Pop Culture Just Doesn’t “Get” Us

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called “Pop Culture Just Doesn’t ‘Get’ Us.”Of course, when Jews are hypocrites, act holier than thou, or do bad things, they give the rest of us a bad name, and this can breed not only confusion about Jews but also, in the extreme, hate and anti-Semitism. One Chabad Rabbi said today that the Rebbe hardly ever used the word anti-Semitism or spoke of it; instead, he focused on the idea that Jews should do good and perform acts of G-dliness and righteousness in the world.

I believe we can all agree that Jews behave differently; sometimes they do good, sometimes they don’t, but regardless, we’re a little bit of a mystery to many non-Jews, which is sometimes shrouded in a large dose of fiction and conspiracy. For many, I put it this way: they still can’t understand why the fiddler was ever playing on the roof to begin with.

(Credit Photo: ericbarns via https://pixabay.com/photos/dancing-clubbing-dancers-nightclub-206740/)

Waffle On Over This Hanukkah

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called “Waffle On Over This Hanukkah.”

If you love fresh waffles and you love chicken and beef, you’ll love Mordy Menkes and his new South Florida kosher food truck business called Wild Flour Waffles.

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Giving the World a Hand

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called “Giving the World a Helping Hand.”

While we ourselves can do positive things to learn and grow as individuals, it’s a bigger and greater mitzvah when it’s shared with others! Just like Joseph, who rose above being a slave and prisoner to save the world, we can all rise above ourselves and our life predicaments to do good that spreads far and wide, perhaps even beyond our wildest imagination.

(Source Photo: https://pixabay.com/photos/hands-world-map-global-earth-600497/)

Concrete Faith in a Flimsy Sukkah

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called “Concrete Faith in a Flimsy Sukkah.”

Jews place their faith in G-d rather than massive building structures, the strongest foundations, and incalculable amounts of concrete and rebar. Instead, we sit in the flimsy and temporary sukkah to remember that G-d is our ultimate stronghold.

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Surviving Marriage Meshugas

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called “Surviving Marriage Meshugas.”

At the end of the day, like all things, marriage is partially what you make of it and how hard you work at it. Remember, bringing two people together, even two halves of the same whole, can be challenging and requires understanding and compromise.

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Madness and The Soul

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called “Madness and The Soul.”

Whereas normally the soul guides and directs the body, in the case of mental illness, the soul becomes imprisoned in the body and mind that is sick. When this happens, a person reverts to their wholly animalistic nature, and hence, what we are seeing is like a car without a driver, accelerating and careening dangerously until, usually, a horrible accident and end.

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

7 & the Redemption

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called “7 & the Redemption.”

There can be no doubt that the long-awaited completion of our redemption and the coming of the Mashiach by the Jewish year 6,000 (the beginning of the seventh millennium) is established no less than the Shabbat, which is the seventh day of every week for us. The Shabbat, in fact, is considered a covenant between G-d and the Jewish people, and so too, according to Maimonides’ “13 Principles of Faith,” we trust in the coming of Mashiach.

(Credit Photo: Minna Blumenthal)

Not by Chariots or Horses

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.

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Why I Cry At Circumcisions

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called “Why I Cry At Circumcisions.”

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.

(Photo Credit: Avital Pinnick; https://www.flickr.com/photos/spindexr/4678468852/)

Testing Our Faith

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called “Testing Our Faith.”

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.

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)