Printed from ChabadofWeston.com

The Rabbi's Blog

A Message from Rabbi Spalter

What Does It Take To Be A Leader?

In this week’s Torah reading, Vayechi, we read about Jacobs last moments of life. He gathers all his children, the 12 tribes, around his bed and blesses each of them, foretelling what would happen to them and their progeny in the future. He designates each child’s destiny. Who will be the leader, the scholar, the spiritual leader, the entrepreneur, the warrior and much more. The scene must have been so beautiful and majestic. After a very long tumultuous life, Jacob finally can enjoy some real Nachas. On his death bed he sees that all his children and grandchildren are following in his footsteps and living the life he educated and taught them to live. Most of us can only dream of such a result. However, when you analyze his words to them you see that not all is as smooth as we would expect. Let me site a couple of examples.

Rueben, the first born, seems to have been shorthanded. As a first born you would expect Jacob to confer upon him the position of leadership. From him should have come the kings of Israel. Yet, not only is the future monarchy of Israel not from his line, he is not given any leadership positions at all. He is not the future spiritual leader, nor is he the future scholar. Instead, the kings all come from Judah, the priests come from Levi, the scholars from Isachar and so on. In fact, in our history, Rueben and his offspring have hardly made any mark and have not risen to anything of note at all. Why?
 
Rueben was a very holy and righteous person. When the brothers plotted to kill Joseph it was Rueben who begged them not to shed Joseph’s blood themselves, instead, he convinced them to throw him into a nearby pit to die on his own. Rueben’s intent, of course, was to come later and rescue him. Unfortunately for Joseph, Rueben then went to pray and engage in spiritual perfection and repentance for a past sin he had committed thinking he would return to the pit when his brothers were no longer there. In the interim a caravan of Arabs passed by and Judah, feeling guilty seeing his brother Joseph linger in a pit to die, reasoned with his brothers that it would be better to sell Joseph as a slave to the caravan and not be guilty of his death. This they did and as they say, the rest is history.
 
In the final analysis, Rueben, the righteous holy man, missed the boat. He was missing in action when he was most needed. He was praying and being all spiritual when a Jewish boy was lingering in a pit. He had great intentions, but as they say; the road to hell is paved with the best of intentions. In that sense Rueben failed as a leader. When he needed to act as the first born and the leader of the group he was not present. Judah, on the other hand, saved his brother from certain death. He might not have had the best of intentions, but he showed leadership at that pivotal moment. This one incident shaped the future for not only themselves but for generations to come. Rueben never became a leader in the Jewish story, whereas Judah and his progeny became the kings and leaders of Israel until the end of time.
 
It seems unfair but life is not always fair. Life is short and there are moments in our lives when we are called upon to take a stand, to be a leader, not to delay, not to be silent even if it means going out of our comfort zone. Sometimes, it is those moments and opportunities that define our lives. All the rest might turn out to be incidental or less important. When there is a child in the ‘pit’ of addiction, in the ‘pit’ of apathy, in the ‘pit’ of spiritual death, in the pit of…. pick your choice, you mustn’t walk away. Do something, speak up, take a stand, be a leader and do not rely on someone else or even on a later opportunity. That later opportunity might never come. Before you know it that child might be ‘sold’ into ‘slavery’ of his or her own abyss. One more point; No one cares about your intentions; you will have ample time to work on the nobility of your intentions. When a child is 
in a pit you act, with or without the proper intentions. That’s leadership. 

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi's Article -

With so much going on in the news just this week alone, from the horrific stabbing at a Chanukah party in Monsey, to the assassination of Iran’s Gen. Qasem Soleimani and other incidents of note in between, It is hard to think straight and come up with a sensible take away if there even is one and if it is our responsibility to even attempt at one. But we know that as Jews we are enjoined to learn from every event that takes place in our world and try and grow from it in our relationship with G-d and other human beings.

The stabbings, which were a wakeup call to politicians, community leaders and to every Jew alive, must be seen in context. The reality is that for 50 years anti-Semitism was unpopular. That is no longer the case. Anti-Semitism is not only alive and well but it has become popular by many and in most cases goes unanswered. Most of the perpetrators of anti-Semitic acts are never brought to justice. Politicians turn a blind eye. The media is sleeping on the job. They do not find it news worthy and no longer even report it. This is because the incidents are so frequent but more importantly, there is little if any appetite to even tell the story. Why bother? Another Jew was beaten up in the streets of NY? Who cares? Some are even ok with it. And why should this be surprising? Look what’s going on in congress; there are out right anti-Semites serving in the people’s house. They are not ashamed of it and look for every opportunity to smear Jews and Israel thinking that this might get them more votes. As Shocking as this sounds, it is undeniably true. Jews of all walks of life are suddenly afraid and are shaken out of their comfort zones. They wonder if they are still living in the country they so loved and called home. Can this really be America?

The truth is that anyone who learned and understands history should not be surprised. As I mentioned, this hate towards Jews has been unpopular for some time after the horrors of the Holocaust but anyone with basic understanding knew that this unpopularity will last for a generation or two and that’s it. The default position on the world and its relationship with Jews will fall right back into place. Does this mean that we should just accept it? Of course not. We must hold our elected official accountable and not let them be silent. We must continue pressuring leaders of all kinds to speak out and not let this continue. Law enforcement must do a better job punishing those who perpetrate hate crimes. It should make no difference if their victims are badly hurt of mildly hurt. If we are serious, then any kind of hate violence must be completely uprooted.

I still believe that this blessed country is good at the essence and if we keep to the core values upon which this society was founded on, we will continue to be the society that is the envy of the world. America will continue to be blessed by G-d if we never forget Him. As for us Jews, the answer is not to keep a low profile. That never worked for us. While we take extra security measures which are absolutely necessary, we should, at the same time, take the lesson of Chanukah with us for the rest of the year. Chanukah is about bringing Jewish light, the Menorah, to the outdoors. We need to double down on our Jewishness; we need to live more Jewishly and more openly. That is the only response. If this year we held 20,000 public menorah lightings all over the globe, we must make sure that next year we increase that number. If you do not wrap Teffilin every day, consider starting. If you do not light Shabbos candles every Friday evening this is a great time to take that on. If you do not go to Shul to pray often enough, think about doing just that.

In all of the reaction to the stabbings and violence that I saw and read, there is one good thing I can point to; no one suggested that the Chassidic Jews of Monsey should try to hide their openly Jewish look. No one suggested that they or any Jew should stop wearing their kippah or distinct Jewish garb in public. This is because it is simply out of the equation and everyone knows it. No Jew in Monsey or in Brooklyn or anywhere else in the US would even consider such a thing. All the reaction was pointed in the direction of our elected officials and law enforcement to do a better job protecting the Jewish community in NY and elsewhere.

