Thursday, October 30, 2014

Challaween?? Wierd name no? Are you celebrating it?

It’s Halloween this weekend, and this Shabbat, we read the portion of Abraham.

Creative minds, weak in their personal identity, have come up with, what was it? Thanksgivakah? And now something like Challaween? Cute no?

One of the great qualities of any product is a strong proud and unique identity. Look at what happens when smartphones start looking and acting like each other. Look at what happens when all politicians look and sound alike! Or almost alike.

For many people it’s hard to know who they are, living in a world that values assimilation. Everything you see and hear is telling you to change who you are to fit someone or something else. Be more like the family you see on TV. Be more like the guy in the movie or girl in the magazine. Buy this toothpaste because 4 out of 5 people recommend it. Do what we say. Believe what we believe. Fall in line for this group of people or for this greater cause because they are more important than you. 

There are many stories of our great sages who expressed the same lesson. When we reach Heaven G-d will ask us. Not, why were you not like Moses, because then we will answer, my name was something else. After 120 years, G-d will expect from us the full potential He endowed in each ONE of us.  Did YOU live up to your own full purpose and potential?

What if nothing was more important than you? What if you were just as valuable as anyone or anything else? What if your goals were just as significant as the goals of any other person or group?  Can you imagine for a moment if all the organs in your body became one big mush? Looking and acting like each other??!!

The only real happiness anyone and everyone can experience is when they live their own lives, to its own full potential.

There is every good reason to respect and accept other people’s right to their own beliefs. Stop looking outward at how other people are living, stop trying to conform, and start looking inward at how YOU were meant to live.

The first time G-d communicates and speaks with Abraham He tells him, “Go inward, into yourself”. You are not like anyone else. Your purpose and mission, and the people you will bring into the world, to shed light for the rest of the world, is like none other. 

Instead of finding ways to adapt more to the world around us and adopt their holidays, let’s spend time with ourselves to figure who we really are. What is our own unique message to the world. Figure it out. Explore them. Name them. Discover who YOU really are. There is no reason to dilute our own beautiful Shabbat experience with anyone else’s practices.

Abraham stood up against the whole world in his belief in monotheism. That’s why he was called Ivri, literally on the other side, or loosely translated as Hebrew, or Jew. Abraham the Ivri was an independent thinker who had the inner fortitude to become himself with his own convictions, on one side, while the rest of the world was on the other. 

G-d was pleased with his fortitude, cheered him on and supported him. G-d told him this is the way you will make YOUR name and become the father of a great nation.

Each one of us was meant to be recognized–not for how similar we are to the rest of the world, but for how different we are. Know who you are. Show the world who you are.  

This Shabbat, let everyone see and know, at this home Shabbat in all its purity is being celebrated.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Deceiving media and saving the world.

In this week’s Torah portion G-d isn’t happy with the world and the bad choices people are making so G-d decides it’s clean up time. The only ones that are saved from this flood are Noah and his family. The Bible says, “Noah was a righteous man. He was “TOMIM” – perfect, in relation to his generation.”

In another place we have the same word TOMIM and it is translated differently. (Do not probe into the future, but) be TOMIM- simple hearted with G-d, your G-d.” Enjoy a complete sense of security in the faith and conviction that the future is safely in G-ds hands. “Walk with him simple-heartedly and look forward to what He has in store. Do not probe the future, but rather accept whatever happens to you-simple heartedly.” (Rashi)

Another time the Bible uses the word. In the case of Jacob the Torah says, “Jacob was a man who was TOM”--“whose mouth speaks what is in his heart, and who is not skillful in deceiving others.”  (Rashi)

So we started by understanding the word TOMIM as perfect, then, as simple-hearted, and then, as not skillful at deceiving others!

This past week I submitted two comments to the Israeli Haaretz paper generally known as a liberal left wing paper. The articles were unabashedly to the left on both fronts, one on the conversion issue and one regarding the pursuit of peace in Israel, and I was challenging and offering another perspective.

Now we all know papers and their editorials do take up some kind of leanings to the right and or to the left. But I still thought that the newspapers themselves for the sake of appearing, fair and balanced journalistic and not personal viewpoints, marketing and pitching only one particular point of view, would appreciate the opportunity to feature an opposing challenging opinion.

I was wrong both times. They refused to publish my comments and in both cases published only those comments in support of the position being promoted in both articles. This allows the gullible and uninitiated to believe when reading these “news” articles that this is the current trend of thinking and this helps influence and convince more people to their forlorn conclusions.

These media outlets would never consider calling themselves officially “the voice of the right or the left” because they do want to give the impression that they are a fair and honest media outfit, at the very least to some minimum standard, presenting the news, for you, to make up your mind.

