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Rabbi Shaya's Thoughts

Is There Intrinsic Value in Learning?

 Here is a question for you. You are hired for a new job and you are given the company manual to read, or the computer software to learn. You are told that you should learn this in your free time. You are not being paid for this. Is this fair? Should you be paid for being trained or should you be expected to learn the “trade” before being hired? 

On the one hand, if the company wants you to learn something new, they should teach it to you on their time. On the other hand, that is why they ask for a resume in advance: To make sure that new hires have the skills that are necessary to join the company. They did not pay for you to go to college, get a degree, or learn all the skills up to this point in life, so why should they pay you to learn the last few? 

I might be trivializing the issue because I think we can all agree that when it comes to work, a company has no obligation to hire anyone if they don’t think that they are a match, and a person doesn’t have to take a job if they don’t think that they are being compensated properly.  

Similarly, the question applies to education. We can’t expect our children to be responsible adults when they are children, but if we don’t educate them while they are children, how do we expect them to know how to behave as adults, when they reach the age of maturity? So the question becomes, to what degree are we obligated to educate them? In other words, is it a “biblical” obligation or is it “common sense” obligation? 

To further explain the question, I ask: Do we teach children how to behave just so that they will know how to behave when they are older and responsible? Or do we educate them when they are youngsters so that even while they are young, they can behave a certain way—even though we also understand that we can’t hold them accountable since they are young and immature, and they will make mistakes. 

I will take the question even further. When it comes to the practice of Mitzvot, whether children or adults who are taking on a new Mitzvah: During the “educational” process, are we just learning so that one day we will be ready to “do it right?” Or is the learning itself also considered practicing, even if it’s full of errors? As an aside, when it comes to a child, there is no obligation until their Bar/Bat Mitzvah, so the question is stronger.

The answer is that even during the learning and practicing process, there is value. We might not be perfect, but Judaism is not “all or nothing.” Every little step that one takes, even just a baby step, counts. The main thing for us to do is to take that step. The focus should not be, “Are we getting rewarded for it?” because then clearly we are telling the “boss” we are not interested in the Mitzvah.  Part of showing G-d that we are interested in Him is when we try to learn. When we are not focusing on success or failure, but on our effort, that is the main thing.

Becoming Complete

Human beings have an innate desire to be better people. At times, that desire is expressed in a competitive way with others, and at times we compete “with ourselves” by asking ourselves, “How can I be a better person today than I was yesterday?”

Of course it’s a lot healthier when we look at ourselves in the mirror and try to lift ourselves up instead of trying to put others down. Let’s rephrase that: The only way to make ourselves better is to lift ourselves up because nothing is gained by putting others down.
 
Yet, it is worth asking the question: Why the need to become a better person? Why can’t we just come to terms with “who I am,” and just say this is the way that nature is, or that is the way I was nurtured? Why invest in myself? Why improve myself?
 
In Hebrew there are expressions of praise given to people who have lived their lives to the fullest: We will call them Tamim, complete, or Ish Shalom, a peaceful person. These Biblical terms are taken from this week’s Torah portion. However, what is interesting is that the Torah doesn’t just use these expressions to describe people in their old age – such as for Noach and Abraham – but also to describe baby Isaac when he has his Brit Milah, his circumcision!
How is it that a baby can become a “complete” individual, without doing any hard, personal, individualized soul-searching? Just like that, a little “surgery” and bam, you become complete! What is it about the Brit Milah that is so important that it makes an eight-day-old baby “complete?”
 
Circumcision is beyond our understanding. We do it because G-d commands us to. It doesn’t have to make sense, nor does it make sense. We do so in order to connect to G-d on a deep and spiritual level. We want to become one with Him, connect to Him, beyond any reason, not because we understand, but even though we don’t understand. When we achieve a point in our lives when we do something for someone else without expecting anything in return, we have reached a level of perfection that no “self-help” book can teach us. The emphasis is not on the “I” but on the other person. It is the fact that we are willing to subjugate our egos for another person’s that makes us great. So long as we are trying to make ourselves better, the focus is still on us. As we get older, it becomes more and more difficult to remove ourselves from the picture, and that is why we circumcise our children when they are only eight days old.
 
