Rabbi's Weekly Article

One Man's Thoughts

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.   

Rosh Hashana Birthday Reflections

Before you turn around Rosh Hashanah will be upon us. Whether you feel it is early this year or late, it does not change the fact that we are getting real close to the big day.

I am sure you have noticed the stark differences between the Jewish New Year and the civil one. On New Year’s Eve (December 31) we gather together in an exuberant atmosphere and party hard, accompanied with blowers and streamers, champagne and cocktails and we celebrate in the streets.
Contrast that with Rosh Hashanah eve; we get to bed as soon as we can because tomorrow is a very long day, and we need to hear a different type of horn, which has no definitive tune.
Furthermore, January 1 is a day to sober up from the previous night’s festivities. In the Jewish New Year however, instead of sobering up from last night’s nonparty, we sit somber in the sanctuary hopefully absorbing every word of the Rabbi’s sermon, and with any luck, enjoying the cantor’s heartfelt melodies.

It is true that in Judaism, like the rest of the world, we recognize we do need to celebrate the New Year.
After all, we made it to yet another year. In Judaism, we add an additional component to the day, which understandably changes the narrative. To understand this better, we need to really appreciate the reason as to why Rosh Hashanah is even a Jewish holiday.

Our sages share that Rosh Hashanah is the celebration of the anniversary of the creation of the world. In essence, we are commemorating the world’s birthday. However, the sages clarify that Rosh Hashanah was not the first day of creation, but rather the sixth. In other words the first day of creation happened six days before Rosh Hashanah on the calendar.
Why celebrate day 6 and not day 1? You see, on day 6 humankind was first introduced to the world. Day 1 through day 6, God created heaven and earth, light and darkness, seas and clouds, sun, moon and stars, fish and fowl, beasts, animals, reptiles and the West Nile mosquito. The last thing God created on Friday late afternoon was Adam & Eve.

The Rabbis explain that the reason we do not celebrate the 1st through 6th is because until then God was not acknowledged. Once a discerning human being was created, someone recognized God as its creator and therefore a day of distinction.

In other words, on Rosh Hashanah we celebrate the birthday of humankind. We are taught that Adam & Eve were created last to show the significance of the fact that a human being was brought into a ready-made world because humans need to have everything they need to accomplish their God-given mission immediately. We were brought into existence to make this world a better place. If God made Adam & Eve first before everything else, they would have to hang around for six days in a desolate existence. There was no sun to soak in, and there was no beach to relax on. Can you imagine a world without Manischewitz wine? Adam & Eve would have to wait until everything was ready to go to start making a difference.

These powerful thoughts teach us that laziness is detrimental to our mission, and it conveys that the world was made for us to be productive. God is our boss and demands that we make a positive difference to the world every single day.

Since we celebrate Rosh Hashanah on the day mankind was created because mankind was commanded to work with what you got, it follows that Rosh Hashanah is the actual birthday of mankind.

A birthday in Judaism is so important that it is not something that we take lightly. A birthday is the day God decided that the world needs you TODAY to come into this world and get to work. There is no redundancy in Judaism. No two people were created for the same reason. Each one of us has a unique mission to fulfill and today is the day.

As Rosh Hashanah is the birthday of mankind, we need to reflect on what good we need to accomplish in the coming year. Likewise, an individual’s birthday is spent the same way, pondering and ruminating.
We do not want to blow this special day by getting drunk in the streets, rather we pray for guidance and clarity, peace of mind and serenity.

Allow me to be the first to wish you all a happy birthday. May we all fulfill our specific purpose and may it be with ease.

Worth praying for.

Please feel free to share.

LaGuardia Airport - An Inspiration

Like most New Yorkers, I avoid LaGuardia Airport like the plague. The airport was built in 1939 and was never modernized. Everything about that airport irked me. The traffic, the parking, the neighborhood, and even the scruffy carpet that led you down the hill to your gate. I have seen much nicer and classier airports in impoverished countries. For me, LGA was an embarrassment. Maybe I am an airport snob, but I think most people agree with me.

This all changed over the past couple of weeks. I booked a rare ticket leaving LGA. I knew that there had been years of construction, and I was looking forward to even more debris, garbage and ugliness than usual. I arrived and proceeded to Delta at Terminal C, and I could not believe my eyes. This place was not just patched up; it was completely overhauled to the point where it was unrecognizable from its previous incarnation.

The place was spacious and opulent. No detail at least to my eyes was overlooked. Nothing was held back from making this the NY icon it should be. Even the carry-on baggage belt and x-ray had been overhauled to a sleek looking tunnel. It looks like an Elon Musk invention. LaGuardia Airport succeeded in completing its goal of creating a world-class, 21st century passenger experience.

I was so impressed with it all that I could not stop thinking (much time to kill on the flight) that if LGA can turn itself around, then anything can.
Many couple’s marriages are a trainwreck -- full of debris, baggage all over the place and a fire burning through the fabric of their relationship. The love has completely derailed and is tumbling down faster and faster. A couple may ask themselves, “How did we get here.” It is my opinion that the main question the couple needs to ask themselves is, “How do we right the train.”

The answer in one word is LGA. You see, LGA had been under construction for over six years and cost billions. They worked and worked on it and did not stop until it was completed. They could have just completed part of it and rested on their laurels, but they kept on going until the structure was sound and complete. Their great effort really shows.

