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Rabbi's Corner

Value Time...

 

In loving memory of the 11 Jewish Souls who were painfully taken from our midst in Pittsburgh, PA just this past Shabbat.

The Midrash related the following story: 

Seeing that his students were falling asleep during his lecture, the famed Rabbi Akiva relayed the following teaching: Why did Queen Esther (the Jewish queen of Persia in the Purim story) rule over 127 countries? Because she was a granddaughter of Sarah who lived for 127 years. 

What is the meaning of the teaching and why did Rabbi Akiva choose to relay this teaching as his students were falling asleep? (note: falling asleep during the Rabbi’s sermon is not a new tradition!) 

An answer: Through this observation, Rabbi Akiba gently reprimanded his students for sleeping through the class. If Esther reigned over 127 countries, or provinces, in the large Persian Empire, corresponding to Sarah’s 127 years of life, it follows that for each year of Sarah’s life, Esther was granted kingship over an entire province or country. It follows then, that for each month of her life, she was given the gift of kingship over an entire city (a country contains at least 12 cities.) It follows then, that for each week of her life, she was rewarded with a town (a city has at least four towns). This would mean that for each day of her life she was rewarded with a neighborhood or section of the town. If we break it down even further, we will find that for every second of her life, she was rewarded with an entire block, over which her descendant, Queen Ester, ruled! 

Rabbi Akiva thus sought to impress upon his students the value, potential and significance of every moment of life. Sarah received immense reward for each and every second of her life, because she devoted all her time and energy to living an honest, meaningful and good life. This was the subtle message that Rabbi Akiva, in his pedagogical brilliance, conveyed to his sleepy students. We cannot squander such a valuable resource as a time - not even a minute! Each moment is precious and laden with great potential. 

Imagine there is a bank which credits our account each morning with $86,400.00, carries over no balance from day to day, allows us to keep no cash balance, and every evening cancels whatever part of the amount we failed to use during the day. What would we do? Draw out every cent, of course! 

Well, everyone has such a bank. It's name is time. Every morning, it credits us with 86,400 seconds. Every night it writes off, as lost, whatever of this we have failed to invest to good purpose. It carries over no balance. It allows no overdraft. Each day it opens a new account for us. If we fail to use the day's deposits, the loss is ours. There is no going back. There is no drawing against the tomorrow. 

To realize the value of one minute, ask a person who missed the train. To realize the value of one second, ask a person who just avoided an accident. To realize the value of 1/10 of a second, ask the person who won a silver medal in the Olympics. 

They tell a story of the man who came to the therapist for a very serious problem. “How can I help you?” asks the therapist. Yes, says the patient. Please tell me what time is it? Therapist: Three o'clock. Patient: Oh, no! G‑d help me.  Therapist: What's the matter? Patient: I've been asking the time all day. And everybody gives me a different answer!... 

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

Go, But Where To.....

When learning to structure a paragraph or essay one is taught that the opening sentence should contain the general theme or message the author wishes to convey. This premise is not limited to writing. Any opening, beginning, or first, sets the tone for what is to follow. Whether it is a first step of a journey, the first bar of a symphony, or the mission statement of a business venturer, every beginning attempts to prepare for the entirety of what is soon to follow.

With this in mind, let us look at this week’s Torah portion, in which the story of the Jewish People ‘opens’. Let us look at the opening sentence of the Jewish People and try to gain insight into the essence and purpose of our nation.

The Torah opens: “And G‑d said to Abram, ‘Go away from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you.” Interestingly, G‑d doesn’t give Abraham a destination to be reached or a purpose for leaving. G‑d merely says go away from where you are and follow Me – destination unknown.

Thus begins the story of the first Jew. And herein lies the eternal “mission statement” for the Jewish People: “Go! – The Sky is the Limit”

As Jews, we are never to be satisfied with our status quo and never to be content with yesterday’s accomplishments. We have been empowered by G‑d (and therefore carry the responsibility) to journey on an infinite mission of goodness. Our “Jewish conscience” never allows us to settle into a comfort zone. We seem to have this constant unexplainable drive and urge to pursue, to progress, and to refine life – be it our own, our family’s,  or the lives of our community and those around us.

