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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.

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4 Ways to Make Purim Great Again and Help the World

make purim great again hatAre you stuck in the Purim Party rut?

Do you go to few Purim parties and then pay for it the next day with a horrific hangover? If this is the case your Purim needs an extreme makeover, because there is more to Purim that meets the bottle. If you are suffering from over-doing-it from too much Purim Partying, you actually miss out on the seriously great parts of Purim.
You see, Purim’s combination of customs and mitzvot make it totally unique in the Jewish year. No holiday has Purim’s power to unite Jews from all backgrounds and generate spiritual growth. If you want to make your Purim Great Again, if you want your Purim to be “off-the-charts”— then use these four steps to make your Purim truly memorable, enjoyable and rewarding.
There are four mitzvot for Purim – and each one is a step up a ladder of spiritual/material interaction and revelation of the Divine.

Step One: Listen To The Megillah aka Kriyat Megillah To relive the miraculous events of Purim we listen to the reading of the Megillah, the Scroll of Esther, on Purim evening, and again during the day. Try to hear every single word of the Megillah – so make sure to turn off your cell phone! 🙂 When Haman’s name is mentioned make lots of noise and stamp your feet to “eradicate” Haman’s evil name. According to Kabbalah this noise has profound impact. It’s not just kid’s shtick. Click here for Pico Shul’s Purim Schedule.

Step Two: Give money to the Needy aka Matanot La’evyonim Concern for the needy is a year-round responsibility. However, on Purim it is a special mitzvah to remember the poor. Give charity to at least two, but preferably more, needy individuals on Purim day. The mitzvah is best fulfilled by giving directly to the needy. If you cannot find poor people, you can donate online and I will hand out tzedakah to poor Jews for you on Purim Day. All of it goes to Tzedakah – we do not take any cut. How much? A lot. Seriously consider giving 10% of your monthly profits to help poor members of our community. You will feel very good and do a lot of good in the world. As with the other mitzvot of Purim, even small children should fulfill this mitzvah.

Step Three: Send Food Gift-Baskets to Friends aka Mishloach Manot On Purim we emphasize the importance of Jewish unity and friendship by sending food gifts to friends and family. On Purim day, deliver at least two gift-baskets of ready-to-eat foods (e.g., pastry, fruit, beverage), to at least one friend on Purim day. The more you deliver – the better! Don’t have time to pack your own? There are many stores that sell read-made baskets and only need to add your card! Children, in addition to sending their own gifts of food to their friends, make enthusiastic messengers. We travel around by minivan and the kids run up to houses and deliver the baskets.

Step Four:  Eat, Drink and be Merry aka Purim Seudah Purim is celebrated with a special festive meal on Purim Day, where family and friends gather together to rejoice in the Purim spirit. This feast should be over-the-top with courses, variety and duration. Join us at Pico Shul for our Purim Feast! It is a mitzvah to drink wine or other inebriating drinks at this meal – and that is where the tradition to drink on Purim originates.

Now that you have your blueprint, you can start filling in the details:

  1. Organize where you will be to hear the Megillah
  2. Get cash ready for poor and/or make online donations to worthwhile organizations helping the poor on Purim Day
  3. Shop for gifts for your friends and family.
  4. Reserve a spot for Purim meal, or make your own.

If you follow this four step Purim regimen, you will elevate your life, and the lives of many people around and the world. Have a safe, inspiring and delicious Purim!

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5 Ways to Keep the Spiritual Momentum of the High Holidays

The High Holidays and Sukkot have ended. This marathon of Jewish holy days earned many of us an increased spiritual awareness, sensitivity, and commitment. But how can we maintain that growth throughout the year? Here are five suggestions for maintaining the momentum of the High Holidays:

1 – Honoring Shabbat

Shabbat is a weekly opportunity to unplug and stay in good spiritual health. Meals with family and friends, communal worship, connecting with community, and creating time to rejuvenate are critical elements to Shabbat, and to keeping the High Holiday growth going during the year ahead. What you do to honor Shabbat, will reward you spiritually and materially.

