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Rabbi Shaya's Thoughts

Intelligent Relationships

How do you know when to take a complaint seriously?

 

We often hear whispers – people talking about different issues – and we are not sure if they are truly unhappy about certain things. We may wonder, if it is true that people are concerned, why don’t they just say so clearly? We often find this reticence within a company whose employees may be disappointed with certain policies, or children who are saddened by something at home. Same with students in a classroom. 

 

How do we know when it is real and when it is not?

 

In this week’s Torah portion, we see how the Jews complained to each other in their homes about whether G-d would bring them into the promised land of Israel or not. Why did they murmur in their homes and not do so publicly?

 

From this we see that they really did believe that G-d would protect them. Perhaps they were nervous about how it would happen—would the war be successful? Would people die? Yet, they had faith. If they had lacked faith, they would have made a lot of noise and they would have done so publicly.

 

We see from this that when people complain in public, it means that they are passionate about what they are saying. It does not mean that they are right or wrong. However, it does mean that they are confident. They are willing to stand behind their words. On the other hand, when people walk around quietly and go from person to person and talk, that means that they may be frustrated and unhappy, but deep down they don’t really believe that things are bad or that things will not work out. 

 

A lesson that we can take from this is that we should make an effort to always remain positive and keep our belief strong that things will work out for the best.

 

Shabbat Shalom.

The Mask Debate

 

“If you have two Jews, you have three opinions,” is one of the most famous Jewish jokes. However, I take this as a compliment, since it shows that we are a thinking people. It is not only my opinion and your opinion that we are considering, but we even think about a third perspective. Perhaps a perspective that neither of us agree on, but hopefully we will come to an agreement.

 

When I think about the current situation regarding coronavirus, especially when I read the latest updates on the medical front and it says there is hope for developments at the end of 2021 (that’s right 2021 – not even 2020), I realize more and more every day that we are in this for the long haul. Although there are two sides to every argument, I hope there is at least the “third” perspective that we can all agree on, and that is that we want to end this pandemic as soon as humanly possible.

 

I am a rabbi after all, so I would like to share with you a lesson that we can learn from this week’s Torah portion. When discussing the subject of an “inadvertent murder,” we are taught that the victim can be avenged by the victim’s family. But in order to save the killer’s life, he/she can run to a “city of refuge,” and while in this city feel protected. Where no one can take revenge. Where they are safe. But when can this person leave the city of refuge? The answer is, once the “high priest” dies. (These laws, permission to take revenge, the ability to protect oneself in the city of refuge, and the condition to stay as long as the high priest was alive, applied only in the times of the Holy Temple.)

 

Not to get into the nuance of this law, but I do want to address one obvious question: What does the high priest have to do with this inadvertent murderer? Why does he go free when the priest dies? How are the two connected?

 

Aha! You see, every one of us is connected! There is no such a thing as one person sitting in the holiest chamber, in the holiest building in the world and only concerning himself with his own business. The fact that the high priest did not pray, every day, that a Jew should not err and kill someone – even unintentionally – automatically binds their lives together as one. I am here for you and you are here for me.  We are intertwined, whether we like it or not.  That is why, as long as the priest is alive, the killer must remain in the city of refuge. Once the priest dies, however, the killer is forgiven for his sin because the death of the priest, or his/her own death acts as atonement for the inadvertent death. To put it another way, the holiest Jew and the “killer-Jew” are one.

 

The lesson is clear: We cannot live life thinking only about what is best for us. We must realize, today more than ever, that our lives are intertwined.  To work our way through this pandemic, we, as a nation, must come together, united as one, and do something – the same thing, so that we can achieve success. You and I are interconnected. We are one.

 

What that thing is, well, that is where the debate lies. … Should we be in total lockdown? Or open in a green phase with masks and social distancing? Or should there be a total reopening? Or, perhaps there are even more opinions. That is not the point. 

 

It should not be a debate. The “thing” is to listen to the guidance of the government. If the government is saying that for now it is safe to be in a green phase abiding by CDC guidelines, masks, social distancing, hand washing, etc., then we should all be following those rules. The question whether the government is right or wrong, is beside the point. (That is like asking if the person is guilty of murder. That is not the discussion.)