The Torah tells us when G-d made the world, in Hebrew the word for world, means concealment. G-d intentionally concealed the truth, so that we pierce the superficial veneer and discover truth – the signature of G-d Himself - Truth. “This world is a world of falsehood.” Politicians, marketers, salespeople, advertisements etc. Lots of neon flashing lights and lots of promises offering fun and a good time.

The only problem with false promises and neon lights that look exciting but offer nothing else underneath is that eventually as time passes, either we spent our time with positive worthwhile and constructive things or the opposite. Sooner or later we all reap the fruits of our choices.

This is the connection to all three words above.  They are all related in a circular loop.

Someone not able to deceive, who speaks his heart, isn’t complicated, and is perfect. In the eyes of G-d, a righteous person, worthy of being saved, and as a result the ones who save the world, are perfect because they don’t deceive, they realize the future is always only in G-ds hands, therefore there is no need for twisted convoluted fears or stories and proceed simple hearted with G-d, their G-d.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Why did He (G-d) make this world??

The Talmud teaches, “All that G-d created in His world, not one thing, was made in vain.” If G-d made anything with no purpose at all to its existence, that would be a waste of energy, time, material etc. Only foolish people waste resources.

Even when it comes to things that appear insignificant, of no importance, trivial and minor, in G-ds infinite wisdom there is a reason and purpose for it. The Talmud gives an example of someone who puts his hand in his pocket to take out three coins, but ended up with only two in his hand, “this too is calculated and is not accidental.”

Everything was made by G-d, as the bible tells us in seven days. Since nothing can make itself, and the source of everything, G-d, was always there to make something out of nothing, all that He made comes from Himself, and is in existence as an extension of Himself purely for a G-dly purpose.

The Midrash tells us, “G-d desired (us) to make for Himself a dwelling place (out of) this lowly world.” When a person fulfills the desires and requests of G-d, he imbues his surroundings and his own life with the light and grace of G-dliness. Things in a person’s life, life itself, become an accomplice and a partner with G-dliness.

At the end of the sixth day the bible concludes, “Which G-d created, to be done.”  To be done, is understood to be concluded and completed by the human being who G-d had just finished making on that very same day, the sixth day.

G-d created the world in such a way, that there is so much, almost infinite resources in this world, and so much incalculable perfection down to the subatomic level. All that any human being can do is use and discover the resources and powers instilled by G-d, to further strengthen what already exists and offer a minor contribution in the vast scale of the picture.

When Adam was created and realized the incredible unique characteristics of the human being, who can think of his own existence in third person, from a distance, and that he has free choice which no other creation is granted, he made the statement realizing his superior position over every other creation, “all was created to serve me, and I (with my intelligence and free choice) was created to serve my Creator.”

What this means is that “every” little detail or occurrence in creation, all that happens every moment of our existence, is granted to us, as an opportunity to make out of it something G-dly and spiritual. A true expression of accomplishment, success and achievement is when in some way or another we uncover and connect our lives with its own inward roots, the G-dliness it was created from.

When a person comes across whatever it may be, he sees or hears anything, he must remember, nothing is in vain. Everything has a purpose.  Nothing or nobody therefore is bad, inconsequential and irrelevant.  It is our noble and holy mission to make every effort to connect the person and/or experience with our very own goal of creation.

There are things G-d tells us are forbidden and therefore harmful to ourselves. There are things we are commanded by G-d to fulfill and therefore certainly beneficial and helpful in our lives.

Knowing that everything, comes and is originally from G-d, because that’s what He, wanted and decided to create, brings us to the very powerful conclusion that even when we are just eating and taking a walk, that too would reach greater and deeper purpose when recognizing, this too is for a G-dly intention. This is what the wise King Solomon teaches, “In ALL YOUR ways, know Him.”

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The season of Joy

The holiday of Sukkot Oct. 9 thru Oct. 15 2014, has the unique power of Joy. The bible repeats three times, the very special connection this holiday has with joy. Literally, the people enjoyed over the Holiday, the grains and fruits just harvested, and the atonement, received over the Holiday of Yom Kippur.

When entering a Sukkah the holy book of Mysticism the Zohar says, we are sitting under the shadow of G-d. In Hebrew the word Sukkah has the numerical value of 91 and the two names of G-d that describe G-ds attribute of mercy also equals 91. The Holy Baal Shem Tov says, when a person spends time in a Sukkah, he is refined, and draws a G-dly light, similar to when a person is immersed in a Mikvah- ritual bath.

“Strength and Joy are in the place of G-d.” Where there is the perfection, clarity and fullness of G-d, there is total and complete Joy.  Sitting in a Sukkah is described as “G-ds right hand embraces me. “ Just as a person embraces his friend out of great love, not letting him separate from the embrace, similarly  in a Sukkah, the four walls which correspond to the four letters  of G-ds name, and the roof, which is    G-ds shadow, surround the person from every side, with holiness and closeness to G-d.

