A Guide to Elul and how to prepare ourselves for the best best new year!

The Tribe of Elul is Gad which means good mazel! Why now, and what does this have to do with preparing for Rosh Hashana?

It’s one level to stop doing a forbidden action, but it’s an entirely different level to let go of it from your thoughts.  In this week’s talk, a guide to deep soul cleansing.  

Dear Friends,

Stay Above, Be Within — I learned this path from Rabbi Tzvi Freeman in his incredible book “Bringing Heaven Down to Earth: 365 Meditations from the Lubavitcher Rebbe.”  In this week’s talk, we discuss how to apply this advice to the battles that all of us face in life.

Dear Friends,

Do you ever beat yourself up?  We all do.   But more often than not, the only thing we are really accomplishing is the illusion of progress.  The real test of any self-analysis is  — does it produce positive change — measured by action.  In this week’s talk we discuss the greatness of small steps and how they can lead to big changes in ourselves and the whole world.

Dear Friends,

Before you give a concert — you have to tune your instrument!  This is also true with spirituality!  We are now in the special holy month of Elul.  This is when we lay the foundation to receive all the blessings for the New Year ahead.  In this week’s talk, we talk about how to do it.

Dear Friends,

It’s time to start getting ready for the New Year!  The question is how?  A study of the zodiac sign of Elul (the Jewish month that precedes the New Year) contains within it a formula for success.

There is a fascinating dialectic contained within Rosh Hashana. On one hand, it’s the beginning of the new year. And yet Rosh Hashana actually occurs in the seventh month, (Nissan, commemorating the Exodus from Egypt, is the first month — see Exodus 12:2.) This means that Rosh Hashana actually falls out in the middle of the year!

There is a deep secret contained in this. People reach the middle of their lives and think that meaningful change is impossible. Therefore, the Almighty put Rosh Hashana in the middle of the year to teach us that it’s never too late to begin again.

In the most obvious sense, Rosh Hashana is all about making God our king, for whom we have awesome respect and commit to following His instructions.

But there’s an even more primary step. The Kotzker Rebbe once observed that Read more…

Dear Friends,

What is your most emotionally satisfying relationship?  You and your family?  You and your friends?  You and your iPad?  What about you and G-d?  For many people thinking about G-d in these terms seems strange.  And yet framing our relationship in this way is the secret to enlightenment.  In this week’s talk, we learn great relationship advice from the Sages, and see how it applies to us and our Maker, too!

Bonus: Cool Wedding Link


Dear Friends,

The question is, not are we going to make mistakes, but what is our response once we’ve made them?  In this week’s talk, we explore the duel nature of the month of Elul.  It is both a month of  newness (when the world was created) and a month of fixing mistakes.  We look into the interconnectedness of these ideas, and give practical guidance for preparing to receive blessing for the coming year.

Dear Friends,

Joy is the ultimate vessel.  Nothing organizes the chaotic energies of life and allows you to have the perspective that joy brings.  In this week’s talk, we discuss the unique structure of the Torah portion of Ki Tavo which the Sages arranged we always read before Rosh Hashana.  As we will see, the Parsha has a lot to teach us about how to prepare for the big day that is just around the corner.   In this talk we also discuss the Divine mechanics of light, blessing and negativity — dispelling common misunderstandings about what many people misinterpret as vindictiveness.

Dear Friends,

One of the big turn offs for many people contemplating G-d, is the subject of “organized religion”.  It seems like making a connection with the Divine shouldn’t have to involve a large building fund, membership dues, and all the other headaches associated with a part of our lives that is so intensely personal.  But a deeper exploration of Judaism shows us that it isn’t an organized religion in the classic sense at all.  But if that’s the case, how do we cut through all the institutional red tape?  I hope this talk is a start!

Did you know that according to the Beis Yaakov (The second Ishbitzer Rebbe), deep down, every person believes they created themselves?

If Rosh Hashanah is all about making Hashem King, how can I succeed if I’ve carved out a realm separate from G-d?

Happy New Year!

Dear Friends,

Imagine an epic battle between Sea Monsters and a diver out to recover a precious gem.  In a piece of Aggadata –  the deeply encrypted transmissions of the Talmud –  such a tale is related.  What does it mean and how does it teach us to wage life’s battles better?  Using the understanding of the Malbim we take a look in.

Dear Friends,

Imagine you buy a lottery ticket, never check to see if it won, and then never think about that lottery ticket again.  Now imagine that ticket was a winner and was worth thirty million dollars.   The question is, did you lose thirty million dollars or not?  On the one hand, you most certainly did.  But on the other hand, if you never knew you ever had it to begin with, you never had it to lose!  In this week’s talk we discuss the spiritual dimensions to this question and explore the bottom line of life.

Dear Friends,

I just published a new piece that I hope you like.  It’s called “A Place for the Light.”


Today I took questions.  We had time for three.  The first was, is it our tradition that Moshe ascended Mount Sinai for a second time this month (Elul) and came down with the second tablets on Yom Kippur?  Is G-d really leading me throughout all the hardships I have experienced?  And, how are we to understand what “righteousness” is, in light of the verse “The righteous person falls down seven times and gets back up”?

Who does this world belong to?  Who do we belong to?  What does it mean to make G-d King?  And even if we want to do it, how do we begin?  This week’s Torah portion speaks of taking the first fruits, putting them in a basket, and bringing them to Hashem.  As Rosh Hashanah approaches, on a deeper level, we too, are asked to gather our lives to present before Hashem.  In today’s talk, we discuss how to start the process.

In explaining what goes on in these talks to someone at work, I surprised myself by saying that it’s a little like “couples therapy” between us and G-d. Toward that end, this week’s talk has lots of ideas relating to relating to G-d, especially in light of the New Year fast approaching. Eventually, we build to the idea of the importance of simplifying our lives so that we can better focus on what really matters.

Ask anyone in the world if they want to be a “success” and the answer will be a resounding “yes!”. What becomes more complicated is when you ask the person what “success” means exactly. As you can imagine being able to define success is crucial — it’s that clear focus which enables us to direct our efforts most efficiently, while avoiding lengthy and often painful detours in life. In today’s talk, I try to define success, looking at the Hebrew word for victory — netzach — as a guide — and to show how the soul, and eternity fit in to all this.

We’ve entered the month of Elul which means that the new year with all it’s decrees and judgements are around the corner!  It’s both exciting and a little scary, but Hashem is good so we don’t have to be afraid!  Hashem gives us Elul, this last month of the year, to finish on a strong note.  How do we do it?  Well, that’s a big subject, but we begin the discussion in this week’s talk with a look at the importance of appreciating the present moment and also a look at false prophets.