, ,

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.

, ,

Saturday Night Online Shopping Report: Nazi Valentine’s Card on Etsy, Protocols for Kindle on Amazon

Just weeks after the 70th Anniversay of the liberation of Auschwitz, and a month after the brutal slaying of Jews and others in Paris, I am reminded of the fact that for most Americans the Holocaust, and Hitler, are so far removed from our times that they are OK to joke about.

Case in point: Etsy, the craft site, has for sale a card that says, “Will Jew be mine? I’ll be Furerious is you say no.” Including a picture with the likeness of Hitler. “Will Jew be mine” is a cute line for a card. Adding Hitler makes it’s offensive.

I have Tweeted about it, and sent messages to the author / creator bringing attention to the card, with the hope of having it taken off the site.

Mel Brooks mocks Nazis, as have many other comedians, and they are completely in their rights. There should be no law outlawing a joke. France is wrong to put on trial a comedian. I am not for censoring, arresting, or outlawing comedians.

But a site like Etsy — and Amazon who are selling White Power and Nazi music — need to take a stand against racism and antisemitism and refuse to sell this merchandise. It’s in their right as a retailer to choose what to sell, and both sites have plenty of other products to sell. They won’t go hungry, and no one will harm their business for acting ethically.

Amazon has been impervious to this pressure before, but hopefully Etsy will respond positively and remove the card. Better yet, perhaps the card’s author will realize its not just hurtful, but that its bad for business.

Meanwhile, I am ambivalent about the sale of Mein Kamf on the craft site.

Amazon has a longstanding policy of selling antisemitic items — souvenirs, books, music, videos, clothing. Today my biggest disspointment with the online retailer is the Kindle download of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

I guess no matter how much influence we “Jews” supposedly have in control of the world, we can’t seem to figure out how to get Amazon from selling this book.

Also appears on JewishJournal.com

, ,

Shabbat is Everything

Can’t wait for tonight.
Candlelight, a bottle of Bro-Deux from Shirah Wine, fresh challah from our French-Persian bakery with a heavy dose of sesame seeds on top, some special guests, our four children, my beautiful wife of over eighteen years, and certainly a feast befitting this auspicious time.

It’s a weekly ritual that grounds me in this world of here and now, and also elevates my soul to appreciate the oneness of Creation.

We’ll sing too. Shabbat melodies new and ancient. We’ll share stories and discuss this week’s Torah portion of Yitro, which contains the most important section of the Torah – the Ten Commandments. (A better translation would be the 10 Declarations, or Pronouncements).

This revelation includes the mitzvah of Shabbat, which in turn contains both the positive and prohibitive elements of Shabbat called shamor (guard) and zachor (remember).” We remember the Shabbat when we recite kiddush on Friday night, and we guard the Shabbat when we refrain from work.
Never before in human history has the wisdom of Shabbat been more apt that in our times. For in a life that is attached 24/7 to the umbilical chord of the data and mobile phone service, we find less time for ourselves, our families, and our communities.

Shabbat allows us the time, creates space, and contains rituals to focus on what truly matters.
The Zohar tells us that Shabbat sums up the entire Torah. I would add that Shabbat sums up all of Jewish life, history, and values. For Shabbat is about the sanctity of life, living in harmony with ourselves and others, the preciousness of the Earth, and connecting to the infinite wonder of Creation.

Can’t wait for tonight.

,

Feeding Birds on Shabbat Shira is Holy

As the saying goes, there is a Jewish holiday for every kind of Jew. Including Bird lovers.

There is a very holy Jewish custom — some scholars say this started in Jerusalem — to place out food for wild birds on Shabbat Shira when we read the torah portion of Beshalach. Why? One of the main reasons is because the birds ate the manna that Dathan and Aviram had spread out on a Shabbat morning in an effort to discredit Moses. Dathan and Aviram tried to undermine Moses’s authority by showing that the manna also fell on Shabbat, even though Moshe said it would not. The birds, meanwhile, watched Dathan and Aviram spreading out manna on Shabbat morning, and do what good birds do, they ate it all. This spared Moses some embarrassment, and helped protect his reputation. As a way of showing our gratitude, we feed the birds this Shabbat.

Rabbi Yehuda Prero brings an additional reason from the book, Sefer HaToda’ah. “The chirping of birds is not just idle song. It is the way that birds praise G-d for providing them with their needs. Because, on this week, we too sing praise of G-d, we recognize the constant song of praise chirped by the birds by feeding them, as a form of reward.”

But feeding wild animals on Shabbat seems to be against Halacha?! Yes, and no.

For a good discussion of the Halachic ramifications see “What’s Bothering Rashi?

It is completely forbidden for Sephardic Jews to feed birds on Shabbat. Just kidding.