However, the lesson gives us the strength to be able to continue to put others before ourselves, to put G-d before ourselves, and to continue to grow and become better people.
 
The name of the Torah portion is Lech Lecha, Go onto yourself. We should continue to grow and grow. 

What Does The Rainbow Mean To You?

The rainbow, a beautiful natural phenomenon that is caused by the dispersion of light in water drops, results in a spectrum of multi-colored light appearing in the sky. That is how one might explain its natural phenomenon. However, we might also ask ourselves: Is there is a deeper message in the rainbow?

The rainbow has been adopted by many movements to symbolize peace and tolerance and variations thereof. However, those representations didn’t come out of thin air—they originated from somewhere. What does the rainbow really teach us?

In this week’s Torah portion, after the story of the flood, G-d makes a promise that He will never destroy the world again. If he wants the world to know that it should “clean up its act,” then he will show us a rainbow.

Now, if a rainbow were not a natural phenomenon, we could understand why seeing a rainbow might shake us to the core and move us to change our ways, knowing that G-d is giving us a second chance. But since we know that a rainbow is a natural phenomenon, why would a rainbow have any such kind of effect on us?

Allow me to give you another perspective.

G-d didn’t destroy the world and then create a rainbow to remind Himself not do so again. He pushed the “reset” button so that the world would never sink to such a low spiritual level again and need to be destroyed. As a result of this “reset,” the natural outcome was the rainbow! The rainbow became the reminder of the flood that will never occur again because the world is on a higher spiritual level! 

What is even more interesting is that it’s possible for the world to be elevated to an even higher spiritual level so that a rainbow will not be needed to give us this reminder, because the world is so holy!

There were actually two times in history, during the lifetimes of King Chizkiyahu (Hezekiah) and Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochi, when the world was on such a spiritual “high” that a rainbow was not seen in the sky. Theoretically, it can happen again!

The rainbow shows us G-d’s kindness. It’s not about destruction but about rebuilding. It’s not scary, it’s beauty.

When I see a rainbow, I see G-d’s miracle revealed, and I say a blessing thanking G-d for sharing it with me. I thank G-d for giving this world to me and allowing me to partner with Him in making this world a better place and creating a “home” for Him to “live in” and to be proud of, with the hope that Moshiach will come and there will be true peace in this world. Amen.

A Man Named Chanoch

 

Here is an interesting story. There are two brothers who give the same name to their sons: Chanoch. Both fathers wanted their sons to grow up to be successful, influential and productive men. Yet it doesn’t turn out to be that way.

Why?

To understand why, we need to know the rest of the story.

In the beginning, there were not only two brothers but three. Kayin (Cain), the bad guy, killed his brother Hevel (Abel). His parents were distraught, so they begat a third son and they named him Shiet (Seth). Sheit, like his older brother Hevel was a goody-goody.

What happened to Cain after he killed his brother? The Torah teaches us that he regretted his actions and did Teshuva—he changed his ways for the better. He turned his life around and he dedicated his life to serving G-d and to educating his children. The name Chanoch, is derived from the word Chinuch – meaning educate and renew. This was his new life's dedication.

What was Seth’s life like? Well, he was naturally a good kid and as he matured, he continued on the straight path. Did he educate his children? Yes, but was he committed to their education? Not really. 

That is why the Torah tells us that although the cousins grow up at the same time, each with the same name, with a city built for them, they have high hopes for a successful legacy. Only Cain’s son Chanoch, the son of the sinner and killer, is successful. His city is the one that prospers! Is it because he is also the son of the one who changed his way, the son of the one who did Teshuvah, the one who recognized his mistakes and who rededicated his life to his children’s education? 

On the other hand, we have the perfect father Seth. He might have done nothing wrong in his life, but he also did nothing extraordinary that would make an impression on his son. That is why his son’s city falters.

