Printed from ChabadofWeston.com

The Rabbi's Blog

A Message from Rabbi Spalter

Pittsburgh and Us

Rabbi, what’s going to be? What should we do? Rabbi, how can you explain this? What do I tell my children? These and many more questions were on the minds of millions of Jews here in the United States and all over the world. The tragedy in Pittsburgh last Saturday as 11 Jews were murdered in cold blood while praying, sent shock waves throughout the Jewish world. There is so much to ponder. Once again history repeats itself, as another Jew hater kills Jews. What makes this so painful is that it happened here in America, the Goldene Medina or in English “the country of gold”, a place where nothing can go wrong. I don’t mean that as a joke, by the way. We are so accustomed to the comforts and protections this truly blessed country has provided us Jews that it is hard to cope with such a turn of events. There are no easy answers, in fact I don’t think there are any answers at all. Who can explain this? Who can say why G-d would allow such a tragedy to happen to his beloved people? I cannot and trust me, no one else can either.

But silence is not the call of the hour either. You see, if the question is why Hashem allows there atrocities to happen? Then all we can do is be silent and accept the ultimate judgment of G-d. He does not owe us any explanations and to be quite frank, I do not want any either. What good would it do if G-d would explain to me the reason for this kind of pain and suffering? How will that make me a better person? How will that make me more compassionate? It won’t. I may be able to sleep better knowing the reason, but who wants to sleep better when 11 families are grieving and in such pain. So may I suggest that instead of asking why? We should start asking what? What should we do about it? What should be our reaction? What is a proper Jewish response to this kind of tragedy?

In order to respond properly we must first know what we are responding to. We are responding to a man who hates Jews and everything Jews stand for; His target was Jewish values, the Jewish way of life, Judaism, Israel and all of us who represent all that. To such evil there can be only one answer; Strengthen Jewish Values, strengthen the Jewish way of life, strengthen Judaism and strengthen Israel. This killer tried to tear Jews away from Prayer. Our response should be to fill every house of prayer. This Shabbos our Synagogues should look like they do on Yom Kippur; filled to capacity. There should not be an empty seat. These Anti Semites hate us because of what we represent. If you want to do something in response to the murder of 11 pure souls who died because they were Jewish, then do something Jewish. Light Shabbos candles tonight before sundown. Go to Shul and say and sing those very prayers that these 11 Jewish victims would love to say but sadly can no longer. Act more Jewishly this Shabbos. Bring your family along and connect with other Jews. This will bring you the comfort you seek in these difficult times.  Groaning and moaning about Anti-Semitism with no action is pointless. We are a people who have responded to so many tragedies throughout our long and difficult history and we have always emerged stronger and better. This is because we did not only moan and groan, we acted, we built a stronger Jewish identity, a stronger Jewish community, we became even more connected to G-d. This time is no different. We will act, we will grow, we will be strong and we will live. And regarding our children and what to tell them? Tell them the truth, but more importantly SHOW them the truth; show them the beauty of Judaism and what a privilege it is to be and live as a Jew. The rest they will figure out on their own. I hope to see you this Shabbos.

Am Yisrael Chai.

Shabbat Shalom

A Year of Blessings from A to Z 

As we all prepare for the New Year and the High Holidays, I would like to wish each and every one of you and your families a very happy, healthy and sweet year. May this year bring you all the blessings you seek and need and may it be one filled with happiness and joy.

I once heard a beautiful explanation from the Rebbe regarding our Rosh Hashanah wishes for a good and sweet year. The words a “good and sweet year” seem to be redundant. If the year is “good” is it not also “sweet”? The Rebbe explained that good and sweet are not always synonymous. Sometimes good is not sweet. He based it on Judaism’s belief that everything that happens in the world is from G-d and everything that comes from G-d is good. Nothing bad comes from Hashem. That means that everything that happens must be good, but sometimes this ‘good’ as it comes down to us from heaven, can manifest itself in such a way that it does not feel good at all. Sometimes the ‘good’ coming from heaven feels very painful. Everyone who lives in this world knows what I mean. There are times when we feel terrible pain, whether physical or emotional, because our health is poor, our business is not producing or our children give us heartache, so on and so forth.

According to Kabbalah the ‘good’ that feels painful and bitter comes from an even higher source within G-d’s reality than the ‘good’ that actually feels good and sweet. The reason that this high level good feels painful is because being that this ‘good’ is from such a high spiritual place, the ‘travel’ downward to our polar opposite physical world causes it to change and manifest itself in a very opposite fashion i.e. a painful and bitter feeling. On the other hand, when G-d’s blessings come from a lower spiritual source, as it ‘travels’ down to our physical world it does not have to change that drastically and it is able to maintain its ‘good’ manifestation; hence it is a good that actually feels good even to us physical beings.

For this reason we wish each other before Rosh Hashanah that we should have a Shanah Tova Umetukah, a good and sweet year. What we are wishing each other is that the good that we receive from G-d this year should be the kind of good that feels sweet. Even if it is a good that is from a lower source, so be it. We want a good year that actually feels good.

With this in mind I want to wish everyone a good and sweet year in all matters from A to Z; a year of Abundance, Blessing, Clarity,  Depth, Excellence, Fulfillment, G-dliness, perfect Health, Independent thinking, Joy, Kindness, Long life, Merits, Nachas, Opportunity, Peace and Quiet, Redemption, Spirituality and Soul-power, Torah learning, Understanding, Victory, Wealth, eXcitement, Yerushalayim, a year full of Zest and a year in which we all reach our Zenith.

May we all be blessed and written into the book of life and everything good.

 Shana Tova

Don’t Wait till the last minute

I am always asked by fellow Jews how one can make their Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur a more meaningful experience, how to make it last and how to really feel uplifted on the most holy days of the year. I want to address this question in the coming paragraphs.

For the longest time now, the High Holidays have come to mean to far too many Jews, the purchasing of a seat in a synagogue, cooking and hosting large meals, apples and honey and attending what is considered by many, very boring services. If you’re lucky, you get to hear a good sermon from the rabbi with a good opening joke, but for the most part, it is just another ritual that we do and cannot wait for it to end. Is this how our grandparents felt as well? Was there something that really excited them on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur?

