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April 25, 2014 / 25 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Bnei Yisroel’

A Pathway To Teshuvah

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Yom Hadin is almost here and this time of year brings with it a range of emotions. Some people are excited – a new year, the start of school, new clothing. For others, Rosh Hashanah instills fear – the need to correct wrongdoings, to beg for forgiveness and make promises to be better. For still others, there is a feeling of being overwhelmed – either by the awe of the Yom Hadin or perhaps the reality of so many days of Shabbos, Yom Tov, Shabbos (that’s a lot of cooking and baking). We are often so busy taking care of all the “things” that need to be done, that we don’t have enough time for spiritual and emotional preparation. It feels like most years I come to Selichos feeling as if I haven’t done enough to prepare.

We are about to stand before Hashem and celebrate the creation of His world in which we are privileged to live. We are ready to honor Hashem’s Malchus and to ask for another year in which to do good and live in a proper way.

Aneivus (humbleness), self-dignity and teshuvah – three ideas that at first glance might not seem to belong together. In reality they are directly intertwined and each depends on the other. Think about this: A person cannot do teshuvah without first accepting and loving themselves and a person cannot accept and love themselves without turning to Hashem.

What is humbleness? Growing up many of us were taught to have aneivus. It was not considered fine to think highly of oneself – that was gaiva (haughtiness). It was not proper to give too much credit to one’s own accomplishments. Many people and especially women have learned these lessons all too well. I respectfully suggest that many have thought of as gaiva is actually what aneivus should be.

In order to understand what humbleness is it is important to know what is isn’t.

Humbleness isn’t:

1. Being self-deprecating in speech or thoughts.

2. Putting yourself last.

3. Denying your own needs (eating right, exercise, sleep).

4. Denying your own feelings, achievements, accomplishments.

5. Always doing for others and never doing for yourself.

6. Denying your hopes and dreams.

The above is actually the life of a slave. It is what we left behind in Mitzrayim, in order to be able to become Bnei Yisroel and be able to serve Hashem. Unfortunately, too many people think that slave mentality is the way to be humble. However, not only isn’t that not the way to serve Hashem, it also makes real teshuvah very difficult.

We are each created b’tzelem Elokim – with a responsibility to live our lives with dignity — to treat ourselves with dignity, to treat others with dignity and to expect others to treat us with dignity. Imagine a beautiful lake. Above the lake is clean, cool air. It is fresh and feels right. Below the lake is the slimy, muddy yuck that you don’t want to put your feet in to. It is dark and murky.

We need to live above the lake in the clean, cool air – serving Hashem b’simcha, knowing when we have given too much of ourselves and need to say no, living our lives with honesty and dignity. Living below the lake means living with sadness, negativity, martyrdom, machlokes, abuse, and a disconnect with Torah and Hashem.

We need to recognize when people are trying to pull us into the murky waters and learn how to pull ourselves back up. Teshuvah and closeness to Hashem is the most powerful way to do this.

Many of us may believe that it is not proper to think highly of ourselves – but if we do and we recognize our self-worth, we won’t look for kavod from others. We don’t need approval from others if we give it to ourselves. Too often we judge ourselves by how others see us; we think we have to measure up to another’s idea of success in order to be worth anything. However, if that is our recipe for self-respect – most of us will NEVER get there, and we risk losing a real relationship with Hashem in the process. With self-dignity we can be emotionally complete and truly serve Hashem.

Kashrut – More Than Just A Symbol On A Box

Monday, September 10th, 2012

When I walk in to the grocery store it is second nature for me to just check to make sure that that bag of chips or that cookie has an OU or other kosher symbol on it. To many Jews, it is just something that they do, and it usually is like that for me. But when this question was asked, I thought deeper. I began to think about how this label gives me a sense of community; and as I made that connection, I thought of our rich heritage, and once that relationship was made I thought about our homeland – Israel.

When I look at the kosher label on a box of cereal or a chocolate bar, it reminds me that this symbol is something bigger than just a letter or a word on the box. It reminds me that I am part of a community – a community bigger than just my shul, or even Denver in general. A community all around the world, a community of Jews. All around the world there are people like me. Someone who won’t eat bacon at his classmate’s birthday party, or who won’t go to that basketball game with his teacher on Saturday. When a terrorist attack happens in India and a rabbi and his wife are killed, we in Denver, Colorado feel the pain and mourn the loss of our fellow brother and sister.

A couple weeks ago I went to a deaf school to learn about the deaf community. One of the teachers asked me what my school’s letters, DAT, stood for, and I told her that they were letters in Hebrew. She pulled out her necklace with the word chai on it and said to me, “I am Jewish, too.” This is what the Jewish community is. It is larger than just me and my friend, larger than just me and everyone in Denver. This is a community all around the world that show and feel a rich connection to a Jewish past; people deaf or hearing, blind or seeing, religious or not.

Our rich history is something that unites us. I often feel that one of the reasons is because in the Torah we see great role models and leaders uniting us. There is Avraham – the original leader; Moshe – who united us and brought us to a great level; and in the future, Mashiach – who will bring us all back to Israel. Unity started when the ‘Father of Judaism’ brought us all together. We know Avraham went around traveling and converting people to Judaism. He showed people there is something greater than just themselves – something bigger than them all in which they can all connect and join together. Moshe brought us out from a time of pain and affliction from the King Pharaoh. He united us, and we all went in togetherness, relying on one another, out of Mitzrayim. We know that in the greatest time of Bnei Yisroel we were all in unity as we heard the Ten Commandments being given. This was what made Hashem so happy, and this is what Moshe brought to Bnei Yisroel. For forty long years he helped us unite when we were in the desert at a hard and rough time. He made sure we were all protected and that we followed the way of Hashem – the ultimate Being that keeps us united.

Finally, I would like to focus on Mashiach. Every day we await and hope for the arrival of Mashiach, who will bring us all back from the galut into Israel. Have you ever thought why this is so important? I think this is so important because all around the world there are people searching for something deep inside with this connection to our history. When Mashiach comes, he will do that. He will bring us all together in oneness underneath the greatness and the awesomeness of Hashem – something that connected us all as one with Avraham.

The third connection that I have to this bottle of apple juice with some letter on it is my homeland Israel and how it came to be. During the Holocaust, six million Jews were killed by terrible people and their entire Jewish identity was threatened. In a sense, to me personally this symbol shows the world ‘we are here; we are here to stay.’ After this tragic event happened, people came together and Israel was formed. When I look at this can, I know that my friend Gali in Israel has the same symbol on her can of soda, too. In Israel today people have come together – Jews everywhere can look at that tiny sliver on the map and say, ‘that is my home.’ Everywhere, people connect to Israel. I am very fortunate to have a community with Bnei Akiva – a youth group centered on Israel – where we learn about Israel and get to experience people with the same fiery passion within for Israel. Israel is our home and on every single kosher symbol we can see that connection to home.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/teens-twenties/kashrut-more-than-just-a-symbol-on-a-box/2012/09/10/

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