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Rabbi's Corner

Rabbi's Corner

A Special Shabbat

This week we will mark the ‘yahrtzeit’ (anniversary of the passing) of the Rebbe which will be observed this Tuesday.  It is a day when I, and tens of thousands from around the world, gather together to celebrate the Rebbe’s life and recommit ourselves to fulfilling his vision.

Allow me a share a story of the Rebbe; a story that will move us to grow and better ourselves:

A group of high-school students once came to see the Rebbe. The students had each prepared various questions, which they posed to the Rebbe in the course of the audience.

Toward the end of the meeting, after the Rebbe had answered their queries on various issues, one student asked:

"I have heard it said that the Rebbe has the power to work miracles. Is this true? Do you perform supernatural feats?"

The Rebbe replied: "The ability to work miracles is not confined to a select group of individuals, but is within reach of each and every one of us. We each possess a soul that is a spark of G‑dliness. So we each have the power to transcend the limitations imposed upon us by our physical natures, no matter how formidable they may seem.

"To demonstrate this to you," said the Rebbe, "I will now perform a miracle."

Smiling at the startled young faces around his desk, the Rebbe continued: "Each and every individual in this room will now resolve to improve himself in one specific area. You will each choose an improvement that you recognize as necessary but until now have perceived as being beyond your power to achieve. Nevertheless, you will succeed, proving to yourselves that the soul indeed has the power to overcome the natural 'reality' ..."

The Rebbe believed in us and empowered us to better ourselves and the world around us. As we approach the day of his passing let us go beyond our limitations and make a difference.

Let’s do a Mitzvah Today!

Shabbat Shalom,

Spiritual Global Warming...

There is a beautiful story of the famous Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Chassidic movement some 300 years ago. He was once walking with his students on a cold, wintery day when his students noticed that in the snow beside them, an image of an idol had been engraved.

Our master”, the students began, “you have taught us that everything we encounter in life is to be alesson. If G‑d caused us to notice this site, there must certainly be a message here for us. What can we possibly learn from this site?”

The Baal Shem Tov responded: “There is nothing more pure than water. It is the basis of all life and existence. Nonetheless, even this most pristine substance - when it becomes cold - can be tainted and can be used to express a message that is antithetical to the source of all life – G‑d.

This week’s Torah portion opens with the description of the way Aaron would light the fire on the menorah in the temple. Kindling these flames in the Temple is meant to act as a wake up call for the Jewish People to ignite their internal flames - the passion and fire or our Jewish souls.

The secret to maintaining our purity as Jews lies in the way we preserve our warmth, energy, and enthusiasm about being Jewish. Feelings of apathy, cynicism, or coldness are fertile breeding grounds for sin and assimilation.

So on this Shabbat, when we read about this spiritual global warming, let us add more fuel to our Jewish passion and drive. In this way, we can continue to grow and flourish – both on a micro and macrocosmic scale - adding new life and energy to the world.

Let’s do a mitzvah today! Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom! 

Don't be Stupid

Say the word "sin" and you'll evoke different things in the minds of different people.

To the fire-and-brimstone types, the word smells of shame and scorched flesh. To the hedonist it sounds like fun. Some think it's a wholly Christian concept, while others ascribe it to the ancient Hebrews. To the sages of the Talmud, sin is, above all, an act of stupidity.

"A person does not sin," they wrote, "unless a spirit of silliness has entered into him."

Why stupidity and silliness, you ask? Perhaps the following anecdote will explain.

A colleague of mine used to write manuals for various household items. One day the consumer department forwarded him the following letter:

"Sir," the letter began. "I have in hand a booklet you wrote which came in the box with my new video camera. I must say that I am outraged by your presumptuousness and audacity. This is my camera, for which I paid my own hard-earned money. It has lots of buttons, switches and indicator lights -- and these are all my buttons, switches and indicator lights. How dare you instruct me on what to do with them! I shall press each of my buttons and flip each of my switches as I please. As for the indicator lights, I, not you, shall decide for myself what they indicate; indeed, if I so choose, I shall ignore them altogether. Yours truly … a very stupid customer."

