Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Take Five Minutes and Feed Your Soul

As the last of my Chanukah candles are slowly dying out I think about the meaning of dedication. Chanukah is the holiday where we remember and celebrate the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem by the Hasmoneans (the Maccabees) after the Greek-Syrians defiled it.

Dedication to an ideal or an activity is something that most of us find hard to do day in and day out. It's normal to get excited about doing something the first few times and then as time goes on the excitement peters out.

It's easy to get distracted by the things that we think are important and sometimes are important - the news, politics, mundane daily activities and errands. For example, food shopping truly is important otherwise there may not be dinner on the table that night.

It's easy to know when we're hungry and didn't make it to the supermarket. Our stomachs growl, and we may get grouchy. What may not be so easy to figure out is when we are spiritually hungry. We have no physical symptoms to tip us off.

This Chanukah may be the time to dedicate just five minutes a day to feeding our spiritual side. Where will you find your five minutes? When you first wake up? On your way to bed? Or perhaps as a pick-me up in the middle of the day? Wherever you find those five minutes make sure to allow what you are learning excite you and let it impact your life.

Tonight I am rededicating myself to learning five minutes a day - away from the television, away from email and Facebook, away from distractions - to feed my soul. I hope you do too.

Happy Chanukah! Remember a little bit of light pushes away a lot of darkness.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Tisha B'Av - A Day of Mourning

Tomorrow night, (Monday, August 8th) begins Tisha B'Av - the 9th of Av. It is the Jewish day of mourning. It lasts until nightfall on Tuesday, August 9th. This is the day where we remember all the destruction that's befallen the Jewish People over the last 3000 years.

It's a tough day. We fast - not eating or drinking, don't wear leather shoes, we don't wash ourselves, we don't have marital relations, we don't even sit in proper chairs. Why?

We're mourning for the Beit HaMikdash, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. It's hard to mourn for something we've never seen, touched or generally think about... ever.

Perhaps we need to think about it this way. Having the Beit HaMikdash in existence was a representation of having a close relationship with G-d. There was a physical presence of the Almighty where we could see it. In today's world, it is very hard to see G-d, much less feel that we have a real personal relationship with Him.

Most of our lives is spent in the physical world - eating, drinking, working... This is all is fine and good - but to what end? Do we eat and drink in order to work harder? Do we work harder in order to have time to have food to put on the table? Is our life spent running in a circle?

The Beit HaMikdash represented something more. When it existed we had an easier time being in touch with our spiritual side. We ate and drank in order to be able to do Mitzvot - the Commandments. We realized that our existence was more than just going to work everyday - our existence is all about serving G-d, the King of Kings.

A short example to explain. There's a television show called The Apprentice. It began with a handful of young entrepreneurs competing with each other in order to win the opportunity to work with Donald Trump and perhaps run a small part of his company. It would be a tremendous learning experience - plus a huge plus to put on their resume.

Now while Trump would be quite an interesting fellow to work for, and no doubt would be an amazing work experience - this does not compare with working for the President. And to even clarify it even more - it would not even come close to working for the King of Kings, the Master of the Universe.

But all of this is hard to imagine.

It's easy for these special days on our calendar to come and go - not noticing the difference between one day and the next. Tomorrow night take a moment - take off your shoes, and think about Jewish history (if you don't know any - go get a book). The book we specifically read on Tisha B'Av is Eicha - Lamentations. It's a sad and short story of the destruction of the First Temple.

While Tisha B'Av is a day of sadness - we know that in the future it is supposed to be a true happy holiday. A day to celebrate.

How do we get there? How do we transform such a dark day to a day of light? V'Ahavta L'reiecha Kamocha... Loving your neighbor as yourself.

We have to love each other. The closeness to G-d that we are missing without the Beit HaMikdash has to be filled with closeness to our fellow Jews. We need each other. We need to search out our elderly who live without friends and family. We need to search out our poverty stricken (yes, there are those). We also need to search out those who are unaware of their Jewish heritage - starting with ourselves.

It's time to bring the light of the Beit HaMikdash into this world - and bring ourselves closer to our Jewish neighbors. Go say 'hello' and introduce yourself. It'll only take a minute.

Tisha B'Av and the 3 Weeks -
The Three Weeks and Tisha B'Av - Destruction & Renewal -

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Working Together to be Great

Things have been a bit busy around here, baby etc. but to kick off being back - I'm reprinting an article I wrote back in 2003 for the university paper in honor of Shavuot. Shavuot starts *tonight*, Tuesday, and ends Thursday evening. Here are a couple links for more information.

Shavuot with
Shavuot with

June 8, 2003

3,300 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 was 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 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 had 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 together 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 Noahide Laws, 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 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 that you could have as an individual. Be great.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Baby Girl!

You may have noticed that I have been AWOL in my writing. This is because I was blessed at the end of last month to have given birth to a beautiful and healthy baby girl. I hope to be back writing soon. In the meantime, everyone out there should have a good nights sleep for me.