I hope and pray to G-d that the victims of last Saturday’s attempted massacre recover fully and that the US should continue to be a welcoming and safe home for its Jewish communities and that it continues to be the beacon of light and inspiration to the rest of the world for many years to come.

Shabbat Shalom     

Beyond the Surface

 

This coming Tuesday, Jews around the world will celebrate the holiday of the 19th of Kislev. On this day in 1799 the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of Chabad Chassidism was released and set free from a very dangerous imprisonment. The story surrounding his arrest, the charges, the interrogation and eventual release is written up in great detail and is beyond the scope of this article.

The Jewish world saw his release as a vindication of the entire Chassidic movement and it was from that day onward that Chassidic teachings went viral. Rabbi Schneur Zalman saw his ordeal as one that originated in heaven. He understood that if he, as the leader of Chassidism, was being challenged down here in this corporeal world, it is only a sign that Chassidism was being challenged in the upper realms as well. He wondered if he and his colleagues were not spreading this lofty teaching too much. Maybe the world is not yet ready for the ‘crown jewel’ of the Torah to be spread with such intensity. But then came the 19th of Kislev and his release. That was the sign that from on high Chassidism was vindicated and it was time for this holy and spiritual teaching to be spread to all four corners of the world.

Chassidism is referred to as the ‘Soul of the Torah’. Like with a body and soul, the soul gives life and vitality to the body. With the Torah it’s the same way. The ‘body’ of Torah is the laws of the Torah and their physical practice, like lighting Shabbos candles and giving charity or eating Matzah on Pesach. The ‘soul’ would be the life behind those practices; the G-dly energy and mystical revelations that result from those actions. And trust me, when a Jew is aware of the higher truth and ‘soul’ of the Mitzvot we observe, they become alive. They become soulful and energized with great vitality. 

They tell a story of a Chassidic master who was once challenged by an opponent of Chassidism. The opponent said to him; you Chassidim learn and study so much Chassidic and Kabbalistic knowledge, but at the end of the day what difference is there between us? We both put on the same tefillin, we both wrap ourselves in the same Tallis and we basically do all the mitzvoth just like you do with no difference at all, so what’s all the fuss of learning Tanya, Kaballah and the ‘soul’ of Torah? The rebbe answered him and said; it’s like two people eating the same chicken soup with one difference, one is eating it while hot and the other is eating it cold. They might both be eating the same ingredients but the difference is vast. One can hardly say that they are both experiencing the same thing. And indeed a mitzvah that is observed with an understanding of the soul behind it is warm, its alive, its vibrant and so much deeper.

The holiday of Kislev 19, when we were given the ‘soul’ of torah, is a time to reflect on the ’soul’ of everything. The inner truth of every human being, and indeed of everything, is G-dliness. All we need to do is reveal it to ourselves and eachother, because when we do, we realize that the entire creation is really one essence: G-d. And that, by the way, is what we mean when we say in the Shma prayer that Hashem Echod; G-d is one. It means that everything is G-d and G-d is everything, and that too was taught and expounded upon at great length in the teachings of Chassidism. 

 

Shabbat Shalom and a Happy and soulful Kislev 19

 

Open your Hearts! Open Your Homes!

I am asked all the time ‘what is the greatest Jewish value, belief, truth or Ideal?’ G-d never told me directly but I think the answer may be gleaned from the life stories of the first Jews to ever live; Abraham and Sarah. Over the next few weeks we will be reading about them and their lives in the weekly Torah portions.

Of all the Ideals important to Jews, Abraham and Sarah personified the lifestyle of Charity and acts of loving kindness. To be sure, they taught the world many ideological truths that the world knew nothing about, including monotheism and so forth, but when you analyze their life as it is recorded in the Torah, Abraham and Sarah symbolized, more than anything else, the attribute of Chesed-kindness towards others. We are told that they fought for justice and equal rights for all, they helped anyone in need, fed the hungry, protected the vulnerable and on and on. Of course these traits have become the hallmark of the Jewish People ever since.

One of the oldest Jewish practices and traits of kindness is the Mitzvah of Hachnosas Orchim, opening our homes for guests. This practice too is traced all the way back to Abraham and Sarah. The Torah tells to what lengths they would go to open their hearts and home for guests. Even when Abraham was extremely weak he was there, together with Sarah, cooking up a storm for wayfarers who happen to pass by their home. They spared nothing. At one point they decided to open the first ‘bed and breakfast’ for any one in need, but with two differences; they served not only breakfast but lunch and dinner as well, and it was all free of charge.

This important character trait is so central to Judaism and Jewish life that we are told that “greater is hosting guests than even welcoming the Shchinah" (G-ds presence). And this too is derived from the story of Abraham. In the narrative, G-d comes to visit Abraham and while communicating with him, Abraham suddenly sees three strangers pass by. He asks G-d to excuse him while he invites those strangers into his home for a meal. G-d waits until Abraham is done feeding his guest and only then continues to converse with him. From this we see that hosting guests is more worthy and takes precedence even over welcoming G-d’s presence. Pretty amazing.

When I was growing up in Brooklyn, our home always had what we called ‘guest traffic’. There was not a weekend that went by in which our home did not have guest. Many times we had to move out of our rooms to make place for people who came to stay over for a Shabbos or holiday. I remember many a night when my bones got a good work out as there was nowhere for me to sleep but on the floor or on the kitchen chairs, or the time I ended up with 10 guests sleeping in my room, no exaggeration (I had a big room). We made no big deal of this. After all, if God can be put on hold, then certainly my comfortable night sleep can be put on hold.

It saddens me to see how this ideal is lost on many of us. We live in suburbia behind closed doors and gates, and it’s rare that we come in contact with strangers. The result is that this fantastic Jewish ideal is for many Jewish homes an almost nonexistent phenomenon. I’ve spoken to many fine people who have confided that their home never hosts a stranger. This is very sad. The result is that we are disconnected from strangers to the point where we stop paying attention to them. It hurts to admit, but i have been told by fellow Jews that they have visited Shuls for a daily minyan or for a Shabbos and that not one person approached them to even say hello, let alone find out who they are, or if they need an invite for Shabbos, or anything else. This is very disturbing. I believe this is the result of falling out of the habit of hosting guests on a steady basis or never having been in that habit to begin with.

So the next time you see someone sitting in shul who you do not know, please go over to them, welcome them, say hello, if you can, invite them to your home for a meal or for a Shabbos. If you need to move one of your children out of ‘their’ room, so be it. Besides the mitzvah and kind deed, it will make an invaluable impression on your children as they will be part of something incredibly important as well. One can start with Friday night meals and not necessarily with strangers. Invite a friend, someone you know. Get into the habit of hosting guests. It will transform yourselves and your children and you will be acting very Jewish at the same time. Abraham did it, Sarah did it and hundreds of generations of Jews did it. Let’s follow this old time honored tradition and open our hearts and homes to others. That is what a Jewish home looks like. A true Shabbos table is one where strangers are present.

