My Realness and My Dreaminess

Just a quote from the show Homeland that I wanted to share:

“My dreams have a realness…
My Reality has a dreaminess…”

This is so true!


Dreaming and reality have a definite touchpoint and carryover between them. 


In Judaism, their is a saying that:

“Sleeping is one-sixtieth of death.”


Life-sleeping-death all exist along a continuum. 


The elements of our being cross all three of these domains. 


When we are alive, there are elements of dreaminess–and it often doesn’t feel quite real. 


When we are asleep, our dreams can often seem so real that we actually feel them and physically react them–we may even scream and wake up an incredible fright. 


When we are dead, I believe that we live on–that our soul never ceases–that it is a part of our everlasting G-d. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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The Eyes Give It Away

Have you ever noticed that eye contact gives it away. 


Even for the best poker-faced folks out there–the eyes are the conduit to the soul. 


Here’s how it works:


– When someone is plotting to do you harm, they avoid looking you in the eye.


Why?


They are afraid, they are going to give themselves and their evil intentions away. 


And so they attempt to hide their evil intentions behind closed eyelids, turned heads, and avoided gazes. 


They think by avoiding eye contact, you won’t be able to read them–seeing into their eyes and their malevolent thinking and planning.

Probably also even the worst of them may actually feel a little guilty (somewhere in there is a soul even if it’s mucked up in dirt, corruption, and absolute sin). 


– Yet the opposite is true when someone is executing their evil plans–attacking you and wanting to severely hurt you or worse. 


Then, they look you straight in the face and in the eyes.  


They are staring intently and honing in for the kill. 


And in their wide open eyes, rage and evil burns, as they raise their voice and their clenched fists. 


Seeking to execute their plots, their eyes come at you, tracking you, targeting you, and attempting to shoot/hit you first and hard. 


When evil is there–the eyes are the giveaway–and the person’s soul burns dark and deep. 


But remember, G-d–the King of Kings–is forever light and He will chase the darkness away. 


The L-rd executes darkness.


The L-rd will blind the haughty.


The L-rd will render a mighty justice.


The L-rd will save his faithful. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Our Forefathers Were Planners And So Are We

Thank you to Rabbi Haim Ovadia for his speech today at Magen David Synagogue on the topic of how our forefathers in the Bible were planners and so are we today. (Note: some of the thoughts below are directly from Rabbi Ovadia and others are added by me.)


In the Biblical story of Jacob, there are numerous examples teaching us the importance of planning.


1) Shepherds vs Hunters:  Jacob was a shepherd versus his brother Esau who was a hunter.  Shepherds have a long-term outlook with their animals, tending to them and caring for them over the long-term, while hunters go out for the kills to eat for that day. 


2) Working for Rachel and Leah vs. Selling the Pottage:  Jacob worked for 7 years for Rachel and another 7 for Leah–this was the long-term view and commitment to work for Lavan in order to marry his daughters. In comparison, Esau came in hungry from the field and sold his birthright for the immediate gratification of a bowl of pottage.


3) The Plan to Take Esau’s Blessing: Rebekah worked with Jacob to prepare meat for Isaac and put hair and clothes on Jacob that made him look and seem like Esau, so Jacob could get the blessing from Isaac, while Esau was still out hunting in the field. 


4) Dividing his Camp in Two: Jacob sent messengers (i.e. reconnaissance) to see and plan for what Esau was doing in coming to meet him. When the messengers returned with word that Esau was coming with 400 men, Jacob planned for the worst, dividing his camp in two, so should one peril the other could survive. Additionally, Jacob prayed and sent rounds of gifts to Esau and also presented himself to Esau before his beloved wife Rachel and son Joseph in the safety of the rear. 


Long-term planning has been fundamental to the Jewish people throughout history and to modern times:


1) “People of the Book” – The Jewish people are known as “the people off the book” for the devotion to Torah study, learning, and continually investing in education, which is a view for long-term investment and success.   


2) Good Deeds to Inherit The World To Come – Fundamental to Jewish belief is that this earthly world is just a “corridor” to the World to Come.  We do charity and good deeds, not only because it’s the right thing to do (certainly!), but also because we believe that these merits will help us long-term when we pass, and go to the spiritual next world, Heaven. 


3) Believing and Praying for the Return to The Promised Land – For 2,000, the Jewish people never gave up hoping and praying on the deliverance of G-d’s promise to return them from exile to the Promised Land.  This was a long-term view that helped sustain the Jewish people throughout their far-flung exile and through millennium of persecution and genocide.

Ezekiel 11:17: “Thus says the Lord God: I will gather you from the peoples, and assemble you out of the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.”

4) Waiting 6,000 years for the Messiah: For 6,000 years, the Jews have maintain faith and plan for the coming of the Messiah, the rebuilding of the Temple and the ultimate redemption of the world.  

“(Ani Ma’amin) I believe in complete faith in the coming of the Messiah…Even tough he may tarry, none-the-less, I will wait for him.”

Like our forefathers, it is critical to maintain faith in the Almighty and practice long-term planning as keys to success in life. 


If we take the long-view, we can overcome so many short-term challenges, obstacles and even suffering–believing, praying planning, and doing for a better, brighter future. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Motivation, Hard Work, and Blessings

So I am incredibly impressed at how talented so many people are. 

And I’ll tell you, people are motivated to get ahead and they are working hard to do it. 

I took Lyft to a couple of destinations down here in Florida. 

Two drivers that I had just yesterday were both from relatively poor backgrounds in Jamaica. 

