Rabbi's Weekly Article

One Man's Thoughts

Passover Miracles: Do Miracles Happen Today?

We are rapidly closing in on the Jewish holiday of Passover in which we commemorate the miraculous exodus of the Jewish people from slavery and bondage from ancient Egypt.
Passover is the holiday that we celebrate not just one, but many miracles performed by God for the benefit of the Jewish people.

Aside from the 10 plagues where each one was multi-faceted miracles as explained in the Haggadah, there was the ultimate miraculous phenomenon of the splitting of the Sea of Reeds. This wonder accomplished two opposite things at the exact same time with the very same water. While the Jewish people were being rescued from the waters and certain death, the Egyptians were drowning in the turbulent waters.

Of course, once they left Egypt, the Jewish people found themselves in an uninhabited desert with no food or water to be had. They had to rely on many wonders and miracles. There was the daily manna that fell from the sky in the form of little seeds and the well of water that always seemed to be present no matter where they travelled around the desert.

While in the desert for 40 years, they were protected from natural enemies, including your typical desert predators such as snakes, scorpions, heat stroke, and sandstorms. In fact, the Torah makes a point of sharing one time in the four years of sojourning that a snake attacked them. The Torah clarifies that this was indeed a rare event and was a punishment for having a bad attitude. The other 1,459 days they were protected. This was a miracle. 

Therefore, the obvious question that comes to mind is, do miracles happen today. The Jewish belief is that not only that they do happen, they occur more often than you think. In fact, most people are completely oblivious that even if they do witness a miraculous phenomenon, they simply cannot process it and therefore dismiss it as non-consequential. You see, sometimes we see something with our own eyes that is inexplicable but we either are so clouded by cynicism or believe that there must be a natural explanation for what transpired, so we end up pooh-poohing an actual bona fide manipulation of nature (a miracle) as nothing special. Nothing to see here folks.

The truth is, according to Judaism, everyday simple acts of nature are in fact miraculous. Just because they happen every day, we are content to call it nature/natural, and if it only happens occasionally, we then call it a rare natural event. If it never happened before, we call it an inexplicable freak of nature. Judaism explains that everyday occurrences such as the sun rising is also miraculous. The fact that the sun rises in the east is an added miracle. Additionally, the fact that there is enough of an atmosphere to sustain this planet as opposed to other planets is supernatural.

Every morning there is a ritual in which we recite a formal blessing thanking God for giving us life for yet another day. This is because waking up is a miracle. We also thank God for our sight, hearing and gait. Nothing is to be dismissed as normal and everything needs to be viewed as something special. 

Take for example the following story, which is in fact a miracle like the Passover story that happened in my lifetime.

This happened in 1967 during the Six Day War.
According to all the military analysts, Israel was going to lose the war and lose badly. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) consisted of 275,000 troops, compared to the 456,000 soldiers of the combined Iraqi, Syrian, Jordanian and Egyptian armies. The United Arab forces had way more military equipment at their disposal. The Arab forces had more than double the number of tanks, and close to four times the amount of combat aircraft. The Israeli civilians and military were filled with dread, shock, and fright for the upcoming battle.
So pessimistic was the outlook that the nation’s national parks were marked to become gravesites for the many who would perish during course of the war.
However, despite all the predictions, by the time the war ended, the territory under Israeli control had tripled in size. Jews returned to sites where their ancestors had lived for thousands of years, sites from which waves of terror were launched against them for so many years. One of the craziest stories happened on the sixth and final day of the war, where not unlike the Greeks in the Chanukah story, the 75,000 strong Syrian army simply fled from the mountains of the Golan Heights leaving their weaponry behind. The strategic Golan upon which the Syrians used to murder Israelis was now in the hands of the Israeli army.

The miracles experienced in Israel during the Gulf War are too numerous to mention. The television was filled with images of people buried in rubble yet walking away without a scratch. In all, 39 scud missiles fell – many in heavily populated areas – causing only two deaths. Can you imagine 39 missiles and only two deaths? Altogether over ten tons of explosives fell on Israel; 15,000 properties were damaged which included 10,992 apartments, 235 houses and 3773 other buildings.
In all, 13 people died. Two directly from a missile and 11 indirectly from heart attacks or misuse of a gasmask. Scuds landed between two buildings but did not explode. The list goes on and on.
A true miracle. 

I believe that conception is a miracle, and that birth is just as miraculous. The fact that there are close to 7.5 billion people born does not in any way detract from the miracle of conception, gestation, and birth.
Take the following amazing example that has me convinced that conception is nothing short of a wonder.
A body’s potential hydrogen (pH) level directly impacts your overall health and even a woman’s fertility. The pH scale ranges from zero (highly acidic) to 14 (very basic). Human life requires a tightly controlled pH level in the serum of about 7.4. A pH of seven is considered neutral. An imbalanced pH level in the cervix or vagina can damage sperm enough to prevent it from fertilizing an egg. The most ideal vaginal pH level for a woman who wants to get pregnant is between 3.8 and 4.5, outside the days she is ovulating. During ovulating, surges in hormones are meant to maintain a pH level optimal to increase the chance that sperm reaches the egg. In fact, when the pH level is between seven and 12, sperm can survive as long as 48 hours within the female reproductive system. Amazing, no?

Lastly, I am the first to state that The Chai Center, the organization that I founded, is a miracle. I continue to see miracles and have had many angelic encounters with beautiful people who share the vision.

Please contact me if you wish to continue to talk at [email protected].

Please feel free to share.

Thou Shalt Not Panic

I was listening to the radio while driving the other day and while I normally feel ill and depleted after receiving multiple doses of bad news, this time thankfully was different.

The news anchor was discussing a new medical report that had to do with children taking medication for fever. The report stated that there is no need to give a child fever-reducing medication unless the fever spikes higher than 100.4 on the thermometer. The report indicated that most parents panic when their child's temperature reaches over 99 degrees and begin dispensing fever-reducing medication. 

I thought to myself what a metaphor for life. How many of us fret and wring our hands in misery because of one obstacle or another, which was either not such an issue to begin with, or turned out to be much less of a problem than initially thought. In fact, sometimes bad news could actually be a blessing in disguise. At the outset things look bad indeed, but then you realize, usually by hindsight, that this bit of aggravation was the best thing to happen to you.


I find it fascinating that the medical report specifically focused on parents panicking when their child/ren have fever. I have always maintained that there is another type of fever that our children get, which I have coined “emotional fever.” 


Too often when we hear of a child acting out, whether it is in school or at home, we are quick to squash their behavior with a reprimand or a punishment. This is all well and good with a wholesome child, but how about an unhappy child who is going through something. The approach that we take must be the same as with a physically sick person. Just as we should not panic at a low-grade temperature, we should not be alarmed at a low-grade emotional fever.

