and have achieved repentance. This process is illustrated by the circumcision of the heart. We already have everything that is needed to be close to the Almighty, it is just concealed. All we must do to reach our goal is to peel away the inhibiting factors, and reveal our true self that was all ready to go, lying dormant and awaiting liberation.  

This is a helpful and heartening thought to take with us during the season of repentance. It is very difficult to repent. But it is comforting to know that all we are really doing is clearing out the path for our true self to shine. It may be back-breaking labor to dig out buried treasure, but it’s made easier knowing that the treasure is there, and it is complete, and once it is unearthed it’s yours.

The Novelty Principle

What is the secret to novelty? How can we inject a feeling of newness and freshness into our life, our relationships, and our Torah? In this podcast we combine a series of Talmudic teachings to outline a path to living with newness in every area of our lives.

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Please consider making a donation to help fund our Jewish outreach and educational efforts at https://www.torchweb.org/support.php. Thank you!

Contact:

Website: RabbiWolbe.com;
Twitter: @RabbiWolbe;
Facebook: Rabbi Yaakov Wolbe;
Email: rabbiwolbe@gmail.com.

Please SUBSCRIBE, RATE and REVIEW all my podcasts on iTunes and Android:

Podcasts Links iOS:

This Jewish Life – In-Depth Analysis into Critical Torah Topics;
The Jewish History Podcast – Telling the Remarkable story of the Jewish People;
The Parsha Podcast – A Weekly Analysis and Exploration of the Parsha;
TORAH 101 – An Intellectual’s Introduction to Torah

Podcast Links Android:

This Jewish Life – In-Depth Analysis into Critical Torah Topics;
The Jewish History Podcast – Telling the Remarkable story of the Jewish People;
The Parsha Podcast – A Weekly Analysis and Exploration of the Parsha;
TORAH 101 – An Intellectual’s Introduction to Torah

Lessons I’ve learned from studying a page of Talmud daily

For the past 40 days, I have participated in “Daf Yomi”, literally “daily page”, a nationwide effort to study the Talmud, one page per day, finishing it every seven and a half year cycle. In this podcast I delineate several powerful and poignant teachings from these 40 pages of Talmud, including the surprising attitude God has to the suffering of evil people; the great lengths our sages went to avoid shaming others; and how to break patterns of destructive and addictive behavior.

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Please consider making a donation to help fund our Jewish outreach and educational efforts at https://www.torchweb.org/support.php. Thank you!

Contact:

Website: RabbiWolbe.com;
Twitter: @RabbiWolbe;
Facebook: Rabbi Yaakov Wolbe;
Email: rabbiwolbe@gmail.com.

Please SUBSCRIBE, RATE and REVIEW all my podcasts on iTunes and Android:

Podcasts Links iOS:

This Jewish Life – In-Depth Analysis into Critical Torah Topics;
The Jewish History Podcast – Telling the Remarkable story of the Jewish People;
The Parsha Podcast – A Weekly Analysis and Exploration of the Parsha;
TORAH 101 – An Intellectual’s Introduction to Torah

Podcast Links Android:

This Jewish Life – In-Depth Analysis into Critical Torah Topics;
The Jewish History Podcast – Telling the Remarkable story of the Jewish People;
The Parsha Podcast – A Weekly Analysis and Exploration of the Parsha;
TORAH 101 – An Intellectual’s Introduction to Torah

Critic’s Choice: How to Rebuke Effectively

Besides being a critical mitzvah, to rebuke or criticize someone who is acting improperly is a vital skill that every leader (boss, parent) needs to know how to wield effectively. Our sages tell us that there are two ways to criticize, one that works and one that does not. The critic can only choose one.

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Please consider making a donation to help fund our Jewish outreach and educational efforts at https://www.torchweb.org/support.php. Thank you!

Contact:

Website: RabbiWolbe.com;
Twitter: @RabbiWolbe;
Facebook: Rabbi Yaakov Wolbe;
Email: rabbiwolbe@gmail.com.

Please SUBSCRIBE, RATE and REVIEW all my podcasts on iTunes and Android:

Podcasts Links iOS:

This Jewish Life – In-Depth Analysis into Critical Torah Topics;
The Jewish History Podcast – Telling the Remarkable story of the Jewish People;
The Parsha Podcast – A Weekly Analysis and Exploration of the Parsha;
TORAH 101 – An Intellectual’s Introduction to Torah

Podcast Links Android:

This Jewish Life – In-Depth Analysis into Critical Torah Topics;
The Jewish History Podcast – Telling the Remarkable story of the Jewish People;
The Parsha Podcast – A Weekly Analysis and Exploration of the Parsha;
TORAH 101 – An Intellectual’s Introduction to Torah

The Vehicle of Life

The tension that exists between our body-identity and soul-identity is comparable to a ride in a vehicle with two potential drivers. By default, our body is in the driver’s seat, and our soul is locked in the trunk. Through Torah and mitzvos we can increase the influence that the soul has on our life’s journey and maybe we can succeed in wrestling control from the body and enshrining the soul as the guide and decision-maker of our life. In this podcast, we examine what that would look like.

