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Rabbi's Corner

Rabbi's Corner

The Egypt Within Us...

This week's Torah portion is, in a sense, one of the most important sections of the Torah. We begin discussing a watershed event in Jewish history - the Exodus from Egypt.

The Hebrew term for Egypt, Mitzrayim, means barriers, representing all the forces that obstruct a person from becoming who he or she really is. Every one of us professes our own inner "Mitzrayim," those voices or powers that hold us down from living a truly meaningful and profound life. It may be anxiety, fear, addiction, arrogance, loneliness, despair, insecurity, laziness, dishonesty or envy. It may stem from negative life experiences, such as a dysfunctional family, broken relationships, health problems, mental challenges, financial defeat, or, heaven forbid, loss of loved ones. These challenges, among many more, can bring about a state of psychological exile, in which we remain stuck in the quagmire of torment, paralysis and hopelessness, never discovering our inner calling and potential.

In contrast, the Biblical story of exodus embodies the human potential to liberate itself from physical, mental and spiritual slavery. It captures our power to transcend the barriers that obstruct the heart's inner glow; our ability to encounter a beacon of freedom beneath the stratums of the psyche; our courage to discover our inner power and dignity.

No matter where you come from and how low your starting point may be, G‑d can reach out to you. You too can transcend your limitations, and become free.

Shabbat Shalom,

True Freedom . . .

The constant recurring refrain echoed repeatedly throughout this week’s Torah portion is G‑d’s message to the Egyptian monarch, Pharaoh, ”Let My people go”.

Many of us have heard this line before. But for some reason we stop a bit too short and don’t make it to the punch line of the message: “Let My people go that they may serve Me”. G‑d is sending us a powerful message: “Being free means serving Me”.

But how? G‑d’s laws seem so restricting: do this, don’t do this – that doesn’t sound like freedom?

It would depend, then, on our definition of ‘freedom’. If being free means the removal of all constraints on our development and self-expression; the ability to follow our every whim and fancy. Then a Jew serving G‑d can hardly be considered a free man.

Judaism defines freedom very differently. Acting as we please without rules or limits, Judaism tells us, is the epitome of enslavement. For in so doing, our urges, drives and addictions have enslaved us.

True freedom is the ability to express who we really are; to transcend and be free of our craves and urges. The Torah is the instruction manual to freedom. Even its seemingly restrictive laws are only there to allow us to tap in to our inner self. Because sometimes it is only through restrictions that our true self can come out.

We all mirror G‑d and were created in his image – that is who we truly are. Let’s do a mitzvah today and be truly free!

Is my name Max or Moshe?

 

How important is the preservation of the "ethnic" aspect of Judaism?

Over the course of the centuries, Jews were always distinguishable from their fellow citizen not only by their unique beliefs and rituals, but also by their distinctly Jewish culture. For the most part they conversed in their own language; whether it was Ladino, Yiddish, or any of the other "Jewish" languages which sprouted up over time. Jews were also distinguishable by their uniquely Jewish garb and names. In whichever country they landed, the Jewish community managed to create a sub-culture which effectively separated them from their co-citizens.

Today, many minimize the importance of maintaining these external expressions of our culture. They argue that this insularity was necessary when the Jews lived in the Dark Ages and needed to distance themselves from the rest of the population who at best were ignorant and superstitious. In a modern and enlightened society, however, there is no need to flaunt our Judaism by maintaining a Jewish sub-culture. Yiddish is for Bubby and Zaidy, and Jewish culture is fascinating...when viewed in a documentary or as a museum exhibit.

"Those who do not study history are condemned to repeat it." Research into Jewish life in Egypt - the first time our people were guests in a foreign land - reveals an interesting fact: our ancestors were actually very lacking in the area of Jewish observance. They largely assumed the pagan beliefs of their Egyptian taskmasters and were bare of mitzvot. What they did possess was a fierce Jewish pride and a stubborn refusal to identify themselves as Egyptians.