Our children, just like you and me, have better days and some not so better days. They are little humans and if one’s child refuses to do homework occasionally, I believe that instead of throwing a tantrum filled with threats and other negative consequences, we need to calm down and not try to fix with bitter pills. What I suggest instead is to let it go without much of a fuss and see what tomorrow night brings. If this behavior continues, then we need to seek remedies.

Please keep in mind if the acting out continues, one needs to remember that more than likely we do not have a lazy child, but instead, an unhappy one. A lazy one has to be admonished and made to do chores or complete the homework task assigned. In contrast, an unhappy child needs love and not reprimanding. They need a therapy session and not a lecture. Parents and teachers need to ascertain what is really going on. Does this child have a high emotional fever or is it low grade? This is why parents, teachers, doctors and principals need to form a seamless bond to really understand this developing human organism that we are in charge of.


Your child comes home with a report card with four A’s, three B’s, and two C’s. A critical parent will praise the A and B, but will also latch on to the C, and perhaps tell the child that less TV or Xbox is in their future as this is the reason for the poor grade. Sound familiar?  A savvier parent would tell the child in a positive voice, “I am so proud of this report card. You tried so hard. Don’t worry about social studies as we will get you some help.” See the difference. There is no need for a parent to run to CVS to purchase over the counter focus medication, as there are much better ways to deal with this without panicking and making the whole house miserable.


Let’s face it. When you visit your favorite urologist, do you ask him/her for their grades or do you submit to their findings and get out of there as soon as you can. You never ask about their high school report card and you probably go because you heard that they are good at what they do. Who really cares that your 9-year-old got a C in social studies?



We are too quick to take on the role of fixer, repairer and corrector. Just like in the report, we need not immediately panic as freaking out is in itself unhealthy. Rather, we need to put our emotions on pause and think it through, and then panic if truly warranted. 


There were times I did not heed my own advice and had to eat crow. One such time I overreacted and years later my child (yes, and my wife too) brought it up, and I apologized to this child for my exaggerated response. This was stuck in my child’s craw because I made a premature determination based on emotional impulse.


Judaism teaches us that as a general rule the mind must prevail over emotions at all times. Homo sapiens stand, walk and sit with their heads above their hearts and not the other way around. There are times when the head needs a rest and the emotions take over such as when we are lying down, whether by ourselves to sleep, or with our spouse. Either way, emotions rule and thinking takes a back step. Maybe this is why I suffer with insomnia as I refuse to lose control of headspace, which causes sleep to become elusive.


There are a couple of other times when the brain needs to take a back seat to the emotions, but they are very few and far between and are usually in dire circumstances. We will discuss it at another time.


My email has not changed. [email protected].


Please feel free to share.   

The Transition from Baby to Adult

One of my daughters recently gave birth and blessed my wife and I with a grandson. This morning as I was cradling him, I was thinking to myself that this little bubbeleh sleeping in my arms is so pure, cute and innocent. He was sleeping, breathing deeply, seemingly not conscious of his surroundings.

As I was holding him and reflecting on the miracle of life, I thought to myself that since every baby is born cute, pure and innocent (some more cute than others), what is the core ingredient that brings about a change that turns a human from innocent to being jaded, from genuine to insincere? The questions are endless. Why are some adults mean while some are gentle? Why are some people givers while others are takers? Some are righteous while others are evil, etc.

The obvious answer is that life’s experiences change us. My continued nagging thoughts asked me to clarify what that means. Which life experiences have the most effect on us? I have come up with a list of experiences that I hope the reader finds interesting. Each of the following influences do impact us and little by little we metamorphosize into who we are now. 

Ask any mental health professional and they will tell you that every human is a product of their upbringing. I remember when our first child was conceived, I was guided that even in utero, we need to be mindful and sensitive to the words we speak and the tone we use. Even more so once a baby is born.
Jewish parenting looks at each infant and sees that child as created B’tselem Elohim, in the image of God. Therefore, we need to carefully respect the sensitivities of our children. We need to bring them up with Godly morals and values that they will hopefully continue when they grow up. Of course, there are no guarantees when it comes to child rearing as great honest to God, salt of the earth, best-intentioned parents, may end up with a dishonest child, pathological liar or worse. Of course, we as parents need to do our very best to give them a head start in the right direction, but once they fly the coop, we can only advise them and love them.

Many argue that the more educated the better, as education, especially in the higher schools of learning, helps breed refinement. I would disagree with this strongly, and I bring proof from the infamous Wannsee Conference which took place on January 20, 1942. The Wannsee Conference was a high-level meeting of German officials to discuss and implement the so-called “Final Solution of the Jewish Question” (mass murder).
Ten of the fifteen participants had been to university. Eight of them had even been awarded doctorates! Can you imagine it took eight PhD’s less than two hours to reach the conclusion of how to dispose of the Jews. There were various proposals given as to the best solution (the term extermination was never uttered out loud during the conference). These bright minds ultimately decided on gas vans as the best way, which was then “upgraded” to gas showers.
I have always maintained that the study of parallelograms does not make one a better person, and the pursuit of “Physics for Poets,” a course taught at Stanford University, is a waste of time, as is Princeton University’s, “The Invisible Renaissance: Science, Art, and Magic in Early Modern Europe.” What I would like to see are courses entitled something like Philanthropy 101, How to be a Consummate Volunteer, Pursuing Civility 302, Love Thy Neighbor – Community Activism, etc.
As a Rabbi, I can honestly share that the Torah and rabbinic sources greatly stress being a mensch first. I think of Maimonides' laws of charity, where he lists how to give charity and in what order. Maimonides concludes that even better than a handout is a job where the person can maintain their dignity. More than half of the 10 Commandments place emphasis on being a moral and just person. So, I guess it depends on the quality and the value of the education received.

This is probably the most impactful cause of change in a human being’s thinking. It used to be the books that we read, but books are considered old media when compared to social media. Let’s face it. It is not so easy to publish a book (I should know). Aside from it taking many months from writing a book to it being published and on the shelves, your “words” are as good as your agent’s connections. To stand on a soapbox and be recognized as an influencer on Facebook, SnapChat, Instagram and Twitter is much easier, quicker and has the potential of gathering an audience in the hundreds of thousands if not millions.
Now many of these powerful influencers with thousands of followers are benign as they focus on important but benign topics such as bird watching and butterfly catching and which pearl millet grain is best for cattle feed. However, there are very malignant social media stars out there who are dangerous people who are hell bent on the destruction of our Souls. Followers of these types of influencers are cult-like in that they repeat what they hear from their Instagram guru and wreak havoc on society. Yes, I would say that social media is very close to the top 10 of “purity destroyers.”

The same principle would apply to one’s social construct. The people who one socializes with on a regular basis are extremely influential on one’s behavior. This influence can cut both ways positively or negatively. This is what the Mishna means when it writes, “Be careful of who your neighbor is.” Your neighbor can be taken literally, as well as your classmates, general neighborhood and even the local school district’s board.
You know all it takes is one bad teacher or professor to change a person from innocent to jaded. This is especially so because teachers are authority figures, and their opinions, as good or as warped as they may be, are taken very seriously.

