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HomeHolidays and Fast DaysElul – SelichotBreaking the Bricks
Breaking the Bricks
By: Rabbi Lazer Brody

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Did you ever wonder how a little 105-pound Korean Karate specialist can break a whole stack of bricks? Our friend "Kim Wong" is intensely focused on his goal. His powers of concentration are immense. Nothing else is on his mind at the moment. Not only that, he's optimistic and goal-oriented. He has been training and preparing for years. He didn't learn this skill by watching a You-Tube movie yesterday.
Stick Kim Wong's hand in an x-ray machine, and you’ll find that his bones are larger and more dense than normal. This is the result of his year after year, day by day intense training.
Without Kim Wong's "perfect strike", the result of his long-term goal orientation, his desire, self-discipline and deeply intense concentration,  he'd shatter his hand and wrist on the first attempt at cracking a brick.
There's a lot to learn from Kim Wong's brick breaking.
Rebbe Nachman of Breslev teaches (see Likutei Moharan I:272) that a person must focus on the day and the hour at hand, and nothing more. This advice, guarantees Rebbe Nachman, is the secret of success both in material and spiritual endeavors.
If Rebbe Nachman and Rebbe Natan would have desired, they could have broken bricks too. In fact, they broke more than bricks. They shattered the steel-reinforced wall of darkness and heresy that the Evil Inclination uses to keep people away from Hashem. Their focus on the task on the at hand, their concentration, dedication and goal orientation would be exemplary even in the world of brick breakers.
Rebbe Nachman lived a short life, not even reaching the age of forty. Rebbe Natan's life was relatively brief as well, for he only reached the age of 65. Yet, his list of accomplishments and the books he wrote - on top of a grueling daily schedule of prayer and learning - is virtually unbelievable. How did he do it? The answer is focus, together with a giant measure of desire, self-discipline, and goal orientation.
* * *
As an eighth grader, Richard said to himself, "Why work hard?" He walked around with an MP3 in his ear and ate kosher junk food. Although he had an excellent Gemara teacher, he day-dreamed his way through class. "No sweat," he told himself, "I know enough to get into Yeshiva High school; I'll apply myself there, next year."
Yeshiva High School turned out to be a bigger bore for Richard. He'd text-messaged his way through classes, and say, "Big deal - the yeshiva's not the real world. I know enough to make it into university. Anybody can get a 550 or 600 on the SATs. I'll buckle down there..."
Somehow, Richard made it through university by Google Search and cutting-and-pasting his term papers. He'd play all semester then copy people's review summaries and cram for a few nights before finals. In fact, university was easier than yeshiva - you didn't have to learn, only memorize. Richard decided that he'd start hustling once he hit the real world of employment.
Not really qualified for anything, Richard took whatever job he could find. He was never happy; he was always thinking that the next place of employment would be better. There and then, he'd get to work...
Putting on a good act, wearing a new suit and going on his first date with a travel-Gemara in his hand, Richard did manage to convince a girl from a good home to marry him. She believed that he was an upright working guy who spent his free time learning. After all, he did go to yeshiva...
After the honeymoon, to the shock of his wife, Richard bought a TV with the widest screen that Samsung had to offer. The Gemara that his father-in-law bought him collected loads of dust. But, there was always plenty of snack food in the pantry and beer in the fridge, as Richard's growing waistline could attest to.
He never paid a bill on time and he was always late to work. But, Richard never missed the opening kickoff of a televised Jets game. His apathy, laziness, procrastination and lack of focus made his young wife go crazy. She couldn't contain herself, so she yelled at him all day long. The marriage lasted for five months.
Hashem in His loving mercy sent Richard a second wife - also a divorcee - just like him.
Richard's second wife is his perfect match, just as procrastinating and lethargic as he is. She spends all day on Facebook. On Wednesday night, the dishes from last Shabbat are still in the sink. Candy bar wrappers are all over the floor, together with the empty Coke battles. Richard is already pipe-dreaming that his third wife will keep a neater house.
Richard couldn't break a brick in a million years. He's a loser, right? He's forever pipe-dreaming about tomorrow, while aimlessly wasting time today. He does he remind you of?
How many people say, "Elul, no big deal; I can do teshuva a day or two before Rosh Hashana."
Rosh Hashana rolls around, and they figure that they have a whole ten days of repentance until Yom Kippur.
Yom Kippur arrives, and other than swinging a chicken over their head, they've done nothing.
No problem, they say - we have until Hoshana Raba.
We both know that by the time they play dreidel and eat potato latkes, that won't have done teshuva either.
A nation of Richards, is that what we are? Who has a guarantee that he or she will live for another day?
Why is the threat of Iran, Hizbulla, Syria and now Egypt looming like a sharp sword over our necks? Hashem is telling us that we ought to live our lives with ernest and urgency, doing what we can right now to come back to Him. The age of nonchalance is over. It's time to come home to Hashem. Our enemies are nothing but a stack of bricks. Our sincere teshuva will shatter them with one fell swoop. Even Kim Wong will be impressed.
* * *
We invite you to visit Rabbi Lazer Brody’s award-winning daily web journal Lazer Beams.



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