May G‑d give each and everyone of us the ability to fulfill our G‑d given missions. By each of us adding one more act of goodness and kindness, we can – and surely will - bring the world to a state of perfection with the coming of Moshaich!

Shabbat Shalom,

Surviving the Hurricanes

Hurricane Florence, Hurricane Michael, often times, we feel as if life is one extended hurricane. We are constantly battling the waves which the sea of life sends our way. As soon as one wave washes ashore, the second one is not far behind threatening to capsize over us unless we skillfully navigate our way over its raging crest. In truth, the daily financial pressures and business worries which life presents us are dubbed by King Solomon as the “mighty waters” which threaten to drown us spiritually and emotionally.

This week’s Torah portion speaks of the Flood which washed away all of civilization. Only Noah and his family survived the Flood by entering the Ark which protected them from the pelting rain. Our eternal Torah isn’t merely telling us a fascinating tale; if we look a bit deeper, at the story behind the story, we can also unravel the secret behind surviving all floods—even the ones which the meteorologists don’t forecast; the ominous floods of life.

G‑d commanded Noah to enter an Ark. The holy Baal Shem Tov points out that the Hebrew word for “Ark,” תיבה, also means “word.” We all can survive the floods which wish to engulf our lives through engrossing ourselves in the holy “words” of Torah and prayer. The person who wakes up in the morning and devotes his first hours or minutes to earnest prayer and some short words of Torah before running off to work, effectively insulates himself against life’s storms.

The sacred words of Torah and prayer have a waterproofing effect, encapsulating the person in an impenetrable bubble which can endure even the harshest winds. Starting the day with prayer and Torah serves as our daily reminder that G‑d is in control, and though we must strive to earn a livelihood, we must never let ourselves become overly perturbed by business pressures—because ultimately everything is from G‑d; and G‑d is always good.

If we can meet life’s storms while in the safe sanctuary of the “Ark” we will find that the stormy waters seemingly so destructive, are actually purifying waters. G‑d purified the world through the flood (which lasted forty days, similar to a mikvah which must contain forty sa’ah of water), and He purifies us by sending challenges and tribulations in our direction. If we are properly prepared for these storms, they express our highest and most noble qualities, thereby elevating us to spiritual heights we could never attain without the help of these hurricanes.

Shabbat Shalom

Let There Be Light

The holidays have past and now we’re off to a fresh new start with renewed strength and vigor!

On this Shabbat we will, once again, begin reading the Torah anew. And each year, as we start a new cycle of Torah reading, we reach deeper and deeper into the infinite wisdom that G‑d has woven into the Torah.

What are the first words G‑d utters in the Torah? What are G‑d’s opening lines in the bible?

“And G‑d said: Let there be light”.

This seems rather strange, because nothing existed yet that could benefit from the light. There were no trees that needed rays of light to grow and no animals or people who use the light to see. So why were G‑d’s first words, “let there be light”?

Before answering this question let me share a kabbalistic thought with you:

The Kabbalah teaches us the following insightful rule of life: “The final act is the first thought”. Simply put, this means that when embarking on any project or business venture, the very first thing we need to think about it what we want our final product to look like. Or, as any business coach will tell you, “you need to first have a mission statement”.

If we do not first lay down the ultimate goal and purpose of the task at hand, the project will likely deteriorate into a random and fruitless proposition. This is the meaning of the Kabbalistic statement “The final act is the first thought”.

This concept was demonstrated most profoundly by G‑d when He created the universe. Before creating the various components of the universe, G‑d first laid down his mission statement for creation: “Let there be light”.

This is the underlying goal and theme that governs all of existence and it is this declaration that acts as the portal and opening of the Torah. G‑d wanted it to be unmistakably clear at the very beginning; with the very first creation – light, that He has created a world in order for light to radiate.

Light represents clarity, warmth, brightness and holiness. Darkness represents confusion, emptiness and negativity. The purpose of existence is to transform darkness into light, turn challenge into opportunity and bring holiness into that which is unholy.

How to we accomplish this awesome task? How to we transform the world into a G‑dly edifice? We do mitzvahs. Yes, each time we light a Shabbat candle, lend a helping hand to someone in need, put on tefillin, or make a blessing over kosher food, we add light and bring the world closer to its final G‑dly state.