 

Let us be united, and through unity, we will bring health and prosperity to the world.

 

Shabbat Shalom.

Coming to Terms with the Inexplicable

As thinking people, we tend to want to understand everything about our lives. When things happen to us that are inexplicable, we have a hard time wrapping our heads around it. Why, we ask ourselves. 

 

Perhaps, if we think about it, it is good for us not to understand everything and just accept that certain things are out of our control. When we know that we are not in command of every aspect of our lives, we have less anxiety.

 

This does not mean that we should not try to comprehend, but when things come up in our lives that are beyond our sway, we should just learn how to accept them.

 

We learn this concept from this week's Torah portion, Chukat. Chukat means laws that are inexplicable. Specifically, the portion talks about the laws of purity and impurity, and how to purify oneself (in the times of the Temple), with the red heifer. One detail that is relevant to our discussion is that if a person comes in contact with a corpse, the person becomes ritually impure. What is interesting to note is that even if only one finger touched the corpse, the whole person becomes impure, not only their finger.  When part of your body is affected, your whole body is affected.

 

Although the laws of purity and impurity are more complex than our understanding, the lesson is clear.

 

We cannot compartmentalize who we are as people. There is a part that understands and a part that doesn’t, but we are viewed as one whole person. When we learn to accept the things in our lives that we cannot understand, such as the will of G-d, it will have a positive effect on everything that we do. We will feel connected to G-d when we understand, and even when we don’t. This will help us have a happy disposition toward life.

 

Interestingly, the Torah wants us to understand the Torah and not to follow it blindly. Yet at the same time, there is an advantage to having just one little “finger-worth” of Torah that is unexplainable, that can teach us this positive lesson. This lesson teaches us how to always have a positive attitude in life.

 

In today's environment when there is still so much unknown, we yearn to understand, yet we cannot. We want to have some order and direction, yet we can’t find it. We just accept it as is. We are asked to accept that we don’t have the answers. We are asked to accept that it is OK to go shopping and to socialize, but at the same time, you must also wear a mask. Not all of it makes sense to a lot of people. However, we are being asked to just follow along. We should see ourselves as just a finger, and the world is the body, and keep our eye on the big picture.

Asking Questions or Making Statements?

Today everyone is an expert. You go to the doctor with an ailment, and you are already telling the doctor what to prescribe. Not only because you did your research on Google, but because the advertisements tell you to go to your doctor and tell them what you need.

 

It’s the same in many areas in our life. 

 

However, on deeper reflection we should question this behavior.

 

Researching so that you are educated, so that when you go to a professional for advice, you can understand what they are talking about, that is a good idea. But to think that we are the professional who has all the answers? Is that the right attitude?

 

In this week’s Torah portion, we read the story of the spies. This event had a major impact on the Jewish people. In short, this is the story of 12 leaders of the Jewish people who were sent by Moses to scout out the Land of Israel to see how best to capture the land. Not if to enter, but how to enter. Ten of the twelve came back and gave advice.  Instead of reporting on the how, they mixed in their own perspective on the if and the why and the consequences of entering Israel. They placed themselves into positions of authority.

 

The lesson that the Torah teaches us is that it is OK to raise a question. It is a whole different story when you think that you also know the answer.

 

When you visit your doctor it is important to let them know that something is hurting you – how can they know your problem if you don’t let them know where you are hurting? However, you also must allow them to figure out how to best treat it. Of course, you don’t only want to have a friendly doctor but a doctor who is a friend so that you are guaranteed to get the best treatment and feel confident that your needs are being met.

 

In the desert the Jews were in good hands. Moses was a leader who cared about each and every Jew. There was no question that he was looking out for their best interest. The moment the spies stepped over the line and started giving advice instead of just reporting, was the moment they tainted their report with their own opinions. No longer were they asking questions; now they were making statements. That is a big difference.

 

If we want to make change, ask good and hard questions. 

