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)

Cool Atom Puzzle

Thought this was a pretty stunning puzzle of The Atom


With sections for: composition, atomic model, thermonuclear fusion, periodic table, radioactivity, positron emission tomography, fission of uranium, nuclear reactor, and atomic scientists. 


Wow that’s a lot of information for a Puzzle and one very nicely designed at that. 


Congrats on putting this 1,000 piece beauty together. 


These things make me realize how very much I still have to learn–and in this case, it starts with all these small things. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Thought this was a pretty stunning puzzle of The Atom


With sections for: composition, atomic model, thermonuclear fusion, periodic table, radioactivity, positron emission tomography, fission of uranium, nuclear reactor, and atomic scientists. 


Wow that’s a lot of information for a Puzzle and one very nicely designed at that. 


Congrats on putting this 1,000 piece beauty together. 


These things make me realize how very much I still have to learn–and in this case, it starts with all these small things. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

We’re Part of a Much Larger Script

I loved this explanation of the Book of Job by Rabbi Yitzchak Breitowitz.

Why do bad things happen to good people?

G-d answers by showing Job the incredible elements of creation and the universe.

Why?

1) Complexity and Interrelationship of the Universe:

As isolated individuals, we might expect to be judged solely by our individual deeds of good and bad (2-dimensional), but also we are cogs in the larger universe (the 3rd dimension).

Therefore, what happens to us is not just a result of what we do, but also is a part of G-d’s larger overall plan for the world. 

Even small acts can have large impacts.

For example, you sneeze and somewhere down the line it causes a tsunami.

Similarly, like actors in a cosmic play of a billion pages, we may not see or understand why our individual role may be what it is, but if you would see and understand the context of the overall drama (what came before us, after us, and how it all interrelates) then from a G-d’s eye view, it makes sense.

Every act of destruction can lead to a higher divine purpose.

Like the grass that is mowed over and uprooted to plants crops or the wheat that is harvested and ground up to make bread.

So, we can have faith that there is a reason and purpose for everything even if it is a mystery or unanswered question to us.

And even in our suffering, G-d, the master of the Universe, is saying that “I’m here with you thru it all.” You are not alone!

2) By challenging us, G-d gives us the “tough gift” to cope, grow, and become better people. 

Even though things that happen may look bad to you, they can lead to good for you.

You don’t always get what you want, but you get what you need.

You have choice: you can be bitter, resentful, cynical, and angry or can look at life with hope, optimism and resilience.

Thus, suffering can be a vehicle of self-transformation and elevation. The challenges you face can help you become a different person–a greater person.

You can learn to feel not just your own pain and disappointment, but that of others.

You have the opportunity to grow yourself and the opportunity to help others.

(Thank you to Rebecca Ochayon for sending me this awesome video!)

OMG, What A Beautiful Song

And Even In Hiding

By Yaakov Shwekey & Kobi Peretz

Even though I am walking through the valley of the shadow of death
I fear no evil
Because you are with me
Even behind the difficult things you are going through
I stand…I stand…I stand
Even in the place which is hidden, within that which is hidden
Surely, the blessed Hashem is found there too  

My heart and soul are uplifted by this beautiful song. 😉