I do not know the answer as to how to preserve one’s naiveté, other than one should spend more time reading luminaries such as Maimonides and less time on Reddit and other social media venues.

Feel free to share.

The Holocaust Syllabus: A better definition

The United Nations General Assembly designated January 27—the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau—as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this annual day of commemoration, the UN urges every member state to honor the six million Jews who were victims of the Holocaust and millions of other victims of Nazism and to develop educational programs to help prevent future genocides.

This got me to ponder the DEEP conflict I have about teaching Holocaust education the way they do in the schools. I am obviously a strong proponent of educating the tragic WWII history and exposing the cruelty of the Nazis and their cohorts as well as the sickening apathy of the world. And yes, the fact that millions of civilians were killed, particularly the six million Jews who died, 1.5 million of whom were innocent children, needs to be taught. My conflict is rather more of a practical one, which is why I worry about our Jewish youth.
When these kids are schooled about the Holocaust, which is retaught in Hebrew school, they learn that there was a mass murderer who managed to galvanize thousands upon thousands of people to hunt down Jews and others and kill them in the most innovative and cruel ways possible. Have you ever thought to yourself that it is no wonder we are losing our youth’s interest in Judaism. If our Judaism is relegated to the Holocaust, then why would a kid want to be associated with death, destruction, martyrdom and victimhood?
On the other hand, the Holocaust did tragically happen and therefore must be taught. We cannot be naïve about these things. We need to be aware and fully cognizant that “Never Again” is more than just a slogan. It is a vow to never allow ourselves to be marginalized by any government or group of people.
So, what to do about these conflicting thoughts? I agree that it is unacceptable not to teach about the Holocaust. I believe that we are neglecting to teach a large part of the Holocaust history. Believe me, if we teach our Jewish youth the rest of the story, we will be able to recapture their young spirit.

What is the solution to this conundrum?

We cannot ignore the fact that the Holocaust is indeed central to Jewish education, Jewish history and Jewish discussion. It should be, especially when there are those who seek to heap indignity upon the memory of the six million by trying to deny what happened and erase the lessons that must be learned from that very dark stain on human history. However, while this horror did happen to our people, we must teach more than just the bloody slaughter.

We need to take the following next logical step when we teach about the Holocaust. We must not stop short of the real lesson.
It is not the horrors, the torture, the sadism, the suffering and the genocide of the Holocaust that defines who we are. We do not share those stories to make the point that we are the world’s victims. On the contrary! All the stories are intended to reinforce the fact that we are victors. The real thrust of the stories is not that we suffered, but that we survived; not that we died, but that we are alive!
Hitler was a failure. Nazism failed. If you wish to learn about the Third Reich, there is much written in Wikipedia or on Google. However, if one wishes to meet a Jewish family who survived the Holocaust, all you have to do is knock on the door of a home that houses a Jewish family, and you will be nearly guaranteed that they will have a story of survival for you. Hitler wanted the Jews to be remembered solely in a museum and not as an actual people. Turns out that he and his ilk ended up in museums instead.    
This, to me, is the message of the Holocaust.
I believe that the best way of honoring the memory of the six million is by keeping alive the ideals and values that they lived for. What a tragedy it would be if we were simply reduced to being known as victims of society.

Yes, the memories are sacred. It is what we do with those memories, however, that needs to be more clearly understood.  A philosopher once famously said that Judaism has 613 commandments… “The 614th commandment,” he said, “is to deny Hitler any posthumous victories.” Reducing Jewish identity to victimhood would be such a victory – and we must not allow that to happen!

We are the architects, builders and educators of human civilization. This country was based on Judeo values. We are the teachers, and we are the inspiration for our founding fathers. No victims here!
This is in line with the philosophy that victimhood has never been, and is not now, the foundation of anyone’s identity.
Whatever our individual circumstances in life may be, let us not see our struggles and challenges as obstacles to our achieving a true sense of happiness and fulfillment in life. On the contrary, let us see them as opportunities to propel us to newer and greater heights in all aspects.

Please feel free to share.

Interesting thoughts on Kosher

My wife and I recently came back from a mini-vacation, well deserved I might add. While it was just a few days, it was refreshing and rejuvenating. I highly recommend it. While I went there for some R & R, I ended up learning much from this small coastal town.

The Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the broad Chassidic movement once declared, “Whatever you encounter should be viewed as a lesson for you to better live your life.” So true! Each day was indeed an encounter with a life lesson.

The place we visited was not only chosen for its beauty, but also for the fact that there are kosher establishments for us to enjoy. When a “kosher Jew” goes on vacation to a place where there is no food, you end up overdosing on tuna fish and crackers. This place had kosher galore and we enjoyed an array of different foods, and none contained tuna.

As we were walking down the street, we noticed a restaurant sign that served falafel, shawarma, and hummus. There was a huge Star of David on the sign as well. Even though we had just eaten, we stopped at the open menu to peruse what other delicacies they served, and lo and behold on the second page, we noticed that they served shrimp. We started to walk away as this was obviously not a kosher establishment. The owner came running and in perfect Hebrew asked if he "can help.” I responded, “No thanks, zeh lo kosher – not kosher.”  He retorted back in Hebrew, “Hey, I run a very clean place.” I wondered to myself if this guy really thinks that the definition of kosher means clean. I have no idea, but it makes a great discussion as to what kosher is and is not.

The rules of kosher are many and they are primarily taken straight from the Torah. Here are a few highlights. Fish must have both fins and scales to be considered kosher and animals must have both split hooves and chew their cud and also be ritually slaughtered to ensure a quick end. Any fish or animals that do not have both of these signs, then are not only not kosher, we are also not allowed to drink its milk or consume its eggs either. Birds have no sign but are delineated in the Torah by name. We must also soak and salt our beef and poultry to remove the blood. Another biggie, we are not allowed to mix meat with milk under any circumstances. All vegetables are kosher but the leafy ones need to be thoroughly checked for infestation. There is so much more but we are short on time and space.

While it would be nice if every kosher and non-kosher establishment had a grade A on the placard in the window, having a B grade does not make it treif (non-kosher). Kosher does not mean clean, rather it means proper or fitting. This is why you hear the term kosher being used in non-food context. As an example, the term “this is not right” can be substituted with “this isn’t kosher.” Therefore, to equate kosher with being clean is wrong and is missing the point.
What is fascinating is that the Torah gives no reason as to why some animals are kosher while some are not. Likewise, there is no explanation offered as to why kosher beef and kosher cheese are fine when separate but not together. Cleanliness we can grasp with our limited intellect. However, kosher is beyond our finite understanding. We Jews follow it anyway, happily and with pride even though we do not understand the reason. Our philosophy is that God is a general and human beings are His foot soldiers, and a private in the army does not question the general’s orders. If one is a believer in a God, then if He says do not eat it, then who am I to question!
I am reminded of a sentence attributed to the famed ancient philosopher Socrates, “To know, is to know that you know nothing."

