Monday, August 30, 2021

Assembling Our School Supply List in Time for Rosh HaShana

It was so interesting watching as the kids started assembling their books and supplies for school this past week. There was a lot of time spent matching their supplies with the official list sent out by the school. What's kind of funny is how detailed the lists really are, everything from the length of the ruler to the color of the folders, and if the folders need pockets, brand of pencil, how many pencils, brand and number of erasers, how many binders, what colors the binders need to be, and of course don't forget the markers, colored pencils (and brand) and clear tape. The lists go on and on. It's quite a project.

Why do the kids need such specific details regarding school supplies? Isn't any colored pencil "good enough"? Or does it matter if a child has a blue folder with pockets or a pink folder without pockets? Truth is that it actually does matter.

The school supplies are the children's tools to be successful in school. Each of these supplies is a 'tool' for a certain task at school. When the teacher assigns the blue folder with the pockets to be the folder for social studies and starts handing out photocopies of the material to be kept in that specific folder - the child had better have a blue folder with pockets... the pink one without pockets won't cut it. 

What's fascinating though is applying it to the mitzvot, the Commandments that G-d gave to the Jewish People. There's certainly a feeling sometimes that the mitzvot are too detailed, too involved and why can't I make due with "good enough".  And the answer is no - it's not "good enough".

The mitzvot are our tools to be successful in our relationship with G-d/HaShem. Just as each school supply has it's task to fulfill, each mitzvah we tackle brings us closer to being successful in creating a world that HaShem wants to dwell in. We are partners with G-d in making a better world. Sometimes it's obvious what needs to be done to make things better - and sometimes it's not so clear. Rather than assume that "any" colored pencil will do the job, perhaps an understanding of why the brand chosen is important. For example, I just found out this summer that some colored pencils sharpen better than others - it's important to know this because when you sharpen this particular brand, it continually breaks and it's quite frustrating.

While sometimes we think we know what has to be done to make this world a G-dly one, it is a good idea to check the "official school list" i.e. The Torah and find out what G-d actually thinks are things we should do and not only rely on our own "good enough" list. Even when we don't understand why one brand is chosen over another, we trust that the teacher knows why we are required to buy that brand. In the same vein, we need to trust that HaShem knows why these mitzvot are detailed and need to be done in a certain way to be successful.

Rosh HaShana gives us an opportunity to get our own supplies in order. We need to take the time to "match up" where we are at with the "official" list. What are our strengths and weaknesses? What small steps can we take to improve our relationships with our family and friends? What small mitzvah can we take on to improve ourselves and create a G-dly world?

Like assembling our school lists, we will always be missing something on the list. We are human beings, susceptible to failure, but also capable of amazing things. 

It's time to get excited. The first day of the New Year is coming. G-d willing, it'll be a great year.

I want to wish everyone a Happy, Healthy and Successful year ahead, full of clarity and blessing.

Shana Tova.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Allowing Others to Exist

The main idea to focus on during Rosh HaShana is that we are crowning G-d/HaShem as our King. What does that actually mean? The mitzvah of hearing the shofar blown is recognizing the "coronation" of our King. But still, what does that mean?

During Creation of the world, G-d in a sense pulled Himself back to allow us and our physical world to exist. (For more information on this concept, click here). While we know that we are supposed to emulate G-d in character traits - for example: slow to anger, helping those in need - we can also follow HaShem's lead in how to deal with other people. 

Many times, especially in our social media age, we cannot allow others to exist - they have opinions we don't agree with, or we don't agree with their world view. We un-'friend' them. We pretend they do not exist, and in our social media world, with a click of a button, they don't exist. Even in the real world, friends and family have even been cut off - and their opinions and thoughts no longer need to 'offend' our sensibilities. Their existence no longer concerns us. 

During Creation, HaShem pulled Himself back to allow us to exist. That is a lesson to us all. It's a basis for our whole physical existence. We have to learn from G-d's example. We need to recognize that we are not the center of the universe, that our opinions and thoughts are not the last word. Perhaps it's okay to be challenged by others, to be someone who learns from everyone we meet, as Pirkei Avos says. We can pull our egos back and allow others to exist.

This Rosh HaShana, let's hear the blowing of the shofar and let that sound enter our hearts. Together we will coronate HaShem as our King instead of our egos.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Being Content is Dangerous... Let's Discuss!

Instead of a book club where we can discuss what we are reading, I am going to pick short videos (about 5 minutes) of different fascinating people who are bringing their brilliance to us. Please watch and comment below what you think. Whether you agree or disagree, I am sure you will enjoy the speakers.

Here is Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski speaking, "Being Content is Dangerous".

Sunday, August 8, 2021

I'm Back! Cue the Happy Dance!!!

Today is Rosh Chodesh Elul! Just the right time to get back online. Unbelievably, we are a month away from Rosh HaShanah. I'm not ready, are you?

Here are a few posts to get you in the mood.

My 30 Days of Changing a Bad Habit and Doing Kindness

Aish HaTorah's Elul Inspiration Page

Chabad's Month of Elul: Stocktaking and Introspection

Also - feel free to wander about A Jewish Minute's past articles. I've been busy the last couple years with life and haven't had time to update properly. Hopefully, I'll be able to rectify that.

I'm thinking about leaving shorter pieces on A Jewish Minute's Facebook page, while posting longer articles here. 

Any suggestions or questions? Free free to contact me.

Chodesh Tov!!!