Rabbi Label Lam on Personal Growth Lessons from Tu B’Shevat

Tonight begins Tu B’Shevat and Rabbi Label Lam gave a wonderful Drasha earlier this month where he looked at the Mishna in Pirkei Avos which states “Rabbi Yaakov said, one who is walking along the road and is studying [Torah], and then interrupts his studies and says, ‘How beautiful is this tree! How beautiful is this plowed field!’, the Scripture considers it as if he bears the guilt for his own soul.”

In questioning what is the great crime here and why the cases of a tree and a plowed field is chosen, Rabbi Lam uncovers some powerful personal growth lessons that we can glean from the holiday of trees.

Click on this link to listen to Rabbi Lam on Personal Growth Lessons from Tu B’Shevat. (To download the file to your computer, click with the right mouse button on the link and select Save Target As)

Jumpstarting New Beginnings

Hey, long time no blog. I realized what the word blog means. It means you stick your head through a cardboard wall and there’s a bunch of people on the other side who revel in throwing wet sponges at your head. No one gets hurt (we hope). It may generate some fun…and here we hope that some of us may get better at getting better. Here are a few tried and proven methods I’d like to share in order to help ourselves jumpstart new beginnings again and again again…Hope you find some of them useful!
Read more Jumpstarting New Beginnings

Dealing with Parents

Don’t use me as an example. My case is exceptional. My parents after many years became Shomer Shabbos in-spite of me and more because of my wife and children. Children can have that kind of impact on relatives. I witnessed an irreligious grandfather, a holocaust survivor, being told by his little five year old frum grandchild, “Grandpa, where’s your yarmulke?” He rushes to put one on! “Grandpa, you didn’t make a brocho!” He asks for coaching on which brocho. Only a child could have gotten him to do those things and with that much joy! Read more Dealing with Parents

Label Lam – Reflections on Main Problems for Baale’ Teshuva

I’m concerned that someone might be left with the false impression that I think that the biggest problem facing Balale’ Teshuva is that we most often don’t get the punch lines for Yiddish jokes. It’s a little deeper than that. I can remember as a Yeshiva student singing with the other guys on Friday Night over and over again the refrain, “Libi Libi U’ B’sari” and not knowing what the words meant and imagining they mean, “Leiby (that’s me) I’m sorry!” I never told a soul about it! I just laughed and sometimes cried with those silly thoughts. Till today when my boys sing this same Zemer, even though I know what the words mean, I still occasionally flash back and chuckle quietly in a place no one would ever know. Silly! Huh? When the more than occasional speaker would shout out the words, “Yiras Shemaim”, I thought about it whimsically, “A Year in Shemaim” and still do!
Read more Label Lam – Reflections on Main Problems for Baale’ Teshuva

The Biggest Problem Facing Baale’ Teshuvah

Let’s begin with “Boruch HASHEM! There is a world of goodness that each of us has to be grateful for…There is not a “but” or “however” on the other side of that declaration. It is pure and simple, not a party line, not an invitation for “cynicism”, which I always suspect comes from the word “sina” hatred, or for railing against anyone else. I’ve gotten into the habit of asking my wife when I call home, “Is anything alright?” Asking, “Is everything alright” may be akin to the dust of loshon hora or the dust of complaining. It invites us to focus only on problems as problems.

With all that having been said there’s a consoling factor when we realize that others share the same challenges daily. If snow fell on my house alone I could wonder why I have been singled out for tragedy. When others get it too and are forced to shovel…it is “shovel l’kol nefesh” equal for all and a partial relief from the burden of carrying pain alone.

I don’t know if I’ll ever overcome even after decades of being at it, the sense that I’m missing something. It’s kind of like when Israeli friends tell a joke and I’m following some of the Hebrew and then the punch-line comes and everyone laughs but me. The same thing can happen in Yiddish. It’s not the language thing either. Maybe I can attribute it to that gnawing fear I used have as a child going to school that if ever I was absent even for a day then whatever I didn’t know or could get easily I suspected that it must have been taught on that day I missed. All the learning took place on that day!

Call it an inferiority complex or fear of being caught feeling foolish by colleagues or even your kids but the cloud of never knowing what you don’t know lingers long after Shabbos and Learning are firm fixtures in our lives. I was one of those guys that when I said, “Shalom Aleichem” and someone said to me “Aleichem Shalom”, I thought they were correcting me! Maybe it’s just my singular inferiority or maybe I’m not the only one. After a while, like the “long distance runner” you get used to the loneliness and discomfort because the up side is so great.

Twenty something years later it’s amazing to me how this fear, nausea, and anxiety can still rear it head in social or shul settings. For example, the fear of being discovered by mispronouncing words or not quite getting a tune while davening for the amud. My kids correct my pronunciation till this very day. I thought I had a good ear and I happily repeat the corrected word and they shake their heads and say no…this way! I don’t hear the difference! I wonder what else I might be saying that gives me away and people just don’t say. Yeah we gotta live and function but it’s always there and probably always will be…What d’ya think?

Label Lam