Caring for strangers and doing acts of kindness for others is indeed the greatest Jewish Value.

We learned many great values from Abraham and Sarah; monotheism, circumcision, self-sacrifice and so on, but the most important Abrahamic value which became the Hallmark of the Jewish people is the value of Chesed/kindness towards others in all forms.

Open your hearts! Open your homes!

Shabbat Shalom.

 

"Time To Unpack"

This past month has been a very busy one as we all celebrated a marathon of holidays and did a whole lot of praying and cooking. A simple calculation has my wife producing a total of 600 meals cooked just for my family and guests during this past holiday season. No wonder she could not look at a pot, stove, oven or even get close to our kitchen in the past few days. The good news for the rest of my family is that tonight is Shabbos again and so unless I get a quick crash course in cooking, she might just have to find her way back to that part of our home again. I guess we will all lend a helping hand.

The past month and its saturated
spiritual energy are gone and now we move on to the next stage: sorting it all out. In Chabad there is a song about the Chassid who travels to his Rebbe for the month of the holidays and then comes back home. The song talks about the Chassid spending the month “purchasing” and filling up “suitcases” full of spiritual “merchandise” to last for a year. When he returns home after the holidays he spends the next few weeks “unpacking” and putting everything he “bought” in the right “closet”. This is true for every Jew.  When we leave the wonderful spiritual oasis of the holidays and “come back home” to real life we need to sort it all out. Did Rosh Hashanah and its Shofar blast really wake us up?

Did Yom Kippur and its theme of repentance truly change us? And if so, to what extent? Will the unity of Sukkot and the joy of Simchat Torah have lasting effects on us?

These questions and their answers are the business of the next days and weeks. We must make certain that we don’t lose the momentum and the newfound inspiration we all experienced over the past 30 days.
Otherwise, if we just let go of it all we will be left with little to remember and even less to hold onto in the coming year.

So now is the time to journey back home and to real life, to take something of this inspiration and hold onto it and develop it into something real. Find the right “closet” and “storage space” in your soul where it can affect your Jewishness in real and tangible ways. Otherwise the only thing we will have left is lots of calories and newfound chunks of belly fat to deal with. Not very inspiring.

This Shabbos we will begin reading the Torah anew beginning with the first portion ‘Bereishit’, as such it is a new beginning. There is an old Chassidic adage that says: “the way we set ourselves on Shabbos Bereishit that is how the entire year will go for us”.

This means that how one observes this Shabbos is an indication on how the rest of the year will be observed. This is because this Shabbos serves as
a bridge between the super charged Holy Days and the rest of the mundane year.

All of us are inspired on the great
 holidays of the past month, that is a given, the problem is that we go from such spiritual high’s right back into our un-spiritual mundane lives too quickly and forget that we were inspired.


For this we have Shabbos Bereishit:
on the one hand, this Shabbos is still part of the month of the Holidays and thus shares some of its holiness, but it is also a Shabbos that comes ‘after’ the holidays and is part of the ‘rest of the year’. Hence, it serves and the perfect bridge to help us transition from the greatest ‘high’ of Tishrei to the ‘low’ of the rest of the year. It is this transitional Shabbos that if observed properly, will have lasting effects. 

For us at Chabad of Weston, the past month has also been packed with action and activities for young and old. It was a month of learning, praying, eating, celebrating, shofar blasting, sukkah mobile’ing, Lulav shaking and so much more. After such a rich month of activity we plan to keep the inspiration going with more of the same albeit with different emphasis. Instead of the sound of a shofar you will hear the sound of Torah classes in abundance. Instead of dancing with the Torah we will dance to the music of children learning Hebrew and Jewish tradition. Instead of delicious meals in the Sukkah for hundreds of Jews, we will deliver delicious kosher meals to scores of patients and their families at Cleveland Clinic, and instead of and instead of somber Yom Kippur introspections we will begin planning the festive celebrations of Chanukah, Shabbatons and beyond.

“Unpack you Suitcases” and keep the inspiration going. Have a good Shabbat Bereishit.

 

The Life of Elul

 

This coming Wednesday, the 18th of Elul, is the birthday of The Baal Shemtov, founder of the Chassidic movement and of the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chassidism. These two giants and historic figures have changed the landscape of the Jewish People forever.

The Chassidic movement, and especially Chabad Chassidism, has revolutionized the way we understand G-d, Torah, the Jewish people and the world at large. Chassidic philosophy as taught by Rabbi Shneur Zalman and the subsequent Chabad Rebbes, has uncovered the inner dimension and soul of the Torah.

Everything is made up of a ‘body’ and a ‘soul’.  The body is the part that we see, observe with our flesh eyes and other senses. The ‘soul’ is that which lies beneath the surface concealed, but at the same time, is the life source and energy of the said being. The same is with G-d, Torah, Jews and the world. There is the part that we see or understand readily, which is the ‘body’, and then there is the inner dimension, the underlying truth and energy that animates and serves as the quintessence of things, the ‘soul’.

Let’s take Torah and its Mitzvot as an example. We have the mitzvah to blow the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah. The ‘body’ of this mitzvah would be the actual performance with all its details. What a shofar can be made of, how long it has to be, what kind of sounds must be heard etc. etc. The ‘soul’ of this mitzvah is the underlying spiritual energy that is accomplished by the blowing of the Shofar. We are told that when Jews blow the shofar G-d’s attribute of Malchut (kingship) of the highest world of Atzilut and even higher is being built. In simple words G-d’s kingdom and royalty is being established. (The details of this esoteric idea are beyond the scope of this article). And so it is with every mitzvah and word in the Torah. There is the body and the soul. Chassidus and Chabad Chassidus particularly elaborate in lengthy discourses on the soul of the world, Torah, Jews and G-d himself.

Judaism can be observed and studied without appreciating the soul behind it all but then it’s like a body without a soul. That would be lifeless.  The Baal Shemtov and the Alter Rebbe gave us the soul of the Torah, and in so doing breathed a new life into Torah, Judaism and the Jewish People. It is safe to say that the Chassidic revolution was so successful that all of Jewish thought and observance is influenced by its teachings.