Finding Happiness in New Times

 This week we had a most beautiful and different kind of preschool graduation. These times call for innovation. On the surface, one may say that it is sad, that you cannot experience the life that we are used to. The children want to play with their friends. People want to see each other’s smiles – without the mask that hides them. Social distancing clearly is getting to people. As I watched and listened to the teachers read the graduates’ “report” of the closing of the year, what the children were missing the most was the time that they spend with their friends.

 

Putting a smile on our faces is important. A meaningful smile is even more important. Celebrating milestones in our lives, in a fun way, is even more important.

 

Wait a second. …. Why?

 

From a spiritual perspective, why celebrate? Shouldn’t we just focus on “holy” things? Why get caught up on mundane matters? What is the big deal about being secluded? Don’t ”holy” people do that? Lock themselves up in some building and close off the world and just pray to G-d day and night? Why the need to celebrate life?

 

This week’s Torah portion teaches us about the extra sacrifices on the holidays (vs. on Shabbat) and this was cause for celebration. After the destruction of the Temple, when offerings were no longer brought, the happiness continued because there is more to the holiday than just the offerings. The holiday itself is cause for celebration.

 

Times get tough. When the Temple was destroyed the Jews hoped and prayed that it would be rebuilt. We still pray, 2,000 years later, that it will be rebuilt! Yet, they had to look at the times and live in the present moment and ask, Are we happy only because of an offering or is it because of the holiday itself? They came to recognize two points—that they had to find the joy within the holiday itself, and that Judaism recognizes our bodily needs. We are not G-dly bodies, but human beings. We enjoy a good meal, a fun time, and a good celebration. That is why we celebrate holidays even after the Temple’s destruction.

 

Same applies to our times. Are things different today? Absolutely. Is that a reason not to celebrate? No.  We have to find alternate ways to make a meaningful graduation for little children, and for high school and college graduates.   

 

In our own family, we just celebrated our son Zalman’s Bar Mitzvah and we will be celebrating our son Mendel’s wedding. The celebrations are of different kinds of joy, but the happiness that will go along with the celebrations, will know no bounds.

Being Privileged

In these past two weeks America has been turned upside down. Some demonstrations have been peaceful, bringing our attention to the plight of the Blacks in our communities. (Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy  is a great book, if you want to educate yourself on this subject). Other demonstrations have turned into riots where people have taken a cause and sadly shamed themselves and our country.

 

People are asking: Are the police to blame? Is White Privilege the problem? Is it because Black lives don’t matter? Heaven forbid, I hope not!

 

Then what is the problem? More importantly, how do we find a solution? Clearly, burning and looting other peoples’ property is definitely not the answer.

 

Let us look into the Torah for some guidance. Specifically, this week’s Torah portion. 

 

The story starts out telling us how the family of Kehot carried the ark that the Torah and the tablets were held in, and for this merit they are always mentioned first. Yes, they had privileges. And with those privileges came responsibilities.

 

This did not make them better. What it did make them is responsible for being keepers of the Torah. They had to learn the Torah so that they knew what it said inside. They had to teach it and guard it. However, and this is very important, in order for them to do so successfully, they had to do so with humility! If they had allowed this honor to get to their heads and become egotistical, then they would stop teaching and sharing and start preaching. They would be a friend no longer but a person who looks down at their neighbors and no longer an example unto others.

 

The Torah is teaching us that the teacher and the student need to have a dose of humility, to be able to teach as well as to be able to learn. This way the teacher becomes a student and the student becomes a teacher. There is a relationship between the two.  It no longer matters who is who. 

 

There is a story about a mother whose son wanted to marry a women of color, and although the mother liked the girl, she was uncomfortable with the color of her skin, and wasn’t sure how to deal with her emotions. Should she just accept her son’s desire to marry whomever he wished to? Or should she let her bias be known? She turned to the Lubavitch Rebbe for advice. The Rebbe responded, “Do you know why the Torah is written with black letters on white parchment?” he rhetorically asked her, and he right away gave the answer: “Because G-d is colorblind.” With that one-line, all her doubts were removed.    

