When Evil Seems To Prevail

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So there is this little Chinese restaurant–it sounds so cliche. 


But this one really is so small and bare that despite its name, which I don’t even know, we call it “The Hole In the Wall.”


This poor family with their children work behind the counter and kitchen serving up to the locals in the area. 


We know them from the neighborhood and they are always friendly and nice people just trying to make their way 


Well, over the weekend, this is what happened to their little hole in the wall. 


See the photo at the top!


I asked the lady, “What happened here?”


And she told me they had been broken into.


“That’s terrible! Well, what was taken?”


“Just a little cash box, but there wasn’t much in it,” and she half smiles.


Like this is what they smashed their door and broke in for…a few measly bucks. 


I told her how sorry I was for her and her family.


The people with nothing break into the other people who have nothing to steal basically nothing. 


While so many of the gazillionaires are choking on their wads and wads of money lavishly spending on mansions, yachts, planes, cars, drugs, prostitutes, clothes, jewelry, and endless parties. 


Let the others starve…except let me give a little to start a foundation…it’s a great tax shelter!


What type of world is this?


I’ve been sick the last few days and had the chance to watch a few movies related to this theme.


One was the Bitter Harvest about how Russia raped and pillaged Ukraine in the 1930s treating them as their breadbasket.


In the movie, Stalin says to take 90% of the food from the Ukrainian peasant farmers whose land they invaded and seized.


His henchman replies:  “But they’ll starve to death.”


To this Stalin responds, “Then takes everything!”


The movie well-portrayed the merciless killings and the people starving in the villages and the city streets. 


According to the postscript at the end of the movie 7 to 10 million Ukrainians perished.


Those were the days of great evil–Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Hideki Tojo, etc. 


Then another movie, The Birth Of A Nation, showing the horrors that the black people endured under slavery in this country.


The beatings, the rapes, the hangings, at one point, they even took a hammer and smashed the teeth out of the poor black man’s face as he hung from the wall in the barn in order to force feed him.


The brutality was unbelievable. 


What type of world is this (again)?


G-d must watch this evil and want to smite mankind for the seemingly endless evil, but for his mercy and love the world endures another day. 


Our challenge in the face of all the freakin’ evil out there is to do one good deed, say one good word, change the script of the evil doers…that’s all you and I can really do.


Change the script…mend the broken glass of the poor restaurant owner…mend the broken world. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Happy Father’s Day

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So it’s Shabbat and that’s one of the wonderful times to look at old photos in the albums and boxes. 


Yes, this was before digital photography!


I came across this art that my daughters had given to my father and mother when they were still alive–I think it was plastered on their refrigerator for a while. 


This photo seemed to bridge the past, present, and future for me. 


My parents are gone now to Hashem–already 2 and 3 years–and I still can’t believe it. 


At the annual Mother’s Day and Father’s Day–it’s just another time of year to remember how much I miss them all year long. 


For me now, it is also a chance to be grateful for my lovely children that G-d has so gracefully blessed me and Dossy with. 


Smiles, hugs and kisses, love and caring for one another–this is what life is all about.


Father’s Day to me is not about the gratefulness of my children to me, but rather of me to Hashem and them to be blessed to be a dad and have the chance to give back to such lovely children–to the next generation that greatly supersedes me and mine!


So I’m crunched in the middle in time between wonderful parents and beautiful children and as my dad would joke, it skipped a generation (hopefully, not really). 😉 


(Source Photo: My Girls)

Today Is 6/13

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So today is 6/13.


Yes, check your calendar. 


It only comes once a year. 


613 is the mystical and holy number of commandments in the Torah. 


For more than 2 years (this is not a short-term phenomenon), my family and even some friends have been seeing an inexplicable number of 613 everywhere. 


Here is one from a stock I follow from the other week: Twitter was up exactly 6.13%…and I don’t follow that many stocks. 


Just yesterday, another stock (that been doing terribly…it’s a startup!) is down an enormous 61.3% since I started following it. 

And yet another major stock–of the largest company in Israel and the largest generic pharmaceutical company in the world–Teva–is down 16.03 year-to-date.


Nearly every day, we see an endless barrage of license plates, roads, train and plane schedules and physical or URL addresses, get purchase receipts or invoice totals, see number of posts, views, likes, or emails, and even the other day almost booked a hotel with the address….that’s right and only 613!


I am a rational person…maybe almost to the extreme, and what I initially laughed off as a lark or someone’s OCD thing, is beyond any reasonable explanation that I can fathom at this point.


I am left with faith that there is truly some message being sent from the One Above…the question is what is the meaning of the message?


I continue to hope and pray that the message is one of blessings and redemption for mankind…I hope you will join me in this prayer. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

The Knowable and Unknowable

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So as we all do, I often come across challenging and perplexing issues or problems in life. 


And my nature is to try to understand them, solve them, fix them–is it survival or the challenge or both?


But then we come across some things that are just beyond our [mere mortal] understanding or ability to simply fix them. 


I remember as a youngster learning in Yeshiva about when it says in the Bible that G-d hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that he continued to refuse to let the Jews go from their enslavement in Egypt.