The truth is, the experience of Rosh Hashanah does not begin on the first day of the Jewish year. It really begins a month earlier on Rosh Chodesh (the first of) Elul. Elul is the last month of the year and we are told that during this month G-d is very much accessible and close to the Jewish People. In fact, in a certain way, He is even more accessible to us during the month of Elul than during the High Holidays themselves. “How can that be?” you ask, well… according to the kabbalah there is a very lofty G-dly energy and revelation that is present in the world from the first of Elul through Yom Kippur, a total of 40 days. These correspond to the 40 days that Moses spent on Mount Sinai begging for, and securing G-d’s mercies and forgiveness for the sin of the golden calf. The difference between the month of Elul and Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is that during the High Holidays G-d, our king, is revealed in all His glory and awesomeness in His ‘palace’ and only those with special ‘permission’ can enter. In the month of Elul, on the other hand, G-d is with us in the ‘field’ so to speak i.e. in our domain, in our realm, on our terms. This revelation might lack the ‘awe and glory’ of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur when He is in his ‘palace, nevertheless, in Elul He does reach out by revealing Himself to us on our terms. Anyone who wishes can approach. He is accessible to everyone, saint and sinner alike. The purpose of this Elul closeness, is to inspire us to ‘wake up’ and become somewhat better prepared for the High Holidays when we can approach G-d and experience Him in His ‘palace; in His realm, on His terms. But for that we need to get special ‘permission’. This ‘permission’ is granted to those who have bettered their ways and are spiritually worthy of entering the ‘palace’.

This explains why some of us have a very shallow experience on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. When we arrive at Rosh Hashanah without the preparatory experience of Elul we are in trouble. Unless we are able to really tune in quickly and intensely on those days themselves (something very unlikely) we might just feel left out. But if we take advantage of these thirty days when changing our selves is easier because, as mentioned, G-d and holiness is accessible to us on our turf and terms, we get a head start and are much more in tuned with the awesomeness of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We are different. We are holier. We are spiritually closer and are therefore granted ‘permission’ and given access to enter G-d’s ‘palace’. Our Grandparents did that and so should we.

The month of Elul begins this Shabbos (August 11). For the next thirty days be a little more Jewish. Pray a little more and better. Put on Teffilin if you don’t already do so. Light Shabbos candles on time. Give a little extra charity. Do a little volunteer work for the community or Help a needy person. If you did one or more of the above, your Rosh Hashanah will most definitely be very different. You will feel that Rosh Hashanah is suddenly a day you can relate to; a day you will enjoy observing on every level and the Machzor will be your best friend. The rabbi’s sermon? For that we will have to wait and see.  

May we all have a meaningful Elul and a deeper High Holiday experience. May we all be blessed with a very happy and healthy New Year. A Shanah Tovah Umetukah to all.

Shabbat Shalom

 

 

What Makes You Happy?

The Hebrew month of Av, which begins today, starts off with 9 somber days during which we mourn the destruction of the two temples in Jerusalem. This is in addition to many other tragedies that befell the Jewish people throughout the ages. During these nine days, we refrain from anything that can be harmful such as traveling (unless you have to), elective or scheduled surgeries (unless it’s an emergency) and other such potentially dangerous activities. In short, during these days, we keep a low profile, we stay out of harm’s way as they are not particularly days of good Mazal (energy) for the Jewish people. Our sages even go a step further and instruct that “when the month of Av begins we decrease our joy”. In other words, we stay away from anything that is associated with joy during this period.

Here is the problem; joy is a very elusive word. What exactly is joy? For some, joy is brought about when they buy a new car, for others, joy is created when their children give them lots of Nachas. Some might be happy and joyous when they watch their favorite TV show and yet others might feel joy as a result of waking up in the morning and living another day. To them life itself is a source of Joy. Does this mean that we are not allowed to buy a new car, have Nachas or watch TV during these nine days? If we find inner joy from life itself, do we have to do something during this time to curtail those inner feelings? What do the Rabbis mean when they instruct us to “decrease our joy when the month of Av begins”?

On a practical level, it means that we should not engage in activities that are meant to cause joy that is out of the ordinary. For example, we are not allowed to partake in musical events and the like as they create an atmosphere of active joy. We should refrain from purchasing clothing or anything that makes a person uniquely happy such as a new car (unless you absolutely need it and the purchase cannot wait until after the nine days).  But to feel happy?  By all means. After all, there is no inner button that we can press that causes our joy and happiness to just shut down. In fact, there is a mitzvah to serve G-d with joy and since we are always supposed to serve G-d, it follows that we are always supposed to be happy including these nine days. 

The Chassidic masters actually went a step further and interpreted the above rabbinic instruction thus: when the month of Av begins, we have to “decrease” - the divine concealment caused by the destruction of the temple - “by means of joy”. In other words, not only do we not reduce the joy in our hearts, we are instructed to find deeper means of joy in order to diminish the effects of the destruction. So practically, this means that while throughout the year we engage in all sorts of activities that cause joy, in the month of Av we are asked to step back, refrain from those external stimulants of joy and instead, to find a more internal cause for being happy. During this month we don’t need a new car or a concert to make us happy, we can and should focus on the more personal and inner reasons for being happy. In the month of Av, don’t just suffice with happiness that emerges from new purchases and pleasure trips which bring about one level of happiness, rather increase your joy by uncovering the real source of happiness; our connection to G-d, Torah, family and life itself. It is this type of joy that diminishes the concealment of G-d brought about by the destruction of Jerusalem.

May we merit to see this happen even before these nine days are over.

Shabbat Shalom.

 

Build the Wall!

This Sunday, July 1, millions of Jews will fast from dusk to nightfall in remembrance of a tragic event that took place on this day some 1950 years ago. On this day, the 17th of Tammuz, the Romans breached the walls of Jerusalem after a long siege and went on to destroy the holy temple and Jerusalem, driving the Jews into a long exile in which we still find ourselves. Our sages explain that while the actual destruction would happen only three weeks later, the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem spelled the end and it was only a matter of time when the temple would also go up in flames. In other words, when our protective walls were broken through there was no longer any hope, it was downhill from there. It is for this reason that we dedicate this day to fast and better our ways so that we can hasten the day when we will end this exile and once again build Jerusalem and the Temple.

 Like everything in Judaism, this too has a lesson for us living in America (or where ever you live) today. Our fasting is not only to remember the tragedy that happened many years ago but it is also a reminder that today, as then, we are vulnerable if we allow our ‘walls’ to be breached. You’re probably wondering which walls I am referring to, so let me explain.

Life can be very challenging. We marry, build a family and try to raise our children as best as we can so that they can grow up as mentchen (good people) and good Jews. We hope that our children will befriend only good and like-minded moral individuals. We pray that when they go off to college they will do well and be focused on the right things. We look to heaven and ask that G-d lead them in the right direction and find them good matches. People always ask me how to raise good children? What is the secret to successful parenting? There is more than one answer to this question obviously, but drawing upon the lessons of the upcoming fast day and what it represents, let me advise the following: Build Walls! Build walls of morality around yourself, your children and your homes and never let those walls to be breached. Sit down with your spouses and decide how you want your children to grow up? What moral values you want to instill in them? What values are absolutes and which are not. This is extremely important.