 

We too, should be colorblind; we should look at a person based on their actions. Get to know people. Become their friends. The better we get to know someone, the more we can learn from them and them from us. 

 

Pointing fingers will do no one good, unless we are pointing at ourselves.

 

The Kehot family said yes, we are privileged to carry the ark, therefore we are going to share its teachings with others. If we hold it for ourselves, then what does the privilege mean?

 

If we want to change the world, let us start by making a new friend

Are you a Red, Yellow, or Green Jew?

 These days we sit and wait week after week thinking, when are we going to move from red to yellow and eventually from yellow to green? We know that these transitions are not dependent on us, but on factors that are out of our control. Yet, we hope that the situation will improve so that our lives can return to some normalcy.

 

This got me thinking—If I had to grade myself, what color would I give myself? Not in regards to corona, but in regards to Judaism. Am I a red, yellow, or green Jew? 

 

The Red Jew: You stop in your tracks. You are a Jew because you are a member of the tribe. You are the “chosen nation.” You might not be too sure what that really means but you know that if someone calls you a Jew, you know that they are referring to you.

 

The Yellow Jew: You stop and take pause. You think about it once in a while. You might light the Shabbat candles, make Kiddush Friday night, or lay the Tefillin. You have a charity box in your home and pay synagogue dues. You have a mezuzah on your front door. You proudly identify yourself as a Jew wherever you go!

 

The Green Jew: You are a Jew-on-the-go. You are always looking for a mitzvah to do. On an ongoing, daily basis you are thinking, planning, talking, and acting like a Jew. Perhaps you are even an activist on behalf of Israel or some other Jewish cause. One thing is for sure, when it comes to Judaism, you are always on the go!

 

As we prepare for the Shavuot holiday, let’s all be in the Green Zone, even if only spiritually.

What Is the Upside to the Coronavirus?

Let’s be honest: Before this all started, how often did we spend quality time with our spouses and our children? Yes, an hour here and there, a vacation for a week here and there. But two months (and counting)? Unheard of!

 

If you are alone the next question will still apply, but perhaps not as resolutely. I am sure we are all spending more time thinking about the big questions in life. Who is really the provider of life, of our livelihood, of our health? One day we might have a job, and the next day it can be gone. One day the stock market is up, and the next it can fall. We start to think after all, is there a “creator to this world?” Who is pulling the strings? Is it President Trump, Dr. Fauci, or Governor Wolf?

 

This week’s Torah portion talks about the Mitzvah of the Sabbatical year, a Mitzvah that is still practiced today in Israel. Every seventh year, farmers must let their fields lay fallow. One way to understand the reason for this commandment is that when we work the land, even if we try to remember at all times that all our blessings come from G-d, it is easy to forget – at times - where our livelihood truly comes from. Therefore, once every seven years we take a year off, which forces us to rely on the blessings from heaven. This reminds us that even during the years that we do work the land, it is not our hard toil that brings us our blessings; it’s G-d that provides for us.  

 

So, although we must do our part, we also keep in mind that the blessings come from G-d. This can be done in two ways: Thinking that we are the main providers and G-d is just our “support system,” or, we can look at it the other way around—that G-d is our provider and we are just the ones who create the conduit for G-d's blessings to take hold.  

 

We are now living a “sabbatical” of sorts. Working at home is still work, don’t get me wrong. But since we are spending more time at home, it does give us this opportunity to think about G-d, our provider.

This gift of time allows us to slow down, even though this is sometimes very difficult to do. 

 

However, now that we have been forced to put the brakes on life and even come to a screeching halt, let’s take the time to think about G-d's role in our lives, how He is the ultimate provider. Even if life is hard now, things will turn around—they always have. G-d does not remain a “debtor;” if we do our part, he will do His.  

Should We Be Enforcing Mask-wearing?

Recently we have seen in the news that the police in New York are issuing summons to people not wearing masks.   

 

The question is: Is this method effective? Or is it better to use a positive approach by handing out free masks to those in need?  