There is a Chassidic saying that Chai (18) Elul brought chai, life, into Elul. Elul, the last month of the year, is the time to return to G-d and better our ways in preparation for the High Holidays. Before Chassidism, Elul was observed with dread, fear and anxiety as Jews trembled in anticipation for the Day of Judgment when G-d will sit on his throne and judge each of us to see whether or not we are deserving of a year of life and sustenance. Preachers would go around during this month and deliver speeches of fire and brimstone and warn simple Jews of the dreadfulness of the days of awe. The Chassidic Elul is a very different experience. Elul is in fact a time of grace. A time when G-d is much closer and more accessible. G-d accepts each of us with a smile helping us turn to him and become even closer. Elul is actually a happy month. It’s a time when our souls feel its natural connection with G-d as a child feels his or her parent. G-d too feels a deep connection to His children and looks for ways to inspire us to enhance the relationship so that he can grant us what we need on Rosh Hashanah. Why would one feel scared in a month like that? Yes, there is awe and humility because of the distance we caused by our negative behavior throughout the year, but great optimism that on Rosh Hashanah our father will bring us back in to his loving embrace and grant us all everything we need. But this positive twist is due to a deeper ‘soul’ understanding of Elul and Rosh Hashanah, hence Chai Elul (the birthdays of the Baal Shemtov and Alter Rebbe) brought ‘life’ into Elul.

May we all be inspired and be blessed with a life filled Elul which will lead to a life filled High Holidays and to a year filled with life, sustenance and blessings for all.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson , OBM

This Saturday, the third of Tamuz, marks the 25th anniversary of the Yahrtzeit of The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson of blessed memory. As my fingers type these words I cannot help but wonder how any one article can do justice to this giant of our times.

 

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 that 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 our dear Rebbe. For 30 years he would spend three nights a week often times till dawn, meeting Jews from all walks of life, listening and tending to their needs and problems, giving advice and council to tens of thousands of Jews who came to meet him. When that was no longer possible he began, since 1986, meeting 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. This is unprecedented in Jewish or any other history. It’s no wonder that even after 25 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 after all these years there are still thousands upon thousands of books, biographies, videos and articles being published about the Rebbe’s life and his teachings. Just last month a new book about the Rebbe’s unique approach to social issues has been published. Millions of people want to learn about this incredible leader and the number grows with time, which brings me to one final, and maybe the most important, point.

The Zohar says that real tzadikim 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. 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 25 years. Many hundreds of young couples whom never even saw the Rebbe, are dedicating 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 in a real way. The Ohel, or resting place, of the Rebbe is a place where millions of Jews come to or write letters to for blessings. I know firsthand that these requests are being answered in a most wondrous way. 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.

I would like to suggest that on, or before the Yahrtzeit, (on friday or on Saturday night) you should write to the Rebbe, the leader of our time, and make that connection. It is real.

The Talmud says about Jacob our patriarch that he never died and explains, “Just as his children are alive, he too is alive”. The way I understand those words is: Because Jacob is alive that is why his children are alive. To those wondering how it is that the Chabad has so proliferated over the past two decades, it is said: Because the Rebbe is alive that’s why his children are alive. May this day inspire us to live more Jewishly and may it bring blessing to all of the Jewish people.

Shabbat Shalom

Mrs. Pearl Lazarus, OBM. A lesson in Love and Commitment

How often do you hear the phrase “oy, I miss the good old days” or “if only we can bring back the fifties and sixties”. I was not around during those decades to remember much, but often times I do identify with those sentiments. While I try not to live in the past and instead try to make my present meaningful and long lasting, there is obviously so much we can learn from our parents and grandparent’s generation.

It is interesting that while our elders rely on our generation more and more for modern technological developments which makes our and their lives so much more convenient, we find ourselves having to rely on their generation more and more for basic human behavior and morals and ethical truths. It seems as though the more we develop technologically, the more we lose touch with our inner souls and core values. Maybe physical comforts and the spiritual ethical lifestyle are like a seesaw. When one side is up the other is down and vise versa. Does it really have to be this way? The Torah of course says no. One can have all the comforts in the world [after all G-d created all of it] and at the same time be a good moral and ethical human being. But for that we must keep in touch with the “fifties and sixties” or whatever decade of the past you choose. We need to be anchored in the values that were so obvious to our elders and for some reason got lost on our youth.

Let’s take marriage as an example. In the past, marriage was treated as something sacred. It was a sacred commitment. A sacred union. Our parents fought to stay married and at all costs. Divorce was out of the question. It was entertained in such extreme cases that it was almost unheard of especially amongst Jews. I know that some say many couples were trapped in miserable marriages as a result, but the truth is that even if that were true [and I am sure it was in some instances (by the way, much less then you are led to believe)], it only emphasizes how the institution of marriage was treated. You married your soulmate and that was it. As a result, deep love and commitment was palpable. Absolute devotion to one’s spouse was commonplace. Compare that to today’s attitudes. The numbers are well known. Over 50 percent divorce rate. So many people see marriage and the commitment to a spouse like to a leased car. When you reach 36,000 miles and the headaches begin, you change it in for a new one. This is a catastrophe of enormous proportion. Probably the single greatest cause for the problems with our youth, and those problems do not go away when they become adults. When you sum it all up, we are dealing with over 60 percent of society who have no idea what proper family life looks like. How can we not “miss the good old days”.

Wednesday night a very dear friend of Chabad of Weston passed away. Mrs. Pearl Lazarus. I met Pearl about 24 years ago. She was special in so many ways, but I want to point out just one of them. I am sure that she and her husband, may he be well, will not know what I am talking about. In their minds there is nothing unique about it but in today’s day and age, it is very unique and special. I refer to their marriage.  Theirs was the paradigmatic marriage. They loved each other to no end and that led to an absolute commitment they had to each other. For over 60 years they knew one thing. That they are bashert and they are one. They cared for each other in ways that leave the observer in awe and in wonderment. Even as their health began to decline and deep into their ninth decade of life they remained completely and utterly devoted to each other. Even as she lied in bed Wallace would read the newspaper to his Pearl every day even though he was not sure if she was able to hear and understand what he was reading. He took care of her to the last day with so much love. This was the Lazarus way. There was no if, what’s or buts about it, and of course it was mutual. The funny thing is, that if I told Wallace and Pearl Lazarus how special they were and how in awe I am at their commitment to each other, they would not understand what I was talking about. What to us is so inspiring is to them regular every day thinking. This world is a better place after 89 years of Pearl Lazarus of Blessed Memory. It would be great if our hip and sophisticated young couples can look to this gleaming Pearl and her husband and learn a thing or two from them.

May her memory be a blessing for her family and all of us.

Good Shabbos.