It's no coincidence that the entire Book of Exodus, which describes the Egyptian exile and the redemption that followed, is called Shemot, which means “names”.

This is because the one thing that the Jewish People maintained in Egypt was their “names”, i.e.: their Jewish identity. Throughout the bondage in Egypt they never changed their Jewish names, they continued conversing in the Holy Tongue, and they maintained their distinctively Jewish garb.

Using one's Jewish name or wearing a kippah may not be as meaningful or spiritually uplifting as studying Torah or doing a mitzvah, but in a certain sense these symbols of Jewish identity are far more important. They demonstrate Jewish pride and dignity, they are symbols of our uniqueness, they are our defense against assimilation, and in their merit we will witness yet another redemption; the Final Redemption.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom!

Jewish Education: The Key to our Survival

The Torah tells us that before Jacob agreed to travel with his entire family to Egypt, he sent his son Judah ahead to establish a yeshivah - a Torah academy - in Goshen (the Egyptian territory where Jacob and his sons would settle). Knowing that his descendants would face challenging times in Egypt, Jacob realized that only a proper Jewish education would give them a strong Jewish identity, enable them to withstand all difficulties and persecutions, and insulate them against the threat of assimilation.

From the Jewish standpoint, education is not so much the imparting of data and information as much as instilling within our youth integrity, kindness, and Jewish values. Information alone – even the holy teachings of the Torah – would not have preserved the Jews throughout the difficult years of Egyptian slavery. It was the code of conduct and ethics that were taught in the academy that truly distinguished them from their immoral and cruel taskmasters.

Unfortunately, many of today's "institutes of education" do not yet understand this message. While they impart to their students much important and necessary information, the underlying principle of moral relativism that is espoused throws in doubt all the vital ethics that we strive to implant within our children. Nothing is more destructive than the trendy notion that right and wrong are inherently subjective.

This fact of life increases the importance of providing our children a rock-solid and concrete set of Jewish values. This education begins at home but is given crucial reinforcement by sending our children to Jewish schools that teach the same values – schools that would make Patriarch Jacob proud.

The very first value we wish to teach our children is the importance of a fierce pride in their beautiful and unique heritage. We are different and unique. We are privileged to be G‑d's "ambassadors of light" to a dark and difficult world, a privilege that countless of our grandparents died to protect. And despite all the hardships, pogroms and persecution that we have endured, we are thankful that we are the Chosen People.

Shabbat Shalom,

Let's Stock Up

In this week’s Torah reading, we witness Joseph, a slave in prison, being appointed by Pharaoh as viceroy of Egypt. How does Joseph accomplish such a wondrous feat? By offering Pharaoh the following life-saving advice:  “let them gather in all the food during the years of plenty . . . the food will be held in safe-keeping for the land for the seven years of famine”.

The wisdom of Joseph carries with it an eternal message. Indeed, the stories of the Torah describe not only physical events that took place at a certain point in history, but also detail spiritual and timeless tales occurring continuously within the human heart.

All of us experience cycles of plenty and cycles of famine in our lives. There are times when things are going very well: We are healthy, successful and comfortable.   Often during such times we fail to invest the time and energy to cultivate meaningful relationships with family and friends or to create a sincere bond with G‑d. We feel self-sufficient and don't need anybody in our lives.

Yet when a time of famine arrives, when a serious crisis erupts (heaven forbid) we suddenly feel the need to reach out beyond ourselves and connect with our loved ones and with G‑d.

But we don't know how. When we do not nurture our relationships and our spirituality during our ‘years of plenty’, we lack the tools we so desperately need to survive the crisis.

This is the essence of Joseph's wisdom: We must never detach the years of plenty from the years of famine. When we experience plenty, we should not let it blind our vision and desensitize us from what is truly important in life.

