Know Before Whom You Are Standing

So many synagogues have this important saying at the top of the Holy Ark where the Torahs are kept in front of the shul.


It says, translated into English:


“Know before who you are standing (i.e. G-d).”


The idea is to remember when you are in the holy place of worship that you are standing and praying before G-d and should conduct yourself appropriately and with respect and reverence. 


While certainly there are times when people forget themselves in the synagogue and say or do something not completely appropriate (e.g. socializing, talking, or even telling jokes to their neighbors during the service), usually it is not intended to be disrespectful, but rather to be friendly with their neighbors and community. 


However, this past Shabbat I witnessed behavior in the synagogue (name withheld)  that was truly a chillul Hashem (desecration of G-d). 


Out of respect for the Rabbi (and Rabbabite), I will neither mention their names or go into the details about what happened except to say that it involved the politics surrounding the end of the Rabbi’s 3-year term and the inability for him and the board to come to terms on a new agreement (even though one had  apparently been signed and reneged on). 


This did not belong in the synagogue on the holy Shabbat, period. 


Those embracing and kissing the Rabbi in his support and going against the President and the board that is elected to represent the congregation was disgraceful. 


Further, while I support the Rabbi saying his farewells, demanding to speak without the permission of the President and the board, and even before the President gave his regular announcements was inexcusable. 


And when the fighting between the Rabbi and President brought yelling and fighting to the congregants, this should have been a sign for that behavior to immediately cease. 


The desecration of the “peace” of the Shabbat with the politics, money, and contract issues and the ensuing fighting (almost civil war between those supporting the Rabbi and those the President and the board) before the Holy Ark filled with the Torahs was reprehensible. 


For the spiritual leadership to behave in such a crude and disrespectful fashion was a mark of utter disgrace in the synagogue before G-d. 


I have never seen anything like this before and hope never to have to witness anything so irreverent again. 


This was a most traumatic event for the community and I hope we will recover in time and have a complete healing. 


Moreover, I pray that G-d forgives the behavior that happened and has mercy on this congregation because things got out of control and I think they forgot before whom they were standing.  😉


(Source Photo and not of the synagogue under discussion: Andy Blumenthal)

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Not So Indispensable

So I heard a story from a friend and colleague that I thought was important. 


It was about someone in their organization that was being fired. 


The person who was going to be let go went up the chain to complain and said “if I am fired then everything in my subject area is going to fall apart and it will be disastrous to the organization.


The person in charge responded and said, “Listen, even if I were fired, things wouldn’t fall apart; within 2 weeks no one would even remember that I worked here!”


Wow, that is a powerful lesson said that way. 


No one is so indispensable.


Everyone is replaceable.


Even the very top people!


The other important thing they said was:


“Don’t think all people are in it to advance the organization; many are in it to help themselves first! Everyone is talking about their salary!  Their stock options!  Their bonuses!”


I guess it’s not completely surprising right.  People do have to look after themselves and their families. But I suppose when you hear it so matter of factly, it sort of really makes you think about the functioning of our companies, agencies, and society.


How much are we getting from people for our organizations and missions vs. how much are people trying to “milk” the system for their benefit?


In the end, (almost) no one is irreplaceable on the job–except maybe a Steve Jobs-type–someone who is truly a one in a million leader. 


And if we see people aren’t contributing their fair share and are taking more than they are giving or they are real jerks and hurting others–then why the heck are they still in place? 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Light Drives Out Darkness

In the words of the great Martin Luther King, Jr.:

“Darkness can’t drive out darkness.
Only Light can do that.”

There is so much darkness in certain people. 


So full of hate, violence, and corruption. 


They use and abuse others for their selfish aims. 


Only faith and giving can drive out selfishness!


The other day at work, I briefly stopped over to help a colleague with something (I thought it was pretty minor, honestly). 


The next thing I know, another colleague who observed me, leaves–literally–a gold star on my desk. 


I had to laugh to myself–isn’t this what we do with kids. 


And then I thought to myself–Wow! People at any age can be recognized for just being decent human beings with one another.


Rather than just recognize the latest work accomplishments, isn’t it truly something to recognize helping others. 


Being good people is the essence of what life is all about. 


I’m glad that there are still people in the world that know this. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

They Really Think They Deserve It

Sometimes I come across people with enormous wealth and power. 


Many wield it like they own it and deserve it. 


I wonder sometimes with billions of other people in the world without adequate food, water, plumbing, medicine, or a solid roof over the heads, how the mighty can think they are above it all. 


Do they look around–do they see anyone else but themselves?


They seem drunk with themselves and what they have–and very overconfident.


Worshipping self and all the honor and materialistic success–they forget where it comes from and what they are supposed to be doing with it to help others. 


Yet, G-d and His angels can strike in but a split second. 


Those that are high and mighty can be brought low and those that are in the depths of despair can be uplifted. 


But at the will of G-d Almighty.


At the top, people may erroneously think and come to believe that they are smarter or more deserving–and so what’s theirs is theirs for the taking and keeping. 


They think “To hell” with everyone else–they are the little people. 


Perhaps, they even come to enjoy squashing them underfoot.


They really believe and savor the power and even think it’s forever. 


Yet the wheel of life turns and often abruptly–illness, accidents, misfortune…it comes seemingly from nowhere when G-d breaths justice. 