I was invited last year to give a talk to a group of Chassidic women in Wisconsin on how to raise Chassidic children. I opened my talk with a question to one of the women in the audience. I asked her how she and her husband wanted their children to grow up? What kind of children they wanted? She looked at me and said; what do you mean? We want our children to grow up to be real Chassidic Jews, to follow in its ways and to cherish being Chassidim. This answer was too general I explained. Of course we want our children to be ‘good’, but “the devil is in the details”. I asked her if she was able to tell me more specifically what she meant by Chassidic children? How Chassidic? What was a must and what was secondary? I gave her the same advise; that she should spend a half hour with her husband to figure out more or less what their outlook was and how they plan on getting that result.

We all want good results. But just like in a business venture, it is inadequate to just set out a goal to earn a profit. One must be more specific; how much of a profit is realistic and what would be considered success. The same is with the most important business venture ever; raising children. It is simply not enough to desire ‘good children’. Define for yourself the meaning of ‘good’ and figure out how you plan on achieving that goal. For some ‘good’ means becoming a doctor, for others ‘good’ means being honest, for others it means being kind, for some it means marrying Jewish and still for others ‘good’ means observing all of the Torah’s commandments. I am sure for most of us it is a combination of some or all of the above. In each case we need to define it and set practical ways of achieving that outcome. If you want your children to be honest you need to be doubly honest yourself. You need to erect a ‘wall’ of values that breed honesty and those walls may never be breached. Too often people allow their ‘walls' to be breached and then just move the goal post when it becomes convenient to do so.

This then is the lesson of the fast day commemorating the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem. We need walls. We need to build walls of moral values around our families and protect those walls so that they are never breached. We live at a time when walls keep coming down. Morality has become relative. There are so few values that are absolutes. If we allow our ‘walls’ of morality to be 'breached' we run the high risk of our very ‘temple’ (our children) to be completely destroyed. So yes, build that wall, make it thick and tall, and do it quickly.

Shabbat Shalom and have an easy fast.

 

 

A Crisis at The Border?

I’ve been following the latest political storm regarding the children at the US-Mexican border and the controversy surrounding the separation of these children from their detained or arrested parents. Politics aside, this whole saga got me thinking about my own children and my relationship with them.

I think we can all agree that the forced physical separation of children from their parents is traumatic and can be devastating to the child and his/her development. It is a tragedy every time it happens and I have seen it more than once. I served as a US chaplain in the Federal Detention Center in down town Miami for a few years and every week I saw the devastation of new arrestees who were brought into prison and were separated from their children. (this detention center was where people who were just arrested were brought for detention until their trial etc.). The arrests were fresh, the separation from their children was fresh and every week I would observe young children coming to visit their incarcerated parents (and yes, sometimes it was both, mother and father who were in prison). It is heart wrenching to observe babies, toddlers, young children and adolescents have to visit their parents once a week and talk to them through a glass window. If they were lucky, they would then go home to be with grandparents or other family members or if they were not so lucky, they would be taken back to a foster home and the like. It was a weekly tragedy that I observed and which I will never forget.

But I ask myself, is only physical separation devastating? How about emotional separation or psychological separation? Let’s be honest, there are millions of children who live with and are physically ‘united’ with their parents in nice houses and all, but whose parents are all but ‘separated’ from them on so many other levels. Children today yearn to talk to their parents. They yearn to just spend time with their mothers and fathers. They yearn and long to just play a game with their parents and be a family as it used to be. Many parents are so busy and just simply have no time to talk to their children on a daily basis. I had parents tell me that they would love to talk to their children but their conversations last for two minutes because they run out of what to talk about. Their interests are just not the same. How tragic? For all intents and purposes, there children are ‘separated’ from their parents. Think of your own patterns and ask yourself, is my child separated from me or am I really there for them. I know we tell our children that they can count on us anytime and everywhere, but trust me they just want you to talk to them on a regular Tuesday. They desperately want and need you not only when they “need” you. They want to be connected to you. Stop giving in to their every silly desire whenever they throw a tantrum. They don’t want to be bought off with stuff, they want YOU. Often the reason they throw a tantrum is because they feel alienated, they feel distant and are seeking meaningful relationships with their parents whom they love more than anything else and whom they need more than anything else.

We Jews were given the unbelievable gift called Shabbos. One day a week we close our phones, computers, televisions, tablets and any and all electronic devices and connect to family and friends for real. We spend time together in prayer or at the Shabbos dinner table where parents and children connect spiritually, emotionally, psychologically and of course physically as well. Remember? No face time, no phone connections or face book and the rest. If you want me on Shabbos you have to be right near me physically. It is said that the connectedness of family on Shabbos is what kept the Jewish people going for thousands of years. I would suggest to each of you to try this idea in small measures. If you are unable to observe the entire Shabbos then start with something. This Friday night/Shabbos you and your children should try it for one hour. Turn off your phones, TV’s etc. for sixty minutes and eat a meal together, talk together, hug each other, play a game of monopoly together. You get my point. CONNECT to your children and help them connect to you. Once you get used to one hour you can go to two and then three and so forth.              

It would be so nice if as a result of the latest crisis parents would take a real look at their own homes and families and see if they have ‘forcibly separated’ their children from themselves. Forcibly separating children from parents is devastating not only at the border, it is equally devastating when it is done in our own homes as well. Let’s reunite parents and children immediately.

One Man’s visit to Hebron

The story of this week’s portion, Shlach, is one of the most famous of biblical stories. It tells of a group of twelve men who were sent by Moses and the Jewish people to scout the land of Israel in preparation of their eventual conquest which was to take place weeks later. After spending 40 days in Israel scouring its length and breadth, they return to the Jewish People in the desert and ten of them give a very negative assessment of the land and the prospects of taking possession of it. They turn the people against G-d and Moses and convince the people that going to Israel and conquering it would prove impossible under the circumstances. The other two, Joshua and Calev, remain loyal to their mission and try their hardest to restore faith and morale into their Jewish brethren. The result was that the entire Jewish people were punished and wandered in the desert for forty years until that entire generation would die. Only the next generation of Jews would enter and take possession of the land of Israel. No doubt, this episode is one of the greatest failings of the Jewish people of all time.