 

This week’s Torah portion, Emor, starts with, “G-d telling Moses to tell the Kohanim (priests), the children of Aaron, that they should not become ritually impure.” This double expression (telling and tell) teaches us that it is the responsibility of the elders to teach the younger generation these laws. Or to interpret it another way, it is the responsibility of the courts to teach these laws.

  

Let’s apply this teaching to our lives today. The elders and parents should teach the young. Or the courts, meaning the authorities and the police force, should teach the public how to remain pure and safe from any virus and disease. How is this done? By education. This is not done by punishment. This is done by positive reinforcement.   

 

When we teach a child what it means to grow up to be a holy “priest” and how special it is to be able to serve G-d, this child wants to be extra careful in his or her behavior so that they are always pure and holy.  

 

If we cannot inspire ourselves in our behavior, how can we expect to inspire others? When we practice responsible social distancing (according to CDC guidelines) then when the economy starts to reopen and we go back to work, others will do likewise, not because they fear that we will snitch on them, but because they are inspired to do the same.  

 

We are in this together. Let us be a holy nation. A nation of “priests.” Let us remain healthy and happy and let us pray that a remedy will be found for this awful coronavirus quickly! 

 

Shabbat Shalom. 

 

 

Celebrating Judaism at Home

 At a time when we are all homebound, the yearning to go to synagogue becomes stronger. We miss seeing people. We miss praying together as a congregation. We miss the camaraderie.  We simply miss congregating.  However, we can also ask ourselves: Isn’t being “cut off” from the world a holy and spiritual endeavor that we should all aspire to?  

 

On a recent Backstage production, they were talking about utilizing this time of quarantine to slow down and so on, when someone said, yes, that’s called Shabbos!  

 

Yes, we have Shabbos, and we certainly have the most holy of all days of the year, Yom Kippur, when we go to synagogue for much of the day, we fast, pray and feel inspired. Back in the days of the Holy Temple, the High Priest would prepare for this day for a week in advance, separating from his family while he lived on the Temple grounds.  

 

Today, I would like to take a lesson, not from Yom Kippur itself, but from the end of the holiday, when the High Priest would finally return home. The custom was for the Jewish community to follow him home and the High Priest and his family would host a huge party for everyone!  

 

The purpose of Yom Kippur is to forgive all of us for the sins we committed during the year. However, the High Priest is not meant to be separated from the community and seen as “higher” than everyone else, but rather to be one of us, one who feels the pain and suffering of each and every member of the Jewish people.  

 

That is why first and foremost he prays for himself and his immediate family, to show that he is relevant, a real down-to-earth person; then and only then does he pray for the rest of the Jewish community.   

 

After Yom Kippur is over, when the first thing he does is go home, to his lovely family, he teaches us that as holy as Yom Kippur is, and as holy as the Holy Temple is, Judaism is meant to be celebrated in the home.

 

Today, we are celebrating Judaism in our home, not necessarily because we want to, but because we must. Let’s embrace it, as this is the highest level of serving G-d! 

 

Finding the Hidden Treasures

There are times when we feel that the laws of the Torah may be too stringent. One such example is in this week’s Torah portion when we are given the laws of the Metzorah. Here are the details in short: 

 

Let’s say someone is inflicted with tzara’at (for lack of an exact English translation, some form of leprosy), and it spreads from a person to their clothes and finally to the walls of their home (like mold). The treatment to rid the home of this tzara’at is to destroy the home!   

 

Don’t worry, though: The famous commentator Rashi quoting from the Midrash, tells us the Emorites hid many valuables in their walls when they heard that the Jews would be making their way toward Israel. Eventually, when a Jewish house – which once was an Emorite home – would be destroyed because of the tzara’at, they would find these valuables. So, although it looks like a punishment, there is a hidden treasure within the punishment.      

 

It is interesting to point out that although Rashi is quoting the Midrash, he changes the words of the Midrash and instead of writing the “Canaanites” (the general term that describes all the nations that lived in Israel at the time), he mentions one specific tribe that lived in one area, the “Emorites.” From this we learn that there is a lesson to be learned.  

