The Nail That Stands Out

So everyone knows what happens to the nail that stands out…


It gets hammered down!


Deviation from the norm or the groupthink is met with a resounding klop on the head. 


You conform or you face the guillotine. 


Way too dystopian. 


Freedom, individuality, diversity, self-expression—these are the engines of innovation and growth. 


If every nail gets hammered down, you have a society that implodes with inbreeders and Stone Age stale ideas. 


Tradition is one thing, a closed mind is something that is an extinction level event. 😉


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Anger, Faith, and Growth

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, “Anger, Faith, and Growth.”

We live in an unpredictable world and I have made more than one bad decision recently. Fortunately, it was nothing too terrible, but I was still angry about it, and my gut reaction was to somehow blame G-d, and to feel angry at Him, because I thought somehow I didn’t deserve what had happened. However, I asked myself how can you be angry at G-d if you believe that everything he does is for your ultimate good? It took me a little time, but I realized that I wasn’t really angry at G-d, but at myself; It was my fault, I did deserve what happened, and my mistakes aren’t G-d’s.


Maybe this is what life is really all about–searching and finding G-d even among all the multitude of mistakes we make in life. We have to own our mistakes, learn from them, and thereby become stronger and better people.


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

We Impact Each Other’s Souls

Finishing Natan Sharansky’s book Fear No Evil


And I rarely write twice on a book or movie, but this was so impactful. 


First on our souls, Sharansky writes:

The law of attraction, interconnection, and interdependence of human souls…there is a universal gravitational pull of souls, of the bond between them and influence of one soul on the other. 


Wow, Sharansky understood the deeper meaning of the soul and how they all emanate and are pieces from G-d and they are all connected to their source and each other, and what one person says or does impacts all the others (and thereby G-d himself). 


Literally, I experienced this the other day…when I personally made amends on something I felt that I had done wrong, and I could literally feel somehow righting a wrong in the universe and G-d, Himself, smiling down on me. 


It was the best feeling I think I have ever had in my life. 


Second on fear, Sharansky writes:


My inner freedom [is] more powerful than the external bondage…[and] fear of the L-rd…is a necessary prerequisite for man’s achieving inner freedom, and is also the prerequisite for spiritual resolve, the fear of the L-rd is the only thing that can conquer human fear.


Wow again. Sharansky through his nine years of suffering and hardships in Soviet prisons and labor camps found his deep inner strength to resist the tyranny of the KGB worldly masters and overcame them with his finding his fear and faith in G-d and was able to overcome. 


These are two amazing heavenly lessons that Sharansky shares with us from enduring and overcoming his incredible worldly hardships.


I am so glad I had the opportunity to read this and am with G-d’s help continuing to quench my thirst for this type of wisdom and true enlightenment.  😉


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

From Hate To Love

Just a self-reflection today…


Important to me. 


It’s about who I thought I was and…


Who I became. 


Truly, I went full circle from a child’s hate to an adult’s love relationship with:


– Reading


– Writing


– Swimming


– Hebrew


As a kid, I tried to avoid these like the plague, and as an adult I like to practice these every single day of my life. 


I wonder to myself is it that I strove to become good (or decent) at what I have previously been bad at or was somehow afraid of. 


Yet now, they are integral to my life, learning, and growth. 


Like the hands of a clock that circle and tick the hours and minutes. 


My life takes me full circle and brings me home to who I am and what I really love spending time at. 😉


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Why The Happiness of Purim?

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, “Why The Happiness of Purim?

In a world that is constructed of the story of Purim, everything looks like it’s based on mere happenstance and there seems to be no G-d involved—this is a world of randomness and meaninglessness. Whatever happens, just happens by nature or luck, and what can be more meaningless and depressing than that! Thus, the Rabbis had to decree all the laws for the happiness of Purim, because happiness is not innate to a story that is seemingly happenstance and devoid of G-d. That is the big difference between Purim, where Hashem is hidden, and Passover or Hanukah, where Hashem revealed Himself and made incredible miracles—the 10 plagues and the splitting of the Red Sea or the one day of oil that lasted for eight days.


On Purim, we celebrate our deliverance from the evil Haman and the king’s decree to kill all the Jews, but also we are overflowing with Joy remembering that G-d is always with us—in good times and G-d forbid in the bad times–we are not afraid of anything (another indecisive election, the stock market downturn, our enemies, Coronavirus, etc.) knowing that He loves us and cares for us, and will deliver us in the old days and in the new. May the final deliverance soon be completed with the arrival of the Mashiach—and the hidden will become revealed like on Purim and the joy will be forever increased. Amen.

 
(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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)