The sages of the Talmud didn't see much difference between that customer and your standard sinner.

The Torah is the instruction manual (authored by our manufacturer!) that shows each of us how we can most efficiently use our skills, our health, and our allotted time on this earth to lead the most productive and fulfilling life possible.

When we act contrary to his Creator's instructions we may be doing something bad, evil, selfish, destructive, enjoyable, defiant, or cowardly. But above all, we are doing something profoundly stupid.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom! 

Stand up and be Counted

Once there was a small town consisting of only a few Jewish families. Between them, they had exactly ten men over the age of bar mitzvah. They were all dedicated people and they made sure that they never missed a service. One day, a new Jewish family moved in to town. Great joy and excitement; now they would have eleven men. But a strange thing happened. As soon as they had eleven, they could never manage to get a minyan (the necessary 10 men to form a quorum necessary for prayer)!

When we know we are indispensable, we make a point of being there. Otherwise, "count me out." 

This week in the Torah reading of Bamidbar, we read of the census taken of the Jewish people. Interestingly, this portion is always read on the Shabbat before the holiday of Shavuot, the "season of the giving of the Torah." Our sages teach us that this is not by chance. There is an inherent connection between the census we read about this week and the holiday we will celebrate next week:

In the Torah every letter counts. One missing letter invalidates the entire scroll. Likewise, one missing Jew leaves Jewish people hood lacking, incomplete.

When we count Jews, there are no distinctions. We don't look at religious piety or academic achievement. The rabbi and the rebel, the philanthropist and the pauper -- all count for one: no more, no less. Each of us is an integral and necessary ‘piece’ of the Jewish People.

In fact our sages teach us that the souls of every single Jew that would ever be born (even those of converts) were present at Mt. Sinai when we received the Torah. If even one Jew was missing, G‑d would not have given us the Torah. You were there!

And this is the message and charge for this Shabbat. – the Shabbat of being counted. No Jew is too small or insignificant to be included in the count and no Jew stands above or has a ‘clear card’ to bypass the count.

As we prepare to receive the Torah next week on Shavuot we must stand up and include ourselves within the Jewish count.

So make sure you have the date down. On Wednesday, May 31 we’ll gather together – men, women, and children – and once again listen and absorb as the 10 commandments are read aloud.

You count and you’re needed in order to make it happen!

Shabbat Shalom,

One Step at a Time

The Kotzker Rebbe, a great Chasidic leader once said:

"When I was young I thought I could change the world. However as I got older, I realized that would be too difficult, so I decided to change my city. After some time I changed my mind and became committed to affecting my neighborhood, and then decided just to change my family. Now however I have decided just to change myself."

This statement is perplexing. The Rebbe was a leader with a wide circle of influence and broad responsibility. How could he just give up and indulge in the luxury of working only on himself at the exclusion of others?

The answer is simple but powerful. The Kotzker Rebbe did not abdicate his responsibility for one moment. However, he did eventually come to the conclusion that the best and most effective way to affect others is by changing himself. Becoming an example of morality, spiritual growth and good conduct, inspires and enthuses others to follow.

If we grow and improve, our families and neighborhoods will become different. Don't underestimate your own power - if you change yourself you can even change the world.

We now stand less then two weeks away from the holiday of Shavuot, the day – 3329 years ago – when we received the Torah on Mount Sinai and became a nation. It was at that moment - when we accepted G‑d’s precious gift, the Torah.- that we assumed the responsibility to be a “light unto the nations”.

That task can, at times, seem daunting. How can we, a nation less that 1% of the world’s population, possibly create change? The answer is simple:

We begin with ourselves. Each great journey begins with a single step Each and every time we perform a mitzvah, each time we study a word of Torah, each time a pray, we are refining a small facet of our existence. And in so doing, we magically create a cosmic change in our universe.

So I wish you a joyous preparation for the awesome day of Shavuot. With G‑d’s help, we will merit to celebrate this day together with the coming of the righteous moshiach (messiah)!

Let’s do one more mitzvah!