And the classic mind-bending question is how could G-d harden his heart if Pharaoh retained free will which we all have to choose good or evil.


Did G-d harden his heart or did he have free will–which is it?  And if G-d hardened his heart, then how could Pharaoh and the Egyptians be punished for something they didn’t fully control? 


One explanation is that by facing the punishing plagues, Pharoah was losing his free will to decide what to do with the Israelites, so by hardening his heart, G-d was actually restoring his free will to choose once again…interesting. 


Of course in life, there is also the philosophical dimensions of so many seeming contradictions such as the cliche about what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.


Which wins out if one is unstoppable and the other is unmovable?


No, I don’t think these are just riddles, but the testing of the abilities of our human minds to understand further and further into the mysteries of G-d, creation, and the universe. 


So what do we do in life when confronted by things that are seemingly or really beyond our human capacities? 


– We ponder these weighty matters and sometimes we get frustrated and rip our little-left hair out or laugh at ourselves as to why we can’t just get it.


– We look to understand the deeper spiritual meanings of these challenges in the context of our earthly lives. 


– We try to solve and fix what we can within the confines of our spaghetti brain matter and flesh and bone bodies. 


– At the end of the day, we acknowledge our human limitations, and look to the Heavens for answers or at least for Divine guidance and protection along the way.


While we cannot understand everything or always reach our destination that we set for ourselves that should never prevent us from trying our hardest and going as far as we can on our journeys–and letting the next person, and the next person pick up the torch and carry it forward. 


In the Jewish prayers, we say that the matters of the earth are for our exploration and striving, but the ultimate secrets of the Heaven are for G-d alone. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Jerusalem – Happy 50 Years!

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Just wanted to wish a very happy anniversary to Jerusalem.


It is the 50th year since the liberation and reunification of Jerusalem, the beautiful and eternal capital of the State of Israel. 


Today in synagogue we celebrated with a special kiddush. 


72 years since the holocaust, and Israel doth live!


In song and dance, in prayer and devotion, in doing good deeds and charity, we celebrate our survival and G-d’s redemption and return of the Jewish people to his promised Holy Land. 


With still so much evil in the world–from brutal dictators, terrorists, human rights abusers, and bullies–it is always time to celebrate the freedom and democracy of America and Israel–who serve as a light unto the nations.


Surely as light can drive out darkness, those good people of faith and integrity can overcome the remnants of evil in this world. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

How Much Can You Love Something?

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Notice that the title of this blog is not how much can you love G-d or someone…


Those can be virtually infinite. 


I remember my dad was so devoted to G-d and his family. 


He used to say:


“I would go through fire for my family [and of course G-d].”


And we all knew from his daily actions that he meant it! 


But how about for things–how much do some people love their things?


I read today in the Wall Street Journal how David Rockefeller’s estate of paintings, porcelain, and silver was slated to sell for $700 million!


That’s a lot of prized possessions of [lovely] material things!


But even things that aren’t so pricey are incredibly beloved to many people. 


In these photos, someone who must really love bowling has adorned their home and property with dozens of bowling bowls. 


Literally on the fence and in big piles as decoration in the yard all around the home. 


True, it’s colorful, novel, and sort of interesting, but really you love bowling that much!


Yes, we are want to be comfortable with our special things especially when they provide good memories and sentimental feelings.


But whether a bowling bowl house or a Rockefeller estate, it’s only truly worth something if there is G-d and loving people in it with you. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

The Excuses We Make

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So on the way to the airport, I am talking with the Uber driver. 


“There is such a discrepancy between the rich and the poor here,” I say.


“Yeah,” she says, “When I drive and stop at the lights, there are many poor people that come up to the car looking for a handout.”


She continues, “I usually have a few dollars here” pointing to the little cubby hole under the parking break. 


“But my friends make fun of me saying, they [the panhandlers] are just going to go out and buy a beer!”


Excuse #1 not to give poor people–they’ll misuse our charity and buy alcohol, drugs, or prostitutes. 


The driver says, “But so what…if I were in their shoes, I’d buy a beer too.”


I’m thinking, hey this is nice…she’s fighting the bad inclination and her friends pressure and still wants to give–this is great!


Sure enough, we stop at a red light, and a really poor man starts walking up to the window to ask for help.


This person is dressed in dirty battered rags of an undershirt, and has sores on their arms and body.


The driver says, “Yeah, if I gave him, he’d probably just switch his shirt inside out later [as if the other side would be magically less dirty and ripped] and go home to his Rolls Royce!”


Wow, when excuse #1 doesn’t hold…


Excuse #2–the poor people are just faking it…really they aren’t poor, but rather they are fantastically rich and trying to pocket some more money for free.


It’s like the evil inclination sitting on one shoulder telling us “don’t give,”  even as the good inclination is sitting over our other shoulder beseeching us to have mercy and “give, give, give.”


In this case, the evil inclination won out. 


I reached for my wallet and wanted to open my window, but honestly this person looked scary–dirty and maybe sick–I was afraid of this person. 


I hope G-d forgives me, because I feel it wasn’t my evil inclination making excuses, but this time it was genuine for me. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)