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)

Wrong and Wrong

I thought this was a funny saying that my friend told me. 

I’d agree with you but then we’d both be wrong!


He said that he actually liked it so much that he got a sign with it and put it in his office. 


As they say, “Two wrongs don’t make right.”


If you think something is wrong, hold your ground–otherwise no one will be right. 😉


(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)

Black Hole–What’s Really Important?

Amazing beautiful photos of a black hole from 55 million light years (311 million trillion miles) away. 


It measures about 25 billion miles across–about the size of 29,000 suns. 


If this doesn’t make you (with all the money, smarts, good looks, and ego to match) feel small, nothing will. 


We are but a speck of dust in this vast universe (maybe not even that). 


Perspective is in order for your life and what it means. 


Forget the money-grubbing and honor-seeking.


Realize what’s really important is what you do in terms of choosing right from wrong and good over evil in every small thing you do.  😉


(Photo Credit: Event Horizon Telescope)

How Do I Choose?

So I thought this was an interesting topic for the sermon on Shabbat by Ben Shemony. 


It was about how we are confronted in life with whether to follow our impulses or our values. 


I think there is a lot to this topic…


Some may see it as the little good angel standing over one shoulder and another bad angel standing over the other trying to convince us what to do when it’s decision time.  


Others may be perpetually torn between temptations or pleasures of materialism and the flesh versus of pursuing what you know to be spiritually good and right in this world. 


Either way, as human beings, we are a complex make-up of both body and soul.


Do we give in to temptation and do what feels good–more money, more food, more clothes and jewelry, more houses, cars, and yachts, more vacations, more carnal pleasures from the proverbial “wine, women, and song” or do we pursue the path of spirituality, serving our maker, caring and giving and doing good for others and the world?  


It sounds simple, but our impulses tell us one thing and our values tell us another. 


Are we being selfish or selfless?


Perhaps, too much of anything is bad for us–even too much giving and selflessness–we need to care for ourselves too–we are mortal, we have needs, we have to nourish ourselves, and we need to live. 


But you can’t be a glutton or a slave to your impulses–you can’t take and not give, your can’t indulge until you make yourself sick, or take at the expense of and harm to others.


Like all things in life, there is a need for balance.


Certainly our spirit should guide our animal. 


If and when our animal is dictating to our spirit then we are in real trouble. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

I Drive The Tractor

Thank you so much to Rabbi Schneur Kaplan for his wonderful speech today in Downtown Jewish Center Chabad synagogue, Fort Lauderdale.


He told the story about the boy who grew up in Israel as a chasid, but later left chasidism to work the land–he drove a tractor!


Years later, the young man rediscovers his religion and goes back to yeshiva to study, and he is excellent and surpasses many of his peers.


Eventually, he ends up in a one-on-one with the Rebbe–and he waits with baited breath for what the great Rebbe will tell him that will guide his life–will he become a great scholar, Rabbi, shaliach, or head of a Yeshiva.


Then the Rebbe speaks, and says:

“You will be a tractor driver”


The young man is shocked and goes back to studying Torah with even more determination and harder than ever.


Once again, he comes before the Rebbe, and he is anticipating what he will say.


Again, the Rebbe looks deep into his soul and says:

“You will drive a tractor!”


Sure enough, the man now understanding that he has to meet his particular fate head on, goes back to working the Holy Land and driving the tractor.


But in so doing he is able to do outreach to tens of thousands of people who otherwise would have never had the opportunity to be brought close to Hashem through Chasidism.


The message was that we are not all destined to be clones, robots, or do the same thing in life.


The Torah is our guide to serve Hashem and do what is right.


But each of us has our own mission in serving Him and we can achieve greatness and Holiness even when we drive a tractor or do whatever we do.


I am not a Rabbi, but in my own way, I try to raise my family–be a good husband, father, and prior a good son–and also to serve with integrity and a good example in my professional and educational endeavors.


It’s okay that I’m not a Chabad Rabbi doing outreach–that’s not me–although I did meet someone today from my elementary school, Manhattan Day School, that did become just that and we had a nice kiddish lunch with him and caught up together after services.


I am me–and I am okay with me.


I don’t have to be someone else–anyone else.


I can do good being me–and that is what I will try to do with each and every breath of every day.


Whether I drive a tractor (or this cool VW van with a big smiley face), we all serve our Maker.  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

We’re A Bunch of Chemicals+

So it’s pretty well known that we are a combination of nature and nurture. 


Nature is our genetics and our hormones–it’s sort of the innate material that make up who we are. 


Nurture, of course, is all those external influencers, like parents, friends, teachers, religious figures, experiences, etc.–that shape us. 


In a way, it’s hard to think of ourselves as a product of nature and nature, because that sort of removes our conscious free choice in the whole matter of who we are and what we do. 


For example, if someone is a raging lunatic, sociopath, serial killer, because they have a brain or hormonal defect and grew up in a broken and abusive home(s), then the question is, well how can you really or fully blame them for their actions–is it really their actions? 


Don’t we have to ask ourselves how much control does a person have over themselves if they are physically and environmentally predisposed to be a certain way–even a very socially unacceptable and hurtful way?


This is where the courts and justice system come into play in looking at things such as whether the person is even competent to stand trial (e.g. the insanity defense) or are there mitigating circumstances to reduce the person’s culpability.


I would imagine it is quite difficult to exactly judge the level of self control that a person is or should be able to exert given their individual set of nature and nurture.  


And even if the person isn’t fully in control of themselves, does that help the victim or their families who are still left reeling from the harm and/or loss caused to them by the perpetrator?


Yet it is uncontested that people are driven by nature and nurture, and just in today’s Wall Street Journal, there was a discussion of the influence of a person’s hormone levels on their personality and behavior.


– Generally, more testosterone makes a person aggressive, while more estrogen makes them sensitive. 


– Similarly, dopamine makes people more energetic, while serotonin makes them more sociable. 


So there is nothing inherently “wrong” with you for being a certain way…that’s your makeup, but you are responsible for how you manage yourself given what you’ve got.   


In other words, where you have lemons, you’ve got to make lemonade!


In a nutshell, we are truly a combination of our genetic makeup, a bunch of chemicals, some environmental molding, and the exertion of our willpower, faith, and belief in what’s right and wrong. 


What happens when you mix these altogether, you get you and only you! 😉


(Source photo: here with attribution to skeeze)

Snatched From The Jaws Of A LARGE Shark

Shark

So this was a funny photo we took in Ft. Lauderdale. 


Right in the jaws of a very large shark…


Must’ve been a little what it felt like to be Jonah swallowed up by the big whale.


“Hey let me outta here…please!”


This whole thing reminded me of something I heard from a colleague.


At one time, he had said cautioningly, “You better dip your toe in the water, because there may very well be sharks in there.”


In other words, watch out from some {unscrupulous and dangerous} people–they have their own motives, hidden agendas, sources of power, and they may be VERY intense on getting what they want, so be careful–don’t get in their way (at least not directly). 


Hey, can’t you almost see the large, strong jaws–snapping, snapping, snapping. 


And the very important lesson here is that if you dare dip more than your toe in the shark-infested water, rest assured that you can lose a lot more than a foot. 


(Source Photo: The Blumenthals)