Poway: From Darkness to Light

Once again America has been shaken by another horrific shooting last Saturday at the Chabad Center in Poway. Once again, it’s a young teenager who, we are told, had everything going for him and was destined to a glorious future and no one who knew him can believe he did this. Once again, innocent life was cut short and others wounded in this senseless act of anti-Semitism. Once again the pundits, Media professionals, Politicians, psychologists, Radio and TV hosts and syndicated writers all over the fruited plain are busy analyzing the brain and mentality of John Earnest and are trying to figure out what got into him. I am sure the ‘professionals’ have this killer’s profile all spelled out and can tell us exactly when and why he went off the deep end.  

I am sorry my friends; the question is not what got into him but rather what did not get into him.

What unfortunately did not get into him and so many other young Americans is the simple truth that there is a G-d who created the world and every human being in it in his image.

What did not get into him is that there is a higher authority who created both, Lori Kaye and John Earnest, for a purpose and that G-d needed them to live here on earth as free people with a mission to fulfill.

What did not get into him was that life has meaning and value and that the world is not a jungle.

What did not get into him was that skin color and ethnicity is irrelevant to G-d. We are all created with a unique soul and He needs every one of us without exception to do our part in making this world a place where G-d can feel at home.

How unfortunate it is that these simple truths did not make their way into this monster’s consciousness.

The question is why? Why does the obvious not make it into the thought process of our youth?

The Heroic Rabbi of Chabad of Poway, Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, gave the answer to millions who watched him and listened to him. But first a few words on this incredible human being. If you tuned in to him over the past few days you saw a Jew, whose soul is on fire. You saw an emissary of G-d inspiring millions from his hospital bed to stand tall and turn darkness into light. You saw a man who without his index fingers pointed towards G-d and helped millions rediscover those above mentioned truths. What a Jew. What a Chassid. What a Shliach (emissary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe). He is the envy of so many fellow religious leaders. No one envies the ordeal he experienced, but perhaps many envy the emergence of a wholesome soul who rose to the occasion and proved to the world that G-d lives, Judaism lives, Chassidism lives and basic human dignity lives.

Rabbi Goldstein was invited yesterday to attend the national day of Prayer held on the White House lawn during which President Trump asked him to speak. The rabbi spoke so eloquently about the past week, how it changed his life for the good and what it all meant to him. Then he spoke about the youth in American and what we need to do to really stem this kind of violence. He said that we have to get back to basics. He implored and spoke about a Moment of Silence in our public school system. That every school day should begin with a Moment of Silence when every child can contemplate life, meaning, purpose and who created them and why. Can you imagine the impact that would have on our youth? This is not a one-time thing. We are talking about every single day for sixty seconds. The parents (not teachers) are the ones who will tell the children what to think about. This is the only real way to change the consciousness of our youth, set them on a path of morality and basic decent behavior and give them a healthy moral compass with which they can navigate and live lives of meaning and purpose.

I know that some of you think this might be trivial. Believe me it is not. This one moment will change the tide. The fact is that millions of children and teens go through years of their life without thinking about G-d at all. It’s sad but true nonetheless. We need to change that. Our founding fathers envisioned a society who would be G-d conscious. They understood that without G-d America will become a jungle. Indeed, it sometimes feels like we are living in a jungle. Last Saturday morning was one such moment. Ever since, Rabbi Goldstein has been transforming the jungle into a home for
G-d.

If only America listened to him.

The problem with John Earnest is not “what got into him” but “what did not get into him”.

Let’s make sure he is the last killer. Adapt the Moment of Silence.

Shabbat Shalom.

As you might have heard, Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein of Chabad of Poway, has urged Jews all over the world to attend Shul services this Shabbat. The Jewish response to such evil and darkness has always been to add more light and goodness. Let us all unite with millions of other Jews around the world and fill our synagogues this Shabbat.  I received this poem and am sharing it with you, as it so powerfully captures the mood, the moment and the call to action to which we must all respond.

 

 

And wherever you are : Go To Shul !

 

Rabbi Yisroel Spalter
------------------------------
-----------------------------

Written by Blumie Raskin Abend

This week
I will go to Shul.
For Lori Kaye,
A woman in 2019 who died
Because she was born
A Jew.

I will go to Shul
For my grandfather
Who survived the hellish nightmare
That was Auschwitz
But who’s family
I never knew.

I will go to Shul
For Eva, the instagram poster
Who wanted to live
Who wanted to be a child
But her youth
Was ripped away from her.

I will go to Shul
For Gabi and Rivky Holzberg
Who were murdered
In cold blood
In their home.

I will go to Shul
For baby Shalhevet
The child of Chevron
Who barely lived on this earth
And now occupies a place
On High.

I will go to Shul
For my grandmother
Who’s parents died of starvation
Under Stalin’s rule
Who survived by the skin of her teeth
Through Russian orphanages
And cruel dictatorship.

I will go to Shul
For the Six Million.
I will go to Shul
For the Israeli soldiers.
I will go to Shul
For the Russian progroms.
I will go to Shul
For the Roman massacres.

I will go to Shul
For the heroes of
The Spanish Inquisition.
I will go to Shul
For the Jews sent to Siberia
I will go to Shul
For the Babylonian exile.

I will go to Shul
For my children.
I will go to Shul
For your grandchildren.
I will go to Shul
Even though I can’t help but feel
A tiny bit afraid.

I will go to Shul
To show them we are strong
We are brave.
We are not the people
Who cowered in fear.

This week
I will go to Shul
Because I am a Jew.
Will you

 

Miracles Month

Wouldn’t it be great if G-d would perform miracles for us today as He did for our ancestors in the distant past? I get this question all the time. There are two ways of answering this:

1) Why do we want miracles? Miracles are wonderful displays of G-d’s strength, but they do very little for those who experience them. Take for example the Jews in the desert during the times of Moses. Miracles were everywhere. Did it change them? Did they not rebel against G-d and Moses again and again despite the miracles? Sure, it is exciting to see a sea split and water turn into blood, and it might even have a short term effect on the observers, but in terms of having long lasting effects? Nothing. Nada. The Jews worshipped a golden calf just after witnessing the greatest miracles of all time; the exodus from Egypt, the splitting of the sea, the daily Manna, and most importantly, the revelation of G-d himself at Mount Sinai. So do miracles really change anyone for real and create more committed Jews? I am not sure.

What is even more important to ponder is this: why do we even want miracles to happen? Is it so that we can be one hundred percent sure that G-d really does exist? That would mean that G-d would need to prove His existence for every generation, say every 50-100 years. Because a miracle that my great grandfather experienced would convince him, but would it convince his great grandchild? Perhaps not. And, if the only way to convince us, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that G-d really exists is by Him showing His omnipotence and His ability to alter nature, then He would need to do something grandiose for every generation or two so that they too have no doubts. That is a very immature way to get people to believe in G-d’s existence. G-d expects mankind to mature up and reach a point where His existence and relevance are absolute and unshakable with or without Him having to prove himself all the time. Perhaps we should stop asking for miracles unless we really need them. For example, I have been praying that G-d perform a miracle for my friend who is battling cancer and can use G-d’s supernatural powers to heal him, may he be well and recover quickly. But I am not asking for this miracle in order to convince me of His existence. For that I do not need miracles. Miracles should not be a crutch that keeps our spiritual balance. Over three thousand years of Jewish existence, tradition and Jewish scholarship are enough to convince anyone of the existence of G-d.