The lesson that we can learn from this story, one of the first that we read in this new year, coming off of the High Holiday season, is that we should not get caught up in our past, but look at the actions that we are taking today! What are we doing to advance our Judaism in our lives?  If we do something positive, we will succeed.

 

Even the smallest infraction

When you go shopping to buy something, let’s say a piece of furniture, and you see that it has a small scratch, you might decide not to buy it. But if you do buy it, probably the little imperfection doesn’t bother you that much. However, if you buy it and the furniture gets further scratched at home, chances are that you will be very disappointed. Why is it that the imperfection had less significance in the store than it does when it is at home? 

The reason is because while the object was in the store, you were looking at something that was not yours. You had the option to choose it or not. However, once it becomes yours, it has been chosen—you and the object are one. Therefore, every imperfection is a reflection on you. 

Now we can understand an interesting law connected to our weekly Torah portion. It says that metal should not touch the stone that is used for the altar. The Talmud and the code of Jewish law say that there is a difference if the stone was chipped before the stone became part of the altar, or if it was chipped after the altar had been built. 

If the stone was chipped before, then it only becomes unusable if the chip is of a “measurable” size. But if the altar was already built, then even the smallest damage rendered it unusable and therefore it must be replaced. 

The reason is as follows: Before the stone became part of the altar, the stone hadn’t been chosen yet and therefore a small infraction was not a big deal. If, however, it became part of the altar, then it was “chosen” and perfection was required. 

This teaches us a profound lesson relating to Rosh Hashana: When we see an imperfection in another person we should be accepting and forgiving. But when we see an imperfection in ourselves, even if it is the smallest imperfection, we should work on changing ourselves to the better.

The Spy

There is a lot of hype surrounding the new show that depicts the life story of one the greatest known Israeli spies, Eli Cohen. There is a lot to say about the remarkable information that he was able to give to Israel while he was in Syria, and many lives were saved by his actions.

 

Judaism teaches us that nothing happens by mistake. The fact that this show was released during the month of Elul, the month leading up to the High Holidays, tells us we should look for a connection between Eli’s story and this time of year.

In this week’s Torah portion, also read in the month of Elul, we find a remarkable connection between the spy story and the parsha about marriage and divorce.

 

One potentially overlooked aspect of the life of a spy is the effect it has on the marriage of a couple. Eli and his wife, Nadia, were married and very much in love. However, when Eli became a spy neither was very present in the other’s life. Yet, while Eli was not physically present, it is obvious that they are both constantly thinking of each other. They eat the same foods, and dream about each other, but are not able to spend time with each other. They seem unaware of this detail in their lives – although it is happening. As far as Nadia is concerned, her husband is not present at all. Her friends tell her that he just doesn’t care, not even coming home to see her newborn child.

 

This spy story is analogous to our “marriage” with G-d. We have a very strong bond with G-d, for sure. Our visits with Him might be sporadic, or at times very regular. There are times when we mimic His ways, even if we don’t really know it. As the Midrashic saying goes, “A Jew is full of Mitzvot like a pomegranate is full of seeds.” However, the question that we could be asking ourselves is what kind of marriage do we want to have with G-d? Is there a reason for us to live the life of a spy who has no choice but to live such a challenging lifestyle? If we were living in Syria today, we too – perhaps – would have to hide our relationship with G-d. But we live in a free country, in a land that not only permits us to live as Jews, but allows us the freedom to practice our religion in public. There is no reason for us to “hide” our feelings for G-d. It is more than OK for us to demonstrate our love in our marriage with G-d openly, and not be ashamed to express it in public. Our friends and neighbors should not be asking us: Why are you a Jew? What does it mean to be a Jew? They should understand and see our commitment and be proud that we have something special!

 

Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova!

Black vs. Blue

All lives matter. The question is not which ones matter more; the question is which color is more powerful. I am not talking about skin color, but the color of the uniform. Is the black robe or the blue uniform more powerful?  Is it the judge who rules from the bench or the police officer who enforces the law more important? 