Shabbat Shalom,

Life is too Short to Fool Around

This week's Torah Portion relates directly to the time period we currently are in. One month ago we celebrated the festival of Passover. And in approximately 3 weeks time the festival of Shavuot will be upon us - the holiday that commemorates the day we received the Torah.

This week’s portion teaches us that we are to count the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot.

Just as the Israelites counted the days after the Exodus in eager anticipation to receive the Torah, so do we count these 49 days annually. This counting is known as the ‘omer’.

But why count time? Time marches on inexorably, whether we take note of it or not. What value is there in counting the days?

The answer is that we count these 49 days to make us conscious of the preciousness of every single day. To make us more sensitive to the value of a day, an hour, a moment. As Rabbi Sholom DovBer, the fifth Rebbe in the Chabad dynasty, once said, "A summer's day and a winter's night is a year."

The saintly Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan (1838-1933) once said the following: Life is like a picture postcard.

Have you ever had the experience of being on vacation and sending a picture postcard home or to a friend? We start writing with a large scrawl and then think of new things to say and before we know it we're at the end of the card and there's no more room. So what do we do? We start writing smaller and then when we're out of space we start winding our words around the edges of the card to get it all in. Before we know it, we're turning the card upside down to squeeze in the last few vital words in our message.

Sound familiar?

Life is not all that much different. We start off young and reckless without a worry in the world and as we get older we realize that life is short. So we start cramming and trying to squeeze in all those important things we never got around to. Sometimes our attempts are quite desperate, even pathetic, as we seek to put some meaning into our lives before it's too late. (Maybe that's what a mid-life crisis is all about.)

So the Torah tells us to count our days – because they are, in fact, numbered. We each have an allotted number of days and years in which to fulfill the purpose for which we were created. Hopefully, by counting time we will appreciate it better. So, whatever it is that is important for each of us to get done, please G‑d, we will all get around to it.

Tonight is the 32nd day in the omer counting. We have only 17 days that remain. Let us make them meaningful; days full of purpose and direction; days infused with a sense of G‑d, moral clarity and many mitzvahs.

Shabbat Shalom 

Yesterday is Better than Today

"Do not make for yourselves gods out of cast metal." This is one of that mitzvahs / divine instructions that we learn about in this week's portion.

When reading this, one comes to an obvious question: How could an intelligent person believe that a piece of metal is god? We could perhaps appreciate how ancient pagan societies attributed divine qualities to powerful, transcendent forces of nature, like the Zodiac signs, the sun, the moon, various galaxies, the wind, etc. But why would a thoughtful human being believe god could be fashioned out of cast metal? And most importantly, how does this commandment apply today?

There is a beautiful interpretation of these words, which is profoundly relevant to the human psyche in all times:

What this biblical verse - "Do not make for yourselves gods out of cast metal" - is telling us is not to construct a god of a lifestyle that has become like "cast metal," cast and solidified in a fixed mold.

A natural human tendency is to worship that which we have become comfortable with. We worship our habits, patterns, attitudes, routines and inclinations simply because we have accustomed ourselves to them and they are part of our lives. People love that which does not surprise them; we want to enjoy a god that suits our philosophical and emotional paradigms and comfort zones. We tend to embrace the fixed, unchangeable and permanent molten god.

Comes the Torah and says: Do not turn your consolidated mold into your god. Do not turn your habits, natural patterns of thought, fears or addictions into a deity. Life is about spiritual growth. Never say, "This is the way I am; this is the way I do things, I cannot change." Rather, we must muster the courage to challenge every instinct, temptation and habit. Let our life not become enslaved to a particular pattern just because it has been that way for many years or decades.

Everyday, when we wake up, we have an obligation to ask ourselves: "How is today going to be better than yesterday? What am I going to today that will make me closer to G‑d - the real G‑d? What new mitzvah am I going to do or which mitzvah am I going to do better?"

May we all live such a life and grow from strength to strength in our closeness to G‑d!

Shabbat Shalom,

My Birthday Reflections

The story is told of a prominent doctor who was known for his generosity but was also prone to blowing his own trumpet.   

