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)

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 It Worth To You?

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, “What’s It Worth To You.”

Certainly, passion for being your best, determination to succeed, and even some healthy competition are important factors in driving our own success as well as societal progress, but when keeping up with that scorecard against others becomes the essence of your own self-worth then things have gone too far and way off course.


We each have our mission, strengths, challenges, and so forth. It’s okay in life, if someone else has more of something (money, friends, honor, whatever). Everyone has their own “basket in life” as my father taught me, “and you wouldn’t want to change baskets with anyone else.”


(Photo Credit: 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!)

Four Types of Desire

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, “I Want What I Want.”

There are four types of greed/jealousy:

  • I want what I’m missing
  • I want what I had
  • I want what you have
  • I want you to not have what you have

We can be slaves to our egos, emotions, and desires, or we can seek to control them and be better than mere animals. We have a soul, a conscience, and the Torah, so the choice should be clear even if not always easy.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

You Can’t See Yourself

So this donut-shaped art at the Outlets in Clarksburg is metallic and reflective. 


But what is really interesting to me is that when you stand in front of it (like I was literally doing here), you can’t see yourself. 


It made me wonder how you can look at yourself and yet not see yourself. 


And I thought of this as being a bigger lesson in life. 


When we are looking at ourself and there is a big donut whole in the mirror of ourselves then we are left blind to what should be reflecting back at us.  


No matter how hard we try to see ourselves and what we are doing right and wrong, it’s like a ghost out there–we are blind to it. 


To really see ourselves, our heart and mind have to be receptive to seeing the full picture. 


That means looking at ourselves as we really are, even when there seems to be a piece missing to the puzzle, and we have trouble being honest about what we see. 


To change, learn, grow–to become a better person, we need to look full on and be willing to see what we will see.  


You can’t see yourself until you can.  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Think Back, Think Forward

So yesterday I attended a colleagues’s leadership program graduation. 


There were about 20 people in the graduating class. 


One thing that I liked was that when they called up each person to shake hands and get their diplomas, each graduate was given the opportunity to say a few words. 


It was amazing to me how 20 people could give a thank you, what I learned, and what I will do with it speech in 20 completely different ways. 


20 people, 20 personalities, 20 ways of thinking and saying something. 


We really are all the similar to and different from one anther at the same time!


I remember one graduate in particular.


He talked about how the leadership program challenged him, and he said:

It made me think back, and it made me think forward. 


I loved that!


This is really what learning is all about. 


Reflecting back and using that to think forward–how to apply it, how to shape it, and how to innovate from it.


Thinking forward starts with thinking back to where we came from and all the lessons learned in our lives. 


It all starts at the beginning and it goes forward from there. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)