There is much written about this event in biblical commentary. I would like to zero in on one detail of the story that is perhaps unnoticed. Moses had sent twelve men on this mission. Ten of them turn against him, while the other two remain loyal. As mentioned, these two loyalists were Joshua and Calev. The question is, what caused them to remain loyal to their mission, to G-d and to Moses and not fall prey to peer pressure and all the rest? Joshua, Moses greatest and beloved student, received a special blessing from Moses before he left. That blessing saved him. But what about Calev?

The answer can be found in an obscure word the Bible uses in relating the story. The text tells us that the twelve men left the Sinai desert and went to scout the land. The text then continues: “They went up to the Negev and he came to Hebron……”. It changes from ‘they’ went up to the Negev, to ‘he’ came to Hebron. The Talmud tells us that while they all went up to the Negev (and the rest of Israel to scout it) only one of them (he) came to Hebron. This was Calev. As soon as he arrives in Israel he leaves the group to visit Hebron where the forefathers were buried to visit their resting place, the Tomb of the Patriarchs.  The Talmud tells us further that Calev petitioned Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to pray on his behalf that he should succeed in the mission and remain loyal to Moses and G-d. He asked for their blessing and asked them to pray on his behalf. It was this visit to the grave site of the righteous forefathers that saved him. Calev understood that the Tzaddik’s resting place was the conduit to heaven and as such made sure to go there first.

This little detail, perhaps lost on many, is crucial in understanding the story of the spies and our own little personal stories. Like the spies, we are all on a mission from G-d to make the world a home for G-d. Our souls are sent here by G-d to conquer this world for G-d and make it a holy place. We all know that life here on earth is not easy. There are so many distractions and influences that can make us think that we cannot ‘conquer the land”. We sometimes become demoralized and give up. Can a minority of fifteen million Jews change this world and “conquer it” for G-d? Can we as individuals navigate the rat race of life and stay true to ourselves? For this, we need to look to Calev and what he did. He went to the grave of the Tzaddim (The righteous) and connected to them. That connection saved him.

Next Shabbos, June 16 (Tamuz 3), marks the 24th anniversary of the passing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe of blessed memory. The Rebbe was the Tzaddik of our times and I will be visiting the Ohel (his resting place) as I do every year to connect, learn, pray and ask for his blessing that I continue to succeed and remain loyal to my own personal mission in life. It would be a very good idea for every one reading this to also write a letter to the Rebbe for his blessing for all that you need, for health, Nachas, good livelihood and for spiritual success as well. This connection is vital for all of us as it was vital for Calev 3300 years ago. You can send me your letter and I will bring it to the Ohel or you can email it to ohel@ohelchabad.org and it will be placed in the Rebbe’s Ohel on your behalf. Don't miss this opportunity.

 

 Shabbat Shalom.   

In Memory of Mr. Stanley Cohen OBM

We humans have very short memories. Or better yet, selective memories. We remember what we want to  and conveniently forget other things. For example, we forget what our parents have done for us yesterday if they did not do the same for us today. Yesterday’s gifts are old news. Or as the saying goes “what have you done for me today”. This weakness is as old as mankind. Being ungrateful and not appreciating the blessings we have is something humans have grappled with for thousands of years.

Adam was ungrateful for the wife G-d had given him and instead focused on the problems she brought to his life. The Jews in the desert never ran out of things to complain about instead of appreciating daily miracles that G-d had performed for them. And, I wonder how many of us really count all the blessings we have rather than seeing the glass half empty.

In the book of numbers, the one we are reading these weeks, we learn about the Jews in the desert who complained about practically everything. Their food was not good enough, their drink was not exactly to their liking, they even complained about the miraculous Manna that fell from heaven every morning. Its appearance was not what they expected. Or the fact that they were now a free people who were on a mission from G-d to change the world was also something to complain about. They suddenly longed to go back to Egypt. In their words “we remember the fish that we ate in Egypt for free” I guess the Egyptian chefs knew how to prepare a good trout or some really good grilled sea bass. I don’t know about the “for free” part. This is what the Jews complained about. Go figure. I don’t remember learning that the manna had to be bought in stores for a price, It was right there at their door post or just outside the camp, all they had to do was go pick it up every morning. And mind you, it had a miraculous nature about it, it had the taste of anything one wished. So for example if someone wanted their Manna to taste like steak, French fries or sushi, all they had to do was think of that food and there it was, the manna suddenly took on the taste of that desired food. But that was not good enough because It did not look like steak, French fries or sushi.

The truth is, nothing has changed. We in America have everything or close to it. We live such comfortable lives and yet study after study shows that Americans are increasingly unhappier than the generations of the past. We have the best schools, the best medical treatment, the best cars, most comfortable homes, entertainment 24 hours a day on TV, Movies and so on, and yet, everyone is complaining. It’s never good enough. What has G-d done for me today we ask… and if you remind the person that just that morning he/she drove to work in a nice car after eating a good breakfast, they tell you… but that was 4 hours ago.

We are often just simply ungrateful. We forget that relatively speaking, we should be in the synagogue 10 times a day (not three) thanking G-d for the incredible flow of goodness and wealth that comes our way. We're healthy, our children are healthy; we have more than our parents and grandparents ever had by far. But we look for this moment's excitement…. for something new. Yesterday’s blessings are alte zachen (old merchandise).

This then is the call of the hour. Thank G-d for everything you have. If you need help remembering it all then here is a simple piece of advice. Sit down with a pen and paper , contrast your life with that of your parents. I am sure that after three lines you will be looking for a prayer book to offer thanks to G-d. People usually say that we should see the cup as half full rather than half empty. I say, there is no need for that in our case; our cups are for the most part completely full all the time.  We just refuse to see it. We are like the Jews in the desert. We have almost everything or close to it, but we look to Egypt's fish and see that one thing we do not have.

I want to call your attention to a very special person whose Yahrtzeit we observed this week. My dear friend , Mr. Stanley Cohen, of blessed memory. Stanley was special in more than one way. I think it’s fair to say that he was the exact opposite of a complainer. He had much to be thankful for but he also had much to complain about. Those who remember him know how he suffered the last few years of his life. I visited with him almost every day to pray with him when he was no longer able to don Tefillin on his own. I will always cherish those moments. I never once heard him complain… Never. He always said that Hashem is good to him. He always remembered all the blessings that he and his family enjoyed,his illness was not going to make him forget that. This is one of the very important lessons I learned from Stanley. Be grateful. Remember what Hashem gave you and continues to give you. This is a lost art. As his Yahrtzeit always falls around the Torah portions when we read about the complainers, we have a perfect contrast in Stanley Cohen: a man who never complained. A man who knew where he came from. A man whom saw what he was given and never lost sight of that. A man whom loved Hashem and expressed that love in verbal gratitude every single day of his life.

