What does it mean to be close to somebody else? One way is to be physically near them, but another, more spiritual way is to try to learn from them and emulate their good qualities. When the Torah instructs us to make ourselves close to, or cleave to Hashem, it doesn’t mean by trying to get to heaven in a rocket ship! Rather it means to think about Hashem and emulate His qualities of kindness, patience, fairness, etc. That is the real measure of how close a person is to G-d.
The three weeks period between the 17 of Tammuz and Tisha b’Av, besides being a time to remember and mourn the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash in Yerushalayim, is a very special time to focus on love. The spiritual root cause of the churban and all the other tragedies of Jewish history that resulted from it was sinas chinam, disliking and hating each other for no good reason. So it only makes sense that the way to remedy this is to go out of our way, especially during these three weeks, to try to like and love each other -- even for no good reason.
No one lives in a vacuum. No, that doesn’t mean we didn’t get sucked up through a vacuum cleaner hose in the pre-Pesach cleaning frenzy, it means that whether we like it or not, our environment—the people and things around us—makes a big impact on who we are.
I watch my children use blocks to build a large structure, observing the trepidation with which they add each block. As the structure becomes larger there is a greater risk of it collapsing, thus bringing an end to an hour of playful labor. I anticipate what will happen when one child adds a block to the top floor, compromising the integrity of the building and resulting in the collapse of the entire structure. The argument that ensues is predictable, as each child blames the other for “ruining” the fun. As an adult, I wonder about the need to attribute blame. Will assigning blame be instrumental in rebuilding the structure?
How can a person make sure that things will work out right? By doing what is right. When Hashem told the Jewish people to rest their fields and not plant any crops every seventh year, shmitta, it was a huge test of faith, as no crops meant no food! But Hashem also told them that if they did what’s right and listen to Him, they wouldn’t lose out because He’d miraculously give them enough crops in other years to more than make up for the year of rest. And that’s what happened.
The servant was ecstatic. He was racing to the King’s treasure house to retrieve two precious goblets to place on the King’s very table. Why had he been chosen to be the one to bring these royal treasures? Well, he was the one who had suggested the idea.
Even if nobody sees us, everything we do is being watched and recorded on video…by Hashem. Our conscience, that part of us that makes us feel guilty if we do something we shouldn’t have, is Hashem’s loving way of reminding us that He knows what we did, and knows that we’ll feel better, and become better by coming clean and putting it right.
Kids today... that’s not the way we behaved when we were younger!! That is the mantra I hear repeated as parents bemoan the spoiled nature and lack of responsibility of today's children. The problem is - it is not a fair comparison.
Someone sent me this e-mail: “The ABC’s of Purim: They tried to kill us. We survived. Let’s eat.”
Modim is the only bracha in Chazaras HaShatz that the tzibbur says is because one cannot give thanks to Hashem through the Sheliach Tzibbur, through a messenger. You have to thank Hashem yourself. It is a personal requirement that does not lend itself to be accomplished through an agent.
My family and I had recently enjoyed an outing to the bowling alley, courtesy of our friend, the owner. Children of all ages enjoy this weatherproof sport, and even preschoolers can easily score strike after strike as bumpers support the heavy ball as it creeps its way towards the pins at the end of the lane.
Let me say at the onset that I do not consider myself to be a sufficient role model when it comes to kibbud av v’eim – the 5th commandment; I humbly acknowledge my abysmal failures and inadequate performance of this critical mitzvah. However, I do detect a perilous and alarming trend, whereby performance of this mitzvah is spiraling to its lowest levels, threatening the very essence of the foundation that has sustained us over the past five millennium.
The following letter was sent in response to Pidyon Shevuyim: Redeeming The Agunah, a column by Cheryl Kupfer (12-21 On Our Own):
We all yearn to feel that we are part of something special. We all seek respect and acceptance for simply being who we are.
This coming Shabbos we bentch Rosh Chodesh Shevat, which falls on Shabbos Kodesh (January 12). The highlight of this month is of course Tu B’Shevat, the New Year of the trees. As the mind conjures up images of spring, I can spot nary a sign of spring from my vantage point here in the northeastern part of the U.S.
It is a short winter Friday, the house is upside down and it is almost Shabbos. Your kids are lying around or playing and are not interested in helping. So you put on Rav Yom Tov Ehrlich’s famous Yiddish song “Shabbos Kodesh, Shabbos Kodesh.” Soon the invigorating melody fills the room and things start moving. “The tanaaim – the amoraim – everyone is getting ready for Shabbos Kodesh – Shabbos!” His vivid description based on the Gemara in Shabbos (119a) of the holy rabbis of the Talmud each preparing for Shabbos, is enough to motivate even the laziest child to get up and start helping. (Okay, okay – it only works once in a while!)
Our Jewish calendar is based on the lunar year, and Rosh Chodesh, literally the head of the month, occurs when the moon renews itself. It is a holiday — in that we daven mussaf, just like on Shabbos and Yomim Tovim, we do not conduct fasts, and the pious among our people eat a special seudah. Traditionally, women do not sew on Rosh Chodesh and refrain from performing heavy-duty tasks.
It’s been a rough few weeks. It began with the news of a heinous crime just blocks from where I live on Manhatan’s Upper West Side: a nanny viciously took the lives of her two young charges. Hurricane Sandy came next, contributing additional loss of life and financial devastation of a magnitude never before experienced by our East Coast brethren.
Usually, when I begin a speech, I start with something interesting, lighthearted or funny - to get your attention and lead into the speech itself. Permit me to deviate from that this week, because there is nothing funny, lighthearted or interesting about what so many of us are experiencing, and if not us, than our friends, loved ones and neighbors, and if not them, than people a few miles away from us in Long Beach or Far Rockaway who have lost everything to 14 foot waves, or a little farther away where helpless Senior Citizens are living without water or power in high rises on the Lower East Side.
“Sandy gives New York a real thrashing!” screamed the headlines. “Hmmm, who exactly is Sandy and why is she thrashing New York,” I wonder. How about this one: (an exact quote) “For all those left homeless, for all those left scared and frightened, there is an enormous lesson from this hurricane – mother nature will do what she wants, when she wants, and our modern world can only bow before it.” Now I am really confused – who is this mother and why is she acting so mean – aren’t mothers supposed to be nice? And more so – what exactly is this “enormous” lesson? Why should I bow to her?