Not Terror But Hugs

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called “Not Terror But Hugs.”

While standing up for the Torah to be brought back to the ark, a little boy comes up to me and just gives me a big hug. I learned afterwards that the boy “makes the rounds” in shul giving everyone a beautiful Shabbat embrace. This simple symbolic act of caring and loving others, mainly many older people in synagogue, by this innocent child gave people an uncommon sense of happiness and even hope in our future despite the anti-Semitism and hate of too many others outside.

The love of G-d is our secret for life and for our perseverance throughout history. G-d loves us as His children, but also punishes us as His children. As children, we are always learning and growing, but as adults we have to act in a way of righteousness and holiness, so that we will merit the former, and not the latter. With G-d’s mercy and blessings, hopefully, we will have peace in our synagogues and our lives, wherever we reside in the world, to worship and live as Jewish people free of bigotry, hate, and terror, once and for all.


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal, Adapted from L. Krestin)

Discerning The Truth Amid Iran’s Lies

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called “Discerning The Truth Amid Iran’s Lies.”

While people can easily utter falsehoods, like Iran saying that their nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, the documents and computer drives that Israel captured in 2016 when they courageously raided Iran’s nuclear archive shows that Iran has been pursuing a dangerous nuclear weapons program for decades.

The world has tried to contain Iran for decades: From monitoring Iran’s nuclear activities through the IAEA, to sanctions and covert actions to deter and set back Iran’s pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, and the JCPOA deal to try to contain Iran’s march to nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, nothing has worked, and Iran is intent on getting the bomb.

Moreover, while the costs of a preemptive attack on Iran could be great, the doctrine from former Prime Minister, Menachem Begin that Israel cannot and will not allow countries that threaten Israel’s existence to get the means to carry it out is as true today as in 1981 when Israel took out Iraq’s nuclear reactor in Osirak.

The Jewish people learned from 2,000 years in exile and persecution ending in the Holocaust that killed six million Jews that we must take verbal threats of annihilation supported by facts on the ground against us most seriously. As children of the Holocaust survivors, we must be true to our words of “Never again” and act with courage and determination to confront the enemy covertly and if necessary, with overt action to stop their genocidal pursuit from ever getting off the ground.
(Credit Photo: via https://www.flickr.com/photos/aeneastudio/3657735814 by aeneastudio and adapted by Andy Blumenthal)

Finding Our Religion

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called “Finding Our Religion.”

The contrast between me being Jewish and the environment that was as broad as the United Nations (actually only a few blocks away), helped me to find myself and to build my personal Jewish identity. So, I think that for those Jews that are afraid for their children to leave the confines of the home, their “shtetl” neighborhood, and the local yeshiva, because they are afraid of the “foreign” (goyish) influences, I think that while that may be right for some Jews possibly, it is definitely not right for all of us.

In a sense, the redemption of the Jewish people and exodus was so much greater a miracle by Moshe becoming this great Jewish leader from within the fires of the Egyptian paganism at the time. Moshe’s rejectionism of Egyptian power and culture used for evil to enslave and hurt others was a powerful choice of good over evil and a message to Pharaoh and his household that despite all his wealth, strength, and influence, that Pharaoh and Egypt would fall before the hand of the true, Almighty G-d of Israel. Similarly, I think the message for us is that the final redemption for us and the world will come initially from “galut” (outside of Israel) from the cauldron of “Edom” (the Roman Empire and Western civilization) and all the materialist and pleasurable freedoms and allures thereof.
(Credit Painting: Dossy Blumenthal)

The Surprising Secret To Becoming Your Best

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called “The Surprising Secret To Becoming Your Best.”

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.

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

When Hypocrisy Leads To Abuse

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called “When Hypocrisy Leads to Abuse.”

As many of you, I have been following the news about sexual abuse allegations against Rabbi Chaim Walder and have been horrified and disgusted that this renowned ultra-orthodox Children’s book author and therapist is now accused of abusing the same. Like community Rabbis (e.g. Rabbi Barry Freundel) or Jewish educators (e.g. Stanley Rosenfeld), this phenomenon of using a privileged position to take advantage of women and children is certainly, by this time, not new and remains a stain on the Jewish community, no different than that of the Catholic Church or the Boy Scouts for the abuse by its priest and leaders on those that trusted them and the religious values and ideals they represent.

Truly, these horrible acts of hurting, abusing, and scarring for life women and children (including boys) are regrettably alal around us, whether with domestic violence, rape, sexual abuse, and human trafficking. But fortunately now they are at least “out of the closet” where rather than have the community deny the possibility that such evil exists or even circle the wagons to wholly protect the perpetrators (before fully investigating the facts), we now have greater recognition and are working towards accountability of these wrongs, and hopefully, far greater protection for people in the future.

(Source 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)

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)

G-d Doesn’t Ask Us

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called “G-d Doesn’t Ask Us.”

Truly, in whatever situations we find ourselves in life, and the pain and suffering that we may have to endure, we really don’t have a choice of our circumstance, but only in how we choose to respond to it. In life, G-d puts us right where he wants us and in situations that are personalized and best for us, whether it feels that way at the moment or not. G-d tries us, and we have to respond with the “right” thoughts, words, and deeds—always remaining a mensch and choosing holiness and righteousness, no matter how difficult it may be. That’s our ultimate challenge, to find holiness even in the depths of despair.

Everyone is confronted with levels of pain and suffering, as I heard said that: “there aren’t enough people for all the pain in the world!” The challenge is to resist hopelessness and the loss of one’s integrity, and nevertheless to choose to do good. As we approach Rosh Hashanah, we have the opportunity to do teshuva and to try to influence G-d’s decree for us for the new year, but in the end, G-d is the ultimate Judge. He doesn’t ask us; He tells us what will be for us. Of course, we have the opportunity to answer G-d’s call to us and the responsibility to choose righteousness even in a distressed world and in trying times. In essence, the underlying test of it all is not only to survive the challenges we must face, but also to emerge from them as better people with purified souls.
(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Let Freedom Ring

I saw this van with all this messaging about “Communist China.” 

Guy from the truck asks me:

Do you know what CCP is?

Not having heard that acronym, I started to mumble something about communism, and before I could finish, he goes:

It stands for Chinese Communist Party. 

He continued:

That’s dictatorship. Do you know what that is?

I responded:

Of course, and the people want to be free.

He goes:

Yes, freedom! We want freedom. 

It’s hard to believe that a generation ago the Cold War ended, but here we are still with people battling Communism and repression of basic rights. 

How lucky we are in America, Israel, and other western countries to live in freedom and have basic human rights. 

People around the world fight and die trying to earn their freedom, and we wake up with it every day, and it’s just there for us. 

It’s an incredible blessing to be free to think, speak, worship, and live how we choose.

We have to safeguard freedom and even fight for it: to have it, to keep it; and we should use it wisely to do and grow good in the world.  😉

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Don’t Follow Haters and Liars

I liked this sign:

Truth does not mind being questioned. 

A lie does not like being challenged. 

This seems like truth to me!

People who push an agenda and their propaganda never like to discuss it or answer questions about it. It’s usually prejudice in some way and they just want to ram it down people’s throats. 

Questioning and shedding light on things that don’t seem right is part of our moral and civic duty.  

Of course, the haters and liars would rather that we just accept the falsehoods they are peddling like stupid sheep who blindly follow them down the road to perdition. 😉

(Source Photo: Friend)