We are now in a ‘week of plenty’: Chanukah - a bit of quality time to spend with our families, friends, and G‑d. Let’s utilize these precious moments, let’s invest, and let’s devote ourselves to what’s really important. In this way we’ll be fully stocked!

Shabbat Shalom & A Happy Chanukah,

Chanukah Eight Nights?

Chanukah is eight days long because the oil which would naturally have fueled the menorah for only one day miraculously lasted for eight. Everyone knows this since their days in Hebrew School. But let us analyze this for a moment. Does this make sense? If there was sufficient oil to burn for one day, then the miracle lasted only seven days. Why celebrate the first day if nothing miraculous occurred then?

An interesting episode recounted in the Talmud (Taanit 25a) will "illuminate" the matter:

The Mishnaic sage Rabbi Chanina was a renowned miracle worker. Shortly after sunset one Friday evening, he noticed his daughter sobbing. Upon asking her the reason for her distress, she explained that she had mistakenly lit the Shabbat candles with vinegar instead of oil. Rabbi Chanina comforted his daughter: "Do not be troubled, my dear. The One who commanded oil to burn will command vinegar to burn..." Needless to say, the candles did not go out. In fact, they burned until the following night, when the havdallah candle was kindled from their flames!

This story is so striking and unique because Rabbi Chanina didn't respond by saying, "Wanna see something amazing? Watch this miracle!" Rather, in the eyes of this holy sage, vinegar burning was no more spectacular than oil burning. The only difference between the two was how frequently they occur.

If the definition of "miracle" is G‑dly intervention, then every event is miraculous — for everything that occurs is a direct result of G‑d's command. "The Guardian of Israel never slumbers nor sleeps," but His watchful eye can and usually does express itself in natural means. Nature is merely the curtain which conceals the grand Puppeteer from our sight.

Nevertheless, we treasure miracles, and holidays are instituted to commemorate the more consequential ones. We cherish those precious moments in history when G‑d chose supernatural means to come to our rescue, when the curtain was ripped away, leaving the puppeteer exposed. Rabbi Chanina had the ability to see through the curtain every day, but we don't. To us, vinegar burning is a remarkable sight to behold.

Once the curtain has been temporarily lifted, the recognition that there is a puppeteer doesn't fade even after the curtain is restored. After witnessing vinegar burning, we realize that oil's ability to burn is also a result of G‑d's command.

The seven miraculous days when the menorah remained lit brings us to understand that the first day was no less "miraculous." Let’s celebrate and appreciate all the miracles of life!

Shabbat Shalom & A Happy Chanukah!

What Does 'Israel" Mean?

One of the most frightening scenes plays out before us in this week’s Torah portion. Our forefather Jacob had to flee from the wrath of his brother Esau who sought to kill him. Jacob ran away and kept his distance for 22 years. Now, having married and fathered children, Jacob returns back home to face his brother in this week’s portion.

Jacob soon discovers that his brother is still and as bitter and as vicious as he was 22 years earlier. In fact, Esau is approaching Jacob with 400 armed men ready to attack. What is to become of Jacob? He is greatly outnumbered and far weaker that his brother’s battalion.

Then, on the night just prior to the confrontation Jacob is attacked – not by Esau himself – but by the spiritual Esau, Esau’s angel. The two wrestle and struggle all night long and, though Jacob is severely injured with a dislocated hip, Jacob miraculously prevails.

And it is at this juncture – at the crack of dawn - that Jacob’s opponent is forced to admit defeat. And he does so by changing Jacob’s name to “ Israel ”. Why “ Israel ”? Because, says the angel, it is a contraction of the Hebrew words “you struggled … and you prevailed”.

Friends, the lesson for us today is potent and powerful. The struggle of Jacob and Esau is a perpetual and eternal one. It is the struggle between good and evil. On a macrocosmic scale it is the struggle between Israel and her enemies. And on a microcosmic scale it is our inner struggle between our animalistic & hedonistic lusts and our G‑dly and holy soul.

