Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is a special day for all Americans and especially for American Jews. For thousands of years we were chased from country to country and murdered at every opportunity.

The United States gave us safe haven to live our lives freely as Jews - to be able to publicly wear symbols of our religion, to pray safely in our synagogues and at the same time be full members of society at large. The USA is a special place and we are certainly grateful to G-d for all that we have been given.

President George Washington wrote a letter to the Jews of Newport, Rhode Island discussing that idea of religious liberty. Amazing letter. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
While I received with much satisfaction your address replete with expressions of esteem, I rejoice in the opportunity of assuring you that I shall always retain grateful remembrance of the cordial welcome I experienced on my visit to Newport from all classes of citizens.
The reflection on the days of difficulty and danger which are past is rendered the more sweet from a consciousness that they are succeeded by days of uncommon prosperity and security.
If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good government, to become a great and happy people.
The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy—a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.
It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.
It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my administration and fervent wishes for my felicity.
May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.
May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.
G. Washington

Monday, November 24, 2014

Holy Jews

This past week we witnessed a terrible event, the massacre of four holy Jews during prayer, simply because they were Jewish. We also mourn the loss of a brave Druzi policeman, a father of a four month old daughter.

These were great people. I knew one of them, Rabbi Goldberg, a special man with a special family.

There is truly so much to say, but at the same time, nothing to say. I will leave it to bigger people to comment.

Reflections from a Har Nof Neighbor

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Parshat Chayei Sarah - Welcome to the Journey

This past Shabbos, we read the portion of Chayei Sarah. It begins with the death of Sarah, our first matriarch.

I've always found the first sentence of this parsha a fascinating way to start,
"Sarah's lifetime was one hundred years, twenty years, and seven years..."

According to Rashi, one of our major Torah commentators, explains that each mention of years refers to different portions of her life - which totally makes sense. We can easily subdivide our lives into parts, when we were kids, before marriage, before having kids, after having kids, after the kids move out... etc. you get the idea.

What we can learn from the Torah making a point to break down her life is to take note that every part of our life is significant.  It's not just the destination, but also the journey. Each portion of our lives is a piece of the puzzle that is us.

Every portion of our life in significant. Every choice we make builds on itself - even and especially those choices we make as children and young adults. Those choices and their consequences create the people we become as adults. Did we take candy without paying for it? Did we sneak a peek on an exam or fudge a little while telling a story? Did we help a friend when they needed us? Did we clean up our toys without being asked? What seem like small choices as children becomes ingrained in our character as adults.

Take a moment to enjoy the journey - discover yourself. Appreciate the daily choices and options that present themselves to you - remember these seemingly insignificant choices (obviously not all choices - Coke vs. Pepsi, not of ultimate significance) help build the person you are and who you want to be at the end of it all.

Take the time to appreciate the moment as it presents itself. Enjoy the portion of your life that you're in. If you're raising kids - enjoy the craziness of it all. "Growing kids" is the hardest thing I have ever done and will do -- but I absolutely love the insanity of it all. The jumping off the couches, coffee table, chairs - ok, off of anything horizontal...  it's fantastic to think that these are human beings that are ultimately going to change the world for the better, and I have a hand in that.

Have a great week everyone!
Love the life you're in.