Rabbi's Weekly Article

One Man's Thoughts

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.

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