January 2020
Chanukah Attack in Monsey

In the middle of a Chanukah party on the seventh night of Chanukah, a terrorist entered a Rabbi’s house in Monsey and stabbed three of his sons and a guest.

As we constantly continue to take steps to improve the safety of our community, there is a hidden spiritual message. Kabbala teaches us that Seven represents the cycle of nature, while Eight represents going above nature.

The seventh day of Chanukah was a tragic day, but the 8th day served as a reminder that the existence of the Jewish people is supernatural.
 
Judaism will prevail!


February 2020

Coronavirus

10,000 confirmed cases of the Coronavirus. The Chinese cities are like ghost towns and anyone that goes out in public is wearing face masks.

Covering your face, may prevent the spreading of the disease, but there is also a ‘side effect’ that comes along with it.  It’s the missing smile! It’s not that everyone is depressed, but even when someone is smiling, you just can’t see it.

We cannot cure the disease – but we can do something on their behalf. Just smile to another person. Kabbala tells us that when one smiles,
G‑d smiles back.

And the smile of G‑d can go a long way.  



March 2020

Purim and Coronavirus

While the coronavirus hysteria is growing, the holiday of Purim is rapidly approaching.  

The story of the Megillah is similar.  Suddenly, out of nowhere, in a country that embraced Jews, their very existence was threatened.   

The salvation was just as swift – overnight the whole situation reversed.

Let’s joyfully celebrate the holiday, and G‑d willing, we will experience a Purim miracle once again.  May the coronavirus disappear as speedily as it came.


 

April 2020

The Quarantined Seder

There are many jokes floating around social media describing the challenges of being quarantined. It’s hard to find a positive twist to this experience.

The Rebbe taught that in every challenge that we face, there must be a silver lining; it’s just a matter of finding it.

According to the Pew Research, over 70% of American Jews attend a Seder. It’s actually the most practiced ritual of the Jewish religion. But how many of them hosted a Seder in their own home

The very first Passover, when the Israelites were still in Egypt, G‑d ordered the Jews to quarantine themselves in their own homes. This was probably the only time that every single Jewish home hosted a Seder. 

This year, perhaps for the first time since Egypt, in every Jewish home, the 4 questions will be asked, the Afikoman will be found, and the door will be opened for Elijah.

Next year in Jerusalem! 


May 2020

Yitgadal Viyitkadash

Fifteen years ago, my sister Sternie, and brother in law, Rabbi Benny Wolf moved to Hanover, Germany to open a Chabad Center.  A short time later, a visitor challenged them. 

“Why are you here?” he asked.  “There is no Kosher food, you don’t have a Minyan for services, no Jewish dayschools for your children and you struggle to support your family.

You are a capable couple.  Move to a thriving Jewish community.  You can have top jobs, your kids can have friends and classmates and Kosher food will be down the street.” 

Rabbi Benny looked at him and quoted the beginning of the Kaddish prayer, “Yitgadal, viyitkadash Shimay Rabba.” Literally translated: May His great name be glorified and sanctified.

Benny continued, “My mission here is to make sure that every Jewish child in Hanover will know how to say the Shema, and have the name of G‑d on his lips.”

This week, tragically, we lost my brother in law.  Yitgadal Viyitkadash Shemay Rabba.



June 2020

The New Norm

America is starting to reopen but there is a new norm.  Social distancing, masks, twenty second hand washes and a new awareness has emerged from the world-wide quarantine that Covid-19 imposed on us.

We are now celebrating the holiday of Shavuot, where the whole Jewish nation experienced the revelation of G‑d and the giving of the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai.   

The next morning, the Jews were told to go back to regular life – but there was a new norm.  Kosher food, celebrate Shabbat, donate 10% of your income and the list never ended!

Just as the Covid-19 regulations are here to better your health physically, the Torah rules are given to enhance our spiritual life and relationship with G‑d.   Let’s enjoy the new norm – it’s less painful than wearing a mask :)



 July 2020

The Last Jew

Last Thursday we commemorated the 26th Yahrtzeit of the Rebbe.  As I reflected on the Rebbe’s life, I realized that while other leaders tried to accommodate the majority, the Rebbe was always concerned about the last individual that fell off the radar.

Whether a Jew in prison, or a traveler in Katmandu, the Rebbe would make sure that Chabad did not forget to bring the joy of each holiday to those that would otherwise be forgotten.

When he was once complimented for his concern for the most vulnerable souls, the Rebbe explained that there are many leaders in the Jewish community.  Each of them typically cares for their own group.   The definition of a Rebbe is someone that cares about every single Jew. 


  August 2020

Outdoor Services

Every study shows that the main cause of infection by the Coronavirus is staying indoors.
The moment you walk outside, it’s a game changer.   The fresh air plus social distancing creates a safe environment and has motivated congregations all over the world to hold services outside.

But this is not a new phenomenon.  Close to 450 years ago, in Tzfat, the famous Kabbalist, the Ari, used to have Kabbalat Shabbat services in the fields outside of the city.   Every Friday evening, he and his disciples dressed in white and went to greet the Shabbat “Queen” under the sky. 

Perhaps there is a message from G‑d.  It’s time to leave the brick and mortar buildings, open the doors and go outside to greet- not just the Shabbat, but the Jews around us.   Together with welcoming the Shabbat, let’s be more welcoming to our fellow Jews.   


  September 2020

Clouds of Glory – In Solon!

In a month from now we are going to celebrate the holiday of Sukkot.  One of the reasons for building the sukkah hut is to remember the special Clouds of Glory that traveled with the Israelites and protected them from the elements for forty years in the desert.

This year due to Covid-19, we will commemorate the clouds of glory a bit early.  This High Holiday season, our community will pray together under our own clouds of glory – a beautiful 7000 square foot party tent.

I am sure, that just as the couds in the desert protected the Jews in their journey, G‑d willing, we will be blessed with a safe and inspiring High Holiday experience and all our prayers will be answered for good.

High Holidays 2020 will always be remembered! 
 



October 2020

 

Debate in Cleveland

As I’m writing this column, the first Presidential debate is taking place – in Cleveland! 

But why Cleveland?  Experts tell me that we earned it because Ohio is a swing state and might decide the outcome of the election.  Here, every vote counts. 

We just celebrated the High Holiday season, where all our deeds are put on a scale.  The Talmud tells us that a person always needs to have in mind that his or her next mitzvah can be the one that will tip the scale for themselves, and for the whole world to bring health, happiness and prosperity.

Here, every act counts.


 

November 2020

A Prank at a Bris

Last week, Yehudah Barkan, a famous Israeli actor passed away. A large part of his genre was performing pranks. 

Once Barkan sent an imposter to pretend to be a mohel at the bris of his own nephew.

As the “mohel”  prattles on about how thrilled he is to finally perform a circumcision, the camera stays on the proud bubbe and zayde, who are horrified but too polite to say anything. The “mohel” opens his leather bag and pulls out a pair of gardening shears and an electric saw. As the baby’s mother, Barkan’s sister, draws close to fainting, he reveals that it was a hoax!

When Abraham made a bris when he was 99 years old, it was not a prank. This was real.  

Judaism is Real!