East Meets West In The Holy Land

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, Israel, Where East Meets West

The modern State of Israel is truly the embodiment of this oneness and this diversity. The Jewish Nation-State Law embodies this concept where Israel is defined as the national homeland for the Jewish People, yet it is democratic, open and welcoming to everyone. For Jewish people, there are Ashkenazi Jews and there are Sephardi Jews. And at the same time, there are people of faith, Christians, Muslims, Druze, and others from all over the globe.

Hope you enjoy.   

(Photo credit: Andy Blumenthal)

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Where Does Organized Religion Go Wrong

Organized Religion.jpeg

So I am definitely someone who is spiritual and tries to be faithful to G-d.


I believe, He is my creator and sustainer and that we are here to learn and grow our soul before it goes back to Hashem. 


Yet often, like so many others now-a-days, I find organized religion to be a turn-off. 


Why?


1) There is a consistency and sincerity problem.


To some people, I believe it’s partially the rote and robotic nature of some of the practices–where we just do it, because we are told to do it, and we do it over and over and time after time, again–even when we don’t feel it in the moment, and even if we do other things that are not so right in other areas of our lives.  


In contrast perhaps, there can be more spontaneous and genuine feelings and actions, in the moment and every moment–that come from the heart and the soul of the person and directly to G-d–and they are consistent whether we are in a religious setting to how we treat others and how we act in business. 


In other words, we just don’t follow the rules, but we live them fully and integrated with ourselves and all situations we find ourselves in. 


2)  There is a money and power problem.


In some religious environments, all people are not created equal or treated equal. Instead, the say, the attention, and the honor goes to the powerful and the rich, who are courted for their donations and their votes to the institution and the spiritual leader. Who gets talked up? Who is given the honors at the religious rituals, at the events and the dinners, and with their communal “peers”? 


In other cases, it’s not just money and power that talks, but who is outwardly the “most religious” and presumably walks the walk.  If you but “seem” more religious than the next guy, then you are elevated and exalted in the religious community.  


Instead, what happened to welcoming and caring for everyone–to everyone being children of G-d–to each person having a soul and their personal life challenges. Why can’t we treat everyone as religiously worthwhile and give everyone a chance to learn and grow in their own way from their starting point and to their destination?  


Religion should be the one place that isn’t a competition with others. 


Religion is ultimately between man and G-d!


And only G-d knows what is inside man’s heart and in his soul–and what his actions really are all the time and what they truly mean in context and in essence


I welcome G-d in my life, because I:


– Have faith in Him and that ultimately He has a master plan and that everything is for the good 

– Love Him for giving me the chance to learn and grow my soul to be better

– Fear Him for when I do something wrong in my life and need a course correction 


I wish for a time and transformation when religion would not just be based on outward manifestations but on being sincere and consistent in people’s lives, and where people would no longer be superficially judged and (mis)treated because they are themselves and on their G-d given paths. 


If only we could religiously love, rather than endlessly judge, each other, oh what a heartfelt and inspiring religion that would be. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

B&N Chairs Are The Pits

Barnes and Nobles
So if you ever go to Barnes and Nobles, you’ll see that they have the most horribly hard wooden chairs. 



They are so  uncomfortable–many people seem to rather sprawl out on the floor to browse the magazines and books, rather then get a butt bender in those darn chairs. 



Some other people that I’ve seen now have resorted to placing cushy stuffed animals on the chairs to ease the discomfit on the arse!



I took this picture of someone’s chair by the window with 2 stuffed animals left over after what must’ve been a much needed cushion liner on the the bare wood. 



[BTW, sorry for whoever buys those sat on, smelled on stuffed animals afterwards–ew!]



The question is why invite people in to browse and sit–if you are only going to make them so uncomfortable.



Ok, I get the implicit message, “You can read for a few minutes, but otherwise buy something or get the h*ck out!”



And not that they are wrong (they aren’t), but why resort to making people physically uncomfortable and forcing them to leave instead of making everything welcoming and encouraging shopping and sales.



Barnes and Nobles–a nice place to visit for 20 minutes as long as you have some stuffed animals for your butt–but Amazon will reign bookstore supreme. 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Going With Happiness

The Rebbe and Me
We went to synagogue yesterday and the Sukkot celebration today at Chabad in Downtown Fort Lauderdale.

 
Such lovely warm and welcoming people–thank you Rabbi and Rebbetzin Schneur for your very gracious hospitality.
 
My wife and I both cried at the services and in getting in touch with our inner Torah spirituality.
 
Somehow, Chabad brings out the best in others, and they did it with us as well.
 
Here I stood next to the picture of the Rebbe and I looked into his eyes and was strengthened.
 
I remember many years ago, Dossy and I went to visit at Chabad headquarters in Crown Heights, New York and we received a blessing from the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
 
He told my wife to always go with happiness (“B’sever panim yafot”).
 
Today was a little fulfillment of that. 😉
 
(Source Photo: Dossy Blumenthal)