One day he was traveling when he saw the local rabbi walking. He stopped to offer the rabbi a ride. As they traveled together, the doctor, as was his wont, began to speak about his achievements. "You know, Rabbi, I get a lot of patients who can't afford to pay but I never turn them away. I treat them exactly the same as my wealthier patients." 

"I also do that," replied the rabbi. 

The doctor figured that perhaps the rabbi was referring to the spiritual counsel he gave his spiritual "patients." "Also," he continued, "a lot of times patients need expensive drugs. If they can't afford it, I provide them for free." 

"I also do that," rejoined the rabbi. 

Maybe he means that sometimes he gives people material help also, the doctor thought. "Sometimes people need days of post-operative care. I give it to them voluntarily, even though I have so little time." 

"I also do that." 

So it went, the doctor continuing to lavish praise on himself while the rabbi answered each time, "I also do that." 

Eventually the doctor couldn't take it anymore and he asked the rabbi: "Rabbi, I don't understand. You're not a doctor, how can you do all these things?" 

"No, all I meant was I also do that - I also only talk and think about myself and my own talents and qualities!" 

This Shabbat we stand at the beginning of a new month on the Jewish calendar; a month that we dedicate to refining and elevating ourselves; a time period when we seek to reach a higher plane and a more G‑dly state of being. 

And it is our natural disposition towards self-absorption that is, perhaps, the greatest hindrance and impediment to our becoming better and more G‑dly people. 

When we are infatuated with ourselves it becomes very difficult to see the plight of another. When we think in terms of self, transcendence becomes impossible. Only once we break out of our ‘egg-shell’ do we begin to see we the grand mission and purpose of creation. 

And somewhere in this master plan, G‑d wanted us (yes, little me) to have an integral role and special part in the symphony of creation. In an ironic way, only once we let go of our selfishness can we realize how important we really are. When we think about what G‑d expects of us; when we understand the responsibility of generations that we carry on our shoulders; and when we realize the confidence that G‑d has in our ability to carry through our mission – we begin to understand just how important we are. 

This week I also celebrated my birthday, yes with the cake and all. But a birthday according to the kabbalah is something more then just the cake and good wishes. It's a day of reflection. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe once said "Your birthday is g‑d’s way of telling you that the world could not exist without you” It's my job and your job to make this world a dwelling place for g-d almighty. 

So when we get up tomorrow morning, instead of thinking ‘how am I doing’ why don’t we try thinking about ‘what I can do’? Instead of asking ourselves ‘what I need’, let us train ourselves to ask “what am I needed for”. And in so doing, we will be free 

Shabbat Shalom, 

Boosting Our Self Esteem

How do we develop confidence when we don't have it? How do we overcome fear, nerves and anxieties? Well, without going into major psychological dissertations (which I'm not qualified to do in the first place), let's see if we can find some insight in this week's Torah reading.

Everything was set for the inauguration of the sacred service in the Sanctuary. The week-long preparations had been completed. Now it was Aaron's turn to approach the altar and begin the service. But Aaron was reluctant. He still felt a sense of shame for his part in creating the Golden Calf. So Moshe calls out to Aaron: "Approach the altar and perform the services." (Leviticus 9:7). Aaron did so and completed all the required tasks correctly.

But what exactly did Moshe say to Aaron to assuage his fears? All he said was "Come and do your thing." He never actually dealt with his issues. How did he address his concerns, his feelings of inadequacy?

Perhaps, Moshe was saying: Come and do, and all your fears will be stilled. You lack confidence? Start performing the services and you will see that it fits you like a glove. You were born to be a High Priest and that's where you belong.

While conventional wisdom tells our children’s self confidence will be boosted by compliments, attention, and goodies, Judaism teaches us that a feeling of self worth can only come from DOING the right thing and making a difference

Moses was telling Aaron that if he would begin performing his chosen role, the rest would follow. As they say in Yiddish, Apetit kumt mit'n essen. Even if you're not hungry, if you start eating, your appetite will follow. I suppose that's why the first course in a meal is called an "appetizer." (Trust Jews when it comes to food.)