May his memory be a blessing to all of us.
Shabbat Shalom

 

Mazol Tov Mollie

Life’s routines are fairly predictable. Children grow up from being infants to become toddlers, they move on to preschool, elementary school, middle and high school, then their off to college. Mothers and fathers breathe a sigh of relief when they finally send off their nudniks to higher education and are able to finally rest alone in their empty nesters’ home. I have heard this routine from so many and for the life of me, I can never figure out what is the great pleasure of having an empty house. My house is very quiet this year. We have only 4 children at home and I don’t like it very much. For Pesach we had all of our 22 immediate family members (children and grandchildren) at home and there was life. It was busy. We couldn’t get enough of it. I cannot wait for Sukkos to come around when they will all be back G-d willing. But so many love it when their children go off to college and their finally able to be alone, I guess different strokes for different folks. Then they graduate and either continue on to getting a master’s degree or others hopefully find jobs. This is a very familiar routine. Parents who are really lucky see their children under the Chuppah before their 30. Then come the grandchildren and so on.

This week one of our dear congregants graduated from college and received her degree, but it was most certainly not your average routine graduating student. Seeing this student in her cap and gown receiving her diploma was deeply inspiring and brought a lot of tears and emotion to her family, friends and loved ones. I can only imagine the Nachas, pleasure and overflowing joy that were the lot of her parents as she pushed her self-down the aisle to receive her degree.

I want to congratulate Mollie Zieper and her parents David and Polly on this momentous occasion. Mollie did not only push herself down the aisle this week, I watched her as she pushed herself through life and its many challenges over the years and she did it with grace, perseverance and fortitude. She never got lazy, never got complacent, never took no for an answer and never expected anything without working hard for it. I watched her grow up, go through high school, move across the state to attend college, take care of herself and reach milestone after milestone, as if this was natural and no big deal. She was active in all Jewish events on campus attending Chabad, Hillel and promoting Judaism and Israel advocacy with passion and determination. I have no doubt that we will see great things from Mollie in the future and one day we will walk her to her chuppah G-d willing as she starts her own family.

In the beginning of Bechukosai, this week’s Torah portion, G-d promises that if we toil in Torah we will be rewarded. It does not say if we ‘learn’ Torah rather if we ‘toil’ in Torah study. G-d asks us to ‘toil’, to work hard and then we are rewarded. Mollie worked hard and was rewarded this week. We should all learn from her. Don’t take life, health and everything we have for granted. It is all on loan from G-d to utilize for good, moral and G-dly ends. He never signed a contract to make life easy for us. If we are lucky enough and our lives are fairly good and easy, thank Him every day for that. If once in a while life takes unexpected turns and you are confronted with challenges, remember the saying: “when the going gets tough the tough get going” or just remember Mollie in her cap and gown earning what she worked so hard for during all these years when the going was quite tough.

Shabbat Shalom

In Memory of My Friend Daniel Wultz OBM

Twelve years ago today, my dear friend, student and congregant, Daniel Wultz Passed away in Tel Aviv 27 days after a suicide bomber blew himself up and took him and 10 other innocent Jews from our midst. Those of you who were in Weston at the time will remember that a special Torah was written and dedicated in honor of his first Yahrtzeit. Daniel, although only 16 years old, stood out in his unique care for others and made such an indelible impression on all who knew him. It is for this reason that every year as this day arrives, I together with his family and friends, a total of about 50-60 people, make a pilgrimage to his resting place to pray, reflect and say Kaddish for his holy soul.

As I was standing there today, and had a chance to think of him, his life and his death, I naturally thought about the tragedy of global terrorism and the struggle that Israel and the world has to deal with on a daily basis. Thousands of innocent Jews like Daniel lost their lives to senseless hatred and because of people, and a society, that places a greater value to death over life.  I think it was Prime Minister Golda Meir who said that there will be peace with Israel’s Arab Neighbors when they start loving their children more then they hate ours. I am still waiting. On a day like this I’d rather focus on Daniel’s life rather than on those who ended it. And with Lag B’omer just 2 days away, I want to especially focus on all that Daniel meant to his family, friends and all who knew him.

On Lag B’omer we celebrate the day when the plague that struck the 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva ended. The sages tell us that the reason that they all perished in this plague was because they did not treat each other with respect. This does not mean that they did not love each other, G-d forbid. The problem was that they lacked respect for each other. Love and respect are not synonymous. You might love your spouse but might not respect his/her space. You might love your student yet show a lack of respect for their opinion and so on. Lag B’omer represents the end of that calamity, a day that respect was once again restored amongst the remaining of his students.

If there is one lesson Daniel taught us; it is how to respect one another. He stood out in his care for every person without distinction. Daniel believed that every person, being a creation of Hashem, has an inherent value and therefore deserves respect. He protected the less talented and helped those that were on the lower rung of society’s self-made social ladder. To him every one was equal. He understood the teaching of Rabbi Akiva that “to love your fellow is the cardinal rule of the Torah”. Daniel knew that when the Torah says “your fellow” it means each person. He lived this ideal and in so doing earned his place amongst those students of Rabbi Akiva who really “got it”.

This world would be a better place if Daniel was with us, but Hashem decided that He wants him with Him up in heaven, in that case then, we need to become the “Daniels” of the world. We need to step up and become students of Rabbi Akiva. We need to promote love and respect for others. It is very easy to speak about it or even to believe in it’s importance, but in order to live that ideal we must put our egos aside. So, on Daniel’s Yahrtzeit and in honor of Rabbi Akiva and his cardinal teaching about love and respect, think of someone, maybe an in-law, a friend, and old acquaintance; you know who I mean, and give him a call, reach out to him or her, extend that person some senseless love and repair a world where people like Daniel lose their life because of senseless hate.

May his memory be a blessing for all of us.

70 Years of Miracles

Israel and Jews the world over celebrated 70 years since the great miracle of 1948 when a tiny Jewish IDF was able to subdue five vast Arab army’s hell bent on destroying Israel and its Jewish population. The miracle of 1948 was just the beginning. In the 1956 Sinai Campaign, the 1967 Six Day War, the 1973 Yom Kippur war and the 1982 Lebanon war were all follow up miracles that defy all military historical warfare. There are so many more miracles that have transpired over the past 70 years in the Holy Land but there is one miracle that stands out which I want to emphasize in this article. The Miracle of Israel itself.

With all the problems that Israel faces on a daily basis such as terrorism, bad neighbors, internal strife among Jewish factions; religion vs. secularism, Chareidim vs. the non-religious, right vs. left and many more problems that Jews in Israel have to contend with every day, Israel is still the greatest beacon of G-dly light, morality, generosity, freedom and love that the world has ever seen.