Any marriage takes work. A troubled marriage can take years to rebuild trust and assuage fears. Do not give up halfway. Keep on at it until the marriage is sound and complete. There is no question that rebuilding cannot be done if there is minimal effort. I remember when I was a young married man, I was told that if each spouse offers their 50% then it still does not add up to 100%, but rather only 50%. In fact, it probably will not even add up to 50%. Rather, you need 100% participation from both.

The same hard work is needed to keep up a relationship with one’s children. Just because you raise them, do not think for a second that they will always be close to you. The older they get the harder the work it is to maintain a healthy kinship. My wife and I work extremely hard to foster love between us and our adult children, sometimes to the point of exhaustion. My point is that parenting grown children cannot simply be on autopilot. It takes great effort. Just because you no longer need to protect them from a school bully, you still need to love them and protect them from adult bullies.

Lastly, the country, just like LGA, needs a major overhaul. It will take a lot of effort and many years. I am confident that we as a nation will persevere.

Please feel free to share.

From Oy to Joy: How to Transform Negativity

This past week we experienced the saddest day on the Jewish calendar. On this day, the Jewish nation fasted, sat on a low mourning chair, and lamented the destruction of both Holy Temples in Jerusalem. This day of national mourning is called Tisha B’Av, which translates into the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av. This always occurs in mid-summer or if you live down under, mid-winter.

The Talmud states that the 9th of Av has historically been a negative day for the Jewish people. The Rabbis list five terrible tragedies that occurred on this day.

1. The day God decreed that Moses and the Jewish people will die in the desert and will only enter the Promised Land in another 40 years.

2. The first temple built by King Solomon was destroyed in the year 586 B.C.E.

3. The second temple was destroyed on this day close to 600 years later in the year 70 C.E.

4. The City of Beitar, which led a revolt against the Romans in 135 C.E., was squashed and the leader/warrior of the Jewish people, bar Kochba, was killed along with tens of thousands of Beitar’s citizens.

5. After the Beitar defeat, the Romans plowed through the city of Jerusalem to get rid of any trace of the Jewish homeland. It is for this reason that the Temple Mount does not look like it is on a mountain. We are taught that the Romans shaved off 1,000 feet of the mountain to reduce it to a hill.

There are other tragedies that happened on the 9th of Av that took place after Talmudic times. They are:

1.  All Jews were expelled from England in 1290.

2.  The last day for Jews to leave Spain happened on this day in 1492. Anyone who stayed was either killed or forced to convert to Christianity.

3.  Germany’s entrance into World War I, which led to the eventual rise of the Nazi regime.

4.  The “Final Solution” gained approval on Tisha B’Av in 1941, creating the Holocaust, which killed one third of the world’s Jewish population.

The Talmud further teaches that the negative energy of the 9th of Av was caused by the people and was not God’s innovation. In other words, we brought this bad juju upon ourselves. The Rabbis posit that because the Jewish people were hesitant to enter the land of Israel upon leaving slavery and bondage from Egypt, God got upset. They were terrified that they would lose against the Canaanites and perish.  However, they should have had more faith and instead of crying bitter tears for days and nights beginning on the 9th of Av, they should have been gung ho. God told them that since you cried for naught, I will give you something to cry about and there started this day of hell for the Jewish people.

Our ancestors, as just mentioned, were the ones who caused this regular day to be one of pain, strife and death. They spat in the eye of God who just took them out of Egypt by way of 10 plagues and the splitting of the sea, and instead of feeling grateful, they turned down God’s vision of bringing this newly emancipated nation to the Promised Land. I don’t know about you, but if I saw a sea being split in half or a river turning to blood, I would either be a complete believer or stop drinking so much scotch. I can’t judge because I was not there in bodily form when this occurred. 
The lesson is obvious. If we were punished because we cried for nothing, then the antidote to all this negativity is to be happy for nothing.

How is someone supposed to be happy when there is nothing to be happy for? How are we supposed to be happy when we are in pain? The antidote to all this pain seems to be out of reach for the majority of people, with the exception of those who are completely emotionally numb and feel no pain at all. Even those who are emotionally numb will have difficulty being happy, as they are numb.

The solution, brought down in the esoteric books of Kabbalah, is to essentially lead a double life with compartmentalized emotions. On the one hand, when life is tough, I kvetch, cry and complain. On the other hand, simultaneously, despite whatever it is I am going through, I must feel privileged to be a part of God’s world where God decided that I am needed to help galvanize whatever it is I am chosen for.
None of us was created by mistake. None of us is redundant or no longer needed. One of Judaism’s founding principles is that we all have a distinct purpose and reason as to why we were brought down to this rat race.
Therefore, during the pain, we can pause a moment and reflect to ourselves, “Oy, this is so painful and say oy vey, I wish this nightmare would end.” However, the pain does not exonerate me from fulfilling my Godly purpose. You must say, “I am alive because God thinks I matter and therefore I must get up from my melancholy right now and do what my creator asks of me. I am privileged that God chose me and this fills my heart with joy.”

This short pep talk puts life into perspective. We have a dual existence and we must do our best to be our best in order to compliment both of them. Just living a life of pain is a waste of life. On the flip side of the same coin, simply living in euphoria, without recognizing that you need help, is foolish.

Be blessed. 

Forgetting the Unforgettable

Human beings can be very forgetful at times. We have the ability to forget birthdays, anniversaries and other theoretically non-forgettable dates. Someone once told me that as a man you could only forget your spouse’s birthday once, because she will make sure that you never make that mistake again. When we lose a loved one is another example of when brain fog can set in. We say to ourselves during that most difficult time that I will never forget you. While this is technically true, there can be times where we do not think of the person and a whole week can go by where we temporarily forgot to remember the person. Parenthetically, losing a child, God forbid, is not the normal loss we are speaking of here.