Dr. Moses was dispensing sound psychological advice. The surest way of developing confidence is to begin doing that which you fear.

Perhaps this applies to us in our Jewish lives as well. I know many people who are reluctant to get involved and intimidated by Judaism only because they are not confident enough about synagogue protocol or their Hebrew literacy.

So on this Shabbat, as we’re going to read Moshe’s sound advice, let’s try taking it to heart. We will find that the most gratifying part of our lives would never have been ours if we didn’t – JUST DO IT!

"Come and do" said Moshe to his humble and hesitant brother. Aaron came and did and the rest is history.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jewish Continuity

On the Seder night, as we sit down together with our children to eat our matzah and joyously celebrate our Exodus from slavery in Egypt, we will be faithfully replicating the traditions and practices performed by our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents - going back thousands of years. 

Today a cry reverberates throughout the Jewish world: “Continuity!” How best to transmit our heritage to the next generation? How can we ensure that our grandchildren will celebrate their Passover with the same fervor and excitement? Allow me to share with you a thought I recently read by Rabbi Dov Greenberg, director of Chabad at Stanford University:

“It is said that inherited wealth lasts for three generations. The same applies to inherited Judaism. Today's young Jews are by and large of the fourth generation. In the fourth generation, Jewish identity is either renewed, or it vanishes.

On Passover we read of "Four Children" at the Seder table. These, one may suggest, represent four successive generations. The wise son symbolizes the immigrant generation who received a good Jewish education and still lived Jewishly. The rebellious son is the second generation, who lacking a meaningful Jewish education, abandoned Jewish identity for social integration. The "simple" child is the third generation, confused by the mixed messages of religious grandparents and nonreligious parents. The child who cannot even ask the question is the fourth generation, who no longer has a memory or context of Jewish life. 

Today's youth are the fourth generation. They do not take for granted that they will marry another Jew or establish a Jewish home, or will raise Jewish children. Nothing can be taken for granted in the fourth generation, especially in an open society with its huge marketplace of competing ideologies. The fourth generation will choose to be Jewish for one reason only: knowing the sacred history of our people, sensing the richness of Jewish life, understanding the profundity of Judaism.”

Let us therefore utilize these precious moments of our Seder to truly immerse ourselves and our families in the rich Passover spirit (leaving idle talk and ‘catching up on the latest’ for a different evening). In so doing we can truly pass the holy baton of Judaism to the next runner in this historical marathon - our next generation.

Wishing you and your entire family a joyous and meaningful Passover,

Who Am I

They tell the story about the "wise man" from Chelm. He worried that when he went to the public bathhouse where everyone is unclothed he wouldn't know who he was. Without his own personal set of clothing to distinguish him from others, he might suffer an identity crisis. So he devised a plan. He tied a red string around his big toe so that even in the bathhouse he would stand out from everyone else. Sadly, when he was in the shower, the water and soapsuds loosened the red string, and it slipped off his big toe. To make matters worse, the red string floated along to the next cubicle and twirled around the big toe of the fellow under the next shower.

Suddenly, our Chelmer genius discovered that his string was gone. He started panicking. This was a serious identity crisis. Then he saw that the fellow next door was sporting his red string. Whereupon, he ran over to him and shouted, "I know who you are, but who am I?"

Weeks sometimes go by and we might experience ‘spiritual amnesia’. In the course of our busy schedule we seem to forget our family, our history, or our identity. "Who am I? Where do I come from and where am I going?"

Unfortunately, all too often it takes something negative to give us a jolt and remind us. But on this Shabbat, as we now find ourselves just 11 days before the sacred holiday – Pesach, let us celebrate who we are through joy.

Each of us is a child of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Sara, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah. We have a rich heritage and a G‑dly destiny. So let’s act upon it and let us let who we are become revealed in all that we do. Let’s do a mitzvah today!

Shabbat Shalom,

Be the First to Contribute…

Have you ever heard of a synagogue launching a building campaign and then telling it’s membership to stop donating because they have collected too much money? Well in this week’s portion that is exactly what happens.

