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.
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.
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.
“Talk less and do more.” Unfortunately, Putin apparently didn’t learn this lesson as a child and is now, as they say, having to learn it the hard way later in life. He and his henchmen signaled to the world how they would bring Ukraine to its knees, surround and capture the capital, Kyiv, overthrow the leadership and install a pro-Kremlin puppet, and demilitarize the country. However, Putin spoke very big, but after a whole month of fighting now, things haven’t turned out the way Putin had counted on. With Russian casualties, wounded, captured, and missing now estimated at up to 40,000, and with the Russian forces on the retreat, no one in their right minds could’ve imagined such a modern David and Goliath scenario playing out with Ukraine as the David.
When we have faith in G-d, it generally means that we believe that He created us and that He is the Master of the Universe. However, faith does not necessarily imply trust. Trust in G-d means that we believe that He not only created us, but that He sustains us and that there is Divine Providence in this world. When we trust in G-d, we believe that G-d is close to us and has a personal relationship with each and every one of us, and actually to everything in the world.
We all need to leave our egos at the door! No matter how strong or smart that we think we are, even the little grass above us (or above our graves) is greater than us. Certainly, G-d Almighty who is our creator and our sustainer, all-knowing and all-powerful, He is over us and watches over us in better times as well as those that are perhaps more challenging, but always we trust, for the good!
Even while we are each different and should become our best selves, we still all need to make sure we are driving towards good healthy goals.
There is no one-size-fits-all mold for us. Hashem has a destiny in mind for each of us, and we need to find out what that is and work to become it. As parents, we need to see our children for who they are and not who we may want them to be. Truly, it’s a blessing to be able to be ourselves! As long as we and they are doing good in the world and by our Creator, we are each and everyone on solid Jewish ground.