To be a member of the Nation of “ Israel ” doesn’t mean that we’re going to going to have an easy ride in life. It means we’re going to struggle and experience hostility. It means we’ll be at war with our external and internal foes. It even means that at times we’ll sustain injuries and experience setbacks.

But it also means that when the crack of dawn finally arrives we will have prevailed. For ultimately goodness and holiness will outshine, subdue, and eradicate, even the ugliest of evils.

That is what “ Israel ” – both the people and land - are all about. Just a while ago in the UN, even as 138 nations on this planet sided with our sworn enemies, we ought to take the strength from this week’s portion to know that the night will not last forever. Very soon the dawn will bring goodness, clarity and truth to the world.

May we very soon experience this with the coming of the righteous Moshiach (redemption)!

My wife Gillie and our children join me in wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,

Pressure Makes us Stronger

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all lived in Israel, a land that exuded holiness. And in this week’s Torah portion we read about the first time one of our Patriarchs – Jacob – will move outside of Israel for a period of 22 years.

And it is outside of Israel, in Charan - a land of corruption, that Jacob will get married and build a family - the foundation of the Jewish People.

The Rebbe poses the following question: Would not Israel have made a better place for Jacob to have raised his children? Would not Israel have been the ideal hot house for the future Jewish people to be conceived and nurtured? Why of all places, Charan?

Says the Rebbe, the olive yields its best oil when pulverized. To produce gold we need a fiery furnace where the intense heat on the raw metal leaves it purified and precious. Jacob did not have an easy life, but it made him a better man and it made his children better children.

There was once a young man who had just come out of military service in the army. Upon his return, his Rabbi greeted him with the platitude, "So, Joe, did the army make you a man?" Joe responded, "No Rabbi, the army made me a Jew!" Apparently he had encountered more than a fair share of anti-Semitism in the military and it actually strengthened his resolve to live a Jewish life. Today he is the proud father and grandfather of a lovely, committed Jewish family.

Life isn't always smooth sailing. But it appears that the Creator in his vast eternal plan intended for us to experience difficulties in life. Evidently, we grow from our discomfort and challenges to emerge better, stronger, wiser and more productive people. There is always a purpose to pain. As our physiotherapists tell us: “No pain, no gain”. It would seem that, like the olive, we too yield our very best when we are under pressure.

One of the reasons we use a hard boiled egg on the Seder Plate on Passover is to remind us of the festival offering brought in the Holy Temple. But, the truth is that any cooked food would do, so why an egg? 

One of my favorite answers is that Jews are like eggs. The more they boil us, the harder we get. We have been punished and persecuted through the centuries but it has only strengthened us, given us courage, faith and hope. At every point in our history we have always emerged from the tzorres of the time stronger, more tenacious and more determined than ever.

Jacob raised a beautiful family in less than ideal conditions. Please G‑d, we should emulate his example. Wherever we may be living and in whatever circumstances, may we rise to the challenge and live successful lives and raise happy, healthy Jewish children who will build the future tribes of Israel.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom 

Thanksgiving Thoughts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Jews, we certainly have a lot to be thankful for on Thanksgiving. The United States of America has provided, and continues to provide, freedom and liberty enabling us to practice Judaism, celebrate our faith, and express out religious identity. 
  
It is in this spirit that this Thanksgiving we should ask ourselves: “Am I fully ‘taking advantage’ of this freedom? Under religious persecution my ancestors tried their utmost to preserve our traditions and rituals – am I?” 
  
As Senator Joseph Lieberman wrote in Chabad’s Farbrengen Magazine: “Our forefathers promised freedom of religion, not freedom from religion”. 
  
Over this coming week - Let us not only SAY thank you to G‑d. Let be ACT thankfully. 
  
How? 
  
By committing ourselves to fulfilling one more mitzvah we, in effect, are saying ‘thank you’ and giving thanks for the precious gift of freedom that we cherish daily. 
  
