Posts

,

Knowing What’s Very Good: Seer of Lublin, Spies, and a Clumsy Husband

Through humility, we can find things that we didn’t know about. Our self-centeredness get in the way of good “vision” Rabbi Yonah Bookstein Based on a Dvar Torah of Rabbi Eliezer Kwass in the Darche Noam Daf Kesher email We read in Parsha Shelach that when Joshua and Caleb returned from spying out the Land […]

,

Why Doesn’t God Pay for Lunch?

God could fund everything, but we wouldn’t value it

As we learn from the Torah when the Jewish people jointly funded the building and running of the Mishkan/Tabernacle, keeping Jewish organizations, programs and institutions running is in our hands.God created that world this way.

Yes, it would be easier if all we had to do was tell God that we are starting a school, Yeshiva, Synagogue, or summer camp, and then we just wait for God to fill the bank account with the money that we need. But that is just not how God created the world.

Rather God entrusted all of us with the sacred task of supporting, funding, and building the centers of Jewish life and learning throughout the ages.

One of the main reasons, teach the sages, is that when we contribute to the creation of something, we value it more. When we are given something for free, we don’t value it as much. Another reason is that when the Jewish people collectively work together for the creation of something, it creates achdut-unity. Lastly, it gives each person the opportunity to become a giver, a donor.

What is so great about becoming a giver? More than you can imagine. For example: You feel good about yourself for helping others; you are recognized for generosity, not wealth; you are more protected from financial harm; and it creates an everlasting legacy in this world and the World to Come.

As we have printed our our donor cards at Pico Shul and quote from the poem by M. Josephson:

How will the value of your days be measured?
What will matter is not what you bought but what you built; not what you got but what you gave.
What will matter is not your success but your significance.

,

Tragic Loss in Brooklyn Sounds Alarm Across the Jewish World

(Published in Jewish Journal March 27)
During a time when we are preparing our homes and communities to celebrate the joyous festivities of Passover, a painful tragedy has muted our joy.

This past Friday night, a malfunctioning electric hot plate set off a fire that killed seven children in Brooklyn. The world lost seven beautiful souls, children of Gabriel and Gayle Sassoon: brothers David, 12; Yehoshua, 10; Moshe, 8; Yaakov, 5; and sisters Eliane, 16; Rivka, 11; and Sarah, 6. The mother Gayle and fifteen year-old Siporah managed to escape by leaping out of the second-floor windows and are in critical condition, in need of our prayers.

God didn’t sacrifice these children to convince us that keeping Shabbat is dangerous or an anathema to modern life. God didn’t take these precious lives from the world because of our sins. God took these seven souls back, away from this terrestrial existence, for reasons beyond our comprehension. It leaves a gaping hole in the lives of their family members and such a shocking loss reverberates throughout the Jewish World.

However, as a parent, and as an observant Jew who uses an electric hot plate and a Yom-Tov candle, the tragedy is a loud alarm to me, and hopefully to everyone, about the need for increased vigilance and safety in our community.

May God comfort the families of those precious children who perished and heal the injured.

, ,

Where God is Depends on Us

When children ask us, “where is God?” We usually tell them that “God is everywhere.”

It’s a beautiful answer, completely true, but it doesn’t help when you are older. When we see what goes on in the world, we often ask ourselves the very same question, “Where is God?” The truth of the matter is that God’s presence in the world is hidden, difficult to perceive, yet embedded in everything.

After the Jewish people received the Torah on Sinai God instructs them in Parshat Terumah, “And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.” (Shemot 25:8). God instructs the Jewish people to create a vessel to experience the proximity of God.

Shabbat is another vessel for us to experience the indwelling presence of God in the world. For on Shabbat, teaches the Sfat Emet, we experience the truth that everything that we have and do exists only because of God, and we are able to recognize the sanctity of all creation.

When we gather at the table and bless the Shabbat on Friday night with our candles, wine, and meal, the Shechinah, the indwelling presence of God is with us.

When we gather as a community to sing, dance and pray especially on Shabbat- the Shechinah, the indwelling presence of God is with us.

Whenever we wonder where God is, it usually means that we’re not making a place for God. Because when we live a life full of Shabbat and community, of gratitude and giving, we cannot help but experience the proximity of God.

God’s presence in the world is truly, as the Rebbe of Kotzk taught, wherever we let God in. Our lives, and the whole world, can be a dwelling place for God. This is what the Torah is all about.

But our relationship with God depends totally on us.

Shabbat Shalom.