There are certain things that become a little fuzzy over time and we don’t quite remember most of the details. This is so because we are wired to forget. In fact, if we remembered vividly every single negative thing that happened to us, we would adopt the fetal position, and never be able to get out of bed. I always tell newlyweds that it is normal to argue, bicker and even fight with one another in the course of their marriage. So how can they tell if it was a particularly bad argument, one that requires a therapist or other intervention? I advise the young couple that if after a couple of days you remember every bit of the argument clearly and exactly what you were fighting about and who said what, then that was a bad one.

There is of course something called The Forgotten War. The Korean War was fought from 1950 until 1953 and pitted the United States, South Korea, and their UN allies against North Korea and the Chinese Communists. The Korean War is often called the “Forgotten War” because it was largely overshadowed by WWII and Vietnam. History has shown that many Americans began forgetting about the Korean War even before the armistice agreement was signed on July 27, 1953.

I honestly do not know what it means to “forget” a war. I mean how can the war against Korea, where close to 40,000 soldiers were killed mostly in direct battle with the enemies, be forgotten. I think that perhaps they did not so much “forget” the Korean War, but rather, never thought much about it to begin with.

I remember reading the shocking findings of a survey that was taken in September of 2020. I was so troubled by it that I saved the survey and look at it from time to time. The survey found that 10% of the 11,000 participants questioned whether the Holocaust actually occurred, while 3% actually denied that it ever took place. This was a 50 State survey. What I find most disturbing is that over 19% of those surveyed in New York State claimed that Jews caused the Holocaust! Can you imagine the ignorance? Who would have thought that over 60% of those surveyed had no idea that the number of Jews killed was six million, What apathy. There are plenty of other statistics that are equally as troubling. You have to ask yourself what does "never again" mean.

Have you noticed that the reports on the Russian offensive against Ukraine are basically no longer talked about? The media for the most part is silent, and very very few of my concentric circle even bring it up anymore. I wonder how many journalists are actually still there on the front lines. I think that R. Kelly gets more press than this war. This is extremely painful to me because civilians are being indiscriminately killed and we remain silent. I am sure it was like this during the Holocaust as well. I am quite positive that not one golf game was cancelled when word started to get out about the atrocities being inflicted on human beings. I wonder how many people lost sleep at night.
To avoid hypocrisy on my part, I wish to share the following. According to Ukraine’s official count (not saying it is accurate), the gory numbers are as follows: 10,000 killed, 30,000 wounded, 7,200 missing (5,600 captured). Even according to the UN High Commission (more like useless commission), over 4,400 civilians have died and another 5,500 wounded. These are innocent men, women and children whose only crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I don’t know about you, I lose sleep every night over this and other painful issues which are beyond the pale.
In my opinion, apathy is not something we should be proud of but rather ashamed of. If we are apathetic and there is loss of life as well, then you have to wonder if we have learned anything since we were cave dwellers. Do not let another hour go by without contemplating the plight of these poor people. Say a prayer as it cannot hurt and it shows you are a sensitive person.

Feel free to share.

Between Two Worlds

As a student of Jewish philosophy, I have been taught that a human being does not live and exist in just this world. We also exist simultaneously in realms and worlds higher than our understanding. It has been ingrained in me that my every act has consequences, positive or negative, and affects upper and lower worlds. The Kabbalah teaches us that one way to draw down blessings is to do something good, which creates positive energy and then goodness will be reciprocated back to us. It is not unlike the four main stages in the water cycle. They are evaporation, condensation, precipitation, and collection. In other words, water evaporates and ascends above and then comes back down in liquid form.
The way I understand this is that while my feet are firmly planted on terra firma, my consciousness ascends much higher. I have a material life as well as a spiritual one. Often, I feel caught in the middle of two worlds where my ego tells me one thing, but my humble side tells me something else. The ultimate goal is to make peace between the two, which means live life to the fullest physically and materially and nurture one’s spiritual side at the same time.

Lately I have been feeling that I am caught between two worlds wherever I go. Some examples: If I turn the channel to CNN (not that I do anymore) I get one set of world news, but when I go to FOX (not that I do anymore), I get a completely different picture. I sometimes ask myself, are they talking about the same topic? How can the news be so disparate when news is supposed to be a reporting of the facts? If it is not factual then it cannot be called news, can it?
It is more than just the news. I am on social media and I am witness to two completely different worlds. One person writes, if you believe ABC then unfriend me now, while someone else posts if you believe XYZ then unfriend me now. I am so surprised that Facebook and Instagram have any friends left.
I am in my 50’s so I know it was not always like this. The country is so divided that I am actually fearful for my children. If things do not get better soon we will be in deep trouble. We must find a way to reach common ground so that we can talk to each other. As I have insomnia, I think about this plenty. The following are my humble offerings.

I have been doing the following as of late and I find it really helps me be a better person. When someone says something that I vehemently disagree with, I do not respond with an immediate knee jerk retort. What I do instead is thank them for their perspective and opinion and calmly give my opinion. I do this not in a warlike way, but rather in an intellectual discussion between two adults. This allows me to learn something new and it allows the other person to hear me out, which he would not do if I were engaged in verbal warfare.

