Sunday, October 5, 2003

Yom Kippur

First of all, I wish everyone a Happy, Healthy New Year with only good things for the Jewish People. Second, I wish everyone a meaningful and easy fast for Yom Kippur.

Yom Kippur is known as the day of Atonement, where we try to figure out what we've done wrong and do right for the next year. It is clear from this last weeks Torah portion Haazinu that if we aggravate G-d with false gods, he will aggravate us with a non-people. We see this happening today, especially recently this past Saturday in Haifa with 19 murders. 3 children are part of that total. One family, three generations were effected. It is time to Return to G-d and the Torah. It's time to do Tshuva (return). Pick one mitzvah for the year. Do it consistantly. The only way to have Moshiach come and stop the insanity is for us to do our bit.

These non-existant Arabs calling themselves "Palestinians" are only a wake up call from G-d. Nothing more. They only have as much power as we give them by not doing what G-d wants us to do. We need to be aware of what we do and what we have to improve on. Start this Yom Kippur.

May we be all signed in the Book of Life.

Sunday, September 7, 2003

Afraid of our Thoughts

We have all been taught to take charge, to make the most of every moment, work hard, and of course play hard. But have any of us been taught how to stop?

4000 years ago Jews brought the concept of a “day of rest” into the world. A novel idea. In todays world can anyone imagine not having the weekend off? While we may have those couple days at the end of the week we generally do not spend it resting. There is tons to do. Most of the time is spent doing laundry, paying bills, going shopping, going bowling, visiting friends, doing homework (just a thought), partying, sleeping, watching a movie and cleaning your bedroom. Anything forgotten?

As a result of running, we have spent all our time focusing on what’s ahead. We focus on everything else except for what the point of what having time off is. We need to stop and reevaluate ourselves and our lives. How can we accomplish this when we are constantly distracting ourselves with the above activities?

We do not know how to be alone with our thoughts. In the car, as soon as the key is in the ignition - the radio is blasting. We walk into our homes - the television is on for background noise while we putter around doing other things. We aren’t even sitting and watching what is on. We just want the noise. We cannot stand to be alone with our thoughts. Why?

Our thoughts bring to the front of our minds everything we do not want to think about. Our insecurities, our fears, and unresolved disagreements come to the fore. Instead of dealing with any of these issues we block them out with any kind of distraction we can find.

We are rats on a wheel - running without thinking. We grow up, going from elementary and middle school to high school, to the university, to marriage, to kids, to...fill in the blank. We don’t stop running.

What is the solution to all of this? Take a time out. Turn off the walkman and take a stroll around the neighborhood for an hour a week. Be alone with yourself and your thoughts. Get in your car and do not turn on the radio. Do not turn on the television when you get home. Let your thoughts flow.

Who are you? Where do you want to be in five years? Two years? Next week? What kind of person are you now and do you want to stay the way you are? Do you give charity? Do you spend enough time with your children? Sit on a bench and watch the people go by. Watch how kids react to the lions, tigers and bears (oh my!). They are mesmerized by the different animals.

Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. See what good you can do for another person. What good you can contribute to your community. Find something that needs to be fixed and fix it. Learn something new.

Stop and think for a moment. Are we afraid of our thoughts? We must do what is done with any other fear. Deal with it. Resolve to be a better person, moment by moment, day by day.

It is time to stop and get off the treadmill of life.

Saturday, June 14, 2003

Working Together to be Great

3300 years ago G-d decided to civilize the world that He had created, and gave the Torah to the Jews who He had just taken out of Egypt. This past weekend Jews around the world celebrated this holiday called Shavuot. Two major events happened that day way back then. The first as we know was the giving of the Torah, aka the Five Books of Moses, to the Jews. Second is the event of the Jews as individuals becoming a nation.