Shabbat Shalom,

 

 

 

 

 

The Life Of Sarah

As 80-year-old Benny lies on his deathbed, the aroma of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies wafts up the stairs. He gathers his remaining strength, lifts himself from his bed, and slowly inches his way along the wall towards the door. With great effort he makes his way downstairs, holding tightly to the rail, propelled by thoughts of his favorite cookie.

Finally, breathing hard, he leans against the kitchen door frame and stares inside. "I’m already in heaven," he thinks, as there, spread out before, are hundreds of his favorite chocolate chip cookies.

"Am I really in heaven?" he asks himself, "Or is it an act of devotion from my darling Rebecca to ensure that I exit from this world a happy man?"

He reaches out a shaky hand, all senses focused on the wondrous taste he will soon experience...

Without warning, Rebecca smacks his hand with her wooden spoon. "Don't touch them!" she says, "They're for the shiva!"


This week's Torah portion is named "Chayei Sarah" - "The Life of Sarah" - in honor of our matriarch Sarah, and yet it does not actually discuss her life, just her death.

Death is, in fact, an extension of life: the manner in which we choose to live our lives will determine the legacy we leave here in this world after our passing.

Our sages say that a righteous person is even more “alive” posthumously than they were while alive. What does this mean? How is it possible?

Clearly, they were not referring to the soul which returns to heaven, or the body which returns to the earth. What they were referring to is the influence and legacy which remains behind, on earth, with the living. This influence becomes magnified and far greater than it was previously.

Sarah, a truly righteous prophetess and matriarch, left a legacy of faith, generosity, and unwavering commitment to her husband, Abraham and to her son, Isaac. She has become an inspiration to women of every subsequent generation. Long after her passing, it was still clearly "Chayei Sarah" – "the life of Sarah."

Let's learn from Sarah and internalize the message of this week’s portion to create a living legacy for future generations.

Shabbat Shalom 

Giving Means Gaining

This week we read about the meticulous order of the meal that Abraham offered his guests. First, he gave them cheese and milk, and only afterward did he present them with calf’s meat, (consistent with Jewish dietary laws that deli products may be eaten after dairy products, but not vice versa).

Every detail recorded in the Torah contains a timeless lesson for us all. What then can be learned from Abraham choosing to serve his guests these particular items – milk, cheese and meat – to begin with? The choice of meat is clear, as he wished to serve his visitors a satisfactory meal. But why, from among the many possible appetizers, did Abraham decide to give them milk and cheese as a prelude to meat?

The rule of thumb in our world is that sharing something with somebody else constitutes a loss for the giver. If I have it, and give it to you, I lose it; if you have it, and give it to me, you lose it. If I write a check for charity, my checking account naturally shrinks.

An exception to this rule is the milk the mother feeds her suckling. As long as a mother continues sharing her nourishing liquid with the child, her mammary glands will keep on refilling with more milk. In fact, the quantity of the milk is usually dependent on her sharing it. The more a mother nurses, the greater the flow of her milk her body produces. When she ceases to breast-feed, her inner production of milk ceases.

This is one of the Kabbalistic explanations behind the unique phenomenon of breast-feeding. Through this natural process of infant nourishment, a mother is given the extraordinary opportunity to ingrain within her child’s tender consciousness the truth about sharing. The more you give, the more you will receive, just like the milk that you are now swallowing.

Very often guests – particularly if they are strangers – feel uncomfortable staying in somebody else’s home and eating another person’s food. Abraham, sensitive to the feelings of his guests, addressed this awkwardness by offering them milk at that start of the meal.

This reflected the revolutionary Jewish approach toward giving. The greatest gift we can give ourselves is a life filled with love and caring toward other human beings.