 Seventy years ago many wondered what kind of Jewish State Israel would turn out to be. Will it be too secular, too religious etc. When we look back at what Israel has accomplished during the past seven decades one cannot help but marvel at the incredible success in almost every area of life. There are thousands of Torah institutions, houses of prayer, institutions of Chessed, all over the country. The  Economic ingenuity that Israel has become known for, development in all areas of health, their annual export and their legendary creative technological breakthroughs have made Israel the eighth wonder of the world. While none of this should be taken for granted, and we owe so much to those who have dedicated their lives to the development of this great land and especially to the soldiers of the IDF, we as Jews know that Israel has a special blessing. Moses told the Jews over 3300 years ago: Israel is a land where G-ds eyes are upon it from beginning of the year to its end. That is what makes Israel so Holy and special a land; the fact that G-d continuously watches over it. It is this holiness that we should celebrate when we look back at the past seven decades. True, Israel has very few real friends in the world, but it has one really good friend in heaven without which none of the miraculous success it has enjoyed could ever have happened.

 The Holy Land of Israel and the Holy People of Israel are eternally intertwined. Many are hostile and even some “allies”, to Israel’s claim that the land is not fully ours because we have not been there for close to 2000 years. How can we have a claim to the land after such a long separation? Others have been there during this time and have taken root and they demand therefore, that we should give up parts of it or all of it. To this, there is only one legitimate answer; in the bible (which Christians and Muslims believe in) we are referred to as the Bnai Yisroel, the Children of Israel. A child is connected to his/her father regardless of how many years they may have been separated. A child never gives up on his/her parent. The nation of Israel is one with the land of Israel because of the Torah of Israel. As long as we hold tight to the Torah of Israel no one will ever be able to separate the Children of Israel from land of Israel.

 Am Yisrael Chai.  

ATale of Two Silences


In Israel and the world over, Jews commemorated a day of remembrance for the 6,000,000 Jews who perished at the hands of Hitler and his Nazi regime. Survivors told their horrific stories to young and old, thousands marched from Auschwitz to Birkenau in the March of the Living, memorial candles were lit in homes and synagogues around the world and thousands upon thousands flocked to hundreds of Holocaust museums and memorial events to reflect and proclaim “Never Again” and unite with the memories of millions of our people whose only “sin” was that they were Jewish.

Hitler and his Nazi regime were able to do what they did because so many around the world were silent. They let it happen. Some were very happy to remain silent and saw the Nazi’s as doing their “dirty work”, some were silent reluctantly and yet others would have been happy to stop it but were ‘unwilling’ to interfere in a war that was ‘not theirs’ and therefore remained silent. The common denominator of all the nations of the world was their silence. Their silence was the de-facto license the Nazi’s needed in order to be able to do what they did. As harsh as that sounds, if we are to take the slogan ‘never again’ seriously, we must understand that such murderous acts do not happen in a vacuum. We must understand that if we do not appreciate the sin of silence, such atrocities will happen again, in fact they do happen again and again all over the world only because of the sin of silence.

 

To be sure, silence is sometimes a great virtue. In the Torah portion of this week, Shemini, we read the story of the death of the two sons of Aaron the High Priest. They both died on the day of the inauguration of the temple that was built by the Jews in the desert. The tragedy of their death interrupted the jubilant celebrations surrounding the temple and its dedication. Needless to say, Aaron was shocked and devastated beyond description upon hearing the terrible news. The Torah relates that ‘Vayidom Aaron’, and Aaron was silent. Our sages tell us that as a reward for his silence G-d revealed himself to Aaron and communicated with him directly, not via Moses. In every other case G-d would speak to Moses who would then communicate to Aaron the message. This time G-d speaks to Aaron directly. His silence brought about a new and direct revelation of G-d. His silence opens him up to hearing the voice of G-d. This silence is different.

In 1963, Mr. Eli Wiesel came to meet with the Rebbe. He asked the Rebbe if he could explain the Holocaust. Where was G-d? How could He have allowed this to happen to his beloved chosen people? Why? This question was asked by so many and continues to be asked. The Rebbe told Wiesel that some things are beyond our capacity to understand at any level. The only response is that of Aaron: Vayidom. Silence. There is nothing to say. What possible explanation or rationalization could there be for the horrific slaughter of 1,500,000 children and millions of others? In this case speaking and explaining would be a sign of arrogance and therefore sinful.

[Parenthetically, The Rebbe went on to tell Mr. Wiesel that after such a Holocaust there is only one response for us as Jews; to rebuild the Jewish nation. The Rebbe encouraged him to get married and start a family which he did. On a personal level, my grandmother Libba Spalter was gassed to death in Belzec. My grandfather Moshe Spalter died in Russia in 1945 as a result of six years of gulag life and much illness. My father, may he be well, arrived to New York in 1950 with the shirt on his back and nothing else. He eventually married my mother and went on to build a family, 200 strong... That’s a real number. 9 children, 75 grandchildren and 116 great grandchildren. And they’re not done yet. May G-d give them many more healthy years and many more off springs. This is the only response the Rebbe talked about].

When Aaron was silent it was after the death of his children. He realized that he is unable to fathom the mysteries of G-ds world and accepted the decree. He never questioned his faith in G-d, instead he continued to serve in the temple. It was that faith which opened his soul to a new recognition and communication with G-d. The same is with the Holocaust. All we can do is ‘Vayidom’ be silent. It is this silence that is a Mitzvah. It is a sign of strength. It is a sign that our faith in G-d is steadfast and not dependent on our full comprehension of Him. It is a faith that says; G-d is beyond our puny little brains. If I am able to understand certain aspects of Him, great. But we recognize that He is ultimately beyond us and that’s what makes him G-d. In the words of the great Kabbalaists: if I were to know Him I would be Him.

By contrast, silence during the holocaust is a great sin. When lives could be saved and we are silent because we do not think we should interfere in the mysterious ways of G-d, that is an egregious sin. Then the world needed to shout at the top of their lungs and act to stop the Nazi murderers from killing their victims.

The world needs to repent for its silence. ‘Never Again’ means, never again will the world be silent when innocent people are getting killed by murderers. By the way, screaming loudly and doing nothing is a small virtue. If you can do something to stop bloodshed and all you do is shout from a roof top, that too is a form of silence and a grave sin. Of course I am not advocating going to war anytime and everywhere there is bloodshed, careful assessment must be made. But I think it is safe to say unequivocally that during the holocaust too many were silent and too few acted.