Another way to help lower the flame is to simply spend a few moments to think for yourself. The media shoves a lot of garbage down our throats. We can be so gullible that we take every talking head at face value. I have met people as you have that seem cultish the way they talk about the burning issues of the day. I understand passion and have great respect for it, but I will never understand cult like behavior. What I mean by this is that some of these people that I meet cannot function properly. Their work is lacking, friendships are torn apart and children’s playdates are cancelled. It is really obscene to witness. If it has gotten to this stage, you need to take a giant leap back.

Personally, I like to call myself an independent thinker. I do not vote down party lines and I definitely do not agree with half the issues that each party brings forth as gospel. I regurgitate the information I hear and come to my own decisions.

Which leads me to the next thought…Common sense is clearly not so common. In fact, I find it to be quite rare. There are so many things that I have seen over the past few years, both domestically and globally, where I say to myself whoa, that does not make sense and it is actually counter intuitive. How can this be? Why has simple logic been thrown out the window? Of course, there are many things that are above my paygrade and I lack information. However, there are many things that lack basic common sense. I am always open to attempting to understand the reasoning or ruling but I am not foolish. Logic comes before party and common sense comes before uncommon sense.
I have not mentioned anything specific because I do not want these thoughts to deteriorate into politics. I am caught in the middle of a storm and I do not like it. We need to go back to civil disagreements as human beings. Remember Blockbuster?  Be kind – rewind. 

That’s all for me.
Share if you think it will help.

Fostering the Ability to Choose

The only correlation these thoughts have to Roe vs. Wade is the word choice. This article has nothing to do with abortion. Truth be told, after listening back and forth about the right to choose, etc., I realized that choice is a very powerful concept.

I met this famous Rabbi and author once on Fire Island. We developed a relationship and we spoke many times. Rabbi Weiner was the founding rabbi of Temple Israel of South Orange, N.J. He served his congregation for over 34 years until his retirement in 1982. Rabbi Weiner was the author of two books, "Nine and One-Half Mystics" (1969), and "The Wild Goats of Ein Gedi" (1961). He once told me a story that affected me deeply and I share this idea with many people I meet.
Rabbi Weiner told me that on one occasion during a meeting with the grand Rebbe of Chabad Lubavitch, Rabbi M.M. Schneerson, the Rebbe asked him as to whether the Bar Mitzvah students at his Hebrew school are taught about the mitzvah (command listed in the Torah) of tefillin (phylacteries). Tefillin are worn daily for life beginning when a boy reaches 13-years-old, which is the age of Bar Mitzvah. Rabbi Weiner responded that he does not want to force this mitzvah on the kids, and therefore, he will let them decide for themselves when they become adults.
The Rebbe pressed on. Do they know what tefillin are? Have they seen what tefillin look like? Rabbi Weiner responded that no, they have not seen a pair of tefillin. The Rebbe was incredulous and asked the following question. How are they able to make a choice about the tefillin if the choice has been taken away from them?
What the Rebbe meant was for real choice to be had, the individual who needs to make the choice should have all the cards on the table before them. You cannot remove some of the items/concepts and expect a person to make a choice if they have no idea what it is they are choosing. This is true in many aspects of life. I tell many parents who enroll their child in our education system that our goal is to empower your children to be able to make a choice when they go to college and beyond. 
This is where faith comes in, and why it is so important. The idea of faith is that you do not know factually and with certainty about what you are choosing because it is not humanly possible to understand Divinity. Therefore, you make a conscious decision that even without all the information, you will “choose” to believe.
It is vital that parents give their child a proper foundation and give them the tools to be able to know universal right from wrong. If they have no idea what right is, then how are they supposed to make an informed choice? The greatest threat to Judaism in my opinion is continued ignorance. So many people do not even know that they do not know. Who knows? If they knew, then maybe different choices would be made.
Feel free to share.

Jewish Lives Matter - Or do they? Up to us

It has not been the best of times for Israel nor the Jewish people. Then again, I do not know when it has been a good time. However, there are certain recent outrageous incidents that should have been spoken about in the news media but are unfortunately too inconvenient and therefore omitted or glossed over. Once again, it is my opinion that choosing to ignore certain facts is not only immoral, but is also dangerous, especially to the Jewish people.

As an example, how many of you know that during the June 2022 North Carolina Democratic State Convention the following resolutions were discussed. The fact that they even came up is wrong, but actually discussing these issues is horrific and frightening.
Resolution #1:  In the resolution entitled "A Resolution in Support of Human Rights in Israel/Palestine," the NCDP called on the United States to apply existing laws on equipping and aiding foreign violators of human rights to Israel and to impose "targeted sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, on those individuals and entities that continue to commit," human rights crimes. The state convention accused Israel of several human rights violations.
Resolution #2:  There was a resolution calling to commemorate a Nakba Remembrance Day, asserting that journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was deliberately killed by Israel.
I do not know about you, but I am shocked and repulsed that these resolutions were discussed over more pressing matters locally. I mean, maybe the convention should have focused on the fact that in 2020, 670 people in North Carolina died as a result of guns, up from 511 the prior year. In 2022 alone, there have been hundreds of shootings just in Durham.
During this time of unrest in our country including violent fatalities, stagflation, high costs of gas, lack of baby formula, etc, it seems idiotic (hateful) to talk about Israel.

Did you know that Facebook and Twitter are funding and working closely with a pro-Palestine charity that is linked to alleged terror groups that revere convicted killers and had a Holocaust denier as a guest speaker – along with Rep. Rashida Tlaib. Have you seen this on the news? Meta, Facebook's parent company, provides funding and works closely with pro-Palestine charity 7amleh.
Ironically, the partnership is one of many launched by Meta with the aim of “keeping harmful content off our platforms and helping to prevent risk offline.”
That a number of convicted terrorists are on the board or are employed by 7amleh should be a leading story on the news. I heard nothing about this; have you?