From one perspective we can say that it is the police officer who enforces the law. Since without police, the judge can say whatever they want from today to tomorrow—it will not change a thing if the law cannot be applied. On the other hand, we need the judge to make the call, to say who is right and who is wrong. Without judges, there is no law and order to begin with.  

However if all the judge is doing is telling us what we should already know on our own, then the officer is surely the more important player here. After all, police make sure that we live in a civil society by implementing the law in our lives. True, we might not know the law, but that is out of ignorance; or we might know the law but we disagree about how to interpret the law.

There is yet another way of viewing judges. They can be teachers. They have the opportunity to delve into the law to see if there is anything unique in a particular case, both in its unique circumstances and to see if people can learn from it. The judge has the opportunity to learn and to teach, and even to come up with new ideas within the framework of the law. By doing so, the judge is not just telling us what the law says; they are informing and forming people. They are teaching us how to lead productive lives, and bringing peace not only in their courtrooms but to society as a whole. That is how they can become true leaders. 

Yes, we need the officers to enforce the law, but for judges to be truly important they need to be influencers.  


Physical Therapy

If you ever had to undergo physical therapy, you know it is not fun. Every stretch, every movement, is painful. Yet, you go through the repetitions, counting one, two, three, up to fifteen. You take a break and you start over again. You go through all that pain. Why not just throw in the towel and say, fuhgettaboutit (like they say in Brooklyn)! I can tell you first-hand about my own experience. I am working through a frozen shoulder right now, and it is mighty painful to do the stretches. However, I know that if I want my situation to improve, I must work through the pain until I improve. 

The same is true with every good thing in life. If you want to learn how to play an instrument, you must practice, and it is not always fun. It’s the same with sports, etc. 
 
How about when it comes to doing acts of kindness? 
 
One might think that it would be natural to “Just Do It!” Isn’t it in our nature to want to help someone else out? What kind of question are we even asking? 
 
Yes, the Torah, in this week’s portion, tells us a fascinating verse. When it comes to charity it says, “Open shall you open your hand” and “give shall you give” to the poor person. Why does the Torah use a double expression each time if it is not only obvious but also so easy to do? 
 
Our sages teach us that even doing good acts requires training. Open your hand once, then again, then again, and again and again and again. Don’t get tired of being a giving person. Give shall you give. Never get to the point where you can say I am too tired of being kind. We should train ourselves to be the giving kind. 
 
Thinking we are a giving person and being a giving person is not the same. Being that kind of person means that even when we tire of giving, we still give when we see someone in need. This is the lesson of the Torah portion. 
As we enter the month of Elul leading into the High Holiday season, it is high time to think about what we are doing to prepare for the big day. It is not to early to act. 
 
Shabbat Shalom 

Was It His To Break?

One of the most famous episodes in the Torah is the story of Moses breaking the two tablets. What is interesting about the story is that when Moses retells it to the Jewish people, as he does in this week’s Torah portion, he says, “I took hold of the tablets and cast them out of my hands and shattered them before your eyes” (9:17).

The commentators point out the uniqueness of this verse’s choice of words “I took hold.” Wasn’t Moses already holding the tablets? What does it mean when Moses said that he took hold? From whom did he grab the tablets? 
 
Some commentators hypothesize that Moses grabbed the tablets from G-d who didn’t want him to break them. Others seem to think that the elders wanted to keep them, hoping that Moses wouldn’t be so upset at the Jews for making the golden calf. Yet Moses overpowered them, and took hold of the tablets and shattered them. The common thread between these (and other) ways of thinking is that Moses was adamant that the Jews should not have the tablets. (Eventually they did get a second set.) 
 
The BIG question that must be addressed is: Even if we say that Moses had good reason to break the tablets, did that give him the right to do so? From a purely “legal standpoint,” just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean you have the right to do so. 
 
