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)

Measuring Success Like G-d

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called “Measuring Success Like G-d.”

Never more than today are we living lives of total excess. This week, we saw a Mercedes-Benz 1995 car sell for a record-breaking $142 million. Last month in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, authorities seized a Russian oligarch’s $793 million mega yacht. And this last year, Morgan Stanley predicted that Elon Musk may eventually become the world’s first trillionaire.

In a world where marketing, sales, advertising, branding, and the media all seek to convince us that life is essentially about “things,” self-satisfaction, the next high, and happiness, we can easily forget how transient and valueless all that really is. Inside each of us though there is a deeper, true voice that seeks a life of real meaning, purpose and immortality, where faith, compassion, giving, and self-sacrifice is the true measure of our character and the ultimate gauge of life success.(Source Photo: https://pixabay.com/illustrations/smiley-emoticon-greed-822993/)

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)

Synagogue Politics

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called “Synagogue Politics.”

Clearly, the mobile sanctuary and later the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and now our synagogues are “Houses of G-d,” where we go to pray, learn Torah, and worship Him, and where He resides among us.  Sure, G-d is everywhere, but the synagogue/Temple is a unique, special, and spiritual place where we as community dedicate ourselves to G-d and worship Him. It should go without saying that the synagogue is not a place for petty politics, protests, or other antics.

As Jews, we are supposed to make a “Kiddush Hashem” (sanctification of G-d’s name) and not Chillul Hashem (desecration of G-d), and so my hope and prayer is that people in this synagogue and in every synagogue, can “let go” and instead “let G-d.”

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal, Image for Illustration Only)

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)