Maher Abdel Qader of the Palestinian American Congress has friends in high places. It makes total sense that this hater of Jews and Israel should be aligned and freely fraternize with other like-minded haters such as Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Rep Cori Busch of Missouri and Keith Ellison who is the AG of Minnesota.
What does not make sense is the friendship with NYC Mayor Eric Adams. The Mayor has this country’s largest Jewish population and appointed two Orthodox Jews to his administration. However, these two are friends nonetheless. Early in 2021, Abdel Qader was one of only six community leaders to speak with Adams on a Zoom call and talk over the then-candidate’s “campaign vision [and] issues,” as well as to “engage in his campaign.” Why has Adams not distanced himself?
In case you are wondering what makes him so bad, the reasons are too numerous to print all of them out. Read just this one paragraph.

“JEWS planned 9/11 = Now-defunct Project for the New American Century = Coordinated and executed by Mossad = NOW called “Foreign Policy Initiative” = Same criminal Jewish cabal members after the creation of Greater Israel (Oded Yinon Plan), with all Jews of the world called to migrate to the expanded Jewish homeland following the persecution by angry host populaces of the collapsing once-wealthy and once-stable nations now overwhelmed by the undesirable non-White races. = Ashkenazi Khazars are nation-wreckers with an agenda to destroy the diversity of the world = Mongrelize the races to rule over from Greater Israel, their seat of unilateral totalitarian hegemony. Solution = Expel almost ALL Jews from Europe & AMERICA + END Oded Yinon.”  

Nice guy. Friends with politicians.

More importantly, why do we tolerate this? I know the Jewish way is not to burn cities but we must do something. What can we do? I believe that we need to tackle all three suggestions simultaneously to be most effective. In a nutshell:
1. Be outspoken. Do not be timid. Reach out to Meta, Adams and the North Carolina politicians and anyone and everyone else. We need to be vigilant in our defense.
2. Be proud of who we are. Continue to thrive and grow despite those who wish terror and death upon us. Build more houses of Jewish worship, more community centers, Jewish schools and kosher restaurants.    
3. Discover what it means to be Jewish. Explore our rich history. Pray, study, and join a warm community. Much more dangerous than a Rashida Talib is apathy. How can we expect others to like us if we do not have a proper grasp on who we are? If knowledge is power then self-knowledge is powerful to self.  

God bless.

Ben & Jerry's Reversal - A Blow to BDS

We are living in a time where the present is in complete turmoil and chaos and the future seems very bleak and depressing. The country is divided on almost everything, from vaccines and abortions to bail reform and anti-Semitism. The crime rate is soaring, particularly in big cities. Gas prices are out of reach and baby formula is scarce. The border is more porous than a sponge and the Supreme Court has added fuel to an already out of control fire.
I actually feel sorry for my kids who are coming into adulthood during such an unstable period. Life is hard enough without the constant rhetoric coming from all sides. I do not know how we got here, but more importantly, I do not know how we are going to get out of this horrible mess we find ourselves in.

The problem is that if we only focus on the bad news, then we become depressed, or worse, go insane. We have to look out for the good things as well. I have always been taught to keep an eye for the positive and celebrate all victories.

In July of 2021, the ice cream giants Ben & Jerry’s, owned by an even bigger giant, Unilever, declared, “We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). We also hear and recognize the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners.”
As I wrote about this debacle when it occurred, this was simply a case of selective discrimination. Ben & Jerry’s has no problem selling its ice cream products in Russia despite the occupation of Crimea and Sevastopol and certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk. Similarly, Ben & Jerry’s has no problem selling ice cream in Saudi Arabia but not the tub called hubby hubby, because in Saudi Arabia, they throw homosexuals off the highest roof to their death.
Ben & Jerry’s sells everywhere they can, but they came to a red line when it came to hawking their products in certain areas of Israel. Their hypocrisy knows no bounds. Shameful and pathetic.

Almost one year later, The Simon Wiesenthal Center received a call Wednesday morning from Unilever CEO Alan Jope, who informed the SWC of the company’s decision to put a halt to Ben & Jerry’s Israel boycott. Rabbi Marvin Hier, Founder and CEO of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, was informed of the decision personally in a phone call Wednesday morning from Unilever CEO Alan Jope. Shortly after the call between Rabbi Hier and Mr. Jope, Unilever officially announced it reached a new agreement with its current licensee in Israel to sell ice cream under both its Hebrew and Arabic names in Israel and the West Bank.  
Apparently, Unilever, feeling the heat from the Israeli Government and consumers, while also being entangled in a lawsuit, decided that there is a way around this quagmire. Unilever sold its Israeli rights to the Ben & Jerry’s brand to Avi Zinger, owner of American Quality Products Ltd, the company that had been distributing the ice cream in Israel as a licensee. The deal will allow the sale of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream across Israel, including in Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria, without Unilever’s direct involvement in the sales.

This is definitely good news for the Jews and very bad news for the hate group Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement (BDS) whose sole desire and purpose is to hurt and demonize Israel. Ironically, the BDS movement usually ends up hurting the Palestinian population instead. So anytime the BDS gets kicked down, it is good news. We should celebrate.