This is similar to what we saw this past week with Israel. There are U.S. Congresswomen who openly defy Israel and are pro-BDS. Nevertheless, the question must be asked, does Israel have the legal right to deny them entry into the Holy Land? In fact, Israel does have a law on their books that states clearly that anyone who is pro-BDS will be denied entry, so they do have legal standing to deny entry. (That is why there is that law.)   
 
On what grounds did Moses break the tablets? Seemingly he “stole” the tablets from the Jewish people! How could he justify that? 
 
The truth is that G-d gave the tablets to Moses; the “Ten Commandments” He gave to the Jewish people. Moses, in his kindness, was planning to share the tablets with the Jewish people. But when he saw the Jewish people behave the way they did, he decided to break the tablets, as they weren’t deserving of them. However, before he did, he took “hold of them” to demonstrate that they were his, and only his. Once everyone knew that they were his, did he break his treasured tablets.
 
This is what a leader is like. Leaders put their personal needs aside and they look out for the needs of the community. When Moses saw that the Jews would be held accountable for their sin, he broke the tablets – which contain the law to not serve an idol – so that he could protect his treasured nation of Israel.  
 
This is a true leader, a person who puts the people first. 

 

Emotional Intelligence

When you first hear the two words “emotional intelligence” together you have to wonder: Don’t they clash? Emotions are feelings, while intelligence is understanding. Feelings are warm and fuzzy, and can get in the way of our brain functioning properly. Thinking and analyzing on the other hand, can be cold and distant, which can get in the way of us having a warm and fuzzy feeling. How then do these two words come together? 


How can we have Intelligence that is emotional, and how can we have emotion that is intelligent? 

One of the most famous prayers, the Shema, which is in this week’s Torah portion, says, “(And) You should love G-d with all your heart.” How do you love G-d with all your heart?  “Love” is an emotion. How can we be commanded to have an emotion? We can be asked to do an action, to “behave as if we love,” but to actually love, that is asking too much.  

This question is asked by many famous commentators. Some respond that it is true, that we cannot be asked to actually have an emotion, just to “act as if we have the emotion.” In modern terms it would be called “behavior therapy.” Do the right thing and with time, the feelings will follow. 

Others argue that the Torah is teaching us that we should have “emotional intelligence.” 
This means that we have to think about our feelings. Why should we love G-d? Who is G-d? What does He do for us? What about this vast world that He has created, and continues to create? The more we contemplate G-d, the more we will come to appreciate Him and eventually come to love Him. If we haven’t reached the level of love, then it is a sign that we have not studied Him enough.  

The field of emotional intelligence is not new. The Torah has been teaching us all along to get in tune with our emotions. To know who we are, how we feel. To understand what our feelings are telling us and to guide those feelings in meaningful ways.  

This is ultimately what emotional intelligence is all about, the merging of the whole. We are not two people, one with a heart and one with a mind, but a whole person, who uses our mind and heart as one, to become a complete person so that we can love and understand. To use our head and heart at the same time. 

9th of Av

This Shabbat is the 9th of Av, the anniversary of the destruction of the Holy Temple, but we observe this sad day on Sunday so as to honor Shabbat. I would like to share with you a peculiar Midrash, which helps explain the depth of this week’s observance. On the day that the Holy Temple was destroyed, an Arab who lived far away from Jerusalem heard a donkey braying, and commented that it must have meant the Holy Temple was destroyed. A few moments later he heard the donkey braying again, and this time he said it meant that the process of their redemption had started.

I am not sharing this story just because of its unusual subject matter, but because it answers a fundamental question: How is it possible for G-d to have destroyed the Temple when Torah law states that you cannot destroy a building, let alone a holy place, for no purpose? You definitely cannot destroy something out of rage, which, seemingly, is what G-d has done.
The Arab’s comments were insightful: He was saying that G-d didn’t destroy for the sake of destroying; he destroyed with the anticipation of rebuilding!
 
The Arab commented that although the Jews could see only a burned Temple at that time, they should have realized that G-d had already planned their comeback. The future redemption had already begun.
 
The same idea applies to us as well today. There are times when we may feel that our “house” is burning and everything that we have built is falling apart, but sometimes the only way out is to let go. What is important is that at the same time that we are letting go, we start rebuilding!
 