2 – Creating time for daily Torah study

A person who is not engaged in daily Torah study is depriving themselves of the nutrients they need to stay in good spiritual health, nurture their soul and develop a stronger connection with God. I suggest a Chevruta – learning with a partner. While attending classes is important, it’s often passive learning. The real impact of Torah learning on your life comes from having a study partner. Even 5 minutes a day.

3 – Acquire for yourself a Shul Friend

Our sages teach us in Pirkei Avot, “Acquire for yourself a friend”. Be in regular contact with people you spent the holidays with. This is a natural group of people to help you maintain your spiritual strength this year.

4 – Volunteer for Tomchei and other chesed projects

My last Dvar Torah of the holiday season was about the importance of doing someone a favor. You cannot underestimate the power of helping others — both on how it will positively influence your life and those you are helping.

5 – Paying your pledges

Many people make pledges of tzedakah / charity during the Holidays. Whether in memory of someone during Yizkor, or a misheberach after an honor, an auction, it is critical to pay your pledge for the impact in the world to take place.

May you continue to grow and learn, and be blessed with an outpouring of divine favor!

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Don’t Just Stand There – do Something Holy

“You shall not stand by [the shedding of] your fellow’s blood. I am Hashem.” Lev. 19:16

I was driving on cold morning down the highway in New Jersey and a car ahead of me suddenly veered left, went off the road, and then careened back across the highway. The car crossed some grass and slammed into brush on the side of the highway. Instinctively, I pulled off the highway, crossed the shoulder, and parked on the grass. I ran towards the car and started to help the young driver from the wreck.

Within a minute, an entire commuter bus of orthodox Jews stopped, and out ran a man with with a large medic bag, followed by others. He was a trained paramedic from Hatzolah, and began administering first aid while I was on the phone with the Highway Patrol. The medic said the woman was not badly injured, but that we needed to stay with her until the ambulance arrived. A woman in a shaitel got off the bus and came over, putting her coat around the young woman from the accident.

The driver, a bus full of commuters, the paramedic and I waited until she was being attended to an ambulance crew.

In this week’s Torah portion of Kedoshim which instructs us to live holy lives, we learn that we cannot be bystanders when someone’s life is in danger. “Don’t stand by the shedding of your fellow’s blood,” say the sages, “means do not stand by watching your fellows death when you are able to save him. For example, if he is drowning in the river or a if a wild beast or robbers come upon him.” (Rashi, Torat Kohanim 19:41, Talmud Sanhedrin 73a)

Just as the Torah instructs us in other areas of life about the Sabbath, Passover and the Ten Commandments, the Torah teaches that we have a sacred obligation and responsibility for the safety and wellbeing of others.

One of most powerful aspects of life today in this age of interconnectivity is that “others” really means everyone in the world. While our first obligation are those immediately around us, our responsibility is truly worldly.

When the tragic earthquake struck Nepal last Shabbat, it immediately provided an opportunity for the entire world to fulfill the mitzvah of “not standing by.”

International charities, like Mercy Corps, that do important work in Nepal to help alleviate poverty, suddenly became front-line responders and rescuers.

Chabad Nepal’s Rabbi Chezky and Chani Lifshitz converted their center into an emergency shelter, first aid clinic, missing persons agency, and food distribution hub.

Israel immediately activated 260 doctors and rescuers to fly to nepal and set up a field hospital and do search and rescue operations. Other countries also sent aid and rescuers. The US sent over sixty emergency workers and millions of dollars in aid.

While we cannot all physically go and rescue people around the planet, with a few clicks we are all able to provide immediate funds to help those in need.

You have heard this many times before – but its still true – one who saves one life is as if they saved an entire world. Your tzedakah can help sustain people in dire need  – from Nepal to Los Angeles.

A true legacy is not the wealth that we leave when we die, but the mitzvot that we did while we were living.

Shabbat Shalom

Donate:
Chabad Nepal

Mercy Corps

American Jewish World Service