So as we set forth to journey through this new year of 5779, let us make the mission statement clear from the outset: We are created to bring light and G‑dliness to the world!

Let’s do a mitzvah today! “Let there be light.”

Shabbat Shalom,

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.

 

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 Sunday, May 20th 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,

He Really Does Run the World

This week's Torah reading talks of the mitzvah called “shemitah”. After working the land of Israel for six years, G‑d tells us to let the land rest every seventh year. No agricultural work may be performed during this Shemitah (Sabbatical) year.

Then the Torah talks to our human instincts and tells us:

"And if you shall say, 'What will we eat in the seventh year’?”

Don’t worry, says G‑d:

“I will command My blessing for you in the sixth year, and it will yield produce for three years."

Very few people can financially survive taking an unpaid leave of absence from work for an entire year. We can only imagine what a country would look like of entire segments of its population decided to take a year of vacation; it would take years for the economy to lift itself out of the ensuing shambles. Just think: Strikes by small groups which last for mere days cause billions of dollars of damage to nations' economies.

We neglect to mention this awesome miracle which occurred in the Land of Israel every seventh year! Yet it actually happened. Regularly. Citizens of an agrarian based nation dropped their plows and sickles and "sabbaticaled" every seventh year, and survived and flourished! We speak often of miracles such as the splitting of the Red Sea and the Jordan River, of the ten plagues and Elijah's wonders, but we neglect to mention this awesome miracle which occurred in the Land of Israel every seventh year! For centuries long, every sixth year the crop would be so abundant that it lasted for three years for those who were committed to abstain from work on the seventh.

Perhaps it can be posited that greater than the miracle of the abundant crops is the trust the Jews demonstrated in G‑d.

If society today is any indicator, people have a strong tendency to relegate G‑d to the synagogue. Those who are more pious allow G‑d into their personal lives as well. But fewer indeed are those who welcome Him into their businesses and pocketbooks. "I'll pray to G‑d, I'll study Torah and do His mitzvot, but business is business…" The Biblical law requiring ten percent of earnings to be given to charity and the prohibitions against lending with interest, cheating, deception, and working on Shabbat and holy days are swept under the rug in the interest of making ends meet.

Shmitah teaches us that we are not intrinsically weak; we do have the ability to trust in G‑d. And He, in turn, has the ability to provide for those who do so. G‑d pleads, "Is My hand too short to redeem, or do I have no strength to save? Behold, with My rebuke I dry up the sea, I make rivers into a desert." Yes, the same G‑d who split the Red Sea can even provide us and our families with a steady income.

May we absorb and internalize this liberating message. If we do our part, He’ll do His! (CLICK HERE for a modern shemitah miracle story)

Shabbat Shalom,

A Cat Can't Fly

One day towards evening when it was getting dark, two friends Yankel and Berel saw something in the distance. Yankel thought that it was a bird while Berel claimed that it was a cat. To resolve their dispute they decided on the following experiment. They would throw a stone at the object. If it flies it must be a bird, but if it remains still, it is indeed a cat.

As soon as the stone made contact with the object it flew away. As Yankel was about to claim victory Berel turned around to him and exclaimed: "you know my dear friend, it is the first time I have seen a cat that flies". 

We are currently in the 'Omer'; a seven-week period of time wherein we count the 49 days leading us towards the festival of Shavuot – the day we received the Torah. Our sages teach that these seven weeks are a time of personal growth; a time to develop, refine and work on our character traits, making them more sensitive and spiritually attuned. And sometimes this requires a paradigm shift. 

We humans tend to get stuck on the ‘cat’ and won’t give it up. Breaking loose of our comfort zone and making a real change is perhaps the most difficult challenge we face. Even if "it flies", we will find a way to still see it as a cat. 

And yet, at the same time we have been endowed with an innate sense and intuitive desire to transcend, and change our current status. Somewhere in the depth of our sub consciousness, we wish we could get out our "cat-view" and see our life as the soaring bird. 

And that is exactly what the seven weeks between Passover and Shavuot are all about. On Passover G‑d took us out of slavery. But that’s only half of the process. Then it’s up to us to spend the next seven weeks taking the slavery mentality out of ourselves. 

According to the kabbalah, each week we focus on a different character trait. And by the end of the seven weeks of the Omer we’ve completely broken out of our box and left our confining and stubborn perspectives behind us. 