This idea is reflected in this week’s Haftarah as well. The main theme of the Haftarah is about the destruction of the Temple, but then it finishes with the statement that by giving Tzedukah, we will be redeemed and brought back to Jerusalem.
 
This teaches us that not only should we never give up hope, we have to take some positive steps as well.

First Responders

First responders are taught to protect their own lives first, and only then go in to help someone. However, if we intend to “save a life,” shouldn’t we immediately run into a burning house just to save a life? You hear it all the time, people saying, “I would do anything to save another person.” Yet, we see that first responders are told not to do that. In order to save someone else, you must know that you are safe first.

The reason for this is that when you put your life in danger, you could become a “walking dead person.” When your life is in danger, you cannot help someone else, and that creates more than one problem.
It is interesting that this logic applies not only to life and death, but this law appears in this week’s Torah portion.
 
This week we read about the laws that define a “City of Refuge.” A City of Refuge was a safe haven for people who inadvertently killed another person. As long as they lived in this city, no one could touch them. If they left the city, however, the victim’s family members might take revenge (i.e., take the law into their own hands). The question arises, what happens if this person’s expertise is needed outside the city limits? Can their rights be protected? Since the whole reason they want to leave the city limits is to “help someone else,” one would think that they should be protected.
 
However, the law states that if they leave, they are not protected.      
 
From here we learn that although it is so important to help another person, we must make sure that we don’t give up our own principles in the process.

Shabbat Shalom

The story of Pinchas reads like a novel, it is hard to believe that this is a “biblical story.”  There is public lewd behavior by Zimri, the head of a tribe, then Pinchas, stops him in middle of the act, by killing him and the Midyanite princess with whom he is cohabitating with. By doing so, he also stops the plague that takes the lives of 24,000 Jews!  Yet, the Jews belittled him with names to the point that they wanted to kill him.  

The Torah tells us who Pinchas was:  Pinchas the son of Elazar the son of Aaron the high priest, we learn that the Jewish people – all the Jewish people, not just the tribe of Shimon, of which ZImri was its leader – were mocking him for killing Zimri saying: You killed him because you are a cruel person.  and this cruelty you inherited from your mother’s father, Jethro!  You see, Jethro was an idol worshiper, and he was a cruel one at that.  He used to feed the cattle extra feed befohe would slaughter them so that they would be, not only better tasting animals and easier to kill, but worse, by feeding them in advance, they wouldn’t think that they are being slaughtered just after they were given such a good meal. That is cruelty par-excellence.  
 
The Jewish people were saying that Pinchas and his maternal grandfather were one and the same: Cruel people.  
 
G-d, on the other hand had a different perspective. Aaron, Pinchas’s paternal grandfather was a man of peace, a man who pursued peace. It is his DNA that Pinchas inherited. 
 
Peace loving people have a tendency to share their love all the time. It’s a felling and a personality trait that one can pass onto their children naturally. So, it anyway makes more sense to say that Pinchas inherited Aaron’s traits. Pincahs wasn’t cruel. He was kind.  He killed Zimri because he was acting wrongly. G-d rwards Pinchas, not just for his act, but to show the Jews that Pinchas was a just and kind man.
 
We can learn a very powerful message from this story:  Many times, we accuse someone of doing something for the wrong reasons. When it is not true (although it may seem so).  Even if it is a “little bit” true, nu, let the person work it out and come around the right reasons.  However, for now we should allow the person to just do their thing (as long as they are not hurting anyone – or themselves).  We don’t always know what makes someone tick.  What gets their blood flowing. What makes them behave the way they are.  
 
What matters is that we do the things we do to serve G-d. 

Learn Something From Everyone

Is there a person who you cannot stand so much that even mentioning their name makes you cringe? How about a building that evokes a feeling so harsh that you cannot even look at it? Do you feel guilty about those feelings? Perhaps you are onto something, and there’s a reason for those feelings.