2) Miracles do happen and they happen all the time. This past week began the Hebrew month of Nissan. Our sages tell us that the first of Nissan, the month in which Passover falls, is also a Rosh Hashanah of sorts. They explain that the Rosh Hashanah in Tishrei (September) is the New Year for the natural order. Then the world is judged and it is decided whether we will enjoy nature’s gifts of life, health, livelihood and all the rest. Nissan, on the other hand, is the New Year for a higher miraculous order. It is during this time that a higher supernatural energy is revealed; an energy that is the source of all the daily miracles which occur. So yes, miracles do indeed occur, and they are meant to strengthen us and bring greater blessings into our life. They happen either because we deserve them or because we are in need of a miracle and G-d, our loving Father, makes it happen even if we are undeserving.

If you are in need of some supernatural energy in your life, i.e. a miracle, this is the month to tap into this energy and make it happen. Can one of your children use a miracle? Is your business and livelihood in need of some supernatural intervention? Is someone in the family not well and in need of a miraculous recovery? Nissan (this month) and especially during Pesach we can all make that happen. This is for real. I hope and pray that none of us should ever need miracles, but we should be good vessels to receive them nonetheless. We should be blessed with a year full of miraculous supernatural blessings from G-d for ourselves and our families for life, health, Nachas, good livelihood, both materially and spiritually.

 

Shabbat Shalom

 

Miracles Month

Wouldn’t it be great if G-d would perform miracles for us today as He did for our ancestors in the distant past? I get this question all the time. There are two ways of answering this:

1) Why do we want miracles? Miracles are wonderful displays of G-d’s strength, but they do very little for those who experience them. Take for example the Jews in the desert during the times of Moses. Miracles were everywhere. Did it change them? Did they not rebel against G-d and Moses again and again despite the miracles? Sure, it is exciting to see a sea split and water turn into blood, and it might even have a short term effect on the observers, but in terms of having long lasting effects? Nothing. Nada. The Jews worshipped a golden calf just after witnessing the greatest miracles of all time; the exodus from Egypt, the splitting of the sea, the daily Manna, and most importantly, the revelation of G-d himself at Mount Sinai. So do miracles really change anyone for real and create more committed Jews? I am not sure.

What is even more important to ponder is this: why do we even want miracles to happen? Is it so that we can be one hundred percent sure that G-d really does exist? That would mean that G-d would need to prove His existence for every generation, say every 50-100 years. Because a miracle that my great grandfather experienced would convince him, but would it convince his great grandchild? Perhaps not. And, if the only way to convince us, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that G-d really exists is by Him showing His omnipotence and His ability to alter nature, then He would need to do something grandiose for every generation or two so that they too have no doubts. That is a very immature way to get people to believe in G-d’s existence. G-d expects mankind to mature up and reach a point where His existence and relevance are absolute and unshakable with or without Him having to prove himself all the time. Perhaps we should stop asking for miracles unless we really need them. For example, I have been praying that G-d perform a miracle for my friend who is battling cancer and can use G-d’s supernatural powers to heal him, may he be well and recover quickly. But I am not asking for this miracle in order to convince me of His existence. For that I do not need miracles. Miracles should not be a crutch that keeps our spiritual balance. Over three thousand years of Jewish existence, tradition and Jewish scholarship are enough to convince anyone of the existence of G-d.

2) Miracles do happen and they happen all the time. This past week began the Hebrew month of Nissan. Our sages tell us that the first of Nissan, the month in which Passover falls, is also a Rosh Hashanah of sorts. They explain that the Rosh Hashanah in Tishrei (September) is the New Year for the natural order. Then the world is judged and it is decided whether we will enjoy nature’s gifts of life, health, livelihood and all the rest. Nissan, on the other hand, is the New Year for a higher miraculous order. It is during this time that a higher supernatural energy is revealed; an energy that is the source of all the daily miracles which occur. So yes, miracles do indeed occur, and they are meant to strengthen us and bring greater blessings into our life. They happen either because we deserve them or because we are in need of a miracle and G-d, our loving Father, makes it happen even if we are undeserving.

If you are in need of some supernatural energy in your life, i.e. a miracle, this is the month to tap into this energy and make it happen. Can one of your children use a miracle? Is your business and livelihood in need of some supernatural intervention? Is someone in the family not well and in need of a miraculous recovery? Nissan (this month) and especially during Pesach we can all make that happen. This is for real. I hope and pray that none of us should ever need miracles, but we should be good vessels to receive them nonetheless. We should be blessed with a year full of miraculous supernatural blessings from G-d for ourselves and our families for life, health, Nachas, good livelihood, both materially and spiritually.

 

Shabbat Shalom

 

Miracles Month

Wouldn’t it be great if G-d would perform miracles for us today as He did for our ancestors in the distant past? I get this question all the time. There are two ways of answering this:

1) Why do we want miracles? Miracles are wonderful displays of G-d’s strength, but they do very little for those who experience them. Take for example the Jews in the desert during the times of Moses. Miracles were everywhere. Did it change them? Did they not rebel against G-d and Moses again and again despite the miracles? Sure, it is exciting to see a sea split and water turn into blood, and it might even have a short term effect on the observers, but in terms of having long lasting effects? Nothing. Nada. The Jews worshipped a golden calf just after witnessing the greatest miracles of all time; the exodus from Egypt, the splitting of the sea, the daily Manna, and most importantly, the revelation of G-d himself at Mount Sinai. So do miracles really change anyone for real and create more committed Jews? I am not sure.

What is even more important to ponder is this: why do we even want miracles to happen? Is it so that we can be one hundred percent sure that G-d really does exist? That would mean that G-d would need to prove His existence for every generation, say every 50-100 years. Because a miracle that my great grandfather experienced would convince him, but would it convince his great grandchild? Perhaps not. And, if the only way to convince us, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that G-d really exists is by Him showing His omnipotence and His ability to alter nature, then He would need to do something grandiose for every generation or two so that they too have no doubts. That is a very immature way to get people to believe in G-d’s existence. G-d expects mankind to mature up and reach a point where His existence and relevance are absolute and unshakable with or without Him having to prove himself all the time. Perhaps we should stop asking for miracles unless we really need them. For example, I have been praying that G-d perform a miracle for my friend who is battling cancer and can use G-d’s supernatural powers to heal him, may he be well and recover quickly. But I am not asking for this miracle in order to convince me of His existence. For that I do not need miracles. Miracles should not be a crutch that keeps our spiritual balance. Over three thousand years of Jewish existence, tradition and Jewish scholarship are enough to convince anyone of the existence of G-d.