Please feel free to share.

Amazing Lessons from the Exodus from Egypt

The Bible/Torah is not a history book. If you wish to study the chronicles of the Jewish past, there are much better books to purchase or loan from the library. Likewise, the Torah is not a nonfiction novel. The best way I know how to describe the Torah would be its literal translation, to teach, as Torah means lessons or teachings. Viewing these sacred writings as simple stories misses the point and is on an elementary level. The problem of Hebrew schools is that they only go to a certain age and therefore the Torah is usually taught at a basic story level as entertainment. Every single story recorded in the Torah is not there to amuse, but rather to give us insight and inspiration in order to live a life with meaning.

The Torah devotes hundreds of verses to the “story” of the Exodus. Each verse literally contains a wealth of information beyond the literal story line. I will attempt to capture just a few of the brilliant, deeply psychological and highly inspirational insights and teachings.

In the Passover Haggadah, there is a paragraph that begins with, “We are obligated to recall our going out of Egypt every single day of our lives.” What does this even mean? Do we need to think about walking out of Egypt into the desert every morning or is afternoon enough? You have probably read this a dozen times and never thought about it.

One of the most beautiful explanations that answers this has to do with our definition of Egypt. If we view Egypt simply as a geographical place on the map, then bringing it to mind every day seems silly, unless, of course, you are invested in the Egyptian stock market. However, if you view Egypt as a psychological state rather than a physical one, then there are lessons to be gleaned from the exodus.

The Hebrew word for Egypt is “Mitzrayim,” which literally means “limitations.”
We all have our limitations. Some are self-imposed and some are imposed by others. We also have fears and phobias which prevent (limits) us from fulfilling our potential. Then there are toxic people who have hurt us terribly, and we obsess over them and cannot move on from the pain. I would be remiss if I did not mention our childhood scars caused by some dysfunctional event that we cannot seem to get beyond and is holding us back from living. All the above-mentioned scenarios are classified as psychological Egypt. We are restrained and controlled by our feelings, thoughts and emotions. We are incarcerated in our own bodies and are slaves to the whims of negative thoughts.
Comes along the Haggadah, which declares: Wake up! You are destroying yourself from the inside out. You are allowing people to live in your brain rent-free. It is high time you live to your full potential and stop letting others dictate your destiny. Don’t let anyone be in control of you, and never be a slave to your or anyone else’s negative thoughts. It is not enough for one to give oneself an Egypt well being check up once in a while. Rather, you have to be vigilant every day to assure that negative habitual thinking does not rear its ugly head as it has done in the past.          

Likewise, slavery should not be relegated to one definition as defined by Webster’s dictionary: “The state of a person who is held in forced servitude.” When we think of “forced servitude,” we think of people who were mercilessly sold on a butcher’s block in chains, against their will.

One of the Torah’s teachings is to clarify that forced servitude can also be where you feel stuck because you are not in control of your life. Take for example the scenario that I hear often from some of the women I know. “My husband is so busy helping his company be stable financially, that he is unable to help me physically let alone emotionally.” The bottom line, If you find that your work gets in the way of normal living as a human with a soul, and you are unable or unwilling to do anything about it, then you my dear friend are a slave, as you are not free and most definitely not in charge of yourself and your life.

I often quote the following litmus test of whether you run your work or your work runs you. If you can stop what you are doing and get yourself to your child’s play or sports game on time without regret or rancor then you run your life. However, if you say to yourself, “I need to meet with so and so and then I will go, or when I finish the final draft, I will close up the office,” you need to know that you are trapped and have become a contemporary slave to your boss, computer, printer and cellphone.

The mystical book of Tanya asks one to ponder the following thought process. I have taken the poetic license to elongate the process.

Q. Why do you work?
A. To make money

Q. Why do you need to make money?
A. To buy the things that are needed.  

Q. What things do you need to buy?
A. Shelter, food, water et al.

Q. Why do you need all that?
A. To live.

The Tanya concludes, ultimately, you are not working for money, you are working to live. Therefore, if that very work disrupts you from living, then things have become topsy-turvy, your priorities have been usurped, and the tail is wagging the dog!

Do not be a slave to anyone or anything. Try to stay free.
Feel free to share.

Don't ask why, Ask what for - Another way of looking at suffering

There is a phenomenal portion of the Torah where Joseph just revealed to his brothers that he is in fact their brother. As a quick tutorial, the brothers sold their own brother into slavery 22 years earlier out of extreme jealousy. They literally could not stand him. So much so, at one point they were thinking of assassinating him. Instead, they opted not to be murderers and they sold him instead.

Fast forward 22 years later, Joseph had risen miraculously from slave to prince of Egypt. He was placed in charge of the Egyptian economy, which was in the midst of a severe recession that affected much of the region. The brothers went south from Israel to Egypt in the hopes of procuring food and rations. It is at that moment their long-lost brother Joseph recognized them. To make a long story short, at some point Joseph stopped the façade and told them that he was their brother.  

After Joseph shared with his brothers that indeed he is very much alive and is now the viceroy of the country, the brothers were taken aback. They were embarrassed, mortified, and humiliated. It was at this moment Joseph said the following magical words, “You did not sell me to Egypt, but rather God sent me here.”

Powerful words.

He basically told his brothers that all his hardships and pain was because God needed him to be in Egypt.  A student of psychology would argue that Joseph was numb and had lost all his feelings and common sense due to his trauma and he therefore adopted this attitude of denial. The Torah debunks this by showing us that Joseph was very much not numb and lists eight times where Joseph cried bitterly. I have not cried that many times in my whole adult life, while Joseph sobbed eight recorded times in a matter of a week. He was very much in touch with what happened and yet, he still mouthed that he was not sold, but rather sent.

You see the difference between being sold vs. sent is huge. Sold means that you were taken against your will, treated worse than an animal and placed in captivity to serve a master who may or may not mistreat you. Just think of the shameful African slavery and the pain and trauma that is still viable.

Sent, on the other hand, means that you are completely and respectfully trusted by individuals or communities to perform certain tasks. In fact, you were chosen to be sent because in my/our estimation, you are the BEST person for the job. We send a representative to congress to fight for us as an example. Joseph was stating that he was sent by the ultimate being, master of the world, creator of the universe, Almighty God on a most sacred mission. Joseph was awestruck that God chose him as opposed to anyone else to fulfill His wants and needs. It is for this reason I say it is powerful.

In Hebrew, we have a word called “Lamah,” which literally means WHY. Lamah, did you marry him? Lamah, do you never take out the garbage? This word is spelled with just three Hebrew letters L M H, which are combined with vowels in the guise of dots and dashes so that we pronounce it correctly.
Now if we take these same three letters L M H and change just one vowel, the word changes from Lamah to L’mah. While this does not change the way this word is written, as the three letters are static, it does drastically change its meaning. Lamah means WHY but L’mah means FOR WHAT. Understand the difference?

