In life, not only do we have to be determined and work hard, but G-d throws us curveballs and challenges all along the way that can often make us drop to our knees or throw our arms up in despair. However, we need to be faithful like Jacob and Joseph, knowing that it’s all a part of G-d’s plan and mission for us, and through these we learn and grow and become better versions of ourselves.
Moreover, if we but open our eyes to the miracle of our creation and our sustainment every moment of every day by Hashem, and remember that He put us all here for a purpose, then we can pay the daily price for what G-d puts in front of us and how we choose to handle it.We can do this knowing that it’s all really just a small price to pay in the end for so much that we gain in this world and that we will carry forward to the hereafter. In the end, nothing is free, but the price and the reason is always just what G-d wants it to be.
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.
People are often blocked from moving forward by uncertainty, indecision, insecurity, self-doubt, hesitancy, worry, and fear, yet one man, such as Jacob, can stand up and move that big rock off the well if he just sets his mind to it and tries!
The bottom line is that when people say it can’t be done or to wait because it will take an entire village of shepherds to simply move the rock from the well, instead we can see that even one determined person can “rock and roll,” make a difference, and start to make something special and meaningful happen. (Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
It didn’t matter what race or nationality the person who had been hit by the car was, she was a human being in pain and who needed the help of others. We Jews need to remember that this is life in a nutshell. Life can change in split instance for better or G-d forbid, for worse. We need one another. No man is an island. We can’t afford to play holier than thou with anyone else. Only G-d can judge who is really “religious” and who is wanting.
It brought to my mind the irony that with the Jewish people, we are a small minority in the world, and yet we often disagree, fight, and can be intolerant and neglectful of one another despite facing anti-Semitism and other crises. This is far from the ideal of demonstrating love and acceptance, unifying ourselves together, and becoming as strong and effective as a “light unto nations” that we could and should be.
We can have our personal and communal ideals and standards, but at the same time have empathy for the journey that people are on. Therefore, we should strive to treat each other with kindness and tolerance and put aside the lofty and phony airs of personal judgement and exclusivity. Because in the end, no one knows who is laying next on the street waiting for that ambulance to come.
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.
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.
Fake news about Israel and the Jews continues to proliferate from many mainstream news sources that have sold out to the devil any credibility, they may have one had. Whether it’s the “Failing New York Times,” “Fake News CNN” or any other of the notorious media sources that are alleged to report biased, tainted news, unfortunately, it seems like a virtual non-stop barrage of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic spewing. It may be overt or more subtle, but there are organizations like Honest Reporting that are tracking and calling out the false news reporting for the lies that they are.
Whether it’s 1984 “Big Brother” telling you what to think and do or the media twisting the truth so that’s unrecognizable anymore, this is dangerous not only to the Jews as scapegoats, but to the souls, freedom and future of our world. (Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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!
We all know the Jewish dictum of “He who save a life, saves the world.” In Judaism, every single life is invaluable, and hence we are even allowed to violate the holy Shabbat for the preservation of human life (“Pikuach Nefesh“). Similarly, when it came to a prisoner exchange for IDF Sargent first Class, Gilad Shalit, who had been held by Hamas terrorists for five years (2006-2011), Israel exchanged1,027 Palestinians in a prisoner exchange for Shalit. Life is truly sacred to the Jewish people.
This week, I had the opportunity to meet and hear from members of Israel Air Force’s Elite Search and Rescue, Unit 669, at Magen David Synagogue in Rockville, Maryland. There I was reminded of the brave Israeli soldiers who not only defend the holy land and people of Israel, but also who are there to search for missing soldiers and rescue them and civilians “regardless of location or conditions” when faced with war, terrorism, or other disaster. Soldiers from unit 669 go into every possible dangerous situation, and under fire, to save lives at whatever cost to themselves. (Source Photo: Flikr)
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.