Avraham, The Ultimate Mensch

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel, “Avraham, The Ultimate Mensch.”

The Rabbi asked why did Hashem who is omnipotent even need to create us? And he answered because in G-d being the ultimate good, He “had to create us”—this in essence being the ultimate expression of good by sharing that goodness with us to learn and be good as well. In short, what could be a greater good than extending that opportunity to be be good to others.


Like our forefather, my Hebrew name is Avraham, and for me personally, this has been a critical life lesson: learning to see challenges as opportunities to learn, grow, and consistently be a person that tries to do what is right even when it is hard or the lines seem to be grey. In the end, I believe that G-d put us in this world in order for us to choose good over evil and demonstrate kindness to others. With the Torah as our blueprint, and Avraham, our forefather, as our role model, we must apply the great teachings of the Torah and always strive to act as a proper mensch!

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

The Good Things In Life Are Challenging

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, “The Good Things In Life Are Challenging.”

“Everything truly pleasurable in life starts with considerable pain.” More colloquially in working out, we usually say: “No pain, no gain!” And there really is a lot of truth to this. If you think about it, this concept really applies to everything meaningful and ultimately valuable in life.

 

As we reflect this time of year, before Rosh Hashanah, it is good to ask ourselves, what are we chasing and working so hard for in our lives? Are we chasing vanity–more riches, power, and honor or are we striving to do good and make a difference? The latter is a life worth living and where our efforts and pain can bring true reward in this world and ultimately in the world to come.

 
(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

G-d Counts On Us

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, “G-d Counts On Us.”

Israel with just over 6.5 million Jews could not simply defeat the surrounding Arabs numbering over 400 million by sheer military might alone–the pure numbers just don’t bear that out–and that’s why any sane person knows that the miraculous hand of G-d is at work here, and that we are living in the times of Mashiach.

With G-d, numbers alone don’t tell the whole story–even while He counts us, more importantly, He counts on us to be good people in the ongoing battle of good over evil. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Victory Or Defeat

I was reading Vladimir Jabotinsky’s “Story of My Life.”


And there is this quote that I really like attributed to Kipling in it:

Victory or defeat: learn to accept both with equanimity since both are deceptions.

I just thought this is profound.  


We never really fully win or lose. 


Everything is on a spectrum. 


And where we think we are on that spectrum is often not even nearly correct. 


You think you won that one, but guess what someone else has outsmarted you and you don’t even know it yet. 


Also, wins can be easily followed by loses and vice versa.


Things can turn on a dime and who’s up becomes who’s down–as the wheel of life turns and turns again. 


Recognize that you don’t control everything–actually, the only thing you do control is how you react and behave.


Everything else is a test to teach you and help you grow. 


And as I heard from a speaker yesterday, “you can’t make up in space, what you have lost in time.”


Victory or defeat, both are deceptions. 


Only how you choose to act is the real win or lose. 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

No One Cares How You Feel

So parenting is not always an easy job. 


But it is one full of love and helping your kids. 


Sometimes, I remember listening to my kids say that they feel this or that and seeing that it was holding them back from accomplishing their goals.  


Often, I would tell them that the only people that really care about how they feel is your mother and father–but generally-speaking, it a tough world out there, and: 

“No one [else] cares about how you feel.”


I tried to focus them–not on being cold and unfeeling–but rather on being strong inside and focusing on the tasks that need to get done. 


Sure, feelings are important, but if you are getting held back from doing what you need to do–then there are times when you need to put the feelings in abeyance and go forward. 


Overall, there is plenty of time to feel what you feel, but don’t let anger, fear, or anxiety get in the way of you accomplishing your dreams. 


In a book that I am reading by Amos Oz, “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” he writes: 

‘I want’ and ‘I don’t want’ aren’t reasons, they can only be defined as self-indulgence.


Yes, it’s a little tough love, but also it is out of true love to help the kids to be willing and determined to try their best and not get held back by anything in the pursuit of the destiny they choose to follow. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

How Do I Choose?

So I thought this was an interesting topic for the sermon on Shabbat by Ben Shemony. 


It was about how we are confronted in life with whether to follow our impulses or our values. 


I think there is a lot to this topic…


Some may see it as the little good angel standing over one shoulder and another bad angel standing over the other trying to convince us what to do when it’s decision time.  


Others may be perpetually torn between temptations or pleasures of materialism and the flesh versus of pursuing what you know to be spiritually good and right in this world. 


Either way, as human beings, we are a complex make-up of both body and soul.


Do we give in to temptation and do what feels good–more money, more food, more clothes and jewelry, more houses, cars, and yachts, more vacations, more carnal pleasures from the proverbial “wine, women, and song” or do we pursue the path of spirituality, serving our maker, caring and giving and doing good for others and the world?  


It sounds simple, but our impulses tell us one thing and our values tell us another. 


Are we being selfish or selfless?


Perhaps, too much of anything is bad for us–even too much giving and selflessness–we need to care for ourselves too–we are mortal, we have needs, we have to nourish ourselves, and we need to live. 


But you can’t be a glutton or a slave to your impulses–you can’t take and not give, your can’t indulge until you make yourself sick, or take at the expense of and harm to others.


Like all things in life, there is a need for balance.


Certainly our spirit should guide our animal. 


If and when our animal is dictating to our spirit then we are in real trouble. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)