The 11th Commandment

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, “The 11th Commandment.”

How many times do I hear about fellow Jews trying to “out-frum” (i.e. be holier than thou) other Jews: whether it’s in terms of Kashrut, Shabbat or even who stayed up the latest for the Passover Seder. Recently, when it came to coronavirus, I was more than a little shocked to read that someone actually attributed the disease to it being a punishment from G-d because women’s skirts are not being worn long enough. While certainly it’s good to be introspective and there is a strong concept of reward and punishment in Judaism, there is something about us Jews where we tend to want to go a little more and a little farther. In some cases, we are doing “hiddur mitzvah” (beautification of the Mitzvah) which is praiseworthy, but in other cases, we may be adding unnecessary “chumras” (i.e. stringencies) than can backfire religiously. My unequivocal preference is to follow my father’s teaching to me of the Rambam’s “Shvil Ha’zahav” (i.e. the golden path) and not go too far to the left or to the right, but keep a healthy middle of the road approach to life.


In the end, the number of commandments are what they are, and with 613 throughout the Torah, there is enough to keep us all busy going what is right with G-d and our fellow man. While we may like to overachieve in our careers, our education, and our pedigrees, it is not necessary to try to outdo each other religiously. Religion is a matter between us and Hashem and G-d knows what is in our hearts and counts up all our deeds according to His holy Torah with nothing added and nothing subtracted.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

The Commandments are for All of Us

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called “The Commandments are for All of Us.”

While some Jews certainly thrive in Yeshiva delving into the Talmudic understanding of the laws for long hours every day, and they serve an important role in understanding and transmitting the laws from generation to generation, others may be more interested in the fundamental philosophy of Judaism and in “doing what’s right” by applying the core teachings of the Torah at their own levels every day. Maybe this is one reason that the Ten Commandments are presented separately from the “mishpatim” that follow. Not that they aren’t both important and necessary, but that the Torah is for all of us in the ways that each of us can appreciate, learn, and apply them within the overall framework of the Torah.


Of course, all the commandments are important between G-d and man and between man and man, as well as the conceptual framework of the Ten Commandments and the details embedded in the rest of the 613 commandments. Yet certainly, all of us in one way or another struggle with some commandments more than others or with losing sight of either the high-level essence of the Torah or important details of implementation. Nevertheless, we must strive to not only appreciate that all the Torah comes from Hashem, but also that we each must work as best as we can, in our own capacities, to learn and fulfill G-d’s laws and to be a good example and “light unto the nations,” which is what being “the chosen people” is really all about.

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal of Chagall Tapestry in Knesset, Israel)

Why Only Two, Daddy?

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, “Why Only Two Daddy?”

The father goes on to explain that these are the commandments that G-d gave to the Jews (when they were redeemed from slavery in Egypt). He enumerates just two examples: keeping the Shabbat and honoring your mother and father. The son asks, ‘What are the other commandments?’ The father hesitates either not knowing any of the other commandments or simply unable to remember any more of them on the spot. And all of a sudden, the little boy starts wailing to his father: ‘Daddy, why do you know only two, why?’


Knowing the Torah and commandments is not only for ourselves to do what’s rights, but also to pass on the torch to the next generation. It’s not always easy to be good examples, but it’s the challenge we all face. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Choosing Good Over Vice

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel, called “Choosing Good Over Vice.”

But yet, if everyone would just act out on each other based on their unbridled wants and desires, oy vey what a truly terrible world that would be…From uncontrolled desires for food, drugs, alcohol, gambling, honor, money, power, sex, and more–it seems like everyone has their little secret fetish. Whether it’s coming from their head, their heart, or down below…the key questions is how much can they control themselves.


However, inside us, our soul, like the Ten Commandments in the Holy Ark, guide us so that we aren’t just animals chasing game or tail, but are human beings trying to become angels.


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Thou Shalt Not

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Interesting speech by the Rabbi today in synagogue. 