In order to build the Mishkan – a ‘home’ for G‑d in the desert – Moshe launches the ‘building campaign’. Ultimately, the Jewish People donate so much gold, silver, copper, fabric, etc. that Moshe is forced to make an announcement to stop contributing. (I guess they didn’t have a Goodwill Donation Center in the desert to dump the extras!)

Strangely, the leaders of each of the 12 tribes of Israel didn’t make a very generous contribution. They merely brought a few precious stone, some oil, and spices.

Why? How could these 12 great leaders be so miserly in their contribution to such a holy cause?

Our Sages offer an interesting answer:

The leaders were not trying to be cheap at all. They wanted to wait until the Jewish People donated all they could and, in their largesse, would take responsibility for whatever was missing. So they waited until the end. Ultimately and sadly, they underestimated the philanthropic generosity of the people and they were left with but a few items to contribute.

In our daily lives, we are often called upon to get involved in important projects. Whether it’s sponsoring an important community activity, helping to pay for Torah activities, a collection to help a poor or sick family, or it might have nothing to do with money: To make the minyan for someone who has to say kaddish, to prepare food for a family that has just had a baby or, G‑d forbid, an illness. To help organize a program, plan a party for kids and an untold numbers of other opportunities to make a difference in the community.

How many times do we hear, in one form or other: "Let me know who else is involved and I'll see if I can help". Or: "when others step forward, then I’ll jump on the bandwagon." Often times the hesitation is an unwillingness to commit to a project that is not yet well supported.

Many people like to see a project be successful before they commit time and resources. And then there are those who truly want to be able to fill in whatever is lacking at the end.

Whatever the reason, this week’s portion teaches us that there is great value in being the first. Though we might feel more useful at the end, if an opportunity to do a mitzvah arises, step up, get involved, and let others follow your example and do the same.

Shabbat Shalom, 

The Golden Calf - How Could They?

The story of the golden calf is well known to us all. Put in context, this biblical episode reverberates and resonates deeply within our lives today:

For the past twelve months G‑d had been courting his bride, the Jewish people: the ten plagues, splitting the sea, and redeeming them from slavery. Finally, following a year long engagement, the marriage occurs at Mount Sinai. G‑d and the Jewish People become husband and wife. Yet only 40 days after the wedding, before G‑d even has a chance to bring His bride into His majestic home, the land of Israel, the Jewish People turn to another – a golden calf.

How could they? Didn’t they have any sense of loyalty or commitment? After all G‑d had done for them, didn’t they feel some semblance of allegiance?

This story repeats itself, in one form or other, in the daily roller coaster ride of our lives. And the answer lies in the one liner: “Easy come – Easy Go”.

True, G‑d had lovingly reached out to a nation of slaves, imbuing within them a sense of right and wrong, and charging them with the mission of being a “light unto the nations”. Yet this inspiration was super imposed upon the Jewish People. G‑d lifted them to the greatest of heights, but they never actually climbed the stairs on their own. And therefore as soon as G‑d let go, even for a short 40 days, they plummeted into the depths of depravity and idolatry. It was a high that came and went.

Inspiration is like a fleeting shadow, like a spark. Unless we can hold on to it, internalize it, and turn it to action, it disappears as quickly as comes.

It is therefore no coincidence that the story of the golden calf is read just a few days after the holiday of Purim. We have just come from the ‘high’ of Purim. Let us hold on to this ‘high’; taking this spark and using it as the starter of our spiritual engine. By turning this inspiration into action; by doing one more mitzvah, we can have a true and meaningful relationship with our loving spouse – G‑d Almighty.

Shabbat Shalom,

Purim - The Recipe for Joy

Tomorrow evening is Purim – the most joyous holiday of the year. So let us spend a few moments talking about joy and happiness.

Everybody seems to agree that we need it desperately. Most people surveyed in polls about "what is most important in life" will respond: "Happiness." The lack of happiness, it is believed, is at the root of all of society's ills, from substance abuse to domestic violence and even the occasional school shooting.