This then is the lesson of Yom Hashoah. ‘Never Again’ must not be an empty bombastic shout or an empty slogan that politicians and others use here and there. It must be a commitment from good people to never allow evil people to perpetrate their evil schemes. We must never be silent and we must never be inactive. It is such silence that the despots of the world crave so much.

Such silence destroys the world. Aarons silence builds the world.

Shabbat Shalom

Yud Aleph Nissan

This Tuesday, the eleventh of Nissan marks the 116th birthday of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson of blessed memory. As I have written in other articles, I had the great merit to have lived 3 blocks away from the Rebbe and therefore spent over 25 years hearing him, seeing him, davening with him, etc. I do not take this for granted and I thank Hashem every day of my life for giving me this treasure and merit. With all that said, being so close made one recognize how far one really was. As one of the Rebbe’s secretaries once said, “the closer you got the further you realized you were.” How true that is. The Rebbe was a great Tzadik (righteous person) of enormous proportions. Listen to the thousands of people who recount their personal moments with the Rebbe. They all tell of the Rebbe’s love, passion, care, etc., but they also all talk about being enveloped in immense holiness. They describe the feeling of being in an oasis of spiritual closeness that is hard to describe but easy to identify with if you have experienced it. I did; time and time again. I have seen the Rebbe in moments of intense seriousness as when he blew the shofar on Rosh Hashanah; in moments of intense joy during the dancing on Simchat Torah. I saw the Rebbe when he davened and I saw him when he spoke at Farbrengens and taught Torah for hours on end. And I also saw him as he spent days at the Ohel (resting place) of his Rebbe and predecessor praying on behalf of the Jewish People. In all these experiences, one sensed a heavenly aura that was present.

To me and so many thousands of others the Rebbe was our modern day Moses who led the Jewish people with incredible devotion and self-sacrifice. His bounding love for every Jew was limitless. I think it is fair to say that never has there been a Jewish leader who made himself available with such love to every person as much as the Rebbe. For 30 years he would spend three nights a week often times until dawn, meeting Jews from all walks of life, listening and tending to their needs and problems, giving advice and counsel to the tens of thousands who came to meet him. Among them were Presidents, Prime ministers, Ambassadors, Army personnel, Jewish leaders, Rabbis, Authors, tailors, teachers, plumbers and your average rank and file member of society. After that was no longer possible he began, since 1986, to meet people every Sunday for four or five hours as thousands filed by for a quick moment to receive a blessing and a dollar to give to charity. It’s estimated that during these Sunday afternoons the Rebbe met and made eye contact with over one and a half million people. Think about that! One man in his ninth decade of life makes personal eye contact with 1,500,000 people. This is unprecedented in Jewish or any other history. This was the Rebbe. He loved, cared and gave everything he had to be there for his people.

It’s no wonder that even after 20 years since his passing, hundreds of thousands continue to flock to his resting place at the Ohel to seek his blessing and pray there. It’s no wonder that books, videos, documentaries and articles continue to be published about him. This week alone hundreds of proclamations from Mayors, Governors, Senators and Congressmen and women were signed and sealed to honor the Rebbe’s work accomplishments especially in the area of Education. The interest of millions to learn about this incredible leader grows with time, which brings me to one final, and maybe the most important point.

The Zohar says that real tzadikim (wholly righteous people) are alive after their passing even more than during their life as a soul in a body. I can say that this is precisely true with the Rebbe. I remember when the world suffered his loss in 1994, when all the “experts” were foretelling the future of Chabad and how it will be impossible for the movement to continue without him. After all, the Rebbe was the life behind everything, and the admiration that his Chassidim and admirers had for him was intense. No one could imagine how the movement could survive without his physical presence.  Today, even the most pessimistic doom sayers are all trying to figure out how it is that not only did Chabad not lose its steam, but in fact it doubled, tripled and quadrupled in the last two decades. Young Chabad Shluchim, who by the way never saw the Rebbe, are continuing to dedicate their lives to his message and are becoming his emissaries to such forsaken places that most people don’t even know exist.

How is this to be explained? To me it’s obvious. The Rebbe lives. Albeit in a different way, but its real. The Ohel (resting place) of the Rebbe is a place where millions of Jews visit and/or write letters to for blessings. I know firsthand that these requests are being answered in a most wondrous way. I suggest that on Tuesday, on the Rebbe’s birthday, a time when his Mazal (spiritual flow) is strong, write to the Rebbe and make that connection. If you have a problem, a need, a request that needs a blessing from a tzadik, write to the Rebbe and send it to the Ohel. He will find a way to answer you and you will find that you will be helped. This, of course, depends a lot of the way one writes and the seriousness with which one treats it. Try it, you will not regret it.

Shabbat Shalom

An Israel Experience to Remember

 

An Israel Experience to Remember


Last week I had the great fortune of joining a group of close to 800 Jews from around the country, including a delegation from Weston, for a special mission to Israel. This trip was unlike any other for a number of reasons which I will point out. The trip was organized by the Jewish Learning Institute (JLI) who’s main mission is to educate Jewish adults through a variety of means including “The Land and The Spirit” Israel experience from which I just returned.

The trip itself was first class. Hotels, food, travel and everything in between was at the highest level. This was a luxury trip in every sense but the main thing was the mission itself. I have been to Israel many times and so have many of the participants on this trip been there more than once, but this was something entirely different. There are many great organizations that organize great trips to Israel, but this JLI Israel Experience was something other than your average Israel trip. What made this so special was the unique places that we visited. As I said this trip was motivated by education and as such every one of the five itineraries was designed to Educate. When you travel the length and breadth of Israel you are met with 3800 years of Jewish history and every inch of the Holy Land has so much potential for education. The holy soil was where Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joshua, Samson, Samuel, David, Solomon, the Maccabees, the Talmudic Sages, Hillel, Rabbi Akiva all treaded. Over the past 2000 years of exile we managed to maintain a Jewish presence as well. Whether it was Rabbi Yehudah Hanasee, Nachmanides, the holy Kabbalist of the 16th century and all the way up to the 20th century builders of the land, every kilometer of Israel is saturated with a wealth of historical richness and unless seen up close one does not really capture its essence.