What stood out to me was when he talked about the Ten Commandments, particularly the 2nd set of five. 


And how some people hear what they want to hear. 


All of the 2nd five start with “Thou shalt not,”  but there are those people that only hear the part that comes after those words. 


So for example: Thou shalt not kill…steal…commit adultery…lie…desire.


But not everyone listens to the “Thou shalt not” and instead they just hear–selectively:


– Kill

– Steal

– Commit adultery

– Lie

– Desire


If you take out the “Thou shalt nots,” you are left with a list of terrible and evil deeds.


How convenient for those who are looking for the upper hand and pleasures in life–get rich quick, get and maintain power, take whatever and whomever you want and when you want it–no matter who it belongs to or how they feel.


Like the good angel and bad angel sitting over our shoulders and one says don’t do the bad thing and the other encourages us to do!


Who you going to listen to? 


Not everyone seems to care–they live for today and forget about tomorrow. 


Yet every misdeed leaves a tarnish on our soul, while every good deed adds a merit. 


And if there is no justice in the end then who the hell wants to be in such a world anyway. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Greatest Museum of Them All

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So the greatest museum of them all is scheduled to open in just 3 months!


The Museum of the Bible.


Right here in Washington, D.C.–a few blocks from the Capitol. 


There is a wonderful video on their website


It’s 430,000 square feet and 8 stories floors. 


With two 40-feet-high bronze doors that look like the Ten Commandments. 


And an overall tall and narrow shape with a curved roof that reminds me of Noah’s Ark.


It encompasses: 


Religion.


History.


Art. 


It all comes together here. 


There is an interesting display of all the different versions of the Bible.


But what it all points to is how similar we all really are. 


The emergence of faith in The One G-d who created us all–his children–and the foundation in the words of His book. 


Yes, we share in common much more than what separates us. 


If we can just see ourselves in His eyes and be the people we can be and were meant to be. 


The museum should be an inspiration to be better, to be brothers, to have peace, to partner and progress to the future.


With our faith sustaining us, and the Bible and our conscience as our guides, we can overcome. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Please G-d In The Workplace

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So here is a true story that happened to me at work.


You know how you put on your “out of office message” in Microsoft Outlook when on leave…


Well, I was responsible and did just that. 


My message was typical informing people that I was out, when I plan to return, and who to contact about urgent matters in my (brief) absence. 


But something astonishing happened then…


I actually got a reply to my out of office message from an executive scolding me about it–imagine this being how government time is spent. 


Yes and dun da da dum…here was my big offense to this senior executive, in my out of office message, I simply used the words “Please G-d,” as in:


“I am out of the office and plan to return, please G-d, on [such and such day and date].”


The message I received back in my inbox:


“I’m not sure what the ‘please G+d’ reference means. It’s a bit confusing. You may want to delete it.”


OMG, I was being admonished in the federal government for using the words “Please G-d” in my out of office message–for simply respecting and recognizing Him/Her. 


– What is confusing about “Please G-d”?


– And how can anyone ask that I delete G-d from my message or in any way from my life???


The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states under religious discrimination and harassment that:

 “Harassment, can include, for example offensive remarks about a person’s beliefs or religious practices.”

 

Further, “the law requires an employer or other covered entity to reasonably accommodate an employees religious beliefs and practices,” barring an undue burden. 


What burden to the government was there in me saying, “please G-d.”


And why did I get back a mocking message spelling it this way, “G+d,” which I read as being a cross in the middle, mocking me as someone of Jewish belief.


Understand that I write the word G-d with a hyphen, because I was taught out of respect not to spell out ( or even say) G-d’s name in vain, which is the 3rd commandment in the biblical Ten Commandments.


The executive’s comments to me were not only extremely rude, offensive, and discriminatory, but also illegal.


It is outrageous that this type of behavior should be allowed to go on in 21st century America, let alone in the federal government itself that writes and enforces the law of the land–the land of the free and the home of the brave–read it, it’s in our national anthem and our constitution. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)