January 2008

February 2008

A Famous Jew

Maimonides is not just the name of a hospital - in fact, it’s the name of the well known medieval scholar and physician.

As we commemorate his Yahrtzeit this week, let’s take a moment to reflect upon what made him more famous than other great scholars. Why would a hospital be named after him?

Maimonides believed that Jews have an obligation to share their belief in G‑d with the rest of the world and he certainly lived up to his teachings. Let’s continue his legacy!

Moses Maimondes, also known as Rambam, was one of the few Rabbis of all times who was famous in the non-Jewish world.

State of the Union

Last month, the President delivered the State of the Union address; a tradition that has been carried on for decades. The whole nation stopped for a moment to contemplate on the state of our country.

As Jews, this is an opportunity to pause and reflect on the state of our "Union"; the union between G‑d and the Jewish people!

Every time a Jew performs a Mitzvah, he or she unites with G‑d. The Torah provides us with six hundred and thirteen opportunities to unite. At a moment like this, our obligation is to ask ourselves if we are availing ourselves to the opportunities offered to us.

Let’s address our State of the Union! 

March 2008

April 2008

Snow Days!

When I came to Cleveland, I learned about "Snow Days!" I had heard of holidays, vacation days & fast days, but snow days?

Snow Days are those bad weather days that stores are still open, hospitals are running, office jobs continue, but schools – they are all closed!

In Judaism, the study of Torah by Jewish children is considered so important, that even when everything else is closed, the schools remain open.

As the Talmud states, when it came time to build the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, every man & woman was obligated to assist. Their businesses and offices were put on hold - the only thing not closed were the schools.

Schindler’s Children

The youngest survivor of Schindler’s List, Mr. Leon Leyson, recently shared his remarkable story with our community. Before he left, he was asked if Oskar Schindler had any children.

He replied that Schindler never had biological children, but whenever he went to Israel to visit "his survivors" he used to say – "I’m going to visit my children."

The Talmud says that one that teaches another child Torah, it’s as if he gave birth to him. You don’t necessarily have to save someone’s life to have him be considered "yours". Even if you connect a child to his/her jewish roots, you can consider him/her your spiritual child.

How many children do you have?

May 2008 June 2008

Rice 

Recent rice shortages in the world have created panic internationally. When I spoke to my parents in Israel, they told me that there is no rice to be found in any store. The whole country stocked up on rice as if there’s no tomorrow!

Look what a shortage can cause – the same rice that was lying unwanted on the shelves for weeks, became the most desired commodity overnight. The less available an item is, the more precious it becomes.

Think about us – we are few in numbers; just 13 million in a world of 6.5 billion people.

Perhaps that’s why each and every one of us is so precious.

  Fuel Prices

As we pass the gas stations each day, we see the prices climb higher and higher. There are some who have become expert in finding out which gas stations offer the best deal. But one thing is clear; we can’t even move one step without filling up. 

In Judaism, we also need fuel to help us move forward. The fuel to a stimulating Jewish life is the study of  Torah. 

When one understands the reasons and the history behind a Mitzvah or a tradition, he/she is much more inclined to actually observe it. And more importantly, when he/she does perform the mitzvah, it’s done with a deeper level of enthusiasm and zest. 

When it comes to spiritual fuel, don’t look for a bargain!

July 2008 August 2008

Living On

There’s a famous saying in the Talmud, that our forefather ‘Jacob never died.’

That sounds strange – there was a funeral, a burial and a long period of mourning, so what exactly does the above statement mean?

The answer is that as long as the children continued Jacob’s legacy, Jacob lived on.

In our day, the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, laid the foundation for Jewish outreach. Due to his inspiration and guidance, thousands of Chabad Rabbis went all over the world to share Judaism with their communities.

As we approach the Yahrtzeit of the Rebbe, and look around at the tremendous growth of the Rebbe’s emissaries, it certainly looks like the Rebbe is alive more than ever!

 Bulldozer

Lately, the bulldozers in Israel have turned into a tool for terrorists. Twice in one month, they were used for evil and destruction.

A better use of a bulldozer would be to dig deep in the ground, uncovering the treasures that the earth possesses.

The Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Chassidic movement, pointed out that in the Torah, the Jewish people are compared to a desirable piece of land.

Just as the land contains treasures, so too, every Jew, deep down possesses a love to G‑d. Sometimes, it is covered with layers of dirt and needs to be dug out and rediscovered.

The job of every one of us is to take that "bulldozer" and dig down into our own selves and find a deeper connection.

September 2008

October 2008

Swimming

Michael Phelps brought Swimming to the front pages. Did you know that swimming is the only sport that Judaism obligates a parent to teach his child! There is no requirement to teach baseball, soccor or even tennis.

Why swimming? The obvious reason is that this is a life saving tool that a parent must give his or her child.
  
The Baal Shem Tov, founder of Chassidic movement, gives a deeper reason why swimming is important. He described the struggles of life as swimming in a stormy sea.
In real life, it’s not enough to know how to swim; to survive as a Jew, you better learn how to swim like a fish – against the current.

Change 

Obama adopted the slogan Change for his election campaign. McCain jumped on the wagon and claims that he is the true agent of change.

Who are they going to change? They claim that they’ll take over Washington, and change everything along the way.
Sounds like the couple that comes in for counseling. They both talk about change - in their spouse! They are perfect, - don’t need any change.
Judaism also demands change – but a different type. Our job is to change ourselves, not to impose changes on others.
As we approach the High Holidays, the season of change, let’s get to work!

November 2008

December 2008

Absentee Ballots

 

When I came to the United States I discovered an unusual voting right that is granted to citizens here. In Israel, for example, if you are out of the country on Election Day, you lose the right to vote.
Here, you just get an absentee ballot and you are all set. You can be anywhere in the world and your vote counts.
 
Wouldn’t it be great to apply the same idea in our Jewish observance – like sending an absentee ballot to Shul on Yom Kippur . . .
 
But in Judaism, this would never fly!
G‑d doesn’t need your vote – and certainly not your opinion. What G‑d wants is a personal relationship with you.
 
G‑d wants you to show up!

Mumbai

 

India may be very far away, but the terrorist attack last week hit very close to home.   Gunmen attacked the Chabad House in Mumbai, and the Rabbi and his wife (who is my brother’s niece) lost their lives. 
 
Just a few days ago, we celebrated together at the International Convention of Chabad Rabbis in New York. Spirits were high and the excitement was felt in the air, and then to come home to such a calamity!   
 
While we are deeply mourning the loss of this young and selfless couple whose lives were cut short by these murderers, one thing I can assure you; the terrorists may have killed the messenger, but the message will carry on forever.