2) Miracles do happen and they happen all the time. This past week began the Hebrew month of Nissan. Our sages tell us that the first of Nissan, the month in which Passover falls, is also a Rosh Hashanah of sorts. They explain that the Rosh Hashanah in Tishrei (September) is the New Year for the natural order. Then the world is judged and it is decided whether we will enjoy nature’s gifts of life, health, livelihood and all the rest. Nissan, on the other hand, is the New Year for a higher miraculous order. It is during this time that a higher supernatural energy is revealed; an energy that is the source of all the daily miracles which occur. So yes, miracles do indeed occur, and they are meant to strengthen us and bring greater blessings into our life. They happen either because we deserve them or because we are in need of a miracle and G-d, our loving Father, makes it happen even if we are undeserving.

If you are in need of some supernatural energy in your life, i.e. a miracle, this is the month to tap into this energy and make it happen. Can one of your children use a miracle? Is your business and livelihood in need of some supernatural intervention? Is someone in the family not well and in need of a miraculous recovery? Nissan (this month) and especially during Pesach we can all make that happen. This is for real. I hope and pray that none of us should ever need miracles, but we should be good vessels to receive them nonetheless. We should be blessed with a year full of miraculous supernatural blessings from G-d for ourselves and our families for life, health, Nachas, good livelihood, both materially and spiritually.

 

Shabbat Shalom

 

Miracles Month

Wouldn’t it be great if G-d would perform miracles for us today as He did for our ancestors in the distant past? I get this question all the time. There are two ways of answering this:

1) Why do we want miracles? Miracles are wonderful displays of G-d’s strength, but they do very little for those who experience them. Take for example the Jews in the desert during the times of Moses. Miracles were everywhere. Did it change them? Did they not rebel against G-d and Moses again and again despite the miracles? Sure, it is exciting to see a sea split and water turn into blood, and it might even have a short term effect on the observers, but in terms of having long lasting effects? Nothing. Nada. The Jews worshipped a golden calf just after witnessing the greatest miracles of all time; the exodus from Egypt, the splitting of the sea, the daily Manna, and most importantly, the revelation of G-d himself at Mount Sinai. So do miracles really change anyone for real and create more committed Jews? I am not sure.

What is even more important to ponder is this: why do we even want miracles to happen? Is it so that we can be one hundred percent sure that G-d really does exist? That would mean that G-d would need to prove His existence for every generation, say every 50-100 years. Because a miracle that my great grandfather experienced would convince him, but would it convince his great grandchild? Perhaps not. And, if the only way to convince us, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that G-d really exists is by Him showing His omnipotence and His ability to alter nature, then He would need to do something grandiose for every generation or two so that they too have no doubts. That is a very immature way to get people to believe in G-d’s existence. G-d expects mankind to mature up and reach a point where His existence and relevance are absolute and unshakable with or without Him having to prove himself all the time. Perhaps we should stop asking for miracles unless we really need them. For example, I have been praying that G-d perform a miracle for my friend who is battling cancer and can use G-d’s supernatural powers to heal him, may he be well and recover quickly. But I am not asking for this miracle in order to convince me of His existence. For that I do not need miracles. Miracles should not be a crutch that keeps our spiritual balance. Over three thousand years of Jewish existence, tradition and Jewish scholarship are enough to convince anyone of the existence of G-d.

2) Miracles do happen and they happen all the time. This past week began the Hebrew month of Nissan. Our sages tell us that the first of Nissan, the month in which Passover falls, is also a Rosh Hashanah of sorts. They explain that the Rosh Hashanah in Tishrei (September) is the New Year for the natural order. Then the world is judged and it is decided whether we will enjoy nature’s gifts of life, health, livelihood and all the rest. Nissan, on the other hand, is the New Year for a higher miraculous order. It is during this time that a higher supernatural energy is revealed; an energy that is the source of all the daily miracles which occur. So yes, miracles do indeed occur, and they are meant to strengthen us and bring greater blessings into our life. They happen either because we deserve them or because we are in need of a miracle and G-d, our loving Father, makes it happen even if we are undeserving.

If you are in need of some supernatural energy in your life, i.e. a miracle, this is the month to tap into this energy and make it happen. Can one of your children use a miracle? Is your business and livelihood in need of some supernatural intervention? Is someone in the family not well and in need of a miraculous recovery? Nissan (this month) and especially during Pesach we can all make that happen. This is for real. I hope and pray that none of us should ever need miracles, but we should be good vessels to receive them nonetheless. We should be blessed with a year full of miraculous supernatural blessings from G-d for ourselves and our families for life, health, Nachas, good livelihood, both materially and spiritually.

 

Shabbat Shalom

 

Amalek Then and Now

This Shabbos, known as Shabbat Zachor, Jews in synagogues around the world will read a special additional Torah reading. We will read about the commandment to erase the memory of Amalek. Amalek was the nation who attacked the Jewish People after they crossed the sea of reeds following the Exodus from Egypt. Amalek was not the first or the last to inflict harm on the Jewish people. Yet we are commanded to erase the memory of specifically this one nation, not Egypt, Edom, Moav, Midian, Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, Greece etc. all of whom attacked and fought the Jewish people. What was so unique about Amalek that so angered G-d to the point where He considers their existence an affront to Him and His name?

Our Sages explain it this way: The Exodus and the crossing of the sea were watershed events in world history. The miracles associated with the ten plagues and the splitting of the sea were a magnificent display of G-d’s love for the Jewish people. The Torah tells us that following these miracles and the downfall of Egypt, “All the dwellers of Canaan trembled and their hearts melted in fear of the Jewish People”. Everyone was scared of the Jewish People. They simply would not consider getting close, let alone attack or go to war against the Jews. “Anti-Semitism” became unpopular. The nations all respected the Jewish people and understood that G-d was on their side and the idea of going to war against the Jews was unthinkable. That all changed with Amalek. They were the first to attack and show the world that the Jews are not untouchable. The Amalekites were defeated but the “can of worms” was opened and Anti-Jewish sentiment was once again fashionable. It was Amalek who “cooled” off the nations who were too afraid to get close to the Jews for fear of getting “burned” like the Egyptians and their leader Pharaoh.