How silly of the powerful and wealthy to think they are the untouchable and the forever mighty. 


G-d sees the good and the bad in the people–and ultimately, there is no escape from the King of Kings. 


Wealth and power are earthly and fleeting, but the will of G-d is all that endures. 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Faith Has To Win Over Worry

Anxiety is worry and fear on steroids.


Some people have separation anxiety.


Others have social anxiety.


And then there is good ‘ol generalized anxiety.


It was fascinating-scary to learn that nearly 1 in 3 will have an anxiety disorder before the age of 18.


Despite all the abundance, affluence, advancement and technological progress, people are nevertheless more fearful about their present and futures. 


Perhaps like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, when people weren’t able to satisfy their most basics physiological and safety needs, they didn’t know better to worry about everything else like whether they were truly loved, integrated, on the right track in life and fulfilled.  


These days, we have more money, time, and information to know that there is plenty to be anxious about. 


We know the most horrible stories of trauma, illness, death, corruption, disaster, terror, and war–it’s plastered on the news and Internet 24/7/365.


Moreover, our “friends” and connections are blabbing about it on the social networks day-in and -out.


We are aware of our mistakes and foibles in real time as feedback is given and received with both likes as well as open criticism, marginalization, and alienation at every turn we take.


You have to ask yourself–is it meant to help anyone or to degrade and destroy the others, the opposition, the ones we don’t like anymore. 


It’s not just trolls that can make your life miserable, but everyone from your bosses to your peers and social circle who give you pause with continuous reaction and footnote–much of it driven by alternative facts and fake other world self-serving reality.


Perhaps yesterday you were a genius and on top of the world, but then all of a sudden you’re low-life garbage.


Your self-worth and future are measured by likes and dislikes, connections and reactions by people who are driven by their own agendas, power, and biases. 


It’s not just local either. 


North Korea and Iran are tweeting about destroying the world and their latest rocket launches and WMD development. 


Tomorrow maybe the end of one or of many. 


There is truly plenty to worry about in society driven by selfishness, materialism, faithlessness and a moral vacuum where truly anything goes. 


Selflessness, meaning, morality, and faith have to win over all the reasons to be anxious. 


We know too much about the bad every day, and this can only be overcome by anchoring ourselves in the good. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Always An Evil Cersei

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So Games of Thrones session 7 was fantastic!


And the evil ruler of Westeros in King’s Landing, Cersei Lannister, never ceases to amaze in her deviousness and wrongdoing. 


There is a great existential threat to the 7 Kingdoms as 100,000 strong army of White Walkers and a zombie dragon (as Air Force) invades from beyond the wall in the far north.


And while Jon Snow (King of the North) and Daenerys Targaryen (Queen heir to the 7 Kingdoms) unites to fight them, Cersei seeks to win it all for herself. 


Cersei gives her word to join them with her armies in the fight against the invaders, but instead she backtracks and plans to conquer them from the south as they faceoff with the enemy to the north. 


This is the classic treachery of getting the upper hand and working to divide and conquer. 


As the Queen of Evil, Cersei will torture and kill anyone in her path to power, even threatening her own brother and incest partner, Ser Jaime, so turning on her competition to the Iron Throne is just a walk in the park for her. 


Unfortunately, this is really a tale of everyday life…where people band together to fight big enemies that threaten us–whether from violence, poverty, or illness–and someone always uses the war of the day as an opportunity to benefit themselves. 


Whether it’s arms trafficking, human smuggling, drug profiteering, intellectual property theft, money laundering or someone else trying to get rich, famous, and powerful by exploiting an opening for themselves, there is always a Cersei! 


Cerseis are people that don’t care about solving large institutional or global problems–but instead are selfish and seek to capitalize on them.


While the White Walkers invade, Cersei is counting bodies of her enemies fending them off, while she seeks to take over once the battlefield is full of everyone else’s corpses. 


Cerseis are people you know at work, school, in the community and in politics…they take when others give, and they don’t give back in return, because they want what everyone else has and works for, and that is how they win the Game of Thrones in everyday life.


How do you stop the Cerseis of the world–anyone got some Dragonglass? 😉


(Source Photo: here with attribution to HBO via the New York Times)

A Sexless Generation

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Oy vey, the statistics are not good. 


Sex in America is on the decline (and no, this is not an April fools’ joke)!


Based on this who can argue with President Trump that we need to “Make America Great Again”–and that should include sexual vitality along with military might, economic competitiveness, and social justice.


In the early 1990 and 2000’s , Americans had sex on average about 60 to 65 times a year.


Moreover, for married couples, who are at the high end of the sexual spectrum, this is down from 67 in 1989 to just 56 times a year now.


This is a reduction of 9 , which doesn’t sound like much–however that actually comes to 14% less nookie!


And geez, that’s less than once a week! 😦


What’s weird is that the statistics show that Americans working longer hours and watching more pornography actually is tied to a “busier sex life.”


To me the obvious answer is that people are living too much in a virtual world of loneliness and nothingness. 


And they have lost touch with each other in the real world and have become more selfish and less giving personally and sexually. 


So while some people are busy infighting and infatuated with reading and generating all the fake news these days, it seems like they are missing the real disheartening and unloving American news of the times. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)