When one is trying to ponder life’s obstacles one could take either of these two approaches. Why (LAMAH) is this happening to me, or one can say For What (L’mah) is this happening. Why is a good question but often there are no answers. For what on the other hand is seeking meaning in something that is bothering us and causing us aggravation. For what purpose am I stuck in my own personal Egypt? For what purpose was I created? For what purpose was I sent to Dix Hills?

While we may not have all the answers to life’s suffering, we still need to find meaning and purpose of the pain and misery.  
As a Jew and student of the Torah and Kabbalah, it is very clear that whatever happens to any one of us is not random or happenstance. There is a purpose to everything we see and hear. In fact, CNN once asked the Lubavitcher Rebbe on the spot for a quick message to the world. The Rebbe responded without missing a beat, “Whenever two people meet, it should benefit a third.” What the Rebbe is saying is that when two people meet, it is not a random encounter but rather there is a much deeper meaning to this union of two seemingly random humans. Powerful.

The bottom line is this. Every person reading these few paragraphs were meant to read it, and likewise, I was meant to write it. You know this morning when I woke up, I had no idea what my weekly article would be about. It was only when I turned on the computer and opened Word that this idea began to form. I believe it was not random.
As we are all here to fulfill a purpose, let me not take up any more of your time as the point has been made.

Go take on the day.

A Thanksgiving Thanks - even when it hurts

We are approaching yet again the Thanksgiving holiday. It is a time where families get together and celebrate life. The past couple of years, we have been dealing with Covid and its ramifications. We should be thankful for this positive change this year and pray that it continues.
The concept of offering thanks is not alien to Judaism. In fact, as we shall see below, thanks are offered every single day in a myriad of ways. The basic thrust is that we need to thank and thank often, and never take anything and anyone for granted.

When the holy Temple in Jerusalem stood before it was destroyed by the Romans, there was a special thanksgiving sacrifice offered by those who wanted to say thank you to God. The Talmud informs us that there are four situations which obligate a person to bring this thanksgiving offering.

1.   One who has crossed the sea.
2.   One who traversed the desert.
3.   One who was sick and became healed.
4.   One who was incarcerated and became free.

The common denominator of all four occurrences is that they were saved from danger. To recognize this fact and thank the one above, a special offering is brought. Since there is no longer a Temple, we substitute these offerings with a special blessing during a public Torah reading. There is also a Jewish custom to invite family and friends to a special thanksgiving meal upon surviving a life-threatening illness.

We are taught in the Jewish code that the first thing we do upon awakening, before we say good morning to our kids and sorry to our spouse, is to sit at the edge of our bed, bow our heads and say a thank you prayer. The specific wording is that we thank God for restoring our Soul, and giving us another crack at completing our unique mission in this world. An acknowledgement that life is fragile and that there is much to accomplish.

As a Jew, I pray three times a day. These prayers are held in the morning, afternoon and evening. The Morning Prayer is the longest and is said before we go to work and begin our tedious day. The very first word that we utter as a congregation is the word “Hodu” which means thank you God for listening to our prayers.
At the pinnacle of all these three prayers, we are advised to ask God for individual and specific help. We stand, put our feet together and ask God to fulfill our wish list. This prayer is called the Amidah Prayer. The last page or two of this comprehensive wish list is completely devoted to thanks. Essentially, we are thanking God in advance for our very breath, food, job, children and life.

We are all human and most of us have had a thought-flicker that perhaps God is not listening to our prayers. And some of us are completely convinced that the thing they asked of God definitely went unanswered. I, as a Rabbi, get asked this over and over again.
My thoughts on this are that God’s sense of fairness, justice and thought is completely different from ours. We are a finite being and trying to understand God’s way of reasoning is impossible. We have not fully discovered and neither do we understand how our own brain works, let alone God’s brain. Even scientists who have mapped out the brain admit that they have only scratched the surface. Therefore, it is unreasonable to say that what God did or did not do was wrong or that He did not listen. God operates on a completely different wavelength.
It is very possible (I don’t know God’s brain either) that God did hear everything you asked for, and for whatever reason the answer was a resounding no! Does this make God inattentive or obtuse? I don’t think so. Is a mother evil when she refuses to allow her child an ice cream right before dinner? Even though there are plenty of other mothers (every dad will offer the ice cream and more) who do allow the dessert before dinner, a mother saying no to her child does not make her a bad parent. Quite the opposite. Not only is she not a bad person and mother, she is acting responsibly and fulfilling her divine obligation flawlessly. Likewise, when God says no, it is because there is a reason for it. We are like the child who does not understand how his/her parents can be so mean and not allow ice cream.

The bottom line is this. There are literally so many things to be thankful for. Even if we are hurting from something that is plaguing, troubling or afflicting us, we are obligated to see the good as well. Even if it is not easy to think positively, we must summon the strength to do so. To only see the negative without also seeing the positive is wrong and can be dangerous to one’s physical and spiritual health.
Some examples of simple but important thanks and recognition of the good: We need to be thankful for living in a civilized country with laws and courts as opposed to a place like Afghanistan that is ruled by whims and bullets. We must be thankful that we have a job, home, spouse, family and friends (a great Rabbi?). Even if you do not like your current employment, this should not stop you from being thankful that you have an income and are not homeless and living on the street. Your kids may be a massive drain on your energy, but always be mindful that there are people who are desperate to have children but cannot, etc.

My daughter recently sent me a picture of my grandson at the zoo. His mouth was agape with wonder, his eyes filled with love and hands reaching out to touch whatever animal he was looking at. The picture made me realize that sometimes children are way more appreciative of their surroundings than their parents. Why is this? Because adults are too cynical and are unable to see the forest for the trees. We need to be more hyper sensitive to all the good things happening around us and less critical.

The Thanksgiving holiday is a good time to start.
Please feel free to share.         

Extreme Living

Many people I speak to love this time of the year. The climate is not too hot or humid, and neither is it too cold and unpleasant. In fact, the weather of late has been perfect. While it is true there are those who love the extreme climate of intense heat or cold, I would think that it is nowhere near the majority. You see people, for the most part, appreciate the elements somewhere closer to the middle of the thermometer.
This is not only true of weather, but also of most things. Even politics and religious attitudes need to have a modicum of thought and common sense.

Let’s take politics first. An extremist on the right or on the left leaves us/me with a raised eyebrow. Political extremes are simply an unhealthy way to be. As a Jewish person, I am unnerved by someone who is extreme, as it usually spells trouble for the Jews. I also find that people who are extreme regarding politics have no life or extracurricular activities. It overtakes the individual to the point where friendships come secondary to their opinion. It is like a political cancer has taken over the mind. It is not supposed to be like this.