On the mountain of Sinai that day G-d put on an amazing sound and light show, surpassing any pyrotechnic party put on today and gave the Jews the Torah. There was no intermediary. G-d talked to all the people all at once and gave us the rules how to live a good life. We know ten of these rules from the famous 10 Commandments movie. What you will notice if you take a look at them is that the first five have to do with your relationship with G-d. I am the One who took you out of Egypt to be your G-d, don’t make idols and have false gods, don’t use G-ds name in vain, and keep the Sabbath holy. These are some of the rules to having a relationship with G-d Almighty (not Bruce).

If you look at numbers six to ten on those Commandments you see that they have to do with your relationship to your fellow wo/man. Honor your parents, don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t be a false witness, and don’t be be jealous of what your neighbors got. The second half of the Commandments are just as important as the first half. You cannot be a complete person if you only keep the first half of the Commandments dealing with you and G-d and do not treat other people well. On that same note, you cannot be a complete person if you keep G-d out of your life.

The second main event of that day was that the Jews became a Nation. Before that the Jews been individuals with the same belief system, but at this point G-d formalized the relationship and created the Jewish People. The Torah is what binds the Jewish People whether the Jew is observant, or not observant, white, black, or from any part of the world.

Now that we have spent so much time on the Jews receiving the Torah and becoming a nation, there are a couple more points to be made relating to the receiving of the Torah. The first is that Judaism does not believe that a person needs to be Jewish to go to Heaven. All a person needs to do is follow 7 rules called the 7 Commandments of the Sons of Noah, since everyone is a descendent of Noah. They are: don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t worship false gods, don’t be sexually immoral, don’t eat a limb of an animal before it is killed, don’t curse G-d and set up a system of justice.

So now that it is 3300 years later what can be learned from all of this? There are two main points to keep in mind. The first is to be a complete person we need to include G-d in our lives and be involved in making other peoples lives better. It cannot be one or the other.

The second point comes from the idea that a person on their own can do great things. When G-d took the Jews out of Egypt and made them a nation, He was saying that it was more important to work together as a group. As a group and working together even greater things can be accomplished.

Connect yourself with a group with a goal worth reaching. Reach farther than you could have as an individual. Be great.

Sunday, March 16, 2003

Purim and Persistence

Today is the Jewish holiday of Purim. It is the holiday with the most fun attached to it of the entire Jewish calendar year. We give our friends baskets of food, dress up in costume, give money to the poor and read the Book of Esther which includes in it the story of Purim. It is one long day of partying.

The Book of Esther takes place in Persia, modern day Iran, about 2300 years ago. It describes the events that lead to the decree of death on the Jewish People of the time and the eventual downfall of the main evil character of Haman. It is an exciting story, with enough plot twists and turns that it would be a blockbuster if ever turned into a movie.

One of the interesting points about the Book of Esther is that the name of G-d is not even mentioned once. The main point being that G-d is behind the scenes directing the events that were occurring and unfolding to reveal the salvation of the Jews.

This is also the reason why Jews dress in costume on Purim. In order to show that nothing is as it seems, people wear anything from the heroes and villains of the Purim story, to Spiderman, or just a subtle nose ring. Nothing is as it seems.

The main question we are left with at this point is what do we gain from reading and learning about the Purim story. Through various events, the heroine Esther is placed in the position of the Queen of Persia. As the story progresses we see that she has been placed in that position for a reason. She was there to save the Jews from the evil decree. However, when the time came to save the Jews it was no simple task, she was required to actually risk her own life in order to save the entire group.

The message is clear. We are all placed in different positions in our lives. We all have different families, and family lives. We have obstacles that have to be cleared and dealt with. We have uncomfortable situations that we do not want to have to have anything to do with. The lesson is to deal with them.

Esther was put in her position to make a difference. The key to life is to choose to make a difference. Esther could have backed out of doing what needed to be done, but she didn't. We have all given the excuses: It's not my job. It's not my responsibility. It's not my problem.

We need to choose to make a difference, and not make excuses. You do not have to be Superman to make a difference. Give someone a ride to the corner store. Give charity to the place of your choice. Volunteer your time at a shelter.

You do not need to risk your life to make a difference. You do not need to the ruler of a nation or empire to make a difference. You do need to choose to make a difference and follow through, then you will be royalty in your own right.