Shabbat Shalom

A Historic Journey

Abraham’s journey related in this week’s Torah portion changed the world forever. Had Abraham not embarked on his odyssey to the “land that I will show you,” we would not have a “promised land,” we would not have a Jewish people, we would not have Sinai, we would not have Judaism, (or Christianity & Islam), we would not have the principles stated in the Ten Commandments, which define the basic human rights that have become the bedrock of our modern democracies.

Imagine: A lonely journey by a single man (accompanied by a small group of people) taken 3747 years ago changed the entire course of history!

What was it about this journey that carried such potency? What can we learn from Abraham about our own journeys today? How can we ensure that our expeditions leave an indelible positive mark on our children & on generations to come?

Our Sages teach us that Abraham’s journey was far more than a geographical excursion. It was a transition from the comfort zones of self-absorption to the greatest heights of transcendence; a journey from the mortal to the immortal.

Abraham lived in a world absorbed with deep self-interest (sound familiar?) – a pagan world that was consumed with its own way of doing things. Nothing new – the way of all flesh, the natural inclination of man is to serve oneself. Abraham pioneered a new path. Resisting all pressures – rejecting all the influences of his life, his family, culture and community – Abraham searched for something true and eternal, something that transcends the subjective whims of man and transient forces of nature. A lone man pitted against an entire world, Abraham discovered the only true certainty in life: The absolute commitment to his Divine calling, to the mission for which he had been uniquely chosen.

Abraham was the first to take the journey. But not the last. G‑d’s call resounds through history as it beckons to each one of us – Abraham’s descendants and members of this Chosen People: Will we live a life driven by self-interests, or will we remain committed to our Divine calling.

May we continue in our forefather’s footsteps by committing to one more mitzvah this week. And in so doing we’ll conclude the journey that Abraham began by ushering in Moshiach right now!

Shabbat Shalom,

To Be A Survivor

The story of Noah and the flood is well known to all of us. Each and every year we read this portion of the Torah. And each and every year we unearth new meaning in this narrative.

Noah was saved from the deluge of destruction that engulfed his world and his greatest contribution is that he set out to rebuild that world. We don't read about him sitting down and crying or wringing his hands in despair, although I'm sure he had his moments. The critical thing the Torah records is that after Noah emerged from his floating bunker he began the task of rebuilding a shattered world from scratch. He got busy and picked up the pieces and, slowly but surely, society was regenerated.

Only one generation ago a great flood swept over our world: The Nazi plan was for a Final Solution. Every Jew on earth was earmarked for destruction and the Nazis were already planning their Museum of the Extinct Jewish Race. Not one Jew was meant to survive. So even those of us born after the war are also survivors. Even a Jewish child born this morning is a survivor because according to Hitler's plan, which tragically nearly succeeded, he or she was not meant to live.

This means that each of us, like Noah, has a moral duty to rebuild the Jewish world. 25 years ago, if you walked into a synagogue for a weekday morning service, every other man at the morning minyan (prayer quorum) bore a holy number on his arm. They were concentration camp inmates and the Germans tattooed those numbers onto their arms.

Sadly, today, the ranks of those individuals have been greatly diminished. Every time one of them would roll up his shirt sleeve to put on tefillin, the number was revealed. They seemed to hardly notice it, as if it was nothing special, but in truth they were heroes. Not only for surviving the hells of Auschwitz or Dachau but for keeping their faith intact, for still coming to shul, praying to G‑d, wearing His tefillin.

These individuals, like Noach, were able to live Jewish lives again, to marry or remarry, to bring children into this world, to carry on life, and to perpetuate our Jewish heritage. And thank G‑d our world is, to a large degree, being rebuilt. But it is now our turn. We share that same responsibility because we are all survivors. Every one of us needs to participate. We are all Noahs and the burden of responsibility rests on our shoulders.

Let us rebuild the Jewish world, brick by brick, by doing one more mitzvah today!

Shabbat Shalom,

The Magic of the Etrog

Tonight, as the sun sets, the joyous holiday of sukkot will be upon us.