Tonight we’ll count #34. So please join the journey towards number 49 (it’s never too late to hop on board) and together we will merit – as one community – to receive and internalize the Torah with great joy!

Let’s do a mitzvah today!

Shabbat Shalom,

 

Be Holy!

The section of the Torah we read tomorrow begins with the divine instruction for Jewish People to “Be Holy”.

So I ask you, how should we go about fulfilling this mitzvah? What does “be holy” mean? Does G‑d want us to trek through the Himalayas or meditate daily for hours? 

This short lesson in Biblical Hebrew 101 will perhaps shed some light on this important issue:

The Hebrew word for ‘holy’ is ‘kadosh’. However, a more literal translation of ‘kadosh’ would be ‘separate’. This is because something is holy when it is set aside from the mundane and in a sphere of its own. (Interestingly, this is why, in biblical Hebrew, a prostitute is called a ‘kadesh’. Because the prostitute has set him/herself aside for a specific purpose.) 

Bearing this in mind, we find an entirely new meaning to the mitzvah “Be Holy”. As Jews, G‑d wants us to act in a fashion that separates and elevates us. This means that in every moment of our daily lives – while eating, walking, conversing, or sleeping - we need to ask ourselves “Is this the way a Jew; a representative of Al-mighty G‑d, should behave?” And if the answer is yes – then we’re holy. And when people look at us they can exclaim: “If this is the way a Jewish person behaves, I want to learn more about his G‑d”.

And in fact, this week’s torah portion proceeds to enumerate tens of mitvzahs that ensure that we maintain this beautiful standard of “holiness & separateness”. (Among them: honesty in business, sexual morality, charity, Shabbat, justice for all, click here for more.)  

So as we enter this special Shabbat I encourage you to take a peek at the Torah portion and try adding one extra mitzvah to your repertoire.

Shabbat Shalom,

Am I That Important?

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 good 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. 

As a wise man once remarked: “Your birth is G‑d’s way of telling you that He needs you.” 

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, 

Who Cares What We Eat?

As Jews, G‑d has put us on a special diet. It might not lower our cholesterol or contain fewer calories, but it certainly nourishes our soul. It is this week that we will read the section of the Torah detailing the intricate laws that govern the kosher diet of a Jew.

Judaism sees our nourishment, not only as a means of survival, but as an inherent part of our service of G‑d. If carried out properly, every time we eat something we are actually becoming better and holier – we come closer to G‑d.

Rabbi Elimelech of Lizensk, who lived roughly 200 years ago, was known as a righteous and saintly man. One day another famous Rabbi was visiting with Rabbi Elimelech and asked the following question:

"Tell me, Rabbi Elimelech, we both are scholars, well versed in the Jewish law. Yet you have reached a level of saintliness and holiness far beyond me. Explain to me, please, what is the difference between us? What is it that you possess that I don't?"

Rabbi Elimelech pointed to the bowl of fruit, set before them on the table. "When you want to eat an apple, do you make a blessing to G‑d?"

"Certainly I do!" the visiting Rabbi answered.

"Ah, that's the difference. You see, when I want to make a blessing to G‑d, I eat an apple. When you want to eat an apple you first make a blessing. That is the difference."

Eating was the medium through which Rabbi Elimelech connected to the infinite.

Let us therefore use every meal as an impetus and springboard to grow in our journey on earth – to become better, more G‑dly human beings.

Shabbat Shalom,

Just a Little Push

We’re just 7 days away from the “big night”. Next week at this time, millions of Jews across the globe will re-experience and internalize the Divine revelation of the Exodus. The minutes and moments of the seder are magical and potent. They carry in them blessings; the magnitude of which we cannot fathom. 

Sounds a little overwhelming? Will my evening truly be transformative and other-worldly? How can “little me” – a Jew who is not really that observant or Jewishly educated – expect to be internalize the grandeur and holiness of the evening? 

The Talmudic story might give us the answer: 

Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa once saw a huge stone which he wished to donate to the Temple. The stone was too big for him to move by himself and he could not afford to hire laborers to help him move it. Suddenly he had a vision. “Push the stone with your little finger”, he heard G‑d call to him. And so Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa pushed the stone. Miraculously he watched as angels helped him move the stone to the Temple. 