 

Emor means “to say.” There are hidden messages in the words that we say. When they are bad words, they can cause damage, to the extent that we can be punished with tzara’at; but even within this “punishment” we can reveal a reward, something even greater—we can find an inner treasure. All we must do is look. Sometimes we place them there ourselves, and sometimes they are placed there by others.  

 

Being home for the foreseeable future, we are doing some cleaning and we are finding some treasures of our own. This has encouraged some great conversation. Look around your own home and see if you can find a treasure of your own. The trick is to keep all the words that we say to be positive, as our words reveal the hidden “I”.  

 

Shabbat Shalom. 

Are We All Professionals?

Overnight, parents became teachers, people who always ate out are preparing meals for themselves and their loves ones, and people who worked in teams suddenly find they are fending for themselves. The world has turned upside down. Or perhaps, did it turn downside up?
 

Is there a positive side to all of this?
 

We find an interesting lesson in this week’s Torah portion where it talks about building the courtyard fence. 
 

Seemingly, it was a simple task to set up the foundation blocks, hammer the pegs into the ground, and tighten the string that would hold up the fence surrounding the courtyard. Yet, we find that this task necessitated talented people who knew how to tighten the ropes so that the material would not sail in the wind. It was not enough to have talented individuals to weave the beautiful tapestry, goldsmiths to create the fine gold ornaments for the temple, carpenters to hew the large wood beams, and so on.  Every single task required skilled craftsmanship.
 

This is a lesson for all of us. Until this week, we handed off many of our daily “routine” tasks to others. From educating our children to preparing our meals. Suddenly, we are noticing that these tasks require talent and care, and requires us to step up to the plate and learn quickly how to accomplish these tasks.  Things that we took for granted, not noticing their value, have suddenly been brought into focus and taught us that yes, this too, takes skill.
 

The Torah calls all these talented people Chachmie Lev, meaning caring, wise people. To be one requires not only an understanding of what has to get done, but to do so with passion and sincerity. 
 

We, too, should embrace our “new” roles with wisdom and passion, or to use the more modern vernacular, emotional intelligence, as we embark on this short-term lockdown of our society. 
 

Let’s utilize this quality time with our loved ones to learn together, play together, and be creative together, to create positive family memories together and ultimately, as a nation, we will pull out of this together as a healthy nation!
 

Shabbat Shalom. 

Wash Your Hands!

How important is it to wash your hands? Better yet, is this a new phenomenon? A few weeks ago a doctor stood up in shul and told everyone to start being more careful about shaking hands, about “social distancing,” about the importance of good hygiene, and so on. He even gave us a quick history lesson on why Jews have been spared, historically, from plagues because we have a tradition of washing ourselves more frequently than other peoples.  

 

Where does this tradition come from?  

 

From this week’s Torah portion!  

   

The first thing that the priests did when they entered the tabernacle/temple to serve, was to wash their hands and feet in a specially made wash basin. This was obligatory.   

    

From here we learn that the first thing we do every morning before we say our morning prayers, is wash our hands.  


One may think that this washing of the hands is a “traditional” purification done by the priests before entering the temple, and we just mimic their behavior so that we can remember what they have done. This may be true on some level, but it is much more than just that.   

 

If it were just a ritual purification of the hands, then why did they wash their feet? They didn’t have paved roads like we have today, so they cleaned themselves off so that they could simply be clean, as the verse says, “Prepare yourselves so that you can serve G-d.“ Judaism espouses cleanliness. 

 

That is why many codifiers of Jewish law are of the opinion that it is not enough to just perform the traditional hand washing in the morning before saying prayers, but one must also wash their face, etc.  to be truly clean first thing in the morning before serving G-d 

 

As we enter this hypersensitive mode of not spreading disease from one person to another, we should know that this is not just good manners, but a Torah idea as well.  

 

However, just like we can spread a disease, we can spread positivity. Good deeds spread a lot quicker, because they spread without contact. If you know someone, especially someone elderly who is stuck at home, go grocery shopping for them.  