Once a student of the Tzemach Tzedek wrote to him, that he had difficulty feeling joy. The Rebbe responded. “Your thoughts, speech and actions have the greatest influence on your behavior. Therefore, one must make sure to think only thoughts that evoke happiness, to refrain from speaking about the negative and dispirited things, and behave in a joyful manner even if at the present moment one feels he is not up to it.”

The Baal Shem Tov taught, worry and sadness are the sources of all negative energy. One cannot truly serve G-d without Joy. The evil inclination tries to find any excuse to make a person unhappy and sad. The main goal in getting a person to fall to temptation, is not so much the sin, as the guilt and sadness that comes afterwards.  Once we identify this strategy of the evil inclination we can learn to ignore and turn away from this malicious effort made. Because the truth is, even when one fails they can always learn from the experience and get back up again, while being sad is a prescription for further failure.

By being focused on all the good in our lives, we can more easily be joyous. Every morning we wake up, right from the start of the day we should realize, G-d has faith in us. And has given us another day and another chance.

The Talmud says, if a person has a worry in his heart he should “suppress it”. The word suppress in Hebrew, can also be understood in two other ways which are methods of getting rid of the worrying thoughts. One reading is to divert his mind away from the worrying thoughts by focusing on more positive thoughts, or the solution rather than the problem, and a second interpretation, is to speak things over with a trusted friend.

Once, after Yom Kippur - the Day of Atonement, the Baal Shem tov made every effort to accomplish a certain effort, but was unsuccessful. The students, happy the fasting was over, broke out in a dance, and the desired objective of their teacher was realized. The Baal Shem tov said. “What I could not bring about through my prayers and deep concentrations, the students were able to accomplish with the power of simcha – joy.”

The great Rabbis taught, even if it takes pointless activities to spark the engine of joy, as long as we are far from frivolity, many times this might break the ice and be the way to deeper and more meaningful Joy

Thursday, October 2, 2014


What a phenomenal time of the year.

Rabbi Shmelkeh of Nikolsburg said, “I want to live in this world (only) because, in the world to come there are no High Holidays, and how could a soul function without a Yom Kippur - Day of Atonement? What flavor would there be to life without the possibility of Teshuvah/repentance?

Rabbi Yisroel Salant said, “if we were granted Yom Kippur –day of atonement only once in 70 years, how lucky we would be. Imagine then, how much luckier we are, that G-ds grants us a Yom Kippur every single year.”

“Yom Kippur includes the entire year. Every hour, every moment, of the holy day, includes many days of the (past and coming) year.”

When the Israelites where in the wilderness just having heard the Ten Commandments from G-d Himself, they rebelled against G-d by worshiping the golden calf. G-d understandably was extremely upset, to the point that there is no punishment that ever befalls the Jewish people that doesn’t include an element of this sin.

Moses pleaded with G-d for forgiveness, and it wasn’t until 120 days later on the Day of Atonement that they were forgiven. This day has built in it, the energy of forgiveness. Of refurbishing and restoring our relationship with G-d not only to what it was, but to what it can become. A deeper and stronger one than ever before.

As long as one does not rebel against the day, by doing what is strictly forbidden, the Talmud says, “The essence of the day brings forgiveness.”  Just living through the day in itself has the power to cleanse the covering of dirt that may have accumulated over the internal spark of G-d, that shines, or was not shining all that much, within each one of us.

Rabbi MM Schneerson writes. “Repentance, is repairing the present moment (alone), by regretting the past and resolving improvements for the future. When the present is (healthy and) in order, it is possible to recognize what is lacking of the past, and make the necessary precautions for the future.”

On this very powerful day of Yom Kippur, the day that is one with G-d in the power of forgiveness, one must stay focused only on the present and ask themselves the powerful questions we may not want to address throughout the year.

Do I believe in G-d? Are my choices in life in line with my beliefs? Do I believe in a soul that lives on for all eternity? Are my choices in the past, matters that I would be proud of staying with me forever?

Once the holy Baal Shem Tov ended up in a small village for Yom Kippur. He was told that the Rabbi of the city, who leads the prayers, instead of sounding contrite when singling out the transgressions, he sings it with a joyous and upbeat melody.

The Baal Shem Tov asked him for an explanation. And the Rabbi said. “In every kings estate there is the servant whose job is to clean the dirt and filth. This servant, if he loves his king and is grateful for the merit he was granted to work in the kings’ estate, and serve the king, even when he is scooping up and sweeping all the dirt on the ground, he will sing with a deep and inner happiness at the opportunity.”

The Baal Shem Tov responded. “If this is your intentions, may my lot be with you.”

On Yom Kippur we make the blessing – Shehechiyonu. “King of the universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.”

What an incredible opportunity every year, Yom Kippur.