Unilever in their statement following the call to Rabbi Hier wrote that the company “unequivocally” condemned any form of discrimination or intolerance, saying anti-Semitism “has no place in any society.” Unilever also distanced itself from the anti-Israel BDS movement, without explicitly condemning it. “We have never expressed any support for the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement and have no intention of changing that position.”
I am glad that Unilever finally came to their senses. I am aggravated that it took a year to do so, when it should have never happened in the first place. As for me, Ben & Jerry’s will remain forbidden forever. My reasoning is this; there is nothing worse than a self-hating Jew who hides under the cover of morality and justice, when in reality, hates himself and his kind so much that he is willing to demonize his people and cause much harm.
I do not understand the self-hate. I am a proud Jew. While there are instances where I cringe when a person or persons act inappropriately, I would never debase my own tribe and I would never ever try to inflict pain and suffering on an entire region.

In fact, Ben & Jerry’s would be wise to study the following tidbit of Jewish history. The second Holy Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. Titus and his cohorts only got involved in Jerusalem matters after some fellow self-hating Jews known as the Pharisees called in the authorities to help them in their quest against the Sadducees. This action undeniably led to the destruction of the Holy Temple. Ironically, Ben & Jerry’s boycott was located in that very region. The lesson is obvious.

We must do better.
Please feel free to share.

Abortion in Jewish Law

One of the most debated topics in this country in the last 50 years is Roe v. Wade. There is a great divide amongst the citizens. The topic is so polarizing that many arguments are so heated that there are times where it actually leads to violence. I am always baffled when I hear of a women’s clinic being bombed by some pro-lifer. Sometimes these bombings actually kill or wound people. I say to myself why is it okay to kill a human being with whom you disagree. The very name pro-life means that you believe in life, so how can killing be justified?

My opinion on the matter is not relevant to this article. This is for educational purposes only. I would also like to point out that each case has its own unique situation, so please do not apply this teaching practically.

What I find truly fascinating about the traditional Jewish stance on abortion is that like many of Judaism’s stances, it is quite nuanced and therefore cannot be pegged into one corner or another. 

We find the first reference to abortion in Genesis. The first book of the Torah states, “One who sheds the blood of man through man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of G d He made man.” While this verse is somewhat ambiguous, the Talmud learns from the words “one who sheds the blood of man through man” is to be explained more accurately translated as “one who sheds the blood of man within man.”

However, things are not that simple when it comes to the Torah. In Exodus there is a verse that states, “Should men quarrel and hit a pregnant woman, and she miscarried but there is no fatality (the mother did not die), he shall surely be punished when the woman’s husband makes demands of him, and he shall give [restitution] according to the judges.”
Since the Torah obligates only a monetary fine but not capital punishment, the Torah seemingly views the fetus as property, not as a human life.

The pro-choice quote a section of Talmud that says a fetus is not an independent entity but rather, “a limb of its mother,” so they claim that it is proof that termination is allowed. This is not proper proof however, because halachically one is not permitted to amputate a limb unless it is medically imperative that it be done.

The Mishna (predecessor to the Talmud) teaches that if the fetus is threatening the mother’s life then her life takes precedence over [the fetus’s] life. If, however, the majority of [the fetus] emerged, we may not touch it, for we do not push aside a life in place of another life.”
The Talmud and Maimonides clarify the reasoning as to why an unborn baby may be sacrificed to save the host. He posits that the fetus is a rodef. The Jewish law of rodef states that we are permitted to kill a violent perp who is pursuing a potential victim in order to prevent the victim from being killed. Since the fetus is actively threatening the mother’s life, it can/should be terminated. However, once the fetus’ head has emerged from the birth canal, then the life of the fetus and the life of the mother are on equal footing.

Aside from being a physical threat to the mother, a rodef can also be at times a mental or psychological threat where it ruins the person carrying the fetus. According to many Jewish authorities, rape and incest would be such a case where some rabbinical experts would allow an abortion. There are a number of stories/lessons in the Torah of rape or incest, but we do not see that an abortion was had.

Terminating a pregnancy is probably one of the most complex parts of Jewish law. As we stated earlier, each case is so nuanced, one would have to contact a competent Rabbi who is well versed in these matters. Just as one would seek out a lawyer for legal matters, a dentist for cavities, an oral surgeon for extractions, so too, we must go to a rabbinic expert, and not just any Rabbi to clarify these matters.  


Thoughts on Violence in our Schools

WHY #1
After the Texas massacre at the public elementary school, I was pondering to myself why yeshivas and parochial schools have been spared the senseless murder of school age children. There is only one incident that I recall. A deranged individual killed five Amish girls and wounded five others at the small Amish school. He ultimately killed himself. The perpetrator was not a student, but rather a loony in his 30s who simply hated women. Most, but not all the other killings, were at the hand of fellow students.

WHY #2
You have to ask yourself why the United States has suffered through 288 school shootings since the beginning of 2019, while Mexico, the runner up, has a grand total of eight, which is eight too many.

Over the past week, I have heard quite a number of possible theories. We will explore some of these. These are not necessarily my opinion; however, I bring them here as it makes for an interesting dialogue.

A private school has way more autonomy as to whom they allow to be enrolled. They are free to simply deny enrollment for the most trivial of reasons. Growing up, I was at the end of that sword where one particular yeshiva administration brandished it like a weapon. They gave no reason for my rejection other than we don't think that this is a good idea for this student to join our student body.
Public schools on the other hand must accept all students by its very charter. They may opt to expel a student for abnormal or dangerous behavior, but it is a choice of last resort.

