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The Rabbi's Blog

A Message from Rabbi Spalter

The National Day of Mourning

Sunday is Tisha B'av, the National Day of Mourning. Jews have mourned throughout our history on both a national and personal level, with intense sorrow for the losses of our past but with a determined belief in a brighter future. In the summer of 2001, two Jewish teenagers were hiking near their homes in the West Bank when they were stoned to death by Palestinian terrorists. A few months later, Daniel Pearl, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, was kidnapped and murdered in Karachi, Pakistan; his last words: "My father's Jewish, my mother's Jewish, I'm Jewish." Join us on Saturday night at 9:30 PM (evening services at 9:10 PM)  for an emotionally-gripping 45-minute film featuring heart-wrenching stories of the valiant parents - Ruth and Judea Pearl and Sherri Mandell - whose children's lives were claimed by terror, and their inspiring responses to their horrific experiences. The documentary also follows the lives of two of the youngest survivors of Auschwitz and Buchenwald who emerged from the darkness and transformed the Jewish landscape.

Tisha B'av Schedule:

Shabbat Afternoon Mincha: after the Kiddush.

Fast Begins: 8:12 PM. Shabbat Ends: 8:50 PM.

Maariv and EIcha: 9:10 PM.

Film at 9:30 PM

Sunday Shachrit: 9:00 AM.

Mincha (with Talit and Tefillin): 7:15 PM. Fast Ends: 8:42 PM. 

Parenting is a central theme of the season of Tisha B'Av. A Chassidic parable describes a father who gave his son a suit to wear, only to have the son recklessly ruin it. After replacing the suit, the scene repeated itself. Father procured a third suit, but before giving it to his son he merely showed it to him every so often in order to "train" him into appreciating it, so that this final gift would endure. That's what this Shabbat before Tisha B'av is about - yes, we mourn the destruction of the first 2 Temples, but our Father in Heaven now gives us the capacity to imagine a Third Temple which will be the focal point of our world's eternal era of peace.

To mark this "season" of Parenting, we're delighted to announce the upcoming broadcast of a new WhatsApp series by Jewish Educational Media: "Parenting - The Rebbe's Advice". The series will begin this Monday, 7/27, 11 Av, and run for ten days. Each day’s clip will feature advice or an approach from the Rebbe illuminating this hugely important issue. Some of the highlights to look forward to:

• The best approach for a child having minor behavioral problems in school
• A parent’s primary job
• The effect of parents’ behavior at home on children
• Tips for families that don’t get to spend much time together
• The way of ensuring what you teach your children penetrates
• How to avoid losing your temper with your children 

To subscribe, 1) just add the number  +17187746000 to your phone’s contacts. And 2) send a WhatsApp message to that number with the word “Subscribe” and your preferred language. That’s all!

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and an easy fast


A Time to Reduce in Your Joy?

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 (loosely translated as luck) for the Jewish people. Our sages even go a step further and instruct that “when the month of Av begins we reduce in our joyfulness”. 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 life in general. 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 Rabbi’s mean when they instruct us to “reduce 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 a 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 then 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 reduce (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, but 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 refrain from those external stimulants of joy and instead to find a more internal cause for being happy. In 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 music and new purchases 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 that kind 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. 

Breaching the Walls

This Shabbos, the seventeenth of Tamuz, commemorates the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem during the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. It was inevitable that once the walls were breached the temple was going to be destroyed and indeed three short weeks later the pagans burned our Holy temple, destroyed it and forced the Jews into this long two thousand year exile. On this day we fast from morning to night (this year the fast is delayed to Sunday in honor of the Shabbos when fasting is prohibited). Our sages tell us that Jewish Holidays are not just times when we remember something that happened in the past, but times when the original event is happening in real time all over again at least in a spiritual sense. We must therefore examine what the seventeenth of Tamuz means today and what relevance it has on our daily lives. What Temples we have today and what walls might be breached for which we must fast. 

Over the past week I have received dozens of calls and emails from people I know, asking me for my opinion on the latest Supreme Court ruling regarding same sex marriage. Although I am pretty certain that those who wrote and called probably know my opinion on the matter and there is no need to state the obvious, however the issue of marriage has been occupying my mind as a result and a few words on the issue are in place.

There is no question that our society is undergoing serious cultural changes. In truth these shifts have been happening for over half a century already and this ruling is just another major step in that direction. And this is true not only with marriage and same sex unions but in almost all areas of life. If we want to really understand the trends in society, we need to go back and see where the first ‘breaches’ took place. Religious Jews and peoples of all faith are all up in arms over this Supreme Court decision and for good reason. They say “it endangers traditional marriage”, but in all honesty is traditional marriage in danger only now? Let us analyze the mere statistics and a very bleak picture emerges. One of every two marriages end in divorce, and the other half is also full of ups and down. How many single people have despaired of ever getting married? Scores choose not to. This is a terrible truth. Does anyone try and figure out why this is? I am no expert on this, but I do know that there is something wrong in the way young couples enter into their marriages. With a 50% divorce rate is it surprising that so many are hesitant to make the commitment to get married? Young men and women live together unmarried without blinking an eye. They have all the joys of a couple without ever becoming one.  The gay Marriage debate has completely distracted us and diverted our attention from this monumental problem. Don’t get me wrong, this ruling to me is the ‘destruction’ of the American ‘temple’, but it’s the ‘breach’ in the ‘wall’ of traditional marriage that was so neglected all these years that has brought us to this point.

I believe whole heartedly that the first thing we need to do is tackle the issue of marriage in general and the sacredness of ‘family’. This would be a giant step in restoring the moral fabric of this country to its proper place. Most of the ills of society and the changes we have seen would disappear very quickly.

Shabbat Shalom

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