Same with religion. There is a reason why the Torah has to stipulate that to save a life we are allowed to violate Jewish law, even though for you and me it is obvious that life is the most precious thing that we possess. The Torah however, needs to spell it out as God knows that there are those who are so extreme that they will not eat on Yom Kippur even if it means that they could perish.
Maimonides in his magnum opus only advocates an extreme position if it is to rid oneself of negative behavior like alcoholism, etc. For the most part, Maimonides takes great pains to emphasize that the middle path to serving God and mankind is the proper one: “Such people may then return to the middle path, which is the proper one, and continue in it for the rest of their lives.”

Recently the Torah gave us two scenarios of extremes and condemned both of them. A couple of weeks ago, we studied the Torah portion all about the flood. There it states clearly that God brought a flood upon the masses because no one showed any respect for the other. Life was all about living a selfish and greedy existence. There was no consideration of someone else’s space, property, or belongings. As the Torah testifies, the people took what they wanted when they wanted and how they wanted. There was a total disregard for morality, honesty, decency and integrity. Rape and pillage were so common that God ultimately decided that this is not a world He wants to be king over.
A little further on in the same portion, the Torah discusses that all mankind lived together in one place and the Torah further testifies that mankind had but one language and wished to build the Tower of Babel. God was displeased and scattered them all over the region and altered their dilalects. Have you ever asked yourself what was so bad about people living together and all speaking the same tongue?  What is the Torah really telling us?

The answer is a fascinating one. The generation of the flood focused on the self, the individual and not on the community or family. The generation of Babel on the other hand were the polar opposite but also to an extreme. The Babelites strictly focused on community and they had complete disdain for the individual. They had no regard for differing or dissenting opinions. If someone did not agree, then they were classified as the enemy of the state. The philosophy was such, that you are either with us or against us – there is no middle ground. God decided then that I have no interest in being involved with this oppressive communistic approach either. 
So while the flood victims died because of extreme negative behavior, the generation of Babel were also disbursed for the same reason, extreme negative behavior. What God was looking for was a hybrid, where both the individual and the community matter.
Rabbi Hillel said it best. If I am not for myself, then who will be for me. If I am only for myself then what am I?

Please feel free to share.

The Powerball Lottery

The Powerball lottery is up to the staggering number of $1.5 billion dollars. This is a boatload of money.
While it is true this amount can be paid over a few decades, if you choose to take it all in one lump sum,
$700 million is pretty darn good.
I remember writing an article about a fellow from Michigan who won a $2 million lottery jackpot in 2010 and was found dead a decade later. The body of Mr. Leroy Fick was found floating in a Michigan river.
The reporter continued that Mr. Fick, from Auburn, won the jackpot in 2010, and after about two years, the money was gone. Fick spent $200,000 on the construction of a new home and about $200,000 in annuities, in addition to losing money in investments and fireworks.

It is mind boggling to me that a person receives a gift straight from heaven and then squanders it. Not only was $2 million lost, it happened in only 24 months. There must be some reasonable explanation to clarify how someone goes from rags to riches in a quick decline.

Of course, the most obvious explanation is that there were bad actors involved who made themselves available to “take care” of the newbie’s newfound wealth and then proceeded to wreak havoc on his bank account.

One explanation is that when a person not only goes from rags to riches, but also goes from rags to riches to rags again, it is usually because the newly wealthy person may be so overwhelmed with so much money so quickly that the individual is not comfortable with their new station. It is not unlike a prisoner being released from incarceration after 20 years, feeling uncomfortable on the outside and having a very difficult time acclimating to their new reality. Someone told me recently that ironically, they are more content being depressed, as it is so familiar and comfortable.

I once read that actor Nicholas Cage, who was a top earner worth $150 million, could not hold on to his money and squandered it on some strange and eccentric purchases, eventually facing foreclosure on several properties and owing the IRS $6.3 million in property taxes. To give you an idea of the eccentricity involved, he owned not one, two, or three homes, but fifteen residences, including two castles, islands and a pet octopus. This is another case of money overload.

There is another explanation gleaned from the Kabbalah that is fascinating as well as practical. As you may know, Adam &Eve were introduced to the Garden of Eden and told, “You may eat from every tree, except this one in the middle.” Can you imagine being Adam & Eve? They had every available fruit and veggie at their whim. They had grapes, dates, oranges, mangos, papaya, brussel sprouts, tomatoes, etc.
They could eat whatever and whenever they wanted as a gift from God at no charge. There was one expectation that they should not eat fruit from a particular tree. Everything else was free game and allowed except one single solitary tree. What did they do? They ate from the forbidden fruit and were promptly punished. They were booted out of the Garden of Eden. Now all of a sudden, they had to grow their own produce, by the sweat of their brow.

The Kabbalah explains what happened here with an interesting analysis. The Kabbalah calls this “Bread of Shame.” Bread of Shame is what Adam & Eve felt when every single one of their needs and whims were met without earning it, without working for it. They felt unworthy and embarrassed that they were on God’s welfare program. This feeling of unworthiness eventually led to resentment, which eventually led them to an attitude of not caring anymore about what God says because they lacked nothing. In other words, spoiled children whose parents do everything for them rebel against the very same people who take care of them. This is truly a case of biting the hand that feeds you.

It is fascinating to read the punishments that Adam & Eve received. They had to now work, and work hard for their sustenance. No more freebies being thrown their way. God took them off the payroll because He was not appreciated and was completely taken for granted. Their new life entailed having to work for their supper, which enhanced their self-esteem. They earned it and therefore it felt so much better.

Secondly, God introduced mortality. Living forever will allow people to rest on their laurels. I have all the time in the world, why do this today when I can do it tomorrow. This is also a form of “Bread of Shame.”
Not appreciating that every moment counts. The timer on the clock is counting down, etc.

Thirdly, God promised that not only childbirth will be difficult, but also child rearing. If our children sail through their upbringing with no issues whatsoever -- no calls from the teacher or principals, no drama with the neighbor’s kids and no hospital visits to cast yet another broken bone -- then the child will become invisible or at the very least very low profile. God wants us to appreciate our kids by creating them with instructions, “Don’t let your parents rest, kid. Give them a run for their money.” This way, the hard work we put into their upbringing will allow us to appreciate them even more.

The bottom line is this. Being born with a silver spoon can be a blessing or a curse as money can be a blessing or a curse. I think Philo, a Greco-Jewish philosopher in first century Alexandria said, "The family, the land and all of humankind can ultimately be destroyed as a result of failure to suppress desires for various pleasures." My Hebrew teachers (who were probably poor) were fond of saying, “Being wealthy is a bigger test than being poor.”

Having said the above, I still pray to win the lottery. As my friend’s father was oft to say, “I have been poor and I have been rich, and it is much better to be rich.”

Please feel free to share.

Why I applaud Adidas

Unless you are a politician up for election, you should be keenly aware of what transpired after Kanye
West (Ye) spewed hateful, venomous and vomit worthy nonsense from his rapper mouth. While West is far from being an idiot, he is most definitely ignorant and probably mentally unstable. Being a talented rapper and businessman does not make him a world historian. Clearly, he has no common sense and equally as clear, he has no love for the Jewish people.

