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)

Light at the End of The Ark

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called “Light At The End Of The Ark.”

Why was Noah commanded to build a skylight in the ark?

Noah and all the fascinating people in the Bible weren’t just characters in a novel, but they were real people and they experienced up and downs, as we all do in life. The key to remember is that there is always a window where we can see our relative good fortune and everything we have to be grateful for, where we can keep an eye on the light at the end of tunnel (as my father used to say about bad things, “this too shall pass”), and we can look up to our Father in Heaven and remember that He will bring deliverance to us. Even in the mightiest of floods that devastated the world, G-d was still there for us, and He was, is, and always will be!

(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)

Israeli Determination and the Afghanistan Debacle

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called “Israeli Determination and the Afghanistan Debacle.”

It’s not always the largest, strongest, fastest, and best financed that wins. Like with the story of David and Goliath or even one of my modern-day heroes, Rocky, the determination of the little guy can overcome the biggest and the best of them. The Taliban were patient and over twenty years continued to wage their struggle against us, but more than that they knew that our patience was limited and that eventually we would leave, and they took the long view and planned for the overthrow of the government and the return of their rule after we were gone. They waited us out and that can be an incredibly successful strategy!

Israel is the Jewish homeland and the Biblical Promised Land from G-d. What the Palestinians haven’t understood in all these years, since the State’s founding in 1948, is that no matter how long they try to wait us out, we have more determination than they have patience! The Jewish people will never give up our historical and legitimate rights to be a sovereign nation in our land, Israel. In the end, the Palestinians may be very patient, but we are the ones who are utterly determined: whether Ashkenazi or Mizrachi, Labor or Likud, Tel Avivian or Jerusalemite, one thing that we all fundamentally agree on is our sheer and utter determination as the Jewish people to survive and be a free nation in our land.

(Source Photo: Pixabay)

Paradoxically Jewish

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called “Paradoxically Jewish.”

While Israel and the Jews are filled with paradoxes from our forefather Abraham to the modern State of Israel, we are a people who try to wear these paradoxes well. We relish our commonalties even as we are proud of our differences and uniqueness. We argue and fight with each to try to get to “the truth of the matter,” and we negotiate, compromise, threaten and cajole to that sometimes elusive end. Paradox is just another word for our survival against all odds and our determination to overcome the blind hate, anti-Semitism, and scapegoating of Jews throughout history. We Jews are individually broken, but together, we are a beautiful, paradoxical mosaic—a little meshuggah (crazy) and with an unfortunate dose of PTSD, but fundamentally good in intent and deed—working to fulfill our optimism, hope, and mission to usher in the universality of G-d in the world and of betterment for humankind.

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Manifest Peacock

For those following the show Manifest, the peacock is a symbol frequently seen the callings by the resurrected passengers from flight 828.

Certainly, the peacock is a most amazing and beautiful of birds. 

But does anyone know what the peacock actually represents in the show?

Maybe we’ll find out in Season 4, along with what does Noah’s ark have to do with any of it.  

A strange show with constantly more questions than answers.  😉

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)