Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called “Not by Chariots or Horses.” As I watched through the window of the synagogue, the people practicing their boxing, I remembered when I was young and learning to fight. It took an enormous amount of training, hard work, and practice, and still at the end of the day, the realization always that we are but the foot soldiers for G-d. We must be the best prepared in every way that we can (“Never again!”); however, it is G-d who not only leads us, but also fights for us. In the Prophets (Joshua 6), we learn that Hashem literally brought down the walls of the great city of Jericho simply by having Joshua and the Israelites march around it, blow the Shofar, and yell a great shout. So too may G-d continue to fight for us against the enemies in our time and speedily complete the final redemption.
It is incredible that our leaders, economic advisors, and near endless pundits didn’t see what was surely coming down the road in terms of an overheating economy, inflation, and a spiraling national debt now over $30 trillion and growing. Despite economic signals even visible to the layman, the Fed continued to promise to hold the interest rates near zero “for years” to come. The cheap money and free-wheeling government spending became an avalanche with almost no adult in the room willing to stand up and say, “Stop the money madness! Government handouts are not free!”
Aside from the recklessness with which our economy has been handled, let’s not forget that there is a proxy war going on between the superpowers in Ukraine for the last four months, including a frightening blockade on grain shipments (i.e. food terrorism) to tens of millions of people. Further toward the east, China is upping the ante vowing to “fight until the end” for sovereignty over Taiwan. And in the middle, Iran is dismantling the IAEA nuclear monitoring cameras, adding high-speed centrifuges, increasing uranium enrichment, and threatening Israel and the West. Let’s just say all is not copacetic in the world, while a congressional select committee continue to focus on what happened on January 6, 2021 with the U.S. Capitol riots.
People are not blind, deaf, and dumb to what’s going on with the childish gamesmanship, politics of hate, and plenty of recklessness that is driving much of the national debate and (in)action in the country.
Circumcision reminds me of Abraham, our forefather, who was tested and told to sacrifice his beloved son, Isaac, to G-d. It is truly counter-intuitive for a parent to hurt or sacrifice their child. Yet, this is exactly how G-d tested Abraham before the angel of G-d told him not to raise his hand to Isaac, and instead Abraham then offered to G-d a ram that was caught in the thicket. However, when it comes to circumcision, we are also tested and actually are commanded to surgically remove the male child’s foreskin and as the baby cries out, every parent, no matter how faithful and religiously devoted, winces and feels deeply inside for their child’s pain, even if it is only momentary and soothed by a sip of kosher Kedem Concord Grape wine.
The rite of the circumcision is an incredible transcendental religious experience, where our very faith is tested and we go against our own physical instincts to protect the child, no matter what, and instead we submit ourselves to G-d Almighty, the Master of the Universe to perform the circumcision, because He told us to. Whether there are medical benefits or not, G-d commands, and we obey. We are His people, and his thoughts and plans are infinitely greater than ours. At the circumcision, in an act of complete faith, we graciously give over our male children and ourselves—in body, mind, and soul to G-d. We renounce our desires, our gratification, our very instincts, and put ourselves in G-d’s merciful hands. In that moment of selfless giving, we fulfill our covenant of generations with G-d and we affirm our holiness as individuals and as a nation.
In short, I think it’s healthy for us as human beings to ask questions, even the most difficult questions of why. We need to make sense of our world and the context in which we live. Questions like: Why do good people at times experience horrible loss and suffering? Why do atheists and sinners often seem to excel and succeed (my wife says, perhaps they sold their soul to the devil!)?
While asking why to search for G-d and try to understand His ways is human, at the same time, we as mere mortal human beings can not ever fully know G-d’s ways or His plan for us. In short, Mendel, the Chabad rabbi, said today, don’t get fixated on the why. Instead focus on what you can do to make the world better. Actions speak louder than words.
I sometimes get very scared when we don’t give Hashem the proper credit for our incredible accomplishments and military successes, but rather we talk about our own “self-reliance.” To a certain extent, the calls for self-reliance is understandable amidst broad-based anti-Semitism in the world, calls for Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, and near constant United Nations resolutions again us. Of course, in these circumstances and with our history of suffering persecution, pogroms, and Holocaust, we may look to insulate and protect ourselves from the world’s incessant and irrational hatred of Jews.
Most importantly though, we have to recognize that G-d is in charge. As a small people in a tiny (albeit marvelous) land, surrounded by enemies, we can never forget that remaining sovereign over Israel and defeating our enemies that rise up against us time and again is nothing but completely miraculous. Our enemies are 1,000 to 1 against us, and yet G-d makes them run from before us.
Never more than today are we living lives of total excess. This week, we saw a Mercedes-Benz 1995 car sell for a record-breaking $142 million. Last month in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, authorities seized a Russian oligarch’s $793 million mega yacht. And this last year, Morgan Stanley predicted that Elon Musk may eventually become the world’s first trillionaire.
In a world where marketing, sales, advertising, branding, and the media all seek to convince us that life is essentially about “things,” self-satisfaction, the next high, and happiness, we can easily forget how transient and valueless all that really is. Inside each of us though there is a deeper, true voice that seeks a life of real meaning, purpose and immortality, where faith, compassion, giving, and self-sacrifice is the true measure of our character and the ultimate gauge of life success.(Source Photo: https://pixabay.com/illustrations/smiley-emoticon-greed-822993/)
Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called “The Tragic Comedy of the ‘Anti-Zionist Synagogue‘.”Recently in the Forward, I read about this “synagogue,” Tzedek Chicago, that has the tragic distinction of being the first anti-Zionist synagogue in America. They claim that they are all about justice, as their name “Tzedek” supposedly implies, and as their website values states:
“…the creation of an ethnic Jewish nation state in historic Palestine resulted in an injustice against the Palestinian people, an injustice that continues to this day.”
However, the facts do not match the rhetoric. Anti-Zionism, regardless of the source is ultimately about Jew hatred.(Screenshot from @margoexplainsitall on Instagram reel at https://www.instagram.com/reel/CcBMN1bFfpU/)
Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called “Playing The Odds.”The stranger told me: Precisely fifty years ago, the doctor told me the exact same thing about having a one in a hundred chance of paralysis if they operated. So, what did I do? I went to see the Rabbi (Avigdor Miller) and ask his advice, and the Rabbi says to me: “A Jew doesn’t take odds like that!”
I thought to myself while Jews don’t take those wild odds (1 in a 100 of paralysis), why do they play the odds with their souls by pretending to be religious on the outside, but on the inside and away from human eyes doing evil? Surely, we all know that G-d sees everything and that a faithful judgment awaits us all. And it all made sense not to play the odds not only with our physical health, but also with our spiritual wellbeing.
Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called “The Real Unthinkable Option.”Listen, we are forever in a battle of good and evil in this world. We have to rise to the occasion to stand by our faith in G-d and ensure that good prevails. Easier said than done, because of course, fighting to defeat wrongdoing and evil is not only a battle that takes places within our own souls, but with those that have already sold their souls to the devil for money, power, honor, and every worldly gratification. So, the battles and wars ahead are scary indeed, but we have to choose the right side, silence our own inner conflict and turmoil, and put our fears aide.
Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called “Making Off With The Passover Buffet.”I see Chabad not only performing genuine good deeds, but also always b’simcha (in happiness) with a big smile, even generously letting others take the Passover buffet home with them. To me, this is truly a taste not just of a festive and kosher Passover, but of the times of Mashiach where rather than fighting over the scraps of food, there is so much plenty and caring that we can’t even give it all away.