I am not sure what “death con 3 on Jewish people” means. I assume he was referring to the term defcon
3. Hmmm, maybe he is an idiot after all. In fact, anytime you use the term death with the word Jews, people get nervous and become very unforgiving. The bottom line is that there is no defense of what he said. There are no reasons in the world that would make it right. Kanye West has now been outed as another anti-Semitic boar.

Talking about the bottom line, the only reason why anyone would defend the indefensible is to protect their bank account. My father used to tell me the following quip, “If there is something that is incomprehensible to you, if there is something that does not make any sense in any way and you cannot
figure out what is at play here, then you should realize that it has to do with money and has nothing to do with morality, logic or science.” How profound.

So now we get to Adidas and other companies who took down the Yeezy line and severed the connection with this hatemonger. Let’s face it; Adidas makes a lot of money by partnering with the boar.
They wooed him away from Nike and have made an absolute financial killing with this branded sneaker partnership. Yeezy sneakers, which cost between $200 and $700, generate about 1.47 billion dollars (billion) in annual sales for Adidas, making up a little over 7% of its total revenue, according to estimates from Telsey Advisory Group. Shares in Adidas, which cut its full-year forecast last week, closed down 3.2% this week.

Furthermore, Adidas has everything to lose by not branding with him. Ye is an American icon. The entire Gen Z is head over heels over his music. What Adidas did was incredible because it is completely counterintuitive to let him go. The temporary financial loss to Adidas is staggering. (The permanent losses to Ye are refreshing).

It is for this reason I support Adidas and I encourage my readers to purchase their products to show them your thanks. This decision to lose him could not have been an easy one. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall during the board meetings. Can you imagine losing your greatest single asset in one fell
swoop? I am positive that this is the reason the decision to run took a few days.

What Adidas did makes no financial sense and yet they did it. My father would have been gobsmacked. Thank you to all those who put this dangerous man in his place. He now has a lot less money to peddle
his influence, and this is a good thing.

It takes a village

 Yom Kippur may be over for this year but by no means is the holiday festival season passed. In fact, many argue that this is the Yom Tov (holidays) really start. Sunday night begins the celebratory holiday of Sukkos which continues for 8 days.

Getting ready for Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and beyond at The Chai Center is a mammoth task. There are so many moving parts that without multiple people, we could never have executed the busy time as well as we did.

Thanks to Caroline Tamer & Diane Facompre for going above the call and beyond to keep things running smoother than smooth. Not easy but handled with aplomb.

Thanks to Peri Rothman for putting to together all our social media & website development which allowed the greater community to keep abreast of the happenings.

Thanks to Zoey Saacks and Chaya Saacks who took it upon themselves to plan the high holiday junior congregation as well teaching the Hebrew school students all about these special holidays. No detail big or small was overlooked.

Thanks to our Chazzan Zalman Katz for exquisite services. Really beautiful.

Thanks to Paz Manyevitch who made sure that the building was ready for whatever came its way. From set up to break down, Paz was the manager in chief.

Thanks to Eric Diamond, Brad Becker, Alex & Jillian Nehkanevich, Preston Schoenfeld, Hal Schupak, The Morse family, Allan Richter, Joel Seleznow for not missing a beat and took it upon themselves to assist Paz and The Chai Center in a myriad of ways.

Thanks to Limor Shapiro for supervising the Junior Congregation and for all her work in the kitchen. Kiddush, Teens, Women’s programs and cooking for the needy as well.

Thanks to Sharon Penn, Jeremy Poland, Jillian Nekhanevich  and Michael Valdes for all their hard work in making sure that the Junior Congregation was at its best.

Thanks to our incredible group of teens Talia Mishkin, Abbey Strent, Drew Tannenbaum,  Shir Pinto, Chloe Dubinsky, Tatiana Poland, Breanna Alterescu, Zachary Alterescu, and Charles Morse.

Thanks to Andrew Schild for all the Audio Visual set up.

Thanks to Steve Bender and Bana Electric for all the lights, switches and relays.

Thanks to Yaghoubzaeh family, Levy family, Hova family, Dorfberger family, Fialkoff family, Morse family and Mikhael family for sponsoring the break the fast.

Thanks to Mandy Cohen for arranging the break fast and being the kiddush coordinator as well.  

Rosh Hashana - Not Rush Hashana

It is unbelievable that Rosh Hashanah is literally just a few days away. Everyone is shopping for round challahs, honey, pomegranates and a seat at the local Shul (No tickets needed at The Chai Center) We are running to buy new outfits and shoes. All fine and dandy and very appropriate.

However, one critical ingredient can be overlooked and this is what to pray for on this Rosh Hashanah. We need to be prepared and organized so that when we open the prayer book, whether at home or in shul, one must absolutely identify what it is that we are asking for. If we only start thinking about the most important aspect of Rosh Hashanah, it will feel rushed and hence the name Rush Hashanah.

The following is what I believe to be universal needs, wishes and wants, so therefore applicable to everyone.

Health is critical. Any person struggling with real health concerns (like men with a common cold), can tell you that it is overriding and prevailing. It literally trumps all other concerns and issues. In fact, it makes most other worries and fears look trivial compared to health. The body is very complex and while the medical and scientific community have made huge strides, they still have a long way to go. Take Covid as an example of something that has baffled virologists and other experts.
Therefore, while we put our trust in doctors, nurses and specialists, we must put our faith and belief in a higher power. We should pray this Rosh Hashanah that we have good bodily health, plain and simple without compromise.

The Talmud states that rearing is extremely difficult, and it is. To know when to discipline or coddle one’s child takes great Solomonic–like wisdom. I once heard someone say that “disciplining children is like holding a wet bar of soap. Either a grip that is too firm or one that is too gentle will cause the bar of soap – or a child – to slip through your hands.” We need to ask for divine guidance to know when to hold and know when to fold them. When do you look away and when must you not look away?
I once met a man while I was engaged to be married and he told me that he is the parent of 10 kids. I asked him how he manages to love and discipline them. His response was that he attributes his success with having good kids as10 percent from he and his wife and 90 percent from above.

The way I see it is that there are two types of love. Parents, by nature love their child(ren). From the moment the child is conceived there is this extreme love. Then there is the love between husband and wife. It was born long after this man and woman were born. And therefore, no matter how intense the love, it fades over time. No marriage has ever survived on passion and love alone. The Hollywood claim that this may be the case has destroyed many a marriage. Maintaining a successful and harmonious marriage involves work, commitment and dedication. It also takes a cargo boatload of patience, wisdom and discretion -- when to say something, when to keep quiet, etc. Once again, we need divine assistance to navigate the turbulent waters of spousal war and peace.

