Jews, The People of Thanksgiving

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, “Jews, The People of Thanksgiving.”

This week was Thanksgiving (חג ההודיה), but for Jews we are already called, “The People of Thanksgiving. “We are named יהודים (Yehudim) after יהודה (Yehudah), the son of Isaac and Leah because Leah said (Genesis 29:35): “הפעם אודה את יהיה.” (“This time let me thank G-d”). Also as Jews, we are not just called the People of  Thanksgiving, but we are actively supposed to say 100 blessings a day thanking G-d, so in the true sense of the word, everyday is Thanksgiving Day for the Jewish people.


Jews are the People of Thanksgiving not only on Thanksgiving, but every day of the year. We are thankful for being the chosen people and for our redemption and return to the Promised Land of Israel; we are thankful for the life and opportunities that G-d has given to us; we are thankful in good times and G-d forbid, in the bad times; and we are thankful because, yes, ultimately everything from G-d is for the good.

(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)

Teshuva Through An IDF Soldier’s Eyes

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, “Teshuva Through An IDF Soldier’s Eyes.”

He said, just think about it: “You have the chance to say I’m sorry, I regret what I did, and I won’t do it again, and be forgiven — what a tremendous opportunity that is!” I had never really thought of repentance in this particular way…as an opportunity. Usually, it’s more of something that is uncomfortable, difficult, and that we really don’t want to have to do.


So with a few more days to go before Yom Kippur, let us thank G-d for the chance to make amends and do better in life, because this is an incredible opportunity and a true blessing, and one that we do not know will ever come again.

(Credit Photo: Gil Kremer, Israel Defense Forces)

G-d Is Good

What a cool barber shop in downtown Miami called, The Spot Barbershop.


When you are lying back in the chair, look what you see on the ceiling:

G-d Is Good.


The other day we went out to eat with some folks. 


And the question came up whether you think most people are good or bad. 


Interestingly, most of the people at the table thought either they are predominantly good or at least that they have the potential for good. 


Really, it is G-d that is the ultimate good. 


And to the extent that we are created in His image and have the opportunity to choose good from evil, then we too can be good. 


G-d is inherently good, but man is a toss up based on which direction he goes. 😉


(Credit 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!)

You Ended Up In Hell City

So a friend told me something funny.


It was about being given what appears to be a wonderful opportunity, but in reality it’s not all roses. 


In short, it went something like this:

There was an exciting competition and a prize at the end. 
Everyone prepared and worked hard to win it. 
But when the competition was over, what was the prize?
The 2nd place was two weeks in Philadelphia. 
The 1st place was one week in Philadelphia. 


I had to think about that for a second, but that is really pretty funny and true. 


No not about Philadelphia, but about life–that what we often mistakenly want so badly and strive for with all our energies, and then only to find out that it really wasn’t as good or amazing for us and our families as we imagined. 


Yes, very often you set your sights on certain goals to win the competition, but then you find out that the BIG prize (“first place”) is really not something to get excited about, because it’s in Philadelphia!  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

The Heart And Soul Of The Matter

So I had a beautiful conversation with an older gentleman who works in a menial job for minimum wage for most of his life. 


But this person was shinning and smiling ear-to-ear. 


What happened, he got offered a job to work in a lovely school as their cook. 


He’s been doing this as a special treat for the students once a year, and they decided to bring him on to do this full time. 


He pulled out his phone and proudly showed me a picture of himself in the classroom surrounded by all the children.  He was in an orange sweater and stood out in the middle of all of them and with a smile that lit up the entire room. 


He told me how the children thought of him as a celebrity chef and the teacher even organized autographs by him for the children.


His whole life, he questioned his worth, and now he felt recognized, appreciated, and loved. 


I told him that I thought he was indeed quite a special person. 


He said to me, you may have a talent or be special, but you have to recognize it–and he repeated aloud again at least three times emphasizing more and more on RECOGNIZE it. 


Surely, after so many years, only now was he being recognized and more so, recognizing it himself. 


Apparently, someone who worked in the school was also a renown food critic, and she had nothing but praises to sing of him. 


Talking with him, I felt my eyes being opened. 


Everyone can do good with their lives and have worth. 


We have to recognize it in ourselves. 


We need to just be given an opportunity to show it and share it. 


It doesn’t matter what you are or earn.


It matters where your heart is.


For many, they earn gazillions, but their heart is a heart of stone. 


For others, they may earn minimum wage, but their heart is a heart of gold. 


It’s not the money, it’s not the power, it’s not the prestige…it’s the heart and soul of the matter. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)