The amount of money, theories and man-hours invested in the pursuit of happiness is staggering. The result? Most of us, it seems, have still not reached the desired goal of Ultimate Happiness after all this! Why is this so?

It appears that we are looking for happiness in all the wrong places, and have no idea how to find deep and authentic happiness.

The strange thing is that all those who are pursuing happiness don't seem to find it, yet those who have found it never bothered to pursue it.

So how then do we become happy? We're caught between a rock and a hard place. We can't go seek happiness because inevitably it will run away from us. But we want/ desire/ need happiness now. What can be done to get it without actively seeking it?

Nothing. In the recipe for happiness, the first and primary ingredient is: Nothingness.

If you're actively pursuing happiness you're indicating that things are no good right now. Obviously, that can be quite depressing. But when you let go of your chase you create the void for happiness to dwell.

This might sound counterintuitive but it’s true. The less we focus on what “I” need and “how I’m” doing, the happier we are. In fact on a really joyous day, when things are going extremely well, we forget about ourselves so much so that we forget to eat – now that’s joy!

While “nothingness” is the first and primary ingredient to joy and happiness, it does not complete the puzzle. Once we’ve created the void; once we are no longer seeking to further our own needs and wants; once we’ve surrendered egocentric lusts – we then need to allow the joy to come through.

What does that mean?

The Torah teaches us that joy is natural and inherent to every person. Just witness the natural happiness and cheerfulness of a young child. Where does this joy emanate from? It comes from his soul and very essence. So why aren’t we always full of joy? Because our bodily functions and cravings mask and hinder the joy of our souls from shining through. We’re too caught up in ourselves to be happy.

But once we’ve removed the hindrances of our needs and wants, we become free to do that which is noble and right. We begin to refocus and invest our energy into those activities that bring true joy, namely, we begin to fulfill our G‑d-given mission on earth, the Torah and it’s mitzvahs

Now what could be more joyous than that!

Shabbat Shalom & very Joyous Purim!

Wealth - Use It Wisely

The story is told of a poor man who, despite his own poverty, would always invite strangers to come into his home and eat a home-cooked meal. His generosity was all the more special due to his own circumstances. 

In the merit of these acts of kindness, he was blessed with riches and soon found himself in a large mansion. Now, a change started to occur. Slowly, the poor were no longer welcome in his home. First it was a hint, then a suggestion, finally he would not even let then into his new home lest they spoil the hand-woven white carpets. He was dismissive of their pleas for help, suggesting to them that they should work harder. 

As news of his mean behavior spread, he soon found himself shunned by his former friends and colleagues. In despair, he called upon a wise old rabbi. 

As they were talking in the mansion, the rabbi pointed to a huge mirror situated on the wall facing the street, feigning ignorance. "What a strange window! All I see is myself! Where are all the people on the street?" 

The man laughed. "Rabbi, it is not a window it is a mirror." "But I don't understand", said the rabbi, "it is made of glass, like a window." 

"If it were only glass you would be able to see the other people. But this is a mirror. It has a layer of silver added to it. Now you only see yourself." 

"Aha!" said the wise rabbi. "Now I see the problem. When you add the silver, all you see is yourself!" 

In Jewish tradition we do not extol poverty or see poverty as a virtue. And we do not look down at wealth. If fact, possessing financial means is a great blessing and merit. It enables us to do so much good. But – like every blessing – it has its pitfalls. It can be wasted on materialistic pursuits and can stimulate a self-centric existence. 

This then is the primary theme of the portion we will read tomorrow. G‑d tells the Jewish People. “You inherited tremendous wealth from Egypt. Now do something holy with it. Build a home in through which my presence can be revealed throughout the world.” 

And this is the perpetual call to each of us. We each have been endowed with wealth, with gifts, with talents, and with resources. And G‑d calls out to each of us, “Use your recourses to reveal my presence in your life by doing mitzvahs and giving charity. Use every gift you have to better the world around you; making it a more holy and G‑dly place.” 

May we answer this call and very soon bring about the era when “the world will be filled with the Knowledge or G‑d” (Isaiah 11:9) – the coming of Moshiach! 

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,

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