What is the lesson of this story? Whenever a task or process seems overwhelming or too big it is worthwhile to remember the following: All G‑d asks is that we push with our little finger. We have the ability to tap into the infinite, we just have to "open the door" and do our best. 

And when we do, we will find ourselves succeeding beyond our wildest dreams. With the help from Above, we are able to accomplish far more than we ever could by ourselves. However, we have to make that first move, even if it is only a little push, to tap into the infinite, to bring down the Divine blessings into our everyday lives. 

And so, as we set forth on this week leading to Passover and we attempt to prepare ourselves to internalize the magic of the evening, let’s give a push with our finger and take the first step. True, we might not be able to learn, appreciate, or understand the depth, meaning, and richness of every facet of the seder. But if we spend just a little bit of time this week allowing the message of the holiday to sink in; if we do our little part - G‑d will do the rest and bestow upon us, at the seder, His infinite blessings just as He did ”in those days and this time”.

I encourage you to do some independent study: www.nyhebrew.org/passover

You’ll find stories and insights, videos and audio classes, and much more. 

May the words we uttered at the conclusion of last year’s seder come true and we be “this year in Jerusalem”! 

Gillie and our children join me is wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,

Every Crumb... Matters...

With Passover just two weeks away, preparations are in full swing!  I'm thinking about when to schedule the annual Passover car cleaning, including uninstalling the car seats and cleaning them. We always find plenty of crumbs and other treasures under and inside the seats.

At times I ask myself, why am I doing this?  Does every crumb really matter? But I know that when we're done, we'll enjoy the special feeling of a spotless car and the knowledge that our hard work paid off.  

On a spiritual level, Passover is a time of inner freedom and spiritual growth. Even the smallest crumb can be an obstacle to growth and needs to be removed. The work is hard and at times tedious, but the result a “cleaner” me, ready to climb to new heights.

How are your Passover preparations going?

Shabbat Shalom,

P.S. Click here to read all about Passover.

The Infinite Value of a Single Deed . . .

As we conclude the book of Exodus, we read of Moses presenting a detailed account of the donations contributed for the construction of the Temple. Down to the very last piece of silver and copper that came into his hands, not a single coin remained unaccounted for.

There is a simple but very moving message here. In the biblical perspective, there is no contribution in life that is not worthy of being accounted for. Every deed counts; every word, each gesture must be reckoned with. No contribution is too small to be counted and valued.

For Moses the single silver or copper coin contributed by the poor man, the tiny bracelet or earring contributed by an individual woman, must be counted with equal sincerity and passion. Why? Because in Judaism there is no such thing as a small, insignificant act. Every moment contains the promise of eternity; every deed changes the world.

Moses understood the infinite value of a single deed of grace - of one mitzvah. 

There was once a poor Scottish farmer whose name was Fleming. One day, he heard a cry for help coming from a nearby marsh. He dropped his tools and ran to the swamp. There, mired to his waist in black muck, was a terrified boy, screaming and struggling to free himself. Farmer Fleming saved the lad from what could have been a slow and terrifying death.

The next day, a fancy carriage pulled up to the Scotsman's sparse surroundings. An elegantly dressed nobleman stepped out and introduced himself as the father of the boy Farmer Fleming had saved.

"I want to repay you," said the nobleman. "You saved my son's life." "No, I can't accept payment for what I did," the Scottish farmer replied, waving off the offer. At that moment, the farmer's own son came to the door of the family shack. "Is that your son?" the nobleman asked. "Yes," the farmer replied proudly.

"I'll make you a deal. Let me provide him with the level of education my own son will enjoy. If the lad is anything like his father, he'll no doubt grow to be a man we both will be proud of." And that he did. Farmer Fleming's son attended the very best schools and in time, graduated with honors from St. Mary's Hospital Medical School in London. In 1928 he discovered that certain bacteria cannot grow in certain vegetable molds and went on to become known throughout the world as the noted Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of Penicillin.

Years afterward, the same nobleman's son who was saved from the bog was stricken with pneumonia. What saved his life this time? Penicillin.

The name of the nobleman? Lord Randolph Churchill.

His son's name? Sir Winston Churchill.

Look what can come from one single deed.

Shabbat Shalom,

 

 

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