The Daily Blast

J. David Heller
Executive Committee
The Jewish Federation
of Cleveland

J. David Heller encourages everyone to learn a new prayer every year, which he has done for 22 years.

Daily Reading

All In Order: by Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Beethoven rose each morning at dawn and made himself coffee. He was fastidious about this: each cup had to be made with exactly sixty beans, which he counted out each time. He would then sit at his desk and compose...

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Daily Sources

בֶּן עַזַּאי אוֹמֵר, הֱוֵי רָץ לְמִצְוָה קַלָּה כְבַחֲמוּרָה, וּבוֹרֵחַ מִן הָעֲבֵרָה. שֶׁמִּצְוָה גּוֹרֶרֶת מִצְוָה, וַעֲבֵרָה גוֹרֶרֶת עֲבֵרָה. שֶׁשְּׂכַר מִצְוָה, מִצְוָה. וּשְׂכַר עֲבֵרָה, עֲבֵרָה
משנה אבות ד׳:ב׳

Ben Azzai said: Be quick in performing a minor commandment as in the case of a major one, and flee from transgression; For one commandment leads to another commandment, and one transgression leads to another transgression; For the reward for performing a commandment is another commandment and the reward for committing a transgression is a transgression.

-Pirkei Avot 4:2

And afterwards he said that the virtues do not come to a man according to the quantity of the greatness of the deed, but rather according to the great number of good deeds. And this is that indeed the virtues arrive by the repetition of the good deeds many times. And with this does a strong acquisition come – not when a man does one great deed from the good deeds; as from this alone, a strong acquisition will not come to him. And the parable with this is that when a man gives a thousand gold coins at one time to one man to whom it is fitting and he does not give anything to another man; the trait of generosity will not come into his hand with this great act, as [much as] it will come to one who donates a thousand gold pieces a thousand times and gives each one of them out of generosity. [This is] because this one repeated the act of generosity a thousand times and a strong acquisition of it came to him [in this way]. But [the other] only aroused his soul with a great arousal towards a good act, and afterward, it ceased from him.

-Rambam, Pirkei Avot 3:15

The verse teaches that the Holy One, Blessed be He, wrapped Himself in a prayer shawl like a prayer leader and showed Moses the structure of the order of the prayer. He said to him: Whenever the Jewish people sin, let them act before Me in accordance with this order…

-Rosh Hashanah 17b

Daily Goals

Design Your Personalized Spiritual Fitbit

We know what we need to do in life, so why not just do it? What value does a Fitbit have and how does it help us reach our goals?

Wearing a Fitbit holds a person accountable to achieve his commitments, forcing him to confront the reality of falling short, rather than bluffing or rationalizing away the events of that day.”

Peter Drucker, the great management  consultant whom BusinessWeek magazine called “the man who invented management”, explains this concept with the following quote:

“What gets measured, gets managed.”

Across the world from Professor Peter Drucker lived another management expert, only he specialized in personal management. Rav Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, zt”l, also known as the Piaseczno Rebbe, was a Chassidic Rebbe in Poland who served as the Rabbi of the Warsaw Ghetto and, after surviving the uprising, was later shot dead by the Nazis in the Trawniki labor camp. Among his many talents, he had incredible insight into human psychology.

The Piaseczno Rebbe also believed that when it comes to our character, our personal growth and becoming the best version of ourselves – what gets measured, gets managed. One cannot claim to care about growing spiritually and fail to devise a plan or a strategy, set goals, and, most importantly, identify how progress will be measured.

It is one thing to say you want to work on having greater patience and being slower to anger and another to articulate a plan for how. Does the plan answer questions such as: What triggers your anger? Why do you lose patience? How will you learn to react differently? How will you measure and track if you are improving in this area?

The difference between a desire to grow being just lip service and empty words versus the beginning of real change is designing our personalized Spiritual Fitbit.

Here are a few things to consider when programming your Spiritual Fitbit:
  • Limit – Identify one or two areas you want to work on at a time. Taking on too much at one time makes it overwhelming and intimidating, making it almost impossible to make real progress.

  • Be Real – Be realistic in setting the goals. Don’t pledge to make radical changes that are impossible to achieve and unsustainable to maintain.

  • Plan – The Rambam writes that to authentically accomplish teshuva, vidui, articulating what we have done wrong, must be done out loud. Only by saying or writing what went wrong and what we will do to repair and improve in the future can we avoid bluffing ourselves or our way through this process. Putting our plan and goals into words causes us to be thoughtful, strategic, honest, and gives us a reference to measure against.

  • Accountability – Involve a family member, friend, or confidant in holding you accountable for doing what you say you are going to do. Choose someone trustworthy, kind, and who is more interested in helping you grow than in catching you fail.

  • Schedule – Most businesses and companies have employee reviews. A good review seeks to validate and accentuate the positive while identifying and isolating areas that need improvement. Without scheduled reviews, it is unlikely time would be taken to reflect and to plan. Put in your schedule designated times to review your progress.

  • Celebrate – Make space to celebrate your progress and growth. Be proud and use that pride to be motivated to grow further.

  • Start Again – Don’t stop just because you accomplished your particular goal. Set more goals and pursue them with the same resolve that brought you success the first time.

Whatever area you want to work on, this can absolutely be your year if you design your Spiritual Fitbit, a mechanism to be honest and to track results. And then make the commitment to “wear” it daily and  become the best version of yourself.

Daily Quotes

"Order without liberty and liberty without order are equally destructive."

-Theodore Roosevelt

"I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time."

-Charles Dickens

"Some people regard discipline as a chore. For me, it is a kind of order that sets me free to fly. "

-Julie Andrews

Today In Jewish History

17 Elul – Nuremberg Laws – 1935

On this day in 1935, the German Reichstag unanimously passed the Nuremberg Laws. These were a series of laws passed at the 7th annual Nazi Congress held in the city of Nuremberg. The law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor forbade marriage between a German and a Jew. The Reich Citizenship Law took away citizenship from the Jews. Due to foreign policy concerns, prosecution for violation of the laws did not begin until after the 1936 Summer Olympics which were held in Berlin. In 1933 the same year the Nazis came to power much effort was put into the boycotting of Jewish businesses. This combined with the Nuremberg laws financially crippled the Jewish community. Other Axis powers would subsequently pass their own Nuremberg Laws. Japan would be the only of the Axis not to pass such laws. See yesterday’s Today In Jewish History for more information on that.

The question is often asked why the Jews didn’t flee at this point. Wasn’t the writing on the wall quite clear? In truth, it was almost impossible to leave. The Nazis forced Jews to give up 90% of their wealth as a tax to immigrate, and the question of where to go became harder and harder. By 1938, there was virtually no place on the planet that would let Jews in. That being said, half of Germany’s 437,000 jews left before the outbreak of World War II in 1939, which is one of those strange twists of Jewish History, also took place on this day. The true havoc of the Nazis would be done in the countries that they conquered where they could do what they want under the veil of war and in the freedom and lawlessness of conquered territory. By the end of the war in May of 1945, 85,000,000 would be dead as a result.

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