One of the Mitzvot we perform on each of the seven days of sukkot (except for Shabbat) is unifying "the 4 types". This means we tie a palm branch together with willow & myrtle branches. Then we take these three and bring them together with a beautiful citrus fruit known as an etrog.

This special mitzvah contains deep meaning and significance. Here’s one short thought to take with you:

Though the etrog looks and even smells like a lemon, it contains a unique dimension.

The Torah describes an etrog as a species that "lives on the tree through all of the seasons." Some fruits are seasonal and can only grow at certain times. The etrog is a fruit that not only tolerates the various seasons, but actually continues to develop and becomes larger with each one. (We pick them early, but they actually grow to the size of a watermelon).

And it is the etrog which helps us continue the journey from Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We have just reflected on the past year, hopefully made some changes and are filled with inspiration for a new and great year of growth and blessing.

But in our fresh and inspired state we are also aware that the coming year will bring a variety of circumstances. Just as the year will have four seasons, so too our experiences will vary. We will have ups and downs, easier moments and some (hopefully very few) challenging moments. We will wake up some mornings filled with enthusiasm and others struggling to find motivation.

But, like the etrog, we will not merely survive these challenges; we will grow from the diversity of experience. We will learn to use every situation as an opportunity to grow and improve. When we lack motivation we will use the moment to discover a deeper inner strength. Difficult people will allow us to learn better and more creative strategies for healthy relationships. Every circumstance will bring greater meaning and beauty to the New Year. We will grow and develop, not despite the different seasons but because of them.

And so, as we are about to begin this holiday, I would like to encourage you to partake in this mitzvah any time during the seven days of sukkot to perform the mitzvah of unifying "the 4 types".

May you have a Chag Same’ach – a most joyous and meaningful sukkot,

 

 

 

 

 

The Day After Yom Kippur

One of the most misplaced Torah readings of the year seems to be the section we read on the afternoon of Yom Kippur. In this portion G‑d enumerates a long list of sexual activities from which a human being should abstain, including intimate relations with one's parent or sibling, bestiality, homosexuality, adultery, incest, etc.

And the question is strikingly dramatic: You are standing in synagogue during the holiest day of the year. You haven't enjoyed a morsel of food or a drink for close to twenty-four hours. This is the day on which we are compared to angels and the one time during the year in which we attempt to transcend our bodies and become, for 24 hours, all soul. And what must your ears pay heed to during these most spiritually charged moments of the year? Not to cheat on your wife, not to violate your mother, and not to be intimate with your cow!

The answer to this question may be discovered in the very name of the Torah portion: "Acharei," which means "after." In Judaism, the name of each Torah portion embodies the soul and the inner message of the entire portion. What then, is the meaning of “after? And how does this relate to Yom Kippur?

Yet it is here where we come to observe one of the most meaningful lessons in the Jewish approach to morality and spirituality. You may be flying high in heaven; your heart may be melting away in celestial ecstasy; your soul may be ablaze with a sacred fire and your heart may be swelling with inspiration. Yet you must remember that in one day from now or in one month from now as circumstances alter, you may find yourself in the muck, tempted toward profane and immoral behavior. Thus, at this critical moment of an inner spiritual explosion, you must stock up the resolve and commitment to retain your integrity during your lowliest moments that may lay ahead.

The Torah is teaching us that no matter how sublime you may feel at a particular moment in your life, you must remember the moment "after," the brute and beastly temptations that might emerge at a later point, under different circumstances. Never believe that what you have now will be yours forever. The tremendous holiness of Yom Kippur is only real if it will effect the "after" (as the name of the Torah portion), if it will leave its mark on the days and months that follow that may bring with them abominable urges and cravings that you could have not dreamt of during your high moments.

So as we solidify our New Year’s resolutions and prepare for Yom Kippur, let us take the message of “after” and perpetuate and internalize the holiness of the High Holidays throughout the rest of the year.

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