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)

Playing The Odds

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.

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Teaching Our Children To Be Good Jews

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called “Teaching Our Children To Be Good Jews.”

What happened to genuine faith in G-d, belief in the holy Torah, our duty to abide by the 613 commandments, and generally doing right in this world by our fellow man and before G-d Almighty? Maybe I’m being too literal here but being a “good Jew” has got to mean something important. We are keeping alive the tradition of our parents, grandparents and great grandparents, spanning back thousands of years to our Forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and to G-d delivering us from Egyptian servitude, and His giving to us the Torah on Mount Sinai, and to His bringing us to Israel, the Land of Milk and Honey, and keeping us from being wiped away by one great empire after another. Being a Jew means being part of an important important and yes, “chosen” for a special mission of being a “light unto the nations” and that means action on our part: thinking, saying, and doing what’s right all the time!

We are tested daily to do what’s right, even when it’s not convenient, easy, enjoyable, or popular. What is a Jew? We need to really ask ourselves that question. It’s not trivial and neither should the answer be. Our lives in this world and the next are depending on how we live up to the high bar that is set for us each and every day of our lives that Hashem mercifully grants to us.(Photo: My dear parents Fred and Gerda Blumenthal at my Bar Mitzvah)

What’s Your Kindness

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called “What’s Your Kindness.”

When we are happy, we are able to graciously and generously give to others, and when we give to others, we are able to be happy! All the other pursuits in life such as wealth, ego, good looks, and so on are nothing but vanities (like King Solomon said in Ecclesiastes), and in the end lead to nothing but loss and suffering. However, giving and the happiness and positive spiritual energy it creates endures.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Love Your Family As The Stranger

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called “Love Your Family As The Stranger.”

When it comes to strangers, it’s almost easier to put on a face, act all proper, and do what’s right because they aren’t our family, thus Avraham could run to help the strangers. Yet, when it comes to our own families, we don’t feel it necessary to keep up pretenses. We sometimes say and do things to family that we would likely never say to or do in front of strangers, like Avraham telling Hagar and Ishmael to get out! We may even betray and hurt the ones we love, like when Avraham said Sarah was his sister putting her at jeopardy with Avimelekh. Further, we “sacrifice” our children and spouses by putting our work (sometimes 24/7), social media, and our own brand and needs first, and don’t adequately pay attention to what’s really going on with our families, their needs, aspirations, and troubles; for example, Avraham was going to sacrifice Isaac, his and Sarah’s only child and “the son of her old age.” We take for granted and even advantage of our families, because we can. And some at the further bad end of the spectrum, “go home and kick the dog!” Yes, the pictures that everyone posts on Facebook and Instagram are what people want you to see and think about them (their personal brand): that everything’s all rosy and they have the perfect lives and families, but I venture to guess that often, it’s far from the reality of what goes on “behind closed doors.”

All of us need to pay attention and do what’s right not only when we want to look good in front of others, but knowing that even in our own homes, G-d is watching what we do and how we treat each other.


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Beautiful Bonsai Tree

Something genius about a Bonsai tree.

The way it is on one hand natural and on the other hand “sculpted” by people. 

Sort of a metaphor for life, where G-d gives us the raw material and asks us to go do good with it. 

G-d creates and people shape that creation. 

Beautiful partnership makes a beautiful Bonsai! 😉

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

True Meaning of Torah Observant

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called “True Meaning of Torah Observant.”The key is that everyone (Jew and Gentile) has an opportunity to do good or the opposite. We are all G-d’s children, and He loves all of us, and wants us all to learn and grow as human beings with the spirit of G-d breathed into us (Genesis 2:7). The Jews have a special mission to try and live by following the commandments in the Torah, as a good example to others. This is similar to the Kohanim and Leviim who had a special role within the Jewish people as the Temple priests and as the musicians and singers that accompanied them. No one is inherently better than anyone else. We all just have our roles, and we a need to do them the best we can or learn to be better as we go along. Like we start the cycle of reading the Torah again with every Simchat Torah, so too the New Year is an opportunity to “up our game” and another chance to raise the “standard of living” according to G-d’s will.


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

True Self Is Helping Others

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called “True Self is Helping Others.”

The Rebbe’s message was that self-improvement was really about helping others! All the changes we commit to around the Jewish New Year and make in ourselves is not really about us, but rather about us being able to develop ourselves in order to “give it all away” to help others. Too often, people think in terms of self-help, self-improvement, where everything is sort of in terms, well, ourselves–my looks, my degrees, my career, my bank account, my family, and so on. However, people should not lose sight that everything that Hashem gives us is really for a higher spiritual purpose, for giving to others or “paying it forward.”

In this vein, we learn Torah not just for the sake of learning, but rather in order to actually do Mitzvot! Rabbi Kaplan explained that the Rebbe would make each and every person feel special and important. Why? Because by building up the individual, each could then go out and build up the world. And this is one of the reasons that I love and respect Chabad so much—from my experience, people like Rabbi Kaplan and Chabad in general, are all about living this life lesson from the Rebbe and giving, giving, and then giving some more in order to really improve the Jewish community globally and by extension the world.

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

The Last Kiss Goodnight

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called “The Last Kiss Goodnight.”

Certainly, every human being has the desire to live and goes about fighting for life. It’s part of our genetic makeup and our very survival instinct. Yet, we all know that the cycle of life brings us from the beginnings of infancy to growth, the maturity of adulthood, then decline, old age and ultimately death itself. Truly, we all know the end from the very beginning, and with that we can achieve a greater awareness that what’s good in living isn’t the materialism and chasing the next “high,” but rather the ability to choose to do good and to be on a higher spiritual plane.

Life is choice and having control over how we respond to life’s circumstances. Death is simply observing and being. Therefore, even if we merit being in the Divine presence in the afterlife, we still can’t actively help anyone, like those we love, any longer. This is why we want to merit life where we can continue to work on ourselves and help others. Thus, despite all the pain and suffering associated with life, it is more than offset by the opportunity to learn, grow, and transform our very essence in a purification process of our souls.

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)