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The Rabbi's Blog

A Message from Rabbi Spalter

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.

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