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)

Facing Facts on Rosh Hashanah

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, “Facing Facts on Rosh Hashanah.”

In a sense, we all live at least two lives–represented by the two faces we wear: The first is the happy face, where we portray ourselves as if everything is going so well, almost near-perfect in our lives (our vacations, accomplishments, celebrations, and so on), and this is the face that we routinely show to the world. Then, there is the second face, which is essentially where everything is not (always) quite so rosy, where life’s challenges, troubles, and hardships take their tangible toll, and this is the face that we learn to keep private and regularly hide from the world. Usually, it comes down to a rationale that goes something like this: just imagine what would people think of us if they really knew us for who we are and what we were actually going through? Yet the funny thing is that everyone is going through something–that’s life!

In a couple of weeks, when we celebrate Rosh Hashanah, we come knowing that there is no mask to be worn in front of our Maker, and truly, we are naked before Him in all our thoughts and deeds. We can’t pretend anymore that our lives or ourselves are perfect, but rather this is the time for true and earnest reflection, repentance, as well as judgment for the New Year based on what each of us is really all about. May each of us have the courage and conviction to face our real selves, to learn, grow, improve, and ultimately to self-actualize, and may we receive G-d’s mercy and blessings for a happy and healthy New Year!

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

What’s Your Fantasy Synagogue

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, “What’s Your Fantasy Synagogue.”

We all go to synagogues that we like in some ways and don’t like in others, but have you ever thought about what your fantasy synagogue would be like if you could make one?Last Shabbat, we were invited for lunch by some wonderful friends who had been sports writers, and the topic of fantasy football came up, where people compete for coming up with the best team by picking their own players and forming their ideal team. I said, half jokingly, wouldn’t it be great if we could do the same thing with synagogues and pick the best aspects of each and make an ideal house of worship for ourselves where we could pray, learn, grow, and experience holiness and community. 

In the article, I detail “the best of the best” when it comes to synagogues and the ultimate ideal synagogue is of course, in the coming of the Mashiach and the rebuilding of the Temple. 


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal) 

Family and Friends

So I heard this interesting saying yesterday, which goes like this:

Better is a neighbor that is near than a brother that is far off.


I looked it up and saw that it is actually from Proverbs 27:10.


Thinking about it a little, I understand that obviously people that are close by can more easily be there and help one another than someone else who is far away. 


At the same time, I always learned growing up that:

Blood is thicker than water.

Family is family, and friends are friends.  Family is forever, but friends can come and go. 


Yet you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. 


There are some friends that go back decades to childhood and they are almost like family. 


Also, there are sometimes family that are disassociated or even “black sheep” of the family. 


I guess in the end what’s most important is how we feel about each other, treat each other, and are there for each other.  


Whatever the designation–family or friends–we need each other.  😉


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Open Your Eyes

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, “Open Your Eyes to Hashem.”

G-d has a plan and a reason for everything–not only for them, but for all of us. We are all on a journey, and even if we don’t always readily see G-d, it’s part of our core faith that He is always there, He is guiding us, and that everything is for the best. Yet despite our best efforts to have faith, at times, we may feel that we don’t know what we’re doing here–why we’re at this place, at this time, or even how we got here–we may actually feel a little lost. Maybe we just can rattle off a list of “Well I did this and then that and then this other thing happened.” But exactly how we got to where we are, regardless of our best laid plans, is often a mystery to us as human beings. As I often tell students and colleagues in the planning discipline of enterprise architecture, “Man plans, and G-d laughs.”


While we may think we are going about fulfilling our plans and accomplishing our life dreams, the truth is that everything ultimately comes from G-d. He gives you the strength, the health, the family and friends as support, the talent, the opportunity, and the right thoughts in your head and the right words in your mouth to do what you do. Of course, we must do our part and the hard work to find and fulfill our mission in life and to overcome the challenges we face, but we are flesh and blood and in the bigger realm of things, messengers of G-d in fulfilling his bigger plan for all of us. If we open our eyes, we realize that wherever we end up and whatever happens to us is by His merciful decree.

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)