The public schools are huge. They have to be, as 95% of students in any given neighborhood attend these schools. Homeschooling is a relatively small number, same for parochial schools. I went to an elementary school with only 200 other students, and the high school petered out to only 40 students.
It is so much easier for the staff to be in touch with each student and their families and be fully aware as to who needs additional help emotionally. The yeshivas pretty much have you sized up weeks before school starts. While it is true parochial schools do not hire school psychologists due to a strict budget, the teachers are the eyes and ears and the first line to address issues.

It is a current federal law that guns are not allowed to be on public school property unless it is carried by either a federal or state officer of the law. If I know this piece of trivia, then the deranged shooter knows this as well. This is not the case with the private sector.  In this day and age, many if not most Jewish schools either have armed guards or are armed themselves.
It has been proven that one cannot fight gunfire effectively with a megaphone or nightstick. The most effective way to put down an armed killer is to bring forth a gun as well. This is a fact. I am not advocating gun lawlessness. Common sense must prevail and not hysteria.

I recently took my grandson to Dave & Busters, and I was shocked to see the all too real bloody and violent video games. Blood, guts, bullets and bombs were all over the screen. I get that it is a game and a load of fun, but we have to ask ourselves, is this ok. Is it too much gore? I reflect that my childhood years were spent improving my skills at Ms. Pac-Man (I got past the banana level). Not once did I think when I swallowed a colored monster that I was killing it.  

I am acutely aware of the importance of separation of church and state. The last thing anyone wants is a teacher who belongs in a cult to contaminate your child's mind with bizarre and dangerous thoughts. However, values must be taught. In Judaism as an example, the value of life is one of its basic tenets. Life is not to be wasted or squandered. Sustaining life comes before literally everything else. It is sacred and one should fight for every moment. Yom Kippur takes a back seat if fasting is deleterious to one's health. Judaism permits abortion without hesitation if the fetus brings risk to the mother's life.
Additionally, having faith in something greater than oneself is not to be scoffed at. Believing in a Godly world is enriching and is a gift to one’s life. Life is not arbitrary. Life is not to simply be lived until we no longer can. Life with faith can be a very powerful existence. We are here for a purpose and not to just play golf.
When the founding fathers instituted the concept of freedom of religion, they did not mean freedom from religion. It is sad that belief in a higher power is waning.
One may argue that history has shown that more people have been killed in the name of God than anything else. My response to this is not to confuse people like the Crusaders or Islamic terrorists with people of God. Anyone who kills masses in the name of God is not Godly, and in fact, God is not impressed. The Crusaders killed, raped and pillaged men, women and children. They were not Godly or holy. They were sadistic barbarians.

Why do we have the notorious distinction of being the leader in school shootings? It is probably due to the ease of procuring a gun. While New York is tough on getting a pistol license, it is fairly easy to buy a long gun. I own a few of my own and it literally is a 10-minute wait for the background check to allow a long gun purchase.
If it was a longer check and more extensive, it may catch some record that the 10 minute check does not. In order for me to drive a car, I had to get a license, which aside from taking a five hour safety course and then the written test, DMV also checked my eyesight to see if I can see the signs properly. Why not make a gun safety-training course as well as a test for gun ownership.  It makes sense, no?
As an aside. I attended a Memorial Day ceremony where at the tail end of the agenda, before all were dismissed, there was the rifle salute followed by Taps. In the middle of Taps, one of the rifles went off unexpectedly. The owner had not removed their finger from the trigger. I thought to myself that this faux pas should be a lesson for all in terms of gun safety.
I do not claim to be an expert in other countries’ gun laws. It does seem, however, that we need to do better.

Please feel free to share.

Another Sandy Hook - We are Insane

{This is not intended to be a politically partisan post.}

This is simply one human being voicing his pain. I refused to go to sleep last night, not that I could have anyway. I did not lay down because hundreds of people are mourning the loss of their children and grandchildren over a senseless, barbaric, savage, and cruel act. Notice, I did not say animalistic, as even an animal would never kill for deranged reasons unless rabid.
The shooting in Texas comes after other senseless shootings all over the country such as the racist killings of people shopping in Buffalo because they were black, and hence a different race. It is also too much to bear.
I say this to all racists and bigots in the minimal hope that it will change one mind. Whether you like it or not we are all part of the human race. Therefore, for those who think that killing or hurting someone because of their skin color or different dress is chivalry, it is not. It is not only insanity; it is also foolish, stupid and boorish. No one is applauding your racism. 

While I am thankfully not employed by any think tank corporation in D.C., I still ruminate on what if anything can be done. I am not optimistic though that any change will be forthcoming.
What I write here is once again not political; it is simply common sense thoughts of someone who spent many sleepless nights pondering what we can do to slow down these spiteful and insane massacres. 

As a Jew, I firmly believe in the right to own a gun. I spend an inordinate amount of money on armed guards for the center I direct. I refuse to hire an unarmed guard, as it offers little protection. It is a sad truth, especially after the synagogue shootings in Poway and Pittsburgh, that one can only fight fire with fire.
However, there seriously needs to be changes made to gun ownership and availability.  

Take a look at Columbine, Parkland, Sandy Hook and Texas. Each one of these murderers were kids. Lanza was the oldest and was only 20!
How about raising the age of gun carriers to 25. This is the age when neuroplasticity seems to set, and is no longer in flux. This is the age when we can honestly call our kids grownups.  
For heaven’s sake, these kids could not buy beer or cigarettes until 21, why should gun carry be less strict?

High powered, automatic, excessive magazines are not necessary.  If the Texas maniac had less power, the numbers of deaths could have been substantially lower. 
The obvious argument against banning the aforementioned is that if criminals have them, then we will need comparable power to stop them. What an absolute mess.