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Please consider making a donation to help fund our Jewish outreach and educational efforts at https://www.torchweb.org/support.php. Thank you!

Contact:

Website: RabbiWolbe.com;
Twitter: @RabbiWolbe;
Facebook: Rabbi Yaakov Wolbe;
Email: rabbiwolbe@gmail.com.

Please SUBSCRIBE, RATE and REVIEW all my podcasts on iTunes and Android:

Podcasts Links iOS:

This Jewish Life – In-Depth Analysis into Critical Torah Topics;
The Jewish History Podcast – Telling the Remarkable story of the Jewish People;
The Parsha Podcast – A Weekly Analysis and Exploration of the Parsha;
TORAH 101 – An Intellectual’s Introduction to Torah

Podcast Links Android:

This Jewish Life – In-Depth Analysis into Critical Torah Topics;
The Jewish History Podcast – Telling the Remarkable story of the Jewish People;
The Parsha Podcast – A Weekly Analysis and Exploration of the Parsha;
TORAH 101 – An Intellectual’s Introduction to Torah

When Ignorance Is Bliss

Our sages debate what is greater Torah study or actions of mitzvos. In this podcast we probe the the question of knowledge vs. action, insight vs. doing, what we know vs. what we do, and draw critical insights that are broadly applicable for all of Torah.

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Please consider making a donation to help fund our Jewish outreach and educational efforts at https://www.torchweb.org/support.php. Thank you!

Contact:

Website: RabbiWolbe.com;
Twitter: @RabbiWolbe;
Facebook: Rabbi Yaakov Wolbe;
Email: rabbiwolbe@gmail.com.

Please SUBSCRIBE, RATE and REVIEW all my podcasts on iTunes and Android:

Podcasts Links iOS:

This Jewish Life – In-Depth Analysis into Critical Torah Topics;
The Jewish History Podcast – Telling the Remarkable story of the Jewish People;
The Parsha Podcast – A Weekly Analysis and Exploration of the Parsha;
TORAH 101 – An Intellectual’s Introduction to Torah

Podcast Links Android:

This Jewish Life – In-Depth Analysis into Critical Torah Topics;
The Jewish History Podcast – Telling the Remarkable story of the Jewish People;
The Parsha Podcast – A Weekly Analysis and Exploration of the Parsha;
TORAH 101 – An Intellectual’s Introduction to Torah

The Dangers of Discord, Division and Disunity

Disagreements and arguments are a fixture of human interactions; but they needn’t result in division and strife. In this podcast we learn the secret of how to engage in argumentation the right way.

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Please consider making a donation to help fund our Jewish outreach and educational efforts at https://www.torchweb.org/support.php. Thank you!

Contact:

Website: RabbiWolbe.com;
Twitter: @RabbiWolbe;
Facebook: Rabbi Yaakov Wolbe;
Email: rabbiwolbe@gmail.com.

Please SUBSCRIBE, RATE and REVIEW all my podcasts on iTunes and Android:

Podcasts Links iOS:

This Jewish Life – In-Depth Analysis into Critical Torah Topics;
The Jewish History Podcast – Telling the Remarkable story of the Jewish People;
The Parsha Podcast – A Weekly Analysis and Exploration of the Parsha;
TORAH 101 – An Intellectual’s Introduction to Torah

Podcast Links Android:

This Jewish Life – In-Depth Analysis into Critical Torah Topics;
The Jewish History Podcast – Telling the Remarkable story of the Jewish People;
The Parsha Podcast – A Weekly Analysis and Exploration of the Parsha;
TORAH 101 – An Intellectual’s Introduction to Torah

Fringe Benefits

Regarding seven mitzvos our Sages declare that each is equal to all the other mitzvos. They are: Rejecting idolatry; Shabbos; living in Israel; charity; circumcision; Torah study; and tzitzis. In this podcast we first address the question of what does it mean that a single mitzvah is equivalent to all 613 mitzvos? Next we probe the mitzvah of tzitzis to glean insights into this unique and incredible mitzvah.

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Please consider making a donation to help fund our Jewish outreach and educational efforts at https://www.torchweb.org/support.php. Thank you!

Contact:

Website: RabbiWolbe.com;
Twitter: @RabbiWolbe;
Facebook: Rabbi Yaakov Wolbe;
Email: rabbiwolbe@gmail.com.

Please SUBSCRIBE, RATE and REVIEW all my podcasts on iTunes and Android:

Podcasts Links iOS:

This Jewish Life – In-Depth Analysis into Critical Torah Topics;
The Jewish History Podcast – Telling the Remarkable story of the Jewish People;
The Parsha Podcast – A Weekly Analysis and Exploration of the Parsha;
TORAH 101 – An Intellectual’s Introduction to Torah

Podcast Links Android:

This Jewish Life – In-Depth Analysis into Critical Torah Topics;
The Jewish History Podcast – Telling the Remarkable story of the Jewish People;
The Parsha Podcast – A Weekly Analysis and Exploration of the Parsha;
TORAH 101 – An Intellectual’s Introduction to Torah