 

And if you are concerned about your health, perhaps you need your Mezuzah checked to make sure that it is Kosher, give me a call so that I can come over and take a look! Remember, trust in Hashem. He who has the power to heal.  

 

Shabbat Shalom, 

 

 

 

 

 

A Purim Lesson

At the very end of the Purim story, the scroll of Esther tells us how to celebrate the newly established holiday of Purim. It says that in addition to performing the four mitzvot (reading the scroll of Esther, giving gifts of food to your friends, giving money to the poor, and having a festive meal), it explains why we should do all of theseit is not just because our lives were saved. It is much more than that.  

 

 

 

 

The scroll tells us that our lives were turned upside down – in a good way: Everything that we did not expect to happen, happened. The choice was ours and we took it.  

 

 

 

 

What does this mean?  

 

 

 

 

Let us go back to the beginning of the story to have a better appreciation of this ending.  

 

 

 

 

King Ahasuerus threw a big party and invited everyone to come to the party. At the party there were numerous abnormalities. Let’s point out two of them: He offered an abundance of alcoholic beverages but took the unusual step of not imposing on anyone to drink (this was not in vogue at the time)He said, If you want to drink, drink. If not, not. Then, when he ordered his wife, Vashti, to appear in a compromised way and she refused, he was unsure if she deserved the death penalty – for disobeying him king! Under normal circumstances his decision would be clear as day. Why suddenly the doubt? That he needed to be convinced to kill his wife? 

 

 

 

 

From this we can deduce that an underlying theme of the Purim story ifree choice. Vashti had free choice to listen to her husband but she chose not to. The guests at the party had a choice to drink or not to. Some did, some didn’t.  

 

 

 

 

Why is this important to us?  

 

 

 

 

In some way, Ahasuerus opened the minds and hearts of the Jews to look at their own Torah in a way in which they never looked at it before. Until that point, they had followed the Torah because their ancestors did. To take ownership of something, you have to do so out of free will.   

 

 

 

 

Having our life turned upside down can be a good thing, if we end up standing straight up. That is, if we stop to contemplate what just happened. The Jews at the time did just that. They said: Our lives just went through the biggest roller coaster of our generation. We came out on top, seemingly without any major, earth-shattering miracle(they didn’t know of the behind-the-scenes miracles). Yet, the Jews were smart enough to learn a major lesson: We have free choice! Let’s embrace that free choice. Let’s reconnect with the Torah. Let’s make it ours, not only because it is our inheritance, but because we want it. 

 

 

 

 

We too should internalize the lesson of Purim and embrace the lessons of the Torah, with free choice. Not because our parents told us to, but because we want to.   

 

 

 

 

Happy Purim and Shabbat Shalom.   

 

Build for me a Temple

While there are many very famous verses in the Torah, one of them that can be found in many synagogues around the world is, “Build for me a sanctuary so that I can dwell within it.” This verse refers to the commandment that the Jews must build a temporary tabernacle while in the desert, and then build a permanent one in Jerusalem. The only remnant of that permanent structure is the Western Wall on the Temple Mount; hence, it is a very holy place.
 

This verse’s meaning has been interpreted to include “mini-temples,” synagogues that we have built over the last two thousand plus years, and that our synagogues also are places where G-d’s presence is felt, and that He can and does dwell within its four walls.
 

However, we should ask, does it stop there? Can we turn our homes into mini-mini-temples as well? 
 

You might be familiar with the famous rabbinic adage that the world stands on three pillars: on the study of the Torah, on prayer, and on charitable acts.

These three pillars existed in the Temple in Jerusalem. The study of Torah obviously was there.  Prayer was practiced three times a day; and the Temple was the center of charitable acts.
 

We can incorporate these same three ideas into our own homes. We can study Torah, by book or on the internet. Our prayers can be as short as saying a blessing on food or the quick Modeh Ani or one-line of the Shema in the morning. And we can be doing good deeds such as having a charity box at home and putting some money into at least once a day, having guests over, and being kind to your family and friends.
 

In these ways we can make our home a place where G-d can feel welcome.

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