Everyone has a different definition of what it means to be successful. Some are not satisfied until they own vacation homes on three continents. Others collect rare cars, while others go nowhere and do not own a car, but do own real estate in midtown Manhattan. So, what financial success should we be praying for? Judaism teaches us that it is a beautiful blessing from above to become wealthy as long as it does not affect who you are.
I heard a story when I was a child about a regular hard-working man who earned a decent living and gave 10 percent to charity. He was reliable and consistent. Then the strangest thing happened. The moment his business became lucrative, he eased up on his charity. It seemed the more money he made, the less he helped others. This went on for a while until his Rabbi intervened and taught him a very profound lesson. The Rabbi took him to a window that was completely transparent and showed him the street below. He then showed him a mirror that reflects the viewers face and is not transparent. The Rabbi explained that the window and the mirror are both made of glass. The only difference would be the silver backing behind the glass. The businessman understood the metaphor that a little silver caused him to only see himself.
It is okay to make a verbal contract with God during your prayers. Help me be successful so that I can take care of my family, and I promise to take care of your family.

May we all be blessed with health, happiness, exquisite joy from our children, peace of mind, peace at home and the world over.

Please feel free to share.

The Rosh Hashana Moon - The Circle of Life

Before you know it, Rosh Hashana will be here and the Jewish holiday marathon will begin. If you are familiar with the Jewish lingo, you will hear that Rosh Hashana is late this year. What they mean is that Rosh Hashana is celebrated in late September instead of the beginning of the month, which is “early.” Truth be told, Rosh Hashana is neither early nor late. It is just on time.

Rosh Hashana, which translated means Head of the Year, is also always the new moon. The Jewish calendar, as opposed to the Gregorian one, is lunar centric, while the Gregorian calendar goes according to the sun. Therefore, regardless of whether Rosh Hashana is beginning, mid or late September, it will always be a moon.

One would think that Judaism with all its ancient, divinely inspired wisdom would use a solar calendar. After all, the sun is a constant; the sun represents life, light and warmth. The sun embodies God’s awesome strength and power. The moon does not have any of its own light but rather borrows from the sun. It is completely unreliable as it waxes and wanes and one cloud blocks it from doing its job. The moon is cold and Judaism teaches that coldness is the opposite of life. The moon seems like a horrible way of calculating the calendar year. Furthermore, the lunar month is not even a complete number as it is a 29 ½-day cycle. The sun is way more of an attractive choice, don’t you think?

355 DAYS
Another issue that comes up when you go by the moon is that the lunar year is 355 days and not 365 days. So, eventually Rosh Hashana gets earlier and earlier, and without a correction of a 30 day leap year every few years, Rosh Hashana will be in the spring as opposed to fall. Seems like a mathematical hassle to me.

The Rabbis teach that we go by the moon specifically because it has the aforementioned issues and quirks.

The moon is a better teacher of life than the sun could ever be. The Jewish people know full well what it means to wax and wane. We have waxed and waned in so many places that it is hard to keep track. Besides, it is unrealistic to only have good times. There are good and bad times and we have to celebrate the good and deal with the bad.

The waxing and waning itself is a powerful lesson. Even if life is particularly bad right now, we must learn from the moon to never give up. It may seem to disappear and give up. In reality, it knows that right now it is a meaningless sliver but it will grow again.

The 29 ½ fraction is also a lesson. We cannot live alone or be alone. We need people and we need purpose. We were not created to be a full-service human. We need other people to compliment us. You cannot be a doctor, lawyer, barista and mechanic. We cannot do it all. We are simply a fraction and not a complete entity.  

As far as the leap year goes, the lesson is inspiring. Sometimes we lose ground. While life and society should hopefully always improve, sometimes it goes south. We could be employed for 20 years and then we get the ax. The leap year does not build back 10 days over three years but rather 30 days in one shot. Yes, we may suffer the pain of losing a job, but it is possible that it was the very best outcome. You were hired by a new company with a much larger salary. What would normally take three years to gain seniority at your old place of employment, you were just promoted in the blink of an eye in the new firm. This is the lesson of the leap year. The future can change for the good, even if things look bad right now.

Join us for the High Holidays if you are able. Maybe we will toast the New Year with some moonshine.

Customized New Year Prayers - One Size Does Not Fit All

As the High Holidays are just around the corner, we are taught that it is prudent to start getting our thoughts in order so that Rosh Hashana does not become Rush Hashana. There are many themes on Rosh Hashana. One of them is that it is a propitious time to ask G-d for help and guidance in the upcoming New Year. 

While it is true that there is a special High Holiday Prayer book called a Machzor, which arrange our prayers for us, nothing can compare, however, to our own individualized and customized prayer that we lay out for ourselves and our own particular and specific needs. Just as there are no two fingerprints alike, so too there are different and definite needs that we all have.

Once Labor Day passes, I begin reflecting on what I would ask for and what assistance I need. The following is my preliminary contemplation, and I am sharing this to help you get your own Soul searching happening.

Almighty G-d,
Thank you for sustaining me for yet another year. While this past year has been a difficult one personally, communally and globally, I will not dwell on it as it is past, over, gone and finished. You gave us eyes only in the front of our head and not also in the back, to teach us that we must only look forward and not live in the past. I do hope that having said this, I would have learned from my past mistakes in order to recognize what not to repeat in the future.

I pray that this coming year my children are happy and healthy and that they struggle with only small obstacles. Please fulfill their positive wishes and aspirations and guide them on their respective paths to maturity and stability. I ask that my wife and I be given the strength and wisdom to be able to be there for them, undistracted, and that pride and joy be in abundance. Please give us the tools to be able to help them when needed. Please bless our respective siblings and their extended families.

I ask that you once again provide a modest living so that my family and I do not become a burden on anyone. I request that any monies I do earn be through dignified means.  I do affirm that I believe that I cannot earn a penny more than you have blessed me with. At the same time, I do understand that I need to make myself a receptacle for blessings by doing my part.

Please endow all branches of government with a positive disposition towards the Jewish people. Do not allow a few anti-Semites to poison the other lawmakers. Bestow on the three branches of government the ability to make right and moral decisions so that this country can truly remain these blessed United States. Heal our divisions and allow all its citizens and residents to come together for the common good. Protect these shores from those who seek to destroy. Help our government through the challenge of accepting immigrants, while at the same time keeping us safe. Guide them toward peace and never war.

As a Rabbi, I am responsible for the community I reside in and serve. I urge G-d’s blessing to rest on all of us to be healed from our wounds, whether physical, mental or spiritual. Help them with clarity of thought and peace of mind. Give them what they need and free them from nonsense burdens so that they can be free to devote time to doing acts of kindness and caring. Inspire them to continue making good decisions.

Please protect her from her multiple enemies from within and beyond her borders. Keep her morally strong and do not allow her agitators to weaken her integrity. Allow Israel to spread her goodness and ingenuity to all the world. Give her leaders the wisdom to be able to communicate effectively with her neighbors. Protect the citizens from murdering thugs who have been misguided and manipulated by evil people.

These are just some of my general thoughts that I have started to put together.

Feel free to share.   

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