On the Shabbat before Purim we read about Amalek and of the Mitzvah to remember what Amalek did.  [Haman of the Purim story was a descendent of Amalek]. As I always tell my congregants, the Torah is not some ancient book with stories of the past. The Torah and everything in it must be relevant to our daily lives even in 2019 and every line, verse and chapter has morals and lessons for our daily lives. The story of Amalek is no exception. The nation of Amalek may not be here physically anymore but boy-o-boy is the idea of Amalek still, sadly, alive and well, and it seems made its way into our House of Representatives. Over the past couple of months, we continue to hear from some freshmen members of the House statements about Jews that we thought were long gone from the lexicon and thought process of decent people, especially from people who serve in the government of the most enlightened and decent country on earth. Rep. Ilhan Omar keeps reminding us that anti-Semitism is a consistent current that flows throughout history. Rep. Omar is bothered by the “power of Jews to hypnotize the world” or “their money controlling American policy” or “their allegiance to a foreign country”. She, like every anti-Semite before her, cannot make up her mind why she hates us. We are too powerful, too powerless, too capitalist, too socialist, too controlling, too different, too whatever. The excuse changes but the hatred does not. What is so concerning about her and her ilk is that if this goes unchecked I fear this can become more and more accepted thinking and worst of all, it can begin to shape policy. She and a few others are now the ‘proud’ representatives of the BDS movement in congress. Who knows where this ends.

After World War II anti-Semitism became unfashionable. Even Germany passed laws which protected Jews against anti-Semitism and punished those who were of that mind set. To be sure, there still were many anti-Semites, but they were out laws, out casts and no one to be taken serious. It seemed that the world and its governments had learned the lessons of Hitler and what happens when such people are allowed to come to power. For 70 years many nations, especially the United States were on the lookout and protected Israel and Jews from the ills of bad people who still harbored anti-Jewish sentiment. But like back then in the days of Moses, there is always an ‘Amalek’ who is ready to make Jewish Hatred fashionable again. What makes Rep. Ilhan Omar and co. so dangerous is the fact that she is not the KKK or Neo-Nazis etc. who are seen for what they are and are not taken seriously by anyone. Her hatred of Jews is explained away; ‘She did not mean this’ and ‘she did not mean that’ and slowly but surely the ugly heads of other anti-Semites, who know exactly what she means, are able to feed off of her and her status as a member of congress. I have no illusions that she will change her ways, but I do hope the leadership in congress will grab a hold of itself and stop this this cancer from spreading and will “erase the memory of Amalek” from its committees, from any influence and hopefully very soon from congress itself.

Here is the good news; the Haman’s of the world have tried to destroy the Jewish people and their homeland many times in the past and with the help of G-d we have always been victorious. I have no doubt that Israel and the Jewish people will triumph once again over our modern day Haman and we will be blessed with a joyous Purim and a joyous eternity.

Shabbat Shalom and a very Happy Purim to all.

Are You Happy?

Our sages instruct us that “Mishe’nichnas Adar Marbim Bi’simcha” when the month of Adar begins, we increase in our joy. Being that the month of Adar began this past Tuesday, we must look for ways to increase our joy.

The language the rabbi’s use is: in the month of Adar we should ‘increase’ our joy. This means that they take for granted that we are already joyous as it is, only that in this month we need to just ‘increase’ it. Is this indeed the case? Are most people happy? The statisticians have us believe that this is the unhappiest generation of all time and I for one believe that they are right. Half of our families are broken; the other half are also reporting high levels of anxiety and many other serious psychological problems with our youth etc. and the question is why? Why are we so unhappy? One would think that a generation such as ours would be the happiest. After all, there has never been a generation that had as much as we do. In addition, we are the most educated generation ever. Most High School graduates continue on to higher education, something our ancestors could never afford to do. Communication is at an all-time high. I remember when I went to study abroad, (in the early eighties when I was fourteen years old) I would only receive a phone call from my parents twice a month. Beyond that, I had to write letters and send them by regular mail (sounds like ancient history). Today, my children who are abroad sometimes call me three times a day and they can Skype with us if they want. Distances hardly separate anyone these days. Yet with all we have and all we possess, the fact remains that we are less happy than ever before.

In a conversation I was having with a woman this week, she shared with me how concerned and worried she was about everything that is going on in our society these days, I told her that she is not alone. There is indeed a lot to be concerned about. Watching television is very depressing. We see a world that has gone mad and no one really knows what to do about it. The New York legislature gave themselves a standing ovation for making third term abortions easier. Virginia and its governor are talking about doing the same and are even suggesting allowing abortion to happen at birth G-d forbid. All this in the name of women’s health and a woman’s right to choose. (A right to choose what? To end the life of someone else?) Our leadership is nowhere to be found or heard. Anti-Semitism is on the rise and has reached frightening levels with Jews being targeted all over the world and especially in Israel. Just this morning Israel buried a 19-year-old singer who was murdered after being mutilated and tortured in a most horrific way. The anti-Semitic BDS movement and its supporters (now even in the US congress) are on a mission to destroy Israel, and there are very few voices out there that can give us some comfort and strength. In this kind of environment, can one be happy at all, let alone increase our happiness?

If we want to be happy and even add in our joy, we first need to understand what happiness is and where is comes from. Happiness results when our inner self and outer self are in sync. We are all made up of body and soul. Our body is the outer self while the soul is our inner self. When those two elements of the human being are in sync, the person will be a happy one. What makes us unhappy is when our outer lives are not in line with our inner selves. When a Jew has a good job, is well educated, eats healthy, goes on fun vacations, lives in his/her dream home and has everything else imaginable, but for whatever reason completely neglects his or her soul’s needs, the result is unhappiness. In that case, the outer self is well pampered, but is not at all in sync with the soul which is not being tended to. The body’s successes do not talk to the souls needs at all. This is a life that is not well aligned and it is only a matter of time that the person or perhaps his/her children will begin to feel the misalignment. The same is true for a person who is extremely soul oriented, but completely neglects the body. This too is not a life well aligned and will result in unhappiness. Happiness is the result of the soul and body working together. When the body’s successes are employed to further the soul’s passions, the result is unbounding joy.

Our ancestors might not have had as much as we do, but their lives were aligned far better and were therefore much happier. The world they lived in was not the Garden of Eden and they had many problems, but they were happy because their own lives were aligned well. We might have much more and we may know much more, but those advantages will not necessarily lead to happy lives if we don’t sync our inner and outer selves.

In the month of Adar, when the story of Purim happened, we are able to not only be happy, but increase our happiness. On Purim, we read of how the Jews realigned their inner and outer selves in a most fantastic way. The story is about repentance, closeness to G-d, commitment to Torah (the inner self) and saving of the Jewish people from physical extinction (the outer self) … hence the increased level of joy and happiness we experience during this month.

A happy Adar and a most joyous Shabbos to all.

 

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