Last Thursday we were in the ancient biblical city of Shilo, the place where Jews came on pilgrimages for 369 years during the period of the Judges, about from the years 1250 to 880 BCE. It was there that they built the holy tabernacle, or Temple, which served as center of Jewish life for close to four centuries. What a beautiful mountainous region. The site was excavated and we now know precisely where the actual tabernacle stood. A new beautiful town was built there and the main Shul of modern day Shilo was modeled after the ancient tabernacle. Just stunning and so rich with meaning. I would say that that was one of the highlights of the trip. Our group was addressed by one of the leaders of the town and he thanked us profusely for visiting. I asked him why he was thanking us so much? He said because no groups visit there and explained that because Shilo is beyond the green line 90 percent of foreign tourist groups do not come there to visit and not because of security concerns. That is easy to deal with, Shilo and most of the Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria are located in areas where security is hardly a problem. He explained that its mostly political and that is a great shame. Hundreds of thousands of Jews who go to Israel to see and experience the land and who have no interest in the politics of the moment, are deprived of most of the biblical sites because they happened to be on the wrong side of the green line. The fact is that most of the biblical narrative happened in Judea and Samaria known as the West Bank. To deprive millions of Jews from learning and being inspired by their rich heritage is very unfortunate. Shilo was just one such place. Hebron where it all began with Abraham and Sarah and where King David set up his monarchy is the best kept secret for most Jewish tourists because of the same reason. The Jordan Valley where Joshua crossed the Jordan river and led the Jews into Israel is another site where most groups skip.

JLI skipped nothing and good for them and for the 800 participants who were with us on this trip. They got a taste of the Holy Land that sadly most don’t. We all danced in Hebron together with the local residents, dined in Shilo, prayed in the Jericho lookout, and of course saw and experienced Jerusalems old and new cities, Tel Aviv, Tibereas, Zefat, Acre, bet Shemesh, Latrun’s IDF’s military museum and so much more as well. We also got to meet and hear from so many Knesset members, US Ambassador to Israel, the chief Rabbi of Israel all whom addressed us during our meals and other occasions.  

If you are reading this article and want an Israel Experience that will connect you to 3800 years of Jewish History and life, join the next JLI “The Land and The Spirit” Israel Experience which will take place in 2020. You will not regret it. It is a thrilling 8 days where both body and soul are well nourished in the best accommodations and with the highest quality guides who make every minute of every day unforgettable. I cannot wait.

 

 

 

 

Mordechai, Esther and We The People

The Purim Megilah (scroll of Esther) if one of my favorites. In it there are so many life lessons for all times, all you need is to dig a little deeper and layers upon layers of truths are right there for the taking. Let me share one example with you.

In the fourth chapter of the Megilah, after Mordechai finds out that Haman plotted to annihilate the entire Jewish people, he goes to the palace to tell Queen Esther that she must go to the King and do whatever she can to save the Jewish people. Esther tells Mordechai that She is unable to do anything because she has not been invited to come to the King and the rule was that unless you were invited you could not just show up and if you did, you can be sentenced to death. Mordechai answers her that she must act because, although the Jews will be saved either way, she should be aware that she might have become the Queen only for this opportunity to save her people from annihilation. In other words, if she chooses not to get involved she might lose her entire raison d’etre as Queen and her whole legacy will be forever ruined. These words moved her and the rest is history.

When you analyze this back and forth you cannot help but wonder, what is going on here? Was her legacy more important to her than the thought of the Jewish people being exterminated? It seems that only when she realizes that her name and legacy will suffer if she remained silent is she moved to act. This seems out of character for the righteous Esther. The answer to this question is profound and touches upon one of the most important life lessons of all time. What Mordechai was telling Esther was a simple truth: The Jewish People’s survival was not dependent on the efforts of Esther or that of anyone else. Their salvation will come from G-d either way, but, Mordechai continued, this might be the moment that G-d has chosen for Esther. G-d might want to save the Jewish people through her efforts and that might be the reason He put her in such a position of power to begin with. Esther understood what Mordechai was telling her. That her moment has come. This is why her soul had come down to earth; to be the one through whom G-d saves the Jewish people. Imagine if she would have decided not to put her life in danger and as a result, failed to go to the King at that pivotal moment? Her ‘name’ and ‘legacy’ would be tarnished forever. Her entire purpose for being would have been missed. It was this truth that moved her.

Mordechai was telling Esther that this is not about the Jewish people. They will survive with or without you. This is about you, Esther; will you survive your purpose or not is the question. Esther understood that her moment was at hand and she acted. As a result, we have Purim and the Scroll of Esther.

This is true for every individual. The holy Baal Shem Tov once said that a soul may be sent down to earth to live an entire life, for the purpose of doing a favor to a fellow even one time. What the Baal Shem Tov meant was that every person is born into this world with a purpose, and that purpose might be to do something important even one time. The problem is that we do not know when that moment is and therefore anytime an opportunity arises for us to do something positive we must seize the moment because that might be the one we were created for. Can you imagine missing your moment? Imagine someone calls upon you to help a cause or to help a person in their time of need and because you were not in the mood you passed on the opportunity. That might have been your moment for which you came down to this earth. What a tragedy that would be.

I believe this is true not only for every individual but for the collective as well. Every nation has its moment and purpose. 240 years ago a nation was born, they called it the United States of America. The founding fathers recognized that a special moment in history was calling upon them to do something extraordinary; to establish a nation upon whom G-d and true morality would reign. The founders made sure that G-d would take a front seat in the minds and hearts of its population. They wrote a constitution which could have only been the product of people who believed in G-d and truly wanted Him in the lives of all Americans. 

John Adams said “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people”. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”     For 200 years these United States lived and breathed the words “in G-d We Trust”. But then something happened. We relegated G-d to houses of worship and for many, G-d became a threat to their liberty and open mindedness. Instead of realizing that it is only through a strong faith in G-d that any people can be and remain free, some began seeing Him as a threat. As a   result, our children are confused and we are constantly arguing about ‘Church and State’ Issues, forgetting what the Founders understood; that only if we have a strong faith in G-d can we be assured that everyone will be free to practice their own religion i.e. their own interpretation of G-d. The separation of ‘Church and State’, which I am an ardent supporter of, was never meant to be a separation between ‘G-d and State’. In fact, the only way to ensure the separation between ‘Church and State’ is if we make sure that there is never a separation between ‘G-d and State’. Without a G-d conscience we run the risk of becoming like all those nations before us who’s leaders abused their power and caused so much suffering for their people. In some cases, they forced a particular religion on their population, in other cases they forced secularism on their populations. 

I believe that we are at a threshold in our own history as Americans, and that we are being called to seize a new moment in the American story. We need to bring G-d back to the conscience of our children and population so that we can continue to be the greatest nation on earth. We are great not because of our material successes, we are great because our foundation was based on G-d and precisely because of that we have been so successful. Like Esther back in Persia, we must not let this moment slip by. We must heed the words of Adams: this great constitution will only survive if we are a people whose lives are based on G-d’s moral code for humanity.

 

 

Looking for older posts? See the sidebar for the Archive.