Talking about criminals…While bail reform is a good idea, all common sense was thrown out with the bath water. I fully understand that someone selling weed and minor shoplifting and other lighter offenses should be given cashless bail. To allow someone who was caught with an illegal weapon out on bail is not only stupid, it is dangerous. The subway shooter last week had 12 prior convictions. Why was he allowed to roam the streets? Why?
I am extremely angry with the NYS Assembly, State and Governor for allowing bail reform to be taken to such extremes. It was sickening to see the former Governor sign this bill into law surrounded by much applause and ado. I was absolutely horrified and I shared my anger and disappointment with my Assemblyman who tacitly agreed with me. It is beyond immoral to allow this nonsense to continue for one more hour. 
The law should be very tough if you are caught possessing an illegal unlicensed gun. It should be so stiff that perps will hopefully think three times before picking one up. 

While admittedly this is not the solution to our problem, it should be implemented immediately.  Every bank in the nation has armed security guards to protect our money and safe deposit boxes. Why are there no guards to protect our kids? There have been so many shootings in schools; it is high time we wake up. We have enough money in the budget to hand out birth control. So, why not add security to the budget and protect our kids. Am I the only one thinking this way? 

You hear much about guns coming over the southern border. If this is true, it needs to be stopped. If our border is porous enough to allow guns and drugs, something is definitely wrong. 

Our children's lives are at stake here. It is not a political issue or game. It must not all come down to votes. It needs to be all about life.

The Fourth Step: The 6 Steps of Human Development

In my previous articles, I began to flesh out a most incredible lesson based on a cryptic mention in the Talmud as to a parent’s obligations to their children. It is literally only one line but the impact and punch behind this enigmatic sentence is powerful.

The Talmud simply states that parents must do the following, which we will discuss and clarify as we progress. They are:

1. Circumcise
2. Redeem the first-born
3. Teach Torah to your children
5. Teach them an honest living
6. Teach them how to swim

We discussed the first three of the six steps. The first was the obligation to circumcise our sons, and we clarified it to mean that as parents we are required to give our children an identity. Our children need to know who they are, where they came from, and what is unique about their ancestry. The second step was redemption, which we explained to mean that as parents we need to give our kids some breathing room so they can flourish and be their own person, and not just a shadow of their parents. The third step we clarified that as parents, we are obligated to teach our children values, and not shirk this sacred responsibility.

Another important lesson we need to inculcate in our children is the concept of marriage, or if we broaden this concept, commitment. We need to tell our kids that once we commit to do something, we need to be honorable and follow through. We need to teach them that it is unacceptable not to show up at an event without calling to apologize. Our word must be our unbreakable bond. The only reason why society evolved into the written contract instead of a simple handshake is because people were not honorable. In fact, the Torah/Bible states clearly that the spoken word is so serious that if one violates their verbal pledge, then they need to bring an atonement offering. We must not be flippant in this regard.

As someone who operates in the not-for-profit world, I can tell you that many organizations subsist on donations and may literally take a pledge to the bank as collateral for a loan, which generally banks are loath to do. Therefore, when a person makes a pledge of a specific amount and then proceeds to renege, it is wrong Biblically and the bank reprimands the organization.

I was brought up in a culture where engagements are never more than three to four months, which is ample time to make all the wedding arrangements with the hall, caterer, florist, printer and whatever else is needed to make this day extremely special for the young couple. Until I moved to Long Island, I never even heard of a year plus engagement period. The logic behind short engagements has merit and is beyond simply a good idea.
I have always been advised that when it comes to dating for marriage I need to take my time and assess whether this person is the right one for me to spend eternity with. However, once the decision has been reached, a short engagement is to follow. Once a couple gets married, they fuse into one entity. This is not true when a couple is simply engaged. They are yet to become one. Therefore, a bad argument (definition of bad is when you remember all the details a few days later) between the married couple will usually be resolved amicably because the commitment to remain one is strong. However, a bad fight between the engaged couple can lead to second thoughts, doubts, possible breakup and heartache. The difference between the two is true commitment.
Marriage is for good, or for bad, or, most likely, for a little of both. That is, marriage feels both good and bad but is supposed to last a lifetime. Of course, Judaism allows for divorce as a last ditch resort.
This is the main difference between a rabbi and a therapist. A rabbi will clearly advise you to work things out and leave divorce as a last resort, while a therapist will never give such clear guidance, as this is not moral for them to do so.

I cannot tell you how many friendships I have seen destroyed over nonsense. I am witness to how years-long friendships fall apart because of politics. Why does it have to become personal and full of vitriol? In my opinion, the correct way to deal with political disagreements is to shut up and not have them. The term agree to disagree without being disagreeable comes to mind.
While this is true, there are times when relationships have to be severed. Take marriage or business as an example. If a husband abuses his spouse, whether physically or verbally, the spouse needs to run and the marriage is over. Likewise, when one partner steals from another, all trust has been lost and without trust, there is no partnership. In my humble opinion, friendships should not be disposable unless completely untenable.
Other examples of a disposable society that I have observed is the lack of basic decency. As we have become aware and conscious of the negative consequences of disposable bags, straws and bottles, and as New York City is reintroducing the enforcement of the recyclable laws, decency has become a throwaway. We say what we want, when we want and to whom we want without a second thought and consequence. This lack of commitment to be a decent human being before all else has proven to be the fall of many a civilization.
The Mishna says it best, “Derech eretz kodmah L’Torah,” which means civility before Torah. 

God bless.
Please feel free to share.

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