And both were incredible in what they’ve been able to accomplish for themselves.  

One was a senior communications technologist with a large cable company.

Another was a pretty impressive and successful Reggae music star. 

Both had come to this country and made amazing lives for themselves. 

In meeting these incredible people, I learned that everyone is driving Uber and Lyft now-a-days. 🙂

Both were driving as they told me just to keep busy on their days off–because they “hate being bored!”

More importantly, I learned that despite whatever background, hardships, or adversity you come from or have experienced, you can make it in your own way! 

Motivation and hard work coupled with mercy and blessings from, and faith in the Almighty Above are an incredible combination that can propel people towards incredible levels of success in life that maybe many would’ve never even really dreamed of. 

There is no easy road–just one filled with trying your best, plenty of obstacles, stumbles, and falls, and then picking yourself up and trying again and again until hopefully and with G-d’s help you break the bonds and chains keeping you from your amazing levels of potential and contribution to this world. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

I Drive The Tractor

Thank you so much to Rabbi Schneur Kaplan for his wonderful speech today in Downtown Jewish Center Chabad synagogue, Fort Lauderdale.


He told the story about the boy who grew up in Israel as a chasid, but later left chasidism to work the land–he drove a tractor!


Years later, the young man rediscovers his religion and goes back to yeshiva to study, and he is excellent and surpasses many of his peers.


Eventually, he ends up in a one-on-one with the Rebbe–and he waits with baited breath for what the great Rebbe will tell him that will guide his life–will he become a great scholar, Rabbi, shaliach, or head of a Yeshiva.


Then the Rebbe speaks, and says:

“You will be a tractor driver”


The young man is shocked and goes back to studying Torah with even more determination and harder than ever.


Once again, he comes before the Rebbe, and he is anticipating what he will say.


Again, the Rebbe looks deep into his soul and says:

“You will drive a tractor!”


Sure enough, the man now understanding that he has to meet his particular fate head on, goes back to working the Holy Land and driving the tractor.


But in so doing he is able to do outreach to tens of thousands of people who otherwise would have never had the opportunity to be brought close to Hashem through Chasidism.


The message was that we are not all destined to be clones, robots, or do the same thing in life.


The Torah is our guide to serve Hashem and do what is right.


But each of us has our own mission in serving Him and we can achieve greatness and Holiness even when we drive a tractor or do whatever we do.


I am not a Rabbi, but in my own way, I try to raise my family–be a good husband, father, and prior a good son–and also to serve with integrity and a good example in my professional and educational endeavors.


It’s okay that I’m not a Chabad Rabbi doing outreach–that’s not me–although I did meet someone today from my elementary school, Manhattan Day School, that did become just that and we had a nice kiddish lunch with him and caught up together after services.


I am me–and I am okay with me.


I don’t have to be someone else–anyone else.


I can do good being me–and that is what I will try to do with each and every breath of every day.


Whether I drive a tractor (or this cool VW van with a big smiley face), we all serve our Maker.  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

We’re A Bunch of Chemicals+

So it’s pretty well known that we are a combination of nature and nurture. 


Nature is our genetics and our hormones–it’s sort of the innate material that make up who we are. 


Nurture, of course, is all those external influencers, like parents, friends, teachers, religious figures, experiences, etc.–that shape us. 


In a way, it’s hard to think of ourselves as a product of nature and nature, because that sort of removes our conscious free choice in the whole matter of who we are and what we do. 


For example, if someone is a raging lunatic, sociopath, serial killer, because they have a brain or hormonal defect and grew up in a broken and abusive home(s), then the question is, well how can you really or fully blame them for their actions–is it really their actions? 


Don’t we have to ask ourselves how much control does a person have over themselves if they are physically and environmentally predisposed to be a certain way–even a very socially unacceptable and hurtful way?


This is where the courts and justice system come into play in looking at things such as whether the person is even competent to stand trial (e.g. the insanity defense) or are there mitigating circumstances to reduce the person’s culpability.


I would imagine it is quite difficult to exactly judge the level of self control that a person is or should be able to exert given their individual set of nature and nurture.  


And even if the person isn’t fully in control of themselves, does that help the victim or their families who are still left reeling from the harm and/or loss caused to them by the perpetrator?


Yet it is uncontested that people are driven by nature and nurture, and just in today’s Wall Street Journal, there was a discussion of the influence of a person’s hormone levels on their personality and behavior.


– Generally, more testosterone makes a person aggressive, while more estrogen makes them sensitive. 


– Similarly, dopamine makes people more energetic, while serotonin makes them more sociable. 


So there is nothing inherently “wrong” with you for being a certain way…that’s your makeup, but you are responsible for how you manage yourself given what you’ve got.   


In other words, where you have lemons, you’ve got to make lemonade!


In a nutshell, we are truly a combination of our genetic makeup, a bunch of chemicals, some environmental molding, and the exertion of our willpower, faith, and belief in what’s right and wrong. 


What happens when you mix these altogether, you get you and only you! 😉


(Source photo: here with attribution to skeeze)

G-d Holds All The Keys

G-d Opens Doors.jpeg

So what is there to fear in this world. 


Whatever happens, happens. 


And G-d is the master over it all. 


He holds all the keys. 


G-d opens doors. 


When we are being challenged, look toward the Heavens. 


There is a door there somewhere. 


What can ANY man do to us?


When G-d reigns over ALL men.


In G-d, there is salvation and mercy. 


G-d will watch over His people.


And He will bless them in peace! 😉


(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)