 
What is interesting is that there is a law in the Torah that states one should not use an “idol” or an “idol-worshipper” as a reference or even as a landmark, lest someone think that your innocent reference to it can be interpreted as support. So, if this thing or person is so repugnant to you – for good reason – then there might be good reason not to mention it by name.
 
This makes us wonder, why is it that in our Torah portion when we have these shady characters of Balak and Billam, who try to curse the Jewish people, that not only does the Torah talk about them, the Torah portion of the week is even called by the name Balak! Shouldn’t we avoid him at any cost? Why is Balak the center of our story?
 
When G-d uses his name, we are confident that G-d is mentioning it, not in support of him, but to call him out. To let us know how not tobehave. What not to serve. Think about the campaign “don’t use drugs.” True, that slogan includes the word “drugs” but if that is all that you took from the slogan, then you missed its message. Clearly the message is: “Don’t use!”  
 
It’s the same with Balak. Because the Torah refers to him as an evil man, we will not think of following him; just the opposite, we will know how not to behave.

At times, it is just as important to teach ourselves and those around us how not to behave, as it is important to teach us how we should behave!
 
This week the Torah teaches us that we have to learn from everyone: From some we learn how to live our lives like them, and from others we learn how to live not like them.

 

Accepting Reality As-Is

In the world of business, it is well known that in order to have a cohesive workforce, it is important that everyone understands the fundamentals of the business’ mission statement. Not only what the company sells and does, but also why this company is a place where they should want to work. Especially in today’s competitive job market, it is imperative that company leadership creates an environment where everyone wants to “buy in,” and do so with enthusiasm. If a company cannot capture this fire within its staff, then the rate of employee retention goes down. People will come to work unhappy, or become less productive. That is why you see company after company invest in innovative ways to keep employees happy, engaged, and productive, lest they jump ship. 


This is a very rational approach to running a business. However, the moment a company falls on hard times and the perks start to disappear, frequently, so does the talent. Yet, how about the owners? Do they run for cover, or do they stick it out?  

You know the answer; they are here to stay and work through the difficult times.  Why is it that the owners must stay with the sinking ship? 

The answer is that the relationship an owner or founder has with his or her business is much deeper than just a rational relationship with the company where they work; They have a “super-rational” connection, a deep connection on a higher and deeper level. While on most days they run their company making rational decisions, something inside them allows them to accept the reality “as is.”

Every company owner wishes that their employees would endure the difficult times with the same commitment as they have, and not jump ship when things get tough. The owner is willing to stay committed, yet, we don’t see that happen as much with employees. Can this change? 

Let’s change the analogy from business and think about our Judaism for a moment. Yes, Judaism has much meaning, inspiring music, and customs. Judaism brings joy and fulfillment into our lives. On many days, we wake up in the morning and we declare proudly that we are Jews! However, what happens when we have a downer of a day? When we question G-d? Should we just throw in the towel and say good-bye to G-d? How do we maintain our connection to G-d in times of doubt? 

This is where this week’s Torah portion comes in to answer our questions.    

In Judaism we find that there are three categories of Mitzvot: Chukim/Super -Rational laws, Eidut/Testimonials, and Mishpatim/Common-Sense laws. 

Why the need for Chukim/Super-Rational laws? 

Super-Rational laws give us that opportunity to connect to G-d on a soul-to-soul level. This doesn’t limit us to just rational thinking. Going back to the business analogy, think of the difference between the owner and the worker when it comes to the company going through a rough time. At that point, the deeper the connection and the LESS rational thinking involved, the healthier the person. Not because they are not thinking rationally, but because they are being SUPER rational. There is a deep, a very deep, connection, that cannot be explained with words, to the point that it doesn’t need an explanation. Perhaps we can even say that an explanation will trivialize the relationship.   

This is the gift that G-d gave us: the ability to connect to Him, not as an employee, but as an owner. To claim ownership of our Judaism. To own our Judaism, we sometimes just have to accept it “as is.” 

Knowing this, we can, and should, hold onto G-d even during hard times. 
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